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Transcript: Govs. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Jay Inslee on "Face the Nation," February 24, 2019

Democratic govs: Trump's declaration "political punting"
Democratic governors: Trump's emergency declaration "political punting" 08:03

The following is a transcript of the interview with Govs. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Jay Inslee of Washington that aired Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: Nearly all U.S. governors are here in Washington this weekend for the National Governors Association conference, and two Democrats join us now. New Mexico's Michelle Lujan Grisham and Washington state's Jay Inslee. Welcome to FACE THE NATION. Great to have you here in person.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor we played that extraordinary video of you busting through walls here. We know you do not support the president's border wall and- and his emergency declaration of one. Explain to our viewers though why you withdrew the National Guard troops from your border with Mexico?

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: Because as everyone ought to be doing, right, I was on the border, and I'm looking and assessing whether or not there's a real emergency or crisis and there isn't. And the reality is is that these troops need to be available when there is a serious issue or an emergency to deal with. Now interestingly enough, given the fact that the president's policies along the border, including the wall, have created real issues for humanitarian efforts for asylum seekers. So I did place some National Guard law enforcement and most importantly health responders to an area where they're forcing them to come across a really desolate area in the southern part of the state.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you see there the record number of families crossing--

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: Children and mothers--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Even though the overall apprehensions is--

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: --asylum--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --at a 50 year low.

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM:  --way down. But when you don't let anybody seek asylum the way that they're supposed to or you grant visas on the front end, you're asking people to take an even more dangerous journey and show up and you know, they voluntarily give themselves to border patrol so we're making sure that the right kinds of services- so that we don't have children who die right at those border areas in that crossing ever again in our state.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, Washington state has not brought suit against the administration. There are about 16 states that have challenged the president's emergency declaration. Will you? 

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE: Yes. The moment that the administration jeopardizes any federal expenditure in our state, we will file suit. And we feel good about our chances to succeed. We have done so. I'm proud to be the first governor to sue to stop the Muslim ban and we are happy there were- a judicial system to rein in this president. Look, I think it is obviously the situation here, we do not have a national security emergency. Donald Trump has a political emergency.

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: That's right.

GOV. INSLEE: He was unable to get Mexico to pay for his wall. He does not have the support of either party and the entire U.S. Congress on a bipartisan basis have told him his wall is a colossal mistake. He ought to be responding to real emergencies like the forest fires. We just came from a meeting with the cabinet members asking for help with the federal government with their forest fires. And climate change is burning down our forests. That's an emergency where we ought to have the help of the federal government. We don't have it.


GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: And the governor pointed out something really important. For my state, it's $150 million dollars that we stand to lose by virtue of his national declaration for an emergency that doesn't exist. And now he's harming our military assets. This doesn't make any sense and it's completely inappropriate to a state like this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well I'll ask you more about what moneys he's- he is using. But Governor Inslee, you just said though that you would be open to declaring a national emergency based on climate. So how do you define when the president has the constitutional authority to declare an emergency if you say on the grounds of the border crisis as he deems it, it- it- it's unconstitutional.

GOV. INSLEE GRISHAM: So I believe under our current system of democracy this action by this president is illegal and unconstitutional. That's what I believe. And I- I think Republicans ought to stand up on their hind legs because they took an oath to the Constitution, not to Donald Trump, and reverse this decision. If that doesn't happen we need the judicial system to reverse its decision. But ultimately in responding to the climate change emergency, we need to work together executive and legislative branch. But if there are new rules, the Republicans have to understand that Democrats will play by whatever the rules are particularly when it comes to climate change 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm going to come back to that because I can't let it sit there. But we are going to have to take a break. So you got a few minutes to stay with us here, both of you governors, if you would. Stay with us, we hope all of you will too. We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. More now with two Democratic governors. New Mexico's Michelle Lujan Grisham and Washington state's Jay Inslee. Let's pick up where we left off. Governor Inslee, should a president be able to declare a national emergency in pursuit of a policy goal or not? 

GOV. INSLEE: Well not if it is in clear contravention of the law passed by the United States Congress. There are provisions where emergencies require executive authority where Congress has not been able to act where they're out of town and they need emergency responses. But it clearly is a contravention of basic norms of American democracy for Congress to pass an appropriation bill, identify what is legal and illegal, have the President say he just disagrees with that and countermand the entire authority of the United States Congress. We cannot allow that to happen and we need Republicans to show just a little bit of strength of character for the American Constitution when they vote on this in a- in a week or so.

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: And there's not an emergency at the border. And so the- the- the effort here on this political punting by Republicans and action by the president is really outrageous because they're sowing fear, racism, hate and discrimination. And it's all based on a president who has no intention of dealing with immigration policy or foreign policy in a productive way. He wants this wall and he's lying to the American people. And that is also--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But there's also no sign that Congress would actually take any action on immigration reform at all. When it comes to the question of the National Guard troops which you made that call to bring them back from the New Mexico border. Obviously, you're a border state governor. You see what's happening in your state. Over 36,000 people in your state signed a petition to impeach you after you made this call so do you think that your constituents' concerns here are being heard?

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: Well let's talk about the folks who were impacted in the counties where we're seeing folks have to migrate because they can't do asylum for humanitarian issues. Every single elected official in that county is with us on making sure that we address the problems that they really have. Communications, road maintenance, making sure that we're providing health care and health emergency services, giving them law enforcement. And in fact Congress did do that in both this appropriation bill and quite frankly Congress did. They- it passed a DREAM Act before I was elected to Congress. There's been some meaningful immigration reform. There was meaningful bipartisan negotiation on the USA Act but all that this administration said, unequivocally, unless they just get a wall they're not interested in any of those other policies. And it's really created huge burdens for states like mine to use evidence based efforts to secure the border and to deal with real issues.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor Inslee, you are expected to potentially make a bid to be the next commander-in-chief. When are you actually going to make a decision on whether you're running?

GOV. INSLEE: At the right moment, but it will be soon and we're happy to talk to you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is when?

GOV. INSLEE: Just at the right moment. But it will be soon.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think you said weeks not months.

GOV. INSLEE: We're coming up through another week.


GOV INSLEE: Stay tuned.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Certainly. Are you expecting it this week? 

GOV. INSLEE: It could be as soon as that. And what we are seeing right now, and I've- I've been- I've been pleased by what I've been hearing across the country, that people do want a president that will act on a real emergency which is climate change. We're very proud of our New Mexico governor who's building a clean energy economy to respond of a real emergency which is climate change. But she and the other governors- look we're fighting real emergencies. The forest fires that are consuming the western United States. They need a president who will rally the nation to a clean energy economy.

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: That's right.

GOV. INSLEE: Jobs by the millions and save this country from that- from that damage.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governors thank you very much for being here--

GOV. INSLEE: Thank you.


MARGARET BRENNAN: --in studio.

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