Transcript: Liz Cheney on "Face the Nation," December 23, 2018

Rep. Liz Cheney: Trump should reverse his decision to withdraw from Syria

The following is a transcript of the interview with Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, that aired Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Joining us now is the chair of the House GOP conference in the new Congress, Representative Liz Cheney. That position is the third highest-ranking House Republican. A job her father held some 30 years ago. Great to have you here.
 
REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: Great to be here, Margaret. Thank you very much.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: A quarter of the U.S. government is shut down right now. You heard from the White House, they'll take less than five billion, showing some movement. No movement yet that we've heard on the Democratic side from the Senate. But the longer this goes on, don't Democrats get more and more leverage as they look at taking control of the House in the New Year?
 
REP. CHENEY: Well I think we know, all of us need to stop talking about this from a political perspective. The bottom line is the president's been clear we've got to secure the border. The House voted for a bill that does just that and we need the Democrats in both the House and the Senate to come to the table to get the work done. So I think, you know, that all of the calculations about who this helps or hurts politically at the end of the day the American people want to see the border secure. And House Republicans stand firmly with the president in doing what's necessary in order to provide the resources for that.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't think this gets tougher the longer it goes on?
 
REP. CHENEY: Well I think we need to- we need to get the government open. And I think that we need to do it. We shouldn't have to be in a situation where a government shutdown is- is you know a threat because the Democrats won't provide the resources to secure the border. So we're committed to doing that. We've already done our work on the House side to pass that legislation with Republican votes. And we need to make sure that that the Democrats will come to the table. Nobody wants to see this kind of gamesmanship go on.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. His letter cited concern about the president's lack of respect for allies and lack of clarity regarding competitors like China and Russia. He seemed to invoke a lot of principles that traditionally Republicans do embrace. So do you see this as a call to action for the party that he says the president doesn't believe in these things?
 
REP. CHENEY: Look I- I am deeply, deeply concerned and I oppose strongly the president's decision apparently to withdraw troops from Syria. The apparent decision that- that we're now going to be looking at withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. I think this president has done a lot of very good things in terms of beginning to rebuild our military, getting out of the Iranian nuclear agreement. But these two decisions would be disastrous. They would really, in many ways, hand the victories to our enemies to Iran, to ISIS in Syria, the Taliban, al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. It's a very dangerous path to go down and- and we shouldn't be going down it. We ought to make sure that we keep our troops there in order to prevent the establishment of safe havens from those groups that want to attack us.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: But foreign policy is an area that the president has some leeway on here. I mean is there anything Congress can do, other than implore the president to reconsider?
 
REP. CHENEY: Well I think that that's very important. I think that, you know, what we need to do is talk about the substance of these policies and nobody is talking about, you know, the kinds of things that Senator Paul mentions. He seems to really be focused on blame America first and- and unburdened by facts. But if you look at what our troops are doing on the ground in Syria for example it's about 2,200 special operations forces providing air support, providing some artillery support and that battle- that fight against ISIS isn't done. You quoted the numbers of- of ISIS fighters still there. We've seen how quickly ISIS can reconstitute. If we were to withdraw precipitously from Syria, if we were to withdraw from Afghanistan leave a situation where our enemies could again establish safe havens. There's no question in my mind the president will regret that and we'll be in a situation where we probably have to go back at far greater cost, both in terms of treasure but also mostly American lives.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you would argue that while the president's pulling out troops, that things like air support, things like continuing to fund and support allies who are the ground forces, the Kurds et cetera, should continue?
 
REP. CHENEY: Well the- the troops that are there in Syria. That is exactly what they're doing. So we should not pull those forces out. We ought to make sure that we continue that mission until ISIS is defeated. This shouldn't be about, you know, it's been this many years, it's been this much time. You don't just declare victory. You have to say, you know, it is a mission accomplished and that may require that we're there for a long time because we have to make sure, you know, that- that those who are isolationists in our party luckily there are a few of them, Rand Paul is one of them--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: But the president seems to agree with him and be one.
 
REP. CHENEY: Well, it's very important that the president reverse this decision in my view because you've got to remember we're there because we were attacked. And we were attacked by al-Qaeda on 9/11. That's why we're in Afghanistan. In Syria, you've got Iran you've got ISIS. If we are to withdraw from Syria now we're basically handing Syria to the Iranians. We're handing the Iranians the linchpin in- in- in the Shia crescent that they need and that they have said is their objective and their goal. It will be very dangerous for the United States it will frankly decrease our security and it'll be very dangerous for allies like Israel, and- and I think it's important for us to look very closely at what's happening there but that we should not be withdrawing our forces.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about something we referenced on the intro, which is you're an incredibly powerful position in the new Congress, one of the most- the most influential female Republican on the House side, but when you look overall at the new Congress the number of Republican women is at the lowest level since 1995. Does your party have a problem attracting candidates or is it getting people to vote for them?
 
REP. CHENEY: We need to do better at both things, Margaret. We need to do better at- at making sure that we're helping and supporting Republican women as candidates. And we also have to do a better job at making sure that our message is getting out there and that we're attracting more Republican women - more women voters to the party. And I think a large part of that is explaining to people why it is if you look at the policies that are coming in on the Democratic side, for example, they are very, very far left- as far left as socialism. And we need to do a better job as Republicans in explaining why we stand for freedom and opportunity for everybody.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: We have to leave it there. Thank you very much.
 
REP. CHENEY: Thank you.