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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on February 3, 2019

Trump on race, football & more ahead of Super Bowl
Trump talks race, football, foreign policy and more ahead of the Super Bowl 28:37

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

  • President Donald Trump (read more) (read more)
  • James Brown, CBS News special correspondent (watch)
  • Jason Gay, Dana Jacobson, and Jarrett Bell (watch)

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Super Bowl Sunday, February 3rd. I'm Margaret Brennan. And this is FACE THE NATION from Atlanta, Georgia, site of Super Bowl LIII.

As the country turns its attention to an annual American tradition, we'll kickoff Super Bowl Sunday with an interview with President Trump. In a wide-ranging discussion, we talked about ongoing negotiations with Congress over funding his wall and last month's shutdown.

You had quite the showdown with Speaker Pelosi. What did you learn about negotiating with her?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think that she was very rigid.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President split with his own intelligence team over the dangerous pose by withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And we don't have to be--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because the concern in here by your intelligence chiefs, though, is that you could in that vacuum see a resurgence of ISIS.


MARGARET BRENNAN: See a resurgence of terror groups like al Qaeda.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And you know what we'll do? We'll come back if we have to.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, of course, football.

Would you let your son Barron play football?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's very-- it's very tough question. It's a very good question. If he wanted to? Yes. Would I steer him that way? No, I wouldn't.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Then it's on to the game. We'll have pre-game analysis from our own James Brown. Plus, talk with some of the best sports reporters in the business.

It's all ahead this Super Sunday on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning. And welcome to FACE THE NATION. We're in the NFL Experience complex at the site of Super Bowl LIII. The presidential interview is a tradition for the network broadcasting the game. And this year, it's on CBS. So we sat down with President Trump in the Blue Room in the White House on Friday.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you shut down the government again?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, we're going to have to see what happens on February 15th and I-- I think--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're not taking it off the table?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I don't-- I don't take anything off the table. I don't like to take things off the table. It's that alternative. It's national emergency, it's other things and, you know, there have been plenty national emergencies called. And this really is an invasion of our country by human traffickers. These are people that are horrible people bringing in women mostly, but bringing in women and children into our country. Human trafficking. And we're going to have a strong border. And the only way you have a strong border is you need a physical barrier. You need a wall. And anybody that says you don't, they're just playing games.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You had quite the showdown with Speaker Pelosi. What did you learn about negotiating with her?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think that she was very rigid, which I would expect, but I think she is very bad for our country. She knows that you need a barrier. She knows that we need border security. She wanted to win a political point. I happen to think it's very bad politics because basically she wants open borders. She doesn't mind human trafficking or she wouldn't do this because, you know, the traffickers--

MARGARET BRENNAN: She offered you over a billion dollars for border security.


MARGARET BRENNAN: She offered over a billion dollars for border security. She doesn't want the wall.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: She's-- she's costing the country hundreds of billions of dollars because what's happening is when you have a porous border, and when you have drugs pouring in, and when you have people dying all over the country because of people like Nancy Pelosi who don't want to give proper border security for political reasons, she's doing a terrible disservice to our country. And on the 15th we have now set the table beautifully because everybody knows what's going on because of this shutdown. People that didn't have any idea-- they didn't have a clue as to what was happening they now know exactly what's happening. They see human trafficking. They see drugs and gangs and criminals pouring in. Now, we catch them because we're doing a great job. But if we had proper border security we wouldn't have to work so hard and we could do an even better job, and I think Nancy Pelosi is doing a terrible disservice to the people of our country. But she can--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're still going to have to deal with her, though.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, she can keep playing her games, but we will win. Because we have a much better issue. On a political basis, what she's doing is-- I actually think it's bad politics--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --but much more importantly it's very bad for our country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about your intelligence leaders who were testifying on Capitol Hill this week. Did you read the report that they presented?


MARGARET BRENNAN: And did you-- there was some conversation you had because you went on Twitter and you called them naive and told them to go back to school.


MARGARET BRENNAN: What, specifically, was wrong about what they said?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think that-- let me just say it wasn't so much a report. It was the questions and answers as the report was submitted and they were asked questions and answers. We've done an incredible job with Syria. When I took over Syria it was infested with ISIS. It was all over the place. And now you have very little ISIS and you have the caliphate almost knocked out. We will be announcing in the not too distant future one hundred percent of the caliphate which is the area--the land, the area, one hundred. We're at ninety-nine percent right now, we'll be at a hundred. When I took it over it was a disaster. I think we've done a great job with that. At the same time, at a certain point, we want to bring our people--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --back home. If you look at Afghanistan, we're going in very soon. We'll be going into our nineteenth year spending fifty billion dollars a year. Now if you go back and look at any of my campaign speeches or rallies, I talked about it all the time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You did. You've been talking about-- and that--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want to bring people home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that's one of the questions here is because you have these strongly held convictions and people ask, "Well, why don't the facts influence those opinions, if those facts change?" And-- and your director of National Intelligence said ISIS still has strongholds in Iraq and Syria--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --and will launch attacks from there.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You're going to always have pockets of something.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: What-- you're-- you're going to have people, like the one-armed man who blew up a restaurant. You are going to have pockets. But you're not going to keep armies there because you have a few people. Or you even have fairly reasonable numbers of people. We've been there for many, many years. We were supposed to be in Syria for four months. We've been there for years. We have been in Afghanistan for nineteen years. And by the way, I've been hitting very hard in Afghanistan and now we're negotiating with the Taliban. We'll see what happens, who knows--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you trust the Taliban? Can you actually broker a deal?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Look, whether we should have been there in the first place, that's first question. Second question--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's where 9/11 was launched from.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --we've been there for nineteen years, almost, we are fighting very well. We're fighting harder than ever before. And I think that they will-- I think they're tired. And I think everybody's tired. We got to get out of these endless wars and bring our folks back home. Now, that doesn't mean we're not going to be watching with intelligence. We're going to be watching, and watching closely. North Korea--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Isn't that harder when you don't have troops on the ground?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, everything's harder. But, you know, you pay a big price for troops on the ground. We're spending hundreds of billions of dollars on military. We're the policemen of the world and we don't have to be--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because the concern in here by your intelligence chiefs, though, is that you could in that vacuum see a resurgence of ISIS.


MARGARET BRENNAN: See a resurgence of terror groups like al Qaeda--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And you know what we'll do? We'll come back if we have to. We have very fast airplanes. We have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly, and I'm not leaving. We have a base in Iraq and the base is a fantastic edifice. I mean, I was there recently. And I couldn't believe the money that was spent on these massive runways. And these-- I've-- I've rarely seen anything like it. And it's there. And we'll be there. And, frankly, we're hitting the caliphate from Iraq and as we slowly withdraw from Syria. Now the other thing after this--

MARGARET BRENNAN: How many troops are still in Syria? When are they coming home?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Two thousand troops.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When are they coming home?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They are starting to, as we gain the remainder, the final remainder of the caliphate of the area, they'll be going to our base in Iraq. And, ultimately, some will be coming home. But we're going to be there and we're going to be staying--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that's a matter of months?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have to protect Israel. We have to protect other things that we have. But we're-- yeah, they will be coming back in a matter of time. Look, we're protecting the world. We're spending more money than anybody's ever spent in history, by a lot. We spent, over the last five years, close to fifty billion dollars a year in Afghanistan. That's more than most countries spend for everything, including education, medical, and everything else, other than a few countries.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a scenario where you would keep troops in Afghanistan? A smaller number? I mean--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Yes. And I'll leave intelligence there. Real intelligence, by the way. I'll leave intelligence there. And if I see nests forming, I'll do something about it. But for us to be spending fifty-one billion dollars, like last year, or if you average the cost it's-- I mean, you're talking about numbers that nobody has ever heard of before?

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Senate Republicans voted, vast majority of them said that they don't support what you're doing. That what you're doing risks national intelligence by a precipitous withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan. Doesn't that concern you?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I ran against seventeen Republicans. This was a big part of what I was saying, and I won very easily. I think the people out in the world-- I think people in our country agree. We've been fighting for nineteen years. Somebody said you were precipitously--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --bringing to-- precipitously? We've been there for nineteen years. I want to fight. I want to win, and we want to bring our great troops back home. I've seen the people. I go to Walter Reed Hospital. I see what happens to people. I see with no legs and no arm-- arms. And I've seen also what happens to them up here--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --because they're in this situation, and they come back and they are totally different people--where the wives and the fathers and the mothers say, "What has happened to my son? What has happened in some cases to my daughter?" It's a terrible thing. We've been there close to nineteen years. And it's time. And we'll see what happens with the Taliban. They want peace. They're tired. Everybody's tired. We'd like to have-- I don't like endless wars.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This war. What we're doing is got to stop at some point.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you-- but you also campaigned saying that, you know, President Obama made a big mistake by telegraphing his military moves. You're telegraphing your retreat.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm not telegraphing anything. No, no, no. There's a difference. When President Obama pulled out of Iraq in theory we had Iraq. In other words, we had Iraq. We never had Syria because President Obama never wanted to violate the red line in the sand. So we never had Syria. I was the one that actually violated the red line when I hit Syria with fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles, if you remember.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: But President Obama chose not to do that. When he chose not to do that, he showed tremendous weakness. But we didn't have Syria whereas we had Iraq. So when he did what he did in Iraq, which was a mistake. Being in Iraq was a mistake. Okay. Being in Iraq--it was a big mistake to go--one of the greatest mistakes going into the Middle East that our country has ever made. One of the greatest mistakes that we've ever made--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you want to keep troops there now?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --but when it was chosen-- well, we-- we spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it. And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Whoa, that's news. You're keeping troops in Iraq because you want to be able to strike in Iran?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, because I want to be able to watch Iran. All I want to do is be able to watch. We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq. It's perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --rather than pulling up. And this is what a lot of people don't understand. We're going to keep watching and we're going to keep seeing and if there's trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we're going to know it before they do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you're going to trust the intelligence that you receive?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am going to trust the intelligence that I'm putting there, but I will say this: my intelligence people, if they said in fact that Iran is a wonderful kindergarten, I disagree with them a hundred percent. It is a vicious country that kills many people. When you talk about torture and so many other things.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And--- maybe they'll come back. The country is getting absolutely-- when I ended the horrible Iran nuclear deal--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --it was a horrible deal done by President Obama and John Kerry that didn't know what the hell he was doing. When I ended that deal, Margaret, all of a sudden Iran became a different country. They became very rapidly-- right now they're a country that's in big financial trouble. Let's see what happens.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to move on here but I should say your intel chiefs do say Iran's abiding by that nuclear deal. I know you think it's a bad deal, but--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I disagree with them. I'm-- I'm-- by the way--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You disagree with that assessment?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --I have intel people, that doesn't mean I have to agree. President Bush had intel people that said Saddam Hussein--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --in Iraq had nuclear weapons--had all sorts of weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? Those intel people didn't know what the hell they were doing, and they got us tied up in a war that we should have never been in. And we've spent seven trillion dollars in the Middle East and we have lost lives--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you trust your national security adviser John Bolton because he worked in the Bush administration?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I do, and I respect John.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And John is not one of the people that happened to be testifying or on.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And you know what I tell people--you can testify any way you want. I'm not going to stop them from testifying. They said they were mischaracterized--maybe they were maybe they weren't, I don't really know-- but I can tell you this, I want them to have their own opinion--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --and I want them to give me their opinion. But, when I look at Iran, I look at Iran as a nation that has caused tremendous problems.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: When I came in as President of the United States, my first year, I went to the Pentagon two weeks after I came in, a short time after, and I was given a-- because I wanted to know what's going on with Iran.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We were in many, many locations in the Middle East in huge difficulty. Every single one of them was caused by the number one terrorist nation in the world which is Iran. So when my intelligence people tell me how wonderful Iran is--if you don't mind, I'm going to just go by my own counsel.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've had a lot of change up in you administration recently, too. Are you satisfied with the cabinet and the staff you have now?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So we have a great cabinet. I have great people. I think now we have a really great cabinet. I think Bill Barr will be a fantastic attorney general, and I think that we have-- Mike Pompeo's been doing a fantastic job. We have--

MARGARET BRENNAN: He's not leaving?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, I don't-- I mean he tells me he wouldn't want to leave. I think that was--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because McConnell was talking to him--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That was fake news.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --about running for the Senate. He said McConnell had spoken to him about running for the Senate.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, he may have spoken to him, but I think he loves being secretary of state. He's doing a fantastic job. And I asked him the question the other day, he says he's absolutely not leaving. I don't think he'd do that. And he doesn't want to be lame duck. And he's doing a fantastic job as our secretary of state. Great energy and great-- a great, smart gentleman.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you have an acting AG until you get Barr confirmed--


MARGARET BRENNAN: An acting defense secretary. An acting chief of staff. An acting interior secretary.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP. It's okay. It's easier to make moves when they're acting.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you are going to shake up--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Some, and some not.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --positions.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Some are doing a fantastic job. Really-- I like acting because I can move so quickly.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It gives me more flexibility. But-- but actually, some of the names you mentioned, they're doing a fantastic job.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you know when to fire someone?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: When it's not happening. When--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --when it doesn't get done. Like with General Mattis, I wasn't happy with his service. I told him give me a letter.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He resigned because I asked him to resign. He resigned because I was very nice to him. But I gave him big budgets and he didn't do well in Afghanistan. I was not happy with the job he was doing in Afghanistan. And if you look at Syria what's happened, I went to Iraq recently, if you look at Syria, what's happened in Syria in the last few weeks, you would see that things are going down that were not going down. That things are happening that are very good. So I was not happy with him, but I wish him well.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office for a response to the President's sharp criticism of her. A spokesman told us, quote, "The President's wild and predictable misrepresentations about Democrats' commitment to border security do nothing to make our country safer."

When we come back, President Trump on football.


MARGARET BRENNAN: In the past, President Trump has had some tough criticism for the NFL, but this year he's got a somewhat different tone. Here's more of our conversation.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about your relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Have-- have you put your differences aside?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think so. I mean I-- I was just one that felt very important, you can't be kneeling for the national anthem. You have to respect our flag and our country. I want that as President and I'd want that as a citizen. And I have a very good relationship. I did them a big favor in negotiating the USMCA, which is basically the replacement to NAFTA, which is one of the worst trade deals ever made. And I said to Canada, look we have a great American company known as the NFL, and they were being hurt and treated unfairly, the NFL, by Canada for a long time. And I said to Prime Minister Trudeau, who was very nice about it and really understood it, I hope you can settle the difference immediately and fast. And they did. So I did the NFL a big favor, as a great American company and they appreciated it. And Roger Goodell, this is a dispute that has gone on for years. Roger Goodell called me and he thanked me. And I appreciated that. But they haven't been kneeling and they have been respecting the flag and their ratings have been terrific ever since. And a lot of good things happened.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Talking about the-- the kneeling position you've taken and the controversy around it do you think that the players who did kneel had a point? I mean did you-- are you sensitive at all to players like Colin Kaepernick, who-- who point out that the majority of victims of police violence are black?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, you know, I'm the one that had passed judicial reform. And if you look at what I did, criminal judicial reform, and what I've done-- President Obama tried. They all tried. Everybody wanted to do it. And I got it done and I've been, you know, really-- a lot of people in the NFL have been calling and thanking me for it.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They have been calling and thanking, you know, that people have been trying to get that taken care of and it's now signed into law and affects tremendous numbers of people, and very good people. I think that when you want to protest I think that's great. But I don't think you do it at the sake of our flag, at the sake of our national anthem. Absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you are-- do I understand you saying there though, that you still are sensitive though? I mean you-- you understand the motivation for the protest--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --though you don't like the form of it.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A lot of it is having to do with reform from what I understand. Whether it's criminal justice or whatever it may be and they have different versions and everybody seemed to have a different version of it. But a lot of it had to do with that, and I took care of that. I think that people have to, at all times, respect our flag and at all times respect our net-- our-- our national anthem and our country. And I think there are plenty of places and times you can protest and you can do a lot. But you can't do that. That's my opinion.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In a CBS poll we just took, sixty-three percent of Americans say they disapprove about how you're handling issues of race in the U.S.


MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you think of that?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: What has happened is very interesting. The economy is so good right now. You saw the jobs report just came out. Three hundred and four thousand added jobs, which is a shocker--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --for the month. A shocker to a lot of people. They thought it was going to be half that number. The African-Americans have the best employment numbers in the history of our country. Hispanic Americans have the best employment numbers in the history of our country. Asian-Americans the best in the history of our country. You look at women, the best in sixty-one years. And our employment numbers are phenomenal, the best in over fifty years. So I think I've been given a lot of credit for that. And in terms of race, a lot of people are saying well this is something very special what's happening.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So-- because when colleagues of yours, even like Republican Senator Tim Scott. He said Donald Trump is not racist. But he said you're racially insensitive.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I have a great relationship with Tim and certainly with his state, South Carolina--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --and-- where we do very well. And I think if you look at the numbers for African-American unemployment, best numbers they've had-- literally, the best numbers they've had in history. And I think they like me a lot and I like them a lot.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you let your son Barron play football?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's very, it's very tough question. It's a very good question. If he wanted to? Yes. Would I steer him that way? No, I wouldn't.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I wouldn't. And he actually plays a lot of soccer. He's liking soccer. And a lot of people, including me, thought soccer would probably never make it in this country, but it really is moving forward rapidly. I-- I just don't like the reports that I see coming out having to do with football--I mean, it's a dangerous sport and I think it's-- I-- it's-- really tough, I thought the equipment would get better, and it has. The helmets have gotten far better but it hasn't solved the problem. So, you know I-- I hate to say it because I love to watch football. I think the NFL is a great product, but I really think that as far as my son-- well, I've heard NFL players saying they wouldn't let their sons play football. So, it's not totally unique, but I-- I would have a hard time with it.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: There will be more of our conversation with the President about football at 3:30 Eastern, 12:30 Pacific, as we get closer to kick off.

And we'll get the President's thoughts on North Korea, the Russia investigation and China in our next half hour.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And a programming note that is not Super Bowl related, we hope you'll join us Tuesday night for our CBS News coverage of the President's annual State of the Union address. That's at 9:00 PM Eastern, 6:00 Pacific right here on CBS.

We'll be back in a moment with more from Atlanta.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including President Trump on North Korea, China, and the Russia investigation; plus, our own James Brown and a panel of sports reporters looking ahead to tonight's big Super Bowl. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION from the sight of Super Bowl LIII here in Atlanta. We continue our conversation with President Trump, which took place Friday just before he was wheels up for his home in Palm Beach, Florida.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: What surprised you about some of the questions that Robert Mueller asked you?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, look the Russia thing is a hoax. I have been tougher on Russia than any President, maybe ever. But than any President.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But when it comes to the investigation that the special counsel's conducting-- I mean thirty-four people have been charged here. Seven guilty pleas--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Excuse me. Okay, you ready? Okay, you ready? Of the thirty-four people, many of them were bloggers from Moscow--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --or they were people that had nothing to do with me, had nothing to do with what they're talking about or there were people that-- that got caught telling a fib or telling a lie. I think it's a terrible thing that's happened to this country because this investigation is a witch hunt. It's a terrible witch hunt and it's a disgrace--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think it should be made public?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --and when you look at General Flynn where the FBI said he wasn't lying, but Robert Mueller said he was, and they took a man and destroyed his life. When you look at so many of the things that have happened--why didn't they go after Hillary Clinton for her e-mails? She had thirty-three thousand e-mails that were deleted after receiving a subpoena from Congress--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And according to the special counsel--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Excuse me, but, Margaret, why--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --they were posted on WikiLeaks and your friend Roger Stone was just indicted for his involvement there and for lying.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: First of all, Roger Stone didn't work on the campaign--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --except way, way at the beginning long before we're talking about. Roger is somebody that I've always liked, but a lot of people like Roger some people probably don't like Roger, but Roger Stone's somebody I've always liked. I mean Roger's a character but Roger was not-- I don't know if you know this or not-- Roger wasn't on my campaign except way at the beginning.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So, it's all-- and-- and, yet, you will ask me a question like that, wasn't involved in my campaign.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you pardon him?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have not thought about it. It looks like he's defending himself very well. But you have to get rid of the Russia witch hunt because it is indeed. And remember--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you think--



PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Remember this. There's been no President that has been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you make the Mueller report public because you say there's nothing in there? Congress can subpoena it anyway, though.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's totally up to the Attorney General. Totally up to the Attorney General.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what do you want them to do?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Even the Mueller report said it had nothing to do with the campaign. When you look at some of the people and the events it had nothing to do--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You wouldn't have a problem--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --if it became public?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Excuse me. That's up to the attorney general. I don't know. It depends. I have no idea what it's going to say.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So far this thing's been a total witch hunt. And it doesn't implicate me in any way. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no nothing. Doesn't implicate me in any way but I think it's a disgrace.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What would make you use the U.S. military in Venezuela? What's the national security interest?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I don't want to say that. But certainly it's something that's on the-- it's an option.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you personally negotiate with Nicolás Maduro to convince him to exit?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, he is requested a meeting and I've turned it down because we're very far along in the process. You have a young and energetic gentleman but you have other people within that same group that have been very, very-- if you talk about democracy--it's really democracy in action.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When did he request a meeting?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to see what happened. A number of months ago he wanted to meet. I thought it was very--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But now because you're at that crisis point--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, now we'd have to see.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you negotiate that?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would say this: I decided at the time, no, because so many really horrible things have been happening in Venezuela when you look at that country. That was the wealthiest country of all in that part of the world which is a very important part of the world.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And now you look at the poverty and you look at the anguish and you look at the crime and you look at all of the things happening. So, I think the process is playing out very, very big tremendous protests.

MARGARET BRENNAN: North Korea. When and where are you going to meet Kim Jong-un?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I-- I won't tell you yet, but you'll be finding out probably State of the Union or shortly before. But the meeting is set. He is looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to it. We've made tremendous progress. If you remember, before I became President, it looked like we were going to war with North Korea. Now we have a very good relationship. The hostages are back.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Okay. The remains are starting to come back. The remains of our Korean War veterans, these great people--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But your intelligence chief testified this week that that Kim Jong-un is still very unlikely to give up his nuclear--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well that's what--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --weapons program.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That's what the intelligence chief thinks. And I think--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why is he wrong?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --there's a good possibility of that, too. But there's also a very good chance that we will make a deal. I think he is also tired of going through what he is going through. He has a chance to have North Korea be a tremendous economic behemoth. It has a chance to be one of the great economic countries in the world. He can't do that with nuclear weapons and he can't do that on the path they are on now. I like him. I get along with him great. We have a fantastic chemistry. We have had tremendous correspondence that some people have seen--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --and can't even believe it. They think it's historic. And we'll see what happens. Now that doesn't mean we are going to make a deal. But, certainly, I think we have a very good chance of making a deal. And one of the reasons is because North Korea has a chance being located between Russia, China, and South Korea. What a location, I'm in the real estate business, what a location. They have a chance to be an economic powerhouse.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're going to keep U.S. troops there in South Korea?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Yeah. I mean we haven't talked about anything else. Maybe someday. I mean, who knows. But, you know, it's very expensive to keep troops there. You do know that. We have forty thousand troops in South Korea. It's very expensive, but I have no plans. I've never even discussed removing them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to quickly get to China. The last time you spoke with FACE THE NATION, you were a hundred days into office and you said you would accept a less-than-perfect trade deal with China if it meant they'd be helpful with North Korea. Do you stand by that?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, yes. But I think we're in a different position now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We've put very massive tariffs on China. China is paying a big price and it's hurt China's economy very badly. I want them to make a fair deal. They have been very helpful, especially at the beginning when I first came in with North Korea. They have stopped goods from going in. They have stopped a lot of things from going in through the border because, as you know, they have a border just like we have a border with Mexico, where crime is way up by the way. Way up, and you have to remember that. But we have a border with-- they have a border with North Korea.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They have been very vigilant. Are they the same now? Probably, a little bit less so. But North Korea is absolutely talking. And I think North Korea wants to make a deal. We are making a deal. It looks like we're doing very well with making a deal with China. I can tell you this: no two leaders of this country and China have ever been closer than I am with President Xi. We have a good chance to make a deal. I don't know that we're going to make one, but we have a good chance. And if it is a deal, it's going to be a real deal. It's not going to be a stopgap.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sir, I hear your helicopters. I'm being told to wrap. I appreciate you being generous with your time.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thank you very much, Margaret.




MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back with CBS News special correspondent James Brown. He is the host of The NFL Today. J.B., you're so busy today. It is so good to have you here.

JAMES BROWN (CBS News Special Correspondent/"NFL Today" Host/@JBsportscaster): Thank you for having me, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is-- this is your ninth pregame show.

JAMES BROWN: Mm-Hm. You know, what I try not to think about the numbers although is you and I were teasing before going on camera. You-- when you hear the words, venerable, legendary, translation old. And I never put it in context that what it meant but I really try to focus on the event at hand. I thoroughly enjoy what I'm doing. It's new and different every time we are blessed at CBS to do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How is it different? How has the game changed over the years?

JAMES BROWN: Well, the game has changed, one, because of the amount of attention that it gets. It's a culture of phenomena, if you will. It's the biggest one-day sporting event. Ratings you're talking before, a hundred million people, plus, around the world. You look at the cost of what a commercial was back in 1967, I believe it was, at forty-two thousand dollars for a thirty-second spot. Try five-and-a-half-million-plus now--


JAMES BROWN: --for a thirty-second spot. So that's how it's changed. And the coverage has been pretty comprehensive, but it's all fun.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So I-- you got to give us the take here on this very controversial call with--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --the no call in the Saints versus Rams game.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Look, I-- I can talk politics.


MARGARET BRENNAN: --you know the ins and outs of-- of football.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Explain to our audience about what is going to be done here to resolve this and-- and exactly what happened?

JAMES BROWN: First of all, it was absolute absolutely an egregious no call. It was obviously pass interference.


JAMES BROWN: The receiver has the right to get the ball without being interfered by the defender and it was missed. The officials without getting too esoteric had some other keys they had to read before turning to that play and it happens that quickly in football. More to the question that you're asking--


JAMES BROWN: --most people are looking for a technology because it's so perfected now to answer all the questions, but that's a slippery slope. That no call was a judgment call.


JAMES BROWN: And right now, the league does not allow replays for judgment calls because although that one was egregious, what happens if it's a minor violation but still a violation. Where do you draw the line? I think it's an unanswerable kind of situation, one that you have to live with. And that certainly comes from a number of officials as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But this is another controversy--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --for the NFL. You heard President Trump when we spoke with him he's continued to bring some, frankly, unwanted attention--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --to the NFL, particularly around this controversy of a race over how to handle standing or sitting during the anthem.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Has the league moved past this?

JAMES BROWN: I don't know if you can say the league has moved past it because it's not an issue that can be moved past--


JAMES BROWN: --in my humble opinion as a correspondent, as a reporter. Because many of the athletes who feel so compelled to do such because of the systemic issues that are real pathology in their communities, they just want to engage in a meaning-- meaningful collaborative approach to answering some of these things. On the Super Bowl pregame show today we will talk with a very well-versed player. We'll also talk with a league official, senior official, and with a former CEO Amy Trask of a team to talk about what appears to be some significant progress that's been happening behind closed doors in very serious conversations which, quite frankly, is the way it ought to happen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the President weighed in on that and-- and he tries to say it's been moved past in his dispute with Roger Goodell. But what you're talking about are those underlying issues that the protest was about in the first place.

JAMES BROWN: So, you know, Margaret, and let me just say this, and again I'm reporting again as a dispassionate--


JAMES BROWN: --source talking about this. The narrative has been that the players were being anti-patriotic, anti-flag, anti-police, anti-military. These are players who have family members who are in the military, who are law enforcement officers--


JAMES BROWN: --and who are looking for a meaningful way to bring attention to something to create dialogue which should-- has happened. But if the narrative has been hijacked to say that is no matter what it's a non-starter, you're not hearing. The two sides ought to hear each other to make progress.

MARGARET BRENNAN: An important point. You know parents worry about their kids getting injured--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --playing sports. That's been another topic for the NFL. How have they addressed some of these concerns about concussions and injuries?

JAMES BROWN: Very serious issue to say the least. One cannot run from that. Football is not playing chess. It's not playing--


JAMES BROWN: --scrabble. It's-- it's a tough game. But what we have seen is one from last year to this year there has been a significant drop. Nearly twenty-four percent drop in concussions. That's significant and prayerfully, hopefully, it will continue going in that direction.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How did they do that?

JAMES BROWN: Well, a combination of things. Principally, officiating. Roger Goodell probably gets a real bad rap because they call him as the new sheriff in town who is trying to clean up the game. That's a good thing.


JAMES BROWN: And the players recognize that as well because when you see them, when they are no longer playing on the field and they are walking around showing the wounds sustained in their game, they need to be protected from themselves. Number two, guess who is going to make the decision about whether or not there's a pipeline of players coming up to play, mothers like you. If a mother deems the game to be unsafe, you're not going to allow your newborn son to play football. At the lower levels what the coaches are doing now, they are teaching what's called Head's Up Football and it needs to start at that level as opposed to attacking with the crown of your helmet--hopefully, I'm not getting too esoteric--you got to have your head up and you got to wrap around. The game can still be played tough and physically without being dangerous and cleaning up that element that maybe was playing in the old-style football. Does that make sense, Margaret?



MARGARET BRENNAN: And I think a lot of parents appreciate you explaining all of that.

JAMES BROWN: Yes, Ma'am. Mm-Hm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What are you watching for in today's game? A lot of the talk is about the old guy versus the young kid.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it-- is that the prime narrative that you are interested in?

JAMES BROWN: It's a major narrative but inside of that narrative is you got a young coach on the side of the Los Angeles Rams--


JAMES BROWN: --a genius, thirty-three-year-old Sean McVay.


JAMES BROWN: Yes. Yeah. Oh, he's very brilliant. But he's got seasoned at-- coaches on the side of him like the sixty-plus-year-old Wade Phillips on the defensive side of the ball--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I appreciate--

JAMES BROWN: --who's been there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --I appreciate the word seasoned.

JAMES BROWN: Seasoned.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Versus old. I like that. I like that, JB.

JAMES BROWN: I've used it for myself as well too, Margaret. And on the other side, you've got the master chess player in Bill Belichick. You've also got a twenty-four-year-old quarterback with Jared Goff on the Rams. You've got a forty-one-year old Tom Brady. Margaret, there's a lot to be said for experience and although these are the two best teams who are there, egregious non-call, notwithstanding in terms of the New Orleans Saints. And I've got relatives down there waiting, they all scream at me. The fact is the Super Bowl is a completely different game. Let's see who handles the nerves well. You can certainly count on the New England Patriots handling it well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be watching for that. We'll be watching you, JB.

JAMES BROWN: Yes, Ma'am. Thank you so much.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for making time.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back in a moment with our panel of sports reporters.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're joined now by our panel of sports journalists, Jarrett Bell is an NFL columnist for USA Today Sports. Dana Jacobson is the co-host of CBS THIS MORNING: SATURDAY, she's also a correspondent and anchor with the CBS Sports Network. And Jason Gay is the sports columnist at the Wall Street Journal. I want to start out with a poll that CBS just took on-- of sports fans who would win. And on the match up, more football fans went to see-- want to see the Los Angeles Rams, forty-seven percent win versus the Patriots, just twenty-seven percent. Jason, can we call the Patriots the underdog?

JASON GAY (The Wall Street Journal/@jasongay): No. They are the Death Star. You know, Bill Belichick is Darth Vader. I mean this is basically a Patriots' entitlement at this point. Nine Super Bowls in the last eighteen years. I have a four-year-old at home. This is her fourth Patriots' Super Bowl. So, of course, America is eager for change.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Eager for change.

JASON GAY: I think so.

DANA JACOBSON (CBS THIS MORNING: SATURDAY Co-Host/@danajacobson): Everybody outside of the Boston area.

JASON GAY: This is true.

DANA JACOBSON: I just pointed to a seven-year-old. (INDISTINCT).

JASON GAY: There are-- there are six states up in the New England area that are very much vigorously rooting for another Patriots title.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jarrett, I mean, we-- we talk about the Patriots being here for the past nine years but it's been a very different path for the NFL. It looks like their ratings have actually been on the bounce back after some difficulty here.

JARRETT BELL (USA Today/@JarrettBell): Oh, no doubt.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Where is that enthusiasm coming from?

JARRETT BELL: It's-- it's interesting because some of the issues that were there last season and we've talked about the protests being one of them.


JARRETT BELL: Actually some of the off-the-field issues that the NFL has dealt with. A lot of that quieted down this season, and the drama really revolved around officiating. And you can look at this season really from the start where they instituted a new helmet rule coming into this season that caused a lot of concern and controversy. The roughing the quarterback penalties. And then-- so it seems so fitting that in the NFC championship game that-- and-- and fitting not like at something that you wanted to have at the NFL but for an officiating call to be the source of so much conversation after the game.


JARRETT BELL: And so we'll see if there's any kind of controversy in the Super Bowl. Typically you don't have a lot, you've got some all-star cruise and-- and they get grade at the officials that work the game, so typically you don't have a lot of controversial calls in the Super Bowl. But this season has been really interesting from the NF-- for the NFL from that standpoint.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, Dana, Jarrett was touching on it there, that-- that non-call of pass interference according to the poll that we took because people were certainly talking about that and the use of instant replay. In general, forty-five percent of football fans say instant replay should be used more often than it is now, forty-one percent think it's being used the right amount already.

DANA JACOBSON: Well, I think nobody wants it to slow the game down. They don't want the game to be longer, but you want to get the call right. And I think it comes down to the judgment call. And, unfortunately, it's the fans that are not the ones that are voting on this--


DANA JACOBSON: --but it's the competition committee and they have to decide. Do you want to be able to say in a judgment call, we're going to allow replay, are you going to allow a referee in New York to determine, you know what, there should have been a flag so we're going to do it? And I know people have talked about this idea that maybe the coaches get in the final two minutes or throughout the game, one flag they get to throw on a judgment call because nobody wants the moment that we've had after this game. It's the Super Bowl and we're still talking about should the Saints be the ones that are here instead of the Rams.

JARRETT BELL: Yeah. No-- no question this off season where we've had a lot of conversation about what to do with instant replay. It's actually been there-- excuse me, for a number of years. On that play in New Orleans, for example, though, you could have called two penalties.

DANA JACOBSON: Right. Right.

JARRETT BELL: So you could have had the judgment call of pass interference.

DANA JACOBSON: And the helmet to helmet.

JARRETT BELL: But also it was a blatant helmet to helmet hit. So the questions in the NFL, it's like, okay, you're going to institute this rule that says you take the head out of the game and then we sit there and we watch that situation in New Orleans as we have throughout the season. I think that's something that they're going to really have to address. And-- and really when they brought the rule in last year with the helmet rule, that was one of the questions that-- that-- that the competition committee feel that right off the bat. If you're going to have this rule, helmet to helmet, and you're going to institute it and it has these, you know, def-- definite penalties--


JARRETT BELL: --you've got to be able to get that call right. So I think that's going to be something going into the off season. You know, Bill Belichick, the-- the Patriots coach has proposed twice over recent years that you could use instant replay for any type of call.


JARRETT BELL: And-- and, yeah, people--

DANA JACOBSON: They just haven't passed it yet.


DANA JACOBSON: And that's the only thing. But I-- don't you feel like because now this is so in the forefront, that it-- it's sort of back saying, look, you didn't want to do it before but do you want this to be the outcome--


DANA JACOBSON: --if you're not going to be willing to do it?

JARRETT BELL: And-- and I don't know if the-- the question about the pace of the game is really going to be the answer to say we can't do it because the NFL has shaved about four minutes in terms of the average pace-- average time of the game over the past four years. So they have found ways just in terms of how they administer game to actually keep the pace of the game flowing. So now maybe you give up a little bit of something like that for replay.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jason, I want to ask you because we talked about it with the President, the issue and the-- the political heat that came with--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --his attention to how the anthem was handled and linked to the causes that the players were kneeling around, specifically, violence, police violence.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And when we poll people, you know, the country's really split evenly on whether they wanted this talked about or not.


MARGARET BRENNAN: But most Americans think that President Trump and the league and the team owners handled this inappropriately. Sixty-three percent said President Trump handled it inappropriately; sixty-six percent said the league handled it inappropriately. I know they both like to move on from this but is it possible to?

JASON GAY: I mean, I don't think it's, you know, at all a moot point is an issue.


JASON GAY: And as long as it's an issue, you're going to have continued dialogue and continued protests whether or not it will take the form of kneeling before the anthem or during the anthem is another question. But I-- I think it's delusional to suggest that somehow the President has stepped forward and solved this issue.


JASON GAY: In fact, you know, in terms of the perk up for the NFL, for the ratings and things, I would lay it more at the feet of some of the more exciting games we had. There were a lot of terrific prime-time contests during the season and you had tremendous young talent, like Patrick Mahomes, who won the MVP last night. This is electric, offensive-minded football.


JASON GAY: I think it's really fun to watch and it's even starkly different than last year. So I would say that that's probably most of the reason why we saw an uptick this year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And-- and when we polled people they actually didn't have an upset with-- with athletes having political positions.


MARGARET BRENNAN: They were okay. There's room in football for politics but it was how that protest was carried out that really split people.

JARRETT BELL: You know one of things that-- that is interesting is that the NFL tried to institute a policy back last spring saying that, okay, there will be no protester in the anthem and then that caused another problem in terms of the union pushing back--


JARRETT BELL: --on that and then as the season got on, it was kind of like, okay, let's table this policy. We're not going to have a po-- policy and, oh, by the way, organically, the NFL's issue kind of quieted down a bit. Now there's a big problem because Colin Kaepernick still doesn't have a job. So I think that there are a lot of people that understand that and you talk about the split in our country in terms of whether or not they're accepting of that. I mean that's the real huge problem fr-- from one level--


JARRETT BELL: --but in terms of the actual protests and-- and whatnot, I think the NFL by backing off on whether or not it would have a hard line policy--


JARRETT BELL: --did itself a favor to kind of let the-- the situation organically unfold.

DANA JACOBSON: But they also with, you know, the players, a lot of them that you talked with, they wanted to move on also--


DANA JACOBSON: --from the protests, they wanted to get to the issues and-- and show people what they are doing for it. And I know we did some stuff with some of the players coalition who they had a press conference here and they were showing these different organizations that they're working with--


DANA JACOBSON: --to make real change in their communities.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We got to leave it there. Thanks to all three of you. This was great to be here in Atlanta. We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. We hope you stay with CBS all day through a special Late Show with Stephen Colbert. I'm Margaret Brennan from Atlanta. 

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