Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on March 31, 2019

3/31: Face The Nation

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

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont (read more
  • Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida (watch)
  • 2020 Panel: Ed O'Keefe, Jamal Simmons, Caitlin Huey-Burns, and Jamelle Bouie (watch)
  • Political Panelists: Jamelle Bouie, Jonah Goldberg, Anna Palmer, and Kelsey Snell (watch)

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


MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, March 31st. I'm Margaret Brennan and this is FACE THE NATION.

President Trump celebrated the end of the Mueller investigation out on the 2020 campaign trail this week.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The collusion delusion is over.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As congressional Democrats learned they'll have to wait until mid-April to see attorney general William Barr's redacted version of the report's findings.

Another stop on Mister Trump's victory lap, Capitol Hill, where the President declared he was taking back an issue that helped Democrats win control of the House.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care. You watch.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That came as a shock to Republicans who've struggled for years to eliminate Obamacare. We'll talk to Florida's Rick Scott, one senator that President Trump has assigned to come up with a plan to replace it.

And there was, yet, another surprise at week's end.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So there's a very good likelihood that I'll be closing the border next week.

MARGARET BRENNAN: A threat to shut parts of the southern border to stop the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico, and plans to slash aid to Central American countries for not doing more to reduce the flow of migrants to the U.S.

2020 Democratic candidates pounced. Beto O'Rourke formally kicked off his campaign from his hometown of El Paso.

BETO O'ROURKE: For more than a hundred years this community has welcomed generations of immigrants trying to escape brutality, violence, and crushing poverty to find a better life in this country for themselves and for their kids, that's for sure.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk with Senator Bernie Sanders about his campaign. Plus, allegations from a former Nevada lawmaker that former Vice President Joe Biden touched and kissed her without consent.

Analysis on that story and others, are just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We begin this morning with Vermont independent senator and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Bernie Sanders. He joins us from Burlington. Good morning to you, Senator. Let's--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vermont/@SenSanders/Democratic Presidential Candidate): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --start of, because I do want to get to some of your platform issues, but let's start with these allegations from Lucy Flores. She is a Nevada politician who you had endorsed and who in the past has been supportive of you. She hasn't endorsed a candidate in this particular race, but she's accused Vice President Joe Biden of inappropriate touching. You know her. Do you believe her? What do you make of this?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I have no reason not to believe Lucy. And-- and I think what this speaks to is the need to fundamentally change the culture of this country and to create environments where women feel comfortable and feel safe. And that's something we have got to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to read a statement from the vice president who said, it's is a lengthy one, but in just part of it he says, "In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once, never, did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention." That's a general denial, but Ms. Flores was on CNN this morning, Senator, and she said that really this needs to be taken more seriously as a party, suggesting that Democrats aren't taking it seriously enough. And she said she's coming forth--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I don't know, but that's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, she says she's coming forth now because she thinks it's disqualifying for Joe Biden. Do you think it's disqualifying?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I think that's a decision for the vice president to make. I'm not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody but her point is absolutely right. This is an issue not just the Democrats or Republicans the entire country has got to take seriously. It is not acceptable that when a woman goes to work or is in any kind of environment that she feels anything less than comfortable and safe. And this is an issue the entire country has got to work on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I know your own campaign has had some reckoning with this as well in the past.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: And-- and, Margaret, we have established the strongest protocols to prevent this from happening of any campaign in history.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to get to the issue of health care. The President this week said he wants the courts to strike down Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. But to be fair, Senator, you want to replace Obamacare, too. You want to replace it with Medicare for all, this government-run, government-financed program. So if the courts strike down--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the ACA, does it ultimately help you?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: No. No. Look, yes, Trump has an idea on health care. His idea is to throw thirty-two million Americans off of the health insurance they have, doing away with insurance for kids who are twenty-six years of age or younger who are on their parent's plans, doing away with the protections that the ACA has for pre-existing conditions, Margaret. That means if you have cancer, you have heart disease, you have diabetes. If Trump gets his way the cost of health insurance for you will be so high that many people literally will not be able to afford it. Thousands of people will literally die. That's Trump's health insurance plan. My plan's just a little bit different. I think we should join the rest of the industrialized world. Guarantee health care to all people as a right. End the absurdity of the United States spending twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation while our life expectancy is actually going down and our health care outcomes are worse than many other countries. And by the way, we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Margaret, let me make a campaign promise to you and you can repeat this, play this tape over if I'm elected President. And that is, if I am elected President I'm going to cut prescription drug costs in this country by fifty percent so that we are not paying any more than other major countries are paying. Maybe we can do better than that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How are you going to do that?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Because we will look at the average costs of prescription drugs in Canada, U.K., Germany, Japan, and France.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We will look at their average costs, which are fifty percent lower than they are in the United States, and we will do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: And if the pharmaceutical industry--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: --if the pharmaceutical industry which made fifty-- the five major companies made fifty billion dollars in profits last year. They pay their CEOs outrageous compensation packages. If they don't like that, then we'll take a look at their patents. But you have people--

MARGARET BRENNAN: When are you going to re-introduce your Medicare for all plan in this Congress? So you've already got five--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We are going to do--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --people supporting it?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We are going to do that within the next couple of weeks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Five senators. Next couple of weeks?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We are going to do-- yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So which--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: And-- and by the way, when we-- when we do that--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: --what we understand is that it is just not acceptable that thirty million Americans have no health insurance and even more are underinsured with high deductibles and high copayments.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you won't--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: So where we are right now-- I'm sorry. Go ahead.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So I want to also ask you, though, because we have what the President is calling a crisis at the border. He's threatening to shutdown portions of it this week. He has given the order to cut off aid to Central American countries. Do you think this helps? Do you think this hurts? And can Congress stop this cut off in aid?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, we're going to do everything we can to stop it. It's totally absurd. Look, you have--

MARGARET BRENNAN: How can you stop--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: --a terrible--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The State Department says--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, you just--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --they're already trying to enact the cuts.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, you can stop it by overriding what he is doing and making sure that we fund these programs. Look here is the story, you have a terrible humanitarian crisis. You have women and children traveling a thousand miles or more, often by foot, in order to escape the violence and poverty in their countries. So what we need to do, of course, is (A) comprehensive immigration reform but (B) we need to make sure that our borders are secure but also we need a humane policy at the border in which we are not yanking tiny children--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So would you keep--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: --from the arms of their mothers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --these children in detention?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: That's not what America is about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Or--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Pardon me?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you keep these children in detention longer or deport them faster? What would you do?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: You need a humane policy. These are-- you know when you-- when you lock up children, when you separate children from their mothers-- this is a traumatic situation which these kids and-- children, many of them will never recover from. You need a humane humanitarian policy at the border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You, today, have hit this benchmark, you know, end of first quarter funding financing for the campaign. I believe you said you wanted one million donors by this time. Did you meet--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: One million--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that goal?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: --contributions. One million--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you meet the goal?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: --contributions. I'm not quite sure. But I am enormously impressed by the many, many, hundreds of thousands of Americans who are making contributions. Many of them are very small contributions. I am also impressed by the fact that we have over one million people from every state in this country who have volunteered to work on what will be an unprecedented grassroots campaign. Look, Margaret, the way we win the Democratic nomination, the way we beat Trump--who in my mind is the most dangerous President in modern American history--is through a massive grassroots effort, which demands that we have an economy and a government which works for all of us and not just the one percent. That we end this massive level of income and wealth inequality where three of the wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom half of Americans, while at the same time over half the people in this country are working paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford a health care.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you be releasing your-- your tax return? Senator Gillibrand did so this week or some of them.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Yeah. We will. I mean we have it all done. And it's just the question of dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. Yes, we will, absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: And by the way, let me challenge President Trump to do the same. Trust me, we do not have investments in Russia or Saudi Arabia or any place else. Yes, we will be releasing them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, we'll be watching your campaign. Look forward to talking to you again sometime soon.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott who joins us from Naples this morning. Senator, welcome to FACE THE NATION. You got your work cut out for you. President Trump said you are one of the senators in charge of coming up with a Republican alternative to Obamacare. When are we going to see your proposal?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT (R-Florida/@SenRickScott): Well, first of, I'm glad the-- the President cares about health care. I've-- I've-- I ran the largest hospital company. I care about the cost of health care and that's what I've focused on. I know it's going to be tough. I look forward to, you know, to seeing what the President's going to put out. But with Nancy Pelosi in the House it's going to be tough to get something done. But we do know that Medicare for all which Senator Sanders is all in on is going to just ruin our health care system.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you-- are you--

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: It's going to ruin Medicare.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm sorry, just to clarify did you just say that--

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: And it's also going to ruin private insurance.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you just say that you expect the White House to come forward with the proposal first?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Well I know-- I know-- I know in the end the White House is going to have to have their plan and I know it's going to be difficult with Nancy Pelosi. But what I'm going to focus on is how do you drive down costs? The Democrats constantly focus on access. The problem is the cost of health care is too high in this country. That's why I put a bill out this week that requires transparency at the pharmacy, at the-- with the insurance companies and says we're not going to allow pharmaceutical companies to charge us more than what they charge in Europe.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: I had the same issue when I ran a large hospital company. And I said-- I did the exact same thing, I said I had hospitals in Europe. I said I'm not paying more for drugs in Europe than I'm paying in the United States. It's-- it's not-- it's not fair to Americans and that's why I'm going to-- I'm going to work hard to get that passed--

MARGARET BRENNAN: It sounds like you and Senator Sanders agree on that.

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Well, we don't agree on much, but I'm glad he cares about prescription drug prices. But the-- the problem the Democrats have is everything they keep doing is raising the cost of health care. Let's look at Obamacare--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, Senator--

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: --premiums went up, co-payments went up--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can-- can you just put a button on this, though?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: --deductibles went up.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Clearly, the White House is going to have to weigh in, and the White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was on other television programs this morning saying he can promise no one will be left without health care if Obamacare is struck down. But as you've just said there is no plan yet. So how can you promise that-- like a state like yours where it has the most people reliant on Obamacare of any state--how can you promise them they won't be left hanging?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Well, first of, Margaret, my focus is on in how you drive down the cost of health care? That-- that's what's causing people health care-- health care issues. You talked, you know, I've been talking to a lot of people in my state about the-- like insulin costs, how-- why in world would they go up the way they have? Now, the other thing--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that's a cost of a plan that--

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: I-- you know-- whatever happens with Obamacare--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --what if they won't have a plan at all if Obamacare is struck down? Can you promise them that won't be the case?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Well, first of, I'm going to make-- I-- I think it's first of it's very important that we make sure that people have a pre-existing condition can get in-- can get a health care plan. Getting the health care plan that they can afford and I-- and I want to work on that with other senators to make sure that happens. We talked about it at the Budget Committee last week and everybody was supportive of that. I want to make sure individuals can stay on their parent's plans. But-- but this idea of taking- the government taking over health care--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: --and running all of health care has never worked. It's not going to work. We're going-- we're going to ruin the entire system. Let's focus on the problem we have. The problem is not access the problem is the cost of health care and the unbelievable inflation we've seen. Let's start with drug prices.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Why are drug prices going up the way they have?

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you think this piece-by-piece approach is the best way to do it rather than a wholesale Republican alternative?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Look, I-- I want to listen to everybody's ideas. I have sat down with the pharmaceutical companies, the PBMs, the insurance companies, the hospital industry, the pharmacies to ask them their ideas. I-- I think the best way of doing this is discuss everybody's ideas and see what we can do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that-- that sounds like--

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Look, let's focus on--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the piecemeal. Can--

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: --instead of what the Democrats keep doing, is access--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --can you-- can you say--

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: --I want to focus on driving down costs.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I-- I'm sure people will like things cheaper. They always do. In terms of what they'll actually be able to get though, can you say that the Republican alternative will do things like guarantee access to maternity care or care for newborn children? Mental health? Some of the things that are guaranteed in Obamacare.

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: First of, it's very important to me that people get health care. I-- I will only support something where people have access to health care but it's got to be at a price they can afford.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But on those particular instances--

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: I grew up in a very poor family. I watched my mom cry that she couldn't get health care for my brother.

MARGARET BRENNAN: On those particular things though, would it provide maternity care?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Well, of course. I mean--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: But, Margaret, this-- the President just put out a marker what he wants to accomplish. I-- I think all of us want to be helpful to try to get something done. We know it's going to be difficult with Nancy Pelosi and with the Democrats proposing Medicare for all. We know that. At the same time, what I'm going to do is what I believe we can get done. Let's focus first on prescription drug prices. They're way too high.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: We shouldn't be paying more than what they pay in Europe. It's unfair to Americans. And let's go piece by piece to try to fix it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And don't expect a wholesale plan until after 2020?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: You know I-- look, I-- I'm going to continue to work on-- I'm-- I'm a business guy. The way I got my stuff done in businesses every day I said what could I get done today?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: And I know a lot of people liked it-- liked the grand bargains. I personally don't believe in grand bargains. I believe in piece by piece fixing things.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Got it and, quickly, do you support the President's call to cut off aid to Central American countries who are sending migrants into the United States?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: I'd have to learn more about it. The-- when I went down to the border--we have a crisis. We need-- we need more barriers. We have operational control, we need more people and we need more technology. I'm very disappointed that I walked into this job, what, three months ago with the government shut down and the Democrats don't want to give any money for border security, that's wrong.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, thank you very much. We'll be back in one minute with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Don't go away.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Last month the top three elected officials in Virginia, all Democrats, became entangled in a series of scandals. The governor, Ralph Northam, and the Secretary of State, Mark Herring, faced accusations of racist behavior in their past, but the accusations facing Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax were of a different sort. Two women, Doctor Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, accused Fairfax of sexual assault. He has denied the allegations. CBS THIS MORNING co-host Gayle King spoke with both women separately in their first television interview since they came forward with their allegations. Doctor Tyson is a political science professor at Scripps College. Here is some of their conversation.

(Begin VT)

GAYLE KING (CBS THIS MORNING): What do you want to happen to Justin Fairfax? Why are you coming forward?

DR. VANESSA TYSON (Fairfax Accuser/CBS THIS MORNING/Professor-Scripps College): In my ideal world--

GAYLE KING: Mm-Hm.

DR. VANESSA TYSON: --I'd want him to resign. There were two main reasons why I came forward, right. There's a million reasons not to come forward, right. It's tough. I'm not going to lie. But, you know, I look at my beautiful students. I have the most wonderful kids. They're brilliant and thoughtful and kind and passionate, and they want to make the world a better place. And I teach politics, and then they want to get involved, and all I can think of is that I don't want this to ever, ever, ever happen to them. And then the second thing that I think is that the Virginia people need to know who it is that they elected. They need to know. I think the Virginia people, the voters of Virginia have a right to know, you know, both my story and Meredith's story, right. I think there should be a public hearing. I think that--

GAYLE KING: Not an investigation?

DR. VANESSA TYSON: There is a difference between hearings and investigations. Investigations often allow people in power to sweep things under the rug, right? That's just, you know, kind of a pattern that as a political scientist that I have witnessed and-- and seen emerge, right?

GAYLE KING: A hearing? You would be prepared to testify in front of the-- the Virginia general assembly.

DR. VANESSA TYSON: In front of the Virginia general assembly under oath. I would want Meredith, myself, and Mister Fairfax to be able to speak, to be heard, and particularly for survivors I think this is incredibly important. They need to be heard. We need to be seen, right. We need to be treated as the human beings that we are.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: You can watch more of Gayle's conversation with Doctor Tyson tomorrow on CBS THIS MORNING, and on Tuesday's broadcast, her interview with Meredith Watson.

We'll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to take a closer look at how this week's news is impacting the 2020 campaign. Jamelle Bouie is a columnist for the New York Times and a CBS News political analyst, Caitlin Huey-Burns is a CBS News political reporter and part of our political team at CBSN, Jamal Simmons is a Democratic strategist and a host on Hill.TV, and Ed O'Keefe is a political correspondent here at CBS News.

Ed, let's start with you. Bernie Sanders making his case, going back to one of the hits, Medicare for all, which has now become mainstream. I mean at least five candidates have signed on to his plan that was kind of out there in 2016. Should we assume that this is going to be sort of the dividing point for Democrats?

ED O'KEEFE (CBS News Political Correspondent/@edokeefe): It's certainly one of them. And-- and, you know, a lot of people commented as he was entering the race that in some ways Bernie Sanders should kind of won the 2016 cycle because all of his ideas have now become, essentially, party orthodox here or at least open for more vigorous debate. And when it comes to Medicare for all, certainly that is one of them. The fact that the party is now comfortable having a-- a more robust discussion about it, I think is a signal that he and-- and Elizabeth Warren certainly have dominated the first few months when it comes to the ideas debate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

ED O'KEEFE: Sanders also likely to dominate the money race when-- when fund-raising totals come in starting tomorrow.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He didn't give a-- didn't give a lot of details.

ED O'KEEFE: He did not.

ED O'KEEFE: It's funny how he fact checked you but then couldn't answer the question--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

ED O'KEEFE: --about whether or not he's actually met his goal. But everyone presumes that he could-- that he will be on top of the money race and-- and very well could be north of thirty million dollars raised, which is a pretty good start.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jamal, last time you were on you were talking about some of the limits though of Bernie's appeal.

JAMAL SIMMONS (Hill.TV/@JamalSimmons/Democratic Strategist): Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you see him changing the way he campaigns in a way that-- that broadens his appeal, particularly to black voters?

JAMAL SIMMONS: He's certainly trying. His campaign leadership is much more diverse than it had been in the past, like he's going places where there are people who are different. The question becomes how can he get particularly middle-aged African-American women to sign up for the Bernie bus? So many of the people who supported him were people who were younger in the last election, and I think, you know, a middle-aged African-American audience is still a little bit more conservative than kind of a northeastern socialist might think.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jamelle, you've written though about Bernie Sanders in a way you said he has a defined foreign policy in a way others do not.

JAMELLE BOUIE (The New York Times/@jbouie/CBS News Political Analyst): Right. One interesting thing about Sanders this time around versus 2016 is how he has sort in the-- in the interim really developed foreign policy ideas, really put himself out there as someone who was trying to lead the Democratic field on foreign policy specifically an agenda that treats authoritarian regimes, global kleptocracy, all these things as part of a singular challenge for the United States to face, but threatens global stability and American democracy and it's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And more pro-Palestinian.

JAMELLE BOUIE: Right. And more pro-- pro-Palestinian, more willing to kind of question alliances the U.S. has with Saudi Arabia, with other authoritarian countries. And that I think may -- if, in fact, the domestic policy debate among Democrats is everyone is kind of on the same page, and that might be an issue that ends up shaping debates as the race goes on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're going to have to leave it here for now, but pick it up with Caitlin after this commercial break. So, stay with us. We'll have more 2020 insights.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. We'll look at this question of whether the Democratic front-runner should be disqualified from the race some alleging that. We'll talk about some of the problems Joe Biden may face. So stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We continue our 2020 political panel.

I want to start with you, Caitlin. You had Bernie Sanders, the senator, on the show saying that a woman he knows, Lucy Flores, a Nevada politician, and has in the past endorsed he has no reason not to believe her allegations of inappropriate touching that she says were--

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS (CBS News Political Reporter/@CHueyBurns): Mm-Hm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --made in 2014 by the Vice President Joe Biden. Does this become disqualifying for him? He has not officially, yet, declared he's running.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: Right. Well, I think it shows the perils of waiting and lingering about making a decision about whether to get into this race. The longer that he waits out there, the more scrutiny is applied to him and his record, especially as these voters are getting a look at all of the other options that they have available to them. It also shows this kind of contrast that Biden will be faced with within his own party, a party that has been dramatically changed in the era of Me Too. I have-- we'll say that I've been reporting in New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina, following all these candidates, and every time I ask a voter about what they think of Joe Biden, almost to a tee they say, I love him so much, I just don't want him to run. And part of that is that they feel kind of personally invested in his legacy and they know what a presidential race could do to him. And they want him to be a player, but not necessarily inside. Now, he does have high name recognition.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: He was the vice president to a very popular President for Democrats. So, that's why you're seeing him lead the polls, and there certainly is time for him to make a real campaign. But I think the response to this shows that he doesn't have a campaign operation ready to go and operating to respond to these kinds of attacks. So that's what leaves open those questions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President, called it the worst non-rollout of the 2020 campaign when she was on television today. I want to play one sound bite from the vice president as he tried to gesture towards something in his legacy that may become a problem in 2020.

JOE BIDEN: A bunch of white guys hearing, hearing this testimony in the Senate Judiciary Committee, so when Anita Hill-- Anita Hill came to testify, she faced a committee that didn't fully understand what the hell it was all about. To this day I regret I couldn't come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved, given the courage she showed by reaching out to us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ed, he was chairman--

ED O'KEEFE: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --of the Senate Judiciary Committee that ran these hearings.

ED O'KEEFE: Exactly. So, he's now--

MARGARET BRENNAN: He's describing himself as kind of powerless.

ED O'KEEFE: Right. Which, you know, has been relitigated ever since, and-- and there are a lot of people in the party, certainly a lot of women who were involved in party politics these days who say it should have been handled differently and there's a lot of people wondering, is he going to apologize the way his entire Senate legacy over the course of this campaign, because a lot of what he did and said back in the day doesn't sync with what the Democratic Party is. His behavior, his policies, his-- his, you know, hours of Senate floor speeches, his votes on different bills. He's going to have to spend the entire campaign, particularly the entire primary at least, relitigating all that. And you wonder really does he really want to stomach that? But this-- this situation with Flores, what's-- what's telling-- she was asked this morning elsewhere about this and whether politics were involved. She was the supporter of Bernie Sanders. She was at a Beto O'Rourke rally this weekend, and she said flat out, yes, it does, because we're in the midst of a reckoning in our party and trying to determine who our nominee should be. There have been examples of this his entire career, and it's never been seriously discussed that he hasn't been held to account for it. We know all the instances of, you know, women at a restaurant, the  daughters, granddaughters, and wives of senators he was swearing in on swearing-in day at the Capitol, things he's done and said that were sort of seen as, oh, that's uncle Joe--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

ED O'KEEFE: --being uncle Joe, well, up against the party that now exists and the activists who will fill those arenas and those coffee shops and be the most active on the street in these early primary states, you wonder whether people are really going to want to have to justify and explain that to voters--

JAMELLE BOUIE: I think--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does-- does--

ED O'KEEFE: --and how much of an issue it might become.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does experience become something that hurts him rather than helps him?

JAMELLE BOUIE: I don't think experience per se, but I think Biden's particular position in the Democratic Party in the '70s and '80s and '90s hurts him. He was sort of a very centrist Democrat, and on crime and on drugs and on economic policy, he was with the center, even the conservative part of the Democratic Party.

JAMAL SIMMONS: (INDISTINCT).

JAMELLE BOUIE: (INDISTINCT).

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JAMELLE BOUIE: And so in a-- a present moment where-- in otherwise liberal senator like Kamala Harris faces intense scrutiny about her criminal justice record, where the previous Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton, basically had to apologize for the Democratic Party in the 1990s to make her way through the primary. Biden, I think more so than even Hillary Clinton exemplifies the Democratic Party of the '90s in its bad and good, and that is going to be his burden going forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jamal, Mayor Pete-- Pete Buttigieg had the most Google searches than anyone else in the field last week. So, do we go from the well-established name to the unknown? I mean is that what we have to kind of start from scratch?

JAMAL SIMMONS: Listen, I think Mayor Pete Buttigieg-- Buttigieg is going to be the factor on the debate stage that we will all be talking about afterwards. I mean he is somebody who is willing to say what he thinks. He is the youngest person running, but, yet, he seems to be among the most mature. He is-- he is coming at this with-- with values. He is putting policy on the table. He's been very strong campaigner. I think for vice president Biden, the danger I think a lot of people see in him is that he-- this presidential experience may take away all the luster he built up over the time that he was vice president to Barack Obama, which would then remove him from being kind of a-- a statesman for the Democratic Party. He could run a campaign, he could win, it could all be fine, or it could be a big disaster.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: And I think when you look at the two, Biden and Buttigieg, this boomlet that he is having shows that there is no front-runner in this Democratic field. It's pretty amazing that you have a former vice president, a popular former vice president, who hasn't cleared the field. And you're seeing other candidates, Bernie Sanders among them, Beto O'Rourke, raising vast sums of money on a grassroots level. And it allows for some of these other candidates, lesser known, to try to make an impact that way because there is no clear front-runner and voters are trying to assess. We'll get a better idea of that with the fund-raising numbers that are coming out, especially as the party is very much focused on these small dollar donations.

JAMELLE BOUIE: Right. The-- the fact that big-dollar donations, corporate donations are becoming a political problem for Democrats--

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: Right.

JAMELLE BOUIE: So you-- you can't take them, I think it will be a big limiting factor on the field going forward because there is only so much grassroots support available total for everyone to take in.

ED O'KEEFE: And-- and we should-- the reason that it's become an issue is because there is now an incentive to get as many donors as you can.

JAMELLE BOUIE: Right.

ED O'KEEFE: There's literally a need--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

ED O'KEEFE:   --if you want to participate in the debates. You got to hit sixty-five thousand donors in twenty 20 states or get one percent in at least three polls. Lot of candidates see the sixty-five thousand in twenty states as an easier hurdle early on and it incentivizes grassroots organizing and support and gives you credit with voters saying, look, I went out and found my tens of thousands of people. You have helped me get to this stage versus several candidates who have had to spend this past week, especially behind closed doors.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we-- and we may not have seen all the candidates. So as we've said Biden--

ED O'KEEFE: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --not yet declared.

ED O'KEEFE: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Terry McAuliffe, still a name floating out there. Stacey Abrams this week, Jamelle, was asked about the idea of her being on the Biden ticket. And she said, "You don't run for second place." She seemed to be kind of rebuffing this idea.

JAMELLE BOUIE: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But is she going to get in?

JAMELLE BOUIE: Her--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And how big does this field get?

JAMELLE BOUIE: I mean, it could get-- it could get very big. It's still-- it's still very early in the process. And so there is probably space-- space for someone like Stacey Abrams and, hopefully, space for other candidates. But I do think as time goes on, as there are debates, as there's more fund-raising, as all these-- as all the barriers and hurdles start coming up for progressing, I think this field will shrink considerably. The-- the fact that Beto, that Senator Sanders, that Senator Harris are the three candidates who have been able to really take in large hauls to me at least suggests that those three at least have a very durable base within the party that can expand. Everyone else--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JAMELLE BOUIE: --I'm not entirely sure about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President saw the Mueller report as a victory for him on the campaign trail. Are Democrats pretending it didn't happen?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: Well, Democrats have been saying since 2017 and the lead-up to the midterms that they wanted to focus on issues, mostly because the Mueller report, the conclusions at that time were unknown. And we saw health care as the top issue for Democrats in the 2018 election. It helped them to win back, you know, forty seats and, eventually, win back the House. They saw the President's unlikely pivot to health care as a welcome move from the President. And they believe that this is a winning issue for them. And it also removed some of the pushback or criticism that they would have been getting from Republicans who were kind of really eager not to talk about their own health care plans, but to harp on the Democrats' plans. You talked to Bernie Sanders earlier about Medicare for all, which has become, kind of, a baseline for entries--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: --or some kind of acceptance of a national health care system, universal health care, as a baseline for entry for Democratic contenders. Republicans wanted to point fingers at them--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: --not to go back to their own policies, which they haven't been able to show the public that they can coalesce around a plan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're going to have to leave it there. Caitlin, good to have you on.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: Thank you so much.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good to have all of you. Jamelle, don't leave.

JAMELLE BOUIE: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Stick around. We'll be right back with more analysis of the week that was and the one that's about to begin.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: For some analysis on the rest of the week's news, Jamelle Bouie is back with us. Kelsey Snell covers Capitol Hill for NPR, Jonah Goldberg is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and a senior editor at the National Review, and Anna Palmer is the senior Washington correspondent for Politico. Jonah, let me start with you. The President surprised his own party with this announcement that health care is going to be the new party identity. But then he went back to one of the-- the sort of most, I don't know, go-to line for him--

JONAH GOLDBERG (National Review/@JonahNRO): Mm-Hm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --on immigration, bringing up again that he is going to potentially shut down the border this week. How do you do that without damaging the U.S. economy? What does that look like?

JONAH GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, I know it's shocking that message discipline isn't the word of the day for-- for the Trump White House. I think that part of the pro-- you can't shut down the border without hurting the economy, even though President Trump tweeted or said yesterday that because of our trade deficit with Mexico we would make money by shutting the border, which doesn't scan. I think part of the problem is the White House has been trying to-- President Trump has been wanting to message the crises at the border as basically a scene from a Chuck Norris movie where the people are coming in to, you know, rape and pillage the country, and that's how he's wanted to describe the crisis. Democrats have not wanted to give him any credit for the fact that there actually is--and the media, too, I have to say--credit for the fact that there actually is a crisis at the border. But it's not the crisis of the drugs and the guns and all of that. It's a humanitarian crisis.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

JONAH GOLDBERG: And so you have this, sort of, cross messaging going on where the situation down there is very, very dire. Added to the problem is that while I'm sympathetic to the idea of more border security, a wall isn't what's going to solve the actual crisis that's going on down there. That requires a change in policy, a change in law, and so none of the messaging is lining up with the reality on either side.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And Customs and Border Patrol, Homeland Security said this week hundred thousand migrants in this month alone.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sixty percent of them children and-- and their parents. How do you respond to this idea that credit is not being given to a-- a real crisis at the border?

JAMELLE BOUIE: I think the-- the problem is that precisely because President Trump's framing is of this dire sort of violent, you know, crisis at the border, and he's not talking about the human-- human-- humanitarian aspect. They're sort of-- there's no-- there's no real space to give him credit. It also does not help the President that he wants to withdraw funding to the-- the relevant countries or-- or aid to the relevant countries that he is not working as closely as he could with the Mexican government to help manage the flow of-- of migrants to the United States that there are all these levers of policy that President Trump could take that he's either not doing or actively pushing against, which just exacerbate the problem. And I-- I think also (INDISTINCT) to which he hasn't-- he's been saying, we're going to close the border for so long--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JAMELLE BOUIE: --but hasn't taken any sort of step which kind of encourages migrants, right, that-- there-- there isn't as bad at the border as Trump says it is, so maybe I could take my chance.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the State Department is now telling Congress that they are stopping some of this aid, which was meant to stabilize the country, to stop migrants from fleeing-- fleeing. Kelsey, can Congress stop the President? Bernie Sanders seemed to think they could.

KELSEY SNELL (NPR/@kelsey_snell): There are some Democrats in particular who think there are options in front of them. But I have not heard anybody articulate what exactly that is. I think that they're-- as I talked to Democrats and Republicans, they're also worried that this could exacerbate problems with the USMCA, the trade agreement that they're trying to finalize that's already in serious trouble in Congress right now. They are worried that they're not going to be able to get the kind of support they need if the President is starting another fight with Mexico. And, you know, there are plenty of people on both sides of the-- of the aisle who would really like to get some sort of trade stability happening with both Mexico and Canada.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And it will be interesting to see that-- does-- even have a vote date yet?

KELSEY SNELL: They don't.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Some have been predicting April.

KELSEY SNELL: It is very much up in the air, and it is very, very difficult to see how that gets worked out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the Mueller report, we now have at least a four-page summary of what's in it. This has become even a fund-raising mechanism for the Trump campaign. They're raising money off of T-shirts with Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, on them, sort of mocking him and saying all of this is a conspiracy against the President. What-- what does this all add up to? Does this continue as a storyline until we get the four hundred pages in mid-April?

ANNA PALMER (Politico/@apalmerdc): Yeah. I anticipate this is going to be a storyline for the next several months. There's going to be jockeying between DOJ and Congress and Democrats want more information. They want the full report. They are not backing down from that. And I also think you see the President using this clearly as a political ploy that he thinks works for him. He-- he's been mentioning it on the campaign trail. I think that's going to continue. And this is a storyline that he's very comfortable with because he feels like he was vindicated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you make of the Democratic problems here within the party--the party within the Dem-- problems within the Democratic Party? Had a hard time getting that one out. With AOC. She sent this tweet last night that some Republicans might welcome but some Democrats felt a little bit of a discomfort with. She said "The DCC's new rule to blacklist and boycott anyone who does business with primary challengers is extremely divisive and harmful to the party." You had some other progressives kind of joining her in this. What should people at home understand about what's happening within the party?

ANNA PALMER: This is basically the internal fight that the Democrats have been having in the last cycle about challengers in primary races, and you have members like AOC, who want to take the party to the left and they want to have challengers that the party establishment are not okay with. And so this is actually a tool that Mitch McConnell used on the Senate side and Republicans, a couple of cycles to go to take back control. It's a way for the establishment to say, no, no, no, if you're going to run for some of these more left-leaning candidates that are not in line with who we think can win these races ultimately, then you as a consultant aren't going to get the work of the party.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jonah, is all of this just a gift to Republicans, including the shift of the messaging back to health care? We had Senator Scott on the program. And he's kind of was throwing the ball back into the White House's court.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Yeah. I think-- I think the end of the Mueller probe or at least this chapter of the Mueller probe is actually a very-- is a benefit to a lot of Democrats because it takes the issue of impeachment, turns down the temperature on that. It lets them talk about things like health care, which are actually benefits or advantages for Democrats and President Trump's decision to make health-- to give Democrats the talking point that we're going to debate about health care seem to me like an incredible unforced error. So it's the Mueller report is good news so far for the President, but I think it's also good news for a lot of the Democratic candidates, and the decision to-- to pivot to health care seems to me an unalloyed good for the Democrats right now.

JAMELLE BOUIE: It's-- health care is an issue where President Trump I think gets especially vulnerable, not just because the administration doesn't have any particular plans. But you look at this 2016 coalition there was more blue collar than any Republican coalition had been before. And it depends on maintaining certain margins with blue collar whites--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JAMELLE BOUIE: --in certain states. And if there's an issue that's going to alienate those people from your party, it is saying I'm going to take away your Medicaid. I'm going to take away whatever benefits you get from the Affordable Care Act. And it-- it-- it really is astounding-- an astoundingly bad idea to make the centerpiece of your message, we're going to go with this again, when last time you went at it in August 2017, President Trump's average approval rating dipped to about thirty-six percent. The last time he went after health care like this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JONAH GOLDBERG: And it could be a good idea if there was any policy preparation--

JAMELLE BOUIE: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

JONAH GOLDBERG: --but there's no evidence--

KELSEY SNELL: No, no.

JONAH GOLDBERG: --that that's going on.

JAMELLE BOUIE: Right, right, right, right.

ANNA PALMER: Republicans do not want to be talking about this.

JONAH GOLDBERG: That's right.

KELSEY SNELL: That's why they keep kicking it back to--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

KELSEY SNELL: --we saw Mitch McConnell say, good luck working with Nancy Pelosi.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Right.

KELSEY SNELL: Which is not something we can (INDISTINCT) for.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is what Senator Scott was also saying, even though the President says he's-- he and Senator Barrasso and others are going to have to come up with a solution.

We're going to take a quick break. Stay with us. And we'll be back with more.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with our panel. Anna, can you pick us up here? I mean, we-- we started off the program with Bernie Sanders, someone who embraces the term Democratic socialist, who is embracing government-run and government-financed health care. The President is trying to use a lot of those principles as a kind of a rallying cry for his own supporters, saying reject socialism. It's socialism or me. Does this actually resonate?

ANNA PALMER: Clearly, the President thinks it does. He brought it up at a State of the Union, and has been doing it several times at all the campaign rallies. I think Democrats are concerned about it, though. I think, you know, you don't see Nancy Pelosi and others wanting to carry the banner of socialism or democratic socialism at all. You know, and I think you have this, again, I kind of brought it up earlier, but this push-pull in the Democratic Party of where you have the Bernie Sanders, the AOCs of the world and where the Democratic establishment is and where they think they can win in a lot of these more moderate districts and in some of these states that are going to be up in 2020, that running the Bernie Sanders playbook is not going to work.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JAMELLE BOUIE: I-- I think there's-- there's a flip side to that as well that could be dangerous for President Trump, which is that it's not as if Bernie Sanders is calling for like, you know, Democratic control of the means of production, right? Like, he's not calling for, you know, nationalization--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

JAMELLE BOUIE: --(INDISTINCT) of industries. He's calling for a very, very robust welfare state, for more Medicare, for free college, for these sorts of things. And if-- and things that are probably popular with the public. And so if you're going to start defining Medicare for all or even just Medicare expansion, if you're going to start defining free college or any of these programs as socialism, then the other thing that could happen is that voters say, hey, if this is socialism, like, sign me up. Like, if this is what it means to be socialist, then I'll take that bet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If it's described as a Nordic country and not Venezuela.

JAMELLE BOUIE: Right, right, right, right.

KELSEY SNELL: I mean I was out in several of these Majority Maker districts, districts where the Democrats beat Republicans in 2018. And I talked to voters there who say when they hear the word Democrat they hear socialist and they don't make those distinctions. They don't hear the policies. They hear the word. And I saw people showing up at town halls yelling-- Abigail Spanberger in Virginia out there at her town hall had people showing up and, specifically, wanting to ask her, are you a socialist? You're a Democrat, does that mean you're a socialist? That's not something that, you know, moderates like her want to talk about.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Yeah. There's also just a label problem, you know. I think it was Quinnipiac had a poll recently that showed that support among Democrats for single-payer health care is going down, but support for Medicare for all is going up. They think the Medicare for all is like not socialism, you know, it sounds like a more moderate, you know, kind of approach. And if you look at the Gallup polling on socialism over the last ten years, you find that basically support for socialism is basically a referendum on the state of capitalism.

JAMELLE BOUIE: Right.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Right? It's just-- whatever-- if capitalism is in bad odor at any given moment, like during the financial crisis especially, then people say, socialism, because it's basically-- they think it's a binary thing. And the reality is I don't think there are a lot of voters out there that actually want real socialism, but they don't necessarily love capitalism right now either.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But they want things like guaranteed preexisting conditions and--

JONAH GOLDBERG: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --maternity care and--

JONAH GOLDBERG: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --things like that guaranteed.

JAMELLE BOUIE: I think where-- where the danger comes in is if-- if President Trump is setting-- is setting himself up with sort of un-- unrestrained capitalism, that is actually unpopular, as well, right?

JONAH GOLDBERG: Right, right.

JAMELLE BOUIE: And so if-- if-- if what you're doing is-- is saying, I'm for unrestrained capitalism and the people who wanted generous welfare state for socialism, then you might end up losing that branding game if-- if you insist that if's the-- the generous recognizable policies that are the bad thing.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Yeah. The fight will be over who gets to define the terms.

JAMELLE BOUIE: Right.

JONAH GOLDBERG: And if Trump wins fifty-one percent of that argument about defining the terms, it's very good for him. If he loses it, it's very bad for him.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Kelsey, what happens when the attorney general goes to Capitol Hill and actually gives testimony at the beginning of May answering questions about the Mueller report?

KELSEY SNELL: Well, I think that it's going to be equal parts political kind of circus and a lot of information getting out there to the public that people want to understand. And I think it will be up to Democrats to find a way to walk the line between wanting to push the political side of things and get political wins on the board on a-- you know, on a hearing that will be widely watched and televised, and needing to establish that their investigations going forward are not some sort of the partisan witch hunt that the President talks about. It's going to be a delicate balance. And it should be very, very interesting to watch.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. We will be watching it, and we'll have plenty of analysis then. Thanks to all of you for joining us.

We will be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

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