Full transcript: Face the Nation on January 28, 2018

Face the Nation, Jan. 28

Read more transcripts from Face the Nation here.

NANCY CORDES: Today on FACE THE NATION, President Trump makes a big concession on immigration. But will he stick to it? As the President prepares for his first official State of the Union Address, he gives Republican leaders what they've been begging for--his proposal to protect young immigrants. But some conservatives think it goes too far. Plus, the New York Times shakes up Washington with a report that Mister Trump ordered a top White House lawyer to fire special counsel Robert Mueller last summer.

WOMAN #1: Why did you want to fire Robert Mueller?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Fake news, folks. Fake news.

WOMAN #2: What's your message today?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Typical New York Times fake stories.

WOMAN #3: Mister Trump.

NANCY CORDES: We'll get reaction to that report and go behind the scenes on immigration with Maine Republican Susan Collins, Vermont independent Bernie Sanders and the top liaison between the White House and Capitol Hill, Marc Short. Plus, a pair of House members tell us how they're trying to break the immigration impasse, Texas Republican Will Hurd and California Democrat Pete Aguilar. And Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth is going to be the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office. But she's discovered some rules that need changing.

So the Senate is behind the times, is what you're saying.

TAMMY DUCKWORTH: The Senate is behind the times. So we're going to-- we're going to work on that.

NANCY CORDES: As always, we'll have plenty of political analysis of the week's news.

It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm Nancy Cordes. We've got a lot of ground to cover today and we begin with the Republican senator from Maine, Susan Collins. She led a bipartisan effort to reopen the government last Monday and her group of about

twenty-five senators is now working to influence negotiations over a bill to protect children of undocumented immigrants and increased border security. Senator, welcome.


NANCY CORDES: I want to talk to you all about immigration. But, first, I want to get your reaction to the latest news that was first reported in the New York Times that despite months of White House denials, the President actually did express a serious interest at one point in firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine/@SenatorCollins/Intelligence Committee): I think it's important to understand that the President cannot directly fire Mister Mueller. The only person who has that authority is the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, and he's the one who appointed Mister Mueller in the first place. I asked him about that at a hearing last year and he was adamant that he would resist any White House pressure to fire Mister Mueller.

NANCY CORDES: But doesn't it sound like the President was at least trying to obstruct justice?

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: I think that the President was frustrated and angry about the investigation and he did what he should have done, which was to talk to his lawyer in the White House and, clearly, the White House counsel said, you can't do this, Mister President, and it would very unwise for you to try to do so. And here it is seven months later the White House is counsel still there and Mister Mueller's proceeding with a very aggressive and thorough investigation.

NANCY CORDES: So there's a big difference between wanting to fire someone and actually going through with it. You have not weighed in, yet, on these two bipartisan bills that would, essentially, protect Robert Mueller from an undue firing. Does this latest news change your calculus?

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: First of all, I commend the two groups of senators, Senator Tillis and Senator Coons, plus, Senator Lindsey Gram and Senator Booker, for working on bipartisan legislation to have a strength and safeguard in the law to protect the special counsel from a firing. And that was what used to be in the law many years ago when we had an independent counsel law. It expired in the late nineties. I was one of the few senators who wanted to extend it at that time. So I am totally open to adding that safeguard.

NANCY CORDES: You're on the Senate Intelligence Committee where a lot of these interviews have taken place so far behind closed doors. Would you support open hearings with big players like Jared Kushner or Donald Trump Junior so the American public could hear what they have to say?

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: I think more open hearings it's a good idea. We've had twelve already. And they've been very interesting hearings but my interest is making sure that we don't compromise in any way the special counsel's investigation. So we have to be careful to coordinate testimony, to make sure that we're not interfering in that way.

NANCY CORDES: Now to immigration. After weeks of confusion over the President's position on the so-called Dreamers, the White House has now issued a list of what it wants to see in a bill that would provide legal status to that population and here is the highlights. A path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million young people, twenty-five billion dollars to pay for a border wall

and additional security, an end to family-based migration for all but spouses or children under eighteen and an end to the diversity visa lottery. These are some major changes to the immigration system in exchange for protecting this narrow slice of the immigrant population.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: It's helpful to know what the four pillars are that the administration is looking for, Congress is going to work its will, and, ultimately, we'll see what the President is willing to sign. It seems to me that the two important things to tackle right now and that our group will be making some recommendations to those who have legislative authority and this issue on is to protect the Dreamers and also to strengthen border security. The other two issues are very important issues, they're very complicated issues as well.

NANCY CORDES: Why do you think the White House suddenly came out embracing a pathway to citizenship?

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: I tie directly to the President about this issue, and I found that he was very sympathetic to a case that I told him about of someone in Maine, who came to this country at age four, didn't even know that he was not a citizen until he went to apply for a driver's license and then his parents told him. And it's pretty compelling when you know that the average Dreamer was brought to this country through no fault of-- of his or her own at age six.


SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: And to say that those-- those young people should be shipped back to a country that they have no memory of, that they don't know is really a pretty difficult position to take.

NANCY CORDES: But do you trust the President to stick with this position? He's already getting a lot of blowback from conservatives who call it amnesty.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: I give the President credit for putting in writing and saying that this is what he wants to see happen despite the criticism. Look, there's going to be criticisms from both sides on-- on whatever we come up with.

NANCY CORDES: So you've now got twenty-five Senate moderates all squeezing into your office periodically and they're hoping to influence this immigration negotiation that's primarily going on now between the number twos or the whips in the House and the Senate. That's group of four. But it seems like those four leaders are going to be much more focused on what House Republicans can live with than what Senate moderates can live with.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: Well, we hope to have an influence on the process, but we don't control the pen. And Senator Durbin and Senator Cornyn are the leads in the Senate. But they have been very open to input and I think ideas will be (INDISTINCT) to them. And we'll see what they come up. But if they agree, I have a feeling that that will be a bill that can go all the way to the President's desk and that's our goal.

NANCY CORDES: You're optimistic, right?


NANCY CORDES: Senator Susan Collins of Maine, thanks so much for being with us.


NANCY CORDES: Appreciate it.

And joining us now, Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders. He is in Burlington, Vermont, this morning. Senator Sanders, thank you so much for being with us.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vermont/@SenSanders): My pleasure.

NANCY CORDES: I'd like to get your take on the White House immigration proposal and, specifically, these dramatic restrictions to family-based migration and the end of the visa lottery. Can you live with these changes in exchange for protecting the DACA population?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I have concerns about aspects of those proposals, serious concerns. I think, Nancy, that the focus right now has got to be to do what the American people want us to do. And poll after poll shows that eighty percent or more of the American people understand that we have got to restore the legal status that Trump took away from eight hundred thousand young Dreamers, people who came to this country when they are two or three years of age and we cannot let them be put in a position where they're subjected to deportation. So the main focus to my mind has got to be to make sure that Dreamers have legal status and a path towards citizenship.

NANCY CORDES: But the political reality, Senator--


NANCY CORDES: The political reality is that Congress is run by Democrats. At some point do you have to say a bad deal on Dreamers is better than no deal on Dreamers?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I think from my mind, and I speak only for myself where the bad part comes is the idea of a wall, which I thought was a great idea in the fifteenth century when China built the Great Wall. Not so smart today when we have technology that is much more effective and-- and more cost effective in terms of protecting the border. So, I think you're going to see a lot of debate about how much money we should spend on border security. But I would also say, Nancy, that the issue that we're dealing with is not just about DACA. It is about the fact that we're four years into a fiscal year, Republicans have still not given us an annual budget, enormous issues out there, issues like decent funding for the community health center program, twenty-seven million people get their health care through community health centers, not been reauthorized. VA has thirty thousand vacancies, veterans not getting the care that they need, Social Security administration not providing services to the elderly or the disabled, student debt in this country. We have enormous issues which we have got to address. DACA is one of them but there are other important issues as well.

NANCY CORDES: And, Senator, obviously, I said Congress is run by Democrats. We both know it's run by Republicans.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Yeah. I do that, Nancy.

NANCY CORDES: You're painfully--you're painfully aware of that. Speaking of fiscal responsibility, though, what do you think your party got out of that three-day shut down, was it a good strategy?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Yes, I think from a moral perspective it was the right thing to do. And that is, to say to these eight hundred thousand young people, we are not going to allow them to be subjected to deportation. Senator Collins just said many of them came to this country when they were two or three years of age, they didn't even know that they were not American citizens. So we have got to stand with these young people. The other thing, Nancy, is we received information from the Department of Defense a few weeks ago and they said, this is the Department of Defense, we cannot run our oper-- operations, we cannot do long-term planning without an annual budget. Continuing resolutions are very detrimental to the military and to many other agencies of government. We are a four-trillion-dollar government. There are areas where should we-- we should be spending more money, areas where we should see-- be spending less money. But you cannot simply spend in every division of the government the same amount as you spent last year. It's a terrible, terrible and inefficient way to run a government.

NANCY CORDES: Senator, the President is giving his first State of the Union address this week and polls show that his biggest achievement so far, the tax cuts, are now gaining in popularity as some of these big companies hand out thousand-dollar bonuses. Are you glad that these people have more money in their pockets?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We have a technical issue here?

NANCY CORDES: Senator, can you hear me? All right. It appears that we have lost our audio connection with Senator Sanders. We'll take a commercial break and will be right back.


NANCY CORDES: And we're back with Senator Sanders. Glad we got that connection reestablished. Senator, I was asking you about the President's State of the Union and the fact that his biggest achievement so far that tax cuts are gaining in popularity as some of these big companies hand out thousand-dollar bonuses. Do you think that the public should be pleased that workers are getting another thousand dollars in their pockets?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, sure, everybody should be pleased when any worker gets a raise. But what we should also understand that that tax proposal will add 1.4 trillion dollars to the deficit and at the end of ten years eighty-four percent of the tax benefits will go to the top one percent. Nancy, at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, billionaires and large multi-national corporations do not need tax breaks, it is the middle class and working families of this country who do.

NANCY CORDES: Senator, you met last weekend with all of your top advisors and one of the main things that you discussed was a possible repeat bid for President in 2020. So is there any big news you'd like to break here on FACE THE NATION?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I'm-- I'm sorry, there is no big news. You know I talk to my co-- mu co-workers, political advisors every other week, every week we do it by telephone, occasionally, we get together. So I'm-- I'm afraid to say it was not a big deal. But--

NANCY CORDES: But it sounds like it's--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I'm focused right--

NANCY CORDES: Its sounds like it's something of a big deal. Your own son, Levi tweeted, "Bernard is seriously contemplating a run in 2020 and I don't mean a jog."

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I love my son very much but he is not-- he is not aware of all of the things. We're doing really right now what our focus is is on 2018. Its making-- doing everything that we can to see that the Democrats regain control of the Senate and the House and some governors' chairs as well.

NANCY CORDES: If you were to run again, what would you do differently?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I don't want to speculate about 2020. You know, Nancy, the American people are deeply concerned about the decline of the American middle class. We're the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all people, everything being equal, our kids are going to have the lowest standard of living than we do. We need to make public colleges and universities tuition free. What we need to do as a nation whether I run or no matter who runs is revitalize American democracy and create a government that actually works for working people and not just for billionaire campaign contributors. So there are enormous problems facing this country. Whoever runs for President has got to focus on the needs of workers, be prepared to stand up to the one percent, and create an economy that in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world addresses the issues of poverty and health care and education.

NANCY CORDES: Well, we'll stay tuned for your decision. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you very much.

NANCY CORDES: And we're joined now by the authors of the only bipartisan Dreamer proposal in the House, Congressman Will Hurd is a Republican from Texas and Pete Aguilar is a Democrat from California. Welcome to you both.

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD (R-Texas/@HurdOnTheHill): Thanks for having us.

REPRESENTATIVE PETE AGUILAR (D-California/@RepPeteAguilar): Thanks.

NANCY CORDES: Gentlemen, I want to talk about your plan in a moment. But, first, is the President's proposal a step forward and in what ways is it a step back?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: Well, I-- I think-- I appreciate the President putting his plan forward and narrowing what he would like to see in a bipartisan solution to this-- this issue of Dreamers and DACA and-- and also border security. I still believe that a narrow bill is most important to think that we can get through our-- our Congress both houses, the House and the Senate, because the more things you add you start creating coalition of the opposition. And so let's keep this narrow; let's get it done in the next couple of days and go on to the next issue.

NANCY CORDES: White House proposal is definitely not narrow. Seriously, overhaul the nation's immigration.

REPRESENTATIVE PETE AGUILAR: It's true. The most important thing we can do is to protect Dreamers. So, I do appreciate that it addresses that issue.


REPRESENTATIVE PETE AGUILAR: But some of the changes that they are proposing are devastating to our immigration system. And I feel are better left for comprehensive immigration reform. So let's keep it narrow, as Will mentioned, let's focus on DACA fix and border security and move on and get those issues off to the next day.

NANCY CORDES: So here is what you've proposed and so far you've got fifty-three sponsors, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans in the House, you would allow Dreamers to apply for permanent residency. You would increase border security, though, not by as much as the President's proposal. You would not give the parents of Dreamers legal status; essentially, this is a bill that is much more focused on the DACA population rather than being a conservative immigration wish list.

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: Well, I'd start with this is strong border security. This is not an appropriations bill because we've always said let's deal with the authorization, let's deal with how we secure our border. It's 2018 and we have not gotten operational control of our border. I have more border than any other member of Congress, eight hundred and twenty miles of it. And we-- we don't have control and we should-- and should be utilizing some of the latest and greatest technology on that border. So, this bill-- this plan does that as well as fixing this problem for a population that have been-- have gotten here through no fault of their own.

NANCY CORDES: Do you both think that if the House speaker were to allow a vote on your bill it would pass?

REPRESENTATIVE PETE AGUILAR: Without a doubt. This is the only bill that would have two hundred and eighteen votes on the House floor. We feel very confident about that. We've had numbers of discussions with our colleagues. But this is the type of bipartisan approach that the American public wants to see. And it's important that if we're going to fix this DACA issue and-- and border security, this is the type of narrow focus that can get two hundred and eighteen votes and can get to the President's desk.

NANCY CORDES: But don't you think the fact that he has said nothing about it publicly. He's aware of it, is an indication of the political constraints that he faces? There are some conservatives--


NANCY CORDES: --who say that if he were to back something that doesn't get a majority of the majority he loses speakership.

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: Well, you're assuming that this can't get the majority of the majority, and I don't-- I don't agree with that-- with that presumption. Also the fact that the President has come out and said, let's make sure that there's a permanent legislative fix for 1.8 million kids I think that also gives (INDISTINCT) to many of the-- of the proposals that were-- we're forwarding in the USA Act.

REPRESENTATIVE PETE AGUILAR: This is exactly what the President asked for. This is a DACA fix with sensible border security. These are common sense measures. This is the type of

proposal that should garner signature and that he should support and we feel that we can make our case to our colleagues to get that done.

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: And this gets us to a-- a deal on caps and this gets us to a vote on, you know, funding the government. You know, this is-- this is what we've always thought that this should be, and it's-- it's a strong baseline that has, you know, really good support on both Houses.

NANCY CORDES: So is your focus right now on pushing your plan or on trying to get some of your ideas worked into these bipartisan negotiations that are going on among Republican and Democratic leadership?

REPRESENTATIVE PETE AGUILAR: We should do both. We've said from the beginning that this should be the foundation for the discussions that we have. So we've had conversations with senators about our proposal. We hope that this becomes the base for what is being discussed. We're open to making some-- some changes as long as it garners support in the Senate and—and it gets to the President's desk. That's been our focus. That's what we've been working on for weeks behind the scenes and we feel that we're-- we're making good progress.

NANCY CORDES: What happens if we get to March fifth and DACA is set to expire and there is no new legislation?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: It's a good question. I hope we don't get there. And I think you've seen many folks in the White House have said that we don't want to get there. I don't think anybody in Congress wants to get there. That's why we need to buckle up, sort this out over the next few days and I think we have a couple of weeks and get this done before that-- that March deadline.

NANCY CORDES: But here's what a White House official also said this week. He said come March fifth, if there's no DACA deal the White House will not direct ICE and DHS to deport Dreamers, but if they are swept up in a raid they will be deported. They are not protected. If you're a DACA recipient that's pretty scary stuff.

REPRESENTATIVE PETE AGUILAR: It's flat out unacceptable.


REPRESENTATIVE PETE AGUILAR: We can't have policies that deport Dreamers. We shouldn't stand for it. That's exactly why we're working so hard to get this done. But let's also keep in mind three homeland security secretaries have told us in Congress that it's going to take time to write these policies and proposals once we have an agreement and a deal. So we need to get this done quickly. We need to offer the certainty that-- that they're due for this dreamer population to make sure that that situation does not happen. That's why we're working so hard and that's why you see efforts in the House and the Senate in a bipartisan basis to get this done.

NANCY CORDES: Congressman Hurd, I want to ask you, because you're on the House Intelligence Committee, have you seen this memo that alleges that the FBI's Russia investigation is based on flawed sources and methods implies that the investigation is biased and what do you think of its validity?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: Well, I-- I have seen the memo. I'm one of the people that voted to release the memo to the rest of our colleagues in the House so that they'll understand what we are looking at.


REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: For-- for me, specifically, I spent almost a decade as an undercover officer in the CIA. I was the guy in the back alleys at four o'clock in the morning collecting intelligence on threats to our homeland. I've served shoulder to shoulder with the men and women in the FBI and the rank and file folks are putting us and keeping us safe. What we have to make sure is that the political leadership of these organizations are crossing all the t's and dotting all the i's.

NANCY CORDES: Is this hurting their morale, quickly?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: I don't know the answer to that. But I think what-- what every rank and file member of the FBI wants to ensure is that everybody within that organization is following the law to-- to its letter.

NANCY CORDES: Got it. Thank you so much, Congressman Hurd, Congressman Aguilar. Thank you for changing your weekend plans to be with us. We really appreciate it.



NANCY CORDES: And we'll be back in a moment.


NANCY CORDES: And coming up later in the broadcast, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth on becoming the first member of the Senate to give birth while in office.

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: And people are like, we don't know what the maternity leave policy is for senators because there's never been one.


NANCY CORDES: Some of our CBS stations are leaving us now, but for most of you we'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including Marc Short, who is the White House liaison to Capitol Hill, our political panel, and Senator Tammy Duckworth. Stay with us.


NANCY CORDES: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm Nancy Cordes. And joining us now is White House legislative affairs director Marc Short. Marc, thank you so much for joining us.

MARC SHORT (White House Legislative Affairs Director/@Marcshort45): Thanks for having me back.

NANCY CORDES: First of, why did the President want to fire special counsel Mueller and why did he decide not to?

MARC SHORT: Well, Nancy, the President's never intimated to me in anyway desire to fire Mueller. I think that there's been a lot of sensational reporting on that. Let's keep in mind a few things. That report dates to some June conversation. Allegedly, we're now in January, Mueller's still special counsel. Don McGahn is still running the White House counsel's office. Millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on an investigation that so far has proven no collusion with the Russians.

NANCY CORDES: Well, the investigation's not over.

MARC SHORT: Of course, it's not because it's continuing to drag on and it's dragged on for a long time at a great expense--


MARCH SHORT: --with, yet, no evidence of Russian collusion. And so the reality is that Mueller is still a special counsel, McGahn is still head of White House Counsel's office, the President's never intimated to me in anyway desire to fire Robert Mueller.

NANCY CORDES: Have you advised the President, have others around him advised him of the consequences of firing either special counsel Mueller or Rod Rosenstein who, you know, recent reports have suggested the President has now turned some of his ire towards.

MARC SHORT: I have no reason to believe the President's considered to fire him, so there's no reason for me to counsel him one way or the other on that, Nancy. I think that, as I said, he's never intimated that one way or another to me. It's not a conversation typically I'd probably be involved in but there'd be no reason to raise it.

NANCY CORDES: Mm-Hm. How serious do you think that this memo that purports to outline FBI mistakes when it comes to the investigation is you just heard Congressman Will Hurd, who's on the House Intelligence Committee say that he believes it should be released at least among other members of Congress.

MARC SHORT: Right. Well, we haven't, obviously, read the memo. It's classified, so it's hard for me to speculate what's in the memo. I do think that we typically prefer transparency and so if there are concerns that I think would be helpful for Americans to know about it we would be open for that being released.

NANCY CORDES: Even if it reveals FBI sources in that place--

MARC SHORT: Well, I think there's plenty-- there's plenty of ways you can redact a document to make sure that methods are not revealed. But if there are serious concerns about unmasking that happened in the previous administration, then I think that the American people should know that.

NANCY CORDES: I want to ask you about immigration. Lawmakers have been begging the White House for weeks to come out with your immigration plan, you do, and you get hit from all sides. You've got conservatives who are calling it amnesty; you've got Democrats saying that

this is a false choice. Basically, you're-- you're creating a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and then you're taking away a whole bunch of other rights in exchange.

MARC SHORT: Well, now let's keep in mind a few things, Nancy. When they say they've been waiting for us, the White House submitted our priorities many, many months ago. When General Kelly was still secretary of DHS he asked Congress to address this.

NANCY CORDES: Even Republican leaders said they had no idea where the President's did.

MARC SHORT: That-- I think that's a convenient explanation. We were very clear with Congress what we wanted. We put our priorities in writing and sent them to Congress on October the eighth, October the eighth. We sent another document back in December. What this piece finally did is it refined what our position is on the DACA population itself. And I think the President, as he said, at that very public meeting at the White House. He said, "I will give cover on my side." The question is-- is leader-- Schumer or leader Pelosi stepping up to give cover to their side. They clearly have a radical left base that is putting pressure on them. And I understand the challenges in managing some of their conferences. But the President has put forward a very, very-- a tremendous compromise to get this solved once and for all. It's plex-- perplexed Congress for decades to get this. He's showing leadership to finally get it done.

NANCY CORDES: Democrats say that by preventing immigrants from sponsoring parents or adult children or siblings, you're tearing apart families, you're cutting legal immigration by fifty percent. In fact, here's what the largest Dreamer advocacy group said: "Let's call this proposal for what it is: a white supremacist ransom note."

MARC SHORT: Yeah, that's absurd. You-- I mean that's-- that's even ridiculous to try to respond to. Here's what it does. What we're trying to do is we're trying to protect the nuclear family, Nancy. And so we're providing those visas for spouses and children, trying to protect that. What's happening right now on our visa system is you're providing visas for aunts and uncles and siblings, they continue to go on; hence it's called chain migration. So, therefore, there's a four million backlog so you can't get children and spouses in because you're taking care of so many different-- distant cousins. What our proposal does actually is it protects a nuclear family and focuses on them as opposed to extended relatives that are continuing to get into the country and get priority over children and-- and spouses.

NANCY CORDES: But doesn't that belong in a comprehensive immigration negotiation? This is a much more narrow plan that is related to this specific population, young people who are brought to the country illegally.

MARC SHORT: Congress will always have a reason to do something later as opposed to fixing a problem today. This President is trying to solve a problem that's been perplexing our country for decades. He's offered a very-- a very rational compromise to get it done. The system was born out of many conversations with Democrats alike--


MARC SHORT: --and Republicans to get to this point. It's actually help us get it done and protect us, so we don't have this problem several years from now. If you just do border security and DACA all you're going to do is create an incentive for more people to try to flood the border because they're going to say, I'll get citizenship in the future, too. You need to fix it all. There's

lots of things we're not doing. We put aside a lot of our interior enforcement requests to say, let's keep this more focused. This is a very focused, rational proposal.

NANCY CORDES: I've got about a minute left.


NANCY CORDES: So I want to ask you quickly about the State of the Union, the President giving his first State of the Union Address on Tuesday. And he's going to outline a 1.7-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. But if you look at the fine print, it's only about two hundred billion in federal funds. Is it realistic to think that you can leverage another 1.5 trillion in private, state, local money when you're starting out with that little?

MARC SHORT: I think it's very realistic to leverage those dollars. I think as we continue to roll back the regulatory front, there'll be more private investment coming in. There are a lot of people who said the President couldn't create two million jobs in the first year, who said we wouldn't see unemployment at seventeen-year low, who said we wouldn't see GDP at three percent, who also said that after the tax relief package in one month, 3.1 million Americans, 3.1 million workers have either received a pay increase or a bonus. The President is making an enormous impact on our economy, he's turning this country around, I wouldn't bet against him on the infrastructure plan either.

NANCY CORDES: Something tells me the economy is going to be a big focus of his speech on Tuesday night. White House legislative affairs director Marc Short, thanks so much for being with us.

MARC SHORT: Thanks for having me, Nancy.

NANCY CORDES: Appreciate it. And we'll be right back with our political panel. Don't go away.


NANCY CORDES: To help us make sense of this week's political news, we're joined now by Bloomberg White House reporter Jennifer Jacobs. Dan Balz is the chief correspondent at the Washington Post. Rachael Bade covers Congress for Politico. And Ed O'Keefe is a congressional reporter for the Washington Post, and he's also a CBS News contributor. Thanks everyone for joining me today. Jennifer, I want to start with you. You just heard Marc Short say that as far as he knows, the President-- President has not expressed a serious interest or expressed an order to fire the White House special counsel. Is that true?

JENNIFER JACOBS (Bloomberg News/@JenniferJJacobs): If you ask different White House aides, you hear different recollections. I've talked to at least a dozen White House officials about this, and some of them sincerely say, I don't remember the President ever saying anything like that. In fact, they say, definitively, he never ordered Don McGahn, the White House counsel to fire Mueller. Apparently, this was a conversation with a very small, tight group. So it depends on who you talk to. But, keep in mind, forty-eight White House officials, campaign staff, or people affiliated with the campaign have spoken with Mueller or to the congressional committees. It's a lot of people who are preparing for testimony for speaking with Mueller. There's a particular group that share a lawyer that's three people that's Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, and Don McGahn share a lawyer so they, theoretically, could be talking about their recollections back at the time, and this could have-- this piece of history kind of come up in-- in one of those

recollections. I've also heard from one person that there's some tension between Don McGahn and another White House lawyer Ty Cobb, and that's where this could be coming from. So there's a lot of different theories. But depending on who you ask, someone will sincerely say they have no recollection of this happening; others say, yeah, but it was just to a tight audience.

NANCY CORDES: Dan, even Republicans says we were not surprised to hear that the president mulled over the possibility of firing Mueller, after all he's tweeted that this investigation is a witch hunt twenty-two times.

DAN BALZ (Washington Post/@danbalz): Yes, that's right. And I think that the reporting that has been done on this has been pretty clear. I mean the story was broken by the New York Times. It was quickly confirmed by many other organizations, ours among them. I think that there's little doubt that this happened. And in some ways there's not a surprise that-- that it happened. I mean that-- there are-- are a series of things that the President has said and done over the course of many months to indicate his distaste for this investigation and his desire in one way or another to get in the way of it. Now, what that adds up to is going to be left to the special counsel to make a declaration and then people can draw further conclusions from that. But we know that he is unhappy with this investigation.

NANCY CORDES: Ed, Senate aides tell me they're now working very quickly to try to combine these two bills that are out there that would basically protect the special counsel from firing. Does this incident give that legislation more momentum?

ED O'KEEFE (Washington post/@edatpost/CBS News Contributor): Conceivably, because here we are talking about it after months of not talking about it. It's two different plans that, essentially, permit judicial review in the event that special counsel would be fired. What's notable is that there are Republicans involved in this because over the summer when this became an issue, they-- they got concerned and understood that this could become a thing. The problem is we've seen this morning and we've seen in the recent days Republican leaders say we don't see a need necessarily to bring up this legislation right now. That said, I have-- can recall talking especially to Democratic aides in the last few months who've said, if this had happened, or if it happens in the midst of all the ongoing negotiations over the budget and immigration and the, you know, the threats of shutdown, the Democrats would conceivably put a halt to it all and force the issue by either having that legislation attached to the bill or at least saying, we're not doing anything until you address this. But this isn't necessarily that, because it happened so many months ago and there's evidence that people stood in the way of it. It's if he tries again--


ED O'KEEFE: --that you may see is a grind to a halt on the Hill.

NANCY CORDES: They're saying this is a red line. Rachel, at the same time, you've got House Republicans trying to give the President a little bit of cover and pushing this notion that the very foundations of this FBI investigation are flawed, are biased. Are they winning hearts and minds on that argument?

RACHAEL BADE (Politico/@rachaelbade): They're certainly winning over a lot of the Republican base. I think I saw a poll this week that said seventy-five percent of Republicans think that the Russia investigation is just to undermine the credibility of the President. Going

back to this I think Republican leaders are not necessarily going to put legislation on the floor to protect Mueller, and that's because this reporting, you know, it happened seven months ago--


RACHAEL BADE: --and they also note that he, ultimately, didn't do it.


RACHAEL BADE: And as Susan Collins mentioned in your interview this morning, he doesn't have the ability to do that. That's Rod Rosenstein, who is, clearly, at the DOJ and is still on his position and has said, he is going to allow Mueller to do his job. At the same time you see Republicans sort of holding up right now these text messages between two FBI officials they think had anti-Trumps sentiments, one of them expressing how he or she did not want to probe Hillary Clinton very hard because they were worried she would win--


RACHAEL BADE: --the presidency and she would be their future boss. So, yes, they are trying to go after the FBI, I think Republicans are winning over their base on this but most Americans still, of course, support Mueller.

NANCY CORDES: And, Dan, Rachael raises a good point. I mean if the President wanted to fire Mueller but, at the end of the day, didn't go through with it, does it matter?

DAN BALZ: Well, it matters because it does show his desire and sentiment, particularly, at that moment. And it's important that-- that Don McGahn stood in the way of it to the degree that how-- how that all unfolded we're not exactly sure. But Don McGahn, in one or way another, prevented it from happening. But to Rachael's point, I mean, if he moved to try to do this there are other obstacles that he would face.


DAN BALZ: But, again, if he did it and again we're blocked I think it would create an even bigger firestorm than-- than, you know, than it-- this incident that we didn't know about at that time. Other than his friend, Chris Ruddy, who had indicated in a public interview with-- with Judy Woodruff on PBS, that the President was, in fact, considering this sort of thing. So it's not as though this was totally tightly held. I mean, he had, obviously, shared it with Mister Ruddy of his desire at the time. But there are safeguards built in but we, you know, go back to the, you know, the Saturday night massacre with Richard Nixon in-- in-- during Watergate. It took a number of steps, ultimately, for that to be, you know, executed, but it, you know, it-- it could be the same kind of thing we would have this time.

NANCY CORDES: I want to turn to immigration. And, Ed, ask you-- you know now that the White House has finally laid out its stance, notwithstanding Marc Short saying it's actually been out there for months. Does it give conservatives cover to support a Dreamer bill that they know is going to anger a significant segment of their base?

ED O'KEEFE: If the changes in family-based legal migration are part of the final package and if they get the twenty-five to thirty billion in border security, yeah. But, if not, they will stand against it. I think what this plan from the White House, which is formally being released on Monday,

shows now is that the debate over whether or not to legalize or provide legal protections to people who are protected by DACA is basically over. It's just an issue of how many, but with the President going all the way to 1.8 million that basically settles it. The fact that Chuck Schumer went to the White House a little more than a week ago, sat with the President and basically agreed on twenty-five billion dollars in border funding means that's over. Democrats have now flashed that card and said, if that's the price to pay, so be it.


ED O'KEEFE: There will be some who don't like it. But he basically put them there. So the questions is are those other issues regarding family-based migration, changes to what's called the diversity lottery included, and that I think now is where the fight will be. Because this is an issue of can a DACA recipient's parents stay here legally, can they bring a brother and sister, could their spouse also get it if they're old enough and they're married.


ED O'KEEFE: And those are emotional fights now over the size and scope of one's family once they get their legal status.


ED O'KEEFE: It's-- it's going to be a painful piece of the debate. That's why you're seeing some say let's have a narrow debate over DACA and border security.


ED O'KEEFE: That's Congress for. Let's have an easier fight over border security and DACA which we seem to basically have agreement on.

NANCY CORDES: Jennifer, why did the White House suddenly come out in favor of a pathway to citizenship?

JENNIFER JACOBS: Well, they have been privately signaling that they would be willing to give the Dreamers a pathway to citizenship, the concession that they made here was going from the six hundred ninety thousand to the 1.8 million. That is a change. Like Marc said they have been saying that for a while that they would allow the path to citizenship, they just didn't want to show their cards on-- on how many. But I was told by one Trump insider that this would help them with, for example, Republican, college-aged women. A lot of things come down to, you know, the electorate--


JENNIFER JACOBS: --and how things turn out in the vote. They also don't want to appear too nativist, that's another reason. But also speaking of the vote, one thing to keep in mind is that these Dreamers wouldn't be able to vote themselves until about 2028 long after Trump is gone.

NANCY CORDES: Right. This is a long pathway to citizenship. Rachael, you wrote this week about the fact that Speaker Ryan is, essentially, a centrist on this issue, but he's also afraid to cross conservatives.

RACHAEL BADE: Yeah. The immigration debate is not just about the future of Dreamers, it's about the future of a speaker. Paul Ryan has said many times that he is sympathetic to the Dreamers, he doesn't think they should be deported, they came here as young minors, only know the United States as home. However, he governs a very conservative House Republican conference, who, by the way, do not support a pathway to citizenship for this population. And they made him promise when he became speaker, that he would never put an immigration bill on the floor that does not get a majority of the majority. However, what we're talking about in the Senate right now probably would not get a majority of the majority.


RACHAEL BADE: The one anecdote I would say to or anecdote for this toxic concoction for the speaker is President Trump if he embraces a bipartisan solution, maybe it protects Ryan.

NANCY CORDES: Rachael, that's the last word. Thank you so much, Rachael, Ed, Dan, Jennifer, appreciate you being with us today.

And we'll be back with our conversation with Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who is expecting to break a big barrier in the Senate.


NANCY CORDES: Senator Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq war veteran, a double amputee, and soon she will be the first senator to give birth while in office. The Illinois Democrat announced this week that she is expecting a second baby girl in April, a few weeks after her fiftieth birthday. She wants other women struggling with infertility to know what she went through. Ten years of trying to conceive her first child and a miscarriage this time while campaigning for the Senate.

What did your doctor say to you about the chances of getting pregnant at forty-nine?

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-Illinois/@SenDuckworth): Well, he said it's the new forty, so. He said fifty-- fifty-year-old mom is the new forty. I have the most wonderful fertility doctor and he helped me with Abigail. And he says if you're willing to go through the process with me, step by step it would seem like it takes a long time but we want to do this right. And he was right. And we just-- I just had to be patient and go through that. It's kind of like being a mom. You have total control.

NANCY CORDES: I remember that feeling when I had one I felt like a super mom and then once you have the second one, all those illusions are shattered.

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Oh, well, we'll see. Yeah. I didn't feel like a super mom during the first baby. I decided to run for the United States Senate when I was on maternity leave, which was a leap of faith to do that. So I was a congresswoman, I was trying to breast feed, travel, campaign, do my job as a United States congresswoman. And it was really, really tough. There were a lot of tears and a lot of, why am I doing this. And I just want to be home with my daughter.


SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: But then I would come across situation that needed to be fixed like legislation that I could pass and I realize, no, I have to do this. This-- this makes me a better-- a better legislator.

NANCY CORDES: One of the things that you noticed when you were doing all that traveling was that a lot of airports didn't have anywhere for you to nurse.

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: No. And-- and I would go into airports and I said, well, is-- is the handicapped stall in the public toilet. And it's like, that's disgusting. You wouldn't eat a sandwich there, why would you think that I should nurse my baby there or pump breast milk there, that's wrong. It was humiliating. And-- and so I tried to make-- you know, try to pass some legislation on it. And it's-- it's out of committee, mandatory nursing rooms for-- for moms at airports and, hopefully, we'll get an FAA bill and it will become law.

NANCY CORDES: Did you dream about going into politics before all of this happened?


NANCY CORDES: Duckworth was a helicopter pilot in the National Guard. Her call sign, Mad Dog. Shortly after she deployed to Iraq in 2004, her Blackhawk was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. As she was recovering, she got a surprise invitation, thirteen years ago this week.

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: It was Senator Durbin who found me in the hospital. He invited all Illinois servicemen and women at Walter Reed, all wounded warriors to-- to go to the State of the Union. And I was one of two who was well enough to go as my first trip out of the hospital. It's very emotional to go into that gallery and look down and see this democracy that I just sacrificed for. It's overwhelming. I mean it still gets to me that feeling. And-- and I was missionless.


SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: I was missonless. I was a helicopter pilot with no legs. And I was trying to find a way to serve my country. And we were having issues at Walter Reed. And I just became an advocate for my buddies because I happened to be the highest ranking amputee patient. And so I met Senator Durbin that night and he made the mistake of giving me his personal phone number. And I just started calling him.


SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: I didn't know any better. And after about ten months of this he called me up and he said, you need to run for Congress, and that's how I got into this. It's crazy.

NANCY CORDES: And now you're standing on the floor of the Senate--


NANCY CORDES: --and taking on the President on military issues.

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: I have a message for Cadet Bone Spurs, if you cared about our military, you'd stop baiting Kim Jong-un into a war that could put eighty-five thousand American troops and millions of innocent civilians in danger.

NANCY CORDES: You called him a five-deferment draft dodger.

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Mm-Hm. Four for school and one for medical reasons that he can't even remember what foot the bone spur was in. I can still feel the hangnail on my right foot, and it's-- and it's missing, you know, and we have a guy who says that he had a bone spur that kept him out of Vietnam, but he doesn't remember where it was.

NANCY CORDES: Do you think that that disqualifies him from being commander-in-chief or making decisions about the military?

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: No. I think he was elected rightfully to be President of the United States, but I don't think that he has the right to question other people support for our military especially those of us who have served.

NANCY CORDES: Duckworth is the first disabled woman in the Senate and the first member of Congress of Thai descent. That's a lot of firsts.


NANCY CORDES: How does that feel?

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Unintentional. Well, the whole being the first sitting senator to give birth, I think is ridiculous, it's 2018. We need more female senators. We are only twenty-two of us. I've been a little overwhelmed by how landmark it is when it shouldn't be. It's the twenty-first century.

NANCY CORDES: But even someone used to breaking barriers runs into obstacles now and then.

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: I was the tenth one in the House so there was policy in the house but there is no policy in the Senate and I have to figure that out.

NANCY CORDES: She recently discovered that children are still prohibited on the Senate floor which complicates her plans for maternity leave.

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: I'm going to take the time that I need with my daughter but in the middle of all that there might be days when I have to, you know, we have a lot of close votes right now that I need to come in and-- and not let the people of Illinois down.


SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: But then what do I do with my baby?



NANCY CORDES: So the Senate is behind the times is what you're saying.

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: The Senate is behind the times. So we're going to-- we're going to work on that.

NANCY CORDES: And we'll be back in a moment.


NANCY CORDES: And that's it for us today. Thanks for watching. Until next week for FACE THE NATION I'm Nancy Cordes. Have a good one.