Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on February 6, 2022

2/6: Rubio, Tyab, McMaster

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida
  • Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner
  • Retired General H.R. McMaster, former national security adviser

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."  

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington. And today on Face the Nation: alarming new intelligence reports about Russian plans for a large-scale invasion of Ukraine; and a stunning political split in the Republican Party, as former Vice President Mike Pence rebukes President Trump 13 months after the January 6 attack on the Capitol. 

(Begin VT) 

MIKE PENCE (Former Vice President of the United States): President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election. President Trump is wrong. 

 (End VT) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Then: The Beijing Winter Olympics are officially under way, but behind their elaborate effort to display international unity during the pandemic. China's leaders are under fire for their human rights abuses, cyberattacks, economic subterfuge, and their suspect alliances. Does the timing of the Olympics play into Russian President Vladimir Putin's plans for Ukraine? We will talk with Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio and the number two at Treasury, Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo. He is a key architect of President Biden's sanctions policies. 

Former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster will also join us. And we will have a report on the war games going on in and just outside of Ukraine. 

And America marks yet another COVID milestone, as our death toll reaches 900,000. We will talk with a former FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb. Plus, our conversation with parents about how the pandemic has taken its toll on their children. 

It's all just ahead on Face the Nation. 

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation. There is an overwhelming amount of news this morning, especially on the international front, but we want to start with two extraordinary developments that threaten to further divide the Republican Party and impact our democracy.

Late Friday, Republican National Committee members voted to censure Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their work on the committee investigating the attack on the Capitol and the attempt to overturn election results, saying the two were part of a -- quote -- "Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse." The former Vice President Mike Pence rebuked President Trump's insistence that Pence could have rejected the Electoral College results on January 6. 

(Begin VT) 

MIKE PENCE: I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone. And frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president. Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. 

 (End VT) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We begin with Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio. He is in Miami. Senator, we invited you to come on the show to talk about China. I want to get there, but I have to start here. Do you agree with Mike Pence? 

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R-Florida): Well, if President Trump runs for reelection, I believe he would defeat Joe Biden, and I don't want Kamala Harris to have the power as vice president to overturn that election. And I don't -- that's the same thing that I concluded back in January of 2021. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So Donald Trump was wrong? 

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, as I said, I just don't think a vice president has that power. 


SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Because, if a vice president has that power, Donald Trump would defeat Joe Biden in four years or two years, and then Kamala Harris can decide not -- to overturn the election. I don't want to wind up there. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, so yes. So this appears a turning point for the party, though. Does the RNC speak for you when it says that this is a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse? Was January 6 legitimate political discourse? 

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, anybody who committed crimes on January 6 should be prosecuted. If you entered the Capitol and you committed acts of violence, and you were there to hurt people, you should be prosecuted. And they are being prosecuted. But the January 6 commission is not the place to do this. That's what prosecutors are supposed to do. This commission is a partisan scam. They're going after -- they're -- the purpose of that commission is to try to embarrass and smear and harass as many Republicans as... 

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's what you believe... 

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: ... they can get their hands on. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: ... your two Republican colleagues are doing, Liz Cheney... 

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, I believe...

MARGARET BRENNAN: ... and Adam Kinzinger? 

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: ... what the commission is doing -- well, let me tell you, I know that's what the commission is doing, because they're focused well beyond January 6. There are people, for example, like in an older member of the RNC whose husband just died. And she wasn't even in Washington on January 6. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that's not what the censure said. 

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: She signed some papers. She wasn't even in Washington on January 6. She can't afford to lawyer up. And she's being harassed by this commission. This commission is nothing but a partisan tool designed to go out and smear and attack and get their hands on as many people as they can, including people that weren't in Washington on January 6.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, sounds like you say they do speak for you. Let's get to China.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, no, I told you where I stand on that commission. I think that commission is a scam.

I think it's a complete partisan scam. And I think anyone who committed a crime on January 6 should be prosecuted and, if convicted, put in jail. I do not believe that we need a congressional committee to harass Americans that weren't even in Washington on January 6, that were not in favor of what happened on that day, have condemned what happened on that day, but they want to smear them anyway. I'm against that, yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sources tell CBS News that Vladimir Putin has assembled about 70 percent of the forces that he would need for a full invasion of Ukraine. He could take the capital within just two days. As many as five million refugees would be driven into surrounding countries. He could do all this within 10 to 15 days of where we are right now. What impact do you see this happening -- having on the United States?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, the impact would begin by destabilizing Europe. This is the single greatest threat Europe has faced since the 1940s. And -- and, as you've pointed out, the refugee surge would be one. But I think this would have a global impact, because we're now all of a sudden once again living in a world in which countries and leaders can decide that something belongs to them and they go in and take it by force. And there are plenty -- there are multiple countries in Europe that have complaints about treaties that were signed over 100 years ago in some cases. We know how China claims its claims on Taiwan. It has territorial disputes with India on its borders. So, if we now live in a world where you can just go in and take a country because you claim it or parts of it belong to you, and you can do so militarily, well, we've entered a very dangerous period in human history once again. So I think it has enormous consequences if -- if and when that happens.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden has made clear he won't use U.S. combat troops. He will use sanctions, financial warfare. Given how Xi Jinping, the president of China, embraced Russia's President Vladimir Putin just in the past few days, do you see this as a way that these two countries can just blunt the impact of U.S. sanctions?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: I want it to be clear. There is no U.S. combat role in Ukraine. There isn't going to be one. I don't know of anyone who supports it, not even the Ukrainians. That said, I think that Vladimir Putin has to pay a high price if he does this, not just for him to pay the price, but for other countries to see the high price of doing that kind of thing and other leaders. And I think that price should be, A, his economy should be crippled and hurt badly. That will require unity, not just from the Europeans, but other countries around the world, but beginning with the Europeans. If they're not going to impose those sanctions and stick with them, then that -- then -- over -- over time, he will be able to blunt it. But the other thing that's going to happen is, the easiest part for him is going to be the invasion. The harder part is going to be the occupation. Ukrainians are not going to welcome him with roses. He's going to have to explain to Russian mothers why their sons keep coming home injured, killed and maimed from this occupation. If any country on Earth knows how painful and difficult it is to occupy a country that doesn't want you there for a substantial period of time, it should be us, with our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As I mentioned, this alliance between Russia and China seems to be building. On China itself, more than one million Muslim -- mostly Muslim minorities are in detention camps in China. According to the State Department, they're subject to forced sterilization, abortions, rape, torture, forced labor, restrictions on prayer, restrictions on movement. I know you've been working to try to restrict imports made by forced labor inside these camps. But is it really possible to clean up the supply chain, because China is such an economic behemoth here?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, a couple of things that we need to do. The first is, we need to do this, no matter what, because this country has to be a country that makes things again. If we've learned anything over the last couple of years is that there -- you have to have a manufacturing and industrial capability. And you can't be dependent on foreign supply chains entirely, especially those located in a place like China, because of a pandemic, a war or out of leverage against us. You could be cut off and create an economic crisis. But the second is, we've passed that bill. We passed a bill that says, if something is made in a factory in that part of China, we are going to presume it's made by slave labor, and not allow it into the country, unless companies can prove that that's not the case.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which companies are the worst abusers on this front?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: I think there are many American companies, like Nike and others, that have definitely benefited from the supply chain that's located in that part of the world. And the list could be even more extensive than that because, there are people that are buying from subcontractors. Many of them know they're sourcing material from that area. But they have continued or continue to allow it to happen. And so we saw the lobbying efforts of Apple, of Nike and other -- and others just represented through chambers arguing that this would raise the costs for consumers. But, ultimately, it's slave labor.


SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: And it's a horrific genocide.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, and Tesla just opened a showroom in the province where these camps are located. I mean, American businesses still seem to be more than willing to try to tap the Chinese market.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, it's one of the largest markets, the second largest market in the world and, in some industries, the largest. I understand the profit motive behind it. And that's fine. But -- but I understand their view of it. That's their agenda. But our agenda has to be the national interests of the United States, not to mention what's right or wrong in the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about what's happening on U.S. soil. The FBI director, Chris Wray, gave a pretty extraordinary speech last week, saying China and its threat here in the United States is greater than it's ever been before. He said China is actually targeting people inside the U.S. Listen to this.

(Begin VT)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY (FBI Director): We're seeing the Chinese government resort to blackmail, threats of violence, stalking and kidnappings. They've actually engaged criminal organizations in the U.S., offering them bounties, in hopes of successfully taking targets back to China.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you combat that kind of espionage on U.S. soil without the United States itself becoming a surveillance state?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, it's difficult. It's not easy. And it's a new threat that we face.

But what he's pointing to there is the example of a Uyghur. Let's say there's a Uyghur in the United States who's involved in speaking out against those abuses that are going on in China. They are trying to lure those people to come back to China. And the way they do it is, they threaten their family over there. But they might even align themselves with some sort of a triad group or some street gang of that nature in order to go and personally try to intimidate these people. They have sent people to this country to do that sort of thing as well, to harass and intimidate. Whether it's the Uyghur issue or general political topics as well, if you're speaking out against China and you're a national, a Chinese national or former Chinese national, you have families back over there, they try to harass you through your family over there, and increasingly directly here. And so I think the first step is to sort of reveal it and call it out and do what the director just did. I think the second step is to expel these people. Once we've identified that some agent of influence from China is on U.S. soil, going after people living in this country and trying to intimidate them, those people should be immediately expelled from the country, even if they're here under diplomatic cover or, in many cases, they're here under business cover.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But is enough being done on this front?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, I think there's now a growing awareness on this. This is a new thing that's emerged over the last few years that they've become more and more aggressive about it. So it remains to be seen. I mean, we've got to do more. And I think more needs to be done at the local level. Look, if you go into a local police department in this country, and you tell them there's a Chinese agent operating in your community, that's something they've never dealt with before. I don't think there's a lack of willingness to address it. I just think it's something that we don't have a lot of experience addressing it. But we have to, because it's happening, and it's real. And every year, it gets worse.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And can you do it without impacting the rights of Chinese Americans or Chinese nationals who are living here? 


In fact, it's Chinese nationals living here that are being threatened and intimidated. And one of the great threats that exists there is some -- many of them are hesitant to come forward and report what's happening to them, to the authorities, because they're specifically told not to do so or their family are going to be harmed. So, I think we've got to develop greater trust. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Senator Rubio, thank you for your time this morning.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Thank you. Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now to the crisis in Ukraine and the increasing signs that Vladimir Putin plans a full-scale invasion. Sources tell CBS News that civilian casualties could go as high as 100,000. Our Imtiaz Tyab reports from Kyiv.

(Begin VT)

IMTIAZ TYAB (voice-over): These are the colors of a country preparing for war. The residents of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, filled the streets with patriotic pride. Most here are Russian-speaking and live close to the border with Russia. 

But fear of a Vladimir Putin-led invasion has unleashed a new sense of national unity here. At Chernobyl, a city no stranger to disaster, the Ukrainian military ran drills to protect critical infrastructure, while in the capital, Kyiv, civilians are being taught how to fight. 

The Kremlin continues to insist it has no plans to attack, despite amassing roughly 110,000 battle-ready troops along Ukraine's borders, while, at the same time, accusing the U.S. of trying to goad it into war.

(End VT) IMTIAZ TYAB: Now, there's no shortage of support for Ukraine, from military hardware to diplomacy, from Washington, the E.U., and others, but what happens next all depends on Vladimir Putin -- Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Imtiaz Tyab, thank you. Face the Nation will be back one minute.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Wally Adeyemo is the deputy treasury secretary of the United States, and he's here with me now. Good morning to you. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: As we've been talking about this latest intelligence shows Russia has all these forces mounted and could launch this large scale, full scale invasion. The impact would be huge in terms of refugee crisis and casualties. What would the impact of the global economy be?

DEPUTY SEC. ADEYEMO: So, MARGARET, I'm of course, not going to talk about the intelligence, but I want to talk about what we plan to do if Russia were to invade. When we started seeing Russian troops amassed near the Ukrainian border, the president asked Secretary Yellen and I to start having conversations with our allies in Europe to ensure that we would be in a place where we could launch economic sanctions against Russia if they were to invade. We have designed a set of economic sanctions that would take on the Russian financial system, limit President Putin's ability to project power into the future by cutting them off from key technologies and cutting off key elites from the Russian economy. To your question of what would be the impact on the global economy if Russia were to invade, we're already starting to see it. The Russian economy is already suffering from the- from the- from the moment that President Putin started to take these actions. The ruble is having the worst performance of- among- among emerging economies thus far this year. You're looking at their borrowing costs increase. And what we would see is we would see Russia's economy suffer if they were to take an action to invade Ukraine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what would the spillover be if you have a refugee crisis in the middle of Europe, if you have this kind of disruption? Does that spike energy prices? What does it do?

DEPUTY SEC. ADEYEMO: So, MARGARET, one of the things that we have done is we're working very closely with our allies in Europe to make sure that we're in a position to help meet their need for energy. A number of our colleagues have worked closely with them. We're also taking steps to prepare for a potential refugee crisis. But the key is the choice belongs to President Putin. He can make the choice of going down the route of diplomacy and dialogue with the United States and NATO. Or he can take the consequences of invasion, which will include severe economic consequences for his economy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But how effective can U.S. and Western sanctions be if Russia is just going to move closer to China, as we're seeing?

DEPUTY SEC. ADEYEMO: So, MARGARET, I was in the Obama administration in 2014 when we took actions against Russia in response to their invasion of Ukraine. We've learned a great deal of lessons, and what I can tell you is the actions that we would take if Russia were to invade Ukraine this time would be far more significant. And it's up to President Putin if he wants to become dependent on China going forward. What I'll tell you is that China can't give Russia what they don't have. There are critical technologies that Russia is dependent on the United States and our allies on, technologies that Russia, that China does not have access to. Russian elites who we would cut off from the global financial system are not putting their money in China. They're putting their money in Europe and in the United States. And those elites, those who are helping President Putin make these decisions, we would cut them and their families off from the global financial system in ways that would limit their ability to do business in the ways they've done it in the past.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that would, by putting pressure on the oligarchs and the elites, as you called them, around Vladimir Putin, you think that would put more pressure on Vladimir Putin than sanctioning him directly?

DEPUTY SEC. ADEYEMO: We think that the range of actions that we are prepared to take with regard to- with the United States and with Europe would have a significant impact on President Putin, on those close to him as well. When you think about it, the reason that we're taking actions with Europe is because, while on a daily basis Russian financial solutions do about $46 billion worth of financial transactions around the world, 80% of those transactions are in dollars. So they are connected to the US financial system. But their biggest trading partners are in Europe. More than $200 billion of trade is with Europe each year. Forty percent of Russia's trade is with Europe on a regular basis. By the United States and Europe acting together, we put ourselves in a position where we not only would have an impact on the overall Russian economy, but we'd have a direct impact on President Putin, who is tied to the Russian economy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, well, Germany is very tied to the Russian economy. We know the German chancellor is sitting down with President Biden tomorrow. Are they the weakest link in this united front you're trying to forge? And Nord Stream Two and sanction, those seem to be inevitable at this point?

DEPUTY SEC. ADEYEMO: MARGARET, we've worked very closely with the German government. As you know, the new chancellor in Germany used to be the Finance Ministry, where I spent a great deal of time talking to his colleagues. And the Germans have worked with us closely in terms of building the sanctions package we would implement if Russia were to take these actions. They've helped produce ideas that are part of the things that we would implement to that point. What I can say about Nord Stream Two is that if Russia were to invade Ukraine, Nord Stream Two would never go online. In addition to working closely with Germany, we work closely with the EU and a design- designed a range of sanctions that would have significant impact on the Russian economy. It's important to, while we oppose Nord Stream Two, the key for us is making sure that we take far more significant actions in addition to Nord Stream Two in order to make sure the Russian economy suffers the consequences if Russia decides to invade. But as I've said, the choice belongs to President Putin. He can choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue or choose a path that leads to the Russian economy suffering not only for tomorrow, but suffering over the long term and limiting his ability to project power into the future.

MARGARET BRENNAN: China's incredibly fast growing economy. You're 13 months into this presidency. Why don't we have a Biden administration China strategy?

DEPUTY SEC. ADEYEMO: MARGARET, it's important to remember that China's economy is growing very fast. But China has had a very challenging last year in terms of their economy, and one of the things the president said was that he was going to focus initially on investing in the American economy and building relations with our allies. And that succeeded. The US economy has grown significantly faster over the last year than any economy in the world. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And so has inflation. So do you need to reconsider the tariffs on China in order to alleviate some of that inflation?

DEPUTY SEC. ADEYEMO: So, as you know, MARGARET, inflation is a global challenge. It's not only something that we face in the United States. It's something that Europe faces and the UK faces, and in talking to my allies and partners, the things that they tell me is that they are envious of the fact that we come at this challenge from a position of strength rather than weakness. Last year, as you know, the US economy created 6.6 million jobs and the economy grew faster than at any point in 40 years. And- but we do need to address high prices. It's something that impacts the American people, and the primary responsibility for doing that belongs to the Fed. And we believe in the Fed and the Fed's independence and chairman Powell has laid out a path for addressing this. 


DEPUTY SEC. ADEYEMO: But the administration is also committed to doing what we need to do to address inflation from helping supply chains. And we've already started to see that the backlogs in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have come down now that they're moving at 24- 24 hours a day. We're also starting to also see that companies are building up inventories because supply chains have gotten better. And you spoke about the jobs numbers that came out this month, which were historically high. But the most important thing to me was also that you saw a number of Americans who came back into the labor force, which- because when I talked to small businesses in the country, the CEOs,--


DEPUTY SEC. ADEYEMO: —the biggest, one of the biggest challenges they face is they need employees, —

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. It's- it's—

DEPUTY SEC. ADEYEMO: —so getting more people in.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. It's a huge challenge we've been following on the program. Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Secretary, for your time today. We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to former National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster. Good morning to you. I think he's.... 


GEN. H.R. MCMASTER (Former U.S. National Security Adviser): I feel like I'm back in the Army on Army Radio.

MARGARET BRENNAN: H.R. McMaster, you are -- you're on live television. Can you hear me?

GEN. H.R. MCMASTER: Margaret, can you hear me OK?

MARGARET BRENNAN: I can. So... GEN. H.R. MCMASTER: They can hear me, right?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, we are having some audio issues there. So I'm going to ask you a real quick question. We're going to take a break, and we're going to come back. Do you agree with the former vice president that Donald Trump was wrong about the 2020 election?


GEN. H.R. MCMASTER: Good. Good.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, I'm going to take a break here, because I don't think H.R. can hear me.

So, stay with us, all of you. We will be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And stick with us, because we will be back in a moment with former National Security Adviser retired General H.R. McMaster, and then a conversation with former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, and a chat with parents who are really experiencing COVID through their children. Stay with us. We will have a lot more Face the Nation in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: With the Olympic games underway in Beijing, Elizabeth Palmer has a look at how the Chinese Communist Party has tightened control and expanded surveillance, all under the guise of public health.


ELIZABETH PALMER (voice over): After apparently straying to the edge of the approved zone, the IOC says it was an isolated incident, but it does show that rules in Beijing are strict. They kicked in as soon as athletes and officials landed. They were Covid tested and then sealed into what's meant to be an infection-free bubble with special buses to take them around.

Athletes are tested twice a day. Also had to download a monitoring app. The Chinese government has stuck to its zero Covid policy, placing millions of people under strict lockdowns, even in modest outbreaks. It reports a death toll of just over 4,500 people.

But in a country of 1.4 billion, western health analysts believe that number is just too low. Chinese officials say their success in large measure rests on this tracking app, an electronic big brother that sits on everyone's phone and tracks Covid cases and exposure. It's literally the key to entering buildings, taking cabs, or traveling.

Typical of the people we asked, this couple said they're fine with that. Maybe so, but on top of the vast network of facial recognition cameras, it's given Chinese authorities a new super-surveillance tool to monitor and meddle in more than a billion lives.


PALMER: Given the power and the reach of a prickly Chinese state, U.S. officials have counseled American athletes not to criticize China while they're at the games and to stay safe. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Liz Palmer, thank you. We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to former FDA commissioner and Pfizer board member, Dr. Scott Gottlieb. Good morning to you, doctor.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Nine hundred thousand Americans have died over the last two years from COVID. That's the population of Indianapolis, greater than the population of San Francisco, Charlotte, North Carolina. Where are we now as a country in this fight?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, look, we're still tragically in this fight. I think when you look across the country right now, you see the cases declining very quickly all across the country. In almost every state, if you look week over week, cases have declined sharply. So we're a good part of the way through this Omicron wave. If you look at places like New York, New Jersey, Maryland, cases are down to about 20 to 30 cases per 100,000 people per day, which is a low level. That's about where we were before the delta surge. Other parts of the country are still at about 100 cases per 100,000 people per day. One hundred and forty you look at states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, right now, Oklahoma, they're about at that level. So some parts of the country still are in the thick of their Omicron wave, coming down, but still in the thick of it. Other parts like New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Boston, if you look at some of the leading indicators have come way down and I think that they're through the worst of this particular wave of infection.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're hearing from governors, there was a bipartisan group of them that met with President Biden just in the past few days, saying they want guidelines to talk about moving from pandemic to an endemic stage here. And yet we're at 2,400 deaths a day. That doesn't feel like we're close to the end.

DR. GOTTLIEB: No, it doesn't feel like that, and we're not close to the end right now, depending on how you measure that. I think that this is going to be a long struggle. This is a virus that's going to be persistent. We're going to have to continue to take measures to protect vulnerable people. I think what governors are agitating for is some clear guideposts that define what the on and off ramp is for this. When do we start to roll back this mitigation? And we don't have a agreed upon a set of nomenclature and metrics for measuring that. If you look at CDC right now, many state authorities and public health authorities talk about 10 cases per 100,000 people per day being a metric that rates you being in sort of a low level of spread. If you look at CDC's guidance, they talk about 10 cases per 100,000 people per week. So that's 1.44 cases a day. That's a level of spread, a sufficiently low level of spread, that we've never been at at any point in this pandemic. And that's where CDC defines a low level of spread that would justify removing masks, for example, in schools. And so I think what governors are sensing is that we need to- we need to agree upon a set of metrics when we're going to start to roll back these mitigation steps and give people a light at the end of the tunnel. What is that point when this stuff gets turned off?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you talk about clear steps and masks. The governor of Virginia, we talked about on this program, you know, lifted the mask mandate for schools and he on January 2nd 20- excuse me, on January 23rd when I asked you what should be done here, you said that was too early, but in two weeks we'd be in a place where mask mandates could be lifted. So that puts us right where we are right now. Can mask mandates be lifted in most schools?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Look, I think you're going to see governors start to do that. I think we're two weeks out, we've seen prevalence come down. Connecticut, their mask mandate is - expires on February 15th. I would expect that that's not going to be renewed, and schools in the state of Connecticut will very quickly lift mask requirements for students. I think you're going to see the same thing in New York, New Jersey, other states where Omicron has come down, where vaccination rates are especially high. I think you're going to see states do that. And we're at a point where we can safely contemplate that. That doesn't mean that this isn't going to continue to spread. But when prevalence is low, you have a lot of people who've been infected who have some level of immunity for a period of time and you have high vaccination rates, we can start to lean forward and take a little bit more risk and try to at least make sure that students in schools have some semblance of normalcy for this spring term. A lot of kids haven't really known a normal school day for two years now, so we want to- we need to try to lean forward aggressively to try to restore that and reclaim it when we can.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But then I'm a parent of a young child who doesn't have access to a vaccine yet. I don't want to take a mask off of his face. When will he be vaccinated? I mean, the FDA said they want to reconsider their earlier guidance, and now they are looking at two doses. First week of March, do I go into a pediatric- pediatrician's office and get a shot?

DR. GOTTLIEB: It's possible, look, the decision is ultimately going to reside with the FDA. The briefing documents on the data that the FDA is going to review are going to be out this Friday. The agency is going to have an advisory committee, a public advisory committee on February 15th. After that, I would expect that they'll make a decision on the vaccine for children ages six months to four years old, and they have a lot more data to evaluate. I think when people see that data come out, some of it will be out Friday in the briefing documents. All of it will be out in a public advisory committee meeting. I think that they'll see that the data package has evolved from when they first looked at it back in December. And what's happened over that intervening time is Omicron. 11.4 million children have been infected through this- through this pandemic, 3.5 million of them were infected in just the month of January, and that was Omicron, and there were 1.6 million kids under the age of five infected over the course of the pandemic. So we now have a lot of experience of the kids in that trial who were vaccinated, who made it through the Omicron wave and we'll be able to evaluate how protective that vaccine was.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you used to run the FDA, but do you think the FDA made a mistake by not authorizing this back in December, when they had the first chance to do so?

GOTTLIEB: Look, I always felt that it was important to get baseline immunity in those children. Remember, Pfizer, the company I'm on the board of, made a decision to test low doses in children ages six months to five years old because they wanted to find the lowest dose possible that provided some immune response but improved tolerability. By choosing a very low dose in the children, it's a three microgram dose compared to a 30 microgram dose in adults, you improve the tolerability of the vaccine. But the sacrifice was that the absolute efficacy of the vaccine wasn't as substantial as what you saw in 16 to 25, and that's the data they were looking at back in December. They saw that the immune response wasn't as substantial, so they wanted to wait and see how those kids did. I still believe it was important to get baseline immunity in children ahead of the Omicron wave. They chose not to do that. I think they now have an opportunity to look at a much richer data set because they have the collective experience of all the kids who are enrolled in this trial who made it through Omicron. Some got infected, hopefully some didn't. I think that's what the data package is going to show. And I think it's going to give a much clearer picture of what the effectiveness of this vaccine is in Omicron.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And then the open question is how many parents choose to take advantage of that vaccine being accessible. Dr. Gottlieb, it's always good to talk to you, and we'll catch up with you next Sunday. We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Last week we spoke with a group of parents to get their perspective on parenting during the pandemic and the prospect of soon being able to get very young children vaccinated.


KYLIE, VIRGINIA DEMOCRAT: A few of the daycare moms and I have made a joke about like waiting in line for it like a concert. Basically, who's bringing the tent?

KEVIN, VIRGINIA REPUBLICAN: Well, I mean, my son has had Covid. You know, he's been through -- through it, and it was pretty rough. I -- I know what I felt like when I got the vaccine. For a three-year-old to communicate what they really are feeling, and if there's a problem, can they actually do that? I -- I don't think they can. That's part of the reason why we want to wait.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Kam, how about you? How have you fared and how have your children fared during the pandemic?

KAM, TEXAS REPUBLICAN: So, my son's 13. So, you know, he started at a new school right when it started. I still think he's, you know, sort of playing catch-up and trying to get back to some level of normalcy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Did the vaccine make a tremendous difference in -- in his life or in your psychology?

KAM: Absolutely, because you always want to do anything you possibly can to protect your child. And, unfortunately, I lost my best friend, who opted to not get vaccinated, prior to my son being able to get vaccinated. So, as soon as it was an option for him to be able to get the vaccine -- he was 12 when he got it -- there wasn't any hesitation on my part.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Alejandro, your children are a little bit older. What was your conversation about the need to get vaccinated or not?

ALEJANDRO, NEW YORK DEMOCRAT: My kids are -- my kids really -- are really prevent (ph), verging on the hypochondriac. So they got vaccinated as soon as they were eligible. I didn't have to push them at all. If anything, they pushed me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, I mean, how did that make you feel as the parent?

ALEJANDRO: It made me feel safer. We were not given the (INAUDIBLE). I wasn't worried about them dying of Covid. But I was worried about them having the flu from hell and having any long-term consequences of that flu from hell.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do all of you, and do all of your children, wear masks? Raise your hand. And they all wear masks when they go to school? Are any of you -- like, do any of you hope that they get to take off that mask soon, or is it just normal now?

ALEJANDRO: My middle child is going to college. And they -- at colleges, they really have a nasty mental health crisis. It's not made up. And the Covid restrictions have a lot to do with that. It's masking, the social distancing, the asking for -- the having to get tested twice a week, and so on and so forth. It's really taxing (ph) and it's really affecting their social lives. It's driving some of them pretty crazy, I guess.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Allison, I want you to jump in here because I think you've got a pretty interesting point of view. You are actually a pediatrician. Are you concerned about development with young children given all the restrictions we're living under? Do you think that's a valid worry from parents?

ALLISON, INDIANA REPUBLICAN: I do, especially for our teenage children. As far as the little ones go, I am not quite so concerned because these little ones are so resilient. So I think it's less of a concern than the big kids. But, yes, I think it's -- it's definitely an issue. I see it in my own daughter with -- she's in first grade, and in kindergarten she was wearing a mask all year and it wasn't an issue. And at the beginning of this year they didn't have them wearing masks and she was thrilled, of course. And then with the upsurge in the new variant, they had them return to masks and she just cried. She was devastated. So it really brought it kind of into more perspective to me that, I mean, this -- this is hard for them. It affects them so much more than we realize sometimes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you hear the term "children are resilient," do you think that's a positive way of characterizing things or does it anger you a little bit?

KYLIE: It's not that I don't think children are resilient. I just think sometimes there's such a focus on them being resilient and having grit that they don't get a chance to, like, actually feel their emotions because they're too busy shoving them down to show grit and resilience. The very young, they don't have a lot of memories, but they do have -- there are subconscious things that stick with them. They're going to need to feel their feelings, and we're going to need to give them the grace to do so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's a really, I think, important observation.

Kam, what's your feeling on this?

KAM: We have a generation of youth, you know, that are missing opportunities and experiences that they're never going to be able to have again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Show of hands, who thinks that we can kind of make up for lost time? No one. Who thinks we can repair whatever impact there has been to our children? Caleb, you're hopeful here.

CALEB, OREGON DEMOCRAT: Yes, I am, because with my -- with my three-year- old, this is a new thing that none of us have ever had to go through. But I think this is just normative for them moving forward, so they won't know that it's not, like, the same as what we had.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sidney, I know your children have experienced things as kind of a stop-start. How has that impacted them?

SIDNEY (ph): They were 12 and 14. That's a really crucial time. So, for my daughter, who is a little bit more quiet anyway, it -- we had to make sure she came out of her room. And we could kind of see her closing down, tensing up. And, you know, so we could go into how can we help her mode? My son is a little bit more happy-go-lucky, and so he seemed to be taking everything in stride. So, it was clear he wasn't. Like, he was a 12-year- old who had, like, a three-year-old meltdown one day. He just ran out of the house yelling. You know, and -- and it was a -- you know, we were worried.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, Kam, I know you had some difficulty seeing the -- what the impact was of isolation on your son.

KAM: A couple months into it, he was just breaking down occasionally. And he finally wrote me a letter and said that he was concerned about when I wasn't going to be around, which was shocking because you see all this, like, death and gloom all around you. It's been much better now that he's back at school, but that first six to nine months, it definitely affected him emotionally.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That must have been really hard to hear as a parent.

KAM: Oh, absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do all of you feel like your emotional health has been impacted by Covid? Show of hands. All of you do. Do you think that impacts your ability to parent?

KYLIE: The CDC kept saying, that's -- that's how you protect your child is you make sure everybody around them is vaxxed and boosted, because neither of my kids' grandmothers will get vaccinated. So, they haven't seen her since she was a year old. It was a -- and it was a hard conversation to have with my own mother, I must say. And then there came omicron, and it didn't seem to matter that we were vaccinated and boosted. It was coming for you anyway. And so now that's part of the paranoia, almost, right now. Yes, I'm going to get Marcy (ph) vaccinates as soon as possible, but now I don't think of the vaccine as the way out anymore.


MARGARET BRENNAN: A painful conversation. But we hope to have a conversation with H.R. McMaster, who's finally up on the line, in a moment. So, stick with us. We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to former National Security Adviser retired Gen. H.R. McMaster, who is with us from Palo Alto, California. Good morning to you and I understand you can hear me now. So that's good. I want to go-

GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER: Good morning, MARGARET. It's great to be with you. Thanks for your perseverance. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. Well, let's pick up on that question I put to you. Do you agree with the former Vice President Mike Pence, that Donald Trump was wrong in what he claims about the 2020 election?

GEN. MCMASTER: Absolutely, and all Americans should agree with Vice President Pence and you- it's time, MARGARET, I think, to demand more from our political leaders, demand that they stop compromising confidence in our democratic principles and institutions and processes to score partisan political points. And as you know, this happens across both political parties and it's just time to stop.

MARGRET BRENNAN: And you do you believe January 6th  was in any way legitimate political discourse?

GEN. MCMASTER: No, it was- it was illegitimate political discourse because it was an assault on the first branch of government. And so I think it's really important for us to come together now, MARGARET. And you know, I mean, I really think it is possible to improve the transparency in the security of our elections while ensuring that every eligible voter gets to vote. So I think what we need to do is stop posturing across these political parties and begin conversations with what we can agree on. I mean, your show has been great. I got to listen to the whole thing to be here at the end, but it is pretty clear that we are emerging from a number of traumas of the past couple of years, and it's time for Americans to come together and to restore our confidence in who we are as a people and in our democratic principles and institutions and processes. And of course, Russia preys on our weaknesses in the divisions and tries to portray democracy as weak. But you know, MARGARET, I believe that totalitarianism is fragile and weak and democracies are resilient and we can work together and- and come out of these traumas stronger.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for your clarity on those questions. General, the Trump administration back in 2018 was the first to give lethal aid to Ukraine, the anti-tank systems. It didn't deter Vladimir Putin from what appears to be a plan to invade. Why not?

GEN. MCMASTER: Well, who knows what it deterred more, it's hard to- it's hard to prove a negative. Of course, Russia will push, Putin will push until he meets strong resistance. And so what we really need and what you're starting to see, I think, is deterrence by denial. Convincing Putin that he can no longer accomplish objectives through the use of force. And- and so if- if his objective is to divide NATO, what he needs to see is a NATO who comes together with it- with a stronger and higher degree of unity. If he wants to, if he wants to weaken Ukraine and keep it under its thumb, he's going to see obviously, a rise of nationalist sentiment in Ukraine. And Ukraine is doing everything they can to strengthen themselves, not only militarily but also economically. And what I'd like to do is see the whole world amplify the Ukrainians' voices and actually support them militarily, but also economically as well. And you know, MARGARET, I think what you see this past week is some anxiety on the part of Ukrainian leaders because as Russia continues to prepare for what looks like a renewed, massive offensive against Ukraine's port, remember they already invaded Ukraine.


GEN. MCMASTER: Seven thousand Ukrainians have already died as a result. So I think we need to help Ukraine economically as well, as well as threaten Russia with economic consequences. What can we do to help strengthen Ukraine in the face of this crisis?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, what do you think is the impact then of this growing alliance between Russia and China, and you know, is China going to be emboldened by what happens next in Europe?

GEN. MCMASTER: I think possibly depending on how we respond, and of course, China already is more and more aggressive in terms of extending and tightening its exclusive grip on power internally, you've seen how they've gone across sectors of the economy, continuing the genocidal campaign in Xinjiang, extinguishing human freedom in Hong Kong, persecuting journalists and anybody who might criticize the Chinese government during the Olympics have been intimidated or or imprisoned. And then, of course, externally as well, Margaret and we've seen them bludgeon Indian soldiers to death on the Himalayan frontier. You're weaponizing these islands in the South China Sea. Now they're painting some of their naval ships Coast Guard colors so they can claim really the biggest land grab in history in the South China Sea. And then, of course, Taiwan is probably the most dangerous flashpoint, and we've seen how aggressive they've been there as well. So it's really important, I think, for the free world to come together to strengthen again our confidence and to communicate to these totalitarian regimes that they can't accomplish their objectives at our expense.

MARGARET BRENNAN: H.R. McMaster, I have much more to talk to you about on China. I'm going have to leave it right there for this moment, though, that's going to be up for us today at FACE THE NATION. Thank you for sticking with us through some bumps. We'll see you next week.


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