Face the Nation December 31, 2017 Transcript

Sen. Lindsey Graham on "Face the Nation" on Dec. 31, 2017.

CBS News

MAJOR GARRETT: Today on FACE THE NATION, what's ahead in 2018? President Trump is wrapping up a tweet and golf-filled holiday break in Florida and along the way he drops some hints about what he wants to get done in the New Year. Congress has a to-do list also. To fill us in, we'll talk with South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and then four members of the House of Representatives. Democrats Joe Crowley of New York and Debbie Dingell of Michigan and two Republicans. Will Hurd of Texas and the head of the conservative Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows of North Carolina. In an election year, what are their priorities? Before the 2018 midterms take over, what are the chances of fixing health care, resolving the status of so-called Dreamers or getting around to infrastructure spending? After the lawmakers have their say, our political panel will offer its analysis about what's ahead. Then we'll have a conversation with bestselling author J.D. Vance, his book "Hillbilly Elegy" gave America a candid look at that part of our country that help turned the election for President Trump and still hopes he delivers.
It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. John is off today. I'm Major Garrett. 2018 has already arrived in some parts of the world. Here in the U.S., Americans are getting ready to ring in the New Year despite extremely cold temperatures in some parts of our country. Security has been increased as you might expect at New Year's celebrations across the country. But with temperatures expected to be in single digits or very low double digits in places like Times Square, well record cold could be more likely than record crowds. We've got a lot to get to today but we want to take note of the situation in Iran where anti-government protests continue for the third day. These are the largest demonstrations in the country in almost ten years. Two protesters were killed overnight.
We begin this morning with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He joins us from Clemson, South Carolina, where I suspect one or two residents have a rooting interest in tomorrow night's Sugar Bowl. Senator, great to have you with us. Let's get straight to--
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-South Carolina/@LindseyGrahamSC): Thank you.
MAJOR GARRETT: --the situation in Iran. What is the import of these demonstrations on the street and what should President Trump do or say about them?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, it tells us that the Obama approach of relieving sanctions hoping the regime would moderate has failed. The people are not getting the benefit of sanction relief, they're more upset with their oppressors than ever. The money from sanction relief has gone into rebuilding the Iranian military in their destabilizing the Mid East. So if I were President Trump, I would have a nationwide address pretty soon explaining why the Iranian nuclear deal is a bad deal for the world, what a better deal would look like and urge Congress and the European allies to get a better deal with Iran before it's too late.
MAJOR GARRETT: And the purpose of that national address would be to take note of this moment and put the United States four square on behalf and behind those people protesting in the streets? Some have said that would be the wrong--
MAJOR GARRETT: --thing to do because that would give the regime an enemy to point at, us again.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: That was the Obama approach. If I were Trump, I'd do the exact opposite of Obama. Obama said I don't want to get involved, I don't want to mess up the chance of getting a deal with Iran. Well the deal with Iran hasn't worked. The money didn't go to go benefit the people, it went to benefit Ayatollah and his henchmen. The Iranian people are not our enemy, the Ayatollah is the enemy of the world. Here's what I would do if I were President Trump, I would explain what I-- what a better deal would look like. It's not enough to watch. President Trump is tweeting very sympathetically to the Iranian people but you just can't tweet here. You have to lay out a plan and if I were President Trump, I would lay out a plan as to how I would engage the regime. I would tell the Europeans and the Congress and the world that America is going to withdraw from this agreement unless it's a better deal. And I'd lay out what a be-- better deal would look like, and I would stand with the Iranian people the entire time.
MAJOR GARRETT: Have you conveyed this personally to the President?
MAJOR GARRETT: Okay. Very good. Sometimes you can do that by phone and I'm just curious about that.
MAJOR GARRETT: North Korea. Let's talk about that. You've said recently that if there is another missile test or nuclear weapons test in North Korea. There's a seventy percent probability--
MAJOR GARRETT: --we will attack North Korea. Seventy percent. That's a higher risk level than anyone I've talked to has placed--
MAJOR GARRETT: --on that issue, why is it so high?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I said if there's a nuclear weapons test, it goes from thirty percent to seventy percent is based on a lot of time with President Trump. He made a decision early on to deny the North Korean regime the capability to hit America with a nuclear-tip missile. There's two things he could have done. He could have given them the capability to hit America and tell them if you ever use it, I'm going to blow you off the map, that's called containment. He rejected that idea because you can't contain North Korea. They will sale anything they make if they don't use it. So, he's in the camp of denial. He's told the North Koreans, I will deny you the capability to hit America with a nuclear-tip missile if they test another bomb they're closer to-- to having that capability. And as the last resort, I will use military force to stop you. Now, the Iranians are watching us in North Korea. North Korea is watching us and Iran. 2018 will be a year of opportunity and extreme danger. The President has drawn a line in North Korea, telling the regime I'll never let you hit America with a nuclear-tip missile. If I have to, I'll use military force to stop you. Now, the Iranians are watching the way he engages with North Korea and vice versa. So we've got a chance here to deliver some fatal blows to really bad actors in 2018. But if we blink, God help us all.
MAJOR GARRETT: What I hear you saying Senator is 2018 is the year of preemptive strikes?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: 2018 is going to the year to deny North Korea the capability to hit the homeland. Sanctions will never work completely without the threat of credible military force. How do you change a man's behavior who's willing to kill his own family, torture his own people to stay in power? He's living large and he could care less us about his people. The only way he will change his behavior if he beliefs Donald Trump would use military force to destroy his regime and the Iranians are watching how Trump deals with North Korea. You'll ask me in a minute how my relationship has evolved with the President. It's evolved because he is President of the United States, he beat me like a drum and I want to help him where I can because there's a lot on this man's plate. And we should all want to help him.
MAJOR GARRETT: What have you learned about him that makes him different and more-- someone you want to work with and can work with than he was when you said he was unfit for office and quite possibly a cook?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah. I said everything. I said he was a xenophobic, race betting religious bigot. I ran out of adjectives. Well, the American people spoke. They rejected my analysis and he is now my President. I worked with President Obama where I could, with President Bush even though I supported Senator McCain. The bottom line, he is President of the United States. I've got to know him better. He asks a lot of good questions. I think he's made good foreign policy choices. He's now arming the Ukraine, long overdue. He's got the right policy to deny North Korea the ability to hit America with a nuclear-tip missile. And he is now on the side of the Iranian people. But he has to do more than watch. He actually has to act. And if I were him, I would withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran next year if it's not made better by the Congress and our European allies.
MAJOR GARRETT: I'm going to give you two minutes and three topics, Senator.
MAJOR GARRETT: Health care--
MAJOR GARRETT: Health care, DACA, and how is Senator McCain?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Senator McCain is in rehab. He's coming back in January. We need his voice now more than ever. Health care, there is a debate between federalism and socialism. I don't know of one Republican who wants to repair Obamacare. I don't know one Democrat who wants to replace it. So, we're not going to come together on health care. On DACA, there is a deal to be had. The Dreamers can have the life they've dreamed of if the Democrats and Republicans can give. We need the wall. Not a complete twenty-two hundred mile wall. We need border security. Marry that up with the Dream Act. There's a deal to be had on immigration and I want to do it in January. I don't want to wait till March.
MAJOR GARRETT: We've got a minute and a half. That was a lightning round and you did spectacular job. So--
MAJOR GARRETT: The New York Times reported this week that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor to Trump campaign, had a booze-filled encounter in London with an Australian diplomat, and that's where this whole investigation began. Not the dossier. You've asked for a special counsel to look into the dossier.
MAJOR GARRETT: Its evolution and its import. What does the New York Times' reporting this week tell you about that story and does it make you want to back away from your request for a special counsel into the dossier matter?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: You know, the dossier, I want to-- I want somebody to look at how the Department of Justice handle the dossier as to the Russian investigation. I don't think it hurts our country to look at what Russia did in our election. As a matter of fact, it would hurt us if we ignored it. There's no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians yet. But it would be up to Mister Mueller to make that decision. Some Democrats want to impeach the President. He's denied any collusion. Here's what I want to happen. Mister Mueller to do his job without interference, and I want somebody to look at the way the Department of Justice used this dossier, it bothers me greatly the way they used it and I want somebody to look at it. But, 2018, this investigation will go forward, it will be an investigation conducted without political influence. And the President needs to focus on his day job. I need to focus on being a Senator, and we all need to let Mister Mueller do his job. I think he's the right guy at the right time.
MAJOR GARRETT: Lindsey Graham, Senator of South Carolina, Republican, Happy New Year. And thank you very much.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Same to you. Thank you.
MAJOR GARRETT: For a look at what's on the 2018 congressional agenda, we're joined now by a group of House members, not one, not two, not three, but four, all who have come back to town to join us this morning. We have two Republicans, Congressman Mark Meadows from North Carolina. Chairman of the conservative group in the House known as the Freedom Caucus. His colleague Will Hurd is from Texas and our Democrats this morning, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell from Michigan and Congressman Joe Crowley from New York, a member of the House Democratic leadership.
Happy New Year.
GROUP (in unison): Happy New Year to you.
(Cross talk)
MAJOR GARRETT: Thanks for joining us. So I want to go around the table very quickly with a kind of an opening question. Debbie, we'll start with you. We'll go around. What do you consider the most important agenda item for Congress from your perspective and what will 2018 look like outside of politics in a successful year?
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL (D-Michigan/@RepDebDingell): Well, first of all, I think we've got to try to work with each other because there are a lot of things that we've got to deliver for the American people. So I don't say that I'm not going to work with anybody. We clearly have to get a budget passed in January and make it long-term. But there are so many other subjects we've got to worry about pension, health care. I've been living in a hospital for the last two weeks with my husband, I cannot tell you how many people come to my room crying and scared to death and we have to do DACA.
MAJOR GARRETT: And your husband is former congressman John Dingell, how is he doing?
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: He's doing okay. He's stubborn, ordinary and twittering.
MAJOR GARRETT: Very good. That's a good combination. Joe Crowley.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY (D-New York/@repjoecrowley): Well, I think--
MAJOR GARRETT: Give me one-- give me one thing that would define this is a successful year.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: Well, I think there's more than one thing. I think for Democrats we're concerned about certainly pension protection which is a major issue for us, also the-- the Dreamers, the DACA issue. The issue of Puerto Rico and the-- and the Virgin Islands and making sure that those Americans are made whole.
MAJOR GARRETT: The House pass the bill, the Senate has not.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: And-- and also the other piece of this is I think what we're going to fight against and that is the privatization of social security, it's going to be the diminishment of Medicare and Medicaid, we know that's on the block for our Republican colleagues in the House. So the-- Paul Ryan has said that. I know, Mark Meadows and others have also--
MAJOR GARRETT: Teed that up.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: --teed that up as well. And that's certainly we're concerned about. Very, very concerned about happening again.
REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD (R-Texas/@HurdOnTheHill): National security. Major, as you know, I spent nine and a half years as an undercover officer in the CIA, you led off the show talking about Iran. Iran is a real threat to the rest of the world. This is something that we can get together as Republicans and Democrats, you know, and-- and support and work together on. We need to make sure that our European allies and Germany and France and England are following President Trump's lead and showing that they support the Iranian people. You know, we need to make sure that we're showing the rest of the world what's really happening in Iran because Iranian government is trying to shut down the internet, they're trying to stop people from talking because there is a proxy war going on right now between Iran and our allies Saudi Arabia and Israel and that can become a hot war. And that's going to be dangerous for everybody. We've been focusing a lot on North Korea. As long as two countries are talking, you know, the fact that there are direct conversations with North Korea is something that hasn't been highlighted, but a proxy war turning into a hot war is something that we have to be worried about in 2018.
MAJOR GARRETT: Do you agree with Senator Graham that the President should give a national address on this and is there something, speaking of your past life, covertly we should be doing at this moment?
Well, look, it starts with-- there'll be plenty of time to talk about how this, you know, what this means for the Iran deal. But the first step is to show that we're united in supporting the Iranian people and their ability to peacefully protest. It is written in the Iranian constitution that people can peacefully protest. We should be supporting that. We should be encouraging our allies to ensure that the Iranians are allowing that. And if the Iranians crackdown and-- and these two deaths are-- are because of Iranian security officials, it's because of the (INDISTINCT), it's because of the IRGC, if we allow this to continue, that's where we should be talking about sanctions because these are human rights abuses, and we should be unified and show the Iranian people we stand with them.
MAJOR GARRETT: Mark Meadows?
REPRESENTATIVE MARK MEADOWS (R-North Carolina/@RepMarkMeadows): You know, I think it's really about what matters the moms and dads on main street. We need to continue to grow the economy. If we look at 2017, historic from a standpoint of tax reform, consumer confidence and at seventeen-year high. We've got a stock market that is-- is creating wealth again. Going beyond that, though, what-- what we need to make sure is-- is that we build on the successes. You know, we've got a President that actually made an unbelievable foreign policy decision that I support. Moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something that he'll-- he'll be defined for-- for centuries as-- as the only President who was willing to take the intestinal fortitude to do this. So we've got to build on those successes. I think what we will see is a-- a real push to make the tax cuts for individuals permanent. I think you'll see a vote on that in the first thirty days of this New Year for those moms and dads on Main Street. I think the other part of that that you'll see is-- is that there's going to be a real battle over what do we grow? Do we grow the economy or do we grow government? And right now, I can tell you, it does not look well. It looks like we're going to spend more money on growing the government in January than perhaps the biggest amount of money that we spent since the Obama stimulus plan. And-- and that's a concern for conservatives.
MAJOR GARRETT: So-- so, to break that down for audience.
MAJOR GARRETT: To pass a budget and to reach the deficit-- I mean, the defense spending threshold the President has outlined, Democrats will ask Republicans and this President to raise the domestic--
MAJOR GARRETT: --spending caps as well. And without democratic support in the Senate, you can't pass a budget. How is this going to be resolved?
REPRESENTATIVE MARK MEADOWS: Well, and I think the-- the real question is-- is what is reasonable. The administration has already been willing to say we're going to increase nondefense discretionary spending, which is that amounted of money outside of the military by about seven percent. And Democrats are saying, "Well, that's not enough. We need to give the government a pay raise, a ten to eleven percent. For a fiscal conservative, I don't see where the rational is. You know, we've got people on Social Security and-- and making a living who may be have seen a two percent, three percent increase. And now we're going to give the government eleven percent more? You know, eventually you run out of other people's money.
MAJOR GARRETT: Mark Meadows, we're going to take a break. And we're going to let Joe Crowley and Debbie Dingell take on that point of view.
MAJOR GARRETT: And we'll tease this out in addition to immigration, the Dreamers, when we come back with our congressional panel.
Please, stay with us.
MAJOR GARRETT: Is there a better way to spend your New Year's Eve morning than with four members of the House of the Representatives? I assure you there simply is not. Debbie Dingell, Joe Crowley, Democrats both. You heard Mark Meadows before break. Walk us through the democratic point of view on putting together a budget raising nondefense spending in ways the President can get happy with his defense spending increase.
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: Well, I would first say to you that I don't totally agree on the approach on Iran, but I do agree we've got to support the Iranian people. And that's the most important thing we need to do.
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: And national security is without question, our number one priority. A third of our national security budget is in the nondefense spending. And we need to be worried about that. And we do-- that President Trump-- well, I was one of the people that said President Trump could win this election. And I said it because American people are angry.
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: They're tired of the partisan bickering. They want to see us get things done, but they're scared. They haven't lost that anxiety and that fear that's in our souls from the last time the market collapsed. You've got people. The West Virginia might be-- people in my district who worked their lifetime put money into their pension. They're retiring. Suddenly, the money is not there. We've got a moral responsibility to figure this out and work together.
MAJOR GARRETT: You've both mention pensions. What are you talking about with Congress dealing with pension? What do you want to see happen? What-- what legislation are we talking about?
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: Well, there is a bill right now named after a teamster who died in Ohio, trying to fight for this which actually would not ultimately cost the government money. It would be a way-- a funding a way to bonds, like municipal bonds. But it's a-- would be--
MAJOR GARRETT: Backup pension obligation.
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: It's a pension, backup pension.
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: Long term. And we need to do something. I mean, these are people-- these guys are-- they're crying in my arms. They are scared to death.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: And we feel-- we feel that the banks need to bail out the individuals that were hurt tremendously by that, the (INDISTINCT) crash.
MAJOR GARRETT: Who lost pensions--
MAJOR GARRETT: Allowances and guarantees.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: Who have less than half their pension coming to them then they were getting.
MAJOR GARRETT: As a result of the Great Recession.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: Yep, in part-- in-- in great part. But let me just say what Debbie said about the-- the budget itself. A third of the domestic spending is on defense. It's on homeland security. And I think that-- that's can short shift our Republican colleagues. But I will say this, and it's interesting to hear Mark talk about, you know, fiscal responsibility. Here we just passed, we just-- we just refinanced the mortgage of the United States' house. And-- and in doing so, we borrowed 1.5 trillion dollars.
MAJOR GARRETT: Meant for the tax cut bill.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: We did-- we did-- with the tax cut bill. We did not put that money into our kids' college accounts or help them pay for college. We didn't improve the infrastructure of our house. Instead what we did, we gave the biggest-- one of the biggest largest tax cuts to the wealthiest, multinational corporations in the world. And-- and, you know, talk about fiscal responsibility. This is one of the most-- least responsible, fiscal responsible bills we've ever seen pass in the House of Representatives. I think we're going to be paying for this for many, many years to come.
MAJOR GARRETT: --Will and Mark--
MAJOR GARRETT: --on taxes real quick, and then I want to get to DACA.
REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: Well, I-- I disagree with my friend from-- from New York City. The tax cut that we just passed historic in its nature is going to allow more Americans to-- to keep their money and not send it up here to Washington, DC. It's going to allow people to invest in the future of their children by investing in-- in education. And when we talk about making sure people have a-- a strong footing in their retirement, the fact that we're seeing the highest stock market ever, and-- and now you have this-- this opportunity with super charging the economy with-- with tax cuts, this is good for everyone. This means increasing wages. This is-- this is good economic. This is about economic growth that's going to help make sure that people's financial future are securing.
REPRESENTATIVE MARK MEADOWS: Well, and-- and so let me back up because Joe is running to an old talking point. If we can go to your Twitter feed, I think it's what, Major CBS-- CBS, @MajorCBS. Just before Christmas, where there's an interview with a single mom from Cary, North Carolina, making forty thousand dollars a year. And you had CPA from New York actually do her taxes. She's getting thirteen hundred dollars back. And so to suggest that it's just the-- the rich that are getting it over ninety-one percent. So, nine out of ten viewers that are watching this right now are getting money back and it's not our money. It's their money and what we need to do is trust them to spend it. They will spend it better than the government.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: Tax bill is overly waded towards the wealthiest in the country. Let's-- that's not even arguable.
MAJOR GARRETT: And we're going to talk about DACA right now. And we're going to try to work this out right here and right now. The President said, Joe Crowley and Debbie Dingell, DACA can be done but there has to be money for the wall and there has to be an entity in migration and something done on the visa-- visa reformist part of immigration. Those are the terms set forth by the President. Acceptable or unacceptable?
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: By itself. That's-- these young kids, they were here during Christmas, they were-- they were-- they are desperate. They spend their lifetime here. We don't-- we should not be bogging down with subjects we need to talk about border security is important. How we do it? We probably need to have lot of discussion.
MAJOR GARRETT: But, Congressman Crowley, the President wants to leverage your desire for DACA and he's willingness to accept to-- to codify it in law which President Obama did not do.
MAJOR GARRETT: But he wants in exchange his priorities, and he was elected President. Why should he get them?
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: The President is like a volunteer fireman here who starts his own fire and then tells everyone else how to put it out. The reality is the President created this fire. He unwound--
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: --the executive-- the executive--
REPRESENTATIVE MARK MEADOWS: Joe, that's not true. This is not true.
REPRESENTATIVE MARK MEADOWS: It's because President Obama actually did DACA. He did the deferral. This President actually--
REPRESENTATIVE MARK MEADOWS: --when the courts we're going to do it.
REPRESENTATIVE MARK MEADOWS: Joe, it's not true. It-- it's not true.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: Let me answer the question. He created the situation and now he's saying in order to get-- to take care of these-- these souls who are American citizen--not American citizens.
MAJOR GARRETT: They are not American citizens.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: They are American in every way. They-- they-- they are cultural Americans. They know no other way of life than being here. They love this country and they want to remain here in the United States. And what the President is saying, in order to do that we have to bill a forty-billion-dollar wall, that you can't drive on, you can't live in, and it's incredible waste of American resources.
MAJOR GARRETT: Hurd, time. We've got thirty seconds, Will Hurd. The obligation is yours.
REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: We can do this-- we can do this together.
REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: But we-- we have to do this together. We can have smart solutions to border security. And we can solve this problem in a narrow fashion for these dreamers who have only known the United States of America as their home. The good thing is nobody is talking about deporting a million kids. And so we can--
REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: --we can start with that.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: They are talking about deporting families.
REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: Nobody-- nobody who's reasonable.
REPRESENTATIVE MARK MEADOWS: Right. And them, as well.
REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: Nobody who's reasonable and who's going to--
REPRESENTATIVE MARK MEADOWS: Well, the President's not being reasonable here.
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: I'm dealing with (INDISTINCT) everyday in my district.
MAJOR GARRETT: Debbie, Joe, Will, Mark, first day molly bases.
MAJOR GARRETT: We're going to deal with it that way. Thank you very much.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY: Happy New Year to you all.
MAJOR GARRETT: And we will be right back.
MAJOR GARRETT: Here is just a teeny bit of New Year's advice, listen to The Takeout podcast hosted by CBS News political director Steve Chaggaris and me. New episodes are available every Friday morning on your favorite podcast platform. That's Takeout podcast or you can follow us at TakeoutPodcast.com.
MAJOR GARRETT: And we will be right back.
MAJOR GARRETT: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm Major Garrett. I'm in for John Dickerson. We turn now to our political panel. Julie Pace is the Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press. Ed O'Keefe covers Congress and politics for The Washington Post, and is a CBS News contributor. We're also joined by Rachael Bade, she covers Congress for Politico. And David Nakamura, White House reporter for The Washington Post, and as am I, a proud graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
DAVID NAKAMURA (Washington Post/@DavidNakamura): Good.
MAJOR GARRETT: Welcome to you all and Happy New Year.
CROWD (in unison): Happy New Year.
MAJOR GARRETT: Julie, let me start with you. The President told The New York Times recently that he thought Special Counsel Robert Mueller would be fair. And he didn't seem to express, given the opportunity, all of the hostility some Republicans in Congress in the late waning months of December expressed towards the special counsel, his staff, his motives. What does this tell us, if anything, about where the White House actually is on this and the never-ending question in Washington? Where is the Russia investigation go?
JULIE PACE (The Associated Press/@jpaceDC): For months, the President has been hearing from two different camps on Bob Mueller. He's been hearing from some of his outside advisors, the people who have been around him for years, who say that he needs to be tougher on Bob Mueller, that he needs to be--
MAJOR GARRETT: Needs a better legal team.
JULIE PACE: Needs a better legal team. He needs to be more aggressive in going after what-- what a lot of these friends and advisors of the presidency as the politically motivated investigation by Bob Mueller. But then there are the White House lawyers. People like Ty Cobb, John Dowd, who have been saying to the President that he actually would be in a stronger position if he let this investigation run its course. And so at least in that moment, that's where the President seemed to be. He seemed to be taking the advice of those lawyers. I think heading into 2018, the thing to watch is going to be how Trump reacts to the reality that this investigation is not going to be over quickly. Those same lawyers have been telling him that this is winding down. All evidence points to the contrary that this is an investigation that is still robust, that is still pursuing new avenues, and how the President reacts, how fair he thinks Mueller is being when he realizes that this could consume a second year of his presidency could really change the direction of this administration in 2018.
MAJOR GARRETT: Rachael, the President said the investigation is not good for the country, doesn't make it look-- makes it look bad.
RACHAEL BADE (Politico/@rachaelmbade): Mm-Hm.
MAJOR GARRETT: Is it burdening Congress? Is it becoming something that Congress doesn't know what to do with or can't bring to conclusion?
RACHAEL BADE: Republicans feel certainly a distraction from their legislative agenda. Of course, they would rather be talking about tax reform than what's the latest turn in the Russia investigation (INDISTINCT). Look, the whole thing with the President saying, you know, that the investigation is going to be fair, it's kind of interesting when you sort of compare with what his allies on the Hill are doing in terms of trying to discredit the investigation.
MAJOR GARRETT: Preemptively discredited.
RACHAEL BADE: Right, before we see the conclusions. And just in the past week or so, we've seen, you know, we've heard news about a sort of secret House Republican investigation led by Trump ally, Devin-- Devin Nunes, who leads the House Intelligence Committee panel. And this is basically a probe of whether there is corruption in the FBI and they're also talking about, you know, senior FBI officials and want to ask them about any contacts they have with journalists. So, you know, Trump might be setting back and saying, "I'm going to, you know, be-- by-- be neutral here, I'm going to let Mueller do his job." But he's letting, you know, his allies on the Hill do his dirty work.
DAVID NAKAMURA: He's also setting framework in that same interview where he said, what, sixteen times, there was no collusion. He seems to be suggesting that he's-- he will be treated fairly assuming there's a certain outcome. And I think one point that Julie made is really important, which is that, in that same interview Trump also acknowledged that he doesn't know when this investigation will end. And it's something where his own lawyers have told him Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then definitely by the end of the year. That does not seem to be happening. And the President seemed to acknowledge that.
ED O'KEEFE (Washington Post/@edatpost): And it's incredible that-- that the party that has been built on law and order and has been supported by law enforcement and first responders in this country, really from most of the century is now going after the preeminent law enforcement agency in this country. And I think one thing to remember is you've thousands of FBI personnel all across the country, they will respond today to crimes far outside of Washington, and to be going after them in this way has a real risk for the Republican Party, I think, going into the midterms this year. You're going to need those types of people to turn tout for Republican candidates and if they're going after the FBI in this way, you wonder whether or not that affects their support.
MAJOR GARRETT: And yet some of those Republicans who've raised these concerns were sifting at this table they would say, "Look, it's not the FBI we're going after. We're going after people who have text messages that are at least problematic."
ED O'KEEFE: Right.
MAJOR GARRETT: In what they say about their political orientation, what it might mean for them as investigators. And you have an FBI process dealing with Hillary Clinton that was outside of what would be regarded as normal protocol. I'm not saying that. Lots of people who are experts in the law have looked at this and said there's no question that needs to be answered here. Can you raise this in a way that gets to some of those answers without in-- inviting the political risk you just suggested?
ED O'KEEFE: And that's-- that's going to be a tricky balancing act for those Republicans who want to start this up on Capitol Hill the coming year, for sure.
RACHAEL BADE: You might see a split, I would-- I would guess.
ED O'KEEFE: Yeah. You always say this thing--
(Cross talk)
MAJOR GARRETT: Among Republicans on this?
ED O'KEEFE: Absolutely.
RACHAEL BADE: Lindsey Graham, just a few minutes ago in interviewing with you, said he wants Mueller to continue to do his job. I mean, watch people like him and compare him with Devin Nunes who's going to be really aggressive on this in terms of saying that there is corruption and bias at the FBI. But there is a lot of Republicans on the Hill who are not comfortable with that. And so that split is just going to grow wider and wider.
MAJOR GARRETT: Julie, you heard the rather lively conversation we had among our four members of Congress, two Republicans, two Democrats about DACA, about the Dreamers, Deferred (INDISTINCT) for Childhood Arrivals, it seemed to me that that was just a preliminary round. I mean, that this is going to get very intense--
RACHAEL BADE: Absolutely.
MAJOR GARRETT: --and the politics of it are going to get white hot almost instantly.
JULIE PACE: Absolutely. This is going to be the big issue to watch on Capitol Hill heading into 2018 because it's so emotional and it's so personal for so many people. And because most lawmakers in both parties would like to have a solution to this problem, Republicans don't want to be the party that let a million young people who came to this country be-- as-- as children be deported. But they also are looking to the President for some guidance on how hard he's going to be on-- on the marker he has laid down, which is 'I will give you DACA if you give me a border wall." One thing I've heard from Democrats is some worry that they will let the-- the perfect be the enemy of the good here. Some Democrats are open to the idea that you could give on border security, give on-- on technology at the border, something that would allow the President to save face with his base, go forward and say, "Look at all this that I got for border security even if it's not a physical wall." But again, if you heard Debbie Dingell, she wants clean DACA.
JULIE PACE: And that seems like that is going to be an impossible position.
MAJOR GARRETT: Separating those issues entirely.
JULIE PACE: Separating those issues, that seems like an impossible position for Democrats.
MAJOR GARRETT: And that to me, Ed, seems like a mere suicide mission for the White House if it were to go that route because it would invite amnesty, rolling over--
MAJOR GARRETT: --giving in and abandoning the things that were central to your campaign methods.
ED O'KEEFE: Let's remember on the calendar, you have January nineteenth, which is when the next spending bill expires and when they want to come up with solution to this problem. Otherwise, March fifth--
MAJOR GARRETT: The next time he shut down drama.
ED O'KEEFE: Right. Exactly. And then March fifth is the deadline for DACA. Did you hear anyone present a specific proposal here this morning?
MAJOR GARRETT: Or a timeline?
ED O'KEEFE: No. That's it.
MAJOR GARRETT: That's even mildly rational.
ED O'KEEFE: They are nowhere near an agreement on this.
ED O'KEEFE: And-- and I think, as Julie was saying, that the real breaking point here is going to be, once they put down what the compromise is for DACA, okay, we're going to save these kids, and the-- not just kids--
MAJOR GARRETT: And then adult kids.
ED O'KEEFE: --they're-- they're adults.
MAJOR GARRETT: Meaning, we're adults.
ED O'KEEFE: Anywhere between six hundred forty thousand and 1.8 million people. Once they figure that out, okay, what are you going to get in return?
ED O'KEEFE: I'm less interested in what the Republican response to that will be than the democratic response. A lot of these congressmen from immigrant districts, L.A., Chicago, New York, are going to go home. And if these people are told "You're getting your status, but we're also going to do all these other things," the-- the backlash for Democrats could be quite severe--
DAVID NAKAMURA: That's important, but I think the President has been all over the map on this. He talked earlier when he announced ending DACA that he-- we could do border separately. We can do a border wall separately. Now he's talking about the wall again in this interview.
MAJOR GARRETT: I'm just upset, but save migration.
DAVID NAKAMURA: And save migration.
(Cross talk)
MAJOR GARRETT: And other things, as well. He's adding to the ledger.
DAVID NAKAMURA: Things like that, this and diversity lotteries, fifty thousand a year for certain countries that don't have a lot of immigrants coming here. Things like that have been talked about being eliminated in the past. They've been in bills in the 2013 bill. These are not new ideas. Some of these could happen in this round. But I think the border wall is something that Democrats just look at as-- as important to them saying, no, on something like this, as it is for Trump and his base to get some start on that.
MAJOR GARRETT: And-- and, Rachael, we saw right before Congress left town, House members going to Chuck Schumer's office and, sort of, try to read him the Riot Act for not standing up on these issue.
MAJOR GARRETT: I mean, these tensions are real right now.
RACHAEL BADE: Yeah. They're certainly a split not only with the Democrats about how much to demand in return for DACA, but also with the-- with the Republicans in terms of how much to demand for DACA. But the Democrats as well in terms of should they have held the line before Christmas in getting this fixed. Just to, sort of, illustrate how difficult this issue is I was speaking with Mike Coffman who is this Republican from a swing state district in California, has a lot of immigrants and Dreamers in his own district. And he was telling me the week before Christmas, the-- the center-- moderate group of Republicans and Democrats, they called themselves The Problem Solvers, and they get together and they try to do bipartisan solutions when everybody else is at each other's throats. They were supposed to unveil some sort of DACA agreement the last week before Christmas, and it came together. They had something, and it just ended up blowing up, it fell through, and this just shows that if these people who are moderate Democrats, moderate Republicans cannot come together, sit in a room and come up with a solution, how are Republican and Democratic leaders going to fix this?
MAJOR GARRETT: Problem Solvers Caucus becomes lump of coal caucus right before Christmas.
RACHAEL BADE: Right before Christmas.
MAJOR GARRETT: We'll be right back with our panel. Thanks for watching. Please join us when we come back.
MAJOR GARRETT: And we are back with our panel. Ed O'Keefe, there are obligations Congress has earlier in the New Year and then their intentions. I would say infrastructure is an intention.
MAJOR GARRETT: Entitlement reform is an intention. Obligations are fund the government, deal with DACA, resolve something that increases defense spending along the lines of President Trump wants and has obsessively advertised but not yet achieved, and then what do you do on the domestic side of the ledger and we saw that teased out in this panel as well, very tough lines to be drawn there. Help our audience to understand what are some of the markers, the deadlines, and what are some of the things to watch for?
ED O'KEEFE: Well, the first one--
MAJOR GARRETT: Can you let us know if things are going to come together or remain (INDISTINCT)?
ED O'KEEFE: Yeah. I think January nineteenth again, the next potential shutdown date is a good marker of how quickly they either want to get their unfinished business done or continue to have those fights.
MAJOR GARRETT: Do you think that's going to be a time where the budget's going to be is that going to be another month continuing resolution to find more time to negotiate and try to work with us?
ED O'KEEFE: If one of my resolutions in 2017 was to not make too many predictions based on the success of 2016, I'd say the only thing I'd say is if you don't get it done by January nineteenth, use the President's Day Recess as the next potential marker. So maybe it spills another month. But you got a lot of things there. You've got, again, the DACA situation. You've got a budget caps or-- or how much more will you raise spending by the government. There's a host of other things, issues with the Children's Health Insurance Program that's running out of money in several states. And then as Mark Meadows was floating the idea that you might extend permanently those individual tax cuts, do you use this bill as another way to get that done? Because there's only so many vehicles that sort of leave the station, as we like to say--
ED O'KEEFE: --that are guaranteed to pass and so you try to tack on things to sweeten for certain people, that may be one that he's--
MAJOR GARRETT: And, Julie, there's already talk of Republicans not only trying to make the individual tax cuts permanent, but do other technical fixes and do that under reconciliation which is another one of these mechanisms where simple majority in the House, it's always that way, but a simple majority in the Senate is rarely that way. But you have to pass a budget to do that. To do that, you have to get agreement on other things like entitlements and other spending that Republicans are not aligned on. Is that-- is that something to keep an eye on as well?
JULIE PACE: It-- it absolutely is. Republicans are-- part of the reason that-- that we didn't get a budget at the end of 2017 is because Republicans aren't aligned and then they can't figure out how to get some of these Democrats on board that they-- that they would need to get sixty votes in the-- in the Senate. I think the Meadows idea to date is just fascinating, this idea of going back and saying, let's make-- in the tax bill you had permanent tax cuts for corporations, and you had tax cuts for individuals that would expire. It would put a lot of pressure, frankly, on Democrats--
JULIE PACE: --to say no to a permanent tax cut extension for individuals.
MAJOR GARRETT: Bernie Sanders said just last week, "They should have all been permanent."
JULIE PACE: They should have all been permanent. So now, the Republicans may try to have those Democrats kind of put their-- put their money on the table, put their cards on the table and how far they're willing to go, even though they obviously are opposed to the full bill.
MAJOR GARRETT: David, what is your sense of the political clout of President Trump as he enters 2018, about what it was on Inauguration Day? Slightly diminish, slightly enhance?
DAVID NAKAMURA: What's interesting is his poll numbers have gone down, you know, significant amount in terms of public approval ratings. But the way he is, you sort of consolidated some of the levers of power in the White House and sort of wielded his clout and his unpredictable nature, and the ability just to attack and relentlessly attack his opponents I think maintains his clout. I mean, he's the wrong horse in some-- in the Alabama Senate race twice. But-- you know, but the President continues to strike fear into folks who are running for reelection not to get on his bad side, and those on Capitol Hill who still want to see the Republican agenda move forward. So, he-- he-- in some ways I think retains more clout than someone with those poll numbers might normally suggest, especially this sort of historic lows in the first year.
MAJOR GARRETT: Rachel, journalists answer hypothetical questions all the time, politicians do not. So, let me ask you a hypothetical question. Imagine we're looking into a House Republican conference meeting and they're all sitting there in their seat and Paul Ryan says, all right, raise your hand if you want Donald Trump to campaign with you in 2018. How many hands go up?
RACHAEL BADE: How many hands? I would say about eighty to ninety.
MAJOR GARRETT: Mm-Hm. And would those all be--
RACHAEL BADE: A majority of Republicans I would say.
MAJOR GARRETT: That would be really up for grabs or would they be super safe districts that they would just love to see the President there anyway because they're already in lockstep and it's pretty safe?
RACHAEL BADE: I would say the safe districts for sure.
RACHAEL BADE: Because, you know, these are the folks who actually-- you know, where the President does have clout on the Hill, it is what these Republicans from the safe districts who, you know, they want to be connected to him at the head because they're base-- the base still loves the President and, you know, these are Republican districts. So, of course, the swing states are totally or swing districts are totally different story, right? I mean the President with his approval ratings going down, they didn't want to be anywhere near him.
MAJOR GARRETT: Thirty seconds, Julie Pace. The White House is talking about revamping of its political operation. Is it overdue?
JULIE PACE: It probably is overdue. There hasn't been a particularly robust political operation as David pointed out.
MAJOR GARRETT: It's only Trump, basically.
JULIE PACE: It's-- it's basically only Trump.
MAJOR GARRETT: The President.
JULIE PACE: It's basically Trump. He's going on instinct. He listens to some people on the outside, less of his political advisors on the inside. They're heading into a year where they're trying to convince the President now that the 2018 mid-terms are going to be incredibly consequential for his ability perhaps to even finish four years in office. If that message gets through to him, I think you will see a true revamp of that political office.
MAJOR GARRETT: That is one very, very big if. Julie Pace, Ed O'Keefe, David Nakamura, Rachael Bade, thank you so much. We'll be back in a moment with author-- best-selling author J.D. Vance.
MAJOR GARRETT: We sat down recently with J.D. Vance, author of "Hillbilly Elegy". Vance's book has been credited with identifying the so-called forgotten Americans who helped carry Donald Trump to his unexpected victory. A year in to the Trump administration, Vance warns those voters might well be disappointed if the President's rhetoric doesn't match reality.
(Begin VT)
J.D. VANCE ("Hillbilly Elegy"/@JDvance1): I started writing the book back in 2013. And, of course, no one at that time, certainly not me, knew what we were going to see with the nomination and then, of course, the election of Donald Trump. So, I definitely thought that when the book was coming out, and this was June of 2016, hard to believe it's been that long, I thought that a lot of folks would be trying to ask questions about who the Trump voter was. And, of course, that's a little bit about what my book is about. I don't mention Donald Trump, but I certainly talk a lot about people-- people living in a certain part of the country, people from a certain demographic segment who did overwhelmingly support the President, both in the nominating contest but also, of course, in the general election.
MAJOR GARRETT: For that community that you write about in the book and that you grew up in, what do you think those larger truths are that they heard that he spoke to in ways they hadn't heard before?
J.D. VANCE: Well, I think one of the-- the most important larger truths that he spoke to is the importance of jobs in the life of the community. If you think about Republican rhetoric, let's say, during the campaign of Mitt Romney, very focused on the noble entrepreneur. Very focused on the job creator, but not so much on the worker. And if you think of-- of the rhetoric of-- of modern Democrats, it's often so focused on government that people don't accept-- I think a lot of those-- a lot of folks on the left don't appreciate that-- that people don't want a handout. They don't want government support and they don't, from the right, want people to talk about the noble entrepreneur. What they want is-- is people to recognize the dignity of working people. And I think that what was genius about the politics of Trump's campaign is that he focused on workers and he focused on jobs. It wasn't about the wealthy entrepreneur with a private jet. It wasn't about a government handout. It was about the folks in the middle.
MAJOR GARRETT: In the conversation about the tax bill, as an example--
J.D. VANCE: Sure.
MAJOR GARRETT: --he doesn't talk about supply side economics, he doesn't talk about any theory at all.
J.D. VANCE: When the President talks about tax reform, he talks about the people who will benefit. He talks about American jobs. He talks about the fact that we're going to be taking money that's overseas and bringing it back to the United States so that it will employ American workers. I think that focus again on the American working and middle class is-- is-- is to me the most thoughtful and, in some ways, the most genius part of Trump's approach to politics.
MAJOR GARRETT: And I will tell you, having attended more than seventy-five Trump rallies, there were times when I would laugh to myself when he would say, every dream you've ever dreamed is going to come true. And America's going to get back winning again. I thought, oh, come on, this-- even by political standards, this is sort of cotton candy--
J.D. VANCE: Sure.
MAJOR GARRETT: --taken to the maximum level. And yet, having read your book, it occurs to me the concept of putting winning or victory central to it, to people who maybe feel like they've either become losers or forgotten, that was much more powerful than I thought--
J.D. VANCE: Mm-hm.
MAJOR GARRETT: --or imagined at the time. Do you think that's possible?
J. D. VANCE: Yeah. Well, I think that-- that sense of loss is really important. The idea that thirty or forty years ago things were really going well and now they've started to disintegrate. Not just our work life, but our family life and a lot of other issues on top of that.
MAJOR GARRETT: Do you think there is a danger for Trump going forward, the President going forward, and these voters, that his rhetoric and their expectations may never match?
J. D. VANCE: I think that that's certainly a concern. It's a political concern for the Trump administration. But it's a concern for Americans.
MAJOR GARRETT: It's a ground level concern.
J. D. VANCE: Absolutely. It's-- it's a concern for a lot of folks who really do expect things to get a whole lot better. One of the things I really worry about is that if you don't see middle class wage growth, if you don't see the economy in certain areas of the country, the middle part of the country, starting to come back in the same way that it's doing especially well, let's say, in California or New York, then people are going to become politically frustrated. But more importantly, they're going to have a lot of hopes dashed. The sense that maybe this is the moment, this is the electoral moment where a lot of our fortunes turn around, that-- that's going to disappear. And consequently, folks are going to be pretty upset about it.
MAJOR GARRETT: And part of your next phase of life is to deal with this.
J. D. VANCE: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. One-- one of the things that I'm working on with Steve Case is this Rise of the Rest initiative that-- that I'm-- I'm pretty passionate about. If you look at where the net job growth comes, it comes from high growth startup companies. And unfortunately, you don't see a lot of high growth startup companies outside of California and New York and Boston, Massachusetts. And so what we're trying to do is in some ways democratize access to capital, invest in areas that don't get as much-- as much entrepreneurial investing, and hopefully, start to create some of those new twenty-first century jobs in places that don't see that job creation.
MAJOR GARRETT: And in my travels, I've seen a little bit of that in Des Moines, Iowa.
J. D. VANCE: Sure.
MAJOR GARRETT: I've seen a little bit of that in Omaha, Nebraska.
J. D. VANCE: Yep.
MAJOR GARRETT: It's not as if it doesn't exist in--
J. D. VANCE: Exactly.
MAJOR GARRETT: -- quote, unquote, "flyover country," but you want to accelerate.
J. D. VANCE: Yeah, exactly. It certainly exists. It's-- there-- there are certainly really exciting pockets of entrepreneurship all across the country--
MAJOR GARRETT: Usually linked to a university of some kind.
J. D. VANCE: Exactly. You know, universities provide high quality talent. They provide intellectual property necessary for folks to get their businesses off the ground. But you still don't see nearly as much investment in these areas even though you see pockets of hope, right? So the statistic I throw out is fifty percent of venture capital goes to California. Most of the rest of it goes to New York and Massachusetts. That means there's forty-seven states fighting over a very small amount of the type of investment that creates really high quality, long term, durable jobs. And so if you can rearrange that, if you can create more entrepreneurship and more investment in some of these areas, are you going to fix all the problems I wrote about in "Hillbilly Elegy"? No. But you will start to create some more high quality job growth.
MAJOR GARRETT: And then this brings us back to some of the embedded behavioral problems you write about in "Hillbilly Elegy" and those are going to have to change even if this capital arrives.
J. D. VANCE: Yeah. That's-- that's absolutely right.
MAJOR GARRETT: You speak quite candidly--
J. D. VANCE: Sure.
MAJOR GARRETT: -- about laziness and people who think they work, but don't actually work. And that they're part of this equation. And that reckoning is going to have to occur, number one, and won't be easy to.
J. D. VANCE: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, look. You-- you go to a town like Middletown, Ohio where some people are struggling to find a job, but then there are people who had a good job and lost it not because the economy was bad, but because they made mistakes. You see both types of people. And I think we have to recognize that there are these twin impulses that exist. There is a need for more economic growth, for more job growth. But there is a need in some people for them to recognize that they have a role in-- in making these problems better. And we can't-- we can't ignore that. The issue that's really, really concerning is that you have eight million prime age men who have dropped out of the labor force, folks who aren't even looking for work. You can create job growth all day, but unless you start to do the things that bring those labor force dropouts back into the job market, you're not going to solve the problems I wrote about in the book.
MAJOR GARRETT: J. D., thanks so much for your time.
J. D. VANCE: Thanks, Major.
(End VT)
MAJOR GARRETT: And we'll be right back.
MAJOR GARRETT: That's it for us today. We thank you so very much for watching. We wish all of you-- we wish all of you a very happy and very safe New Year. John will be back next week. For FACE THE NATION, I'm Major Garrett.