'This Week' Transcript 12-16-18: Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Susan Collins

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by President Trump's current attorney Rudy Giuliani. Mayor, thanks for joining us this morning.

You just saw Michael Cohen right there. He says the president directed him to arrange the payments. The president knew it was wrong and he was trying to help his campaign. Your response?

STEPHANOPOULOS; He's saying the president knew it was wrong and directed him to do it anyway.

GIULIANI: Well, the president said that's false. And he said it was false under oath. He said it was false in his tape recorded conversation with Chris Cuomo. He said it was false on five other tape recorded conversations. He said on those tape recorded conversations that he did it on his own to start and then he brought it to the president and then the president reimbursed him.

Clear as a bell under oath, must have said it 10 times.

OK, now he says the opposite. You're going to tell me which is the truth? I think I know what the truth is. But unless you're god, this man you will never know what the truth is. He lies to fit the situation he's in.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Southern District seems to be backing him up. I want to put on the screen a sentence from the sentencing memo. They write, with respect to both payments, Cohen acted in coordination with and at the direction of individual one. That’s in their own words. Of course individual one, the president.

GIULIANI: Yes, but there’d be no way they would know that other than taking Cohen’s word for it. I mean, the conversations they had, even that tape recorded conversation that we listened to is just the two of them. So --

STEPHANOPOULOS: But they wouldn’t write that if they didn’t have corroborating evidence, would they?

GIULIANI: They don't have corroborating evidence. I’m sure (ph). They don’t have corroborating evidence. Plus, they didn’t let Capone (ph) plead guilty to a conspiracy. I ran that office. I know what they do. If I’m going to use a cooperator, I make them plead guilty to a conspiracy. Because then when he goes on the witness stand, I’m able to say this -- this is who we fill in as the co-conspirator. He pleads guilty to an individual crime, that isn't even a crime, he's going to be ripped apart on the witness stand. Can you imagine what would happen on the witness stand?

This is a guy who stood up in court and said I’m fiercely -- I was fiercely loyal to Donald Trump, that’s why I did it, I was fiercely loyal to him. No he wasn't. He was taping him surreptitiously, lying to him. His client. That’s outrageous. Can you imagine how a jury’s going to react to that?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well that's not the only evidence they have, though. The other evidence they have, of course, they’ve also cut a deal with David Pecker and AMI. And from the statement of facts on that deal, they talk about an August 2015 meeting between David Pecker, Michael Cohen and an individual from the campaign believed to be President Trump. Here's what they say.

At the meeting, Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’s relationship with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided. Pecker agreed to keep Cohen apprised of any such negative stories. So it’s not just Michael Cohen, it’s David Pecker, it’s AMI. And that's why David Pecker got immunity. And that’s why Corsi doesn’t get immunity, because Corsi won’t say what they want him to say. So I don't know. I don't know how true that is.

So you’ve got a -- you’ve got a serial liar who taped his own client and lied about it and deceived him and taped about 10 reporters and lied to them and deceived them and you got a guy who’s been given complete immunity --

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you just said you ran that office. You know how the Southern District is run. You know exactly how the Southern District is run.

GIULIANI: No, I don’t know -- actually, I don’t know how the Southern District --

STEPHANOPOULOS: They wouldn’t have put that in the statement of fact if they didn’t believe --

GIULIANI: I’m disgusted with the Southern District. I’m going to tell you another thing. You see what we’re talking about? It’s not a crime. It’s not a crime, George. Paying -- paying $130,000 to Stormy whatever and paying $130,000 to the other one is not a crime. The Edwards case determined that. She was paid a million one to be a no-show in his campaign.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, Mayor, the Edward case is actually quite different. The judge in that case said that if --

GIULIANI: George, it’s not the judge, it’s the FEC. The FEC ruled on the Edwards case before they prosecuted it. The FEC ruled it’s no violation of the campaign finance law. The Justice Department went ahead and prosecuted it anyway and they were embarrassed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the judge said that if it was in part to help the campaign, that would be illegal. You're right that the jury did not convict John Edwards --

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- but the evidence in this case is actually quite different.

GIULIANI: Wrong, wrong, wrong instruction. It has to be for the sole purpose. If there's another purpose, it's no longer a campaign contribution. If there’s a personal purpose. Now think about this. Suppose he tried to use his campaign funds to pay off Stormy Daniels. It would (ph) be totally illegal. If it’s not a campaign expense, it can’t be a campaign contribution. These are not campaign contributions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the corporate -- the corporate contribution from AMI would be clearly illegal.

GIULIANI: No -- no it would not be. It's not a contribution. It's not a contribution. If it’s intended for a purpose in addition to the campaign purpose. In the case of Rio Hunter (ph), right, the payment of $1.1 million was intended to shut her up and was intended to avoid embarrassment with his wife and with his children. Now, which is worse?

GIULIANI: The campaign problem or the wife and children.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what you did -- that’s -- that’s that case. Let’s talk about the president’s case.

STEPHANOPOULOS: In this case you have contemporaneous witnesses saying it was for the campaign, you have a statement of facts saying the president met -- Donald Trump met with David Pecker a year before -- right after the campaign --

GIULIANI: And I -- and I can produce -- I can produce an enormous number of witnesses that say the president was very concerned about how this was going to affect his children, his marriage, not just this one but similar -- all those women came forward at that point in time, that -- that tape with Billy Bush and all of that. It's all part of the same thing. And I know what he was concerned about and I can produce 20 witnesses to tell you what he was concerned about.

GIULIANI: Damn right. And he was -- he was concerned about all of it. How do you think that --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did he ever make any payments like that in the past?

GIULIANI: Nobody else asked for -- in the past, I can't speak to. I wasn’t his lawyer in the past. But at that point, these were the only two that were asking for money. And the amount of money is consistent with harassment, not truth. I have been (ph) involved in cases like this. When it’s true and you have the kind of money the president had, it's a $1 million settlement. When it's not true, when it’s a harassment settlement and it’s not true, you give them $130,000, $150,000. They went away for so little money that it indicates their case was very, very weak.

And look, Stormy Daniels now has to pay the president legal fees. I mean, it’s -- this is ridiculous.

GIULIANI: And they’re -- and they’re going around with this -- and you’re talking about all these other investigations. I’m telling you, George, they’re going to go try to look for unpaid parking tickets and see if they can nail him for unpaid parking tickets.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, as you know, the southern district said this is far more serious than an unpaid parking ticket. They said this strikes at the heart of our democratic system …

GIULIANI: Oh – oh, right. A campaign finance violation? Give me a break. Obama paid, what, $2 million in fines for campaign – this is a $200 (ph) payment. How come Obama wasn’t treated the same way …

STEPHANOPOULOS: Those were reporting violations but why didn’t (ph) …

GIULIANI: No, they were not reporting violations. He has people who donated to him that don’t exist. They do not exist. They’re not human beings.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Here’s the question I have for you. Why do you have so much trouble with the southern district? The southern district’s being run – this case being run by Robert Khuzami, a Republican appointed by the Trump administration, spoke at the Republican …

GIULIANI: His interpretation of the campaign finance law is completely erroneous. And to be – even if – and even if you want to make some argument that there’s some validity to it, you do not pursue a president of the United States for a questionable interpretation of the statute. That is completely wrong, it’s harassment. This is – this special prosecutor was there for collusion. Then he went to obstruction. Campaign finance.

STEPHANOPOULOS: This isn’t the special prosecutor, this is the southern district of …

GIULIANI: I know but where did it come from? It is refer (ph) – and who is on top? Rosenstein’s on top. He’s on top of both. So these things are connected. Why were they both in court? They’re passing the guy back and forth. Cohen is trying to figure out – now that he got the three years where he got slammed by the southern district …

GIULIANI: … For not cooperating, which means he’s lying. So he’s – they believe him on this and he’s lying about that. That doesn’t work that way.

GIULIANI: I guarantee you this man never gets in front of a jury. Never. And that’s why he didn’t plead guilty to conspiracy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The special counsel does believe him. And I asked Michael Cohen …

GIULIANI: Of course. He believes anybody that tells him something about the president. They told Corsi – they wrote out a statement for him, a three-page statement, implicating the president. And they said, if you – if you recite this – if you recite this, you get probation. Go free. This is your jail free card. Of course, he said go to hell. And he …

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think Jerome Corsi’s your best witness? He’s the guy who questioned whether 9/11 was an inside job.

GIULIANI: He’s not my witness. I don’t even know Jerome Corsi. Never met him. I’m just telling what they did to him. That’s a setup. They setup Flynn. Look what they did with Flynn. At the direction of Comey, who says he wouldn’t have gotten away with it if it was an experienced administration, meaning he wouldn’t have gotten away with unethical behavior. He tells them to not – don’t tell him he has to have a lawyer, or he should have a lawyer.

They put Flynn through questioning and he says something wrong and they got a document there that contradicts it. If they were searching for the truth, they’d show him the document and they’d say, General, does this refresh your recollection? Tell us the rest of it now. But they weren’t. They hid it so they could jam him for perjury. And now you’ve got the FBI saying he told the truth and you’ve got …

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s not what the FBI says. The FBI says that he didn’t have the characteristics of somebody who was deceiving even though they believed he was deceiving.

GIULIANI: No. Just the opposite. Strzok. Strzok – Peter Strzok wrote in one of his texts that he didn’t seem to be – he didn’t seem to be lying, wasn’t acting like a person (ph) …

STEPHANOPOULOS: He didn’t show the characteristics and body language of someone who lied …

STEPHANOPOULOS: … Even though they believed he was lying.

GIULIANI: And Comey reported at the time that they didn’t believe that he was lying, way back when it was going on.

GIULIANI: And then – so – so we have not lying, we have prosecution were lying (ph), and we have no explanation. We have no explanation in the middle. But we do have a guy that was deprived of counsel, we do have a guy that was not shown a document that could have refreshed his recollection because they had it hidden under the table so they could come back and jam him. That’s what I talk about when I say perjury trap. And actually had to be very careful with unethical process (ph) …

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk a little bit more about the special counsel. I want to show what Michael Cohen said about Russia and the special counsel.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The special counsel did say you were doing your best to tell the truth about everything related to their investigation, everything related to Russia. Do you think President Trump is telling the truth about that?

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER TO DONALD TRUMP: No.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, the special counsel went on to say that they found Cohen credible, provided valuable information about Russia-related matters for its investigation, also that his contacts with persons connected to the White House in 2017 and 2018, they seem to be getting at, there, both collusion and obstruction.

GIULIANI: Isn’t that prosecution by innuendo? I have no idea what they’re talking about. Beyond what you just said, I have no idea what they’re talking about …

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let me ask you a few specifics.

GIULIANI: I have no – I have no idea – I know that collusion is not a crime. It was over with by the time of the election. I don’t know what evidence (ph) …

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let me ask you specifically – let me ask you a few specific questions, then …

GIULIANI: If it didn’t happen, I can’t imagine how (inaudible) …

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did the president – did Donald Trump know that Michael Cohen was pursuing the Trump Tower in Moscow into the summer of 2016?

GIULIANI: According to the answer that he gave, it would have covered all the way up to – covered up to November, 2016. Said he had conversations with him but (ph) the president didn’t hide this. They know (ph) …

STEPHANOPOULOS: Earlier they had said those conversations stopped in January, 2016.

GIULIANI: I don’t -- I mean, the date -- I mean, until you actually sit down and you look at the questions, and you go back and you look at the papers and you look at the -- the -- you’re not going to know what happened. That’s why -- that’s why lawyers, you know, prepare for those answers.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Then let me ask a second -- a second question, did the president know about Don Jr.’s Trump Tower meeting with the Russians at the time?

GIULIANI: No. That is -- that is definitely he didn’t know about it and I think that’s consistent testimony, even Cohen. At one time, Lanny Davis went out saying that Cohen could be able to contradict that. They had to withdraw that in an embarrassing faux pas.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And did Roger Stone ever give the president a heads-up on WikiLeaks’ leaks concerning Hillary Clinton, the DNC?

GIULIANI: No. I don’t believe so. But again, if Roger Stone gave anybody a heads-up about WikiLeaks’ leaks, that’s not a crime. It would be like giving him a heads-up that the Times is going to print something. One the -- the crime -- this is why this thing is so weird, strange -- the crime is conspiracy to hack; collusion is not a crime, it doesn’t exist.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No. Conspiracy to defraud the government, you’re right, conspiracy to hack that is the crime. We don’t know whether …

GIULIANI: Yes. Did Donald Trump engage in a conspiracy to hack with the Russians? They’ve been going at it. The counterintelligence investigation came to the conclusion no evidence. They are gasping for straws now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, they’re also looking at obstruction. Did anyone connected to the president ever suggest in any way to Michael Cohen that he would get a pardon if he stayed on the team?

GIULIANI: I had this specific conversation with his lawyers and that liar can say what he wants, I told his lawyers there will be no discussion of a pardon. That doesn’t mean the president doesn’t have the -- nobody’s giving away any power, but do not consider it in your thinking now. It has nothing about what you should decide about yourself. I think that’s one of the reasons why he double-crossed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: CNN and The New York Times reporting this week that you’re still in discussions with Robert Mueller about whether the -- about an interview with the president, are those discussions still going on?

GIULIANI: I’m actually not allowed to -- to say that. But -- but the agreement we had did contemplate that there’d be a period of time after the questions that we would have a discussion about whether there should be any further questions. So I’m not saying we are or we aren’t, but that’s in the agreement.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- and -- and President Trump isn’t that secret person who was discussed in court on Friday?

GIULIANI: No, if they’re -- if -- if he is then we’ve got some outrageous violation of legal ethics. We’ve got to be served with papers if they’re -- now, we might be under seal but we’re not. We’re not under seal on anything.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So is it -- is it still possible the president’s going to talk to Robert Mueller?

GIULIANI: All I can tell you is the agreement contemplates our having discussions if there are any further follow-ups or questions, and there’s been no change in that agreement. And when it’s concluded, we’ll -- we’ll tell you. I have to say, quite honestly, watching some of the things they’re doing like letting Cohen get up and say he was fiercely loyal to Donald Trump, even though at the very time he was fiercely loyal to him he was taping him and lying to him, something a lawyer never does, he was never fiercely loyal to Donald Trump. He’s fiercely loyal to him -- to himself and excused (ph) …

GIULIANI: … Oh, he -- I have a client and I’m fiercely loyal to him, and I tape him, and I hide it and I don’t tell him? That’s not fiercely loyal. That’s called fiercely disloyal. He’s the opposite. It shows all I’m thinking about is me, my own skin. And the Southern District says you can get out of jail if you do this, you’ve got three years now. There’s a real motivation to sing like crazy. He’s got to do a lot of singing to get out of the three years and he will say whatever he has to say. He’s changed his story four or five times.

GIULIANI: The president’s not under oath. And the president tried to do the best he can to remember what happened back at a time when he was the busiest man in the world. And I can’t -- I was with him most of that time, I can’t remember a lot of the stuff that goes on there. But …

GIULIANI: … But boy, if it’s -- same way, if I go under oath, then I really think about it and I really say -- you know, I can’t remember that. I -- I was wrong about who was with me on September 11th. I always thought the Fire Commission was with me in the building we were trapped in. Turns out later, (inaudible) I met you after. That happens when you’re in the middle of difficult events; you know that from experiencing it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I do know that from my time in the White House. Final question: Mueller almost done?

GIULIANI: He is done. I don't know what else -- I told you. No, the only thing left are the parking tickets and jaywalking.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you. Thanks for your time this morning.

STEPHANOPOULOS; That was June 2012 when the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate for Obamacare. But now a federal judge in Texas has ruled that that mandate is it's unconstitutional, striking down the whole law, creating uncertainty for millions, and a course of condemnation from Democrats, including our next guest, the Senate's number two Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator Durbin, thank you for joining us this morning.

And I want to get to that health care ruling. But, first, your reaction to Mayor Giuliani. You just heard him say that even if the president authorized these payment to Stormy Daniels, to Karen McDougal, that it wouldn't be a crime. Your response?

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: I can just tell you this, George, I think the responsibility of congress is very clear: park yourselves on the sidelines and let Mueller complete this investigation. Don't interfere in any way, shape, or form. There's a law -- at least a bill pending, a bipartisan bill, that would guarantee that, that Senator McConnell does not want to call.

The second thing I'll tell you, at the end of the day when Mueller's investigation is complete, whenever that may be, it should be disclosed to the American public. They ought to see it in detail, understand everything that's transpired.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, let's talk about the Obamacare ruling. What did the judge get wrong here in your view?

DURBIN: Well, I think the judge, the Republican attorneys general who brought this lawsuit, didn't do the Republican Party any favor. The largest issue in the last election, November 6 election, that moved 40 seats from the Republican column to the Democratic column in the House, the biggest single issue was the Affordable Care Act and whether it would cover people with pre-existing conditions. These Republican attorneys general have set out to abolish this law and to end the protection for people with a medical history.

And now this the issue is alive and well again. The Republicans have no alternative to the Affordable Care Act, and they've been refusing, up until this point, to even sit down us...

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president says he wants to sit down with you and talk about it.

DURBIN: Well, of course, we would be happy to do that. But you have to look at the history of this president. For two years, he's done everything in his power to put an end to the protections included, now he found a judge in Texas who agrees with him on that position. It has to be appealed for sure. But in the meantime, the Republicans will once again face the question do you believe we should have health insurance, accessible, affordable, and cover those with pre-existing conditions? That was the issue, the issue that decided, I believe more than any other issue, this last election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the higher courts will uphold the ruling of this federal judge?

DURBIN: I don't know. It's hard to say. You know, Chief Justice Roberts found an argument which was salient to him the last time it came before the Supreme Court, if it reaches that level. It, of course, goes up now to the circuit level, whether they agree with this judge or not it remains to be seen.

But keep in mind, during this entire period of time, this issue is roiling. It once again puts Republicans in Washington on the spot. If you're going to take away the Affordable Care Act, how will you protect the millions of people currently using it for health insurance for their family?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about that Oval Office showdown this week between Senator Schumer and Leader Pelosi and the president. It did seem after that meeting that we're headed for a shutdown over this issue of the wall. Do you agree?

DURBIN: I think it's entirely in the hands of President Donald Trump, and he bragged that this was his decision. I'll shut it down, he said, you know, if I don't believe I can get my wall, my $5 billion sea to shining sea wall. And you can jsut see that this president has really fixatated on this issue. If we are talking about border security, George, we ought to pay attention to something else that came out last week, the Center for Disease Control said the most deadly narcotic in America today if fentanyl. Fentanyl is flowing accross that border from Mexico into the United States and killing thousands of innocent people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president says that's why we need a wall.

DURBIN: What will the wall do to stop it? Virtually nothing? Pardon me?

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's as I said, the president says that's why we need a wall.

DURBIN: 80 percent of the narcotics coming in to the United States are coming through ports of entry, official openings in the so-called barrier or wall between the United States and Mexico. What we could do came out in testimony this week. We could be scanning the vehicles coming into the United States to see if they contain contraband, narcotics, firearms, even victims of human trafficking. Fewer than 1 out of 5 vehicles are being scanned now.

I asked the people at Customs and Border Protection what would it cost to have scanner scan all the vehicles coming in? They said $300 million. That's a far cry from $5 billion, and a much more effective way to have a secure border.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Would it be worth to give the president some sort of downpayment on the wall in order to keep the government open?

DURBIN: What we're trying to give the administration and the experts at the Department of Homeland Security the resources they need. They tell us they need technology and personnel. We put in $1.3 billion on the table for barriers, if they are necessary, and we define them in the way so we aren't building some medieval wall, but using them in a smart fashion.

It's up to the president to accept this. I don't think he will, but for the good of this country I hope he does.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It does seem like there's a glimmer of bipartisanship this week, the possibility of passing this bipartisan criminal justice reform, the first step back. I know that leader McConnell has been resistant to that, but you think it will get done?

DURBIN: Well, it depends on Leader McConnell. Again, if he will set up a floor process, which is fair to both sides, I think it can be achieved in a few days. In fact, we're going to start the debate on it Monday night. But he can't just turn to the Republican senators who oppose it -- and there are about four or five who do -- and say you get amendments and no one else can. I think we’ve got to be able to respond to amendments from the other side. I hope that Senator McConnell will be even-handed in his approach.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Durbin, thanks for your time this morning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We are back with the Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Senator Collins, thank you for joining us this morning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about health care. You heard Senator Durbin say that this judge's ruling is a real problem for Republicans now. What's your reaction to the judge's ruling?

COLLINS: The judge's ruling was far too sweeping. He could have taken a much more surgical approach and just struck down the individual mandate and kept the rest of the law intact. I believe that it will be overturned.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say it’s going to be overturned. He based his rulings, you said, on last year's tax bill which brought the tax penalty for violating that mandate down to zero and then he said that invalidated the whole law. Any second thoughts on your vote for that bill because of this?

COLLINS: Not at all. I think it's important to keep in mind what the impact of the individual mandate was. Eighty percent of those who paid the penalty under the individual mandate earned less than $50,000 a year. So this disproportionately affected lower and middle income families. In addition, not one Democratic senator offered an amendment to strike the repeal of the individual mandate, although they had the opportunity to do so.

And that’s because it was probably the most unpopular and unfair provision of the Affordable Care Act. There are many good provisions of the law. Those should be retained.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you voted for this after being promised for more funding for lower premiums but that never happened. So what needs to happen with Obamacare now?

COLLINS: Actually, we did bring a bill to the floor that would have reduced premiums in the individual marketplace by as much as 40% over the past two years. That came to the floor in early March and regrettably was blocked, much to my surprise, by a member of the Democratic leadership. It's something we should still pursue because affordability is a real problem for so many Americans who do not receive the subsidies under the Affordable Care Act because they make just a little more than 400 percent of the poverty rate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It sure seems like we're only about five days away from a partial government shutdown. We heard the president this week say he needs wall funding, wants that $5 billion for the wall. We just heard Senator Durbin say the Democrats aren’t going to help provide that. Is there anyway to thread this needle and keep the government open?

COLLINS: There is and we should. There's absolutely no excuse to shut down government on this issue or any other issue. I have suggested that we revisit a compromise proposal that we brought forth earlier this year. I helped craft it, it was offered by Senators King and Rounds and it provided $2.5 billion this year and over the next ten years to fully fund the border security initiative. That includes not only physical barriers like fences and walls, but also technology, more border patrol agents, more roads to get into these remote areas.

It was a comprehensive package that was put together by the experts at the Department of Homeland Security. Forty-six out of 49 Democrats voted for this package and I think that that's a possible avenue for a compromise.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it good enough for the president? He wants that concrete wall.

COLLINS: I hope it would be good enough for the president because keep in mind that the president's budget this year had $1.6 billion for the wall and the broader security package was $2.5 billion that we worked out with Homeland Security to meet the other parts of border security, which are at least equally important. There's a compromise and people will come to the table in good faith on both sides. We have to prevent a government shutdown.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let -- let me ask you about your work on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Adam Schiff, who’s going to be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee going forward told The New Yorker just this week that he wants to investigate, when he’s in charge of the House Intelligence Committee, whether President Trump shaped policy to expand his fortune, look at Russia, Saudi Arabia’s business interests, other nations in the Middle East and he went on to say the American people have the right to know that their president is working on their behalf, not his family's financial interests.

Right now I don't think any of us can have the confidence that's the case. Do you have that confidence?

COLLINS: Well that's why the special counsel's report is -- and investigation are so important. And the special counsel must be allowed to complete his work unimpeded with no interference. We on the Senate Intelligence Committee are pursuing the counter intelligence investigation. It's been a very bipartisan investigation. More than 200 witnesses have been interviewed. And I think that will wrap up early next year. And we too will produce a report on the counter intelligence aspects. That's different, obviously, from the criminal prosecutions and the investigation that the special counsel is undertaking.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Collins, thanks for your time this morning.

 

December 16, 2018

Sources: ABC News

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  •  Government shutdown having a 'rippling effect on the community'

    Government shutdown having a 'rippling effect on the community'

    lepsy, is a federal worker who has been furloughed. That stop in pay meant she could not afford both her epilepsy medication and electric bill. </p><p> So she said she went without her medication for several days -- a gap that made it tough for her to function. She felt disoriented and even fell. </p><p> And, without income, she couldn't afford to pay the personal care attendants who rotate through and help her with daily tasks. </p><p> Eventually, her family was able to lend her some extra financial support -- but that assistance doesn't cover all of her needs. </p><p> It's a tight position, one she feels lawmakers are in a position to resolve. </p><p> “If you want people to lose their independence, Congress, if you want people to keep suffering from this stalemate ... then that’s fine, but realize you’re having a slow-but-steady and drastic rippling effect on the community, and one little earthquake could completely shake it up.” </p><p> She's not alone. Since the federal shutdown began, ABC News has spoken with dozens of people like Floyd. Below are some of their stories of non-federal workers struggling to keep their </p><p> “Before we were working short hours, eight hours, but now it's working more than 14, 12 hours," said veteran D.C. cabbie Berhane Berhe. "Before, if you're working six hours you're making $200, maybe $150. But now to make that amount of money you have to work long hours." </p><p> And when they do work, they don't make much money. </p><p> "Yesterday for 12 hours I made $120," Berhe said. </p><p> Berhe has worked a cab in Washington for nearly 25 years. And he has driven through several government shutdowns. </p><p> But he said he has never felt the impact so acutely. </p><p> If the shutdown persists, Berhe may look for other work to keep up with his mortgage. </p><p> "If you keep it like this for a long time, I have to," Berhe said. </p><p> For Raechell Redmond, director of the Milestones Enrichment Center in Washington, the shutdown has meant federal subsidies for childcare and food assistance her business depends on to keep staff paid and kids fed in the upcoming weeks haven't been approved. </p><p> Without that funding, Redmond says that already financially-strapped parents may have to start providing food for their children. </p><p> As a preventative measure, Redmond has had to reduce hours for her staff. </p><p> And if the shutdown continues and subsidies aren’t paid, she says her business will be unable to continue. </p><p> Younger children in her program are reverting to behaviors that they learned as babies. Clinging to parents more, confused why their parents aren’t rushing to work in the morning, instead of dropping them off in casual clothes since they aren’t going to work. </p><p> Parents are now picking up their children earlier in the afternoon, often times before recess, Redmond said. The change in schedule has been noticed by children who wonder why their parents aren’t allowing them to play with their friends. </p><p> “Sometimes the parents are a little sad because they want them to come with them. But no, they want to play with their friends.” </p><p> In D.C., the wintry weather has made it a tough start to the year for food trucks -- normally a staple for tourists and locals looking for fun, quick meals in the city. </p><p> Povich, like many of his colleagues in the food truck business, wasn’t able to save a rainy day fund to get through the winter. The shutdown caused his business to decrease nearly 34 percent compared to January 2017. Because of the dip in business, he’s had to temporarily furlough two of his staffers until the shutdown ends. </p><p> “It's an ugly picture," he said. "I'm digging into my savings to try to make ends meet." </p><p> Povich told ABC News that paying his employees is very important to him, so he has made changes at home. He and his wife are not going out to dinner, going to the movies is out of the picture and he has even changed his cat’s food in an effort to save money. "It’s pretty dire.”</p>

    1 January 19, 2019
  • Starmer shifts Labour towards second EU referendum

    Starmer shifts Labour towards second EU referendum

    ped up the pressure for the party to move towards backing a second referendum.</p><p>The frontbencher argued the point had been reached where Labour had agreed that if a general election could not be secured then the party "must" consider all options on the table, including a further public vote.</p><p>Stressing the importance of the previously made commitment, he insisted it was "one we must keep".</p><p>Having secured the crushing defeat of Theresa May's Brexit deal, Labour had moved to trigger a general election through a vote of no confidence but the prime minister had "clung on", Mr Starmer told the Fabian Society new year conference in London.</p><p>Although this was the "beginning not the end" of the push to force a poll, he argued Labour had now reached the "third phase" of its agreed party policy.</p><p>This was the pledge made at the party conference last year in Liverpool that if it was unable to force a general election all options must remain on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.</p><p>Drawing cheers, he said: "That was our commitment. It's a very important commitment.</p><p>"It was a commitment to our members, our movement and one we must keep.</p><p>"As I set out in Liverpool, a public vote has to be an option for Labour. After all, deeply embedded in our values are internationalism, collaboration and cooperation with our European partners."</p><p>Sir Keir again made clear he believed that in the event of a second referendum, the option of remaining in the EU must be on the ballot paper.</p><p>"I don't think it is any secret I firmly believe there should be a Remain option - and there has to be a genuine Leave option," he said.</p><p>The former foreign secretary made a speech widely regarded as a leadership bid as he covered Brexit, trade and wages</p><p>He said that with the raft of legislation that is still needed to get through parliament before Brexit, it was difficult to see how an extension to Article 50 could be avoided.</p><p>"It seems inevitable to me that the Government will have to apply for an extension of Article 50," he said.</p><p>"So, it's time for us to inject some honesty into this debate, and to identify the credible solutions that remain.</p><p>"In the coming weeks parliament will have the chance to take control. That starts by being open about the dilemmas we face, and the credible choices that are still available."</p><p>Article 50 is the legal process by which the UK would quit the EU and the leaving date is scheduled for 29 March this year.</p>

    1 January 19, 2019
  •  Government shutdown frays America's safety net

    Government shutdown frays America's safety net

    e much less, feel more financially fragile and financially vulnerable than they already are,” J. Michael Collins, a professor at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, told ABC News. </p><p> "There are already a few programs who have run out of fiscal 2017 money and don't have any money to operate until HUD issues any grants but the number of programs will grow every day that goes by," Berg told ABC News. </p><p> He said he worries that more programs will have to stop operating completely if the shutdown continues and that it could make landlords less willing to work with them in the future. </p><p> “People who are relying on those payments to have a place to live, a lot of these, and at the same time a lot of the HUD housing programs rely on private landlords who are willing to rent to people who might not be every landlord's idea of a perfect tenant but ... to just leave them high and dry is not a very good way to treat your partners,” he said. </p><p> Other advocacy groups like the National Low Income Housing Coalition have also raised concerns that housing assistance contracts could expire if the shutdown continues through February. </p><p> Berg said he wants the government to recall furloughed HUD employees and release to states, cities and non-profits some of the money that traditionally goes to homeless assistance programs so that the needy can still get help. </p><p> Some offices that fund programs to assist survivors of domestic violence or other crimes are still operating or have sent federal money to the states to be distributed. But Rachel Graber, domestic policy director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said they are hearing from programs that are very concerned and starting to lay off staff and tighten budgets in case federal funds stop coming. </p><p> "As a general matter it has repercussions for the staff and victims and survivors to utilize these services because there's so much uncertainty for what's going to happen in the future and that's really scary for everybody," she told ABC News. </p><p> Graber said because survivors are leaving an unstable situation its important for these programs, or other government services they rely on, to be stable to help them get back on their feet. </p><p> "Victims and survivors that are living in these situations particularly with economic abuse or the abuser was the sole breadwinner they really rely on these programs to establish themselves and get their heads above water while they are building new lives," she said. </p><p> Earlier this week programs that distribute food and provide health care for Native Americans around the country said they were having to cut back on services because the already underfunded programs weren't receiving money during the shutdown. </p><p> "The lives of native people should not be put at risk due to disagreements over unrelated budget proposals," Kerry Hawk Lessard is the executive director of Native American Lifelines, a health care provider in Baltimore that falls under the Indian Health Service, told members of the House Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday. </p><p> USDA says it was able to provide more administrative money to Tribes and states to ensure that food distribution programs to Indian Reservations can operate through the end of February and food deliveries are expected to continue through March. </p><p> The agency says other nutrition programs have enough money to keep operating for a limited time. USDA says the Women, Infants, and Children program can operate until the end of February and child nutrition programs, like reimbursing schools for the cost of providing breakfast and lunch, are fully funded through the end of March. </p><p> "At the direction of President Trump, USDA has been working with the Administration to find solutions, within the limits of the law, to ensure that low income families have access to our nutrition assistance programs for as long as possible," A USDA spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News. </p><p> "We understand that the current lapse in appropriations creates uncertainty for the future, but we remain hopeful that Congress will soon pass appropriations legislation that the President can sign, so that we can return to normal operations, and continue our efforts to 'Do Right and Feed Everyone.'" </p><p> But people who live below the poverty line or rely on federally funded programs for food or housing aren’t the only ones who could be made more vulnerable during the shutdown. </p><p> Collins researches consumer finances, specifically focusing on low-income families. He said a shutdown like this hurt more than just the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who aren’t being paid, but also economically vulnerable people who live paycheck to paycheck. </p><p> Collins said the country has a system to provide services to those people if they’re without work during a recession, but not during an "episodic" period like a shutdown where workers aren’t being paid, contractors are without work, or small businesses see a sudden drop in customers. </p><p> "When bad things happen to otherwise families that are trying to live by the rules. There isn't a whole lot there for them at this point. We have food assistance, we have a little bit of health assistance. You know we have a few things here and there," Collins said. </p><p> "And you pull that rug out from under them and there's nothing but you know charity care and friends and family. And I just don't know that that's a sufficient system to be able to support the millions of low-income families many of, you know let's remember too, most of these income families have kids, so it's you know disproportionately kids who are affected here."</p>

    1 January 19, 2019
  •  Special counsel: Parts of Buzzfeed story tying Trump to Cohen lies to Congress wrong

    Special counsel: Parts of Buzzfeed story tying Trump to Cohen lies to Congress wrong

    l step of publicly denying portions of a media report published by Buzzfeed News. </p><p> “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said Friday evening in a brief statement to ABC News. </p><p> "Remember it was Buzzfeed that released the totally discredited “Dossier,” paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats (as opposition research), on which the entire Russian probe is based! A very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our Country!" </p><p> It was a position he reiterated later during an appearance on CNN. </p><p> Democrats in Congress pledged to investigate allegations in Buzzfeed ’s media report published Thursday night suggesting President Donald Trump instructed Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney and fixer, to lie to Congress about a proposed project to build a Trump-branded property in Moscow. </p><p> “These allegations may prove unfounded, but, if true, they would constitute both the subornation of perjury as well as obstruction of justice,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Friday morning. </p><p> Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, called Buzzfeed’s report “categorically false” and said “today’s claims are just more made-up lies born of Michael Cohen’s malice and desperation, in an effort to reduce his sentence.” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Friday called the allegations laid out by Buzzfeed "absolutely ridiculous." </p><p> The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., joined Schiff’s call to investigate, pledging that his committee will “get to the bottom of it.” </p><p> Others went further. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, tweeted late Thursday that Trump “must resign or be impeached” if the Buzzfeed report is proven truthful. And Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called on special counsel Robert Mueller “to show Congress his cards before it's too late for us to act.” </p><p> Cohen worked hand-in-hand with Felix Sater, a Russian-born business associate who scouted deals for the Trump Organization, to set in motion plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow. The two even conceived an idea to offer a $50 million penthouse in the prospective building to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a source familiar with the deal told ABC News. </p><p> But later, Cohen admitted in court that he made the false statements about the project “to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and to be loyal to Individual 1.” Individual 1 was believed to be Trump, based on the description in court documents. </p><p> The president during the campaign denied working on any deals with Russia but tweeted late last year that he “lightly looked at doing a building in Moscow.” </p><p> Cohen was sentenced in December to three years in prison for financial crimes, lying to Congress, and for two violations of campaign finance law. </p><p> He’s scheduled to report to prison in early March, but he could have a busy month of congressional testimony before then. </p><p> On Friday morning, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said “we expect to have him back… in February, we've got a lot of questions to ask.”</p>

    1 January 19, 2019
  • Kamala Harris' record as 'progressive prosecutor' facing new scrutiny as she eyes 2020 run

    Kamala Harris' record as 'progressive prosecutor' facing new scrutiny as she eyes 2020 run

    ritten, or redistributed. ©2019 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>The perception that Harris, 54, acted as a &#x201C;progressive prosecutor&#x201D; during her tenure as the district attorney of San Francisco and then California&#x2019;s attorney general contradict her actions, a University of San Francisco associate law professor argues in an op-ed piece.</p><p>&quot;Time after time, when progressives urged her to&#xA0;embrace&#xA0;criminal justice reforms as a district attorney and then the state&#x2019;s attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent,&#x201D; Lara Bazelon writes in the New York Times.</p><p>&#x201C;Most troubling, Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold&#xA0;wrongful convictions&#xA0;that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.&#x201D;</p><p>Bazelon then lists multiple instances where the Democratic senator failed to embrace criminal justice reforms &#x2013; either opposing them or declining to state an opinion.</p><p>She cites Harris&#x2019; reluctance to take a position in 2014 on opposition to Proposition 47, a voter-approved ballot measure that reduced certain low-level felonies to misdemeanors. Bazelon also takes issue with Harris for not supporting standards on body-worn cameras for police officers.</p><p>Deemed worse, according to Bazelon, was Harris&#x2019; record in wrongful conviction cases. The writer cites the case of George Gage, who is serving a 70-year prison sentence for allegedly sexually abusing his stepdaughter. The case was largely built on the stepdaughter&#x2019;s testimony, which some have called into question.</p><p>Harris&apos; prosecution of Daniel Larsen &#x2013; serving a 28-year sentence for possession of a concealed weapon &#x2013; also raised questions. She also defended the murder conviction of Johnny Baca, in which judges found a prosecutor lied at the trial and relented after video of an oral argument received national attention, Bazelon writes.</p><p>&#x201C;It is true that politicians must make concessions to get the support of key interest groups. The fierce, collective opposition of law enforcement and local district attorney associations can be hard to overcome at the ballot box. But in her career, Ms. Harris did not barter or&#xA0;trade to get the support of more conservative law-and-order types; she gave it all away,&#x201D; Bazelon writes.</p><p>&quot;All too often, she was on the wrong side of that history,&#x201D; Bazelon writes in the Times.</p><p>But even with her criminal justice record coming under a microscope, some see Harris as a prime contender to win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.</p><p>Republican strategist Colin Reed recently picked Harris as his early favorite to stun what is expected to become an increasingly packed field. But her greatest vulnerability lies in her professional record, he said.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>

    1 January 19, 2019
  •  George W. Bush plays pizza delivery man, makes rare political statement

    George W. Bush plays pizza delivery man, makes rare political statement

    tical statement, an unusual occurrence in his time since stepping away from the office at the same time. </p><p> Bush, along with first lady Laura, thanked the Secret Service personnel in an Instagram post Friday afternoon. He's seen carrying three pizzas, with another three boxes on the way, for the unpaid personal protectors of the former president. </p><p> "@LauraWBush and I are grateful to our Secret Service personnel and the thousands of Federal employees who are working hard for our country without a paycheck," he wrote. </p><p> He also added a rare, if tepid, political statement to the post, saying, "It's time for leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown." </p><p> As the shutdown enters its 29th day on Saturday, Secret Service personnel are among the hundreds of thousands who aren't being paid. </p><p> Don Mihalek, the Secret Service representative to the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, confirmed to ABC News that cash advances are not being given out and official credit cards are not being paid for through government invoice channels. </p><p> "The way that works is FBI agents have an FBI credit card but they have to pay the bill," FBI Agents Association spokesperson Paul Nathanson told ABC News. "These agents have to buy tickets to go overseas and they can't get reimbursed for that money. So not only are they not getting paid, they're putting out money for their jobs and not getting it back until the government opens." </p><p> All former presidents have lifetime Secret Service details thanks to a law signed by President Barack Obama in January 2013. It had been rescinded to just 10 years post-office in 1997. </p>

    1 January 19, 2019
  •  George W. Bush plays pizza delivery man, makes rare political statement

    George W. Bush plays pizza delivery man, makes rare political statement

    tical statement, an unusual occurrence in his time since stepping away from the office at the same time. </p><p> Bush, along with first lady Laura, thanked the Secret Service personnel in an Instagram post Friday afternoon. He's seen carrying three pizzas, with another three boxes on the way, for the unpaid personal protectors of the former president. </p><p> "@LauraWBush and I are grateful to our Secret Service personnel and the thousands of Federal employees who are working hard for our country without a paycheck," he wrote. </p><p> He also added a rare, if tepid, political statement to the post, saying, "It's time for leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown." </p><p> As the shutdown enters its 29th day on Saturday, Secret Service personnel are among the hundreds of thousands who aren't being paid. </p><p> Don Mihalek, the Secret Service representative to the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, confirmed to ABC News that cash advances are not being given out and official credit cards are not being paid for through government invoice channels. </p><p> "The way that works is FBI agents have an FBI credit card but they have to pay the bill," FBI Agents Association spokesperson Paul Nathanson told ABC News. "These agents have to buy tickets to go overseas and they can't get reimbursed for that money. So not only are they not getting paid, they're putting out money for their jobs and not getting it back until the government opens." </p><p> All former presidents have lifetime Secret Service details thanks to a law signed by President Barack Obama in January 2013. It had been rescinded to just 10 years post-office in 1997. </p>

    1 January 19, 2019
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham flies to Turkey, meets with Erdogan to discuss US withdrawal from Syria

    Sen. Lindsey Graham flies to Turkey, meets with Erdogan to discuss US withdrawal from Syria

    ritten, or redistributed. ©2019 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>The two met behind closed doors&#xA0;to discuss the creation of a &#x201C;safe zone&#x201D; in northeast Syria, according to reports.</p><p>Graham has raised concerns about President Trump&#x2019;s plan&#xA0;to withdraw American forces from Syria, asserting the pullout would endanger&#xA0;Kurdish allies in the region and embolden the Islamic State terror group.</p><p>&#x201C;I hope the president would look long and hard about what we&#x2019;re doing in Syria,&#x201D; Graham said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week for William Barr, Trump&#x2019;s attorney general nominee. Soon afterward, news broke that three U.S. soldiers and an American interpreter working for the Defense Department of Defense were recently killed by a suicide bomb in Syria -- an attack for which ISIS has claimed responsibility.</p><p>Trump declared in December that ISIS had been defeated, contradicting assessments from his own experts and prompting criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. The U.S. began airstrikes in Syria in 2014, followed by ground troops to battle ISIS and train Syrian rebels.</p><p>Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS, both resigned&#xA0;after Trump&apos;s pullout decision.</p><p>Turkey views the Kurds as an offshoot of the Iraq-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a separatist group.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>

    1 January 19, 2019
  • Starmer urges 'open and frank debate' to break Brexit deadlock

    Starmer urges 'open and frank debate' to break Brexit deadlock

    ng the UK "false hope and false promises" with her plan.</p><p>Labour's Brexit secretary is calling for an "open and frank debate" to break the Commons deadlock.</p><p>Sir Keir Starmer will say there are "no easy routes" out of the current crisis in a speech to the Fabian Society's new year conference in London on Saturday.</p><p>In the aftermath of Theresa May's crushing defeat over the EU withdrawal plan Sir Keir will also say it is now up to Parliament to take the "difficult decisions" needed to end the stalemate.</p><p>His plea comes in opposition to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn again refusing to meet Mrs May to discuss the way forward unless she takes a "no-deal" Brexit option off the table.</p><p>He branded talks with leaders of other parties "not genuine" after Downing Street made clear the prime minister would not accept a customs union in the EU.</p><p>Mr Corbyn claims a customs union is "necessary" to gain parliament's support for any new plan.</p><p>The former foreign secretary made a speech widely regarded as a leadership bid as he covered Brexit, trade and wages</p><p>"Whatever one thinks of those issues, that reinforces the view these are not genuine talks, but designed to play for time and give the appearance of reaching out, whilst sticking rigidly to your own emphatically rejected deal," he wrote.</p><p>His letter came as it was reported Brexiteer cabinet ministers have warned Mrs May she risks splitting up the Conservative Party if she gives way to customs union calls.</p><p>Mrs May is at Chequers, the prime minister's country retreat, for the weekend to work on a statement to MPs setting out her plan.</p><p>Sir Keir will blame Mrs May for having offered the UK "false hope and false promises" in his speech.</p><p>"It's now time for an open and frank debate about how we break the deadlock," he will say.</p><p>"There are no easy routes out of the mess this Government has got us into on Brexit.</p><p>"Difficult decisions are going to have to be made by parliament.</p><p>"Now is the time for an honest debate and for credible solutions to emerge."</p><p>Earlier on Friday, Tory MP Nick Boles warned ministers were set to resign if the government tries to block handing power to MPs to block a no-deal Brexit.</p>

    1 January 19, 2019

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