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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on March 24, 2019

3/24: Face The Nation
3/24: Face The Nation 47:28

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

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. (read more)
  • Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio (read more)
  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. (read more)
  • Panelists: Susan Davis, Ed O'Keefe, Jonathan Turley, Paula Reid (watch)
  • Retired Gen. John Allen, president of the Brookings Institution (watch)
  • Charlie D'Agata, CBS News foreign correspondent (watch)

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, March 24th. I'm Margaret Brennan and this is FACE THE NATION.

President Trump headed to his winter White House Friday morning just hours before Washington's biggest guessing game officially ended.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have no idea about the Mueller report. I'm going to Florida.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President has long believed he'll be exonerated.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. Everybody knows it. It's all a big hoax. It's-- I call it the witch hunt. It's all a big hoax.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now that the report is done, speculation about what's in it grows. It's up to Attorney General William Barr to determine what to tell Congress and the public. Democrats along with a lot of Republicans are insisting the report be released.

KAMALA HARRIS: The American people have a right and a need to know.

BERNIE SANDERS: Make that full report public.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll hear from two powerful players in what could be a blistering political and legal battle, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Congressman Jim Jordan, a Trump ally who sits on two key committees investigating the President. As for Mister Trump, he is enjoying an uncharacteristically low-profile weekend, including golfing with musician Kid Rock. And it's official ISIS has finally been defeated in Iraq and Syria.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Here's ISIS on Election Day. Here's ISIS right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But are they fully eradicated? We'll talk with retired Marine Corps General John Allen, former envoy to counter ISIS. Plus, a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges faced by reporters covering the end of ISIS from our own CBS team in Syria.

All of that, plus, plenty of political analysis is just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning. And welcome to FACE THE NATION. Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has ended, but its conclusions are still a mystery. Not even the White House has been briefed yet. Later today Attorney General William Barr is expected to release his summary of the report's conclusions and we'll share it with key members of Congress. That summary will be released to the public but the detailed report remains confidential at this point. What we do know, is that Mueller's twenty-two-month investigation has led to charges against thirty-four mostly Russian foreign nationals. Six are former Trump aides or confidants and so far five have been convicted. We begin in Los Angeles, with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff. Welcome to FACE THE NATION.

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, no member of the Trump campaign was indicted for conspiring with Russia. I want to play for you what you had predicted.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (August 5, 2018): I think there's plenty of evidence of collusion or conspiracy in plain sight. Now that's a different statement than saying that there's proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a criminal conspiracy. Bob Mueller will have to determine that.

(March 12, 2019): On the issue of collusion the-- the reality is that there is ample evidence of collusion in plain sight and it has been for a very long time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mueller does not think there is a criminal conspiracy on this front. Does it hurt your case?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: No. As I said I have great confidence in Bob Mueller's judgment as to who should be prosecuted or who should not. We're going to have to wait to see the report and that report needs to be made public ASAP so we can evaluate the body of evidence on the issue of conspiracy and look at why Bob Mueller decided not to indict. Now vis-à-vis the President, Bob Mueller can't indict the President. So the fact that no future indictments either on conspiracy or obstruction of justice doesn't tell us about the quantum of evidence. So I think we need to wait to see the report. But I also think the AG needs to make that report publicly available. The special counsel spent two years almost investigating this. The public has a right to know and a need to know so that we don't have to ask questions about what the evidence was on either of these core subjects of his investigation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But as we heard you say there even before the report was turned in, you did think that the President had committed a crime and, specifically, that issue of conspiracy. So is there anything that the attorney general can say that would dissuade you from that?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: I never said that I thought the President had committed the crime of conspiracy. I did say that there is ample evidence, and, indeed, there is, of collusion of people in the Trump campaign with the Russians. And that evidence, of course, includes secret meetings at Trump Tower, the Russian delegations with the promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --the provision of polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence by Trump's own campaign chair. I could go on and on and on. But, again, the issue of indictment of prosecution, that is Bob Mueller's decision, and I have great confidence in him. I think we all owe him a debt of gratitude for conducting this investigation in such a professional manner. And I'm going to reserve judgment on that-- those prosecutorial decisions until we see the evidence. But I have great confidence in how he's conducted himself.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you be attending the briefing that the AG gives to those key members of Congress? Speaker Pelosi has said she will boycott it.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Look, I think the speaker is quite right. It is not going to be satisfactory for the attorney general of the Justice Department to brief eight of us. The so-called Gang of Eight, in a classified setting and say, okay, we discharge our obligation. We don't have to tell the rest of the country anything. That's not going to fly. This report is going to have to be made public. And of equal importance the underlying evidence is going to have to be shared with Congress because that evidence not only goes to the issue of criminality but also goes to the issue of compromise. And, remember, this began as a counterintelligence investigation into whether people surrounding the President--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --or the President himself were compromised by a foreign power. And there's still a lot of reason to be concerned about this President's relationship with Russia and Putin. And so that evidence needs to be provided so we can make sure that we protect the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you will boycott that briefing?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Look, the briefing I think we're going to get this weekend is only going to be very top line conclusions--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The one to the Gang of Eight--

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --that aren't going to--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --specifically?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well, they have made no request to brief the Gang of Eight at this point.


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: And there may be a point down the road where there is certain information that goes to sources or methods that are of such great sensitivity that needs to be briefed confidentiality-- confidentially. But that is not going to be a-- a reason to withhold evidence from the American people. So we're going to make sure that that is not some ruse that the Justice Department attempts to use.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you might attend those if they are held? Though Speaker Pelosi says she won't.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: You know I don't-- I don't think the speaker is ruling out that at some point down the line, there may be very specific information that needs--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --to be shared in a closed session, either with the Gang of Eight or with the intelligence committees in House and Senate. But she is determined and we are all determined that this report cannot be buried. That no stratagem of briefing a select number of members will avoid the need for transparency here. The public--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But-- but you know--

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --ought to see the product of this work.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, though, that, you know, declination decisions are typically kept confidential and that there is a lot of information in here that will-- will be protected essentially. It was-- it was gained through grand jury subpoenas it's not things that can necessarily just be blanketed out there as a press release. So is this a beginning of a negotiation, essentially, in terms of what you're asking to be made public?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: It's a very important question. And I think what the-- the public needs to understand is the rule against providing information as to people not indicted gives way when there is a paramount interest in transparency. And over the last two years, the Justice Department under Rod Rosenstein made the decision that the interest in transparency and because Congress insisted meant that the Justice Department should provide over eight hundred and eighty thousand pages of discovery in an investigation in which no one was indicted. Information about Hillary Clinton and Bruce Ohr and Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and others, Andy McCabe, that all was provided notwithstanding there were no indictments in that investigation--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That wasn't a special counsel--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --that wasn't a counterintelligence investigation. It was-- it was a different case.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well, actually-- actually, a great many of those documents, thousands of pages of those documents, pertained to the Mueller investigation were part of a counterintelligence investigation. There were FISA application materials that were declassified and made public. There were interviews that went into those applications and other materials that were pertaining to an ongoing investigation that had deep counterintelligence implications. So they did all of that and they cannot maintain now that we only do that for Republican Congresses--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --vis-à-vis Democratic candidates. We won't share information; we won't be transparent about the Trump investigation. That will never fly with Congress and it will never fly in the court if we have to go to court to insist on that evidence.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It took Bob Mueller two years to come to these conclusions and there were no indictments related yet, to conspiracy with Russia. What is it that your committee can find because many will look at this and just say Democrats are purely focused on impeachment? Is that the end game?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: That's not the end game. I think the speaker's made very clear that in the absence of very compelling evidence that there isn't going to be an impeachment. But one of the reasons why it's so important that this underlying evidence be shared with Congress is that so we don't have to reinvent the wheel, so that we don't have to go through all the same interviews as Bob Mueller and, indeed, there is some evidence in the possession of the Justice Department that the Congress can't get any other way. They've seized the hard-- hard drives, for example, reportedly, from search warrants executed on Roger Stone, other materials from search warrants on Paul Manafort. We can't get much of that information except through the department. So if there's an interest and we certainly have one in Congress, in expedi-- in-- in expeditious investigation in Congress that information will allow us to do that. I want to say this, too--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --that our obligation is not the same as Bob Mueller's which is to decide who to prosecute. Our obligation is to find the facts, make them clear to the American people, take corrective action, protect the country particularly if there's evidence that the President is somehow--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --compromised by a hostile power.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will wait and see. Congressman Schiff, thank you for joining us.

We now turn now to Congressman Jim Jordan, ranking member on the House Oversight Committee and a member of the Judiciary Committee and he joins us from Columbus, Ohio. Congressman, as we've said, no one really has seen this report just yet.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio/@Jim_Jordan/Oversight Committee Ranking Member): Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you actually claim vindication? A lot of Republicans seem to be seeing that here.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: Well, we want to read the report first. But what I do know is not-- to date not one bit of evidence to show any type of coordination, collusion, conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election. So that's been-- that-- we- we've sort of known that for a long time--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Or at least none that rises to beyond a reasonable doubt--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --and can be prosecuted.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: Well, under-- understand this, when this thing all started back in May of 2017 the Justice Department had already been looking into this issue for-- they-- they started in 2016, late summer 2016. And all the way up until the special counsel's named in May of 2017 there was no evidence of collusion at that point either because when we deposed Lisa Page, when we deposed Jim Comey they both told us, up until the point that Comey left the FBI, there was no evidence of collusion. Now, twenty-two months later there still doesn't appear to be any evidence of any type of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to impact the election. We'll read the report and we'll see what it says but that seems to be the-- the facts as we know them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you no longer believe that the Mueller Report is a hoax or a scam as the President has called it?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: I-- I've not called it that. In fact, the President has let the Muell--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the President called it that.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: The President-- the President has let the Mueller report--


REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: --play out. I me-- understand this, Margaret, everyone got what they-- what they-- go back to May of 2017, all the Democrats, all the Republicans in Washington, DC said we need a special counsel and they got the guy they wanted. They got Bob Mueller, the guy who everyone said is right next to Jesus--can almost walk on water, they got the guy they wanted. He now has his report. And-- and it looks like--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right and you--

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: It looks like it's not going to be--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --tried to file articles of impeachment against the deputy attorney general who-- who helped put him in place. Sir, you have been a skeptic of this probe from the beginning--

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: That's because-- that's because--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So do you now--

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: --Rod Rosenstein-- well--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --accept its findings and believe it has integrity?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: Well, all I'm saying is the Democrats when they-- now-- it seems like they now think that this is not going to be the bombshell they thought it was going to be. So they are launching all kinds of new fishing expeditions. They bring in Michael Cohen for goodness sake. They're first announced witness of the hundred and sixteenth Congress. Michael Cohen, a guy who's going to prison in six month-- or six weeks for lying to Congress. They bring him in and what does he do? He lies to Congress again. We think at least seven times. So Jerry Nadler sends eighty-one letters to sixty-some different people.


REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: So they're launching all kinds of new fishing expeditions to find more information--


REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: --because they're bound and determined to go after the President--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --but you-- but Congressman you know--

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: --in spite of the amazing--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that as we said at the beginning of the program, thirty-four people were indicted. Three companies, aides including the--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, campaign chairman Paul Manafort.


MARGARET BRENNAN: They had admitted to breaking the law.


MARGARET BRENNAN: So can you admit--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --that this was not a witch hunt?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: What was the central charge of the Mueller investigation-- of the special counsel investigation? It was to look at potential--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Any link to coordination between Russia and anything related.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And anything else that came up--

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: Any type of coordination or conspiracy or collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to steal the election. Remember what Adam Schiff said. We have more than circumstantial evidence to point to collusion to do just what the charge was. But we have not seen any of that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. But, Congressman, because you're deciding to put aside those indictments and guilty pleas it-- it appears--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --you're picking and choosing this, when you're-- you're picking the outcome you like and looking away--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --from the ones you didn't.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: No, I'm not. Those people they did things wrong.


REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: And they're going to have to pay the consequence for that.


REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: We understand that. But that wasn't the charge of the special counsel investigation. It was to look at that one fundamental issue. We'll read the report and see what it says. But all indications are that there is no-- and no-- and I-- I've seen no evidence. Now almost two and a half years of them investigating, I've seen no evidence of any type of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to impact the election.


REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: And neither have you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, but that's not the-- the question we're waiting to see this report. But-- but, more broadly, I mean for Americans. Should they look at this and-- and while yes, there's no indictable offenses that we have seen, yet, from the special counsel related to the Russia probe or the-- the allegation of conspiracy with Russia. There are all these instances that ethically look questionable that-- the President's son agreeing to meet with Russian intermediaries to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. A number of different things along the way that came to light in the course of this investigation, not disclosing to primary voters that the President was seeking business deals in Russia. Do those things morally sit right with you?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: Look, we'll-- we'll read the report and we'll see what-- what the special counsel has to say about that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, those are things we already know and I'm asking you ethically, morally?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: Here's what I know about the President. In two-- in two and a half years as President of the United States, we have seen regulations cut, we have seen taxes reduce, we have seen the economy growing in an unbelievable rate, we have seen--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're diverting.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: --the lowest unemployment in fifty years. No, I'm telling you the truth. I was with the President last Wednesday in-- in-- right here in Ohio, and I saw the response he got from citizens in our district. The people lined up on the streets cheering him because--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But those specific examples--

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: --they-- they know we have Gorsuch and Kavanaugh--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --you're-- you feel--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --ethically, are fine with you.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN: I-- I'm saying, that wasn't the charge of the Special Counsel investigation. We're-- we're focused on Mister Mueller's report and I hope it's made public, I hope Bill Barr is-- he said he's going to follow the law, make as much public as he can in consultation with Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller and we will read the report. But what I do know is it's been an amazing two and a half years under the President's leadership and I think the American people appreciate that. And I know the central charge of the special counsel investigation was to look at collusion and there has been zero evidence, zero evidence of any type of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election. Other things that have happened, people who've done things wrong, they're going to be held accountable for that. That's the way it's supposed to work in this great country, and that's-- but-- but-- on the central issue, no evidence whatsoever.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, thank you very much.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back in one moment. Don't go away.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. He is the fourth ranking Democrat in the House leadership and joins us this morning from New York City. Congressman, welcome to FACE THE NATION. No one has seen the details of this report yet. What is it that you were actually looking to get and hear from the attorney general today? What can we expect?

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-New York/@RepJeffries/Democratic Caucus Chairman): Well, the American people deserve to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This is a serious national security investigation. Seventeen different intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered with our election, attacked our democracy, in order to try and artificially place Donald Trump at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That's a very serious thing. Which is why, as House Democrats, we are saying that the Department of Justice should release the entire report, as well as, the underlying documentation. We don't want to see simply crib notes. We don't want to see an outline. We don't want to see an executive summary. We need to see everything so that the American people can draw conclusions on their own.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But redactions, declassifications, I mean this is confidential information. You'd have to go to court. This is going to take some time.

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Well, we certainly understand that to the extent there are sources and methods that need to be protected, those type of redactions are appropriate. But beyond that, we think that in the interest of full disclosure and complete transparency, the American people paid for this report. They deserve to get an understanding of the conclusions that were drawn. Four hundred and twenty members of Congress voted for public disclosure.


REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Zero members of Congress in the House voted against it. The American people overwhelmingly have said--more than eighty percent--Democrats, Republicans and independents, that the report should be disclosed. That's what we expect.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should we expect the attorney general and the special counsel to face questioning in front of your committee? In front of the television cameras?

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Well, I think that certainly is a possibility. But let's take the first step in terms of the full disclosure of the report and the underlying documentation. The American people deserve to know whether Donald Trump is either(a) a legitimate president; (b) a Russian asset; (c) the functional equivalent of an organized crime boss or (d) just a useful idiot who happens to have been victimized by the greatest collection of coincidences in the history of the republic.



MARGARET BRENNAN: --it sounds like you've come to your own conclusions.

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: That's a question. I haven't drawn a conclusion. What I'm saying is that this is a serious--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, said it is very clear the President obstructed justice. He said that before the report even came out or was concluded. Republicans are going to look at this and just say you are making a case for impeachment regardless of what is presented to you by the attorney general.

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: We've been very clear, Democrats didn't run on impeachment. We didn't win the House of Representatives back on impeachment. We are not focused on impeachment. Actually we're focused on executing are for the people agenda. We want to lower healthcare costs for everyday Americans. That's what we promised, that's what we're working on. We want to enact the real infrastructure plan. We have a trillion-dollar plan; it would invest and create at least sixteen million good-paying jobs. We want to fix our crumbling bridges, roads, and tunnels and airports and mass transportation system. And we also want to bring our democracy to life. That's why we passed HR 1. That is our focus, Margaret. That will continue to be our focus moving forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you actually predicting that legislation is going to get through in the next two years and not just be eaten up by all the political arguments around this report and the investigations that are ongoing in the House?

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: I certainly believe that that is possible. We are going to try to do everything we can to try and find common ground. We're going to lead by example and try to move for--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What actually gets done?

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Well, one, we're going to work to try to drive down the high cost of lifesaving prescription drugs. We believe that the federal government should have the power, perhaps, through Medicare, to use its bulk price purchasing ability to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of the American people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How are you going to work--


MARGARET BRENNAN: Sorry, go ahead. How are you going to work with the President on doing that though when some members of your caucus have already been calling for his impeachment going back to two years prior?

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Well, Nancy Pelosi has been very clear about impeachment and I share her view, and so do the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic Caucus. We are not going to proceed unless the case is compelling, the evidence is overwhelming, and, most importantly, public sentiment around impeachment is bipartisan. So, we are going to keep our focus on things like lifesaving prescription drugs and reducing its high price and we believe the President has come to Congress, spoke to the nation during the State of the Union address and said he agrees, we should try to work together to get that done. He has also indicated that he agrees with Democrats that we should try to fix our crumbling infrastructure and we're going to try to get that accomplished as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Congressman, we will watch and see what happens on all those predictions. Interesting to hear some optimism there.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Stay with CBS News across all of our platforms, television, radio, and our digital network, CBSN, for continuing coverage of the Mueller report.

We'll be back in a moment with a lot more FACE THE NATION.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to our panel, Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR. Ed O'Keefe is CBS News political correspondent. Jonathan Turley is a CBS News legal analyst and a law professor at George Washington University and Paula Reid covers the Justice Department as well as the White House for CBS. Paula, we're wait-and-see mode. What do we actually expect to hear today if anything?

PAULA REID (CBS News Correspondent/@PaulaReidCBS): We do expect that the attorney general will release the principal conclusions provided to him by the special counsel. Right now, as we're sitting here, the attorney general, his deputy attorney general, a small group of principal advisers are holed up in the Justice Department, pouring over this, deciding what can become public. A lot of this, though, is being driven by the deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He has actually been the liaison between the special counsel and the Justice Department throughout this process. So, Barr is relying on him heavily. So for anyone who is hoping that the full report gets released, probably bad news for them, because Rosenstein has been clear he does not believe that declination decisions should be released. He's not a fan of releasing the whole report. He wants to stick to the regulation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that is exactly at the heart of what we just heard. Some of the Democrats say they're going to argue about. We'll have analysis of all of that when we come back in a moment.

Some of our stations are going to leave us now, but we will return to talk more about what is in the Mueller report and the future of the battle against ISIS.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We return now to our panel. And there is so much to digest, yet so little known, Paula, about what is actually in this report. You know, a lot has been made, as you heard from, some of the President's defenders about the idea there were no further indictments recommended. Does that mean the question of criminality has been closed on here?

PAULA REID: It's great news for anyone in the Trump Tower meetings, specifically, Jared Kushner or Donald Trump Junior, because while that clearly looked like part of the counter-- an intelligence operation on the part of the Russians, it was unclear whether or not anyone in there had committed a crime by showing up. Certainly Paul Manafort should have known better, but it was an open question about Donald Trump Junior and Jared Kushner. So, great news for them that no more indictments. But as we know, the current Justice Department does not believe that a sitting President can be indicted, so now the question is what if anything will they say about the President, because if Mueller found any evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the President, assumed he would pass that off to the attorney general, and then it's up to him. What do you do with that information? Do you pass it off to Congress for possible impeachment proceedings? You know as well as anyone, Barr has a pretty broad definition of executive power. And so he may be more willing to defer to the President on these questions of possible obstruction of justice. So, that's the question we don't have an answer to right now and why I don't think you're seeing your champagne corks popping at the White House, even though the President, of course, doesn't drink.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it-- it-- but he does tweet--

PAULA REID: He does.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --and we have seen nothing on the Twitter feed yet, Jonathan, about this, which up until now the President has said this is all a hoax, like there's nothing really to trust in this probe. But if there are no further indictments recommended, does he-- I mean how does he handle this relationship with his, essentially, you know, the lawyer for the country--

JONATHAN TURLEY (CBS News Legal Analyst/@JonathanTurley): Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the attorney general who works for him and the American people?

JONATHAN TURLEY: Well, Bill Barr is going to do exactly what he thinks the law commands. I have known him for years. And he is-- is someone who is not-- you're not able to push him in any direction. I mean he is built like a linebacker. He litigates like a linebacker. He will do exactly what he thinks the law requires. Now, the fact that there's no indictments coming out really does suggest that there was no collusion-related crime, because even though you can't indict the President, you can certainly indict other people, and you can't collude alone.


JONATHAN TURLEY: So, he can do a lot of things alone. He can tweet alone, but he can't collude alone. So that may, in fact, be a vindication. But that only takes you so far, right? I mean this report, if it gets out, could have a lot of damaging information. You don't want to end up like you're Big Julie on Guys and Dolls, saying thirty-three arrests and no convictions. That's not exactly a powerful argument for a President to make.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you heard from Congressman Schiff. I mean, putting the politics aside, he-- he sort of drawing this line saying, you could have still seen conspiracy but it didn't rise to the level of being able to indict.

JONATHAN TURLEY: Well, I think that--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, will the President ever be able to clear himself, essentially?

JONATHAN TURLEY: I think-- look, let's not fool ourselves. Most people are going to read the lead on this story, if it comes out that no collusion was found, for most people in this country that vindicates the President of the United States. I mean this is as-- this is as close as DC gets to an organized sport, but for the rest of the country, they will look at that lead. And he has said there is no collusion. And if Mueller agrees with him, it will vindicate him in the eyes of a lot of the citizens.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And how do Democrats digest this, Ed?

ED O'KEEFE (CBS News Political Correspondent/@edokeefe): I can't wait to see because, you know, it runs the gamut from those who have been under the impression that he will get off scot-free to some sense of there will be other things we need to investigate and justifiably so. What I found interesting this past week, there was a poll from CNN that found sixty-eight percent of Democrats support impeachment. That's a high number, nearly seven in ten, but it's down twelve points from December when it was eighty percent of Democrats believed that way. Why has that happened? Was it because Nancy Pelosi has convinced him that he's not worth it? Is it because they, too, now are reading between the lines and reading all our coverage and realizing that maybe there isn't that much there and we should focus on other things? Or is it the realization that what worked for them in November, focusing on health care, focusing on the economy, education and other issues and not Donald Trump got them into office, got them back the House majority, and might, eventually, help them win the White House? We'll see.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sue, you heard from Speaker Pelosi this decision she made that she says she will boycott this Gang of Eight, the-- the key members of Congress who are supposed to be or expect to be briefed by the attorney general on the findings, and that would include more information that's been made public. What is the point--

SUSAN DAVIS (NPR/@DaviSusan): Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --of boycotting the briefing?

SUSAN DAVIS: I mean Democrats have made very clear that transparency is going to be their entire strategy here. We know-- we don't know what the report says, but we know principal findings alone are-- is not going to be enough. I do think it is interesting that the call for transparency is coming from across the political spectrum, although-- though their motivations are very, very different. I think Democrats still say, there's two different standards here: there's reasonable doubt in a courtroom; and there is a political standard by which Congress might want to continue to pursue. Republicans I think, to Jonathan's point, that they see this as a potential to clear the President at least in political terms in the eyes of the public. So as much as they can get out in those competing prospects. For Nancy Pelosi, I don't think she wants to be in a position where she-- it's known that she has gone into a meeting with Bill Barr and knows what has been in that and he can't talk about it. So in some ways, I can see it's-- it's self-preservation on her part to say, anything you are going to tell me I want all of these members to know, too. And I do think, more broadly, like, poll-- politics, yes. But this report, and at the core of it, is something that the public really does have a right to know and as much transparency as possible a lot of lawmakers I talked to say they want the public to know it so they can feel confident in their elections.

ED O'KEEFE: To that point, Hakeem Jeffries made the point, too. Four hundred twenty to nothing--


ED O'KEEFE: --the House approved of measure--


ED O'KEEFE: --calling on the Justice Department to release the full report. Nobody went home this past week, had to head town hall and got yelled at for voting yes on that. The public wants to see it. It could be cathartic for people-- for people, frankly, because of that. The other thing to keep in mind, I talked to Chris Coons of Delaware yesterday, he makes a-- a solid point that the Justice Department has done what it has done legally. Congress has the right and the expectation to do what it's going to do politically and constitutionally to oversee this government.


ED O'KEEFE: Whether people like that or not. The question will be in the tone and the focus of those investigations. Do they go after the raw material because they're convinced that there's something in there that merits more investigation? Or do they just step back and say, look, there's all these other issues? The Trump hotel, he keeps drawing money from that he could be violating the emoluments clause--all the things that are going on at the EPA, decisions made by the Pentagon and the State Department regarding foreign affairs. If they focus in on that kind of transparency and accountability, they may emerge from that, okay, because the American public will realize they are just looking at the rest of the government and doing their job.

PAULA REID: Well, certainly no one wants to vote against transparency, but let me try to argue the other side, which is traditionally in this country you can be investigated by law enforcement. And if you are not charged, they don't want that evidence out there hanging over you. And I know many people have argued, what about the public interest? Is there any investigation where there was ever such significant public interest? Well, yes, let's look at the investigation into Secretary Clinton's use of a private server. Comey there, he decided to err on the side of transparency. And how did that work out? Every word he uttered at that press conference was parsed and it was weaponized for political purposes, not just against her but also against the FBI and the Justice Department. It was used to undermine the legitimacy of the entire organization. Every single word he used, every adjective. Who advised him on that? Well, clearly, they weren't being serious. I think we really have to contemplate the merit of releasing evidence against people who have not been criminally charged.

JONATHAN TURLEY: Yeah. And then--

ED O'KEEFE: Is that Rosenstein's reason then for holding back?

PAULA REID: I think that is part-- this is philosophy. I don't know if it's justification. Remember, he is the one who wrote a memo supporting Comey's firing. Now, there's a lot going on there. But this is someone who has been pretty consistent in terms of not releasing these so-called declination decisions. Not releasing the-- the reason behind not charging someone because in doing that you air evidence against someone who has not been charged.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And privately Republicans do repeat what you just said, which is this is a dangerous precedent to set-- to set, though publicly they challenge and champion transparency. But, legally, here, what are the next steps? And on this question of obstruction, you heard Congressman Jordan say, no, no, no, no, this was all about co-- collusion. Anything else in here is outside the special counsel's mandate?

JONATHAN TURLEY: No. Obviously, it was not outside the mandate. In fact, the mandate had-- was expanded.


JONATHAN TURLEY: Now the problem for-- for Donald Trump is if he is cleared of collusion, and maybe even obstruction by the special counsel, who won't clear him necessarily as-- as much as saying I can't find a really actionable criminal case to bring, that's basically breaking out of the orbit of Jupiter, and you still have to go through the asteroid belt. I mean there's now a hundred different investigations that are going to hit you. They are smaller, but there's more of them. And you have to be more nimble. And that means he's got to have greater self-restraint. But it doesn't help when you saw with-- with-- with Congressman Jeffries, you get that glimpse of what's coming, right? Jeffries talked about, look, there's four options here. Either he's a Russian mole, a useful idiot. And I forget the other ones A through D, there was no E, except all the above, right? E could be he didn't commit these crimes, but you-- you notice that's not on the list, and that's going to be what we are going to see coming out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The knowingly part.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Not that the Russian interference is in question, but that the President knowingly colluded, coordinated, conspired.

JONATHAN TURLEY: Yeah. He might not have committed a crime.


JONATHAN TURLEY: I mean, this is-- you know, I-- I guess it's where the process of grieving from, you know, denial to acceptance but it is possible the President did not commit a crime.

PAULA REID: That seems most likely. We have no evidence so far--

ED O'KEEFE: Right.

PAULA REID: --that I've seen that the President has committed a crime. And you know well-- very well. Once you get into obstruction of justice, a lot of that will fall on the attorney general's interpretation of what that means.


PAULA REID: And he has a pretty deferential definition in terms of what executive powers entail, specifically, when it comes to firing your FBI director.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that's not necessarily absolving anything in the Southern District.

PAULA REID: Right. And the Southern District should concern the President.


PAULA REID: That's a whole another can of worms. He's being investigated in not only his business, his inauguration fund, and these outstanding questions about campaign finance violations. You have Michael Cohen cooperating in that case. And it's easy to impeach Michael Cohen's credibility, but you also have AMI, the publisher of the National Enquirer and its chairman and CEO David Pecker. That is a case where the President has been directly implicated as Individual One. It should concern the President. And I-- I think that his-- his toolbox that he has used quite effectively to attack the special counsel may not work as well in the Southern District.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So what does a bombshell look like if that is a benchmark for impeachment?

SUSAN DAVIS: You know, for-- if-- if you look at the standard that Nancy Pelosi has said, that anything that move towards impeachment would have to be overwhelming and bipartisan, and anything that could get overwhelming and bipartisan support, if you think about how polarized the Congress and the country is would have to be something that directly implicates the President.

ED O'KEEFE: Right.

SUSAN DAVIS: And that is such a high bar. And I do think politically speaking when you look at the Democrats, how much political weight they have put into the Mueller report over the past twenty-two months, every question asked about impeachment, about oversight of this administration, let's see what Mueller says, let's see what Mueller says. What if Mueller says to your point that the President didn't commit any crimes? Then I do think that takes a lot of the air out of the balloon of Democrats. And as they pursue these documents, as they pursue this oversight of this investigation, do they have the own political risk of, yes, looking like they're on a witch hunt?

JONATHAN TURLEY: But (INDISTINCT) the Southern District of New York correct is they've--

SUSAN DAVIS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

JONATHAN TURLEY: --already said the campaign finance crime by Michael Cohen was committed with one other person, who was that? He said I was ordered to do this by Donald Trump. It looks a little odd for the Southern District to say, yeah, he committed a crime but this guy didn't. So what could be dangerous is if there comes out a-- a finding that he could be indicted on that issue--


JONATHAN TURLEY: --but it would have to wait-- and the statute of limitations might extend beyond 2020.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that takes us into a whole other conversation, but we have to leave it there. Thank you, all of you, for helping to make sense of this. I know it's complicated and confusing for a lot of people, including all of us at times.

So we will await more detail from the actual report. We will come back with a different story, a look at the future of ISIS. Territorial defeat, does it mean they are no longer a threat?


MARGARET BRENNAN: The last remnants of the ISIS caliphate that covered much of Iraq and Syria five years ago were reduced to nothing this week, marking a milestone in the years-long effort to put an end to the terror group. Retired Marine Corps General John Allen was once the special presidential envoy to the global coalition to defeat the group under President Obama. He is now president of the Brookings Institution. Good to have you here.

JOHN R. ALLEN (Brookings Institution President): It's good to see you again, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do we call this victory?

JOHN R. ALLEN: I think it's a way point in the process of eliminating this threat. We saw that this organization would, eventually, become a three-headed monster, if you will. One of it-- one of those heads was the core of the organization in Iraq and Syria. Another is the provincial dimension of it today, which is seen in multiple locations around the world. And the third area is-- is located on the internet. So I think that there has been significant progress in eliminating one of the principal dimensions of this threat. And I have to tell you, in the last forty-eight hours, as I have seen the-- the final operations unfolding in Syria, my thoughts go back to the thousands and thousands of people who suffered from this incredible, abhorrent terror group, but also the thousands who sacrificed their lives to deliver us to this point. And I understand that even a news crew hit an IED coming out of the-- the celebration. And so the sacrifices of our media in covering it, as well, very important I think to this whole process.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think that's a great point for you to underscore. I want to ask you, the President's language has kind of changed in the past few days. He has declared, you know, victory and said he needs to be given credit for it, but also pointed that, okay, there is still going to be a threat online. In fact, he said, "While on occasion these cowards will resurface, they have lost all prestige and power. They're losers and will always be losers." Is-- is the internet the real battlefield?

JOHN R. ALLEN: No, there's plenty of fighting still to go on. Even in the area that we called the province or core ISIL where the caliphate was at its strongest. There are--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So the threat's not gone on the ground in Syria?

JOHN R. ALLEN: Oh, no, no. There are still thousands of these folks that are unaccounted for. And I-- and I think that we'll-- what we will see in both Iraq and Syria in the months to come will be extensive mop-up operations to try to eliminate those elements that have gone to ground, that-- that will organize in sleeper cells and so on to continue the attack. They haven't given up one iota of their narrative or their obligations or their objectives. And we're going to see that-- we have to eliminate that-- that threat on the ground, and we'll see continued operations not just there, but if you do a-- a connection of the dots of where the provinces of Daesh have been attacking, Daesh being the Arabic acronym. They're clustered in Libya. Ansar al-Sharia is a-- is a Daesh province. Boko Haram is a Daesh province. Ansar Bait al-Maqdis in the Sinai is a Daesh province. Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines. If you see the cluster of these attacks, this is still quite a virulent and dangerous group, as well as being on the internet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, on the ground, though, in that-- the so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria, General Votel, the top-- top U.S. commander--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --in the Middle East testified recently. And he said the fighters remain unrepentant, unbroken, radicalized. This is a generational problem, and they're melting away.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Four hundred U.S. service people will be left in Syria. Is that an adequate number to take on that threat?

JOHN R. ALLEN: Mm-Mm. Well, first, Jo is-- Ge-- General Votel is exactly correct. He's one of the greatest soldiers we've minted in the United States, number one. Number two, the forces that were there were overseeing the final operations of the SDF, the Kurds and the Arabs that we've been supporting.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The two thousand that the President has been asked to provide.

JOHN R. ALLEN: That's-- that's correct. And those forces-- their mission was not over for some period of time. Now, eventually, we'd bring them home, and the President is right to want to bring them home, but they were overseeing the essential next phase of this, which is the stabilization of the population. And the paying for that stabilization was happening through our European partners, through the coalition and our allies who've been with us all through this fight. And the-- the critical point about what Jo is saying-- what General Votel is saying here is that if you don't stabilize the population and eliminate the basic human causal factors that makes an organization like Daesh attractive, then we-- we face the potential for a reflash.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that's something President Trump says he's not interested in doing.

JOHN R. ALLEN: Well, that's a problem. Then are we prepared to go back and fight again? I mean, we've been in-- in Iraq now twice. Because once we came out too early, and second time we went back because of-- we-- we didn't finish the job.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And Baghdadi is still at large, the leader of ISIS.

JOHN R. ALLEN: We'll-- we'll get him.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your prediction is?

JOHN R. ALLEN: We'll get him.



MARGARET BRENNAN: I'd also want to ask you on another topic.


MARGARET BRENNAN: This week there were some memos that became public from the Marine commandant--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --Robert Neller. And they were published-- and he describes the current deployments to the U.S. border, we're talking about here at home, as really hurting and posing a, quote, "unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency." Before Secretary of Defense Mattis resigned, he said these deployments were actually kind of good practice. He said they were very good training. Which is it? Should we be concerned our military resources are being used in this way?

JOHN R. ALLEN: Well, it's-- it's both actually. The-- the wise commander, and I would simply say the federal forces, don't normally deploy inside the United States. So that's the first unusual dimension of this. But the wise commander who is-- is ordered to deploy those forces is going to try to make the most out of that deployment and try to get a decent training return on-- on that measure. But, you know, General Neller is a great Marine. He's been a great commandant. And he has assessed and it is his moral responsibility--


JOHN R. ALLEN: --to provide best military advice to the senior civilian leadership of the United States. He has assessed that both the deployments and the costs associated with those deployments will be paid for in Marine Corps readiness. Marine Corps is the nation's 911 force. It has to be ready to go at a drop of a hat. And if we're stuck on the border--


JOHN R. ALLEN: --or if our resources are being drained away to be on the border or to provide for infrastructure development on the border, we pay that price in the readiness of the 911 force.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That is quite a warning. Thank you.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Yesterday an explosive device detonated near the NBC News team reporting in Syria, killing a local employee working with them. It is a tragic reminder of the challenges that reporters face when reporting on conflicts abroad. As the fight against ISIS takes a new turn, CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata and his team report for us on what it's been like covering the final push against ISIS in Syria.

(Begin VT)

CHARLIE D'AGATA (CBS News Foreign Correspondent/@charliecbs): Before creeping up to the cliff side overlooking ISIS, we were given strict instructions.

ABDUL KADAR (ph): They don't want any-- any light facing the other side--

ERIN LYLE (ph): Okay.

ABDUL KADAR: --otherwise we will be exposed to snipers.

CARL TAYLOR (ph): Yeah.

CHARLIE D'AGATA: No sooner had producer Abdul Kadar said those words, then we came under fire.

Yeah. It's coming in.

Those are bullets raining in overhead.

We just heard fire coming in over that ridge. Do we really want to go?

Apparently, no, we don't. Wasn't an option. So, on we went. As we peered into the burning ISIS camp below, one prevailing thought was, how on Earth did we get here? We'd been covering the final fight against ISIS since early January. It should have been no surprise that the militant group's reign of terror over nearly ten million people was never going to end easily or quickly. But nobody imagined our home would become a military base run by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces for nearly three months.

Pretty austere.

One of the biggest challenges for producer Steve Berryman was trying to get any communications out.

STEVE BERRYMAN: Well, to drive--

CHARLIE D'AGATA: Nights were bitterly cold, at times just hovering around freezing. Our only source of heat was the fire we kept burning. But over time we managed to make life a bit more bearable.

This is a lot better than it was. Because when we first got here, the floors were filthy, so they've all been cleaned. And we brought some beds in here and some pretty horrible mattresses, but they'll do for as long as we're going to be here.

We didn't want to burden our SDF hosts, so we brought in our own food--

ERIN LYLE: All right.

CHARLIE D'AGATA: --which, thanks to producer Erin Lyle and Carl Taylor on security actually wasn't all that bad.

ERIN LYLE: Pasta with tuna. Charlie, you ready?

CHARLIE D'AGATA: With no running water, showers had to be improvised.

ERIN LYLE: Who wants it next? It's pretty awesome.

CHARLIE D'AGATA: As the fight against ISIS moved further south, so did we.

We just entered Baghuz, the last foothold, if you want to call it that, of ISIS, where they've been fighting for weeks to try to push ISIS fighters, militants back. This is as close as we've ever gotten to ISIS. Actually, it's as close as I've ever gotten in this conflict. It doesn't exactly fill me with confidence.

So this way.

A day spent avoiding snipers on the front line with SDF soldiers stretched into night. We had no choice but to sleep outside, driving further back at that time of night was deemed even riskier than staying put.

MAN: Morning.


CHARLIE D'AGATA: Cameraman Abdi Cadani freshened up.

ABDI CADANI: That's it.




CHARLIE D'AGATA: Did you sleep at all?

ABDI CADANI: No. I kept thinking someone was going to walk up and shoot us.



CHARLIE D'AGATA: I wasn't worried about that. It's just the air strikes. And the rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat. There were a lot of air strikes last night.

Soon we were on the move again. We did return to that cliff overlooking Baghuz just as the fighting was coming to an end. It seemed somehow fitting that a terror group that had unleashed such brutality upon so many innocent people should face a final humiliating defeat here in a scrap heap in a no-name town. And we had seen it all to the bitter end.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're thankful to report that Charlie and his team have made it safely out of Syria and are headed home. And we send our deepest condolences to our colleagues at NBC News as they mourn the loss of one of their own.

We'll be back in a moment.


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

Check back soon for a full transcript of this "Face the Nation" broadcast.

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