Transcript: Sen. Joe Manchin on "Face the Nation," June 25, 2017

On Capitol Hill Wednesday, a Department of Homeland Security official said Russian hackers have targeted 21 state voter databases. Sources have told CBS News that nearly twice that many states showed evidence of a breach.

CBS News has confirmed that congressional investigators are looking into whether Trump campaign associates obtained information from hacked voter databases during the election. So far there is no evidence of that, but it is a sign that the congressional investigations into Russian meddling in the election are expanding.

"Face the Nation" sat down on Sunday with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting one of the investigations. Manchin discussed the latest on the Russian efforts to undermine the U.S. election system and Senate Republicans' alternative to Obamacare and the health care plan that's been approved by the House.

A transcript of the interview, which aired Sunday, June 25, 2017, on "Face the Nation," is below.


PART ONE

JOHN DICKERSON: We turn now to Democratic Senator Joe Manchin who sits on the Senate intelligence committee and he joins us from Charleston West Virginia. Senator, you've read the Washington Post. You've heard this discussion. Give the Obama administration your grade on how they handled this.

JOE MANCHIN: Well, hindsight being 20/20, I guess we can grade any way person says politically. First of all, John, you have to have confidence that the intelligence community that we have, that you trust them, and they're accurate, and they do their job. And I believe that. I feel very confident that our intelligence community's the best in the world. You have to spend some time with them to understand what they're doing, the job they're doing, and how well they're doing it. So if you don't have confidence in the intelligence community, if the gang of eight, which is a higher lever-- which is a little higher level than what we on intelligence are getting briefed on, then there's a concern. There's a concern there. I don't have that concern. When they come and tell me something, whether it's the C.I.A., F.B.I., N.S.A., I take it as gospel truth because they're doing their job. And they have cross-checked it before they give it to us. I have never detected one ounce of politicism.

I can't tell one side or the other how they're favoring, if they're Democrats, Republicans, or whatever. So I don't know why there's so much skepticism, not believing what the intelligence community is telling you. I do, and I have found it to be extremely beneficial to me to make decisions with.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you see the skepticism - as you look at the administration, do you see skepticism simply from the president? Or do you see it from other members of the administration in terms of what we know now? Not necessarily, as Michael Morell mentioned, the building of a case. But what now seems to be the case what was now known in total about what the Russians tried to do?

JOE MANCHIN: Well, what was known back in August and once it was verified and cross-checked should have been made public. It should have been made public, okay? That wasn't done. I can't second guess that. But I know that when-- at that time President Obama and his administration took action. And they took action basically on December the 29th

 and closed down two compounds, threw out 35 diplomats. We knew there was a serious problem. And it was verified. So I just can't understand why we don't go forward and put more sanctions. We've done that. Do you know we voted 97-2 to enforce more sanctions against Russia? 97-2. I've not seen that happen in any type of scenario in the Senate in a long time. So we're committed--

JOHN DICKERSON: Is that enough, senator?

JOE MANCHIN: --to getting this done. You mean the sanctions?

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah. Is that enough in response to--

JOE MANCHIN: We've got to - John, here is the thing. We've got oligarchs. There are certain people that benefit in the Russian sphere if you will. The oligarchs who basically feed Putin, they've got to be hurt without hurting the people. The people are hurting bad enough in Russia, and they're very skeptical of what's going on and all of the corruption goes on in Russia. Russia is not our ally. Russia is not our friend. And to treat Putin as an ally and a friend is wrong. I don't look at him as a friend. I don't look at Russia. And I am very skeptical of what they're doing, their intentions. There are a lot of good people in Russia that don't have any say whatsoever. And they're starting to basically express their frustration, and starting marching, and hopefully getting their point across. So we've got to make sure that we put the hurt on the oligarchs, all the money, the way the money flows through Russia, and the people that benefit by it.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Senator Manchin, we're going to take a very quick break, but stay there. When we come back, we want to talk about the Republican health care bill--

JOE MANCHIN: Of course.

JOHN DICKERSON: --that is scheduled for vote next week. Stay with us.

PART TWO

JOHN DICKERSON: Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he'll bring the Senate Republican health care bill to the floor this week, just days after it was unveiled. The bill would end the individual mandate to buy health insurance and would reduce and eventually eliminate federal funding for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, leaving it up to states to fill in that gap.
It allows states to seek waivers so they can drop services currently required like maternity care, substance abuse benefits, and mental health treatment. It repeals taxes put in place to pay for Obamacare and also rolls back some tax credits currently given to help individuals by insurance.

Republicans need 51 votes to pass the bill or 50 if Vice President Mike Pence casts the tie-breaking vote. But five GOP senators say they can't vote for the bill in its current form, which is more than enough to kill it. Kentucky's Rand Paul summed up one side of the GOP opposition.

VIDEO: RAND PAUL: I just didn't run on Obamacar-elite.

JOHN DICKERSON: While Nevada's Dean Heller voiced another.

VIDEO: DEAN HELLER: I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.

JOHN DICKERSON: That means leader McConnell is going to have to find a way to change the bill to attract more votes from conservative members without losing too many moderates. Senator Manchin, I want to get your response just first to the bill and whether you think there's anything you can do to improve it.

JOE MANCHIN: Oh John, there's an awful lot that can be done to improve it. And we've identified-- let's sit down. But we can't even get in the room. You know, if Mitch would just expand to a bipartisan working group to repair it and quit talking about repealing it, we'd have a pathway forward.

I think we could fix it. There are some good people on both sides of the aisle that know it needs to be fixed. There is not one person in West Virginia that's not been touched by the bill that was sent by the House, which was horrible, and the bill they have now, which makes it even worse.

So I've said, "Work with me. Don't work against us." They've proven they're going to need Democrats to pass this. And if Mitch doesn't have the votes, call off this bill right now. And let's sit down and start working toward repairing the basic concept of what we have in the Affordable Care Act. We're willing to do that, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you specifically, senator, though. On this bill and the theory that perhaps Senator McConnell is not likely to call the whole thing off. What in it do you think needs improvement? And is there any chance that it could be improved?

JOE MANCHIN: Well, sure. First of all, the private market, John. You can't force people to buy a product, and then if they don't buy it, you fine them. And I knew that was a mistake from the get-go. I wasn't there in 2010 when they passed it. They did go through an orderly process. Everybody had input.
At the end of the day, not one Republican voted for it. There should have been a way for us to sit down on, say, major pieces of policy such as this. And that's the reason for the purpose of the Senate having 60 votes for cloture, is to get bipartisan buy-in.

Now they're going to get rid of it with not one Democrat. And, John, if they don't have me sitting down, someone who's in the middle, who wants to work with them to get good policy, they're in serious problems. The private sector needs to be fixed. The product and the market need to match up. John--

JOHN DICKERSON: Hast the--

JOE MANCHIN: --they expanded 20-- go ahead. I'm sorry.

JOHN DICKERSON: Has the White House reached out to you at all in this process or Senator McConnell?

JOE MANCHIN: No. Not yet. No. Some of my colleagues have. Susan Collins and I have been speaking about it. Bill Cassidy and I have spoken about it. And I told him. I said, "If you can take repeal off the table, sit down, and talk about repair, and fixing what we have, and how to make it better, I'm in with you."
I said, "We'll get more Democrats that will sit down." And Chuck Schumer says if we can get a repair organization, a repair group sitting down, that's fine. So we're not hindered from our side whatsoever. But this is about our country. And it's about you have to have a policy to get your people healthier, get them in a productive workforce if you will.
And we can do that by intervening. We've given 20 million people health care without one word of instructions. The people in West Virginia, the only health care they had before, the 175,000, John, was they had to go to the emergency room. Well, if you gave them now a health care card and they're still practicing the same procedures they did before, they're using at the highest cost.

Can we help them be more and better as far as in tune to how to use it, better educated on how to use it? I'm sure there are synergies. But not just throwing them off. Why does it have to be so mean spirited? Why can't there be some compassion? Saying, "Listen. Here's how you can keep it. Here's how you're going to use your health care. It's going to make you a better person. It's going to give you opportunities."

JOHN DICKERSON: All right.

JOE MANCHIN: That's what we should be doing.

JOHN DICKERSON: Okay, senator. We're going to have to leave it there. And we'll be back with two Senate Republicans to get their thoughts about the bill.