Full transcript: Face the Nation on March 4, 2018

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MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS: Today on FACE THE NATION: The Trump White House winds up another week filled with turmoil, chaos and confusion on controversial policies and embattled personnel.

Once bitter campaign rival South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham is now a Trump ally. What does he think of the upheaval? We will ask him.

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin is a moderate from a red state, and he's trying to work with the president on new gun control laws. He will be with us.

White House trade policy adviser Peter Navarro will explain how the president's surprise steel and aluminum tariffs will impact our economy and trade with foreign countries.

Plus, Andrew Pollack, the father of one of the 14 students killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, made an emotional plea at the White House last month.


ANDREW POLLACK, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: And I'm pissed, because my daughter, I'm not going to see again. She's not here.


BRENNAN: Are the politicians listening? We will see what he thinks.

CBS News correspondent Seth Doane will take us inside Syria for a closer look at the Assad regime's brutal attacks on a rebel-held area outside Damascus.

We will also have plenty of analysis on all the news ahead on FACE THE NATION.

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

The Trump administration has seen turbulent weeks before, but this one left Washington reeling. On the policy front, the president endorsed position on gun control that appeared to be more in step with Democrats, confusing Republicans and the NRA.

In a freewheeling televised meeting with lawmakers, he suggested that, when it came to potential threats:


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Take the guns first, go through due process second.


BRENNAN: That would be unconstitutional. He endorsed a bill tightening background checks at gun shows proposed by Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Manchin and demanded to know why it didn't include raising the purchase age for some weapons to 21.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't address it, Mr. President.

TRUMP: You know why? Because you're afraid of the NRA, right?


BRENNAN: The president insisted he wasn't afraid of the NRA, but after meeting with their top lobbyist, the White House signaled he backed off. And the NRA said he agreed with them.

Republicans downplayed the president's evolving positions.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, you may have noticed that interesting reality TV show at the White House.


BRENNAN: But the president had another surprise policy announcement, this one also supported by some Democrats.


TRUMP: We will be imposing tariffs on steel imports and tariffs on aluminum imports. It will be 25 percent steel. It will be 10 percent for aluminum.


BRENNAN: Republicans weren't the only ones unhappy with that. The stock market dropped 500 points. U.S. trading partners were furious. And even "The Wall Street Journal" called it the biggest policy blunder of his presidency.

The president responded in a tweet that, "Trade wars are good and easy to win." He later threatened to tax European car imports. On the personnel front, President Trump publicly blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions again.

And new press reports revived an old rumor, that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was on his way out. Following a day of questioning by lawmakers investigating Russian collusion, the president's longest serving aide, Hope Hicks, announced her departure from the West Wing.

Jared Kushner's security clearance was downgraded, as the FBI continues to look into his business dealings. And, on Friday "The New York Times" reported that the president has privately asked White House Chief of Staff Kelly for his help in moving them, meaning Jared and Ivanka, out.

Kelly also had a rough week, admitting to reporters he had not properly handled the security clearance issue. And Kelly aggravated the president when he joked at a celebration for his former department.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The last thing I wanted to do was walk away from one of the great honors of my life, being the secretary of homeland security. But I did something wrong, and God punished me, I guess.



BRENNAN: At an off-camera press dinner last night, the president made light of the chaos, joking that it's been another calm week at the White House, and it's finally running like a fine-tuned machine.

With that, we begin this morning with South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He joins us from Clemson, South Carolina.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You got to be kidding me.


BRENNAN: Senator, where do we begin here here?

GRAHAM: I don't know.

BRENNAN: Do you have a message to the president after this week?


As to guns, you have an obligation to give you a package to consider regarding school safety and guns. You did a good job talking in front of the country about the problem. Let's come up with solutions that are bipartisan. Propose something, Mr. President, and I think Republicans have obligation to work with Democrats to make it law if we can.

So, that's guns.

On trade, you correctly identified the problem of China dumping steel throughout the world to destroy the American steel industry. Your solution is let China off the hook. It's only going to hurt American consumers and our allies. Please reconsider your solution.

BRENNAN: Well, sir, on the issue of personnel confusion and some policy confusion that you referred to there...

GRAHAM: Can't help you on the personnel front.

BRENNAN: Well, do you still have faith in Chief of Staff John Kelly?

And now there are rumors once again about the fate of the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. Are you confident in him?

GRAHAM: I'm very confident in H.R. McMaster. I think he's learned as much about the war on terror from fighting it than anybody that I know. I think he's really smart on North Korea and Iran.

I hope the president will keep him around, but it's up to the president. He can fire anybody he likes, but I have lot of confidence in General McMaster.

And John Kelly, to me, has created order out of chaos initially. It's kind of back sliding now. But I think John Kelly is the right guy to continue to help the president organize his agenda. Have a lot of faith and trust in John Kelly. Hope he stays.

BRENNAN: You just came back from the Middle East. Given the concerns about Jared Kushner's security clearance level being downgraded, do you think that he can possibly lead this Middle East peace policy push without the full security clearance?

GRAHAM: The last thing on my mind right now is the peace process.

We're about to have a war between Israel and Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. Iran is winning, and we're losing. So, I went to Israel and Jordan. The king of Jordan is under siege. Plus, we have no policy regarding, as the United States, the Russian-Iranian access.

Southern Lebanon is a rocket-launching site against Israel. They are developing precision-guided weapons. So, I would focus on containing Iran, rather than pushing the peace process that's broken.

If we don't come up with a strategy against Iran, we're going to make Israel go to war here pretty soon with the Hezbollah elements in Southern Lebanon.

BRENNAN: Well, you're referring there, though, to the outgrowth of the war in Syria.


BRENNAN: The president was very clear. We're there just to get rid of ISIS and get out.

Does he need to reconsider that policy? How do you fix the problem you identified?

GRAHAM: Well, he said he didn't want to turn Iran over -- Syria over to Iran. We don't have a strategy to contain Iran. They are about to take over Damascus.

He's done a good job fighting ISIL. But Iran is now dominating the Mideast. Hezbollah elements being supplied by Iran have over 100,000 missiles pointed at Israel. The king of Jordan has suffered mightily from the Syrian civil war.

If we don't push Iran out and come up with an agreement in Geneva that gives Syria back to the Syrians, this war never ends.

So, Mr. President, it is just not about defeating ISIL. If you leave Syria in the hands of Russia and the Iranians, this war never ends and our friend in Israel are in a world of hurt.

BRENNAN: Do you know where the president's red line is on chemical weapons, which the Assad regime continues to use?

GRAHAM: I thought I did. But I don't any longer.

Clearly, he did use chemical weapons yet again. What I'd like to see is a no-fly zone inside of Syria, where people could go back to Syria from the surrounding neighborhood, and we would train Syrian Democratic Forces to take Assad on and tell the Russians and the Iranians, if you bomb these people, you do so at your own peril, and try to level out the chaos in Syria, go to Geneva to get a peace agreement.

You will never get an agreement in Geneva as long as Assad is winning on the battlefield. Our policy in Syria is a complete mess. We're AWOL when it comes to containing Russia and Iran and Syria. And that's a real threat to the region.

BRENNAN: I want to get back to what you referred to there in regard to the president's surprise announcement on trade tariffs on steel and aluminum.


BRENNAN: You know, BMW has its largest plant in the world in your home state.

GRAHAM: Yes. Right.

BRENNAN: And now the president is talking about putting taxes on European cars.

GRAHAM: Right.

BRENNAN: What are you going to tell the president to do about this? Are you calling for a full reversal?

GRAHAM: Bad idea.

You need -- here is what I would tell the president. The reason our steel industry has been decimated is because of China dumping.

China produces more steel than the world consumes for several years in a row. China is your problem, Mr. President. Taxing European car imports hurts BMW, because they can do the same thing to us. BMW makes more cars in Greenville, South Carolina, than any plant in the entire BMW family.

Volkswagens come to South Carolina. We got a steel plant in South Carolina. We got -- we make more tires than any place in the United States; 32 percent of the tires exported from the United States comes from South Carolina.

This tariff on steel is going to hurt them. So, go after China.

BRENNAN: So, you want the president to revise this to be more targeted specifically at Beijing, and perhaps exempt certain countries?

GRAHAM: Totally.

You're letting China off the hook. China wins when we fight with Europe. China wins when the American consumer has higher prices because of tariffs that don't affect Chinese behavior.

If you want to affect China, get back in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Be present in Asia. Hit them on intellectual property theft. Hit them on currency manipulation. Hit them about steel dumping. China is winning and we're losing with this tariff regime.

You're letting China off the hook. You're punishing the American consumer and our allies. You're making a huge mistake here. Go after China, not the rest of the world.

BRENNAN: On the issue of gun policy, you seem to think there was something possible to get done.


BRENNAN: I understand you're introducing a bill this week regarding so-called red flag policies that would allow authorities to seize guns before people commit violence.


BRENNAN: What kind of prospects do you see for this?

GRAHAM: Really good prospects. The president did a good job talking about we should be able to do something to stop shootings like this.

We tell our citizens, if you see something, say something. Well, everybody saw something, and everybody said something, but the government did nothing. So, under this bill, you could go to a federal judge, law enforcement people, family members could, and petition for a restraining order when -- you have got to make the case, give due process.

This person is about to blow up here. They're becoming mentally unstable. Create a system that would intervene. This guy was visited by the cops 30 times. People called the FBI, and nobody did a damn thing.

So this bill would allow judges to take guns away from a guy like this before it's too late. I hope the president will get behind this, because it worked in Indiana. And that's where we're modeling out law, off the Indiana law.

BRENNAN: Very quickly, sir, do you have any idea if Republican leadership will take this to the floor? And it's a controversial issue in an election year.

GRAHAM: If we don't, we're going to get hurt, because most Americans believe we should solve problems that Americans are facing, like gun violence and school safety problems.

If we don't take this up, and if Democrats don't work with us, we will all suffer. And we should.

BRENNAN: All right. Senator Lindsey Graham, thank you for joining us this morning from South Carolina.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BRENNAN: We now turn now to Senator Joe Manchin. He is a Democrat from West Virginia, a state that gave candidate Donald Trump 68 percent of the vote and has the fourth highest gun ownership rate in the country.

Senator, welcome to the show. I know you...

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Thanks for having me, Margaret.

BRENNAN: I know you are trying to do something...


BRENNAN: ... on gun control.

You were with the president this week. Do you have any idea what the vote count is on the bill you're putting forward?

MANCHIN: Well, first of all, it's not gun control. It's gun sense.

Pat Toomey and myself -- I introduced a bill in 2013, and Pat was my co-sponsor. And we worked together on this. And we protected the Second Amendment rights. We protected law-abiding gun owners.

All we did was go into the loopholes at the gun shows, on the Internet sales, commercial transactions, when you don't know people, and make sure that we do that background check before you have that gun.

BRENNAN: Though that bill didn't cross that 50-vote threshold back in 2013. Where are the votes now?


MANCHIN: Excuse me.

If President Trump would have been president in 2013, that bill would have passed.

BRENNAN: You think he's giving the kind of leadership now that will allow your bill to pass?

MANCHIN: No one -- no -- well, I'm -- I'm very hopeful.

President Trump has said background checks is needed. This bill of ours, the Manchin-Toomey bill, should the base bill they work off of. John Cornyn has a good Fix NICS. That was part of our bill. Let's incorporate those.

But this makes gun sense. It makes common sense. It keeps it out of the hands of the wrong people. When the terrorists go on the Web site, and said, if you want to do harm in America, go down to the gun show, buy what you want.

That's all we're saying. But you have to respect the law-abiding gun owner. They're not going to sell the gun to strangers or criminals or terrorists. They're going to do the right thing.

But when you don't know them, and the transaction is commercial, you should make sure you have a background check. That's all we have said. So, I think that we can with the president. And he can set his legacy.

President Trump coming forth to something like this and putting his support behind will give Republicans enough cover to support this in the most reasonable, responsible way.

BRENNAN: But you don't have an explicit commitment yet from the president on this?

MANCHIN: No. He -- we had a great meeting on Wednesday. And I know the NRA said they had a great meeting on Thursday. So, if we both had great meetings, can't we come to get a good, great result from those meetings, and do something that's supporting and protecting our children?

And we have school. We have to have school lockdowns. We have to have schools secured. That has to be done. Mental background, making sure -- the bill that Lindsey is talking about is very good. When people say something and they come forward, then we should act upon that.

BRENNAN: The president called out your partner on this bill and said that Pat Toomey was afraid of the NRA, because you didn't include an increase in the age limit for purchases of some weapons in this bill.

Are you actually going to consider including that?

MANCHIN: Oh, the age, it is a no-brainer.

BRENNAN: You are going to revise your bill to include it?

MANCHIN: That is a no-brainer.

But I'm saying -- but, again, it's going to take the president's support to put that into the bill to make sure we can get the votes to pass it. But if there's...

BRENNAN: Is that why this -- this provision isn't in there right now.

MANCHIN: The provision wasn't in there. It wasn't brought up at that time. That's the only reason it wasn't. It wasn't said -- it wasn't brought to our attention that that was a criteria that we should say, well, your handguns is 21, but long guns or the assault rifles are at 18.

That wasn't considered. We were just trying to move the ball forward and say, listen, background checks just at gun shows and on the Internet makes gun sense. It's common sense. Couldn't even get that.

So, when he said you didn't put that in there, it wasn't considered because it wasn't brought up to that level.

BRENNAN: You're very specific in what you're proposing. But, broadly speaking, are you concerned that this push among Democrats for more gun regulation could hurt your own personal prospects?


MANCHIN: It will stop everything.

I'm not going to take the guns away from any law-abiding gun owner. I'm going to protect the Second Amendment rights. But we have to make sure that we're moving in a way that we can get something accomplished. How do you secure the schools? How do we make sure that the children -- I said only fear child should have going to school in the morning, did they do their homework and are they ready for their math and English tests?

That's what they should be scared of. They shouldn't be scared of their safety. And we have got to make sure that we do that. Mental background. There are so many things that contribute to this.

But to have an open system to where you can go to a gun show and go to a table that's not by a federal licensed dealer and buy whatever you want without anyone asking one question needs to be stopped.

BRENNAN: I want to ask you about trade.


BRENNAN: Do you support the president's proposals on tariffs?


MANCHIN: I like where the president is going on this. I really do.

And, here, West Virginia, Weirton West Virginia, Ravenswood, West Virginia, we have lost thousands and thousands of jobs.

BRENNAN: So, 25 and 10 percent tariffs, you're fine? You're not asking for any revisions?

MANCHIN: Well, I'm not -- I'm not going into particulars, OK?

I think, at the end of the day, we will come to what is responsible. But if someone is charging West Virginia -- or charging the United States of America 25 percent for us to send our goods to their shores, and they're coming into our market at 5 percent, don't you think it should be tit for tat, it should be basically equal?

We're talking about fair trade. Free trade hasn't worked well for West Virginia. It really hasn't. We have lost thousands of jobs. And we're taking about a fairness to the system.


BRENNAN: So, concerns about trickle-down costs, price going up for your constituents, you have dismissed those?

MANCHIN: That's Wall Street talking. That's all Wall Street talking.

I know exactly. And there's an old saying. Follow the money. That's what is talking here. The people at Main Street are saying, we got devastated. We got hurt. We have lost good jobs with benefits. We can't compete.

When you have China producing 50 percent of the world's steel, you have the United States of America basically is consuming, the largest importer of steel, put the dots together. And Lindsey talked about that.

Connect the dots. We have got to do something. But, also, we wouldn't punish our favored trading nations, where we have surpluses with them, and there's not a negative trade war.

BRENNAN: I want to ask you, because you sit on Intelligence Committee. Three dozen White House officials had their security clearances downgraded this week. Does it concern you how the White House is handling classified information?

MANCHIN: Well, it's a serious consideration there, my goodness, yes, because I know, sitting on the -- just to give you an example, I sit on the Intel Committee.

There's 15 of us that sit on the Intel Committee in the Senate. We can't even discuss with the other 85 senators what we talk about and what we understand and what we learn. That tells you how serious it is, the top-secret information that we're able to have access to.

This is very serious. I have faith in John Kelly that he will get this under control. It is of serious concern, and something has to be done. And we have to get those people in responsible positions with the clearance as quickly as we can.

If there is a problem, and you can't get through it, then they're going to have to make some decisions on they want to have this information.

BRENNAN: Senator Manchin, thank you for joining us on set.

MANCHIN: It's always good to be with you. Thank you.

BRENNAN: Appreciate it.

And we will be back in one minute to talk with one of the president's key trade advisers.

So, stay with us.


BRENNAN: We're back now with the director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, Peter Navarro.

Peter, welcome to the show.

The president made this announcement. It surprised the markets. It surprised many on Capitol Hill, 10 percent tariff on aluminum, 25 steel.

For how long, and are these rates negotiable?

PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: Well, first of all, I'm surprised anyone was surprised by this.

This goes back to April, when the president directed the secretary of commerce to investigate what is a serious threat to our aluminum and steel industries.

We have gone to many, many meetings. The secretary of commerce came out with two reports in January. The president has been talking about this all the way back to the campaign trail.

BRENNAN: But these rates, are these set in stone? Is the president going to sign on them this week?


So, the schedule is, these are going legal review. Office of Legal Counsel, for form and legality. We expect probably by the end of the week that these will be signed.

The president, at that Thursday meeting, which was a beautiful event -- and to give you context, this is a serious decision to make. The president wanted to make a measured decision. And so he brought in the executives from the steel and aluminum industries, went around the room, gave them the opportunity.

BRENNAN: I was in there.

NAVARRO: Well, you know what happened. He asked them what they thought. They liked tariffs better than quotas. They wanted it across the board. And they wanted it open-ended, so that would encourage maximum investment. And that's what the president came in...


BRENNAN: Well, they liked it. You're right. The steel and aluminum CEOs love this.

But those who use steel and aluminum in their products, carmakers like Honda, like Ford, are saying they're going to be increased cost to them, and they may pass those on to consumers. What are your projection on that?


NAVARRO: And my projections is, there is negligible to nothing effects.

And let me just do a little numbers for you . Six pack of beer or Coke, aluminum, cent and a half at the most in terms of cost. Go to the other end of the spectrum, one of the greatest planes ever made, the Boeing 777, $330 millionaire craft, 10 percent tariff on aluminum raises the cost of that by $25,000.

BRENNAN: Has Boeing given that you number, or is that your projection?

NAVARRO: We -- we -- we calculated that. It's a good number. It's inside. It won't be challenged.

BRENNAN: And in terms of trickle down to the consumer, you think some of these companies, if their costs go up, they're going to eat it, they're not going to pass it along to everyday Americans?

NAVARRO: And that's a great point in and of itself.

But even if they don't eat it, what I'm saying is, these effects are second-order small. And I think the American people are willing to pay a cent and half more for a six pack of beer in order to have an aluminum and steel industry.

And I think this is the most important point about these two particular actions, because they're different from a lot of things we're doing on trade. The president said, correctly, that we don't have a country unless we have an aluminum industry and a steel industry.

And I can tell you right now that aluminum is on life support. We have lost six smelters since 2013. We're down to five smelters. Only two of them are at full capacity. We're running at a 43 percent capacity rate. And we only have one that makes the high, pure aluminum for defense applications.

BRENNAN: But your concern there is because of oversupply and dumping, specifically by China. The president mentioned that last week.

So, why not target these sanctions towards -- or -- excuse me -- tariffs towards Beijing? Are you going to have exemptions or carve-outs for any countries like Canada?

NAVARRO: That's not the way to look at this particular problem.

The problem here is simply that imports are coming in and putting our aluminum companies out of business and our steel companies out of business. Since 2000, we have lost 75,000 steelworkers and countless facilities.

BRENNAN: So, you don't want to target Beijing?

NAVARRO: This is not a China problem.

We have plenty of issues with China, and we have a 301 investigation where they are stealing our intellectual property, forcing the technology transfer. It's a China problem, in that, as Senator Manchin said earlier, China controls five 55 percent of the aluminum market and about 50 percent of the steel market.

Now, you go back to 2000. In aluminum, we were the largest aluminum producer in the world. Today, we have 1.5 percent of the global market share. China's got 55 percent.

What is wrong -- now, what happens is, when they overproduce, it puts pressure on the whole markets.


NAVARRO: But it's not a China problem. You can't get from here to Beijing and solve this problem. What you want to do, for national security purposes...

BRENNAN: Why do this now, right now? The economy and markets are -- things are going well for the Trump administration.

NAVARRO: Well, wouldn't that be the best time to do that?

This is the -- this -- and, look, the president, going back 20 years, has identified problems with the loss of our manufacturing, the defense industrial base. That's what we're doing here.


NAVARRO: We need an aluminum industry and a steel industry. The president stood up against the swamp and he's giving the people what we need.

BRENNAN: And we will wait to get those details later this week.

NAVARRO: Absolutely.

BRENNAN: Peter, thank you.

We will be back in a moment.


BRENNAN: This past week, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students returned to class.

One of those students who was killed was Meadow Pollack. And her father, Andrew, is here with us. We will talk to him when we come back.


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

So, stay with us.


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

Andrew Pollack is the father of 18-year-old Meadow, who was killed last month at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. And he joins me here.

We are so sorry for the loss of your daughter, sir. And I know that you've become active. You've been at the White House a number of times, including this week.

What happened in that meeting today -- or this week?

ANDREW POLLACK, FATHER OF MEADOW POLLACK: Well, first, I just want to tell everyone in America that is passionate about school safety, like I am, to follow me on remembermeadow.com. And they'll be able to help me in my cause of what we're going to do moving forward to help every other state move forward towards making their schools safe so I can be the last dad that ever had to bury a kid killed in a school.

BRENNAN: You have spoken passionately about this. And Americans heard that cry when you spoke to the president directly on camera.


BRENNAN: You went back to talk about school safety this week.


BRENNAN: Do you have any pledges from the White House to follow through on some of what you're talking about with school safety?

POLLACK: Well, I went twice to the White House within the last two weeks. The president and every one of his staff was very compassionate having my family in -- in the White House. He -- he -- what could you say to a -- a murdered kid's father, you know? There's not much anyone is going to say that's going to make anything better for me. But he listened to things and suggestions that I had and what we're working on in Florida. And that's my agenda, what we're going to move -- we're going to move forward and fix these things. I'm not looking at any other type of agenda right now.

And that's why I came here because it's not really -- I grew up -- when I grew up in Long Island, I -- my father instilled in me, if you wanted something done right, you do it yourself. So right now I'm -- I'm trying to do things my way and help. Not -- I'm not listening -- I'm not leaving it up to the president. I'm taking it in my hand and -- with a lot of people behind me, and we're going to focus on school safety. And that's one of the reasons I'm here today. I have a message that I'd like to get out.

BRENNAN: And you're going and taking that message to Tallahassee, Florida, I understand, this week.

POLLACK: Yes. So one of the reasons why I'm here is because there's been 200 shootings already in this country and there's a reason why it hasn't stopped, because after every shooting the media, they focus on gun control. OK, gun control, that's a big problem. But I feel that if we all come together as parents, grandparents, uncles and we just work on this, let's make our schools safe, all the marchers that are going on that they're going to have in D.C., the kids, I understand the kids' pain. My kid was murdered in that school. So if anyone understands it, I understand, every kid in that school, how angry they are.

But I'm here now to talk to them, to say, let's focus on one thing first. Let's -- let's get our schools safe. And then, after every school's safe in the country that you could drop your kid off and you don't have to worry that some murderer is going to go kill your kid on the third floor, we could -- they could focus on any gun laws they want. I don't -- but, first, let's come together.

We could march right through this country. Who's going to stop us? Who doesn't want our kid safe? Stay focused. Stay focused, OK? I'm talking to you, everyone out there. You reach out to me. Let's stay focused. Reach out to me. Reach out to my sons who buried their little sister a couple of weeks ago. Let them march with you in D.C. Let's get the right message across. Let's make these schools safe.

BRENNAN: This weekend your home state of Florida, the state senate, rejected to proposal to ban assault weapons and supported the idea of arming teachers. Now, some of the classmates of your daughter are among these activists.


BRENNAN: One of them, Jaclyn Corin tweeted, the Florida Senate has rejected the ban of AR-15's, the weapon of choice used at my school to kill 17 souls. This breaks my heart, but we will not let this ruin our movement. This is for the kids.

What do you think your daughter, Meadow, would be doing in the wake of something like this?

POLLACK: That -- that's the problem, again, what -- that's -- they're focusing on something that's not achievable. Gun laws right now are not achievable. My daughter was murdered by a gun. She should have been safe in the school. That's the problem.

BRENNAN: So is the --

POLLACK: OK, that's the first thing I want to address. I -- I'm not saying don't go after gun laws. I'm not a gun expert. I'm saying, that's the problem. We need -- there was 200 shootings that's always getting twisted into gun laws and gun control. If we all focus together, one nation, no political affiliation, we could work together and make the school safe. And then go fight it out whatever you want.

BRENNAN: So you want armed guards in schools or more bullet-plated glass? What -- what do you want to see?

POLLACK: Well, I want to see what's in this Florida bill passed. That's what I'm for. And -- and I'm going to go to Tallahassee. I'm leaving to Tallahassee tonight. And I want Florida to set an example for the rest of the country. Because I went over the bill.

I've met with Governor Scott. Governor Scott came to my house like twice already, came to the funeral, calls me on a daily basis to check up on me. He went -- he went -- he showed me this bill. People -- the speaker of the house went over the bill with me. And we need to get the bill passed in Florida. And that's why when I leave here tonight, I'm on a mission. I'm going to Tallahassee and I'm going to make sure the bill passes, whatever I have to do.

BRENNAN: All right, Mr. Pollack, thank you for coming on and sharing your story with us.

We'll be right back with our panel.


BRENNAN: And now to our panel for some analysis.

Joining us is Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of "USA Today," Jeffrey Goldberg is the editor in chief of "The Atlantic," Margaret Talev is the senior White House correspondent for "Bloomberg," and Ed O'Keefe covers Congress for "The Washington Post" and is also a CBS News contributor.

Susan, turbulent weeks at the White House before. How do you rate this one?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": I think this has -- we've gotten accustom to a level of chaos. It's been untraditional. But I think this week was -- reached a new level and is raising new concerns about the operation of the White House.

I think what's different is, you know, we've had previous administrations that have had rough patches and hard starts. The Clinton administration had a very tough first year. But what's different this time is that things are not getting smoother. They're not working things out. Things, if anything, are getting more chaotic. And with the personnel changes we're seeing and the difficulty the president may have in getting experienced people to plan on, it may get worse, not better.

BRENNAN: Now, what do you think is the single most sort of defining issue for the week? I mean the security clearances got a lot of scrutiny, but some of that was simply the fascination with Jared Kushner, the son-in-law. Is that something that really rises to the level of defining a crisis at the White House?

PAGE: I think the defining crisis at the White House is the Russia investigation because that is the issue that has the greatest sense -- the greatest long term consequence ahead. And I think that is driving some of the sense of turbulence in the building.

BRENNAN: Margaret, it was a surprise to many on Capitol Hill, on Wall Street, and some within the White House when the president made the trade announcement at that cabinet room gathering. No one was quite prepared for him to unveil what he did. Why is that a surprise inside the same administration?

MARGARET TALEV, "BLOOMBERG": Right. And I think when you're talking about sort of defining issues, Russia is the biggest long term pressure. But the biggest short term development of the week, other than that NRA show the day before, was this move on tariffs because when the president is trying to rush to expedite things around half of his own team, or maybe two-thirds of his own team, that shows -- that show the possibility for real tumult and sort of a lack of control internally.

And there is a -- there is a major and ongoing disagreement inside the White House about whether these tariffs are going to be good or bad for the economy, good or bad for consumers, good or bad for jobs.

BRENNAN: And that pits Peter Navarro and Secretary Ross against Gary Cohn, against the Treasury secretary, against the secretary of state.

TALEV: It certainly does. And in terms of ongoing stability, there is the sense that Gary Cohn and a couple of other -- of those figures, that they are going to try to help to stabilize things in a time when Hope Hicks' departure leaves the president venerable, when questions about Jared Kushner and how long he can remain in the job have unsettled kind of that dynamic of family and trust that is so important for any president to have. I mean, look, it doesn't -- whether Jared Kushner should have that portfolio is a different question from whether the president should be able to have his -- a couple of close, trusted family or friends or confidantes around or close by.

To disrupt his own dynamic, which is part of what the president did by expediting this, you know, aluminum announcement --

BRENNAN: Before it was figured out in detail.

TALEV: Absolutely. It's disruptive. It is a campaign promise. He is following through on something he talked about. That's all true. But it is nonetheless disruptive.

BRENNAN: And, Ed, it caught a lot of Republican leadership by surprise.


BRENNAN: This isn't your typical pro-business position.

O'KEEFE: Not at all. I mean the fact that you saw the speaker's office pretty quickly say that we hope the president sort of considers what this could mean. To see guys like Orrin Hatch and most of the Republican lawmakers at least that were reached in the wake of this say that they have concerns about it, you know, that's -- that's pretty telling. And it was a week where he, you know, once again stuck it to members of his party, both by doing this and then to their face at that dramatic meeting at the White House where he told the majority whip, a guy who, you know, took a bullet last summer and whose trying to enact changes in gun laws, but wants to do it in a way that is certainly more conservative, that one of the proposals he wants to handle is not going to pass.

BRENNAN: On concealed carry.

O'KEEFE: On concealed carry. And then says that, you know, an assault weapon should be seriously considered, which is something that has been anathema to Republicans for the last 20 years or so. So, you know, it's an incredible week.

And the fact that we still don't see many Republicans sort of standing up to him and saying, hold on a second here, you know, you're the leader of this party, we have some principles, you're clearly not following them, says a lot about how fearful they still are of him and the power that he can exert over the base.

TALEV: Yes, we did see some (INAUDIBLE) on those two issues. I think we did begin to see some Republicans push back and say, I hope you'll reconsider this or, well, you know, I'm not really sure that will work.

O'KEEFE: Yes, but, you know, words is one thing. And, you know, are they going to take votes against him? Are they going to block legislation he wants from getting the vote, which they very well could do. You know, that would be -- that would be bolder, certainly.

BRENNAN: Do you think, Jeff, that there's going to be an implication for congressional races over this flexibility or this, you know, inability to pin the president down on what he's actually asking for, or standing for, on these issues?

JEFF GOLDBERG, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I mean, since no one knows what he's standing for at any given moment -- oh, wait, we know at any given moment what he's standing for. We don't know if that moment will continue.

Look, he does have a populist sense of where people's anger is, right? And if he can convince people that what he's doing is preventing America from being suckered by allies and adversaries alike on trade, then he might actually do well on that.

On the gun issue, it's a little bit harder. But I don't have much expectation that anything really is going to shift on guns at the end of the day. His basis is base and he's going to -- he's going to coddle his base. And the Republicans on The Hill are going to be very (INAUDIBLE) --

PAGE: Hey, it's his -- it's his party now. You know, Republicans on The Hill may think it's their party. It's not. If you look at issues like attitudes toward Russia or free trade or fiscal discipline, this is a party that has been redefined by Donald Trump and it's -- it may not be a majority party, it may not be good for Republicans who have to run down the ballot in November, but Donald Trump now defines what the GOP is.

GOLDBERG: It's -- it's so interesting, I was on The Hill this week and I ran into a Republican senator and we were talking for a few minutes about some of these broader foreign policy issues. I mean this is a week, remember, in which Vladimir Putin announced that he has a new, invincible missile that can be used to attack Florida, China's leader just -- just became an absolute dictator for life, praised, of course, by the president, by President Trump, in which the intelligence community has said that -- openly now that the president is not supporting their efforts to combat Russian meddling and -- and -- and -- and I -- this is a senator I know has strong feelings about all of those issues, and not Trump's feelings. But he said, you know, what's the use of me going out and -- and saying these things when -- when everyone knows that the party is his party. The best thing to do is embrace him, to embrace him and try to shift the -- the dialogue a little bit, rather than go out in public and excoriate -- you saw what happened to Jeff Flake when you go out and publicly excoriate.

O'KEEFE: And, Margaret, if they don't understand the foreign policy, voters are certainly going to start to pick up on all the other things that are going on across the government. Look at what else has happened in the last few weeks while we've been focused on West Wing drama. You have three cabinet secretaries facing questions about their spending habits, whether that's Ben Carson and the $30,000 hutch he wanted to buy for his office --

GOLDBERG: $31,000.

O'KEEFE: $31,000. OK.

GOLDBERG: Sorry, fact check. Sorry.

O'KEEFE: You had the VA secretary and the EPA administrator spending tens of thousands of dollars on first class travel, not only between D.C. and New York, but D.C. and Europe. And then you've got a brain drain going on at the State Department. The top North Korea specialist left this week. And you have a Pentagon now being forced to spend at least $30 million on a Veterans Day Parade they don't want.

All these things are going to start to sort of snowball in addition to the world problems.


O'KEEFE: And if they don't get bothered by what the president's doing and the changes he's making in the party's ideology, they might just look at government run amuck and go, it's time to put some checks in place.

BRENNAN: And the U.S. ambassador to Mexico resigned.

O'KEEFE: That's right.


BRENNAN: Jeff, going back to the foreign policy idea though.

You were referencing there those comments and testimony by Admiral Rogers, right --


BRENNAN: About say can basically the U.S. isn't prepared and not doing enough --

GOLDBERG: Until the president tells him to do something, he can't do something.

BRENNAN: And hasn't given him the authority to do much pushback against Russian election meddling.

GOLDBERG: Right. Right.

BRENNAN: He said Putin's been undeterred.




BRENNAN: That -- those were deliberate comments made to that committee. What is he actually asking them to do?

GOLDBERG: Well, he -- what he -- what he wants Trump to do. I mean look, what -- what we know underneath this is -- is that -- is that the intelligence community is itching to fight back with cyber -- and we have plenty of ways. The American government has plenty of ways to not only defend but actually go on the offensive against radical cyber actors, right?

And, you know, the -- the -- from what I understand, the intelligence community and the defense establishment both are --are sitting there. The -- it's dramatic. It sounds dramatic. But what they're saying is that we are being attacked and we're not defending.

And they don't go to -- to motive. They don't try to ascribe. They don't involve when -- when they're talking about this, the Mueller investigation. But the implication is clear, the president has a soft spot for Putin, just as he's shown that he has a soft spot for Xi, the Chinese leader, and for other autocrats. And they're -- they're sitting there thinking that the world has gone upside down.

PAGE: You know, it's interesting that we did a poll about what's at the top -- the "USA Today"/Suffolk poll about what's the top issue affecting your vote in November? And we had polled a thousand registered voters. Five of them said Russia meddling in the election. Not 5 percent, five individuals of the thousand we polled. And if you -- if we -- the number one issue by far was the combination of school safety and guns. And so when you had Mr. Pollack on, you know, if you want to talk about a powerful political statement that could affect what happens in November, listen to him.

BRENNAN: He talked about wanting to sort of join that march at the end of next month and saying this needs to be more inclusive and redirected towards school safety. Is that where we're seeing the White House shift now, no more gun safety, it's about hardening schools?

TALEV: I mean the -- when President Trump gave these remarks a few days ago, these extraordinary remarks, he -- if you were a student, a parent, someone outside of Washington watching that, you would think the president is going to go to the mat for background checks, possibly to raise the age, to take on the NRA, to do gun control. And what you've seen both behind the scenes and sort of publicly in the last few days is a real shift away from that position.

I think the president, on the one hand, showed everybody in that moment that -- exactly what people who want those sort of limits were saying, that he actually has the capability, if he really cared about it and wanted to stick with one or two of those issues, to possibly push those through.

But to the extent that he doesn't immediately follow up on that, I think there's the potential for a -- for a backlash against him and against Republicans in some potentially key districts. Not in -- not in a lot of places, and not in certain primaries, but when it becomes general election time, it's dangerous to have sort of captured the emotions and hearts and minds of so many people who want that if you are not going to follow through on them. And I -- I think he may have taken a risk in doing that.

O'KEEFE: Important to remember, nothing is expected to happen on this on the floor of the House or the Senate until just before or after Easter. And you've got a two-week break there in the mid of Easter. So we're not looking at action until April probably, if it ever comes, because there's no guarantee that it will.

BRENNAN: And there may --

O'KEEFE: But to your point on school safety, I was struck. I had interview on Friday with Dianne Feinstein, who, of course, has spent most of the last 20 years pushing for an assault weapons ban and to have it renewed. She repeatedly, for the first time -- we've had conversations like this after almost every shooting as she tries to push for the ban again -- has changed her arguments lately and said, school safety is the number one issue here. I want to make sure that we are protecting schools. To hear someone like that even acknowledge that that is what the focus should be on and that's where they think there could be bipartisan agreement is telling and suggesting, yes, maybe this time, because of the students and the parents who so quickly and forcefully have spoken out, there's a chance something could happen.

BRENNAN: Jeffrey, on the issue of North Korea, the president, at the gridiron last night, made a joke sort of saying, yes, I'm open to direct talks --

TALEV: Sort of. Sort of.

BRENNAN: Sort of, about, you know, engaging Kim Jong-un directly. This issue of North Korea seems to be dividing some within the national security apparatus around the president. Is that what's behind the issues with H.R. McMaster?

GOLDBERG: I think there are a lot of things behind the issues with H.R. McMaster. I think this is one of them.

I think the problem with H.R. McMaster is that he's not empowered as a national security advisor. You have the secretary of defense, the secretary of state who, by the way, would like to --

BRENNAN: We're going to have to wrap it here.

GOLDBERG: Keep Trump from doing this on North Korea. They're on one side. And it's a very divided administration.

BRENNAN: Indeed.

We'll be back in a moment.


BRENNAN: (INAUDIBLE) reported on the U.N.'s call for a cease fire in Syria. That was ignored. And the Syrian pro-Assad forces have kept up the punishing assault on civilians in eastern Ghouta. That's just outside Damascus.

On Friday, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights said the assault likely included war crimes and potentially crimes against humanity.

CBS News correspondent Seth Doane filed this report from Damascus he was there under the supervision of the Syrian government.


SETH DOANE, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Syrian and Russian force are trying to strangle the mix of militant groups who dug in to the Damascus suburb. But they're also suffocating hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Activists have released images from inside. The barrel bombs keep coming, this man said. There's nothing left.

Destruction in eastern Ghouta is widespread and more than 600 civilians, including about 150 children, are believed to have died in the last two weeks.

DOANE (on camera): Syrian soldiers are taking us to what is now the front line in this fight for eastern Ghouta.

DOANE (voice over): There in the distance we could see the prize for Syrian forces, the rebel held area they'd like to recapture to solidify control of the capital.

DOANE (on camera): This is one of the actual humanitarian corridors that has been set up. It is a pathway designed to allow civilians to flee eastern Ghouta and aid to get in.

DOANE (voice over): The U.N. has said the daily five-hour pause in hostilities is not long enough to effectively distribute aid. Fearful residents haven't crossed. And the patchwork of militant groups vying for power in eastern Ghouta leaves no clear negotiating partner.

It's impossible for us to travel to the heart of eastern Ghouta, so we reached one doctor by telephone. He told us his hospital was bombed, that he's been doing surgeries underground.

DOANE (on camera): What is most difficult for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is most difficult. Most difficult for me to see my patients die and I cannot do anything to help.

DOANE: Here on the government side of this conflict, which is all we have access to, support for President Bashar al Assad is strong. We keep hearing how, after seven years of war, people are weary and just want this war ended.

DOANE (voice over): Rebels have fought back with what they have. Often its mortars fired into neighborhoods that back the government.

DOANE (on camera): This man's house was just recently hit by mortars. He's asked us to come upstairs to see.

You say you were --

DOANE (voice over): We wondered what Safran Hamadi (ph) thought about civilians trapped in eastern Ghouta.

"I don't worry about them," he told us. "They hit my house. They are terrorists, not civilians."

DOANE (on camera): This is your son? How old?

DOANE (voice over): At a Damascus hospital, we met a man recovering from a rebel attack that killed his four-year-old son. Nihad Asaf (ph) is his doctor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very, very difficult to see (INAUDIBLE) this. We're suffering from injury or anything (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE).

DOANE (on camera): Either side.


DOANE (voice over): It was a glimpse of humanity and civility in a conflict that's torn this country apart, killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.

Amid all of that, civilians are forced to live with the consequences and find some way to cope.


BRENNAN: That's Seth Doane reporting from Syria.

And we'll be back in a moment.


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