A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, March 31, 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.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president takes a victory lap.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The collusion delusion is over.
KARL: Democrats are pushing back.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: We are going to let the Mueller report...
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: Show us the report.
KARL: They've seen openings on health care.
TRUMP: The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care. You watch.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: If is true, God help middle class Americans.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D) NEW YORK: This is putting people's lives at risk.
KARL: And immigration after the president threatens to close the border.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: The president is playing a cheap political game.
KARL: So, will President Trump follow through on his border threat and at what cost? Without a GOP plan to replace Obamacare, will the president's push to terminate the Affordable Care Act backfire?
And what will the Mueller Report reveal once it’s made public?
Those questions and more for acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
BETO O'ROURKE, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is our moment of truth.
KARL: Beto makes it official. Who is next to jump in?
STACEY ABRAMS, FORMER GEORGIA STATE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I'm open to all options.
KARL: We'll talk live to Senator Amy Klobuchar who's already in the race and out with a big new proposal.
Plus, Jussie Smollett stunner.
JUSSIE SMOLLETT, ACTOR: I have been truthful and consistent since day one.
RAHM EMMANUEL, MAYOR OF CHICAGO: From top to bottom, this is not on the level.
KARL: Was this a miscarriage of justice? Who's telling the truth? Insight and analysis from our Powerhouse Roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning. And welcome to This Week.
The president is feeling vindicated, relishing Robert Mueller's no collusion conclusion. The special counsel's 22-month investigation determined Russia did interfere with the 2016 election, but did not collude with Trump's campaign, putting a damper on the Democratic drumbeat for impeachment.
But was the president's rush to claim victory too much too soon? Attorney General Bill Barr has announced plans to release the Mueller report in the coming weeks, and the nearly 400 page report may still provide new details the public does not know, revealing perhaps, most importantly, why the special counsel chose not to exonerate the president on obstruction of justice.
In the meantime, President Trump is already picking new fights, threatening to close the southern border as soon as this week if Mexico does not stop migrants from entering the U.S.
The number of people illegally crossing the border in a single day has hit its highest point in over a decade. Even Jeh Johnson, who served as President Obama's Homeland Security Secretary, calls that a crisis, raising questions not just about Trump's policy, but what Democrats will do about it.
The president is also reigniting the health care debate attempting to strike down Obamacare through the courts. But as of now, neither the administration nor Republican leaders in Congress have a viable plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, potentially leaving millions uninsured, and putting a top Democratic issue front and center for the 2020 campaign.
Joining us now, President Trump's Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Thank you for joining us, Mr. Mulvaney.
The president has said over and over again that he is OK with the Mueller report being released, because of those public statements, Attorney General Bill Barr says he will not submit the report to the White House for a privileged review. Can you assure us, assure the American people, that the president will not change his mind on this, that he will not first ask to see the report before allowing it to be released?
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF AND DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: From the very beginning, we have said what we're saying now, which is Mr. Barr gets to handle this, that's how the law works. And Mr. Barr has made it clear that he's going to release it to Congress before he shows it to us. That's his decision.
So, we're going to let the system work.
Keep in mind, this is an extraordinary thorough report, took two years, millions of dollars, hundreds of people, thousands of subpoenas. It worked the way it was supposed to work. We don't think it should have taken place in first place, but since it did, we're glad it was as thorough as it was, because it said exactly what the president said it would say from the very beginning, which was there was no collusion and no obstruction.
So, we are on one hand happy that it's over. At the same time, not surprised by the conclusions because it's exactly what we said it was going to be.
So, if Mr. Barr wants to show it to Congress first, he's going to do that. If he's going to redact part of it, he is going to do that. If he's not, he's going to do that.
This is how the system is supposed to work. And we're very happy to let the system play out the way the law intended.
KARL: So, there's no question that Barr quotes Mueller directly in saying that he did not find that there was collusion between the campaign and the Russians. But why do you, and why does the president say that Mueller found no obstruction, in fact he makes no such statement. Let’s look at his exact words, this is as quoted by Bill Barr, while this report does not conclude the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
So the president’s out there saying full exoneration. The words are “does not exonerate him.”
MULVANEY: Keep in mind a couple of things, I think that’s actually – that’s a pull quote from the Mueller report, that’s not Barr’s interpretation.
MULVANEY: I couldn’t see the exact quote.
KARL: Yes, that’s right.
MULVANEY: Keep in mind that is not what these documents do. When you do an investigation like this, there’s typically two outcomes, either criminal indictments come down or it just quietly goes away.
These types of investigations are not designed to exonerate people. So what you’ve saw here is simply Mueller saying you know what? I’m going to let Barr call this one. He had plenty of evidence to say on collusion absolutely not and he actually punted over to Barr.
Again, that’s the way the system can and does work. Barr, if you go elsewhere in the letter, lower down again I don’t have a copy sitting in front of me, it says that he and Rod Rosenstein, who up until last week was a darling of the left, found not a single – not a single piece of conduct, not a single act that constituted obstruction.
So that’s why we are absolutely comfortable saying that the president has been fully exonerated. Yes, Barr – excuse me – Mueller does use those words, but again, those are words you would typically find in this type of investigation.
KARL: Except the president is saying specifically the Special Counsel exonerated me when the Special Counsel said he did not exonerate him. But let me ask you another thing the Democrats are asking for here in addition to the full release of the report is the underlying materials.
I imagine there will be a fight over that. But there’s one thing that the White House could release right now, and that is the president’s written Q&A, you know, he answered questions in writing from the Special Counsel.
Will the White House release those answers? That’s the president’s own words.
MULVANEY: Keep in mind, we followed the law, we will continue to do that. Congress – mostly Democrats, in fact all Democrats in Congress want to keep going. We – our attitude is sort of enough is enough, you had your two years, you had all this money, you had all this opportunity to look everywhere and you did and there’s nothing there.
There is no there there, it is time to move on, this is enough of this. Apparently Democrats simply refuse to accept that. We don’t know what more Mr. Mueller could have done.
In fact, in another part of Mr. Barr’s letter, you see that they gave the president absolutely zero special treatment. There was a lot of conjecture going into this before the report was released that somehow the president would get special treatment because of the DOJ policy about not indicting a sitting president.
The Barr letter makes it very, very clear that that special treatment was not applied here. They applied the same standards they would as to anybody and there’s still no grounds for any criminal charges.
So there is no collusion, there is no obstruction. I know that a lot of my friends in the other party are still upset that Donald Trump is president, but it is time to move on because enough is enough when it comes to collusion and obstruction.
KARL: But I asked about the president’s written answers, will he release those?
MULVANEY: Mr. Barr is going to decide what he releases. Congress doesn’t get to do criminal investigations. That’s not an Article I authority. The law has been followed, the things have played out the way they were supposed to.
Again, we didn’t think it was necessary in the first place, we think the basis for bringing the special investigation was wrong. But now that it’s done, it’s been done properly. Congress needs to find something else to worry about.
KARL: So I want to play to you what the president said to me about Democrats shortly after the release of Barr’s letter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things. I would say treasonous things against our country. Those people will certainly be looked at.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
And here’s what the president said just last month in his State of the Union address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So why is the president talking about his opponents as being evil and treasonous and suggesting that he wants revenge or retribution? Isn’t that directly in contrast to what he told the American public in the State of the Union?
MULVANEY: I certainly think you can make the case and we will be making the case that the reason this played out the way that it did and the reason the Mueller report even exists now, there was a small group of people within the law enforcement community, specifically the FBI and the DOJ who really did want to overturn the election.
They were completely stunned by the fact that Donald Trump won. We call it Trump derangement syndrome. They cannot accept the fact that he’s president and from the very beginning, in fact before the election they actually set the table to try and prevent him from becoming president.
If that happened, that is a challenge to our republic the likes of which we’ve not seen for a long time and we don’t think it’s that outrageous to suggest that it could have. The president would only be doing his job if he tries to make sure whether or not that happened and if it did, to make sure the people who committed those particular acts are brought to justice. That’s not an unreasonable position to take, that’s not revenge, that's simply protecting the democracy. You heard the president say many times this week this shouldn’t ever happen again to any president.
He didn’t say it should never happen to him, he said it should never happen again to any president, Republican, Democrat, whatever. You cannot have the state, the bureaucracy -- call it the deep state if you want to -- have the ability to try and overturn an election and if that happened, someone needs to be responsible for it.
KARL: Rand Paul suggested that Congress should actually investigate Barack Obama. Does the president think that’s a good idea?
MULVANEY: I’ve seen -- again, I haven't paid as close attention to this as some of my friends have on the House Oversight Committee or the House Judiciary Committee, but there have been some folks who’ve suggested that perhaps folks in the Oval Office, certainly in the West Wing might have known about this at a very early stage. I can’t -- that's conjecture on my part but if -- if we do investigate, I think you need a full investigation to find out exactly who made these decisions to try and overturn an election.
KARL: OK, let's move on. The president threatened closing, shutting down entirely the Mexican border as soon as this upcoming week. He obviously made the same threat back in December. What would it take for him not to do that this week?
MULVANEY: Something dramatic. Keep in mind, when Jeh Johnson says it's crisis, I hope people now believe us. A lot of folks, many folks in the media -- not you necessarily but a lot of other networks did. They didn't believe us. Democrats didn't believe us a month ago, two months ago when we said what was happening at the border was a crisis, a humanitarian crisis, a security crisis. And I’m -- I’m very glad to see that Jeh Johnson now at least is admitting we were right and that 100,000 people coming across this border this month -- that's not a made up number, by the way, despite the fact that many Democrats still think that it is -- that is a crisis.
Why are we talking about closing the border? Because not for spite and not to -- not to try and -- and -- and undo what's happening but to simply say look, we need the people from the ports of entry to go out and patrol in the desert where we don't have any wall. We hate to say we told you so but we told you so. We need border security and we're going to do the best we can with what we have. The Democrats will not give us any additional money to do this, they won’t give us any additional people, and importantly, they will not change the law that is acting as this giant magnet for people from South and Central America to come into this country.
Faced with those limitations, the president will do everything he can. If closing the ports of entry mean that, that’s exactly what he intends to do.
KARL: The Mexican foreign minister has responded to this, the president's words by saying, Mexico does not act on the basis of threats. Your response to the Mexican government?
MULVANEY: The same response we give to all of our -- of our friends to the south, which is, we need your help. We need more action. Mexico could be doing more. El Salvador could be doing more. Honduras could be doing more. We do give these countries hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and we need them to do more. Mexico has taken some good steps, I think you’ve saw a record number of people returned to Mexico over the past week. That’s a move in the right direction. But when you're dealing with 100,000 people a month, taking a couple hundred people a day doesn't solve the problem.
We need Mexico to solidify its southern border, we need -- we need the -- the northern triangle countries to do more about not allowing their people in Mexico. They could help us. We need them to do that. If not, it makes very little sense for us to continue to send them aid.
KARL: But can you explain to me -- Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security visited Central America this week, she met with representatives of the Mexican government, she actually praised Mexico for helping on this issue and announced an historic agreement -- her words, historic agreement with the -- the -- the governments of Central America, the so-called northern triangle to deal with this problem. And then literally the next day the president announces he's going to shut down the border and -- and he's going to take back all aid or stop all aid to Central America. How is the president so at odds with his own secretary of Homeland Security on this?
MULVANEY: He's not. I mean, look, we’re -- I think we’re --
KARL: He's not? I mean, she said --
MULVANEY: No he’s not. No, no --
KARL: She said -- she praised Mexico, Mick.
MULVANEY: That's fine. Actions speak louder than words. Kirstjen‘s right to -- to thank them for their words but we need action. You can sign all the memorandums of understanding that you -- you can, you can make all the promises you want but when you're still sending 100,000 people across the southern border, actions speak louder than words. We want to work with Mexico, we want to work with the northern triangle countries but we need their assistance.
KARL: The other thing that -- that Secretary Nielsen has asked for is authority from Congress to detain children for a longer period of time. You know, you have the -- the issue with the court decision that says you can't do it more than 20 days. She wants to be able to detain the children with their families for a longer period of time. You know, these asylum cases can take years. Could you really see the United States detaining children, even with their families, for years?
MULVANEY: Listen, DHS is in a pinch a bunch of different ways. Keep in mind, they’re also dealing with the challenge of the unaccompanied children. They’re only allowed to hold those children for, I think, 72 hours before they have to deliver them by law to HHS. HHS doesn’t have any place to put them. DHS cannot release them because they’re unaccompanied children and they cannot, by law, send them back to the countries that they came for.
So DHS has gone to Congress and said "Look, we need legal help. Either give us the right to return these children to their countries or give us the right to do something else with them because right now they’re in a box." Congress can fix this. But again, when you have a Democrat party, many of whom refuse to even admit the facts, I’ve been in meetings with Nancy Pelosi when she said she didn’t believe the numbers.
And when you have such a disconnect like that, it’s clear that Democrats are not going to help us. So it shouldn’t surprise anybody that we’re turning to what some folks might think extreme measures. Because the way it’s supposed to work is not working. We’re supposed to fix this by changing the laws. Democrats won’t do that so we’re looking at cutting off aid and closing the borders.
Again, those are decisions that – our hands are forced – our hands are forced on that decision because Democrats won’t help us fix the problem.
KARL: The other big announcement from the White House was joining – asking the courts, essentially, to terminate all of Obamacare. I want to ask you, where 8 and a half million people that are enrolled in Obamacare in 2019, you also had another 61 million at the very least who have preexisting conditions and have been able to get health insurance in part because of the guarantee that they can get coverage without – you know, under Obamacare, even if they have preexisting conditions.
And also, about 6 million Americans who are 26 and younger are on their parents’ health plans. Can you guarantee that if you succeed in court, that all of those tens of millions of people who have health coverage, guaranteed because of Obamacare, will not lose their coverage?
MULVANEY: Yes, and here’s why; let’s talk about preexisting conditions because it gets a lot of the attention and rightly so. Every single plan that this White House has ever put forward since Donald Trump was elected covered preexisting conditions. Every single plan that Republicans in the House voted on in the previous Congress covered preexisting conditions. Every single plan considered by the Senate covers preexisting conditions.
The debate about preexisting conditions is over. Both parties support them and anyone telling you anything different is lying to you for political gain. Preexisting conditions are going to be covered. The debate becomes, how do you best do it?
Obamacare is not working. Even Democrats admit that which is why this week – it didn’t get a lot of coverage – they introduced their own fix bill because they know Obamacare doesn’t work. Those numbers you gave are accurate. But keep in mind, you put all of those people together, people who are on the individual exchanges, people who are on their parents programs at 26, more people than that, most of them in the middle class, paid a fine last year so they didn’t have to take Obamacare.
People are actually paying money to the government not to have to take Obamacare. That is a symptom of something that is desperately broken. We would love to work with the Democrats on repairing that problem, on fixing things. We honestly don’t think they will do any of that. We don’t think they’ll work with us unless this court case proceeds and Obamacare is found to be unconstitutional, which is what we believe.
So it shouldn’t come as any surprise to anybody that Republicans think Obamacare is unconstitutional. The position we took this week in the court, we believe is correct. We look forward to working with Democrats. If not, we’ll try and fix it by ourselves.
KARL: We’re just about out of time but I want to ask you about the Special Olympics. Obviously the budget called for eliminating federal funds for the Special Olympics. Betsy Devos has said that she was working behind the scenes to protect that funding. The president said he overruled his people to guarantee that funding. So let me ask you, if not Betsy Devos, if not the president, who exactly was pushing to defund the Special Olympics?
MULVANEY: Keep in mind, debates like this happen every single day. They’re happening even on a Sunday here in – or up in Washington D.C. at my office, about various policies. We have disagreements all the time about policy. I would hope that folks would appreciate the fact that we’re actually having critical review of all of the ways that we spend government’s money. So some folks will take one side of an issue, other folks will take another side.
What you saw this week is the way the system is supposed to work, which is the president made the final decision. He actually listened to the public, the public said "you know what, Mr. President? We don’t like that proposal that was in your budget." And he said "You know what? You’re right. I’ll change it." This is how the process is supposed to work. This is the president’s budget. It’s not the OMB budget, it’s not the Department of Education budget, it’s the president’s budget.
These – keep in mind, the budget is $1.3 trillion. That’s $1,300,000 – million dollars, of which Special Olympics is about 17 million. So 17 of 1,300,000. These types of debates happen every single day, the system worked exactly like it’s supposed to, the president made the decision, it’s the right decision. He did it because he listened to people and I’m happy to see that process work out and I think the end result is the – is the right one.
KARL: Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, by the way are you going to lose the acting in your title? What’s the status on that?
MULVANEY: Listen, we all serve at the – at the pleasure of the president, you can call me whatever you want to. I enjoy going to work every single day. I think he works – enjoys having me there and it’s been a fun – a fun couple of months.
KARL: All right, so we’ll call you today Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Thank you for joining us.
MULVANEY: Thanks Jon.
KARL: Up next we’ll talk to Democratic presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar. We’ll be right back.
KARL: Welcome back to This Week.
There are more than a dozen Democrats officially vying for the chance to take on President Trump in 2020. We're joined now by one of them, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Thank you for joining us, Senator Klobuchar.
I want to start with the Justice Department saying they are going to release the Mueller report in the coming weeks. One thing we already know about the report, because it was directly quoted in Barr's letter, you know, talking about the principal findings is this, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
You obviously, I know, want to see the full report, but do you have any reason to doubt that principal conclusion, and that's the big one, that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D-MINN.) AND 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to see the report. All we have a four-page summary, and I think the major reason that we need to see the report right now, in addition to getting all of the details, is to know what we should do to protect our elections and to protect our democracy going into 2020.
In the report, they definitively in the four-page letter, Barr definitively said we know that Russia tried to hack into our elections, they tried-- they did hack into campaigns -- that they spread propaganda, and that's, yes, 300, 400 pages of this that we need to see, because I want to pass my bill with Senator Lankford, a bipartisan bill, to get back up paper ballots. I want to make sure we have audits of our elections. I want to hold those social media companies responsible so that they tell us what these ads are and tell us who is paying for them.
These are all things we can do right now. And that report is going to be a major way that I can convince my colleagues to move ahead on security for our nation. And that part has not been discussed enough, because you've got a lot of things thrown at this report, yet you've got the public over 80 percent of them in a poll just taken yesterday, that say that they want to see this full report.
So, I'm glad that they're going to release it. I hope they don't redact major portions that will stop us from being able to understand what happened.
KARL: Certainly, much more to learn, but we do know directly from Mueller, his words, his words quoted exactly, that he found no evidence of a conspiracy between members of the campaign or the president and the Russian government. Do you -- I'm just asking, do you accept that conclusion? Fully understanding you want to see much more, but do you accept that conclusion from the special counsel?
KLOBUCHAR: Jonathan, I am a former prosecutor and I believe in looking at evidence. I don't have the report. I think it is important that the Justice Department announce that they're going to give us the report, and then I can make that assessment myself.
But I think the main thing here is the public wants to see the report, 420 members of the House of Representatives unanimously voted that they want to see the report, so then let's see the report.
But I think the other thing you've seen, and I've seen, being out there in Iowa, being in New Hampshire, being in South Carolina, and in Omaha this last weekend, is that people also are most alarmed not only by the chaos that we're seeing in our justice system, but what they're most alarmed about is the fact that just this week, the president's Justice Department announced that they're going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which, contrary to what Mr. Mulvaney just said, means that people will be kicked off their insurance for pre-existing conditions.
And while I do get random questions here and there about the Mueller report at town hall meetings, honestly what I really hear about is economics and people concerned about their livelihood for their family, how they're going to pay for college, and most significantly, are they going to lose their health care.
KARL: OK, so let's talk about health care. Nancy Pelosi came out with the House Democrats' plan to preserve and shore-up the Affordable Care Act. I know you have a similar plan in the Senate, but Bernie Sanders had an interesting take on this idea of protecting and shoring up Obamacare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, HOST, ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES: Do you support legislation the House produced today.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT: No, I support the Medicare for all single payer program. Look...
HAYES: Wait, wait, I just want to be clear, so you don't support that incremental reform?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So, what do you make of that, Senator Sanders saying he doesn't want to protect Obamacare?
KLOBUCHAR: I’m open to looking at Senator Sanders’ proposal, but I am someone that wants to see immediate change and help people to afford their health care. So what I would suggest is first of all, all out opposition to the administration’s plan to kick people off their health care.
And then you see the Affordable Care Act as a beginning and not an end. So what can you do? Well first of all, you can put in cost sharing reinsurance immediately, which is shown in many states, including red states to bring down premiums for people.
Then as president, I would immediately put in a public option proposal to Congress and that could be for Medicaid or Medicare. But that is also a way to get to our goal of universal health care coverage.
And then finally pharmaceutical prices have skyrocketed, simple drugs like insulin, diabetics not able to afford them because it’s $1,200 a month for something that used to be $18 a vial.
And so taking on the pharmaceutical companies by saying you know what, no, you don’t own Washington even though you have two lobbyists for every member of Congress. You don’t own Washington.
And so I would make sure that we have negotiations for prices under Medicare, that we bring in less expensive drugs from places like Canada and that we stop the practice where big pharma pays off their competitors to keep their products off the market.
KARL: You came out with a big plan on infrastructure, you said it is your top priority. Why infrastructure over healthcare or immigration or any of the other – other issues? Why-- infrastructure?
KLOBUCHAR: It – it is not infrastructure over healthcare, Jonathan.
I’ve been out a lot on the campaign trail as you can see.
KLOBUCHAR: It is not infrastructure over healthcare, we can do two things at once, and to me infrastructure is an economic need. Infrastructure means things like making sure that we have drinking water that is safe in Flint.
It means making sure those floods in Iowa, that we have a levy system that works and that we’ve got – we have protection for our famers. It means a transit system that works. It means roads and bridges.
We literally right now I am about a mile away from where that bridge fell down in the middle of the Mississippi River, that was because we weren’t putting enough money into our infrastructure.
And so this is an economic need for our country, the president has kept saying he wants to do something about it but it’s a mirage. He’s never really put together the coalition or the funding to get it done.
I have the funding, I’ve shown how I can get this plan done, and as president I will get it done.
KARL: You want to raise the corporate tax rate, which the Republicans just cut. That might be a bit – a heavy lift. But let me ask you –
KLOBUCHAR: No, no, let me – let me – look at what they did, Jonathan, they went down to 21 percent and every point if even to put it at 25 percent, which is a significant decrease from where it was, we would bring in $400 billion to pay for roads and bridges and levies and schools. That’s a lot of money.
Or how about the way they did the overseas income where they instead of taking an average rate, they actually – or they took an average rate instead of having a – assessing it for each country.
Guess what that means? If we went back to each country, $150 billion in savings. All of these benefits went to the wealthy instead of the people that have their house two and a half miles away from a river who have now been flooded and lost everything in their lives. That’s a problem in this country, that’s a value statement and I believe we need to have peoples’ backs.
KARL: So I want to ask you about the new allegations against senator – I mean against former Vice President Biden. He is facing an allegation from a former Democratic candidate who he campaigned for in 2014, said that Biden kissed her on the back of the head and put his hands on her shoulder and quote "I had never experienced anything so blatantly inappropriate and nerving before. He was there to promote me as the right person for the lieutenant governor job, instead he made me feel uneasy, gross and confused.”
Now former Vice President Biden is out with a statement this morning, he says “in my many years on the campaign trail and in public life I have offered countless hand shakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort and not once never did I believe I acted inappropriately. It is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully, but it was never my intention.”
So what do you make of these allegations, is this the kind of thing that could be disqualifying for Biden?
KLOBUCHAR: I have not read her interview, but I know the vice president addressed it there in that statement and he’s – he will continue to address it if he decides to get into this race.
KARL: But he’s also one who has said in situations like this that the default is to believe the woman, to believe the accuser. Do you believe Lucy Flores?
KLOBUCHAR: I have no reason not to believe her, Jonathan, and I think we know from campaigns and from politics that people raise issues and they have to address them and that’s what he will have to do with voters if he gets into the race.
KARL: OK. Also you're a former prosecutor, I want to ask you before you go about the Jussie Smollett case. We’ve heard from Rahm Emanuel, saying this was an abomination of justice that these charges have been dropped. Former prosecutor, what do you make of it?
KLOBUCHAR: I don't understand why the prosecutors could not explain why they did what they did. I don’t think anything prevents them. They brought these charges, it's a major public case in which major resources were expended and I would agree with the mayor here, it makes no sense to me. You have an obligation when you represent the public to explain what you're doing. They made a decision to bring those charges and they made a decision to make those charges public, then they need to describe why they decided to go the other way.
KARL: All right --
KLOBUCHAR: They didn't do that and I think that leaves the public hanging. Gets to one of the reasons I’m running for president. I think we need people to understand what you're going to do, stop the chaos and just be clear with people and get things done, whether it’s about when you’re bringing a criminal charge or whether it’s about getting an infrastructure plan or making sure people have their health care. Let's be honest with people, look them in the eye, tell them what you're going to do. That’s what I’ve done my whole life.
KARL: All right, Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you for joining us on THIS WEEK.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. Good to be here.
KARL: And when we come back, our roundtable takes on the 2020 race, immigration and health care. We'll be right back.
KARL: The roundtable is here ready to take on the week in politics. 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I always say they say the elite. They’re the elite, I’m not. Well, I have a better education than them, I’m smarter than them, I went to the best schools, they didn’t. Much more beautiful house, much more beautiful apartment, much more beautiful everything. And I’m president and they’re not, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: All right. On that note, let’s bring in the roundtable. Jonathan Swan, national political reporter for Axios, Ayesha Rascoe, White House Reporter for National Public Radio, David Bossie, Citizens United president and former Trump deputy campaign manager, also co-author of "Trump’s Enemies: How the Deep State is Undermining the Presidency", and Heidi Heitkamp, former Democratic senator from North Dakota. All right. Dave, let me start with you. You traveled with the president to Grand Rapids, you flew on Air Force One. As a matter fact, I think we have a picture of you with him backstage.
I’m a little confused. Is -- is -- does he feel vindicated or does he feel hell-bent on revenge because I’m kind of hearing both things from him.
DAVID BOSSIE, FORMER TRUMP DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well both things can be true, right? He feels completely vindicated that after two years of lies by the mainstream media, by the Democrats in Congress that he has been completely exonerated from this fake Russian hoax investigation, which all Americans now know was not true.
So, the president wants to move on, on policy, but he also wants to make sure that the important questions get answered, and that is what did Barack Obama know and when did he know it? What was Clapper and Brennan and Comey and McCabe and the rest of the cabal within the FBI, what did they do with this fake Russian dossier, how did it get to the FBI, who paid for it -- we all know the answers to some of these questions, and I think those are the important ones. There's lot of smoke here to quote James Comey, we need an investigation of the investigators.
KARL: So, it sounds like he's not ready to move on.
HEITKAMP: I think that's true.
You know, I think first off, just for a moment of common sense, can we all wait until we actually read the report and not a four-page summary, sorry to use the word summary.
KARL: Principal findings.
HEITKAMP: Yeah, principal findings of the report. Let's read the report. And if the report is as the president has described it and it exonerates him 100 percent, then fine, he should want everybody to be able to read it.
And I think it's time we do move on. But the president is the one who's not moving on. Let's talk about policy, let's talk about the border, let's talk about the budget, debt and deficit, the president now has hammered away at a second investigation that is going to suck up the energy from important work that we need to do.
KARL: Is he serious about this?
SWAN: About what?
KARL: About investigating the Democrats, Rand Paul was out saying Obama himself should be investigated.
SWAN: Absolutely, they're serious.
I mean, I spoke to Lindsey Graham about this last week, and he -- that weekend he was playing golf with Trump in Florida at Palm Beach and he promised -- he told me I promised the president that I would look into the FISA process.
And Lindsey Graham said that was in the context of he was trying to calm the president down. He said to the president, don't worry, just be happy, take the victory lap.
But, you know, Trump is frustrated. And what David said is exactly right, he's angry and he wants answers on this stuff.
And they're dead serious. Lindsey Graham is going to use judiciary in this way, and you're going to have support from certain people in this House, like Mark Meadows for the investigation. They're absolutely going to do it.
KARL: Ayesha , were you struck that -- the president, we keep talking about his victory lap, and there was -- and certainly I'm sure he sensed in the West Wing his advisers were clearly giddy with what they felt was a vindication. But the president's almost first reaction was anger.
RASCOE: I don't know that that's not quite surprising, having seen President Trump's history, but I think that it does kind of negate the argument, when you say I don't want any other president to go through what I went through, well President Obama was the president. And now you are saying you want him to be investigated, you want to continue the investigations, it kind of undercuts that argument that we want to take politics out of this when you are saying let's go after the other side now and do what they did to me that I think was wrong.
So, that's the question.
BOSSIE: I understand, but if you look -- let's just talk about Adam Schiff for a second and Nadler in the House, these guys are unhinged. Their Trump derangement syndrome. Their hatred for this president is greater than their love of country, in my opinion.
These folks have lost their way. And little Adam Schiff, this guy is -- has lost all credibility, every one of the nine Republicans on the House intelligence committee has said he must be removed from that post.
I believe you will see the intelligence communities stop wanting to give this liar who uses intelligence as a political -- that's what's gone on in the House.
HEITKAMP: I think be careful what you ask for. You want to continue this, that's the last thing the president should want. In spite of this, already people in this country do not believe the report. Everybody's become so, you know -- I got my camp, that's what I'm going to believe. It is time to do policy, it's time to fix problems.
BOSSIE: It's nice to say it once you guys have no...
HEITKAMP: That's what’s called leadership. Leadership is where you say, OK, let's put that aside, now let's start addressing the problems of this country, that's not he's doing. He's out promoting grievance. And that is not good for the country, and it makes people even more cynical than what they are, David.
BOSSIE: They could not be any more cynical that they have been lied to for the last two years by the mainstream media.
HEITKAMP: Open up the report. David, open up the report. Let us all see it.
BOSSIE: First of all, we're going to see whatever we get to see from the report. Who knows what it's going to look like. We have executive privilege issues, which I think are important, grand jury materials.
HEITKAMP: Really? Why executive privilege?
KARL: Do you think the president is going to balk at this? He seemed to hint in a tweet over the weekend that maybe we give them nothing. I mean, he didn't say he was talking about the report, but what else was he talking about?
BOSSIE: Well, I -- Congress, I wouldn't give Congress anything. It's an illegitimate investigation.
KARL: Well, they've got to...
BOSSIE: I wouldn't give them the time of day, Jon.
Look, this congress...
HEITKAMP: Why are you asserting executive privilege? If you want the public to see the report...
KARL: If you're vindicated, why not throw all the...
BOSSIE: You just asked a different question.
HEITKAMP: There is an executive privilege on issues. And I don't know what they're going to do, but I take that very seriously.
Look, Bill Clinton, I thought through with Bill Clinton.
KARL: Barr said no privilege review.
BOSSIE: No, I understand that.
KARL: So, Attorney General Bossie wants a privilege review.
BOSSIE: I think there has to be a privilege review. That would be irresponsible not to.
It's his to invoke.
KARL: So let me ask …
BOSSIE: It is – it is.
KARL: So, let me ask, the president also surprised a lot of people by coming out for this – this move in the courts to terminate Obamacare, all of Obamacare. You remember what Kevin McCarthy – Jon, you remember what Kevin McCarthy said about what health care did to Republicans during the courts of the midterms? Let’s play a little bit of it.
(AUDIO CLIP BEGINS)
KEVIN MCCARTHY, CONGRESSMAN (R-CA): There was one issue we lost overwhelmingly. It was healthcare by 66 points. Had we lost healthcare just by 34 points, we’d still be in the majority.
(AUDIO CLIP ENDS)
KARL: Now, you and others reported that McCarthy actually called Trump and said "Don’t do this."
SWAN: Yes. McCarthy had a private conversation with the president, which we reported, in which he said he doesn’t understand why they’re doing this, that it makes no sense; that, after an election in which they got absolutely crunched on this issue, you know, why would you do that?
I’ve done a bit more reporting since then and there was a lot of people on the hill – Republicans on the hill who were assuming that this was a Mick Mulvaney puppet strings thing. It’s not the case. This is really Trump.
KARL: This is Trump.
SWAN: Trump absolutely thinks this is something that they need to hammer on. And some of his staff are now coming around to his point of view on that.
RASCOE: This goes back to this idea of, President Trump feels like he has to keep his promises. They promised to repeal Obamacare and they have not done it. This is why he keeps talking about John McCain after John McCain has been dead for months. This is something he continues to go back to. It’s not really ideological, it’s just this idea that I have to get this done.
The problem is, Republicans don’t have a plan, they are divided, and it’s not clear what they would do.
SWAN: There’s another thing. I mean, Trump and no one in there think that this lawsuit’s going to succeed. They all think it’s going to fail anyway.
BOSSIE: So it can be out and say "I tried to get rid of the law" …
SWAN: It’s like, "Whatever, I kept my promise and the thing fails anyway."
BOSSIE: But we know that Obamacare is broken. We know Obamacare is not working. We know because the Democrats are moving from Medicare For All. We know if it was working, they wouldn’t be doing that. And by the way, Jon, let’s not forget. 10 years ago when we had the debate over Obamacare, we had to debate – and conservatives said it’s the first step towards socialized medicine.
Medicare For All is the next step towards socialized medicine. This is part and parcel of what the left has always wanted for America …
HEITKAMP: So let’s just talk about politics. I have, as a college student – I have the protection of my parents’ health insurance. I have protection against preexisting conditions. This administration now has said "We’re going to take those away from you. We promise we’ll give them back," which is what Mulvaney said today. No one’s going to believe this. This is horrible, horrible politics …
KARL: So Democrats are going too far with this Medicare For All?
HEITKAMP: Well, absolutely. I think that that – there – there are good things and bad things in the health care law. We need to stop politicizing health care. It’s too important …
BOSSIE: We need transparency, we need competition …
HEITKAMP: No – no, you know what – you know what …
BOSSIE: … We need insurance across state lines …
HEITKAMP: … You don’t have a plan, you’ve never had a plan …
BOSSIE: … Those are the things that this president – this wasn’t Marxism.
HEITKAMP: … If the president had a plan, go to Congress with a plan instead of going to (inaudible) …
BOSSIE: Go to the same Congress who won’t even give …
HEITKAMP: That’s pretty easy.
BOSSIE: … Money for a border …
HEITKAMP: But you’re saying …
KARL: Well, you – you do need Congress. All right, let’s get to 2020 because it’s not just Donald Trump. So, we had Beto O’Rourke announced – he’s become the latest. A big announcement in El Paso – El Paso. What – what do you – what’s your assessment? I mean, it’s interesting, if you look at the polls – and we had a poll out this week that looks at the, you know, who’s – this is a lot of big name recognition thing, but you see Biden at the top. You see Bernie Sanders, you see Beto O’Rourke.
Would you have predicted three white men would be at the top of the – of the Democratic field now with a big percentage of the vote?
SWAN: Right. This, to me, speaks more to name ID than anything else.
KARL: Not real.
SWAN: We are so early. It’s so – Trump hadn’t even announced at this point in the last cycle. Like, we forget that. And these numbers can move pretty quickly. I mean, if Biden gets in, he’s potentially at his high watermark right now.
You know, it’s …
KARL: And maybe – maybe going down.
RASCOE: Well, and he has a lot that – Biden has a lot that he’s going to have to answer for and deal with. And these questions are not just going to go away. This is – this is something that he is going to have to kind of answer for. And the question is …
KARL: These – these Lucy Flores allegations.
RASCOE: The Lucy Flores allegations. And the question is, when you get in, more of this stuff is going to come out. And so what does that mean for him and what does that mean for his legacy?
BOSSIE: Joe – Joe Biden has to be concerned. Does he want to be remembered as Barack Obama’s vice president? Or does he want to be remembered as another failed presidential candidate?
SWAN: Three times failed if you look at …
BOSSIE: Three times failed. And he has a lot of issues. Look, I think this story about Ms. Flores is the tip of the iceberg. You’re going to see a lot – that’s a – that’s a high – fastball to him. But it’s also the corruption issues that Joe Biden is going to have to deal with on Ukraine and other places.
HEITKAMP: I’m with Jonathan. You know, this is like the NCAA tournament. If you could predict who was going to win, there’d be billionaires in this country, right, making money. Right now, you have to see them compete and they all have to be on the same stage. And then we’re going to find out who’s going to be winning. You know, and it may not be Duke at the end. It may be -- you know --
KARL: So what do you make of the allegations against Biden?
HEITKAMP: I think -- I think that I’m with Alicia (sic). I think you need to be prepared to respond to them. But I think -- also I thought the vice president issued a thoughtful statement. I think that he understands that there's going to be a level of scrutiny that maybe there hasn't been in the past and that you have to respond to these concerns.
SWAN: It was kind of a weird statement, though, wasn't it? Like -- like if someone accuses of you coming up behind a young woman, as the second most powerful in the world -- man in the world, holding their shoulders, sniffing their hair and kissing them, you would like to be able to say, of course I didn't do that, it’s -- I would never do anything like that. It sort of like this I don't recall but, you know, I don't think I did this --
HEITKAMP: I think it was honest. I think it was honest.
HEITKAMP: I honestly think it was an honest statement.
HEITKAMP: So we give credit for honesty.
KARL: Even before this, didn't Biden have problems? I mean, we’ve seen Anita Hill as saying that she never got an apology from Joe Biden, we saw that Biden actually supported an amendments to -- to nullify -- essentially nullify Roe v Wade, we’ve -- we’ve seen -- he -- he floated the idea of -- of -- of running as -- as a ticket and we saw that didn't go over well. I mean, this has been a pretty tough pre-rollout.
RASCOE: I mea, I think that, kind of floating Stacey Abrams without her buy-in --
KARL: Yes. I mean, her just coming out and say no.
RASCOE: It was -- it was so tone-deaf to try -- whoever's plan that was or whoever’s idea that was, that was completely tone-deaf, especially when it seems like you are pushing a black woman, a politician, very polished to the side and saying, OK, be my number two, when she could very well run on her own. I mean, what -- what was the thinking behind that?
BOSSIE: Jonathan, this is an incredibly weak field from -- from the Republican standpoint. President Trump is going to -- is looking forward to this long and very bloody contest to -- to -- that is going to probably go all the way to the Democratic Convention and we’ll see how the Democrat party handles what -- their -- their business at the convention.
KARL: Final word.
HEITKAMP: Final word is that -- wait. Wait to see what happens. I think that Trump should be afraid of anyone in this field because he cannot break 44 percent in the polls.
BOSSIE: Oh his numbers --
KARL: All right.
KARL: All right. That is all the time we --
HEITKAMP: He has not broadened his base --
KARL: That is all the time we have --
KARL: Thank you.
BOSSIE: His numbers are better today than Ronald Reagan’s were in the midterm --
HEITKAMP: Ronald Reagan was in the middle of a recession.
KARL: We’ll be -- we’ll be right back. Thank you.
KARL: Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out WORLD NEWS TONIGHT and have a great day.