Transcript: Sen. John Cornyn on "Face the Nation," July 15, 2018

The following is a transcript of the interview with Sen. John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, that aired Sunday, July 15, 2018, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back with Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, he's the assistant majority leader in the Senate. He joins us from Austin this morning. Senator, good to have you on the show. Let's get straight to the news on Russia because you do- you have been part of this Senate investigation into Russian election meddling in the wake of Robert Mueller's indictment of these 12 Russians. Do you view this as an act of war given these were military intelligence officers, and has Russia paid a price?

SENATOR JOHN CORNYN: Well Russia has long been engaged in trying to undermine confidence in our democracy. It's just that their game has now risen to the point where they actually had a, had an impact. Obviously we wouldn't be talking about this if if they didn't have an impact. And so we'd better wake up because this is a warning shot for our next elections and we'd better be ready. On the other hand I agree with my friend Trey Gowdy and Jonathan Turley who wrote a piece recently who said this didn't have an impact in the terms of the outcome of the election, it would be like spitting into a raging ocean, and- but this is serious and I agree that the Russians did meddle in our elections and we better be prepared for the next time. But again there's no indication that it had an outcome- that it changed outcome of the election.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think the president is taking this seriously enough?

SEN. CORNYN: I think the president is doing what you said earlier which is conflating the meddling investigation with the investigation into potential collusion for which there's been no evidence revealed so far. And I think it's personal to him because he feels like he is - he's been under attack. And of course he has - the politics of this are very tempting to our friends across the aisle. But I think he's conflating those two, as are a number of other people, and we need to keep those separate. Yes the Russians did mettle. Number two, did any American involved collude with them in- and so far there's no evidence.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So far no evidence. But that investigation is ongoing. And tomorrow President Trump will be meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Do you think given these indictments that this is a good idea for them to be one on one for at least 30 minutes, if not a full hour?

SEN. CORNYN: I think it's always helpful when leaders of nations talk to one another. To me it would be counterproductive just to ignore that or to avoid that possibility. On the other hand I think the president should be clear eyed about who he's dealing with. Putin is an autocrat. He's a thug. He does not respect the rule of law. Obviously doesn't respect our democracy and wants to undermine it at every - every chance he gets. But on the other hand there are commonalities here in terms of our desire to fight Islamic extremism around the world. They have a problem in Russia itself from the Chechnya area and of course  - but we're adversaries clearly in places like Syria terms of their alliance with Iran, the number one state sponsor of international terrorism. So the president needs to be and I think he is clear eyed about who he's dealing with. But there are some areas where I think constructive conversations can occur.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Director of National Intelligence said warning lights are flashing right now - our digital infrastructure is under attack and he named Russia as one of those attackers. What's being done to protect our elections?

SEN. CORNYN: He's right. He's right. Well the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on which I sit has released the preliminary report. We- we will release a final report but we're working with state election officials in trying to make sure that people are better prepared. But if there's one area where I worry about the most it's that- our- our lack of national, all-of-government response to the cyber threat. This is to me an area that is going to continue to be exploited by our adversaries whether it's the Chinese for economic reasons or to steal national security technology or the Russians to undermine our elections.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator more to talk to you about, particularly the president's pick for the Supreme Court so if you can hold on, we are going to get back to you just after this break. In a moment.

*commercial break*

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face the Nation. We want to continue our conversation now with Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn. Senator, you whip and count votes for the majority. If Republicans vote as a block, Democrats really don't have a way to stop the president from getting his nominee Brett Kavanaugh confirmed. Can you deliver your party?

SEN. CORNYN: Well, Neil Gorsuch got 54 votes when he was confirmed and I think Brett Kavanaugh brings a similar academic and experience background and- and judicial philosophy that I think most people on my side of the aisle will find acceptable. But I know everybody feels serious about doing their job, doing their due diligence. As you know the Constitution requires the Senate to provide advice and consent. And I know a number of senators who don't yet know him are meeting him and satisfying themselves. But I think we saw three Democrats vote with all Republicans for the Neil Gorsuch. I think we'll see something in that range for Brett Kavanaugh.

MARGARET BRENNAN: 3- 3 Democrats you're putting money on?

SEN. CORNYN: Well I think it'd be hard to explain why did you vote to confirm Gorsuch and you vote against Kavanaugh. Yeah I'd be- I'd be interested in what the distinction would be in their mind that would cause a different outcome. So-but we'll find out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Democrats one of the questions they have for Judge Kavanaugh when he goes before the committee is whether he would recuse himself. His thoughts on recusal, particularly if the Mueller probe ever were to reach the high court. How were you telling him to navigate these questions?

SEN. CORNYN: Well Brett Kavanaugh's an experienced judge he's been on the D.C. Circuit Court for 12 years and he is one of- one of the finest lawyers our nation has to-has to offer so I have confidence he would make that decision appropriately if it were ever presented. But to me this is an indication of how much our friends across the aisle are stretching the hypothetical that if a case ever became- got in front of the Supreme Court and he were there would he recuse. I'm confident he will follow the ethical guidance of the Rules of Judicial Conduct and would handle that appropriately. But I think it's really a sign of desperation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we will be watching those hearings, Sir. Thank you very much for your time.

SEN. CORNYN: Thank you very much. Thank you.