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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on February 23, 2020

2/23: Face The Nation
2/23: Joe Biden, Robert O'Brien, Anthony Salvanto, Ed OKeefe 47:20

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

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden@JoeBiden
  • National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien
  • Anthony Salvanto, CBS News Elections & Surveys Director, @SalvantoCBS
  • Ed O'Keefe, CBS News Political Correspondent, @edokeefe

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: I am Margaret Brennan in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, the state of Nevada has declared Bernie Sanders the winner in its Democratic contest as the candidates move on to South Carolina for the next primary contest, the question is is there anything or anyone who can stop him?

Plus, intelligence officials tell Congress that the Russians are at it again. This time they are interfering in the Democratic primary race as well as the President's re-election campaign. But the White House denies it, saying it's all Democratic disinformation.

It was Bernie Sanders who came out the big winner in Saturday's contest in Nevada.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We have just put together a multigenerational, multiracial coalition, which is going to not only win in Nevada, it's going to sweep this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well back of Sanders is former Vice President Joe Biden who'd hoped to score strong support in the state where a third of Democratic caucus voters are minorities.

JOE BIDEN: We're alive, and we're coming back, and we're going to win.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Democrats, voters, and even President Trump are asking the question.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Joe, what the hell is wrong with you, Joe? Sleepy Joe.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The former vice president told us that despite his early losses, he's going to do well in the next round.

JOE BIDEN: I'm going to go all the way through this thing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Then as intelligence officials warned that at least two 2020 candidates are being helped by the Russian interference, one candidate says he won't stand for it.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (CNN): And what I say to Mister Putin, if elected President, trust me, you are not going to be interfering in American elections.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The other, President Trump says no one's helping him. We'll hear from the President's national security adviser Robert O'Brien.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: There's no briefing that I've received, that the President has received, that says that President Putin is doing anything to try and influence the elections in favor of President Trump. We just haven't seen that intelligence.

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

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. It was a big win for Senator Bernie Sanders in yesterday's Nevada caucuses with half of the precincts reporting he stands at forty-seven percent. Well behind him is former Vice President Joe Biden with nineteen percent, followed by former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg with fifteen. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren stands at ten percent followed by Amy Klobuchar with five percent. And Tom Steyer with four percent. CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto is here to tell us more. Anthony, what is behind the senator's decisive win?

ANTHONY SALVANTO (CBS News Elections and Surveys Director/@SalvantoCBS): Well, we talked about Nevada being the most diverse electorate the Democrats would face. Well, look at how well Bernie Sanders did with key parts of it. Latino voters, who make up a large part of it, fifty-one percent, well ahead of everybody else. Let me also show you, young people, core of Bernie Sanders' coalition, very well with them again. And let me also show you labor union households where he also won despite some back and forth controversy during the campaign. All of this, Margaret, is going to bolster Sanders' argument that he can put together a diverse coalition of Democrats going forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Anthony Salvanto breaking down the details. Thank you, Anthony. And we will hear from Anthony later in the broadcast as well. As the Nevada caucuses were going on yesterday, we spoke with former Vice President Joe Biden. He told us that he was confident about his prospects in South Carolina and beyond.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our latest Battleground Tracker polling shows your lead with South Carolina black voters is thinning out. In November, you were at fifty-four percent support. It's now thirty-five percent. That's a nineteen-point difference.

JOE BIDEN (Former Vice President/@JoeBiden/Democratic Presidential Candidate/@JoeBiden): It's also been about--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What is happening?

JOE BIDEN: What's happening is you have Steyer spending hundreds of millions, tens of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars, out campaigning there. And so I think a lot's happening in terms of the amount of money being spent by the billionaires to try to cut into the African-American vote. I think that has a lot to do with it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: South Carolina, though, is your firewall.

JOE BIDEN: You said it, my firewall.


JOE BIDEN: I've never said it--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The campaign has said it's your--



JOE BIDEN: It's not fi-- I said I'm going to do well there. And I'll do well there and I'll do well-beyond there as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does do well mean for you?

JOE BIDEN: Look, you guys can do all the pontificating about what it means. I'm not going to-- that's not my job. My job is to go in and make the best case I can. And I think we're going to do well. I think we're going to go on to Super Tuesday and do very well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your campaign manager had said second place, there'd be a sigh of relief in South Carolina. You disagree with your campaign manager?

JOE BIDEN: Look, I am not going to do the pontificating about, you know, I'm not a pundit.


JOE BIDEN: I'm a candidate. And I just-- I'm going to tell you, I'm going to go all the way through this thing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You mentioned on spending: Steyer. You think the amount of money he is spending in South Carolina--

JOE BIDEN: A lot of money.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --is-- is trimming away at your support?

JOE BIDEN: Well, I-- I assume that's part of the reason why those numbers are down. But I don't know.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. What do you think is happening?

JOE BIDEN: We'll see. I mean, look, you guys love this stuff. I'm not into this. Let's just see what happens.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're watching all of this.

JOE BIDEN: I'm not watching this at all. I go out-- I'm running for the same exact reason when I started: to restore some dignity to the office, to make sure that African-Americans and minorities get treated well, and this time when we rebuild the middle class get brought along, and to unify the country and the party. Nothing's changed why I'm running. I'm going to continue to do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why does Joe Biden want to be President? What is the-- the key thing that's driving you that you want to achieve if you're elected?

JOE BIDEN: We have to restore the integrity of this country internationally. We have to get off of this God awful effort on this President's part to divide the country. We have to bring the middle class back. We have to have a health care policy that makes sense, that is doable, which I can do by-- and by building on Obamacare. And we have to have an immigration policy that, in fact, is rational and reasonable and represents who we are. They are all the reasons why I'm running, among others. But, look, the next President of the United States also is going to have to stand on the stage on day one and lead the world. They are going to have to be able to know what they are doing internationally. And the other leaders are going to have to know who that person is and know that person knows them. And I'm the best qualified person by a long shot of anybody running to do that. That's why I'm running.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Bernie Sanders. Can you stop him, in terms of the momentum he has? The Bloomberg campaign, as you know, is out saying that for moderates like yourselves, he is going to basically end up with an insurmountable delegate lead because of his early success.

JOE BIDEN: I told you, I'm not going to play this game with you. I don't know. It's not about who I stop. It's why I'm running, why I'm telling the people that I should be the next President and why I'm the best guy to beat Trump. All those other polls you all cite also show I'm the most person-- I'm the person most likely to beat Trump. I'm the person that, in fact, in-- in those polls in addition to that, I'm the only one, in terms of the Russians and all these stuff you've all been reporting. The-- the Russians don't want me to be the nominee. They spent a lot of money on bots on Facebook and they've been taken down saying Biden is a bad guy. They don't want Biden running. They are not-- no one is helping me to try to get the nomination. They have good reason.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Who informed you of that? Was it Facebook or have U.S. intelligence officials told you about some kind of meddling with the campaign?

JOE BIDEN: I have not spoken to the intelligence community, but I think the intelligence community should inform the rest of us who are running what they told Senator Sanders.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And there's no date for that to happen?

JOE BIDEN: Not that I'm aware of.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you're asking for it?

JOE BIDEN: I think they should.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You should. From what you are seeing, you talked about Facebook and them alerting you. Is that-- am I understanding you correctly?

JOE BIDEN: Well I-- I was told that-- that the-- there are a lot of bots on Facebook and they've been all taken down. And so there were--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Fake accounts being run by the Russians?

JOE BIDEN: --attacks on me. Fake accounts, yes. And they were taken down. But I-- I don't know who-- I-- I didn't get a call from Facebook. But I-- I'm-- I was told by my-- my staff that's what happened.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because I know you have been critical of Senator Sanders for not being strong enough in his condemnation of some of the vitriolic sentiment online. And Senator Sanders has come out with a statement saying, and he said it on the debate stage as well, that perhaps some of this may be fueled by the Russians. In other words--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --they are not actually his supporters. Do you buy that?

JOE BIDEN: Well, look, the people who occupy my office, maybe they were Russians. I don't know. But they-- they said they were Bernie supporters. The people who occupied other offices and the people who did these terrible things to the Culinary Workers and the women who run that operation, I-- I guess anything is possible, but they are identified as Bernie supporters. So I-- I'm not making any comment beyond that. But there should be absolute condemnation of the conduct of these folks who are engaging in that kind of behavior and the misogynistic behavior against the Culinary Workers and people coming into my office. The police had to-- this was back in-- in-- in, you know, the first two primaries and have to call the police to get them out of our office. I mean that-- that's Trump-like stuff. I mean this is not the stuff that we've done in Democratic primaries before.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When he says the ugly stuff, may be because of the Russians. Sounds like you're saying no.

JOE BIDEN: I don't know. I'll let you make that judgment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, all of us would like to know a little bit more about exactly what's happening, but U.S. intelligence hasn't made any of this public yet. White House isn't shedding much light. But the bottom line seems to be that--

JOE BIDEN: The White House is shedding light. The President is angry because the intelligence community, in fact, informed Bernie Sanders and I guess others and members of the Intelligence Committee that, in fact, the Russians want to see Trump reelected. And they like Bernie.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We spoke to the national security adviser to the President, who is denying that the White House was informed of the preference for Trump. But-- but you and I both know that in 2016, that was the intelligence community's clear--

JOE BIDEN: All I know is--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --assessment.

JOE BIDEN: --what I have read and has been reported. No one has confided in me. I have no inside information.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the bottom line is doesn't all of this shake the confidence of the American people to a certain extent in the-- in terms of the integrity of the election itself? I mean this is--

JOE BIDEN: That's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --right at the heart of American democracy.

JOE BIDEN: I've been saying this for over three years. The President denies they are involved. They've been involved. I was deeply involved in the intelligence apparatus and how it functioned before we left the vice presidency. It was clear they were involved. The President continues to deny their involvement. It's overwhelming. And the fact is that everybody knows except-- but when the President stands before the whole world, looks at Vladimir Putin, says, why would he want to interfere in our elections? Well, seventeen intelligence agencies told me-- told them he did. So this is all-- this is bizarre. This is bizarre. This is continuing. And what's happened? Why in God's name haven't we hardened the electoral process--provided billions-- hundreds of millions of dollars to the states to be able to harden their voter rolls, make sure they can't be attacked by cyber security as a consequence of cyber attacks. Why haven't we provided the capacity for them to be able to have the money to have paper ballots in addition to that? I mean this is-- this is outrageous and it's going on. Look, I joined with the leaders of Europe when the European elections took place back before I got involved. I'd be-- before I-- before I decided to run. And we set up an organization that, in fact, said every European leader running in-- in either party, in any party, would take a pledge--


JOE BIDEN: --that if you got any negative information about someone else from another-- from a foreign source, you would not use it. And if you got any information that they were trying to interfere, you'd report it. I took--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you asked your democratic colleagues--

JOE BIDEN: -- that pledge.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  --to do that?

JOE BIDEN: Well, I have said that on-- on-stage. I-- I, you know, I think we all should take that pledge. I've taken the pledge.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were in office, obviously, in 2016--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --when all of this interference was first detected.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Since that time, a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee finding faulted the Obama administration for its response and said that the actions taken undermined public confidence in the election and allowed for further Russian interference. Do you agree with these findings--

JOE BIDEN: Not at all.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that the administration fell short?

JOE BIDEN: Not at all. Look, we went out and went to the committee, went to the Republican leadership and said, look, this is what we have. I didn't. But the intelligence community did. This is what we have. Why don't you join us in condemning what's happening? And the Republican leader of Senate said, no, I want no part of it--joining in what is happening. And everything that came up subsequently to that reinforced what we were saying was going on. Now, the question was, should the President have come along and said, by the way, this is happening and then it be viewed and accused of we were somehow--


JOE BIDEN: --we alone were doing something.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But in hindsight, you know where this story ends up.



JOE BIDEN: But we didn't have the--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think there are lessons for the current administration to learn?

JOE BIDEN: Look, this administration is incapable of learning in elections. They like this. Come on. Let's be fair here. They've known this for a long time, for three years. Every intelligence agency has told them they continue to be engaged in this activity. Every intelligence agency told me they were engaged before. There is not any question anymore. There's never been a question for the last three years. And what's he doing? Zero. What is the Republican leadership in the United States Senate and Congress doing? Zero.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll have more of our interview with the former vice president in our next half hour. And we'll be back in one minute with National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They're trying to start a rumor. It's disinformation. That's the only thing they're good at, that Putin wants to make sure I get elected. Listen to this. So, doesn't he want to see who the Democrat's going to be? Wouldn't he rather have, let's say, Bernie, wouldn't he rather have Bernie who honeymooned in Moscow?

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's the President at a Friday rally in Las Vegas claiming that reports of Russia interfering in his favor was Democratic disinformation. When we were in Las Vegas Saturday I spoke with the White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, who was in our Washington studio. I asked him if he had assured the President that this particular U.S. intelligence finding was real. He strongly disputed it.

ROBERT O'BRIEN (National Security Adviser): Well, I have not seen the finding. I think what he is referring to and what folks are talking about is a briefing that took place last week at the House Intelligence Committee that was leaked to the press. And I-- I have not seen that report. I get this second hand, but from Republican congressmen that were in the committee, there was no intelligence behind it. I haven't seen any intelligence to support the reports that were leaked out of the House.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the White House was briefed on February 14th. Were you not in that briefing when the President was informed?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, there's no briefing that I have received, that the President has received, that says that President Putin is doing anything to try and influence the elections in favor of President Trump. We just haven't seen that intelligence. If it's out there, I haven't seen it. I'd be surprised if I haven't seen it. The leaders of our-- the IC have not seen it. So I-- again, I don't know where this is coming from. I've heard these rumors and these leaks from Adam Schiff's committee, but I-- I have not seen them myself and I've seen no intelligence along those lines.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But just to clarify, are you saying that Joseph Maguire, the former acting director of National Intelligence, did not inform you about the U.S. Intelligence Committee's-- community's findings?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: No. I, look, I think, you know, and again, I-- I don't want to get into private conversations in a-- in a presidential daily brief, but I-- I don't think Admiral Maguire was necessarily informed of what was going to happen at that hearing in the House either. And-- and again, there's nothing that he's given up-- no information Admiral Maguire gave us, Gina Haspel has given us-- Director Haspel, Ambassador Grenell the new acting DNI, that comports with what was leaked out of that House Intel Committee. So I haven't seen it. The leaders of the-- of the intelligence community that I have spoken with haven't seen anything that comports with what was leaked out. But, again, those leaks, I don't know if that's what the briefers told the House committee. I mean those were just simply leaked--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But-- well, that-- that's contradicted by reports that the director of National Intelligence, Maguire, did brief White House officials. But, more broadly, the FBI director at the beginning of the month, Chris Wray, testified that Russia continues to try to influence the elections mainly through social media manipulation. So, this pattern of behavior has continued, Russia is undeterred. Are you denying that that is happening?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: No, no. What I-- look I-- what I have heard from the FBI, you know-- well, what I've heard is that Russia would like Bernie Sanders to-- to win the Democrat nomination. They'd probably like him to be President, understandably, because he wants to-- to spend money on social programs and probably would have to take it out of the military, so that would make sense. And-- and, look, the Russians have always tried to interfere with elections because they want to divide Americans. They want to undermine our democracy. But the idea that they want to-- they want to influence the election and somehow cause the President to win, I just don't see it. But, look, I think there are a number of countries: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, that would like to influence our elections to-- to get the candidate that they feel would be best for their country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you are saying that it is not, in fact, the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia has a preference for President Trump?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: I-- I have not seen that. And-- and again, why would they have a preference for President Trump, who is rebuilding our military, who is giving the Ukrainians lethal aid to fight Russian troops? So that doesn't make sense. Now, look, we want good relations with Russia. We'd like to have great relations with Russia. I haven't seen any intelligence that there's any active measures by the Russians to try and get the President re-elected. And-- and we've got a simple message for the Russians or any other country that wants to-- to meddle in our elections, whoever they are behind: stay out of our democratic elections. And-- and we're doing everything we can. We're working with state and local officials. We're going, in many cases--


ROBERT O'BRIEN: --to paper ballots to make sure that-- that, you know, governments with ill intent can't hack secretary of state websites, can't get involved in our elections, change results. And-- and we're going to work on election security very, very hard through-- across the interagency in the federal government and also with our state and-- and local partners.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why not have the intelligence community testify in public about what they are seeing, so that the public can arm themselves, so that they can understand what is disinformation and what is fact?


MARGARET BRENNAN: Why not declassify some of those?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: I'd-- I'd have no problem with that. And-- and-- but that's not my decision. And the intelligence community is-- is very concerned and-- and careful about sources and methods and I understand that. But I-- I would personally have no problem with--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But back in 20-- back in 2016 in October of 2016, when Russia was doing this disinformation campaign, the Obama administration did declassify information at that time. So there is a precedent. Why doesn't the Trump administration do that?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: I think if there's intelligence that we can declassify that-- that we can get out there all the better, because, again, we weren't in office in 2016 when-- when the last election meddling took place and the administration did very little about it. And-- and they-- you know everyone admits that-- that very little was done about it. We're in office now and we're doing everything we can across the interagency and-- with our state and federal and local partners to-- to ensure that-- that American ballots are secure, that-- that are our-- our ballot machines are secure, that tabulations are secure, that-- that state, secretary of state websites are secure. We want to make sure that this is a free and fair election, that Americans select their next President, not some foreign country. And-- and we're going to do-- and the President's been deadly serious about that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I-- I want to quickly ask you, though, about Afghanistan. If the Taliban does not make good on its promise to pull back on violence, to sign this deal at the end of the month, is the President positioned to stop the troop withdrawal?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: The President made it very clear the last time we were closed to signing a deal with the Taliban and they-- they engaged in some malign activity, they-- they had a vehicle-borne IED that killed a number of people, including one American, and the President pulled back from signing the deal. We're hopeful that-- that we can get to a-- a place where the Afghans can talk with each other and negotiate some sort of resolution, a political resolution of the conflict. We've been there nineteen years. It's time for us to stop bringing our-- our sons and daughters home through Dover Air Force Base and dignified transfers. We've got to get out of-- of the war in Afghanistan, but we're going to do it in a way that protects American interests. So if the Taliban does not live up to their agreement on the reduction of violence plan, then we'll take a very care-- careful look at them. I think it'd be unlikely that we'd-- we'd sign a peace treaty, but we're not going to reduce troops to a level below what is necessary to protect American interests and our partners in Afghanistan. I can assure you of that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Ambassador O'Brien, thank you for joining us.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Always great to be here, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Trump-appointed official overseeing U.S. election security, Shelby Pierson reported to Congress that Russia was interfering in the election and has shown a preference for President Trump but sources tell our Major Garrett there was bipartisan push back on her assertions and questions about the strength of the evidence. Congress has requested to see the underlying intelligence to back up that assessment, which, as you heard, the National Security advisor said he had not seen. CBS stands by Major's reporting that the President was told Russia was trying to help him win. We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: 60 MINUTES correspondent Anderson Cooper sat down with Senator Bernie Sanders for tonight's broadcast. Here's a preview.

(Begin VT)

ANDERSON COOPER (60 MINUTES): Just on foreign policy, you said you believe in diplomacy, you're concerned Donald Trump is-- is going to get us into an unnecessary war. Are there situations where you believe military action is--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (60 MINUTES): No. Absolutely no. Of course, I don't. You know, hopefully, it's-- it's rare as possible, but--


SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: --we have the best military in the world.

ANDERSON COOPER: What would your criteria be for military action? Do you?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, threats against the American people to be sure. Threats against our allies. I believe in NATO. I believe that the United States everything being equal, should be working with other countries in alliance, not doing it alone.

ANDERSON COOPER: If China took military action against Taiwan, is that something you would--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: That's something-- I mean I think we have got to make it clear to countries around the world that we will not sit by and allow invasions to take place. Absolutely.

ANDERSON COOPER: Would you meet with Kim Jong-un?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Yeah. I mean I have criticized Trump for everything under the world-- under the sun, but meeting with people who are antagonistic is-- is to me not a bad thing to do. I think, unfortunately, Trump went into that meeting unprepared. I think it was a photo opportunity, and did not have the kind of the diplomatic work necessary to make it a success. But I do not have a problem with sitting down with adversaries all over the world.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: And national security is just one of the many topics we'll be asking the candidates about in our CBS News, South Carolina Democratic debate on Tuesday in Charleston. Be sure to join us at 8:00 PM Tuesday on the CBS Network and CBSN.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with more politics and more of our interview with former Vice President Joe Biden, plus our panel. So, stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. As the Democratic race moves on to South Carolina, that primary will be held next Saturday. We have a CBS News Battleground Tracker out this morning, and it shows former Vice President Joe Biden on top of the field there with twenty-eight-percent support of likely Democratic primary voters. He is leading, but that's a seventeen-point drop since our last South Carolina poll in November. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is not far behind with twenty-three-percent support. Billionaire Tom Steyer who has flooded the local airwaves with ads is at eighteen. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is next with twelve percent followed by former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg at ten, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is at four percent. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not on the ballot. Anthony Salvanto, here to explain all these numbers. What more can you tell us about how the primary is shaping up?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: So, underneath that shrinking lead for Joe Biden you just described there's two big things. One is while he's still on top with African-American voters who will make up most of the Democrats in this primary, that lead is so much smaller now, and he's got to share a lot of that support now with Bernie Sanders and with Tom Steyer. Also, when you look at who black voters think understands their concerns. Well, that's still Joe Biden, but it's also increasingly Bernie Sanders they say and also Tom Steyer. The other part of this is frankly not winning. This is the mechanics of momentum that all the pundits talk about. Voters in South Carolina say they think it's less likely that Joe Biden will ultimately win the Democratic nomination so that makes them start to look at other candidates and think, okay, what is it that those other voters in those other states know that we should maybe reassess?

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's South Carolina. Let's look at what's happening nationwide. Right now Bernie Sanders is on top with twenty-eight-percent support of likely Democratic primary voters. Elizabeth Warren comes in behind him with nineteen percent, followed by former Vice President Biden at seventeen. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is sitting out the first four contests, of course. He comes in at thirteen-percent support thought. Pete Buttigieg is next with ten percent. Amy Klobuchar has Five. Tom Steyer has two. So, nationwide, Bernie Sanders is still beating out Joe Biden.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Yeah. He is, and he wasn't always. But this was even done before last night's big win for Sanders in Nevada. So a couple of things happened here. One is the electability argument. Voters look at what's happening in these states and say who do they think can put together a coalition that can win? We see that while Joe Biden is still widely seen as having a chance to beat President Trump. Bernie Sanders also is. And, quite frankly, when Democrats and others look at a match up against President Trump across the whole electorate, well, it's tight for all of these Democrats. For Joe Biden, for Bernie Sanders, narrow leads at best over the President really within the margin of error across all voters.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the candidates get a chance to throw some elbows and distinguish themselves on the debate stage on Tuesday that will be right here on CBS. Who succeeds in that arena?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, debates matter and voters in this poll have told us that debates matter. One example right there is Elizabeth Warren who's still doing okay nationally. People told us that they thought her debate performance last time was most impressive. And that could be helping bolster her at least national support, and you also look at by comparison Joe Biden's debate ranking was lower than that. So there's a lot of pressure on these candidates heading into that Tuesday debate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Anthony Salvanto, thank you very much.

And now we turn to our political correspondent Ed O'Keefe, who is out in Las Vegas getting ready to head to South Carolina. Ed, good morning to you. What does Joe Biden need to do to challenge Sanders' front-runner status?

ED O'KEEFE (CBS News Political Correspondent/@edokeefe): He needs to win South Carolina, bottom line. He will spend the whole week in the Palmetto State trying to make the argument that he is best positioned to defeat President Trump that he can build the multiracial, multigenerational coalition to do it. But the numbers here in Nevada prove he is going to struggle with that. He had an interesting line last night that we're going to hear, a lot more of aides tell me. He said, "I'm not a socialist, I'm not a plutocrat, I am a Democrat." Trying to make the argument that he best represents what the party wants to do in defeating President Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we know Michael Bloomberg is still not on the ballot, but he is going to be in South Carolina on the debate stage Tuesday. How does he need to prepare for that?

ED O'KEEFE: Well, his aides say that they will continue to try to keep the focus on Sanders and make the argument that it would be dangerous for Democrats to nominate him because he wouldn't necessarily be able to attract the kind of independent and, potentially, disgruntled Republican voters that the Democrats will need in order to win back the White House. But he is going to continue to face questions about his business practices and his decision to release at least three employees from their nondisclosure agreements. Elizabeth Warren, especially, continues to hammer away at him and it appears to be working at least from a financial sense. She's been able to raise a lot of money since that debate, when she attacked him, and there's evidence from the results in Nevada that her debate performance there may have helped her. Remember, in the next few days, most of these candidates will be campaigning not just in South Carolina but in the fourteen other states, voting on Super Tuesday--Texas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Arkansas, Colorado. They won't all be in South Carolina this week because they know there are huge prizes to be won on March 3rd, just three days after South Carolina.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Ed O'Keefe on the ground in Las Vegas. And we will be seeing you in South Carolina soon, Ed. Thank you.

We'll be right back with more from our interview with former Vice President Joe Biden.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We are back with more of our interview with former Vice President Joe Biden.

(Begin VT)


JOE BIDEN (Democratic Presidential Candidate/@JoeBiden): Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There is a plan in place for a deal to be signed at the end of the month after this pause in violence or reduction in violence. I remember when the Obama administration sought a deal with the Taliban. Trump administration is now on the verge of signing one.

JOE BIDEN: Which we know nothing about. Look, I opposed the surge in the first place. Number one, I didn't think we should have even the troops we sent there. Now, it's all been made public now that we should have the troops in the first place that we sent there. And I didn't think we should have had the number of troops, which is considerably less than the present-- this-- this President added.


JOE BIDEN: I think we should only have troops there to make sure that it's impossible for the Taliban and, excuse me-- for ISIS or al Qaeda to reestablish a foothold there, to be able to go from Afghanistan to the United States to attack the United States. That requires a much smaller footprint. But, as I understand it, we're not drawing down to a level that was even as low as it was when we left Afghanistan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: About eighty-six hundred is the number of troops.

JOE BIDEN: Yeah. And so we'll see. I mean it's a little premature to make the judgment whether or not this is a good deal or not a good deal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, as you just said, in the course of your answer there, you do think there should be some U.S. presence that remains in Afghanistan.

JOE BIDEN: Yes, a very small presence to be able to determine whether or not, I mean, a small footprint--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that look like for American?

JOE BIDEN: Look-- well, it looks like se-- several thousand people--


JOE BIDEN: --to make sure that we have a place from which we can operate, if in fact, you find that there's a re-amassing of Taliban capacity, excuse me, of al Qaeda and/or ISIS capacity to strike the United States like happened in 9/11.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Washington Post quoted you this week in a story about Afghanistan, saying that back in 2010 you said to Richard Holbrooke, the then-envoy, "I'm not sending my boy back there to risk his life on behalf of women's rights. It just won't work. Not what we're there for." Is that how you remember it?


MARGARET BRENNAN: Or what did you mean?

JOE BIDEN: What I meant was there is a thousand places we can go to deal with injustice. I can think of ten countries where women and or children and/or people are being-- are being persecuted or being hurt. But the idea of us going to be able to use our Armed Forces to solve every single internal problem that exists throughout the world is not within our capacity. The question is is America's vital self-interest at stake or the vital self-interest of one of our allies at stake? And the fact that they have a system in Afghanistan, as they do in parts of Pakistan, as they do in parts of other countries, that we're going to send troops to-- because there is not a-- a-- human rights are not being valued to the same degree that we are, that's a different story about sending combat troops. We should call it out. We should go to the United Nations. We should be saying this is what's happening. We should try to shame and get the world to put pressure on, an economic pressure, on people who engage-- countries who engage in that but not send troops. That's what I meant. It is not sufficient. That was my point. And the idea was and I think Richard had said something like, well, women are being abused there. I said they are being abused in a lot of places around the world. Are we going to send our American forces all over the world to make sure that stops?

MARGARET BRENNAN: But then, don't you bear some responsibility for the outcome if the Taliban ends up back in control and women end up losing the rights?

JOE BIDEN: No I don't. Look, are you telling me that we should go into China because-- go to war with China because what they are doing to the Uyghurs, a million Uyghurs, in the-- out in the west in concentration camps? Is that what you're saying to me?

MARGARET BRENNAN: It was your quote, Sir. I was asking you what you meant.

JOE BIDEN: No, I know. I gave you my-- I gave the answer. Do I bear responsibility? Zero responsibility.


JOE BIDEN: The responsibility I have is to protect America's nat-- national self-interest and not put our women and men in harm's way to try to solve every single problem in the world by use of force. That's my responsibility as President and that's what I'll do as President.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with our political panel.


MARGARET BRENNAN: It's time now for some political analysis from our panel. Susan Page is the Washington Bureau chief of USA Today, Lanhee Chen is a Republican policy adviser and fellow at the Hoover Institution, Dan Balz is chief correspondent at The Washington Post, and Jamelle Bouie is the CBS News political analyst and a columnist with The New York Times. Good to have you all here. Lanhee, I want to start on the fundamental basis of what is central to our democracy--

LANHEE CHEN (Hoover Institution/@lanheechen): Mm-Hm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --which is that our election process actually works. And undermining faith in the integrity of the election is a massive risk. I think, everyone can agree on that. What we have heard in the past few days, I think, is frankly confusing. And National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said not just that he had not seen the underlying intelligence that Russia was intervening with a preference for Trump, but also that he had never received a briefing to that effect. He also told us-- told us in our interview that the FBI did tell him that Russia was interviewing-- intervening to help Sanders. This morning Trump says he was never told that. What should Americans at home understand from this? Because bottom line isn't the national security adviser's job to say, our elections will be protected no matter who is interfering and no matter whom they are interfering on behalf of?

LANHEE CHEN: Yeah. Look, I-- I think he said that at the end. I think he made the point that regardless of who is doing this or what they might be trying to do it is the job of this administration to protect the integrity of the election process and the integrity of our Democratic process. But, you know, I think some of the confusion that's arising is because they are-- they are-- they are trying to turn things on-- on very specific indications of what did and did not happen. For example, the administration is saying that the President may not have been briefed on the underlying intelligence, but, surely, the President was provided with some interpretation perhaps of that data. And so what they are trying to say maybe is that he hasn't seen the underlying evidence. Now that may be true.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is not unusual.

LANHEE CHEN: Which is not unusual. And that may be true. But I think the-- what we really could benefit from here is some clarity--


LANHEE CHEN: --in terms of exactly what the intelligence community is seeing if they are helping Bernie Sanders. And that is an assessment that they are comfortable with, I think that's something that should be shared. And if there's any confusion, I do think that O'Brien's point was right which is the underlying intelligence ought to be declassified. So we can see that the American people--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, actually, that was my point.

LANHEE CHEN: Your-- your point. I'm sorry.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He said he couldn't do that.

LANHEE CHEN: Good point. Good point there. Because-- because-- because then that will give the American people some comfort about what's actually going on. I do think there is confusion right now. There is no question that there is confusion right now.


SUSAN PAGE (USA Today/@SusanPage): Who benefits from confusion? Russia. Because if-- they-- they may want Trump reelected, they may want Sanders nominated and elected. What they mostly want is for us not to believe that we're going to have a free and fair--


SUSAN PAGE: --election that we can trust. And they are succeeding on that front.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, Dan, it was your paper, The Washington Post, that reported "Russia is attempting to help Sanders' presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest." What is unusual is to have the national security adviser talk about this in a political context. And there was reaction to O'Brien commenting in this way. It's unusual for someone in that position to do so.

DAN BALZ (Washington Post/@danbalz): Well, it's not just unusual it's-- it's-- it's supposedly not allowed. I mean, the national security adviser is supposed to be an official who's dealing only in the national security realm and not involved in partisan politics. And so any-- any suggestion or anything that comes from him that puts him into that realm undermines the role that he's supposed to be playing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jamelle, I mean, the theory of the case here as-- as Susan was saying is that division, confusion, that's the endgame in and of itself. It's not having the Manchurian Candidate per se.

JAMELLE BOUIE (The New York Times/@jbouie/CBS News Political Analyst): Right. Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's just getting people to doubt that the systems and institutions are actually functioning. Can Democrats form a united front here or are they falling prey to some of this? Because you heard it bubble up a little bit in that Biden interview as well where he said I don't buy that these are, you know, Russian bots interfering and spreading hate online that Senator Sanders is responsible for some of it.

JAMELLE BOUIE: I think the first step Democrats have to do is do what Senator Sanders said when he was told or was asked to comment publicly about this to disavow the interference to say that if he's elected president he will reject anything like this and try to stop any kind of election interference into the country. And then as far as the entire Democratic Party goes, I-- I think there needs to be sort of-- two things going on, first, yes, an awareness that online and other forums there may be Russian hackers trolls trying to stirrup things, but it's probably not wise to immediately leaned on that as their explanation, for the specific reason that it does undermine people's faith and what's happening. On-- on the question of online division, maybe that does require all candidates, right, to say anyone in our camp doing these things needs to cut it out, which is what the candidates have been saying. But I would recommend it specifically for this problem of maintaining faith in the process to not immediately jump to (INDISTINCT) Russian bots, it's Russian hackers because that I think does so mistrust and a little bit of fear.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the things that makes Sanders, you know, a candidate who is controversial, you know, certainly starkly in contrast to Joe Biden and what he describes there is also some of his rhetoric. He tweeted and got some guff for it this week, "I've got news for the Republican establishment. I've got news for the Democratic establishment. They can't stop us." That was seen as not a message of unity for the party but one of this is an insurgency--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --which is divisive.

JAMELLE BOUIE: It is divisive. I'm not sure-- I guess my perspective on these sorts of things is informed by previous election cycles, which is compared to some of the language that emerged in 2016 or 2008 or 2004, it's not that divisive, right? I-- I distinctly remember in the 2008 pri-- Democratic primary, the candidates Clinton-Obama throwing extremely hard punches at each other saying things that in the moment made it feel like there may not be unity once the primary ended, but what happened was unity the party got back together. So Sanders calling out the Republican establishment, the Democratic establishment, that's-- should have been his brand--


JAMELLE BOUIE: --as a national politician. And I don't think relative to past contest, even relative to this contest is all that divisive. I see this is just part of everyone's brand management when it comes to the role they're playing in this primary.

LANHEE CHEN: I mean, I-- I think it's quite divisive in the sense that he's speaking to his base that's who he's communicating to. He's communicating to his supporters. And we've seen this movie before, by the way, in terms of how candidates communicate with the people who support them. His message is to his supporters to say, look, you know, you've been ignored, you've been marginalized, no longer I will be your voice. I alone can do this. We've heard this rhetoric before. So I think it is incredibly divisive for Senator Sanders to engage in that. And-- and the Democratic establishment needs to wake up on this. If they're going to stop Bernie Sanders, if they're going to figure out some way to make sure he isn't the nominee, that needs to start today. Not after South Carolina, not after Super Tuesday, it needs to start today. And, by the way, Mike Bloomberg could easily engage in this activity. He could turn all of his advertising against Bernie Sanders tomorrow if he wanted to. And that's the only way there's a difference made in this race, I think.

SUSAN PAGE: You know, it's true, though, it may be divisive or not but it is an accurate depiction of what we see happening. And you-- you mentioned kind of the eerie parallels to the 2016 race on the Republican side where you had a very controversial candidate. You had a wide field that was much more acceptable to the party establishment that fought with each other and divided the-- the other side of the-- and created this path for Donald Trump to win the nomination. And that is what-- what we see now happening I think with the Democrats and with-- with Bernie Sanders. And the-- and the only comfort for Democrats I think is a lot of Democrats don't think Bernie Sanders can win at a national election. A lot of Republicans didn't think Donald Trump could either last time around.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Bernie-- excuse me, sorry, Joe Biden, Dan, is making the argument for the good of the party that someone like him, he prefer him, should be the candidate not just for the Oval Office but because of all the down ballot races, essentially warning that Democrats are going to lose all leverage or influence or a majority certainly in-- in the House if they don't go with a more establishment candidate.

DAN BALZ: Right. And that argument is going to be amped up this week in South Carolina and ahead of Super Tuesday. But-- but to your point about the Democratic establishment needs to get together, we saw in 2016 that there is no way that an establishment quote, unquote, "within a party" can do that. I mean, what it requires is sacrifice on the part of candidates who are now in the race to say, you know what, for the good of the cause I'm going to step aside. Well, which among these candidates is going to do that other than people who perform so woefully in South Carolina on Super Tuesday that they're essentially driven out of the race.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we got that call this week from Mike Bloomberg, Jamelle, in that leaked memo.

JAMELLE BOUIE: Right, right. I-- I can't imagine the-- the kinds of people who run for president, right, are not the kinds of people who are going to save themselves. Well, I guess for the good of the party and-- and, you know, the-- someone else's political prospects I'm going to drop out to make sure that this candidate I don't think can win-- can win. I-- I think it's worth saying in that regards that the analogy the Trump falls apart when it comes to Trump's favorability within the Republican Party at this stage of the race, Sanders at the last poll I saw seventy-six percent of Democrats have a favorable view of Sanders, that's higher than any other candidate in the race. And for all the talk of reconstituting the Obama coalition has just kind of been the drumbeat among Democrats--


JAMELLE BOUIE: --in the past three years. Sanders seems to be the one doing it, right? We see-- we saw this in Nevada, pulling together a coalition of union households, of minority voters of working class voters, to young voters into something that looks like potentially an electoral juggernaut. So I-- I sort of think the certainty among the Democratic establishment such that it is that Sanders is unelectable runs into the fact that looking at what we know so far he appears to be quite electable based on the measures we use for everyone else.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Lanhee, I-- I want to ask you about someone you know who you worked with in a prior campaign, and that is Rick Grenell--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --the current ambassador to Germany who has stepped into the director of national intelligence role. He has no intelligence background. What do you think of his appointment to that job at this moment?

LANHEE CHEN: Well, you know, the President puts people around him who he's comfortable with, who he believes will be loyal to him. The President has that prerogative, by the way, you know, it's not clear to me that this is going to be the permanent appointment. I would say that there are a number of people who probably would be a better permanent appointment than-- than Rick Grenell. But, look, he has national security experience, it's not like he doesn't have any at all. You're right, he doesn't any intelligence community experience. So I think at this point in time, the President might be better served with someone who has that experience. But to me, this is a reflection of how the President has staffed his administration all along.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. We do have to leave it there. Thanks to all of you for joining us this week.

And we will be right back.


NORAH O'DONNELL: That's it for us today. Thank you all for watching. And be sure to tune in tomorrow to CBS THIS MORNING, Gayle King will be talking to South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott. Gayle's in Charleston ahead of our CBS News Democratic debate along with Norah O'Donnell, Major Garrett, Bill Whitaker of 60 MINUTES. And I'm heading down there myself to join them. Our debate is Tuesday at 8:00 PM eastern time. Hope you'll join us. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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