On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Secretary of Defense Mark Esper ( )
- Representative Adam Schiff (
- Senator Ted Cruz (
- Representative Adam Kinzinger ( )
- CBS News' Elections and Surveys Director Anthony Salvanto ( )
- Panelists: Toluse Olorunnipa, Gerald Seib and Amy Walter
Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, October 13th. I am Margaret Brennan in the nation's capital and this is FACE THE NATION.
We have breaking news this morning as the U.S. announces plan to withdraw the one thousand American troops still in Syria.
MARK ESPER: I spoke with the President last night, and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And over what time period will you be pulling back?
MARK ESPER: Well, it will be a deliberate withdrawal.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary of Defense Mark Esper broke the news to us just a short time ago. We'll have that interview.
The move comes after President Trump pulled back dozens of American troops from northern Syria, a move that cleared the way for Turkey to stage an incursion there attacking the Kurds, a group that has long been a U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS.
Mister Trump's actions have alienated both his allies abroad and on Capitol Hill.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm sort of an island of one again.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll have reaction from Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. Then, week three of the impeachment inquiry was notable for new subpoenas. Behind closed doors, testimony, and the White House stonewalling.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So they're pursuing an illegal, invalid, and unconstitutional, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) impeachment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is here to give us an update on the investigation.
Plus, the Chinese boycott the NBA after an official signal support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. We'll talk with Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
And where do Americans stand on impeachment? We'll have the surprising results from two brand new CBS polls.
All that, plus, analysis on the news of the week just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We are following two very big stories this Sunday. The impeachment investigation and the President's decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, a move that has turned into an international crisis. We begin this morning with the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Mister Secretary, welcome to FACE THE NATION.
MARK ESPER (Secretary of Defense/@EsperDoD): Good morning, Margaret. Thank you for having me.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The President pulled back from the border with Turkey but there are still about a thousand U.S. troops in Syria. Are you evacuating them?
MARK ESPER: Look, it's a very terrible situation over there. A situation caused by the Turks by President Erdogan. Despite our opposition they decided to make this incursion into Syria. And at this point in time in the last twenty-four hours we learned that they likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned and to the west. And so we know that's happening. We also have learned in the last twenty-four hours that the Syrian forces intend-- I'm sorry, the Kurdish forces--
MARGARET BRENNAN: The SDF--
MARK ESPER: --are looking to cut-- the SDF, are looking to cut a deal, if you will, with the Syrians and the Russians to-- to counter-attack against the Turks in the north. And so we find ourselves as we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it's a very untenable situation. So I spoke with the President last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria.
MARGARET BRENNAN: A deliberate withdrawal from the entire country?
MARK ESPER: From northern Syria.
MARGARET BRENNAN: From northern Syria.
MARK ESPER: Right, which is where most of our forces are.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the one thousand troops--
MARK ESPER: That's correct.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --how long and over what time period will you be pulling back?
MARK ESPER: Well, it's going to be a deliberate withdrawal and we want to conduct it as-- as safely and quickly as possible. So we want to make sure we deconflict a pullback of forces. We want to make sure we don't leave equipment behind. So I'm not prepared to put a timeline on it, but that's-- that's our general game plan.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said you're doing this for U.S. force protection because of two advancing armies. Those armies are advancing after the U.S. had already pulled back. After the U.S. Air Force--
MARK ESPER: Right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --that had controlled the airspace stopped doing so.
MARK ESPER: Well, we still have--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you actually believe they would advance if U.S. forces were there in-- in the numbers and with the force and with the commander-in-chief saying don't do this?
MARK ESPER: I do, because in my lead up to talks with my counterpart of the past several weeks-- I've been on the job a little bit over two months. It became very clear to me that the Turks were fully committed to conducting this incursion. The Turks were committed to doing this. This should not be a surprise. And if you go back in time to when we first began this relationship with the-- with the Syrian Kurds at that time in 2014 the Turks were protesting at that moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
MARK ESPER: And it's gone on and on and since that time they've actually implemented three incursions into northern Syria.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But do you actually believe Turkey would fire on U.S. forces? We are NATO allies.
MARK ESPER: Well, I don't know whether they have-- they would or they wouldn't. We have reports already of indiscriminate fire landing near American forces. But they just--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Was that accidental?
MARK ESPER: Well, we don't know--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Was that deliberate?
MARK ESPER: We need--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Was that reckless?
MARK ESPER: We need to sort that out. We've given them the locations of our forces. But, look, I-- I've been to war. I know what wars like. There's a fog out there and things happen and we want to make sure we don't put our soldiers in a situation where they could be killed or injured. And, look, even if the Turks decided not to attack forces-- I mean, they got over fifteen thousand forces. What we decide to pull back from that immediate zone of attack was about less than fifty, maybe two dozen forces. It would be irresponsible for me to keep them in that position. And allow--
MARGARET BRENNAN: But you did have U.S. air force--
MARK ESPER: And we still do--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --controlling airspace?
MARK ESPER: And we-- and we still do. It was an-- a coordinated arrangement between us and the Turks. And despite our protestations, despite the fact that we urged the Turks not to do this, they decided to do it and we told them that we would not support them militarily in this action.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, how does that not amount to a retreat? You're saying that the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief, said "don't do this" and then Erdoğan said, "I am" and he said, "Okay?"
MARK ESPER: Well I--
MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm not going to fire back--
MARK ESPER: --I wouldn't characterize--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --I'm going to pull back?
MARK ESPER: I-- I wouldn't characterize it this way-- that way. What I'm saying is we did not want to put American forces into harm's way. We did not want to get involved in a conflict that dates back nearly two hundred years between the Turks and the Kurds and get involved in another-- yet, another war in the Middle East.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, when it comes to the forces you're talking about, the SDF you referred to, you said it has developed in the last twenty-four hours that you've learned--
MARK ESPER: Right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --they've struck a deal with Russia.
MARK ESPER: Well, they are working on a deal. I don't know that it's been finalized, yet, but we're pretty confident that they will go in that direction barring some-- we're trying to make some last-minute interventions with President Erdogan. But, again, my expectation is President Erdogan would not agree to a cease-fire. He would not agree to move back across the border which we've been pushing him to do. And so every-- there's every expectation that the-- again, that the Syrian Kurds would cut a deal with the Syrian and Russian forces.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But to be clear, the reason the Syrian Kurds are striking a deal here is to protect themselves from being killed by Turkey.
MARK ESPER: That's right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But that's what the United States was doing for them. They were our allies that we were advising and assisting and protecting. It-- it sounds a lot like they were being left to be slaughtered. So, what choice were they left other than to find someone else to protect them?
MARK ESPER: Look, the-- this, the Kurds have been very good partners in the D-ISIS campaign. They were very good fighters on the battlefield. We, obviously, enabled that as well. But, at the same time, we didn't sign up to fight the Turks on their behalf. And we've been very clear with them about that. That's why since I came into office over two months ago I worked week after week with my defense minister counterpart from Turkey and urged them not to do this. We cited all the reasons that are now playing out. The biggest being the likely release of ISIS fighters from these camps and prisons, not just that we see a humanitarian crisis emerging. We-- that this relationship between the United States and Turkey is being damaged. Their
standing in NATO and Europe is being hurt. We see European capitals coming out and criticizing President Erdogan for-- for this-- these actions. Everything that we told them-- all the reasons why we told them not to do this are-- are coming to bear.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And what price will they pay for it?
MARK ESPER: Well, we'll see over time. You see that-- that some European countries are already talking about specific sanctions and actions. The President is talking about the same. We should expect to see something like that along those same lines.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Doesn't that just drive them into the arms of Russia?
MARK ESPER: I don't think so. We got to see how this plays out. But, again, we've got to take this one step at a time. It's a very fluid situation it's changing by the hour.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You-- just in the past few hours online--
MARK ESPER: Mm-Hm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --there have been videos circulating, horrific videos showing execution of some of these Kurdish allies of ours. There are reports of hundreds of ISIS fighters and family members just running free. There are over a hundred thousand individuals fleeing this violence according to the U.N. Does the United States have any idea who these forces are that Turkey is sending in, who these militias are?
MARK ESPER: It's terrible. It's a terrible situation. We condemn it. We have condemned it. It's-- these are justice things that we told the Turks would happen and play out. Who's conducting it, it's unclear at this point in time. There are Kurdish regular for-- I'm sorry there are Turkish regular forces and there are Turkish proxy forces--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
MARK ESPER: --engaged, as well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we don't know who they are?
MARK ESPER: We don't know exactly-- that's right. We don't know exactly who they all are and what they are doing. But we're hearing the same reports from the battlefield, as well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: These are war crimes.
MARK ESPER: It appears to be, if true, that they are-- would be war crimes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: European allies are looking at this and when they hear the President say things like "these ISIS fighters will just flee to Europe," they say that is not appreciating the alliance, that Turkey has been far too permissive in allowing ISIS fighters within its territory. They see this as inevitable that we are headed towards a terrorist attack--
MARK ESPER: We-- we--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --because of this chaos that the U.S. is allowing in the vacuum.
MARK ESPER: Well, let's be clear, the United States is not allowing this. Turkey committed this action. They decided to make an incursion in northern Syria despite our protestations, our urgings not to do it, all of our warnings. They decided to do it. The situation with the ISIS--
MARGARET BRENNAN: But the U.S. is being permissive, arguably, by pulling back--
MARK ESPER: We--we are--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --and not stopping them.
MARK ESPER: We are doing what's in the interests of our service members not to put them in harm's way. Not to put twenty, thirty, forty soldiers up against a fifteen-thousand-man army which is using airstrikes, artillery, and ground forces to prosecute a war against the Turks whose roots go back over two hundred years.
MARGARET BRENNAN: If the U.S. is fired at, do forces have the ability to defend themselves?
MARK ESPER: They do.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Can they fire back?
MARK ESPER: They do. Absolutely. General Milley has made that clear to his counterpart. I made that clear to my counterpart. I warned him just the other day that they need to respect our positions on the ground. They need to respect our forces. And I reminded them that we have the right of self-defense and we will execute it if necessary.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, are you going to comply with the subpoena that the House provided you and provide documents to them regarding to the halt to military aid to Ukraine?
MARK ESPER: Yeah, we will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress. Just in the last week or two, my general counsel sent out a note as we typically do in these situations to ensure documents are retained.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that a yes?
MARK ESPER: That's a yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You will comply with the subpoena?
MARK ESPER: We will do everything we can to comply.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. All right. Thank you very much, Mister Secretary. Appreciate it.
MARK ESPER: Thank you, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We taped that interview a short time ago. Since then our David Martin reports that a U.S. official has told him U.S. troops have already begun moving out of their
positions in northern Syria. We'll have a report from Syria later on in the broadcast.
But we want to go now to Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He is in Ottawa, Illinois. Good morning to you, Congressman.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER (R-Illinois/@RepKinzinger): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You wanted the President to rethink his position. We know from Secretary Esper this decision to pull out was made last night. What is the implication going to be?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Well, it's going to be terrible and you know the secretary is doing his job and you know he has to follow orders. But the reality we all know that if there were still those thirty or forty soldiers in that part of Syria that Turkey wouldn't attack. We actually had a pretty good kind of joint security situation being setup to de-escalate that area. In fact, pulling back those fifty troops or whatever it was has given license to Turkey and then now I think pulling out the remaining thousand in Syria is simply an excuse to get out. Look at it this way. You hear the President and people like Rand Paul talk about endless wars all the time and it's kitschy, but actually we were preventing an endless war. And-- and that actually commenced on Sunday now a week ago and so it's really depressing. And you know, for me as-- as a guy that served in the military and really, got into politics because I believe in the role America plays, to see this, yet, again you know leaving an ally behind, abandoning people that we, frankly, told that we were going to be with is disheartening, depressing. Frankly, it's weak and I don't see how it follows through on the President's promise, his biggest promise of the campaign to defeat ISIS because I think it is going to resurge.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the President putting U.S. national security at risk?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Yes, I certainly I-- I think so, yeah. And I mean look-- look at what's going to happen out of here. Now we have another group that now believes they can't rely on the United States. Th-- there's a lot of complication in the Kurd situation and I've seen all this Russian misinformation now on the internet that's being picked up by some of these political blogs that these are the bad Kurds and there's good Kurds. Well, look, there are Kurds that aren't-- aren't the best folks in the world. But there are also people that we have chosen to equip to fight ISIS that we were with. We had created a situation in which there was stability and out of an impulsive decision I think that the President made-- otherwise it was cold and calculated because he'd been thinking about it for a while and nobody else knew. The Kurds found out on Twitter for goodness sakes. We have left them to the wolves. And-- and the message this is sending to our allies around the world I think is-- is really going to be bad.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So what are Republicans in Congress going to do about it? Are you completely powerless?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: No, we are not powerless. I mean the President has a lot of power though and I said that no matter-- even under President Obama, I said the President's got a lot of power that's in the Constitution. The things we can do we are going to do. We've got a resolution of condemnation I think next week, as well as some significant sanctions. The President tweeted about sanctions this morning but I think he needs to make sure he's following through on them and they're not going to be surface sanctions. They're going to really hit Turkey hard. And then the other thing we can do is be outspoken about this. The
American people you know who want strength and leadership, who were promised by this President that we would defeat ISIS, deserve to hear the truth and not these things like end with-- endless war that you hear some on the kind of libertarian spectum-- spectrum talk about. There is now a war that's been commenced in Syria because we have pulled fifty troops out from being able to prevent that war.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You heard the secretary acknowledge war crimes. The State Department has said they're afraid of ethnic cleansing. So looking at all of that, aren't sanctions just punitive? They're not preventative.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a responsibility here to do something?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Yeah. Well, I think there is. I think it is not necessarily going to prevent Turkey from doing what they are doing. This has been Turkey's dream for a long time. And the President basically gave the green light to do it. They're going to be important. But I think we also have to continue to say this which is when the United States backs away, chaos follows through. And we had a situation of stability there. It wasn't perfect. Erdogan probably didn't want to have to do joint patrols with the U.S.--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: --because he wanted to attack. But we're the United States of America and we can prevent things like that. We have to remember the strength we have and not just try to run away from every conflict we could have.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the Wall Street Journal had an editorial that was pretty strong here in sharply criticizing the President quote, "for his habit of impulsive judgment." And they argued that his judgment can be so reckless that many voters who took a risk on him the first time will ask if he's worth a second gamble in 2020. "Impeachment won't defeat Donald Trump in 2020, but Donald Trump might." Does this make you question whether you're going to support President Trump in 2020?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Well, I'm-- I'm not going to go there and question whether I'm going to support, but it does, you know-- I think the President needs to be aware that in-- and I know Republican base voters. I represent both Republicans and Democrats. I have a Republican district. One of the things they loved about Donald Trump is-- they're like he says what he means. He's tough. He's taken the fight to ISIS and I'm having a hard time seeing how basically pulling out of Syria--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: --and it's not just about protecting the Kurds. It's about getting intel and fighting ISIS. And I don't see how that's going to be a position of strength. So we'll have to see how 2020 plays out on that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes no, should Erdogan come to the White House next month as planned?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: No, absolutely not.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Congressman.
We'll be back in one minute with the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff. Don't go away.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the other big story we have been watching that of the impeachment inquiry into charges that the President and his allies pressured Ukraine to investigate unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. We're joined now by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff. Good morning to you, Chairman. Good to have you here.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (Intelligence Committee Chairman/@RepAdamSchiff/D-California): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Before we move to impeachment I want to ask for your reaction to the President's decision to pull out of Syria.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well, I agree with my Republican colleague. I think this is disastrous. It's a complete capitulation to Erdogan that is putting at great peril probably our strongest ally in the fight against ISIS. And that is the Syrian Kurds. They were fighting side by side with American forces we have pulled the rug out from under them. They're being slaughtered. There are war crimes being committed against them. And we're seeing ISIS fighters released from custody just as we predicted would happen. And for the President to say well you know they're just going to go to Europe. We're not going to have an ally left after this presidency. You can imagine how Europe feels about the President of the United States saying well we're not really concerned about foreign fighters going to Europe. They're going to pose a direct threat to our homeland as well and we ought to care about our allies. This wouldn't be happening but for this impulsive decision by the President to capitulate to Erdogan by precipitously withdrawing our forces. It's just what Secretary Mattis warned against. Erdogan took this as a green light. And who can blame him for perceiving that that was the President's intention and the consequences will be far lasting the damage to our standing. The fact the Kurds are now entertaining going to the Russians to protect them because the Americans wouldn't. This is just an unmitigated disaster. And-- and I deeply fear, as Secretary Mattis has said, that this will result in the resurgence of ISIS.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I want to get to the other big topic and that is the impeachment inquiry that you are leading. Do you see this widening?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well, we're keeping our focus right now on the President's coercion of an ally, that is Ukraine, to create these sham investigations into his political opponent. We have discovered in very short order not only the contents of that call but also the preparatory work that went into that call. The effort to condition something the Ukrainian president deeply sought and that was a meeting with the President to establish that this new president of Ukraine had a powerful patron--the President of the United States. It was of vital importance to Ukraine was being conditioned on digging up dirt on the Bidens.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you see that as the quid pro quo--
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --not just the military aid?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: First of all, there doesn't need to be a quid pro quo, but it is clear already I think from the text messages that this meeting that the Ukraine president sought was being conditioned on their willingness to interfere in the U.S. election to help the President. That is a terrible abuse of the President's power. Now whether that abuse goes further that is the withholding of military aid also as leverage.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: There's certainly strong indications that that is true as well. And we're going to get to the bottom of it. But here you have a President of the United States abusing his power to the detriment of our national security and doing so to get yet another foreign country to intervene in our election. It's hard to imagine more of a corruption of his office than that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When will you begin to hold public hearings? The polling that CBS has done has shown that Americans really are not clear on what to think about this impeachment inquiry over the past two weeks of work you've done.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well, actually, you know, I think that the public attitudes have swiftly moved in strong support of the impeachment inquiry. And you know what we were trying to do is do a methodical and, yet, with a sense of urgency investigation to these matters.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the Republicans say it's behind closed doors so you can cherry pick information--
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --to be released.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --the-- the Republicans would like nothing better because they view their role as defending the President being the President's lawyers. If witnesses could tailor their testimony to other witnesses. They would love for one witness to be able to hear what another witness says so that they can know what they can give away and what they can't give away. There's a reason why investigations and grand jury proceedings, for example, and I think this is analogous to a grand jury proceeding, are done out of the public view initially. Now we may very well call some of the same witnesses or all the same witnesses in public hearings as well. But we want to make sure that we meet the needs of the investigation and not give the President or his legal minions the opportunity to tailor their testimony and in some cases fabricate testimony to suit their interests.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You've been-- well, the whistleblower has made these complaints and hand them-- handed them over. Why push for this whistleblower to come before Congress? Because a-- Republicans are calling for it and some Democrats would like to ask questions, too, but this information's already out there. Can't the committee do its own investigation without
risking the identity of this person being--
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: We can--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --public?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: You know and I think initially, before the President started threatening the whistleblower, threatening others calling them traitors and spies and suggesting that you know we used to give the death penalty to traitors and spies and maybe we should think about that again. Yes, we were interested in having the whistleblower come forward. Our primary--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Not anymore?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well, our primary interest right now is making sure that that person is protected. Indeed, now there's more than one whistleblower, that they are protected. And given that we already have the call record, we don't need the whistleblower who wasn't on the call to tell us what took place during the call. We have the best evidence of that. We do want to make sure that we identify other evidence that is pertinent to the withholding of the military support, the effort to cover this up by hiding this in a classified computer system. We want to make sure that we uncover the full details about the conditionality of either the military aid or that meeting with Ukraine's president. It may not be necessary to take steps that might reveal the whistleblower's identity to do that. And we're going to make sure we protect that whistleblower.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know who was on that July 25th call? You know all the participants?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: I can't say that I do. But we now know what took place on that call.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: We are bringing in witnesses this coming week from the National Security Council, other State Department officials, to find out what they can tell us about the conditionality of this vital military assistance to an ally. The conditionality of this vital meeting between the two presidents and the President's effort to dig up dirt on his opponent.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Quickly, do you regret saying that we, the committee, weren't in touch with the whistleblower?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: I should have been much more clear and I said so the minute it was brought to my attention that I was referring to the fact that when the whistleblower filed the complaint, we had not heard from the whistleblower. We wanted to bring the whistleblower in at that time. But I should've been much more clear about that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, thank you very much.
And we will be right back. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Coming up in our next half hour, the latest on the 2020 race for the White House. Who is up, who is down, and what impact the impeachment story is having if any on the Democratic field with our CBS News Battleground Tracker. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We spoke yesterday with Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz. He is the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Hong Kong since pro democracy protests began four months ago. We asked him about the President's saying that the situation in Hong Kong was dying down.
SENATOR TED CRUZ (R-Texas/@SenTedCruz): I'll tell you what's happening here in Hong Kong is inspiring. We've seen over two million people come to the streets standing up for freedom, standing up for democracy and-- and standing up against the oppression of the Chinese communist regime. And-- and I think it is very much in the United States' interest to support the people of Hong Kong. I'm here, I'm dressed in all black standing in solidarity with the protesters.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So the protests are not dying out as the President suggested?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: The protests are continuing full force, and I'll tell you something that really illustrates just how powerful the protests are is-- is what we've seen happen with the NBA this past week. Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Rockets--my hometown team, I'm a diehard Houston Rockets fan, but-- but he tweeted a very benign tweet where he said Stand for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong, and-- and the Chinese communist government, they just about lost it. They got so upset, they ended up boycotting the Rockets. They ended up pulling them off TV in China. They ended up pulling them off the internet. They ended up canceling all of their sponsorships. And, sadly, what ended up happening is the NBA as a league began this series of-- of apologies and it was really sad to see an American company and, indeed, a global sports league like the NBA being dragooned into censoring the free speech of American citizens in the interest of big bucks. It's not complicated why the NBA did that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SENATOR TED CRUZ: Television and-- and the Chinese market is worth a whole lot of money, but-- but, thankfully, a whole lot of us across the ideological spectrum--indeed I helped lead a group, a bipartisan group, of members of Congress calling on the NBA to do better to defend free speech--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SENATOR TED CRUZ: --and I am proud to say I-- I think the NBA is doing a better job of defending those free speech rights.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But isn't it really the U.S. government that should be leading the charge on this rather than free enterprise?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: Well-- well, but-- but listen, American businesses shouldn't be in the business of censoring Americans and we've seen this pattern whether it's the NBA afraid of losing a bunch of money in China or whether it's Hollywood censoring out any content that is critical of the communist government in China. You know it's really an unfortunate dynamic how China uses it-- its vast resources to promote censorship. And all of our allies are facing this increased aggressiveness--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Exactly--
SENATOR TED CRUZ: -- of China and we need to stand up. We need to defend our shared values.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Exactly. So should those kind of protections be in any kind of trade deal with China?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: Well, listen, a trade deal is-- is functionally different. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee just unanimously passed legislation on Hong Kong to pressure-- to pressure China to protect the-- the free speech and democratic rights of the people of Hong Kong, that I am a co-sponsor of that legislation--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SENATOR TED CRUZ: --and it was bipartisan. We saw Republicans and Democrats come together.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you're talking about legislation there. But what actions we've seen the Trump administration take about Muslim minorities who are being put in internment camps in China have been by the State Department--
SENATOR TED CRUZ: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --pretty limited. The Commerce Department blacklisted some companies. How do you stop the Trump administration from using that as a bargaining chip in a trade deal?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: I introduced legislation called the Tiananmen Act to that-- that would direct blacklisting the technology companies--the Chinese technology companies that China is using to engage in surveillance, to engage in repression and imprisonment, and torture and murder of up to a million Uighurs, a religious minority. And-- and as you noted just this week, the Trump administration announced that they were implementing what is the core of my legislation which is blacklisting those Chinese technology companies that are being used to suppress religious minorities. I think that's a really good step.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Have they assured you--
SENATOR TED CRUZ: It's a positive step by the administration.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --that won't be in any way considered as a bargaining chip in negotiations?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: Well, listen, I-- I think we can do both. It's important to get a trade deal with China. I hope we do get a trade deal with China. We have enormous economic concerns, but we can do that at the same time defend our core values.
MARGARET BRENNAN: China is a-- a surveillance state. Is it appropriate for President Trump to be saying--
SENATOR TED CRUZ: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --China should look into the Biden family? Is that appropriate?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: I-- look, of course, not. Elections in the U.S. should be decided by-- by Americans and it's not the business of-- of foreign countries, any foreign countries, to be interfering in our elections.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Even Ukraine? I mean, when-- when you're talking about some of this, I mean, do you think that-- say the President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who's been talking about China, who's been talking about Ukraine. Do you want to hear him testify about this sort of shadow foreign policy?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: Listen, foreign countries should stay out of American elections. That's true for Russia. That's true for Ukraine. That's true for China. That's true for all of them. It should be the American people deciding elections. I-- I don't know what Rudy's been saying. I-- I do know, though, that we should decide our elections. It should be the American people making those decisions.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you do want him to testify before your committee?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: I-- I think it'd make a lot of sense for Rudy to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That's-- that's ultimately a question for the Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham. But-- but I'd like to see Rudy testify. Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So the President is often talking about the need to look in to Joe Biden. If he is so concerned, would it be in any way appropriate for him to bring it to his own Justice Department instead of talking about foreign countries looking into his political rival?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: I have long advocated that the Justice Department should enforce the law, should investigate corruption, should investigate violations of law, regardless of party.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But to be clear, you're not calling for the Justice Department to investigate the Biden family?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: Look, I don't-- I-- I believe the Justice Department should investigate violations of law. If there's credible evidence of a violation of law, yes, they should investigate and I'll tell you what I have called for. I think President Trump wisely released the transcript of his conversation with the Ukrainian government. I think that was good because a lot of what the Democrats had been raising, alleging an illegal quid pro quo, was not, in fact, backed up by the
transcript. But I think-- I think actually the administration should do the exact same thing for Joe Biden. That it should release the transcripts of Joe Biden's conversations with Ukraine. Use the same standard for President Trump and Joe Biden and-- and let the American people read the transcripts and decide.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Cruz, we will leave it there. Thank you for joining us from Hong Kong.
We'll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: For a look at what Americans are thinking about all those headlines that are dominating our conversations here on FACE THE NATION, we turn to Anthony Salvanto, our CBS News elections and survey directors. Anthony has got two polls for us today. And, first, we'll take a look at the national poll on the impeachment inquiry. So, Anthony, over the past two weeks since this has really picked up steam, have you seen a change?
ANTHONY SALVANTO (CBS News Elections & Surveys Director/@SalvantoCBS): Not over the last two weeks. We do see hardening partisan divisions here. We see Republicans increasingly saying that they support the President. Don't think he ought to cooperate with Congress. Democrats even more strongly approving of the inquiry. Really important when you watch the polls on this is that you differentiate between support for having an inquiry, which there is marginal majority support, get the facts, learn what happened and whether or not they think the President deserves impeachment. And that is much more mixed nationally. What I think is interesting going forward here, Margaret, is that when you talk to the people who say they don't know which way to go on this, they say they aren't paying as much attention and they feel like a lot of this, lot of names, a lot of places are hard to follow. So it may be a challenge for both parties to move beyond their base as they make their arguments when Congress returns.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So over-standing things to say building support for impeachment, it's more complicated than that.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: It's more complicated than that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Our second survey is of Democrats in the eighteen states holding the first primary or caucus contest next year. According to our CBS News Battleground Tracker, Senator Elizabeth Warren has extended her lead with thirty-one percent support among Democrats, former Vice President Joe Biden is second with twenty-five percent support, and Senator Bernie Sanders rounds out the top tier with seventeen percent. Our next group of candidates shows Senator Kamala Harris with seven percent support, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has five percent support among voters in those eighteen early contests, and former Congressman Beto O'Rourke has four percent support. The other candidates come in with one percent or less. So how, Anthony, is all of this controversy affecting the Democrats?
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, the charges of the President's leveled against Joe Biden. They are not hurting him directly. Most Democrats say they aren't true, they don't matter, haven't changed their views of him. But it's Biden's response to those charges that's generating, kind of, a lukewarm response from these early-state Democrats. They say they are somewhat satisfied with that Biden response, but not very satisfied with it. And then we ask, well, when these
candidates-- if these candidates become the nominee, how well would they be able to fend off attacks from the President?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Because surely they are going to be coming. And only half of people say that they think Biden will do that very well. You contrast that with Elizabeth Warren whose numbers are much higher on her perceived ability to fend off attacks from the President. I also notice that one of the strengths for Joe Biden has been what people perceive as his electability, the idea that he can beat Donald Trump among Democrats. That's down this week. And so I think it maybe that, you know, when you talk about electability it's not just which demographic groups they think a candidate can appeal to, it's also how they rate the way they handle the campaign.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said Elizabeth Warren has had a good month.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Mm-Hm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So what's behind that?
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, she is up in across these early states. She's also then moved up in Iowa, extended her lead in New Hampshire. And a lot of that is she is doing particularly well with people who say they want a candidate who is tough. Her electability numbers have stayed about where they were. She is also doing much better than Joe Biden in being perceived as a candidate who will fight for people like you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That's her slogan, isn't it?
ANTHONY SALVANTO: That's one of her-- it's one of her slogan. So that may be resonating. And I think a lot of this for her too is, you know, not just on policy now, not just on being seen as specific which she has been in previous polls. But she also seems to undercutting some of Joe Biden's arguments as well as she gains steam.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The other frontrunner, Bernie Sanders, has had a tough month in terms of health problems. He had that heart attack. Is that impacting perception of him?
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, we have been asking now and in previous polls if folks thought age was a concern for some of these older candidates. And the numbers who say that Sanders' age is a concern are up this week.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: We followed up and we asked what, specifically, is concerning. And it was those folks who said it was said, well, they were worried that he might not be able to do the job of President and all that it requires. So there may be some indirect impact on that for Sanders. Having said that the support he does have, the folks who support him are among the strongest are the strongest, in fact, in their support of any other candidate.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The passion factor.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Indeed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Anthony, thank you.
All of the results from both of those surveys are now on our website at facethenation.com.
And we will be back in a moment with our panel.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'd like to bring in our panel now for some political analysis. Amy Walter is the national editor for The Cook Political Report, Jerry Seib is the executive Washington editor at The Wall Street Journal, and Tolu Olorunnipa covers the White House for The Washington Post. He is also a CNN political analyst. Thank you all for being here. Jerry, I want to start off with you, just the news of the morning. What we heard from the secretary of Defense. The pull out of at least hundreds of--
GERALD SEIB (Wall Street Journal/@GeraldFSeib): Mm-Hm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --American troops from the north of the country. Unclear when the remaining will be moved out. It sounds like they are first headed to Iraq. Unclear what the plan is--
GERALD SEIB: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --to counter the counterterrorism threat. How is this going to be digested?
GERALD SEIB: Well, first of all, it's striking how ugly this has turned how quickly. You have Turkish troops moving further into Syria than they promised. You have ISIS prisoners on the loose, apparently. You have U.S. troops getting out of harm's way because they were, in fact, in harm's way. You have a lot of tension within the NATO alliance because you have a NATO ally, a NATO member undertaking an action that everybody, including the U.S., opposes. And so that's a pretty ugly picture. I also think, though, it's striking that you have President Trump saying this is an-- an attempt to end endless wars. And it kind of tells you exactly how seriously he took this promise he thinks he made in the 2016 (sic) campaign to get U.S. forces out of the Middle East and how intent he is on not being accused of failing to make good on that promise by time the 2020 campaign gets around. Makes you wonder a little bit about what's going to happen in Iraq and Afghanistan between now and the 2020 election.
AMY WALTER (Cook Political Report/@amyewalter/The Takeaway): Right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we didn't even mention the fact that on Friday the Pentagon announced they're actually upping the number of U.S. troops in the Middle East. This isn't actually withdrawing from the region--
AMY WALTER: Right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --it's adding another eighteen thousand-- or eighteen hundred, excuse me, to Saudi Arabia.
AMY WALTER: But I think Jerry's right. It's a little bit of the check the box, right? The closer that we get to the election the more that he focuses on being able to say I fulfilled the promises I made in 2016. The-- the lengths he's taken on security, on the border, right, building the wall, showing how many folks have been apprehended at the border. We're now I think on our fifth Homeland Security head since the-- his administration has started.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Kevin McAleenan--
AMY WALTER: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --the acting secretary resigned on Friday.
AMY WALTER: Resigned. So with the sole focus of that position which was designed as a broader umbrella for security, right, an American security and coordinating security within the U.S. has been focused almost exclusively on the southern border. And his-- the President's focus on making sure that he can say on Election Day I have been able to fulfill X, Y and Z.
GERALD SEIB: And-- and we should not lose sight of the fact that a lot of people will cheer at that.
AMY WALTER: Yes, of course.
GERALD SEIB: I mean the foreign policy establishment is appalled but there is a certain base of support for just-- let's just get out and he's going to tap into that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Tolu, obviously, the promise resonates to pull U.S. troops out of the Middle East because Democrats are also running on that message.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA (Washington Post/@ToluseO): Mm-Hm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But it's the how it happens when it happens if it's planned, that is what the national security establishment--
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA: Hm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --usually tries to plan to minimize damage. What we heard from the defense secretary is all of this was decided just last night.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA: Yeah. I thought it was pretty remarkable what Secretary Esper said. He said that we predicted that all of this negative and horrible stuff would happen once the Turks went into Syria, but we still stood down and allowed it to happen. It doesn't make it sound better to say that we knew that this was going to happen but we thought, you know, we could not stop them from doing it. We have the President that says, you know, we're America first, we're the strongest military, we've rebuilt the military but at the same time we can prevent these atrocities from happening. We just had to stand down because the Turks were determined to go in, it didn't seem like there was a plan about what to do once that happened. Now it seems like they're trying to put together a plan, President's tweeting and threatening sanctions. But there's not a clear sense that there is a strategy involved and we saw what happened in 2014 with the rise of ISIS and how well they used social media to really put fear in the hearts of a lot of
Americans and a lot of American voters and Republicans use that as a weapon against President Obama and if we see that reemerge, if we see those types of videos and images coming out of the region once again they could threaten President Trump's reelection as well.
AMY WALTER: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So it-- it's usually thought of it as a cliche, oh, foreign policy doesn't matter to voters, national security doesn't.
AMY WALTER: Right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that true?
AMY WALTER: Unless it doesn't until it does. And Tolu is right. When it looks like it's directly impacting Americans that's when-- that's when it really matters. But I also think it's important to-- to understand when we're talking about fulfilling his campaign promises and checking those boxes and I think Jerry is right that, yes, for a lot of voters they do think that's one of the things that they like about him. But, remember, there is this whole group of voters out there who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 not necessarily because they liked what he was saying or they wanted him to fulfill these promises, but they didn't necessarily like the other choice that they had. Now what they're having to choose from and I think this is an example of this is do they want another four years of a presidency where things seem to happen without any strategic thinking, where there's so much chaos. The Wall Street Journal editorial--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
AMY WALTER: --put it this way, right, this impulsive judgment, that is the challenge right now for Trump going forward. It's not-- is his base excited, our-- Democrats engaged, it's that small sliver of people who might not necessarily have been enamored with Donald Trump in the first place, but they are exhausted by what's been happening over these last couple of years and the prospect of it continuing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to-- I want to talk about one of the people who's running as an alternative, Joe Biden, who has been linked to this impeachment inquiry because the accusations around Ukraine and his son. His son, Hunter, today releasing a statement really kind of commenting for the first time on all of this saying that if his pres-- his father becomes President he won't serve on the board of a foreign firm, resigning from the firm he does serve on in-- in China. And I want to play this sound bite from the Vice President Joe Biden because he really responded for one of the first times this week.
JOE BIDEN: We all laughed when he said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and get away with it. It's no joke. He's shooting holes in the Constitution, and we cannot let him get away with it.
JOE BIDEN: To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So that public call was really the first time the vice president has said
he's-- he's putting his shoulder behind it.
GERALD SEIB: And he's been very cautious about impeachment as a lot of mainstream Democrats have been, like, let's-- we saw this movie in the 1980s with Bill Clinton that didn't turn out well for the Republicans, let's be careful. But he came out this week, it puts him more in sync with the Democratic base. And now I think that Biden campaign is doing something very interesting, they are trying to say, essentially, President Trump is trying to drag me, Joe Biden, down because he fears me the most. And that plays right into the Biden campaign narrative, which is I am the most formidable candidate to defeat President Trump. President Trump is making that case for me, you Democrats ought to take heed and understand that I am the formidable candidate who you can turn to-- to defeat President Trump. That's not a bad message for the Biden campaign to put out.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And, Tolu, how is the White House, how is the President responding to the impeachment inquiry? We can see the tweets what's actually happened.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA: Well, as we talked about they're not being much of a strategy with the Syria policy. It doesn't seem like there's much of a counter impeachment strategy beyond, you know, having these outside lawyers say that the President is immune, that the President should not be investigated, the President going out doing more rallies than normal and saying that this is a coup, that this is an-- an attempt by Democrats to overturn the 2016 election. So he's going to push forward some language that may seem unsettling to a lot of people as he tries to counter this impeachment inquiry, but there's no sense that there's an actual strategy a war room within the White House to push back against any of this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And how is it landing?
AMY WALTER: Well, I think the point that your recent poll just put forward is that the Biden defense that this is actually good for me, this makes me look like the frontrunner and that Trump's afraid of me isn't really borne out by those numbers how well they handle attacks from Trump-Warren up over Biden by fifteen points. So I think that as of this point it has not been as effective as they would have liked it to be.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Thanks to all of you.
We'll be right back with a report from Syria.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We close today with a look at the situation in Syria from CBS News foreign correspondent Charlie D'Agata, who just filed this report from northern Syria.
CHARLIE D'AGATA (CBS News Foreign Correspondent/@charliecbs): Even before the announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. troops, America's Kurdish allies stood little defense against Turkey's relentless onslaught. The U.S. military presence here was the only thing stopping the Turks from attacking in the first place, now there will be no holding back. Turkish-backed militias who have already penetrated deeper into northeast Syria than ever before will be emboldened to broaden their ground offensive. This video allegedly shows their gunmen
executing Kurdish civilians and soldiers on the roadside. The Syrian Democratic Forces say they've been betrayed and abandoned. Senior SDF commander Redur Khalil.
What is your message to President Trump?
(Redur Khalil speaking foreign language)
CHARLIE D'AGATA: "We fought beside his soldiers for many years," Khalil told us, "We were brothers in arms. He promised that he would protect the Kurds, but he's done nothing." The U.N. estimates that more than a hundred thirty thousand Kurds have already fled the fighting.
What is your message to President Trump?
(Woman speaking foreign language)
CHARLIE D'AGATA: "Why did you leave us alone?" she said, "we were your loyal allies and you turned your back on us."
These Kurdish forces were not only America's most loyal allies in the fight against ISIS here, but they protected us as we covered that fight.
With Kurdish forces redeployed to face the Turkish invasion and U.S. troops now largely out of the picture, resurgent ISIS has already begun striking back in any way they can.
Now that emerging ISIS threat cannot be exaggerated, they used a car bomb in an attempted jailbreak not far from here. ISIS inmates have been rioting. And just this morning hundreds of ISIS families and supporters escaped from a detention center after it was shelled by Turkish forces.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Charlie D'Agata reporting from northern Syria.
That's it for us today. Thank you for watching. And thank you to the Jones Day law firm for the use of their facilities here on Capitol Hill. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.