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Face the Nation December 10, 2017 Transcript

JOHN DICKERSON, HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: President Trump's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel sparks violent protests in the Middle East.

Plus, forced resignations over sexual misconduct rattle Congress, as work begins to clean up a messy tax bill in the rush to get it to the president's desk by Christmas.

There is fury in the Arab world today and concern for American citizens' safety overseas, as criticism from U.S. allies over the administration's plan to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem threatens to further deteriorate the view of the U.S. role around the world.

We will talk to U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Back at home, members of Congress push three of their colleagues accused of sexual misconduct out. But with two days until the Senate special election in Alabama, will accused child molester Roy Moore be in?


ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I did not date underage women. I did not molest anyone. And so these allegations are false.


DICKERSON: Democrats are hoping Doug Jones can turn out the African-American vote and are attacking Moore's character.


NARRATOR: Think about it. Has Roy Moore ever looked you in the eye told you the truth?


DICKERSON: Senate Republicans still refuse to support Moore, but the president is all in, campaigning near Alabama and recording a robo-call on Moore's behalf.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, get out and vote for Roy Moore.


TRUMP: Do it. Do it.


DICKERSON: We will talk to Maine's Republican Senator Susan Collins and the number two Democrat in the Senate, Illinois' Richard Durbin, about the politics of sexual misconduct in Congress and efforts to clean up a sprawling tax bill that has sparked more questions than answers.

We will also have plenty of analysis, both foreign and domestic, on all the news this week.

It's just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

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

We want to begin with a look at the reaction to the president's decision on Jerusalem.

CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports.


SETH DOANE, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: This is the entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. Damascus Gate has historically been a flash point for violence.

It is calm today, but additional security is in place. And there is a worrying development this morning. Unrest is pushing beyond Israel's borders.

(voice-over): In Lebanon today, security forces fired tear gas and used water cannons to push back pro-Palestinian protesters in front of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Those demonstrators threw objects and lit fires to register their anger over President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In Cairo, there was serious diplomatic blowback at an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers, who criticized Mr. Trump's decision, saying it threatens to push the region to the edge of the abyss of violence, chaos and bloodshed.

After days of clashes, protests continue, while funerals for some of those killed in Gaza revealed a dangerous mix of anger and grief. Israel's military announced today it destroyed what it called a significant terrorist tunnel.

In the past, Hamas used tunnels to move weapons, supplies and to carry out surprise attacks.

(on camera): Today, the military wing of Hamas made an ominous statement, saying that the next few days would prove to the world what a mistake the U.S. decision had been, and warned not to underestimate the will of the Palestinian resistant.


DICKERSON: And we turn now to U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. She joins us from New York.

Welcome, Madam Ambassador.

I want to start. You have seen the violence in response to the U.S. decision on the embassy. There's a lot of tension in the Middle East. With all that's going on and all that the U.S. has to deal with there, why was this a priority and in America's national interest to make this move right now?


Well, first of all, this is a move the American people had asked for, for 22 years. And six months ago, the Senate overwhelmingly again asked for the embassy to be moved.

And I think you have to look at the fact that every presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat, has all said that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the embassy should be moved.

President Trump is the only one that had the courage to actually do that. And so what this does is basically do what we do in almost every other country, which is put the embassy in the capital city.

And Jerusalem is where the prime minister is, the president is, the Parliament, the Supreme Court. It makes sense for our embassy to be there.

DICKERSON: Given all that's happening in the world, why is it a priority to do this right now, and why the -- and why is it worth paying the price of the increased violence?

HALEY: Because it's the right thing to do. It is absolutely the right thing to do.

And, look, for the last 22 years, everyone around every president has said, just wait, just wait, just wait. And President Trump is not going to wait anymore.

DICKERSON: But explain why it's the right thing to do.

HALEY: It's the right thing to do because it's just reality. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

They have said that. When the American people say they want something, it is -- it's their will that we're supposed to follow.

DICKERSON: But, in this case, the U.S. is, critics believe, changing its role. It's stepping in more forcefully on the side of Israel, and that that sends signal that is not going to make things better.

So, explain how we get from this move to a better outcome and whether this isn't -- all this violence isn't going to delay a better outcome.

HALEY: Well, first of all, I think that when you recognize the truth, when both parties recognize reality, peace comes.

And that's just -- that's just the true reality of the situation. We're living in the reality that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. But, if you notice, when the president spoke, he made it very clear. He didn't talk about boundaries. He didn't talk about borders. He didn't get into any of that, because the final status of Jerusalem is between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

It's not for the Americans to decide. So we are doing what we do in every other country. Israel should be no different. And then we're going to continue to support the peace process.

You know, courage breeds leadership. What you saw was, you saw a courageous move by the president. And, of course, any time you have to use courage, any time you have to go against the status quo, you're going to have people saying the sky is falling. But the sky is not falling.

If anything, what we're going to see is both sides are going to come to the table, they're going to decide what they think Jerusalem should look like, and we're going to support that process.

DICKERSON: Well, of course, people would -- the rebuttal would be that aggressive moves in the Middle East have often cost the United States a lot in blood and treasure.

Let me ask you this question on a negotiating standpoint. One of the criticisms is, the president gave up a bargaining chip that could be used in negotiation. Another view is, the president is now giving the Israelis something, and now he can ask something from them in return. Which of those two do you subscribe to?

HALEY: So, neither one of those is right.

The president took Jerusalem off the table. That's what he did, because that is something that we have always -- people have said use that as bargaining chip. Let's be clear. The last 22 years, that was a bargaining chip, and it got us nowhere closer to peace.

What he did was take it off the table. Jerusalem is the capital of the Israel. Take that off the table. Tell both sides to come together, and say, OK, you decide how you want to split up Jerusalem. You decide if you're going to create boundaries or borders there. And let them decide.

They're going to be naysayers, John, that say, you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do this. But they also thought -- they also questioned the president when he first decided to strike for chemical weapons in Syria, and that was true leadership. They said the same thing when we started to push North Korea and push sanctions. That was true leadership.

This again will go down in history to show he made the move that finally got the two parties to come to the table. And it's OK for naysayers, but we know at the end of the day this is the right thing to do.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about North Korea.

Lindsey Graham, South Carolina senator, said the U.S. should start moving civilians out of South Korea. What is your response to that?

HALEY: Well, I think we're watching North Korea very carefully.

And if you look at the last ballistic missile launch, it had advanced quite a bit compared to the missile before. And it's a concern. And what we will tell you is, North Korea is the biggest threat we have right now. But we're not going to let that stop us. We're going to continue to be forceful.

We're going to continue to have the international community join us, as they have. And we're going to make sure that we do everything we can to denuclearize North Korea.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about a domestic issue here.

There is a cultural shift going on in America right now. You saw it, three members of Congress kicked out of Congress because of sexual behavior, misdeeds.

You were the first woman senator of South Carolina. What do you think of this cultural moment that's happening?

HALEY: I -- you know, I am incredibly proud of the women who have come forward. I'm proud of their strength. I'm proud of their courage.

And I think that the idea that this is happening, I think it will start to bring a conscience to the situation, not just in politics, but in -- we have seen in Hollywood and in every industry. And I think the time has come.

DICKERSON: Of course, I'm wrong. You were the governor -- first governor of South Carolina.

Given that consciousness, how do you think people should assess the accusers of the president?

HALEY: Well, I mean, the -- the same thing, is women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard, and they should be dealt with.

And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.

DICKERSON: And does the election mean that's a settled issue?

HALEY: You know, that's for the people to decide.

I know that he was elected, but women should always feel comfortable coming forward. And we should all be willing to listen to them.

DICKERSON: Ambassador Nikki Haley, thanks so much for being with us.

HALEY: OK. Thanks, John.

DICKERSON: And we want to turn now to Maine's Republican Senator Susan Collins.

Welcome, Senator.

We have some important tax business to get to, but I want to stay with this -- this question of the revolution that is going on in the way that sexual assault is being dealt with.

This week, the Republican National Committee supported Roy Moore. You do not support him. You say you believe his accusers.

Your colleague Republican Ben Sasse wrote this: "I believe the women. And the RNC previously did, too. What's changed? Or is the party just indifferent?"

You're a Republican. What do you think about the RNC supporting Roy Moore?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I'm disappointed that the RNC has resumed its support of Roy Moore. I think that is a mistake.

I would point out that I did not support Mr. Moore even prior to these allegations of sexual misconduct because I was concerned about his anti-Muslim comments, his anti-LGBT comments. And also, most important of all, he's been removed twice from the Alabama Supreme Court for failure to follow lawful judicial orders.

DICKERSON: You also -- with the news about Al Franken this week, you called for him to resign. Are you closer to your -- are you closer to the Democratic Party on these issues than you are the Republican Party?

COLLINS: I think Republicans care just as much as Democrats about sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.

There's a new awakening in our country that this is pervasive, whether we're talking about Hollywood or Wall Street or the media or Capitol Hill. And that's why I'm joining a bipartisan group of senators who are trying to look at our own procedures on Capitol Hill to assure that allegations of sexual misconduct involving members or staff are dealt with seriously.

DICKERSON: Last question on this before taxes. On the question of procedures, the Senate might have a decision to make with Roy Moore if he's elected. Here is something I'm trying to work with.

With the president, there were these accusations. They were adjudicated in the election, the White House says. So the voters knew about them, and they voted for him. And now he's president.

Why wouldn't that same standard apply to Roy Moore? The voters of Alabama know exactly what has been alleged. If he gets elected, what business does Senate have telling the voters they're wrong?

COLLINS: Well, I think that's the tough question.

If the allegations are known prior to the election, which they weren't in the case of Al Franken, for example, then we have a very tough decision to make about whether it's our role as senators to overturn the will of the people.

Now, I think it's a different situation if the allegations are not known or if they occur while the person is sitting in the Senate.

DICKERSON: Let me go on to taxes.

You voted for the Senate tax cut bill, but you seem to be having qualms, questions about this conference report. Where are you on things now?

COLLINS: I always wait until the final version of the bill is brought before us before I make a final decision on whether or not to support it.

There are major differences between the House and Senate bills, and I don't know where the bill is going to come out. I also obviously care very much about amendments that I was successful in getting in the bill that particularly help middle-income families.

And I'm also concerned about agreements that I have.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about two of those agreements.

One is on Medicare. You got the agreement from Leader McConnell and Paul Ryan that there would not be these automatic Medicare cuts afterwards. Paul Ryan seemed to suggest maybe he wasn't party to that agreement. What is the nature -- where do things stand on that agreement?

COLLINS: I have written correspondence that memorializes the agreement that the 4 percent cut in Medicare that could go into effect will not go into effect.

I would point out that that law has been waived 16 times. It has never been implemented. But I don't want seniors to have the anxiety of wondering whether the tax bill somehow is going to trigger a cut in Medicare.

I'm absolutely confident. I have it in writing, a statement by both Mitch McConnell and Speaker Ryan.

DICKERSON: The waiving of the so-called pay-go rules.

Let me ask you about seniors and seniors in Maine. The other thing you got a commitment on, as I understand it, is that there would be legislation that would come up before the end of the year dealing with these cost-sharing payments. There's a piece of legislation sponsored by Alexander and Murray.

What is happening with that? Because, in the House, Republicans are being told, no, that's not going to be part of anything before the end of the year, which means, without those cost-sharing payments, premiums are going up for Maine seniors.

COLLINS: I have had a lot of conversations, not only with my colleagues in the Senate, but with my colleagues on the House side and with the White House. I have talked to the president three times about this issue.

And once again, I have no reason to believe that that commitment will not be kept. After all, who wants to see health insurance premiums become more unaffordable than they already are for individuals who are buying insurance in the individual market?

And our two bills, the one that I have with Bill Nelson and Alexander-Murray bill, will exert downward pressure on premiums to make it more affordable.

DICKERSON: There is one critique of that, though, that your legislation helped the condition before this tax bill, which has removal of that individual mandate, and that basically these fixes won't be enough for those people who will see higher premium increases.

COLLINS: We have a brand-new study that just came out last week by Avalere, a respect consulting firm, that says it will more than offset the repeal of the individual mandate. And Keep in mind that the individual mandate fines fall disproportionately on low- and middle-income families. Eighty percent of those fines are paid by families who make less than $50,000 a year.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator, I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it there.

Thank you so much for being with us.

COLLINS: Thank you, John.

DICKERSON: And we will be back in one minute to hear from the number two Democrat in the Senate, Richard Durbin.


DICKERSON: Joining us now is Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin. He is in Springfield, Illinois. Welcome, Senator.

I want to pick on something That senator Collins said about the face -- the choice that senators may face if Roy Moore is elected in Alabama.

And the question is, what business does Senate have in overturning the will of the people of Alabama if he's elected? Senator Collins says that's a very tough decision. What is your sense ever it?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: Well, John, I can tell you this.

First, the decision is to be made by voters of Alabama on Tuesday. And I hope that they will do the right thing in terms of defining their standards and values when it comes to people representing them in Washington.

But we have heard from Republican senators first who have suggested that, if Roy Moore ends up being elected to the Senate, he would face close scrutiny, investigation, even removal from the Senate once he arrives.

I agree with Senator Collins. It's a complicated issue, but I will tell you this. We faced the reality this past week. I have known Al Franken for over 20 years. He is my friend. He was on the floor of the Senate announcing his resignation.

I sat just a few feet away from him. He said it was the worst day in his political life. It was a somber feeling. It was a reality. And I hope the voters of Alabama appreciate that reality when they make their decision on Tuesday.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about a political critique of the Democratic Party's pressure on Al Franken that led to his resignation.

Dahlia Lithwick writes in "Slate" a piece that says: "Morality is no longer its own reward. What we get in exchange for being good and morally right is now nothing."

The argument that the Democrats have a standard that leads Franken to go, and Republicans are going to -- a Republican committee supporting Moore, the president supporting Moore, and that essentially Democrats are on the high road, but it's a politically bad road to be on.

DURBIN: I can just tell you, your interview with Susan Collins demonstrates that's not true.

There are Republicans who feel very strongly about this issue, and have said so. And I think, if more do, then we can establish a national standard, not a partisan standard, when it comes to the future of relationships with women.

This, to me, from Susan Collins' comments, gives me hope that Alabama voters will do the right thing, and also see both parties coming to the same conclusion on this issue.

DICKERSON: Let's -- a final question on this, Senator.

There's a criticism that Al Franken was pressured, not because of the specific facts of the case, but Democrats wanted to look good in comparison to Republicans. What is your response?

DURBIN: I can tell you, it was a painful process because of our personal friendships and relationships with Al and his family.

There was no political calculation in here. It was just a painful moment when we made a decision, moved forward on the Democratic side. I hope the Republicans will face that reality as well.

DICKERSON: On taxes, Senator, what can Democrats do? This is moving into the conference committee. And the Republicans have the vote to pass it. What are Democrats going to do?

DURBIN: Well, it did pass the Senate. There was only one Republican senator, Bob Corker, who voted no.

Susan Collins made it clear she's still waiting before she makes a final decision. I think others are in the same position. Jeff Flake, for example, from Arizona made it clear that bringing up this issue about DACA and the dreamers is critical to his vote when it comes to tax.

So, I can't assume where the Republicans will end, but they have an awful lot to accomplish in a very short period of time.

DICKERSON: You mentioned DACA. Let's just go up on a side road there on that.

A number of your Democratic supporters, colleagues would like you, the Democrats, to basically make funding of the government to keep the government running, would like you to make it contingent on doing something about DACA. Will you?

DURBIN: Well, I can tell you this. We don't want to see the government shut down. We want to move forward in a bipartisan fashion to solve our problems.

We believe that DACA is central. The president is the one who made this issue. September the 5th, he eliminated the DACA program and put in doubt the future of over 780,000 people in America. And we want to get this done and accomplished.

Thirty-four Republicans in the House came out last week and said do it before the end of the year. Senate Republicans have said the same thing. Lisa Murkowski yesterday tweeted that her Christmas wish, her greatest Christmas wish is to see this done, DACA and the dreamer issue resolved this calendar year.

It is within the power of the Republicans to get this done and to put together a package that we can pass. We want to stand by them, work with them, and get that done.

DICKERSON: Nothing focuses like a deadline, though, and using the deadline of the funding as leverage, both for this and also the children's health insurance, nine million children. That still is yet to be dealt with.

You at one point said, "I'm not prepared to go home for the holidays until we get our work done."

That suggests a little bit of use of this funding as a deadline, but are you really going to go that far?

DURBIN: Well, I feel very strongly about it.

There are many important issues. DACA, to me personally, the DREAM Act, are very personal and mean an awful lot. But when we're talking about funding our government, providing the resources and programs that middle-income families use across America, dealing with the opioid crisis, making certain that we take care of our veterans, making certain that we have the money for biomedical research, these are part of the conversation and part of the dialogue as we close down this budget.

It is up to Republicans to make a decision about what we will do. I think we can get this done right.

DICKERSON: Final question, Senator. You're on the Judiciary Committee. There have been some questions raised about inspectors, people working for the special counsel, one of whom sent disparaging texts about the president, and then another went to Hillary Clinton's victory party and also praised blocking the president's travel ban.

What is your -- how big of a deal do you think this is that these questions are being raised?

DURBIN: Let me say at the outset I have the highest confidence in Bob Mueller. I also have confidence that if he has any questions about the motives or conduct of his staff, he will act on it decisively and professionally.

He is moving forward on this investigation. I trust him. If there's something that went wrong in terms of the staffing, I trust him to take care of it.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator, that's it. We're out of time. Thanks so much for being with us.

And we will be right back in a moment. Stay with us.


DICKERSON: Be sure to sure to tune in to tomorrow night's "CBS Evening News," which will feature Jeff Glor's interview with French President Emmanuel Macron, ahead of the One Planet climate change summit in Paris this week. And then Jeff will anchor tomorrow night's broadcast from the Elysee Palace. And we will be right here with more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.


DICKERSON: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but we have got a lot more FACE THE NATION coming up, plenty of analysis on news here and abroad.

Stay with us.



For a closer look at some of the major issues we're facing abroad, we turn to Kori Schake, who is a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Her new book is "Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony." Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of research at the Brookings Institution is here. And he, of course, is in Washington.

Kori, let me start with you. I tried to get the U.N. ambassador to give me a sense of why now on Jerusalem.

Why now?

KORI SCHAKE, HOOVER INSTITUTION: It's not clear why now. I think the White House is hoping that it will push the peace process forward by -- as Nikki Haley said, taking Jerusalem off the table. I think that's unlikely to prove true. I think it's going to make that peace process a lot more complicated because it doesn't look like they -- it doesn't look like they had anything to offer Palestinians.


SCHAKE: And so it's surprising that other countries in the region care less, in part because they need more cooperation from Israel now than before.

DICKERSON: Michael, what's your view, people to see this violence. What -- how should they see this? Big deal? Should they be nervous? What's your sense?

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I'm glad that you asked it that way, John, because I think it's -- it's a medium deal. It's not the end of the world. President Trump didn't say that east Jerusalem could never be the capital for Palestine. He didn't make any other such declarations that were really out of what we all expect in any kind of a final peace agreement anyway. And, of course, the peace process, even though Kori's totally right, that it's -- this is not helpful to the peace process, it wasn't exactly going any place anyway.

So I think there are bigger questions about what kind of leverage can we create with both parties. And perhaps we need to think harder about that. But I don't see this as more than what my colleague Natan Sachs calls an unforced error. In other words, it's not tragedy. It's probably a mistake. It probably complicates the atmosphere I'm not sure it really changes the terms of any potential peace deal or really impedes any negotiation that was having any momentum to begin with.

DICKERSON: Let's talk now to -- about a place where an unforced error could lead to a tragedy, which is North Korea.

Kori, where are -- what's happening right now. Americans hear, you know, it's perilous and then it kind of -- the issue goes away, and then it becomes perilous again. How should people think about this?

SCHAKE: Well, I'm -- I am more concerned about it now. I think what I hear out of the White House parallels pretty closely what the Bush administration sounded like in 2003 in the run-up to the Iraq War, that the leadership of North Korea is fundamentally erratic and untrustworthy, that retaliation is inadequate as a strategy and I think they're not thinking through quite carefully enough. For example, what Asia will look like geopolitically if the United States engages in a preventive war that the Australians, Japanese, and South Koreans don't want and might not participate in.

DICKERSON: Michael, Kori raises 2003. This president has said that lead up to the Iraq War and the war itself was the greatest blubber in American history. So parallels to that, that should make people nerve.

O'HANLON: And this would probably by 100 times more lethal for allied forces than the Iraq War. We have to keep that in mind.

Let's say the North Koreans can only detonate one or two nuclear weapons but they're over Seoul. Then we have -- we have up to a couple hundred thousand Americans in Seoul. Leave aside the issues of whether the families of American servicemen should come home. There are a lot of American civilians who just live there doing business.

So if we were to have a war in Korea, the estimates are that one nuclear explosion over that densely populated city could kill about two or three times as many people as the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bomb. And that's for one explosion. So anything that leads us towards a higher probability of nuclear war I think is probably a huge mistake.

But there is -- I don't want to be to scary -- there is one potential interpretation of what's going on that's a little more hopeful, which is that the Trump administration really doesn't have particular interest at the end of the day in launching a preventive war, but by creating the sense that they're impatient, they're trying to persuade China to turn the economic screws more forcefully and try to get us in better bargaining position.

I'm not comfort with this situation because I don't know if what I just said is true. And if the alternative interpretation is true, then we could be in for horrible war. The worst since World War II.

SCHAKE: Moreover, the administration is painting themselves into a corner with the rhetoric, even if it is just intended to make the Chinese more cooperative, they have -- actually they are saying that the sand is slipping through the hour glass and we might have to act soon and the military option is the only option if this doesn't work. And that actually, I think, not only creates a red line that attaches a ticking clock to it.

O'HANLON: If I could add, the question, too, I agree 100 percent with Kori. The question is, what are the military options under consideration? All out preventive war is, of course, the extreme. There's also one idea that Ash Carter and Bill Perry, two former secretaries of defense of the Democratic Party wrote about ten years ago. They're not necessarily articulating it now, but 11 years ago they suggested that we shoot down a North Korean ICBM launch before it either gets off the launch pad or before it gets out of the atmosphere and just deny North Korea the ability to really learn more about its missile programs. That's the kind -- that's a very dangerous idea, too, because you don't know what North Korea's going to do in response. But that's the sort of idea that may be in play here.

DICKERSON: Let me step back here for a second and ask you all -- both a question about the larger buildup of forces. There is, in the Congress, a request for even more money than the president has asked for, for his defense budget.

Kori, what do you think will happen with that and do we need all this money?

SCHAKE: I'm skeptical that the Congress is actually going to pass an appropriations bill that will give the Defense Department the $700 billion that authorizers in Congress have asked for. It looks to me much more likely that we will see a series of continuing resolutions.

We're already a third of the way into the fiscal year. So I'm really skeptical both because of the way the president's budget teed this up, so Congress is going to be adding $100 billion over what the president requested, but I'm also skeptical that they can get deals on the other thing like DACA, like the spending distinction between domestic and national security.

It looks to me like this is likely to drag on. And that's actually terrible for the Defense Department. Continuing resolutions present them starting new programs, it prevents the managerial latitude that DOD needs to use the money well. So rather than add more money, I would instead give DOD the latitude to do a lot more programmatic management. I think that would help them a lot more.

DICKERSON: Michael, your thoughts?

O'HANLON: Amen. I mean we're at a point here in December, two and a half months into the new fiscal year. We don't know if the defense budget is going to be $600 billion for this year or $700 billion. That's a huge gap. And that's roughly the range of play.

And Donald Trump is sort of in between in his request. I'm sort of in between myself. The Congress, under Senator McCain and Congressman Thornberry and others, have proposed the $700 billion. Anything north of $600 billion exceeds the Cold War average when you adjust for inflation.

I do think we need a bit more money. But I think what we need really is clarity and a decision, because you can't do proper training, maintenance, you can't enter into long-term contracts, you can just do good custodianship of the Department of Dense when you're this far into the year and you don't know what your budget will be.

DICKERSON: All right, that's it for both of you. Thank you so much.

And we'll be right back to discuss the political news of the week with our political panel.


DICKERSON: We turn now to our political panel. Molly Ball is national political correspondent for "Time" magazine. Their person of the year was the silence breakers and the me too movement. Lanhee Chen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a policy advisor to the Romney and Rubio presidential campaign. We're also joined by CBS News White House and senior foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan, and Ed O'Keefe, who covers Capitol Hill for "The Washington Post" and is a CBS News contributor.

Margaret, I want to start with you on this question of Jerusalem. What do you make of this decision and the timing of it?

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS: Well, this appears to have been a significant foreign policy, national security decision made primarily for domestic political reason by the president of the United States. He succeed in touching probably the most sensitive nerve in one of the most intractable conflicts in history and this is going to make for a complicated visit for Vice President Pence, who has to head to Israel and to Egypt within just a week or so.

But what the president appears to be doing here is interesting, with all due respect to the U.N. ambassador who was talking to you about making this decision. It doesn't do the thing she said. It doesn't actually move the embassy. In fact, the president, on camera, signed a waiver keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv. And it doesn't, for the moment, decide the fate of Jerusalem if you listen to president's national security team who says, actually, we're still up for negotiation on the final status. In fact, if you ask U.S. diplomats where the city of Jerusalem is located, they still won't tell you it's located in Israel. They'll just tell you it's the political capital.

So it appears to be the kind of sleight of hand that allows the president to say he achieved a campaign objective, much like the Iran deal, without necessarily changing things because any new embassy is going to take four years or more to build.

DICKERSON: All right. Well, let's now move back to domestic issues.

Molly, let's to go Alabama here. We've got a Senate race going to come to its conclusion next week. Where do you think things stand in this race?

MOLLY BALL, "TIME": I do not think we know how this is going to turn out. There has -- seemed to be a shift in the conventional wisdom toward Roy Moore. You hear a lot of predictions that he is going to prevail having -- because the beginning of the accusations against him have now -- is now several weeks in the rear view mirror and has -- and a lot of Alabamians have had a chance to sort of process that. But we have still seen polls that are quite equivocal, especially in such a red state, that's pretty remarkable.

And what I have heard from my sources on the ground, and I'll be in Alabama in just a few hours, is that voters are pretty powerfully conflicted. You know, these are voters who generally want to favor the Republicans, all other things being equal.

But you have to remember that Roy Moore, even among Republicans, is a very polarizing figure. There's a lot of Alabamians who see him as an embarrassment to the state or just as not the sort of person, particularly considering these charges, that they want representing them. So whether that is enough to put a Democrat over the top in a state like Alabama is very difficult to tell.

DICKERSON: Lanhee, let me ask you about the reaction to the RNC supporting Roy Moore this week. The president supporting Roy Moore. There were -- there was some talk about -- and coverage of Republicans saying, I'm through with the party because they're supporting him. Now, that can get over torqued (ph) in today's media environment, so it's hard to know what the level of real outrage -- I mean obviously Ben Sasse said what he said. Senator Collins was disappointed too. What's your sense of how big a deal this is outside of Alabama for the Republican Party where it is right now?

LANHEE CHEN, HOOVER INSTITUTION: I think that it is a developing big deal, if that makes sense. As we go into 2018, this is not the last time we're going to see some version of this move. In other words, I think you're going to continue to see this conflict between different parts of the Republican Party. And, yes, it's played out in Alabama in really concerning fashion, a guy like Roy Moore, clearly very flawed and very problematic.

But you're going to have contested primaries potentially in states like Arizona, maybe even Nevada next year. So this battlefield is just being played out right now. People are just kind of stepping onto this battlefield.

So I think to the extent that we're seeing this in Alabama now, what we're seeing is a microcosm of the kinds of battles we're going to see through 2018. And for Republicans, like myself, it's very concerning because what you're seeing is a fundamental split and fracture in the party that we've known has existed for some time, but now is being played out in a very public way and being played out in elections that really do matter and have policy consequences for the last two years of President Trump's administration, at least for his first term.

DICKERSON: Well, and, Ed, and that was the -- it was policy implications President Trump was arguing for, basically saying, whatever you may believe, I want a Republican in the seat.

ED O'KEEFE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It worked for him because, remember, in the last few weeks of the presidential campaign he was running around the country saying to Republicans, you may not like me, but I'm going to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices and other conservatives to the court, and it worked. One in five voters showed up and the exit polls showed the Supreme Court was their top concern. Moore's making the same exact argument and that may, in fact, end up working for him.

What I find interesting, and what will be very curious to track in the next few weeks is, if he wins, how quickly does that ethics investigation begin? How long does it end up taking? And what do they do if it brings forward information that suggests conduct unbecoming of a senator?

Susan Collins seems to suggest today, that would be a difficult, you know, thing to do, to expel him. But the fact that there could be a secretive ethics investigation underway will just hang over the Republican Party on Capitol Hill over the course of most of the year most likely.

And, you know, I -- even talking to a colleague who takes photographs up at the Capitol, he says, I suspect most people are even going to avoid getting in the elevator with him because they just don't want to be associated with him at all.

BRENNAN: And those are the -- related to the allegations that he denies --

O'KEEFE: Right.

BRENNAN: In terms of sexual misconduct. He doesn't deny having said that homosexual activity should be illegal. He doesn't deny having said that Muslims shouldn't be allowed to serve in the United States Congress.

So there are things that are being set up here that not only highlight the divisions you talked about within the Republican Party, some would say the fight for the soul and the identity, but also position the Democrats here. And that's what was so interesting with the Al Franken resignation to come was that the Democrats seem to be positioning themselves around that identity of, this is what we are not. We are not going to play those cultural politics.

DICKERSON: I want to get to Franken and, as you say, resignation to come. We still don't know what the end date on that is. But, Lanhee, I wanted to go back to something you said because Mitt Romney, who you used to work for, came out and basically took the moral position above all other Republicans basically and said, there's no reason to support Roy Moore and it's a stain on the party. Then Steve Bannon came back at him from the -- what did you make of that back and forth? Is -- does it have any lasting impact? And what's -- is it -- Mitt Romney's sort of emerging here as something in the Republican Party. Put a name on it.

CHEN: Well, you know, he's sort of the sensible conscious of the Republican Party in a lot of ways. I mean, look, the only reason anybody cares about what Steve Bannon has to say is to the extent that he -- people think he's a proxy for the president. To the extent that people think that Steve Bannon is expressing a point of view that the president holds, then it's relevant. Otherwise he's just a political pundit out there with another opinion.

And the question really will be, to what extent the president carries through this argument, if there is a Senate campaign to be had in Utah for Governor Romney, for example, to what extent is the president willing to go out there and prosecute some argument against Mitt Romney or try to find somebody to run against him. That's the only way it becomes relevant. Otherwise, it's all just a bunch of blather as far as I'm concerned.

Now it's very concerning blather because obviously what Bannon said was completely beyond the pale. What Bannon said about Governor Romney. But I think Governor Romney is putting out there a point of view that needs to be articulated in the Senate and in the Congress beyond the 2018 elections cycle.

DICKERSON: Just so people aren't confused, Steve Bannon said that Governor Romney ducked service in Vietnam because he had a religious exemption. He went over. He was a missionary in France.

CHEN: Right.

DICKERSON: Which is a strange thing to say given that his president, Trump, had many, many deferments from the Vietnam War.

Let me, Molly, switch to you quick -- here on the question of Al Franken. You wrote about him this week and you said he really didn't want to leave the Senate.

BALL: He really didn't seem to. I mean if you saw the farewell speech that he gave, first of all, it took a lot of pressure to get him to resign. And what you saw was more than half of the Democratic caucus had to come out publicly. It wasn't enough -- you know, we knew that there was -- there was pressure from behind the scenes on Senator Franken and he resisted that pressure. And that was why his colleagues were forced to come out publicly, all the way up to the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, and then finally very grudgingly Franken got up there on the floor of the Senate and said he believed it was ironic that he was resigning given the allegations against President Trump and against Roy Moore.

This is a sort of what about-ism argument of the kind that we sometimes hear Trump make, right? Why is it fair that you're -- that you're persecuting me. Look at what crooked Hillary did. It's the same kind of argument.

And not only did he not apologize for his alleged misconduct, he took -- he took pains to clarify that he hadn't actually admitted to anything and he cast doubt on some of his accusers. So -- but he did -- he did exceed to this pressure. There's a lot of resentment and disagreement in Democratic circles about whether this was the right thing to do. A lot of Democrats talking about where they're setting the standard and whether it's fair.

Minnesota Democrats, very sad to lose Franken. The national party sad to lose someone who is probably the biggest fundraising draw for Democratic candidates across the country.


BALL: And so -- and now you have a situation where, given that Minnesota was quite close in 2016, whoever the governor appoints to fill this seat is going to have to run again in 2018, and that could possibly be a tough race.

DICKERSON: All right, we're going to pause that there. We'll be back in a moment with a little more on Al Franken, plus taxes.

Stay with us.


DICKERSON: And we're back with our political panel.

Ed, Senator Durbin said there was no political calculation in the Al Franken decision. Do you buy that?

O'KEEFE: No. Not at all. It was a total political calculation.

We know that the week before he resigned he was already facing pressure from his colleagues who were asked to hold off. And that the morning that the final allegation surfaced, they all got together by e-mail and text and phone calls and said, this is it, we've got to do this.

The party wants to make -- the Democrats want to make a competency and professionalism argument in November, believing that that is the way they can take back the House and the Senate. They've got to purge all these guys in order to do that because you can't sit there and have alleged bad actors in your party if you're trying to suggested that you would run the government better.

More broadly, I think viewers deserve to know this. It's no secret for those of us who cover Congress that we have all, in one way or another, been contacted by lawmakers or aides in recent days privately asking, what else do you have? Who's next? They are terrified of this story line. And they know the consequences of it now could lead to much bigger problems for their party, maybe for a piece of legislation they're working on, maybe the chance of the party holding together through the election. But members in both parties, aides in both parties, very concerned that more is to come.

And, look, I think it's safe to say more is to come. We don't know who exactly it will be about. It will be carefully reported. But it shows you that they are so scared now because they realize so quickly people are disappearing. And think about it. We saw a guy who served more than 50 years kicked out. We saw the party's top -- one of the party's top fundraisers kicked out. A social conservative warrior, Trent Franks, had to resign amid a lot of questions about his behavior. And we've never seen this kind of a purge. Not since the Civil War.

DICKERSON: Margaret, I want to switch to taxes here because this is a big thing that's happening, too. And the president wants it signed by Christmas. What have you made of his salesmanship of the tax cut bill relative to health care? Because the tax cut bill, according to both the Quinnipiac poll this week and Gallup has only 29 percent support in the country. This is a president whose key skill is as a marketer, but that's not very popular for that legislation.

BRENNAN: Well, he's marketing something that seems to be different than what is -- the product he's selling. And the message from the president, even just on Twitter, his constant focus on the stock market, it appears to be that he sees stocks and corporate profits as a proxy for the success of this bill and ultimately his end goal, even though on the campaign trail, and when he goes out to sell this he's talking about the benefit to the middle class and to the working class, who helped to support him. And it's not clear that these pieces, at this point, add up to a benefit for those people.

At this point, though, to say that this would be a boost to corporations, undoubtedly it would, to take the corporate tax rate from 35 down to 20 percent, but you're not legislating how corporations spend those profits, right? You're not necessarily forcing income growth. You're not making that worker take home more pay as a result. You can't possibly force that. You also can't force broader employment.

So this gamble of how this will ultimately pay off to the broader economic benefit of the country is something that the president seems to be focusing on, whether you call it trickle-down economics more something else.

DICKERSON: Lanhee, what did you make of Senator Rubio who said, Republicans should go back and look at a 1977 speech by President Reagan, or not president, then Governor Reagan, where he said the Republican Party has to worry about having a country club big business image.

CHEN: Well, yes, I think there's a point that he's making, right? Now, Senator Rubio and Senator Lee had an amendment the tax bill that would have made the child tax credit fully refundable, which would have been a huge boon to lower middle class and lower income families. And, unfortunately, that was voted down by the Senate.

I think that point of view, though, suggests that what we're seeing in the tax bill now to Republicans, this is more of a feature and not a bug, right, that they're actually looking at lowering the corporate tax rate. This has been something Republicans, mainstream Republicans have talked about now for years, if not decades. And so this is actually a relatively conventional tax bill. The difficulty in selling it, though, is, how do you translate a corporate tax cut into what it means for the average middle class worker. There is a strong argument to be made that this tax bill is going to boost growth, which is going to boost wages, which is going to go into the pockets of middle class taxpayers. But that's not really the argument you're hearing. You're hearing, this is a middle class tax cut. So there's a little bit of dissidence in the messaging that they're going to have to get straight, but I think that it won't inhibit them from getting this bill through and to the president's deskin a matter of weeks.

DICKERSON: Molly, 30 seconds, do you agree and also do Democrats have any opportunity here to take advantage of this tax process?

BALL: Well, if you believe Democrats, they are extremely excited about the political opportunity afforded by this tax bill. It is, as you mentioned, very similar to what happened with health care, where Republicans were sort of between a rock and a hard place. They wanted to keep a campaign promise, particularly to their own base, that Republican primary voters, who they told they were going to repeal Obamacare and reform the tax system. But the bill itself was broadly unpopular and it really is not clear whether what was worse for them politically, passing the bill or not passing the bill given how disliked it is.

And so -- but what you do hear from Republicans is, they feel they have to do this, a, because they think it's a good idea to cut taxes. And also because their base will be so dispirited if they don't get anything done this first year.

DICKERSON: All right. Got to end it there. Thanks, Molly. And we'll be right back. 

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