'This Week' Transcript 9-8-19: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and DNC Chair Tom Perez

PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint press conference with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (off frame) at the National Arts Center, on August 22, 2019.PlaySebastien St-jean/AFP/Getty Images
WATCH 'He's coming home for now': Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on US Taliban negotiator

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, September 8, 2019 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.

ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: One stage --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you make sure your message breaks through?

JOE BIDEN, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’ve never had to break through.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One night --

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I'm not giving you away my strategies, techniques, tactics.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Stay steady, keep your eye on the prize.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm looking forward to this opportunity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Our brand new poll shows Joe Biden still leads the pack. Can he fend off a rising Elizabeth Warren and others looking for a breakout moment in Thursday’s ABC debate? What will we learn about where the candidates stand and the strength of their campaigns? DNC Chair Tom Perez is here live, plus Rahm Emmanuel and Chris Christie join our powerhouse roundtable. And the president says he’s canceled a secret meeting with the Taliban after they claimed responsibility for a deadly attack. Are the peace talks dead? Will U.S. troops be forced to stay even longer in America’s longest war? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is here. We'll break down the politics, smoke out the spin, the facts that matter THIS WEEK.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News it's THIS WEEK. Here now, Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK. Our brand new poll with the Washington Post is just out and here's what it says about the Democratic race ahead of our ABC debate Thursday night. Joe Biden holding steady in the lead with 27 percent of the vote. Bernie Sanders second at 19, and a rising Elizabeth Warren now right on his heels at 17. That's a six point jumps since July. Losing ground, Kamala Harris. She’s now at seven percent. Buttigieg, O'Rourke and Yang all hovering between three and four percent, the rest of the pack polling at one percent or less.

Biden is seen as the Democrat best positioned to defeat Trump by a wide margin, but he has a narrow edge over Warren and Sanders over who voters think would be the best president for the country. And defeating President Trump is what voters say they care about most right now. Fifty percent say that’s the priority, up 11 points since April. Beating out the 41 percent who are more concerned about the candidates’ positions on key issues. But this far out, this race is far from settled. More than 50 percent of Democrats say they are open to shifting their support to another contender.

We’re going to dig into all this with DNC Chair Tom Perez and our roundtable, but first that breaking news from President Trump, announcing last night that he had canceled secret peace talks with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan because of a Taliban attack that killed an American on Thursday. Administration negotiators had been finalizing a peace deal that would lead to the withdrawal of more than 5,000 U.S. troops from America’s longest war. But President Trump suggested that deal is dead for now. If the Taliban cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, he wrote, they probably don't have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway. How many more decades are they willing to fight? That's one of many questions for our first guest, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Good morning, George. It’s good to be with you. Thanks for having me on this morning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, sir. Let’s begin with this Afghanistan announcement. On Friday you said the peace talks were making progress. What happened between then and now?

POMPEO: Yes, sir. We’ve made enormous progress over the last months working with the Afghan government of national unity, other Afghans as well as with the Taliban. We had a number of objectives, right? The president's mission set has always been, to the State Department, negotiate a resolution that allows America to have less risk to our young men and women. George, I was -- I was out at Dover Air Force Base just a handful of hours ago with Sergeant First Class Barreto’s wife, their two kids. He was a great American serving in the 82nd airborne who was killed this past week. And it -- it’s a reminder that we’ve got to get it right. We’ve got to protect American national security interests so that terror can never strike again from Afghanistan, at the same time reduce America’s treasure and blood that we’ve given for almost two decades. And we’ve been making progress. We’ve had a commitment from the Taliban that said that they would break with Al Qaeda publicly and permanently, we had a commitment that said that they would reduce violence or that they would for the first time -- George, you know this. You were in an administration that tried to get Afghans to sit at the table together.

We had a commitment that they would meet in Oslo to begin to begin reconciliation conversation. And then the Taliban overreached. They killed an American in an effort to gain leverage at the negotiating table. And President Trump said enough.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But there have been periodic attacks throughout the talks. Why pull the plug after this one in the past when there have been attacks, you’ve said that was a reason to continue the talks?

POMPEO: Yes, it -- it’s -- it's true. There have been attacks during the talks. Attacks from the Taliban on Americans and enormous attacks from the American forces putting real pressure on the Taliban. George, we’ve in just the last 10 days alone killed over 1,000 Taliban. We have been fighting and talking in a way that America often doesn’t do. It's what's driven us to be able to have the success at the negotiating table that we were beginning to have. But we finally reached a point where we were close. We’d made real progress and then the Taliban failed to live up to a series of series of commitments that they had made. And when that happened, President Trump said I'm not going to take that deal, I'm not going to work with someone that can't deliver on their commitments. Because in the end, George, you know this, a deal, an agreement, is just a piece of paper. And we have to actually see that change in behavior. And when we saw this activity, when we saw this action when we were closing in on a solution and closing in on opportunity for the president to actually meet with the decision makers that can actually deliver that reconciliation and peace to the Afghan people, President Trump said that's enough, we're not going to do that, we're not going to reward that behavior and broke it off.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So are the peace talks now dead, Ambassador Khalilzad's efforts dead as well?

POMPEO: He is coming home for now. I hope it's the case that the Taliban will change their behavior, will recommit to things that we've been talking to them about for months. In the end, this will be resolved through a series of conversations. I hope the Taliban will agree to meet with the Afghan government. President Ghani...

STEPHANOPOULOS: They say the jihad is going to continue. They just put out a statement.

POMPEO: Yeah, we'll see. Let me assure you, America's capacity to protect our nation from terror attack emanating from that place again, that effort will continue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The proposed deal included a withdrawal of more than 5,000 U.S. troops within 135 days of the signing of an agreement. Does this collapse put any U.S. pullout on hold?

POMPEO: The president hasn't yet made a decision on that. We'll be talking about that in the coming days. President Trump has been very clear, we spend, George, goodness over $30 billion a year in Afghanistan. And as you well know, we have terror threats from lots of parts of the world, not just from Afghanistan, unfortunately. And frankly, our soldiers have delivered. The crushing of al Qaeda in Afghanistan has taken place over these last almost two decades. We've decimated Al Qaeda leadership. There are still challenges -- ISIS is there as well. But President Trump is going to focus with Secretary of Defense. They will think about making sure that we have the right force posture to deliver on the president's objectives to protect America from terror threats everywhere they emanate from, including Afghanistan. And we'll have to make a decision about what right force posture in Afghanistan will be going forward.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So it's still possible that the pullout will continue. Won't that increase the prospect that the Taliban can gain strength and make this a standing ground for al Qaeda again?

POMPEO: We'll never let that happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So the troops will stay?

POMPEO: We will conduct a mission in Afghanistan in a way that reduces risk to the American people -- the right number, the force posture, the nature of the forces, George, as you know well -- there are different kinds of forces that are there -- our continued train and assist mission for afghan forces, so they can take the fight to the Taliban such that we can ultimately get the peace and reconciliation that I know every American wants. Those are the missions we're setting out. The details of the right level of forces and the nature of those forces, President Trump, the Secretary of Defense, will make good decisions, I'm very confident of that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So the president not ruling anything out, but he hasn't made a final decision yet. But in the meantime, the administration is already taking some heat for even considering having the Taliban to Camp David. A couple of Republican members of congress, Adam Kinzinger said “Never should leaders of a terrorist organization that hasn't renounced 9/11 and continues an evil be allowed in our great country. Never, full stop.”

Liz Cheney: "Camp David is where America's leaders meant to plan or response after al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11. No member of the Taliban should set foot there ever.” She said the president was right to cancel.”

But what about this idea that the president was wrong to even consider having the Taliban at Camp David?

POMPEO: You know, I served with Congressman Kinzinger. I know him well. I value him. I know Congresswoman Cheney as well. And I appreciate their points. In the end, if you're going to negotiate peace, you often have to deal with some pretty bad actors.

And I know the history, too, at Camp David. Indeed, President Trump reflected on that, we all considered as we were debating how to try and get to the right ultimate outcome. While, there have often been discussion about war at Camp David, there have been discussions about peace there as well. There have been some pretty bad actors travel through that place throughout recorded history. It's an important place. It was a place where we thought we could convince all the leaders of Afghanistan, President Ghani and his team as well as the Taliban, we could convince them to begin to head in the direction that would create better conditions -- better conditions on the ground in Afghanistan, not only for the Afghans, but better security for the American people as well. It's why the president was willing to go down that direction. You've seen, George, he's willing to take some risks to do that. And he was prepared to do that in this case, as well, until the Afghans -- excuse me, until the Taliban made this terrible decision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you about another one of those potential risks, and that has to deal with Iran. They have stepped up enrichment of uranium, announced that on Friday. This is exactly what the CIA predicted what will happen after the U.S. pullout from the joining nuclear agreement. In the wake of this announcement, is the president still willing to meet with the Iranian president at the UN General Assembly next month?

POMPEO: George, what I predicted all along is if we stayed in the Iran nuclear deal, that we were guaranteeing the Ayatollah a pathway towards a nuclear weapons system. It's why we broke away from the deal. It's why we have now made Iran's economy a shambles. We think their economy could shrink as much as 10 or 12 percent in the year ahead. And that's important. It's important because it denies their capacity to build out nuclear weapons systems. It denies their capability to work on their missile program.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't that what they're doing now?

POMPEO: It makes -- it makes -- it makes -- the -- the terror attacks around the world increased under the JCPOA, George. The math is really very plain. And now Hezbollah struggling for resources, Shia militias in Iraq, same thing. This is -- this is the mission set that we're engaged in. We want to negotiate. President Trump says that he would meet with President Rouhani with no preconditions. He has said that repeatedly. We know how this must end. We don't want violence. We don't want war with Iran. What we want is that revolutionary regime to stop its efforts around the world to put Israel at risk, to put the American people at risk, and deliver national security for the American people. That's the outcome we're looking for. Iran will never have a nuclear weapon on President Trump's watch.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You expect the meeting to happen?

POMPEO: Couldn't tell you, George. It's up -- it's up -- it's up to the Ayatollah to make a decision about the direction he wants to take his country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, on North Korea, their nuclear program, the talks is stalled since the Hanoi summit. And North Korea continues to test missiles. U.S. intelligence has concluded that they continue to add to their stockpile of nuclear weapons fuel as well. Are you concerned at all that Kim Jong-un is stringing President Trump along?

POMPEO: George, we -- we took office with nuclear tests being conducted and long-range missile tests being conducted with all too great a frequency. President Trump and my team have been working to deliver on the promises that were made in Singapore back in June of the year before. We -- we know Chairman Kim has continued to make the commitment to denuclearize. We're hopeful that, in the coming days or perhaps weeks, we will be back at the negotiating table with them. That's the best outcome. It's the best outcome for the North Korean people. President Trump has made a commitment to their security and economic prosperity. We know that we can turn around that economy. The -- the mission set, however, is to make sure that nuclear weapons inside of North Korea that have existed there for an awfully long time, George -- you served in an administration where that nuclear stockpile grew as well. We have to make sure that Chairman Kim honors the commitments that he made to President Trump. You know, I think President Trump would be very disappointed if Chairman Kim doesn't return to the negotiating table or conducts missile tests that are inconsistent with the agreements that they made when the two of them worked together these three times.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You put your -- you put your finger on the problem. The North Korea have continued the nuclear program through President Clinton, through President Bush, through President Obama. They appear to be continuing it now as well. And these short-term ballistic missile tests are improving their program, aren't they? And isn't that a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions?

POMPEO: Chairman Kim's commitment to President Trump was pretty clear. He has not yet violated that. It's not that we don't all wish -- we're -- we're disappointed that he's continuing to conduct these short-range tests. We wish that he would stop that. But our -- our mission set at the State Department is very clear, to get back to the table, to present a mechanism by which we can deliver, George, what I know you share my objective of, a full, completely denuclearized and verified denuclearized North Korea. That's the goal. It's what we continue to work on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Before you go, I have to ask you a question on politics. You were in your home state of Kansas on Friday. I know that the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has been pushing you to run for Senate next year. If President Trump asked you to run, will you?

POMPEO: George, I don't speculate on stuff like that, other than to do what I did. I -- it was -- it was pretty cool to be back home. I spoke as part of the Landon Lecture Series, a prestigious -- a prestigious set of speeches. It was -- it was neat to be able to go back home and do that. I have said this repeatedly. As long as President Trump wants me to be the secretary of state, I will do what I have been doing for the last, goodness, almost a year-and-a-half now, focus on trying to deliver security for the American people. It's my mission every day.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us this morning.

POMPEO: Thank you George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Coming up, as we look ahead to Thursday's debate, Nate Silver weighs in on whether the Democratic primary is now a three-way race; plus, Rahm Emanuel and Chris Christie on our powerhouse roundtable.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP SETH MOULTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And -- and I don’t think it's a good thing that essentially it’s become a three-way race. But if you look at the polling right now, that's what it is. It's basically Biden, Warren and Sanders. And there's no one else, you know, breaking out even -- even breaking out of single digits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That was Congressman Seth Moulton after he dropped out of race for the White House last month. Twenty candidates still in the race but our new poll shows the top three pulling away from the rest of the pack with almost triple the support of all the other candidates combined. A political headline this -- earlier this week declared it's now Biden, Warren, Sanders and everyone else. So we asked FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, do you buy that?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATE SILVER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: So yes, it's only September and nobody is voting until February, but if you're poling in the low single digits right now, I have bad news for you. You are probably toast. According to our analysis of the past 40 years of primary polls, Jimmy Carter in 1976 was the only candidate to be polling at less than five percent at this point in the race and to come back and win his nomination. So for 2020 candidates like Kamala Harris or Pete Buttigieg who are polling in the mid to high single digits, things are a little bit more viable.

First, Harris. She’s raised a fair amount of money, she has the second most endorsements in the field after Joe Biden -- that’s actually a fairly predictive indicator, historically. And if Biden were to lose support among black voters, she might be in a position to capitalize. For Buttigieg, he may have faded in the polls, but the South Bend Mayor also has a big war chest and strong favorability ratings among voters who know him, even if many still can’t pronounce his last name. And don’t forget, John Kerry and Bill Clinton polled in similar territory at this point in their campaigns and still came back to win. But polls find that Democrats are largely happy with their field, and they're paying more attention to this race as compared to the last election campaigns. So there is no particular reason to expect voters to come running to candidates Booker or Castro or Beto or Klobuchar if they haven't so far.

So, do I buy that we're down to a big three? I'm almost there, but not quite. I think you have to include Harris and Buttigieg maybe not in great shape, but still has some room to grow, so let's call it a big four-and-a-half.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's Nate. Nate is going to have a lot more on his take on the state of the field tomorrow morning at FiveThirtyEight.com. DNC Chair Tom Perez and our Powerhouse Roundtable up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: DNC Chair Tom Perez is standing by ahead of our big Democratic debate in Houston Thursday night. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: DNC Chair Tom Perez is standing by, ahead of our big Democratic debate in Houston Thursday night. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The DNC process is stifling debate at a time when we need it most. We're -- we're rewarding celebrity candidates with millions of Twitter followers, billionaires who buy their way onto the debate stage, and candidates who have been running for president for years. These rules have created exactly the wrong outcomes. And they will not help us beat Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's Senator Michael Bennet, one of the Democrats running for president who did not meet the DNC's criteria to make the stage for our debate on Thursday, criteria set by our next guest, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez. Mr. Chairman, thank you for joining us this morning.

TOM PEREZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Great to be with you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Want to get that in a minute, but let me play off first.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: We just saw Nate Silver. And you saw our ABC News poll with "The Washington Post" up at the top of this program. It does appear that those top three candidates, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, are kind of pulling away from the rest of the pack. Is that the kind of winnowing you expected when you set the criteria for these debates?

PEREZ: Well, it's always been up to the voters. And what we have done, George, from the outset is set transparent rules, set a fair bar for people, communicate it to the candidates well in advance, so they know the rules of engagement. For this debate coming up -- and I'm really looking forward to working together with ABC -- there were 21 polls that counted. And you needed to get 2 percent in four of them. So, you had to bat a little -- you had to bat a little under 200 to get into this debate stage.

And I think giving that opportunity is really helpful. It's going to be up to the voters to decide who this candidate is. And I think our process has been the most fair, transparent, inclusive process in the history of the Democratic primary. I understand -- I'm a big fan of Michael Bennet, by the way. I have worked with him. I campaigned for him. He's a great guy. Our -- our field is deep. But we're reaching a point now where voters are differentiating. And -- and that's what it's about. And candidates have to demonstrate progress as we get closer and closer to Iowa and New Hampshire.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the way it's set up, it is very possible that next month's debate will actually be back to two nights, correct?

PEREZ: Well, we will see. You know, we have set the debate threshold. Again, you need to get to 2 percent in at least four polls. And we will see. Your poll this morning wouldn't change what the makeup would be. We will see what other ones are. And then, as we get toward November, December, obviously we will continue to raise the bar of participation because that's what we've always done. As we get closer and closer, people have to make progress. Two percent, quite frankly, is -- is a very reasonable bar.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of polls right now show several of the Democratic candidates pretty handily beating President Trump if the election were,indeed, to be held today. But a lot of Democrats are concerned that if you don't win back the Senate, the agenda will be stalled even if Democrats take back the White House. We saw John Hickenlooper leave the presidential race, go run for Senate in Colorado. Should candidates like Beto O’Rourke, Steve Bullock consider doing that if their campaigns don't take off soon?

PEREZ: Well that’ll be up to those candidates to decide what’s in their best interest. I’ll say this, I'm bullish about the Senate. I was in Colorado this week, I think we have a great chance there with a wide field of candidates. I'm very bullish on Mark Kelly in Arizona. We've got opportunities in North Carolina, where Tillis is underwater. In Maine we have a really good field of candidates and -- and Senator Collins is exceedingly vulnerable. We’ve got opportunities in Iowa, in -- in Montana and elsewhere. I'm -- I’m very bullish. And the -- the -- the opportunity we have, George, in not only the Senate but the White House and -- and in state houses across the country is that the Republican -- the Republicans are so off to the extreme and the Democrats are fighting for the issues that people care about.

Healthcare is still the number one issue in America. If you have a preexisting condition, it’s Democrats who are on your side. Ninety percent of the American people want background checks and -- and Moscow Mitch won’t do it. You -- you look at all of the issues that matter. You know, 80 percent of the American people want to help DREAMers, but no, the Republicans won't do it. They've become such an extreme party that I think we have opportunities in the Senate and in the House. The reason so many House members on the Republican side are -- are retiring is because they understand that their party has become so extreme. So I'm very optimistic not only about the White House but about the Senate and -- and state houses and expanding Speaker Pelosi's margins in the U.S. House.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We saw Howard Schultz drop his Independent bid for the White House this week. Some Democrats are concerned that Tulsi Gabbard is considering a third party run. Now she says she’s ruled it out. But you know, you look, there's an argument that Ralph Nader in 2000, Jill Stein in 2016 cost Democrats the White House. What are you doing to forestall the possibility of a third party run in -- in 2020 that could hurt Democrats?

PEREZ: We have built from the outset, George, a process that is fair and inclusive. And -- and again, I have great respect for Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She's run a really spirited campaign and I know she has a lot of supporters. And the reason why we've been so inclusive in what we’ve done -- and that resulted in 21 candidates who appeared in June and July -- is because I -- it’s -- it's abundantly clear to me, you know, all but one of our very, very deep and talented field is not going to make it to the mountaintop.

And my goal was always to make sure that every single candidate who runs and their followers understand that their candidate got a fair shake, so that at the end of the day we are together, united around beating Donald Trump and -- and implementing our vision of inclusion and opportunity. And I’m -- I'm confident that Congresswoman Gabbard isn't going to run as a third party candidate because she has said so. She's a very talented part of the Democratic party family and everyone in this family is going to come together in Milwaukee and then through the election, because we understand that it's our democracy as we know it that's on the ballot.

I mean, this president -- I mean, this is hurricane Donald and it's a category 5 storm and in the eye of the storm is our democracy. And we need to take our democracy back. All of our candidates understand the gravity of the moment and they understand that whoever wins, they’re going to be supporting the Democrat. And I appreciate what Howard Schultz did. He was a man of his word. He said, if I can't win, and I’m only a spoiler, I’m not going to run. So I very much appreciate that he kept his word.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Chairman Perez, we’ll see you in Houston on Thursday.

PEREZ: Look forward to it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable’s up next. We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable joined by Chris Christie. Of course, he's the former Republican governor of New Jersey, confidante of President Trump; the former mayor of Chicago, Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel; our senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce; Axios national political reporter Alexi McCammond; and the editor of The National Review Rich Lowry, author of the upcoming book "The Case for Nationalism." Welcome to you all. And Rahm, let's talk about the debate. Let me begin with you. It's the first time we're going to see Joe Biden flanked on either side by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Who has the most to gain, the most to lose?

RAHM EMANUEL, FORMER CHICAGO MAYOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, if you -- first of all, we all have been on a debate, it gets close and personal. You can say whatever you want like 20 miles away...

STEPHANOPOULOS: As close as you guys are.

EMANUEL: Exactly. And every one of the candidates somewhere in the debate is going to have that bubble above their head that's going to say jokers to the left of me, clowns to the right. I'm stuck here in the middle with you. And that's going to be a little bit for Biden when he looks across the whole spectrum and in this effort.

And I think it is going to get to a point in this debate, personally, where the candidates actually now, and the voters, have a chance to measure people not on a split screen. And they're going to see each other and take their temperature, take their character, lift the hood up, check the oil, check the tires. And this now is that process where it's not on two nights, single night, one stage, and you get to get the measure of the candidates.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But one of the things we have learned, and this was similar to the dynamic you guys had back in 2016, the person who takes a shot at the front runner doesn't necessarily benefit from it.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No. And listen, that's why I think the most -- the person with the most pressure in this debate this week is Senator Harris. You know, she had this quick rise, because she took a shot at Biden. She realized in the second debate that you do that, there's going to be incoming. And now she's kind of in no man's land, in my view. In the poll, she's gone nowhere. In fact, she's gone backwards really since she had that moment.

And she's got to figure out ‘what is my strategy?’ Is it to go back at Biden again and try to reprise that, or do I do try to do something a little bit different? I think she's the person who has the most pressure on her, because her donors are going to be looking at her and going, all right, are we going anywhere or aren't we? We know that Biden, Warren and Sanders are solid. They'll be in this race for a long time, those three. It's going to be who makes up the rest of the stage. And the last thing I'd say is don't forget it's still 10 people up there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's still a lot.

EMANUEL: Believe me, I've been thinking about that.

CHRISTIE: You're going to get eight, nine -- if you're -- we used to assume eight minutes. Eight minutes total is what you're going to get to speak. So you better know what the hell you want to say.

EMANUEL: You want the 30 seconds at the end.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's a question really for Elizabeth Warren as well. First time she's going to be face-to-face with Joe Biden, first time for him as well.

MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it is going to be so interesting to see how and whether they actually really go after each other. Because they both, especially Joe Biden, has so far been trying to kind of rise above that. He'll counter punch if you come after him, but he's been directing a lot of his fire at the president instead. Now, especially with Warren having the successful summer will the rise that has shown in our poll, is he going to be directing more pointed attacks against her. And to the governor's point, you also have people on the wings who haven't been on the wings, really, before that far out, given the fact that this is the smallest stage we've seen so far. How are they going to react. It could lead to a...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Every one of them, though, is going to have to create some kind of -- or at least try to create some kind of a break out moment.

ALEXI MCCAMMOND, AXIOS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, they certainly are. So, I've been told from Julian Castro's campaign, for example, that he's really going to try to focus on making the case that he's best positioned to sort of draw on that so-called Obama coalition more so than maybe even Joe Biden, to inspire younger voters who Joe Biden's campaign admits they are struggling with, to inspire voters of color, who we know support Joe Biden, black voters, but those are mostly older black voters, not younger black voters, and to sort of just inspire the broadest coalition possible in a way that they just view Joe Biden not...

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of his aides told The New York Times this morning that he's going to go after one candidate in particular, it sounds like you think that's Joe Biden?

MCCAMMOND: Julian Castro.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.

MCCAMMOND: Yes, I think that he will certainly -- especially because he's positioned at the outset of the stage, he will have to sort of make this moment for himself by going after Joe Biden in ways that he's gone after front-runners in past debates. But the one thing about Elizabeth Warren that's interesting to me is, she has established herself, through polling and otherwise, as a front-runner, maybe even on equal footing as someone like Joe Biden. But other candidates haven't really figured out how to attack her. So I'm going to be watching for whether and how that comes up from other folks on that debate stage.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, it was interesting, Rich Lowry. It did seem like, this week, that Mayor Pete is sort of signaling that he could go after Joe Biden, he could go after Bernie and Warren as well.

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Yes. Yes. So I think the stakes are high for Biden in any event like this, because the question still is, does he have the performative ability to match his electability? But if you -- if you just look at the polls the last four or five months, you see one thing happened. Elizabeth Warren has risen. And does anyone go -- else go after her? And, eventually, she -- you know, the biggest threat she represents is not necessarily to Biden right now. It's to Bernie Sanders. And they have this nonaggression pact that will eventually break down. I don't think it's going to break down this week, but, eventually, it will.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't think it will?

LOWRY: It won't. Eventually, it will. And then how that plays out will fundamentally affect the dynamic of this race.

EMANUEL: Here's -- as somebody who also participated, here's what I think is wrong with our analysis. I think the person that goes after the voters, rather than goes after somebody else on stage, is probably going to shine in this moment.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what Elizabeth Warren is signaling that she's going to do.

EMANUEL: I think we're -- and I have participated in it just about two minutes ago. And I would like to airbrush my question -- have a reset on my question, which is, the fact is not -- there will be a dynamic of -- because the candidates already are saying they're going to go after so and so, they're going to take one person. I actually think the -- if you look at the polling, the person that appreciates, understands, and puts themselves most comfortably, based on their own history, where the voters have lived their lives, that's going to be the candidate that shines over -- but not only this debate, over the long term.

LOWRY: This debate.

BRUCE: And that was the problem with Harris in the last debate, is that she came off as too much of a one-trick pony, a lot of people said, because she went so hard after Biden, and not focused enough on her own policy. She now has to course-correct.

EMANUEL: The next morning -- she missed the next morning. What she proved in the two debates is, she can both deliver a punch and can't take a punch. Texas I think that does lead to a question for Elizabeth Warren. If she -- if she is determined just to stay positive, just to tell her side of the story, will any of the other candidates who see that she's doing well in Iowa on the ground, she seemed to shine at the New Hampshire Democratic Convention yesterday, will they do something to try to stop her momentum?

CHRISTIE: Well, sure, they're going to try. But I think you saw with Booker in the last debate that he got generally very good reviews from everybody in terms of the way he went after Vice President Biden.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And his manner.

CHRISTIE: And the way he carried himself, that he was more charismatic than he'd been in the first one. And what did it amount to? Nothing. That's the other thing that I -- that I agree with Rahm on. We may -- we always make too much of these things. And breakout moments -- Harris had a breakout moment. She's in single digits. Booker had a breakout moment. He's at 1 percent this morning, right? So...

LOWRY: Yes, there's no moment that has lasted.

CHRISTIE: No. No.

LOWRY: Pete Buttigieg had a moment that's led to a lot of fund-raising, but hasn't led to sustained higher polling.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: But I don't think it's been a -- I don't think that's been a debate issue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But because of the debates or because of what she's doing on the ground in Iowa?

MCCAMMOND: I think both, because what she is most effective at when she's on a debate stage or talking to folks at these rallies, to the mayor's point about connecting with voters, she's not just proposing these big, bold, sweeping policy proposals and ideas. She's connecting them to personal experiences and lived experiences that, I think, connect with people on a personal level, more than just a political level.

EMANUEL: There's two person -- the two person -- there's two Elizabeth Warrens. The Elizabeth Warren about Oklahoma is unbelievably powerful. The Elizabeth Warren about the policy is like we're studying for our midterm exam every day. And I think if she can do more Oklahoma as part of what the -- what her ideas are and why, what motivates her for that, then she's a powerful person.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That -- that's separate from the question, though, is, are those ideas that she's putting out there, are they taking the Democrats out of the center?

CHRISTIE: Oh, they are. I mean, there's no -- listen, there's no question about that. They are taking the Democrats out of the center. And that's going to be the bigger problem. That is going to be why it's ultimately, in my view, going to come down to Biden and Warren. And it's going to be electability vs. purity. And that happens on the Republican side all the time too, George, when we're in the situation...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, until it's smashed by President Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: Well, yes. But when we're out of power, when we're out of power, that happens all that I mean, too.

EMANUEL: The risk you said, and which is appropriate, and it measures up as, health care is the single issue that Democrats have a 35-point advantage on. President Trump's trying to do everything he can to narrow that down. We have taken a position so far, and the candidates have, through the process -- a few have not -- about -- on basically Medicare for all, which is , we're going to eliminate 150 million people's health care, and we're going to provide health care for people that have just come over the border.

That is an untenable position for the general election. As you know, George, I just biked around Lake Michigan, nearly 1,000 miles, through Michigan and Wisconsin, two really important states. Nobody at a diner ran at me and said, take my healthcare away. Nobody. This is -- this is reckless as it relates to -- and you don't have to take the position to win the primary. And you're basically literally hindering yourself for the general election.

BRUCE: But, to the governor's point, I mean, there is a question about whether this comes down to electability and this return to stability that Biden is running on, or whether voters want someone like Warren, who's going to shake up the whole system, and when you look at our poll, and particularly it shows that there is this boost for Biden because of the electability argument. But the poll also shows that there is a lot of move -- movement here, and a lot of potential movement here because Biden has just 23 percent of voters that -- that they want him to be the best president for this country -- that they think he can be the best president.

LOWRY: There’s -- there’s -- there's one thing that’s going to hugely affect the electability argument -- who wins Iowa and who wins New Hampshire. And Elizabeth Warren, I agree with you totally, she’s way out there on positions that are meant to cater to part of the primary electorate that will not play generally. But she wins Iowa, those electability numbers will change for her.

CHRISTIE: I was in Central Pennsylvania yesterday and walked into a diner to get something to eat, and a woman came up to me --

EMANUEL: There's no place in New Jersey?

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: Diners we -- Rahm, diners we got. We got no problem there.

EMANUEL: I mean, I -- I could (ph) (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: -- 40 hours, but it was well worth the omelet. It was great. The -- and -- and a woman came up to me yesterday and said to me, governor, please tell the president to tell these Democrats to leave my healthcare alone. Now, you know, this was the only thing she said to me, then she said thank you and she walked away. Unsolicited. That’s -- that part of Pennsylvania is going to be key to what's going to happen in Pennsylvania. And if the president holds that coalition and wins Pennsylvania, this election is over.

MCCAMMOND: But did you respond and say that the president wants to repeal your healthcare without a replacement and he doesn’t have (ph) a plan?

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: No, I was ordering my omelet.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: I got to tell you the truth, I wasn’t worried about it at that point (ph). But it tells you what’s on people’s minds.

EMANUEL: I'm sending -- I’m sending a crew to see if you tipped really well, OK? But the fact is, here’s the thing --

CHRISTIE: I'm from Jersey, we always tip well, Rahm.

EMANUEL: This is -- this is -- this is the key point, OK? The key point is exactly here, which is that I can continue to believe the president's budget is the largest cut in Medicare every by a president. And I don’t understand -- we'll talk about Medicare for All this coming debate down in Houston. Why nobody mentions the fact that the president of the United States has a Medicare cut for all. And that is his greatest vulnerability. He has a -- and he pledged -- and it’s not just healthcare issue. He pledged in 2016 he would never touch Medicare and Medicaid and that's exactly what his budget has done.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president also told me in June he would have a new healthcare plan in a couple weeks. It’s now a few --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- a few months -- months later.

EMANUEL: Well don't keep turning on the computer to see it come across, OK?

STEPHANOPOULOS: But in -- in the meantime, one of the things we saw this week is that constant talk about Hurricane Dorian and whether it was going to hit Alabama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Alabama could even be in for at least some very strong winds and something more than it could be -- That was the original chart. And you see it was going to hit not only Florida but Georgia. It could have -- was going toward the Gulf. That was what we -- what was originally projected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That map that you put up today looked like it almost had like a Sharpie --

TRUMP: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Chris Christie, I think it's entirely possible that first briefing the president had, whatever it was, 10 days ago said, eh, it might hit Alabama. There’s no question that when he tweeted last Sunday Alabama’s going to get harder than anticipated, that's flatly just not true. What I don't understand, sticking with it for seven days after that. What is that about?

CHRISTIE: Well listen, I think that the -- that this president has shown over and over again that he believes that admitting mistakes is admitting weakness. And -- and I don't think it's hard to understand, to him. People seem mystified by this. And -- and I'm mystified by them. This is who the president of the United States is. I've known him for 18 years --

STEPHANOPOULOS: But why would he want this to be part of the dialogue for seven days?

CHRISTIE: Listen, because he -- because it drives you guys crazy.

BRUCE: But I think --

CHRISTIE: And -- and the media focuses on this instead of focusing on what Rahm was just talking about or other issues or -- I mean, we’ve -- we’re talking about this before we’re talking about Afghanistan and negotiations with the Taliban --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well we led with Afghanistan. We’ll talk about that too.

CHRISTIE: But my point is, though, that this is what lots of folks in the media talks about and it's a distraction and I don't think the president necessarily thinks that distraction is bad for him.

BRUCE: But we talk about it because he’s talking about it. I mean, he was just relentless --

CHRISTIE: Exactly.

BRUCE: -- in his justification of this, and it wasn’t just that he, you know, wouldn't let this go. He’s also deploying government resources to help in his argument. And when you’re facing, you know, a hurricane of significant consequence, you have to think about, you know, how much time and effort was spent defending the president's argument here versus focusing on some other key issues.

LOWRY: But he’s talking about it because you're talking about it. It's like this circle that never ends and -- and he never allows himself, as Chris points out, the escape route. Oh, it’s old information, I revise and extend my remarks. But that the media was analyzing this with the detail of the Zapruder (ph) tape was completely absurd and it was totally lost that the major story was actually a -- a Category 5 hurricane that devastated the Bahamas and was threatening the East Coast of the United States.

MCCAMMOND: But we should not forget that in addition to him not wanting to admit defeat or admit that he was wrong, a major part of President Trump’s personality is that he loves being his own spokesperson. Stephanie Grisham has not held a single -- who is the White House Communications Director, has not held a single official press briefing with reporters. Instead, President Trump has been left to his own devices to be his own spokesperson on this when she could take to the podium...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not left to his own devices -- he's choosing to that.

MCCAMMOND: Well, exactly -- choosing, but that -- the larger consequences of that, in addition to all of us talking about this forever and ever is that we see his insecurities, his own biases, this misinformation that is being presented to the American public because of him being his own spokesperson, because that's what he wants.

EMANUEL: Here is my thing, I think this is where the American people are, they think all of us are crazy. We should stop this. You have kids dying with vaping. You have a major healthcare crisis in the United States. You have a major rebuilding, and we're obsessed -- the fact is, he is wrong. Full stop. Let's move on.

CHRISTIE: And I will also say this, like, you know, that's who the American people elected. It wasn't like there were a ton of people talking for him during the 2016 elections. He was. And that's part of what they love about him. Part of what...

EMANUEL: He's his best and his worst.

CHRISTIE: That's right. And part of what they love about him, though...

EMANUEL: And this is the worst.

CHRISTIE: He takes it into his own hands. And he's going to tell them what he thinks. And sometimes they agree and sometimes they don't, but they love the fact that he does it.

LOWRY: It's never boring.

CHRISTIE: Never boring.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and that's get to one of the big questions is at some point does what ends up hurting him, the fatigue with this constant...

EMANUEL: Yes. That same person in middle Pennsylvania may think right now, given the economy, things are OK, but not bad. But they think he's worse than bad. And they think he's driving this distraction when they see very -- opioid crisis. They see a vaping crisis. They see an economic crisis...

(LAUGHTER)

EMANUEL: Did they pay or not? Did you pay for the omelet or did they pay for the omelet.

CHRISTIE: I pay. But here's the thing -- you bring up the opioid crisis. Well, you know, you look at what the president and the administration has done. And I was Chairman of the Opioid Commission. And so I understand this stuff extraordinarily well. $1.8 billion in grants just went out to every state this week to deal with this issue. You have a 17 percent drop in overdose deaths. And the president has been personally focused on this. Did another event this week on it, but no -- but Rahm, we don't spend any time on that and we're talking about a Sharpie. It's ridiculous.

EMANUEL: I'm with you. The fact is, for that voter who has seen her neighborhood and community and larger area devastated by this, this Sharpie is ridiculous and that opioid crisis is serious.

BRUCE: One of the byproducts of this, though, is not just that it soaks a lot of the oxygen out of other substantive conversations, but it also takes the conversation away from the Democrats. I mean, they were having a fairly substantive conversation this week about their plans on climate change and here you have the president who is able to keep a lot of the focus on him, which I think he probably...

CHRISTIE: But Mary, that's my point. If you think this is accidental, it's not it. He has -- it combines both. He likes to fight back, and that's impulsive. But also when he sees you all react to it, and it drowns out climate change, it drowns out the hurricane, it drowns out everything else, he's willing to live with that. Why? Because he's president.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Chris, the open question is whether it actually helps him. And that was one of your contentions right there, you said the American people love that he does this. Right now, and we're going to have a new poll coming out, he's been stuck at around 40 percent approval. And there's got to be an opportunity cost when...

LOWRY: Exactly. It hurts in the suburbs. It's one of the reasons that suburban Republicans, especially Republican women, have turned away from the Party, at least for the moment. They certainly did in 2018. And winning back some increment of those voters is really important to the president.

EMANUEL: And this does -- he is overstaying their welcome.

MCCAMMOND: That Pennsylvania voter we've been talking about is not alone. When I talk to Obama-Trump voters in rural parts of the Midwest, they talk about this fatigue over and over again and about how they feel like he is chaotic and tweeting all the time, and that they feel like he's not addressing issues that they actually care about, whether it's a Social Security plan, a healthcare plan, opioids otherwise, they feel that the president himself is not addressing issues that they are thinking about and that are top of mind when they are going to vote November 2020. Instead of talking about things like that, he's talking about a Sharpie.

CHRISTIE: Let me tell you why that analysis makes no difference. Here's why it makes no difference -- it makes no difference to him and it will make no difference to 2020, because right now you can analyze the president in a vacuum. When it becomes a binary choice, then if we have Elizabeth Warren with Medicare for All and Green New Deal and huge new taxes and all the rest of it, they're going to look at Donald Trump and go I maybe exhausted, but my wallet is not exhausted and I'm not going to vote for that.

MCCAMMOND: But that will inevitably affect the nominating contest on the Democratic side.

EMANUEL: That's right. There are two things -- I'm going to agree with you on this, Chris, the fact is when it comes to a binary choice, which is ultimately where it goes, and the fact is his exhaustion level after three years is taking voters -- they can't afford four more years of this. And while we are angry as a party, and those voters are angry, the suburban voters that left -- between 2016 and 2018 are exhausted, and they're not going to return.

LOWRY: Would Biden be a great president? You know, asking Democrats, no, maybe, probably not. Can he get elected? Yes. And that's what is fundamentally driving his campaign.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Before we go, I do want to address Afghanistan. I was struck, Mary, that Secretary Pompeo did not say that the collapse of these peace talks would necessarily stop the president's plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. We know that's what he wants to do.

BRUCE: Yes. And there are a lot of questions now about what comes next. I mean, the president put this out there, surprising everyone. And it's unclear, what's the next move? What comes after this? Is this the end of these peace talks altogether? There are going to be a lot of questions on Capitol Hill starting tomorrow.

CHRISTIE: One of the things we know is that it's -- that announcements never mean that it's the end of anything, OK? This guy is a public negotiator. That's what he's done in Korea. That's what he's done in China. That's what he's done everywhere. And I think the bigger question, as somebody who...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he's taking charge of it himself right now.

CHRISTIE: Of course, as he always does. And here's the thing, George. As a guy who was a prosecutor immediately post-9/11, and understands this in the context of the terrorism fight, which we have forgotten about a little bit, you know, the fact is, I don't think that it's tenable for the president to withdraw troops without having some kind of agreement. But yet we have watched the administration Rahm was a part of and the administration that started this in Afghanistan. No one has an answer. No one has an answer for this.

EMANUEL: But here's -- here's -- you got to put this in the context of Donald Trump, which is, the Iranians said, not a chance are we talking to you. North Korea, nothing's come of this. Here, you have another breakdown of every process. And the fact is, he leaves more carnage and damage than when you started.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Rich, one thing I think we have to really figure out is, why were these talks first put on the schedule and why were they canceled? As I pointed out to Secretary Pompeo, there have been the Taliban attacks all throughout this process.

LOWRY: Right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We do know that Ambassador Bolton, the national security adviser, had been very much against this peace agreement.

LOWRY: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There must have been a lot going on behind the scenes.

LOWRY: Yeah. There's been an intense fight over this. And I think going down makes sense. And I think everyone in the White House agrees 8,600 would be a sustainable number. It's going to zero, where the president instinct is, that I think would be a huge mistake. And having the Taliban to Camp David, yes, maybe you need to talk to them, but you don't need to do that. And, again, it goes to his instincts, the theater of it. And that's a theater -- a gesture that would grab all the headlines and all the news coverage. And that's why he was drawn to it. And you just shouldn't have a group that's trying to kill Americans to such a place.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He has been willing to take that heat, though, in the past, right?

MCCAMMOND: Right. Well, again, and I think that speaks to his negotiating style that you just spoke to and the governor spoke to. He takes this sort of maximalist approach as the initial negotiating strategy, and then always walks it back, or they unfold from that point. And I think, because he's so used to negotiating in that style, he's used to dealing with the heat that comes with that, and he just says, oh, we will figure it out in two weeks, or it'll happen eventually.

CHRISTIE: One of my son's best friends from high school is an Army Ranger in Afghanistan right now and was just deployed two months ago. And I talked to his parents this week. And I will tell you what they don't want. What they don't want is to think that their son's presence over there is useless and meaningless. And they don't want to see us back away. Even though their son is at risk, they don't want to see us back away from making sure the country isn't attacked again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You think that is where the president is, though?

CHRISTIE: You know, I think he is. And I talked to him this week about it. And I think he is there. But I also think he feels as if, 18 years, we have been doing the same thing, and nothing's -- and nothing's worked. He's trying to find a third way. And I don't -- and I credit him for that. But I think we also have to keep in mind that soldier and his family, they want a meaningful role over there, and not one where his life is put at risk for no reason.

STEPHANOPOULOS: An important place for us to end. Thank you all very much. Great discussion. We're all going to be heading to Houston for Thursday night's debate. Tune in at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on ABC. You see the stage right there. That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight." And I will see you tomorrow on "GMA."