A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Countdown to Cohen.
REPORTER: Do you have any concerns about Michael Cohen's testimony?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump's former fixer set to pull back the curtain on his time with Trump before three committees in congress.
Cohen says he'll tell the truth about Trump after years of lies. He's cooperating again with prosecutors in New York. Will this new testimony pose a threat to President Trump even after Robert Mueller completes his investigation? That and more with House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, our legal experts Dan Abrams and Alan Dershowitz and Andrew McCabe, the FBI veteran whose new tell-all is drawing fire from Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There has been no nuclear testing, no missiles, no rockets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: A second summit with North Korea just days away, but no signs yet that North Korea is ready to give up its nuclear arsenal. Will a second meeting with Kim Jong-un bring real progress? Insight and analysis from our panel of experts, including the ambassador who negotiated with North Korea, Bill Richardson.
Plus, Bernie is back.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: And our 2016 campaign began the political revolution. Now it is time to complete that revolution.
STEPHANOPOULOS: His staying power shocked the political world in 2016. His national movement is a fund-raising juggernaut. But can he stand out in this cycle’s wide open race for the White House?
Our Powerhouse Roundtable weighs in on what's at stake in 2020, the issues in play and who is making headway in these early rounds.
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 and welcome to This Week.
It is a big week ahead for the president on two very different fronts. Tomorrow he boards Air Force One for Vietnam, the site of his second summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un who is already on his way to Hanoi, you see him there in his armored train that arriving in China yesterday.
But just as Trump tries to strike a nuclear deal with Kim Jong-un, Michael Cohen will take the Washington spotlight. Three days of hearings on Capitol Hill, including blockbuster public testimony in the House on Wednesday. Cohen's lawyer says he's prepared to reveal damning details of his years as Trump's attorney and fixer, promising a chilling portrait of the president. It comes as Cohen continues to cooperate with prosecutors offering leads into possible corruption of the Trump inaugural, and insurance irregularities at the Trump organization.
And that investigation in New York's Southern District, just one of several probes poised to challenge the president well beyond the end of Robert Mueller's work.
We start with the man leading one of those investigations, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. Congressman Schiff, thank you for joining us this morning.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Michael Cohen is going to appear before your committee behind closed doors on Thursday. What do you hope to learn from him that you don't already know?
SCHIFF: Well, a great deal starting with why the false statements before our committee when he first appeared. Did they go beyond what he told us about Moscow Trump Tower into other areas as well? Who would have been aware of the false testimony that he was giving? What other light can he shed now that he's cooperating on issues of obstruction of justice or collusion? What more could he tell us about the Trump Tower New York meeting or any other issues relevant to our investigation. We think he has a lot to offer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the finances of the Trump organization? You have suggested that that's the new front in your committee's investigation.
SCHIFF: Well, this is something -- George, as you know, I have been concerned about for two years now. We weren't really permitted to explore it in great detail when the Republicans were running the committee, but we know already, and Michael Cohen is pivotal to this, the peril of ignoring or observing this red line of the president's and ignoring the financial issues.
What we have learned to date about Moscow Trump Tower is chilling, and that is as Donald Trump was campaigning for president, even when it became the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party and was telling the country he had no business dealings with Russia, he was privately, through his organization, seeking the Kremlin's help to what may have been the most lucrative deal of his life, even reportedly offering an inducement to Putin to make it happen and at the same time, talking about removing sanctions on Russia, something very important to the Russians.
That is deeply compromising. Whether it's criminal or not, it is deeply compromising of our national security. So those issues have to be probed and they include money laundering as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that gets to a question about the Mueller investigation. If it turns out, as the president has said so many times, that he did not collude with the Russians to interfere in the election, but, in fact, he was pursuing this Trump Tower at the same time, if that's not criminal, does Mueller have a responsibility to report it or no?
SCHIFF: He does have a responsibility to report it; and, in fact, if you take the position, and I think it's a flawed one, but if you take the position that the president cannot be indicted, and the only remedy for improper, illegal or other conduct is impeachment, then you cannot withhold that information from congress, or essentially the president has immunity. So that cannot be allowed to be the case. Bob -- or Bill Barr has committed in his testimony to making as much of the report public as he can. And the regulations allow him to make it all. We’re going to insist on it becoming public. And more than that, George, we’re going to insist on the underlying evidence because there is certain evidence is only in the hands of the Department of Justice that we can't get any other way. There were searches conducted, for example, of Roger Stone and Paul Manafort. There’s no other way to get the information that was seized except through the department and we can't tell the country fully what happened without it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As -- as you -- as you know, William Barr may have quite a different view of what those regulations require than you do. They could allow him to release the entire report, but under Justice Department regulations, officials have said that if you decline to prosecute someone, then the underlying evidence should not be released.
SCHIFF: But George, the department has violated that policy repeatedly and extendedly, you know, to a -- to a great extent over the last two years. And in fact, I’ve had this conversation with Rod Rosenstein and others down at the Justice Department as they turned over thousands and thousands of pages of discovery in the Clinton e-mail investigation and there was no indictment in that investigation, that this was a new precedent they were setting and they were going to have to live by this precedent whether it was a Congress controlled by the Democrats or Republicans.
So they're going to have to abide by that. And I think also, quite separate apart from the precedent they’ve already set, is the intense public need to know here, which I think overrides any other consideration.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You -- you say -- you say the Justice Department’s going to have to live by that precedent, but what if they don't? What if they say no, we’re not going to release the underlying evidence. What options do you have.
SCHIFF: Well we will obviously subpoena the report, we will bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress, we will take it to court if necessary. And in the end, I think the department understands they're going to have to make this public. I think Barr will ultimately understand that as well. Barr comes into this job with two strikes against him. He applied for the job by be demonstrating a bias against the Mueller investigation. Indeed that's part of the reason he was hired. He’s also not been willing to commit to following the advice of the ethics lawyers. Indeed that was part of the reason he was hired.
If he were try to withhold, to try to bury any part of this report, that will be his legacy and it will be a tarnished legacy. So I think there’ll be immense pressure not only on the department, but on the attorney general to be forthcoming.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're talking about public pressure. Are you prepared to take the administration to court?
SCHIFF: Absolutely. We are going to get to the bottom of this. We are going to share this information with the public and if the president is serious about all of his claims of exoneration, then he should welcome the publication of this report.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president has said no collusion many times, as I said. You said many months ago that you’ve already developed evidence of collusion. We haven't seen that from Robert Mueller. Do you have any evidence at all that the president colluded?
SCHIFF: George, there’s ample evidence of collusion of the campaign and it's very much in the public record, and it's everything from what we have seen recently about Paul Manafort meeting with someone linked to Russian intelligence and sharing polling data, and not top line data, not this is why we think Trump is going to win data, but raw data, complicated data. We’ve seen evidence of Roger Stone in communication with Wikileaks, we’ve seen the president's son having a secret meeting at Trump Tower that was presented to him as part of the Russian government's effort to help the Trump campaign, his acceptance of that help, his interest in getting that.
All of this is evidence of collusion and there’s much, much more. Whether that will amount to a criminal conspiracy that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, we'll have to wait for Bob Mueller to tell us. But to -- to not see what is plainly in front of us means you -- you basically don't want to see the evidence of collusion because it is quite abundant.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Schiff, thanks for your time this morning.
SCHIFF: Thanks, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's bring in our legal panel. Our chief legal analyst Dan Abrams, also Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, author of "The Case Against the Democratic House Impeaching Trump" and Dan, let me begin with you and let's pick up with what I was talking about with Congressman Schiff right there. He says that Bill Barr is going to be under tremendous pressure to release whatever he's -- whatever Mueller has reported publicly. It's not clear that Barr agrees with that.
DAN ABRAMS, CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, ABC NEWS: That's right. Barr has made it very clear that he's going to release as much as he can but he has put caveats on that. And the question’s going to be for example, how much information in there potentially could be a national security threat. And I think you need to separate out the difference between the report itself and the underlying information, because you heard Congressman Schiff there talking about some of the underlying information. That's going to be harder to get.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even though it was all released in the Clinton investigation?
ABRAMS: Correct. Well look, you have to remember that the current special counsel law was a response to the Clinton investigation, meaning there were concerns about how much –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bill Clinton investigation, I’m talking about the Hillary Clinton investigation.
ABRAMS: Oh I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I was talking about the – Bill – right, in response to the Bill Clinton investigation, this was a response to that law. On the Hillary Clinton investigation, look, I don’t think there’s a direct comparison between the Hillary Clinton investigation and a special counsel investigation.
I do think that there is a much stronger argument to say that a special counsel investigation ought to be made public, even if there is no prosecution that the decision making process for them, that the report should be made public even if – in typically in the Department of Justice, you wouldn’t release information related to an investigation that was not prosecuted.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What’s your response to that, Alan?
DERSHOWITZ: Well I think that’s exactly the issue, Democrats who are appropriately furious, I was among them when Comey, after saying that he was not going to indict Hillary Clinton then went on to give his own opinion as to her wrongdoing.
And the question is is there a difference between Comey, who did wrong, everybody now acknowledges that, and a special counsel of who has had a broader mandate to investigate.
Look, let’s be realistic, in the end everything’s going to come out, there are no secrets. In the end, it’s all going to come out and in the end, as I’ve said from day one, it would have been so much better if we had a non-partisan independent commission like they have in England and in Israel, like we had after 9/11, getting to the whole truth in a non-partisan way.
The American public’s not going to trust Democratic control paths –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well let me – let me stop you on that –
DERSHOWITZ: -- they’re not going to trust the Republican controlled Senate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’ll take your point on the – on the Congress, but Robert Mueller was about as non-partisan of figures you could have found, isn’t he?
DERSHOWITZ: That’s the point, no that’s the point, no I think – but my point is if – if his information is not released to the public and it then goes to Congress to conduct the investigation, I think there’ll be a question of credibility.
Look I think, and I’ve said from day one that President Trump’s greatest vulnerability lies not with the Mueller report, but with the Southern District of New York and with the New York Attorney General’s Office and with other prosecutorial arms that can look into conduct unrelated to collusion to Russia, but conduct that preceded his presidency.
And I think that’s where the problems can come up in – in the future. This may be just the beginning. The Mueller report may be just a roadmap given to Congress and given to other prosecutors that will continue these investigations until the end of President Trump’s first term.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to pick up on that with Dan. It does appear that we might be having something of a Mueller strategy in plain sight. Every indictment he has lays out in great detail what he thought happened.
Mean time, things that he thinks may be a bit beyond his scope, he siphons off to other prosecutors.
ABRAMS: Right, and I think Alan’s right, that that poses an enormous danger to him, is these other offices because you can’t just say oh well the Southern District of New York is out to get me, and the Eastern District of New York is out to get me and Virginia’s out to get me, et cetera.
That’s a tough argument to make.
DERSHOWITZ: Right, right.
ABRAMS: But when you look at some of the documents that have been filed, for example in the Manafort case, and you talk about the roadmap, you have to ask the question in the big picture, why is so much still redacted?
Right, why are they still not allowing the public to see so much related to the Russia investigation? Why isn’t Michael Cohen being allowed to testify in public about the Russia investigation?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right, he’s only going to be talking about other investigations.
ABRAMS: Right, about 10 other topics not related to Russia. And so you have to ask yourself, if there’s nothing else that’s going to come out, why are they redacting so much?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Alan, that was something curious, 800 pages from Robert Mueller yesterday in the Manafort sentencing memo, yet nothing about the underlying things that he may have been lying about, his meetings with various Russians.
And they say the redactions were for ongoing investigations in uncharged individuals. That does suggest more to come.
DERSHOWITZ: Oh absolutely, I have no doubt about that. I think these redactions are a clue to what may be hinted at. Look, also I think we are seeing now an effort to tamp down expectations from the Mueller report itself.
I think we’re being told don’t expect smoking guns, don’t expect dynamite in the report. The report is going to be the beginning of some other investigations coming down the line. So I think there’s a combination, don’t expect too much from the Mueller report itself, but the Mueller report may lead to greater investigations by a variety of other institutions, so this the Mueller report is not going to mark the end of the investigation.
I think that’s the message we’re hearing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, and so much of the reporting on the Mueller report is unfounded, because we don’t – Robert Mueller isn’t talking. But there has been some rather aggressive backgrounding going on, suggesting that the Mueller report will be an anti-climax.
ABRAMS: Yeah, I mean – and look – and the expectation game is critical when it comes to public perception. But whether it’s a summary, whether it’s a detailed accounting, don’t forget. We already have a lot of information. And I’m not talking just about what Congressman Schiff was talking about. I’m talking about the indictments that currently exist. When people want to know what happened leading up to the 2016 election, you have to start by reading the indictments.
You have to start by reading the indictments of the Russians. And then ask yourself, "OK, was anyone else connected to them?" And that’s what they’re trying to piece together still. That’s why when you have Papadopoulos lying, Flynn lying about Russia, you’ve got Manafort lying, et cetera, you have to ask yourself, why are all these people not telling the truth? And the answer may simply be, you know, look, I wanted to distance myself from it, I didn’t want to get in trouble in connection with this thing.
But there are still critical questions that are unanswered. There’s a ton of redacted material and, you know, I think we’re going to – I think we’re going to see some answers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we’re still waiting for Robert Mueller …
DERSHOWITZ: Let’s remember though …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Go ahead, quickly.
DERSHOWITZ: Let’s remember that indictments are different than – than convictions. And a lot of this is indictments. And remember too, we’re going to see a rebuttal report from the Trump team. So I think the American public should withhold final judgment until they see both reports, the Mueller report and the …
ABRAMS: This will be the first – the first time in the history of America where a defendant or someone is accused of something, gets to write a response report to what an indictment is – every criminal defendant in America would love to be able to write their own report about what they say happened. But that’s not the way the system works …
DERSHOWITZ: This is – but you’re contradicting yourself …
DERSHOWITZ: … Because this is not just a yes or no. You’re saying that special counsel have special obligations …
DERSHOWITZ: … To release everything. And if they have a special obligation to release everything, then there’s an obligation to allow a response.
ABRAMS: You can allow them to …
DERSHOWITZ: That’s precisely the point.
ABRAMS: … That’s fine. Let them respond.
DERSHOWITZ: If it was just yes or no, then you wouldn’t need a response. But if you get a long, long narrative, then fairness requires a response.
ABRAMS: That’s fine, let them …
DERSHOWITZ: And simultaneous release of both--
ABRAMS: Whoa, simultaneous release of both, too? So now – so now, basically …
DERSHOWITZ: Right. Yes.
ABRAMS: Look, that’s just – that’s ridiculous, the idea that you have to allow the other side, in something like this, the opportunity to file a long report in response to a prosecutor …
DERSHOWITZ: You don’t have to do that if you just limit yourself to indictment or not indictment but if you go beyond it and you start telling a story, the other side of the narrative has to be produced as well. That’s required by fairness and due process …
ABRAMS: Bill Clinton would have loved that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not in – not in the regulations. OK, thank you both very much …
DERSHOWITZ: And he should have gotten it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When we come back – when we come back, his new book is drawing fire from President Trump; former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe up next. And later, the powerhouse roundtable takes on 2020. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Andrew McCabe has made a fool out of himself over the last couple of days and he really looks to me like sort of a poor man's J. Edgar Hoover. He’s a -- I think he's a disaster and what he was trying to do was terrible and he was caught. I'm very proud to say we caught him. So we'll see what happens, but he -- he is a disgraced man.
(END VIDEO CLIP) President Trump taking on our next guest, Andrew McCabe. His new book, "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump," takes us behind the scenes of the launch of the Mueller investigation. Welcome to THIS WEEK. A poor man's J. Edgar Hoover?
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FBI: I don't even know what that means. You know, it’s not the first time that I’ve had to listen to the president say bizarre and untrue things about me, so it's unfortunate this is getting a little bit routine. But I will say, you know, I don't think there’s anything sad or unfortunate about speaking truth to power and telling the story that you lived and the things you saw and heard and the reasons behind the decisions you made and that's what I’ve tried to do with the book.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Another man who’s got a reputation for speaking truth to power, Robert Mueller. You worked for him at --
MCCABE: I did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- at -- at the FBI. Based on what you know -- and you heard our previous discussion -- what should we expect from Robert Mueller? Kind of a narrow by the book prosecutor reporting or someone who senses he has a broader responsibility to the public?
MCCABE: You know, it's a great question, George. I think first and foremost what you can expect from Robert Mueller is an honest, independent assessment of the work that they’ve done. How much detail he chooses to go into to convey to the Department of Justice is a great question. I hope they lean on the detailed side. This is not a normal investigation by any evaluation. It's one that I think the department, Congress and the public have enormous interest in finding out just exactly what they learned.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And it's complicated in so many ways, including the precedent of the Hillary Clinton --
MCCABE: That’s right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- investigation. You know, the FBI released all that information about her. As you heard Alan Dershowitz say, James Comey criticized for that. Was that the wrong decision by James Comey?
MCCABE: You know, I absolutely agreed with Director Comey’s approach at the time, and since -- you know, have the benefit of some -- some reconsideration of those things that we did, and -- and I think I’m pretty clear about it in the book, I think that that decision was not well thought. I think we underestimated the kind of political toxicity of the environment that we were launching our conclusions into and I think we overestimated our ability and Jim's ability to convince people of the great work we had done.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is now precedent. And in releasing the entire underlying case file is now a precedent, as well. Is it one the FBI should follow in this investigation?
MCCABE: I'm not sure that Jim's decision to announce it in July is a precedent. However, I think that it is a very concerning and now recent precedent. The volume of information that the FBI turned over to congress in the wake of after the investigation was concluded. That is something that concerned me greatly at that time, and I thought, you know, this is a -- this is a practice that will be hard to step away from.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You made the decision to investigate the president, the opening investigation into the president, is coming under some criticism this week, including from Congressman Mark Meadows who says you made a stunning admission. I want to put up his tweet right there, where you said that said it was because of suspicious behavior by the president, not intercepts, source reporting or other secret evidence. Congressman Meadows says that is an abuse of power.
MCCABE: I'm not sure what he's referring to there, but I can tell you that the information that was in our hands at the time, much of which is publicly known, caused us great concern.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say us, but this was your decision, right?
MCCABE: This was the recommendation from the investigative team, and it was ultimately my decision to authorize the opening of the case. And I did that because at the time, the facts clearly indicated that we had an articulable basis to believe that a crime may have been committed and that a threat to national security might exist.
We hadn't concluded that either of those two things had happened, but we were certainly in the place we needed to investigate both sides.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You'd make the same decision today?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're also planning on filing a civil lawsuit against President Trump. What grounds do you have to sue? And what do you hope to get from it?
MCCABE: Well, I can't talk in great detail about the lawsuit. I'll certainly let the pleadings speak for themselves. It will be an action against the Department of Justice primarily in challenging the circumstances of my firing.
It, of course, derives from the inspector-general report, a report that I deeply disagree with, a report that was the result of a process that I don't think anyone has ever seen before. I certainly hadn't. Excuse me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the president inspired that process?
MCCABE: There is no doubt in my mind that the president's clear desire impacted that process. The president was talking about removing me for months before I ever interacted with the inspector general. He made his desires perfectly clear on his own Twitter feed. The inspector general delivered that result.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Andrew McCabe, thanks very much.
MCCABE: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is up next. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable standing by. And all week long, you get the latest on politics with breaking news alerts on the ABC app.
We’ll be right back.
JULIAN CASTRO (D), FORMER HUD SECRETARY: I want to make sure that in the years to come, the same opportunities that were there for me, a kid that grew up in the public schools in Texas can be there for anybody.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D, MASS.): I’m in this fight, because I truly do believe this is our moment.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D, CALIF.).: I believe it is time to restore truth and justice, how about that.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D, M.N.): You see every single day that President Trump is trying to undermine our constitution.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I, V.T.): I am going to run for president, that’s correct.
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: What’s going to be different this time?
SANDERS: We’re going to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: First vote’s a year away, but the campaign already in full swing this February.
Let’s talk about it on our roundtable, joined by Chris Christie, our ABC News contributor, former governor of New Jersey, also author of the new book "Let Me Finish".
Heidi Heitkamp, former Democratic senator from North Dakota, Rachael Bade, the new congressional reporter for the Washington Post, welcome to you. Patrick Gaspard, President of the Open Society Foundation, political affairs director in the Obama White House, also former ambassador to South Africa; and Alex Castellanos, Republican strategist, also an ABC News contributor.
Patrick, let me begin with you and the case of Bernie Sanders. He says he's going to win this time around. A lot of question, 77 years old, already targeted by the president as a democratic socialist, but 24 hours into his announcement $6 million in contributions from that fundraising base.
PAUL GASPARD, OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION PRESIDENT: $6 million in right away, and another $600,000 from people who have pledged to give him every single month. It's like the Netflix model of fundraising for a presidential campaign.
But he's going to have an interesting challenge this time around. I worked on Howard Dean's campaign in 2004.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Against John Kerry.
GASPARD: Against John Kerry and everybody else in the world, and early on in that contest there was a sense that it was a battle for the hearts and minds of the Democratic Party. But at some point in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, early on, Democrats decided we don't want a revolution, we just want to beat George Bush, and we're going to find somebody that’s the most electable. I think that Bernie Sanders is going to find this time, people don't want a revolution, they want to beat Donald Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Heidi Heitkamp, I mean, it brings up an interesting point, Bernie Sanders, his ideas have been adopted by many other candidates, many other Democrats, but there is that concern that he's going to pull the party too far to the left.
HEIDI HEITKAMP, FORMER NORTH DAKOTA SENATOR (D): Well, I think that a couple of things are going to happen. You're going to see people get in who are going to broaden the scope of Democratic ideas that are going to be put on the forefront.
But to the point of the money, money doesn't matter as much as what it used to, in my opinion. And when you step back and you take a look at kind of the record crowds that everybody's enjoying in Iowa -- I mean people are coming out, because they want to examine each candidate and pick the candidate who in their mind, the highest priority is who can beat this president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Money may not matter, but the sign that you have got this movement behind you could.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR (R) AND ABC CONTRIBUTOR: It could, and I disagree with the senator. Having gone through it a couple of years ago, money matters. Because what's going to happen is whoever emerges out of this will wind up having a huge target on their back when they start to do well, and they have to have the money to answer. And if you don't have the money to answer, you're going to lose, because -- I love all the characterization of Iowa and New Hampshire voters especially early as being so discerning and they want to come and meet you in person. They want to meet everybody in person. But they also watch what comes in their mailbox and what comes over the TV, and the guys like Alex wouldn't have made the fortune he’s made over time if that didn't matter. It does matter. The money will matter. And Sanders will matter.
But, you know, it's a Republican dream that Sanders could actually be the nominee.
RACHAEL BADE, WASHINGTON POST CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Can I just jump in real quick and say it is increasingly -- the difference between Democrats on Capitol Hill and these Democrats jumping in on 2020 are becoming increasingly glaring when you see all these candidates supporting Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, free college, all these ideas -- getting corporate money out of politics, on Capitol Hill Nancy Pelosi is keeping her -- her arms --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But she's holding the line against some of her new members as well there.
BADE: Well, they're introducing ideas, but they are not going to be voted on on the floor, and there’s a reason for that, and that's because most Democrats on the hill are afraid of these ideas and they think they go too far.
GASPARD: But in a presidential campaign, politics will just swamp public policy over the course of the next 18 months of or so.
BADE: Yeah, but they're going to have to be careful. And I think that shows.
GASPARD: Capitol Hill will be taking a back seat. That shows to what's happening in Iowa, New Hampshire...
BADE: It shows the divide in the party, though.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump loves the idea of Bernie Sanders front and center.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Oh, he couldn't be that lucky again, could he? Look, the president has seen a Democratic Party going as crazy far left as Republicans did far right under Obama, and it's a gift. I mean, socialism didn't work for the pilgrims, the first two years, half of them died, and now that's the Democratic Party agenda.
There are three Democratic primaries to take on Trump, and all to have them are going -- there's the establishment primary with Biden and Klobuchar.
GASPARD: You can't get more socialist than the Quakers? I think that was their model.
CASTELLANOS: You're going to have the progressive primary, which Sanders has the money and the lead, and then you’ve got Kamala Harris and Cory Booker for the Obama black primary. Which one, I think Kamala Harris is going to succeed in that one, you are going to see Bernie Sanders, maybe Klobuchar.
GASPARD: Alex -- Alex -- I'd be...
CASTELLANOS: I would bet you Kamala Harris can grow beyond. I think she's being pegged -- I think she's a big enough candidate.
GASPARD: I'd be careful there, there is no such thing as the Obama black primary. I think Kamala...
CASTELLANOS: Oh, yes, I think there is.
GASPARD: Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are both extraordinary --
CASTELLANOS: They are.
GASPARD: Candidates who can appeal to a broad cross section...
CASTELLANOS: That's my point about Kamala Harris.
GASPARD: ...of voters.
CASTELLANOS: I agree with, but I think that's --right now the Democratic primaries...
HEITKAMP: You're all judging -- you're all judging the Democratic Party ideas by the people who are in now. What happens when Michael Bennet gets in? What happens when Sherrod Brown gets in?
CASTELLANOS: They lose.
HEITKAMP: What happens when you see Bloomberg get in?
CASTELLANOS: What happens is they lose.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You didn’t mention Joe Biden. You think he's getting in?
HEITKAMP: I do. I do. I think Joe will get in. I think the vice president will feel a calling, will feel a necessity to bring that gravitas and I think the minute he gets in, he's going to be the recognized front runner.
CASTELLANOS: Joe Biden --
BADE: And there’s an opening for that right now.
CASTELLANOS: -- he has name ID, a lot of Democratic voters are sitting there because they don't know the alternative, but the soul of the Democratic party is rabidly anti-Trump and has gone crazy left, it belongs to Ocasio-Cortez, not Joe Biden.
HEITKAMP: That is -- that is wishful -- wishful Republican thinking.
GASPARD: The soul of the Democratic party --
CASTELLANOS: We did it with the -- as Republicans --
GASPARD: And Alex, respectfully --
GASPARD: -- respectfully, Alex, there -- there are folks who are sitting in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, California, which was an early state on Super Tuesday this time, who are worried about the education of their children, they’re concerned --
CASTELLANOS: Which is --
GASPARD: -- about health care --
CASTELLANOS: Which is why Elizabeth Warren is for reparations --
GASPARD: -- and they’re terribly concerned about some of the corruption that we have in Washington D.C. At the end of the day --
GASPARD: -- we’re going to -- we’re going to move away from a politics of insult to a politics of ideas --
CHRISTIE: Let’s get to what’s practical here -- let’s get to what’s practical here and -- and what campaigns come down to are candidates. Forget about all the ideology and everything else, it comes down to candidates --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Who's going to perform.
CHRISTIE: Who’s going to perform.
BADE: That’s right.
CHRISTIE: You’ve seen this, I’ve seen this, I’ve lived it. Who’s going to get up there and perform? Kamala Harris, you know, learned this in her first week when she's talking about smoking pot and listening to Tupac, when Tupac’s albums hadn’t come out until six years after she said she was in college. Now you're shaking your head, Patrick, but let me tell you, she’s probably told that B.S. story in California a thousand times and no one ever called her on it.
GASPARD: Governor --
CHRISTIE: When you run for president, they call you on everything and who's going to perform when the -- there’s only two alternatives, George --
HEITKAMP: Really? We’re going to judge them by whether they tell the truth now?
CHRISTIE: But listen --
HEITKAMP: That's a new standard for presidential candidates.
GASPARD: The governor is saying something terribly important.
CHRISTIE: When the lights go on -- when the lights go on, there’s only two alternatives. You either shine or you melt. Those are the only two alternatives for presidential candidates and we’re going to see who does what and I think it's way too early to try to figure it out with these folks. And when Joe Biden is seen as the front runner, which I think he is if he gets in, this is a guy who’s run twice and hasn't exactly shined both times he ran.
GASPARD: Now Governor, you know a thing or two about fanciful tales and that Kamala thing --
CHRSITIE: Oh, Patrick.
GASPARD: -- is a bit different than that. But at the end of the day, the governor is right that this really is about performance. When you showed that clip at the very beginning, George, every candidate with the exception of Amy Klobuchar started each sentence with I. I believe, I feel. They understand that at the end of the day it's whether people can trust their -- them and their values and their story.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Rachael, one of the things we’ve been seeing is that since the government shutdown, the president has actually had something of something of a comeback in recent weeks. His approval rating is back up, heading towards the mid 40s, not quite there yet, but this whole idea of the emergency going to be back front and center on Capitol Hill this week.
BADE: Right. No, exactly. I mean, the president thinks that this is a good reelection -- something that he can run on and that is going to help him. And you know, it shows that he’s obviously catering to his base and it’s showing that he is putting them front and center, but it’s interesting because in doing to that, he has sort of upended the reelections potentially of other senate Republicans. There are 22 Senate Republicans --
STEPHANOPOULOS: They don’t want this vote.
BADE: They don’t. And a lot of them were privately telling the president, please don't do this, don't do this, this is going to create a terrible precedent if we have, you know, a President Bernie Sanders someday, if he -- if he's going to try to do something with the Green New Deal on his own, call it an emergency, this is a big problem and we can't have that. But we're already seeing a lot of those same Republicans who privately were telling him don't do this come out and -- and say that basically they're --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Still his Republican party.
BADE: -- they’re not going to push back against him.
CASTELLANOS: Still his Republican party and by the way, if the election were held today against the Democratic Party he's running against, I think Donald Trump will win by more than he won last time. The Democratic Party is going crazy left. The only thing that has changed -- neither party has changed, by the way, Republicans or Democrats since Trump was elected except Trump is now not theory, he's fact and it’s an impressive record --
GASPARD: -- and the midterm elections --
CASTELLANOS: -- and security -- and -- excuse me -- and -- excuse me -- and the other --
GASPARD: -- were a repudiation of that fact.
CASTELLANOS: Yes, but see that’s the --
GASPARD: Let’s not forget that happened.
CASTELLANOS: No, that’s important but actually midterms are not --
CASTELLANOS: But that’s what you have to understand, midterms are a referendum on the incumbent. Presidential years are choices.
CASTELLANOS: And the Democrats are offering a choice of going left, Trump is saying --
GASPARD: The Democratic choice has not been clarified.
CASTELLANOS: By the way, Trump is -- excuse me --
GASPARD: -- that’s why you have a primary contest, Alex.
CASTELLANOS: Let me just say Trump’s choice is clear, growth and locking the doors at night and security. The Democrats response has not been about either of those, it’s only been about the mommy bear party care-giving and nourishing. It’s -- it’s like a 1950s sitcom and in that case, the daddy bear party usually beats the mommy party.
GASPARD: So -- so healthcare -- healthcare, child care and --
CASTELLANOS: I’m not advocating, I’m just telling you Trump has got a very strong hand going into 2020.
HEITKAMP: I’m just telling you if think the economy in a year is going to look like the economy today, you’re wrong. And -- and the -- the tax refund issue is real. I know this. I mean, you can say, well, their taxes were reduced. People count on that refund and now they feel they got shortchanged, they look at economic and business investment that never materialized, they look at a --
CASTELLANOS: Hoping for --
HEITKAMP: -- a package --the signature piece -- economic piece for this president is --
CASTELLANOS: Hoping for bad news is not a great political strategy.
HEITKAMP: No, no, and I’m not hoping for bad news.
CASTELLANOS: Good luck.
HEITKAMP: But I think bad news is predictable in this cycle. I mean, I’m not the only person saying this. I think – look at – look at --
CASTELLANOS: It is if you’re a socialist.
HEITKAMP: … One of the leading indicators in the economy is agriculture. We have record bankruptcies in farming country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I mean, Alex is counting on that socialism…
STEPHANOPOULOS: … Label sticking, but Chris, I want to bring up a different point inside the Republican Party. It does seem to be Trump’s Republican Party right now. But you had Bill Weld say that he’s going to run against him. Larry Hogan, governor of Maryland, had this to say this week.
LARRY HOGAN, MARYLAND GOVERNOR (R): I was just sworn in a month ago for my second term. I’ve got a lot of work to do here in Maryland. I would say I’m being approached from a lot of different people. And I guess the best way to put it is, I haven’t thrown them out of my office.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How real is this idea of a significant challenge to the president?
CHRISTIE: Not. Not real. And listen, there’s probably nobody in American politics who knows Larry Hogan better than I do because I was the guy who in 2014, went in there when no one thought Maryland was winnable, and invested $2 million in Larry Hogan and we got him over the finish line. Larry Hogan won both times, only the second Republican ever to be reelected governor of Maryland in the history of the state, because he’s a smart politician.
And a smart politician is not, based on this set of facts, going to challenge Donald Trump in a primary because – the guy’s got 80 percent approval rating among Republicans. And so I think what Larry’s doing is he’s got some issues he cares about, he’s going to use this as a platform to speak out about those issues, to try to bring the party a little bit back towards where he is. But the idea that Larry Hogan – and Bill Weld’s not serious and no one takes Bill Weld seriously.
Larry Hogan would be serious but he’s not – my view is he’s not going to do it.
BADE: Yeah, it – I mean, it seems like it would be – it’s political suicide to do that right now. I mean, this is Donald Trump’s party still, two years later …
GASPARD: There would have to be some …
BADE: Look no further, again, to the national emergency declaration …
GASPARD: There would have to be a seismographic (ph) revolation…
GASPARD: That comes out of these investigations.
CHRISTIE: Well, and then – by the way, Larry Hogan will be with a whole group of people who’ll be running then …
BADE: Republicans were out speaking against this emergency declaration for weeks. He totally ignored them and now they’re backing off. This is Trump’s party and running against him is foolish.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The question is, what does happen with these follow-on investigations from Robert Mueller – we still haven’t seen Robert Mueller’s report either, Senator. Are – do you -- do you sense any concern among your former colleagues on Capitol Hill that, if Robert Mueller finishes his job and hands it off to them, that they’re going to be wary of going too far?
HEITKAMP: I hope so. I think they are. I think they realize that -- that one of the worst things that can happen, in my opinion, is impeachment. I think that you have to win at the ballot box in order to have a – have a real future for this country …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that mean no investigating?
HEITKAMP: No, it doesn’t mean no investigating, but it does mean that, what do you do with that investigation? All of that information is critical. It’s important, the public needs to know. You know, I said 20 percent of the public, guess what -- they believe whatever the president says. The next 20 percent will look at this and say "Yeah, he doesn’t always tell the truth, but so what?"
And so you’ve got 40 percent who aren’t really going to ever care. You’re looking at the 20 percent that you …
HEITKAMP: … You hope you can persuade.
GASPARD: That’s what the polls say now. The past is prologue, Senator. I remember – you know, the polling a year before President Nixon resigned said that 50 percent of Americans thought that too much media attention was being paid to Watergate. The polling on the day that he resigned said a quarter of Americans still supported Richard Nixon. So I just, you know, I think that you’re …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Full speed ahead?
GASPARD: I think Democrats in Congress are absolutely going to continue these investigations. There’s more than enough fodder when you consider every institution that Donald Trump has touched has come into being questioned, from his cabinet picks like his current labor secretary, to his foundation that he had to shutter. There’s -- there’s more than enough there.
CHRISTIE: Well, and here’s the thing though, is that – there better be some "there" there. If they’re going to decide to go down that road …
GASPARD: They’ve done that already. There’s a mountain of “there.”
CHRISTIE: … No, no, but Patrick. Patrick, this is a different context now.
CHRISTIE: Because when you’re getting into a presidential election cycle, people are going to see it as not being necessarily legitimate but being political. Even more political when you’re going to have all these candidates that they’re not going to be able to control themselves …
STEPHANOPOULOS: How – how does that affect your former colleagues in the southern district right now who seem to have the most serious investigation of the Trump investigations going?
CHRISTIE: Not a lick. Not a bit. They don’t care – that’s why when we were – when I was U.S. attorney in New Jersey, every other U.S. attorney used to refer to them as the sovereign district of New York. They believe they are a sovereign power unto themselves in the Southern District. They’ll listen to no one, they barely listen to the attorney general.
So they’re going to do whatever they think they need to do and that’s why I’ve been saying, as you know, for 10 months here, the Southern District of New York investigation is monumentally more perilous to the president than Bob Mueller ever was or ever will be. They have two tour guides, George, and no restriction on where they can go.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the last word today. Thank you all very much. Up next, our experts break down what to expect from President Trump’s second nuclear summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: They have to get rid of all their nuclear weapons --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They’ve got to get rid of – yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- all their nuclear (inaudible) –
TRUMP: Yes, they will, I think they will. I really believe that he will. I’ve gotten to know him well in a short period of time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did he tell you that?
TRUMP: Yes, sure, it’s de-nuking – I mean he’s de-nuking the whole place, and he’s going to start very quickly. I think he’s going to start now.
I’d just like to see ultimately denuclearization of North Korea, I think we will see that ultimately. I have no pressing time schedule.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump resetting expectations there for his second nuclear summit with North Korea, that’s set for Thursday in Vietnam. Let’s talk about the risk and the possible rewards of that meeting with our panel of experts, Tom Bossert, former Trump homeland security advisor, ABC News contributor, Jung Pak, Brookings Institution Korea Studies chair and former analyst, and Bill Richardson, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. who has negotiated with North Korean ambassador.
And Ambassador Richardson, let me begin with you. You saw the president resetting the expectations there, he also has a tweet out this morning that ends with denuclearization with a question mark, questioning whether that’s going to happen.
Is it a – can you have a successful summit without a clear commitment by the North Koreans, an actual concrete action to denuclearize?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I don’t believe it would be a successful summit unless you had some kind of commitment on North Korea’s part on denuclearization, dismantling inspections, missiles, nuclear detonations.
It seems the president is deflating expectations, and that’s a concern, the concern because I think what should come out of this summit is a framework for negotiations. My word, George, is that this negotiation, this summit may be a dud, that instead of concrete progress on what is important, denuclearization.
It’s now shifting from denuclearization, arms control to peace, to important steps, return of our servicemen, the remains, maybe a liaison office, maybe some kind of continued North, South cooperation, which is good.
I think the president deserves credit for lowering tensions in the region, but in terms of concrete accomplishments, I don’t think this summit’s going to produce –
STEPHANOPOULOS: You – the dud (ph) is I guess one possibility, there’s also been some concern expressed by the president advisors that he gives away something that he shouldn’t give away too soon, say a formal peace declaration, a formal declaration end to the Korean War.
JUNG PAK, CHAIR, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION KOREA STUDIES: I think Bill is right, I think there has been a profound shift in talking about peace and normalization with North Korea rather than the nuclear issues, and I think that’s really problematic, because the whole point of a summit between the two leaders is to see what – see – to – is to get dismantlement and North Korea to get – to completely abandon its nuclear weapons.
I think, you know, having a peace declaration normalization is fine for tension reduction, but we really have to wonder about how that affects North Korea’s actions down the line.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Should there be, Tom Bossert, should there be a summit now given the fact that the president’s own national security advisor John Bolton says that North Korea hasn’t made, you know, followed through on the commitments they made at the first summit.
TOM BOSSERT, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY AND COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: There has been backpedaling and dishonestly from the last summit, which was a significant watershed moment until today.
And at this point, the only reason to have that summit is for President Trump to go in and give a clear eyed reminder. It will be a dud if he comes out and tries to varnish this as a success without any real actionable activity.
Any kind of freeze or reversible gesture, superficial gesture on the part of the North Koreans is going to be a little bit of a slap in the face. But if the president then comes out and buys it, whether it’s because of domestic political pressure or some other instinct to post a win, he’s going to lose the – you know, that international coalition that he’s put together and the strength he goes in with.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president, another tweet this morning, Jung Pak, that the president has put out, he says that North Korea can be an economic powerhouse under Kim Jong-un if they just give up their nuclear weapons, almost trying to incentivize them to come further along at this point.
He does seem to be banking on the idea that his personal relationship with Kim Jong-un is somehow going to yield benefits.
PAK: Yes, I think President Trump is making the mistake of mirror imaging. So the president is near – he’s from New York City, he’s a businessman and a real estate mogul, and he’s speaking in terms of as if Kim is another businessman.
But Kim is a dictator and a highly authoritarian -- of a highly authoritarian regime -- and who needs his nuclear weapons for legitimacy and his own survival.
And so, yes, North Korea is in the middle of a very strategic environment with -- among the second, third, and 11th largest economies in the world, but North Korea also sees its location and its economic deprivation relative to the other countries as a threat to its survival.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, how do we make progress short of North Korea getting rid of its nuclear weapons? The testing moratorium -- we've seen testing moratoriums in the past. What kind of concrete action could we see from North Korea that would really signify real progress that can be built on?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. AND FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR (D): I think Jung is right and so is Tom. My view is that what is concrete progress? One, I have called this a potential dud, but we have got to continue talking. The relationship...
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, no harm in it.
RICHARDSON: No. The relationship of the two leaders, that's good. However, the president should listen to his advisers, and his advisers have been I think very specific.
What I fear we're going to lose, one, a detailing of all the weapons inventory that North Korea has. I think we have kind of given up on that. Secondly, that we simply say, OK, you dismantle Yongbyon reactor, another missile site that they have already done several times. That's a danger. And if that's the only arms control initiative that they push.
And I think lastly, my worry, George, is that we're going to trade something what the North Koreans really want, which is a peace treaty, in exchange for some limited arms control measures. I think what needs to happen is dismantle some weapons -- they're not going to dismantle all of them. Freeze intercontinental ballistic missiles that affect Japan and South Korea. Find ways that these are concrete steps -- timelines, verification, a framework for negotiations.
If it's just a bunch of, you know, handshakes and you're a good guy and we'll meet again, it's going to be a dud.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there a win/win here?
BOSSERT: Yeah, but it's not going to happen out of this meeting. So what happened in the last meeting took us back from the brink of war, but the president -- two presidents agreed to two mutually inconsistent future objectives, one was normalization between the north and south and the other was denuclearization of the north.
Right now, President Moon in the south is suggesting that give some incentives in terms of money or reduction in sanctions or opening up industrial complexes to the north to induce them into further talks, to renormalize their relationships. That would fundamentally undermine everything that President Trump is trying to do with respect to denuclearizing. If you don't force him, to Jung's point, the north will not get rid of their weapons.
So, the win/win here has to be for the president to carry the international good will to this meeting, because he's not representing the United States, and come out of this with some serious, if not threatening additional sanctions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the last word for today. 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.