GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: The president’s defense.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It’s a pure witch hunt. Right now, it’s a pure witch hunt.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A breaking now report from The New York Times reveals the Trump team’s private communications to special counsel Robert Mueller.
The 20-page letter argues the president cannot be compelled to testify, cannot obstruct justice in the Russia investigation. But does that sweeping assertion of executive power mean the president is
above the law? That question this morning for the president’s lead attorney, Rudy Giuliani, plus analysis from our legal experts Dan Abrams and Chris Christie.
And the historic summit with Noirth Korea back on track.
TRUMP: The big deal will be on June 12.
STEPHANOPOULOS: After an Oval Office meeting with a top aide to Kim Jong-un.
TRUMP: I really think they want to do something. And if it’s possible, so do we.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump says the Singapore summit is just a first step. What will it take to make it a success? Can Kim Jong-un live without nuclear weapons? Can President Trump accept anything less? Former Trump national security aid Tom Bossert and former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson join our panel of experts, plus our powerhouse roundtable.
We’ll break down the politics, smoke out the spin, the facts that matter this week.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s This Week. Here now, Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. And welcome to This Week.
We want to get right to that blockbuster report in The New York Times, publishing a January
letter from Trump’s lawyers to Robert Mueller. The most detailed, authoritative and explicit account yet of the president’s legal defense in the Russia investigation.
The memo makes a breathtaking claim of presidential power, arguing that the president could not have obstructed justice in the Russia investigation because the constitution grants him unfettered power over federal investigations.
A president, they write, can order the termination of an investigation by the Justice Department or the FBI at any time and for any reason.
The lawyers also argue that the president’s cooperation to date means he does not have to speak with Mueller.
In light of these voluntary offerings, they write, your office clearly lacks the requisite need to personally interview the president. Having him testify demeans the office of the president before the world.
And the letter confirms for the first time that President Trump personally dictated a misleading statement for his son, Don Jr., about that infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian officials, promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Those are the headlines. Let’s take to you now with the president’s lead attorney Rudy Giuliani. Mr. Mayor, thanks for joining us this morning.
Now this letter was written before you came on board, it was written by John Dowd and Jay Sekulow back in January, but do you stand by the arguments made in this letter?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP’S LEAD ATTORNEY: Oh, they’re excellent. Yes. As a legal — legal arguments — I didn’t see it at the time. Obviously I wouldn’t have been allowed to, but I know the argument. and it’s very, very persuasive. It’s similar to the article written by Ted Olson about three weeks ago, Weekly Standard, saying exactly the same thing, Maybe adding a little bit more to it in terms of their not making a proper record the special counsel.
So, I mean, this is basically, I think, what most constitutional lawyers who tend to try to protect the presidency would say.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So let’s dig into some of the specifics. One, it makes it pretty clear that you don’t think the president can be compelled to testify, cannot be subpoenaed here. So does that mean the president won’t be sitting for an interview?
GIULIANI: It doesn’t mean that completely, it means that, you know, there’s got to be a high bar they have to reach in terms of convincing us that they’re fair, convincing us that we’re going to get the things we need. I want to see the spygate report, haven’t gotten it. I want to see the authorization that they have, which they gave to Judge Ellis, I think, but Judge Ellis hasn’t written an opinion yet, which convinces me there’s a real problem with it. Otherwise, the judge would have said oh yes, you’re authorized. That’s the Manafort case.
The couple of outstanding very critical — we just can’t do it without that. I would have every lawyer that you put on the show ripping my head off if I let him be interviewed without knowing that they’re authorized.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you actually written a letter or the presidency written a new letter to Robert Mueller?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, where you lay out the conditions that you would accept an interview?
GIULIANI: …Jane Raskin did that for Jay and me. And Jane — Jane basically reiterated that. We — I think we added an extra point or we should, which is in addition to the constitutional issue which will be, you know, a complex one, we admit that, although we think we have the better argument, the one that’s definitive is the OLC, Office of Legal Council in the Justice Department wrote a memo at the conclusion of the Clinton thing, the Clinton administration, and said you cannot indict a sitting president nor can you compel process.
So it’s part of the rules of the Justice Department, and Mueller is nothing…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Has he responded to the letter?
GIULIANI: He has not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No response to the letter.
GIULIANI: Right, and Mueller is — is — is completely surrounding by the rules of the Justice Department, and agreed to follow it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But — so — so what is the state of play exactly with Robert Mueller now? He has not responded to that letter…
GIULIANI: He’s responded to other things. You know, look I — if I were him, I wouldn’t respond to the letter either unless I made the decision to go or not to go. If I’m not going to go, why respond to it, I’ve got other things to do. And if I am going to go, I better — then I better spend a month on it. I mean Emmet Flood was, who is the president’s in — let’s call him his in-house counsel, you know…
STEPHANOPOULOS: At the White House.
GIULIANI: At the White House, basically this is his area of expertise. He represented President Clinton, represented President Bush, this is the area he knows probably better than anybody in the world.
So we’re — we’re relying on him and as well as Jay and John did an excellent job, and everybody we’ve had look at this says I guess what lawyers always say, we can’t guarantee but, we’re 90 percent. Well I should say 70 percent.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But back in 1998, you argued that President Clinton could be subpoenaed. Here’s what you said to Charlie Rose.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GIULIANI: All the Watergate litigation resolved the fact that the president is not above the law, is not able to avoid subpoenas and the president has a right like anyone else to go before a judge and say this is being done for improper purpose, this is being done for purposes of harassment.
If the judge agrees with that, fine, but if the judge doesn’t, then you have to testify.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what’s changed?
GIULIANI: Well I guess first of all I still agree with that exception, which is a president can go before a judge and say it’s for purpose of harassment, it’s unnecessary. We win that, and…
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that’s what you intend to do if you’re subpoenaed?
GIULIANI: Oh gosh yes. We’ll say hey. You got everything you need, you got 1.4 million documents. You have 28 witnesses. The President — the president’s given every explanation and — and — and corrected some that were misimpressions. You’ve got everything you need. What do you need us for? In fact most prosecutors don’t have the — the — the subject or target or whatever you want to call the the president — although he’s only a subject right now, and I think will remain that. They don’t have them, so they have to make a decision without it. So come on, man up and make your decision.
STEPHANOPOULOS: North Korea summit is back on. How does that play into a potential interview?
GIULIANI: Well look, you know, from our very narrow point of view, Jay and I and our team, of course, it interrupts it because it isn’t just the interview and the facts of the interview, it’s — it’s the whole situation of are we going to do it or not do it?
This is — this is the president’s decision ultimate, you’ve got to understand this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He says he wants to do it.
GIULIANI: George, you’ve interviewed him. You know him. You’ve talked to him, everybody. I don’t think anybody that doubts him wants (ph) him to do it. He — he believes he’s telling the truth. He is telling the truth. He believes that he should win — justice should win out. I’m a lawyer. I have years of prosecution and defense, it’s not that simple. I mean what I believe is the truth, you may think isn’t. And they seem to have the heavy reliance on — on Comey.
I think that’s going to get knocked to heck with the Horowitz report, the general — inspector general, is — is he’s doing the whole Hillary Clinton investigation. And I think one of the main reasons for firing Comey was how unfair that was to both of them, to both Hillary Clinton and to President Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re still recommending he does not sit down for the interview?
GIULIANI: Jay and I want to keep an open mind. And I have to just be honest, I mean we’re leaning toward not. But look, if they can convince us that it will be brief, it would be to the point. There were five or six points they have to clarify, and with that we can get this long nightmare for the — for the American public over. When you ask me about career, you know how terrible I feel when I have to call him up? This letter comes out — which, I mean somebody should be — looking at these leaks, find out who the heck it is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you have no evidence that it came from the special counsel.
GIULIANI: It could come from DOJ, it could come from a lawyer. But whoever it is, we should find out who it is. I have no — I have no objection to sitting down and testifying and put me under oath, I don’t care.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you didn’t do it…
GIULIANI: I didn’t do it. Jay didn’t do it. Jane didn’t do it. Marty didn’t do it. Pat didn’t do it. We didn’t do it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about Mr. Dowd?
GIULIANI: I don’t think he did, but hey, you got to ask John. I mean John — look, we’re very grateful to John. This was a great job. He and Jay did a great job here. They set this up beautifully. We can add the OLC argument to it, which I think puts it over the top and the Olson argument, which is the one I was talking about way back with — with Bill Clinton and I think we win this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The most breathtaking claim to my eyes in the letter is that claim that the president basically cannot be investigated for obstruction of justice, that he can terminate an investigation at any time for any reason. Any time for any reason?
GIULIANI: I think — I think that — look, when you argue, you argue the broadest possible point. We don’t have to go there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but you do go there.
GIULIANI: Well I didn’t. I wasn’t there then. I’d save that as the last argument.
I think the stronger argument is he didn’t — or I’ll bet he didn’t — I mean, firing an employee when you know that another employee’s going to come in and take that job and further the investigation cannot possibly obstruct the investigation. He said that to Lester Holt when he was interviewed within days of doing it, so you’ve got a contemporaneous statement of his intent.
So how’s that obstruction?
STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me just…
GIULIANI: How about the Flynn conversation? Saying a — saying to a potential prosecutor give the guy a break. You put Chris Christie on later and ask him how many times was he told — asked give him a break. You know what that means, you take into consideration the fact that the man was a war hero, a patriot, a father, his children are sick, whatever, you know, the whole thing. Sometimes you don’t indict, sometimes you lessen the severity of it and sometimes you ignore it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But just to be — just to be clear, to press that point, because the letter is very explicit. It says any time for any reason. If the FBI developed evidence that the president had accepted a bribe or committed murder, the president could terminate that investigation?
GIULIANI: I would not go that far. I would not go that far, George. I mean, John — you’d have to ask John exactly what he’s relying on for that. I wouldn’t go that far. I think under circumstances where there’s no — at best there’s ambiguity as to whether there was intent.
Look, for every one of these things he did, we can write out five reasons why he did it. If four of them are completely innocent and one of them is your assumption that it’s a guilty motive, which the president would deny, you can’t possibly prosecute him…
STEPHANOPOULOS: The letter also…
GIULIANI: …or recommend impeachment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The letter also cites the president’s pardon power. Do you and the president’s attorneys believe the president has the power to pardon himself?
GIULIANI: He — he’s not but he probably does. He has no intention of pardoning himself but he probably — not to say he can’t. I mean, that — that’s another really interesting constitutional argument, can the president pardon himself.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think it’s an open question?
GIULIANI: It would be an open question. I think it would probably get answered by gosh, that’s what the constitution says and if you want to change it, change it. But yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of focus on the president…
GIULIANI: I think the political ramifications of that would be tough. Pardoning other people is one thing, pardoning yourself is another. Other presidents have pardoned people in circumstances like this both in their administration and sometimes the next president, even of a different party will come along and pardon.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of focus on the president’s pardon power this week. He pardoned Dinesh D’Souza we saw this week. Roger Stone says the president’s sending a signal to those caught up in the Russia investigation.
GIULIANI: He is not. I think what he’s doing — I think — I think the president feels guilty that some of these were delayed. Maybe there was too much concern with injustice or the White House about doing it because it would look bad. These are so different than the case — cases he’s involved in. And the issue of any pardon there is so far — no — I mean, except for a couple guilty pleas, nobody’s really been convicted yet.
And the cases that are involved are totally tangential. I mean, they’re off on a lark here. The Russian — the Russian thing, I mean $180, a hundred — dressing up like a clown or something and going to one of Hillary’s events.
Gosh, we used to have clowns coming to our event, I didn’t know if they were dressed up or not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you don’t fully know that Robert Mueller has wrapped up his investigation into collusion or any cooperation between people associated with President Trump and the Russians who were interfering in our campaign.
GIULIANI: I do not know that. I don’t know that and probably we’re not going to know that until he concludes. I’ve got a feeling he didn’t. I have a feeling that collusion has come up completely empty.
That’s why I want to see the reports on SpyGate, because I believe that came up empty.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well let’s talk about that a little bit…
GIULIANI: And that’ll be exculpatory.
STEPHANOPOULOS: …because Trey Gowdy, you know, Senior House Republican, this week said he’s — he got the briefing and here’s what he had to say after it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: He’s a senior Republican. All the Democrats who got the briefing said the same thing.
GIULIANI: Well I don’t think that that’s the issue. The — I mean — look, that goes to the legitimacy of the investigation. I think it was illegitimate, maybe — maybe they can show me it isn’t. I have an open mind as to that. I want to see what they revealed. What did they find? We’re — we’re concentrating on technicalities, important though they are.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you — at this point, you have no evidence the FBI did anything wrong?
GIULIANI: No, I haven’t — but I also have tremendous suspicions because they concealed it for a year from the president. If it shows nothing, which we all believe it doesn’t, if it was perfectly proper, then why wasn’t it shown to the president. Gosh, you know, as soon as he got into office? The investigation was over. It’s a concluded investigation. There’s no reason not to show it to him. There’s no reason not to show it to us. And the more they refuse to show it, I’m sorry my instincts as a prosecutor tell me there’s something wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And a lot of people look at one of the — at the president’s shifting explanations, the White House shifting explanations for what happened in that meeting at the Trump Tower back in June of 2016 with Don Jr.
I remember when this was first reported, Jay Sekulow was on my program, so the president had nothing at all to do with that letter. Later, Sarah Sanders said well wait, he — he — he sort of weighed in, but he didn’t dictate it, and now this letter from the president’s lawyers say very, very clearly he dictated the statement.
How do you explain those shifting explanations?
GIULIANI: Happened to me with the whole situation of repaying the money that was laid out by Cohen. When I first — when the first — president first talked about it, nobody focused on it, nobody thought about it, that was a very busy time.
And then when we got on board, when I went through everything, it was the only change we had to make at that point, there’s other change have been made. When you consider the big scope of this narrative, four or five change…
STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s not a very complicated thing. The president want there. He was dealing with the letter. First it was all denied and now you’re saying he dictated it.
GIULIANI: But I don’t know that Jay — Jay would have to answer that, and I’ve talked to him about it. I think Jay was wrong. I mean, this is the reason you don’t let the president testify.
If, you know, every — our recollection keeps changing, or we’re not even asked a question and somebody makes an assumption. In my case, I made an assumption. And then we corrected and I got it right out as soon as as it happened. I think that’s what happened here.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I was struck by something else in the letter, and when you’re discussing that — that dictation by the president, the letter says that this is a private matter between the president and the New York Times. Is that really correct? I mean when you give a misleading statement to a newspaper or say something misleading on television it’s not just to the organization, it’s to the viewers, it’s to the public.
GIULIANI: Again, I didn’t write the letter, but I think it means it’s not a 1,001 situation. For example, if you said that and that’s been the danger of being interviewed, if — gosh if I say something wrong on this show, and sometimes I did George, in the past, not this time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We all do. We all make mistakes. And when we make mistakes we try to make corrections.
GIULIANI: If you were the FBI — if you were the FBI, my goodness, I’d — they could prosecute me for the mistake. They’d say of course it was a lie. So that’s one — that’s the point it’s trying to make.
They’re trying to say it’s a private — it’s non-governmental. It’s not under oath. It’s not under interview with the FBI like some of the prosecutions that have been interviews with the FBI, Martha Stewart was under oath.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was — that was under oath.
But as you know, articles of impeachment both for Richard Nixon and for President Clinton included…
GIULIANI: Very broad.
STEPHANOPOULOS: …lying to the public.
GIULIANI: Very broad. I had the position, even with the Clinton impeachment that it was terrible mistake, both legal and political. And first of all, Congress is going to impeach somebody for lying to the press? Come on. They do more lying to the press than anybody.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bottom line, will the president testify? And are you still — do you still believe that Robert Mueller is committed to wrapping this up by September 1?
GILUIANI: I’ll answer the second first. I believe he is, because of the midterm elections. He’s as sensitive as everybody to not doing another Comey and interfering horribly in the election. I don’t think it had an — as big an impact as some people think, but they have a right to think that.
Second, I do think that it’s still an open question, but it’s beginning to get resolved in favor of not doing it unless they start coming across with things that we’re asking for.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mayor Giuliani, thanks for your time this morning.
And we’re joined here live by our legal team, Chris Christie and Dan Abrams out with a new book this week, “Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency” is out on Tuesday. I had the chance to read it. Fascinating history. Welcome to both of you. You’ve also read this letter now and seen the interview. It seemed to me that — that Mayor Giuliani walked back a couple of the most central claims in that letter.
DAN ABRAMS, CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Oh, two of the most controversial points. Right? Number one, this idea that — he’s now saying that they could fight the subpoena, not just ignore it. Meaning — ignoring the subpoena means no matter what happens, even if a judge were to instruct us for whatever reason that he’s got to testify, we wouldn’t have to abide by that.
Mayor Giuliani now saying that’s not the case. Also —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Just that we’ll take it to court.
ABRAMS: Exactly. We’ll fight it. OK, fair enough. That’s what one would expect him to do if that ever got to that point, which I don’t think it’s going to. I still don’t think they’re going to subpoena the president. And then number two, this idea that the president can simply just end the investigation, that simply the obstruction — there’s no such thing when it comes to the president.
Again, it seems Mayor Giuliani’s walking that back as well. So now this letter has much less of a bite, I think, than before we heard from Mayor Giuliani.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR, NEW JERSEY: Yes, I mean not shocking that lawyers would make, you know, broadest claims they possibly when they thought —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that’s the thing (ph) about obstruction of justice, it’s (ph) about as broad as it gets.
CHRISTIE: And that’s why I think that Mayor Giuliani said this morning that that’s not the case, he doesn’t agree with it. And listen, you can tell any time that Rudy didn’t agree with something, he said you’ll have to ask John about that and go back to John Dowd. It’s an outrageous claim, it’s wrong. They were trying to make a broad argument, lawyers do that all the time in (inaudible). And Dan, I’ve seen that many times happen.
In the end, cooler heads prevail here, George. And — and the president is going to have to, you know, acknowledge that if there’s a subpoena — which I agree with Dan, I don’t think —
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don’t think he’s going to do it.
CHRISTIE: No, I do not think that — listen, having been someone who had to make these kind of decisions for seven years as a U.S. attorney, you’re not going to want to swing for the fences on that one, swing and miss. That’ll make a — a real — really will discredit the investigation if he does. I don’t think he’s going to need to and I — quite frankly, I do agree with the mayor on this. I don’t think they’ve (ph) shown anything yet — and I’ve said this to you for months — that should compel the extraordinary step of subpoenaing the president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But — but then — but then what happens? And I want to ask you both this. It’s — it was also pretty clear from listening to Mayor Giuliani this morning, hard to imagine the president’s going to do an interview. So he’s not going to be subpoenaed, he’s not going to do an interview. What does Mueller do then?
ABRAMS: Well look, I think that Mueller probably agrees with the general sentiment, which is that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Right? So if that’s the case, Mueller’s not preparing an indictment against the president of the United States no matter what he thinks. I think you’re going to see potentially other indictments from Mueller that don’t necessarily connect to the president himself.
And then there’s going to be a report —
STEPHANOPOULOS: On the obstruction of justice.
ABRAMS: — on — on the obstruction. And in that report, by the way, Mueller could decide we believe that the president obstructed justice even though they’re not going to indict him, basically hand it over with recommendations. That’s what Ken Star did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: With or without the president’s testimony.
CHRISTIE: Yes, I think he could do that, and in the end, I think that the key to this, George, is the president, at this point, should never, ever walk into that room with Bob Mueller. And I think we’ve been saying this for months —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well for the reasons that Rudy said, one that you’re — they’re not sure he’s not going to make a mistake, not sure he’s going to tell — what he’s going to say is going to match up with what other witnesses were saying.
CHRISTIE: Well of course, you can never be sure of that, and you don’t know if those witnesses were telling the truth or not. And he — quite frankly, I think he’s gotten (ph) made a very valid point regarding the I.G. report.
You know, hopefully that report comes out next week, and I think it’s going to say a lot of damning things about what was going on in the FBI regarding the Hillary Clinton investigation.
And that investigation, there’s no doubt in my mind from being an observer at the time, that what Jim Comey did in October of 2016 certainly changed the conversation (inaudible).
STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you believe that was the reason that President Trump fired him?
CHRISTIE: For that?
CHRISTIE: Listen, there have been so many different explanations, I’m not sure. But he had plenty — let me say this, and I’ve said this to you before on this show, if I had done as U.S. attorney when Jim Comey was the Deputy Attorney General what Jim Comey himself did as FBI Director, he would have fired me in five seconds.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Fair enough, but that — he did that and that hurt Hillary Clinton, right? OK.
CHRISTIE: (Inaudible) hurt the process (inaudible).
ABRAMS: That’s fine, it hurt the process, it hurt Hillary Clinton, but it didn’t hurt Donald Trump and the notion that now that they’re saying oh well the reason James Comey was fired is because what he did was so unfair to Hillary Clinton. Right? That’s the argument. That’s the argument.
CHRISTIE: Was it — was it absolute misuse of the authority of his office, that’s a — listen, now as a — as a former governor, that’s a perfectly acceptable reason whether it hurt me politically or not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: (Inaudible) coming into office, not a reason to fire him four months after the fact.
CHRISTIE: Oh, you know, listen, as we — as we’ve discussed before, George, the transition was not quite a smooth running machine. And so those decisions maybe shouldn’t (ph) have been made.
I will tell you this, I recommended to the president elect at that time that if you’re going to fire Comey, do it now, meaning in the transition period between November and January.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One thing, and Mayor Giuliani didn’t want to go too deep into this, it does appear now that the FBI had — there was no misconduct in the use of this FBI informant.
ABRAMS: Well look, and also Giuliani’s saying well you know, we’ve been — for a year we haven’t gotten information on this. Why would they get information on this? I mean this informant, right, is working — let’s say is working in conjunction with the FBI in whatever context.
Why would they turn it over? This is an ongoing, active investigation, and there’s zero, zero to indicate that there was anything improper about this. I mean calling it SpyGate (ph) doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a quote, unquote, spy involved as opposed to what see everyday in the —
STEPHANOPOULOS: — evaporating.
CHRISTIE: Well listen, I — I think, again, this is one of those shifting sands arguments that’s going to change over the course of time and maybe go away. Unless you conduce — misconduct by the FBI, which we have no evidence of yet in any way, I will tell you as a prosecutor, I wouldn’t have turned it over, that information to the other side.
STEPHANOPOULOS: To — to the president.
CHRISTIE: No, I wouldn’t have. I mean, you know, the thing I said I — that I always loved the most about being a U.S. attorney was only I knew what I knew. Bob Mueller understands that and — and so does the FBI.
So you don’t — you don’t willy-nilly turn that stuff over, you just don’t. If at some point you see misconduct you would, but you don’t do that (inaudible).
ABRAMS: I don’t know if it’s shifting sands or just throwing sand, that’s what it sort of feels like more to me.
CHRISTIE: Could be either.
ABRAMS: Yes, yes.
CHRISTIE: Could be either.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rudy left often the possibility of the president pardoning himself, even though he says he doesn’t expect him to do it, he would have the right to do it.
CHRISTIE: Listen, there’s no way that’ll happen, and the reason it won’t is because then it becomes a political problem, George. If the president were to pardon himself, he’ll get impeached.
ABRAMS: I think — I think we all agree that — that it’s so unlikely that Mueller will seek to indict a sitting president, that that issue simply won’t come up.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — that the pardons he is — he is executing now? Is the president sending signals to those caught up in this investigation?
CHRISTIE: I — you know the president, I think, is executing the pardon authority in a more aggressive way than most presidents have in the past. But I don’t think you can then read that into it.
I think everybody wants to read that into it, I don’t think you (ph) can. I think this is a president who’s not a lawyer, who’s never held executive position before. When he sees what he (inaudible) be an injustice, he wants to fix it immediately.
That’s Donald Trump’s personality.
ABRAMS: And you look at the Sheriff Arpaio pardon from a while ago, right, which is actually sort of very troubling as a lawyer, because he was charged with contempt of court for ignoring a court order.
The president basically said, you know, look I’m going to pardon him for any crime in connection with this. That was well before we started having this conversation. So I think it may be more about sort of flexing his political muscles and showing a disdain for the — these types of crimes that he is being investigated for.
That’s different than sending a message.
CHRISTIE: I would say, George, though that I would caution the president to be very careful on the Blagojevich potential commutation. I don’t think it’s a minor crime for a governor, having been a governor who appointed a U.S. senator myself, I don’t think it’s a minor crime for a governor to say what — what’s in this for me?
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about Martha Stewart?
CHRISTIE: What’s in it for me? Martha Stewart, I would be less offended by a Martha Stewart pardon, although I don’t know the specifics as well as I should. But I think in the Blagojevich thing, having been in the same position as a governor, as senator who leaves in office, in that case it was Senator Lautenberg dying.
If I had ever thought about, in that appointment, hey what’s in it for me? Give me a little bit. That’s in bad crimes (ph).
ABRAMS: Blagojevich was convicted of 17 charges, I mean let’s be clear, he was charged in 2017 and then (ph) we got (ph) convictions. Martha Stewart, look, the best argument for Martha Stewart is she wouldn’t have been prosecuted if she hadn’t been Martha Stewart.
And — and you can argue that if that’s the case, then a pardon is not so outrageous.
CHRISTIE: And let’s not forget the connective tissue here. Jim Comey —
— Fitzgerald (ph) are involved in all of the things we just talked about.
ABRAMS: Well let’s just hope it’s not just famous people who get pardoned if — if the pardon power is going to be used this way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s the last word today, thank you both very much. When we come back, the summit with North Korea is set again for June 12th. Will it stick this time? What can be achieved? Our experts analyze the opportunities and risks next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We’ll be meeting on June 12 in Singapore. It went very well. It’s a (ph) really get-to-know-you kind of a situation. And I never said it goes in one meeting. I think it’s going to be a process. But the relationships are building and that’s a very positive thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bit of a (ph) casual press conference to announce an historic summit, there. The president on Friday announcing that he will be going to Singapore on June 12 for that meeting with Kim Jong-un. We want to talk about that summit now with out panel of experts, including former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson who’s traveled to North Korea eight times, has negotiated extensively with the regime there.
Sue Mi Terry, who spent nearly a decade as a senior analyst on Korean issues at the CIA before serving on the National Security Counsel under both presidents Bush and Obama, now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And our newest ABC News contributor, Tom Bossert. He was President Trump’s homeland security counterterrorism advisor, senior policy aid on George W. Bush’s national security council.
Welcome to ABC News, Tom. Great to have you here. And Ambassador, let me begin with you. As I said, you’ve negotiated with the North Koreans on several occasions. We’ve never seen a presidential summit before. Are the conditions right for this summit and how would you define success?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR, UNITED STATES: Well, I — I believe the danger now is that this’ll be a gigantic photo-op. Now, I’ve supported the president with this summit in the past. North Korean negotiations from the bottom up have not worked. I’m glad the summit is reinstated. But you know, the North Koreans, I’ve negotiated with them. They maneuver you into a corner.
They never say no. They’re relentless, they’re focused. And now our position has shifted dramatically. Now we are saying we are for and OK with a phased denuclearization. Still we should have the summit. Still we can get gains. What is success? I think success is some kind of curbing of the use of nuclear and missile testing, destruction of weapons, missile and nuclear, maybe of a phase process.
Number two, I think a reduction in the tension with South Korea, the artillery, the — after all, 25 million South Koreans are vulnerable, American troops in Japan and in South Korea. So a definition of success is something where there is dramatic timelines and inspections of what the North Koreans —
STEPHANOPOULOS: And inspections.
RICHARDSON: — are doing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That could be key.
RICHARDSON: And so — that is key. If we don’t have that, I think the two agreements we had in the Clinton and Bush administration is going to be the same. They won’t succeed. Full unfettered inspections.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tom, the ambassador raises a couple of the (ph) concerns right there. Other former diplomats have — have cited this photo of the president in the Oval Office with Kim Jong Choi on Friday, that big smile on his face. They say that was inappropriate. Too much of a concession to meet in that public a way with Kim Jong-un’s aide.
Also saying that the president would no longer apply maximum pressure to North Korea. They say the president’s giving up too much in order to get this meeting.
TOM BOSSERT, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR, DONALD TRUMP: Yes. So, you know, I understand the ambassador’s worry the danger of the(ph) photo-op but the real danger here is 30 or more nuclear weapons on the top of missiles that can reach the United States. So I think all the criticism of the president’s means lose focus on the ends that we’re trying to achieve.
So with all due respect, I don’t believe that this is really a situation where the president has anything to lose. And so I think he’s doing the right thing. President Clinton tried a bilateral approach, President Bush tried a multi-lateral approach, President Obama tried indirect engagement. So what President Trump is doing is just right. Direct, bilateral and he’s looking for a stark drawdown.
So what are we going to get out of this? I think success is defined as a strategic political decision to disarm.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And I guess that’s going to be the question. Can President Trump — this is historic, the fact that he’s going (ph). Can he get more than Bill Clinton got in 1994, that George W. Bush got in — early in his term?
SUE MI TERRY, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It’s very unclear. I mean, we still don’t have an agreement on denuclearization, just even the (ph) definition of denuclearization. Is North Korea willing to denuclearize as we define it? Which is complete —
STEPHANOPOULOS: — in any way?
TERRY: I don’t think SIVID (ph) is really a realistic expectation. I mean, we still have to set it up as a goal but there was a Stanford (ph) study that was just released (inaudible) verification process is going to take 15 years. Because North Korea — first of all, we don’t have — we don’t know where all the weapons are, if they — how many they have, where they’re all hidden.
There are thousands of underground tunnels that they are hidden. So verification process is going to be very, very difficult to achieve. So we need to have a realistic expectation. I’m glad President Trump sort of walked away from sort of the high bar he set up for himself.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re going with (ph) what Ambassador Richardson says. That does seem to be the big goal here right now (ph).
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there any way you can get a realistic verification procedure in there that — where you actually have inspectors looking at the North Korean (inaudible).
BOSSERT: Yeah, I think there’s a very important point to make here. Sieg Heckler has made a lot of news, and he deserves a lot of respect, he’s an expert in this matter.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He’s a physicist who studied the North Korean nuclear program. He says it would take 15 years.
TERRY: Visited North Korea multiple times…
BOSSERT: Yeah, he’s the only westerner that’s been permitted access. Where he’s wrong, though, is the assumptions that go into his conclusion, that as a result a year or two or three for freeze and things that are very easy to accomplish in the short-term, he’s just inaccurate on. He’s making assumptions that are a little bit different from my understand of what President Trump is going to seek.
In other words, what President Trump is doing is hurrying, and that’s not to be criticized, he’s moving faster, not because it’s just a threat, but because he’s trying to attain or ascertain the motive and intent of the leadership.
If they don’t have the intent to make a strategic decision, and that means disarm as a first step, not freeze, but halt and disarm — turn over their nukes and their missiles, then this is a big waste of time. All the definitions and all the big protracted negotiations that might come after would all be for naught.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ambassador Richardson, you have spent a lot of time in the room with North Koreans. What about the president personally as he heads into that meeting with Kim Jong-un? What does he have to be aware of? What does he have to be careful about? How should he conduct himself?
RICHARDSON: Well, first, he has to be dramatically prepared. Kim Jong-un will be very prepared. He knows his nuclear programs well. Secondly, I think the president has to appoint one person, the point person, Secretary Pompeo who has done a good job. He’s met with Kim Jong-un twice. He’s kind of rescued this last summit with his meeting with the spy chief.
And third, I think the president, because he is a charming negotiator, he should take Kim Jong-un aside. Because when you negotiate with the North Koreans, they never give any concessions across the table in a negotiating room. Take him out informally. Find a way to build some trust with the guy. You know, he can’t be trusted. but this is why inspections a disclosure of their arsenal is key. But find some time when a one on one, together, to build trust, to find a way to have a phased denuclearization,
but one that has timelines, disclosure of their arsenal.
And then lastly, inspectors, International Atomic Energy inspectors, American inspectors. And then also focus on things that are important to the American people, like the remains of our soldiers
from the Korean war.
I brought seven back. There are families around the country that want to see closure on so many of our troops and servicemen whose remains are there.
I think a combination of human rights and nuclear initiatives, but that be should be done on a
STEPHANOPOULOS: I saw you…
RICHARDSON: And the president should avoid hugs, smiles, photo ops as much as he can. That is going to be difficult.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you’ve laid a lot there. Sue Mi, I saw you nodding your head to part of it, to the idea of building a personal relationship, but the president can wing it.
TERRY: No, he can not wing it. He needs to be disciplined. North Korea spent. They spend all their energy, 100 percent of their focus on the United States. And Kim Jong-chul, the guy who just came, he was part of the negotiation process from 1992. These guys are prepared, and they know what they’re talking about. They know what they want. So, we need to be prepared. And we’ll let’s see what happens.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Tom, it does seem like Secretary of State Pompeo is the president’s guy here, not John Bolton.
BOSSERT: Yeah, I think that’s correct. And I think that that’s a strategic move the president initiated long before, and so remember when you criticized this for speed, know that the president came into office with this on his mind pretty highly.
Maybe just a thought here, we’ve all given advice to President Trump. I think a little advice to Kim Jong-un in this case. First, he’s not met President Trump yet, and so he better prepare for that. And second, I think kind of nuanced, but these demonstrations of blowing up of tunnels, whether they’re complete or whether they are facades, just for show, it’s really not helping matters. Even if they believe that to be a helpful gesture, it doesn’t make later confirmation of our inspectors and what was in those tunnels and all that much more difficult. And so to build trust, I think they should stop taking those unilateral actions at this point.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is going to be a dramatic moment next week. Thank you all very much.
And we’re going to be live in Singapore for the historic summit starting next Sunday on This Week and right through the summit on GMA and World News.
The roundtable is up next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Round Table standing by, and all week long you can get the latest on politics and the breaking news alerts on the ABC News app, download it during the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FROMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: This is clearly playing, I think, in (ph) for November 6th of 2018. It’s (ph) up or down vote on impeachment. Trump is on the ballot in every congressional district.
This is not going to be some democratic congressman versus a republican congressman. This is going to Donald Trump versus Nancy Pelosi and Tom Steyer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Steve Bannon is tan and back, giving his analysis of the midterms. We’re going to get into that with our Round Table right now. We’ve got our Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl here.
Sara Fagen, Political Affairs Director in the Bush White House, now a CNBC contributor. Patrick Gaspard, Political Affair Director in the Obama White House, also Ambassador to South Africa, and now the President of the Open Society Foundation.
And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, author of the new book Trump’s America: The Truth About Our Nation’s Great Comeback, and Karen Finney who’s a democratic strategist, former Clinton campaign spokesperson.
And — and Jon, let me begin with you, because there’s some evidence this morning the president’s watching television (inaudible) one of the — of the arguments made by Rudy Giuliani that the president should have been told about this investigation into his campaign.
He should have been told about the investigation into Paul Manafort, that’s become a new talking point for his team.
JON KARL, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Several new talking points, but all of them aimed, George, at undermining the credibility of the special council.
We have gone from the cooperation mode to the attack and vilify (ph) mode. The memo that came out from the president’s team sounded a little bit like what Richard Nixon told Robert Frost, when the president does it, it’s not illegal.
That’s part of the argument here, but the — the point is, the president’s legal team believes they did too much by way of cooperation over the past year. They turned over too many documents, allowed too many White House advisers to be interviewed, and that is all stopping.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And is it going to hold? Is this strategy going to hold?
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Look I think the simple question then (ph) is where’s the collusion? You know, Mueller was appointed to see whether or not there was collusion with Russia.
There is no evidence that Donald Trump had any collusion with Russia, none, zero.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well you conceded what Rudy Giuliani conceded there though, he doesn’t know that Robert Mueller is done with this investigation.
GINGRICH: I’m — I’m just saying he ought to at least give us a hint that — that does he have any evidence of any kind that the president of the United States was involved with Russia.
We’re getting obstruction of justice, we’re getting all sorts of other things, we’re getting 2005 tax issues. I mean all sorts of things that don’t relate to the reason we thought he was there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re shaking your head.
KAREN FINNEY, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Well I’m just thinking about a little something that happened during the Clinton administration where they had (ph) started about cattle futures and Whitewater, and we ended up in a very different place.
And special prosecutors aren’t in a habit of telling you exactly what it is — I mean when Giuliani was sitting here saying like you know show us the reports, show us — why would they?
It is an active investigation, as Dan Abrams pointed out. I think you know the point about the Mueller investigation is all of the speculation — until we know, we won’t know. And when he comes forward and — and puts forward his evidence, then we’ll know.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But one of the things we’ve also seen, Sara Fagen, the president’s been quite successful in getting other republicans, not just his legal team, other republicans to echo his arguments.
SARA FAGEN, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: He has, and it’s now to the point where I believe the president’s base and including a whole lot of independents in this country, look at this as just another example of how Washington is broken, and that the actual political impact of all this discussion, probably politically accrues to the president’s benefit.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and I was struck there, Patrick, by Steve Bannon saying — basically arguing they kind of want this midterm election to be about impeachment, to be about Donald Trump.
PATRICK GASPARD, PRESIDENT, OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS: Yes, the midterm election is clearly not about impeachment. It certainly is about Donald Trump and his behavior and Sara’s right, that there is this general — and Jon made the point that this — this general attempt to destabilize institutions and to tear them down in order to protect this president. But I tell you (ph) I’m not sure — I’m not convinced that independents are — are saying plague on both your houses.
I think they’re — that independents, based on what we’ve seen from the special elections thus far are repulsed by all this behavior. It was interesting to note that the speaker just said before that we’ve started with the Russian probe and now we’ve gone on to obstruction of justice as if obstruction of justice is a minor issue for the president of the United States to be involved in. It’s going to interesting to —
GINGRICH: But you’re normal (ph) American and you’re looking at continued economic growth, you’re looking at a system that you think is working and you say oh but over here is something that’s — that’s obscure and legal, I think that — what Trump — look, I think the Republicans, if they’re clever, are going to campaign on the economy working, which in fact is exactly what Bill Clinton did in ’98 and it worked.
I mean, the fact those (ph) people said (ph) in ’98 and we’d lost seats in ’98 because people said if the issue is impeachment — I mean if — if — if the Democrats decide they’re the impeachment party —
GASPARD: — and — and Republicans have been losing one special election after another.
FINNEY: But two things I would point out. I mean, the Connor Lamb race showed us that, you know, Republicans thought they were going to be able to campaign on this tax bill that was a benefit to working people. Working people are not buying that. Connor Lamb already showed us that. I think the other thing, though, the — the data that I have been seeing in the races that I’m working on is — I will say this, I agree with the speaker.
Generally people feel like the economy, eh, it’s OK.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, (ph) 3.8 percent unemployment —
FINNEY: — people, though, who are leaving, part of the reason is that some people have stopped looking for jobs. I think more importantly, though, the numbers that I do think matter to people, two things. Number one, wage growth is relatively stagnant. That’s a problem because costs, like healthcare costs, are going up and that is the president’s fault. So I agree that I think — Democrats can’t let this become about impeachment.
They’ve got to keep it focused on Republicans control everything and what are they — they’re not getting anything done because they’re — they’re infighting (ph).
FAGEN: I think most people agree that this is likely to be a tough election for Republicans in the midterms. Having said that, in the — in the last year, you’ve seen a net 20 point increase in the right direction in this country and to the speakers’ point, that is because of the economy and in part because of Republican tax cuts. And that’s where Republicans need to be campaigning.
GASPARD: That’s — that’s a great point (ph), Sara. And we’ve also seen the Democratic preference number shrinking month to month as we get closer to the election. So not to make a reference that my Cleveland friends will be pained about, but Democrats can’t act as if they’re ahead and try to run out the clock here, they actually have to have —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Jon, let me — let me ask you about — about North Korea. We saw Tom Bossert talk about the president’s preparation there a bit clearly. The president eager to make this happen. He’s been driving this for the last 10 days, wants to see the summit happen. Now it’s clear — pretty clear it’s going to happen. When — when — when you’re reporting from the White House every day, what do you think the president’s definition of success is for next Tuesday?
KARL: Well it shifted a bit when he came out after his meeting with Kim Jong Choi at the White House, an extraordinary meeting, an extraordinary day. He was saying this isn’t all going to happen in one summit. I mean, earlier you got the sense that he was thinking we’re going to have this big summit and something big is coming. He is definitely kind of downplaying expectations a bit.
But look, George, we’ve all covered summits, major diplomatic meetings. They are usually very predictable affairs, all the agreements are — are —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pre-cooked usually.
KARL: — are pre-cooked, everything is choreographed. This is entirely different. And it may just be that Donald Trump is the one human being uniquely positioned to get a deal with North Korea. It may just — now look, the odds of success here are — are remote. But all the traditional methods, as Bossert pointed out, had been tried. We’ve seen Clinton fail, we saw Bush fail, we saw Obama fail.
When President Trump came into office, this was the single biggest national security foreign policy challenge facing him. And we were — we had the Pentagon preparing military options. Now we’re on the verge of a big summit. Who knows?
GINGRICH: I want to say first of all, this is where the art of the deal comes in. I think they could that morning decide not to have the summit.
GINGRICH: — Singapore and go that’s it, we’re not going to do it. I think they could go into the meeting —
STEPHANOPOULOS: But both of them want it. That’s pretty clear.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Both individuals —
GINGRICH: Oh, yeah, I do think — I give Secretary Mattis a lot of credit here. I do think that Secretary Mattis got across the notion, yeah, we could win, but the price in Seoul, Korea, the human cost…
STEPHANOPOULOS: You could win a military campaign.
GINGRICH: We could win a military campaign, but you really don’t want one. And I think Mattis deserves a lot of credit.
But let me also say one other thing, which is when you have Pompeo and you have Bolton and you have Mattis and you have Kelly, you have a very formidable team around the president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Although, it appears you don’t have Bolton anymore.
GASPARD: Certainly formidable people who are around the issue, but they seem to all be at odds against one another. And poor Mike Pence has been thrown under the bus for the kind of rhetoric that he used that exacerbated tensions, which is another point I’d like to make, John.
Sure, previous administrations didn’t get us to point of ultimate peace and a detente here, but they didn’t exacerbate the problem by coming into office talking about fire and fury with nuclear warfare.
KARL: I think they did. Because if you look at where the nuclear program was, for instance, when Obama came into the office. They had done a couple of nuclear tests, generally weak tests. They now have tested a bomb 15 times stronger than the one that went off in Hiroshima. They had a missile program…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Aren’t we essentially saying, I’ll take this to Karen, that if President Trump could get the the deal that President Clinton got in 1994, or that President Bush got in the early part of his term, and it held, that would be a victory.
FINNEY: That would be a victory, but here’s the problem whatever happens on June 12, it matters what happens on June 13, 14 and beyond. What we don’t yet know — I mean remember, in his — I mean, the president himself has set up, he says the Iran deal is horrible, awful, worst deal every. So, what does success for the North Korean deal look like, if that’s the standard that he set? And, most importantly, the verification mechanisms, the inspection mechanisms, we knew where the nukes were in Iran. We don’t even know where all the nukes are in North Korea.
FAGEN: That’s right. And you can never forget that this is a regime that has a long history of
lying and cheating their way into these deals and negotiations. And they also announced a few days ago that Bashar al-Assad was heading to meet with the Supreme Leader to talk about weapons of mass
destruction, among other…
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of history there, too, as well.
FAGEN: These are not our friends.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m afraid that’s all we have time for. Thank you all very much.
We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out World News tonight. And I’ll see you tomorrow on GMA.
0.00 (0%) 0 votes