Transcript: Rep. Trey Gowdy on "Face the Nation," Feb. 18, 2018

The outrage and anguish of students who survived the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, this week is ramping up the pressure on lawmakers to take action to prevent future mass shootings. Outspoken students have taken to the airwaves and social media to call on Congress to enact new gun regulations.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, joined us to discuss what he would say to those students who are imploring Congress to act. He also gave his thoughts on the indictment of 13 Russian nationals for meddling in the 2016 elections and the status of the Mueller investigation.

The following is a transcript of the interview with Gowdy that aired Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  


NANCY CORDES: Right now we turn to Congressman Trey Gowdy, the head of the House Oversight Committee who is in Greenville, South Carolina this morning. Mr. Chairman, good morning. What do you say to these kids who are argue that politicians like you who take money from the NRA have blood on their hands?

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: Well, first thing I would say to, to those children and my own is I'm sorry that you have grown up in a generation that has only known violence and there is no sanctuary, there is no place of refuge. The schools aren't safe, the churches aren't safe, the concerts.

So I applaud their activism, I would encourage them to look at three components. The shooter himself, the instrumentality, and then any, any form of mitigation, whether it is magazine capacity, whether it is the speed with which the projectile is expelled. But, but you have to look at all three, you have to look at the shooter, and you have to look at the instrumentality by which that shooter is killing people. I applaud their activism and, and if I were them, I'd be as angry as they are.

NANCY CORDES: When you talk about instrumentality, are you suggesting that weapons that can kill or injure many people in a short period of time should be more restricted than they are now?

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: Well, you can certainly look at that. But of course Nancy, some, some of the more heinous mass killing we've had involve semi automatic pistols. And I, I have had people, when I was a prosecutor, kill, kill with all manner of instrumentality, from shovels to bricks to rope to hands. You're equally dead. So--

NANCY CORDES: But you, but you can't kill 500 people--

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: --whether it's a semi-automatic pistol--

NANCY CORDES: Wait a minute, Congressman, in Las Vegas the shooter was able to injure 500 people in minutes. You can't do that with a shovel or a brick.

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: No, you cannot. And that's why I say you should look at the instrumentality and, and, and magazine capacity and the speed with which the projectiles, including bump stocks. But you also have to look at the shooter. And Nancy, in, in, in almost half the instances of mass shootings, there was notice provided to someone that the person was going to do what, what he ultimately did.

In school shootings, almost 80% of the time there was notice provided. So you have to look at all of it. If you only look at the instrumentality and you don't look at the person who's pulling the, the trigger, then I think you're doing a disservice to everyone who wants to see an end to, to killings, including mass killings.

NANCY CORDES: So I think what these kids are saying is we have looked at all of these things, we just haven't done anything. Why, for example, hasn't Congress taken action on bump stocks? This is something that both sides agree should be curtailed. If you're saying that, you know, we need to make it easier for law enforcement to step in when someone exhibits symptoms of violence, why don't we make it easier for them to do that?

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: Well, you could. You could impose a duty to disclose. We have it in other categories of law. You could impose a, a, a lawful duty to disclose if, if you hear that someone is planning to do something. And the shooting in Florida, you didn't need a duty to disclose.

People did come forward and put the F.B.I. on notice. You know, bump stocks turn, turn semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic weapons. So fully-automatic weapons are already illegal. So I, I, I am fine with doing away with any instrumentality that converts a semi-automatic to a fully-automatic.

NANCY CORDES: So you're a member of leadership--

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: But Nancy, we--

NANCY CORDES: --when will we see a vote on that?

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: I'm not a member of leadership, but I'm happy to ask them when and if we're going to see a vote. I don't know that it requires a vote of Congress, I think ATF could regulate bump stocks tomorrow.

NANCY CORDES: You're, you're the chair of the House Government Oversight Committee, so I want to get your take on these 13 Russians who were indicted on Friday. You're a former prosecutor, what do these indictments tell us about how sophisticated this operation was and whether they're going try it again?

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: Well, they're definitely going to try it again. And I think what this indictment tells us is what some of us have known all along. Russia is not our friend. Russia has tried to subvert the fundamentals of our democracy. For- for those of us who supported Bob Mueller from day one and said, "Give him the time and the resources and independence to do his job," this is his job. This is exactly what we wanted him to do. I've known all along that Russia tried to subvert our 2016 election and they're going to do the same thing in 2020 and every election thereafter. Unless and until we do what the indictment said, which is we view this as America being the victim. In this particular instance, they used the Clinton campaign. They- they tried to disparage her campaign.

NANCY CORDES: Sure.

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: Next cycle it could be a Republican. But Americans are the victims of- of what Russia did, not Republicans, not Democrats, all of us are victims.

NANCY CORDES: So then why hasn't Congress passed any legislation to safeguard our election? We have known about this Russian meddling now for about 18 months.

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: You're right. Congress doesn't regulate state elections. And Jeh Johnson, whom I've been critical of in the past, tried to put the states on notice in the fall of 2016. It didn't get a lot of media coverage, because there was an Access Hollywood tape that came out that same day. So you're better able to speak, well, from your line of work as to why what Jeh Johnson warned us of in the fall of 2016 didn't get much media coverage. But I don't think you want Congress regulating the 50 states in their election cycles.

NANCY CORDES: Well, sure. But you do have control, for example, over legislation that could require more disclosure from people on social media about who they are, who's backing them when they air ads online, for example.

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: Yeah, and I had that conversation with the three media giants. You and I just got through discussing the second amendment, this is the first amendment. I- I asked Facebook, I asked Twitter, I asked all of them, "How does a

functioning democracy benefit from false information?" I- I can't imagine how we benefit from someone perpetuating lies. But-but I got silence. So that's a first amendment issue.

NANCY CORDES: Uh-huh.

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: When you begin to regulate information and I happen to believe in something called the truth. I actually believe that certain things are true and not true. But I couldn't even get the media giants to agree to that. So that's a first amendment issue. I would tell all my fellow citizens to be really skeptical of anything you read on social media and do your own independent research.

NANCY CORDES: Sounds like Americans are all going to have to get a lot more skeptical about what they see on social media. Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY: Yes ma'am, thank you.