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Full transcript: Face the Nation on February 4, 2018

Face the Nation, Feb. 4
Face the Nation, Feb. 4 01:20

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MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: President Trump declassifies a secret congressional memo that he says clears him in the Russia investigation, but the FBI warns the release has damaged national security.

The Republican memo accuses the FBI of abusing their powers to spy on a Trump campaign adviser suspected of being a Russian agent. Democrats cry foul and claim the memo is an attack to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing probe.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves, and much worse than that.


BRENNAN: Does he still have confidence in his own deputy attorney, Rod Rosenstein, who helped signed off on the request?


TRUMP: You figure that one out.


BRENNAN: We sat down with the only Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who has seen all of the classified documents used in the memo, South Carolina's Trey Gowdy. We will talk us through the complicated story that got Washington's full attention.

And there's breaking news as well this morning, as an Amtrak passenger train collides with a freight train in South Carolina. We will have the very latest.

We will have plenty of analysis on the national security implications of the memo. And, as always, our political panel weighs in on the news of the week.

It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm Margaret Brennan.

We begin this morning with some breaking news.

Overnight, an Amtrak passenger train collided with a CSX freight train just outside of Columbia, South Carolina.

CBS News transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave is in our newsroom.

Kris, good morning.


The Amtrak train was heading south from New York bound for Miami when, around 2:30 this morning, it collided with that freight train. At least two people are dead. Authorities are reporting 116 patients, including at least two children, were brought to the hospital for treatment.

Now, initial reports are most of the injuries are not life-threatening, ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones. But the hospital has told us they expect at least two patients will be admitted.

Amtrak says there were eight crew and approximately 139 passengers on board Train 91. Pictures and video from the scene show the lead locomotive and some of the train cars have derailed. The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a go team to investigate.

This is the latest in a string of deadly Amtrak accidents. Now, you're likely to hear a lot of talk about positive train control in the coming days. It's technology designed to prevent these types of accidents. But the deadline to have it installed is the end of the year -- Margaret.

BRENNAN: Kris, thank you.

The news cycle in Washington has been dominated this week by a four-page memo written by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asserting that the FBI concealed that it had used anti-Trump research funded by Democrats when it obtained a secret warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance, or FISA, court, to monitor a Trump campaign associate named Carter Page.

He had already been on the FBI's radar due to past contact with Russian operatives.

The anti-Trump research, also called the Steele dossier, was originally put together by a former British spy named Christopher Steele. The Republican memo also confirmed that the FBI investigation had begun in the summer of 2016 based on information about another Trump campaign associate named George Papadopoulos. He has since pled guilty and is cooperating with the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Saturday, President Trump tweeted that the memo -- quote -- "totally vindicated" Trump in the Russia probe.

We sat down earlier with South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, a key House Intelligence investigator, and asked him if he thought the president had been vindicated.


REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I actually don't think it has any impact on the Russia probe, for this reason.

BRENNAN: The memo has no impact on the Russia probe?

GOWDY: Not to me, it doesn't. And I was pretty intricately involved in the drafting of it.

There is a Russia investigation without a dossier. So, to the extent the memo deals with the dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting in Trump Tower. The dossier has nothing to do with an e-mail sent by Cambridge Analytica. The dossier really has nothing to did with George Papadopoulos' meeting in Great Britain.

It also doesn't have anything to do with obstruction of justice. So, there is going to be a Russia probe even without a dossier.

BRENNAN: Speaker Ryan says that the memo that you helped put together here does not threaten the credibility of the FBI.

The president has very different views and says it does. Where do you stand?

GOWDY: I don't think there's a bigger supporter of the FBI in Congress than me and those of us who worked with them in a previous life

I have tremendous respect for the bureau. There are 30,000 employees. Let's assume that there are five that engaged in conduct that we have questions about.


GOWDY: That leaves a lot. That leaves a lot that are doing exactly what we want them to do.

BRENNAN: Are these five individuals named in the memo that you helped publish?

GOWDY: I think two of them would be.

People can quibble about Andy McCabe. I spent I guess close to 15 hours with Andy McCabe in two different interview sections. I found him to be a professional witness, even though I disagree with some of the decisions he made

And I think we got to get to the -- some point in life where you can disagree with the decision-making process that someone engaged in without believing that they are corrupt or somehow part of the deep state, whatever that means.

BRENNAN: This is the deputy director of the FBI who now is retiring.

GOWDY: Former, yes, ma'am.

BRENNAN: Yes, or being asked to leave perhaps earlier than he had planned.

But when it comes to the Department of Justice and the FBI now that the president is raising questions about, these individuals were hand-picked by -- by him, and he's critical of them. Do you think that there need to be changes there?

GOWDY: Well, I think the folks that he picked, Chris Wray and Rod Rosenstein, can effectuate those changes.

Rod Rosenstein is a former United States attorney. And, again, I have differences with the way that they discharge their responsibilities, but there is a wide gulf between me having differences from somebody and think that they should lose their job.

I'm really impressed with Chris Wray. To Chris' defense, he didn't want the memo to come out. He's speaking up for his agency. But Congress is the one who created FISA. In fact, Congress created the FBI. So, there's going to be good branch tension. It doesn't mean someone should lose their job. It doesn't mean they're corrupt.

But it also doesn't mean Congress is not legitimate in asking these questions, because I think we are.

BRENNAN: Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general that you referenced there, is also publicly disclosed in this memo as someone who helped sign off on this surveillance warrant.

Do you have confidence in him? Should he keep his job?

GOWDY: I have confidence in him. I think...

BRENNAN: The president wavered on that, in what he said this week.

GOWDY: I didn't get to pick him. And the president -- I have never met President Trump, never had a conversation with him. And he certainly should not ask my hiring advice.

I have had my differences with Rod Rosenstein. And I still think that he's fully capable of helping run a Justice Department that we can all have confidence in.

I am actually really impressed with Chris Wray. And I say that even though we're totally opposite sides of this issue and probably will always be. He doesn't think the memo should have been publicly disseminated. I have real questions about the process that the bureau went through in 2016, but I also think he's the person to lead the bureau. I think he's doing a good job.

BRENNAN: Well, the FBI was gravely concerned that there was information missing from this memo, that it actually was dangerous in setting a precedent in terms of disclosing classified information, and it could actually hurt future intelligence efforts.

How do you respond to that and to Chris Wray?

GOWDY: Difficult facts make for really bad precedent.

I hope this is a one-off. I hope it is a one-off that Congress takes this position, but I also hope it's a one-off that a FISA application contains errors and product that is funded by a political opponent. I hope that is a one-off. So...

BRENNAN: That's the Steele dossier that you are pointing to there?

GOWDY: But it's both the Steele dossier and who paid for it and whether or not it was vetted. But it's also what was not in it.

This is an application to a court. So, I get that Adam Schiff and others are worried about what is not in my memo. I wish that they were equally concerned about what's not in the FISA application, which is a lot of really important information about the source and his sub-sources and the fact that he was hired by the DNC and the Clinton campaign, and the fact that he was biased against President Trump.

That is all information that the finder of fact is entitled to.

BRENNAN: Now, we should dig into this, because you are, from my understanding, the only Republican investigator on the House Intelligence Committee who actually viewed the FISA applications, everything that went into essentially putting together this memo.

So, when you're talking about this Steele memo, you are not saying that it was the sole piece of evidence used to justify these four authorizations of the surveillance warrant, are you?


It was not the exclusive information relied upon by the FISA court.

BRENNAN: Would it have been authorized were it not for that dossier?

GOWDY: No, it would not have been. And...

BRENNAN: How can you say that? Because it was authorized four times by separate judges.

GOWDY: Right.

And the information was in there all four times. And the judge doesn't do independently research. There are three Republicans that have seen every bit of information, three of us, Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the Judiciary, Johnny Ratcliffe, who was a former terrorism prosecutor and a U.S. attorney in Texas, and me.

All three of us have total confidence in the FBI and DOJ to be able to do the jobs that they have been assigned. We have confidence in Bob Mueller. And we have serious considerations, serious concerns about this process.

So, we have all three of those things in common, including being concerned about what happened in 2016.

BRENNAN: Should all the information in the FISA application be publicly disclosed, declassified, so that people can make their own judgment and see what you have seen?

GOWDY: I think -- I'm going to defer a little bit to the bureau and DOJ on -- it's a long application. If there are sources and methods that are not already known that they think would jeopardize national security, I would -- I would defer to their judgment.

The source that we revealed, Chris Steele, was about the least well-kept secret in America. So, generally, I err on the side of transparency and disclosure.

On the other hand, there's a reason that this process is usually confidential. And I don't want to set the precedent of all FISA applications being publicly seen.

BRENNAN: Well, that's the concern in doing this memo, that you have set a new precedent.

GOWDY: I would argue it's also somewhat unprecedented to rely on political opposition research to instruct and inform an application.

And it's really bad precedent and unprecedented to not tell a court that a source has this level of bias. I mean, look at just the disclosure of who paid for it. They could have easily said it was the DNC and Hillary Clinton. That would have been really easy. I read the footnote.

I know exactly what the footnote says. It took longer to explain it the way they did than if they had just come right out and said Hillary Clinton for America and DNC paid for it. But they didn't do that.

BRENNAN: But short of that disclosure, you still would have believed this FISA surveillance warrant was justified? Your problem is in the disclosure within the application.

But the surveillance itself of this American Carter Page, who was named in your memo, who was at one point a Trump campaign associate, was that justified, that surveillance?

GOWDY: We will never know, because the application contained three parts. It contained -- it included the dossier. It included reference to a newspaper article which, by the way, no court in America considers a newspaper article to be evidence.

And it included other information they had on Carter Page. So, what I would say to the FBI and DOJ is, if you had enough on Carter Page with just him, why did you include something that "The National Enquirer" might not run, and why did you cite newspaper article, when there's no court in America that allows a newspaper article to be considered as evidence?

If you had enough without it, why did you use it? That would be my question to them.

BRENNAN: Were the judges political? Four times, this was approved.

GOWDY: No, I -- the judges are only as good as what's put in front of them. Judges don't do independent research. So, you're looking at a stack of papers.

BRENNAN: But this is an extensive process, from what I'm told.

GOWDY: Right.

BRENNAN: This isn't just something people sign off on quickly. It's a sizable application with, as you said, multipart information that's submitted.

GOWDY: That's true for...

BRENNAN: Were the judges not doing their jobs?

GOWDY: No, I think they were.

I mean, judges sign Title III applications all the time. They sign search warrants. They sign arrest warrants. There's a reason the affiant swears to the truthfulness of the underlying information.

Judges can't then go research and say, well, gosh, I wonder if Chris Steele knew this all himself, or I wonder if he was relying on hearsay from sub-sources in Russia?

That's not the judge's job. It's the FBI and DOJ's job to present full, credible information to the court.

So, I don't -- look, I will never miss chance to blame judges, if I can, because I was a former litigator. There's nothing judges can do about information that is not presented to them.

BRENNAN: And the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, if the president makes any move to dismiss him -- he failed to express confidence in him the other day -- would that concern you?

GOWDY: It would. Again, I'm not in the Senate. I don't have advice and consent. And the president has not sought my counsel on this.

BRENNAN: But you don't think he should be fired, based on what you have seen?

GOWDY: I don't.

I think it is fair to ask the deputy attorney general, what did you know at the time you signed one of the applications? I think it is fair to ask, what FISA reforms are you going to implement to make sure we don't have this fact pattern come up again?

I don't judge people based on a single decision that they make throughout the course of an otherwise really stellar career.

BRENNAN: I want to ask you about one of the criticisms that is coming from Democrats here, because they -- there was lot of hubbub, should the memo come out, should it not?

When it did, in reading it, Democrats said that the content actually undercut some of the argument that you're making here, because it confirms that the Russia probe was already under way in advance of these FISA warrant applications, and that it pointed all the way back to July 2016, when George Papadopoulos was named there, a former Trump foreign policy aide who has since pled guilty and is now a cooperating witness in the special counsel's probe.

So, how do you respond to that, that you have actually hurt your own argument?

GOWDY: Well, I'm actually in a really small group, I think, of Republicans that think that this FISA process is suspect and wrong and should not have taken place.

But you still have a Russia investigation even without it. So, I don't know how many other Republicans feel that way. I am on record as saying I support Bob Mueller 100 percent. I think you would have a Russia -- look, Russia tried to interfere with our election in 2016 with or without a dossier.

So, you need an investigation into Russia. You need an investigation into Trump Tower and the Cambridge Analytica e-mail separate and apart from the dossier. So, those are not connected issues to me. They may be for other Republicans, but they're not for me.

I say investigate everything Russia did, but admit that this was a really sloppy process that you have engaged in to surveil a U.S. citizen.

BRENNAN: So, your concern is a process-driven one, not questioning the probe that the president continues to call a witch-hunt?

Because he is taking this evidence as he's saying, you know, clearing the decks and saying that, in the court of public opinion, he should already be decided as not guilty of collusion.

GOWDY: Well, that's a little bit separate issue.

I -- we're not through with the investigation, so I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of it. I have seen no evidence of collusion between President Trump and the Russians or his campaign and the Russians.

We're not through investigating. But I would ask my fellow citizens, keep these three things disconnected. Bob Mueller is looking into what Russia did in 2016 and potential criminality, as evidenced by the Papadopoulos plea and the Flynn plea.

Congress is looking in to what Russia did in 2016, but, oh, by the way, it's also -- you can do that and also be critical of the use of the dossier and the failure to tell the FISA court of all relevant material facts. You can do all three. And that's where I am.

BRENNAN: Now, your committee, the House Intelligence Committee, has said they have a second memo planned for release, this time about the State Department. What can you tell us about that?

GOWDY: That that's news to me.

BRENNAN: You didn't have a role in creating this memo?

GOWDY: I don't think there's a memo about the State Department.

The way I...


BRENNAN: But Chairman Nunes has said that publicly.

GOWDY: I think what -- I think what Devin said is, there's a phase two of the investigation.

And there is -- we do have concerns with a certain aspect of State Department involvement, and have serious concerns about it. It's not been public yet. So I think what Chairman Nunes meant is, there's another aspect to the investigation.

But if there is a second memo, I don't know about it.

BRENNAN: I want to ask you about the other big news of the week that you made.


BRENNAN: You surprised Washington with announcing your retirement, that you're not going to run for Congress.

Why did you decide to leave?

GOWDY: I mean, I'm just -- I enjoy the justice system more. I enjoy being fair.

I enjoy the pursuit of fairness as a virtue. And I'm just more comfortable in that system. My wife hates it when I say this, but I was a pretty good prosecutor, I think, but I have been a pretty lousy politician.

So, I have done it for seven years. I'm really grateful for the opportunity to do it. But it's time for me to -- whatever time I got left, I want to spend it in the justice system, because that's where my heart is, and that's where my interest...

BRENNAN: Why do you say you're a lousy politician?

GOWDY: I just -- I see multiple sides of a single issue.

And the fact that someone disagrees with me does not make me challenge their love of the country. It doesn't make me believe that they're corrupt. I have got a lot of friends on the other side of the aisle. We disagree on this issue, but I don't question their love for the country, and I don't -- I just -- I don't think the end justifies the means.

I think the manner in which we get places matters. And in politics, too often, winning is the only thing that matters.

And, look, every hero I have has lost, every one of them. So, losing is not the worst thing in the world. Not knowing what you believe and not caring enough about it to fight for it, that's the worst thing in the world.

BRENNAN: Did you served justice in your time in Congress?

GOWDY: Not like I did in my previous job. I tried.

It's about winning in politics. And that is not -- look, in the courtroom, there's a reason we throw out search warrants even though we found the murder weapon. There's a reason we throw out confessions even though we think the person did it.

The process matters. The end does not justify the means. And in politics, it's just about winning. And I can't -- I don't want to live like that.

BRENNAN: Congressman, thank you for coming on and telling your story.

GOWDY: Yes, ma'am. Thank you. Yes, ma'am.


BRENNAN: We will be back in one minute.


BRENNAN: We turn now to a trio of experts to help us understand the impact of the memo's release.

Fran Townsend was homeland security adviser to George W. Bush, and she is now a CBS News senior national security analyst. Michael Morell was CIA deputy director, and is now a CBS News senior national security contributor. And Victoria Nuland is a former assistant secretary of state. She's now CEO at the Center for a New American Security.

Welcome to all of you.

This has been a confusing week for many people, trying to follow the politics of this.

Fran, can you tell us, is the FISA process a broken as Trey Gowdy describes? And should Americans be afraid they are getting spied on?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CBS NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's actually a quite robust process with many checks and balances along the way, including internally in the FBI. It goes through multiple legal checks.

We ought to talk about specifics, right? Carter Page, if you wanted to do surveillance on him, you had to had probable cause that he was an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia. You had to make out that probable cause. If the Steele dossier was in there -- Trey Gowdy acknowledges that there was a footnote.

He doesn't like the way it was worded. He doesn't think it was robust enough. But they did caveat that piece of evidence that they were relying on.

But let's remember he had been approached. The FBI was aware in 2013 he had been approached by Russian intelligence agents, and they interviewed him. He had been very public in terms of his criticism of U.S. policy about Russia. He had -- he himself claimed to have been an informal adviser to the Kremlin.

There was plenty of information to establish probable cause about the possibility of him being an agent of a foreign power. Add to that that initial surveillance was only good for 90 days. Then the Justice Department and FBI had to come back to the court, and they had to not only plead that he was agent of foreign power. They had to say that that surveillance was productive in advancing their investigation.

Every time they came back to the court, they had to show it was productive and they were learning more about his activities vis-a-vis Russia.

BRENNAN: Mike, was this memo as damaging as some had feared? And if the Democrats release their version, is that also damaging?

MICHAEL MORELL, CBS NEWS SENIOR SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: So, I think there's kind of two points to set this up, Margaret. The first is that this didn't have to happen right now.

The release of this memo did not have to happen. There was nothing that forced it. What should have happened here is that this be part of a final report of the committee, with the facts laid out, here's what Republicans think, here's what the Democrats think.

That's the way it should have happened. Right? That's point one.

Point two is, there is classified information in this document, in those four pages. Trey Gowdy acknowledged some of it. Right? There is material in here that the FBI would have removed had they had the opportunity.

Put those two points together, you get three damages. The first is, it undermines the credibility of the FBI in the public's eyes, and with no justification, in my view. I share all of Fran's views on that point.

Two is, it undermines the oversight process. How does it undermine the oversight process? Government agencies are not going to want to share sensitive information with Congress if they believe that Congress can release it on their own, without going through the redaction process.

And then the third is, it undermines intelligence collection, because if you're a source of the United States or a foreign government giving us information, you're going to think twice about doing that if it's going to end up...

BRENNAN: Mike, we're going to have to continue that thought on the other side of this break.


BRENNAN: Stay with us. And we will be right back with more from our panel.


BRENNAN: If you can't watch us live, FACE THE NATION is replayed on our digital network, CBSN, every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Plus, you can see us on the CBS All Access app.


BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including our national security panel.

Stay with us.


BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm Margaret Brennan.

We'll continue our conversation now with national security panelist Fran Townsend, Michael Morell and Victoria Nuland.

Mike, let you pick up the thought you left us on. If the Democrats release their memo will it cause further damage?

MICHAEL MORELL, CBS NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: So, when -- when source provide our government with sensitive information, or foreign governments provide us with sensitive information, they expect us to protect it. And when they see that information being released, when they see the names of source in documents being released, it gives them pause about whether they should continue to do that or not.

I think the other really important point here, Margaret, is that what happened here underscores the partisanship and the dysfunction of a very important committee in Congress. And that does not serve Congress well, it doesn't serve the intelligence community and it doesn't serve the country well.

BRENNAN: Victoria, Congressman Gowdy said they now have concern about the State Department. You served there until recently. Do you know what he's talking about?

VICTORIA NULAND, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't. I look forward to -- to hearing what he's talking about.

I will tell you, though, Margaret, that during the Ukraine cries in 2014-15, Chris Steele had a number of commercial clients who were asking him for reports on what was going on in Russia, what was going on in Ukraine, what was going on between them. Chris had a friend at the State Department and he offered us that reporting free so that we could also benefit from it. It was one of, you know, hundreds of sources that we were using to try to understand what was going on.

Then, in the middle of July, when he was doing this other work and became concerned --

BRENNAN: The dossier.

NULAND: The dossier, he passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding and our immediate reaction to that was, this is not in our purview. This need to go to the FBI if there is any concern here that one candidate or the election as a whole might be influenced by the Russian Federation. That's something for the FBI to investigate. And that was our reaction when we saw this. It's not our -- our -- we can't evaluate this.

And, frankly, if every member of the campaign who the Russians tried to approach and tried to influence had gone to the FBI as well in real time, we might not be in the mess we're in today.

BRENNAN: When it comes to this memo, Senator John McCain said that it only serves Vladimir Putin's interest. You spent a lot of your career watching Russia. Is he right?

NULAND: He's absolutely right. This -- what's most important is that we investigate what happened in the past, but even more importantly that we work together, the House, the Senate Intelligence Committees, the executive branch, the -- our technology companies, to deter future Russian efforts to influence U.S. politics and election. We should be working on the strategies that will blunt this, expose it.

Some of our European partners have done better already than we have at this. In the French election, the Macron campaign immediately exposed what Russia was doing to their public, to their media and that sunshine served as a disinfectant and blunted the Russian's ability to influence that election. That's what we should be doing here. And when we fight with each other, when we question our fundamental institution, that is a great day for Vladimir Putin.


MORELL: I just want to add -- I just want to add one point. Victoria's absolutely right, we have not deterred Putin. And one of the consequence of that is other countries are now getting into this business of weaponizing social media. So the Chinese are now doing this with the Taiwanese. The Turks are now doing this with the Turkish diaspora in Europe. They're trying to influence them. This is going to spread because we have failed to deter Putin.

BRENNAN: And, Fran, there's also this question, which is why I asked you, should Americans be concern of undermining U.S. institution, a lack of trust now for the FBI. I mean how do you reassure people?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CBS NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Look, these are career public servants. You know, you may disagree, as Trey Gowdy says, with a particular decision Rod Rosenstein or Andrew McCabe made. But this is -- these are thousands of people who've devoted decades to public service, to protecting us from this sort of influence, for -- to investigating it.

And there are multiple legal checks, including, let's remember, these -- these packages for the FISA surveillance went to independent Article III judges. Not one. This went to the court four times. And the judges do ask questions. It is in secret because the proceedings are classified, as Mike points out. But the judges often ask for additional information, especially in the -- in the case where the dossier was foot noted. It would have been drawn to the judges' attention.

And so these public servants, what they care about is getting to the bottom and getting the facts without -- without fear or favor of politics. Oftentimes they're -- they're legally prohibit from political activity and none of them engage in it. It really is about the facts of the investigation that drive them to protect the American people.

BRENNAN: And from your perspective, the fact that Carter Page has been surveyed going all the way back to 2013 was enough to justify use of this dossier in the application?

TOWNSEND: Well, look, I -- I think you can take the dossier -- based on what we know, I think you can take the dossier out of it. I disagree with Trey Gowdy. I think they probably had enough to establish probable cause without it. But if you were going to include it, they did the right thing by caveating it in the footnote, even if Trey Gowdy disagrees with how detailed the footnote was.

BRENNAN: Victoria, bigger picture. When you look at the Trump administration's policy so far on Russia, it's surprised some that it's been harder line in terms of promising weapons to Ukraine, perhaps more nuclear development in this latest gesture towards countering Russia's nuclear development and breaking some of our treaties. Have you been surprised by their policies so far? I mean are you seeing any deterrence?

NULAND: Well, I think in the first instance, our democracy is working with regard to Russia. You remember that there were, at the beginning of 2017, lots of noise out of the administration about lifting the Ukraine sanction before we even got into a negotiation and without any leverage. It was the Congress that insisted that they stay in place and be used to try to negotiate the Russians out of Ukraine, which is what they were put on to begin with.

Yes, I think it's very important that we now have the national security advisor, the secretary of state, the head of the CIA, the secretary of defense all saying that Russia is a real problem and that we need to contain and deter. That's what the national security strategy says. But it's going to take --

BRENNAN: Do you think the president can say that?

NULAND: It's going to take presidential leadership for us to unite this government and create a real strategy, carrots and sticks, to get back on a -- a better path with Russia. And we ought to be looking at doing that as soon as the Russian elections are over in March.

BRENNAN: All right, Victoria, thank you very much.

Mike, Fran, good to talk to you.

We'll be right back with our political panel.


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

Julie Pace is the Washington bureau chief of "The Associated Press." Jamelle Bouie is chief political correspondent for "Slate" and a CBS News analyst. Molly Ball is national political correspondent for "Time" magazine. And Ben Domenech is the founder and publisher of "The Federalist."

Molly, I want to start off with you.

The State of the Union was on Tuesday. Does anyone remember that? Because it seems like this memo has just dominated everything in Washington.

MOLLY BALL, "TIME" MAGAZINE: It does feel like a lifetime ago. And it's -- it's a -- a real shame for the president and his supporters because the reviews of the State of the Union were quite positive. In fact, there's been a lot of good news for the president outside of this investigation.

But I think we have seen that the president, in particular, message discipline is not his strong suit. Being quiet about things, that it might be advantageous for him not to talk about is not his strong suit. And it was really the Republicans in Congress that made the memo a thing. And so they're the ones who put this out there that ended up, you know, being seized on by the president, really overshadowing everything else.

And so I do think the State of the Union was important and it matters that it was generally seen as -- as a good performance by the president. But this herky-jerky news cycle that we've been in for seemingly the past three years just means that nothing makes a lasting impression.

BRENNAN: Ben, can the Republicans get the message back?

BEN DOMENECH, "THE FEDERALIST": Well, I think in this case, there are two different messages going on. One, I think the country is paying a lot of attention to the economic news that they've had over the course of the past couple of months. It's why you've seen Republicans advantage in -- in the election improve compared to where it was in December. Similarly, you know, the president's approval rating has picked up in a number of different measures. And I think that that's what the American people are generally focused on. I view this memo story as essentially an inside Washington story for the most part.

But I do want to circle back to your prior panel because you had a couple of people on there who are willing to defend the intelligence community, hook, line and sinker. And I think that that is actually some -- a story that is just beginning in terms of the consequence of this memo's release. And you're going to see additional transparency on a number of things. You're going to see additional leaks on number of fronts. And I think that this is only the beginning of a back and forth that is going to result in a lot of questions being raised about a FISA court process that has been frankly controversial for quite some time and now --

BRENNAN: But it was just reauthorized.

DOMENECH: Yes, but I think that's going to come up again in terms of questions that people have about that process and what people knew about what was going on behind it.

The fact is that we're talking about, you know, not the whole of the FBI or the intelligence community, obviously. But, you know, ten years ago it was funny to see this week, you know, Peter King, who was -- has been described by "The New York Times" as the Patriot Act's number one fan, just, you know, raking James Comey over the coals and criticizing the FBI, at the same time that Adam Schiff, who ten years ago was calling for dramatic increase in transparency on the part of FISA, on the opposite side of this issue and saying that the release of this memo was incredibly irresponsible.

BRENNAN: And you see widespread support for that kind of criticism within the Republican Party?

DOMENECH: I think that things have flipped, just as in so many things in the Trump era. Things have flipped on their head. And you see a lot of people criticizing the FBI, who have been its most stalwart defenders. I don't think that's going to stop any time soon.

BRENNAN: Well, there's a lot to dig in on too on that. Apparently we've got news to continue to tune in to.

But I want to ask you, Julie, we have a deadline again. Are we going to see a government funding shutdown February 8th?

JULIE PACE, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": It doesn't feel like there's an appetite for a shutdown this week. That being said, Congress, you know, can move fast when it wants to and particularly slow when they get into these gridlock moments.

I think that you're seeing Democrats, who really looked to the last shutdown deadline as an opportunity to push forward on immigration, to try to make a deal on DACA, recognizing that even though their base is energized by that, strategically they don't have a lot of leverage on Capitol Hill right now to tie these issues together. So I think you're going to see these issues splitting apart again this week.

It's possible we just get another short-term spending bill, kick this into March again.

You know, this is part of the frustration that you hear from Americans, but also, frankly, from a lot of members right now. They can't even do basic things. We could be heading into another short-term CR. That -- that is pretty astounding. It has a lot of people frustrated, but it looks like that's where we are this week.

JAMELLE BOUIE, "SLATE" MAGAZINE: Yes, during your interview with Congressman Gowdy, you asked him why he was leaving Congress. And just, as viewer, my immediate thought was, it seems like a terrible job. Just for the past -- for the past year and a half it has been difficult to move forward on anything in Congress. It's been difficult to legislate. It's been difficult to accomplish anything. This is a result of a lot of different factors. But I think the overall conclusion you have to draw from what's happened in Congress over the last year or so is that, who wouldn't want to be there? Who would want to spend years of their life working through this muck.

BRENNAN: So what does that mean for the more than 1.5 million so-called dreamers that the president has now said he'd be willing to give some sort of protection to in a future immigration deal?

BOUIE: My hunch -- so, if you pull back, the administration's immigration policy has been less about sort of mass deportation, which just isn't feasible, but more about kind of creating the fear of deportation for newer and larger groups of undocumented immigrants. And so, you know, pulling back DACA does that. Pulling back temporary protection status does that.

And my -- you know, in the absence of any sort of deal on immigration, my hunch is that the administration will continue forward with this approach. Essentially allowing DACA recipients to remain in this -- this limbo state where they are. And they're in threat of being deported.

And given that the sort of immigration policy drivers within the administration want this, have no problem with this, I find it hard to imagine that the president will be that broken up if Congress can't get them to adopt a deal.

PACE: But it is -- it is creating tremendous uncertainty.


PACE: You have a March 5th deadline, but that also some questions about --

BRENNAN: Is that going to stay?

PACE: Whether that deadline is hard --


PACE: Because of some -- some court action. So you have -- have hundreds of thousands of people right now who are currently in this system, who have received these protection, who have come forward, hundreds of thousands more who do -- chose not to come forward but could if Congress acted.

So, part of the reason that this debate, I think, is so fraught is because we're talking about real people's lives. Even though it gets tied up in all the politics, there are real people who lived in this country for quite some time who don't know if they'll be able to stay.

BRENNAN: One thing that we have seen on the part of Congress, widespread support for, were sanctions on Russia and the president didn't act on this this week. Should we stay tuned? Or are they not coming?

PACE: It's unclear whether they're coming or not. There is a lot of pressure on this administration to take some tough action on Russia. They have continuously chosen to balk when some of these deadlines have come up. And that's what lead to a lot of the questions around this investigation, when the president often has a chance to look tough on Russia, to take some tough action, he doesn't.

BRENNAN: I want to ask you, Molly, about some of the -- some of the noise coming out of the vice president's office these days. He was unusually aggressive, sort of picking a fight with Joe Manchin, a senator that the administration has tried to work with in the past. He's the Democrat and they need them these days. What is he trying to do?

BALL: They ought to. No, I really don't know. And there was quite a bit of befuddlement about why he chose to take that particular shot.

Manchin recently announced that he will run for re-election, to the great relief of the Democratic caucus, because he is seen as basically only Democrat who stands any kind of chance at keeping the Senate seat in West Virginia.

And, you know, Pence's strategy for the most part as vice president has been to act presidential, right? To do the kinds of very message controlled and ceremonial things that the president often doesn't do, and -- and to send the signals of calm and normality that the president often doesn't do. So it was interesting to see him go out on a -- on a limb like this. Normally the vice president's office is sort of the eye of the storm.

BRENNAN: Ben, when you come and look at the numbers right now, as we're saying, you know, they need a few friendly Democrats. But short of that, we're seeing a lot of Republicans right now leave. Trey Gowdy just the latest to announce that he's departing.

What's going on and should Democrats actually be heartened by this or what? How do we read it?

DOMENECH: I think that -- I think that Jamelle is correct when he says that the simplest explanation is that Congress just isn't a very fun place to work these days.

But I think that you're seeing a number of different factors going on there. Part of it is feeling like we've finally gotten into this majority position. We finally have the White House and we're incapable of delivering on any of the things that we promise to our constituents.

But part of it, too, I think, is just that this political upheaval that we've gone through in the past couple of years is challenging a number of figures who don't really know how to navigate the new scenarios and, frankly, are worried about primary challenges from more populous Republicans who might come in and go after them.

One of the more interesting developments, frankly, this past week was the -- the sort of story thrown out there by those close to Mitch McConnell that one Republican who is coming back, it seems, Mitt Romney, would be potentially a candidate to run the NRSC. This sets up a scenario where, frankly, McConnell's being very smart by putting him in that position. He's recognizing that Romney is one of the few Republicans, perhaps the only one who could challenge him for leadership should that sort of situation arise.

But it's also kind of a story about what we're going to see in the coming years, which is a continued amount of tension between this Congress and the White House on a number of different fronts because of the differences between the political constituencies that back these different figures.

BRENNAN: Jamelle, are we getting ahead of ourselves in trying to read ahead to what's happening in 2018?

BOUIE: I don't think so. It is --

BRENNAN: Who wants the job you say stinks? Who's -- who's actually in there (ph)?

BOUIE: What's clear is that some of the people who want the job are energized Democrats, are an unprecedented number of women candidates, an unprecedented number of candidates of color who are coming forward to run in place where Democrats have sort of not been running competitively in order to attempt to strike a blow against the Trump administration.

And so I think that that story, which is developing and ongoing, is one reason to be -- have an eye on this November beyond all the other machinations. It is -- if those candidates end up succeeding, it will represent a major change in the competition of Congress and a change in -- where the energy in the Democratic Party is coming from.

BRENNAN: All right. Thanks to all of you. Helping us to handicap what's ahead.

And we will be back in a moment.


BRENNAN: Joining us now is Steve Coll. He's a staff writer at "The New Yorker" and the dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. His new book is "Directorate S: The CIA and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Steve, what is Directorate S?

STEVE COLL, AUTHOR, "DIRECTORATE S": It's the covert action arm of Pakistani intelligence. The main service is called Inter-Services Intelligence. The CIA worked with them during the 1980s to smuggle guns and money to the Afghan rebels who were fighting the Soviet occupation. After 2001, as we tried to restore constitutional democracy to Afghanistan, ISI fostered the revival of the Taliban and ended up creating the mess that we're in now.

BRENNAN: So it's a -- there's a reason you picked that theme for the rest of the book.

COLL: Yes.

BRENNAN: What's happening right now, you've seen some really terrible terrorist attacks over the past two weeks in Afghanistan. What's driving the violence right now?

COLL: Well, it's been a rough couple of years and there's -- there are groups based in Pakistan, the Haqqani network and others, that have continually carried out mass casualty attacks in Kabul in order to unsettle the government, make themselves felt. The Trump administration has changed policy toward Pakistan, suspended aid. There's some speculation in Afghanistan that maybe the terrible attacks we've seen recently are retaliation for that, a kind of signaling (ph), but it's hard to say.

BRENNAN: Is that wishful thinking or is that real?

COLL: It's possible. I mean ISI has a record of carrying out mass casualty attacks to -- in order to send a signal about where the war is going and -- and their interest in it. But it's also possible that these are just terrorist attacks of the type we've been seeing too often over the last year.

BRENNAN: Now the president tweeted that he was going to be doing something about the aid you just mentioned. They ended up suspending about $900,000 million, complaining Pakistan has given us nothing but lies and deceit. Does he have clearer eyes than past presidents who have been more careful in their language?

COLL: Well, I can understand the frustration about Pakistan's conduct. But, of course, Pakistan has also been a partner in counterterrorism over the last 10 years and -- and has carried out arrest of important al Qaeda leaders, even while suckering the Taliban's revival. So it's a complicated picture.

In, you know, in -- there's a history of imposing sanctions on Pakistan to try to change its conduct. It's not a very happy one. It doesn't tend to work and the reaction to the latest pressure has just been another kind of response of deep nationalism and defiance of the United States.

The problem is our leverage in Pakistan not what it used to be. It may never have been enough to change Pakistan's sense of where its interests lie in Afghanistan. But right now Pakistan's most important ally by far is China. And China has had Pakistan's back through many episodes of this type of war.

BRENNAN: And perhaps can offset whatever the U.S. may be pulling back.

COLL: And then some, yes.

BRENNAN: So, Presidents Bush, Obama, now Trump, have all wanted to draw down and then realize they needed to recommit, they thought, to this war in Afghanistan. I was just there in December with the vice president who said we're going to stay until the last terrorist. Is this a forever war?

COLL: It's looking like it. We keep doing the same things and expecting different results. Our war aims have been a muddle really since the fall of the Taliban. We haven't been able to align our resource and capabilities with the goals that we're trying to achieve.

And so we, for example, we often say of the general that go over and lead the war, we'll say, we can't find a military solution against the Taliban. I think it was David Petraeus who said you can't capture and kill your way out of industrial strength insurgency. And that --

BRENNAN: Now, the president said this week, too early to talk.

COLL: That's who -- yes. And so we keep prioritizing military action, even as we acknowledge that it's not likely to end the war. So I do fear that the latest turn in policy is really not much of a departure from what the Bush administration and the Obama administration struggled with.

BRENNAN: Is it over simplifying things to compare this to Vietnam?

COLL: Not really. You know, that Ken Burns documentary that came out in the fall, I watched it after, you know, spending five, ten years on this book and it really made me sad because there's so much repetition of the pattern in Vietnam, fighting for honor and failing to let the facts guide where the war is really going.

And, of course, they're very different countries. Very different times of history.


COLL: And -- and the -- the American people have supported this war more than they did in Vietnam and so that's allowed governments, one after another, to continue it. But there are parallels.

BRENNAN: Steve Coll, thank you very much. The book is "Directorate S." Well worth a read.

Thank you for coming in.

COLL: Thanks, Margaret.

And we will be right back


BRENNAN: Today. Thanks for watching FACE THE NATION. I'm Margaret Brennan.

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