Read more transcripts from Face the Nation here.
MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST: It's Sunday, August 5. I'm Margaret Brennan. And this is FACE THE NATION.
President Trump is enjoying his 10-day vacation doing what he loves most, campaigning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A hundred years, I guess, 125 years, whoever has the White House, that party tends to lose the midterms.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: Look, if the Democrats get in, they're going to raise your taxes. You're going to have crime all over the place. You're going to have people pouring across the border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: But in terms of what's going on behind the scenes, behind the scenes to prepare for the midterms, the president's message is less clear.
Last week, a dramatic presentation from top national security leaders underscored the administration's determination to keep the Russians from interfering.
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DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We acknowledge the threat is real, it is continuing.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously.
GEN. PAUL NAKASONE, UNITED STATES CYBER COMMAND: We're not going to accept meddling in the elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: But that sharp warning was undermined by the president himself just hours later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Now, we're being hindered by the Russian hoax. It's a hoax, OK?
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BRENNAN: At last night's rally for a congressional candidate in Ohio, the president appeared to be back on message, and even expanded it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We got to stop meddling. We got to stop everybody from attacking us.
But there are a lot. Russia is there. China's there. Hey, we're doing well with North Korea, but they're probably there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: We will talk with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, plus the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, about election security.
Then, as America's students had back to school this month, we will take a look at the state of education with former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
We will have political analysis on all the news coming up on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION.
We begin this morning with counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, who joins us from her home in New Jersey.
Kellyanne, always good to have you with us.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Thank you, Margaret.
BRENNAN: The president and his national security team made statements that to most people sounded very different in the characterization of what Russia did and is doing now with our elections.
And we just played those clips of how unequivocal the language was from his national security team.
Why isn't the president echoing that same and amplifying that same message market?
CONWAY: Well, Margaret, it was the president's idea to have his national security team go to the podium in the White House press Briefing Room, to go and share with the country and indeed the world that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
There continue to be active cyber-security, cyber-warfare campaigns, if you will, by North Korea, Iran, China, certainly Russia. And this president wants to make very clear that he was not the president in 2016, when evidence of Russian interference and meddling in our democracy in 2016 was presented to that president and his security team and buried, because they wanted the other person to win, and indeed thought she would win the presidency.
This president is not burying it.
I was in that briefing with the president the Friday before. And I was there to witness firsthand when the president directed his national security team to go and tell everyone what's happening.
I think also, earlier last week, you saw Secretary of Homeland Kirstjen Nielsen and our Vice President Mike Pence up in New York hosting a cyber-security conference, where they made very clear cyber-security and election security are important priorities.
I would note that, according to most objective analyses, the number one topic this calendar year by the mainstream media on television is -- is, in fact, Russia and the elections.
And yet, when the president says Russia hoax, he's not talking about Russia meddling. He's been very clear about that, as has his team. And he was very clear in Ohio last night. Thanks for playing the clip.
The president, when he says Russia hoax, he means the investigation and some others on TV, never under oath, wanting to suggest that somehow Russian meddling in the 2016 election was successful in changing a single vote or indeed any the electoral outcome.
And we know that. We know judge T.S. Ellis in that Virginia courtroom in the Manafort trial has specifically instructed folks to not mention Russia, Trump or collusion. That hardly stops people from going on TV mentioning Russia, collusion and Trump.
BRENNAN: But, Kellyanne, I -- I hear your point.
And the message from the podium was very clear, which is why the question is, why is the president not drawing a more clear distinction to what you just drew, which was a difference between his election, the validity of it, or questions around that, and the facts as presented by the national security team?
I mean, the national security adviser today said Russia was the principal violator in 2016 and their activity now puts them in the lead, not North Korea, not China.
CONWAY: No, I was making the point about this cyber-warfare all across the world.
But in terms of the meddling, there's no question. And Ambassador Bolton has made that clear, Director Wray, Secretary Nielsen, Director Coats. And they work for the president, who asked them to go and share with everyone what he had heard, unclassified, the Friday before.
I was there, so I want to repeat that. And you saw last night in Ohio the president talking about Russian meddling, that it has to stop, others needs to stop.
But when he talks about the hoax, he's talking about this fantasy, this unproven fantasy that somehow the campaign that I successfully managed for the successful part the campaign was in cahoots with Russians.
As you know, Margaret, because you covered it, I -- we were -- our campaign was talking to people in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and Macomb County, Michigan, not in Moscow.
And the president has every right to wonder why, where there seems to have been nefarious activity, folks don't want to investigate. They don't want investigate the loser.
The number four at the Department of Justice's wife working with the people at GPS -- at Fusion GPS and the Steele dossier. There's a new FOIA request now against former Minority Leader Harry Reid and his -- his potential action there.
We know that Christopher Steele talked about the dossier 12 times after President Trump tried to initiate -- a conversation about that 12 times after President Trump was elected.
So, yes, there is frustration that the loser and the people trying to prop her up as a weak candidate have not been investigated.
BRENNAN: We will talk about some of that with one of the people handling some of the investigation there ahead in the show.
But I do also want to ask, since I know you speak to the president, can you clarify some of his statements in the past 24 hours, particularly on Twitter?
He's not the only president to have an adversarial relationship with the press. But his language really seems to have escalated, today saying that the fake news media cause war and they're very dangerous and sick.
What wars have journalists started?
CONWAY: Margaret, I think the president's entire point is this, that we do have a news media that includes some reporters. So this should not be a broad brush by any statement.
I said that before. His daughter said it last week. And I know he believes it's not all. That's why he said it really refers to those who aren't always telling the truth and who are giving emotion over information, who are talking more about their own egos than doing everyman interviews.
I was at that rally with the president in Pennsylvania on Thursday. I walked around and talked to people in the crowd. They're so excited about what they see in terms of progress and prosperity.
Some members of the press tend to cover the parts of the rally that were about the press. But most of the people hear the major part, which is about the people and the progress and the prosperity.
BRENNAN: But you know...
CONWAY: Look, Margaret, you're a serious reporter. You have worked your way to the anchor seat at FACE THE NATION. You were a foreign war correspondent.
The idea that you share an industry with the new "New York Times" opinion writer who had racist tweets a couple short years ago, cancel white people, do they burn as quickly in the sun, just really terrible things.
BRENNAN: But, Kellyanne, you know...
CONWAY: And then, of course, Marc Caputo, Politico, this week, going to the rally in Tampa -- excuse me..
BRENNAN: But you know....
CONWAY: ... and referring to Trump supporters as -- quote -- "garbage people."
BRENNAN: But I know you're sensitive to security concerns, because you have been the victim of some targeting.
BRENNAN: And I know you're sensitive to this.
So can't you understand the difference, though, when the president escalates, that there is actually at times physical danger, potentially, that there is a risk here, that the president may want to change that rhetoric?
CONWAY: The president wants people to give information, news they can use.
And I have got to tell you, there are a large and growing swathe of reporters, all of whom or most of whom I feel like I have a decent relationship with, that are sitting in the press Briefing Room who have contracts on cable TV where they say things and they say things on Twitter they would not get away with in print.
It would not pass even the most violently anti-Trump editor's desk. And so I think those standards are much lower on Twitter for these journalists, certainly on TV. I have been talking about this for two straight years now since the campaign.
I think the temperature needs to be dialed down overall.
BRENNAN: And you don't believe that journalists are enemy of the people?
CONWAY: No, I don't believe journalists are the enemy of the people.
I think some journalists are enemy of the relevant...
BRENNAN: Thank you.
CONWAY: ... and enemy of the news you can use.
And I think that most of it -- most of the sins are sins of omission, not commission, meaning, why wouldn't more reporters, Margaret, cover the vice president receiving the remains of our fallen in North Korea? Why less than a minute on one of the major cable stations?
BRENNAN: Well, we covered it here on...
BRENNAN: Kellyanne, we did cover it here on CBS.
BRENNAN: And I know we will continue to do that, Kellyanne.
CONWAY: I got to tell you, I don't mention the journalists by name. I don't -- I don't mention the journalists by name.
But I'm much more interested in the work of Alex Acosta than Jim Acosta, our labor secretary...
CONWAY: ... because he's presiding over an economic boom.
BRENNAN: Kellyanne, we have to leave that -- we have to leave it here, unfortunately, Kellyanne.
But I do want to get to some of the other topics we touched on with our next guest. So thank you.
We're going to bring in California's Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who joins us from Portland, Oregon, this morning.
Congressman Schiff, some of the investigations, or lack thereof, were just laid out by Kellyanne Conway from the White House. I want to give you a chance to respond to criticism that she has leveled in terms of congressional investigations.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, look, I think it was a broad effort to distract from the president's comments.
And, as you pointed out, Margaret, the president can't distinguish between any allegations of conspiracy against his campaign and the broader problem of Russia continuing to interfere in our elections.
Dan Coats said this week that Russian efforts are pervasive in terms of their social media campaign to divide us. That's going to continue to the election. We see that the Russians are again trying to spear-phish and potentially hack election campaigns.
The only element we have not seen to date, as Director Wray said, is the hacking of voter registration databases or voter equipment. But, as our intelligence chief said, that's just one keystroke away.
And probably the biggest thing that the president could do is confront Moscow to establish some kind of deterrent, but, instead, exactly the opposite message is being sent. And that is -- and I think this was delivered in Helsinki -- as long as the Russians interfere on Donald Trump's side in the midterms, Vladimir Putin can count on the president to never call him out.
And that leaves us all too vulnerable.
BRENNAN: Congressman, before we go any farther, because I want to draw a distinction. Since we have been saying here that some of the facts can get muddled here in the president's language, I want to make sure we're being precise in our conversation.
Can you agree that there has been no evidence of collusion, coordination or conspiracy that has been presented thus far between the Trump campaign and Russia?
SCHIFF: No, I don't agree with that at all.
I think there's plenty of evidence of collusion or conspiracy in plain sight. Now, that's a different statement than saying that there's proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a criminal conspiracy. Bob Mueller will have to determine that.
But, of course, the entire meeting at Trump Tower...
BRENNAN: Right. So, you acknowledge that the FBI has not presented it thus far?
SCHIFF: No, what -- Margaret...
BRENNAN: I'm drawing this distinction because this is what the White House is arguing here, that the president is drawing a distinction, that he is saying, when he says hoax and witch-hunt, that he means one thing, and that it's not really trying to disassociate himself from what his national security team says.
SCHIFF: Well, first of all, we haven't seen what Bob Mueller has produced in terms of the evidence yet. So in terms of FBI proof, they're not going to present proof to the Congress. We're doing our own investigation.
And we have revealed evidence, I think, that certainly goes to the issue of conspiracy and collusion, a lot of which is now public.
But I do think that the president continues to cast doubt on whether he accepts the fundamental conclusion that Russia intervened, whether there was a conspiracy or not. He continues to raise questions about it. Indeed, his attempt to retract his statement in Helsinki that he doesn't see why the Russians would intervene, that goes well beyond any allegations of conspiracy.
So it's the president himself who's created this very muddled message. And the issue, I think, for us in the midterms is, what message is Putin hearing? Is he hearing the message that we heard from Coats and Wray and others in that press conference at the White House, or is hearing the message of the president of the United States?
And I fear that the message that the Kremlin cares most about is what they hear from Donald Trump, and that is still one of denial and cover for the Russians.
BRENNAN: Is the DNC better prepared for these November races than they were in 2016?
SCHIFF: I'm sure that DNC is better prepared. And I would imagine the RNC is better prepared and the states are better prepared.
But there's still a great deal more work to do. And I think the states still don't have the resources that they need. And, sadly, we did have a vote in Congress on additional funding for the states, and that was voted down by the GOP.
But, yes, they certainly have taken steps.
And, Margaret, I will say this. One thing that encourages me, the administration is finally having interagency task force meetings every week, led by the DNI's office, to make sure that our government agencies are talking to each other.
But the fact that many of us even in leadership positions in the Congress had to learn about the Russian efforts to hack particular campaigns this cycle from a Microsoft representative speaking publicly in Aspen causes a lot of concern about whether that interagency process is really working.
BRENNAN: And you are talking about Microsoft disclosing that.
I also want to ask you about what the special counsel disclosed a few weeks back, where, in that filing, he mentioned that there were congressional candidates, at least one of them, who was requesting help from Guccifer, which has been linked, of course, by the special counsel to the Russian meddling effort.
Do you have any indication who that congressional candidate was or if they are currently in Congress?
SCHIFF: Well, I can only talk about the public reporting.
And there certainly was a lot of public reporting about Russian hacking involving Florida candidates for Congress and Florida incumbents. And, of course, this is a great concern in terms of the midterms. They not only hacked the DNC, but they hacked the DCCC two years ago.
We tried to get the Republican Campaign Committee to agree that, if a foreign power intervened, as they did in 2016, that we would reject it, that neither party would exploit it. We weren't able to get that agreement from the GOP in 2016.
We really need to develop that kind of national consensus for the midterms, that no matter who a foreign power may intervene on behalf of, both parties have to agree not to exploit it. And I think one of the chief impediments to getting to that agreement is the president of the United States.
BRENNAN: You, I know, have been traveling the country helping to raise money for Democrats, successfully, I hear, more than $3.5 million so far.
When you are speaking across the country, do you talk about the Russia probe, and do you advise those who are running for office to be speaking about it publicly?
SCHIFF: I don't advise people running for office around the country to focus on the Russia investigation. I urge them to focus on what they're going to do to put bread on the table, what they're going to do to make sure their Constituents have health care.
I certainly get questions about it when I travel around the country. And the overarching point that I try to make is, what the Russians did was not in isolation. The Russians, yes, they intervened. They had a preferred candidate in our election. But they have been interfering in Europe and elsewhere for a long time.
And it is part of a global attack on the very idea of liberal democracy, and comes at a time where we see a real rise of autocrats around the world. And America needs once again to be the champion of democracy and human rights.
And that's the context I always try to emphasize. This is much bigger than the last election or even the next election. There is a real risk to the very idea of liberal democracy right now in the world.
BRENNAN: But does it give you pause when you hear the allegations that this is viewed as a witch-hunt? When you are campaigning and fund-raising, does it give you pause to speak about this probe, at risk of giving fodder to that argument?
SCHIFF: Well, I certainly, I think, feel a public responsibility, as I do on television, as well as when I do in private, to try to inform the public about what Russia is doing, the risk it poses to our democracy.
But also, Margaret, I, frankly, talk a lot more about the risk to our democracy from this administration, in a lot of what you talked about with Kellyanne Conway. And that is, I think we're seeing the most comprehensive attack on the freedom of the press in the United States in memory.
I think we're seeing an effort to undermine the independence of our Justice Department, to denigrate our judiciary. I talk a lot more on the campaign trail about the threat to our democracy from within than anything that the Russians are capable of doing.
BRENNAN: Congressman, thank you for joining us this morning.
We will be back in a moment with former Secretary of Education under President Obama Arne Duncan. We will get his take on what's working and what's not working when it comes to America's schools.
BRENNAN: We're back with former Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
He's the author of a new book, "How Schools Work," coming out this week.
Thank you for joining us.
ARNE DUNCAN, FORMER U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: Good morning. Thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity.
It was interesting reading this, because you find out more about you personally as well. I don't think a lot of people knew you played professional basketball for two years.
DUNCAN: A long time ago. It was a lot of fun. I was lucky to have that chance.
BRENNAN: So, some colors and personal anecdotes, but you also really -- it's not so much about how schools work, but really an indictment of how schools aren't working.
It's a very critical take in this book about the education system. And you say, the education system runs on lies.
What do you mean by that?
DUNCAN: That's -- that's a tough statement to make, but let me just give you a couple of notes.
We say we value education, but we never vote on education, never hold politicians accountable, local, state or national level, for getting better results, higher graduation rates, more people graduating from college.
We say value teachers, but we don't pay teachers. We don't support them, we don't mentor them the way they need to do their incredibly important, tough, complex work.
And then maybe the toughest lie for me, Margaret, is that we say we value kids. And we have raised a generation of young people, teens who've been raised on mass shootings and gun violence. And that simply doesn't happen in other nations.
So I don't look at what people say. I look at their actions. I look at their policies. I look at their budgets. And our values don't reflect that we care about education, we care about teachers, or that we truly care about keeping our children safe and free of -- and free of fear.
BRENNAN: Do you feel you made a dent in any of that when you were education secretary?
DUNCAN: Oh, we had some real successes, we had some failures.
But, on the success side, we put more than a billion dollars into high-quality early childhood education, which I think is the best investment we can make. We saved more than 300,000 teacher jobs around the country when the economy was really in a very tough spot.
We put $40 billion into Pell Grants, without going back to taxpayers for nickel, to make college more affordable, so things that we're very, very proud of.
But this is not a mission accomplished moment, obviously. I feel a huge sense of urgency. We have to get better faster. As a nation, we're not top 10 in anything.
BRENNAN: I want to ask you, though, before we go further about where we are now, to ask you about your own performance, because the Department of Education had a report looking at School Improvement Grants, a program that you helped oversee, and funneled -- you said a billion there.
There was, total, I think $7 billion...
DUNCAN: No, 7 -- $7 billion, yes.
BRENNAN: ... in the whole program -- into some of the worst-performing schools to try to improve them.
The report -- I want to read you this quote -- found, "Overall, across all grades, we found implementing any School Improvement Grants-funded model had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores, high school graduation or college enrollment -- enrollment." Excuse me.
It's a pretty harsh criticism.
BRENNAN: How do you respond?
DUNCAN: No, I think investing in our lowest-performing schools is some of the hardest and most important work we can do, Margaret. I don't want to leave any kid behind or say they can't make it.
As a nation, we had more than 2,000 dropout factories a few years back. We now have less than 800.
BRENNAN: But this sounds like a failing grade from the Department of Education.
No, you always want to get better faster. And, again, it was a short period of time they measured. Our high school graduation rates are at all-time highs. Those grants were a small piece of that. There are many things that go into that.
And, again, this is -- we got a long, long way to go. And to see high school graduation rates at all-time highs, to see -- see many fewer students going to dropout factories, those are things we feel really good about.
BRENNAN: I want to talk to you more on the other side of this commercial break, but we have to take one.
So, stay with us. We will talk more about your new book, "How Schools Work."
We will be right back with more of our conversation in a moment.
BRENNAN: Next Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the white nationalist rally that resulted in the death of a counterprotester in Charlottesville.
On FACE THE NATION, we will take a special look at the state of race relations in a divided America with Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, and the mayor of Charlottesville, Nikuyah Walker, among other guests. We hope you will join us then.
And we will be back in a moment.
BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION and our discussion about schools with former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and our political panel.
So, stay with us.
BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
We are back now with more of our conversation with the former secretary of education, Arne Duncan.
Good to have you on.
We've been talking about this book you just wrote and in it you're very critical of the state of our schools right now. You said there's a lot more work to be done. One specific criticism you say it's -- there's a distinction between proficiency and growth were you're measuring how students actually perform. And you say not everyone understands that, including the current secretary of education, Betsy DeVos. What do you mean?
ARNE DUNCAN, FORMER SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: So what I'm interested in is how much students are improving each year. So proficiency is just on an absolute basis where you are today. I want to know how much you're getting better each year. So if you're learning two years of material for a year's instruction, that's amazing work by the child, but, more importantly, great, great work by that teacher. And we have to -- we need to recognize that and reward that. A pretty basic concept for folks who work in education. Unfortunately, the current secretary of education didn't understand that one.
BRENNAN: And what exactly is it that you think she is failing to understand or follow through on there, because she has kept a number of the Obama administration programs?
DUNCAN: It's interesting. You probably saw on the news -- it's -- for me it's just a crazy metaphor that about a week ago her yacht was found adrift. A $40 million yacht just out there. And for me that sort of represents where they are in terms of education policy. There isn't one. And --
BRENNAN: What does her personal wealth have to do what that?
DUNCAN: It doesn't have anything to do with it. It's just that her -- the policy is adrift. There's nothing out there of substance. We should have some concrete goals as a nation. I would argue high quality access to pre-k for every single child. We got high school graduation rates to 84 percent. They should be trying to get that to 90 percent. We should try and lead the world in college completion. None of those are on the radar. They talk about small things. And that, for me, it's -- it's -- we're selling our nation short. This is our -- a great education is our way to have a stronger economy. We have to educate our way to a better economy. You don't hear any of that. We don't have big goals. It shouldn't be bipartisan, non-partisan.
BRENNAN: One of the things that the current secretary has been an advocate for in the past are school vouchers, also school choice. What is it specifically that you have a problem with when it comes to using some of these public funding in essence to allow some students to go to private schools?
DUNCAN: Yes. so I think, again, public money should be used to support public schools, and that could be traditional schools, that could be high performing charter schools. I don't care the name of the school, I just want more high performing schools, less drop-out factors.
BRENNAN: But doesn't it come as a reflection, in some ways, of greater parental involvement if they're trying to take that option?
DUNCAN: We're all for parental involvement. I think public dollars should be used to support high quality public education. The vast majority of our children, in our nation, always have and always will go to public schools. We have to make sure those are absolutely as strong as possible.
And actually I think we need a different model. We need to think about a pre-k through 14 model. We've had a k through 12 model for 100 years. I think that's a little outdated. We have to start earlier. And a high school diploma is great. It's not enough. We've got to think about some form of higher education, community college, four year universities and beyond that as well.
BRENNAN: In the book you make a point that we're not training children to enter the current workforce. It's more sort of factory worker mentality.
BRENNAN: What is it that you think needs to be added here?
DUNCAN: How we think critically. How we work in teams. How we solve problems. Those are the kinds of skills that all employers are looking for, not rope memorization, not just sitting in a class, you know, memorizing things. And, again, this is where's -- these are places where we could go much, much further and do it with a real sense of urgency. For me the competition isn't other countries, it's, can we do it ourselves. And if we can do that, our kids are extraordinary. We just have to give them a better chance. We have to meet them halfway.
BRENNAN: When you were secretary of education, the tragedy in Sandy Hook happened. We've seen yet another tragedy on President Trump's watch now, the Marjorie Stoneman shooting, and those teenagers have become very politically active on the heels of that. But equally very little change at the federal level, all really at the local. Is that what the expectation should be that communities have to figure out how to fix this issue themselves?
DUNCAN: No, I think we all have to do this. And I will say, Margaret, this is our -- I think our greatest failing is that we don't value of lives of our children. Children in other nations don't die like they do here. And, you know, the Sandy Hook massacre was the worst day of President Obama's presidency. It was our worst day there. He went out the next day to visit families. The vice president and I went down a couple days later. None of us ever anticipated 20 babies and five teachers and a principal being slaughtered. And the fact that we got nothing done, zero, in terms of gun legislation after that is -- is heartbreaking.
I've been very pessimistic on that issue. But the students from Parkland, Florida, have given me a real sense of hope. And young people, whether it's in Parkland, whether it's back home in Chicago, the young people I'm working with here in D.C., as I said earlier, we've raised a generation of teens on mass shootings, on gun violence. We have failed as adults and parents to protect them. And they're saying they're not going to tolerate it. And I'm actually very, very hopeful the young people who are going to lead our nation where we as adults have failed to take them, and that's to a place free of trauma and free of fear.
BRENNAN: The book is "How Schools Work" by Arne Duncan.
Thank you very much for joining us.
We'll be right back with our panel.
BRENNAN: It's time now for some political analysis with our panel. Mark Landler covers the White House for "The New York Times." Leslie Sanchez is a CBS News political contributor. Seung Min Kim covers the White House from Capitol Hill for "The Washington Post." And Paula Reid is a CBS News correspondent.
Great to have you all here. Always a lot to chew on.
But, Paula, we should be -- we should have our own legal panel here because I feel like there's so much to digest from this week.
Let's start with the president's tweets this morning. He is out there defending his son and saying that he has no concerns about him legally and this meeting that he took at Trump Tower with a lawyer linked to the Kremlin. Should he be concerned?
PAULA REID, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he should be concerned, even more so than he should be concerned for himself, because Donald Trump Junior does have some legal exposure here. And the fact that he has not yet been interviewed by special counsel investigators, that should concern everyone because typically in an investigation like this, you want to come in early. You want to be someone they're gathering evidence for -- from, rather, not the person who walks into the room and they have a pile of evidence and they start going through it.
Now, his potential legal exposure, the first is for -- for anyone who walks into this situation, lying. But in a case like this, where there are all these different iterations of what happened in that Trump Tower meeting, that's a tremendous exposure for him. The possibility of perjury. He says he did not know -- his father did not know about the Trump Tower meeting, Michael Cohen said he did. I think, legally speaking, it would be easy to discredit Cohen as a witness. And if Mueller thought there was something there, he likely would have handed that case off.
But then the big question of the entire case is, was there any coordination or support or assistance with the Russians in terms of disseminating that dirt that they had.
BRENNAN: Now, at the time the first version of events given by the White House was that this was a meeting about adoptions linking to an issue of concern for the Russian government. The president today says, no, it was about opposition research solely and there's nothing illegal about that.
REID: Exactly. The good news for them is there's no crime in lying to the press. But what they need to do is they need to figure out what exactly their story is and it needs to be supported by the evidence. They need to make sure there's no witnesses of other evidence that would contradict that and expose them to lying when they sit down with investigators. But the special counsel does have questions for the president about why that statement was drafted, sort of misleading people about the reason for this, this meeting.
BRENNAN: Mark, when we had Kellyanne Conway on the show, she was trying to explain that the president, when he uses this term Russian hoax, is referring to misunderstandings or misconstruing of facts related to the investigation and that it has nothing to do with what his national security team says.
You've been writing about the fact that they're saying two different things about the same topic, actually, which is the view on Russia, period.
MARK LANDLER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, this is a recurring theme with the Trump White House, which is the efforts of -- of his aides to sort of narrow the scope of what he's saying. When he talks about a Russian hoax, particularly in a tweet or in some of the inflammatory ways he does, he's really denigrating the entire effort to get at Russian interference in American elections and, frankly, to guard against interference in the midterms elections.
And so I think that this week we saw this just amazing split screen where the administration arrayed all its top intelligence and law enforcement officials behind the podium at the White House, made this persuasive presentation about how seriously they take the threat and what they're going to do to try to fend it off. And then a day later, hours later, at a political rally, President Trump, in effect, dismisses the whole thing as much ado about nothing.
For Kellyanne Conway to say, well, he's only narrowing talking about an investigation, no one in the American public is taking it that way. They're viewing it as what I thing the president intends, which is to diminish the importance of the issue. And I think the reason he does that goes back to his own long standing doubts about the legitimacy of his own election and his concern that if he gives this any credibility, it will reduce his own credibility. And so I think that this split screen is really what matters and not the after the fact attempts by the White House to spin it.
BRENNAN: Is the effort here, Seung Min, to manage the public understanding of the Russian investigation, or is it to manage the president's own party, because what you hear consistently from the Republican establishment is that they stand with the intelligence community and their version of events, not the characterization as a hoax?
SEUNG MIN KIM, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think it's a little bit of -- it's multiple things. I think in terms of the public perception of Russia and also with -- we talk about how -- along with the Mueller investigation we talk often about how the president's constant tweeting and his attacks on Mueller is partially to just publicly discredit the investigation. So you do see that kind of --
BRENNAN: With an eye towards what could happen --
BRENNAN: With a potential impeachment.
And you saw the shot coming from Capitol Hill right after his comments in Helsinki alongside Vladimir Putin, But I think that whenever we ask congressional Republicans, you know, look at the president's rhetoric, a lot of times they do point towards, well, look at what Dan Coats is saying or what Secretary Nielsen is saying or Director Wray. They're satisfied with what - what his administration officials are saying. But, you know, that is a different message coming from his top officials versus the president.
BRENNAN: Leslie, I know you've been out there doing some reporting. Does all of this translate to people at home and people who are going to go place votes in November
LESLIE SANCHEZ, CBS NEWS POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Big disconnect, right. So what the Republican Party is thinking is they want to buck traditional norms. They want the president not to have the major losses that most presidents would have at a midterm election when these midterms tend to be a referendum on the president. They're saying, wait a minute, we have raised $250 million this election cycle. We have $50 million in the bank, meaning the Republican Party. And they're ready to marshal those resources on the ground and they understand what the president understands, which is very much at this point, the pulse of the people. What used to be a war in the Republican Party is now a whisper, because the economy is strong, the president is now a 50 percent approval more or less, Congress is still at 10 percent approval and they see unemployment's low and they can win. They may like agenda. They may not like the man.
BRENNAN: Paula, just to button up one part of the legal question this week, and that was the --
REID: There's so many.
BRENNAN: The former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was in court last week. He will be headed back there. There was all this color about his personal wealth, his clothing. What is the prosecution trying to lay out here in terms of the picture?
REID: Well, the judge likes to continue to remind everyone he is not on trial for having a lot of money and throwing it around. This trail has nothing to do with the president. It has nothing to do with the campaign.
The allegation is that he made tens of millions of dollars from lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian politicians. But instead of having the check sent to one of his six houses, he had it put into offshore bank accounts. And then in order to allegedly get this money into the U.S., he laundered it through these luxury purchases. And that's where we get some of the color, the homes, the cars, the ostrich coat, it the back (ph) of their theory of the case.
But it is important to remember, we did hear from some is their -- his accountants late in the week and there was evidence that some of this conduct, especially doctoring forms when he wanted to try to get some loans, some of that conduct did extend to his time in the Trump campaign.
BRENNAN: Is there any connection to the president and what has happened so far?
REID: So far no connection to the president. Kellyanne Conway, she cited the judge. But let's be really clear what the judge has said about the special counsel investigation. During the preliminary hearings, the judge had questions about whether or not tax evasion or bank fraud, whether or not that was in the special counsel's authority. The judge came out and said, you're not interested in bank fraud. You're just trying to get this guy to cooperate in your investigation. Everyone sort of nodded and acknowledged this was a fact, and he allowed the case to proceed. But the president and his allies, they seized on those comments to try to say the special counsel investigation is illegitimate or a federal judge said they were out of bounds. But the judge has sort of nodded to exactly what's going on here.
BRENNAN: Mark, do we have any idea, turning to the foreign policy front, what was in the letter from President Trump to Kim Jong-un that was handed off this weekend to North Korea officials?
LANDLER: We don't know the specifics of what's in that letter. But I think we have a fairly good idea, based on the president's own characterization of his recent interaction, that it was probably a very friendly letter thanking Kim for the letter he had sent, and probably setting the predicate for another meeting. There's a lot of talk about maybe doing it at the United Nations in September.
But, again, to go to this -- it's a recurring theme with this administration, this notion of dissidence or a split screen. You have this very cozy, friendly relationship being built between Kim and Trump. And then underneath you have this very combative, even sometimes bitter negotiation between Mike Pompeo and his counterpart on the issue of denuclearation. And you saw that in stark terms, even as an American diplomat was handing the letter to the North Koreans in Singapore to deliver to Kim, another North Korean official was lambasting the United States and Mike Pompeo for their bad attitude in the negotiations.
And so what you see, and I think it's deliberate on the part of the North Koreans, is an effort in a way to drive a wedge between the president and his own negotiators. Kim thinks that President Trump is scenario and well-meaning and well-intentioned and wants to have a good relationship, but those pesky diplomats keep demanding that North Korea do all these things to denuclearize. It's a pretty effective strategy. It puts Mike Pompeo in a very bad spot because he's the guy who has to deliver this deal. And he's been very forthright about saying he sees a long, difficult negotiation ahead of the United States in North Korea.
BRENNAN: And he acknowledged, he said, the timeline is going to be up to Chairman Kim. Thus far, no denucleatization that we have seen at the moment.
We're going to take a quick break here. And we have so much more to talk about. So, stay with us.
BRENNAN: We are back now with our panel.
Seung Min Kim, I want to ask you. The president has already been out there on the campaign trail, three times this week. He was in Ohio last night ahead of this special election. We also learned that former President Obama is going to be hitting the campaign trail pretty soon, and laid out his endorsements. Are they going to be going head-to-head?
KIM: It will be interesting to see what that -- if that happens and where there can be the most influential. I think one test case of that could be in the Georgia governor's race where we've seen Stacy Abrams as one of the 80 candidates that the former president put his muscle behind when he made his endorsement announcements over the week. But the president, President Trump, has also put his political power behind the Republican candidate there. Remembering in that primary, it looked as if the more -- the perceived more mainstream candidate, Casey Cagle, would have won the primary, but President Trump weighed in with the tweet and, boom, Brain Kemp winning that nomination. So that could be an interesting state considering all the dynamics. I mean Georgia, where the two presidents could go head-to-head.
But the president's political power and how much he matters is really going to be on display in that special election this Tuesday. I mean we saw him go last minute and try to get that last minute surge for Republican Troy Balderson, you know, ahead of the election on Tuesday, but people are already drawing parallels to that special election that we had in Pennsylvania back in March where it's a very republican district. The president had won that district by 20 points. But it was the Democrats who surged to victory in that race. There's already a lot of nervousness among the Republican Party about whether they're going to lose a seat. This is a seat that went for President Trump by 11 points. This is a seat that the Republicans should win, but outside groups are pouring so much money into this race and it will be a major backlash for Republicans if Democrats emerge victorious there on Tuesday.
BRENNAN: Leslie, do you expect the seat to be flipped?
SANCHEZ: Well, you know, I don't. I don't. Like -- people would like to think that that's the case, but I think there's a lot of movement. There's a lot of undercurrent underneath this way. We say this is a big blue wave with a lot of pink votes, the female candidates, the non-traditional candidates (ph) coming in we like.
But I -- in this case, when the president does, in most cases, marshal his resources, get the party behind him, put all those dollars in, that was really the message of the summer meeting in Austin last week, that you get on board or you get out. This president is going to win. You need to get his message and really champion that.
But I think there's some --
BRENNAN: He made that clear in Ohio last night, right?
SANCHEZ: He really -- they -- and he saw -- and the -- and the word is coming down, which is why I say the Republican Party went from a roar to a whisper. They're like, well, he's winning. So at what cost do they win.
But there's interesting issues like that. And I'd also point to a non-traditional place, like Texas Congressional District 31, which you have MJ Hegar, which is the female candidate, the veteran helicopter pilot who's running, who's raising four times as much as her incumbent opponent, Republican (INAUDIBLE). She used to be a Republican. Running as a Democrat. Getting a lot of interest. And Republican women are taking her seriously and now looking at holding fundraisers for her.
So there's a lot of fissures within what these swing districts or even Republican safe districts would look like.
BRENNAN: And when you listen to the president when he speaks at these rallies, it sounds like a greatest hits. Some of the things that during his own campaign really seemed to resonate with his base in terms of immigration and the press, Mark.
BRENNAN: Enemy of the people. Kellyanne Conway said she doesn't believe that the media is an enemy of the people. This is obviously useful for the president. He cites it frequently. Why does he argue this?
LANDLER: Well, as you say, it plays wonderfully with his base, and it's been a hit for him throughout the campaign and it continues to be one of the most popular things. When you go to a Trump rally, it almost has such a feeling of ritual now. And there are certain things that people who go to rallies expect. And one of the things they expect is the opportunity to start chanting "CNN sucks" and to turn around and, you know, vilify the people standing in the media pen. So that's why he does it.
I think that the problem that we're running into is that his repeated and methodical use of the phrase "enemy of the people," and he did it as recently as this morning when he also suggested that people in the media cause wars to happen, is that that phrase is particularly loaded.
The phrase "fake news," which he also uses, is corrosive to the credibility of the media over time. It's -- it's unfair. He shouldn't use it. But the phrase "enemy of the people" is, I think, a whole different order of magnitude. This is a phrase that has a long, historic providence. It goes back to the French Revolution. It goes back to Stalin, to Mao, to Lenin. People in those totalitarian societies used the phrase "enemy of the people" to suggest that one group in society was subhuman. And by doing so it opened the door to all kinds of violence being carried out against them.
I'm not saying that President Trump understands the historical providence of this phrase, but people who are seeing it out in the world certainly do. So by using it over and over again the way he does, I think he opens the door to the possibility of bad things happening.
Now, we've been really lucky. We've been through many, many, many rallies during the campaign and since he's been president, and there really hasn't been a spill over to outright violence. It's been more in the realm of menacing reporters. And it's scary. But, you know, I don't think any of us have really had any anyone take a swing at us.
But the fear I have is that by continuing to do this, by normalizing this language, by making it part of the vocabulary of the country, he does open the door to have -- to have some violence happen down the road. And I think that's just extraordinarily dangerous.
BRENNAN: Well, and that's why I ask it, because I know many of us find it uncomfortable talking about journalists, being themselves ourselves.
Paula, family separation. Tell me where we are with the administration trying to reunify families.
REID: They're not completely done with this yet. There's still a long way to go. And I think this is one of the clearest examples of the president sort of coming out with a policy, not all the key players being on the same page. Almost exactly what we saw with the travel ban too. And we saw, well, yes, it's a deterrent, no it's not a deterrent, no, this is a new policy, no, this it's a new policy, and they have created quite a legal quagmire for themselves. So there's still a lot of work to be done in terms of reunifying the families. And then the big question of, well, what exactly is the administration's policy at this moment. And if you cross the border into the U.S. illegally, will you be detained together as a family? Will you be separated? What exactly happens to you?
BRENNAN: And about roughly 400 or so families. (INAUDIBLE) number.
REID: (INAUDIBLE) last number, yes.
BRENNAN: All right, thank you very much.
We will be right back in a moment.
BRENNAN: We will be back with you then with a look at race in America one year after Charlottesville.
For FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.
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