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Face the Nation November 5, 2017 Transcript

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: Today on FACE THE NATION: President Donald Trump embarks on his first official tour of Asia, and Congress debates the biggest tax reform plan in a generation.

The president kicked off a 12-day, five-country tour in Tokyo, Japan, where he sent this message to North Korea's leader:


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one, no dictator, no regime, and no nation should underestimate, ever, American resolve.


DICKERSON: Will President Trump pursue a diplomatic approach to the hermit kingdom, or will he echo his previous promise to totally destroy North Korea? We will have the latest news from his travels.

And, in Washington, special counsel Robert Mueller brings indictments against members of the Trump campaign team. Are investigators any closer to proving the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians?

We will ask Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Plus: Republicans take on tax reform.


TRUMP: That's why we're working to give the American people a giant tax cut for Christmas. We are giving them a big, beautiful Christmas present in the form of a tremendous tax cut.


DICKERSON: But who gets the biggest boxes under the tree?

We will talk to house majority leader Kevin McCarthy, who is working to pass the tax package in the House.

We will have analysis of all the week's news and look ahead with our politics panel.

Plus, bestselling author Michael Lewis us.

And former White House photographer Pete Souza brings us the best of his eight years capturing the Obamas.

It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

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

Our focus this week, indictments and taxes.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election made its first big move this week.

On Monday, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and former aide Rick Gates were charged with a litany of crimes, including money laundering and being unregistered foreign agents, but Manafort's attorney said the 31-page indictment showed:


KEVIN DOWNING, ATTORNEY FOR PAUL MANAFORT: There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.


DICKERSON: But Mueller did have evidence that Trump aide George Papadopoulos met with the Russians, the second known contact with the campaign and Russians peddling dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The other big story? Tax reform. Thursday was tax day in Washington, with House Republicans finally unveiling their long- talked-about plan.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This plan is for the middle-class families in this country who deserve a break. We are getting rid of loopholes for special interests and we are leveling the playing field.


DICKERSON: The president left Washington Friday, and we will update you on his first moves in Asia.

But, first, we're going to cover the big news of the week and the investigation into Russian interference in the election.

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, joins us from Roanoke, Virginia.

Welcome, Senator. I want the start with the indictment and the plea agreement this week with the special counsel. So, we -- the president said there was no collusion proved in the indictment of his former campaign chairman. Mr. Papadopoulos did agree that he had lied about a meeting with the Russians, but, so far, it looks like the Russians were knocking on the door, but they never got inside.

You have done hundreds of interviews with your committee. Is there any evidence of collusion, that they got inside and they were connected to this campaign?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Well, John, the one thing we do know is that the Russians had a very organized effort to try to intervene in our elections. They tampered with 21 states' electoral system. They used social media platforms.

And, obviously, they released information that was harmful to Clinton and helpful to Mr. Trump. They also -- we have now seen evidence both in terms of reaching out to Mr. Papadopoulos and the June 9 meeting that Mr. Manafort and Mr. Trump Jr. attended, where they had an organized effort to try to offer dirt or e-mails on Hillary Clinton.

The question was, did folks from the Trump campaign respond in kind? And those are questions we still have to get final answers to.

DICKERSON: But if the Trump campaign was champing to get this information, as it's been portrayed by their critics, you would think that one of these two meetings wound have sparked something. And there is no evidence that they bit when they were offered this.

Yes, the Russians were offering, but they didn't seem to grab it, at least based on what we know now.

WARNER: Well, John, I think those are questions that still need to be answered. There is obviously enormous concerns as well when the campaign manager and the deputy campaign manager are both indicted as well.

I think there are many more chapters in this story to be told, and some of these -- some of this information, we're further down the path perhaps even with the special prosecutor. We have got different lanes. We have got a policy review to do. We have got a fact-check that we have got to lay out.

He's got criminal intent he's got to find. We have to continue to deconflict. But I think there's going to be more stories to be written.

DICKERSON: What are you focused on now, given what you may have learned from the special counsel, or just where we are in this narrative?

Is there a certain set of questions you really want answered at this moment?

WARNER: There are still a number of the principals, for example, Mr. Trump Jr., that we still need to see.

We have talked to a lot of folks who were in that meeting -- so- called June 9 meeting. We have been holding off on the principals until we get all the preliminaries done.

There are other figures that are affiliated with the Trump Organization that were at the senior most level that we are going to want to talk to.

We also want to continue to explore, from a policy standpoint, this whole question around social media, the fact that, for a relatively small amount of money, $100,000-plus, plus a series of fake accounts, the Russians were able to contact or touch 126 million Americans with their fake news or their stories that were trying to sow discontent.

And that was before even Facebook acknowledged the additional hits that were used on Instagram.

DICKERSON: Let me...

WARNER: These are just a lot of stories there that need to continue to be unraveled.

DICKERSON: Let me pick up on that.

There is a very provocative cover on "The Economist" that has the Facebook logo, and it says, "Social Media: A Threat to Democracy."

You had executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter up on the Hill this week. Do they get it?

WARNER: I think they are getting it. It's taken them longer than I would like.

You know, these are great, iconic American companies that. They have changed our lives for the better. I want them to be successful.

But there is also a dark underbelly that's been created. The Russians used it this past election. We have got to make sure, on a going-forward basis, these companies work with us, I think, to help disclose, particularly when they see foreign countries try to influence directly our political advertising.

DICKERSON: Should there be regulations regulating ads that are used on social media?

WARNER: As a pro-tech guy, somebody who was in the tech business longer than I have been in politics, I think we need to take the lightest touch possible.

But the basic requirement that there ought to be the same disclosure for political ads on the Internet that exist for ads that appear on your show, I think, makes sense.

DICKERSON: Two other issues on your committee's purview.


DICKERSON: One is this so-called Steele dossier, salacious information about candidate Trump. We learned last week the Clinton campaign had paid for part of it.

When you had John Podesta, the chairman of the campaign, in front of your committee, he said he didn't know who had paid for it. Susan Collins, a member of the committee, has said Podesta should come back. The Clinton lawyer who was there with Podesta when he testified as his counsel, who could have spoken up and said he knew who paid for it, did not, that he should testify.

Where are you on this question?

WARNER: Listen, I think what we found have out now on the Steele dossier is that it was partially paid for by a major Republican backer. It was partially paid for by the Democrats.

What I'm interested in is not so much who paid for it, but whether the dossier is true or not. It's obviously very inflammatory. What I wish would be that Mr. Steele would work with the committee and come in and testify.

The chairman and I have said we will travel anywhere to try to meet with him, because, at the end of the day, what's the most important is, is that dossier true or is it not true?

DICKERSON: But here are two key questions about the Clinton angle, is, one, the material that the Clinton folks got is definitely different than what was for paid for by the Republicans beforehand. It had a Russian component, which is part of what your committee is looking at.

So it would be important on that front who paid for it and why. And that, secondly, you have got to have people coming in front of your committee who are telling you the truth, and there seems to be some discrepancy about who paid for what when, and that would be why they would come back. So, do you want them to come back, or...

WARNER: If there is discrepancy -- if there is discrepancy, there ought to be a chance to get that cleared up and to find out what was the basis of that discrepancy.

But, most importantly, John, it's -- this dossier has been out there for 10 or 11 months. I find it, again, pretty remarkable, whether it's news organizations or whether it's our efforts or others, that this dossier sits out there, and much of it still remains, you know, a real question of whether it is true or not true.

At the end of the day, that's where we ought to focus our efforts.

DICKERSON: Quickly, Jeff Sessions, should he come back and testify about what he knew when about Russian contacts with the campaign? There has been some reporting he knew about something, but he told your committee that he didn't.

WARNER: Listen, I want to give the attorney general the benefit of the doubt.

But it -- a picture is worth 1,000 words. The fact that Mr. Papadopoulos was there in that meeting with then-Senator Sessions, if there is more information that he needs to clarify, we would like to hear that.

DICKERSON: And final question. The former DNC chairman Donna Brazile has dropped a bomb this week, saying that basically the Democratic National Committee was rigged for Hillary Clinton in her favor.

Do you believe that's true?

WARNER: Listen, I have seen some of the press reports.

What I'm a lot more focused on, we have got a really critical election coming up in two days in Virginia where we elect the governor. I hope it's going to be Ralph Northam, our Democratic candidate. That's where I'm focused.

And for a lot of folks in Virginia who are frustrated with what's going on, particularly from this administration, the most important thing they can do is get out and vote on Tuesday, and hopefully elect Ralph Northam the next governor.

DICKERSON: But the problem is, Democrats don't want to get out and vote if they think their party is corrupt, which is the charge that Brazile is making.

So, if you don't address the corrupt part, how do you get people to go vote for a Democratic candidate?

WARNER: Oh, I can tell you there is a heck of a lot of enthusiasm.

I don't believe the Democratic Party is corrupt. I believe the Democratic Party is best when it's forward-leaning. I think we have got that kind of candidate running in Virginia right now. I'm going to leave here and crisscross Southwest Virginia to try to help get out the vote.

And I hope, on Tuesday night, we're going to have great victory that -- both from Virginia's standpoint, but also sends a message that some of the actions of this president are at least not acceptable in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

DICKERSON: Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

WARNER: Thank you, John.

DICKERSON: We turn now to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. He joins us from Bakersfield, California.

Mr. Majority Leader, we want to talk about the tax cut.

The congressional score keepers have weighed in and said that this will increase deficits by $1.5 trillion. Supporters, of course, say there will be economic growth that will take care of that problem.

But I was looking back at the claims made for the Bush tax cut in 2001. There was a Heritage study that said the debt would be gone entirely from those tax cuts.

So, things sometimes don't turn out the way everybody hopes. Given that, and given this score of $1.5 trillion in the deficit, isn't this a huge gamble, for all of the reasons that Republicans have long said about adding to the deficit and debt?


And, really, John, look at this. For decades, the hardworking Americans have been ignored or forgotten from Washington, but not anymore. This Tax Cut and Jobs Act bill is going to be the start -- change of that.

Let me give you three points why. First, it lets every American keep more of what they earn. If you're single, the first $12,000 is tax-free. If you're a couple, $24,000. That means the average family is going to save almost $1,200 more in their pocket.

So the first $55,000 a family of four earns will not be taxed at all. Second, what it does for small business, I created my first small business when I was 20. The lessons I learned, I was first to work, I was last to leave, and I was last to be paid.

They create more jobs than anything else. Lowering it to 25 percent is the lowest it's been since World War II.

And now to your question. I was in the Oval Office just this week. This is going to make America competitive again. Broadcom came in there. Based upon our tax bill, this is a company who left America because the taxes came too high.

They announced, because of the tax bill, they are moving back to America. That's $20 billion in revenue a year. But do you know what's even more important? They put $3 billion every year into R&D and $6 billion into manufacturing.

That's jobs, good-paying jobs for America.

DICKERSON: Right. So those are the promises being made on behalf.

But there is, nevertheless, the score from the people who do the accounting. They know about the economic effects here. They may not calculate them in every way you would like, but there is a big risk here.

We also will get to talk in a minute about whether everybody really does get a tax cut from this bill. But given how much Republicans have talked over the years about the dangerous effects of the debt and its downside on growth, the answers here are basically, we have got to hope this turns out.

Is there any mechanism to save the downside if things don't turn out as you would promise and hope that they would?

MCCARTHY: There is a philosophical difference in Washington.

Democrats do want the charge more and spend more. Republicans want you to keep more of your money and spend less. One thing that Republicans have shown since they took a majority, when it comes to discretionary spending, we have actually cut spending.

We know where the challenge is when it comes to entitlements. We have put those plans out there. We have to grow the economy and save the entitlements for the next generation by changing them to be actually prepared for the future.


MCCARTHY: And you say these are studies, but think of this. Broadcom took an action to move their company back to America based on just the introduction of this bill.

DICKERSON: But, Mr. Majority...

MCCARTHY: That's stronger than any study out there that jobs are coming.

DICKERSON: Well, but the study that's out there is by the congressional score keepers who will ultimately determine how this thing gets voted on and determine the rules of the Senate.

But let me just finally, very quickly, often, Republicans have said the federal government needs to balance its budget like a family does. Would a family balance its budget based on this kind of promise of the future? Would that be wise family budgeting?

MCCARTHY: I think so, because the one thing I will tell you is, it's only Washington who thinks letting a family keep $1,200 is not a lot of money.


MCCARTHY: Let them make the investment.

And the one thing, if you're going to grow the economy, think about the last eight years. Always in America, we have averaged more than 3 percent growth, but the lowest growth we have had in those last eight years.

If you look back to Bill Clinton, his worst growth year is higher than the largest of Barack Obama's. Growing the economy is the key to getting us working back and helping us to be able to balance the budget.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said, "At the end of the day, nobody in the middle class is going to get a tax increase."

Is that the case with the House legislation that's proposed, everybody in the middle class will see no tax increase?

MCCARTHY: Look, we are cutting rates. We're not raising rates. So, this is a tax cut. As I said, it is a fact that the...

DICKERSON: Will everybody get one in the middle class?

MCCARTHY: Yes. It is a fact that, if you are -- the first $55,000 you earn for family of four will not pay any tax. So, it is a tax cut for middle class.

DICKERSON: There is some discrepancy because there is some sunsetting of some provisions, including the child tax credit, so that some of the analysis done here finds that, in fact, middle-class families will end up paying more in years 2023 and 2024.

So, is that math wrong, or what is -- why is there that discrepancy?

MCCARTHY: Well, John, as you understand, we have made most everything permanent.

But because of the rules of the Senate, we could not make those permanent as we go forward. But I will promise you this. As the growth comes in, those will be kept. They will not go away within the tax credit in the sixth and seventh year. That's exactly what Chairman Brady has said as well.

DICKERSON: But why not guarantee that in the legislation?

MCCARTHY: You understand it better than most, knowing the rules.

DICKERSON: Why not guarantee them in the legislation?

MCCARTHY: Well, we know the rules -- well, the one we see, because of the rules of the Senate, for us to move forward within the sixth and seventh, but we know, with the growth -- and you look at the studies coming in saying more than $1 trillion, we will keep those in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth, 10th year.

DICKERSON: Of course, the rules of the Senate are there to keep fiscal responsibility and keep gimmicks from happening.

Let me ask you, though, about the individual mandate. Some people have talked about getting rid of the individual mandate that's a part of Obamacare in this tax legislation. Would you support that?

MCCARTHY: Well, I know people are talking about it.

Currently, it is not in this bill. I know the Senate is looking at it. We will start marking up this bill in Ways and Means next week. And I look for having the bill on the floor the week after that. The Senate will come out with theirs shortly.

DICKERSON: Would you like to see it happen, though?

MCCARTHY: We do not currently have it in there.

Look, my focus is on tax. As the individual mandate goes, I would not be opposed to that. But I want to see this bill go forward, so the American people can win and start keeping more of their own- hard earned money.

DICKERSON: Finally, Mr. Majority Leader, the speaker has said it would be naive to suggest that sexual harassment doesn't happen in Congress.

Is there a sexual harassment problem in Congress?

MCCARTHY: Well, we're a microcosm society. We take this very serious.

The House administration is holding hearings on this coming forward to look at there's -- there's other rules. The speaker and others, we put out a letter to every office to make sure they're taking training.

My own office will be done with the training this month as well. There is no role for that inside the House. And we have to make sure that there are not problems inside the House as well.

DICKERSON: All right, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, thanks so much for being with us.

And we will be back in one minute with our politics panel.


DICKERSON: And we turn now to our political panel.

Susan Page is the Washington bureau chief for "USA Today." Ramesh Ponnuru is the senior editor at "The National Review." We're also joined by "Slate" magazine's chief political correspondent and CBS News political analyst Jamelle Bouie, and "The Wall Street Journal"'s Washington bureau chief, Jerry Seib.

Ramesh, let me start with you.

What do you make of this tax bill now, as it stands coming out of the House?

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, it is a very complicated piece of legislation.

I think people are still digesting the implications. What it has going for it in terms of it getting passed is Republicans' desperation to accomplish something, anything legislatively that they can call a win.

That's a sentiment that is shared by House Republicans and Senate Republicans. But there are a lot of moving parts, and I do not think some of these things are going to survive.

The Senate is not going to want to take on things on like the adoption tax credit, for example. So, this is going to be changing before it gets to the president's desk, if it ever does.

DICKERSON: The adoption tax credit is out of the House version.

Susan, who are the winners and losers in this bill?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Well, hardworking Americans, according to the congressman.


PAGE: The winners are big businesses. Biggest corporate tax cut in history, from 35 percent to 20 percent.

People rich enough to have estates of more than $5.5 million, because the estate tax would be eliminated. And people caught in the Alternative Minimum Tax, which includes, by the way, Donald Trump, who paid $31 million more than he otherwise would have in 2005, the only tax return we have, because of the AMT.

You look at the winners -- oh, you know, another loser, people in high-tax blue states, like New York and California, because you lose the state and local tax deduction.

DICKERSON: I will stop you...


PAGE: Those are the winners. I guess I was talking -- going to the losers as well.

DICKERSON: We will have Jerry -- Jerry, what's your sense of how this works, particularly on this question of the middle-class tax cut? They do -- there is some debate about whether everybody is going to get one through the whole course of this bill.

GERALD SEIB, EXECUTIVE WASHINGTON EDITOR, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Right, because the -- look, the priority here was the corporate tax cut, business tax cuts.

If you look at the overall amount of tax-cutting that's done in this bill over 10 years, it's $1 trillion for businesses, $300 billion for individuals.

So, the priority here is to get the business tax cut down. That -- everything else, I think, is in service of that goal. That's an important goal for Republicans. And, by the way, a lot of Democrats think the corporate tax rate is too high too. So there is actually consensus on that. The problem is -- and we're seeing here why it's been 31 years since we did tax reform -- this is hard. If you start with that kind of an imperative, you have to find other people the pay for the cost of that.

And you are going to end up, for example, seeing some upper- middle-class Americans probably paying slightly more here, not slightly less.

I think the key to this is Republicans convincing people that the number of jobs created and the amount of economic growth generated will be enough to make people swallow and accept the fact they're going to get some things they don't like.

DICKERSON: And, Jamelle, that's the -- the congressman's point is that basically growth will go up, and you will -- the middle class will benefit through higher wages.

And do you think that's a politically saleable point, that the corporate tax break has a direct line to the middle class?

JAMELLE BOUIE, CBS NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I think your point in your interview with the congressman, that this -- these promises have been made before and have not actually shaken out, will probably form the basis of the Democratic response to it.

And if Democrats can get through public noise to make that point, I'm not sure the Republican message will be able to sell, in part because, again, it just -- that promise has been made before, and it just hasn't been the case.

DICKERSON: And we're about to have a big debate.

Do you want to add, quickly?

SEIB: Just one point. The congressman stressed small businesses. The small business lobby, the NFIB, is not in favor of this.

DICKERSON: All right.

We will be back in a moment with our panel. Stay with us.


DICKERSON: Every generation reinterprets the Civil War.

Our reexamination has been prompted by the debate over Confederate monuments.

This week, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly warned about misunderstanding Civil War history, only to be rebuked by Civil War historians, who said he misunderstood his Civil War history.

We have these discussions because history is the best instruction manual we have as a country. It tells us who we are, which guides us towards who we want to be.

Churchill said, the further back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.

We must be humble in evaluating leaders of the past to understand them in their time. This context helps us recognize why our forbearers were flawed, how those flaws were remedied, and how we can avoid similar flaws today.

But that lens we use to understand is different than the gaze we reserve for what we revere. Once of the lessons of the Civil War is that it was possible to do the right thing then by the moral standards of today.

Abolitionists opposed slavery because it was a moral and human wrong, contrary to the principles of the nation founded on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those who fought slavery pushed the country to be better, when it was opposed by custom, habit, and eventually bullets.

That example is worthy of reverence because we face similar choices today, how to keep faith with standards and morals, when it is easier to do the other thing, when the system encourages you to do the other thing.

It requires character, self-sacrifice and wisdom. It's not easy, but that's why not everyone deserves a monument -- back in a moment.


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

Stay with us.



In Asia this weekend, President Donald Trump's most urgent priority is the North Korean nuclear threat.

We're joined now by Major Garrett, who is with the president in Tokyo, and can shed some light on what message he plans to send to the North Koreans while in the region.



President Trump began his extensive swing through Asia here in Japan. And moments after Air Force One touched down at Yokota Air Base, the president donned a bomber jacket and told a region already jittery with fears of war that dictators -- and by that he meant North Korea's Kim Jong-un, should heed his warnings about military might. The president said history shows us that tyrants only bring poverty, suffering and servitude. An apt description of life in much of Kim's increasingly isolated and economically hobbled hermit kingdom.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe greeted Mr. Trump warmly. Abe's government remains encouraged by the president's hard line on North Korea. And Japanese officials say China has never been more motivated to deal with the North, a reflection, they say, of the president's harsh rhetoric.

North Korea will assuredly dominate all of the president's conversations here in Asia. And he said aboard Air Force One en route here that either in Vietnam or the Philippines, he will have a side meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Topic number one, you guessed it, dealing with North Korea, especially having Russia apply harsh sanctions passed by the United Nations.


DICKERSON: Major Garrett for us in Tokyo. Thanks, Major.

And we're back with more from our panel.

Jerry, what are the stakes here for the president, 12 cities, five days -- or 12 cities that he's going -- 12 days, five cities, sorry. What are the stakes here for his trip?

GERALD SEIB, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, you know, the White House was saying this is the longest Asia trip by a president in 25 years. And so it tells you that Asia is central to the foreign policy calculations of the president for two reasons. One is the obvious confrontation with North Korea and the other is the attempt to have a tougher trade relationship with China.

And the key on this trip is whether those two things can fit together. Can you cooperate with China on North Korea while still having a pretty tough trade conversation with China on its own terms? And that's, I think, the challenge for the president.

You know, I do think Asia is going to loom large throughout the Trump term.

DICKERSON: Ramesh, do you think it's -- the president stay focused overseas -- he's got important business over there -- leave the tax conversation to his colleagues? Or do you expect -- is this a -- does this hurt the Republican tax cut push that the president, who is a marketer, a salesman, knows how to brand things, is overseas?

RAMESH PONNURU, "BLOOMBERG VIEW": When you talk to Capitol Hill Republicans, they are not concerned that President Trump is going to be out of the country while they're trying to roll out these tax packages. If anything, they are pleased. They would prefer to be able to make this case without the potential of distractions from the president, without the potential of his maybe undermining some elements of their plan.

DICKERSON: Susan, you checked back in with Trump voters one year after his victory. What did you find?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, we found with our Trump voter panel that's kind of a focus group we've had for -- for a year that they -- they like his policies. They're not really concerned, most of them, about the Russia investigation. But they're unhappy that things haven't gotten done. And they identify the problem as his own behavior.

Two-thirds of the people in this focus group identified Trump's behavior, and especially his tendency to tweet, as a reason he's not getting things done. One truck driver in Boise said to us, you know, he's not drowning, but he's also not on land yet.

DICKERSON: Jamelle, speaking of things that -- it's interesting to hear people are not concerned about Russia. This was the week that we saw real moves, not speculation, but actual moves by the special counsel. What did you make of that decision by Mueller?

JAMELLE BOUIE, CBS NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought it was sort of a little bit of power politics playing, right? That not just the charges against Manafort, which I think a lot of people sort of saw something like that coming, but specifically the charges against Papadopoulos, which were a surprise and did seem to signal some sort of deeper ties between the Russian government and members of the Trump campaign, that did seem to throw the White House off balance. And that does matter.

I've spoken to some Trump voters over the course of the year and to a person, they're like, this Russia thing is all nonsense. But it is the case that it does disrupt the president's administration and does disrupt his attempt to push policies forward. And in the case of trying to push something like a tax reform bill, it matters that the president's attention is elsewhere. It matters that the White House is dealing with what may become a legal crisis for key members, as they're trying also to pursue an agenda.

DICKERSON: One of the things -- the ways the president's reacted, Ramesh, is that he's said to his Department of Justice, you should be investigating Hillary Clinton. He really jumped on this Donna Brazile news about her claim that Hillary Clinton basically had the Democratic National Committee on her side. Is that -- that's the -- you know, obviously the criticism is the president's not supposed to be jawboning his attorney general in this way. Do you think there's any peril in that for him, or is this sort of behavior that President Trump -- because for some people that's a huge deal, making -- putting that pressure on the Department of Justice.

PONNURU: It's the sort of thing that if it were coming out of the clear blue sky would be completely shocking and would lead to a real uproar in D.C. But because it's President Trump, and because there's so much background noise from him where he's done so many similar things and violated so many previous norms, it doesn't register in quite the same way. I think all of this stuff, the attack on the Justice Department for not going after Clinton, the occasional attacks from Trump's allies on Mueller, they're basically keeping his base in line. They're keeping his base with something to say that is positive for them or at least negative about the Democrats. I don't think it's working on independent voters. I don't think it's working on Democratic voters.

BOUIE: One of the things I think really should be emphasized is just how far Trump's approval has fallen from even a low -- a low point. Multiple job approval polls came out this week -- this past week, and they all showed Trump at the high 38, with the low of 34. That while his base may not be shaking from him, increasingly most Americans are looking at this presidency as something close to a failed one.

PAGE: Although, you know what, problems with Republicans, problems for Democrats, too. I mean here is this opportunity with a president with record low approval ratings a year after his election, and Democrats are now in the process of just fracturing in ways that -- that endanger a big election coming up on Tuesday, the Virginia governor's race. This is a race Democrats ought to win. It's a state Hillary Clinton carried last year. It's a state with two Democratic senators. And yet the election of the Democrat is not guaranteed. That is going to be a very close race.

SEIB: You know, it seems to me the Democrats have to get in a position in which they can stop debating Hillary Clinton. I mean that's got to make Donald Trump very happy, right? Every day the Democrats are arguing about the Clinton campaign is a good day for Donald Trump because that's what he wants people focused on.

And Democrats somehow have to get beyond 2016 and into 2018 and 2020, although, as you note, that's hard because there's a split in the party. There's a progressive lane pushing the party to the left. There's a centrist part of the party that wants to hang in there with Clinton-like policies. And that's not an easy thing to finesse. And you're seeing in California, in the race, the re-election race for Senator Dianne Feinstein, just how tough that might turn out to be.

BOUIE: A quick note on the Virginia race, though. I think it matters for Republicans too because as the Republican nominee, Ed Gillespie is running an interesting campaign of starting out with a sort of business focus economic message, but in the closing stretch focusing on the confederate statue controversy. A mailer went out showing the NFL player kneeling. Sort of focusing on these like culture war sort of white identity politics issues, immigration.

DICKERSON: Migration (ph).

BOUIE: And if Gillespie wins, that kind of shows a potential path for Republican candidates next year.

DICKERSON: Well, that's right. Ramesh, do you -- do you find -- is that right, some -- a Democratic strategist said to me that Ed Gillespie is not running on Trump -- not running with Trump but running on Trumpism. In other words, using the tactics and strategies. And is that replicable in -- at least Gillespie's doing pretty well by the polls. Do you think that's something people -- that Republicans will go to school on? Do you see this race as a templet?

PONNURU: Well, I think the Trumpiness of the Gillespie campaign has been overstated. I mean if you think about the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1998 --


PONNURU: With its emphasis on law and order, with the Willie Horton ad and so forth and -- which, of course, people at that time criticized as having a racial subtext or racial overtones, you're getting the same thing here. But it's basically bedrock Republicanism, this support for law and order. The fact is, Virginian voters are concerned about MS-13. Sanctuary cities that Gillespie's against. Northam, the Democratic candidate, has now flip-flopped and he's against them, too. So I think that Gillespie is running the kind of campaign nearly any Republicans would want (ph).

PAGE: You know, I don't -- I think that this illustrates how Trump has taken over the Republican Party, even if he has a small base. And you -- for evidence of that, just look, the only Republicans who criticize him are Republicans who are either out of politics or are getting out of politics.

DICKERSON: Jamelle -- go ahead.

BOUIE: And I just -- I think there's a critical context in Virginia that has to be set, which is that on August 12th of this year, white nationalists killed someone in Charlottesville, Virginia. And running the kind of campaign Gillespie is running in that context I think reads very differently than say Bush '88.

DICKERSON: Jerry, let me ask you about Donna Brazile's book, former DNC chair. What -- what do you make of it and her charges about Hillary Clinton?

SEIB: Well, this goes back to the point I made before about, Democrats need to get beyond Hillary Clinton. But that book is going to pull them all back in, at least for the foreseeable future, into a debate about that.

The book is fairly remarkable by all accounts because it is a complete rehashing of that civil war within the Democratic Party. And what I found fairly amazing acknowledgment that there was consideration at the party headquarters of finding a way in September of 2016 to undo the nomination process. I've never heard of anything quite like that.

Now, you know, the Clinton people are reacting, as you would expect them to react, with indignation and also a sense of, you know, this is just old scores being settled, but it keeps the conversation alive and backward looking for Democrats.

DICKERSON: One thing I'm interested in, Ramesh, is in -- and we'll see if this is true in Virginia, is there's a theory that in off-year elections, of course, Democrats don't turn out the way Republicans do. But Donald Trump would get them to turn out. Is that also what's at stake here in Virginia, which is that some sense of the power of Donald Trump is a motivating factor for Democratic voters in an off year election?

PONNURU: I think that is one of the things that we're going the find out. I think for much of the year Democrats and some Republicans have been assuming that Trump would be a powerful motivator for Democratic voters. But I think if you look at the way that the Democrats are actually campaigning, they haven't been quite sure how to play this issue.

In the primaries, Ralph Northam ran a very tough anti-Trump ad. But, subsequently, he would he'd be willing to work with Trump. This may say something about Northam's strengths or weaknesses as a candidate, but I think it also shows that there is a question mark for a lot of Democratic strategist, how do you play this, because even voters who are against Trump doesn't necessarily mean their number one priority in a governor is his being against Trump.

PAGE: You know, this race is a test between which party is more broken. A party led by -- a Republican Party led by Donald Trump in a blue trending kind of state, a purple state trending blue, or a Democratic Party where, by the way, Bernie Sanders has refused to endorse the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, which is extraordinary.

DICKERSON: All right. We're going to have to end it there. Thanks to all of you.

And we'll be right back.


DICKERSON: And we're joined now by author Michael Lewis, whose book, "The Undoing Project," has just been released in paperback. And "Vanity Fair" has just published his latest investigation into how the Trump administration has been staffing government agencies, in this case, the Department of Agriculture.

Michael, welcome.

Why the Department of Agriculture?

MICHAEL LEWIS, "VANITY FAIR": That's a really good question. And isn't it amazing that "Vanity Fair" let me write 13,000 words on the Department of Agriculture. So there's a conceit here at play. It's a series. And the conceit is that the Obama administration went to great lengths to prepare for the transition. They (INAUDIBLE) hundreds of people, spent the better part of a year preparing briefing books, preparing talks because we have this odd system of government where, you know, on Election Day, the people who have been elect have to get up to speed very quickly to run the government. I mean that's what the election's about, right, who's going to run this government. And the Obama administration expected the Trump administration to be there the next day, parking spaces set aside, desks, you know, computers with Internet connections set up for them and all the rest. Nobody showed for -- in many of the agencies, nobody showed.

DICKERSON: And this is just after Election Day?

LEWIS: Just after Election Day. So the cramming period takes place from Election Day to -- to the inauguration. And where you learn what's going on in these various agencies. And -- and so the briefings, to a large extent, never happened. And so I thought, I'll go get the briefings, figure out what they might not know. I mean, you know, it's a -- it was a kind of a great course in how our government works, waiting to be taken. It had no ideological flavor to it at all. It was like, how you take a census or how you collect taxes or this -- this kind of thing.


LEWIS: So the -- why the Department of Agriculture? Because I had no idea what it did. I was just curious. Yo know, I started with the Department of Energy. And when you go into a place like the Department of Agriculture, you're shocked by how important it is. It's like -- you think of it as like paying farmers not to grow stuff. That is a trivial part of the -- of the budget. A big part of the budget is feeding poor people. Feeding people who -- that's the most of the money.

DICKERSON: So food stamps.

LEWIS: So this -- if you want the look at the social safety net and where it is maybe vulnerable, where holes may be ripped in it, the Dependent of Agriculture is a very good place to look.

DICKERSON: Now, the president, in talking about State Department staffing this week in an interview with Laura Ingraham said, well, we don't need all those people at the State Department. And there is that view, like, oh, well, they didn't staff it right away, but, you know, what do we need all these people here for.

LEWIS: What do you need people actually running the government for?

DICKERSON: What I the -- yes, what -- what goes wrong in the system if there's not the attention to it?

LEWIS: Let's take a unique -- well, let's take -- let's take you an example. The -- and their approach to it, because this is right. I mean his -- I think his basic attitude is, the government really doesn't do anything that's that important, or that I couldn't just -- I can't just take care of with a flick of my wrist.

So inside the Department of Agriculture there is a roughly $3 billion a year science budget. And it's -- it's -- and they're dispensing grants to researchers to figure out how we're going to grow crops in the changing climate mostly. Most of it has to do with climate change right now. I mean 40 or 50 years from now, we may be able to eat or not eat because of that -- the science that's done now.

That job has always been -- I mean in the Obama administration the woman who held it was named Cathie Woteki. She spent 50 years preparing for that job. I mean she -- she was an agricultural scientist who had studied, you know, the connection between the American diet and the American health, who knew the science world, who knew the university researchers who do the work.

Into that job, Trump put a man named Sam Clovis, who is basically known as a right-wing radio talk show host from Iowa who has absolutely no science background at all. Now, what happens? What happens when you do that? Well, he's not himself capable of participating in the conversations you need to have to decide where this money should go. What probably happens is you politicize the science budget. He himself doesn't think climate change is true, so he's not going to be directing money to prepare for climate change.

I mean these jobs, they're powerful, influential jobs. And even -- if they're vacant what happens is for a brief time career civil servants step in and sort of fill the void, but without any direction and kind of trying to guess what the Trump administration might want, but with -- they're already risk averse government employees. They've even more risk averse. And their place is in the government --


LEWIS: Sorry to interrupt you.


LEWIS: There are places in the government where we really need them to be taking risks because they're preparing us for the future. I mean this enterprise is important.

DICKERSON: Sam Clovis, of course, withdrew this week because he was implicated in the Russian --

LEWIS: He's still in the Department of Agriculture. He withdrew from that job.

DICKERSON: From that job.

What did you learn -- last question -- in this deep dive you did in government? I mean what surprised you when you did all of these interviews?

LEWIS: The caliber of the people. That's the amazing thing. You know, it sounds simple, right, that it matters a lot why you're in the job, what your motives are, and there are passionate, dedicated, hard- working people who are fighting hunger in America, trying to figure out how we're going to eat 50 years from now, trying to make sure that rural America doesn't just collapse. I mean the Department of Agriculture is the touch point of government for rural America.

And the people who are in those jobs, you know, a lot of them are in there for a reason, because they care about it, and they aren't doing it to make money in the private sector afterward kind of thing. So if you have -- now this is -- it is a spirit of public service that still exists, that's precious, and without it the society collapses. And we ought to -- we ought to treasure that.

DICKERSON: All right, Michael Lewis, a great piece. Thank you.

We'll be right back.


DICKERSON: During President Obama's two terms in office, chief White House photographer Pete Souza was there for moments of historic importance, as well as lighter and more personal moments with the president and his family. Souza's new book, "An Intimate Portrait," showcases 300 of the nearly 2 million photographs he took during those eight years.

And Pete Souza joins us now.

Welcome, Pete.

I want to ask you about your role. In the room, you're taking photograph, you're recording history, you're recording a moment. But you're also capturing an emotion in -- in that moment. There is a picture in particular in the Oval Office where the president is meeting with some young activists. And the way you framed it -- they're African-American activists -- you framed it with a bust of Martin Luther King, Lincoln's on the wall. Tell us about that process a little bit when you're capturing a moment like that.

PETE SOUZA, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHER: Well, I was -- I was consciously aware of the bust, obviously, during the meeting itself when they're seated around the chairs and the sofa. And it just was not lining up. And just as the meeting broke up, the president had a last exchange with them, and that's when I went and tried to get that bust in the - in the foreground and include Lincoln.

DICKERSON: And do you have a kind of a -- sort of emotional sense of the moment which is in your head, but you're also trying to capture what's right in front of you too, right? There's --

SOUZA: Trying to capture a moment, but trying to accurately portray the mood and to emotion of what's taking place.

DICKERSON: You obviously had extraordinary access to the family. And one picture that struck me was the president, with his daughter, they're on the swing set. What does that -- what does that picture mean to you?

SOUZA: It actually means a lot to me. It was during the B.P. oil spill. And he had just finished a meeting and was walking to his desk and he saw Malia out on the swing set. And even though he only had five minutes with her, he was all in with her. There was no Blackberry. There were no aides hovering around. He spent, you know, five quality minutes with Malia just in the middle of the day.

DICKERSON: Did you ever feel like, you know, maybe this is too intimate a moment, I shouldn't be here? How do you wrestle with that as well?

SOUZA: It's -- it's intuition. And in that particular case, I tried to make a really good picture, and then I backed off and let them have their private conversation.

DICKERSON: You were also there for the nitty-gritty of government and business and deals. And there's a picture where the president is -- seems to be motioning to somebody who's left the room. What's going on in that picture?

SOUZA: I'm glad you -- you chose that picture to highlight. I love that picture because I think it tells you a lot about his relationship with Nancy Pelosi, who you don't even see. They had just had a meeting in the Oval Office. And they had this really interesting back-and-forth. And as Nancy was -- as the leader was leaving toward the West Wing lobby, he was pleading with her one last time. And if you look really closely in the picture, you can see her hand sticking out in the -- in the doorway.

DICKERSON: Do you -- there's another picture which is just of the president's head -- or he's -- and what strikes me about some of these pictures is, he is trying to find space in a room full of people. Maybe that's a misreading. But the president -- the presidency is both a lonely office and an office in which they're picking at you all the time. What does that -- that picture that you captured just of him -- he's got his hands together almost in prayer. Kathleen Sebelius is right behind him. What -- what -- what's going on in that picture?

SOUZA: As -- as I recall, that was during the -- the health care debate. And just in -- in the weeks leading up to the vote in Congress.

DICKERSON: And another moment, of course, when you -- pictures when the -- when the president went to comfort the families at Sandy Hook Elementary. Tell me about that.

SOUZA: I -- he calls that the worst day of his presidency. I mean the day that he -- that he found out what had happened at Sandy Hook, you have the remember, that was only four weeks after he was re- elected to president. We were in the midst of the Christmas season. The White House is decorated with Christmas lights and trees. It was a very joyous time. And then this awful tragedy happens.

And I think he was looking at it, not just as a president, but as a parent, imaging what it must be like for you to send your six-year- old kid off to school, what we all consider a safe zone, and then you find out that you're never going to see them again because they were shot to death.

DICKERSON: When you look at the -- the subject that you photographed over this eight-year period in putting this book together, what do you come away with? What -- the presidency rests on that figure. What -- what -- how did that figure change between the first photograph and the last?

SOUZA: I -- I always tell people that, you know, I knew him when he was first elected to the Senate in 2005. And by the end of the administration, I -- you know, the character of the man had not changed at all. I think his core was still the same.

I look through the book now and so many things happened during his administration. There are so many issues you have the deal with. And yet you still try to maintain a normal life, family life, as a father and a husband.

DICKERSON: All right. Pete Souza, we're going to have to leave it there. Thanks so much for being with us.

And we'll be back in a moment.


DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Be sure to tune in next week when we'll sit down with Trump voters to get their views one year in. That's also for "CBS This Morning" on Friday.

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

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