A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, June 2, 2019 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.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: — starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, GMA: Virginia Beach massacre. 12 dead in America’s latest mass shooting.
MAYOR BOBBY DYER (R), VIRGINIA BEACH: Today is Virginia Beach’s darkest hour.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cevera joins us live. And the special counsel breaks his silence.
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI SPECIAL COUNSEL: If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sparking new calls for impeachment —
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: We need to begin impeachment proceedings and we need a new commander and chief.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And more pressure on the Speaker.
NANCY PELOSI (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: 11 instances of possible obstruction of justice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pelosi fears impeachment’s a trap that could help President Trump. How will Democrats escape this dilemma? Can they force Mueller to testify? What are the consequences for 2020? We’ll ask Democratic Candidate Senator Michael Bennet, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff and one of the president’s top defenders in Congress, Jim Jordan. Plus, Martha Raddatz on the ground in Tehran for an exclusive interview with Iran’s foreign minister.
MARTHA RADDATZ, CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: If you did come back to the negotiating table, would you trust President Trump?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the president threatens new tariffs on Mexico and China. As he prepares to launch his re-election bid, how will the escalating trade wars impact the race? Insight and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable. We’ll break down the politics, smoke out the spin, the facts that matter this week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK. We have a lot to get to this morning but we begin in an all-too-familiar place, mourning the victims of another mass shooting in America. Here are the 12 killed in a government building in Virginia Beach late Friday. Laquita Brown, Ryan Keith Cox, Tara Welch Gallagher, Mary Louise Gayle, Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Joshua Hardy, Missy Langer, Richard Nettleton, Katherine Nixon, Christopher Kelly Rapp, Herb Snelling, Bobby Williams. The victims and their loved ones in our thoughts this morning (ph).
We will not name the shooter as we confront what has become a deadly epidemic. And we begin with the police chief of Virginia Beach, James Cevera. Chief Cevera, thank you for joining us this morning. Our condolences to your entire community. In addition to the 12 victims we also know there were four injured. What more can you tell us about their condition this morning and the latest on the investigation?
JAMES CEVERA, VIRGINIA BEACH POLICE CHIEF: We do know that three of the victims who were wounded are still in critical condition. One is in much better condition. Our fingers are crossed and our prayers are going out that that winds up in a positive outcome for all of them. As far as the investigation goes, we’re currently in what we call the evidence recovery mode. The FBI has sent a team of some 40 investigators on our evidence recovery team to assist us. Actually they now have the lead at this point.
So all the forensic techs from out city, evidence recovery techs from the FBI are still in the crime scene, in the building. I have to let you know it’s a large building and because it’s an older building, the inside is a honeycomb maze of offices that have been added and some deleted as time went on when the building was first constructed. They’ve been in there for — since the initial shooting and my — my deep honor goes out to the work that they’re doing right now to put this whole case together from this end.
STEPHANOPOULOS: None of us want to give the shooter any more attention than he deserves but from what you’ve discovered so far, anything more on the motive or whether anything could have been done to prevent this tragedy?
CEVERA: We don’t have anything additional on the motive. We’re now interviewing co-workers, witnesses, family members, anyone who will step forward maybe to give us some additional background. I appreciate the fact that we’re not mentioning his name. We did it once, that’s the last time we’re going to do it. As far as additional information on the case, like I said, we’re working every angle we possibly could. Remember this is an open government building and he’s an employee of the open government building, so he has access through his card to get into numerous places that the general public would not be allowed into, so he had full access to the building.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he obtained the guns legally as well, at least some of them. We know the shooter used a sound suppressor. What difference did that make and do we need more restrictions on gun accessories like that?
CEVERA: The sound suppressor is just that. So someone in one end of the building would not have heard a gunshot going off as opposed to another end of the building. But again, this is a very large building. That might not have been an issue in this particular case. As far as, you know, more legislation on — on gun issues, I’m a member of Major City Chiefs, we did publish something about a year and a half ago. I don’t think most of that would have mattered in this particular case. We do have the Second Amendment, it is very stringent for our country. In this particular case the weapons were obtained legally, everything was done in a legal manner by this individual.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And your officers responded with their training quite quickly, saved lives.
You’ve been in law enforcement now 44 years. This has hit home for you and your force this morning. What is your message to the country?
CERVERA: Well, my message is this: the first four officers that made entry, made entry into that building within few minutes of that initial call going out. Other officers responded to search other parts of the building. The team that made the entry that eventually confronted the suspect, made that entry, began to clear out the first floor, realized where the suspect was on an additional floor. They immediately engaged with him.
It was a long gun battle, for lack of any other word, what we would call a long firefight. They stood their ground. They held their ground. He was moving, they were moving, this wasn’t something that you would think of in most police officer-involved shootings. And also everyone has to remember, this isn’t a choreongraphed movie or TV incident, it was real, it was violent, it was going on. Those cops stuck themselves in that place to stop him from committing more carnage in that building. One officer was wounded. I checked with him yesterday, he’s doing just fine. And they were able to take the individual down.
And yes, it was a fatality, but we also have to know when they realize he was injured, he was down, they then switched over to first aid for that particular individual, because cops across the country believe in the sanctity of life, and they belive that they’re the ones that put themselves in harm’s way for other individuals. And that’s exactly what those young cops did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Every single day.
Chief, thanks for very much for your time this morning.
CERVERA: Thank you, sir.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are now joined by Senator Michael Bennet, one of the 23 Democrats running for president this year. Senator Bennet, thank you for joining us this morning. You just heard the chief right there kind of laying out the difficulties facing those who are calling for more gun restrictions, like you. What difference can a president make here? We know President Obama supported more gun restrictions, couldn’t get it done.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET, (D-CO) 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, George, thanks for having me. I think a president can make a big difference here.
Look, we just — the House of Representatives have passed background checks to close the gun show loophole and the Internet loophole. This person bought the guns lawfully as we know. And every single fact pattern is going to be different.
But we should pass those background checks. 90 percent of the American people support it. But we know what’s going to happen, which is the House has passed it, Mitch McConnell will not allow it to come to a vote in the Senate, and we will not have national background checks.
After Columbine in Colorado, the people of this western state voted to close the gun show loophole and the Internet loophole. That was 20 years ago, George, and every single year about 2 or 3 percent of the people that try to buy a gun in Colorado are stopped. And these these people are rapists and murderers and convicted felons of one kind of another. And it’s impossible to argue that our state is not safer as a result of this law.
So, my hope is that if McConnell does not take this on the floor, that the America people, and the people of Kentucky, will hold him accountable for that and that we can actually put leadership in the Senate and the White House that will do something about this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re not the only Coloradoan in the race, your former boss when he was mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper, is also running. Of course he was governor of Colorado as well. And yesterday, he got a pretty rough reception at the California Democratric convention when he denounced socialism. I want to show it.
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JOHN HICKENLOOPER, FORMER GOVERNOR OF COLORADO: Let me be clear, if we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big, progressive goals, socialism is not the answer. I was re-elected…
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STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard those boos right there. You know, at State of the Union, you applauded President Trump when he said America will never be a socialist country. Are you worried that you and John Hickenlooper are out of step with the base of your party?
BENNET: Well, I think John might not wanted to have denounce socialism in San Francisco, that might be the last place that you’d want to do it.
I don’t think I’m out of step. I was not applauding Donald Trump, I was applauding the idea that this country will not become a socialist country. I think we have 230 years of being the longest lived democracy on the planet, that’s something we need to preserve, and it is becoming harder and harder for us because we have had 40 years of no economic mobility in the United States, 90 percent of the American people, 90 percent, George, have not shared in the economic growth over the last 40 years. For them those periods of economic growth has acted as an recession and as a result they can’t afford the basic components of the middle class life.
And on top of that, if you’re poor in this country, your chances of getting into the middle class are lower today than they’ve been in generations. That is tearing at our democracy. And if we don’t figure out a way to begin to address that, to reestablish in this country the idea that, when the economy grows, everybody’s income grows, we’re going to have real problems.
And so, I don’t think we need to call it socialism or not – doesn’t matter. What we need is a country where everybody has a share in our prosperity.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it’s not only rhetorical difference. There are real substantive differences as well. He was also booed when he took on the idea of Medicare for all, that it’s going to take away private health insurance from so many millions of Americans. That’s your position as well. Again, the base of the party seems to be going in another direction.
BENNET: Well, actually, I think the Twitter universe in the party is going in another direction. The base of the party that I’ve – I’ve been meeting with in New Hampshire, Iowa, and just yesterday in South Carolina, they don’t think we should take insurance away from 180 people. They absolutely, categorically do not agree that Bernie is right on that. And I don’t think Bernie’s right on that. I think he’s wrong.
I remember when we voted on Obamacare, I was there and we all said “If you like your insurance, you can keep it” and thousands of people in the country lost it because they had insurance that didn’t prevent people with preexisting conditions from being bounced from their health insurance and it was a political catastrophe. Now we’re saying “Look, if you like your insurance, the Democrats are going to take it away from you and replace it with a government plan.”
That’s not going to be acceptable to people. If you want universal healthcare, which I do, I just – I just had a prostate cancer operation myself and I feel very strongly about this. If we want universal healthcare, I think we’re a lot better off saying to the American people, you have an option. For your family and for you to decide whether you want to be on a public plan, mine is called Medicare X, or on a nonprofit plan which is what I’m now, Kaiser, or a for-profit plan.
If we tell the American people we have to take it away from you before you can have universal healthcare, it’s never going to work. And that’s not because, by-the-way, single payer is a bad idea. It’s because we have an existing system of insurance today. If we had no existing system, I think we should be having a different conversation. But I just – yeah.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you’re hoping to be the – I know you’re hoping to be the nominee. So is Bernie Sanders. Can you support him as a Democratic socialist if he gets the nomination?
BENNET: I absolutely can support him and I can support him wholeheartedly if it means we’re going to beat Donald Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You think a Democratic socialist can beat Donald Trump?
BENNET: Well, I think the only way we’re going to lose to Donald Trump is if we disqualify ourselves. And that’s why – that’s why these issues around how we approach universal healthcare, how we approach climate change, we – as Democrats, we have to build a broad constituency in the country not just of Democrats but independents and Republicans to overcome Trump. We should never have lost to Trump.
We lost to a climate-denier. He should have been disqualified from office just on the basis of that yet we lost on a jobs argument to a guy who is threatening to – or, you know, promising to drag us back into the 19th century. We have to – go ahead.
STEPHANOPOULOS: To make this case, you’re going to have to get on the debate stage. Right now, you’re having – you haven’t qualified yet. There are two criteria; 65,000 donors, want to show a chart here from 05/38, 65,000 donors. You need 1 percent in at least three national polls. They say it could be tough for you to make this debate, even tougher to make the third debate where they’re going to double those criteria. You confident you’re going to be able to get on?
BENNET: Well, I hope so. I only got in the race four weeks ago, so, George, I’m behind and anybody who wants to help, we’d love to have the help. But I also think – I hope the DNC sort of takes a look at this and reconsiders. I mean, I have won two really tough races in Colorado, a swing state, a purple state in the west. I’ve chaired the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, I raised a record amount of money while I was doing that. I’ve been in the Senate for 10 years and I think the tragedy for adding voices to the Democracy, if we’re basing it just on what people can raise on the internet in just a handful of weeks, I just don’t think it makes any sense.
I mean, you should see, George, the e-mails that people are sending out to try to get fundraising contributions. I mean, the desperation is unbelievable and has nothing to do with putting Democrats into a strategic posture to win the White House from Donald Trump, which is where we need to be.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Bennet, thanks for your time this morning …
BENNET: At least I think that’s where we need to be.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you for sharing your views this morning.
BENNET: Thanks for having me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, tensions high between the United States and Iran. Martha Raddatz is in Tehran for an exclusive interview with Iran’s foreign minister. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran, Martha Raddatz was able to enter Iran for an exclusive interview with the foreign minister. She joins us now from Tehran, good morning Martha.
MARTHA RADDATZ, CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Good morning, George. We have not been here since Donald Trump was elected and pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal, and what a difference we have seen.
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It was nearly four years ago that the Iran nuclear deal was announced, we were on the streets of Tehran that night surrounded by Iranian people full of hope.
These people are so happy that these punishing sanctions will eventually be lifted.
And sanctions were lifted, double digit growth quickly followed, but today in Tehran there is little to celebrate. With the sanctions back in place, the Iranian economy is in dramatic distress.
Here in Tehran’s grand bazaar, there seems to be all kinds of goods and plenty of food, but the problem is now the prices are astronomical.
Prices for red meat and poultry are 57 percent higher, vegetables 47 percent, milk, cheese and eggs a 37 percent increase.
What have the sanctions done to you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very bad, very bad.
RADDATZ: Among the young people here, a majority of the population fears of war seem to be dwarfed by the crippled economy.
Are you worried about finding a job?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I’m actually worried about everything in my life right now, because I cannot see any future ahead of me.
RADDATZ: We asked Iran’s foreign minister about Trump’s so called maximum pressure campaign when we sat down with him this morning.
It looks like it’s having a devastating effect on the economy.
JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well President Trump has called it in fact economic war, I call it economic terrorism, and the reason I call it economic terrorism is that it targets ordinary Iranian people.
RADDATZ: President Trump says he wants to talk, he has invited Iranian officials to give him a call. How likely is that?
ZARIF: It’s not very likely, because talking is the continuation of the process of pressure. He is imposing pressure, this may work in a real estate market, it does not work in dealing with Iran.
RADDATZ: If you did come back to the negotiating table, would you trust the United States? Would you trust President Trump?
ZARIF: The last experience was not very optimistic and does not provide an optimistic perspective for a future agreement. So this is what I believe is happening to the national community, that is people think twice before they talk to the United States because they know that what they agree to, they may not hold to mark.
RADDATZ: On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran is in compliance with the original nuclear deal, but the IAEA is also raising questions about new centrifuges in Iran and the U.S. has accused Iran or its proxies of sabotaging four oil tankers near the Persian Gulf, charges Zarif disputes.
If the United States decides to declassify some of its intelligence, if they show images which some officials say exist of cruise missiles being put on small Iranian boats, will you simply dismiss that and not believe it?
ZARIF: No, no, no, I believe – you see we call this place the Persian Gulf for a reason, so it’s next to us, we have the right to defend ourselves. Just imagine if Iran were to come to California coast or to come to Florida coast, how do you feel (ph) – how would you treat that?
These ships are located very close to our waters, we have the right to put whatever missiles we want to put on them.
RADDATZ: You’ve talked about escalation and that there would be dangerous consequences. What kind of consequences are you talking about with the United States?
ZARIF: Well I like to keep President Trump guessing because he likes everybody in the world to keep on guessing about what is happening in the United States. You hear to – one day something coming from the White House, the next day something else coming from the State Department.
Since they want us to continue guessing, let them continue guessing too.
RADDATZ: What would you say to President Trump?
ZARIF: I’ve said it before, threats against Iran never work. Never threaten an Iranian, try respect. That may work.
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RADDATZ: Foreign Minister Zarif says Iran would only act out of self defense, but that can have a very broad definition. George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And it doesn’t sound like a lot of negotiations anytime soon. Martha, thanks very much, when we come back after Robert Mueller’s surprise press conference, the debate over impeachment front and center in the House. We’ll take that on next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The impeachment debate is next with Congressssman Adam Schiff and Jim Jordan. We’ll be right back.
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MUELLER: The opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The opinion says you cannot indict a — a president while he’s in office but he could have reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: Very different views there from William Barr, Robert Mueller. Want to talk about that now with Congressman Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Chairman Schiff, thank you for joining us this morning. I know you’re coming to us from San Francisco this morning, site of that state convention yesterday. And I want to show everyone House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking at that convention and almost getting drowned out by calls for impeachment. Let’s listen.
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PELOSI: The report lays out of 11 instances of possible obstruction of justice by the president of the United States. As —
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STEPHANOPOULOS: And now, you’ve been supporting the speaker as she holds the line against impeachment but the pressure is building. Can you hold the line?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, look, I think we’re going to do what’s right for the country and at this point, the speaker has not reached the conclusion and I haven’t had either it’s best for the country to put us through an impeachment proceeding that we know is destined for failure in the Senate. Now that calculus may change if the president continues to stonewall, if the president continues to demonstrate his unfitness for office. There may be little additional cost to going through that process.
It is in a way, even if unsuccessful in the Senate, the ultimate form of censure in the House. But we’re not there yet and I think if it is a close call, close calls go against putting the country through that. We have an important legislative agenda to try to advance, we have important oversight work we can do outside the context of impeachment, and I think at this point that is still the preferred course.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it would still — it could still strengthen your hand against the Department of Justice in court and — and opening an inquiry isn’t the same as reaching a final judgment on impeachment. Why does the evidence laid out by Mueller require at least opening up that inquiry?
SCHIFF: Well of course Mueller didn’t say that what he was presenting required impeachment in the same way he didn’t comment on the question of indictment. And by the way, I think Bill Barr is completely disingenuous in saying that it would have been perfectly fine for Mueller to say the president was a criminal, I just can’t indict him. If that’s the way Barr feels, then perhaps he should let the Southern District of New York know that they can say, individual 1, the president of the United States should be charged when he leaves office.
But in terms of the — the impeachment process, it’s not mandated by the Constitution. We can avail ourselves of this when the president demonstrates acts that are high crimes or misdemeanors. It is certainly true, I think that much of his conduct qualifies for that. But at the same time, we have to recognize the reality that one party, the Republican party has turned itself into a cult of the president’s personality and is not likely to act consistent with its Constitutional obligations. And we have to figure out in that context, is this the right thing for the country, and I’m just not convinced, not yet, that that’s the case.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What might help there is hearing from Robert Mueller before the Congress. Where do things stand with getting his testimony?
SCHIFF: Well I was disappointed to see during his statement the other day such a profound reluctance to testify. Now, I understand that but I think he has one last service to perform. It’s not enough merely to speak for 10 minutes and say I’m not going to answer questions for the Congress and the American people. There are a great many things that are not in the report.
We want to find out what happened to those counterintelligence findings that were sent back to headquarters. What other things did you learn during the investigation that ought to concern us in terms of whether the president is vulnerable to influence from Russia. Does the president still — did you find evidence whether the president still intends to build a Trump Tower in Moscow? Is that why that financial inducement why the president can’t criticize Putin or take adequate steps to protect our elections?
There are any number of questions that we have every right, the American people have every need to have answered here.
So, I hope that Bob Mueller will understand, as painful as it may be, and as much as it may subject him to further abuse by the White House, he has a final duty here to perform, like any other witness, and it’s my hope that he will do so, and it’s my hope that he will do so voluntary.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if he doesn’t, subpoena?
SCHIFF: Well, it will be my recommendation, yes, but I hope that is not the case. That will be a decision, really, that we’ll have to make collectively and with our leadership whenever there’s use of compulsion, because it may lead to litigation. But I would hope none of that is necessary. That’s not how this process for Bob Mueller should end. He’s a dedicated public servant and I hope that he’ll come and testify voluntarily.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime the attorney general has made it pretty clear that he’s going to continue this investigation of the investigation. Here he was earlier this week.
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WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes people can convince themselves that what they’re doing is in the higher interest, the better good, they don’t realize what they’re doing is really antithetical to the democratic system we have.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: He hasn’t reached a final judgment, but he’s made it pretty clear he’s suspicious something went very wrong at the start of this investigation.
SCHIFF: Well, ironically, of course, that statement you heard from Bill Barr is a perfect description of his own conduct. He’s willing to cavalierly throw out terms like spying and pretend he doesn’t know just how pejorative that term is. He is a smart man and understands exactly how incendiary what his allegation is, and it’s designed to be. That’s why he is, I think, falling into such legitimate criticism for acting as effectively a henchman of the president.
You don’t talk cavalierly about intelligence agencies or the FBI spying on presidential campaigns. And given how much he mislead the country about Mueller’s own report and findings, we can sadly expect that given this power to declassify information now, he will do in a selective way designed to mislead the country and the president’s service. And there may be no opportunity for rebuttal this time. There will be no further Mueller report that will set straight this selective declassification that he may put into effect and the fact that he will say — he doesn’t want to speculate about what went on early in the investigation until he knows, but he’s willing to speculate that it was spying, tells you all you need to know about how disingenuous he’s being with the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chairman Schiff, thanks for your time this morning.
SCHIFF: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s hear from the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, Jim Jordan from Ohio. Thank you, congressman,m for joining us this morning.
You just heard Chairman Schiff there, very suspicious of the attorney general.
REP. JIM JORDAN, RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE JUCIDIARY COMMITTE (R) OHIO: Attorney general is going to get to bottom of this thing. He said four things six weeks ago in from the Senate Finance Committee, George, four things I thought were very important. First, he said there was a failure of leadership at the upper echelon of the FBI. That is definitely true. Comey fired, McCabe fired, under investigation, lied three times under oath, Chief Counsel Jim Baker demoted, then left the FBI, currently under investigation by the Justice Department, Lisa Page demoted and left the FBI counsel, and of course deputy head of counterintelligence Peter Strzok demoted and then fired.
So, there was definitely a failure of leadership at the upper echelon of the FBI.
Then he said three other things that everyone should pay attention to. He said spying did occur. He said, second, that there’s a basis for his concern about the spying that took place. And then maybe most important, he used two terms that should scare all your viewers. He used the unauthorized surveillance and political surveillance. And he’s going to find out if all of that actually happened. The evidence seemed to suggest that it did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we don’t know that yet, but we will find out from his review what they find.
Meantime, we’ve also heard from Robert Mueller. He laid out four incidents in the obstruction of justice section of the report that met all three criteria for obstruction of justice — an obstructive act, connection to an investigation, corrupt intent. Does that concern you?
JORDAN: Look, Bob Mueller had 22 months, $30 million, 19 lawyers, 40 FBI agents, 500 witnesses, 2,800 subpoenas. If he could have accomplished obstruction, he would have done it. He couldn’t do it, that wasn’t his finding, regardless of what the officer of counsel told him at the — at the Department of Justice what they can do with a sitting president or not, if he could have established obstruction of justice, he would have done it. He didn’t do it. Bill Barr said that, that there wasn’t obstruction of justice, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the same darn thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well that’s not what Robert Mueller said, though, and he laid out the evidence. Are you going to — are you concerned enough to take a look at the evidence?
JORDAN: No, I’ve read the — I’ve read the report, I’m looking at the evidence, but what I want to look at — and this is what Bill Barr wants to look at, this is what John Durham is now charged with finding. I want to look how this whole thing started. I want to look why they put someone next to George Padapoulos, someone pretending to be somebody else, this Azra Turk individual to find out what was going — I want to — I want to learn about that. I want to learn about why they didn’t tell the FISA court. This is something I want to ask Bob Mueller if he ever comes and testifies. Did you actually explore the dossier?
They took the dossier to the secret court, didn’t tell the court the Clinton campaign paid for the document, didn’t tell the court the guy who wrote it, Christopher Steele, had told the FBI he was desperate to Trump. So I want to — I want to find out about that and I know Bill Barr wants to as well, and that’s why he’s doing the investigation he’s doing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They did say that there was indication of political motive behind the funding the dossier. But you just said you wanted to hear from Robert Mueller, so you believe he should testify?
JORDAN: I mea, that’s up to Jerry Nadler. I know this, I got questions for him. I think the one question most Americans want to know, when did you first learn there was no obstruction — or excuse me, no collusion? The — the central charge of Bob Mueller — the central task was to find if there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Actually, he says he didn’t look at collusion. That’s not what he said. When he spoke in his report, it says very clearly he didn’t examine that question. What he did say is that he could not establish a conspiracy between the Trump — Trump campaign and Russia.
JORDAN: Say — OK — so when did you know there was no conspiracy, no coordination, no — call it what you want, those — those have been interchangeable for the last two years. So when did you know there was no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia? We knew when we deposed Jim Comey — when we deposed Jim Comey, he said all the way up until the day he was fired, May 9, 2017, he told us they had no evidence of any type of conspiracy, collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. And that was after 10 months of FBI investigating him. That was after — that was after putting Azra Turk next to George Papadopoulos, that was after using the dossier to spy on the Trump campaign via Carter Page.
So after 10 months if they couldn’t establish collusion, how long did it take Bob Mueller. And if you learned this early on, why did you wait almost two years before you told the country there was no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election? After all, that was your central focus, your central task of this entire special counsel investigation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So —
JORDAN: So that’s a question I think the whole country has for Bob Mueller.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He didn’t — he didn’t bring in an indictment of Roger Stone until the end of the process. You don’t know that he didn’t — that he had reached that conclusion early.
JORDAN: I don’t know. But — but I do know what Jim Comey told us and he said after 10 months of the FBI looking into this, they had no evidence of any type of coordination, conspiracy or collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to impact the 2016 election. So after 10 months he didn’t know, how long did it take Bob Mueller with 19 witness — or 19 lawyers, most of them were Democrats who were out to get the president, how long did it take him to figure it out? That just — I think that’s a question most members and frankly most people in this country would have for Bob Mueller. So if he comes, that’s something that’s going to get asked.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We will see if he testifies. Congressman, thanks for your time this morning.
JORDAN: You bet.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable’s up next. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: Democrats can no more keep a promise to take us back to the 2000s or the 1990s than conservatives can keep a promise to take us back to the 1950s.
REP. ERIC SWALLWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Let’s invest in hope in these places. We don’t need a crime bill, we need a hope bill.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Some say if we all just calm down, the Republicans will come to their senses. But our country is in a time of crisis. The time for small ideas is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Democratic state convention yesterday in California, Democrats taking their first shots at the frontrunner, Joe Biden, their veiled shots, perhaps. Let’s talk about it on our roundtable joined by our chief political analyst, Matthew Dowd. Rachael Bade, congressional reporter for the Washington Post, Lanhee Chen, policy director for the Romney 2012 campaign, now a fellow at Sanford’s Hoover Institution and Jen Psaki, Democratic strategist who was communications director for President Obama.
And that is interesting to watch the footage yesterday from the Democratic convention out there in California. It does appear that we’re heading into a new phase of this Democratic race.
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and I think everybody should keep in mind that every time we show an audience in one place, it doesn’t necessarily represent the broad audience in some allowance (ph).
I take California Democratic Party activists are much different than somebody in New Hampshire.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well you heard – you have Michael Bennet call them the Twitter Democrats.
DOWD: And I think still that we don’t understand fully what – where they really want, do they want a new progressive, do they want establishment ground (ph), I think that’s still unknown.
I think we are in a new era and a new time, mainly because we’re about to start the debates. And I think those debates are really what’s going to just separate from sort of the top four or five from everybody else.
And I think the first one’s, you know, this month, then July and then the ones that are on ABC – ABC in September. I think that’s the time when somebody that’s not in the top tier right now can break through and come through in this, or Elizabeth Warren could separate herself from Bernie Sanders and how Joe Biden does.
I think the debates will determine really more fundamentally anything else where we go.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In the mean time, a fundamental question, Jen, for Joe Biden of course you worked with when you were in the White House, it’s posed by Dan Balz in the Washington Post this morning, can he be the candidate of change which usually works for Democrats?
JEN PSAKI, FORMER OBAMA COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: It’s more challenging for him no doubt. I think, you know, he was criticized for not going to California, he made a decision to go to Ohio and that’s a strategic call.
But I think for Joe Biden, I’ve watched a lot of his speeches, he’s appealing to people, people like him. But a lot of it feels like the kind of speeches that John Kerry gave in 20014. And I think he’s going to need to update his message, he’s going to need to give a more forward looking message.
I think they’re thinking about that internally which is good, but right now he’s – they’re factoring in nothing changing with the rest of the field. And as Matt said, I think the debates – seeing some of these candidates rise and have their own moment, some of these candidates that have been doing a lot of town halls, are very fresh with the kind of questions that will come up like Pete Buttigieg or even Beto O’Rourke who’s been a little off the radar.
They could have good moments in the debates and I think Joe Biden has to be prepared for that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the debates that’s already breaking through, Rachel Bade, you covered on Capital Hill, this debate over impeachment. We saw Nancy Pelosi kind of get drowned out there, but within her caucus she still has a lot of support.
RACHEL BADE, WASHINGTON POST CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That’s right and pressure is building on her, there’s no doubt about it, after Robert Mueller came out and basically said verbally what he had written which was that he didn’t feel he could make a decision on obstruction and basically kicked to Congress.
People saw that as a referral and more and more Democrats are coming out. But Pelosi’s the boss and Pelosi doesn’t want to go there. She is still worried that the Senate would acquit him and there’s all evidence showing that they would.
And, you know, there’s sort of a split screen right now, you’re seeing actually in these swing districts there’s a lot of attention being paid to California and, you know, what happened yesterday with people saying impeach, impeach, impeach.
But, you know, I was out in some of these Trump districts that are held by Democrats that make up Pelosi’s majority this week, nobody was talking about Mueller, nobody was bringing up impeachment, and that is exactly why Pelosi doesn’t want to go there.
She’s worried it will blow back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is why she calls it a gift to Donald Trump. It is really a gift? Does he really want to be impeached?
LANHEE CHEN, ROMNEY-RYAN 2012 CAMPAIGN POLICY DIRECTOR: I think it’s a gift because it feeds into the kind of energy that the president – you know, on the campaign trail, when he’s out there doing events, the more he’s able to feed on that energy from Democrats who say yes they want to impeach me, yes they only want to come after me, I think that does help his cause.
I think that is frankly really in his wheelhouse in terms of how he appeals to his electorate. More broadly speaking though I think that the challenge for Democrats is presenting an alternate vision, right.
That really is what this campaign needs to be about, and the more they’re talking about impeachment, the more they’re talking about Trump and Mueller, the less opportunity I think they have to present that issue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s a fair point, but Matt, how do they balance this out? I mean for a lot of Democrats who’ve read the whole report, they look at those instances of obstruction of justice, say you can’t send the message that a president is above the law.
How do they balance out the politics which could be negative of impeachment versus their responsibilities as members of Congress?
DOWD: Well first I think that both sides of the aisle I think should be confronting this. We have a tendency to ask the Democrats what are you going to do on impeachment? What are you going to do on impeachment? And we let the Republicans off the hook, like you’re not doing anything.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well and you saw Congressman Jordan is very comfortable saying he’s not concerned.
DOWD: Yes, other – as opposed to his – one of his members, Justin Amash who basically said well you ought to start running this. And I think that’s a question too for the Republican side of the aisle is do you – are you unwilling to hold the Republicans accountable in any of this?
I think the Democrats have – I mean if you listen to the Democrats on the campaign trail, they talk very little about impeachment and they talk a lot about a lot of issues, guns which is obviously in the news today, healthcare and a lot of – number of other issues.
I think there is a way to talk about this which is basically, the president should be held accountable. Impeachment is one option. Impeachment is one option but there are many other options to hold the president accountable and we as a Congress are going to both legislate, pass legislation, that we’ve tried to do over the course of the last three months, and investigate. And I think that’s the way to talk about this.
Just say “Impeachment is one option but the president needs to be held accountable.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: And is it inevitable? Is Speaker Pelosi, as more events unfold over the coming months, perhaps the testimony of Robert Mueller, going to have no choice but to at least open proceedings?
PSAKI: Well, I think the door is still open. And the perception that Pelosi has closed the door, I think, is wrong and same with many moderate Democrats out there. There is certainly a building – a building support for impeachment but I think Pelosi also – I mean, she has gotten to where she is because she has very astute political instincts and she knows how to get rid of opponents. Her calculation is this is not the way to do it.
And if that doesn’t change, I don’t think her position is going to change and she’ll still have members with her.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the questions will be, will she be able to get Robert Mueller to testify? You’ve spent a lot of time talking to members about that this week.
BADE: Yes, they’re in a pickle because everybody thought, after the report came out, that Mueller would be the one bright spot. They knew they would be going to war with the White House, they knew the White House was going to try to block testimony from aides that had talked to him, documents, but everybody thought Mueller would come in. And you know, he’s made it clear he doesn’t want to and there’s a reluctance, you can see it – I hear it when I talk to my sources, that – about subpoenaing him.
I mean, he’s basically saying that they might have to, right? Because he’s not willing to appear in public, right? But they don’t want – it to look like he did something wrong. There’s a concern that they could look over-aggressive, there’s a concern that they could bog down their investigations by getting caught in this back-and-forth. And some people frankly, privately, want to kind of move on.
And so, this is an issue, though, because Americans overwhelmingly – think 3/4 of Americans in the latest polling want to see Mueller testify. They want to hear from him. And when he speaks he has an impact. We saw that last week. And so, it’s an issue for them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, William Barr is really filling that vacuum. Do you think that Robert Mueller, at some level, misjudged his old friend and colleague, William Barr, and was almost surprised by the lengths that Barr would go to in the way he characterized the Mueller report?
CHEN: Perhaps. Perhaps, I mean I think it’s always difficult because now the Attorney General’s maybe in a different position than when he and Mueller first developed that relationship. But look, I think the question on Mueller is, do we actually think he’s going to say anything else of substance? I mean, he’s already come out and said, look, the report speaks for itself. Maybe if they have him in closed session, he might say a few other things. But he’s aware of the fact that he’s restricted from revealing what might be a currently operative case. If there’s grand jury information, he’s probably not allowed to reveal that either.
So, what do we really expect Bob Mueller’s going to tell us or tell members of Congress that’s really actionable in moving the ball forward on …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does TV (ph) make a difference?
BADE: It does, though, because a lot of Americans have not read the report.
BADE: And, you know – and that is – having him up there at a – at the witness stand, talking about Don McGahn getting a call from the president and saying you’ve got to get rid of Mueller. That – people watch – there’s a difference – you know, the Democrats are saying there’s a difference between reading the book and watching the blockbuster film. And I think we saw that last week.
DOWD: Well, and that’s what I think ultimately Bob Mueller’s message was is, listen, you have everything you need, just read the report. Right? His message was, I got the thing done, I put it all together. Congress, do your job. Read the report. Read the report. Read the report. And I think you’re right. I think the vast majority of Americans haven’t read the report. I would bet the vast majority of people in Washington D.C. sitting in power in the halls of Congress have not read – fundamentally read the report.
I think Bob Mueller’s right. You have what you need, now decide.
PSAKI: I would say this is a clear, easy call for Democrats. I think – I was very surprised by how muted they were when Mueller said he wasn’t going to testify. They need to push on it, they need to subpoena him if needed. It’s about repeating what’s in the report because people aren’t paying attention, but there are some clear questions that can be asked that he can give yes or no answers to. He can give a little bit more context. There’s more that needs to be said.
And I think, for him, we owe him a great deal of thanks but his duty as public service, as Adam Schiff said, is not done and we can’t accept it. You can’t say you’re not letting the president of the United States off the hook and then drop the mic and go on vacation. He owes us more.
BADE: This also relates to impeachment as well because, you know, Democrats say they need to build the case to the public. The public is not on board with impeachment right now. But in order to do that, if they want to do that, they’ve got to have people testifying, they have to have people in the witness chair and they don’t – they haven’t had anyone yet …
DOWD: If I were – if I were the Democrats, George, tomorrow morning the thing I’d be talking about is gun reform. After what happened in Virginia Beach, I would just say “OK, we can give this a break for 24 hours about Bob Mueller.” But we’ve now had another tragedy, we’ve passed a bill in the House of Representatives, it may not do everything, it will do something, it’s time to act for Republicans on this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, the president is talking about tariffs and Mexico, about to relaunch his campaign as well in a couple of weeks. And Lanhee, I want to talk to you about that. He’s got clear sailing now except for (inaudible) on the Republican side, John Kasich this week said he’s not going to challenge him. Larry Hogan, governor of Maryland, said he’s not going to challenge him. The economy, so far still a strength for the president. Is he putting it at risk with these calls on tariff on China and Mexico.
CHEN: You know, I think this is the big challenge for the president is that is he trading off some short-term potential gains for really long-term trouble in the economy? If you think about the tariffs, there’s an argument in short run, he gets Mexico to table on immigration, it certainly seems like President Lopez Obrador is saying we’re willing to make some concessions on immigration. But in the long term, does that mean he doesn’t get USMCA, the revised NAFTA trade deal, which really would be important for the economy. Does it mean with China, for example, he wants that short-term deal at the expense of the longer term relationship with China.
I think that’s really the big X-factor for this president in this coming election is what’s going to happen to the economy? And how much of this is going to end up being self-inflicted. I think the president has an opportunity here to focus on some of these economic themes, but by mixing, for example, immigration with trade now, I really think he’s putting that at jeopardy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hitting some of his own voters, farmers, across the Midwest. Also, the stock market is not the economy, but since he’s been talking about these tariffs over the last months, about a 5, 6 percent drop.
PSAKI: That’s right. And I think the politics of the economy is to build on what you were saying, what you just eluded to. I mean, the imports are not just avocados, right, they are auto parts and trucks and manufacturing parts, and states like Michigan and parts of the Midwest, as you said, there are places in the country that will be deeply impacted, could be deeply impacted, by these tariffs. It also won’t address the root cause issues.
So maybe in the short-term Mexico may come to table, I don’t know, I’ll be surprised. But at the same time, he’s still threatening to cut off funding to Honduras and a lot of these country people are coming over because they’re facing such terrible conditions. So, this is a short-term gain in that regard even as well.
DOWD: I think his instincts on the trade deals back in the campaign were actually right on, which is the trade deals over the last 20 years have not necessarily benefited working-class people. Whatever those trade deals were. And there’s a lot of people…
STEPHANOPOULOS: They certainly don’t feel they have.
DOWD: And especially in the industrial Midwest where he put together — where they felt suffered under these trade deals that helped big business but did not necessarily help the working class.
But I agree with Lanhee, there doesn’t seem to be real strategy here, a long-term strategy of how do we put together deals, and if we should use tariffs and how do we revise these deals?
STEPHANOPOULOS: To build on that point, the president just hours before he announced those tariffs had actually signaled to congress he wanted them to try to work on the revised NAFTA.
BADE: Yeah, bipartisan, both Republicans and Democrats, are very confused by these moves. I think the one strategy we could see from this is that, again, reinforcing the 2020 for Trump is all about immigration and following through on a campaign promise to do something at the border. He has gotten rid of a whole bunch of leaders at DHS, he has used an emergency declaration to build the wall, he has threatened to cut off aid to these countries where the migrants are coming from, nothing is working. And so now he’s trying to shift the blame to Mexico to say it’s their fault.
But really what needed to happen was he needed to do a bipartisan deal with congress, and he walked away from the table on immigration when it came to a bipartisan deal a lot, several times over the past few years.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that seems like that’s not going to happen any time soon. That is all we have time for today. Thank you all very much
Before we go, we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.
In the month of May, one service member died overseas supporting operations in Afghanistan.
And that’s all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out World News Tonight. And I’ll see you tomorrow on GMA.
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