Transcript: Sen. Ted Cruz on "Face the Nation," November 11, 2018

The following is a transcript of the interview with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas that aired Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to another of Tuesday's winners, Texas Republican Ted Cruz, a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he joins us from his home in Houston. Senator, welcome to "Face the Nation."

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Thank you, Margaret. Good morning and- and- and welcome back yourself. Congratulations on your new son.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I appreciate that. Thank you very much. A little bit of history here you were part of President Bush's legal team back in 2000 during the Florida recount. We are looking once again at questions about what is happening and a recount there. What is going on? Is this political conspiracy like the president suggests or is this just incompetence?

SEN. CRUZ: Well listen, I think there is certainly reason to be concerned. Florida's history on recounts has- has not been great. You've got each of the counties there that- that have different- different commissioners. I spoke yesterday with my colleague Marco Rubio who's- who's following what's happening there closely and is- and is deeply concerned that- that- that what might be playing out is as an attempt to steal the election. I hope that's not it. I think everyone needs to be vigilant. Every vote needs to be counted. But at the same time we can't allow people to be stealing votes and we need to be on guard against that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: A bit of both, you say-- it could be getting stolen or it could just be incompetence?

SEN. CRUZ: It- the- the- it could almost always be a bit of both of incompetence and- and the potential for malfeasance. But- but any time you have a recount, you have an invitation for people to- to- to violate the law and try to advance their partisans. In- in 2000, in Bush versus Gore, on election night, George W. Bush had about- a 3,000 vote lead and there ended up being a total of four recounts in Florida over and over and over again, and over the course of those four recounts, Bush's lead dropped from about 3,000 votes all the way down to 537 votes and- and- and the mantra of the Democrats is they wanted to keep counting and counting and counting the same votes over and over again until they managed to drop the votes to the other side. I- I think that suggests if you're recounting, the numbers ought to stay the same or roughly the same and if they're moving consistently in one direction it- it- it suggests you may not have a fair and level playing field in terms of those counting.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you since you're on the Judiciary Committee about what happened this week, Jeff Sessions being forced out. Now there's an acting attorney general overseeing the Russia probe. Do you believe that the special counsel's investigation is now in peril and needs to be protected?

SEN. CRUZ: Well I- I don't think anyone was surprised to see Jeff Sessions move on. Jeff- Jeff is a good man, an honorable man. He's someone who's been a friend a long time. But it was clear that his relationship and the president's relationship were not working, that there was no longer trust and confidence there and- and that's not a long term sustainable situation to have an attorney general and- and a president in-in direct and open conflict the way they were. I think Jeff did a number of very good things at DOJ including on immigration, including on religious liberty, so I'm grateful for those efforts. But I think it will be good to see new leadership come into the Department of Justice. Now Mr. Whitaker, as I understand it, has been appointed just in an acting position and- and the White House has announced they intend to nominate a new attorney general. I- I expect that to happen quickly and when it does, the- the Senate will take up the advise and consent role and- and I'm on the Senate Judiciary Committee so whoever the nominee is, I- I look forward to hearing from that individual, their background, their record, their qualifications, and- and - and their vision for what the Department of Justice should be doing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should there be legislation to protect the special counsel?

SENATOR CRUZ: No I don't believe there should. We- we- we had a bill come through the Judiciary Committee that tried to make it impossible for a special counsel to be removed. I believe that legislation was unconstitutional, that- that it was inconsistent with Article II of the Constitution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were very critical of the Obama administration for taking action via executive fiat as you said, you called it dangerous. This week President Trump on immigration has issued orders bypassing Congress to restrict how migrants crossing the border illegally can claim asylum. Are you OK with that now?

SENATOR CRUZ: Well I'm still studying this specific immigration order but- but I'll tell you look here's my view on executive orders--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But bypassing Congress?--

SEN. CRUZ: Well let- let me explain my view on- on executive orders whether from Trump or Obama, George W. Bush or anybody else, which is there is a legitimate role for an executive order and that is governing how the Executive Branch operates. How under Article II of the Constitution the president of the Executive Branch is charged with- with taking- taking due care that the laws are faithfully executed. And an executive order is perfectly appropriate to direct the Executive Branch, this is the manner in which we shall execute the law. What Obama did repeatedly that was so lawless is his executive orders didn't do that. Instead they said here is the federal law passed by Congress signed by the president that we will defy, that we will ignore, and- and that the president can't do. And- and so that's the question on any executive order is-is it- is it directing how the executive will behave or is it flying in defiance to- to laws passed by Congress. If it's the latter it's unconstitutional.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So I- I don't hear a clear answer on whether you think this asylum change is OK. Do you think via executive order, it is appropriate for the president to end birthright citizenship, again bypassing Congress?

SEN. CRUZ: Well- well- well Margaret as I said on- on the- on the executive order on immigration I have not studied that order yet, it just came out this week. You know I have to admit I- I was kind of busy, we had an election a couple of days ago. And- and- and that- that so, I have not yet reviewed the executive order, and I try on legal decisions - my career has been being a constitutional litigator, so I- I don't- I don't reach constitutional opinions lightly. If the order defies the laws of Congress, then yes it's unconstitutional. If the order constrains and directs how the executive will implement the law then it's not. Now my understanding is this executive order does things directing resources to the border. Those resources are clearly within the purview of an executive order for the president --

MARGARET BRENNAN: And birthright citizenship executive order that's coming--

SEN. CRUZ: And the president is charged under existing law-- The- The president is charged under executive un-under federal law with securing the border, and if the executive order is in furtherance of the statute then it's not only allowable, it- it- it's appropriate and good. I mean this so-called migrant caravan of- of over 10,000 people marching North, declaring their intention to cross the border illegally. I can tell you I told the president just recently when he and I spoke. I said Mr. President under no circumstances should we let them cross, we should use whatever tools are available, whether it is border patrol whether it is National Guard whether- whether it is the military that the president has called up, but we shouldn't allow 10,000 people to blatantly and deliberately violate the law. There is a right way to come to this country and- and that's following the law, waiting in line and following the rules.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Alright, well, we look forward to hearing your views on birthright citizenship and those asylum decisions. We've got to leave it here, senator. We will be back with a lot more Face The Nation. Don't go away.