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Face the Nation transcript January 29, 2017: Priebus, McCain, Ellison

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: The Trump presidency launches its first week with a flurry of activity, but faces a backlash after President Trump refugees from entering the U.S.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It’s not a Muslim ban, but we are thoroughly prepared. It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports. You see it all over. It’s working out very nicely.

And we are going to have a very, very strict ban, and we’re going to have extreme vetting.


DICKERSON: But just hours after President Trump signed an order restricting refugees from seven countries from entering the United States, protests erupted at airports across the nation.

The protests capped a controversial first week, as the president took first steps on the exact actions he promised on the campaign trail, rolling back Obamacare, quitting a key trade agreement, building a wall between the United States and Mexico, and building a relationship with Vladimir Putin.

We will talk with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus about the Trump agenda. Then we will turn to a key voice in the Senate on both immigration and foreign policy, Republican John McCain.

Plus, we will hear from the first Muslim member of the House, Keith Ellison. And, as always, we will have plenty of political analysis.

It’s all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

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

Airports servicing international flights across the country were flooded with protesters yesterday after visa and green card holders from the seven predominantly Muslim countries named in President Trump’s immigration ban were denied entry.

Some incoming passengers were held for hours. But late last night, a federal judge issued a stay of deportation for legal immigrants already in the country or in transit.

Around the world, several U.S. allies, including the United Kingdom, France and Germany, condemned the action. Iran and Iraq, two of the countries affected, have suggested reciprocal actions the United States.

We begin with President Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, who joins us from the Roosevelt Room inside the White House.

Good morning, Mr. Priebus.

I want to start with the message this sends. This is the first move that Donald Trump has taken that has international implications. There’s been a lot of reaction. Does he consider this a success in sending the America first message?


Look, yesterday, what people need to understand is that 325,000 foreign travelers came into the United States. About 109 of those people were retained, detained for further questioning because they came from the identified seven countries that the Obama administration and both houses of Congress have identified as being countries that harbor and train terrorists.

They were asked questions. The vast majority of all those people were released. About a couple dozen people remain for further questioning. And my suspicion is those people will move on, as long as they’re not dangerous and as perhaps a couple of them will be further detained because it’s determined that they’re dangerous for this country.

So, this was a promise that president-elect -- President Trump had made. And it’s a promise that he is going to keep. And he’s not willing to be wrong on this subject. We need to do our best to be vigilant and protect Americans.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you. There was another 170 so that were stopped before they ever got on planes...

PRIEBUS: That’s right.

DICKERSON: ... adding to your 100 number.

Let me ask you about green card holders. There seems to be some confusion about people who have lawful permanent residence in the United States. Under this, our understanding is they will get extra scrutiny if they come from these seven countries; is that correct?

PRIEBUS: I think -- so here’s what the correct statement is.

The executive order itself is not placing further burdens on people that hold green cards. But what is reality -- and this is the part that people get confused with -- is that a Customs and Border Patrol agent does has pretty wide discretion in asking questions and making sure that the person coming in is not dangerous to Americans.

And so what I’m trying to explain is that, if you’re a person that has a green card for whatever reason from Yemen, and you’re coming back and forth to Yemen into JFK, I think it’s reasonable to expect that a Customs and Border Patrol agent is going to have a few more questions for you, to wonder why in the world you keep coming back and forth from Yemen.

Now, maybe it’s no big deal. But it does mean that that person traveling back and forth from one of those countries is going to get a little -- a few more questions.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you this. Apparently, that was -- it may not have been in the executive order, but it’s the directive from the White House that, on a case-by-case basis, the border control agents do that. So, it’s not just their discretion. They’re getting encouraged by the White House to do that.

Let me ask you about this question of a Muslim ban. The president said it’s not one. The president also said Christians will be prioritized.

In putting out this executive order, did you check with the other Muslim countries the United States is allied with to anticipate the backlash you would get from this?

PRIEBUS: Well, for a second -- but hang own a second.

The order also says persecuted Muslims have priority as well. So, that’s a piece that’s just getting totally un -- either -- however you want to call it, misreported or not fully reported.

It doesn’t just say Christians. It also says persecuted Muslims get priority as well. So, this is not a Muslim ban, John. This is -- all this is, is identifying the seven countries. And the reason we chose those seven countries was, those were the seven countries that both the Congress and the Obama administration identified as being the seven countries that were most identifiable with dangerous terrorism taking place in their country.

Now, you can point to other countries that have similar problems, like Pakistan and others. Perhaps we need to take it further. But for now, immediate steps, pulling the Band-Aid off, is to do further vetting for people traveling in and out of those countries. This is an 80 percent issue, John.


DICKERSON: Yes, well, let me -- just to get -- when President Trump was interviewed by the Christian Broadcasting Network, the question was asked, do you see Christians as having a kind of priority here? The president said yes.

So, people aren’t crazy to think that he’s put a priority on Christians.

But back to my central question, did you touch base with the secretary of state, any of the embassies in countries that would be affected or that would react to this or to the ambassadors of those countries? Any outreach?

PRIEBUS: Listen, there was plenty of outreach that went on between the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

We didn’t just type this thing up in an office in the White House and sign it. There has been weeks of work going on. There’s been a lot of communication happening.

But the other thing is this. We’re not going to advertise to the world that we’re going to put a stop or at least a further vetting on travel in and out of our country from these seven places.

Some people have suggested, John, that, well, maybe we should have given everyone a three-day warning. But that would just mean that a terrorist would just move up their travel plans by three days.

Identifying too many people in these countries and giving them a heads-up in these countries would only potentially flag the executive order for bad order.

DICKERSON: I understand.

I guess what I haven’t heard you say is, yes, we reached out and let them know, because here is why I ask. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, when asked about the Muslim ban that candidate Donald Trump talked about, here is what the secretary of defense said back then.

He said: “They think we have completely lost it. This kind of thing is causing us great damage right now. And it is sending shockwaves through this international system.”

Now, that as about something Donald Trump said in the campaign. But it touches on the reaction that has been to this executive order. That’s the world that is out there now.

And I just wonder, as we see a new president in action here, what efforts has he or anybody else in the administration taken in specific to deal with what is now being called a Muslim ban overseas? That’s just the reality of the way things are.

What anticipatory action was taken or what action is being taken now?

PRIEBUS: Well, today, for example, the president has a call with the -- with -- with -- with leadership in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and other countries around world. And I’m sure this topic may come up.

But the truth is, though, John, we have to protect Americans first. These are countries that harbor and train terrorists. These are countries that we want to know who is coming and going in and out of to prevent calamities from happening in this country.

We’re not willing to be wrong on this subject. President Trump is not willing to take chances on this subject. He was elected president in many respects because people knew that he was going to be tough on immigration from countries that harbor terrorists. And I can’t imagine too many people out there watching this right now think it’s unreasonable to ask a few more questions from someone traveling in and out of Libya and Yemen before being let loose in the United States. And that’s all this is.

DICKERSON: Yes, let’s move on to Russia.

I guess the question is, it doesn’t seem like the administration did anything to kind of soften the blow of something it believes strongly in.

Let’s ask about Russia here.

PRIEBUS: There is no reason to soften the blow. You need to pull the Band-Aid off, John, and start the process of protecting this country from another San Bernardino, which, by the way, was a person that did have a valid K-1 visa, which was a spousal visa, came into the country, and then ended up committing a horrific crime in Southern California.

DICKERSON: And the husband was a U.S. citizen, right?

PRIEBUS: I would think -- I would think -- but she was on a K-1 visa, on a spousal visa.

But, again -- but that goes to your first question.

DICKERSON: From which country? From one of the seven countries?


PRIEBUS: Listen -- the -- the -- well, then maybe you’re right. Maybe we can expand the countries.


DICKERSON: So, you want to expand the countries? Will that be coming?

PRIEBUS: Just like the two people in Kentucky that were planning an attack in Kentucky. And the -- President Obama suspended that program for six months.


PRIEBUS: The point -- In 2011.

The point is, though, valid visas are great. But it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be subjected to further questioning.


PRIEBUS: That’s all I’m saying.

DICKERSON: I was just asking on the diplomacy question. Let’s do diplomacy on Russia for a second. The president talked to President Vladimir Putin. Did any -- any conversation about Russian efforts to meddle in the last election?

PRIEBUS: I’m not going to get into the contents line by line, John, on a secure call in the Oval Office.

What I will tell you is that it was a positive call. It was a call where President Putin and President Trump talked about working together, number one, to eradicate ice ISIS and terrorism, to work together in resolving problems around the world, including Syria.

There was nothing that was not positive about the call. It was an initial call. It was more of a congratulatory call. And it was exactly as the readout yesterday that came from our press shop said it was.

And I think, in the end, people should be encouraged by the fact that we’re starting off on a decent footing with leaders around the world, including President Putin.

DICKERSON: So, I understand that means no sanctions were discussed either.

Let me ask you a question about the border wall. There was some confusion this week about how it might be paid for. There was some talk about a 20 percent import tax. The response to that from both the left and right is that that would essentially pass the cost onto American consumers.

Can you straighten that out for us?

PRIEBUS: Yes, I can straighten it out.

There is no final conclusion on exactly how this wall is going to be paid for by the Mexican government. It can either be through a tax on goods coming across the border. It be through tax reform and a formula on import and export taxes and credits.

It could be on drug cartels. And it could be on people that are coming here illegally and paying fines. Or it could be all of the above. There is a buffet of options that we have in order to pay for this wall. We need to pay for the wall. We will build the wall. And it’s going to get done.

And so we’re at the beginning stages of this process. We have been in office now for about seven or eight days. And we have done an incredible amount. And I think that one thing that people can say about President Trump is, he’s following through on his promises.

And I don’t think people should be surprised that he’s doing it. I am kind of surprised that people are surprised that he’s actually conducting himself exactly the way that he said he would, by being a man of action and protecting Americans.

DICKERSON: Well, I think we’re -- he has done a lot. People are just trying to figure out what it all means and get it all straight.

Mr. Priebus, we appreciate your being with us. Thanks so much.

PRIEBUS: Thank you, John.

DICKERSON: Joining us now in the studio is Arizona Senator John McCain.

Welcome, Senator.

What is your reaction to President Trump’s travel ban?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: That it is a confused process, which the good news is that it’s only got to do with a pause.

The bad news is that, obviously, this process and these conclusions were not vetted. There are so many questions that -- for example, it didn’t filter down to our customs people who can come in, who can’t.

Is a green card holder, as was originally interpreted, who is legally in this country, can that person be barred from coming into the country?

I talked with General Petraeus last night. He’s very concerned about the special visas for those interpreters whose lives are literally in danger as we speak, that they would not be allowed to come into our country.

What about the Iraqi pilots that are training right now in Tucson, Arizona, learning to fly the F-16? And there will be more coming in.

So, there is so much confusion out there. And published reports are that neither the Department of Homeland Security or the Justice Department or others were consulted about this before this decision was made.

Finally, lumping Iraq with Iran, right now, we have several thousand Americans who are fighting in Iraq against ISIS alongside Iraqi men and women. The battle of Mosul has taken an enormous toll on the Iraqi military.

Is Iraq the same as Iran is? Of course not. So, it’s been a very confusing process. I’m glad that it’s a pause. But, for us to -- we have got to understand the ramifications of this kind of action.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the international ramifications.

Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, said not only did this have to do with the seven countries, but this was a message, this is the big signal in what America first means.

How do you think the rest of the world interprets this as a sign of what Donald Trump wants to do with his presidency?

MCCAIN: Well, I think you saw the reaction of the prime minister who just had a very -- of England -- who just had a very successful visit here and the European nations.

That’s another thing that should have been done, of course, is to alert our friends and allies what we were doing, because we will expect them to cooperate, because people are leaving from these various places, particularly in Europe.

So, I think the effect will probably, in some areas, give ISIS some more propaganda. But I’m very concerned about our effect on the Iraqis right now.

The dominant influence in Iraq today is not the United States of America. It’s Iran. So, what will the Iraqi parliament do? If we’re talking about the fight against extremists and ISIS, the battle of Mosul is going on as we speak. And we certainly don’t need some impediment to succeeding in driving the ISIS -- ISIS out of Mosul.

DICKERSON: Let me switch to Russia and ask you.

Chief of Staff Priebus said Americans should be encouraged by the hour-long phone call yesterday. Were you encouraged?

MCCAIN: I think phone calls are fine.

I think that we have to understand Vladimir Putin for what he is. He has taken Crimea. He is dismembering Ukraine. He used his precision weapons from Russian airplanes to bomb hospitals in Aleppo. That used to qualify as a war crime.

And his ambitions obviously of destabilizing other nations is very clear, not to mention the attempt to affect America’s election. I believe that peace through strength is the answer. And I’m glad that President Trump has committed to rebuilding our military. That’s one of our first priorities if we’re going to deal on a equal basis with Vladimir Putin.

DICKERSON: Is there a signal that President Trump should send, that the U.S. military should send, that the U.S. government should send to Russia? Donald Trump has sent encouraging signs. Is there another kind of sign do you think they should send?

MCCAIN: Sure. Give lethal defensive weapons to the Ukrainians, absolutely. That’s one of the first things. Increase the training and equipping.

Tell our Baltic friends who are scared to death right now there will be a permanent American presence in those countries. And some of that, to give some credit to the Obama administration, was begun there. It has got to be a clear signal of support. And then we have to counter Russian propaganda, which is succeeding, particularly with Russian-speaking inhabitants of the Baltics in particular.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you. On the question of water-boarding, the president twice said last week that, although he supports torture and he says the intelligence agents have told him it works, that General Mattis, his secretary of defense, has said no, and that he’s going to trust him.

So, is the issue done for you in terms of...

MCCAIN: I hope, I pray that it’s done.

I appreciate General Mattis’ comment, and especially General Mattis’ comment about what it does to the people who commit the torture. That is an aspect of this that we probably haven’t examined as much as we should.

DICKERSON: More broadly, do you find hope in that? You have some differences with President Trump, but that he is saying, I have given the secretary of state -- excuse me -- the secretary of defense the power to overrule me? Do you see that more broadly as a positive sign for President Trump?

MCCAIN: I think the national security team around President Trump is very impressive.

And I couldn’t -- I think you couldn’t ask for a better one, whether it be General Kelly. General Flynn is great, General Mattis and the ones they’re bringing on board on their team.

I am worried about the National Security Council. Who are the members of it and who are the permanent members? The appointment of Mr. Bannon is something which a radical departure from any National Security Council in history.

Remember Karl Rove, when he sat in on one, and Axelrod, when he was supposed -- look, that is -- and the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been diminished, I understand, with this reorganization. One person who is indispensable would be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in my view.

So, it’s of concern, this -- quote -- “reorganization.”

DICKERSON: All right, Senator McCain, we’re going to have to leave it there. Thanks so much.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

DICKERSON: And we will be back in a minute.


DICKERSON: We turn now to Democratic Representative Keith Ellison, who joins us from Minneapolis.

Congressman, the president’s defenders would say that, after the Iranian hostage crisis, Jimmy Carter asked Iranian students to report to immigration offices. During the Obama administration, the State Department paused Iraqi refugee processing because of terrorism concerns, so that what Donald Trump is doing here, it may be bigger, but it’s in keeping with what previous presidents have done.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: You know what? We have never had a religious-based ban before.

And they can’t deny that this is a Muslim ban. It is a Muslim ban. On the campaign trail, he said he wanted a Muslim ban. He said on national television that there would be other religious groups that would receive priority. This is a Muslim ban.

Rudy Giuliani, who helped him write it, said that they started out with the intention of a Muslim ban, and then they sort of languaged it up so to try to avoid that label.

But it is a religiously based ban, which is something that our -- our Constitution says Congress shall make no law establishing a religion or abridge the free exercise thereof. This is a violation of equal protection. It’s a religiously based ban.

If they can ban Muslims, why can’t they ban Mormons, why can’t they ban Seventh-day Adventists, why can’t move into ethnic groups?

DICKERSON: Congressman, but, in this case, they have named countries which were named on lists already by the Obama administration.

And if it were a Muslim ban, why wouldn’t they ban Pakistan and Indonesia and Turkey and Egypt? None of those countries are affected.

ELLISON: Well, according to Reince Priebus, they’re working on it, right? That’s what I heard him just tell you, that they might just add more.

But the fact is, is that terrorism, a horrible scourge on the planet, comes from all kinds of places, some where the majority of the population is Muslim, some not. And it even comes from within our country.

And the fact is that we cannot make a religious-based distinction. We have to go based on the evidence that we find that people are actually engaged in.

And let me just tell you, when you try to ban refugees, these folks go through an 18-to-24-month vetting as it is. The fact is, is that Syrian -- if you talk about banning Syrians, about three-quarters of those folks are women and children. A full third of them are kids under 12 years old.

Now, as the world is watching children, Syrian children being -- dying in war, he is saying those children have no place of refuge in America. And I find that un-American.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question, Congressman. You’re running to be the head of the Democratic National Committee.


DICKERSON: You are going to be in these debates with President Trump.

And I want to ask you something about the -- the Anti-Defamation League has looked at comments you made in 2010, and said they’re disqualifying for you to be head of the DNC.

What’s your response? And then what’s your response to that?

ELLISON: Let me tell you...

DICKERSON: The comments were about the U.S. favoring Israel over Muslim countries.

ELLISON: Let me say this. Now, let me just tell you this.

The fact is, is that we are -- I’m on this morning to talk about a Muslim ban, not clip tapes and smears that the right wing is shooting at me.

The fact is, is that we -- this morning, the president of the United States has issued executive orders to try to punish cities that give sanctuary to people who are undocumented and allow their -- their police forces to work on behalf of the people of that city. He has issued a religiously based ban. He has -- I mean, and so let’s keep the focus on where the focus is.

DICKERSON: Congressman, we are going to have to leave it there, I’m afraid.

ELLISON: All right. Thank you, sir.

DICKERSON: OK, all right. I’m sorry. We have run out of time.

Thanks so much, Congressman.

ELLISON: No problem.

DICKERSON: And we will be back in a moment.


DICKERSON: And, in other news, one U.S. serviceman was killed and three others injured in a raid on an al Qaeda headquarters in Yemen overnight. The Pentagon estimates that 14 al Qaeda terrorists were killed in the operation.

We will be right back.


DICKERSON: And we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including our political panel.

Stay with us.


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

Joining us now for some political analysis, Molly Ball covers politics for “The Atlantic.” We welcome back Peter Baker to “The New York Times” White House beat. He’s been out on assignment in Israel. Jamelle Bouie writes for Slate and is also the -- a CBS News political analyst. And radio host Hugh Hewitt, who has a new book out, “The Fourth Way: A Conservative Playbook for a Lasting GOP Majority.”

Welcome to all of you.

Peter, I want to start with you. You’ve covered a lot of White Houses. Give me your assessment of the rollout of this ban and how it’s been received.

PETER BAKER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, obviously, it hasn’t been rolled out with great efficiency in the sense that people don’t know what to make of it. They don’t understand the interpretation. The White House says one thing. DHS says another.

You know, it’s -- it’s -- that may be what the president wants. He may want to create, you know, this sense of -- of -- of drama and action because it looks like he’s doing a big thing. They did not choose to come out and say, this is a narrow thing, which is what we’ve heard a little bit this morning when you were interviewing Reince Priebus. Only 200 people affected so far. And they could have said that from the beginning. Look, guys, we’re taking a narrowly tailored approach in order to -- to create a safer environment. But, overall, it’s not going to affect most people. They didn’t choose that. They chose to make it seem like a big thing. And it became a big thing.


Jamelle, it turns out that -- that President Trump is doing exactly what candidate Trump said he would do.

JAMELLE BOUIE, CBS NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: That’s precisely right. President Trump promised that he would bring additional scrutiny, extreme vetting to -- to Muslim immigrants and to refugees. And although the administration now says this is a narrowly tailored measure, they’ve sold it as a broad measure. It was interpreted and seen as a broad measure. The story suggested it was a broad measure. And it is in keeping with the president’s rhetoric during the campaign. So if anyone was surprised by this, I don’t think they should have been surprised. It’s been very clear from the beginning that President Trump intends to carry out his campaign promises. And, sure, the problem, of course, is that some of these campaign promises are extremely unpopular as evidence by the mass demonstrations that happened against this yesterday.

DICKERSON: Hugh, there are been a series of different arguments against this. One, the demonstrations, Reince Priebus said, but, wait, this is an 80 percent issue --


DICKERSON: As if to say, the public loves it, so that’s all that you need to know.

But conservatives have said, wait, this is an executive overreach. This is stepping on what Congress should do. On the diplomatic front they’re -- John McCain said, you know, it doesn’t look like there was any outreach or preparing the way. Reince Priebus said, well, we -- we didn’t want to tip a hand. But this was a story in the press for -- for a week, so it wasn’t like this was a surprise. Where do you come down on this?

HEWITT: I think it is in keeping with a ten day campaign to frame President Trump’s rollout. A man of action, keeping his campaign commitments, as was just said. I agree with everything that’s been said. I do think the press reaction is somewhat hysterical. David French has written this morning in “The National Review” that there are two broad waves that the 50,000 number is actually the average of the first 15 years, from 2001 to 2015 of the refugees we admitted to the United States. President Obama increased it significantly last year. So I believe that -- you put it in the box with the Mexico City policy, withdrawal from TPP, the meeting with Prime Minister May. He had a very good, defining ten days. And this does put a cap on his extreme vetting. He’s keeping his campaign commitments.

DICKERSON: Molly, he’s keeping his campaign commitments, but there was -- the Department of Homeland Security, as Peter said, had some confusion. They didn’t get the order until Friday. The press wasn’t briefed. And that’s not just about our prerogatives. Obviously the people in whose name this action is taking place weren’t given a kind of briefing of the kind we’re expected to in a White House. So Hugh is exactly right, a lot of points on the board, but is there a cost to the rush?

MOLLY BALL, “THE ATLANTIC”: Well, the points on the board so far are largely symbolic, right? The pulling out of TPP, we weren’t in it anyway and everybody already assumed it was dead. The building of the wall is more a statement of intent then anything that is actually -- you know, no ground has been broken and there’s a lot of hoops to jump through before you actually get that done. So I agree that it was very definitional a lot of the actions that he took. But President Trump is going to be judged on whether he actually gets results, weather he actually makes America great again. And, you know, as he said in his inaugural, this is the hour of action and I think he’s doing a very good job of creating the spectacle of action, making it look as if he’s doing a lot of things. The hysterical reaction is also part of the point.


BALL: He is a provocative figure. He loves it when he can make everybody’s heads explode by doing things in a disruptive manner. So to the -- to that extent, you know, this is an image that he likes, but he’s going to be judged eventually on one -- when the rubber hits the road. You know the -- the -- Obamacare is another example. The executive order to roll back Obamacare, largely symbolic. When Congress actually has to do anything about it, can they actually get it done. And so that’s what’s going to count.

BOUIE: The --

DICKERSON: Go ahead. Were you going to jump in there?

BOUIE: Yes, and I -- I think it’s -- the point about the image is really key. And I think what President Trump may understand is that the kind of -- let’s say it’s hysterical backlash to actions like this can actually harden to substantive political opposition. So you’re already seeing among Democratic activists, among liberal activists two beliefs. One, that the Trump administration is directly targeting religious and possibly racial minorities through his actions. And, two, that any Democrat that cooperates with the Trump administration, not just on these things, but on anything, increasingly the attitude is, we don’t want that Democrat in office.

HEWITT: Can I add to that, though, the things he didn’t do. He did not revoke DACA, right? He did not say to the dreamers, you are leaving, which is contra factual (ph) what -- what that opinion would be. He also did not lift the sanctions on Russia. And Senator McCain brought that forward. And -- and it goes back 180 years to Palmerston (ph) saying, we have no internal allies, we have no perpetual enemies, we have interests. He hadn’t done anything inconsistent with that.

I would just say the one thing he did that would send off an alarm bill would be to include Iraq on that list. And I agree with Senator McCain about that. Too much is at stake there to lump Iraq and Iran. We were talking off air about that. But he’s not targeting Muslims. He did not send out the dreamers. And so there is a moderation underneath all of these actions, which is, I think, admirable and very politically useful and it will be reinforced by the Supreme Court nomination this week.

BAKER: Well, what’s -- what’s interesting about it is he’s not selling it as moderation.

HEWITT: Right.

BAKER: And he’s not trying to build collisions behind it. He’s not trying to say --


BAKER: Hey, my actions here are reasonable and we should all be able to get behind them and I’m going to reach out to Chuck Schumer, I’m going to reach out to the Congress. By the way, on the Republican side, the reason he might have slowed down on Russian sanctions is because Senator McCain and Senator McConnell, almost as importantly said, wait a second, we’re not for that and we have legislation that would clearly pass with a bipartisan majority that would legislate the sanctions. That suddenly made things look a little different. So he’s not been trying to build the collisions behind anything that would look moderate or at least sell it as moderate.

HEWITT: Just -- may I just add yet. Nixon goes to China in ‘72, not in ‘69.


HEWITT: And so if you’re going to do an immigration overhaul to realign American politics, you’re tough at the start and you get softer as you go on.

BOUIE: Well, his approval rating is hovering around 36 to 40 percent. And so these -- this kind of action has a real political cost that I think the Trump administration has to take seriously.

DICKERSON: Well, and, Molly, it’s also -- it’s not just domestic political cost. Let’s imagine that he’s OK. There are now responses overseas and -- and the chief of staff can argue this and make their case on American television, but lots of opinions are going to be formed and actions taken overseas. And they don’t seem -- there doesn’t seem to be any action from this White House, at least based on what Reince Priebus said, to get kind of anybody on board with this overseas.

BALL: Well, that’s right. I mean generally the sort of traditional thing -- and, of course, Trump doesn’t want to do things the traditional way. But traditionally the beginning of a presidency is your opportunity to show that you’re governing, you know, in a broad way, in a way that is trying to reach out and build collisions with everyone. This administration is taking a very different approach, taking a sharply divisive approach, and that applies internationally as well. And we don’t know yet what the consequences are going to be of all of the provocative actions he has already taken diplomatically.

The dust-up with Mexico this week. We don’t know where that’s going to end. We don’t know if, you know, the master negotiator is going to succeed somehow in making Mexico pay for the wall that currently the American taxpayer is on the hook for, or is that going to end in a diplomatic crisis, a trade war, the actually rolling back of NAFTA, which would have a lot of consequences for American consumers. So in a lot of ways, despite this week’s symbolism, it is too early to tell what the concrete consequences are going to be. And when this president is going to be tested is when he has to face a unexpected crisis, when he has to face the actions of another government that have consequences for Americans.


BAKER: Here’s something to watch for this week. King Abdullah of Jordan, a very close American ally, is coming here to Washington. He’s rushing here, in effect, I think, to argue the president, don’t put their embassy in Jerusalem because it will enflame the Arab world. He doesn’t have an appointment with the president. He’s just flying here on the assumption that he can possibly get to see somebody, like the president, or at least somebody around him. The president doesn’t want to see an Arab leader, like King Abdullah, before he sees Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, who’s coming next month. So this is a really interesting time for King Abdullah to be here, the leader of an Arab country, who’s not on the list. His -- his -- his -- his people can still come here under the immigration order that was issued, but he obviously represents a larger community. And it will be an interesting thing to see how they manage that. DICKERSON: We’re going to stay overseas here for a minute before we get to the -- the smorgasbord of -- of domestics.

Hugh, I want to -- let’s play something. This is in the press conference with Theresa May, who had a meeting with President Trump this week. The other head of state activity. And here’s something she said about the conversation they had.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. President, I think you said -- you confirmed that you’re a hundred percent behind NATO. But we’re also discuss the importance of NATO continuing to insure it is as equipped to fight terrorism and cyber warfare as it is to fight more conventional forms of war.


DICKERSON: Hugh, I want to get your thoughts. How did you read that? It seems like what the prime minister was doing is saying, this is what you said behind closed doors and you may not say it out loud now, but you’re committed to NATO.

HEWITT: That’s exactly how I read that. I thought that the prime minister, who’s remarkable, and the president had a great press conference. It was actually the high point of his first 10 days were those 10 minutes, especially the humor with the British reporter who was very aggressive about his past statements. It was a very good meeting with a very strong ally going forward. I think the best part of a very strong day, ten days, which had its bumps, obviously, but that -- she was doing exactly, saying, we’re going to stand together against Russia. We’re going to do this and you’re on the record now with me (ph).

DICKERSON: Right. Which recognizes a little bit of concern about his public segments about NATO.


DICKERSON: Jamelle, let’s talk about the -- the president went to go meet with Republicans in Philadelphia. It seems like everybody’s -- they’re all very much on the same team.

BOUIE: That’s right. You see this with the sort of yesterday, frankly, the reaction to the immigration order. Very few Republicans. And I want to say two Republicans spoke out criticizing sort of directly in terms that Democrats were even using to criticize the order. And it seems, especially with the speaker, Paul Ryan, that they’re very much -- they’re simpatico. They’re moving in the same direction.

I think the political question here is, again, everyone’s behaving right now as if President Trump does have this broad level of political support. But that -- that isn’t actually reflected in what we’re seeing from approval numbers, from favorability numbers, from the actions of Democratic lawmakers. And so at some point someone’s going to realize that perhaps within the GOP that their president may not be as popular as he’s projecting and then what happens?

BALL: Well, but he’s still very popular with Republican primary voters.

BOUIE: That’s true.

BALL: And that is who most Republicans are scared of. And they -- and so they want to -- there is not actually that much unit behind the scenes, but they are terrified of seeming not to be on the team. So they are trying to make it look like they are all for the same things, when actually they don’t know how or what he’s going to want to do with healthcare. They’re waiting for the signal from President Trump to figure out their approach. Various things have been floated. But they all know that Trump could tweet something or say something tomorrow that would send them scrambling in the other direction because their voters want them on the president’s team, want Trump to be the leader.

So, if Trump wants to do something that is not something Republicans have been for, for example, when he talked about infrastructure at that retreat, you could have heard a pin drop. There was not applause for that line.

DICKERSON: There was no applause, yes.

BALL: If Trump persists in seeking what has historically been a Democratic priority, spending lots of government money to -- to build things, it will be tough for Republicans to figure out whether to scramble in line behind that. So I think there’s a lot of uncertainty and, frankly, a lot of fear in the Republican caucus.

DICKERSON: We’re going to keep talking about this, this emerging relationship with -- with Congress. So, we’ll take a break for a moment, but we’ll be right back with more from our panel.


DICKERSON: And we’re back with our panel.

Hugh, I want to get your sense of this emerging relationship between President Trump, who really did look like he owned the room when he went to that visit with Republicans, no more of the splits that we may have seen during the convention -- during the campaign. But on the other hand, as Molly says, there are these issues of infrastructure spending, defense spending, what he wants to do on drug prices, which don’t -- aren’t traditionally conservative ideas. How do you think that accommodation gets worked out between Republican leaders and the president?

HEWITT: The Article I Republicans in Congress have got some differences, but they are not going to make a war out of it. If he delivers Judge Gorsuch, Judge Pryor, Judge Hardiman this week to the Supreme Court, the Senate will rally to him. The Democrats are obstructing his nominations in -- in the Senate in a way that -- that Republicans did not do. And that unifies as well to President Obama when he assumed office. There is a great deal of unanimity. On infrastructure. I’m one of those infrastructure Republicans. I -- I want to give him one-tenth of the money that President Obama got and I think he’ll do a hundred times as much with it. But there is a splitting there. And so there’s a big deal in the offing where Paul Ryan gets entitlement reform and President Trump gets his infrastructure spending and 350 ship Navy (ph).

BALL: Well, and you saw the -- with the trade also, that also came out at the Republican retreat. There was this big -- and -- and I’m enough of a nerd that I love it when we have a day’s debate over the intricacies of -- of border tax policy. But the Republicans in Congress want this border adjustment tax idea, which is different than the kind of tariff that Trump has always said he wants to do. Trump has publically said he thinks the border adjustment tax is too complicated. He doesn’t like it. you have Republicans, including some in the White House, trying to fudge it and pretend that they’re the same thing. They’re not the same thing. And it’s not at all clear who is going to get their way on this, whether the Republicans, who are pretty strongly convicted about fiscal conservatism --


BALL: A lot of theme feel like that’s what got them elected, whether they’ll go along if Trump persists in seeking his way.

DICKERSON: That’s right. And any deal that includes entitlement reform would be something that Donald Trump has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to do. So it would represent a pretty significant climb down of both what the president has said and what his -- and what his advisors have said.

Jamelle, the Democrats tried to be smart and sneak in there and just offer their own infrastructure bill and say, well, here you go, Mr. President, go ahead and sign it. What do you think they’ll -- how do you think that plays out?

BOUIE: You know, I -- I don’t know. I see the strategy there to say for Democrats -- for Democrats to say, look, we are putting forth a serious plan. We are putting forth something that will actually improve the nation’s infrastructure. The plan Trump has proposed consists largely of sort of tax incentives to private business to -- to build infrastructure where Democrats are pushing a more straightforward kind of stimulus style. The federal government will actually actively fund infrastructure programs.

But I think that approach is in direct tension with what seems to be, and I said this earlier, the rising mood among Democratic voters, among some segment of Democratic politicians, certainly among activists. I don’t think it was -- I think it’s noteworthy that yesterday the governors who immediately jumped down to say that oppose this, we’re going to do whatever we can to stop it, are Terry McAuliffe from Virginia, Andrew Cuomo in New York, not because they have presidential ambitions, but because these are moderate Democrats, right? These are not lefty firebrands. And they seem to sense the mood among Democratic voters that even this sort of, here’s our better plan, we’d love to work with you and Trump approach is unacceptable.

DICKERSON: Interesting also Donald Trump met with union leaders this week, many -- some of whom supported Hillary Clinton. But he said to them, I’ve got some roads and bridges I want to sell you -- let’s let you build them. And I -- that was an effort to reach into the Democratic base.

Peter, let me ask you about the Affordable Care Act. Donald Trump has said he wants something to replace the Affordable Care Act that is cheaper, covers everyone, is better and won’t touch entitlements.

BAKER: Right.

DICKERSON: That’s a tall order. And there were some -- if you talk to any -- a lot of Republicans feel like that’s a tall order. There was some audiotape of them behind the scenes questioning.

BAKER: Right.

DICKERSON: How nervous is -- how does this get worked out I mean between what Donald Trump wants and what’s realistic?

BAKER: Yes, the problem for President Trump and the Republics is, he has adopted President Obama’s promises, but not President Obama’s means to get there. And the question is, can you find different means? Had they said, look, we don’t think it’s right for the government to be so involved in healthcare. It shouldn’t be the government’s responsibility to make sure all these people have health coverage. That would be at least, you know, philosophically consistent idea that you could then design a program around.

What he’s said is, nobody’s going to lose their coverage. And to make sure that nobody loses their coverage, nobody loses the benefits of this program without the costs of it is a really hard thing to square and that’s why you heard on those tapes from Philadelphia this week a lot of gnashing of teeth among Republicans because they feel like they’re going to be left holding the bag for promises that they didn’t make.

DICKERSON: How do you think this get worked out, Hugh?

HEWITT: They -- they have to get Tom Price confirmed because he is actually the brain on what you replace Obamacare with. There is a fight within the caucus over repeal now and replace later, and I am with the repeal it now and give it a dead date so that it is dead by say September of -- two years from now, September, 18 months forward. And then come up with a replacement. Do that in the reconciliation. Get it done.

I’ll say this, John, the most interesting thing -- Steve Bannon is the Valerie Jarrett of this White House. Now the other big three -- Reince Priebus did a fine job today defending the president aggressively. Kellyanne is everywhere. And Jared Kushner is always in the conversation. But adding Steve Bannon to the NSC has obviously upset Senator McCain, tells me that there may be a first among equals on policy. And I have not heard him say a word about Obamacare. And I try and follow all of this. I don’t think they know what they want yet. And that leaves the congressional waiting for Price. We’re waiting for Dr. Price. The Senate needs to get him confirmed.

DICKERSON: Molly, let me ask you this question about -- and it -- it links in this idea of Steve Bannon, who has the role -- what their roles are in the White House and who plays what role. This week in a meet with congressional leaders, President Trump said that he believed that 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast in the election and that that’s why he lost the popular vote. In talking about this, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that is a belief that he holds. Usually press secretaries rush to defend the belief itself, not to put it off over here. What did you make of that episode and where are we on this question? Donald Trump has subsequently launched a -- now an investigation into voter fraud and the election?

BALL: Well, on the one hand, it seems consistent with the Donald Trump that I covered for a year and a half of the presidential campaign. This is a man who believes a lot of things that aren’t true. He believes in conspiracy theories. He believes that Ted Cruz’s dad might have had something to do with the Kennedy assassination. So there are a lot of exotic beliefs that all of our evidence is, Donald Trump sincerely holds and can’t be dissuaded from by all of the evidence and all of the facts. Now that he is president, that has consequences. Now that he is president, when someone points out that the thing that he believes isn’t true, he can order an investigation into it. And the question is, is this investigation something that his staff has sort of done to placate him, or is it something that he felt pushed into, forced into by all of the criticism of his statement and that will have actual consequences in terms of legislation that could be passed to make it harder to vote. So that’s what happened the last time Republicans got obsessed with voter fraud.

DICKERSON: Peter, on Hugh’s question -- on Hugh’s point about Steve Bannon. In White Houses usually they say, you’ve got to have somebody who can go in and tell the president “no.”

BAKER: Right.

DICKERSON: And the president has an interesting standard of proof. On the one hand, all the intelligent agencies may tell him something about Russia. He doesn’t want to believe it. But he’s willing to believe thin material on the question of whether three to five influenced. Is there somebody who can come in and say “no” to the president?

BAKER: That’s a really good question. One we haven’t seen an answer to yet. I would actually sort of put Jared Kushner as the Valarie Jarrett in the sense that Valerie was seen as kind of family to the Obamas in a way that, you know, Jared Kushner obviously literally is family. But, either way, both of them have really interesting roles to play. Bannon clearly seems to be the chief ideologist. He’s created a philosophy behind both domestic and foreign policy, which is very interesting. Jared Kushner, though, seems to have his hand in so many different things. When the meeting had his meeting canceled with the president of Mexico, it was Jared Kushner who arranged the phone call between them. He seemed to have his hand in a lot of different pots. He’s the man to go to for a lot of people to get things done. Does that mean he can go to his father-in-law and say, I don’t know, you know, this is not right, I don’t know, but if there’s anyone, it’s probably him.

DICKERSON: And, Jamelle, there may -- there’s an argument for, nobody should go and tell the president on this specific case “no” because he’s now launched an investigation of voter irregularities and that could lead to a whole bunch -- a lot of legislation that Republicans want.

BOUIE: Right. I think in that same press conference, the press secretary said that voter identification might be one way to deal with this. And there are a lot of voting rights advocates who are very much afraid of this investigation because they feel, especially if Senator Jeff Sessions is confirmed as attorney general, it will become kind of the entry point for a crackdown on voting rights.

I want to get to Bannon real quick though, because I think the point about chief ideologist is very important. One thing that I still feel is a little under examined about Bannon is his relationship and his role as the head of Breitbart prior to joining the Trump campaign. And if you look at what the administration has done over this past week, from the immigration order, from the announcement that the White House website would start publicized crimes of undocumented immigrants, from the -- this seems minor, but the memorial -- the Holocaust Memorial statement which strangely did not mention Jewish- Americans or anti-Semitism. These are all hallmarks of the kind of aggressive, populist, white national rhetoric you see on websites like Breitbart and so the --

HEWITT: But on the big -- on the big issues --

BOUIE: What exactly -- what exactly is Bannon’s role here? And what -- what kind of beliefs is he injecting into the mainstream?

DICKERSON: OK. I’m afraid we’re going to have to leave it there, Hugh.

HEWITT: And the big issue is General Mattis. OK, we’ll come back to it.

DICKERSON: OK. All right, I appreciate it.

That’s all we have time for. Thanks very much to our panel. And we’ll be right back.


DICKERSON: That’s it for us today. Thanks for watching FACE THE NATION. 

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