Trump is 'effectively handcuffed' during the impeachment inquiry: Rick Klein

The Powerhouse Roundtable debates the politics of the impeachment inquiry and the latest on the 2020 election on "This Week."
13:15 | 10/13/19

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Transcript for Trump is 'effectively handcuffed' during the impeachment inquiry: Rick Klein
Let's bring in the powerhouse round table. ABC news political director Rick Klein, Rachael bade, Jonah Goldberg and Stephanie brown James. Thank you for joining me. Rick, Bernie Sanders took a shot at Elizabeth Warren. I think that's the first time we've seen that. Bernie is here to play. That was an unmistakable message to me, Jon. Bernie Sanders recognizes the concerns raised by his health issues and this growing census that says Elizabeth Warren is the candidate to beat. Sanders needs to make that distinction. This debate on Tuesday is critical for him. By the way, those contrasts, if this is a debate of capitalism over socialism, that's going to make Democrats uncomfortable. Who wins that battle? Maybe Joe Biden. Rachael, we saw the fund-raising numbers. Sanders at the top. Followed by Warren. Buttigieg number three. Joe Biden fourth in fund-raising. That does not sound like a fund-raising -- I mean he still leads a lot of the polls. What does that mean for Biden? Obviously people are going to start to question whether this Ukraine controversy is hurting him. Joe Biden has said this is not something they're worried about. They think it puts him at the front to make him look like he's the top candidate going against trump. It's better for him because it looks like him and trump. And all the other democratic candidates on the side. Perhaps it's going to be a problem for him. Tuesday will be interesting to watch the debate stage to see if other democratic candidates decide to go after him on Ukraine. Do they say why didn't you tell your son to not take $50,000 from a company that some people said had connections to corrupt figures? The Biden campaign told me they had a boost in online fund-raising since the story broke, even since the quarter began. They better hope they did. I guess that's right. The big number if you add Sanders and Warren together it's $50,000 pouring in not available to Joe Biden. Jonah? I think it's difficult for other Democrats to go after Biden on the debate stage in part because the case for impeachment really rests on the idea that the Bidens didn't do anything bad. Certainly not what trump is saying they did. I think the Ukraine story -- it's not so much that hurt Biden. It's that Biden doesn't seem to know how to respond to it, how to take advantage of it. He should have a big boost in online money raising. Everyone wants to take his side against trump in this polarized thing. He doesn't seem to have the game to exploit it effectively. Stephanie, is it a legit issue? Is it an issue that should be part of this campaign? That the vice president's son had this business arrangement with a Ukrainian energy company at the time when Biden was the point person on Ukraine? It has the appearance of inappropriateness. Is this a conversation for Biden rivals? I think it will come up. Who brings it up? I think Tulsi gabbard is going to get right into it. I think it's a topic that comes up. That makes sense. We're at a point with those at the lower tiers have to set themselves apart. Anyone is fair game, especially vice president Biden, for them to say, look, we have to question his judgment here. I don't think it should be as big an issue on the stage that it's going to be. We need to figure out where these candidates stand on medicare for all and health care, but I think it comes up Tuesday. What's your take on Sanders? Do you think he comes back from this? He looked pretty good. He looks, well, how he's been looking. If that's good, then that's fine. For him to be back out here is to me questionable. I think his family must be having heart attacks that he's back on the trail. He says he's in it all the way now. I thought he was in it all the way before. It's a situation where we have to have more conversations like this where people are saying I am different from this candidate because of this. I think he kicked it off today by saying his differences with senator Warren -- I think we'll hear a lot more differences played out Tuesday. I want to turn to impeachment and something the president said last night. Take a listen to this. Impeachment, I never thought I would hear that word with regard to me. Impeachment, very ugly word. It means so much. It means horrible, horrie crimes and things I can't even believe it. It's a witch hunt. He also told me Friday he thinks it's helped him. His rallies are bigger now. Rick, what's your sense? This seems to be getting under the president's skin. It's changed the nature of how the president has to respond to things. It looms large. I feel like it's got to him and his supporters. They recognize this is a serious moment. This is not something that can it's not just about legacy either. It's about the practical nature of how this president transacts business. He is effectively handcuffed by this process. You can forget about other things happening on capitol hill. He has to be careful in any kind of relation he has. As this gets broader and his inner circle gets involved, with Rudy Giuliani's involvement, it's an awkward situation for him to be in. It's not ideal. It's an awkward situation. It seems like the frustration is building in him. The Democrats have hit a stride over the past couple weeks and the white house has hit a snag. House Democrats have been fighting for ten months to move against this president. They've not been able to do it until this controversy broke. In the past three weeks they've got witnesses to testify, to turn over text messages that are damaging to this president and they're going to try to use in their impeachment inquiry. At the same time Giuliani as he's making this case against Biden and Biden's son hunter, his two associates that were his right hand on this Biden investigation, were just arrested. The Democrats are sort of moving ahead and the white house is having a problem. I think you can see that reflected in the frustration with the president lashing out. Why is speaker Pelosi not holding a vote? She thinks by doing that she'll be giving into a trump talking point and it will take the conversation away from the substance at hand. This week they're going to have Gordon sondland coming in to testify. This is a former ambassador who is part of a text chain where basically state officials were working with Ukrainians to set up -- The white house has said don't testify and he's testifying anyway. Correct. He knew about the white house trying to get Ukraine to promise publicly to investigate the Bidens in order for them to come to the white house for this heads of state meeting. He's in the thick of it. This is where speaker Pelosi wants the focus. If she holds the vote, they'll be able to pivot. They're also worried about moving goal posts. Does it change anything in terms of how the white house reacts? There's a chance for a rope a more and more the white house is saying if you do the process the way it's been done before, if you hold this vote we'll cooperate with you. At some point Nancy Pelosi could call the bluff and then the white house has no talking points left. Stephanie, why don't they do that. Congressman Himes was like bring it on. Have the vote. Do you think she should? This is where I agree with Bernie Sanders. Look, at the end of the day this is really going to happen in the senate. It's kind of -- look, if Nancy Pelosi holds the vote or doesn't, at the end of the day it's about what happens in the senate. I don't think she's going to hold the vote for the reasons you mentioned. At the end of the day will Mitch Mcconnell make sure a fair process emerges in an impeachment hearing in the senate. That's the real question at hand here. Not so much a focus on if Nancy Pelosi is going to hold the vote because I don't think that she is. The only way she would hold the vote is if a federal judge rules that the only way they can get the material that the white house is withholding from them -- if the federal judge rules you're not in a real impeachment inquiry and you can't get material unless you vote, then I think she'll do it. When does she want to see a final vote on articles of impeachment? When she decided this was for real three weeks ago, they were looking at the holidays to finish up an impeachment inquiry. They're at this crossroads where they wanted to focus on Ukraine and get it done by the end of the year. All these other scandals keep popping up. There are threads some of the Democrats want to pull. Was he pressuring China to investigate Joe Biden? Was he pressuring Australia as one of the "New York Times" stories suggested? Do they need to do a counter investigation into the Mueller report? Do they look into these? If they do, that would drag them into 2020 which would have an overlap with the presidential election. Would that be the smartest strategy, a more comprehensive investigation or get it done? It's somewhat fact dependent. Depends what they find. If they can get a clean shot, as it were, with the Ukraine stuff, maybe that makes sense. My suspicion and when you talk to people around trump, they see this as something to drag out. So the question you asked before about how trump thinks this is helping him, but it also makes him upset, Nate silver addressed this last week on this show. The intensity of the extremely favorable support for trump has increased. For the base this is great for trump. For trump in many ways the base is his pool of narcissists. He sees his reflection in the base. It's also brought up anti-Trump feelings among other voters. Whether trump can figure out pleasing the base is a bad electoral strategy remains to be seen. Look at the Fox News poll. This was not the only poll. This was on the station the president watches. Fox News policy shows 51% saying the president should be impeached and removed from office. A lot of these voters are independent voters who at the end of the day trump needs to win in 2020, well, if he's still in office to win in 2020. For the Democrats this is a situation for them to win or lose. For them to get this done quickly and not have it spiral out of control is a good strategy for them. It keeps the pressure on information being concise and the white house being off kilter. This is a moment for Nancy Pelosi to be the great conductor she's been to this point. The white house has a point. If it looks like a rush to judgment partisan thing and they're not giving due process to the white house, it's bad for Democrats. It's a good talking point for the white house. The view for Democrats is that it's working. They're looking at the poll numbers. Speaker Pelosi outlined for her members in a speaker call they're staying narrow. They're not going to give in to any kind of faints and head dodges and false equivalencies. They're going to plow ahead. It's interesting you've seen Republicans hammer the president on what's happening in Syria and Larry hogan, the governor of Maryland, said he's in favor of impeachment. Mitt Romney has done his thing. Have you seen any signs of Republican weakness on this stuff? I can't count the number of Republicans that said what he did was wrong, but not impeachable. Clearly the party is sticking with the president. The frustration with Syria is a lot of pent-up frustration they're feeling. With the impeachment inquiry. They're sticking with the president. They don't feel like they can criticize them. Not to suggest they don't care about what's happening with the kurds, the whole foreign policy

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

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