Transcript: Sen. John Kennedy on "Face the Nation," March 10, 2019

Kennedy: McCabe "lucky" he wasn't charged

The following is a transcript of the interview with Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana that aired Sunday, March 10, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy who is in New Orleans this morning. Senator, I want to give you a chance to respond to Andy McCabe.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY: Let me say first Margaret I'm- I'm still in a bit of a stupor at Mayor Hickenlooper's shame at having once been a capitalist. I can't. I've seen it all now. But I'll save that for another day. Mr. McCabe. Mr. McCabe is one of the people responsible for politicizing the premiere law enforcement agency in the history of- of- of the world, the FBI. He's not the only one. But it's clear that he and others in 2016, some were for Trump, some more for Clinton. But- but they acted on their political beliefs and they hurt the FBI badly for that. All of them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We got to--

SEN. KENNEDY: Not just Mr. McCabe but all of them. We should hang their head in shame and hang their head- put their head in the bag.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator this needs more conversation. We're going to take a quick break. I want to talk to you more about this in just a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to "Face the Nation." We continue our conversation now with Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy. Senator, before we took this break you were responding to Andrew McCabe, the former deputy FBI director who has described himself as a lifelong Republican, but laid out here his deep concern about the president and his actions.

SEN. KENNEDY: Well, let me- let me say it again. There were and perhaps still are some people at the FBI, one of whom was Mr. McCabe, who helped politicize the agency. Whe- when an FBI agent knocks at your door, you shouldn't have to worry about whether you're a Democrat or a Republican and whether that makes a difference. And- and Mr. McCabe has helped politicize that agency and- and that's wrong. He- he really-- he should be ashamed and he should hide his head in- in a bag. And we- we have got to--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean politicize?

SEN. KENNEDY: --clean house over there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Clean house? What do you mean by that?

SEN. KENNEDY: Well he has-- Mr.- Mr.- Mr. McCabe-- well let me back up and say this, Margaret. I'm talking about people over there who were both for Trump and for Clinton. Now they're entitled to have a personal opinion but they're not entitled to act on it or leave the- the impression that they acted on it. And- and I think McCabe did that. I think he's part of a group over there that think they were-- they- they think they're smarter and more virtuous than the American people. And- and I think it hurt the FBI badly. Mr. McCabe is also in-- at the present time, playing the role of huckster. He's trying to- to sell a book. And he was fired for lying to his- his fellow FBI agents.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well that--

SEN. KENNEDY: Now if you and I lied to the FBI we go to jail. If you- if an FBI agent--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I th- I think Mr. McCabe was--

SEN. KENNEDY: --like him lies to the FBI--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --dismissed--

SEN. KENNEDY: --you get fired.   

MARGARET BRENNAN: --just- just short of his ability to actually get his pension. Some would say it was a politically motivated firing of him.

SEN. KENNEDY: He's lucky- he's lucky he wasn't prosecuted Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: For what?

SEN. KENNEDY: And I'm not saying this because McCabe--

MARGARET BRENNAN: For what?

SEN. KENNEDY: --is obviously pro-Trump. I think there were--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What would he have been prosecuted for?

SEN. KENNEDY: --people for pro-Clinton. For perjury. For lying to an FBI agent. He did it repeatedly. Now if you and I do that we go jail.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you calling--

SEN. KENNEDY: And he- he just got fired. He was lucky.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And- and so I guess this is a preview of the questioning that we will hear of him before the Senate Judiciary Committee if he is called to testify, Senator Graham has said. But I want to ask you about it, since you sit on that committee as well. The sentencing we saw this week of a Trump campaign chairman- former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. He was charged with an array of felonies, financial crimes. Federal sentencing guidelines would have had him serving upwards of 20 years. He got 47 months. Does the punishment fit the array of crimes?

SEN. KENNEDY: Before I answer your question, let me be clear about Mr. McCabe. I don't care whether you're a Republican or a Democrat. If you're at the FBI you're not supposed to act on it. Mr. McCabe did and I believe he's one bent two by four. Now number two Mr. Manafort--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What. Sorry. Can I just--

SEN. KENNEDY: Three points. Number one--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can I just clarify there you in the past have said, I thought, that you supported the Mueller probe? McCabe had helped to set up some of the special counsel there specifically to look at the question of whether the president was--

SEN. KENNEDY: I do- I do support--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- a Russian asset.

SEN. KENNEDY: I do support the Mueller probe. I do support the Mueller probe but that doesn't preclude Mr. McCabe from being what he is, a bent two by four. And he hurt the FBI badly and all the people over there who tried to help Clinton or who tried to help Trump, every one of them should have his head in the bag. They hurt the premiere law enforcement agency in all of human history and we're going to have to spend a lot of time rehabilitating it. The American people don't trust it as much as I used to. And that's wrong.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you say you still support the Mueller probe--

SEN. KENNEDY: And your politics shouldn't matter--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- itself. Can you--

SEN. KENNEDY: Yes I do, yes I do--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -answer the question though on- on Paul Manafort--

SEN. KENNEDY: Manafort? Three points.

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- because he was charged with an array of felonies--

SEN. KENNEDY: Manafort. Number--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- because of the Special Counsel's case.

SEN. KENNEDY: Number one- number one, I was surprised at his sentence, I thought it would be longer. Number two, as I said in the past, Mr. Manafort is a grifter. He used to be a partner with- with Roger Stone. He's-- I'm sorry Margaret. He's just a sleazoid. I mean he's always played at the margins. Number three, you know rather than just be opinionated, I'd rather be informed. Jus- Judge Ellis has been on the bench 30 years, I haven't read the sentencing memos.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you--

SEN. KENNEDY: He obviously believes four years was enough. I might disagree with him, but I'd have to read the sentencing memos first--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does it trouble you--

SEN. KENNEDY:  There's a lot of stuff in there that you and I don't see.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Lastly, does it trouble you that the president admitted that he had discussed a presidential pardon with Michael Cohen? Should he have been discussing that in an investigation--

SEN. KENNEDY: It--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --he's involved in?  

SEN. KENNEDY: It- well as I understand it, at least part of the story, Margaret, is that Cohen and or his lawyers approached the president and asked for a pardon.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president said it happened--

SEN. KENNEDY: Now Mr. Cohen--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --directly, in direct conversation. That's what the president said.

SEN. KENNEDY: Well that- that-- OK. Mr. Cohen once again in front of Congress lied then. He said that never happened. And I think it was Mr. Cohen, given his checkered past, if he's- if he's breathing he's lying. But, yeah, I mean, I guess I'll don't blame Cohen for asking. It was inappropriate but he shouldn't have lied to Congress about it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, good to talk to you today.