A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday,January 5, 2020 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, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Trump's gamble.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We took action to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely, there will be revenge. There will be harsh revenge.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: A polarized response from Congress.
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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The president killed him. And the world is safer.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): The assassination of Soleimani will lead to greater harm.
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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Instead of sending the articles to the Senate, they flinched.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): He has no good argument against having witnesses and documents.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: No break in the impeachment stalemate. The latest on the Senate trial with Democratic Leader chuck Schumer. Plus, Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel on our powerhouse roundtable. We will 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, and welcome to "This Week."
It was also a move rejected by Presidents Bush and Obama, who feared the risks of a wider war with Iran outweighed the benefits of removing General Soleimani.
That red flag of vengeance unfurled above the mosque in one of Iran's holiest cities for the first time in history.
But how will Iran retaliate? Where? On what scale? Can that regime risk all-out war with the U.S.?
Those questions yet to be answered this morning, along with a prescient one posed by General David Petraeus when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003: How does this end? Nearly 17 years later, with thousands of American troops on the ground, thousands more headed to the region right now, President Trump has launched the most consequential strike inside Iraq since that invasion. And that question, how does this end, still hangs in the air. We begin in Iraq this morning with senior foreign correspondent Ian Pannell on the ground in Erbil. Good morning, Ian.
IAN PANNELL, ABC NEWS SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, George, from a country, a region where it feels almost everyone is asking that very same question, how does this end? As you say, previous presidents demurred, because the reality is that Iran has significantly asymmetric capacity to retaliate, not just in the Middle East, but also beyond, and the will to do so, whether it's on the thousands of troops stationed here in Iraq or elsewhere in the region, the diplomats, the workers, all the U.S. business interests.
And they and their allies have made it clear that they will take revenge. So there could be physical attacks, kidnappings, bombings, cyberattacks. Perhaps American troops could be expelled from Iraq, something that's under discussion in the Iraqi Parliament right now. Now, the U.S. says that it doesn't want escalation, but many here feel that that's a wholly unrealistic proposition, and it naively assumes that they can control events on the ground.
Now, if one of those rockets that were fired last night towards the Green Zone or the other base had landed and killed an American, what would the response of the president be that didn't lead to some form of escalation? And that's a question that many people, I think, are starting to ask. There is a significant risk of this running out of control, with some people warning that it could eventually lead to war.
So how do you put a cap on that, other than by diplomacy? And with that red flag being hoisted high on the mosque, as you suggest, I'm afraid many here feel that it's a time for war-war, not jaw-jaw -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Ian, we are seeing some new threats, with specific action as early as today.
PANNELL: Yes, that's right. This comes from Kataib Hezbollah, the very group that initiated the attacks on the U.S. base that led to the death of a contractor, the injuries of a number of U.S. troops. Their leader was also with Qasem Soleimani when he was assassinated. Now they have said that they will carry out attacks on U.S. forces as early as this evening, and they have warned Iraqi forces to stay 1,000 yards away from those U.S. forces. Otherwise, they also risk being attacked -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ian Pannell, thanks. We're joined now by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary thanks for joining us this morning.
We just heard Ian Pannell say that there were Rocket fire attacks against military base last night in Iraq. You said on Friday that the world’s a much safer place after the killing of General Soleimani but more Americans troops now headed to the Middle East. Your own State Department has urged Americans to depart Iraq and other countries including Pakistan, Iran, the UAE. And the Department of Homeland Security put out a bulletin last night saying an attack quote may come with little or no warning. If the world’s a safer place today why are all those actions necessary?
MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: George, good morning. And thanks for having me on the show this morning.
It’s very clear the world’s a safer place today. Qassem Soleimani no longer walks the planet. You know the history; hundreds of thousands of people in Syria, millions of refugees, Lebanon, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, death to Americans in Iraq in the earlier war. This was a bad guy. We took him off the playing field. And that’s important because this was a fellow who was the glue, who was conducting active plotting against the United States of America, putting American lives at risk. President Trump made the right decision to stop Qassem Soleimani from the terror campaign that he’s been engaged in against America, not only 5 years ago and 10 years ago but on December 27th, when an American was killed by Kataib Hezbollah at the orchestrated direction of Qassem Soleimani and to prevent the future plans that terrorist Soleimani had in front of him.
The world is a safer place. We’re taking the actions that we need to take to protect American interests, not only in Baghdad and in Iraq but throughout the region.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You said that he was planning an imminent attack against Americans. What evidence can you share about that? Because The New York Times is reporting this morning that there was skepticism inside the government about that rationale, saying a U.S. official described the intelligence as thin indicating a normal Monday in the Middle East.
POMPEO: George, the senior leaders who had access to all of the intelligence, there was no skepticism. I think General Milley used the term, we would have been culpably negligent had we not taken this strike. The intelligence assessment made clear that no action, allowing Soleimani to continue his plotting, his planning, his terror campaign created more risks than taking the action that we took last week. We reduced risks.
President Trump is committed that every step to protect and defend American lives here in the homeland, we’ll continue to do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Most analyses have said that it’s not a question of whether Iran will respond, but how and when. Should Americans be braced for a counterattack?
POMPEO: George, remember, Iran has been in war with us for 40 years, and the previous administration and Navy sailors on their knees. They launched missile attacks throughout the region.
This is -- this is a regime that has been acting against America for an awfully long time. And we are suffering from eight years of neglect and we’re trying to push it back. We’re trying to contain them. We developed a strategy. It’s a diplomatic strategy. It’s an economic strategy. You’ve now seen some of the military proponents of that strategy. We’re trying to correct for what was the Obama administration’s appeasement of Iran. And we have to -- we have to do that. We have to continue to do that, or Americans will be less safe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But before the strategy was put in place, the Iranians were abiding by the nuclear agreement. We’ve seen a spate of attacks in recent days and weeks in response to the maximum pressure.
Can you say your strategy is actually working?
POMPEO: Absolutely, George. Remember what happened during this terrible nuclear deal. Hundreds of thousands killed in Syria. Shia militia, the ones that we’re fighting today, underwritten, resources are growing, taking control in places like Iraq. Missiles fired from Yemen that could easily have killed Americans when they attacked us on September 14th. All of these things, these are things that were ongoing activities, resourced and funded by the trade and the money that was provided under the JCPOA.
In October of this year, George, the JCPOA, that nuclear deal, will permit arms trade with Iran. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s missiles and systems -- high end systems from China and Russian in Iran lawfully in October. That was the deal we inherited. It’s a place we found ourselves, and we’re working diligently to execute our strategy to convince the Iranian regime to act like a normal nation. The Iranian people are demanding it. We are supporting it and we will be successful.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And on the face of this, we are seeing new threats from Iran, and a strong counter-threat overnight from President Trump. I want to show a tweet he put overnight.
He said: Let this serve as a warning that if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites, representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago, some at a very high level and important to Iran and the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, will be hit very fast and very hard.
As you know, the Geneva Conventions outlaw attacks on cultural objects and places of worship. Our own DOD war manual discusses the protection of cultural property. So, why is the president threatening Iran with war crimes?
POMPEO: Yes. We’ll behave lawfully. We’ll behave inside the system. We always have and we always will, George. You know that.
The president was getting to this point. In the past, previous administrations had allowed Shia militias to take shots at us, and in the past, we responded in theater, trying to challenge and attack everybody who was running around with AK-47 or a piece of indirect artillery.
We’ve made a very different approach. We’ve told the Iranian regime, enough. You can’t get away with using proxy forces and think your homeland will be safe and secure. We’re going to respond against the actual decision-makers, the people who are causing this threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran. We’re going to take this seriously and we’re going to defend the American people at every turn, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, just to be clear, when the president said he had 52 Iranian sites, including sites important to the Iranian culture, that wasn’t accurate?
POMPEO: George, I’ve seen what we are planning in terms of the target set. I’m sure the Department of Defense is continuing to develop options. The American people should know that every target that we strike will be a lawful target, and it will be a target designed with a singular mission, of protecting and defending America.
President Trump has been diligent about that. He doesn’t want war. Talked about this repeatedly. He is a reluctant participant in this. But he will never shy away from protecting America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you had any direct communication with Iranian officials, phone calls, a letter? And how have they responded?
POMPEO: I won’t talk about private conversations but make no mistake about it, I’ve been working on our allies in the region. We have built out an enormous coalition, that shares our fundamental view, that the primary threat to regional stability, is the Islamic Republic and that regime is the terror threat that undermines so much that’s taking place in the Middle East today. And so we’re working it. I have no doubt in my mind that the Iranian leadership understands President Trump’s view and America’s view. And it gets clearly the message from the American leadership.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Before Congress -- Democrats in Congress were given no advance notice of this strike. And the president retweeted about that as well. A tweet from Dinesh D’Souza saying, and neither were the Iranians from for pretty much the same reason. Was the president suggesting that Senator Schumer and other Democrats shouldn’t be given advance notice because they can’t be trusted?
POMPEO: Well I hope we’ll get support from every leader all across America. For members of Congress, I'm confident that they share the Trump administration’s desire to keep America safe. I’m confident too, that they understand the threat and risk Qassem Soleimani presented. We’ll keep them informed through all that’s required. We’ve provided notice to them under the War Powers Resolution. We’ll continue to do that. We’ll brief them. We began our briefings on Friday of last week. We’ll brief them some more this week. We’ll keep them fully apprised.
We need a united American front to pushback -- keep Americans safe. President Trump will lead it. We ask that they support it as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There’s also the question going forward if you take any new action against Iran is congressional authorization needed. Former Vice-President Biden spoke about that yesterday. Let’s listen.
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE-PRESIDENT: I’m going to make it clear, President Trump has no authority to take us to a military conflict with Iran, period. The bottom line is any further action against Iran requires congressional authorization.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will the president go to Congress before taking new military action against Iran?
POMPEO: Boy, it’s really something to hear the vice-president from the previous administration be critical of this administration’s policy of Iran. We’re having to clean up their mess, George. We’ll do everything required under the law to bring us into compliance with all the relevant constitutional legal provisions with respect to our duties to the legislative branch.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that mean you’ll seek new authorizations or no?
POMPEO: We have all the authority we need to do what we’ve done to-date. We will continue to do things appropriately, lawfully, and constitutionally. George, we’ve been consistent about that. There’s no reason to expect we’d do anything different going forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Secretary Pompeo thanks for your time this morning.
POMPEO: Thanks George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s get some analysis now from our expert panel.
Karim Sadjadpour, specialized in Iran for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Meghan O'Sullivan, professor of Harvard’s Kennedy School who served as director for Iraq and Afghanistan on the National Security Council of George W. Bush.
And retired Admiral James Stavridis, who served as supreme allied commander of NATO. He’s also the author of “Sailing True North”.
And, Admiral Stavridis, let me begin with you. You heard Secretary Pompeo there say that America is safer today, the world is safer today.
Do you agree with that? And what should the American military be braced for right now?
ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS, U.S. NAVY (RET.): I think, tactically, it's correct to say that the world is safer because Soleimani is dead. That's a tactical function. I think strategically, however, we are entering a period in which almost certainly, George, we're going to see a continuing ladder of escalation. So, tactically, we're safer for taking that particular chess piece off the board. I really don't see where our strategy in that chess match is going to take us, other than into increasing levels of violence, unfortunately.
So, what should the U.S. military be prepared for? I would start by saying, worry about what's at sea, worry about our ships in the Arabian Gulf. The Iranians have diesel submarines. They have cruise missiles. They can use mines. That is a potential strike point. Secondly, the use of proxy forces around the region against U.S. forces from Afghanistan, all the way to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. And I think, thirdly, George, I'd draw a line under cyber. I think that the Iranians have significant capability here. They can use it to downgrade our military command-and-control. But they can also go after domestic targets.
Lastly, we ought to be very concerned about what the Iranians will say is a proportional action, which would be to take out a U.S. diplomat, a senior U.S. military officer, and not just one in the region. We have many, many, for example, in Europe, which would be much softer targets than what is in the Middle East.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A range of options.
STAVRIDIS: So, buckle up, a big range of options.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Big range of options here. But, Meghan O'Sullivan, we did also hear the secretary say -- make the opposite calculation of both Presidents Obama and President Bush, who you served with. He says the risks of inaction against Soleimani were greater.
MEGHAN O'SULLIVAN, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think it really depends on the assessments of the pros and cons. And the Bush and Obama administrations clearly weighed that the cons outweighed the risks here. And the Trump administration, in making this opposite assessment, we have to wonder, did they not fully assess all the risks or all the ways in which U.S. power and our ability to achieve goals would be jeopardized, or did they overstate the benefits?
Clearly, there are huge counterterrorism benefits, as Admiral Stavridis mentioned. But, at the same time, I'm concerned that they may have assessed the Iranian regime to be very weak and to think that this could actually catalyze something greater inside the regime.
They're looking at a period where Iran had been experiencing widespread protests, is under a lot of economic stress. And maybe they made an assessment that the benefits of doing something so dramatic and so potentially destabilizing would make this calculation more sensible than it was under President Bush and Obama.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're a student of the Iranian regime. How much does this hurt them?
KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: Well, Iran is a very polarized society. And I think what this does is, you have a passionate minority of folks who support the regime. You have a silent majority, I would argue, who are not fans of the regime or Soleimani's world view. This really energizes the passionate majority of regime supporters.
And when you look historically at the collapse of authoritarian regimes, there's usually two key ingredients. You obviously need pressure from below, but you also need divisions at the top. And what this assassination has done is, it's unified Iran's politics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How should -- how should we think about measuring the Iranian response? I was struck by the observation of one analyst, who said, in all these eulogies for General Soleimani, the word vengeance has been matched by the word patience.
SADJADPOUR: You know, what's paramount for the Iranian regime is its own survival. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is 80 years old. He's been ruling for 30 years. He wants to die as supreme leader. And he is working within very careful parameters.
On the one hand, if he doesn't respond to this assassination, he risks losing face. If he responds excessively, he risks losing his head. And so I think it's going to be a drawn-out response that is going to happen over the course of many months.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Admiral Stavridis, this may be drawing America back into the Middle East. We know that President Trump came in promising to draw America out, now 3,500 more troops heading towards Iraq. What does that tell you? What does this mean for the fight against ISIS?
STAVRIDIS: It is going to degrade our fight against ISIS, in the sense of, we're going to have to put so much more military emphasis on our defensive postures, more missile defense units, George, more use of defensive cyber means, focusing our intelligence network on Iran, when we ought to be using it to continue the conflict against the Islamic State.
The Islamic State, by the way, is kind of like embers in a forest fire. Those could re-flash. The worst part about it is, if our troops are indeed forced to leave Iraq, that's where 5,000 U.S. troops are focused on ending what is left of ISIS in the physical realm. So there are real downsides to shifting the lens, if you will, over to Iran. That's a second-order consideration, but I think a significant one.
And it gets back to this idea of, do we have a strategy? Have we put in place all the right moves, the international, the interagency, the private-public, our strategic narrative? We're -- we're really good at launching missiles, George. We could get better at launching ideas.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Meghan O'Sullivan, we saw the Iraqi Parliament today put off any decision on calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Is that inevitable now?
O'SULLIVAN: I wouldn't say it's inevitable. But what I would say is inevitable is that the nature of the American presence is going to change. Certainly, it's possible that the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi government could ask the U.S. to leave, and we will have no choice to leave in that instance.
But even if that doesn't happen -- and I agree with Admiral Stavridis that we really want to avoid that, because that would have big implications for the fight against ISIS and regional stability.
But even if U.S. forces stay, they're going to be much more vulnerable in Iraq than they were a few weeks ago. And this is because now Iraqi forces, Iraqi political forces are much more ambivalent about the U.S. presence. It's important to remember that Soleimani was not viewed as we view him, I think rightly so, as a terrorist leader. In Iraq he was viewed by many, many people as the first person who came to Iraqi's defense when ISIS overtook large swaths of the country in 2014. He was seen as someone -- by many people, not all, as a friend of Iraq.
And so now we see people like Muqtada al-Sadr, just a few days ago, call out the Mahdi Army, which we haven't seen enforced since --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Iraqi Shiites.
O'SULLIVAN: An Iraqi Shia militia that really posed a major challenge to the U.S. and the Iraqi government before the surge. This for the first time since the surge in Iraq, almost ten years ago, Muqtada al-Sadr had called on the Mahdi Army to be ready to defend the country.
So I think the U.S. forces, if they do find a way to stay, are going to be under major threats. Some even predict another insurgency against U.S. forces, but one that is Shia led rather than Sunni led, as in the past.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we've also seen even some analysts suggest the possibility of a tactical alliance between enemies. The al Shabaab, other ISIS groups, and now Iran because they have a common enemy, the United States.
SADJADPOUR: Certainly for the Iranian regime, enemy number one has been the United States and they've been willing to work with Sunni radical groups against the United States. I also think that Iran is going to be very motivated to make Donald Trump a one-term president. They think that the hostage crisis made Jimmy Carter a one-term president. And it's going to put Trump in a very difficult position in 2002 because either he -- if he doesn't respond to Iranian provocations, he looks weak. If he does respond, he risks a conflict, which he thinks would be bad for his base.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Great insights.
Thank you all very much. Up next, a response on Iran and the latest on impeachment from the Senate's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer. He joins us live.
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LARRY KING, TV HOST: -- a trial in which you have already stated an opinion or have an opinion? You wouldn’t be -- you’d be thrown off a jury in any court of America, right?
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): But this is not a criminal trial, but this is something that the Founding Fathers decided to put in a body that was susceptible for the whims of politics.
Also, it’s not like a jury box, in a sense that people will call us and lobby us. You don't have jurors called, lobbied and things like that. I mean, it's quite different than a jury.
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GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Senator Chuck Schumer back in 1999 discussing President Clinton's impeachment trial. He's now the top Democrat in the Senate, as they prepare for the impeachment trial of President Trump. Welcome to "This Week," Senator Schumer.
SCHUMER: Nice to be here, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I do want to talk about that. But first, Iran.
You heard Secretary Pompeo say America and the world is safer today. Do you agree?
SCHUMER: No, I really worry that the actions the president took will get us into what he calls another endless war in the Middle East. He promised we wouldn't have that. And I think we're closer to that now because of his actions. Look, there are so many questions that are unanswered that have to be answered. Among them at the top of the list, what do we know Iran has in its range of retaliations, and how are we going to prepare for them?
And let's face it -- this president has made a mess of foreign policy. North Korea, they’re much be -- they're much stronger than they were when he started. In Syria, he messed up. Every encounter he has with Putin, he losses. And so, I am really worried, and that is why Congress must assert itself. I don't believe the president has authority to go to war in Iraq without congressional --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard Secretary Pompeo. He said they do.
SCHUMER: Well, I don't believe that, and I think Congress and I will do everything I can to assert our authority. We do not need this president either bumbling or impulsively getting us into a major war. And the reason the Founding Father said Congress had to OK it is because that’s a check on a president who is doing so many wrong things. His policy has been -- his foreign policy has been erratic and unsuccessful thus far. I worry it still is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard Secretary Pompeo say that what they've been doing is cleaning up the mess in Iran left by President Obama. You were against or initially against the Iran nuclear agreement.
SCHUMER: Yes, but the bottom line is very simple here -- President Bush, hardly a dove. President Obama had an opportunity to take out Soleimani. They didn't. What -- we don’t know the reasons that it had to be done now. They don't seem very clear. The documents they sent us last night is very unsatisfying as to that, even though I can’t talk about it because the whole thing is classified.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Which is unusual.
SCHUMER: Very. Whatever they're doing is unusual here. There was no consultation. Every other president I have served under, the leaders are called ahead of time and at least let know what they do. And again, the Founding Fathers wanted Congress, they gave Congress the war powers -- the war-making authority because they wanted a check on the executive. This executive seems to have no check and again, he's been erratic and unsuccessful in almost every previous foreign policy endeavor. This one is the most dangerous of all. We need Congress to be a check on this president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned no consultation. I showed Secretary Pompeo that tweet, that retweet from President Trump suggesting that you weren’t consulted for the same reason the Iranians weren’t.
SCHUMER: You know, this is the kind of foolishness that the president engages in, in a very serious situation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about impeachment. Where do things stand on Speaker Pelosi sending over the articles of impeachment to the Senate?
SCHUMER: Well, look, this impeachment, let me just take one step as how -- where we're at. When these articles come over, the focus will be on four Republican senators.
First, the charges, as you know, are grave. For the president to withhold aid so that a foreign power can interfere in our elections and benefit him is one of the things the founding fathers were most worried about when they wrote the Constitution. They gave Congress the ultimate power, the Senate and the House, of impeachment. If we are not going to have a fair trial, if all the facts are not going to come out, if we're not going to hear the truth, and there's going to be just one giant cover-up, America has changed, and the power of an overweening executive is far too great.
SCHUMER: Let me just finish. The -- the -- McConnell will not go for a fair trial. You can't have a fair trial without witnesses and documents, particularly those that were right at the scene of the charges. But four Republican senators can join us. We have the ability to require votes on the four witnesses we have asked for, whether there's an agreement or not. We have the ability to ask for the documents. And I hope, pray, and believe there's a decent chance that four Republicans will join us. If they do, we will have a fair trial. We don't know what these...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But -- but...
SCHUMER: We don't know what these witnesses will say. It may be exculpatory. It may be further condemning the president. But then we will let the chips fall where they may.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you heard Senator -- you heard Senator McConnell say that, let's follow the Clinton example. You go for the first two weeks, have the arguments from the lawyers on both sides, and then have a vote, then consider whether to have witnesses to come forward.
SCHUMER: Well, where...
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is wrong with that...
SCHUMER: Where -- where, but in "Alice in Wonderland," do we hear all the arguments, and then maybe have the evidence, the witnesses, and the trial? That's...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that was the Clinton model, though.
SCHUMER: Well, the Clinton model is totally different. Two reasons. One, they had been heard from already. Every one of those witnesses had been heard from before. These are four witnesses who are eyewitness to the main charge against the president, that he withheld the aid for political benefit to himself.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mick Mulvaney, Secretary Pompeo, John Bolton, and his deputy.
SCHUMER: It's not Secretary Pompeo. It's Blair, and it's Duffey. Look what -- and in the last two weeks, look what's come out. Duffey has said, we got to hush up why he -- this is in an email.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OMB, yes.
SCHUMER: We got a hush up why the president came out.
And then he said, this directly came from the president. Shouldn't that man testify? Sixty-four percent of Republicans agree. So, I am hopeful that our Republican colleagues will come forward. And I will add one thing. If they vote for witnesses, if four of them join us to get witnesses and documents, it doesn't mean they're going to vote to convict the president. It means we will hear all the evidence. It may, as I said, be exculpatory. It may be further condemning the president.
And then the chips will fall where they may. I will tell you this. If the president is acquitted through a sham trial, through a mock trial, where there are no witnesses, where everything is covered up, that will not be -- that will not stand him well with the American people, and it will not stand the Republicans with the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have -- you have criticized Senator McConnell for working hand in glove with the White House. Here was his response on the Senate floor.
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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We have heard clients that it's a problem that I have discussed trial mechanics with the White House, even as my counterpart, the Democratic leader, is openly coordinating political strategy with a speaker who some might call the prosecution.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: Does he have a point?
SCHUMER: No. There's always consultation. People can discuss things. He said he's taking his orders from the White House. I'm not taking -- we Senate Democrats are not taking our orders from anybody. We have come to the view that we need the truth, and nothing but the truth, you know, Jack Webb, just the facts, man? "Dragnet"? you know, you may remember that, even though you're younger than me.
SCHUMER: But that's all we want.
Now, is there consultation? Yes. I have never heard a Senate leader say, I'm taking my orders from the White House, I'm taking my cue, what they want. And the White House is engaged in a massive cover-up. Americans are asking, what are they afraid of? What are they afraid of?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you want the articles of impeachment in the Senate this week?
SCHUMER: Look, I think that Speaker Pelosi has done a very good job here. She has said that she will send the articles of impeachment when she believes she can -- she will maximize sending them to get the fairest trial possible. If she had sent them right away, McConnell could have well just voted for dismissal the day before or after Christmas. Now, in the last two weeks, where we haven't had the articles, lots of new evidence that bolsters our case for witnesses -- for witnesses and documents has come out.
That "New York Times" article which showed who was involved in the decision actually named the very four people that we had requested as witnesses.So, the bottom line is very simple. We need the truth, not a cover-up, not a sham, not to have some nationally televised mock trial where there's no evidence.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Schumer, thanks for your time this morning.
SCHUMER: Great to be here, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable's up next. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, THEN-BUSINESSMAN: Our president will start a war with Iran because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate. He's weak and he's ineffective. So, the only way he figures that he's going to get reelected and as sure you’re sitting there is to start a war with Iran.
I believe that he will attack Iran sometime prior to the election because he thinks that's the only way he can get elected. Isn't it pathetic?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump speaking out on President Obama back in 2011. Of course, President Obama did not attack Iran. There has been now an attack on Iran heading into this election year from President Trump.
We're going to talk all about this now on our roundtable. We’re joined by Rahm Emanuel, former mayor of Chicago, also former governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, Yvette Simpson, CEO of Democracy for America, and our chief political analyst, Matthew Dowd.
And, Chris, let me begin with you and I’ll paraphrase a question from “New York Times” editorial page. The strike against Soleimani may have been justified, was it wise?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's what the Iranians understand, George. I think we have 40-year-plus history now with this regime and the aftermath of the original regime that they do -- they take every sign of goodwill as weakness and I think the president did what he needed to do.
I think Admiral Stavridis was right. We're a safer place now because this guy is now off the map. But it’s going to present challenges. Shocking, the Middle East is presenting us with challenges. The president now is going to have to deal with it. I think one ramification of it for him is you see him sending 3,500 more troops there. You know that’s not what he wants to do. It’s contrary to what he’s wanted to do all along. But every action has a ramification to it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's laying it out on President Obama. Of course, you served as chief of staff, and we’ve talked about this, both President Obama and President Bush consistently decided the risks outweighed the benefits.
RAHM EMANUEL, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, and also the Israelis. So, I would add that, which is why this is a strategic setback on the first order to President Trump's credibility. One, President Trump said that he wanted to re-negotiate another deal. What's the over/under of that happening? Number two, he said he wanted the endless -- he wanted to end the endless wars. We now have the endless conflict.
Number three, the president said he wanted to make sure that Iraq was isolated in the Mideast. We're now the isolated party. They were being protested from Lebanon to Tehran, and now, it’s all about America and the United States.
Iran was on its heels, the strategy was falling apart. And now, what's happened is -- everything the president said he wanted to do, this has undermined that. And you have 18,000 more troops. This is going to become the endless conflict.
And I think, George, the real problem here is that you have a strategy laid out by Secretary of State Pompeo -- very clear about a frontal confrontation with Iran. You're going to find now that the gulf between what Pompeo wants and the will of the president are not aligned, and that is a major strategic blunder for the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yvette -- and Chris made exactly the same point -- the president has been pretty consistent the president doesn't want to be deeply involved in the Middle East.
YVETTE SIMPSON, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, it might be inevitable.
SIMPSON: Well, and I think that he set the stage for that when he predicted that Obama might do exactly what he's doing right now, right? This is a political act. This is a political game for him. And I think he miscalculated quite a bit because he said he didn't anticipate or didn’t want a war. But he’s got war.
And so, the question for me is, what did he expect to happen when you go and assassinate a foreign military leader? And so, now, there will be blood on his hands. As you said, 3,500 real people, people’s children going off to war because of an action that he took when he said there was an imminent threat when we know that there wasn't one. All he had to do was go to the chain of command, let the Congress know, let the U.N. Security Council know about this threat, and let -- get the authorization that you need.
And I think the fact that he doesn't do that I think attacks his credibility which makes this look political, right?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we don't know there wasn't an imminent...
SIMPSON: He's trying to distract from impeachment, right, which is looming on him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we're going to get to that. We actually don't know there wasn't an imminent threat, because we haven't seen any of the intelligence. That's one of the big questions out there.
But, Matthew Dowd, I want to bring this to you. You were serving in the Bush White House at the beginning of the invasion of Iraq back in 2003. I think it's pretty safe to say that no one in the White House at that time could have imagined that America would still be in Iraq 17 years later, which shows just how incalculable these consequences of acts like what the president has done are.
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and that's one of the problems with this.
And I was -- unfortunate when I saw the Secretary of State Pompeo use very, very similar words that Dick Cheney used, which is, is, we're going to be -- we're going to be greeted by victors, and it's all going to be fine, and everything is going to be great. The exact opposite is happening in the Middle East.
To me, we have an unpredictable president who waded in an unpredictable region, with an unpredictable action. And it's akin to me -- the Middle East, it's like shifting tectonic plates. To me, it's like shifting tectonic plates, that you never know where things are going to erupt. And what the president did with this action -- and we're still waiting to hear how he was justified and all that, and I'm waiting for him to report to Congress and the public on that.
DOWD: He dropped a bomb on the fault line of a shifting tectonic plate. Now, it could settle the plates down, and everything could be fine. But, more than likely, what it's going to do is cause a series of earthquakes and volcanoes.
CHRISTIE: Let me tell you how he was justified, OK? We had Iranian attacks on Saudi Arabia. We have Iranians going after the embassy in...
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president didn't respond then.
CHRISTIE: That's right, George. So this is what they're advocating now, that he shouldn't have responded to what's been going on at the embassy as well and other threats that he says -- and we will see the intelligence when it comes out -- that he says were planning attacks on American personnel and diplomats. The bottom line is, he responded because the Iranians continued to provoke. And by not responding to their earlier provocations, especially what they did to the Saudis, that did not make us any safer and didn't make them not take actions like they took in Iraq against the embassy.
So, at some point, you have to decide. There's a risk in every foreign policy decision you make in the Middle East.
CHRISTIE: You have got to decide, do you want to act or don't you? He's decided to act.
EMANUEL: The one thing I would say, look, every time I have been in the Situation Room or in the Oval Office on a major strategic decision, one of the things that's most illustrative of how unpredictable this is and dangerous, nobody from the CIA's down there.
EMANUEL: Nobody from the DNI is down there. No -- and I'm saying that as a point, which is, intelligence is guesswork.
The idea that not only, one, you're going to say this is imminent -- imminent is a judgment call. Number two, beyond that, the second point, which is, what are the ramifications? And that means CIA and DNI always disagree.
And the fact is, nobody is down there, except for the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs, and the secretary of state. And the fact is, nobody from the intelligence units to say, if you do this, here's the if and the thens.
And the idea that you would make a decision of this magnitude, which both President Bush, President Obama, the Israelis have rejected in the past because of the consequences, and nobody's there to tell you what happens the next five -- next day, let alone the next days on end, tells you not just that he undermines that area; he undermines the credibility of the United States on that very point, because they never thought about it.
DOWD: Part of the problem, when we're in such a consequential moment as this in where we are in the Middle East, is, the president has exhausted much of the trust of the American people over three years in little things, crowd sizes at inaugurations, drawing on a hurricane map, and big things that he's -- that he's depleted the trust the American people. So, when the president or the secretary of state comes forward and says, this is what happened and why we did it, there is -- there is a great amount of credible doubt that one has. And the final answer to this is, we don't know if this action made things safer for Americans. If it made things safer...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and we may not know for months or years.
DOWD: For years.
EMANUEL: In Israel...
SIMPSON: And I would argue -- I would argue, right now, it didn't, right?
EMANUEL: In the...
SIMPSON: So, let's start with the fact that here's the evidence against imminence. Lindsey Graham was told about this on a golf course. If you can tell Lindsey Graham about this action on a golf course, you can let Congress know, you can notify your staff.
EMANUEL: Group of eight.
SIMPSON: You can also maybe alert U.N. Security Council. Also, you think about the bigger picture, he was given many, many options. He took the nuclear option. So, how is it an imminent threat if you had other options, less impactful options that you could have taken? And so I think those are two key evidence -- two key pieces of evidence that this was not an imminent threat.
SIMPSON: And he also didn't appreciate or understand that next move. When he said, I had no intention of starting a war, I have no exit strategy...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let's get to the politics of that, then, because, Chris, you said it was justified. We have been waiting a long time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president had to act. It seemed like he was also driven by the need to appear strong, especially in the wake of having protesters in the American Embassy. The pattern on the Middle East is, a president gets a bump up in the first couple of weeks, and then it's a long-term morass.
CHRISTIE: Well, and that's why I don't think that the president made this decision based upon politics because he has people around him, a number of people who I've spoken to, who understand that this is not a political home run for sure between now and November of 2020, which is what they're focused on. They know that it's a difficult decision and you can't forecast how this is going to play politically with the American people for a whole bunch of reasons.
He made this decision, I believe, because he really thought, I've waited, I've waited, I've waited for them to stop the provocation and they haven't. And so now I have to hit back. And, listen, as you said, we won't know for sure whether this was the right thing or the wrong thing for quite some time, which is what, you know, makes me believe that if the president really, in his heart, believed this is what he had to do after him showing patience with the Iranian, which he has, then I think he had to do what he has to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't the day after the biggest problem now? What does the president do when -- if an American diplomat is taken out, if there's an attack on an American base now?
EMANUEL: You know, I -- look, I'm not -- what I would say, based on everything I've ever heard over the last two years with President Obama, six with President Clinton, it's like a funnel. First, you got Israel. You got Saudi Arabia, the UAE. They're going to hit other proxies with proxies. And that's going to divide America from both its European allies and also what it's going to do to protect its allies. And then it will finally get to American assets. Don't assume that that's where they go first. They're going to build up on this effort.
I do think, look, I don't think the president has credibility. And I think in a region where we were -- that weapons of mass destruction, we have an extra burden to know what is going to happen on imminent, what that means, and also -- what also happens afterwards. And the consequences of this decision, that other people have rejected, and here's the thing that's happened in every war, presidents usually get a rally around -- the opposites going to happen. America's more divided. And an Iran that was divided is going to be become more united. And that's the irony of this situation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're also seeing, Yvette, this reshape the Democratic race as well. The initial responses from all the candidates. And you can -- you can -- you can see an argument in a couple of different directions. Could it help someone like a Joe Biden, who's got experience as vice president, voted for the Iraq War, however, or Pete Buttigieg, who served in the military. You also have Bernie Sanders out there calling it an assassination, saying this proves he was right all along on Iraq. What impact does it have?
SIMPSON: If you can unite this field around Trump, I think it's a good thing. I think every day you're talking about this president starting a war when most Americans don't want and don't have an appetite for war, it helps this field a lot. And I think if they're not out there talking about it, they should be talking about it. Every day we're not talking about -- you know every day we're not talk about this, we're not talking about how much money he raised, how many people you got on your camp. So this has actually been, I think, a gift to this slate. I think we've been looking for a real conversation among this field about foreign policy and this forces that. Some people will sink and some people will swim. It depends on what their experience is and what their planning is.
DOWD: I think one of the things we've learned, George, you and I and others on election night is, predicting things in the moment and what happens in this and how it's going to impact are what the unintended consequences are, are very hard in this. Just think, two weeks ago, three weeks ago we were talking about the political impact of the president getting impeached. And we're not talking about that today because it -- we're -- whether -- what's going to happen and move forward on this.
I think there is so much -- we're now in this speedy time. This president is incredibly unpredictable. He does a lot of things from the seat of his pants that change the dynamic and what we're talking about in this. I think the Democrats in the midst of this. I actually think, if you wanted to pick somebody, that if we're in the midst of disarray and chaos, they're going to want to go to somebody that is more -- if -- if unpredictable is the status quo, they're going to want something --
STEPHANOPOULOS: More of a known quantity.
DOWD: More of a known quantity, which I think helps Joe Biden in this -- in this. But there's no way to telling that what we're going to talk -- be talking about in February, March, April, May, June, July --
CHRISTIE: Just a second. You don't shelf life of all this, right? We -- you know, we've had so many -- if each of us we paid every time there was a pivotal moment, you know, in the Trump presidency, we wouldn't be working anymore. I mean the fact is that we don't know what the shelf life of this will be.
But what I will say is that we're a month away from Iowa and we're talking about Donald Trump and we're talking about what he's doing and acting as president. And I don't think it does anything to enhance the Democratic field discussion or debate. And they've got a month now to decide when the caucus voters go who's going to come out of that, who's going to emerge, who are getting the three or four tickets out of Iowa to go to New Hampshire and South Carolina and Nevada.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Who's helped if national security is the focus?
EMANUEL: Well, if national security, I would say both Vice President Joe Biden and Buttigieg. Let me just say one thing. We're sitting around here talking about ten months. You're from a region that on the -- take the Shiites and the Sunnis, that their argument dates back well over 800 years ago.
This discussion about time and what it means to our election, I get it. You're going to -- this is going to -- not going to play out just in ten months. It’s not just going to -- as we can tell by the war in Iraq, it's not going to play out in just ten years.
This is an event, a moment, that has a consequence that's so serious that other people using judgment and intel decided not to do because of the ramifications would be felt for decades. And that's how you have to view it, because now it has consequences to America's standing and credibility in the world. And I think what's really severe not only have we isolated ourselves in the region, I think this action is going to lead being isolating us in the world even further.
And when we need allies, this is dangerous thing from North Korea.
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Take on something -- adding to what Rahm just said is --
EMANUEL: I want to just give my time to the -- finish my thought for me. Thank you
DOWD: No, I want to add on something is that we just took out a military general of a sovereign state, right? We just did that, which is a huge deal.
Which means it allows --
EMANUEL: I was getting to that point. Thanks. OK.
DOWD: Which allows other countries now, we often thought unless there was a declaration of war, or unless we went to Congress, we would not conduct ourselves in that way. Now, we’ve opened ourselves up. Whether Donald Trump is reelected or not, is an unknown fact. But they -- whoever the next president is though, the actions that just took place, we’re going to have to deal with.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Yvette, you saw the president threaten a war crime overnight, disavowed by the secretary of state.
SIMPSON: Oh, my goodness, 52 sites, cultural sites, civilian sites. I mean, who’s going to put a check on this.
EMANUEL: He’s unhinged.
SIMPSON: I mean, that is -- that is very, very dangerous. And it is a war crime. And someone needs to do something. I’m waiting for Congress. Somebody do something.
DOWD: The American public. It's going to be left up to the American public.
SIMPSON: It’s really, really bad. I want to say, I want to get back to the conversation about who’s helped. I do think Bernie Sanders is helped by this. He’s been one of the most consistent against war. He's been out there talking about the fact that he does not want endless wars and I think he's getting a lot of attention from -- we have to remember that we have a whole millennial generation who has lived their entire life in a state of war. And they're sick and tired of it, and I think he’s going to get a lot more --
EMANUEL: Can I add one thing to Matt Dowd’s point? Can I add one thing --
STEPHANOPOULOS: That will be the last word. Sorry, guys, we’re out of time. We'll be right back.
EMANUEL: We’re going to continue. You can go home.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And now we honor our fellow Americans who served and sacrificed. In the month of December, one service member died in Afghanistan. That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight" and I’ll see you tomorrow on "GMA."