JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: auditions for key roles in the Trump administration, and Democrats look for a new way forward.
President-elect Trump and vice president-elect Pence hunkered down this weekend to interview candidates for top positions in their new administration.
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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We’re seeing tremendous talent, people that, as I say, we will make America great again.
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DICKERSON: But will they? Not everyone is so sure. Friday night, Mr. Pence received an unexpected message while attending a performance of the musical “Hamilton.”
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, sir, we are a diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us.
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DICKERSON: We will talk to vice president-elect Pence about that and get an update on Mr. Trump’s Cabinet picks.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is threatening to block some potential nominees, and we will ask him why.
We will also hear from Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, one Democrat trying to reshape his party.
And what are the policy challenges ahead for Mr. Trump and a Republican Congress? We have assembled a panel of experts to explore.
Plus, we will honor our friend, the legendary journalist Gwen Ifill.
It’s all ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I’m John Dickerson. President-elect Trump met yesterday with former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a possible candidate for the job of secretary of state. The two appear to have moved past Romney’s tough criticism during the campaign.
Mr. Trump also met with former CENTCOM Commander James Mattis, who is a candidate for the job of secretary of defense.
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TRUMP: All I can say is, he is the real deal. He is the real deal.
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DICKERSON: We’re joined now by the head of the transition team and vice president-elect Mike Pence.
Mr. Vice President-Elect, I want to start. Are there going to be any announcements today on staffing?
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think that’s yet to be seen, John.
And good to be with you this morning. We’re here at Trump National after a brisk day yesterday.
But I have to tell you, to be able to have the opportunity to help lead this transition effort, to be sitting shoulder to shoulder with our president-elect as he’s talking to men and women of extraordinary backgrounds and capabilities, putting this administration together, building the agenda, being there when he’s talking to leaders around the world, has been deeply inspiring.
And I think every American would be inspired by the leadership that our president-elect has shown from literally hours after this election was called.
DICKERSON: And Mitt Romney as a possible secretary of state, is that right?
PENCE: That’s absolutely right, John.
And I know the president-elect was very grateful that Governor Mitt Romney came here to New Jersey yesterday. We spent the better part of an hour together with him. And then I know that the two of them actually had some private time together.
I would tell you that it was not only a cordial meeting, but also it was a very substantive meeting. And I can say that Governor Romney is under active and serious consideration to serve as secretary of state of the United States.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about some work you have done in the transition since taking it over. You have moved out some lobbyists. And, in keeping with that, Donald Trump told me a couple months ago that he would have no problem with having no lobbyists and no major donors in his administration at all. Do you think he will be able to keep that promise?
PENCE: Well, I think the American people want to see change in Washington, D.C., that there’s been heartbreak and disappointment when it’s over recent years and frankly successive administrations where we have seen -- see an inability for Washington, D.C., to get anything done.
And the president-elect is absolutely determined to build an administration with women and men who bring that fresh perspective and a determination on doing the people’s business and not the business of special interests.
And so, as you know, we made changes as soon as I took over the transition effort. We made changes. We moved lobbyists out of the transition team, and that’s going to continue to be a lodestar.
And I can tell your viewers that the president-elect is determined to move ethics reform in the next year in the Congress of the United States. A lot of people around the country want to see us drain the swamp. They want to see fundamental ethics reform. That’s going to happen starting January the 20th.
DICKERSON: So, just to button that up, so no lobbyists or donors in the administration, as he promised, that’s right?
PENCE: Well, I think what the president-elect has made clear is that we’re going to have people in the administration who are 100 percent focused on serving the American people and moving the Trump agenda forward.
And to sit with him in these interviews that have been taking place over the last week, to sit with him with congressional leaders, as the two of us did a week ago, is to see someone who is completely focused on keeping the promises that he made to the American people.
And I got to tell you, it’s really been inspiring to be standing shoulder to shoulder with our president-elect, even in these few short days since that historic election.
DICKERSON: But that doesn’t quite sound like a yes to me. So it seems like there’s some wiggle room on the no lobbyists and donors, so we will look for some clarity on that to come.
But let me ask you about this question. “The Wall Street Journal” has asked that Mr. Trump liquidate his holdings with his business. Will he?
PENCE: Well, I saw that editorial.
And what I can tell you is that I’m very confident that the president-elect and his extraordinarily talented family are going to work with the best legal minds in this country and create the proper separation from their business enterprise during his duties as president of the United States.
DICKERSON: Should people...
PENCE: To be around him is to be around man who is completely focused on the people’s business. And to get to know his children is to get to know men and women of extraordinary capability who I know he’s confident they can lead the business enterprise while he puts all of his energies, all of his focus in the people’s business.
DICKERSON: Should employees of the Trump businesses be involved at all in the people’s business, in government business, meetings?
PENCE: Well, I think, during this transition, it is very helpful...
DICKERSON: How about during the presidency?
PENCE: ... for the president-elect to -- well, I think, during the presidency, there will be the proper separation.
I can just assure all of your viewers that to be around president-elect Donald Trump now is to be around someone who, while he has built literally one of the most prosperous businesses in the country, he’s a man who is spending all of his energies and all of his focus on that agenda that he campaigned on.
And it’s about bringing personnel together. We will have more extraordinary men and women here in New Jersey today who are under consideration for positions of enormous import. But it’s also about laying out the policies that we’re going to start on day one in this Congress to implement.
And the president-elect has already made the decision in conversations with Republican leaders in the House and Senate that we’re going to lift the extraordinary burden of Obamacare off the backs of the American people and off the backs of American businesses. Repealing Obamacare will be the first priority in a session that will be characterized by tax reform, rebuilding the military, infrastructure, ending illegal immigration, and that’s where we’re focused.
DICKERSON: Here’s the question for a candidate who worked so hard and made such a strong point about draining the swamp, about the Washington culture of self-dealing. You would expect brighter lines in terms of the private business and the presidency.
If a foreign country, for example, does business with the Trump industries, would we expect to see that notified -- with the notification of that? Because you could imagine somebody trying to do business with the Trump family as a way of getting in good with the Trump president.
PENCE: John, what I can assure you and all of your viewers is that all of the laws pertaining to his business dealings and his service as president of the United States will be strictly adhered to.
And he’s set that tone from the very beginning. But the other part is just, you know, I’m very confident that we will operate an administration that is above reproach with regard to all of those issues.
One of the reasons why I believe Donald Trump won a mandate for leadership is because he wasn’t a career politician. He spent an entire lifetime as a builder, creating jobs, building a business enterprise. And the American people said yes to bringing a builder and a business leader into the White House.
We will create the proper legal separation, above reproach, as he goes forward. And I promise you, president-elect Donald Trump is today and president Donald Trump, after January 20, is going to be completely focused on the people’s business and he will leave his business life in the past.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you a policy question.
Senator John McCain is worried about water-boarding. The Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo who is going to be going to the CIA supports Mr. Trump’s position that perhaps water-boarding should come back.
Let’s listen to what Senator McCain said.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don’t give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do or anybody else wants to do. We will not water-board. We will not torture.
MCCAIN: My God, what does it say about America if we’re going to inflict torture on people?
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DICKERSON: What’s your response to that?
PENCE: Well, I have great respect for Senator McCain.
And what I can tell you is, in going forward, as he outlined in that famous speech in Ohio, that a President Donald Trump is going to focus on confronting and defeating radical Islamic terrorism as a threat to this country.
And we’re going to have a president again who will never say what we will never do. I think, in president-elect Donald Trump, you have someone who believes that we shouldn’t be telling the enemy what our tactics or our strategies are.
And I know that, in conversations with some leading Americans about playing roles in our administration, we’re very excited about Congressman Pompeo’s role at the CIA. We’re very excited to see General Mike Flynn stepping into his leadership position.
The team that we assemble, the president-elect assembles at the Department of Defense will all advise him, but the American people should know this is a president who, on day one, January 20, is going to focus on defeating and destroying ISIS at its source and confronting radical Islamic terrorism, so it can no longer threaten our people or inspire violence here in the homeland.
DICKERSON: At the moment, though, water-boarding is something the United States government does not do, so the enemy already knows that water-boarding is not something the United States does.
Is it going to be reassessed by the Trump administration?
PENCE: Well, I think the president-elect made his views on that quite clear during the course of the campaign.
And -- but, as we go forward, what I can tell you is, it’s not going to be about a specific tactic. What I see in these meetings with the president-elect and candidates for our national security and our national defense is someone who is determined to surround himself with men and women of extraordinary background and capability.
We have got real challenges around the world today, John, and the American people should know that president-elect Donald Trump is going to surround himself with men and women who are going to ensure our national defense. We’re going to rebuild our military.
But this is going to be a president that is going to be determined to destroy ISIS and to confront radical Islamic terrorism, so it can no longer threaten our people here at home.
DICKERSON: Finally, Mr. Vice President-Elect, you went to see “Hamilton.” The actors sent a message to you at the end of the show.
And part of it was, “We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your administration will not protect us.”
Why do you think they’re alarmed and anxious?
PENCE: Well, first off, we -- I took my daughter and her cousins to the show Fridaynight.
And John, if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a great show. I’m a history buff, and my hat’s off to the cast and to the extraordinary team that brought “Hamilton” to the public. We really enjoyed being there.
And, yes, I heard the remarks that were made at the end. And, you know, what I can tell you is, I wasn’t offended by what was said. I will leave to others whether it was the appropriate venue to say it.
But I want to assure people who were disappointed in the election result, people who are feeling anxious about this time in the life of our nation that president-elect Donald Trump meant exactly what he said on election night, that he is going to be the president of all the people of the United States of America.
And to see this man who is bringing this energy and this leadership to the process of assembling this team and laying out an agenda to revive our country and strengthen America at home and abroad is to see someone who is not only a great mind, but a great heart. He’s got heart for the American people.
And I just -- I just want to reassure anyone, anyone, including the actor who spoke that night, that president-elect Donald Trump is going to be president of all the people. And I couldn’t be more honored to stand with him.
DICKERSON: Vice president-elect Mike Pence, we will leave it there.
And we will be back in a moment.
DICKERSON: We turn now to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
Senator, welcome back.
Let’s start with the Trump Cabinet or possible Trump Cabinet picks. You have said that you would block maybe Rudy Giuliani or John Bolton if they were put forward for positions in the Trump administration. Why?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I mean, I supported Donald Trump. And one of the reasons I did was that I liked what he had to say about the Iraq War was a mistake. I think that’s an important historical lesson.
It’s not a matter of when he said it or who he said it to. It’s of matter of he understands that the Iraq War was a mistake and regime change was a mistake.
So, I think it would be inconsistent with his campaign theme. I want people that run the State Department who agree with Donald Trump. That’s why I’m trying to help. I’m trying to be helpful here.
And the problem with both Bolton and Giuliani is, they’re unrepentant in their support of the Iraq War. They haven’t learned any of the lessons. And if we don’t learn the lesson of the Iraq War. we’re liable to commit it again.
This is something Hillary Clinton never understood. She said she voted for the Iraq War, but then she thought she was wrong, but then she did the same thing in Libya, the same thing in Syria. And I think regime change in the Middle East hasn’t worked.
And so I think it’s important that we get a -- someone at the head of the State Department that understands what Donald Trump said over and over again, the Iraq War was a mistake.
DICKERSON: Would you include Mitt Romney, who vice president- elect Mike Pence said is under consideration, in that same basket?
PAUL: I’m not sure I would call him unrepentant. I would say that he is somebody who has supported the Iraq War. And I would want to hear more. I think we should ask.
No matter what the stature of the person, we should ask, what are your beliefs? Was the Iraq War a mistake? Are you for regime change? Do you think that toppling Assad in Syria will lead to a better world or a safer world? Do you think toppling Gadhafi in Libya did? Do you think toppling Mubarak? All of these questions should be asked. And they’re important questions. And I will ask that.
As far as reasonability, if I were to rank Romney up there with someone who I think is a reasonable, even keel, vs. a Giuliani or a Bolton, I think Giuliani and Bolton are out there on the extreme. I don’t think they’re very diplomatic. And I think you want the chief diplomat to be diplomatic.
And I have said before Bolton might be better as a secretary of war, but he’s certainly not a diplomat or someone who acts in a diplomatic way or thinks that diplomacy might be an alternative to war.
DICKERSON: You have any of your own candidates you would put forward?
PAUL: I’m afraid I don’t get to pick. I wish I got to pick.
But they have said in the mix, Bob Corker was in the mix. And I also find him to be very reasonable, very knowledgeable with foreign affairs. As head of the Foreign Relations Committee, I think he’s interacted with many of our foreign leaders. And I think that’s what you want, is a reasonable, calming hand at the State Department.
You don’t want someone throwing bombs or advocating regime change. I mean, both Bolton and Giuliani have advocated for regime change in Iran, and that doesn’t sound like diplomacy. That sounds like war.
Have you been contacted by anybody in the Trump orbit to say -- to at least address your concerns, or...
PAUL: Well, we have. We have had conversations with them, nothing public or nothing I care to make public. But we have had conversations expressing -- you know, it’s a very close vote.
There’s 52 Republicans. Some of the people that have been put forward, I think, are not guaranteed to get any Democrat support, so they lose my support and a couple of other Republicans -- many Republicans have come up to me and said, you know what, Bolton is kind of a bomb-thrower. He’s not really sort of this even keel with a world view that we want over there. We want someone a little more rational or reasonable.
And so I think that there are several potential Republican votes against someone like a Bolton, possibly Giuliani. The other thing Giuliani is going to stir up is, it is going to be a hornets nest on all the financial stuff.
DICKERSON: What did you make of vice president-elect Pence’s remarks about water-boarding and torture? It seems like that’s now open for discussion again.
PAUL: Well, you know, the Bush administration said we weren’t going to do it. The Obama administration said we weren’t going to do it. The international community condemns it. I think it is torture.
And while John McCain and I don’t always agree on everything, we have our disagreements a few times, but, on this, I absolutely think John McCain is right. We shouldn’t torture.
And instead of sort of holding this to ourselves and saying -- being ambiguous about it, we should telegraph to the world that we’re better than this and we don’t torture, and this is why we are exceptional as a people. We don’t torture our -- any prisoners.
DICKERSON: You have also been a vocal critic of what the government does to look into its citizens’ business, whether it’s bulk collection of data or wiretapping.
What, given that mind-set, is your view about the elevation of Jeff Sessions to attorney general and Mike Pompeo into the CIA?
PAUL: You know, I am a fierce advocate of privacy and think that you do have a right to privacy and that your records, whether they’re in the possession of the phone company or not, that you still retain a right of privacy in those records.
We all sign privacy agreements every time we do a computer search with a computer search company or with a telephone company. So, I think we do have a right the privacy.
I’m hopeful, but I also know that this president doesn’t necessarily agree with me on -- the next president. And so we will see. I will continue to be an equal opportunity defender of the Bill of Rights, whether it’s a Republican or Democrat president.
DICKERSON: But you don’t -- do you have any specific concerns with respect to Sessions or Pompeo? They both supported the Patriot Act, bulk collection of metadata.
PAUL: Right. It does concern me, yes.
But I would say that, with Pompeo, he’s going to have to also answer, to my liking, whether or not he’s still for torture, whether or not he’s for water-boarding. That’s important.
He’s also been for expanding NSA powers. Many of the NSA powers were done, I think, in secret without the knowledge of most members of Congress. Even some members who were authors or co-authors of the Patriot Act said, we never intended for them to collect all that data in Utah, and they didn’t tell us.
So, one of my questions for Pompeo will be, are there secret programs that even Congress doesn’t know about? And I think there still are programs ongoing that the bulk of Congress is not aware of.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you, what do you think the Senate’s oversight role is with respect to Donald Trump and then the Trump businesses?
PAUL: You know, I think that he probably will have every legal right to not put things in a blind trust, but it may continue to come up if there is an appearance that a certain country has a Trump hotel and that there’s more visits to that particular country or Trump hotel. Will that be a problem?
Yes, I think he will get dogged about it. So, probably, it’s legal for him not to completely separate, but my advice, if I were asked, would be try to do the best you can to separate, so you don’t have this. It will deter you from things you want to get done if everybody keeps asking you about, what about the Trump hotel you visited?
DICKERSON: Well, it does seem to me we just had a big campaign in which the fuzzy line between the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s State Department was a crucial sign of her weakness as president. So, why would a president wanting to drain the swamp come in and not have the lines be bright and clear for all to see?
PAUL: This will be the same with Giuliani and his international interests and financial dealings around the world.
So, yes, I think it’s best to clean this out. And if you just spent a year-and-a-half criticizing Clinton for taking money from foreign countries, you better be very careful about appointing somebody who has taken a lot of money from foreign countries as well.
DICKERSON: Donald Trump talked about a Ford plant in Kentucky this week. Did he do anything to help keep that Ford plant in Kentucky?
And I think that people misconstrue this. They said, oh, the jobs were never leaving. Well, an assembly line was leaving, so maybe the potential of jobs was leaving. Something was going.
And I think there is some value to the bully pulpit. People say, well, how is he going to do this? Well, you know what? Maybe talking a tough line on trade and that, you know, there will be repercussions if you leave the country, maybe it did change their mind. I don’t know.
But I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and give him a little credit for it, simply because it’s my state and we’re happy that an assembly of a certain vehicle is not going to Mexico. Whether the jobs were going or not, I think something was going to Mexico, and now it’s not. Sounds good to me.
DICKERSON: All right, Senator Rand Paul, we appreciate having you here. We will look forward to having you back.
And we will be back in a moment with a tribute to our friend Gwen Ifill.
DICKERSON: The nation lost a great journalist when “PBS NewsHour” co-anchor and “Washington Week” host Gwen Ifill passed away this week.
But here at FACE THE NATION, we lost a dear friend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GWEN IFILL, CO-ANCHOR, “PBS NEWSHOUR”: This is not a debate right now about ideology.
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DICKERSON: Over the years, Gwen brought her insights, her love of reporting and her ability to puncture to our roundtable.
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IFILL: It must make her crazy to have David Axelrod be her defender, because he’s the one who fought to take her down in 2008.
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DICKERSON: She also joined in the questioning from time to time.
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IFILL: Last I checked, Congressman Gonzalez and Senator Riegle have not swayed in their decision not to have -- pursue this kind of an inquiry. So, what is the point in continuing to discuss it?
BOB DOLE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think there’s a big point.
IFILL: To keep it alive?
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DICKERSON: Quakers say let your light shine, and Gwen’s inner light beamed with her smile. The tributes to her used so many words to describe that smile, that the source was empty.
She chose joy, her friend the journalist Michele Norris said at her funeral yesterday. It was a conscious project. She sent notes to see how you were doing, checked in on journalists she had mentored, and devoted herself to her church, her family and her friends.
Gwen Ifill wore grace like a garment. And you felt it. The effect was visible to others.
A colleague wrote me this week, “You always looked happy and inspired on her show.”
When you were around Gwen, you couldn’t help it.
Gwen Ifill was 61.
DICKERSON: Some of our CBS stations are leaving us now, but, for most of you, we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including an interview with one of the leading candidates to head the Democratic Party.
Stay with us.
DICKERSON: Welcome back the FACE THE NATION. I’m John Dickerson.
While Republicans are busy preparing for a Trump administration, Democrats are doing some soul-searching.
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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: When you lose the White House to the least popular candidate in the history of America, when you lose the Senate, when you lose the House, and when two-thirds of governors in this country are Republicans, it is time for a new direction for the Democratic Party.
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DICKERSON: One of those auditioning for the job as the new head of the Democratic Party is Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison. He joins us from Minneapolis.
Congressman, what should the new direction for the Democratic Party be?
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Well, we’ve got to strengthen the grassroots. You know, we got 3,141 counties in many, many cities across this country where Democrats are thriving and working every day. The power needs to be in their hands. We need the make sure the resources are with them and everything else.
We need the prioritize voter turnout. And that doesn’t mean get out the vote at the end of the election. That means 365 day a year engagement relationship building with voters around what their priorities are.
We got to make sure that the Democratic Party is not just Democratic, but seen to be Democratic. That means we got to have systems in place that makes sure that everybody who participates in a primary is perceived to have an equal shot with everybody else. And we out to make sure that --
DICKERSON: It’s --
DICKERSON: Well, no, continue your list.
ELLISON: Well, I mean, there’s a -- and we’ve got to also create more collaboration. I mean we have Democrats who hold office in secretaries of state. We -- and those folks run the election. We need the stand up for them. City officials, college Dems, organized labor needs to have a whole lot more say so and a lot more respect in the Democratic Party. We’ve got to make sure our veteran, Democratic veterans are strengthened and feel like they are fully included. We have got to just make sure that the -- the -- the Democratic rank and file really owns the party and feels that it is theirs, that it is fair, and that’s what we’ve got to do.
DICKERSON: The reason I wanted you to finish your list is I noticed Donald Trump wasn’t in it. There are a lot of Democrats who are organizing, planning, and -- and setting themselves up as an opposition party to Donald Trump and using that as an organizing principle. That wasn’t in your -- your list. How should Democrats think about Donald Trump? One hundred percent opposed, work with him?
ELLISON: Well, Donald Trump is already proven where he’s going with the thing. I mean there was a political article that -- entitled, “why Wall Street is suddenly in love with Donald Trump.” He’s not draining the swamp. He’s filling it up more. And there’s going to be more swamp creatures than ever before. I mean he is -- lobbyists and big-time investment bankers, he’s not -- he’s not doing what he said he was going to do for average working Americans. And we have got to be there to work with all those folks who may have not voted or even voted for him. They are our natural constituents. But we’ve got to show them that we really care about them, that we respected their voice, and that we are going to be fighting for them tooth and nail.
But I would say to Democrats, we -- we should not make Donald Trump the focal point of all of our energy. We need to make the people, the average worker (ph) day American, who -- who we are fighting for and make that crystal clear every single day. The reason we did --
DICKERSON: Well --
DICKERSON: Let me ask you, congressman, one of the argument some Democrats make is that Democrats should not normalize. It’s a buzz word you hear constantly. Donald Trump, not treat him as a normal president. What’s your advice to Democrats about that?
ELLISON: Well, we should be authentic. And he’s clearly not normal. He ran on -- he talked about jobs and yet he has hurt workers all over this country; in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and even in Florida. He has undermined workers. He’s hurt small business people and not paid contractors. Yes, it’s a -- his level of abuse of working people is extraordinary. And not to mention his racism, misogyny extraordinary, as well. It’s hard to normalize that. and we can never do it.
But I would just say that it’s not about Donald Trump. We are going to -- we are going to end -- we’re going to fight him because he stands against our value system. But if we make the average American’s needs our priority, people who want to retire, people who want to see their kids go to college, people who want to earn a decent living, people anxious about the plant closing down, moving to another country and selling them back the products that they used to make. If we make those people the priority, we will win and Donald Trump will be relegated to be a footnote in the dustbin of history. That is what we got to do, focus on our people.
DICKERSON: All right. All right, congressmen, thanks so much for being with us.
And we’ll be right back with our panel.
ELLISON: Any time. Thank you.
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BECK BENNETT, PORTRAYING MIKE PENCE, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”: We have a few problems. The Democrats are already pushing back on our illegal immigration act because they say finding 11 million illegal immigrants is going to be hard.
ALEC BALDWIN, PORTRAYING DONALD TRUMP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”: Impossible probably.
BENNETT: And then they say it’s going to be even harder to deport them.
BALDWIN: So maybe let’s not do it.
BENNETT: Uh, don’t do it?
BALDWIN: Yes. Scrap it.
BENNETT: Scrap it?
BALDWIN: Scrapped. Scrapped.
BENNETT: OK, you know what, maybe -- maybe we’ll just talk about that later. Let’s move on to Obamacare. As you know, 20 million people use it. And it sounds crazy, but a lot of them like it.
BALDWIN: Keep it. Let’s just keep it.
BENNETT: I’m sorry, keep it?
BALDWIN: Yes, keep it. All of it. No change.
BENNETT: OK. You know, let’s just hold that for later, all right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: “Saturday Night Live” made light of the policy changes ahead for the new Trump administration, but in all seriousness, whether the president-elect will stick with his campaign promises and, if so, can they be enacted, are big questions.
So we’ve assembled a panel of experts who have mostly conservative leanings to help us understand just how enormous some of those challenges are. Lanhee Chen served as policy director for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. He is also a CNN political commentator and a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Grover Norquist is president of the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform. Maya MacGuineas is president of the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. And David Frum is a senior editor at “The Atlantic” and a former speechwriter for George W. Bush.
DICKERSON: David, I want to start with you.
On this question of conflicts -- potential conflicts, relationship between Donald Trump, the president, and -- and the Trump business. What do you make of their initial responses about how that will be handled?
DAVID FRUM, “THE ATLANTIC”: Not good. I think the very first order of businesses, the very first order of business for Republicans who want to insure a successful administration, is to corruption-proof the administration. It’s going to be a big problem. And the surest way to do that is to passes a law formalizing the long tradition that the president must publish his tax returns. It may or may not be possible. The president may or may not be willing to divest himself. But the way for the public to be protected is for people to know what the president has, whether he receives any benefit. Because of the particular nature of Donald Trump’s businesses, everything that happens at the Trump Organization flows into his tax return. So if we can see the tax return, we can know, is anyone trying to bribe him? Has anyone succeeded?
DICKERSON: Grover, Donald Trump campaigned on draining the swamp. He campaigned on getting rid of the self-dealing in Washington. It was not a small issue. So, when Mike Pence was kind of vague, he said, trust me, it will all get worked out, wouldn’t you expect kind of brighter lines from a candidate who spent so much time talking about changing Washington?
GROVER NORQUIST, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Yes, and, look, you want to change all of Washington. The focus on Trump is -- is interesting, but there’s a House, there’s a Senate, there are governors, there’s an entire bureaucracy. We need to reduce the amount of money the federal government spends. If you don’t want people stealing some of it, the best way to do that is to have less of it spent.
Very important that the Republicans maintain their ban on earmarks. That -- earmarks have been the currency of corruption in Washington, D.C., for years and years and years. The Republicans ended that. Some people want to bring it back. We should make sure, one, we stop that, and, two, instead of having money for roads come to Washington, D.C., where we then send it back out with a series of regulations and strings on it, including the Davis-Bacon Act, which was a racist act passed in the 1930s to keep African-Americans from competing in those jobs, it should be repealed simply because it’s racist, but it also raises the cost of building anything in the United States that the federal government touches by 25 percent to 33 percent. We should, one, get rid of the Davis-Bacon Act. West Virginia just got rid of their version of the Davis-Bacon Act. Wisconsin did.
NORQUIST: A number of states have abolished that. We should at the federal level. And we should let states raise their own money and build their own roads. You bring trillions into the United -- into Washington, D.C., to spend.
DICKERSON: Lanhee --
NORQUIST: It will corrupt thing.
DICKERSON: Lanhee, Grover just had a nice detailed list there of things that need to be done, so that’s one area. But -- but, still, back to the president, who is no small actor in politics in Washington. What could he do? What -- what -- other than what David suggested, which is publishing those tax returns, what else might you expect from a president who ran so forcefully on the idea of changing the way Washington works in terms of his own relationships?
LANHEE CHEN, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well, I think certainly he should hold himself to a higher standard. And if there are concerns, particularly about what’s happening within the dealings in his family business, he should think about ways to put up more vigorous firewalls, frankly, between what his family is doing with the business and what he might be doing with the people’s business as president. So I think it’s important for him to think about that.
I think this issue of lobbyists also is important. I think that the administration, or the -- the president-elect’s administration, kind of turning around and saying, look, we are going to make a serious effort to ensure that there isn’t the kind of revolving door that we may have seen in previous administrations by putting in place, for example, this five-year ban. I think that’s a great idea. Remember, the essence of the Trump candidacy is as the outsider. And it’s crucially important for his credibility, but also the credibility of Republicans who were elected with him, for him to behave in a way that is completely above reproach.
DICKERSON: All right, let me ask you now, switching and going back to Grover’s point a little bit, the budget. So we have promises that were made on the campaign trail, and then we have the reality of the budget. Where should people trying to figure out where the rubber meets the road, what should they look to?
MAYA MACGUINEAS, COMMITTEE FOR A RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET: Right. So, first, for starters, President-elect Trump is going to be inheriting the worst fiscal situation of any president as judged by the debt relative to the economy, other than President Truman, when he’s walking into office. So he’s got a tough starting point.
He spent a lot of time on the campaign talking about the importance of getting that trillion -- $20 trillion debt back down and yet we looked at the proposals that he put forth during the campaign. They would, in fact, add over $5 trillion to the national debt, and that’s on top of borrowing $9 trillion that we are poised to do if we do nothing. So he has a huge challenge ahead of him.
He’s also going to be working with the Republican Congress that for years has said it’s very important to balance the budget over a ten-year period. The question is, now that they have the House, the Senate and the White House, are they suddenly going to pull back from those fiscal goals because he has these unpaid-for-tax cuts, infrastructure spending, increases in defense, lots of things that would actually balloon the debt, or are they going to hold to those fiscal goals, which are very important for both getting the debt under control and actually helping to grow the economy, which is the other major goal.
CHEN: You know, John, I think the flipside of that also is, Donald Trump, during the campaign, did not say very much about Medicare or Social Security. Now, remember, the three biggest drivers of federal deficit and debt going forward are health care spending, Social Security and net interest on the debt. So unless we do something about those quickly, this is a problem like compounding interest is a good thing when you invest, this is the opposite of that. And so it is crucially important.
And I’m glad to see, by the way, that Republicans have begun to focus on Medicare reform, because that is the -- the more intractable, I think, of the two problems between Medicare and Social Security. But it’s also important for him, I think, to revisit what he said during the campaign, which is that he didn’t want to touch Social Security.
MACGUINEAS: That’s right.
CHEN: I think it’s important that we look at things like the retirement age and also the growth of benefits.
FRUM: But -- but there’s something kind of surreal about this because we are in a city now that has had, for a long time, a two- party system. It’s now a three party system. There’s a Republican Party, the Democratic Party and a Trump party. And the Republican Party has priorities, and Lanhee, the eminent expert on -- on what -- what those are and should be and they’re -- they’re -- they’re right and important. But the president also has his own priorities. And they are summed up with that photograph of him with those dubious Indian businessmen giving the thumbs-up sign that was tweeted out. And what is going to be very important is for the Republican Party to accomplish its goals, it must prevent the Trump party from accomplishing its goals, which are of a very different and much dirtier order.
NORQUIST: You can start where there’s tremendous agreement. The tax proposal that Trump has put forward is very similar to the one that’s been put forward by the House Republicans, Brady, and the Ways and Means Committee.
DICKERSON: Ways and Means, uh-huh.
NORQUIST: And Ryan, Paul Ryan. Taking the corporate rate from 35 percent to 20 percent or 15 percent, I prefer Trump’s 15, but 20’s progress -- would be tremendous for economic growth. Going to full expensing, which both plans haven’t, would shoot up growth. You’d look at growth going from 2 percent to 4 percent. And the most important thing that the president and the House and Senate can do is get economic growth back on path.
We’ve had a very anemic growth and recovery. We’ve been in recovery for seven and a half years, but it’s been the lousiest recovery in a long time. We need to be growing at 4 percent. If you grow for a decade at 4 percent instead of 2 percent, the federal government nets five plus trillion dollars in addition to revenue. (INAUDIBLE) higher taxes --
DICKERSON: Have we ever (INAUDIBLE) 4 percent for ten years?
NORQUIST: Under Reagan, yes.
DICKERSON: Well, he was only president for eight, but --
NORQUIST: No, no, but out until Bush decided to raise taxes and undo, unfortunately, what --
MACGUINEAS: So let me point out some of the differences though, because as a big proponent of tax reform, there actually are some important difference, which is the Donald Trump tax plan would lose trillions of dollars, where the members of the Republican Party are saying, tax reform should be revenue neutral. And I think that’s a really important objective because --
NORQUIST: With dynamic -- dynamic scoring, which was very important.
MACGUINEAS: Because to add up with spending proposals, taking entitlements off the table, which I think is a very unwise idea and really stands in the way of getting this done, and dealing with the debt, you can’t have a big loss from your tax reform.
In terms of growing the economy, there’s a big difference now than when we saw growth before. Right now our economy is projected to grow at about 2 percent. And Donald Trump talked about growth rates of twice or three times that much. But we have a big challenge, which is changing demographics. As the baby boomers all move into retirement, in order to get those higher growth rates, you’d have to have productivity levels we’ve actually never seen in this country.
So I think one thing that’s really important here is, let’s aspire to grow the economy. You do that through tax reform, through public investments, but you also do that for paying for your proposals and controlling the debt. But let’s not wish for it and assume sort of magical numbers that are unlikely to materialize.
FRUM: If you want to do those things -- if you want to do those things and the things that Grover’s talking about, I would agree with all of them, more or less. If you want to do those things, you have to prevent this administration from being devoured and consumed by scandal. We are -- the -- Donald Trump has made it pretty clear, his plan is to run the least transparent and probably the least ethical administration in a long, long time. If that is not -- if any of this is to happen, this administration must be Trump-proofed. The president is up to no good. He’s made that very clear. He’s got -- he’s indicating to the Japanese, this is -- if you’ve got business with me, this is the person to talk. He’s indicating to the Indians, if you have business with me, these are the people to talk to. If he does that, I guarantee, 18 months from now, when you convene the show, you’ll not be talking about taxes, you ‘ll not be talking about debt, you’ll be talking about the latest Trump scandal, act now to save the country, the political system and the Republican Party from the things this president seems to have in mind.
DICKERSON: Let me ask another question, Lanhee, of you about other ways capital can be spent, which is we’ve talked about budget and tax reform, but there are other things Trump has on the priorities list. Immigration is one of them. How hard do you think that will be and do you think that will expend some capital, in terms of political capital, that then can’t be used on these very hard other things, tax reform, Medicare and so forth?
CHEN: I think it’s a very dangerous thing to start with. I mean, obviously, it was a campaign priority, so it’s important to the president-elect. We recognize that that’s going to be a priority for this administration. But you think about all of the other important issues, and we’ve talked about some them. Certainly tax reform. What’s going to happen with Obamacare? This is something that has been a signature issue for Republicans for the last six year since the law was passed and signed into law. What is going to be done in terms of the repeal, and more importantly I think is the question about what you’re going to replace it with. ‘
You know, I’m a little alarmed that we seem to be thinking that we can kick the can down the road on the replacement of the Affordable Care Act. There are some very important policy goals that Republicans have been working to accomplish for some time. For example, parity in the tax treatment of health care between those who get their health care from their employers and those who why it on their own. That is something that should be a focus of the discussion. And we need to be focusing on that first, I think, rather than some of these other issues, which, frankly, I don’t think have as much potential to grow the economy, certainly not in a way that Mr. Trump has talked about them.
NORQUIST: Well, I think on health care, and Trump has spoken to this, allowing people from New Jersey to buy their insurance from companies in Iowa, allowing you to cross borders, even the government said that would drop the cost about 15 percent. That’s an important reform that makes all the other reforms easier. We need to get spending down, as well as regulations. We’ve been talking about taxes, but the Reduce Act that Ken Calvert has put forward to reduce a number of civilian employees at the Pentagon by 15 percent. They’ve grown 15 percent in the Bush-Obama years.
DICKERSON: But they’re going to grow more under -- under Donald Trump, who’s -- who’s talking about a big plus up in spending on defense.
NORQUIST: First of all he wants to -- well, he wants to talk about putting more troops on. But I’m talking about the civilian employees. Troops have gone down 4 percent during that period. The civilian population has gone up 15 percent. What Reduce Act does is simply takes it back down 15 percent, back to where it had been, compared to the number of troops you have. That saves $80 billion in five years. That’s an important reform. And if we’re going to do more on the military in some areas, we need to get rid of the wasteful spending that we don’t need to do. And Calvert’s got a very important bill.
DICKERSON: Maya, let me ask --
MACGUINEAS: But --
DICKERSON: Add to whatever your answer was going to be in the last 40 seconds here. Donald Trump, trillion dollar infrastructure bill. How does that fit in the coming budget, challenges that exist?
MACGUINEAS: Right. So infrastructure is one of the few areas where both Democrats and Republicans tend to agree that we need to do more spending there. But if you look at what the Congressional Budget Office found, we know that infrastructure can be a very important component of an economic growth strategy. But they also found that if you borrow to do that, it will actually shrink the economy. The same way that Wharton found that if you borrow to do a big tax cut, it could shrink the economy.
So I think the problem that we have, the big challenges, one, Grover’s focusing on the spending. That’s really the smaller parts of the budget. I think we need to look at the big parts of the budget, back to entitlements. That’s 50 percent of the budget, 75 percent of the growth. And, two, if you want to grow the economy, you can’t borrow your way to growth. We have to get control of the national debt. So they’re going to have to make choices. That’s what budgets are. It’s about choices. We are moving from campaigning to governing and now we have to look at the real choices. DICKERSON: All right, we’re going to have to stop it there.
We’ll look forward to having you come back and talking about the choices later. Thanks to all of you.
And I want to be -- just stay with us. We’ll be back in a moment.
DICKERSON: And we’re joined now by Max Stier, an expert in presidential transitions, and is president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service.
Max, I just want to start with, give us a sense of the scope of a transition.
MAX STIER, PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION EXPERT: Transitions are huge when you think about this. It’s the largest, most important takeover of any organization, not just on the planet, but in history. You have a $4 trillion organization, you have four million people when you count the military, you have 4,000 political appointees, and I might add, that’s a little bit of a vestige of this spoil system, so talk about drain the swamp, another conversation. It’s a -- 1,100 of those 4,000 have to go through the Senate confirmation process.
You have to put together a budget. You have to deal with not only all the things that are coming at you, but things you cannot expect. The asteroids that inevitably take place in a world as dangerous as this one.
DICKERSON: And so that’s why both campaigns, although now only it cares -- matters that the Trump campaign started their transition work a while ago. But how much, if they started months ago, of this work is really -- can be done ahead of time?
STIER: Well, you’re exactly right. If you only focus on the period between the election and the inauguration, there’s no possible way that you can be ready. You have to start earlier. Both campaigns did. Clinton and Trump did very, very strong work. The hard part comes now because, you’re right, there’s only so much you can do pre- election and then you have to merge your campaign and your transition apparatus, but you have to move over real fast.
Most folks, I think, are looking through the wrong end of the telescope. They’re examining one or two appointments as they come forward here. The reality is that you have to look at, what are the goals that the transition teams are actually taking on? They ought to be taking on the proposition that they need to make sure that they have their team on the field, an equipped team from day one, from the second that they actually run the government. Transitions are also the point of maximum vulnerability for us in a post-9/11 world. We have to make sure that the new president has the team in place, that they have a game plan and they’re ready to go from second one after they swear on that Bible.
DICKERSON: And how possible is that realistically, though, or -- or, if not, give us some number of months that it might take to -- to get a team fully in place?
STIER: Look, I think it is more than anybody can ever fully get done, but they have to move the ball further down the field than anyone has done it before. I think people are looking the wrong way when they look in the rear view mirror and say, how much did Barack Obama did, how much did President Bush do? The real question is, can you get that team in place, and the right team, in real time. For us that means making sure you have your White House fully staffed by right after the inauguration, that you have 100 of your top Senate confirmed people in place. And that means you’ve got to move with dispatch and you have to be thinking about this as teams, not as single individuals, because you’ll never get there if you add one, one, one. You’ve got to do it in bigger -- bigger groups.
DICKERSON: So where is the Trump team on your got to move fast time line?
STIER: Well, too early to tell. I think the more important point is not how many people have they named, but rather have they embraced the objective -- the objective of making sure they actually are ready to go on day one, that they’ll have their team in place, that they’ll have their game plan designed and that they’ve built the relationships that they need with critical steak holders, Congress, the federal workforce and others.
DICKERSON: Last 30 second. We’ve talked about quantity. Talk about quality, though. Some of these people are going to be picked. You’ll never hear about them, but they’ll have real power.
STIER: You’re 100 percent right. We’ve actually been producing job descriptions, position descriptions of those 4,000 jobs. They don’t exist otherwise. We need people here who are not just outsiders or not just people who have the policy alignment that the president- elect wants, but people who can actually manage -- manage real large organizations. You look in the past, whether it was Hurricane Katrina, healthcare.gov, these are management problems. We need to make sure the government is staffed at the very top leadership positions with the very best experienced people we can possibly get.
DICKERSON: All right, Max Stier, thank you so much for that description. We appreciate it.
STIER: Thank you.
DICKERSON: 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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