Face the Nation transcript June 12, 2016: Sanders, Lewandowski, Flake

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by his wife Jane Sanders, speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 9, 2016, following a meeting with President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci, AP

JOHN DICKERSON: We turn now to Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who joins us from Phoenix. Senator, you said that you might be open to endorsing Donald Trump if he changes. What kind of a change would he need to make?

JEFF FLAKE: Well, a couple of his statements. For example, the ban on Muslims. He's walked that back somewhat. But then you don't know. Some of the statements suggest that he may not have walked it back. That's certainly going to have to change. And also, he's going to have to give a further explanation about the judge comment. That, you know, you have to worry about the kind of judges that he will put on the bench. Not just the Supreme Court but on the federal bench. And if he has a problem with judges of Mexican heritage, worrying that they'll rule against things that he's doing, then you can't have that. And so he's going to have to make a clear statement there as well.

JOHN DICKERSON: He tried this week to clarify his statements on the judge. What did you think of those? Of that response?

JEFF FLAKE: Well, to say that his statement was just mischaracterized is wrong. That statement should be retracted. And he ought to apologize for it. So you can't just go on saying, "People are misunderstanding me." You've got to admit that you're saying things that simply need to be walked back, and you need to take a different position.

JOHN DICKERSON: It was interesting, your comments about the judges. He's put out a list of Supreme Court nominees he might pick from. One of the arguments he's made is if he's elected, he'll be the one picking perhaps the next justice. And so that alone makes him a better candidate than Hillary Clinton.

JEFF FLAKE: Well, he did put together a good list. I think those of us who were conservative were pleased to see that list. We have to remember though he appoints not just Supreme Court justices but judges to the entire federal bench. And that's a lot of judges. And to have somebody who has a problem with judges maybe of Mexican descent, then that creates a bigger problem than just the Supreme Court.

JOHN DICKERSON: When - you've mentioned some of the things Donald Trump would have to do to turn the corner. What gives you some sense given his past practices that he would stick with the new approach if in fact he did what you were hoping he would do?

JEFF FLAKE: I'm not confident at all. I hope that he does. But there's a worry that he'll simply go back to the outlandish statements that he feels are to his political advantage. So we have a lot of time between now and November. We haven't even got to the convention. So I hope that a number of us at least will withhold endorsement, I've not endorsed, until we see. It's not a comfortable position to not support your nominee of the party. None of us want to be in this position. But there are certain things that you can't do as a candidate. And some of the things he's done I think are beyond the pale.

JOHN DICKERSON: One of the things that he says to his critics on the specific issue of the judge and other things is that people are just being too politically correct. When I talked to him, he said that they need a little common sense about these kinds of issues. What's your response to that?

JEFF FLAKE: There's something called political correctness, and there's something called correctness. And to say that a judge can't judge correctly simply because he has Mexican heritage is not correct. So it goes beyond political correctness. Some of these things are simply bad statements. And some of the statements with regard to women are simply boorish. So it goes beyond political correctness.

JOHN DICKERSON: What about the idea that there's a set of policies of here that Donald Trump if he's elected would help get through, and that he would as a Republican president sign those policies, and that if you just focus on the policies and not some of these comments, that that would be a reason to get behind him? Because Hillary Clinton is the alternative.

JEFF FLAKE: I'm certainly sympathetic to that. And Paul Ryan has said that the House package that he's putting together, which is a good package of reforms, is more likely to be enacted under a President Trump. That's why we hope that he can be a different kind of candidate than he's been so far. Because none of us want the alternative. We don't want another four years of what we've just had. And that's likely what we'll get with President Clinton.

JOHN DICKERSON: What's it like, senator, taking this position? Politics is pretty hot right now. Are you getting grief from constituents? Are you getting praise? What's it like on your end?

JEFF FLAKE: It's a mixture of both obviously. Arizona went for Trump in the Republican presidential preference primary. So I do hear from a lot of people who would like me to simply get behind the nominee. But given the things that he's said, I simply can't right now. And I've got a lot of support for that position as well.

JOHN DICKERSON: Give us a sense of what's happening in the Republican Party right now. Is this just a little internal difficulty? Or is the Republican Party facing a real choice here in your view?

JEFF FLAKE: This is a real choice. This is a big deal. We obviously want to support the nominee. And there will be a problem if we don't. If we don't have a unified party going into this election, it will have consequences. But there will also be consequences if we support a nominee who continues to take positions that simply are inconsistent with the party's position over time. We cannot support somebody who would take us back on some of these issues. We can't support a candidate, for example, who will do to the Hispanic what has been done to the African American vote for Republicans going forward. We can't afford to do that as a party. And unless Mr. Trump changes some of his positions, we fear that that's where we'll be.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Senator Jeff Flake for us from Arizona. Thanks so much, senator. And we'll be back in a moment. ...

JOHN DICKERSON: We are joined now by Donald Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Mr. Lewandowski, when Donald Trump says the Republican Party has to get it together, what does that mean?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I think what it means is everyone needs to come and understand that we have one central plan, which is defeat Hillary Clinton come November. And it's a binary decision now. And Republicans have to decide are they all going to fall in line and understand that the choice is very clear? You can support Donald Trump for president, or you can support Hillary Clinton for president. She wants to raise taxes by $1.2 billion, add $800 billion dollars into the federal deficit moving forward. Donald Trump wants to cut taxes. I think Republicans understand there's a clear choice here. And we saw that Governor Pence over the weekend came out and endorsed Donald Trump. There are many, many people already supporting Donald Trump. So we're happy with the unification process which has taken place already.

JOHN DICKERSON: You have Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader for the Republicans, and House Speaker Paul Ryan asking Donald Trump to change. What's he going to do?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI: No, I don't think they're asking for him to change. What they want is to understand what the policies are that Donald Trump wants to put forward. And we've talked about this many times with the leaders in Congress. His policies are to cut taxes, give tax cuts to the working class, the middle class, reduce our national deficit, renegotiate our trade deals. There is no change in what we're looking to do there. You know, these are things that everybody agrees with. And Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan all agree that that's the right path forward for our country.

JOHN DICKERSON: But they are asking for a change in temperament, behavior, tone. Not just those I mentioned, but a number of other Republicans are saying he's got kind of one last shot to change course here in his behavior. So you're - it sounds like what you're saying is no change to Donald Trump.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI: No, what I'm saying is that you need toughness. Sometimes you need to fight for our country. You need fight for the American people. That's what Donald Trump does. Just as he has done for his business for the last 40 years, making sure that his employees have the best, and that he's gotten the best deals, he'll do that for our country. I don't think anybody wants him to change. I think they want to see someone who's tough and strong and fights for our country. And that's what Mitch McConnell wants. That's what the American people want. And I think that's what Paul Ryan wants.

JOHN DICKERSON: With respect to his comments this week about Judge Curiel overseeing the Trump University lawsuit, does he think there's anything to apologize for in his remarks about the judge?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Well, there's nothing to apologize for. What you have is if you go to the website 98PercentApproval.com, you'll see that 98% of the people who took his courses gave it the highest marks possible. And the courses were designed by Ivy League professors who put these in place. And people are exceptionally happy with this. Particularly, the lead plaintiff in the case who filed this case gave it the highest glowing remarks possible. She did a video testimonial in this case. And when the plaintiff's attorneys found out that she had done that, she removed herself from the case. This case should have dismissed on summary judgment a long time ago. And we question the impartiality of the judge based on all those factors. That's all we're talking about in this case. This is ultimately going to be settled in a court of law. It shouldn't be tried in the court of public opinion.

JOHN DICKERSON: Dr. Ben Carson said that Mr. Trump has admitted privately that his comments about the judge's Hispanic heritage being a barrier to him judging fairly were a mistake. Is that true?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I wasn't privy to the conversation he had with Dr. Carson, but I can tell you this. Our concern with this judge is his impartial nature. The fact that he should have ruled on summary judgment to dismiss this case when the lead plaintiff comes out and says that this was a great institution that she was very proud of both in a video testimonial and on written evaluations. It should have been dismissed already. And, again, this is something that the media wants to talk about. What we're not talking about is Hillary Clinton's emails, what the disaster is that now the White House is saying that there's a criminal investigation going on with Hillary Clinton. That's a much bigger story than a potential civil case which is going to be litigated in a court of law.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Corey Lewandowski, that's all we have time for. Please stay with us. We're going to take a short break, and we've got a lot more questions for you coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to Face the Nation. We continue with Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's campaign manager. I want to just finish up here on the judge because you mentioned this is something that voters don't care about. But Paul Ryan, who is the speaker of the House, has brought it up. And so you mentioned that the judge in this case, it's just about his impartiality that Mr. Trump questions. But is it the fact that he's of Hispanic heritage that gets in the way of his impartiality? That's what people are I think still curious about.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI: No. What we've said is that this is a liberal judge appointed by a liberal president who's a member of a number of organizations that represent liberal values. And we want to make sure that, you know, Mr. Trump is given the opportunity to have an impartial hearing and an impartial decision based on, you know, that judge and the opportunity that every person in this country should have the right to a fair trial. And we want to make sure that that right is granted. And if you look at the facts of this case, the fact that the lead plaintiff was dismissed, that 98% of the people who participate in Trump University filled out evaluations or testimonials saying it was a fantastic course, this case should have been dismissed a long time ago on summary judgment and hasn't been. And that's what we're questioning.

JOHN DICKERSON: Hillary Clinton has her first ad out of the general election, in which she mentions - she charges that Mr. Trump made fun of a disabled reporter, Serge Kovaleski. Mark Kirk, senator from Illinois who unendorsed Mr. Trump this week, cited among his reasons for doing so that he makes fun of people who are disabled, like the senator who suffered from a stroke. What's the candidate's reaction? What's your reaction to those charges?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Let me say first and foremost I've had the privilege of serving with Mr. Trump for the last 18 months, 15 or 18 hours a day. And I'm appalled by this accusation. I know Mr. Trump very, very well. And never would he make such an accusation. And whatever Hillary Clinton says about this is completely unfounded. Moreover, if you look at the buildings that Mr. Trump has, he's, you know, gone out of his way to ensure ADA compliance at every chance. And, you know, this is a reporter who was a reporter in the mid-'80s that says he covered Mr. Trump. If you look today, there is a massive press corps that covers Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump didn't know this reporter. Didn't know anything to do with him. And that's the case today. So, you know, these are gross accusations that are completely unfounded. I know Mr. Trump. This is just not true. And I'm afraid that Hillary Clinton is trying to say something once again to distract from her own failed candidacy and her disaster of what she's done in Libya. The failures that she's had as secretary of state.

JOHN DICKERSON: Senator Mark Kirk, who's a Republican, brought this up. I think the foundation would be that Mr. Trump did a perfect imitation of a very idiosyncratic disability in his speech. I think that's what has people wondering.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Again, this is a reporter from the mid-'80s that Mr. Trump probably has never met. And if he met, maybe he met him 30 years ago. Again, I'm with Mr. Trump on a regular basis. The reporters who cover him, many of them he doesn't know who they are. So to think that this was an assault on a reporter who he has potentially never met is egregious. I know this man. He would never do such a thing.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Corey Lewandowski, thank you so much for being with us.

...

JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to Face the Nation. We turn now to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who is in Burlington, Vermont this morning. Senator, you're in Burlington. You're going to meet with advisors and your top staff. What are your options now in the campaign as so many Democrats have now rallied behind Hillary Clinton?

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, first of all, I will do everything that I can to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States. I think that the fact that we have a candidate running on a campaign of bigotry, of insulting Mexicans, and Muslims, and women is just not the kind of president obviously that this country needs. Not to mention his refusal to accept the reality that climate change is real that we should not be giving huge tax breaks to billionaires. I'm going to do everything I can to defeat Mr. Trump. I will be meeting as I understand it on Tuesday night with Secretary Clinton. And I will get a sense from her about the nature of the Democratic platform. Because, John, to me, one has always been important. It's how we address the major crises that we face. The declining middle class. Income and wealth inequality. The fact that so many of our young people cannot afford to go to college anymore. And the fact that we lose 40,000 people every year who can't go to the doctor too late. These are issues that have got to be dealt with. And I look forward to sitting down with Secretary Clinton to see what kind of platform she is going to support and in fact how aggressive she is going to be in addressing the major crises that we face.

JOHN DICKERSON: I want to ask you about those issues in a moment, senator. But if your goal is to do everything you can to defeat Donald Trump, isn't the fastest route to that goal endorsing Hillary Clinton?

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, not necessarily. It's not just - obviously, I will do everything I can to defeat Trump. But what's equally important to me is transforming America and addressing these crises. And we have worked with, you know, with thousands of people all over this country who are adamant that we have got to take on the big money interests. Got to take on the drugs companies and the fossil fuel industry. And we've got to take on Wall Street. So that is what I am going to do. And dependent on how Secretary Clinton comes down on many of these major issues will determine how closely we can work with her. But make no mistake about it. Bernie Sanders and I think many millions of my supporters will be doing everything that we can to defeat Mr. Trump.

JOHN DICKERSON: When you meet with Hillary Clinton, your supporters might think, "Well, she'll make promises in a room to get your endorsement. But how does Bernie Sanders make sure those promises have some staying power?"

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, that's a great question, John. And that's exactly what we will be talking about. You know, generally speaking, a platform is a piece of paper tucked away in some kind of drawer. But I do not want that to be the case. Nor do millions of people who voted for real change want that to be the case. And that is exactly what Secretary Clinton and I will be talking about. Look, I happen to believe that not only is it the right thing to stand up to Wall Street. Not only is it the right thing to make public colleges and universities tuition free or demand that corporate America and the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes. You know what I think? I think it's good politics as well. Because that's what I believe the American people want. They are sick and tired of the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality and the movement of this country into an oligarchic form of society. That's the case that I will make. And, you know, it's up to Secretary Clinton to determine how she responds and what kind of campaign she chooses to run. So that's kind of where we are.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mention the fact that platforms sometimes get discussed, and then go away, and have no real teeth in them. In 1980, Senator Kennedy tried to make it the case that anybody who got money from the Democratic Party had to say they were for a very specific set of platform issues, tried to put some commitments in there. Are you trying to do anything like that that kind of codifies--

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, we are. I mean, and, by the way, the answer is yes. Although, you know, the devil is in the details as to how you do that. But the other issue, John, has to do with transformation of the Democratic Party. Look, it is no secret. All of my colleagues will tell you and Republicans as well that senators and members of Congress spend enormous amounts of time raising money from the wealthy and the powerful. We have super PACs dominating the political process. That has got to change. And I want to see the Democratic Party be a party that is open to working people and the issues that they are concerned about, to the energy and the idealism of young people. That is what we need. And that is also part of what the discussion will be about in the coming weeks with Secretary Clinton and her staff as well as at the Democratic convention.

JOHN DICKERSON: Finally, senator, Donald Trump has said that your supporters should support him because you were beaten in a rigged system. What's your response to that?

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I think we do need to change the primary and caucus system in a profound way. I think the idea that 400 super delegates were on board Secretary Clinton's campaign eight months or nine months before the first ballot was cast in Iowa is totally absurd. But let me be very clear. My supporters understand very well that a man like Trump who runs his campaign on trying to divide us up, on bigotry, who denies the reality of climate change, who wants to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the top 2/10ths of 1%, this is not a man who should become president of the United States.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Senator Bernie Sanders, thanks so much for being with us. And we'll be right back with our panel.