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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on May 26, 2019

5/26: Face The Nation
5/26: Face The Nation 47:24

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

  • 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Beto O'Rourke (read more)
  • Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas (read more)
  • Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. (read more)
  • Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. (read more)
  • Panelists: Ed O'Keefe, Joel Payne, and Molly Ball (watch)

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, May 26th. I'm Margaret Brennan and this is FACE THE NATION.

President Trump received a rock star welcome from the host country of one of America's closest allies. So far it's been a weekend of trade meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; plus, some summer recreation Japanese style. The trip appears to be cooling off what has been a fiery start to summer back in Washington.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I declassified, I guess, potentially, millions of pages of documents. I don't know what it is. I have no idea.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's what worries intelligence officials as Attorney General Barr now has access to some of the country's top secrets as he opens an investigation into how the Russia probe began. The President authorized fifteen hundred troops to the Middle East in light of potential new threats from Iran just after ordering two thousand out of Syria, and he did an end run around Congress by following through on an earlier promise to sell arms to the Saudis. And then there's that feud with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

NANCY PELOSI: I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm an extremely stable genius. You know she's a mess.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll also look at the crisis at the border. We travel to El Paso and talk with 2020 presidential contender Beto O'Rourke. Also joining us, Texas Republican Congressman Will Hurd, Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson is just back from a visit to migrant detention centers, and Democratic Senator Jon Tester is also a farmer. He'll weigh in on the President's tariffs and new farm aid package.

Plus, we'll have analysis on all of the news coming up this Memorial Day weekend on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We begin today with former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke. He's running for the Democratic presidential nomination. And we caught up with him yesterday in his hometown of El Paso on the border of Mexico.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: So there are about sixteen thousand migrants in U.S. detention facilities right now. What should happen to them?

BETO O'ROURKE (2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate/@BetoORourke): Most of those asylum-seeking migrants pose no threat or danger to the United States. We know from past history that when we connect them with case managers in a community, they have a ninety-nine percent chance of meeting their court dates and their appointments with ICE. And it costs us a tenth of what we pay to keep them in detention and in custody.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, in other words, catch and release is something you support.

BETO O'ROURKE: No, I wouldn't call it catch and release. I-- I'd call it helping those who are seeking asylum in this country to follow our laws. If at the end of that process they must return to their country of origin, I want to make sure that they follow our laws and go back to the country from which they-- they left in the first place. I think we've got to ask ourselves, during an administration that has caged children, that has deported their moms back to the very countries from which they've fled, that have continued this separation that is visiting a cruelty and a torture on these families, that has lost the lives of six children within our custody--


BETO O'ROURKE: --whether or not we can do better and live our values, and whether or not there will be a reckoning and accountability for this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But-- but just--just to put a fine point on it: you're talking about sixteen thousand people in custody right now. Are you saying that migrants who cross, and do so not through port of entry, who are here through illegal means, essentially, that they would not be detained in an O'Rourke administration?

BETO O'ROURKE: Not necessarily in every case. But I think the vast majority of families and children who are fleeing the deadliest countries on the face of the planet, who are seeking asylum in this country.


BETO O'ROURKE: They don't try to flee arrest. They don't try to evade detection. Those families pose no threats or risk to this country. We-- we--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should they be detained together, those families?

BETO O'ROURKE: Those families, if they pose no threat to this country or the communities in-- in which they are apprehended should be released with a case manager who ensures that they follow our laws, that they attend their court hearings, that they meet their appointments with an ICE officer.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about your campaign. There were some headlines I'll read for you. The Washington Post this week cited, "Brutal new 2020 numbers for Beto O'Rourke," "Beto O'Rourke blew it," "The Beto balloon burst." What are you doing wrong? Do you think you're doing something wrong?

BETO O'ROURKE: Look, I feel really good about the way that we're campaigning. I'm going to people where they are, in their communities. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE), I do not care how red or blue, rural or urban, I'm showing up to listen to them. And what they're telling me is they want this country to come together around our shared challenges. So I'm listening to them more than I am to the headline writers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have, though, relaunched, acknowledging that things weren't registering for you. You've apologized for the Vanity Fair cover. Can you escape some of those first impressions of you?

BETO O'ROURKE: Listen, the-- the only way that I'm going to have any chance is to go everywhere, meet with everyone, leave no one behind and take no one for granted. So-- so that's what I'm focused on. So--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is this saying, though, that maybe with the Vanity Fair cover and-- and the big launch that you looked out of step?

BETO O'ROURKE: I don't know about that. Listen, the opportunities that I've had to meet with people--the snarkiness, the-- the cynicism, all that is gone.


BETO O'ROURKE: It's-- it's folks wanting to know that we're going to find a way to ensure that every child can go to school without worried about whether or not they're going to come home at the end of the day in this epidemic of gun violence. Having those conversations on the issues that are most important to them is what drives me. It-- it produces this relentless energy that we've got in our campaign to make sure that we connect, draw people in and meet these historic challenges together, so I feel really good about doing this. And, listen, there are going to be highs and lows in-- in this campaign. There have been in every campaign than I have ever run. But if we stay focused on people, the very reason that we're doing this in the first place, bringing them in and allowing them to contribute to the solutions to the challenges that we face, I don't think there's anything that can stop us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think the party needs generational change?

BETO O'ROURKE: I'm driven by the people who see the urgency of this moment, who-- who understand that we've got ten years left to us to meet this challenge of climate change after which these floods and fires and droughts and disasters will pale in comparison. Those students who are talking to me about gun violence the folks who demand that we have universal, guaranteed, high-quality care all I know is that we need to match that with a relentless energy that brings in people who may have been left out before. And what I hope that I've been able to demonstrate in Texas, leading the largest grassroots campaign in our state's history is that we were able to do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It sounds like you're saying yes. It sounds like you're saying you need more, sort of, revolution versus the idea of restoration. You need a young candidate. Is that what you're saying someone like you and not a Joe Biden or a Bernie Sanders who are in their seventies?

BETO O'ROUKE: We need to be able to bring in new energy. We need to be able to bring in new voters. We need to make sure that this democracy, so badly damaged, works for everyone. All I'm saying is that the way that I campaign, this-- this relentless pursuit of people wherever they are--


BETO O'ROUKE: --learning their stories, incorporating what's most important to them in their lives into this campaign, and into the service that I want to perform for this country is what we need at this very divided moment. So that's the way that I offer my service going forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you support this latest bailout of farmers?

BETO O'ROUKE: From listening to farmers that I've met all over this country and especially in Iowa, they're not looking for bailouts they want to connect with those markets that they have worked a lifetime to establish. Markets that are now closed to them--


BETO O'ROUKE: --because of this trade war, because of these tariffs. They're no longer able to sell to the rest of the world, they're no longer able to make a profit--


BETO O'ROUKE: --doing what they do best and they will not be able to pass these farms and ranches on to the next generation. So, yes, in-- in the short term we absolutely have to make sure that they're okay but we should never have been in this place in the first place. And-- and what we see right now is, yet, another example of President Trump being both the arsonist who created this problem in the first place and the firefighter who wants the credit for addressing it through this bailout.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Who is America's greatest adversary right now?

BETO O'ROUKE: We face a number of-- of adversaries on-- on the world stage from ISIS to-- to North Korea to Iran. And, yet, the adversary that has successfully invaded this country through our democracy, Russia, through their leader, Vladimir Putin, is the country and the person who this President holds closest. After the Mueller Report was released our President called Vladimir Putin, spent an hour on the phone with him, described the resulting report as a hoax giving Putin a green light to further interfere in our democracy. We've got the most dangerous person who's ever held office in the White House right now who's inviting the involvement of our-- our greatest adversaries. And we got to be able to stand up not as Democrats but as Americans to this challenge and so I want to make sure that we do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you say one nice thing about President Trump?

BETO O'ROUKE: Listen. When I was first elected to Congress the greatest challenge that we faced here in this country and especially in this city was the inability for veterans to be able to get in and see a mental health care provider. It was producing a crisis in suicide that is claiming twenty veterans' lives a day. As a member of Congress, we wrote legislation to improve access to mental health care for veterans, worked with Republican colleagues to get that done. And that bill was signed into law by President Trump. I agree with him on almost nothing but the fact that we were able to find the common ground to get this done to serve those who have put their lives on the line for this country is something that I'm grateful to him for.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to quickly ask you about some of those things regarding veterans. Do you think President Trump was right to send these fifteen hundred troops to the Middle East to counter the Iran threat?

BETO O'ROUKE: No. President Trump is escalating tensions, is provoking yet another war in the Middle East where we find ourselves already engaged in war in so many countries--in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen, not too far from there in Libya and in Afghanistan. So we don't need another war. We need to find a way to work with allies and partners and in some cases with our enemies.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So do you doubt the U.S. intelligence that said there was a threat on the ground to U.S. forces in Iraq?

BETO O'ROUKE: I-- I have a really hard time believing this administration and believing a-- a President who has so wantonly lied and misconstrued the facts at every single turn to his own gain. I'm-- I'm suspicious of a-- a national security team that has so often called for war. You have someone in-- in-- Bolton, who has publicly said that he wants regime change in Iran. The body count in-- in that kind of war on-- on both sides will not be measured in the hundreds or the thousands but the tens or hundreds of thousands. If there is a peaceful alternative to this-- and I know that there is-- then we must do everything within our power to pursue it. And that's what I would do in my administration. I'd stick up for our values, make sure that we defend our allies, protect the lives of our fellow Americans. But do that peacefully where we can. Otherwise, we will produce more wars, more veterans coming back to this country seeking the care that they are being effectively and functionally denied today. I think we need to do far better going forward and I know that we can.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Lastly, there are twelve thousand U.S. troops in Afghanistan. You hear almost no discussion of the war that continues to rage there. How do you handle that? Do you bring those troops home?



BETO O'ROUKE: We've got to end our war in Afghanistan.


BETO O'ROUKE: We've got to make sure that we satisfy the conditions that first led us to go to war in the first place. That those who perpetrated 9/11 are brought to justice. That Afghanistan is never again used to stage attacks on the United States of America or Americans. We have satisfied those conditions. Now it is time for us to work with the partners in the region to produce a lasting peace and stability and bring our U.S. service members back home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that includes the Taliban, brokering a peace deal with them and bringing them into the government?

BETO O'ROUKE: Sometimes, you don't have the fortune of working just with your allies, your friends, or the people with whom you agree. In order to produce peace, you sometimes have to negotiate and work with your enemies. And that's true for Afghanistan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our full interview with Beto O'Rourke will be on our website at

We'll be back in one minute with a former colleague and friend of O'Rourke's, Texas Republican Congressman Will Hurd. Don't go away.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We are back with Texas Congressman Will Hurd. He is a Republican who sits on the Intelligence Committee, and he joins us this morning from San Antonio. Congressman, good to have you here. We-- we mentioned Beto O'Rourke is a friend of yours. Is he wrong when he doubts the intelligence that the Trump administration has presented about the threat from Iran?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD (R-Texas/@HurdOnTheHill): I-- I've seen the intelligence, it's very credible intelligence. This intelligence was produced by hard working men in the CIA, in our intelligence community. And this is credible. It's-- it's-- it's solid and it's our military leaders that are asking for some of these moves to make sure that we're protecting our-- our folks in that region. I don't think anybody wants to go to war with-- with Iran, but we need to be prepared to protect our-- our troops that are already there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for that. I know having worked at the CIA you are particularly attuned to the intelligence community. And-- and I want to ask you about this decision the President--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --has made to allow the attorney general to have access to declassify some of the top secrets in this country. As a former CIA officer does it--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --does it trouble you? Does it concern you that there is risk here giving someone who is not in the intelligence community access?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: So, first and foremost, making sure the intelligence community retains the ability to determine if and how intelligence is declassified is-- is critically important. My read of this order by the President giving the attorney general this-- this power, it still says that the attorney general has to abide by an Obama-era executive order that-- that determines that the head of the agency that has the information. So if the-- if the intelligence is from the CIA then-- then the head of the CIA gets to determine how that intelligence is ultimately used. One of the things-- so-- so-- so making sure that continues and-- and why you hear a lot about protecting sources and methods. We have to remember when you're getting intelligence you're getting it oftentimes from ongoing operations. And so if you reveal a piece of information, our allies might be able to determine where that information comes from. You can put somebody who's sharing that information with us, their life, their family's life at risk. And then it-- we prevent from ever having that intelligence source in the future. So that's why this is-- this is so important. But also, you know, the United States is unique in that we have civilian oversight of our intelligence community. We give our leaders of the intelligence community a lot of responsibility and making sure that our leaders of the intelligence community are-- are crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's is really important. When I travel across the world in my duties on the Intelligence Committee, I often have many of our allies coming and asking us question about their intelligence services because they know how integral this--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well-- well, that is--

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: --civilian oversight actually is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That is why there is some concern here that this could be allowing for some political spin, for weaponizing of intelligence.


MARGARET BRENNAN: To put this power in the hands of-- of an attorney general who is opening an investigation--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --into the investigation of-- of Russian meddling. Do you think it's reckless?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: Well, politicization of intelligence is indeed reckless. And that's something that we shouldn't do. But civilian oversight is-- is still important. And so it-- it's unfortunate that over the last couple of years we've been having this back and forth about the intelligence community. And they're, you know, in essence, being abused in-- in public. We need to make sure that the men and women in our intelligence community are able to go out and do their information, collect their information. When they're meeting with assets they need-- those assets need to know that the information that they're providing is going to be protected. I believe, again, this is supposed to be following this executive order from the--


REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: --from the Obama administration to make sure that the head of whatever agency is involved in decision on how to declassify this information. And so-- so this is-- civilian oversight is-- is important. But we also need to be moving beyond this conversation. There's one thing that Republicans and Democrats agreed up here is that the Russians did try to influence our election and that they're going to try to do it--


REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: --again in the future. And how are we dealing with disinformation? I'm hap--


REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: --do we have a strategy on how to deal with disinformation? We have to be prepared for this eventuality. And also the-- the politicalization of-- of intelligence that hurts those-- those men and women. It's Memorial Day weekend and, Margaret--


REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: --you know that and-- and you know I-- I'm always thinking about Mike Spann and-- and Jim Matthews, my-- my former colleagues that were in the CIA--


REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: --and-- and died in-- in service. The reason we haven't seen another major attack on our homeland like we saw on September 11th is because of the men and women in our intelligence services that are still operating as if it's September 12th. And we need to make sure--


REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: --that we are providing them with the tools they need to continue to do their job and keep us safe.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, thank you for that reflection. You-- you did bring up disinformation so I want to ask you, as a Republican did it trouble you that the President himself and some of his allies were tweeting out an altered video--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --of the Speaker of the House, making it sound like she was slurring her words. Is this-- does this step beyond the pale for you in terms of going beyond your usual political mudslinging?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: Right. There-- there's a lot of things that's concerning with that video of-- of Speaker Pelosi and it was just slowed down to make it seem like she was having a hard time speaking. This wasn't even a deep fake. You know we've been hearing a lot about deep fakes which is the use of artificial intelligence in order to create something new. In this case, at least we had the original to compare the two and recognize that it was-- it was-- it was doctored in a-- in a form or fashion in a-- in an-- and soon and I think within months, we're going to be able to see this deep fake technology continue to grow. And we're going to see that more and that-- we're not prepared. We have old laws to-- to decide how you handle this information. You have leaders that don't understand how this technology can be used in the future. This goes back into this whole conversation around disinformation and how are we dealing with it and it's not just the government alone.


REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: It's not just the social media companies. It's also the media, academia involved in trying to do this. And also we can't be promoting this stuff and if you can't tell the difference between a doctored piece of information and not, that's-- that's troubling as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Which is why I asked you if, as a Republican, you object to the President disseminating some of that? And the answer it sounds like is a yes.

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: You-- you shouldn't disseminate information that you know is ultimately--


REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: --is ultimately doctored. And-- and this is-- this is going to escalate this debate and this fight. And again this is something--


REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD: --that gets at the heart of our-- our democracy and when it comes to disinformation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you very much, Congressman Hurd, for joining us today. We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'd like to now bring in Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and he joins us this morning from Green Bay. Senator, I know you just came back from the border where you were yesterday in that area where we saw that migrant death just this week due to an outbreak of the flu. I know dozens have been quarantined as a result. Are you concerned that there will be more deaths like this because of overcrowding?

SENATOR RON JOHNSON (R-Wisconsin/@SenRonJohnson/Homeland Security Chairman): Good morning, Margaret. Well, first, let me say that the-- the men and women of our Border Patrol and other volunteers from the federal government are doing a heroic effort trying to deal with this humanitarian crisis. Yeah, we're all concerned. They-- they had an outbreak of flu. They believed it might have been H1N1, highly dangerous, but the-- the processing centers are back open but they are grossly overcrowded because of the unbelievable situation on the border, the out of control nature of it. Just-- just the last three weeks, on average about twenty-three thousand women-- women, children, and men are coming over across the border illegally as family units. There's unaccompanied children. Twenty-two to twenty-three thousand a week. We're-- we're almost eight months into this fiscal year and we've got-- we're up to about four hundred thousand in total. And if it continues at this pace in one year we'll have about eight hundred thousand unaccompanied children people crossing the border illegally as a family unit. Eight hundred thousand. So this is overwhelming our system and we have to stop it. We-- we have to change our laws to stop rewarding, incentivizing people across our border illegally.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, I-- Senator, I hear your concern here and the assistant secretary raised it last week on this program. And, yet, Congress went home for recess without allocating any money to this border crisis. And, in fact, Republicans had agreed to strip it out of the disaster relief bill. How is that possible?

SENATOR RON JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I've been advocating to make sure that the Department of Homeland Security and HHS get the 4.5-billion-dollar emergency spending request, they need that money, they need it desperately. So, hopefully, when we get back in-- in session after the Memorial Day holiday that funding will be quickly appropriated so that those individuals that are doing such a-- you know-- just-- they're doing the Lord's work down there together with, you know, people like Sister Norma working with the Catholic Charities other people trying to respond to this humanitarian crisis. But, again--


SENATOR RON JOHNSON: --we are allowing this to happen. It is our broken laws that are sustaining this wicked business model. These-- these human traffickers--


SENATOR RON JOHNSON: They're probably pocketing three to four billion dollars per year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Let's-- let's finish this--

SENATOR RON JOHNSON: We have to change our laws.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Let's finish this conversation on the other side of this break. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but we will be right back with more from Senator Ron Johnson. Montana's Jon Tester will also join us and our panel. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We continue our conversation now with Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson. Senator, was it a mistake for the President to say this week that he won't work with Democrats until they stop the investigations?

SENATOR RON JOHNSON: Well, my guess is he's just stating reality. It's going to be pretty hard to pass legislation when that's all the House is really doing. I-- I-- I warned voters ahead of the 2018 election that if you put Democrats in front of-- in charge of the House, all you're going to be talking about is investigations, talk of impeachment and it won't be about governing and creating greater prosperity for Americans, and that's kind of what we're seeing play out here. It-- it's very unfortunate--particularly, when you take a look at things like an emergency spending bill that-- that we need for some of these disasters, that we need for you know, getting the situation at the-- at the border under control. When you talk about the fact we have to fix our horribly broken immigration system so we can stop or reduce this flow. You know, I heard Beto O'Rourke-- O'Rourke saying, all we have to do is assign a case officer to every one of these families. Well, that'd be about four hundred thousand case officers or people that could handle four hundred thousand families, this year alone. We don't have that kind of personnel. So the goal of our policy should be to reduce that flow. And in the House they're just talking about impeachment investigations, it's very unfortunate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it-- that kind of brings us back to the point of-- of why this impasse could be so damaging. I want to ask you, though, about something the Trump administration decided to do, you sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Secretary Pompeo decided to, essentially, bypass the committee and go ahead with these sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia and other countries. Do you-- does this trouble you that this didn't go through the regular pro-- process here?

SENATOR RON JOHNSON: This just speaks to the ongoing tension between Congress's war authorizing powers and the President's powers, constitutional powers when it comes to foreign policy. You know, Con-- Congress is pretty dysfunctional, it doesn't act very quickly. Sometimes the administration--which is why the founders very intelligently vested so much power in the presidency to act quickly in reaction to growing threats. And I agree with Congressman Hurd, the-- the intelligence was-- was certainly from my standpoint, concerning and I think that the administration has handled this pre-- pretty well. They-- they're doing everything they can to deter further aggression by Iran. And let's face it Iran is a lying actor throughout the Middle East--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But they bypassed you-- you and your committee. And that doesn't trouble you?

SENATOR RON JOHNSON: I-- I wouldn't-- no, no, listen, I think they've notified the-- the chairman and the ranking member of this.


SENATOR RON JOHNSON: Congress often-- often operates way too slowly to react to situations. We need react to to prevent war. And that is what this administration I think has done. They've deterred more malign actions on the part of Iran. I support the administration.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Quickly, I want to ask you about the President's tweet here. He's in Japan and he, talking about war, said that Kim Jong-un's testing of these short-range missiles doesn't bother him, even though, his national security advisor said it violates U.N. resolutions, it alienates the allies-- allies like Japan who could be hit by some of these short-range missiles, and then he praised Kim for insulting Joe Biden. Is this appropriate?

SENATOR RON JOHNSON: Well, certainly, North Korea is-- is one of the real problems that we're having to deal with and it certainly concerns me when they're doing any kind of testing. The fact that they haven't been testing, you know, nuclear devices or-- or longer range missiles is a good thing. This is a very difficult issue. Administrations on-- on both sides of the political spectrum have tried to deal with this. President Trump trying to do it in a somewhat-- to deal with it in somewhat unortho-- unorthodox style. I hope he succeeds.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Senator Johnson, thank you for joining us.

We want to turn now to Montana's senator Jon Tester. He is the top Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee and he joins us this morning from Bozeman, Montana. He is also a working farmer which is a unique perspective, and I do want to get-- get to you on some of those tariff issues. But first of, this is, of course, Memorial Day weekend. There were four veteran suicides at VA facilities in the month of April alone. There about twenty a day, according to the last tally I saw from last year. How is this rate not slowing down?

SENATOR JON TESTER (D-Montana/@SenatorTester): Well, the bottom line is-- is that we've got to do more. Even one suicide is too many, Margaret, and we have a bill. Senator Moran and I do, to really kind of take mental health outside the box for the VA to be able to include things like yoga to include things like equine therapy, other things that have been proven to be able to work for folks who have mental health issues. And it also deals with telehealth for rural areas like my state of Montana and other rural states around-- around this country. But the truth is is what we've done hasn't been enough, Margaret. And we've got to do more. It's why we need to get Senator Moran and my bill across the finish line. If we're able to do that it gives the VA some more tools to get more-- to get more methods out there to be able to-- to deal with our veterans. But we have failed so far. There's no if, ands, or buts about it. Congress has given the VA, I think, some good tools to use. They need to step it up even greater than before. And by the way, the other thing that needs to be done is we need to remove the stigma from this so that the people who do have problems do come forward because oftentimes many of these suicides happen and-- and the VA--they haven't-- they haven't taken advantage of the access to VA care.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Senator, thank you for that. I want to ask you, though, as we mentioned, you're a working farmer I think you're the only one in the Senate who's actually working the farm himself. The President had a sixteen-billion-dollar bailout for farmers. This is the third round so far. Will this make up for the kind of financial losses you're seeing in your home state?

SENATOR JON TESTER: It's a Band-Aid, there's no doubt about that, and there are some folks that are up against the wall, way too many folks. We're seeing a-- a lot of folks that have been filed for bankruptcy in production agriculture. But it is a Band-Aid. Farmers want to get their check from the marketplace not from the federal government. And as a previous person said, you know, the-- the fact is that the President has created this problem and then he turns around and-- and writes out a sixteen-billion-dollar check on the taxpayer dime. I'm not saying it isn't needed it absolutely is needed in a lot of cases where folks are up against it. But the truth is is that the reason we have bad commodity prices right now at the farm gate is because we got a President who went into a trade war with-- without a plan, without our allies and it ends up where folk-- family farm agriculture ends up paying the price. And that doesn't help with food security and it certainly doesn't help with our economy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Grassley, reportedly, will be applying for some of this aid for his family farm. Will you be tapping into it and apply for it as well?

SENATOR JON TESTER: Well, we'll see how it's going to be divvied up. I imagine wheat is going to get part of it and we do raise grains on my place and so we will see. But, look, our place has been hurt by these tariffs just as every other farms has been hurt by these tariffs. And we will-- we will see as it goes, but I intend to-- to take advantage of it because it will help pay the bills.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How long can farmers go before you see the bankruptcies that you have been predicting?

SENATOR JON TESTER: I think we're already starting to see it. Look, I serve on the Banking Committee, too, and a lot of the bankers told me a year ago the farmers had about eighteen months before we started seeing a real disaster in-- in ag count-- country. I think we're already seeing that ag disaster coming around. And-- and the sad part about this wasn't caused by weather events, it wasn't caused because of consolidation in the marketplace and prices were low and inputs were too high. What we've seen is we've seen a President who's acted irresponsibly in the trade. He had a plan to hold China accountable, but, yet, didn't know how to implement the plan to hold China accountable. And in the end, we don't have an end game and-- and far-- farmers have been paying the price. I've said this before, Margaret, maybe said--


SENATOR JON TESTER: --it to you before, but we should have done this through the financial system. We should've had our allies on board. China's been a bad actor but not just the United States, to countries all over the world. Let's bring the world community together and apply pressure instead of just the farmers of the United States of America.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You gave a speech this week making the case that Democrats actually do have a shot at winning back rural America. But you said they can't promise things that don't make sense like free college or jobs for everybody. Have you seen a Democratic candidate that fits that description for you?

SENATOR JON TESTER: No, but I've seen some policies come out of some Democrats that fit that-- that description, and I think it's important that we stay connected with reality. College is too high and we need to figure out ways to drive it down, but I'm not sure that there doesn't need to be skin in the game if you go to college. The same thing with health care and-- and one of the proposals that was put out said you're going to have a-- a-- a job, the job's going to pay livable wages. You just can't-- you just can't do that. It's-- it's not-- it's not that easy. It'd be great-- it's great to say it but it's hard to implement it. So I-- let's stay-- let's stay grounded in common sense and move forward. I've seen the candidates, by the way, across the board that are running for President do-- do a good job--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your home state governor is one of them.

SENATOR JON TESTER: --of staying grounded. My home state governor is one of them. That is correct. Yep. And so the bottom line is that whoever comes out of this twenty-four or twenty-five people who are running for President, needs to be able to connect with rural America and you do that by applying common sense.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you going to endorse your governor?

SENATOR JON TESTER: I'm going to be endorsing. I will tell you this, Margaret, it's going to happen in the next week. And, hopefully, you'll be the first to know.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Thank you very much, Senator Tester.

We'll be right back with our panel.

SENATOR JON TESTER: It was a pleasure talking to you, Margaret. Thank you very much.


MARGARET BRENNAN: It's time now for some political analysis. So we're welcoming our panel. Molly Ball is a national political correspondent with TIME Magazine. Joel Payne is a Democratic strategist and appears on our digital network, CBSN. So we'd like to welcome him to this broadcast for the first time. And Ed O'Keefe, of course, you know, he is our political correspondent. Molly, Beto O'Rourke, we went out to sit down with him and it's the middle of, essentially, a reboot of his campaign. What does he need to do to rebuild support?

MOLLY BALL (TIME Magazine/@mollyesque): Well, I'm not in the business of giving political advice, but it's clear that Beto having come into this race with a lot of buzz has stumbled a bit. And is having trouble defining himself in this vast field of more than twenty Democratic candidates. So he's got to find a way to stand out. They all do. That's why you have so many candidates mired in single digits behind the clear frontrunner Biden and Bernie who seems to be holding his own in second place. And then there's just a lot of churn. So none of these polls are predictive, at this point and so far out, but they do show you a portrait of a Democratic primary electorate that kind of doesn't know where to go. They haven't really been impressed with any of these candidates. They're still evaluating. I think the debates are going to be very crucial because when I go out into the early primary states and I talk to Democratic voters, what they are saying is, well, I don't-- not like anybody so far. They just want to be impressed. They want someone to sweep them off their feet. They really want someone they can believe in. And it's less, I think, about ideology or demographics or even generation than just wanting to find that candidate that everyone can rally around and be inspired by. Beto had a shot at that. He's a very charismatic candidate, very charismatic politician. He hasn't so far impressed the primary electorate with those qualities.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, Joel, why is that? And-- and how do you differentiate yourself when there are two dozen of you running at once?

JOEL PAYNE (Democratic Strategist/@paynedc): Well, I think there it is, right? There's a lot of people competing for that space, and-- and a lot of ways Pete Buttigieg has kind of stolen some of that, that Beto energy that we were expecting him to enter the field with. I thought it was so interesting during your interview that he stumbled a bit when you asked him about the generational change question. That was a layup for someone like Beto O'Rourke. That's the-- that is his place in the field as the generational change candidate. And in a lot of ways, it's what Pete Buttigieg has stolen from him. So I thought that was an interesting pass that he made to not affirmatively answer that.

ED O'KEEFE (CBS News Political Correspondent/@edokeefe): So what's he-- what's he-- what's he waiting for?

JOEL PAYNE: Good question.

ED O'KEEFE: Right? He's in the low single digits.


ED O'KEEFE: There's nothing to lose by saying, yeah, we need someone younger, someone different, someone who isn't as well known in Washington. It was-- it was weird. It's-- it's-- it's-- you know, he's-- he's got the sizzle. He hasn't grilled his steak yet. And it's just fascinating to me that-- that he just didn't take that. And he seems to continue to sort of just speak in these generalities. We got plenty of time, right, what, ten months I think roughly until we start voting in February in Iowa. He probably has till late summer to start coming up with some specifics. One of the things that's helped distinguish anyone other than Biden and Bernie is come to the table with some specifics. Do your homework on one or two issues and show voters, I've thought about this. Here's a detailed plan on what we would do, how we pay for it. He hasn't put as much time into that yet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And-- and I did press him on immigration because--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --he has emphasized that he's the only candidate who grew up and is adjacent, literally, to Mexico on that border. And in our online version you'll see some of that detail. It-- it was not as specific as, say, Julian Castro--

ED O'KEEFE: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --who said clearly decriminalize border crossings or Kirsten Gillibrand who on this program last week said, clearly, do not detain migrants when they cross that border. I mean is there an immigration portion of this debate that-- that you get backlash for if you stake out a hard line position?

ED O'KEEFE: He seems to think so. And I, you know, maybe it's because he's thinking of the general election, because, for example, you asked him about catch and release. The President has made that policy something that he's trying to shove aside, and-- and suggests he's been wrong. What he's, essentially, advocating for O'Rourke is catch, release, and track, which is take the asylum family, assign them a caseworker, and make sure they come back for their hearings. Well, that's expensive. That requires hiring thousands more people. He says it's cheaper than building a wall, but as he should know, having served in Congress for six years, those details are what really starts to muck this up. And so he hasn't presented, yet, at least a detailed plan to do that. And-- and it's certainly not as detailed as some of the others in the field so far.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And speaking of Congress and doing things or not, do we understand what the President and Speaker Pelosi did this week, as simply saying, don't look here, nothing's getting done for the next few years?

MOLLY BALL: No. I think the President saying that he was walking away from the table and saying that they aren't going to do anything until the investigation stop that's just not true. The investigations aren't going to stop, clearly. And there's stuff that they have to get done. And, in fact, they came very close to getting that disaster bill done this week and it's going to get done either next week while they're on recess or when they come back after that. So there's-- they've-- after that they've got to do all of the budgeting. They've got to do the appropriations bill, they've got to raise spending caps, they've got to raise the debt ceiling. All of this stuff that if they don't do it will get another shutdown. So I don't really take the President in his word that he's walking away from that table permanently. And what Nancy Pelosi said after he threw what she termed a temper tantrum, she claimed that it actually had nothing to do with him being peeved about her saying the word cover-up or about all of this-- all this oversight. She says it's really that he didn't do his homework for that meeting. He didn't do what he said he was going to do in their previous meeting that went so well when they agreed to spend two trillion dollars in public money on infrastructure. He's supposed to come back with a way to pay for it and he didn't. So he walked out and he had that pre-made sign with the numbers on the Mueller investigation. They weren't numbers about roads and bridges. It was-- he had decided in advance that he was going to make a statement about the investigations and the oversight. But on a very basic level, the President has not, yet, accepted that there is a competing power center to him in Congress now.


MOLLY BALL: We saw that in the shutdown. He had two years with a Republican Congress that would basically do whatever he wanted. That's not the case anymore. It's made his life more difficult, and he hasn't quite accepted that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, Joel, what the administration would point to and accuse Speaker Pelosi of is losing control of her own caucus or almost because she's under all this pressure to go ahead with impeachment. Is this just a game of-- of chicken here? What-- what is happening within the caucus?

JOEL PAYNE: I'm not buying any of what I saw this week. This was a proxy war between Donald Trump, who cannot pay for this infrastructure bill that he committed to a few weeks ago, and between Nancy Pelosi, who's having a hard time holding back an increasingly agitated caucus who wants to go after the President on impeachment. And, you know, there were a lot of reports about that meeting that Pelosi stepped out of where she initially made those cover-up remarks. The reason why she did that was to take the-- the attention off the fact that there are some thirty-some odd members of her caucus who actually want her to really get this on the impeachment track. And for the President, again, I don't think he wants to get on the wrong side of those hard-line conservatives who are not going to let him pay for this transportation bill. So this was a nice show this week but I think that this was a proxy war.

ED O'KEEFE: He made clear after the election this is a single-track town. We're going to do legislation only. You're not going to investigate me and get to work on things with me at the same time. And he reinforced that this week. But, again, he-- he cannot have-- he cannot afford to, he doesn't know how to have an argument with Republicans over how to pay for something he clearly wants. He'd like to see his name on a bridge one day that he helped fund through a massive infrastructure project, but Republicans don't want to pay for it. And-- and he avoided that fight and instead just continued the one he's been having with Democrats.

JOEL PAYNE: His own chief of staff won't let him pay for it.

ED O'KEEFE: His own chief of staff won't let him pay for it. He doesn't have a legislative affairs director in the White House right now to actually work out the details. It's a real problem. He brushed that under the rug and focused instead on the fight he has been having.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This manipulated video of Speaker Pelosi, one distorted, the other just heavily ed-- edited to make her look not very clear or good. Molly, is this just a step beyond the mudslinging? I mean, Congresswoman-- Congressman Hurd seemed to be describing as like this is the path we're headed towards, and the risks of it, national security-wise, when they can't even trust the videos they're seeing of their elected leaders on television.

MOLLY BALL: Well, on these-- these fake videos, both of the ones that you're talking about, were quickly called out and I think the coverage quickly reflected that and people were made aware of it. So--

MARGARET BRENNAN: After they went viral.

MOLLY BALL: Of course. I mean, you can't suppress anything. And nobody is talking about government censorship, not allowing videos to exist, but I think the public was well informed that these were not, you know, correct videos. But-- but at the same time, you know, the difference here is you have a President of the United States who will retweet a video like that. And we've seen him do that before, whether they were deceptive or-- or false, anti-Muslim videos that were coming out of the U.K., this is a President who does not have a sense that he needs to be careful or responsible about these things rather he encourages them. He gins them up. And so I think that is the important factor here, even more than where the technology is headed is that, you know, usually political leaders consider it their responsibility to be careful about--


MOLLY BALL: --what information they spread.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, Joel, is there a way to steal against this on the campaign to protect yourself?

JOEL PAYNE: Well, we saw this in 2016. I worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign. You're right. It was called out but still it gets a lot of coverage out there. I think this is about the President being haphazard with his words. I worked in government. We were told everything we said moves markets.


JOEL PAYNE: People's 401(k)s depend on it. This President hasn't learned that lesson yet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Thank you very much.

We'll be right back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of our very best people at the CBS Washington bureau are retiring this week. Not the people you see on camera, but some of those who make sure that we are seen and heard each week. Bob Schieffer says they're poetry in motion.

(Begin VT)


Like Farrell Becker (ph) with great skill and cunning

got all remotes up and definitely running

Key to all that but never too bossy

the queen of control, Karen Saint-Rossy

Keeping the books was Steve Marshall's (ph) first track

but he switched to outside, never looked back

John Daly's a sound tech, a real superstar

quiet but good sound men usually are

And raise a glass to our Howard Brenner

he found us rooms and fed us dinner

A shout out as well for dog David Hall (ph)

when the building breaks down, that's who we'd call

There is no one kinder than our Morris Banks

so many reasons to just tell him thanks

Gabe Stix had the guts and knew all the tricks

to get us the pictures that really did click

Vincent Ginsburg (ph) had the wit and the style

We'll miss his work and big ready smile

Dennis Jamison, oh, my, what a pro

Nice guy to boot, we love you, bro

And ditto that to about Dan Tutman

who got us the tape and a good joker, too

And Mister Lou Walker (ph), radio techie

tuned us just right, never was sketchy

And this is the place where I want to explain

what we learned in Bob Dole's '96 campaign

When our camera team of (INDISTINCT) and Dixon (ph)

and I tell you it's true, this is no fiction

showed us how to score scoops and that saved us hours

they just sent Mrs. Dole sweet birthday flowers

And there was George Christian's unbelievable night

when Nixon resigned, George was trapped in the Rose Garden until dawn's early light

So good luck and good health. It's been quite a ride.

We had a great team with you on our side.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's our Bob Schieffer. We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today on this Memorial Day weekend. As we honor those in active duty and those who served or lost their lives in service as well as their families. Thank you. Until next week for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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