Read more transcripts from Face the Nation here.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS: Today on FACE THE NATION: It is Easter Sunday, and this holy week still brought high drama to Washington.
As he headed for vacation Thursday, President Trump announced an unexpected major change in U.S. military policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.
TRUMP: Very soon. Very soon. We're coming out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: As the president's national security team scrambled to respond, the White House was still dealing with the fallout from yet another high-profile firing. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is out. And the president's pick to replace him, Dr. Ronny Jackson, has come under immediate scrutiny for his qualifications and his famously glowing review of Mr. Trump's health earlier this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. RONNY JACKSON, PRESIDENTIAL PHYSICIAN: He has incredibly good genes. And it's just the way God made him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: There were protests last night in California over the police shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man. That left one protester injured by a sheriff's vehicle.
We will sit down this morning with two South Carolina Republicans, Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy, to talk about their new book, "Unified," which focuses on bridging America's racial and cultural divide.
And as tension between the U.S. and Russia escalates, they will also weigh in on special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into election meddling.
Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders also joins us to discuss the future of the Veterans Administration and growing ethics questions around EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Our political panel will round up the news of the week.
Plus, a conversation with the United Nations' top official on refugees about the global crisis of millions driven from their homes by war and famine.
In it all starts now on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm Margaret Brennan.
We begin today with two congressional Republicans from South Carolina, Senator Tim Scott and Representative Trey Gowdy. Their new book, "Unified," tells the story of their close friendship and their hope to heal a divided country.
Welcome to both of you, gentlemen.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you.
BRENNAN: I want to talk to you both about why you wrote this book, why you did it together, but I want to also ask about some of the news of the moment.
The special counsel did reveal this week that Trump campaign official Rick Gates, who is a cooperating witness in that investigation, knowingly had communications on more than one occasion during the campaign with a person the FBI believes had active ties to Russian intelligence.
Congressman, as a former prosecutor, what does this say to you?
GOWDY: It says that I'm glad we have Bob Mueller.
I'm glad we have an independent ball-and-strike caller. Congress has proven itself incapable of conducting serious investigations. And our best hope of finding out....
BRENNAN: You include your own committee, House Intelligence, on that?
GOWDY: Absolutely, not just House Intelligence.
Congressional investigations leak like the gossip girls. They -- I mean, they're terrible. And I would be telling you that if I were staying in Congress. They're just not serious. Serious investigations don't leak.
Serious investigations don't make up their mind first and then go in search of the evidence to validate your previously held convictions.
BRENNAN: Did your committee do that with clearing any collusion in the case of Russia?
GOWDY: I think Adam Schiff, in March of 2017, said he had evidence, more than circumstantial, but not direct. And, oh, by the way, there is no body of evidence that's more than circumstantial, but not direct.
But he said he had it of collusion. And we have been waiting for over a month now -- for over a year now for him to actually produce that evidence. That is not serious. And I'm hoping that either the Senate investigation or Mueller will be more objective.
BRENNAN: Senator, the person tied to Russian intelligence that we're talking about did work with Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. You have been on record in the past saying that President Trump should not pardon Michael Flynn. Do you view Paul Manafort differently?
SCOTT: I do not. I think it's important that the White House be clear on this position as it relates to not treating either person differently.
Fact of the matter is, keeping the pardon off the table is a necessary part of the process. I would be disappointed if President Trump were to pardon either one of these individuals.
The good news is that the Mueller investigation continues. The better news is that the public will have as much information as necessary to draw clear conclusions. And, today, it only reinforces why it's important for us to make sure that the investigation continues until it gets to the end.
I hope that we get whether sooner than later, but the reality of it is that the more information we find out, the better and the more confident the American people will be in who we are as a nation.
BRENNAN: Does that mean you would support legislation to protect Bob Mueller from being fired?
SCOTT: I don't know that we need legislation to move forward. I don't know that there's a single senator that would come out in favor of stopping the investigation from going forward.
BRENNAN: Senator, you are on the Armed Services Committee. I want to ask you a bit about what we have heard from the president. He's been floating this idea of asking to use Pentagon funding to pay for this border wall.
BRENNAN: Is that lawful?
SCOTT: Well, certainly, I think it would take act of Congress to make sure that we prioritize and appropriate the dollars for that objective.
The reality of it is, as commander in chief, he can certainly send signals through Secretary Mattis, have a conversation with Congress about where those dollars should be spent. The good news is, we're spending. We're providing more money to the military than we have in a very long time, more than a decade.
The unfortunate reality is that the priorities of the DOD have already been set. However, our southern border is very porous. The truth is that more folks came through our southern border that did not come from Mexico. It is certainly a national security issue.
I think Homeland, so far, is the place that we should find the resources for building the wall, not necessarily the DOD. But I see when it comes to -- before my committee make sure that we have enough information to make a decision.
BRENNAN: You're saying Congress would need to weigh in to reprogram those funds?
BRENNAN: That's not something through executive authority you should...
SCOTT: We should not expect that from the president.
BRENNAN: I want to ask you about this book you wrote together.
BRENNAN: Why did you write this?
GOWDY: I think he has a compelling life narrative. I find it inspirational from the moment we became friends.
I think his -- the story how he got where he is, is a story of hope that our whole country will benefit from. I think contrast is good. I think conflict is debilitating. I think it -- we're in a dangerous time in our history in terms of political discourse.
I think most Americans want most of the same things out of life. We just have a tendency to focus on the things that we don't agree on, as opposed to those that we do. But I think there's a hunger and a yearning for unity. And if you can find it with a handsome bald-headed guy from Charleston and middle-aged son of a doctor from the upstate of South Carolina, then I think everyone can benefit from unlikely friendships.
BRENNAN: Why it an unlikely friendship, Senator?
SCOTT: Well, we were raised very differently. We have different perspectives. While we're both Republicans, the reality of it is, we come down very differently on a lot of the issues.
I think about an affluent fellow from a doctor's house, a poor kid single-parent household. I think about the challenges of race in our state. We have a very provocative history on race in South Carolina. And the truth is that after the 2015 Mother Emanuel Church shooting, I found myself turning to a white guy in the aftermath.
It became clear to me that there is a chance to bridge real gaps in this country. And if that was an example of one real bridging of a gap after a racially motivated shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, led me to turn to a white guy that I did not know before I came to Congress, are there lessons within this friendship that can help our nation that seems to be so polarized in such conflict, mired in challenges, and sometimes heading towards tribalism?
If there's a way to bridge that gap, can we and should we tell that story? I think we can, I think we should, and we did.
BRENNAN: What did you think when you got that phone call that night of the shooting in Charleston?
GOWDY: Just what Tim said. We have a provocative history in our state when it comes to race.
My first thought was a spiritual thought. God, how could you let nine people be murdered, when all they wanted to do was go learn about you? And then what it would mean to a black man to know that they were murdered simply because of the color of their skin.
Just kind of a, oh, let's don't -- oh, lord, let's don't go here again in South Carolina. And the beautiful part was, his intention was to start a race war in our state. And it had exactly the opposite effect.
BRENNAN: The shooter's intention.
You have talked a lot about the incident in Charleston, and that really sort of inspiring you to sit down and issue this call for action. What are you asking the public for in this book?
SCOTT: I think, if you look at the polarization that exists in this country, we have to find a path back to being one nation.
I found that path through a horrific church shooting that provided me a chance to reflect on progress and pain. My family, I think of my grandfather, who passed away in 2016. He was unable to drink from the same water fountain for the vast majority of his life, unable to go to a restaurant, unable to walk on the same sidewalk, could not finish school beyond the third grade.
And for me to live out a part of his American dream, to be able to converse and to challenge other folks, and then, in the aftermath of a church shooting, think about all that history in my family, to turn to Trey was just a symbol of progress that I believe that all things are possible in this great nation.
I think it's perhaps one of the greatest national security issues we have in this country, that if we allow the polarization to continue in this country, those outside of this country that want to bring harm will eat, will feast on the division in this country and create more polarization.
The Russians did that during the 2016 election. They focused on the opportunity to sow seeds of discord. That only leads to an erosion of our foundation and makes us quite more vulnerable.
BRENNAN: Do you think that Donald Trump and his administration have deepened this divide? Have you see any signs of hope that they're helping to bridge it?
SCOTT: I will say that when I went to the president after the Charlottesville incident, he asked me, what could he do?
We were not on the same page as it relates to the history of race in this nation. But we found a common position on legislative remedies that could help people in distressed communities. The opportunity zones that we're talking about throughout this country, the president said that he would commit to supporting that legislation.
He did. It's now law. And now 50 million Americans may see reasons to breathe hopefully about the future because of that legislation that will bring more resources into distressed communities.
BRENNAN: After Charlottesville, you said the president is not a racist, but he is racially insensitive.
BRENNAN: Is that still what you believe?
SCOTT: Absolutely. Yes, the president is not a racist. But is he racially insensitive? I think the answer is yes.
BRENNAN: You haven't seen an improvement in language or in actions by the Justice Department?
SCOTT: Well, I can't say whether or not the entire administration reflects his position.
I will say that he has been very positive on legislative remedies. I think if you follow the facts, what you will find is that unemployment rates within the African-American community at 6.9 percent haven't been this low in almost two decades. The Hispanic community hasn't been this low in almost two decades.
The fact is that the policy position of the administration is moving this country in the right direction economically. We still have to work on the tone and the rhetoric.
BRENNAN: Once again, we're seeing protests about the shooting of an unarmed black man and questions being raised about excessive force in the case of Stephon Clark.
And this question at the White House was responded to with the answer, "This is a local matter."
Do you think that these conversations need to be had at the federal level? Do you wish that they were, or is that not appropriate?
GOWDY: No, it's a national conversation.
I actually took the local matter to be -- maybe it's because I'm a prosecutor -- that it's a state crime, it's a local law enforcement matter from a criminal justice standpoint. But it's a national conversation.
Tim knows my bias -- I will put that word in quotes -- is toward law enforcement, as you would expect a prosecutor's to be. I am not oblivious to the fact that there are bad police officers, just like there are bad everything else.
He has helped me remarkably, not just him, but also other people of color in my life have helped me understand every interaction I have had with the police has been because I was speeding. I should have had an interaction with them. I have never been stopped by Capital Police, and I don't wear a member pin.
He's been stopped wearing a member pin. So, I am naive to believe that my life experience covers everyone. I have no idea what he sees when he sees blue lights. And I think he's benefited -- well, I know he has.
He calls the widows of fallen police officers before I call them in South Carolina. So, he gets the danger side of it, but he's also a black man who has had a very different relationship with law enforcement than I have.
So, you ask, why write the book? So we can talk to one another, find the things we have in common, instead of racing to the conflict, which is commercially successful, and you get a lot of clicks. It's just destroying our country.
BRENNAN: We have got to take a quick pause in the conversation. We will be right back in a moment.
BRENNAN: We're back now for more with Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy to talk about their new book, "Unified."
Congressman Gowdy, I have got to be honest. A lot of people in Washington, when they hear that you are issuing a call for unity, will say, he's been associated with two of the most divisive, politically heated probes in Washington, the probe into what happened in Benghazi and the most recent House Intelligence probe into Russian election meddling.
How do you reconcile those things?
GOWDY: I hear about the divisiveness. I just don't hear about it from my colleagues.
I hear about it a lot from people in your line of work, how divisive I am. And yet I don't have a fractured relationship with a single solitary Democrat that serves in the House.
So, conflict sells. It is much more commercially appealable to refer to something as hyper-partisan or deeply divisive. The reality is, with respect to Benghazi, I did everything I could to handle that like a normal investigation.
I was not hyper-focused on Secretary Clinton. Lots of other people were, including people in your -- with respect, in your line of work. It's not interesting enough to simply find out how our folks were rescued from the annex. If it didn't involve her, folks weren't interested in it.
So, out of 100 witnesses, one was named Clinton. And out of all the hearings we had, zero were about her e-mail, but yet that's the narrative that's been printed.
And it's one reason I can't wait to be out of politics, frankly.
GOWDY: Where the jury is a little more open-minded. They haven't made up their minds yet. Facts matter. And there's a referee that can say, you know what, there's no evidentiary support for that whatsoever. In politics, you can say it and get away with it.
BRENNAN: Well, you know, do you talk in the book, though, about the Benghazi investigation being personally difficult.
GOWDY: It was terrible.
BRENNAN: You actually, Senator, described it as probably the loneliness extended session of his life.
SCOTT: Let me just weight in very quickly.
Whether it's Russia or the Benghazi investigation, one thing that Trey tried to do in both situations was go after the truth, not after Hillary Clinton. And Republicans were unhappy with that.
He went after the truth. Democrats were unhappy because Hillary Clinton was attached to the conversation, and she had no choice but to be attached to it. It happened on her watch.
But on the Russia situation, the fact of the matter is, if you have listened to Trey Gowdy talk about how poorly the president's lawyer represented his position, there's no question that, if you're looking for a way to be partisan on the issue, you don't make those comments.
BRENNAN: You're referring there to John Dowd, former attorney?
SCOTT: If you're looking for the truth -- yes.
If you're looking for the truth, then you go where it leads. And there's no doubt that, if you look at the actual evidence on both of those situations, it is clear that Trey Gowdy that was looking for the truth.
And one of the reasons why I talk about that in the book, the Benghazi story, is because to watch the weight of the investigation on his face and on his shoulders and, frankly, on that hair that is now whiter than snow, it is because he did not want to be a partisan.
GOWDY: His objective was to be a prosecutor looking for the truth, and then present the evidence to the American people and let that jury decide.
BRENNAN: In reading this book, it sounds -- it's clear the affection you have for each other.
And, Congressman Gowdy, you seem very supportive of the senator and him staying in Washington, though you say you're going back home. People are going to ask the question of whether you are going to make a run for office.
I know you're not going to want to answer it, but, Congressman, should he run for president in 2020?
GOWDY: Oh,I don't know about 2020. I have run in two Republican primaries. Talk about lonely. That's the loneliest feeling in the world, running against an incumbent in a primary.
I would love to...
BRENNAN: So, you don't think that will happen for President Trump? He won't be primaried?
GOWDY: It may, but I don't think it's going to be Tim Scott. I would love for Tim Scott to run for president, whether it's 2024, whenever it fits his heart.
But he has a cheery, optimistic brand of conservatism that I think our country would benefit from. And, quite frankly, whether he won or not, our country would be better off hearing someone with his life story, the grandson of a man who couldn't read, picked cotton.
And then he grew up to pick out a seat in the United States House of Representatives. That's a story I wish my fellow citizens could hear. Whether he wins, I hope he runs.
SCOTT: I'm not even running for my homeowner association's presidency.
So, at this point, I thank God that I have had the privilege of serving the great people of South Carolina and this great nation. I'm a kid that got a second chance. I almost flunked out of high school as a freshman. My mother worked 16 hours a day to give me a reason to believe in this nation and having a great work ethic.
I am blessed already to fulfill a part of the mission that I think the good lord has sent me to fulfill. And as long as I continue to work hard for the people, whatever the good lord has next for me, I'm open to it.
BRENNAN: Senator, Congressman, thank you very much for sharing your story.
And just ahead, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
BRENNAN: We turn now to Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He joins us from Burlington in his home state this morning.
Senator, the VA is largest health care system in this country. Will you support Dr. Ronny Jackson as the nominee?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well, we know nothing about what Dr. Jackson stands for, what his vision is for the VA.
But, Margaret, this is what I will tell you. What concerns me very much is that, right now in Washington, we have a family called the Koch brothers, third wealthiest family in America, family that is prepared, with a few of their other billionaire friends, to spend $400 million on the coming elections.
They are now the most powerful political force in America, stronger than the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee. Their view has been we have got to privatize, privatize, and privatize.
And what Dr. Shulkin, who Trump just fired this week, has told us is that the reason for his firing is that he resisted privatization of the Veterans Administration.
Now, I work very closely with the major veterans organizations, the American Legion, VFW, DAV, Vietnam Vets, all of the veterans organizations. And what they say is they want to strengthen the VA, not dismember it, not privatize it.
So, we will see what Dr. Jackson has to say.
BRENNAN: Well, the White House says, at this time, they have no intent to privatize the VA.
Do you know what the Trump administration policy is?
SANDERS: Yes, of course I do. They have been putting more and more money into the private sector with VA money. I do not believe them on that issue.
I think they are listening to the Koch brothers. And I think that that is a very, very bad idea. If you listen to veterans all across this country, as I do, they will tell you, sure, there are problems with the VA.
But, by and large, once they get into the system, they are proud of the quality that the VA -- quality care that the VA provides. In fact, the American Legion has just come out with a publication which vigorously opposes privatization.
So, I do believe that the Trump administration, no matter what they are now saying, I think they are working on behalf of the Koch brothers. Look, these are the guys, Koch brothers, who want to privatize everything.
You have a Trump administration that, in their budget, the Trump budget, proposed $500 billion cuts in Medicare, trillion-dollar cuts in Medicaid. You have a secretary of education who doesn't believe in public education, a head of the EPA...
BRENNAN: Well, sir, on the issue of the VA, you did last year vote for a bill that allowed at least more leeway for veterans...
BRENNAN: ... and their doctors to decide whether they wanted to opt in for private care.
So, it sounds like you are open to some private sector option here.
SANDERS: Well, there has always been private sector option.
If you live in a rural community, you don't want 75-, 80-year-old veterans to travel two hours to get a physical examination. If there is a VA facility in the country that is not treating veterans in a timely manner, of course you want to allow veterans to go to the private sector. That is the case now. That has always been the case.
But what the Koch brothers want and what I fear the Trump administration wants is to rip that wide open and to take many -- we got a $200 billion veterans budget.
SANDERS: There are special corporate interests that want a big chunk of that money. We must not allow that to happen.
BRENNAN: Senator, we have to take a quick break. And we will talk to you on the other side of it.
We will be right back.
BRENNAN: Ahead this week, CBS News will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with special coverage from Memphis, Tennessee, throughout the day on Wednesday.
We will be right back with more from Senator Bernie Sanders.
BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm Margaret Brennan.
We're back now with Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who is going to be asking some tough questions of that next nominee to be the VA secretary.
Senator, the VA says that the average wait time at some facilities can be as long as a hundred days. The president says he's not happy with the speed of reform there.
What is the source of this problem?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well, look, the VA is the largest integrated health care system in the country. And as I said previously, if you ask the veterans organizations, they by and large think the VA is providing good, quality care.
You know, Margaret, there is a lot of attention paid to the VA because it's a government agency. But I've got news for you, people all over this country, when they want to get to a doctor or they need hospital care, they don't get in the very next day. So I am sure that there are some VA facilities where the waiting time is too long. That has got to be addressed.
There are other VA facilities -- for example, I know here in Vermont, that if you are dealing with a -- a psychiatric crisis, an emotional crisis, you get in that day. That's pretty good.
So the VA does a lot of good things. It has problems. We have got to improve the VA. But I think we've got to listen to the veterans of this country and not privatize it.
BRENNAN: Senator, you also sit on Environment Committee and you've been a harsh critic of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. He's facing a number of questions about ethics and these new reports that he rented a residence here in Washington, partly owned by the wife of a top energy lobbyist whose firm did business with the EPA. Do you think your committee should hold hearings on this?
SANDERS: I do. But I think the issue goes well beyond that problem. The issue goes to the fact that the vast majority of people in this country understand that climate change is real. It is already doing devastating problems throughout our nation and throughout the world. And yet we have a president and a head of the EPA who do not even recognize reality of climate change, let alone the need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel, to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.
So you've got a guy who's head of the EPA now, who is nothing more than a front man for the fossil fuel industry. And that is a very serious problem and the Congress has got to stand up and oppose that line of policy.
BRENNAN: I imagine you oppose the lowering of emission standards that the administration is expected to announce this week?
SANDERS: Well, of course. I mean what we have got to do is understand that we have over the last number of years made success against air pollution and against water pollution. We have made some success in transforming our energy system. And the idea to go back and listen to the short term needs of the coal industry or the oil industry makes no sense to me at all.
Look, here is the truth. What the scientific community is telling us is that climate change is one of the great environmental crises facing this planet. And if we don't get a handle on that, we're going to leave this planet -- a planet to our kids that is not healthy or habitable. We've got to address that. The Trump administration is moving in exactly the wrong direction.
BRENNAN: Sir, you have been critical of the Israeli government's decision to use lethal force against Palestinian demonstrators, killing 15, wounding over 700. The Trump administration has stopped short of calling on Israel for restraint. Should they explicitly do so?
SANDERS: Yes, they should. Look, Gaza, as I think everybody knows, is a humanitarian disaster. The unemployment rate there is beyond comprehension. And there is just enormous unrest.
What the function of the United States government should be right now is to sit down with the Israelis, sit down with the Palestinians and figure out how we can rebuild Gaza. And also to tell the Israelis that when you've got tens and tens of thousands of people protesting, they cannot overreact. And the idea of 15 or so people being killed and hundreds being wounded is -- is, to me, unacceptable.
BRENNAN: We should note, the Palestinian Authority did boycott a meeting at the White House recently to talk about rebuilding Gaza.
Senator, thank you so much for your time.
We'll be right back with our political panel.
BRENNAN: And now for some political analysis. Michael Crowley is senior foreign affairs correspondent for "Politico," Shawna Thomas is the Washington bureau chief for "Vice News," David Frum is a senior editor at "The Atlantic," and David Nakamura covers the White House for "The Washington Post."
Thanks for being here on the holiday.
Shawna, the president out tweeting this morning about immigration. He says no more DACA deal. What is happening?
SHAWNA THOMAS, "VICE NEWS": Well, number one, there wasn't really much of a DACA deal left. I think you can see especially from the appropriations process and the omnibus that the Democrats didn't push it. The Republicans don't seem to have a way to get there. And also it's in courts, basically. So I think he's pretty safe in saying there's no DACA deal, because there wasn't a DACA deal.
I think the other interesting thing is he said that they need to go to the nuclear option, which we have heard the president's say, which is getting rid of basically the filibuster in Congress in the Senate.
And this is also something that president -- that Senator McConnell has said, I'm not for that. So I think this is stuff we've heard from the president before and this is how he's spending his Easter.
DAVID NAKAMURA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": What's interesting, too, I think is that with a -- with no DACA deal, it wasn't just Democrats that lost something in protecting younger undocumented immigrants, these dreamers, but also the president. He only got the $1.6 billion for his border wall. He knows it. I think there's -- his conservative base is eager for him to get started. And as much as they pitched the idea that they're going to use that money to get started on some of the wall immediately, the president's frustrated he didn't get more of the wall. And I think now it's going to be a political issue come this fall and I think he's sort of is trying to set that groundwork that he wants to move forward as hard as he can on tougher immigration.
BRENNAN: And, David, the president links this as well to the future of the free trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
DAVID FRUM, "THE ATLANTIC": Right. Well, the president is revealing to many of his supporters the true cost of Donald Trump's own presidency for things they believe in.
What triggered the president's tweets has been a -- was a (INAUDIBLE) "Fox and Friends" this morning about what has been an emerging issue in the conservative press. A movement of some hundreds of people from Central America, through Mexico, unchecked by Mexican authorities, hoping to get to the United States border and then to make a request for asylum.
It reminds us of the rushes to the border from Central America in the summers of 2014 and 2015 that were triggered by President Obama's DACA executive orders. He made it clear that it was going to be easier to stay in the United States and many thousands of people left Central America to come to try to take advantage of that.
That was brought to an end with the cooperation of Mexican law enforcement. Mexico is a partner -- must be a partner in defending the country against illegal immigration. If you alienate Mexico over the wall, over -- and over NAFTA, what you end up doing is electing this summer a much more nationalistic, a much more radical Mexican president who will not cooperate. And these rushes to the border, which Trump is raining against, will be a cost of the Trump presidency.
BRENNAN: And this isn't the only trade deal that the president has linked this week to other issues facing this country. The president also, Michael, threatened this free trade deal with South Korea, that many in the White House thought they'd settled --
MICHAEL CROWLEY, "POLITICO": Yes.
BRENNAN: If they didn't do or go along with what he's asking for with North Korea.
CROWLEY: Yes, he boasted that he had leverage over South Korea at this point as we head into these incredibly sensitive negotiations with North Korea. It seems like he's still on track to meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un in May. Built you would think that at this time the U.S. and South Korea would be hugging each other closely, trying to have a unified strategy and front, show the North Koreans that you can't divide up America's alliances in the region, and instead Trump has chosen this opportunity to go after them economically, to renegotiate a trade agreement.
Interestingly I think that, you know, some of the concessions you've got -- he's gotten from the South Koreans, I've seen compliments from unexpected quarters. He may be feeling as though that he's on to something here. And he may be feeling like he can push it farther and that he's going to use this moment for economic gain, as well as security gains.
But it is very counterintuitive that you would be pressing the South Koreans at such a critical strategic moment on economic issues.
BRENNAN: David Nakamura, the joint exercises with South Korea go underway today. They've had -- they had been delayed to accommodate the Olympics.
BRENNAN: That was also a little bit of a give to North Korea as well.
NAKAMURA: It was. But I think what this administration is trying to signal is that if Donald Trump does have some coordinated strategy, there's a lot of people that don't believe it, but that they've learned from mistakes of the past in potential negotiations with the North, and that is maybe easing up on some of the military cooperation with South Korea or the hard line sanctions that have been imposed.
And this administration has gone farther on sanctions unilaterally and through the United Nations. They're pledging to keep all of these things in place throughout any negotiations until the North shows some specific examples of actually moving towards denuclearization. That's a big if and well down the line. But I think you're seeing a lot of people say we need to keep the pressure on, this maximum pressure idea, well through the negotiations.
FRUM: The administration's one strategic idea is it's easier, and in the short run cheaper, to kick your friends than to kick your enemies. So it's easier to kick South Korea than it is to do anything about North Korea. It's easier to bully Mexico than to work on actually getting Mexican help to harder the U.S./Mexican border. And that appeals to Trump's instincts. But to describe any of this as a strategy, I think it just a fundamental, categorical error. What you have are a series of impulses that are dominated to -- that are driven by the search for weakness and the desire to humiliate.
THOMAS: But there's no -- I mean the problem is, we are isolating China to a certain extent with our conversation about trade. We are, in some ways, this isolates South Korea, who we know is going to meet with the North Koreans before we meet with the North Koreans. The Chinese met with the North Koreans before we met with them. It confuses the situation a lot.
FRUM: Isolating --
THOMAS: But, you know, I could say that about almost everything that comes out of the Trump administration that the rest of the world is confused.
FRUM: Isolating China was strategy. That's why we had the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the effort to build Pacific arrangements that could weaken China, contain China, and enhance American strength. What you now have area, you know, slaps at South Korea, who -- one of the -- America's most important potential and maybe former friends in the region.
NAKAMURA: And also Japan. I mean --
CROWLEY: And Japan. Yes.
NAKAMURA: Right. I mean, Japan -- I mean, if any -- if there's any world leader that's really tried to sort of get close to Trump, it's Prime Minister Abe in Japan.
BRENNAN: He's coming here soon.
NAKAMURA: Yes, he's coming to try to talk about North Korea, set some guard rails, because the Japanese are concerned about this negotiation.
But I think that, you know, the Japanese have seen the risks of closing (ph) -- cozying (ph) up too much to Trump.
BRENNAN: On Russia, Michael, this was a pretty significant action by the White House. They said they expelled not diplomats but Russians undeclared intelligence officers. Russia took another action in response. Were you surprised to see this kind of escalation?
CROWLEY: I was a little surprised, particularly because it came on the heels of President Trump calling President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his re-election in an election process that was widely seen as anti-democratic and basically a sham. I think Freedom House described it as a sham. So did Senator John McCain.
President Trump called Putin, and I think as David may have been one of the co-bylines on the great story saying that Trump had ignored talking points that were handed to him saying, do not congratulate Putin.
But I think what has become -- what has become increasingly clear is that there is sort of a two track American approach to Russia. There is the Trump administration, which has actually been taking some relatively tough measures. I think a step that didn't get enough attention was Trump's decision to sell anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, which was a proposal that President Barack Obama always feared would be a dangerous escalation in the conflict in the Ukraine.
BRENNAN: And his national security team emphasizes that (INAUDIBLE) the president.
CROWLEY: Absolutely. They were very pleased about it.
But then, at the saw time, you have President Donald Trump himself, who continues to try to reach out to Putin, to befriend Putin. And Trump has this logic supposedly that says you can have a tough fist policy wise, but extend your hand personally to try to somehow find some kind of common ground. And I think we just have to live with that reality and see where it takes us.
FRUM: The Russia media reporting -- and it has not been contradicted here, that while 60 individuals were expelled, that the quota of Russians who are allowed to be in the United States has not been reduced.
BRENNAN: That's right.
FRUM: And so it is -- 60 people will go, 60 new people will come. So it's not as tough a measure at all as it looks.
BRENNAN: Russia's cap on our diplomats was different.
David, I want to ask you, this is not the first time that the president seems to be at odds with his national security team. The Syria announcement, withdrawing 2,000 troops suddenly --
BRENNAN: This caught many by surprise.
NAKAMURA: Caught many by surprise, including the Pentagon, I think, and other advisors who have said that the worst thing you can do, that you may have had some success in defeating ISIS and taking their territory, but you're setting conditions for their reemergence or reemergence of another extremist group if you leave to early. Some even point to Barack Obama having withdrawn troops from Iraq and setting a stage for ISIS to take land in that country. So --
BRENNAN: That was a campaign talking point.
NAKAMURA: Yes, it was. But, you know, but Trump -- Trump campaigned hard against terrorism. And I think he also sees, though, the idea that we -- our military are on endless missions around the world as a flaw of previous administrations on both sides of the aisle. So he -- I think that hits his instinct to withdraw troops. But to do it in the way he did it, at a campaign rally, get maybe applause lines without setting the stage with your national security cabinet and going against their advice does not make sense.
You're right, the same way he also sort of accepted this negotiation with North Korea in a face to face meeting with Kim Jong-un just sort of surprised everybody in the way he came out with that. I think it's a hard way to run your national security team.
FRUM: Well -- go ahead.
THOMAS: Well, and I think one of the things people haven't focused on as much is that right after he said the Syria thing in Ohio, he also -- he also complained about the trillions that we've spent in the Middle East, that we could spend the money more on schools here if we didn't spend those trillions in the Middle East.
And it sort of had me thinking that, you know, what does that say to our military? What does that say about their -- what they're doing, the job that they're trying to carry out, the ability to try to get Syria back to some attempt at stability? And I was also struck because we had someone die in Syria.
THOMAS: Master Sergeant Jonathan Dunbar from Austin, Texas --
THOMAS: Died of an IED on the same week that Trump is saying these things. And I --
BRENNAN: And freezing funding that is used to move unexploded ordinance.
THOMAS: Exactly, $200 million.
BRENNAN: We have to leave it there, unfortunately. So much to talk about, as always, with all of you.
I'd like to thank our panel for coming in on the holiday.
And we'll be back in a moment.
BRENNAN: On refugees tasked with providing them protection, distributing aid and managing resettlement program. His organization has identified over 65 million displaced people worldwide. We spoke with him about three major refugee crises, Muslims fleeing Burma and crossing into neighboring Bangladesh, Syrians trying to escape conflict inside that country, and Congolese, fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
BRENNAN: We're in the midst of the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Do you have the resources you need?
FILIPPO GRANDI, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES: Not enough. Not enough. And not only that, but we need, of course, humanitarian resources to address the basic needs, food, medicines, shelter, protection, especially for the most vulnerable, women, children. But we increasingly need with this protracted crisis, you know, the average stay of a refugee in a foreign country this -- this -- these days is maybe 15 to 20 years. So you need to --
BRENNAN: Fifteen to 20 years in a refugee camp?
GRANDI: Yes. Or in refugee camp or in refugee situation. That is the nature of the crisis today.
BRENNAN: Now, in terms of political leadership, the president has capped the number of refugees with the United States will resettle here on the U.S. mainland at about 45,000 for 2018. Does that concern you to see those kind of caps?
GRANDI: We are discussing this matter with the U.S., and we hope that once this analysis of the vetting procedure is completed, once measures are taken to make it even more robust, although we think it's quite robust already, then we can talk about larger figures again.
BRENNAN: I want to ask you about some specific cases.
In Burma, these are 700,000 people who flooded into Bangladesh, which is itself one of the poorest countries in the world.
GRANDI: Not only poor, but, you know, I visited there a couple of times. The area of Bangladesh where they have flooded in is extremely exposed to -- to climate phenomena, like monsoon rains, like typhoons, like flooding. So it's a very fragile area from the environmental point of view.
BRENNAN: You see the images from that area and food scarcity. You see men clamoring for bags of rice. Infants, babies, dead in their mother's arms because of what they've fled just to get to these camps. Are you hearing any advocacy from the United States on this issue? I mean who do you even meet with in the Trump administration?
GRANDI: Well, the people in the State Department that are responsible for refugee assistance have been very active.
BRENNAN: And there's no one running that program right now because there hasn't been someone appointed.
GRANDI: But -- but the office -- the professionals, the officials that are staffing the office have been working very hard on the response.
You know, it's not a very well-known population. It's not a very well-known cause. But I think there is growing sympathy and support worldwide. And at least that can help in the response. But we need to find the solution. That's the most difficult, back in their country, back in Burma.
BRENNAN: In Syria, we're just past the seventh anniversary of that war. Is the refugee flow slowing down at all?
GRANDI: You know, the refugee flow has -- many people exiting Syria into the neighboring countries has slowed down a while ago because the borders are practically closed. And Europe having closed borders two years ago, this has provoked a chain reaction. So there's --
BRENNAN: There's nowhere to run.
GRANDI: So for Syria, there's nowhere to run outside the country, expect for a few of them. We've seen, on the other hand, and because of that, a big increase in internal refugees.
BRENNAN: Diplomatically, there's no solution to that in sight. But do you -- do you feel there's global fatigue when it comes to donating or when it comes to support for these refugees?
GRANDI: There might be. Also it's also a matter of sheer numbers. I have to travel the world, go to donor capitals, and every time bring a new situation which requires funding. But what can I do? I often say that we have become unable to make peace.
BRENNAN: You're going, as you said, to political capitals sort of door to door asking for help for all of these crises. How do you prioritize Africa? Where does that fall?
GRANDI: It's difficult because Africa is far away. You know, Africa is the -- is the continent that is perhaps the furthest away from the rich countries. And in an era of mobility, when refugees become visible, when they come at the doorstep of rich countries, it's more difficult for people who don't get to that doorstep and remain refugees or are displaced far away.
BRENNAN: They're not seen.
GRANDI: They're not seen. They're invisible. And Africa has never been at the center of the strategic interest of the big powers, unfortunately. Although, of course, there are many important interests there as well. So it is more difficult to make the case for African refugees. But I would argue that it should be equally compelling.
I think it's a fundamental message that I'd like to leave behind for those who listen, those who watch, is, remember that refugees are not a threat and should not be seen as a threat. Refugees are people that are fleeing from unimaginable threats.
BRENNAN: So that must frustrate you when you hear the president only speak about refugees in the context of a national security threat.
GRANDI: What I say does not mean that governments do not have a responsibility to ensure that population movements, including refugees, do not bring insecurity. This is a sovereign duty of any country. That's why we support vetting, we support controls.
But, fundamentally, if somebody is assessed as being a refugee, he or she should be received, should be gave that protection that this person has lost in his or her country and in countries like the United States should be given the opportunity to thrive, like millions of refugees have done in the past few decades.
BRENNAN: That it's not easy to be resettle in the U.S.?
GRANDI: Well, it is still the largest resettlement program in the world. And like I said, once this issue of vetting has been clarified, I hope that the figures can rise again.
BRENNAN: No promises yet on that?
GRANDI: Ongoing discussion.
BRENNAN: We'll be back in a moment.
BRENNAN: That's it for us today. We hope you have a Happy Easter and Passover. And until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.