'This Week' Transcript 5-20-18: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Fred Guttenberg, Nicole Hockley and Larry Kudlow

PHOTO: Two women pray outside the family reunification site following a shooting at Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018, in Santa Fe, Texas.PlayMarie D. De Jesus /Houston Chronicle via AP
WATCH Texas official on school shooting: 'We cannot...say it's the gun - it's us as a nation'

ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Tragedy in Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You hear boom, boom, boom.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Ten people murdered at a high school near Houston.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This has been going on too long in our country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: After Parkland, Newtown, Columbine, another school violated, another community shattered. But is the shock of these shootings now becoming resignation? We'll talk to Lieutenant Governor of Texas and two parents who have lost children to gun violence now working to save others.

And, Team Trump ramps up attacks on the special counsel.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: It is a witch hunt.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As the Russia investigation hits the one year mark.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: It's not a witch hunt when 17 Russians have been indicted.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And now the New York Times reports that Robert Mueller also investigating whether Gulf countries offered to help the Trump campaign.

We'll analyze all the latest with Alan Dershowitz and Dan Abrams.

Plus, as trade talks with China adjourn with no firm agreement, the president's chief economic adviser joins us live.

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.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. We have a lot to cover this week. And we begin with the all too familiar scenes from Texas. There you see the students of Santa Fe High on Friday running out of school after 30 minutes of terror that claimed 10 lives. They are surveyors, but stricken.

And what we heard from these survivors, a warning from all of us. I knew it. I'm not surprised. Of course it happened here.

Children who have never known school without lockdown drills expecting what should be unthinkable.

Santa Fe, the ninth fatal school shooting this year reflected in this stunning fact, there have now been more students or teachers killed by guns in U.S. schools than active duty military deaths in 2018, a year not even halfway over.

Our first guest this week, Lieutenant Governor of Texas Dan Patrick. Governor Patrick, thank you for joining us this morning. Of course, our condolences go out to the community, the families there in Texas this morning.

But I wonder if you can reflect on that statistic I just read. More students killed by gun violence in schools than active duty military deaths in 2018.

LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK, (R) TEXAS: George, should we be surprised in this nation? We have devalued life, whether it's through abortion, whether it's the breakup of families, through violent movies, and particularly violent viedoe games which now outsell movies and music. Psychologists and Psychiatrists will tell you that students are desensitized to violence, may have lost empathy for their victims by watching hours and hours of video violent games.

97 percent, George, of teenagers, according to psychiatrists and psychologists, watch video games, 85 percent of those are violent games.

Are we desensitized, are these children, are these teenagers?

And then, of course, George we have our schools that a not hard targets. We have done a good job since 9/11 of protecting government buildings, and airports, and private buildings, but we have not done anything to harden the target at our schools. And we still have this gun debate, George, on whether or not teachers should be armed or not. I believe, and the parents of the students I've talked to in Santa Fe since Friday believe they should be.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You believe they should be. Of course, it's hard not to miss what you didn't mention there, any kind of regulations of guns. And in fact you have suggested fewer school doors could lead to fewer school shootings.

I know that some security experts have said that could be par of a comprehensive solution. But you've also come in for some pretty harsh criticism from those who think the problem is too many guns, not too many doors.

PATRICK: Well, George, I think I laid out just a moment ago the problem is multifaceted. It's not any one issue. But we, again, we have to look at our culture of violence, just our violent society, our Facebook, our Twitter, the bullying of adults on adults and children on children. We have to look at ourselves, George, it's not about the guns, it's about us.

Can there be gun regulation, gun control? I believe that starts at home, George. Every person who owns a gun must be accountable for their guns at home.

We don't know all the facts yet, but this particular young man got his guns in some way from his parents' home. You should have your guns locked up. It's against the law in Texas to let any loaded gun get in the hands of a children, for example.

But in terms of guns, George, and regulation, here's the deal, in Texas we already allow teachers to carry. We leave it up to local parents, school boards and superintendents, but the students and the parents I talk to Friday in the hospital of a wounded student said if one teacher in particular, they think, a marine that was next door to the shooting, had had the ability to carry a gun, he may have been able to stop that.

We had brave officers, George, who came to the call. There were -- you know, this school, George, won a safety award, one of 186 school districts out of over 1,000 in Texas won a safety award.

And it -- and it came in to save lives on Friday. Even though we lost 10, they probably saved countless other lives because they were there within minutes. Two armed guards on the campus plus a roaming (ph) officer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but this (ph) --

PATRICK: But we need armed teachers who are trained to help repel these gun -- the killers who come onto our campuses.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you believe that is one of the answers but, you know, we also have violent video games in other developed countries. We have Twitter and Facebook in other developed countries, so how do you explain another stunning statistic?

PATRICK: Sure.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Americans of high school age are 82 times more likely to die of gun homicide than their peers in the rest of the developed world. That has to be connected to the availability of guns, doesn’t it?

PATRICK: No it doesn’t have to be, George and I can’t compare one country with another country because there are many variables in all these countries. Here’s what I know. We live in a violent country where we’ve devalued life. Kids go to schools that are not as safe s public and government buildings. Yes I’ve been criticized by saying we should have fewer entrances.

Look, you need all the exits -- fire exits you need. But -- but we should have eyes on students walking into our schools. This student walked in with a gun under a trench coat Friday and no one in law enforcement stopped him. We can’t guard every entrance of the 8,000-plus schools we have in Texas but we can guard one or two. We have to think out of the box, George. We can stagger our start times.

Let school -- let kids get to school a little earlier, let us keep eyes on them. You know, the Israelis believe in -- in detect and deter and deny. We don’t do a very good job of that in our schools. We need to put our emphasis to protect our kids.

In terms of gun laws, George -- and look, I respect and understand those who say they don’t want teacher arm -- they don’t want teachers armed but we know we have to send a message to those who would come on -- whether they’re adults that come onto campus, whether they’re terrorist or whether they’re students that that’s a hard target and you’re not going to get into school with a gun.

We have to stop that. And in terms of gun control -- gun control starts at home, accountability for gun owners -- I’m a gun owner -- starts at home and we need the best background checks we -- we have. We need to be very sensible about this, George. But remember, we cannot sit back and say it’s the gun. It’s us as a nation, George. On this Sunday morning when we all go to church and pray or go to the synagogue or the mosque or wherever we go, let’s look inward at ourself as a nation.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- but when we look inward, sir, aren’t we going to find that guns are more available here in greater numbers, in greater lethality than any other developed country in the world?

PATRICK: They are, George, and here’s the reality. They are a part of who we are as a nation, it is our second amendment, you know, it talks about a well run militia, the second amendment. Our teachers are part of that well run militia, by the way. It’s guns that also stop crimes. In -- in our church in Sutherland Springs, George, that I was there after the shooting, it was a man who was able to pick up his rifle and stop that shooter from potentially going down the road to another church or killing law enforcement officers.

Guns stop other criminals from committing crimes, George. Again, sensible -- sensible regulation, absolutely. Background checks -- every -- every responsible gun owner doesn’t want anyone who’s deranged or shouldn’t have a gun to have a gun. But George, we take the guns out of society -- if you or anyone else thinks that that makes us safer, then -- then -- then I’m sad to say that you’re mistaken.

That will just give those who are evil, who will always have access to guns be able to put more of us in danger. And again, in Texas we believe in our second amendment, we believe in our constitution of -- of freedom and our first, our second and tenth amendment. We believe in our constitution. That’s what we stand on.

But today, George, I will tell you on this Sunday morning, Governor Abbott and I are going to a church in just a little bit to be with -- with people in Santa Fe. I can tell you, George, we stand on the rock of our faith. In Texas. This has been a long year, George. The biggest natural disaster in the history of the country, the biggest church shooting in the history of our state.

Governor Abbott and I have been to a lot of funerals and we’ve held a lot of hands and hugged a lot of folks and I will tell you it is their faith in their (ph) fellow man, is their faith in god and -- and it is Texas coming together and standing strong. And no one, George, no one with a gun is going to walk into a school or anywhere else and bring our state to our knees.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It has --

PATRICK: We will stand strong and we will stand together.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It has been a tough year for your state. Governor, thanks for your time this morning.

PATRICK: But we stand strong and thank you, George. And pray for our families today and pray for our state and pray for our country. Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We will. Thank you, sir. Fred Guttenberg joins us now. He’s the founder of Orange Ribbons for Jaime, named for his Daughter Jaime who was killed in the Parkland Florida school shooting. Also, Nicole Hockley, found and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise. Her son Dylan was killed in Newtown.

And Fred, let me begin with you. You just heard Governor Patrick there, you heard what he had to say. What’s your response?

FRED GUTTENBERG, ACTIVIST: I think those are the most idiotic comments I’ve ever heard regarding gun safety. Let me be clear, he should be removed from office for his failure to want to protect the citizens of Texas.

To hear him continue to make the argument after 10 people died in his state that guns are not the issue is simply a crock. I was in Texas two weeks ago to be across the street from the NRA convention and to protest it.

The highlight item at their convention is a gun that folds up to look like a cell phone, OK. That is not designed for any reason other than to spread more death on the streets of this country.

And regarding the second amendment, I am pretty confident the framers of our constitution did not sit around predicting the day where we would have guns that looked like cell phones.

I’m sorry, that man, those were idiotic comments, I am raging right now. I’m here this weekend at what was supposed to be my daughter’s dance recital where they’re honoring my daughter’s memory instead of having my daughter dance.

And for that man to make those moronic comments, unacceptable.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well your -- your rage is very clear. Nicole, thank you for joining us also this morning. I know you’ve been working hard ever since Newtown, ever since your son Dylan was killed, I’m (ph) trying to come up with solutions.

And there’s a lot of frustration at the national level, especially. But you say there actually has been some progress at the local level addressing these problems.

NICOLE HOCKLEY, FOUNDER, SANDY HOOK PROMISE: There definitely has been progress at a local level and at a national level, where we’re teaching how do you recognize the signs of someone who’s at risk, because this is about prevention.

What we’re taught -- what we heard from the lieutenant governor in terms of hardening of the schools, I’m not saying that that’s unimportant and that we shouldn’t be looking at school security and the bricks and mortars of how we protect our students, but this was a hard school already.

There was a lot of safety measures in place, you had armed school resource officers, you had -- you had prepared action plans for active shooter drills. There was a lot of activity already happening, and I don’t think that we’re focusing -- we’re -- we’re simply focusing on the wrong thing here.

School control of -- of gun safety measures, that is a mitigation, that is not prevention. We need to focus on the kids inside the schools, and while I disagree with the vast majority of what the lieutenant governor said, I do agree that we do have a problem where we devalue life.

And the fact that this shooting has not received a significant amount of coverage, that this shooting is not seeing a significant amount of action, to me that is devaluing life itself. There are 10 people who are dead who are not going back to their families.

That’s what we need to be focusing on and it’s not about religion, it’s not about values, and it’s not just about guns. It’s about guns and it’s about people, and while I agree with him that access and safety, those things need to be held accountable, this shooter took the guns from his home, and therefore action and accountability needs to take place.

We also need to think about what do we need to do to stop people before they ever reach the point of picking up a firearm with the intent of hurting themselves or someone else, and that’s not about school security, that’s about prevention.

STEPHANOPOULOS: See (ph) Guttenberg, I saw you nodding your head to a lot of that there, and it’s clear that you don’t suffer from the problem of desensitization and the problem of numbing right now.

Your rage is painfully clear, what do you say to the rest of us who -- who are getting all too used to this?

GUTTENBERG: You know, George, the morning that the -- the breaking news on this happened, I was reading the news reports of this shooting at the Trump Hotel. These shootings keep on happening, and Nicole’s a hundred percent right.

This is not just about guns, it’s not just about school safety, it’s not just about mental health, it’s everything. And the problem is when these shootings happen, the crowd that doesn’t want to blame guns, they want to talk about everything else but guns.

Folks like Nicole and I, we want to talk about all of it, because to solve this problem, you must. You need to talk about all these things if you want to limit these incidents, you want to stop these incidents, but you also have to be realistic.

These incidents are happening and we have to limit the casualties when they do. And -- and I’m glad Nicole brought up the hole (ph), because I’ve heard some in Texas and some out of Texas say all of the gun safety measures proposed could not have stopped this.

Well you know what, maybe we need to go further, because this happened where this kid took the guns from his dad. Responsible gun ownership should require, by law, that parents lock up their weapons so their kids can’t take them, and if the weapons are removed from a home and used this way, the parent needs to be held equally accountable.

We need to address everything, this isn’t an either or problem. We need to be honest, we need to deal with it all.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And there are some people proposing some e even more radical measures, Nicole, I was struck by this tweet. Arne Duncan, the former Education Secretary, retweeting a tweet from a man named Peter Cunningham, who said, "Maybe it's time for America's 50 million school parents to simply pull their kids out of school until we have better gun laws."

Mr. Duncan called this "brilliant and tragically necessary."

HOCKLEY: Well, I think that is one option. I can certainly understand a parent's fear for sending their child to school every day, given how often these things are happening. And for that one student that I heard after the Santa Fe shooting, saying, I wasn't surprised. It was almost expected that this was going to happen here.

If that's the environment our kids are now being brought up in, then we're doing something very tragically wrong. If we want to have parents pull their kids out of school until we have better solutions in place, that is an option.

But what are we doing when they're walking down the street?

What are we doing when they're going to the mall or to the movie theater?

This isn't just about school shootings. This is about shootings everywhere. This is happening in every community, every day. And there are actions that we can take. And prayers are very important. Talking about this is very important. Looking at issues around violence is important.

But there are actions that we can take right now at a community level, teaching each other what to do but also, at a state and federal level in terms of ensuring that we have complimentary policy to ensure that, when we see someone who needs help, we're ensuring that they don't have access to firearms.

And that's really what we need to act on right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Nicole Hockley, Fred Guttenberg, thanks very much for your time this morning.

GUTTENBERG: Thank you, George.

HOCKLEY: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, one year into the special counsel's investigation, "The New York Times" is reporting this morning that Robert Mueller is investigating whether other countries besides Russia tried to help the Trump campaign. We'll analyze all the latest in the investigation with Alan Dershowitz and Dan Abrams. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good afternoon, we are coming on the air now with major news from the Department of Justice. The acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has decided to appoint a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, any ties with the Trump campaign, and they call it related matters.

One year ago, May 17th 2017, the appointment of Robert Mueller, let’s take stock one year in with our legal team, joined by our Chief Legal Analyst Dan Abrams, and Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, also author of the new book "Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy".

And then we’ve got a lot of new tweets from the president this morning, but I want to start with one he put out on the anniversary of the Mueller pick. He said congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest witch hunt in American history, and there is still no collusion, no obstruction, the only collusion was that done by democrats who were unable to win an election despite the spending of far more money.

That’s his take on the first year, what’s yours?

DAN ABRAMS, CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, ABC: Yes, I mean look, what we know for certain as a result of this investigation is that the Russians did meddle in the election, 13 Russians have been indicted by the Special Counsel.

At least six others have been indicted in the last year in connection with this investigation. So this notion that sort of nothing is (inaudible), here we are a year later and we’re still waiting, a lot has happened in the first year.

The question still remain as to what’s next, meaning will they be able to indict and will they indict any senior members of the Trump campaign in connection with that. We don’t know the answer to that.

But the notion that up to this point, it’s been a witch hunt or a hoax just makes no sense.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One thing we also know, Professor Dershowitz, is another (ph) Special Counsel investigations, and you’ve criticized this have gone on for far longer than a year.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well I think it was a mistake to appoint a Special Counsel. They should have appointed a non-partisan, independent commission like 9/11 to find out how this election went wrong.

And it went wrong in so many different ways. This is one of the worst elections in modern history with Russian attempts to influence, other attempts by Gulf countries to influence the existence of FBI agents who were trying desperately to turn the election away from Trump.

We should have had a massive investigation and then we should change the laws to make it clear what you can do and what you can’t do. I don’t think this investigation has gotten us what we need to know, knowledge and information about how to prevent this in the future.

ABRAMS: (Inaudible) isn’t passing that -- oh, when -- you know, we’ve got evidence that the FBI agents were trying to turn this against Trump, we don’t have any evidence that FBI agents were trying to turn the election.

DERSHOWITZ: How about Strzok’s tweets when he said we need a guarantee, we need an insurance policy, we have to investigate that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Inaudible) hold on, those were not tweets, those were private texts.

DERSHOWITZ: What’s the difference? We’ve got them.

(CROSS TALK)

They show a state of mind, and now we have --

ABRAMS: Did you read all of his texts? Did you read all of his texts? Actually the total context is not saying oh my goodness, Donald Trump is the problem. Also he talked about Hillary Clinton and problems with Hillary Clinton, et cetera.

The bottom line is, to sort of throw that in there with all the rest of what the -- what the Special Counsel has found, to me, it just minimizes what we’ve really found with regard to Russian meddling.

DERSHOWITZ: And I think it should minimize it because what we found is not particularly significant. What we --

ABRAMS: You don’t think it’s significant?

DERSHOWITZ: No.

ABRAMS: Russian meddling is not significant?

DERSHOWITZ: No, I think it’s very significant.

ABRAMS: Oh.

DERSHOWITZ: The meddling. I don’t think the criminal charges are very significant because we, to this day, don’t even know what the law still is. You know, the Supreme Court has said that foreign governments can intrude themselves into elections if they have an interest in the outcome of the election. What they can’t do is contribute money. The law is very unclear. Now we have information of an FBI informant in the campaign.

That’s want (ph) an investigation.

ABRAMS: Again, FBI informant in the campaign. Again, no evidence an FBI informant was --

DERSHOWITZ: No evidence?

ABRAMS: None. The -- here’s the evidence we have. The evidence we have is that an FBI informant spoke to members of the Trump campaign.

DERSHOWITZ: That’s --

ABRAMS: That’s not in the campaign.

DERSHOWITZ: That’s good enough to get an investigation going. This was a -- Dan, let me ask you a question. Was this a good election? Was this something we should be proud of or is this an election that warrants an investigation, a non-partisan investigation on both sides to make sure that in the future, A we know what the rules are, B, we know how to stop countries from improperly intruding on elections.

That’s what we need to know. We need to look forward, we need to stop this in the future and stop making up crimes and expanding the criminal law to fit people that we’ve targeted. That’s dangerous to democracy.

ABRAMS: But look, Alan’s been very consistent on this issue about the law over the years. And -- and I -- and I respect that. But the notion that the Special Counsel can’t view this objectively, that Robert Mueller is somehow -- what? Robert Mueller is so compromised? Which way?

DERSHOWITZ: I’m not suggesting --

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS: -- long term Republican, so why can’t Robert Mueller be the one to assess whether there are any crimes here (ph)?

DERSHOWITZ: First of all, this long term Republican -- Comey was a long term Republican, they’re all long term Republicans who hated Trump. So that doesn’t help at all --

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS: -- you know that Mueller hated Trump?

DERSHOWITZ: Well (ph) -- you won’t have any doubt about that at the end of this --

(CROSSTALK)

DERSHOWITZ: No, but maybe he and Comey are so close -- their history is so close together that when you read Comey’s book and you see what he has said, you really wonder about the objectivity of the investigation. Look, if there was evidence of crime, the U.S. attorneys can investigate it as the southern district is doing. The main (ph) justice could investigate it.

There’s one person that should be recused from this case and that’s Rod Rosenstein because he’s a witness. He’s the main witness. There was never a need for a Special Counsel -- Special Counsel have targets, they’re looking to try to find crimes against people. That doesn’t serve the interest of America. America’s interest is served by finding out the truth, the facts, changing the law and making sure it never happens again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It sounds like you’re in league with President Trump on impeaching the credibility at this point of the Special Counsel. But in the meantime, the investigation is continuing and one of the things we learned this weekend is that New York Times report on the cover of the New York Times this morning that now Robert Mueller is investigating this meeting that Donald Trump Jr. and other aides had with emissaries of Gulf nations, wealthy Arab Gulf nations offering help to win the election.

The president’s tweeted on that this morning. And so all he says (ph), things are getting really ridiculous. Failing crooked New York Times has done a long and boring story indicating the world’s most expensive with hunt has found nothing on Russia and me so now they are looking at the rest of the world. Now, this story, Dan, is -- is a bit complicated. I’ll grant that. But what it does say is that Donald Jr. had a meeting with an emissary of the UAE and Saudi Arabia who was offering some help, perhaps working with an Israeli firm on social media.

ABRAMS: I read the article twice. And then again. And still am not certain after reading it three times whether there is any potential criminal activity.

DERSHOWITZ: Isn’t that a problem? Isn’t that a problem that we don’t even know what the law is today? As to whether --

ABRAMS: Well, look. Here’s -- no, it’s actually --

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS: -- it’s actually not that we don’t know what the law is, it’s that we don’t know what the facts are.

DERSHOWITZ: No, it’s that we don’t know what the law is.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS: Well, at least for me. As far as I know --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let Dan finish --

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS: The basic law as I understand is that a foreign national can’t provide anything of value, which has been interpreted to mean typically substantial assistance in connection with an election.

DERSHOWITZ: OK.

ABRAMS: Period.

DERSHOWITZ: Let’s take the following scenario. You have countries in the world who hate the Democrats because of the fact that they made a deal with Iranians that they think endangers their security. Therefore they want to see a Republican elected. Is that a crime? You don’t know the answer to that, I don’t know the answer to that because the Supreme Court and the legistlature --

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS: -- wait, I do know the answer to that.

DERSHOWITZ: What is it (ph)?

ABRAMS: If they gave money, that would be a crime.

DERSHOWITZ: That would be one (ph).

ABRAMS: If they gave -- if they gave any campaign assistance that has a value, that would be a crime.

DERSHOWITZ: No, that’s not true. The United States Supreme Court has said case after case where you can give things a value if they are protected by the first amendment, if they are informational, if they are a concert, for example. There are cases all over the place and they go both ways --

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS: But Alan --

(CROSSTALK)

DERSHOWITZ: The law is not clear.

ABRAMS: But Alan, the law in every area has gray areas, right. That’s why cases make it to the Supreme Court, because appellate courts end up interpreting things in different ways and then it makes its way up to the Supreme Court where the Supreme Court has to resolve exactly what it means.

To suggest oh, this area of the law is so much more vague than any -- it’s not.

DERSHOWITZ: No, no, no, it is. Let me tell you, we don’t know what -- first of all, you talk about the Israeli person, we’ve had foreign people involved in American elections in the very beginning (inaudible).

That’s perfectly legal to have a foreign person involved as long as they don’t make substantial campaign contributions. There’s a volunteer exception, there’s another exception that says that if you’re doing it for your own purpose --

ABRAMS: You’re -- you’re -- you’re intentionally making this more complicated than it needs to be. Bottom --

DERSHOWITZ: Boy, it’s complicated enough.

ABRAMS: It is, but you know what, they’re going to figure out whether they’re -- under current law, the same way they do in every other area of the law, was a -- was a law violated?

It’s just not that hard, and to sort of throw your arms and say oh, we just can’t -- we can’t interpret this area of the law.

DERSHOWITZ: You and I can’t agree --

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS: You’re a law professor, law professors point to specific difficult questions. That’s what you’ve done for a living.

(CROSS TALK)

DERSHOWITZ: -- never see the basis for criminal prosecution. And unless you know with absolute clarity where the line is and you make --

(CROSS TALK)

-- decision to be or not to be a felon, it should not be crime, crime should not be matters of a degree.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m going to have to interrupt right here, I know this is not the last time we’re going to hear from the two of you. We’ll come back when the next development of the investigation.

Thank you both very much.

(CROSS TALK)

Round Table’s coming up, and when we come back, the president’s top Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow joins us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can only tell you this. We're going come out fine with China. Hopefully, China is going to be happy. I think we will be happy.

And as the expression goes, when you're losing $500 billion a year on trade, you can't lose the trade war. You have already lost it. We have had horrible representatives in this country that have allowed other countries to get away with murder. And those days are gone. Those days are over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That was President Trump on Thursday, before the trade talks with China adjourned, at least for now. We're joined now by his director of the White House National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow.

Larry, thank you for joining us this morning.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: The talks went on through Friday evening. White House and Chinese put out a statement yesterday, a joint statement. Now this joint statement did not include any specific commitment to reduce the trade deficit by the Chinese by $200 billion.

Going into the meetings, you had said they had agreed to do that. But the White House was pushing very, very hard for that kind of reduction.

So did these talks fail?

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: I don't know, George, certainly not. Look, I never said we agreed to do that. I said, in fact, there was no deal but, regarding the number 200, first of all, that's a number that interests the president a lot.

And both sides, I was in Beijing as well as Washington. Both sides have used that as rough ballpark estimate. I mean, here's the thing.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the Chinese say they haven't, though.

KUDLOW: Well, I don't know. I mean, I've been informally -- I have heard that number from them. It depends how you count things.

Look it, here's the key point, if I may, in the communique there was a consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduced the the United States's trade deficit in goods with China. That's the key point.

And here's the second key point, they are offering to make structural reforms, such as lower tariffs and lowering non-tariff barriers, which will permit us to export billions and billions more goods to China. That's the elementary point. That's the key point.

These numbers, you can't predict these numbers. I mean, these are macroeconomic things, depending on conditions. But what I want to say is, we made a lot of progress here in Washington and built on what happened in China a couple weeks back. The president is in a very positive mood about this. So, I myself, am very encouraged, because, look, at the end of the day, George, growth, this is good for growth. This helps our farmers, this helps our ranchers, this helps our businesses.

I actually think it's good for Chinese growth, too.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you are encouraged, but just to be clear, is there an agreement or not?

KUDLOW: There's no agreement for a deal. We never anticipated one. There's a communique between the two great countries, that's all. And in that communique, you can see where we're going next. For example, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross going over to China. He's going to be looking into a number of areas where we're going to have greatly, significant increases -- energy, for example, LNG, for example, agriculture, manufacturing.

Again, as the tariffs come down and the barriers come down, that gives us an opportunity for greatly increased export sales. And, you know, you've got to trust, but verify -- Ronald Reagaon taught me that a long time ago -- but I like the direction we're going in.

STEPHANOPUOLOS: There's also no mention in the communique of this Chinese telecom firm ZTE that the president tweeted about last week Sunday saying he wanted to find a way to get it back into business, despite the fact that it's been subject to U.S. sanctions, because of its work with Iran and North Korea. A bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill that that would be a mistake. Where does that stand?

KUDLOW: President Xi asked President Trump to take another look at it. This may be part of the overall trade discussion, but it really is an enforcement action, it's a legal enforcement action with the process being run by the Commerce Department, I guess the Justice Department as well.

Look, I don't know how this is going to turn out. Again, Wilbur Ross is having Campo (ph) look at this.

Let me just say with as much clarity as possible, if any of the remedies are altered, they are still going to be very, very tough, including big fines, compliance measures, new management, new boards. The question is whether there are perhaps some small changes around the edges. I think President Trump is doing this because there's some very good feeling between him and China.

Do not, please, do not expect ZTE to get off scot-free. It ain't gonna happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I also want to ask you about a headline in The Washington Post yesterday -- I want to put it up here right now -- it has having to do with Amazon. And it talks about President Trump personally pushing the postmaster general to double rates on Amazon and other firms.

The president has tweeted about Amazon a lot, as well. Is it appropriate for the president to be singling out companies like this?

KUDLOW: Well, look. I'm not -- that not in my lane, OK. I can't really comment specifically. I haven't looked at that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it comes under the National Economic Council, doesn't it?

KUDLOW: Well, I suppose so, but again I haven't been involved in that discussion.

Look, the president is a man of many opinions. I think you know that. I think we all know that. It's up to him. He may be carrying this ball. I can't comment directly on it.

George, I want to go back to a Kudlow theme, if you let me for a minute. The American economy is growing very nicely, 3 percent. They said it couldn't be done, some of the critics. The tax cuts are working. The rollback of regulation is working. These trade opening deals, if we can effect them successfully, including the technology pieces, that is going to help economic growth.

The Atlanta fed's GDP now estimate is 4 percent in the second quarter. I'd be more than happy with a 3 percent handle.

Things are going very, very well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, there's a lot of good news in the economy. But let me push you on that just one more time, because you are the chair of the National Economic Council, and as the chair of the economic council, when the president's opinions are at odds with the facts, for example, when he says that Amazon -- the Post Office is losing billions of dollars to Amazon, the taxpayers are paying for it, when that simply isn't true, isn't it your responsibility to advise him of the facts?

KUDLOW: If he asked me directly, it would be. A lot of people looked at these numbers. And there are many different opinions about the validity of many different numbers, George. That's really all I can say.

I mean, my plate, taxes, regulations, China trade, I have not been deeply involved in Amazon. The president may feel, look, he may feel that there's some unfairness going on here.

And, as you know, there's been some back and forth about the role of Mr. Bezos, who I know, actually, and his "Washington Post" ownership. I just can't go down there and specifics. I know you want to dig into. It's just not my story. My story --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, well, I'm going to let you go but let me just then make a final point. That is what a lot of people re concerned about here because they look at the fact and say that, in fact, Amazon has not cost the postal service any money.

And in fact, the president is targeting them because Jeff Bezos owns "The Washington Post" even thought that has nothing to do with Amazon. That's what they say is inappropriate.

KUDLOW: I've seen the figures offense and defense on that one. To be honest with you, I have seen numbers. You can probably do this on both sides. A lot of the numbers, by the way, have not been made available. We'll see.

All I know is America is prospering. And if we can fix the technology stealing, which is so important in this China story, and we can get these market openings, this will be good for American export sales. I think it's good for Chinese growth.

We will have come a long way and the president who started out skeptically on our trade mission is now very much behind it. I believe every single American, really, every single American, George, will benefit from open trade and lower barriers and technology protection.

And by the way, tax cuts and cutbacks in regulations are having a major positive move. We're in the 3 percent zone, George. My pals, and I have got a lot of friends on the other side of the aisle, they told me we couldn't get there. We're there. I hope we'll stay.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you for your time this morning, Larry Kudlow.

Roundtable is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're back with the roundtable. Joined by Ronan Farrow, just won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on the #MeToo movement, with "The New Yorker" magazine, also out with a new book, "War on Peace: The End Of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence;" Republican strategist Amanda Carpenter, author of "Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us;" National political reporter for Axios, Jonathan Swan; Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union; and Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, old friend and contributor.

So much to talk about, as you can see, this Sunday morning. I'm going to choose to come back with this one-year anniversary of the Mueller investigation.

Jonathan Swan, let me begin with you. I noticed something when Alan Dershowitz was here. Of course, he's an independent but has been close to the president at times. It really does seem like the White House strategy coming into focus her, it's now all about discrediting Robert Mueller.

JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: The legal strategy has not changed. Emmett Flood is a quiet, careful lawyer who is doing the identical work that’s inside the White House. What's changed is the media strategy, which is very significant. Rudy Giuliani's job is not to do substantive, in the weeds legal work. His job is to go on TV and attack Robert Mueller and attack the investigation.

And what we're seeing is that it's becoming a red and a blue issue, similar to the Clinton impeachment in the 90s. And if that actually happens, we're already seeing the trend lines go in that direction, if that solidifies, that's fantastic for Trump, and he knows that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Half a dozen tweets by the president this morning.

BRAZILE: Yes, George.

But, look, 17 indictments, five convictions, this investigation has proven more results than previous investigations over a similar period of time. You go back to Whitewater, Watergate, even the Tea Pot Dome in the 1820s under President Hardy, we've learned more in one year than we have learned in previous investigations. And we haven't really gotten to the crux of what really happened in 2016.

I hope the Republicans back off of what I call disparaging Mr. Mueller and his investigation so that we can learn everything, every little detail so we can prevent it from happening again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Ronan Farrow, you reminded us this week that it's not just the Mueller investigation right now. You've got the southern district of New York looking at Michael Cohen and the idea that some financial records may at least be restricted now, not in the public domain.

FARROW: That's exactly right. And what we know from the single suspicious activity report, as you know a kind of document filed by a bank when they see anything that looks like fraud or money laundering, that has been made public, we know that there are transactions that seem to intersect with Mueller's focus, that bank investigators looking at Cohen's accounts, actually were looking at Russian originated transactions at foreign influence.

There seem to be a lot of transactions with foreign entities that had some kind of vested interest in the outcome of this last election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Amanda, you've written a bit about this, are Republicans now consolidating around the Trump point of view on this, as Jonathan suggested.

CARPENTER: Yes, the idea that this is the biggest witch hunt since Watergate has definitely caught on, but spoiler alert, there was a witch found in Watergate. It was the president. And the things that should worry Republicans now, the revelations this week shown by Michael Cohen and also Donald Trump Jr.'s transcripts released by the Senate intelligence committee is that they were absolutely no firewalls between the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign, and even the Trump White House.

And Donald Trump has tried to draw a bright line between the Trump Organization and the campaign, but if he never did during the campaign and during his presidency, how can Robert Mueller? He can't.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And if nothing else matched up, we do know how wide ranging this investigation is.

SCHLAPP: Because you know why, there's really no confines on it, and that's one of the criticisms of it. As Alan Dershowitz is saying, is it's just about collusion, then I think the American people want to know the answer, George.

I'll make -- I'll tell you, if they find evidence of collusion and big, vast amounts of money coordinating with the Trump campaign, that's a big problem.

But what do we have? We have less than a million dollars spent on Facebook and Google advertisements, half of which happened after the election.

And I'll tell you the other thing, look at the polls, if this is such a problem I think the American people are fair. They were fair on Whitewater, when an investigation is not about the purpose of the investigation sometimes they cry foul, which is why Donald Trump's poll numbers are so much stronger, then generic ballot for Republicans is now just a four point differential. And look at the right track, wrong track.

Just two years ago, there was a 30 point differential with Americans believing if the country was on the wrong track by 30 points. That's down to 13 points.

Everything in this country demonstrates that if it's not collusion, they actually don't want to hear about it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that leads to something -- that some might see as ironic, but it's the Republicans who appear to want to talk about this investigation during the campaign more than the Democrats, and the White House certainly.

SWAN: If you look at Democratic leadership, it's very clear Nancy Pelosi does not believe that running on impeachment is the right strategy. In fact, a lot of Democratic leaders believe all it will do is energize the Republican base, who frankly, the biggest worry in Washington at the moment among Republican leaders is that their base is too apathetic. They won't turn up to vote. And if you use the impeachment word, if you really press that rod, that's the thing that's going to get them off the couch.

So, if you're just talking about the politics of this, it's very clear why Democrats aren't really making this the centerpiece of 2018.

FARROW: You know, I think what we're seeing is also the wall is coming down between all of these separate investigations, people like Cohen and the president himself. So, the political resonance of these narratives about corruption is only going to increase. We saw just in this past week, obviously the financial disclosures from the president admitting that he was repaying Cohen in some of these cases for some of these transactions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's going to lead to a question, of course, we saw during the 2016 presidential campaign, at what point does Robert Mueller have to put everything on hold as we head into the mid-term elections, Donna.

BRAZILE: Well, look, I would hope that by Labor Day when the last primary is held some time during that period, that the investigation is able to enter its last phase.

But you have to follow the evidence. Senate Chair Mr. Burr said that things are wrapping up with the senate investigation.

But look, my concern, George, is that the Russians tried to meddle in our election database.

Finally the Department of Homeland Security is working with state and local governments to basically strengthen our electoral system. We have a lot of problems that needs to be addressed.

And while the president is spending his Sunday morning telling us that this is a witch hunt, he’s not spending enough time making sure that the American people will have some faith in their democratic government.

SCHLAPP: We know what Russia did in the election, and it’s repugnant, and we know they’ve done it for several elections. And what we actually need to do -- you know when -- when we had the problem with Iran-Contra, Ronald Reagan said we’re going to have a Tower Commission and it’s going to be bipartisan.

It was made up of three imminent people and they gave us answers and if that leads to criminal prosecution, great, it should. But what we got to know is what happened, and that’s what we’re losing in all this.

It’s all of this -- it’s this cavalcade of other crimes, crimes previous joining (ph) for the president, crimes ancillary running (ph) for the president. The American people are fair, that’s not what this was all about.

It was about treason, and if there’s no treason, they’re not going to hold them accountable.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Inaudible) but let’s hold a -- fair enough, Robert Mueller is not done yet, he’s a year in.

CARPENTER: I think one of the problems here is that Donald Trump has a strong P.R. machine giving his side of the story out, and the Department of Justice and the investigators do not.

What (inaudible) --

(CROSS TALK)

STPEHANOPOULOS: -- they shouldn’t be.

CARPENTER: No, but it’s an unfair fight at this point in time, and for regular people to keep track of all these stories, it’s very difficult. But the thing is that is does keep returning to that we know there were repeated overtures by the Russians to members of the Trump campaign offering assistance.

Trump campaign members opened the door that they appeared receptive. Donald Trump without a doubt used the Russian hack material on the campaign trail. And in those discussions, the Russians kept bringing up sanctions, and we know that Donald Trump is very resistant to imposing sanctions.

That’s what we know, that is the storyline of the investigation, but unfortunately they don’t have people out there explaining that clearly.

(CROSS TALK)

FARROW: This -- this isn’t just about the election itself. We are seeing revelation after revelation suggesting that there were foreign entities interfering on various policy issues. For instance, you know, we had the reporting in the last weeks with (ph) me and also several other reporters that there were efforts to scupper the Iran deal, to sabotage the reputations of people behind it.

Now we see our withdrawal from the Iran deal, we see our government bereft of diplomats, which is the subject of my book obviously, some self interest in pointing it out, but -- but I would point out that that is going to be a big issue (inaudible) --

(CROSS TALK)

SWAN: -- I think it required George Nadar, who by the way I was supposed to report to convince Trump to get out of the Iran deal.

(CROSS TALK)

FARROW: -- in the last two days about -- about Israeli social media manipulation. Similarly, we see, you know, an Israeli private investigations firm going after the personal reputations of people behind the Iran deal.

There are a -- a new array of actors here that the American public didn’t know about, and this is all going to figure into this next election.

SCHLAPP: But -- but -- but let’s get to it, which is the American government and governments around this world interfere in elections. The American government interferes in elections.

There’s a whole new level of espionage which happens online. I think the American people do need to have complete transparency in what the threats are against us, but also what we do.

The American people need to know what its own intelligence agencies did in this campaign, people can say it’s spying, it’s not spying. It’s disgusting. I don’t care whose campaign this was, help me out here.

We shouldn’t be using the government in a presidential campaign. We shouldn’t be using the agencies to try to pick a one -- pick a winner or a loser. Mr. Strzok, he talked about --

(CROSS TALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wish we weren’t out of time right now, but we are because you laid out (ph) a lot there. It does require some answers, but we had a lot to pack in today, thank you all very much.

That is all for us today, thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out WORLD NEWS TONIGHT, I’ll see you tomorrow on GMA.

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