Trump attacking Pelosi helps 'unite her within that caucus even more': Matthew Dowd

The "This Week" Powerhouse Roundtable debates the latest in the 2020 presidential race and all of the week's politics.
17:08 | 05/26/19

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Transcript for Trump attacking Pelosi helps 'unite her within that caucus even more': Matthew Dowd
sumo wrestling match overseas in Japan, presenting a giant trophy to the winner, a break from the wrestling matches here in Washington. So let's bring in this Sunday's roundtable, ABC news political analyst Matthew dowd, Republican strategist and ABC news contributor Alex Castellanos, Julie pace, Washington bureau chief for the associated press and we welcome ABC news deputy political director Maryalice parks. Great to have you all here this Sunday morning. Matt, I want to start with you. We've been talking about these extraordinary moments between speaker Pelosi and Donald Trump. How did the president fair in this? How do you think Pelosi faired? Well, I don't think anybody has a diminished view of the president no matter what he does. It seems to be in the course of this -- as you showed in the numbers he's stuck at about 41% of the approval rating. I actually think what he did helped Nancy Pelosi and we'll talk about this I'm sure. Go ahead and talk about it. In the conflict that exists within her caucus, I think Donald Trump using her and attacking her actually helps unite her within that caucus even more and I think how independent voters in the country view the president which is unfavorably, it helps the view of Nancy Pelosi. I think in a battle like this, it adheres to the benefit of Nancy Pelosi as opposed to Donald Trump. It definitely doesn't change the perceptions of Donald Trump. Alex doesn't seem to agree with you, shocking. I might have a different view and that is when Donald Trump drags anyone into his playing field, the mud, he wins. He's very good at that. He is what he is. If he can get everybody else playing on his level, he's successful. She's pretty tough on the president though. She's proven herself a tough adversary but she's the adversary Republicans want. She's more unpopular than trump is in a lot of these places. Julie, what do you think the speaker's strategy is here? I think the speaker is operating on two tracks right now. On the one hand she's trying to hold off voices in her caucus who want to move toward impeachment quickly. On the other hand she's trying to give them some tough red meat rhetoric so she can show them even though she strongly believes that that's a political mistake for Democrats, that she takes what's happening with trump and the administration seriously, that she agrees with them that this strategy to just say no to every congressional inquiry, every request for documents or interviews is a real challenge to our system of government. But she really strongly believes that unless you have some massive change in public opinion on trump and on impeachment that that is going to be disastrous for Democrats. Behind all this is the white house's continuing stonewalling on many of these investigations that's agitated a lot of these how long can Pelosi stave off this idea of impeachment do you think? I think the question is largely going to be determined by how this administration responds to the courts. Back-to-back in the last week two different judges sided with Democrats in their request for documents. My democratic source on capitol hill say they feel like those big wins helped temper some of this restlessness in the caucus but there's also buzz on capitol hill that when it comes to the court there could be a new red line for the Democrats. If this administration were to defy a court order and not give up documents, that I think could be a total breaking point, even for speaker Pelosi and some of these Democrats that have been cautious. Are they going to go anything done on the hill? Not a lot. Before the end of 2019. I don't think they're going to get anything done that's proactive. They're going to have to get things done such as raising the debt limit, funding the government. It says a lot though about where we are, that those are probably the only things. Infrastructure, we saw again last week that this is basically a pipe dream even though it's something that both parties profess to want to do. There's little appetite from Democrats to try to give trump any victories on policy headed into the election. Trump frankly doesn't think it's good for his base to be seen working with someone like a Nancy Pelosi. Thank god they're not going to get anything done but you know, that strengthens trump. The Washington elite who two fat guys fighting over a ham sandwich, these battles that mean nothing to people, the more people see dysfunctional Washington, the more they want someone to disrupt it and that's trump. The problem that Donald Trump has in that scenario is he's Washington. He's the president. Oh, no. He has become the biggest alligator in the swamp. That's one of the fundamental questions of the 2020 election. Is trump going to be seen as a politician because he's been here for four years or has he convinced his supporters and others who look at Washington elites and think that it's a disaster -- Do you think -- remember -- His base? Nancy Pelosi has 40 members of her caucus that just flipped seats red to blue. If you're one of those 40 you're not excited about this idea of just throwing up your hands and not getting anything done. It's not fun to go home empty handed. She's getting it from both sides. If you look at the reality of the situation in Washington today, the Democrats have actually passed over 200 bills in the house of representatives since this new congress has come in. They can both legislate and investigate. They have done both at the same time. All of those bills are languishing in the senate because Mitch Mcconnell decided passing anything the Democrats do isn't a good idea. I want to go back to impeachment for one second. This is an argument that you can argue the politics of it but then there's the principle of it and at some point Democrats, even if the politics of this is problematic for Democrats and you can't change Republicans' minds on this which right now you can't, there is a principle argument to be made. Civil rights, the American public did not support the leaders in the American public were off base on civil rights. On gay rights, the leaders were off base with where the American public was. I think at some point of time you have to put the politics and aside and decide the principle and argument that you want to do regarding the president's impeachment. I want to turn to bill Barr, the attorney general. President trump has now put the focus on investigating the investigators. Is he just playing to his base here? You know, on occasion even politicians do the right thing and I think Donald Trump is doing the right thing here. The Democrats have been calling for transparency for two years now, right? The American people have a right to see everything. Old Cuban saying, never spit straight up. Even Adam Schiff called for these documents to be released by the Obama administration because he was afraid -- And yet not the -- -- That president would hide them. The unredacted Mueller report. By the way, there is a case to be made that there was overreach in our investigative agencies. Out of good motives they feared this authoritarian was going to become president, oh, my god, it has to be stopped. Did they go too far? There are legitimate questions that should be investigated about that. Barr is protecting the presidency as well as the president. Bill Barr does seem to have quickly emerged as one of the president's strongest allies. Do you think Barr is doing the president's bidding or someone that's just protecting the president? He says he's protecting the presidency. In this case he's protecting the president, giving trump what he wanted which is somebody at the justice department who appears to be on his side. What's really interesting about what bill Barr is doing, yes, you have everything that he's doing with relation to the Mueller report, to investigating the investigators but he's taking this trump agenda on fully. He was just in El Salvador talking about ms-13 and immigration and gang members. He's embracing the trump agenda in a really robust way. It's unlikely the Democrats are going to trust whatever answer he comes up with. I imagine a scenario where you have house Democrats issuing more subpoenas and they're starting to investigate the investigation of the investigation. At the end of the day, bottom line, they want more oversight of this justice department and the justice department doesn't want to give that. Alex, I want to turn to 2020 which is the shadow over everything we do. The president seems most concerned about Joe Biden, tweeting about him, and we'll talk about that in a minute, from North Korea. Should someone like Pete buttigieg who we just saw be a threat? He's on Fox News, he's a military veteran. Is that the kind of person they should be looking at? I think the president's been very clear that the last guy he wants to see on his turf on fox News is Pete buttigieg and there's a real reason for that. Joe Biden has middle class, working class potential. He's not playing just to the 40% of the democratic party but says it's liberal or ultra liberal. Another 52% of the democratic party says it's moderate to conservative. That's Biden's lane. He's about the only guy in there, except for crossover Pete buttigieg. The South Bend mayor who talks about working people and their pain and how the elites have let them down. So yes, right now Iowa, the latest survey, the starting line survey, has Biden and Bernie at 24, buttigieg in third place at 14. I could easily see old Biden shrinking. When Democrats start looking for an alternative to crazy Bernie, it may well be buttigieg. I think he's one to watch. I think Pete buttigieg -- you watch him, he's probably one of the most impressive communicators of the entire field and this is of experienced politicians that have run for and won a lot of offices in this. I think what the mayor -- and I think he's impressive and I think he's a very difficult opponent for the president to run against but the problem I think that Pete buttigieg has is that he's going to have to demonstrate that he's never gone through in a political way a gauntlet of three, four, five, six bad days in a row. This campaign will set up that way. We'll watch him in his debate but I am very interested to see if this young man can go through that gauntlet and how he emerges from that gauntlet. That's the test of these politicians. Maryalice, you've been covering Pete buttigieg. What do you see as his challenge? He might have been the perfect candidate for 2016, an outsider in what ended up being an outsider's race. The democratic party after Hillary Clinton lost was craving a new generation of leadership but his biggest challenge might be that that was yesterday's fight. With this administration and this president in the white house for two and a half years, we could have a democratic electorate that actually is craving an elder statesman and Joe Biden feels safe and secure to a lot of them. Julie, Nate silver with our partners at fivethirtyeight wrote a piece about the fundamental question facing democratic primary voters. Are moderate Democrats more electable? Here's the answer. He says he doesn't know but they're polling better. I agree with Nate that we don't know. That's such an easy thing to agree on. The two theories right ow for Democrats are you nominate a moderate, somebody like a Joe Biden and win back some of those working class voters who switched. The other theory of the case is that Hillary Clinton lost to trump because she wasn't able to motivate and energize core parts of the democratic electorate. Younger voters, African-American voters, some of the liberals who voted for Bernie Sanders. So we don't know the answer to that but those are two I think reasonable theories right now. Martha, Democrats have something we haven't paid a lot of attention to, a 15% floor. If you don't get above 15% in a lot of these primaries and caucuses, you get zero delegates. That means Biden doesn't really have as many people in the field to divide to the lesser candidates. He's got a tougher race. He's not protected by that big field we think he has. So I think he's only running against four or five people. I think he's in trouble. When you look at the 2020 race and the Democrats are going to go through this whole process, series of debates, a lot of candidates, and I don't think we should ignore the fact that kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are in the top five so they have a place to emerge in this. I think Donald Trump in the end -- presidential re-elects are all about where the president stands. It will be fascinating who emerges. Unless the president figures out a way to expand support beyond 41%, it's very difficult for him to win a general election when his job approval is at 41 or 42%. Let's talk about what the president is doing overseas besides looking at sumo wrestling. We all saw that tweet about North Korea and basically supporting Kim Jong-un, and John Bolton, he's worried about these missiles. I will say right away that those short little weapons that the president described can travel about 300 miles as we've said. What's behind a tweet like that? I think one thing is the president was probably trying to send a message to John Bolton. He is not afraid to contradict his own advisers publicly. Does it mean John Bolton's in trouble or he just likes that confusion? He generally likes either the confusion or to assert that he's in charge. And ultimately he is. But maybe also get the message out there that John Bolton is -- Doesn't always speak for -- doesn't always speak for me. It is very clear that trump when it comes to the situation with North Korea believes that his ability as a one-on-one negotiator is the right path. He believes he has made progress. He believes that the only way that we will avert this situation is for him to keep talking. He hears a lot of voices behind the scenes who tell him he is naive in that regard but at this moment he believes that he's going to be able to strike some kind of deal. Let me say again, I believe it was June 12th, the Singapore summit, so we are approaching the one-year anniversary and there has been zero significant progress in denuclearization. This is the administration that said that the era of strategic patience is over. But it's not about north Korea, is it? This has been a signal a couple of weeks in American history because this is when the cold war with China began. My generation grew up with nightmares about nuclear mushroom clouds because we had to stand up to the soviet union since the '40s. Well, we won that. By the way, Republicans did well in the polls because we were the party of strength during that period. Now there's a new cold war, military, economic. It's against a more powerful and ruthless adversary. Trump is the first president to take that seriously. China has been using North Korea as leverage as a club to beat us with. All trump is trying to do is take North Korea -- that bat -- out of their hands. He's trying but it hasn't happened yet. As long as he says he can convince China, hey, I've got a good relationship with the little guy, that helps. Switch places for a second. President Obama had been saying and doing the same things related to North Korea. Fox News and the Republican establishment would be up in arms how he placated a dictator in North Korea. It's memorial weekend. Tomorrow is memorial day and I'm struck by the president in this. There's a great country song by Justin Morris called "The ones that didn't make it home." If you want to honor the ones that didn't make it home watching this president this past week, do you honor the ones that didn't make it home by considering pardoning people that might be convicted of war crimes? Do you really honor the ones that didn't make it home by the troop assignment in Iran after we watched the folly in Iraq, the folly in Afghanistan and we didn't learn the lesson -- the Vietnam war took us 30 years to learn the lesson. And do we really honor T ones that didn't make it home by banning transgender troops, transgender people from being in the military? To me when I look at this and this race in 2020 going back to it, is not going to be about what our economic situation is with China and what the gdp, unemployment number is, it's going to be about who we are. On this memorial day weekend it's important to ask who we are and how do we honor those people that didn't make it home. Hard to respond to that one, Alex, but I'm going to give you about ten seconds. I think it's going to be about something larger and maybe it's about who we are but who we are as compared to an elite that's losing all over the world, losing in Australia, losing in Brexit, losing in Israel. The Democrats are the party of that elite here that's making that government work for them and not us. Donald Trump is still the outsider and I think he's got a big advantage going in. A guy with $3 billion that puts his name on everything. He's the only thing standing between us and them. That's what a lot of Americans, I think, are going to vote for. Thanks to all of you and have a good memorial day weekend. Thanks for coming in.

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

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