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Face the Nation Transcripts February 2, 2014: Giuliani, Wisniewski, McDonough, Cantor

(CBS News) --  Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on February 2, 2014 hosted by CBS News' Major Garrett. Guests included Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The panel included Michael Gerson, David Gergen, Kim Stassel and Bob Shrum.

GARRETT: Today on FACE THE NATION, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and more on the intensifying bridge closing scandal involving New Jersey governor Chris Christie.



GARRETT (voice-over): With a former associate claiming there's evidence Governor Christie knew about those closed traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge earlier than he said he did, Christie goes on the offensive.

We'll talk to Christie ally and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani plus state assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is leading the investigation into the bridge closing scandal.

And just after the State of the Union speech, House Republicans met to plot their own plans for 2014. Immigration reform emerged as a priority, setting the stage for a big debate to come. Republican leader Eric Cantor is here with details. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough will tell us about the prospects for compromise.

And we'll have analysis on all this, 60 years of news, because this is FACE THE NATION.

GARRETT: Welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm Major Garrett, filling in for Bob Schieffer.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani starts us this morning. He is in New York.

Mr. Mayor, good morning.

RUDY: Good morning.


GIULIANI: It's an exciting day in New York today.

GARRETT: Indeed.

With Governor Chris Christie, the question seems to be what did the governor know and when did he know it? As you know, that has -- those two questions have sort of a historical echo to them.

GIULIANI: Right, they sure do.

GARRETT: Now Dave Wildstein, his attorney, says there is evidence that Governor Christie knew more than he has disclosed and knew earlier than he has disclosed. Not thinking about this politically, but thinking about it as your former role as a U.S. attorney, does this strike you as legally significant?

GIULIANI: Well, no, it isn't. I think "The Times" kind of acknowledged that when they kind of pulled back on the story. They first played it as a big bombshell evidence. Here's what it is. It's an offer from a guy who says he has evidence, hasn't given the evidence yet. However, you have to take that in context. This is a lawyer who is writing for a man who wants somebody else to pay his legal bills and he can't get them paid unless the governor was responsible. And he's a guy that's seeking immunity. You factor all those things in, well, first of all, it's not evidence. It's the suggestion, the tantalizing suggestion that there may be evidence. And then you've got at least two big credibility issues with it. So my advice to everyone would be, instead of overplaying it as a bombshell, which "The Times" did and then had to back off, I would say put this in context. This is a long investigation; it's going to take a while. There's going to be stuff like this that just jumps out and everybody's going to exaggerate. They're going to back off. The governor has denied it. So far there's no evidence to suggest that he's not telling the truth. I think the governor knows the consequences. If he's lying, it's a really bad situation. If he's not lying, then something very unfair is being done to him. So let's see what happens.

GARRETT: How bad a situation, Mr. Mayor? The Newark "Star- Ledger" said Friday, in this is true, two words must encroach in this conversation: impeachment or resignation. How do you factor that?

GIULIANI: The important words there are if it's true. That's where, you know, I can do about 50 different situations where, if it's true, this guy has to be impeached, this guy's got to resign. This guy's got to -- the -- if it's true is the kind of unfair part. The reality is we don't know if it's true. All we have is this allegation with a lot of questions about it, ratcheted up from just an allegation and the suggestion to evidence, which it wasn't. So the if it's true thing is really unfair. Of course if the governor didn't tell the truth, the governor is in serious trouble, we all know that. But we shouldn't jump to that conclusion until there's evidence to suggest that.

GARRETT: For the time being, should the governor resign from his leadership position of the Republican Governor's Association? As a loyal Republican do you believe he's hurting the party's image and should step down from that position?

GIULIANI: No. No. If I were a governor I would vote to keep him there. Look, Major, maybe I suffer from this having been a Republican office holder in a Democratic city with lots of newspapers coming after you, some that have real biases. If we have our guys step down any time they do this let's get a Republican, let's get the Democrats to have a special committee with a guy running the special committee who announces that he believes the governor is lying before he begins the investigation, they're going to harass us during this entire campaign. There's nothing wrong with saying the following: until and unless there's evidence to prove he did something wrong, we'll take the governor at his word and let him do his job. I believe it will come out all right. If it doesn't, there's always time to take action then.

GARRETT: What I hear you saying, Mr. Mayor, is that you believe this is something of a political opposition witch hunt against the governor, is that what you're saying?

GIULIANI: I believe two things there, Major. First of all, I think there's a real incident that was unfortunate and bad and the governor apologized for that. I don't want to minimize that. What I'm saying if you take that real incident and now you got pile on. You have a Democratic legislature with a guy who'd like to be governor, who very, very oddly announces at the beginning he doesn't believe the governor. And no Democrat in the state seems that it's odd that he should be running an investigation when he's already announced that he knows the answer that none of us know the answer to. He knows the answer that the governor's lying and should not be running that investigation.

GARRETT: And do you believe --

GIULIANI: That tells me -- that tells me -- that tells me all I need to know about the credibility or the motive, the political motive of what's going on. But I don't want to minimize the fact there's a real issue here. That's a serious one.

GARRETT: OK, very good. Super Bowl security, are you satisfied with where things are and what is your prediction for today's big game?

GIULIANI: I'm very satisfied. I think both on the New York side and on the New Jersey side, and I've seen a lot of it -- I was walking the streets yesterday, took a look at it on Friday, a few people have come to me to ask me some advice about it -- I think it's really, really good security. I think that --

GARRETT: Who is going to win?

GIULIANI: Well, first of all I think the New York police and the New Jersey police are going to win. I think Commissioner Bratton is going to win and Chris Christie is doing a great job. And then you want to know who I think is going to win? I think Peyton Manning is going to win. I think that's the key -- the key to the game --

GARRETT: Very good.

GIULIANI: -- two evenly matched teams. One guy that's been there before and is the -- maybe the greatest guy at that position except for Joe Montana in the history of football.

GARRETT: Very good. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. Great having you on FACE THE NATION.

GIULIANI: Thank you.

GARRETT: We turn now to New Jersey assemblyman John Wisniewski who was the Democrat leading the state investigation into those lane closures on the George Washington Bridge last September. Assemblyman, good to have you with us.

WISNIEWSKI: Major, good to be here.

GARRETT: React to mayor Giuliani. He says you have prejudged this investigation and are unfit and lack credibility.

WISNIEWSKI: He's prejudged everything that's been said. What I have said is I have skepticism about the governor's statement. I haven't said that the governor has responsibility for this. I haven't said that the governor knew when this was happening. That's something Mr. Wildstein said. What I said is the government made a statement about when he knew and I said that I have my doubts about that timeline. He could have known at any time, but I have my doubts about what he said.

GARRETT: Your committee will begin receiving information tomorrow, subpoenas and other data.

WISNIEWSKI: That's right.

GARRETT: Will you release it publicly, how will you process it and what is it going to mean?

WISNIEWSKI: We're not going to release it publicly. At the beginning the committee needs to see it, evaluate it, decide what next steps have been to be taken. Are there other subpoenas, do we bring people in for testimony? Ultimately this will become part of a public record. It's too early to say when that will be.

GARRETT: When will it get to the state attorney?

WISNIEWSKI: I don't know; I mean, that's up to them. They're running a separate investigation. The U.S. attorney's office has been sending subpoenas out. They do their own thing and we're doing our own parallel investigation. Remember, ours is a legislative inquiry. It's not a law enforcement inquiry. We want to fix the problem that led to this abuse of power.

GARRETT: Impeachment, resignation: what do those words mean to you in the context of your investigation?

WISNIEWSKI: One word: premature. There's a lot of talk about that. People are asking the hypotheticals. We don't have enough facts to even going to that conversation. We need to get all the facts on the table. We need to make decisions about who knew what when. And when that's done, maybe it might be appropriate at that time to have that conversation, but clearly we're way ahead of that right now.

GARRETT: Rudy Giuliani called this tantalizing, this promise of evidence. Do you believe what happened on Friday constitutes a major breakthrough in this case or possibly just immunity shopping?

WISNIEWSKI: I'm not sure. I mean, I think it's an interesting question because the words used in the letter were carefully crafted to say that his client knows of facts or information that would contradict the governor. It doesn't say that he's in possession of it. I mean, the question I had naturally is we had a subpoena out to him. If he has stuff, it should have come to the committee. So maybe this is material he doesn't have possession of.

GARRETT: Do you believe there's any risk in criminalizing hardball government in your investigation?

WISNIEWSKI: No. I think New Jersey politics is played as hard as it gets anywhere. But when you cross the line, when you use public resources to exact what appears to be a political vendetta against the mayor of Fort Lee, that crosses a line. And it shouldn't be allowed to happen.

GARRETT: Will you call the governor to testify before your committee?

WISNIEWSKI: We're not there yet. We don't have any reason to do that. We need to find out the facts about who else in his office had knowledge. How did this get authorized? We don't have any answers to those questions, and so we need to take it one step at a time.

GARRETT: What is the next move your committee will make as far as getting this tantalizing evidence? How are you going to get it and what do you think it might lead to?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, I would like to see the material that Mr. Wildstein's attorney talked about. We need to get all of the subpoenaed documents that we're supposed to start receiving tomorrow and start answering some of questions that are out there. Why did Bridget Kelly send this e-mail that closed the lanes? Who gave her the authority to send that e-mail? What made her believe it was OK? There's a lot of unanswered questions that will then determine the next step the committee takes.

GARRETT: Assemblyman John Wisniewski, New Jersey legislature, heading the committee looking into Governor Christie's tactics and actions, thank you very much for joining us on FACE THE NATION.

WISNIEWSKI: Thank you.

GARRETT: And we'll be back in just one minute.

GARRETT: And we're back with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

Denis, thank you so much for coming in.

MCDONOUGH: Thanks for having me, Major.

GARRETT: Your colleague in the White House, John Podesta, told Bloomberg something interesting recently about the Governor Chris Christie scandal, quote, "I think it's a killer, really. If that was true, I don't think there's any coming back." The White House is now getting involved in the Chris Christie scandal?

MCDONOUGH: Oh, I think John was just reacting to news of the day and to a question...

GARRETT: Do you agree?

MCDONOUGH: ... that was asked to him on Friday afternoon. And so we've been pretty clear that this is a New Jersey matter to be resolved in New Jersey. We don't have a role in it.

GARRETT: Politically, do you think it's a killer, if true?

MCDONOUGH: Again, this is a New Jersey issue. We'll let them resolve it up there.

GARRETT: Would you prefer John not have commented on that?

MCDONOUGH: Well, I think John was just reacting to a question.

GARRETT: Very good. Keystone: there was a report from the State Department on Friday. How does the White House interpret that? What's the schedule to decide up or down on the pipeline?

MCDONOUGH: Well, this is one -- this is one of many important inputs into that process. It's an important one.

GARRETT: How close are we to the end?

MCDONOUGH: Well, I'm not going to prejudge that right now. What's important, the president laid out last summer in his speech at Georgetown his standard for what he thinks should govern the decision on Keystone, which is that it should not significantly exacerbate what is a significant climate change crises we face in this country. A very chilling story in the New York Times today about the impact of climate change on droughts in the West, California, which is now seeing some pretty serious developments as a result of climate change. So we'll be looking at that. But what the president's role is now is to protect this process from politics, let the experts, the expert agencies and the Cabinet secretaries make their assessments both of the study that was put in on Friday as well as its impact on the national interest. So we'll resolve that over the coming period of time.

GARRETT: Let me talk to you about Syria. The United States government says only 4 percent of the chemical weapons due out of that country by June 30th have been removed. Is this falling apart?

MCDONOUGH: Not falling apart, but we would like to see it proceed much more quickly than it is, Major. This is a very important development. We've seen one of the world's largest stock piles of chemical weapons not acknowledged until last summer. Now we're seeing it begin to be secured and dismantled, moved out of the country. We think that's important. But it has to be done along...

MCDONOUGH: It has to be done along the timeline that the Syrians decreed. Secretary Kerry has raised this with his counterparts as recently as this morning in Geneva. We'll keep pushing on that.

GARRETT: And we're dependent on the Russians to exert their influence, are we not?

MCDONOUGH: Well, we're not dependent on anybody in particular. We're going to make sure that the Syrians live up to their obligations. They have an obligation to the international community to do exactly what they said they'd do. GARRETT: Or what?

MCDONOUGH: Well, I'm not going to get into any "or what"s here, Major, but they ought to do exactly what they said they'd do?

GARRETT: Speaking of Russia, how do you feel about security at the Winter Olympic Games? What's the latest the president's been told? Are Americans and will Americans be safe?

MCDONOUGH: We are tracking this very, very closely, as you would expect. You have heard the president talk about this (inaudible) extensively, obviously, with you and your colleagues. We are in close touch with the Russians. When we get new information, we share with the American people. Our request is not that people do not travel. In fact, they -- we have said that people could travel to the Olympics. We just want them to stay in touch with the State Department while they travel, watch the website for updates. When we have information, we'll share with the American people. But we feel good that the Russians are taking serious steps right now. We'll continue to track that closely.

GARRETT: Speaking of information, two weeks ago it was widely said at the White House the Russians were not giving up enough, not sharing enough about new threat matrix information. Has that improved?

MCDONOUGH: We always want more information. That's the life blood of how we keep our people safe. And big international -- big international events like this, as you've heard the president say, are also times for us to be concerned. I know that Mike Morell and others on this network have suggested as much. So we're going to stay on top of this. More information is always better than less.

GARRETT: Immigration: Republicans in the House put out principles. You can read it one of two ways. I'm curious how the president reads it. You could read it as a permanent second-class status for certain Americans who are here now illegally. They could stay here legally but may never become citizens. Is that good enough for the president?

MCDONOUGH: Here's -- we're not going to jump to any conclusions on this. You know the president's principles, which is that we ought to see a pathway to citizenship for people. We don't want to have a permanent separation of classes or two permanent different classes of Americans in this country. We're just not going to -- we're just not going to live with that. So this is an important first step. We'll see how this plays out. Our job now is to stand back, see how the House Republicans handle this. And I think we see some important progress here. We'll see how it plays out.

GARRETT: But it sounds like you're saying House Republicans need to evolve to that position where it's citizenship, at least eventually, or it's no deal?

MCDONOUGH: Look, that's the president's principle, which is he's laid out his principles on this. We should not have two classes of people in this country. I'm not prejudging exactly how the Republicans will handle this in Congress. I know the Democrats in Congress are going to have a view on this, too, and they have been very clear about that over the course of this debate over the last many years.

GARRETT: Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said that the Iranians are not prepared to give up their higher-tech, more ambitious centrifuge purification of uranium. Is that a deal-killer? MCDONOUGH: I'm pretty confident that this is not the first negotiation where people have public positions and private positions. So we'll let Foreign Minister Zarif talk about what he wants to talk about publicly. We'll make clear what we expect from him privately...



GARRETT: Which is?

MCDONOUGH: ... in the talks later this -- later this month.

GARRETT: I guess what I would like to try to figure out then is, is the American position that, once a final deal is reached, or in pursuit of a final deal, Iran cannot have any centrifuge purification processes of its own, that if it has nuclear fuel for civilian nuclear power production capability, it must come from the outside? Or can it have nuclear power it produces its own?

MCDONOUGH: I'm not going to conduct a negotiation here on your set or with you, Major. Here's what the president's position...

GARRETT: Is that the key question?

MCDONOUGH: Here's what the president's position is. The key question is that the president is committed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. That's what he has made clear to the American people over the course of these last many years. A nuclear weapon in the hands of the Iranians would be a risk to that region, to our friends like Israel but also would set off a nuclear arms race in that region, which would be in nobody's interest. That's why we're focused on precisely that. We'll also continue to press them on things like their support for Hezbollah, their support for international terrorism. But, in the first instance, I'm not going to get into that debate with you or the negotiation with you here.

GARRETT: Last question: the president talked about trade promotion authority in the State of the Union address. The very next day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said "I'm against fast-track. Everyone would be well-advised just to not push this right now." Everyone -- does that include the president? Is he going to back off?

MCDONOUGH: Well, the president's been very clear about the trade agreement with our Asian counterparts, the TTP, as well as the trade agreement with our European friends. Think about what trade means for the United States economy. Each billion dollars in additional trade means 4,000 to 5,000 additional jobs in this country, jobs that are paid at somewhere between 15 percent and 18 percent more than the average wage. If you just take the agreement with Asia, when we're able to solidify that agreement, that means as much as $130 billion in additional exports a year to those countries. So we think this is really important. Senator Reid has been a great friend of the president's. We'll continue to work on this. His position on trade has been clear from the beginning. So we'll continue to work on it.

GARRETT: Will the president get on the phone and try to persuade the Senate majority leader otherwise?

MCDONOUGH: The president will continue to work on this. He'll use the phone and use other means, as he has over the course of this week, to do things like create additional opportunity for working- class Americans. He'll do it again later this week with creating increased access to wireless education opportunities for U.S. students.

GARRETT: Denis McDonough, White House chief of staff, thank you very much.

MCDONOUGH: Thank you, Major.

GARRETT: And we'll be right back.


GARRETT: And we're joined by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Mr. Leader, great to see you. Thanks for joining us.

CANTOR: Major, it's a pleasure to be here.

GARRETT: We're going to get to the specifics and the politics of immigration reform, but I want to give you like 30 seconds to tell me what House Republicans have done, what do they intend to do this year, what are the larger optics in this issue.

CANTOR: Well, we just came off only annual retreat this week and we had a very robust discussion about very difficult situation which is our broken immigration system. And I think the take away was, Major, there's a lot of distrust of this administration and implementing the law. And we just heard the president in his State of Union Address say you know what, if he can't work with congress, he's going to do it his own way. And that sort of breeds this kind of distrust. And I think we're going to have to do something about that in order to see a way forward on immigration. GARRETT: All right, we'll get to that. What are the principles, if you can enumerate them, one, two and three that House Republicans will demand for any comprehensive immigration reform bill this year.

CANTOR: Well, first of all I know that you know that we are not going to take up the Senate bill.


CANTOR: And so, one of the first things is we believe it is serious that we -- and with some seriousness that control our borders. And this goes back to the distrust. There's not been a determined sense that we are going to secure the borders and make sure the laws on the books are being implemented now. I would say that is a precursor and has to happen first.

GARRETT: The term of art in Washington is a trigger mechanism written into the legislation that requires that to be established before any other progress is made on these other issues. Is that the marker you're laying down.

CANTOR: Well, what we're trying to say is there's a prerequisite here. Part of the reason why people are beating down the doors to get in this country is because the laws we have is create the opportunity we're about. And so we want to make sure before anything else, that there's border security implementation of the laws.

GARRETT: But you know the word is trigger, is that what House Republicans will require?

CANTOR: Well, no one is satisfied with the use of that term if it is defining what is in the Senate bill. And so we would like to see a clear, certain determined ability to get the situation on the border straight and implement the laws on the interior so that people can have faith across the country that laws are being upheld and that has got to happen first.

GARRETT: The principles enumerate a legal status for the 11-12 million illegal immigrants here in this country now. What do you mean by that? And does that by definition mean no citizenship for them ever.

CANTOR: Major, let me tell you something, I mean, there's a lot of focus on the immigration issue. But you know, in reality, we not only want to help the situation there. A lot of the discussion that we had with our members at the retreat was that we want to help the problems right now of job growth and the lack of a job growth. We know that 75 percent of Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck. We've come up with some real solutions to help America work for those people too. And so I believe we're going to see us in congress not only continue this discussion of immigration, but we want to try and get to the heart of the issues that are affecting most Americans. GARRETT: But Mr. Leader you know as well as I do this is a central dividing line issue, definitionally and optically for many in your constituency, not only members who have votes, but the voters who sent them here. Legal status yes, citizenship never or possibly.

CANTOR: Listen. Where I think we ought to start, again, this is an issue among many that in fact most of the country is focusing on the question of a squeeze of the working middle class, the way the president spoke about the State of the Union, the lack of opportunity that so many people are experiencing now. We want to try and deal with that as well. But so far as immigration is concerned, we've said all along we don't believe in a comprehensive fix. We want to go in a step by step approach to try address the problems. Yes, there's a problem of the board of implementation of the laws. I've always said we ought to be dealing with the things that we can address on which are the kids. Most people say this country has never held kids liable for the misdeeds of their parents. And I think that in many instances, kids have been brought here and some unbeknownst to themselves and brought here illegally but yet they know no other place as home. Certainly we ought to take care of that problem. That should come first because it just makes sense to start where we can find agreement.

GARRETT: But you know as well as I do, to get this all put together, the president said this week that there has to be some meeting of the minds for all not just the DREAMers, the so-called kids that you just referred to. And twice now you've avoided the opportunity to say what the principles that were handed out to your members said here on camera. Are you running away from this even at the start, the idea that there will be a legal status and possibly a path to citizenship. Can you just define that for me.

CANTOR: I'm not really running away from this. I know this is something that a lot of people want to report on and talk, but most of the American people are worried about what's going on in their households. The fact that wages have not gone up in this country in ten years. And yes we're going to continue the discussion on immigration. We have said yes, we came out of there saying there are some principles, these standards that are being released are draft standards. We had a very positive discussion, and as I said before, some things have got to happen which is the president got to demonstrate frankly to the country and the congress can trust him in implementing the laws. Look what he's done with Obamacare. He has selectively enforced that law, and some have raised constitutional questions whether he can even do some things like that. So there's some real question of trust here and the white house continues to really thumb its nose up if you will at the congress. The president in his State of the Union Address did it flat out. He said when congress doesn't work with me, I'll just go do it myself. And again that's part of the problem in this town and why there's been such a difficult time in getting things done.

GARRETT: We're going to take a break right now. We'll have more of our interview with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor coming up.


GARRETT: Some of our stations are leaving us now, for most of you we'll be right back with a lot more Face the Nation, including more of our interview with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and our political panel.

Please stay with us.


GARRETT: Welcome back to Face the Nation. I'm Major Garrett filling in for Bob Schieffer. I want to continue our conversation with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. You mentioned the Affordable Care Act. Let's merge that with the debt ceiling. There have been some in the conservative movement who said that there should be an effort to tie to the increase in the debt ceiling a removal of the reinsurance corridors in ObamaCare; that's essentially a fee placed on insurance companies to essentially help them through at the risk pool is inadequately arranged for them, meaning they sort of shield themselves from the economic effects of the health care law. Is that something House Republicans are going to do? Or will you present a clean debt ceiling increase to move this issue off the table?

CANTOR: Well, let's talk about the Affordable Care Act first, and then in juxtaposition with the debt ceiling. First of all, the Affordable Care Act, I think most of the public has now seen what we've been talking about. This law is a disaster. In my opinion ObamaCare is on borrowed time. Policies are being canceled; prices are going up. Access to hospitals and doctors are being limited --

GARRETT: Not for everybody. You would concede that.

CANTOR: -- for many folks, especially those in the individual market. And as we begin to see the further growth in terms of implementation of this law, you will see, I believe, more and more people negatively affected. And there's going to be a real problem, a real need for an alternative. And I'd --

GARRETT: Where is that going to come from and when are you going to draft it?

CANTOR: Well, that's what we talked about today, this weekend -- I mean this week at our retreat. I believe firmly that we will have a vote on an alternative for a health care system that works.


CANTOR: Well, I believe that we'll have it this year. We will have it this year. And you know what the reason is, Major, is ObamaCare, I believe, is on borrowed time.

GARRETT: So no more repeal votes; an alternative vote?

CANTOR: We will -- certainly ObamaCare, I think, again, is on borrowed time; it's not working and we want a health care system that works for all Americans. And in fact, we had a proposal -- and the president continues to say that we didn't have solutions. We put a solution forward in 2009 when ObamaCare was passed. Many of the provisions in that proposal will be in our proposal going forward. You know, we're going to --

GARRETT: You're leading up that effort. And when will we see it?

CANTOR: Well, listen, well, first of all, let me talk about what's in it because we are going to deal with those preexisting conditions. We don't want them to go without coverage. We just deal with it in a way and provide high-risk pools so that we can limit the increase in cost for everybody else and do it in much more cost- effective manner. We say folks ought to have choice of their insurance companies, let them purchase across state lines, help bring down prices. Then we say, you know, we ought to have patient-centered care, not care dictated by Washington, which is why we want to promote health savings accounts. These are the kinds of things that are in our proposals.

GARRETT: Who will lead it up and when will we see it?

CANTOR: Well, you know, there's a lot of discussion and we've got --


CANTOR: -- we've got -- there is a consensus about Republican solutions for a health care system that works for everybody, which includes those without a job, which includes those who are sick. And I believe that our committee chairman, the Ways and Means chairman, Dave Camp; the Energy and Commerce committee chairman, Fred Upton, as well as the Education Workforce chairman, John Klein, are all working on different elements of this that I believe will turn into an alternative for Obama.

GARRETT: Timeline?

CANTOR: Well, look, it is obviously very important for us to get this done because a lot of people are hurting because of ObamaCare.

GARRETT: What about debt ceiling? Will that be clean or will you attach things such as the insurance bailout, as it's called by some in your conservative movement?

CANTOR: Here's what I'm thinking now. I think that the last month has seen Washington actually make some progress in getting along and getting things done. You know that the Paul Ryan-Patty Murray budget deal manifested into the budget vote, the spending bill that was passed a couple weeks ago. I think that it reflects the reality. We've got two very different views of how to go forward fiscally, but yet small steps forward toward reducing spending. I'm hopeful that that, added to --

GARRETT: (INAUDIBLE) added spending in the short term?

CANTOR: Well, over the 10-year budget when it reduced deficit, and what it did, it replaced some of the discretionary cuts, the kinds of across-the-board cuts that don't make sense --

GARRETT: What does that tell us about the debt ceiling?

CANTOR: Well, what I'm saying is that I think that that attitude, we should be able to work together yet again to try and do something to move the needle towards fiscal reform, to move the needle towards reduction in spending while we continue to incur more debt.

GARRETT: Yes, but what -- the question is, will that be a clean debt ceiling or not?

CANTOR: What I believe is we can work something out and I'm hopeful that the president and the Senate will work with us in the House to actually do what has typically been done with debt ceilings, which is making some progress towards addressing the spending problem in Washington, making some progress toward trying to grow the economy around a debt ceiling. That's the way it's been done for the last three decades. And this president has just consistently said he doesn't want to even engage and he's like ignoring the problem. So I'm hopeful that those days are gone and we can actually work together around this debt ceiling --

GARRETT: There will be no default, in other words?

CANTOR: I'm confident there will be no default.

GARRETT: All right.

Before I get on to a Super Bowl question, "The Weekly Standard," about this issue, (INAUDIBLE) with immigration and ObamaCare" Bringing immigration to the floor ensures a circular GOP firing squad instead of a nicely lined-up one shooting together in unison at ObamaCare and other horror of big government liberalism."

Your reaction?

CANTOR: I don't think there's any question that ObamaCare is going to play prominently this year. It will -- obviously I think in order to the Republicans' benefits, at the end of the year at election time. So, yes, we will be discussing people's health care because people are hurting. We're going to discuss a lot of issues, Major. We'll be discussing immigration, we're going to be dealing with the big issues of the squeeze the middle class is feeling, the opportunity gap and I'm hopeful this president can come forward and finally sit down and work with us to effect some results.

GARRETT: Before I let you go, it's Super Bowl Sunday, Russell Wilson and you attended the same high school in Richmond, Virginia, Collegiate High School. What's your pick? And who are you rooting for?

CANTOR: All Seahawks, all the time. No question, I think, outside of Seattle, Richmond, Virginia, has the largest fan base for Seahawks than any one town in the country, not only Russell Wilson, but Michael Robinson is from Richmond. He went to Verana (ph) High School. We're looking for a good game and a big win.

GARRETT: Final score?

CANTOR: Oh, don't even go there with me.


GARRETT: All right. Majority leader Eric Cantor, thank you so very much. And we'll be back in just one minute.




GARRETT: Joining us now for some analysis, "The Wall Street Journal" columnist and editorial board member, Kimberly Strassel, plus "Washington Post" columnist Michael Gerson, who was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush. David Gergen worked for both Presidents Reagan and Clinton and is now at Harvard University. Bob Shrum is a Democratic strategist and a significant one at that.


GARRETT: I want to go around the table.

Kimberly, I'm going to start with you. Give me your 30-40 second take on the latest Christie developments and whether or not this intensifies his political turmoil.

KIMBERLY STRASSEL, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": I mean, have we learned anything new? We have not. We've had an accusation that there may be evidence, no evidence actually put out there yet, that he knew. But again, the central question has not been answered. I do think what is significant here though is that you're beginning to get a sense of the political risks here on a bigger scale. For Christie, it's the idea that this could go on for months and months, and that's what it's beginning to look like. Although I think for the other side, too, the Democratic side, the risk that there's beginning to be a sense of a bit of a pile-on and that this might be more politically driven than it is substance driven.

GARRETT: Michael, what does it say to you about what came out of the Christie camp this weekend? And it's sort of pushed back, not just on the facts but on the allegation from Dave Wildstein, who has known the governor for a good long while?

MICHAEL GERSON ,"THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, you have to admit that these are vague, unsubstantiated charges. But there are traditional questions here about whether the governor is a bully, which he completely denies. But he used his press conference to attack his opponent in this case as a high school loser. And now his staff is really seeing memos attacking when he's 16 years old as unstable. You can't undo a bad image, a bad public image by confirming it with your tactics. And I think they have to be very careful the way they conduct themselves in this very difficult fight.



GARRETT: Bob, what does it tell you, based on your experience in politics when you see internecine fights like this playing out on a public stage?

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I said to David earlier, we've heard all of this before, where you attack people because they're seeking immunity, they've got a self interest. It tends to end badly. I think Chris Christie may end up as time goes on worried less about going to the White House and more about going to the Big House. Then I think that's actually a real threat for him. This is a stupid scandal. He was going to win this election overwhelmingly. He or his staff did not have to engage in hardball tactics. They opened a can of corrupt worms, you know, the stuff that went on in Hoboken or that's alleged to have gone on in Hoboken. And they put it all in emails. Now he's collapsing in Republican polls for 2016, his favorable/unfavorable is upside-down. I've never seen a supposed front-runner for a nomination implode so fast.

GARRETT: But you're not a disinterested party in...

SHRUM: No, actually, I'm -- you're right.

GARRETT: Democrats would like to see Chris Christie fall and tumble. But I want to get back to what you said about the criminality. You believe that there is significant criminal downside risk for the governor.

SHRUM: Oh, I think there is risk. He's going to get called in by the U.S. attorney, I assume, at some point, asked when he knew. And he's either going to stick to the story he had in that press conference, or he's going to give a different story. But what he says under oath better be true.

GARRETT: David, you've worked in White Houses under significant stress, legal and political, what's your take?

GERGEN: Well, I think we have to distinguish between legal versus political trouble. I don't think he's in legal trouble right now. There has been no allegation and indeed no evidence to suggest he broke any law that he knew beforehand, that he ordered this, and that he's behind it, in effect, which I think would put him in legal jeopardy and I think raise all the questions that Bob said. But I think his political problems are growing rapidly. Yes, as Kimberley points out, this could go on for a couple of months. Every week that goes by when he's in the news with this sort of (INAUDIBLE) awful stuff, you know. It just hurts him politically. And now, very importantly, we do have someone who is very close to him has turned on him and said, you know, basically you've been lying, not about whether you did it or not, but you've been lying about when you knew. And I think if he has found to have lied on that, he's in deep political trouble. I think his road to the White House is blocked. And, indeed, The Newark Star-Ledger, biggest newspaper in the state, left-leaning, but endorsed him this last time out, has said -- as you pointed out earlier, has said he has to resign. That's his political problem, not his legal problem, but it's politically difficult.

GARRETT: Quickly around the table, Republican Governors Association, Governor Christie is the leader of it. Should he stay in that position or do you believe what Rudy Giuliani said, he needs to stay and fight, because if he steps down, he will just give in to the opposition?

GERGEN: I think that's a tough question the governors are going to have to -- if this keeps going, somebody else comes out a little bit more. This is a corrosive story. I think there will be pressure within the Governors Association to suspend his chairmanship.

GARRETT: Bob, if this were a Democrat under similar stress, and the Democratic Governors Association position was up for grabs, what would you recommend?

SHRUM: Well, I don't think it matters what I would recommend because I think the guy would stay as long as he possibly could. You know, the truth of the matter is if there's nothing to hide here, they ought to release all the emails. Get this over with. He can be governor of New Jersey. He can run for president. He can be head of the RGA.


GERSON: I think there will be more clarity in just a few more weeks as this investigation in the New Jersey legislature continues and things clarify. So I guess -- I think he'll wait and see what...


GARRETT: It would be premature to step down.

GERSON: Right, yes.

STRASSEL: I mean, right, why would he? Again, what new has actually come out? An allegation, but there has been no significant shift in the basis of information we have here.

GARRETT: Kimberley, what was your takeaway from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor? I pressed him twice on what the House Republican principles on immigration actually said, and he wasn't even comfortable saying what they said on camera.

What do you think House Republicans actually are as opposed to what they represented rhetorically?

STRASSEL: You know, I was actually out at the Republican retreat for a bit this week. And, I mean, here's the good news. The Republicans -- there's a growing number of Republicans who do seem to understand that they are going to have to address this issue at some time.

And, by the way, that's a big shift from even a year ago. I think there's bad news too, which is that you see them coming up with a huge number of excuses why not to do it now, you know. And there's always going to be those political excuses: This year is not going to be good, next year is not going to be good, going into a presidential election is not going to be good.

And you saw one of them. Now this is also coming up in the context, which is partly an excuse, but I also think is one of the consequences of this administration's leadership is that this is coming up as the debate is now raging about the president's overstepping of his authority, his decision to not use -- not enforce some laws, for instance, not deport younger people, not enforce part of the immigration laws or the drug laws when it comes to marijuana.

And so that is giving Republicans an excuse too to say, hey, if we were to pass immigration, we wouldn't be able to trust you to actually implement the pieces of it we care about.

GARRETT: Mike, of course, this issue is filtered through the matrix of Republican presidential aspirations. Demographically it seems to be an imperative, at least some Republicans have come to that conclusion.

If you believe that's the case, and tell me if you don't, how do you think these Republican principles fit into that longer party conversation?

GERSON: Well, it's hard to look at the evidence and not come to that conclusion. It's hard to win national elections with 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, which is what Mitt Romney got.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Impossible, actually.

GERSON: Right. It's pathetic. Moving forward I think serious Republicans know this. They question the timing before the midterms. I think there are serious questions here.

But as far as the 2016 election, that's probably the place you're going to get the real leadership on this issue, because it's a national political problem. You know, these primaries are going to be a test of how rational the Republican process is when it comes to immigration.

On one side you have a primal scream, on the other side you have a political strategy. And it's going to be a test as it moves forward.

GERGEN: David, this is an issue in which it's not only whether you get a law passed, but whether you're seen as dragged kicking and screaming to pass the law, or whether you're actually in favor of it heart and soul.

This is an issue in which the Republicans instead of sort of dancing back, need to be very aggressive. We need to solve this problem and let the White House, let the Democrats be the ones who are picking fights and slowing it down.

The Republicans will get nothing out of this politically in 2016 if they are dragged over the finish line. (CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: But they may actually end up in a worse position, because one of the principles that they proposed, which is that people can stay here legally but there's no path to citizenship, would essentially create Apartheid in America, where millions or tens of millions of people would work, would pay taxes, would have no right as citizens.

That won't solve the Republican problem with Hispanics. It will exacerbate it. It will actually make it a permanent feature of the electoral cycle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the rest of people in the line...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is how long the line is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... want legal status, not citizenship.


GARRETT: But, Bob, Apartheid is an incendiary word. These are not native born Americans.

SHRUM: OK. Second class citizens.

GARRETT: There is a legal distinction there, would you not agree?

SHRUM: Well, you know, we had for generations in this country, to our shame, the incredible spectacle of millions of Americans, living primarily in the South, who were unable to vote because of the color of their skin. Are we now going to create a system in which millions of people living in this country, primarily Hispanics, are unable to vote, but they can work and they can pay taxes? I think that would be bad. And I think...


STRASSEL: Does that mean everyone on a green card in this country right now is a second class citizen?

SHRUM: No, because people on a green card in this country can apply for citizenship.

STRASSEL: Well, so would...


SHRUM: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush...


STRASSEL: That's the plan that everyone agrees. (CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: The plan is not -- the plan is not a guaranteed path to citizenship for all of those 11 or 12 million people who are here.

STRASSEL: You would have the option to use every existing pathway to get citizenship, now just like any green card holder.


SHRUM: It might take you 20 or 30 or 40 years.


GARRETT: And I didn't realize that...


GARRETT: You just saw, it was like what happened at the House Republican Conference...


GARRETT: ... Maryland.

SHRUM: You mean, I was there? 



GARRETT: Let's talk about debt ceiling. Do you think that this is a surrender maneuver with just complicated language or...


STRASSEL: Surrender.

GARRETT: ... Kimberley?

STRASSEL: I don't know if I would use those words. I think here is what is going to happen. And it's why Mr. Cantor didn't really want to come out. But they're going to use this to highlight some issues that they care about obviously. One of them will probably be this question about a bailout for Obamacare.

And they're going to send it to the Senate. And the Senate is probably going to send it back to them stripped of anything else. And that's going to be a bit galling for Republicans, because, you know, it is true, this president...

GARRETT: Eventually they will have to swallow it.

STRASSEL: Yes. But I think they will in the end. I mean, they want the president to go with the past in which in the past we have actually had the big debates and passed something with the debt ceiling. But in the end they have got a better hand talking about Obamacare and everything else. And so they're not going to... (CROSSTALK)

GERSON: But you already lost your leverage when you've announced that you've accepted the outcome, which every single member of the leadership has. So I think they would like...

GARRETT: By saying there will be no default?

GERSON: Right. Exactly. So you -- they want some cover, which sometimes they get. But this is seeking a dignified form of surrender.

GERGEN: Well, I don't (INAUDIBLE) think that. I think the Republican game plan this year amounts to this, that the table is pretty well-set for a very good 2014. They can keep the House, they've got real shot in wining the Senate. What they want to do is have nothing now that gets in the way of getting to there.

So they don't want any big disruptions in which they have a real setback for the party. And I think that's the reason they're accepting these tactical agreements.

SHRUM: I think that's exactly right. I think a default that would be blamed on the Republicans would not only make sure they couldn't get the Senate, it would jeopardize their control of the House.

Listening to Cantor -- and I thought you asked the questions wonderfully over and over and found different ways. Listening to Cantor, it sounded to me like Robert E. Lee was asking Grant if he could just write a more complicated surrender document.


GARRETT: Let me ask you briefly...

GERGEN: That's a long way from Apartheid to Robert E. Lee, wow.



GERGEN: You came ready with your game face.

SHRUM: No, I thought of that just sitting here, actually.


GARRETT: Let me ask you briefly, David and Bob, about this contention from the president that he can use executive power, use it to transform the country if Congress won't move along with him, but the first two examples, this sort of glorified (inaudible) savings account, and a minimum wage for future federal contractors, seems extremely small and almost seems to prove the point that his executive authority is actually very limited.

What's your take?

GERGEN: I think absolutely right. You know, there's a quote attributed to Churchill that said, "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood."

And that's exactly what's going on here. This is small-bore stuff that is -- that, you know, a small bore turned into a big snore, in terms of the State of the Union. And he didn't move his numbers. And I think he's got to find some way to mobilize the country.

He's right about trying to create jobs. He's right about trying to deal with the unemployment and this subnormal situation we have. But he ought to make that a crusade that's big and it's got a lot to it. It's -- and mobilize people.

GARRETT: We've got about a minute and a half left, Bob.

SHRUM: Look, Ronald Reagan had 381 executive orders. George Bush had 291. They dealt with very big things, in some cases, like deregulating oil production, crude oil production and petroleum refining.

I think the president's going to find some very big areas to exercise authority. I think we'll hear a lot of Republican crocodile tears on this. But presidents can do a lot with executive orders. John F. Kennedy desegregated all federal housing, which was a lot of housing, with a stroke of a pen. And Harry Truman desegregated the armed forces the same way.

STRASSEL: And it goes beyond executive orders; it's about agency regulations. There's a lot that he can do.

GARRETT: OK, we have one minute left. It's Super Bowl Sunday, so we're going to go around the table. Who's going to win and what's the score? Kimberley?

STRASSEL: Well, I'm not going to do the score. I'm from -- I mean, I'm from the Pacific Northwest, so I've got to be a Seattle fan.

GARRETT: OK. Lopsided victory or close?

STRASSEL: I think it's going to be close.

GARRETT: OK. Michael?

GERSON: I think, when a team is led by a middle-aged man that people think are past their prime...


... I have a rooting interest. So I'm going to go with Denver in this case...


... like, I think, many in my situation. SHRUM: Thinking of a middle-aged man, I guess we're talking about Obama, too...


... (inaudible) write him off.


Look, I think Denver's going to win. I think Manning is an amazing presence. I think Seattle's a great defense. And I'm hoping the Patriots get there next year.


GERGEN: (inaudible) a Patriots guy, so (inaudible) beat the Patriots. I want them to win the Super Bowl.


GARRETT: Is anyone going to put a score on the table?

SHRUM: Thirty-seven, thirty-four.

GERGEN: I thought by a touchdown, Broncos by a touchdown.

STRASSEL: Because I want to be able to agree with Bob, I'll do...


GARRETT: You've been (inaudible) down, folks.

Denver, 24...


Listen closely: Denver, 24; Seattle, 21.

Back in a moment with our "Face the Nation" flashback. Please stay with us.


GARRETT: It is a time-honored Washington tradition -- well, at least in the television era. Top administration officials blanket the Sunday shows to explain what the president meant in his State of the Union address and take questions on what wasn't in the speech.

Forty years ago, the Nixon White House offered up one of its biggest guns. But Nixon's point man didn't field many questions on policy. Our "Face the Nation" flashback.


(UNKNOWN): Vice President Ford, President Nixon said in his State of the Union address that one year of Watergate was enough, that we ought to quit talking and thinking about it.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT GERALD FORD: I think the president was speaking figuratively, not literally.

GARRETT (voice over): On February 3rd, 1974, Vice President Gerald Ford appeared on "Face the Nation" to discuss the economy and energy policies. But he ended up getting grilled about the president's role in the Watergate cover-up.

(UNKNOWN): If the Judiciary Committee votes out impeachment and this process is going, headed towards the Senate, do you feel that the president should step down and name you acting president during this period?

FORD: I don't think so. I don't believe that a president should remove himself from office until he's convicted, which would be the trial in the Senate.

GARRETT: Twenty-five questions into the interview, the conversation finally turned to a different issue.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Ford, as vice president, do you have any trouble getting gasoline?

FORD: No, my wife and children do, just like everybody else. But the Secret Service seems to have found an adequate supply for me and, I guess, the president.


GARRETT: The oil embargo that triggered America's gasoline shortage ended soon thereafter, as did Nixon's presidency. Richard Nixon resigned just six months after the vice president's appearance. The next time Gerald Ford appeared on "Face the Nation," he did so as the country's 38th president. And that's our "Face the Nation" flashback.


GARRETT: That's it for us today. Bob will be back next week. I'm Major Garrett. Thank you for watching "Face the Nation."

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