‘This Week’ Transcript 4-15-18: Sarah Sanders, Sen. Collins and Rep. Schiff

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Want to bring in the White House for you now, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders joins us from the White House lawn this morning. Sarah, thank you for joining us, a lot to talk about this morning.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, let’s start out with Syria. We saw that tweet from the president yesterday saying mission accomplished, but we just heard Martha Raddatz say perhaps that initial mission on taking out some chemical weapon site — sites was accomplished, but that the overall declaration, that mission accomplished, is premature.

This may not change the situation on the ground of Syria all that much.

SANDERS: Certainly the mission that — that U.S. military and coalition forces with the U.K. and the — and — and France went out on Friday to — to do. They 100 percent met their objectives, that’s what the president’s referring to.

They went out to destroy critical chemical weapons infrastructure in Syria and they did exactly that. And they also sent a strong message to Syria, to Russia, to Iran that when this president has a red line, he will enforce it.

And I think we saw that clearly on Friday, and I think we’ve seen the president follow through on exactly what he said he was going to do, and the mission carried out by the extraordinary men and women of our armed forces, partnered with the men and women in the U.K. and France, certainly successful in what they set out to do and accomplished their objectives?

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what’s next? Is the president still committed to getting our troops out of Syria right away?

SANDERS: Look, the president has got three big objectives when it comes to the conflict there. He wants to defeat ISIS. He has talked about this relentlessly. We are almost there. We have made extraordinary gains against ISIS, and then the war against ISIS. And this president has lead that effort. And he’s been successful in that front.

The other things we have to do, we have to contain Iran. We have to make sure that the bad acting that they have been a part of doesn’t continue and doesn’t grow. Those are big and key points.

And then last we have to stop the spread and the use of mass chemical weapons, and that was one of the things that you saw the president take action on, on Friday.

These are big things that the president has been focused on and we’ve had some success so far. We’re going to continue building on that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you were answering that question, the president just came out with his fifth tweet of the morning on James Comey. I’m sure your phone buzzed as you were talking as well.

I want to dig into this just a little bit. That tweet that Jon Karl cited right there where he says — where he says Comey gave up classified information, jail. Why did he lie to congress, jail. What exactly is the president referring to there? And has he asked the Justice Department to investigate James Comey?

SANDERS: Look, it’s been very clear that James Comey is a self-admitted leaker. He lied to congress. He’s been inconsistent…

STEPHANOPOULOS: What did he lie to congress about?

SANDERS: Look, he said that he opened the Hillary Clinton investigation on its merits, now we’re finding out certainly that it had something to do with the political landscape. I find it outrageously unbelievable that Jim Comey, the man that takes these copious notes and recollects every detail of every conversation that he had can’t remember why he would have specifically opened and investigation into a presidential candidate, particularly somebody he thought would become the president.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He does remember. He goes into great detail in the book and in the interview.

SANDERS: And the clip you played just a few minutes ago says I can’t be sure. I’m sure that was part of it. I think I thought about it. I mean, give me a break. The guy knew exactly what he was doing. He thought Hillary Clinton would win. And he thought this would give him some cover. He thought that he made these decisions based on the political landscape and not on the facts of the case.

And when the person that is supposed to lead the highest law enforcement agency in our country starts making decisions based on political environments instead of on what is right and what is wrong, it’s a really dangerous position. And I think that’s one of the reasons there is such a huge bipartisan consensus that James Comey doesn’t have credibility and shouldn’t have been leading the FBI any longer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that’s not exactly what he said. But is the president asking the Justice Department to investigate James Comey?

SANDERS: I’m not aware of a specific ask of the Justice Department, but I do think if they feel there was any wrongdoing, they should certainly look into that just as they do on a number of other topics.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And are you sure you all want to be engaged in a credibility contest with James Comey, and I think the White House has cited more than 2,000 instances where the president or the White House have made false statements. Our new poll shows that Americans by a pretty wide margin think that James Comey has more credibility than President Trump.

SANDERS: I have to disagree with your poll to a great deal. There’s a daily Rasmussen Poll that has the president up at about 50 percent, which is actually better than President Obama at this point.

At the end of the day, this president will be judged on probably two big things: the economy, and national security, two things we feel very confident this president has been a strong leader on, and certainly something that the American people are feeling the effects on when it comes to the economy doing much better today than we have been in a long time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president also put out a tweet this morning saying he never asked James Comey for a loyalty pledge. Is he still willing to testify under oath that he didn’t ask for that pledge and that he didn’t say that he hoped Comey could let the Flynn investigation go?

SANDERS: The president has been clear, he’s spoken about this a number of times, as you pointed out, including this morning. And he continues to maintain that. And I have no reason to believe anything different.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally on this topic, a group of Republicans have commissioned a TV ad tonight about Robert Mueller that’s going to air during our special. Here’s what it says.


ANNOUNCER: As the head of the FBI under George W. Bush, Mueller has been trusted by Republicans to put America first.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: I have a lot of confidence in BobMueller.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: This is our justice system. And the Justice System needs to play itself out.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The special counsel has a job to do.

ANNOUNCER: Call your representative and tell them to protect the Mueller investigation.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the president actively considering firing Robert Mueller or removing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein from overseeing the investigation?

SANDERS: I’m not aware of any plans to make those movements. Look, the president has been extremely cooperative, as have a number of members of the administration. Everything that’s been asked of us we’ve provided. And we’re continuing to be cooperative. But we do have some real concerns with some of the activities and some of the scope that the investigation has gone, but 100 percent maintain that at this point, after repeating it for nearly a year and a half, there absolutely was no collusion with Russia and that’s exactly what they’ve been investigating.

Not only ahs the special counsel but a number of different congressional committees have been looking at this for over a year and come up with nothing. I think it really is getting time to move on and I certainly think the American people would appreciate Congress and the rest of the country being able to focus on some of the things that really impact them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: IS the White House more concerned about the Michael Cohen investigation than they are about the Mueller investigation?

SANDERS: Look, our concern is on doing what the president was elected to do, growing the economy, creating jobs, defeating ISIS, building and protecting our borders. This is the focus of this administration. Certainly we’re going to respond to some of the charges brought against us and brought directly against the president.

As we’ve said before, he’s a fighter and he’s going to hit back when he’s hit. But that’s the focus and certainly the policy priorities that this administration is going to spend our time on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why did the president call Michael Cohen on Friday?

SANDERS: I’m sorry?

STEPHANOPOULOS: why did the president call Michael Cohen on Friday?

SANDERS: Look, he’s had a long relationship with Michael Cohen, he’s going to continue to have that relationship. In terms of specifics of their private conversation, I can’t get into that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is he worried that Michael Cohen might turn state’s evidence?

SANDERS: Look, the president is very confident in the fact that he has done nothing wrong and he can’t speak on behalf of anyone else, but he’s very confident in what he has and hasn’t done. And he’s going to continue focusing and fighting for the American people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Also, there was a report over the weekend that Michael Cohen, according to McClash (ph), he may actually have been in Prague talking to Russians during the campaign. That’s the report in McClash — actually (ph) I should say that Michael Cohen adamantly denies that contention. Is the president convinced, though, that Michael Cohen is telling the truth and what would his reaction be if those meetings did indeed happen?

SANDERS: Again, I can’t speak on behalf of Michael Cohen and what he may or may not have done. That’s something that will be determined. I know that he’s contested that that’s not accurate but I haven’t had a conversation with the president about that specific instance.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, on Friday the president also pardoned Scooter Libby. That drew a reaction from Congressman Adam Schiff who’s going to be on the program later this morning. He say on the — he said on the day the president wrongly attacks Comey for being a leaker and a liar, he considers pardoning a convicted leaker and liar, Scooter Libby. This is the president’s way of sending a message to those implicated in the Russia investigation. You have my back and I’ll have yours. Your reactions?

SANDERS: That couldn’t be further from the truth. Once again, Adam Schiff barely — rarely bases any comments in reality. Talk about a grandstander. He probably is hook line and sinker buddies with Jim Comey. They both have never found T.V. camera they don’t love to be in front of. The point that the president made when it came to Scooter Libby, this was somebody who had been wrongly convicted, he’s been reinstated by the D.C. bar quite some time ago.

The primary person that testified against him has recanted their testimony and the president felt it was the right thing to do. These two things have nothing to do with one another.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah Sanders, thanks for your time this morning.

SANDERS: Thanks so much for having me, George.