Face the Nation transcripts September 8, 2013: McDonough, Rogers, Amash, Cummings

The latest on the crisis in Syria. Plus, CBS News' Charlie Rose previews his interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad
The latest on the crisis in Syria. Plus, CBS ... 47:23

(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on September 8, 2013, hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Guests include: White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, Reps. Mike Rogers, Elijah Cummings, and Justin Amash, CBS News' Clarissa Ward and Elizabeth Palmer, and a panel with David Ignatius, David Sanger, Bob Woodward, Danielle Pletka, and Bill Kristol. Plus, CBS News' Charlie Rose previews his interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

SCHIEFFER: Today on Face the Nation, breaking news -- CBS News man Charlie Rose has just interviewed Syrian President Bashar al- Assad. We'll have a report. And we'll get reaction from White House chief of staff Dennis McDonough only on Face the Nation.

ANNOUNCER: From CBS News in Washington, Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: And good morning, again, Charlie Rose, as we just reported, has interviewed Bashar al-Assad in Syria. He is in Beirut this morning now. Well, Charlie let's get right to it, what did he tell you?

CHARLIE ROSE, CBS NEWS: Well, he denied that he had anything to do with the attack. He denied that he knew, in fact, that there was a chemical attack, notwithstanding what has been said, and notwithstanding the videotape. He said there's not evidence yet to make a conclusive judgment. He would not say, even though I read him the lead paragraph of The New York Times today, and the story about their chemical weapons supply. And he said I can't confirm or deny that we have chemical weapons. He did, however, say that in fact if we do have them -- and I'm not going to say yes or no -- they're in centralized control, so no one else has access to them. He suggested, as he has before, that perhaps the rebels had something to do with it. He made some references to Aleppo. The most important thing as he basically says is that there has no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people. There is no evidence of that. And if, in fact the evidence has evidence, then they should show that evidence and make their case. I then obviously repeated the fact that Secretary Kerry is in the process of making the case. And that, in fact, that information is being shown to members of congress, as they begin to come back to Washington and consider an authorization for the president to make a military strike. He said that he did not necessarily know whether or not there was going to be a strike, obviously. That they were prepared as they could be for a strike. He said there would be -- suggested there would be, among people that are aligned with him, some kind of retaliation if a strike was made, that that would be what would be -- but he would not talk about any kind of the nature of the response. He had a message to the American people that it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the Middle East in wars and conflict in the Middle East, that the result had not been good, and that they should not get involved, and that they should communicate through their congress and through their leadership in Washington not to authorize a strike.

SCHIEFFER: Well Charlie, did he seem resigned to the fact that the United States is probably going to attack? Or did he predict that congress wouldn't approve this? Did you get any kind of sense of what he thinks is going to happen next?

ROSE: Bob, that was the very first question I asked: do you expect an attack? He said, I don't know. He said we're prepared as best we can. He did not say that he assumed that there would be an attack in Syria because of the chemical weapons. I also pursued the question of whether there was anything that he was prepared to do to stop the attack, for example, to give up chemical weapons, if that would stop the attack. I also raised the question with him that did he fear that if there was an attack it would degrade his own military and therefore make it more likely that it might tip the balance. He's very, very concerned about that as an issue. He talked about his father, and the lessons he had learned from his father, that war was ruthless, and that (inaudible) his father went all out to destroy, at that time, the Muslim Brotherhood. So he was calm. He knew the situation he was in. In fact, Damascus seemed relatively calm, the places that I was today. But there's a clear sense they are closely watching what is happening in Washington. I think the reason they did this interview today -- we've been trying for a long time, but did it today because they're watching what happens in Washington.

SCHIEFFER: The interview will air in its entirety Monday night on the Charlie Rose Show on PBS. Excerpts of the interview will air for the first time on CBS this morning tomorrow with more on subsequent CBS News broadcast. Back here in Washington, we turn now to the White House chief of staff Denis McDonough. I'll just start, what is your reaction to what you just heard?

MCDONOUGH: Well, I think that the most important thing is what Charlie said at the end, which is he said that Assad is clearly watching -- closely watching what is happening in Washington. You know Bob, I spent the last couple of weeks talking to dozens of members of congress. To a person, they do not rebut or deny or negate the intelligence. So, that tells us that we all believe that on August 21st, he used chemical weapons against his own people in what is the largest chemical weapons attack in nearly three decades. So the question then for congress, and it's square on the table this week, is should there be consequences for somebody who has used these terrible weapons to gas and to kill more than a thousand people, including hundreds of children, and what should those consequences be? The answer to this question is be closely followed, as Charlie said, in Damascus but also in Tehran and among Lebanese Hezbollah and others. So it's important that congress be a full partner in this effort and that they pass this resolution so that we can send a clear and very convincing message to someone who clearly is not understanding his requirements to the international community.

SCHIEFFER: What you're saying is that he is just a liar?

MCDONOUGH: What I'm saying is that he clearly is misleading. He -- it does appear to me to be a lie. Every indication we have is that he -- and every member of congress I've spoken to accepts the intelligence that they carried out this attack. And so what we need now is to communicate very clearly what is expected of him. And what is expected of him is to live up to the prohibition now, almost a hundred years old, against using these dastardly weapons to gas women and children.

SCHIEFFER: He said at one point in the interview if the United States has the evidence, show the evidence.

MCDONOUGH: Well, you know, you've seen these terrible videos, Bob, and others have seen these terrible videos. And I hope every member of congress...

SCHIEFFER: You're saying that's evidence enough?