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Full transcript: 'Face the Nation' on April 8, 2018

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MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS: Today on FACE THE NATION: The president makes bold moves that shake up the stock market and the diplomatic world, leaving administration officials to clarify and clean up.

Fears of a trade war spiked in the wake of new tariff threats by the president and counterthreats by China's leader, Xi Jinping. Add to that President Trump attacks on Amazon, plus Facebook's revelation that 87 million users' data could have ended up in a firm working for the Trump campaign, made for a wild week.

We will talk to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Overnight, a chemical attack in Syria reportedly kills dozens and injures hundreds. We will have a report from the region.

Maryland's Ben Cardin, a top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will be here to talk about that and other news.


SHERYL SANDBERG, COO, FACEBOOK: We know that we did not do a good enough job protecting people's data. I'm really sorry for that. And Mark is really sorry.


BRENNAN: Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg goes on a mea culpa media tour prior to CEO Mark Zuckerberg's testimony before Congress on Tuesday. But will saying sorry soothe what is likely to be an extremely contentious hearing? We will ask Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy what he plans to ask Zuckerberg.

Plus, we will have political analysis on all the news just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

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

We have lot to get to today, but we begin with that chemical attack in Syria. Overnight, in the city of Duma, the last rebel-held town in the area just outside Damascus, at least 40 people have been killed in an alleged chemical attack.

We turn now to CBS News foreign correspondent Holly Williams in Istanbul.

Holly, at this point, what can you tell us about the attack?

HOLLY WILLIAMS, CBS NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Margaret, the videos emerging from this alleged chemical attack on Saturday evening show people who appear to be dead, but with no obvious wounds to their body, survivors seemingly struggling to breathe, especially children, and being hosed down with water, as if to remove a substance from their skin.

We should stress, though, that we cannot independently verify any of these videos and we cannot confirm that a chemical attack has in fact taken place.

Survivors, though, reportedly smelled of chlorine. That is a chemical that can be deadly when used in enclosed spaces. Now, the Syrian regime, via the state media, has denied any involvement in this alleged attack, as has its ally Russia.

BRENNAN: We know Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had said last month that it would be unwise for Assad to use weaponized gas and the Pentagon had prepared military options to respond. But is there any indication in this case of what kind of attack this could have been?

WILLIAMS: Well, Margaret, around a year ago there was large-scale chemical attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun in Northern Syria that killed scores of people and did draw a U.S. response, missile strikes on a Syrian regime air base.

There's an important distinction, though. That attack was found to have used sarin nerve agent. So, there are some important questions here. Will this be concerned to have been a chemical attack? And if chlorine was used, a chemical that is thought to have been used pretty widely in the Syrian conflict, will that draw international response?

BRENNAN: Thank you, Holly.

A senior administration official tells us the U.S. is near certain that this was the regime, but cannot be definitive, and said a U.S. response is -- quote -- "near certain."

It is worth noting that the Russians have previously vowed to shoot down any missiles the U.S. fires at the Syrian regime.

President Trump tweeted this morning: "Many dead, including women and children, in mindless chemical attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing animal Assad."

We turn now to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who joins us from Los Angeles.

Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

As a Cabinet official, what can you tell us about a potential Trump administration response to Syria?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Good morning. Thank you. It's great to be here with you.

We will be reviewing the situation later today. I expect to get an update from the national security team. And as you have pointed out with the president's tweet, this appears to be another horrible example of the Assad regime, and just incredibly targeted.

BRENNAN: And a military response is potentially on the table?

MNUCHIN: I can't comment on what our response will be or won't be. But I expect to get an update later today from the national security team, and I assure you they will be reviewing with the president all different alternatives.


On the issue of China, you said on Friday there is the potential of a trade war. How should Americans prepare for that risk?

MNUCHIN: Well, actually, I was very clear when I discussed. I said, our expectation is that we don't think there will be a trade war. Our objective is to continue to have discussions with China.

We want to have free and fairy, reciprocal trade. We're just looking for our companies and our workers to have a level playing field. And right now, we have about $500 billion of goods that we buy from China and they buy about $135 billion from us. So, this is one of the single biggest opportunities for American companies and American workers if we have free and fair trade.

And that's what the president wants. So, I don't expect there will be a trade war. It could be, but I don't expect it at all. But the president is willing to make sure we have free and fair trade, as you have seen his tweet already this morning.

And, again, he has very close relationship with President Xi, and we will continue to discuss these issues with them.

BRENNAN: Well, the markets certainly reacted strongly to the even acknowledgment of the potential risk here.

The president, as you said, is tweeting this morning that China will take down its trade barriers because it is the right thing to do.

Mr. Secretary, has China given any sign of concessions since Friday?

MNUCHIN: It would be inappropriate for me to comment on what our back-channel discussions are.


BRENNAN: Well, what is the president referring to, or is he just striking an optimistic tone based on his friendship?

MNUCHIN: Again, I don't want to comment on specific discussions and where they stand.

What I will emphasize is that this is really -- our objective is free and fair trade. We have been talking about this for the last year with them. It's actually just about a year anniversary since the president's meeting at Mar-a-Lago.

And I think the good news is, President Xi and President Trump have shared with the economic teams we have a common objective to make sure we reduce the trade deficit. But President Trump is prepared to defend U.S. interests.

BRENNAN: But, sir, because you know this has caused such nervousness in the markets, which will be reopening overnight, has there been any progress so far?

MNUCHIN: Again, we have committed not to comment on specific conversations. And we're not going to update specific conversations and what they are when there is progress and when there isn't progress.

You will know when we reach a deal there's progress. And that's our objective. So the markets have had a lot of volatility in general. The market is still up a tremendous amount since the election. And what we should be really focused on is the strong economic growth. The tax plan is kicking in. Our regulatory relief is kicking in.

Trade has always been the third part of our agenda.


BRENNAN: Right. And that's why there's concern that this dispute could disrupt that economic growth that you're talking about that Republicans plan to run on in November.

MNUCHIN: That's true.

But, again, let me just put this in perspective. It's only $135 billion of goods in a $20 trillion economy. And if we can open up their $10 trillion economy for us to compete fairly, this is one of the single biggest opportunities long term for U.S. companies.

So whatever happens in trade, I don't expect it to have a meaningful impact on our economy. And president has said, sectors like agriculture, he's prepared to defend.

BRENNAN: I want to ask you as well about your colleague EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. The president said he's doing a great job, seemed to give him a pass on some of these questions about potential ethics violations.

Is it the official position of the administration that all of these criticisms are simply political attacks?

MNUCHIN: Well, I think, as the president said, Scott has just done a fantastic job on policy.

And, again, the president believes in clean air, clean water. He believes in proper regulation, just not over-regulation. And we're determined to be energy-independent. That is one of the most crucial long-term issues for the United States.

And as it relates to the specifics of Scott's situation, I can't comment on them, but I'm sure the president's reviewed it.

BRENNAN: You're sure he's reviewed it. Has he come to a conclusion? He did acknowledge that he was looking into these potential violations.

MNUCHIN: Again, I think his tweet speak for itself.

BRENNAN: So, that's maybe?

MNUCHIN: Again, I haven't had any direct conversations with the president on this. I have obviously had a lot of discussions with him on trade and the economy, but I know he's very supportive of Scott Pruitt's positions and what he's done there. Tremendous progress.

BRENNAN: All right, Mr. Secretary, thank you for waking up early on the West Coast to join us.

MNUCHIN: Thank you very much.

BRENNAN: We turn now to a top Democrat on Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Maryland's Ben Cardin.


The president said that there would be a big price for this chemical attack in Syria. And he called up Vladimir Putin by name for backing the Assad regime.

In your view, would a military response be justified?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Margaret, first, it's good to be with you. Clearly, there needs to be response. There needs to be international response.

This is against international norms.

BRENNAN: A military one?

CARDIN: Well, first and foremost, President Assad needs to be held accountable for his war crimes. Senator Rubio...

BRENNAN: He hasn't been in the seven years of this war.

CARDIN: Well, Senator Rubio and I have introduced legislation -- it's passed our committee -- that would hold the evidence accountable.

We need to make sure that there is a proceeding started by international community to hold him responsible. This is not the first use of chemical weapons. Secondly, Congress passed very strong sanctions against both Russia and Iran.

The Syrian regime under President Assad cannot exist without Russia's support and the activities of Iran. The United States, the international community need to take action against Russia and Iran for what they're doing in Syria.

So, we need to take a pretty strong response for another use of chemical weapons.

BRENNAN: Are there any briefings planned with the administration? And do you think a military response is legally justified?

CARDIN: Well, I hope there will be briefing. Congress returns tomorrow. I hope that we will get a full briefing on the use of these chemical weapons.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot known because the Syrian regime has closed the area. So, we're not going to have the direct information. So, it will be challenging for us to know. Everything points to that this was controlled by President Assad, at the, again, violation of international norms, and there needs to be an international response.

BRENNAN: On Russia, you commended the president for his sanctioning of these Russian oligarchs and other high-ranking officials.

These include Putin's own son-in-law and former bodyguard here. But you did criticize the president for not acting faster. What do you think these punitive actions -- what is the effect of them?

CARDIN: Well, it's been long time since the president -- since the Congress passed sanctions bill against Russia, passed by 99 percent of the votes in Congress. The president was very slow to act.

But I think our main complaint -- going against the oligarchs was very important, a very important sanction. I really applaud the people in the State Department and in Treasury for taking this action.

What we didn't hear when these sanctions was the president of the United States saying, this is the policy of our country. I was pleased at his tweet in regards to the Syrian issue. The president mentioned Mr. Putin.

BRENNAN: By name.

CARDIN: By name. That was a significant change.

But he has not done that in regards to the sanctions imposed against the oligarchs. And he certainly has not done that in regards to Mr. Putin's interference in our own country.

BRENNAN: You helped author a law that provides oversight for the nuclear deal with Iran, along with your colleague Senator Corker, who has said on this program he expects the president to withdraw next month from that international agreement.

Do you agree with Senator Corker?

CARDIN: Well, I think both Senator Corker and I agree it would be a mistake for the president to withdraw from the Iran agreement.

If the United States violates the agreement, we are isolating America, not Iran, from the international community. By all indication, Iran has not violated the agreement. Yes, I disagreed with the agreement from its beginning, but this is an agreement, Iran is complying with it, and the United States would be marginalized by withdrawing from the agreement.

So, I hope that the president will recognize that we need to work with our European allies make sure we're in lockstep against Iran.

BRENNAN: Mike Pompeo, his confirmation hearings will be this week as he goes up for this job of being secretary of state. You voted against him when he stood up for the CIA director position.

Are you going to support him this time?

CARDIN: Well, I have had chance to talk to him briefly by phone. We will have a meeting on Tuesday. And then, as you know, the committee is holding its confirmation hearings this Thursday.

So, this is going to be very busy week for Mr. Pompeo. I'm looking forward to asking him a lot of questions. I want to make sure that he will stand for the values of America, good governance, democracy, anti-corruption, and use diplomacy as the head diplomat if confirmed.

And I want to make sure he will be an independent voice in the Oval Office with the president.

BRENNAN: So, you're open to voting yes this time?

CARDIN: We are going to wait to see how this week goes. Obviously, I have many questions.

BRENNAN: I also want to ask you about another committee you're on as it relates to the environment, a lot of questions about Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator.


BRENNAN: There's some speculation that the president, even if he wanted to get rid of him, which he's made clear he doesn't at this point, that he'd have a really hard time finding someone and getting him confirmed for that role. Do you agree?

CARDIN: I think it would be a challenge.

There's so many positions open right now in the administration, and there's so many weeks left before we get to the midterm elections. I think it's going to be a challenge for us to get Cabinet-level positions confirmed, particularly one at EPA.

My main complaint against Mr. Pruitt was his policies, his environmental policies. These ethic issued need to be resolved, and need to be resolved in an open manner. And Congress has a role of oversight.

BRENNAN: So, you don't think he should be fired over these ethics...


CARDIN: No, I didn't say -- that's a decision that the president is going to have to make. This is a Cabinet-level position. It's up to the president of the United States.

I think what Congress' appropriate role is, of course, during confirmation. And we don't have a confirmation process on this. But the oversight of his ethics issues are certainly within the realm of Congress.

BRENNAN: All right, Senator Cardin, thank you very much for all of your insights.

CARDIN: Thank you.

BRENNAN: And we will be back on FACE THE NATION in one minute.


BRENNAN: We turn now to Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana. He will be one of those questioning Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday.

Welcome to FACE THE NATION, Senator.


BRENNAN: Facebook has acknowledged that some of its search tools were used by malicious actors to obtain information, and also that 87 million users had private information shared with other organizations without their consent.

What do you need to hear from Mark Zuckerberg?

KENNEDY: I don't want to hurt Facebook. I don't want to regulate them half to death. But we have a problem.

Our promised digital utopia has mine fields in it. Mr. Zuckerberg has not exhausted himself being forthcoming. We had one hearing. Mr. Zuckerberg sent his lawyer, very bright, very articulate, could talk a dog off a meat wagon.


KENNEDY: But he didn't say anything.

And my biggest worry in all of this -- and I have many, many questions for Mr. Zuckerberg -- but my biggest worry with all this is that the privacy issue and what I call the propagandist issue are both too big for Facebook to fix. And that's the frightening part.

BRENNAN: Too big for Facebook to fix. Does that mean that lawmakers like you need to seek regulations to fix it for them?

KENNEDY: It may be the case. I would rather do it with Facebook and the other social media platforms.

Look, we have got to talk about the initial market. Is it fair for me to give up all of my personal data to Facebook and apparently everybody else in the Western Hemisphere, in exchange for me being able to see what some of my high school buddies had for dinner Saturday night?

Who owns my data? Do I own it or does Facebook own it? The service agreement with Facebook, it's written in Swahili. Nobody understands it. Should I have the right to opt in, as opposed to opt out, put the burden on Facebook? Should I have the right to erase my data? Should I have the right to demand that Facebook get my permission before it sells the data?

We all know that poison is being spread on social media, not just Facebook. How are we going stop it? And by the way, while we're talking about that, what is poison? First Amendment concerns.

BRENNAN: But this is...

KENNEDY: These are very deep issues. And they're bigger than Cambridge Analytica.

BRENNAN: They absolutely are. They absolutely are.

But some would say, look, is it really something that Facebook needs to police themselves, or should Americans essentially have known better, in that they're putting that private information out there?

KENNEDY: Facebook knows more about its business, its algorithms, its methodology than any of us in Congress do.

I'm hoping that Mr. Zuckerberg will come to the table and say, OK, here are the problems, here are some suggested solutions, let's talk it through together.

But, you know, some people respond when they see the light. Others have to feel the heat. And these issues are not going away. And let me say it again. I do not want to hurt Facebook. It's done a lot of good.

But how do we preserve the good things about Facebook while mitigating the obvious detrimental effects of it? It is a mine field in many respects.

BRENNAN: Facebook already said ahead of this hearing that they're going to start disclosing to its users whose information may have been -- they don't like the word breached, but shared with others.

And they're also talking about now requiring buyers of political ads to confirm their location and identity and display labels saying that these are paid-for ads.

What do you think of that kind of proactive action?

KENNEDY: I think it's a start.

But the first question that Mr. Zuckerberg needs to ask is, does he really know who is running on his platform? He doesn't.

Facebook's lawyers said they have 500,000 unique advertisers a month. I think that's probably wrong. It's probably much more. I don't think they know who is running ads and issue campaigns.

We need to talk about how we're going to find out. And, again, you're going to get quickly off into First Amendment issues as well.


KENNEDY: I don't want Facebook to censor what I can see in all respects. But I do want them to stop the fake news. I do want them to stop people from running advertisements on Facebook that encourages the genocide of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

These are deep issues. They're not going to go away. And we're not going to conclude this in one hearing, and I hope that Mr. Zuckerberg will be forthcoming and frank.

BRENNAN: Forthcoming and frank. And if he's not, what happens?

KENNEDY: Well, we can do it the easy way or the hard way.

I do not want to regulate Facebook half to death. But we do have two major problems we discovered. One is the privacy issue. And the other is the propagandist issue. Now, Facebook needs to talk with us, frankly, about how we can fix that. And if it doesn't know how to fix it, which is my biggest worry, it needs to be very frank in that regard, too.

BRENNAN: I want to also ask you about EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. The president seems to have given him a pass in a tweet yesterday, signaling that he's OK with some of these reports about government spending run amuck and these other allegations of ethical violations. What do you think?

KENNEDY: Well, to Mr. Pruitt and other members of the president's Cabinet, I would say, ethics matter. Impropriety matters. The appearance of impropriety matters.

To the extent that you are, stop acting like a chucklehead, stop the unforced errors, stop leading with your chin. If you don't need to fly first class, don't. Don't turn on the siren on your SUV just to watch people move over. You represent the president of the United States.

All of this behavior is juvenile. It's distracting from the business that we're trying to do for the American people.

BRENNAN: Should he keep his job?

KENNEDY: Well, that's going to be up to the president. I know what I would do if I would Mr. Pruitt. I would call a press conference tomorrow and I would say, OK, let's talk about your criticisms of me.

BRENNAN: Well, he did give some interviews this week.

KENNEDY: Yes, but I would do a full-blown press conference and say, OK, here are your criticisms. That's fair. I'm going to stop doing that. Here is what I think is not fair.

But these people are hurting the president. And I'm not saying he's not a good person. But the appearance of impropriety matters. And you can -- you can't put lipstick on a pig. It is what it is.

BRENNAN: So, for you, though, the president -- the president and certainly Scott Pruitt have alleged that all of this is just politically motivated by environmentalists who don't like his deregulation policies.

KENNEDY: Some of it is. But all of it isn't.

I mean, he either travels with 20 security folks or he doesn't. He either flies first class every single time or he doesn't.

I don't know whether the allegations about his apartment are true or not. They don't look good. Why do you want -- in his position, why do you want to rent an apartment from a lobbyist, for God's sake? Stop leading with your chin.

Now, these are unforced errors. They're stupid. There are a lot of problems we can't solve. But you can behave. I'm not -- I don't mean to denigrate Mr. Pruitt, but, doggone it, he represents the president of the United States, and it is hurting his boss. And it needs to stop.

BRENNAN: Senator Kennedy, thank you for coming on FACE THE NATION.

We will be back in a moment.


BRENNAN: Coming up next on FACE THE NATION, we will preview the congressional hearings into Facebook's practices with the editor of "Wired" magazine, Nick Thompson. He's standing by in New York.

And on a programming note, be sure to tune in tonight to "60 Minutes" and Bill Whitaker's report on how Russian hackers were able to infiltrate state election systems in the 2016 election.


BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, so stay with us.


BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm Margaret Brennan.

We want to take a closer look now at the FaceBook data story, how it's affected users how the company is responding.

To help us do that, we're joined now by "Wired" magazine editor in chief, Nicholas Thompson, who's also A CBS News contributor. He's in New York this morning.

Good morning to you, Nick.

This is a very confusing story for a lot of people at home. What is the main question that Mark Zuckerberg is being called before Congress to answer?

NICHOLAS THOMPSON, CBS NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the most important thing he's going to answer is, what happened to people's data? What happened with Cambridge Analytica? What are you doing to make sure that doesn't happen again? He'll go up there. He'll apologize. He'll explain it. And then what's going to be interesting is what comes next. Is it just retributions, or do we actually try to figure out good tech governing policy because we haven't really had a debate about how to regulate these companies in 20 years.

BRENNAN: Well, that's what Senator Kennedy was just telling us. He's going to be one of the questioners. He said FaceBook may be too big to fix.


BRENNAN: Meaning the government may have to regulate it. What does that look like?

THOMPSON: Yes, and I do think there is going to be regulation coming, right? And there's certainly some regulation that will be very sensible, right? You should certainly regulate advertising on FaceBook, political advertising on FaceBook, so it meets the standards of political advertising on other media platforms. That's a good idea.

You should also probably have some kind of structure for privacy regulation, right? You could model it after what has been done in Europe to make sure that people have control over their data that that the companies have requirements to make their privacy settings very clear. That would be a good idea, too.

Once you get beyond that, and you get into specific regulations about speech, or you get into specific discussions about anti-trust, then it gets very complicated and there's a lot of risk.

BRENNAN: But we've already seen FaceBook kind of try to get ahead of these hearings. Tomorrow they're going to disclose to users if their data was shared, breached, whatever word you want to use.


BRENNAN: They're also talking about forcing some disclosures on political ads in terms of where that person or entity was located and who paid for the ad. Is that enough to sort of soften the blow?

THOMPSON: I think it is enough to soften the blow. It's probably not enough overall. There does need to be some government regulation that goes beyond what FaceBook is doing.

Facebook has announced about 20 policy changes in the last few weeks. They're very good changes. They do protect you. They do open things up. They will make political campaigns clearer and fairer. But there also is a role for Congress, both in setting specific regulations and also setting some guidelines for FaceBook to follow in the future.

BRENNAN: Is there truth to what -- Senator Kennedy was -- was telling us that FaceBook doesn't even know who's running ads on FaceBook. Is there truth to that? Do they really not know? They know a lot about users.

THOMPSON: They don't know everything about who is running ads on FaceBook, right. They didn't know that the IRA, the Russian propaganda group, was running ads on FaceBook because the IRA had hidden its purchases. But I think he was overstating that a little bit.

FaceBook does have a good sense, right? They -- people enter their financial information. They buy the ads. FaceBook now has lots of people monitoring them, looking for suspicious behavior. They've set up their AI systems to monitor for suspicious behavior.

So it's an overstatement to say that they don't know who's advertising. But there are certainly certain things they don't know.

BRENNAN: Well, they seem to be playing catch up, though, because none of these things stopped those buys from that Russian propaganda unit in the 2016 election.

THOMPSON: Yes. So FaceBook was caught totally unprepared during the 2016 election, and they are still paying for that, right. They stuck their heads in the sand. They were not paying attention to the fake news, to the propaganda operations.

Since then, though, they have adjusted their algorithms. They have hired tons of people. They are working very hard.

So, the bad guys are going to work harder at hiding what they do, but FaceBook is also going to work much harder at uncovering what's going on. So the odds that we have as much manipulation, as much chaos in 2018 or 2020 that they had in 2016, I think it's small. I think FaceBook is getting a handle on this.

But, yes, you're totally right, they were absolutely unprepared in '16.

BRENNAN: Do you think -- you've interviewed Mark Zuckerberg. Do you think that he -- he gets it now that he understands the weight of the outrage?

THOMPSON: I think that there's been a real education process for Mark Zuckerberg that began the day that Trump was elected. Because, remember, Trump's philosophy, which is somewhat tribalistic, is entirely different from Zuckerberg's philosophy, which is, bring everyone in the world together.

And so the day after the election, I think Zuckerberg started to realize, wait, did my systems do this? Am I responsible for this? And he's gone through a lot in the last year and a half. And I think you've seen a real education, a real evolution. I mean he's still making all kinds of unforced errors and mistakes, but I think that Zuckerberg is really grappling and I think he's understanding that this platform, that he genuinely thought could only do good for the world, actually can be manipulated.

And that's the story of the last two years. It's Mark Zuckerberg realizing that the tools he built can be used for ill as well as for good. And that's something he had not realized.

BRENNAN: One of his top executives, Sheryl Sandberg, tried to, in many ways, lay the groundwork for this testimony this week. She was all over news networks apologizing on Mark Zuckerberg's behalf and her own. How effective was that?

THOMPSON: It was fine. I mean, she and Zuckerberg have been apologizing --

BRENNAN: That doesn't sound very convincing, Nick.

THOMPSON: Well, look at the reaction to it. I don't think anybody said, oh, you know, now we're totally sympathetic to them.


THOMPSON: I mean public opinion is still completely against FaceBook. I mean and that is why Congress is going to be out for blood on Tuesday or Wednesday. If you look at the public perception of both Zuckerberg, Sandberg, and also at the company, it's terrible. The stock market is mad. The employees are upset. People are really upset at FaceBook right now.

So I think she said the right things. I think Zuckerberg has been staying the right thing. I thought his conference call with the media the other day went very well.

On the other hand, they didn't respond to this crisis nearly as quickly as they should have and they're still paying for that and they're still paying for years and years of sins.

One of the ironies here is that I think this Cambridge Analytica scandal has been a little blown out of proportion, right. What happened in this specific instance isn't quite as terrible as people make it out to be and FaceBook's not as much at fault as people make them out to be.

On the other hand --

BRENNAN: You're talking about the data scraping and the use by an outside application of this information without their -- the users' knowledge?

THOMPSON: Yes. That -- that particular scandal, it's bad, but it's been a little blown out of proportion.

On the other hand, FaceBook has been violating our privacy and not paying any price for it for 12 years. So in some ways this is the comeuppance for 12 years of sort of small, privacy violations and breaches of trust that FaceBook hasn't really been punished for. So they're being punished too much for this specific crime, but maybe the right amount for the accumulation of things over the last decade.

BRENNAN: It's going to be fascinating to watch, Nick. Thank you very much.

THOMPSON: Thank you so much, Margaret. Good to talk to you.

BRENNAN: We'll be right back with our panel.


BRENNAN: And now for some political analysis.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor at "The National Review," a columnist for "Bloomberg View," and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Julie Pace is the Washington bureau chief for the "Associated Press." Jeffrey Goldberg is editor and chief of "The Atlantic." And we'd like to welcome to the show Toluse Olorunnipa to the broadcast. He's a White House reporter for "Bloomberg News."

A lot to get to, as always. But I want to start on these chemical attacks in Syria. The president's not calling them alleged attacks. He says this is a chemical attack and there will be a big price to pay.

Jeff, what does that lead us to?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, "THE ATLANTIC": It leads us probably, if past can predict the future, a year ago he launched 49 Tomahawk missiles at various Syrian sites, did not have the desired effect. So it could lead us to another attack by the American military. It will not lead us to a conclusion or a satisfactory conclusion of the Syrian civil war. It's very, very late in the process. Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies have basically won this civil war. It's all over but the dying, it seems, in this one town.

So I don't think that the U.S. can do anything to affect the overall outcome at this late stage. Remember, Donald Trump also said just last week, we're finished with Syria. Against the wishes of the Pentagon he said this, by the way. He wants out. So it's an interesting moment to see how far he will go back in. He won't go back in far enough to make a difference.

BRENNAN: Right. And those U.S. troops, the 2,000 that are there, aren't doing anything against the Assad regime. They're fighting ISIS.

GOLDBERG: No, they're there to fight ISIS, which he thinks he's won, by the way, and Donald Trump is probably being premature when he thinks that victory is at hand.

JULIE PACE, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Well, this is what makes the timing of this attack so interesting is that it comes days after Trump signaled that the U.S. was getting out. While he's not using a specific timeframe publicly, he is privately telling his national security team that he wants to be out by October. That's the exact type of thing that he and Republicans criticized Barack Obama, saying, if you put a timeline on this, if you make clear to the opposition, to our foes when we're going to draw out, they will respond to that. And so we don't know exactly what is behind this (INAUDIBLE) attack, but --

GOLDBERG: Putin, Iran and Assad have read -- have read what he said.

PACE: They know the playbook.

BRENNAN: Well, it's interesting, Toluse, because John Bolton will be the new national security advisor. This is happening on his watch now. This makes for a tough first day at work.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, "BLOOMBERG": Yes, Bolton has been a hawk on a number of issues in the Middle East, including the Iraq War. He's likely to push the president more towards taking action, striking back against the Assad regime, even though the president has seen the Middle East in the light of it being a hornet's nest that the U.S. should not get involved with because it's this quagmire that does not produce any positive results for the U.S.

To the president sort of has this duality where he wants to seem very tough. We saw him name President Putin in a tweet for the first time sort of being critical against President Putin and his role in Syria. But at the same time, the president has said that he wants to get out of Syria. He wants to bring the troops home. And that's clear that Bolton's going to have a tough time sort of making the president have a coherent foreign policy when it comes to an area that he does not want to be in but he also wants to seem tough.

BRENNAN: Is there a Syria policy yet?

OLORUNNIPA: I means, is there a Trump doctrine at all?


OLORUNNIPA: I mean it's -- it's difficult to know when he surrounds himself with so many different types of voices. He likes to have competing voices around him. And then he does make very impulsive foreign policy decisions. It makes it difficult to know whether or not there is an overall strategy behind what he's doing.

BRENNAN: And, Ramesh, I mean, conservatives really cheered the president when he took that action last year saying, look, he's not President Obama, who sets red lines and doesn't act on them, he's set out consequences for crossing his red line. Well, it appears another line has been crossed here. So is it --


BRENNAN: He trapped himself?

PONNURU: Well, there was a split among conservatives, I'd say. I do think that there is a cost that you pay when president says there's a big price if he doesn't then exact on the big price.


PONNURU: I think it reduces his credibility and it reduces American credibility.

But I think there's a real challenge, there's a real question about what the administration does now and I think people are going to be surprised about John Bolton, because John Bolton has never been an enthusiast for interventions for just humanitarian reasons, he's gone sort of back and forth on the Syria question depending on circumstances. In 2013, he was publicly against President Obama taking military action in Syria, and he said it's a strategic side show. So I'm not sure that he's going to live up to the caricature of being kind of a hawk's hawk on all issues.

BRENNAN: That's interesting. He's going to be in place before we get a secretary of state confirmed. Mike Pompeo's got those hearings coming up on Thursday. Does that in any way solidify Bolton? I mean does a few days on the job give him more influence in any way?

PONNURU: Well, I think what gives him more influence on the job is he apparently has a very good relationship with President Trump. Of course, other people have started out with good relationship and seen that deteriorate over time. But I think that this administration in particular, the relationship with the president personally matters a great deal even more than it does in any other administration.

BRENNAN: Jeffrey, you had a really interesting interview with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, in this past week. Now we're going to see his nemesis, of sort, the Amir of Qatar, at the White House meeting with President Trump. Are we going to see any kind of diplomatic breakthrough on that standoff between the countries?


BRENNAN: I thought that was an easy question.

GOLDBERG: Yes, yes, yes. I -- well, I mean, who knows, but it doesn't seem very likely. The hatred between the Qatari royal family and the Saudi royal family is almost as deep as the hatred between the Saudi royal family and the leaders of Iraq. They -- the Saudis have defined for themselves, and for the moderate -- so-called moderate Arab wing, who the enemies are. Iran, Assad, and, to a lesser extent, but still important extent, the outlying Qataris. So it's -- it's very, very difficult to see Donald Trump negotiating peace between Gulf States.

BRENNAN: But it's significant. I mean he stood in the Rose Garden last year and said that Qatar was funding terrorism at the very highest levels.


BRENNAN: And now he's got the head of state coming to see him.

GOLDBERG: Welcome to the Middle East. I mean, you know, Qatar also is home to an important U.S. military installation.

BRENNAN: Exactly.

GOLDBERG: And the Pentagon, obviously, wants us to calibrate that relationships, like it wants us to calibrate all relationships. And Donald Trump is not an expertise -- does not have expertise in calibrating relationships in the Middle East, or possibly in many other places. So we'll see how this meeting goes. But nothing -- nothing grand is going to come out of it, I don't think.

BRENNAN: Toluse, the president will be traveling at the end of this week to South America. Will we see a preliminary trade deal on the NAFTA front, not China, on NAFTA?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, it's not likely that it's going to happen before this meeting or during this meeting. He's going to the Summit of Americas in Lima, Peru. They're still trying to work out the kinks of a trade deal, but the president keeps throwing grenades into the entire trade relationship by announcing new tariffs, global tariffs, trying to take on China, but at the same time really making a number of our other allies unhappy when we talk about steel tariffs and aluminum tariffs that hit not only China but also a number of our different allies in different parts of the world, including South America.

And by sending troops to the southern border, he's sort of inflaming the relationship with our trade partner in Mexico and making it more difficult to have those continued talks and reach a deal during this summit.

So it's likely that we're not going to see a deal before the summit. Maybe there's some work happening behind the scenes away from the president's Twitter account and away from these very sort of incendiary moves that he's making on the border that can work itself out over the weeks to come, but not necessarily something that we're expecting to see in the next few days.

BRENNAN: Ramesh, can conservatives convince the president to save NAFTA?

PONNURU: You know, this administration is full of people who support it, but it also has lot of people who are against it. It does not speak with one voice on this issue.

Trump has given us every indication for his entire adult life that he is a protectionist by conviction. And people have been trying to talk him out of each of the steps he's already taken. So I would not be confident about NAFTA's survival.

And I think one of the reasons you're seeing the markets react the way they're reacting, it's not each individual tariff that the presidents has announce is going to be so destructive, but people don't like where this is going and they're uncertain about where it's going.

BRENNAN: The markets, a forward-looking indicator, and they're betting that this is going downhill.

PONNURU: That's right.

BRENNAN: We've got to take a commercial break.

We'll be back be more from our panel in a moment.


BRENNAN: And we're back with our panel.

Julie, a lot of confirmation hearings to get through for this administration. Secretary of state, first one up this week. Does Mike Pompeo makes it through?

PACE: It looks like Pompeo is going to get through. I think Democrats are going to try to make it difficult. Ultimately I think that he will be confirmed. He was already confirm for CIA chief, which tends to make it a little bit easier to get through a second time around.

The one that I would really pay attention to, though, is Gina Haspel for CIA, his replacement at the agency. This is a confirmation hearing that Republicans are uncomfortable with, simply for the fact that it's going to raise so many issues around torture, her own past history and questions about what the administration's policy is toward the types of covert actions that became a really big deal during the Obama administration, but, frankly, we haven't heard a lot about.

And then hanging over all of this is Scott Pruitt, of course. You -- one of your guests earlier today was talking about there being limited time left in the legislative calendar because the midterm elections are coming up. Lawmakers don't like to be spending a lot of time in Washington when they're running for re-election. And so you're going to hear Republicans privately telling the administration, hey, maybe you don't want to throw another at -- open -- open seat on your cabinet into the middle of this midterm when we already have two pretty difficult confirmations ahead of us.

BRENNAN: Right, and the VA secretary also.

PACE: And the VA secretary is also in the mix.

It's a pretty busy agenda. Again, not something that Republicans wanted to be dealing with in the middle of the midterm cycle.

BRENNAN: Ramesh, the president seems to have given absolution to Scott Pruitt in this tweet last night saying, you know, he's doing a great job, he's not concerned about the ethics -- accusations, at least, of ethics violations. Is it really about that or is it just simply getting somebody else to fill that job would be too tough?

PONNURU: Well, there's that and there's also that Pruitt has very strong support from conservatives who approve of his policy record at the EPA. You combine that with Trump's relative lack of condition for the kind of media ethics firestorm that in another administration would have gotten a cabinet secretary dismissed. And I think that Pruitt looks like he's weathering the storm. But if there are more scandals that break, that could change, of course.

BRENNAN: Does that mean that any prospects for a job are over for him. Of course, the president came out this week and said, no, I'm not going to replace Jeff Sessions with Scott Pruitt.

PONNURU: Well, I do think that this means that even if that were ever being contemplated, it isn't anymore. I think it is very hard, under this circumstance, to see Pruitt getting confirmed for attorney general.

BRENNAN: Toluse, what are you hearing on that front? I mean all -- speaking of jobs that don't require confirmation hearings, the chief of staff gig, it seems to be a regular headline that John Kelly is growing frustrated or the president's growing frustrated with him. It would be news if we got one that said he's happy right now.

GOLDBERG: Scott Pruitt might be available for chief of staff at any moment.

BRENNAN: But, I mean, what is the likelihood here that we see that kind of shake up?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, we have seen John Kelly's stock drop in -- within the west Wing, within the White House. And my colleague reported a few weeks ago that he's not -- he's no longer part -- a part of very important meetings, very important personnel decisions, phone calls with foreign leaders. President Trump has sort of grated at the fact that John Kelly has tried to enforce so much discipline within the West Wing, not only discipline on the staff, but also discipline on the president, who likes sort of having this free-wheeling experience within the Oval Office, phone calls with various friends and allies, people coming in and out.

John Kelly has tried to crack down on some of that, and the president has not necessarily taken to a lot of the new reforms. And the fact that John Kelly is seeing his stock drop and seeing a number of the members of his staff and a number of the officials within the West Wing more willing to talk to reporters and say John Kelly is no longer the star general that he was when he first came into the administration, makes it seem like the president may take a move, and maybe make a change. But we did see a tweet from the president saying that this was not true and not necessarily the direction that he was going.

PACE: But Toluse makes a really important point here that I think is important for people watching to understand. It's one thing for the president and his chief of staff to have a tense relationship. Trump has a tense relationship with a lot of people in his senior team. Kelly has lost the support of his staff. So he's essentially a man on an island.


PACE: A large part of it is the way he handled the Rob Porter controversy. People on the staff felt like he was not being truthful in his account of his own role there. They feel like he has -- has undermined what they have been sent out to say, either on his behalf or on the president's behalf. So imagine that, you have a chief of staff in the White House who the president is not happy with, and the staff isn't happy working for. That is really untenable.

GOLDBERG: You know, and we're talking also about absolution for tweeting. And their -- the president doesn't have a great record of sticking with those grants of absolution. Reince Priebus is -- as a good example, I think.

So I mean the amazing thing about this administration is that this conversation could be overcome by events during this conversation because -- because he can do anything. The fact that he's sticking with Scott Pruitt is remarkable. The fact that he's tweeting positively about his chief of staff is remarkable. But those things can change this afternoon. And that's the nature of this entire administration.

PONNURU: Successful chiefs of staff have tended either to have a strong relationship with the president personally or to have experience in politics and good relationships with Capitol Hill. When John Kelly became chief of staff, people greeted him as an adult who was going to impose order on the process, but he didn't have either of those two qualities, and he still doesn't. In some ways some of those things are getting worse, like his relationship with the president. So while he may have imposed some discipline on this process, I'm not sure you can say that he's been a successful chief of staff.

BRENNAN: Well, what does that do to the rest of the cabinet and the administration? It's been pointed out to me that because he was a cabinet member, and rose to this position, that that has, in some ways, instilled confidence in his fellow administration members. Would a dismissal hurt anyone else?

PONNURU: You know, but the bar is always so different in this administration. "The Washington Post" story that president -- about Kelly that President Trump condemned earlier today was saying that there was less knife fighting and dysfunction now that Kelly is chief of staff.

OK, fine, less knife fighting and dysfunction than there was in July of last year, but that's still a lot of knife fighting and dysfunction. And every little thing increases people's worry, increases people sense. Maybe we should look for the exit, too.

BRENNAN: All right. Thank you, all of you.

We'll be right back.


BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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