Friday, 24 May 2019
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‘This Week’ Transcript 3-31-19: Mick Mulvaney and Sen. Amy Klobuchar – ABC News

A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, March 31, 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.

ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president takes a victory lap.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The collusion delusion is over.

KARL: Democrats are pushing back.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: We are going to let the Mueller report…

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: Show us the report.

KARL: They’ve seen openings on health care.

TRUMP: The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care. You watch.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: If is true, God help middle class Americans.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D) NEW YORK: This is putting people’s lives at risk.

KARL: And immigration after the president threatens to close the border.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: The president is playing a cheap political game.

KARL: So, will President Trump follow through on his border threat and at what cost? Without a GOP plan to replace Obamacare, will the president’s push to terminate the Affordable Care Act backfire?

And what will the Mueller Report reveal once it’s made public?

Those questions and more for acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

And,

BETO O’ROURKE, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is our moment of truth.

KARL: Beto makes it official. Who is next to jump in?

STACEY ABRAMS, FORMER GEORGIA STATE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I’m open to all options.

KARL: We’ll talk live to Senator Amy Klobuchar who’s already in the race and out with a big new proposal.

Plus, Jussie Smollett stunner.

JUSSIE SMOLLETT, ACTOR: I have been truthful and consistent since day one.

RAHM EMMANUEL, MAYOR OF CHICAGO: From top to bottom, this is not on the level.

KARL: Was this a miscarriage of justice? Who’s telling the truth? Insight and analysis from our Powerhouse Roundtable.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s This Week. Here now Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl.

KARL: Good morning. And welcome to This Week.

The president is feeling vindicated, relishing Robert Mueller’s no collusion conclusion. The special counsel’s 22-month investigation determined Russia did interfere with the 2016 election, but did not collude with Trump’s campaign, putting a damper on the Democratic drumbeat for impeachment.

But was the president’s rush to claim victory too much too soon? Attorney General Bill Barr has announced plans to release the Mueller report in the coming weeks, and the nearly 400 page report may still provide new details the public does not know, revealing perhaps, most importantly, why the special counsel chose not to exonerate the president on obstruction of justice.

In the meantime, President Trump is already picking new fights, threatening to close the southern border as soon as this week if Mexico does not stop migrants from entering the U.S.

The number of people illegally crossing the border in a single day has hit its highest point in over a decade. Even Jeh Johnson, who served as President Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary, calls that a crisis, raising questions not just about Trump’s policy, but what Democrats will do about it.

The president is also reigniting the health care debate attempting to strike down Obamacare through the courts. But as of now, neither the administration nor Republican leaders in Congress have a viable plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, potentially leaving millions uninsured, and putting a top Democratic issue front and center for the 2020 campaign.

Joining us now, President Trump’s Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Thank you for joining us, Mr. Mulvaney.

The president has said over and over again that he is OK with the Mueller report being released, because of those public statements, Attorney General Bill Barr says he will not submit the report to the White House for a privileged review. Can you assure us, assure the American people, that the president will not change his mind on this, that he will not first ask to see the report before allowing it to be released?

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF AND DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: From the very beginning, we have said what we’re saying now, which is Mr. Barr gets to handle this, that’s how the law works. And Mr. Barr has made it clear that he’s going to release it to Congress before he shows it to us. That’s his decision.

So, we’re going to let the system work.

Keep in mind, this is an extraordinary thorough report, took two years, millions of dollars, hundreds of people, thousands of subpoenas. It worked the way it was supposed to work. We don’t think it should have taken place in first place, but since it did, we’re glad it was as thorough as it was, because it said exactly what the president said it would say from the very beginning, which was there was no collusion and no obstruction.

So, we are on one hand happy that it’s over. At the same time, not surprised by the conclusions because it’s exactly what we said it was going to be.

So, if Mr. Barr wants to show it to Congress first, he’s going to do that. If he’s going to redact part of it, he is going to do that. If he’s not, he’s going to do that.

This is how the system is supposed to work. And we’re very happy to let the system play out the way the law intended.

KARL: So, there’s no question that Barr quotes Mueller directly in saying that he did not find that there was collusion between the campaign and the Russians. But why do you, and why does the president say that Mueller found no obstruction, in fact he makes no such statement. Let’s look at his exact words, this is as quoted by Bill Barr, while this report does not conclude the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

So the president’s out there saying full exoneration. The words are “does not exonerate him.”

MULVANEY: Keep in mind a couple of things, I think that’s actually – that’s a pull quote from the Mueller report, that’s not Barr’s interpretation.

KARL: Yes.

MULVANEY: I couldn’t see the exact quote.

KARL: Yes, that’s right.

MULVANEY: Keep in mind that is not what these documents do. When you do an investigation like this, there’s typically two outcomes, either criminal indictments come down or it just quietly goes away.

These types of investigations are not designed to exonerate people. So what you’ve saw here is simply Mueller saying you know what? I’m going to let Barr call this one. He had plenty of evidence to say on collusion absolutely not and he actually punted over to Barr.

Again, that’s the way the system can and does work. Barr, if you go elsewhere in the letter, lower down again I don’t have a copy sitting in front of me, it says that he and Rod Rosenstein, who up until last week was a darling of the left, found not a single – not a single piece of conduct, not a single act that constituted obstruction.

So that’s why we are absolutely comfortable saying that the president has been fully exonerated. Yes, Barr – excuse me – Mueller does use those words, but again, those are words you would typically find in this type of investigation.

KARL: Except the president is saying specifically the Special Counsel exonerated me when the Special Counsel said he did not exonerate him. But let me ask you another thing the Democrats are asking for here in addition to the full release of the report is the underlying materials.

I imagine there will be a fight over that. But there’s one thing that the White House could release right now, and that is the president’s written Q&A, you know, he answered questions in writing from the Special Counsel.

Will the White House release those answers? That’s the president’s own words.

MULVANEY: Keep in mind, we followed the law, we will continue to do that. Congress – mostly Democrats, in fact all Democrats in Congress want to keep going. We – our attitude is sort of enough is enough, you had your two years, you had all this money, you had all this opportunity to look everywhere and you did and there’s nothing there.

There is no there there, it is time to move on, this is enough of this. Apparently Democrats simply refuse to accept that. We don’t know what more Mr. Mueller could have done.

In fact, in another part of Mr. Barr’s letter, you see that they gave the president absolutely zero special treatment. There was a lot of conjecture going into this before the report was released that somehow the president would get special treatment because of the DOJ policy about not indicting a sitting president.

The Barr letter makes it very, very clear that that special treatment was not applied here. They applied the same standards they would as to anybody and there’s still no grounds for any criminal charges.

So there is no collusion, there is no obstruction. I know that a lot of my friends in the other party are still upset that Donald Trump is president, but it is time to move on because enough is enough when it comes to collusion and obstruction.

KARL: But I asked about the president’s written answers, will he release those?

MULVANEY: Mr. Barr is going to decide what he releases. Congress doesn’t get to do criminal investigations. That’s not an Article I authority. The law has been followed, the things have played out the way they were supposed to.

Again, we didn’t think it was necessary in the first place, we think the basis for bringing the special investigation was wrong. But now that it’s done, it’s been done properly. Congress needs to find something else to worry about.

KARL: So I want to play to you what the president said to me about Democrats shortly after the release of Barr’s letter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things. I would say treasonous things against our country. Those people will certainly be looked at.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

And here’s what the president said just last month in his State of the Union address.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: So why is the president talking about his opponents as being evil and treasonous and suggesting that he wants revenge or retribution? Isn’t that directly in contrast to what he told the American public in the State of the Union?

MULVANEY: I certainly think you can make the case and we will be making the case that the reason this played out the way that it did and the reason the Mueller report even exists now, there was a small group of people within the law enforcement community, specifically the FBI and the DOJ who really did want to overturn the election.

They were completely stunned by the fact that Donald Trump won. We call it Trump derangement syndrome. They cannot accept the fact that he’s president and from the very beginning, in fact before the election they actually set the table to try and prevent him from becoming president.

If that happened, that is a challenge to our republic the likes of which we’ve not seen for a long time and we don’t think it’s that outrageous to suggest that it could have. The president would only be doing his job if he tries to make sure whether or not that happened and if it did, to make sure the people who committed those particular acts are brought to justice. That’s not an unreasonable position to take, that’s not revenge, that’s simply protecting the democracy. You heard the president say many times this week this shouldn’t ever happen again to any president.

He didn’t say it should never happen to him, he said it should never happen again to any president, Republican, Democrat, whatever. You cannot have the state, the bureaucracy — call it the deep state if you want to — have the ability to try and overturn an election and if that happened, someone needs to be responsible for it.

KARL: Rand Paul suggested that Congress should actually investigate Barack Obama. Does the president think that’s a good idea?

MULVANEY: I’ve seen — again, I haven’t paid as close attention to this as some of my friends have on the House Oversight Committee or the House Judiciary Committee, but there have been some folks who’ve suggested that perhaps folks in the Oval Office, certainly in the West Wing might have known about this at a very early stage. I can’t — that’s conjecture on my part but if — if we do investigate, I think you need a full investigation to find out exactly who made these decisions to try and overturn an election.

KARL: OK, let’s move on. The president threatened closing, shutting down entirely the Mexican border as soon as this upcoming week. He obviously made the same threat back in December. What would it take for him not to do that this week?

MULVANEY: Something dramatic. Keep in mind, when Jeh Johnson says it’s crisis, I hope people now believe us. A lot of folks, many folks in the media — not you necessarily but a lot of other networks did. They didn’t believe us. Democrats didn’t believe us a month ago, two months ago when we said what was happening at the border was a crisis, a humanitarian crisis, a security crisis. And I’m — I’m very glad to see that Jeh Johnson now at least is admitting we were right and that 100,000 people coming across this border this month — that’s not a made up number, by the way, despite the fact that many Democrats still think that it is — that is a crisis.

Why are we talking about closing the border? Because not for spite and not to — not to try and — and — and undo what’s happening but to simply say look, we need the people from the ports of entry to go out and patrol in the desert where we don’t have any wall. We hate to say we told you so but we told you so. We need border security and we’re going to do the best we can with what we have. The Democrats will not give us any