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Face the Nation transcript February 5, 2017: Pence, Christie

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: President Trump hits a roadblock, as a federal judge stops his travel ban and a court fight heats up.

It has been another whirlwind week in Washington, as President Trump unveiled his Supreme Court pick, took steps to roll back regulations on Wall Street, and imposed new sanctions on Iran.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It has already been quite an administration. Am I right?


DICKERSON: But has the administration moved too fast? Vice President Pence will be here to talk about the first two weeks and the administration plans to fight the judge’s ruling.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will give us his assessment about the launch of the new administration.

Plus, we will get a preview of Super Bowl LI with CBS’ own James Brown. And we will talk to the head of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith, about the game and the role politics plays in football.

Finally, our political panel will pick out what is important this week, and look ahead to next week.

It is all coming up on FACE THE NATION.

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

We have got a lot to get to, so we are going to begin with Vice President Mike Pence.

Mr. Pence -- Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for being with us.

PENCE: Good morning, John.


DICKERSON: Getting used to that.

PENCE: Good morning, John.

DICKERSON: Let’s start with the executive order on immigration.

A federal judge has now blocked it. There has been criticism even from Republicans who like the policy, just don’t like the rollout. Is it time to start over?

PENCE: It is not time to start over at all.

During the course of the campaign and since the outset of this administration, President Trump has made it clear he is going to use his authority as president under the law to put the safety and security of the American people first, especially when it comes to protecting this country from the threat that radical Islamic terrorism poses to our families and our communities.

The executive order is on a solid constitutional and statutory foundation. One court in Boston confirmed that. Another court in Washington came to a different decision. But we are very confident that, as we move through the process of these appeals, that the president’s authority in this area will be upheld and will continue to take such actions as are necessary to put the safety and security of the American people first.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about that judge, the federal judge in Washington. The president referred to him as a -- quote -- “so-called judge.”

Now, the president can criticize anybody he wants. Criticism is one thing. In this instance, the big distinction is, the president of the United States is calling into question the legitimacy of the judge and whether he has a legitimate role to make the decision he made.

Is it right for the president to question the legitimacy of this judge, not the ruling, not the opinion, not the policy, but the legitimacy?

PENCE: Every president has a right to be critical of the other branches of the federal government.

As you noted, the simple fact is, I think the American people welcome the candor of this president. And the president and our whole administration frankly are frustrated, because the law could not be more clear here, John, not only his constitutional authority to conduct foreign policy for this country, but clear statutory authority in federal law today gives the president the ability to determine who is given access to this country and who is not.

And, in this case, the president used a list the Obama administration and the Congress identified of seven countries compromised by terrorism. It is within his authority to do it. And it is just frustrating to see a federal judge in Washington State conducting American foreign policy or making decisions about our national security.

DICKERSON: Well, but I want to go back to this word legitimacy, because that is different than just having a difference of opinion.

And the reason I bring this up is, this president has been very sensitive to anyone who would question his legitimacy. The last time you were here, you and I talked about Congressman John Lewis questioning the president’s legitimacy. And you said, really, it was out of line for John Lewis, someone of his stature, to question the legitimacy of the president.

So, why is it in line for a president to question the legitimacy of a judge and what a judge is doing?

PENCE: John, I don’t think he was questioning the legitimacy of the judge.

DICKERSON: Well, when he calls him a “so-called judge,” how do you interpret that?

PENCE: As soon as that order came out, the Department of Homeland Security fully complied with it.

We went to the courts to seek a stay. We are going to, the first of this week, go to the Court of Appeals to not only get the stay, but to win on the merits. And we are confident that we will win in the interests of the security of the American people.

DICKERSON: The president’s words have...


PENCE: This was more -- this was more -- I know, John, but this was more about the president simply expressing a frustration with a judge who is involving...

DICKERSON: I understand.

PENCE: ... himself in the clear prerogatives of the president of the United States.

DICKERSON: But it’s just, when the president speaks, his words matter.

And I guess the reason also is, when I talked to the president, when he was just a candidate in January of 2016, he talked about President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

And he said this to me -- quote -- “The courts actually took the step and did something that was very surprising, and they did the right thing,” which is to say, the court stepped in and stopped President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

So, if it was good when they stopped President Obama, how can it not be legitimate for them to step in and pause in this instance?

PENCE: Well, I think it is a great comparison, John. And it is a very fair one on your part, as usual. In that case, President Obama was clearly taking action that was within the purview of the legislative branch. Congress had not acted in that regard, and so he attempted to use executive authority to implement laws the Congress had not passed.

The president’s executive order that this -- that the judge in Washington State, you know, issued -- issued an order upending is fully consistent with statutory law that has been passed by the Congress of the United States of America.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about Congress.

PENCE: So, the comparison here, I think, is dramatic. It’s consistent. And that’s why we are very confident, in the interest of the national security and the safety of the American people, we are going to prevail in court.

DICKERSON: That you will win in court.

Let me ask you about Congress. I have talked a lot to Republicans this week, again, who are on your side on the policy, but they and people I talked to in the administration, in addition to American allies, there has been a lot of criticism of this executive order and the way it was carried out.

Any of those criticisms valid?

PENCE: Well, at the outset of an administration that is as busy keeping our promises to the American people as this one, you know, we will concede that sometimes the usual Washington niceties of informing members of Congress were not fully implemented as they have been in the past.

But I have to tell you, the American people, I think, are grateful to see, from literally the day of the inauguration, that we have in President Trump a leader who has been taking steps every day to get this economy moving, to put the safety and security of the American people first, to roll back the kind of regulations that are stifling economic growth.

And on this immigration issue, the president was determined, working with the Justice Department, working with the Department of Homeland Security, to take executive action that would suspend immigration from countries that we know are compromised by terror.

It was the right thing to do. The American people welcome it. And I truly do believe, I truly do believe, as we go forward, we will see the legal foundation of that affirmed by our highest courts.

DICKERSON: Would Congressman Mike Pence have thought these were niceties?


DICKERSON: Let me move on to Russia. I would like to play a clip for you, an interview that the president did with FOX’s Bill O’Reilly that will appear during the Super Bowl, and get your reaction of it.




O’REILLY: Do you? Why?

TRUMP: Well, I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with them. He is a leader of his country.

I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world, major fight, that is a good thing.

O’REILLY: Right.

TRUMP: Will I get along with him? I have no idea. It’s possible that I won’t.

O’REILLY: He is a killer, though. Putin is a killer.

TRUMP: A lot of killers. We have got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?


DICKERSON: “Country is so innocent.”

Do you agree?

PENCE: This is a -- this is an enormously important moment in -- in the life of our -- our nation on the world stage, because we now have a president who is reengaging a world from which America has been stepping back over the last eight years.

And I have been talking to my counterparts in other countries. I will be traveling to the Munich security council in just a couple of weeks. What I consistently hear from counterparts around the world is how much they welcome the fact that President Trump is reengaging on behalf of America’s interests, leaders around the world.

And what you heard in that quote was a commitment to explore the possibility of starting anew and looking for common cause with Russia and with President Putin.

Now, you also heard skepticism there. The president said it would be better if we got along with Russia. Maybe we won’t.


PENCE: But he is absolutely determined -- and he told the American people this in the campaign -- he is absolutely determined to explore ways, particularly in confronting and destroying ISIS, to work with Russia. And that is the spirit of those comments.


DICKERSON: When you reengage the world, you have to do it with a moral voice.

And he suggested there -- and I will quote from Bret Stephens, who is on “The Wall Street Journal” editorial page, who tweeted: “President Trump puts the United States on moral par with Putin’s Russia. Never in history has a president slandered his country like this.”

A president speaks with a moral voice when he is reengaging the country. He suggested that America was on the equivalent par with somebody who was a killer.

PENCE: I simply don’t accept that there was any moral equivalency in the president’s comments.

Look, President Trump, throughout his life, his campaign and in this administration, has never hesitated to be critical of government policies by the United States in the past. But there was no moral equivalency.

What you heard there was a determination to attempt to deal with the world as it is. Let’s start afresh with Putin and to start afresh with Russia.

Look, we face very, very serious dangers in the world.

DICKERSON: But that’s why the...


PENCE: And the United States, in many ways, has created a vacuum in the world, as we have backed away from the world stage.

What the American people see is President Trump leaning into these relationships, bringing a healthy skepticism to all of it, particularly when it comes to Russia, but saying, look, if we could have a better relationship with Russia and with Putin, and not get in -- not getting lost in the usual debates, but to say, we’re -- we are going to take an honest effort to advance America’s interests in the peace and security of the world.

DICKERSON: But -- Mr. Vice President, but this is a new debate. This is not an old debate.

No one has compared the United States to a killer in Vladimir Putin. And this is not the first time that the president has done this. When he was a candidate, on MSNBC, he was asked whether it was wrong for Russia to kill journalists. And he said -- quote -- “I think our country does plenty of killing also.”

When President Barack Obama was in office, he was criticized consistently by conservatives for not praising American exceptionalism. He never said anything on this par, did he?

PENCE: What I can tell you is, there was no moral equivalency in what the president was saying.

He was simply acknowledging that -- that he has been throughout his life willing to be critical of government policies and government actions in the United States.

But we recognize, we recognize the extraordinary superiority of the ideals of the American people and the implementation of those ideals. But...


DICKERSON: Do you think America is morally superior to Russia?

PENCE: What -- what you have in this new president is someone who is willing to, and is, in fact, engaging the world, including Russia, and saying, where can we find common interests that will advance the security of the American people, the peace and prosperity of the world?

And he is determined to come at that in a new and renewed way.

DICKERSON: But America morally superior to Russia, yes or no?

PENCE: I believe that the ideals that America has stood for throughout our history represent the highest ideals of humankind.


PENCE: I was actually at -- I was at Independence Hall yesterday. And I stood in the very room where the Constitution of the United States was crafted, the very building where the Declaration of Independence was held forth.

Every American, including our president, represents that we uphold the highest ideals of the world.


DICKERSON: Shouldn’t we be able to just say yes to that question, though?

PENCE: I think it is without question, John.

DICKERSON: That America is morally superior to Russia?

PENCE: That American ideals are -- are superior to countries all across the world. But, again, what the president is determined to do, as someone who has spent a lifetime looking for deals, is to see if we can have a new relationship with Russia and other countries that advances the interests of America first and the peace and security of the world.

DICKERSON: I have held you over your time, Mr. Vice President. Thank you so much for being with us.

PENCE: Thank you, John.

DICKERSON: And we turn now to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who joins us from his home in Mendham.

Hello, Governor.

I want to start with Russia.


DICKERSON: You, when you campaigned, said, “America is the strongest moral power for what is good and what is right in the world.”

Given what President Trump said about...


DICKERSON: ... Vladimir Putin, is that consistent with your view of America’s moral voice in the world?

CHRISTIE: Listen, there is no question in my mind that America is the moral leader of the world.

America has to set that tone. And we are going to continue to do that, I suspect, through this administration’s policies and our approach. So, I have no question in my mind that America is morally superior to Russia.

And I said that when I was running for president. And I say it when I am asked here in New Jersey. And I am saying it to you this morning.

DICKERSON: And what do you make of the president’s comments, not only the comparison on killers, but also this question of respecting Vladimir Putin, who is a person who has annexed land in the Ukraine, who has interfered in American elections, who has basically broken apart Russian democracy?

What kind of a signal does that send, given what you just said about America’s necessary moral voice in the world?

CHRISTIE: Well, John, listen, I have known the president for 15 years, and I know exactly what he meant by those comments yesterday.

He respects Vladimir Putin because he believes that the leaders of countries deserve to get treated with respect. He wants to be treated with respect around the world, and he believes Vladimir Putin should be.

But it doesn’t mean that he agrees with him. It doesn’t mean that he won’t fight him, and it doesn’t mean that he won’t stand up to him.

And as far as his back and forth with Bill O’Reilly, let me tell you, I have had hundreds and hundreds of conversations with the president over the years. The president likes to volley back and forth with people. And when he is being challenged, he likes to challenge back.

But the fact of the matter is, I know President Trump believes that America is morally superior to Russia. I know that he will stand up and be tough with Vladimir Putin. But I also know that he believes that a world where people are speaking with each other, dialoguing, cooperating is a potentially safer world than one when we are constantly in conflict.

DICKERSON: Let me switch to this question about the president’s executive order on immigration.

Do you think this judge has overreached in his ruling?

CHRISTIE: I think the judge is wrong on this one, and I think the fact that you have a Massachusetts federal judge disagreeing shows the resiliency and the strength of our Constitution.

This is ultimately going to be resolved by the courts as it moves its way up. And I want to say this. I think the president deserves great credit in moving from where he began in the campaign, which was a Muslim ban, which I at the time said I completely disagreed with.

The president has listened to experts and advisers over the course of time, when he first made that statement, to this executive order, which is tailored and direct to try to deal with seven countries that are having a difficult time dealing with their own ability to control travel of their own people and policing of their own people.

I would make it even more tailored if I were advising the president on this directly. But the president has moved an incredible distance from a Muslim ban to where he is now. And the fact is that the reason his opponents are able to attack him -- and I believe unfairly -- on the substance is because it was implemented in such a haphazard way in that first weekend.

And so the president deserves better. The policy is much, much better than where the president began during the campaign. And I think that shows he is a president who is willing to listen to experts, willing to listen to advisers, and willing to amend earlier positions in order to try and keep America safe and have us have good relationships around the world.

DICKERSON: All right, Governor Christie, we’re going to take a brief break here. And I want to pick up on some of the things you just said on the other side of the commercial, so stay with us.


DICKERSON: And we are back with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Governor, I want to talk to you about what you called that haphazard rollout of this.

When you were U.S. attorney and, as governor, you have worked with Muslim Americans. Because you are -- or at least I remember you explaining that you argued that good relations in the Muslim community help with law enforcement, help with those connections to do the business law enforcement has to do.

Do you think there is any damage in the way this was rolled out, presented, not really explained that affect that portion and views in the Muslim American community?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I think that you said earlier in your question to the vice president, is there a need to start over?

I don’t think there is a need to start over. But I do think there is a need for the administration to make sure they are very, very clear on this. I know the president’s heart on this. The president absolutely no, no hate in his heart for Muslim Americans, in fact, the exact opposite.

This is a president who has great affection for all Americans who are here working hard, raising their families and contributing to the fabric of our society, including Muslim Americans.

But this is what happens when things are not explained the right way from the beginning, and are not implemented in a way that respects the process and is very careful about it. And that’s why I said earlier in the week that the president was not well served by this.

Now this means that he has to go out and the administration needs to go out and make sure that they make his point of view clear. But I can tell the American people...

DICKERSON: Whose fault do you think it is, Governor?

CHRISTIE: Well, who knows?

Listen, I am not inside the White House. And this isn’t about assigning blame. This is about making sure that it is done the right way. And so, in the end, I believe the president deserved better, and because I know his heart.

And I know what the president wants more than anything else. He wants to keep the American people safe and secure. And that’s all the American people, whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other religion that we have.

Listen, John, I am the governor of the most ethnically diverse state in this country. And I understand that everybody has cares and concerns, not only about their own ethnicity, their own religious colleagues, but also about everyone else in America. And that’s what the president is trying to do here. I believe in his heart on this one.

DICKERSON: But let me ask you again about -- you have talked about his heart, but you have also said this was haphazard, which suggests some fallout.

You are not without insight on the way he works and the way the people around him work. So, I am going to try you again on this.


DICKERSON: Whose fault is it, and why did it happen? You are not -- you have an answer in your head. Tell it to us.


CHRISTIE: John, I am glad to see you have got ESP going for you this morning.

I don’t have an answer in my head, John, because I wasn’t there. I don’t know who the president made responsible. The president has a structure inside the White House with three folks who are predominantly in charge of operations at the White House, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Kushner and Mr. Priebus.

And so I can’t read minds as to whose primary responsibility this was for this. But that doesn’t matter. That’s the Washington game of, who are we going to blame?

I think anyone who looks at this knows that it could have been and should have been done better. We just see, when people with green cards were being denied entry...

DICKERSON: OK. Governor...

CHRISTIE: ... that this didn’t happen the right way.

So, I -- if you do have that name, and you have read my mind, John, you say it.

DICKERSON: I don’t have it, but I do have a commercial I have got to go to.

Governor, thanks so much for being with us.

CHRISTIE: John, happy to be on. And you have a good Super Bowl Sunday.

DICKERSON: You, too.


DICKERSON: Joining us now from Houston, Texas, the site of Super Bowl LI, is the executive director of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith. Mr. Smith, welcome.

I want to ask you about the Affordable Care Act. The president has said he is going to repeal and replace it. What is the players union’ concern about that?


We have a 100 percent injury rate in the National Football League. And so every player leaves the National Football League with a preexisting condition.

So, one of the things that we would be concerned about is literally hundreds of players would be going into retirement with a tougher and perhaps in some cases an impossibility to get insurance, because every one of them has a preexisting condition.

DICKERSON: And what is your feeling about the way things are going forward and what might happen to those with preexisting conditions?

SMITH: Well, I think, like every American, you hear on the front end that there is a plan. I think that it is our duty, because he is the president of the United States, to find out what that plan is.

Hopefully, that is a plan that won’t bar people who have preexisting conditions. But, right now, as we are heading into Super Bowl week, I can tell you that, last year, we had about 4,900 reportable injuries in the National Football League, and we have about 1,800 players who play.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about one of those injuries, concussions.

The president, when was on the campaign trail, made a joke about concussions in the NFL, saying the rules are now -- quote, unquote -- “soft.”

How do you deal with that, that there is this perception out there among some, or at least among the president, that the rules have gotten too soft?

SMITH: Well, I mean, I don’t know exactly -- when you say who that perception is coming from, I mean, obviously, my hope is that the president enjoys football.

And if he wants to find out just how shot the game is, he can come down to the sideline and watch a game and hear the collisions and watch our players.And, certainly, he could swing by any team on a Monday and see how our players feel.

I think, more importantly than us, you know, sparring over words, over whether the game has gotten too soft or not, is, let’s just embrace the fact that it is Super Bowl Sunday. It is a game that everybody loves. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our players want to play.

But I also know that, at the end of the day, every one of our players on every one of our teams is going to suffer an injury. And some of those injuries are going to be concussions. Some of those are going to lead to long-term consequences.

And it seems to me that, for an industry that generates about $13 billion a year, our job should be trying to keep our players as safe as possible, and certainly creating a world where they can afford insurance after they leave the game.

DICKERSON: And, briefly, in about 30 seconds, what is your view on athletes, football players speaking out about politics? Should they? Should they use their voice? Should they stay quiet?

SMITH: Of course they should speak out.

I mean, I have yet to find a football player that gives up his First Amendment right the moment that he puts on a jersey. If it is something that a player wants to talk about, I think that is fantastic. If it is something that a player doesn’t want to talk about, I think that is fantastic.

You know, what I expect from our men is that they are men, businessmen in the business of football, that they love their community, that they are blessed to live in this country.

DICKERSON: All right, Mr. Smith, thank you. We are going to have to leave it there. Have a fun time at the game.

We will be right back in a moment.


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

Stay with us.


DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I’m John Dickerson.

Tonight, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots take on Matt Ryan’s Atlanta Falcons. It’s the ninth Super Bowl for the Patriots and the second for the Falcons. Their last appearance was in 1999.

James Brown, CBS News special correspondent and the host of the “NFL Today” joins us.

JB, it’s so great to have you here on a Sunday.

Let’s start with the Falcons. It hasn’t been -- it’s been a while since they’ve been there. What’s -- what’s the game going to be like for the Falcons?

JAMES BROWN, CBS NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, they come in offensively potent. Matt Ryan has had an MVP type season for sure, which is the award that he got. Look, if they can just get off to a quick start, get a lead, then they will be in good shape because New England is excellent at defusing any kind of confidence they come in with. But I’m expecting a competitive game.

DICKERSON: And what about defense facing that New England offense?

BROWN: The offense of New England doesn’t get as much credit as -- as it should, but the defense of the Falcons, young guys who really have matured throughout the season and keeping it sufficiently general, I think they’re primed for this. They’ve got a couple of veterans on that defense. Dwight Freeney, who brings about 15 years’ experience to the table, three Super Bowl appearances, I think he’s going to have them in a good -- good attitudinal shape.

DICKERSON: So if the Falcons are new to this, the -- I mean it’s old hat for the New England Patriots. How did that help for the -- for the Patriots, the fact they’ve been to this dance before?

BROWN: The good thing is that they aren’t complacent, but that’s because of Bill Belichick. He wouldn’t tolerate that anyway. It’s interesting, John, in an era of design parity in the National Football League, they are the kingpins. I would imagine there are going to be a number of people tuned in because they want to see the giants slayed as well too. But Tom Brady leads the charge on the field immensely confident and he’s got a huge chip on his shoulder.

DICKERSON: And why does he have that chip on his shoulder, for those people who aren’t watching every twist and turn of football?

BROWN: Good point, but that’s why you’re the excellent host that you are.

You know, he had to take the four-game suspension at the top of the season, implicated in the “deflate-gate” investigation, if you will. And he still maintains his innocence. So many people are looking at that saga between Tom Brady and the commission to see, as my good friend Tony Mobly (ph) was saying, whether or not he’s going to be up on the podium to get the award from Roger Goodell at the end.

DICKERSON: That’s right, so he’s looking for a ring and a little vindication.

BROWN: Uh-huh.

DICKERSON: Tell me also about the owners of these two teams. Because they’re a little bit different than other NFL owners, aren’t they?

BROWN: But the common thread is, they’re both excellent guys. Look, Arthur Blank, to be bringing some 500 of his employees to the game speaks to the kind of management style that he has, leadership style, which is just awesome. And the players echo that as well too, that Mr. Blank doesn’t micromanage. He leaves the job to the guys who are running the team. Bob Kraft, look, he knows not only the top people in his organization, but he knows the receptionist at all of his businesses. He knows their families. They’re really involved from a very personal standpoint, and its paid dividends in terms of success on the field.

DICKERSON: We now have a president who once owned a football team in his past. What do you -- we don’t know who Donald Trump’s pick for the game yet, do we?

BROWN: But we probably could guess who his pick would be for the game too. Herschel Walker was one of his big hires, of course, when he ran the generals for the USFL. So I would think because of the relationship that he, President Trump, has with Bob Kraft, and it is a close relationship, I would think that he’s leaning in that direction. And although Bill Belichick, the head coach of the Patriots, and Tom Brady haven’t talked about it publicly, they’re very strong President Trump supporters as well. So I would think the Patriots is -- that’s his choice.

DICKERSON: yes, they’ve been trying not to talk about politics this week.

BROWN: Uh-huh.

DICKERSON: JB, it’s great to have you here. Thanks so much for being here.

BROWN: Good to see you, sir. Continued success, by the way.

DICKERSON: Thank you, sir.

And we will be right back.


DICKERSON: And now for some political analysis. Ruth Marcus is a columnist and the deputy editorial page editor of “The Washington Post.” Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for “The National Review” and a columnist for Bloomberg View. We’re also joined by Amy Walter, national editor of “The Cook Political Report,” and “Time” magazine’s Michael Duffy, who is the deputy editor.

Michael, I want to start a with you.

What did we learn about the Trump -- what have we learned about the Trump presidency from this now more than a week long saga of the executive order on immigration?

MICHAEL DUFFY, “TIME” MAGAZINE: I think there are a couple of takeaways, John. The first is that this is a White House that was keen from the start to create an impression of action, maybe disruption, certainly nationalism in its first week no matter the cost to perhaps its reputation and even our alliances. It’s a White House where there are a high number of people with unfettered access to the president, which means there are decisions that are made quickly, sometimes in secret, and not with -- to the advice of all the advisors perhaps that are needed, which is not necessarily a formula for success.

It’s a White House where there’s an unusual amount of finger pointing and credit taking, both by the White House aides and the president’s family, members of the family, which suggest they’re not all on the same page. And, finally, after two weeks, they have yet to really put in place a decision making process that fits a live tweeting president who can comment about anything at any time.

And I’ll say one more thing. The U.S. government is perhaps the largest single enterprise in the world. It has billions of dollars and billion -- and lots of countries, everyone’s life is affected by it. Its reach is vast. It’s not built for improv. It’s a system that needs a -- it’s an enterprise that needs a decision making system that is transparent at the very least of those who are expected to execute the policies. And, ideally, for those of us who are subject to them. We’ll find out this week whether the changes they say they’ve put into place last week are actually making a difference.

DICKERSON: So much to unpack there.

Ruth, what do you make of the -- where things are legally at the moment?

RUTH MARCUS, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Things are legally where they should be, which is in the courts before now a so called appeals court. I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist that. And we are going to do what we need to do in America, which is to find out, to test the legality of this, and come to a conclusion. But whatever conclusion is reached by the courts, and I am assuming that the Trump administration, after it finishes tweeting, will comply with the rule of law. I think there’s a lot of fallout here.

Mike talked about how you can’t run the government by improve. And Vice President Pence talked about Washington niceties. These aren’t just Washington niceties. They’re questions about whether you can run this government and there is lasting damage here in his relationships with Congress, in his relationship with the country, which saw these terrible stories of people who needed medical treatment being denied, in his relationships with the courts, and his -- in his relationship with the world.

And a more fundamentally, the lesson of the week to me is that we have a president who fundamentally is not understanding the role of courts. This tweet about so-called judges was not just a, you know, something that we should ignore. And he doesn’t understand the role of America as it has historically been in the world as a beacon of hope and a welcoming place for refugees.

DICKERSON: Ramesh, Vice President Mike Pence said he didn’t see this as a questioning of the judges’ legitimacy, calling him a so- called judge. Are we making too much of that in the president’s reaction to this?

RAMESH PONNURU, “NATIONAL REVIEW”: Well, I think that President Trump has put the vice president in a difficult situation, and that that is probably something that the vice president can expect going forward. Clearly he did question the legitimacy of the judge. And I think one of the other things we learned about this administration from this episode that shouldn’t be a great surprise is that it is prickly and defensive when it faces opposition, when it is criticized, that it is not capable of explaining itself very well and I think we’ve seen that over the course.

And then one other thing is that this administration is very, very concerned about keeping some of its promises. And what I think is interesting about this order is that it seems like less of an attempt to protect the country than to make good on campaign rhetoric by President Trump in a way that is a little bit more defensible legally than his initial call to just ban all Muslims. If you were starting out trying to figure out a policy that bears a rational relation to national security without that previous rhetoric, I don’t think that you would have landed here.

DICKERSON: That’s right. And the Cato Institute has done -- has looked into the actual terrorism as a result of refugees and found I think the chances that a refugee will -- they put it, one in something like 3.0 something billion that a refugee would commit terrorism. So this is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist say -- say some.

Amy, The Hill. Republicans on The Hill that I talked to, they thought the policy was fine, but it wasn’t just niceties. What one Republican said to me was, you know, if he just made a few calls, they could have avoided hurting the very things that Donald Trump wants to promote.

AMY WALTER, “COOK POLITICAL REPORT”: I think this relationship between Donald Trump and Republicans is going to be fascinating. We knew it coming into this campaign. We watched the dance between conservatives and Trump, Republicans and Trump throughout, and now that dance is going to continue in Congress.

But here is what we know is happening with voters is that despite the fact that this president comes in with the lowest approval rating of any president at this point in his first term, he has got almost universal support from Republicans. Ninety percent approval ratings from Republicans. Most of these Republicans on Capitol Hill sit in districts that Donald Trump carried. There are only 23 Republicans who sit in a district that he didn’t win. There’s only one senator up in 2018 who sits in a state he didn’t win. Their concern, politically, they may -- they have other concerns, but their political concern, they want to win reelection is to make sure that those people that they need to support them, the voters who sit in those districts, who like Donald Trump, continue to support them in primaries, where they could be challenged by someone to the right if they feel like that member of Congress isn’t adequately supporting Donald Trump. And so this is what we’re going to be watching for is, will there be those breaks between the president and his party. It’s hard to see those breaks happening when he has a 90 percent approval rating from the very people who go out and vote for those candidates.

MARCUS: But, Amy, we’ve already seen some. We saw two Republican senators say this week that they wouldn’t support his education secretary. We saw on the record criticisms from people like Senator Rob Portman about the rollout of the immigration order. So I think that it -- we may --

WALTER: Correct, but --

MARCUS: But you’re right about those tensions and you’re right about the basic impetus of people to support. But --

DICKERSON: Ramesh --

MARCUS: But it’s going to be a big mess.

DICKERSON: But staying on this point, Ramesh, President Trump said he would come to Washington and be a disrupter --


DICKERSON: Blow things up. If I am paying some attention, but not watching every turn of this, and I look at what’s happening in Washington and I am a supporter of President Trump’s --


DICKERSON: Aren’t I happy as can be --


DICKERSON: That people are, you know, unhappy here and fidgeting there and -- and got their nose out of joint over here? Isn’t that the basic where this whole -- what this all boils down to?

PONNURU: You know, a lot of people make the point that this president is more unpopular than previous presidents at this stage of the presidency, where usually a president is enjoying a honeymoon with the public. But the flip side of that is, he’s got his core support. Nothing he’s doing is making him popular, but nothing he’s doing is threatening his approval from those voters who are his core support.

DUFFY: In fact --


DUFFY: I was going to stay, the discomfort in the mess is all to the good in their world view. Don’t forget --

WALTER: Right.

DUFFY: This is an administration that believes not just in disruption, but perhaps cyclical destruction of our political process and --


DUFFY: Go ahead.

DICKERSON: Let me follow up on this, Michael, with you. And you mentioned the word improv. Steve Bannon, the president’s senior adviser, is on the cover of “Time” this week. There is a way, though, or give me your sense about this, which is that there are realities that do -- when you have other members of the administration looking over their shoulder, you talked about the leaks, people getting kind of attacked in the press by blind quotes, talk a little bit about where this can get in the way of what an administration tries to do.

DUFFY: Well, one of the things I was trying to say earlier was that there has to be some kind of internal transparency so everyone knows what they’re doing. Cabinet officers were caught off guard by this and they thought -- look down the road and say, how many times will this happen to me before I have to leave? These are private conversations going on at a very high level because they worry that it won’t be fixed.

So even where the policies that they’re executing fit with their campaign rhetoric, which I think was a great point, are done in ways that make -- refugees is enjoying a 45 percent support in the public. There are simple matters of whether you can keep an administration moving forward on a broader agenda if you don’t loop them all in at the start. So they’re going to have to do that. And they’re going to have to also learn that there will be disagreements at the highest levels that they’ll have to work through.

And, Ruth, some of these people who are, as Michael alluded to, General Mattis, General Kelly, Secretary Tillerson over at the State Department, I guess I shouldn’t call them generals anymore, they’re now secretaries, I apologize, these are big figures who have their own reputations, and who the administration relies on for those power for reputation. They are some of the ones who found conflict with this.

MARCUS: Yes, indeed. And I think we are going to see going forward the degree to which they are willing to tolerate this kind of improv process that puts them in a difficult position going forward. And so I think you’re going to have -- the -- you saw from the White House this week a conversation about how they were going to need to put a more orderly process in place.

Donald Trump set this up, by the way, with putting Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, the chief of staff and the chief strategist, at explicitly equivalent levels. Every president in every White House has learned this lesson, that doesn’t work. You need to have a chain of command.

WALTER: But if you --


WALTER: If anybody’s ever watched the campaign, this is how the campaign existed too. It was a -- always a sense of chaos. Always about who was --

PONNURU: Or his previous business career.

WALTER: That’s right, everything was about that. If we’ve learned anything throughout the course of 2016 into 2017, Donald Trump is Donald Trump is Donald Trump. That’s not going to change. It’s --

DUFFY: But he -- but he’s -- but, you know, he -- one of the other substitute promises of the campaign was, I’m going to run the government like a business. And he brought into his most senior positions generals and CEOs who believe in a chain of command, thrived in a chain of command, rose through a chain of command. So he’s going to have to reinstate something if he wants to keep them.

DICKERSON: And who many people thought would help him reign in his impulses, those people.

All right, we’re going to take a quick break here. We’ll be right back, talk about the Supreme Court, things overseas. Lots more, stay with us.


DICKERSON: With more from our political panel,

Amy, I want to start with you. We talked about some ragged edges of the Trump presidency, but one that didn’t seem to be -- one seemed to go pretty well was the naming of the Supreme Court pick. Kept it quiet. It’s a -- a pick that a lot of conservatives like. Do you see it that way?

WALTER: Yes, and it -- and it got a great reception on television, good rating. The president loves getting good ratings.

This is -- when I talked about this dance, this is another part of the dance, right? You’re going to have members of Congress who complain about the messiness and -- with the rollout and even some of the issues that they may not agree with that the president’s pushing forward. But then it seems that it -- almost minutes later, he’s able to present them with something that they desperately want, regulatory reform, a conservative Supreme Court justice. And so they are going to be constantly tested. Are we going to wait for our tax reform bill, but we’ve got to go tough all this other stuff that’s messy and maybe we don’t agree with and maybe it’s so much more divisive than we wanted it to be. But we’re going to get in return something we’ve always been dreaming about. And so that is going -- going to be a constant sort of cross pressure on these members.

DICKERSON: Ramesh, I want to ask you -- get your reaction, but let me throw this in as well. Isn’t this pick the culmination of a very cagey and smart move by Mitch McConnell long ago when President Obama had a chance to nominate somebody and Mitch McConnell said, no way, Donald Trump, then candidate Donald Trump, President Trump said during a debate, he said, the message to Mitch McConnell is delay, delay, delay. That meant whoever the Republican nominee was -- was going to be somebody who everybody voting for them knew was going to pick the choice on the court and it kept liberals from having another seat on the court. So in retrospect that was quite a move by the Senate majority leader.

PONNURU: Absolutely. And it was a move that faced a lot of second-guessing at the time. Particularly at times when Clinton was way ahead of Trump in the polls, a lot of Republicans were saying, maybe we should just confirm Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee, because Clinton might put in somebody more liberal. And it turned out that not only did that not happen, but the Supreme Court vacancy was probably an issue that helped propel Trump to victory. The exit polls do suggest that the Supreme Court was more of a motivating factor for Trump voters than it was for Clinton voters.

DICKERSON: Ruth, will the court, presuming that -- or assuming for a moment for the purpose of this questions that Judge Gorsuch gets onto the court, will it be more conservative than when Scalia was on the court, or the same, or what’s your sense of it?

MARCUS: There’s going to be some really wonky changes involving how deferential to be to administrative agencies and that will depend on whether you’re reviewing the -- but that’s more or less conservative will depend on whether you’re reviewing an Obama administration order or a Trump administration order.

I think that the importance of this nomination, we all -- we kind of know how it’s going to end, as you suggested, is kind of what happens in the chapters leading up to the conclusion of him being nominated, because that will tell us whether there’s going to be a sequel, because that is the really important thing here, whether Justice Kennedy will choose to retire as he may be tempted to do, whether -- what happens if another justice on -- liberal justice, who really could change the balance of the court in a much more significant way than Justice Gorsuch would, will leave, and that will -- there’s a lot of missing -- moving pieces here that have to do with whether the nuclear option will be triggered and people will be nominated -- will be confirmed with just 50 votes.

DICKERSON: Talk about that, Michael, a nuclear option being the Senate majority leader on the Republican side basically breaking a Democratic filibuster if there is one. How do you see it playing out?

DUFFY: Yes. Well, yes. Well, I think Ruth answered the question, that it will eventually -- he will eventually get in. The nuclear option is tricky for the Democrats mostly. It puts them in a tough spot. Their base is dying for blood. They would really like to, you know --

DICKERSON: See a filibuster.

DUFFY: Do -- do to Gorsuch what McConnell did to Merrick Garland. They would like to see this group of Democratic leaders that is not particularly, you know, heavily lefty, you know, put up a fight. And especially with all the folks massing on the streets and the kind of organized nature in which the left has emerged after Trump’s election. And -- and so, to them, I think the question of fighting Gorsuch is kind of like a basic litmus test. And that’s hugely complicated for not just Nancy Pelosi in the House but Chuck Schumer in the Senate because they’re facing this question coming on taxes, and on spending, and on trade. They’re going to have to decide over and over again whether to fight, even if they can’t win.

MARCUS: And -- and they --

WALTER: And -- and --

MARCUS: And it’s not really a -- I’m sorry to interrupt you. It’s not really a question for them --


MARCUS: Because their base is going to demand it. But I think that the question of the nuclear option isn’t just complicated for Democrats. It’s not necessarily in their interest --


MARCUS: To deploy it, but it may be inevitable. It’s a problem for Republicans because as Justice Kennedy -- all eyes on Justice Kennedy, as he watches this, does he really want to be -- set off this kind of conflagration if he leaves. Does he really want a nominee who would only take 51 votes for confirmation to succeed him?

DICKERSON: And to that, in terms of the Republican pickle.

PONNURU: Well, there’s also a division as to whether the rules should be changed. And I do not believe there is currently a majority in the Senate for changing the rules. That’s one of the reasons McConnell is not.

DICKERSON: To essentially break the filibuster --

PONNURU: Right, exactly. Exactly.

DICKERSON: And invoke the nuclear option.

PONNURU: Now, that could change as this process moves forward.


PONNURU: It may be that Republican senators and Republican voters get sufficiently enraged by Democratic obstruction, Democratic filibusters that the votes materialize. But that’s something that I think McConnell is very mindful of, in addition to his own concerns institutionally about changing the rules.

DICKERSON: Is there anything, Amy, that Chuck Schumer could get by pushing this, using this as a bargaining chip, knowing that he’s going to essentially not be able to block the nomination but -- or block the confirmation but get something along the way.

WALTER: But then hoping that he’s -- right, that you -- you certainly get a medal for good behavior, and then Mitch McConnell’s going to say, that’s so great. That’s why it’s interesting -- interesting to me to hear folks say, well, you know what, Democrats shouldn’t go all in on -- on this one. Let the vote come down. You’re basically just replacing one conservative with another. Save the big fight for the next one. As if Mitch McConnell won’t then use the nuclear option at the next one.



WALTER: He has an opportunity to do it at two points.

DICKERSON: Ramesh, what’s your view -- we’re going to switch quickly to Russia. What did you make of President Trump’s comments to Bill O’Reilly?

PONNURU: Well, Vice President Pence said that there was no moral equivalence that Trump was drawing between the United States and Russia. You could have fooled me. It sure sounded as though that was exactly what Trump was saying. And it’s what Trump has said before. And it’s really an astonishing comment for a president of the United States to make.

If you think about the things conservatives complained about from President Obama in terms of allegedly apologizing for country, this is much, much -- this is orras of magnitude worse.


DUFFY: And it’s happening in the context, in the last week of the Russian or Ukraine separatists, depending on how you describe them, starting up, skirmishing again in eastern Ukraine, which has been basically dormant for two years. So the signals coming from Washington about our relationship with Russia matter even more because of what signals that maybe sending to Moscow about how to proceed in the former Soviet blocks states.

DICKERSON: And, Ruth, on -- this week the ambassador -- the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said, “the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” That is a moral message being sent by one part of the government. How does that mesh -- who -- who do you -- who do you pay attention to, the president or the U.N. ambassador if you’re a --

MARCUS: I pay attention to the president because he is the head of this government. I agree with everything Ramesh said, it’s unimaginable that a president of the United States would say this. And I would also point to the very lukewarm readout that was given of the president’s conversation with the head of the Ukraine, where it was a conversation about border conflicts. It’s not a border conflict. There’s a border conflict, you know, between --

DICKERSON: There’s no border anymore.



WALTER: But this -- this is --


WALTER: Sorry. This is also a president who explicitly ran saying, I did not support the Iraq War. I think we are spending way too much time over -- he’s willing to criticize American foreign policy throughout. Should not be surprised he continues that.

DICKERSON: That’s right. OK. Thanks to all of you.

And we’ll be back in a moment.


DICKERSON: For today. That’s it for us today. Thank you for watching.

Be sure to join us next week. We’ll have our first look at what some of those who voted for President Trump think of the administration’s efforts so far.

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

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