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Full transcript of "Face the Nation," Feb. 18, 2024

2/18: Face The Nation
2/18: Face The Nation 46:11

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast, moderated by Robert Costa: 

  • GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
  • GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina
  • CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman
  • Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina
  • Historian Douglas Brinkley and reporter and author Amie Parnes

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

ROBERT COSTA: I'm Robert Costa in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation: Former President Donald Trump faces yet another legal setback. And with the South Carolina Republican primary less than a week away, Nikki Haley is fighting to stay in the race.

(Begin VT)

DONALD TRUMP (Former President of the United States (R) and Current U.S. Presidential Candidate): Crooked judge. Crooked judge. He's a crooked judge.

(End VT)

ROBERT COSTA: Former President Trump lashes out about his latest legal turmoil, a New York judge ordering him to pay nearly $355 million in a civil fraud case.

(Begin VT)

FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's a sham case. There were no victims, no defaults, no damages, no complaints, no nothing.

(End VT)

ROBERT COSTA: And with days to go until the next GOP contest, his lone opponent seeks an opening.

(Begin VT)

NIKKI HALEY (R-Presidential Candidate): He's going to spend most of this year in a courtroom, not on a campaign trail. That's not a way you win.

(End VT)

ROBERT COSTA: Meanwhile, foreign aid sparks debate on the campaign trail.

(Begin VT)

NIKKI HALEY: You have got Congress saying, well, do we support Ukraine and Israel, or do we support the border? That's a false premise. We can do both.

(End VT)

ROBERT COSTA: We will hear from both of South Carolina's Republican senators, Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, about their recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border and how the death of Putin critic Alexei Navalny will impact the push to aid Ukraine.

Then: South Carolina Democrat Jim Clyburn was key to Joe Biden's 2020 primary win. We will hear whether he has any concerns about President Biden's reelection.

Finally, on this President's Day weekend, a discussion on leadership, character and American values.

It's all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation. Margaret is off today.

Congress is on a two-week recess, but there is an urgent push among some lawmakers to do more to fund Ukraine. This weekend, another major Ukrainian city fell to Russian forces. And at an annual security conference in Munich, President Zelenskyy pleaded for more help from the U.S. and from allies around the world.

(Begin VT)

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (Ukrainian President): Do not ask Ukraine when the war will end. Ask yourself, why is Putin still able to continue it?

(End VT)

ROBERT COSTA: But the path forward for more U.S. aid remains uncertain.

Last week, the Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid bill that included money for Ukraine, Israel and more. But the GOP-controlled House is not expected to take up that measure.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who opposed the bipartisan Senate legislation joins us now from Clemson, South Carolina.

Senator, good morning.

At this point do you expect…

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-South Carolina): Good morning.

ROBERT COSTA: … any new U.S. assistance for Ukraine from Congress?


I feel very optimistic, after having been on the phone all weekend talking with my House colleagues, that there's a way forward regarding the border and Ukraine.

The Problem Solvers Caucus, Congressman Fitzpatrick and Gott – Gottsenheim. I'm sorry, Josh, I can't remember your last name here, Gosenheim…

ROBERT COSTA: Gottheim – Josh Gottheimer from New Jersey.


They've got a pretty creative idea. Here's what they're saying. Let's go back to Remain in Mexico as a border security policy. And that was the number one request of the Border Patrol on our visit to Texas with Senator Scott. Go back to Remain in Mexico. You have to wait in Mexico for your asylum claim. You're not released into the United States, and, secondly, to reinstitute Title 42.

Those two things on the border, I think, are simple, will work. And they want to slim down the aid package to $60 billion, all lethal aid. And here's what I told them. I think that's the winning combination. I suggested making the lethal aid a loan, like President Trump has suggested.

The Europeans gave Ukraine $50 billion; 33 of it was a loan. So I think, if you turn the lethal aid into a loan, do Remain in Mexico, Title 42, that combination not only gets through the House. It picks up votes in the Senate. It would be welcome relief to the Ukraine. It'd be a blow to Putin. It will also help Israel and Taiwan.

ROBERT COSTA: Senator Graham, let's stop there for a moment. You stunned many of your colleagues and U.S. allies around the world when you opposed this recent…


ROBERT COSTA: No, you did, with opposing this bipartisan legislation.

Now it seems you are prepared to support this emerging House legislation from some of these centrist Republicans and Democrats.


ROBERT COSTA: To be clear, this is a $66 billion package that goes across Israel, Ukraine, and border security. Are you saying this morning that you are a yes-vote on the Fitzpatrick House proposal?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yes, I'm saying that the House proposal – it depends on how it's written – makes perfect sense to me.

I think you'll pick up six to eight Republicans who want to help Ukraine, but believed that the bipartisan – bipartisan border bill was not sufficient enough. Why did I vote no? I want to help ourselves by securing our border. I want to help Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel. The border provisions were – were not adequate…

ROBERT COSTA: Understood.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: … to the task. And there were many good things.

So, Remain in Mexico…


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: … is the number one game changer. You put that in the package, you slim down the package to lethal aid, but I don't – I would support humanitarian aid, smaller in number, if it was a loan.

Again, the Europeans have made 33 of their $50 billion transfer to Ukraine a loan. Let's make it a loan. I think that gets you President Trump on the – the aid part. Let's go to Remain in Mexico. We got a package that will work.

And as to – as to what happened in Russia with Navalny, Navalny was one of the bravest people I have ever met. When he went back to Russia, he had to know he was going to be killed by Putin. And he was murdered by Putin.

So, why don't we do this? I just got off the phone with two Democratic senators. Let's make Russia a state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law. Let's make them pay a price for killing Navalny. It would allow the Navalny family to go to U.S. court and sue Putin's Russia for killing of their loved one.

A state sponsor of terrorism designation is a game changer. It would allow more sanctions. It would open up the American courtroom. I have been pushing this for a year.

ROBERT COSTA: Do you expect legislation on that this week?


President Biden told Putin, if something happens to Navalny, you're going to pay a price. President Biden, I agree with you. The price they should pay is to make Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, like Iran, Cuba and North Korea. They deserve this designation. Putin's been killing people, opposition leaders, for decades now. He's dismembered Syria.

He's one of the world's worst actors.

ROBERT COSTA: Senator Graham…

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: He's an indicted war criminal.


ROBERT COSTA: I want to come back to what you said about this news you just made that you're now supporting House legislation on Ukraine funding, after opposing the Senate legislation. You said you…



ROBERT COSTA: … think you can get former President Trump to buy in on some components. That's a big guess.



ROBERT COSTA: Have you spoken to former President Trump about your new support for this House bill? And are you confident you can convince him to not try to kill what Brian Fitzpatrick, the House member from Pennsylvania, is putting forward?


I have not spoken to President Trump about this package. I spoke to President Trump earlier in the week about making the aid to Ukraine a loan. This was his idea, not mine. You know, we did lend-lease to Britain. We're $34 trillion in debt. Ukraine has minerals. They have a lot of resources.

Israel has a strong economy. They have been hurt badly by October the 7th. Taiwan is a pretty rich nation. Why don't we do this, make a favorable loan to all three of these allies? Let them pay us back when they can, if they can, because we're $34 trillion in debt. That's the Trump idea.

If you embrace that, I think you'll get a lot of votes in the House and the Senate. President Trump says, let's wait on the border. With all due respect, we cannot wait. It's a national security nightmare, a 2000 percent increase in people on the terrorist watch list coming across the border in two years.

Five billion people could be killed by the amount of fentanyl coming across our southern border. The largest loss of life of young people in America is fentanyl poisoning coming across the southern border. So I don't want to wait. I want to act now on the border. I want to turn the aid package into a loan. That makes perfect sense to me.

And I think the bipartisan Problem Solvers group has an idea that will sell. So…


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: … if you're Putin, I want you to know we're not going to pull the plug on Ukraine. We're going to come after you. We're going to make your country a state sponsor of terrorism. You're going to pay a heavy price for murdering this brave man.

ROBERT COSTA: But Putin's watching what's happening in Congress. And he must wonder, where is the Republican Party these days?


ROBERT COSTA: Former President Trump has been invited by President Zelenskyy…


ROBERT COSTA: … to come to the front lines.


ROBERT COSTA: Should he do that?

And do you have any concern, Senator Graham, with how former President Trump has spoken about NATO allies and how he has said, if they're delinquent on payments to NATO, well, Russia can do whatever the heck it wants? Is that appropriate, especially in terms of U.S. foreign policy?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think what's appropriate is for everybody to meet the obligation of 2 percent.

Sam Nunn in 1984 threatened to withdraw 30,000 troops a year from NATO if they didn't make the 3 percent number back in the '80s. So, here's what I think. They should pay up; 19 of 31 NATO nations do not contribute 2 percent of GDP. I want to have a system where, if you don't pay, you get kicked out.

But, no, I'm not inviting Russia to invade Ukraine. President Trump is right to want NATO nations to meet their obligation of 2 percent. We need to turn it into an obligation that means something.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I'm a big fan of NATO. But there's $70 billion to $80 billion left on the table. If you're in NATO, pay the 2 percent.

ROBERT COSTA: Final thing here, Senator Graham.

Special Counsel Hur is scheduled to go before the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks. You're on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Do you plan to push to have him testify before your committee?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: We'll leave that up to Senator Durbin. I got some ideas about that.

But I just want to end it. One, thank you for having me on the show.

I see a pathway forward now for Ukraine, Taiwan, and – and Israel. I see a way to secure our border in a more simple fashion. Let's make Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. All of this can happen in the next 30 days. It would be a game changer for the world. So we'll see what happens.

ROBERT COSTA: The talks seemed dead. Now they seem alive.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, thank you.


ROBERT COSTA: We turn now to South Carolina's other Republican senator, Senator Tim Scott. He joins us this morning from his home state.

Senator, thanks for being here.

SENATOR TIM SCOTT (R-South Carolina): Hey, Bob.

ROBERT COSTA: Former President Donald Trump has spent a lot of time in the courtroom in recent days.

And his opponent Nikki Haley says that's a burden potentially for Republicans nationwide to have a standard-bearer who's in the courtroom. Does she have a point?

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: She does not.

Here's what we know without any question, that this has only exposed the two-tiered justice system that many Americans fear, that you have a justice system that hunts Republicans, while protecting Democrats.

Bob, one of the most compelling pieces of evidence towards this fact is special counsel Hur's report that said that absolutely, without any question, Joe Biden mishandled classified, sensitive material. At the same time, you have courts actually targeting and running after Republicans, not just, however, the former president, but whether it's pro-life activists or folks showing up at school board meetings being referred to by this Department of Justice as domestic terrorists.

We have a two-tiered justice system that is being exposed.

ROBERT COSTA: You talk about the Justice Department being weaponized, but that's a claim made without evidence here, that there's – that it's somehow being weaponized. You have to have intent…


ROBERT COSTA: … when it comes to making that kind of claim.

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: Here's what we see.

Special counsel Hur's report is crystal clear that the president of the United States is too old, his memory faulty, which makes him sympathetic for a jury, so they're not moving forward with charges.

ROBERT COSTA: OK, let's move…

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: But the report is clear…


SENATOR TIM SCOTT: … that he mishandled – that he mishandled classified material. That report is…

ROBERT COSTA: And there was no charge.

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: … crystal clear, Bob. I think we can agree on that.

ROBERT COSTA: The characterizations have been highly contested, and there was no charge included in that report.

But when it comes to former President Trump, Senator Scott, do you believe the RNC, the Republican National Committee, should be involved in paying his legal expenses, which are mounting?

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: I can only tell you that, without any question, when you look at the two-tiered justice system that we have that I just reinforced, I think it's important for us to note that, without any question, the American people are very concerned about how that would impact their lives.

Their issues are very clear, by the way. The American people are more focused on their future than Donald Trump's past. What they're more focused on is making sure that our southern border is secured. We're looking at almost 10 million illegal crossings by the election.

The American people aren't asking the questions about legal challenges. The American people are asking questions about economic challenges. They're not talking about legal challenges. They're talking about their challenges across a kitchen table.

ROBERT COSTA: And you – and you were just in Eagle Pass with Senator Graham on Friday…


ROBERT COSTA: … focused on border security.

You are being mentioned as someone who's a possible vice presidential contender for former President Donald Trump. Should you be – ever become vice president, whether it's this time around or in the future, an important question is, how do you specifically see the role of vice president on the day of congressional certification?

What do you believe, Senator, is the role of a vice president on the day of congressional certification?

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: Well, here's what I'm not going to do is answer questions that are hypothetical about the past.

The one thing we know about the future is that the former president, fortunately, he'll be successful in 2024. He won't be facing that situation again.

So, I think…

ROBERT COSTA: I'm not asking you a hypothetical question. I'm asking you a constitutional question.

How do you see the role of vice president in terms of the congressional certification?

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: The Constitution is very clear.

ROBERT COSTA: And you stand by your decision…

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: This – this – this is not – this – this – of course I do.

There – there – there's not a question that – that we're going to ask and then have answered about the past. I'm not changing my position.

ROBERT COSTA: Let's move on to politics.


ROBERT COSTA: Nikki Haley has been tough. She has been a longtime ally of yours, not so much anymore.

Her son, her adult son, Nalin, has referred to you as Judas…


ROBERT COSTA: … for endorsing former President Donald Trump. What's your response to Nalin Haley and to Nikki Haley, who has not really disavowed that comment, though she's kind of shushed her son from time to time?

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: Yes, well, here – here's what I would say.

Politics makes people and their families desperate. It's unfortunate for a person with a high caliber of an individual that she has been to stoop down to having her and her family refer to me or anyone else as Judas Iscariot or any other name-calling.

But it's not about me, frankly. It's about the American people. So I – I hope that they get back to focusing on the underlying issues. But, until then…

ROBERT COSTA: Speaking of that, Senator, should former President Trump…

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: … I will continue to remind myself to be for – – forgiving in that ability, in that process.

ROBERT COSTA: And just final thing here, speaking of name-calling, you say focus on the issues. Should former President Trump stop calling Ambassador Haley birdbrain?

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: Well, I – I think her – her son should stop calling me Judas Iscariot. So there's lots of things that we can talk about.

But let's just keep our focus on the American people and why it's so important for us to – as elected officials to focus on their issues. One of the reasons why President Trump is leading so significantly in the polls, one of the reasons why he actually won more women in New Hampshire in the poll – in – in the results of the election than Nikki Haley did is because he was focusing on law and order, and securing our southern border, and safety in our streets, improving our economy.

These are the issues that we should focus on, not the back-and-forth and the challenging times in which we live, and the simple comments that are – you know, they're throwaway comments long-term, but they can do damage short-term.

ROBERT COSTA: Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, we appreciate your time.

Face the Nation will be back in one minute. Stay with us.


ROBERT COSTA: For some analysis on the fraud ruling against the Trump Organization and what's next on the legal front for the former president, we're joined now by CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman. She is in Southampton, New York, this morning.

Good morning, Rikki.

Former President Trump is expected to appeal this ruling in the civil fraud case. What do you expect next on that front, and how is he going to pay?

RIKKI KLIEMAN: Well, let's look at if he has a good appeal. And I think that many legal experts would agree that he does, and for two reasons.

Number one, this is a statute out of the state of New York that was designed against fraud, but consumer protection fraud, that is, people who did not have sophistication in the marketplace, people who could be taken advantage of by a scam.

Here, the president's lawyers have persisted in saying that there was no victim here, that the banks were repaid. They were never late with the payment. The banks were happy to do business with them. The banks could do due diligence, and the banks went away happy and the banks were satisfied.

So they have challenged this law from the very beginning. And an appellate court might want to take a look at it, because it is a way of putting an industry or a company out of business. Secondly, Donald Trump and his lawyers will look for a reduction in the amount of the penalty.

The penalty is astronomical. When you look at how you go forward with an appeal, what you have to do is, within 30 days, either post the amount of the penalty up with int – with interest – so it's 120 percent of the penalty. And we're really talking about something like $450 million to post.

If you can't do that in cash, you're going to have to find assets that will be collateral for a surety company. This is a mighty task for financial advisers dealing with Donald Trump and the organization to get the money or the bond for that appeal.

If the appeal can't be docketed because of the money, the money is going to have to be paid.

ROBERT COSTA: This is one of several challenges facing former President Trump just in New York.

Starting next month, on March 25, he has a hush money payments criminal trial beginning in Manhattan. What are your thoughts on how that's going to play out over a six-week period in March, April and May?

RIKKI KLIEMAN: What we have to remember is that this is the first case against a former president. That makes it of historical significance and importance.

You're going to have a judge who is strict, with Judge Merchan. There is not going to be any fooling around. It is going to go forward with all deliberate speed. There are people who perhaps would have preferred on a nationally significant level that the January 6 case went first or the Mar- a-Lago documents case went first.

But, nevertheless, this is a criminal case. It is multiple counts of falsification of business records to commit or conceal a crime. And, according to the DA, that crime had to do with tax purposes, had to do with federal election law and state election law.

There is nothing here about this case to make it seem like it's de minimis, to make it seem like it shouldn't be done. It will be done. And if there's a conviction, these counts have a four-year prison term maximum.

ROBERT COSTA: And you can serve – you can run for president and serve as president if you're convicted of a crime in our system, correct?

RIKKI KLIEMAN: Not only can you run and serve. You will find, as you well know, that here, in the life of Donald Trump, the political and the legal collide.

That's certainly the fraud case Donald Trump will use in order to say that there are people who have exceeded their authority, like the attorney general of New York. Then he looks at the New York case. He will be able to campaign that the district attorney has exceeded his authority by going forward with these kinds of cases.

So, it plays into the political reality at a very important time on the political calendar.

ROBERT COSTA: And, Rikki, down in Fulton County, Georgia, in recent days, Fani Willis took the stand. Do you expect her to be dismissed or disqualified from the Georgia election interference case?

RIKKI KLIEMAN: Well, it was a salacious couple of days on television watching and a camera in the courtroom to hear about the personal, intimate relationship of district attorney Fani Willis and the special prosecutor that she hired who was her lover for a period of time.

The salaciousness of this and the fact that she decided to testify when she was angry leads us to a point that it has probably hurt her credibility. The case will not be dismissed. I doubt that she will be disqualified.

But, ultimately, although she wins the motion, I would say that it could be said, politically, that the case then legally really becomes a loser.

ROBERT COSTA: We will leave it there.

Rikki Klieman, thank you so much.

And we will be right back with a lot more Face the Nation. Stay with us.


ROBERT COSTA: If you miss an interview or an episode of Face the Nation, go to our Web site, or you can check out our YouTube page. Just search Face the Nation.


ROBERT COSTA: We'll be right back with Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn and a panel on presidential legacies.

Stay with us.



We go now to Congressman Jim Clyburn. He's in Santee, South Carolina.

Congressman, good morning. Thanks for being here. We appreciate it.

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): Well, thank you very much for having me.

ROBERT COSTA: Congressman, you are a long-time confidant of President Biden. When you look at his re-election campaign right now, you're optimistic, I know, but what's your biggest concern? What keeps you up at night politically?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, the thing that keeps me wide awake are the misinformation efforts that are underway throughout this campaign. I've heard so much from people sharing with me things that just aren't true. So much from people who seem to feel that everything they see or hear via the internet has some substance to them. And so that's the thing that keeps me up, whether or not we're going to have a campaign for the presidency free of all of these interruptions and all of the misinformation.

ROBERT COSTA: What specifically are you speaking about?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, we remember what happened up in New Hampshire when people using AI replicated the voice of Joe Biden and put things out over the air that were not true. We've already seen some of that taking place here in South Carolina regarding the Republican primary, inviting Democrats into the primary, saying things over the air that just are not true.

ROBERT COSTA: So, you're worried about how information is received by voters, how they understand this campaign, but what about turnout? You've seen how the Biden administration's support for Israel and its war with Hamas has sparked some protests at events across the country.

Are you concerned that Democratic turnout could be soft among some young voters and others because of the Biden administration's position on that issue?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, I'm concerned about the issue like everybody else is. I'm concerned about what's going on in Russia. And I think that all of that is part and parcel of the same thing. And of course we're hearing from a lot of people who are concerned about what is happening currently with the leadership in Russia, with what's going on with the Ukraine war, what's going on in Israel with the Gaza Strip. All of these are big concerns that all of us have.

But when you have these concerns, you're looking for people who can lead us through this stuff. And nobody is better equipped to do that than Joe Biden. He is – has the experience. He has the wisdom. He has the demeanor. He has the relationships. He has what it takes to get this country to where it needs to be and to maintain the relationships we need to have with our allies around the world. That you're not going to find on the other side of the aisle.

ROBERT COSTA: You said he should stay steady with U.S. allies.

When it comes to Israel, should he stick with his position on Prime Minister Netanyahu or perhaps rethink that relationship?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, I'm not too sure that we know exactly what that relationship is with Netanyahu. I've talked to the president about this. And, of course, he is not going to be public with everything he says to Netanyahu.

But I know this, he feels about the way I feel when it comes to Netanyahu. He is – his leadership has not been good for Israel. We stand firmly with the people of Israel. But I've always had a real problem with Netanyahu, and that continues to be today.

ROBERT COSTA: You say you have a problem with Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and you say you've spoken to the president privately about this.

Does he have a problem with Netanyahu?

JIM CLYBURN: I've shared with the president what my feelings are about Netanyahu. He is going to develop his own feelings about that. He hasn't told me exactly what -

ROBERT COSTA: But does he agree or disagree with your assessment, Congressman?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, he's accepted my assessment. I have not asked him whether or not he agreed with me. In fact, I just let him know, this is the way I feel. I'm not running the country. You do what you feel is in the best interest of the country.

ROBERT COSTA: You famously told then candidate Biden in 2020 that he should nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court. That helped him get your endorsement, helped win over many black voters.

What does President Biden need to do now to make sure black voters come out in the same way they did for him in 2020? Does he need to do anything specifically, and does he need to make a new pledge, and what should that be if so?

JIM CLYBURN: He should continue to manage the country the way he's managing it. He made that pledge, and it was a timely pledge because all of us know what the history of the country is. And up until that point there had been five women on the Supreme Court and not a single time had an African American woman ever been seriously considered. And so I thought that that's what needed to be done in that particular instance.

No, I would say to him, keep doing what you're doing.

ROBERT COSTA: Congressman, you are running for re-election but leaving the Democratic leadership. You're 83 years old. President Biden is 81.

How should he handle the issue of question of age in the coming months?

JIM CLYBURN: Emphasize your experience, emphasize the wisdom, maintain your connections with folks. I'm on my way to New York this evening. I wish the weather were different up there, but I'm going. I'll be in Pennsylvania very soon, North Carolina, and Georgia, carrying the president's message of experience, of a steady hand, of maintaining our trek toward a more perfect union, doing the things that are necessary to maintain our relationships around the world and move this country forward on behalf of all.

I am fond of saying, this is a great country, in no need of being made great. We've just got to figure out ways to make this country's greatness accessible and affordable for all of our citizens. And Joe Biden is doing that. And we have got to stay focused on that.

ROBERT COSTA: Congressman Jim Clyburn, thank you. We appreciate it.

We'll be right back.


ROBERT COSTA: For some historical context on this Presidents' Day weekend, we're joined now by Douglas Brinkley. He's a presidential historian and the author of many books, including "The Unfinished Presidency." And we're joined by Amie Parnes, a national political reporter. Her latest book co- authored with John Allen, "Lucky," chronicles President Biden's 2020 campaign.

It's so great to have both of you here. I love reflecting on the presidency Presidents' Day weekend.

And, Doug, we'll begin with you.

You are close with former President Jimmy Carter. You've written a wonderful book about his unfinished presidency after he left the White House. He's now down in Plains, and it's a year ago today former President Carter entered hospice care and a year later he is still with us.

Tell us about what you know in – from the Carter family, how he's doing, I know it's a tough year, and what his presidency means.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY (Presidential Historian): Well, you know, he – it is tough when you're 99, but Carter has a lot of will. And he's alert and eating and has ability to understand what's going on around him. And I'm hoping he makes it until October 1, 2024, so we have Jimmy Carter at 100 years old and we can celebrate.

He's kind of beat cancer before, but he's - he's focused on eradication of guinea worm disease that used to ravage, you know, over 20 African countries. And he - he knows they're very close to doing away with that horrible disease. And he's been the progenitor (ph) of that effort, and he still has the cognizant about - about that.

As for who he is, he's looking better and better every day in history because you pull back and look at that one - one term and you see the Camp David Peace Accord, Egypt and Israel, look at what we have now. Environmental front, he put as much land as the state of Alaska – of California aside in Alaska. And that's only going to grow when climate happens, all that he saved. He injected human rights into our diplomatic parlance. He's the person to recognize the People's Republic of China, not Nixon officially. And the Panama Canal Treaty. The list goes on and on. He created FEMA, Department of Energy, super fund sites (ph).

So, on paper, you look at all of this and you're saying, it's a remarkable one-term president who, by the way, is going out with the love of the world, a Nobel Peace Prize, and it – and his integrity intact.

ROBERT COSTA: And, Amie, as Faulkner said, the past is really never past. You think about President Joe Biden, who you've covered so closely. He endorsed Jimmy Carter in 1976 when Carter ran for president.

AMIE PARNES ("Lucky: How Joe Biden Barley Won the Presidency" Co-Author): Yes.

ROBERT COSTA: He's been to Plains to visit with the former president and the late first lady, Rosalynn Carter.

And there was something about Carter always feeling misunderstood by official Washington. And Biden, a long-time insider in Washington, but you still sense from the Biden people these days a sense that he is misunderstood.

AMIE PARNES: Yes. And – definitely. And when Doug was talking about one term, I think that that is a line that is scaring a lot of people inside Biden world right now and scaring a lot of Democrats because they think that he could possibly go down that Carter path and he could be a one-term president. And that is what is driving the campaign right now and driving the White House to prevent him from becoming that. And you're seeing that.

There - there is this worry, when you talk to people and they're being candid with you and they tell you what's really going on, there is a worry. They see what's happening in the polls. Biden himself is becoming frustrated with what is happening. And you see what's - you see that they're trying – they're looking at the polls and saying, OK, what can we do better? How can we communicate our strategy more effectively? Because I think they know when they're being candid with you that they have failed.

ROBERT COSTA: And when you look at the Biden campaign, it's not only President Joe Biden, it's Vice President Kamala Harris.

What's her role in the coming year as this campaign heats up?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Well, first off, it really looks like it's going to be Biden-Harris. And you're reading all these people thinking Biden's going drop out. I don't believe it for a minute. Certainly not until say June. I mean Joe Biden's going to collect all the delegates and own the Democratic Party, and hopefully he'll go on with Kamala Harris. That's their plan.

Now, if Biden had to drop out for some reason, I would say poll numbers hitting 22 percent, then they'd have to probably turn to Kamala Harris unless they were going to do something at the convention, like with the Michelle Obama/Admiral McRaven ticket as some sort of a surprise.

ROBERT COSTA: Well, that -

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: That's pie in the sky.

ROBERT COSTA: It's very pie in the sky.

But I've noticed, Doug, that Jill Biden, the first lady, has been out front working with the president, urging supporters to rally behind him.

Do you believe she's a vital part of the campaign?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: She is the vital part. Dr. Jill Biden is it.

You know, if you go back to 1952, Harry Truman could have run, and he didn't. Why? Well, the Korean War and, you know, other reasons. But - but Bess wanted to go back to independence of - you know, she didn't like it in Washington.

If you cut to '68, Lyndon Johnson was – quit in March of '68 and people will say because of Walter Cronkite. No. The big thing was his health was bad, he had a bad heart, he was smoking, high blood pressure, tension, and Lady Bird Johnson didn't want to stay in. And she wanted – let's go back to Texas and convinced Johnson to step down.

So, in the Truman, I'm giving you two, Truman could have stayed on, and Johnson, and they both said, no, it's because their wives, their spouse, said, enough.

That's not the case with Jill Biden. She likes power. She wants to stay. She wants some sense of revenge. She teaches in Virginia Community College. This (INAUDIBLE) around our building here, this is – is her home. And the idea of relinquishing it all after you've taking the slings and arrows of the last years of attacks, and at the last minute, just when you get all the delegates you're going to say, I'm going to open it up to a bunch of people, it's - it's very childish when you read those kind of reports.

ROBERT COSTA: Yes, I see no reporting that that's going to happen.

AMIE PARNES: No, I don't think he would ever, ever, every. I mean he think - he feels that he is the most capable person of beating Trump. He said it publicly. He said it privately to former President Barack Obama. He's said it to countless people. He thinks that he's the only one in the game who can do this. And he points to 2020. And even dating back to 2016, you know, he actually had beef with Hillary Clinton for a while because he thought, you know, if he would have run instead, he could have beaten Donald Trump. And so - and here we are, you know, in this, he thinks, in this whole mess.

So - but his problem is, right now, that he's going to have to counter all these polls that say that, you know, people don't have confidence in him anymore. When you see polls from 2020, he was supposed to be the guy who united the country, who was there to bring everyone together, who was the - you know, he talked about the soul of the nation. And a lot of people look around, they look at their bank accounts and they say, look, I'm still not feeling – I'm not feeling great about things. I - I think that the country has become more divisive. And I think that he might pay the price for that.

ROBERT COSTA: I hear from my sources close to President Biden that he's so frustrated behind the scenes because he'll point to economic data, even if people feel inflationary pain. They feel – he knows they may - they might be unhappy with the economy, but he points to the stock market and other data factors and says things are going well, things are getting better. And he's frustrated about the media all the time talking about his age.

How is that frustration playing out behind the scenes?

AMIE PARNES: It is. He's very frustrated according to people I'm talking to. And all those reports are true. He is – he's increasingly saying, we have done so much. Look how much we have accomplished. Why isn't this out there more. And that's what I was talking about earlier when you talk about a communication strategy. He is having a communications problem, and that is what they're going to have to figure out quickly.

ROBERT COSTA: Doug, you've written extensively about former President Ronald Reagan. Listening to Senator Lindsey Graham, you hear the tension now in the GOP when it comes to foreign policy.

Is this Reagan's party at all anymore? Is it all now in the imprint of Trump, especially when it comes to issues like Putin, Russia, foreign affairs, Ukraine?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: It's - it's Trump's foreign policy. The days of Reagan are over. Reagan has more in common with Bill Clinton's presidency or Barack Obama's. Ronald Reagan always despised Russia and the Soviet Union because he saw it as totalitarian. He bet on that as a governor in the 1960s, giving ardent speeches, democracy will prevail.

Famously he went and gave his boys of Pointe du Hoc speech at Normandy, Peggy Noonan's speech, among others over there, and said, we liberated the first half in World War II of Europe and now we've got to liberate the second half. So, the breakup of the Soviet Union happened under Bush 41 in 1991. That – that's the kind of thing Ronald Reagan loved. And Reagan would be ill, and particularly his ex-former great secretary of state George Shultz, to see this militarization and space that Russia is trying to do to, you know, come up with new satellites that -and nuclear things. Reagan and Schultz wanted to start reducing nuclear weapons in the world, not increase them.

ROBERT COSTA: Foreign policy also an issue for President Biden. I remember we'd be up on Capitol Hill in recent decades covering him when he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Now he's been focused on Ukraine, focused on the Middle East.

You heard from Congressman Clyburn, I asked about the protests at some of these Democratic events about the Biden administration's support for Israel in its war with Gaza.

How does the Biden White House, and your Biden sources, think about foreign policy, especially what's going on in Israel, as they try to galvanize their own coalition?

AMIE PARNES: That's the big problem right now and the big question. They're trying to walk this tightrope, if you will, because they have to appease the base. The base is not happy. They know they're not happy. And you see him slowly walking back. You know, h was very, very deferential to Israel in the early days of the war. Now you're seeing it less and less. But I think you're - he's going have to explain and talk to the people more about what is happening.

I still don't think, though, Bob, that this will come down to foreign policy, that this election is about foreign policy. It's not 2004. I think that it will come down to the economy and maybe immigration and abortion as to kind of subsequent issues, but I think the economy is what is really, really, really going to drive this election and voters. And apathy. You know, if – if they are feeling like no one understand them, if they're feeling like they can't relate to either side, there is the fear that they could stay home or they could vote for a third party. And that should be also what's worrying Democrats right now.

ROBERT COSTA: And, quickly, Amie, they're keeping an eye on Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornell West and their independent candidacies at the White House?

AMIE PARNES: They are. It's very real because they look at what happened in 2016, how Jill Stein kind of wrecked this for Hillary Clinton. She was one of the reasons, obviously. They are worried, and they should be worried, because - because people are so – I think indifference is a huge storyline in this election. The players are two people we know. They're baked in. People know about them. The polls say what they're going to say. I don't know if it's going to change that much.

ROBERT COSTA: And, Doug, finally, I was on the streets of New York this week, not walking around, I was covering former President Trump and his legal challenges in Manhattan.

Step back as a historian. To have Trump facing a hush money criminal trial starting in March, paying potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in a civil fraud case, two looming federal trials on the horizon, also Georgia, we've never seeing anything like this.


ROBERT COSTA: I know unprecedented seems like we use that word all the time, but, really, we have not seen anything like it.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: We have not. It makes, you know, Spiro Agnew's little bribery thing look quaint in retrospect, you know? Nixon's guys hauled him in. And Ehrlichman and Dean going – doing a little jail time over a bungled third rate burglary look quaint. This is somebody, Donald Trump, who's been a predatory capitalist getting money from wherever he can and making up products, elevating his own self-worth.

So, what does it remind one of? Another American tradition, gangsters and cons in the sense that we elevate them. I mean you go to Chicago, you don't hear the stories of the - the great politicians of that era, you hear about Al Capone and, you know, and Dillinger in the west, Billy the Kid and the likes. He was kind of an outlaw president in our - an ex-president and our country – a lot in the country like that.

ROBERT COSTA: And Trump, of course, denies any wrongdoing in all of those case.

Douglas Brinkley, Amie Parnes, we really appreciate it.

And we'll be back in a moment.


ROBERT COSTA: A celebration last week in Kansas City that was meant to mark the Chiefs' win in the Super Bowl took a horrifying turn when a burst of gunfire killed one person and injured nearly two dozen others.

Our Mark Strassmann has more.


MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): Gunshots, panic on parade in Kansas City. A Super Bowl celebration hijacked. Another American moment, shattered.

MAN: I was just crying a lot.


MAN: Yes.

MARK STRASSMANN: You had to have been terrified.

MAN: Yes, I was terrified. I was traumatized.

MARK STRASSMANN: With today's gun violence, there is no sacred space. Inside this Houston megachurch last Sunday, a woman stormed in firing an AR-15. She was shot and killed by off-duty police officers after a running gun battle.

MAN: It's scary. It is, it's scary.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): On average, more than 325 Americans are shot every day. Last year saw 656 mass shootings, defined as four or more victims.

WOMAN: Traveled the world and felt a lot safer there than I did in my own city.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): We're twitchy. Bullet by bullet, gun violence grafts onto every stresses.

ARTHUR EVANS JR. (Ph.D., CEO and Executive Vice President, The American Psychological Association): People are experiencing vicarious trauma.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): Dr. Arthur Evans, CEO of the American Psychological Association.

MARK STRASSMANN: How significant is this stress?

ARTHUR EVANS JR.: We have about a third of people in the country who are saying that their behavior has changed because of mass shootings.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): Right after mass shootings, Evans says 75 percent of Americans report significant stress, and that parents of young children especially have concerns about their kids' safety.

ARTHUR EVANS JR.: When you're talking about churches and synagogues and shopping malls, we have less of an ability to distance and - and - and I think that has a different kind of an impact on us.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): On the polarizing issue of guns, a majority, 56 percent, favor more restrictions according to Gallup.

MAN: I'm a gun owner. It should be, you know, harder for certain individuals to obtain a gun.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): Owning guns makes millions of Americans feel more in control. But with gun violence, anxiety climbs because people feel they've lost control.

MAN: Why haven't I got shot? I don't know.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): Guns in crowds have become a new American anxiety. Kansas City, a reminder of Denver's NBA championship parade last year when two people were shot.

MICHAEL MALONE (Denver Nuggets Head Coach): People just can't go buy a gun or an assault rifle and go kill people. I mean, like, how many more people have to die before we change that?


ROBERT COSTA: We'll be right back.


ROBERT COSTA: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. Margaret will be back next week. For FACE THE NATION, I'm Robert Costa.


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