Transcript: Sen. Joe Manchin on "Face the Nation," June 2, 2019

Manchin warns of Russian aggression in the Arctic

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia that aired Sunday, June 2, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. He's a moderate Democrat who has pushed for bipartisan background check legislation. He joins us this morning from Charleston. Senator, you've tried and failed to get these restrictions or more background checks passed. Do we need this? Would it have prevented what happened in Virginia Beach?

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Well here's the thing, we couldn't even get the most common sense, legitimate gun owners- you know, law-abiding gun owners to understand we're not afraid to have background checks, and we're not going to do anything wrong with our guns. But there should be a balance of how you basically prevent people in commercial settings from not getting a gun when you don't know who they are and what their background is. We couldn't even get that done, Margaret. And I- I- I'm just asking my Republican colleagues and friends to use some common sense and let's do things that basically will protect the public and give us some certainty that we're trying to move in- in a commonsense manner.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about a trip you just took to a number of countries--

SEN. MANCHIN: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --and you saw what was happening in the Arctic, which American scientists say is melting faster- twice the rate than the rest of the world. What impact did you see? And is the economic benefit of some of this, which the Trump administration argues there is, offset this catastrophic effect for the climate?

SEN. MANCHIN: Well the climate change is real. I saw it firsthand. I read about it before and heard and listened to all the scientists. The thing of it is if you go up in that fragile ecosystem that we have and then you look at the geopolitics that's involved. We met with the parliamentarians of the eight Arctic nations. We listened to each one of them from Russia to Canada, the U.S. and then you have Finmark- Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. They all absolutely will show you, not just tell you, they'll show you the changes that are happening. The fish migration, the changes of that, the melting of the ice. We were in Greenland, went up to the ice shelf there and saw how it's retreated in a very short period of time. So we as humans have a responsibility to do something. I'm not for elimination because that's not practical. You're not going to stop the rest of the sovereign countries of the world from using the energy in their backyard. But we can use it much cleaner, I was at the university in- in Stockholm, in Aberdeen, and saw carbon capture utilization, not sequestered, trying to pump it in the ground by using it as byproducts and valued- and valued assets. It's going to be unbelievable. If we start working in a way that- that basically science has proven, that we can do it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You also heard though from the Trump administration that national security officials are warning that Russia might have been conducting in that area low yield nuclear tests. Have you seen any evidence of that?

SEN. MANCHIN: I didn't see- I didn't see that. What I did see and what I know, Russia is spending more of their money, more- more of their effort and money in the Arctic region. They have a tremendous landmass that's in the Arctic. They're spending more money there than they are in entire social services for Russia. It's unbelievable the commitment they've made. We've seen more activity of aircraft flying in those spaces. We've seen submarine activity from Russia, more so than we have during the Cold War. So there is a lot of activity there. They open up the Northwest Passage. That's a whole 'nother- that's a game changer. We have got to be on top and the United States has got to start getting involved to make sure that we're a leader up there and not a follower because I can tell you what Russia is doing, what China is doing. China is using their money, trying to buy their way into the Arctic to be a big player. It's unbelievable. And we should be alerted and we should start acting.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I do want to talk to you more about that and because you are one of three Democrats who voted to confirm the attorney general. I want to hear your views on what he said this week. But we have to take a break and we'll have those questions when we come back.

*COMMERCIAL*

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to "Face the Nation." Senator Joe Manchin is still with us. Senator, as I mentioned you were one of three Democrats who voted to confirm the Attorney General Bill Barr for his post. And you heard in this exclusive interview with my colleague Jan Crawford this week, he said that some of the investigators in the Russia probe may have been misguided and what they did, quote "antithetical to the democratic system." What do you make of that characterization?

SEN. MANCHIN: Well, first of all, I've- I've basically voted for many of the president's executive decisions they've made as far as who their appointments would be. I've always felt that the executive should be able to put their team together, if the person's qualified and has no background- a criminal background and has good experience level. Barr met all that. With that, you're seeing the decisions he's making and how he's making them now in lieu of Mueller's report. No one has done a more extensive report than Mueller. I was on Intelligence Committee last year and we've been delving into this for quite some time. 

But there's been an awful lot of investigations done by honorable people who have done what they felt was the right thing. Mueller making the decision he made, put it out there. I always wanted to hear from Mueller to come before the- before Congress and hear from his own mind and his own- his own mouth, if you will, what his intentions were and if he thought he was impeded and could not have gone farther or did he find anything. I don't think that there was a- collusion a quid pro quo, but I think there was an awful lot of people that were riding that pretty high for themselves, trying to put themselves in the best position they could to enhance their own- their own wealth if you will.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're talking about contact between the Trump campaign and Russia. But in terms of the attorney general's allegations that the counterintelligence probe was in some way, either misguided due to politics or by people thinking they're helping but hurting the country. I mean that's a pretty strong assertion. Do you regret voting to confirm the attorney general?

SEN. MANCHIN: Well I've said this, if he basically takes the position that he's more the lawyer from the executive point of view and not for the people's point of view, I would have made a mistake. I wanted to hear from Mueller exactly but now in hearing where he's coming from, it really gives me pause and concern that he's the people's attorney. He should be looking out to prevent- protect the Constitution and all of us who are protected by that Constitution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well he argues he is.

SEN. MANCHIN: And still has to basically be appointed- yeah. He argues he is, I think he's wrong in that assertion that they were misguided or intentionally going a different direction. I think that Bob Mueller was beyond reproach. I think we all felt that he was extremely capable, honorable and did a great job. With that, people don't like this, him not coming out with more of an infinite- definitive if you will. But I think it was very clear, he said that the rules are you're not going to impeach or bring charges against a sitting president. If that's the case, he's put everything out there. Here's the thing I've said, you've got a little over 17 months to the next election. If you want to go through an impeachment, we get very little done there anyway--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

SEN. MANCHIN: We're getting nothing done if you go into that and next of all, there's not one Republican in the Senate that would vote for an impeachment so why waste your time? You have an election coming up, voice your opinion there and make your choice. That's where it should be done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly yes or no, do you support the president's tariffs on Mexico?

SEN. MANCHIN: Oh, no. No not- not the way we're going here. I've said Mr. President please, the 2013 major immigration bipartisan bill that we passed is a bill that needs to come back. Please, Mr. President, let's fix immigration and border security. We need both.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Manchin, thank you for joining us.