Face the Nation July 23, 2017 Transcript: Scaramucci, Collins, Schiff, Barrasso

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: The Trump presidency hits the six-month milestone, amid staff shakeups and expanding investigations into Trump campaign ties to Russia.

President Trump ended a week of White House turmoil on a high note at the commissioning of the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it comes to battle, we don't want a fair fight. We want just the opposite.


DICKERSON: The ceremony came day after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer abruptly quit following the hiring of a new communications director, New York financier and friend of the Trump family Anthony Scaramucci.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I love the president, and the president is a very, very effective communicator.


DICKERSON: We will talk with the new man in charge of the president's message, who says Trump should be even more Trump.


SCARAMUCCI: I was in the Oval Office with him earlier today, and we were talking about letting him be himself, letting him express his full identity.


DICKERSON: But President Trump been himself, communicating unhappiness with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, along with special counsel Robert Mueller, who seems to be the target of the president's new legal team, this as Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, son Donald Jr., and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort all agreed to speak with congressional investigators.

We will talk with two key members of the Intelligence Committee investigating Trump campaign contacts with Russia, Senate Republican Susan Collins and the top Democrat on the House committee, Adam Schiff. Plus, as Senate Republicans scramble to save health care legislation, we will talk with the Republican leader spearheading the effort, Senator John Barrasso.

And we will have a final word on the news that Arizona Senator John McCain is now battling brain cancer. Senator Lindsey Graham is his best friend.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: God knows how this ends, not me. But I do know this. This disease has never had any more worthy opponent.


DICKERSON: We will have plenty of political analysis too.

It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.

President Trump marked his six-month anniversary in office with the turbulence and candor that have characterized his young presidency.

As efforts to pass health care in the Senate died yet again, the president summoned Republicans to the White House for lunch and a scolding.


TRUMP: For seven years, you promised the American people that you would repeal Obamacare.


DICKERSON: Then Mr. Trump gave a winding interview to "The New York Times," in which he raised questions about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' conduct. Sessions said he's saying on the job, at least for now.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I plan to continue to do so, as long as that is appropriate.


DICKERSON: But last week, "The Washington Post" reported that former Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov told his bosses in Russia that he and then Senator Sessions had discussed the Trump presidency in their meetings, something Sessions has downplayed.

Also this week, the president and his team raised questions about special counsel Robert Mueller's motivations, and the president warned Mueller not to go too far in his investigation.

Might he fire him? Even Republicans reacted negatively to the idea.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I believe it would be catastrophic if the president were to fire him.


DICKERSON: And mixed messages. Reports that the president was asking his advisers about his power to pardon his aides and himself were knocked down by the president's lawyer, only to be reanimated by the president himself, who declared on Saturday that he had complete power to pardon.

And we want to welcome the incoming White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, to the broadcast.

Mr. Scaramucci, welcome to FACE THE NATION.

I want to start with the president's tweet yesterday about pardons. He said he has complete pardon power. Why is he tweeting about pardons?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think, unfortunately, he may have had a conversation in the Oval Office or somewhere about it, and then people rush out to leak that information to people.

It's just very unprofessional and very harmful. And I think that the gist of that tweet, basically -- or that tweet, I should say, is that he's not going to pardon anybody. He doesn't need to pardon anybody. And it's just really about the leaking that is actually injurious to the government, felonious to the government.

But he's done absolutely nothing wrong, and there's no need for him to pardon anybody. But he just doesn't like the fact that he has on a two-minute conversation in the Oval Office or in his study, and then people are running out and leaking that.

And we -- we're going to work on culturally changing that, because it's extremely unprofessional. He's the commander in chief, the president of the United States. The people that are standing around him that are doing that sort of nonsense are actually un- American. They're doing an injustice to the institution of the American presidency.

And we're going to work very hard to change the culture of that.

DICKERSON: What happens to leakers on your watch?

SCARAMUCCI: They are going to get fired.

I'm just going to make it very, very clear, OK? Tomorrow, I'm going to have a staff meeting. And it is going to be a very binary thing. I'm not going to make any prejudgments about anybody on that staff. If they want to stay on the staff, they're going to stop leaking.

If the leaks continue, we are as strong as our weakest link. And I will say it a little differently in a pun. We're a strong as our weakest leak. So, if you guys want to keep leaking, why don't you guys all get together and make a decision as a team that you're going to stop leaking?

But if you're going to keep leaking, I'm going to fire everybody. It's just very binary.

DICKERSON: You talk about the president's success in communication, getting his message across. Is it helpful when he talks about or tweets about the special counsel's investigation?

SCARAMUCCI: The truth of the matter is, that's the president. That's the crystal essence of the president.

And so some of you guys in the media thinks it's not helpful. But if he thinks it's helpful to him, let him do it. At the end of the day, I think, when those investigations are over, it will be another chapter in Washington scandals incorporated, that we had to have a scandal going on and gin up all this sort of nonsense, so that we could distract the president from his agenda and his people, and run around chasing something that's all about nothing.

And so I know we do that a lot in Washington. I certainly don't want to do that. What I want to do is, I want to focus on the president's agenda, how he's going to help middle-class people, lower- middle-class people, how we're going to take it to ISIS, like we're taking it to them right now.

DICKERSON: Well, let me ask...

SCARAMUCCI: Those are the things that I really think are super important for us to focus on.

And so let Robert Mueller and that team focus on that. I'm going to focus as little on that as possible.

DICKERSON: Isn't there a conflict between that, though? The president is raising issues about the motivations of Mueller's team. Is that helpful?

SCARAMUCCI: Like I said, it doesn't matter to me whether it's helpful or not.

DICKERSON: Well, doesn't it get in the way of the message that you were just talking about?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, it may and it may not. Right?

You guys like talking about that stuff. And I understand that. But I'm not going to. What I'm going to do is, we're going to be very proactive, very offensive and very aggressive on the president's agenda. And so you guys want to talk about that, that's fine.

I'm going to talk about the stuff that I think are important to the American people.

DICKERSON: So, it sounds like there's new bright line. You won't be talking about the special counsel. Kellyanne Conway was on TV this week raising questions about donations some on the counsel staff had made.

Will that stop, there will be talk about the agenda, and no talk about the investigation?

SCARAMUCCI: You know what I'm going to do, John? I'm going to sit down with Don McGahn. And I'm going to sit down with the outside counsel.

I'm very close to Jay Sekulow. We know each other very well. Trust Jay. I know John Dowd as well. I'm going to sit down with these guys. I did go to Harvard Law School.

And I will understand the lines of communication, what we can say from the White House, what we can't say from the White House. And then we will operate a strategy that I think will knock the socks off of people.

What I don't like about what's going on right now is that we're -- when we get hit, we are on the heels of our feet, and we want the president to be on the heels of his feet? The president doesn't operate like that. The president operates off the balls of his feet. He's an aggressive guy.

It's the reason why he won the presidency. And so we're going to come up with a strategy that's going to knock people's socks off.

DICKERSON: Let me ask...

SCARAMUCCI: And it's going to be pro-Trump agenda.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you, though, about...

SCARAMUCCI: And when the investigation -- when the investigation dies down, I hope you will invite me back on the show, so I can say, see, that was another one of those ridiculous investigations.

DICKERSON: You're from the business world. You know how these things work.

The president was very critical of his attorney general in public in "The New York Times." How does that help?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, OK, so, from the business world, what I would say about that, and from my experience with the president, the president is a pretty wear-his-heart-on-his-sleeve sort of a guy.

If people are very, very thin-skinned, I think it's going to be super tough to work for this president. The president has said things to me in a tough and honest, direct way. And I think he's a very good athletic coach, if you will.

And so what I would recommend to all of my colleagues in Washington who know the president very well, if he is saying stuff about you that you don't like, call him up, go see him, go get in the Oval Office or the study. Have a straight...

DICKERSON: Why do it in public? Why not in private? It undermines the man as he's trying to serve the country.

SCARAMUCCI: Because -- because -- because that's the president's personality.

And it's not really that big of a deal. If you have a thin skin -- what I'm learning about Washington, crocodile skin is not even the right metaphor. How about like titanium oxide, OK?


DICKERSON: But the president is known for responding to things that are said about him, so, surely, he responds to everything that is said about him.

Does he have thin skin?

SCARAMUCCI: Does the president -- actually, the president doesn't have thin skin.

But what the president is, is a fighter. The president doesn't like people saying stuff about him. And he wants them to stop it. And so he hits back.

What I enjoy about that, if you're saying something about him that he doesn't like, and then he says something about you, all of a sudden, you get upset. But then you don't want him to get upset when you're saying stuff about him.

It's asymmetrical nonsense. Why don't we focus on the agenda, instead of all of this nonsense, you know?

DICKERSON: You said in a tweet: "My political views don't matter."

That, I assume, also carries over to the donations you have made. You have the supported Democrats in past.

All that doesn't matter for you doing your job?

SCARAMUCCI: I -- I -- listen, I'm an American businessman, and I'm a very practical guy.

I have supported a lot of different people. I went law school with President Obama. If you have noticed, over the last two years that I have been more or less in the public domain, I don't like attacking people personally. I like debating policy.

I never once attacked personally Secretary Clinton. I have found that, when I have attacked people personally, that's been a stupid mistake on my part. And so whoever I have attacked personally, I apologize for.

But here's what I was trying to do yesterday with those tweets. I think it is nonsensical and more Washington nonsense that we have to take this political purity ideological test. So, if I said I was for something, and now I'm against something...


SCARAMUCCI: ... that makes me a hypocrite.

I don't believe in that. I think it's stupid. And I want to subordinate my political views to the views of the president and his agenda.

DICKERSON: So, if you're able to subordinate the people you have supported in the past, the things you have said, and the money you have given, why then does the president raise past donations as disqualifying of the people who are working for Robert Mueller?

Shouldn't the principle -- shouldn't the principle work in both cases?

SCARAMUCCI: OK, hold on. I'm not the president, John. That's the president...


DICKERSON: No, I'm just talking about the principle, though. You said that your past donations don't matter. Shouldn't it...

SCARAMUCCI: I understand, but let me -- you asked me the question. So, let me just answer the question.

I -- I don't think it really makes a difference for me, but I'm the communications director. The president saying something is a little bit different. OK, the president is suggesting that there might be people that are politically motivated to hit him and his family members, even though that there's nothing there.

Now, I have been the victim of that. It's a nasty thing. It's really not something that you like going through. Someone is accusing you of something that you didn't do, and then you got to go out and hire yourself a lawyer and you have to prove.

For some reason, in these scandals, we've flipped the Constitution around. You're guilty until you go out there and prove yourself innocent.


SCARAMUCCI: You're not innocent until proven guilty.


SCARAMUCCI: And so the president -- the president doesn't like that. He thinks it's dishonest and it's subverting the agenda that he's trying to project.

DICKERSON: But it seems that the investigators are just doing the work. I don't think they have accused him of anything yet.

At least, by the president's admission, he says he's not being accused of anything and he's not under investigation. But they're doing their job and subordinating whatever they may have done with political donations, which seems like the same accommodation you're asking for.

SCARAMUCCI: OK, so you're -- but, again, I'm not the president. So if the president wants to say that about them, let him say it. It's fine.

DICKERSON: So, do you think that -- do you think they're compromised by their past donations?


SCARAMUCCI: Am I compromised by my past donations?

DICKERSON: No, do you think the investigators are?

SCARAMUCCI: Do I think the investigators are? I don't know. I don't know these guys personally.

If you give me a half-hour with each of these guys -- I'm pretty good at reading people -- I could figure out in probably 30 minutes if they're comprised or not. But I don't know the guys personally. They may or may not be, sir. I have no idea.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you, finally, on the question of mixed messages.

This week, the president has said three different things about health care. On the 17th, he said Republicans should repeal the failing Obamacare bill and then start with a clean slate. On the 18th, he said let Obamacare fail. On the 19th, he said the country needs more than repeal. It needs repeal and replace.

That's three different messages over three days. Isn't the president's message muddled?

SCARAMUCCI: No, not at all.

See, this is the thing. We got to -- I hope we can do this for the president. I hope we can explain what he's doing and explain what he's thinking. And I hope that what you will start to realize, which is very refreshing to the American people, he's signaling over the top of the mainstream media.

So, let's go over each of those tweets. He basically wants to repeal and replace Obamacare. He knows that's the best thing for the American people. It turns out that he may not be able to get that done with a recalcitrant Congress.

And then he fires out a tweet, let's just repeal it. Then it turns out that he's working super hard. He's probably the most effective legislative liaison person in the world. He may get the chance to repeal and replace it.

So, then he's sending out that tweet. His point is, he's a businessperson. He's got a Rubik's Cube on his desk, basically, that he has to spin through because there's so many confusing people in Washington. And he's trying to figure out if he can get his objectives done, which are to repeal and replace Obamacare.


SCARAMUCCI: ... about Washington, there's a lot of different -- different interests there, sir.

DICKERSON: But the senators working on the bill right now have no idea what his position is. He's beating them up on the one hand. Then he's saying they should do this and that.

I guess that's the point, is that the message is mixed to them.

SCARAMUCCI: That's not true. There's not one -- there's not one person in Washington that doesn't know the president's position.

And if there is -- and, hopefully, they watch your show, because you have got a great show -- he would like to repeal and replace Obamacare. That's what he would like to do.

If you're going to stop him from doing that, the next best thing would be to repeal Obamacare. If you're not going to repeal and replace Obamacare, then the third best thing is to let it implode, because, if you let it implode, there will be a big enough crisis -- and, unfortunately, in this town called Washington, these politicians respond better to crises than they do to just practical problem- solving, which we could do right now before the implosion.

So, I think, on a gradient, that's what the president is saying, John.

DICKERSON: Will the president get what he wants next week? Will it pass?

SCARAMUCCI: I don't know if he's going to get what he wants next week, but he's going to get what he wants eventually, because this guy always gets what he wants. OK?

What I know about President Trump is that the world, he's got very, very good karma. He's very, very good to the people that are super close to him. Look at how great his kids turned out. You can't fake good kids.

And the world turns back to President Trump. And so my prediction is, he's got to get exactly what he wants. He's going to health care reform. He's going to tax reform. And he's going to start to put the deregulatory -- deregulatory pillars in place, so that our businesses and our economies can grow again, community banks can start lending again.

And the people that I grew up with, the people in my neighborhood that have been struggling with low income and low wages, are going to see a burst in economic activity, and he's going to get reelected. And we're going to work on that feverishly over the next two-and-a- half, three years.

DICKERSON: Final question.

The Senate and the House have passed sanctions legislation on Russia, or are going to. Will the president sign that?

SCARAMUCCI: Don't know.

DICKERSON: And if not, what more does he need to know about -- what more does the president need to know about Russians' interference with the election?

SCARAMUCCI: That's a really good question. So, I haven't seen any of that information. So, I don't know the answer to that.

I also don't know the answer to whether or not he's going to sign it. But we will know shortly. And when we do, whether he signs it or he doesn't sign in, if you invite me back on, I will try to explain to you the rationale and the reasoning that went into that decision.

DICKERSON: All right, Anthony Scaramucci, thanks so much for being with us.


DICKERSON: We will be back in a minute with a lot more FACE THE NATION.


DICKERSON: Joining us now from Bangor, Maine, is Republican Senator Susan Collins.

Senator, I want to start with your former colleague Jeff Sessions, the attorney general.

"The Washington Post" has a story suggesting those answers he gave to you and the rest of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate may not have been complete. This is based on wiretaps of what apparently has been overheard from the former Russian ambassador.

What do you make of that story?

COLLINS: Well, first of all, let me say that the Intelligence Committee will follow any credible allegation as part of our investigation.

I would point out that there is a big difference between an unsubstantiated leak about an alleged intercept vs. sworn testimony and facts.

And our focus is on sworn testimony and getting all the facts. I would note also that the Russian ambassador is our adversary. And the Russians have shown themselves to be masters at misinformation.

Nevertheless, this clearly is an area that we need to pursue further. The one final point that I would make is if, in fact, this is a leak of an intercept -- and I don't know whether or not the report is accurate -- that is extremely serious. That has the potential to compromise our national security and to undermine the safety of those who are in the intelligence community.

DICKERSON: The president said this week it was unfair for the -- for Attorney General Sessions to recuse himself and not tell the president before he hired him.

Do you agree with that?

COLLINS: I don't agree with that at all.

The attorney general followed the rules and guidelines of the Department of Justice. He met with career staff, and he made the right decision in recusing himself.

DICKERSON: In my conversation with the new communications director at the White House, Anthony Scaramucci, he suggested that this new strategy which we have seen this week, which is to raise questions about the special counsel, Mr. Scaramucci said of the president, who has been critical of the special counsel -- quote -- "Let him do it."

Do you -- what's your assessment of what the White House message is about the special counsel?

COLLINS: I understand how difficult and frustrating this investigation is for the president, but he should not say anything further about the special counsel, his staff or the investigation.

I know it's hard, but he needs to step back and not comment and let Bob Mueller, who is an individual with the utmost integrity, carry out the investigation and make his determination.

DICKERSON: I understand the memos from former FBI Director James Comey are with the committee. Have you looked at them?

COLLINS: We have not yet been given access to those memos.

I'm very eager to see them. As you know, the FBI director memorialized his discussion with the president, particularly about his suggestion that the president directed him or implied that he should drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. So, it's important that we see these memos.

Having said that, I do think that it was a violation of the FBI's old guidelines, which Mr. Comey helped to write, for himself to have leaked some of those memos to a friend of his in hopes of prompting the appointment of a special counsel.

DICKERSON: Let me switch now to health care.

What's going to happen next week, and what will you be doing and what will your position be?

COLLINS: Well, it's a good question about what's going to be happening next week. It appears that we will have a vote on Tuesday.

But we don't whether we're going to be voting on the House bill, the first version of the Senate bill, the second version of the Senate bill, a new version of the Senate bill, or a 2015 bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act now, and then said that somehow we will figure out a replacement over the next two years.

I don't think that's a good approach to facing the legislation that affects millions of people and one-sixth of our economy.

What I would like to see us do is to go back into committee. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, has already indicated his willingness to hold hearings.

We could divide this issue into separate bills and take a look at the serious flaws in the Affordable Care Act, the most serious of which right now is the collapse of the insurance market in several counties throughout this country, so that people who had subsidies won't have an insurer that can sell them insurance.

That would allow us to hear from expert witnesses, to get input from actuaries and governors and advocacy groups and health care providers, and, most important, from members of both sides of the aisle, Republicans, as well as Democrats.

DICKERSON: We just have 10 seconds left.

Have you heard from the president trying to lobby you on this?

COLLINS: I have heard from the vice president, from the head of CMS, and from the president's chief of staff.

I talked to the president very briefly at the lunch, but I have not had further conversations with him.

DICKERSON: All right, we will have to end it there.

Thank you, Senator Collins.

And we will be back in a moment with the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.


DICKERSON: And we're back with the ranking member in the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. He joins us from Los Angeles.

Congressman, your committee will be talking to Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law. What do you want to know from him?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: There's a lot we want to know.

We certainly want to know about several of the meetings that have been alleged to have taken place, obviously, the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and the -- several Russians that we now know were in that meeting, but also his meeting that was alleged to have taken place with the head of the VEB Bank, a sanctioned Russian bank, as well as that alleged conversation he had with the ambassador about setting up a secret back channel to Russia.

We want to know whether those meetings took place, whether other meetings took place. We have a lot of ground to cover. His counsel has said they will only make him available for two hours.

So, we expect this is just going to be the first interview.

DICKERSON: All right.

SCHIFF: But there's a great many questions that we will have for Mr. Kushner.

DICKERSON: And we have a great many questions for you.

We will be back after this break to ask them. So, stand by.

And we will be back in a moment.


DICKERSON: And we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION.

Stay with us.


DICKERSON: And welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

We want to continue our conversation with Congressman Adam Schiff.

Congressman, you are a former prosecutor. What did you make of the president's comments in "The New York Times" that he thought it would be a violation if the special counsel went in -- went looking into his finances?

SCHIFF: Well, I had a couple of impressions.

First, the president is clearly worried that Bob Mueller is going to be looking into allegations, for example, that the Russians may have laundered money through the Trump Organization. That is really something, in my opinion, he needs to look at because what concerns me the most is, anything that could be held over the president's head that could influence U.S. policy, that would be among the most powerful form of compromise. So I think it is something he needs to look at. It's something plainly the president is very concerned about, but clearly within the scope of Bob Mueller's investigation.

And I'll say this in light of all the talk about Jeff Sessions lately. It does concern me that the president should bring this up now. If it's an indication that he wants to somehow push Sessions out and get in a new attorney general who will then take Rod Rosenstein's place as supervising the Mueller investigation, if this is part of a longer term strategy to define or confine the scope of the Mueller investigation, that would be very concerning.

DICKERSON: Rod Rosenstein being the -- the deputy attorney general who oversees the investigation now.

Speaking of Senator Sessions, there's been this report in "The Washington Post." As Senator Collins said, it's a -- an anonymous source about perhaps an intercept that was picked up. So caution is in order.

But even if "The Post" is right. Senator Sessions said he didn't talk about the campaign. The allegation is he talked about -- maybe he talked about Russia and Russia policy with the ambassador. Isn't that a perfectly fine thing for a senator to do, to talk to the Russian ambassador about policy and what a possible President Trump policy towards Russia might be?

SCHIFF: Well, it -- you know, it wouldn't be objectionable if he had been straightforward and honest about it with the Senate. But, of course, he initially denied having any such meetings and then he acknowledge such meetings but said that they weren't about the campaign. And I think that's strange cajolery whether or not that "Washington Post" story is accurate. I think I share the assessment John McCain expressed earlier of deep skepticism that he was being sought out in his role as a member of the Armed Services Committee rather than his very prominent role on the Trump campaign.

So, you know, this is part of a pattern. If the members of the Trump team were honest and transparent and forthcoming about these things, it would raise a lot less questions. But, of course, that has not been the case and now we see evidence in those e-mails about the Don Jr. meeting why they had been concealing these things. So quite -- separate and apart from "The Washington Post" story, I think there's a lot about what the attorney general has said that just doesn't hold much water, and that we really do need to get to the bottom of.

DICKERSON: What's your response to the administration officials who say, you know, this is an investigation where the special counsel can kind of go wherever he wants and -- and it can go all over the place? What are the checks on him?

SCHIFF: Well, the checks on him are what is said out in his charter, which is he has a -- an investigation he's been authorized to do into Russian connections with the Trump campaign and anything that arises from that. So that's his charter and I think all of what we're talking about is well within the scope of that.

If he were to go off on a detour that had nothing to do with that, it would be an issue. But Bob Mueller knows exactly what he's doing, which is why members of both parties have such confidence in him. I don't think he's going to use this to explore things that are completely unrelated. But he does have the power to look into these financial issues that the president seems so concerned about because the Russians use their financial leverage over people to influence policy. That's what they do in Europe. It's part of why they like business leaders as heads of state, because they can enter into business transactions before or during that then can be used as a way of influencing their decision making. And, of course, that would be detrimental to U.S. interest

DICKERSON: You're speaking about this as a kind of theoretical matter. Have you -- has -- has what you've looked at in the course of your work suggested that that pattern has more than just the possibility, but that there's some evidence behind it?

SCHIFF: Well, I don't want to comment on the evidence, but I do think we need to look at each and every instrumentality the Russians have used elsewhere, some that we know that were used here, and determine, are there other ways that the Russians have sought to exercise influence, because, at the end of the day, we need to make sure that our president is operating, not in his personal best interest, and not because he's worried about what the Russians might have, but because what he is doing is in America's best interest.

The fact that we have questions about this is in itself harmful. But we need to get answers to them so that the country can be confident that the chief executive is doing the nation's business first and foremost.

DICKERSON: All right, Congressman Schiff, thanks so much for being with us.

SCHIFF: Thanks, John.

DICKERSON: And joining us now is Senator John Barrasso, who is a member of the Republican leadership team and there have been a lot of health care meetings in your office, senator.


DICKERSON: The president wants repeal and replace. What is going to get voted on next Tuesday?

BARRASSO: Well, it's a vote -- a motion to proceed to the bill that passed the House. That then comes to the Senate and then we can vote, once we get on that bill, to amend it in various ways and lots of members have different ideas on how it should be best amended to replace what is really a failing Obama health care plan.

DICKERSON: When you talk about the motion to proceed, that means basically a begin conversation. Is -- there have been some senators who have expressed that they will vote against that. Not even begin talking. Where does that stand right now?

BARRASSO: We're continuing to work with all of the members. We're getting much closer to that. We are going to vote this week. And I think until the vote is actually on the floor of the Senate, some people may not tell you what they're actually going to do.

But we all got elected to legislate and that's why we're here. You know, people have campaigned, Republicans, over the years, to repeal and replace Obamacare. This our chance. And I think it -- it's hard to believe somebody who has run and won election could go home and face the voters again and say, I'm not even willing to debate it on the floor.

DICKERSON: You mentioned that repeal and replace will be on, but there's been talk of having just a straight-up vote on repeal. In fact, Senator McConnell said the 2015 bill, straight repeal, would be voted on. So there's -- that vote will still happen? It will just be as an amendment?

BARRASSO: Yes, people can offer that as an amendment to what's passed the House. I have a number of things that I think really improve on the House bill. President Trump has said it should be more generous. We have done that. The bill that I've been working on in the Senate actually lowers insurance premiums, makes insurance more affordable by 30 percent. It puts Medicaid on a much more sustainable path. And you know Medicaid was designed initially for low income women and children and the disabled, but it's changed significantly under Obamacare.

DICKERSON: Senator Corker talked about the efforts this week to try to get everybody back on a beam here, and he said, I fear that it's beginning to lack coherency. It's beginning to feel like a bizarre, much like how Obamacare was put together where desperate things are added and put in.

What's your response to that?

BARRASSO: I was in the Wyoming legislature for five years. That's what legislation is all about. You get a bill on the floor of the House or the Senate. You would get a bill and then you'd start adding amendments. You bring your best ideas forward and then people vote, up or down. So as the amendments get added to the bill, in the end, there's a final vote. Do you approve or not approve of the whole amended package and that's what we're trying to do. And that's why I think people run for office, to take tough votes, to legislate and to live with the consequences.

DICKERSON: There is, obviously, another structural way to do this, which is the bipartisan route. You heard Senator Collins make that claim. She said we should go back to a bipartisan approach. This one has not been.

Senator Murkowski also suggested that, Senator Graham, Senator McCain. And polls show people desperate for a bipartisan approach. Why hasn't there been one on this one?

BARRASSO: Well, I agree, it should be bipartisan. It should have been bipartisan when Obamacare was passed. It should be now as well for big things that effect the country. It should be done in a bipartisan way. But let's set the record straight. With this resistance movement to President Trump and the energy in the Democrat Party pulling Chuck Schumer, as the leader, far to the left, to the Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren approach, Senator Schumer's been pretty clear up from the beginning that he would -- that we should expect no cooperation from him. We know where Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want to take it, which is to a single pair, Canadian British style government run program.

DICKERSON: But that -- but has anybody reached out really in a serious way, because we talked to Senator Manchin, number one on any list --


DICKERSON: Of reaching out to Democrats. He said he'd not heard from the Republicans or from the president. I mean everybody in their opening gambit says no way, no how. Then you negotiate and that's kind of what the Senate does, isn't it?

BARRASSO: Well, I visited on the floor of the Senate and off the floor with a number of Democrats and they say, well, you know, we do want to work together, but there are a couple things. One is, don't touch the mandate. Well, the mandate -- the individual mandate that says people have to buy a government -- that's the most hated part of Obamacare.

Oh, and they also say status quo is fine for Medicaid. But the status quo today is different than the original intent of Medicaid, of protecting the most vulnerable in our society who are now getting crowded out of Medicaid because of the expansion. And they said, oh, and, by the way, make sure you put more money in to stabilize insurance markets.

Well, you know, President Trump, just last week, once again provided a transfusion to Obamacare, which is in the intensive care unit.

DICKERSON: The American -- you're a doctor.


DICKERSON: And the AMA, the American Medical Association does not like this Senate bill. Why don't your colleagues like it? Are they wrong?

BARRASSO: Well, it's an interesting -- I'm a member -- still a member of the American Medical Association. They've done incredible things for patient safety and health care over the years. They were big supporters of the Obama health care law. They lost a lot of members as a result of that. I think that they're misguided on this because the doctors I talked to at home and the nurses and the patients -- I was in Wyoming yesterday -- continue to say, we need to get rid of this Obamacare. We need to replace it with something that actually lowers the cost, that makes health care more affordable. Health is very, very personal and we need to make sure that we do it right.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Barrasso, thank you so much for being with us.

BARRASSO: Thanks for having me.

DICKERSON: And we'll be right back with our political panel.


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

Amy Water is the national editor of "The Cook Political Report." Dan Balz is chief correspondent at "The Washington Post." And we're also joined by "Bloomberg View" columnist Megan McArdle. And chief "Slate" -- and we're also joined by "Slate's" chief political correspondent and CBS News political analyst Jamelle Bouie.

Dan, I want to start with you.

You heard Senator Barrasso. Sounds like a bit of a free for all. Senator Collins was a little confused about what's coming. What's coming on health care?

DAN BALZ, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think the one thing that Senator Collins and Senator Barrasso agreed on in those two interviews was that nobody quite know what's coming. They're prepared for anything. You know, the first -- the first question is can -- can Senator McConnell get enough votes to get the bill on to the floor? I think that's still in question and I think that he has decided that the only way you answer that question is to take the vote. It may be embarrassing for him in the end if he can't do it, but I think he wants, in one way or another, either to have this debate or to get some closure to where this particular chapter ends. And then we'll see what happens after that.

DICKERSON: Megan, how do you see the nature of the things that they're debating? I mean it's a Republican-only conversation at the moment. Where -- what's -- what's happening?

MEGAN MCARDLE, BLOOMBERG VIEW: There is no bipartisan consensus on what to do. And, in fact, there's no partisan consensus on what to do. I -- you know, listening to Republicans talk about what they're -- they're going to do with this bill is a little bit like listening to George R.R. Martin talk about what he's going to do when the next "Game of Thrones" novel is going to be published. You're like, you guys, just admit you're not going to -- you're never going to finish it and just let us grieve, right?

And I think that, you know, this is -- we've been -- we've been following this for months. Now we saw a similar process with Obamacare, right? It was dead. It was alive. It was like the zombie, un-zombie bill of the century. But the difference is that Republicans -- Democrats knew what they wanted to do with health care, right? I mean they have lots of -- obviously within the caucus -- disagreement about exactly what's due. They wanted the government to provide a universal guarantee of coverage. Everyone in the caucus, to a first (INAUDIBLE), wanted that goal --

DICKERSON: The Democrats.

MCARDLE: The Democrats did. The Republicans, what they would like is for Obamacare not to have passed. Unfortunately, since they don't have a time machine, and as far as I know have not funded research into it, although perhaps they should, there's not really any way to achieve what the actual caucus agrees on. Part of the caucus wants, you know, to cut Medicaid. Part of the caucus really wants to pass something called the Obamacare Repeal Act of 2017, which like, you know, gets rid of the tanning tax. And part of the caucus really just wants to slash this, completely get rid of it, and put nothing in its place. And there's no way to -- to sort of pull all of those goals together.

DICKERSON: Jamelle, Anthony Scaramucci said the president was the best legislative person in the world, I think he said. But the president has been -- had a lot of different messages on -- here and his approach -- Susan Collins said she hadn't heard from him.


DICKERSON: What do you make of his role in this process?

BOUIE: I mean the striking thing is that the president hadn't had much of a role at all, other than simply repeating the rhetoric of the campaign, we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare. It's very difficult to see the extent to which he or his staff have really been engaged in this effort. And I think that is also a critical difference with what happened with the Affordable Care Act where at the critical moments, right, after the election of Scott Brown, for example, Barack Obama, the White House, worked with congressional leaders to insure that the bill would survive and make its way through.

And Trump isn't involved. Trump hasn't -- the president has not even been able to articulate exactly what his policy goals are. He has not really defended the theory of the case here. So he is largely hands-off and I think -- I think had he -- had the reverse been true, that might have been some of which he needed to get Republicans together, just like some straight-up leadership. But in the absence of that, these divisions, these different, they -- they -- they take the fore (ph).

DICKERSON: Amy, give us a sense of the politics here. If, I -- if Republicans don't pass something that repeals Obamacare, is that more painful than passing something that's not very popular at the moment based on all the polls?

AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: I think for a lot of Republicans it's like asking the question of, do you want to chew glass or poke a needle in your eye? Which one is less painful to do?

Nobody like this bill. Voters don't like it. Megan's right, people within the caucus don't like it, and within the Republican caucus don't like it. Nobody really wants to vote on something, but they promised that they would vote for something. And then the most important thing then, if you're going to vote for something that nobody likes and you don't even particularly like very well as a member of Congress, how do you go out and defend it in the next election? And that's the real challenge here too.

So there seems to be a piece where it's like a check the box for a lot of Republican. We promised we'd do this. That's our number one concern. If we don't do it, our base is going to be upset and they're not going to turn out and vote for us. But if we check this box, get something done, we're just going to move on to things we like talking about and we'll be more coordinated on, like tax reform.

The problem is, that vote doesn't go away.

BOUIE: Right.

WALTER: I talked to a number of Democratic strategists. They can't wait for 2018 to make the vote that Republicans have already taken on the House bill a central argument in 2018. Regardless of where they get on taxes, they still have to defend what they have or haven't done on health care.

BOUIE: And it's not just the substance of the bill there. It's very easy to say if you're a Democrat strategist that, listen, the Republican Party spent the better part of an entire first, an entire first year doing nothing. And that's hard to push back against.

MCARDLE: I think there's also the thing of, you know, it's actually better for them if it doesn't pass, right? It's better for -- each individual person, if they voted to repeal Obamacare, and then nothing happens, because, yes, you can go out and campaign as Amy says, but the fact is, most voters have no idea what this bill is. But the minute there's something that's actually happening, Republicans 100 percent own what's going to happen. And since a lot of people won't like what happens, they're in a rough spot.

DICKERSON: Dan, I want to switch to the changes at the White House this week. Give me your sense of within this administration, but then also historically presidents have often said, you know, if I just fix the communications piece, everything is going to be great. Is that what this is or is there something else?

BALZ: Well, you have a White House that, from the beginning, was built to be dysfunctional. This is not a hierarchy administration. I mean I've said this before, if you drew a table of organization of the White House, you would have all of these boxes, but they wouldn't necessarily connect with anything or many would connect only directly with the president or none would connect directly with the president. He likes it that way.

So, yes, they have a communications problem. But it's so easy for every administration -- and we've heard it before -- to say, if only people understood what we were doing, then things would be fine. It's much more complicated than that. And the president gets in the way of that. The agenda gets in the way of that. What we've been talking about on health care clouds all of that and, obviously, Russia gets in the way of that. So moving Anthony Scaramucci, who's certainly a different personality than Sean Spicer, into that -- that role and have a visible role could make some small difference. But the problem is so much bigger.

DICKERSON: And -- and, Amy, the -- one of the challenges that the president's interviews and tweets seem to get in the way of his own agenda. That doesn't seem like it's changing based on Mr. Scaramucci.

WALTER: Right. That's right. That the -- we -- we've known from the very beginning that the real communications director in the White House is the president of the United States. And what he tweets sets the agenda. And so what you saw the day after Scaramucci was installed, we saw a whole line the tweets on Saturday from the president that were kind of all over the place, right? Whether it was the issue of pardons, there was a little bit about what he was doing down in Norfolk with commissioning a new ship. But, really, there was nothing there that was like a cohesive strategic message.

This was "Made in America Week." That's what this week was started off to be. Certainly didn't end the week talking about the agenda. And that's, you know, you listen to Scaramucci talking to you. He talked about, we're going to get back to the agenda, we're going to get back to the agenda. The biggest difficulty in getting back to the agenda is the president's Twitter account, which they seem to have no -- and this new White House communications director said, we just need to let him do more of it

DICKERSON: That's right, Megan. I mean they've said, right, more from the president. Is that the solution?

MCARDLE: It would not be my personal strategy were I appointed the czar of White House communications. I've often -- I've often wondered why the White House doesn't have an aide who's just assigned to -- every time the president gets a new cell phone, actually trip and break it.

But, you know, the fact is, that's part of the problem. He hasn't really staffed up his administration. He doesn't have a policy agenda in a kind of traditional sense, right? He doesn't, you know, when you see the lack of leadership in health care, he doesn't know what he wants on health care. He just wants it to be awesome. He wants people to like him.

And that's sort of repeated over and over again, even on issues where like immigration, yes, staffing up and doing some of these executive orders. But then beyond that, there's no kind of vision that you're going to be putting into play. It's day by day, working with the -- controlling the executive branch and making it do things. He doesn't have that. And so he focuses on controlling the news cycle and never thinks about like, OK, you controlled this news cycle, but when you control news cycles with things that are bad -- bad for you, eventually that adds up into not getting an agenda done

DICKERSON: One of the things, Jamelle, that was in the news cycle this week is this "New York Times" interview and the president's clear view that the investigators working for Robert Mueller, and the special counsel himself Robert Mueller, are somehow compromised. That seemed to have been that, plus some of the things his other aides were saying, a new strategy from the White House.

BOUIE: Right. I think in keeping with Megan's observation, that the president wants to control the news cycle, and that's sort of where his skill set really lies. I think he -- he's trying to wrestle control from the news cycle away from this investigation. And by making these allegations that the investigators are themselves personally compromised he -- I think his hope is to -- is to kind of sew doubt broadly among his supporters and also sort of make this the crux of discussion and not the actual substantive investigation itself.

I want -- I want to add on to what Megan said and just emphasize that, you know, during campaign one of the -- President Trump's gifts, I guess, political gifts was that he was everything to everyone. You could listen to his speech, you could watch him and sort of read in what you want to think. That is a disadvantage now that he's governing.

DICKERSON: All right, we're going to have to end it there.

And we'll be right back with some thoughts on Senator John McCain.


DICKERSON: When the news broke that John McCain had been diagnosed with brain cancer, the outpouring of well-wishes all hailed his toughness. This week marks the anniversary of one such example.

Fifty years ago, the USS Forrestal aircraft carrier was deployed in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War. A rocket accidentally fired, sparking a fire on the deck. It spread to planes preparing to launch and set off a chain reaction of explosions. One hundred and thirty-four sailors were killed.

One of the pilots preparing for take-off, who was hit, was Senator John McCain, who miraculously escaped his burning A-4 Skyhawk.

The math of durability in McCain's life is extraordinary. In addition to surviving the Forrestal, McCain has survived three other plane disasters, including being shot down over enemy territory. He then survived five and a half years of torture as a prisoner of war and later three skin cancer surgeries.

His former chief of staff and co-author, Mark Salter, wrote this, "John McCain will be around for a long while. I've always known he'd out live me. I wrote the eulogy he'll give at my funeral. It's very touching."

There's a basic idea to this fighting spirit, that there are standards worth devoting yourself to that are more important than your self-interest. That you should keep the faith even if it means turning down early release from torture and living in a dark box in north Vietnam.

He didn't just hold fast in Hanoi, wrote "The New York Times'" Jonathan Martin, an 80-year-old man with brain cancer pushed himself to exhaustion this year, traveling to reassure the world about America.

This does not make John McCain a saint. He's flawed, a hot head, and has fallen short of his own standard. He'll tell you nearly all of this himself. But when off the path, his fight is to get back on it, to return to his standards. It's a human lesson for all of us who are tempted to recline into self-preservation. It's a call not just to admire the fight from a distance, but to fight a little harder ourselves.

Back in a moment.


DICKERSON: Hey, thanks for watching. Until next week, on FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson.