Bossert: Border wall 'small investment for the return that we receive'

White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Tom Bossert goes one-on-one with George Stephanopoulos on "This Week."
11:27 | 08/27/17

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Transcript for Bossert: Border wall 'small investment for the return that we receive'
We're joined by the someland security adviser Tom Bossert. Thank you for joining us. You heard the praise from governor Abbott on the federal response. What is your focus for the next phase? Good morning, George. Our focus remains on the governor. It's nice to hear the praise. It's a mutual feeling. President trump is giving all the latitude of the federal government that he can. Brock long, our femaed a ministart is coordinating efforts. People focus on coordinating federal efforts. What Brock is doing is is really pretty special. He's coordinatinging federal efforts across different departments and aim sis. He's coordinating volunteers and workers and professionals from other state as well. We have talked a lot the morning about the search and rescue efforts under way. Life-saving and life-sustaining is our effort right now. Help is coming from all over the country. There's a lot of effort under way. What Brock has to do and what the president has to remain focused on and what I try to help him focus on is unity of the efforts. We'll focus on that for the next 24 to 48 hours. The president is saying he'll only visit when he can be sure he's not interrupting. Any idea? We'll go where we can without getting in the way of the operator. We won't prevebt life saving activities fromming place. The president wants to go to show support. He doesn't want to get in the way. We'll let the details play out. ? The governor said he's expandinging the the number of areas that need emergency funding. Is the president prepared to ask congress for more funds? Sure. Here's how this works. What the president did was gave the authority necessary to the federal government to the FEMA administrator to do what he has to do. Now, what the FEMA administrate harz to do is work with the governor and feg your out where to apply those resources. We'll have some number of counties where we'll focus efforts. Additional counties require assistant assistance, he doesn't have to come back to the president. In terms of money, I think we have $3 billion in the disaster relief fund right now. There are 0 open disasters around the country right now. The president op Friday night around 10:00, as the storm was taking shape, announced by Twitter he was pardoning sheriff Joe arpaio in Arizona. He was convicted of failing to follow a judge's order to stop racial profiling. Both Republican Arizona senators and this morning blast from former vice president. He says the president's contempt for the U.S. Constitution an willingness to widen this nation knows no bounds. Now he's pardoned a law enforcement official who terrorized the Latino community, violated its constitution gnat right, E defied a federal court order -- your response? Vice president Joe Biden is loved and known for his hyperbole. I think there is disproportionate coverage right now. As I and governor Abbott focus on the people in the Houston area. I think the arpaio pardon is straightforward. Just about every president has controversial pardons. It's not fair to contact iz him about not caringing about the rule of law. Is there that came from senator McCain and speaker of the house Paul Ryan, as well. You're absolutely right. Presidents have absolute pardon power. President Clinton got criticized for his pardon of mark rich. This is different. President trump said arpaio was arrested for doing his job. How is that doing his job? It was a can tempt order, not an issue of -- of his job or not his job. I don't know the details of it. I know the president is clear about his defense of it and his decision. I'm pretty certain, too, George this is not something that will threaten our constitutional order. That is being -- disputed by the speaker of the house, Paul Ryan, senator John McCain as well. The president, you say he's been clear in defending the sheriff arpaio and his pardon, he called him a patriot who kept us safe and praised his service. He held inmates in horrible conditions. Promoted the birther lie about president Obama. How is that admirable? Ment I'm focused on not the only 4.6 million people in the Houston area, but the millions of people around the country tryivg to bring together outside of these divisive political questions, their effects and their prayers to help those people who are in need. My guess is not too many people care about this one guy right now. But wait. Wait a second, Tom. I understand that. And you have been praised for the work you're doing on the the flood. But you're also the adviser of homeland security. Sheriff arpaio's actions come within the realm of homeland security. How can you call the actions laid out by him contempt of court, man, something he's shone no remorse for, admirable service? Well, I didn't -- what I think you're doing is asking me what the merits of the pardon are. I think there's a clemency argument that can be made for the long history of service in the United States military and in law enforcement for the sheriff. The president believes that that long history of service merits this clemency. He's acted accordingly. I suspect you're disagreeing with it. I'm asking whether or not you aagree with it. Let's move on to the border wall. The president in Phoenix threatening to shut down government funding for the wall. All: Build that wall. Build that wall. The obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall. The president promised repeatedly in the campaign that Mexico would pay the wall. So why should the government shut down for a wall that Mexico is supposed to pay for? The immediate funding for this capital project has to come through this appropriations process. The means and mechanisms for reimbursing our -- and to making some agreement with the Mexicans can come through other forms. The president has alluded to that in a number of occasions. Think what is important here is that the wall works. I said recently words matter and walls work. We visited the yuma sector where a wall was built in 2006, or starting then. The results have been pretty undisputable in terms of the reduced number of border crossings. And the length of that 370-mile or so region was not able to be protected without some kind of wall. From my perspective. The wall works. It's a small up vestment for the return we receive. The president has asked for it in a responsible budget package. That carries out the responsibilities of the entire federal government. Think the responsibility falls back to the Democrats and others in congress to decide whether that priority is something they would like to shut the the government down over or if they would like to carry out the president's order. The president threatened to shut the wall down. He said the Mexicans were going to pay for it. You said the words matter. The president has known since January the Mexicans are not going to pay for it. The secretary of state hasn't brought it up in meetings with the Mexicans. Can you concede that the Mexicans are not going to pay for the wall, which is why you're asking congress to pay for it. In no, as I said a moment ago, we'll go through the mechanism to get the initial money we need from congress through an appropriations process and we'll construct a barrier on the border. As we work with the Mexicans and other policies and trade Poli policies and such, we'll determine ways to make that right. No indication from the Mexicans they're going the pay for it. Is the president saying he's going to veto any funding bill that doesn't include wall funding? Jt we'll let that play out. I believe that congress will meet the president's budget request. It puts us on a path to solve solvency. I think we'll get a good bill from the congress. The American people will see there is obstruction from congress. The Democrats and Republicans made it clear they're not going to have the wall funding. The president talked a lot about charlottesville in Phoenix this week. Late in the week, Gary Cohn, your colleague in the white house, spoke out to "The foonl tames" fe said citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-nazis, and the kkk, this administration can and must to better. Do you believe that? I plooe the administration has condemned those groups. I have gone on the record and dup it a number of times. I would like to say it again in clear, unequivocal terms. No room in the country for racial violence, or bigotry, or neo-naz I groups. At all. I can't be clearer. For me, I'm focused on their 5 million people, probably 23 million people at tepid of the the day in the direct path of the storm that are suffering. I hope that Gary Cohn is focused on the 300 million people who need tax relief. I know Donald Trump is. The president also said there were very fine people marching with the white supremacists. Who did he have in mind? Think you have to ask him how he wanted to parse the groups of people. I suspect there being around him at that time, that you'll find some reason to believe that there are two groups that were there, multiple groups that were there, not creating any moral equivalency between them. But citizens from charlottesville, not the outside protester groups. I would ask you to ask the president for clarification. That is my suspicion. Speaker Ryan has spoken about this. Once you see the torches, hear the chants, how can you be a very fine person and continue to March? I don't think anybody chanting those things is a very fine person. Period. Tom Bossert, thank you. Thank you. "The roundtable" coming up.

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

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