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Transcript: Sen. Chris Coons on "Face the Nation," July 8, 2018

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware that aired Sunday, July 8, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  

MARGARET BRENNAN: Delaware Senator Chris Coons, who sits on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. He joins us from Wilmington this morning. Senator because you're on foreign relations you have oversight of the State Department and I want to ask you, given the developments with North Korea, have you been given any detail as to exactly what was agreed upon at that Singapore summit with President Trump?

SEN. CHRIS COONS: No we haven't. We haven't gotten the sort of detailed strategy- or updated briefing from Secretary Pompeo that I think we need and deserve. My concern Margaret- is that the Singapore summit last month was really not much more than a reality TV handshake summit that didn't really accomplish much in terms of getting North Korea to commit to verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. I far prefer diplomacy to twitter threats and I commend Secretary Pompeo for how hard he's trying to make something out of nothing. But so far I don't see that we've accomplished much. And my concern is that President Trump unilaterally gave away doing military exercises with our vital allies, South Korea and Japan, without consulting with them. And we got nothing but empty promises of denuclearization from Kim Jong un.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Speaking of allies, the president is heading to Europe this week into that NATO summit. -He's- he's got a good news story to tell. Spending among our military allies is actually up- since he came into office. The budget at NATO has grown, so has his tough talk actually paid off?

SEN. CHRIS COONS: Well, I hope that President Trump, as he goes to the NATO summit, will claim credit, will declare victory, and say- that NATO's budget, as you've said, has gone up by more than 14 billion since he became president and that he will lock arms and join forces with our vital NATO allies in order to confront two real threats to the United States: China on trade and Russia on security and defending our democracies. I'm concerned, Margaret, that instead what we're going to see is a repeat of last month's show where President Trump went to the G7 summit in Canada- and put a thumb in the eye of the prime minister of Canada and picked fights with our vital allies on tariffs and trade and on security issues and then went to Singapore for a summit with Kim Jong-un that as I just said didn't produce much. Looking forward to next week, my concern is he'll continue to stir the pot with NATO, undermine the credibility of our commitment to- mutual security that is at the core of NATO, and then go to Helsinki for a summit with Putin where I'm very concerned about what things he might give away or what things he might say with Vladimir Putin who really is a core adversary of both the United States and the NATO alliance.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be watching this. Because you sit on Judiciary I want to ask you now about the announcement we expect tomorrow from President Trump on his Supreme Court justice pick. We know, according to our own reporting at CBS from Jan Crawford, that there are three contenders now: Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, and Amy Coni Barrett with Kethledge, it appears now, in that first place position. Of these three, are- are there any that you would support or are you- opposed in principle to all three?

SEN. CHRIS COONS: Well Margaret first, I don't think we should be having this conversation because we seem to be playing by different rules with different presidents. I'll remind you that the Republican majority refused to even hold a hearing for 10 months on an eminently qualified, confirmable, moderate judge who was nominated by President Obama. We're just four months away from an election now- and we should be playing by the same rules—

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well that was presidential. This is congressional.

SEN. CHRIS COONS: --but I'll do my job on the Judiciary Committee. I will do my job on the Judiciary Committee in advance of the congressional elections this November, and I assume President Trump will nominate someone from that short list prepared for him by- two right wing activist groups: the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. I'll meet with his nominee, I'll review their record, and I'll ask them tough questions to try and get to the core issue here which is how will this next justice nominated by President Trump affect the rights and freedoms of average Americans. Margaret, this is a very important decision. It's going to affect the Affordable Care Act and the protection of preexisting conditions. It'll affect reproductive choice and individual freedom- for millions of women all over the United States. It'll affect consumer protection, environmental protection, LGBT rights. Justice Kennedy was at the center of many key decisions on exactly these issues. I'll do my job on the Judiciary Committee. We'll have a difficult confirmation hearings this fall, but I hope folks who are watching will also speak up, call their senators, express their views, and see this as what it is: the consequence of an election and a reason to be more engaged and to vote.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It sounds like you're saying you're keeping an- somewhat of an open mind here, - but Majority Leader McConnell has said he wants this new justice seated by October. Do you see any path for other Democrats to block that plan?

SEN. COONS: Well it'll be very difficult for 49 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with us given the change to the rules that was made by the Republican majority in the run-up to the last Supreme Court nomination of Justice Gorsuch. - It doesn't require 60 votes anymore, it requires just 50. If all the Republicans stick together, along with the vice president, they'll be able to confirm whomever President Trump nominates. I'll remind you Margaret, that there are many Trump judicial nominees who have cleared the Judiciary Committee unanimously. It is not impossible for President Trump to find a highly qualified conservative judge who could be confirmed on a bipartisan basis. But the folks who are on that list prepared by the Federalist Society represent the far-right end--


SEN. COONS: --of the American constitutional and judiciary committee- community, and--


SEN. COONS: --those are folks who I think will be very hard for Democrats to support.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Coons, thank you. We'll be right back. Don't go away.

SEN. COONS: Thank you.

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