JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: As the madness of March fades away, April looks just as challenging for the Trump administration.
Still smarting from the Obamacare replacement failure, the president blamed conservative House Republicans for making him pull the bill and promised to target them. “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team and fast. We must fight them and Dems in 2018,” he tweeted.
To get back on track, the president signed executive orders promoting U.S. trade and rolling back environmental regulations.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know what it says, right? You’re going back to work. You’re going back to work.
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DICKERSON: But a bombshell development interrupted his plans.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn asked for immunity from the House, Senate, and FBI investigations into Trump staff ties to Russia. He “has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it,” said his attorney.
No takers yet for that offer that we know of, but President Trump did offer legal advice through Twitter and called the investigations a witch-hunt.
The House investigation got curiouser, as Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes charged that Obama officials had mishandled intelligence related to Trump associates caught by accident in surveillance. Where did he find the proof? At a secret meeting with White House staffers at the White House.
That left Washington wondering, why had Nunes insisted that he had to brief the president on the revelations, when the president’s staff had briefed him?
The committee’s top Democrat questioned Nunes’ objectivity and called for him to step aside.
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REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Why all the cloak-and-dagger stuff?
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DICKERSON: That investigation appears to be stalled, which gave the Senate Intelligence Committee the chance to look like the older brother. The lead investigators went public in a picture of bipartisanship.
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SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I have confidence in Richard Burr that we together, with the members of our committee, are going to get to the bottom of this.
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DICKERSON: We will talk to two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Texas Republican John Cornyn and Maine independent Angus King.
And as a vote nears on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, Republicans say they’re prepared to do whatever it takes to get him confirmed, including making a historic change in the way the Senate does business.
Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley will also join us. We will get her thoughts on Russia, as well as the growing humanitarian crisis in Africa.
We will take a closer look at the president’s favorite president. And, as always, we will have plenty of political analysis.
It’s all coming up on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I’m John Dickerson.
We want to welcome former South Carolina Governor and now Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to the broadcast.
Ambassador Haley, thank you for being with us.
I want to start with Russia.
Russia experts say that Vladimir Putin’s intervention in the American election was not about picking maybe one candidate or another, but destabilizing American institutions.
When you look at all the back and forth and the charges and the tweets that have been in the last few weeks, hasn’t he already succeeded in doing that?
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: None of my colleagues or ambassadors from other countries are talking about D.C. chatter. What they are talking about is the fact that they’re relieved that the United States is starting to lead again. I will tell you, we don’t ever want any country to interfere with our elections. We need to be very strong on that. We need to make sure that that is heard and we need to respond accordingly.
But, really, in my world, we’re focusing on what’s happening in the United Nations and the fact that the United States is now having a strong voice, and really my counterparts are very happy to see that.
DICKERSON: In your world, then, they’re not concerned about Russian efforts to meddle in elections in America, relative to its efforts to meddle in elections in other countries and in Europe? There’s no talk about that at all?
HALEY: No one is talking to me about that.
What we have talked about is obviously Russia’s influence in Ukraine, and which we have been very loud against, talking about Crimea. We have also talked about how Russia needs to help move the Iranian influence out of Syria, how we need to be working on getting ISIS out. Those are the things that are being talked about at the United Nations.
DICKERSON: Vladimir Putin said that Russia did not interfere in the U.S. election. Did he lie?
HALEY: Well, I have always said we don’t trust Russia. And I think we’re all aware that Russia was involved in the elections.
And so I’m not going to talk about who is lying and who is not. I know that that’s a very real thing, and so we what we’re doing from here going forward is, we’re going to be strong. We’re going to be loud. We’re going to make sure that, when we can work with them, we can, but when they do something wrong, we are going to call them out and say it.
DICKERSON: You said the U.S. is going to confront Russia. How?
HALEY: Well, we did that with their -- what they did with Crimea and what they have been doing in the Ukraine. We have called them out. We have been loud about it and we have said that we don’t agree with it.
HALEY: And the way that we feel like they protect too much of Assad, when he is a war criminal and he has done terrible things to the people in Syria, and so we have continued to call them out for that.
DICKERSON: Calling out is just verbally, though. Anything more than that? Would you support, say, the legislation in the Senate, the Countering Russian Hostilities Act?
HALEY: I have not read, but I will tell you I am in support of going against Russia when we need to.
You know, we certainly put sanctions on Russia for how they took over Crimea. We have continued to put pressure on them. Those things are going to continue to happen as we need to. And at the United Nations, that is something that I’m going to continue to do and that’s something the administration has supported me doing as we go forward.
DICKERSON: How do you convince another country to act collectively, when the message of the American president in foreign policy is America first?
HALEY: Well, I think that we have acted collectively on Friday. What we saw was, we have started peacekeeping reform, which is the biggest part of the United Nations budget, and certainly 29 percent of what the United States has paid towards that budget.
And we started our peacekeeping reforms and reduced troop levels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We’re making sure there’s going to be a strategic review in September. We’re making sure that we’re putting troops where we can have strong elections and keep the people safe.
We’re focused on how we’re going to make sure we bring accountability to the contributing countries that do put troops there, so that there is not any corruption or sexual exploitation. So, I think we have been speaking with one voice. And there is a new culture at the United Nations.
DICKERSON: But those -- a lot of those things were under way before you got there.
I guess what I’m wondering is, when you talk to diplomats there about the president, do you say that they should take him literally in everything he says about foreign policy?
HALEY: Well, those things didn’t happen before. That negotiation with the Democratic Republic of Congo just happened within the past month. So that’s something that’s happened while I have been there and what we’re doing going forward.
No one is talking to me about the president’s tweets. No one is talking to me about any of those issues.
DICKERSON: So, should foreign leaders, the president tweets something, they should ignore it?
HALEY: I think the foreign leaders are picking up the phone and calling him if they have an issue. And that’s what they’re doing with me. If that have an issue, they are calling me. They’re not sitting there texting me and saying, what was this tweet about?
DICKERSON: Because, in diplomacy, having covered it, words often get tangled and mixed, and people obsess about the importance of words.
So, say, going into the president’s meeting with the president of China, he has in the past -- say, “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country.”
So, those are pretty strong words. How is a foreign leader coming to a visit supposed to weigh those words in advance of their meeting?
HALEY: I think that what you do is you have face-to-face meetings. This is all about relationships and it is about trying to find some level of trust.
And when it comes to the issue of North Korea, it’s something we’re very concerned about. China is very aware of that. I think you saw Secretary Tillerson go to Beijing. I have talked with my Chinese counterpart and told them that we need to see actions on the side of China.
And I think that the president and also President Xi will talk about what those actions need to be and what we need to see so that we start to feel like we’re working together, and not watching North Korea do their own thing and China support it.
So, these face-to-face meetings are extremely important. These conversations are extremely important, because that’s when you get all the chatter out of the way and when you actually focus on getting things done.
DICKERSON: So, the president’s tweets are basically just chatter?
HALEY: I don’t know. You would have to ask everybody else. I don’t hear about them. I don’t talk about them. I don’t have them interfere in everything that I’m doing.
And so, to me, it’s chatter I don’t know focus on. But you can talk to President Xi and ask him if he’s reading those tweets. I don’t know.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen. The U.N. says this is the worst famine in 70 years. Possibly 20 million people could die.
The president has cut funding in his budget for foreign aid and for humanitarian aid. How is that possible, when the world is facing perhaps the greatest famine crisis in 70 years?
HALEY: Well, I think what the president was trying to do was show in his budget that he wants to build up the military equipment again, strengthen the military, so that we can face the threats that are happening around the world.
And I think, at the same time, he wants to see value in the United Nations and he wants to make sure that no other countries are just taking us for granted. I have been in constant talks with the secretary-general and members of the United Nations about how we need to see smarter spending, and not just add troops to peacekeeping missions for the sake of adding them, but actually look at how we can be smarter in terms of how we’re handling issues around the world, instead of just being fatter.
And what I have been pleasantly surprised is, we’re getting a lot of cooperation. Famine is something that, when you look at those four areas, we’re extremely concerned about it. The United States has always been the moral conscience of the world.
We are going to continue to express our values and continue to make sure we show that, not just in our words, but in our actions.
DICKERSON: But wouldn’t it, Madam Ambassador, show it in your actions by spending more on the kind of aid that would go to those areas where 20 million people are at risk of dying as a result of famine?
Isn’t the U.S. position as moral leader to rush in and lead when you’re faced with this stage four crisis, as the World Food Organization claims it?
So, what, other than rhetorically -- talking about peacekeeping is just a separate matter. What is the U.S. doing to take this moral position in the face of this humanitarian crisis?
HALEY: Well, peacekeeping may be a separate matter, but it’s the largest part of the United Nations budget. So, understand, that’s an important part. And that’s why we’re trying to work so hard on that.
When it comes to other issues, we’re just saying they need to work smarter. We want to make sure that, when food goes to an area, it’s actually going to the people that need it. We want to make sure that there is no corruption on the ground. We want to make sure that governments are allowing that to go in.
So, when you talk about South Sudan, you have to talk about the fact that its government is not allowing us to take aid into that area. So, I know that the budget came out. But we also know there’s many steps before Congress and the president come together on what a new budget should look like.
DICKERSON: Is there anything the United States is doing specifically to respond to this specific humanitarian crisis?
HALEY: Well, we’re meeting on all of these issues, but, more importantly than that, when it comes to South Sudan, the conversations I’m having with my counterparts is, what are we going to do to the governments when they’re not allowing the aid to get in?
We’re seeing that in Syria. We’re seeing that in South Sudan. We have got to do more than just slap the back of the hand of a government who is allowing their people to die right in front of their face. We have to go in there and tell them, you can’t be the hindrance to what’s keeping people from getting food and medical help.
DICKERSON: All right, Ambassador Haley, thanks so much for being with us.
HALEY: Thank you so much.
DICKERSON: The Senate Intelligence Committee held their first hearing into the Russian efforts to influence the election last week.
Joining us now is the assistant majority leader, Senator John Cornyn, who sits on that committee.
I want to start with something the president said about the investigation into Russian interference in the election and any ties with his campaign. He said it’s a witch-hunt.
Is the Senate Intelligence Committee engaged in a witch-hunt?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: We’re doing a bipartisan investigation, thanks to the great leadership of Senator Burr, our chairman, and our vice chairman, Senator Mark Warner, and leaders like Angus King, who I think you will be hearing from shortly.
We’re trying to avoid the distractions outside of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation. We are well under way, getting unprecedented access to raw intelligence from the intelligence community to get to the bottom of this.
We want to understand the extent to which Russia has attempted to influence and interfere in our elections and to undermine our democracy, and also the look at things like unprecedented and perhaps illegal leaks of classified information.
DICKERSON: I want to get to that question of leaks in a minute, but this question of whether there are any ties to the Trump campaign, that’s a legitimate area of inquiry, and the committee is engaged in that. It’s not a witch-hunt.
CORNYN: It is a legitimate area of inquiry.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said earlier last month that there was no evidence of collusion. With the parties and their allies spending $5 billion in the last general election for president, you will have to put that into the proper context to see how -- what kind of impact it actually had.
But there is no question that Putin is trying to undermine our democracy and undermine public confidence in our institutions.
DICKERSON: Michael Flynn requested immunity. This is the former national security adviser, requested immunity or protection from the committee.
You were a former district court judge. What does that mean to you when somebody asks for protection?
CORNYN: Well, it means they think that they might have some liabilities, from a legal standpoint.
It’s not uncommon. But I think it’s premature. I agree with Mark Warner, Senator Warner, and others who said we need to get to the bottom -- get as much background as we possibly can. And there’s 20 different witnesses that have been -- have agreed to cooperate with the committee, in addition to viewing the raw intelligence.
And at some point, we may want to talk to General Flynn.
DICKERSON: Do you have any idea when that point would be that the committee would make a choice on immunity, just when it kind of gets the whole information enough to make a judgment?
CORNYN: I think we’re just -- we’re -- it’s too early to say.
It’s going to be -- we need to get the context and a lot of the detail before we talk to some of those witnesses, particularly ones who are requesting immunity.
DICKERSON: The president also commented on this question of the request for immunity. Should he be, as the president of the executive branch, commenting about these investigations and about what the Senate is up to?
Obviously, it’s his right as an American to do that, but is it just -- do you think that’s a good idea?
CORNYN: Well, it is the president’s right to do it. Sometimes, I think this is a distraction from what we should be doing.
And we’re trying our best in the Senate Intelligence Committee to keep our focus like a laser on this bipartisan investigation.
DICKERSON: To the question of leaks and what the House Intelligence chairman has brought up, this idea of unmasking possible Trump associates as a part of surveillance that was done, a very serious issue. It seems to be getting a little mixed.
Should there be a separate inquiry into that, which is kind of separate from this question of Russian influence in the election and any ties to the Trump campaign, in order to keep the two separate? Both serious issues, but not necessarily connected, they kind of keep getting muddled back and forth.
CORNYN: I do think they are connected. And I don’t -- and they both will be the subject of our inquiry on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Obviously, any time anybody jeopardizes the privacy rights of an American citizen as part of an intelligence-gathering process that would be unauthorized and then leaks that information, that is potentially a crime and that’s something we ought to pursue.
DICKERSON: Would you like the see the reports the White House has that they have shown Chairman Nunes in the House and also Ranking Member Schiff in the House? Would you like to see those?
CORNYN: I would. And Senator Burr, Senator Warner have sent a letter to the White House asking them to have the intelligence community with which we deal with directly on a regular basis produce that, rather than getting it directly from the White House.
DICKERSON: Switching to the Supreme Court nominee, Senator Schumer, the Democratic leader, says he’s got the votes to filibuster Neil Gorsuch. So, will Republicans change the Senate rules?
CORNYN: Well, John, this is unprecedented in American history, a partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee.
And, unfortunately, this is the culmination of the escalation that began back when George W. Bush was president, where Senator Schumer and others, liberal activists, came up with this strategy to try to block through the filibuster the confirmation of judges.
It is theoretically possible, had been through our nation’s history, never happened before the George W. Bush administration.
And so Neil Gorsuch, I think, is the kind of nominee that our Democratic friends really haven’t been able to find any real fault with, except that he was nominated by this president.
And they realize that this is their last gasp to try to prevent him from being confirmed. But they won’t. And Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed this week one way or another. I hope the Democrats will provide the 60 votes, and we don’t have to worry about the change of rules.
DICKERSON: But, in 1968, Republicans did filibuster Abe Fortas. Your point is that it wasn’t a purely partisan filibuster.
So, in terms of the history of the Senate, this has been done before. What would be new is if you changed the rules.
CORNYN: Well, what would be different is it were successful.
Abe Fortas’ nomination was withdrawn at his own request four days into the debate, and he resigned from the Supreme Court for ethical reasons. So, it’s not precedent, in my view, for what’s happening now.
This is an unprecedented escalation by Senator Schumer and Senate Democrats to deny the president the right he has to nominate and to have advice and consent on his nomination, particularly one this quality.
If they filibuster Neil Gorsuch, they are going to filibuster everyone that this president might propose.
DICKERSON: All right, Senator John Cornyn, thanks so much for being with us.
CORNYN: Thanks, John.
DICKERSON: We will be back in one minute with the senator from across the aisle, Maine’s Angus King.
DICKERSON: We’re back with independent Senator Angus King. He joins us from Brunswick, Maine.
Senator, will you vote for or against Judge Neil Gorsuch?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: I haven’t decided yet, John.
To be honest, I have focused almost exclusively over the last couple weeks on the Russia matter. I went to a part of Neil Gorsuch’s hearings. I have met with him. I have read a number of his opinions, done a lot of homework.
But I’m not making a decision until next week. There were some written questions one of my colleagues submitted on my behalf. I want to review his answers to those. So, that matter isn’t going to really come to the Senate floor probably until the end of the week.
And I will be announcing my position probably some time Tuesday or Wednesday.
DICKERSON: And just quickly on the matter of the filibuster, where are you? Do you have a philosophical view about whether Senate Democrats should filibuster a Supreme Court nominee?
KING: Well, you know, I heard what John Cornyn, my friend John Cornyn just said.
Last year, Merrick Garland was subjected to what I would call the granddaddy of all filibusters, not even allowed to have a hearing, much less a vote. Went on for something like 11 months.
And so there’s plenty of -- you can argue this in both directions. I think I have had to take something like 400 cloture votes since I have been in the Senate for the past four-and-a-half years, and they have been on all manner of big and small things. So the idea of a 60-vote requirement for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court doesn’t strike me as out of line with Senate tradition.
DICKERSON: I can’t say two wrongs don’t make a right. A Democrat who is supporting Neil Gorsuch is not supporting the filibuster, so why does -- why do two wrongs make a fight? A filibuster is OK in this case because Republicans did this?
KING: I’m not suggesting that two wrongs do make a right. What I’m suggesting is that I think the 60-vote margin requires some level of bipartisanship, and whether it’s on legislation or a major appointment like this, that it isn’t bad for the country that you have to have people and ideas that have some level of buy-in from both parties.
So, as I say, I haven’t made my final decision on this, and I will later in the week.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about intelligence. Do you think that there should be a thorough investigation of this question of unmasking by Obama officials of people in the Trump campaign?
KING: Yes, absolutely. And I think that’s part of it.
But I think that really obscures the much, much larger issue of, what did the Russians do in our campaign, how did they do it? Was there a relationship with one of the other campaigns? What were they doing in state election procedures?
This is a huge challenge to our democracy. And the important point, John, is, this isn’t a one-off. It just wasn’t 2016. We’re going to see this in 2018, 2020, and going forward. We have to figure out how to counter it, because this is going to keep up, and it’s going to be a real problem for our open political system.
DICKERSON: But it is important, though. You would agree, if somebody is caught in surveillance, they’re not supposed to be a part of that surveillance if they are exposed and then through leaks made public, because somebody doesn’t like the way an election turned out.
KING: Sure. No, I don’t disagree with that. They’re supposed to be minimized in terms of finding out whose name is available.
So, we will have to pursue that. But I just don’t think that is the major issue that we have got here, which is Vladimir Putin trying to mess up and get involved in influencing our elections, because they’re going to try to do it again.
DICKERSON: Final question on this, Senator, is that you have said that the Senate committee wants to -- quote -- “avoid some of the infighting that you have seen on the other side,” meaning the House.
Do you think what’s happened with the House committee has affected the overall ability of Americans to see a bipartisan final decision on these important questions?
KING: Well, I think people saw last week the disunity in the House, but then they also, on the other hand, saw the true nonpartisan approach to this in the Senate committee.
The joint press conference of Richard Burr, Republican, and Mark Warner, the Democrat vice chair, was really, I think, reassuring. That’s what I’m hearing up here in Maine. People really like seeing the idea...
DICKERSON: OK, Senator.
KING: ... that these are two leaders of their parties who are working together to find a solution.
DICKERSON: OK. We will have to leave it there, Senator.
And we will be back in a moment.
DICKERSON: Will Rogers once said: “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble. It’s what we know that ain’t so.”
That came to mind this week when the Senate Intelligence Committee heard testimony about Russian agents creating fake news to fool voters. Through social media, the lies got into the American bloodstream.
How do we stop this? We can go after the supply, sanction the Russians, put in better filters, and so on, but the real problem is the demand. We want to believe stories that we want to believe.
Studies show that when a person believes something passionately, contrary facts don’t change their mind. They make them double down.
Needing confirmation is not new. What is new is the number of self-soothing stories we can find that appeal to our emotions. They’re designed to appeal to our emotions. That’s how they get shared and how the trolls get paid.
This is killing our politics. Emotions are aroused, including fear, and no one is budging. Scared and angry are not the starting blocks for agreement.
How do we stop it? The editor of Snopes, the Web site that helps debunk urban myths your uncle e-mails you, has a rule: If a story arouses an emotional response in you, double-check it.
Or, as reporters say, if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.
One last thing. Despite what the Internet may think, Will Rogers didn’t actually say the quote I started with, but it felt so right, which is why we had to check it out.
Back in a moment.
DICKERSON: We will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including our panel and a look at the president’s favorite president.
Stay with us.
DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
For some insight into yet another busy week, we turn to our political panel. Susan Page is the Washington bureau chief for “USA Today.” David Ignatius is a column for “The Washington Post.” We also welcome Michael Graham to the broadcast. He is a -- he is a contributor to “The Weekly Standard,” and Peter Baker is chief White House correspondent for “The New York Times.”
Michael, I’ll start with you. Let’s start with -- not just because your name is Michael, but we’ll start with Michael Flynn. Michael Flynn said he wanted protection from these various investigations going -- into connections between the Russian intervention and the election and the Trump campaign. Of course the president’s critics think this is a big deal. Where do you see it?
MICHAEL GRAHAM, “THE WEEKLY STANDARD”: Well, I think it’s a big deal for Michael Flynn because now that we have these new revelations about the money he was taking from other international sources and talk about kidnapping someone of the -- I mean it’s like a bad, you know, b action movie. He has a lot of, I think, risk for himself that could have absolutely nothing to do with the Russian investigation. You know, it could be that the best thing that could have happened for Trump would be to get Mike Flynn out early, you know, in this first move on this investigation and then see where it goes from there.
DICKERSON: David, but if you wanted to talk to one person with respect to this question of, if there was a connection, you’d want to talk to Michael Flynn?
DAVID IGNATIUS, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I think Michael Flynn is -- is a -- is a crucial witness on the question of what the Russians were doing. Michael Flynn is the person who could answer the question, what did Donald Trump know about the conversations with Ambassador Kislyak, about the sudden change in Russian policy to avoid retaliation for the sanctions imposed by Obama, the person who knows whether that was discussed with Donald Trump, what Donald Trump said, whether he approved it is Michael Flynn. So I think for -- for that it’s really important. That’s not an issue necessarily that involves violations of law, but it goes right to the heart of this question of the Trump administration and Russia.
DICKERSON: And, Susan, the president came out and said, great for Michael Flynn to get -- to ask for protection. Obviously then there was a lot of going back to the campaign in which the president said, if you’re asking for immunity, it means you’ve done something wrong. What does this mean for the White House?
SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”: This cannot be good news for the White House. The words you don’t want to hear from a former senior aide is, “I have a story to tell and I would like immunity to tell it.”
DICKERSON: Yes. Right.
PAGE: Because the way you get immunity is if you have somebody more important that you can offer evidence on. If -- if the story ends with Michael Flynn, he’s not going to get -- we -- we assume that he would find it a difficult task to get immunity. This is a classic progression in a Washington investigation. You’ve got allegations. You get denials. You start an investigation. People get named and feel threatened. They seek immunity. They want to tell their story. And you start -- it’s like you -- you pull the thread of a sweater and suddenly the sweater is unraveling. That’s the risk for this White House. And this -- you know, a year from now, we’ll still be talking about this on the FACE THE NATION roundtable. This is going to be around -- a cloud over the White House for months and more.
DICKERSON: Peter, it’s true, the investigations are going on for some time. Senator Cornyn suggested this is a long process. The FBI has said they’re going to be doing this for a long time. On this question of -- of -- of Michael Flynn, it -- you -- what does this tell us, if anything, about the -- about President Trump in the sense that we’ve now learned a lot of things about Michael Flynn, his connections to the -- to the Turks, connections to our -- the Russia Today, none of which we knew before. He was the president’s top national security adviser.
PETER BAKER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Yes, I know, it’s rather extraordinary. Of course he was not national security adviser during the campaign, but he was advising the campaign during this. We just saw in the latest financial disclosures put out on Friday that he failed in the first draft he sent in to disclose these payments that some of these Russian linked entities had made to him. It was later corrected. It’s in a -- you know, 24 days he spent as national security adviser have now turned into months of nightmare for this White House for the very reasons Susan just talked about, because they know what he knows, they think they know what he knows, but maybe they don’t know what he knows. And if he has a story to tell, it’s not one that they want to hear.
DICKERSON: Susan, speaking of knowing what we know and what we don’t know and who knows it and where do they know it, let’s switch the question to House Chairman Devin Nunes. There was a lot of going on this week. Can you -- where -- where -- what do you make of the House Intelligence chairman’s serious allegation about what the Obama administration may have done, but also then the way it unfolded this week?
PAGE: Well, it unfolded like a clown car kind of thing. I mean it was really quite extraordinary. He’s in Uber. He gets out of the Uber. He goes to the White House. He misrepresents who tells him this information. He then come backs to brief the president, who -- who we can only assume already knew the information because it’s his people who told the -- the chairman.
I think the end result is it has really undermined the credibility of the House Intelligence chairman to move ahead on. It’s hard to see how he rebuilds that. And it increases, it seems to me, the possibility that the Senate Intelligence Committee does a serious investigation in a bipartisan way because they do not want to look like the House Committee looked this week.
DICKERSON: Michael, what do you make of again the serious charge that the chairman has made? Has he -- has he hurt himself by the way it played out? His defenders say he had to go to the White House because of the kind of intelligence it was and so forth. What -- what do you make of it?
GRAHAM: What I make of it is similar to the Mike Flynn problems, which is that you have tactics and then you have policy and then you have politics. The fact is -- and this is something I think the media widely kind of lost focus on. There are documents in all of these stories. There is a tape of Mike Flynn talking about something. There -- there’s a stack of papers that Nunes and now Schiff have seen. And eventually that information is going to come out and it’s either going to be damning or it’s going to be exculpatory. It’s going to be something.
But for him to do -- wait, what’s the problem with me talking to Trump before I talk to -- what, is that a bad thing? I mean, wait. I’m sorry, are you new to politics? Is this your first week? That’s -- that’s the problem. It’s all political.
I think, however, in the end, the facts will dominate this story. And that’s what we’re waiting for is some facts.
DICKERSON: Which is -- go ahead, Peter.
BAKER: Well, the other thing is it -- what he’s talking about is not the same thing as President Trump said in his tweet.
BAKER: The White House is seizing on this information to suggest that that justifies the president accusing his predecessor of wiretapping him, which is still not in any way in evidence. What Chairman Nunes was talking about was this surveillance of foreign officials, which is something we have done forever -- David knows better than anybody -- but at -- in -- in -- in the process of that we’ve picked up American officials. Did they minimize, did they unmask, these are interest interesting questions, but they don’t go to the original question, which is, did President Obama wiretap his successor?
PAGE: Here’s what’s extraordinary. The White House has just spent a month, a precious, early month, trying to find evidence for a tweet that the president sent. They have not found the evidence. Mitch McConnell asked just this morning said, no, he’s seen no evidence that the -- that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower. And yet the White House has been consumed by this at terrific cost to other things they’d like to do.
DICKERSON: It was interesting to hear -- her Ambassador Haley say, well, it’s just Washington chatter, but they have spent a month trying to deal with that chatter.
David, would you put into context this question of unmasking for us, since you do know this so well. What do we keep our eye on in terms of trying to figure out --
IGNATIUS: So under existing surveillance orders, the United States is listening to all kinds of diplomats, intelligence officials around the world under various authorities. And when that collection picks up incidentally the names of Americans, Joe Russia happens to be calling Joe America, Joe America’s name is typically minimized. It’s -- it’s masked so that that person’s privacy is -- is protected. In -- in certain circumstances when it’s necessary to understand who the conversation is -- was between, the name is unmasked and then if -- if there’s a -- a legal investigation beyond that, there -- there -- there are even more reasons.
What’s happened this month is that what initially seemed a preposterous argument by Donald Trump, that he had been wiretapped by President Obama illegally, has morphed into an argument about privacy, about proper masking techniques, a very technical, legal issue, and is now accepted, I think, as part of the mainstream set of issues that are going to be debated by the two intelligence committees. And from -- from Trump’s standpoint, that’s, I think you’d have to say, that’s a success. It may be a pyrrhic victory for Nunes, whose -- whose credibility, the ability to lead the committee, is radically compromised, but that’s now in the center stage.
GRAHAM: But there’s a meta story here, which is that the people who rallied around Trump -- when I was doing talk radio, my listeners, they feel like they can’t get a -- a break and that they’re under attack. And this is Trump under attack. And, you know, we work with Selena Zito, where I work at “The Washington Examiner” as well, and she coined the phrase, you know, the press takes Trump literally but not seriously. His supports take him seriously but not literally. And they -- they -- this feeds their notion that you can’t get a fair break. They watched what happened with Hillary Clinton and they feel like you never pushed this hard when the woman had classified information literally on a computer in her basement and you couldn’t get serious with that. Now here you are nit-picking about, was it spying or was it inappropriate leaking, and that story. I don’t know that it’s a winner for Trump, but like you said, for right now, that’s feed -- his base is feeding off of that.
DICKERSON: Mixing the two together --
DICKERSON: Probably does feel like a winner.
We’re going to take a break here quickly. We’ll be right back with more of our panel. Stay with us.
DICKERSON: And we’re back with our panel.
Peter, I want the start with you. On the question of President Trump this week, again on Twitter, targeted the Freedom Caucus --
DICKERSON: And said basically -- didn’t just blame them for killing the Obamacare replacement, but said then he’s going to target them in -- in their campaigns. That was pretty extraordinary.
BAKER: It was extraordinary, of course, and they’re cowering in their districts, except, oh, wait, they’re not actually. They don’t seem at all worried. They came back and pushed right back on him with very Trumpian-type tweets of their own saying, you know, hey, we’re out here trying to drain the swamp. What happened to you? And -- because they’re in districts where they do feel safe and they have found their own polls show that the health care replacement bill that they opposed was not any more popular in their own district among their own Republican constituents than Obamacare. So they feel quite secure. And the -- the consequence of that is interesting. Just two and a half months into this presidency, he’s already finding people willing to stand up against him in his own party. They’re not afraid of him. You want to have a little fear as a president among your own party that they would not want the cross you. They don’t seem to fear him.
DICKERSON: Michael, on Peter’s point, I mean the -- the president came the office in part by saying, I’m not going to be a capitulator --
DICKERSON: A Washington weak knee to agree to anything having to deal with these silly legislative rules that you pay attention to. We’re going the stand on principle and we’re not going to cave (ph). Wasn’t that exactly what the Freedom Caucus was doing? And, I mean, they’re -- they’re doing what they said they were going to do.
GRAHAM: You know it is bizarre because Donald Trump is not a conservative. He’s not a Freedom Caucus guy. That was never going to be his team. And when he tweeted out, we’re going to take on the Freedom Caucus and the Democrats, who does that leave? The evil establishment. That’s all they have left. And I think the Freedom Caucus is worried that they’re going to lose this president to something else. Mark Meadows was at our office this week and he said, you know, we want everyone to know, Mr. President, we love you, and we say more good things about you in our caucus than anyone else does. But if -- if the Freedom Caucus has no leverage in the White House, that’s a problem for them. But if Donald Trump doesn’t have the Freedom Caucus in his coalition, who does he replace them with?
DICKERSON: This has not happened very often. I -- I think I had to go all the way back to FDR in 1938 targeting those who didn’t support the New Deal enough to find a president who actively says, I’m going to go, bring people -- put people up against you in your primaries or in your campaigns to people in his own party.
PAGE: That’s right. And publicly so.
PAGE: You know, you might have had LBJ being threatening to someone as he --
PAGE: As he twisted arms behind the scenes, but this is -- this is quite extraordinary and one more sign of how you say Trump -- Trump is not a conservative. He’s not really a Republican in many ways. And we saw that play out in the health care debate where Trump’s agenda and Trump’s supporters were different from -- from Ryan. Ryan is a tradition, let’s be -- let’s have a smaller government kind of conservative. Trump would be happy I think with a larger health care bill that takes care of some of the older voters, some of the Democratic-leaning voters in the upper Midwest who voted for him, and that is a bigger government that Ryan’s unhappy with. But, to do that, he would need to form a real coalition, a real bipartisan coalition with Democrats. And I can tell you, there is zero sentiment on the Democratic side to cooperate with Donald Trump, which we’re going to see this week in the Supreme Court vote.
DICKERSON: In the Supreme Court, which we’ll get to in a minute.
But, David, a question to you as the president tries to get back on track after -- after health care, there’s some debate about what the status is of health care. But one of the ways he could get back on track is if he had a full team on the field. I keep hearing from the State Department, from the Department of Defense, that all of these other -- these positions don’t have people filled, and it’s not the Senate’s fault. They haven’t had nominees put forward. What kind of effect --
IGNATIUS: It’s -- it’s very difficult for these big bureaucracies to operate effectively with so few key people in positions. This administration rollout really is delayed in a way that’s -- that’s hurt him. So on this -- on this question of going after the -- the Freedom Caucus, the far right in -- in the -- in the House Republican caucus has essentially paralyzed that party now for years. John Boehner couldn’t deal with it and Trump confronts the same problem.
And I actually think that there’s something to be said for a president, the leader of the party, who says, I’m not going to allow you to paralyze our agenda. We need to be a governing party, and you stand in the way of that. So I -- I don’t know if he can’t deliver on this, he just looks like -- like a -- like a -- like a blow hard. But -- but the idea that he take them on, I don’t think that’s a crazy idea.
PAGE: Well, but the --
BAKER: But the problem, as Michael said -- sorry. But the problem, as Michael said, is that then, you know, the natural progression would be to move a little more to the middle and work with Democrats. And as Michael said, he’s attack them, but at the same time, as Susan said, the Democrats have no interest in working --
IGNATIUS: You can’t do them both. And as Susan said, who’s the first Democrat who’s going to say, Mr. President, I’m ready to work with you. It’s hard to imagine that.
DICKERSON: But I don’t -- Michael -- Michael, to your -- but build on this, which is, there were also Republicans who are not on the Freedom Caucus who didn’t like the American Health Care Act.
DICKERSON: And so, in fact, some would argue there were even more of those who were the problem.
GRAHAM: Well, no doubt about it, moderates didn’t get on board either, but why should they when they didn’t -- I think they saw that this was not going the passes. I think we should kind of look at this as a one-off. Ryan didn’t have his team in place, and that’s it (ph). And what Ryan really needs is a win because Trump like winners, period. Look, Trump would have signed the everybody gets a unicorn bill if they had brought it and it had the votes. He wants to win.
DICKERSON: That’s not up until July.
GRAHAM: But there is -- there is not going to be a Democrat at a White House signing ceremony by Trump’s shoulder signing any kind of health care bill of any kind, at least under the current climate. They’re not going to do it. He can’t work with Democrats. He has to go to the Freedom Caucus. He’s got nowhere else for the votes.
DICKERSON: Susan, back to the Supreme Court that you raised earlier. What’s going to happen in the Senate and what does it mean?
PAGE: Well, we’re going to see it play out this week. As -- as Senator Cornyn was describing to you, we’re going to have the committee vote on Monday. We’re going to have a final vote on the floor on Friday and it’s going to be one where they have exploded the nuclear option. It doesn’t look like the Republicans will be able to get the eight Democrats they need to force cloture, to force it to a final vote. So Mitch McConnell has -- the Senate Republican leader, has made it clear that he will support a change in the rules so you only need 51 votes to confirm.
John Cornyn was making the point that this is not that big a deal, but I do think it is one more thing that tears at a kind of bipartisan fabric that Washington has operated on for many years. It’s one more sign that even on a Supreme Court nomination we are a 51-49 partisan nation that cannot find any middle ground.
IGNATIUS: Yes, I think one thing we’re watching is -- is the Democrats feeling they need to play to their base. Neil Gorsuch is a likable person. He’s very conservative, but it’s easy to imagine him as a -- as a justice. Democrats feel that the base is aroused and they -- that they need -- this is payback time. You did this to Garland. So I think, you know, the Democrats could take -- make a different choice, play to the middle, a whole different set of priorities, but that’s not what we’re seeing.
DICKERSON: All right, David, last word to you.
Thanks to all of you for being with us.
Stay with us. We’ll be back in a moment to take a look at President Trump’s favorite president.
DICKERSON: President Trump has shown a strong affinity for the nation’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson, perhaps because they were both elected on a platform of challenging the establishment and taking on the Washington elites, even though they were elected 188 years apart. For some insight on the parallels between the two presidents, we’re joined by Jon Meacham, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Andrew Jackson “American Lion.”
The president really is fond of -- of President Jackson. Where do you look -- how do you look at the parallels between the two?
JON MEACHAM, AUTHOR, “AMERICAN LION”: Well, you know, presidents look back for inspiration, but more often for sanction. They want to be able to say that this is a -- a verse and a hymn that’s been -- been sung before. And so what -- what I think President Trump, as the most unconventional president in our history, which I think he would embrace, is looking for, is some historical parallel that I think grounds him to some extent in the experience of the country. And actually it was Steve Bannon who put Andrew Jackson in the conversation after the election.
MEACHAM: And my own sense is that Jackson was a rabble-rouser. He fought duels. But one of the things about Jackson is, he always fired the second shot. It was often observed of him. You know, once he was in a duel over his wife and he let the other man shoot him, his boot fills with blood, but then he shoots the other man dead. He always waited for the second chance. And I think that temperamental characteristic of waiting for the right opportunity is something that we just haven’t seen this president do.
DICKERSON: So not a counter-puncher but having restraint and doing it second?
MEACHAM: Yes. Exactly.
DICKERSON: On this -- when President Trump has compared himself to President Jackson and sanction is the perfect way the frame it, he has -- has connected himself with the upset that Jackson created with elites.
DICKERSON: He is right about that. I mean in terms of shaking the window panes in Washington that --
MEACHAM: But to paraphrase Hamlet, context is all. The first six presidents of the United States were either Virginia planters or Adams from Massachusetts. And so Jackson comes from the lowest rungs of white society. He opens up democratic possibilities, lower case d, for white people, white men of his type. But he had been a lawyer, a prosecutor, a judge, a senator, briefly the governor of Florida. Rachel hated the mosquito, so he moved back to Tennessee. He had run for president in 1824. He had accepted the result, though he had won the popular vote. He did not win the electoral vote. And then he ran in 1828. So he was an experienced -- and he was a general, obviously. So he was an experienced figure. He wanted to shake up things. He believed that was his platform. He believed that he was the -- and he was the first president to put it this way, that he was the only directly elected representative of all the American people. And so all this does begin to sound, as Mark Twain once said, or repeated to have said, that “history may not repeat itself but it does rhyme.” But he -- he had an experience. He had governmental experience. He understood that. And I really think what’s critical in my mind is -- and we haven’t seen this with President Trump yet, is, does he understand how to use his own weaknesses? Can he make his vices virtues?
Jackson knew that the world thought he was a crazy man. So once a delegation came to the White House during the bank crisis, they wanted relief, and he starts pounding on the table and he says, there’s no money here. I’ll hang you all. They all run out of the room. As the door shuts, he turns to his chief of staff and he says, “didn’t I manage them well?” He knew how to use those weaknesses to become strengths. We just haven’t seen that with President Trump.
DICKERSON: And what about Jackson’s sense of himself? I was struck when -- when Steve Bannon, the president Trump’s top aides, talked about Jackson. If you look at Jackson’s inaugural address, Bannon did this around the inaugural address --
DICKERSON: Jackson pit himself in the constraints of the office. I mean he recognized limitation, that restraint you were talking about.
MEACHAM: He was a Jeffersonian -- he wanted to be a Jeffersonian Republican. The key thing about Jackson is, look, he was complicit in two of the great original sins in American life, African-American slavery, Native American removal. But on both those issues, we can’t put the whole weight of that on Jackson because they were the nation’s sins. And he may have been on the extreme edge of the mainstream, but he was still within the mainstream.
To me the great lesson of Jackson is that he believed in the union. He believed -- his mother and his mothers had died during the revolution. He had been a prisoner of war as a young teenager during the revolution. He really believed that his family’s blood, in many way, had sanctified the union, had made it sacred. And he referred to us as one great family. He believed that we should -- we would have the fight, democracy was like that. The point of democracy was to disagree.
MEACHAM: But it was to be within one family. And to that end, I believe he had a broader vision of American unity than President Trump has demonstrated yet. One hopes that President Trump, in studying -- looking at this, he will -- he will do so and not just take the parts of Jackson that are convenient to him, which is the kind who didn’t like the press, although that doesn’t separate him from many presidents, does it?
DICKERSON: Right. Exactly.
MEACHAM: And -- and the tough guy. Jackson was a tough guy. But he was tough in the service of -- in a -- in a very shrewd and strategic way most of the time. We -- we have not yet seen whether this president can be shrewd and strategic.
DICKERSON: Do -- we have about 20 seconds left. What -- what advice would Jackson give this president in terms of if he were to come back through the mists?
MEACHAM: Fire the second shot. Don’t pick so many fights. Pick ones you think you can win. And lead the whole country, because you become greater the more follower -- the more people you attract. Don’t just lead your base, because that base is -- is already with you. Expand it. Lead the country. Lead that great family.
DICKERSON: All right, Jon Meacham, thanks for taking us back to the 18th century and applying it to today. We really appreciate it.
MEACHAM: Thanks, John.
DICKERSON: And stay with us. We’ll be back in a moment.
DICKERSON: That’s it for us today. After another busy week, thanks so much for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I’m John Dickerson.
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