Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on October 6, 2019

Don't take Trump's request for Biden probes seriously

Last Updated Oct 7, 2019 11:10 AM EDT

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

  • Senator Roy Blunt (read more)
  • Representative Jim Himes (read more)
  • Representative Eliot Engel (read more)
  • Bob Woodward and Peter baker (read more)
  • Panelists: Jamelle Bouie, Susan Page, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, and Ramesh Ponnuru

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


MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, October 6th. I'm Margaret Brennan in the nation's capital. And this is FACE THE NATION.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Everything, to me, is about corruption.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Washington weathers another week of fallout from President Trump's now-infamous July 25th call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. At issue, a request for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Was it a quid pro quo for the U.S. releasing millions in military aid to that country?

The House impeachment inquiry is under way. Is the pressure getting to the President?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: She hands out subpoenas like they're cookies. You want a subpoena? Here you go, take them, like they're cookies.

MARGARET BRENNAN: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is adopting a different tone.

NANCY PELOSI: Impeaching a president or having the investigation to impeach a president is not anything to be joyful about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But many Republicans claim this is just a political stunt. Our guests, top Republican Senator Missouri's Roy Blunt and two key House Democrats, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and Congressman Jim Himes, who sits on the Intelligence Committee.

Plus, we'll hear from two journalists who've closely covered past impeachments. The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Peter Baker of The New York Times.

All that, and political analysis of the week up next on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. There has been another series of stunning developments in the story that is consuming Washington.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump continues to attack his critics, tweeting over a hundred and sixty times this week. He also made several free-wheeling appearances filled with unsubstantiated claims alongside visiting foreign leaders.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (Wednesday): Biden and his son are stone-cold crooked. And you know it. His son walks out with millions of dollars. The kid knows nothing. You know it and so do we. Go ahead, ask a question.

JEFF MASON (Wednesday): The-- the question, sir, was what did you want President Zelensky to do about Pres-- Vice President Biden and his son Hunter?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Are you talking to me?

JEFF MASON: Yeah, it was just a follow-up of what I just asked you.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The only thing that matters is the transcript of the actual conversation that I had with the president of Ukraine. It was perfect.

WEIJIA JIANG (Wednesday): Your own DNI said the call transcript was consistent with the complaint. So should only whistleblower--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, no, no. He didn't say that.

WEIJIA JIANG: He did say that.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You have to take a look. No, no, no. He did not say that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But he did.

JOSEPH MAGUIRE: I would say that the whistleblower's complaint is in alignment with what was released yesterday by the President.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Kurt Volker, Mister Trump's special envoy to Ukraine who resigned last week, handed Congress a series of text messages between himself, U.S. ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland, a major Trump campaign donor, and career State Department diplomat Bill Taylor. The texts revealed administration pressure on Ukraine to launch an investigation in exchange for a White House visit. This from Volker to a Zelensky aide: "Assuming President Zelensky convinces Trump he will investigate get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, we will mail down date for a visit to Washington." President Trump also asked another country to look into former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (Thursday): And, by the way, likewise China should start an investigation into the Bidens.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Biden responded angrily.

JOE BIDEN (Yesterday): There's been no indication of any conflict of interest, from Ukraine or anywhere else. Period. I'm not going to-- I'm not going to respond to that. Let's focus on the problem. Focus on this man. What he's doing that no president has ever done, no president. Have you ever seen, a rhetorical question, a president ever so unhinged as this guy is? That's what worries me. Let the House focus on what they're focusing on in the Senate, and I'm going to go out and I'm going to beat him on the merits. Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congress is seeking documents from Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo.

MIKE POMPEO (Yesterday): Nations do this. Nations work together and they say, boy,

goodness gracious, if you can help me with X, we'll help you achieve Y. This is what partnerships do. It's win-win.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mister Trump acknowledged he may be impeached.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (Friday): So the Democrats, unfortunately, they have the votes. And then we'll get to the Senate, and we're going to win. The Republicans have been very unified.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's true, for the most part, but there are some cracks in Republican unity. Utah Senator Mitt Romney called the president's Ukraine and China requests brazen and unprecedented, wrong and appalling. Nebraska's Ben Sasse and Maine's Susan Collins were also critical.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And with that, we begin this morning with Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt. He is part of Republican Party leadership and he joins us here in studio. Good morning.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT (R-Missouri/Intelligence Committee/@RoyBlunt): Morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We learned this morning from attorneys representing now multiple whistleblowers who have come forward in relation to that complaint first revealed in August related to concern that the President was seeking foreign interference in the 2020 election. How should this be handled? What will Senate Intelligence do?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: Well, as you know, the Senate Intelligence Committee that I serve on has been asked to look at this, to see if we can assemble all of the facts. I think that gives us a responsibility to actually try to get the facts before we reach conclusions. Others who haven't been ask-- asked to do that might reach their conclusions a little quicker than we are. But in terms of other people stepping forward, I heard on earlier today that maybe this would be a firsthand source which means they--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's what the attorney for--

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: I guess, it means they may have seen--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --one of the whistleblowers says--

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: --the transcript that we now have all seen now. You know, I did wonder as we talked to the IG for this-- the intelligence community, is there something wrong with the whistleblower law that people who were firsthand sources told somebody else and tried to get that other person to come forward? I think it will be interesting to find out more about who that person is and what kind of contacts they had. We do know that they contacted the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee and then Chairman Schiff said that didn't happen. But we all are sort of firsthand sources now that we've all seen the transcript and--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: --let's see what else actually that really means you've got somebody else coming forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that initial whistleblower said there were about half a dozen individuals who could back up what he said. The attorney for the second whistleblower says there is firsthand knowledge.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: Well, that might be. But we've all seen the transcript now so we could all back up what the whistleblower said as it relates to the transcript. I think actually the speaker chose a fairly narrow topic here to move forward on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: It's not very confusing. One way or another, you're going to decide is what the President says he said an impeachable problem or not.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: And I think it's a different situation when the President actually says those are-- that's what I said and here's why I said it. And I think it was the President says he thinks he was on solid ground and we'll see what--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well--

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: --other facts might come to the fore that have an impact on that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you comfortable with what the President has said here in this call for foreign governments Ukraine and China to investigate his political opponent?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: Well, I-- I-- I doubt if the China comment was serious to tell you the truth. The President--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You don't take the President at his word?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: The President was-- no, the President loves to go out on the-- on the White House driveway. I haven't talked to him about this. I don't know what the President was thinking. But I do know he loves to bait the press.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: And he does that almost every day to see what you will talk about and maybe what he was hoping was--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't believe--

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: --somebody in the press will say--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the President, but is that appropriate to ask for a foreign government to interfere in the election?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: I-- I don't imagine that's what he was doing certainly we--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But is it appropriate?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: --we shouldn't expect the Chinese, the Russians, or any of our other national security adversaries to be helpful in any way. And if they do come forward with the information, I think you'd have to seriously question whether there was any veracity to that information or not.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you're on Senate Intelligence, can we just establish a fact here? You've been part of one of the only bipartisan--

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --investigations into election meddling. Is there any shadow of a doubt that it was Russia that interfered in 2016?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: No shadow of a doubt that Russia interfered. I think--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you're hearing from others, including the President's attorney, these ideas that maybe Ukraine meddled. Have you seen any facts to substantiate that?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: Well, I think there are some facts that indicate the Ukraine was involved in some things like purporting to have information on Manafort that even Mueller didn't use. I don't know if that came forward in '16 or it came forward in '17. Not very hard to meddle in the way the Russians did. I think you have to assume that the Russians, the North Koreans, the Iranians, the Chinese--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: --all are trying to get in our systems all the time and every one of them and others would see anything good for them is bad for the United States and more importantly anything bad for the United States is good for them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what-- when the President says things like he did in that call record that there's a server in Ukraine. Is that a conspiracy theory or have-- have you established that as fact?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: I-- I don't have any information on that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it fact? Do you--

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: I don't know.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --know it to be true?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: I don't know.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it anything that your committee's looked into?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: Not that I'm aware of.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it worth it looking into?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: And I don't think it was part-- you know, we've been-- as-- as you said, we've tried to stay in a bipartisan way here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: I think the Intel Committee in the Senate has uniquely been able to do that. I hope we're able to do that through the next few weeks as we try to put a fairly small fact set together. This is not like going back and looking at everything any outside source might have done in the election. It's looking at facts.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: The-- the key one that the President says is accurate and then trying to determine what more may be out there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your Republican colleague, Senator Ron Johnson, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview that he had a conversation. He was personally told by the U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland in a phone call that if Ukraine would get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, if President Trump has that confidence, then he'll release the military spending. Johnson then says in this interview, "at that suggestion I winced. My reaction was, oh, God I don't want to see those two things combined." Johnson went on to say the President denied having anything to do with this, but he's substantiating here in this interview on the record that there was discussion of a quid pro quo.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: Well, now remember, you know, some of these ambassadors in these discussions haven't had any diplomatic experience. Just the fact that you'd widely--

MARGARET BRENNAN: He was confirmed--

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: --talk about things--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --by the Senate into this job.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: He-- he-- he was.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does he need to be held accountable, Gordon Sondland?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: He does. They all do. They all need to be held accountable. And he'd be held accountable if--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think--

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: --you're speculating--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --this was sanctioned by the President?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: I have no--

MARGARET BRENNAN: His personal attorney seems to be--

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: --no reason to know that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --suggesting this.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: I have no reason to know that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that something that you think is worth looking into?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: I think we should look into everything. Again, I think this fact set is fairly small. I think we need to put it together and then determine if the-- the President's statement that he said this, what that really means. I do think it's not unusual for foreign leaders when they talk to each other to say, "here's something I'd like you to do for me"--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: --whether it's a-- a-- a trade agreement or some other agreement. I don't think that's unusual. But I think the question here is going to be, is this going to be a partisan effort--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: --on the part of the House? Do the facts really matter? And frankly Margaret, if they come--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What happens--

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: --out of this pretty quickly--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --when they get to the Senate?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: I think a lot depends on what happens in the House. I think you have to assume if it's essentially a partisan vote in the House, that that sets the stage for the likely same kind of vote in the Senate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: But let's see what the facts are.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Blunt, appreciate you joining us today.

We turn now to a top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes, who joins us from Stamford. Congressman, welcome to FACE THE NATION.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES (D-Connecticut/@jahimes/Intelligence Committee): Good

morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard Senator Blunt there. I want to ask you the same question in regard to the whistleblowers that we are now hearing there are multiple who have come forward in relation to that initial complaint. Has your committee heard from them? What happens next?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: So, we've obviously heard not even from the initial whistleblower whose identity is still hopefully being protected, but we've obviously heard all about the complaint and the inspector general has told us all of the background around that, but no we have not heard from the second. But you know Margaret, this-- this actually highlights an interesting aspect of this whole mess which is as much as Donald Trump is raging against Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats and subpoenas like cookies, his problem is not with the Democrats. It's not with people like me. We're sort of sitting here watching the information flow out of the White House, damning information, facts that are undisputed. What's happening Margaret is that people around the President--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: --professionals who are in the Oval Office, who are in the situation room, are watching what is happening and finally saying, "my God this cannot happen anymore." And they are coming forward either as whistleblowers--as apparently as many as two people are going to do officially, but also leaking which by the way is not a good thing. But an awful lot of this story is coming out because people who are in the room are talking to The Washington Post and The New York Times and-- and to others. So the--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Just-- just--

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: --the President's real problem is that his behavior has probably-- has finally gotten to a place where people are saying enough.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Just to clarify, you said people who are in the situation room. Are you saying that these people, when they have firsthand knowledge, were on the call?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: What I'm saying is that there were stories before we even saw the original whistleblower complaint in the press about this whistleblower complaint that were coming from sources that had firsthand knowledge. So, I-- you know because they were press sources, I don't know who they are.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: You know again leaking to the press is not the way to do this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: The way to do this is to do what the whistleblower did. But my point is whether they were in the room or had firsthand knowledge or talked to somebody who had firsthand knowledge, people who were in the very core of all of these events are saying this can't happen anymore. So again, his-- the President's problem is not with the Democrats or with Adam Schiff. It's with the fact that the people around him are saying we can't tolerate this

anymore.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the impeachment inquiry going to stay narrowly focused on this phone call and this issue with Ukraine or do you see this scope widening?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: I think it's likely to stay narrowly focused on what is a threat to our national security. And look there's any number of issues you could take up with this President, but you know Americans-- you know if you go back and you reread the Mueller Report, there's some awful, awful stuff in there where the President is ordering investigations to end or you know ordering somebody to go tell the Department of Justice to stop--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: --that investigation. Stuff that would have resulted in-- in Barack Obama being impeached thirty times over. But I do think that the Speaker of the House understands that there is-- and remember impeachment is at heart a political rather than a legal thing. That's why--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: --it lives in the Congress as opposed to the court system. I think that Speaker Pelosi understands that Americans feel in their bones, in their heart, a challenge to our national security. This kind of corruption--they understand that a lot better than they understand obstruction of justice, a refusal to abide by congressional subpoenas, which are also very, very serious offenses that the President has committed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So-- so, to that point, if you believe that's where public opinion is, you know Republicans say if Democrats are so certain and so unified, why don't they put this to a vote to go ahead with the inquiry? Understanding that's not required of you, why not at least kill that talking point for them?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: Well, you know, if you try to spend your time killing Republican talking points, you'll do nothing else. I mean I heard it from Senator Blunt just now. You know, leaders ask other leaders for-- for-- for favors. Yeah that may be true. I'm sure presidents have in the past asked other leaders for favors. Traditionally, those favors have not been research my political opponents--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Are the votes there though?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: --and so I-- I-- use-- I'm sorry?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are there enough votes though? I mean, are Democrats truly unified?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: If-- if Speaker Pelosi did in fact move forward with a floor vote on-- on actually proceeding with-- with an investigation, which as you point out is not required here, there's no question in my mind that she would have the votes. Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I-- I want to ask about these subpoenas that the House committees have put forward to the White House, to the Secretary of State. In reading through this subpoena, there are a lot of sensitive national security related documents that are likely to just

be covered by executive privilege. What do you actually expect reasonably to the committee to actually get a hold of?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: Well, that's a-- that's a great question, right? And one of the things that we need to rebuild in this country in the post-Trump era is what actually executive privilege means. Executive privilege does not mean that you get to, you know, hide embarrassing documents. Executive privilege, and you know this Margaret, stems from the idea that the president ought to be able to get advice from his advisers that is not subsequent to second guessing or-- or oversight by Congress down the road. It doesn't mean that you move a-- a really embarrassing transcript off of a traditional server onto a highly classified server because you understand that if that transcript got out there in the public, it would be a real problem. It's not about hiding embarrassment. It's not about keeping people from testifying that might actually produce uncomfortable facts. So again, I expect this White House to continue to stonewall attempts to get at the truth. This is what they've done from the very beginning. But again, my Republican friends need to remember that there will be a Democratic president someday and they will want to do oversight of that Democratic president. So, as they rise to the defense--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES: --of Donald Trump, they need to remember that they're establishing precedents here that are going to really come back to bite them down the road.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Congressman Himes, thanks for your time.

We will be back in one minute with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Don't go away.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with New York Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel. He chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, one of the three committees leading the impeachment inquiry and he's in New York this morning. Good morning to you, Congressman.

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL (D-New York/@ RepEliotEngel/Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary of State Pompeo yesterday said that Congress has harassed and abused his State Department team by contacting diplomats rather than their lawyers first. Is-- is he complying with your inquiry?

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL: Well, he's not complying with the inquiry so far. We're-- we're hoping there are discussions that are ongoing and we're hoping that he will comply. Although it's-- it's kind of laughable, you know, since the administration-- Trump has been President, we have been getting numerous complaints from people who work at the State Department about all kinds of harassment by this administration where people were summarily let go or fired because they-- they were deemed to be the wrong political persuasion or the wrong ethnic persuasion. There were all kinds of things. So, I find it really laughable that the Secretary of State suddenly has this great concern for the State Department when he's done anything but since he's been Secretary of State.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you will this week have the chance, or-- or your committee members will, to question a number of diplomats. The E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, he-- Ukraine's not part of the E.U. Why was he part of this text message exchange? Why is he part of these arrangements to line up meetings for Rudy Giuliani and Ukrainian leaders?

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL: Well, that's-- that's a good question. And if I had my druthers, Ukraine would be a part of the European Union and even would be a part of NATO. That's why the President's reckless actions are a threat to national security because what we're doing-- what he attempted to do, was withhold much needed aid for Ukraine. Ukraine is under constant threat by Russia. I-- I know the President has a-- has a habit of wanting to please Putin, but the fact of the matter is, we should do everything we can to strengthen Ukraine. Not threaten them, not withhold money--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm.

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL: --not tell them to play political games. And the President just doesn't seem to care. I-- I-- Putin interfered in the-- in the 2016 election and now the President thinks it's fine to-- to do his bidding for the 2020 election--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is your-- is your--

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL: --people of Ukraine--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --impeachment inquiry--

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL: --deserve better.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is your impeachment inquiry going to expand beyond Ukraine?

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL: Well, I don't know. We'll have to just see the way it goes. I think there's frankly plenty enough material that we have right now. Our-- our-- our elections are-- are really integral. And-- and the fact of the matter is that the President says to-- to the leader of Ukraine do us a favor though.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah--

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL: Mix in what the President really doesn't own. It's the-- the-- the-- it's the country that-- that-- that owns it and he's trying to-- to use this for political gain is really a-- an absolute disgrace. It's--

MARGARET: I'll--

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL: --just never been done before--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'll-- I'll--

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL: --in this matter.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'll ask you the same question I asked Congressman Himes. If Democrats have the-- the certainty of their own conviction when it comes to going ahead with

this impeachment inquiry, why not put it to a vote? There's historical precedent there. That's how it's been done. You may not need it, but why not do it?

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL: Well, I'm not troubled by it, but-- but there's no-- there's no reason to do it. There's-- there's no rule that says you have to do it. It's perfectly alright the way it is. What the--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Wouldn't it show a unified front?

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL: --Republicans are trying to do. Well, I don't know if it would show a unified front because the Republicans are not-- are keeping quiet. They're not acting out. They're-- they're-- they're just rallying around the President. It's absolutely disgraceful. So, now they keep throwing things into the mix to say, well, the Democrats should do this, the Democrats should do that. What we should all do is make sure that the integrity of our election stands and that the-- the President isn't taking something that's not his to-- to barg-- barter with in trying to-- to get goods on-- on Joe Biden's son that he would withhold--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL: --this kind of important aid from an ally. It's just unconscionable. It-- it just undermines our national security. It's a threat and it's-- it's not something that-- that we should even consider.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm--Hm. All right. Congressman Engel, we know you have a lot of questions this week behind closed doors. We hope to be following this story as it develops. Thank you for joining us today.

We will be right back in a moment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Coming up next Sunday on FACE THE NATION, we will have a new CBS News Battleground Tracker poll. It will look at the 2020 race in eighteen early states ahead of the next debate, and we will see what voters are thinking about impeachment.

And just ahead this morning, two reporters who are veterans of impeachment coverage and have some valuable perspective. Bob Woodward of The Washington Post and The New York Times' Peter Baker will join us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but we will be right back with Bob Woodward and Peter Baker. Stay with us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. Only two presidents have been impeached in the history of our country, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Richard Nixon, of course, resigned in 1974 before the House could take a final vote. We're now joined by two reporters who broke the stories about Nixon and Clinton. Bob Woodward is an

associate editor at The Washington Post, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his Watergate coverage. Peter Baker is chief White House correspondent for The New York Times and helped break the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Good to have both of you for.

BOB WOODWARD ("Fear: Trump in the White House"/Washington Post/@realBobWoodward): Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll try to sort of give some prospective. We haven't been through this as a country many times before.

PETER BAKER (The New York Times/@peterbakernyt): Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Peter, you covered the current White House. I have not heard of war rooms or strategy sessions. Have you discovered what the Trump administration is going to do?

PETER BAKER: Well, I think you have a war room of one right now, one man and an iPhone basically or whatever smartphone he's using. And there is no other structure around him that has been set up in a-- in a coherent way, unlike the Clinton White House, which did, in fact, build a war room to defend him in that impeachment. The President has yet to do that. He may get there. There is talk about that. There's a lot of struggling inside who would be in charge, without it be the White House chief of staff when they have a separate unit, that kind of thing. But for the moment, the President feels like he's his own best defender.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you think as someone who-- who has been observing President Trump's behavior? Is he reacting as you would expect?

BOB WOODWARD: Well, you-- you need to try to step back and look at who he is, and he's somebody who hates to lose.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

BOB WOODWARD: He's got to win. I have a scene in my book Fear, where they're talking about-- Trump is talking about the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. And he say-- and Trump says, this is about leader versus leader, man versus man, me versus Kim. In other words, it's personal combat. They're gladiators in the coliseum to a certain extent and so he's not somebody who is going to bend on this. What I think we need to worry about is it's a war.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

BOB WOODWARD: And you have to ask the question: How does this war end? In the case of the Clinton impeachment, as Peter so well chronicled in his book, after Clinton is acquitted in the Senate, it's-- it's a very stunning moment. He goes in the Rose-- you got it?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah, we actually have that tape if we can play it.

BOB WOODWARD: Yeah.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON (December 11, 1998): What I want the American people to know,

what I want the Congress to know, is that I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds. I never should have misled the country, the Congress, my friends or my family. Quite simply, I gave into my shame. I have been condemned by my accusers with harsh words.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That was not a victory lap.

BOB WOODWARD: He apologized. He said, I-- I am sorry for what I said and did that triggered this, and we've got to reconcile. We need to go into a period of renewal knowing what we know about Trump. He is not going to apologize I suspect, whether he wins or loses.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Peter, the takeaway most people seem to have, the conventional wisdom, is that looking at what happened with Clinton, that it is a politically losing strategy--

PETER BAKER: Mm-Hm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --to go through with an impeachment.

PETER BAKER: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that model actually applicable here? I mean, no sitting President running for reelection--

PETER BAKER: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --has faced impeachment.

PETER BAKER: I think that's a really important point you just made, Margaret. Both Nixon and Clinton were in their second terms. They weren't going to face the voters again. We may find that the outcome in Congress is similar to the Clinton case, in which case you have an impeachment vote by the House along party lines, the opposition party largely impeaching a President of the other party, and an acquittal or some sort of dismissal by Senate that can't get to a two-thirds bipartisan vote. But in this case, you will have an appeal. You will have a greater appeals court. And that will be the court of public opinion because in November of 2020, this issue will teed up for the voter to decide, is President Trump fit for office or not? The other things we learn through impeachment tell us something about whether he deserves a second term, and what does it tell us about Congress and how they handled it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It-- and it contrasts so sharply with what we mentioned in the introduction, is that Nixon didn't even want to go through the vote on impeachment. He didn't want the indignity of it.

BOB WOODWARD: It-- it-- it's an astonishing moment. Barry Goldwater, the Republican conservative, went with the House and Senate leaders, Republican leaders, to see Nixon after the Smoking Gun tape was released, and Goldwater had Carl Bernstein and myself up to his apartment. And he got out the whiskey, and then he got out his personal diary, and he said that it was August 7th, a couple of days after this Smoking Gun tape was released, he and the Republican leaders went to meet with Nixon alone in the Oval Office. And they said, we're going

to let Barry Goldwater be our spokesman. And so, Nixon, how many votes am I going to have in the Senate? I know I'm going to be impeached. Stunning moment, Goldwater said, Mister President, I have counted and there are four very firm votes for you. I am not one of them.

PETER BAKER: Hmm.

BOB WOODWARD: And the next day, Nixon announced he was going to resign. He was withdrawing from the battlefield. And as you look back on it, you know, forty-five years ago, he has to get some credit for not letting the war go on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And yet as you heard on this program from Senator Blunt, he wouldn't even discuss the conduct of the President.

PETER BAKER: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Instead, saying he didn't really mean what he said.

PETER BAKER: Right. Yeah. He didn't want to defend him. None of them, almost very few in many way, want to defend the conduct. The few who are speaking out on his behalf are attacking the process.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

PETER BAKER: Right. The other side is partisan, the other side is unfair, the other side are spies or whistleblowers. All that, not talking about what the President did and whether that's okay. I did a survey, if you will, of former White House chiefs of staff going back to Reagan, Republican and Democrat, over the last couple days. Not one of them could remember a circumstance where they solicited or accepted foreign help in-- in the context of a contest with political implications like these. This is something hasn't been done. So, Republicans don't want the defend it, but they do want to stick by the President for the moment because he controls the party in a way that Nixon didn't.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

PETER BAKER: And even the way Clinton didn't in 1998.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean by that? What has changed?

PETER BAKER: I think-- yeah, I think-- sorry, but I think the-- I think the system is so polarized and so-- and-- and the parties are so ideologically homogeneous now, as opposed to the old days. There used to be middle-of-the-road Republicans--

BOB WOODWARD: Yes.

PETER BAKER: --middle-of-the-road Democrats. Those are gone. So if you're a Republican, you're much more concerned about a primary than you are about losing the middle ground. And that means the President controls that base for the moment, and therefore the cong-- the fate of these senators and congressmen.

BOB WOODWARD: And the question is in a practical political sense, is this going to be

considered a high crime--

PETER BAKER: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

BOB WOODWARD: --as is in the Constitution? And you talked to some of the Republican senators, and they are really sticking by him or at least--

PETER BAKER: Yes.

BOB WOODWARD: --he's got enough sticking by him. And so, I think the big question is, are-- are they going to broaden this investigation?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

BOB WOODWARD: Because having done this for too many decades, there's always more--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

PETER BAKER: Hmm.

BOB WOODWARD: --someplace and whether people in the media or whether investigators are going to find it. But to just look through this one keyhole, small part of Trump world, may not be enough to really understand what's hidden because things are hidden.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you raise this point that's, I think, really important here. We're only three weeks into this.

PETER BAKER: Mm-Hm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the speed with which we are hearing more and more about what was happening behind the scenes, the text messages that were revealed this week, the testimonies that will be happening behind closed doors this coming week. Does the speed of this change something here in terms of how we digest it?

BOB WOODWARD: Well, they are trying to speed it up.

PETER BAKER: Mm-Hm.

BOB WOODWARD: And they have said this is all about Ukraine, but the Trump presidency is about if I were to count them--you know better, as you covered this--four hundred other things. And I-- I just think you want-- you want a comprehensive look. Now in the internet age of impatience and speed, everyone, well, you know, decide it now--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

BOB WOODWARD: --tell me exactly what's going on. And this process is too important. You're exactly right.

PETER BAKER: Mm-Hm.

BOB WOODWARD: Are we-- are we going to get into an election that will be kind of a referendum up and down on--

PETER BAKER: Right.

BOB WOODWARD: --the impeachment investigation. The Democrats need to really be careful--

PETER BAKER: Yeah.

BOB WOODWARD: --about how they let this play out. I-- I mean, suppose something happens, we-- yeah, and something will happen, and it's unresolved and Clinton or-- I'm sorry, Trump is still out there--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

BOB WOODWARD: --you know, banging on--

PETER BAKER: Yeah.

BOB WOODWARD: --everyone and the Democrats are trying-- I mean, we're-- we're in for-- I mean, let's hope it's not a bloody 2020.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Wow. Do facts matter anymore, Peter?

PETER BAKER: It is so interesting to listen to the President talk up there. And he will say things that are not true and just repeat them and repeat them as if somehow that will make them true, right? The whistleblower got my call all wrong. Well, actually, no, the whistleblower had a pretty accurate account of that call. You know, Hunter Biden took a billion and a half out of China. Well, that's just not the case. You know, I mean, not to say that Hunter Biden didn't have business in China. He did. He had business in Ukraine. Those are worth scrutinizing. But the President keeps getting up there and saying these are just demonstrably untrue. Fact checkers are working overtime these days to sort out the sort of stuff he throws against the wall to see if it will stick versus the things that are genuine and real.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

PETER BAKER: And that's a real challenge here, I think, both President Nixon and President Clinton were held to account when they said things that were not true and therefore, in effect, backed off when they were confronted with evidence that they were wrong. This President doesn't back off when he is confronted with evidence that he's wrong.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Peter, Bob, thank you so much--

BOB WOODWARD: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --for your perspective.

We'll be right back with our political panel.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's now time for some analysis from our political panel. Susan Page is the Washington Bureau chief of USA Today, Julie Hirschfeld Davis is the congressional editor at The New York Times and co-author of a new book, "Border wall-- Wars: Inside Trump's Assault on Immigration." I said walls, wonder why. Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor at the National Review and a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, and Jamelle Bouie is a columnist for The New York Times and a CBS News political analyst. Good to have all of you here.

RAMESH PONNURU (National Review/@RameshPonnuru/Bloomberg Opinion): Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ramesh, I want to start with you. You heard Senator Blunt do what Marco Rubio did the other day, which is to say the defense of the President will rest on "don't believe your eyes and don't believe your ears." He didn't actually say what he said.

RAMESH PONNURU: Right. Or he didn't mean it. So don't--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

RAMESH PONNURU: --don't take him seriously. Don't take him literally. I think it reflects the difficulty Republicans are having in defending President Trump's conduct here. So, we've had, first, an attempt to say the President didn't set foreign policy in a way that was calculated to serve his domestic political interests. And now we're beginning to hear an argument that it's okay that if he-- if he did do that, that was totally within his prerogative, and it's sort of a cacophony of defenses because no one of them is really quite strong enough.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. And yet no one is challenging the conduct. There is not a-- I have a problem with what was done. It was just I'm going to stay with the party.

RAMESH PONNURU: Nobody is challenging it, with few exceptions. And not maybe--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You don't even need one hand.

RAMESH PONNURU: Not many people are-- not many people are defending it either. Mostly what they want to do is deflect. They want to change the subject, or they just want to be silent and not show up on TV at all.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And this is true. Jamelle, is this strategy of going down the impeachment inquiry path potentially going to backfire for Democrats?

JAMELLE BOUIE (The New York Times/@jbouie): Thus far, there is no evidence that it is. Thus far, voters seem to be supportive of the investigation by a slim majority, or sort of like very large plurality. And as far as supporting outright impeachment and removal, there seems to be some indication that voters are open to it if the investigation reveals or-- or shows or proves serious mis-- misconduct. So, I think my take on it is that Democrats are probably in-- in the-- in the safe zone as long as this appears not to be some sort of partisan attack, right, as long as it looks like two voters that Democrats are investigating, something quite serious, which is trying the tamper with the election, trying to corrupt the election, basically trying to cheat into a second term. As long as that's how it appears to voters, I think they're probably fine, and I think the extent to

which the Republican defense does sort of hinge on trying to make this look very partisan I think is a sense-- is-- it shows that Republicans recognize that's the case as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Susan, what does this mean for the 2020 race? I mean, you have Joe Biden out there with the Washington Post op-ed. But he hasn't sat and really answered questions to clear the air on this.

SUSAN PAGE (USA Today/@SusanPage): You know--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it going to hurt him?

SUSAN PAGE: Yes, it's-- it's going to hurt him. It's hurting him already, fairly or not. You know, we should start any discussion into this by saying there's no evidence that Joe Biden did anything illegal or anything improper. That said, on this show, we saw a commercial paid for by the Trump campaign making the case against Biden. We had a USA Today/Ipsos poll this week that showed that by two to one, by forty-two to twenty-one percent, Americans say it would be legitimate, there are valid reasons to investigate Biden's behavior when it came to Ukraine. You know, the-- the behavior was not illegal. It's not unusual for family members to try to cash in on--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SUSAN PAGE: --famous or powerful relatives. It is something that Americans do not like. It is unseemly. And that is a question that Joe Biden is going to have to answer moving forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, Julie, you've seen some of the competitors to Joe Biden. You had Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren express some discomfort with this, that we wouldn't let our VP have their child on the board of a company.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS (The New York Times/@juliehdavis/Border Wars: Inside Trump's Assault on Immigration): Right. I mean, they haven't directly criticized Joe Biden, and as Susan said, no one's in his party certainly is suggesting that he's done anything wrong, but they are suggesting that this was an error in judgment on his part that if-- if it had been them, they wouldn't have allowed for that to happen. And I think they recognize, as the Biden campaign recognize, is that they were facing headwinds even-- even before any of this came out. You know, we saw his fundraising lag a bit behind his-- some of his leading competitors, and he was already facing headwinds in Iowa and-- and New Hampshire. And so, they see a need to sort of distance themselves from this kind of behavior because as you said voters really don't like this. And that's a lot of the reason that Trump won in 2016 to begin with is he talked about the swamp and not liking the way that, you know, these things tend to play out in Washington. And this looks bad. It doesn't look great for him.

JAMELLE BOUIE: What's striking, though, is that the President's own children are engaged in this kind of behavior. What I find just fascinating about the fact that President Trump has made this--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JAMELLE BOUIE: --as avenue of attack is that it's very easily-- it doesn't take very much skill or-- or--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

JAMELLE BOUIE: --or anything to reverse it and say, well, your-- your children are doing this pres-- precisely the same thing, and yet this doesn't seem to have really made a mark on the discussion about Trump's attack at all.

MARGARET BRENNAN: No. I-- I want to take a quick break here and come back, because there's more to talk about as to what happened on the trail. I want to talk about your new book, and much more. So, we'll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with more from our political panel. Beyond impeachment, I want to touch on a few key things that happened this week. Susan, the-- one of the frontrunners in this race, Bernie Sanders, seventy-eight-years-old, has a heart attack and his campaign says nothing for three days. What does this mean for his candidacy?

SUSAN PAGE: Well, I think it underscores questions about his age, which he'll have to address by getting back on the campaign trail, participating in the next debate, looking-- looking vigorous. It raises questions about his transparency. You know, we have an expectation that we would have gotten this news earlier and that we would have been able, news reporters, to interview his doctors.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I remember something similar with the Hillary Clinton campaign--

SUSAN PAGE: That's right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --with a lot of criticism over lack of disclosure.

SUSAN PAGE: And-- and we saw the damage that did to Hillary Clinton. They-- the President-- President Trump raised questions about her health, raised unfounded questions about how healthy she was. [Indistinct]. So-- so I-- I think Bernie Sanders faces some similar challenges here now. He had a great fundraising quarter.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

SUSAN PAGE: More than twenty-five million dollars. But he is not doing so well in the polls. And Elizabeth Warren is coming in like a steamroller with some of those progressive voters that are the base of Bernie Sanders' support.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, with Sanders coming off of this, we look at Biden facing the challenges he is facing, what does this mean for the field?

JAMELLE BOUIE: I mean, a lot of things. One-- one thing is that I think it does-- if Biden ends up declining as a result of all of this and if Sanders still can't expand beyond his supporters, I think it does leave a wide open field for Elizabeth Warren to continue attracting other voters and kind of position herself as the frontrunner in the race. I think it also may open up space in that second tier of candidates, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kamala Harris and between the first and second tier Pete Buttigieg, candidates who have a lot to sell on paper--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JAMELLE BOUIE: --who haven't quite caught fire, who have been kind of crowded out by these top three, but if either of them decline in a serious way, can maybe capture some of those voters and become a compelling alternative.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And for those members of Congress, senators were looking at reelection issues in-- in 2020, is that part of the calculus of not criticizing or taking on the President directly?

RAMESH PONNURU: Absolutely. I mean, I think that one of the interesting things we saw a few months ago during the vote over the border wall emergency was that pretty much all of the Republicans in tight races in 2020 decided to stick with the President, calculating that even if he's unpopular in their state, he's popular enough with Republicans that they can't take the risk of losing their support.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, why Susan Collins, Ben Sasse, and Mitt Romney? Those are the only three senators who have come out with any kind of strong objections--

RAMESH PONNURU: Well--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --to what the President has done.

RAMESH PONNURU: I think for a couple reasons. Senator Romney has-- was recently elected. He doesn't face the voters for a while. The President has been less popular in Utah than Romney is himself, so he's strong there. Senator Collins in Maine, she's got a similar issue. She's earned some credit with Republican base voters for her defense of Justice Kavanaugh and she understands that the state is not particularly pro Trump. But you'll notice, as you said earlier, this is just a hand-- less than a handful of people--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

RAMESH PONNURU: --and Trump is trying to make an example of Romney--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

RAMESH PONNURU: --but attacking him on Twitter. I'm not sure that's really going to do any damage to Romney, but it's not intended to so much as it's intended to scare other people away.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Julie, I want to talk about the book that you have that came out this week. It had some extraordinary anecdotes and reporting in it that the President came out and tried to shoot down. "Moats and alligators." "Shooting migrants in the leg." What is real? What happened behind closed doors that the President says he was not considering?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, I mean, I think what's real is his real obsession with this issue. He has been working since before he took office to really target immigrants and immigration as an issue politically and substantively. He does tend to sort of fly into a range about these things and mention ideas that sound outlandish to our ears and to the ears actually of some of his advisers, and they have managed to talk him down from some of them. We talked in the-- in the piece that was adapted from the book that came out in the Times last week

about his desire to shut down the border completely. He said we're just going to do it at noon tomorrow. And, of course, that didn't happen, and neither did the trench happen. And there are no alligators or snakes and nobody is being shot in the legs at the border. But a lot of what you will see in the book is these behind-the-scenes conversations about him sort of grasping at straws to figure out ways to get at this problem that he feels like he cannot have an influence over, even though that's what he ran on, even though that's what he cares the most about and he think that's what his base cares the most about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And-- and you write about Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law and advisor saying essentially we've wasted two years on immigration.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Yeah. In the middle of the-- the government shutdown which is, you know, the shutdown over the border wall, you know, at some point he gets sort of deputized to find President Trump a way out of this. And he has kind of an Immigration 101 download from immigration advisers inside the government, and he's questioning them about what can work and what can't work.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: And-- and it sort of dawns on him in-- in one of these meetings that, you know, and he says out loud, we've wasted the last two years that they've focused so much on the wall, focused so much on this physical structure--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: --that they haven't actually ended up getting their hands around the problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thanks to all of you for trying to make sense of a very busy week.

We will be right back.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. And thank you to the Jones Day Law Firm for the facilities here on Capitol Hill. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.