Transcript: Rep. Elijah Cummings on "Face the Nation," Nov. 18, 2018

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland that aired Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, on "Face the Nation." 


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back with Maryland's Elijah Cummings. He is the top Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Chief Investigative Committee in the House and he is joining us from Baltimore this morning. Congressman, welcome to "Face the Nation." I want to ask you what the president said this morning on Fox News in an interview with Chris Wallace, he said that the acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has the power to block any subpoena requests from the special counsel to the president. The president suggested that he's done answering questions. And now that the investigation- he seems to be suggesting is coming to an end. Does Congress have anything to do to protect the integrity of the- of the probe itself given some of these past public statements by the acting attorney general that have drawn that into question?

REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Well I am extremely concerned about the acting attorney general. I question whether or not it was actually a legitimate appointment since he's not been confirmed by the Senate. But we- we're going to look into- to all of this. I- again--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you--

REP. CUMMINGS: --with him being in there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: force his recusal?

REP. CUMMINGS: I don't think so. I don't think- I don't think that we- I don't know that we have that power. But we're going to certainly look at every angle. But I'm hoping that- that- that- I would love to see him recuse himself because I think the things that he has said about defunding the special probe and the many things that he has talked about, with regard to his opinion, a negative opinion with regard to special counsel in the process. I don't think that he's the proper person to be in that position and I- in any- and- but again I think almost anything he does in that- in the position of the interim may very well be tainted because we're not clear- it's not clear that he is a legitimate appointment to that position.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If the Mueller probe continues to its conclusion, which the president has said he-he at this point won't interfere. Will you- If you do take the chairmanship of House Oversight and have the subpoena power that goes with it, will you force Mueller's findings to be made public if the Department of Justice decides not to release them?

REP. CUMMINGS: I would love to see it become public because basically in this last election what the public has said is that they want accountability and they want transparency and they have paid for a- an investigation by one of our greatest public servants, Mr. Mueller- Special Counsel Mueller. And so I would do anything and everything in my power to have that- the findings presented to not only to the Congress, but to the people of the United States. I think it's very important.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If you take this chairmanship, what's your top priority? Where do you began?

REP. CUMMINGS: Well first of all we've got to make sure that we do- do those things that are important to the American people. Things such as voting rights, we just saw what happened down there in Georgia and in Florida. We- we- we cannot have a country where people are being blocked from voting. We also want to look at preexisting conditions, things of that nature, to make sure that people are protected in regard to that. We also want to look at the census. Lot of people are surprised about that. But the census is right around the corner. And what we do with regard to the census will affect us for the next 10 to 12 years and- and it will affect every single person in this country. Another area is postal. Our postal system has had some economic problems. We have legislation that could actually cure those problems. We want to move that forward. So we're going to be doing that. But at the same time we're going to address the issue that- that- that a lot of people are concerned about and making sure that government is doing what government is supposed to do for all of the American people. We may not have been elected by all the people as Democrats but we must govern all the people in a fair way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As I mentioned you are expected to have that powerful position on House oversight. But overall when it comes to leadership right now, there are some questions about whether there is enough black leadership at the top of the Democratic Party. I mean if Pelo- Pelosi and Hoyer are- are successful at remaining speaker and leader, is Jim Clyburn enough? Do need to see more?

REP. CUMMINGS: I think- First of all you've got to understand we have- all of us our leaders.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REP. CUMMINGS: And so- but so we could only have one speaker at a time. Nancy Pelosi has simply been phenomenal and she has been one who has been- she believes in inclusion revolution. She has probably the most diverse leadership team that in his- in the history of any legislative body as far as the Congress is concerned. And she has- she has fought hard to make sure that people like Maxine Waters and Bobby Scott and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus are supported. So- and as far as Jim Clyburn is concerned, he's a phenomenal leader. And so we- you know we're going to be fine. I know that there are people who are talking to a lot of talk--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

REP. CUMMINGS: But the fact is is that Nancy Pelosi is a phenomenal woman, a phenomenal speaker, a phenomenal leader. She'll be fine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK Congressman thank you very much. We'll be back in a moment with a lot more FACE THE NATION.