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tv   This Week With George Stephanopoulos  ABC  May 21, 2017 8:00am-9:01am PDT

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starting right now on "this week" with george stephanopoulos. trump's high-stakes trip. >> we have serious discussions right now going on. >> the ambitious overseas agenda on the heels of a bombshell week a me. >> the entire thing has been a witch hunt. >> new revelations around the stunning oval office meeting. trump reportedly sharing classified intel with the russians. calling james comey a nut job. we talk to the man who was in that room. >> is that what the president said? >> our exclusive interview with national security adviser h.r. mcmaster. plus -- >> there is no collusion. >> a special counsel appointed to oversee the russian investigation. now, what's congress' next move? tough questions for the chair and the ranking member of the house oversight committee.
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plus -- one of trump's staunchest critics during the campaign, republican senator ben sasse. as the president takes the world stage, can he outrun the chaos here at home? here now, chief anchor george stephanopoulos. good morning. as we come on the air this week, president trump in saudi arabia, about to give a major speech to the muslim world. billed as a message of hope and tolerance, it's likely to signal a major break from the harsh rhetoric of the president's campaign. when he railed against radical islamic terrorists and said flatly, islam hates us. the white house is hoping this whole trip will bring a welcome break from the most battering week of the trump presidency. a daily cascade of damaging headlines this week. monday, "the washington post" reports that the president revealed highly classified information about isis to the russians in the oval office, compromising a key source and complicating our relationship with israel.
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tuesday, "the new york times" reports trump tried to privately get james comey to drop his investigation into former national security adviser flynn. i hope you can let this go, he said, according to comey's memo. >> wednesday, the president was blind sided by his own justice department. rod rosestein has decided to appoint a special counsel to up vest gate russian interference in the 2016 election. >> i represent the move. but the entire thing has been a witch hunt. there is though collusion between certainly myself, and my campaign. and friday, less than two hours after air force one took off for saudi arabia. two more bombshells from "the washington post" and "the new york times." a senior white house official has been identified as a person of interest in the russia investigation. reaching closer than ever to the oval office. and "the times" revealing more
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about the extraordinary oval office meeting with the russians. remember the timing of the meeting. it was less than 24 hours after the president fired james comey, who was leading the investigation into russia and the 2016 campaign. in his first face-to-face meeting with russian officials, foreign minister lavrov and ambassador kislyak, he told them, i just fired the head of the fbi. he was crazy. real nut job. i faced great pressure about russia. now that's taken off. the timing, what was said and why? how will the russians use what they learned? all that is fodder for the special counsel and congress. and one of the few people in that meeting, national security adviser general h.r. mcmaster. he's our exclusive guest this morning from saudi arabia with the president. thank you for joining us today. i want to get to the trip. first, questions about the meeting you all had with the russian foreign minister. "the new york times" reporting the president said in the meeting -- i just fired the head of the fbi.
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he was crazy. real nut job. i faced great pressure because of russia. now that's taken off. is that what the president said? >> well, i don't remember exactly what the president said. and, the notes that they apparently have, i do not think are a direct transcript. the gist of the conversation was that the president feels as if he's hamstrung in his ability to work with russia to find areas of cooperation because this has been obviously so much in the news. that was the intention of that portion of the conversation. >> did you know he was going to report that to the russians? what did you think when you heard it? >> report what, george? >> what he said about james comey, that he fired him and why? >> the firing had been in the news. but i didn't know in advance that the president was going to raise it. as i mentioned, he raised it in the context of explaining that he has been feeling as if he's been unable to find areas of cooperation
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with russia even as he confronts them in key areas where they're being disruptive, like syria. the subversive activities around europe. the support for the assad regime and for iran and its activities across the middle east. >> did you understand how this might look to an average american right now? the president of the united states telling the russian foreign minister in their first meeting that the pressure is off because he's fired the fbi director investigating russian interference in the campaign. does that seem appropriate to you? >> as you know, it's very difficult to take a few lines, a paragraph out of what are -- what appear to be notes of that meeting. and to be able to see the full context of the conversation. as i mentioned last week, the really purpose of the conversation was to confront russia on areas, as i mentioned, like you -- eukraine and syria and their support for assad and
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the iranians. that was the intent of that conversation was to say, what i would like to do is move beyond all of the russia news so that we can find areas of cooperation. >> so did the president confront them on their interference in our election? this was their first meeting. >> there already was too much leaked from those meetings. one of the things i'm most concerned about is the confidence. the confidentiality of those kind of meetings. as you know, they're extremely important. so, i am really concerned about these kind of leaks because it undermines everybody's trust in that kind of an environment. where you can have frank, candid, and often times unconventional conversations to try to protect american interests and secure the american people. >> i understand your concern about leaks. i can see the -- feeling of perhaps someone likely on your staff or in your community who leaked this thinking they had a duty to leak it because you have this apparent contradiction. the president disparaging the
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person who was investigating the russians but not confronting the russians who interfered in our election. >> well, as you know, the initial leak that came out was a leak about concerns about revealing intelligence sources and methods. information that is not even a part of the president's briefing. so in a concern about divulging intelligence, they also indicated the sources to a newspaper? it doesn't make sense, george. >> i take your point on that. there's the question of whether or not it was right for the president to give that information to the russians. but i guess that's a direct question. did the president confront the russians on their interference in our election? >> well, i'm not going to divulge more of that meeting. those meetings, as you know, are supposed to be privileged. they're supposed to be confidential. they're supposed to allow the president and other leaders to
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have frank exchanging. >> one final question. sean spicer has spoken out. the president's press secretary. he said by grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into russia's actions, james comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with russia. do you agree that the former fbi director's grandstanding and politicizing, sean spicer's words, hurt our ability to deal with russia? >> i think what's been hurting our ability to deal with russia more than any other factor has been russia's behavior. since president trump has taken action in syria, we think there may be opportunities to find areas of cooperation in places like ukraine, places like syria in particular. >> after your first press conference on that meeting, your friend and former colleague, retired colonel john neagle told npr that you're in an impossible situation because the president expects you to defend the indefensible. what's your response?
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>> i don't think i'm in an impossible situation. i think what the president expects, what is my duty to do as national security adviser and as an officer in our army is to give my best advice. to give my best, candid advice. nobody elected me to make policy. what my job is is to give the president options, to integrate the efforts across all of our agencies and departments. and then once the president makes decisions, to help him execute those decisions to protect and advance the interests of the american people. so, i find no difficulty at all serving our nation and serving the president in my current capacity. >> if the president put you in that position as you wrote about with president johnson and vietnam, would you resign? would you push back? >> well, you know, there was some middle ground there during the vietnam period. what occurred is many of the president's senior advisors, civilian and military, didn't give their best advice. they concluded that what would be appropriate for them to do
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given what president johnson expected was to tell him the advice he wanted to hear. i don't think the president expects that from me. certainly, i don't think i would be fulfilling my duties and responsibilities unless i gave him not just my candid advice. that's not my job either. to integrate and coordinate to give him the best advice from across our government and with our key multinational partners. >> it sounds like one of the difficulties of the meeting, and i do want to get on to the trip, is that when the president disparaged james comey, apparently did not confront the russians over this, he didn't even ask your advice? >> george, what i would like to talk about is where i am right now. in aud -- saudi arabia. i think i answered the questions concerning the media. i would like to move on while we still have time. >> we will have time. did the president ask you your advice about this before he talked about james comey?
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>> the president always asks our advice before these sorts of sessions. the subject of that fbi investigation, to my recollection, didn't come up. really, that conversation, though i don't want to talk about any more of the specifics from within it, covered a broad range of subjects. most of which had to do with areas in which we think russia's behavior has been unacceptable and is an increasing risk to the international security is supporting those helping to create a humanitarian crisis. in syria and across the region. that would be the assad regime. and iran. but then also look for areas where we could cooperate. begin to move to a resolution of conflicts in ukraine and syria. and be able to cooperate more effectively in our counterterrorism campaigns. >> let's talk broadly about the goal of this trip. the president said he had a very good start. what do you want to accomplish? >> three main things. the first is to advance the security of the american people.
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to recognize that to do that, america needs allies and partners to deal with the complex problems that we're dealing with. in this region, those are two main and interconnected problems. the problem of transnational terrorist organizations, some of which i now, like isis, control territory and populations and resources. but then, how that problem is connected more broadly to the problem of islamist extremism and the brain-washing of an irreligious ideology that is meant to foment hatred. and justify violence against innocents. and the second problem of iran. and iran's actions, which we believe are aimed at keeping the world mired in civil war. you see it in syria. a great human cost. you see it in yemen. you see it in a certain extent in iraq.
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security, cooperation. counterterrorism. counterextremism is a big part -- >> as you know, the saudis -- >> the second part -- >> go ahead. >> the second part is economic cooperation. being able to get better access to markets. develop trade relationships. create american jobs. a lot of important signings happened in that connection. and the third is to foster, this is just for this leg of the trip, better defense cooperation in the region and to encourage additional burden-sharing. responsibility-sharing. with allies and partners. so americans don't foot the full bill for security in this region and globally, as well. >> the saudis have been, in the past, consistent backers of extremists around the region and around the world. are you convinced they're ready to change? >> we're going to ask them to convince us. there are very good first steps being taken. with the establishment of the
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center for combatting global extremism, or terrorist extremism. we'll have to see the results. willingness to talk about it is somewhat different than the past. as you know, the record is poor. back to the '60s and '70s and beyond. and to today. we need to convene leaders. across all religions. the big theme of the trip is to promote tolerance and cooperation across all religions. to identify these terrorists for who they are. the enemies of all civilized people. i irreligio irreligious criminals who use a perverted interpretation of religion to advance their agendas. that's the tone and tenor of the conversations that happened today. funding has to be cut off to these groups that are fomenting hatred and intolerance. funding has to be cut off to terrorist organizations through effective threat and finance
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situations. we have said we expect results delivered together. that will be a big part of the conversations tomorrow when the group of leaders expands dramatically to not only include the gulf cooperation council but 50 nations of predominantly muslim populations. >> general mcmaster, thank you for your time this morning. >> thank you, george. let's bring in republican senator ben sasse. he's just out with a new book, called "the vanishing american adult." how to build a culture of self-reliance. we'll get to the book in a moment. first, the news of the week. >> good morning. >> you just heard general mcmaster right there. his reaction to the meeting with the russians. where the president was apparently freelancing when he talked about james comey and said the pressure was off after he fired him. was it appropriate for the president to talk to the russians about that? >> well, i mean, let's be clear. obviously, we don't have aligned interests with russia. russia is -- putin in particular is an enemy of free speech, religion, press,
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assembly. he's the enemy of many things at the beating heart of america. we have to be clear we don't have aligned interests with russia. there's a lot in the last segment that is encouraging for the people of america. general mcmaster is a special guy. the president should be applauded for having him in place. i think he said clearly in that interview -- i heard most of your segment. he said the biggest problem between u.s. and russian relations is russian behavior. that's a good thing to have the administration acknowledging. >> i actually agree with that. if you listen to the whole interview, it sounded like the president didn't confront russia on the election interference. this was the first meeting with high level russian officials. the president disparaged the person investigating russia and didn't apparently confront them on their own interference. >> yeah, no, clearly, we need to know a lot more about what happened in 2016. russia has bad motives toward the u.s. past, present, and future. we need to know more about 2016. and the american people should applaud the appointment of bob mueller this week as special counsel.
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i also think we need to be looking to the future. what comes next in 2018 and 2020 is more aggressive russian behavior. augmented by technology. that are going to make the erosion of american public trust even easier for russia to advance. so obviously, we, the american people, in the legislative and executive branches, need to be confronting the challenge we face from russia going forward as well as see the investigation play out about last cycle. >> you're a member of the senate judiciary committee. it's been a remarkable ten days of news coming out of the white house, since the president fired james comey. reports that the president asked comey for a loyalty pledge in january. in february, he told comey he hopes he'll close the flynn investigation. the firing of comey, saying russia was on his mind. he tells the russians the pressure is off the next day. when you put that all together, when you see that pattern, what does it tell you? >> yeah, i mean, there's obviously a lot that is troubling about that.
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there's a lot that we don't know yet. i want to underscore how good it is for america that bob mueller has this position. this is a decorated marine, through to u.s. attorney, to head of the criminal division, to bipartisan applauded head of the fbi for 12 years. lots of good stuff for the american people to put hope in. about the fact that bob mueller is going to conduct that investigation. frankly, we all need to be looking forward to the task of trying to rebuild trust in a lot of these institutions. the fbi doesn't take loyalty pledges to a individual. the fbi is a special institution that is supposed to be defending the american constitution by letting investigative paths go where they lead. and obviously, when you're an agent at the bureau, all the way up to the director of the bureau, you don't take a loyalty pledge. that's a specific agency that has a really hard job. we need the american people to know they can trust the fbi in the future. everybody needs to take it upon themselves to say what am i
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doing now to advance the ability of the american people to trust in the institutions like the bureau in our future? >> do you think the president is doing that? you're a republican. you made no secret during the campaign your opposition to candidate trump. you said he displayed no understanding at the time of our constitutional system. are the fears you expressed in the campaign playing out now? >> listen, the problems that we face in terms of not having a shared understanding of why america has limited government and what the constitutional structure of checks and balances are supposed to protect, that is not just a problem in the last four months. not in the last 18 months. we have had an erosion of an understanding of basic american civics for decades. but yeah, i am concerned that at this particular moment, there's not enough long-term thinking about how to restore an understanding of the american structure of government. i wish everybody in government, including in particular the president, would spend a lot
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more time and energy saying five and ten years from now, am i going to have contributed to a world where american kids understand why the first amendment is so glorious? because right now, there's a ton of data. our kids don't understand it. we're not teaching them. that starts all across the federal government. and no. no one is doing enough to restore that. >> that's one of the things you write about in your new book, "the vanishing american adult." first of all, as i looked at it, i thought i have to do a better job of toughening up my kid. you said building a more resilient generation is extremely important. >> listen, we have far too many of our kids that are stuck in a state of perpetual adolescence right now. that's more our fault than theirs. we're not doing enough to celebrate scar tissue together. our kids have huge potential. they're going to have a demand, a necessity of becoming more resilient than the generations before them. they're entering an economy
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where at age 40, 45, 50, 55, they're likely going to get disintermediated out of their job and firm but out of their entire industry. that's never happened before in human history. we have to build a civilization of lifelong learners. at the same time as we should be toughening our kids up, we're trying to bubble-wrap them too much. a lot should be happening as our kids come of age that right now we're not spending enough time attentive to habit formation for our kids. and again, this book is a constructive book. it's two-thirds what should we do about it to do right by our kids. it's about one-third stage setting. it's not a blame-laying book. to the degree there's blame to be laid, it's on we, the parents and grandparents who are not attentive enough to what kind of formative experiences will help our kids. >> i have to share a tweet. you sent it this week. you and senator schumer. you were just coming out of the gym. you said it looks like senator schumer and i are smoking reefer outside a wedding.
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a little joke right there. i want to talk about it to get to a serious point. one of the things you have talked about. you have compared washington to a kiddie soccer game. no cooperation across party lines. some are saying now is the time to abandon the partisan effort on health care and work toward a bipartisan proposal. is that the right way? >> well, i'll come back to health care. let's go to a prior point first. when i say washington is like kiddie soccer, is there's a whole bunch of frenzy. and almost never strategy. the american people don't really know what the priority set is for washington. i'm the third or fourth most conservative guy by voting record in the senate. i'm not making an argument for a mushy middle. on policy. but i am making an argument for saying how do we prioritize what core issues we should be focused on for 5, 10, 15 years from now. this city is obsessed with short-termism.
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so that's really what i mean about kiddie soccer. i think it's clear that the 5, 10, 15-year agenda for america should be that we create a health care system where the american people can buy the policy they want and take it with them across job and geographic change. right now, i think obamacare exacerbates more problems than it solves. we republicans need to admit that the american health care system wasn't doing what it needed to do preobamacare. the problems didn't originate with obamacare. they're much deeper than that. as we transition to a more mobile, portable economy, the american people need to be able to buy a policy that goes with them. across job and geographic change. right now, washington is not focused on that. it's more shirts and skins exercise on who wants to be more for or against obamacare. the challenge before us is longer term than that. >> senator sasse, thank you for joining us. >> thanks for being in nebraska, george. our "roundtable" coming up. up next, two top house leaders and how they'll
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just because there's an investigation or work being done at the department of justice doesn't excuse the congress from doing its own work and getting to the bottom of things. >> this is about the fight for the soul of our democracy. we cannot afford to lose this one. >> there you see the leaders of the house oversight government reform committee. jason chaffetz, elijah cummings. they both join us now. congressmen, thank you both for joining us this morning. mr. chairman, let me begin with you. your reaction to the extraordinary meeting between the president and the russian foreign minister, lavrov. you have both the revelation of highly classified information, and then this report in "the new york times" that the president was talking about james comey in the meeting, calling him a nut job and saying the pressure is off. what is your reaction?
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>> i hope it's not true. i don't know if that was said or not said. i would like the president to beat them over the head with the fact that if they did, the russians, did interfere in any way, shape, or form, how wrong that is and how outraged america is on both sides of the aisle. >> congressman cummings, if you were listening carefully to general mcmaster, it sounds like the president apparently didn't bring up the russian interference. will you demand to see the notes of that meeting? >> we have been asking for -- i want every note that they have, george. there have been so many lies. so many contradictions. i think documents will help us to ferret out what is the truth and what is a lie. i'm hoping the chairman will issue subpoenas so we can get every document. because i think that's what we need. >> you have also asked the justice department and james comey for any documents he has
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of any meetings with the president. asked him to come publicly testify may 24th. have you heard from james comey or the justice department? >> what i have heard is i believe director comey and i are going to have a conversation on monday. so i have not spoken directly with him. it's important to remember, nobody's seen the documents. even the reporter at "the new york times" has not seen the documents. there's been an awful lot said about them. i don't know who has them. maybe director comey has them. i don't know where they reside. i don't know if there are documents. we're pursuing them. if they're there, i hope we find them and get them sooner or later. >> when you look at the pattern of interactions are the former fbi director. as i asked senator sasse earlier. the meetings in january. the meeting in february. the firing of james comey. what we have learned about the notes of james comey. some of your democratic colleagues are already seeing the beginnings of a case for impeachment. are they right? or is that going too far?
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>> i think that we need to gather the facts. i have always been one to be very careful with regards to the gathering of the facts and then coming to the conclusions, as opposed to having a conclusion and trying to search for the facts. i've seen that in the past, so many times. i think that we -- that will take care of itself. basically, george there are three things going on here. one, we have to figure out what this whole idea of the russians interfering with our elections was all about. after all, 17 of our intelligence agencies said it did happen. two, we have to figure out whether there was collusion and that -- i'm sure that will come out. and three, we have to figure out exactly whether there was some type of coverup. that's how i see this. all along we have to look at it very carefully. but again, the congress has its
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role. we have a role for an independent commission. and certainly, the special counsel. >> one of the other things we learned this week, there is a person of interest in the investigation who is now a senior official in the white house. does the white house have a responsibility to reveal who that is? and wall that individual off from any sensitive information? >> i want to see that this person is prosecuted. the president makes a good point. no matter who is in the white house you cannot have the type of leaking of information, sources, methods, classified information. i don't care who it is, democrat or republican, you cannot have that happen. so, not only do you need to wall them off, you probably need to put handcuffs on them and put them in jail. >> that's for people who are leaking. that's different than the person of interest in the investigation, isn't it? >> well, i don't know where this is going to go. again, we have to step back and let the investigators and the fbi and others do their job. we're not in a position to go individual by individual and do these type of interviews.
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we have to let those professionals in the department of justice do that. >> congressman cummings, how do you think the white house should deal with the person of interest in the investigation? >> i think that will come out whether the white house acts or not. that will be left up to mr. mueller, who i have a tremendous amount of respect for. there can be -- there will be hopefully parallel investigations going on. just the other day in our briefing, mr. rosenstein basically told us he pretty much welcomed us pursuing our investigation with regard to looking at the prod picture of -- of the whole idea of the russians interfering with our elections. >> can i interrupt you for a second? in that meeting, is it true that mr. rosenstein did not tell you who told him to write that memo that was released at the
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parallel with the firing of james comey? >> no. he didn't tell us. no. he did not. but again -- >> why not? >> you gotta ask him. i can tell you, george, my impression, when i walked out of the briefing was that this thing runs deep. in other words, i think that there might be quite a few people that may have some problems with the law with regard to this whole incident. but -- we have got to stay focused. impeachment is one thing. but, george, we gotta concentrate on the fact that the russians interfered with our elections. and i keep telling people. don't lose -- don't get so caught up in impeachment that you forget about that. because i'm telling you, that's something that goes to the very heart of our democracy. we can't have people in russia determining who will be the president of the united states. and what policies will be pursued. no, we cannot have that.
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democrats, independents, all of us ought to be concerned about that. that's a role that clearly the congress has to play, and that's a role that an independent commission that congressman and i have proposed would play. finding the answers to those questions. >> mr. chairman, you've announced you're leaving congress on june 30th. some colleagues suggest you should leave now. so the next chairman should get to work. what is your reaction? >> i'll work with the steering committee and we'll pass the baton. that's why i announced when i did. i gave people six weeks' notice. i was honest and candid. i want to pass the baton. we'll do so. there's a lot of investigations going on. a lot of good work. i want to do it in the right way. >> congressman chaffetz, congressman cummings, thank you both for your time. "the roundtable" is coming up. and jon karl live in saudi arabia with the president.
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everything computes. back now with more on the president's trip to saudi arabia. our colleague jon karl is there right now with the president. we're awaiting the president's speech. described as a major speech to the muslim world, a message of hope and tolerance. from what we have seen, appears to be a dramatic break from the campaign rhetoric. >> reporter: a strikingly different tone, george. from what we heard from the president during the campaign. he is talking about the war on terror. not portraying it as a clash of civilization or a war of the west against islam. instead, as a fight between good and evil where moderate muslims around the world are our allies. in the fight. in those excerpts, one line that stuck out to me is this. this is not a battle between different faiths, sects, or civilizations. >> and so far, from the excerpts we have seen, no mention of the
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radical islamic terrorist, which the president said was necessary to talk about during the campaign. the white house placing great stock in what the king of saudi arabia is going to say. him taking on extremists. >> reporter: absolutely, taking -- saying it is the responsibility of muslim leaders to take on the terrorists in their midst. this has been a strikingly warm welcome for the president. you saw the king greet him at the airport. that's a courtesy not afforded to president obama. in his most recent visits here to saudi arabia. the president was given a ceremonial sword and took part in a peace dance. a traditional saudi peace dance. seemed to thoroughly relish in the moment. and so did some of his embattled aides, taking part, all smiles. there was a moment here with the president of egypt where the president of egypt said that donald trump has a unique personality and is capable of accomplishing the impossible. as soon as the translator was done translating it, the president laughed and said, i agree.
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what you see here is really a welcome relief from the tension back home. but it's more than that. he is going to be surrounded by the leaders of more than 50 islamic nations around the world. for somebody who, as a candidate said, islam hates us, this trip is quite an accomplishment. >> the president does seem to be getting the break they needed and expected and wanted coming out of this. it's just the beginning of this trip. going to israel. the vatican. meeting with g-8 leaders, too. quite a long trip. for a first trip. >> reporter: it's an incredibly long trip. you mentioned, from here, to israel, to the vatican. brussels is where nato meets. the g-7 meeting is in sicily. all told, nine days. i'm told that the president's staff didn't bring up how long it was until shortly before departure. and that when he saw how long it was, he actually asked if it could be made shorter. it will not be made shorter, at
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least that's the plan. >> maybe this first welcome will make him want that long trip. we'll be right back with the powerhouse "roundtable." depression is a tangle of multiple symptoms. ♪ that's why there's trintellix, a prescription medication for depression. trintellix may help you take a step forward in improving your depression. tell your healthcare professional right away if your depression worsens, or you have unusual changes in mood, behavior or thoughts of suicide. antidepressants can increase these in children, teens and young adults. do not take with maois. tell your healthcare professional about your medications, including migraine, psychiatric and depression medications, to avoid a potentially life-threatening condition. increased risk of bleeding or bruising may occur, especially if taken with nsaid pain relievers, aspirin or blood thinners. manic episodes or vision problems may occur in some people. may cause low sodium levels. the most common side effects were nausea, constipation and vomiting. trintellix had no significant impact on weight
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we have a lot to talk about now on our "roundtable." joined by matthew dowd, our chief political analyst. democratic congressman keith ellison. the deputy chair of the dnc. christopher ruddy, news max ceo, a friend of the president's is joining us now as an abc contributor. and democratic strategist stephanie cutter. matthew, let me begin with you. what a dizzying ten days it's been since the president fired james comey. a headline every single day. usually right around 5:00. try to put everything in context. where are we now in this presidency? >> a week like no other. coming from a presidency first 100 days like no other from an election like no other. i mean, i think we're now in a phase. it's bombshell after bombshell, after bombshell. my guess is, next sunday, we'll sit here and say, wow, can you believe what just happened this week? i think we're in a marathon phase. it's important for everyone to understand that.
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i know we all focus on the one little bit. now, we have a special counsel, robert mueller, who will take this wherever he takes it. and i don't think people fully understand. it's not about the tree of russia or collusion, he'll go for all the root systems. throughout that. and wherever that goes, he's going to examine. i don't think we should underestimate what the house committee and the senate committee could do or could reveal in the course of this. people forget that during watergate, and i'm not comparing the two, it was a special counsel and the house committee and senate committee did extensive research. and they revealed much of what came out of watergate was revealed in the house and senate committees. >> it does appear this showdown with james comey will come sooner than later. we now know that he'll speak to the senate intelligence committee, some time, it appears, in june. and he's got notes of every encounter with the president. the president threatened him with tapes. how does the president survive that? >> legal experts i have spoken
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to, alan dershowitz, for instance, said there is no obstruction. what the president did was perfectly legal. he had a right to speak to the fbi director about the matter. i think the press is criminalizing it. i think it's weird. the president's instinct about letting comey go is right. this memo proves it. isn't it a little strange -- >> what memo proves it? >> well, the leaked memo, or the details of the leak, we haven't seen the memo yet of director comey's conversation with the president. >> that's reason to fire him? >> well -- i think it's about his instinct that you can't trust the fbi director. isn't it a little strange the fbi director has a private conversation with the president, instead of saying to the president, mr. president, you're new to this job. you're not a legal law enforcement guy, what you're saying is inappropriate to me, speak to your white house counsel and the justice department about how to approach this. instead, he goes back to his office, writes a memo to
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himself, sticks it in a file, supposedly he did this for every presidential encounter. what was his purpose for writing these memos? if he thought the president was doing something inappropriate, he should have spoken to the president about it then gone to his attorney general. >> what i think the president -- president trump doesn't understand is that the fbi director is not meant to be loyal to that president. that's the reason they serve ten-year terms. and it's unusual for a president to ask for a one-on-one meeting with the fbi director. and, even the president asked other people to leave the room in those encounters. it's a very common practice in a situation like that to go back to your office, write down what happened to ensure that you remember the facts correctly. it's a prosecutorial process. >> if he thought the president was doing something inappropriate, he should have immediately acted on it -- >> is that any reason to discount what was said? is that any --
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>> that's a leaked xhee eed com. >> that was from a different story. >> so many stories, fake news stories are becoming fact here. where in the russian investigation was there ever an allegation that the president did anything wrong with the russians? we have this major investigation and there's no evidence. >> and it's his justice department that appointed a special counsel because they see the problem. >> go ahead, keith. >> what i want to say is i've just been on the trail, talking to people all over the country. i was just in oklahoma. and to them, it's like, yeah, this russia thing. they're very concerned about it. but also the health care debate. repealing dodd-frank. the whole piece of it is what people are focused on. what's the real story as opposed to this week's mess? all this stuff just looks to people like it's crazy. it's chaotic. i'm going to show up at my congressman's meeting and be part of this upsurge of democracy. >> regardless, to me, this is
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all going to unfold. we will learn and have learned a lot more. which we wouldn't have known but for things that have come out. that's part of this that i think is important to understand. when we look forward on this, donald trump has been a victim of his own errors in every step of the way. this is not -- all of these things have come out. you can blame fbi director comey for saying he should have done this, should have done that. it was created by what donald trump did. somebody leaked a thing about mike flynn. this is somebody donald trump hired. all of these things are unforced errors. interceptions. everybody keeps saying -- it's like johnny manziel. like johnny manziel saying, why does everybody keep talking about me? well, because you keep doing it. >> chris ruddy, you're seeing the same complaints from inside the white house. you know that the leaks with the bane of the president's existence. they're saying, we don't know how to handle this. the president is the problem. >> the shornstein center out of
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harva harvard, a study of the press coverage of the trump administration to date. they said 80% negative coverage. look at the language from their report. never had there been anything like this in modern american presidencies. matthew and stephanie have been involved. >> he's not a victim. he's not a victim. >> that's because they're covering the news. there hasn't been anything positive. >> a week ago, the chinese opened their markets to u.s. businesses. presidents have been trying to do it for 30 years. donald trump did this in three months. >> he also had other problems. that came back at a suspicious time. this whole montization of the presidency problem. >> keith, you represent people in michigan. do you think -- >> minnesota. >> minnesota. >> minnesota, i'm sorry. a very mid western state. don't you think that people there are seeing that jobs are important? the president's made this a priority. you wouldn't know that watching the press. >> we're looking at his budget coming out. we saw the skinny budget. he's about to decimate people who voted for him. he's going to cut the appalachian regional council. these folks voted for this guy.
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on this trip he's on. i mean, i'm shocked. he said saudi arabia and i get along great with all of them. they buy apartments from me. they spend $40 million, $50 million, i'm supposed to dislike them. he's in saudi arabia. we're supposed to celebrate that. it's back to him trying to cash in on being the president of the united states. >> he's just bought tens of thousands of jobs with that arms deal. >> it's great. it's factual. all they're doing is reporting on what is going on. if that happens to be 80% or 90% negative. >> the press is driving the narrative here. >> no. >> anything that -- >> donald trump's missteps -- >> anything good that donald trump -- >> he steps on. >> no, you don't want to report on it. i think there's a balance. criticizing the president is fine. some of the things he has done are not right. he needs to -- he'll be learning curve. the president still has the same voters that voted for him say they would still vote for him now. >> let me do a thought
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experiment with you for a second. you talked about how ten days ago, we should have been talking about the opening up of the chinese beef markets to america. >> more than that. >> at the exact same time, the president fired his fbi director. his entire staff came out for 24 hours, including the vice president, giving one reason for the firing. 24 hours later, the president gave a separate reason for the firing, saying he had russia on his mind. how are we supposed to ignore that? >> they need to synchronize their messaging in the white house. it's a new presidency. this is not the first time that presidential administrations have had messaging problems. >> this is not a -- >> why didn't the press report on all the democrats that called for comey's resignation a few months prior? that was not part of the narrative. >> george, that is a red herring. the fact is -- >> red herring? chuck schumer said he should be fired. >> we're raising this problem with comey's firing because comey was investigating him. this is not about like comey, don't like comey. this is about the guy who is
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investigating you for colluding with a foreign hostile power to undermine our elections, you fire the guy? and say, well, we don't have to worry about him? to the country that is undermining the elections? this is outrageous. you have to focus on why we're raising these issues. it's about what he did and the firing. >> and working in a white house on a normal day is, on a 1 to 10 scale, it's a 10 in terms of tension. under this current white house, i can't imagine what those staffers are going through. it's not a synchronization of message. it's a synchronization of truth. the president completely did a 180 on them. >> i talked to people at the white house. and they're saying they're very frustrated by the negative press coverage. >> they are. >> and they don't know when the president is going to tweet next. >> no president in american history has undergone these issues. >> the last person to talk about a witch hunt. the last person to say the press was the enemy. the last person who said all the
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leakers should be locked up. you know who that was? richard nixon. the last person with the same message, the same thing that happened, and when we look at this, the leakers actually helped, mark felt helped bring down a president who was a corrupt person in office that did many things. let's not talk about the press. the only thing the press is doing, they have their faults. they're reporting facts on what this president says and does and what his white house says and does. i'm going to say one thing about the democrats. i think the democrats have to be very careful in this process. they can't get ahead of their skis. the american public wants this to unfold. they're very concerned about what donald trump is doing. if the democrats get too far ahead of their skis, the american public is going to back up. they want the facts to lead where they should. >> you saw congressman cummings push back about that talk of impeachment coming from some of his colleagues. you can't seem to be gunning for this. >> is this mired in politics? absolutely. we can't make this investigation a political process. i think the senate intelligence committee is handling it in a bipartisan way. we do have to let the facts
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determine where we go here. there's a special counsel investigation. out of the department of justice. there are multiple congressional investigations. let's see what we learn. we're going to learn something. >> i'm afraid that is going to have to be the last word. we're out of time for today. much more to talk about in coming weeks. we'll be right back. and we'll be right back after this from our abc
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that is all for us today. thanks for sharing part of your sunday with us. check out "world news" tonight. i'll see you tomorrow on "gma."
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