A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, July 22, 2018 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Summit stunner.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really think I did very well at the press conference.
STEPHANOPOULOS: After Trump sides with Russia over American intelligence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you believe?
TRUMP: I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A cascade of criticism.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R) ARIZONA: President Trump's actions today were outrageous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's shameful.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wow. Rare clarification.
TRUMP: The sentence should have been, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia. Sort of a double negative.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the president doubled down with an invitation to Putin for a second summit here in the States, but no word yet from the White House on what Trump agreed to with Putin behind closed doors in Helsinki.
What it means for American, Russia and the world. We'll analyze the fallout with former Trump adviser Tom Bossert, Democrat Adam Schiff from the House Intelligence Committee, and the national security adviser for President Obama, Ambassador Susan Rice.
Plus, bombshell tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you concerned about the Cohen tapes?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president's former lawyer Michael Cohen recorded Trump back in 2016, discussing payments related to the Playboy bunny, Karen McDougal.
The president has responded with his first Twitter attack on Michael Cohen. How will Cohen respond? Does he have more damaging information on Trump? How will it shape the investigations?
Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, joins Dan Abrams and Alan Dershowitz on our legal panel, plus our powerhouse roundtable.
We'll break down the politics, smoke out the spin. The facts that matter this week.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, its This Week.
Here now, chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to This Week. What a week it was. I know we have said that a lot over the last couple of years, but this one may rank as one of the most head-spinning and consequential yet.
The sight of an American president standing side by side with a Russian dictator echoing Vladimir Putin's talking points may not have been a surprise to those who follow Trump's Twitter feed, but it was still shocking.
Several days of walk backs haven't clarified matters much. Nearly all of what Trump and Putin talked about in their two hours alone still a mystery.
And in a week a surprises, even the man in charge of America's secrets was in the dark. Here is the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Say that again?
MITCHELL: Vladimir Putin...
COATS: Did I hear you right?
MITCHELL: Yeah, yeah.
COATS: OK. That's going to be special.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That second proposed summit is supposed to happen right before the midterms, which leads to one big question on the table now: will this week be a tipping point for the political standing of President Trump?
Our brand-new poll with The Washington Post offers some initial answers. Only one in three Americans approve of how Trump handled the summit with Putin, four in 10 said he went too far in supporting the Russian leader, 56 percent don't like that Trump questioned U.S. intelligence.
That said, the president's GOP support did not collapse. 66 percent of Republicans back his handling of the Putin summit, and 51 percent support his questioning of U.S. intelligence, but the intensity of feeling all on the Democratic side, and by a 17-point margin, the American public believes America's leadership in the world has gotten weaker, not stronger under Trump.
Let's dig into all of this now with our first guest, Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and President Trump's first homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, now an analyst with ABC News. They're both in Aspen for the Aspen Security Forum this week.
And I want to get to the fallout from the Helsinki summit. We also have some breaking news overnight, the release of those 400 pages of document related to the surveillance of Carter Page who has served as a foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign. Here is how the New York Times reports that it says, "visible portions showed that the FBI in stark terms had told the intelligence court that Mr. Page had, quote, established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers, that the Bureau believed the Russian government efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individials associated with Mr. Trump's campaign, and that Mr. Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.
The president up already with a reaction, Congressman Schiff. He says this confirms with little doubt that the Department of Justice and FBI misled the courts. And then in a second tweet, he says it looks more and more like the Trump campaign was illegally being spied on for the political gain of crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC.
Congressman Schiff, is that how you read the 400 pages?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: No, of course not. And I think actually if the performance that we had in Helsinki took place before those applications were filed, I think that whole interchange with Putin would have been a central exhibit in the FISA applications.
I know those applications set out in some detail, a lot of which unfortunately is redacted, just why the FBI was so concerned that Carter Page might be acting as an agent of a foreign power. And let's remember that application and those renewals have been vindicated in substantial part by Carter Page's own words in the letter I think you asked him about, and in which Carter Page acknowledged being an informal adviser to the Kremlin.
But the information they had when that application was filed included the fact the Russians were dumping these documents, that the Russians had previewed the dumping of these documents with George Papadopoulos, that Carter Page had in fact been a target of Russian intelligence in the past, that Carter Page had gone to Russia during the campaign, that he had meetings with the Russian officials that Page had publicly denied, but we can now confirm that he did, in fact, have meetings with Russian officials.
So it was a solid application and renewals signed by four different judges appointed by three different Republican presidents.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Mr. Bossert, do you see any evidence that the Department of Justice misled the courts or that this was illegal in any way?
BOSSERT: Well, from what I saw and I read of what was released last night, the majority of it was redacted. So I saw no new information. I saw basically that they affirmed what Congressman Nunes and Congressman Schiff had already released in their own memoranda, that there has been a reliance on materials that have been called into question and that the court, in reliance on those materials paid for by some Democratic Party officials, thought it was worth looking into.
Now I think it's also important to remember looking into it is important because you don't want foreign influence, but that doesn't mean that Carter Page had any kind of role in the Trump campaign. From what I'm told, he was a nobody on the fringe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he -- but he was an adviser to the campaign until he was let go in the fall of 2016. Let's move on now to the fallout from Helsinki. We just showed that clip of Director Coats. I assume both of you may have been there during that interview, or I know you've been out in the forum this week.
Tom Bossert, the director said he meant no disrespect to the president, but you saw how surprised he was by this announcement. Does a second summit so soon make sense?
BOSSERT: Yes, so he was surprised by -- in a lot of ways, I hope he knows a lot about our foreign intelligence, and I know he does, and it doesn't really matter as much what he knows about the president's schedule and that.
But I think a lot has been made of that. I think it has been overblown. Dan Coats is a loyal patriot to the country. He is a great director of national intelligence. I think it's going to be a heck of a circus of coverage and so forth as President Putin comes here. And you saw him being a little bit light-hearted there.
I don't take too much in that. I hope though when the president says the meeting will take place in the fall or autumn, that it's not right before the midterm elections, but rather after. I think that would be the intelligent way to proceed. And I don't think that he has ruled that out. The timing hasn't been set.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you see no other reason to postpone the summit. You think a second summit now does make sense?
BOSSERT: Well, from what I understand -- and I can only rely upon what we're told, but from what I understand, President Trump's conversations in private with President Putin were productive. And they didn't agree on anything, unlike what has been reported by apparently the Russian government in a way to mislead us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's...
BOSSERT: So President Trump had a productive set of conversations. I think it's important to continue them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And I want to bring that to Congressman Schiff, because we have heard the Russians say that there were verbal agreements made, Congressman Schiff, that they were important agreements made. We just heard Tom Bossert say he was told that they weren't, but we haven't heard much else on the record from officials in the Trump administration.
SCHIFF: Well, listen, I would agree with Tom that the talks in Helsinki were productive, but they were productive for Vladimir Putin. The reality is we have no idea what this president, our president agreed to. That's an asymmetric advantage for the Kremlin because they do. The Kremlin intelligence agents know exactly what took place in that meeting.
And the fact that Dan Coats doesn't is no failing on Dan Coats's part, the failing is that the president hasn't even described to his own intelligence chief what he may have agreed to in that private two-hour meeting.
Ostensibly there may have been agreements on Ukraine, on Syria, and who knows what else? We so know that after leaving that meeting and coming back home, the president undercut our commitment to the collective security of NATO.
Was that a topic of discussion too? Did Montenegro come up? It is, I think, negligent with our national security for us not to know. George, as you know, we tried to subpoena the interpreter, and on a party line basis the Republicans rejected it, some of whom talk a good game, but when it comes to defending the country, they're not willing to follow through.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Schiff, you've had some tough words for the president this week, calling him the gravest threat to democracy, other Democrats have followed that up as well. Just bluntly, do you believe he is compromised by Vladimir Putin?
SCHIFF: Well, I certainly think he's acting like someone who is compromised. And it may very well be that he is compromised or it may very well be that he believes that he’s compromised, that the Russians have information on him.
We were not permitted to look into one of the allegations that was most serious to me, and that is were the Russians laundering money through the Trump organization? The Republicans wouldn’t allow us to go near that.
I hope that Bob Mueller’s investigating it, because again, if that’s the leverage the Russians are using, it would not only explain the president’s behavior, but it would help protect the country by knowing that in fact our president was compromised.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tom Bossert, we’ve heard also from Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, from Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader. How do you respond?
BOSSERT: Well it’s an easy, cheap shot to say the president’s been compromised by the Russians. I think the Russians elected a former KGB agent and he spends all of his time and their resources squandering it on penny-ante spy tactics to try to get into loser kind of lobbyist pockets and so forth.
And this country elected a president that was a former businessman, and as a result, our economy’s doing well, and we spend our time trying to have productive meetings with foreign leaders.
All the rest of this speculation and smoke is meant to undermine to the president. It’s domestic partisan political concern mixed with some legitimate need to throw our intelligence forces against the prevention of spying and interfering in the United States, and it’s just meant to complaint (ph).
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say penny-ante spy tactics, but don’t you accept that – that Russia did interfere in a serious way in our 2016 election and the threat is still out there?
BOSSERT: I do – I do concede that, in fact I conceded that all along. But what we’re talking about here today tends to be the Steele dossier and the Butina indictment and so forth, which is a little bit more penny-ante smoke.
That’s my reference. But interfering in our election system is unacceptable. I think the president believes that too, that’s just not quite the way we report it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Maria Butina indictment, Congressman Schiff, that he just mentioned, she of course is charged this week with being a Russian agent as well. Is that Penny-ante?
SCHIFF: No, of course not, and it’s surprising (ph) how someone with a homeland security background say that it is. Here you have someone acting as an agent of a foreign power essentially trying to infiltrate the NRA, making contacts with U.S. persons, trying to establish a secret back channel.
Again we tried to look into allegations that the Russians may have been funneling money through the NRA, but the GOP found that too hot to handle. These are serious matters and I think there’s no ignoring the fact that for whatever reason, this president acts like he’s compromised. There is simply no other way to explain why he would side with this Kremlin former KGB officer rather than his own intelligence agencies, why he would continually attack NATO.
And again, some of those allegations in that much disparaged dossier talk about the – the give back from the United States, which would be undermining NATO, which would be revisiting sanctions on Ukraine.
Things that – policies that unfortunately have come all too much to pass with this president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tom – Tom Bossert, final word for you, how should the president follow up on the summit this week?
BOSSERT: Well George, the place where I disagree with the Congressman is that the president acts. No, he speaks in ways that people don’t feel comfortable, but the way he acts is to impose the greatest painful punishments on President Putin that (ph) the last two presidents.
That’s a pain that President Putin feels. So I think what President Trump ought to continue doing is acting tough and talking in ways that advance the U.S. interest in the Middle East, China and elsewhere around the world.
The reality is we don’t like Putin’s tactics, but Russia is the largest land mass with 145 plus million people and a lot of oil reserves. We have to deal with them some strategic way to gain U.S. interests elsewhere in the world.
So if he keeps acting tough, we’ll – we’ll forgive – we’ll forgive some of his – some of his comments.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tom Bossert, Congressman Schiff, thank you both very much.
Let’s get more on this now from Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Advisor and Ambassador to the U.N. under President Obama and Ambassador, first let’s pick up just where – where Tom Bossert just left off right there.
He said what you should look at is how tough the president and his administration has been, toughest sanctions yet on Russia, that’s what matters.
SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well George, good morning. I think what Tom is ignoring with all due respect is the fact that the sanctions that the president and the administration have imposed on Russia only came as a result of a congressional mandate that required him to do so.
The president has cast doubt repeatedly, including this week, on the legitimacy of the unanimous intelligence community finding that Russia directly interfered in our elections. He has undermined NATO, he’s called the European Union a foe, he’s imposed harsh tariffs on our closest allies, he’s withdrawn us from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
He’s taken a series of steps that had Vladimir Putin dictated them, he couldn’t have mirrored more effectively. What his motivations are, I think is a legitimate question, one that I trust that the Special Council is investigating.
But the policies that this president has pursued globally have served Vladimir Putin’s interest in dividing the west, undermining democracy, increasing fissures within NATO and has done very little to advance U.S. interest.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned the president’s motivations. Does that mean you think it’s an open question whether or not he’s compromised by Russia?
RICE: George, I don’t know what his motivations are. I think that’s a legitimate question and it has been reinforced not only by the series of policy steps that I just mentioned that he’s taken that have served Russian interests as opposed to U.S. interests but it was also reinforce sadly this week by that tragic display by sycophancy in Helsinki where the president called into question yet again, standing next to Vladimir Putin, a dictator, the integrity of our intelligence community.
He offered for -- or he seemed to be willing to consider an offer to hand over our ambassador to Russia, former ambassador Michael McFaul and others to -- to the Russians for questioning. I mean, it was a series of extraordinary capitulations that really do legitimately call into question what is going on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ve heard from the Russians about what they think were the agreements in -- in Helsinki, talking some -- some preliminary agreements on Syria, perhaps on Ukraine as well we just heard Tom Bossert say he’s been informed that there were no agreements. But we haven’t heard that much from the administration in public. What exactly do you think we need to know about those two hours between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump?
RICE: George, we need to know everything and the president’s national security team needs to know everything. It was a historic mistake to allow the president of the United States -- not just Donald Trump, but any president frankly -- to sit for two hours without any note-takers, without any aides present, with one of the most adversarial leaders of the world relative to the United States.
We have no idea what transpired. And very predictably, the Russians are feeding their line of what happened. We are hearing no rebuttal or comment from the United States. Russia is dictating the -- the public perception -- the global public perception of what transpired in that meeting and we have no basis for countering it. It’s a very, very uncomfortable and indeed dangerous situation for the United States to be in.
There never should have been a one-on-one meeting of any length. And now we are left to wonder and even the president’s cabinet members are left to wonder what exactly happened.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the idea that we have to engage Russia? They’re an important country on the world scene, they’re clearly an adversary in places like Syria, important in North Korea and that’s why we need to engage, we need to talk to them and even as Tom Bossert said, a second summit may make sense.
RICE: George, I don’t think a second summit, particularly at the White House, makes sense any time soon. Certainly not in light of what has happened this week. But I’m not opposed to the notion of engaging the Russians, whether we engage them as we must on a daily basis as I did and as Ambassador Haley does at the United Nations or whether the leaders themselves meet from time to time.
The problem with this encounter was as follows. First of all, it really was best organized as a more informal discussion on the margins of some multilateral meeting, whether that would have been the United Nations General Assembly Meeting coming up in September or the G20. It didn’t need to be a standalone summit with all sorts of pomp and circumstance.
It certainly didn’t need to entail a one-on-one meeting without note-takers for two hours, which as I mentioned was a very serious mistake.
There are things to discuss with the Russians but we should have come into that meeting very well-prepared, pressing our grave concern about Russian interference in our elections, using the indictment which Mueller had just laid down to reinforce the veracity of our case, we should have pressed on issues like North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, not take Vladimir Putin’s line on these issues, but rather to advance our interests and our objectives.
There’s no inherent problem with two leaders, even from hostile countries, engaging in dialogue. I support that. But you must come prepared. You must come to advance the United States’ agenda, not to lie prostrate for the Russian agenda.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As -- as you know, President Trump says it’s the fault of President Obama and his predecessors, the U.S. Russia relations are his fault. He had that tweet coming into the first summit talking about U.S. foolishness and stupidity. He called President Obama a total patsy for Putin.
RICE: Yes. I mean, that’s -- that kind of language is ridiculous, it’s offensive and it doesn’t frankly reflect well on President Trump. Any American president should stand up for the United States of America, in the present and historically when meeting with Vladimir Putin. It was President Obama who led the United States and our European allies to impose very strong sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and its invasion of Ukraine.
It’s President Trump who has suggested that Crimea belongs properly to Russia and that he'd be prepared to consider some accommodation for Russia vis-a-vis Ukraine.
So, you know, President Trump can throw all kinds of epithets around. It seems that's how he likes to govern, but the facts are the facts and the reality is that the United States, on a bipartisan basis, needs to be unified in its opposition to Russia's policies, to its efforts to undermine our democracy, and our domestic political discourse, and we shouldn't be casting aspersions on ones predecessors, we should be looking Putin squarely in the eye and delivering the message that supports United States interests, not Russian interests.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ambassador Rice, thank you for your time this morning.
RICE: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When we come back, our legal panel weighs in on Michael Cohen's secret tape of President Trump. Michael Avenatti, Alan Dershowitz and Dan Abrams up next.
ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos sponsored by CarMax.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN MCDOUGAL, MODEL: They wanted to squash the story.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You're saying they wanted to protect Donald Trump?
MCDOUGAL: I'm assuming so, yeah.
COOPER: If Donald Trump hadn't been running for the president, do you believe this deal would have been made with AMI, knowing what you know now?
MCDOUGAL: Probably not, no. Probably not.
COOPER: You're convinced now this was an effort to do a favor for Donald Trump in the last few months of the presidenti race?
MCDOUGAL: Unfortunately, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Karen McDougal talking to Anderson Cooper this spring about the efforts by AMI, who own the National Enquirer, to pay her to not talk about any relationship she had with Donald Trump.
We want to talk about that now in the wake of this Michael Cohen tape with our chief legal analyst Dan Abrams, attorney Michael Avenatti who represents Stormy Daniels in her case against President Trump, and Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of the new book "The Case Against Impeaching Trump."
Professor Dershowitz, let me begin with you.
Now this tape, reported in the New York Times, first picked up by -- by (inaudible) Washington Post on Friday, purportedly about a two minute conversation between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump September 2016, talking about buying up the rights to Karen McDougal’s story from AMI.
We’ve seen the first response from the president. He says it’s inconceivable the government would break into a lawyer’s office early in the morning, almost unheard of, even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client. Totally unheard of and perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite president did nothing wrong.
You also heard Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer say that the tape was exculpatory. Is that how you see it?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, AUTHOR, "THE CASE AGAINST IMPEACHING TRUMP": No. I think it’s ambiguous. I don’t know who leaked it. If anybody in the Trump organization leaked it, it was for short term benefit but very, very serious long term implications. There are waiver issues involved, waiving lawyer-client privilege. Not only waiving it as to this but if there are other tapes.
It’s possible it was leaked by people within the Cohen camp. It’s unlikely it was leaked by government officials because there’s a court order and it was in the possession, essentially, of a former judge appointed by Kimba Wood. So I think the first mystery is who leaked it and what advantage did they think they were going to get from leaking it. I don’t see any particular advantage to the Trump claims based on this tape.
I think if you have something that’s positive you wait until you see the whole thing in context and then you put it out together in a systematic way. This is ambiguous evidence.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I can flip that around. CNBC is reporting actually that it came from the Trump camp. But let me bring that to you, Dan Abrams. I could imagine the Trump camp would want it out, thinking bad news, get it out early.
DAN ABRAMS, CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Yes, and address it and Giuliani can say it’s exculpatory. But the only way that this is exculpatory is if literally President Trump is on that tape saying $150,000? Why would we want to pay her $150,000? I didn’t have a relationship with her.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- AMI --
ABRAMS: Or pay (ph) AMI or anything related to Karen McDougal. I mean, you want to say exculpatory, then that’s what’s got to be on that tape, is short of shock, confusion, sort of saying why would we be paying this. And that’s not the impression that I get that’s on that tape. So the question becomes is this just a potential problem for President Trump or is there a potential legal problem. I think those are the two issues.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Correspondence is (ph) your case, Michael Avenatti, as well. I guess this was taking place a few weeks before the deal was reached with Stormy Daniels back in 2016. In both cases, the Trump camp or the (ph) Karen McDougal case, they said they knew nothing about what AMI was doing. In the first reports about the Stormy Daniels payment, it was all that Michael Cohen did it all by himself. How does this change your case?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY: Well, I think it changes our case in -- in a big way, George, in that first of all, this is not the only tape. I can tell you that for a fact. There’s multiple tapes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don’t know that there are more tapes of President Trump, though?
AVENATTI: No, I do know there’s more tapes of President Trump. There’s multiple tapes of President Trump, number one. All right? So that -- that’s first of all. And that ultimately is going to prove to be a big problem for the president. You know, that old adage, you’ve lived by the sword, you die by the sword is going to be true in this case because the president knew that his attorney Michael Cohen had a predisposition towards taping conversations with people.
And Cohen had shared tapes with the president along the way during the 10 years of legal representation. Donald Trump knew better and it’s shocking to me that -- that he now expresses shock about being taped. So that’s number one.
Number two, this shows that the president knew that these payments were being made prior to the election, he was a participant in it, he was advising as to how it was going to be done, and none of that is going to be helpful to him or Michael Cohen especially as it relates to campaign finance violations.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does it change your stance towards Michael Cohen?
AVENATTI: Well, this particular disclosure does not change our stance towards Michael Cohen but there’s been an evolution of our position towards Michael Cohen recently, I think that’s fair to say.
ABRAMS: And let’s be clear. It wasn’t illegal for Michael Cohen to make --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- consent.
ABRAMS: Right. But it may have been unethical. I mean, that’s a separate question. People have to separate out a question of what is your legal obligation, meaning can you be charged with a crime for it. The answer to that is no. The separate question is could he get in trouble with the Bar Association for what he did. Absolutely. I think the only way he could possibly defend having made this recording is either to say that Donald Trump knew, which it doesn’t seem was the case, or somehow he was protecting himself.
Right? If he’s going to say, I thought Donald Trump was potentially committing a crime here and so I had to protect myself. If neither of those are the case, then there really isn’t any defense for him in making the recording.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to bring that to Alan Dershowitz --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- those are the vulnerabilities for Michael Cohen. The other possibility, though, is that this could end up helping him if he chooses to try to cooperate with prosecutors either in the Southern District or with Robert Mueller.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, there is no question that he is holding out the possibility of cooperating. He is holding it out so that both the president can hear it and possibly take some actions, namely, a pardon, and he is holding it out for the prosecutors as well.
But I have a question for Michael Avenatti. How do you know that there are other tapes? You're not in a position where you could possibly know that properly. How do you know there are other tapes involving the president of the United States?
Are you privy to what was seized from the office? That's a very important question. I wish you would answer it.
AVENATTI: Well, Alan, I'm not going to answer your question because I don't have to answer your question.
DERSHOWITZ: I didn't think so.
AVENATTI: Well, suffice it to say, Alan, that my accuracy rate over the last six months has been a heck of a lot better than yours as it relates to this matter and a whole host of...
DERSHOWITZ: I'm not getting into anything personal, I just want to know...
AVENATTI: Please don't interrupt me.
DERSHOWITZ: … how you know it? Because it's very important.
AVENATTI: Alan, Alan, Alan, please don't interrupt me, OK? My accuracy rate over the last six months has been spot on in this case. And let me tell you this, if I'm wrong, then why don't we have Mr. Trump or his attorneys come forward today, right now and claim there are no other tapes?
You're not going to hear that because...
DERSHOWITZ: No, my point is...
AVENATTI: You're not going to hear that because there are other tapes, period.
DERSHOWITZ: You miss my point. My point is you're probably -- if you're right, if you are right, we have a real problem, not if you are wrong. If we're right, then you have access to information that's supposed to be sealed and supposed to be secret. How do you have that information? How are you right? How did you get that information that nobody else knows?
You're not in a position where you have been given that information properly. So I think you do have an obligation to answer that question.
ABRAMS: Well, I would think that he could have had access to the information before even this investigation into Cohen began. I don't know the answer to that, that's just my guess is that it hasn't always been a criminal investigation, and apparently this has been happening, according to Michael Avenatti, for years.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's one possibility.
ABRAMS: I'm just playing out all of this here.
DERSHOWITZ: Let me answer it. You don't have to guess, he knows the answer.
AVENATTI: Alan, let me say this. All of the information that the FBI seized, that's not under lock and key. The only way that it would be improper for me to have it is if I got it from the FBI or somebody in law enforcement. There's a host of other ways I could have obtained that information.
But look, if I'm wrong...
DERSHOWITZ: How? How?
AVENATTI: Well, I could have received it from Michael Cohen. I could have received it from one of Michael Cohen's counsel. I could have received it from others. There's a host of ways I could have obtained it.
But look, Alan, here's the bottom line. If I'm wrong about it, then why doesn't somebody come forward...
AVENATTI: Please don't interrupt me. If I'm right about it -- If I'm wrong about it, let somebody come forward and state that I'm wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you heard the tape?
DERSHOWITZ: You're missing my point. You're right about it and you shouldn't have the information. And it raises deep questions about how you have access to information that Judge Kimba Wood gave to a judge -- a former judge to investigate in secret because it's potentially lawyer-client privilege.
DERSHOWITZ: You shouldn't have lawyer-client information...
AVENATTI: Alan, Alan, Alan, do you know what Michael Cohen -- Alan, do you know what Michael Cohen has shared with me?
DERSHOWITZ: I don't, but I think...
AVENATTI: Thank you.
DERSHOWITZ: … we should know that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to follow up on this just a little bit, you know there are tapes, do you know what's on the tapes?
AVENATTI: I know the substance of some of the tapes, yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what you have also mentioned, saying that your relationship with Michael Cohen is evolving, what did you mean by that?
AVENATTI: Well, exactly what I said. I mean, I think that I ran into Michael Cohen at a restaurant in New York City on Monday. We had a conversation, I thought it was very fruitful. And we've continued to have a dialogue. And I think that ultimately, George, Michael Cohen is going to assist us in our search for the truth and disclosure of what happened here.
I think you have seen an evolution by Michael Cohen over the last month or so with the retention of Lanny Davis and others, I think he is ready to tell the truth. And ultimately I think he is going to cooperate with us as it relates for our search for the truth.
DERSHOWITZ: But remember that he is not allowed to cooperate with anybody if there's lawyer-client privileged material. He's not permitted to give you that information even if he would like to if it's lawyer-client. He doesn't own it. It's owned by the client.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, Alan, in terms of this tape, though, the privilege was actually waived by the president's...
DERSHOWITZ: Only as to that one tape, not as to other tapes. They were very careful about that. And that's important. Look, I taught legal ethics for 30 years. These are very, very important and difficult ethical issues. And I think we're entitled to get to the bottom of whether or not Cohen is revealing lawyer-client material information, what the nature of the cooperation is.
These are all issues that transcend this particular case and go to the legitimacy of the legal profession.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to ask a final question to Dan Abrams. Is AMI facing any legal vulnerability here?
ABRAMS: Yes, I would be very concerned if I were AMI. I mean, we've already seen that the Department of Justice is not treating them the way that they typically would a news organization. And you really have to wonder what's going to be next.
I think the people at AMI are concerned legally about what...
DERSHOWITZ: This raises very serious First Amendment questions. When you start questioning legitimacy, and here's the quote, whether it's legitimate press function, you're really beginning to step on First Amendment rights.
ABRAMS: Well, no, but...
DERSHOWITZ: We know that newspapers buy stories all the time. Once government officials start raising questions about whether a press function is legitimate, that really begins to raise –
ABRAMS: -- the question would be – the question would be was AMI making a deal with the president such that it had nothing to do with actually publishing stories, but instead making a deal to kill stories.
That is not a first amendment press function, and it is a question we have to ask.
It’s not – it’s not just a question we shouldn’t ask, it’s a question we have to ask.
DERSHOWITZ: Deciding what not to publish is as important a press function –
ABRAMS: -- not paying not to publish, that’s different.
Paying not to publish is not a choice not to publish, that’s paying money to make sure something doesn’t get out there.
DERSHOWTIZ: That’s right, ethically there’s a big difference, but under the first amendment, remember in British newspapers, other newspapers do pay, and once you start tinkering with the first amendment borders like this, we really have a serious question.
ABRAMS: Question is one thing. We should be asking the questions. But to somehow suggest that it’s wrong to be asking questions of AMI I think is a – a vast overstatement.
A lot of things that are potentially dangerous. Yes, sir.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you all very much, Round Table is up next, we’ll be right back.
OBAMA: Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. We see the the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they are caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more.
The denial's effects runs counter to democracy. It could be its undoing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Obama in Johannesburg, South Africa this week did not mention President Trump once, but his message was clear.
I want to talk about a crazy week now on our roundtable with our chief political analyst Matthew Dowd, Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter, served in several senior roles for Ppesident Obama, the new host of Firing Line on PBS Margaret Hoover, also CNN contributor, and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, and New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg.
Welcome to all of you.
I just said a crazy week, Matthew Dowd. At the beginning of the show, I talked about head spinning and consequential. So, what exactly in your changed this week?
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you mentioned this is a tipping point? It seems like we have had 20 or 25 tipping points that everybody thinks is going to change, fundamentally change this.
I would think that today is the British Open of final Sunday. I would say this is more like a very difficult pot bunker that Donald Trump has gotten himself into, maybe a couple of pot bunkers that he's got himself into. And sort of reflecting on this, what Russia in 2016, and we keep calling it meddling or interfering, it really was an attack on our democracy. In the 21st Century of cyber warfare, to me it was an act of war. We ought to consider it that.
But unlike other acts of war that we've been involved with, which united the country, this has sought to divide us. It has divided us even more in the midst of this. But for some reason, and you kept trying to ask these different questions, the Trump administration, and President Trump, doesn't seem capable of confronting Vladimir Putin in any kind of realistic way about what actually happened in 2016. And what the results of that I don't -- there's many explanations for it. I could guess on a lot of different ones. But it is astounding. And it's why your poll, the poll -- the ABC poll -- showed that now by a 17 point margin the public thinks Donald Trump has made us weaker as opposed to stronger.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Alex Castellanos, the poll also shows (inaudible) still a majority of Republicans approved of how he handled it. But that number for the president is actually kind of weak.
CASTELLANOS: It’s kind of weak, but it’s supported by something that – that will maintain the president’s support, and that is there’s still no alternative other than a fairly thankless Republican Party that Donald from crush (ph) that hasn’t learned or changed since he did that.
You know, the establishment Republicans from Washington, and then a Democratic Party that has driven even wackier left by its Trump hatred. So –
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve been a supporter of President Trump, what was going through your mind as you watched that press conference?
CASTELLANOS: I – I was embarrassed, I was – I thought I hadn’t seen a – an American president embarrass himself, make a country look weak, make a presidency look weak ever to that extent.
I think there are reasons he did it, I think he’s trying to re-triangulate the relationship. You know, hey, Europe – the Eurozone’s a bigger economy than America’s economy. They should pay more.
But I think handing Putin that legitimacy on the world stage was a huge mistake and I do think it has impact, because it made Trump look weak. And that’s the one thing he can’t do.
He’s the alpha dog brand, that’s the core of Trump, and when he undermines his own appeal and then he came back here and apologized for it and went back on it. So that’s twice.
That gets to the core Trump brand, it’ll have an effect on Republicans in November.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Margaret Hoover, some Republicans more critical that by of course John McCain, but rank and file still wanted to run away from this question.
HOOVER: Well they want to run away from it and they also, you know, 98 to zero the Senate voted directly sort of contracting some of the things the White House has done. For example, saying there is no way that any law enforcement official, political appointees, civil servants or anybody that the Russian government is interested in talking to will be interviewed by it.
I mean just to make it very, very clear. So on the one hand, you know, they’re not coming out defending the president, but what’s so striking to me just overall if we step back and look at how this administration has handled Russia, frankly it’s not that different than the last administration started with Russia or the administration before that.
And I was somebody who was in the Bush administration. But each administration has felt that personal diplomacy with the leader of the Russian government is going to be the way to change.
And it’s like we used to have this quant statement that partisanship ended at the water’s edge, and that we would learn from what our country has discovered over previous administrations.
And three times we have completely failed to learn on what has happened in our past. And it – that has to stop.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In fact, President Obama gave up on personal diplomacy, cancelled that final summit supposed to be (ph) I think in 2013 with Vladimir Putin.
HOOVER: Yes, you know, I think that there is a – a growing sense and I think the poll numbers show it, that President Trump is being manipulated by Vladimir Putin and being manipulated by North Korea.
That he’s lost hold of our national security. Alex, I know what you’re going to say, and I think the – the fact that you did see Republicans speaking out this week more so than they have previously to stand with our intelligence and to say that what Donald Trump did standing next to Vladimir Putin and siding with the Russians and using Russian talking points against American interests was a mistake.
Now the question is whether or not Republicans will actually do something about it rather than just saying it’s – giving a statement.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That – that is one of the questions. You also saw, Michelle Goldberg, Democrats far less reticent about saying – using words like treason this week, for better or worse politically.
Clearly saying they believe that it’s very, very possible now that President Trump is compromised. And then in the heels of that are – it’s sort of book ending the summit, you have the indictments on the Friday before and the new indictment of Maria Butina as a Russian agent just the day after.
GOLDBERG: Look, I think that increasingly to believe that the president isn’t compromised requires such a leap of faith that requires so many coincidences and kind of inexplicable behavioral choices. I think that the truth is probably what is right in front of us, which is that Donald Trump was a – kind of a conman, a third tier failed businessman who’s fortunes were rescued by Russian oligarchs.
He presented himself as a kind of titan of industry, which everybody knows anything about him knew was ridiculous, he became president with the direct intervention of Putin, he sees his fortunes as inseparable from Putin’s.
He either – we don’t know, I think, if Putin is his handler, his hero or his co-conspirator, but that’s obviously where his loyalty lies as opposed to lying with the American people. And I think increasingly when you look at the role that the NRA has played all of this, you know –
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- ties to Maria Butina.
GOLDBERG: I think that, you know, the Republic servility has been breathtaking to me and – and really confusing, because you do think that, you know, if nothing else, these people are patriots, they have some base line loyalty to country over party, and yet they’ve lied down for Trump in this way that I mean people -- people come up to me on the street. They find it unbelievable.
And I think that one of the things that came out this week with the NRA is that maybe they are not just, you know, craven, some of them are also complicit because the NRA didn't just help Trump, it helped them all.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is the alternate view?
CASTELLANOS: I think you are getting a tinfoil hat. We're getting into tinfoil hat conspiracy theories.
GOLDBERG: Excuse me, Maria Butina was just arrested as a russian agent for penetrating the NRA. And you think that's silly?
CASTELLANOS: Penetrating the NRA? Are you kidding? She got invited to the inaugural. Do you know what her secret communications channels were? Twitter.
This is kind of a joke. She is an unregistered lobbyist.
More importantly regarding Trump and his motives, his motives are what they've been for 30 years. He took out an ad in 1987 saying Europe ought to pay more for its own defense. We shouldn't have to do that. They are economic competitors. He sees everything through the prism of economics. I have got to beat you. That's why he sees Europe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I accept that there is a lot of truth to that, but how do you -- and you said your view on the press conference earlier, how do explain, though, knowing that the whole world is watching you, coming out of these indictments, how do you explain he doesn't clearly say, I agree with our intelligence agencies?
CASTELLANOS: I think we all know he has got a gargantuan ego that will not tolerate the slightest hint that he, Donald Trump, elected Donald Trump, and he just won't tolerate that. That we know.
GOLDBERG: But that doesn't explain his pro-Putin position during the campaign.
CASTELLANOS: No, but what does is that he sees China, the Asian tiger, as a big economic competitor, and he sees a weak Russia, who has an economy one-tenth the size of ours.
And by the way, you know what male life expectancy is in Russia? Less than in North Korea.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And dropping.
CASTELLANOS: They are not an economic competitor. He wants to take those resources and put them in China.
There is a very good reason he is borrowing Hillary Clinton's reset button, which we used to think was a good idea, and try to reset relations with Russia.
DOWD: I want to go back to something that Alex said earlier about sort of what I think all this revealed and this past week revealed. One, I think Alex is very right, Donald Trump got elected for a multiple of reasons, but there was two really big ones. One, he was the strong alpha dog. This undermined that. This undermined, in fact, that he looked weak in front of another leader. I think in conjunction with what happened in North Korea as well. He propped up North Korean leader and then nothing came of it.
I think the other thing -- reason why he got elected that this revealed that he is incompetent at, or can't really do, is he got elected after he wrote a book called "The Art of the Deal," that I'm going to cut all kinds of deals and they are going to be great for America. And we've seen from day one of this presidency he was going to have a deal for Mexico. They were going to pay for the wall. That didn't happen. He was going to have deals with Canada that was going to help our economy. It's actually -- we're actually in a worse position. He was going to have deals on tariffs, we're now in the midst of a tariff war. He was going to have a deal with North Korea, that's not happening. He was going to have a deal with Russia and reset or whatever it is, that's not happening.
He was going to have deals with Democrats. He told me in person in the Oval Office when I met with him that he was going to cut all kind of deals with Democrats on immigration, on infrastructure and all that, and that's not happening.
So, one of the fundamental things he ran on, none of it is happening.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Margaret Hoover, one of the questions when you add all that up is what does it mean for the midterms which are closing in and now so consequential?
HOOVER: Depends on if he has a Russian meeting right before the midterms.
I mean, look, the mid terms are shaping up to be -- they are going to be a statement about whether people have faith in Donald Trump or not. The motivation, the energy, is in the Democratic base. I mean, you see minorities and women and youth mobilized, and I'm looking at polls in swing states trying to figure out how to defend the few Republicans that I really like and want to support because if there is a blue wave, there is no way that they survive.
But a lot of this is -- look, it's early. And a lot of this will have to do with how -- the economy is very strong and many things are going in Donald Trump's direction. So, it's his to -- it's sort of his to throw away by mishandling it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of it will also depends on what happens with Robert Mueller and Michael Cohen.
I think with all due respect, Margaret, it's not early. It's almost August. And these numbers are starting to harden. And the generic ballot, you know, depending upon what poll you look at is anywhere between seven and into the double digits. Those are hard numbers now. And this race is starting...
CUTTER: This is starting to set. And I think it's not just minorities and women and young people that are being energized against Trump, just look at The Washington Post/ABC poll today, only 51 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of conservatives, are standing by Trump and his handling of foreign policy. That's significant. And every time Donald Trump does something like he did standing with Vladimir Putin and putting Russia first over America, he's nationalizing this race. And any time you nationalize it, it is going to come out worse for Republicans than if their strategy is to localize it. The more we nationalize it, the more there is going to be a...
STEPHANOPOULOS: This race I think is nationalized at this point.
Michelle, the Democrats also are now facing this internal debate. We see Alexandria Ocasio Cortez leading now as a 28 year old first time congressional candidate. The Bernie Sanders wing of a party in these House elections has other Democrats quite nervous.
GOLDBERG: But you know, I think that some of that I honestly believe is overstated. Right? So I was in Pennsylvania where a bunch of similar figures to Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (ph) won primaries for the state house. Young women challenging established Democrats. And it wasn’t just kind of a straight left versus right thing.
You have a lot of people who have -- you know, in the wake of the 2016 election, have poured into politics, who are -- you know, traumatized, who feel that there is -- this is an existential election and some of them who are quite conservative, some of them who had voted fro Republicans in the past were just thrilled to see young people in the race because they want this infusion of energy.
So there are these tensions but I think that there is, on the ground, a lot more unity than people realize.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Alex, midterms intensity matters.
CASTELLANOS: Intensity matters. Democrats are on fire and there are two kinds of Republicans. There are the big Trump hat wearing fans who by definition hate Washington Republicans and the Washington establishment. So they’re not motivated to go out and reelect the swamp. And then there are the Republicans who -- gee, we like what Trump is doing, the economy is growing, you know, he’s -- he’s opening up regulations, all kinds of things like that.
But gee, he embarrasses me personally. He just demonstrated weakness. So Republican turnout is down (ph) --
HOOVER: Michelle, you just referenced these two individuals who won in House seats in the state of Pennsylvania and the way that Alexandria Cortez -- Ocasio Cortez. And I think what’s really interesting about that is that they are both endorsed by -- these are two of the other big wins of individuals who are endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America.
GOLDBERG: There were three (ph).
HOOVER: Those were two --
GOLDBERG: There were three in Pennsylvania (ph).
HOOVER: And -- and there’s several. I mean, there are more than -- close to 20 Democratic Socialists of America. And what Alexandria Ocasio Cortez tells me and has also said in many interviews is that she wanted to get involved and when she went out -- she went out for a vigil for -- for Hurricane Maria.
She went to get -- the people who are meeting her there on the Democratic side, to the extent that she is interested in being a Democrat because she was a Bernie Sanders supporter, are in (ph) this really organized group called Democratic Socialists of America. And so the -- the -- the energy is on the --
HOOVER: -- and that is what’s creating, I think --
DOWD: As long as Democrats -- as long as Democrats are culturally aligned with the district, they can run on progressive issues because right now progressive issues are actually more popular than Donald Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Last word right now. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: IF you guys want to come down to the studio, the roundtable’s going to go all day long. That is all for us today, though. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out WORLD NEWS TONIGHT and I’ll see you tomorrow on GMA.