JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE NATION: It is a new year with a new Congress and a new administration, but now the hard part, governing.
Capitol Hill was a hub of activity this week, as Republicans started their push to repeal Obamacare and quickly confirm president- elect Trump’s Cabinet, but some high-level lobbying to save the health bill and debate about how to replace it imperiled the quick start.
And a bleak assessment from the nation’s top spy agencies about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions to help elect Mr. Trump has chilled relations between the intelligence community and the president-elect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: There is a difference between skepticism and disparagement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Just how damaging is the split?
We will kick off the new year with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, plus the incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and two top intelligence experts, former CIA Director/Ambassador James Woolsey and former acting CIA Director Mike Morell.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker will tell us how Democrats plan to fight Republican efforts.
And we will have plenty of political analysis too.
It is all ahead on FACE THE NATION.
JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning, and welcome to Face The Nation. I’m John Dickerson. We’re here on this very chilly morning with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is making his first appearance on a Sunday show since the election. Welcome, Mr. Leader.
MITCH MCCONNELL: Good morning.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let’s start with the Russian efforts to meddle in the US election. You’ve strongly condemned those efforts. Why do you think Donald Trump has not?
MITCH MCCONNELL: Oh, look. I think the best way to look at the president-elect’s attitude toward the Russians is to look at the incoming national security leaders. General Mattis. General Kelly. Congressman Pompeo. Senator Coats. None-- none of these are people who are in any way conflicted about the view that the Russians are-- are not our friends, and are a big problem. I don’t think it’s all that unusual for a new president to want to get along with the Russians. I remember George W. Bush having the same hope. My suspicion is these hopes will be dashed pretty quickly. The Russians are clearly a big adversary, and they demonstrated it by trying to mess around in our election.
JOHN DICKERSON: Do you think, given the findings of the intelligence agencies, the most recent briefing on Friday to President-Elect Trump, that-- that he should say, sort of, “I agree now with what you’ve found”? That there’s any damage that’s been done by his skepticism of these findings and-- with the intelligence agencies?
MITCH MCCONNELL: Look, I’m not going to critique his performance. What I will tell you is that I accept what the intelligence community has unanimously agreed to. That they were trying to affect the election. That they, naively in my view, thought that somehow they’d be advantaged if Donald Trump were to be elected. I think that was a bad bet. And that it really, in the end, made no difference. That there’s no evidence whatsoever that it changed the outcome of the election.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me switch to Obamacare– why-- why do you think naïve-- they were naïve in wanting Donald Trump –
MITCH MCCONNELL: Well—
JOHN DICKERSON: -- to be elected?
MITCH MCCONNELL: Look at the national security team. I mean, these are clear-eyed people who understand fully that the Russians are not our friends.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me switch to Obamacare. There’s a question of, you want to repeal it. You’re going to repeal it. What’s the-- when’s the replacement part going to get there?
MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, soon. I mean, you have to both repeal and replace. And I think there-- there ought not to be a great gap between the first step and the second. Look-- look, you know, Bill Clinton said it’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen. This is Bill Clinton on Obamacare last year. Eight out of ten Americans either want it replaced entirely, or significantly changed. I don’t think anybody ought to think that the status quo’s acceptable. If Hillary Clinton had been elected—
JOHN DICKERSON: Right—
MITCH MCCONNELL: -- they’d be revisiting Obamacare. It is in a full-scale meltdown. And so no action is not an option.
JOHN DICKERSON: So eight in ten want it repealed. But also, only two in ten want it just repealed. In other words, repeal without replace--
MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, I said—
JOHN DICKERSON: -- on top of –
MITCH MCCONNELL: -- eight in ten either want it repealed or significantly changed.
JOHN DICKERSON: Right.
MITCH MCCONNELL: That’s eight out of ten.
JOHN DICKERSON: I guess the gap is where the-- the debate is. And-- and Senator Rand Paul said he spoke to the president-elect, and quote-- quoting now from Rand Paul, he said, “He,” meaning Mr. Trump, “fully supports my plan to replace Obamacare the same day we repeal it. The time to act is now.” You talked about a gap. This is the same day. How does that --
MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, I haven’t heard Senator Paul’s plan to replace it. But we-- we will be replacing it rapidly after repealing it.
JOHN DICKERSON: So can you give me a sense of what rapidly means? Are we talking--
MITCH MCCONNELL: Very quickly.
JOHN DICKERSON: Months? Days?
MITCH MCCONNELL: Quickly.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. But it’s going to be repealed by the end of this week, you think?
MITCH MCCONNELL: The first step will be taken in the Senate by the end of this week, yes. And then it’ll go over to the House.
JOHN DICKERSON: On replacing it, if I have—if I’m covered now as part of Obamacare, am I going to be covered by the replacement?
MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, what you need to understand is that there are 25 million Americans who aren’t covered now. If the idea behind Obamacare was to get everyone covered, that’s one of the many failures. In addition to premiums going up, co-payments going up, deductibles going up. And many Americans who actually did get insurance when they did not have it before, have really bad insurance that they have to pay for and the deductibles are so high that it’s really not worth much to them. So it is chaotic. The status quo is simply unacceptable. And at the risk of being repetitious, if Hillary Clinton had been elected, we’d be revisiting Obamacare.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Let me move on to nominees. The Office of Government Ethics has asked the Senate to slow down the confirmation process. The executive director wrote, “I’m not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominees had completed the ethics review process.” Will you slow down the process?
MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, we’re—we’re still in the process of getting the papers in. I think at least five of the nominees have all of their papers in. You know, what this is about, John, the Democrats are really frustrated that they lost the election. I was in Senator Schumer’s position eight years ago. I know how it feels when you’re coming into a new situation, that the other guys won the election. What did we do? We confirmed seven cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn’t like most of them either. But he won the election. So all of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate. I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that. We need to have the president’s national security team in place on day one. And papers are still coming in. And so I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to get up to seven nominees on day one, just like we did eight years ago.
JOHN DICKERSON: Should it be a rule that the papers come in and then you have the hearing?
MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, on Hillary Clinton, for example, we had a hearing before her FBI report was completed. The-- the real thing is the vote on the floor. And we want to have all the records in-- all the papers completed before they’re actually confirmed on the Senate floor.
JOHN DICKERSON: So nothing’s slowing down? Nothing’s slowing down in terms of--
MITCH MCCONNELL: No—
JOHN DICKERSON: -- the confirmation hearings?
MITCH MCCONNELL: -- I don’t think so. We want to treat -- they should want to treat President-Elect Trump just like we treated President-Elect Obama.
JOHN DICKERSON: Wouldn’t their response be, “There’s a qualitative difference between the Obama nominees and the Trump nominees?” You’ve got people here who have these big private industry successes, but also a lot of complexity.
MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, I could have made that same argument eight years ago! (LAUGHS)
JOHN DICKERSON: Were they as complex then?
MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, they were wildly liberal people.
JOHN DICKERSON: Well, that’s ideology, though.
MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, but what’s the difference? I mean (LAUGHS), we found most of his cabinet appointments just as disturbing as they would find President Trump’s. And that’s what happens when you lose the election.
JOHN DICKERSON: I guess what Democrats would say is that these are—this is—these are ethical questions. And they would say, and I bet they would quote you back from your—from you book about the Senate, which is that “the Senate”, as you say, “there’s a value to slow and steady deliberation”.
MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, most of the time that’s true. But if you’ve got a brand new administration coming into office you want to have, at the very least, a national security team in place on day one. And I’m hopeful and optimistic that that will be the case this time as well.
JOHN DICKERSON: And what’s your relationship like with Chuck Schumer on working out these issues?
MITCH MCCONNELL: Oh, it’s—it’s fine. I mean, I like Chuck. We don’t have a problem. He has a job to do, and I have a job to do. And I think it-- he’s got a little harder job to do right now, in trying to convince people we ought to slow down and impede the new administration getting up and running.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, thank you so much--
MITCH MCCONNELL: Thank you.
JOHN DICKERSON: -- for being with us.
JOHN DICKERSON: Joining us now from the Republican National Committee headquarters here in Washington, it’s the incoming White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus. You’re still chairman of the party. So Mr. Chairman, what exactly does incoming President-elect Donald Trump believe about Russian efforts to meddle in the election?
REINCE PRIEBUS: Well, I think he believes many of the things that we all believe, which is, you know, Russia and other countries have been hacking and attempting to attack American institutions for years, that Russia’s attack on American elections has been going back for over 50 years. So this is nothing new. And the fact that this particular hack was perpetrated by Russian entities is something that no one is disputing. But I think one of the issues here, John, and one of the issues that isn’t really being covered is that we have one of the two biggest political parties in the world, the D.N.C., that sat there like a sitting duck, allowed these entities into their computer systems. By their own admission, they said that they lacked the training and that they didn’t respond to the F.B.I. when they called.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me—I understand, but he’ll be president of the United States, not the head of the D.N.C. So on this question of-- you say no one is--
REINCE PRIEBUS: Yeah, but--
JOHN DICKERSON: --disputing this, but let me just -- over the last couple of months, Donald Trump has resolutely disputed the findings of the intelligence agencies. And he’s gone beyond that. He’s not just been skeptical. He has compared the findings on this question of Russian hacking to the biggest blunder the intelligence agencies have made on Iraq. He said it was politically motivated. He said it was a part of a witch hunt. He has been solid in disputing it. So it seems like you’re saying he changed his mind.
REINCE PRIEBUS: No, I think you’re just conflating two different things. I mean, on one hand, you have the fact that Russia, China, other countries cyberattack the United States all the time. But on the other hand, you also have a President Obama who two weeks before he leaves office after he knew about these things had been going on since 2015 decides to then put out the biggest sanctions that we’ve ever put out on Russia in this regard in the history of America. When the Chinese hacked the O.P.M., we didn’t hear anything that happened after that.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me--
REINCE PRIEBUS: So there’s a political angle here. Wait a second. There’s a political angle here, John, that is clearly politically motivated to discredit the victory of President-elect Trump. I think that-- that is absolutely indisputable. The reason why the D.N.C. piece matters is that the reason this particular hack was so large wasn’t necessarily because the effort was so great by the Russians. It was that it was so easy. I mean, John Podesta’s password into his system, do you know what his password was? Password. The fact that you had Donna Brazile admitting that the D.N.C. lacked
JOHN DICKERSON: Mr. Chairman—
REINCE PRIEBUS: The training which allowed all of this material to be released is incredible. It matters.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me go back to Donald Trump, who will be leader of the free world and will have to work with the intelligence agencies. Director Clapper said that there is a difference between skepticism and disparagement. So he has categorized the remarks that Donald Trump has made as disparaging of those intelligence agencies. So when Donald Trump met with the intelligence briefers on Friday, did he apologize for that disparagement?
REINCE PRIEBUS: The first thing that Donald Trump did after that meeting in his statement was to commend the men and women of the intelligence community. The very first thing he did. It was the very first thing in his statement. But let me just go back for a second, John. When President Obama put out the sanctions against Russia a week ago, our first reaction was, “We need to get a briefing on this issue which--what created this immediate reaction of President Obama?” And we went into action to get the briefing as quickly as possible on Tuesday that we thought the president had that created the reaction that took place a few days earlier. So when President-elect Trump moved forward through the weekend and on Tuesday and we attempted to get that briefing, we since learned that the actual report wouldn’t be done until Wednesday. Hang on. I’m getting to your point. So it turned out that the report wasn’t completed until Wednesday. And we weren’t going to get the briefing until Friday. That tweet that you’re referring to and Mr. Clapper responded to
JOHN DICKERSON: Mr.—
REINCE PRIEBUS: with the intelligence briefing in quotes was a frustrating situation in that we couldn’t even get a briefing on what caused the reaction of Obama because the report wasn’t done until Wednesday. It’s not disparagement. It’s a matter of, “Hey, can I get the information here?”
JOHN DICKERSON: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, it’s disparagement when you compare the findings of the intelligence agencies to their worst blunder in modern history. When you compare it to--
REINCE PRIEBUS: There was no--
JOHN DICKERSON: When you--
REINCE PRIEBUS: Hang on, John. There was no-- (OVERTALK)
REINCE PRIEBUS: You’re wrong. There was no--
JOHN DICKERSON: Mr. Chairman, did you not--
REINCE PRIEBUS: There was no--
JOHN DICKERSON: --compare them to the Iraq war? Did the Trump transition compare them to the Iraq war blunder?
REINCE PRIEBUS: I didn’t compare them to the Iraq--
JOHN DICKERSON: The transition did.
REINCE PRIEBUS: --war blunder. But we’re not talking about that, John. We’re talking about--
JOHN DICKERSON: Mr. Chairman.
REINCE PRIEBUS: --what created--
JOHN DICKERSON: But you did do that.
REINCE PRIEBUS: What created—the tweet--
JOHN DICKERSON: But the transition did do that.
REINCE PRIEBUS: You can—you can say that all day long. But we’re talking about--
JOHN DICKERSON: But that’s because it’s the truth, Mr. Chairman.
REINCE PRIEBUS: --is the fact that President Obama— President Obama put out sanctions on the Thursday or the Wednesday, whatever that day was.
JOHN DICKERSON: Okay, let me ask you about another issue--
REINCE PRIEBUS: We attempted to get the briefing on that particular issue--
JOHN DICKERSON: Mr. Chairman.
REINCE PRIEBUS: --on that Tuesday. And we found out that the report wasn’t even completed until Wednesday.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me--
REINCE PRIEBUS: So the intelligence briefing in quotes was in response to that situation.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me move on to Obamacare, which is coming up. Donald Trump would like to see repeal and replace happen at the same time. Is that right?
REINCE PRIEBUS: You know, look. I’m not going to get into exactly where this is going to go. But I will tell you that it would be ideal if we could do it all in one big action. But look. It may take time to get all the elements of the replace in place. Might have to use reconciliation for part of it, which is a 50-vote majority. There are other parts of the replacement, such as allowing people and companies across state lines, allowing for open pricing, allowing for health care pooling, that may take 60 votes. So the full replacement may take more time than an instantaneous--
JOHN DICKERSON: So it sounds like he would--
REINCE PRIEBUS: --action. But our intent is to make it happen as quickly as possible, to repeal and the full replace as fast as we can.
JOHN DICKERSON: Senator Rand Paul said something that sounded like Donald Trump would not support what you’ve just said, which is more like a repeal and delay. So it sounds like there’s some wiggle room there now from the president-elect in terms of the pacing of this.
REINCE PRIEBUS: No. I don’t think so at all. I mean, if you can get 60 votes, you know, within a few weeks and get all of those elements of Rand Paul’s bill into place, that would be great. But I think we all understand that things sometimes do take some time. And the full repeal and replace may take a little bit more time. But it’s going to happen as quickly as possible.
JOHN DICKERSON: Quick question on replace. Donald Trump has campaigned on the idea of not touching Medicare. That’ll be his position still?
REINCE PRIEBUS: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think President-elect Trump wants to meddle with Medicare or Social Security. He made a promise in the campaign that that was something that he didn’t want to do. But what he wants to do is grow the economy, help shore up Medicare and Social Security for future generations. And if we can get three to five, 6% growth, we’ll do that. And we’ll explode the economy, and bring jobs back, and make trade more fair across the world, lower rates for everyone, and I think hopefully get businesses going again so people can put more money in their pocket.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Chairman Reince Priebus, incoming White House chief of staff, thanks so much. And we’ll back in a minute with Democratic--
REINCE PRIEBUS: You bet.
JOHN DICKERSON: --Senator Cory Booker. Stay with us.
JOHN DICKERSON: And we’re back with a key voice in the Democratic Party, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. Welcome, senator. I’m going start with this question of confirmations. It does not sound like the Senate majority leader is going to slow the pace of the confirmations.
CORY BOOKER: No, it’s frustrating to me because I’ve only been down here for three years. But I think people forget that when you say something, it doesn’t disappear. Just in 2009, Mitch McConnell was a person saying, “Hey, we should get all the ethics information in before we do the hearings.” I just was reviewing his letter this morning. And the problem is, as I think you pointed out, is these-- these people that Donald Trump has put up as his appointments to his cabinet are not like President Obama’s people. These are people who are billionaires and have vast holdings, vast wealth. And the American people have a right to know if they’re going to be entering into those offices with conflicts of interest. And so I don’t want to see a secretary of state who is not just doing America’s business but also has holdings or outcomes in Chinese companies or in Russian companies. So this is, to me, astounding that we would actually have hearings, and not know the fullness of people’s potential conflicts of interest, and be able to ask them about them.
JOHN DICKERSON: What about Senator McConnell’s point that you want to get the national security team up and running, get them in there because it’s a dangerous world and the new president has to have his team in place?
CORY BOOKER: Well, again, this-- this is not a lot to ask, that people give transparency. It’s frustrating enough to me that we have a president of the United States who is the chief executive officer and the commander-in-chief who could potentially have conflicts with Russia and others that won’t release their tax returns for us to see them. But it’s another thing when we have a tradition in this country -- we literally have a law, Ethics in Government Act -- that puts specific requirements on transparency that are not being supported by Mitch McConnell right now. This is not a Republican or Democrat thing. This is about national security and knowing the conflicts of people that are going to have to deal with other countries and negotiate with them.
JOHN DICKERSON: So what are Democrats going to do about it?
CORY BOOKER: Well, again, Chuck Schumer is-- is in negotiations right now trying not to slow down the process, but create a substantive process that allows for the-- complete transparency. You have the independent Office of Government Ethics saying the same thing, writing a very dramatic letter. “This violates 40 years of tradition.” So we’re going to continue to push. And we’ve already seen the Republican Party overreach. The House GOP trying to gut their independent ethics oversight. And enough people spoke out about it that they finally backed up. This has got to be one of those cases that we don’t put a billionaire in a place who has financial interests in other countries who could really undermine what’s best for this country.
JOHN DICKERSON: You’re on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rex Tillerson, former Exxon head, is going to be appearing before the committee next week. What do you want to hear from him?
CORY BOOKER: Well, I think he’s got a lot to talk about. I-- I sat down with him this week and—and reviewed to him a lot of areas from -- he was with Exxon Mobile. Climate change is real, and the science of climate change is real. It-- it was nice to hear him address that, and I think he should address that in a public forum. His relationship with-- Putin is very important, especially given the kind of things that Donald Trump has been saying. And there are other issues, on hot spots in our country around global-- global issues, human rights issues, and more. So we should have a thorough vetting of the secretary of state candidate. And I’m looking forward to doing that.
JOHN DICKERSON: What do you make of Donald Trump’s argument that-- that Rex Tillerson has a relationship with-- Vladimir Putin and that’s great? “You need to have a relationship with your adversaries.” That’s a version of what Barack Obama said when he was criticized for saying, “I’ll sit down with-- with any adversary because that’s the—that’s the thing to do. Not shut them off.”
CORY BOOKER: Well, first of all, again, it goes to, number one, the transparency of his business relationships in Russia. And we want to make sure we get to the bottom of that. But, again, this is an adversary that we want to know that he’s going to be able to represent the United States of America and our interests and not be compromised by his relationship -- especially that right now we have serious hot spots in places like Syria and places like the Ukraine.
JOHN DICKERSON: Is there anything in his character that would make you think that he would be--
CORY BOOKER: No. Again, I-- I actually affirm some of the things Mitch McConnell said. Not that I’m going to vote for Rex Tillerson. But a president-- we elected him, he should have his team. But the American public must make sure that there are no serious conflicts of interest that are going to undermine us overall. Those should come out in a hearing.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the Affordable Care Act. Republicans are going to repeal it, it looks like, in some—in some form. Democrats I’ve talked to seem pretty happy about the fact that Republicans are in a bit of a fix. They think they’re going to get a political penalty for repealing and not replacing it. You have talked a lot about working with the other side. Any chance Democrats are going to help Republicans with their replacement? There are a lot of Democrats who have criticisms about the Affordable Care Act.
CORY BOOKER: You know, this is what frustrates me – is often these are positioned in the way of politics. The-- the effort to repeal Obamacare right now without a plan to replace it, this shouldn’t be about politics. This is about real people in America who will be hurt immediately. You have the American Medical Association, who was against Obamacare, saying, “Don’t repeal this without having a replacement plan.” You have doctors’ associations, nurses’ associations, hospital associations all screaming, even some fellow Republicans, “What are you trying to do? You’re going to repeal this law, which is going to plunge many Americans into health crisis.” This is akin to shoving someone off a cliff and as they’re falling down saying, “Don’t worry. We’re going to figure this out before you get to the bottom.” And so my plan is very simple. And I think my fellow Democrats agree with me. And hopefully some Republicans who have been speaking out against not doing it this way. Is we’re going to do everything we can to stop them. If they have a plan, put up your plan. Show the American people. Donald Trump says, “we’re going to have health care and it’s going to be terrific”. Well, show me what that is.
JOHN DICKERSON: You know, John Boehner was criticized once for saying, “measure Republicans by what they keep Barack Obama from doing.” Is that the new way to measure Democrats, from what they keep Donald Trump from doing?
CORY BOOKER: You know, I go to my home city of Newark, New Jersey. There are people there that don’t care about politics. They’re trying to make their lives better. What Mitch McConnell has done and what I have watched even from the time when I was mayor of my city, when he came into a position when America was in a financial freefall, there was crisis all over this country, he announced to America that the number one priority he had was keeping President Obama from getting a second term. That is irresponsible. And that is dangerous. My number one responsibility is finding ways to make a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans. And what the Republicans are doing in just the first days of Congress by repealing Planned Parenthood, by putting the health care system in crisis, that is reckless and dangerous. I’m going to fight that.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. And we’ve run out of time. Thank you, senator. And we’ll be back in a moment.
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DICKERSON: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but, for most of you, we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION.
DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I’m John Dickerson.
We are joined by two men who each ran the Central Intelligence Agency. Mike Morell served as the acting CIA director in the Obama administration and advised Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Ambassador James Woolsey was CIA director in the Clinton administration and served as an advisor to President-elect Trump’s campaign until last week.
Ambassador Woolsey, I want to start with you.
You advised the Trump campaign. For months Mr. Trump was very skeptical about this idea that Russia meddled in the election. Reince Priebus said today that Mr. Trump believes what everybody believes, that the Russians tried to meddle in the election. What do you make of that change of mind?
AMB. JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, first of all, let me say, I worked a bit on the campaign, but I was not an advisor on the transition. Because they were not coming to me for any advice, so I took my name off the list. I didn’t want to fly under false colors.
I think that the evolution of his views is really quite clear. I think he started out with one set of views and he’s -- they’ve evolved as he’s learned more. I think a lot of people were enlightened by that 25 page memo that the intelligence committee put out. And it made it a lot clearer how involved the Russians have been.
I’ve been saying for some weeks that disinfomatzia (ph), disinformation, otherwise known as lying, is a more or less permanent fixture of the Russian propaganda system, and that is something that they have now transitioned over into using it -- or adopting that technique with -- with cyber, not just with publications and so forth, as they have for the last 50, 60, 70 years.
DICKERSON: Mike, how -- how should people understand the level of certainty here, I mean, with this report as they think about how to interpret this and -- and Donald Trump has been skeptical. So how tight is the -- are the findings here?
MICHAEL MORELL, FORMER ACTING CIA DIRECTOR: When you -- when you read the report, it seems thin in evidence, right? It’s -- it’s mostly the assessment, here’s what we think. The evidence isn’t there because it’s classified. So the declassified report has taken out the evidence. What caught my attention was the intelligence community saying they have high confidence in these judgments.
MORELL: And we don’t attach that label to just any judgment. To have high confidence, you have to have multiple sources. You have to have direct evidence. More than a circumstantial case. So I think the case that the Russians meddled in the election broadly, not just hacking the DNC, but broadly in all the ways Jim talked about, is solid.
DICKERSON: Ambassador Woolsey, let me ask you this question. You mentioned Donald Trump’s evolution on this issue. When -- he’s been -- when it was first announced that the -- that there were these findings he didn’t just -- he wasn’t just skeptical about the information, but he made a broader claim about the intelligence agencies. His transition put out a statement saying, remember this is the crowd that got weapons of mass destruction wrong in Iraq. Donald Trump has said that in his view is the worst blunder in American history. So he has tied the findings to what he thinks is the worst blunder in American history.
We’ve heard in reporting that that has not been well received. Is that right? What’s the fallout from that larger claim he seems to be making about the worthiness of the work that the intelligence agencies do?
WOOLSEY: Well, it’s -- it’s a complex set of issues. I think probably the -- the press and the -- much of the public does think that the weapons of mass destruction characterization was -- was a -- very wrong. The problem is that it’s an old Soviet adjet (ph) prop phrase and it covers chemical, bacteriological and nuclear. And there were chemical and bacteriological weapons in Iraq. Quite -- quite clear. But there was not was nuclear. And people really need to get into that in order to explain thoroughly what their -- what their views are and I don’t think we -- we haven’t seen that yet from -- from Donald Trump.
MORELL: So -- so, John, the president-elect has done two things, right? He’s -- he’s questioned the capabilities of the intelligence community publicly. But the other thing he’s done, which is actually more damaging, I think, is, he’s questioned the intelligence community’s integrity by implying that their assessment was politically motivated. And that’s -- that’s a gut punch to people who go to work every day, nonpartisan, apolitical, trying to call it like they see it. So there -- there are two different issues here. The president elect is wrong about the capabilities question. The CIA, for example, looks at every single judgment they make a year later and they say, did we get it right or did we get it wrong? And the batting average is very high. It looks like a free throw percentage in basketball. And on the intelligence question, he’s just as wrong. This is the most apolitical institution I know. They actually is -- is not a political bone in its body. So he has both of those points wrong and -- and it has -- it has undermined morale in the intelligence community and its CIA. And that’s a big issue.
WOOLSEY: I think you’re going to find that the 140 character rule of tweets, that basically governed a lot of the behavior during the campaign, is looked at differently as one moves into governance. One can conduct and Donald Trump showed it successfully, a campaign for president on largely 140 character statements. But you can’t really govern that way. And he’s -- he’s in the middle of several transitions. I think they’re tending in a very positive direction. But we’ll have to see.
DICKERSON: There have been a lot of tweets this week and there’s --
WOOLSEY: Well --
DICKERSON: Doesn’t show -- there’s no signs of slowing.
WOOLSEY: He’s not governing yet.
DICKERSON: Mike, let me ask you, what’s the practical effect of the -- of the morale and the challenging -- give -- help people explain how this can create challenges for the new president.
MORELL: So the first is, I think, that -- that if -- if the men and women of the CIA don’t believe a president is listening to what they have to say, to the facts they put on the table and the fact based analysis that they put on the table, their interest in working there is going to go way down. And if this continues -- and I think the president-elect took a -- took an important first step in the comments he made after the Friday briefing in a positive direction, but -- but if his disparagement continues, people will walk, and that will -- that will do serious damage to the CIA and the intelligence community.
The other practical effect it has is, we tell people who are spying for us, who are actually putting their life on the line to spy for us, that their information is going to the highest levels of our government and is being used to make the world a better place. So if -- if we can’t tell spies that, if they see that on TV, they’re not going to spy for us. So I think there are significant effects here if the disparagement continues.
WOOLSEY: I -- go ahead.
DICKERSON: Well, I was going to say, one of the things that Donald Trump’s supporters say, this is a part of his kind of run and gun, disruptive, chaotic approach that was so successful in the campaign and that’s just the way he is.
WOOLSEY: I don’t think that’s the way he is generally. I’ve been in a couple of meetings with him and he’s reasonable. He asks good questions. He makes smart comments. His overall conduct in small meetings, at least in my limited experience, is considerably different than when he’s standing up in a stadium before 40,000 or 50,000 of my fellow Oklahomans and drawing all sorts of cheers. It’s his stick (ph) that he performs the way he does before audiences and so forth.
I think he’s -- you’re going to see growth and evolution on a number of these issues over the course of the next several weeks, and I think I would advise people not to hold him to a detailed support of everything he’s said on Twitter for the -- during the campaign.
DICKERSON: All right, well, we’ll have to leave it there.
Gentlemen, thank you so much.
And we’ll be right back with our panel.
DICKERSON: It’s time now for our politics panel with Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of “USA Today,” Ed O’Keeffe, who covers politics for “The Washington Post.” We also welcome back “Washington Times” columnist and Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce, and Ezra Klein, who is the founder and editor in chief of Vox.com.
Tammy, I want to start with you on this question of Russia. Donald Trump, according to what Mr. Priebus said today, seems to have had a bit of an evolution from his previous skepticism. Priebus now says he believes what everybody else does, the Russian’s hacked into this election. What do you make of that?
TAMMY BRUCE, “WASHINGTON TIMES”: Well, I think they hacked into the DNC. They didn’t hack into the election. And I think that what we also know, of course, is that -- and this is what’s interesting -- is that you’ve got James Clapper, who was advising, of course, Donald Trump, who just, in 2013, when we talk about how seriously we can take this and why the American people want to know more about what happened and why the president-elect wants to know more, James Clapper lied about the spying on every single American to Congress, was asked specifically about whether or not there was a program where Americans were being spied on. He said no. Still, years later, they’re saying, well, he said it was the least untruthful thing he could tell Congress.
So the American people, for the last several years, have looked at a system that hasn’t take them seriously and has lied to them. Of course, coupled with, of course, the Iraq situation, but ultimately right now I think that the American people want America to be first. Of course we want a cabinet that’s going to take Russia seriously. He’s put together one that will.
And also it seems like there’s an interest in either having a new Cold War or that there’s an effort to gin up the problems when, in fact, even Hillary Clinton, one of the first things Hillary and Obama did was embrace the Russians, wanted a reset. So this is not unusual.
But what -- I think there’s a difference between the narrative that the election was hacked, verses, and I’ll remind you, the first thing that was released when the Podesta e-mails were hacked was an oppo (ph) dump on Trump. It was the Democrats opposition research on Donald Trump. So the entire notion that this was about to help Donald Trump, I think, is belied by that especially.
DICKERSON: I think, Susan, there are two things. There’s -- there’s the question of the Russians in the election, but then there’s been Donald Trump’s reaction to this, which has now changed, it appears, although we’re still -- that’s still evolving. What do you make of that? Is this an effort to get this behind them? Is it -- what’s your take?
SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”: Well, I think Reince Priebus has -- and Donald Trump have pretty grudgingly gotten to the point where all of the intelligence agencies, Republicans in Congress and Democrats are, which is that Russia made this unprecedented attempt to affect our election. This report that came out this week, the unclassified report, is incredible and extraordinary and deserves to be read.
But this doesn’t settle it because the issue now is, what do you do about it? And you know that people like Senator McCain and maybe even Senator McConnell want there to be repercussions for Russia for this action against an American democracy. And the question is, what will happen? What will the Trump administration be willing to do? What steps will it be willing to take to punish Russia for what it did?
DICKERSON: And, Ed, the president-elect tweeted that, why not be friends with Russia, so it doesn’t look like there’s a -- a -- while there’s an acknowledgment that they hacked, there doesn’t seem to be the kind of language we’re hearing, as Susan said, from the majority leader, who strongly condemned it, and John McCain and so forth.
ED O’KEEFE, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Yes, he -- he’s going to have himself a pretty interesting time with his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill, who clearly want to keep this going. There’s going to be another hearing on Tuesday that looks into Russia, into cyber security and other things. And the -- and the issue isn’t going away.
But I thought it was -- it was important, as you pointed out, that President Obama came into office and said, I want to talk to the Pakistanis and talk to the Iranians and talk to the Cubans and those things were done. Look, if there’s a way to -- to find a way to work with Putin, great, but certainly Republicans up on Capitol Hill are going to continue to express a lot of concern.
DICKERSON: Otherwise the majority leader said, well, he’s going to be disabused of any warm feelings he may have about working with Russians this time around.
EZRA KLEIN, VOX.COM: That -- that was fascinating that his position --
KLEIN: On this was, what’s going to happen is Donald Trump is simply confused about Russia coming in. I do want to note something that’s interesting. Reince Priebus came on and he said, what happened here, the real story is how easy it was to hack the Democratic National Committee. There’s actually something to that, by the way. But currently the judgment of the intelligence agencies is both the Republican National Committee and the DNC were hacked. Russia kept the data from the RNC and released the data from the DNC.
And it’s worth noting that that means there is a lot of information sitting there in Russian servers and putting aside the question of the election for a second, we do have to think as a country in a world where cyber war and cyber espionage are going to become much more common, how we are going to manage these kinds of things going forward, particularly given that, from what we know, Russia is probably sitting on a (INAUDIBLE) of other embarrassing information that could be used for other purposes.
BRUCE: If I could just add something that was happening simultaneously as this. In 2015, we spent over 350,000 taxpayer dollars funding an organization in Israel called One Voice, which we learned, once we gave them those grants, they immediately began to build up an infrastructure to oppose Netanyahu in Israel. This is not unknown. It was widely reported in the summer of last year that it was an Obama aligned group, people that worked with his campaign, that were the consultants to that effort to dislodge Netanyahu, an active campaign in Israel. This was happening in ‘15, reported in the summer of ‘16. So it involved the same things we’re accusing the Russians of, trolling on the Internet, but on the ground boots, developing a database, actively working against Netanyahu, this government.
“The Washington Post” noted that this was gross interference with the only democracy in the Middle East. I would asset that Obama was limited in what he could say about Russia because he was doing exactly the same thing to Israel. And also when it comes to the issue about not wanting to touch the Russians, we were in the middle of the Syrian negotiations while this was occurring as well and the desire to not interrupt that. Just like his red line disappeared for Syria, because he didn’t want to upset the nuke deal in Iran.
DICKERSON: But for an incoming president, now Barack Obama is in the rear-view mirror, we’ve got an incoming president. Now --
BRUCE: Let’s hope Barack Obama’s in the rear-view mirror.
DICKERSON: The -- I think the -- unless -- unless you’ve got some information I don’t, in two weeks --
O’KEEFE: You know something we don’t?
DICKERSON: We’re going to have a new president. But Donald Trump does seem to have a much more, you know, open relationship and thinking about Russia than we’ve seen before and certainly than his Republican colleagues.
BRUCE: Well, I don’t think so. He hasn’t sat down with Medvedev and said, you know, I’m going to be more flexible when I get in. And nothing’s been transmitted to Vladimir.
DICKERSON: Those words overheard to (INAUDIBLE).
BRUCE: So -- I’m sorry.
DICKERSON: As Obama was overheard to have said before the re- election.
BRUCE: As -- exactly. So, forgive me.
BRUCE: I mean there have been -- clearly there’s an interest in having a relationship as that is noted with a variety of nations thinking that it will be beneficial. And Russia, of course, they certainly have taken over the Middle East at this point. We’ve got an interest in dealing with them in that regard, at least getting our interests back in that region.
DICKERSON: Let’s switch to Obamacare.
Ed, where do things stand right now as you see it in terms of the repeal?
O’KEEFE: The process begins Wednesday. Mark your calendars. There’s going to be votes all day long on the Senate floor on a piece of legislation that essentially gives instructions to get the ball rolling. And you’re going to see up or down votes on a host of what we call poison pill amendments, basically won’t pass but allow either party to say things about each other.
Look, repeal is underway, the replace remains to be seen. There is no concrete plan, no one plan from the Republican Party yet to do something. There have been plans that have been constructed in the bowels of the Rayburn Building or over in the Dirksen Building, but they have not seen the light of day and they certainly won’t find unanimous agreement among Republicans about how exactly this should be tackled.
It’s going to be an incredible lift for the Republican Party alone to figure this out, let alone to get any Democrats to go along with them. And I think you’re going to start to see Democrats do a far better job of defending this law now that it might be taken away. Defending it when their guy is in office and when they put it in place is one thing, but when a government starts to try to take something away from people, it’s much easier to sell. You’ve seen Democrats do it when it comes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. They’ll add Obamacare to the list going into the midterms next year.
DICKERSON: All right, we set the table there. We’ll come back and talk about Obamacare in a moment, but we’ve got to take a little short break. So, stick with us and we’ll be back with more from our panel.
DICKERSON: We’re back now with our panel. Ezra, Ed mentioned that Democrats are going to be robust in their pushing back against this Republican effort. What’s their line of argument?
KLEIN: So I interviewed President Obama about this, this week, actually. We had a long discussion about Obamacare. And his challenge to the Republicans is simply, show me the plan that get more people covered at a lower cost than mine. And I was thinking about that when I listened to Senator McConnell on the show this morning. The thing Republicans are about to run into is what they dislike about Obamacare and what is unpopular about Obamacare are different. So Senator McConnell came out and he said, look, Obamacare does not actually cover everyone, which is true. He said the deductibles in Obamacare are very high, which is also true.
Now, I’ve actually read the Republican replacement plans floating around. Every single one of them, to my knowledge, has lower levels of coverage than Obamacare currently does and significantly higher deductibles. So the thing that McConnell and others are going to run into, and the thing that Democrats are going be making their central line of attack is, yes, everybody would love to see Obamacare replaced with something even more terrific, but if the replacement actually leads to 5 million or 7 million or 12 million people losing insurance and deductibles at the $9,000, $10,000 range, are people actually going to like that better? I think not.
DICKERSON: Susan, I was also interested that the majority leader said there will be a gap between repeal and replace. There seems to be at some of his Republicans -- I mean, obviously, Senator Paul has said they’ve got to happen on the same day. What do you -- how does that gap get managed?
PAGE: Yes, there’s going to be a gap, right, because they’ve -- they’ve been repealing it more than -- they’ve tried to repeal it more than 60 times and now finally it’s going to go through. That’s going to happen. But they don’t have a consensus on a replacement. And -- and, in fact, I think the Trump team has set up a very difficult situation for themselves, which is to say they don’t think anybody who has insurance now should lose it. They’ve said that they want to keep the preexisting conditions provisions, which is a very difficult thing to guarantee.
We here Republicans talking not about universal coverage, which is what Obamacare talked about. They talk about universal access, which is something different and presents a whole new set of challenges when it comes to healthcare policy. So there’s going to be a gap. How long? Rapidly? Very quickly? We don’t really know how long that gap is going to be. But I would -- I -- don’t you think it’s going to be years before they have a replace?
KLEIN: I don’t think they know if they can ever get a replacement for -- I mean the hard part is not coming up with a plan. The hard part is actually getting the House and the Senate to agree on a plan. It’s getting into legislative language that can actually work.
This is very difficult stuff and I just want to say, on repeal and delay, if there is that gap, the Obamacare marketplaces will collapse in the interim. It doesn’t just hold steady. The insurers will leave because they don’t know what will happen next. So the Republicans will be not just managing the status quo, but managing a collapsing status quo.
DICKERSON: Tammy, what -- why is -- why -- why not have a little bit of a delay, get ducks in a row and all of that?
BRUCE: Yes, look, I don’t -- it’s already collapsing. We’re speaking --
KLEIN: No, it really isn’t, actually.
BRUCE: We’re speaking -- we’ve got -- when it comes to the exchanges, but beyond that, you’ve got -- you don’t need to have a delay at all. And we’re -- we’re looking at this. This is the other problem is, when government is involved. Suddenly this is only a conversation about the government replacing its own government plan, as opposed to maybe like, as I’m seeing some people are suggesting, an Uber type model. Putting the marketplace back in charge. But, ultimately, there’s a lot of things, and we’ve discussed, executive orders. There’s things you can do to make a difference here, and that includes and from “USA Today” Heather Higgins (ph) op-ed, discussing having Congress have skin in the game, removing their waiver, but more importantly, making it possible through one line of language in the bill that allows insurance companies to provide policies that don’t adhere to the Obamacare standards so you can get a catastrophic policy and also tort reform.
But, I mean, you’ve got to have a dynamic where the insurance companies can once again go about their business without being constrained by the ridiculousness of having men pay for birth control that they -- that they don’t want, and as a result also risk pools in the states, grant block funds to states for risk pools for people who have preexisting conditions.
DICKERSON: But that will take time to man it.
BRUCE: Well, but -- but at the same time, these were not complaints with -- you can do these in sections that happen very quickly at the time.
DICKERSON: Won’t it --
BRUCE: But just, when it comes to not just legislation, but also executive orders, that Trump can do within a week.
DICKERSON: What do you think, Susan, searching the confirmation question, will happen? I mean you -- Democrats want to delay them. It doesn’t look like the majority leader is going to delay them.
PAGE: You know, he’s not going to delay the hearings to wait for the -- the financial paperwork to be done, but I thought he made some news in your interview when he said that the Senate will not vote on -- on confirming nominees on the floor unless their -- unless and until their Office of Government Ethics paperwork is completed. That has been the practice in the past. Ed and I were talking about this in the green room.
PAGE: But it’s not part of a law. There’s nothing that requires them. This was something I think they have not -- they had not committed to previously. So that means that now this is still not a good deal Democrats say because it means that when they’re having those confirmation hearings, they may not know everything that they would want to ask a nominee about if they don’t have all of the paperwork done. But it does mean that at least they won’t be confirmed for their -- for their cabinet office until that work is done.
DICKERSON: Fifteen seconds, Ed. What are the -- who are the -- well, apparently I’m -- I’m told we don’t have time.
O’KEEFE: We’re going it -- Rex Tillerson. Rex Tillerson.
DICKERSON: We’ll have to tune in next week for that question.
Thanks to all of you.
And we’ll be back in a moment.
DICKERSON: That’s it for us today. Thanks for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I’m John Dickerson.
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