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Trump Administration
  This Week With George Stephanopoulos  ABC  January 15, 2017 8:08am-8:22am PST

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thanks for joining us this morning. >> thank you. and now, we're joined by the incoming white house chief of staff, reince priebus. thank you for joining us again this morning. >> good morning, george. >> well, the president-elect has stirred up quite a fire storm with his latest tweet. was this the right fight to pick? >> well, look, here's the issue. i and we look up to john lewis and his historic contribution to civil rights. and voting rights. >> the president-elect said all talk and no action. >> well, let me answer. well, here's the problem. we need folks like john lewis and others who, i think, have been champions of voter rights, actually to recognize the fact that donald trump was duly elected. he's going to put his hand on the bible in five days. and i think it's incredibly disappointing. i think it's irresponsible for people like himself to question
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the legitimacy of the next united states president. i think putting the united states down across the world is not something that a responsible person does. so look, i think, in fact, i think president obama could step up. we have had a great relationship with the white house, george. we just had every cabinet person designee of ours meet with the cabinet members of the obama administration friday. i've met numerous times with dennis mcdonough. they've been nothing but helpful. i think the administration can do a lot of good by telling folks that are on their side of the aisle, look, we may have lost the election on the democrat side. it's time to come together. >> isn't it harder to do after a tweet like that from the president-elect? >> well, wait a sec. but george. hang on. john lewis stood up and said in an interview that donald trump was not a legitimate president. it's insanity.
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it's wrong. and dni director clapper said as much many, many times. there is no evidence that any outcome of the election was changed. president-elect trump won 30 of 50 states. more counties since ronald reagan. this man won in an electoral landslide. to question the legitimacy of the next united states president. and you're worried about a tweet that says, hey, why don't you get back to work instead of questioning my legitimacy? too bad. >> we just had senator sanders on the program. he did not question the legitimacy of the president-elect. he'll attend the inauguration. he said it was right to bring up questions like this because of donald trump's past and questioning the legitimacy of barack obama with the years and years of the questions of where he was born. >> donald trump made it clear that certainly over the last few years that president obama was
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born in hawaii. but the point is -- >> not until the end of the campaign. >> hang on a second. we're not questioning the legitimacy of the outcome of the election. you didn't have republicans questioning whether or not obama legitimately beat john mccain in 2008. for a person that is a champion of voter rights. to question whether or not donald trump legitimately won an election or not is an incredible position to take five days before an inauguration. and so -- >> some democrats have made that -- some democrats have made that -- some democrats including david axelrod have made that point. it's fact that donald trump was questioning whether president obama was eligible to serve as a president under the constitution. >> and many people were, george. that issue has been resolved for years now. for at least two years in donald trump's mind. to bring that up as
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justification for john lewis questioning the legitimacy of a democratic activity that is -- has been around since the beginning of our country is wrong. >> just a factual point. he didn't stop raising those questions -- didn't stop raising those questions until late in this campaign. not two years. >> but look, george. that's not the point. the point is not where barack obama was born. the point is is that we've got congressmen on the democratic side of the aisle questioning the legitimacy of president-elect trump who won in an electoral landslide. that's the issue. that's where the outrage should be. not old news. the fact that we're preparing for the transfer of power. we've been working with president obama, hand in glove, and i think that they -- including the president -- should step up and get his people in line and tell them to grow up and accept the fact that they lost the election. >> let's move on to the issue of russia. the president-elect in "the wall street journal" saying yesterday
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he would consider lifting the sanctions on russia in the future depending on how they deal with the threat against isis. that seems to be at odds with what his nominees were saying. james mattis wants to come up with a strategy to confront russia for what it did. mike pompeo, caa nominee saying russia is doing nothing to defeat isis. and rex tillerson saying now is not the time to talk about doing nothing. that seems to be quite a gulf between the president-elect and his team. >> right, but i think all three of those men that you just mentioned depending on what deal was struck with russia, depending on what terms the deal would have and what incremental steps we would have to take and measurements with potentially russia in a deal. some of those positions could change. and some of president-elect donald trump's positions could change depending on what deal could be struck.
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but overall, to your point, i can tell you just from working closely for the last year and half with president-elect and even over the course of the last six weeks, he has no problem with differing opinions in a room. in fact, i think he welcomes the fact that he's got people in the room that may not agree with each other on everything but he prefers to be presented opinions that are varying at the same time and making an informed decision based on everyone's input before making decisions. the last thing we want is a monolithic viewpoint where six people are standing before a president saying the same thing over and over again. you're not going to get the best decisions. that's what he prefers. a difference of opinion. put your best argument in front of me. okay, now let's go and decide how to move forward. >> i think most presidents would agree with that. it leads to questions about what will be done. including on the issue of iran.
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all through the campaign, the president-elect said scrapping the iran nuclear deal was his number one national security priority. yet this week, on capitol hill, here's what james mattis said, no, we should keep the deal. >> i think it is an imperfect arms control agreement. it's not a friendship treaty. but when america gives her word, we have to live up to it. and work with our allies. >> president-elect said he was going to follow james mattis' advice on torture. will he follow it on the iran deal? is the iran deal going to stand? >> it's yet to be seen. first of all, it's not even a -- it's not a signed contract. let's put that aside. what you'll get from president-elect trump is all of his folks together, rex tillerson, james mattis, john kelly, cia, homeland security, everyone that you would want in the room making decisions about that particular document. and treaties like that document.
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as to how we're going to move forward. so i think it's yet to be seen how that is going to shape up. we all know that president-elect trump doesn't like the iran deal. thinks it's a terrible document. thinks it will create a nuclear arms race in the middle east, which it is already beginning to do. moving forward, the best way is going to be something that is going to be a collective decision. made with president-elect trump having the primary say as to how to move forward. all those opinions in the room. i can assure all americans that the best decision will be made based on all of the information presented to the president. >> just to be clear, scrapping the iran deal is no longer a rock-solid promise? >> well, look, i think it's on life support. i'll put it that way. i'm not here to declare one way or the other ultimately where this is going to go.
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it's on life support. i know the president-elect does not like the iran deal. thinks it's really, really bad. that's sort of the starting point on that discussion. >> on china, the president-elect told "the wall street journal" the one china policy was also negotiable depending on what china does with other issues. including currency manipulation. rex tillerson said there are no plans to do away with the one china policy. the chinese have said it's not negotiable. so where does that stand right now? >> well, i think both gentlemen are correct. rex tillerson is correct. there are no plans to change the one china policy. that policy is on the table if china doesn't also come to the table and work with us on trade. work with us on the south china sea and what's happening there. there's a lot going on that is hurting this country. and there's a lot of businesses and a lot of people that put president-elect trump in office
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because they are counting on him to get our relationships with china straightened out. as part of that negotiation, as part of fulfilling that promise, all of the issues are on the table. at the same time, rex tillerson is correct. there's no predetermined path here. but it's something that is going to be discussed and decided down the road. >> bernie sanders says he thinks james comey should think about stepping down. president-elect trump was tough on the fbi director. during the campaign. saying he disagreed with his final decision on hillary clinton. repeated again this week he thinks hillary clinton is guilty as hell. does he have confidence in fbi director comey? >> yes, he has confidence in director comey. we have had a great relationship with him over the last several weeks. he's extremely competent. but look. his term extends for some time yet. there's no plans at the moment in changing that term.
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and we've enjoyed our relationship with him. we find him to be extraordinarily competent. >> first steps towards repealing obamacare taken in the house and senate this week. we just heard from senator sanders saying he wants to see a tweet, believer it -- believe it or not, from the president-elect. wants it to be a tweet saying he stands by what he said during the campaign, no cuts in medicaid, medicare, social security. is that still the position of the president-elect? >> that's his position. that's the position he's going to be taking. so, there are no plans in president-elect trump's policies moving forward to touch medicare and social security. >> what about medicaid? repealing obamacare would cut medicaid? >> well, look. those are things we'll be discussing over the next several weeks. certainly, obamacare is something that is not very popular around the country. in fact, it's an 80-20 issue for republicans. it's not working. people are not choosing their doctor. they're not keeping their health care. premiums are not going down.
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they're going up. all of the promises of obamacare. all of those shiny objects sold in christmas in 2009 didn't come true. people voted for donald trump. they want to repeal and replace obamacare. and we will. and we'll cover those folks that are on obamacare that need to be covered. but at the same time, we're going to find ways to lower prices. allow people to choose better doctors. and have a lot more freedom when it comes to health care. >> a pretty contentious press conference this week. a report out overnight saying you all are considering moving the press corps out of the west wing and into the old executive office building. is that true? >> let me tell you where this is coming from. and i know that some of the folks in the press are uptight about this and i understand. what we're -- the only thing that's been discussed is whether or not the initial press conferences are going to be in that small press room. for the people listening to this
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that don't know this. the press room that people see on tv is very, very tiny. 49 people fit in that press room. the one thing we discussed was whether or not we want to move the initial press conferences in the eob, which, by the way, is the white house. that's the white house. no one is moving out of the white house. where you can fit four times the amount of people in the press conference. allowing more press, more coverage from all over the country. to have those press conferences. gnat that's what we're talking about. some of this, i think, is getting way out of whack. i think people should be encouraged that so many people in the press want to participate. we had 500 or 600 folks at the press conference last week. we started thinking, man alive. if we can have more people involved instead of less, wouldn't that be a good thing? that's what this is about, george. >> will the president-elect be taking further steps to deal with his possible business conflicts? we saw what he announced this week. the head of the office of government ethics said he considered this meaningless.
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from a conflict of interest perspective. >> right. and the head of the government ethics ought to be careful. that person is becoming extremely political. apparently may have publicly supported hillary clinton. and is calling out the president with information on twitter about our detangling of the business over a month ago. so i'm not so sure what this person at government ethics, what sort of standing he has anymore. in giving these opinions. i think jason chaffetz was correct to call for an investigation into the government ethics department for the positions they have taken in the campaign. >> we'll talk about that with hi