Full transcript: "Face the Nation" on September 9, 2018
Read more transcripts from Face the Nation here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, September 9th. I'm Margaret Brennan and this is FACE THE NATION.
It has been a dramatic week of denials after a bombshell book detailing White House chaos by legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. And a damning op-ed in the New York Times written by an anonymous administration official. It sent the President into a furious frenzy.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If the failing New York Times has an anonymous editorial--can you believe it? Anonymous, meaning gutless. A gutless editorial. We're doing a great job.
The book is a work of fiction. If you look back at Woodward's past he had the same problem with other presidents.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But are the leaks and allegations that paint a picture of a staff trying to protect the country from the President accurate? We asked Vice President Mike Pence.
MIKE PENCE: The only thing that's wrong about that narrative is everything. Because it-- it shows-- it shows a complete misunderstanding of how this White House works.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Who wrote it? It's the biggest mystery in Washington since Watergate's Deep Throat. The President called for an investigation by his Justice Department.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was, because I really believe it's national security.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But is it an issue of national security? We'll ask the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Virginia's Mark Warner. And in, yet, another never-before occurrence a former President vented his frustration at the way the current occupant of the White House is running the country.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It's not conservative. It sure isn't normal. It's radical. It's a vision that says the protection of our power and those who back us is all that matters even when it hurts the country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk about what all of this means for the midterm elections with the two party chairs, Democrat Tom Perez and Republican Ronna McDaniel.
Plus, as football season begins and Colin Kaepernick makes headlines again Mark Leibovich of New York Times joins our panel to talk about his new book on the future of the game.
All of that, and plenty of political analysis coming up on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. At the end of an explosive week in the Trump administration we spoke with Vice President Mike Pence at his home on the grounds of the Naval Observatory here in Washington. We began by asking him about the New York Times op-ed and the more than two dozen high-ranking Trump administration officials who have denied writing it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In the past--
MIKE PENCE: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --respectfully, I mean, you suffered, when you were lied to by Michael Flynn. I mean, he was fired for lying to you. What-- do you believe the denials this time?
MIKE PENCE: I do, because I know the men and women who serve with us in this cabinet. But I also do because whoever wrote that editorial, and the narrative that comes out of some other writings recently, just doesn't know what really happens in this White House. I've seen this President in action. Is he demanding? Yes. Is he a strong leader who expects things done yesterday? Yes. But-- but for someone to say that-- that what we've accomplished in the last eighteen months is in spite of this President's leadership, it just reflects an ignorance about-- about President Trump and about our administration.
MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the claims made in the op-ed is that there had been discussion of invoking the 25th Amendment to even remove the President from office. Have you ever been part of a conversation about that?
MIKE PENCE: No. Never. And why-- why would we be, Margaret? I mean, the-- the truth of the matter is over the last eight years despite what we heard from President Obama on Friday.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And by the time I left office, household income was near its all-time high, and the uninsured rate had hit an all-time low, and wages were rising, and poverty rates were falling. I mention all this just so when you hear how great the economy is doing right now, let's just remember when this recovery started.
MIKE PENCE: I mean this-- this country was struggling. I mean, it was the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression because having inherited a recession, President Obama's answer was to raise taxes, to double the national debt, to increase regulation, to pass Obamacare into law, to stifle American energy.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But he says the economic upswing began on his watch.
MIKE PENCE: Well, I know he said that but I don't think too many Americans noticed it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said that there are other writings that-- that you also think are inaccurate here. Bob Woodward had this book that just is about to come out describing in detail a number of incidents inside the White House where he, basically, describes people around the President trying to protect the country from him. What is it that you think is inaccurate in his description?
MIKE PENCE: Well, the only thing that's wrong about that narrative is everything because it-- it shows-- it-- it shows a-- a complete misunderstanding of how this White House works, and what-- what President Trump provides for this country every day is strong and decisive leadership in the Oval Office. The narrative that I have picked up, in-- in not only this book but the opinion editorial is suggests that-- that-- that things are happening in spite of the President's leadership, and nothing could be further from the truth. I mean our founders envisioned all executive power be invested in the President of the United States, and the American people should know all the progress that we're making is a result of the fact that President Trump engages in debate, he gets all of the facts and he's not afraid to make a decision and move forward.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Woodward says he has-- he spoke to a hundred people. He has recordings. He has notes to back up these first-hand accounts. I mean, one of the instances was he said that the President was stopped from tweeting about withdrawing U.S. personnel from South Korea because North Korea would view it as an act of war. These are specific instances. You're saying they didn't happen?
MIKE PENCE: What that suggests, and-- and what I-- what I get from other examples and narratives is-- is that-- that-- that people are-- are managing the President, when, in fact, what happens in the White House every day, Margaret, is the President invites opinions. He tends to put people around the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office who have diverse views. And-- and-- and he invites a vigorous debate over what policies ought to be embraced. Then he makes a decision and we go forward whether it's foreign policy, domestic policy, or whether it's legislation on Capitol Hill.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think he respects those advisers?
MIKE PENCE: And that's exactly the kind of-- that's exactly the kind of leadership the American people wanted when they elected President Donald Trump.
MARGARET BRENNAN Some of the instances here are really specific. The President publicly has mocked Jeff Sessions, but in this book, these are specific instances of disregarding the commerce secretary to his face, insulting other cabinet officials. Do you dispute all of these examples?
MIKE PENCE: Well, I-- I would tell you I know this President has great respect for the men and women who serve in this cabinet. And these-- these accounts are very foreign to me. And-- and I-- I-- I'm just not aware of instances where they've occurred and/or where they would occur. But, look, I-- I- I want to stipulate that working in the White House is not for everybody.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Hmm.
MIKE PENCE: I mean this President is tough. He's demanding. He wants things yesterday. And I think it's one of the reasons why we've accomplished so much in such a short period of time. I mean, the truth is I-- I think President Donald Trump is the most accomplished President of my lifetime and I think already one of the most successful Presidents in American history--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think--
MIKE PENCE: --in our first two years.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --people should be fired because of this?
MIKE PENCE: Well, I-- I truly believe that-- that whoever penned this opinion editorial should do the honorable thing and resign. I mean the truth of the matter is that the-- the-- the opinions that they expressed are not only deceitful and false but they're also un-American and they represent an assault on our democracy.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The President has made clear though that he doesn't agree with his attorney general on a number of things. And earlier this week he suggested that Jeff Sessions should not have brought charges against two Republican lawmakers who were running for re-election because he thought it could jeopardize the party's control of Congress. I mean, this suggests that the Justice Department should be taking politics and making it a priority. Do you agree with that?
MIKE PENCE: Well, I think one of-- well, I think there are guidelines in the Department of Justice about not making decisions or taking action that may impact elections, and that's longstanding through numerous administrations. But, look, I think one of the things the American people--
MARGARET BRENNAN: So-- so Jeff Sessions, you agree, was--
MIKE PENCE: Well-- what I want to say, Margaret, is--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --correct in his actions?
MIKE PENCE: --what-- what the American people appreciate is this-- this President says what he thinks. He lets people know what he feels about things, but and-- and-- and really in a very real sense, what you see is what you get with President Donald Trump. And I think that's the reason why he's made the connection that he's made with people all across this country because--
MARGARET BRENNAN: But on something of-- of that--
MIKE PENCE: --while Washington, DC-- while Washington, DC, focuses on--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --when it has to do with a legal matter people argue that--
MIKE PENCE: --these various controversies--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --that's dangerous--
MIKE PENCE: --he's focused on their interests.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --that-- that may be frank. That may be what he thinks, but that there's a danger to saying things like that because it suggests that rule of law should be-- should be sublimated to politics.
MIKE PENCE: No. This-- this is a President who has strongly affirmed our commitment to the rule of law and to the-- to our justice system. I think you-- you need look no further than-- than the-- the hearings this week with Judge Kavanaugh to hear his strong affirmation of an independent judiciary. This President has reflected that throughout the policies of this administration. But-- but, look, he-- he is always going to be transparent about how he feels about things. And-- and, as I said, there's longstanding Department of Justice guidelines that have to do with making sure that actions are not taken that-- that-- that inadvertently impact the electoral process. But all of that being said, I-- I really do believe the President's candor is one of the reasons why the American people appreciate him.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What are your plans to sit for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller?
MIKE PENCE: You know we've fully cooperated over the last year--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Has he asked for an interview with you yet?
MIKE PENCE: --with the Mueller investigation. He has not. Although we've provided any and all information and we'll continue to do that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you'd be willing to sit with him if he were to ask?
MIKE PENCE: I would. I would be more than willing to continue to provide any and all support in that. And we have outside counsel that will advise me accordingly. But I just have to tell you, Margaret, it's just not been my focus and it's not the President's focus. I mean the reason why we're making the progress that we're making all across this country, rebuilding our military, restoring American strength in the world, seeing the opportunity for peace emerge on the Korean Peninsula. I mean-- we-- we're hearing-- we're expecting a letter as we speak from Kim Jong-un communicating again as he did last week his-- his reaffirmation of his commitment to denuclearization. No more nuclear tests. No more missile tests. Our hostages are home. And I had the privilege of being there when the remains of fifty-five fallen Americans in the Korean War were returned to American soil--
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't think the diplomacy is stalled--
MIKE PENCE: --that's all the result of the President's leadership.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --even though the Secretary of State called off his visit?
MIKE PENCE: Well, I-- I actually believe that when the President canceled the meeting a week ago because he wasn't seeing enough progress in denuclearization that that may well have resulted in what Kim Jong-un communicated to a South Korean envoy just last week, and we're anticipating the letter from Kim Jong-un and all the while our sanctions remain in place.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And do you think you need to cast the deciding vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh?
MIKE PENCE: Well, we hope not. I think the-- I think what the American people--
MARGARET BRENNAN: You're not sure where you are on vote count yet?
MIKE PENCE: I-- we'll see where we are. But I-- I have to tell you that despite the embarrassing display by many Senate Democrats in the Judiciary Committee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh showed the intellect, the temperament, the judicial philosophy that I-- I believe should generate broad-based support in the United States Senate. And we have every confidence that Judge Brett Kavanaugh will very soon be Justice Brett Kavanaugh and take a seat on the Supreme Court.
MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the challenges of television interviews is going back and clarifying your words after the cameras have been turned off. We experienced that in our interview with the vice president Saturday. Here's what we asked at the beginning of the interview about who wrote the anonymous op-ed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you don't think anyone on your staff--since they're calling themself a Trump appointee had anything to do with this?
MIKE PENCE: I-- I just-- I wouldn't know. And I would-- I really would hope not. And I was-- I was heartened to see so many of our colleagues make it very clear that they weren't involved in this in any way. Look, I-- I can tell you serving alongside this President is-- is an incredible privilege for me and I know it is for-- for every member of our cabinet and all the senior personnel in our administration. I mean this is a-- this is a President who, literally, gets up every day and works to keep the promises that we made to the American people and when you look at the record of success over the last eighteen months it's truly been remarkable.
MARGARET BRENNAN: After the interview, the vice president told us he had misunderstood the question and asked if he could clarify. So, we turned the cameras back on.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mister Vice President, I-- I asked you earlier if anyone on your staff wrote this op-ed. Have you asked your staff?
MIKE PENCE: Oh, well, I-- I thought you were speaking about the administration staff. Let me be very clear, I'm one hundred percent confident that no one on the vice president's staff was involved in this anonymous editorial. I-- I know my people, Margaret. They get up every day and are dedicated, just as much as I am, to advancing the President's agenda and supporting everything that President Trump is doing for the people of this country so.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you asked them?
MIKE PENCE: Well, you know-- you know, honestly, I don't have to ask them because I know them. I know their character. I know their dedication and I am absolutely confident that no one on the vice president's staff had anything to do with this. But that being said, you know, who-- whoever this was they should do the honorable thing and resign.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back in one minute with the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner who joins us today from one of my favorite cities Charlottesville, Virginia. Senator, thank you for coming on FACE THE NATION. We spoke with Vice President Mike Pence--
SENATOR MARK WARNER (D-Virginia/@MarkWarner): Thank you, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --Mike Pence who said that he has not been asked by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for an interview but that he would be willing to sit for one and help with that investigation. What do you make of that?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, it seems to me that pence-- Mister Pence is doing the appropriate activity. There is an ongoing investigation that's had now I believe six guilty pleas over thirty indictments. Guilty pleas have included the President's campaign manager, the President's lawyer. The President's CFO has at least got an immunity and Mister Papadopoulos, one of the President's foreign policy aides during the campaign, clearly, indicated that he had been offered dirt on Hillary Clinton and Clinton e-mail. So, there was outreach from-- from the Trump- from the Russians to the Trump operation. So, the fact that Vice President Pence is cooperating is great. I wish his boss Mister Trump would have the same level of cooperation. Donald Trump continues to say he's done nothing wrong then he should sit-- sit down and talk to the Mueller investigation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have any questions for the vice president about what he may have known about what happened in 2016?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: I'm not going to go through where we are at this point in our Intelligence Committee investigation. We have had interviewed over a hundred folks we've still got folks like Mister Papadopoulos and we'd love to get back Mister Cohen that we want to pursue. But I do think the main activity and, clearly, Mister Mueller has a lot more tools in his tool chest than we have at the Senate Intelligence Committee.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, still no date in terms of when you might get George Papadopoulos the former foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign to-- to sit and answer questions with you and-- and do you intend to go back to the attorney general to ask why he gave very different testimony than George Papadopoulos has about conversations regarding setting up a meeting with Vladimir Putin.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: I think that's something I am-- that I would imagine the Mueller investigation is looking into. We do want to see Papadopoulos. We also want to see Michael Cohen who has indicated that he would come back without any immunity and testify before our committee and our committee is the last bipartisan efforts that's trying to pursue these facts. And if you-- but if you step back from it and you look at all of the guilty pleas that Mueller has received and the total number of indictments the fact that this President still undermines the Mueller investigation. This President who this week is out you know, basically, calling into question somebody who wrote a memo about the activities or an op-ed--the activities inside the White House, a President who is basically asking the Justice Department to back off on criminal indictments of Republican members. This is not a President who understands how our system of laws and rule of law works. And that really bothers me and one of the reasons why I again I hope Mueller gets to the bottom of this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It doesn't sound like you're going to issue the Senate report before the November midterm races.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: I think we'll be hard pressed. What we have-- we had four pieces of our investigation before we got to collusion. The first which was reconfirming the intelligence community assessment that the Russians intervened to help Trump hurt Clinton. Second, election security and we've got bipartisan election security legislation that I wish the Senate would take up and pass. Unfortunately, Majority Leader McConnell has held off on allowing us to vote on that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: The third is and we will be fairly harsh on some of the activities from the Obama administration and the FBI. And then we've also-- and just this past week we had another hearing on social media where again we're trying to look not only at what happened in 2016 but on a going forward basis and we made a lot of progress with at least Facebook and Twitter in terms of policy issues we-- we can pursue. Then we've got this final issue, obviously, of collusion.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you see any national security concerns that would justify the President's call for the attorney general to look into who authored this anonymous op-ed by someone claiming to work within the administration?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Listen, I wish that whoever had written the op-ed would have revealed their identity, but I see absolutely no national security issues. I-- I wonder when the Woodward-- Woodward book comes out, and my understanding he has-- he has documented interviews with over a hundred folks in the White House, where this President is going to try to sic the Justice Department on all the folks who talked-- talked to Bob Woodward. This is clearly a President that is a White House that's in chaos and a President that becoming more and more untethered. And if you just step back for a moment and look at the last three months we have had a President who had this disastrous policy with separating kids and families at the border.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: We had the President who had a-- a frankly, I think, unpresidential appearance with Vladimir Putin. A president who zigged and zagged on tariffs. These efforts around his senior officials who pled guilty. His, you know, frankly, unseemly behavior towards John McCain. And now, this reactions to the-- both the book and the op-ed it appears that the walls are closing in on this President and he's lashing out at--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly have put on the record denials of some of the reporting from Bob Woodward out there. Do-- do you take them at their word?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, I know that Bob Woodward has done this a number of times to presidents of both parties. And, usually, he's been a pretty good journalist, but I'll let Mister Woodward, and I have a great, great deal of respect for Secretary Mattis, let them litigate that out.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Vice President Pence in our interview also said that the President was just speaking his mind and being candid, it was candor this week when he said that two Republican congressmen who have been indicted shouldn't have been, essentially, ahead of the midterm races. Does that trouble you those kind of statements or do you just brush this off as more, as the Vice President characterized it, candor?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, I think this is why this is a White House in chaos, because most responsible people in the White House realize the President of the United States can't make these comments without consequences. And this President is so irresponsible and I don't think we can continue to excuse his behavior as anything resem-- resembling normalcy. So, it'll be interesting to see whether my colleagues are willing to stand up and call out these activities. I think very shortly, as the Mueller probe continues, we're all going to be at that moment where history will judge us. And I think this President will be judged as well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Warner, thank you for joining us on FACE THE NATION.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Thank you, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Stay with us for more FACE THE NATION.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Coming up in a moment, it is President Trump versus President Obama. Will the two stars of the campaign trail energize or antagonize voters? We'll speak with the heads of the Democratic and Republican National Committees about their strategies to win control of Congress with just fifty-eight days left until the midterm races. That's just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including our political panel after a very wild week in Washington. And I know we say that a lot, we have got a lot to talk about. So be sure to stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. As this year's midterm election campaign kicks into high gear we wanted to sit down with the chairs of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. And we begin our conversation with Tom Perez, chairman of the DNC. You got fifty-eight days to go. A lot of work Democrats needs to pick up--
TOM PEREZ (Democratic National Committee Chair/@TomPerez): Mm-Hm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --roughly about two dozen seats or so to win a majority in the House. When we look at our CBS polling it shows
TOM PEREZ: Mm-Hm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --a blue wave is far from guaranteed.
TOM PEREZ: Well, progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability, Margaret. And we're working our tails off everywhere. I feel excited because we're organizing everywhere we're fielding great candidates everywhere. You see the energy out there. Democratic turnout in the primaries in 2018 has been up eighty-four percent from 2014--
MARGARET BRENNAN: That's the enthusiasm you're talking about.
TOM PEREZ: --and so you see that out there. That's the enthusiasm. And-- and people are enthusiastic because we're fighting for the issues they care about. People's health care is on the ballot. This is the most important election of our lifetime. Your health care is on the ballot--if you have a preexisting condition. That's on the ballot. Good wages are on the ballot. Education is on the ballot. And, frankly, our democracy is on the ballot because this is not simply an election about right versus left. This is an election about right versus wrong. I worked at DOJ for thirteen years. A president does not tell the Justice Department who and who not to prosecute. That is wrong. The-- the President of the United States should not believe the former chief of the KGB over our intelligence community. We shouldn't rip children from parents. This is about all those critical issues of health care. But it's also about who we are as a nation. Our democracy is on the ballot--
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you want to put President Trump on the ballot then?
TOM PEREZ: Well, we're fighting for all the things that Democrats care about and that includes our democracy. And this President has undermined basic principles of our democracy. Presidents should unite they shouldn't divide.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But when you mention President Trump himself I mean this is one of the-- the questions here. You know, are you antagonizing or energizing voters when you put not just President Trump, but President Obama, who was out on the campaign trail this week and broke precedent. The White House hit him for that for invoking President Trump's name. This is sort of one of those unwritten rules that you don't slam your successor. Is this a risky strategy to be engaging like that?
TOM PEREZ: Oh, I welcome President Obama on the-- on the campaign trail because he is fighting for the issues that people care about.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But attacking President Trump by name.
TOM PEREZ: Well, our health care is on the ballot and our democracy, as we know it, is on the ballot. You-- you look at what's gone on in this country and-- and you-- you see a president that again I worked under Republican and Democratic presidents at the Justice Department. You see the unmitigated attacks, the attempts to delegitimize the press, the attempts to do things that should never be done. I thought Canada was our ally and--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm.
TOM PEREZ: --and it appears that they are our-- our fiercest adversary. The world is upside down and our democracy is, indeed, on the ballot in what we're doing is we're fighting for health care we're fighting to make sure that if you have a preexisting condition you can retain your health care coverage. We're fighting to make sure that a union-- a worker can join a union and organize and get good wages. Those are the things we're fighting for and that's what Americans want in their leadership.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You have the challenge of messaging against what are positive economic indicators right now. And when you look at CBS polling in the competitive districts that really matter for you to flip the majority of Americans feel positively about the economic direction of the country either going from very good twenty-six percent to somewhat good forty-five percent. How do you push back against that? Isn't what happens at someone's kitchen table going to dominate how they vote?
TOM PEREZ: Oh, it's very important. And-- and if you are very, very wealthy in this country, the economy is doing great. But if you're everybody else, the economy's not doing so great. Corporate profits are soaring and wages are flat. People's health care is at risk because the President has destabilized the Affordable Care Act. The cost of prescription drugs are skyrocketing. So if you have a dollar more in your pocket, but the gas-- gasoline is gone up fifty cents, and your cost of prescription drugs have gone up immensely because they're not taking on the industry, and your cost of health care has gone up, you're not-- you're not even treading water. And that's the reality for millions of people, including the Harley workers in-- in Missouri who are about to lose their job.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Wages did go up in August at the fastest pace since the recession, but I do want to ask you about the direction of the party in terms of identity. You have said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been this sort of rock star in many ways since she won in New York a few months ago, you've called her the-- the future of the party. Is that a sign that more people within the Democratic Party need to tack left. Is that the identity to go more progressive?
TOM PEREZ: What I have said is Connor Lamb is the future of the party. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the future of the party. Doug Jones is the future of the party. We have a party that reflects America in every zip code. We have a party that's fighting for health care. We have a party that's fighting for fair wages. We have a party that's fighting for a democracy that works for everyone, not just a few at the top. And your question about wages, it's important for your listeners to understand that real wage growth is what it's about.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
TOM PEREZ: If-- if wages go up by a dollar and your cost of living goes up by a dollar fifty, you're not better off. And that's the problem with this economy. If this President would take on the pharmaceutical industry, we could do something about it. If-- and-- and this is indeed. We got fifty-eight days until the weekend and the most important thing we can do is vote. And one of the things we're doing is making sure we get the vote out everywhere. And we're actually working next week to call on businesses to give two hours of paid leave for people so that they can get out their vote.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
TOM PEREZ: I'm-- I'm going to ask Chairman McDaniel--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
TOM PEREZ: --to join us in that because we should have this debate and then we should-- we should make sure that every eligible person--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Point taken.
TOM PEREZ: --can get out there and vote.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We got to leave it there. Thank you very much and we'll bring out here Republican Chair Ronna McDaniel next.
TOM PEREZ: Always a pleasure.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we are back with the head of the Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel. Welcome to FACE THE NATION.
RONNA MCDANIEL (Republican National Committee Chair/@GOPChairwoman): Thanks for having me. Great to be here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Good to be with you. And I know yesterday you were New York.
RONNA MCDANIEL: Correct.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I had to ask you about this. You were alongside OMB Director Mick Mulvaney when he was caught on tape, obtained by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, saying, "You may hate the President, and there's a lot of people who do, but they certainly like the way the country's going... And when it comes to voters, you may have to subtract from the equation how they feel about the President and then the numbers go up dramatically." Do you think Republicans would fare better if President Trump was not so dominant in this race?
RONNA MCDANIEL: The President has a ninety percent approval rating among Republicans. It's one of the highest in history for a President from his own party. And we have seen on the ground as we bring the President into these races, like Montana, where he was this week, the candidates' numbers rise. We saw it with Matt Rosendale. We saw in Ohio when Balderson was in a very tough race. We brought the President into Delaware County and we saw him help propel that Election Day vote to victory. So the President is a great asset for us. And, remember, in the midterms, it's the party that's turning out their base. We have to turn out our base first. And with the President with this type of approval rating and with these results, with a 3.9 percent unemployment with four million job-- jobs coming back to this country, all the good things that people are feeling, as you mentioned earlier, wage increases of 2.9 percent. People are feeling good about where they are. And the President is a great asset for us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So is Mick Mulvaney flat out wrong?
RONNA MCDANIEL: I didn't hear him say that. I was there. You know, he-- he was talking about the President being a decisive leader, he talked about his memory. He talked about working for him. I think he was just making the point that, maybe if you don't like a candidate, or you-- you don't necessarily agree with them on everything, the results, in this instance, speak for themselves. And that you can't deny. And Democrats are going to try and make it about the President; they're going to try and make it about personality. But the results don't lie coming out of this administration. We are a better country. We are better off than we were two years ago. And everyone around the country is feeling that and that is because of this President.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There was a recording that The Journal and The New York Times both had there also saying that Mick Mulvaney said there's a very real possibility that Senator Ted Cruz may lose his race in Texas.
RONNA MCDANIEL: Yeah. He did-- he said--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you going to lose Texas?
RONNA MCDANIEL: No. He said it's important to be likeable.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You heard him say that?
RONNA MCDANIEL: We're not going to lose Texas. Yeah. He said it's important to be likable I'm going to make this point. I don't think it's likely. You could have Texas; you could have Florida in the play. He was talking to the candidates we had in the room about the importance about-- of being likable. That is important. But we are not going to lose Texas. Anybody who watched Ted Cruz this week, in these judiciary hearings with Judge Kavanaugh hearing him talk about the importance of rule of law, hearing him talk about the importance of what Judge Kavanaugh would bring to the bench caring about the Constitution knows that Ted Cruz is an excellent representative for Texas and he is going to win that seat.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And likable?
RONNA MCDANIEL: And likeable. I think he's very likeable.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I am just kidding. And, typically, when we look at midterm races, the President's party often loses seats. I mean you've got some exceptions, '98, 2002. Will Republicans be able to hold control of the House? How certain are you?
RONNA MCDANIEL: So, first of all, we know the historical trends, thirty seats lost in that first midterm when you hold the White House. Obama lost sixty seats. And, usually, you-- you lose seats in the Senate, too. So the Senate map we are talking about picking up seats which is unprecedented in a midterm of a first-term President. So that's something that everyone should be looking at. One, to see if we pick up one seat that will be defying history--
MARGARET BRENNAN: On the House?
RONNA MCDANIEL: --on the House. We have a lot of seats and the margin. Absolutely, we've had an unprecedented amount of retirements and that has made it harder in some of these swing districts. But right now, I'd say it's fifty-fifty. We are out every day working. The RNC has raised to date, two hundred and fifty million dollars. We've put four hundred and fifty-- five hundred and forty-nine staff on the ground. We've trained twenty thousand field org-- organizers. That's four times more than we did in 2016. So our infrastructure to turn out our vote, to engage with our voters, to talk to them about these results is the best it has ever been in the midterms. Now, candidates matter. And that's going to be different in every single race. And we need these candidates to talk about their local issues, go out there. They have to work as hard as they've ever worked. Candidates who think that they're in safe districts, they're going to have to give everything and we're going to be there backing it up at the RNC.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you said it's going to come down to the base in many ways, but a lot of traditional Republicans are troubled by some of the President's policies particularly on trade, tariffs, going against very traditional conservative values. How do you reconcile that?
RONNA MCDANIEL: Well, first of all, the President has done things that have been traditional Republican policies that we've campaigned on for years: deregulation, cutting taxes, strengthening our military, taking care of our veterans. And a lot of those things have spurred this economic growth, despite what President Obama is trying now to take credit for. But when it comes to the tariffs the President has said he is for free trade. You saw that when he talked to the President of the European Union. He has said, "We don't want tariffs at all." But when we are in a position of a power-- of power, as our country is economically, and we are on the rise, he is going to say to countries like China, "You are not going to take advantage of the United States anymore." And he is negotiating from a physician of strength. Because when we're not in this position, we won't be able to fight the five-hundred-billion-dollar deficit that we continually deal.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The pain is tolerable for now?
RONNA MCDANIEL: He's making progress and he's fighting for Americans and he's fighting for American jobs, and that's why he's so popular in my state of Michigan. I see it all over the country. People who were forgotten under the last administration--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
RONNA MCDANIEL: --feel like they have a President who is listening and caring about them. And the proof is in the results.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Ronna, thank you very much.
RONNA MCDANIEL: Thank you so much.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back in a moment with our panel.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with our panel. Amy Walter is National Editor of the Cook Political Report and co-host of WNYC's The Takeaway. David Nakamura covers the White House for the Washington Post. Mark Leibovich is Chief National Correspondent for the New York Times magazine and is out with a brand new book, "Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times." And Rachael Bade covers Congress for Politico. She is also a CNN political analyst. Rachael, I'll start off with you. We were just forecasting the races here. Is Ted Cruz going to win in Texas? Are these seats something that you heard both party leaders predict accurately?
RACHAEL BADE (Politico/@rachaelmbade): You know, it's Texas, come on. Ted Cruz is likely going to win, of course. But this shows the energy on the left right now and that is Democrats are turning out. They're-- they're energized and they could really pose a threat particularly in the House, though. And I think it was interesting, you know, McDaniel mentioned fifty-fifty and that she thought, you know, it's about fifty-fifty chance they keep the House. I-- from Capitol Hill, I've heard a little bit of a change in tone in past couple of weeks where some Republicans actually think the House is gone. And a lot of it has to do with the noise that's going on. You know, they have a story to tell, there was a great jobs report that came out Friday, record wage increases since 2009 and they want to talk about the economy. But everyone right now is focused on what's going on, the drama, the scandal in the White House, the President hitting back, the Russia investigation, and that is really drowning out the Republican message right now and it's a big problem for them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Amy, is-- is that also what you're seeing?
AMY WALTER (Cook Political Report/@amyewalter): Yeah. You know, the energy is-- is really the key part of this. The President is very good at ginning up his base and going out and making sure that as the RNC chairwoman said he's got an eighty-eight, ninety percent approval rating with his party. But when he fires up his base, he fires up the other side. And in fact fires them up almost to a degree that-- actually not almost-- to a degree that's larger than the people who like him. When you look at the approval rating of the President, those who say they strongly disapprove him have consistently been bigger than the people who strongly approve of him. So the intensity on the other side is really the big challenge for-- for the Republicans.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is putting-- is putting President Obama on the campaign trail a good strategy?
AMY WALTER: You know, the strategy of putting the President on the trail to help get those people who traditionally don't turn out in midterm elections, especially young people to come out and vote for Democrats. That turns what is right now building as a wave for Democrats. If young people also turn out, that's a tsunami. The other thing that I think is fascinating about watching this President with President Obama, both of them are trying to do the thing that is very difficult for presidents to do in a midterm, which is to say I want that coalition that turned out for me in the presidential year. In Obama's case, young people, people of color. In Trump's case, the rural, small town America. I know you came out and voted for me but now you've got to come out and vote for these members of Congress, right? It-- it's a sign that you respect me if you come and vote in the midterms. It's a very difficult thing to do, especially since Trump got elected in many ways by running against the very people that he's saying please now vote for to come back to office.
DAVID NAKAMURA (The Washington Post/@DavidNakamura): You even saw it in Trump's rally in Montana just this past week where one of his arguments is now vote for Republican members in Congress or else I face impeachment. And, yes, he sort of means-- he sort of means, yes, okay, some of the progress we've made on the economy, and I think-- but really it's about him.
MARK LEIBOVICH (The New York Times Magazine/@MarkLeibovich): I mean, I do think there are two points. One is-- I mean, we've seen over and over again in these-- these special elections that support for President Trump doesn't necessarily translate into turnout for Republicans down the ballot. But also, I mean, yes, his support among Republicans is sky high. But the Republican Party has shrunk considerably since he has taken office. I mean, these numbers-- I mean, many of them are in that fifty-five, sixty percent range of disapproval are some of the them are coming from former Republicans who are no longer reflected in that sample. So I think it's an interesting, I mean, especially for a general election campaign I think that's probably the more, you know, prominent number.
AMY WALTER: Yeah. And the more-- and the real fascinating thing about this campaign is the race for the Senate and the House are taking place in two very different Americas.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Mm.
AMY WALTER: The race for the Senate is through red, rural America in states like Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia. The battle for the House runs through suburban America. And in one part of America they really like Trump, in the other part they really don't.
DAVID NAKAMURA: And that's where he's been campaigning right now--
AMY WALTER: That's right.
DAVID NAKAMURA: --this North Dakota and Montana just this past week.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark, I want to ask you, you know, to Rachael's point some of the scandal in Washington sometimes overshadows the messaging that the parties would rather have heard. With the decision for the vice president, for cabinet members to come out this week against an anonymous self-described Trump administration official and Bob Woodward. Did they elevate the story and make the problem bigger or did they help themselves by engaging like this?
MARK LEIBOVICH: I-- I think they elevated it. I don't think there's any question they elevated it. Because, first of all, the number of days between now and the election in which, you know, the core story about the economy which is what Republicans clearly want to be talking about is not being told. I mean, that was-- this is another basically wasted week, if you want to keep it neutral here. So, no, I mean, I don't know if they could have ignored it. I mean, I don't know if they had a choice here. But we do-- we've seen over and over again that this White House has a knack for drumming up news that has nothing to do with the economy, nothing to do with things that Republicans who rather they talk about.
RACHAEL BADE: Speaking of that op-ed, it feels like at least Republicans on Capitol Hill feel like this was totally counterproductive. You know, they have been trying to bring the President to their side on things like averting a shut down right before the election, striking trade deals not blowing up NAFTA completely. Russia, NATO and right now the President has a reason to be paranoid at least, you know, that's what he's telling himself is people in his administration who are writing these op-eds saying that they are trying to basically reign him in, he's not going to trust anyone. So this is counterproductive for Republicans and have the big problem for them.
DAVID NAKAMURA: It's-- it's survival instincts for his aides to come out and say that. The President does want them to come out fighting on his behalf.
RACHAEL BADE: Right.
DAVID NAKAMURA: He himself is the one who escalates these controversies the most dramatically. And he did it again this week on Twitter, public statements on Air Force One in the middle of his campaign trip, talking about his own competence saying, you know, he can speak for-- for-- for-- for hours without notes to say how competent he is. I mean, he's trying to defend himself and he wants to see his aides out there doing the same thing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: David, you had some unusual warnings from the White House, the State Department and elsewhere about what would happen in Syria if you saw this offensive in Idlib, we know the bombing is underway. It seems those warnings are being dismissed by Russia and the Assad regime. What is happening here? Why aren't the Trump warnings being heeded?
DAVID NAKAMURA: Yes. Well, I mean, the President has sort of signaled both ways on Syria in his time. And, you know, I think that he's someone who said that he wanted to withdraw, he's also said someone who sent missiles into Syria. I think, you know, he's now-- there's now reports that said he's committed now to a longer term strategy and it's not going to be simple. So, you know, his relationship with the malign actors in that country have not-- he hasn't been that-- that clear with exactly what he's demanding.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And what should we read into the fact that in North Korea during the military parades today they didn't include intercontinental ballistic missiles. Are we over reading the pageantry or is it significant--
DAVID NAKAMURA: I think you're seeing a sign probably from Kim Jong-un. I mean, he was there with a top level Chinese official that's already frustrating the White House, China's role with North Korea maybe not putting as much pressure on them as he'd like to get serious about denuclearization. But I think Kim Jong-un is reading the signs that President Trump cancelled the trip of his secretary of state to Pyongyang saying there's not enough progress. They don't want to inflame him unnecessarily. So I think it is a sign that Kim is trying to put these things back on track. However, I think analysts are right to say that we haven't seen any real progress on the denuclearization and the more time goes by, U.S. intelligence agencies are saying North Korea is not denuclearizing. They're not ramping it down. In fact, behind the scenes, they're taking efforts to conceal what they have and continue to move forward with the program.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark, you just wrote this book about the NFL.
MARK LEIBOVICH: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Going from-- from one swamp to the other.
MARK LEIBOVICH: Yes, exactly.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You compare them--
MARK LEIBOVICH: Trading swamps.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --in-- in the book. But this week just even this morning you have President Trump tweeting about football. Why is this such a useful political tool for him?
MARK LEIBOVICH: Well, I mean, the-- the-- there's the old saying that football, the NFL owns the day of the week, that would be Sunday, right? And what I found initially just from running, again, trading swamps as you said is that politics keeps infringing this week being a perfect object lesson of my football book is out and we're talking about politics. President Trump obviously loves this issue. He has, you know, a lot of personal resentment towards the NFL. He thinks--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Why?
MARK LEIBOVICH: Because he's wanted to own a team for about four decades and the most exclusive club, Billionaire Boys Club, the NFL owners want no part of him and has no objective--
MARGARET BRENNAN: So for-- for you that's what it is, it's not about patriotism and the anthem and the antagonism--
MARK LEIBOVICH: It-- it's that, too. It is absolutely that, too. I mean, my book, I wanted to, like, look into like what that world looks like. It's a very mysterious world. I don't think most people know what goes into running the National Football League. In Mister-- in President Trump's case, this is a culture war grenade. He feels that this is a winning issue, the protests are something that he feels the polls are on his side with which it would seem he is, that-- that it is. And he also gets to be in the middle of the great spectacle of American life which is football and politics at the same time.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Nike also thought it was a winning issue apparently.
MARK LEIBOVICH: Apparently-- no. I mean, what Nike has done and what Donald Trump has done and what Colin Kaepernick have done is they-- they have sort of filled the vacuum of leadership inside the NFL. And the NFL has just basically chosen to punt-- I didn't even do that on purpose. Totally didn't do that on purpose. On this issue, they-- they really-- they're still kind of doddering around. No one knows what to do. There's no policy. And so you have these other entities filling the vacuum.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Rachael, who was the 2020 candidate trying out in these Kavanaugh hearings this week?
RACHAEL BADE: Who? Which one? You know, yes, the focus was supposed to be on Kavanaugh, became on audition for 2020, you had Kamala Harris from California potentially running in 2020. She waited about ten seconds to interrupt the hearing when they first started, when Grassley basically gaveled them in, saying we can't have this hearing, we don't have all the documents on Kavanaugh. It is not right. We don't know what he's really going to do as a Supreme Court Justice until we get these documents.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Mm.
RACHAEL BADE: That was obviously followed up by Cory Booker, who is also a potential--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
RACHAEL BADE: --candidate in 2020. And his Spartacus moment where he said I'm going to release a whole bunch of confidential information that the Senate panel didn't want to release.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
RACHAEL BADE: Of course, some of those had already been released, so he kind of looked a little silly in that moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: He's a bit of a--
RACHAEL BADE: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --bit of a kerfuffle.
RACHAEL BADE: But-- but on that, some of them had not--
MARGARET BRENNAN: We're out of time. So I do that to wrap you on that.
RACHAEL BADE: We keep going forever.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We-- we have to wrap you on the filibuster. Well, we'll-- we will be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thanks for watching. I won't be here next week. I'll be taking some time with a new member of my family. But John Dickerson and the FACE THE NATION team will be here.
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