Full transcript: "Face the Nation" on October 7, 2018

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JOHN DICKERSON: It's Sunday, October 7th. I'm John Dickerson and this is FACE THE NATION.

The fight over Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court is finally over but the angry atmosphere both outside--

CROWD (in unison): November is coming.

JOHN DICKERSON: --and inside the Capitol--

MAZIE HIRONO: That's what I am left with, Mister President, anger, fury, disgust.

JOHN CORNYN: It has been cruel, reckless and indecent both to Doctor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh.

JOHN DICKERSON: --has gone from bad to worse. And now with only a month left before the midterm elections, both parties are energized making the chances for more division across America even more likely.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: What he and his wonderful family endured at the hands of Democrats is unthinkable. It's unthinkable. In their quest for power the radical Democrats have turned into an angry mob.

JOHN DICKERSON: Maine Republican Susan Collins tells us why she voted for Kavanaugh despite intense pressure to oppose him. And in a preview of tonight's 60 MINTUES, we'll hear from North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, whose no vote may mean losing her Senate seat. We'll ask Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell why he thinks Republicans will benefit from the Kavanaugh fight.

And we'll have plenty of political analysis on all the news just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. The battle that's divided the country and in particular Washington, DC, is over--in one of the closest Supreme Court votes in history, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed and is now Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He was privately sworn in late yesterday by Chief Justice John Roberts and is now the one hundred and fourteenth Supreme Court justice giving the conservatives on the court a five-four majority.

We begin with Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins who made a dramatic forty-five-minute speech to the Senate on Friday outlining her decision to vote for Judge Kavanaugh. Welcome, Senator.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine/@SenatorCollins): Thank you, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: You were one of the senators who backed the FBI inquiry. You said it was a very thorough investigation. But Doctor Ford's lawyers said that none of the people they put forward were interviewed. They said there is corroborating evidence and nobody wanted to see it.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: It was a thorough investigation. Keep in mind that there've already been six FBI background investigations that have been done on Judge Kavanaugh and I, along with Jeff Flake and Lisa Murkowski, insisted that there be a supplemental FBI investigation to look at these allegations because they were so serious. There was a lot of-- there were a lot of rumors that only the four people that Doctor Ford mentioned in her testimony would be interviewed. That was not the case. I read twelve different interviews on Thursday.

JOHN DICKERSON: You have said you found her testimony believable in the sense that something happened to her. So-- so is it your view something happened to her-- to her, it's just it wasn't Judge Kavanaugh, and if that's your view, do you have any corroborating evidence for that?

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: I am convinced that Doctor Ford believes what she told us and that she was the victim, a survivor of sexual assault and that that has been a trauma that has stayed with her for her entire life. But we have a presumption of innocence in this country, and when I looked at the lack of any corroborating evidence, including no evidence from her very best friend who was present at the party, I could not conclude that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant.

JOHN DICKERSON: The counterargument is corroboration doesn't mean eyewitness. In other words, the fact that she told her husband and her therapist long ago is a kind of corroboration and that that should have been part of the inquiry and since it wasn't that this is really not looking into the-- the nature of sexual assault.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: Well, she had the opportunity to have further interviews with the staff investigators, bipartisan staff investigators of the Judiciary Committee, and I believe that this system has not served either Brett Kavanaugh or Christine Ford well.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned you read twelve interviews. That-- it reported had been nine, but it was twelve?

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: There were twelve interviews. There were-- there was one person who had two different interviews and that, well, I can't go into what was in those because they're classified. But suffice it to say that the key witnesses whom Doctor Ford named to a person said that they had no recollection of anything like that nor did anybody come forward afterwards to say, "I was there" or did anyone call and say, "I was the one who picked you up and drove you home."

JOHN DICKERSON: Democrats keyed on what they saw as a discrepancy between Judge Kavanaugh's descriptions of his drinking and his time in high school and college and then some of these other reports. Did you find any distance between those two?

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: I think that Judge Kavanaugh drank too much in high school. But the background investigations that the FBI conducts always have a question of "did you drink? Did the nominee drink to excess or use drugs?" That is a standard--

JOHN DICKERSON: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: --question that's asked each and every time. And one hundred fifty people were interviewed for those background investigations and none of them brought forth evidence to support that.

JOHN DICKERSON: The Democrats seized on was not that somehow his drinking impaired his judicial ability but that he wasn't straight up about it and that you want judges to tell the truth. But you felt in his testimony he was truthful on those questions?

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: I did. The question that he was asked was-- I mean, it's clear he drank in high school, but the question that was the important question was, "was he a blackout drunk?" And he said that that was not the case, and the testimony that we had in, in the interviews did not support that contention.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the question of temperament which your Republican colleague Lisa Murkowski really defined her no vote around that idea. What she keyed in on was the partisan nature--that when, when accused, he jumped to the most dire partisan framing of what was happening to him.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: I thought Judge Kavanaugh's denial at the second hearing was very powerful. His anger and his anguish, I think, is-- are understandable given that he's been accused of being involved in gang rapes of women.

JOHN DICKERSON: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: I mean that is a devastating allegation. So I think it was understandable that he was reacting as a human being, as a father, as a-- a father of two young girls. But I will say that I thought his questioning--with the questioning with the senators--that he went over the line, and I was glad that he apologized to Amy Klobuchar in particular.

JOHN DICKERSON: But what Senator Murkowski seemed to zero in on here is that he jumped right to the conclusion that all questions that were asked were the result of a partisan Democratic witch hunt--going right to the partisan weaponry is-- is antithetical to the job he is being asked to be elevated to.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: Well, let's look at his history. When he was first nominated it was in 2004. His nomination was delayed for two years by the Democrats. He had very hostile hearings in 2004 and 2006 when he was finally confirmed for the court. And, yet, that did not affect his performance as a judge for twelve years on the DC Circuit. In addition, five hundred people were interviewed about his temperament and did he treat all litigants with respect and to a person they said he did.

JOHN DICKERSON: Senator Murkowski made a second more subtle point which was that the behavior in the actual testimony on that Thursday will change the way in which people have confidence about the court. In other words, by elevating him into the court, it-- it-- it brings partisanship into the court. And that for her that was going to make the court, which has been less partisan than the presidency or Congress, more so just by the nature of the way he testified.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: Well, I am very concerned about the court, in general, already because we have too many five-four decisions. I don't like the idea that there is a liberal bloc, a conservative bloc. I want judges that apply the law and the Constitution to the facts of the case. So I have confidence, having reviewed in depth Judge Kavanaugh's twelve years on the circuit court, that he will do that.

JOHN DICKERSON: Victims of sexual assault have said they would never mistake their attacker. And so by suggesting Doctor Ford is mistaken with her attacker that you and others are making a broader-- that you're, essentially, denying their experience more than just the specific facts of this case.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: You know when I hear that it causes me huge pain because I have met with so many survivors of sexual attacks, including close friends. And these women have the right to be heard. They have the right to be treated with respect. And I think one of the tragedies of what we've just gone through is Christine Blasey Ford wanted to have her allegations treated confidentially. She did not seek the limelight. She did not want to testify in public and because someone leaked the letter that she sent, her whole life has been turned upside down. I think that was wrong and despicable. The one silver lining that I hope will come from this is that more women will press charges now when they are assaulted.

JOHN DICKERSON: What women have said the reason they don't come and report is because people won't believe them. They'll poke holes in their story. They'll say that the fact they didn't remember certain details, which we know from brain science that sometimes happens in these assaults--you remember some very deeply but not broadly. All of that was used against Doctor Ford. And so after this process in which these holes in her story were used even by the President that that will make it actually harder to come forward because people will say, well, nobody's going to believe me the way they didn't believe her.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: Well, I certainly don't believe that's the case because I think that this has been an awakening for this country. I don't think most of us had any idea how pervasive the problem of sexual assault is. Sexual harassment, yes, we knew that. But sexual assault. And that's why the Me Too movement has been important. That's why it's been important that so many of these women for the first time ever have come forward. And it is important that we treat people fairly. And that's what we need to do.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you think Democrats who were all-- Democrats were working in good faith to try to find out what really happened?

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: Well, I can't help but think that there were some who wanted to use Doctor Ford, and that really saddens me because otherwise they would have gone with her express wishes, which is to have been interviewed in private, to have kept her allegations confidential. They still could have been thoroughly explored and I think that's really shameful. I do not think the system treated her well.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Senator Collins, thank you so much for being here.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: Thank you, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: One Democratic senator facing a tough reelection in a state President Trump won by thirty-five percentage points is North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who voted against Kavanaugh. She spoke with CBS News' Scott Pelley about her decision in an interview that will air tonight on 60 MINUTES.

(Begin VT)

SCOTT PELLEY (60 MINUTES): The senators who have decided to vote in favor of Judge Kavanaugh's nomination seem to believe that he was wrongfully accused.

SENATOR HEIDI HEITKAMP (60 MINUTES): Everybody is going to make their own judgment and-- and I have to tell you my judgment on her experience is based on a lot of experience working with domestic assault victims, domestic violence victims and-- and the experiences that have been shared over and over in my time as attorney general and now coming to the Senate as people have described their experience. And for me it does not appear that he's-- he's somebody who should be given a lifetime appointment to the most important court in the world.

SCOTT PELLEY: And when your Republican colleagues say yes, we believe Doctor Ford was sincere, too, but without corroborating information you just can't ruin this man's career. You say what?

SENATOR HEIDI HEITKAMP: Well, what I-- what I would say is even if you don't believe or believe Doctor Ford, the other issue is one of temperament, the other one is an issue of impartiality and blind justice and I think that that adds to the case being made that a no vote is the appropriate vote.

SCOTT PELLEY: At this moment about four weeks before the election you are running behind your Republican challenger in North Dakota.

SENATOR HEIDI HEITKAMP: Mm-Hm.

SCOTT PELLEY: A political consultant would have told you that voting for Kavanaugh would have been better for you.

SENATOR HEIDI HEITKAMP: Yeah. I don't think there's any doubt about that. I think that the-- the politically expedient vote here was a-- a yes vote.

SCOTT PELLEY: Why not then?

SENATOR HEIDI HEITKAMP: Because this isn't about politics.

(End VT)

JOHN DICKERSON: There will be a lot more of Scott's interview with Senator Heitkamp as well as his conversation with Senator Susan Collins on tonight's 60 MINUTES after football.

And we'll be back in one minute with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: We go now to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell who joins us from Louisville, Kentucky, this morning. Mister Leader, let me start with something you said to The Washington Post. You said, "I want to thank the mob because they've done the one thing we were having trouble doing which is energizing our base." Who is the mob?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-Kentucky/@senatemajldr/Majority Leader): Well, the people that were attacking our members at their homes and in the halls. It was really quite a display of aggressiveness far beyond what I would consider peaceful protesting. They were trying to intimidate members of the Senate not only in our home states but also up here actually in-- in the Capitol and at our homes here in Washington. And I'm really proud of my members for not knuckling under to that-- those kind of mob like tactics.

JOHN DICKERSON: Is it possible in your mind for a senator to have voted against Judge Kavanaugh in good conscience?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Oh, I'm sure. I'm not going to question the motivation of the senators' votes. It was a close vote, an important vote. I think we were able to establish that the presumption of innocence is still important in this country and that the Senate is not going to be intimidated by these kinds of tactics.

JOHN DICKERSON: Senator, the-- President Trump said that Lisa-- Senator Lisa Murkowski is never going to recover. Should she be punished for voting against Judge Kavanaugh?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Look, I-- I'd rather talk about the success that we had. Senator Murkowski is a Republican member of our conference in good standing. We're happy that we won. I'm sorry that we lost her, but we got the votes of all the other members of my conference and those who wanted the-- the additional FBI investigation for a week took a look at the report, found no corroborating evidence, and were comforted to vote for Judge Kavanaugh. Senator Collins' speech was one of the most consequential and outstanding speeches I've ever heard in the Senate in support of Judge Kavanaugh.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you this: Joe Manchin voted for Judge Kavanaugh. Will you recommend to the President that he not campaign against Joe Manchin who is up in 2018?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Joe Manchin's still a Democrat and we're trying to hold the majority. We appreciate his vote for Judge Kavanaugh. I think it was the right thing to do. But we're trying to win seats. And, ironically, the behavior of-- first Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and then the overreach of the protesters at the Capitol have actually energized the Republican base particularly in the red states where we're trying to pick up seats out across America. So I want to thank-- I want to thank the other side for the tactics that have allowed us to kind of energize and get involved our own voters.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about that. You-- you said after the tax cut bill passed, "if we cannot sell tax cuts we should be in another line of work." Why after reducing regulations, passing a tax cut bill was the Republican base not energized and it required this?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, I mean we are still talking about those issues and I do think it's important. But everybody knows how energized the Democrats' side is for all a whole variety of different reasons. And so our energy and enthusiasm was lagging behind theirs until this. And I think this gave us the motivation and the opportunity to have the kind of turnout in this off-year election that would help us hold the Senate.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about a piece of legislation as everybody is being more aware now of sexual assault. Senators have talked about bringing up again the bill that would change the rules for investigating sexual assault in the Senate. It's passed with bipartisan support but it's stalled. Is there going to be action on that now?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, I sure hope so. I mean that we've had difficulty negotiating our-- our differences between the House and Senate but that-- that's something I know we'll get done before the end of the year. And by the way--

JOHN DICKERSON: But isn't it up to you, Mister Leader?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: --in spite of-- no-- no it's not up to me. We're negotiating a-- a solution between the House and Senate. And I expect that we will get a result here before the end of this Congress. It's also important to underscore that in spite of our big fight over this nomination and over taxes last year, there's been an awful lot of bipartisan cooperation. We passed two overwhelmingly by-- by overwhelming margins two bills just last week in the middle of the Kavanaugh dispute on opioids and a five-year extension of the FAA. We've also done appropriations better on a bipartisan basis than any time--

JOHN DICKERSON: But--

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: --since the1990s. So the notion that the Senate is somehow broken over this is simply inaccurate.

JOHN DICKERSON: But Mister Leader those things have happened but this is of a different order and Democrats are pointing not only to the way this was handled but in the history of partisanship on the Supreme Court your decision to block Merrick Garland is something they see as-- as having kicked off a new stage in the partisanship associated with Supreme Court nominees.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, they don't know much history. You have to go back to 1880 to find the last time a Senate controlled by a different party from the President confirmed a Supreme Court justice to a vacancy created in the middle of a presidential election. They also conveniently forgotten that Joe Biden said in 1992 when he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the Democrats controlled the Senate, Republican in the White House. If a vacancy occurred they wouldn't fill it. They also conveniently forgot that Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, eighteen months before the end of Bush forty-three said if a Supreme Court vacancy occurred they wouldn't fill it.

JOHN DICKERSON: But, Mister Leader--

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Talk about hypocrisy.

JOHN DICKERSON: Right. But Mister Leader, I don't think that's right. In 1956 Eisenhower nominated Brennan the eighty-fourth Congress was a Democrat controlled and also on the Biden rule, Joe Biden was talking in the abstract. There was no nominee, no nominee was blocked and he said to not have the nomination come up before the election, but that it could come up after the election. And so what Democrats say when they hear you doing this is they say he's creating new rules to, essentially, do what he wants to do. And as you've written in your book The Long Game when you do that, it actually hurts democracy.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, well that's not exactly-- that-- that's not at all what happened, John. You're-- you're completely misconstruing what happened. What I gave you is the history of this. I know the history of this. I've spent a lot of time on this throughout my career. What I did was entirely consistent with what the history of the Senate's been in that situation going back to 1880.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, I-- I think the 1956 example and also in 1968 later in the election cycle when a Democratic president put somebody forward the Republican leader worked with him to get that person a hearing and get him towards the Supreme Court which is not something that you did, a vote at the time--

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Then there was a Democrat-- then there was a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic Senate.

JOHN DICKERSON: But the Republican leader--

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: You are not--

JOHN DICKERSON: --at the time tried to help--

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: You are not listening to me, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: --the Democratic president.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: John, you are not listening to me. The history is is exactly as I told you.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, we have-- we have a disagreement about the history, but I greatly appreciate--

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, we do. We certainly do.

JOHN DICKERSON: -- and we greatly appreciate you being with us here today. Mister Leader, thanks so much.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Okay, thank you.

JOHN DICKERSON: In editorial note we reached out to some twenty Democratic senators to come on the broadcast today but, obviously, were unsuccessful.

We'll be right back with more FACE THE NATION in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: And a programming note, CBS EVENING NEWS anchor Jeff Glor will be taking the EVENING NEWS on the road Tuesday to Arizona, where he will be interviewing the two candidates locked in a tight race to replace retiring Republican Jeff Flake. According to our CBS News Battleground Tracker, Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema has a slight edge over Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally, and that is within the margin of error. That's Tuesday on the CBS EVENING NEWS.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including a report on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong-un, our political panel and a conversation with Greg Miller, the Washington Post. He's the author of a new book, The Apprentice. You can guess who that might be referring to. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We'd like to welcome our panel now for some political analysis. Seung-- Seung Min Kim covers Congress in the White House for the Washington Post. John Harris is editor-in-chief of Politico, and Nancy Cordes is the chief congressional correspondent here at CBS. Seung Min, I want to start with you. You heard leader McConnell feeling pretty good about the way this week ended up. Was it in doubt or was Susan Collins, the key vote kind of always search-- always going to yes and there was nothing to stop her to going to no?

SEUNG MIN KIM (The Washington Post/@seungminkim): Well, I think one of the interesting things that Mitch McConnell pointed out in his interview with me and other--other news outlets was that he didn't know where the votes were until he walked into that chamber and heard every one of his members vote aye or in Lisa Murkowski's case, vote no. I think that looking-- I think looking back at Susan Collins' speech with her forceful line by line defense of Judge Kavanaugh, it seemed like she wanted to be a yes all along, as she just wanted to make sure all her, you know, all the Ts were crossed and all the Is were dotted before she was able to get that, but that was one of the most forceful defenses of Kavanaugh that I've seen throughout this confirmation process at a time when we've seen senators like Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn and Orrin Hatch just go to the mat for Judge Kavanaugh. So, to see her defense and to have known that she, you know, was able to get to that place while saying she was undecided all along was just really interesting. And-- and I think we saw for a while that she wanted to be a yes. I think these are Republican senators. I mean they want to vote in favor of Supreme Court justice. Susan Collins has never voted against a Supreme Court nominee whether from a Democratic President or a Republican President, but it was just really interesting to see how that all played out in the end.

JOHN DICKERSON: John, Leader McConnell in another interview maybe--I can't remember which of the ones is done--but he said that it was after Doctor Ford testified it was kind of half time, they thought they might be losing the nomination, and then at the end you have him saying boy, this really fired up the base. Not-- so, not only did they get an associate justice, they now are fired up. What happened between the two?

JOHN HARRIS (Politico/@harrispolitico): I think that they Judge Kavanaugh, which-- who surprised everybody with that fiery blast that he delivered with his testimony did follow the essential rule of modern politics in the polarized era which is get people to say which side are you on. And I mean it's an interesting thought experiment, if he had come out as many people expected him to do with a more temperate statement like, look, I'm really sorry, something bad must have happened but you have to trust me it wasn't this. I regret that I used to drink too much as a young person I'm a different, more mature person now. Many of us thought he would say something like that. Would that have worked? I have to say in my experience which now goes back a generation to these really polarizing battles, that kind of middle-of-the-road approach isn't really the most successful. He probably did the politically shrewd thing, which is, say look, no, I'm drawing a sharp line and everybody can decide which side they're on.

JOHN DICKERSON: Nancy, you were all over this. The Democrats, what did they-- how did they feel they did at the end of this both politically and then, specifically, with respect to Kavanaugh, but then the larger set of issues here that Democrats care a great deal about, which is protecting witnesses, listening to the accused and so forth.

NANCY CORDES (CBS News Chief Congressional Correspondent/@nancycordes): Well, I think they're, obviously, incredibly dejected, but I think that they felt that they had no choice but to go to the mat for a couple of different reasons. First of all, you know, their base was so frustrated after the Merrick Garland experience. And so had they not fought to the very end over this, you know, that would have left the base even more disaffected in advance of the midterm elections. They wanted them to show, okay, the Republicans really fought and won on Merrick Garland. Show us what you got this time around. So that, you know, that-- that left them with no choice but to, you know, stall and delay and do anything that they could.

JOHN DICKERSON: One strategic error the Democrats have been pointing on to go back to John's point about going, you know, hard and strong and whose side are you on. Michael Avenatti--

NANCY CORDES: Mm-Hm.

JOHN DICKERSON: --Stormy Daniels' lawyer, who came in with a-- with a late-breaking addition to this story, a lot of Democrats are saying and are you hearing this that Avenatti took what was a sympathetic case with Ford and turned it into a circus losing them the high ground?

NANCY CORDES: Yes.

JOHN DICKERSON: Are you hearing that?

NANCY CORDES: And it very interesting-- it was very interesting to watch all the way along how Democrats dealt with these Avenatti allegations because at first they really kept them at arm's length. They-- they didn't know what to make of them. Then the day that Julie Swetnick actually released her sworn statement--I mean, both sides were shocked, we even had Republicans who thought, "It was all over." I had one Republican aide say to me, "America should be devastated, Michael Avenatti brought the heat." And then as some stories started to-- some questions started to come up about her story. Democrats then again retreated, most of them. I mean, you did still have-- you know, the challenge for Democrats was their line was you should believe women. So they didn't really have the option to pick and choose and say "so we believe these two women, but we don't necessarily believe this woman." So they were sort of stuck with an all-or-nothing situation.

JOHN DICKERSON: Seung Min, what did you make--I asked leader McConnell if Lisa Murkowski should pay a price for the vote and his response was, "I'd like to talk about the success we had."

SEUNG MIN KIM: You tried your darndest, I tried to hit twice in my interview with him yesterday to talk about Murkowski and her vote and, particularly, her reasoning why she voted no, which was the temperament issue which I found fascinating. But you have to look at Lisa Murkowski and her political history in Alaska. I mean, I know the President told my colleague Phil Rucker in a phone interview yesterday that she's toast, I mean, it's not going to play well for her politically. Remember, this is a woman who lost her own primary in 2010, leadership-- party leadership shunned her back in Washington, she had to resign from her top leadership post and then she won a write-in campaign and her last name is not easy to spell. It's Murkowski. But she was able-- she has this very unique political coalition in Alaska. She does not need the party nor the party leadership to succeed.

JOHN HARRIS: Look, it's our job, John, to talk about political strategies and messages and dissect them. But I think we can't lose sight of the fact that really mathematics is decisive in these things and there's no way with a margin that narrow that somebody like Mitch McConnell is going to want to push people out of his party. I don't think you can see Democrats trying to impose a big price on Joe Manchin for voting yes. Mathematics is-- is what matters and it-- it really will carry the day in it.

NANCY CORDES: And I also think that she and Susan Collins had different political calculations here. You know, you often see them voting together. But, in this case, you had Alaska leaders coming out against Kavanaugh, Republicans. You had Native American groups--very influential in Alaska--coming out against him as well. So she may not have been as worried about the political price she would pay for voting no, whereas Susan Collins knew that it was going to be a very different situation in Maine.

JOHN DICKERSON: Speaking of making political calculations, John, I want to get your thoughts about--you talked about this--whose side are you on? There was a-- we traveled some distance here between Senator John Cornyn came out and said, you know, the holes in Doctor Ford's testimony are-- the kind of things that happened in a traumatic episode, it was a very sympathetic reading of what she did. Then a week later, President Trump is on the stump, saying basically making fun of the fact that she couldn't remember various things. Did President-- did that moment have some benefit-- play some role in this when the President did what a lot of people thought at first was "oh, my gosh, he's gone. He's not being restrained. He's at-- he is, essentially, making fun of this woman and that will hurt him politically," or did he know something smart about politics these days?

JOHN HARRIS: You know it all depends on whose ears are receiving a message, and what we are talking about here was the senators' ears. I really will say that. I don't think many Republican senators were eager to hear that.

JOHN DICKERSON: Mm-Hm.

JOHN HARRIS: But mathematics was decisive. I think there were a lot of people in, sort of, Trump's base who were eager to hear that and-- and enjoyed it. So, you know, and I-- I think we don't really still know the political implications--

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah.

JOHN HARRIS: --clearly, in the-- in-- in red state Senate races like North Dakota, this probably or Democrats actually defending a seat there, but this-- Kavanaugh helps-- helps Republicans. I think we're going to probably see the exact opposite in a lot of these suburban races on which the House of Representatives will hinge.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right.

JOHN HARRIS: So we got different political lessons point in different directions.

JOHN DICKERSON: Exactly. That's a great point. Seung Min, what do you think of the long term? Senator McConnell said this fired everybody up. Do people stay fired up for the next month?

SEUNG MIN KIM: I think-- well, I think they would because we saw the impact of the 1991 proceedings with-- now Justice Thomas and Anita Hill and you saw the year, the woman come a year after those hearings happened. The midterms are only a month away. And I think you've seen that's-- we-- it's-- it will be a fascinating experiment to see how much this matters because the big test is only a few short weeks away. Mitch McConnell and-- I mean, frankly, I've never seen Mitch McConnell so happy--

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah.

SEUNG MIN KIM: --than in the last couple of days. Because he truly believes and, he told me, he had seen polling already that shows just how much-- how unifying this base, unifying this issue was for the Republican Party.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, Nan--

NANCY CORDES: And--

JOHN DICKERSON: Just on the Democratic side--

NANCY CORDES: Yeah.

JOHN DICKERSON: --is somebody-- they've been hard to find after this loss. And we tried to reach out to a number of them. Is somebody going to be able to make use of this to-- to get their own voters?

NANCY CORDES: You know, even Democrats will acknowledge when you talk to them that they are already seeing out on the stump when they go home for the weekends that the Republican base is more fired up than it was just a few weeks ago. So they acknowledge that this is a real thing. It's not just something that you're seeing in the polls. It's not a blip. They are encountering it. And the question for them is their base has been fired up for a long time now. So they have sustained this level of energy.

JOHN DICKERSON: Yes.

NANCY CORDES: Is this Republican energy, is it a blip? And now that they got the Supreme Court justice they want, they go back to being content or is that, you know, energy that is going to last another month?

JOHN DICKERSON: One way in which it may last, John, is related to something that-- that Bret Stephens wrote about in the-- in The New York Times. He's that-- he's been a vocal Trump critic.

JOHN HARRIS: Mm.

JOHN DICKERSON: But he said, in this case, he was-- he was happy to have the President in there. He said because he was "feeling grateful that, in Trump, at least one big bully was willing to stand up to the others." The others in this case being those on the left. And so the idea is that if the left is behaving in this way, kind of, we need our bully. That-- that-- do you think that's an argument that grows beyond this moment?

JOHN HARRIS: There is a phenomenon in politics. In fact, I-- I write a little bit about it on Politico today. Both parties tend to believe when you talk with them privately. You know, "We're more virtuous, but the other side is more ruthless."

JOHN DICKERSON: Yes.

JOHN HARRIS: And they benefit by being more ruthless and a-- a bunch of Democrats believe that today. Mitch McConnell is ruthless. But, look, it worked for him by bending procedural rules with Merrick Garland and, again, with the FBI investigation into Kavanaugh. I tend to think that it's kind of a conceit of both parties, that if we could just be as vicious as the other side we prevail. I think in this instance, though, different to Seung Min's point, than 1991, we are now in a political culture where a lot of people have trouble remembering what they were indignant about the week before last.

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah.

JOHN HARRIS: Remember in 2016, we thought the Access Hollywood tape was going to sink Donald Trump. But a month later, clearly, it was not the decisive factor--

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah.

JOHN HARRIS: --in which way people were voting.

JOHN DICKERSON: Seung Min, I want to-- back to McConnell for a moment. You could make a case that conservatives are very happy. They got two people on the court. So, clearly, Donald Trump is responsible for that but Mitch McConnell may be a great deal more responsible in that he held up the-- Merrick Garland's nomination, which got a lot of voters who were worried about Donald Trump to say, "Worried, yes. But if he can name the next court." So he did that and he shepherd through two-- this is a-- this is a historic career-tapping moment those three things that McConnell has done.

SEUNG MIN KIM: I mean there is-- there are few things policy wise that Mitch McConnell cares more about than helping to reshape the federal judiciary and we talk about how he held up Merrick Garland's nomination for-- for a year. We all saw what he subtly did which didn't get a lot of attention in 2015 and 2016, is he actually blocked many of President Obama's circuit court nominees and district court nominees, which is why when President Trump was elected he came in with this his-- unusually, historically, high number of vacancies. So he has-- you know, President Trump and Mitch McConnell have the two conservative justices installed on the court with Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, but, yet, they have already reshaped the-- you know--

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah.

SEUNG MIN KIM: --the federal judiciary on so many different levels. And Mitch McConnell has said over and over that blocking Merrick Garland was one of the best decisions he's made.

JOHN DICKERSON: Nancy, Mitch McConnell today said he's not going to question anybody's motives about the Kavanaugh vote. But, of course, Republicans were very successful, indeed, doing just that with the Democratic opponents. Mitch McConnell also talked about bipartisanship. Is he going to try to kind of make the Senate come back to its old ways? Or is that-- what do you make of-- of that?

NANCY CORDES: You know, I think that there's a lot of pessimism on both sides that the-- that the Senate can work at least right now the way that it used to. But the reality is there's almost nothing more momentous that senators do than decide on a justice who has the potential to change the balance of the Supreme Court. So this was always going to be a battle royale, almost no matter who it was, Brett Kavanaugh or Amy Coney Barrett, or anyone else. This was going to be a huge clash from the very beginning.

JOHN DICKERSON: And, John, last question, do you-- we've seen partisanship in the presidency and in the legislative where-- where does it now stand with respect to the Supreme Court?

JOHN HARRIS: Well, I was very interested in your exchange, John, with Mitch McConnell, who I think likes to think of himself as an institutionalist. But, in fact, that's not his legacy. He won but he also owns the way he won, which means the Senate is polarized, the Supreme Court is polarized, and, obviously, the presidency's been polarized for a long time. And he knows that he owns part of that. That's why he was so scratchy and defensive with you.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. We will end it on scratchy and defensive. Thank you to all of you for being here.

And we'll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: We'd like to go now to Seoul, South Korea. And CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett who is covering Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip to the region. Errol.

ERROL BARNETT (CBS News Correspondent/@errolbarnett): John, America's top diplomat received quite a warm welcome when he landed in Pyongyang today, which is in stark contrast to when he was effectively stood up by Chairman Kim Jong-un back in July.

(Begin VT)

ERROL BARNETT: This time around the American and North Korean delegations led by Secretary Pompeo and Chairman Kim met for two hours followed by a formal lunch. The two sides are getting closer, we are told, to figuring out where and when President Trump will hold a second summit with Kim. The U.S. wants Pyongyang to irreversibly denuclearize in a way that can be verified and it wants it done by 2021, the end of President Trump's first term. While North Korea wants U.N. sanctions lifted and the U.S. to declare an end to the Korean War, neither of which is likely in the short term. Pompeo is here in Seoul tonight to reassure South Korean Prime Minister Moon Jae-in talks are moving in the right direction.

MIKE POMPEO: As President Trump has said, there are many steps along the way, and we took one of them today. It was another step forward. So this is, I think, a good outcome for all of us.

(End VT)

ERROL BARNETT: Secretary Pompeo also tells President Moon that President Trump will meet Chairman Kim at the earliest possible date. Now before he returns to Washington, Pompeo wraps up this tour through East Asia in Beijing. There he will meet with President Xi Jinping and encourage him to fully enforce sanctions against North Korea while also attempting to smooth over tensions stemming from the ongoing trade war with the U.S.

JOHN DICKERSON: Errol Barnett for us in Seoul, South Korea. Thanks, Errol.

And we'll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: And we're back with reporter and author Greg Miller. He covers national security for the Washington Post and his latest book is, "The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy." Welcome.

GREG MILLER (The Washington Post/@gregpmiller/The Apprentice): Thank you.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let's start with the recent news which is of indictments against Russian hacking having to do with the Olympics.

GREG MILLER: Yeah. This is really interesting. This is-- these are indictments that we're just learning about now but it's actually for activity that was happening around the same time as the election in large measure. I think it really-- this shows just that we're in a new era of aggressive espionage unlike anything we've ever been through and that's what the book is largely about. And you know we face this great challenge at this moment from Russia, which is using espionage, using cyber operations to go at adversaries around the globe, including the United States and here we are with the President who refuses to acknowledge any of that.

JOHN DICKERSON: What was-- give us a sense of how alive to this possibility of Russian intelligence hacking. The Obama administration was, and now it's, obviously, everybody knows about it.

GREG MILLER: Yeah.

JOHN DICKERSON: But were they-- were they slow on the uptake?

GREG MILLER: They were slow in-- in one important way. I mean, I think that-- that at the time when this Ru-- when the initial penetration of the DNC by Russian intelligence operatives, Russian hackers was detected, it was treated as just another in a long, long line of cyber penetrations by China, by Russia. They grab stuff, they look at the secrets, end of story kind of. Nobody saw the second act here, nobody saw the dumping of all this material, the weaponizing of this information by putting it out on WikiLeaks to hurt Hillary Clinton, to sow unrest in the United States and later to help Donald Trump win.

JOHN DICKERSON: And this is one of the great things about your book is that it kind of connects what we thought were disparate events--

GREG MILLER: Yeah.

JOHN DICKERSON: --and puts them into a kind of narrative, right?

GREG MILLER: Yes.

JOHN DICKERSON: On that WikiLeaks' point so they thought it was just mischief making--

GREG MILLER: Mm-Hm.

JOHN DICKERSON: --but it was mischief making which then was used-- was turned into weapon, was deployed in the middle of an election.

GREG MILLER: Correct. So-- right. So everybody expects Russia to engage in espionage, the United States does as well, to take what they get and then throw it out there for the world to see is really, really unusual. But we do see it now more and more. And this was-- connects to the hacks that we learned about this week of anti-doping agencies. Those are designed to be overt acts ultimately to take-- to steal information, to try to discredit an adversary of the Kremlin.

JOHN DICKERSON: And so then a third thing, which you-- which you will write about in the book, of course, this great question of whether the information weaponized, was it weaponized with the help of anybody in the Trump orbit?

GREG MILLER: Right. And, I mean, there-- obviously, we're waiting for Robert Mueller to give us the final answer to that question. And he's kept that very close hold. But, of course, what we did in this book, what I did in this book is try to trace out all the connections and there are many, many connections, right? So the Trump Tower connections, Manafort's longstanding connections with the Kremlin. Lots of interactions between Trump and his family even well before the elections with Russia, seeking inner meetings with Vladimir Putin and so forth.

JOHN DICKERSON: What else in the book when you think of the big pillars of this story, which you've had a chance to think about because you've taken a moment--

GREG MILLER: Yeah.

JOHN DICKERSON: --and stepped back from the crazy news cycle. What are the other big pillars for you?

GREG MILLER: I mean I just want to reiterate what you just said. I think that part of the value of this book, to me, was putting it all together in one place because, you know, I was a reporter at the Post, covering these stories as they were unfolding, the Mike Flynn story and so forth. And even I was just frequently lost, right, getting lost in the daily deluge of information. So what I really tried to do with this book is put it together in a-- in a clean, narrative and even then I was seeing connections that were-- that I was blind to at the time. It's really astonishing.

JOHN DICKERSON: The administration has started talking about China a lot. Mike Pence spoke about the threat from China in a speech. Put that in context with respect to what the Russians have done and what are the Chinese up to?

GREG MILLER: So, yeah, it's really interesting that the administration's sort of going after China right now and China, of course, is aggressive in espionage and cyber espionage in particular and has been for many years. The administration hasn't coughed up much evidence so far that they're interfering in a meaningful way in the upcoming election. I mean, China does put ads in newspapers and things like this. But I think the contrast is what's striking. What they are saying about China and what they're not saying about Russia and you put those two things together, it's really, really hard to reconcile.

JOHN DICKERSON: And what they have not said about Russia and other points along the line in the last few years.

GREG MILLER: Of course, right. We've just never seen the President really call out Russia in any meaningful way for what happened.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you since you cover national security, give me a sense of where President Trump as a president who interacts with his national security officials, how does he do it relative to the way previous presidents have done?

GREG MILLER: It's-- it's unlike anything any of us has seen in our lifetimes, I think, in terms of his disengagement from the national security apparatus, right? They're-- and even beyond that it's almost schizophrenic administration at times and the book really goes into lot of detail in this. It's not just about the election and the hacking, it is about Trump as President and how he has treated Russia often in conflict with his own advisors, with his own cabinet.

JOHN DICKERSON: What is the difference between John Bolton as a national security adviser and Henry McMaster?

GREG MILLER: McMaster was really much more in the process in trying to bring the President along through briefings and elaborate presentations and so forth, and meetings and getting consensus and Bolton sort of cuts through all that. I think he appeals to Trump in-- in one way and that he sort of simplifies things for the President. It's a much smaller, tighter-held process. And then he's working more closely with the President.

JOHN DICKERSON: Does that argue then that it's perhaps more efficient?

GREG MILLER: It's more efficient except that, you know, there are more people on the outside. More important people, more important voices probably not getting heard the same way that they were getting heard across the administration under McMaster.

JOHN DICKERSON: Quickly, last, what's the thing on the national security horizon we should be paying attention to?

GREG MILLER: Well, of course, the Mueller probe wrapping up. I mean, I think that we're about to enter act three of this crazy drama.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Greg Miller, thanks so much. The book is, The Apprentice. There it is. Thanks so much for being with us.

GREG MILLER: Thank you.

JOHN DICKERSON: And we'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. Until next week for FACE THE NATION, I am John Dickerson. But I'll see you tomorrow and every day this week on CBS THIS MORNING.