Transcript: Rep. Trey Gowdy on "Face the Nation," September 23, 2018

Rep. Trey Gowdy urges Senate to be "fair to the witness" in Kavanaugh, Ford hearings

The following is a transcript of the interview with South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy that aired Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, on "Face the Nation."

JOHN DICKERSON:  We turn now to South Carolina Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy. He's the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and he joins us this morning from Greenville, South Carolina. Good morning, congressman.


JOHN DICKERSON: This hearing that's going to happen this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. You've- you've chaired some pretty high profile politically charged hearings. What are the risks involved?

REP. GOWDY: There's a risk to either side - that's not perceived as being fair. I've- I've never- I've been in lots of sex assault cases, but not since I've been in Congress. You have got to be fair to the witness you have got to give the witness an opportunity to fully answer the question, you need to eschew these five minute increments that we so often use in Congress. Five minutes is not long enough for anyone to appropriately question either Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh. I am confident the judge- that Senator Grassley- Chairman Grassley will run this in a respectful way but the American people regardless of whether you're a Republican or Democrat expect these witnesses to be treated fairly and I'm confident that they will be.

JOHN DICKERSON: One of the questions that Christine Blasey Ford has said is that she would have liked the FBI to do a kind of neutral fact finding on this. What do you think about that? 

REP. GOWDY: I'm a big fan of the FBI, John, but they don't investigate sex assault cases. There are very very few federal sex assault cases. So my first question would be- the FBI to investigate what- there's no crime scene to process, there are no forensics to evaluate. What the FBI could do is go interview Dr. Ford and interview Judge Kavanaugh. But they've already interviewed Judge Kavanaugh. And even if they did interview Dr. Ford she still has to testify. So the only role I can see the bureau playing is identifying other witnesses that may have knowledge. Some of that's already been done by Dr. Ford. Judge Kavanaugh's defense is he wasn't there so you wouldn't expect him to produce witnesses. But I don't know what people expect the FBI to do. They're not human polygraphs so they can't tell us who's telling the truth.

JOHN DICKERSON: But my understanding though is that the president in these nomination- nominations the president can ask the FBI to do it. So while they may not investigate sexual assault he could in- in terms of getting an accurate record. I guess the thinking is the FBI is a neutral fact finder here and we don't know what we- we don't know and so they without all the partisanship and the charged nature of partisanship could get some of the basic facts down which would- it's not just about finding information for the general record it's informing also the questions that the senators may then ask of both of them.

REP. GOWDY: The FBI I know has already interviewed Judge Kavanaugh. I have no issues with the FBI taking a second, third, eighth look if that's what it takes to find out what happened and to fully air all the facts. I just want people to have realistic expectations mean- what the FBI can do is go interview Dr. Ford which is what the senators are planning on doing this week. They can interview Judge Kavanaugh which is what the senators are doing but they can't then come in and- and repeat back what either of those witnesses say. You can't determine credibility unless you actually hear from the witness herself and himself.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about what standard one should use in trying to sort through all of these facts. This is not a court of law. What's your feeling about the standard that should be used to determine who's telling what the truth of this is.

REP. GOWDY: That's a great question John and I have struggled with that question. My bias is toward sex assault victims. I spent 20 years believing them sometimes when nobody else did. I am used to the beyond a reasonable doubt. That is an incredibly high burden, but it ought to be if you're going to take away someone's freedom. It also ought to be a high burden when you are going to impact someone's reputation. And make no mistake both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh will live with consequences of this for the remainder of their lives. But- but as it relates to Judge Kavanaugh, when you have been accused of something that is a crime it's an incredibly serious crime. It is a crime that goes to the heart of your character. I think American people expect there to be a high evidentiary burden, and I'm really disappointed when I hear senators say they either believe or don't believe witnesses that they have never interviewed or heard from. How can you do that John. How can you make a credibility assessment if you've never bothered to interview either of the two principals.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me move on and ask you about the reporting this week about Rod Rosenstein the deputy attorney general some back and forth about the New York Times report that he suggested wearing a wire with the president. His response or the the defendants or defenders of his have said this was just a joke. What do you make of all that.

REP. GOWDY:  It's not a very funny joke. But wh-what I would say is the same thing you and I just got done talking about. Rod deserves the right to be heard. And I'm sure at some point the president will bring Rod in and say, "Rod if you think I am incompetent, if you feel the need to wear a wire when you're talking to me, then why are you serving in my administration?" And it may be that Rod says, "Mr. President none of that happened." We won't know that until we see the McCabe memos which if you really want to see him don't run for Congress, go be a reporter because they've seen them and we have not looked at the McCabe memos. Find out who else if anyone was in the room and then give Rod a chance to explain whether or not it's true and the context in which it was said. But-but one thing that's clear whether you're Republican or Democrat president, you have a right to a deputy attorney general that doesn't think you're incompetent and doesn't feel the need to audio tape conversations with you.

JOHN DICKERSON: Andrew McCabe-- being the former deputy director of the FBI, the- what do you-what do you make of the president's comment about his attorney general the-when asked in an interview he said, "I don't have an attorney general." What-what do you make of just the general relationship between the president and the-and the Department of Justice?

REP. GOWDY: It's terrible and it's heartbreaking. And I understand the president's frustration. The frustration is that he picked- out of all the universe of attorneys he could have picked- he picked one that had to recuse himself from that office's most significant investigation. But he did pick him, and I-I would- I would prefer that they would keep their differences private. There's nothing to keep the president from bringing Jeff Sessions over and having a stern conversation about priorities or policies. But the public fighting to me- this is a different office, John. It's not the Department of Agriculture or Commerce. It's a blindfolded woman holding a set of scales that each of us has to have confidence in. And-and it's- it's sad to watch quite frankly.

JOHN DICKERSON: Speaking of that confidence, just in 20 seconds here, what do you think about the president declassifying this-this information from the-the FISA warrant about an investigation into his own behavior?

REP. GOWDY: Well I've read every bit of that information and-and ninety nine point nine percent of it has nothing to with him. In fact 100 percent of it may have nothing to do with him. I-I generally am-am on the side of transparency with the caveat do nothing that jeopardizes national security or impacts our relationship with our allies. I think the president has taken a reasonable approach which is given Chris Wray and Dan Coats a chance to come in and advocate for why it should not be released --

JOHN DICKERSON: -- Alright --

REP. GOWDY: -- But I've seen all of it John. And with the exception of one document I don't think anybody's mind is going to be changed when they read this stuff.

JOHN DICKERSON: Alright, Trey Gowdy. Thanks so much for being with us and we'll be back.