Transcript: Mick Mulvaney on "Face the Nation," January 27, 2019

Mulvaney: Trump willing to shut down gov't again

The following is a transcript of the interview with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney that aired Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to "Face the Nation." We begin today with the president's acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. He joins us this morning from Charlotte, North Carolina. Welcome to "Face the Nation."

MICK MULVANEY: Margaret, Good Morning. Thank you for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the president really prepared to shut down the government again in three weeks?

MICK MULVANEY: Yeah I think he actually is. Keep in mind he's willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border. He does take this very seriously. This is a serious humanitarian and security crisis. And as President of the United States he takes the security of the nation as his highest priority. He doesn't want to shut the government down. Let's make that very clear. He doesn't want to declare a national emergency. What he wants to do is fix this the way that things are supposed to get fixed with our government which is through legislation. One of the reasons he agreed to open the government this week was to essentially take the Democrats at their word while their leadership have been telling us they were not interested in negotiating and they were sort of taking this do nothing and hope the president gives up approach. There were many many Democrats, both rank and file and some lower levels of leadership, would come to us and say look we- we happen to agree with you on border security, some of them were even very public about it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which Democrats?

MICK MULVANEY: Well Dick Durbin publicly said that we'll have some walls in the future. Jim Clyburn, my former colleague from South Carolina, actually said that if you could convince him that the experts said we needed a border barrier he would vote for that. So there's many many Democrats, dozens of them have come out over the last couple of weeks to say you know what this crisis is real. Let's figure out a way to do it properly but we can't do it with the government closed. I think with what you saw this week was the president take them at their word and say OK y'all have said you want to do this, let's give it a shot and see over the next three weeks we can do this the right way and pass legislation to fund the government and secure the border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think there's some difference of opinion as to what constitutes a wall versus a barrier versus language in the past on fencing that may be what you're gesturing to there with those Democrats. But--

MICK MULVANEY: You make a great point- well you make a great point because that's really what a lot of this is. And that's silly. The president has already showed everybody what he wants to build. The exact example. It's not concrete. It's not two thousand miles long and we've got Democrats with hair on fire saying they'll never vote for a wall. But they voted for money to build that exact wall. In fact something very similar is being built today. They just voted for another two hundred and twenty odd million dollars for that same thing two days ago. So we need to get beyond this fight about what's the wall and what's the fence and agree that some type of barrier on the border is necessary. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But why does the President think the outcome will be different in 21 days? I mean Democrats remained largely unified. It was Republicans in the Senate who broke ranks.

MICK MULVANEY: Because so many of us, and as I've mentioned before, so many of them had come to us and say you know what, we think you might be right on this barrier thing but we just cannot negotiate with you during a shutdown. We don't like the fact that a president might use a shutdown as a negotiating tool so if you open the government up we'll negotiate with you on good faith- in good faith on a border barrier. Now's their chance to do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When will federal employees receive their pay for the work- the back pay - and what about all of those contractors who don't necessarily have job guarantees? Are they going to be made full?

MICK MULVANEY: The contractors will depend on the contract. And let's talk about the employees for a second cause I know a little bit more about that. There's a couple different payroll providers in the federal government and how an employee gets paid or which payroll provider- provider covers their agency will dictate how long it takes. Some of them could be early this week. Some of them may be later this week but we hope that by the end of this week all of the back pay will be made up and of course the next payroll will go out on time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: S&P, the ratings agency, says that this cost around six billion dollars. It was a drain on the U.S. economy. Looking at the numbers, you actually think this thirty five day shutdown was worth it? I mean what did you accomplish? You don't have money for the wall you don't have a down payment for the wall and you say it's an emergency but now we're waiting three more weeks before the president comes to a decision on how he's going to deal with it.

MICK MULVANEY: Yeah. Is it worth it for the president to secure the nation? Keep in mind, he's not making this up. There really is a humanitarian crisis on the border. There really is a security crisis on the border. I know that some people want to stick their head in the sand and say that's not the case but we have data that there are actually hundreds of known criminals in the next caravan that is coming up through Mexico today. These are not made up numbers. So if you're the president of the United States and you know that you have to defend the nation, do you want to shut the government down? No. Do you want to declare a national emergency? No. But you do need and want to defend the nation and he's going to do that. I disagree with it with the concept that we don't have anything that we didn't have 35 days ago. Now, we have a bunch of Democrats saying they're willing to work with us. Thirty five days ago, all we had was Nancy Pelosi saying that under no circumstances would she ever give us any money at all for a wall. That's clearly changed. So I think things are moving in the right direction. The negotiations are far from over. Everybody wants to look at this and say the president lost. We're still in the middle of these negotiations. He just agreed to open the government while that was going on. So the president takes this deadly seriously. It's his number one priority to secure the nation and he'll do everything he can to do exactly that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president was tweeting this morning and said that there are 26 million illegal immigrants in the United States right now. Not the 11 million that the U.S. government has previously relied upon as the accurate figure. Well, where did this number come from and are you saying that government census data is just missed millions and millions of people over the past few years? 

MICK MULVANEY: Keep in mind that you and I have used 11 million before in previous interviews. I think that number was- was accurate a couple years ago and we know that it's going up because we know for example that- that 60,000 new illegals are coming across each month for the last three months. Again a number that is not made up. That is a real number. So we know the number has to be larger than 11 million. I've seen ranges are high-- as high I think of 30 or 40 million. I'm not exactly sure where the president got that number this morning. But I think what you see him trying to do is point out how silly this debate is. This is not that much money in the greater scheme of things the United States of America. In fact it's only enough money to build about 240 miles of wall, the very highest priority that Customs and Border Patrol has told us they need in order to secure the border, most of it in Texas. So I think he was trying to draw attention to the fact that while the Democrats are sitting here dug in just because they're apparently incapable of working with the president, incapable of giving the president any type of victory at all, that we're spending so much money on other things. It's really quite absurd. This should have been resolved a long time ago. And we do hope it gets resolved in the next 21 days.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you quickly about the president's friend, Roger Stone, who was indicted this week. Have you spoken to the president about this?

MULVANEY: No. In fact I've never met Roger Stone. Keep in mind all the stuff you see happening with Roger Stone doesn't have anything to do with the White House, doesn't have they do with the president, and certainly doesn't have anything to do with the staff at the White House, which is what I manage. So I'm entirely out of the loop on that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So because you manage the staff can you say that none of the Trump campaign officials named in this indictment currently work at the White House?

MICK MULVANEY: Again you're talking to someone who has nothing to do with the campaign so I honestly do not know how to answer your question.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So -- you don't know the answer to the question.

MICK MULVANEY: Yes ma'am.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think it's a problem to lie to Congress? That's one of the things that Roger Stone is charged with.

MICK MULVANEY: Do I think it's a problem to lie to Congress? Margaret that's one of the easiest questions you've ever asked me. Yes I think it's bad to lie to Congress

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because the president's tweet seemed to minimize that when he was tweeting about Roger Stone being indicted for lying to Congress. He kind of--

MICK MULVANEY: No, what I think he was trying to draw attention to and I've-- Republicans have talked about this for many years. I was actually in Congress a couple years ago and James Clapper flat out lied to Congress and then admitted it and nothing happened to him. In fact, he's still featured on many networks - maybe even your own - as an expert on dealing with Congress and an expert on various things having to do with his area of expertise. That's just absurd. It's no more right for him to do it than it is for anybody else. I think that's what the president is drawing attention to is the double standard that somehow that the Trump administration is held to a higher standard than the previous administrations. He thinks that's wrong and I hope that you would agree that's wrong as well. Every- every administration should be held to the exact same standard.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Thank you very much Mick Mulvaney for joining us this morning.

MICK MULVANEY: Thanks Margaret.