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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on July 28, 2019

7/28: Mick Mulvaney, Mark Warner, Julian Castro
7/28: Mick Mulvaney, Mark Warner, Julian Castro 47:22

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

  • Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney (read more)
  • Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va. (read more)
  • 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Julián Castro (read more)
  • 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson (read more)
  • CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin (watch)
  • Panelists: Michael Crowley, Eliana Johnson, Joel Payne, and Ed O'Keefe (watch)

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, July, 28th. I'm Margaret Brennan and this is FACE THE NATION.

With Robert Mueller's testimony to Congress in the rearview mirror, Democrats are now even more divided about how or if they should move ahead with impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: These people are clowns. The Democrats are clowns. They're being laughed at all over the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will the political noise distract from the serious warnings from Mueller about Russia's election meddling?

ROBERT MUELLER: They're doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the-- the next campaign.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Plus, there are new developments on immigration as the Supreme Court gives Mister Trump the go ahead with his plan to divert military funds in order to build his wall between the U.S. and Mexico. And he announces a controversial agreement with Guatemala to force people traveling through that country to seek asylum there instead of the U.S.

Breaking that weekend the President launches a Twitter attack on another minority member of Congress and his home district in Baltimore. This time the target is Elijah Cummings, a powerful committee chairman who's criticized the administration's handling of detention center conditions.

ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Come on, man. What's that about?

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner. Then, ahead of the second round of Democratic primary debates, we'll talk to two candidates who got a bump from the last one. Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and self-help author Marianne Williamson. National security correspondent David Martin looks at the buildup of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.

And we'll have analysis on all the news of the week just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We begin with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Good morning, Mick. Good to have you here.

MICK MULVANEY (Acting WH Chief of Staff/@MickMulvaneyOMB): Margaret, good morning. Thanks for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President has tweeted thirteen times in the past twenty-four hours about Congressman Elijah Cummings. I want to read the first tweet. He said, "Why is so much money sent to the Elijah Cummings district when it's considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States. No human being would want to live there. Where's all the money going? How much is stolen? Investigate immediately." What is the objective of this?

MICK MULVANEY: To push back against what the President sees as inaccuracies, lies, about what Mister Cummings said this week in the oversight committee about the border. If you go on the internet you can find the exchange where Elijah Cummings said that children were-- were sit-- sitting in their own feces at the border. That's wrong, in fact, it's misleadingly wrong. It-- it's the type of thing that really breaks down a civilized debate about how to address the-- the crisis at the border. And the President didn't like it. Does the President speak hyperbolically? Absolutely. Have we seen this type of-- of reaction from him before? Yes. And you will again because he pushes back. He fights back when he feels like he's attacked and what-- what Mister Cummings said this week was wrong.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So is there an investigation being launched?


MARGARET BRENNAN: The President says investigate this corrupt mess immediately.

MICK MULVANEY: Oh, no, he's calling on Congress to do it. Congress over-- does oversight. So my guess is no, because Mister Cummings is in charge of the Oversight Committee. Keep in mind, I think-- I think Maryland is the richest state on a per capita or per household basis in the nation, yet, they have real abject poverty in-- in Baltimore. I think the President wants folks to-- to know that, look, instead of dealing with the-- those issues, Mister Cummings is spending all of his time on this impeachment inquiry which is-- we all know is going nowhere. So it's the-- the-- Democrats have a chance to actually focus on things that matter, instead, they're working on scandal. And I think the President's doing everything he can to highlight that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you know, though, that this is a majority black district.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And when the President calls it "rat infested," he says "no human being would live there." Do you understand that that is offensive to the Americans who do live there?

MICK MULVANEY: I understand that everything that Donald Trump says is offensive to some people. Keep in mind about two weeks ago, the President said things that were critical of AOC and her squad and was immediately accused of being a racist. A couple of days later Nancy Pelosi said some things critical of that same group of people and she was defended by the media and by the folks on the left for not being racist when Donald Trump--

MARGARET BRENNAN: "No human being would want to live there."

MICK MULVANEY: When Donald Trump attacks people--

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is being perceived as racist, do you understand why?

MICK MULVANEY: I understand why but that doesn't mean that it's racist. The President is pushing back against what he sees as wrong. It's how he's done in the past and he'll continue to do in the future.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you think this is just hyperbolic?

MICK MULVANEY: I-- I absolutely do. And I hope the folks actually pay attention to it and realize what Democrats in Congress are doing. Instead of helping people back home, they're focusing on scandal in Washington, DC, which is the exact opposite of what they said they would do when they ran for election in 2018.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Let's talk about what the White House is doing. Why hasn't the White House gotten behind a single bill to improve election security? You saw the Senate Intelligence Committee come out with a bipartisan agreement and recommendations warning that Russia continues to interfere. Why doesn't the White House want to do everything possible to secure elections?

MICK MULVANEY: Yeah. I-- I-- I'm sorry I push back but your facts are not right. We actually signed in 2018 the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Bill that added the CISA to DHS to do exactly what you've just talked about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So the two bills that were put forward and that the Republican leader has said don't need to be considered, you think everything is sufficient to this point legally?

MICK MULVANEY: Completely unnecessary, deals with paper ballots, there's a lot of things on how to register to vote. It's-- it's-- face it, it was a bill that came up in the last week because the Democrats saw an opportunity coming out of the Mueller investigation to not talk about what Mueller said about-- about collusion and obstruction and, instead, wanted to focus on election security and ignore the fact the parties have already worked together to do a great deal on election security. This administration has worked with every single state, seventeen hundred different localities who run elections, we've done tabletop exercises, we go visits. We've met with every single presidential campaign to go over how to prepare against and prevent foreign intervention into the 2020 elections. We are doing everything necessary to do this. The bills from this week were simply showmanship and that's why they-- that's why they failed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand you are arguing the measures have been sufficient, but that bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee says they are not and made recommendations to do more, including that "the U.S. should communicate to adversaries that it will view an attack on its election infrastructure as a hostile act and we will respond accordingly." This was President Trump when he met with Vladimir Putin last month.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Don't meddle in the election, please. Don't, don't meddle in the election.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He appears to be laughing it off, do you think that is sufficient?

MICK MULVANEY: Do I think it's sufficient? I won't-- won't answer that because I was there for that and we did talk about it afterwards when the cameras were away. So the President did-- or did raise the topic with Mister Putin. We take this very seriously. Again, judge us by the actions. Judge us by the way in comparison to what the Obama administration did in 2014 and 2015 going into the 2016 elections when they had information that the Russians were trying to interfere and Susan Rice, then the national security advisor, I think, gave the instruction to stand down on dealing with foreign intervention in our election. So we're happy to be judged by the actions because we think we're taking tremendous steps to preserve election integrity.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about the budget. The White House cut a budget deal with Democrats that Democrats liked and many Republicans did not. In fact, your former Freedom Caucus colleague Mark Meadows wrote the following, "This is a bad deal for the President. It's a bad deal for conservatives. Most importantly, it's a bad deal for the forgotten men and women who voted to shake up Washington, DC, when they sent President Trump to the White House. This is not draining the swamp--it's feeding the swamp and entrenching the status quo." Why didn't the White House demand spending cuts?

MICK MULVANEY: Because we were never going to get them. Keep in mind, the Democrats won the election--

BRENNAN: You've given up?

MICK MULVANEY: --for the House in 2018. You can do what's possible in Washington, DC. When the Democrats won the House, the chances of us passing a budget deal that were going to satisfy my friends and colleagues in the Freedom Caucus went to practically zero. Elections do have consequences.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So President Trump has given up any promise of balancing the budget at any point?

MICK MULVANEY: Look-- well, our budgets still-- if-- if Congress would take our budget, they would still have a chance to do that. But the Congress and media fall over themselves to say how every President's budget is dead on arrival. If they would like to know how we would spend money if we were in charge of the spending process they can go to our budget. We are not in charge of the spending progress-- process, Congress is. What we got in exchange for those higher levels of spending and, yes, we spent more money than we would if we'd left to our own devices. We did get more money for defense. We got more money for the VA and we protected a lot of the conservative Republican policies that are hardwired into these spending bills. Democrats wanted to undo the protections we had had on life. They wanted to undo some of the things we were doing on the border for border security. They wanted to undo a lot of our regulatory, our deregulatory agenda and we prevented that from happening. Did we spend more than we wanted to? Yes. Did we get a lot in return? Yes, we did.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about this deal the U.S. and Guatemala-- Guatemala cut--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --Safe Third Country Agreement. It, essentially, asks Guatemala, which is one of the poorest countries in this hemisphere, to accept refugees and some of the most vulnerable and claim asylum there instead of the United States. How can they afford to do that if the United States isn't increasing aid to allow them to?

MICK MULVANEY: Well, we can-- we can help them. Listen, I think what you saw this week--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The U.S. is promising more aid?

MICK MULVANEY: Well, I think what you saw this week was a warming of the relationship. We've-- we've struggled with Guatemala the last couple of weeks and months as-- as they were not helping us with their own border security. We've had the same discussions with Mexico but I thought we had a very, very productive week. And what we're saying is if you're leaving El Salvador, okay, and you get-- and you're leaving because you want asylum, that you can claim asylum and should claim asylum in the first country that is safe to you. It doesn't mean it's wealthy, doesn't mean you're going to do great, it means you are safe. That's the basis--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But this is also one of the three countries that people are fleeing from, the majority of migrants are coming from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. So you're asking one of those countries people are fleeing from to give safe haven.

MICK MIKE MULVANEY: They are fleeing for economic reasons and then they're claiming asylum here. Economics are not a valid reason under international law for asylum. So if you do leave El Salvador and you're saying you are being persecuted, you're threatened with death, you're at risk you get to Honduras you get to-- you get to Guatemala. It may not be the wealthiest country in the world, but you are safe and that is the basis for asylum. Keep in mind, this was-- this was a major development this week, we really do think it's going to help. It's going to supplement what we did with Mexico a couple of weeks ago. The bottom line is we're having more success with Guatemala, more success with Mexico at helping us on the southern border than we are with the Democrats on the House who are still spending all of their time on impeachment. In fact, I think they just announced their five- or six-week vacation, what they're going to talk about every week when they're gone and not a single week is dedicated to-- to border security or immigration reform. A complete lapse of responsibility.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mick Mulvaney, good to have you here.

MICK MULVANEY: It's good to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee Virginia's senator Mark Warner. He joins us from King George, Virginia. Good to have you with us, Senator. Mick Mulvaney says the White House--

SENATOR MARK WARNER (D-Virginia/@MarkWarner/Intelligence Committee): Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --has taken steps to improve election security. Why do you think that's insufficient?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, respectfully, I disagree with Mick. We did do a better job in 2018, but don't take my word for it take Special Prosecutor Mueller who said the Russians are attacking us literally every day. Take the President's own FBI director, Chris Wray, take the President's own director of National Intelligence who all warned that the Russians will be back and I think there's some common sense things that would get seventy-five votes if they could get to the floor of the Senate. For example, if a-- if the Kremlin or a foreign government tries to intervene and offer you dirt on an opponent, the obligation ought to be not to say thank you as the President floated a month or so ago, but the obligation ought to be tell the FBI. Let's make sure, secondly, that every polling station in America has a paper ballot backup, so in case that machine was hacked into the integrity of your votes will still be counted. And, third, let's make sure we've got some rules of the road for Facebook, Twitter, Google, social media, so there's not the ability to have foreign agents and bots manipulate Americans. Let's have appropriate disclosure. Let's have privacy. And, candidly, this administration has stopped every election security legislation from coming to the floor and they've been supportive in that effort by the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to read from the Senate Intelligence Committee report that you were part of releasing and it was bipartisan. It said Russia likely targeted election infrastructure in all fifty states. The first known breach was in July 2016 in Illinois, where Russian cyber actors scanned state election systems. They were in a position to delete or change voter data. The report does say some progress has been made but the threat is imperfectly understood. Given the level of detail that you have seen how secure do you think America's election actually is?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, DHS has upped its game. I'll give them credit there. But what we're hearing from attorney generals and secretaries states across the country is they need more help. What we're hearing is that there needs to be that paper ballot backup. Well who could be against that? What we are hearing is the manipulation they're using through Facebook and Twitter and in the fake bot accounts is something that pits American against American. And I just don't get why this President wouldn't be willing to say let's make sure that our elections are secure in 2020. We saw it was the Russians last time but this playbook is now out there and other adversaries Iran and others could use exactly these same tools going forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As you mentioned Special Counsel Robert Mueller did testify this week. He spoke about the threat from Russia. He also spoke about the entire report that he put together over two years. And now the House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is talking about trying to get evidence that the Special Counsel had gathered. Some of this requires potentially going down the impeachment proceeding route. Well, what do you think is actually achieved by getting a hold of some of this material? Do Democrats need it?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, I think the Speaker-- Speaker Pelosi is actually managed this pretty well. I am less focused on relitigating 2016, more focused on trying to make sure our elections are safe in 2020. But I-- I-- one of the things are-- and I'm very proud of the fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee is the only bipartisan entity two and a half years later that has hung together, continues our investigation. And what we--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you wouldn't want or need--

SENATOR MARK WARNER: --need is-- what we need-- what we need--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --this information from Mueller?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: What we need, Margaret, what we need is the counter intelligence evidence because our investigation is a counterintelligence investigation. The counterintelligence evidence that Mueller had so that we can better lay out to the American people how we can protect ourselves going forward because, clearly, the Russians' track record in 2016, not only in America but in other nations where they've tried to intervene in the democratic process, is effective. It's cheap and they'll be back.

MARGARET BRENNAN What do you think was accomplished by having a special counsel testify this week? Do you think that it politically backfired for Democrats, particularly, those who want to go ahead with impeachment?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: I'll-- I'll let the commentators make the judgment there. I think the more that-- and I think Mueller was effective at laying out the four corners of the report. I think the report in many ways does speak for itself, particularly, about the ongoing threat. I mean Americans need to realize our-- our democracy-- again, I don't care whether you're a Trump supporter or a Trump opponent, but all of us across the political spectrum should be concerned when foreign nations try to tip the balance in our democratic process to whatever candidate. We all ought to be concerned when foreign government agents uses the internet to try to misrepresent-- misrepresent them-- themselves as Americans and pit each other against-- pit one American against the other and we need to do more to be protected in 2020.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You repeatedly state in the report that there was no evidence that actual votes were changed but it also says that the committee and the intelligence community's insight is pretty limited. So how confident can you actually be-- can America be that its democracy wasn't altered?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, I think what the Russians did in 2016 was they were basically trying to, you know, jiggle the windows or try to open the doors and they found when they went into our voting systems that we were horribly unprotected. And in-- in many ways I think we were lucky that they didn't take advantage of some of the opportunities that we pointed out in our report. I don't think we can count on ourselves being lucky again in 2020 and, in many cases, what a foreign government can do, they don't need to change vote totals. If they simply move thousands of people from one precinct to another, you would have chaos--


SENATOR MARK WARNER: --on Election Day. And one of the reasons why I think we also need to go not only at the voting districts, but there are three companies that control ninety percent of all the voter files--


SENATOR MARK WARNER: --in this country. We need to make sure those companies have appropriate security in place as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you going to vote for this budget deal this week?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: I'm glad we're not going to have anybody trying to bring down the full faith and credit of the United States of America. I'm glad that the military and key domestic spending programs around education got some additional dollars. But I am concerned with a country with twenty-two trillion in debt that we've added another two trillion with this deal.


SENATOR MARK WARNER: And at some point leaving our kids with that kind of balance sheet doesn't make sense so I'm still evaluating it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: No decision yet. Thank you very much, Senator Warner.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: No decision yet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back in one minute with Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're now joined by former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro who joins us from Detroit where this week's primary debate will be held. Good morning to you.

JULIAN CASTRO (2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate/@JulianCastro): Good morning. Good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Glad to have you here. The President's chief of staff, as you heard him, Mick Mulvaney, said it was just hyperbole when the President describes Baltimore as rodent and rat infested when he says no human being would live there. Do you think it's important for Democrats to respond to this kind of language or is this a distraction as Republicans charge?

JULIAN CASTRO: I absolutely think it's important for us to call it out for what it is, which is racism. You know I'm not somebody--like a lot of Americans--I'm not somebody that likes to use that term or that is quick to call somebody a racist. I think you have to be very careful before you use that word. However, this President has shown us time and time again from the way that he started his campaign, to the comments about that Mexican-American judge during the campaign, to his failure to immediately condemn white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2018, to just a couple of weeks ago his comments about Representative Ocasio-Cortez and her three colleagues, to just these comments about Representative Cummings and his district as well as his comments about a year and a half ago--or maybe two years ago--now about--


JULIAN CASTRO: --John Lewis in his district. There is a pattern here. This guy is the biggest identity politician that we have seen in the last fifty years and he engages in what's known as racial priming. Basically, using this language and taking actions to try and get people to move into their camps by racial and ethnic identity. That's how he thinks he won in 2016 and that's how he thinks he's going to win in 2020. And, you know, I don't think it's a coincidence that just a few weeks ago--


JULIAN CASTRO: --he kicked off his 2020 campaign and here we are with the same playbook that he used in 2016. But I believe--


JULIAN CASTRO: --that there are enough people, whether they're white or black or Latino or Asian American, Native American, rich or poor who share the same values of basic respect--


JULIAN CASTRO: --and compassion and-- and, you know, faith and love of country--


JULIAN CASTRO: --that are going to bring us together more strongly than he can tear us apart.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about immigration which you have made a part of your campaign focus. When you were mayor of San Antonio you testified before Congress and you called for increased border security measures and you praised the Obama administration's actions. I want to play it.

JULIAN CASTRO (House Judiciary Committee; Rayburn office Building; C-Span 3): In Texas, we know firsthand that this administration has put more boots on the ground along the border than at any other time in our history which has led to unprecedented success in removing dangerous individuals with criminal records.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why did you pray-- praise that policy then but when the Trump administration adopts similar language and policies you're hypercritical of them?

JULIAN CASTRO: Oh, I think that's a very, very far stretch, Margaret. If you listen to what I said in that clip, I talked about people who committed serious crimes, dangerous criminals. I haven't changed at all. If there are people who have committed serious felonies in the United States who are immigrants or who come to the border, I have always consistently said that-- that those people should be apprehended, that they should be deported. So I haven't changed that at all. What I don't agree with and what's definitely different in this administration is that this administration has weaponized the law to cruelly separate little children from their parents. Look I've-- I've been consistent. I-- I don't have an issue with maintaining a secure border. We're always going to do that. What I have an issue with is separating little children from their parents.


JULIAN CASTRO: I have an issue with an administration that uses migrants as a scapegoat to create fear and paranoia in order to win elections and that does things like you just talked about on this show, which is to, essentially, pressure Guatemala to sign an agreement as a safe third country when it's not a safe third country and you're going to now ensure that more of those people who are desperate, who are fleeing desperate circumstances, end up dead. They end up in even more dire circumstances, when it's been the tradition of the United States to actually allow people to make their asylum claims here when they reach a port of entry. And so--

MARGARET BRENNAN: How are you going to-- how are you-- are you going to use this as a point of attack on the debate stage this week?

JULIAN CASTRO: Well, I think the best way to say that is if you had to take a bet of whether Don Lemon or, you know, Dana Bash or Jake Tapper going to ask a question about immigration, I would say that you probably should bet on that, right? That that issue is going to come up because it's an issue that Americans are thinking about, it's the issue that the President is--


JULIAN CASTRO: --is trying to make the number one issue.


JULIAN CASTRO: And let me say this. Look--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. We've just got to wrap it up.

JULIAN CASTRO: In this campaign, I'm going to be bold and fearless on this issue and many others.


JULIAN CASTRO: So I'm perfectly willing to--


JULIAN CASTRO: --articulate my vision.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Julian Castro

We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Coming up next, another Democratic presidential candidate, Marianne Williamson. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, so don't go away.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back with one of six women candidates for the Democratic nomination. Our guest is the only one who is not a senator or congresswoman, but Marianne Williamson is an author of seven bestselling self-help books. She's also a spiritual advisor. Good morning and welcome to the broadcast.

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON (2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate/@marwilliamson): Thank you. Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to pick up with the question I asked some of our other guests--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --which is is it important for Democrats to respond to tweets like the President has sent about Elijah Cummings? Or should you stay focused on issues?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Well, first of all, that is an issue and it's important for every American to respond. You know, Mister Mulvaney said something very interesting to me on your show. When he was talking about what Elijah Cummings said, why the President came after him, Mister Mulvaney said what he said was wrong. Now Mister Mulvaney did not say what he said was inaccurate--the idea of children sleeping in their own feces, et cetera. He said what they-- what he did was wrong. So really this is demagoguery. This is beyond, you know we use words like racism, but we need to understand and every American needs to understand, the President sends out warning shots. You criticize me, I'm coming after you. That's why many Republicans will not take him on. That's why certain Republicans chose not to even run again. And now he's doing that with someone like the congressman and I thought that was fascinating. What you did was wrong, it is wrong to come after me. That is how demagogues behave.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are running on a platform with some proposals that involve some massive restructuring of the U.S. government--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --one of the things you're floating is this idea of creating a Department of Children--

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Children and Youth, yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --how is this different than what the Education Department does and what is it that you're actually proposing?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Well, the Education Department gets about sixty-eight billion dollars in the budget and then within HHS, there is also the agency of children and working-- excuse me, children and families that gets about forty-eight billion dollars. Now, education is extremely important, but we have children who are traumatized before they even reach-- before they even reach preschool. We have a relatively high infant mortality rate. We have problems that go beyond the things that are already covered. We have problems with the fact that children have PTSD. Millions of American children have PTSD that is considered as severe as that of returning veteran from Afghanistan and Iraq. We have millions of American children who go to school every day--elementary school students who are asking their teachers if maybe they have some food for them. We have American children who go to classrooms where there aren't even the adequate school supplies with which to teach a child to read and if the child cannot learn to read by the age of eight, the high school graduation a-- possibility-- probability is drastically decreased and the chances of high-- of incarceration are drastically increased. So, we need a holistic perspective. We need more than just educational funding. We need wraparound services. We need trauma-informed education. We need to deal with the nutrition of our children, the high poverty rates, the violence in our schools, the-- the trauma-informed education. There are so many issues for the whole child that need to be addressed, as a--



MARGARET BRENNAN: So, when it comes though to even public education--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --not even the level of social services you're talking about--a lot of this is controlled at the state level. So how do you get Republican-governed states, in particular, to agree to fund everything you're laying out here and to actually implement?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Well, let's talk about that. The truth of the matter is we are the only advanced industrialized nation that bases our educational funding on property taxes. So what this means is that a child in a-- in a financially advantaged neighborhood stands a chance-- a good chance of getting a very high-quality public school education here. But if a child does not grow up, not live in a-- in a financially advantage neighborhood, then the opportunities are far less for a higher quality education. To me--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So how would you fund it?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: There should be a federal mandate. Two things are going on here. Some states have the money to do better and they choose not to. Some states simply do not have the money. To me, this should be a federal mandate every-- when I'm President-- if I'm President, the idea is that every school in America should be a palace of learning and culture and the arts. This is the way to create a peaceful society and a prosperous society years from now and that's what we should be doing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Kamala Harris says she wants to pay teachers more-- thirteen-thousand-five-hundred-dollar raise over four years. Is that the dollar amount you're looking for?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: I'm not looking at a specific dollar amount, but I certainly agree with the senator that we need to pay teachers a lot more. But you know what that's the-- that's one out of so many things that need to be changed. That's just one-- one thing. We have to talk about-- about what even happens in these children's lives before they even get to school. I also want to feel that the high-stakes standardized testings are not-- are not helpful at this point. But we have to deal with so much more than-- as important as it is that we pay our teachers more, which is extremely important, we have to look at the whole issue of how American-- America basically neglects millions of chronically traumatized children every single day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You mentioned health. You have clarified in recent days that your position is not one of an anti-vaxxer.



MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: --there are people who say--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --support vaccines?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Well, what's happening in the world today is that anybody who has any kind of conversation that is not toeing the line with big pharma is called an anti-vaxxer. I am pro-vaccine. I am pro-medicine. And I also find the fact that--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you don't object to antidepressants either? You've clarified that.

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: No. If people want to use antidepressants-- and I do not like the predatory practices of big pharma and I don't know why people-- when we are seeing what's going on now with the opioid crisis--


MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: --where attorney generals all over this country are now indicting these big pharmaceutical executives for what we now know to have been their role in the opioid crisis. I find it so odd that people are just assuming that in every other area they're just the paragons of pure intent and concern for the common good.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As Commander-in-Chief, what do you think America's role in the world should be?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Moral leadership. Our grandparents would be rolling over in their graves to see something like, for instance, for the sake of a three-hundred-and-fifty-billion-dollar arms deal over the next ten years. We are giving aerial support to a genocidal war that Saudi Arabia is waging against Yemen. Tens of thousands of people have been starved, including children. Now I'm not saying that America was ever perfect, but there was a time on this planet when other nations, and Americans ourselves, saw that when it came to international policy we at least tried to stand for democracy and humanitarian.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you would cut funding for Saudi Arabia and the alliance?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: It's not just about cutting funding to military. I want the military to have whatever it needs for legitimate security purposes. My critique is of political decisions that have more to do with short-term profit maximization for defense contractors. We need to wage peace.


MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Even Donald Rumsfeld who was the secretary of defense under-- under George Bush said we must also wage peace--


MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: --which is why I want a U.S. Department of Peace. We need to far-- far beef up--


MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: --and-- and support far more our peace-building agencies within the State Department.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we'll hear more about that on the debate stage this week, I'm sure. Thank you very much.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be right back with our political panel.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We now turn to our political panel for some analysis. Michael Crowley is a White House correspondent for The New York Times, Eliana Johnson covers the White House for Politico, Joel Payne is a Democratic strategist and he appears frequently on our digital network CBSN and Ed O'Keefe also appears frequently on all CBS networks. We keep him very busy. He is our political correspondent here at CBS News. Joel, I want to start with you. The President sent thirteen tweets in twenty-four hours about Congressman Elijah Cummings. It changes the news cycle. It forces the question to be asked of all Democratic candidates how they respond. What does this mean politically on the campaign trail when the conversation comes back to these divisive issues that are often perceived as being about race?

JOEL PAYNE (Democratic Strategist/@paynedc): Well, certainly distractive, and I think it forces all of the candidates to, you know, kind of have this come-to-Jesus moment about whether or not the President is racist. That's the question that everybody likes to ask, which I actually think it's rather obvious. You can, kind of, look into the President's soul when you look at his-- at his Twitter platform or his Twitter-- Twitter stream. But the bigger point here is the President is talking about things that normally are reserved for, you know, things that the far-flung reaches of the party. People who are political advisors who are nameless like Lee Atwater or regional politicians like Jesse Helms. We, really, in the modern era have not had a President who's spoken like this. And the challenge it creates for Democrats, particularly, when you're looking at things like impeachment and when you are looking at all of the other things that the Democratic Party is contending with is whether or not they are going to challenge this President in the way that's going to be satiating to their base.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ed, does it replicate in some way this conversation from 2016 about labeling people? The deplorables moment is what I am thinking about with Hillary Clinton when the conversation turns to the President's language being racist. Do people internalize that and say, well, I'm with him because I think I am being called a racist?

ED O'KEEFE (CBS News Political Correspondent/@edokeefe): Oh, yeah. Totally. And that's-- and that's the risk they run in spending too much time talking about the President's words and intent, and it's why so many of these Democratic presidential candidates just like Democratic lawmakers and Republican lawmakers for that matter are frustrated by this because they don't want to necessarily have to answer for everything he says. And that is going to be-- continued to be the real challenge for Democrats out there. Do you talk about him and what he is doing and saying, what he is trying to do and say or do you try to focus on what you would be for if you are the Democratic nominee. It worked for Democrats last year running for Congress. Let's see if Democrats running for President can-- can remain just as focused on everything else with whatever he is doing, sort of, being the constant that's always there, the elephant in the room that everybody knows about. And-- and it's real-- it's real tricky. We've seen some frustration from some of these candidates. I still remember what Amy Klobuchar said a few weeks ago, "He does this to distract you," and she pointed at reporters from talking about the issues we are trying to raise on the trail--health care, educational funding, you know, all these other issues. And she has a point.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. Eliana, how is the Trump campaign feeling about all of this? I mean we had some economic numbers this week. You saw GDP actually come down, it's about 2.1 percent less than many had predicted. Is there some softening or is there a reason for worry that would cause the need for a distraction or is this just the President popping off?

ELIANA JOHNSON (Politico/@elianayjohnson): Look, the-- the one single thing that could really cause alarm in the Trump campaign is a downturn in the economy. A one-off statistic, economic downturn over one month is not enough cause for alarm but a persistent trend in that direction certainly is. So we're not there, yet. I don't think you can link it to the President's comments. However, I do think the President's comments are something of a strategy. They serve dual purposes. The comments directed at Cummings are (a) a pushback on oversight. They originated from an African-American Republican operative appearing on Fox News in a discussion about Elijah Cummings' role in Oversight of what's happening at the border. So the President is saying this, Oversight is illegitimate and it's also a way to animate both his base and part of a sort of long shot attempt to gin up African-American voters by saying this person who served in Congress for over three decades is more focused on investigating the President than he is on serving his own district. That's, at the very least, the argument that the President is making.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And what is happening inside the White House around this? Michael, I mean you heard the chief of staff saying none of this is racist. He understands why it's being--

MICHAEL CROWLEY (The New York Times/@michaelcrowley): Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --interpreted that way but it's the President rejecting, basically, he says illegitimate attempts at Oversight?

MICHAEL CROWLEY: Yeah. Well, I think it's very reactive as has been the case throughout the Trump presidency. We know, specifically, on the tweets about AOC and Ilhan Omar, and The Squad a week or two ago that white-- White House aides did not see those tweets coming. I don't know, specifically, about the Cummings' tweets; and there was a plan to try to get the President to dial them back and to say that they had been misinterpreted. Then ,instead, the President doubled down. And to the extent that the White House was trying to put some kind of a strategy around these tweets, the President didn't want to follow it. So I think as we've seen throughout this presidency, Trump is there, basically in the residence, frequently Eliana with a useful reminder watching Fox News, responding to Fox News that you almost can't exact-- overstate how much his public commentary is driven by what he is seeing on Fox & Friends, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity Show. It's just an astounding phenomenon. And his aides are just trying to kind of reverse engineer from the tweets that they see, what did he mean, what's the strategy here, and then when they try to put some kind of strategy together for the second day the President ignores it.

JOEL PAYNE: Can-- can I add, too. You know, I think that there is this popular thought that this is a part of some supercharge strategy, the strategy to supercharge the base, to get the President's base excited. I don't know if the proof is there for that. You know I looked at a recent Fox poll that said he had an eighty-seven-percent approval rating with Republicans. I looked at Mitt Romney's approval rating from 2012 when he was-- he was the Republican standard-bearer. He was also at eighty-seven percent. So I don't know if there is any proof that this Republican Party is more loyal to Donald Trump than other Republicans have been. I think there is standard loyalty to the Republican standard-bearer. But I don't know if this strategy is working and it's actually pushing away moderates, it's pushing away swing voters, and you've seen three House Republican retirements this week. I wonder how much that's linked to the President's language of late.

ELIANA JOHNSON: I think there's some truth to that. You know I-- I don't think there's strategy but I think there's instinct with Trump. And I think his-- his instincts are often politically savvy. And I think your point on Romney misses something in that Romney was a conventional Republican who Republicans, the party followed to do conventional things. And I think the thing that's caught people's attention about Trump is that the Republican Party has followed him and stuck behind him to far more unconventional outrages, places that I think the country never really thought that the party and politicians would follow somebody who had never been in politics before.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ed, tell me where the Democratic Party is headed this week with this round of debates?

ED O'KEEFE: It's-- it's a big moment. I think anyone who doesn't think these things matter should look at surveys taken in the last month since the first debates. Were we talking as much about Julian Castro or Kamala Harris a month ago before those debates? No. They had very good performances. Were the doubts about Elizabeth Warren's viability still there? Yes. And there-- they've been somewhat diminished because of the powerful performance she gave. So you have two interesting setups this week. You have to focus on the two people at the middle of the stage probably most of all. Tuesday night Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, essentially, you know, brothers and sisters in arms when it comes to sort of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and the ideas they're trying to push. Do they go after each other? And how much incoming do they take from the lesser known moderates on stage with them that are trying to break into that top tier and hoping that they get a moment that buys them time in the September. And then, of course, Wednesday night, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, round two, those of us who watched politics will pop extra popcorn for that one probably because you wonder where that goes. The other X factor in that, of course, is Cory Booker, the New Jersey senator who still can't find any traction but continues to be the guy that starts fights with the vice president and-- and sort of forces conversation about some issues from the veep's past. So, definitely a critical moment. And, remember, the stakes are raised now going from July to September.


ED O'KEEFE: You got to hit higher, the polling threshold's higher, fundraising thresholds. So those that are struggling have to use Tuesday or Wednesday night to make that happen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Joel, did having special counsel Robert Mueller testify this week backfire for Democrats?

JOEL PAYNE: I think that's going to be a popular thought. And, you know, listen-- that old thing if you listen to a debate on the radio you-- you might think that Democrats won on the points, but if you watched it in this era of Trump politics, this political theater the special counsel did not necessarily perform quite as well. I think the real takeaway for me is that the second happiest person in Washington after the President might be Speaker Pelosi. And it's because her thought, her way of approaching impeachment probably wins out the week because now her caucus is a little bit more chastened in terms of their thought about moving forward with impeachment. We even saw Adam Schiff earlier this week said that it's very likely the only way to remove the President from office is at the ballot box not through impeachment and I think that that's significant for the speaker.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Eliana, there were some reporting in the Washington Post writing about Robert Mueller who is seventy-four-- seventy-five years old. He is a-- a peer of the President. But it was suggesting that there were real doubts and conversations behind the scenes about whether he was up for it for the kind of questioning that he endured. Is this a below-the-belt hit on a public servant or is this a legitimate question?

ELIANA JOHNSON: I don't think it's below the belt. And I-- I think it's the job of reporters to bring out to the public the stuff that we reporters are privy to behind the scenes here in Washington. And those are the things that Mueller allies had been saying in greenrooms and in the hallways of Congress and I think it was important for the public to know that these are things, and-- and it would have been fair had Mueller been sixty-four or fifty-four or forty-four. He happens to be seventy-four, but these are the things that had been a real concern, yes, they had been whispered by his critics with some glee. But also the people close to Mueller had expressed real concerns that he was not up to this testimony. And I think-- I think the American public saw that bear out, that-- on all day on Wednesday, it-- it was pretty painful.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Michael, the President said he had a few wins this week on the immigration front. But one of the things he also counted as a win was what happened overseas.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Boris Johnson ascending to become the prime minister of the U.K. He's described him as resembling himself.

MICHAEL CROWLEY: That's right. That's right. Well, this is going to be an amazing relationship to watch. In some ways, these men are very different. I mean, Boris Johnson is a classical scholar, erudites, wrote a biography of Winston Churchill, loves to quote, you know, great literature. Pretty different approach than the President. At the same time, these men are both entertainers who have put their fingers on something in the pulse of our political moment in the world right now which is a kind of populism, a kind of anything-goes style. Boris Johnson sort of gleefully used the word "dude" in his-- in his first public speech. Kind of breaking the old rules and projecting a sort of authenticity that people seem to be craving. I think it's hard to know exactly substantively how this relationship works out. Although I will say--

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be watching it.

MICHAEL CROWLEY: --the special relationship is probably going to improve.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be watching it.

And we will be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: As tensions with Iran escalate, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin got rare access to U.S. troops serving in the Middle East. He spent ten days with the top U.S. commander in the region, General Frank McKenzie. David's report begins at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.

(Begin VT)

DAVID MARTIN (CBS News National Security Correspondent/@CBSDavidMartin): Traveling with General Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, was a journey across a landscape of past, present and, potentially, future conflict. At an air base in the middle of Saudi Arabia, five hundred American troops protected by a battery of Patriot air defense missiles are laying the ground work for the worst-case scenario against Iran.

It looks like this is the beginning of preparations for if these tensions turned into a war.

FRANK MCKENZIE: Well, I prefer to say it's like this--it's a signal that we're not going to be cowed by Iranian malign activities.

DAVID MARTIN: I have been here before--in 1990 on the eve of the First Gulf War, when this base was chock-a-block with American warplanes, ready to put out the lights in Baghdad. Now nearly thirty years later, McKenzie was taking the first steps in another buildup only this time to put out the lights in Tehran.

How many planes could you bring in here?

FRANK MCKENZIE: There have been a lot of planes here in the past. I won't get into exact details, but you could bring as many as you want.

DAVID MARTIN: It hasn't come to that, yet, but U.S. and Iran remain on a collision course. Within the space of two days as McKenzie flew over the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan, USS Boxer took down two Iranian drones that came too close. And the Iranian Revolutionary Guards hijacked a British tanker.

FRANK MCKENZIE: She was fired upon, subsequently, boarded, taken under Iranian custody and is now deep in Iranian territory of waters.

DAVID MARTIN: Exactly the kind of incidents that could spiral out of control. So McKenzie cut short his visit to Afghanistan where fourteen thousand American troops are still fighting America's longest war and flew to Qatar where the U.S. has built state-of-the-art command centers to run these seemingly forever wars.

General McKenzie is the top military commander not just for the war in Afghanistan, but for Iraq and Syria as well. But ten days of getting on and off airplanes with him has made it very clear his number one mission is war with Ira--how to head it off and failing that how to fight it.

Next, McKenzie flew to a desert base in southern Syria in a scene straight out of a Mad Max movie. Those American Special Forces are part of the one thousand U.S. troops still here hunting down the remnants of ISIS. Not by coincidence, this base also sits astride the mainland route which connects Iran to its Syrian allies in Damascus.

FRANK MCKENZIE: We're standing in the middle of the Damascus-Baghdad Highway and the base is right in the middle of it, so, certainly, it blocks a-- a major channel of communication.

DAVID MARTIN: V-22 Ospreys carried us out of Syria, in-flight refueling required--for a visit to the Boxer, which had taken down those Iranian drones.

MAN: Mission for (INDISTINCT) ready.

DAVID MARTIN: Nobody wants war but, as Captain Ron Dowdell told us, the Boxer is already counting its kills.

So I expected to see the silhouette of the drone painted on your bridge. How come it's not there?

RON DOWDELL: Wait until we get in port.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our thanks to David and CBS News cameraman Tony Furlow for their reporting.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you for watching. And if you missed the broadcast on television, FACE THE NATION can always be seen on CBS All Access, our network's digital subscription video on demand and live streaming service. You can download the app for both CBS News and CBS All Access on our website at Replays are also on our digital network CBSN.

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