— -- THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' on July 23, 2017 and it will be updated.
ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: The Russia investigation heats up. President Trump does, too. As Special Counsel Robert Mueller digs into Trump's finances, the president lashes out. His White House cries foul.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERES, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He doesn't want the special counsel to move beyond the scope and outside of its mission.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will Trump try to fire Mueller? Pardon his friends, family, even himself? Tough questions ahead for Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow.
Plus, smiling on the outside, seething on the inside. Sean Spicer exits the White House.
REPORTER: What are you trying to accomplish with your staff shakeup?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make America great again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The press secretary quits after President Trump makes his finance friend Anthony Scaramucci communications director. Promotes Sarah Sanders to press secretary. She's here for her first Sunday interview, a THIS WEEK exclusive.
And what about the Democrats? Everyone knows they don't like Trump but are they offering an agenda for all of you?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We're not going to stand idly by and shrug our shoulders when American people are suffering.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer says he has answers. What's gone wrong? What Democrats need to get right. We'll press him on THIS WEEK.
And the reporter whose interview with President Trump rocked Washington this week. Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" joins our powerhouse roundtable. Everything you need to know. We'll break down the politics, smoke out the spin. The facts that matter THIS WEEK.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK. Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. Six months ago this week, President Trump took the oath of office, vowing to make America great again. He promised a border wall paid for by Mexico, the end of Obamacare, tax cuts for everyone. He claims to have signed more bills at this point than any president ever. And those three signature promises unkept, unclear if they ever will.
His approval rating is lowest of any president ever at this point, though Trump has kept a strong hold on his core voters. And he can take comfort in the strong economy, with low unemployment, the stock market at record highs.
One big promise the president surely has made good on, the promise to shake up Washington. The question now, can his presidency survive the aftershocks?
As the Russia investigations by Congress and the special counsel intensified this week, the president responded as he did when faced with crises in his private life -- by hunkering down, lashing out, shaking up his team, attacking his investigators. Trump is braced for battle. A battle unlike he's every seen before. Safe to say our country has never seen anything quite like it either. And it's just beginning.
We begin this morning with the president's team. Attorney Jay Sekulow, brand new Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
And Mr. Sekulow, let me start with you. And thank you for joining us this morning.
I wanted to start by putting up this Tweet that President Trump sent out yesterday, yesterday morning. He said, "While all agree that the U.S. president has the complete power to pardon, why think of it when all -- the only crime so far is leaks against us? Fake news."
I wonder if you can explain what the president means by that, "complete power to pardon?"
Does he believe he has the right to pardon himself?
JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER, TRUMP LEGAL TEAM: Well, the president, in that Tweet, stated something that's rather unremarkable, and that is that under "The Constitution," under Article Two, Section Two, the president has the authority to pardon.
But I want to be clear on this, George. We have not -- and that -- and continue to not have conversations with the president of the United States regarding pardons. Pardons have not been discussed and pardons are not on the table.
With regard to the issue of a president pardoning himself, there's a big academic discussion going on right now, an academic debate. You've got Professor Tribe arguing one point, you've got Professor Turley arguing another point.
And it -- while it makes for interesting academic decisions, let me tell you what the legal team is not doing. We're not researching the issue, because the issue of pardons is not on the table, there's nothing to pardon from.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, "The Washington Post" reported that you were discussing it this week, that the president even asked about it. I take it you're denying that article.
But I want to put up...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- a judgment from the Office of Legal Counsel back in 1974 under Richard Nixon. They said, "Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the president cannot pardon himself.
You're a constitutional lawyer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe the president can pardon himself?
SEKULOW: I don't think that you can -- that -- first of all, it's never been adjudicated, whether a president could pardon himself, because it's not happened.
But clearly, "The Constitution" does vest a plenary pardon power within the presidency. Whether it would apply to the president himself, well, I think, ultimately, would be a matter for a court to decide, if it were to ever come into an existence.
As I said, that's not something that we're looking at.
But from a constitutional and legal perspective -- and you can't dismiss it one way or the other. I think it's a question that would ultimately, if put in place, would probably have to be adjudicated by the Supreme Court to determine constitutionality.
The document itself -- we're talking about the document, "The Constitution," Article Two, is very clear, the pardon has -- the president has the power to pardon. But again, there's academics that are arguing both sides of this. And as I said, we're not researching it. I haven't researched it because it's not an issue we're concerned with or dealing with.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you think it's an open question.
Let me move on to Special Counsel Mueller. The president complained to The New York Times this week that Robert Mueller has an inherent conflict of interest, because he interviewed for the FBI director's job before he was appointed.
I want everyone to listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The day before. Of course, he was up here. Mueller wanted the job. I said, what the hell is this all about? Talk about conflicts. He was interviewing for the job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: He went on the say there were many other conflicts that I haven't said but I will at some point. What did he mean by that? What other conflicts of Robert Mueller does he have in mind?
SEKULOW: Well, George, any lawyer that's involved in any kind of matter, one like this, a court matter, you're always looking at the issue of potential conflicts or conflicts as they arise. If a conflict arises, what a lawyer does, and you -- and it would be no different here, is you raise that conflict with, in this particular case initially, with a special counsel. If it was a serious enough conflict that you felt was not being rectified, you would go to the deputy attorney general who appoints the special counsel here the way it's set up with the recusal of Jeff Sessions.
So, what the president is talking about in due time, if there is in fact a conflict that the legal team deems is significant enough that it needs to be raise, as any lawyer would do, we would raise the conflict with the special counsel.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he said that Mueller has an inherent conflict. He already said that Mueller has a conflict. Has that been raised with the deputy attorney general?
SEKULOW: We have not raised it with the deputy attorney general yet. I will tell you this, that the special counsel's situation, which is a bit unique in the way it's structured, it's not an independent counsel, it's a special counsel, you have to be evaluating conflicts as they -- as a matter moves forward.
Remember, we're not in an investigative stage yet. So, we're not going to -- I'm not going to start talking about individual and particular conflicts that could exist that would render or put us in a position where we would, in fact, raise that issue.
But I will also tell you that as the lawyers for the president, we're going to be constantly evaluating that situation. And if an investigation were to arise and we thought that the conflict was relevant, we would raise it without question.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president has already raised it. And he doesn't seem to be on the same page as his lead attorney, John Dowd, who with an interview with The Wall Street Journal dismissed the idea that Mueller has conflicts. I want to show that.
He said, "we all know him and we're not interested at all in that kind of collateral nonsense," speaking of the conflicts. He's an honest guy and he's done a good job.
I wonder how you reconcile the statements of President Trump and the statements of Mr. Dowd? Does the president agree that Mueller is an honest guy who has done a good job?
SEKULOW: Those are not inconsistent statements. What you're talking about, the president was talking about conflicts that exist within the special counsel's office, or that may rise to a level that we have to address them. And, remember, not every conflict you have to address, but when it gets a certain level...
STEPHANOPOULOS: He was talking about Mr. Mueller's personal conflict.
SEKULOW: Yeah, so John Dowd was responding to the fact that we have had an ongoing professional dialogue with special counsel's office and haven't yet raised the issues of conflict.
But let me say this again to be clear, the president's concerns, our concern as well, if there is -- and we're concerned about the conflicts, as conflicts mature -- and that's how it works in a proceeding, if the conflicts matures and we actually have an investigation, which right we don't, those conflicts would be raised within the appropriate venue. No question.
And I don't think what John Dowd said is inconsistent with the president at all. John is addressing the legal -- well, John is -- George, let me just finish -- John Dowd, who is a brilliant criminal defense lawyer here in Washington, John is raising the scenario as it exists with regard to the special counsel's office as he see something possibly moving forward.
What the president is concerned about apparent conflicts that have already kind of bubbled to the surface.
And look, any lawyer that's handling a matter like this would look at those seriously and take the appropriate action.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Dowd calls the idea of conflicts collateral nonsense. The president is raising the conflicts. He didn't only raise it about Mr. Mueller, he said that the deputy attorney general is conflicted in that New York Times interview. He said that the acting FBI director is conflicted as well. And he seems to be raising questions about everybody who is involved in this investigation.
Are you concerned at all that this is going to bolster the case of obstruction of justice, that the president appears to be questioning everyone involved in this investigation?
SEKULOW: No, he has the right to raise concerns. I mean, you have got the situation with the acting FBI director whose wife received I think it was $500,000 or $700,000 from Terry McAuliffe's PAC while she was running for a Senate seat in Virginia -- a state Senate seat in Virginia. That's an -- I mean, you can't ignore that as an issue. I mean, I think that would be naive by any lawyer to just glance over that and say well that's not a big deal. Those are issues.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president seemed to say it was a problem that the deputy attorney general was from Baltimore.
SEKULOW: Well, he's concerned about the appointment of the deputy attorney general from Baltimore because he's concerned as -- he raised it in the article. I mean, this is no secret, what you're saying, is that a Democratic state, Democratic appointment here, and does that in and of itself?
Look, you have to look at a conflict in the totality of circumstances. I've been practicing law for 38 years. In every case I'm involved in, and I've been involved, as you know, at the Supreme Court of the United States. I've argued cases in international tribunals. I've handled congressional investigations before the House and Senate.
Here's what happens. You look at these issues, and you make a determination, based on looking at those issues, whether it is something that has to be raised within the appropriate venue. So, again, what is happening here is the president has recognized some apparent conflicts right off the -- as a non-lawyer right off the -- just evaluating the situation.
And you don't ignore those. I mean, anything like this has to be evaluated. And we'll do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I have to say, I don't understand how being from Baltimore, serving in Baltimore, he's not even from Baltimore, he's from Pennsylvania, is a conflict.
But I want to bring up one final tweet from the president. This was yesterday as well. He said: “So many people are asking why isn't the AG or special council (sic),” he didn't spell it correctly there, “looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes, 33,000 emails deleted.”
Which Comey crimes does the president believe the Justice Department or Mueller should be investigating?
SEKULOW: Well, I think there's a really serious one, George, and that is the president of the United States is concerned, as I am as his lawyer, that James Comey, when he was the FBI director, took notes of conversations he had with the president of the United States.
He put them on a government computer, put them in his government desk. And then he was fired. He took his private -- he called them private notes. By the way, the investigators and the special counsel and the government have concluded it is, in fact, government property.
He took government property, which was his private notes on conversations with the president, leaked them to the press for what purpose? And he had said this under oath, for the sole purpose of obtaining a special counsel, who happened to be appointed the day after that special counsel, Bob Mueller, right before he was special counsel, interviewed for the FBI job.
So, you know, I think, look, this is the reality of what happened. So the special counsel comes out ofthis illegally leaked information by James Comey, because let me tell you what an FBI director nor an FBI agent can do, leak government property.
And that's what happened here. And if it was an FBI agent that did it, they would be investigated by the FBI. Now maybe they are. I don't know that they are. We can't make that determination, certainly not public. But I think it has to be done.
An illegally-leaked memo of conversations that he had with the president of the United States was the basis for which a special counsel was put in place.
And let me also say this. It was also that conversation would have been covered by executive privilege. And James Comey ignored that, did not give the president or anyone else at that point, when he leaked the information, the opportunity to assert that privilege.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's all we have...
SEKULOW: And I think that was not only a dereliction of his duties, I think it was a violation of his constitutional oath, and violated criminal statutes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's all we have time for today. As you know, it's an open question whether it was illegal. He says it's not classified. And, of course, the president did not claim privilege over Comey's testimony.
But thanks a lot for your time this morning.
SEKULOW: You know, four of those documents have already been deemed classified, George. And the fact is it doesn't have to be classified to be illegally leaked under section 641 of the criminal code, that's government property.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Jay Sekulow, thanks very much for your time this morning.
Let's move on now to the newly-appointed White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders joins us from the White House lawn this morning.
Sarah, congratulations on the new job.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So when you came to work on Friday, is it fair to say that you had no idea you would be press secretary at the end of the day?
SANDERS: I certainly don't think that was part of the original plan waking up and getting ready to go to work on Friday. But I'm honored to be here and excited to continue being part of the president's team and helping continue to get his message out there, and honored to do it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I wonder how you see your role. You know, Sean Spicer, your predecessor, seemed to get hammered from both sides. The president complained that he wasn't tough enough. The press complained that he wasn't transparent and truthful enough. How will you strike the balance?
SANDERS: I think any time, usually, if the press is attacking you in this situation, you're probably doing something right. I think Sean did a tremendous job. He's very loyal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if you're not telling the truth?
SANDERS: Served the president admirably. And, you know, again, I'm looking forward to being part of the president's team to continue pushing out his message. We want to talk about jobs and health care and how we can make America great again. And that's our focus. So that's what we're going to come to work every day and try to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to ask you the same question Jon Karl asked Sean Spicer on his first day. Do you promise to always try to tell the truth from that podium?
SANDERS: Absolutely. And not just to you, but I think that's our duty. Certainly, I have three young kids. And I want to be able to go home and look my kids in the eye every single day. And that's far more important to me to be able to do that and have that, the highest level of honesty and integrity.
And I want to do that not just in my job but in every single thing I do. And so this is just an extension of me being able to do that. And I'm excited and honored to do it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's move on to the big issue of the week. The House and Senate seemed to have come to an agreement yesterday on a bill with tough sanctions for Russia. It also restricts the president's ability to lift those sanctions, add sanctions for Iran and North Korea. Will the president sign that bill?
SANDERS: Look, the administration is supportive of being tough on Russia, particularly in putting these sanctions in place. The original piece of legislation was poorly written but we were able to work with the House and Senate. And the administration is happy with the ability to do that and make those changes that were necessary.
And we support where the legislation is now, and will continue to work with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia until the situation in Ukraine is fully resolved. But it certainly isn't right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So the president will sign that bill. That's a little news right there.
I want to move on now to the attorney general, Jeff Sessions. As you know, the president in that "New York Times" interview was very tough on the attorney general this week. Said he never would have appointed him has he known he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Said that was unfair to the president.
A new issue cropped in "The Washington Post" over the weekend, reports that an intelligence intercept showed the attorney general did indeed talk with the Russian ambassador about the campaign. The president responded to that in a tweet. He said a new intelligence leak from the Amazon "Washington Post", this time against AG Jeff Sessions. These illegal leaks like Comey's must stop.
That appears to be a confirmation that the attorney general was talking to the Russian ambassador about the campaign.
SANDERS: I don't think so at all, George. I completely disagree. I think the president's point is that there's a real problem with leaks, whether they're actual leaks or not. There's an issue that there are constant stories, sometimes true, sometimes not, that are being leaked out of the intelligence community.
We've had over 60 leaks in the first six months from the intelligence community when the other administrations previous to us were in the single digits after the entire time. This is a real problem. There are people are putting our national security at risk. And I think that is one of the most undertold stories so far in the first six months of this administration.
There's a ton of focus on what I like to call Russia fever, which is total made-up story about the president trying to -- take away the legitimacy of his victory in November. And we need to focus on these leaks. This is the only illegal thing that has taken place. And it's a real serious problem.
STEPHANOPOULS: Sarah, as you know -- as you know, part of what feeds the fever is the fact that the president and his associates have not been straight about exactly what happened. In fact, the attorney general himself first said he never had a meeting with Russians. He revised than. Then he said he never talked about the campaign. Now you have this intercept that says he did talk about the campaign.
I know you're upset about the leak. But if it is indeed true, is that OK with the president, that the attorney general was discussing the campaign with the Russian ambassador?
SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to comment on an alleged illegal leak. I'm not going to get into the back and forth on that. I think if we're going to talk about issues with Russia, and I think that we certainly should, one of the first places we should look is at the $500,000 that Bill Clinton took from Russians when Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State. If we want to talk about collusion, I think that's one of the first places we should look. They should ask for that money back. And I think that's where this focus should be.
The media loves to talk about it only when it comes to President Trump. And they've been doing it for almost a year. They've come up with nothing when there's real issues I think with some of the activities that the Democrats took place in.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah, in fact, you know that's not true. You know that for many months, you and the president and his team denied any contact with the Russians. Just in the last couple of weeks, we've seen these contacts revealed. That's why Don Jr. is going to have to appear before the Senate. That's why Jared Kushner is appearing before the Senate this week as well. This is not a made-up story from the press.
But I do want to focus in on the attorney general right here as well. Because I don't -- you've said the president has confidence in the attorney general. Yet in that interview with "The New York Times", he says he wouldn't have appointed him, that he was unfair.
I just understand how you reconcile those two statements?
SANDERS: Look, the president knows the attorney general is trying hard and he appreciates that. But at the same time, he's disappointed that he chose to recuse himself. I don't think that that's inconsistent or hard to understand, that there would be frustration with that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the president is still frustrated?
SANDERS: Certainly. But I think, again, he's mostly frustrated with the overall process. Look, there was a "Wall Street Journal" poll that came out this week that showed that the top three issues that Americans care about are immigration, health care, and jobs. The top three issues that the media cares about are Russia, Russia, and Russia.
There's 15 times more coverage on Russia than on the three big issues that Americans care about. That's a problem. That's exactly the definition of Russia fever. And I think that's why people are so frustrated with Washington, and one of the reasons that Donald Trump became president in the first place. Because you have that just complete opposite idea of what Americans care about. Donald trump Tapped into it. He's been able and willing to talk about it. And he's had a lot of success in those areas over the first six months of his office.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, in fact, the health care bill has stalled this week.
And I do want to ask about that. But just let me make the point as well we have never before seen an intelligence community reach a consensus judgment that a foreign adversary like Russia interfered in our election. We've never seen a special counsel appointed this quickly, six month in, to the presidency.
But let's talk about health care for a minute, because yesterday the president was speaking on the USS Gerald Ford and he chose to make a pitch on health care to the assembled seamen. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So call that congressman and call that senator, and make sure you get it.
And by the way, you can also call those senators to make sure you get health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: It raised a lot of eyebrows, including from Ben Rhodes who of course worked for President Obama, "he said this is a huge deal. Obama or Bush never would have done this. It violates most fundamental norms separating military and politics. The Washington Post wrote that this could be construed as an order from the commander-in-chief. Why does the president believe it was appropriate to make a political pitch like that in this forum?
SANDERS: Look, the president is committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare. We have a system that is completely collapsing. It's failed at all levels. And we have to make a major shift. Inaction is not an option. And the president was making that clear yesterday and speaking to not just the people in the room, but the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does he want the senate to do this week? It sure seems like repeal and replace has died? Does he want them to repeal Obamacare and replace it at the same time or does he just want them to repeal it?
SANDERS: As we have said many times our preference is to repeal and replace.
Look, we know that we have a system that is simply not sustainable. And we are losing coverage and insurers every single day across the country. We've got to lower premiums. We have got to create better care. And we have got to start doing that right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: On that, the president also spoke about health care in "The New York Times" interview and seemed to suggest that under the president's plan, a 21-year-old could get insurance for $12 a year. Let's listen.
"You're 21 years old. You start working. And you're paying $12 a year for insurance. And by the time you're 70, you get a nice plan. Here's something where you walk up and say, "I want my insurance."
You were asked at the White House on Thursday what the president meant by that. Where is it possible under the president's plan to buy insurance for $12 a year. You promised to go back and get the answer. What is the answer?
SANDERS: I haven't had a chance to do that yet, George. But I plan to do that before the next press briefing this week. And I will, as I said, work on making sure we get an answer for you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have never heard of a $12 a year insurance plan, have you?
SANDERS: I haven't spent a lot of time studying insurance plans across the board. Certainly not for a 21-year-old. It's been a long time since I was 21. But, if I could get a $12 plan, I think I would be on board with that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah Sanders, thanks you for your time this morning.
SANDERS: Thanks so much, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is up next. And later, the Senate's top Democrat Chuck Schumer, is his new better deal agenda the answer to the Democrats' problems? We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: The president is known to see himself as his own best spokesperson, his own best messenger. That was clearly a challenge that Sean had at this podium. How do you plan on navigatingthat differently than him or (INAUDIBLE) or anybody else?
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I do believe that the best messenger, the best media person, the most savvy person in the White House is the president of the United States. And I'm frankly hoping to learn from him as well as learn from Sarah and other people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: There's the new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, being questioned by New York Times correspondent -- White House correspondent Maggie Haberman, also CNN political analyst.
She is here this morning on the “Roundtable” along with Joshua Green, senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek. You're author of the new book “Devil's Bargain” -- oh, they went to Eric Bolling's book first, that's “The Swamp,” Eric Bolling is next, from FOX News...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think that President Trump like Eric's book a little bit better than he likes Josh's book?
We also have Republican strategist and CNBC analyst Sara Fagen, and Roland Martin, host and managing editor of "News One Now."
And, of course, Maggie, you had that explosive interview with President Trump right in the middle of the week. You know, health care is going down on Monday and Tuesday. He's shaking up his legal team. They say it's “Made in America week” in the White House, yet the president gives you this interview where he takes on Jeff Sessions, he takes on Robert Mueller, he takes on the deputy attorney general.
Sort of off-message one more time. But then I question myself, not off-message at all. He said exactly what he wanted to say.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Right. I think this is the part where people get tied up with this president is there's always this assumption that he didn't mean to say this or it was some accident. He was given the opportunity repeatedly by Hope Hicks, who was sitting in that interview with us, to not answer questions if he didn't want to.
Other advisers raised concerns about us coming in the days before. It went straight to the president. He overruled them. He wanted to do this interview or he wanted to at least have the possibility there.
And while his -- what is going on in his head might not make sense to some of his staff, or some observers or some critics, he knew what he was doing. I mean, I don't know that that had a conclusion. I don't know that had a clear path.
In his mind he often throws these things out, as you know, to get off of another story. In this case it was getting of, I think his son, and refocusing it on to other issues.
This is also something he really believes. Peter Baker and I had written several weeks ago, this all goes back to Jeff Sessions. That is sort of the original creation moment in the president's mind of how we got to Mueller. And that has not changed for him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It hasn't changed at all. I guess the question is, I think you're right, he knows exactly what he's doing. Does he understand the impact? Let me bring that question to you, Eric Bolling. Perhaps the president wants to get it off Don, Jr., but it guarantees one more week of complete focus on Russia.
ERIC BOLLING, FOX NEWS HOST: Look, I think Maggie is incorrect in that he didn't need to do that. He didn't need to sit down with The New York Times for an hour to do that. He could have tweeted about it.
What Donald Trump does -- President Trump does is he moves forward. He moves the media. He moves the story forward. He stays in the news. I will tell you, unequivocally, I spoke to him yesterday, he's very frustrated about Russia being the focus of everyone's conversations when he would like to focus on other things.
He would like to talk about other things. But it doesn't -- the media never gets there. They sit -- he sits down with The New York Times, what happens? They talk about Russia, collusion in Russia.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Eric...
BOLLING: Just to finish this. The Sessions thing is on his mind. When I spoke to him yesterday, he is concerned that, hey, he appointed Jeff Sessions. He shook his hand and said, you're the attorney general. And now...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Then how do you explain Sarah Sanders -- I want to move on to Roland. How do you explain Sarah Sanders coming out and saying the president has confidence in Jeff Sessions, from talking to you, from talking to Maggie Haberman, he does not have confidence in Jeff Sessions.
BOLLING: Well, I didn't say anything about confidence. He's frustrated that had he known that Jeff was going to recuse himself within days of being appointed over a handshake on a receiving line in a book event, that he probably wouldn't be the attorney general.
ROLAND MARTIN, HOST & MANAGING EDITOR, “NEWS ONE NOW”: This is very simple for this president and his administration. If you want to stop hearing about Russia, stop lying, stop changing stories, actually tell the truth.
As George said to Sarah, multiple stories. We have Donald Trump, Jr., who changes his story from Saturday to Sunday, and it keeps changing and changing.
BOLLING: Roland, what is the story? What is the Russia story? I'm still waiting to find one story --
MARTIN: This is the story.
BOLLING: -- that has legs. It's all fake.
MARTIN: Eric, Eric -- this is the story. Donald Trump, Jr., says we got money from Russia. The president says we didn't. Eric Trump said it as well. Donald Trump, Jr., says to Jake Tapper in an interview that, oh, it's disgusting their discussing we had meetings about Russia with the campaign. Now we know from his own e-mail, he did.
BOLLING: No, no.
BOLLING: There are no collusion --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sara Fagen?
SARA FAGEN, CNBC ANALYST: There may or may not.
MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE) there's not.
FAGEN: There may or may not be a real story or any there there. But the reality is, there's now a special counsel. And the best thing for the president to do is not go do interviews and talk about Russia, but to talk about his agenda and let his lawyers -- Mr. Sekulow, very capable this morning -- let his lawyers talk about it and he should stop talking about it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good luck with that.
MARTIN: And don't threaten (INAUDIBLE).
JOSHUA GREEN, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: But you also see the strains that Trump is under. There are a lot of advisors do want him to defer to the legal team. But on the other hand, he has -- his son has hearings coming up with the Senate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: His son-in-law has hearings.
GREEN: His son-in-law has hearings this week.
GREEN: And I think Trump wants to raise questions about the validity of this line of questioning in speculation that this is going to be in the news. I can't stop it but I can certainly raise questions.
FAGEN: See, you can't have it both ways though. You can't constantly complain about the Russia story and then constantly talk about it.
MARTIN: That's what he does.
FAGEN: You have to -- he has to choose a path.
BOLLING: He doesn't complain -- he complains about the media's treatment of his presidency. The media only cares about Russia. It literally occupies --
FAGEN: Because he talks about it every day.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I would not have had my first question to Jay Sekulow this morning had the president not tweeted about Russia yesterday.
Let me bring this back, to Maggie Haberman, right now in the midst of all this, a big White House shakeup. Is one apparently the president didn't -- and it goes, it's kind of a theme year -- it sure seemed like most of the White House didn't know that the president was sitting down with you. Seems like most of the White House did not know that Anthony Scaramucci, including the White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, until the end, that he was coming in as communications director.
HABERMAN: So just to clarify, sorry, I thought you were talking about Scaramucci. Most people in the White House knew that "The Times" was coming in. I mean, whether it was going to go on the record or not I think was a different issue. But they did know and there has been this narrative out there that they didn't; that's not true.
In terms of Scaramucci, that is true. I mean, this basically was a direct negotiation between Anthony Scaramucci and President Trump. And they have known each other for a very long time. They've had a sort of a contentious at times relationship because Scaramucci had backed other horses.
But basically, the president has been very frustrated by his messaging team. And that is really what this all goes back to. Part of why it is that you see him tweeting, why it is that is that you see him giving interviews. He feels like people are not accurately representing what he thinks, or are not defending him well, so he does it himself.
And in terms of Scaramucci, the piece of this that I think is hard to ignore is -- and you saw Sarah talking about this -- the president is consumed with frustration about leaks. And he blames a lot of the leaking of some members of the current staff. He believes that this change is going to help that. Whether it will, we'll see.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the things, really, your book, Josh, is about Steve Bannon, in large part. Lots of reports that he was vociferously opposed to this appointment, even as he's taken a step back in the White House. And I've also read that the president not all that happy with Bannon after hearing about your book.
GREEN: Well, I haven't heard from him directly. But absolutely, Bannon got steam-rolled by this appointment. He and Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, had tried to intervene. Apparently, at that point, Scaramucci had already been told by the president that he had the job so they were unable to do that.
But I think Scaramucci's first press conference was revealing of what it is that Trump would like to see on TV. I viewed it as almost a tuning fork. You could listen to it, hear the notes that Trump wants his advisors to strike. That he's brilliant. That he is underappreciated. That he's not getting a fair shake from the media, from Democrats. That he has good karma, as Scaramucci put it. That he's a great athlete even.
And I think that show of fealty is something that makes other advisors the White House very nervous.
MARTIN: Here's something the president should do. Be honest with your staff. You cannot send your people out to represent you and then come back and tell a totally different story like he did with Lester Holt, and then go, oh, you're not doing your job. Be honest with them. That's a start.
FAGEN: It's going to be really interesting to watch how Anthony Scaramucci does in this job. You know, my experience with people who have very wealthy, as he is, is there comes a point where they don't care and they don't need the guy down the hall. And that's unusual for a staffer to be in. And so this dynamic between the communications director and the president certainly is off on a very good foot. We'll see where it ends up.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Particularly in that job.
We've got to take a quick break. We'll be back. There's a lot more analysis coming up.
Up next, Senator Chuck Schumer on the Democratic Party's new agenda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: We need to be the party that speaks to and works on behalf of all Americans. We needed much sharper, bolder, stronger economic message. And we needed to let the American people understand what we all believe, that the system is not working for them, and we're going to change it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer right after the 2016 election. But six months in to the Trump presidency, our new poll from ABC News and The Washington Post shows that 37 percent, just 37 percent of Americans think that the Democratic Party stands for something, 52 percent say it just stands against President Trump.
So, can Democrats make the case for their own agenda? Senator Schumer is here to talk about it next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're back with the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. Senator, thank you for joining this morning. You saw that poll we put up just during the break.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Fifty-two percent of Americans think Democrats only stand against President Trump. Don't know what you stand for.
Why don't Americans know what the Democrats stand for? And is that your fault?
SCHUMER: Well, it is, in part, our fault. When you lose an election with someone who has, say, 40 percent popularity, you look in the mirror and say what did we do wrong? And the number one thing that we did wrong is we didn't have -- we didn't tell people what we stood for. Even today, as your poll showed, they know we're standing up to Trump. They like that. But they want to know what to you stand for?
So tomorrow, Democrats will unveil our economic agenda. It is called A Better Deal. It has three components. We're going raise people's wages and create better paying jobs. We're going to cut down on their everyday expenses they have to pay. And we're going to give them the tools they need to compete in the 21st Century.
So simply put, what do Democrats stand for? A better deal for working families -- higher wages, less costs, tools for the 21st century.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You had a president though for eight years. You had control of Congress for part of that time. What took so long? And why didn't it happen during the campaign?
SCHUMER: Well, I don't know why it didn't happen in the campaign. We all take blame, not any one person. But now we have spent a lot of time working on this. And it's going to really impress the American people.
It is not going to be left or right. It is going to be totally focused on working people who realize, believe correctly, that the system is rigged against them, and not helping them with all the changes. Rapid changes, economic and social. And people ask, well, are you going appeal to the Obama coalition? You know, young people, LGBT, people of color? Or the Trump people -- Democrats who voted for Trump, blue collar voters? This will appeal to both.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I have a different --
SCHUMER: It will unify the Democratic Party, because we are united on economic issues. And a bold, sharp-edged message, platform, policy, that talks about working people and how the system is rigged against them is going to resonate. And this is the first time we're going to have it, and our party is going to be unified.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But we've had problems -- you know, we've had a problem with wage stagnation. You talk about better wages. We've had a problem with wage stagnation for the last 40 years. What can any piece of legislation do about that?
SCHUMER: Well, we have researched this thoroughly and talked to all different kinds of people. And there are lots of things that we can do.
And let me just say one more thing about this. You know, Donald Trump campaigned sort of on this message. He was a populist. He campaigned against the establishment. As soon as he got into office, he embraced the Koch brother hard right and abandoned his plans to clean up Wall Street, to drain the swamp, to be tough on trade. We are going fill that gap in a way that's really going to resonate with the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What are you going propose that Donald Trump can sign on to? Without his support, you're not -- this isn't going anywhere.
SCHUMER: Well, we are going to propose tomorrow -- we've already proposed a few things. A $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Trump, I don't know where he is on infrastructure but we're willing to work with him on that. We've proposed already a $15 minimum wage. Trump won't go for that. We've proposed a child care, a family leave proposal that works well.
Here's what we're going to propose tomorrow.
Number one, we're going to go after the drug companies. We will create a special, special that will just go after these drug companies when they raise prices so egregiously and people can't afford these drugs.
We're going to change the way companies can merge. We have these huge companies buying up other big companies. It hurts workers and it hurts prices. The old Adam Smith idea of competition, it's gone. So people hate it when their cable bills go up, their airline fees. They know that gas prices are sticky, you know, when the domestic price goes -- when the price for oil goes up on the markets, it goes it goes right up but it never goes down.
How the heck did we let Exxon and Mobil merge?
And that was Democrats.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, inflation...
SCHUMER: So we're going to go after that and that will help the average person lower their costs.
And, finally, we're going to have, tomorrow, a very novel idea of how to create 10 million jobs. There are 10 million Americans looking for good-paying jobs. We're going to show them how to find them.
And that's just the beginning. Week after week, month after month, we're going to roll out specific pieces here, that are quite different than the Democratic Party you heard in the past. We were too cautious. We were too namby-pamby.
This is sharp, bold, and will appeal...
SCHUMER: -- to both the old Obama coalition, let's say, the young lady who's just getting out of college, and the Democratic voters who deserted us for Trump, the blue collar workers...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some may wonder...
SCHUMER: -- economics, George, is our strength...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some may wonder if...
SCHUMER: -- and we are going to go at it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- it's going to be bold enough. I mean even your New York colleague, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, talking about health care, says if you really want to get prices down, you have to go to single payer health care.
Will Democrats unify behind single payer health care?
SCHUMER: Well, our economic agenda -- we've talked so much about health care that we are not going to address that in this agenda.
We've been talking about it. And let me just say, the first thing we're going to do should -- first, I think that this -- the TrumpCare will not pass. It just is...
STEPHANOPOULOS: You think it's dead?
SCHUMER: I think it's very unlikely to pass, because it's rotten to the core. People are not for reducing taxes on rich people or getting rid of Medicaid, which is a very, very middle class, now, thing, as well as for poor people.
So the first things we're going to propose -- if the Republican -- and the Republicans hopefully will join us, once they abandon this rotten bill, is some cost-sharing, which the insurance companies say will help bring down premiums and stabilize the market, something else that Republicans have often supported, which is reinsurance, proposed by Tom Carper and Tim Kaine.
And Claire McCaskill has proposed something in the bare counties, B-A-R-E -- you can -- if you can't get insurance in those counties, you can get the same kind of health insurance we get.
Then we're going to look at broader things -- single payer is one of them...
STEPHANOPOULOS: So that is...
SCHUMER: -- Medicare...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- on the table?
SCHUMER: -- well, a -- sure. Many things are on the table. Medicare for people above 55 is on the table. A buy-in to Medicare is on the table. A buy-in to Medicaid is on the table.
On the broader issues, we will start examining them once we stabilize the system.
And our Republican colleagues have said should -- even Mitch McConnell alluded to the fact that should their bill fail, they'll work with us these first stabilization things.
Then Democrats and Republicans, who will have different ideas, should sit down and talk about how we can improve the system. And the one thing we insist on, we not do what they did, which is just 10 Republicans, four Republicans in a room, not even including us. Regular order -- hearings, committees, go through the process.
But on this agenda, we are going to really shake things up and we're going to fill the vacuum that Donald Trump left when he campaigned on some of the things like this and then abandoned them for the hard right Koch brothers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A final question. You heard Mr. Sekulow on this issue of whether the president pardon himself.
Do you believe the president can pardon himself?
And what would it mean if he took the next step and at some point actually fired Robert Mueller?
SCHUMER: If he fired Mueller or pardoned himself or someone close to him under investigation, it would be one of the greatest, greatest breaking of rule of law, of traditional democratic norms of what our democracy is about.
I think it would cause a cataclysm in Washington. I cannot imagine our Republican colleagues, including Ryan and Mitch McConnell, just standing by if he were to do either of those things.
So I would strongly advise him not to.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Schumer, thanks for your time this morning.
SCHUMER: Thanks, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to check back in with the Roundtable on the future of health care and tax cuts.
Will Congress get anything done this year?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: To my good friend John McCain, you asked me how he's doing. He has called me three times this morning.
No more woe is me, Lindsey. He's yelling at me to buck up. So I'm going buck up. John is ready to come back. And I ask one thing of the good lord, just give him a chance for what time he's got left and I've got left to be relevant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS; Senator Lindsey Graham there talking about his good friend, John McCain. Of course, we all learned this week that Senator McCain is battling a brain tumor We all wish him well.
I want to talk a moment more about all this now in our roundtable. Of course, the fact that Senator McCain is now getting treatment means he will not be back in Washington right away.
Sara Fagen, one less vote for health care for Senator McConnell right there.
Senator Schumer has gone from 50-50 to now thinking they're not going to pass it. Is there any way this can pass this week?
FAGEN: It looks unlikely, unfortunately. But I do think this is a once in a generation opportunity for Republicans. And they need to come together and pass something, not only because it's right for the party and politically and most importantly, right for the country, it's right for them at the ballot box.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They don't even know what they're passing any more. Does it just -- pass anything?
FAGEN: This has been a debacle. It has been a debacle. And every corner of the Republican Party has blame here. From those that are on the far right that are purists to those that are on the left that are, you know, fighting over small issues.
We need to come together, or, ironically, Nancy Pelosi, who was ousted in 2010 as speaker over health care is going to be back as speaker because of health care.
MARTIN: How about this here, versus this being good for the party, how about actually...
FAGEN: I said it was good for the country...
MARTIN: No, but actually it's not good for the country when you have 12 percent to 15 percent of Americans who say they only support this bill. It is a shameful bill.
And I can stand here and listen to Senator Schumer talk about their plan -- no, what your plan should be is going to those places, whether it is Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, saying no, this bill was passed for you. When people support the Affordable Care Act, but hate Obamacare, what they're actually saying is we hate Obama but we love the Affordable Care Act. This bill is horrible. And what they should have done is sit with Democrats. You can not change one-sixth of the economy and ignore the other party.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right now, the (INAUDIBLE) not buying it.
BOLLING: The Democrats did change one-sixth of the economy.
MARTIN: 350 amendments from Republicans.
BOLLING: Here's the problem, President Trump was betrayed by House leadership and Senate leadership. Paul Ryan promised a bill that not only he could get passed through his chamber, one that Americans could get behind.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But wait a second, Paul Ryan wanted to repeal and then wait a couple of years to come up with a replacement. It was the president who insisted on doing both.
BOLLING: That is back on the table. Senator Rand Paul says, let's do the repeal only right now and replace -- clean repeal. He doesn't have the votes. McConnell doesn't have the votes for some reason I can't understand.
There are three senators, Portman, Murkowski, Capito who are against this. Meanwhile, they voted in favor of it this in 2015 to clean repeal or to reestablish a health care plan. Why are they now against something that they were so in favor of a year-and-a-half ago?
GREEN: There's plenty of blame to go around among Republicans. But I think it's been lost that the original sin here I think was Mitch McConnell. Eight, nine years ago, he absolutely demonized Obamacare, the process, set the standard that no Republican can ever support anything short of repeal. And what is bedeviling Republicans right now, it did in the House, it did in the Senate, is you can't square that circle. You can't take it away and survive.
BOLLING: It's that government shouldn't be involved in a private sector issue, which health care should be. Private sector.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to bring this back to Maggie. You talked a little bit to the president about this in the interview, but he has not been out front selling this. To the extent he's been there selling it. He -- appears many times to have hurt the cause as much as he has helped it.
HABERMAN: I think, a, you have a divided White House. I don't think the White House is completely unified. And I do actually agree with you, that I think there's a lot of fault here on the congressional leadership, but you don't have a White House that is in sync necessarily on this, number one, as to how much of a priority it is. You don't have a White House that feels like it has a chief of staff directing all the focus and resource on this, and that's just the reality.
And then you have a president who is not a detailed-oriented person and doesn't fully focus on some of the specifics the same way he does the top line.
I also think one of the things he said to us in this interview, and my colleague Michael Schmidt and Peter Baker and I, was, he does believe generally speaking that people should be able to have health care, just as a concept...
STEPHANOPOULOS: This is the fundamental problem. He promised health care for everyone.this bill does not give that.
FAGEN: Well, this bill gives money to states to solve the uninsured problem. And it also lowers premiums by 30 percent, which...
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's not repeal only.
FAGEN: Not repeal only. But the Senate bill does lower them 30 percent.
Here's the fundamental thing, the reason that I think this is where it is today, is, it's highly unusual for a sitting president in the first few months of his office to not be marching up legislation on the Hill, and championing it, owning it, and having members of the Congress work with him to improve his or her legislation.
President Trump has been kind of MIA on this. He tweets about it. But he doesn't have a plan. And as a result of it, you've got members of the party all over the place on this. And we can't come to consensus.
MARTIN: He has no plan because he knows nothing about it. Show me the records...
FAGEN: He has a lot of people who...
MARTIN: No, no, no, no.
FAGEN: … do know a lot about it.
MARTIN: But he doesn't. Show me the times when he has sat down with members and said, we're going to have public testimony. Show me the rallies. Show me the town halls. He has not...
BOLLING: Hey, Roland, Paul Ryan put together a plan that his own House -- the members of his own body weren't even allowed to see.
MARTIN: But here's the piece, you control the House, the Senate, and the White House...
BOLLING: Five members of leadership put the health care plan together. The rest of the House couldn't see. Senators couldn't even see what...
MARTIN: Eric, let me ask you a question. Let me ask you a question.
BOLLING: That's insane.
MARTIN: When Democrats controlled the House and the Senate, did the president sit on his butt in the White House and play golf? No. You know what he did? He actually went out and campaigned for it. He actually filled rallies. He actually had a televised...
BOLLING: You have to have something that's good enough to campaign for, Roland. You know, this isn't good enough to campaign for. Look, I think he ought to get out and campaign for straight repeal, a clean repeal.
GREEN: McConnell asked Trump and his staff to back off on health care, to not get involved. You can't -- I don't think you can go out and blame Trump for not getting the health care bill through the Senate if your majority leader explicitly told the White House back-channel, don't do what you did in the House fight. Don't go threaten members. Back off. I got this.
It turns out...
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like McConnell...
STEPHANOPOULOS: And this is something that Eric is right on, Maggie Haberman, you can't do something this big, this complicated, that affects so many people, basically in secret.
HABERMAN: No, I think that that's -- I think that's correct. But I think that it has been a secret to his point on multiple fronts. I don't think you have seen anybody on the same page. The president got involved on the first go-around in the House. That didn't go so great.
He backed off a bit after that. You then had basically McConnell say, we're going to deal with this ourselves. There's no -- there's no harmony among -- so when we keep talking about how Republicans control Congress and control the White House, it's actually three different groups.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the last word. That's all we have time for. Thank you all very much. We're right back after this from our ABC stations.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT.” I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."