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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on November 10, 2019

11/10: Face The Nation
11/10: Face The Nation 47:26

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

  • National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien 
  • Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana (@SenJohnKennedy)
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California (@RepSwalwell)
  • Antjuan Seawright, CBS News Contributor and Democratic Strategist (@antjuansea)

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, November 10th. I'm Margaret Brennan in the nation's capital. And this is FACE THE NATION.

President Trump and the first lady spent Saturday afternoon enjoying one of America's favorite fall pastimes, a college football showdown between two red state rivals, Alabama and LSU.

CROWD (in unison): USA. USA. USA.

MARGARET BRENNAN: With the first round of open impeachment hearings set to begin Wednesday, House Democrats began laying out their case to impeach the President by releasing thousands of pages of behind closed-doors testimony detailing his administration's attempt to convince Ukraine to investigate the Bidens in exchange for military aid. President Trump is sticking to his claim that he's done nothing wrong.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's all about the transcript. They've having people. I've never even heard of some of these people. I don't know who they are.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Republicans put out their own wish list of witnesses, including the whistleblower and Hunter Biden. But they're having a tougher time coming up with a line of defense for Mister Trump.

WOMAN #1: Hold on. We have Mark Meadows right here. Congressman Meadows, can we talk-- so he-- he's walking by right now, but Republicans are really struggling to defend the President. Okay, great.

MARK MEADOWS: I'm not struggling on anything.

WOMAN #1: Okay. So, Congressman--

REPRESENTATIVE MARK MEADOWS: So the Republicans are not struggling on anything.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Here's the President's top ally in the Senate, Lindsey Graham.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward the Ukraine, it was incoherent. It depends on who you talk to. They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And this from Louisiana senator, John Kennedy:

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: In terms of the quid pro quo, there are perfectly appropriate quid pro quos, and there are inappropriate prid-- quid pro quos.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk with Senator Kennedy, as well as a Democrat from the House Intelligence Committee, California's Eric Swalwell.

There is another big event in Washington Wednesday, Turkey's President Erdogan will visit the White House. We'll talk with the new national security advisor, Robert O'Brien. Plus, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is exploring a presidential run, but is America ready for another New York billionaire in the White House? Neither the candidates--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: So, tonight we say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires, sorry. You ain't going to buy this election.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --nor the Democratic primary voters are convinced.

MAN: Have you heard about Michael Bloomberg possibly entering--

WOMAN #2: Yes. I'm just-- just appalled. And I think he was a Republican at one time and then turned Democrat.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All that, plus, analysis on news of the week is just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. It's a big week here in Washington. So we want to get quickly to our very first guest, Republican Senator John Kennedy, who joins us this morning from Kenner, Louisiana. Good morning, Senator. Congrats on the big win.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY (R-Louisiana/@SenJohnKennedy/Judiciary Committee): Thank you, Margaret. It was a great game. I'm proud for our-- of our youngsters, but Alabama played a great game, too.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very generous of you there. I want to quickly get to the issue at hand. You heard--

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Well, no, I meant it. Actually, I meant it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm glad. In our show open, you heard a quote from yourself talking about what is appropriate--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --and inappropriate in terms of quid pro quos. If a quid pro quo was shown to be for the President's own political benefit, is that appropriate?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: The-- the quid pro quo, in my judgment, is a red herring. Here-- here are the two possible scenarios. Number one, the President asked for an investigation of a political rival. Number two, the President asked for an investigation of possible corruption by someone who happens to be a political rival. The latter would be in the national interest. The former would be in the President's parochial interests and would be over the line. I think this case is going to come down to the President's intent, his motive. Did he have a culpable state of mind? For me, Margaret, there are only two relevant questions that need to be answered. Why did the President ask for an investigation?


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: And number two--and this is inextricably linked to the first question--what did Mister Hunter Biden do for the money?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I want to ask you now. There have been more than twenty-five hundred pages of sworn testimony that have been released to the public. Have you read any of those depositions?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Mm-Hm. I've read some. But any lawyer, in my judgment, who knows a law book from a J. Crew catalog knows that a-- a sterile transcript is no substitute for live witnesses.



MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I want to--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --ask you specific--

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: --Speaker Pelosi--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So I just want to ask you, specifically, because of the point you're making--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --in terms of differentiating intent, motive, and culpable state of mind. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, a decorated Army officer who gave sworn testimony--it was released this week. He currently works at--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --the White House, listened to President Trump's call--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --with the Ukrainian president and he testified, quote, "There was no doubt that the President was seeking political investigations of political rivals."


MARGARET BRENNAN: So, is it appropriate to ask foreign governments to investigate Americans?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Well, it depends on the circumstances. I'm not going to go through the two scenarios that I just gave you, but it depends on the circumstances. And there is-- there, I would say this about the transcript. I can comment on the gentleman's testimony if you let me hear his live testimony. Let me hear the cross-examination. Let me judge his credibility. Let me judge his body language. And also allow the opposing party to call their own witnesses and rebuttal. That's-- that's due process.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Not to-- not only allowing the witnesses you want, as the chairman has done, and then leaking selective portions of it to friendly members of the media who lap it up like a puppy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, all the depositions that-- that I'm quoting from are now publicly released. So it was--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --the government that released them. Right.

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: But before when they were trying-- but before when they were trying to-- to establish the narrative with the American people, they were selectively leaking. And-- and that's what matters--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, now we're moving into public--

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: --here, Margaret, what are the American--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Well, now the case has got to be made to the American public--


MARGARET BRENNAN: Now the case has to be made to the American public in these public hearings. So is there anything that you could hear from Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, if and when he was called to testify, that would lead you to ever vote for the removal of the President?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Well, again, I've got to hear-- I've got to hear the testimony. You--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that means maybe?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: --You-- you-- if you want to-- if you-- if you assert-- if you try to assess how a trial is going for our-- for our defendant, you don't just listen to the lawyers opening statements and you don't just read the transcript. You sit there and listen to all the testimony, the cross-examination, and the context.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: And I-- I think-- I think that-- that Speaker Pelosi's decision and Adam Schiff's decision to prevent the Republicans from calling their own witnesses in the live testimony is just doubling down on stupid. The American people, I think, are going look at this and go, "I get it."


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: They are going to give the President a fair and impartial firing squad.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you're not--

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: And-- and that's not due process.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you're not suggesting here that the witnesses, like Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, lack credibility?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: I don't know. I can't. I wasn't allowed to hear them.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: What I am telling you is that if it can be demonstrated that the President asked for and-- and had the requisite state of mind, that the President asked for an investigation of a political rival, that's over the line.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: But if he asked for an investigation of possible corruption by someone who happens to be a political rival that's not over the line.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, over the line, does that mean impeachable?


MARGARET BRENNAN: So, there is something you could hear--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --that could potentially persuade you to vote for removal?

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: What? I can't answer that, Margaret, because that-- that-- that-- that encompasses all possible scenarios. That's like asking me if I didn't go fishing Saturday, how many fish will I have caught? All I'm saying is that-- that-- that it ought to be fair. It ought to be public. I read somewhere that democracy dies in darkness. It ought to be public. Both sides ought to be called-- able to call their witnesses in front of God and country and the American people.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: And then let the American people decide and-- and the President and his counsel should be allowed to participate. Now, I think that would be fair. And then I-- I will happily judge the evidence. But you can't limit the witnesses, as--


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: --Chairman Schiff and Speaker Pelosi's are doing. Selectively leaked portions of the--


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: --transcript that favor your opinion to friendly members of the press who lap it up like a puppy.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: I don't think any fair-minded person in the Milky Way believes that Speaker Pelosi--


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: --or Chairman Schiff are impartial here.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: So, but they can--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --we look forward to the trial--

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: --at least follow due process.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We look forward to the trial in the Senate. And then seeing what you decide to do, Senator. Thank you for joining us.

The question is, of course, with our next guest, the assumption, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell joins us now, is that when it goes from your committee, from these hearings were about to begin before House intelligence that there will be articles of impeachment voted on that will pass the Democratic-controlled House and then end up in the other side of the court in front of Senator Kennedy there. There will be thirteen Democrats, nine Republicans who get to ask questions in this next round of three diplomats in the coming days. What is going to be different about this? I mean, yeah, cameras are in the room, but is this just show?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL (D-California/@RepSwalwell/Intelligence Committee): Good morning, Margaret. It's important that the President has due process and evidence is not a conclusion. We have enough evidence from the depositions that we've done to warrant bringing this forward, evidence of an extortion scheme, using taxpayer dollars to ask a foreign government to investigate the President's opponent. But it's important that these witnesses raise their right hands and take questions from both Republicans and Democrats. The President is going to get that. It's important that the Republicans be afforded the opportunity to suggest witnesses that we should call and that we determine whether that is relevant, that-- that, you know, the facts are just as important--


REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: --as the process behind the facts as far as what if anything goes over to the Senate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But do you expect anything new from these testimonies or is it going to be a recitation of what we can read in these depositions already?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: These witnesses have been fairly consistent. And for the most part, they've not been coordinating or talking to each other. But, again, this is America. And we don't just have, you know, railroading of justice. These witnesses, you know, should come public--


REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: --and you know the American people should judge for themselves, as well as we will, as to, you know, what happened here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, on the issue of witnesses that Senator Kennedy was talking about, the-- the Republican Party put forward yesterday a list of suggested witnesses they would like to see called. On there, Hunter Biden and his business partner. Is it safe to say they will never come before the House Intelligence Committee?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: Well, as Chairman Schiff has said we're not going to go back in time and revisit conspiracy theories that are implicated in the President's call. And you know, it was said-- former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Bossert, who told Jake Tapper a couple of weeks ago that he was telling the President that much of what the President alleged in that phone call to President Zelensky about the Ukrainians involved--


REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: --in 2016 was just nonsense. And so we don't want to revisit conspiracy theories. If people have relevant information to this investigation and the President's conduct, of course, we want to hear from them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that's no to the Bidens?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: I'll leave that to the chairman.


REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: I don't see any relevancy with the Bidens. There's no evidence that any-- anything improper has happened and witnesses have been asked about the Bidens and said that Vice President Biden in every way--


REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: --these witnesses, in the way they worked with him, conducted himself with integrity.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One member of the National Security Council, Tim Morrison, was on the Republican list. Kurt Volker, the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine. Is it safe to assume they will be before your committee?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: You know we're going to handle that this week. You know taking up the Republican witness list and we're going to be fair about it, because, again the fairness behind the process is just as important as the facts.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You wrote-- talking about the fairness of the process, one of the things that gets criticized by Republicans of Democrats is that the outcome's presupposed.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And if you just look back at your own record--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --back to the spring, you were calling for impeachment. You wrote an op-ed in June calling for impeachment. That was before this whistleblower ever came to light.

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: You know what's interesting about--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So how can that look fair?


MARGARET BRENNAN: How can that be fair?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: You know what's interesting about the op-ed I wrote, I wrote it in response to the President's interview with George Stephanopoulos, where he said if he was offered again dirt on a political opponent from a foreign power, he would again take it. I didn't know when I wrote that op-ed that he was already engaging in this manner with the Ukrainians. But his prior conduct with the Russians suggested that he might do that, which is why I thought at that time we have an upcoming election. We want it to be pure and one that is above, you know, any questions. And this President, you know, needs to be held accountable for his actions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: National-- former National Security Adviser John Bolton, he has not been subpoenaed. He's deferring to a court to sort of decide who he needs to listen to. The-- the White House tells him not to comply or Congress who has asked him to come and answer questions. Why don't you think you need to hear from him? Why can't you wait until December until a court would decide?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: We'd like to hear from him, but we've heard from three of his deputies who have provided consistent testimony about what was going on in this shakedown scheme. We've asked him to come in, but the White House has told him not to come in. And we're not going to chase witnesses to the courts, because even if a court ruled in December that he has to come in it would be-- it will be appealed to a circuit court of appeals--


REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: --and then ultimately up to the Supreme Court. We don't have time with an upcoming election that potentially could be compromised by the President's conduct. We need to, you know, move expeditiously but fairly on what we have now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But why expeditiously? Why can't you just wait a few weeks?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: Well, it's not a few weeks. It could be all the way up to a year. And we see this as a tactic by the administration to obstruct our investigation. We also believe if the President believed that John Bolton or Mick Mulvaney could offer testimony that would show that he's innocent he would send them in-- on horses to our committee to testify. They can't. Which is the reason we believe he's obstructing, which goes to a consciousness of guilt.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The House Republicans have sort of reshuffled their deck ahead of these hearings and added Congressman Jim Jordan to the committee. And I'm wondering what you think that will do to these public hearing this week. I mean what will this change?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: You know, they-- they could put Johnnie Cochran on their side to ask questions. It's not going to change the facts of this case. Now, if there are going to be stunts, you're going to see again, those stunts will be used by the American people against them to show a consciousness of guilt and a lack of seriousness. I think this is a very serious investigation. This is an opportunity for my Republican colleagues to reset and recognize, also, they're not the public defenders for the President. They don't have to defend him at all costs. They can actually approach this objectively, give him a fair process, ask the right questions and then make a judgment on the facts. But this is not a time for stunts.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you, you had been a presidential race contender for 2020. We saw Michael Bloomberg say he may jump into the race, isn't officially declared. What do you think that does to the lineup?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: It gives the voters more options. But, look, I-- I think options are good and whoever emerges from this will be battle tested. It's going to flush out weaknesses, this large field, and whoever emerges is going to be a very strong candidate to take on and defeat Donald Trump if he's their nominee next year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. So thank you very much.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back in one minute with the new national security adviser to President Trump, the master, Robert O'Brien. Stay with us. It's just ahead.


MARGARET BRENNAN: This week Turkey's president will be welcomed at the White House. It will be the first meeting since Turkey defied the U.S. by invading Syria, and President Trump abruptly ordered American troops out of that country. Since then President Trump has reversed course, deciding to keep some seven hundred troops on the ground there, down from a total of twelve hundred in all of Syria. CBS News foreign correspondent Charlie D'Agata is in northeast Syria with an update on their mission.

(Begin VT)

CHARLIE D'AGATA (CBS News Foreign Correspondent): U.S. troops on patrol here today making their presence known in this region. As we have watched them repositioning around oil facilities, their reach is nearing what it was before President Trump's order to withdraw last month. Right beside their allies the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the ongoing fight against ISIS and while some may argue it's time to bring the troops home top Kurdish commander Mazloum Kobani told us not just yet.

What is your message to them?

(Mazloum Kobani speaking foreign language)

CHARLIE D'AGATA: "With the Americans, we started a project together, we are partners," he said, "Once this job is done, they can leave. We don't want the Americans to stay here for four hundred years." But it is a job that has become much harder in this carved up and congested region. We saw Kurdish protestors pelt a joint Turkish-Russian convoy passing right through the same territory controlled today by U.S. forces. Turkey and Kurdish forces have accused each other of cease-fire violations. And complicating matters further, the Syrian regime has clashed with Turkish troops. None of this would have happened had President Trump not given Turkey the green light to launch its assault on the Kurds in the first place.

Can America ever repair the damaged that's been done?

(Mazloum Kobani speaking foreign language)

CHARLIE D'AGATA: General Kobani said if the Americans break their promise again, the trust will be gone forever.

(End VT)

CHARLIE D'AGATA: From the top down, ask anybody here whether they can now trust President Trump and they'll say, it's not like we have any choice. This volatile region is now on a knife edge as Turkey's president heads to Washington this week.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's our Charlie D'Agata reporting from northeast Syria.

Joining us now to weigh in on Syria and more is the President's National Security Adviser, Robert O'Brien. Good morning to you, Mister Ambassador.

ROBERT O'BRIEN (National Security Adviser): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard Charlie lay out a very complicated landscape. Diplomacy means talking to your friends and to your enemies, having difficult conversations. But you just heard everything Charlie laid out. I mean Erdogan defied the United States by invading Syria. He's buying Russian-made weapons. He's doing everything you're telling him not to. Why is he getting rewarded for bad behavior?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, let me just point out, Margaret, that-- that you got it right. And, unfortunately, Charlie got it wrong. When Charlie said we green-lighted the invasion of Syria-- of Syria that's just absolutely false. It didn't happen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the U.S. moved troops--

ROBERT O'BRIEN: The President-- the President--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --out of the way.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, the President made it very clear that-- that Turkey shouldn't go in. He even said, "If you go in, I may have to obliterate your economy." He did it on Twitter. He did it on-- on the phone. He did it in a letter that was a very strongly worded letter. So the-- so the idea that the U.S. somehow green lighted Turkey's military operation, that's-- that's just simply false. And-- and the American people shouldn't-- shouldn't believe that. Now, what he did do, we had twenty-eight Green Berets who were at a forward operating post on the border that would have been caught in a crossfire between fifteen thousand Turkish troops and armor and-- and seven or eight thousand YPG SDF troops. And the President was not willing--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Kurdish forces—

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Kurdish forces.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that are allied with the U.S.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Correct. And the President was not going to leave those young men in-- in harm's way in a crossfire. And so he pulled those-- those troops out because it's-- look, it's, ultimately, it's-- it's the President who has to call the families. It's the President who has to go to Dover--


ROBERT O'BRIEN: --if something happens.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that's why the question is relevant. Why reward that bad behavior? This is a NATO ally who is putting U.S. troops at risk, who is putting U.S. allies at risk.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, we're not rewarding the behavior. The President promptly put on sanctions, and--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And then he took them off.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, he did because the Turks agreed to a cease-fire. And-- and Turkey said they wouldn't agree to a cease-fire, the President dispatched me and a number of top diplomats--David Satterfield, Jim Jeffrey and then-- then dispatched the Secretary of State and the Vice President to Ankara. And in twenty-four hours, we had a cease-fire. And, by the way, that was a cease-fire that the Kurdish forces had a lot of input into. We want-- we wanted to save lives. We wanted to save Turkish lives. And keep in mind there were Turkish civilians being killed and-- and rocketed by the Kurds. There were Kurdish folks being killed, including Turkish soldiers. We got a cease-fire. And-- and in a short amount of time, we got those Kurdish soldiers evacuated to-- to a safe area. So I think the Kurds appreciated the cease-fire. I think the Turks did as well. And that was a-- a real diplomatic coup from the President because he-- because of his tough line.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you recognize that there were war crimes committed?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Look, it-- some of the things that we've seen are very disturbing, and--



MARGARET BRENNAN: --and Turkish-supported militias?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Maybe the Turkish-supported militias. Turkey has assured us that those are being investigated. We're very concerned about those issues, the war crimes issues. We're watching them. We're monitoring it very closely. There is no place for genocide, for ethnic cleansing, for war crimes in the twenty-first century. The U.S. won't stand by for it and-- and we've made that position very clear to the Turks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If Congress passes any of the at least three sanctions bills on Turkey that are going to get bipartisan support, will the President veto all of them?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Look, we'll have to see what-- what happens this week with our meetings with President Erdogan. I mean there are-- there are things that, Turkey's a member of NATO. Turkey plays a very important geopolitical role for-- for our friends in Europe, for ourselves.


ROBERT O'BRIEN: They-- they sit astride the Bosporus--


ROBERT O'BRIEN: --the strait that goes into the Black Sea. We have NATO allies, Romania and Bulgaria that are Black Sea powers. So-- so losing Turkey as-- as an ally is not something that's good for the Europe-- for Europe or for the United States.


ROBERT O'BRIEN: And-- and we're going to-- we're going to work on making sure that--


ROBERT O'BRIEN: --we can do our very best to keep them as a-- as a NATO member.

MARGARET BRENNAN: More to talk about your portfolio in a moment. We have to take a break. We'll be right back.


MAN: Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin faced the nation with correspondents across the country questioning him. Live from Indianapolis, New York City, and also here in Washington. Here is the moderator of FACE THE NATION, Ted Koop.

TED KOOP: How do you do? And welcome to FACE THE NATION.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That was the very first episode of FACE THE NATION, sixty-five years ago this week. And, as you can see, we had a couple of technical glitches right at the start. Technology has certainly changed, but our commitment here at FACE THE NATION has not. For sixty-five years we've done our best to give our viewers not only the news they need to know but to help educate and give them context about what's important and why in a fair, straightforward way. We'll have more thoughts on our mission here at FACE THE NATION over the years in our next half hour.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but we will be right back with more from Ambassador O'Brien and our political panel. So stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We continue our conversation with Ambassador Robert O'Brien, national security adviser to President Trump.

I-- I want to pick up on this idea where we left it with Turkey coming. And they are a NATO ally, as you emphasized. One of our NATO allies, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, said this week that NATO is suffering a brain death because of lack of American support and resolve. From what he is seeing and then what we're seeing with Turkey causing these cracks in the alliance, I mean you must be very concerned. Is that why you've brought the NATO secretary general to the White House this week as well?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, we have a NATO summit coming up the third and fourth of December. So, we'll be in London for that summit. I think-- I think it's going to be a good summit between NATO allies. NATO's an important alliance to us. But, look, I think the cracks of that have formed in the alliance are because we have members of the alliance that aren't paying their fair share, that aren't spending money on defense. I mean the-- the United States taxpayer and-- and the taxpayer of eight of the NATO country-- taxpayers of eight of the NATO countries that are spending their two percent on national defense. We spend over four percent. They're doing the right things. But there are a bunch of countries, including Germany and others, that-- that aren't paying their fair share. It's not-- it's not right for the American taxpayer to have to defend these countries that don't want to defend themselves. So-- so, the President has been very-- very strong on this issue. There's been a hundred billion dollars in new NATO defense spending since he took office.


ROBERT O'BRIEN: It's a great accomplishment of President Trump. I think the Americans are happy about it. I think most Europeans are happy about it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Emmanuel Macron was voicing out loud some real concerns. And if you look at what Turkey has done, as you just described, you thought that there was a potential NATO ally would fire on the United States, intentionally or not, in Syria. You've also seen Turkey go ahead and buy Russian-made weapons in defiance of NATO.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Yeah, we're-- we're very upset about that. And we've made--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can-- can you get behind sanctions on them?


MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean they are supposed to be triggered by Congress.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, look-- look, if-- if Turkey doesn't get rid of the S-400, I mean, there will likely be sanctions. The CAATSA sanctions will-- will pass Congress with an overwhelming bipartisan majority and Turkey will feel the impact of those sanctions. We-- we've made that very clear to President Erdogan. There's no place in NATO for the S-400. There's no place in NATO for significant Russian military purchases. That's a message that the President will deliver to him very clearly when he's here in Washington.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you're just back from Asia. The President says he wants to meet with Xi Jinping and possibly get a trade deal by December. Is that a hard date on the calendar?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Look, there-- there's no deadline. We want to get a good deal. And I think we're very close to getting a phase one trade deal. And it will be the first time that we've had a trade deal where China has actually respected the United States and-- and hasn't, you know, stole our intellectual property, has been fair and reciprocal in trade. So, if we can get a good deal, then we'll get a good deal. I think we're very close. And I think if there is a deal, the President and President Xi, will-- will get together and sign it. Look, we want great relations with China, but this is the first President that stood up to China that-- that has been, you know, stealing American intellectual property. Not all American companies that have access to Chinese markets engage in unfair trade practices. That has to come to an end because the Chinese have been using that to fill-- to-- to fund one of the most massive military buildups in history.


ROBERT O'BRIEN: And-- and-- and you know, that has to come to a stop.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, as I just said, you're back from Asia. You've been raising concerns about China's militarization, particularly of the South China Sea. I mean this only seems to be escalating militarily.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, I don't think it's escalating militarily. I think the President has put tariffs on-- on China. We've always-- and-- and those tariffs have led the Chinese to the negotiating table. And I think we're going to get a pretty good deal for the American people, especially for the American farmers, for owners of intellectual property.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So-- so you see a trade deal going ahead and what you're talking about in terms of militarization in the South China Sea, that kind of thing is not going to complicate?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Look, we're-- we're going to still stand up and I did at the ASEAN summit at the East Asia Summit I made it very clear that that just because one country is big and other countries are small in the region, the bigger countries shouldn't bully the smaller countries and-- and take their resources, whether they are fishery resources or oil and gas resources. And the U.S. Navy will continue to have freedom of navigation operations through the South China Sea. This nine-dash-line or cow's tongue that the Chinese have-- have--


ROBERT O'BRIEN: --drawn around the entire South China Sea, which is a major swath of the Pacific Ocean, and claimed it as internal waters, as if it was Lake Tahoe or something, that just can't stand. The United States Navy won't put up with it, the-- the countries in the regions-- region won't put up with it. And-- and all those countries, with-- with very few exceptions, were grateful because-- that America is standing up for them, standing up for their resource patrimony. That's the future for their kids and their grandkids with the oil and gas and the fisheries, the minerals off their shores, China shouldn't be allowed to take it just because they are bigger.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You on Ukraine. I know you were not at the White House when this July twenty-fifth phone call happened. That is now at the heart of this impeachment inquiry. But you are now part of Ukraine policymaking. You heard Senator Graham at the top of the program say the policy is completely incoherent. Will the U.S. continue lethal military aid to Ukraine until Russia backs out of Crimea and stops supporting separatists in Ukraine?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, look, I think you put your finger on the most-- most important issue, and that's lethal military aid. I was in Ukraine in 2014. I was there to observe the elections in Ukraine. I was there as part of a bipartisan election observation mission and I had young Ukrainian soldiers and young Ukrainians come up to me and say, why won't the U.S., the arsenal of demo-- democracy, send us lethal aid? You're sending us blankets and MREs. Why won't--


ROBERT O'BRIEN: --President Obama send us military aid?

MARGARET BRENNAN: And President Trump changed--

ROBERT O'BRIEN: And-- and there-- and there--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --policy by doing that.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: --and there was no military aid going to-- to the Ukrainians under the-- the-- the Obama-Biden administration.


ROBERT O'BRIEN: When President Trump got into office, he sent military aid. So I think what people ought to be focusing on is the President has been helping the-- the Ukrainians defend themselves by sending them lethal-- lethal military aid to stand up to the Russians. That's the real story that's been lost in all this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But is the-- is the policy, though, that? That that lethal aid will continue until Russia stops backing separatists and-- and trying to annex parts of Ukraine?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals about what could happen down the road. I mean, hopefully, Russia and Ukraine can get along and there can be some sort of a peace treaty and-- and an agreement between them. So I'm not going to commit the United States to what we're going to do forever. But-- but for right now, we're set. We're-- we're the first administration.


ROBERT O'BRIEN: President Trump is the first President to send lethal military aid to Ukraine. I think it's very important. And I think that's something that's been lost in-- in all the hullabaloo about the-- about the telephone call. And one other thing I'd say about this, I've been with President Trump in two dozen conversations, either in person or on the phone with foreign leaders. And if the American people could be on those phone calls, they'd be extraordinarily proud of the President, how he represents America, the cordiality that he-- he has with world leaders--


ROBERT O'BRIEN: --but also the tough message that he has to-- to protect U.S. interests. I mean, they'd-- they'd be proud of what their President does in those meetings with foreign leaders.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, who has testified under oath, is serving on the National Security Council currently. Will he continue to work for you despite testifying against the President?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well-- well, look, one of the things that I have talked about is that we're streamlining the National Security Council. It got bloated to like two hundred and thirty-six people from-- up from a hundred in the Bush administration under President Obama. We're streamlining the National Security Council. There are people that are detailed from different departments and agencies. My understanding is he is-- is-- that Colonel Vindman is-- is detailed from the Department of Defense. So everyone who's detailed at the NSC, people are going to start going back to their own departments--


ROBERT O'BRIEN: --and we'll bring in new folks. But we're going to get that number down to around a hundred people. That's what it was under Condoleezza Rice. She came and met with me. I met with a number of my successors.


ROBERT O'BRIEN: We don't need to recreate the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security over at the White House. We've got great diplomats and soldiers and-- and folks that can-- that do that work for us in the departments.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Just to button that up, though. You're saying Colonel-- Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is scheduled to rotate out. You are not suggesting in any way that there will be retaliation against him?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: I-- I-- I never retaliated against anyone. So the-- the-- it's like--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But his time is coming to an end?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: There-- there will be a point for-- for everybody who's detailed there--


ROBERT O'BRIEN: --that their time, that their detail will come to an end. They will go back to their agency. And what we want them to do is take the experience and skills they learned at the White House, take it back to their departments and agencies and-- and do an even better job there. And-- and so we're-- we're grateful that we can have these detailees come in, and they will come spend the year-- a year or, you know, maybe a little bit more at the White House--


ROBERT O'BRIEN: --and then they will go back to their agency. And-- and they will do a better job at their agency--


ROBERT O'BRIEN: --having been at the White House.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you very much--

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Thank you for having me, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Ambassador O'Brien for joining us. Appreciate it.

We'll be right back with our panel. Don't go away.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to some political analysis from our panel. Stephen Hayes is the editor of The Dispatch and a Fox News contributor, Margaret Talev is the White House and politics editor at Axios, Jeffrey Goldberg is the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, and Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic strategist and CBS News contributor. Good to have you all here.

STEPHEN HAYES (The Dispatch/@stephenfhayes): Good to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Impeachment seems to be sucking the oxygen out of everything here in Washington. Stephen, I want to begin with you because I know you think that this is a bad week for Republicans. But you don't think outside the Beltway this is resonating.

STEPHEN HAYES: I don't. I don't think it's really resonating. If you look at the way that Republicans in Congress are reacting to this, it's almost with a shrug off the shoulders. We-- we saw these transcripts come out. If you spent time reading the two-thousand-plus pages of the transcripts, tremendously damaging to the argument that Republicans have made for the past six weeks in defense of the President. One by-- one by one, you saw all of these defenses of the President on substances fall away, where it's clear that there was this quid pro quo that Democrats and others have been alleging. Republicans don't have an answer for it, as I think was-- was evident in your interview with Senator Kennedy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He said it depends on the kind of quid pro quo.

STEPHEN HAYES: Yeah. But he-- he sketched out the scenario where he had, on the one hand, the-- the President might have been doing this because he had some vague interest in corruption broadly. But you have to-- just take a step back and think about what that means. I mean, this is a President who has had friendly relations with leaders of tremendously corrupt countries, where he was talking about Egypt or Russia or Saudi Arabia, or Turkey who wants to bring troops home, who is an America Firster. But he suddenly had such an interest in corruption in this one country, in Ukraine, that he sent his personal attorney to conduct investigations that happened to overlap, coincidentally, with the interests-- his political interests, in-- in that they were investigating two of his chief political rivals. It doesn't even pass the leftist.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Margaret, why-- why then is that not more clear to the public? If it is so clear, as Stephen laid out there, is it that what these public hearings will change?

MARGARET TALEV (Axios/@margarettalev): Well, the public hearings can only change people's minds of people who watch the public hearings and are engaged in them or read about them. And I think it's pretty clear from the early weeks of this that-- that President Trump's base is not shaken or thwarted by this. And so really the issue is the group we're going to be hearing a lot about in the next several months, which is the suburban voters, right? These are the-- you-- if you call them moderate voters or swing voters or suburban voters, somewhere in that circle is-- is this group of people. We saw the relevance of suburban voters in Virginia in the elections, perhaps to some extent in Kentucky. And this is the group that both Democrats and President Trump are now going to be fighting for because they are the people who are engaged in--


MARGARET TALEV: --you know, in sort of the daily business that involves paying attention to more details like this. And they are the people who are most likely to be at a workstation, at work, with the TV on, absorbing the contents of this, trying to figure out whether they are uncomfortable enough about it that they won't vote for President Trump twice.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Antjuan, how do Democrats avoid what happened with the Robert Mueller hearings, where there was this big buildup, and the idea that if he testifies publicly he will describe in vivid detail what people didn't bother to read in print? Well, how is this going to be different?

ANTJUAN SEAWRIGHT (Democratic Strategist/@antjuansea/CBS News Contributor): I think we have to first come to the real-- realization that Donald Trump and his disciples have no interest in having a relationship with the truth, regardless of whether it is public or whether they actually read it and can see it. Number two, I think Democrats have to block and tackle. Block out this arguments or this distraction that the Republicans want to draw them into, and really tackle the issues that matter to the American people while they also pass legislation that they promised the American people in 2018, and remind people that is-- the Senate is-- the holdup is the problem, and everything goes McConnell's graveyard to die. If we fail to do that, we will be sentenced again to two years in the hard time as the minority party.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think it's going well?

ANTJUAN SEAWRIGHT: I-- it's hard to say. Look, here's what I do know, the Republicans demonstrated what I believe to be a political pump fake about transparency during this process when you have forty-seven or forty-eight members of their conference, a part of these hearings, now they're public and you have leaders like Senator Graham and others who want to press the ignore button on the fact they're going to be transparent and, essentially, are saying regardless of what comes out, no matter who says it like a decorated military official, it's not true because it's anti-Donald Trump. And we've seen this movie before and that's why I think Democrats have to stay focused on the things that matter outside of the bubble.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jeffrey, who's actually winning on the messaging here and convincing the American public, because that's what these public hearings are going to be focused on?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG (The Atlantic/@JeffreyGoldberg): I think it's actually-- this sounds very journalistic, but I think it's too early to tell. We don't know what dynamic we-- we enter when we actually see these people live in front of the cameras and how many people are watching, and how convincing it is. I mean, on the one hand, we'll know the answer to that question, I think, not so much, I mean we'll know it when we see what people in the suburbs feel about it. We'll also really know the answer if we see Re-- Republicans become less cohesive. If there's one person, one person with influence in the Republican Party on the Hill who says, you know what, the emperor really doesn't have his clothes on.


JEFFREY GOLDBERG: That could sort of break this open a little bit because all of us, I think, up here talk to Republicans on the Hill who privately say this is a disaster, a moral disaster, a political disaster, an ethical disaster, and they are just holding on and they're coming up with these talking points that--


JEFFREY GOLDBERG: --that you saw on your show today. But there's a belief and maybe this is an overoptimistic belief in the part of Trump's opponents that there are people there who will say enough is enough when they hear it from--


JEFFREY GOLDBERG: --as you say, a decorated war veteran. This is actually what happens when they hear it from-- from serious professionals in the State Department. They might just say enough.

ANTJUAN SEAWRIGHT: But, Margaret, here's the one thing Democrats and-- and Republicans agree on--


ANTJUAN SEAWRIGHT: --the interests of national security. And I think if Democrats use that as their North Star or their foundation about this being about national security in the future of this country, I think that is a point that no one can argue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, in the meantime, the-- the split screen will be these hearings happening on Capitol Hill while the President is meeting with another world leader that he is dealing with national security. I-- I was pressing, Jeffrey, the national security adviser on why Turkey's leader deserves the honor of walking into the White House and after-- after listing all of the things that Turkey has done wrong.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Right. And-- and, as you know, there's a hope in Washington that simply that Erdogan leaves without having his bodyguards beat up people as happened the last time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because that's what happened.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: We have lower standards for this visit than we usually have. We're just like let's not-- not have street violence associated with this visit. No, this-- the-- the-- the reception of Erdogan this week doesn't make any sense from a national security perspective. Are you rewarding-- remember, we always talk about rewarding people with an Oval Office visits, is this the person who deserves an Oval Office visit? No, of course, not, but nothing is particularly coherent in our national security strategy right now. So it makes as much sense as anything else in this kind of topsy-turvy world in which we live.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were referring to in 2017 when American protesters were beaten up. There are U.S. Marshals' arrest warrants--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --out for some of Turkey's Erdogan's bodyguards.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll see if they show up on this visit.

We'll be back in a moment with a lot more from our panel. Don't go away.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're back with more from our political panel. Stephen, I want to start off with you, the journal has a-- an op-ed and, you know, their op-ed pages are often thought to be fairly conservative--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --so when they say Bloomberg, water's warm, jump right in to Michael Bloomberg suggesting he get into this 2020 race and that it might be a good idea. Should Democrats be skeptical of that somewhat endorse-- endorsement?

STEPHEN HAYES: Sounds a good trick. It-- it-- it is a little trick. Look, I think Democrats probably should be skeptical of Michael Bloomberg for-- for a number of reasons, most especially because he's done this before. I mean we've had how many head fakes from Michael Bloomberg. And he's also, you know, he was a Democrat, Republican, independent. He sort of covered the gamut. And I think you're hearing this from people like Elizabeth Warren, people like Bernie Sanders who I think are more in touch with the-- the-- sort of base of the Democratic Party that this is not the-- the Democratic savior that-- that people think he is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But is he the kind of candidate who could convince Republicans to crossover and vote for him?

STEPHEN HAYES: Well, I think conceivably, I mean, he certainly has some nanny-state aspects to him that I think would make conservatives uncomfortable. But I think the immediate impact is much likely to have the opposite effect where he-- he dilutes support potentially for Joe Biden, he could block a path forward for others who are running in the so-called moderate lane like Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and others. So I think if you're Elizabeth Warren today and you see Michael Bloomberg getting and you're happy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. Antjuan, you know, being a self-made billionaire, successful businessperson can look at that and says it's the American dream, or you can look at that and say this person is suspect and it seems that this person is suspect is what we're hearing more on the campaign trail, and that isn't comfortable for everyone.

ANTJUAN SEAWRIGHT: I'm not going to criticize him for making money, but let me say four things about Bloomberg. Number one, most people will agree that the political highway is experiencing a traffic jam, because we have too many people running for President on our side and most of the lanes are filled at this point. The second point is that it's Sunday morning, so I'll say this: there's a political scripture that I referenced, it says the road to heaven and the White House runs through South Carolina. Well, he has agreed that he will not participate in the South Carolina primary with sixty-one percent of the people who vote-- cast a vote will be African-American, fifty-five percent women, most of the states that follow reflects South Carolina. South Carolina was a launch pad for Barack Obama and a safe haven for Hillary Clinton.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Also your home state.

ANTJUAN SEAWRIGHT: Oh, God's country. And-- and then the third thing, it is the home of the most prominent and powerful African-American in the U.S. Congress, Jim Clyburn. And so what Bloomberg is saying by not participating in South Carolina primary, if he gets in, is that I have no interest in what majority of African-Americans think in the south and especially the home of whip Jim Clyburn. That's what I think he's making a mistake and I call it the highest act of malpractice in the campaign can commit.


MARGARET TALEV: Well, I mean there are a lot of reasons why a bid would be complicated and I think we're not sure, yet, that he is going to run. There is no way to secretly check the box in Alabama without people--


MARGARET TALEV: --finding out. But-- but they're-- they're-- the case to be made if he did pursue it is that what he's done with his billions of dollars is invest in two of the most important issues to Democrats on climate change and on gun control, right, that he's got support in Wall Street, he's got some support in Silicon Valley as well. And that when you look at the results of last Tuesday's election, there-- there may be a market of people in the general election, maybe, that would be receptive to a message like his. But, you know, the-- there is also an overarching lesson from the 2016 race, which is that when you have a seventeen-way or an eighteen-way or a nineteen-way primary, somebody who did not have a chance in a three-way race--


MARGARET TALEV: --could have a chance.


MARGARET TALEV: And that is all part of the calculus.

ANTJUAN SEAWRIGHT: But you can't-- you cannot leave--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And he's got the--

ANTJUAN SEAWRIGHT: --the Democratic nominee without having strong across the board, broad deep and wide support among African-American voters, he doesn't have that.


JEFFREY GOLDBERG: But I-- I do want to say one thing in his defense or in the theoretical defense of this candidacy, unlike the other billionaires who are really vanity candidates this is a proven election winner. I mean, this is a three-time mayor of New York City.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As a Democrat, Republican and independent. It will make it perfect.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: I mean-- I mean he's covered all the bases. I mean so-- so he has overcome a first hurdle. He's actually gone before voters and gotten votes and by many accounts that had a largely successful run--


JEFFREY GOLDBERG: --as-- as mayor. So I think it does put him in a slightly different lane than just the pure vanity, billionaire fast lane.


MARGARET TALEV: But it is the Biden-- but it is the Biden lane.


MARGARET TALEV: And it-- and it complicates that contest inextricably.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Thanks to all of you for the analysis.

We will be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Sixty-five years ago, the very first guest on FACE THE NATION was Senator Joe McCarthy. A politician who rose to prominence on the audacious claim that communists had infiltrated the U.S. State Department. The hearings and blacklisting that followed are looked back on as a dark period in American history. It serves as a good reminder that it is not entirely new to have this anger, vitriol, and divisiveness in our country's politics. And looking back at the world leaders who have appeared on this program through the years, I am also reminded that upheaval and change are constant even if they are disorienting.

These days you've never had so many options at your fingertips to quickly receive information or disinformation. Talk is cheap, and you can get an opinion just about anywhere.

FACE THE NATION has always been a place for listening to each other, which we all need to do a bit more of in our current climate, and for context and perspective. That's what our team here at FACE THE NATION will continue to try to do each Sunday. And at sixty-five years old, we're in our prime.

We want to wish the United States Marine Corps a very happy birthday. They turned two hundred and forty-four today. We honor all who currently or previously served in the armed forces and their families on this Veterans Day weekend. Thank you all for keeping America safe.

Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I am Margaret Brennan. 

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