If we don't hold Trump accountable, we'll set precedent some are above law: O'Rourke

On "This Week," George Stephanopoulos interviews Beto O'Rourke, one of the more than 20 Democrats vying to take on President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
15:04 | 06/09/19

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Transcript for If we don't hold Trump accountable, we'll set precedent some are above law: O'Rourke
It may be June but this week it feels a bit more like January in Iowa. That huge democratic field flooding the zone. 19 of the 23 candidates in the state this Sunday. They'll share a stage later today, the biggest gathering of candidates so far. A brand-new poll shows where things stand just about two weeks before their first debate. Joe Biden leads the pack with 24%. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete buttigieg basically tied for second. That's a slip for Bernie Sanders, a surge for mayor Pete. Since the last registered poll in March. Our first guest this morning, Beto O'rourke, joins us live from Waterloo, Iowa, at 6%. Good morning. I want to start with that des Moines register poll, polls like that can change pretty quickly, particularly in Iowa. But the trend shows you have been going in the wrong direction. 11% back in December, 5% in March, now 2%. What's your analysis about what's gone wrong for your campaign? You know, I don't know that this many months out from the caucuses in Iowa these polls really indicate what our prospects are. If I relied on polls in any race I run, I would never have been aable to serve in the congress. But the trend matters? Well, look, we got an extraordinary team of volunteers and supporters here today. I was just in Cedar Rapids yesterday, met a young woman, a student named Maggie, who had just knocked on a hundred doors. Those relationships are made at somebody's doorsteps. It's the volunteers, it's the phone calls, it's the canvassing that allows us to connect with the people that will decide this election. These polls, this far out, I really don't think describe the full picture. We got a lot of time, a lot of work, but thankfully, we have a number of extraordinary volunteers who are going to make this possible. And you don't think you need to do anything different than what you have been doing? I could do a much better job engaging nationally. That's what I enjoy doing the most. I think engaging with you on this program and allowing Americans who aren't able to attend one of these town halls to hear my answers to your questions, my vision for this country, what might set me apart from this extraordinary field of candidates who are running to defeat trump and to bring this country together again. But, again, I think the fundamentals of this campaign, meeting people, being with them, showing up with the courage of our convictions and addressing how we're going to make sure that health care is affordable, that everyone can participate in this economy, we confront the challenge of climate before it's too late. We do this in a way that ensures that our democracy fully works. We announced a set of bold democracy reform proposals just this week to bring tens of millions more of our fellow Americans in and to remove barriers with a new voting rights act that ensures that every vote counts and that every voice is heard. If we match that with an end to gerrymandering. And PACS out of our politics, this democracy is going to be up to the challenge. No one has worked harder to make sure that democracy works for everybody than I have. Whether it was the campaign I ran in Texas or my work in congress. That's one of the ideas that sets you apart. That voting rights proposal. One thing we saw in that poll and reflected with Democrats across the country, they're really looking for someone who first and foremost is best positioned to beat president trump. Why are you that person? Look, when Donald Trump came to my hometown of El Paso, tried to use our community as a backdrop for the case that he wanted to make for a 2,000-mile wall. Our community met him and really overpowered his presence with thousands of people who were not against trump, not against anybody else, but for the best traditions of this country. I live in, raising my kids on a beautiful part of the u.s.-mexico border at a time that this country's attention is trained on it. I think I can tell a very, powerful, compelling, positive message about the role immigration and immigrants play that we don't have to fear those who are coming here from other countries and we can do so in a way where we involve everyone. In Texas, I went to each campaign, one more Independence for the first time in decades and brought along half a million Republicans as well. This history of including people, making our democracy work and frankly, George, the fact that we can bring Texas and its 38 electoral votes with us shows us that we're best prepared to take on Donald Trump to defeat him in November of 2020 and bring this very divided country back together in January of 2021. You mentioned the border. You were opposed to the president's tariff threat on Mexico. Didn't that threat work to accelerate agreements they already made with the U.S.? Yeah, I think the president has completely overblown what he porpots to have achieved. These are agreements that Mexico already had made, months ago, by and large, the president achieved nothing but to jeopardize the most trading relationship that the united States of America has. There are 6 million jobs in the country that depend on u.s.-mexico trade. About 40% of the value of everything we import in Mexico actually originated here in this country. On factory floors, in Michigan, Ohio. Iowa, these farmers who are already struggling under a trade war that this president started with China, reciprocal threat. They can't take any more from this president. We need a leader in this country who makes sure we fight for those farmers. We strengthen our ties with Mexico and we secure our connection with the rest of the world. Not through walls. And putting kids in cages. But by investing in solutions in Central America, to ensure that no family has to make that 2,000-mile journey because they're fleeing the deadliest countries on the face of the planet today. We can do a much better job leading on this issue, making sure that they're secure and fully living to our values. We saw Joe Biden this week, change his position on the Hyde amendment, medicare funding on abortion, he's now in line with most of the other Democrats. What do you make of that move? What does it say about him? I can just tell you that I've always known what I thought on this issue. That every single woman in this country should be able to make her own decisions about her own body. Every single session in the United States congress I voted to repeal the Hyde amendment. I co-sponsored legislation to do the same. And as president not only will I ensure that we nominate judges that roe V. Wade is the law of the land. That no state can deny any woman the access to health care she needs. We'll also roll back the gag order and we'll make sure that our department of justice vigorously defends women in every single courtroom. I think it's time for more men join the leadership that women have provided on this issue. I have consistently been there. As president, we do everything in our power to make sure we stand in women in every single case. Is there any room in the democratic party for those who oppose abortion? Look, I think that's a question that the candidates, including vice president Biden, are going to have to answer for themselves. I can just tell you that in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis in this country, three-times as deadly for women of color, access to care is critically important. In my home state of Texas, we saw more than a quarter of our family planning clinics close, it means not only that fewer women are able to access a safe, legal abortion, but the cervical cancer screenings, the family planning help. The ability to see a provider of any kind -- this is a life and death matter. So, it's very hard for me to believe that we could ever produce a nominee who would not believe in a woman's right to choose and the ability to stand and the mandate for us to stand with women in each and every instance. That's what I believe. That's part of why I'm running. And I think that's a core value not just of the democratic party but the United States of America. But you have moved on other issues since your time in congress. The co-sponsorship of that thin blue line bill that called for death penalty for cop killers. Drilling on the gulf coast. Means testing for social security. It's drawn some criticism. Including from a political science professor there at rice university. I want to show you what he said. A lot of things that made Beto an attractive candidate against Ted Cruz in 2018, he's discarding on the side of the road as he travels through Iowa and New Hampshire. The idea of being pragmatic and centrist. I think the Beto magic is probably gone. Do you agree with that -- what do you make of his take that those shifts have undercut your appeal? You know, I have always done what is right, not necessarily right is politically popular. On the city counsel of El Paso. Ensuring that we extended health care benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees. Despite the recall elections and the blowback that followed. Calling for an end to the war on drugs. And the prohibition on marijuana years before any major candidate had done it. For five years now, haven't taken a dime from a single political action committee. Making sure that people instead of corporations and special interests are represented, so I've always followed my conscience, I always made sure that I put this country before my next election or any poll or even my own political party. I will continue to do that as a candidate and I will continue to do that as president of the United States. So you're not shifting as the party shifts? No, I am who I am. I'm certainly showing up and listening to people and learning from them in every community. But, I'm also showing up with the courage of my convictions. The things that I strongly believe in. You can see examples of that in Texas. It may not be the most popular thing in the world to be for universal background checks and to end the sale of assault weapons and weapons of war and to call for red flag laws. I have to live with my conscience and with my kids. And approaching 40,000 gun deaths a year I was moved to call this out and to make sure we describe the leadership we want to provide to save more lives. Talking about health care, women's rights, to make her own decisions about her own body. Universal guaranteed high-quality health care for all. Comprehensive immigration reform. These are positions that I have consistently held because they are critical to the success of this country. Climate change, we've got to marshal every single resource and every single Americans, in the ten years left to us, I say this as a Texan, we got to free ourselves from the dependence on fossil fuels. Embrace renewable energy. Right here in Iowa, put farmers in the driver's seat. Precision farming, George, I'm all about bringing everyone into the solutions. Regardless of the differences between us and making sure that this badly damaged democracy fully works. We heard house speaker Nancy Pelosi say this week, she wants to see the president in prison. Do you think the president trump committed crimes that could be prosecuted? He did. I think that's clear from what we have learned from the Mueller report. But I think those crimes might extend beyond what we have seen in the Mueller report. Using public office for personal gain, for himself and for his family. The relationship that he has with Vladimir Putin, which has never been properly explained from the invitation as a candidate to have Russia involve itself in our election. His efforts to obstruct justice, the fact that he called Vladimir Putin after the Mueller report was released, called it a hoax, thereby giving him a greenlight to further participate in our democracy and our elections. If we don't hold the president accountable we'll have set the precedent that some people in this country, because of their position of power, are in fact above the law. And if we do that, we'll lose this democracy forever. So, regardless of the popularity of the idea or what the polling shows us, we must proceed with impeachment so that we get the facts and the truth and at end of the day there's justice for what was done to our democracy in 2016. And the other potential crimes this president has committed. Even the house impeaches, the senate isn't going to convict the president. If you win in 2020, would you want your justice department to pursue charges against president trump? I would want my justice department, any future administration's justice department to follow the facts and the truth and to make sure at the end of the day that there's accountability and justice. Without this, without that, this idea, this experiment of American democracy comes to a close. We were attacked unlike any other time in our 243-year history and we have a president who has yet to acknowledge it and a president who has yet to be brought to justice. Alt the end of the day, justice is important. Foundational for the success of this country. No matter who that is. Beto O'rourke, thank you for your time this morning. Thank you, George.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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