Watch CBS News

Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on January 20, 2019

1/20: Face The Nation
1/20: Vice President Mike Pence, Adam Schiff, John Kennedy 47:15

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

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday. January 20th. I'm Margaret Brennan. And this is FACE THE NATION.

As a historic shutdown enters week five, President Trump offers temporary protection for some immigrants in exchange for his border wall.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want this to end. It's got to end now. These are not talking points.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Democrats said no, arguing they won't negotiate until the government reopens. We'll talk with Vice President Mike Pence about that and the President's plans for a second summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. Special counsel Robert Mueller makes a rare public statement, disputing an explosive report alleging that the President order his former attorney to lie to Congress. House Intelligence Committee Chairman California Democrat Adam Schiff and Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy weigh in. And in Syria, four Americans were killed in a suicide attack. We'll talk with Brett McGurk, the former head of the anti-ISIS campaign who resigned last month. He's now warning that the terror group is getting new life. Plus--

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: I will stand up for what I believe in, especially when it's hard.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --we'll hear from New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand who spent the weekend in Iowa after announcing she's running for President.

All that, coming up on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We begin today with Vice President Mike Pence. Welcome. And so good to have you here.

MIKE PENCE: Yeah. Morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You arrived here today with Secret Service agents who are with you twenty-four hours a day.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Are they getting paid during this shutdown?

MIKE PENCE: They're not at this point and eight hundred thousand federal workers are also going without pay and if we don't have a resolution then those paychecks won't go out at the end of this week. But we also have a crisis at our southern border, Margaret. Humanitarian and a security crisis. And as the President laid out yesterday, we're absolutely determined to secure the border to end the shutdown. And what the President articulated yesterday was a-- a good faith, common sense compromise where the President laid out his priorities: building a physical barrier on the southern border, a steel barrier, new resources for Border Patrol, humanitarian assistance technology. But the President also announced that-- that he'd be willing to support legislation that provides temporary relief, three years of-- of temporary legal status for those in the DACA program and also those who have temporary protective status. It really is an effort to-- to compromise and-- and we really look forward to the Senate taking this bill up Tuesday--


MIKE PENCE: --and beginning to work in earnest not just to end this government shutdown, which is a burden on the families of eight hundred thousand federal workers but even more importantly in that to address the crisis that we face in our southern border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If-- if this is a genuine attempt, why weren't any Democrats included in the consultations for this?

MIKE PENCE: Well, Margaret, we-- we've been talking to Democrats--


MIKE PENCE: --over the last four weeks. Well, first, the President's met repeatedly with Democrat leadership all the way through a week ago last Wednesday--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Democratic leaders have said this is a nonstarter.

MIKE PENCE: Well, look, that's-- that meeting in the Situation Room a week ago Wednesday, the President looked at Speaker Pelosi and said, okay, if I gave you everything you wanted, if I've signed legislation for most-- funding most of the government and-- and had a thirty-day extension on Homeland Security. He said to her--I was sitting there--he said, would you give me funding to secure the border and a wall? And she said, no. So what the President directed us to do, our negotiation team, was to reach out with rank and file Democrats in the House and in the Senate. And what the President presented yesterday really is an effort to bring together ideas from both political parties. I-- I think it is an act of statesmanship on the President's part to say, here is what I'm for. It includes my priorities, it includes priorities that Democrats had-- have advanced for some period of time. And we believe it provides a framework--


MIKE PENCE: --a framework for ending this impasse, securing our-- our border and reopening government.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I-- I didn't hear you say which Democrats are supporting it though.

MIKE PENCE: Right. Well--


MIKE PENCE: --well, the-- the President met this week, we all did, with the problem solvers caucus. I think we all know who was there and-- and we were grateful for their presence. But we've had-- we've had good conversations with Democrat members of the Senate. But, look, their-- their-- their leadership has discouraged them in the House and the Senate from engaging the administration, so I want to respect those conversations. But I think what the American people saw the President do yesterday was say, I-- I-- you know, I-- I want to set the table for us resolving this issue in a way that achieves his objectives to secure the border, end the humanitarian security crisis, end the government shutdown, but also to-- to bring together-- bring together the Democrats' priorities to accomplish that. That's what the American people expect us to do. And-- and honestly, you know-- you know, the hearts and minds of the American people today are thinking a lot about it being the weekend where we remember the life and work of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior. One of my favorite quotes from Doctor King was, "Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy." You think of how he changed America. He inspired us to change through the legislative process to become a more perfect union. That's exactly what President Trump is calling on the Congress to do. Come to the table in a spirit of good faith. We'll secure our border, we'll reopen the government, and we'll move our nation forward as the President has said yesterday to even a broader discussion about immigration reform in the months ahead.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've said that this is not-- this offer on the table is not amnesty. The President this morning tweeted something that I'd like you to clarify, though. He said, "Amnesty will-- will be used on a much bigger deal whether on immigration or something else." Was that an offer for a path to citizenship?

MIKE PENCE: Well, I'll-- I'll let the President's words stand. But at the end--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you know what he meant?

MIKE PENCE: --at the end-- yes, I do.


MIKE PENCE: At the end of his remarks yesterday, he made it very clear that while this proposal is just it's-- look, it's-- it's funding to secure our border, to build a steel barrier on the southern border--


MIKE PENCE: --to give additional resources that the Department of Homeland Security has requested in terms of personnel and facilities and detection technologies as well as humanitarian assistance. But the President's also said he is more than willing in this legislation that comes to the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, to extend temporary relief to-- to people that are in the TPS program as well as--


MIKE PENCE: --the DACA program. But at the end of that speech, I hope the American people heard him. So once we move past this impasse, once we begin to build more trust between the parties. This is a President who is absolutely determined to fix our broken immigration system in this country. But he has always said it all begins with border security.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will he come down from that 5.7-billion-dollar ask? Is that also up for negotiation?

MIKE PENCE: Well, look, that's the President's request and the Senate leadership has agreed to bring the bill to the floor with our request for funding for the wall and all the other resources. But, look, we recognize the legislative process is a process of give and take.


MIKE PENCE: The Democrats want to bring amendments or recommendations forward. I know the President will give them due consideration, but the President is absolutely determined to build a-- a steel barrier on the southern border in the ten priority areas that the Department of Homeland Security said that we need a physical barrier. It's roughly two hundred and thirty-four miles. It's not from sea to sea.


MIKE PENCE: It's two hundred thirty four miles of additional steel barrier. And-- and, frankly, you look back at prior administrations. You know, virtually the-- the last four Presidents have all built similar barriers on the southern border, including President Obama. And we just want to respond to the needs that we have to secure our border. But once the legislative process goes forward, I know President Trump will be listening to recommendations from the other party.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There is an inspector general report this week that said that the Trump administration actually separated far more children from their parents than initially reported, more than the twenty seven hundred. In fact, they couldn't put a figure on it. Do you regret that policy?

MIKE PENCE: Well, the President reversed that policy. And now we have in place--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But do you regret what happened to the more than twenty-seven hundred children?

MIKE PENCE: Well, I-- I think-- I think we-- we regret not only that circumstance but what's driving that circumstance. It's one of the reasons why the President had Secretary Nielsen negotiate with Mexico that going forward we'll be able to allow families to remain in Mexico while they apply for asylum and it would obviate the need to bring them into our system that is ill-equipped to handle the extraordinary influx of families and unaccompanied minors that's coming across our border today. A majority of the sixty thousand people that are-- that are detained attempting to come into our country illegally every--


MIKE PENCE: --single month more than two thousand a day are now families and unaccompanied children. We now have an arrangement with Mexico where those families can remain in Mexico. The President in his proposal also recommended that we allow children to apply for asylum--

MARGARET BRENNAN: In the countries of origin.

MIKE PENCE: --in the Central American countries. Look, the human traffickers and the cartels take American cash to-- to entice families to send either their family or their children on the long and dangerous journey north. We want that to end. These reforms will advance that from ending. But, look, it's time for Congress to come to the table and take this important step.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I do want to-- I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I do want to ask you two-- two quick things since it's so rare we get time with you. Do you care to comment on this BuzzFeed report that the special counsel seemed to have found some issue with, but wasn't specific. What part of this report was inaccurate?

MIKE PENCE: Well, we-- I-- the-- the special counsel said that the report of BuzzFeed was inaccurate and-- and, frankly, the response by many in the national media to take it at face value and engage--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, what part of it was wrong?

MIKE PENCE: --and I-- in-- in hyperventilating about accusations against the President was really a disgrace. Look, look--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you don't know which part of it was inaccurate.

MIKE PENCE: There is a-- there is an obsession in this town. Look, we-- we've fully cooperated with the special counsel, over a million documents--


MIKE PENCE: --we'll continue to fully cooperate. I'll let the special counsel address that issue. The President's maintained that he did nothing wrong. But, look, what the American people saw this week was the obsession of many in the national media, and, frankly, some Democrats on Capitol Hill, to assume the worst about this President.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well that's why I wanted you to--

MIKE PENCE: And-- and, frankly, we appreciate--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --to tell us--

MIKE PENCE: --the special counsel--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --what part of it was inaccurate.

MIKE PENCE: Well, frank--- we-- we--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --but can I ask you--

MIKE PENCE: --appreciate the special counsel making it clear that that report was inaccurate.


MIKE PENCE: And-- and look, the-- the special counsel is going to complete his work.


MIKE PENCE: And we're-- we're going to continue to focus on the issues that are most important to the American people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, four Americans were killed in a suicide attack in Syria this week. That same day you gave a speech and said the ISIS caliphate was defeated. Do you regret in hindsight saying that?

MIKE PENCE: Well, first and foremost--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Their deaths seemed to contradict what you said.

MIKE PENCE: Well, look. First and foremost, we're deeply saddened at the loss of these four brave Americans and we were praying, especially yesterday, when the President joined their families at Dover Air Force Base. And-- their contributions to our national security will forever be enshrined in the hearts of the American people. But, look, President Obama withdrew American forces--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But should you have said that?

MIKE PENCE: --from Iran. Well, let me be clear. President Obama withdrew American forces from Iraq precipitously in 2011. ISIS rose up virtually out of the desert, overran--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's the criticism--

MIKE PENCE: --overran vast areas of Iraq and Syria--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --of what the Trump administration is doing in Syria now.

MIKE PENCE: President Obama began a bombing campaign. But when we came into office two years ago today--


MIKE PENCE: --President Trump said we are going to drive ISIS out of Iraq. We're going to drive the caliphate out of existence. And because of the sacrifices and the courage of people like those four brave Americans, last-- the end of 2017 we captured the so-called capital of their caliphate--


MIKE PENCE: --in Raqqa. The-- the ISIS state has been defeated. But as I said in that very same speech, the President wants to bring our troops home. But he also wants to make sure that we hand off the fight against--


MIKE PENCE: --ISIS in Syria, what remains of ISIS in Syria, to our coalition partners and that we continue to support them with American assets in the region.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mister Vice President--

MIKE PENCE: The ISIS caliphate has crumbled thanks to the courage of our armed forces and our allies--


MIKE PENCE: --in the region. But America is going to continue to support the effort until we drive any remnants of ISIS from the region and from the face of the earth.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mister Vice President, thank you for your time today.

MIKE PENCE: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Next up, we'll speak to House Democrat Congressman Adam Schiff.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. He's a California Democrat and an ally to Speaker Pelosi. Chairman Schiff, welcome to FACE THE NATION.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D-California/@RepAdamSchiff/Intelligence Committee Chairman): Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you like to respond to anything the vice president just said about Democratic leadership in response to their proposal?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: I think the vice president and the President know that what the President announced yesterday was not going to go anywhere. It wasn't really intended to. It was a-- I think an effort to prop up the President's sagging poll numbers. But it did nothing to get us closer to ending the shutdown. The President announced this shutdown, said he'd be proud of it. He is proud of it. He needs to put an end to it. And that's what we hoped we might hear from the President. Look, people have suffered enough. Federal employees are going without another paycheck. I'm going to put an end to this and continue the negotiations. That's what he should have done. That's what a real President would do. But, instead, what this is really about is not border security what this is about is a broken promise that the President made and of repeated clearly false song and dance act that Mexico was going to build a great big beautiful wall and pay for it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't see an opportunity here, an opening, for the President to have made this gesture on DACA and TPS recipients getting at least three years of protection?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: No, it was effectively saying look I created a problem by taking away protections for DREAMers. I created another problem by taking away protections for refugees. I am willing to undo part of the damage temporarily that I have inflicted to get my wall. Well, that's really not much of an offer. It wasn't intended to be.


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: At the end of the day, what the President wants is to replace one fraudulent promise with another. The promise that Mexico was going to pay with a promise that taxpayers are not going to pay but somehow get reimbursed through his new NAFTA. Well that's as fraudulent as the original promise.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you interpret the special counsel's statement that seemed to challenge some of the reporting in BuzzFeed that the President directed his attorney to lie to Congress about some business dealings in Russia?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well, I assume that this was prompted by the reaction to that BuzzFeed report. But also it may have to do with the special counsel's wanting to be able to use Michael Cohen as a witness in further prosecutions and wanted to make sure that the public didn't have the perception that he was saying more than he was saying at least to the special counsel. But, Margaret, I think we need to pay particular attention to what we do know from the special counsel that was not included in this statement yesterday. What we do know from the special counsel is that Michael Cohen has shared information about core matters of the Russia investigation that he learned from people associated with the Trump Organization, the business organization. We also know from the special counsel that he has shared information about his communications with people associated with the White House during 2017 and 2018. Now is that period during 2017 and 2018 that Michael Cohen was making false statements publicly and to Congress and initially the special counsel about the Trump Tower deal. So there is a lot more to learn and--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you still going to investigate the claims?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Absolutely, absolutely. Congress has as a-- has a fundamental interest in two things--first in getting to the bottom of why a witness came before us and lied--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --and who else was knowledgeable that this was a lie.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you will be asking questions of Michael Cohen?


MARGARET BRENNAN: He'll be appearing before your committee?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --given Michael Cohen a date that we'd like him to come in either voluntarily or if necessary by subpoena. But the-- the other reason why we have to get to the bottom of this is Bill Barr testified last week that he would not commit to following the advice of ethics lawyers if they urged him to recuse himself and he would not commit to making the Mueller report public. Now either one of those ought to be reasons not to confirm him, but the combination of both should be completely disqualifying.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you subpoena the report in order to make it public?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: We will do everything necessary to make the report public but more than that, because they will fight us on this, we need to do our own investigations because at the end of the day if the Justice Department tries to stonewall the release of that report for whatever reason, the American people are going to need to know what happened--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --and we're going to have to press forth. You know the very reason that-- that Bill Barr gave for wanting to be attorney general that he could help bring a credible resolution to this investigation and ensure confidence in the Justice Department will be impossible given that the public knows he was chosen for his hostility to the investigation. He's refusing to commit to following the ethics advice--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --and should he attempt to bury any part of this report there's no way that a majority-- majority of Americans will have confidence in the result.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If-- if the President knew Michael Cohen was going to lie to Congress but didn't explicitly tell him to lie, is that a problem for you? Is there something you can do about that? What is that classified as? Is that obstruction of justice?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well if-- if the President knew that a witness was going to lie before Congress but played no role in urging him to lie before Congress, I don't know that it would be a crime, it certainly would be unethical, but this President has done a lot of things that are deeply unethical. But the-- the-- the question remains and Rudy Giuliani I guess this morning said that he's not writing off the possibility that the President did talk to Michael Cohen about his testimony--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --or that others may have as well. And we need to know exactly what those conversations were, they're certainly not protected by any kind of a privilege.


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: And if anyone was instructing whether it was the president or other people affiliated with the White House or the Trump Organization encouraging a witness to lie, we need to know about it. And I will say one other thing. We know that the president's public statements have been false as it pertains to his business dealings with Russia. And so the combination of his public falsehoods--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --with false testimony before Congress certainly contributes to a picture of obstruction of justice.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will continue to track that. Thank you very much, Congressman.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy, who sits on the committee responsible for keeping the Department of Justice in check. He joins us this morning from New Orleans. Senator, would you like to respond to anything that the congressman said there? And what is your interpretation of the special council's statement regarding this report?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY (R-Louisiana/@SenJohnKennedy): My-- my understanding, Margaret, and I sat through every minute of the hearing is that there is an FBI rule that says an investigation report is not released. It's given to the attorney general. And the attorney general reports on the report. Now I've said how I feel about it. I think they ought to release Mueller's report--


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: --for a couple of reasons. Number one, it's going to leak anyway. Washington, DC leaks like the Titanic. And number two, I think the American people have a right to know. If there is a rule that gets in the way I hope that Mister Barr Will consider, consider waving it. But any-- but anybody--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that-- is that a factor in you deciding to vote him in for confirmation?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: No, I think Barr is imminently qualified. But-- but anybody who thinks--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you're a yes vote.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: --yes. If any-- anybody who thinks this report is going to remain confidential has been smoking some of that medicinal marijuana.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But back-- back to the question about the report in BuzzFeed regarding whether the President directed his attorney to lie. What do you understand--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --the special council's comment on that to mean?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: I found what happened with respect to the BuzzFeed article, it was embarrassing. I think the First Amendment was bruised. Look, reporters make mistakes. We all do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: BuzzFeed stands by it.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: But I-- I was-- I understand. BuzzFeed also has to answer to the fact that the Mueller said it's not true. And-- and what surprised me was not that somebody made a mistake intentional or not, but it was just the-- it was astonishing to me that so many folks didn't stop and say, hey, you know, let's think about this.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Could this be true. The sources? Have these particular reporters had problems before? It was-- it was almost as if what-- some of the reporting was not reporting it was wishful thinking. And I think that hurts the First Amendment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, I'm coming up against time. So, I'm going to ask you briefly. Will you vote for the proposal put forward by the President to end the shutdown?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Yep. It represents progress, not perfection. But progress. Miss Pelosi's response was predictable, but I can promise you that the more censorious Democrats right now are glad the President put something on the table. Third point, I'll make is I talked to the President about this issue for about an hour last week.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: And if you bring a plan to him that doesn't include a wall it's dead as four o'clock.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Kennedy, thank you very much for your time.

We will be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: In our next half hour we'll talk with the presidential candidate and a former Trump envoy to the coalition against ISIS. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has announced that she's jumping into the 2020 Democratic primary race. And she spent the weekend campaigning in Iowa. So we will ask her why she thinks she should be the next President of the United States.

And for the first time since he resigned from the Trump administration Brett McGurk will tell us about his experience as the head of the anti-ISIS coalition. He will discuss his concerns now that the President has decided to pull out troops from Syria. All of that is coming up on FACE THE NATION.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with more FACE THE NATION, and a lot more in our second half hour. So, stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We now go to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She's a Democrat from New York. And the newest contender in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. She joins us this morning from Des Moines. Senator, welcome to FACE THE NATION.

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-New York/@SenGillibrand): Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have said that you are a no on the President's proposal here to end this shutdown. Why isn't the offer of three years of protection for DAC-DACA on TPS recipients enough of a start for you?

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: Well, he's the one who got rid of DACA protection in the first place, and to offer a temporary-- temporary respite, it doesn't-- if you talk to any DACA recipient in America today, they-- they're anxious. They're worried. They're concerned, they might be at school. They don't know if they can finish school. They might be getting married. Their lives are being upended and this President has no compassion. So I don't think you should even consider this because it's three years it's just DACA. Why not all the DREAMers? Why not a permanent pathway to citizenship so they actually could have certainty about their lives. What it really shows is is lack of compassion and empathy for people that are suffering. And I think it's a nonstarter.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President said this morning in a tweet that amnesty could be part of a broader deal down the line. Do you take him at his word on that?

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: No I don't. I don't take him on his word on anything. If he really cares about this, he would open up the government, stop the eight hundred thousand people that didn't get a paycheck last week, stop their suffering. Some people can't pay for medicines, food, heat, mortgages, rents. It's-- it's just shows a callousness that is unacceptable. And so open the government, pay the people, pay our public servants, and then get to the business of talking about a comprehensive immigration reform. But to-- to-- start just-- to offer him a three-year DACA deal is just not-- it doesn't accomplish what we need to accomplish. It's not enough. And I think it's cynical.

MARGARET BRENNAN: An RNC spokesperson issued a statement after you declared your candidacy saying, "If you looked up political opportunism in the dictionary, Kirsten Gillibrand's photo would be next to it from jumping on the abolish ICE bandwagon to turning on the Clintons. She always goes where the political wind blows." How do you respond to that?

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: Well those are political attacks, so not rooted in any truth. But you know I am who I am, and I will fight for other people's kids as hard as I fight for my own. My heart has never changed, and I will fight for people, the way our community--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But some of your agenda has, which is what they're attacking there.

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: Ten years ago when I became senator of New York state, a state of twenty million people, I recognized that my focus on the concerns of my upstate district were not enough. I needed to focus on the concerns of the whole state, and so on immigration I spent time at immigration-- immigrant communities. Nydia Velazquez took me to her district in Brooklyn, and I met with families whose lives were being torn apart because of policies that I did not have enough compassion, empathy for. So I recognized I was wrong.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You sit on the Armed Services Committee. If you are Commander-in-Chief, would you continue the diplomatic talks with North Korea that the President has started?

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: So I think it is helpful that President Trump is focused on diplomacy and not bombing North Korea because one of his earlier thought processes were that he needed to have military action, which caused grave concern in my mind and those of many other senators. So I do think diplomacy and engagement is the right approach. Unfortunately, President Trump in his first efforts I think it was much more of a political stunt than effective diplomacy and-- and political dialogue. But I am grateful.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't support this second summit?

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: No. I am grateful because he is choosing a path of diplomacy even if he's not good at it or even if it's not more than a political stunt. I'm still grateful that that is his choice as opposed to bombing North Korea.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have spoken about your agenda which would include expanding Medicare for all, you had been a co-sponsor on a bill--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --with Bernie Sanders previously--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --that would, essentially, nationalize health care. That would require an estimated 1.4 trillion dollars a year. How do you finance that?

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: The biggest worry almost every family in America has is the cost of health care and that it will be out of reach for them because the insurance industry doesn't care. So the reason why I believe in Medicare for All is I think any family should have access to at least one not for profit public option so they can compete with the for profit insurance industry that just has to make their quarterly profits and pay their shareholders value and make sure their CEO is make millions of dollars. That is not aligned with the goal of universal coverage that's good and affordable. And so--

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you pay for it?

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: If you-- so let me explain. If you buy into Medicare in the same way you buy into your Social Security as an earned benefit it is far less expensive for every American than the amount of money they are paying now to the insurance industry. So it will be paid for by each person who wants to invest in their health care at a far lower rate they are paying today. And so the-- the bill that Senator Sanders and-- and I and many others introduced, I wrote the part about buying into Medicare because that's what I ran on in 2006 as an upstate New York House candidate in a two to one Republican district. It made sense to my voters then, it makes sense to voters across America now. Let them buy in, let them just invest four percent of income, which is what our bill says, to get access in the same way they invest six percent of their income into Social Security. It's the same earned benefit. If you make it a right in this way, if you create it as a social safety net, people will get higher quality care that is less expensive, and they will always be covered. No insurance company can deny them because of preexisting conditions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, we'll be watching your campaign. Thank you very much for joining us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we'll be right back.

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: Thank you. I'll see you soon.


MARGARET BRENNAN: As the U.S. withdrawal from Syria continued this week, a suicide attack in the northern city of Manbij claimed the lives of four Americans. President Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base Saturday to pay his respects. It was the deadliest single attack on U.S. forces since the conflict began more than four years ago. CBS News foreign correspondent Charlie D'Agata filed this report from Northern Syria.

(Begin VT)

CHARLIE D'AGATA (CBS News Foreign Correspondent/@charliecbs): We joined soldiers of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on the front line and the last pocket of ISIS territory to see troops firing a barrage of mortars toward ISIS positions. Right beside them, U.S. forces opening fire too.

(Simko Shkak speaking foreign language)

CHARLIE D'AGATA: Commander Simko Shkak told us "The U.S. military has been indispensable in providing artillery and vital airstrikes. Yet, ISIS has proven a persistent enemy, launching counterattacks, including truck bombs."

And the suicide bombing that took the lives of four Americans and more than a dozen other people, evidence that ISIS is already evolving from a territorial force to an underground terror network, which all makes it harder for America's allies here to understand the decision to withdraw two thousand U.S. troops at such a critical time.

(Nuri Mahmud speaking foreign language)

CHARLIE D'AGATA: "We fought this war together," Commander Nuri Mahmud told us. "America has a responsibility to support us and not suddenly abandon us.

They fear that a withdrawal of U.S. forces would leave a security vacuum, allowing Turkey who seized Kurdish forces' terrorists to invade and ISIS to regroup, calling into question the fate of thousands of ISIS detainees held by the SDF.

In addition to ISIS prisoners is the question of what to do with their families. The wives and children of ISIS who are now stuck in refugee camps, including lot of foreigners.

Children born to the wrong fathers in the wrong place at the wrong time face what everybody here shares, a future that promises nothing but uncertainty.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That was Charlie D'Agata reporting from northern Syria.

We'd like to now welcome Brett McGurk. He was President Trump's envoy to the Global Coalition fighting ISIS, but he resigned last month in protest following the President's decision to withdraw from Syria. In an op-ed this week, he warned America's decision to pull out is giving the terror group new life. Brett, thank you for being here.

BRETT MCGURK (Former Special Presidential Envoy/@brett_mcgurk): Thanks for having me, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The vice president sat here and reiterated that ISIS is defeated. Is he correct?

BRETT MCGURK: Well, they are not defeated. I have been-- I have been part of this campaign for four years across two administrations. We've come an-- an extraordinarily long way. And in 2014 this organization controlled territory of eight million Syrians and Iraqis. It was committing genocide against Christians and Yazidis and minority groups. It was planning attacks against us in the homeland. It was carrying them out in Paris that killed Americans in Brussels and Paris. We've come a long way. We have taken away a lot of their physical space. But we always said and our policy was, until most recently, we had to make sure that we completed the enduring defeat of ISIS. What that meant was taking away their physical space and retaining a presence so they could not resurge. And what just happened was that policy was really just reversed overnight. So as a leader of the coalition, we've been telling our partners on the ground and around the world, we've built a coalition of seventy-five countries, that we were prepared to stay in Syria for some time. And on instructions from the White House, we were telling them, we'd stay in Syria until we completed the enduring defeat of ISIS, not just the physical territory. We'd stay in Syria until the Iranians left Syria and also until there was a irreversible political progress in Geneva to end the ultimate civil war. We had told that to our partners on the ground. We had told that to our coalition partners and it was reversed in a conversation between the President and a foreign leader. Leadership-- American leadership really counts. Leadership built this coalition. It led to these gains against ISIS. And leadership requires some presence on the ground and also consistency. And it was the total reversal of our policy that made it-- I just-- I concluded I could not be effective in carrying out those new instructions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We should point out, you joined the State Department under President Bush. You then served under President Obama and then under President Trump. Can you clarify there, I point that out because you serve Democrats and Republicans. Why did you resign specifically?

BRETT MCGURK: Well, again, look, I do that--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President has alleged it's political.

BRETT MCGURK: Well, I've-- I've served all three administrations. I've worked on policies that I fully supported. You work on policies here in the government that you might not support. You argue your case. In this case, I think the entire national security team had one view, and the President in a conversation with President Erdogan just completely reversed the policy. You know the President has said, I think he's right, you never-- you never telegraph a punch when you're in a military campaign. You also don't telegraph your retreat. I've probably traveled to Syria more than any other American civilian official. I know our people in Syria. I've-- my heart is broken and we're all-- our thoughts are with the families and loved ones that were just killed. In this campaign in Syria since 2015, we have had two Americans killed in action. We built this campaign plan, to answer for those who believe that we should not be over invested in these con-- conflicts. Americans are not fighting. We built a force of sixty thousand Syrians to do the fighting. American taxpayers are not spending money on civilian stabilization or reconstruction costs. The coalition is doing that.


BRETT MCGURK: So it was a sustainable campaign plan and we had in-- the pieces in place, as we defeat the physical caliphate, to begin a very serious negotiation with some pretty hostile actors in Syria, including Russia. And we had worked with the Russians diplomatically basically to draw lines on the map at the Euphrates River and we said, "Look, you don't cross that river. If you cross that river, we'll kill you."

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we have-- we have a map we can put up just so people understand that what you're saying is-- is actually having a real-world impact on the ground what President Trump did. And, possibly, lose the territory that the U.S. has cleared out?

BRETT MCGURK: Well, the minute you say-- the minute you announce to the world that you're leaving, a vacuum opens up and all the other powers in the region start making different calculations. And we have to work things out in Syria with Russia, and our presence on the ground matters.


BRETT MCGURK: And the two to three thousand Americans we have on the ground are not just any American soldiers. They are our most elite, most highly trained forces. Again, I visited them from the beginning of the campaign. I was one of the first civilians on the ground way back in the battle of Kobani. They have done an incredible job. It is those forces that allow the force of the Syrian Democratic Forces with sixty thousand Syrians that we have helped build and enable. They allow that force to be effective. If you simply pull out American forces without a plan for what comes next, it is going to open up a significant-- significant vacuum. I know the vice-- vice president said we're going to look for coalition partners to take our place. As the former leader of the coalition, I just don't think that that is credible. I know what it takes in these coalition capitals for them to put their blood and treasure on the line with us. It takes American leadership and it takes American presence. And we've just told the world that we're no longer going to be present. So it'll have a dramatic ramification. And that's why, what I wrote in the Washington Post, I think we have to really accept some hard truths.


BRETT MCGURK: I think, number one, we are leaving. The President's made that clear, we are leaving. And that means our force should be really with one mission: to get out and get out safely. We cannot add additional missions onto our force while they are trying to withdraw under pressure, because withdrawing under pressure from a combat zone is one of the most difficult military maneuvers we can ask our people to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I think what you're sketching out here is-- to put it plainly, how we withdraw. Accept that the President's mind is made up. But one of the issues you have here is that the way the President is doing this puts forces at risk and puts the gains at risk. Am I hearing you correctly?

BRETT MCGURK: Announcing you're going to withdraw, and without a plan, and believe me there's no plan for what's coming next. Right now we do not have a plan. It increases a vulnerability of our force. It increases the environment on the ground in Syria. This environment in northeast Syria has been fairly permissive and safe. Again, I've been there almost twenty times and we have been-- been very careful with this. It is increasing the risk to our people on the ground in Syria and it will open up space for ISIS. But what's most important is we cannot expect a partner such as Turkey to come in and take our place, or another coalition partner to take our place. That is not realistic. And if our forces are under order to withdraw, as at the same time they are trying to find some formula for another coalition partner to come in, that is not workable. That is not a viable plan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So when the secretary of state says the U.S. military can strike ISIS or any threat in Syria from anywhere, you're saying that's not actually the case? Being on the ground matters.

BRETT MCGURK: Well, having a presence on the ground is the critical force multiplier that has allowed us to defeat ISIS as a physical-- physical space. To give us the intelligence to keep pressure on them and pulling out all those forces will have a very significant repercussions which we need to be ready for.


Stay with us, if you would. We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with Brett McGurk and we'd like to also welcome Jason Rezaian to the discussion. He's a Global Opinions writer for the Washington Post, whose new book, "Prisoner," is a gripping account of the five hundred and forty-four days he spent in an Iranian prison. And we have you both here because I think it's pretty interesting for us to talk to you, at the same time the guy who negotiated your release is to the right of you. I-- I don't think that's happened before. And, Jason, it's good to see you in person as someone who covered your captivity.

JASON REZAIAN (Prisoner/@ jrezaian/The Washington Post): Thanks. Thanks for having me on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the new details I learned in the book was just-- why you were arrested in the first place, and one of the more sort of absurd things you were told. The story has to do with avocados. Can you explain that?

JASON REZAIAN: Yes. I-- in-- in 2011, I-- I put up a kick-starter project, you know, the crowd funding website to-- to raise funds to bring avocados to Iran. I was trying to make a-- a point, kind of tongue in cheek about the fact that Iran is a county that's been isolated for so many years. And one of the manifestations of that is that they've been cut off from the world, and the great joys of the world, one of them being avocados. In the first night of interrogations, I was told that this was definitive proof that I was a spy. They didn't know what an avocado was, what this meant, what this was code for. But it was clearly something very nefarious. And I had to fight against that for-- for five hundred and forty-four days.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That kind of misunderstanding--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --as to why you were there. And you-- and you write about, I mean, for forty years now the-- the U.S. and Iran have had extensive tension and arguments for a variety of reasons. One of them, the repeated taking of hostages--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --or prisoners. But the word hostage was something that your captors really didn't like hearing.

JASON REZAIAN: No, they-- they don't like hearing that at all. And I think you can ask Brett what they think about that term in terms of how they take dual nationals and foreign nationals and-- and put them through a quasi judicial process. They don't like the-- the idea, but I think that it's been a-- as I write in the book, a forty year industry for them that they continue to do. I'm-- I'm part of a-- a long line of people that started in 1979 with our American diplomats that were taken hostage. And unfortunately, the trend had continued today about three weeks from now the Islamic republic will be marking its forty years in existence. Just in the last two weeks, we've-- we've heard about another American, a Navy veteran being held. So it-- it didn't start with me. It didn't end with me. But it's something that obviously is heartbreaking to Americans and-- and should stop.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Brett, as someone who negotiated with Iran-- Iran for the release of Jason and others, how difficult is it to actually have a prisoner swap or any kind of agreement since we have those Americans there now, do you think enough is being done?

BRETT MCGURK: First of all, it's great to be here with Jason. Jason's book is terrific. It really brings you inside the mind of what Americans go through in these prisons all around the world. And our process, it wasn't just Jason, about five other Americans. Jason was facing a potential death sentence. A U.S. Marine had been sentenced to death. It was reduced. He'd be in prison for another five or six years. And an American pastor, similar situation. So my-- my negotiation was really the first that I'm aware of with-- with the really hard line element of the Iranian regime, not foreign minister Zarif, President Rouhani, the really hard line element of the-- of the regime. We knew when they opened this channel when I saw who I would be meeting with, yeah, these are the guys that withhold the prison keys for Jason and the other Americans. It was an incredibly intense fourteen month process. There is absolutely no trust, obviously. There is extreme hostility. I don't know how many times I walked away from the table, you know, raising my voice significantly. The Swiss helped facilitate this process. We're very grateful for Switzerland. But they were never in the room, but they'd be down the hall. But oftentimes, they would actually come in the room because-- because it was so heated during these talks. And the Iranians, because there's such a lack and trust, tried to renege on this deal all the way until the-- the final moments. And, in fact, until Jason and-- the-- the other Americans and Jason's wife, who was a part of the deal, we wrote her into the deal, were on a plane and out of Iranian airspace we still did not have confidence that this would actually happen. They tried to renege just the night before we got Jason was on a plane. And we couldn't find Jason's wife. It was quite dramatic. But that was because of the-- the-- the (INDISTINCT) different competition within the Iranian regime itself. You never quite know you're talking to the right guy. In my process, we were talking to the right guy. And I was the first American they ever met. And it was incredibly difficult. But it's the kind of hard diplomacy you have to do to-- to get things done in the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, in that swap, one of the things that people remember from that, is the fact that you were released the same day the nuclear deal with Iran went into effect and this transfer of money from a financial dispute between the U.S. and Iran went through, about 1.7, 1.8 billion dollars, and became this legendary story of a plane full of cash. What is the truth there?

BRETT MCGURK: Yeah. There is some nonsense about this. So there's a lot of diplomacy going on with Iran at the time. The nuclear track, the track with Jason and-- and the prisoners. And then in parallel, lawyers who've been negotiating under the Hague Tribunal for thirty years. We have lawyers in the State Department, they're probably now not getting paid given the situation in Washington. But they've been negotiating with Iran for thirty years in these cases. And the lawyers that did that transaction have been doing these transactions for thirty years. The Iranians have actually paid us two and a half billion dollars through these Hague settlements. So there was a settlement of a claim that we, the Americans had to pay Iran, four hundred million dollars that Iran had given us. We were going to have to give them that money. It was the question of the interests. And it was settled by those professional attorneys. This all came to a head at the same time. And I was very-- as a leader in Geneva at the time I made very clear nothing should happen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But this-- to a lot of people, this looks like cash for hostages. To Jason's point, this has been an industry for the country.

BRETT MCGURK: It was a totally separate-- a totally separate negotiation strand. Had nothing to do with Jason's release. But at the end, when the Iranians tried to renege on-- on returning Jason, returning his wife, made very clear that nothing should go through on anything until all the Americans were on a plane.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jason, do you think the U.S. government should be negotiating for the release of the Americans who are there now?

JASON REZAIAN: Without a doubt. I mean, if-- if we're not negotiating for their release, they're going to be there for a very long time. I had a message from one of the other gentleman who was released with me not too long ago, when we heard about the-- the case of another American being held, and he said, you know, I'm really happy that we got released during the last administration. There is no direct negotiation going on with Iran right now between the United States and Iran. That's one of the byproduct of-- of the-- the Trump administration decision to leave the nuclear deal.


JASON REZAIAN: And without those sorts of talks going on, there's no way-- there's no mechanism to-- to-- to bring them home. And I think that we have to bring them home. It's-- it's an imperative matter of right and wrong, right?


JASON REZAIAN: We don't leave Americans behind. We hear that all the time. The Trump administration has been pretty good about bringing people home from other countries. But Iran is a black spot on their record. And unfortunately, some of the-- the same people who were so adamant about not negotiating with Iran over the nuclear issue while myself and others were being held in prison have gone completely silent on this issue. And I'd like to bring it back to the forefront.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we should say--

BRETT MCGURK: If Jason wasn't released to that moment, he'd still be in jail. There's no question.

JASON REZAIAN: Hundred percent.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And-- and there are still at least four Americans there.

We'll be right back. Thanks both of you.


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

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.