A rush transcript of a special edition of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You really are our heroes. You are the ones who keep America safe and strong and free.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: On Thanksgiving, President Trump thanks the troops and himself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you most thankful for?
TRUMP: For having a great family and for having made a tremendous difference in this country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Threatens to close out the year by closing down the border.
TRUMP: We will close entry into the country for a period of time until we can get it under control.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Shutting down the government.
TRUMP: Could there be a shutdown? There certainly could.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That high stakes showdown with the old congress only days away as a new Democratic House waits in the wings, ready to take Trump on.
Plus, Mueller's endgame.
TRUMP: The written answers are finished.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Trump responds to the special counsel.
TRUMP: It's a witch hunt that's been going on forever. No collusion, no nothing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As Mueller's team prepares new plea deals, indictments, and his final report. Is Mueller's next move imminent? Will Trump's hand picked attorney general try and block him? What can Democrats do to protect the special counsel? We ask a key Senate Judiciary Democrat Amy Klobuchar and legal experts Dan Abrams and Alan Dershowitz.
SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D) NEW JERSEY: It's a time to get up, to rise up.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: That includes a woman at the top.
STEPHANOPOULOS: 2020 jockeying has already begun. And we talk to two contenders from the Buckeye state, Republican Governor John Kasich and Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.
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. Hope you're enjoying the Thanksgiving weekend. And for all of you who took a break from politics for the holiday, welcome back to a fateful new chapter for the Trump presidency.
Just over a month from now, the president will face a Democratic House for the first time. In just over a week, he'll face a choice: shut down the government over his border wall or punt on that promise once and for all.
Dozens of presidential contenders are lining up to take him on in 2020. And what could be most consequential, those next moves from special counsel Robert Mueller.
The president has finally answered some of his written questions. So, will Mueller write his final report or take Trump to court to force more testimony? Tomorrow, we're going to learn if former campaign chair Paul Manafort is following through on his promise to cooperate in the case. More plea deals and indictments are in the works.
Mueller may have been silent before the midterms, but his grand jury and his team have been active behind the scenes spending dozens of hours with multiple witnesses. So now, aside from Trump himself, no single person has more influence over the Trump presidency than Robert Mueller.
That's where we start this week with our legal experts Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of the "Case Against Impeaching Trump," and ABC's chief legal analyst Dan Abrams.
Welcome to you both.
Dan, let me begin with you. Let's talk about tomorrow's event. Paul Manafort appearing for a status hearing about his sentencing. Explain what that means and what its significance could be?
DAN ABRAMS, ABC NEWS CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the big significance is that he along with the Mueller team requested a 10-day delay 10 days ago.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Until President Trump delivered his answers.
ABRAMS: Correct. But also we don't know exactly what the 10 day reason was. Was it because they want to assess the extent of the cooperation with Manafort? Is it because Manafort is going to be a critical witness in a case that they haven't announced yet? That's the big question. Is-- is he cooperating so much that they wanted to wait until they could make a public announcement about another indictment where Manafort might be involved?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Or potentially so little that he could be indicted again.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR EMERITUS: Well, I have no question that they're not thinking about using him as a witness. His credibility is shot.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why would they strike a deal with him?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, because they want him to provide information, documentary information, self proving information, information about events that they could then follow up. It would be a mistake to use Manafort or Corsi or any of these guys who have real credibility problems. Mueller is too smart for that. He's going to have to make an airtight case and relying on the credibility, if it's uncorroborated, of admitted liars is not the way to go.
ABRAMS: If it's uncorroborated, right. And that becomes the key question.
DERSHOWITZ: Of course.
ABRAMS: They certainly might use someone like Manafort if they can back up his account with independent evidence. And as a result he could be a critical witness.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Alan, they do seem to be working hard to strike these deals. You mentioned Corsi.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's Jerome Corsi, an associate of Roger Stone, perhaps, could become a witness against Roger Stone.
DERSHOWITZ: Not a witness, not a witness.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Could provide evidence.
DERSHOWITZ: Again, he's a guy who is a birther. He's a conspiracy theorist. He's not going to be a witness.
ABRAMS: But if they have corroborating evidence to support his account.
DERSHOWITZ: As a defense attorney, I love when they put on people like Corsi and Manafort, even when it’s corroborated. They’re so much better off not putting on these questionable witnesses and using their information to make the case without them if they can.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But let’s -- let’s -- let’s stipulate there. Let’s just talk about the information. So we’re getting information from Paul Manafort, we’re getting information perhaps from Corsi, we’re already) getting from Gates, from Cohen from Flynn, that’s an awful lot of people on the side of the president providing evidence.
DERSHOWITZ: It is. And I think the report is going to be devastating to the president. And I know that the president’s team is already working on a response to the report. And so at some point when the report is made public -- and that's a very hard question considering the new attorney general, who has the authority to decide when and under what circumstance to make it public -- it will be made public probably with a response alongside. The president will say ah, look, it's political. There's their account and there’s our account and then the American public will have to judge their credibility.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But for you to say it's devastating is really something.
ABRAMS: Well, but -- but let's talk about why Corsi is so important. Some people say, you know, oh, Mueller’s veering off into all these different areas. Corsi goes to the heart of the question of who in the Trump campaign knew what and when about the hacking, about the distribution of that information, et cetera. So if they make a deal with someone like Corsi, that means that they believe he's got information linking it back to someone in the Trump campaign -- doesn't mean it's Donald Trump itself -- but --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roger Stone the most likely --
ABRAMS: Roger Stone the most likely one there. And -- and that’s really important on the critical questions that we’ve been talking about.
DERSHOWITZ: Well the critical questions are largely political. When I say devastating, I mean it's going to paint a picture that's going to be politically very devastating. I still don't think it's going to make a criminal case because collusion is not criminal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But conspiracy to cooperate with an attempt to defraud the United States government is a crime.
DERSHOWITZ: No, no, that -- that’s -- it’s too much of a stretch. Conspiracy to attempt to obstruct to the United States government. They’re going to need more than that. What I think Mueller’s going to do if he’s smart, he’s not going to take the chance on being rebutted. He's going to just lay out just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts. He’s going to lay out the facts, leave it to Congress to decide whether that rises to the level of impeachable offense.
I still think Trump's greatest vulnerabilities do not lie with Mueller, they lie in the Southern District of New York because Mueller’s allegations have constitutional defenses. Whereas if there is any shenanigans having to do with business, they don’t have constitutional defenses.
ABRAMS: Alan is taking the position that you -- that the president effectively can’t obstruct justice --
DERSHOWITZ: No, he can if he does what Nixon did -- destroy evidence, tamper with witnesses, pay hush money. He can’t be convicted of obstruction of justice by exercising merely his constitutional authority to fire.
ABRAMS: But tampering -- tampering with witnesses could be interpreted broadly, right? And so you would say, then, if the president tampered with witnesses, he could be --
DERSHOWITZ: You can’t tamper with witnesses by issuing public tweets. You tamper with witnesses --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well wait a second, what if --
DERSHOWITZ: -- by silently doing what Nixon did, offering them hush money. Nobody is suggesting --
STEPHANOPOULOS: What about pardons? What about pardons? What about dangling pardons? --
DERSHOWITZ: That’s all public. That’s all A, public and B, within the constitutional authority.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We don't know that it's all public.
ABRAMS: Where in the law does it say that it has to be private? Where does it distinguish between private and public?
DERSHOWITZ: You don't-- people don’t commit crimes in public, number one. Number two --
ABRAMS: I understand that, but where in the law does it distinguish between that?
DERSHOWITZ: What Bush did to Caspar Weinberger is identical. He pardoned on the eve of the trial to avoid criminal investigations. The special prosecutor said that. Walsh said that. Nobody suggested criminal prosecution there.
ABRAMS: The difference here would be that he’s pardoning to protect himself.
DERSHOWITZ: So was Bush. He pardoned to protect himself. The great fear was that Caspar Weinberger would point the finger back -- and don’t believe me on this, believe Lawrence Walsh --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, but, but, but let me interrupt with a hypothetical. You bring up the Caspar Weinberger, I’ll bring up a different hypothetical. If -- if Robert Mueller has determined that President Trump or his team or his associates or his agents have in some way suggested to a Paul Manafort, to a Michael Cohen, to a -- to a Flynn that a pardon would be in the offing if you did not testify to Robert Mueller, that’s obstruction, isn’t it?
DERSHOWITZ: No. Thomas Jefferson did exactly that in the trial of Aaron Burr. He brought people into the White House and he said if you testify favorably, I’ll give you a pardon, if you don’t, I’ll prosecute. That is not a crime.
ABRAMS: See, but the problem is that what Alan does is he isolates an individual issue, like a pardon. The issue that I think Mueller’s going to do is he's going to put the pieces together --
DERSHOWITZ: I agree.
ABRAMS: He’s going to puzzle this --
DERSHOWITZ: I agree.
ABRAMS: -- together and he’s going to say it's not just about pardons, it’s not just about alleged witness tampering -- and by the way, if this happens -- I don’t know that Mueller’s going to have that, but if he has it --
DERSHOWITZ: I agree that’s what he’s going to do --
ABRAMS: -- and together -- together, I think even you would have to agree at some point that there is a line which can be crossed --
DERSHOWITZ: But it wasn’t crossed.
ABRAMS: -- but you don’t know. How do you know it wasn’t crossed?
DERSHOWITZ: Because – because we have a pretty good sense from what’s been out there about what at least the president is alleged to have done. It would be a foolish mistake from Mueller to take the next step and say this is a crime, because the other side will be able to rebut it.
If he simply lays it out, leaves it to the American public, he’d be much wiser.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that could be what he does. Final question, is there anything that the Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker can now do to interfere with the Mueller investigation?
DERSHOWITZ: Politically it would be a disaster if he did it. I think Mueller purposely got all of his work done before the midterms because he wanted to make sure he was finished with all of his work, that’s why I think he accepted the written statements.
He didn’t want the new attorney general or acting attorney general to be able to interfere, and it would be politically a disaster if the new attorney general did that.
ABRAMS: Mueller -- Mueller could humiliate him in so many different kinds of ways, and as Alan pointed out before, remember this investigation has now tentacles in other offices, not just sitting with Robert Mueller.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And-- and something we haven’t even discussed, we don’t know for sure that they’re connected to the Mueller investigation, but more than a dozen sealed indictments now in federal district court in Washington D.C.
DERSHOWITZ: Those are very, very significant, and we’ll have to wait and see what they are.
ABRAMS: This is going to be a big week I think.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, thank you both very much. Let’s bring in Senator Amy Klobuchar now from Minnesota, key Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Senator Klobuchar, thanks for joining us this morning.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thanks, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard that discussion from Alan Dershowitz and Dan Abrams right there. Do you agree that there’s nothing practically the acting attorney general can do at this point to interfere with the Mueller investigation?
KLOBUCHAR: I don’t know, he is running the Justice Department right now, George. And I don’t think he should be. And the reason I’m concerned is this is someone who has publicly said that he thinks you could starve the investigation so he could try to do that by cutting down on the money for it.
He said that he could – he didn’t see any connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, yet you’ve seen all of these indictments and charges and convictions that you just referred to.
So I’m really concerned about having him in charge. As you know, we have tried in the Senate on a bipartisan basis to protect that investigation by law, there are court cases going on that are questioning this appointment of someone that is literally a walking conflict who got $1.2 million, the most he ever got in his life, to go on TV to protect Donald Trump.
And we have no idea where that money came from. And so I’m asking where did that money come from?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also mentioned this legislation to protect Robert Mueller. Some of your colleagues in the Senate, including Ron Wyden, have suggested not supporting the government funding bill that is coming up in early December unless this legislation to protect Robert Mueller is included.
Do you support that effort?
KLOBUCHAR: I think we should do everything we can to try to negotiate to get that bill passed, because this is about the rule of law. We’ll see what our leverage points are, but there is some Republican support for this and all of my colleagues who have said repeatedly that they want to protect this investigation really have to come forward and do it.
And I’m talking about those on the Republican side of the aisle.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well that’s the biggest leverage point you have, isn’t it, right now?
KLOBUCHAR: It is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So are you going to use it?
KLOBUCHAR: I think we should use it however we can, and again it’s going to depend on what bills are coming through and how we can do it. But we have to protect this investigation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me – let me switch subjects right now, the president up and tweeting this morning about this situation at the border, now more migrants coming from Central America through Mexico.
Reports of a possible deal with Mexico to hold those people who are applying for asylum in Mexico as their asylum claims are processed. Mexico is now denying that they – that they’ve agreed to that.
But the president did have this tweet this morning, he said it would be very smart if Mexico would stop the caravans long before they get to our southern border or if originating countries would not let them form.
It is a way to get certain people out of their country and dump in the U.S., no longer. Dems created this problem, no crossings. Your response?
KLOBUCHAR: My mom taught second grade until she was 70 years old, and she always told me if you do something wrong, you don’t tell the truth, you take responsibility for it. You don’t blame it on the other kid.
That’s exactly what he’s doing here. He controls the White House, his party controls the House and the Senate and it is on them. What I think that they should do, George, is first of all he should have been working with these Central American countries a long time ago to try to – to try to get to a point where we didn’t see this extraordinary amount of people coming through.
Secondly, comprehensive immigration reform, he has gut punched us on that a number of times. We have the will to put the money at the border for better security and combine it with some sensible reforms, including things like a path to citizenship, things like making sure that we have workers on our fields and in our factories that we need.
But he has chosen instead to weaponize this, to politicize it and it is also wrong for our work with the rest of the world. So he has an opportunity here, especially with a new Congress coming in, to get this done. So it is all -- rests in that office on him and he needs to get this done.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s the new Congress. There’s still some leftover business for the old Congress. I mentioned that government funding bill, the president said again on Thursday that if he doesn’t get that funding for a border wall, a government shutdown is possible. Are you open to any negotiation on this border wall funding?
KLOBUCHAR: We have tried to negotiate with him but he won’t take yes for an answer. You look at this, we tried to negotiate on the DREAMers, and that was led by reasonable Republicans Mike Rounds, a senator from South Dakota, and Johnny Isakson, the senator from Georgia. I was in that group, a small group of us that were working to find a way out with border money as well as making sure that we protected the DREAMers, something a vast majority of Americans supported.
So of course, we’re willing to talk about this. But if he wants to just keep playing politics with it, instead of getting it done, we aren’t going to be able to get it done. And by the way …
STEPHANOPOULOS: So that includes -- you say you want to …
KLOBUCHAR: … I’d like to add, if -- what?
STEPHANOPOULOS: … Go ahead.
KLOBUCHAR: Farm bill’s so important to get -- farm bill, we should be done getting that done by the end of the year. Again, there’s the will in Congress, we need some leadership from the White House and also criminal justice reform.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are three things on the table right now. But you’d be willing to go along with some wall funding to get those?
KLOBUCHAR: I -- to get an agreement and to make sure we do something on immigration reform. Remember, when we talk about wall funding, we’re talking about border funding. We’re talking about personnel. We’re talking about a whole grouping of things that protect security. But what I don’t think we should do is shutdown the government and that, again, is in his hands and his party’s hands.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Another major headline on Friday, a major government report on the issue of climate change. We’re showing the headlines across the country as this was released on Friday afternoon. You see it right there, “Climate report warns of grim economic consequences,” climate change will harm the entire nation.
Here in The New York Times, they went on to say, “The 1,656-page assessment lays out the devastating effects of a changing climate on the economy, health and environment, including record wildfires in California, crop failures in the Midwest, crumbling infrastructure in the South. All told, the report says, climate change could slash up to a tenth of gross domestic product by 2100.”
You’ve said that Congress has to act, but what specifically can be done right now to reverse this?
KLOBUCHAR: The greenhouse gas rules, the clean power rules that we are-- were already on the way to getting implemented, we should get those done. Secondly, gas mileage standards, we were clearly on a good path with that and then this administration stepped backwards and then, finally, going back into the international climate change agreement like every other country.
This is a report by the administration, George. And instead of just talking about the science, it talks about the impact on places like I’m from, the Midwest, where you’re going to see devastation to our crops, you’re already seeing the hurricanes because of the ocean warming, and you’re certainly seeing in vivid color those horrible wildfires out West. This is exactly what NASA and our military have predicted for years, and it’s time to act on it.
So the administration can’t on one hand issue this devastating report showing the facts and then on the other do nothing. It’s time to act.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But isn’t that exactly what’s happening? This was released on, what, Friday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend?
KLOBUCHAR: That’s exactly what I said. I pointed out the other day they couldn’t pick a day where they tried to get less attention on this report. But I think it backfired, so to say, because there was no news that day, a lot of people have found out about it, are signing up to get the overview of the report. And I would just suggest that all of your viewers look at that report, look at what it’s predicting and the impact on our country. And we have to make this a major issue going into next year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You are coming off a big re-election victory in the state of Minnesota, congratulations for that. You did well …
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: … in a lot of areas where President Trump had done well back in 2016. It sparked a lot of speculation that you might be looking at -- at -- at the 2020 race for president. You’ve been to Iowa a couple times as well. So can you just fill us in on how you’re thinking about that and what’s shaping your potential decision?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, people are talking to me about this, I think, in part because I’ve worked really hard to go not just where it’s comfortable but where it’s uncomfortable, and had -- did well in a number of those places that Donald Trump won. And I also am someone that, for those that are exhausted with politics, likes to get things done. But right now, I am just still thinking about this, talking to people. I’m sorry to say, I have no announcement for you on your show.
And I actually learned this from my Senate race once, when I first was considering running for the Senate and told someone that on the radio. And that was how my husband found out about it. And since he is watching today, I’m not going to repeat that again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re not going to share your Thanksgiving conversations either, but that is not a no either. So I’m going to end with an invitation. When you’re ready to announce, you can do it right here on This Week.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that wasn’t a yes but thanks for coming on, Senator. Good to see you again. Up next, the state of Ohio is one of the biggest prizes in the presidential race and now it’s home to two possible contenders for 2020; the GOP Governor, John Kasich, and Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. They both join us live when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS: ABC News now projects that the winner in Ohio is Mr. Bush, crucial stake in presidential politics, no Republican has ever been elected without carrying the state of Ohio.
CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: We can now project that the state of Ohio is going to go to Barack Obama, the most campaign events by both candidates in Ohio, it was as fiercely contested a state as we have in the nation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donald Trump wins the state of Ohio, one of his core four, you saw it right there. A big victory there for Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ohio always such a key in presidential races. Joined now by two possible contenders from the state, we’re going to start with the governor of Ohio right now, Republican John Kasich. Governor, thanks for joining us this morning.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’ll start out with some congratulations on the Buckeyes’ big win over Michigan yesterday for you. Let’s start out though with you, you’re going to be out of office in a few weeks, and you, of course you did run for president last time around.
You ran for it back in 1999 as well.
How seriously are you thinking about taking it on this time?
KASICH: Very seriously. I’m considering it George, these are earnest conversations that go on virtually every day with some of my friends, with my family.
Look, I – we need different leadership, there isn’t any question about it. And I’m not only just worried about the tone and the name calling and the division in our country and the partisanship, but I also worry about the policies.
You know, rising debt, the problem and inability to deal with immigration, the problems that we have as America alone in the world. You know, this is what I consider a rotten deal with the Saudis to look the other way.
I mean these are things that, George, I’m worried about our country and not just in the short term, but I’m worried about our country in the long term. So the question for me is what – what do I do about this?
Is it – you know, what exactly – do I run because I’ve determined that I can win or is it important for me to make such a good showing that I can send a message that can disrupt the political system in this country?
So yeah, I have to think about it, I think about it seriously. As you know, I still travel, I make, you know, I’m – I’m out there trying to do what I can do. I don’t know when I will have to make a decision, but let’s not – let’s be clear, I’m not being coy, I’m not trying to do this for some kind of a game.
This is really, really serious to me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you’re up against a formidable challenge, you complain in New Hampshire just a couple of weeks ago that the Republican Party has been hijacked by President Trump.
At the same time, he’s got about a 90 percent approval rating inside the Republican Party. So is it – is the challenge inside the party even something that has any practical chances of success?
KASICH: Well George, I mean I – all options are on the table for me. But let me ask you a statement, let me ask you to think about this. At what point does somebody work and stand on principle, to say that the direction we’re going is wrong?
I mean obviously, want to have some sort of a practical opportunity, you – but you want to be – you want to be able to make a statement. Now maybe I do that by running again or, you know, and frankly in the last election I was the last man standing with very little money and very little name recognition.
It grew over time. But what I ask myself is what do I owe to my country? What can I do to help my country? Is this – does it mean I run for office again or are there other ways in which I can impact the flow of events?
And I listened to your last interview with the senator, I thought she did a very good job, but I mean it’s the same old stuff. It’s just all this politics and mumbo jumbo and lead this and that bill and we’ve got to get out of this mire and out of this mix and it’s going – it’s going to depend on raising the public to say we deserve and want better.
I don’t know where this is all going to lead, George, but this is a serious thought and consideration every day.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does better – does better mean working across party lines? You talked earlier in the year about this possibility of maybe running on a bipartisan ticket, including perhaps with Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado.
Is that something that is truly viable and is that what you think Americans are looking for?
KASICH: Well George, I don’t know if – let’s just say that Donald Trump is nominated and Elizabeth Warren is nominated, and you have this ocean of people who sit in the middle. Is there a legitimate opportunity for a third party, bipartisan kind of ticket to be able to – to score a victory or to have a profound impact on the future of American politics?
That’d be something that I would talk to you about offline and get your view, because we don’t know at this point. In other words –
STEPHANOPOULOS: But everybody that’s looked at it in the past says it’s just not possible. You’ve seen it before, there seems to have been a ceiling.
KASICH: Well you know what? You know what? No one thought a guy like Donald Trump would be elected president. No one thought we’d have electric cars. No one thought we could – we could talk on phones and see the person we’re talking to. I mean, this is a time of change – dynamic change. And you can’t judge tomorrow on the basis of what happened yesterday. So I don’t know about that. Hickenlooper, love him, the name’s too long. Hickenlooper-Kasich, you couldn’t fit it on a bumper sticker. You’d need to like go around with billboards or something.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you’ve got your fellow – your fellow Buckeye, Sherrod Brown coming next, he’s a Democrat.
KASICH: You can’t be both from the same state so that’s out of the question.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you have a timetable?
KASICH: George, I don’t have a timetable because we have to see how events develop. I mean, the whole top of your show was about what is likely to happen. We don’t know what’s going to happen with anything. What we think is going to happen tomorrow never happens tomorrow, it’s so different. So I have to just see what makes the most amount of sense for me personally and for the people around me. That’s what I got to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it fair to say that if Robert Mueller comes out with more indictments and, as Alan Dershowitz said, a potentially devastating report for President Trump, that that would open up the path, to you, for primary challenge?
KASICH: George, there’s all kinds of things that can develop here. As you know, in politics – that’s why we love politics, because what we know today is not necessarily what we see tomorrow. So we sit, we plan, we raise a little bit of money, keep my team together, I learn – I spend my time working on the issues, and I also want to finish as governor strong. And look, this was a heck of a year for Republicans in Ohio and I think the roadmap that I laid out with my team, which was no one gets left behind, you know we cut taxes for those at the top but we also provided the first – the first income relaxation and provisions for people who are at the bottom, so we can make sure that no one’s left behind.
We expanded Medicaid so that the mentally ill and the drug-addicted could get help. I mean, it is no one’s left behind. The top, the bottom, people feel as though they can participate, and it showed in Ohio where it didn’t show others. I think it’s a roadmap not just for Republicans but for Democrats as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Kasich, thanks for your time this morning.
KASICH: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now let’s bring the Democratic Senator from Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown joining us this morning as well from Cleveland, little farther north in the state. You just heard Governor Kasich right there say it was a good year for Republicans in Ohio. You were the exception to that, of course. You of course won reelection handily. What message did that send – tell you about where Ohio is and where the country is right now?
BROWN: Well, if you love your country, you fight for the people who make it work. And my message – not just my message but my career devoted to the dignity of work, that you honor and respect all workers whether they punch a clock or swipe a badge, whether they’re raising kids, whether they’re working on salary, working for tips. And I think that both national political parties may have forgotten that message that the dignity of work and respecting workers is not just the best campaign message but is the way that we should do our jobs every day.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And again, you were the exception this year, but why do you think Ohio has been drifting away from the Democrats?
BROWN: Well, Ohio is – we – it’s a state that’s gotten more conservative. We’ve seen – we don’t have a lot of – we have a net out migration. We’ve stemmed that, unfortunately, during the last eight years. It’s not seemed to have – we’ve not really addressed that very well with the state government, in fact we’ve had 30 years of – in this state, of mostly of a net out-migration of young people. I think we’ve not had the kind of leadership in this state – I respect Governor Kasich, I appreciate that he expanded Medicaid. Much of the rest of the direction of the state, is I think, not – not been to the state’s benefit in terms of state government, but – the corruption and all else.
But we’ve got work to do as the state seems to be getting more conservative, contrasted to the rest of the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And coming out of your election, in the past, you’ve dismissed the idea of running for president. You do seem a lot more open to it, or there’ve been some suggestions you’re a lot more open to it since you were reelected just a couple of weeks ago. I’ll ask you the same question I just asked Governor Kasich. How seriously are you thinking about running for president in 2020?
BROWN: Well, I – as I’ve said before, and having known you for more than a couple of decades, George, you know I didn’t have this dream of being president of the United States all my life. I would prefer to have – my dream was to play center field for the Cleveland Indians. That door obviously is closed but I – since the election, Connie and I have been really overwhelmed by the number of people from around the country that have said we should think about doing this.
And I haven’t made trips to Iowa or New Hampshire, I haven’t done any of those things to prepare, which is fine, because the Iowa caucuses are 13 months away.
But we're seriously thinking about it. We're seriously talking about it with family and friends and political allies who have come to me about this. And it's -- but ideally I want my message of the dignity of work to -- I want that to be the narrative for other Democratic candidates, because that's how you beat -- Donald Trump won my state by almost double digits. And, you know, he won the industrial Midwest. And to turn that around, I hope that candidates running in the Democratic primary talk about the dignity of work, talk about respecting work, talk about when you work hard and play by the rules you ought to be able to get ahead.
We've seen profits go up. We've seen executive compensation explode. We've seen more productive workers, yet wages have been flat. And we've seen lots of heartache in my state and throughout the industrial Midwest, throughout the country, because members of Congress -- frankly the White House looks like a retreat for Wall Street executives. They've not really paid attention to working class issues and workers regardless of the type of work they do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say that, yet the president has this populist rhetoric. I know you believe he hasn't followed through on it. Is there anything -- any potential issues now where you could work with him over the next couple of years? For example, could you sign on to his new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada?
BROWN: Well, I have been part of the negotiations with secretary -- with Ambassador Lighthizer, the president's trade representative to renegotiate NAFTA. It still falls short on worker rights in terms of the labor enforcement -- enforcement of labor law-- it hasn’t done that. Mexico hasn't improved its labor law like they've promised yet. That's all contingent. I want to see that happen.
I would like to work with this president on infrastructure. We've talked to -- he has campaigned on a a trillion dollar, now a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package over the next 10 years. He's basically not lifted a finger with anything -- any serious proposal to congress. I can work on those kinds of things.
But fundamentally you've seen a president with his phony populism with, as I said, where the White House looks like a retreat for Wall Street executives, except when it looks like a retreat for oil company executives, except when it looks like a retreat for pharmaceutical executives.
This president has not looked out for workers. To me, populism -- it's never anti-Semitic, it's never racist, it never pushes people down in order to lift others up, that's the phony populism of Donald Trump. To me, populism respects the dignity of work and moves forward and tries to lift all boats.
This president's divisive rhetoric in order to distract from the issues of the day is what's put us -- it's frankly why his leadership has been so wanting.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, a whole bunch of Democrats are looking at this race, including you. Is there anybody else you see in that field who if they got in, you would get out?
BROWN: Say it again?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there any other Democrats who could keep you out of a run for president?
BROWN: No, this decision is more personal than that, it's more -- I respect a number of them, many of my senate colleagues have been running for president for sometime as have others around the country. I don't see this as me against any individual person. I see this as -- if I run or not, I want my message of dignity of work and respecting workers to be workers of all stripes, punching a clock, working a salary, working for tips, swiping a badge, taking care of an aging parent, I want that to be this narrative in the presidential election regardless who the nominee is picked in the summer of 2020.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Brown, thanks for your time this morning.
BROWN: Thanks, George, always.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, before 2020, Democrats have a different leadership battle on their hands. Will Nancy Pelosi be the next speaker? Our roundtable tackles that and more when we come back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is here and 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Nancy Pelosi, when the history is written, will go down as one of the most effective legislative leaders that we -- this country’s ever seen. Her skill, tenacity, toughness, vision, is remarkable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Obama out this week, all but endorsing Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House next time, around -- pardon me, extraordinary lobbying effort. We’re going to talk about that now on our roundtable with Cokie Roberts. Welcome back.
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A Republican strategist, CNN contributor, Amanda Carpenter. Also, Michelle Cottle from The New York Times Editorial Board, and Jason Riley, columnist at The Wall Street Journal, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
And Cokie, let’s begin with this campaign by Speaker Pelosi; a couple -- more than a couple dozen Democrats ran for -- ran for election this year saying they’re not going to support her. She says, no, I’m going to be the next speaker. And you’ve seen the opposition …
STEPHANOPOULOS: … slowly start to crumble. Well, it hasn’t completely caved yet.
ROBERTS: Well, they better because she’s going to speaker and they -- they’re going to be on the wrong side. And that’s not a pleasant place to be in the House of Representatives after a leadership fight.
But the truth is she’s a master politician. She learned it at her father’s knee as the mayor of Baltimore and she has taken it through her political life. And she is -- is using all kinds of -- of lures to people to, sort of, say this is the way you can -- you can succeed in the House of Representatives. And they are then saying, OK, that works for me. I’ll vote for you.
JASON RILEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER AND COLUMNIST: But the fact that she’s not a shoe in tells you something about the split in her caucus. There are some people who want to move in a different direction generationally, Nancy Pelosi’s 78-years-old. Her number two is 79. Number three Democrat is 78-years-old. Some people want to make room for a new generation.
There’s also an issue of whether she’ll be able to control the caucus. I think Democrats are going to control a couple dozen oversight committees come January. Will they want to work across the aisle? Will they want to hold hearings endlessly and preening for the camera? So the Democrats are in a situation here. They’re going to have to figure this out.
MICHELLE COTTLE, NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: This is the argument for Pelosi though because you need somebody who knows how to herd the cats. She does this better than anyone. She can control that caucus better than anyone they could put forward. And you’re going to need this because if the Democrats overreach, if they look like they’re being punitive or extremely political, then they’re going to get blowback and they’re going to shoot themselves in the foot. So this is actually an argument for her.
AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, SEN. TED CRUZ AND CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I would say the question of why some Democrats are reluctant to back her has been fascinating to watch. And there has been questions is this ageist, is it sexist? No, I think the young Democrats are reluctant to support her for the reason why Republicans like her.
She is an effective legislator, she does great in member relations but she is a terrible messenger. Her key signature legislative accomplishment was passage of the ACA and she marred it with the phrase “you have to pass it to find out what’s in it.” That is a classic Pelosi kind of communication gaffe and Democrats want someone who will be a bold, progressive voice which is not the role of a speaker.
ROBERTS: She -- she can put other people out to be the messenger. And -- and the fact, you know, that there’s disruption in the Democratic caucus, is hardly news. I mean, that’s been true for -- through -- I mean, you remember when …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, I was there. Yes.
ROBERTS: … working with the leadership there, it was always a problem. But the -- but the fact is -- is that they -- the people who thought that she was a problem for them in their races were inexperienced, whomever the Democratic leader was was going to be a problem for them in their races. You remember people morphing into Tip O’Neill, right? And that would be the case.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Republicans had to deal with morphing in Newt Gingrich in later years.
ROBERTS: Right. I mean, and that -- and that’s going to be the case whomever is the leader, that that person will be the -- the signature person for the Democratic party and the Republicans will run against that person.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Jason, as you pointed out she doesn’t have it done yet. And -- and you do have all these Democrats who made rock hard promises not to support her.
ROBERTS: Yes, but some have already changed their minds.
RILEY: Well, she’s -- she’s trying to -- to do something. As you said, she’s handing out some goodies to some of them and -- and she ought to. I mean, ask Republican leaders what a Freedom Caucus can do to frustrate your plans. Nancy Pelosi could have the equivalent if she doesn’t keep every -- everyone happy. But there’s also people who say it’s not just generational, it’s also geographical. The leadership in both chambers of Congress, coastal elites, we want to make appeals to middle America. Is a San Francisco liberal in Nancy Pelosi the person to do that or should we be going for a different face?
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it doesn't appear to be ideological, though, the opposition to Nancy Pelosi.
COTTEL: It is not ideological. You don't have her members saying well, she's too X, she's too Y. What they talk about is she’s been at the top too long. And this leadership has been at the top -- you know, she’s spent 15 years leading this caucus. And what she needs to do this time around -- and she’s started doing it already -- is talking about herself as a transitional leader. She has used the phrase “I’m a transitional figure.” Because the House Democrats have been terrible about kind of grooming the next generation of leaders.
They’ve had members leave the House. If you're a young ambitious Democrat, you leave the House because there has been no place to move up. So now what she needs to do -- what the entire leadership team -- senior leadership team needs to do is look to people like Hakeem Jeffries and Cheri Bustos -- you know, they have a dozen up and comers who need to be put in a position so that come 2020, they can take over this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And --
ROBERTS: And -- but it has to be -- it has to be done in -- in a way that doesn't alienate a lot of people. And that -- that can be -- again, you remember, House fights can be really rough. I mean, what can happen is a whole generation of members are marred by a fight in the leadership. And --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But so far, at least, there isn't even a candidate taking on Nancy Pelosi.
ROBERTS: No, that’s right.
CARPENTER: Well, I would say the person who was going to be the speaker in waiting was Joe Crowley, who got beat by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And I think they're finding a way to find their voice knowing Nancy Pelosi is going to be in charge, trying to negotiate what the first bill they will pass will be. Will it be about gun violence? The Green New Deal that she’s been championing and getting a lot of support in her caucus, I think is something that will ultimately become part of the Democratic platform, potentially something a candidate campaigns on in 2020.
So they’re being smart realizing they can’t knock her off.
COTTLE: And H.R. 1 is going to be the reform -- the democracy reform bill, where they’re trying to clean up, you know, Washington.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that’s actually going to in some ways appease Marcia Fudge who might have been running against her by giving her the subcommittee on that as well. Jason, you mentioned the idea -- the -- the issue of investigations, whether Democrats are vulnerable to overreach. I wonder if the discussion of overreach is overdone. For example, if the Democrats choose to look at how Matt Whitaker got his job, if they choose to look at the president's statements about Saudi Arabia and the Khashoggi murder, if they choose to look at how the military has been deployed to the border, is that a danger for them?
RILEY: I think there is a danger of -- of overreach. I think -- and promises they’ve made that when we -- when we have the gavel, when we’re in charge, we are going to do the oversight that the Republicans refused to do when they controlled this chamber under -- under President Trump. They’ve made promises to voters to -- to look into things. And there is a temptation there for --
COTTLE: -- there’s a difference between these kinds of issues and, you know, drilling down on hush money payments to former mistresses.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Stormy Daniels.
COTTLE: I mean, you need to avoid the kind of overtly partisan political ones. But I think the challenge is there are so many legitimate avenues of inquiry that they will just have to kind off prioritize. And they’re already working on this. They’ve having meetings, they're working on kind of not having committees overlap on kind of which are the priority issues of them. They’re very aware of this issue.
ROBERTS: But there's a difference between overreach and oversight. And -- and the truth is it's Congress' job to do oversight. That is one of the things they’re supposed to be doing. And if you have government agencies that are doing things that are inappropriate or illegal, the Congress has a duty to oversee that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Amanda, this is a brand new world for the Trump White House, who’s eventually escaped any kind of oversight for the last two years.
CARPENTER: I don't think what the Trump White House fully realizes is that the Democrats are going to get his tax returns. The House Ways and Means chairman can just go to Treasury and simply ask for it. Treasury can put up a fight, it’ll probably go to court, but there’s an old 1924 law that allows public tax jurisdiction to get that. Not only that, the tax -- Ways and Means chairman can't publicly disclose it, but he can look at what he learns to talk to other lawmakers to inform other investigations. And Adam Schiff has already forecast where he’s going to go.
He wants to look at Trump’s finances in terms of --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Head of the Intelligence Committee incoming.
CARPENTER: Yes. Excuse me. In terms of money laundering to see if the Russians had any leverage over Trump as a national security issue. That’s the best framing I’ve seen a Democrat put on this in terms of how they will pursue it in a neat, tight way that doesn’t risk overreach.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk before we go -- the midterm elections are not quite over yet.
ROBERT: Oh! No!
STEPHANOPOULOS: Special election in Mississippi coming up on Tuesday. Cindy Hyde-Smith, the incumbent up against Mike Espy. She’s been in some hot water over statements about -- related to hangings and lynchings. She had to deal with that at the debate this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), MISSISSIPPI: For anyone that was offended for my – by my comments, I certainly apologize. This comment was twisted and it was turned into a weapon to be used against me.
MIKE ESPY, FORMER SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, UNITED STATES: I don’t know what’s in your heart, but we all know what came out of your mouth. What’s caused our state harm is giving our state another black eye that we don’t need, it’s just rejuvenated those stereotypes, you know, that we don’t need anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: New revelation this morning also that she had attended a segregated school.
ROBERTS: And sent her child to one, which is more important.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And sent her child to one. And is it conceivable though that the Republican in Mississippi loses?
COTTLE: No, anything is conceivable. We have a – we have a Democrat out of Alabama, but I think it’s still a real long shot in this situation. But it has surprisingly degenerated into just kind of all racial politics at this point.
ROBERTS: Although Espy is trying really hard not to make it all about race. I mean he keeps talking as you just heard him say, it’s about Mississippi going forward, it’s about not having this old image of Mississippi as a racist state where you can’t do business.
And a lot of businesses have pulled their money out of her campaign because they did see it exactly that way, that she was making racist statements that they don’t want to be associate with.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And it does get to the question of how rapidly the South is changing.
BROWN: This has been in the Democratic playbook for decades, paint the Republican candidate as racist. We saw it in this race, we saw it in Georgia, there was voter suppression, we see it in Florida, they’re trying to steal the election.
This is – I think that we’ve seen this come out of Democrats before the Republicans and I don’t think Espy is playing it down. I think he’s playing it up. I think he saw an opening here.
And – and I’d also say I think there’s a difference between hanging and lynching and no one seems to be making that distinction. But there is a difference.
COTTLE: I think when your Senate race winds up being a debate over the difference between hanging and lynching, that’s gone somewhere dark.
ROBERTS: Right, and it’s – and it’s a pattern. I mean the confederate cap going to Beauvoir, which I’ve been to at Jefferson Davis’ home, totally unreconstructed.
BROWN: And there were hundreds if not thousands of schools that opened after Brown for this purpose.
BROWN: And a lot of them are integrated today and blaming a person for where her parents sent her to school seems a little bit over – over –
ROBERTS: No, I – that’s why I said it was more important where her daughter went.
CARPENTER: I would say -- I just kind of question why she was appointed to that seat after Thad Cochran resigned. She’s clearly not a strong candidate, she’s not good on the stump, she has a troubled background, and I get a little angry thinking about it because I think GOP leadership just wanted another quiet woman in the Senate who wouldn’t fight.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s going to have to be the last word, we’ll be right back.
That is all for us today, thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out “World News Tonight” and I’ll see you tomorrow on “GMA”.