Transcript: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries on "Face the Nation," March 24, 2019

Jeffries: Trump could be Russian asset or "useful idiot"

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York that aired Sunday, March 24, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. He's the fourth ranking democrat in the House leadership and joins us this morning from New York City. Congressman welcome to "Face the Nation." No one has seen the details of this report yet. What is it that you were actually looking to get and hear from the attorney general today? What can we expect?

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Well, the American people deserve to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This is a serious national security investigation. Seventeen different intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered with our election, attacked our democracy, in order to try and artificially place Donald Trump at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That's a very serious thing. Which is why, as House Democrats, we are saying that the Department of Justice should release the entire report, as well as, the underlying documentation. We don't want to see simply crib notes. We don't want to see an outline. We don't want to see an executive summary. We need to see everything so that the American people can draw conclusions on their own.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But redactions, declassifications, I mean this is confidential information. You'd have to go to court. This is going to take some time.

REP. JEFFRIES: Well, we certainly understand that to the extent there are sources and methods that need to be protected, those type of redactions are appropriate. But beyond that, we think that in the interest of full disclosure and complete transparency, the American people paid for this report. They deserve to get an understanding of the conclusions that were drawn. Four hundred and twenty members of Congress voted for public disclosure. Zero members of Congress in the House voted against it. The American people overwhelmingly have said more than 80 percent, Democrats, Republicans and independents, that the report should be disclosed. That's what we expect.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should we expect the attorney general and the special counsel to face questioning in front of your committee? In front of the television cameras?

REP. JEFFRIES: Well, I think that certainly is a possibility. But let's take the first step in terms of the full disclosure of the report and the underlying documentation. The American people deserve to know whether Donald Trump is either A) A legitimate president B) A Russian asset C) The functional equivalent of an organized crime boss or D) Just a useful idiot who happens to have been victimized by the greatest collection of coincidences in the history of the republic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman--

REP. JEFFRIES: Let's see what--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- it sounds like you've come to your own conclusions.

REP. JEFFRIES: That's a question. I haven't drawn a conclusion. What I'm saying is that this is a serious--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, said it is very clear the president obstructed justice. He said that before the report even came out or was concluded. Republicans are going to look at this and just say you are making a case for impeachment regardless of what is presented to you by the attorney general.

REP. JEFFRIES: We've been very clear, Democrats didn't run on impeachment. We didn't win the House of Representatives back on impeachment. We are not focused on impeachment. Actually we're focused on executing are for the people agenda. We want to lower healthcare costs for everyday Americans. That's what we promised, that's what we're working on. We want to enact the real infrastructure plan. We have a trillion dollar plan, it would invest and create at least 16 million good paying jobs. We want to fix our crumbling bridges, roads, and tunnels and airports and mass transportation system. And we also want to bring our democracy to life. That's why we passed H.R. 1. That is our focus, Margaret. That will continue to be our focus moving forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you actually predicting that legislation is going to get through in the next two years and not just be eaten up by all the political arguments around this report and the investigations that are ongoing in the House?

REP. JEFFRIES: I certainly believe that that is possible. We are going to try to do everything we can to try and find common ground. We're going to lead by example and try to move for--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What actually gets done?

REP. JEFFRIES: Well one, we're gonna work to try to drive down the high cost of lifesaving prescription drugs. We believe that the federal government should have the power, perhaps through Medicare, to use its bulk price purchasing ability to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of the American people.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  How are you going--

REP. JEFFRIES: The president hasn't got--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --to work- sorry, go ahead. How are you going to work with the president on doing that though when some members of your caucus have already been calling for his impeachment going back to two years prior?

REP. JEFFRIES: Well, Nancy Pelosi has been very clear about impeachment and I share her view, and so do the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic Caucus. We are not going to proceed unless the case is compelling, the evidence is overwhelming, and most importantly public sentiment around impeachment is bipartisan. So, we are going to keep our focus on things like lifesaving prescription drugs and reducing its high price and we believe the president has come to Congress, spoke to the nation during the State of the Union address and said he agrees, we should try to work together to get that done. He has also indicated that he agrees with democrats that we should try to fix our crumbling infrastructure and we're going to try to get that accomplished as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Alright, Congressman, we will watch and see what happens on all those predictions. Interesting to hear some optimism there. We will be right back.