Face the Nation June 11, 2017 Transcript: Graham, Lankford, Schumer

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JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: Today on FACE THE NATION: President Trump ends the most controversial week of his presidency with a promise to testify under oath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No collusion, no obstruction. He is a leaker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: A defiant President Trump claims he is vindicated by former FBI director's Comey's testimony, but the investigations into his campaign's ties to Russia continue.

We will sit down with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is leading the Senate Judiciary probe into the Kremlin's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Plus, the Senate Intelligence Committee Republican James Lankford. He questioned former FBI Director James Comey this week. And, next week, he will question Attorney General Jeff Sessions. We will ask the senator where the Intelligence Committee investigation goes next.

And how are the Democrats responding?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The cloud hanging over this administration has just gotten a whole lot darker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joins us to discuss the Russia investigation and a big story that has been out of the spotlight, the Republican promise to pass a health care overhaul in the Senate by the Fourth of July.

Plus, we will talk with our politics panel about the infighting in the administration and mixed messages on the diplomatic crisis in the Middle East.

It is all coming up on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I am John Dickerson.

In Washington this week, it came down to credibility, with two very powerful men accusing each other of lying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting.

TRUMP: And some of the things he said just weren't true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: During Thursday's blockbuster congressional hearing, the former FBI director testified under oath that the president told him he hoped he could drop the investigation into his former national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, and asked him to pledge his loyalty.

The next day, in a Rose Garden press conference, President Trump hit back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I didn't say that.

QUESTION: So he lied about that?

TRUMP: Well, I didn't say that. I mean, I will tell you, I didn't say that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: The president said he would be willing to repeat those statements under oath in front of the special counsel, and once again raised the prospect of audio recordings of his conversations with Comey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: do tapes exist of your conversations with him?

TRUMP: Well, I will tell you something about that maybe some time in the very near future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: It was the latest round of peekaboo about the tapes, which the president first tweeted about on May 12. It was that tweet, Comey told Congress, that prompted him to leak his written memos of his meetings with the president to the press.

And we start with our first guest this morning, Senator Lindsey Graham.

Welcome, Senator.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you.

The president was called a liar by Mr. Comey. The president today has called Mr. Comey a coward. Where are we with this?

GRAHAM: More like a wrestling match than anything else.

Here is what I would say. The president got elected by being a fighter, a disrupter. People wanted him to come to Washington and change the place, turn it upside down. I have gotten to know the president better. I like him. He has got a good agenda. But here is the question. Can you be a street fighter on all things all the time and still be a good president?

My advice to the president is every day you are talking about Jim Comey and not the American people and their needs and their desires, their hopes and their dreams, you are making a mistake.

DICKERSON: Is he getting in the way of his own agenda?

GRAHAM: Yes, totally.

At the end, he has got a good agenda. But this does get in the way of it. So, the hearing was pretty good. No collusion with the Russians yet. I don't think obstruction of justice exists here.

But every time you tweet about Comey, it is almost like wait for the next wrestling match between Comey and Trump. It should be about what can Donald Trump do to help the lives of American people and sort of get out of the way here.

DICKERSON: Do you think the president was vindicated? He thought he was vindicated...

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: Well, I think it was true that he is not under investigation for colluding with the Russians. And I don't think what was said amounts to obstruction of justice.

Now, what the president did was inappropriate. But here is what is so frustrating for Republicans like me. You may be the first president in history to go down because you can't stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that, if you just were quiet, would clear you.

It is frustrating for me to want to help a man who I think will do big things no other Republican will do, like immigration. Believe it or not, I think Donald Trump may deliver us from a broken immigration system. This is not helping.

But this should be in the Judiciary Committee. I heard Dianne Feinstein on a show earlier today. You had Comey suggest that the current U.S. attorney general and the former attorney general were playing politics with the investigation, Lynch and Sessions. That needs to be in our committee.

Let me tell this to the American people. If the attorney general's office has become a political office, that is bad for us all. So I want to get to the bottom of that, and it should be in Judiciary.

DICKERSON: What do you want to know from Attorney General Sessions?

GRAHAM: I want to know, is it true what Comey said? Did you create an atmosphere there that people believe that you cannot fairly render judgment on the president's interactions with Comey?

I want to hear from Loretta Lynch, did you say please call it a matter, not an investigation? And I want Comey to come to our committee because I know, on two separate occasions, he has told members of the House and Senate that the main reason he jumped into the election last year and took over the job of the attorney general is because he believed there were e-mails between the Democratic National Committee and the Department of Justice that compromised the Department of Justice, and he thought the Russians were going to release these e-mails.

That's why he jumped in and took over Loretta Lynch's job. I want to know, is that true.

DICKERSON: Well, now, that e-mail, there has been some reporting that that was a fake e-mail or doctored.

GRAHAM: When he told the House and Senate as late as a month -- early as a month ago, he never mentioned it is fake. I don't think if it is fake or not.

But the FBI called me about this, John, and said that they wanted to brief me because I have got some of this wrong. I saw "The Washington Post" story. I doubt it is fake. Maybe it is. But I don't want to be briefed by myself.

I want Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary to be briefed together. Our committee has been together, and we are going to stay together.

DICKERSON: So, since -- we will stay in the past here for a moment, moving to the present.

But you would have former Attorney General Loretta Lynch come before the Judiciary Committee to answer for these questions about...

GRAHAM: Absolutely. Absolutely. And Sessions too.

And, you know, I think it is inappropriate for the president to testify publicly. But if you are so obsessed about -- and I know you are frustrated. He doesn't believe he did anything wrong with the Russians. And I tend to believe him.

He can't collude with his own government. Why do you think he is colluding with the Russians? So there is a part of this that genuinely frustrates the president.

But, Mr. President, let's don't make a circus out of your presidency. If you want to come to the Judiciary Committee and testify under oath, we will put Comey right by you. It would be the highest rated TV show in the history of the world, but it's not good for our democracy.

DICKERSON: Isn't the challenge to the president not the collusion question, but the interference question? And wouldn't that be the tough questions for him?

GRAHAM: So, here is what I think.

I think the president believes that, if we pursue how Russia interfered with the election, we are suggesting he did not win fairly. I see no evidence of the president's campaign colluding with the Russians. I see all kind of evidence of the Russians trying to destroy our election and destroy democracy throughout the world.

There will be a passed this coming week to punish Russia for interfering in our elections. They hacked into the DNC, Podesta's e- mails. It was the Russians. They are providing arms to the Taliban to kill American soldiers.

They colluded with Assad so he could keep his chemical weapons. And I think they were complicit in the attack of chemical weapons by Assad on children in Syria. We're going to punish the Russians.

Any member of the Congress who doesn't want to punish Russia for what they have done is betraying democracy. And if the president doesn't sign this bill to punish Russia, he would be betraying democracy.

DICKERSON: What do you think he will do?

GRAHAM: I think he will sign it. And if he doesn't sign it, we're going to override his veto.

Mr. President, the Russians did this. They're doing it all over the world. They're providing arms to the Taliban to kill our soldiers. You are the commander in chief. You need to stand up to Russia. We're never going to reset our relationship with Russia until we punish them for trying to destroy democracy. And that starts with more sanctions.

DICKERSON: The RNC chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, said that the congressional investigations into this question of collusion should go away, they are a fishing expedition.

(LAUGHTER)

DICKERSON: What is the your response?

GRAHAM: Oh, that is not true. None of your business.

We are going to do what we think is best. The Russians interfered in our election. They are doing it all over the world. No evidence yet that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. I don't believe the president colluded with the Russians, just because of the way he behaves.

There is zero evidence that President Trump did anything wrong with the Russians. There is overwhelming evidence that Russia is trying to destroy democracy here and abroad. And if you forgive and forget with Putin, you are going to get more of the same and you're going to entice Iran and China to come in, in 2018 and 2020. So to any Republican who believes Russia didn't do it, you are wrong. To any Democrat who wants to impeach President Trump because of Russia, you are wrong. All I can say is, there a is a lynch mob mentality about the Trump administration in the press. They are about as fair as a lynch mob.

But these tweets that he does feeds that lynch mob. You are your own worst enemy, Mr. President. Knock it off.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question here about health care, which is moving through -- I don't want to leave without talking about this.

GRAHAM: We are good for seven minutes.

(LAUGHTER)

DICKERSON: Mitch McConnell has said he wants to get something passed by the Fourth of July.

On health care, you had said: "We are trying to do too much, too quick as Republicans. We're running through stop signs."

GRAHAM: Yes.

DICKERSON: Is by July 4 running through a stop sign?

GRAHAM: We need to bring this to an end. The House bill is dead in the Senate, the -- 10 percent of support by the American people for the House bill.

The House members are mad at us for not taking up health care. Well, send us a bill that will can 12 percent of support. The bottom line is, the Senate is divided behind Medicaid expansion states, non- Medicaid expansion states, the proper role of government.

Mitch is going to bring this together. It's going to be tough. My advice is, if we can't replace Obamacare by ourselves, to go to the Democrats and say this -- 10 percent of the sick people in this country drive 90 percent of the costs for all of us. Let's take those 10 percent of really sick people, put them in a federal managed care system, so they will get better outcomes, and save the private sector market, if we can't do this by ourselves.

That is a good place to start.

DICKERSON: All right, we're going to have to end it there.

Senator, thank you so much for being with us.

We turn now to Senate Intelligence Committee member James Lankford. He joins us from Oklahoma City.

Good morning, Senator.

I want to start with Director Comey's testimony. Now that it is done, is the committee's work in looking into whether the president tried to influence the investigation, is that done now?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: Oh, no, far from it. This is one interview of about 36 that we already have done.

We are not complete yet. We have gone through thousands of pages of documents. If in any way we left the impression this was the culmination of our process, that would be incorrect.

This is only the midpoint of it. We are trying to get all the facts out, both on Russia's trying to interfere in our election, if any American tried to be able to reach back to them to be able to assist Russia in interfering in our election, and how classified documents got in the public sphere. So, we are still in the middle of that.

DICKERSON: And does that also -- being in the middle of that also include looking into the president and what he may or may not have done with respect to the ongoing investigation?

LANKFORD: Sure. That is just part of the process.

Obviously, if there was any American, including the president, who tried to interfere in the election or to try to do an obstruction of justice, that would be very important to know.

Obviously, there is a criminal investigation that is ongoing with a special counsel. We have a unique policy role in it and an oversight role to make sure nothing is amiss. So, the special counsel and the FBI, we go through all the documents. We want to make sure they have seen everything, they have gone through everything, they're doing their criminal work.

But we have a policy set of issues that we also have to go through. And we're going to continue to work our way through everything.

DICKERSON: What do you make, now that it has been a few days, of former Director Comey's testimony?

LANKFORD: It was surprising. A lot of people have asked me lately, even here in Oklahoma, did you learn anything from it? Was there things that were new?

And, yes, there certainly were things that were new, things like Director Comey stepping in and saying, yes, I leaked those documents to be able to get the information out of my memos, for him say the president did ask me about it three times, or he voluntarily, that is, said, you are not under investigation, the president of the United States.

Comey also made it very clear during his testimony multiple times that the president never asked him to stop the Russia investigation, that the comments about I wish you would let this go related to Michael Flynn, but never came up again. And no one from the White House ever brought it up again after that initial conversation February the 14th. So we are trying to evaluate what really happened, what is the background of it, what other information can we gain? We also obviously went into a classified session with Jim Comey to go into greater detail on the Russia part of it.

So what a lot of people saw was the open portion of it, was more of the palace intrigue of his firing and all that transition in the private meetings. But we have a lot deeper information to get to.

DICKERSON: Let me you about that question of leaks. You pay a lot of attention to that on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

On the scale of at the one hand leaks that are just inconvenient, but nothing illegal, to those that are illegal and damaging to national security, where do you put the leaks that -- the leaks from James Comey on that scale?

LANKFORD: Yes, releasing his memos is not damaging to national security. Now, is it appropriate? No, it is not.

And I would tell you, FBI agents would tell you they are told they can't take any work product home with me. And certainly once they leave the FBI, they can't keep some of the documents they created on official computers and take them home with them to be able to do that.

So that was inappropriate of him to do. I'm still wondering why he prospectively wanted to be able to get out of his side of the opinion when he heard that the president might have recordings. If the fear was he might have recordings, had to get his side out first, my issue on that initially was, well, if there are recordings, then both sides are getting out in a recording.

We still don't know if there's actually recording. The president obviously made that tweet. And I would assume, the same as Jim Comey does, that I hope there are recordings for Jim Comey's sake if that is out there. But I doubt that they are really there. We have obviously tried pressed the White House to try to get a firm answer from them on that.

DICKERSON: The president said he would be willing testify under oath. Would you like to question the president? And what would you ask him?

LANKFORD: Well, the only question that I would really have for president, the same things that he has already answered publicly. And that's to be able to put out any cooperation with the Russians of any type.

Obviously, he is not under investigation. There hasn't been a direct accusation. How he pressed Jim Comey, why that conversation even came up on a one-on-one meeting. But there's not a lot of great information.

There hasn't been a direct accusation on the president actually being involved with the Russians. It has been people around him in his campaign. So, for me, there is not a lot of questions directly to him.

DICKERSON: On the question of influencing the investigation, again, thinking about the scale, on the one hand, the president might have done something that was a little bit crossing a line, but he is a new guy to the job, all the way to this question of obstruction of justice.

Where do you put -- knowing what you know about the president's behavior, where do you put what he did on that scale?

LANKFORD: I would say it is very inappropriate.

As Jim Comey said, it is awkward to be able to have the president of the United States sitting down with someone in the FBI, the leadership of the FBI, to be able to have direct questions, and for the issue to come up about the Michael Flynn investigation. It is inappropriate.

But the way it was handled, with no follow-up, with no other press, with no other return to that topic, it looks like a -- what I called a pretty light touch. If this is trying to interfere in a process of any investigation, it doesn't seem like it was, number one, very effective, and number two, came up more than once in a conversation.

So, this looks more like an inappropriate conversation than an obstruction.

DICKERSON: Next week, you will get to talk to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

First, will that be in public or private? And what do you want to know from him?

LANKFORD: We have not disclosed and finalized public or private.

I assume that this will be public, but we are still in that final conversation time with Jeff Sessions. The key things we have got to get, obviously, his side of the story related to Jim Comey, some of the conversations that Jim Comey had with the president, where Jeff Sessions was a participant there or at least was around to be able to get the rest of the story, Comey's statement to him of, hey, I don't want to get time alone with the president again, and that interaction, as well as these accusations that are flying out there about conversations that he might or might not have had with Russians prior to the election.

So, we want to be able to get his side of it, get all the facts out there. We've had a lot of unnamed sources in the media come out and make statements about Jeff Sessions. It would be very good to get it directly from him.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Lankford, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

LANKFORD: Thank you.

DICKERSON: We will be back in one minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DICKERSON: Joining us now is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Senator, you heard James Comey's testimony. Did he make the case for obstruction?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Look, when it comes to something like obstruction, there is a serious legal standard. A good prosecutor looks at the facts and sees if it meets that standard.

I am not going to speculate about that. That is in prosecutor Mueller's hands.

DICKERSON: The president said he would testify in front of the Senate. I assume you are all for that.

SCHUMER: Well, I would like to invite the president to testify before the Senate.

I think we could work out a way that it could be dignified, public, with questions, with Leader McConnell. Of course, we would have to consult with prosecutor Mueller before doing it.

But I want to make a broader point here that relates to that. This is such serious stuff, John. Seventeen intelligence agencies said the Russians did interfere in the past election, but if people think it is past us, they are preparing to interfere in all of our elections.

That goes to the wellspring of the democracy. And this is serious stuff. We have the former director of the FBI under oath saying one thing, President Trump saying another. There is a cloud over the presidency, the president said, and that is rightly so.

There are two ways to clear up that cloud. One, if there are tapes -- he alluded to the fact that there are tapes, maybe as a threat or taunting Comey -- he should make them public right away. If there aren't tapes, he should let that be known. No more game- playing.

And, of course, he said he would testify. So I am inviting him to come testify and we could work that out.

And one final point here. This is serious stuff. And the president seems to be taking it almost a little bit lightly. It is sort of like the tax returns. You know, in the middle of the summer last year, he said he would release them before the election. Then he said there is an audit. Then he said he is never going to release them.

Well, when it comes to the tapes and it comes to testifying, he ought to say what he means. And, if he does, we will take him -- we will take him up on each case.

DICKERSON: Let me separate these two issues.

First, on the question of interference in -- with Director Comey or anybody else, what about Paul Ryan's argument, which is basically, Speaker Ryan said the president is new at this, he's new to government, and so he probably wasn't steeped in the long-running protocols?

What do you make of that defense?

SCHUMER: Well, you know, Comey said that he cleared the room, the president did, before he talked to him. That doesn't indicate a casualness.

But there is a deeper point here. The president is the most powerful man in the world. His words really, really matter, whether it comes to foreign policy with NATO or with Australia or Saudi Arabia and Qatar, whether it comes to domestic policy, whether it comes to this investigation.

The fact that he is new, the fact that he may not say things so seriously, that is not an excuse. He is the president of the United States, and he has got to step up to the plate.

DICKERSON: What -- Jeff Sessions is going to testify next week. What do you want to hear from Jeff Sessions?

SCHUMER: Well, first, I think he should be sworn under oath. Second, I think it should be public. There is very little that is classified. Anything that is classified, they can do in a separate classified briefing.

There are some questions about Sessions that have to be asked. First, did he interfere with the Russian investigation before he recused himself? Second, what safeguards are there now so that he doesn't interfere? Third, it says he was involved in the firing of Comey, and the president said Comey was fired because of Russia. How does that fit into with recusal?

It doesn't seem to stand up well to me. And, fourth, he has been involved in the selection of the new FBI director. Did he talk about the Russian investigation with them?

All those are important questions. I hope they will be asked...

DICKERSON: Let me ask...

SCHUMER: ... in public, and when -- Sessions under oath.

DICKERSON: Let me ask about the previous attorney general.

Lindsey Graham suggested she should come and the testify. Do you think she did anything wrong, based on what Jim Comey testified?

SCHUMER: Look, I heard what Comey said, and he said he was troubled by it. I respect him a great deal. But I haven't heard Loretta Lynch's side of the story. So, I'm not going to come to a conclusion as to who was right or wrong or whether it rises to the level that she should come testify.

DICKERSON: In the political back and forth here, people look at Democrats not getting very exercised about Loretta Lynch and what she may have done to be possibly meddling in that investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail server, and the Democrats don't seem to listen so much to James Comey when he's talking about Loretta Lynch, but take everything he says about the president as gospel.

Doesn't that just kind of put this into the normal partisan sorting and people kind of look at this and say, well, it is just Democrats and Republicans bickering again?

SCHUMER: Well, for one thing, the investigation that is surrounding this into Hillary's e-mails has had a long, and long, long history, lots of congressional investigations, an FBI investigation.

And all I am saying with Loretta Lynch is, before anyone jumps to any conclusions, we ought to hear what she has to say and let her state something privately and see if it makes much of a difference. I don't know that it will.

DICKERSON: Last 30 seconds, Senator.

On health care, Fourth of July, Mitch McConnell says.

SCHUMER: Yes, look, with Mitch McConnell -- Mitch McConnell is the leader of the Senate.

And to have this issue, which affects a sixth of our economy, tens of millions of people's coverage -- millions would lose coverage, lose preexisting conditions, hurting the elderly, hurting women, to do this in private, without hearings, without amendments, it would be one of the most outrageous examples of legislative malpractice in decades.

I am appealing to Leader McConnell.

DICKERSON: All right. All right.

SCHUMER: Once you have your bill, once you have your bill, put it forward in public, like we Democrats did. There were amendments on Obamacare that Hatch and Grassley amended as part of the bill.

DICKERSON: Senator, I am sorry, we have run out of time.

SCHUMER: And go forward that way.

I am sorry. Are you...

DICKERSON: We have run out of time.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Is there a sound problem here?

DICKERSON: We have run out of time.

Thank you so much, Senator.

And we will be right back.

SCHUMER: Nice to talk to you. Thank you. Bye-bye.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DICKERSON: If you a fan of FACE THE NATION, check out our podcast, the FACE THE NATION Diary, for news and analysis you won't hear anywhere else. It is available in the iTunes store or whatever your Apple -- whatever favorite podcast app is.

We will be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DICKERSON: We will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including our politics panel and a look at other news headlines from the week, including the diplomatic crisis in the Middle East.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS ANCHOR: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.

This was supposed to be infrastructure week. Instead, the Trump administration had to compete with chaos, mixed messages and infighting. The culprit? Often the president, who took to Twitter lass to advance his agenda than to engage in deadened fights and contradict his administration's policies at home and abroad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're under siege. We will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: It all started Monday with a storm of tweets in the wake of the London terror attacks. In 140 character bursts, President Trump criticized London's Muslim mayor and shamed his own Justice Department for having watered down his order halting immigration from countries with terrorist links, and for not calling it a travel ban.

On Tuesday, President Trump sided with the nine Arab countries punishing Qatar, claiming it backs terrorists, saying the move showed his diplomacy with those countries was paying off. The problem? His Pentagon had just voiced support for Qatar, where America has its largest military base in the Middle East. And where his secretary of state says the Arab blockade of Qatar is hurting the fight against ISIS.

Wednesday, administration aides were battling back stories of strife. "The New York Times" reported Attorney General Jeff Sessions had offered to resign. President Trump was reportedly unhappy Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation. For two days White House spokespeople could not confirm that the president had faith in his attorney general.

And director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, was trying to answer for a "Washington Post" report, saying the president had asked him to get then FBI Director James Comey to back off his investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't believe it's appropriate for me to address that in a public session.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: Thursday, Comey himself testified to pressure he felt from the president in nine one-on-one conversations and the reason he thought he was fired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: It's my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: He also defended his actions as head of the FBI.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: The administration then chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI, by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: Compelling, but the president had powerful defenders like House Speaker Paul Ryan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN, HOUSE SPEAKER: The president's new at this. He's new to government. And so he probably wasn't steeped in the long running protocols.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: Friday, during a joint news conference, President Trump claimed vindication.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No collusion. No obstruction. He's a leaker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: On Friday afternoon, President Trump escaped the White House heat and headed for his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

To discuss all of that and more, we're joined by "USA Today" Washington bureau chief Susan Page, "Washington Post" columnist David Ignatius, Associated Press White House correspondent Julie Pace, and CBS News contributor and "Washington Post" congressional reporter Ed O'Keefe.

Julie, I want to start with you.

There's a lot going on. Where - where are things at the end of James Comey's testimony and the president's response in this story?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, I think we're at a point right now where Comey's testimony did up - open up new lines of inquiry for the congressional investigators. Certainly I think it points toward Mueller looking at obstruction of justice as this investigation expands.

From the perspective of the White House, they do have some things from the testimony to latch on to. Certainly the fact that Comey came out and said, yes, I did tell the president three times that he was not personally under investigation. You are going to hear that over and over and over again from this White House.

I think, though, that the White House is coming to grips with the fact that even though Comey's testimony is behind them, this is a cloud that is going to hang a over this White House for a long time. This is not going away. And when I say that, I mean that staffers in the White House have a - have a grasp of that. I'm not quite sure the president fully understands that this is something that is going to be part of his presidency for a very long time.

DICKERSON: That's right.

David, so this question of whether the president is being investigated, as Julie said, they really held on to that, but that was when James Comey was FBI director that he said that. So where do you think things stand now in terms of the president being investigated and what he has to worry about?

DAVID IGNATIUS, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I - we don't know. And I think that's the point, is this now is in the hands of Robert Mueller, a very experienced, very tough prosecutor, and he will explore these leads.

I thought, as Julie said, that this was not a decisive moment in this - in this story. Lindsey Graham earlier said it was a wrestling match. It certain was a match in which there was no knockout punch. Each side had its - it's - it's strong points. The picture of - of President Trump that was presented by James Comey, even Senator Lankford said, was very inappropriate behavior. The kind of behavior it's - it's just hard to imagine a president saying those things to his FBI director about ongoing investigation. But not a - not a knockout punch. I think everybody needs to hunker down now for a long process.

Just a final take away. Watching the reactions from Republicans in the Senate, I think it's going to be a very hard to pursue this obstruction of justice theme as long as there's a Republican Congress. So next year's midterm elections, I think in some ways are going to be a referendum on what we heard this week.

DICKERSON: That's right.

Susan, David makes the right point, which is, this is a political court. This isn't about whether the president can be prosecuted in a court of law. And so those initial reactions, while people might not have joined in, in the White House's complaints about James Comey, there was nobody saying, well, either, you know, the president's really in trouble. And so isn't that the best news for him of all, that Republicans aren't, you know, talking about impeachment or are - still seem to be behind him?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": I guess I wouldn't see it in that sunny - in that sunny way because while of course it's true that this week did not settle what's going to happen in this investigation, what it did make clear was there are multiple strands of investigations, not just Russian collusion but obstruction of justice, that it touches the president, the president's son-in-law, his top aides, his attorney general, that these investigations are going to continue, be cloud, zap his ability to get other things done.

And that while Republicans didn't break with him, remember, we're - it was just last month that - that Comey was fired as FBI director. This investigation and this controversy is moving very, very quickly. You compare it to Watergate. I mean think about the months and months and months that proceeded with Watergate before you got even near the point we are now where the president says, 100 percent, I'll testify under oath. That is extraordinary.

I think that Donald Trump has been so unprecedented in so many ways, in office and as a candidate, that we risk losing sight of how historic this procession of events is going to be and how much it is likely to define his presidency.

DICKERSON: And, Ed, as Susan points out, there's, you know, and Senator Lankford said the president's obstruction question is still being investigated by the Senate Committee. In testimony, James Comey said that he was sure that that's what the special counsel would be investigating. So while the president is focusing on Comey telling him he's not being investigated, he seems to be facing a lot of this now. What's the reaction up on The Hill that was not being said publicly?

ED O'KEEFE, CBS NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think there's just this understanding, as Lindsey Graham so presciently described it, that he's - he's just self-inflicting himself with these wounds. And the more he stays quiet and just allows the legal process and the committee process to play out at this point, the better for him, and the more focused the White House can remain on the policy that congress is trying to enact.

It's important to remind folks at home, despite what you might see on TV and read in the papers, there was big work this week on rolling back financial regulatory reforms of the Obama era. Republicans are struggling to come up with a health care plan and may not be able to do it. And - and as Senator Graham alluded to, there is significant bipartisan work underway right now to get a sanctions bill passed that not only punishes Russia, but also Iran. Originally it was just going to punish Iran and the Democrats and some Republicans insisted on adding Russia. And the Senate now realizes they've got a real chance here for some significant bipartisan work.

But all that gets clouded by what will happen Tuesday when the attorney general testifies to the Intelligence Committee. And I think equally dramatically his deputy goes and talks to an appropriation subcommittee to explain himself as well. Every week there's probably going to be something like this, some public forum where it gets raised again and attention is put on it. Committee rooms and closed door meetings will be the centers of the drama on The Hill in the next few weeks.

DICKERSON: His Deputy Rod Rosenstein.

O'KEEFE: Right.

DICKERSON: Susan, let me ask you a question on the Rosenstein question here because James Comey testified - one of the most striking lines from him was that he said that the administration line at the FBI was - morale was bad and that - and that he had somehow been a bad leader he said was just an absolute lie. Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, in his letter to the president explaining why Comey had not done his job well, talked about those things. He said the credibility of the FBI had suffered damage. That the public trust about the FBI had suffered damage. So, James Comey, when he said there was lying, wasn't just talking about the president, he was talking about the deputy attorney general.

PAGE: That's right. Although it's certainly clear that there were a lot of questions raised about Comey's behavior as - as FBI director. It - he doesn't come to this with a reputation that is unsullied, especially when it comes to his handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation and his public comments about that.

That said, his standing within the FBI, with FBI staffers, with the agents with whom he works, seems to have been very strong. So this may be a case where Rod Rosenstein is - is correct in saying there was some erosion of public confidence in the FBI by Democrats, and also when Comey says that it is a lie - I think he said a lie, pure and simple, that his - that he - that he was leading an agency that had somehow been crippled -

DICKERSON: Yes.

PAGE: Because of his leadership.

DICKERSON: Another challenge for James Comey, David, is the fact that he leaked his own memos through a friend to the papers. Have we seen a bank shot like that before and what do you make of a bank shot like that? It's -

IGNATIUS: Well, it shows you that - that James Comey plays hardball. His decision after he had been fired to - to take this information and use what intelligence is known as a cutout, give it to a lawyer, who will give it to the - to the press, shows that he - he was going to put pressure, turn the screws for the appointment of a special counsel, and he - and he got what he wanted.

I don't think there's anything illegal in what he did, but I think it undermined his credibility if he's going to be a witness in this he said/he said drama going forward, it probably - probably hurt him a little bit.

Everybody's playing hardball now. The president is. The president's hired one of the toughest, you know, roughest, toughest lawyers around to argue his case in Marc Kasowitz. So we're going to - to the men (ph) all over the country, hunker down -

DICKERSON: Yes.

IGNATIUS: This is just beginning and it's - it's going to be a tough fight.

PAGE: You know, not - not illegal to leak it. In fact, not unusual. And, in fact, when I read that remarkable story in "The New York Times" I thought, oh Comey gave somebody his memo to leak.

DICKERSON: Yes.

PAGE: In fact, I thought quite possibly Comey leaked it himself. As somebody close to Comey, that is something I suspect all of us at this table have done at one point.

PACE: And I think important for - for readers and viewers to draw a distinction between leaks of classified information, which is something that the administration has been hammering, which is illegal, and political leaks, essentially, which is what Washington really thrives on, I mean what Comey did was pull back the curtain on something that is a fairly regular process in this town. It's not - it's not clean, it doesn't look pretty, but it's what happens day to day here.

IGNATIUS: But that process is what Donald Trump has been running against, and he has a lot of people out there who -

DICKERSON: Yes.

IGNATIUS: Who share his view that there's something wrong with it. You know, we journalist don't think there's anything wrong with it. It's part of how information - but there are a lot of people in the country who don't like it and so I think -

PACE: But no clean hands at the White House on leaking either.

IGNATIUS: Understood. I'm just saying, again, we're heading into - yes -

PACE: Into a messy season in - in which the charges are going to go back and forth. There are so many people in the country, look at Washington, the Washington we were describing, and don't like it.

DICKERSON: That's right. And this is a battle for public opinion. And so because if anything's going to happen to the president, it's going to have to happen in Congress. So people who don't like it, even if it doesn't fit the technical definition of something to be prosecuted, they don't like - it seems unseemly.

O'KEEFE: Yes, and I just - I thought it was fascinating how quickly everyone in Trump's orbit seized on the idea that he's a leaker. There is nothing inherently illegal about somebody sharing information with a reporter or leaking it, unless it's classified, and it looks like there may be an FBI policy that he violated by taking his work product home and then sharing it with a reporter. But, regardless, it wasn't classified information.

This is how Washington works. At least the old way. And I thought that was one of the most brilliant moments of the whole thing because it was really transparently describing to people at home, literally, this is how this works. You know, you see it in the paper. This is what I did to make that happen.

And I think the other important thing here is, he put into the public record now months of reports about how the president behaves as a boss. You wrote about this for "The Atlantic," that this was an HR document, essentially, and he was confirming a lot of what we heard about the way the president works. And the idea that people are fearful of confronting him in the moment about this stuff. That, for whatever reason, he is intimidating, or he, you know, somehow exudes something that stops people from telling him, sir, that's not a good idea.

DICKERSON: Can - we're going to take just a break here. Susan, I'll tee you up when we come back on the other side.

Everybody sit tight. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DICKERSON: And we're back with more from our politics panel.

Susan, you were going to say something before we left.

PAGE: You know, I was going to say, one of the big disclosures in the Comey testimony was that he, in fact, leaked - in effect, leaked this document to "The New York Times." And it struck me that this is exactly what happens when you have an investigation, and especially when you have people testifying under oath. The Senator Collins asked him the question that got answered, not even realizing, to her surprise, that he would turn out to be the leaker, and it's turned out to be perhaps the most damaging single thing for his part that he said during this hearing.

DICKERSON: Yes.

PAGE: This would show the risk, for instance, of Donald Trump's 100 percent guarantee that he is willing to testify under oath about this whole affair.

DICKERSON: Julie, do you think he's going to testify, the president?

PACE: I think if the president's lawyers have anything to say about it, then he - then he might not. But, you know, the president is someone who throws these things out there on the table and then we watch his staff and presumably his lawyers in this cases start to walk it back.

DICKERSON: Well, and we're going to step back and look at all the other things that happened this week. But, Ed, do you think, you know, everybody on The Hill wants him to testify. I don't think that's going to happen, do you?

O'KEEFE: Not to the Senate, I don't think. I think it's more likely he ends up talking to Robert Mueller. I can't imagine a forum in which he would come and talk to the Senate, as Senator Schumer offers. I'm - it's nice of him to ask, but I don't think that's the way it would happen.

DICKERSON: Before we move to the rest of the world, David, Attorney General Lynch from the Obama administration, also not some good news for her out of the - out of the Comey testimony, this idea that basically she told Comey to refer to the investigation and Hillary Clinton as the "matter" as opposed to an "investigation."

IGNATIUS: Yes, she seemed to be - to be trying to trim this for the political benefit of - of Secretary Clinton, and I think that - that harmed her reputation. And Comey was very firm in saying, this was a criminal investigation, it wasn't a matter. He pushed back pretty hard on that. So I think she will be called, as Senator Graham said, and that will be a - you know, she'll get grilled.

DICKERSON: Sessions will be appearing next week, Susan. What do you think of the attorney general - what do you think about his - what does next week hold for him?

PAGE: And Senator Lankford told - said in the interview that you just did that it's his assumption that will be in public. We all hope that will be the case because there is nothing more interesting than watching these - these - these - these hearings. It's important because for one thing we have the question about what was it that prompted James Comey, while he was FBI director, to conclude well before the fact that Session was going to have to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. We have some stories on that. But it would be interesting to hear what's going on. And also the question about why, after recusing himself, he felt free to participate in the firing of James Comey as FBI director. Those are both big questions.

DICKERSON: David, I want to ask you a question about this international dustup here. You've got the president praising the Arab nations that have cut ties with Qatar and his secretary of state and secretary of defense backing up Qatar because that's where the U.S. has a military base. How do we sort through all that?

IGNATIUS: I think this is a real disagreement about policy. I think Secretary of State Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Mattis are both concerned about the status of the biggest U.S. base in the Gulf, Al Udeid Air Base, in Qatar. They think it's crucial for the fight against ISIS and they want to see a mediated settlement of this dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the UAE, principally, other gulf states.

The president doesn't look at it that way. And he see - thinks this is an opportunity to push back against extremism, that Qatar arguably supports. Qatar's closer to Iran than most of the Gulf states. And, interestingly, I'm told the president is backed by H.R. McMaster, his national security advisor, and probably also by Mike Pompeo, CIA director. So there's a real difference of opinion. This morning, Tillerson spoke, I'm told, with the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The foreign minister of the UAE is coming to see Tillerson on Wednesday. So this is really rolling. And we're seeing a real disagreement.

DICKERSON: And, Julie, this disagreement, you mentioned the president kind of throws things out there. This came kind of in that fashion. He also said that his Department of Justice was pushing a watered down travel ban, an expression they had - were trying not to use because it had hurt him legally. He also picked a fight with the London mayor after the terrorist attacks there. These are - these are - these don't seem to be in his interest, these actions, all of them.

PACE: They don't. And it goes to show that even within the administration no one is safe. The president - the president is willing to call out his own Justice Department. He's willing to publicly disagree with his secretary of state. This dispute on Qatar happened very publicly. Secretary Tillerson was sitting in the front row of the news conference where the president got up and essentially said, I'm siding with the Saudis on this. I think this is a good thing that's happening here.

But, again, we have to get over this idea that the president is taking advice I think from people in his administration. He is his own man when he believes in an - in an issue. Whether it's going to politically backfire on him or not, if he believes that he's going to go out there often on Twitter.

DICKERSON: What do you think, Ed, is going to happen with health care in the Senate?

O'KEEFE: They're going to keep talking this week. They're going to - the goal is to get something done by the August recess and there is talk of possibly keeping Congress around a little longer in order to - to get it done. They need to get this out of the way because tax reform is really the one that they really want to get done at this point.

I think what they've realized is it's just too difficult to get 52 people -

DICKERSON: Yes.

O'KEEFE: With all of their ideological and geographic differences to agree on something.

DICKERSON: What do you think?

PAGE: I'm not counting against Mitch McConnell. And you know who - this - this whole furor about Russia and the hearings we had this week, a big gift to Mitch McConnell -

DICKERSON: Yes.

PAGE: Because it enabled him to make progress legislatively on the health care issue without anybody noticing because we were all paying in such - he invoked Senate rule number 14, which, as every Kansas schoolgirl knows, is the rule that enables you to bypass committee hearings, so he can just bring this to the floor and have the kind of vote without - without the kind of full debate that you would expect -

DICKERSON: Yes.

PAGE: But it will be far less ambitious than the House bill, remember that.

DICKERSON: David, we can't go without you helping us out. What's happening in Great Britain right now?

IGNATIUS: Well, what's happening is part of the political reordering that's taking place all over the world. In simple terms, it turns out that Theresa May is a worse campaigner than we knew. It turns out that Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour candidate, is a better campaigner. And I'm hearing from some of my British contacts, maybe, maybe, in this vote, there was a little bit of anti-Brexit sentiment, people thinking, you know, this is a way to say, we're not so happy about leaving Europe.

DICKERSON: All right, we're going to have to leave it there. Thanks to all of you. And we'll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DICKERSON: How we behave when no one is watching is a test of character. Under pressure, do you do the right thing? That question was at the center of James Comey's testimony this week, a Washington morality tale with an Oval Office encounter. A high pressure stage, the president once told us the story of a titan of business who was so awed by the Oval Office he broke down. James Comey said he felt pressured in the Oval Office to end his investigation into Michael Flynn. The president said he made no such request.

There are many disputed points. We don't know who is telling the truth because no one was watching. This highlights something essential about Washington, though, sooner or later, for people in power, it comes back to those tough solitary tests. The founders knew men would fail and designed a system to guard against it. The Senate Intelligence Committee was engaged in that protective service, making sure that when power and ambition are mixed, it doesn't lead to an abuse of power. We've seen it in presidents and FBI directors.

There are people in Washington who will face these tests or who are mulling ones they've just taken. And the question is, how strong are the standards you bring with you to the room where it happens? Do you keep your faith with the voters, to your oath, to your institution, to the lessons your mother taught you? Standards are what you bring to the character test. Those who keep them are admired, trusted and forgiven when they falter. But also in Washington, while it sometimes might seem that no one is watching, the hearing this week reminds that eventually everyone might be.

We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. For FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson.

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