Transcript: Sen. Dick Durbin on "Face the Nation," Dec. 10, 2017

Sen. Durbin on harassment

In an interview with "Face the Nation" Sunday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, discussed topics ranging from the upcoming Alabama Senate race and Roy Moore to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

What follows is a transcript of the interview with Durbin that aired Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, on "Face the Nation."


JOHN DICKERSON: Joining us now is Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin. He is in Springfield, Illinois. Welcome, senator. I want to pick up on something that Senator Collins said about the choice that senators may face if Roy Moore is elected in Alabama. And the question is: What business does the Senate have in overturning the will of the people of Alabama if he is elected? Senator Collins said that's a very tough decision. What's your sense of it?

DICK DURBIN: Well, John, I can tell you this. First, the decision is to be made by the voters in Alabama on Tuesday. And I hope that they will do the right thing in terms of defining their standards and values when it comes to people representing them in Washington. But we have heard from Republican senators first who have suggested that if Roy Moore ends up being elected to the Senate, he would face close scrutiny, investigation, even removal from the Senate once he arrives.

I agree with Senator Collins. It's a complicated issue. But I will tell you this. We faced the reality this past week. I've known Al Franken for over 20 years. He is my friend. He was on the floor of the Senate announcing his resignation. I sat just a few feet away from him. He said it was the worst day in his political life. It was a somber feeling. It was a reality. And I hope the voters of Alabama appreciate that reality when they make their decision on Tuesday.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about a political critique of the Democratic Party's pressure on Al Franken that led to his resignation. Dahlia Lithwick writes in Slate a piece that says, "Morality is no longer its own reward. What we get in exchange for being good and morally right is now nothing." The argument that the Democrats have a standard that leads to Franken to go and the Republicans are going to- the Republican committee's supporting Moore, the president's supporting Moore, and that essentially Democrats are on the high road but it's a politically bad road to be on.

DICK DURBIN:  I can just tell you your interview with Susan Collins demonstrates that's not true. There are Republicans who feel very strongly about this issue and have said so. And I think if more do, then we can establish a national standard, not a partisan standard, when it comes to the future of relationships with women. This to me from Susan Collins's comments gives me hope that the Alabama voters will do the right thing and we'll also see both parties coming to the same conclusion on this issue.

JOHN DICKERSON: Final question on this, senator. There is a criticism that Al Franken was pressured not just because of the specific facts of the case but Democrats wanted to look good in comparison to Republicans. What's your response?

DICK DURBIN: I can tell you it was a painful process because of our personal friendships and relationships with Al and his family. There was no political calculation in here. It was just a painful moment when we made a decision, moved forward on the Democratic side. I hope the Republicans will face that reality as well.

JOHN DICKERSON: On taxes, senator, what can Democrats do? This is moving into the conference committee. And Republicans have the votes to pass it. What are Democrats going to do?

DICK DURBIN: Well, it did pass the Senate. There was only one Republican senator, Bob Corker, who voted no. Susan Collins made it clear she's still waiting before she makes her final decision. I think others are in the same position. Jeff Flake, for example, from Arizona made it clear that bringing up this issue about DACA and the DREAMers is critical to his vote when it comes to tax. So I can't assume where the Republicans will end. But they have an awful lot to accomplish in a very short period of time.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned DACA. Let's just go off on a side road there on that. A number of your Democratic supporters, colleagues would like you as a Democrat to basically make funding of the government to keep the government running- would like you to make it contingent on doing something about DACA. Will you?

DICK DURBIN: Well, I can tell you this. We don't want to see the government shut down. We want to move forward in a bipartisan fashion to solve our problems. We believe that DACA is central. The president is the one who made this the issue. September the 5th he eliminated the DACA program and put in doubt the future of over 780,000 people in America. And we want to get this done and accomplished.

34 Republicans in the House came out last week and said, "Do it before the end of the year." The Senate Republicans have said the same thing. Lisa Murkowski yesterday tweeted that her Christmas wish- her greatest Christmas wish is to see this done, DACA and the DREAMer issue resolved, this calendar year. It is within the power of the Republicans to get this done and to put together a package that we can pass. We want to stand by them, work with them, and get that done.

JOHN DICKERSON: Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline though. And using the deadline of the funding as leverage both for this and also the Children's Health Insurance -- 9 million children -- that still has yet to be dealt with. You at one point said, "I'm not prepared to go home for the holidays until we get our work done." That suggests a little bit of use of this funding as a deadline. But are you really going to go that far?

DICK DURBIN: Well, I feel very strongly about it. There are many important issues. DACA to me personally and the DREAM Act are very personal and mean an awful lot. But when we're talking about funding our government, providing the resources and programs that many middle income families use across America, dealing with the opioid crisis, making certain that we take care of our veterans, making certain that we have the money for biomedical research, these are part of the conversation and part of the dialogue as we close down this budget. It is up to the Republicans to make a decision about what we will do. I think we can get this done right.

JOHN DICKERSON: Final question, senator. You're on the judiciary committee. There have been some questions raised about inspectors, people working for the special counsel, one of whom sent disparaging texts about the president. And then another who went to Hillary Clinton's victory party and also praised blocking the president's travel ban. What's your -- how big of a deal do you think this is, that these questions are being raised?

DICK DURBIN: Let me say at the outset. I have the highest confidence in Bob Mueller. I also have confidence that if he has any questions about the motives or conduct of his staff he will act on it decisively and professionally. He is moving forward on this investigation. I trust him. If there is something that went wrong in terms of the staffing, I trust him to take care of it.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right, senator. That's it. We're out of time. Thanks so much for being with us. And we'll be right back in a moment. Stay with us.