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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on January 13, 2019

1/13: Face The Nation
1/13: Pompeo, McCarthy, Castro 48:54

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

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (read more)
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (read more)
  • Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro (read more) (full interview)
  • Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson (read more)
  • Michael Crowley, Jeffrey Goldberg, David Nakamura, Seung Min Kim (watch)

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, January 13th. I'm Margaret Brennan. And this is FACE THE NATION.

The partial government shutdown continues and prospects for a deal look grim.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I have never been more depressed about moving forward than right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Across the country anger over the shutdown. In Washington, confusion about mixed messages from President Trump about whether he intends to declare a national emergency at the border to build his wall.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (Thursday): Probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely.

(Friday): I'd rather not do it, because this is something that Congress should easily do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy about why it's not so easy. Plus, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on what constitutes a national security emergency. Plus, new problems for the President as news reports raise more questions about his ties to Russia. And as the U.S. begins to withdraw troops from Syria, we'll ask Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the administration's conflicting statements on the drawdown.

MIKE POMPEO: Margaret, the President's guidance is incredibly clear.


JULIAN CASTRO: Let's go work. Vamonos.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk with the latest candidate to enter the 2020 presidential campaign, former San Antonio mayor, Julian Castro.

And as always, we'll have analysis on all the news ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. It's day twenty-three of the partial government shutdown, now the longest in history. And there's no end in sight. Some eight hundred thousand federal workers did not get paid Friday. And even President Trump concedes he has, quote, "No idea" whether he can get a deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We spoke earlier with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from Abu Dhabi, one of the stops on a nine-country trip through the Middle East.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mister Secretary, we are in the middle of this shutdown, and I know a number of State Department employees are not getting paid, including a quarter of U.S. employees in foreign countries. You've been going to U.S. embassies. What are you telling staff about when they can expect a paycheck?

MIKE POMPEO (Secretary of State/@SecPompeo): Look, it-- it's unfortunate that we're in the shutdown, I-- I wish we weren't, too. I-- I hope that it's resolved quickly and I've certainly told our-- our teams that. But you have to know these great Americans who are working in our embassies around the world. They understand the mission. They understand its importance. They understand that whether the government is open or closed they have a task to do and they are hard at it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I do want to ask you since we are so focused on what's happening with this shutdown here at home, the State Department when it comes to the border issues has issued a report in 2017 about counterterrorism and it says that there is no credible evidence that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States. It adds the southern border is vulnerable, but terrorist groups likely seek other means of trying to enter the United States. How does this match with the claim that there is a border security crisis?

MIKE POMPEO: Margaret, make-- make no mistake about it, Margaret, keeping our southern border secure is an important national security component, it's-- it's critical that we do that well. There's a real risk to the United States of America. We need to take this seriously. We need to secure our southern border. We need to make sure that those who want to do us harm don't have a way to access us in that way. There are many things we have to do. One of the reasons I'm in the Middle East is to work on prevailing against terror. There are lots of elements of this but border security is a certain and impor-- certainly an important component.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So is the State Department report wrong to say that this is not how terrorists are trying to enter the United States?

MIKE POMPEO: Margaret, terrorists try to get into our country lots of ways. One of the ways they can come in is across our southern border. What you saw was an unclassified report. Make no mistake about it, terrorists will always find the weakest link. And we need to make sure that the weakest link in our national security isn't our southern border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to get to your trip through the Middle East, but I first want to ask you about this New York Times report that says right after President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, the FBI began investigating whether President Trump himself was a potential threat to national security and whether he'd been working for Russia or unintentionally influenced by Moscow. What is your reaction to this?

MIKE POMPEO: I'm not going to comment on New York Times stories, but I'll certainly say this: the-- the notion that President Trump is a threat to American national security is absolutely ludicrous.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Just to clarify since you were CIA director, did you have any idea that this investigation was happening?

MIKE POMPEO: Margaret-- Margaret-- Margaret, I-- I've answered this question repeatedly indeed on your show. The-- the idea that's contained in The New York Times story that President Trump was a threat to American national security is-- is silly on its face and not worthy of a response.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the reasons you're in the Middle East is to reassure and explain to some of our allies what the U.S. policy in Syria is. So I'd like you to do that for us today because the Pentagon announced yesterday that it actually has begun its withdrawal from Syria. Yet the U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said that wouldn't happen until two things: one, the U.S. defeated ISIS; and two, Turkey assured us it wouldn't go after our Kurdish allies. Have those two conditions been met?

MIKE POMPEO: Margaret, the President's guidance is incredibly clear. The roughly two thousand uniformed soldiers that are in Syria today are going to be withdrawn that-- that activity is underway. We're going to do so in an orderly and deliberate way. A way that protects America's national security, a way that allows us to continue the important mission that they were on--the counterterrorism mission. The effort to make sure that with the destruction of ISIS is not only complete, but that their resurgence is not possible. Our efforts to counter the threat from terrorism stemming from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Those are all real missions. The tactical change we've made in the withdrawal of those two thousand troops is just that--a tactical change. Mission remains the same.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So has Turkey's president promised you not to attack our Kurdish allies?

MIKE POMPEO: Yeah. Look, when President Erdogan and President Trump spoke, they talked about this issue. The Turks have made clear that they understand that there are folks down in Syria that have their rights. We also want to make sure that those in Syria aren't attacking-- terrorists aren't attacking Turkey from Syria. We're fully engaged. Ambassador Jeffrey is in-- fully engaged in conversations with the Turks as well as with the SDF in Syria to make sure that we accomplish all of those missions. We can-- we can do each of those things. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The SDF among some of the fighters that we were talking about Kurdish allies there. Just to explain for our audience.

MIKE POMPEO: That's right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you here, though--

MIKE POMPEO: Yes, Ma'am.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --because you know as a diplomat the-- the threat of credible use of military force is what gives you power at the negotiating table. How does taking out U.S. troops from Syria get you any closer to expelling Iran?

MIKE POMPEO: Margaret, the United States of America can project military power from lots of places in the world. The absence of a couple thousand soldiers on the ground in Syria in no way materially diminishes the capacity of the United States of America and our amazing armed forces to deliver American power to accomplish our objectives anywhere in the world. That certainly includes in Syria. It certainly includes into Iran if need be. We still have those tools. American diplomats still have that leverage and that power standing behind them. I'm very confident in our military capabilities here in the Middle East.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So by that, are you saying that having U.S. troops in nearby Iraq will fill any kind of vacuum left by pulling out of Syria?

MIKE POMPEO: Margaret, we have lots of tools in the arsenal. I was out visiting some amazing warriors out at NAVCENT yesterday in Bahrain. We have an enormous amount of American military capacity. Our-- our ability to achieve what we need to do militarily is there. My task as America's secretary of state is to make sure that we don't have to use that tool. That we get the diplomatic outcomes to secure the Middle East and keep it stable and protect the American people as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When it comes to Iran, the Trump admin-- administration has taken some, you know, confrontational tactics here, pulling out of the nuclear accord saying that Iranian threats would be matched here. But we saw this week another American--a Navy vet--Michael White, has been behind Iranian bars since July. So the Trump administration is not stopping Iran from taking Americans hostage. What is happening with this American?

MIKE POMPEO: This administration is proud of the work that we've done to get Americans released all across the world. With respect to that Michael White case, in particular, I can't say much. It's an ongoing consular matter. But the American people should know we take the security of every American, wherever they are traveling in the world as one of our foremost priorities. We will continue to work to get each of them back. And your point-- your point about the Islamic Republic of Iran is spot on. It's why the JCOPA was such a horrible idea. Many Americans are being held there today that were taken by the Iranian regime. These are a group of people who are among the worst terrorists in the world and who have the least respect for human rights in the world. And it's why this administration has taken the very hard line you just described against Iran.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the Trump administration open to a prisoner swap with Iran?

MIKE POMPEO: I'm not going to talk about something like that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I ask you because Michael White's mother spoke to CBS and she said she would like the administration to negotiate for her son. She said, "What is a human life worth? I would like the U.S. to negotiate. I want him home." What can you tell her you're doing to bring her son home?

MIKE POMPEO: I have great sympathy for the families of those Americans who are wrongfully detained all across the world. And we do everything we can every day to get their return. We use our diplomatic tools in every corner of the world, to reach out to these places to get these young men and women home. We're intent to do that in Iran. We're intent to do that all across the world. We-- we take this-- this obligation as a solemn one. And this administration's had quite a few successes. I hope we have more.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Potentially open to negotiations then?

MIKE POMPEO: We're using every tool that we have in our arsenal to get these Americans back home, wherever we find them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ambassador Bolton said the next summit with Kim Jong-un would be in January or February. We're in that window. When will we see President Trump sit down with the North Korean leader?

MIKE POMPEO: We're working out the details, Margaret. You'll be among the first to know.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know, Sir, you're at the end of this trip, you will be headed to Saudi Arabia. It has been about a hundred days since Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered. Will you raise this issue with Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince?

MIKE POMPEO: Of course.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Then what will you say?

MIKE POMPEO: I'll say what-- Margaret, I'll say what we have said consistently. America's position both privately and publicly is the same. This was an outrageous act, an unacceptable murder. Those who were responsible will be held accountable by the United States of America. We're determined to do that. We're determined to get at the facts just as quickly and as comprehensively as we can. We've had a policy that's been remarkably consistent with respect to this. We-- we-- we, we like the rest of the world value human rights all across the globe. And the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was outrageous and we'll hold those responsible accountable. And then we'll talk about all the important things we do with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and all the support they provide to keep Americans in Kansas and Colorado and California and in Washington, DC, safe.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mister Secretary, thank you very much for your time. Safe travels.

MIKE POMPEO: Margaret, thank you very much. You have a great day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. Congressman, you're usually in your home state in California when we talk to you so we like having you here in person in snowy DC.

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY (House Minority Leader/@GOPLeader/R-California): Thanks for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to get to this Washington Post report before we talk about the shutdown. It-- it says that the President has tried to conceal the substance of his conversations with Vladimir Putin, even taking away the notes from his translator who sat in-- the interpreter in the room during their talks. Does it concern you that there's no public record of what the president discussed with Vladimir Putin, the leader of the country that interfered in the 2016 elections?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Well, Margret, what I do know is what this administration, this Congress has done. We've been very tough on Russia. Look at the sanctions that we have taken. With this administration: one, on the election meddling that Russia has done, the movement of Russia with inside Ukraine as well. And I just listened to the President last night. He's more than willing to have an open to what that discussion was about he said on a news show last night. But I know what the President likes to do. He likes to create a personal relationship, build that relationship, even rebuild that relationship like he does with other world leaders around.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But this was keeping the record of the conversation from the national security adviser. The person who is supposed to be the top adviser to the President.

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Well, in hearing the President last night on the show, he says he was more than willing to let that information go out. So that's what I know right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does Congress want to see any of this? Or speak to the interpreter?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: I'd like to-- the President to be able to build these relationships. I know this administration. I know this Congress is very tough on Russia. And we will continue to be so. But I want this President to be able to build the relationship, even on a personal level with all the world leaders as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you speak to the President, have you ever asked him about this?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: I haven't asked him about this situation, yet, because it just came out. But I did talk to the President yesterday about the shutdown. I know this President is focused on giving this government open. That's why the President is here. That's why I am here in Washington. The challenge has been from the very beginning the President has made numerous offers about this shutdown. Reasonable too, moving further to the Democratic side. And there has not been one offer coming back from the Democrats. It is unacceptable that eight hundred thousand U.S. employees are not being paid. You know what we're arguing over? One-tenth of one percent of the federal budget. And it's not as though we're asking Democrats to do something they haven't done before. They voted for border wall and fencing. We have Democrats, even the new progressives from California. Katie Hill, says she would vote for a wall. You had the chairman--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think the barrier-- defining the barrier is the point that you're kind of stuck on right now.

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: I would take the language we had voted on before. The President even said he would add in no concrete--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Fencing Act from 2006?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: No. Just the appropriations bills that we'd taken prior. That would allow us to do the job that needs to be done. You know the chairman of Armed Services, he actually says, walls work and he was supportive of it.


REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: We had our own former President, President Obama in 2014 said there was a crisis on the border.


REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: The new governor of California Gavin Newsom used it in his-- in his inaugural address said there is a crisis along the border. The only people who believe there is not is Nancy-- Speaker Pelosi--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, they agree--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --in-- in border security funding and offered 1.3 billion for that. It's the how it's spent that it seems to be you're disagreeing on--



REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Well, who in America believes in border security, doesn't have some form of a barrier? Because I've heard Democrats say they want a form of a barrier. The President has moved from a concrete to a steel barrier. So I've watched this President look for compromise. There just has been no compromise on the other side.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But should you reopen the government while you have this argument?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: We can have this government reopened. The President is correct. Less than forty-five minutes--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you would have--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --some sort of CR to open the government--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --and then continue the immigration argument?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: I've been in every single one of those meetings. I watched the President turn to Nancy Pelosi and say, okay if I reopen the government right now, in thirty days--


REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: --could we have border security? She said, "No. Not at all." So that--


REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: --is the real challenge. Who is holding this government up? It's Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the-- the federal government workers are the people paying the price right now.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And you have about ten thousand of them in your district.


MARGARET BRENNAN: So what do you tell them?


MARGARET BRENNAN: When are they going to get paid?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: That is unacceptable. That's why I'm here right now. I'm-- I'm not in Puerto Rico. I'm here because I want to solve this problem.




REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Do you know what is happening--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have a way to pay those--

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: --in each one of those--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --workers while you continue--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --arguing over immigration?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: We just voted on Friday and sent it to the President a law to make sure they are being paid when this is done. What we need to have happen--

MARGARET BRENNAN: For those living paycheck to paycheck now matters.

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Yeah, that's unacceptable. And where has the President been this whole time? What-- what those constituents and what your viewers need to understand, before we ever got to this point when the Republicans had the House--


REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: --they moved a bill to the Senate. In the Senate, it takes sixty votes.


REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Senator Schumer would not come to a compromise. He would not even come for a vote. He left. When we sat during that break--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So should the President--

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: --before the new swearing in--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you oppose the President declaring a national emergency? Since what you're describing sounds like you're not going anywhere.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Because he-- he's talked about--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --about possibly using money that would be allocated to California for disaster relief. That's your home state.

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: The Emergency Act exists for these type of circumstances. But one thing I will tell you, we should solve this legislatively. I-- I agree with what the President said on Friday, we need to solve this legislatively.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, it sounds like--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --you don't want--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --him to declare an emergency?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: It's one tenth of one percent of the federal budget. If we cannot do this together, what else can we not do in the future? This is not that big of a problem. Democrats in the past have voted for fencing and for wall. Why, now, do they disagree? Because it's President Trump? I think the American public understands this. We can solve this in minutes and these-- these workers should be able to be paid. It only takes a few minutes inside the meetings, but when the Democrats will not even make a counteroffer, it's unacceptable.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. I want to ask you about Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King. You called some of his language reckless when he, in an interview with the New York Times, said the term, white nationalists and white supremacists, he didn't know when they became offensive. Some Republicans have come out very strongly here. Jeb Bush--


MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Jeb Bush said it's not enough to condemn him, that party leaders actually have to do something. Either support a primary opponent to challenge him, others have said he should be at least censured. Should there be action against Congressman King?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: First, and foremost, I came out at the very moment--that language has no place in America. That is not the America I know and it's most definitely not the party of Lincoln.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should he be--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --punished for it?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: I have a scheduled meeting with him on Monday, and I will tell you this: I've watched on the other side that they do not take action when their member says something like this. Action will be taken. I'm having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party, because--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: As a leader. There is a number of things you'll see that is taking place, but I will not stand back as a leader of this party, believing in this nation that all are created equal--


REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: --that that stands or continues to stand and have any role with us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you very much, Congressman.

We will be back in a moment with more FACE THE NATION.


MARGARET BRENNAN: With dozens of Democrats considering a 2020 presidential bid on Saturday the former mayor of San Antonio, Julián Castro, became the latest candidate. Castro gained national attention when he delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic convention and he was also secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration. The grandson of a Mexican immigrant, Julian Castro has already been endorsed by a Democratic member of Congress, his twin brother, Joaquin. And Julian Castro joins us from the site of his announcement.

The President visited your home state of Texas this week, went to the border, said there is a humanitarian and national security crisis. Do you agree with him that there is a crisis at the border?

JULIÁN CASTRO (D-Presidential Candidate/@JulianCastro/Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary): What I believe is that he's created a tragedy at the border. This policy of separating children from their parents and the terrible way that Customs and Border Protection has managed its responsibilities, including the deaths of two children within the last few weeks. That's a real tragedy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that family separation policy has been paused at least. But there are a record number of family units crossing the border and that creates a lot of challenges. So what would you do?

JULIÁN CASTRO: I don't believe that we should have family detention for people that are seeking asylum or refugee status, so that we should develop other ways to ensure that people are processed, that we're able to keep track of them in the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were critical even under the Obama administration, specifically about their high level of deportations. So what do you offer as an alternative if you're not going to detain and you're not going to deport what do you do with illegal immigrants?

JULIÁN CASTRO: Well, what I believe we could do and what the Obama administration did do I believe toward the end of its tenure was to look at things like ankle monitors so that you're able to monitor where people are in the country. But we also need to be serious about recognizing the right of people to seek asylum. And the President is playing games with this, blocking people's right to seek asylum. I would change that. I would make sure that we push as hard as possible for comprehensive immigration reform so that for the people who are already here, if they've been law abiding, if they pay a fine, that-- that they can get an earned path to citizenship.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You announced your candidacy and almost immediately the RNC issued a statement. I want to read it here to you. It says, "Julián Castro has made history by becoming one of the biggest lightweights to ever run for President. He was a weak mayor who couldn't even handle being HUD secretary. This is obviously just another desperate attempt to become someone else's running mate." These are sharp words, but it's the first official attack on you. How do you respond and-- and how do you explain why you are qualified to be Commander-in-Chief?

JULIÁN CASTRO: You know they're going to use those kinds of words for every single Democrat that decides to run for president. I wouldn't put too much stock in that. I would just say to the American people directly, I've had executive experience. I have led one of the largest, most diverse cities in the country. I've led a federal agency at HUD and-- and done some great work to expand opportunity. I know what it takes to ensure that we have a government that functions well and to help inspire people. I also have a life experience that I think resonates with a lot of Americans. You know I'm here in my neighborhood that I grew up in. Grew up in a single parent household, went to the public schools here in San Antonio. Was able to go to college and law school and to reach my American dream. And I am motivated to make sure that every American can reach their dreams.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, some of the things you outlined as part of your platform, Medicare for all, universal access to prekindergarten education, a Green New Deal, these put you in the more liberal or progressive wing of the Democratic Party. So one of the challenges for you is how do you attract centrists or people who perhaps were alienated by the President but aren't comfortable with being so reliant on the government as their main provider?

JULIÁN CASTRO: What I hear out there is that there are a lot of folks, a lot of people, who want us to invest in universal health care. And I'm under no illusion that accomplishing something like Medicare for all would be easy. But I do believe that in this nation, in the richest nation on Earth, that not a single person should be without health care when they need it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So what is that going to cost taxpayers? You've got to make some real changes there to be able to pay for it.

JULIÁN CASTRO: No, you do. There's no question that it's going to take several things. I think it's going to take asking wealthier individuals to pay their fair share.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean?

JULIÁN CASTRO: We've had basically the-- the last forty years essentially of-- of lower and lower commitment on people at the very top. Same thing goes for corporations. We have corporations-- multinational corporations that are hardly paying anything in federal taxes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You want to increase the corporate tax rate?

JULIÁN CASTRO: We need to ask them to pay their fair share. I think that we can consider different ways, different proposals, to be able to raise more revenue from, you know, the wealthiest corporations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. We will be tracking you and your campaign. Thank you so much for joining us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: There will be more of our interview on our website at We will be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including our political panel and former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. For some expert analysis on the government shutdown, the emerging 2020 presidential race and so much more we would like to welcome our political panel. Jeffrey Goldberg is the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, Seung Min Kim covers the White House from Capitol Hill for the Washington Post, David Nakamura is a White House reporter for the Washington Post, and Michael Crowley is the White House and national security editor at Politico. Seung Min Kim, let me start with you. Did you hear any signs of progress from what Leader McCarthy talked about today?

SEUNG MIN KIM (The Washington Post/@seungminkim): There is no signs of progress anywhere that we've seen in the last several days. We don't get a way out of the shutdown at least legislatively if three people aren't talking. That's the President, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer. And by all accounts they are not having any discussions right now after the President reportedly stormed out of that meeting in the Situation Room on Wednesday at the White House. And that's why there seems to be sort of a sense of inevitability or at least there was until Friday about the President declaring a national emergency as kind of a way out of the shutdown. Although the President seem to kind of scale that back in his latest comments at the White House on Friday. But there are concerns with that as well. I mean we-- first of all, it's not a guarantee that the government reopens.


SEUNG MIN KIM: Congressman Mark Meadows, who is a Trump ally on Capitol Hill told us that he's like I don't really know why people think that just because the President does this the government will reopen. So that was kind of a sign for us that perhaps this isn't the easiest way out and also the concern among Republicans about declaring this national emergency. You've gotten some pretty strong pushback from senior Republicans saying this could be an abuse of executive power. Something they talked a lot about under the Obama administration.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Michael, we're hearing, you know, the White House seems to be focusing in on Speaker Pelosi and the opposition in the House. They seem to be seeing an opportunity with some of these new freshmen Democrats who've been elected from districts that otherwise have been supportive of Trump. What do you make of this as a strategy? Can you actually pick them off? Do you get anywhere by doing so?

MICHAEL CROWLEY (Politico/@michaelcrowley): Sure. I mean, I guess, it's-- I don't know, if it's arbitrage or the concept where you can exploit a gap between evidence of the President's past support and then a Democrat maybe in theory over performing in that same place. So those are the natural targets you go for. I haven't seen a lot of evidence that they are strategically hitting those targets so far. And I know that we've reported at Politico that there are White House allies who want to see the President, for instance, go in to some of those districts or have White House officials, you know, hold events in these members' districts really put the pressure on them with local media and try to exploit that tension between a district that was pro-Trump in sixteen and maybe one pro-Democrat in eighteen and really put them on the spot. But, you know, fundamentally, what's so interesting here is the President really just seems to be doubling down on this base strategy, the one that he went for in 2018. And it seems like we're kind of setting the stage for the 2020 presidential campaign. And the President may feel that he just absolutely has to keep that base, but that base is fortyish percent. And it's going to be tough for him to win reelection if he doesn't do something more broadly. So it's going to be interesting to see--


MICHAEL CROWLEY: --if he remains dug in on that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And-- and to that point we have some CBS News polling that we've done and it seems that the President's approval rating is low in terms of how he is handling this shutdown, down to about thirty-five percent. Of course, for congressional Republicans it's even lower than that--just twenty-one percent. So this, is it necessarily a political win or could it be?

DAVID NAKAMURA (The Washington Post/@DavidNakamura): Well, that's a great point. The-- we have also a new poll out today from The Washington Post, though, that shows something interesting, which is that, although a majority of the country does blame the President much more than Democrats for the shutdown, it also said that support for a border wall has actually spiked among Republicans at large--by sixteen points over the past year as the President keeps talking about this. And I'm sure the President is seeing that and saying, "Look, this is broadly popular," not just among the base of the Republican Party but eighty-seven percent, according to this poll we have out today of the Republicans support it. Seventy percent of Republicans strongly support a border wall. So the President is reading that and he really believes that his strategy is working despite this idea that he is going to take the blame the longer this goes on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's interesting you say that the CBS News poll, in terms of how you build the wall, shows that about two-thirds, sixty-seven percent of Americans oppose declaring a national emergency to get us there. And-- and it looks like it really breaks down along partisan lines, Jeff.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG (The Atlantic/@JeffreyGoldberg): Right. Right. I mean, a national emergency might actually be the only way out of this impasse because it doesn't seem likely. I was talking this week to one of the new Democrats, going to the opposite of your point.


JEFFREY GOLDBERG: One of the-- not the most famous new Democrat on the Hill, but one of the--


JEFFREY GOLDBERG: --one of the new ones. And there is a-- there is a strong ideological feeling that you can't give in on-- on any-- any compromise, even a compromise that gets them DACA or something else, which is a kind of interesting mirror of what you're seeing in the Republican base, which is wall or-- or nothing at all. So you have everybody dug in and you have no negotiating going on. I'm always struck in these moments by the fact that the President, who allegedly is one of the world's great negotiators, isn't much of a negotiator at all. So I just don't-- I don't-- I don't see-- I don't see this resolving itself anytime soon.

DAVID NAKAMURA: If-- if anything-- we had a-- a year ago, there was a big debate over immigration. This idea, he traded a border wall funding for legalization for these Dreamers. The President then turned that down by all accounts and asked for more. He said, "We want to cut legal immigration, we want to speed up deportations, change laws that Democrats didn't agree with and many, even moderate Republicans don't want to change, which is providing some protection legally to immigrant children who're coming across." Since then, he has made it tougher by the policies he's enacted unilaterally--the separations at the border in June of children from their parents, sending troops to the border during the campaign.


DAVID NAKAMURA: From the Democrats I talked to, they said "This has made us even less-- more-- more skeptical of him that he either-- either take a deal." But also his policies are so inhumane, in their mind, "We're not going to give him any ground on the wall."

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Skepticism. That's even more salient is the skepticism of the core of the Trump's base worrying Ann Coulter-base, let's call it, worrying that he is going to give in. He's extraordinarily sensitive to that. That's why there is really not much hope for negotiating a settlement to this anytime soon because he's so worried about that that core of the core.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Seung Min, when we heard from Senator Graham last week on this show, he was saying one of the things most offensive to him as representative of Republicans was this accusation that somehow in their calls for border security they're being called racists. I thought it was interesting to hear from-- from Leader McCarthy here that when it comes to those accusations within his party right now around this Iowa Republican Steve King that that he wants to take a stand on this.

SEUNG MIN KIM: I found it really fascinating, as well. I mean, I-- those comments from Leader McCarthy on your show just a few minutes ago was probably among the strongest condemnations that we have heard from senior House Republicans about Congressman King's rhetoric and behavior. And I found it really interesting when he said, quote, "actions will be taken against Congressman King"--


SEUNG MIN KIM: -- that he's meeting with him tomorrow to discuss this issue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It sounds like he may be losing his committee memberships.

SEUNG MIN KIM: That's exact--

MARGARET BRENNAN: There will be action taken against in the meeting. He will be downgraded.

SEUNG MIN KIM: That was my-- that was my assumption when-- because that's usually what--


SEUNG MIN KIM: --a party leader can do. The Congressional Black Caucus has called for Congressman King to be stripped of his committee assignments. And it's just interesting because Congressman King has been controversial for a very long time. I mean I'm-- I'm from Iowa, so I'm familiar with his rhetoric. But-- and he said things about immigration during the immigration debate a few years ago. But you are seeing this rise in very vocal condemnations of his rhetoric. I mean, it wasn't just Leader McCarthy, Senator Joni Ernst from Iowa called those remarks racist and said they are not representative of the state.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Tim Scott--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --had the bet on it.

SEUNG MIN KIM: Exactly, as well. So it's-- so the-- the rise in opposition against what he's-- what the Congressman has been saying, you know, frankly for a long time has been interesting to watch.

MICHAEL CROWLEY: And that's really important because we're at a moment in this country where people worry that certain kinds of rhetoric are being normalized and that the--


MICHAEL CROWLEY: --that the parameters of debate are expanding to areas that would have been intolerable a few years ago. And you think about, for instance, what happened in Charlottesville in the degree that there was some-- some-- almost a tacit approval of that or even when the President said there were, you know, find people on both sides in Charlottesville.


MICHAEL CROWLEY: It's nice to see that people are pushing back. They are still to some degree enforcing those norms of conversation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I also want to ask you, Seung Min, to clarify something. Leader McCarthy mentioned, "I'm not in Puerto Rico, I'm here in Washington." What was the point he was trying to make there?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Very subtle point.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Very subtle point.

SEUNG MIN KIM: --there is-- yeah. So there is a contingent of congressional Democrats who are on-- in Nevada and Puerto Rico right now for a Super PAC. The optics are great, I will say--

MARGARET BRENNAN: During the shutdown.

SEUNG MIN KIM: --during the shutdown. And there is, obviously-- because a lot of the shutdown is a messaging war and optics war. And you-- Leader McCarthy-- Kevin McCarthy made a point of saying, "Look, I am here in DC. I am ready to work." He pointed out that he is usually in California when-- when you speak to him.


SEUNG MIN KIM: And there is some unhappiness among Democratic quarters that that trip happened this week.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: I am old enough to remember when people thought that Puerto Rico was a natural Republican stronghold, by the way. But it doesn't seem like the party believes that anymore.

MARGARET BRENNAN: No. If we did-- when we looked at the-- the group, the delegation that did go to Puerto Rico, it looks like Speaker Pelosi decided not to go though she had been originally expected to be there. So it-- it is an optics war, it's a rhetoric war. And, unfortunately, it doesn't sound like there is much traction to getting anything done.

But I want to take a quick break, come back because there is a lot more we need to sort through here. So we're going to take a short break. Stay with us, more from our panel.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we are back now with our panel. We started off the show with speaker, excuse me, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talking about his trip through the Middle East. Jeff, can you tell me what the Syria policy is of the Trump administration?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: It's the best policy. All the best policies. That's the problem in understanding and probably doing commentary on our foreign policies that we have so many foreign policies at once. This secretary did a-- made a valiant effort to suggest that we are not withdrawing from Syria even though we're actually withdrawing from Syria. And-- and the people who are coming out of Syria, the Americans troops, even if they are coming out in an orderly fashion, as he said, are there to fight terrorists. And it's very, very hard to make the case that you're doubling down your fight against terrorism when you're leaving. The-- the core of the problem is that the President he works for is isolationist by disposition. Doesn't understand why we're in the Middle East at all. Mike Pompeo comes from another tradition, quite the opposite tradition. He believes in a muscular American presence. And we saw his very, very strong speech in Cairo, which is allegedly a repudiation of Obama policy. So it's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Even down just to the-- to the orchestration of it--



JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Right. A little bit-- a little bit in your face. I'm going to Cairo and I'm repudiating what you just said in a really unusual way. And-- and so you have so many different foreign policies in-- inside one administration, it's hard to keep them straight.


DAVID NAKAMURA: Think about this, though. I was thinking about this, you know, the President's other big gambit on foreign policy is this ongoing dialogue of some, sort of, with North Korea. Think what Kim Jong-un must be seeing here. You have the-- the hawkish secretary of state and National Security Adviser John Bolton with one view of how to approach Iran and stay in Syria.


DAVID NAKAMURA: And the President is saying, "No, you know, I have my own view. I'm just going to do the opposite." You see, now Kim Jong-un continue to send letters to President Trump, very flattering. He wants to deal directly with the President because he sees this sort of a-- a chance, you know, to sort of maybe get some gains. I mean the idea of--

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: But if he's smart--


JEFFREY GOLDBERG: --he might know that that those gains are not durable.

DAVID NAKAMURA: They are not durable.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Yeah. And it-- yeah.

DAVID NAKAMURA: But-- but, you know, Kim Jong-un's goal is to reduce troop presence, right, in-- in the Korean Peninsula. Look-- look, what's going on here in Syria?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And to cut back all the military--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --umbrella--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --that the United States has in the region. On Iran, to add to Jeff's point, you heard the secretary of state this week say, we are going to try to get every boot, Iranian boot out of Syria. How do you do that when you don't have a military there?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Can you convince them with strong words? I-- I don't know. You made the excellent point that the threat of military force, obviously is-- is when you couple that with effective diplomacy that's one way to do it. No, it doesn't seem-- I mean, look, this is why the Israelis and many of the Gulf Arabs were so nervous when Trump announced this impromptu policy shift, radical policy shift, because you-- you leave Syria that allows Iran to come in fully. Pompeo's speech in Cairo was a very, very anti-Iran speech.


JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Nothing is adding up. This is the problem. I mean you have to have policies that actually correspond to the reality on the ground. And so I-- I think it's very, very hard to understand how this works.

MICHAEL CROWLEY: Pompeo did say something today that I've heard him say before that I think could be worth focusing on. He keeps referring to the withdrawal of uniformed American troops from Syria. I don't know exactly what he means. But I am wondering to what degree the administration at least maybe telling (INDISTINCT) officials like Pompeo in defending Trump's policy. We're going to have the CIA and then we might even have--


MICHAEL CROWLEY: --contractors. We know there's been a lot of debate around this administration with the possibility of using contractors. So I think that's something to keep an eye on. I think it's noteworthy that he keeps stressing that word.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It-- it's a good-- good point to (INDISTINCT) because clearly having an intelligence presence is incredibly important in a place that is home to so many terror groups at this point. That's one of the things that Israelis were concerned about--

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Right. Of course.


JEFFREY GOLDBERG: I mean the other quick point to make on this is that Pompeo's speech was very, very hard on Iran. But one of the reasons it's not flying in the Middle East is that recognizing that all diplomacy is hypocrisy to some degree. There is not a harsh word to be said about Saudi Arabia, and one does not have to think that Iran is anything other than the leading state sponsor of terror. You-- you can still think that but also think that our punitive allies are also human rights violators and authoritarian despotic regimes.


JEFFREY GOLDBERG: It would be fascinating to watch this week.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Michael, I want to ask you, we-- we did ask both the secretary and Leader McCarthy about these reports in the past few days about the President's relationship with Russia or at least his decision to not make public the notes that he has had from interpreters from private meetings with Vladimir Putin. Why is it important that the rest of the national security establishment be part of this? As leader McCarthy said this is just about a personal relationship.

MICHAEL CROWLEY: Sure. Well, there's the-- there's the sort of traditional reason, which is that the foreign policy machine works better if all the smart people who are looking at it from different angles, people who have regional focuses who have expertise in Putin's psychology who are arms control experts can see the conversation and weigh in. And-- and, you know, referring back to the parsing language, hey, it was really important and significant that Putin use this word. You know, he hasn't used this word in six years. It means that they're interested in this again. Or somebody can point out I can see that he's putting pressure on this issue trying to move us. The President who, you know, is totally new to diplomacy as of two years ago, wouldn't be picking up on those things. That's just how it traditionally works. And you have-- it's almost like crowdsourcing, right, get all the best minds looking at this and then--


MICHAEL CROWLEY: --you get together and talk about it. Okay. So, now the Trump's specific problem is that, you know, we know senior officials in our own Justice Department at one point, a couple of years ago according to the great reporting by the New York Times yesterday, believed it was at least worth investigating whether the President, I can't believe I'm saying these words--


MICHAEL CROWLEY: --on television, it's like am I living in a dream, may have been acting as an agent for the Russian government and Vladimir Putin.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: It's not a dream, it's a bad movie.

MICHAEL CROWLEY: I mean, a bad-- a bad movie, the greatest movie ever made, who knows exactly--

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's an extraordinary report.


MICHAEL CROWLEY: It's-- it's stunning. And I want to say, to go back-- and then the Washington Post, by the way, followed up with the great report, that after a meeting he had with Vladimir Putin and only a translator in the room, asked the translator for those notes and took them away. And they were not circulated through the government. Just very quickly, last point, David, to your earlier point about leaders seeing the officials around Trump and going around them--



MICHAEL CROWLEY: --and going straight to Trump. Lot of reasons, I think there's Vla-- that Vladimir Putin is doing that, whether or not it's some kind of a spy movie running an-- an agent thing or just pure psychology. That's the game he's playing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's also extraordinary to have the America's top diplomat, the secretary of state, twice clarify that the President is not a national security threat--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --and laugh-- and-- and say that's laughable.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Right. It's worth dilating on this for one moment, that we're in a situation where we're discussing in serious terms whether or not the President of the United States is a Russian intelligence asset. And that's-- that's what's happening in Washington today. And that is truly remarkable thing that we're experiencing right now.


DAVID NAKAMURA: And the President's response on this about, you know, keeping this meeting quiet is-- and keeping people out of it, it's not just to have a better relationship with leader like Vladimir Putin. But also that there's been leaks of his other, especially early in his presidencies, from really embarrassing leaks about what he said to other world leaders that made him look foolish, made him look reckless. But now he's sort of created this extra problem that either-- leaders-- because he's not staying on some sort of script or--


DAVID NAKAMURA: --you know-- you know, going with the talking points that are developed by a national security agency or staff, be prepare for these meetings, sort of ad-libbing and having these sort of embarrassing--


DAVID NAKAMURA: --leaks come out. Now he's left with a situation where it looks certainly bad if, you know, if he's keep-- if he's taking notes from his translator.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The story is not going away. We'll continue it. But we have to leave the panel here.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we'll be back in a moment with former Obama administration Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're joined now by former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Welcome to FACE THE NATION.

JEH JOHNSON (Former Secretary of Homeland Security): Margaret, thanks for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In addition to being Homeland Security Secretary, before that you had also been general counsel at the Pentagon.


MARGARET BRENNAN: So I know you're very familiar with some of the legal authorities here--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --that we may need to-- to look at, because the President says that he may declare a national security emergency in order to get border funding for this wall. Take it from other monies that Congress had already approved and use it in a way they didn't approve. Does he have the ability legally to do this?

JEH JOHNSON: Well, first, Margaret, I just have to say there is an emerging crisis in Homeland Security on our border, by taking the very workers we depend upon for our security, land, sea, air, Secret Service, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, customs agents and so forth, and inflicting on them all sorts of stress and anxiety in their personal life about whether they're going to be paid and when. That's the security crisis that I see from the workforce in DHS.


JEH JOHNSON: Now when it comes legally to whether or not the President can declare a national emergency to get around the dispute, earlier in the week the administration seemed to be talking about using a Department of Defense authority to take money that's been designated by Congress for military construction toward another project. The law specifically allows for that upon the declaration of a national emergency. But that particular provision is typically used overseas to support the military like building detention facilities or military housing. The lawyers in the administration now seem to have come to a provision that allows for a reprogramming, as we refer to it, taking money from Army's civil works projects here in the United States that were at some point essential to national defense and then redesignating and reprogramming it for some other Army civil works project.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of that aid money for Puerto Rico and--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --money for California--

JEH JOHNSON: So, in my view, that's probably slightly more legally plausible. The earlier defense authority was really trying to jam us square peg in a round hole.


JEH JOHNSON: This one is slightly more plausible, but politically highly objectionable because you're taking billions of dollars away from important civil works projects to recover from the hurricanes and the wildfires. And I-- I would predict there'd be huge, huge objection to doing that. Ultimately, this-- this has to be something for our political leadership to work out--


JEH JOHNSON: --to get the government back to work. That's the most basic function of our civilian political leadership, to keep the government open and pay the workers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, and to your point, it is worth what you underscored there, that a number of people who work on national security issues aren't getting paid because of this--

JEH JOHNSON: The people we--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --border crisis.

JEH JOHNSON: --depend upon to find explosives and luggage, to find weapons and luggage, the people we depend upon to secure our borders to look for contraband at ports--


JEH JOHNSON: --to look for narcotics at ports, are the people that are under great stress right now because of this shutdown. It be must be leading-- I think I know this workforce. It must be leading to all kinds of uncertainty, stress and anxiety, and frankly, anger and resentment. We see reports of TSOs calling in sick. And if this is not resolved soon, I predict that that's going to go in the wrong direction and we're going to start seeing longer and longer lines at airports.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you were at DHS, I know you said that-- at that time in 2015, you saw the influx and apprehensions of children and family units as an emerging crisis.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Now the Trump administration is seeing record numbers of those family--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --units coming across the border. They're saying this is a crisis now, and it sounds like the one you saw coming. So this is a unique challenge for them. Are they wrong to call that a crisis?

JEH JOHNSON: It is very definitely humanitarian crisis because of the poverty and violence in Central America. And the way to deal with this problem, frankly, is make a long-term investment in helping to eradicate the poverty and violence in the three countries that are probably the most violent on Earth. That's not a quick, simple, easy fix which Washington likes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

JEH JOHNSON: Correct. And so we need to make a long-term political commitment to investing and dealing with those push factors, otherwise we're going to continue to deal with this problem for a very long time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Border wall, what I hear you saying, not the most effective way. Let me get, though, to-- to the nuts and bolts of the family members here. Because the Obama administration faced some challenges on the question of whether they could detain families together--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --for more than twenty days.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's at the heart of the Trump administration's, you know, defenses as to why they were justifying the separation of families. So what alternatives are there?

JEH JOHNSON: Well, you're referring to the Flores decision--


JEH JOHNSON: --which imposed basically a limit on us to hold people for longer than-- than twenty days. I think that there has to be a range of tools that DHS can go to in-- in a crisis when you see a spike like this. Again, it requires a long-term investment and the push factors. But we need things like-- we, you know, we can always assess whether there is more border security that's necessary. More surveillance, more road, perhaps, fortifying walls. In my judgment, there also needs to be more immigration judges--


JEH JOHNSON: --to move these cases along. But it does require a range of things and a long-term political commitment to dealing with the underlying factors that lead to these crisis.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, do you expect the Supreme Court to uphold the DACA ruling?

JEH JOHNSON: I-- I hesitate to predict what this Supreme Court will do.


JEH JOHNSON: I think that there is adequate legal basis for the program.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. At the heart of-- of some of these potential solutions. So thank you very much.

JEH JOHNSON: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you for watching. Until next week for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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