'This Week' transcript 2-25-18: NRA National Spokesperson Dana Loesch and Florida school shooting survivors

PHOTO: Pictured (L-R) are Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.PlayAP, FILE
WATCH Florida shooting a result of 'abdication of duty': NRA

This is a rush transcript that will be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

CROWD: The NRA has got to go.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Call to action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many schools, how many children have to get shot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As the pressure builds to protect schools, the NRA goes on offense.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NRA: As usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain.

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump argues for arming teachers.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There they're not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As so many teens say, never again, will their activism bring real change? How hard with the president push for more guns in schools? Is the NRA prepared to give any ground? Is this time any different? We'll ask the NRA's top spokesperson Dana Loesch, and survivors of the Parkland shooting teacher Ashley Kirk and student David Hogg.

Plus...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, any concerned about Rick Gates?

STEPHANOPOULOS: A dramatic new plea in the Russia investigation. Top Trump campaign aid Rick Gates switches sides. Will his plea deal spell doom for Paul Manafort and others in Trump's inner circle? Is it the strongest sign yet that more and serious charges are coming.

Insight and analysis from top legal experts and our roundtable. We'll break down the politics, smoke out the spin. The facts that matter this week.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, it does feel different this time. We've seen heartbreak, shock and fury after past mass shootings from Columbine to Sandy Hook. And yes we've also seen the passions cool, the moments fade.

But never before have we seen anything quite like the Never Again movement -- students, surveyors, in the streets, walking out of schools into state capitals and the White House demanding change. Major corporations cutting their ties with the National Rifle Association, banks rethinking their relationships with the companies that manufacture assault weapons, and long-time members of the NRA beginning to break ranks, like Florida Governor Rick Scott, now wants to raise the age for purchasing fire arms, joined last night by President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It doesn't seem to make sense that you have to wait until you're 21 years old to get a pistol, but to get a gun like this maniac used in the school, you get that at 18. I mean, that doesn't make sense. And frankly, I explained that to the NRA. They're great people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: This morning, we talk to activists on both sides of this searing debate, starting with the national spokesperson for the NRA, Dane Loesh. Welcome back to this week, Dana.

Le's begin with Presidnet Trump right there. You say he now -- he says the NRA is ready to do things. He wants to raise that minimum age. Will the NRA back that?

DANA LOESCH, SPOKESPERSON, NRA: Well the NRA has made their position incredibly clear. The five million members of the NRA have made their position incredibly clear, and I do want to caution people...

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's a no, then?

LOESCH: Well I do want to caution people, because I know that people are trying to find daylight between President Trump and five million law abiding gun owners and law abiding gun owners all across the United States.

These are just things that he’s discussing right now. I think that it’s great that as president, he had all of these individuals, all of these constituents come into the White House, he had this listening session. He’s really looking for solutions. He wanted to hear what they had to say, and that’s what he’s doing.

So far, nothing’s been proposed yet. The NRA’s made their position clear...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let me just -- the position is you do now want to raise the age?

LOESCH: That’s what the NRA came out and said. That’s correct.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president has also talked about banning these bump stocks, is the NRA prepared to back that?

LOESCH: Well the NRA already called for -- they already made it clear, the ATF needs to do their job and they need to make sure that their definitions are consistent. The NRA called for this before the president made a statement before he also asked...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But as you know...

LOESCH: ...Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, Dana, the ATF...

LOESCH: They’re on the same page.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No they’re not, they’re actually not on the same page. The ATF says they don’t have the authority right now to ban bump stocks. The president has now said he wants those to be banned. Will the NRA back that?

LOESCH: The NRA doesn’t back any ban. The NRA has asked the ATF to do its job and make sure that these classifications are consistent.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about this call from the president to arm teachers in schools?

LOESCH: I think that if a school and if parents and teachers voluntarily choose to be armed, I think that’s something that schools are going to have to come up with and determine for themselves.

The NRA has had a program, the School Shield program, which people can find online. It has so far assisted 150 schools across the country in coming up with solutions for this, making sure that students and teachers are protected, and as Wayne LaPierre said, as I have said before as well, George, the NRA has tons of resources that are at school’s and teacher’s and parent’s disposal on this issue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you -- I know you want armed security in schools, do you want teachers to be armed? As you've seen, a lot of teachers all across the country say that's not a job we want.

LOESCH: If teachers voluntarily choose to, and if parents would like it -- George, my kids go to a school where teachers voluntarily chose to get trained and carry firearms for their protection and the protection of the students. And this is something that as parents of this school and educators in this community, everyone came together and determined that that was the best thing for that school.

This is something that parents and educators are going to have to determine for their schools.

But the NRA is clear with School Shield. We have tons of solutions. And if schools, George, if schools determine that maybe perhaps firearms, that's not the way that they want to go, the NRA has solutions for them on that, too.

Our resources are at their disposal.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of people wondering how a shooter like this could get an AR-15. As you know, there have been many calls to ban semi-automatic weapons, including most recently from Republican Congressman Brian Mast of Florida, an army veteran, lost both his legs in Afghanistan, a long-time NRA member. He says it’s time to have a ban. Let’s look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BRIAN MAST (R), FLORIDA: I carried an M-4 carbine, very similar to an AR-15. I was carrying that weapon on the battlefield in the most dangerous country on Earth for one reason, because of it’s lethality. And my community and my kids in our schools, I don’t think that they’re made safer by the -- the general population of civilians having unfettered access to the best weapon the army could put in my hands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: What’s your response to Congressman Mast?

LOESCH: Well first off, I think that I want to remind everybody that when students go back to school, that next week in Parkland, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, who I think we need to have a conversation about as well, because this all stems from their dereliction of duty. And I know they say now it’s 23 times that they had calls in, in addition to two FBI tips, and numerous reports from classmates...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Unthinkable...

(CROSSTALK)

LOESCH: It is. And under Florida law, they actually had the authority to go and arrest that individual before anything could be done and I wish that as much attention were given to the Broward County Sheriff and their abdication of duty as trying to blame 5 million innocent law-abiding gun owners all across the country for this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There’s been no blaming here. All I’m asking is...

LOESCH: No, there has been, though.

STEPHANOPOULOS: All I’m asking is your position on the AR-15.

LOESCH: The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle. And I want to remind everybody that when you had a -- a former Bernie Sanders staff member who tried to shoot up a -- a baseball -- a baseball field full of congressional members with an SKS, it was that security that used their handguns to take down that individual. Now as far as an AR-15, this is semi-automatic. People keep calling these weapons of war. This thing originated in the civilian market before it was adapted by the military. This is really a discussion about banning all semi-automatic firearms. And I wish that we could be genuine in our discussion of that. That -- that’s the position on AR-15.

And AR-15s are going to be in that school protecting students and teachers when they return back to class. But as far as banning on semi-automatic firearms, I think people need to just come out and say that that’s what they’re really talking about instead of AR-15.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well I think he was -- he was -- he was quite clear right there. He says they have to come up with a definition. It should be done. And there was, as you know, an assault weapon ban for 10 years, from 1994...

LOESCH: And you yourself, though -- you yourself said that that actually didn’t have any overall effect on the crime rate. There have been numerous...

STEPHANOPOULOS: It did not...

LOESCH: ...studies that show that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It did not...

LOESCH: You’re correct on that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It did not eliminate that, but there actually have been studies that showed it did have an effect on this. I want to bring up from the University of Massachusetts researcher Larry (ph) -- Louis Klarevas, shows that -- look at that right there. From 1984 to 1994, you had 19 incidents, 155 deaths. Then ’94 to 2004 it goes down. 12 incidents, only 89 deaths. The ban expires, we see the -- we see the casualties go way up again.

LOESCH: And there are also studies that show -- and you yourself have acknowledged before -- previously -- just a couple of years ago that --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not perfection, absolutely.

LOESCH: ...that it did not have much of an effect on the crime rate. Furthermore...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it does have an effect on the -- on the lethality of mass shootings.

LOESCH: ...but -- but furthermore -- I want to point this out, George -- I want to -- I want to point this out, though. Three percent -- only three percent of homicides in the United States actually are carried out with rifles. The highest number actually goes in with handguns. And these are illegally possessed by repeat offenders because these people keep getting slaps on their wrist.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And no one’s saying

LOESCH: But here’s the bigger point, though, George...

STEPHANOPOULOS: ...let me just -- excuse me for a second, no one’s saying this is going to eliminate every single killing. But we do know, we are the only country that has wide access to these kind of weapons and no one else has the frequency or the intensity of these kind of mass shootings...

(CROSSTALK)

LOESCH: That’s actually not true.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ...mass shooting that we do.

LOESCH: That’s actually not true.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is.

LOESCH: France had a higher casualty rate in one year than the entire two administrations of Barack Obama. And they’re a fifth of our population.

But George, here’s the biggest point here. We’re talking about banning firearms and the discussion is about banning all semi-automatic firearms. And that's really the discussion. Can we actually look at what could have prevented this? That firearm did not walk itself into the school. An individual who was allowed to go unchecked by the Broward County Sheriff's Office allowed that firearm to go in the school. This is not the fault, nor are 5 million innocent law-abiding Americans culpable for this.

And many of us are parents, too, George. I want to see as much attention on a Broward County Sheriff, the FBI, the two FBI tips, and the numerous calls. George, I'm not a member of the FBI. I'm not a member of law enforcement, but I'm going to tell you, if someone is online using their names saying they're going to shoot up a school, if they're banned from school, because they've taken bullets and knives in their backpack to school, if they've been sending messages saying that they're going to shoot and kill their classmates, that to me sounds like a potential school shooter.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m -- I’m not going to argue with that because I...

LOESCH: Family and neighbors called the Broward County Sherriff’s Office to report this individual and they did not follow up. That is the headline.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Could not agree more -- could not agree more on that point, that is certainly a factor, no question about it.

LOESCH: That is what -- that’s what minimizes this -- that’s what minimizes casualties, when we follow up.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s one of -- it’s one of the things that minimizes casualties, most Americans also believe...

LOESCH: It’s the thing that minimizes casualties.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ...almost all Americans believe that background checks for all gun -- all gun purchases make a huge difference. Recent poll from Quinnipiac, 97 percent of Americans support that. The NRA opposes it.

You know, we’ve seen all these NRA members I just cited who are now calling...

LOESCH: Well and I want to point out the question for that poll, by the way, was do you support background checks if it prevents, you know, those who are dangerous and -- and terrorists, et cetera from getting firearms.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think they just don’t work?

LOESCH: I think -- I think everybody -- I think everybody supports background checks. And I want to point out that it was the NRA that created the NICS system.

Here’s the problem, George. Do you realize that right now -- and politicians could change this today, they could change it tomorrow. Did you know that right now seven million prohibited possessors can walk into a gun store and legally purchase a firearm? People who have received due process, who through violent criminal behavior are illegally barred from purchasing and carrying firearms, people who have been adjudicated mentally unfit because they’re a danger to themselves and others, they can right now go and buy a firearm because as it stands right now, only 38 states are reporting less than 80 percent of these convictions to the NICS system. That’s huge.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Dana you know -- you know perfectly well the reason states are mandated to go through that system is because of a lawsuit the NRA filed.

LOESCH: That’s actually a grotesque misunderstanding, I’m sorry to that. In Printz versus the United States, that’s what you’re talking about. That case that you’re specifically referring to, George, actually was a case where the federal government was trying to force states to implement and administer a federal program at the state level.

However, that case that you’re citing, the one that the NRA contributed amicus brief to, says that that case did not do anything to stop states from reporting dangerous people who have been criminally convicted to the federal government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Dana, as you know, the NRA has consistently sought to defund the background system, has fought against the background check system. But I just want to understand --

LOESCH: That’s not true, George. That’s not true.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to a broader -- a broader...

LOESCH: We created the NICS system. And we’re the ones for over 25 years who have been saying that these states need to report these dangerous people -- I want to get seven million who are a danger to others, I want to prevent them from purchasing a firearm, don’t you?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I -- I want to prevent every -- so...

LOESCH: Are you going to have politicians on this program calling them?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Will you support them -- will you support background checks --

LOESCH: Are you going -- no, are you going --

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- for all gun purchases?

LOESCH: We have background checks for firearm purchases.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: For all gun purchases, for every single one.

LOESCH: We have background checks. We have -- give me an example.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ...it doesn’t, there’s no mandatory background checks for private sales or for gun shows.

LOESCH: You -- well most gun shows have -- have background checks. Here’s the thing, this is all federally regulated. And the penalties are terrifying and severe. There is no loophole. It is a criminal act if you are a prohibited possessor to acquire a firearm.

We need to stop calling criminal acts loopholes, but to this point are you going to have politicians on this program and demand that they had their states comply by reporting these prohibited possessors to the system?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I -- I think that is a great idea.

Final question, president -- President Trump said at the beginning that NRA is ready to do new things. Is there any new proposal you’re willing to support now that you weren’t supporting before?

LOESCH: We have been supporting proposals to make sure that the system works. We’ve been calling for politicians to work with us and make sure that dangerous people who have received due process and should not be accessing firearms -- no one -- we are all in agreement, George. This madman should have never been able to purchase this firearm. Ever.

If I could follow up on all of those red flags and prevented it, you bet I would. I’m a parent. I see my kids in every child. Parents make up the NRA membership. We see our kids in everybody. We don’t ever want to see anything like this again. This is why we have been calling so loudly, George, to make sure that politicians step up. They could change this. Report these prohibitive possessors into the system, number one.

Number two, however schools and parents determine that they best want to keep their kids safe, the NRA is here to work with them. Our resources -- I’ll say it again -- are at their disposal. School Shield program’s a great start.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Dana Loesh, thanks for your time this morning.

LOESCH: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're joined now by David Hogg, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Ashley Kurth, a teacher there who sheltered 65 people in her classroom, including David, during the shooting.

David, you see there what you're up against. NRA against any change in the minimum age, against universal background checks, against a ban on semi-automatic weapons.

DAVID HOGG, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Honestly, it's just disgusting. They act like they don't own these politicians. They still do. It's a Republican-controlled House, Senate, and executive branch. They can get this stuff done. They've gotten gun legislation passed before in their favor, in the favor of gun manufacturers. And what I want people to know is look at Dana. Look at what she saying, is she actually saying anything or is that just a tone to distract the American public and distract her NRA members from the fact that she's not serving them? She is serving the gun manufacturers. She's not serving the people of the NRA, because the people that are joining the NRA, 99.9 percent of them are amazing people that just want to be safe, responsible gun owners. And I fully can support that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you convince them to convince their leadership that we need change?

HOGG: They have to do that. In the same way that this is a democracy that's currently broken, the NRA is an organization that is completely broken.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Ashley, you're a teacher. Guns in the classroom?

ASHLEY KURTH, HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: I would definitely say not. You know, I have no problem having a concealed weapon or being at home and having it in my home. I don't own one, but my in-laws next to me do. And you know yeah it does make you feel safer, and have that point of protection, but in the classroom, I don't know. There are so many fights that I have broken up at the different schools that I've been at, and the school that I'm currently at. And it's -- these are kids that have passions, very raging passions. And, when they get into fights or arguments over something on Twitter, or Instagram, or just how their day went and having a bad day and somebody just reacts to them wrong, having something like this in their vicinity is just not a good idea.

I mean, I have a 7-year-old, and I would not feel comfortable with him going into a classroom knowing that there could be a potential weapon in there, whether it's loaded or not, because some of the people have made, you know, comments and I've had conversations with friends of mine and stuff saying, OK, well, you have a concealed weapon on you and does it have any ammunition in it? It's going to have to be locked in a separate areas.

And I mean, these kids get into everything that they can at a high school level. I can only imagine it would be at a elementary or middle school leve.

STEPHANOPOULOS: David, you heard that other point that Dana was making about the Broward County sheriff's office. Do you feel let down by them?

HOGG: Honestly, I know that the people that work in law enforcement are some of the hardest working individuals in America. I know that they work every single day to protect the lives and innocence of American school children and the American public in general.

Where there mistakes made? Absolutely. Is anything going to change? I certainly hope so. But this is something that we can't go back and change now. We just have to look to the future and fix it.

From before like these investigations come out and everything, from what I have seen of Sheriff Scott Israel, he's a good man. He cares about the people. I don't know what's happened in his organization. I'm not a sheriff. I can't speak on behalf of them. Honestfully, I just know that I support anyone that is trying to protect the lives and the future of America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, we were talking before we went on the air. You have many family members with experience with weaponry, with things like semi-automatic weapons. You heard the NRA right there saying absolutely no ban on semi-automatic weapons. What is your response to that?

KURTH: I don't understand the need to have them. One of the things that I've been thinking about a lot this past week, especially, is, you know, we have the officers who are on campus that are armed. And, you know, if you had a person that didn't have this weapon that came on to campus, that maybe they had a different type of weapon, would we need to fight the same weapon with the same weapon?

So, for me, I don't feel the need to have that specific type of weapon, but it's more important that -- what I went through, it's the capacity, the amount that he went through in that seven minutes that we were in there is -- is just -- unreal with the kids that were running from it.

And, yes, you're going have people that are going to be making mistakes like the BSO or the FBI and all of them. We're human. Humans make mistakes. And, yes, you have a lot of things that you put on to these people, and that's what they're trained to do, just like we are teachers. We are trained to educate, we are trained to, you know, enlighten, we're trained to get the best that we can out of our kids and to challenge them to do new and bigger things for themselves, even when they don't think that they can do it.

And when it comes to weapons and the capacity of damage they can do, we need to really sit down and say, OK, this is society. It's not -- like David says, it's not a Republican or a Democrat type of viewpoint, it's more of what do we need to do for our kids specifically in our schools?

STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you -- and you kids are taking the lead in this. I mean, young people are taking the lead in the wake of the shooting. Address the point that I made at the top of this program, we have seen these horrific shootings in the past, we have seen Columbine. We've seen Virginia Tech. We've seen Newtown. We've seen white hot intensity in the days after the shooting, then it goes away. Zero change. How do you prevent that from happening this time?

HOGG: Honestly, it's our generation. Every -- Columbine was about 19 years ago, and now that you've had an entire generation of kids growing up around mass shootings and the fact that they are able -- they're starting to be able to vote explains how we're going to have this change.

Kids are not going to accept this. As many critics of my generation will say, Millennials are some of the laziest, like, most critical people. I don't think that they're lazy, but I think we're definitely critical, especially on social media. And we love to complain about things, we absolutely do. And honestly, trying to fix this issue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You were saying that before.

KURTH: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, we really do. It's something where we're going to have to look and look really hard into what the foundation of this country is and ask ourselves, is that what we're actually are becoming? And to the members of the NRA, I want to say this, listen to Dana, is she really speaking to you guys, is she trying to fight for you guys, or is she actually trying to fight for the gun lobby? She seems -- everything she was saying seems like spectacle. Is it just her tone, or is it what she's actually saying?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Going back to school on Wednesday?

KURTH: Actually, I go back today, because we have a couple of students that are going to be coming on with their parents and collecting their belongings and just getting acclimated. And my fellow staff members and I have two planning days Monday and Tuesday. And then the students join us for half days on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Ready for it?

HOGG: Honestly, I don't know at this point. Imagine have to get -- in a plane crash and then having to get on that same plane every day and fly somewhere else. It's never going to be the same, it never will be the same. There's going to be emotional ramifications from this. I don't support -- honestly, I can't even imagine emotionally what me and my fellow students are going to go through that day. I haven't thought of what my thought process is going to be like, even stepping back onto the same grounds as that school, having to walk past the freshman building to my AP Environmental Science class, walking past Chef Kurth classroom and realizing I had had to huddle in there to save my life.

And the most disturbing point about this, George, is the fact that we're having some of our glass replaced. It's not even bullet proof. We're aren't having interchangeable locks replaced where we can lock them from the inside to prevent shooters from getting in. If we don't fix this now, when will it change? How many more children are going to have to die? Honestly, I know that we don't have the funding, but seriously, the federal government, the state government, even private citizens at this point can help us out. Help us create more bullet-proof glass. I know it's expensive, but because of economies of scale that price can and will go down when there's a huge demand for it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Maybe that's something we can all agree on.

Good luck going back. I know it is going to be a tough week. Thanks for your time this morning.

When we come back, legal experts Dan Abrams, Preet Bharara weigh in on that big new plea deal in the Mueller investigation. That's up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: There he is, Rick Gates, former Trump’s deputy campaign chair walking into the federal courthouse on Friday after making a plea deal with Robert Mueller.

We’re going to talk about what it means now with Preet Bhahara, former U.S. attorney, now a distinguished scholar in residence at NYU Law School, also our (ph) chief legal analyst Dan Abrams, welcome to you both. And Preet, let’s just set the stage of where -- where things are right now.

Nine months into the Mueller investigation, he’s got five guilty pleas, including from the president’s former national security advisor, now his deputy campaign chair (ph). New charges filed against Paul Manafort could face decades in prison, he’s indicted 13 Russian nationals.

When you look at all of that, what does it tell you about where Mueller is now, where he’s going?

PREET BHAHARA, LEGAL ANALYST, ABC NEWS: It tells you that he’s relentless, it tells you that he’s thorough, it tells you that he takes very seriously any kind of crime that relates to obstruction, whether it’s lying or -- or anything else, and it tells you that given how much surprise there has been every time there’s been a charge or an indictment or a plea, sometimes with respect to people who have not been (ph) anyone’s radar screen.

And I’m talking about people who are paying close attention, there’s a lot we don’t know. So at any given moment, more can happen and we don’t quite know where it’s going to lead.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that’s the question, though, about Rick Gates. How much more information he can give. We -- we see from the deal he made, he plead guilty to two -- two counts to face five to seven years in prison, Dan Abrams, but according to Mueller’s own lawyers in the court room, that could go down to probation if he cooperates.

DAN ABRAMS, CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: That’s right, I think you (ph) have to view all of these as building blocks. Right, you have to view the indictment of the 13 Russians as building blocks. You have to view all of these plea deals as building blocks.

What do I mean by that? Meaning the reason that the government is making these deals, the reason that they are eliminating an enormous amount of counts against these various people, is because they believe they have something to offer them, something beyond what we already know.

And so when you think about the broad scope of the investigation, you have to be thinking about why did he make this deal with Flynn? What is Flynn offering them that can help them, and -- and Gates, and coming back to Gates, I think that the people who think this is just about Manafort are missing the point.

These -- the kinds of crimes that Manafort is charged with here, sort of banking crimes, tax evasion, these are document heavy crimes, meaning there’s a lot of evidence there. You don’t really need Gates to be able to prove the Manafort case.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re saying he had to give up someone else?

ABRAMS: I’m -- I’m saying could it help, yes. It’ll definitely help in the Manafort case, but I think for the government to want to make a deal with Gates, there has to be something more here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And how much more would Mueller already know at this point about what Gates is saying about whom?

BHAHARA: Well, presumably, if he’s reached a cooperation agreement, they should know absolutely everything.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Already everything?

BHAHARA: Yes, you don’t precede -- you don’t sign on a line which is dotted, as they say, unless you’ve heard everything, and they have to apply (ph) the credible (ph). I mean obviously there’s some point very recently, I think as recently as February 1st that -- that Gates was talking to prosecutors and FBI agents and they didn’t believe him, and that’s a basis for, you know, the -- the plea deal being delayed as far as I understand it.

But the -- the other thing, I totally agree with Dan on -- on one point at least, that the case against Manafort is very, very, very strong.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Already strong, we (inaudible).

BHAHARA: It’s not as esoteric, you know, theoretical kind of case, you paid your taxes or you didn’t. You know you have an account in a foreign country and disclosed it or you didn’t, so Paul Manafort is looking at, I think, a heap of trouble and it doesn’t help him at all even though maybe it’s not necessary and they would have proceeded against him.

I mean, they did proceed against him without having Gates on staff.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you’re a prosecutor, you know Robert Mueller pretty well, in your mind, what do you think Gates would have to give in order to get the kind of deal we’re talking about now?

BHAHARA: You know, I don’t know, I mean another thing that’s strange, at least from -- from -- from my experience as a prosecutor, we didn’t let cooperating witnesses off the hook.

You know, if we charged them with 40 counts and then they wanted to cooperate, we made them plead guilty to 40 counts if not more. Bob Mueller appears to be proceeding in the more traditional way that a lot of officers around the country proceed, which is they take some things off the table in exchange for testimony.

So I don’t know what quantum (ph) of evidence against other people he would need -- and it could be -- look, they want to be absolutely certain that they convict everybody that they charged. And if you really want to charge -- and I agree with what Dan said, they probably don’t need him to convict Manafort. But if it -- if it raises the percentage likelihood of convicting Manafort by four points, to get from, you know, 95 to 99, you sign up a guy like Gates.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Dan, take us inside -- this is -- this is hypothetical, but take us inside a meeting now between Paul Manafort and his lawyer. Good defense attorney seeing all these charges, seeing the new superseding indictments, what does he tell him?

ABRAMS: Good defense attorney who’s willing to be honest, right? I mean, you know, and that’s the critical point here. Is if you’ve got an attorney who’s going to be honest with him about where things stand, he’s, as Preet said, facing a heap of trouble. I mean, because of the types of crimes you’re talking about here.

I mean, very often in the law we talk about intent. They’re going to have to prove intent. Here, you’ve got the records, you’ve got the document. So I think if his lawyer is fair and smart and sober will be saying we’re in real trouble here. This is a -- this is a real problem for us. Now, does that mean that Paul Manafort ought to or will cooperate? No. But if his lawyer’s going to be giving him good advice, he’s got to be telling him this is serious, this is real, we’re not just going to be able to defend this easily, this is going to be a very, very tough case.

STEPHPANOPOULOS: And presumably a deal is something that Robert Mueller would still be open to?

BHAHARA: With Manafort? Yes. I mean, look, I think -- I don’t see how Manafort goes to trial credibly based on what I see in the indictment and the straightforwardness of the charges. And so if Manafort has something to give up, it can happen on the eve of trial, even. I just don’t see how he defends these charges well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ll be watching. Thank you both very much. When we come back, two governors working across the aisle. Will they join forces in 2020? Republican John Kasich, Democrat John Hickenlooper are up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: We have not seen much cooperation across party lines lately, but two prominent governors are trying to change that. Republican John Kasich from Ohio, democrat John Hickenlooper from Colorado, two term governors crisscrossing the country to talk about the policies they share, leading some to speculate that they could form a unity ticket in 2020.

That came up when John Karl spoke to them on Friday, he began with their reflections on the school shooting in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HICKENLOOPER: We’re at the point where we’re allowing ourselves to be terrorized by ourselves, right, and that this -- if you wanted to weaken this country, what better way to do it than to make children afraid to go to school?

And you look at -- it’s not just schools, it’s churches, it’s listening to a country music concert, it’s all the places that we create community are now being threatened by our inability to -- to deal with this.

KASICH: What I’ve asked people to do is you’ve got to search your heart on this, this is not about who’s got political power, this is not about campaign contributions, this is about how you want to look in the mirror and think about what you’d do when you were in.

Nobody wants to take everybody’s guns away, nobody wants to repeal the second amendment, oh a few people, but this is about reasonable approaches to keep our community safe.

KARL: So I hear a lot of bipartisan agreement from you guys, you (ph) hear this often whenever the two of you get together, what -- what -- but what I want to ask you something that you probably don’t agree on, what’s going to happen in the mid term elections?

HICKENLOOPER: I’ll certainly work to elect Democrats. I -- you know, I expect the midterm elections to be a -- a reflection largely of the Trump presidency and we’ll see how that pans out. But I think the midterms -- I mean that’s an election moment, right, that’s going to me a -- kind of a referendum on -- on the success of the administration.

KASICH: I want to support candidates who I believe want to take the high road, those that want to crow, create discord and those that want to put the party in front of the country, I’m not showing up. I will tell yo0u another thing. We may be beginning to see the end of the two party system. I’m starting to really wonder if we’re going to see a multi-party system at some point in the future in this country.

Because I don’t think either party is answering people’s deepest concerns and needs.

KARL: I want to quote back something that you said about your party. You said -- about Donald Trump -- that “I simply could not swallow hard and set aside everything I believed for the good of the party”. And you decided, obviously, not to support him.

KASICH: Well the party is my vehicle, not my master. And --

KARL: Is that what too many Republicans are doing right now, is they’re just swallowing hard?

KASICH: I -- I can’t -- look, I’m not going to start criticizing others. Here’s the thing that’s interesting. You know, people want me to criticize my party. Let me tell you about Democrats. I have no clue what they stand for. And we are heading into a midterm election where they are counting on the Republicans bouncing the basketball off of their foot out of bounds. And they’re going to have a decent 2018, a good year.

But how could you have a national political party that has no agenda? They -- just no agenda. And Democrats will tell you that.

KARL: Well what’s the -- what’s the agenda on the Republican side?

KASICH: Listen (ph) --

KARL: I mean --

KASICH: -- I -- I -- right now, both parties don’t seem capable of having --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: -- that’s exactly why I’m saying that our young people are fed up and why I’m saying that the prospect of a multi-party system in this country is a real possibility.

KARL: Both of you guys are going to be out of office in -- in a bout 11 months. Are you going to run for president?

HICKENLOOPER: You know, the moment I start talking about this -- and I say it all the time -- I’ve got an amazing cabinet working on a Swiss version --

KARL: So is that a maybe?

HICKENLOOPER: So -- so we’re going to focus on -- on finishing strong and we’ve got a lot to do. So what I’m doing is I haven’t formed a PAC, I don’t have committees all over the country, I’m not --

KARL: So it’s -- it’s not a yes but it’s not a no, it’s a maybe?

HICKENLOOPER: Exactly.

KARL: And same way to you? (ph)

KASICH: Running for president?

KARL: President. (ph)

KASICH: Of the Lion’s Club? (ph)

KARL: Of the United States of America.

KASICH: John, I have no idea what I’m going to do when I -- you know what? Going to (ph) tell you where I leave this. (ph) I’d like to have a voice, I’d like to be constructive, I’d -- I like it (ph) to rally people. But frankly, in the end -- at the end of the day, it’s in the hands of the lord as to what my future is. Don’t cut me off when I’m saying it. (ph)

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: -- listen, it’s in the hands of the lord. I don’t know what he wants me to do.

KARL: You’ve ruled out running as a ticket, as a fugitive. (ph)

KASICH: Wait. (ph)

KARL: That’s not going to happen --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: -- if he gets the nomination as a Democrat, I could maybe be his vice president as a Republican.

KARL: We’ve moved (ph) some ground here.

KASICH: Oh, I didn’t mean it.

KARL: That’s all right.

HICKENLOOPER: No, I’m telling you. (ph)

KARL: Could you -- could you ever support Presidential Candidate Hickenlooper running as a Democrat?

KASICH: Is he the nominee?

KARL: If he’s (ph) the nominee of the Democratic Party.

KASICH: Look, I’m a Republican, OK? And I like -- I like John very, very much. I think he’s a --

HICKENLOOPER: Aww.

KASICH: No, I think he’s a fine leader. I can’t predict what the future’s going to look like but I’m a Republican.

KARL: So you’re a maybe on running for president. Is it --

KASICH: What do you mean I’m a maybe? I don’t have any -- I didn’t say that, I said I don’t know what I’m going to do.

KARL: Well that sounds it’s not a no, it’s not a yes, it’s a maybe.

KASICH: OK, well all right, I’ll give you a maybe.

KARL: OK, give me a maybe. So are you more likely to run as an Independent or as a Republican?

KASICH: I’m a Republican.

KARL: But -- but -- but you don’t rule out challenging Donald Trump --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: No, I -- I’m not -- I don’t have any intention -- I’m not even thinking about it. I -- I don’t have --

KARL: You got to think about it a little.

KASICH: No, I don’t. I don’t think about it. You know what? Because I can’t predict the future and I can’t do what is going to be expected of me at some level to serve my country. I don’t know what that means. I’m sorry. I just don’t know. And do I sit around at night thinking I want to go through running for president again? You ever try? Go try it once, give me a call. See how much fun it is. We’ll see what the future brings?

KARL: What would it take for you to do it?

KASICH: I’m not speculating now. We’re done with this. I’m not going any farther.

KARL: All right. All right. On that note, thank you very much. Governor Hickenlooper, Governor Kasich, thank you.

HICKENLOOPER: Yes. (ph)

KASICH: All right, Jon. Thank you. (ph)

KARL: Appreciate it.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: I cannot predict the future either, but that is not the last we’ve seen of them. Jon Karl joins the round table when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: By the way (ph) what a nice picture that is, look at that, I’d love to watch that guy speak. Oh boy, (inaudible).

(APPLAUSE)

Oh, I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks, I work hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump having some fun with himself at CPAC this week, light moment in a tough week. Let’s talk about it on our round table joined by our chief White House correspondent, he’s back, John Karl, Julie Pace, Washington Bureau Chief of the Associated Press, Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos, author of the new book Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era, congratulations. Also Lanhee Chen, the former policy director for the Romney Ryan campaign, now a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, and our own Cokie Roberts.

Let’s talk about the gun debate to begin. I started out the beginning of the program John saying is it different this time, I was struck by Dana Loesch suggesting that President Trump -- we may not know where he’s going on this debate. She’s probably right.

KARL: And that’s the thing that’s different, I mean, we’ve had outrage after these shootings, we’ve had victims who were very eloquent, look what happened after Newtown, and now we have these students, clearly a lot of momentum there.

But we’ve had that before, what we haven’t had is a president that nobody has any idea what they’re going to do. And I will tell you George, that the president has been telling his people, his staff, that he is serious about raising the age for -- for rifle purchases to 21, he is talking about universal background checks, those are two things that the NRA is dead set against.

The question is will he actually stick to that when they -- when they go forward. I think there are reasons to doubt that, he has hinted he would do something in the past and not done it, but right now he is talking about things that the NRA is dead set against.

COKIE ROBERTS, ABC, NEWS: But the fact that he is not reliable on it means that republicans in Congress can’t figure out where to go because they sit there and say well if I do this, if I take this stand against the NRA, do -- does the president have my back?

And they don’t know the answer to that question, but I think the other big difference now is not only these fabulously articulate kids, but the fact that a lot of businesses are cutting their relationships with the NRA.

First of all, who knew they all have these relationships with the NRA? I (inaudible) it sort of made me want to become a member, you know, if you get all these discounts, but --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well and the big ones that would matter there would be if the banks actually get serious about what they do with (ph) big manufactures. We have not heard much from the republican leaders in Congress.

JULIE PACE, CHIEF OF BUREAU, ASSOCIATED PRESS: We haven’t, and -- and that has been really striking over this past week, Congress was out of session, so we didn’t have republicans that were on Capital Hill.

This, I think, is going to be a really important week. They’re going to be back in Washington, they’re going to be asked about all of these proposals that the president has been floating, and Cokie is right, you -- the Republican Party is really nervous anytime Trump gets involved in an issue, because he changes his mind so frequently.

They do not want to be in a position where they end up backing something that would put them at odds with the NRA, potentially some of them putting them at odds with some of their constituents, and then send something to the president and he backs off of it, right, they’re in constant fear of that.

JORGE RAMOS, ANCHOR, UNIVISION: There -- there seems to be a disconnect between the kids that we are seeing, I mean I -- I spoke with some of them this week.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, you live in Florida.

RAMOS: Exaclty, I’ve -- I’ve been talking to them, and the sense of urgency that they have, we don’t -- I don’t see it in the political class (ph). So there’s a huge disconnect between what they want and what -- what the people want.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it does appear that your governor has made a bit of a move, right, by calling for raising the (inaudible).

RAMOS: Not -- but not necessarily, I mean it is -- it’s the same talk that we’ve been having for the last 20 years. The -- the problem is incredibly clear, we live in a country where there are more guns than people according to the Washington Post, that is (ph) it was estimated three years ago, and we have done nothing about it.

The sense of urgency that’s in the kids, I don’t see that translating to the political (ph).

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there a danger for the Republican Party in holding the line completely with the NRA in this issue or no?

LANHEE CHEN, RESEARCH FELLOW, STANFORD HOOVER INSTITUION: Oh, I think there is, and I think they’re beginning to see how antennal (ph) that’s going to be. I think the danger we run into, George, is that we’re going to engage in policy change for the sake of policy change rather than really evaluating what is actually going to get to the heart of the problem here.

I agree with we’ve got to do more on background checks, we have to do more on -- on questions about the kinds of weapons that are allowed, who can purchase them at what age, those are all great questions to ask, but fundamentally what I’m worried about is we engage in this practice of basically doing something to act out rather than really addressing the problem.

So, fundamentally, and I don't know that our political system is capable, by the way, of getting to an actual solution.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That may be true, but in recent years, Cokie, what we have seen is actually not doing something, just waiting this out.

ROBERTS: But I think Jorge is right, that the kids are so angry, and they don't want to hear, I co-sponsored a bill or, you know, political gobbledy speak (ph). And I think that that's where the political energy is going to be.

So, even if the policy doesn't change, I think it affects the politics. And you have two factors of energy this year, this one now and the women. And the two of them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They go together.

ROBERTS: And they go together, absolutely. Moms and I think that -- that that's going the change the political calculation.

KARL: I have been covering these debates since before Columbine -- the Paducah and Pearl shootings. And what we have since then, two decades, a weakening of gun laws, steady weakening -- the strengthening of the NRA.

And by the way, it's the Democrats, too. 2013, four months after what happened at Sandy Hook, an assault weapons ban came up, 15 Democrats in the Senate voted no, it got only 40 overall votes.

So, the question is, is this different? What I can tell you is that talking to Republicans in congress, there is absolutely no sense of urgency on this. They think that this can be waited out. This -- if it's going to happen, it only happens if the president makes it happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we do not know if he's going to do that.

Julie, meantime, the president, in some ways this has overwhelmed some other problems the White House was facing in recent days. You had the whole problem with the background -- the intelligence clearances in the wake of the Rob Porter episode. I was struck by President Trump on Friday basically saying that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is going to have to abide by the policy. It's up to chief of staff John Kelly to decide, kind of putting a bull's eye on the back of Jared Kushner.

PACE: And the reason that that comment was so fascinating is actually the president would be the one person who could take action unilaterally on his own to fix this problem for Kushner, to give him the clearance necessary, even if he can't go through this formal system. And he's saying he's not going to do that.

It was an open question when we all left on Friday about what was going to happen to Kushner. His lawyer, who had been out there saying, there's no problem here. He's going to be able to do his job, went silent.

There are a lot of dynamics at play in the White House right now. Kushner and Kelly, a bit at odds, over this. Kelly trying to reassert himself after a lot of the missteps around Rob Porter's situation. A lot of it flies under the radar, but you can't really I think overstate how much chaos, confusion, drama this is fueling inside the....

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you guys have been reporting on this as well.

KARL: When you ask the White House directly, has the clearance been stripped for Jared Kushner, you don't get a direct answer. But what they say is that the memo from Kelly saying that nobody with temporary clearance still has access to top secret information, that applies to everyone. That includes Jared Kushner.

Also, what I'm hearing is the president has expressed irritation about this, not with Kelly, but with Jared Kushner, the fact that Jared's problems are becoming his problem.

ROBERTS: And that's true with the investigation as well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's what I was just going to say. This is all against the backdrop of this Mueller investigation, clearly intensifying, clearly not ending any time soon. And we don't know who else might be in his crosshairs.

RAMOS: And I think the most important thing that we have to remember is that, out of all these memos, I think has to do only with politics. At the end, matters is what the Mueller investigation is going to say. And at the end, I think is goes to the core of the insecurities of Donald Trump. Was he elected in a way that was not fair.

We know that Russians interfere. Now, was Donald Trump's campaign involved? That's the final question. The rest is just politics.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Lanhee, Jorge mentioned this memo. We now have this Democratic memo about -- rebutting the idea that there was any impropriety in the FISA clearance process, the FISA surveillance process for Carter Page. I tend to agree with Jorge that what is happening in congress now is a sideshow, this is about Mueller. Again, is there any vulnerability for Republicans in sort of taking Trump -- taking up Trump's fight here?

CHEN: Well, I don't know that they have a choice. I think that is part of the problem. I mean, as we go into the mid-term election year, we've heard this over and over again, this is all about where the president stands. And Republicans in congress know that. So, even if Republicans in congress, who are up for election this year decided, look, I don't want to be associated with the president, they're not going to have a choice. They're going to have to take up this fight. This is their fight, whether they like it or not.

And so these two memos -- look, political documents, I think we can all agree, they raise some concerns about the FISA process, yes. But fundamentally, they don't really have a link, necessarily, directly to what will happen with respect to the Trump, Russia investigation.

KARL: But Republicans don't have to pick up the fight on Russia.

ROBERTS: What they should do is pick up the fight against Russia, and just leave Trump out of it, so that they can say, look, the Kremlin interfered in our democratic process. And we spent the last half of the last century fighting that.

CHEN: I mean, that would be an easy fight, certainly. I mean, Russia is not exactly...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: A friendly nation.

CHEN: Right. And it's not like anyone is going to stick up for Russia. And I think that's part of the problem here.

But I think the challenge is, how deeply can they wade into the issue before they get backlash from the White House.

PACE: You are seeing a difference, though, between the House investigation and the Senate investigation. The House investigation has been very overtly political from both the Democrats and the Republicans. On the Senate side, Richard Burr who runs the Senate intelligence committee, trying to be a bit above politics. He actually does have a good relationship with Mark Warner who is the Democrat, who heads that committee. If there is going to be any credible report that comes out of congress, and that is still an open questions, it is not going to come from the House.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: That was true with the Iran-Contra investigation, where the House was very partisan and the Senate was not; it was even true with Watergate. So, you know, you do sort look to the Senate to be more sober-sighted in these kinds of situations.

But the House intelligence committee getting into the kind of partisanship that they have gotten into really is unique.

KARL: Those two memos read like campaign documents.

ROBERTS: And we've never seen that.

KARL: And this is the select committee on intelligence, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. The idea is this is the one committee that is not overtly partisan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Three weeks ago, we were all talking about immigration, DACA,the Dreamers, what's going to happen with all of them. It's completely disappeared, Jorge. But we did learn that this week, that President Trump, had quite a confrontation with the Mexican president over his border wall.

RAMOS: Very easy, because the wall is Trump's new toy. He wants the toy for Christmas. And he's not going to get it. Mexico is not going to pay pesos for that wall. Simply, it's not going to happen.

I think we have to remember...

CHEN: Congress might not either.

RAMOS: Exactly.

So, $25 billion for that wall for what? It's a useless wall. Because, 45 percent of immigrants come with a visa or by plane. And that's not going to change absolutely anything.

Trump had the opportunity to get a little bit of that wall, maybe 300 miles for DACA. And I wonder if this week he's going to do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's coming back. This next deadline, March 5 for the Dreamer's ability to stay in the country.

KARL: And the president is making it clear that he's not ready too move on this. And it's amazing -- I was in that cabinet room when he said to the Democrats and Republicans, you all come up with a solution on DACA, even if I don't like it, I will sign it. And it went down in the senate. The only one that had a prayer of passing, it went down because the president threatened a veto and lobbied against it.

CHEN: What this points back to is whether it's the gun issue or DACA, immigration, President Trump is in a unique position. If he wanted to lead on this and say, look, we're going to do a trade. We're going to do a little bit of the wall, as you were saying, in return for DACA.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He'd get that through the senate.

ROBERTS: He'd get that. He'd totally get that.

CHEN: But the president is the only who can take the leadership mantle on that. He cannot punt this to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, because what happens is the Republicans have no cover. They're unwilling to do it. And nothing gets done.

RAMOS: And the president who killed DACA is Donald Trump.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is going to have to be the last word today. Thank you all very much.

Before we go, though, a big welcome to our newest viewer, Eva Indigo Chan, born this week to our producer Joy Lin (ph) and her husband Trevor.

There she is with big sister Sky (ph) with a big smile on her face.

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.

END

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