Watch CBS News

Full transcript of "Face the Nation," June 23, 2024

6/23: Face the Nation
6/23: Face the Nation 45:47

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

  • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat   
  • Former national security adviser Robert O'Brien  
  • Former CIA deputy director and CBS News contributor Michael Morell   

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation: Excessive heat blankets the country, as we begin a crucial week on the 2024 campaign trail.

It's hot outside and, in some cases, getting hotter, but that sentiment can be applied to a lot more than just the heat, as the stakes for the great presidential rematch of 2024 get higher too.

With the first presidential debate just days away, we're seeing the candidates prepare in two very different ways.

(Begin VT)

DONALD TRUMP (Former President of the United States (R) and Current U.S. Presidential Candidate): When you say prep, I think this is prepping.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Donald Trump was out and about on the campaign trail in Philadelphia Saturday, checking out the cheesesteaks at a local sandwich shop and teasing reporters about his running mate pick.

(Begin VT)

QUESTION: Have you decided who your vice president is?


QUESTION: Do they know?


QUESTION: Mr. President, how is debate prep going?

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden is off the trail and away from cameras and voters, preparing for Thursday's debate at the Camp David presidential retreat.

We will look at some of the key issues facing the candidates, abortion, immigration and national security, with guests, including New Mexico Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, former Trump National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, and CBS News senior national security contributor Michael Morell.

Plus, our new CBS poll tells us what the under-30 voters are looking for this fall.

And our Listening to America segment is a snapshot of the battleground states that you won't want to miss.

It's all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.

We begin this morning with an update on the heat dome covering much of the country. Roughly 100 million Americans are living under a heat advisory today.

Mark Strassmann has more from Atlanta.

(Begin VT)

MARK STRASSMANN (voice-over): Especially in the Northeast, Sunday's heat will feel hellish.

MAN #1: Best thing I can tell you, don't come outside.

MARK STRASSMANN: Potentially record-setting temperatures, definitely dangerous.

WOMAN #1: The heat, it is being felt from the Ohio Valley all the way into the mid-Atlantic; 98 today in D.C. will feel like 104.

WOMAN #2: It's too hot today.


WOMAN #2: Too hot, definitely. It's difficult to walk around today.

MARK STRASSMANN: We're barely into summer, yet NOAA says there's a 100 percent chance 2024 will be among the top five warmest years on record and a 50 percent chance it becomes the hottest ever.

Parts of New Mexico feel hellish, and they look it.

WOMAN #3: And thank God we're safe and…

MAN #2: Have somewhere here.

WOMAN #3: We have somewhere. There's a lot of people that don't have anywhere to go.

MARK STRASSMANN: Twin wildfires, only partially contained, have charred more than 24,000 acres, hundreds of homes destroyed, thousands evacuated, and two people killed.

These are images of Ruidoso, this resort village an outdoor paradise in ruins.

WOMAN #4: Everything that they have worked for their entire lives just lost in a matter of seconds, it's very devastating.

MARK STRASSMANN: Also potentially devastating here, widespread flash flooding, an outgrowth of the wildfires and heavy rain.

Flooding and mountains of muck could push over land scarred by the fires.

MAN #3: I have never seen anything like it in my entire life. It was absolutely the most scariest thing I have ever seen.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That was Mark Strassmann reporting from Atlanta.

And we turn now to New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. She joins us this morning from Santa Fe.

Good morning to you, Governor.

GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM (D-New Mexico): Good morning, Margaret. Thank you for having me on this morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know President Biden did issue that emergency declaration for your state due to the fires, but you also had a 200-mile- long dust storm, catastrophic flooding.

What problems are most acute and what do you need?

GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, we want to continue the – an open door for federal resources.

FEMA is incredible on the ground in an emergency. They bring personnel, and they open the door for federal direct monetary assistance to the state and, more Importantly, the individuals.

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell was on the ground, actually in Ruidoso yesterday. And I have to say, the Biden administration has really pushed through these emergency declarations quickly so that we can get families back on their feet.

But it's been a hell of a week here, Margaret, between dust, heat, flooding. These are not the only evacuations. We've got flooding evacuations in the north, where the largest wildfire in the history of the United States, one of the largest wildfires in the history of the U.S. – it's been really tough on New Mexicans.

And I'm – I'm grateful to every first responder who puts them first and stands up to make sure they're as safe as we can make them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I know all of us wish you – your state residents well as they deal with all of that.

You are a border state. I wonder if all of this excessive heat is affecting the migrants crossing in from Mexico?

GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: So we haven't seen the kind of surges outside of the ports of entry that folks in other states have seen.

Now, that's not to indicate at all that that doesn't still have some risk. But we haven't seen heat-related issues for asylum seekers, certainly not in this first six months.

But your point is very valid. There have, in fact, been multiple deaths along the New Mexico border years past, and particularly Texas and California borders, from extreme heat. But, right now, we're focused on the security aspects announced by the Biden administration, which are very important for states like New Mexico to have more folks at ports of entry, where risks are present every day, to really focus on human trafficking, drugs, guns, and other contraband.

And I really appreciate the president's investment in more border security where it matters.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But it sounds like you could even use more than that.

I know you were here in Washington with the president when he signed that executive order that restricted the ability to claim asylum for those crossing in between ports of entry.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, some of your fellow Democrats were very critical of that, saying it undermines American values. Why are they wrong?


I mean, frankly, the president then did a – a balanced approach. When he's creating protections and work opportunities for undocumented families, part of a legal right, a U.S. citizen is married to someone who's undocumented or has other extended family members, and DACA recipients and dreamers can now get protections, here's what I think he did.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that was a new measure this past week.

GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: He focused on – oh, the new measure.


GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: So, look, the security – I need security first and foremost. You can't protect everybody else.

And, make no mistake, New Mexico, just like everywhere else around the country suffers from the number of drugs, guns, and related nefarious issues that are exacerbated by not having people in the right places at the border. I also appreciate that he did something about all these other families.


But – but that's a different issue. For those folks who've been living here for a decade and married to an American, that was that effort the president signed off on this past week.

When it comes to the executive order, the ACLU is – is trying to sue the Biden administration, saying that this was legally identical to the Trump ban that they blocked back in 2019. Does that bother you?

GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: I don't – well, it bothers me that that's the point of view that they're taking, and certainly understand that we're going to do any number of challenges and litigation.

But here's the issue. We're not separating families. We're making it really clear you can come through a port of entry. I have a president that, unlike Congress, including when I was in Congress, that is willing to focus on security, fairness, whether that's in one or two different decisions…


GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: … and creating, I hope, a pathway for Congress to stop listening to a candidate who continues to try to score political points, instead of solve problems for states like mine and American families. He's doing both.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have been a very vocal access – advocate, I should say, for reproductive health access.

This week marks two years since Roe vs. Wade was struck down. And yet, in 2023, America had the highest abortion number and abortion rate in over a decade. Why do you think there are more abortions happening at a time when there is decreased access?

GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, I think there are more abortions happening because more women are at risk, which means they can't get into a provider. They can't get prenatal care.

You've got providers who are worried about prosecutions and any number of other issues that interfere with their ability to provide care, less access to contraceptives, less information about public health, less ability to get to your primary care physician.

Most families and women live 86 miles from a provider. You create a draconian situation, you're going to increase risk at every single place. And this is a state that's clear about protecting women and creating equality.


GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: But that's what I believe is the genesis of this situation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Governor, good luck as you deal with all those emergencies in your state. We'll be tracking them.

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


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we bring into the conversation now Robert O'Brien. He served as national security adviser in the Trump administration through the end of the former president's term. And he joins us this morning from Palm Springs, California.

Welcome back to Face the Nation.

ROBERT O'BRIEN (Former U.S. National Security Adviser): Thank you. It's good to be back, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know, when you were last with us, you said that you would be honored to serve with Mr. Trump again, and you laid out in this essay in "Foreign Affairs" what you think a second Trump term would look like.

So I want to get to that. Recently, in some interviews, Mr. Trump has refused to say what he would do if China invaded Taiwan. I wonder if you would advise him to have U.S. military forces defend it.

FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: I think that's always been the policy of the American government.

It's called strategic – strategic ambiguity. And we don't tell the Chinese how we're going to react to their actions. But the – the key thing, Margaret, is peace through strength. If we – if we have a strong Navy, if we move our soldiers and Marines out of Europe, in Germany, where they're garrisoned, and put them in Guam and Hawaii and the Philippines, and Australia, where we have Marines already, that sends a strong message to the Chinese not to invade.

The key is to deter war, not – not to fight and win a war, which we need to do if it happens. But we need to deter the Chinese and the Communist Party from – from invading Taiwan in the first place, which we failed to do with Russia in Ukraine.

And so strength – strength will deter the Chinese from invading. It's not – it's not talk. It's – it's how they – they see our force posture.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So – well, the largest contingent of all overseas U.S. military forces is in East Asia and the Pacific already.

You're calling to send the entire Marine Corps to Asia. When Mr. Trump was president…


MARGARET BRENNAN: Sorry. Go ahead.

FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: The fighting force, the Marine Corps. We will still have Pendleton and Camp Lejeune and the logistics tail.

But, like World War II, when Asia was key for us, we should have the Marines in Asia, we should have the – the Air Force and the Army and – and parts of the Navy in Europe and the rest of the world. But the Marines are perfectly suited for the Indo-Pacific. And we should have our fighting force there to deter the Chinese.

We don't want a war, Margaret. We want to stop a war. And the way to stop a war is through strength. And moving the Marine Corps to the Pacific and moving a carrier battle group to the Pacific – Pacific would show the kind of strength needed to deter a war.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, so you're not moving all 170,000 Marines to Asia, but some of them to…




MARGARET BRENNAN: So, when Mr. Trump was president, though, he was – he publicly pressed multiple times for the U.S. to withdraw the 28,000 U.S. troops that are in our treaty ally South Korea.

He also threatened to pull out of Japan. And I wonder, is – if you think that threatening to pull out of Asian-allied countries like that shows daylight in a way that emboldens China.

FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: No, what President Trump was trying to do – and he did this with NATO as well – is, we need our allies to step up.

America can't do this alone. The American taxpayer can't deter China – China alone. We need help from our allies. And President Trump made – made sure that the South Koreans and the Japanese and our European allies paid their fair share and helped burden-share with us.

So, part of the negotiations…


MARGARET BRENNAN: Well they already were helping to…


MARGARET BRENNAN: … to pay for some of the costs related to housing those troops in their countries.


So, the American taxpayers took a tremendous burden. And we've got a massive federal deficit. We've got inflation at home. We've got burdens here in America. So we need our allies to step up to the plate and participate in the same way we do.

We pay almost 4 percent of our GDP for defense. South Korea is – is coming up higher. Japan is coming up higher. And that's a direct result of President Trump and his tough negotiations and his tough policy. So…


FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: … I would look at what happened, and not – not – not look at the negotiating rhetoric.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But at a time when you are looking at a more aggressive China, threatening to pull out U.S. troops would seem to backfire on your ultimate strategic intent.

FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, our strategic – strategic intent is to be as strong as possible in Asia. And – and we got there with Trump.

And we're – and it'll go back again with – with President Trump when he returns in six months, because when the Japanese are engaged, when the South Koreans are engaged, when the Australians are engaged – and, keep in mind, all of these countries have raised their defense spending very significantly because of President Trump and in Europe as well.

And that all started – that didn't start under Biden. That started under President Trump.


FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: That makes us stronger against China. So, sometimes, you have to be tough. You have to show tough love to your allies.

And just like with family members, you have to be – you know, sometimes, you have to be a little tough with your family members. But the – the Chinese aren't going to divide the family. They're not going to divide the – the allies. But we – we need – we need to make sure that the allies pay their fair share.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, what would Donald Trump do to divide the axis, the new alliances that we are really seeing grow between Russia, Iran, China and North Korea? Vladimir Putin was just driving around North Korea with Kim Jong-un this past week.

FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: Yes, that's a great question, Margaret.

And that alliance has gotten much stronger under the Biden administration because there's been a lack of American leadership. We haven't shown peace or strength. So the first thing we can do is increase our energy production in America.

These – these – these countries are relying on Russian energy for their - - to run their economies. We need to increase our energy production. We need to sanction the Russian Federation's Central Bank, which Larry Kudlow and I called upon the president to do before the invasion of Ukraine, and start cutting back on Russian oil sales.

We need to put maximum pressure back on the Iranians who are causing so much trouble all throughout the Middle East. And – and so those are some of the steps we can take, and then rebuild our military, rebuild our Navy, get our shipyards producing ships again. Those are the things that'll – that will divide the alliance…



MARGARET BRENNAN: It's getting harder to sanction when – when Russia is protecting some of those – those rogue states, and China too.

But, on – on Russia, during the first Trump administration, the president then argued he was going to pull out at least 10,000 of the 35,000 U.S. troops stationed in U.S. ally Germany. You wrote an op-ed at the time arguing in defense of that and saying that keeping troops in Europe was an obsolete Cold War practice.

Do you think, in hindsight, that helped embolden Vladimir Putin?

FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: No, what we did with – with Vladimir Putin is, we stopped the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. That was his number one foreign policy objective, was to get that pipeline built and develop energy dominance over Western Europe.

And we stopped it.


FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: The first thing President Biden did when he came into office was, he opened the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline and canceled the Keystone XL pipeline to – to further diminish American energy production.


MARGARET BRENNAN: The invasion of Ukraine ultimately killed that.

FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, it – it killed it because Biden opened the – the pipeline again. And Russia took that as a green light to invade Ukraine, along with our debacle in Afghanistan.

But going to the true question, what I said is, it wasn't troops in Europe, Margaret. It was troops in Germany. Germany is no longer a front-line state. And we have too many troops garrisoned in Germany.

And I said we need to move some of those troops to the front line, to Poland and Czechoslovakia – the Czech Republic and Slovakia. And we need to move some of the American territories in the Pacific, like Guam, Hawaii, the Aleutian Islands, and Alaska, to deter our adversaries.


FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: Just having garrisoned troops in Germany doesn't help us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well – well, John Bolton and Mark Esper have a different account of what happened during that time, saying that you supported pulling out and bringing people back to the U.S.

But, on the campaign trail right now, Donald Trump is talking about Ukraine a lot. And he said, apparently, according to the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, that he won't give a penny to Ukraine if he's reelected, and, by cutting off that money, that will end the war.

That sounds like that would be ending the war in Russia's favor, doesn't it?

FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, keep in mind, Margaret, we're the first administration to give lethal aid to the Ukrainians, the Javelin missiles which stopped the Russian invasion to start with.

And I will give the Biden administration credit for – for getting them some aid afterwards, but it was always too little, too late. We – we need to bring Vladimir Putin to the table. And the way to do that is what Larry Kudlow and I called for and what President Trump has called for, is to put massive sanctions on the Russians to bring Putin to the table, so we kind of negotiated a peace treaty.

We've got to stop the killing in Ukraine. We got to stop the killing of Ukrainians. We got to stop the killing of Russians.


FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: And we need peace in the world. And – and our – our weakness, there – it's too little, too late telling the Ukrainians they can have some weapons, but they can't have others.


FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: They can use some weapons, but they can't use others, the half-measure sanctions.


FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: None of that's helping in the war in Ukraine. That's – it's a lack of leadership under the Biden administration.


FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ROBERT O'BRIEN: Trump will get this war settled very quickly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ambassador, thank you for your time. It was an interesting read.

We'll leave it there and be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're joined now by former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell. He's also our CBS News senior national security contributor.

Good to have you here.

MICHAEL MORELL: Good to be here, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You just had that "Foreign Affairs" article that got all this attention: "The Terrorism Warning Lights are Blinking Red Again."

You compare the moment we are in now to what happened in the lead-up to 9/11.

And I want to play something FBI Director Chris Wray said earlier this month.

(Begin VT)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY (FBI Director): Our most immediate concern has been that individuals or small groups will draw a twisted inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks here at home.

But now, on top of that, increasingly concerning is the potential for a coordinated attack here in the homeland, not unlike the ISIS-K attack we saw at the Russia concert hall back in March.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's chilling. The White House says the president is briefed regularly on threats.

If that is true, do you think he's doing enough?

MICHAEL MORELL: Hard for me to say whether he's doing enough, because a lot of what needs to be done, we wouldn't see publicly.

What I would say is, I ran into a lot of current – former intelligence – current intelligence officers and current policymakers after we published the article. The response was almost universal in: We're glad you wrote this. It's really important.

I read that as maybe there's a lack of sense of – of a sense of urgency here. And that's really important.

MARGARET BRENNAN: A lack of sense of urgency among members of the public or the government?

MICHAEL MORELL: The administration, yes, and Congress, quite frankly.

There needs to be a sense of urgency about this. And I think the American public needs to understand what the threat is. That's why we called for a public congressional hearing just on the terrorist threats to the homeland, right, not a hearing on threats broadly, but threats to the homeland.

And then we need to hear what the administration is doing about this in a broad sense, right, not the details, but in a broad sense.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I asked the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Mike Turner, about exactly your proposal.

MICHAEL MORELL: Right. I saw that, yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And he – he really kind of dismissed it.

MICHAEL MORELL: Yes, he said…

MARGARET BRENNAN: He said: Oh, we've covered that.

MICHAEL MORELL: He said: We already covered it.

They haven't.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. He – he did call for the administration to declassify information. Our colleague Sam Vinograd, who ran vetting at the border for DHS, said basically that the information that feeds those vetting lists, the watch lists, is dependent on how much good intelligence is collected, and that has been under-resourced.

Do you agree with that?

MICHAEL MORELL: I – I agree with that 100 percent. We've shifted resources from the counterterrorism community to the China community.

Now, that's understandable to some degree. It's been significant. So I think there's a cost to the intelligence we're collecting. The vetting system – beyond not having the information, the vetting system does not provide all of the information that the government has.

There was just a DHS inspector general report…


MICHAEL MORELL: … that outlined all the problems with the vetting system.

So, it's lack of information, and then it's the system itself.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That – and we have it on a graphic. The report said: "Customs and Border Protection could not access all federal data necessary to enable complete screening and vetting of noncitizens seeking admission into the United States."

This is the government saying: We can't vet everyone properly.


And Customs and Border doesn't have the technology, right, to even connect. There are all sorts of issues here that need to be resolved.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mike Morell, stay with us.

I have to take a break, but there's much more I want to talk to you about.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more Face the Nation.

Stay with us.



We return now to our conversation with CBS News senior national security contributor Mike Morell.

Mike, I want to ask you about some video that CBS broadcast earlier this week. "60 MINUTES" obtained it. It's Saudi national Omar Al Bayoumi walking around the U.S. Capitol back in 1999. We're seeing that video now. It was shot within 90 days of the time when senior al Qaeda planners were deciding on 9/11 targets according to the FBI.

At the time you were at the CIA. We know now the FBI identified this man, Al Bayoumi, as an intelligence operative with close ties to two of the 9/11 hijackers. But in that 9/11 Commission report, it said there was no credible evidence that he was a violent extremist or aided extremists.

Now that you have seen this video, what do you think it reveals?

MIKE MORELL: No doubt in my mind that it is a casing video. That it is a casing video for some sort of terrorist attack, number one.

Number two, pretty clear to me that Al Bayoumi was - was either working for al Qaeda or was al Qaeda. Did he know about the 9/11 attacks? Probably not. Did he know that the two individuals he was interacting with were 9/11 hijackers? Probably not. But - but no doubt in my mind that al Qaeda tasked him to do this casing video.

The video is chilling. It's chilling in terms of what he was - what - what he was videotaping. His narration over the top of it, which - which is part what tells you it was a casing video, and his - his - his extremist comments.

Let me just give you two examples, Margaret. On - on the casing part, at one point he says, "I will get over there." He's looking at the Washington Monument. "I will get over there and I will report. I will report to you in detail what is there." He's talking to somebody, right? He's - and - and he talks about a plan -

MARGARET BRENNAN: Not like a tourist would.

MIKE MORELL: Not like a tourist video. And then in terms of the extremism, he's - he's - he's looking at the Capitol and he says, "they say that our kids are demons. However, these are the demons." What he's looking at.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the FBI concluded he was not a threat. The 9/11 Commission report concluded he was not a threat. You're saying it's clear he was al Qaeda and living under the noses and examination of law enforcement undetected. He's now living in Saudi Arabia as we speak. That's pretty - that's a pretty big oversight by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence. Did the CIA know about this video?

MIKE MORELL: We did not. You know, I'm 99.9 percent confident that we did not have this video.

I was the president's briefer at the time. If somebody had shown me this video, I would have shown it to the president.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It was, as I understand it, U.K. officials, U.K. intelligence, that scooped up this video.

MIKE MORELL: Yes. So - so - so when he left the United States, he went to the U.K. And after - after 9/11, the FBI discovered that he had signed - helped - helped - helped the two 9/11 hijackers get their first apartment. He - and - and the FBI learned that. They learned that he was in the U.K. So, they go to the U.K. government and they say - they - they share all this information. The British government arrests him, detains him, interrogates him, gets all this material. They say they provided it back to the FBI.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And it just stayed at the FBI, apparently?

MIKE MORELL: It looks - it looks that way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: A lot more to come on this, including on "60 MINUTES" in the fall.

Thank you so much for your analysis, Mike Morell.

MIKE MORELL: You're welcome. You're welcome.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: With our CBS News polling showing a dead heat in the presidential contest, voters under the age of 30 could prove decisive. That's potentially 25 to 30 million votes depending on whether or not they turn out.

Our tireless polling unit has been surveying these young voters to see what their mood is like in 2024. And, by most measures, they say it is tough going out there, especially when they compare their generation to previous ones.

Eighty-two percent of young Americans say it's harder for them to buy a home. More than three-quarters of young voters think raising a family will be more difficult. Seven in ten say it's harder to get a good job. And six in ten think it's harder to start a business.

Joining us now is our executive director of elections and surveys, Anthony Salvanto.

Anthony, so what made you focus in on this generation? How are they different?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, we're going to look at all the key groups in this election, but I wanted to start with this one. What's interesting about them is they feel like they've already been tested in their lives. This is a generation, the younger part of them, who were in high school or college during Covid and the lockdowns, and most of them tell us, that interrupted their education. They also look back, say they were more concerned about gun violence during their - those years than older generations.

But what's really interesting here is, they are also feeling like the older generation has handed them, has left them a world that's more dangerous and a climate that's worse. And that motivates a lot of the issues that they care about.

Having said that, Margaret, you can look at polling from the '60s, when the baby boomers were the young generation then, from the '90s, when it was gen-x. There have always been generation gaps in America. But for this generation today, they're the most racially diverse generation that the country has ever seen. And that comes out in their politics too. They tell us they feel the politics would be better, not just with more young people in it, but also with more minority voices in politics, with more women in elected office. And they feel that way much more so than the oldest generation does.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So they have all this frustration. What are they going to do about it? Are they going to vote?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: That is the keys question. For all the concerns that we just laid out, they don't vote, and they don't say they're going to vote, as often as the older generation does. It's -

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's kind of typical, isn't it?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, it is in that way. So, you've got about two-thirds of them who say this year they're definitely going to vote, and you've got almost all the folks, say over 65, who say that they'll definitely vote.

Part of the factor here is age and how they see the candidates. They think that the candidates, being the ages that they are, cannot relate and understand the issues that pertain to young people. And they're also a little more disappointed in their choices.

What's key about that is when young people say they're disappointed in their choices, they're less likely to vote. But for older folks, even when they're disappointed in their choice, they still turn out.

So, that motivation is going to be a key question. And I'll button it up with this. They are leaning towards Joe Biden. In fact, they're voting for Joe Biden, the ones who will vote, in about the same numbers that they did - that young people then did in 2020. But it's that turnout dynamic and that relative lack of turnout that's really going to be a key thing to watch in this group for the campaign.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, what makes them start to view the ballot box as a way to change what they're frustrated about? Are there issues that would make them say, OK, I will drive and cast a vote, or I will drop that vote in the mail?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Yes, so big differences are, beyond the economy, which everybody cares about, they're more likely to point at issues like abortion, to point at climate and climate change, which I mentioned earlier, and also race and diversity issues as being important relative to what older generations say.

In all those things, those - that - those accrue to Joe Biden, right? The people who care about those issues are voting for Joe Biden, which underpins some of his support. But having said that, they don't always - they aren't paying as much attention to the campaign and a substantial portion of them aren't sure what the candidates would do on those issues. There's a substantial portion who aren't sure what Joe Biden say would do on abortion.

Now, what's important about that is, that means when we watch this campaign going forward, can the candidates, not just motivate them, but also inform them about what they would do so that they can make ostensibly a more informed choice.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Anthony Salvanto, always interesting. Thank you.

We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Friday evening we spoke with six voters, evenly split between who they're going to vote from, from four of the seven battleground states. And the conversation was a feisty one, with the participants veering frequently to former President Trump. One of the few things they all agreed on was that this election is critically important.


LYDIA (Georgia Voter): It is critical because of the state of our nation. There's so much going on, on border security, infiltration by people that could cause extreme harm to our country, the economy, and the weakness of our current administration on the national stage.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean by infiltration?

LYDIA: Because of our open borders, I feel very strongly that there have been people coming in - because nobody's being vetted, nobody's asking questions, and I think we are being infiltrated by people that could cause another 9/11 very honestly.

PHILLIP (North Carolina Voter): We see these numbers. Illegals crossing the border. And we're not talking about Central and South America. We're seeing Haitians. We're seeing Chinese. We're seeing Central Africans. You know, we're seeing Arab nation immigrants come across who are not immigrants but illegal immigrants come across. So, this - it's - it looks like an invasion of some sort.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think both parties recognize a broken immigration system. There is concern about a terror threat. But you're talking about this as if it is a choice to allow for these risks. Why do you think that that is a choice versus a tough situation America finds itself in?

LYDIA: Because day one the president, current President Biden was elected, he immediately, by the stroke of a pen, undid everything that President Trump had done in closing the border. We had security at the border. We were vetting the people that wanted to come in. And with the stroke of a pen, day one, he opened the - the border. He opened the doors. Without any vetting process.

So, it - it was his choice. He has to take responsibility for that. He and his administration.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You do know that there is vetting that border officials do when they encounter someone?

LYDIA: No, they don't.



MARGARET BRENNAN: I've been to the federal facilities. When someone is detained, when they are captured, when they cross illegally, they are taken into federal custody, and those agents do vet people. The success of that vetting may be in question. The efficacy of it. But - but they are. If someone sneaks in undetected, then they're definitely not vetted.

And have - have you heard from either candidate like a specific vision on how to fix the issue you see with the border?

MARLENE (Wisconsin Voter): I've heard from Donald Trump that he wants to shoot people on - when they cross. That's what I've heard.

PHILLIP: I have not heard that at all.

MARLENE: So, I'm saying -

WILDREYETTA (Georgia Voter): Well, I do believe the border, it's a crisis. It truly is. But what is the solution? If we all can't get together and decide on a solution to the problem, how - how we going to solve the problem? Because when you have -

PHILLIP: I agree with that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jeremy, I see you raising your hand. You can jump in.

JEREMY (Arizona Voter): Well, two things. Just to dispel a myth, if you look at statistically, the number of crimes committed in the United States, the highest - much higher number, by native white citizens. That is a fact. The second thing is that the - the number of illegal crossings has remained roughly the same. I have driven past the border, Arizona, California, New Mexico, many times. And you can't - you can't drive, you know, a mile or a mile and a half without seeing a border patrol vehicle agent. There are people there. They're doing their job.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How many of you plan to watch the presidential debate on Thursday? Raise your hand if you're going to watch.

Do any of you feel like you could be persuaded by these candidates to vote for the other one? Like if Donald Trump says something really compelling, would you switch from Joe Biden or vice versa?

MARLENE: I would fall over if he said anything worth listening to.

WILDREYETTA: Well, Trump always said he wanted to be a dictator. That was enough for me. This is (INAUDIBLE).

MARLENE: Exactly.

TONY (Wisconsin Voter): Well, I don't - I don't think you can take any of their words literally anymore. It's mostly political theater and comedy.


TONY: So, there's some entertainment value there to be had.

LYDIA: Yes. Yes, that is indeed for sure.

PHILLIP: Yes, I think that's a good point.


MARLENE: Well, Donald Trump means it when he says he wants to be a dictator. He means it.

WILDREYETTA: I know he want revenge as well.

LYDIA: So, if - if I can jump if here. It's a show. He is from New York. He is a showman. He may be a blow-hard, he may say things, but in - in the end, he knows how good this country has been to him in making him a success. So, the things that he says, we basically listen with one ear, goes in one ear, it goes out the other, and you try to go through the weeds to find out what really is going on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's so interesting you say that, that you - you put aside what he says. Do you have kids?

LYDIA: Yes. I have two sons who are in the Air Force.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's sort of the opposite of how you parent, right? Like, you probably don't tell your boys, say whatever.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You probably - you probably held them to account when they said something that they shouldn't have said.

Why do you think you - you view this man, who is going to be potentially commanding your sons into the battlefield, to a different standard?

LYDIA: Well, I don't hold him to a different standard. I'm not saying I appreciate or even like the type of stuff that sometimes comes out of his mouth. His show, "The Apprentice," you know, again, he had to be a showman. So, that - does it make it right? No, I don't agree with that at all.

However, we've had four years with him. A lot of us liked, you know, what he did for our country, but that doesn't mean we liked the things he said or how he sometimes acted.

PHILLIP: A huge part of the reason why I'm for voting for Trump is economics and inflation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, raise your hand if any of you feel that you are better off today than you were four years ago.

MARLENE: Probably the same.

TONY: Same.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You feel - you feel the same.

I see you there with your hand up, Jeremy. You want to weigh in?

JEREMY: Yes. One of the things that people often forget is that American consumer spending has been rising, even in relation to inflation. Wages have been soaring high along with it. Some say that might have caused part of the inflation problem.

I raised my hand about being better off four years ago because my employer has given significant raises across the board to everyone. And I guess I don't buy the kinds of things with the inflationary prices. I mean if I pay an extra 20 cents a pound for asparagus, I think I'll live. So, it just depends on individual circumstances.

WILDREYETTA: Yes, because today, in this economy, anybody that wants a job can get one. And that's a fact. Anybody that wants to work can get a job now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Raise your hand if any of you think about, for example, the state of our democracy. Does that concern you, and is that a reason that you would - wow. You are jumping right at it, Marlene. That - I didn't finish the sentence. What's going on?

MARLENE: Donald Trump does not want what's good for America. He does not want democracy. He wants to have everything his way. He wants to place people in power that will do whatever he says this time.

If it - if he wants so and so to be in the Justice Department because they're going to do whatever he says, then he's going to go after all of his political opponents, even if they haven't done anything wrong, he's going to have complete control. And that's what he wants.

LYDIA: So, the same can be said about President Biden. He forced all the car manufacturers to - to convert to EVs. And now they've - they did it because they had no choice. They were going to be penalized if he - they didn't. And now they're finally pushing back and saying, no, there's - there is no sales for these vehicles.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Lydia, do you think somebody's making you buy a car?

LYDIA: Yes. I'm - I'm not buying an EV.

PHILLIP: By 2030.

LYDIA: By - he made it -


LYDIA: He has made it mandatory.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Just - Americans won't be required to drive electric vehicles. The car manufacturers, there was a goal set for the transition to happen, but Americans won't be required and car manufacturers will still make combustion engines too.

Does everyone here trust their state government to fairly and safely administer the upcoming presidential election?



MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Lydia, you believe the state of Georgia will administer your election fairly?

LYDIA: Well, there's been a lot of changes since the last election. So I feel -

MARGARET BRENNAN: You don't think they did in 2020?

LYDIA: I - 50-50. Well, I'll leave it at that.

WILDREYETTA: I, too, am from Georgia, and I agree. The election is going to be correct in Georgia.

TONY: I just think that the concerning thing is that in most areas the population is split almost so evenly that it really doesn't take a lot to tip the balance one way or the other. And I guess just here in the state of Wisconsin, I don't have 100 percent confidence that, in Dane County, in Madison, or in Milwaukee, where it matters, where at 10:00 p.m. before you go to bed on election night it looks like one thing, and then magically ballots are found overnight. It just doesn't give you that sense of confidence.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, will all of you stand by the 2024 election results?

TONY: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Show of hands.

And do all of you expect your preferred candidate to accept the 2024 election results?

Tony, you were like, I don't know. Yes, sure.

TONY: I can't speak for what someone's going to do. I don't - I don't know.

MARLENE: Yes. Well, he pretty much already said he's not going to accept it if he loses.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Donald Trump's 78. Joe Biden, 81. Does anyone think that older age is an asset?

TONY: There's some benefit to wisdom, experience, but I think you've got to question the fitness, ability, cognitive ability. And this is not a criticism. I mean age is what it is. You can't stop it.


TONY: It can't be helped.

PHILLIP: The Joe Biden we've got in the past two years, especially two years, has been a definite decline in the cognitive functions (ph).

MARLENE: I saw little decline, but not like what you guys are saying. You're acting like he's fumbling around on stage (INAUDIBLE) –

TONY: OK, but half - half the time he is.


WILDREYETTA: Oh, you don't see the decline in Donald Trump, huh?

TONY: Half of the people in this group says that anything Donald Trump says it's - it's garbage. We don't want to listen to him. Whatever. But we don't even get the opportunity to hear what Joe Biden says because he won't take questions. He walks away. You don't even get to interact. There's no transparency. There's no sense of, hey, here's what I think about this or why we're doing this.

So, what's worse? Something that you say isn't even worth listening to or not even being able to hear the message?


MARGARET BRENNAN: The full hour of our conversation can be seen on our website and our YouTube channel.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: I hope you'll join me, Norah O'Donnell, Gayle King, and the rest of our CBS political team for our live coverage of the first presidential debate, which is hosted by CNN this Thursday night. We'll be on this network at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CBS, our CBS News 24/7 streaming special coverage begins at 8:00.

That's it for us today. Thank you for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.