Transcript: Sen. Mike Lee on "Face the Nation," April 21, 2019

Lee: "Mistake" for Dems to pursue impeachment

The following is a transcript of the interview with Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah that aired Sunday, April 21, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


BOB SCHIEFFER: Well for a different view, I assume it's going to be a different view, we're going to turn now to Senator Mike Lee who is not only the senior senator from Utah, but also a Constitutional scholar. He's the author of a new book, "Our Lost Declaration: America's fight Against Tyranny from King George to the Deep State." Senator, thank you, we are going to ask you about that book, but we obviously have to start with the Mueller Report. You just heard Chairman Cummings. But here's the question: you're on the Judiciary Committee, Democrats seem ready to, some of them at least, ready to impeach right now. Do you believe, as Chairman Cummings, and I think the chairman of your committee, Jerry Nadler, said this morning that what Mr. Mueller did was leave you a road map, leave Congress a road map for further investigation?

SENATOR MIKE LEE: I suspect that's what the Democrats, particularly in the House of Representatives, are going to want to do. That of course, is a political question and I think politically speaking it would be a mistake for them to do it. It sounds like some of them are inclined to go down that road. But what we've got to remember, Bob, is that the number one takeaway from this report, is that there was no collusion. We've got people, who for the last two years have been using the Russian's attempt to undermine the legitimacy of our electoral process, as an effort within this country to undermine this president, and the process by which he was elected. But there was no collusion. It isn't there. Not a scintilla of evidence supports that. So it's time to move on.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Your colleague, the junior senator from Utah, Mitt Romney, put out a pretty stunning statement yesterday. I just want to read this to you, this is Mitt Romney speaking, "I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty by individuals in the highest office in the land including the president. I am appalled that federal- fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia including information that had been illegally obtained, that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement, and that the campaign chairman was actively promoting Russian interests in the Ukraine," close quote. Your reaction?

SEN. LEE: Well, first of all, I think Senator Romney has some credibility with regard to Russia. Remember it was Senator Romney as a presidential candidate in 2012 who pointed out that we ought to be very concerned about Russia. Sadly, his warnings went unheeded. And under President Obama's leadership over the next four years Russia's activities, its- its nefarious efforts to undermine our system, continued. And it-perhaps that's some of what's motivating Senator Romney to speak out about this.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well do you agree with him?

SEN. LEE: Look, there's nothing in this report that changes my view of this president. I don't think most Americans, I don't think most senators, most members of Congress, I don't think most Americans will have their view of the president of the United States changed by this report. There's just nothing in there that should do that.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think the special counsel, Mr. Mueller, was fair to the president?

SEN. LEE:  Well I think- the special counsel certainly was thorough. I- I- I find Pete's- pieces of the report a little bit odd. For example, when he talks about obstruction, I think it's odd to say I'm not going to make a recommendation, but I'm going to sound like I'm making a recommendation. There- there's- there's not evidence that I can point to, but nonetheless I couldn't get there even if I did. It's kind of strange to spend two years on that and then speak with the sort of a tone that is reminiscent of Pinocchio in the movie Shrek 3. "I'm not going to say that I'm not deciding" - it's full of double negatives. It's kind of confusing.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Alright. I- I want to talk about this book a little bit that you've written. I liked it. It's about the great truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence. You argue that the government has gotten too big. I totally agree with you on that. I- but I'm not as worried about the bigness of government so much as I am about the incompetence of government. And I think some of that has come about simply because the best and brightest in America are turning away from public service and turning away running for office. And I guess I would ask you how can we change that?

SEN. LEE: Well, Bob, first of all, I'm not sure those two things are different, and I'm not sure you and I are all that far apart on it. When government gets bigger, it necessarily becomes more incompetent. Human beings are flawed. They're fallible. And one of the reasons why I wrote this book is I wanted to point out that the more things change, the more they stay the same in some ways. Human nature hasn't changed in the two-and-a-half centuries since we became an independent nation. It is still the case that governments have to rely on fallible, mortal human beings. And just as King George III sent forth swarms of officers to harass us and to eat out our substance, we always have to be wary of large government agencies. The deep state, if you will, that has a tendency to become this self-perpetuating organism. One- one that can eat out our substance and harass the very people it's supposed to serve.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just read you what you wrote in this book which I found very interesting, "Over the last eight decades, the people's elected representatives have made countless choices that have been steadily diminishing their own power and with the power- with that the power of the people they represent. In many respects they have done so for a simple, understandable but indefensible reason, delegating to others the difficult and contentious task of making law has a tendency to make re-election easier."

SEN. LEE: That's exactly right. What we've seen is a gradual shift of power away from the American people taking place in two steps. First it's moved from the state and local level, where most people have more control over their local government than they do their national government. So it's moved from the people to Washington. Then within Washington, people's elected lawmakers have voluntarily relinquished the lawmaking power. The- the one job they've got, they've handed over to unelected unaccountable bureaucrats. It's bad for the people, it's bad for the separation of powers, but it's in some cases good for the elected official because it makes it easier to get re-elected when you're not making real laws, making real decisions. And that creates problems.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And- and this leaves our representatives more worried about getting a primary opponent than legislation that they should be thinking about. They spend so much money, much time raising money now. They have no time to legislate. Senator, thank you so much. Congratulations on the book. Hope to see you again.

SEN. LEE: Thank you.