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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on Dec. 24, 2023

12/24: Face The Nation
12/24: Face The Nation 45:19

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

  • CBS News correspondents roundtable featuring Jan Crawford, David Martin, Robert Costa, Catherine Herridge and Jeff Pegues
  • CBS News political correspondents roundtable featuring Robert Costa, Major Garrett, Nikole Killion and Ed O'Keefe
  • CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."  

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation, we will look ahead to 2024 with our year- end correspondent roundtables. Plus, we reflect on the good news from 2023.

It's all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation on this Christmas Eve.

It's tradition here at CBS News to gather our Washington reporters and look forward to the year ahead.

We begin with our beat reporters here in the nation's capital.

David Martin is CBS News national security correspondent. Jan Crawford is our chief legal correspondent. Robert Costa is our chief election and campaign correspondent, Catherine Herridge, senior investigative correspondent. And Jeff Pegues is our chief national affairs and justice correspondent.

So, thank you all for celebrating with us and being here at the table.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Jan, I want to start with you, because we are heading into a year where the Supreme Court is going to play such a central role to our politics.

We saw just this past week the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the former President Donald Trump could be disqualified from holding office because he engaged in insurrection leading up to January 6.

How firm of a legal – legal ground is this on here?

JAN CRAWFORD: Well, I mean, yes, I mean, the court is going to be front and center and the presidential campaign. And that's just one of a number of issues that these justices are going to have to confront in the upcoming year.

This one asked whether or not he's even qualified for being president – I mean, for running for president because of a clause in the 14th Amendment. Now, the Colorado Supreme Court was sharply divided on this 4-3. And that's a decision it reached, saying he wasn't qualified under this provision, that other state Supreme Courts have seen differently.

There are a lot of problems with the arguments that they adopted, that they kind of just blow right by, and the Supreme Court, I don't think, is going to kind of give it that kind of gloss.

I mean, some of the questions that I think the court will look very closely at if they take this up, and I think they have to take this case up, is how Trump can be considered an insurrectionist if he was not charged or convicted of insurrection, and whether or not the 14th Amendment and this section specifically would even apply to him at all, as someone who's a former president or running for president.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But apart from this particular case, there are others that the Supreme Court may take up in relation to the former president and current front-runner for the Republican nomination.

JAN CRAWFORD: Yes, I mean, it's kind of like Whac-A-Mole, right? You know, like, you have got one over here, and you got to try to – he's going to try to put this one up and knock it down.

Another major issue, legal issue brewing is whether he can be prosecuted criminally for some of the actions around January 6. Now, a federal district court judge here in D.C. said that he was not absolutely immune from prosecution, as a former president.

The special counsel, who has, of course, charged the former president with the actions around January 6, has asked the Supreme Court – and, of course, we'll see how they handle this – has asked the Supreme Court to jump over an appeals court and decide whether or not the former president United States is immune from criminal prosecution for actions he took in office.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is a big request to come from the special counsel. It's unusual to try to bring it all the way to the court this quickly, right?

And this will have major implications, obviously, Bob Costa, on the campaign you're covering. But tell me what you're hearing about what the special counsel is thinking in going through the steps.

ROBERT COSTA: As I look ahead as a reporter, the campaign is going to come back again and again likely to the High Court and how it's going to consider Trump's conduct in and around January 6, whether it's the immunity question, whether it's about the January 6 defendants, who have their cases coming before the Supreme Court, whether it's about how the court is going to proceed, if Trump's convicted in the special counsel case.

All this comes down to, what was an insurrection? What's an insurrectionist type act? What was the president's role? What did he not do? Did he conspire against the United States?

Based on our reporting at CBS News, the special counsel has phone records. He has memos and diary entries from key witnesses like former Vice President Mike Pence, key eyewitness testimony from people who were inside the Oval Office with Trump.

And we got a bit of a taste of this with the January 6 Committee in recent years. But they had something in the special counsel's office the January 6 Committee never had, which is subpoena power to really go deep with witnesses and not just get public testimony and some depositions. They've gone deep.

And I have talked to people who've participated in this investigation as lawyers, sometimes even as witnesses. And it's evident to me, based on my conversations with sources, that Jack Smith has a sprawling case against former President Donald Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Catherine and Jeff, I know you talk to a lot of law enforcement sources as well.

What's the degree of concern about what happens, how – as this plays out in the coming year?

JEFF PEGUES: Already, law enforcement across the country is dealing with an uptick in domestic terrorism cases, because there is this concern about, how will the public react if there is a conviction in any of these cases?

And, already, the number of domestic terrorism cases that they've been investigating at the FBI specifically, compared to the number of international terrorism organizations and those kinds of cases, they're about running even. So, law enforcement is also very focused on preventing any kind of domestic terrorism.

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: We're in this incredibly dynamic threat environment right now.

And the focus squarely is on lone actors or lone offenders, individuals who are inspired by events overseas, or they're inspired to act, radicalized by domestic events, and very opportunistic.

So it talks about car-ramming attacks. It talks about weapons. It talks about knives, and a very short, what law enforcement calls flash to bang, that period in between wanting to act and then making the decision to act.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, David Martin, this – here's where I want to turn to you, because we already have all this sort of kindling out here.

And then you have a huge event, like we saw with October 7, the attack in Israel, and the subsequent very brutal war…


MARGARET BRENNAN: … that continues to play out that the United States is really trying to bring to a conclusion.

How far out are we, because that is raising concerns about U.S. national security at home?

DAVID MARTIN: Well, the Israelis have told the U.S. they think they can wrap up the current phase, which is this general offensive against Hamas in Gaza, in early January.

But then they say, this war is going to go on for months. Hamas has been compared to ISIS. So, it's worth remembering that our war with ISIS started during the Obama administration. We overran the last ISIS stronghold in the Trump administration.


DAVID MARTIN: And here we are in the Biden administration, and special operations forces are still conducting the occasional raid into eastern Syria to go after an ISIS leader.

Now, Gaza is a lot more restricted than Eastern Syria, but…

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's just 25 miles.

DAVID MARTIN: And that, hopefully will keep this from being a yearslong battle.

But terrorist organizations die hard. That's just the fact.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you've had the defense secretary basically say this could create more radicalization because of what's happening there, but also the impressions and what the world is watching in terms of this use of American force.

DAVID MARTIN: Win the battle, but lose the war.


DAVID MARTIN: Eliminate Hamas, but become less secure because of your tactics, which are losing you international support and creating a whole new chain generation of young people that want nothing but to see the destruction of Israel.

That's – that's the deadly game that Israel is playing here. But they – they sure don't show any signs of backing off their original intention to eliminate Hamas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm. No, and that's spilling out publicly now in these differences between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Biden in the vision for what happens next and how this plays out.

In the Middle East as well, David, the administration likes to say, while they may not be able to persuade the Israeli prime minister to do what they want, they think they've largely contained this from becoming the worst- case scenario they imagined of a wider regional war. But there's still a lot of dangerous activity happening.

DAVID MARTIN: Well, you've had over 100 attacks by Iranian-backed militias against American troop locations in Iraq and Syria.

The Houthis, who most people had never heard of before the start of this war, these – these rebels in – in Yemen, who were also backed by Iran, have come in on the side of Hamas, and have fired more than 100 missiles and drones either at Israel or at any ship passing by that they think may be coming either to or from Israel.

And the U.S. is trying very hard not to let either of those situations get out of hand. After 100 attacks on American troops, you have to retaliate some. You can't let the other guys just get free shots.

And they have taken some retaliatory strikes, but they're very limited. And I think that will stay the same, unless and until one of these mortars, one of these rockets, one of these drones gets through and kills or seriously injures Americans.

And then the whole calculus changes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Catherine, you have this extraordinary job of covering the president's own son and his legal issues, Hunter Biden, with these indictments, three related to a firearm…


MARGARET BRENNAN: … felony counts, nine related to tax issues. Where does this go?

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: 2024 is going to be a year of incredible legal exposure for the president's son. And these criminal prosecutions are going to unfold at the same time that his father is running for reelection.

In January, he will be arraigned in a California Court on the tax charges. And I would pay special attention to the California case. I had two lawyers look at the 56-page indictment. And they reached the same conclusion, that it is a shot across the bow by the special counsel.

He identifies Hunter Biden as a lawyer, a consultant, and a lobbyist and then goes into considerable detail about his business transactions with Ukraine, with China, Romania and others.

And they see this as an indicator that the special counsel at the very least is investigating potential violations of foreign lobbying laws, maybe even a superseding indictment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Donald Trump spends a lot of time talking about the president's son and these legal issues. As this plays out in a courtroom, how important are the facts to voters and how important is the perception, and how do you make sense of this? ROBERT COSTA: Until Democrats believe there is evidence presented, if ever, that ties President Biden directly to his son's business endeavors, in terms of being a lobbyist or being someone who is influencing policy coordinated with his son, they are going to continue, from the rank-and- file to the leadership, be behind President Biden.

And you haven't seen any Democrat of note come out about President Biden's connection with his son as anything more than familial and something that presents a problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jan, just bigger picture, you've watched the Supreme Court for so long, a court that Donald Trump says he takes credit for shaping the – in terms of its conservative direction.

Is there still faith in it and how it functions now that they are directly inserted right into our politics?

JAN CRAWFORD: Yes, I mean, President Trump's nominees, three, certainly changed the Court and a much more conservative direction and we've seen that very clearly.

I mean, this is the Supreme Court that overturned Roe vs. Wade. I mean to that – that – and we've seen the political fallout from that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: For years now.


And – and so I think what's going to be really interesting for the Court right now is that they're getting these cases, as Bob laid out too, that involve the president on any number of levels. And it's a real opportunity for the Supreme Court, and – and particularly the chief justice, to show that they are above politics.

The court has had all of these contentious issues, abortion, affirmative action. They've taken a hit in polling, some of their – the kind of the faith and confidence in the court right now, according to polls, is at among its lowest point ever, still higher than the other two branches, and the media, by the way.

And I think that that is what you're going to see. I think Trump's going to win some, and he's going to lose some.

MARGARET BRENNAN: David, one of the institutions that still has some faith in it is the military, when – when you look at public polling.

The year we are about to start feels very consequential on the national security front, not only because of the Middle East, because of the war that is playing out in Europe at a decisive point, as we debate this Ukraine aid package. You look at Asia, the rising China, this upcoming January election in Taiwan that will be consequential as well.

What's happening inside the Pentagon right now as they gear up for 2024?

DAVID MARTIN: Well, they're going in all sorts of different directions.

But there's sort of two Pentagons. There's the one Pentagon that develops systems and plans for future wars. They're now focused on China.


DAVID MARTIN: And, you know, that is just a totally different ball game than Ukraine or what's – what's going on in the Middle East.

And then they still have to worry about – about terrorist organizations. So, they're going in all these different directions. But, look, during the Biden administration, we've had the withdrawal from Afghanistan, we've had the start of the war in Ukraine, and we've had the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

They're kind of on – on emergency standby all day, every day as it is.


You know, I was reading: "China's top military official warned China will show no mercy to anyone who supports independent Taiwan."

Is the American military and the Chinese military in contact yet, so that this doesn't escalate?

DAVID MARTIN: Well, they're trying to – what they're called is talks at the working level…



DAVID MARTIN: … to do the high-level contacts.

But with everything having to do with China, it's complicated.

But even if they get these contacts going, I mean, China's behavior is not going to change overnight. They're still going to harass American surveillance planes in the South China Sea. They're still going to keep building up these disputed islands in the South China Sea. It's just another mechanism for managing a very difficult relationship.


And, at least, in 2023, they started talking at – at the diplomatic level.

All right, we have to take a break here. Face the Nation will be back in one minute.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're back with our panel of Washington correspondents.

And here's where you get to predict, Jeff Pegues, the future.


JEFF PEGUES: Too much pressure…



MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, what's – what's your big prediction for the year ahead?

JEFF PEGUES: Let me see. Let me rub this thing.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Your informed prediction.


JEFF PEGUES: All right, my informed prediction?


JEFF PEGUES: OK, well, that's a little easier, I think.

Crime is going down across the country. You wouldn't think that, based on what you hear, in terms of some of the crime out there, but violent crime is down 13 percent. The final numbers come out early next year.

Police officers across the country are understaffed and have managed to essentially get their arms around this problem. I predict that this trend will continue.


JEFF PEGUES: However, there are some bad areas. Carjackings, are – they continue to skyrocket.


JEFF PEGUES: Well, and those – it's – it's a good question. Some people think that some of it is fueled by these pictures on social media giving people ideas.

And then there – it's hard to catch people who are breaking into cars and theft, especially when you don't have enough cops on the street, you don't have cops walking the beats. So that's a – still a challenge for law enforcement. But, in terms of violent crime, it is going down.


CATHERINE HERRIDGE: Well, mine's a little dark.

I just feel a lot of concern that 2024 may be the year of a black swan event. This is a national security event with high impact that's very hard to predict. There are a number of con – concerns I have that factor into that, not only this sort of enduring, heightened threat level that we're facing, the wars in Israel, also Ukraine.

And we're so divided in this country in ways that we haven't seen before. And I think that just creates fertile ground for our adversaries, like North Korea, China and Iran. And that's what concerns me most.

MARGARET BRENNAN: A lot of people up at night with that concern, Catherine, at least in this town.



ROBERT COSTA: Talking to my top Republican sources for months, I have been trying to get an answer to the question of, what happens if former President Trump is convicted in a federal trial or in Georgia, but more likely in a federal trial, before the Republican Convention?

Is there a plan B? Elected officials and campaign strategists, they say almost a refrain: No.

So, if Trump is the nominee, we're looking at a Republican Convention this coming summer where there really is no plan to move to another candidate. The Republican Party, because of the way Trump has his fingerprints on everything, the state parties, the delegates are very much in his image politically, he could hold onto the nomination even if he's convicted of a federal crime.

So my prediction is, you might have a crisis inside the GOP come summer, if Trump's a convicted felon, but still no real plan of how to handle that in a general election campaign.

JAN CRAWFORD: I predict that the Supreme Court is not going to save Donald Trump from the criminal trial.

He – they are not going to rule that he is immune from criminal prosecution. And I don't think it's even going to be close. It could be 9- 0, with the chief justice writing the opinion that a former president does not have absolute immunity from criminal prosecutions for actions they took while in office.

And I think that the Supreme Court is also – my other prediction is, they are not going to say Donald Trump is disqualified from running for president, that California – I mean, that Colorado Supreme Court decision. So I think he's going to stand trial. The Supreme Court is not going to save him. And he will be on the ballot.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ninety-one different indictments? Is that the tally?

ROBERT COSTA: Well, if you include what's going on with the hush money payments in New York.


ROBERT COSTA: He's also facing the ongoing civil fraud trial, Georgia. There's the E. Jean Carroll case.


ROBERT COSTA: You're going to have to have another hour for – to – really to dig into all of that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. So, if your prediction plays out, this – this could be a really interesting year.

Get your rest in now.


MARGARET BRENNAN: David, you correctly predicted last year the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

DAVID MARTIN: I got one right.


MARGARET BRENNAN: What's your prediction this year?

DAVID MARTIN: So, this year, I would have to predict the discovery of alien life to compete.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What? I'm sorry.


DAVID MARTIN: Excuse me. I said I would have to. I'm not.


DAVID MARTIN: But in order to compete with a shocker…



I think, David, when you speak everyone listens.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And I believe it's absolutely 100 percent true fact. So, you really threw me.


DAVID MARTIN: I will tell…

JAN CRAWFORD: He also – also scares us all every year.


JAN CRAWFORD: Like, oh, no.


DAVID MARTIN: I will take it from the top.



DAVID MARTIN: In order to compete with the shockers that we've got coming up in this election year, I would have to predict something like the discovery of alien life, but I'm not going to go there.

Instead, I am going to predict that North Korea's Kim Jong-un will reap the rewards of having provided Putin with artillery for his war in Ukraine. And those rewards will take the form of technical aid to his nuclear weapons programs. And we won't know it until we see North Korea testing new and improved weapons.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And perhaps that seventh nuclear test everyone's been waiting for.

DAVID MARTIN: Everyone's waiting for that shoe.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, I – you have all set the table beautifully for my conclusion, which is that the only certainty is uncertainty, and anyone who tells you what is going to happen with this election and how it's going to play out over the next year is selling you something, because there are just so many different variables that all of us are tracking and all of us are weighing, which is why you need to watch CBS.

But it's also why none of us will sleep very much in the next few months.

And we'll be right back with a lot more Face the Nation. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: As we wind up 2023, we want to take a look at the positive this year.

Our Anthony Salvanto and his team surveyed Americans to see if they're happy. And the results are actually good. More than three-quarters, 76 percent, in fact, say they're very or fairly happy.

When asked what's going well in their lives, seven in 10 cite family. Mental health and hobbies and leisure are other top responses. When we asked about the prospects for 2024, almost half, 47 percent, of Americans say they're hopeful, more so hopeful than discouraged, although some are mixed.

And we will be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more Face the Nation.

Stay with us.



We want to bring in our political team. Robert Costa is our chief election and campaign correspondent. Major Garrett is our chief Washington correspondent. Nikole Killion is our congressional correspondent. And Ed O'Keefe is our senior White House and political correspondent.

Thank you all for being here in your holiday best.

ROBERT COSTA: Great to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, 2023, Nicole, kept you very busy. You had a new speaker of the House, this record number of retirements, resignations, departures. And now we start the new year potentially on the cusp of another government shutdown. Will they be able to legislate in 2024?

NIKOLE KILLION: Well, I think that's the million-dollar question. You know, one would hope, but the reality is, it's going to be a very heavy lift for Congress in the new year, not only trying to fund the government, but also dealing with this unresolved issue of the national security supplemental, whether they can get an agreement on the border. You know, they have ten legislature days before that first government funding deadline.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the issue have very real-world implications. I mean, Ed, some of these border figures are pretty staggering, 10,000 people per day at a time crossing. Does the president need to get directly involved to close this deal or is it too politically complicated for him to do so?

ED O'KEEFE: I think they're trying to keep him from having to engage in the particulars and trying to bring him in towards the end. The fact that, in the closing days of the year it was the homeland security secretary and the chief of staff doing much of the negotiating. That was a signal that they were working through the actual details and the mechanics of what it would mean at the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to get certain changes made and whether the lawyers were OK with it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: For the first time in decades.

ED O'KEEFE: Exactly. And the politics of it though are so much more difficult for the president. He's got to promise first with Democrats, especially progressives who don't want to see any semblance of Trump era immigration policy reenacted, but perhaps more importantly on the margins, Latino lawmakers who say you're now going after a values proposition with a key bloc of voters that need to support you if you expect to win again. There was also concerns that they just weren't consulted at all in the beginning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But there's a political incentive for him to close a deal here, Major.

MAJOR GARRETT: If he can. And what is important about this immigration conversation, Margaret, it's not like the ones we've gone through for the last 10 years where we talk about comprehensive, meaning the right gets something and the left gets something. The contours of this current debate are all on what Republicans want and are demanding on a policy side. Not even just about money. And that is a seismic shift. And it is something that the White House has come to terms with but hasn't found a legislative solution or a political way of talking about it. And if there has been one issue for this White House that has been, I think, a blind spot, it has been immigration. And now all of that political upheaval is coming home to the White House and they're on the cusp of, as Ed indicated, major concessions that will bring policy very close if not identical to Trump policy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you talk to senators about what this will look like, what do we know?

NIKOLE KILLION: We don't know a lot. We do know, for instance, that, you know, the White House has put on the table a willingness to accept limits on asylum, expand detention and deportation efforts. But, you know, there's also this big sticking point of parole, which the Biden administration has been using, particularly to help, for instance, Afghan evacuees, Ukrainians who are displaced by the Russian war, and Republicans feel that authority is being abused. So, that really has kind of slowed down these negotiations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Zelenskyy said that it was an issue of morale, not just money. That it was a statement that the United States was backing away potentially from Ukraine, even if that wasn't the intention. What are you hearing from your sources on Capitol Hill, because against the backdrop of all these really important issues, we now also have some pretty tricky politics in the House that a new speaker would have to navigate if they get that deal in the Senate.

ROBERT COSTA: It's beyond almost something that's tricky politically. It's foundationally now complicated for President Biden as he interacts with the Republican Party leadership because on one hand he has a willing partner in Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who looks at Ukraine as a traditional Republican on foreign policy, believes the United States has a role in western Europe, encountering Russian influence in the region. At the same time, President Biden's also dealing with this new speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, who comes from the Trump wing of the party. And that Trump wing is now fueled by this sense of nationalism, sometimes incoherent, but very certain in its direction in not wanting to give more aid to U.S. allies, to NATO countries, and in this case also to Ukraine. And that's something that's going to confront President Biden for the rest of his presidency, whether it's until the end of this term or through a second term.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But part of this is just the mechanics, right, of, what does Speaker Johnson want to do? Who does he want to be? He's from this more conservative element of the party, the Freedom Caucus. What are the choices he wants to make if he also could be ousted, like Kevin McCarthy?

MAJOR GARRETT: I mean, what choices can he make?


MAJOR GARRETT: Based on a very narrow majority, more narrow than it was when he became speaker by two seats, and what will the caucus, or the conference rather, that used a tool to oust the previous speaker, because he cut a deal with Democrats to keep the government open, what if Mike Johnson is in a position where, to keep the government open, my goodness, he has to cut a deal with Democrats? How do you look at that existential issue?

MARGARET BRENNAN: He will - right.

NIKOLE KILLION: I mean we did see that to a certain extent when they passed this laddered or two-tiered CR, right? Actually more Democrats voted for it than Republicans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The short term funding deal that expires January (INAUDIBLE).

NIKOLE KILLION: Exactly. And so, you know, it's possible that may have to happen again. Now, Speaker Johnson has made clear that he does not want to do any more short-term fixes. And so if they can't figure out this appropriations process, then both Republicans and Democrats may have to accept across-the-board cuts, which neither side wants to do.

But I think, you know, if you look at Speaker Johnson's leadership, he also has shown times where he's been able to wrangle Republicans together, most notably with the impeachment inquiry vote, where Republicans voted unanimously for it. So, it is a very narrow tight rope that the speaker has to walk, but ultimately I think he's shown that he can tow both lines when necessary. So, we'll just have to see how he plays things come the new year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: To the campaign trail. Bob Costa, I know you've been out there a fair amount. What are you taking away from what people across the country are hearing? They've already written off Washington as broken a long time ago, right, but what are they focused on and concerned about?

ROBERT COSTA: Well, Republican voters are looking to see if former President Trump is going to remain in this front running position through the Iowa caucuses and through the New Hampshire primary. It's evident based on CBS News' latest polling, in my conversation with New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and others in that state, that Nikki Haley is getting a foothold in New Hampshire. The question is, in the coming weeks can she move from around 25 to 30 percent of support among Republicans in New Hampshire, to 45 to 50 to 50 plus and really make New Hampshire a place where she gets a bounce into her home state of South Carolina and then later into Super Tuesday.

Talking to sources on Wall Street, there's likely going to be a migration of cash toward Haley in the coming weeks to help her survive late into the race. But ultimately, when I'm talking to Republican voters, they still have the same grievances in many cases that Trump has when it comes to the perception of a political establishment, a legal establishment they believe is aligned against the Republican Party. And those grievances are fueling Trump's support at this time, even as he faces so many other issues.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's interesting that that sense of grievance, you're saying, is what's resonating above kitchen table issues, above national security issues? What is that coming from?

ROBERT COSTA: It comes from how so many voters channel Trump's own anger over the 2020 elections. Some share his false claims that he won the election in 2020. He did not. And they believe he deserves a second shot.

And it's so unusual to have a former president running for the nomination again.


ROBERT COSTA: I mean I can't even imagine Jimmy Carter running in 1984, or George H.W. Bush running in 1996. It's historically almost unconceivable, but it's happening and Republican voters, for the most part, are looking at him.

But I have detected, Margaret, the support for Trump in some places, especially New Hampshire, noticeably soft. They like Trump but they're not totally committed to voting for him at this late juncture.

MAJOR GARRETT: There is a component of Trump's message that does address the other two things, I'm not going to get you in wars, we didn't have any wars when I was president, that's on the national security, isolationist or nationalist approach, and better off with Trump. They just rolled that campaign slogan out recently.


MAJOR GARRETT: Meaning, economically you were happier, more secure, felt better when I was there. So, he is trying to address that, but the grievance is the thing that is the rocket fuel and has solidified him all through the long summer of indictments.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Ed, tell me what the president's message for his re- election is. I was speaking to someone at the White House recently who told me the two issues of most concern to him are gas prices and the numbers at the border leading up to the election.

ED O'KEEFE: So, it's an economic and sort of public safety government management argument, right, is what they've been trying to make, that if you look at the economic indicators, inflation is going down, unemployment is staying low, consumer confidence is up. That's a good thing. Border security, crime, are two issues that they certainly worry about because they know on the margins independent voters all over the country, the Republicans that might be compelled to vote for him could be dissuaded if they see those things, not necessarily handle (ph). He also knows he has to deal with immigration because it is such a base issue of concern, not only an issue for independent voters.

They fully expect it will be Trump. They fully expect to be able to throw up the contrast and say, the economy is in better shape, the pandemic's over, we're dealing with the global challenges that have occurred. He would do a worse job of it. And you should stick with this guy.

MAJOR GARRETT: And abortion and (INAUDIBLE) democracy.

ED O'KEEFE: And abortion.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's what they're hoping creates momentum.

MAJOR GARRETT: They will be there. Those are acts second and third. Acts two and three.

ROBERT COSTA: Vice President Harris is going to be out front on abortion rights based on my reporting.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. So, can she motivate those young voters that they need to actually be excited?

ED O'KEEFE: There is evidence that she can. They came out of this college tour she did this fall quite impressed and pleased with the reaction. It's part of why there's now this plan for a college tour focused on abortion services, mostly in battleground states, to draw attention to it. But, absolutely, they saw something there that said she can bring back black voters, she can bring back women, she can bring back younger voters, and serve as that sort of partisan cudgel that a running mate often does.

NIKOLE KILLION: And that coalition is going to be key for Biden if he's looking to be re-elected in terms of young voters and voters of color in particular. But, you know, some of that support has softened. And so while the Biden campaign argues, well, people just still need to hear our message, we need to get our message out more, people need to understand what we've done and what we've accomplished. Part of that is using the vice president, I think, to convey that message, but it is one that they are going to have to hammer home because there are many voters saying, we may just sit this one out. We don't necessarily like Trump, and we're not going to vote for him, but we may not vote for Biden. And I think that's going to be a big hurdle for the Biden campaign as they move forward into '24.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to make sure that I ask you, because I know you have spent a lot of time talking to election officials.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We heard this incredible warning from Microsoft about foreign interference, but domestically there's concern about security.

MAJOR GARRETT: Sure. Foreign interference is going to be a concern perpetually. And it is. We all love campaigns. For most of my political coverage career I took the process by which we run elections for granted. Overlooking the hundreds of thousands of Americans who do this work either as election administrators, as poll observers or poll workers.

I have a deeper appreciation for them now than ever before after 2020. They're stressed. Many of them are retiring or just quitting under that stress. That is a problem for institutional knowledge in a lot of swing states. That is something that people in this space who watch election administration very closely are worried about. They're under resourced. Our elections are decentralized.

There's no federal management of elections. We have a lot of elections, they're costly, they're local and they're complex. Those are weaknesses and strengths. We do it pretty well, but this particular part of America that does this heroic work oftentimes unnoticed is under tremendous scrutiny, stress, anxiety, and some are leaving and that does create a gap of knowledge, a gap of experience, that may not help us through 2024. It's an open question, but there are those in this space who are nervous about it, very much so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm sure they are. And very real threats as we saw in the last election.

MAJOR GARRETT: Threats that manifest themselves in lots of different ways. But if you're an election worker, it doesn't matter if it's a text message or if it's a phone call that's left on a voicemail in the office, you feel threatened.


MAJOR GARRETT: They walk to their cars wondering, should they be looking over – they actually are looking over their shoulders. And that's not a space we want our fellow Americans, our neighbors, our friends, to be in when they're doing this work of helping us cast, count, and certify our votes.

ED O'KEEFE: And it is incredible. I mean to your point about the brain drain, how – I remember talking to the Arizona secretary of state about this. All of what happened in the last four or five years is coinciding with a lot of people just aging out. So, it's not even that they're quitting because they're intimidated, they're quitting because it's time – time to retire. Time to not do this anymore and pass it off the next generation.

MAJOR GARRETT: And a new generation of (INAUDIBLE).

ED O'KEEFE: And the concern is that next generation is going to be wearing blue or red visors and sunglasses while they're counting the votes.


Well, we have to leave this part of the conversation here. We'll continue our conversation after a quick break.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're back with more from our panel of political correspondents.

This is one of my favorite parts, you guys get to predict the future. What do you expect in 2024?

ED O'KEEFE: Look, there's been a lot of talk about micro targets and the ways that candidates are going to try to reach the voters. I predict, however, one of the tried and true pieces of presidential campaigns will endure and that there will be at least one televised debate between the Democrat and Republican presidential nominees

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which would be standard fare in any other year.

ED O'KEEFE: It would be, but despite the -

MAJOR GARRETT: But it's very much uncertain.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, yes, very uncertain.

ED O'KEEFE: But is very much uncertain right now given concerns about the Nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates -


MAJOR GARRETT: And the willingness of the potential nominees as we currently imagine them.



ED O'KEEFE: But if it's Biden and Trump, they can't help themselves and they'll want at least one go at it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Anything's possible this year.

Nikole, what about you?

NIKOLE KILLION: Well, if former President Trump ends up being the Republican nominee, I predict that he will pick a female running mate. And there are a number of females that are being talked about, female lawmakers. Whether that's Elise Stefanik, whether that's Nancy Mace, for instance, you have Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, it - it makes sense potentially.

MAJOR GARRETT: Kristi Noem, possibly.

NIKOLE KILLION: Kristi Noem another one, governor of South Dakota. So, there are a lot of options. Remains to be seen. But I think there potentially will be a woman on the ticket.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mike Pence not the running mate, of course, for obvious reasons.

MAJOR GARRETT: No. No, not the running mate. No.


MAJOR GARRETT: So, my prediction is kind of 30,000 foot. I think we're going to look back at 2024 as the year when our relationship to social media changed fundamentally as a country, not only economics, politics, conversation. Up until – for the last ten years I think our net idea about it was ubiquitous and positive. I think in 2024 it will be sill ubiquitous but net negative. And elites are pulling away from social media platforms. There's more concern about children being on too much, too much distraction, too much data scraping, too many privacy concerns. There will be, I think, behaviorally a pulling back and a reassessment of social media and all of our behaviors and patterns.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. And this year we have a new idea, which is to try to find something good and something positive.

ED O'KEEFE: It was hard.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's - you know, for people at home, it is overwhelming. It is overwhelming for us in this industry as well, the amount of change, and what a difficult year it has been.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Ed, do you have a glimmer of hope?

ED O'KEEFE: Took a few days, Margaret, I'm not going to lie, but I did – I did come up with a story that I was reminded of that happened here in the Washington region to some extent. There's a guy named Don Scott who was poised to become the speaker of the house of delegates of Virginia next year. He would become the first African American man to hold that position. But, more importantly, he'd be the first former felon. He went through the process in Virginia of getting his record cleared. And it was cleared by a former Republican governor. He became an attorney. Got elected into public office. And now has risen through the ranks in the state legislature to serve in that role. Set his partisanship and the other history aside, it's just nice to see somebody given a second chance to do something and to try to do it in the public realm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: New beginnings.

NIKOLE KILLION: Well, Bob and I both spent a lot of time at the beginning of this year in Georgia, in Plains, Georgia, more specifically when we got that scare about former President Jimmy Carter, when he entered hospice care. And the fact that he was able to make it for the better part of this year, made it to his 99th birthday, made it to the Peanut Festival in Plains, Georgia, and obviously the tragic news of his wife's passing, but even made it to that trip in Atlanta to watch her memorial, I think is just a testament to his strength and his grit and continues to be an inspiration for a lot of Americans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Continues his public service in many ways.


MAJOR GARRETT: My positive story, my good news story is forbearance and the power of concessions. We had two gubernatorial elections in 2023, in Kentucky and Mississippi. The Republican in Kentucky lost, conceded, wished his victor well. In Mississippi, Brandon Presley, the Democrat, lost, wished his Republican well on behalf of the state, and they both conceded willingly, eagerly and, importantly, wished their opponent well on behalf of their state. That is a fundamental strength of our democracy. It's coming back. It needs to be encouraged everywhere it's seen.


ROBERT COSTA: I'm hopeful about younger people in this country, teenagers, college students, so often they're portrayed in the media, frankly, as people who are addicted to their phones, living on TikTok and Instagram. But when we're on the campaign trail, we're often encountering younger people who are attending events, who are knowledgeable about politics, following, you know, their civic culture in wherever they live, and I'm hopeful whenever I meet some of these younger people that not everything is going to be negative, that the younger generation does care. We just got to listen to them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's the only way democracy continues to function if you continue to participate in it. That's a good, bright note, Bob, thank you.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Thanks to all of you for that.

We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Here on FACE THE NATION we've covered a lot of tough stories this year. So we asked Mark Strassmann to go back and recap some of the good news.


MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): Ladies first. Women headlined all over in 2023. Taylor and her jubilant Swifties.

WOMAN: It's amazing that like everybody comes together, and we're all dressed up and we all participate.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): Beyonce and the beehive. Both tours generated billions for local economies, mostly from women cheering their heroes.

WOMAN: I have never been more confident and proud to be in my own skin because of her.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): And "Barbie," not just a Hollywood hit, a cultural conversation.

WOMAN: Barbie is like such a strong and a hard woman. She has like 90 jobs.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): Good news, speaking of jobs, in 2023 America's rate of working women between 25 and 54 hit a record high. And the overall economy, inflation is down, recession fears, fading.

JEROME POWELL (Federal Reserve Chairman): And we're seeing inflation making real progress. These are the things we've been wanting to see.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): Core inflation is down to 4 percent. Back in January, it was 5.6.

MAN: No justice.

CROWD: No Jeeps.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): 2023 emboldened workers, especially union workers. On strike, nurses, autoworkers, Hollywood. And they all picketed a path to a happy ending on payday.

WOMAN: We were finally realizing, wait, we know our worth.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): Fans of comeuppance, or just telling the truth, also hit the jackpot. Rudy Giuliani ordered to pay millions for lies he told about two Georgia election workers. And George Santos, the prince of make believe, drummed out of Congress.

In entertainment, Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian woman to win the best actress Oscar. And a salute to Admiral Lisa Franchetti. She's the first ever female member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In sports, the Buffalo Bill's Damar Hamlin played again in an NFL game, ten months after he nearly died from cardiac arrest on the football field.

DAMAR HAMLIN (Buffalo Bills Safety): To be able to still do what I love at the highest level in the world is amazing.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): And Brittney Griner playing again in the WNBA after languishing for ten months in Russian custody.

BRITTNEY GRINER (Phoenix Mercury Player): The love from, you know, the fans when I came out was amazing.

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): And, finally, 2023 was a great year for 10 Americans released last week from Venezuelan custody and five Americans released in September by Iran. Home in time for the holidays.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. We want to wish you all a very happy holiday and we'll see you again next Sunday. For FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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