A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, Jan. 27, 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.
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: I have been falsely accused of making false statements.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Roger Stone arrested, charged with obstruction, witness tampering, false statements to congress.
STONE: I will plead not guilty to these charges. I will defeat them in court.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Steadfast for the president.
STONE: I will not testify against the president.
Stone joins us in a Sunday exclusive. And well from the chairman of the committee Stone is accused of deceiving. Congressman Adam Schiff responds live.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have reached a deal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president agrees to open the government without funding for the wall.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: Have I not been clear on a wall? No, I have been very clear on the wall.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Defiant in retreat.
TRUMP: We're going to work with the Democrats. And if we can't do that, obviously we're going to do the emergency.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can Trump follow through on that threat? Coming back from a 35-day stalemate that drove his poll numbers to historic lows. What does it say about where power stands in this new Washington? The latest insight and analysis from our Powerhouse 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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to This Week.
Think about what Friday must have felt like for President Trump. You wake up to the news that your longest serving political adviser has been indicted by Robert Mueller. By mid-morning, air traffic up and down the east coast is grinding to a halt from the government shutdown.
Then come new polls showing your approval rating at record lows and Republican Senators are telling you they are going to jump ship if you don't end the shutdown.
Add it all up, and Trump really had no choice. He had to do what he promised he would never do, back down at least for now on that border wall.
We'll analyze all the fallout on our roundtable, but we begin with that blockbuster indictmentof Roger Stone.
And that's not all, Mueller has also uncovered a wealth of contacts between Russians and Trump associates during the campaign and transition. Look at this headline from The New York Times detailing more than 100 contacts despite repeated and adamant denials from Trump's team of any contacts at all.
But here's what Mueller has not revealed, any direct charge that President Trump or anyone on his team conspired with Russians to interfere in our elections, hence the president's mantra, no collusion.
The big question now, is that how Mueller's investigation will end? With overwhelming evidence that Trump's team tried to cover up contacts with Russia, but no prosecutions for conspiring with Russia? Is this the end of the beginning for Mueller or the beginning of the end?
What happens with Roger Stone a big piece of that puzzle. He starts us off this morning. Roger, thanks for joining us this morning. We appreciate you being here. But I have to say, and you know this, is pretty unusual strategy, most people indicted go underground until the official proceedings. What do you hope to gain with interviews like this?
STONE: Well, I must tell you, George. I think the way I was treated on Thursday is extraordinary. I think the American people need to hear about it.
I'm 66 years old. I don't own a firearm. I have no prior criminal record. My passport has expired. The special counsel's office is well aware of the fact that I'm represented. The idea that a 29-member SWAT team in full tactical gear with assault weapons would surround my house, 17 vehicles in my front yard, including two armored vehicles, a helicopter overhead, amphibious vehicles in the back where my house backs onto a canal and I would open the door looking down the barrel of assault weapons, that I would be frog marched out front barefooted and handcuffed when they simply could have...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roger, let me just -- but as you know it's pretty standard for thatto happen. They work in...
STONE: No, it's not, not standard at all.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s what our Justice Department people say, they says they were concerned you were a flight risk, they were concerned you might tamper with evidence, they were concerned you might destroy evidence, so they did that. And even you, by your own testimony, by your own admission said that the FBI agents were courteous. So let's get on --
STONE: No, no, let me address that if I may. First of all, I was released on a surety bond on my own signature, which is evidence that I was not a flight risk. And secondarily, I’ve been under investigation for two years. I have destroyed nothing. But if I were going to destroy evidence, wouldn’t I have done it a long time ago? They could have simply have called my lawyers and I would have turned myself in.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s a question I was going to --
STONE: This was an expensive show of force to try to depict me as public enemy number one, the OG to attempt to poison the jury pool.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s -- let’s get --
STONE: It’s -- these are Gestapo tactics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get right to what may be the most explosive paragraph in the indictment, right there on page four. Mueller and his team write, after the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC e-mails by organization one -- that's Wikileaks -- a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information organization one had regarding the Clinton campaign. Stone thereafter told the Trump campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by organization one. Stone also corresponded with associates about contacting organization one in order to obtain additional e-mails damaging to the Clinton campaign.
You said you believe that that senior official was Rick Gates, the deputy campaign chair?
STONE: Yes, who I believe is seeking a reduction in his sentence. Later on there’s a reference to an exchange between Steve Bannon in which he asks me about a public event, Julian Assange's press event on October 7 and I respond with two matters that have already been published by Politico and The Guardian, completely public information. One, that there are security concerns by Assange in the embassy in Ecuador and secondarily, as Politico reported, that there would be weekly dumps of information every week for ten weeks with all U.S.-related information -- election related information released in the weeks before the election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So Rick Gates did --
STONE: None of that proprietary or secret.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So Rick Gates, though, did contact you about getting information?
STONE: This is -- that is -- that speculation on my part. In all honesty, I have no e-mails --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you would know if you spoke with him.
STONE: -- I have no e-mails, I have no text message that reflects -- I never spoke about this matter with Rick Gates. But I’m -- I’m mindful of the special counsel's ability to induce people to say things that are not true, particularly people who are seeking a reduction in their sentence or people who have an axe to grind. I urged the president to fire Steve Bannon. That piece which I wrote for the Daily Caller showed up on Drudge and therefore it had a major impact. I suspect that I’m not his favorite person. But notice I am not charged with conspiracy or with having --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I said --
STONE: -- advanced knowledge of the --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I said that at the top.
STONE: -- content or the -- or substance of the Wikileaks disclosure.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you know who directed Rick Gates to contact you?
STONE: I don't know that anybody did. I guess we'll find out at trial. But to have -- to have Wolf Blitzer on CNN or Preet Bharara, a man accused of a federal judge of willfully leaking a grand jury testimony to the media, speculate that that was Donald Trump. That is baseless, irresponsible speculation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let me --
STONE: I never discussed this matter with -- with candidate Trump or President Trump, as I told you previously --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, you said that to me --
STONE: -- George. And that remains the case.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, you said that to me in the past, you never discussed Wikileaks or Julian Assange with President Trump, but have you ever had any conversations with the president during the campaign or since the campaign about Russia or the Mueller investigation?
STONE: None whatsoever.
STONE: Zero. Zero.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the president seemed to be distancing himself from you in a tweet last night. He wrote, Roger Stone didn't even work for me anywhere near the election. Does that concern you?
STONE: No, not really. I mean, when Sarah Sanders says this has nothing to do with the president, she is correct. I never discussed these matters with the president and everything that I did regarding trying to get as much public attention to the Wikileaks disclosures among voters, among the media is -- is constitutionally protected free speech. That's what I engaged in. It's called politics and they haven’t criminalized it, at least not yet.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, it’s -- you say it's constitutionally protected free speech, but we now know from U.S. intelligence and Robert Mueller that Russia was behind that hack of the DNC e-mails --
STONE: No, we -- no, we have -- we have an allegation that is yet unproved in any U.S. court of law. It is an allegation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but we have --
STONE: These are the same people -- the same people who said --
STEPHANOPOULOS: The unanimous recommendation -- excuse me, the unanimous conclusion of -- of -- of U.S. intelligence agencies. So given that, do you regret the role you played --
STONE: The intelligence agencies are politicized, as we know. They also told us Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don't regret your role in disseminating those e-mails.
STONE: I didn't disseminate any e-mails. That would be a mischaracterization of what I did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Cheering them on?
STONE: All I did was publicize the fact -- I didn’t -- I think that they were devastating and the entire question of where they came from and how they were published is meant to distract from the content of those e-mails which demonstrated the corruption and the dirty tricks of the Clinton campaign.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well most – I mean, you know, the U.S. intelligence agencies actually completely disagree. They say what was important here is that Russia was interfering in our election, and then by helping that cause, aren’t you aiding and abetting an adversary of the United States?
STONE: First of all, I challenge that characterization, it is unproven, it is acclaim. I tried to do the same thing that – that Daniel Ellsberg did, for which the New York Times and the Washington Post called him a hero, although I never received any stolen or hacked material and handed it to anyone.
All I did was take publicly available information and try to hype it to get it as much attention as possible, because I had a tip, the information was politically significant and that it would come in October.
STEPHANOPOULOS: On Friday you were arrested, but they – Mueller’s team also in the FBI executed search warrants of your home in Florida and up in New York City as well. So you have any idea what they were after and are you worried about what they will find?
STONE: No, not in the slightest. I am concerned that hey took a number of privilege communications between my and my – me and my attorneys. But in all honestly, I have been under surveillance for two years, my e-mail, my text messages, my phone calls have been fully reviewed, we know that because they’ve asked people who are associated with me about specific items before the grand jury.
The New York Times reported on January 20th, 2017 that I was among three Trump aides under surveillance in 2016. We hope to learn more about that in discovery. The Times will not retract that story, they still stand by it, I believe it to be true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you –
STONE: So there is nothing to find. I do have a million e-mails, they have been reported, many of them taken out of context in this indictment, but there is nothing to find. Again, I think it is – it is designed to intimidate me or perhaps seek personal information that could be used to embarrass me, but has nothing to do with WikiLeaks, Russia, the 2016 campaign or anything else.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And just to be clear, have you destroyed or discarded any communications devices, wiped any hard drives clean since the campaign?
STONE: Categorically not, my lawyers have been insistent on this, we very early had a request from both the Senate and the House, we have destroyed nothing whatsoever.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say you won’t bare false witness against President Trump, are you prepared to tell the truth about your dealings with him to the Special Counsel, the truth about your dealings with the campaign, any chance you’ll cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller if he asks?
STONE: You know, that’s a question I would have to – I have to determine after my attorneys have some discussion. If there’s wrongdoing by other people in the campaign that I know about, which I know of none, but if there is I would certainly testify honestly.
I’d also testify honestly about any other matter, including any communications with the president. It’s true that we spoke on the phone, but those communications are political in nature, they’re benign, and there is – there is certainly no conspiracy with Russia.
The president’s right, there is no Russia collusion. I –
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he’s never suggested to you in any way, shape or form that he might offer you a pardon?
STONE: Absolutely, positively not. I have never discussed a pardon. The only person that I advocated a pardon for, as we discussed previously, is a posthumous pardon for Marcus Garvey.
And I have written the president as to why I think that should be done.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Prosecutors have looked at this case saying you might need a pardon because they say it’s a slam dunk case, including Chris Christie who’s coming up on the program later.
You know, you denied having any documents or text messages discussing WikiLeaks or Assange, but the prosecutors in the indictment lay out several e-mails, dozens of text messages.
STONE: You know, you’re right, I did forget on some occasions that I had text messages and e-mails that are entirely exculpatory and prove that everything I said before the House Intelligence Committee was true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me – let me stop you right there, you say you – you say you forgot, on the day you testified you didn’t have any exchanges with the brand – with Mr. Credico, you had 30 exchanges, 30 text exchanges with Randy Credico on the day you said you didn’t remember it.
STONE: Mr. Credico, a man who threatened to put a bullet in the head of one of Mueller’s witnesses before the grand jury but it not charged with witness tampering or intimidation, a man who lied to the grand jury about being my source regarding the significance of the WikiLeaks disclosures, a man who threatened me in writing to have a woman falsely accuse me of sexual assault.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but the text messages have nothing to do with anything else having to do with him, the text messages are the text messages, they’re documents.
STONE: I will prove in court that any failure of memory on my part was without intent an would be in material. I am human, but – and I did make some errors, but they’re errors that would inconsequential within the scope of this investigation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re also accused of tampering with Mr. Credico. I want to show some of the exchanges you had with him on multiple occasions, this is from the indictment, on multiple occasions, including on or about December 1st, 2017, Stone told person two Credico that person two should do a Frank Pentangeli for HPSCI in order to avoid contradicting Stone’s testimony.
Of course Frank Pentangeli, a character in the film "The Godfather Part II" which both Stone and Credico had discussed, who testifies before a congressional committee and in that testimony claims to not to know critical information that he does in fact know.
So you were telling him not to tell the truth.
STONE: No not at all, if you saw the actual exchange. First of all, Mr. Credico is an impressionist. He does Humphrey Bogart. He does Jack Nicholson. He does Richard Nixon. He does Bill Clinton. The exchange we talked about is Roger Stone this, Roger Stone that. Roger Stone was in the olive oil business with my father but that was a long time ago. It -- it is -- it is -- has to be seen in context. It is a humorous exchange.
So they’re taking things out of context, present them in a light that it mischaracterized their significance. I never told Mr. Credico to lie. I did -- at one point when he said my liberal friends will be very upset, my progressive friends will be upset if they believe I was helping you because they would think I was helping Trump -- it was only in that context that the Fifth Amendment protections were discussed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question. You’re in good shape but you’re not a young man, 66-years-old. Are you prepared to spend the last, best years of your life in jail?
STONE: In view of the fact that I expect to be acquitted and vindicated, and that my attorneys -- including Bruce Rogow, one of the very best attorneys in the country, Grant Smith, Rob Buschel and Tara Campion -- believe that this indictment is thin as piss on a rock, so I’m prepared to fight for my life. I have to go to the public at stonedefensefund.com to ask for their support.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roger Stone, thanks for joining us this morning.
STONE: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We are now joined by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. Congressman, thank you for joining us this morning. You just heard Roger Stone right there. I’m -- I’m not going to repeat exactly what he said, "Thin as," well, I guess I’ll repeat it, "Thin as piss on a rock." That’s what he says the indictment is. You -- your response?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-CALIFORNIA: Look, he’s presumed innocent. But these are very specific allegations of lies and witness intimidation. They’re matters that will be easily provable. These are not ambiguous statements, they’re very detailed. And I think he’s going to need a much better defense than the one you just heard.
But look, I -- I prosecuted a number of white-collar cases when I was assistant U.S. attorney. White-collar defendants always make a -- some variation of the same argument. And that is I have a perfectly innocent explanation for this fact, and as for this other fact I can come with an innocent explanation for that, and likewise for all these other facts but, whatever you do, don’t look at their totality.
But when you look at the totality of what’s going on here and you look at the chronology, we know that the Russians told the Trump campaign as early as April of 2016 that they had the stolen e-mails. We know we know that they offered dirt to the president’s son, Don Jr., and he said he would love to have the -- the Russian government help with that. And then we know that some person directed a senior campaign official to reach out to Roger Stone to find out what WikiLeaks had gotten from the Russians. And then, of course, you have the president publicly calling for the Russians to help with those stolen e-mails.
And all of this taking place while Donald Trump is pursuing what would probably be the most lucrative deal of his entire life, and one that requires Kremlin approval, this Moscow Trump Tower. And then, of course, all of the above lying about all of the above; 100 contacts but probably 1,000 lies.
SCHIFF: And it’s that bigger, broader picture that Mueller’s looking into.
STEPHANOPOULOS: … You -- you laid out the bigger, broader picture. But as we said, so far Robert Mueller’s -- he’s not charged anyone with directly conspiring with the Russians. Based on everything you’ve just laid out, that charge still isn’t there, is it?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, Bob Mueller has the advantage of a lot of evidence that we don’t. We were really circumscribed at what we could look at. For example, we wanted to try to compel some of the witnesses that Mr. Stone alluded to, to come in and testify. We wanted to try to test what Don Jr. and others were telling us. We wanted to get phone records.
We couldn’t do that but Bob Mueller has been able to do that. And I would expect, George, that if there is a conspiracy to defraud the United States, a collusion indictment, it would be the last indictment that Bob Mueller would seek, not the first. So we’ll have to wait to see what evidence he produces.
But you certainly do have to ask the question over and over again, if there were innocent explanations for all of this, why all the lies? Why all the repeated efforts to get Russian help? And of course, you have this symmetry of interests here, where Donald Trump wants help from the Russians with his campaign, he wants help from the Russians to build this lucrative Moscow Tower, and the Russians want help from Donald Trump -- they want sanctions relief -- and all of this is going on at the same time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your -- your -- your colleague on the committee, Jackie Speier -- Congresswoman Jackie Speier, told CNN that she believes that Don Jr. -- Donald Trump Jr. lied to your committee on at least two occasions. Do you agree?
SCHIFF: Well, I’d like the special counsel to have access to Don Jr.’s testimony and determine whether it is evidence of -- of false statements. I -- I think and I greatly appreciate the seriousness with which the special counsel takes lying to Congress. So I’ll let Bob Mueller be the judge of that.
But one of the first acts, if not the first act, of our committee will be to send all of these transcripts of all the witnesses to Bob Mueller so that he can consider whether additional perjury charges are warranted.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So are you confident that Robert Mueller and this team have not yet seen any of those transcripts?
SCHIFF: No, I believe the special counsel has had access to the transcripts but not for the purpose of use in a perjury prosecution. So that’s what we want to make sure that the special counsel has access to these transcripts and can use them for whatever purpose including perjury prosecution or witness intimidation or obstruction of justice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned that conspiracy to defraud the United States would be – likely be the last indictment that Robert Mueller would issue. There’s been some speculation out there that he – that Roger Stone may have been the last indictment for Robert Mueller, that he doesn’t have enough evidence to charge anyone in Trump’s orbit for conspiring with Russia. If Robert Mueller concludes there was a coverup, there was a lot of lying, as you just said, but no direct conspiracy, what is the appropriate next step?
Should he just tell the attorney general "no more criminal – we’ve concluded there is no more – nothing else we can prosecute, that’s it, end of story?" Or does the public need to know more?
SCHIFF: Well, first of all, I think it’s clear that Mueller’s work is not yet done. And we can see clues of that in the grand jury activity and the fact that with the Supreme Court case of this mystery state-owned firm reaching resolution that there are additional documents that Bob Mueller wants to get. So I think there’s more work that he has to do. But when he is finished, finished returning or seeking indictments, then he makes, I hope, an extensive report to the attorney general. And that report is going to have to be made public.
And I think there is significant agreement among Democrats and Republicans, even if there isn’t among the nominee for attorney general, that that is too big to be buried. And we’re going to use every device and compulsion we can to make sure that it’s made public. I have to tell you, George, over the last two years, as the Justice Department has been providing thousands and thousands of documents – tens of thousands of documents in the Clinton e-mail investigation to the Congress, acting on a subpoena – or many subpoenas, I have made it clear to them that they’re not going to be in a position once the Mueller investigation’s concluded, to say "No, Congress, we’re not going to share with you any of the evidence that’s produced …"
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me – let me just – that chairman – let me press you on – on that point, though, because when James Comey came forward after declining to prosecute Hillary Clinton, Democrats and others were quite critical of him for having that press conference for laying out his reasoning in public. Why shouldn’t that same standard apply to Robert Mueller?
SCHIFF: You know, this is the point that I was raising the Justice Department, which is, when the Justice Department started sending FBI interview reports or 302s, and then started to send text messages and other documents to the Congress by the thousands, that was in contradiction of the Department of Justice policy. And I warned them as they were doing it that they were violating their own policy, but they were setting a precedent that they were going to have to live by.
It simply wouldn’t be acceptable for the country that they would provide discovery in one investigation but not the other and that’s the position they put themselves in. But at the end of the day, the most important discovery is that report. But given that it’s not guaranteed and it may be that Bill Barr fights the release of that, we have to continue our own investigations in Congress.
Because one way or another, we are determined the public is going to know exactly what Donald Trump did, what his family did, what his campaign did, what the Russians did, and what we need to do to protect the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question, the president is insisting that after this three-week period the government is reopened, that he is going to demand the wall again, perhaps declare an emergency if Congress doesn’t provide it. Are you prepared to support any wall funding as part of a broader compromise?
SCHIFF: I don’t support any wall funding but I do support border security. And you know, the important thing, I think, to remember here is, Democrats and Republicans can not only reach an agreement on border security, we already have multiple times. In fact, we agreed on conference reports that would set out the funding for border security, we sent multiple bills through each chamber with bipartisan support. The only thing that got in the way was the president was frightened off by Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.
And while we will negotiate amongst each other and with the White House, we’re not about to negotiate with these conservative pundits. And therein has been the problem but I’m confident and hopeful we’re not going to see shutdowns again. And I think one of our top priorities is passing a bill to make that kind of shutdown impossible in the future.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Adam Schiff, thanks for your time this morning.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, Chris Christie. He was friends with Donald Trump before he ran against him in 2016, then ran the transition before he was fired after the election. His new book "Let Me Finish" filled with reeling insights about Donald Trump. And we’ll talk about how it all connects to Trump’s shutdown defeat and the Mueller investigation when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Texas, I'm here today to proudly say I endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States. America must have a strong leader again that can restore American jobs, that can restore American confidence, and Donald Trump is just the man to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie leaves the presidential race and endorses Donald Trump back in February 2016. He joins us now, author of the new book "Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In Your Face Politics." That is quite a title. Chris Christie. I want to talk about a lot of items in the book, but let's begin. We just heard from Roger Stone and -- and Adam Schiff. You heard Roger Stone say this is a thin indictment.
CHRISTIE: Yes, no, it’s not. I mean, you know, the fact of the matter is that every white collar defendant in this circumstance, when they’re confronted with a bunch of documents of their own making try to say that they're out of context. If I had a nickel for every time I had a defendant tell me, when I was U.S. Attorney, it was out of context, I’d be a rich guy and I’m not. So the fact is that, you know, he’s got a problem. Because they’ve got all these e-mails and text messages that he created that tell a pretty clear story.
And I think it's going to be very difficult for a jury to listen to that and conclude that it wasn't what he was trying to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So he says he hasn't discussed a pardon with President Trump. Does he need one?
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I think if he decides to go to trial, he’s in very, very grave danger. Everyone is presumed innocent, George, and so is he. But the indictment I think is a pretty damning indictment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- and is it -- is it viable for President Trump to pardon Roger Stone?
CHRISTIE: I don't think so. I don't think pardons in this instance are viable politically. Politically viable. Legally, I think he’s absolutely well within his right to do it --
CHRISTIE: -- but I think politically -- and I think president -- listen -- and it’s one of the things that comes through in the book. I think the president understands the limits of politics, he’s understanding it even more. And I think he knows that those kind of pardons would not be politically viable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One other thing that also comes through in the book -- you know, we put up at the top of the program now six of the president’s closest associates have all been charged now, cited for false statements. And one of things you write in the book is one of the problems for the president is he surrounds himself with riffraff. And here’s a quote. Revolving door of deeply flawed individuals, amateurs, grifters, weaklings, convicted and unconvicted felons. First of all, that’s quite a list. Who are you referring to?
CHRISTIE: Well, I mean, I think in the book I go through a number of folks who I think just didn't belong there. When -- when you have a White House where Omarosa Manigault is in the White House -- I don't know what she was supposed to be doing, but that's not the kind of person when we put together the transition that we wanted to surround the president with. And I think that -- that the core of the book talks about the idea that this president was so ill-served by the decision made by Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner and Rick Dearborn to throw out all the work that was done by the transition --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you say very clearly Jared Kushner fired you.
CHRISTIE: Well, that's what I was told by Steve Bannon. OK? Steve Bannon physically fired me, as we described in the book. But when we had the conversation about where is this coming from, because it really came out of the blue two days after the election. Steve said very clearly that this was, as he put it, quote-unquote the kid.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You were also very concerned about Mike Flynn. Of course he had pled guilty as well, and you talk about that intelligence briefing back in August 2016. You and Mike Flynn went there with the president, the president -- candidate’s first intelligence briefing. You said that -- you’ve called Flynn a Russian lackey, said he was off the rails in the meeting. But my question to you about that -- I know you’re circumscribed on what you can talk about exactly, but isn’t it fair to conclude -- for anyone to conclude that from that briefing on, the president did know that Russia was trying to interfere in our elections?
CHRISTIE: No, I don’t -- listen, I can't talk about the specifics of what went on, George, as you know, in that briefing. But I think the import of the briefing was that the then-candidate, now president came out of that with some concerns about Mike Flynn. Because his conduct in that meeting was completely outrageous for a staff person. He was, you know, up rating the folks who were briefing us, he was demeaning them, he was interrupting them. I felt like as a staff person there for the -- for the candidate, you were there to take notes, to listen and then to talk to him about it afterwards of what we thought was important and what more he needed to know.
You know, I can’t talk and won’t -- don’t talk in the book and will not talk about the substance of those briefings. They’re secure. But what I can say is that I talked to -- to the president then after that meeting and just said, listen, this guy Flynn just does not belong close to you. He’s a -- he’s a problem. And it culminates with the last conversation we had about Flynn right -- right after the election, where I said to the president, you know, I don’t -- I don't think you should make him national security adviser. The president said to me you just don’t like him. And I said, you're right. I don’t like him. You want to know why?
And the president said yes and I said because he's going to get you in trouble.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, your candid about the president in the book, his gifts and his flaws. And you talk about a speech he gave during the campaign. I want to show a snippet of it. It was about you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So Chris, who’s a friend of mine, he hit me hard. And I said, I got to hit him at least once. So I won't do this a lot. But look, here's the story. The George Washington Bridge. He knew about it. He knew about it. He knew about it. Totally knew about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: You write in the book that that was totally invented, that sound bite, and the president knew it. You say he knowingly lied. If he knowingly lied about you, a friend, why should the country take his word?
CHRISTIE: Now listen, George, you’ve been involved in political campaigns before and you will not be stunned to know that there are times candidates lose control. They get angry. And they say things that aren't true. And this is not breaking new ground for Donald Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But isn't there a pattern here?
CHRISTIE: But you're asking me about this -- but wait a second, you're asking me about this instance. So let me be clear about this instance, I had just gotten endorsed by the Manchester Union Leader, and Mr. Trump was very upset about that. He wanted that endorsement. He tried hard to get it. I got it. And it was literally right after that that he did it. And then right after that speech, the next day, Corey Lewandowski called me, as I talk about in the book, called my campaign manager and said, listen, I've spoken to the candidate. He doesn't want to do that stuff anymore. He knows it was out of bounds, and he's not going to do it again. And he didn't do it again after that.
So, I attribute that to -- and I tell that story to let people know there are times when the president knows he made a mistake and he's willing to back off. This idea that he's stubborn and won't listen is just not true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you also know it's not an isolated incident. We just put up six people surrounding him who have all been charged with false statements. The Washington Post has documented some 8,000 false statements by the -- OK, but let's say it's half that, 4,000 as president. Isn't that a crippling flaw for the president of the United States?
CHRISTIE: Now listen, I think that the president is -- and I have said this on this show any numbers of times as a member of the panels that we have here, the president's a salesman. And he uses at times rhetoric that is overblown, but that's the way he has always been. And the fact is when he gets down to making decisions, I have always had a pretty good deal of confidence in this president's ability to do that and to be objective about it.
What I outline in the book thought is, garbage in, garbage out. And the problem for the president has been at times, and especially the people he had around him in the beginning, were just not suited to be there. And when you're getting advice from those people, like the executive orders we talk about right in the beginning, with Steve Bannon and others writing them on the back of an envelope essentially, not vetted by Don McGahn and the people in the White House counsel's office, you know, when you do that kind of stuff, when you have people who think they can be rogue actors like that, that ill-serves the president. They got him off to a really bad start in that regard, and it drove me crazy because I knew we had a plan for him that would have gotten him off to a good start with good people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And as I said, you also say a lot of positive things about the president in there. You talk about some of his defects as well. And I want to talk about that in relation to the shutdown. I want to show you on the screen, you say he acts and speaks on impulse. He doesn't always grasp the inner workings of government, which are different from the intricacies of the business world. And he trusts people he shouldn't, including some of the people who are closest to him.
You just address that point. Is that acting on impulse what went wrong during the shutdown,and how does he fix it now?
CHRISTIE: I believe it is. I believe that, you know, he nor the people around him developed an endgame to that. If you are going to close the government, then you have got to have an endgame on how you get out when the moment is ready to get out with a way that is face saving for you and for the other people.
And as far as I could tell there was no plan on how to do that. And that's an impulsive decision on his part, but also the people around him. And how does he get out now, he hits the reset button. He is the president of the United States. So, OK, now you have got three weeks to hit the reset button. Now come up with a plan that thank you is sellable and winnable for the country and for you politically.
I could tell you, everybody counts Donald Trump out as always being wrong. He has a great ability to be able to recover from things because he is strong and I say in the book, he is fearless. I mean, he's fearless in a way that I have seen few people in politics be fearless. And so those are all good points, but when you act on impulse and you don't have a plan sometimes, as I think what happened with the shutdown, it doesn't end well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, thanks for joining us this morning. This book is called "Let Me Finish." Roundtable is up next. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Round Table’s here, ready to go, and all week long you can get the latest on politics with breaking news alerts on the ABC News app. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Back now with the roundtable, joined by our Senior National Correspondent Terry Moran, Meghan McCain, co-host of "The View", David Bossie, President of Citizens United, co-author of "Trump’s Enemies: How the Deep State is Undermining the Presidency", and Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile, former DNC Chair.
And David, let me begin with you, because you heard me at the beginning of the program talking about what President Trump’s day on Friday must have been like as that cascade of bad news came in.
How does he start to dig out?
DAVID BOSSIE, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS UNITED: This president is solely focused on the job that he’s trying to do for the American people, which means has been working all weekend trying to figure out a path forward.
He has said I’m hitting the reset button, I have three weeks to try to work with the Democrats in the House and in the Senate to try to find a deal. He is going to stand tall for the border security issues, the wall being one of them in predominant, but he is going to get that and if he doesn’t get that by the 15th, he’s either going to have to shut down the government again –
STEPHANOPOULOS: He can’t do that again.
BOSSIE: Well let me just say this, in the next three weeks, I think the situation’s going to change a little bit. I hope we have a better communications operation than we’ve had for the president, we need to do a better job for him.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: David, with all due respect, the president has made the wall the be all, the cure all of his presidency, and it’s not going to happen by threatening to shut the government down again and using federal workers as leverage.
I think the president should learn, George, from his tactics over the last couple of weeks. He didn’t succeed in large part, not just because of the Democrats, the American people were against this – the shutting down of the government.
BOSSIE: Hold on, hold on, just one second, the president made multiple offers, multiple concessions to the Democrats and – and the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said zero dollars, zero dollar – wouldn’t even come to the table to have a conversation.
The American people see that.
BRAZILE: No, the American people –
BOSSIE: One guy is trying to make a deal and the other is –
BRAZILE: David, they saw two years in which the Republicans controlled the entire Congress, now President Trump must – must at least negotiate with half the Congress, which is Democrats.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meghan, one of the things we saw, it doesn’t appear that Republican senators are going to allow the president to shut the government.
MEGHAN MCCAIN, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Yes, it also tested the loyalty of Republicans with President Trump, which I found very interesting. And with all of this, with the government shutdown, he has managed to alienate his base and anger moderates, which is quite a feat to do.
I was curious about Governor Christie saying what is the end goal here? If he does declare a national emergency, the American public aren’t stupid. When they see that our Coast Guard isn’t getting paid, the TSA agents aren’t getting paid, there could be a – possibly be shutdowns at airports, these are real life ramifications that Americans can understand.
Everyday workers understand, and no one is going to be on board for it. It wasn’t popular when Ted Cruz did it, it’s not popular when President Trump does it, when you and I don’t like each other we still have to come to work and do our job, it should be no different for our government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Terry, one of the things we also learned here is that Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, takes her constitutional role pretty seriously and knows how to hold her team together.
TERRY MORAN, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Well he’s met his match hasn’t he, and it was – it was striking to see it. He was expecting that she would not be able to hold the Democrats together, that she somehow would fold up and she wasn’t going to.
She had the right line, which is that whatever you’re going to offer, don’t hold the government hostage in the meantime. And if he’s going to work for the American people, he has to listen to more of them.
It seems right now he’s governing from the assumption that the people at his rallies and anchors on Fox News represent the majority of opinion in America, and they’re wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: To get re-elected, doesn’t the president have to expand his base rather than just retreat to it?
BOSSIE: Well George, you know, elections are about addition and not subtraction, and that’s what this president has been trying to do. Look, we are locked in this battle over the long –
BRAZILE: Where’s the evidence of that?
BOSSIE: But you look at the economy, you look at rising wages, you look at the GDP, you look at the unemployment numbers, George. He has helped every American in this economy, that’s what he is focused on, without question.
BRAZILE: David, we just lost $6 billion.
MCCAIN: But I do think Republicans (inaudible)…
BRAZILE: We lost $6 billion. This shutdown cost the American economy $6 billion, that’s more than his wall.
BOSSIE: And Nancy Pelosi is responsible for that in my opinion.
BRAZILE: No. Bull, bull.
MCCAIN: I was one of the people that was saying that Nancy Pelosi was not the right speaker going forward, that they needed leadership change. I’m here saying I was wrong, I completely underestimated how powerful and how strong she is.
She does seem to be the one person that can call –
BOSSIE: Well she’s a – she’s a hostage to her left.
MCCAIN: -- that can – but she seems to be someone who can actually call him on his bluff, which Democrats haven’t been able to do so far.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well and that does lead to a question for Democrats going forward at the end of these three weeks, Terry Moran, you know do they – we just heard Adam Schiff say he’s not for the wall.
But do they feel the need now that the government is open to make some sort of compromise (inaudible).
MORAN: Well the deal has always been there, in some ways it’s semantics, right, as – as the Republicans have pointed out, Democrats have voted for 650 miles of wall, he wants 1,900, there’s the deal right there.
And I think what’s frustrating for Americans across the board is just get it done.
BRAZILE: Get it done, and the Secure Fence Act, which the Democrats backed in years past, look again the Democrats have offered more than enough compromises. The president needs to understand he cannot bully – he cannot bully Democrats –
BOSSIE: No, they’ve offered no compromises, Donna. Zero.
BRAZILE: … into paying for the wall that he promised Mexico would pay for.
MCCAIN: They compromised with DACA.
BOSSIE: That’s right. The word -- the watchword in this whole debate should be compromise. The president wanted to $25 billion, he is down to $5.7 billion. He has said he would talk about the extension for DACA kids. He has put proposal after proposal. The Democrats have said zero, zero, zero. Look, they are going to be held responsible for the next bad act that -- the next Kate Steinle. There are going to be those and the mainstream media must cover them, and they must say President Trump was for the wall and the Democrats were against it.
MORAN: His -- his first proposal was that Mexico would pay for it and they’ll remember that too.
BOSSIE: Well, look, what Chris Christie said is a lot of things are said during the campaign. That’s what campaigns are about…
STEPHANOPOULOS: But wait a second. He said it -- he said it 212 times during the campaign. That was the signature promise of his campaign.
BOSSIE: … The -- you know what? The mainstream media’s also said there’s been Russian collusion for the last two years and they’ve tried to delegitimize his…
BRAZILE: And it was Russian involvement in that--
BOSSIE: … but -- yes, and Barack Obama was responsible…
BOSSIE: That was on his watch.
MCCAIN: If Democrats do go light on immigration, and start saying things, and their -- their messaging going forward is that we’re going to ban ICE, and ICE is the devil and any kind of border security is -- is, you know, anti-American, Democrats will have a messaging problem. But I will say, if we live and die by the wall in Ann Coulter’s tweets here in the Republican Party, we are destined for failure going into 2020.
BOSSIE: And -- and we’re not. I don’t see that…
BRAZILE: And -- and the next big…
BOSSIE: … happening at all.
BRAZILE: … the next big crisis, who will the president hold hostage? I mean, we’ve got a debt ceiling. He wants a trade deal. He has to learn how to work with Democrats, period.
BOSSIE: Donna -- go ahead.
STEPHANOPOULOS: … Well, I want to move on to another subject. Terry, let’s talk about how this indictment on Friday fits in to all this. You heard Roger Stone say that he’s not worried about it; he’s going to be able to beat these charges. And then you heard Adam Schiff, sort of, tie together everything that Robert Mueller’s done so far, but as we said at the top, so far no -- no indictment for direct conspiracy with Russia.
MORAN: So far, it’s smoke, smoke, smoke, no fire.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and a lot of cover-up.
MORAN: And -- and that’s the interesting thing. So these are people, close associates of the president from different backgrounds…
BOSSIE?: No they’re not. Come on.
MORAN: Well, I don't know, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort was the campaign chairman -- from different backgrounds, who all lied, have been indicted, or pled guilty or convicted of lying about Russia. In addition to the thousand of -- of -- of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, that’s the sticking point when they talk to investigators. They lie about it, according to prosecutors.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wouldn’t you say they’re not…
BRAZILE: When your campaign chair -- you meant -- hold on, George. When your campaign chairman is feeding information to the Russian Kremlin, the military unit responsible for attacking our country, attacking the Democratic Party using stolen, hacked e-mails, which is a crime -- you’re stealing someone’s property, and you’re spreading that propaganda. Come on, man. You -- you all need to condemn it.
MCCAIN: I have been--
BRAZILE: Thank you.
BOSSIE: No -- no, look, no one in America Republican or Democrat wants Russian collusion. The -- if -- if there was Russian influence in our election, which there seems to be have been an effort, no question about --
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you accept the conclusions of the intelligence agencies?
BOSSIE: … Well, of course. But who is responsible for that? It’s not Hillary Clinton and -- and Donald Trump. It’s Barack Obama who was the president, who should have had a handle on our national security and on our elections…
BRAZILE: He is…
BOSSIE: … let’s -- let’s be honest…
BRAZILE: … That’s right -- it is Putin…
BOSSIE: … Of course, Vladimir Putin. There’s no question the Russians are -- should be held responsible.
BRAZILE: … And the president tried to get Congress, especially Mitch McConnell to work with him. Look, I knew a lot more than I could say, even on national TV, but we were all accused of lying. And look, now when you read this indictment it reads like the timeline of the Democratic Party…
BOSSIE: None of it had to do with the campaigns…
BRAZILE: … He -- it did.
BOSSIE: … all of these things happened after.
BRAZILE: No, it happened during the campaign.
MCCAIN: What they’re saying though is true, that there was this was this sort of dismissal of the importance of Russia. When President Obama was debating Mitt Romney, he said it was a 1980s foreign policy. He was caught on live mic saying I’ll have more flexibility after the election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but that was 2012. That wasn’t…
MCCAIN: Yes, but there was -- the Democratic Party started getting really interested in Vladimir Putin and his global expansion after the election. I will say, regarding WikiLeaks and everything having to do with Roger Stone…
MCCAIN: … Yes. I -- I don’t think that they took the -- the -- Vladimir Putin’s power as seriously as many Republicans did. But that does not…
BRAZILE: Well, I’m sure Barack Obama would disagree with you on that.
MCCAIN: … When he was caught on a live mic saying we’ll have -- we’ll have flexibility, quote, flexibility after the election. That’s not the point. The point is that -- when in regards to WikiLeaks as aiding and abetting an adversary. And if someone had come to me on the campaign saying, hey, someone from Russia and WikiLeaks wants to have communication with you, I would have immediately gone to the FBI.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and that’s the question I want to take to David. Why -- why is it just so hard for the president to just condemn it? It would seem like if, had he done that when -- when the -- when the intelligence agents first reached that conclusion back when he was starting his presidency, he’d be in a different place today.
BOSSIE: Well, I don't know. Look, you have -- you have a fake dossier that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton that was foisted on the American people. And now two years later, the mainstream media narrative is there was collusion when there are no facts of any collusion whatsoever.
And you have people being treated, Roger Stone is one, who -- where you have -- you talked about it, the -- the -- the mid -- the early morning raid of his apartment -- of his house, 66-years-old, doesn’t own a weapon. He gets treated one way. Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, McCabe, James Comey, all who have allegations about lying to Congress …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not one of them has been charged with lying to Congress, it’s a completely different thing …
BOSSIE: Well – no, no. They could be. They’re under investigation for lying to Congress, George …
BRAZILE: And witness tampering.
BOSSIE: … That’s what this is about.
BRAZILE: You know, we don’t – there’s a lot of smoke, you’re right. But I still believe, at the end of the day, all of these dots will be connected. I happen to believe that.
MORAN: And there’s a couple of ways to connect them. One, that the president is enraged because he wants to be president of the United States and pursue his agenda and this has been a politically motivated attack and distracting him, and he’s handling it in a – in an awkward manner. Two, he’s hiding something. And now some of it has come out. He said "I had nothing to do with Russia." We now know, through 2016, he’s trying to make a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow.
BOSSIE: Here – hold on, how about …
BRAZILE: Thirty-seven indictments. Thirty-seven indictments …
BOSSIE: I’m shocked – shocked there’s gambling going on here. A hotels guy …
MORAN: Why tell the lie ?
BOSSIE: … Is trying to build a hotel.
MORAN: Why did he lie?
BOSSIE: He didn’t lie. There was …
BRAZILE: Yes, he did.
MORAN: "I had nothing to do with Russia …"
BOSSIE: … Guys, there was – he didn’t do it during the campaign. There was an ongoing conversation from years earlier. That – from 2015 …
STEPHANOPOULOS: He did say he did it during the campaign. He admits he was going on a lease until June, 2016. Rudy Giuliani has said at times it could have been as late as November.
MCCAIN: He had every opportunity to disavow Putin and then he goes to Helsinki and basically, you know, has a -- has a bromance with him during that time. So there’s – when people have questions about Wikileaks and their relationship with Russia, it’s because the administration does nothing to deny it or to somehow come out and just say – it’s easy. Vladimir Putin’s an awful man, we should have nothing to do with him …
BOSSIE: It’s a dangerous…
BRAZILE: Pompeo --
BOSSIE: … We’re playing a dangerous game. We are. We’re playing a dangerous game in the sense that we are pushing politically that Russia is the enemy, we need to attack Russia whether it’s verbally or militarily here. We are getting close, look, you see the – the …
MCCAIN: Vladimir Putin aided and abetted Assad …
BOSSIE: When is it – when is it that this president is going to be seen as strong on Russia?
BOSSIE: When we have a problem – and that’s what …
MORAN: But he has to be strong for the American people first and stand up to an adversary who attacked us …
BOSSIE: Of course he has.
BRAZILE: A hostile foreign adversary …
MORAN: But to discredit him – one of the defenses of the United States is the Mueller probe. Find out what happened, as it has …
MORAN: And who, if anyone in the United States, helped the adversary.
BOSSIE: Two years, $40 million and they’ve come up with nothing on this.
BRAZILE: Thirty-seven indictments? That’s a lot.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the last word for today. We’ll be right back.