A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, August 26, 2018 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.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: American hero.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I’m the luckiest guy on earth. I have served America’s cause.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Honoring John McCain.
MCCAIN: And I have enjoyed every single day of it, the good ones and the not so good ones.
STEPHANOPOULOS: From military royalty to prisoner of war, a maverick senator and happy warrior on the presidential campaign trail. In victory and defeat, John McCain defined by his life of service to country. At his best, he dignified our politics.
This morning, we remember the unparalleled life of an American patriot.
And closing in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did President Trump commit a crime?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As the president said, we have stated many times he did nothing wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president’s former lawyer pleads guilty, says Trump directed his campaign finance felony.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael, what’s your message to the president?
STEPHANOPOULOS: As the president and his team now confront multiple investigations, Trump publicly contemplates impeachment.
TRUMP: I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job.
STEPHANOPOULOS: After the most perilous week of his presidency, are prosecutors now Trump’s greatest threat? Will he fire Sessions? Try to shut Mueller down? Are impeachment proceedings now more likely than ever?
That debate with a key Democrat on the House judiciary committee Eric Swalwell up against legendary law professor Alan Dershowitz.
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.
American politics lost a giant last night. John McCain passed away at the age of 81 after stopping treatment for brain cancer. He will lie in state in the Arizona capitol, the U.S. capitol, then a full dress at Washington National Cathedral before his burial at the naval academy in Annapolis.
This morning, flags flying at half staff at the White House and the U.S. Capitol. Tributes pouring in from across the country and around the world — presidents, his colleagues in congress and the military, and his daughter, Meghan: “All that I am is thanks to him. Now that he is gone, the task of my lifetime is to live up to his example, his expectations and his love.”
The example John McCain set, extraordinary by any measure.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Fighter, maverick, hero. Senator John McCain spent his life in service to the country he loved, his loyalty, first and always to his country. He came from military royalty, the son and grandson of admirals. His rebellious streak didn’t keep him from the Naval Academy, though he did graduate at the bottom of his class before volunteering for Vietnam as a fighter pilot.
On his 23rd mission over Hanoi, shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese. He was beaten, tortured, but when McCain’s captors discovered that his father commanded the Pacific fleet, they offered to release him ahead of fellow prisoners who were captured earlier. McCain refused.
MCCAIN: The pain I experienced, still I don’t know how in some ways that I was able to survive the injuries.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He finally came home after five-and-a-half years with scars he carried the rest of his life.
MCCAIN: I fell in love with any country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Then came politics. Elected to the House in 1982, the Senate four years later.
He launched a long shot presidential campaign in 2000 on the straight talk express, losing the GOP nomination to George W. Bush, the nomination he won in 2008.
It’s almost as if you would prefer coming from behind and being a front runner.
MCCAIN: Well, there is ups and downs in campaigns that there will be other ups and downs.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Love of fun balanced by a fierce temper, and a deep core of simple decency.
In the race against Barack Obama, lines he wouldn’t cross.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he is not — he is not — he is a — he is an Arab.
MCCAIN: No, ma’am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is not?
MCCAIN: No, ma’am. No, ma’am. No, ma’am. He is a decent, family man, citizen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He did cross party lines.
Over the years we spoke, Senator McCain often bucked the Republican Party.
MCCAIN: Somehow, we as Republicans, the party that went for the balance — supported the balanced budget amendment of the constitution, somehow we’ve lost our way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you have utmost confidence in President Trump?
MCCAIN: I do not know, George. I do not know.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And as he battled brain cancer during his final months in the Senate, he called out his colleagues for partisanship.
MCCAIN: Both sides have let this happen. Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And cast the deciding vote against repealing Obamacare. In his last major public speech, McCain summed up a lifetime of service.
MCCAIN: I've had the good fortune to spend 60 years in service to this wondrous land. It's not been perfect service to be sure. And there were probably times when the country might've benefitted a little less of my help. But I try to deserve the privilege as best I can. And I've been repaid a thousand times over with adventures, with good company, with the satisfaction of serving something more important than myself, of being a bit player in the extraordinary story of America.
And I am so grateful.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator John McCain. We're joined now by his fellow senator from Arizona, Senator Jeff Flake joining us this morning. Thank you, Senator Flake for joining us. We just heard Senator McCain talk about being a bit player in American history, expressed his gratitude. You had a lovely piece in the Washington Post this morning expressing your gratitude for John McCain.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), AZ: Right, well it was tough to write. As I mentioned, I – I've been meaning to do it for a while and couldn't bring myself to do it, thinking that the longer I held off maybe the longer he'd be with us. But it was very heartfelt.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the greatest lesson you learned from him?
FLAKE: Oh, to forgive. You know, his people talk about he had a temper, it was passionate, that's certainly the case. But he would quickly forgive and move on. And to see the good in his opponents, that is something that, particularly these days, we could use a lot more of. That's a lesson that he taught everyone.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you've never known a Washington event without Senator John McCain and that you'll always be known as the other Senator from Arizona. I love the story you tell about how his fighting nature and how he encouraged you to fight.
FLAKE: Right, we are – we were on a plane ride back to Arizona when I had just joined the House in 2001. I was getting beat up at home by the press and by local elected officials for challenging spending and John McCain made his way back to me on the plane and I thought oh no, he's going to go after me too.
And he put his finger in my chest and just said don't back down. He said you're in the right and they'll come around. And it was all that I needed and from that time forward, I really appreciated him and his friendship and his advice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, it's no secret that he was sickened by our politics today, and I know you had the chance to visit with him recently, and that he was optimistic about our future.
FLAKE: Right, back in – it was February of this year. We sat out on his deck and watched Oak Creek roll by. And for about an hour, talked about Arizona and its past and the personalities that he knew and admired, particularly those who put – who put politics aside, Democrats and Republicans.
He had a huge fondness for Mo Udall, Democrat from Arizona. And he did express optimism that – that people would rise to the fore in the future, who would put, you know, put the – the good of the country above the party.
And so he was optimistic there, but it's tough to see right now how that's going to happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do we honor his legacy?
FLAKE: Oh, I think by seeing the good in our opponents, by being quick to forgive, by realizing that there's something more important than ourselves, to put service, you know, over and above our self interest, as he often said.
And – and as he lived, I think that that's how we honor him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Flake, thank you for your time this morning and your tribute.
FLAKE: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: John McCain worked to reach across party lines and we're now joined by the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi. She joins us by phone this morning. Congressman Pelosi, how will you remember John McCain?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Well John — I'll remember John McCain as a source of great strength to our country, his personal strength and his strength of his love of our country and his love of peace. Right now I'm just heartbroken. I think America's in tears about the loss of this great man. And the flags are at half staff at the capital and hearts are at half staff just at this loss.
We knew it was coming, it then came so soon, just before his birthday. But it all gives us a chance to identify with something so very special, a life of courage, sacrifice and reaching out to others. I'll just remember him as – in a funny way, he always made me laugh, that is to say.
His succinct characterizations of what was going on. Maybe he didn't mean them as humor, but they actually shocked right to the heart of the challenges that we face and with the – with that kind of humility that he had.
With all of his strength and pride, he had a sense of humility, of understanding other people's point of view.
STEPHANOPOLOUS: In a remarkable coincidence, he died nine years to the day of his great friend, Senator Ted Kennedy, of the same brain cancer. They seem to represent an era that has passed, Congresswoman.
PELOSI: Well their – their relationship was one that I think all of us admired and we're grateful for. Certainly, Senator – it's a – as you said, the irony of the timing and the cause of – of their passing is – is a remarkable coincidence.
But maybe the intensity of their lives just determined that that would be the case. In any event, I know that Ted Kennedy and so many of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, whether they were in complete agreement with John McCain were all in agreement that he was formidable, had enormous integrity and was acting on behalf of our country and what he truly believed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your Democratic colleague in the Senate, Charles Schumer, has recommended that the Russell Senate Office Building be named after John McCain. Is that an appropriate tribute?
PELOSI: I think it would be a great tribute, because then for decades to come, everyone who came to Washington would know the very special place that John McCain held – has held and will continue to hold in our country.
I just would like to say that I saw firsthand, up close and personal his leadership on behalf of our veterans and their families when we worked together or something that Elizabeth Dole, secretary, senator, many titles, that Dole established our Hidden Heroes.
We served as co-chairs of the task force to help the families, the hidden heroes, the caregivers – care takers of our – our men and women returning from battle. And his role as chair of the Armed Services Committee, he always looked out for our men and women in uniform on the battlefield and when they came home.
And what they were protecting was our freedom and another area that I worked closely with him on was years ago when we did McCain-Feingold. I was a new whip in the House, he came to me and said you've got to get this done in the House.
Working together, we did. He was generous with his sharing of credit to my colleagues, but in fact what he did was quite a remarkable thing for our country, preserving our freedoms.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Big bipartisan achievement. Congressman Pelosi, thanks very much. As Congressman Pelosi said, John McCain had a great dedication to veterans and the military.
We're joined now by a military man, retired General David Patraeus, also former director of the CIA. And General Petraeus, John McCain, son and grandson of admirals as we said, military royalty in so many ways, and his first loyalty always seemed to be to his fellow service people.
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: Well it was very much so, he – no one had the backs of America's new greatest generation, those who fought the wars of the post 9/11 period more than he did.
No one did more to assure that they had what was needed to prevail on the battlefield, and we spent a lot of quality time together in the decade after 9/11 in Iraq, Afghanistan, the greater central command region.
He and the other members of the three amigos were out there with us. Every Fourth of July I was there and (ph) seven of those 10 Fourth of Julys and I think he was there for all of them.
A truly extraordinary giant of the Senate and really of the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And defined by so many fights in his long career, one of his last great fights, the fight against torture.
PETRAEUS: Yes, and I must say that this is something that I stood absolutely with him on. I felt that number one, it's really not all that successful, number two even if you get something through torture, through enhanced interrogation techniques, that you will pay a higher price in the court of public opinion globally than you do – than the value of what it is that you get.
He was very, very forthright on that against the times, as he was many times in his maverick persona over the years.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And reaching back, I mean, in some ways as just a very, very young man, the defining moment of his life, that moment when he is offered freedom by his Vietnamese captors and says no.
PETRAEUS: It was an extraordinary moment. He would not break faith with his fellow prisoners. He made sure that he got no special treatment because his father was the four-star commander of U.S. Pacific Command, in fact, at that time.
Again, a real force in so many different ways, and always one who felt that serving a cause larger than self was the greatest of privileges.
You know, Teddy Roosevelt wrote “The Man in the Arena” speech, and John McCain truly was the man in the arena, and in many arenas, of course, as we heard in the obituary that started this. And he also was one who believed, as Roosevelt did, in hard work worth doing, and felt very privileged to have had six decades of hard work worth doing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what a difference he made. General Petraeus, thank you for your time and your tribute this morning.
PETRAEUS: It’s a privilege. Thanks, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to bring in our team right now. Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, our chief global affairs anchor Martha Raddatz, Cokie Roberts as well.
And, Martha, let me begin with you, picking up there on General Petraeus and what we just heard about John McCain’s devotion to the military. That is something you saw up close.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANCHOR: Up close and all the time, and it never wavered. And we keep talking about his time as a POW. That’s really where John McCain was forged as a fighter for veterans. I had talked to him just last September about when and how often he visited the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
Imagine John McCain walking there at sunset, early in the morning, which he did often. Among those more than 58,000 names, those people who didn’t make it out of there, that’s who John McCain was. He never forgot them. He worked to help veterans at all times.
Despite what he went through, I think he was grateful every single day, George, that he could do just that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Jon, what you saw up close, going back to 2000, that Straight Talk Express on the presidential campaign in 2000 was the way that John McCain engaged the press. Now his critics would often say the press was his constituency. He did seem to enjoy the sparring.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That campaign, that 2000 presidential campaign was unlike anything I ever covered, George. This was a rollicking show aboard that bus. He was a long shot candidate with virtually no money in his campaign. He was going up against George W. Bush who had essentially already been christened the Republican nominee by the establishment, and by those with money.
His campaign was about what General Petraeus talked about, serving a cause greater than oneself. He fought that. He talked to us all day long, George. I spent more time with McCain during that campaign than he spent with his campaign manager. Because in the back of his bus we would be sitting back there always on the record, always talking.
Sometimes you kind of just wished you could get away for a little bit to get your thoughts together. But we have — I have this photo from there on an old flip phone where I had to, like, call my stories in with McCain effectively sitting two seats away from me, constantly going, constantly talking, constantly making news because he didn’t have the money to run a traditional campaign.
And when he won the New Hampshire Primary by 17 points, he said recently that that was the victory, the greatest political victory, the one that meant the most to him, even more than eight years later when he actually won the nomination.
STEPHANOPOULOS: John McCain was a hero, but he wasn’t a saint. A mercurial guy, not above making political calculations, but also you point out, not afraid to admit mistakes.
KARL: Yes, in South Carolina, after he won in New Hampshire, he went to South Carolina. And one of the hot issues there was what to do with the Confederate flag, which at that point was flying on top of the capitol building, the capital of South Carolina.
And McCain’s personal belief was that it should come down, but he felt that that would cause him — he was convinced by his political advisers that would cost him votes. So when asked about it, he very stiffly said, no, it’s something that should remain there, it’s heritage.
And it ate him. You could tell he was not — he was not true to himself. I spoke to him about it shortly after he lost South Carolina in Michigan, the next primary state, and he told me one night after a big rally that he was going to make that right, that that was wrong, that he did something that he rarely did in politics.
He was not true to his own beliefs. And after the campaign, he went back to South Carolina, and he did effectively a mea culpa. He said it was a mistake, he did the wrong thing. Really an amazing moment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It was something. Cokie Roberts, his proudest political victory, New Hampshire, as Jon said, but also proud of those bipartisan achievements in Congress.
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. You know, and you heard from Senator Flake, when he came to Congress, Mo Udall, big liberal Democrat, reached out to him. And he learned a huge amount from that, that compromise was the way to get things done.
And he constantly reached out to Democrats to try to get legislation accomplished. Most famously, of course, McCain-Feingold, that campaign finance legislation, whereas you just heard Leader Pelosi talking about giving credit in the speech that he gave after the bill finally passed.
He — he took her out as a — as an example of someone who had really done a great job. And he did that over and over again. After Feingold was defeated, he reached out to — to Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island. He took trips with all these people, very difficult trips. These were not junkets, these were the awful places where danger was in the air or on the streets. But he used those trips to educate the members of the Senate, particularly of the other party and to get to know them, to be friends with them and to show them their — his respect.
Which was something that was incredibly important and frankly, George, is missing in the Senate today.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are we going to see a McCain Senate office building?
ROBERTS: Well, it would be a useful thing. As Phil Hart, a senator from Michigan was dying (ph) of cancer, they named a new building after him. And the hope was that he would be remembered as the man who was then called the conscience of the Senate. And I think that to have a building named for McCain will keep his memory alive, at least until people just start calling it the McCain building.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Cokie, Martha, John, thank you all very much. We're going to have much more on Senator McCain's life and legacy later with our roundtable. And up next, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell and law professor Alan Dershowitz discuss this week's pivotal legal developments for the president, what it may mean.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good afternoon. We are coming on the air again in a day of bombshell developments in the legal situation facing President Trump and his presidential campaign. Word just in that his former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, has been found guilty on eight counts of tax evasion and bank fraud.
We are coming on the air again because Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney, has just left the courthouse in the southern district of New York and Lower Manhattan after pleading guilty to charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, and most significantly, campaign finance violations.
That was the theme Tuesday, twin legal blockbusters in courthouses 200 miles apart. The president’s former campaign chair Paul manafort will now face a second trial in September.
His former lawyer, Michael Cohen, now offering to cooperate with other investigations, and his guilty plea bolstereded by cooperation from one of Trump’s closest allies David Pecker of The National Enquirer, and the man who knows more than anyone else about Trump’s finances, his long time CFO Alan Weisselberg, both men got immunity deals from prosecutors.
And the Southern District’s investigation to the campaign finance felonies will continue, just one of several legal actions now confronting President Trump.
The New York attorney general has filed suit against the TrumpFoundation, which could lead to a criminal referral, the Manhattan district attorney also considering charges against the Trump organization. Trump facing lawsuits in Maryland and D.C. over the constitutions emoluments clause, and of course, special counsel Robert Mueller investigating possible collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice.
The big question going forward, will any of these lay the ground for impeachment proceedings in congress.
I want to take that now to Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell who sits on the House judiciary committee. That’s where any of the charges of impeachment would begin, and Harvard Law Professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, author of book “The Case Against Impeaching Trump.”
And congressman, let me begin with you right now. Is the campaign finance — if there were evidence to show that President Trump was involved, conspired with Michael Cohen, for a campaign financev iolation, would that be a high crime and misdemeanor?
REP. ERIC SWALLWELL, (D) CALIFORNIA: Good morning, George.
And first let me just also pay tribute to John McCain, a patriot, a man of integrity and independence, and someone who fought for our democracy, and one that is still worth the fighting for. We miss him dearly.
As to your question, Democrats should not lead with impeachment, George, I think we should lead with the core issues people care about — making sure that health care costs go down, that their paychecks go up, and that we scrub out corruption. But shouldn’t look the other way, and the best thing we can do is promise the American people, if we are given the majority that we will conduct the investigations the Republicans are unwilling to conduct, including this campaign finance violation, including the questions around his contacts with the Russians, and including his tax returns, which the American people have not seen, but I promise a Democratic majority will ensure they do see.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me go back to the question, I understand you don’t want to lead with impeachment as we head into the midterms, but if the president was part of a conspiracy to violate the campaign finance laws, in your view as a member of the House judiciary committee, is that a high crime and misdemeanor.
SWALLWELL: He is not above the law, but I think that we don’t have enough evidence yet. We would bring in Michael Cohen and Mr. Weisselberg, and Mr. Pecker (ph) to interview them. And again we don’t want to be as reckless with the facts as he is. I think have thorough investigations, putting forth an impenetrable case to the American people, doing it in a bipartisan way, is the proper way to do this. But we’re not there yet.
And again we are going to talk about the issues people care about. And if we’re given the subpoena power and the gavels in those committees, we can assure the American people we are going to do our job.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Professor Dershowitz, you wrote the book “The Case Against Impeaching Trump,” that was of course before this week’s developments. Is what you saw in the Michael Cohen case in that guilty plea, does it weaken your case?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, first of all, I agree with everything that congressman said. I think it would be great to have the Democrats in control of one branch and being able to conduct investigations. I think we have to get to the bottom of this.
Look, I fully understand why so many people want, hope, that President Trump has committeed crimes and impeachable offenses, but the evidence isn’t there. The president or the candidate is entitled to contribute anything he wants to his own campaign.
So the only issue here is whether or not there was a failure to report the contribution. That failure to report is attributable to the treasurer of the campaign, not to the president.
And conspiracy is a very big stretch –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well that's I wanted to – that's what I wanted to get to. I mean, on the one end, it could be a reporting violation, and a deliberate run around the laws and run around the laws in – working with another person, conspiracy, that would be a serious crime, wouldn't it?
DERSHOWITZ: It's a stretch, it's a stretch. Look, the reporting, if it occurred, would have occurred after the election considering the chronology of everything. And so to stretch and make a reporting violation, which so many campaigns have, President Obama's campaign had to pay $300,000 for reporting violations.
To make a conspiracy out of that when the law itself says the treasurer is responsible, not the candidate, is an example of precisely what we're seeing, trying to stretch the law to fit somebody who many Americans hope and want to see commit a crime or commit an impeachable offense.
I agree with the congressman, let's wait to see what the evidence is. Look, the other thing that I think last week proves is that the Special Counsel is the least important element in this investigation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well I want to get that as – I do want to get to that as well. But first, Congressman, is it a stretch?
SWALWELL: No, no, not at all. I believe though that, George, there are multiple investigations now on multiple fronts, not just criminally but also civilly. And this – this president, the best thing he can do is to just sit down with Special Counsel, come clean, and clear up these questions that exist.
The American people deserve to know if the president is as corrupt as the people who have pled guilty around him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You were just about to say, Professor Dershowitz, you know, your – that perhaps the Special Counsel is the least of the threats the president faces right now. You've got the Southern District, you've got the New York attorney general, you've got the Manhattan district attorney.
Where's the greatest threat?
DERSHOWITZ: Well I said that right from the beginning, because I think he has constitutional defenses to the investigation being conducted by Mueller. But there are no constitutional defenses to what the Southern District is investigating.
So I think the Southern District is the – is the – is the greatest threat. Look, it would be good for the American public if President Trump sat down and said everything he knows, but it wouldn't be good for President Trump.
And that's why his lawyers are so strongly recommending against it. His lawyers, particularly his private lawyers, are not supposed to consider what's best for America. The White House Council perhaps, yes, but his private lawyers are supposed to consider what's best for Mr. Trump.
And it certainly is not best for Mr. Trump to sit down and allow himself to answer questions, even truthfully, that might be contradicted by Cohen or McGahn or somebody else, because that's a perjury trap.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Six tweets and an interview against Attorney General Sessions this week. What would happen if the president fired the attorney general?
DERSHOWITZ: Well he's perfectly entitled to do so. You know, President Clinton did not have a good relationship with his attorney general, especially when she essentially appointed a Special Counsel.
But he kind of didn't – didn't do anything about it, he complained, he grumbled in private, but he didn't fire. I – I think it would be a mistake to fire anybody – look, my advice to the president, I never gave it to him privately because I'm not his lawyer, but on television is don't fire, don't pardon, don't tweet and don't testify.
And if he listened to those four things, he'd be in less trouble than he is today. But again, my job is to protect civil liberties of all Americans. I'm not here to protect or defend the particular president, but I worry about stretching the law and the implications it could have for the future.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman, the president apparently has discussed with his staff the possibility of pardoning Paul Manafort in public. He's praised Paul Manafort. Is that opening him up, the president, to the charge of tampering with a witness?
SWALWELL: Yes, also obstructing justice. And George, the more he does this, the more it gets us I think lines of investigation if (ph) we are in the majority. But the president is not a private citizen, and I respect the role defense attorneys play, he's the president of the United States.
And a lying president, an obstructing president, a corrupted president is a weak president, and the American people deserve to have a strong president.
DERSHOWITZ: I agree with that, but remember that President Bush pardoned Casper Weinberger on the eve of his trial and that did not amount to an obstruction of justice. So let's not change the law to target a particular individual, much as so many people would love to see the law apply to him equally.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Professor Dershowitz, Congressman Swalwell, thank you both very much.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Round Table is going to weigh in on all this when we come back, plus their reflections on Senator John McCain. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's been a remarkable week. Roundtable ready to take it on. And we'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Now, 75 years from now, Ted will probably still be around. But I — but I — at least, many fear that, but the — seems like he's already been around for 75 but — but the fact is —
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What'd I do to you anyway this morning?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator McCain, if Senator Kerry wins, would you be willing to serve as Secretary of Defense?
MCCAIN: I — I would not want to do that. I would — I would much prefer to be undersecretary of state so I can tell Joe when (ph) to stop talking.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, McCain (ph), Senator Biden. Thank you both very much.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you about your position to exclude Russia from the G8. How are you going to get that done? Every other G8 nation is against it?
MCCAIN: Well, you have to take positions, whether other nations agree or not, because you have to do what's best for America —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Got some visitors here.
MCCAIN: — and the world. That's — look at Russia's actions in the last week or so — he'll — he'll get out —
STEPHANOPOULOS: He'll get out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator John McCain loved the Sunday shows. He loved that ranch in Cottonwood, Arizona as well. We're going to talk about him now on our roundtable. Joined by Chris Christie, our ABC News contributor, former governor of New Jersey. Democratic strategist (ph) and former DNC chair Donna Brazile. Megan Murphy, the former editor of Bloomberg Business Week. Another former, the former New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu, Democrat from Louisiana and Alice Stewart, Republican Strategist, CNN political commentator.
Now Donna, I want to begin with you because you were telling me a story before we went on the air. Your first encounter with John McCain more than 35 years ago.
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I was a — a young congressional staffer working with one of our home state heroes, Lindy Boggs and I was charged with the task of lobbying for the King holiday. And when I went up to this young congressman, he said we're not ready. And I said what do you mean? We have over 300 votes. He said but my state. And fast forward 25 years later, George, John McCain called and said he was going to Memphis to say he was wrong.
In those intervening years, not only did he lobby his state, but John McCain was a man of his word who said I will continue this campaign, this march. And he admitted that he was wrong. And for me, as a woman of color, I would be honored if the Russell Building was re-named after John McCain, not only for his legacy, his service, he kept his word, but when John McCain saw his grandson, named after himself, he was so proud and he put it on Twitter.
His — his grandson who carries his name is an African American as well. He was a great man.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Mayor Landrieu, that tracks with the story John Karl was telling us earlier about something John McCain regretted, coming out against — on — on the Confederate issue in South Carolina. This issue of race was something that struck to his core as well.
MITCH LANDRIEU, FORMER MAYOR, NEW ORLEANS: Yes, he got — he got par (ph) both ways, though. You remember when he was running, you know, they — they really kind of tried to kill him in South Carolina because they said he had a black child and they tried to create the issue of race. The South was really torn apart by race for such a long time. It's important for us to heal the country around that issue, as I've said many times.
And Donna is a great champion. You can't go around this issue, you have to go through it. And the country, quite frankly, has not gone through it the way we should.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You reminded me right there, I had forgotten just how vicious that campaign got.
LANDRIEU: Yes, you remember the South Carolina primary where — the way they took him down was on the issue of race because he had a black child, as though that had something to do with whether he was going to be a — a great senator or not. And so it continues to be an issue that this country has to go through. We have to listen to each other, we have to be opening up (ph) and I just always think we're better together.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And better together is a continuing theme in John McCain's life. Also a great friend.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, CONTRIBUTOR, ABC NEWS: Well — and listen — and that's a story I could tell, George. Two days after Bridgegate broke in January of 2014 for me, I was under siege, I got a call from John McCain. And he said to me, listen, I got one question for you. He said did you have anything to do with this. And I said I didn't, Senator. And he said good. He goes, well then, you're getting killed out there. He goes, tell your people to put me on as many TV shows as I can. I'm going to stand up for you.
And for weeks after that, he was one of the only voices on television saying I know Chris Christie, I know his character, I know he didn't have anything to do with this. And I didn't call him, he called me, George.
Very – as you know, very few friends like that in politics, and he's an amazing person.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Alice Stewart, he could be all over the map politically. We showed him working with Democrats there in those clips. Also, many times just went down the line, Republican orthodoxy as well, but could wrangle the party.
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, CNN: Oh, sure. He was fearless, he was a fighter, heaven has a new hero this morning. And that is something we all remember him as, someone who stood his ground, certainly when he was a POW he had the opportunity to get in the front of the line.
He said no, the right thing to do is for me to stay back. He did not break frank (ph), and he did that in politics. But I also remember him as someone with a wonderful sense of humor.
During the '08 campaign, I remember going back in the green rooms in the debates, he would go in Governor Huckabee's green rooms and practice his jokes and kind of use us as a sounding board.
And we won't say any names, but there was one person that was generally the subject of a lot of his jokes, and Governor Huckabee was (inaudible) him a little bit and – and walk it back.
And generally Senator McCain would take his advice, I don't want to be too rough on someone. But he always got in a good punch line.
CHRISTIE: Some things never change.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well you're talking about punches, talking about political campaigns, we can't ignore this fractious relationship that he has had with president – had had with President Trump over the last year and a half, going back to the campaign where President Trump simply said listen, I don't respect him as a war hero, he was captured.
MURPHY: You know, probably one of the low points of the Trump administration in general was that comment and (ph) the campaign. And I think I want to go back to what Donna and Mitch were saying, the moment I remember most about John McCain was his 2008 confession speech.
And when he got on that stage and he pointed to the particular significance of an African American man winning that race for the African American community and what it meant for America and that this was the very best of America, this example was the very best, what America was all about.
And when I think about that and the level of discourse and how far we've sunked (ph) right there, inflaming racial tensions that we have in this country. And what I hope with his legacy is that it will not be just words and it won't be just (inaudible) but that we will all look inside of ourselves to say how do we be more decent?
How do we have more compassion? How do we respect human dignity, because that is what he was about –
STEPHANOPOULOS: — tall order.
CHRISTIE: Yes, listen, I'd say to you that as someone who was in that race at that time when the now president made that comment, to me that was the moment of demarcation when politics changed in this country.
Because I could tell you all of us thought this is over, he said that about John McCain, he's going to have to get out of the race. And we were all kind of preparing ourselves, and it was not just me but I spoke to Marco about this and Jeb.
We all were preparing like OK, how's the race going to be different with Trump out of it. And the fact that that didn't end the race – that was a real change.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm glad you said that, because listen, we were – we've all been wrong about a lot of things over the last couple of years. But I vividly remember that moment as well as saying how is it possible that someone can survive attacking an American war hero like that, yet he did.
BRAZILE: He did, and – and you know, to John McCain's credit, he never lowered himself to respond, he kept moving. Even after the pettiness of the last couple of weeks with the Defense Authorization bill, he never lowered himself to respond.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're talking about the moment where President Trump signed it, but didn't mention his name.
BRAZILLE: Did not mention his name, here – a lawmaker, the chair of the Defense Committee, and he – Armed Services, he worked his way up because he cared about veterans, because he cared about America.
Yes, he was a hawk (ph), we had a lot of disagreements, but he was a man who cared about his country. John McCain put his country first.
LANDRIEU: But isn't it – isn't it worth taking a moment for the entire country to – to see what it looks like to put country first. Nobody could ever accuse John McCain of being weak or soft or not tough or not petulant from time to time.
But he was also a bipartisan, he was also kind, he also governed with great dignity and great strength. Isn't that a good motto for us going forward and if – and if his life is not going to be in vain, America maybe ought to take a moment and think about what that looks like for all of us that are in office.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a – it's an important point, you tend to lionize people in the moment of their death. But you know, this is a man who is definitely not a saint. You talk about his sense of humor, he also had a fierce, fierce, fierce temper.
He could be petty as well, but he found ways around it.
STEWART: Certainly, and he found ways to work across the aisle and get things done. And of all the responses we've heard over the last 12 hours since his passing, the presidential response is one that stands out as touching and endearing, of course from President Obama.
And talking about how he and Senator McCain disagreed politically on many things, yet they came together on issues that were very important, fidelity to doing what is best for our country and doing the right thing regardless of the consequences, but understanding we have political differences, but that doesn't mean we cannot work together for the best of this country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot else happened this week. Of course, we were talking earlier aboutthat day, Tuesday, those two guilty plea by Michael Cohen, the guilty — the convictions of Paul Manafort. I mean, Megan, one of the questions I was thinking about as we saw that unfold on Tuesday afternoon, is this a tipping point?
MURPHY: We have said so many times before of what a tipping point is. I think one thing that’s different now is we were talking about saying this another bad week, the worst week yet for the administration, no this was one of the worst weeks for the country, and here’s why, it’s twofold. One, you have the mess of Michael Cohen, of the circle closing in on the president as it appears to be, sure, but also when he gets in these situations where he feels the noose is tightening, where he feels things are closing in, he has shown to act irrationally, to back into a corner, to appeal to the worst instinctsof his base, whether that’s pandering on athletes taking a kneel during the National Anthem, whether that’s immigration, that is how he reacts to it. He retreats to a corner and does things that can be dangerous for this country.
I don’t think this is going to be the worst week of the administration. I think we have many more worse weeks to come. Whether this is the tipping point, what Bob Mueller has, what the New York Southern District has will yet to be seen, but this is just another horrible week .
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, you’re a former prosecutor as well, and I want to play a little bit of the president’s reaction and then get your response. This was the president on Fox and Friends talking about Paul Manafort.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: One of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much is he went through that trial — you know, they make up stories. People make up stories. This whole thing about flipping, they call it. I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers, everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It almost ought to be outlawed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: As a prosecutor, I’m sure you flipped more than a few.
CHRISTIE: Yes, I did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: More than a few witnesses, and I wonder if that is — picking up on Megan’s point. You look at the southern district right now. They had a cooperating witness in the president’s chief financial officer. They had a cooperating witness in his good friend David Pecker over at The National Enquirer. They are reaching deep inside the Trump world.
CHRISTIE: Sure, and we don’t know what they are cooperating on, obviously, George. We know how limited or broad the immunity they were given was.
Now there are lots of times when I was a prosecutor that we would give someone a narrow piece of immunity to get a particular piece of information and their lawyers would demand that. We would give it to them sometimes, even much broader immunity and they are cooperating on a whole variety of issueses. We won’t know.
And I think that one of the things that the president fundamentally misunderstands in that comment that he made is that responsible prosecutors, which I considered myself to be one, you don’t just listen to someone who flips, you corroborate them. You have to bring in other evidence, because obviously that person has told different stories at different times. You can’t just go in with that witness, you have to go in with corroborating evidence, documents, other witnesses that can back up that story, and if you don’t, then you shouldn’t bring charges against someone just based on one person’s word against another.
That’s the way our system is supposed to work. It would be wrong to outlaw that, but we have to make sure our prosecutors act responsibly and get corroborating evidence and that may be what the southern district is trying to do. We don’t know. We’re going to find out over time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna Brazile, in that interview, the president talked about impeachment. We just saw Congressman Swalwell not want to touch the word with the 10-foot pole. Democrats think it’s actually going to hurt them in the mid-term elections.
BRAZILE: You know, Republicans are talking more about it than Democrats on the campaign trail. Democrats are talking about pocketbook issues. We know that the American people want an alternative to the status quo right now.
Look, I want to say something about, you know, the president. The president has thrown a lot of shade — that’s what the kids call it. I mean shade on the attorney general. He is throwing shade on the investigation. It is time the president understands that he has to defend the constitution. He is not above the rule of law.
When your accountant, when your former attorney, and the keeper of secrets are all cooperating with the government, the president should show some respect to the process.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Landrieu, how do Democrats balance this out? I mean, I understand the concern about appearing like you’re overreaching, yet these are potentially serious crimes being discussed.
LANDRIEU: Well, I think when Michael Cohen did what he did, it took him to a more urgent piece, but I think the lawyers have to do what they have to do. In a democracy, impeachment is always the last resort. The way we change power in this country is through elections, so my admonition to Democrats is to go out and vote so that you can win. It’s pretty clear that congress has been feckless and completely weak in terms of pushing back this president who is obviously out of bounds, and the way to do that is at the election box immediately. Let the prosecutors do what they do, and as Governor Christie said, a thorough and complete investigation.
Bob Mueller is a respected prosecutor across the aisle. Let them do their work, and then let the facts and the law take us where it will.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does all this mean for Republicans in the mid-terms?
STEWART: The key is motivating them, getting them out to vote. And clearly what we’re seeing from some, from the president and others out there, dropping hint of possible impeachment to encourage Republicans to get out and vote and make sure that we can secure the House on the Republican side so Democrats don’t come in and talk about impeachment. What I'm hearing, talking across the country, people are focused on jobs and the economy. Trump's base is there. All of this Manafort and Cohen and even Pecker, this is talk.
They don't see it sticking with the president right now. They say that he hasn't done4 anything wrong. I disagree. I think payoff to porn stars is wrong. But the questionable — the real word that hits a buzzword with a lot of voters is parole. If he starts pardons. If he starts issuing pardons or talking about pardons, that is where his base is going to turn. They have a problem —
STEPHANOPOULOS: They could turn on that. It turns out — and this is a point you were getting at, Megan, earlier — even firing Rod Rosenstein or the attorney general at this point's not going to stop all these other investigations. New York attorney general, U.S. attorney in — in — in the southern district, the district attorney here in Manhattan.
MURPHY: And we don't know which one is most dangerous, we don't know what Bob Mueller has, we don't know where they're at with that investigation (ph), we — and exactly what you're saying, we don't know what they're actually corroborating on. But I think you make a really important point. The one thing we also don't know is is this motivating his base, is this actually causing more people to want to turn out in the midterms?
Democrats have a huge sway behind them of people who hate this presidency, who are so motivated by that. But as you're saying, it's pocketbook issues, it's healthcare, it's are my wages going to go up and I think Democrats are making smart play, too, by focus on companies and greed and — and inequality still in this country (ph).
STEPHANOPOULOS: Culture of corruption. Chris, is there anything the president can do right now to get ahead of this or is — is it — does he just got to wait it out?
CHRISTIE: No, I think — and I've — you know, I've given this — this advice all along, is that there's — an investigation like this, there's no way you can make it shorter but there's lots of ways you can make it longer. And the way you make it longer is keep talking. Just stop talking. Just stop.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the one piece of advice he's not going to take.
CHRISTIE: No, and —
CHRISTIE: — I'm going to continue to — I'm going to continue to give it because it's the right advice. And — and I'll — and I'll tell you this, when we talk about Michael Cohen, too, and — and — I would just say that as a prosecutor, I'd look at him as a potential witness. And if I were the folks in the Southern District of New York or Bob Mueller, that were working with Michael Cohen, I'd want to get a boatload of corroboration for this guy.
Because let's not forget, we all talk about the two counts that he pled to as campaign finance. Those six other counts that he pled to show this is a guy who is a liar, a cheater and a thief. And so if you're going to — listen, I've put liars and cheaters and thieves on the stand too, but I've had a boatload of corroboration for them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It appears that that is what they were developing. That's all we have time for today. 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. I'll see you tomorrow on GMA.
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