‘This Week’ Transcript 11-11-18: Rep. Elijah Cummings, Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Kellyanne Conway

A rush transcript of a special edition of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, Nov. 11, 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.

STEPHANOPOULOS: This morning, we start with two of the House Democrats who will have the power to investigate the president — Jerrold Nalder, the incoming chair of the House Judiciary Commitee; Elijah Cummings who will chair the Oversight Committee.

And Congressman Cummings, let me begin with you this morning. You just heard the president right there. He said that if Democrats investigate it’s going to be a war-like poster. Are you ready to go to war?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND: I’m not gong to war with anyone. What I am going to do is do what the American people said they wanted us to do through this election, even in Trump country they basically are saying that we want transparency, we want honesty and we want integrity.

But they want something else, George, they want accountability with regard to this president. That is exactly what I’m going to do, if I’m blessed to have that opportunity and this is what the constitution requires of us.

And so we’re going to do our part.

But George, I’m not going to be handing out subpoenas like somebody’s handing out candy on
Halloween. I take this as a lawyer and as an officer of the court, I take subpoenas very seriously. And I plan to, if I have to use them, they will be used in a methodical way and it must be in the public’s
interest. And so — but we need — we have got a lot to do. So, I’m laser focused on those issues that even President Trump says that he wants to work on, such as prescription drug prices, the high price of prescription drugs, such as making sure that we protect people with regard to pre-existing conditions.

I must admit that he just came late in saying that, but, you know, if he wants to do that, that’s fine. But we’ve got a lot of work to do. And voting rights. We have got to deal with things like voting rights.

So, we’ve got a lot on our plate. We don’t have time — I’m not worried about the threats, I am — again, I want to do what the American people sent us to Washington to do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re saying you can investigate and work on policy at the same time. What are your top oversight priorities?

CUMMINGS: George, I really want to look at some things that affect people on a day to day basis such as, as I said drug prices and health care issues. But I also want to look at things like the census. We are having some problems right now with regard to the Trump administration wanting to put in a citizenship question, which we know will discourage people from participating in the census. Very important. That’s right around the corner. Again, we’ve got to look at things like voter suppression. We cannot have a country where we do — where we have — it becomes normal to do everything in Trump’s (ph) power to stop people from voting.

There’s no reason why in the United States of America people should be standing in line for four and five hours and basically being pushed away from the polls. We’ve got to turn that around.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And when you’re in the minority as a democrat over the last couple years you’ve written a lot of letters talking about the need for oversight of the president, whether he’s in violation of the emoluments clause, other cabinet officials. Are those on the table as well?

CUMMINGS: Definitely. Definitely. We definitely want to look at the emolument clause, possible violations. I think there are probably many of them. We want to look at things like the FBI building fiasco where the president injected himself into that debate as to where it would be located — we think for his benefit. We got to figure out when is he acting on behalf of the American people in a lot of his decisions or — or is he acting on his own behalf. But there’s something else that we’ve got to do.

The president has two years left in his term. He spent almost his entire campaign talking about our infrastructure. We have to sit down — he says — he claims — he claims he wants to work with us. We need to sit down and address the issue of infrastructure. We’ve got bridges and roads that need to be repaired and we’ve got to do that — and we can do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your colleague Adam Schiff said they want to look — he also wants to look into the idea of Amazon, where the president tried to retaliate against Amazon because Jeff Bezos, the owner, owns the Washington Post and involving the Postal Service there. Also whether he interfered in the merger — in the Time Warner merger as a way to retaliate against CNN. Is that on the table?

CUMMINGS: Yes, we may want to look into that. Keep in mind that the president has constantly been messing with our postal system. I don’t — it seems as if he wants to privatize it. And we have legislation right now, George, that will cure that. We just got to put it on the floor. With the Democrats in control we can get that postal bill on the floor and makes — and save our postal system. And those are the kinds of things that I want to do. Not only — I’m going to look at Trump — President Trump, but I’m also — But more importantly I’m going to try to work with our Republicans friends to do things for the American people. They’re tired of us not doing things.

STEPHANOPOULOS: On that question of working with Republicans, are you willing to go back to the days where the subpoena power on the Oversight Committee and other committees was a shared responsibility with the minority?

CUMMINGS: I’m going to share to a certain degree. And again, I see subpoenas as really a method of last resort. As a lawyer, I know the power of a subpoena. Once you send somebody a subpoena, they’ve got to get a lawyer, and — and it’s — it’s a lot there. So what I’m going to try — I’m hopefully — hoping that we’ll have consultation with the Republicans, where we could agree. But — but if it comes down to me believing something is in the public interest, I want to do deliberately — deliberatively. But I’m going to do what I think is best. And I’m going to do what the Constitution demands that we do.

And I would ask that the president not try to stand in our way of doing our job as members of the Congress.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well I want to ask you about that. What are you going to do if the administration or the White House refuse to answer and comply with your subpoenas?

CUMMINGS: We will cross that bridge when we get to it. I’m not going to deal with that hypothetical because I’m — I’m more optimistic than that. But I promise you we will deal with that when we get to it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question. Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader wants to run for speaker. Does she have your vote?

CUMMINGS: She’s got my vote. Nancy Pelosi has been battle-tested. I have watched her — I’ve said it many times, she’s a phenomenal speaker. And so she — and now that we have all of these women coming into the Congress it would be a damn shame that you then replaced this fearless leader with a man. It is — is — it’s her time and again, she’s battle-tested and I’m looking forward to working with her as my speaker. And I’m going to vote for her and encourage all my colleagues to vote for her.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Cummings, thanks for your time this morning.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we’re joined now by the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York. Congressman, let’s pick up where we just left off with Congressman Cummings. Does Nancy Pelosi have your vote, will she be the next speaker?
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: I believe she will be the next speaker. I think Nancy was a wonderful speaker, she’s been a great minority leader and I think she’s one of the finest legislative craftspeople of our time. I think without her leadership we would not have had the Affordable Care Act, we wouldn’t have preexisting conditions, and she most certainly has my support.

I will do anything I can to make sure that she’s the speaker again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Several of these new members coming in, including your colleague from Staten Island, Max Rose, say they’re not going to support Nancy Pelosi for speaker.

How – how serious a threat is that?

NADLER: Well I think there are – there are a number people who won’t support her, but I think she will have the overwhelming support of the Democratic caucus and I think she will be elected speaker.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You chair – you will chair the Judiciary Committee, the president just announced that Matt Whitaker will be the acting attorney general. Do believe that appointment was legal?

NADLER: I don’t think it is legal because there’s no advice and consent. I don’t think the attorney general can – can – can be appointed without advice and consent of the – of the Senate, without the consent of the Senate.

But I’ll go further, the – his appointment is simply part of an attack on the investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel. It’s part of a pattern of interference by the president and part of a pattern of obstruction of that – attempt of obstruction of that investigation.

And that investigation is very important to assure the rule of law and to assure that we know what happened when the Russians attempted to subvert our election with the alleged complicity of people in the Trump campaign.

It’s very important that the integrity of our elections be assured. And so we have to protect that investigation for the reasons I just stated and to show that not – not the president, not anybody is above the law.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say his choice is part of a pattern of obstruction. When you put all the pieces together over the last year and a half, do you believe the president has obstructed justice?

NADLER: I’m not prepared to say that yes – to say that yet. Let’s say that there’s a lot of evidence to that effect, but that’s what we will – we will be looking at. It’s what the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee should have been having proper investigations about but the Republicans in Congress said they did not want to hold the president accountable.

They surrendered their constitutional duty of – of providing a check and a balance. We will not. We will provide a check and a balance, we will hold the president accountable. He will learn that he is accountable, that he’s not above the law and that’s part of what we’ll have to look at.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So far Matt Whitaker says he’s not going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. If he restricts Mueller, if he blocks, for example, a subpoena of the president, if he refuses to release a final report from Robert Mueller, what recourse do you have?

NADLER: Well we could – we could subpoena the final report, we could subpoena Mueller and ask him in front of the committee what was in your final report, those are things we could do.

But the fact is any such interference would be part of a pattern – pattern of obstruction of justice, especially since – and he should recuse himself because he has expressed total hostilities, he’s – to the – to the investigation.

He has said the investigation shouldn’t go forward, and someone who said that should not be in charge of deciding on the investigation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So if Matt Whitaker is still the acting attorney general when you become chair of the Judiciary Committee –

NADLER: We – we will make sure that Matt Whitaker immediately – one of our first orders of business will be to invite him and if necessary to subpoena him to appear – to appear before the committee.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You would be responsible as chair of the Judiciary Committee for any potential impeachment hearings. And you’re facing a lot of cross pressures, you’ve got – see (ph) you just laughed at that idea.

You’ve got top Democrats like Tom Steyer, Op-Ed in the New York Times this week saying Democrats must pursue impeachment. You’ve got a lot of others warning that that would be overreach if you went too quickly. How are you going to balance that out?

NADLER: Well I think it’s too early to – to make that determination. You have to be very reluctant to do an impeachment. I criticized the Republicans 20 years ago for the Clinton impeachment because I thought it was not based.

We will have to see from the Mueller investigation, from whatever we find, because Congress should be active in our own investigations and our own upholding of our duty to hold the administration accountable and to provide a check and a balance.

We have to look into all kinds of questions. We’ll have to find out, if we find it – that the president has or has not committed apparently impeachable offenses and whether those impeachable offenses rise to the gravity which would necessitate putting together – putting the country through the trauma of an impeachment process.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And what is your top oversight priority?

NADLER: Right now our top priority is to protect the Mueller investigation, to protect the integrity of that investigation from the White House attempt to stifle it and to – to interfere with it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Last time you were on the program before the elections, you talked about the possibilities of investigating Justice Kavanaugh. Is that still on the table?

NADLER: Well it’s not a question of investigating Justice Kavanaugh, we do have a responsibility I believe to investigate the – the process by which the FBI was stifled in its investigation by the White House.

When the FBI was asked to investigate, there was not a complete investigation, for the reasons I state then. A lot of witnesses who should’ve been – who volunteered to come forward weren’t – weren’t interviewed and so forth. But we have to look into that with a view toward making sure that future FBI investigations are not subject to the same kind of White House interference and can be relied upon.

That’s the – the part that we – I think we have to look at, not with a view toward doing anything about Justice Kavanaugh there – he’s there, unfortunately – but with a view toward making sure that the integrity of the process for the future is restored.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The last couple weeks, you’ve seen two more deadly mass shootings in this country. Several of your colleagues, new Democrats in the House are elected, promising to pursue more serious gun control. That comes under the umbrella of the judiciary (ph) committee. What are you going to do?

NADLER: Well, we will certainly pursue sensible gun control legislation as one of our priorities. You know, we just elected – I campaigned in Georgia a few weeks ago for Lucy McBath who won her election in – in addition, which I think was originally Newt Gingrich’s…


NADLER: …District. She was a mother whose son was murdered with a gun six years ago in 2012 over a dispute over loud music. And she got involved in gun control – in the gun control cause. She was involved especially after the Parkland shootings. And the fact that Congress has done nothing about this to protect the American people motivated her to run and she will be a very invaluable member of Congress for many reasons, but among others, for the personal experience she brings to bear upon this.

We’re having – we’re getting to the point now where we’re having mass shootings every week. It’s not even – it’s hardly news. You know, we have – we’re told that – by the NRA and others that the problem is mental health or whatever. But you look at Western Europe, you look at Japan and they have 50 gun deaths, 120 gun deaths, 150 gun deaths, we have 33,000 a year. It’s a slander on the American people to say that our people are 10,000 times as mentally ill as people in Western Europe or Japan.

The problem is the unfettered use of assault – of military-style weapons, the lack of appropriate background checks, and we will do – we will have to deal with this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Nadler, thanks for your time this morning.

NADLER: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, we have the White House response from Counsel Kellyanne Conway, plus our powerhouse roundtable. We’ll be right back.