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Full transcript: "Face the Nation" on July 8, 2018

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MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST: It's Sunday, July 8. I'm Margaret Brennan, and this is FACE THE NATION.

There is breaking news this morning, as the operation to rescue 12 young boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand is under way. We will have the latest.

Here at home, President Trump prepares for what could be a crucial week in his presidency, first up, a final decision on who he plans to name to the Supreme Court.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And they're all great. They're all great.


BRENNAN: That announcement comes tomorrow night.

Then it's off to Brussels to meet with NATO, that alliance as U.S. military allies are still reeling from a disastrous G7 summit last month in Canada.


TRUMP: I'm going to tell NATO, you got start paying your bills. The United States is not going to take care of everything.


TRUMP: And we're the schmucks that are paying for the whole thing.


BRENNAN: Another controversial meeting on the president's itinerary, a one-on-one next Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


TRUMP: Getting along with Russia and getting along with China and getting along with other countries is a good thing. It's not a bad thing. You know what? Putin is fine. He's fine. We're all fine.


BRENNAN: But things are not so fine with North Korea. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent two days in Pyongyang without meeting Leader Kim Jong-un. He told reporters that the two sides were still working towards complete denuclearization of North Korea.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: No one walked away from that. They're still equally committed. Chairman Kim is still committed.


BRENNAN: But, just after Pompeo left, North Koreans called the meetings regrettable and accused the U.S. of making cancerous and gangster-like demands. The secretary of state slashed back.


POMPEO: So, if those threats were gangster-like, they are -- then the world is a gangster, because there was a unanimous decision at the U.N. Security Council about what needs to be achieved.


BRENNAN: And it's official. The trade war has begun. The president imposed tariffs on $34 billion on Chinese imports. Beijing responded with tit-for-tat taxes on U.S.-made goods and accused the president of starting the biggest trade war in economic history.

We will speak with the president's ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and check in with key senators on both sides of the aisle. Iowa Republican Joni Ernst and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons.

Plus, we will have plenty of analysis on all the political news of the week coming up on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION.

We begin with a story that is dominating world headlines, the efforts to free 12 young boys and their soccer coach who have been trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand for 16 days.

That rescue has been under way in at least, and least four of the boys have been saved.

CBS News foreign correspondent Ben Tracy is near the site in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Ben, what can you tell us?

BEN TRACY, CBS NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Margaret, so far, this is the news that we had all been hoping to hear, these four boys now out of the cave after 16 very long days.

We now believe that all four of them were transported to the hospital in Chiang Rai via helicopter and then ambulance. And we did see the head of this rescue operation gave a news conference. He said this was much more successful than they thought it would be, that it went very smoothly.

He said from the time the boys exited the mouth of the cave to when they got on the helicopter was just two minutes. And he says that was five times faster than when they tried this in their rehearsals. So they are feeling very confident tonight that the first stage of this operation, getting four boys out of this cave, has gone extraordinarily well -- Margaret.

BRENNAN: Why did this rescue operation happen now, and what's next?

TRACY: Well, you know, they really felt a sense of urgency. They felt like they had a very small window of time to attempt this.

And keep in mind, this is not the preferred mode of doing this. This is a very dangerous operation, to bring these young boys -- they're just ages 11 to 16 -- out of this cave this way, the way that trained navy SEALs would do it.

The reason they did it is they felt, with heavy rain -- and it is raining here now again -- heavy rain could flood that cave again and cut these boys off from supplies and from any sort of successful rescue. That potentially could mean that they would be in that cave for months on a very small piece of real estate that would shrink as the cave flooded.

So they felt like they had a little window of opportunity with the weather. They felt the boys were in the right condition to withstand this operation. And so far, they have been right. These four boys have come out. We have every reason to believe that all four of them are alive. We do not have any sense of their actual condition in terms of what kind of shape they're in.

They will now be evaluated at the hospital now for about three to five days -- Margaret.

BRENNAN: President -- President Trump tweeted this morning that the U.S. is working closely with the government of Thailand to get the children out. He said: "Very brave and talented people are at work here."

What do we know about those efforts?

TRACY: Yes. You know, for the last week, we have been sitting outside the entrance to this cave, and we have seen U.S. military personnel there on the site.

They have been there in various capacities, as advisers, but we're also told that there were American divers in the water as part of this rescue. This was an international effort. You had 18 -- a team of 18 divers, five of which were from Thailand. The rest of them were international.

So you had the U.S. You had Britain. You had Australia. This is really something that has captivated the world, and countries all over the world sent personnel there. Just being there on that site and seeing how many people showed up to help in so many different capacities, it's really quite striking. And I'm sure that's a big part of why this has been successful so far.

BRENNAN: Ben, this is so risky, this rescue, but the alternatives are so tough for some of those parents there who have been waiting to hear about their loved ones.

I know you have been speaking with some of them. What are they thinking right now as this is under way?

TRACY: I can only imagine.

We talked to the father of one boy, the youngest boy in the cave. He's just 11 years old. His name is Titan. And we talked to his dad. And he said, this has just been horrible. It's been nerve-racking every day to it sit there waiting for news.

First, it was that they couldn't find the boys in the cave. Then, once they found them, that sense of elation that all these parents had, but then to find out that this rescue mission was going to be horribly dangerous.

So this has really been a roller coaster for these families. And I can tell you, out at that cave site, there was basically a tent where all the family members, most of the mothers, were just sitting in chairs watching TV coverage of this, waiting for some news about their sons.

They today, we are told, were standing at the mouth of the cave as this operation was happening, and they will now be reunited with their sons at the hospital.

BRENNAN: How much anger is there at the situation itself? I know these boys were being supervised. They had a soccer coach with them. He's been heavily criticized for putting them in this position in the first place. Is he really to blame here?

TRACY: Yes, well, let me set the scene for you here. This was a soccer team. They had finished their practice.

And from what we have been told by multiple people here in Thailand, there was some sort of birthday celebration that was going on. That's the reason they were going to this cave. They were celebrating somebody's birthday. So they went into this cave.

The coach apparently was with them. There are big signs outside this cave warning of the danger this time of year during the rainy season that this cave floods and that it can be unsafe. So, certainly, that is something that this coach will have to address with these parents and with the larger community at some point.

However, the coach did issue an apology from inside the cave via a letter to these parents. The parents and the kids were sending letters back and forth the other day. And in several of the letters, the parents went out of their way to say, we don't blame you, coach. Please take care of our kids in there. We know you love them. We know you're trying to protect them.

And we have heard reports that this coach, when they went in there with very little food -- I imagine they probably had some snacks on them because they had been playing soccer -- he apparently gave all of his food and his water to these kids to keep them alive until rescuers came.

And we are told that he's in one of the weakest conditions of anyone in that cave. So, certainly, he's done his best while he's been in there. He apparently also taught them how to meditate to try to keep them calm, to conserve their energy, and to not panic while they have been inside -- Margaret.

BRENNAN: Ben, thank you for your reporting.

And we will continue to follow the rescue efforts in Thailand here on CBS News and our streaming network, CBSN.

We want to go now, though, to Omaha, Nebraska, where Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst has crossed the state line to talk with us this morning.

Good morning to you, Senator.

SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: Good morning, Margaret. Thank you.

BRENNAN: I want to talk about another story in Asia, and that is what has been happening overnight with our secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

The North Koreans seem to be bashing President Trump's hopes here for a quick denuclearization deal. While Secretary Pompeo speaking in positive, optimistic terms, the North Koreans said he had gang gangster-like diplomacy.

It seems like a return to this hard-line rhetoric. Have you seen any indication of tangible progress?

ERNST: Well, I do think talks are progress, and so I applaud the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, for engaging in these discussions.

The ultimate goal is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And if these talks will eventually lead to that, I am very, very supportive of those efforts.

Of course we're going to hear hard talk coming from North Korea. This is not the path that they want to take. But it is what the rest of the world wants to see.

BRENNAN: How long do you think the U.S. should wait before restarting its military exercises?

ERNST: Well, I think we should continue with military exercises.

Obviously, I believe that they have a purpose in keeping the peninsula safe and making sure that, should anything ever happen, we're well-rehearsed with our allies to engage. So I would say soon, if we don't see those talks continue.

BRENNAN: Also, because you sit on Armed Services, I want to get your views here on the upcoming meetings that the president will be having this week with our military allies on NATO and then with an adversary, as many would describe him, Vladimir Putin, a few days after that.

When he was on this program last week, Ambassador John Bolton, the national security adviser to the president, proposed partnering with Russia in Syria to oust Iran.

Are you concerned that, in exchange for such an agreement, the U.S. would draw down its almost 2,000 forces that it has on the ground in Syria?

ERNST: I would be concerned. We need stability in that region.

And I would just caution the president as we move forward with any discussions with Russia. Obviously, Russia is not our friend. We oppose many of the actions that they have taken, going back to the invasion of Crimea and so forth. So I would be very cautious in those moves.

But if there is a way that we can partner and put a lid on Iran, I would support that, but, again, being very cautious, because I don't see that Russia would ever be a true friend or ally to the United States of America.

BRENNAN: Some of your Republican colleagues, though, recently traveled to Moscow this week and met with Russian officials. Do you think it was a mistake for Senators Thune, Senators Shelby to have gone?

ERNST: No, I don't think it's a mission take. Again, if we can engage in discussions that are productive, that's OK, but, again, just being very cautious in understanding that they will never be a true friend to the United States of America.

So, again, just as it is with North Korea, discussions are good. And if we can move towards a resolution where the world becomes a safer place, we should always strive for that. But, again, we just need to be very cautious with a number of these leaders, because I don't know that they have the same interests that the United States of America does.

BRENNAN: I want to ask you about something close to home for you, and that is what China is now calling the largest trade war in economic history.

What are you hearing from so many of those voters in Iowa who are supportive of the president, but worried about what this will mean for them?

ERNST: And you hit the nail on the head, Margaret. Our voters are supportive of President Trump. Our farmers just really think that he is doing the right thing.

But, unfortunately, we are caught in the crosshairs. America's farmers and ranchers are always the first to be retaliated against in these types of trade negotiations. And the tariffs that have been imposed and the retaliation stemming from that puts us in a very vulnerable position as our markets go down.

So I would just encourage the president -- of course, we want great deals. And I know we will be able to negotiate those, but we would like to see a number of these trade agreements wrapped up in short order, the sooner, the better.

BRENNAN: Well, do you hear of any progress? It sounds like the president is only talking about escalation. And are you asking the president to send any kind of financial aid to some of these farmers?

ERNST: Well, no.

And, as a matter of fact, we push back on financial aid. Here in the Midwest, we believe in trade, not aid. We don't want another welfare-type program going to our farmers. They want to produce and they want to sell their goods to markets. So that's what we strive for.

But I did speak with Ambassador Lighthizer, our U.S. trade rep, yesterday, and I did get encouraging news from him. I think there are a number of agreements that we're very close on, and he's working on a number of new free trade agreements. So I am encouraged.

I would ask that we stay strong, but at some point we have to close the deal. And, as I said, I would like to see the president do that, sooner rather than later.

BRENNAN: Just to clarify, you're talking about markets other than China, perhaps deals with Mexico, Canada?

ERNST: Absolutely, markets other than China.

I believe that we can work to a point where we have Mexico and Canada on board. I think China will be a much longer haul. But there are other agreements that are being worked on as well, and I would encourage the ambassador, as well as the president, to get those done soon, so that we can start developing those opportunities for our Iowa farmers.

BRENNAN: Senator, you are a strong female leader in the Senate. And I want to ask you about words the president said this week about one of your colleagues, Elizabeth Warren.


TRUMP: I'm going to get one of those little kits. And in the middle of the debate, when she proclaims that she is of Indian heritage, because her mother said she has high cheekbones.


TRUMP: That's her only evidence, that her mother said she had high cheekbones.

We will take that little kit and -- but we have to do it gently, because we are in the MeToo generation. So, we have to be very gentle.


TRUMP: And we will very gently take that kit, and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn't hit her and injure her arm.


BRENNAN: It is not unfamiliar for the president to attack Senator Warren, but he's seen there to be mocking the MeToo movement, which was about defending those who are victims of sexual abuse and harassment.

How do you respond to that?

ERNST: Well, I take MeToo very seriously.

And I had, of course, when I was a young woman, volunteered at a women's crisis shelter in Ames, Iowa. And so when we see survivors coming forward, I think that we need to take that very seriously. And we need to learn from this episode in history and make sure that other survivors are able to come forward.

And, of course, it is something that we need to discuss throughout society, because we need to make sure that we're protecting men and women. They should never go through sexual harassment, sexual assault, or anything remotely similar to that.

So I do support the MeToo movement, and I hope that others will as well. We need people to speak up, not hide these horrible circumstances.

BRENNAN: Senator, thank you.

ERNST: Thanks, Margaret.

BRENNAN: If you want to learn more about the trade war with China and what prompted it, as well as how it could actually impact you, you can go to our Web site at

As for the FACE THE NATION broadcast right here, we will be back with Democrat Chris Coons.


BRENNAN: We're back for some perspective from a key Democrat, Delaware Senator Chris Coons, who sits on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. He joins us from Wilmington this morning.

Senator, because you're on Foreign Relations, you have oversight of the State Department. And I want to ask you, given the developments with North Korea, have you been given any detail as to exactly what was agreed upon at that Singapore summit with President Trump?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: No, we haven't. We haven't gotten the sort of detailed strategy or the updated briefing from Secretary Pompeo that I think we need and deserve.

But my concern, Margaret, is that the Singapore summit last month was really not much more than a reality TV handshake summit that didn't really accomplish much in terms of getting North Korea to commit to verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

I far prefer diplomacy to Twitter threats. And I commend Secretary Pompeo for how hard he's trying to make something out of nothing. But so far, I don't see that we have accomplished much, and my concern is that President Trump unilaterally gave away doing military exercises with our vital allies South Korea and Japan without consulting with them, and we got nothing but empty promises of denuclearization from Kim Jong-un.

BRENNAN: Speaking of allies, the president is heading to Europe this week and to that NATO summit. He's got a good news story to tell. Spending among our military allies is actually up since he came into office. The budget at NATO has grown.

So has his tough talk actually paid off?

COONS: Well, I hope that President Trump, as he goes to the NATO summit, will claim credit, will declare victory and say that NATO's budget, as you have said, has gone up by more than $14 billion since he became president, and that he will lock arms and join forces with our vital NATO allies in order to confront two real threats to the United States, China on trade and Russia on security and defending our democracies.

I'm concerned, Margaret, that instead what we're going to see is a repeat of last month's show, where President Trump went to the G7 summit in Canada and put a thumb in the eye of the prime minister of Canada and picked fights with our vital allies on tariffs and trade and on security issues, and then went to Singapore for a summit with Kim Jong-un that, as I just said, didn't produce much.

Looking forward to next week, my concern is, they will continue to stir the pot with NATO, undermine the credibility of our commitment to mutual security that is at the core of NATO, and then go to Helsinki for a summit with Putin, where I'm very concerned about what things he might give away or what things he might say with Vladimir Putin, who really is a core adversary of both the United States and the NATO alliance.

BRENNAN: We will be watching this.

Because you sit on Judiciary, I want to ask you now about the announcement we expect tomorrow from President Trump on his Supreme Court justice pick. We know, according to our own reporting at CBS from Jan Crawford, that there are three contenders now, Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, and Amy Coney Barrett, with Kethledge, it appears now, in that first-place position.

Of these three, are there any that you would support, or are you opposed in principle to all three?

COONS: Well, Margaret, first, I don't think we should be having this conversation, because we seem to be playing by different rules with different presidents.

I will remind you that the Republican majority refused to even hold a hearing for 10 months on an eminently qualified, confirmable, moderate judge who was nominated by President Obama.

We're just four months away from an election now, and we should be playing by the same rules.

BRENNAN: Well, that was presidential. This is congressional.

COONS: But I will do my job on the Judiciary Committee. I will do my job on the Judiciary Committee in advance of the congressional elections this November.

And I assume President Trump will nominate someone from that short list prepared for him by two right-wing activist groups, the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.

I will meet with his nominee. I will review their record and I will ask them tough questions to try and get to the core issue here, which is, how will this next justice Tom indicated by President Trump affect the rights and freedoms of average Americans?

Margaret, this is a very important decision. It's going to affect the Affordable Care Act and the protection of preexisting conditions. It will affect reproductive choice and individual freedom for millions of women all over the United States. It will affect consumer protection, environmental protection, LGBT rights.

Justice Kennedy was at the center of many key decisions on exactly these issues. I will do my job on the Judiciary Committee. We will have difficult confirmation hearings this fall. But I hope folks who are watching will also speak up, call their senators, express their views, and see this as what it is, the consequence of an election and a reason to be more engaged and to vote.

BRENNAN: It sounds like you're saying you're keeping an -- somewhat of an open mind here. But Majority Leader McConnell has said he wants this new justice seated by October.

Do you see any path for other Democrats to block that plan?

COONS: Well, it will be very difficult for 49 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with us, given the change to the rules that was made by the Republican majority in the run-up to the last Supreme Court nomination of Justice Gorsuch.

It doesn't require 60 votes anymore. It requires just 50. If all the Republicans stick together, along with the vice president, they will be able to confirm whomever President Trump nominates.

I will remind you, Margaret, that there are many Trump judicial nominees who have cleared the Judiciary Committee unanimously. It is not impossible for President Trump to find a highly qualified conservative judge who could be confirmed on a bipartisan basis.

But the folks who are on that list prepared by the Federalist Society represent the far-right end of the American constitutional and judiciary committee -- community. And those are folks who I think will be very hard for Democrats to support.


Senator Coons, thank you.

We will be right back. Don't go away.

COONS: Thank you.


BRENNAN: Be sure to tune into to CBS News' special coverage of President Trump's announcement of his Supreme Court pick.

That's tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CBS Network and our digital streaming network, CBSN.


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



BRENNAN: And that was a memorable moment from last year's NATO summit. During President Trump's first trip abroad, he brushed past Montenegro's prime minister. The president will be center stage again this year as he ramps up pressure on NATO allies to spend more on their own defense.

We go now to Brussels and the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Welcome to the program.

Ambassador, how much of a threat is Russia to the military alliance?

KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, thank you, Margaret, very much.

We are seeing Russia with maligned activities on so many fronts right now, especially the hybrid area where they are, through social media, sowing discontent and even false information to try to divide our allies and take them away from the west and toward some dissidents and then hopefully they think influenced by them.

They're also doing things like the terrible attack, the nerve agent attack in Great Britain. They're supporting a Syrian dictator who is using chemical weapons on his own people to kill even children. And it's just on and on and on. They are also in violation of the very important INF treaty with the United States. They are not supposed to be building ballistic missiles at an intermediate range, but they are. And we know they are.

So there are so many areas where they are working against the interests of freedom and democracies and peace in the world, and it is a big -- it's a big part of our deterrence effort to keep them from taking over sovereign nations, as they did in the Ukraine when they took Crimea in 2014.

BRENNAN: Well, on that point, President Trump has seemed the leave the door open to recognizing Russia's annexation of Crimea in some public statements. Last week on this program Ambassador John Bolton said, while that's not U.S. policy, he said the president is open to changing that. Can you reassure our allies that the president won't agree to recognize Crimea as part of Russia when he meets privately with Vladimir Putin?

HUTCHISON: Well, I think that our alliance is very solid and including all of the efforts that the United States is making to shore up the sovereignty of the Ukraine. The Ukraine people, they stood very tall in their -- their really peaceful revolution is what it was at Midawn (ph). They have stood strong for their sovereignty and their right of self-governance. And we are standing behind them on that. And there is no -- there's no light between any of our allies on that very important issue.

BRENNAN: And the president, it sounds like you're saying, won't change his position on that.

But the president seems to be muddying the waters on this question of whether Vladimir Putin is a friend or a foe. I mean just this week he called Vladimir Putin a fine man. Is that how you would describe Putin?

HUTCHISON: Well, I wouldn't, but I will say that despite how the many maligned activities that Vladimir Putin has been doing, just in the last few years, NATO talks to Russia. We have what's called a NATO-Russia council where the ambassador from Russia meets with our NATO ambassadors. Many of the foreign leaders in our alliance meet with Putin. Most certainly the Europeans do. But the effort -- and our military does, too, as well. We have military-to-military talks with the Russian chief of defense.

But this is to de-conflict. It is not to allow escalation of hostilities. And also I think the president will encourage Vladimir Putin to start changing their behavior, to be -- we'd like for Russia to be an ally, a trading partner. But right now we have sanctions against Russia because of their maligned influence and the things they're doing that are very disruptive, trying to divided our alliance.

So, yes, we should be talking to Vladimir Putin and many of our allied nations do, as well. But it is to try to bring them in the tent instead of just constantly seeing them do these things that are attempting to disrupt us but will not.

BRENNAN: Well, ambassador, we will be watching that meeting closely. Thank you for your time.

HUTCHISON: Thank you, Margaret.

BRENNAN: And we'll be back in a moment.


BRENNAN: And it's time now for some political analysis. Reihan Salam is the executive editor of "The National Review" and a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. Kelsey Snell is a congressional reporter for NPR. Mark Landler and Toluse Olorunnipa cover the White House for "The New York Times" and "Bloomberg News" respectively.

Let's start off with you, Mark.

This NATO summit. We heard from Ambassador Hutchison, this strong alliance standing up to Russia, but the concern is what happens in the days afterward? Why are our allies so concerned about this summit?

MARK LANDLER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think, as Senator Coons said on the air earlier, a lot of people fear a repeat of the president's trip to the G-7 in Quebec, followed by his summit with Kim Jong-un. He was extremely antagonistic, if not outright hostile to our G-7 allies and then had this lovefest with Kim. And I think the fear is, given some of the things the president has said in the last few days about NATO, he said the other day in Montana that they're killing us, that he'll go and have yet another rocky, antagonistic meeting in Brussels, and then go on the Helsinki and meet with Vladimir Putin and have a very kind of harmonious meeting.

And that is a pattern that, at the very least, runs counter to six decades of American foreign policy. But it's extremely damaging. And it comes against a backdrop of increasing trade battles with Europe, questions about obviously the amount of spending that they're doing -- on their defense. And so there's just a lot of fear that we've gotten locked into what they view, our allies view, as a very dangerous and damaging pattern.

BRENNAN: And, Toluse, I mean you don't hear praise from Democrats very often of the president. But Senator Coons said it -- there is a good-news story here when it comes to NATO, that spending is up. So why is the president not focusing on what win. Why is he focusing on what he says is a problem?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": Yes, we see this pattern from the president regularly. He wants to push our allies as hard as possible to move in the direction that even if they're already moving in that direction, he wants them to go even further. He won't sort of accept a win. A lot of the spending increases that happened started under President Obama, and it's increased under President Trump.

And President Trump has taken credit for that. He's said that Jen Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, is his biggest fan because spending is up in NATO. But he wants them to do more. And he conflates the issue of trade and the issue of security assurances. He wants NATO countries not only to help the U.S. by spending more on their own defense, but also to remove some of the trade barriers and to remove the trade deficit that currently exists. So you hear the president talk about those things as one in the same, the trade deficit with -- between the U.S. and the E.U. and the NATO spending issue. The president believes that the U.S. has taken -- getting taken advantage of and that the U.S. needs to push much more harder on its allies, even more so than its adversaries.

BRENNAN: Reihan, the other thing that we will start this week with, which is big news in and of itself, is this announcement of the president's Supreme Court pick. Monday night, 9:00 p.m., a prime time presentation here.

Of the three contenders, who is most pleasing to conservatives here? Who do you think is actually going to become the nominee?

REIHAN SALAM, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, conservatives are divided on the question, partly because different groups have different objectives. If your objective is to have a justice who, like William Brennan, plays the role of strategist and chief diplomat for a new majority on the court, then someone like Brett Kavanaugh has very, very strong credentials. If you want someone who is likeliest to get confirmed, then you perhaps want Kethledge. If you want someone who is going to make a mark culturally and politically, if you want someone who will provoke a constructive fight within the Senate, then perhaps you want Amy Coney Barrett. So it really depends.

BRENNAN: What do you mean constructive fight?

SALAM: Well, what that means is, if politically speaking you don't necessarily want this to go easily, right, if you have domestic political considerations at work, if you want to draw out contrasts in our, you know, larger political conversation, then it's possible that a more polarizing nominee is actually a better fight for the Trump administration.

So, again, it really depends on what your objective is, because if you have, you know, one nominee who goes down, that could also create a larger conversation and also that could be very difficult for some of the Senate Democrats running for re-election in 2018.

BRENNAN: And, Kelsey, you're ending exactly where I want to pick up with you, which is that there's the politics of just getting confirmation, but there's also the politics of how this plays nationally.

KELSEY SNELL, NPR: Absolutely.

BRENNAN: The proximity of seating a justice in October, to those November races. What's the connection?

SNELL: The connection is extremely strong because, particularly for those red-state Democrats, people like Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, they are in a really awkward position where they have to decide, do they vote in a way that their -- many of their voters, more conservative voters, would be happy and have them help approve one of these justices, or do they want to be in a situation where they're bolstering Democrats going into 2020? It is a really, really awkward scenario for them.

It's also fairly awkward for people like Susan Collins, who is, again, in a position where she could be a deciding vote here. And it's not something she's uncomfortable with. And it's something she kind of relishes that moment of being the -- the decider, somebody who gets that moment of being important. But it is still really awkward for Republicans and for Democrats who kind of float in that middle, that very narrow middle that doesn't really exist very much anymore.

BRENNAN: Now, Mark. It seems like from both liberals and conservatives, they want to make this a re-litigation of Roe v. Wade. Is it really that simple?

LANDLER: Well, you know, some legal scholars will tell you that they think the odds of Roe versus Wade being re-litigated by this court are relatively low, that that isn't necessarily the kind of fight that John Roberts, for example, is looking to take on.

I have to say, that may be the case. There may be a desire on both sides of the spectrum. But by all accounts, Amy Coney Barrett, the person who's most likely to be the catalyst for that, appears to be fading in the kind of sweepstakes. And the other justices, the ones who appear to be -- or the other judge, the ones who appear to be the finalists are less likely to automatically lead to that kind of outcome than Barrett would have been.

BRENNAN: And, Toluse, it was interesting to hear our Paula Reid report that in a conversation with Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, he said to her that any Supreme Court justice should not recuse him or herself from any questions regarding the Mueller investigation should it reach that court.

Democrats are talking about this. Is this really something that needs to be part of the calculus?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, you can expect this to come up during the confirmation hearing. There are some of these potential nominees who have written on this topic, on -- specifically on sort of whether a president would have to submit himself to an investigation or a lawsuit, criminal or otherwise. And it's clear that this is something Democrats want to put on national TV during these hearings so that the American people will continue to hear about the Mueller probe, will continue to hear about this whole idea of conflicts of interest in the Trump administration and among his appointees. And if the president chooses someone who has written anything that Democrats can -- can seize upon, you can expect them to focus on that very significantly during these hearings and make them try to make some commitment, as you saw during the hearings for various cabinet secretaries early in the administration, are you going to recuse yourself, are you going to weigh in on issues where the president may be under investigation? And it's going to be clear that they're going to try to get those commitments early -- early on.

You could probably expect to hear these -- this nominee sort of dance around the issue as -- as -- as they often do without necessarily committing one way or the other, trying to satisfy Democrats, while also not necessarily making any specific commitments.

LANDLER: This is particularly a case for -- for Kavanaugh, because of his being on the team, the Ken Starr team, and what he wrote in the Starr report about grounds for impeaching Bill Clinton. He laid out a fairly broad set of grounds that you could use to impeach a president. And I think one of the perhaps problematic parts of the Kavanaugh candidacy is that were he chosen, the Democrats would be able to go back to the Starr report and ask him fairly pointedly, these grounds that you've set out, how do they apply potentially to the president who nominated you? That's something that's on the minds of a few people in -- in Trump's circle.

BRENNAN: Fascinating to see all the dimensions to this here.

Kelsey, I want to bring up to you, you know, I asked Senator Ernst about the president's comments at his rally this week about Senator Elizabeth Warren in which he seemed to be dismissive of the Me Too movement. If you put that in the context of other things over the course of the week, in particular his hiring of Bill Shine to the communications shop, this is a former Fox News executive who was pushed out of that company because of allegations that he helped to silence women who had been abused by the former CEO, Roger Ailes, is that an unfair dot to connect here? Are people being overly sort of judgmental, or is this a pattern of behavior that suggests the president doesn't take this seriously?

SNELL: I think that there -- it's not unfair to suggest that there is some pattern here. And I've talked to many, Republicans included, who feel that way. There is some concern, though, that Republicans don't all agree with the Me Too movement.

I was just out reporting in several different states, including Washington state, where I talked to a lot of Republican woman who feel like the Me Too movement is an arm of the left. Essentially it's the kind of feminism that they don't connect with and they don't connect with the idea of Me Too.

And it may be that the president sees that in his base and doesn't feel that he has to be a part of what many people feel is not just a movement in American politics, but is a greater cultural movement across the world. So there -- there is some tension happening here. And I think that it makes it very uncomfortable for particularly Republican women, like Joni Ernst, who don't -- you know, who want to stand on the side of women and not necessarily have to be defending the president again on this.

BRENNAN: Reihan, explain that, because this isn't necessarily a feminist platform aligned with certain positions. This was a movement about defending victims of abuse. What is the perception in conservative circles?

SALAM: Well, again, the conservative world is very diverse and multifaceted, so I can't give you a single answer to that.

BRENNAN: We're learning that more and more these days.

SALAM: Oh -- oh, sure. Oh, sure. I mean it's much more of a coalition than a -- than a unified movement. But --

BRENNAN: But for the president to feel -- as Kelsey was just laying out, that his base finds this something they agree with?

SALAM: Well, I'll say this, if you're looking at the gender gap in our politics right now, it is very pronounced. It is very extreme. This isn't just a development in the United States. This is true in all of the market democracy increasingly. Donald Trump does not fare well with women voters. It was very curable that he win over married, suburban women in 2016. And that's a group where he is absolutely vulnerable.

But it's also the case that even if you're looking at younger voters, he is doing respectably with men. So you don't really know what kind of counter-movement you might see. And also Democrats are very successful in recruiting female candidates in this cycle. But that also goes along with the fact that many of these female candidates are very ideologically progressive in very pointed ways. And that's something that might also elicit a backlash down the line. So we can't really predict exactly how this is going to turn out.

BRENNAN: I need to point out here that the president did pull the plug on his EPA administrator this week, Scott Pruitt. Someone who withstood a lot of negative headlines. Does he have a political future? And do you see his deputy stepping in as any kind of wholesale change?

SALAM: I imagine that the underlying policies will be consistent at the EPA. But as for Pruitt's political future, he is someone who is deeply political, deeply ambitious, has been for a very long time, had been lobbying. He endorsed Jeb Bush earlier on. And, you know, there are reports that he was very solicitous of having senior roles in the federal government. So I think that he is certainly going to try to make a political comeback in the future. Whether or not that effort succeeds is an open question.

OLORUNNIPA: And there are several investigations that are still going to run after -- after he's gone.

BRENNAN: That's a good point to leave it on, that those investigations continue.

We'll be back in a moment with CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues. He's got a new book out on Russian efforts to tamper with the U.S. election.


BRENNAN: We're back now with my colleague Jeff Pegues, who covers the Justice Department and Homeland Security for CBS News. He's got a new book out called "Kompromat," That's the Russian term for compromising material about a public figure and the question of what Russia held that kind of damaging information about President Trump is one of the questions in this ongoing FBI investigation into his campaign.

So, with Presidents Trump and Putin set to meet next week, we thought the timing was perfect to talk to you, Jeff.


BRENNAN: Well, tell us, here, because we know the Senate Intelligence Committee came out with the final version of their report saying the intelligence community was right to conclude, as they did, that the Kremlin was trying the harm Hillary Clinton and de facto then also help President Trump win this election. Why does it matter for the president to acknowledge this?

PEGUES: Well, it matters because if you don't have a uniformed approach to preventing this from happening during the midterms or the 2020 presidential election, that's a problem.

And that's what we've seen and that's what I report in this book, is that you have this system of trying to hold back these Russian intrusion, however, you know, the states are doing -- have a different plan, if you will, from the federal response and why some people that I've talked to say that it's because there's no coordinated response coming from the top.

And you need that to hold back what is, some of the people that I've talked to have said, is the Russian army attacking these states. You can't have these states doing this alone. And that's why a lot of people think there has to be this coordinated response with leadership from the top.

BRENNAN: And we heard the ambassador to NATO talking about this kind of Russian interference in other countries, as well. When it comes to our midterm election, this are just right around the corner, how much concern is there about interference?

PEGUES: Well, this is an ongoing threat. And I think that's one thing that is lost with the Mueller aspect of this investigation is that this is an ongoing threat. You hear that from intelligence agencies. You hear that from law enforcement agencies. And anyone trying to protect the election system in this country. And so you have to have this coordinated response to prevent this from happening again.

This is a new form of warfare. Something else I think is lost, which is why I wanted to delve into the subject in this book "Kompromat," this is a new form of warfare. Yes, the Russians have meddled in elections before, but not to this scale with this cyber influence campaign that is affecting social media, that is affecting so much of what we do. And if you think about it this way, and these are some of the questions that I was asking myself when I started writing this book, if you can influence what Americans think, well then, of course, you can influence how they vote. And that's why it's so important to find a way to push back against these Russian intrusions.

BRENNAN: The president's national security adviser was on this program just last week and he drew a distinction. He said Vladimir Putin personally told him the Russian state did not carry out the hacking. What's the difference?

PEGUES: Well, there is no secret in cyber circles that some of these countries hire contractors to carry out these cyber operations. Even Vladimir Putin has said in the past that patriotic hackers may have done this. People that he doesn't control. But U.S. intelligence agencies, they laugh in the face of information like that.

BRENNAN: Because they say there's very little that Putin doesn't control?

PEGUES: Well, exactly. And that was the case here. This was such a widespread operation. As I said, it's ongoing. But there is no way that it could have happened without Putin's blessing.

BRENNAN: I also want to ask you, because I know you're continuing to cover some of the reporting with the ongoing probe. There was an interview on another network with Michael Cohen, the former lawyer and fixer for the president, who has been wrapped up in some of these financial probes. And now there's the question about whether he's going to cooperate with authorities. How do we understand that?

PEGUES: Well, I've -- you know, I've spent a lot of time over the last year or so talking to Michael Cohen, and he is lately at last tried to avoid talking to reporters. But what I can tell you is that I've talked to people around him who say that he has been angered by some of the statements that Rudy Giuliani has made about him, questioning his credibility.

And what we've seen, just in talking to him over the last year or so, is that his approach to President Trump and his allies has become much more adversarial. And that is so unusual for Michael Cohen, who liked to consider himself the president's fixer. He was someone who respected the president a great deal.

And so to see this change in approach. He's hired new attorneys, Lanny Davis being one of them, who represented President Clinton. So there is a new approach here.

And I've been told that he feels sort of isolated from the White House and the president's allies. Now, could that translate into him flipping, we'll just have to see.

BRENNAN: We'll be tracking that.

Jeff, thank you. Good luck with the book.

PEGUES: Thank you.

BRENNAN: We'll be right back.


BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching.

Just a reminder that I'll see you tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. for our CBS News special report on the president's Supreme Court nominee announcement.

And, of course, we'll see you right here next Sunday.

For FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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