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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on September 22, 2019

9/22: Face The Nation
9/22: Mike Pompeo, Javad Zarif, John Kerry 47:06

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

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (read more)
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (read more)
  • Former Secretary of State John Kerry (read more)
  • Panelists: Ben Domenech, Radhika Jones, David Sanger, Lanhee Chen (watch)

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, September 22nd. I'm Margaret Brennan from New York where world are leaders gathering for the annual United Nations General Assembly and this is FACE THE NATION.

It is a troubling time around the world. Already strained relations between the U.S. and Iran deteriorate further as Tehran threatens an all-out war if the U.S. and Saudi Arabia strike back following the attack on a Saudi oil facility that hurt world oil production and caused oil prices to spike.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Iran knows if they misbehave, they're on borrowed time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Are you confident that you can avoid a war?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: No. No, I'm not confident that we can avoid a war. I'm confident that we will not start one but I'm confident that whoever starts one will not be the one who finishes it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Iran is not the only crisis facing word leaders. Millions around the world protest to call for urgent action on climate change. Is it too late to turn back some of its effects?

In a rare interview, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the Paris climate accords, will join us. Secretaries of state and a key U.S. adversary.

Plus, analysis on all the news only on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION in New York, where world leaders face a number of critical challenges at the annual United Nations General Assembly. Late Friday the Pentagon announced the U.S. will deploy additional troops and military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, increasing security in the region after last week's attack on oil fields in Saudi Arabia. The Trump administration has placed blame for those attacks squarely on Iran and announced on Friday a new round of sanctions against Iran's national bank. President Trump has not ruled out military strikes but it seems he is holding off on them for now. We begin this morning with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who called the oil field attacks, "an act of war." Mister Secretary, good morning.

MIKE POMPEO (Secretary of State/@SecPompeo): Margaret, it's good to be with you again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are the only U.S. official who has directly and definitively blamed every single part of these attacks on Iran. Is there any question that the attack was launched from Iran?

MIKE POMPEO: No reasonable person doubts precisely who conducted these strikes. And it is the intelligence community's determination that is likely the case that these were launched from Iran. You-- you've seen the pictures--


MIKE POMPEO: --that came from the north-- that came from the north. It was a sophisticated attack. These weapons systems had ranges that could not have come from the Houthis. It is crazy for anyone to assert that they did. I mean it is literally nuts on its face to make an assertion that this was an attack by the Houthis. This was Iran true and true, and the United States will respond in a way that reflects that act of war by this Iranian Revolutionary regime.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It was launched from Iran?

MIKE POMPEO: This was an attack by Iran on the world. This was an act of war. I'm here at the U.N.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Because the President hasn't--

MIKE POMPEO: The U.N-- the U.N.-- the U.N.'s-- the U.N.'s primary--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --been that specific--

MIKE POMPEO: --the U.N's primary charter--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --and other countries haven't either.

MIKE POMPEO: --is to prevent state on state attack--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And Saudi Arabia hasn't either.

MIKE POMPEO: The U.N.'s primary charter is to protect peace around the world. This was a state on state act of war.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Iran's foreign minister, as you may have heard, has repeatedly denied any part played by Iran in this attack. Will the U.S. release evidence that proves he's lying?

MIKE POMPEO: Well, we already have. There-- there's already ample evidence that demonstrates that he's lied. You saw the Saudis showing these were Iranian systems built-- built and manufactured inside of Iran.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But they haven't--

MIKE POMPEO: We know-- we know where--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --given evidence or said that it--

MIKE POMPEO: --we know where they attacked.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --was launched from Iran.

MIKE POMPEO: Look, look, don't-- I don't know why anybody listens to the Iranian foreign minister. He has nothing to do with Iranian foreign policy, and he's lied for decades and then he resigned. It-- it's just-- it's not even worth-- it's not even worth responding to him. It's-- it's been-- it's beneath the dignity of anyone in the world to listen to someone who repeatedly makes the claim that the Houthis launched this attack.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Saudi Arabia has showed itself incapable of defending its most--

MIKE POMPEO: No that's-- that's--


MIKE POMPEO: --that's not true.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --asset and it is America's best customer when it comes to buying American-made weapons. U.S. intelligence also didn't warn of this attack happening. Are you concerned about the stability of the kingdom that they were this vulnerable?

MIKE POMPEO: Yeah, you don't have all your facts quite right, but you saw the announcement that the secretary defense made on Friday. We are going to continue to reinforce. We're looking for a diplomatic resolution to this, unlike the Iranians who apparently--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What part of the facts is wrong?

MIKE POMPEO: --who are apparently blood--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Saudi Arabia was not able to defend itself.

MIKE POMPEO: Apparently, the Iranians are bloodthirsty and looking for war. President Trump and I, we're looking for a diplomatic resolution to this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean?

MIKE POMPEO: We had a-- we had a nation state attack, another nation state the largest attack on the global energy supply I think in all of recorded history. The good news? When I walked in there this morning, Brent Crude was traded at sixty-four bucks a barrel and the world has responded in a way that has made sure that there is ample supply in the system. But make no mistake about it, we're-- we're prepared to do the things we need to do to try to deter Iran from this kind of behavior.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does a diplomatic resolution mean? The attack happened.

MIKE POMPEO: Yeah. So the resolution looks like this: Iran becomes a normal nation. We lay it out, now a year ago in May--

MARGARET BRENNAN: These are your twelve steps?

MIKE POMPEO: No-- no missile strikes. No-- no capacity to build out their nuclear weapons program, broadly speaking. Stop the assassination. They are-- they are killing people in Europe. They have an assassin-- assassination campaign in Europe. This is not a normal nation and we hope-- we hope the Iranian people, who we think are demanding that their country stop this kind of behavior, act in a way that causes the Iranian regime's behavior to change. That's our mission sense. That's what President Trump is determined to achieve, first and foremost through diplomatic means.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the President hasn't laid those things out publicly as you just did.

MIKE POMPEO: He-- he and I fully understand the mission set. I-- I-- I know it because he's told it to me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If you look at just the things that have happened over the past few months--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --the U.S. has been very clear that it places blame for the shooting down of that American drone on Iran, the attack on the oil tanker in the UAE on Iran.


MARGARET BRENNAN: This attack on Iran. It seems Iran's behavior is getting worse, not better, based on the Trump administration's campaign. You've been very aggressive with these sanctions. Why do you think sanctioning them leads to better behavior?

MIKE POMPEO: Margaret, you-- you start the clock at the wrong point. Nineteen-seven--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm talking about what happened this summer.

MIKE POMPEO: Nineteen seventy-nine is the trajectory of the Iranian Revolution. Forty years of terror. Forty years of terror. The previous administration chose to arm them, to provide the wealth and resources that have underwritten these very attacks that we're seeing today. They were able to build out these missile systems--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you think--

MIKE POMPEO: --they were able to improve. They were--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the Trump administration policy is working is what you're saying, despite the fact that these attacks are continuing to happen because--

MIKE POMPEO: It's work--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Liz Cheney, Lindsey Graham--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --Republican allies of the President have said the failure to carry out some kind of obvious retaliation or a military strike looks like weakness.

MIKE POMPEO: Yeah. We've responded in a number of ways. This is not about weakness. This strategy is working. We-- we sanctioned the Central Bank on Friday. Margaret, you have to remember that the sanctions that we've put in-- put in place that ultimately will cause the Iranian regime to shrink by between ten and fifteen percent in the year ahead, only went in place in May of this year. They are-- they are five months on. We're at the beginning of that sanctions campaign but I-- I don't think anyone should mistake President Trump for having the resolve to make sure we get this right and when the moment calls for it I am confident the President will take all appropriate actions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But I-- I guess, fundamentally, the question is why do you think sanctions will be preventative and not just punitive? Why do you think making Iran more--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --desperate will get them to act more responsible?

MIKE POMPEO: It will deny them the resources to foment the exact kind of strikes that we have seen over this past summer. It will deny them the money, the wealth, the resources. They are operating today in five countries. It's expensive. They've already had to make difficult decisions about whether they are going to feed their people, provide medicine to their people or they are going to launch missiles into Saudi Arabia. I am convinced that the Iranian people see those choices being made. And as time goes on, they will con-- continue to see that those conditions worsen and they will demand-- they will demand that their leadership not bring their brothers and sisters back home in body bags, but rather use those resources. The-- the-- the Iranian people are great people. We-- we stand with them and I am-- I'm confident they will demand that their leadership behave in a way that reflects the great history of this place.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you considering cyberattacks? Would that be a less obvious, less direct form of retaliation?

MIKE POMPEO: President talked about our use of those previously, but I am certainly not going to forecast what we'll do as we move forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But suffice it to say, building up defensive presence and sanctions are not the limit of what the Trump administration will do?

MIKE POMPEO: Oh goodness, no.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to also ask you about Ukraine. The President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is publicly calling for an investigation by the Ukrainian government into Joe Biden, who is, obviously, a-- a political opponent of the President. Is it appropriate for the President's personal attorney to be inserting himself in foreign affairs like this?

MIKE POMPEO: If there was election interference that took place by the vice president, I think the American people deserve to know. We-- we know there was interference in the 2016 election and if it's the case that there was something going on with the President or his family that caused a conflict of interest and Vice President Biden behaved in a way that was inconsistent with the way leaders ought to operate, I think the American people deserve to know that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you think it's appropriate for Rudy Giuliani to be doing that? Has the U.S. embassy in Ukraine been providing support--the State Department been supporting what he is doing?

MIKE POMPEO: So I'm not-- I'm not going to talk about that other-- other than to say this, we have consistently worked to support the Ukrainian people. I remember the previous administration. I would-- Margaret, you'll remember, I was a member of Congress and Barack Obama refused to provide defensive weapon systems to the Ukrainian people. He sent them blankets. This President, much to the consternation of Vladimir Putin who, you know there's this storyline about Russia and we're weak on Russia--this president sent defensive weapon systems--


MIKE POMPEO: --to the Ukrainians so they could defend themselves while Barack Obama allowed one-fifth of Ukraine to be stolen by Vladimir Putin. This administration is working to develop a great relationship with Ukraine. We'll see President Zelensky this week here in New York, I think, and we're looking forward to that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you ask him or have you asked him to open an investigation?

MIKE POMPEO: I've talked to Foreign Minister now a couple of times. We talk about the important relationship between our two countries and how we can make Ukraine stronger and have great economic commerce between our two great nations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary Pompeo, you've got a very busy week. Thank you for joining us.

MIKE POMPEO: Thank you very much, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary Pompeo's counterpart in Iran is Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. We spoke with him yesterday.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: You think it's posturing?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF (Iranian Foreign Minister/@JZarif): I think it's posturing. I think it's all going the wrong direction in addressing this issue.

MARAGRET BRENNAN: The United States says there's no way this attack was launched from Yemen and that the Houthis, don't even have the ability to do what happened.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, it is difficult for the United States to explain why its state-of-the-art equipment was not able to intercept these weapons. But the fact of the matter is that the Houthis have accepted responsibility--responsibility for that. If it were a false flag operation, if somebody else did it, then they should look for that culprit. It wasn't Iran.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The United States, Saudi Arabia, they all say that the weapons the evidence that they have and have gathered was made by Iran.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, they made all those claims in the past.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Those missiles can be reverse engineered to figure out where they were launched from.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, they can do it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The U.S. says it's just a matter of time--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --before other investigators--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --determine that these came from Iran.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Let them do that because it would take a miracle for them to claim that because it didn't come from Iran. Period.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Saudi Arabia allowed in reporters to the oil facilities to look at the damage--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --and there is evidence the attacks came from the north, not from Yemen, from territories that would indicate Iran, possibly, Iraq, but the United States says Iran.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, there is no evidence to that effect. The Saudis made a show but they could not prove it. Now at the end of the day they claim that the weapons were Iranian but they couldn't show even that. They've been showing that-- a lot of lies.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you confident that the U.N. inspectors, that the French inspectors, that the other countries who are sending people on the ground to look at this equipment, that none of them will determine that Iran played a direct role here or that these were fired from Iran?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: I'm confident that Iran did not play a role. I'm confident that anybody who does-- who conducts an impartial investigation will reach that conclusion. But I cannot say a priori that the people who are being sent will conduct an impartial investigation because we've had cases in the past where they didn't.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So will you accept the results of the U.N. investigators?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: No, we will accept the results of an impartial investigation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Who's impartial?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: We can create an impartial investigation team. We were not informed by the U.N. We were not consulted by the U.N. We do not know on what basis this has taken place. So we will take it up with the United Nations. We are confident that if the United Nations carries out an impartial investigation the-- the outcome will be that it was not launched from Iran.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Saudi Arabia said today that citizens from the region are being recruited by Iran to carry out attacks.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: This-- this means that they are--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: --it-- it means that they are backtracking from the initial allegation that it's coming from Iran. They are saying that it may have come from somewhere else but it was based on citizens being recruited by Iran to do this. So a lie falls apart sooner or later.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you say that these weren't Iranian-backed attacks in any way, shape, or form?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: They were not Iranian-backed attacks. We support the Yemenis and you see Iran-- Iran --

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you also support militias in Iraq and elsewhere.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: No, we support the government of Iraq. These militias that you talk about are part of the Iraqi government. What these--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you say these weren't launched from Iraq by an Iranian-backed group?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: No, they were not launched from Iraq by an Iranian-backed group or by any group.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump has said he'd be willing to meet with Iran without precondition and there has been talk among the Western powers about trying to give some financial lifeline to Iran to stay in the nuclear deal. All of that was happening and then this attack seemed to blow it all up.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: No, all of that was not happening because--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You didn't take the offer of talks as real?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: We have been talking to the French. The United States has been reluctant to engage in what is required. Let me give you an example that President Trump would easily understand in-- in transactional terms-- in real estate terms. I buy a building from you and somebody inherits your company from you next year and he comes and tells me, I didn't sell that building to you. I need a higher price and a worse building. Would you buy it? Would anybody in, to use President Trump's word, in any history buy this building? Do you have any example in any history, again to use his wording, of anybody doing this? He is asking us-- we didn't have a revolution in the United States. President Trump inherited a government from another administration that was legally elected as United States government. And this agreement has been endorsed by the Security Council.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: This agreement is in a Security Council resolution. Now last I heard, the United States sits in the Security Council as a permanent member.  It has not withdrawn. It withdrew from Human Rights Council. It withdrew from UNESCO but hasn't withdrawn from the Security Council--


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: At least not as of yet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You-- you said yourself that you were invited into the Oval Office to meet with President Trump.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Yeah, but to meet him for what? For a photo opportunity? Or to meet him for some substance?

MARGARET BRENNAN: So when the President says he's willing--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --to meet and talk--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --you're not taking it seriously at all?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: We're ready to talk. We're ready to talk but talk in terms of something that is not going to be valid only for the next one and a half year or five and a half years. We need to talk about something that is permanent. That would last. We already have a-- an agreement. We talked. I have talked to what was a United States secretary of State and the United States secretary of Energy for hours upon hours of painful negotiations. These were difficult negotiations. It wasn't just a two-page document that we signed so that we could do another two-page document.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you're saying you will not meet or talk or consider diplomatic negotiations with the United States unless the acceptance of that old deal, the JCPOA--

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: It's not an old deal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --is agreed to?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: It's-- it's a deal that exists now. There is a negotiating room. There is a negotiating table.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You will not meet with Secretary Pompeo outside of that?



MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Because there's no reason to.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There's no reason to talk to the United States--

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: And-- and, basically, Secretary Pompeo is prevented by law from meeting me because he designates me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: U.S. officials told CBS News though that the supreme leader himself approved these attacks on Saudi Arabia but that they needed to be deniable.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, this is just a hypocritical, hypothetical, allegation. I mean no, no reality whatsoever.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The supreme leader didn't approve these attacks?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: These attacks did not take place from Iran for the supreme leader to approve them. Had they taken place from Iran then he would have had to approve them. But it didn't take place from Iran.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think U.S. officials are lying when they say that? That Saudi Arabia is lying?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: I am certain that they're being lied to whether they want to accept that lie. I think the work of us diplomats--I think myself and my counterpart, the U.S. secretary of state, we need to try to push diplomacy, as Senator Sanders has recently said, not to push war.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you confident that you can avoid a war?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: No. No, I'm not confident that we can avoid a war. We-- I'm confident that we will not start one but I'm confident that whoever starts one will not be the one who finishes it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: That means that there won't be a limited war.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm told I'm out of time. There's plenty more to talk to you about though. Thank you.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Good talking to you. You're tough.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our full interview with the Iranian foreign minister is available on our website.

Next, we'll talk with former Secretary of State John Kerry. He negotiated that Iranian nuclear agreement and the Paris Climate Accords, both of which President Trump has left. We'll talk about what's next. Don't go away.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with former Secretary of State John Kerry. He is in town as part of a U.N. push to combat climate change. Mister Secretary, good to see you here. Great to have you here.

JOHN KERRY (Former Secretary of State/@JohnKerry): Great to be here. Happy to be with you. Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to talk to you about this climate project but I want to start on Iran.


MARGARET BRENNAN: The United States is not required to defend Saudi Arabia in the wake of this attack, but does the U.S. look weak if it doesn't militarily respond?

JOHN KERRY: Not if we do other things that show strength and confidence in a genuine strategy and policy, and that's what's really lacking here I think. You've got to-- you've got to go back to the beginning here. We had an agreement. We have an agreement that the rest of the world supports--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The nuclear deal.

JOHN KERRY: --the nuclear agreement. And I heard Secretary Pompeo say, well, we want to get into a place where we know they can't have a nuclear weapon. Well, we're there. We were there. And France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia, all still support a multilateral agreement that was a model of multilateral diplomacy. We came together, the world welcomed this, the United Nations Security Council ratified it, embraced it. And that still is there. Along comes President Trump and he pulls out. He broke the agreement.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You think pulling out--

JOHN KERRY: He is the one well-- what--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --caused this escalation?

JOHN KERRY: The escalation is the absolutely foreseeable and it was foreseen that this is what would happen. Why do I say that? Because we were ridiculed for saying that the alternative to what we were trying to do in making the agreement was war, was conflict. I mean I-- I personally had leaders in the Middle East telling me you've got to bomb Iran. We had a prime minister of Israel come to America and ask for a green light to bomb. So, we were averting war. And when we signed the agreement in-- in Vienna, the initial agreement, we all agreed that this was a way to avoid a war and open up a channel of communicating, and diplomacy to be able to deal with legitimate other issues that are concerned with Iran. We're concerned about their support for Hezbollah.


JOHN KERRY: We're concerned about their missiles. We're concerned about Yemen. We're concerned about interference in other countries. But what is the best way to deal with that, Margaret? That's the question--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But can the nuclear deal--

JOHN KERRY: --and by breaking this--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --be salvaged now given that Iran is already starting--

JOHN KERRY: Of course, of course it could be salvaged.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --to push the limits and cheat here?

JOHN KERRY: Well, they-- I think-

MARGARET BRENNAN: And there are sunset clauses.

JOHN KERRY: Yes they are. Look, I think and-- and you've got to be really clear and honest about what's happening here. I believe Iran, one way or the other, was behind the attack that took place. That to me is obvious. And it's also obvious that it's got to be denied. And it will be denied right now because they need the plausible deniability. But the President I think is absolutely is actually correct to be evaluating sort of not being rushed into a corner to go to war.


JOHN KERRY: That is what we shouldn't do. But you've also got to look at what happened afterwards, after we pulled out. We, basically, declared economic war--


JOHN KERRY: --on Iran. We have been pressuring them. Maximum pressure and it was entirely foreseeable--


JOHN KERRY: --that that would result in further conflict. So we're seeing the unfolding of really a bankruptcy of approach.


JOHN KERRY: The international community can come together now. I think there is a way to avert war--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's going to be one of the pushes this week--

JOHN KERRY: --without showing weakness.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to take a quick break--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --and have a more extended conversation on the other side of it. Don't go anywhere.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary Kerry. All of you stay with us, and a conversation about climate change ahead.


MARGARET BRENNAN: This week the U.N. will host international leaders in meetings aimed at changing behaviors to combat climate change. But it is the younger generation taking their cause to streets around the world. We will be right back with that.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but we will be right back with more from John Kerry. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We continue our conversation with former Secretary of State John Kerry. Mister Secretary, at the bit of our conversation where we left off you said you do see a diplomatic off ramp here--

JOHN KERRY: Absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --away from conflict.

JOHN KERRY: Our allies still support the agreement but our allies also--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The nuclear deal.

JOHN KERRY: --the nuclear agreement, but they also support holding around accountable for other issues in the region. I believe better diplomacy, more diplomacy with our allies, bringing people together there is a road to an agreement that could provide a full new security arrangement for the region and deal with the nuclear issue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now you famously negotiate-- negotiated the Paris climate change accord. I remember you going to the signing with your granddaughter on your knee.

JOHN KERRY: Yeah. Yeah. Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You felt really passionate about this. But even you say that was not sufficient.

JOHN KERRY: Correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Every Democrat running says they're going to rejoin this accord.

JOHN KERRY: Yes. Not adequate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, what-- it's not adequate.


MARGARET BRENNAN: What more needs to be done?

JOHN KERRY: An enormous amount. We have to transition very rapidly to electric vehicles, we have to get to a net zero carbon economy in our country by 2050; we have to by 2030 have moved significantly in the direction of major changes. Every scientist who has been involved in this for years is telling us we have a certain number of years in order to be able to respond, and no nation in the world is responding adequately. So, we're going to create a movement here in America, I believe, that will and across the world actually--a global movement called World War Zero. And you can go to now and there's an introductory page, in October we'll be filling out the full web site. But we will be announcing this in full with big names, a big concept that is going to help change the political dynamic in America, it's going to create political accountability around the world for leaders who are not doing what is necessary.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well about sixty countries at the U.N. this week are expected to make some kind of pledge to reduce--

JOHN KERRY: Some kind is a good word.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --some kind of pollution. If the United States, the Trump administration, and China aren't leading this, is it meaningless?

JOHN KERRY: Well, it's not meaningless.

MARGARET BRENNAN: They're the two biggest polluters.

JOHN KERRY: No, it's not meaningless. There are countries: India, China are going to make announcements and it's steps forward. But the United States of America represents the second largest amount individually of emissions that contribute to this. China is twenty-five percent. We're fifteen percent. We have to be at the table. We have to be involved. And-- and this is a life-and-death issue, as kids I mean sixteen-year-old kids and a lot of children all around the world are saying, save the future for us. They can't vote in the Congress.


JOHN KERRY: They don't have a position in the boardroom right now. So more and more companies are actually coming to the table. We're working with a-- a group called We Mean Business, a thousand companies, twenty-one trillion dollars of assets. They're committed to moving, and I believe we can change the dynamic and hold politicians accountable. That's the key. We did it in 1970 with Earth Day. We created the EPA. We created the Clean Air Act. Many other things. We have to create political accountability and make this an issue that will motivate people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, on that point, is there a Kerry standard when it comes to endorsing one of the candidates running for President? Are-- are-- is this an issue you want to see specific policies on before you endorse--

JOHN KERRY: I think this has to be--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --any Democrats?

JOHN KERRY: It has to be one of the top voting issues in our nation and in the world. And it has to be one of the top organizational issues. That's why it's called World War Zero because the world has to be involved, because the deniers and the--


JOHN KERRY: --the-- the distorters and the delayers have literally declared war on people. We're-- they are dying. Today, we have people dying in mudslides, dying in fires, dying in-- in-- in floods. Farmers are losing their livelihood. Amazing things are happening. And the response is not adequate. So we have to make this an issue which goes to the ballot box, which Americans and people all around the world are saying we have to change our direction. It can be--


JOHN KERRY: --done in a way that creates millions of jobs. This is not. People are really irresponsibly scaring people, lying to people. Telling them you're going to lose your job, you're going to lose your way of life. No, you're actually going to have a healthier life.


JOHN KERRY: There are going to be more jobs, better paying jobs. This is a revolution that I think young people are way ahead of the leaders on this. And we have to make sure we are accountable to ourselves and to future generations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You, obviously, served alongside Joe Biden in the Obama administration, the secretary of state seemed to be supporting, on this program, what Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal attorney, is doing in terms of calling for an investigation into Joe Biden.

JOHN KERRY: Well, first of all, it is entirely--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you make of this?

JOHN KERRY: --inappropriate for the President's personal attorney to be involved in another country trying to find dirt on a presidential candidate, number one. Number two, what President Trump has done is an abuse, if he has done it, and the way to prove whether he's done it or not is release the transcript of that conversation. That's how you get to the bottom of this, but there is just, you know, for the President of the United States to be leveraging American foreign policy, hocking it--


JOHN KERRY: --extorting the leader of another country, if that's what has happened, is unprecedented. And the last time a President did that, Richard Nixon, the Republican Party stood up and held him accountable for the abuse of power. This Republican Party today is-- is running for cover and actually inadvertently supporting a cover-up, if-- if-- if what is alleged is true.


JOHN KERRY: The only way to get at it is release the transcript. Let everybody see what the President said. And if he leveraged--


JOHN KERRY: --American foreign policy and foreign aid to-- to get a President of another country to be the opposition research--


JOHN KERRY: --arm of his campaign, that is a fundamental profound and deeply disturbing--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you know what--

JOHN KERRY: --abuse of power.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you know what Secretary Pompeo was talking about when he said election interference?

JOHN KERRY: I-- I don't, I have--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean, were you surprised he talked about that?

JOHN KERRY: --no idea. No, I don't. I don't know what that is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it an appropriate thing for the secretary of state to be talking about?

JOHN KERRY: I-- I have no idea what he was talking about. So, I'm not going to-- I'm not going to make a judgment on that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You-- before you were secretary of state, you spent decades--

JOHN KERRY: I mean maybe he was referring to the Russian pieces or something. I don't know. But--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I asked him about Ukraine. So, he seemed to be linking it when he said election interference and Joe Biden.

JOHN KERRY: Yeah. But, can I say so one other thing?


JOHN KERRY: The-- the Obama administration, as a whole administration, was working overtime to try to end corruption in Ukraine.


JOHN KERRY: You couldn't move forward in a deal with Ukraine if it didn't end corruption. So, that was the focus. It was professionals in the State Department and-- and an ambassador who requested that we be involved to try to get a prosecutor--


JOHN KERRY: --out of the way who was not able to move. That was an administration policy; it was the professional diplomats who requested that we try to do that.


JOHN KERRY: So, I think there is no equivalency here. The President's just as, you know, throwing up a distraction. The fact is that that transcript needs to be released in order to clarify whether or not this President has again colluded in a way with another country that is inappropriate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can I ask you very quickly about the seat that you held in Congress? Very quickly.

JOHN KERRY: Well, you can ask. But I'm not, I'm not--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Senate, you don't want to pick someone in the primary race--

JOHN KERRY: No, I'm just--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --for your old seat in the Senate in Massachusetts. But are you surprised to see this, does this demonstrate to you in any way the divide between, you know, Joe Kennedy, grandson and-- and scion of that family as sort of the more progressive arm of the Democratic Party versus someone, Ed Markey--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --who you know well?

JOHN KERRY: Margaret, I am not going to comment on what's happening there and I'm not going to comment on 2020 at this point in time. There's a time when it may be appropriate and I'll-- I'll weigh in, but not today.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Hopefully, it will be with us here on FACE THE NATION, when you do. Mister Secretary, always good to talk to you.

JOHN KERRY: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with our panel. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to our panel for some analysis. Ben Domenech is the publisher of The Federalist and host of The Fray on SiriusXM which debuts this week. Congratulations.

BEN DOMENECH (The Federalist/@bdomenech): Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Radhika Jones is the editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, Lanhee Chen is a Republican policy adviser and fellow at the Hoover Institution; and David Sanger is a national security correspondent and a senior writer for The New York Times. David, I want to start off with you with all the news that we heard on this program in the past week with Iran. What is the next step? What does a diplomatic resolution actually look like?

DAVID SANGER (The New York Times/@SangerNYT): It's interesting that we've heard Secretary of State Pompeo talk so much about a diplomatic solution and then basically say the only solution is for Iran to fundamentally change its nature and its character. I don't think it's likely that--


DAVID SANGER: --that we're going to see only diplomacy used--


DAVID SANGER: --in this case. I think the President feels like he's got to do something more.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm told, you-- there is a problem with your mic. So I am going to come back to you to let you finish that thought. Lanhee, if you would pick up, it appears that the President is reluctant to use military force. That may surprise a lot of people given his rhetoric. John Bolton is gone from the national security adviser job. Robert O'Brien is now in that position. Are-- are we being-- are we going to watch him push more towards negotiations and away from war footing?

LANHEE CHEN (Hoover Institution Research Fellow, Stanford University/@lanheechen): I-- I think the President is going to get a variety of options from Robert O'Brien. I have worked with him. I have known him for a while. He's got great bedside manner. He is going to be able to give the President that panoply of options, really, as a national security adviser be an honest broker, I think in a lot of ways. But his views on Iran, I don't think fundamentally are all that different from where John Bolton was. I think the question now becomes for the President, going into an election year--


LANHEE CHEN: --how does that affect the way that he views these conflicts in foreign policy? And I do think it's going to turn him away from that war footing, away from more greater possibility of kinetic involvement in the region--


LANHEE CHEN: --and-- and more toward diplomacy and things that he can market on the-- on the campaign trail.

MARGARET BRENNAN: David, let me come back to you. What has accom-- what has diplomacy accomplished? What are we going to we see here at the U.N. this week when you hear the secretary say he is going to, sort of, prosecute the case publicly?

DAVID SANGER: Well, first problem that the-- the secretary has had is that the Europeans have never been with the United States and with President Trump on his decision to get out of the Iran nuclear deal. I suspect what you're going to hear a lot of this week is that this attack, which even Secretary Kerry agreed had Iranian fingerprints on it, even if they didn't launch it from Iranian territory, is the reason that the world's got to get unified against Iran.


DAVID SANGER: I am not sure the Europeans are going to buy that. You also saw the-- the secretary be a little bit cagey when you asked him about whether or not the United States would use cyber as a way to retaliate. The U.S. has used cyberattacks against Iran three times over the past decade. It wouldn't shock me if you saw that again as the non-kinetic option to avoid the problems that Lanhee was discussing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ben, what do you think is playing out here? Because there are calls, particularly, from the more so-called traditional wing of the Republican Party--the Liz Cheneys, the Lindsey Grahams who say, you have to do something that you can claim. Cyber, you can't.

BEN DOMENECH: They can make the strong argument that the Iranians should not be able to hold the world's global oil supply hostage, that there has to be a significant response on the part of the administration, but the President here is really boxed in. He has made an argument to his supporters over the past several years that America's involvement in the Middle East is something that was largely a mistake. Now, he faces a situation where the Iranians are from the perspective of a lot of people exploiting that message. They understand that he's headed into election year. And they want to box him in in a scenario where he has to make some kind of concessions. I think, though, that this is something where there is going to be a lot of new voices in the room, Robert O'Brien being one of them, who are going to have to find a way to navigate this in a way that satisfies the President's priority, which I think is to remove himself, as Lanhee said, from any kind of kinetic action over there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Radhika, you also heard on-- on Capitol Hill some more reluctance when it comes to treating Saudi Arabia like an ally that you have to take military action to defend.

RADHIKA JONES (Vanity Fair/@radhikajones): It's an interesting position when you juxtapose it with the President's support after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. But I think that the, you know, the thing that strikes me about this is that the President is very willing to escalate his rhetoric on Twitter, but-- but when it comes to his base and when it comes to the critiques that he has had for other leaders about getting entangled in that region, it's harder for him to act on it. And he has traditional advisers on the one hand and he has Tucker Carlson on the other hand. And the voice of Tucker Carlson and his base is important to him.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It-- it was interesting to hear Secretary Kerry, though, say essentially--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --he is showing restraint, something that very few people thought Donald Trump would do, be restrained.

BEN DOMENECH: Because he has-- he has the rhetoric as a way to satisfy his desire to seem strong, his desire to project power, but then when it comes to the actual formation of policy toward the region--


BEN DOMENECH: --you know, this is a situation where you can't let the Iranians come in and just thumb their nose at the global community say, we're not even going to accept a U.N. investigation before it even happens. I mean that's sending a clear signal about the way that the regime views the rest of the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Radhika, the other thing we saw here in New York and really around the world were these climate-related protests.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Led by young people calling for action. I mean the U.N.'s always the Super Bowl of diplomacy. Perhaps this year more so than ever but what does it all add up to?

RADHIKA JONES: Well, it's striking that on that point the U.S. is sort of a non-presence this year. I mean climate is at the forefront of a lot of people's minds. It's-- it's-- you saw the turnout from GenZ. It's not even millennials anymore it's people who are on the cusp of voting, they may not even be there yet, but they feel an existential crisis. And I-- what's striking to us in New York is that the U.S. is no longer-- can't claim any leadership on this issue. And-- and it seems like the attitude of the rest of the world is, well, we're not even going to bother to try to persuade anymore. We're going to forge ahead without them. That's new for the U.S.

MARGARET BRENNAN: David, what will we hear from President Trump when he takes the podium at the U.N. General Assembly?

DAVID SANGER: I think that you will hear the President, basically, make another form of his America First argument with a twist, and the twist is going to be that the Iran situation poses the United States and the world with a freedom of navigation, a freedom of oil supply issue that everybody should roll around. So, in other words, he's taking what the American interests are and trying to globalize them. And that's part of an evolution of Donald Trump that I think is-- is kind of interesting. I think the other interesting evolution comes out of your question about how he has become the more cautious player in the room, because suddenly a President who was used to declaring that Barack Obama had not done enough, was overcautious, which I think you could make a-- a legitimate argument about, has suddenly come face to face with the realities of escalation. And so you saw him pull back from that attack when Iran downed the drone.


DAVID SANGER: And his own advisers, including Secretary Pompeo, as the Times reported this morning, were concerned that he would seem like President Obama seemed when he pulled back from the attack on Syria. So the President oddly enough has become the most cautious one in the national security team.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's fascinating the evolution. We have so much to talk about. I want to take a quick break and continue our conversation on the other side with our political panel. So stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we are back now with our panel. David, it's-- it's a challenge to unravel what is a very complicated story with Ukraine, but I know you're up for it. You-- this began with the intelligence community whistleblower saying that there were concerns about a phone call and what happened on it between the president of Ukraine we learned over the course of the week and President Trump. And now you have the President himself out there saying there was no quid pro quo. There was nothing wrong on this. But throwing some question on his political opponent, Joe Biden, and his own personal attorney is campaigning for a Ukrainian investigation into his political opponent. You-- I mean, it's all very unusual, but what do people at home actually need to know about it?

DAVID SANGER: Well, it is pretty complicated, Margaret, but I think the core issue here is there are two separate topics. The first is that did the Obama administration and did Vice President Biden interfere on behalf of his son in any way to get a-- to get a prosecutor in Ukraine fired back in 2015. The prosecutor was Viktor Shokin. He was considered pretty corrupt by the IMF, by the European Union, by the United States. It was no secret the U.S. was trying to get him ousted. He did get--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And Secretary Kerry talked about that.

DAVID SANGER: And he did get-- yes.


DAVID SANGER: And he did get ousted. So now comes the question of the conversation that the President had with the new Ukrainian president, President Zelensky. And the question was: In the course of this conversation, did he-- up to eight times, according to the Wall Street Journal, urge the President to reopen this investigation into the Bidens and all of that? And was there held out either explicitly or subtly that military aid to Ukraine--


DAVID SANGER: --that was being used to go ward off the Russians. And, astoundingly, just as this whole whistleblower thing came together, that aid, which had been frozen for months, suddenly flowed about two weeks ago with no explanation from the White House. So there's a lot of questions of did the President seek in-- interference in the-- in the election, seek this against the Bidens--


DAVID SANGER: --and did he release the aid as part of it?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Lanhee, it-- it's sort of a standard talking point that secretaries of state say, I am not here to talk about politics. I'm only going to talk about foreign policy. But Secretary Pompeo bid at that one. Why?

LANHEE CHEN: Well, I-- I think there are two layers here. One is a-- a political layer and the second is a legal layer, all right? So the-- the politics of this-- for the administration in some ways raising the issue, almost sort of begs people to ask the question, well, what did happen there? Well, I don't know about that story. Tell me more about that. And so it gets into the politics of the election cycle in some ways in a way that arguably could benefit the administration. The legal question separately is is there more that can be done to strengthen the intelligence community's ability, the IG's ability in particular to refer something to Congress even if the DNI, the director of National Intelligence, doesn't want that to happen? So that's a question for Congress, whether the law needs to be strengthened to give the whistleblower-- whistleblower more protection.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ben, you were--

BEN DOMENECH: Yeah. I just--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --trying to jump in there.

BEN DOMENECH: --I just want to point out that through the domestic political lens here what the President wants is to be able to cast aspersions at candidates who he views as being potential threats. He used a very effectively the Clinton Foundation against Hillary Clinton in ways that, you know, can be debated about to this day. He wants to find other aspects of this that he could use potentially against Joe Biden. There isn't anything directly about Joe Biden really that you can use that's out there. But his son does have a couple of relationships, foreign relationships overseas that can be questioned and have been questioned. And that's something that I think is as an issue something he'd much rather have Joe Biden talking about at this point for the past week--


BEN DOMENECH: --as opposed to the economy, health care, or any other thing that actually relates to voter's lives.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And if you look at just the latest poll out of the Des Moines Register, it reflects something that even CBS saw, which is Elizabeth Warren in the past few weeks is only rising politically, potentially as a threat to Joe Biden here--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --who was seen as a frontrunner for so long. Radhika, what-- what do you see this sort of encapsulating in terms of where the Democratic Party is headed?

RADHIKA JONES: Well, Warren has had a great week. And I'm going to say something that might sound trivial, but it's not. She-- her-- her campaign announced this week that she had taken her sixty thousandth selfie. She has been a master of the selfie line. And it's increasingly a topic of conversation because it gets to the core of her appeal. She's a gras-- grassroots campaigner. She is a-- a person who wants to fix things for individuals for families, and she is getting that across by sticking it out after her speeches and after her rallies for four hours at a time taking photographs with individual voters, and they are feeling that connection to her. The other thing that it demonstrates is that she has stamina. And we know how that became a-- a-- a football in 2016 between Trump and Hillary Clinton. I think Elizabeth Warren is getting ahead of that.

BEN DOMENECH: You have a-- a group of candidates, all the three, you know, top candidates for the Democratic field and the President himself, who are all septuagenarians. And she is proving that she has the ability to go out there and-- and embrace crowds with energy to continue to interface with them. The one thing I think is going on here that we have to be-- keep in mind is the White House has for months now liked her as a candidate. I think personally the President wants to run against her, but I also believe that that might be mistaken given her theory of the race, one which I think is very coherent and is connecting with a lot of voters.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Lanhee, do you think that we actually will see Congress try to take on any kind of gun reform?

LANHEE CHEN: Not in a meaningful way. I-- I-- I think that there will be some effort to demonstrate maybe some action on it; folks are going to talk about it. You might even hear some ultimate proposals being floated but there is no political incentive for either side to work with the other one going into an election year. That's fundamentally the challenge we have. So, no, I don't-- I don't see anything big happening.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. It was great having all of you here. Such a key week in New York.

We will be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you all for watching. Until next week when we are back in Washington, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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