Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on June 2, 2019

6/2: Face The Nation

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

  • Sen. Mark Warner (read more)
  • Sen. John Kennedy (read more)
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (read more)
  • British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (read more)
  • Panelists: Jan Crawford, Jamal Simmons, Susan Page, and Ramesh Ponnuru (watch)

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, June 2nd. I'm Margaret Brennan and this is FACE THE NATION.  

It's happened again. Another mass shooting, this time in a Virginia Beach government building. Thirteen are dead, including the shooter.

BOBBY DYER: We will not be defined by this horror. We will go forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll have the latest on what prompted the alleged shooter to attack his coworkers. Then both Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Attorney General William Barr go public on the Russia investigation.

ROBERT MUELLER: If we had had con-- confidence that the President, clearly, did not commit a crime, we would have said so.

WILLIAM BARR: This whole idea that Trump was in cahoots with the Russians is bogus.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll get reaction from the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee Virginia's Mark Warner and a key Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee Louisiana's John Kennedy. And as the number of migrants crossing the border surges, President Trump goes after Mexico. In a move that sparked controversy even within the Republican Party and among his own trade advisors, the President announced new tariffs on nearly three hundred and sixty billion dollars of imports, unless Mexico does more to stop the flow of migrants from Central America to the United States. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin is back from the Arctic, he'll tell us what he learned. Plus, ahead of President Trump's visit to the United Kingdom this week, we'll talk with British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt. He's running to replace outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May.

We'll have analysis on all the news of the day just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. Virginia Beach is in mourning today after a long-time city employee went on a shooting rampage inside a municipal building on Friday killing twelve people, eleven worked for the city, one of them a local contractor. It is the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. so far this year. DeWayne Craddock had worked for the city for fifteen years. He used two .45-caliber semi-automatics that he purchased legally. At least one of them was outfitted with a suppressor and he was carrying multiple extended magazines. His motive is still unknown.

With us now is the senior senator from the state where this happened, Virginia's Mark Warner. Senator, the Virginia Beach police chief said today that he didn't believe any other kind of gun legislation would have prevented this. The weapons were purchased legally and he entered the building in a legal manner. But we do know former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' organization that rates gun safety and violence, says every ten hours in the state of Virginia someone is killed with a gun. Is this something your constituents just have to adjust to?

SENATOR MARK WARNER (D-Virginia/@MarkWarner/Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman): Well, Margaret, first of all, we're all heartbroken about what happened in Virginia Beach. Twelve victims, eleven of them public officials, since they worked for the city and thank God for the police officers who rushed in and took down the shooter or chances are there could have been more deaths. And we're still not sure what motivated this shooter. I've been in touch with city officials and the governor, and there may not have been anything with this specific case that could have prevented it, although, obviously, additional mental health assistance--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: --would be-- would be critical. But we got to recognize that this just doesn't happen in other civilized nations at this level of violence. And while it's too early to talk about what specific actions, I do think there ought to be some kind of lowest hanging fruit like universal background checks that might not have done anything in this particular case but might prevent some future incident, particularly in terms of identifying somebody that might have mental health issues in terms of their ability to obtain a firearm. I do think there are certain areas where we could and should come together in terms of action.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What about suppressors? Apparently, the shooter had one on his weapon and that muffled the sound so that victims couldn't run and hide.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, I think that's an area that there ought to be a legitimate debate. I have-- I have felt that we ought to take steps against assault we-- assault weapons. The suppressors, I'd like to hear what the legitimate reason is in terms of either self-defense or hunting why a suppressor is needed. But again there-- there may not be any single item here. But we can't become in a sense callous about the fact that whether it's the number of folks in Virginia that are taken out by firearms or the-- the numbers of mass shootings that have taken place already this year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: You know the basic underlying fact is this just doesn't happen in other nations at this rate. And I think we all ought to, in a sense, put some of our politics aside and-- and sort through how we can find some common action--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: --to prevent some of these actions in the future.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. We heard from the special counsel this week for the first time, we heard from the attorney general about the Mueller report. Is there any question in your mind that the counterintelligence probe involving the Trump campaign was not legitimate?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. This was a appropriate actions taken by the FBI, taken by some of our intelligence community. Matter of fact if they had not acted, it would have been the height of irresponsibility. There was evidence of Russian intervention. I wish, candidly, in many ways, the Obama administration had done more to get this message out. And one of the things I-- I know there was lots of back and forth on the obstruction issue. But what I hope Americans would remember from the Mueller presser this week was where he started his comments and ended his comments, which was that America was attacked by a foreign power. And chances are they will be-- they or others will be back. This is the same testimony that the FBI Director Christopher Wray, again a Trump appointee, made a few weeks ago before Congress. And it is the height of irresponsibility that Congress has not acted to make sure that our elections in 2020 are more secure. I would argue there are three things we could do next week--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: --when we-- this week when we come back. First, we ought to go ahead and pass bipartisan election security legislation to make sure, for example, that there's a paper ballot trail after every vote.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There's been no floor time allotted for this.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: There's been no floor time allotted. Second, we ought to put some guardrails on social media so there's not an ability for foreigners or other entities to create fake accounts and manipulate our whole political debate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: And, third, even if we accept the fact that Mueller has said, even though, there were a hundred-and-forty-plus connections between Russians and Trump officials it didn't rise to the level of conspiracy, we ought to say on future federal elections if there is a foreign entity trying to intervene, there ought to be an affirmative obligation to report that to the FBI.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to play for you a sound bite from our Jan Crawford's interview with Attorney General Barr when he was talking about the President's characterization of some of the investigators.

JAN CRAWFORD (CBS THIS MORNING): You don't think that they've committed treason.

WILLIAM BARR (CBS THIS MORNING): Not as a legal matter, right.

JAN CRAWFORD: But you have concerns about how they conducted the investigation.

WILLIAM BARR: Yes. But, you know when you're dealing with official government contact, in-- in-- intent is-- is frequently a murky issue. I'm not suggesting people did what they did necessarily because of conscious, nefarious motives. Sometimes people can convince themselves that what they're doing is in the higher interest, the better good. They don't realize that what they're doing is really antithetical to the Democratic system we have. They start feeling themselves as the guardians of the people that are more informed and sensitive than everybody else.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a possibility that as the attorney general suggests all of this was born out of a misguided sense of justice, and what is wrong with raising some of the questions that he has about the standards for decision making?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed the fact that the Russians intervened in our elections. Our bipartisan committee, the last bipartisan effort on the Hill looking at this issue, reaffirmed unanimously that the Russians massively intervened. If we had not acted, if our intelligence community and law enforcement had not acted, they would have been irresponsible. And, candidly, Mister Barr has very little credibility with me and I think the vast majority of, candidly, not just Democrats but many Americans because he time and again is not acting as our attorney general but as a personal advocate for Donald Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The attorney general is beginning this investigation, though, into--

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the counterintelligence probe.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Have-- have at it because facts will confirm what the intelligence community and law enforcement did was right. We as-- as the Intelligence Committee have looked into the beginnings of this investigation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Again, I will restate what I said earlier. If law enforcement and the intelligence community had not started an investigation when they had evidence of Russian interference they would have been-- it would have been the height of irresponsibility.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Since you have oversight in your committee role of the intelligence agencies will you receive any kind of update from the agency chiefs? I know Adam Schiff on the House side has asked in a letter for regular updates. Are you going to get those?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: We are continuing to ask for regular updates and one of the most important items that we can receive and we're in the process of re-- obtaining these documents. What was the counterintelligence evidence, not the conclusions that Mueller put out, but the evidence that Mueller received. For us to finish our job, we need that evidence.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But can you unequivocally say politics played absolutely no role in influencing the decision makers when they opened and conducted this counter attack?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: I saw absolutely no evidence that politics played any role.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: And, again, if law enforcement and the FBI had not opened an investigation when they had as much evidence as they did of Russian intervention--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: --they would have been irresponsible. Well, matter of fact one of the ironies is I believe Barr and Trump have repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for not doing more--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: --to get the word out before the election.

MARGARET BRENNAN: North Korea. Reports out that their top negotiator and four other officials have either been removed or, possibly, executed for the failure in Hanoi. Can you confirm that?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: I cannot confirm it today but we-- I'll get a brief this week. It's a--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Who's briefing?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: We will get briefed from the intelligence community. But it's-- again if true, it is a remarkable-- further evidence of how-- how draconian and extreme the Kim regime is. And I think again this President's notion that he has built this personal relationship with this murderer because even if these individuals have not been murdered we know the Kim's I believe cousin or uncle was murdered by anti-aircraft machine in a-- in a brutal, brutal way. It raises real questions whether this so-called personal connection is going to lead to a safer world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Warner, thank you for joining us today.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Republican Senator John Kennedy who joins us this morning from New Orleans. Good morning to you, Senator. You heard this week as the country did from Rob-- Robert Mueller who said in front of the cameras, "If we had confidence the President clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so." Are you confident the President did not commit a crime?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY (R-Louisiana/@SenJohnKennedy): Here's what I heard Mister Mueller say this week, first, "I quit. No más. I've done the best I can. If you're happy with it fine. If you're not happy with it call your priest or your minister or your psychiatrist, but I'm done and I don't want to testify. Look at my report." I look at his report and I see the following: number one, no collusion, so no indictment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, actually he said it wasn't about collusion--

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Number two on obstruction of justice--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --he said no conspiracy or evidence that amounted to ability to prosecute conspiracy.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: That's what I was going to get to-- that's what I was going to get to next, Margaret. On the obstruction of justice he said, "I'm not saying the President did it. I'm not saying the President didn't do it. I am saying I'm not going to bring an indictment." You can-- you-- you can hear what you want to hear in the report. People, obviously, have strong feelings about this. I have never heard--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But I'm asking what you heard.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: I have never-- I've heard-- I heard--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you confident the President did not commit a crime?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you. You reference there that you think Bob Mueller is done. He said he prefers not to come back and testify. But then some of the people--

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --who support the President, including his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, have said that maybe he should. In fact, Giuliani was quoted by The Daily Beast saying if they allow Congressman Meadows and Jordan and a few others out there they'll eviscerate Robert Mueller. He would love to have him testify. Former White House attorney John Dowd said something similar. Are you swayed by that at all? Do you think Mueller should testify?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: No, not at this juncture I don't think it'll do any good. If he wants to I wouldn't object but he, clearly, doesn't want to. And if you make him testify he's going to say, read my report. Look the next-- the next step in this, Margaret, my-- my Democratic friends have got to make a decision on impeachment. Now, I think impeachment will be a Sisyphean task. It'll be tough going in the Senate. Impeachment polls right up there with skim milk among the American people. But-- but my advice to my Democratic friends is if you want to do it, go hard or go home. You know if you want to do it go-- go to Amazon online, buy a spine and do it. But go hard or go home. If you're not going to do it, then let us get back to work.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well--

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: I hate to waste a year and a half.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood. But in terms of moving on from the Mueller Report, you have the attorney general say he's not ready to move on when it comes to the question of the origins of the counterintelligence probe itself which to be--

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Mm-Hm.

MARGARET BRENNAN:--clear was opened after a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, had some contact with Russians discussing stolen information from Hillary Clinton. So do you support the attorney general's probe here into the origins of the investigation itself?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Yes. And let's look at the facts. Forget the spin. In the 2016 election, the FBI, maybe the CIA, and the Department of Justice decided to investigate both presidential candidates, Secretary Clinton and then-- then nominee President Trump. Now that's pretty breathtaking. And, arguably, those investigations had an impact on the election. I don't know whether they did or did not. I don't know how you prove it but that's a pretty serious step by the FBI and the Justice Department. I'd like to know why they did it. I do believe there were some people, small handful of people at those agencies that acted on their political beliefs, either for Trump or for Clinton, or against Trump or against Clinton. And I don't want to see it happen again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: I don't see the harm in looking at the facts. In fact, I've asked the president to-- to-- to look-- look for every document at the FBI and Justice Department pertaining to the 2016 election and the investigations--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: --properly redact them, and let the American people see them. American people figure it out if you let them see the facts.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about another issue and that is the President's decision to put this five-percent tariff on a broad range of Mexican products to punish that country for allowing migrants across the border.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Mm-Hm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Chuck Grassley, fellow Republican Senator, says this is a misuse of tariff authority and congressional intent. Are you a supporter of the President's decision to do this?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: I think it was a mistake. I'm not saying we don't have a crisis at the border. We, clearly, do. I'm not saying it won't work. President Lopez Obrador has already indicated that he's willing to talk but I worry about the long-term ramifications. We have a deal with Mexico on trade. It's called NAFTA. In fact, we just shook hands on a new deal. It's called NAFTA 2. When you give your word, you stick to it. And I really worry about us negotiating trade deals with other countries and whether those countries will wonder, well if we-- if we make concessions and trade hard and we reach a deal, will America stick to it? Now having said all of that I don't think the President's going to impose these tariffs. My experience with the President is he's a very smart man. I wouldn't call him risk averse. He's been known to play with fire but not live hand grenades. And if-- if-- if he slaps a twenty-five-percent tariff on Mexico it's going to tank the American economy. And I think the President knows that and I don't think he'll do it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Kennedy, good morning to you. Thank you for joining us.

We'll be back in one minute with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, so don't go away.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. He's a moderate Democrat who has pushed for bipartisan background check legislation. He joins us this morning from Charleston. Senator, you've tried and failed to get these restrictions or more background checks passed. Do we need this? Would it have prevented what happened in Virginia Beach?

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN (D-West Virginia/@Sen_JoeManchin): Well, here's the thing, we couldn't even get the most common sense, legitimate gun owners, you know, law-abiding gun owners to understand we're not afraid to have background checks, and we're not going to do anything wrong with our guns. But there should be a balance of how you, basically, prevent people in commercial settings from not getting a gun when you don't know who they are and what their background is. We couldn't even get that done, Margaret. And I-- I-- I'm just asking my Republican colleagues and friends to use some common sense and let's do things that, basically, will protect the public and give us some certainty that we're trying to move in-- in a commonsense manner.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about a trip you just took to a number of countries--

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --and you saw what was happening in the Arctic, which American scientists say is melting faster-- twice the rate than the rest of the world. What impact did you see? And is the economic benefit of some of this, which the Trump administration argues there is, offset this catastrophic effect for the climate?

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Well, the climate change is real. I saw it first-hand. I read about it before and heard and listened to all the scientists. The thing of it is if you go up in that fragile ecosystem that we have and then you look at the geopolitics that's involved. We met with the parliamentarians of the eight Arctic nations. We listened to each one of them from Russia to Canada, the U.S. and then you have Finmark-- Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. They all absolutely will show you, not just tell you, they'll show you the changes that are happening. The fish migration, the changes of that, the melting of the ice. We were in Greenland, went up to the ice shelf there and saw how it's retreated in a very short period of time. So we as humans have a responsibility to do something. I'm not for elimination because that's not practical. You're not going to stop the rest of the sovereign countries of the world from using the energy in their backyard. But we can use it much cleaner, I was at the university in-- in Stockholm, in Aberdeen, and saw carbon capture utilization, not sequestered and trying to pump it in the ground by using it as byproducts in valued-- and valued assets.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: It's going to be unbelievable. If we start working in a way that-- that, basically, science has proven, that we can do it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You also heard though from the Trump administration that national security officials are warning that Russia might have been conducting in that area low-yield nuclear tests. Have you seen any evidence of that?

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: I didn't see-- I didn't see that. What I did see and what I know, Russia is spending more of their money, more-- more of their effort and money in the Arctic region where they have a tremendous landmass that's in the Arctic. They're spending more money there than they are in entire social services for Russia. It's unbelievable the commitment they've made. We've seen more activity of aircraft flying in those spaces. We've seen submarine activity from Russia, more so than we have during the Cold War. So there is a lot of activity there. They open up the Northwest Passage. That's a whole another-- that's a game changer. We have got to be on top and the United States has got to start getting involved to make sure that we're a leader up there and not a follower because I can tell you what Russia is doing, what China is doing. China is using their money, trying to buy their way into the Arctic to be a big player. It's unbelievable. And we should be alerted and we should start acting.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I do want to talk to you more about that and because you are one of three Democrats who voted to confirm the attorney general I want to hear your views on what he said this week.

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Sure.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But we have to take a break and we'll have those questions when we come back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Later today President Trump will travel across the Pond for a state visit to the United Kingdom. He'll meet with Prime Minister Theresa May. He'll attend a state dinner with the Queen and others in the royal family, and then he will travel to Normandy to honor the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day.

CBS THIS MORNING co-host Anthony Mason will lead the network's coverage. We'll be talking with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in our next half hour. Don't go away.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of our stations are leaving us now but we will be right back with more from Senator Joe Manchin, plus, our panel and a preview of President Trump's trip to the United Kingdom.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. Senator Joe Manchin is still with us. Senator, as I mentioned, you were one of three Democrats who voted to confirm the Attorney General Bill Barr for his post.

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Mm-Hm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you heard in this exclusive interview with my colleague Jan Crawford this week, he said that some of the investigators in the Russia probe may have been misguided and what they did, quote "antithetical to the democratic system." What do you make of that characterization?

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Well, first of all, I've-- I've, basically, voted for many of the President's executive decisions they've made as far as who their appointments would be. I've always felt that the executive should be able to put their team together, if the person's qualified and has no background-- of criminal background and has a good experience level. Barr met all that. With that you're seeing the decisions he's making and how he's making them now in lieu of Mueller's report. No one has done a more extensive report than Mueller. I was on Intelligence Committee last year and we've been delving into this for quite some time. But there's been an awful lot of investigations done by honorable people who have done what they felt was the right thing. Mueller making the decision he made, put it out there. I always wanted to hear from Mueller to come before the-- before Congress and hear from his own mind and his own-- his own mouth, if you will, what his intentions were and if he thought he was impeded and could not have gone farther or did he find anything. I don't think that there was a-- collusion, a quid pro quo, but I think there was an awful lot of people that were riding that pretty high for themselves, trying to put themselves in the best position they could to enhance their own-- their own wealth if you will.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're talking about contact between the Trump campaign and Russia. But in terms of the attorney general's allegations that the counterintelligence probe was in some way, either misguided due to politics or by people thinking--

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --they're helping but hurting the country. I mean that's a pretty strong assertion. Do you regret voting to confirm the attorney general?

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Well, I've said this: if he basically takes the position that he's more the lawyer from the executive point of view and not from the people's point of view, I would have made a mistake. I wanted to hear from Mueller exactly but now in hearing where he's coming from, it really gives me pause and concern that he's the people's attorney. He should be looking out to prevent-- protect the Constitution and all of us who are protected by that Constitution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, he argues he is.

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: And still has to, basically, be appointed-- yeah. He argues he is. I think he's wrong in that assertion that they were misguided or intentionally going a different direction. I think that Bob Mueller was beyond reproach. I think we all felt that he was extremely capable, honorable, and did a great job. With that, people don't like this, him not coming out with more of an infinite-- definitive if you will. But I think it was very clear, he said that the rules are you're not going to impeach or bring charges against a sitting President. If that's the case, he's put everything out there. Here's the thing I've said, you've got a little over seventeen months to the next election. If you want to go through an impeachment, we get very little done there anyway.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: --we're getting nothing done if you go into that. And, next of all, there's not one Republican in the Senate that would vote for an impeachment so why waste your time? You have an election coming up, voice your opinion there and make your choice. That's where it should be done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly yes or no, do you support the President's tariffs on Mexico?

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Oh, no. No, not-- not the way we're going here. I've said, Mister President, please, the 2013 major immigration bipartisan bill that we passed is a bill that needs to come back. Please, Mister President, let's fix immigration and border security. We need both.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Manchin, thank you for joining us.

And we will be right back with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump travels to London tonight, and he will be greeted by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt who is also vying for leadership of the country's Conservative Party and, ultimately, the title of prime minister. He joins us from London. Welcome to FACE THE NATION. We know that the President has given some interviews ahead of his arrival in the U.K. and he said of Boris Johnson, one of your rivals, he "would do a 'very good job.' He would be excellent." He's made other comments. Should the President be weighing in on your election?

JEREMY HUNT (British Foreign Secretary/@Jeremy_Hunt): Well, we've gotten to know the President a bit over the last few years. Good morning, Margaret, by the way, and we're-- we're quite used to the fact that he does the unexpected thing, and it's not going to affect the warmth of the welcome that we give him because Britain and America are two of the greatest friends you find anywhere on the planet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In that interview, the-- the President also said he likes you, too. And he said that some candidates had asked for his endorsement--

JEREMY HUNT: I'll take the compliments where I can get them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you ask him for an endorsement?

JEREMY HUNT: No, I have never asked, and you know, I think my job is to represent the British government. And I think that the worst thing anyone could imagine is a foreign secretary talking about the future leadership of the country when he's there to represent the current government and the current prime minister.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I want to ask you about your work in that, the President had made some comment about Meghan Markle referring to her as nasty for comments she made about him back in 2016.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, I didn't know that she was nasty.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is any of this going to disrupt the welcome?

JEREMY HUNT: I don't think it's going to disrupt the welcome at all because I think the other thing we've learned from the President is that, you know, regularly, we have to agree to disagree. And there's a whole list of things that we don't agree with the administration on, but it doesn't affect the fact that we have the most important partnership that there is in the world for freedom, democracy, the rule of law, the things that really matter and that's what we're celebrating.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about one of the things that the U.K. and the U.S. have had some disagreement on and that is the threat posed by Iran. The U.K. had wanted the U.S. to stay part of that international deal to freeze Iran's nuclear program. Obviously, the President did not.

JEREMY HUNT: Well, we've never disagreed with the U.S. about the threat posed by Iran and we see the intelligence that the U.S. sees. We have a very close intelligence-sharing relationship, and we see the destabilization that's happening in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon--across the Middle East, the Yemen, as well. And so we completely agree that something has to be done to stop that because this is one of the most fragile regions on the planet. But we do want to make sure that Iran doesn't go nuclear. And we think that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons other countries in the region would be likely to follow suit. And that could be very, very dangerous. And so-- and we have a very honest discussion that's why we signed up with the previous administration to the Iran nuclear deal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the U.K. supporting the U.S. campaign to put more pressure on Iran?

JEREMY HUNT: We absolutely recognize we need to put more pressure on Iran. And we agree that the status quo, even with the lack of nuclear weapons in Iran, the status quo is not sustainable when you have incredibly tense situations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The U.S. has filed an extradition request with your government to have Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, here in the United States to face justice. We know U.N. officials raised concerns about human rights violations if he's sent here. Does your government take that seriously?

JEREMY HUNT: Julian Assange is someone who is alleged to have committed some very serious crimes, alleged to have led to people's deaths. And so it is absolutely right that he faces justice and he has no more reason to escape justice than anyone else who is alleged to have committed crimes. So I think what's happened is the right thing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So if you do become prime minister, you would not stand in the way of an extradition of Assange to the United States?

JEREMY HUNT: Well, we would have to follow our own legal processes just as the U.S. has to follow its own legal processes. But do I think-- would I want to stand in the way of Julian Assange facing justice? No, I would not.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump has said one of the things he does want to speak to your current Prime Minister Theresa May about is the threat posed by China and, specifically, this company Huawei, which I know the U.K. has not made a decision as yet as to whether this firm would be allowed to help build out your internet, the 5G network. But Secretary Pompeo has said if you don't take this seriously, the U.S. might not be able to share intelligence anymore with the United Kingdom. But why hasn't the-- the U.K. agreed to what the U.S. is asking?

JEREMY HUNT: Well, we are taking it very seriously. We have some of the best cybersecurity capability in the world and we'd never take a decision that affected our intelligence-sharing capability with the United States. And we have to look at the technical issues which are around whether buying products from a specific country could be a backdoor to espionage. And we're looking at those very carefully, but we also have to look at the strategic issue which is that China's being very open. They have said they want to have a-- an eighty percent market share of telecoms, technology, and in other areas like artificial intelligence, they want a ninety-percent market share by 2025. And we have to ask, as Western countries, whether it's wise to allow one country to have such a commanding monopoly in the technologies that we're all of us going to be depending on. So those are very, very important discussions that we-- we continue to have.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It sounds like you may be considering that. One of the things that the President has also said he wants to bring up with Prime Minister May is it seems his continued concern that the U.K. may have in some way or another worked with the CIA or FBI regarding what he calls the Russian hoax. He made these comments just last week. How does your government respond to this allegation? I know the GCHQ British intelligence has previously denied it, but the President still suspects it.

JEREMY HUNT: You know we have a very close intelligence-sharing relationship and our default is always to say yes to our closest ally. If-- if-- if America asks us to do things, you guys are doing so much to defend Europe and defend freedom across the world. You know we would want to be cooperative, but we would always do so within due process and we would never do anything improper and- we don't have any secrets. So we're happy to discuss these things. But one of the things that I'll certainly be discussing with the President and Secretary of State Pompeo is our concern about the growing strategy we seem to be seeing from Russia to interfere in democratic processes in free countries.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But do I understand you saying there that the U.K. has not, yet, been asked by the U.S. for help in the probe the attorney general in this country is carrying out? But you continue to deny that there was any work with the CIA or FBI on the so-called Russian hoax?

JEREMY HUNT: Margaret, you'll forgive me if I-- I talk in generalities. But we, obviously, don't talk in the media about specific requests over intelligence sharing except to say what I've just said, which is that we would always try and work closely and helpfully with our-- our greatest ally because we recognize the important role you play in the world. And we would never, of course, do anything improper or seek to interfere with another country's electoral processes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mister Foreign Secretary, good luck with your busy visit. Thank you for joining us.

JEREMY HUNT: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. It's time now for some political analysis. Ramesh Ponnuru is senior editor at National Review and a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. Susan Page is the Washington bureau chief of USA Today. Jamal Simmons is a host on Hill.TV and a Democratic strategist. And Jan Crawford is our CBS News chief legal correspondent. And, Jan, you had the interview of the week with the attorney general. And his first reaction after Robert Mueller spoke publicly about the report. I think a question a lot of Americans have is how did this go on for two years and the attorney general and the special counsel had two very different ideas of what could be accomplished in this investigation?

JAN CRAWFORD (CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent/@JanCBS): Oh, we are talking about why the special counsel said I can't make a conclusion--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

JAN CRAWFORD: --on whether or not the President obstructed justice because of this existing office of legal counsel opinion about indicting sitting Presidents. And I think it's interesting because when the special counsel met with the attorney general and his team on March 5th, they were told at that point that he was not going to reach a conclusion on whether or not the President obstructed justice, they weren't even going to get into that analysis. And I was told by other sources in the department that there was some confusion on behalf of the attorney general and his team about why-- they didn't really understand some of the reasoning that they were hearing from the special counsel at that point about why he wasn't going to make a decision on obstruction. The report was not finished at that point. They were still working on it. So they just decided to-- to wait and see what the report said. And then when they got the report, with-- with no conclusion in there they decided they would look at the law, analyze the facts and the law and make the decision themselves but there was a lot in that report that surprised them or rather I should say that was not in the report. They also expected the special counsel to go through and identify the confidential grand jury information--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JAN CRAWFORD: --so that they could quickly release a version of the report to the public and they had been told that that was being done over a period of weeks and so when they got the report, that was also a surprise, that that information had not been identified which would have made it-- that a four-page summary that was released later on would have been unnecessary by the attorney general.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Up to this point, though, the one thing that seems agreed upon to both sides of the aisle has been--with the exception of the President--that Robert Mueller was extremely well qualified to carry all of this out. Why now at this point is the case, essentially, being made that he had unfinished business or that some of the technicalities what you just laid out are calling some of this into question?

JAN CRAWFORD: Well, there-- I think there's some disappointment. You know people were looking for Robert Mueller, this man, like you said who was highly regarded, a man of integrity, to come in and say here's the answers, here's what we need to do, American people and let's just either resolve it or move on and then when this kind of seemed to be unresolved on whether or not the President obstructed justice it-- it was unsatisfactory to a lot of people, especially when you think about the time and money that was spent on this investigation. Now some people have said and asked why when the attorney general got this report why didn't he send it back?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

JAN CRAWFORD: And say you didn't finish the job. And I think, I mean, I think we can all understand what that might have looked like, it surely would have leaked that the attorney general wasn't happy with the special counsel's report, told him to rethink it. So the Justice Department and the team really decided we're just going to stay out of it. This is Robert Mueller's work, this is his decision, and his conclusions and now we're going to take it from there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jamal, James Comey, the former FBI director tweeted about this interview that Jan conducted that "Bill Barr offers no facts. An AG should not be echoing conspiracy theories. He should gather facts and show them. [This] is what justice is about." This seems a pushback, specifically, on this implication that he was misguided--

JAMAL SIMMONS (Hill.TV/@JamalSimmons): Sure.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --and other investigators were. Are we at the point of conspiracy theories? I mean is this a legitimate criticism?

JAMAL SIMMONS: It does feel like we're at the point of conspiracy theory but, remember, the AG came out on the very first day and used words like collusion which Robert Mueller said in the very beginning of his report he did not investigate collusion because it wasn't a legal term, he investigated criminal conspiracies. So there is some question about what really the AG is up to and who it is he is defending here, is he looking out for the American people or looking out for the President? The reality is, Mueller laid out a case, he listed at least, well, ten instances of possible obstruction of justice, including the most salient of which, which appears to be the time the President ordered the White House counsel to go and fire the special counsel and then asked him to come up with a fake document to prove that he did not order him to go fire the special counsel. The-- the Republicans are talking about process here to keep from having to talk about the substance of the report.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ramesh, how do you respond to that?

RAMESH PONNURU (National Review/@RameshPonnuru/Bloomberg Opinion): Both of our major political parties in 2016 ran presidential candidates under FBI investigation, and that is going to create strain on the system and we are seeing that strain continue to play out. I think that attorney general Barr is quite right as he said in Jan's interview that it is a big deal when a presidential campaign is put under surveillance and it is perfectly reasonable to ask questions about whether, as he puts it, it was adequately predicated. You'll notice that Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner earlier on the show, although he was quite critical of Barr said have at it with respect to that investigation. Go find those facts. And I think that that's a reasonable position to take.

SUSAN PAGE (USA Today/@SusanPage): But-- but, you know you certainly get the impression that Barr was speaking as the President's lawyer not as the country's lawyer. He adopted even some of the most controversial things that the President has said, including suggesting that there were nefarious reasons for this investigation to be launched at the-- at the beginning and you almost got Joe Manchin, one of the few Democrats who voted for William Barr to say he regretted that vote, he didn't quite go there but it said it gave him pause. He clearly had concerns about the point of view that the attorney general adopted in talking about this very important issue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, I mean, Jan, when-- in that particular line, antithetical to our democracy the attorney general did not present to you any evidence to back that up. It's-- it's a hunch?

JAN CRAWFORD: I-- I tried.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I-- I know you did.

JAN CRAWFORD: I mean I asked him repeatedly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You did an extraordinary job.

JAN CRAWFORD: But he said he wasn't going to go there. He said he has seen things that-- that he believes merit investigation, whether it's the timeline and how this investigation was launched and what was done at certain time or whether there's things afterward, and meeting that occurred in Trump Tower after the election but he wouldn't confirm or deny any of that. He did make the point, though, and-- and I think this is important to keep in mind, he-- his-- he started his career in the CIA in the 1970s. And that was in the wake of tremendous abuses by our intelligence agencies' investigations into civil rights organizations and American citizens. So his point to me over and over was that we have to look at these investigations into an unprece-- unprecedented investigation into a presidential campaign to see if abuses occurred, what is wrong with that? So he's saying, "I am taking this," again, his words, you know, "I am looking into this now to make sure that it was followed properly, that rules and procedures were followed. And if not, why not?" And so, again, to your point, Ramesh, that-- that is very much what he said throughout the interview that we're taking a look at this and the facts, maybe it was legitimate. And he said that in the interview, too--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JAN CRAWFORD: --that maybe it was legitimate. Maybe they had to handle it with this very small group--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

JAN CRAWFORD: --of high-ranking officials at headquarters instead of the normal practice and maybe there was a reason for that.

JAMAL SIMMONS: What's interesting is he is saying here that he wants to look into whether or not there was spying but he did make a determination of no obstruction of justice without looking at any of the underlying evidence, only reading the report. That's-- at least that's what he told the Senate Committee that asked him.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is its own fight right now on the Hill. But, Ramesh, I want to ask you, because you wrote about, basically, that it might be a miscalculation by the speaker of the House not to move forward with impeachment proceedings which that pressure was added to this week with Mueller's comments.

RAMESH PONNURU: That's right. You know, that's-- it's an interesting thing that, even though, Mueller didn't actually tell us anything that he hadn't already told us in the report, it did seem to add fuel to the calls for impeachment on the Democratic side. I think Nancy Pelosi has made a judgment there's a presidential race coming up, we're not going to get impeachment acted on by the Senate because Republicans control it, and it requires a two-thirds vote to remove the President. But I do wonder whether you can run a campaign which is as-- as Pelosi herself said yesterday we're going to expose the corruption of this President, the wrongdoing of this President. If you say he's a wrongdoer, you say he's corrupt, can you not follow that up by impeachment? Doesn't it really undercut your message if you're not willing to follow through?

MARGARET BRENNAN: But if it ultimately fails and the speaker, Susan, said this has to be ironclad, what is the purpose?

SUSAN PAGE: Yeah. Well, that's the debate that she's having with Democrats. You know her problem is we now have more than fifty House Democrats supporting the beginning of an impeachment inquiry so that number continues to rise. But none of those members are among the forty-one House Democrats who flipped Republican seats in 2018 and gave the majority to the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives and that is-- that is a dilemma, because the lack of overlap between the Democratic base being eager for impeachment and swing voters, some of them Democrats, some of the independents who are opposed to impeachment are who really want Democrats to focus on issues that affect them in their own lives. There-- that is the conundrum that Nancy Pelosi faces.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jamal, what--

JAMAL SIMMONS: (INDISTINCT).

MARGARET BRENNAN: --what did-- some of us were watching.

JAMAL SIMMONS: I'm chomping at the bit on this one.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm sure you are. But I do want to get your feedback--

JAMAL SIMMONS: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --on what you saw from some of the Democratic candidates this weekend out in California.

JAMAL SIMMONS: So we saw the candidates out in California, I think really speak up and say that they were ready for impeachment. This has been a growing thing, Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro were among the first to say they were for it and now it seems to be a fire that's making its way through the entire--

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's an easy thing to say, though.

JAMAL SIMMONS: Sure, it is, because the Democratic electorate wants it. And then you ask the question about what does it prove? You know Elijah Cummings on this air few weeks ago said this is their watch. It's up to them and history will be looking back at the-- the-- both the House and the Republicans in the Senate and it is not the Democrats' job to absolve the Republicans from their constitutional responsibility, it's a Democrat's job to live up to their constitutional responsibilities--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So this happened?

JAMAL SIMMONS: --if they find wrongdoing-- wrongdoing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does this happen?

JAMAL SIMMONS: What does what happen? Impeachment?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JAMAL SIMMONS: I would bet that there will be some effort to hold the President accountable, where it looks like in the end it may be a censure, it may be impeachment. I don't think he gets off scot-free.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Well, plenty more to talk about. But we have to leave it there. Thank you. Jan, congrats on the interview.

We'll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. For FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan. We leave you this week with a tribute to the twelve victims who were killed at a Virginia Beach municipal building this Friday.