'This Week' Transcript 4-22-18: DNC Chair Tom Perez and Sen. Bob Corker

PHOTO: Pictured (L-R) are Sen. Bob Corker in Washington, D.C., April 12, 2018 and DNC Chairman Tom Perez in New York, April 18, 2018.PlayPolaris
WATCH Trump response to DNC suit 'very similar' to Nixon response to Watergate: DNC chair

ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Legal landmine for President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, could Michael Cohen flip?

STEPHANOPOULOS: His personal attorney under pressure after those FBI raids. The president takes to Twitter to buck up Michael Cohen and blast his critics. So, will Cohen fight with Trump or cooperate with prosecutors? What will that mean for the president and the Mueller probe? Could more dropping shoes provoke an explosive response from President Trump?

Famed law professor Alan Dershowitz joins our legal expert to analyze the case from every angle. Plus, the DNC chair now suing the Trump campaign over ties to Russia.

And the North Korean summit.

TRUMP: Hopefully, that meeting will be a great success.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Kim Jong-un announces a test freeze, closes a nuclear site. Trump hails the progress. But what's behind Kim Jong-un's new moves? Should President Trump offer new concessions in return if the summit takes place. Is it an opportunity or a trap? Those questions ahead for the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee Bob Corker.

Plus all the week's politics on our Powerhouse Roundtable. We'll break down the politics, smoke out the spin. The facts that matter this week.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now, chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. Hope you're well this Sunday morning. It was another consequential week for President Trump. With progress towards an unprecedented nuclear summit with North Korea, that is more likely now after new moves from Kim Jong-un. We'll have a lot more on that later.

But here at home, there are new legal complications for the president and his allies on several fronts. On Friday, the Democratic National Committee filed a surprise lawsuit arguing that the Trump campaign was engaged in a conspiracy of, quote, unimaginable treachery with the Russians and WikiLeaks to defeat Hillary Clinton.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions weighed in to protect the man overseeing the Russian investigation by warning the White House he might resign if the president tried to remove Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The president brought in Rudy Giuliani to try and negotiate a swift conclusion to the special counsel's investigation.

All this as a potential bombshell in the case rattled the White House. Speculation that Trump's long-time loyal counsel Michael Cohen might turn on Trump and cooperate with prosecutors after a dramatic FBI raid on his homes and office.

This Saturday headline in The New York Times, "Michael Cohen has said he would take a bullet for Trump, maybe not anymore" sparked a ferocious response on Twitter from the president. After attacking the New York Times for making up the story, the president praised Cohen as a fine person who would never flip. "Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that, despite the horrible witch hunt and the dishonest media."

Now that's the biggest question now looming over this investigation. Will Michael Cohen flip? I want to dig into it with our panel of legal experts: Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, author of "Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Difference Endangers Democracy"; our chief legal analyst Dan Abrams; and Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, now criminal justice fellow at Pace Law School.

Welcome to all of you. Professor Dershowitz, let me begin with you. The president clearly agitated by all of this pressure on Michael Cohen. He also called the raid on Cohen an attack on our country. After those raids, how serious is the threat to Cohen and Trump?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Oh, it's a very serious threat. This is an epic battle for the soul and cooperation of Michael Cohen. And prosecutors have enormous weapons at their disposal. They can threaten essentially with life imprisonment. They can threaten his parents. They can threaten his spouse. They have these enormous abilities to really put pressure and coerce a witness.

On the other hand, the president has a unique weapon that no other criminal defendant or suspect ever has, he has the pardon power. And go back to Christmas 1992 when President Bush exercised that pardon power and pardoned Caspar Weinberger, precluding him from pointing the finger at him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Put a lot on the table right there. We'll get to each of it in terms -- I mean, I've got to go to you first because I saw you sort of squinting as Professor Dershowitz was talking about all those threats the prosecutors can make.

MIMI ROCAH, CRIMINAL JUSTICE FELLOW, PACE LAW SCHOOL: Yes. I have a response to that. You know, look, that's not what prosecutors do in my experience, having been one for sixteen-and-a-half years and having, you know, worked with many of them across different districts, including New York.

They do not threaten people's parents and children. I mean, I just -- I don't know, it sounds good but I don't know where that accusation is coming from.

DERSHOWITZ: Do you want some examples?

ROCAH: But, if I could, what they do with cooperators is, especially a cooperator like Michael Cohen, they don't trust him to begin with. They don't just take what he says and write it down. They listen to what he says. They're skeptical. They test it against other evidence. They try to corroborate it. They don't just take it face value what a cooperator says.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don't get a deal until you're certain or certain as you can be that the potential cooperator is telling the truth.

ROCAH: Absolutely. Absolutely.

DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely not.

DAN ABRAMS, ABC CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Let's be clear, though, about this issue of cooperating, right? He can't cooperate on attorney-client matters, right? The president could invoke the privilege and say, he's not allowed to talk about private conversations that we had as attorney-client.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Separate from business matters.

ABRAMS: Correct, correct, correct. But my point is there are going to be -- everyone is sort of presuming that Michael Cohen could just flip on everything. He could just turn the president in if he decided to do that. If he decides to cooperate, there are going to be a lot of questions as to what he is actually allowed to disclose, when was he the attorney, when was he not the attorney, et cetera.

And I think -- I still think it's unlikely that he is going to flip on him. I think -- one of the things that struck me, and this is kind of a media thing, is immediately after the raid, Michael Cohen made phone calls to various mainstream media people. And it struck me that, gosh, for a team that shows such disdain for the mainstream media, why call these sort of big figures in the mainstream media if -- you know, if that's the position...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Michael Cohen has always had deep ties to the...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS: Yes, he has.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There's no question about that.

(CROSSTALK)

DERSHOWITZ: … this stuff matters and it doesn't matter whether he likes the president or doesn't like the president. What matters is the sword of Damocles hanging over his head. Michael Milken, they told him they were going to indict his brother unless he pleaded guilty. Jonathan Pollard, they told him they were going to indict his wife. I can go down case after case after case...

ROCAH: But that may be...

(CROSSTALK)

DERSHOWITZ: … where the prosecutors...

(CROSSTALK)

ROCAH: … involved in criminal activity.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, of course, that's the point. The point...

ROCAH: But to say that the government threatens people's relatives with the...

(CROSSTALK)

DERSHOWITZ: I didn't say no basis. I said they threaten relatives and then they create the basis. They wouldn't otherwise go after these people. But they hold these people hostage. That's what prosecutors do. Every defense attorney knows that. And to look in the camera and say that prosecutors don't threaten relatives is to mislead the American public. Sorry.

ROCAH: I disagree, obviously. But the other point is that, you know, cooperators -- I just have to keep coming back to this. It's -- they're not going to just take what he says at face value. They're going to test it. It's not going to be a case written down what Michael Cohen says.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They already have some documents.

ROCAH: Correct. They have lots of evidence. We know that because they got a search warrant. And the search warrant, you know, was based on probable cause to believe that...

ABRAMS: But against Michael Cohen. I mean, we keep lumping in Cohen and Trump.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's actually where we should be (INAUDIBLE) right now. The point is that Michael Cohen is now under serious threat. He has had this raid. We've even had the judge in the Stormy Daniels case say that it's very possible if not likely he's going to get indicted. We've seen another attorney he worked with flip as well.

After a raid like this, the chances of indictment quite high.

ABRAMS: Very high. Very high that he's going to be indicted. But we have to separate out the two. They got a warrant here not because there was information on Donald Trump that they wanted from Michael Cohen. They got the warrant because there was information on Michael Cohen potentially committing a crime.

DERSHOWITZ: And if you believe that I have a bridge...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS: So you're actually going to say that a judge signed off on a warrant...

DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely.

ABRAMS: … to get to...

(CROSSTALK)

DERSHOWITZ: You can get judges to sign off on warrants like Christmas presents.

ABRAMS: To get information on his client? So they signed off on a warrant saying, we want information on his client not on him?

DERSHOWITZ: There's no way in which they would go after Michael Cohen if they weren't interested in his client. They're interested in his client in two different ways. Number one...

ABRAMS: Because there's no way he could have committed a crime by himself.

DERSHOWITZ: He might have. But they wouldn't have found -- they wouldn't have even looked at what he was doing if he weren't the president's lawyer. They're going after him for two reasons. One, to try to flip him, and two, to try to find information that would show that there is an exception to the lawyer-client privilege under the crime fraud.

You know, if you're going to...

ABRAMS: Who's the "they," by the way?

DERSHOWITZ: The prosecutors.

ABRAMS: Well, which prosecutor?

DERSHOWITZ: The Southern District of New York.

ABRAMS: OK. So it's not Mueller's team now.

DERSHOWITZ: They're working together. If they weren't working together, then Sessions would be back on the case because he only recused himself...

ABRAMS: In theory.

DERSHOWITZ: … from the Russia investigation. If these were separate investigations...

ABRAMS: So there's no such thing as independent work on the part...

(CROSSTALK)

DERSHOWITZ: Not in this case.

ABRAMS: So and in the District of Columbia, when they're investigating McCabe, that, too, is going to be hand-in-hand?

DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely. Of course, they're all working close together to try to target the president or people close to him. That's what's...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanted to get...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on a second. What is the significance of moving it to the Southern District? Does that somehow protect the investigation if the president chooses to move against Rosenstein or Mueller?

ROCAH: I think it would have that effect of protecting it. But I don't think that's why it was done necessarily. I mean, obviously, I'm not in Mueller's head. I think it was done because Mueller did what any prosecutor and investigator should do, came across criminal activity about apparently Michael Cohen. And we know that from the search warrant.

And what's he supposed to do, sweep it under the rug? No. And it doesn't fall within the mandate of what he's looking at. So he did the absolute appropriate thing, which is referred it to a U.S. attorney's office.

DERSHOWITZ: This is so naive. Came across. Mueller is looking for low-hanging fruit. He's looking for anything...

ROCAH: That's what's called investigating.

DERSHOWITZ: … he can find against anybody who is associated with the president so he can flip them...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if it weren't there it wouldn't be a problem.

DERSHOWITZ: Of course. But it's there -- you know, crime -- broad federal criminal statutes, campaign contributions, bank records, you can find them against almost every very complex business person or political person. The question is how hard you look. And when you look hard, you have enough for a search warrant, which is fairly minimal. And then the pressure increases.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring up the issue that Alan brought up earlier, the issue of a pardon. Again, the significance of that, one of the things that people have speculated about, it moved to the Southern District, if, indeed, Michael Cohen is pardoned either preemptively or after the fact by President Trump, this could move over into state court.

ABRAMS: It could but, see, I think people are assuming that it would be pretty easy to prosecute in New York State court, for example, on the same set of facts. It wouldn't. First of all, in New York State there is a specific prohibition against trying someone for the same facts as they were indicted for in a federal court.

DERSHOWITZ: And they're trying to get rid of that now.

ABRAMS: They are trying to get rid of it, but it's still the law in New York State as of today. So I think those who are counting on the state courts to kind of come in on the white horse and prosecute anyone that Trump pardons are betting on the wrong horse, so to speak.

It is not easy. And in New York, it's specifically prohibited.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So a pardon could be real protection for Michael Cohen.

ROCAH: It could. And I think the president is trying to use that. I mean, he keeps tweeting about it. I think these tweets and these phone calls to Michael Cohen, you know, the president should not be doing that. This is a witness in a case who at least potentially has information about the president. And that is just not something you should be doing with a...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Any danger at all, these tweets, on that point, build up a possible obstruction case?

DERSHOWITZ: I don't think so. I don't think so. When you get the president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, pardoning, and the special prosecutor saying the following, in light of President Bush's own misconduct, we are greatly concerned about his decision to pardon others who lied to Congress and obstructed official investigations.

That, it seems to me, makes it clear you can't go after a president for exercising a pardon. Look, there's another vulnerability in a pardon. You pardon somebody, he doesn't have a Fifth Amendment. So as soon as you pardon him, he doesn't need immunity. You call him as a witness. And he has to testify or else he goes to jail. Then the president has to pardon him for contempt. And it becomes very, very different for a president.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're just about out of time. Before we all go, let me get your best judgment right now. Do you think Michael Cohen flips?

DERSHOWITZ: I think it's very hard not to flip when they're threatening you with long, long imprisonment. But I don't think we know the answer to that question. I don't know enough about Michael Cohen.

ABRAMS: I don't think he flips.

ROCAH: I think he flips because I think he committed a lot of crimes, and he has got a lot of jail time that he's facing for that reason.

ABRAMS: I think he's going to be pardoned. I think he feels confident about that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Pardon?

DERSHOWITZ: I don't think he's going to be pardoned.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, a lot of questions left out there.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

STEPHANOPOULOS: I've got to move on now. We have another new legal front for President Trump, that surprise lawsuit from the DNC alleging that the Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, and the Russians conspired to defeat Hillary Clinton. DNC Chair Tom Perez joins us now from Washington.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for joining us this morning.

Let me begin with -- you know, you surprised a lot of people with the lawsuit, and even drew some criticism from Democrats. David Axelrod put out earlier this week right after you announced the lawsuit, "spectacularly ill-timed. Abets the POTUS strategy, portraying a sober and essential probe as a partisan vendetta. Everyone should chill out and let Mueller do his job."

Your response?

TOM PEREZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I have great respect for David Axelrod. I have great respect for Director Mueller. And they can do their job while you have a civil suit pending. Why did we do this now, George? Three reasons. Number one, in order to file a civil suit, you've got to make sure you're filing it within the applicable statute of limitations. I don't know when Director Mueller's investigation is going to end, so we need to file now to protect our rights.

Number two, we've done our job. We've done our homework. Over the course of the last year, we have seen story after story, brick after brick in the conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign to affect the outcome of the election. I did my homework. We have a strong case. That's why we brought it.

And number three, George, we have to deter misconduct. We've got elections coming up in November. It's hard to win elections when you have interference in elections. And they've done it with impunity. And I'm concerned that it's going to happen again. So, that's why we did it now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No concern that it might impact, might interfere with the Mueller investigation?

PEREZ: No. I worked at the Justice Department for over a dozen years under Republican and Democratic administrations. we have -- our justice system has a criminal justice side and a civil justice side.

I used to investigate police misconduct allegations. And while we were conducting the criminal proceeding, we invariably had civil suits that were filed. And we were always able to work out protocols so that we wouldn't interfere -- the civil suit wouldn't interfere with the criminal probe.

And we can do that again here. I have great confidence in Director Mueller, but we also have a civil justice prong of our legal system. I believe it's critically important here to seek justice and to expose the truth in the civil justice system because frankly, as General McMaster said awhile ago, the Russian misconduct, we have not imposed sufficient costs on Russia for what they tried to do to the election. That is true. What he didn't say was why. We know why. This government didn't impose sufficient costs because they were conspiring with the government of Russia. And we have to do deter this conduct. We cannot allow to happen again, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We also have heard from President Trump as well on Twitter. I want to put that up right there. "Just heard the campaign was sued by the obstructionist Democrats. This can be good news in that we will now counter for the DNC server that they refused to give to the FBI, the Debbie Washerman-Shultz servers and documents held by the Pakistani mystery man and Clinton emails."

Does that threat worry you?

PEREZ: Not in the least. You know the beauty of the civil justice system, which is why I believe in it, George, is it's not trial by tweet. This isn't going to be a kangaroo court with Devin Nunes, this is going to be an article III court, where facts matter and justice is served. And if they want to re-litigate all of their wild theories, there is this thing called rule 11 where you get sanctioned for trying to do things like that.

That's why we have a civil justice system. You can't fire this judge who will preside over the case. You can't pardon defendants in a civil case. The -- I think it's so important for the American people to see the truth here.

We are fighting, as Democrats, to make sure our democracy works. We are fighting for good jobs and for health care for all. And we're fighting to preserve our democracy. And that is why I think this lawsuit is so important.

And what Donald Trump said was very similar to what the Nixon administration said in 1972 when the DNC served them with a lawsuit then. So, they're in good company with the Nixon administration, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the argument, though, that you're misdirected here. That, you know, you've got big mid-terms coming up. Democrats have to be putting out a positive agenda. By following the shiny object of investigating Trump, suing Trump, looking back at the campaign you're missing the boat, it's going to backfire.

PEREZ: George, we can walk and chew gum. We're fighting for good jobs. We're fighting for health care for all. We're fighting for good teacher pay and good education. And we're fighting to preserve our democracy. You can't win elections -- it's a lot harder to win elections if you have interference in elections.

And what we're building at the DNC is a strong voter protection infrastructure. And one way to make sure we protect voters this November is to make sure we are doing our level best to insure that interference never occurs again.

We've been winning elections, because we've been talking about the issues. We continue to talk about the issues. We have organizers on the ground in Arizona for Tuesday's election. We had organizers on the ground in the election in Wisconsin that occurred a couple of weeks ago. We're organizing everywhere. We're winning everywhere. And one of the reasons we're winning is because people believe that we should stand up for our Democracy. That's what we're doing in this lawsuit, George. We can walk and chew gum.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Tom Perez, thanks very much for your time this morning.

PEREZ: Have a good day.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable is up next. We've be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think he's morally unfit to be president. A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they're pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person is not fit to be president of the United States on moral grounds.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think we've gotten too used to these tweets, dulled to what's actually in them?

COMEY: Yeah, I think that's a danger that we're numb to it. We wake up in the morning and see the president of the United States is accusing people of crimes without evidence and pronouncing them guilty and saying they should be in jail. That should wake all of us up with a start.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Several more presidential tweets this morning as James Comey continues his book tour.

A lot to talk about in our roundtable this week. Joined by our chief White House correspondent Jon Karl; Amy Chozick from The New York Times, she's out with a new book "Chasing Hillary: 10 Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling," beginning your book tour to counter James Comey...

AMY CHOZICK, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Comey who?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Republican strategist Alex Castellanos; Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter, helped out in the campaigns in the Obama campaign, and the White House of President Obama.

Jon, let's pick up on that lively conversation we had with our legal experts at the top. You heard there their legal views on what's going on with Michael Cohen and the president. One thing that is now in question right now, the president, those in the White House seized by this question.

JON KARL, ABC NEWS: There's no question. They do not know what is in Michael Cohen's files. They have no idea. I'm talking about the president's legal team, the president's friends, his political advisers. And the president himself obviously is obsessed with this.

And as far as this question of whether or not Cohen will be pardoned, I don't know the answer to that, but the question of a pardon for Michael Cohen will be dangled before him incessantly. And the president is doing everything he can publicly to remind Michael Cohen that he has the power to pardon you. He pardoned Jack Johnson. He pardoned Scooter Libby. I mean, you know....

STEPHANOPOULOS: He has put out a lot of stuff. And he has put out a lot of tweets. He has talked about pardons at different times. But that was pretty striking, yesterday afternoon all of a sudden come out with a tweet about Jack Johnson, the heavyweight champ back at the beginning of the 20th Century, saying he might pardon him for his crimes.

CUTTER: There is no tweet that Donald Trump puts out without a reason. They're sending a signal to Michael Cohen. And the reason they're so worried about it is actually because they do know what's in those files. They wouldn't be so...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They know some what's in there, but they can't be sure about it.

CUTTER: They can't be sure, but they are worried if -- they wouldn't so worried if they believed that the president didn't have some damaging things in those files. And that's the bottom line. And we wouldn't be talking about whether Michael Cohen is going to be flipping if there wasn't some notion of guilt there.

CASTELLANOS: You know, this is a tipping point. Before, I think, Donald Trump trying to fight off the Russian investigation because it was an obstruction him being a successful president and be able to get his name up on Mount Rushmore. Now this could be the end of the presidency. This is a man who has flaunted convention and norms all his life, in his entire business career.

And it's hard to imagine that in his complicated financial history there aren't some places where lines have been crossed. Imagine those things locked up in Michael Cohen's vault now on a tasty plate that Robert Mueller serves up to a Democratic House next year. This is serious.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It does feel like he sees this as an existential threat, which is one reason, Amy, he's going after your colleagues at The New York Times yesterday as well.

CHOZICK: That's right. In a great story my colleagues reported how badly Donald Trump had treated Michael Cohen over the years. They had a great quote that he was not his Roy Cohn, which is, of course, his historic fixer from the '80s. And I think that he was going after my colleagues because he wants to, you know, create this narrative that he hadn't treated him badly, that he really values him. Obviously worried about what's in those papers more so even, as Alex said, than the Russians.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Another tweet from the president this week that could give us some hints as to what he wants to do with all of this. This was a little bit earlier in the week. He said: "James Comey's memos just out, show clearly there was no collusion and no obstruction. Also he leaked classified information. Wow. Will the witch hunt continue?"

And then he goes on, special counsel tweet: "James Comey illegally leaked classified documents to the press in order to generate a special council, therefore the special counsel was established on an illegal act. Really? Does everybody know what that means?"

Again, the president has also said he's not looking to fire Robert Mueller, not looking to fire Rod Rosenstein, but saying right there that the creation of the special counsel an illegal act.

KARL: He's constantly laying the groundwork for the reasoning for firing, the justification for firing Robert Mueller. But I do get the sense, George, talking to people close to the president, that this is less likely now than they thought even just a week ago. And I think that the bringing on of Rudy Giuliani, I don't Rudy -- Giuliani is downplaying how central a role he'll play on the defense team, but at least for now it makes it less likely that Mueller will be fired because Giuliani has been so public in saying that Mueller should be allowed to do his job.

CASTELLANOS: And it's less likely, Jonathan, because James Comey has done Donald Trump a world of good. He has said, look, I released this because I thought Hillary Clinton was going to be president. I didn't tell Donald Trump, in your interview, who paid for this dossier. James Comey is now a political figure. A lot of people are saying, you know, that old Trump was right all along.

STEPHANOPOULOS: At the same time, the president's stance on the Comey memos is kind of -- well, it is. It's contradictory. On the one hand, he says, look, it backs me up on no collusion. On the other hand, he's a liar, they're all a hoax.

CHOZICK: Also, you've got this trove of documents in which they're talking about Putin and prostitutes, I mean, even though a lot of it was known, this is not a good thing to add to the swirl of speculation around Russia and Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: … so bad news like that about Donald Trump is really not going to...

(CROSSTALK)

CUTTER: It's not going to alter our opinion, but any time you're talking about a president and prostitutes is never good for really anybody, particularly the country. I don't think any new news was broken in Comey's book or the release of those memos. But it does raise the issues again about whether or not President Trump was trying to obstruct justice.

Is Comey completely clean in all of this? No, absolutely not. He does come across as he was not just making principled decisions based on the law, he was making principled decisions based on politics and who was going to be president. But at the end of the day, you can't argue that he was trying to throw the election to Clinton.

And in fact, most people believe -- and Trump, and Trump's own people believe, Kellyanne Conway said this week that by reopening that investigation, he threw the election against Secretary Clinton.

CASTELLANOS: James Comey -- you can't argue that James Comey was a pitifully weak leader at the FBI, as he was in your interview when he said, well, look, I could have been wrong, I should have done this, I could have done that, who says he doesn't leak but does. And that weakness, that martyr complex he seems to have where he needs to nail himself to the cross is what led Trump to look at him and say this guy is too weak to ever conclude this investigation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Does hurting James Comey, I guess is the question, is help Donald Trump? One of the things we have seen later in the week, the president pressing for this investigation into Comey on whether he leaked classified information. You think that’s going anywhere?

KARL: I -- I don’t. I think we saw the president’s frustration this morning saying good luck getting Jeff Sessions to do this as if Jeff Sessions doesn’t -- doesn’t work for him. But it was a strange move for the Republicans to push so hard for the release of the Comey memos and then to leak them as soon as they got a hold of them.

Because if -- if the Republicans have any chance -- Alex, I assume you agree on this -- have any chance of limiting the damage in the midterm elections, it’s going to be to focus on the economy, to focus on -- on the president’s record on the economy.

Any time this stuff is the subject, the Democrats win.

CASTELLANOS: I’m not even sure that -- yes, that would be better if they focused on the economy than this. I mean, Republicans at least have a campaign now, don’t go back. If you put Nancy Pelosi back in charge of the House, your taxes will go up, the economy will --

KARL: Yes, but this -- now they’re talking about --

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: And that’s not -- and that’s not a very good campaign. Right now, Donald Trump is holding action. He’s the turnaround CEO that’s bought the Republican party -- and the Democrats, by the way -- some time. Somebody’s got to say this country has a brighter future, here’s how we get there. Somebody’s got to reinvent this. Neither party is doing that right now. But I think Republicans could lose 40 or 50 seats in the House the way they’re headed now.

CUTTER: Absolutely. And it’s important for us to remember, Alex -- and I think you’d probably agree with this -- that Republicans control the White House and Congress at the moment.

(CROSSTALK)

CUTTER: And one way, based on what -- what you believe of the change that’s new (ph) in the Republican party, one way they could create change is to disagree with President Trump, to -- to separate themselves from President Trump when they think he’s doing something wrong. And we have yet to see that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, actually -- I mean, we actually see when that happens and might actually cause you a little bit of trouble, Amy. One of the things we saw just last night, Mitt Romney has been quite critical of -- of President Trump, actually lost his chance to be the Republican nominee for Senator from Utah when the convention went with the hometown favorite.

CHOZICK: Right, right. Well, through Alex’s great comments, we (inaudible) a seismic existential crisis inside, I think both parties. And John’s right. As long as Republicans are feeling -- or voters are feeling pretty good about their paychecks, then it’s going to be -- I think -- I think Democrats can’t get complacent. I think as long as -- if Republicans shift and start talking about the economy and taxes, then, you know, they’re going to have a hard time.

Voters aren’t that motivated by Russia.

CASTELLANOS: But to Mitt’s -- to Mitt’s particular situation, the governor of that state lost the -- the convention by 10 points and then won the primary by 44 points. The people that go to these conventions, you know, they think --

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: -- trigonometry is a communist plot. So --

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: -- actually got Mike Lee (ph) elected.

(CROSSTALK)

CHOZICK: Both parties have these activist forces working.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But right now they do. The -- the -- on -- on the Republican side, there is -- there does seem to be this conflict over how to deal with Trump. On the one hand, you’ve got House members in deep red districts who are hugging him hard. These senate candidates, it’s a little more complicated.

KARL: Absolutely. Especially candidates in -- in -- in states that are not, you know, deep, deep red. And, you know, I think you are seeing some Republicans -- more in the Senate -- trying to show some independence. That’s why you see this move to get a bill to protect Robert Mueller.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: Yes, McConnell’s put a stop to it, but -- you know, but Grassley’s moving -- it’s not -- the bill’s not going anywhere. But you have a number of prominent Republicans that support the bill.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk -- go ahead.

CASTELLANOS: Republicans aren’t going to disagree with Donald trump on what he’s done. Republicans like what he’s done. He’s running as a -- what he’s doing as president is very conservative and very Republican in most cases.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Stefanie --

CASTELLANOS: It’s what he says that’s the problem.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the things we have seen in the last several weeks, the president’s approval rating is inching up, just a little bit and the generic ballot between Democrats and Republicans --

KARL: Is narrowing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- is narrowing.

CUTTER: Is narrowing. Absolutely. I wouldn’t exactly call Donald Trump popular, though. I mean, he still is historically unpopular at this point --

(CROSSTALK)

CUTTER: He’s doing a very good job of it. You know, the generic ballot has -- has tightened a little bit and maybe that’s because of the tax bill. Maybe it’s now they have something else to talk about. But let’s -- it’s -- this is not the soul indicator of what’s going to happen in the election.

Democrats still have almost a three to one advantage on enthusiasm in their party, they’re -- they’re out-raising Republicans, the momentum is on their side, they’re winning these special elections. I don’t think Democrats should get complacent at all. This is going to be a tight election. Our country is now poised to have tight elections. But I would rather be a Democrat right now, where we are in the run-up to this election than a Republican.

CASTELLANOS: I hate to agree with Stefanie but I think she’s right. The suburbs are doing well economically. That’s where suburban white college educated women are coming out in droves to vote against Donald Trump. It’s not about dollars, it’s about character and morality and who he is and what he says, not what he has done. Money won’t buy Republicans out of what's -- the wave that's coming.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That was a big part of Hillary Clinton's message in the 2016 campaign.

Before we go, I want to talk to you, Amy, and everybody about -- some of the reflections you have in your book about the 2016 campaign, including reflections about the press. You say there are some second thoughts about the way we all handled the email matter, about the way we all dealt with those hacked Russian emails that got so much coverage.

CHOZICK: Right, absolutely. I know that he diehard supporters have real issues with the way we covered her private emails. And I think that's understandable to me. The bigger issue that the media has to grapple with, particularly before the mid-terms, are these hacks and how do we deal with it?

You know, afterwards -- after the election, it really kept me up at night to think that I did exactly what Russian hackers wanted me to do, we all did. By covering those Podesta emails, we became, as my newspaper said, de facto instruments for Russian intelligence.

And so they were already out there. You know, we thought let's confirm and contextualize them. And I don't know what the answer is moving forward, but it's something that I think we definitely should be thinking about.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a good question, because, Jon, I was thinking about that this morning. We did show more restraint when the North Koreans hacked Sony. I mean, there was some initial coverage right there, but after that it seemed to be a collective decision we're just not going to publicize all these private emails that were stolen. That did not happen in the 2016 campaign.

KARL: No. And you are covering a campaign, it's a little bit different than covering, you know, a private company.

But, you know, I think so much of the damage related to the email question with Hillary Clinton wasn't so much the substance of what was in the Podesta emails, but it was the fact of her private server, and the fact of what she did as Secretary of State. I mean, but -- you know, but it is a difficult question. You've got hacked emails -- everybody knows about them. They are everywhere. How can you...

CASTELLANOS: It's not that difficult, is it, that a Secretary of State running for president hid those emails, put them on a private server so the media...

KARL: But that's different than the Podesta hacks.

CASTELLANOS: ...because there were questions about the Clinton Foundation, (inaudible) global initiative, billions of dollars pay-to-play.

CUTTER: Millions of Americans all over this country wondering why the heck we spent so much time talking about Hillary's emails when what she was doing was the same as other Secretaries of State...

KARL: No, it really wasn't.

CUTTER: It really was, Jon. And instead of talking about...

KARL: I mean, not to re-litigate, but what other Secretary of State had a private server...

CUTTER: ...disagree that Hillary Clinton and her emails overwhelmed that campaign in terms of the coverage. You even admit -- I have not read your book, but I've read the excerpts, you even questioned whether The New York Times was covering Trump the right way, putting a TV reporter on him rather than a political reporter initially. That all implements the campaign.

There were lots of issue to discuss in that campaign. Whether or not she had a private server within, according to the law allowed her to do, really...

KARL: She was supposed to turn over her emails. She didn't do that until the story broke.

CHOZICK: It was very difficult during that campaign to get any other stories to break through. And in fairness, we covered all of her policies. I tried to write very sympathetic biographical features. The perfect example is I wrote this feature, sympathetic biographical feature about her moving to Arkansas and this feminist mentor of hers trying to talk her out of it. I spent a year on the story. The campaign didn't want it. It was a great story for her. It posted three hours before Comey sent his letter to congress. It didn't even make the paper.

CUTTER: But then the question....

CHOZICK: ...impossible to get anything to break through.

CUTTER: Right, but the question there is are your writing to make something break through, or are you writing what you think the news is? And that is a question that I think we all have to ask going into the next election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that's a big question for all of us.

And you look back and say, listen, there were things done wrong with the emails, there's no question about that. But there's something structurally in the media where we have to equalize everything. If you point out a wrongdoing on one side, you have to point out a wrongdoing on the other, and they automatically become equivalent. And that isn't always fair.

KARL: I think the problem, though, might have been not enough equalization. I don't think it's a problem of how much we covered or how much the press covered the emails, how much investigative work was there done on Donald Trump, particularly doing the primaries?

CHOZICK: Not enough.

KARL: He was portrayed more as a phenomenon, the excitement, the attacks, the latest, you know, outrageous thing he said, or whatever. There wasn't much investigative reporting going, frankly, until it was too late.

CUTTER: And he was click-bait.

CASTELLANOS: I think a lot of Republicans would argue...

CHOZICK: Donald Trump would not be president in a different media environment, 100 percent. In the era of Twitter and live streaming, and I think particularly a candidate like Hillary Clinton, who was so incredibly cautious and distant from the press, it was just sort of a perfect storm.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And known.

CHOZICK: And well known, exactly.

CASTELLANOS: I think a lot of Republicans would look at this and say, you know what don't forget that Hillary Clinton was a pitifully bad candidate who ran a horrible campaign, who ran a corrupt foundation while she was Secretary of State, and that was not covered.

CHOZICK: I disagree that she was a terrible candidate.

CASTELLANOS: ...I have to say.

CUTTER: Look at those debates.

CASTELLANOS: And, by the way, now a Democratic Party that...

KARL: Ran a corrupt foundation as secretary of state, I'm not sure that's what she did either.

CATELLANOS: Well, a lot of Republicans would look at it and see at her entire (inaudible) --

(CROSS TALK)

CASTELLANOS: -- Clinton empire (ph) is one big mess (inaudible).

CUTTER: -- what’s covered and that --

CASTELLANOS: And now you have a democratic party that --

CUTTER: -- is all Trump talked about, it doesn’t mean it’s true.

CASTELLANOS: So here’s the story about a democratic party that laundered money through a law firm to pay a Russian spy for dirt on Trump, it should be suing itself.

CUTTER: That -- that republicans initially funded -- that republicans initially funded that democrats just (inaudible).

CASTELLANOS: (Inaudible) do with the Russians.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Enough (inaudible) 16, we’re done.

(CROSS TALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, it’s great guys, thank you all very much. Up next, did President Trump make ultimate deal with North Korea on its nuclear program? Senator Bob Corker’s going to weigh in when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have come a long way with North Korea. I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don’t think it’s going to be successful, Mark (ph), we won’t have it. We won’t have it. If I think it‘s a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we’re not going to go. If the meeting, when I’m there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC: President Trump on that pending nuclear summit with North Korea. Want to talk about that more now with the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker of Tennessee. Senator Corker, thank you for joining us this morning. The president struck a more optimistic note in a tweet on Friday after that announcement from Kim Jong-un about freezing nuclear test spending then closing a major test site.

President saying this is very good news for North Korea and the world. Big progress. Look forward to our summit. You share that optimism?

SENATOR BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Look, I’m glad they’re meeting. I think all of us look at this with great caution and skepticism. This has been going on for 25 years and obviously Kim Jong-un has learned about public relations (ph) and is setting it up well for him. But I think everyone that’s been around this looks at this as just the beginning. It may lead to something, may not.

Let’s make sure the meeting and the context for it is all set up in the appropriate manner but we’ll have to see.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s dig into what that -- yes, let’s dig into what that means because a lot of people have pointed out that the concessions that Kim Jong-un has made are pretty easily reversible. He’s made them before.

CORKER: That’s right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And then it’s going to set up the expectation for concessions from President Trump. So is this a -- is this a -- a danger? You know, some people talk about a freeze trap here, referring to that nuclear freeze that President Trump gives too much to get the meeting (ph).

CORKER: Yes, I think -- I think people are well aware of exactly what you’re saying. I don’t see us giving any -- giving up anything. I hope we will not -- be put into (ph) policy right now is continue to put pressure on until something happens that’s productive. But this can be easily reversed. He obviously, as I mentioned, has learned a lot about public relations. But I think the president has people around him. You look at John Bolton, a great skeptic who will warn of any easing that might be considered.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it realistic to think that Kim Jong-un is actually going to give up his nuclear weapons?

CORKER: You know, George, you know this, he views having deliverable nuclear weapons as his ticket to dying as an old man in his bed. He saw what happened with Gaddafi.

Gaddafi’s a dead man now because he gave up his nuclear weapons. And so to think that somebody’s going to go in and charm him out of that is not realistic. Is there some progress that can be made? I hope so.

But, you know, it’s -- that’s a big hurdle.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So -- so leave that (inaudible) in there, what is the best case for one, the summit if it happens, and two, longer term negotiations with the north?

CORKER: Well, of course, best case is denuclearization, obviously. Is it realistic that he’s just willy-nilly going to do that? Absolutely not, but you know, progress can be made, freezing the program, who knows what he’s -- what his ambitions are as it relates to South Korea.

But look, I think we go into this knowing we’ve got a huge problem, he’s gone way down the road with his nuclear activity, very close to having something that’s a danger to the United States, and I think beginning discussion we should hope for the biggest and just see where it goes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Next -- this is all happening, the potential summit is, the next deadline is coming up on the Iran nuclear deal May 12th. The president said he’s going to rip up the deal. What impact will that have on a potential North Korea summit? What message will that send to Kim Jong-un?

CORKER: So, you know, I’ve been asked this a lot, and -- and I do think if nothing changes with the three European member’s we’re dealing with right now on a (ph) framework, I do think he will move away from the agreement on May 12th.

I -- I don’t think there’s any question about it, Merkel’s coming in, Macron’s coming in, maybe something changes in the interim. As it relates to this young leader and how he might view that, again, I go back to my first statement and that is he’s got such a bigger issue, and that his -- his own survival, potentially regime change, that type of thing.

So because of the unique nature of him and unique nature of our president, I’m not sure that really us moving away from the Iran nuclear deal with have any impact on his thinking. I’m just being honest. I have used that argument honestly, OK, but as I look at what he really cares about, I don’t think it’s going to have that much impact on him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve also been asked --

CORKER: (Inaudible) I don’t think it’ll have any.

STEPHANOPOULOS; You -- you’ve also been asked a lot about President Trump and -- and what you say seems to depend a little bit on the day of the week, sometimes your harshly critical of the president, talking about something is --

CORKER: Yes, sometimes the hour -- sometimes the hour of the day, George, but go ahead (ph).

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, well let me try this hour, then. It’s -- it’s almost 10 o’clock here on the East Coast, just on Friday you said you kind of doubt the president’s going to run again in 2020. Why do you doubt that?

CORKER: Look I, you know, was having this rhetorical situation of somebody trying to pin you down as to what you -- who you may vote for in 2020. I don’t know -- I don’t know who’s going to be running in 2020, I don’t know if the president will be running in 2020, so -- so it was really a -- you know how -- you know how television is today, George, it’s a gotcha situation.

It’s really just pushing back against that.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: But you did say this week that any GOP senator is not conflicted (ph) is either -- I’m going to quote this here, comatose or pretty useless in their blindness.

CORKER: Yes, so look, I think that -- that, sure, I think republican senators have to be conflicted from time to time, as I mentioned, things change daily. One day we’re going to, you know, tariff the European Union and then we’re not, thankfully.

One day we’re going to tariff Canada and then we’re not, thankfully. One day we’re going tariff and then we’re not, thankfully. One day we’re going to get out of Syria immediately, and then we’re not, thankfully.

So, you know, I mean things change quickly and that was the reason fro my response.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You also reported this week that something you said about the Tennessee senate race caught the eye of Mitch McConnell, the Senate republican leader. You were recorded saying the democratic candidate Phil Bredesen is quote a very good mayor, a very good governor, a very good business person.

So what happened after that with Senator McConnell and who do you support in this Senate race?

CORKER: Well I’m supporting the nominee, everyone knows that. I’ve sent the maximum check (ph), plan to vote for them. What -- what is unbelievable to me, George, is that the leadership of the republican senatorial (ph) committee would leak out this conversation purposely to the Washington Post to get you to ask me questions about this.

I -- I don’t even know what they’re thinking.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you think they are thinking?

CORKER: You know, I’ve been real clear -- I have no idea. I mean, it’s -- it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen politically in recent times, but apparently they want you to ask me about the Tennessee race.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the answer is -- you just said -- so you’re supporting the republican nominee Marsha Blackburn?

CORKER: Yes. I mean, it’s been clear. I mean, I sent the maximum check as soon as it was determined that she was our nominee. What I said what I’ve got a friend that I’ve been working with for 23 years on the Democratic side. We’ve worked -- I was Mayor of Chattanooga, I was commissioner of finance for our state. We’ve done a lot of things together and he’s a friend.

I’m not going to campaign against him but certainly -- you know, I’m -- I’ve sent the maximum contribution plan to support the nominee and -- and yet for some reason in their brilliance, the Republican Senatorial Committee tried to create a big story out of this so you and other stations this morning would ask me questions. I don’t know what the outcome is they’re looking for here, but obviously it’s again being asked (ph).

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Senator Corker, thanks for your time this morning.

CORKER: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: When we come back, remembering Barbara Bush.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK )

STEPHANOPOULOS: And before we go this morning, a farewell to Barbara Bush. Friends, family and four former presidents gathered in Houston yesterday in a touching tribute to the first lady and first mom who died this week at the age of 92. Her loving marriage to George H.W. Bush, the longest for any president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH, POLITICIAN: Their love was a constant in our lives. My dad is a phenomenal letter writer and he would write mom on their wedding anniversaries, which totaled an amazing 73 years. Here’s one of them written on January six, 1994. Will you marry me? Oops, I forgot, we did that 49 years. I was very happy on that day in 1945 but I’m even happier today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barbara, the tough but loving enforcer, was the secret sauce of this extraordinary family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was wearing a red and green holiday dress. He endeavored to get introduced. She was 16. He was 17. He was the only boy she ever kissed. He children, she remarked, always wanted to throw up when they heard that. In a letter to Barbara during the war, George H.W. Bush wrote, I love you, precious, with all my heart. And to know that you love me means my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: A beautiful love story, a consequential life. That is 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.