Full transcript: 'Face the Nation' on April 22, 2018

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Last Updated Feb 26, 2019 11:29 AM EST

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MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS: Today on FACE THE NATION: North Korea declares it will suspend testing of nuclear missiles and plans to close a test site.

The announcement is hailed as a step in the right direction by President Trump, as also faces some crucial decisions about that summit with Kim Jong-un and as his embattled nominees for secretary of state and CIA director move forward in the Senate.

All this as the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, faces possible be criminal charges. Will Cohen turn on his longtime client in order to make a plea deal? We will cover it all today with two key voices in the Senate, Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tells us what his country is prepared to do if the president officially pulls out of the Iran nuclear deal.

And former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joins us to make an Earth Day announcement about America's contribution to an international climate change agreement and answer a question about his own political future.

In addition to our political roundtable, John Dickerson returns to talk about the legacy of Barbara Bush and why the presidency has gotten too big for one person.

It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm Margaret Brennan.

We have got a lot to get to today, but we want to begin with Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who is one of the president's closest allies in the Senate.

Welcome to the show.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Good morning, Margaret. Good to be one with you.

BRENNAN: It's great to have you in person here, here in Washington.

Pyongyang made this announcement about suspending some tests, but they didn't say they're giving up their nuclear development or their weapons. Should the release of three Americans be a condition for these upcoming talks?

COTTON: Well, I think this announcement on Friday is better than continued testing, but it's not much better than that.

As you say, it's an easily reversible decision. They made no announcement about their medium- or short-range ballistic missiles that threatened hundreds of thousands in Korea and Japan, just like it threatens our allies there.

But I do think they show that the president has put Kim Jong-un on the wrong foot, the first time North Korea has been on the back foot for a long time. The fact that Kim requested this summit, the president accepted, I think to his surprise and moved so quickly, said he's not going to ask for U.S. troops to be removed and now has made this announcement shows that he realizes that time and momentum is on the side of the United States and our allies.

I know the president and Director Pompeo, who will soon be Secretary Pompeo, is committed to bringing those Americans home. I hope that will happen before this summit occurs.

BRENNAN: Do you expect release to happen before Mike Pompeo...

COTTON: I know they are working hard to achieve that goal.

BRENNAN: You mentioned Mike Pompeo.

As we've said, he's a friend of yours, CIA director, wants to be secretary of state. One issue that some of the Democrats at his hearing, like Senator Menendez, had with his nomination is that they, frankly, say they don't know which Mike Pompeo to believe, the congressman who advocated for striking Iran and North Korea and criticized the diplomatic deals there, or the one who now says he wants to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran and negotiate with North Korea.

Is this driven by politics or a change of conviction?

COTTON: It's driven 100 percent by politics, Margaret. Fifteen Democrats...

BRENNAN: His change of position.

COTTON: No, the Democrats' opposition to Mike Pompeo.


BRENNAN: But Mike Pompeo's change of position.


COTTON: Mike Pence has not changed his position. I have known Mike for many years. We've traveled the world with each other.

Mike is committed to diplomatic solutions everywhere. The difference between Mike Pompeo and a lot of those Democrats or the previous secretaries of state is that Mike Pompeo recognizes that the credible threat of military force is essential to getting diplomatic solutions.

But a lot of these Democrats...

BRENNAN: But he opposed the Iran nuclear deal, and he said in his testimony now he wants to preserve it.

COTTON: Opposing the Iran nuclear deal doesn't mean that you're opposed to diplomatic solutions. It means you're opposed to bad diplomatic solutions.

BRENNAN: But that was a change in position for this.

COTTON: But, ultimately, it's the president that makes that decision.

Mike Pompeo will conduct foreign policy on behalf of the president. But as he said in his testimony, it's the president who will make that decision.

But the Democrats, especially on Foreign Relations Committee, are really engaged in shameful political behavior. Fifteen of them for Mike Pompeo last year to be director of the CIA. Not a single one of them, to my knowledge, has said that he's done a bad job. In fact, many of them have been...

BRENNAN: But it's a very different job than being America's top diplomat and credibly negotiating, which is why they get to this fundamental question.

COTTON: And as Director Pompeo said at his testimony, he is committed to those diplomatic solutions.

But, ultimately, the secretary of state is conducting diplomacy on behalf of the president. Most of these Democrats don't have a problem with Mike Pompeo. They are still struggling to get over the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Or, frankly, they face elections in 2018 and they're afraid of scaring the MoveOn.org or CODEPINK crowd.

And it's really shameful behavior.

BRENNAN: Last week on this program, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced quite definitively that sanctions were coming on Russia and related to chemical weapons attacks.

Then the White House walked that back. Does that very public disagreement trouble you?

COTTON: You know, Margaret, I can't comment on what was happening behind the scenes in the National Security Council.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the president gets differing opinions and has disagreements among his Cabinet members on those questions. If it gets to the president's desk, it's hard a decision.

I do know that this administration has been much tougher on Russia than the Obama administration ever was. They expelled dozens of diplomats and spies and imposed new sanctions.

BRENNAN: Are you saying that Nikki Haley was expressing her opinion and not a position?

COTTON: I can't tell you about what was happening behind the scenes and what the negotiations or the deliberations were for the National Security Council last weekend.

I can only say that I know this administration has been very tough and taken a very firm line on Russia by doing things like expelling Russian spice and diplomats, closing consulates, imposing lots of sanctions, to include on Russia oligarchs that are very close to Vladimir Putin, bombing Russia's client Bashar al-Assad in the region. And I expect those measures to continue.

BRENNAN: You speak very frequently with the president. Do you agree with his argument that the special counsel led by Robert Mueller was based on an illegal act, as he tweeted on Friday?

COTTON: I assume that we're talking here about Jim Comey's memos that were released, and now they have contained classified information.

BRENNAN: No, but he said the special counsel specifically was created out of an illegal...

COTTON: Well, Jim Comey testified to my committee, the Intelligence Committee, that he wrote those memos and then gave them to a friend of his, in hopes that they would be leaked to "The New York Times" and then that that would lead to the appointment of Robert Mueller.

I think that is unfortunate behavior on Director Comey's part, now support that we know that they may have contained classified information. The inspector general is reviewing them.

At this point, I think it's best for everyone involved, to include the president, for the special counsel to conclude his investigation by following the facts to their conclusion as quickly as can, just like we're trying to do on the Intelligence Committee.

BRENNAN: Would you advise him to continue tweeting about his personal attorney, Michael Cohen?


BRENNAN: Who he says may flip?

COTTON: You know, the president gets lots of advice about what he should and should not tweet, to include members of his close family. And he continues to do so, so I don't think he's going to take advice about his Twitter comments from a senator, no matter how much they work together.


BRENNAN: Senator Cotton, thank you. Good to have you in studio.

COTTON: Thanks, Margaret.

BRENNAN: We turn now to California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. She joins us from San Francisco.


Senator, I want to ask you. The North Koreans have announced that they're going to suspend ballistic missiles and nuclear testing and shut down a site in the north of that country. How significant is this, and do you have reason to believe they will follow through?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it's a beginning. They are a threat to the United States.

I very much welcome this approach and the fact that the two presidents will have an opportunity to meet and hopefully establish the new perimeter of a relationship.

BRENNAN: It was revealed this week that CIA Director Mike Pompeo had made a secret trip to North Korea.

You have said you have serious doubts about whether he is qualified to be secretary of state. And you question his commitment to diplomacy.

FEINSTEIN: The things that were put of a put-off for me about Mr. Pompeo were a lot of his statements. And that's the past now.

And I think it's very important that, if the president goes, that the meeting between Kim Jong-un and our president goes well and that there is an ability to put together some terms of an agreement that might exist.

The question is whether it lasts or not. And, of course, the reputation of the North Koreans has been that they don't necessarily keep their agreements.

BRENNAN: The CIA released some redacted memos involving Gina Haspel's role in the CIA torture program. And she was the one who drafted memos that ultimately ordered the destruction of tapes of those enhanced interrogations.

This declassification said that she acted appropriately. Why is that judgment not enough for you?

FEINSTEIN: I am of the opinion that putting somebody right now at the head of the CIA who played a role in let's say torture is not necessarily appropriate.

I have met with Gina Haspel. I know her somewhat. I know that she is talented, but I also know that she was fully supportive of the program that many of us are very critical of.

BRENNAN: This investigation by the CIA said she personally acted appropriately. It absolved her.

What do you need to learn about her for your vote to be a yes?

FEINSTEIN: I have spoken to her about it. So, I know that she regrets it. The point is that she was supportive of the program while it was going on and actually supervised one of the sites where some of this interrogation, so-called, went on.

She's the number two position now. That's different from number one, the head of the CIA worldwide. There are countries that look very badly on what the United States did, particularly European countries.

And we want whoever is head of the CIA to be able to be acceptable to our allies. So this is an open question in my mind. We need to resolve it. We have not yet had the hearings.

I generally do not make up my mind until after the hearing.

BRENNAN: So, it sounds like you are leaning towards a no, but are not quite there yet.

I want to ask you about what you're thinking here, because there are some in the intelligence community who are looking to you as very key vote here. Gina Haspel would be the first female CIA director. She has a lot of support from within the agency.

But then there are those who are questioning whether it's possible for you personally to be supportive of her, given the pressures you are feeling from progressives back in your home state of California right now, that you just can't afford to support any Trump nominee.

Can you explain how you're weighing those things?

FEINSTEIN: Well, that isn't necessarily correct. That isn't correct.

Obviously, that's your interpretation of it. And you're welcome to that interpretation.

BRENNAN: No, it's not my interpretation. This is some speculation. And that's why I'm asking you if it's a factor.

FEINSTEIN: I care about who is the head of the CIA.

And I'm going to do my due diligence, have chance to ask her questions in the public arena. And we will do just that, and then will make up my mind whether I believe she's an appropriate person to head this agency.

BRENNAN: There's a report in "The Washington Post" that Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed the White House that he would be willing to resign if his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, was fired.

I'm wondering if this legislation that you and Senator Grassley working on to protect the office of the special counsel, if that makes you think that is more needed now or how you're viewing these reports?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I view the reports with concern.

I admire Mr. Sessions for saying that. And I believe he means it. And I think Mr. Rosenstein is a very good man and very good member of the United States government.

So, we once again will see. Our legislation, I think, is well-thought-out. I'm hopeful that we can get this done so there is backup for Bob Mueller.

BRENNAN: You think Bob Mueller needs back up, but...

FEINSTEIN: Well, not necessarily. I think it's not at all harmful to have it, though, knowing how these things go.

BRENNAN: Senator Feinstein, thank you for joining us.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much.

BRENNAN: And we will be back in one minute.


BRENNAN: Leaders from France and Germany are headed to Washington this week to meet with President Trump.

One item that is high on their agenda, lobbying the president not to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement. That Obama era deal froze Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.

We spoke earlier to the foreign minister of Iran, Javad Zarif.


BRENNAN: You said that if the U.S. pulls out, the outcome will be unpleasant

What did you mean by that?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: It will lead to U.S. isolation in the international community.

Everybody has advised the administration that this is not a bilateral agreement between Iran and the United States. And withdrawing from it would be seen by national community as an indication that the United States is not a reliable partner.

Iran has many options. And those options are not pleasant.

BRENNAN: If the U.S. pulls out of the nuclear deal, will Iran continue to abide by its terms?

ZARIF: If the benefits of the deal for Iran start to diminish, then there is no reason for Iran to remain in the deal, because it's not acceptable to for us to have a one-sided agreement.

BRENNAN: If the U.S. and its allies come to their own agreement on the sidelines to address some of the things that President Trump is concerned about, will you accept them?

ZARIF: No, because what is important is for Europeans to bring the United States into compliance, because Iran has been in compliance with the deal.

BRENNAN: As you have said, the president, in your view, is unpredictable and unreliable. Are you saying no power, North Korea or anyone else, will come to an agreement with America if they break this?

ZARIF: The countries will make their own decisions. But, obviously, this would be very bad precedent, that if the United States sends the message to the national community that the length or duration of any agreement would depend on duration of the presidency, that would mean people will at least think twice before they start negotiating with the United States.

BRENNAN: But it sounds like...

ZARIF: Because negotiations involve give and take. And people will not be prepared to give if the take is only temporary.

BRENNAN: It sounds like you're saying it's President Trump's move on this. You're going to see what he does on May 12 if he puts sanctions back on Iran, and then you will decide what the consequences will be.

ZARIF: No, we have put a number of options for ourselves. And those options are ready, including options that would involve resuming at much greater speed our nuclear activities.

And those are all envisaged within the deal, and those options are ready to be implemented. And we will make the necessary decisions when we see fit.

BRENNAN: You're ready to restart your nuclear program if President Trump puts sanctions back on Iran, even if the rest of the world says, don't do this?

ZARIF: Obviously, the rest of the world cannot ask us to unilaterally and one-sidely implement a deal that has already been broken.

BRENNAN: President Trump offered to meet with your president, President Rouhani, at the United Nations. And Iran said no.

ZARIF: He made a very negative and insulting speech before the General Assembly. And while he was making that speech, they approached us.

And we believe that the first requirement for any bilateral meeting is mutual respect. And if the president is not prepared to provide that, exercise that mutual respect, then a meeting would not produce any positive results.

BRENNAN: CIA Director Mike Pompeo was a very harsh critic of this deal when he was in Congress. He is very close to the president. Now he's the nominee to become secretary of state. Do you read his nomination as a sign this deal is done?

ZARIF: Well, every indication that the United States is sending, appointments, statements, indicate to us and the international community that the United States is not serious about its international obligations.

BRENNAN: Would you be able to work with him?

ZARIF: Well, as I said, the requirement for any international engagement is mutual respect. We will have to wait and see.

BRENNAN: Pompeo has spoken in the past about striking Iran.

John Bolton, the president's new national security adviser, has said the goal should be regime change in your country.

Do you think that, as national security advisers, they're going to be honest brokers with the president, presenting him with these diplomatic options?

ZARIF: Is that a diplomatic option? I think that has been...

BRENNAN: Well, that's what I'm saying, though.

Are they -- does this -- their appointments make military confrontation more likely? Or do you still see the possibility to negotiate?

ZARIF: Well, I think the United States has never abandoned the idea of regime change in Iran.

BRENNAN: Under the existing deal, Iran has promised to stay more than one year away from a so-called breakout...


ZARIF: That's a U.S. calculation. It's not any promise that we have made, because we never wanted to produce a bomb.

And now Mr. Pompeo obviously has said that in his testimony in Congress, that Iran was never racing towards a bomb. And it will not be racing towards a bomb.

It's a late admission, but better late than ever.

BRENNAN: But to the point, though, if it is such a settled issue, why not make another pledge, saying, sure...

ZARIF: Why should we?

BRENNAN: ... after the end of this deal, we still won't want to build a bomb?

ZARIF: Why should we? Why should we?

There was a negotiation. And there was an agreement that was reached, after hours upon hours of negotiations. We cannot...

BRENNAN: But you won't say, in the future, we don't intend to build a bomb, and we will sign something saying that?

ZARIF: That's very clear. It's in the nuclear agreement.

BRENNAN: It's not clear to President Trump, though. This is one of the things he's most concerned about, the sunset clause specifically.


ZARIF: That's three lines down the preface to the agreement. It says, Iran commits itself never to develop a nuclear weapon.

You don't need even to read the entire 150 pages of the deal. Just read the first three lines, and it's there. There is no sunset to the fact that Iran will never seek nuclear weapons.


BRENNAN: And you can see the full interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on our Web site at FACETHENATION.com.

We will be right back.


BRENNAN: Today is Earth Day.

And in its honor, former New York Mayor and Special Envoy to the United Nations for Climate Action Michael Bloomberg came in to tell us he's making good on his pledge to help America's financial commitment to the Paris climate change accords, an international agreement that President Trump pulled out of last year.



And as an American, if the government is not going to do it, we all have a responsibility. I'm able to do it. So, yes, I'm going to send them a check for the monies that America had promised to the organization as though they got it from federal government.

BRENNAN: Four-and-a-half million dollars this year. Will you do the same next or...


BLOOMBERG: We will figure out. Hopefully, by then, President Trump will have changed his view, which would be great.

BRENNAN: President Trump has been a huge critic of this Paris climate change accord.


BLOOMBERG: Yes, but -- he has been, but that doesn't mean he can't listen to others and change his mind.

A person that doesn't change their mind isn't very smart. A person that listens to new facts...

BRENNAN: He changes his mind.

BLOOMBERG: And he's been known to change his mind. That is true.

But he should change his mind and say, look, there really is a problem here, America is part of the problem, America is a big part of the solution, and we should go in and help the world stop a potential disaster.

BRENNAN: One of the criticisms of the this agreement, the Paris climate change accords, is, it's nonbinding.

It's basically not enforceable. And none of the developed nations who are part of it have actually met the benchmarks they set for themselves

So, aren't you concerned that you're throwing some good money after bad?

BLOOMBERG: Look, it's dangerous to keep doing what we're doing.

If everybody would do the right thing, yes, it would be better. But if some people or some countries do the right thing, we all benefit from that.

BRENNAN: But the criticism is that industrialized nations aren't living up to those pledges.

BLOOMBERG: I can't speak for other nations.

All I know is that America, I believe, will meet its commitment by 2025 to reduce greenhouse gasses by an agreed amount. And if we do it, hopefully, other countries will do it as well.

BRENNAN: Do you feel like you're filling a leadership gap for the United States?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I think that this is what the American public, when you poll them, say they want to do.

You have got companies and states and individuals all agreeing to step in, report to the United Nations what our progress is, the way all the other countries are going to do it, commit -- fulfill our commitment to fund part of it.

It's not a lot of money, but America made that commitment. And, most importantly, to do the things that will keep temperatures from going up and really potentially changing our life for the worst.

BRENNAN: After the election, the president gave you his personal cell phone number. Why don't you call him?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I think, when he watches this program on Sunday morning, he will get my views.


BRENNAN: Well, we don't know if the president is watching.

But, for those of you who are, we will have a lot more with Michael Bloomberg in just a moment.

Don't go away.


BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including our political panel. And our own John Dickerson returns, so stay with us.


BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm Margaret Brennan. We continue our conversation with former New York Mayor and co-author of Climate of Hope, Michael Bloomberg.


BRENNAN: How do you assess EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt?

BLOOMBERG: His policies are not good for the world. To debunk science and walk away from it is just ridiculous. Even if you don't believe it, if there's a possibility that it's (ph) right, you have to take prophylactic actions to prevent a disaster. And what I do know is that a lot of kids go to the hospital with asthma attacks because we have a lot of junk we put in the air.

A lot of people come down with stomach cancers because there's a lot of stuff that goes into the water. A lot of people's houses are being destroyed and they're getting killed in hurricanes and things like that.

BRENNAN: It sounds like you're saying he's not doing the job that he should be doing.

BLOOMBERG: I don't think there's any question about that. He was hired. His job is to protect the environment and he has walked away 100 percent from that, saying the environment doesn't need protection, I'm going to try to protect jobs. That's not his job.

BRENNAN: Should he be fired?

BLOOMBERG: That's up to the president to decide. If he could get Scott Pruitt to change his policies, then he can keep him. But it's -- the issue is that what he's doing is very damaging to your health and your children's health and mine.

BRENNAN: But he would say and the administration would say that criticisms like yours are just pure politics out (ph).

BLOOMBERG: If there's anybody that's making it a political issue, it's this administration. 99 percent of all scientists after peer review say that's something is happening in the world, it's changing. Everybody that looks outside their window can see that we have less snow here and more snow there and bigger storms, a whole bunch of things that -- oceans are rising and things are changing. And you can't deny that.

BRENNAN: At the DNC in 2016, you called Donald Trump a risk, reckless and radical choice and the country, you said, couldn't afford to make that mistake.

BLOOMBERG: Did I say that?

BRENNAN: It was a memorable quote. Has he done anything to make you reconsider that? Do you think he's doing a good job?

BLOOMBERG: I think he's -- it's -- I would give him an incomplete grade. Some of the things he's done I don't agree with. The style of changing your mind every day and leaving your staffs out there to be in a -- make embarrassing things that you don't back them up and the turnover in the administration is really dangerous and worrisome, not fair to people. But to criticize him doesn't advance anything.

BRENNAN: His compelling case was that he came from the world of business, as you did.

BLOOMBERG: No, he didn't. He's -- he was a real estate developer. He was -- he didn't manage large numbers of people, he didn't run big organizations. He was -- I gather, a reasonably successful real estate developer, which is just a different occupation. It's not really a business person.

BRENNAN: And do you see, though -- I mean you're drawing a distinction there. Do you see some management issues, then? Will you say --

BLOOMBERG: Oh, I don't think there's any question that --

BRENNAN: The hiring, the firing, the (inaudible).

BLOOMBERG: Management is not something you -- it's like skiing. You don't read a book on skiing and then go out and ski double black diamonds. Management is something you learn over a period of time and you have to manage larger and larger groups of people and make more and more difficult decisions and live with those decisions as you go.

This president does not have experience in running large organizations or facing a lot of the issues that he has to face. And the one time I talked to him after he got elected, my advice to was -- to him was get people, regardless of their political persuasion, who have expertise in each of these areas that you're not an expert on and give them authority to go along with responsibility and then let them do it even when there are things that you don't agree with.

And when they make decisions that you don't necessarily agree with or that don't turn out to be the right decisions, you have to back them up. If you don't give people the confidence that you're going to have their backs, you're not going to get good people and you're not going to keep them.

BRENNAN: Now, you're an independent. You've been a Democrat, you've been a Republican.

BLOOMBERG: I know something about partisan politics. I've been them all.

BRENNAN: So do you see any candidates in any of those parties right now that you see embodying the kind of leadership you want to support and would support in 2020?

BLOOMBERG: I think if you look back at history, it is such a long time from this point in the cycle until the election that I bet you $0.25 the candidate that gets the nomination isn't even mentioned today.

BRENNAN: Because you're a numbers guy, what are the odds you'd put on you deciding to run?

BLOOMBERG: Not very high. You know, look I've -- I --

BRENNAN: Not very high, but not zero.

BLOOMBERG: Well if god said, I'd appoint you, I think it's -- would be a great challenge and you'd have to think long and hard and -- you know, you're physically able to do it, can you think you -- do you think you can attract the right people, because it's not going to be you, it's the staff, that you're going to build that team that I talked about. But at the moment, I'm not running for president, I'm trying to do as good a job as I can.

I'm interested in public education. I think the education system in our country's going in the wrong direction. We've got to find programs where people can get jobs. We have defense issues around the world, we have potential things that would -- could damage or destroy our country. We've got to build alliances around the world and do those kinds of things.

And I think I can, as a private citizen, help in some of those things. And that's what I want to do with my life.

BRENNAN: It also sounds like a platform.

BLOOMBERG: Well, anything you say could be a platform. I don't know that it's -- it -- do I think that the president of the United States should do those things? Of course I think the president of the United States should do those things. But he's not or she's not the only one that can do those things.


BRENNAN: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ruling out a run for office sort of. Our full conversation will be available on FaceTheNation.com.

We'll be right back with John Dickerson. So, stay with us.


BRENNAN: More than 1,500 people turned out at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston to pay their respects to former First Lady Barbara Bush yesterday. Four of the five former presidents attended, along with First Lady Melania Trump. But for a woman who was the wife of one president, and the mother of another, the funeral was very much a family affair, as Mrs. Bush's five children, 17 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren played prominent roles in the service. Granddaughters gave tribute.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many women have done excellently, but you surpassed them all.


BRENNAN: Grandsons acted as pallbearers. And second son, Jeb Bush, delivered the eulogy.


JEB BUSH, SON OF BARBARA BUSH: Mom got us through our difficult times with consistent, take it to the bank, unconditional but tough love. She called her style a benevolent dictatorship. But, honestly, it wasn't always benevolent.

We learned to strive to be genuine and authentic by the best role model in the world. Her authentic plastic pearls. Her not coloring her hair. By the way, she was beautiful until the day she died.


BRENNAN: Barbara Bush died Tuesday at the age of 92. She and President George H.W. Bush were married for 73 years.

For more on former First Lady Barbara Bush and a broader look at the presidency, we knew who to call.

John Dickerson is now the co-anchor "CBS This Morning" and the author of this month's cover story in "The Atlantic" magazine, "How the Presidency Became Impossible."

Good to have you back on very familiar set, John.

DICKERSON: Thank you very much. I admire watching you, Margaret. So it's great to be on.

BRENNAN: Well, thank you.

George and Barbara Bush, they had the longest marriage in presidential history.

DICKERSON: Yes. And that's what I think about when I think about Barbara Bush. They say about the spouses of people who serve in the military, they are the backbone of the military. And that emotional relationship for 73 years, she was the backbone to the family dedicated to public service. It started, as you say, 73 years ago. Her fiance went off to war. They wrote constant letters to each other and then for a month they just stopped. She didn't know what happened.

Then he was shot down. For three days she didn't know whether he lived or died. That's the beginning of an emotional roller coaster of being connected to someone who's dedicated their life to their country. And she had to go through all of that.

And then watching him get abused in public, and knowing how pain that is, and not being able to do anything about it. Anybody who's a spouse who watches their spouse get abused in public and can't do anything, knows what that pain is like. Now multiply by that by three, because she had two sons in politics, too. That dedication throughout her whole life to that public service, that is where dedication to family becomes dedication to country.

BRENNAN: Was it right for President Trump not to attend the funeral?

DICKERSON: Well, I think -- I don't know right or wrong. We certainly know that he attacked the Bush family during the campaign, said that George W. Bush lied the country into the Iraq War, attacked them both specifically and a lot of the things they stood up for. So I think Melania Trump is a -- was a -- in keeping with the continuity of a long presidency, but I think you could have gotten into something maybe a little bit more bitter if he had attended. So you don't want to do anything to take away from that extraordinary life and the celebration of it. And so I think it worked out well.

BRENNAN: This was an extraordinary read in "The Atlantic," your piece. You've been working on it for quite some time. You write, Americans need their president to succeed, but the presidency has set him up for failure. What do you mean?

DICKERSON: Well, so let's make a general -- a general point. What's happened to the presidency is it's gotten out of shape. So people may think we're about to talk about this specific president, but let's go back to President Polk, the 11th president. Sarah Polk, his wife, had them play "Hail to the Chief" when he walked in the room because they were worried people wouldn't recognize him and know who he was.

BRENNAN: I love that anecdote.

DICKERSON: Now we have a presidency who's basically the most famous person on the globe, on the planet. So that is not the way the framers intended it. And instead of not noticing the president, we are whip sawed by the president's behavior in any -- in anything he does or anything we notice.

And you notice I'm making a distinction between the president and the presidency. If you think of the presidency, it's an enormous ship. There is a captain of that ship and we spend a lot of time talking about him, or someday, one day her, and it is fitting and proper that we do so.

But the ship itself has taken on barnacles. Some people want the ship to act like a kayak. Some people want it to act like a barge. And all of those expectations we have about the ship of the presidency reflect on our aspirations for the country and the way we think about the captain of that ship.

BRENNAN: And when did that departure happen, that evolution of the presidency?

DICKERSON: It depends on where you want to put down the needle on the record. You can think in terms of national security. After 9/11 something changed. It was no longer about big, slow moving armies. It was about threats that could come through the mail, that could come through e-mail, that could disrupt the country by a few people plotting together to use planes into fly into a building. That changed what a president had to keep his eye on.

George W. Bush, after that attack, in his briefings in the morning with the presidential daily brief, he went through threat by threat by threat. Well, if you do that, your whole day is taken up by threats.

That focus on the national security piece is one piece. The rise of primaries and television has turned the presidency into a kind of performance show that was not the founder's intent. The founders didn't want presidents to even run for the office for fear that grubbing for votes would get in the way of clear reason to adjudicate the issues of the day. Well, now, we have a reality show president. We see how that has changed.

Those are just -- and then, of course, the rise of partisanship. Some people are going to look at raising this question and say, well, this is an attack on Trump, or this is an effort to make excuses for him. We can't see any question, no matter how much we try to step back, outside of that partisan lens. And that partisanship has hurt the presidency and it's hurt Congress.

BRENNAN: Well, one of the frustrations with the presidency and some of what you've talked about came up in this past election. And the solution being offered was, let's look to the private sector, that a businessman, a CEO, could really take charge. But you puncture that idea.

DICKERSON: Well, that's right because they're not the same job. And, you know, and Michael Bloomberg, in that excellent interview you had with him, explained the differences in the job. There are a certain set of attributes to the presidency. One of them is recognizing that you don't know everything you don't know. And that's what Michael Bloomberg is talking about.

A lot of people have been successful in business have been successful and are sometimes blind to what they don't know. And so there is Gowdon Macunda (ph) at Harvard has done a careful study of this. And the way CEOs are elevated through a company, there's a filtering process through the presidency. That same filtering process doesn't exist for the job we're electing people to actually go to. And so the idea that a business person can come in is just -- it's not consistent with the actual job they have to perform.

BRENNAN: And there's no easy solution.

DICKERSON: There's no easy solution. And we don't, in the press, and in the public, allow presidents to do things. We don't allow them to make mistakes. We don't allow them to change their mind. All of which are part of best practices in any other large organization. So there aren't even easy solutions. And we don't provide a road to those solutions in the way we both cover the presidency and in the way, as partisans, we react to the behavior of individual presidents.

BRENNAN: It's a great read. John, thank you. So good to have you back here.

DICKERSON: Thanks, Margaret. Take care.

BRENNAN: We'll be back in a moment.


BRENNAN: And now for some political analysis.

Mark Landler is a White House correspondent at "The New York Times," Racheal Bade covers Congress for Politico, and she's a CBS political analyst, and Mike Allen is the co-founder of Axios.

Welcome to FACE THE NATION, all of you.

MARK LANDLER, "NEW YORK TIMES": Thank you, Margaret.

BRENNAN: Mike, there were a number of legal developments this week as they relate to the president. You had Rudy Giuliani joining the president's legal team. Reports that the deputy attorney general, Rob Rosenstein, told the president he personally wasn't the target of an investigation. Then you saw all of these tweets about the former FBI director and the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. And the president saying, I don't expect him to flip. Which headline do we focus on and what do they actually mean?

MIKE ALLEN, AXIOS: Well, and the best part is, all that was like Thursday afternoon. That was like a couple of hours.

Here's what's important to know is that the president is really rattled by what's going on up in New York. Not only --

BRENNAN: With Michael Cohen?

ALLEN: Not only because of what his personal lawyer knows, but because they don't exactly know like what has been taken. Like what recordings have been taken, what electronic records have been taken. And so you see the president, as he does when he's backed into a corner or is rattled, acting out.

And what does he want? He wants someone who's going to be on TV defending him. So that's why you have Rudy Giuliani, who's not known for - of all the things he's great at, he's not know as a great in-court litigate, which is what the president needs, but he's comfort food for the president. He was someone who was there during the campaign and when the president flips on the tube, he'll be taking his side.

BRENNAN: And he's very familiar with the Southern Sistrict of New York, where this case is progressing, and with Robert Mueller, the special counsel.

ALLEN: And he's promising a quick end, which is what the president wants, His initial legal team did that, and once again, Rudy Giuliani going in and saying, I can make this deal, I can shorten this. That is exactly what a special counsel doesn't do. There's no sign, by the way that Robert Mueller's conducted this investigation, that he's in the market for a deal.

BRENNAN: Rachael, there's all this talk about the potential legislation to protect the special counsel, yet it looks like it would go nowhere. You can't get the floor time, and the president is unlikely to sign off on it anyhow. So is this needed, is this just symbolic? Why is congress even talking about it?

RACHAEL BADE, CBS POLITICAL ANALYST: The chatter has certainly crescendoed in recent days, with the president's continued attacks on Comey, personal knocks on the special counsel, calling it illegitimate because some of Comey memos he said were leaked -- they were confidential and therefore, you know, the special counsel is illegitimate and shouldn't be around, he's trying to argue now. Of course most -- every Democrat and most Republicans will disagree with that completely.

But, yes, there's a lot of talk right now about whether they need to pass legislation to protect the special counsel, to make sure the president doesn't move to fire him just a few days after the White House basically said they think the president does have this authority. Now, from talking to Republican leaders, I can tell you, that's just not going to happen. I mean, yes, there are a new group, a new faction of Republicans who are joining Democrats and signing these bipartisan bills. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted, I control the floor and this isn't coming to the floor. Speaker Paul Ryan has said many times he doesn't think the president is going to fire Mueller. And so he's just not going to put that on the floor when it could divide the party in a very tough re-election battle to keep the House.

BRENNAN: Mark, there was also sort of a battle being played out in the public eye this week within the administration. Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador was on this show, couldn't have been more definitive or clear in the timing and the specific rollout of Russia sanctions. And then the White House said she was confused. What happened and where are the sanctions?

LANDLER: Well, I think what happened here is that in a -- some people are ready to throw Nikki Haley under the bus. Larry Kudlow, down in Florida during the week, said that maybe she was a little bit confused. Other officials suggest she was out of the loop, that there had been subsequent meeting she wasn't included in. She then answered rather authoritatively, I was not confused.

I think that was actually a very interesting blow by a woman in the president's cabinet to stake her ground. And I think it's made a big impression.

Now, the question is, what does it mean for her relationship with the president going forward. It was a pretty strong stand for her to take.

The president has said there may still be sanctions in the future. He's made the point that no one's been tougher on Russia than Donald J. Trump, which, of course, is a highly debatable point. The administration has, in fact, done (INAUDIBLE) things on the sanctions front. The president has continued to show his sort of habitual inability to be critical of the -- Vladimir Putin himself.

So you seed this odd disjunction. And to some extent, I think Nikki Haley fell into that gap between some of the policy things the administration is doing and the rhetoric of the president that continues to be somewhat out of sync with his own administration.

BADE: You know, a lot of people said that that -- you know, and it sounds like Nikki Haley felt that the White House really undercut her and it would be harder for her to do her job at the U.N. when world leaders, you know, can't take her at her word that she's speaking for the president.

But I actually think her response to that -- really, you know, the assertive response, the aggressive response to stand up for herself really helped her. And this is a woman that Republicans love. She's got a lot of respect from Democrats as well. I think that hurt -- that helped her in the long run. This is somebody who could potentially run for president, the President Trump apparently sees her as a threat. So it's a really interesting exchange.

ALLEN: And, Margaret, Axios' reporting shows that when she was on your show, and congratulations on the global headline that she made right here on FACE THE NATION, she was reflecting where the administration was. She was not freelancing, as you know. You -- everyone around this table knows her. But it's the occupational hazard of being a top official of the Trump administration.

It may well be that he saw it on TV and he didn't want her announcing it. And you put that in the context of this very important Washington story this week talking about the president as the reluctant hawk on Russia. And this is the split that you were just talking about, about the policy makers and the president, that every time the administration has pushed him to be tough on Russia, he either dialed it back or was reluctant or complained later.

BRENNAN: Rachael, Iraq War Veteran and Senator Tammy Duckworth made history, not only for giving birth as a senator, but bringing a -- her 10 day old daughter onto the floor of the Senate this week. That required a big change in rules. How difficult was it to get that through?

BADE: Well, how many years did it take? Decades. So, I mean, yes, there's been a lot of progress with women in politics this year. I mean the Me Too movement has launched a lot of candidates, female candidates, to run for office, historic numbers on Capitol Hill. In recent months we've seen a lot of talk about sexual harassment and reforming the system to make sure women are protected and not silenced and can come forward and have the support they need.

But this is more -- like a more practical thing. You know, you have a mother in the Senate. She can't leave her baby with staffers. That's against the rules. Looks like baby-sitting pretty much, free baby-sitting. So she's got to take her baby with her. And she wants her -- she wants to vote on the floor and so they've got to -- they've got to change these rules to make the Senate more welcoming for women as there's more and more female senators.

BRENNAN: Mark, I want to ask you about this state visit that's about to happen. France's president flying here for the first state visit of the Trump administration. Not far behind him, Chancellor Angela Merkel. What is the big ask that they are coming to Washington with?

LANDLER: Well, I think Emmanuel Macron will probably make a strong and potentially last ditch case to President Trump not to rip up the Iran nuclear deal. Macron, as you know, has sort of developed a very strong personal rapport with the president, but it hasn't actually translated into any major achievements. He tried to talk him out of pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. That didn't work. The president faces this deadline of May 12th in deciding whether he's really going to walk away from the Iran deal. He's been involved in this negotiation with the Europeans. They're trying desperately to come up with a formula that could somehow persuade the president to stick with the deal.

I think Emmanuel Macron will draw heavily on this sense of rapport to say, Mr. President, we've gone some distance toward meeting your concerns, stick with it, stick with the deal.

You know, you talked to Javad Zarif a few minutes ago on the show and he made the point that Iran is not willing to change its view toward the deal. So it will be very interesting to watch how that plays out.

BRENNAN: It will. High stakes. Thank you, all of you.

LANDLER: Indeed.

ALLEN: Happy Earth Day.

BRENNAN: Happy Earth Day.

We will be right back.


BRENNAN: That's it for us today. It has been another busy week here at FACE THE NATION. Thank you all for watching this Sunday. And until next week, I'm Margaret Brennan.