Transcript: Kellyanne Conway on "Face the Nation," August 5, 2018

Conway defends Trump's attacks on the media

The following is a transcript of the interview with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway that aired Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to "Face the Nation." We begin this morning with counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway who joins us from her home in New Jersey. Kellyanne always good to have you with us.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president and his national security team made statements that to most people sounded very different in the characterization of what Russia did and is doing now with our elections and we just played those clips of how unequivocal the language was from his national security team. Why isn't the president echoing that same- and amplifying- that same message?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well Margaret, it was the president's idea to have his national security team go to the podium in the White House press briefing room to go and share with the country, and indeed the world, that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. There continue to be active cyber security- cyber warfare campaigns, if you will, by North Korea, Iran, China, certainly Russia, and this president wants to make very clear that he was not the president in 2016 when evidence of Russian interference and meddling in our democracy in 2016 was presented to that president and his security team and buried because they wanted the other person to win and indeed thought she would win the presidency. This president is not burying it. 

I was in that briefing with the president, the Friday before, and I was there to witness firsthand when the president directed his national security team to go and tell everyone what's happening. I think also earlier last week you saw the Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and our Vice President Mike Pence up in New York hosting a cyber-security conference where they made very clear cybersecurity election security are important priorities. I would note, that according to most objective analyses the number one topic this calendar year by the mainstream media on television is- is in fact Russia and the elections. And yet when the president says Russia hoax, he's not talking about Russian meddling, he's been very clear about that as it seemed he was very clear in Ohio last night- thanks for playing the clip. 

The president, when he says Russia hoax, he means the investigation and some others on TV never under oath wanting to suggest that somehow Russian meddling in the 2016 election was successful in changing a single vote or indeed the electoral outcome. And we know that. We know Judge T.S. Ellis in that rigid new courtroom in the matter for trial has specifically instructed folks to not mention Russia, Trump or collusion. That--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Kellyanne--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: --hardly stops people going on TV mentioning Russia collusion and Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I- I hear your point and- and tha- that message from the podium was very clear, which is why the question is, why is the president not drawing a more clear distinction to what you just drew, which was a difference between his election—the validity of it or questions around that—and the facts as presented by the national security team. I mean, the national security adviser today said, "Russia was the principal violator in 2016 and their activity now puts them in the lead." Not North Korea. Not China.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: No I was making the point about this cyber warfare all across the world. But in terms of the meddling, there's no question. And Ambassador Bolton has made that clear, Director Wray, Secretary Nielsen, Director Coats. And they work for the president, who asked them to go and share with everyone what he had heard unclassified the Friday before. I was there. So I want to repeat that. And you saw last night in Ohio the president talking about Russian meddling, that it has to stop, others need to stop. And when he talks about the hoax, he's talking about this fantasy, this unproven fantasy that somehow the campaign that I successfully managed for the successful part of the campaign, was in cahoots with Russians.

As you know, Margaret, because you covered it. I w- we were- our campaign was talking to people in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and Macomb County, Michigan, not in Moscow. And the president has every right to wonder why where there seems to have been nefarious activity, folks don't want to investigate. They don't want investigate the loser. The number four at the Department of Justice's wife working with the people at GPS- at Fusion GPS and the Steele dossier. There's a new FOIA request now against former minority leader Harry Reid and his- his potential action there. We know that Christopher Steele talked about the dossier 12 times after President Trump tried to initiate a conversation about that, 12 times after President Trump was elected.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: So yes--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --we'll talk about--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: --there is frustration--

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk about some of that--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: --that the loser, and the--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --with Adam Schiff ahead.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: --people trying to prop her up as a weak candidate have not been investigated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will talk about some of that with one of the people handling some of the investigation there ahead in the show. But I do also want to ask you, since I know you speak to the president: can you clarify some of his statements in the past 24 hours, particularly on Twitter? He's not the only president to have an adversarial relationship with the press. But his language really seems to have escalated today, saying that 'the fake news media cause war' and 'they're very dangerous and sick.' What wars have journalists started?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Margaret, I think the president's entire point is this: that we do have a news media that includes some reporters. So this should not be a broad brush by any statement. I've said that before, his daughter said it last week, and I know he believes it's not all. That's why he said it really refers to those who aren't always telling the truth and who are giving emotion over information. Who are talking more about their own egos than doing every man interviews. I was at that rally with the president in Pennsylvania on Thursday. I walked around and talked to people in the crowd. They're so excited about what they see in terms of progress and prosperity. Some members of the press tend to cover the parts of the rally that were about the press. But most of the people hear the major part which is about the people and the progress and the prosperity--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you know--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Margaret, you're a serious reporter. You've worked your way to the anchor seat at "Face the Nation." You were a foreign war correspondent. The idea that you share an industry with the new New York Times opinion writer who had racist tweets a couple short years ago, "Cancel white people," "Do they burn as quickly in the sun?" Just really terrible.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Kellyanne you know--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: And then you have Marc Caputo of Politico this week going to the rally in Tampa--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you know--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: --excuse me and referring to Trump supporters as quote "garbage people if you put them all together you have a full set of teeth."

MARGARET BRENNAN: But- I know you're sensitive--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: That's the state of journalism today-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- to security concerns because you've been the victim of some targeting. And--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Yes!

MARGARET BRENNAN: --I know you are sensitive to this. Can't you understand the difference though, when the president escalates that there is actually at times, physical danger potentially. That there is a risk here that the president may want to change that rhetoric.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: The president wants people to give information, news they can use. And I've got to tell you there is a large- a growing swath of reporters, all of whom, or most of whom I feel like I have a decent relationship with, that are sitting in the press briefing room who have contracts on cable TV where they say things and they say things on Twitter they would not get away with in print. It would not pass even the most virulently anti-Trump editor's desk. And so, I think those standards are much lower on Twitter for these journalists- certainly on TV. I have been talking about this for two straight years now since the campaign. I think the temperature needs to be dialed down overall.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you don't believe journalists--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Sorry if I can't get--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --are the enemy of the people?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: I don't believe journalists are the enemy of the people. I think some journalists are enemy of the relevant--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: --and enemy of the news you can use. And I think that most of- most of the sins are sins of omission not commission- meaning--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Why wouldn't more reporters, Margaret, cover the vice president receiving the remains of our fallen in North Korea? Why less than a minute on one of the major cable stations? Why--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well we covered it here--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: wouldn't they cover more that the president--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Kellyanne we did cover it here on CBS.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: held forth with African American pastors

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I know--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: And look, I'm much more, I got to tell you--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --we will continue to do that.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: I don't mention the journalist by name- I don't mention the journalist by name but I'm much more interested in the work of Alex Acosta than Jim Acosta our labor secretary because he's presiding over an economic boom.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Kellyanne we have to--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Doom was predicted, boom is what we have in our economy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We have to leave it here unfortunately, Kellyanne, but I do want to get to some of the other topics we've touched on with our next guest so thank you.