Transcript: Sen. James Lankford on "Face the Nation," October 28, 2018

Sen. James Lankford says he sees no connection between Pittsburgh shooting, Trump's rhetoric

The following is a transcript of the interview with Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma that aired Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  

JOHN DICKERSON: We turn now to Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma. He is a member of the Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees and he joins us this morning from Oklahoma City. Good morning, Senator.

SENATOR JAMES LANKFORD: Good morning to you.

JOHN DICKERSON: This horrible shooting in Pittsburgh seems to be part of a trend. The acts of anti-Semitic violence in the United States have increased 57 percent since between 2016 and 2017, that's the largest increase ever. Why do you think that is?

SEN. LANKFORD: Yeah it's very difficult to be able to tell obviously why any person this deranged would step out and do that, or any other person reaching out to be able to press back against people because of their faith. So I think we continue to be able to ask those questions that you're asking right now, we'll continue to be able to have dialogue and to be able pushback on anyone who tries to reach out for anyone of a person of faith or race or whatever it might be.

JOHN DICKERSON: One of the things that the shooter in this horrible shooting apparently said, or was guided by, was this idea that this caravan coming from Central America was being supported by globalists, some people say George Soros' name. President Trump has made that same case. Do you see any connection between the shooter motivated by that and the case the president has been making?

SEN. LANKFORD: I don't because this particular shooter also condemned President Trump, saying he was a globalist and that he was allowing some of this to happen. So I- I don't see any connection where you would connect the president to this particular shooting, just like I wouldn't see that connecting Democrats when a person walked up to a baseball game last year in Washington D.C. and said, 'Is this where the Republicans are practicing?' and then open fired on them simply because they were Republicans. So this- this issue about a shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina or shooting in a synagogue or shooting at a Republican baseball practice, this is just hate filled individuals that are very deranged.

JOHN DICKERSON: Think the distinction that- let's be frank- the distinction critics of the president have been making is that he has been making this specific narrative claim that there are Middle Easterners in this caravan, with no evidence that that exists, and that that was the direct link to this shooter. So it's not just unfocused criticism but very- a very specific narrative that the shooter seems to have picked up on.

SEN. LANKFORD: Again, we're back to the same issue, I- I believe also the same shooter was condemning President Trump for being a globalist at the time. So I- I- I don't see where President Trump is somehow to blame for this. Now President Trump and his rhetoric is very direct, but I don't see how you connect President Trump to a person who's deranged going into a synagogue. He's been very clear about anti-Semitism, as well as all of us have been. That is a- a sick, vile thing.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you Senator about the larger issue of- of domestic terrorism. We had a number of incidents this week, you have this shooting, you have the attempted bombing, you have the shooting of two African-Americans in- in- in Kentucky. You're a member of the Homeland Security Committee. Give me your sense of the threat from domestic terrorism.

SEN. LANKFORD: This is always one of the most difficult threats that we have, actually. International terrorism, we're very aggressive on. We've not had a major terrorist event from international terrorism in a very long time now, we'll continue to be able to be vigilant in that work. But the most difficult thing is we as Americans have the basic right of protection of privacy and we should have that right of protection of privacy. But that also means it's very difficult for law enforcement, if someone does what is called goes from flash to bang very, very quickly. This individual yesterday apparently posted something after saying all these horrible things on- about Jews for a long time, posted something saying that 'I'm gonna go in.' And then suddenly took off. No one-- it wasn't on anyone's radar, it wasn't being tracked by anyone. This is a person that might have been paranoid that the government was watching, but the Government's not watching people that- people live their normal lives. And if he doesn't have a criminal record, it is not on anyone's radar, very difficult to be able to track someone within the United States that snaps and takes off and does something like this.

JOHN DICKERSON: In- in the response to what the administration thought was a threat from immigrants, they started checking the social media histories of people coming into the United States in a way the Americans and this domestic terror threat, in this case you had online postings that the shooter then in the case of the Florida man, he was obviously on social media, saying some things that were very consistent with his actions. There's nothing that can be done in social media to keep track of these domestic terrorists?

SEN. LANKFORD: No, we're not trying to track each other, but there are- are things that if someone shows up on a radar that law enforcement can go get a warrant, can go through the process to be able to examine, obviously if people have their social media post public, that can also be monitored to see if someone is trying to be able to foment violence in any sort. So there are ways to be able to monitor that without trying to violate someone's basic constitutional freedoms, if they're posting things in open source.

JOHN DICKERSON: In response to the mail bombings this week, you said 'we- we have to work- we have to all work together as Americans to stop this.' What actual specific work are you talking about?

SEN. LANKFORD: Yeah, that is the difficult thing, that is not a legislative task, that everyone says let's have a vote and let's solve all these issues. If I go back to what Dr.- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said years ago, his statement was 'you don't overcome hate with more hate. You don't try to drive out darkness with more darkness. Only love can do that.' And as a culture we've got to figure out how to be able to communicate with each other on difficult things. Now, again, this person sending out package bombs to people was a very deranged individual in all likelihood from everything that we've seen back from him and more information will continue to be able to come out. But the challenge that we have is our social media rhetoric, our intensity of our dialogue, is no longer about having dialogue and conversation. It's shouting someone else down that you disagree with and trying to silence them rather than having dialogue with them.

JOHN DICKERSON: In your view, Senator, the president the United States has a bigger voice than anybody else in politics or in the world, really. Does the president--

SEN. LANKFORD: --True.--

JOHN DICKERSON: --as it stands right now, meet that standard that you're talking about for public discourse?

SEN. LANKFORD: No, I- I've said this to the president before. I- I think that the president needs to be more clear in his rhetoric and doesn't need to be as caustic in his rhetoric. That's the way he chooses to be able to communicate things and I don't think it's always helpful in that. We have the same issue on university campuses all around the country, where individuals can't speak out on their views because they'll get shouted down. We had that around the Kavanaugh hearings, where you'd walk through the Capitol and people would shout at you, trying to be able to silence individuals. That doesn't help in our basic dialogue and I think the president should, and I think all of us that are in Congress, and anyone in public life, should set a good role model example of what it means to have respectful dialogue.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right Senator, we're out of time. We thank you very much for being with us.

SEN. LANKFORD: Thank you.