Watch CBS News

Face the Nation June 25, 2017 Transcript: Manchin, Toomey, Cassidy

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: The Republican Senate health care bill is on life support.

And the president blames the Obama administration for not stopping Russian interference in the election.

When Senate Republican leaders finally removed the veil of secrecy from their health care bill, they were met with stinging criticism from all sides, including their own. Even President Trump, who once promised a beautiful plan that would cover everyone at lower cost, has put away his trademark hyperbole.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I speak from the heart. That's what I want to see.

I want to see a bill with heart. Health care is a very complicated subject, from the standpoint that you move it this way, and this group doesn't like it. You move it a little bit over here -- you have a very narrow path.

And, honestly, nobody can be totally happy,


DICKERSON: Republican leaders long ago gave up on total happiness and are just trying not to lose the two votes that wound sink the bill, but opposition appears to be growing.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Hey, Toomey, we are afraid you will take grandma's Medicaid!


DICKERSON: We will talk to two key Republicans, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, who was part of the team that negotiated the bill, and Louisiana doctor-turned-Senator Bill Cassidy.

And we will break down a blockbuster "Washington Post" report that details top-secret efforts of the Obama administration the head off Russian attacks on our election process. We will talk to a key Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, West Virginia's Joe Manchin.

Plus, we will take a closer look at what, if anything, can be done to stop the North Korean nuclear threat, as the president of South Korea prepares to visit the U.S.

We will have plenty of political analysis and a final word on taping at the White House.

It's all coming up on FACE THE NATION.

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

We're juggling two big stories today, but we begin with the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

This week, Homeland Security officials told Congress that the Russians targeted voter databases in 21 states.

And CBS News justice correspondent Jeff Pegues has learned that nearly twice showed evidence of a breach. "The Washington Post" this week came out with a bombshell investigation into the Obama administration's top-secret efforts to combat Russia attempts to influence the election, reporting that the administration knew as early as last August that Vladimir Putin had ordered the effort specifically to help defeat Hillary Clinton.

The Obama team considered a number of responses, including a package of cyber-bomb strikes, that ultimately they did not use and left behind for the Trump administration.

Yesterday, President Trump launched several tweets criticizing the Obama administration for inaction. He spoke about it in a FOX News interview.


TRUMP: Well, I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it. If he had the information, why didn't he do something about it? He should have done something about it.


DICKERSON: There's a lot to process.

So we turn to CBS News senior national security contributor and former number two at the CIA Michael Morell, plus "Washington Post" columnist David Ignatius, as well as his colleague Adam Entous, who was on the team that broke "The Washington Post" story.

Adam, so let's start with you. Lay out this story for us.

ADAM ENTOUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, the story opens with a dramatic scene, which is the delivery of this intelligence country courier to the White House.

It comes with eyes-only instructions to be given to the president and three top advisers at that point. And in the package was intelligence from a high-level source of information that was deemed highly reliable by the CIA describing directly Putin's order to carry out this operation and the goal of trying to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.

Once they read that, they were instructed to put it back in the envelope and tell the courier to take it back to Langley. That's just an example of, you know, what was being given to the president at that point. This was a CIA assessment early. This was raw intelligence. And it was not good enough for Obama.

He instructed the intelligence community to go out and see if they could validate what the CIA was picking up.

DICKERSON: Michael Morell, the validation happened. Give us a sense from your expertise. I know we have talked about this before, but the president has been skeptical about whether this actually ever happened, whether it was the Russians, it could have been the Chinese.

Put this latest story into context for us in terms of the intelligence, how solid it was and what really administration officials know.

MICHAEL MORELL, CBS NEWS SENIOR SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: One of the important things, John, about intelligence is that the information doesn't come just at one time, right?

It comes in very slowly over time, and so intelligence stories build. I don't know about this particular source, and if I did, I couldn't talk about it. But this seems to have kicked off the process. And then more intelligence comes in over the months.

And by the time we get into the fall, there's high-confidence judgments across the intelligence community that Russia's trying to interfere in the election, it's trying to hurt Secretary Clinton, it's trying the to help Donald Trump, and the orders come from the highest levels, Vladimir Putin.

So, by early fall, that's what the Obama administration knew.

DICKERSON: David Ignatius, put this in context. Is this a huge deal, small deal? How do people process this? There's been a lot of hyperbole in the coverage over the last several months.

In terms of the history of American threats and relations...

DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It's a big deal. It was an assault on our election process.

In the history of covert action or even the history more broadly of intelligence operations, you wouldn't put this at the very top. There were three things that struck me about the reporting by Adam and his colleagues at "The Post." First, they revealed that, as of August, we knew, our intelligence agencies knew this was Vladimir Putin orchestrating this. I heard the same thing in Moscow three weeks ago from Russian investigative reporters. This was personal. This was Vladimir Putin himself directing this attack.

Second thing that I thought was powerful...

DICKERSON: Personal against Hillary Clinton.

IGNATIUS: ... was -- because of intense feelings about Clinton, I think, more than anything.

Second thing that we see so clearly in this reporting is the Obama's administrations fear that, if they retaliated, if they did something, it would have terrible consequences.

I heard that in my own reporting right after the election. They were scared that the Russians would do something. And just finally, this opens the door on a new era of covert action, in which information itself becomes the domain of warfare. And that I think is beautifully captured and should scare everybody.

DICKERSON: Michael, grade the Obama administration response.

MORELL: Yes, so I thought three things in Adam's piece, too.

I saw, OK, what can we, the Obama administration, do to make sure that this interference doesn't get worse? And I give them a pretty high grade on that piece, in terms of the warnings that they gave directly to Moscow, John Brennan to his counterpart, President Obama...

DICKERSON: Former CIA director.

MORELL: Former CIA director to his counterpart, President Obama to Putin directly, the work that they did with states to lock down the voting systems.

I think they get a high grade, because I think they prevented this from being worse than it would have been otherwise. That's first thing.

The second thing is the decision not to share fully with the American people what was happening. So, the Obama administration did not tell the American people that Putin was behind this and did not tell the American people what Putin was trying to do, hurt Hillary Clinton, support Donald Trump. That's a big, big decision.

You know, the White House, I think, was exactly where David said they were, which is they didn't want to make this worse. But by not entering the playing field, they ceded it to Vladimir Putin. So, I give them a C on that, and I think historians are going to debate this for a long time.

The third issue is how to deter the Russians in the future from doing this again, and here I think they failed miserably. I give them an F, because the package they put together, the kicking the diplomats out, intelligence officers out, closing down a couple of compounds, putting limited sanctions on in no way -- it was a slap on the wrist to Vladimir Putin. He sees it that way. It will not deter him in the future.

ENTOUS: I think the fear that anything they did was going to be cast as partisan was amplified when Brennan went about meeting with the Gang of Eight, as it's known, when they met...

DICKERSON: Congressional leaders.

ENTOUS: Right. When they met with the Democrats, they were alarmed by the intelligence. When they met with Paul Ryan, the speaker, he was also alarmed by the intelligence. But when they met with Senator McConnell, he was extremely skeptical.

And he raised questions about the intelligence. He thought it was being politicized. And from talking to administration officials who were part of that, that sent the White House, if anything, back to the drawing board. They were afraid that if they moved unilaterally, it would be seen as playing to Trump's public statements as a candidate that this all was rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton.

DICKERSON: Finally, David, to you.

What now? The president, President Trump, is saying that the Obama administration choked, well, suggesting now he believes it in a way he might not have before. Now it's on his plate. Give us a sense of the retaliation.

IGNATIUS: Well, we don't know what options he's considering, but I must say, for Trump to in effect blame this on the Obama administration, it is true, as Adam's reporting documents, that they were slow to act, but one reason was resistance from Republicans.

Mitch McConnell and the Gang of Eight, when briefed, did not want to take action and was a strong voice against it when Democrats wanted to do more.

The second thing, crucial -- I mean, it may be right, as Michael says, that expelling the 35 Russians, closing down their compounds was insufficient retaliation, but it was something.

And Donald Trump, on the day that that happened, said, let's move on to other things. We know that Michael Flynn, on the day that that happened, talked to the Russian ambassador, you know? And there's suspicion they talked about those very sanctions and how, when we can in, we will undo them.

The next day Putin said, we're not going to retaliate. And instantly Donald Trump tweeted, this man is as smart as I thought he was.

So, and now he's going to blame Obama for not having taken action?

DICKERSON: All right, we are going to have to leave it there. Thanks to all of you gentlemen.

We turn now to Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. And he joins us from Charleston, West Virginia.

Senator, you have read "The Washington Post." You have heard this discussion.

Give the Obama administration your grade on how they handled this.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Well, hindsight being 20/20, I guess we can grade it any way a person sits politically.

First of all, John, you have to have confidence that the intelligence community we have, that you trust them and they're accurate and they do their job. And I believe that. I feel very confident that our intelligence community is the best in the world.

You have to spend some time with them to understand what they're doing, their job they're doing, and how well they're doing it. So, if you don't have confidence in the intelligence community, if the Gang of Eight, which is a higher level -- a little higher level than what we on Intelligence are getting briefed on, then there's a concern. There's a concern there.

I don't have that concern. When they come and tell me something, whether it's the CIA, FBI, NSA, I take it as gospel truth because they're doing their job, and they have cross-checked it before they give it to us. I have never detected one ounce of politicism.

I can't tell one side or the other how they're favoring, if they're Democrats, Republicans, or whatever. So I don't know why there's so much skepticism, not believing what the intelligence community is telling you. I do. And I have found it to be extremely beneficial to me to make decisions with.

DICKERSON: And do you see the skepticism as you look at the administration? Do you see skepticism simply from the president, or do you see it from other members of the administration in terms of what we know now, not necessarily, as Michael Morell mentioned, the building of a case, but what now seems to be the case, what is now known in total about what the Russians tried to do?

MANCHIN: Well, what was known back in August and once it was verified and cross-checked should have been made public. It should have been made public, OK? That wasn't done. I can't second-guess that.

But I know that when at that time President Obama and his administration took action, and they took action basically on December the 29th, and closed down two compounds, threw out 35 diplomats, we knew there was a serious problem, and it was verified. So, I just can't understand why we don't go forward and put more sanctions. We have done that. You know we voted 97-2 to enforce more sanctions against Russia, 97-2? I have not seen that happen in any type of scenario in the Senate in a long time. So, we're committed to getting this done.

DICKERSON: Is that enough, Senator?

MANCHIN: And I think -- you mean the sanctions?

DICKERSON: Yes, is that enough in response to this?

MANCHIN: We've got to hurt -- John, here's the thing.

We have got oligarchs. There are certain people that benefit in the Russian sphere, if you will, the oligarchs, who basically feed Putin. They have got to be hurt without hurting the people. The people are hurting bad enough in Russia, and they're very skeptical of what's going on and all of the corruption that goes on in Russia.

Russia is not our ally. Russia is not our friend. And to treat Putin as an ally and a friend is wrong. I don't look at him as a friend. I don't look Russia -- and I'm very skeptical of what they're doing, their intentions.

There are a lot of good people in Russia that don't have any say whatsoever, and they're starting to basically express their frustration and start marching and hopefully getting their point across.

So, we have got to make sure that we put the hurt on the oligarchs, all the money, the way the money flows through Russia and the people that benefit by it.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Manchin, we're going to take a very quick break. But stay there.

When we come back, we want to talk about the Republican health care bill that's scheduled for a vote next week. Stay with us.


DICKERSON: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he will bring the Senate Republican health care bill to the floor this week, just days after it was unveiled.

The bill would end the individual mandate to buy health insurance and would reduce and eventually eliminate federal funding for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, leaving it up to states to fill in that gap. It allows states to seek waivers, so they can drop services currently required, like maternity care, substance abuse benefits, and mental health treatment.

It repeals taxes put in place to pay for Obamacare and also rolls back some tax credits currently given to help individuals buy insurance. Republicans need 51 votes to pass the bill, or 50, if Vice President Mike Pence casts the tie-breaking vote.

But five GOP senators say they can't vote for the bill in its current form, which is more than enough to kill it. Kentucky's Rand Paul summed up one side of the GOP opposition.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I just didn't run on Obamacare- lite.


DICKERSON: While Nevada's Dean Heller voiced another.


SEN. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of vets.


DICKERSON: That means Leader McConnell is going to have to find a way the change the bill to attract more votes from conservative members without losing too many moderates.

Senator Manchin, I want to get you response just first to the bill and whether you think there's anything you can do to improve it.

MANCHIN: Oh, John, there is an awful lot that can be done to improve it.

And we have identified -- let's sit down, but we can't even get in the room. You know, if Mitch would just expand to a bipartisan working group to repair it and quit talking about repealing it, we have a pathway forward. I think we could fix it.

There are some good people on both sides of the aisle that know it needs to be fixed. There is not one person in West Virginia that's not been touched by the bill that was sent by the House, which was horrible, and the bill they have now, which makes it even worse.

So, I have said, work with me. Don't work against us. They have proven that they are going to need Democrats to pass this. And if Mitch doesn't have the votes, call off this bill right now and let's sit down and start working toward repairing the basic concept of what we have in the Affordable Care Act. We're willing to do that, John.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you, specifically, Senator, though, on this bill, on the theory that perhaps Senator McConnell is not likely to call the whole thing off, what in it do you think needs improvement and is there any chance that it could be improved?

MANCHIN: Well, sure.

First of all, the private market, John. You can't force people to buy a product and then, if you don't buy it, you fine them. And I knew that was a mistake from the get-go. I wasn't there in 2010 when they passed it. They did go through an orderly process. Everybody had input.

And at the end of the day, not one Republican voted for it. There should have been a way for us to sit down and say major pieces of policy such as this -- and that's the reason the proper -- for the purpose of the Senate having 60 votes for cloture, is to get bipartisan buy-in.

Now they're going to get rid of it with not one Democrat. And, John, if they don't have me sitting down, someone is who is in the middle, who wants to work with them to get good policy, they are in serious problems.

The private sector needs to be fixed. The policy and the market need to match up.

John, we -- they expanded 20...


MANCHIN: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

DICKERSON: Has the White House reached out to you at all in this process or Senator McConnell?

MANCHIN: No, not yet. No.

Some of my colleagues have. Susan Collins and I have been speaking about it. Bill Cassidy and I have spoken about it. And I told him, I said, if you take repeal off the table, sit down and talk about repair and fixing what we have and how to make it better, I'm with you, and I said we will get more Democrats that will sit down.

And Chuck Schumer says, if we can get a repair organization or repair group sitting down, that's fine. So we're not getting -- we're not hindered from our side whatsoever.

But this is about our country, and it's about you have to have a policy to get your people healthier, gets them in a productive work force, if you will. And we are going to do that by intervening. We have given 20 million people health care without one word of instructions.

The people in West Virginia, the only health care they had before, the 175,000, John, was they had to go to the emergency room. Well, if you gave them now a health care card, and they're still practicing the same procedures they did before, they're using it at the highest cost.

Can we help them be more and better as far as in tune to how to use it, better educated on how to use it?

DICKERSON: All right.

MANCHIN: I'm sure there's energies, but not just throwing them off.

Why does it have to be so mean-spirited? Why can't there be some compassion, saying, listen, here's how you can keep it, here's how you're going to use your health care, it's going to make you a better person, it's going to give you opportunities? That's what we should be doing.

DICKERSON: All right.

OK, Senator, we're going to have to leave it.

And we will be back with two Senate Republicans to get their thoughts about the bill.


DICKERSON: We're joined now by Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who is in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana's Bill Cassidy, who is in New York this morning.

Senator Toomey, I want to start with you.

There seem to be two criticisms of the bill. We just heard Senator Manchin on the Democratic side.

But on the Republican side, there are two criticisms, that too much Obamacare is left in place, and then criticisms from, say, Senator Heller, which is that these Medicaid cuts are too big.

How do that -- how do those get solved?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Yes, listen, it's going to be a challenge, but I have to strongly disagree with the characterization that we're somehow ending the Medicaid expansion.

In fact, quite the contrary. The Senate bill will codify and make permanent the Medicaid expansion. And, in fact, we will have the federal government pay the lion's share of the cost. Remember, Obamacare created a new category of eligibility. Working-age, able- bodied adults with no dependents for the first time became eligible for Medicaid if their income was below 138 percent of the poverty level.

We are going to continue that eligibility. No one loses coverage. What we are going to do, gradually over seven years is transition from the 90 percent federal share that Obamacare created and transition that to where the federal government is still paying a majority, but the states are kicking in their fair share, an amount equivalent to what they pay for all the other categories of eligibility.

As far as some of my conservative friends who are concerned that the bill doesn't go far enough, I'm sympathetic about the kinds of reforms they would like the make to lower premiums through more market forces and greater freedom on the part of consumers, but I see this bill as a first step, a first important step in the direction of repealing those portions of Obamacare that we can, stabilizing the individual market, which is collapsing, and making important reforms to Medicaid.

It's not the last step.

DICKERSON: Let me ask, Senator Cassidy, you served in a hospital with a lot of low-income folks when you were practicing as a doctor.

Picking up on what Senator Toomey said, the worry is, on Medicaid, is that, as the amount of money shrinks, states just won't be able to cover all the people that need to be covered. What's your sense of that, and is that something that can be solved?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: People will move off of the Medicaid expansion on to the private health insurance market.

And that can be a good thing. It isn't so much whether we are spending lots of money on Medicaid. It's whether or not people are covered. Now, I have concerns about the bill, but let's acknowledge that as folks would move off Medicaid, they would go on private insurance, coverage would continue, and in some cases that actually gives the patient more options for doctors that they can see than does Medicaid.

So I think coverage could continue.

DICKERSON: Will you support this bill, Senator?

CASSIDY: Right now, I am undecided.

There are things in this bill which adversely affect my state that are peculiar to my state, a couple of things I'm concerned about. But if those can be addressed, I will. And if they can't be addressed, I won't. So, right now, I'm undecided.

DICKERSON: Senator Toomey, on this question of people moving off of Medicaid into the private market, the concern from critics is that moving them off into the private market puts them in a market where they will be unable, because the subsidies are going away or are lowered in this bill, or the tax credits are shrunk in this bill, and because the people basically will be into a private market where they can't afford, either if the premiums are low, the deductibles will be too high, or both, premiums high and deductibles high.

TOOMEY: Yes, John, obviously, we have thought about that.

And this bill provides very generous tax credits, considerably more generous than the House. They're more oriented toward lower- income people, and those are the people who obviously need it.

And I would also point out, I think it's important to note, the federal government spending on Medicaid is going to grow every year. It's never going to be cut. It's never going to shrink. It will eventually be growing at a slightly slower rate.

And we need that in order to make the program viable and to deal with these massive deficits and the mounting debt that we have.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Toomey and Senator Cassidy, we're going to be right back in a moment.

We have got a hard break here, so we will take that break, and we will be back with more on health care 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're back with more from Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey and Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy.

Senator Cassidy, I want the start with you.

In reporting on this and talking to Republicans, two things they really like in this bill are that it changes the Medicaid entitlement, something Republicans have been trying to do for a while to shrink costs, and it -- it repeals a lot of the tax increases that are a part of the -- of Obamacare. How do those two big items make people healthier?

CASSIDY: First, Medicaid in its current form is not sustainable. If you look at even under the Affordable Care Act, the state's portion of the Medicaid expansion cannot be sustained. In my state, it will be -- it will be $310 million a year. In California, $2.2 billion a year just for the state's portion.

Now, I worked in a public hospital for the uninsured and saw many Medicaid. Why was I seeing Medicaid at a hospital for the uninsured? Because states could not afford their match, paid doctors so poorly that patients could not go see a private physician. If we can put Medicaid on a sustainable path, where the state is receiving a certain amount of money and can budget for that, and then the state, in turn, gives it to managed care organizations, federal, state managed care, the patient will have certainty as to their access. I actually think that's better for patients. I think they can improve outcomes. And it's certainly better for the state and the federal taxpayer.

DICKERSON: Senator Toomey, you mentioned that there won't be cuts. It would just be the rate of growth that will be slowing on the specific question of Medicaid. But Governor John Kasich knows about budgeting. He was a former budget chairman of the House. So he knows about the difference between cuts and slowing the rate of growth, and he has said that -- that in talking about this plan, that he worries that it cuts resources needed to help our most vulnerable. That's a Republican governor. Another Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, says, "these are our friends, these are our families, and these are our neighbors" who he worries will get hurt as the rate of growth slows because they just don't think that that will be able to cover future Medicaid participants. So they know the issues here. Why are they wrong?

TOOMEY: Well, Senator Kasich was very much in favor of this very approach when he was the chairman of the Budget Committee in the House.

Look, I get that governors like having a lot of federal money come in and -- and -- and spent when they don't have to even raise it. But the reality is, this is going to grow. This is going to grow for the permanent future. We're going to fund the lion's share of even this new population within Medicaid that most Republicans didn't support in the first place.

But, you know, there's another fundamental aspect to this. What we're trying to do is free the states and free the marketplace to discover ever better ways to deliver services. There's wonderful innovation that's happening all across the country. In Pennsylvania, whether it's Independence or Geisinger, you know, an insurer and a health care provider, they are finding great, new ways to deliver ever better care at lower costs. But there are constraints on the ability of insurance companies and providers to do that. We want to diminish those constraints so that we can continue, though a creative process, discover better ways to do this. And this legislation at least takes us in that direction.

DICKERSON: Senator Cassidy, 20 seconds. The majority leader wants this done by July 4th. Why the rush?

CASSIDY: I don't know quite why the rush. I, frankly, would like more days to consider this. There will probably be a discussion coming back. I think a few more days to consider would be helpful.

DICKERSON: All right, senators, we're very grateful. Thank you both for being here.

And we turn now to our politics panel. Amy Walter is the national editor of "The Cook Political Report," Michael Duffy is deputy managing editor of "Time" magazine, Ben Domenech is the publisher of "The Federalist," and Ed O'Keefe is a CBS News contributor and covers Congress for "The Washington Post."

Let's start with health care. We'll talk also about other news in the week.

But, Ben, what's going to happen? Is this bill going to live in its current form -- or passes in its current form, I should say?

BEN DOMENECH, "THE FEDERALIST": It's important to understand that this is not "the bill." This is "a bill." This is to get to the point where you have "the bill." Getting to that conference is something that I think ultimately will be supported by a number of the senators who have come out with questions early on.

This is, frankly, an insult to kabuki (ph). They could do a better job of this. I'm -- this is a group of senators who really will be there at the end of the day. There are a couple of --

DICKERSON: Meaning the critics?

DOMENECH: Meaning the critics.

DICKERSON: Right. So they're saying they're against it to get leverage room.

DOMENECH: They -- they want to have a few things done. They want to have a few changes. It's important, though, I think, to step back and look at the picture of Obamacare here after it's been in existence for quite a while. The truth is that Obamacare failed to do what President Obama wanted it to do when it came to this middle portion of the private insurance market. It really did not lead to the kind of competitive exchanges that he wanted to see.

What did succeed and what you've been talking about with these senators this morning is the Medicaid expansion. It added millions more people than the CBO estimated, to a program that, frankly, was already strained in a number of different states. And fixing that fiscal problem is the key question when it comes to all of these issues.

You know, you mentioned Governor Kasich. When Governor Kasich, you know, pushed for the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, he ended up having to throw 34,000 disabled people off of the program because it incentivized adding these working, able-bodied adults over people who actually were in the system who had disabilities or had other dependence. So getting that fix right is the key -- is the key argument internally I think. And I expect the Republican bill will end up being even more generous than it currently is right now.

DICKERSON: Ed, what's your sense of it on The Hill (ph)?

ED O'KEEFE, CBS NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think the fact that you see Doctor Senator Cassidy and others this morning saying, let's not necessarily do it this week, don't be surprised then if maybe McConnell is convinced to wait one more week, allow things to -- to percolate a little more, because trying to get it done by Saturday morning at this point, that would be a really ugly rush job.

But -- but Ben is correct, and I think people need to remember this, this -- this bill, more than any other this year, has gone through more verses of the School House Rock song on how bills become law than others. They skipped the committee verses. But the fact that this thing is still in play, still being negotiated and, if passed, will go into a broader negotiation with the House is important.

And this is by no means over. You're going to see this week all sorts of proposals to -- to tweak this, either to favor people like those that are holding out, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, but also potentially some changes, including restoring the funding for Planned Parenthood, which would spark a pretty uncomfortable vote potentially on the floor of the Senate.

DICKERSON: Amy, the longer this is alive, though, the theory goes, the longer it's out in the public --


DICKERSON: The more potentially politically problematic it becomes.

WALTER: And it already has been. I mean I think there's another piece of this, which is there's the policy piece. There's the whether it's going to pass piece. And then there is the, how do Republicans actually sell this out on the campaign trail, and, of course, to their constituents.

And what we've seen in this time where it's been in this legislative purgatory between when the House passed it until now, support for this bill has actually gone down, even among Republicans. Democrats know quite well what happens when the other side defines your bill and you don't. In 2010, there were 420,000 ads run during the to 2010 campaign that mentioned Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act, 380,000 of those ads were negative. And Democrats have now spent the last five years trying to make the -- actually, I think, not -- they haven't effectively made the case for Obamacare, as well as they're doing it right now as a defense of it rather than a promotion of it. So can Republicans promote this bill I think is going to be very important once they actually pass it. Democrats didn't do a particularly good job of it. Will Republicans do a better job?

DICKERSON: And, Michael, what -- give me your thoughts. But, also, what role does the present play. Does he come on stage? Does he stay off? Or does he just work the phones?

MICHAEL DUFFY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I think most people in -- on The Hill would prefer he stay off at the moment. I think -- and another thing to point out about what happens next is, Ben talked about it, kabuki, to give people cover for bargaining for more time or more money or whatever it is they want. But the kabuki mostly serves the two great big pieces of Russia -- I'm sorry, Russia -- Republican orthodoxy at the center of this measure, which is massive $1 trillion tax cut, mostly on high-wealth individuals other the next the ten years, that happens pretty quickly, and the second is this -- for the first time really in 23 years, a reduction in a federal entitlement program. That (INAUDIBLE) -- it was only put into place in 2010 with ACA, but this is going to reduce the number of people who get essentially federal payments by 10, 20, we're not sure, some number of -- tens of millions of people. That hasn't happened by a Congress since welfare reform. Normally, and normally that's political suicide, but I don't think any of us would think that we live in normal, political times.

DICKERSON: All right, Ben, you know, Senator Toomey said, well, it's going to slow the rate of growth, but there are no cuts. But the Congressional Budget Office has said that of the 23 million who will lose cover, that 14 or so will come to Medicaid. They will give another score this week, which will undoubtedly put a number on people losing coverage. So, how -- who -- who wins in that debate, somebody who's saying -- suggesting, essentially, this is going to be as it is, and then CBO who's saying all these people are going the loose coverage?

DOMENECH: You know, one of the things that I have been skeptical about as it comes to this approach is just -- is not an ideological bit of skepticism, but just a practical one. This is a -- this is a massive undertaking. You know, reforming something that affects the lives of so many different millions of -- of Americans in a very direct way can all -- can always have unexpected consequences. President Obama certainly saw that with -- with his bill and HHS had to work very hard under Kathleen Sebelius to try to mitigate a lot of those different changes that happened.

I think you're going to see the same thing happen here. This is a dog's breakfast of the bill. There are all sorts of different things thrown in there that senators have problems with, have issues with. But again, they want to get to the point of actually being able to send this to the president's desk. I have -- I've never, you know, said that you should underestimate Mitch McConnell's ability to get something like that done. And I think, frankly, he's going to plow through a lot of these different concern, add -- add various aspects to the bill to try to satisfy individual senators and get there eventually.

DICKERSON: And, Ed, it seems like promise kept is the biggest selling point for this.




DICKERSON: How does that work over time though?

O'KEEFE: Well --

DICKERSON: That's great and that's all that matters?

O'KEEFE: That's -- that's the test that Amy's talking about. You can keep the promise, but then how -- how -- how good are you going to be next year at selling this and promoting it and defending it? And I think we don't know.

But I -- I agree with Ben that -- that I think the big test right now is, Mitch McConnell really has never had to steer -- I've said this before -- has never had to steer a significant piece of legislation like this through the Senate in these times of, you know, social media pressure and -- and the polarization of -- of politics. If he can get this through, it bodes well, I think, for his tax reform debate that he really want to have, but he's got a lot of other tricky things coming this fall. He's got to do a budget. H's got to reauthorize a bunch of other federal programs. If this goes south, it's going to be very difficult for him, I think, to hold together his Republicans, especially when the president is still as unpopular as he is and as some of the these Democratic attacks are working.

The other thing -- and I had some Senate Republican folks point this out, and I think it's -- it's a fair point. What they're doing is a later, more diet version of what the House did. What's being polled right now is the House bill.


O'KEEFE: We haven't seen a poll yet on the changes that are made here and we may not see that for another few weeks to get a real sense of the changes. So they point out, we haven't even really started to explain what's in our bill yet, since it only just came out, and I suspect the numbers may change, especially among Republicans, as this negotiation continues.

DICKERSON: Amy, you want the jump in there?

WALTER: Go ahead. Yes, go ahead.

DICKERSON: Let's talk quickly about the race in the sixth district of Georgia.


DICKERSON: Because what we're talking about here is how this played out politically.


DICKERSON: Everybody was watching that race to see if it was a harbinger of 2018. Give us your takeaway, now that it has happened, the Democrat loss, the Republican won. What does it mean?

WALTER: Right. What does it all mean? One race 18 months out from an election. Of course it's going to tell us everything that we need to know.

There's a little something for each party to like and to be scared about. For Republicans, they won in the district. The Republican candidate won in a district that Donald Trump barely carried. That's good news for them because there are only 23 seats right now that Republicans hold that Donald Trump did not win. Guess what, they have a 24-seat majority. If they lose all of those, they still have a one-seat majority.

The bad news is, when you look at not just Georgia six but all the other special election that have taken place, all in very Republican districts, Democrats have been outperforming their generic performance by about seven points. If they did that, if Democrats outperformed what they normally get, they would win 80 seats. All right. So there's somewhere that this is going to meet in the middle. And this is where the issue, like health care, is going to play. We don't know how that issue is going to play out. It didn't really play here. Once there is a bill -- or, quite frankly, even if there's not, Republicans control Washington. Obamacare is an issue. They either fix it or they don't, but it's now theirs and they own it.

DICKERSON: Michael, it seemed there was a -- a moment where people were asking about Nancy Pelosi and was she the leader that the Democrats want. And -- and the people said the knives are out for Nancy Pelosi. But it ended -- it seems like it was the butter knives were out for Nancy Pelosi. She's not going anywhere.

DUFFY: No, she's probably -- she would probably say they are -- they were butter knives, too. The most important thing I think about this race is that something like $50 million at least was spent on a House race.



DUFFY: That's a record by half. Again, I think the nearest one was 20, 24.


DUFFY: So this is $200 per vote, which is really quite an astonishing number given what we've --

WALTER: And won't happen -- and --

DUFFY: Even in our -- even in our campaign finance system, it can't be sustained. But I -- I think the other things that were happening is that the -- the Republican interest groups unified around the idea of hanging Nancy Pelosi around Jon Ossoff's neck like rarely has she been hung before. They called him, as they have for 25-years, a San Francisco-style liberal. And they worked together on -- in ways they typically don't, which suggests Republicans are a little more cohesive as well.

And I'd say one other --

O'KEEFE: Because that's all they have.

DUFFY: That -- well, that's right. One other thing that's worth noting. Even in the case of the little things I saw, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce got local chambers of commerce in the district to work with their members and get their employees to get active in the calls (ph). So there's a level of grassroots involvement in this race that's unbelievable (ph).

DOMENECH: But there are -- but there are two key things about this race that we need to keep in mind. First, this race was truly nationalized in a way that I think negatively affected the Democrats and --


DOMENECH: The amount of money that was flowing in from California, the national attention that it received actually worked against them in this race. You saw how close the race was in South Carolina, which had none of that national attention, but where the Democrat significantly over performed.

Secondly, you had the shooting in Alexandria by a -- a, you know, frankly radical leftist who had been very public about that fact on his social media, including talking about this race, and talking about beating the Republican in that race. While that didn't receive a lot of national attention, it got significant attention on local news programs in Georgia six. And you saw the polls on -- you know, in the days running up to that election go from two or three points down for the Republican, to two or three points ahead. We should not underestimate the fact that that shooting had a significant impact.

And, frankly, John, this week, we saw in -- in Washington, we talk a lot on this program about the degradation of faith and institutions, and you saw the FBI come out with this report that said that effectively this shooter was just someone who had anger management issues, that this was some random effect for someone who sat out in a van across from this non-descript baseball park in Alexandria and clearly had the intent of doing what he did. That had an extraordinarily negative effect for Democrats this round (ph).


O'KEEFE: Real quick. Spent most of the week outside of Washington talking to these Democrats who are starting to run, and they made very clear, stop talking about Russia, they said to party leaders. Nobody out here cares. Talk to us about the economy, about how you defend or preserve Obamacare. Let's see whether party leaders actually pay attention to that.

DICKERSON: Excellent. Thanks to all of you.

That's where we're going to end for now. We'll be right back with a look at whether North Korea can be stopped.


DICKERSON: We're back with Mark Bowden, the author of "Blackhawk Down." His latest book is "Hue 1968, A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam." But today he's here to talk about this month's cover story in "The Atlantic," "Can North Korea Be Stopped."

Mark, let's -- let's just start with that answer.

MARK BOWDEN, "THE ATLANTIC": I don't think so, John. You know, our best hope is that China will apply significant pressure to get them to back away from this nuclear program. But nothing that the United States has done over the past 30 or 40 years has slowed their progress. And if you look at the actual military options that we have there, they're, you know, none of them are things that we would want to do.

DICKERSON: You know, you've -- you've written about Vietnam. You know about the kind of public consensus that forms around ideas and they kind of create a momentum of themselves. And as you write in the piece, there is this consensus in both the left and the right that North Korea cannot have a nuclear weapon.

BOWDEN: Right.


BOWDEN: Because, you know, they have been a serious threat to obviously South Korea and to the region for many years now, particularly over the last ten years. And I think for the United States, the threshold has always been building a missile that could potentially reach the United States mainland. And they are probably, most estimates are, three, four years away from doing that. And that means that, you know, they couldn't just wreak havoc in their region, they could actually threaten the United States.

DICKERSON: This week the South Korea president is going to be coming to visit with -- with President Trump. What -- he -- he -- he has said that Kim Jong-un is not a rational person. He told that to our -- our colleague Norah O'Donnell, but that he's willing to sit down with him. So how do you think that gets worked out?

BOWDEN: Well, I don't think that Kim Jong-un is an irrational person. I think he is precisely the person you would expect him to be, a product of that regime and that family, you know, to become the supreme leader of North Korea. You couldn't design someone who fits the mold more perfectly. So, I mean, I don't believe that short of giving him something he really wants, that the negotiations are going to get him to back away from nuclear weapon. They're to central to their whole philosophy of being.

DICKERSON: And you -- you mention -- or you write in the piece this notion that -- and this gets back again to the, why would it be dangerous to have North Korea with a nuclear missile, is that there's a sense of -- of destiny, of -- of almost universal -- their future is wrapped up with being a power that fights against a big western aggression.

BOWDEN: Sure. I mean the -- their sort of guiding theory for years has been that the United States is going to launch a huge invasion of North Korea, and the buildup of their military and the nuclear program and the missile program is all designed to make it too costly for the United States to take that step. And that's why, you know, none of these military options would be desirable because they lack -- they have the capability right now of killing millions of people with one or -- one or two weapons.

DICKERSON: And give us a sense of the -- what the U.S. military options are, and are they live possibilities?

BOWDEN: Well, we certainly hear them talked about a lot. You know, one is to just go in all out, take out the regime, destroy the North Korean government and, you know, eliminate the threat. Another would be to ratchet up pressure, turning the screws, I call it, which is the target their nuclear reactors, their test sites, and -- and ramp up the pressure to get them to back down. A third option is to take out Kim Jong-un and the people around him, which would be virtually impossible, but, you know, theoretically, and -- and you wouldn't know what you'd get when you were finish. And -- and the final option, which is another bad one, is to just accept the fact that they're going to succeed in doing this and we're going to have to live with it. DICKERSON: One of the things that came across in the article was that if the U.S. did try any of these, other than just living with it, I mean basically North Korea's been preparing for an assault from the west since 1953.

BOWDEN: Right.

DICKERSON: I mean they're ready to retaliate.

BOWDEN: Yes, the Korean War never ended as far as they're concerned.

DICKERSON: Right. And -- and then you also made a good point about what -- what, in the aftermath, not just the succession, but the clean-up.


DICKERSON: Who's in charge of --

BOWDEN: I mean even if it were possible to somehow take out the threat without him getting a single nuke ore chemical or biological weapon out, without him killing millions of people, so we're successful, what have we got now? We've got a destroyed North Korean infrastructure, no government, millions of refugees pouring over the Chinese border, the South Korean border. Essentially, the United States would have to move in and govern North Korea for a generation at least. And I don't think we've been too successful at that.

DICKERSON: All right, Mark, thank you for laying out these incredibly complex issues for us.

BOWDEN: You're welcome.

DICKERSON: And we appreciate you being here.

We'll be right back. Stay with us.


DICKERSON: This week President Trump said that there was no White House taping system. It ended a mystery he had created. Former FBI Director James Comey described an Oval Office encounter where the president encouraged him to wrap up his investigation into Michael Flynn. The president said it didn't happen and warned the tapes might contradict Comey.

Well, there are no tapes, and in making this announcement this week, the president was celebrating an anniversary. Forty-four years ago, on June 23rd, Richard Nixon recorded what would become known as the smoking gun tape, where he told his staff to have the CIA tell the FBI to stop investigating the Watergate break-in. It sealed Nixon's fate.

Why would President Trump encourage Nixon obstruction of justice comparisons by talking about tapes? On "Fox and Friends" Friday, the president offered insight into his gambit. He was trying to keep James Comey honest. As a private citizen, Donald Trump also reportedly hinted at having made recordings and maybe sometimes did as a way to keep people honest.

The press and the president are in agreement on this, a recording keeps people honest. That's why it was a mistake for the White House this week to further limit televised or audio recordings of press briefings. A sketch artist rendering of the audio and video-free briefing makes it look like a courtroom. But it's not a court. The briefing is a place where an administration explains in real time what it is doing on behalf of the people who pay their salaries.

There may not be a taping system in the Oval Office, but there is one in the press room, no installation required. The cameras are there and they are on. It's designed to keep people honest.

Back in a moment.


DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching.

You can keep up with the news of the week to subscribing to the FACE THE NATION Diary Podcast. You can download it every Friday night. It recaps the week and sets the stage for our Sunday broadcast. Find us on iTunes or your favorite podcast platform.

Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson.

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