A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, June 24, 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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK. From the first speech on the first day of his campaign, illegal immigration has been President Trump's signature issue. He promised to crack down hard. And his zero tolerance policy for those caught crossing the border signaled a promise delivered.
But this week, the backlash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWIS: Our nation is crying out to save our little children, save our babies. History will not be kind to us as a nation and as a people that we continue to go down this road.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The country overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of children separated from their families.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (crying): Mommy! Daddy!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president buffeted by blistering criticism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS: It's an atrocious policy. It's inhumane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even Trump's defenders now asking if this moment will leave a permanent mark.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUGH HEWITT, TALK RADIO HOST: I think this -- maybe you agree with me or don't, it could become the Republicans new Katrina and the president's new Katrina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yesterday in Las Vegas, the president was defiant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our issue is strong borders, no crime. Their issue is open borders, let MS-13 all over our country. That's what's going to happen if you listen to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Overnight, the administration announced that over 500 children have been reunited with their parents. But thousands of immigrant families remain separated. What will happen to the children taken from their parents before the policy was changed is still unclear. And the president's new order faces skepticism in the courts.
We asked the White House for an official to explain the administration policy, they declined. But our first guest knows this administration from the inside, our ABC contributor Tom Bossert, who served as the president's homeland security adviser, was part of the team responsible for the president's immigration policies.
Tom, welcome again this morning.
TOM BOSSERT, FORMER TRUMP HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Hey, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure it's one of those weeks where you wish you were in the White House to help out or you're glad you're not in it. But it has been a tough week. And the dean of American political reporters, Dan Balz of The Washington Post, called it "a trifecta of ineptitude, a policy hash, a political debacle, and the most dramatic personal step-down of the Trump presidency."
I guess my question is, was it avoidable?
BOSSERT: Well, I'm glad to be here to try to explain it, because this week has been just gripping imagery and terrible optics for the administration. So part of this was avoidable. The attorney general's requirement, his memo for zero tolerance said that his U.S. attorneys, where practicable, and almost from the outset -- although it's an understandable and righteous decision to take to prosecute any illegal entrant into the country, almost from the outset we didn't have the capacity to detain these parents and children, together or separately.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but that's the question I want to ask about, because separating families has been contemplated, you know, for some time. We have chief of staff John Kelly, back when he was homeland security secretary, in March 2017, here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: If you get some young kids who are coming into -- manage to sneak into the United States with their parents, are Department of Homeland Security personnel going to separate the children from their moms and dads?
JOHN KELLY, THEN-HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Yes, I am considering it in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network. I am considering exactly that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: So that's over a year ago.
BOSSERT: Yes. And, in fact, what he decided was not to do that. In fact, that's part of the confusion and messaging this week and a real failure not to go out and clarify that. The decision to...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wait, if he decided not to do it then how did it happen?
BOSSERT: The decision to separate children and parents at that time was being considered as a sole deterrent. That was something they ultimately decided not to do it, and instead the attorney general decided to prosecute all illegal entrants, those with children, those without children, and tried to do it in a more uniform fashion, but that caught up in the net...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wait, but once you do that it's inevitable that you are going to have separation.
BOSSERT: So, where we ran into our second problem this week, this executive order the president put out to try to fix this problem is going to run headlong into the 9th Circuit judge that decided in 2015 that even detaining with parents is inhumane. She called President Obama's policy of detaining children and parents together inhumane. There is no way this executive order survives first contact, because her view of President Trump will be harsher.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's dig into that. That circuit court decision back in 2015 said 20 days is the longest you keep any child. The president's order says, no, keep the families together while you're going through this whole process. And you're certain, pretty certain, that the judge is going to strike this down?
BOSSERT: Well, if she maintains the same decisionmaking theory that she maintained in2015, there's no way, unless she completely changes her philosophy, that this one stands up to her scrutiny.
So, she didn't just say 21 days, she said release the parents and the children. It's inhumane to keep them together, and release them with all due haste. She later interpreted all due haste because it wasn't clear, as three weeks and 21 days. But that's the outside. She would like them released sooner.
So, really, the reality of the president's messaging this week that was spot on is that this country has no choice under current law as interpreted by a judge but to catch and release.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, then what happens next if this is struck down?
BOSSERT: This is why some of these liberal decisions, though borne out of compassion, legislative decisions from the bench, are absolutely short-sighted and intellectually inconsistent. I hope the judge realizes that, because she's put us in a position where she put a greenlight to anybody from South and Central America to come here and bring a kid. And now, she said, release them once they get here.
So, we have either got catch and release or congressional action, or continued blame game. And I'm seeing lot of blame.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Aren't there other options, though? I know that the GAO did a study of using GPS ankle bracelets on those detained who were detained at the border, and they showed in the study that 95 percent of the people who had those ankle bracelets actually did come back for their hearings.
BOSSERT: Yeah, I think there's some misnomer and disagreement on the facts for the ankle bracelets. And one of your later guests will probably talk to you wisely about case management that we can put in place, although you're going to see the same political fight, because last five congresses that have refused to provide money for the facilities necessary to handle the capacity have done so because they don't want us to catch and detain, they want us, by depriving the executive branch of money, to catch and relase.
So, the bracelets sometimes work, sometimes don't.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This said 95 percent.
BOSSERT: but less than 60 percent of all those release have had returned. The number of 60 percent seems to include some that have been in custody, so that number can't be relied upon. It's less than 60. And a lot of those, over a period of years, not just that study, have had bracelets and refused to disappear.
So, you have to chase them down, and then the difference between whether you chase them, whether they appear on their own volition, whether you had to catch them and so forth, all materializes in different numbers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You spent a lot of time in this White House. How do you explain, you know, that for weeks we're hearing from the president and other administration officials, no, an executive order is not possible. Then, turns around on a dime, issues an executive order. It appears that while they're writing the executive order the rest of the administration doesn't know even know how to enforce it.
BOSSERT: Yeah, so there's an understandable confusion that came from that. The president saw the same thing the rest of us saw, and wanted to try to fix it from what I can tell from the outside. But the problem with his executive order is, it's in direct contradiction to the standing order and ruling from the judge in 2015.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wouldn't his counsel tell him that?
BOSSERT: Well, so those that say he had the authority and should have done it from day one and demogogue wit hthe pen, you know, Chuck Schumer, how dare he? He's been one of the people that's put off comprehensive solutions to this for years so he can run on this as a political wedge issue.
I had a little respect for that demogoguery.
But the president went out and tried to tell people the law and the orders and so forth prevented him from detaining these people and they said, no, you can fix this with a stroke of a pen. My guess, that stroke of a pen does not survive three weeks before this court overrules it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you mentioned Chuck Schumer. The Democrats say they are the ones who have been going for a comprehensive immigration solution. What we saw from the president this week, it's a waste of time to pursue it.
BOSSERT: Yeah, his view at this point is that each of these negotiations have so many poison pills. They're up their fighting over e-verify and fighting over how many agricultural workers we need to allow in. Look, the big picture here is very few politicians on both sides of the aisle have ever been willing to answer the hard questions of the quantity, quality and type of person that we're willing to allow into this country year above the million legal immigrants that we allow in every year, should we let in 100,000, 500,000, no one wants to answer that hard question. They want to have compassion, but the compassion and the shortsighted decisions have long-term negative consequences.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sounds like a week from now we're not going to be any closer to a solution to this crisis.
BOSSERT: Yeah, I wish the attorney general hadn't invoked the bible. I think it's time for us to pray for all the people suffering in the situation -- the kids, the parents, the law enforcement officials, their families. And it's time for us to put a little bit of money and a lot more time of focus for the American viewers into the second part of this president’s immigration strategy.
And that is to put real, sustainable, buildable money into the institutional reforms in those three northern triangle countries -- Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras -- that they need to prevent this plague from coming into American.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, it sound like the president last night, when he was talking to Mike Huckabee, was questioning whether we should be sending aid to Honduras.
BOSSERT: Yes, I hope he doesn’t -- I hope he doesn’t go down that path. I think you’re going to see Mike Pence go down and reinforce this president’s standing western hemisphere policy. Democratic, peaceable countries in this western hemisphere are in the best interest of all of our common security.
And I think you’re going to see Secretary Pompeo go down shortly after Vice President Pence -- just my supposition here -- and I think they’re going to reinforce that policy. Because we have to balance closing the border to unmitigated entrance with addressing the root cause problem, otherwise we’re treating the symptom and not the disease.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tom Bossert, thanks very much. Let’s get a response now from Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez who joins us again this morning. And Congressman, thank you for joining us. I know you were at the (ph) detention center in Colorado yesterday. Do you share Mr. Bossert’s -- I guess pessimism over the -- over whether this executive order can work, what’s going to happen after the judge strikes it down this week?
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Well first of all, my visit with three detainees from Guatemala, women all separated from their children, simply says to me, Luis, you cannot stop until each and every parent is reunited with their child. So that has to be our first priority, George. And I think we can all get together and agree that these children should be reunited with their parents and that moving forward, there should be no more -- more separations.
But let’s be clear. These are -- even as your former just (ph) said, the plague from coming. He used that word. The plague from coming. The president uses words like they’re breeders in sanctuary cities, or perfecting breeders (ph). He said yesterday they come to infest. I mean, these are the kinds of words that the Republican party and this president uses.
And he doesn’t use it as immigration policy, he doesn’t use it as border control policy, he uses it as a issue in order to energize his political base for the midterm elections. It’s wrong to separate babies, to use cruel, inhumane policies in order to gen up (ph) your political base. And it seems like it’s working, George, because 90 percent of Republicans now have a favorable opinion of this president and support him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the answers that some Republicans are proposing now is that they’re preparing a bill that would allow children to stay in detention facilities for more than 20 days countermanding that decision by the ninth circuit court. If that’s not the solution, then what is?
GUTIERREZ: Here’s a solution. So my colleague Jerry (ph) Nadler has a proposal. We should sit down with serious comprehensive proposal, like the one that Congressman Nadler, that would keep families together, that would make sure that our asylum system works. Look, remember, they are not coming here illegally. They are coming here seeking asylum and protection.
As long -- and I do agree with your former guest on this. As long as there are guns placed to people’s heads, as long as young girls, daughters are -- are -- are going to be raped and there’s nobody to protect them, as long as sons like my Grandson, Luis Andres, are being able to put into gangs -- forcibly put into gangs and to drug cartels, people are going to flee this kind of poverty and this kind of violence and this kind of crime. So we should invest.
But one thing I think that we must remember, the key to all of this is the unabated consumption of the drugs. The drug cartels have established themselves in Guatemala, in El Salvador, in Honduras and it is those drug cartels and it is the drugs that come into this country that is a primary reason of the debilitation of the social structures and the reasons those government cannot protect the children and cannot protect that population.
So let’s invest in our hemisphere. Let’s invest in democracy and in jobs and in economic development instead of using it as a wedge issue for the upcoming election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As we’ve been talking right now, the president just tweeted a direct tweet to Democrats. He said Democrats, fix the laws, don’t resist, we are doing a far better job than Bush and Obama but we need strength and security at the border, cannot accept all the people trying to break into our country. Strong borders, no crime. Your response?
GUTIERREZ: Yes, here’s the response. So this week, Former Governor Huckabee put five members of M.S. 13 and said that that was Nancy Pelosi’s reelection team. Look, George, you can go to Breitbart, they put my picture next to that of an M.S. 13.
But that’s not who they’re picking up are they? I mean we saw the rate in Tennessee, we saw the rate in Ohio, we see the rates that are going up (ph). They’re picking up people that are working, people that are contributing to our economy and leaving behind hundreds and thousands of American citizen children.
Look, there’s got to be a better way to do this, but there isn’t as long as this administration continues to use immigration as a wedges -- as a political issue. The president said as much yesterday.
Please, the republicans are in charge of the House of Representatives, there’s 240 of them, I’m in the minority. They’re in charge of the Senate, the Senate -- the democrats are in the minority. They control the White House, they control the administration, they control every facet of government and yet they say why don’t the democrats fix the problem?
And I want to make sure that everybody understands I visited those detention centers along with democrats in the summer of 2015, we challenged the Barack Obama administration to do better.
We supported the court decision, and I want to say very clearly that there is a difference. Then Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, when confronted with the Flores decision that said that children could not be kept any longer than 20 days in custody said I will resign as secretary of homeland security before I divide those moms from the children.
God bless him and those kinds of policy which are humane policies where people put families ahead of whatever political consideration or public policy consideration.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you will oppose the republican legislation this week to allow families to be detained for more than 20 days?
GUTIERREZ: Absolutely, it is -- George, I wish you -- if you and the American public could visit these detention centers, these are for profit detention centers. This is a multi-billion dollar industry in which people are making money by denying good healthcare, decent food, the accommodations are horrendous.
These are jails that people are profiting off the pain. People come to this country seeking refuge, America is a nation that is better than this. I’m not going to allow children -- so what are we going to do, we’re going to say we’re going to jail the children with the parents?
Understand the unmitigated violence that they are (inaudible). One thing we should make clear, their zero tolerance policy, the attorney general of the United States said that a woman coming to the United States fleeing violence, fleeing torture, fleeing abuse, that that’s a private matter.
George, that’s not a private matter in the United States of America, it’s a crime in the United States, a very public matter, and a long time ago we decided that protecting women and watching the abuse of women is something that we will not tolerate in this nation of ours.
So stop -- as long as they continue to criminalize immigrants and Latinos, which has been the cornerstone of -- of -- of it’s political strategy, we’re not going to resolve this issue, but no, we said no to the Barack Obama administration, but you want to know something?
Barack Obama had a soul. Barack Obama had a center. You could speak to that -- to -- to his conscience and you could get him to change his policy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman, thank you for your time this morning.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. Senator, thank you for joining us again this morning. I want to pick up on one of the arguments that Congressman Gutierrez just made.
I know you’ve been -- you’ve co-sponsored this bill that would allow families to be detained beyond 20 days. You heard his argument right there, he says that is inhumane to the families and the children.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), A.Z.: Well I don’t know that I co-sponsored that, that’s a House bill. But I -- I -- I don’t think that the judge in this week or couple of weeks will allow that longer detention. I think the Flores -- Flores decision will stand.
And so I think another solution has to come.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Aren’t -- aren’t you working with Senator Tillis on an -- on legislation that will allow families to be held beyond 20 days?
FLAKE: Oh, yes, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I thought you were talking about the House legislation. But I -- I just don’t think that that’s it, and with the Tillis legislation I think what most of us envision is some other form like the monitored release, the ankle bracelets.
That has been very effective, case management is still difficult, but it’s far better than indefinite detention of families because some of these cases, they can go for a long time, we just don’t have the judges or the infrastructure to do this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And are -- are you fairly certain that the judge will again strike down the president’s executive order?
FLAKE: Yes, yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what happens next?
FLAKE: You know, I hope that we can get back to -- I mean Congress has to fix this, and what is bothersome is the president’s rhetoric about the democrats and their unwillingness to -- to have any type of border security or control.
I was part of the effort in 2013, the -- the bipartisan bill, the so-called Gang of Eight bill. That provided $41 billion toward border security, infrastructure, manpower, technology, every democrat voted for that bill, every one of them.
So they are on record supporting significant border control. And so when the president says that and calls them clowns and losers, how does he expect the Democrats to sit down and work with Republicans on these issues?
And so words matter. What the president says matters. and he ought to knock that off.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are we beyond the point now where we can get comprehensive legislation? The president did send out that tweet saying it would be a waste of time for Republicans to work on immigration. It does appear to be a stalemate right now.
FLAKE: It makes it very difficult. It's difficult in any event, right, in an election year where the president has decided to have this at the forefront of the Republican election strategy to paint the Democrats as soft of immigration. So, it seems very unlikely.
So -- I mean, I don't know how in the world we're going to fix this in the short-term, given the Flores decision and given the lack of infrastructure, judges to process these claims. It's really a big mess.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Clearly, the president was stung this week by those images of the families being separated, by the criticism he got. But we saw just last night again in Nevada, as you were pointing out, the president believe this is the issue that is going to lead to Republican victories, or stave off Republican losses, come November.
Well, that's a tough case to make in Nevada, it's as a tough case to make in Arizona, these are areas where we understand it's a complex issue. And -- just the kind of rhetoric about people being soft on the border, or soft on crime, you know, that only goes so far.
So I hope that -- that Republicans run on something different.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and we saw Dean Heller yesterday talk about taxes, not about immigration as he was introducing the president.
Some Republicans have gone even farther than you have. I was struck by a column by my former colleague George Will wrote in The Washington Post this week where he said, and I want to put it up on the screen right now, "a vote against the GOP this November, to vote against the president's party's cowering congressional caucuses, is to affirm the nation's honor while quaranteening him. A Democratic-controlled congress would be a basket of deplorables, but there would be enough Republicans to gum up the Senate's machinery -- asphyxiating mischief from a Democratic House."
George Will's vocabulary there, but his message is clear: a Republican leading conservative says it's time to elect Democrats to the congress.
FLAKE: All I can tell you Republicans need to stand up on issues like tariffs facing us right now. We're if the nascent stages of a full-scale trade war. And the president simply seems to want to escalate. And it all stems to the steel and aluminum tariffs. Congress ought to stand up and say, no, we're not going to do that. You can't use section 232 to claim that Canada is a national security threat. That's not who we are.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you explain the fact, though, that the congress hasn't stood up? You have given a lot of speeches about the president, talked about his disregard for the truth, stood to tariffs, said he's disregarding Republican orthodoxy. Yet, you see on issue after issue actually the House and the Senate standing behind this president.
FLAKE: Yeah, I think a lot of people, Republicans in the House and Senate, look at us with a 14 percent institutional favorability rating and long for the president's 40 percent. So, it makes it difficult that way for a lot of my colleagues to say, hey, let's stand up to the president.
But, boy, we ought to more jealously guard our institutional prerogative. I think in this crisis we're in I think the judiciary has stood up well. The press has stood up well in terms of institutions. The balance. But the congress has been lacking.
And on something like tariffs, for example, the Senate ought to bring legislation to the floor that says, hey, we're going push back here. I'm sorry, you're misusing 232, Canada, Mexico, are not national security threats. The European Union exporting cars to the U.S. does not represent the national security threat, and ought to push back. And if we don't, why are we there?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you prepared to use your other powers to do that? I know that you considered, at least on this issue of tariffs and a couple of other issues, saying that as a member of the Judiciary Committee, you will no longer allow judges to come out of the committee unless there's action on issues like tariffs.
FLAKE: Well, as George Will put it in his column, Article Three branch is important, the courts, certainly. And we approved a number of judges. That is important. But Article One, the congress, Article Two, the executive are important as well. And I do think that unless we can actually exercise something other than just approving the president's executive calendar, his nominees, judges, that we have no reason to be there. So I think myself and a number of Senators, at least a few of us, will stand up and say let's not move any more judges until we get a vote, for example, on tariffs.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the -- the only Republican president to have higher approval ratings at this point in his term, modern times, than President Trump was George W. Bush after 9/11. He seems to have really consolidated his hold over the Republican party, the Republican electorate. Has he redefined it?
FLAKE: Unfortunately yes. When John Boehner said the other day this is the president’s party, he was speaking the truth. The Mark Sanford loss clarified something if it wasn’t clarified before. You can’t, as a Republican these days, stand in -- in -- you know, in opposition to some of the president’s policies or -- or not condone his behavior and expect to win a Republican primary. That’s the reality and then we’re seeing that played out.
Now, I don’t think that that will last, but -- but that is the reality right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say it may not last. Does that mean that you or someone else be prepared to challenge the president in 2020?
FLAKE: I’ve said many times I hope that somebody does in the Republican primary just to remind Republicans what it means to be conservative or Republican, that we believe in limited government, economic freedom, free trade, immigration. I hope that somebody does that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Jeff Flake, thanks for your time this morning.
FLAKE: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Round table’s up next. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY, UNITED STATES: I’m here to learn about your facility and which I know you have children on the long term basis. And I also like to ask you how I can help to these children to reunite with their families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: First Lady Melania Trump at the border this week. Her compassionate words in stark contrast to what she had on the back of that jacket right there. "I really don’t care, do you". $39 Zara jacket. Had a lot of head-scratching this week. Let’s talk about that. A whole lot more in our round table now. Our Chief Political Analyst Matthew Dowd.
Our White House team. Senior White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega and our Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl, Democratic Strategist Donna Brazil and Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey, now an ABC News contributor. Matt, let me begin with you. You served in the Bush White House not during Hurricane Katrina, but some people started to say this week, President Trump’s Katrina moment. Is that what it is?
MATTHEW DOWD, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, ABC NEWS: Well it’s hard to say that because he -- the Donald Trump’s approval numbers are exactly all ready at where George Bush’s were in the aftermath of Katrina. If anything, you could argue that Donald Trump’s Katrina was his inaugural speech, because after that his number dropped and they haven’t -- haven’t really surfaced much since then.
There’s a huge difference, I mean there’s some similarities but there’s a huge difference. The difference is is Katrina was an act of god, this was an act of Donald Trump, which in his mind may be an act of god, you never know.
But it did demonstrate a level of incompetence in the Bush White House, and then it told the story a long the way along with the war and along with the economy that basically framed the reference point for the entire rest of -- of George Bush’s presidency.
I think that’s the problem here, the funny is we -- it’s quant to look back at Katrina, because George Bush was criticized for spending one extra day on vacation during that time, and in -- within four days of Katrina, he already had allocated $10 billion to helping Katrina.
This is a whole different affair, but I think it’s problematic for the president and they realize that. You can tell in the White House response.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He doesn’t make many turn arounds, this week he had to.
CHRISTIE: Well he did, and -- and listen, I think it’s -- I think one of the things that hasn’t been talked about this week, George, is the president was enormously ill served by the Department of Justice.
If -- if the attorney general come in and says to (ph) the president I want you to do a zero tolerance policy, but let me just tell you, we don’t have enough judges to handle the cases, we don’t have enough prosecutors to bring the cases, and we don’t have enough detention facilities to legally detain the people that we’re going to show zero tolerance to.
The president would have never approved this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- from mothers, you know -- around the president, inside the White House, and so let me -- let me start with you (ph) because I have heard other -- other White House officials and other people in the administration say yes, this is all Jeff Sessions fault right here.
He certainly seemed to think that he was carrying out what the president wanted him to carry out.
VEGA: Well there is a serious battle going on for public relations and every man for themselves and save yourself if you can, going on behind the scenes at the White House right now.
There are people who are blaming Stephen Miller for being the one entirely behind this, there are people who say the president has gone rogue and is ordering everybody to do everything, just shouting and people are scrambling to try to get things in front of him will he not (ph).
I don’t know that we know the answer to that at this point. What I do know is you mentioned the Washington Post, Dan Balz piece at the top of this show, they also called it a textbook example of how not to govern.
I was in Katrina and I covered this story through the week and beyond this (ph) and I go back to Katrina when I was on the ground there covering that, the same questions we were hearing about what was happening in Katrina, how can this happen in this country, this is un-American what we are seeing, are what we are hearing from democrats and republicans and people rank and file around this country and frankly around the globe in response to what we saw this week.
KARL: George, the president is intensely focused on border crossings, illegal border crossings, and in 2017 we saw an historic low, down to levels we hadn’t seen since the early 70’s.
And what happened is over the last three months we’ve seen a significant increase in apprehensions at the border. The president has been incredibly agitated about this, about six weeks at a cabinet meeting he started going off after Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, demanding to know why she wasn’t doing more to deal with this.
Sessions, at that point piped up in the meeting -- cabinet meeting and said why don’t we just arrest everybody at the border? They -- we should just -- we should simply apprehend, arrest everybody that crosses the border illegally.
That is really when this crisis --
-- it’s the president -- it’s what the president wanted overall, but the details were Jeff Sessions.
CHRISTIE: Well let me just tell you as a former chief executive, OK you say yes, that’s what you want, you don’t want people coming over the border, but if they then tell you as the chief executive, your attorney general then says to you, but by the way, Mr. President, we won’t have enough judges to process the cases, we won’t have enough prosecutors to bring the cases, and we won’t have enough detention facilities to legally hold people and we’ll wind up separating families as a result.
Then the chief executive says --
BRAZILE: -- that sounds like somebody who’s confident. You know, George, you mentioned Katrina and I have to tell you someone who was seriously impacted by not just the political decisions to (ph) the humanitarian crisis that happened, it was a moral crisis.
And what we saw this week was not just a political crisis, but moral. The pope spoke out, international leaders called on the president to act, the president kept insisting that he had no powers to act and then later retracted or back tracked, whatever you want to call it, and then he acted.
But this -- this decision, his executive order, I think it’s 13841, I can’t remember now, this -- this order still faced what I call legal, political and budgetary crisis. We’re not over, it’s not over, while the president is in Las Vegas, it’s aloof, you know giving campaign speeches about what might happen.
This crisis is still not over.
DOWD: And I think, George, I think (inaudible) the huge part of the problem is the way the president talks about this and frames this issue, which I think is a complete fault narrative and how he’s done this.
First of all, he’s -- he’s never -- he’s always positioned this and (ph) if you’re compassionate towards people at the border, then you’re for crime and then you’re for an overrun, open border which is a totally false way to look at it, or you’re for security.
He also frames this that all these people coming through here are all people that are MS-13, or they're going to commit all these crimes, and every single stat says that illegal immigrants commit crimes as a lower rate than native born Americans in this country.
So, he's framed this in such a way that he's driven this division in the country. And let me remind one other thing, that the reason why immigration reform failed during George W. Bush was because of right-wing House Republicans, the reason why immigration failed during Barack Obama was because of right wing House Republicans. That's the problem.
CHRISTIE: Wait a second, though, in the beginning of the Barack Obama administration, they had filibuster proof majority in the Senate, and they had a huge majority in the House. And the president, President Obama decided it wasn't an important enough priority for him to bring it when...
DOWD: So, what happened when...
CHRISTIE: Wait a second.
DOWD: What happened when it passed the Senate.
CHRISTIE: Wait a second, when the Democrats were completely in control and the Republicans, the awful horrible right wing Republicans...
DOWD: How did it fail in the House?
CHRISTIE: The fact is, well you want to keep changing the subject.
DOWD: No, I don't.
CHRISTIE: The fact is the Democrats were in charge, they didn't do it either.
DOWD: They chose to do health care reform and then after...
BRAZILE: Well, he chose to save the economy.
CHRISTIE: Listen, he got that...
KARL: No, no, in reality, you had two presidents who had an opportunity to do something on immigration. You had George W. Bush at the beginning of his second term, decided instead that he was going to go and do something on Social Security, which failed. And with Obama, you had him decide to do health care instead of immigration first. I think either one of those presidents had an opportunity to do something.
CHRISTIE: And that's all I'm saying is that you can't just throw it at the feet of one party. Both parties deserve blame here.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right, although I think you could also make the argument that immigration shouldn't necessarily be for either president the number one issue to pursue, even though...
CHRISTIE: No necessarily...
CHRISTIE: ...it is this week, though, George?
I mean it is this week now. And it has been periodically over time. And, to go back to what Donna said, it's a moral issue. And that's why when the attorney general of the United States stands up and is quoting bible verse to justify this policy.
BRAZILE: Oh, god.
CHRISTIE: And also giving incomplete advice to the president, that's a failure the president is being failed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's one of the communications failures. There seems to be so many breakdowns of the process, Cecilia. And that brings me back to -- because it was just such a strange, strange sight to see the first lady in that jacket.
VEGA: I don't know that I have seen more of a head-scratching moment in an administration where we scratch our heads a lot covering them then that jacket. Everyone in the press briefing room where we work -- there were audible gasps.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can't be an accident. It's not possible.
VEGA: It couldn't -- this is not an accident.
KARL: Absolutely impossible.
VEGA: ...this is not an accident. The question is -- and the answer that we don't have is -- to whom was this message directed? Was this at the media, like the president said, and there's absolutely no evidence that that's the case. Was this at -- to him? We don't know.
Nonetheless, whatever it was, it completely took away from the story. She was down there to show that she cared about undocumented immigrant children being detained on the border, and we end up talking about a coat.
BRAZILE: You know, it doesn't matter what the First Lady was trying to say, you know what it did? It distracted us from talking about these children. I wanted to hear her talk about the babies. Are they being held? Are they being fed? Is someone changing their diapers. It distracted us from what her message was was to go down to the border to show compassion and show the American people someone is taking care of these children. That jacket was a huge mistake.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you to know how it happened?
CHRISTIE: No, I don't know how it happened. But I'll also say this, and I have saying this before to the folks in the room, you know, part of it is our fault, too. Because, you know, she did get on the plane and go down there to see for herself what was going on. There's to question in my mind she was major motivator in that White House behind the executive order and pushing the president to do that and getting him away from the DOJH interpretation of all this.
And so -- but we spent 75 or 80 percent of our time, depending on what outlet you looked at, in the last couple of days talking about the jacket.
The fact is, this woman is bright. She's hard-working. And she's compassionate. And she went down there to show that the Trump family, in her name, cares about these kids and these families.
VEGA: But then why did she wear that jacket?
CHRISTIE: Listen, you'll be shocked to know looking at me that Melania doesn't consult me on her fashion choices.
DOWD: This was not just a jacket, this was a sandwich board. This was like the equivalent of wearing a sandwich board with a message that you wanted to say, which to somebody -- and whoever it was, it was wrong -- whether it was to the press, who are basically responsible, or the reason why we're talking about this. And if it wasn't to the press, it was to somebody else.
She was wearing it for a specific reason. She may be the most compassionate, wonderful person in the world. She wore that jacket for a reason.
KARL: But it's also -- nobody else went to the border. The president didn't go to the border. The attorney general didn't go to the border to meet with those kids. The department of homeland security secretary didn't go to the border. She went to the border to meet with those kids.
CHRISTIE: And the first lady deserves credit for that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We have to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We got the round table going all through the break. And all week long, you can get the latest on politics at the White House and breaking news alerts on the ABC News app. Download it during the next break.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are back with the "Roundtable," want to talk about the midterms now.
Donna Brazile, you saw the president last night. Once he has taken care of the separation -- family separation policy, he's back on immigration full score, convinced this is going to work for Republicans come November. Should Democrats be worried about that?
BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I think this is the same playbook that President Trump used in 2016. He used guns, immigration, religion, and race. And already we've seen with take-a-knee campaign that he is using that. He's going to use all four of these issues, I think, to continue to mobilize his base.
A funny thing is happening, George, is that he's losing -- while he's gaining Republican support, he's losing independents. I don't think it's going to work. I think it's going to backfire eventually.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But his Republican support, Matthew Dowd, is kind of remarkable. I mean, he's up in the high 80s, 87 percent. As I said earlier, only George W. Bush was higher among Republicans.
DOWD: Well, it's a fascinating development. I mean, obviously he's intensely popular. The Republican Party is the Trump party. That's done. That's a forgone conclusion. And I disagree with Senator Flake, who said, well, maybe in the aftermath and this is over, I think that's done. The Republican Party is a Trump-like party.
But the interesting thing is the Republican Party, while it has become more solid with Donald Trump, has gotten smaller. It has gotten smaller over the course of the last year-and-a-half. It's now only representing about 25 percent of the American public, says I'm Republican.
So it has gotten smaller and more intense. The problem I think on immigration for Republicans, it's a great issue for a Republican primary. It's a great -- it's one of the reasons why Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for president.
The problem in a general election is most Americans are for immigration. They're for a path to citizenship. They're against what's happening, this separation of families. And so I think while it might stoke up the base and help among Republicans, it's a losing issue in November.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, I can't believe it's going to help Republican House members seeking re-election in New Jersey.
CHRISTIE: No, no, it definitely won't help in a state like New Jersey for sure. But I don't know what much will help in a state like New Jersey at this point, because, you know, you're having a situation where you have a president whose values have proven to be in a governing sense much more conservative than the state of New Jersey generally is.
And so, you know, you're going to have some very tough House races. But I will also say that in the end, I've always found, as someone who has run for office, that in the end a lot of these issues are sideline issues. They're issues we like to discuss around here, but a lot of people in New Jersey are going to say, I'm making more money than I did before, or I have a job when I didn't have a job before.
And that -- off of those pocketbook issues, as you know, turn out to be determinative (ph). And I think that's the headwind that Democrats are sailing into is the headwind of a stronger and stronger economy, GDP growth maybe at 3 percent this year, and in the next quarter, leading into the election, maybe even higher than that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president talks about that a lot about that, Jonathan Karl. He's also determined to be out there on the campaign trail. We saw him twice this week, both Minnesota and Nevada, going to be in South Carolina on Monday.
A lot of Democrats want to make this election about Donald Trump. So does Donald Trump.
KARL: Yes, and basically the (INAUDIBLE) of the case here is that he needs to motivate his base to get out, that it will be a low turnout election, you motivate the hardcore Trump supporters, you'll win. And, George, that may help to a degree in the Senate races, which are largely -- the competitive Senate races are in states that Donald Trump won, but in the House, he's competing -- those Republicans are competing to hold House seats that Hillary Clinton won.
So the best-case scenario here for Republicans is a split decision. That they lose the House, I don't hear anybody seriously on the Republican side thinks that they have a great chance of keeping the House, but that they manage to hold the Senate. Lose the House, hold the Senate, maybe even pick up a seat.
STEPHANOPOULOS: (INAUDIBLE) it's a red wave the president was talking about in his tweets this week.
VEGA: Exactly, and he said yesterday in Las Vegas, I like this issue as an election issue too. So this is a clear strategy. He is carving out immigration, hard-line immigration as a centerpiece going forward in the midterms.
I just keep going back to this meeting that the president had on Capitol Hill last week with members. They -- behind closed doors, as they were ramping up to vote, the vote that never happened last week. The people that I spoke to that were in this room were completely confused by his messaging on this.
They -- he went in there, supposed to talk about immigration, he was talking about North Korea. He talked about fighter jets. He talked about poll numbers. And he's alienating his own people in his own party who left that meeting going, what do you want us to do on immigration?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say alienating, but, Matthew Dowd, in that same meeting the president also talked about Mark Sanford, who wasn't there. Of course, he's the congressman that the president basically defeated on his own during the primary.
He said some things about Mark Sanford that was false. No one said a word in response to the president.
DOWD: This, to me, is the biggest part of the problem that we have is the coarseness of the culture that we have, the vulgarity that exists, the division that we have, the president being front and center on basically making all that a governing principle.
But Sarah Sanders and what happens to somebody -- they refuse to serve her at a restaurant and all that. I hope all of us could take a look at the Fred Rogers documentary and would you be my neighbor, and a person who spoke about kindness, who spoke about bringing the country together, who spoke about the respect we all have for each other, that's actually what we need to focus on.
But this vulgarity that exists, represented primarily right now, pushed by the president, but now coursed on either side of the aisle, has made it much worse and much harder to do anything in this country.
BRAZILE: Well, George, I also want to address something that Jonathan said. And it is true that we have a lot of Democrats who are running in so-called red states -- North Dakota, Missouri, et cetera -- states that Donald Trump carried.
KARL: West Virginia.
BRAZILE: West Virginia. But Donald Trump policy now with regards to trade is going to hurt farmers. It may hurt consumers. And so while we have a great economy, some people believe it is, the policies that he's now enacting are the policies that he's trying -- because I don't know his strategy on trade -- is going to hurt farmers, it's going to hurt his base.
And those people will probably likely not vote or decide to vote for those red state Democrats.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's like warning a trade war?
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I think there is going to be a lot of debate about the president's approach on trade. Knowing him as long as I do, my view is that he's taking this position in order to tack back and to ultimately make a deal.
Now, a lot of people are uncomfortable with that, because you don't see politicians normally take that kind of really assertive, aggressive action that's contrary to what its party's doctrine has been.
Now, if it ultimately ends up with him getting a better deal with the EU, a better deal with Canada and Mexico, well then people will be lauding him for the strategy of his policy. If it doesn't, then he's going to wind up paying a price for it.
But let's remember something, it's not just that some people think the economy is better, the economy is undoubtedly better. More people are employed. GPD is up.
DOWD: And the president still has a job approval in the low 40s.
CHRISTIE: You know what, I think that's the nature of what you talked about?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is going to have to be the last word.
CHRISTIE: ...of what's going on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's all we have time for. Thank you for the roundtable, to all of you.
When we come back, we're going to examine the worldwide refugee crisis with the CEOs of save the children and the International Rescue Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FILIPPO GRANDI, UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES: The number of refugees and displaced people worldwide has gone up to 68.5 million, but the response to the crisis is not to panic, it's not to shut down borders and ports, but to work together, together internationally to find solutions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee Filippo Grandi marking world refugee day this past week. I want to talk about that with David Milliband, the president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, former UK foreign secretary; and Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children.
And, David, let me begin with you. I guess one of the ironies of this whole border crisis exploded this week as we were marking World Refugee Day.
And it's an important reminder, though, that this is a global crisis, straining resources, creating tension all over the world.
DAVID MILLIBAND, PRESIDENT AND CEO INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: It's a reminder, George, not just that this is a global crisis, 1 in every 110 people on the planet are driven from their homes by violence, by persecution, but it's also a time to remember that the vast bulk of of those people are in poor countries, not in rich countries. They're in countries like Ethiopia, like Bangladesh, which has received 700,000 refugees this year, Colombia has received 600,000 Venezuelans this year.
Countries like the U.S. has only 1 percent of the world's refugees. And there are some lessons about the way families are helped in poor countries that actually should be learned in the rich countries too.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Carolyn, Save the Children, of course, is dealing with the consequences of this all over the world as well, including here in the United States. I think one of the things that so many are concerned about this week, seeing those children, hearing their cries. The impact of this trauma during their whole lives.
CAROLYN MILES, PRESIDENT AND CEO SAVE THE CHILDREN: That's right. And we do see that trauma that happens all over the world. And usually, the separation of children and families is because of a natural disaster or a war, a crisis, and families get separated, and organizations like Save the Children and IRC spend a lot of time reuniting kids.
We’re doing that ourselves here in the United States, we are doing that separation ourselves and so the trauma that happens to children is very real, it’s psychological, it’s physical, it’s lasting, you see that what happens to kids when they’re separating from their families in these kind of crisis is something that stays with them, they revert to behavior when they were much younger.
They start wetting their beds, they start clinging to their parents or anybody, anybody that is there, any adult that’s there. So this trauma is real and we really have to address that. We try to address it all around the world, we’re -- we have to address it with these kids here in the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And David, we heard Tom Bossert earlier in -- in the program talking about addressing the underlying conditions in the countries in Central America where so many are coming from.
But this -- this would take a real commitment and a lot of Americans say wait a second, that is not our responsibility. We can’t take care of the whole world.
MILIBAND: I think Tom Bossert made a really important point, which is that you have to deal with symptoms, and America is one of the richest countries in the world, should be a leader in dealing with the symptoms.
But you also have to address the root causes. Now remember, there are about half as many people coming from Central America to the U.S. as were coming 20 or 30 years ago.
There’s actually been a period in certain countries that have made real progress, others haven’t, and I think the commitment of great powers so the (ph) regions in which they live, is really important to stability.
The lessons are clear from around the world that when you think about this hemisphere and when you think about the South American challenges, they won’t be solved without proactive American engagement.
Yes on issues of aid but also on economic integration and economic development as well as rule of law and issues like corruption.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And of course right now our policy, Carolyn Miles, is that simply fleeing tough economic conditions or gang violence isn’t enough to get asylum.
MILES: Well I -- I want to tell you a very quick story, I was in El Salvador last year and I met a 13 year old boy and he told me the story of how his best friend was beaten, very badly beaten.
The boy actually died in his arms, and that boy said to me, his best friend died in his arms, and he said to me I’m not sure I’ll ever be a grown up in this country. I’m not sure I’ll get to be a grown up in this country.
Those are the kinds of conditions that families are fleeing, that’s why they’re bringing their children to the United States, they have the legal right and the international legal right to seek asylum here, and -- and we have to do that, we have to have that due process.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is the most important lesson we can learn from the poor countries that are dealing with this?
MILIBAND: I think there’s three things, one, keep families together, because once you separate them, you cause huge problems. Secondly, process the cases fast, Germany’s got its processing time for asylum claims down to eight to ten weeks.
They had 1.5 million asylum claims two or three years ago after the Middle Eastern crisis. Thirdly and I think critically, make sure you don’t isolate these people who do gain asylum in camps that are a funeral home for dreams. You’ve got to give them a chance to become tax payers and contributors to society.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I wish we had more time to talk about this. Thank you all very much, that is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us, check out WORLD NEWS TONIGHT and I’ll see you tomorrow on GMA.