ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, HOST: Showdown over the special counsel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you seek to fire Mueller?
RADDATZ: President Trump denying reportss he tried to fire special counsel Robert Mueller last summer.
TRUMP: Fake news, folks. Fake news.
RADDATZ: As Mueller now looks to question the president.
TRUMP: I would love to do that. I would like to do it as soon as possible.
RADDATZ: So will he really testify under oath? And does the president’s talk of firing Mueller point to obstruction of justice?
We’ll ask Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
TRUMP: Lindsey used to be great enemy of mine, now he’s a great friend of mine.
RADDATZ: And former independent counsel Ken Starr.
Plus, our journey along the southern border.
We’re just across the border now from Mexico, traveling roughly 700 miles through California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, getting a firsthand look at the immigration debate. The president unveiling a new proposal, expanding the number of Dreamers who could become citizens, while demanding $25 billion for a border wall and more security in exchange.
We talk to all sides of the debate, including Republicans breaking with Trump.
You do not believe in a big…
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no.
RADDATZ: $25, $35 billion wall.
From the White House to your house, the facts that matter this week.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s This Week. Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning. It’s hard to believe only one week ago today, Washington was
in a state of paralysis, the government shutdown over immigration, the tug of war over the Dreamers and talks on border security hitting a wall. That stalemate ended on Monday, congress once again kicking the can down the road another few weeks, while the fate of as many as 2 million young undocumented immigrants hangs in the balance.
To get a sense of how the immigration debate is playing outside Washington, we traveled
hundreds of miles along the southern border from California to Texas, hearing your voices. But ultimately, it’s those voices in Washington that will make the decisions.
And in just two days, the president will make his case before congress at his first state of the union, talking not just about immigration, but also job, infrastructure, trade, and national security.
But hanging over it all, the darkening cloud that has followed the Trump presidency for the past year: the Russia investigation.
TRUMP: Fake news, folks. Fake news.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What’s your message today?
TRUMP: Typical New York Times fake stories.
RADDATZ: Deny, deny, deny, that seems to be President Trump’s response to the bombshell New York Times report detailing his effort to fire special counsel Robert Mueller last June just one month after Mueller started on the job.
The report says Trump claimed Mueller had conflicts of interest that would disqualify him from leading the investigation, but according to the reports, Trump, who is famous for saying…
TRUMP: You’re fired.
RADDATZ: …did not go through with it at the time, backing down when White House counsel Don McGahn reportedly threatened to quit rather than ask for Mueller’s removal, concerned that it would, quote, saying it might incite more questions about whether the White House was trying to obstruction the Russia investigation.
And it has, especially among Democrats.
REP. CORY BOOKER, (D) NEW JERSEY: I’m deeply disturbed by the president seeking to do something that so me is tantamount to authoritarianism.
SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) VIRGINIA) These are not the actions of somebody who’s got nothing to hide.
RADDATZ: In the past, both Trump and his team have offered flat-out denials.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, have you thought about or considered leading to dismissal of the special counsel, or is there that anything Bob Mueller could do that would send you in that direction?
TRUMP: I haven’t been given it any thought. I mean, I’ve been reading about it from you people. You say, oh, I’m going the dismiss him, no I’m not dismissing anybody.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Bottom line, Kellyanne, does the president commit to not firing Robert Mueller?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: The president has not even discussed that. That the persident is not discussing firing Bob Mueller.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The indicated to me or to anyone else that he has any intent on terminating Robert Mueller.
RADDATZ: And while firing Mueller now seems to be off the table, some Republicans are
trying to raise questions about the special counsel’s investigation, pointing to those recovered text messages between two FBI officials bashing Trump, the exchanges fueling Republican claims that the FBI and Mueller’s team are biased against the president. While all that has played out publicly, the focus of Mueller’s investigation is still unclear, though this week, we learned the special counsel’s team has already interviewed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, CIA director Mike Pompeo, former FBI Director James Comey, as well as other ifs the Trump administration. And it looks like President
Trump may be next, telling reporters he’s eager to testify.
TRUMP: I’m looking forward to it, actually. Here’s the story. There has been no collusion whatsoever. There’s no obstruction whatsoever. And I’m looking forward to it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would do it under oath?
TRUMP: Oh, I would do it under oath.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You would?
RADDATZ: And joining me now Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who sits on the senate judiciary committee. Good morning, senator.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Good morning.
RADDATZ: You said last fall that any effort to go after Robert Mueller could be the beginning
of the end of the Trump presidency. In light of the reporting that President Trump ordered the firing of Robert Mueller last June, backing down only after the White House counsel threatened to resign, do you still believe in what you said or is that a red line?
GRAHAM: Oh, yeah, if he fired Mueller without cause — I mean, Mueller is doing a good job. I have confidence in him to get to the bottom of all things Russia. And Don McGahn, if the story is
true in The New York Times, did the right thing, and good news is the president listened.
I don’t know if the story is true or not, but I know this Mueller should look at it. I have complete confidence in Mr. Mueller. When he found two FBI agents had a bias against President
Trump, he fired them. So, all this stuff about the FBI and DOJ having a bias against Trump and for Clinton needs to be looked at. But I have never believed it affected Mr. Mueller.
So I will do whatever it takes to make sure that Mr. Mueller can do his job. We’re a rule of law nation before President Trump, we’re going to be a rule of law nation after President Trump. I have never any — I haven’t yet seen any evidence of collusion between President Trump and the Russians, but the investigation needs to go forward without political interference and I’m sure it will.
RADDATZ: So, Senator Graham, you believe the stories about McGahn, about President Trump?
GRAHAM: I don’t know. I believe it’s something that Mueller should look at. We’re not just going to say it’s fake news and move on. Mueller is the best person to look at it, not me opine about something I don’t know. I’m sure that there will be an investigation around whether or not President Trump did try to fire Mr. Mueller. We know that he didn’t fire Mr. Mueller. We know that if he tried to, it would be the end of his presidency.
So, at the end of the day, let Mr. Mueller do his job and see if we can fix a broken immigration system.
RADDATZ: I also want to go to one other statement and let you opine a little more. You also said last October to Politico, I don’t think anybody in their right mind in the White House would think about replacing Mr. Mueller. Again, anybody in their right mind. So what does that say about President Trump if, in fact, this is true?
GRAHAM: I think every president wants to get rid of critics. I mean, I remember the Ken Starr investigation, and Bill Clinton came out and said this guy spent millions of dollars and nothing to show for it.
So, the president is frustrated. He’s told me a thousand times and everybody else, I didn’t collude with no Russians. Well, we’ll find out whether that is true or not. I have seen no evidence of collusion. So, the president is frustrated, no doubt about that. But he did not fire Mr. Mueller. If the report is true, Mr. McGahn did the right thing and to the president’s credit he listened.
But this is something for Mueller to look at. And I’m sure he will.
RADDATZ: OK, to the president’s credit, he listened, you say. You heard earlier the president
himself saying last August when asked directly about whether he considered dismissing Mueller that he said he hadn’t given it a thought.
So — if this reporting is true, then the president was lying to the American people?
GRAHAM: This is for Mr. Mueller to determine. We’re not going to stop looking at the president because he claims The New York Times’ was fake news. And we’re not going to convict him based on a news article. As a matter of fact, I think Mr. Mueller is the perfect guy to get to the bottom
of all of this. And he will. And I think my job, among others, is to give him the space to do it. I intend to do that. I have got legislation protecting Mr. Mueller. And I’ll be glad to pass it tomorrow.
I see no evidence that Mr. Trump wants to fire Mr. Mueller now. I don’t know what happened last year, but it’s pretty clear to me that everybody in the White House knows it would be the end of the
President Trump’s presidency if he fired Mr. Mueller. So I think we’re in a good spot with Mr. Mueller.
RADDATZ: You talked about that bill you introduced in August. At the time you said it wasn’t urgent to pass this. Will you push it further? You just said you would like to pass tomorrow.
GRAHAM: I would like to do two things. Yes, I think it would be good to have legislation protecting all special counsels. But this doesn’t get — make much news, there needs to be a special counsel to look at the Department of Justice and the way the FBI handled the Clinton email investigation and the early stages of the Russian investigation.
The text messages between the two FBI agents don’t show political leaning, they show a political bias. I’ve seen a lot of conflicts of interest. I’m very disturbed by the way the Department of Justice and the FBI handled…