Transcript: Sen. Ed Markey on "Face the Nation," February 24, 2019

Markey vows to fight to make Mueller report public

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts that aired Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to turn now to a Massachusetts Democrat, Senator Ed Markey, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee responsible for U.S. policy on North Korea. But before we get there, I'd like you to weigh in on this. This declaration of a national emergency. Is Congress powerless to stop the president?

SENATOR ED MARKEY: It's a clear usurpation of congressional authority. There will be a resolution of disapproval which most likely will pass in the House of Representatives this week. Then it will come over to the United States Senate. It's uncertain whether there are enough--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the president say he's going to veto it.

SEN. MARKEY: -- and then even if there are a small handful of Republicans who are willing to vote for that resolution of disapproval, the president says that he's going to veto it and then it will come back to the House and Senate, and I believe it's highly unlikely that there will be two thirds of the House and Senate who will vote that way given the base support of the Republican Party for President Trump and his actions. And then it will go to the courts. And I think in the courts we're going to have a very strong case that this is an unconstitutional action by the president in usurping an authority which was deliberately built into the Constitution, by the Founding Fathers to ensure that there was a separation of powers, that there was a check and balance on a president so that they could not act unilaterally.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that is the bigger point I think for- for viewers to understand that this seems all procedural bureaucratic talk in Washington but that bigger purpose of how our government is supposed to function and how it is, is the question here. In the past under President Obama you were supportive of his use of executive authority on a number of different fronts including immigration. Do you regret that now, and why is it different what President Trump is- how he's using it?

SEN. MARKEY: The clear difference here is that the Congress, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, just reached an agreement on funding for border security. They just finished it and they sent it to the president. A president cannot use his executive authority- his emergency authority when none exists- when Congress just finished acting on it when they provided money for the president to provide additional security along the border. So no, this is- this is a new area that the president- which President Trump has now entered. It's not Hurricane Katrina. It's not after 9/11. This is something quite substantial which would have precedential value when a Democrat is president. And I think Republicans should be very, very cautious in allowing for President Trump to take this authority because it would lead to a very significant diminution of the authority of the Congress in the future when any president, Democrat or Republican, seek to act.

MARGARET BRENNAN: North Korea. As we said, you watch Asia policy very carefully. Here, a number of leading national security minded Democrats have released a letter saying that the administration is just not sharing information at all on the diplomacy under way. What are your thoughts on that? What do you need to know?

SEN. MARKEY: Well right now, it's pretty clear that Kim wants to have a personal meeting with Trump with hopes that he can, in fact, elicit concessions from President Trump that otherwise might not be possible if it was just our diplomats talking one on one. So I think there is apprehension, in fact amongst President Trump's own diplomats heading into this summit. Nothing is clear and I think as a result we could run the risk that- Kim is given concessions which are not accompanied by real concessions that the United States is receiving in return from Kim and his regime.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're saying the president's going to get played.

SEN. MARKEY: I think that he has to be very careful going in. He has to make sure--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Specifically what does that mean? What is Congress most concerned about? Is it troops on the peninsula?  The president has said he's not looking to withdraw them.

SEN. BLUNT: Well he's looking for a declaration to the end of the Korean War. He's looking for other concessions. But I think that in order to be sure that this summit is in fact successful, the President should first return with a codification of the freezing of the missile program and a nuclear program in North Korea. That testing should not continue. Second, that there should be a verifiable program of inspection of the entire nuclear program in North Korea. And third, that there should be a roadmap which is put in place to ensure that no concessions made by the United States, for example, in lifting of sanctions occurs without verifiable evidence that Kim is complying step by step with the denuclearization of North Korea.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, is- is there a risk to Democrats weaponizing the Mueller report as Bannon accused Democrats of doing?

SEN. MARKEY: The Democrats have a responsibility to make sure that there was not a compromise of the presidential election of 2016. If the attorney general takes the Mueller report and then sanitizes it and releases that as the answer to a comprehensive investigation, then I think the Democrats in the House and Senate, along with Republicans, have a responsibility to ensure that the American people know what happened in 2016. What was the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russian government? Was there any subsequent relationship in the post-election period? We don't know the answers to those questions. The Mueller report potentially gives us those answers and it's going to be critical that the American public knows what happened in 2016. Right now everything rides on that Mueller Report and the Attorney General William Barr not sanitizing it in a way that is not transparent to the public and the Congress. The Democrats have a responsibility to do that job.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Markey, thank you very much.