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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on December 15, 2019

12/15: Face The Nation
12/15: Graham, Durbin, Lightizer 46:44

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

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MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington where in this week before Christmas the House is set to impeach President Trump as well as pass a major trade agreement and fund the government. But the Senate is already preparing for a trial of the President in the New Year despite Leader Mitch McConnell saying there's no chance he'll be removed from office.

Saturday the President assumed his role as commander-in-chief, enjoying the annual Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. President Trump clearly enjoyed his time out from the woes of Washington and his historic workweek.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This has been a wild week.

MARGARET BRENNAN: "Wild" is putting it mildly.

WOMAN: Ms. Demings?


MARGARET BRENNAN: House Judiciary Committee Democrats passed articles of impeachment charging the President with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The brawl in committee set the stage for an even uglier debate on the House floor later this week.

DAVID CICILLINE: The idea that Donald Trump was leading an anti-corruption effort is like Kim Jong-un leading a human rights effort.

JAMIE RASKIN: The President of United States shook down a foreign power to come and get involved in our election. That's wrong.

MIKE JOHNSON: We get it. You don't like him. That doesn't mean you can banish him from the marketplace. You can't send him out of his businesses and say he can't hold a position of honor or trust. You don't get the right to do that. The people of this country do. We live in a republic. I'm just sick of this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Johnson's not alone. Senate Republicans are planning for a quick trial in the New Year, although the President may need some convincing.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I could do-- I'll do whatever I want. Look, there is-- we did nothing wrong. So I'll do long or short. I've heard Mitch. I've heard Lindsey. I think they are very much on agreement on some concept. I'll do whatever they want to do. It doesn't matter.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll get Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham's thoughts about a trial. And the number two Democrat in the Senate, Richard Durbin, will also weigh in.

Then, the administration makes big progress on two major trade agreements. We'll talk with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Plus, new polling in the 2020 Super Tuesday states. Could former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's strategy work?

All that and more, is just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We begin today with the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham. He joins us from Doha, Qatar. Senator, good morning to you. The President has said he's heard you out on the merits of a short Senate trial, but he's going to do whatever he wants, he says. Should Republicans in the Senate really be taking their marching orders from the person being investigated?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-South Carolina/@LindseyGrahamSC/Judiciary Committee Chairman): You know, I understand the President's frustration, but I think what's best for the country is to get-- get this thing over with. I am clearly made up my mind. I'm not trying to hide the fact that I have disdain for the accusations in the process. So I don't need any witnesses. The President can make a request to call witnesses. They can make a req-- a request or call Mike Pence and Pompeo and Joe Biden and Hunter Biden. I am ready to vote on the underlying articles. I don't really need to hear a lot of witnesses.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the President says he wants-- he would love those individuals to testify. He says he wants evidence. He wants to make his case. Why are you opposed?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, I'd tell the President, if somebody is ready to acquit you, I'd sort of get out of the way. If you start calling the witnesses the President wants and they're are going to start calling Mike Pence and, you know, the Secretary of State Pompeo, I don't think that's good for the country. I don't think it's good for the Senate. You need fifty-one votes to get a witness approved. I want to make my decision based on the trial record established in the House as a basis for impeachment. That's just me, one senator. But I think there's a general desire by a lot of senators to not turn this thing into a circus. I understand the President's frustration by being shut out of the House but I need to do what I think is best for the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, back when you were in the House, during the Clinton impeachment, you were an impeachment manager. And I want to play a clip from what you said on FACE THE NATION back then in 1999.

(Begin VT)

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (January 1999): All I ask for is a chance to do it meaningful if you have one day and you're-- you're stuck with a judiciary report, I don't think history will judge the Senate well. If they decide to acquit the-- the President, there needs to be a record well developed where both sides had a chance to prove their case. So I hope we have a trial that is meaningful, that will withstand historical scrutiny, that will follow the precedents of the past. I've never known an impeachment trial without a witness and just lasting one day to present the case for the House. That's frankly not fair.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why have your standards for Senate trial changed?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, Ken Starr investigated President Clinton for years, spent millions of dollars. He was an outside counsel. Bob Mueller investigated Donald Trump for two years, spent twenty-five million dollars. I supported the Mueller investigation because I think he would be fair. It was not a witch hunt in my view. This is the first impeachment trial being driven by partisan politicians conducted behind closed doors. The testimony was selectively leaked. The President was denied the ability to participate meaningful in the House hearing. And I want to end it. I have nothing but disdain for this. I'm trying to make myself clear. What you're doing in the House is bad for the presidency. You're impeaching the President of the United States in a matter of weeks, not months. You had a two-year investigation, that wasn't enough. I think this whole thing is a crock. You're shutting the President out. The process in the House, any partisan group could do this in the future.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: You're weaponizing impeachment. And I want to end it. I don't want to legitimize it. I hate what they are doing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Rudy Giuliani spoke to our Paula Reid and said when he was in Ukraine just in the past few days, he had to go buy a whole separate suitcase because he came back with so many documents for this report he wants to make. He was at the White House on Friday. Do you plan to look at the information he gathered? Is he credible?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, I don't know what he found, but if he wants to come to the Judiciary Committee--Rudy, if you want to come and tell us what you found, I'll be glad to talk to you. When it comes to impeachment, I want to base my decision on the record assembled in the House. We can look at what Rudy's got and Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and anything else you want to look at after impeachment. But if Rudy wants to come to the Judiciary Committee and testify about what he found, he is welcome to do so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. We'll look for that. You have, though, announced a separate investigation into your friend, Joe Biden. And you said that-- that you love him, but you want to pursue this investigation. He was asked about this on CNN--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I did. I did, very much so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He was asked about this on CNN recently and I want to play that bite.

JOE BIDEN (November 22): I am disappointed. And, quite frankly, I'm angered by the fact. He knows me. He knows my son. He knows there's nothing to this. Trump is now essentially holding power over him that even the Ukrainians wouldn't yield to. And Lindsey is about to go down in a way that I think he is going to regret his whole life.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He says you're going to regret this your whole life. Is there anything that you've done with this Ukraine investigation that-- that gives you pause?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Oh. No, not at all. Joe Biden is a-- is a friend. He is one of the most decent people I've ever met in my life. But here's the deal, this whole process around the Ukraine is--reeks with politics. They've done everything but take a wrecking ball to Donald Trump and his family. We're not going to live in a world where only Republicans get looked at. As much as I love Joe Biden and I am sincere when I say that, now that you want to talk about Ukraine, it's pretty hard for me to go home and tell my constituents to ignore the fact that Hunter Biden received fifty thousand dollars a month from a gas company in the Ukraine, run by the most corrupt person in the Ukraine. And two months after the gas company was investigated, the prosecutor got fired. I don't know if there is anything to this. I hope not. I hope I can look at the transcripts of the phone call between Biden in the Ukraine--Joe Biden after the investigation began and say there is no there there. These are legitimate concerns about what happened in the Ukraine. I love Joe Biden, but none of us are above scrutiny. I'd like to knock all this off and get back on governing the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the Supreme Court is also going to take a look at whether or not the President can block his financial records from being released to the public. It's pretty significant ruling on presidential-- on precedent here. Do you think any President should be--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --able to block this from Congress?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: If the Supreme Court rules he has to release his financial information, he would be bound to do so. I personally think he should release his tax-- tax returns. I think anybody running for President going forward should release their tax turns-- tax returns. But the President has legal rights. He is an American. We can't have laws for everybody but Donald Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Graham, thank you for joining us.

We turn now to the number-two Democrat in the Senate, Richard Durbin. He joins us this morning from Chicago. Good morning to you, Senator.

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN (D-Illinois/Democratic Whip/@SenatorDurbin): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know about twenty years ago when Bill Clinton was being impeached, you had said at the time you wanted it dismissed. Now the tables are turned. We're set most likely for a trial in the Senate. But since the votes aren't in Democrats' favor, why not just dismiss it?

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that it isn't just the President who's on trial in an impeachment proceeding. The Senate is on trial. And we have a constitutional responsibility. I hear people like Senator McConnell talking about the fact that he sat down with the folks at the White House. He's already made his decision even before he's taken his oath to promise impartial justice. He sees no need for us to spend a lot of time. My friend Senator Lindsey Graham refers to the whole thing as a crock. You know what it boils down to is we may interfere with some tee times here, but we ought to really stand up for the demeanor, the history, and the traditions of the Senate in terms of doing this in the proper way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't want a short trial?

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: No. I think what we ought to do is, as we did twenty years ago, let's have Senator McConnell sit down with Senator Schumer--Trent Lott sat down twenty years ago and start this proceeding in the proper bipartisan way. That hasn't happened yet. I don't know what Senator McConnell is waiting for. And, Margaret, let me tell you what happened twenty years ago. They decided, Trent Lott, that the entire Senate, all hundred members, would go to the old Senate gallery and sit down together. We realized at that moment we were embarking on a moment that would be captured in history, this impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. And you had interesting alliances form. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts--


SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: --comes together with Phil Gramm of Texas to talk about the procedures during impeachment. The Senate finally realized we were on trial, too, and we had to comport ourselves in a dignified way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why do you think it's so different this time? Is it-- is it McConnell's leadership? Is it President Trump?

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: Well, Senator McConnell proved to us when the vacancy of Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court that he would ignore logic and common sense and even Senate tradition to take a political position. And he announced recently he would switch his position a hundred and eighty degrees if the same thing happened to President Trump. So the starting point is not good. It takes four Republican senators who care enough for the Senate, for all of our colleagues to say, let's do this properly. Regardless of the outcome, whatever it may be, at the end of the day, let's be able to turn around and say, as Alexander Hamilton promised, the Senate--


SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: --is the right place for this trial.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we-- we know, are-- the votes don't appear to be there to remove the President. But when it comes to the process of this, Democrats do get a say if it does take, as Lindsey Graham has said, fifty-one votes to approve a witness. Do you plan to call them and who do you want to hear from?

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: Well, I can tell you where I'm standing, if it is a true trial there needs to be evidence. And we have had an effort by the administration to deny to the House of Representatives any evidence, documents, witnesses. At one point, Chairman Nadler of the House Judiciary invited the President or his attorneys to come sit at the dais and ask questions to follow the proceeding. They turned him down. It appears to me there are no witnesses the President would want to call to exonerate himself. Maybe such a witness doesn't exist. I don't know. But the bottom line is if we are going to have an actual trial, we should consider evidence. And that's why I think Senator Schumer and Senator McConnell need to sit down and have an orderly, respectable process in the Senate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you have a list of witnesses set to go?

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: There are a lot of potential witnesses, that's for sure. But in terms of those that we'd actually choose--


SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: --and whether they'd be called or deposed, those are things we can work out. Once we have a spirit that this is a constitutional responsibility, that really is a reflection on who we are as United States Senators.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, less than half of the country thinks that the President should be impeached. How do you make a more persuasive case to the public in the Senate than your House colleagues did?

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: I could just tell you, we-- we present the evidence and let the American people follow this trial in the Senate. You know, it isn't a question of political popularity as far as I am concerned.


SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: For the longest time, many of us said which Republican is going to defy the wishes of their political base and come forward and do the right thing for the country?


SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: Same thing applies to Democrats. Will we ignore our political base and look at our Constitution? That's what should guide us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about a hearing you were part of this week, the contentious hearing over secret surveillance, the FISA process, as it is called. Inspector General laid out significant errors by the FBI. And, specifically, I want to ask you about what an FBI lawyer did when he retroactively changed an e-mail that was presented as part of evidence regarding a Trump campaign associate, Carter Page. Jim Comey is on Fox this morning and he said Carter was treated unfairly. Does the U.S. government owe Carter Page an apology?

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: Well, I can certainly tell you, based on what we saw, they do. And here's the bottom line. Many of us have been looking at this FISA, the secret FISA court for years, saying this isn't the first and won't be the last time that the FBI misrepresents evidence before this court and proceeds. We have tried to reform the proceedings. Senator Lee, Republican Senator Leahy, Democrat, myself, and others have been pushing for FISA reform. We couldn't get the Republicans to join us in that effort. Maybe now they will. This should be a bipartisan effort to clean up the FISA court. What happened in this situation was inexcusable. But remember what the inspector general said is the bottom line. Opening this investigation--


SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: --was warranted and not political.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But he also said there were seventeen significant errors that he uncovered--

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: No question about it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --alone. I'm wondering if you have confidence in the current director, Chris Wray, to be able to fix some of these problems. Jim Comey, again this morning, was saying there are maybe systematic problems regarding surveillance within the FBI.

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: I do have confidence in Mister Wray. I voted for him. I support him. I looked at his background. And I think he can do this job and do it well. But to have the President in his corner would be very helpful. The President's very critical of the FBI and the intelligence agencies. If we're going to bring about real reform, the White House has to be in on it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Senator Durbin, appreciate you joining us today.

FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute, so stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: This week the U.S. and China agreed on the first phase of a trade deal that would roll back some American tariffs. It's expected to be signed in early January. We're joined now by the U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, the top negotiator in those talks with Chinese officials. Good to have you here.

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER (U.S. Trade Representative/@USTradeRep): Thank you for having me, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's huge to have the two largest economies in the world cool off some of these tensions that have been rattling the global economy. But I want to get to some of the details here. China says still needs to be proofread, still needs to be translated. Is you being here today a sign this is done, this deal's not falling apart?

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: So first of all, this is done. This is something that happens in every agreement. There's a translation period. There are some scrubs. This is totally done. Absolutely. But can I make one point? Because I think it's really important. Friday was probably the most momentous day in trade history ever. That day we submitted the USMCA, the Mexico-Canada Agreement with bipartisan support--support of business, labor, agriculture. We actually introduced that into the House and the Senate--


ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: --on this, which is about 1.4 trillion dollars worth of the economy-- I mean of-- of trade. And then in addition to this which is about six hundred billion, so that's, literally. about half of total trade were announced on the same day. It was extremely momentous and indicative of where we're going, what this President has accomplished.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that is significant and I do want to get to the USMCA. But because the China deal just happened--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --and we know so little about it, I'd like to get some more detail from you. You said this is set.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You expect the signing in early January still.


MARGARET BRENNAN: What gives President Trump the confidence to say China's going to go out and buy fifty billion dollars worth of agricultural goods because Beijing hasn't said that number?

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: First of all-- let me say, first of all, I would say this: When we look at this agreement, we have to look at where we are. We have an American system, and we have a Chinese system. And we're trying to figure out a way to have these two become integrated. That's what's in our interest.


ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: A phase one deal does the following: one, it keeps in place three hundred and eighty billion dollars worth of tariffs to defend, protect U.S. technology. So that's one part of it. Another part of it is very important structural changes. This is not about just agricultural and other purchases, although, I'll get to that in a second. It's very important. It has IP. It has-- it has--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Intellectual property--

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: --technology. It has-- it has currency. It has financial services. There's a lot of very-- the next thing is it's-- it's enforceable. There's an enforcement provision that lasts ninety days-- it takes ninety days and you get real, real enforcement. The United States can then take an action if China doesn't keep its commitments.

MARGARET BRENNAN: With the tariffs back on?

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: Well, you would take a proportionate reaction like we do in every other trade agreement. So that's what we expect. And, finally, we'll-- we'll find out whether this works or not. We have an enforcement mechanism. But, ultimately, whether this whole agreement works is going to be determined by who's making the decisions in China, not in the United States. If the hardliners are making the decisions, we're going to get one outcome. If the-- if the reformers are making the decisions, which is what we hope--


ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: --then we're going to get another outcome. This is a-- the way to think about this deal is this is a first step in trying to integrate two very different systems to the benefit of both of us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that fifty-billion-dollar number is that in writing?

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: Absolutely. So-- so here's what's in writing. We-- we have a list that will go manufacturing, agriculture, services, energy and the like. There'll be a total for each one of those. Overall, it's a minimum of two hundred billion dollars. Keep in mind, by the second year, we will just about double exports of goods to China, if this-- if this agreement is in place.


ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: Double exports. We had about a hundred and-- and twenty-eight billion dollars in 2017. We're going to go up at least by a hundred, probably a little over a hundred. And in terms of the agriculture numbers, what we have are specific breakdowns by products and we have a commitment for forty to fifty billion dollars in sales. You could think of it as eighty to a hundred billion dollars in new sales for agriculture over the course of the next two years. Just massive numbers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And-- and that is important in no small part because also this is a key political constituency for President Trump going into the election, to take some pain off of American farmers who've been feeling it pretty strongly. I mean the USDA projects that the soybean market won't recover, I think till 2026 because of the damage that has been done to it.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that-- how much of that, that political calculus, factored into the agreement to do this in phases? Because you didn't want to do it in phases.

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: Well, it was, Margaret--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Chinese did.

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: It was always going to be in phases. The question was how big was the first phase? Anyone who thinks you're going to take their system and our system that have-- that have worked in a very unbalanced way for the United States--


ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: --and in-- in one stroke of the pen change all of that is foolish. The President is not foolish. He's very smart. The question was how big-- how big was the first phase going to be? This is going to take years. We're not going to resolve these differences very quickly. On the agriculture point, that's a good point. Let me say this: If you look at American agriculture in between USMCA, which is Canada and Mexico, China, Japan, Korea, we have rewritten the rules in favor of American agriculture on more than half, fifty-six percent, of all of our exports from agriculture. This, over the course of the last year, what this President has accomplished in this area, is remarkable. And you're already-- any one of these deals would have been monstrous. And the fact that we have all of them together--


ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: --is-- is great for agriculture.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I just want to button up on China, though, because the promise here was to-- to do the things that American businesses have been complaining about for years--


MARGARET BRENNAN: Not just the intellectual property theft, but subsidizing corporations in China in an unfair way for Americans. Cybertheft. None of that's here.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's phase two. When you start negotiating that?

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: So let me say first of all--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a date?

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: Let's talk about what's here rather than what's not here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that's huge.

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: Absolute rules on--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's what President Trump said this whole trade war was starting on.

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: Look at tech-- tech transfer is huge. That's what's in the 301 report. Look, we had a plan that-- the President came up with a plan. We've been following it for two and a half years. We are right where we hope to be. Tech transfer, real commitments, IP, real specific commitments. I mean this agreement is eighty-six pages long of detail. Agricultural barriers removed in many cases, financial services opening, currency. This is a real structural change. Is it going to solve all the problems? No. Did we expect it to? No. Absolutely not.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do-- the President said those talks are going to start immediately, though. Do you have a date?

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: We don't have a date, no. What we have to do is get this. We have to get the-- the final translations worked out, the formalities. We're going to sign this agreement. But I'll tell you this: The second phase two is going to be determined also by how we implement phase one. Phase one is going to be implemented right to the-- right down to every detail.


ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: It really is a remarkable agreement, but it's not going to solve all the problems.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we need to take a short break. We'll be back with U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Later in the broadcast we'll check in on how the 2020 Democratic candidates are doing in the Super Tuesday states in our new CBS News Battleground Tracker.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including our Battleground Tracker, our political panel, and more from U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION, and our conversation with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Let's talk about the other agreement. The House is set, Democratic-controlled House, is set to vote on the USMCA, the free trade deal with Mexico and Canada that's been rewritten. This is a win for the President to get this through, but Nanc-- Speaker Pelosi and her caucus did have some last minute maneuvers here. Speaker Pelosi is quoted as saying we ate their lunch when it comes to the Trump administration.

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER (U.S. Trade Representative/@USTradeRep): So--

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you respond to that?

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: We had a great--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You made some concessions to labor here. That was not insignificant and it did irk some Republicans.

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: So-- so-- so let me-- let me make a point about that. We had an election and the Democrats won the House, number one. Number two, it was always my plan and I was criticized for this, as you know, it was always my plan that this should be a Trump trade policy. And a Trump trade policy is going to get a lot of Democratic support. Remember, most of these working people voted for the President of the United States. These are-- these are not his enemies. So what did we concede on? We conceded on biologics. Yes. That was a move away from what I wanted, for sure. But labor enforcement? There's nothing about being against labor enforcement that's Republican. The President wants Mexico to enforce its labor laws. He doesn't want American manufacturing workers to have to compete with people who are-- who are operating in-- in-- in very difficult conditions. So there's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you don't think there's a political cost because Republican senators were annoyed to be cut out of this last phase?

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: Look, there are-- there are always process issues. This bill is better now with the exception of biologics, which is a big exception. With the exception of biologics, it's more enforceable and it's better for American workers and American manufacturers and agriculture workers than it was before. For sure.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mister Lighthizer, thank you very much for joining us.

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: Thank you for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: CBS News has been polling Americans on the impeachment inquiry ever since it was opened. And, today, we have a new poll. It shows that even after the testimony and debate over the articles of impeachment in the House Committee, still less than half, forty-six percent of Americans feel that the President deserves to be impeached over his actions related to Ukraine versus thirty-nine percent who say he does not and fifteen percent say it is too soon to say. Joining us to talk about what's happening here and also give us some insight into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination are CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto and CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe. Good to have you both here.

ED O'KEEFE (CBS News Political Correspondent/@edokeefe): Good to see you.

ANTHONY SALVANTO (CBS News Elections & Surveys Director/@SalvantoCBS): Thanks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Anthony, it looks like no clear winner to this argument?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: No dramatic movement on those numbers. And this week we asked, in-- in particular, do you find these arguments convincing that it was abuse of power that the Democrats are making? And that comes out split. Do you find that the argument that the President obstructed Congress convince it and-- and people are split? So there's-- it's a mixed bag here. And I want to emphasize it's not that people in the poll feel that what allegedly went on was proper, they don't, and they do find the Democratic arguments a little more convincing than the Republican ones.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And on that particular question, people are just sticking to party-line votes.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: I think the way this attract the whole way is that views on impeachment are more or less just related to whether or not you think the President is doing a good job in the first place.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ed, Speaker Pelosi was reluctant to start impeachment in the first place. There is a political cost to all of this. Have we calculated what it will be?

ED O'KEEFE: Well, you know, it seems to be minimal. I have been struck by the fact that all of these vulnerable Democratic freshmen have essentially held firm on this issue. And I think this number here proves it--that if you voted for a Democrat last year, you're for impeachment. Therefore, there is enough support for them back home so long as Congress is doing other things, which is why we're going to see them pass the trade deal this week, make sure the government keeps the lights on, is working on issues like prescription drugs prices. The only fallout--and if this is the only fallout, it's telling--is this Congressman Jeff Van Drew from southern New Jersey is essentially--or we're told probably going to switch from being a Democrat to a Republican in the coming days. It's a Republican district. He has taken some hits back home for it. And the party showed him some internal polling that found because he voted against starting the impeachment inquiry, his support among Democratic voters bottomed out. So he is just going to roll the dice as he might in Atlantic City in his district--


ED O'KEEFE: --and going to switch to become a Republican.


ED O'KEEFE: But if that's it, Democrats probably in good shape.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, ultimately, we-- we know Democrats with the majority are going to vote to impeach.


MARGARET BRENNAN: This isn't going to change--

ED O'KEEFE: Overwhelming, yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --any kind of map there. Let's take a look now at the Democrats running for President in 2020. Our new Battleground Tracker poll surveyed likely Democratic voters in the March third primaries. That's Super Tuesday. And there are fourteen contests. Close to a third of the delegates will be decided on that day. It is key. The top tier here, not a surprise. Former Vice President Joe Biden is on top with twenty-eight percent of voter support, Senators Elizabeth Warren right behind him at twenty-five percent with Bernie Sanders at twenty percent. But we do have a new candidate in our second tier. After South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has nine percent support, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg comes in at four percent with entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Senators Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker tied with three percent support. And the rest of the field comes in with two percent or less. So, Anthony, this was a-- a gamble for Michael Bloomberg. Does this mean so far it's paying off?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, it's key, Super Tuesday, not just for the big delegate hall you mentioned but because that's where Michael Bloomberg is trying to enter this race, coming in after those early contests of say Iowa and New Hampshire. Now you mentioned that he is in fifth place. One of the things that's interesting is you look at this and you see the Democratic Party a lot through the lens of his entry, which is to say, if you look at the liberal side of the Democratic Party, people who are more inclined to support Elizabeth Warren support Bernie Sanders. They look at his entry and they say, well, it shows that wealthy people might have too-- too much influence in politics. But he is pulling a little bit more from Joe Biden, a little bit more from Pete Buttigieg, and moderates are more inclined to look at that and say, well, it means he is independent from big donors--all that spending that he is doing there. So you see that and you see him doing a little bit better, little bit better, with people who say that the party is going in too liberal of a direction. The trouble for him, of course, is that that's not most Democrats. Most Democrats think the party is just about right in its campaign direction.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And this was a unique strategy for Bloomberg. Is it paying off?

ED O'KEEFE: Well, it is risky, but he can afford to do it, you know, being a multibillionaire. And-- and it-- and, you know, if you're already at four percent and you still have a little more than two months to go and you're advertising as much as he is and you're now traveling to these states and you're not devoting time and resources to those first four states, but, instead, going to focus on these fourteen, what's to say that he doesn't at least hit the delegate threshold of fifteen percent in some of these states and pick off enough delegates to keep going and remain a factor in the race. I was struck he held an event across the river here in Northern Virginia on Friday. Handful of people, his events have been quite small so far. Mostly, because they are tied to the organizations he's worked with in the past, climate control groups--


ED O'KEEFE: --gun control, mayors. This one had about a hundred people. And I asked a few folks on their way out, why are you here? How did you find out about it? They heard about it from local Democrats. They are intrigued. He seems a little more charismatic than we thought. Clearly, he'd be an effective manager, which after a few years of Donald Trump, these Democrats said, wouldn't be a bad thing. So, we'll see. He's got time. Somebody has to test the theory that--


ED O'KEEFE: --the first four states perhaps get too much influence. He certainly can afford to try.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, Ant-- Anthony--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --last time we talked, you said voters were satisfied. Democrats were satisfied with the field of candidates. Now they've got more options.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: And I think this relates to that strategy, too, in that we went ahead and asked people, what are you in these Super Tuesday states, California, Texas, et cetera, going to make of the results out of Iowa, out of New Hampshire? And half of them said that they used that to narrow their choices. That they use that, specifically, to see who is a contender. Well, that's a hurdle for anybody who tries to get in late. But, at the same time, I think Bloomberg is trying to bet on the idea that there might be reticence coming out of those early states, maybe build on that idea that the party was going in too liberal a direction.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There is nervousness.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: And then there is nervousness, and that's another thing that we found. We asked people, well, how do you feel about just watching this whole campaign unfold? And more people said that they felt nervous than felt optimistic about it. And, specifically, electability--the idea that one of these candidates can go ahead and beat Donald Trump next fall. There is no single candidate that a majority of Democrats says is probably going to beat Donald Trump. Joe Biden does relatively best on it, but it's still not most.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ed, he buried the lead.


MARGARET BRENNAN: No Democrat here is viewed as being able to beat Donald Trump--

ED O'KEEFE: Right. And that was Bloomberg's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --significantly.

ED O'KEEFE: That's Bloomberg's theory of the race, too, that because nobody else can do it, why shouldn't I at least try? And so he will try.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thanks to both of you, gentlemen.

We'll be right back with our political panel.


MARGARET BRENNAN: It's time now for some political analysis. Dan Balz is chief correspondent at The Washington Post, Kelsey Snell is a congressional reporter at NPR, Edward Wong is a diplomatic and international correspondent for The New York Times, and David French is senior editor at The Dispatch. Welcome to the program. Good to have all of you here. This is going to be an incredible week for you, Kelsey. You got-- you've got some significant votes teed up, not just impeachment but this trade vote, and, as Ed laid out, keeping the lights on in government.

KELSEY SNELL (NPR/@kelsey_snell): Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Since we taped that interview with the trade representative, Mexico has now said they are flying here and they have object-- objections to what was supposed to be a real win for the President.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that vote or any of these votes in jeopardy?

KELSEY SNELL: Last time I talked to leadership Democrats, they say that the vote is on and that they expect things to go as planned. But, again, these are late-breaking development that may be changing their plans. They really do feel the need, though, to get this done before they leave for Christmas. They have a large number of particularly these battleground Democrats who need this trade deal so they can go home and say, I didn't just show up and impeach the President. I also got you things you care about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And is this, David, this entire impeachment vote, I mean, you have written that Republican strategy here is largely just to base it on hypothetical defenses of the President rather than the facts.

DAVID FRENCH (The Dispatch/@DavidAFrench): Right, right. It's-- Republicans aren't taking him seriously or literally. They are taking him hypothetically as a friend of mine, Adam White (ph), wrote. And what's happening is they are saying, well, there is a way in which it could possibly be okay to investigate Ukraine. Pay no attention to the transcript, but there is a way in which it could be possibly okay to investigate corruption in Ukraine. There were individual Ukrainians who did things in 2016 but this doesn't bear any resemblance to the kind of investigation or the subjects of the investigation that Trump himself pressed the Ukrainians on. And I think one thing that rank-and-file Republicans has not penetrated to them at all is this idea that when Trump was talking about investigating 2016, he was talking about investigating a very wild conspiracy theory--one that would put an ally in an impossible position. How does an ally disprove a conspiracy theory that is dear to the President's heart when an ally needs hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid? And that--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you're talking there about drawing into question the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in 2016 or not.

DAVID FRENCH: Well, and, quite specifically, finding a mythical CrowdStrike server in the territory of Ukraine. This is a crazy conspiracy theory, and it's something that I think calls into question the President's fitness. And it's gotten less attention than the Biden angle, but I think it's very important to understand the President's state of mind as he conducts international diplomacy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But it has drawn Republicans into the conversation to have to sort of also defend that portion of it a little bit. I mean you had senators like Ted Cruz and others have to say, well, there was meddling by someone who was Ukrainian. Therefore, the President has merit to his conspiracies. Is there any political price to any of what we have learned here, Dan?

DAN BALZ (Washington Post/@danbalz): Well, there-- there-- there-- there could be some political price on both sides I think. I mean, we know, as Kelsey said, that there are vulnerable Democrats in swing districts who, you know, could feel some pain from this. We're not clear on that. But-- but I think that there are also Republicans who could feel this once we get through it. I mean I talked to a Democratic strategist recently who made the argument that once you get into reelection campaigns that some of these senators who are up in 2020 will pay for what they have done in defending the President so vociferously without giving any suggestion that he did something wrong.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So even if we are headed to a Senate trial with, essentially, an acquittal, not-- not a vote to remove the President that this could backfire?

DAN BALZ: Potentially, yes. I mean it-- it-- it goes to the question of how these senators explain their votes, particularly, the Republican senators to acquit. Do they say he did something improper but it doesn't rise to the level of impeachment, or do they say he did something egregious but we are ex-number of months away from an election and, therefore, let the voters decide as opposed to saying what he did warrants removal from office. I think their words will be-- will be used against them depending on how they handle it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, Kelsey, quickly, are there any defections or any other party changes we should be expecting?

KELSEY SNELL: Other than Jeff Van Drew, who already was mentioned by Ed O'Keefe, we are not hearing about any other major defections. I would expect that there will be in the neighborhood of maybe three, four, five Democrats who vote against impeachment. That wouldn't be a surprise if there are a few of them that do go that direction. Don't really expect any Republicans to switch because one of the things that Republicans tell me all the time is that the President is popular with most Republican voters. And the ones where he isn't popular--


KELSEY SNELL: --they are just not showing up to vote. It's not a matter of they're going to vote against these members for a Democrat. They're just not going to show up.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ed, I want to ask you about the President's centerpiece foreign policy issue, and that is trying to broker a breakthrough with North Korea to end the threat of their nuclear program. North Korea just carried out another test Friday.

EDWARD WONG (The New York Times/@ewong): Right. And I think what the President's very nervous about is North Korea possibly testing a nuclear warhead or an ICBM that might reach America-- would have that distance of reaching America. I think that this--

MARGARET BRENNAN: In the coming week.

EDWARD WONG: Right, in the coming weeks. Kim Jong-un and his officials have said they-- they'll deliver a Christmas gift to President Trump if Trump doesn't come up with a proposal mainly to-- to take off sanctions from North Korea that would please Pyongyang and I think that this will-- you see the President getting nervous. He's been tweeting about this. He says, "Don't try undermine my chances in the 2020 election by doing this." And he knows that if these tests take place they will undermine one of his main diplomatic selling points to his supporters, which is that he got North Korea to-- to quiet down on the testing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And this breakthrough on the trade deal, it's a smaller deal than what the President promised with China. Does that intersect here in any way? Does China become more helpful in trying to deliver North Korea to the table, or is there no connection?

EDWARD WONG: I think they've-- from what I've been told, diplomats have actually keep it very compartmentalized. The North Korea policy track has been separate from the trade negotiation track. The trade deal that you are talking about, what is interesting about is that it doesn't address any of the large structural changes that the President wanted to see or that he was trying to tell his voters that he would get from China when he started this whole trade war. And, in fact, you see China has this command economy structure that has capitalist elements that it will continue to use and that nothing in this phase one deal, which is considered a weak deal by many experts, addresses any of those aspects.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, as you reported today in the New York Times, there was significant espionage attempt on U.S. soil by China.

EDWARD WONG: Right. This is an interesting case because for the first time in more than thirty years, it looks like the U.S. expelled two Chinese diplomats who they believe were spies. And the-- these spies or diplomats tried to drive on to a very sensitive military base in Virginia, a base that has Special Operations forces on it. And-- and then they were caught--


EDWARD WONG: --and they were pushed out of the country. The main question about this is whether it will add to the ongoing U.S.-China tensions and whether it will become a point of conflict within the diplomatic relations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There was a significant report in the Washington Post this week, Dan, detailing real miscalculations, misleading in many ways, of the public by a series of U.S. administrations about the war in Afghanistan. I asked Senator Lindsey Graham about it and I want to play a bite for you here.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, to be honest with you, I know General Petraeus pretty well. I never thought I was sugarcoated about Afghanistan. Has it been mismanaged? Yeah. Has money being wasted? Absolutely. Is President Trump right to demand that Afghanistan do more and we pay less? Is President Trump right for NATO and the region to pay more in Afghanistan? Absolutely. Is he right to withdraw some of our forces? Yes. But we can't leave Afghanistan until this time-- the time is right. International terrorism will come back. We're spending a lot of money in Afghanistan without a lot to show for it. I think we need to change that policy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Dan, how is the story getting buried? How are there not congressional hearings being called?

DAN BALZ: I-- I-- I totally agree with that question. And I think that it's unfortunate that there has not been more attention outside of what the Post has done and our-- my colleague, Craig Whitlock, spearheaded this project. It-- it's more than sugarcoating as Senator Graham suggested. I mean this is deliberate misleading of the American people on a grand scale. And it's there in the documents in the-- in the After Action Reports that the government conducted itself. I think that it's, in part, because we're in the middle of this impeachment proceeding. And it has absorbed all of the attention and taken all the oxygen in the, you know, in the media. But I have to think that at some point it's going to come back and there will be some major questions that have to be answered both on Capitol Hill and perhaps along the campaign trail.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You agree with that, David? Because it seems to be popular with Democrats who also promise bring the troops back home.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And, yet, you saw this attack on a U.S. base in Afghanistan this week. Senator Graham said to me that he thinks talks with the Taliban should be called off until there's a cease-fire. Yet the Trump administration is saying they'll just pause them right now.

DAVID FRENCH: Right. Well, you know, I think what we have is a-- politicians on both parties have a real problem and the problem is the American people have competing desires. One is to end the wars. The other one is to keep America safe. And the problem is when you look at the emerging threats from international terrorism and what suppresses those threats and that American military has been pretty successful at suppressing threats since 9/11 here at home, but that is amid involvement overseas. And if you've got-- you can't have both. You can't say, we need to keep America safe the way we have-- we have since 9/11, and bring everybody home. Those are irreconcilable objectives that the American people have put before politicians and I fear to connect it with the Afghanistan papers, what you end up having is a Pentagon contorting and twisting--


DAVID FRENCH: --the truth in the pursuit of things that it can't necessarily fully accomplish. And the entire strategic picture has-- becomes a political and strategic mess.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean, just to remind people, we're expecting to bring troops down to eighty-six hundred. There's still twelve thousand Americans there. And-- and it-- no hearings called as yet, Kelsey. I-- I want to ask you as well about another big election overseas or referendum overseas in the U.K. Brexit, very confusing. But boiling it down, conservatives won, Boris Johnson's staying, U.K. is leaving the EU. Those are the certainties that we know of right now. But what's the bottom line here that Americans need to know about Brexit?

EDWARD WONG: Well, I think a lot of Americans will be looking at this and wondering whether they can draw lessons for the 2020 elections here in America based on this-- and based on the larger issues of sovereignty and immigration and other issues that come up with Brexit. But I think that we should keep in mind that Jeremy Corbyn was widely disliked by many British voters.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Labour candidate?

EDWARD WONG: Right. Even people who would traditionally vote Labour. And so I think it's-- it's hard to draw that parallel because right now none of the Democratic candidates have-- like inspire that amount of dislike here in America.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Dan, do you-- do you agree with that?

DAN BALZ: I do agree with that. I mean I think there is a question that the Democrats are asking themselves, which is how-- how far left can we go and not be at risk in a general election. And I think that those who are most vociferous are saying we have to be careful about that. We'll take what happened in Britain and use it as an argument along the campaign trail. Parallels are a little bit difficult because of the Brexit overlay in this case. But the wipeout of the Labour Party, I mean it's-- I mean it's the worst they've done since the 1930s. So, obviously, Corbyn was a factor in that. But there's also a factor that-- that the-- that the working-class vote there abandoned them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The populist vote--

DAN BALZ: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --in some ways.

DAN BALZ: The populist working class vote abandoned Labour in-- in droves and in districts where they've had strength for nearly a century.


Thank you all very much for breaking down another significant week here in the nation's capital. We will be right back.


(Ends abruptly)

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