Transcript: Sen. Joe Manchin on "Face the Nation," August 18, 2019

Manchin emphasizes "good dialogue" with Trump on guns

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia that aired Sunday, August 18, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We start this morning in coal country with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. He joins us from Charleston. Good to have you on the program. 

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Good to be with you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, you've been very supportive of President Trump's trade war. Given the worries that we're seeing emerge this weekend, the president's decision to pull back on some tariffs related to consumers. Are you having second thoughts?

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Well, no. And I- I've been very hawkish on China because China does- their intent is not for America to succeed or do well. With that being said, the way they've been able to have their economic might and also their military might has been through espionage. So we have to be very careful of that, and we have to be very much aware of that. So I think there's a time for correction, and this is it. Now with that being said I would say in- we should be strengthening our ties with all of our allies and bringing on more allies that we can do good trade with— honest fair trade, competitive trade, but not unfair trade such as has been done with China for far too long.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So in- in terms of your concerns about an economic slowdown it sounds like you don't see one happening, but you did mention espionage there. You've been raising concerns about Chinese investment in your home state. What exactly is happening here? What are you trying to put the brakes on?

SEN. MANCHIN: Well it's not the breaks. I- I'm- I encourage investments. I want your capital investment made in my state. We welcome any country that wants to come make investments, but just take our raw material out such as our ethane, propane and butanes for building stocks, manufacturing stocks and export every bit of that. That leaves us with nothing and no building blocks for us to re- have a reemergence of manufacturing base. I think that's wrong. And anything I said is reciprocating. We should be reciprocating with countries that basic reciprocate with us. Go to over to China and try to use their resources and bring them to America. Do any of that, other than manufactured goods they want to sell to us. But their resources or their grid system or any of that is off limits. Why should we give them an entree to ours which basically makes it extremely hard for us. Extremely hard.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about gun control. You've been trying since back in 2013 to get this bill that would tighten background checks. The bill known as Manchin-Toomey passed. You've spoken to the president this time. Will he go out there and twist arms to get Republicans onboard with this bill?

SEN. MANCHIN: Well when I drafted that bill in 2013 and then Pat came on as my partner and we worked that bill it was basically around law abiding gun owners. Law abiding gun owners will do the right thing. But when it comes to background checks, if you go to a commercial transaction such as at a gun show Internet or any other where you don't know the person, common sense or gun sense should tell you should have a background check. President Trump has a golden opportunity truly a golden opportunity to make so start making America safe again. Make America safe again by starting with his basic building block of background checks.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  But has the president agreed to go out there and get the Republican caucus to support this bill? There's no promise it's going to be voted on anytime soon.

SEN. MANCHIN: Right. Well let me just say this. It's been very encouraging with the dialogue going back and forth and all the people meeting and all of the staffs working together, trying to find a pathway forward. I can't tell you the end result. I can't tell you what the final product will be, but we're working in a most common sense procedure of what we can get the votes for to do something that truly starts making America safe again. And we have- we have a responsibility. People are afraid to go out communities or let their children go to different types of things that would be a gathering of more than a couple of people, and they're concerned about this. And we shouldn't be living in fear in America. America should be safe and we can do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we had the Republican whip from the House Steve Scalise on this program just last week, and he said we have the tools we need. There were background checks already passed, Fix NICS as it's called, and what you're proposing, he wasn't championing. He was basically saying it's already been done. You just got to implement it better.

SEN. MANCHIN: I just respectfully disagree with Steve. I like him. He's a good person. We just had disagreements on this and we can do more. I come from a gun culture. I'm a gun owner. No one's going to take my guns away. I'm going to protect the Second Amendment. I'm a law abiding gun owner. I'll do the right thing. But I can tell you if I go to a gun show, if I go on the Internet and somebody wants to buy my gun and I don't know who they are, I've been taught not to sell my gun to a stranger, to someone that has criminal background, someone is not mentally stable. These are things that- that we're going to make those decisions, but when you don't know somebody, don't you think you can at least come to that agreement that that makes sense? And there's so many other good things have been brought to the table. You know the red flag bill that Lindsey Graham and a lot of us are working on makes sense, that if we can identify and get somebody help before they do something- some horrible tragedy should be done. And we have the ability to do these things that really make sense.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But no promise to you personally by President Trump that this is the bill he wants to see passed?

SEN. MANCHIN: There's no promise on any of this right now. It's just open. But we have--

MARAGRET BRENNAN: Got it.

SEN. MANCHIN: --good dialogue. We haven't had this before. We're working, we have working groups together. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

SEN. MANCHIN: And he says he's very encouraged. He wants something to happen. And I've said, "President Trump, this is yours it doesn't happen unless you stand up and you have a bill that you basically support. And this is your piece of legislation and it should be a gun sense bill that makes sense to all gun owners."

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well the only way legislation gets passed is if Senators are here in Washington working on it. There's some questions about whether you're staying or going back to West Virginia to run for governor. Are you going to stay and fight?

SEN. MANCHIN: Well I'm going to be fighting, that's for sure. No matter what happens I'm going to be here fighting. That's for darn sure. But right now--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --and here in Washington?

SEN. MANCHIN: --I'll make a decision- I'll make a decision basically right after Labor Day here. I'll make a decision and I will announce to the people in West Virginia. I've had a lot of inquiries they want me to come back home. I have people think that maybe I should stay and I've had it both ways. We're looking at it and I want to do what I can to help my state of West Virginia. It's always been about West Virginia for me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Last time we spoke with you you just got back from a trip to the Arctic. You went to Greenland. I'm wondering what you think about this idea of acquiring it?

SEN. MANCHIN: Well Greenland's a cold place, but it's melting. You know we saw- we saw the effects of- of- of global climate changes. Changes are happening and the people up there understand that and they're trying to adjust to it. And we have a very strategic base up there- a military base which we- we visited. And I understand that the strategic logic for that. In that part of the world in the Arctic opening up the way it is now. So that was a very interesting proposal that was thrown out, but we haven't heard much about it. I'm on Armed Services. And we should be getting a secured briefing pretty soon on that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: On purchasing Greenland?

SEN. MANCHIN: Well if that's what- if that's the intent. If it has any merit to it we'll--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

SEN. MANCHIN: --we'll hear about it. I haven't heard that. I just heard basically what's been reported on the news.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, senator we'll stay tuned for that decision after Labor Day. Thank you very much.

SEN. MANCHIN: Okay, Margaret, thank you. Bye bye.