On this "Face the Nation" broadcast:
- Stephen Miller, White House senior adviser
- Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
- Lanny Davis, former attorney to Michael Cohen
- Paula Reid, CBS News correspondent, and Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center
- Panelists: Kelsey Snell, Ben Domenech, Margaret Talev and Ed Wong
Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, December 16th. I'm Margaret Brennan. And this is FACE THE NATION.
With pressure building on both legal and legislative fronts, President Trump paid his respects at Arlington Cemetery on a gloomy Saturday pausing to praise a federal judge's ruling that invalidates the Affordable Care Act.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It was a big ruling. It's a great ruling for our country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Obamacare coverage will continue during the appeals process but millions of Americans could be left without health insurance.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And on the assumption that the Supreme Court upholds, we will get great, great health care for our people. We'll have to sit down with the Democrats to do it, but I'm sure they want to do it also.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But after a spectacular Oval Office squabble with Democrats over the President's demand for border wall funding, is agreement on anything in the New Year possible?
NANCY PELOSI: There are no votes in the House, majority votes for a wall, no matter where you start.
CHUCK SCHUMER: That is exactly right. You don't have the votes in the House.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If I needed the votes for the wall in the House, I would have them in one session, it would be done.
NANCY PELOSI: Well, then go do it. Go do it.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I am proud--
CHUCK SCHUMER: We disagree. We disagree.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I'll tell you what, I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And that shut down could come over the Christmas holiday unless there's a compromise to continue funding the government. Plus, the revolving door in the Trump administration continues. As one position is filled temporarily another opens up. We'll talk with White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller, Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso, and Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar.
Plus, we'll look at the President's growing legal problems, and have analysis on all the news just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We begin today with White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller. He is the President's point person on policy. Good to have you here in studio.
STEPHEN MILLER (Senior Adviser to President Trump): It's great to be here. Thank you. Merry Christmas.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And merry Christmas to you. This federal judge and the decision to strike down Obamacare as unconstitutional. This could put at risk about twenty million Americans who rely on it for coverage including Medicare and Medicaid. The numbers from the Kaiser Family Foundation. What is your reaction and how do you reassure those Americans that they're okay?
STEPHEN MILLER: Well, obviously there's no change immediately in Obamacare. There hasn't been a nationwide injunction. Obamacare was ruled to be unconstitutional. We've always known that Obamacare was unconstitutional. The more important question is whether Democrats are going to work with Republicans once Obamacare is ultimately struck down, which we believe it will be, to come up with a replacement plan that protects preexisting conditions, helps the twenty-eight million Americans who because of Obamacare still don't have access to health insurance and keeps prices low through robust competition.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, to be clear there, you're predicting that this goes to the Supreme Court and that the Supreme Court ultimately strikes down?
STEPHEN MILLER: I believe that's the likeliest outcome because Obamacare has always been unconstitutional and the mandate--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, technically this decision wasn't possible until the tax law was put into place. But in-- in terms of what this means for the twenty million Americans, it does create some uncertainty and possible disruption--
STEPHEN MILLER: Well, we also have to think about--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --in the marketplace
STEPHEN MILLER: You also have to think about the twenty-eight million Americans who still don't have health insurance because Obamacare didn't work. Fortunately, because of the dramatic action this administration has taken, we've increased choice, we've increased competition. And, for the first time in a long time, premiums on the exchanges are going down, not up.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, will the President instruct Republican governors to continue to implement the law until there is a replacement?
STEPHEN MILLER: Well, everybody's bound by the law as long as the law is in effect. I think the important thing again, is for real bipartisanship to happen, for Democrats to work together with Republicans. You have lawmakers from both--
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you want to--
STEPHEN MILLER: --sides of the aisle on your show today.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --start from scratch on a new health care law?
STEPHEN MILLER: Obamacare was a disaster. Fortunately, again, the President is taking significant action to bring down the price of insurance on the exchanges. But Obamacare never worked. For example, even on the issue of preexisting conditions. American families earning eighty thousand dollars a year, with a few children, has to pay exorbitant out-of-pocket costs if they have preexisting conditions.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But if the court--
STEPHEN MILLER: We could do so much more--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --as you predicted, strikes down the law, then those preexisting condition protections are also gone. So are you--
STEPHEN MILLER: The-- a flawed--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --starting from scratch with a new law?
STEPHEN MILLER: --a flawed law-- a flawed law would be off the books. And this President working with members of both parties would be able to replace it with something that not only expands choice, expands competition, enshrines purchasing across state lines, but also protects preexisting conditions in a much better way than the current law does.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the President said yesterday he wants repeal and replace handled a little bit differently, reference to failed attempt by Republicans in the past, and that he'll sit down with Democrats if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling. So, are you predicting that you spend the next year crafting a new law from scratch?
STEPHEN MILLER: This administration is going to be working with members of both parties, not only on health care reform but also reducing the price of prescription drugs, infrastructure. We have an extremely ambitious domestic agenda and of course at the forefront of that agenda is the vital issue of border security.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But you weren't able to do that with a Republican majority in both Houses. Now you have a Democratic majority in the House.
STEPHEN MILLER: As the President-- as the President has made very clear, the new Democrat House, affords us the opportunity as a country to craft real bipartisan solutions on all the issues I just mentioned and many more.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you do have many more. And I want to actually switch to another area--
STEPHEN MILLER: Great.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --you're a key voice on, and that is immigration and also want to talk about the possible shut down here. One very particular case here, this seven-year-old migrant girl who passed away. She was a migrant from Guatemala named Jakelin Caal. She died some hours after passing into U.S. territory while she was under the protection of Customs and the Border Patrol. Who bears responsibility for her death?
STEPHEN MILLER: Our hearts break for the tragic death of the seven-year-old girl. The loss of that precious life is horrifying. It is a painful reminder of the ongoing humanitarian tragedy that is illegal immigration and the misery that it spreads. A coyote dropped off a hundred and sixty-three migrants in an extremely remote section of New Mexico. Those individuals were found by Border Patrol who, many cases act as first responders. In fact, Border Patrol saves about four thousand lives every single year. Unfortunately, hundreds die on the dangerous trek up. Smuggling organizations profit off death and misery. They are vicious, vile organizations. And it's time that both parties had the appropriate level of outrage over the fact that these organizations--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Border Patrol though says--
STEPHEN MILLER: --continue to take advantage--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --it wasn't adequately equipped to deal with the record number of families coming across. Why aren't they?
STEPHEN MILLER: One of the great tragedies that is going on in our country today is the loopholes in our immigration laws and the deficiencies in our immigration laws. And left wing, activist judicial rulings that incentivize the most vulnerable populations to come to our country. Last year--
MARGARET BRENNAN: And the administration--
STEPHEN MILLER: --a hundred thousand--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --hasn't been able to deter them from making that trip.
STEPHEN MILLER: --last year-- last year, a hundred thousand unaccompanied alien children or children traveling with adults showed up at our southern border.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
STEPHEN MILLER: President Trump took dramatic action, issued an executive order directing illegal traffic to the ports of entry, but a left wing, activist judge issued a reckless nationwide injunction on the President's order putting thousands of lives at risk and further enriching these grotesque--
MARGARET BRENNAN: And a-- a record number--
STEPHEN MILLER: --heinous, smuggle organizations.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --continue to cross. I want to quickly, though, get to--
STEPHEN MILLER: The only way to--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --because we're going to run out of time--
STEPHEN MILLER: The only way--
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to get to this question of the border wall which I know you're a huge advocate for. We are about five days from a potential government shutdown and Republican leadership says there's no plan. What is the President's plan and will he shut it down to get this five billion in border wall funding?
STEPHEN MILLER: We're going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration--
MARGARET BRENNAN: And that means a shutdown?
STEPHEN MILLER: This is a-- this is a very-- if it comes to it, absolutely. This is a very fundamental issue. At stake is the question of whether or not the United States remains a sovereign country. Whether or not we can establish and enforce rules for entrance into our country. The Democrat Party has a simple choice. They can either choose to fight for America's working class or to promote illegal immigration. You can't do both.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there wiggle room on that five billion?
STEPHEN MILLER: I'm not going to negotiate the details on air with you right now--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Senator Schumer--
STEPHEN MILLER: --but--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --said this morning you're not getting the border wall in any form.
STEPHEN MILLER: If the-- If the Democrat Party--
MARGARET BRENNAN: In any form.
STEPHEN MILLER: --wants to-- if the Democrat Party wants to go down the road of continuing to preserve a model that enriches smuggling organizations, that spreads misery on both sides of the border, that kills three hundred Americans a week through heroin overdoses alone-- by the way, illegal heroin costs our country two hundred and thirty billion dollars--
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you're-- you're--
STEPHEN MILLER: --every single year.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --talking about the intent of these migrants and-- and trying to stop that, which really gets you more to the diplomatic issues of why people are fleeing in the first place, not the border wall itself but--
STEPHEN MILLER: The largest increases--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --when it comes to the shutdown--
STEPHEN MILLER: The largest increases--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --are we going to have a shutdown over Christmas?
STEPHEN MILLER: As you yourself acknowledged, the largest increases in illegal immigration are categories that are incentivized by loopholes in our laws and loopholes created by activist left-wing judges including--
MARGARET BRENNAN: I didn't say that.
STEPHEN MILLER: --the district court judge who enjoined--
MARGARET BRENNAN: I said there are a record number happening right now in the Trump administration.
STEPHEN MILLER: --in the categories that correspond with these loopholes and the interventions--reckless, lawless interventions of district court judges. And this President has taken historic action to stem the tide of illegal immigration and to fight for working people in this country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And this is his last best chance to get a border wall before Democrats take the majority?
STEPHEN MILLER: And we want-- we-- it's time that both parties-- and this is what the American people want. Both parties to come together for the sake of American children, for the sake of children all across this hemisphere, to create a lawful system of immigration--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
STEPHEN MILLER: --not the lawless chaos--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Stephen--
STEPHEN MILLER: --that has been perpetuated for too many decades.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --it's good to have you in studio. I want to get to one of the lawmakers who's going to actually have to do what you're telling him he has to do.
And that is Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso, who's also a doctor, we should note. He was a key negotiator in the efforts to come up with a Republican measure that would replace Obamacare. I do want to get to that, but picking up on where Stephen just left off, he says shutdown may still happen if necessary to get this money for the border wall. It's five billion.
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO (R-Wyoming/@SenJohnBarrasso): I think that--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are Americans going to see a shutdown over Christmas?
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: I would certainly hope not. I'm working to the fact of keeping the government open. I think that's what the American people expect of the people that they elect; keep the government open. And if there's any sort of a shutdown, it would certainly only be a partial shutdown. Remember, Margaret, we, through the appropriations process, already have approved seventy-five percent of the funding for the government for the next year. But I still think it's better to not have any sort of, even a partial shutdown whether it's over Christmas or anytime. I don't think people benefit by that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You're in Republican leadership. Senator John Cornyn, your colleague, said there's no plan right now from the White House. Did you hear a plan here today, do you know what the White House is asking you to do?
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: Well, I know we're trying in the House and the Senate to come up with a proposal to get passed in both of those bodies before Friday the twenty-first and then send that to the White House which I hope the President would choose to sign.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And so that could be anything from a short-term continuing resolution that takes us right up to the beginning of a-- of the Democratic majority in January? Or, I-- I mean, what wiggle room is there here?
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: There-- there are a number of different options. That's one, another is a longer term. I would like to get actually all the appropriations bills passed. I think we do much better governing for our country if we do the whole thing through the appropriations process. We were able to do seventy-five percent of the funding. We still have a ways to go but border security is critical--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: --to this country. It-- it is part, to me, of national security along with our economic security, our energy security. Border security is key to us as a nation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And I think many would agree with you, I guess it's the getting to that point that's the problem. Senator Schumer says no way, no how, no wall. Period.
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: Well, there are a lot of things you need to do with border security. One is a physical barrier but also the technology, the manpower, the enforcement, all of those things, and our current laws are in some ways an incentive for people to come to this country illegally and they go through great risk and possibly great harm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, that could be a-- another compromise like Senator Susan Collins was out there talking about a two and a half billion-dollar compromise rather than the five billion that the President is asking for.
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: Well, get-- there are people working on this to get to a conclusion so the government will remain open which is what I believe the American people would prefer.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to switch to health care. This ruling on Friday, it seemed the timing caught some people by surprise, but the decision was that Obamacare according to this federal judge in Texas was deemed unconstitutional. What do you make of that?
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: Well, the-- the one part of the health care law that we took out with the tax law was the individual mandate that people had to pay a fine. The Democrats didn't even offer an amendment to-- to leave it in the bill because they know that, of the people that were paying this fine, millions have paid the fine. Most of them earned less than fifty thousand a year. So, it was very punishing, money they could have used to see a doctor for their child or their family--
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you're making that point because--
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: So--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --the removal of that provision is what opened the court to be able to make this decision.
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: That said if the mandate goes away then other things go away.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: You know as a doctor people say to me what does this mean to me. And for right now, very little if you're a doctor, if you're getting treatment, if you have a preexisting condition, if you signed up for Obamacare on this recent sign up period, it doesn't change a thing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But it could if the Supreme Court upholds this ruling.
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: Which would be a conte-- we have a different makeup of the Supreme Court. It may be several years till it gets there. But as a doctor, I will tell you, I focus on people with preexisting conditions, I've always been focused as I was working on health care legislation to make sure people could get the care they need from a doctor that they choose at lower costs. And we didn't get that in Wyoming. We had-- after Obamacare was passed, many people lost their insurance, premiums doubled. So, that wasn't-- that doesn't give people affordable insurance that's appropriate for them and their families.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The coverage of pre-existing conditions was protected under the Affordable Care Act, so if this ruling is upheld, that goes away. Are you as-- as a Republican leader looking to craft an entirely new law from whole cloth or are you looking at amending the Affordable Care Act?
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: I think government never does big things really well. I'm for more of a step-by-step and I want to start with the first step of people with preexisting conditions. My wife Bobbi is a breast cancer survivor. She's been through three operations, chemotherapy twice and I will tell you as a husband, as well as a doctor, I am committed to helping people with preexisting conditions. We can do that, there are a number of ways to do it. One is what Maine has done in terms of their high-risk people helping with them with additional subsidies. But at the same time, then it allows insurance to be much cheaper, more affordable for other people. So, I want to do-- our-- our children's health insurance plan that works across the country. It works so well because states have a bigger say in that. When I was in our state Senate in Wyoming, we knew that what we wanted to do in Wyoming may not fit what people would want in New York State. But if you give states that flexibility and freedom to do what works best with the money, I think it works much better for families and for patients.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Republicans weren't able to repeal and replace with Republican majorities in both chambers. You're going to have to work with Democrats to get any kind of new legislation through. What are you actually-- when-- when does this begin? What are you actually proposing here?
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: And I want to work with additional Democrats, but what we're seeing right now from the Democrats side--and you see whether it was Bernie Sanders or so many of the Democrat candidates for president in 2020, they're talking about a different step away from Obamacare as well. They agree that Obamacare hasn't worked and they're talking about a program of a complete government takeover of healthcare, with increased taxes and fewer choices and longer lines. And that to me doesn't help people in the-- in the long run. I talked to people yesterday I was in Wyoming at a wreath ceremony, at our-- at our cemetery-- talked to somebody on Medicare. They said, we don't want Medicare for all, we paid into Medicare our whole life. This isn't the time to put more people onto that program. We want to make sure that that is saved and strengthened and-- and-- and held for people that are already on the program and have paid in over their lifetime.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, thank you for being here. You certainly have your work cut out for you.
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: Thanks for having me.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be tracking that.
There's a lot more FACE THE NATION ahead. We'll be speaking with Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar in a minute.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, a key Democratic voice on the Judiciary Committee. Senator, good to have you here.
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-Minnesota/@amyklobuchar): Thank you so much. It's great to be here, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We had this significant decision out of Texas on Friday with this federal judge striking down Obamacare as unconstitutional and you have tweeted, "now it's on us and the Democratic attorney generals. Let's get to work." What does that mean?
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, what that means is because you have an administration and you just heard it that basically is standing while the House is burning down and instead of going in there and putting out the fire they're throwing lighter fluid on it in terms of tweets and rhetoric and things they're saying. The ruling was absurd. Justice Roberts and a conservative court has already ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional unlike what Mister Miller said. And in fact you can have part of it not exist and you can still have the rest of it protect Americans. And that is exactly where this is headed and I can say that this is about first of all throwing people off of their insurance. No protection with preexisting conditions, kids staying on their parent's insurance until they're twenty-six-years-old. A very popular and important protection. Medicaid expanded for millions of Americans. That's what we're talking about here. And for them just to throw up their hands and say, "well it'd be great if we just started from scratch." That's not what the American people believe. Just look at the results from the last election.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Barrasso who was just here said that he does think there's room for legislation to protect preexisting conditions. One of the things that would get thrown out with this ruling if it's upheld.
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: But--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you--
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: --I just mentioned a number of other things that would also have to be done. So, the best thing here--
MARGARET BRENNAN: But is there room for Democrats to work on those sort of issue specific things with Republicans?
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: There's always room to work on things but the best way and what I believe will happen is this will be stayed in court. So, it continues to take effect. Then it will go up on appeal. It will be upheld. But what we should be doing is governing from opportunity and not chaos. That means doing something about pharmaceutical prices and passing my bill to allow Medicare to negotiate for less expensive drugs for our seniors and letting less expensive safe drugs come in from other countries so that we can actually have competition, doing something about premiums with reinsurance and some of the things going on in the states. So, yes there are things to do but we should be working to improve the Affordable Care Act not just throw it out and set it on fire.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You heard some disagreement among Republicans on how to do that. There's also disagreement within the Democratic Party on how to handle healthcare. Former Attorney General Eric Holder says it's time now to move to some version of Medicare for all and end this nonsense. That was his reaction to Friday's ruling. Do you agree with him?
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: We need universal healthcare and there are many ways to get there. That is one of them. The other is to at least expand Medicare to age fifty-five. There's a number of bills that I'm part of including allowing the expansion of Medicaid which I think is something we're not talking enough about that Senator Schatz from Hawaii is leading. And then of course allowing for an expansion of Medicare. So, there's many things we can do. But right now with an administration in place that seems bound and determined to take away people's health care, we have to protect the ability of people to even have their health care exist because they are talking about throwing them off for preexisting conditions.
MARGARET BRENNAN: As we mentioned you sit on the Judiciary Committee, I want to ask you about some testimony before your committee this week from Customs and Border Patrol. We mentioned the-- the case here of this seven-year-old from Guatemala, this migrant girl who died tragically after passing into U.S. territory. Should the commissioner of CBP said to you during that testimony that this had happened? It wasn't disclosed until days later.
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: Yeah, I just went back and looked at that testimony. I look at the face of that sweet little girl seven-year-old Jakelin Caal. She looks like the faces of the kids that were in my daughter's second grade class. And he came and testified before us and I asked him if he regretted any of the Trump immigration policies and he said he did, but he didn't even mention that this had happened. Under law they're supposed to tell Congress within twenty-four hours if someone dies. So, we clearly have to get to the bottom of that. But the second thing is comprehensive immigration reform, so that we can have some order at the border and that we can have a smart plan that works for our country, including a path to citizenship and doing something about states like mine where we don't have enough workers in our fields and in our factories. Making sure that we have smart policies that work with fencing and other things. And that's not what they're talking about. What they're talking about is chaos.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What-- are you laying responsibility on the U.S. government for this little girl's death?
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: I just want to get it investigated and figure out exactly what happened. But what I do believe is that if we just keep playing games with people's lives-- that's what they're doing. They're playing games with people's lives. They're playing games with a shut down which last time cost twenty billion--the Ted Cruz shut down for our economy. They are playing games with members of Congress, they take the leaders of Congress into the White House and create a media circus instead of just sitting down and negotiating. Do I think that we can avoid a shutdown? Of course, I do. Because there's people on both sides of the aisle that want to find common ground. I think that's possible. But the way that they're acting is not furthering the attempt to make sure that our government is steady at a time when the stock market is careening and we've got a judge throwing out the healthcare bill.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to quickly ask you about a sexual harassment bill that you have been a-- a key voice on. But to answer the criticism from the White House, don't Democrats need to show some flexibility to avoid the shutdown?
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: We have suggested so many things. Comprehensive immigration reform that passed the Senate would have brought down the debt by one hundred fifty eight billion and there was significant funding in there for border security. We just did it with the dreamer's--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: --deal that was bipartisan that was suggested. So, of course, we're willing to work with them. But as pointed out by Speaker Pelosi, there aren't the votes for that wall.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Does your sexual harassment bill become law? Do you have any idea?
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: We're very excited president is going to sign it into law. This is a bill that finally says to America we got rules in place that don't protect politicians, that protect victims and it's time to clean up this mess.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Senator.
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Just ahead, we'll take a look at the President's legal troubles. And we will be joined by former attorney to Michael Cohen, Lanny Davis, who is here in studio with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. We hope you stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. Last week, President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison. Joining us now is his former attorney Lanny Davis who now because of the sentencing is no longer serving as attorney but as a friend as a spokesperson and counselor.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The President tweeted this morning about your former client, "Remember Michael Cohen only became a rat after the FBI did something that was absolutely unthinkable and unheard of and they broke into an attorney's office." What is your response to that?
LANNY DAVIS: This is the top law enforcement officer in our system of government calling somebody who decides to tell the government the truth, a rat. That's the language of a mobster not of the president. But Michael Cohen took ownership and personal responsibility for lying and he's going to jail as a consequence and he authorized me, several times, to say he wouldn't take a pardon from Donald Trump if it was handed to him. So, he now--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Was one ever discussed?
LANNY DAVIS: Never. But he announced ahead of time, wouldn't take it even if it was handed to him. And let's remember that Michael Cohen has corroborating evidence for everything that he has said. Mister Mueller certainly does on the issue of the purpose of the money paid to Stormy Daniels the same man who called Michael Cohen a rat denied on Air Force One to the American people that he knew anything about Stormy Daniels and Mister Giuliani, who this morning was on television accusing Michael Cohen of lying, the very next day waived attorney client privilege and said no his client did pay Stormy Daniels. So, Michael Cohen is now taking ownership in his statement to the court of his personal responsibility for his behavior when he worked for Donald Trump. Now that he saw Donald Trump as President, he underwent a genuine transformation because he feared for his country and his family--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
LANNY DAVIS: --When Donald Trump was President.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And just quickly to clarify, the President says the FBI broke into his office, I believe Michael Cohen said that it was an okay transaction with the FBI something he consented to.
LANNY DAVIS: He not only consented to, he thanked them for their courtesy as they left. And you have a President denouncing the FBI, lying about a warrant in a legal search, and he's the top law enforcement officer of the country and who does he praise? He praises his people who have lied and refused to cooperate. The opposite of what a President should do.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said that Michael Cohen has evidence to back up his allegations here.
LANNY DAVIS: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In the sentencing memo that the special counsel wrote that he provided useful information concerning Russia-related matters core to its investigation. Does that mean-- are you saying that Cohen actually has evidence of conspiracy with Russia.
LANNY DAVIS: So the one thing I can't do, when I was his lawyer and now that I'm his adviser, is to get in front of Mister Mueller's findings. So, I can't answer your question, but I will tell you this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, what did you mean by evidence, then?
LANNY DAVIS: What did Mister Cohen mean by evidence or Mister Mueller mean by evidence? I can't tell you anything about what Mister Mueller meant, let's wait. But I can tell you that when he used the words "core issues", those words are about the Russian investigation. And Mister Mueller is careful with his words. And he also mentioned that Mister Cohen provided information regarding the Moscow Trump Tower and that he was contacted by a senior government official and the press secretary to Vla-- Vladimir Putin.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
LANNY DAVIS: So, there's a lot in the Mueller memo that tells you how forthcoming, for seventy hours in seven meetings, Michael Cohen was with Mister Mueller.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Prosecutors also said he provided information concerning contacts with persons connected to the White House during 2017 to 2018. Can you tell us who he was in contact with?
LANNY DAVIS: Again, I can't tell you. I'll wait for Mister Mueller to tell you, but just think about it. He publishes ahead of time, which Mister Mueller criticized him for, his testimony that was a lie about the Moscow Trump Tower. He calls the White House and the President knows from the published testimony that he's about to lie. Not one person from the White House, I can tell you this, ever said, "Don't lie."
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did he need to be told that?
LANNY DAVIS: Well, he-- guess he did need to be tell-- told that because he ended up lying and he regretted it. And he's going to jail for it. And he said to the court in his heartfelt way, "I take ownership and I don't blame anybody but myself," and apologized for that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The President's attorney Rudy Giuliani is defending his client and saying that Michael Cohen is just a liar, a serial liar. And he is pointing to the idea that there's no way he was ever loyal to President Trump since he surreptitiously recorded him.
LANNY DAVIS: So, I can see--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Why did he do that?
LANNY DAVIS: I can see why Mister Giuliani re-- mentions recordings because he flat out lied when he said that there was no mention of cash by President Trump on the tape recording that I went on CNN to play. It was Mister Giuliani who lied about-- that tape recording is evidence that the primary purpose of the payoff of the hush money to Miss Daniels was the election. It says so on the tape. Mister Pecker from AMI corroborates it and others will corroborate it. Mister Giuliani going on the air today ignoring the fact the FEC never ruled--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Hmm.
LANNY DAVIS: --that what John Edwards did was appropriate, that's a lie. There was never a ruling. And we'll see what the facts, which is something alien to Mister Giuliani and Mister Trump.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yep.
LANNY DAVIS: Let's see what the facts show.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We're going to talk about what all of this means for the President. Thank you.
Ahead on FACE THE NATION, we'll have some analysis.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Today's Washington Post makes the observation about President Trump that "…nearly every organization that he's led in the past decade is under investigation." To help us make sense of where we are in some of those investigations, we're joined now by Trevor Potter. He is the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and our CBS news correspondent Paula Reid, who has been covering the Trump investigations. And you have your plateful there, Paula, with that description there. First off, I want to let you respond, was there anything there in the defense of Michael Cohen from Lanny Davis that stood out to you?
PAULA REID (CBS News Correspondent/@PaulaReidCBS): Well, you really hit it-- hit-- hit it. You said, well, did he need to be told not to lie? And that's the common theme that we see emerging. Throughout all of these investigations of the President, his attorneys and their associates having trouble with the truth--being caught lying, having to plead guilty to lying, that has been a consistent theme. And I think you asked the perfect question was did the White House need to tell him not to lie? He could have done that of his own volition.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And that is something that has come up with Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to the President, some defending him saying, "Well, it wasn't disclosed to him that he shouldn't lie when he was speaking to FBI agents." Is that entrapment as is being suggested?
PAULA REID: Absolutely not. I mean, the special counsel came out hitting pretty hard this week against these claims by Flynn and his lawyers that he was somehow caught off-guard by his FBI interview. And they released a memo and they said, "Look, you got a call from the deputy director of the FBI. You set up a voluntary interview at the location of your choice, you have three decades of public service, you've worked with the FBI, you know not to lie. We didn't do this to you, you did it to yourself."
MARGARET BRENNAN: Trevor, in an op-ed this week, you say that the President could become the target of a very serious campaign finance investigation--a criminal one. One of the defenders of the President say, "This-- this is small ball. This isn't something that actually gets-- while it gets to the doorstep of the President, it doesn't actually become something that could really become a legal issue for him." Why do you disagree?
TREVOR POTTER (Former FEC Chairman/Campaign Legal Center President/@thetrevorpotter): Well, it's been an extraordinary week. You had the President's lawyer, Mister Giuliani say, "It's not a big deal, no one was killed." That is not the standard for the President of the United States in terms of complying with the law or all of these people around him. Now if it were, we wouldn't have bank fraud prosecutions, money laundering; all sorts of other issues. What we have is a law that's central to our election system, to our democracy that requires full disclosure of campaign spending and prohibits corporate money from being given to a candidate. And--
MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's where the AMI disclosure matters.
TREVOR POTTER: Correct. The-- the owners of the National Enquirer who agreed, apparently in a meeting with candidate Trump to use their corporate money to buy the story and prevent the American public from knowing about it right in the middle of the run-up to the general election.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The President's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says none of this really is illegal because it wasn't direct campaign finance money. These were private payments.
TREVOR POTTER: Well, they weren't private payments, it turns out they were by a corporation or by Mister Cohen in amounts in excess of what he could give. But I think the bigger picture here is the attempt to hide all this from the public. I mean, the Supreme Court has said the central to our campaign finance system is full disclosure of money being spent. Instead, what we have seen is this pattern of trying to deceive the public and hide the-- the sources of money and, as I've said, in some cases what apparently are illegal sources of money.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Paula, when it comes to the special counsel's investigation, putting the other ones aside, how close are we to the conclusion of this?
PAULA REID: Rudy Giuliani and others, they've consistently said for months that it's wrapping up. I think just a couple of moments ago, he said, "Oh, it's just down to parking tickets." Well, that's just not true. And we know that's not true for a few reasons. First of all, we still have the outstanding issues surrounding the prosecution of Paul Manafort. He won't even be sentenced until February in one case, and then March in another. We also know that the grand jury continues to hear from witnesses. Now we know they've called witnesses regarding Roger Stone. We know they are in talks with Jerome Corsi about a possible plea deal that appears to fall through. I mean, to resolve all of these things, this is going to take months. So, anyone that suggests that this is all wrapping up, that is just not true.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you're projecting out to the spring?
PAULA REID: Likely, yes. At least until March, I mean, that's when Manafort will be sentenced. And the special counsel continues to exist until each one of its discreet cases is completely resolved.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Trevor, in your op-ed, I mean, you take a kind of bleak view about what all of this means for the state of the country. You say there's really just deterioration in respect for the rule of law.
TREVOR POTTER: Well, I-- I think the point there is that you have the defenders of the President as well as the President himself saying that violations of law don't matter. And I don't think that's where we are as a country. We believe in the rule of law. You could make the argument, well, it's more or less important. I obviously think it's more important. But to-- to say we're just going to ignore violations of law because it's politically convenient to, we don't want to talk about it is I think a real problem for the-- the country. These are laws that were enacted after the Watergate reforms, when we learned the problems of corruption, of secret money in elections, of payments of hush money. Richard Nixon's lawyer went to jail for payments of hush money that were cash payments not disclosed. And I-- and I think the-- the point that Paula makes is an important one which is there are a lot of investigations all of a sudden. You open every door and there is potentially illegal activity behind it. The inaugural committee we now know about. Last week, the plea by the Russian woman who was working with the NRA and organizing trips to Moscow and organizing Russians to meet American politicians, all of this connected to different aspects of the Trump campaign with a number of U.S. Attorney's Offices looking at it. So, it's not just the special counsel at this stage and they all involve people who are close to the President, including--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
TREVOR POTTER: --family members.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Trevor, thank you. Paula, always good to have you on.
We'll be right back with our political panel. So, stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It's time now for some political analysis. Ben Domenech is the founder and publisher of The Federalist. Kelsey Snell covers Congress for NPR. Ed Wong is a diplomatic and international correspondent for The New York Times. And Margaret Talev is senior White House correspondent at Bloomberg News. Kelsey, are you cancelling your Christmas plans?
KELSEY SNELL (NPR/@kelsey_snell): I am not cancelling them just yet.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are we going to have a shutdown?
KELSEY SNELL: I would say that depending upon who you talk to, the-- the guess is about fifty-fifty or maybe a little bit less than fifty-fifty that a shutdown will happen. There really is still the possibility that they could pass something short term, not a big spending bill that gets them through the end of the year on that remaining twenty-five percent of the government. But something sort, maybe until the middle of January or the beginning of February just to give them some breathing room and to keep negotiating. That seems the likeliest scenario right now because it's the easiest thing to write and the easiest thing to pass.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But that opens a new can of worms because you have a different complexion in Congress starting in January.
KELSEY SNELL: Yeah, you absolutely do. And I think it-- also a big challenge, particularly for Democrats in the House who don't want to get into this fight right at the very beginning of taking power, because there won't have to be facing off against the President, and potentially making compromises that many of these people were elected saying that they would never compromise on. So, it-- it would be more difficult for some Democrats in particular to move this conversation to January.
BEN DOMENECH (The Federalist/@bdomenech): And the President realizes that--
KELSEY SNELL: Right.
BEN DOMENECH: --which is exactly why we saw what happened this week. I mean, the-- the President, we have to keep in mind that his role within this kind of shutdown potential battle is going to be different than other Republicans when Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi showed up at the White House and said the word, shutdown, as if it was this magical incantation that would make the President back off, he clearly leaned into it instead. And I think that that factors into his calculation. Now he may be alone in that calculus, one of the factors that I think we have to keep in mind here is that Mick Mulvaney, the incoming chief of staff, may have some strong opinions about the shutdown. We don't know potentially what those are and that could factor into the way the White House plays this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you're hearing from Republicans, though, and you also heard some description from Senator Barrasso is that this isn't a whole scale shutdown, sort of this is shutdown light. It's not that big of a deal, is it, Margaret?
MARGARET TALEV (Bloomberg News/@margarettalev): Yeah. But shutdown light happens to affect border agents and TSA agents at a time of the year when both of those issues, one for travel reasons, the other for political and policy reasons are very much on everyone's mind. There are kind of two factors that I see at play here, and one is that the President himself has been fascinated with the idea of how to use a shutdown to get a message across for months. Maybe for more than a year, let's say, basically since the beginning of the administration. So, inside the White House as well as on the Hill, a lot of Republicans are like, don't do it, it's a bad idea, and-- and he keeps-- he is so attracted to the idea. On the other hand, he wants to be having the fight with Democrats, not with his own party. It's easier to have the fight with Democrats when Democrats are in charge. So, I think if there's a patch of four weeks or something like that, that's the fight that he gets to have. And-- and maybe that's the way this will shake out.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Stephen Miller, one of the President's closest advisers said, he's ready to go to shut down. Do you think this is--
MARGARET TALEV: Oh, no. He-- oh, he's ready. Although he's still scheduled to leave for Mar-a-Lago at the end of the week, on Friday. But he's ready. But there are many people inside the White House as well as on the Hill, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republicans who are like, you know, maybe-- and so there have been ongoing conversations between the White House ledge team and-- and those Republican leadership teams in the House for now and-- and in the Senate about how to stave it off under what conditions. But that-- that ultimate conversation that the President wants to have about immigration reform, DACA and wall funding, the place where some kind of a compromise could be possible, is probably not really possible until next year, if at all.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Ed, I want to ask you, we saw a rare very open crack between the entirety really of the Republican Party and Democrats on Capitol Hill breaking from the President's defense of Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and having this symbolic resolution, but still a statement saying, they believe the CIA even if the President doesn't, in terms of culpability for the killing of this journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Is this just symbolic? Does this indicate some sort of shift at all with the party?
ED WONG (The New York Times/@ewong): I think it shows that both Republicans and Democrats want to sort of take back the narrative of American values and sort of the values that we placed behind human rights and other issues like this. And-- and push back strongly against sort of the more transactional nature of President Trump's policies. And so, I think that going into the New Year in 2019 will see more that both, they-- they can't-- both Houses will take up the Yemen war resolution again and also rebuke against MBS, and I think we'll see more debate on that. And I think that there's strong momentum in both sides to sort of push forward with that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are we misreading it to say, though, that it's a break from the President or is Congress essentially handing the White House diplomatic tool by saying, oh, look, you know, here is some leverage in your relationship to potentially force some change in Saudi Arabia?
ED WONG: I don't-- we haven't sensed any motivation on the part of the White House to really push forward with changes or with pressing Saudi Arabia or any of its policies. So, I do think that this is an authentic rebuke by Congress against the President.
BEN DOMENECH: But keep in mind the context of this, which is just that Congress has for eighteen years really ceded its power when it comes to foreign policy issues that faced this nation, we're still operating under the same AUMF. We're still operating under the same--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Authorization for--
BEN DOMENECH: The Authorization of the Use of Military Force.
ED WONG: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Mm.
BEN DOMENECH: We're still operating under the same sort of regime that was put in place after 9/11. Congress has kicked the can on this issue time and again. And I do think it's-- it's significant, it is symbolic but it is significant. But I-- I think it needs to lead to more steps in order to actually have any real power, otherwise this is just sort of Congress saying, yes, we're still here and-- and pretending as if-- I mean, time and again Congress likes to cede its power over an issue to the administrative branch then complain about it, because it's-- it's a lot easier to do that than to make hard choices.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We're also seeing the financial market show some nervousness right now about the trade dispute with China, about slowdown in Europe, about Brexit, where do we start the New Year on the foreign policy front, Ed?
ED WONG: I think that the trade war with China is the main sort of question that looms over all of this. And they have that sort of ninety-day grace period in which the President said he wouldn't raise tariffs. And they're-- in theory, they're supposed to negotiate during that period. But I've heard that within the White House, people like Peter Navarro are still very much entrenched in their view and that they-- they're hoping to ride out the ninety days and keep the tariffs on. So, I think that will lead to more unsteady movement in the markets and also I think the shutdown that we talked about earlier will also shake up the markets, and I think that the Republicans have to be thinking about that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Margaret, Mick Mulvaney management-- now moving from OMB sort of and is also now chief of staff--
MARGARET TALEV: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --for the President. You have the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, departing.
MARGARET TALEV: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Who is next or is the President done shaking up his team?
MARGARET TALEV: I don't think that that shake up is done. In fact, it was only a week ago when the world thought that Nick Ayers would be the President's next chief of staff, but if he had come in under that arrangement they were discussing, it also would have been interim arrangement. The President wasn't comfortable with that a week ago. Part of that interim arrangement would have been to execute the sort of staff overhaul, shake up, whatever you want to call it, that is now kind of slow rolling underway. Will Mick Mulvaney execute it differently than Nick Ayers? Possibly. But it's all up to the President. It's always been up to the President. So, some of the other folks who may or may not be on the chopping block, the education secretary, the commerce secretary. But it will ultimately be up to the President, and always-- always would have been. For months now, they've been looking at those midterm elections as a reset point, understanding that if the Democrats took the House, it would change the dynamic of the second two years of the President's term. And now the President is trying to go into this new era in the stronger position as possible. So, folks who have baggage, political weakness that could drag him down, they-- he wants to be able to transition them out in some of these places including interior--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Mm.
MARGARET TALEV: --the number two in command would be able to step into that job without some of that political baggage. So, yes, I do think that they are looking right now in the next few months at how many other positions they can turn over and who could step in.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But, Kelsey, the President's going to need Congress to confirm them.
KELSEY SNELL: Yeah. And that is something that I have talked to many senators about their concerns, about backlogging the number of people who need to be confirmed. You got to remember, they still need to nominate, and approve an attorney general. But the thing that I think is interesting about the White House strategy here is they are looking forward to Democrats in the House, planning a number of investigations. And I've heard Democrats say that they don't think that just getting rid of the head of an agency is going to forestall those investigations. If it's the White House's intent to avoid that, this may not be the strategy that actually gets the outcome that they're hoping for.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Prepare yourself for 2019. Ben, we have an interesting thing that may be happening in the next few days in Washington with criminal justice reform being promised floor time. This is Jared Kushner's project that he feels personally invested in. There's been some disagreement within the Republican Party but whether it should even see the light of day.
BEN DOMENECH: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What does this signal that he was able to get Mitch McConnell to give some precious time to this bill?
BEN DOMENECH: I think it's very significant. I mean, the-- the fact is that there had been a real push within the Republican coalition for criminal justice reform at the state level backed by the Koch brothers and other groups that really wanted to see it as something that was part of the Republican policy portfolio. That really was short circuited by the existence of the Donald Trump 2016 candidacy running on the law and order message that sounded more familiar to those who think that we might still be living in the late '70s. And-- and frankly, the-- the nomination and approval of Jeff Sessions as attorney general was something that really short-circuited that process. Jared Kushner worked very hard within the White House to try to push this forward. And I think it's significant that this was--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
BEN DOMENECH: --is something that's finally seeing the light of day at the Senate level.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Thanks to all of you. We'll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.
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