Transcript: Stephen Miller on "Face the Nation," December 16, 2018

The following is a transcript of the interview with White House senior adviser Stephen Miller that aired Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to "Face the Nation." We begin today with White House senior adviser Stephen Miller. He is the president's point person on policy. Good to have you here in studio.

WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER STEPHEN MILLER: It's great to be here. Thank you. Merry Christmas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And merry Christmas to you. This federal judge and the decision to strike down Obamacare as unconstitutional. This could put at risk about 20 million Americans who rely on it for coverage including Medicare and Medicaid. That number's from the Kaiser Family Foundation. What is your reaction and how do you reassure those Americans that they're okay?

MILLER: Well obviously there's no change immediately in Obamacare. There hasn't been a nationwide injunction. Obamacare was ruled to be unconstitutional. We've always known that Obamacare was unconstitutional. The more important question is whether Democrats are going to work with Republicans once Obamacare is ultimately struck down, which we believe it will be, to come up with a replacement plan that protects preexisting conditions. Helps the 28 million Americans who because of Obamacare still don't have access to health insurance and keeps prices low through robust competition.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So to be clear there, you're predicting that this goes to the Supreme Court and that the Supreme Court ultimately strikes down?

MILLER: I believe that's the likeliest outcome because Obamacare has always been unconstitutional and the mandate--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well technically this decision wasn't possible until the tax law was put into place. But in- in terms of what this means for the 20 million Americans it does create some uncertainty and possible disruption--

MILLER: Well we also have to think about--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --in the marketplace

MILLER: You also have to think about the 28 million Americans who still don't have health insurance because Obamacare didn't work. Fortunately because of the dramatic action this administration has taken. We've increased choice. We've increased competition and, for the first time in a long time, premiums on the exchanges are going down not up.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So will the president instruct Republican governors to continue to implement the law until there is a replacement?

MILLER: Well everybody's bound by the law as long as the law is in effect. I think the important thing, again, is for real bipartisanship to happen, for Democrats to work together with Republicans. You have lawmakers from both--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you want to--

MILLER: --sides of the aisle on your show today.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --start from scratch on a new health care law?

MILLER: Obamacare was a disaster. Fortunately, again, the president is taking significant action to bring down the price of insurance on the exchanges. But Obamacare never worked. For example, even on the issue of preexisting conditions. An American family's that are earning 80 thousand dollars a year, with a few children, has to pay exorbitant out-of-pocket costs if they have preexisting conditions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But if the court--

MILLER: We could do so much more--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --as you predicted, strikes down the law, then those preexisting condition protections are also gone. So are you--

MILLER: The- a flawed--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --starting from scratch with a new law?

MILLER: --a flawed law- a flawed law would be off the books. And this president working with members of both parties would be able to replace it with something that not only expands choice, expands competition, enshrines purchasing across state lines, but also protects preexisting conditions in a much better way than the current law does.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So the president said yesterday he wants repeal and replace handled a little bit differently, reference to failed attempt by Republicans in the past, and that he'll sit down with Democrats if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling. So are you predicting that you spend the next year crafting a new law from scratch?

MILLER: This administration is going to be working with members of both parties, not only on health care reform but also reducing the price of prescription drugs, infrastructure. We have an extremely ambitious domestic agenda and of course at the forefront of that agenda is the vital issue of border security.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you weren't able to do that with a Republican majority in both houses. Now you have a Democratic majority in the House.

MILLER: As the president- as the president has made very clear, the new Democrat House, affords us the opportunity as a country to craft real bipartisan solutions on all the issues I just mentioned and many more.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you do have many more. And I want to actually switch to another area--

MILLER: Great.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --you're a key voice on, and that is immigration and also want to talk about the possible shutdown here. One very particular case here, this seven year old migrant girl who passed away. She was a migrant from Guatemala named Jakelin Caal. She died some hours after passing into U.S. territory while she was under the protection of Customs and Border Patrol. Who bears responsibility for her death?

MILLER: Our hearts break for the tragic death of the 7 year old girl. The loss of that precious life is. Horrifying. It is a painful reminder of the ongoing humanitarian tragedy that is illegal immigration and the misery that it spreads. A coyote dropped off one hundred sixty three migrants in an extremely remote section of New Mexico. Those individuals were found by border patrol who, many cases act as first responders. In fact Border Patrol saves about 4,000 lives every single year. Unfortunately hundreds die on the dangerous trek up. Smuggling organizations profit off death and misery. They are vicious, vile organizations. And it's time that both parties had the appropriate level of outrage over the fact that these organizations--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Border patrol though says--

MILLER: --continue to take advantage

MARGARET BRENNAN: it wasn't adequately equipped to deal with the record number of families coming across. Why aren't they?

MILLER: One of the great tragedies that is going on in our country today is the loopholes in our immigration laws and the deficiencies in our immigration laws. And left wing, activist judicial rulings that incentivize the most vulnerable populations to come to our country. Last year--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the administration--

MILLER: --a hundred thousand--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --hasn't been able to deter them from making that trip.

MILLER: --last year- last year- a hundred thousand unaccompanied alien children or children traveling with adults showed up at our southern border.

MILLER: President Trump took dramatic action, issued an executive order directing illegal traffic to the ports of entry, but a left wing, activist judge issued a reckless nationwide injunction on the president's order putting thousands of lives at risk and further enriching these grotesque--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And a- a record number--

MILLER: --heinous, smuggle organizations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --continue to cross. I want to quickly get to--

MILLER: The only way to-

MARGARET BRENNAN: --because we're going to run out of time--

MILLER: The only way--  

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to get to this question the border wall which I know you're a huge advocate for. We are about five days from a potential government shutdown and Republican leadership says there's no plan. What is the president's plan and will he shut it down to get this 5 billion in border wall funding?

MILLER: We're going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that means a shutdown?

MILLER: This is a- this is a very- if it comes to it, absolutely. This is a very fundamental issue. At stake is the question of whether or not the United States remains a sovereign country. Whether or not we can establish and enforce rules for entrance into our country. The Democrat Party has a simple choice, they can either choose to fight for America's working class or to promote illegal immigration. You can't do both.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there wiggle room on that 5 billion?

MILLER: I'm not going to negotiate the details on air with you right now--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Senator Schumer--

MILLER: --but--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --said this morning you're not getting the border wall in any form.

MILLER: If the- If the Democrat Party--

MARGARET BRENNAN: In any form.

MILLER: --wants to. If the Democrat Party wants to go down the road of continuing to preserve a model that enriches smuggling organizations, that spreads misery on both sides of the border, that kills 300 Americans a week through heroin overdoses alone. By the way, illegal heroin costs our country two hundred and thirty billion dollars--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --you're, you're--

MILLER:  --every single year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --talking about the intent of these migrants and-and trying to stop that, which really gets you more to the diplomatic issues of why people are fleeing in the first place, not the border wall itself but--

MILLER: --the largest increases--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --when it comes to the shutdown--

MILLER: --the largest increases--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --are we going to have a shutdown over Christmas?

MILLER: As you yourself acknowledged, the largest increases in illegal immigration are categories that are incentivized by loopholes in our laws and loopholes created by activist left-wing judges including--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --I didn't say that.

MILLER: --including the district court judge who enjoined--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I said there are a record number happening right now in the Trump Administration.

MILLER: --in the categories that correspond with these loopholes and the interventions- reckless, lawless interventions of district court judges. And this president has taken historic action to stem the tide of illegal immigration and to fight for working people in this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And this is his last best chance to get a border wall before Democrats take the majority?

MILLER: --and we want- we- it's time that both parties- and this is what the American people want. Both parties to come together for the sake of American children, for the sake of children all across this hemisphere, to create a lawful system of immigration--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

MILLER: --not the lawless chaos--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Stephen--

MILLER: --that has been perpetuated for too many decades.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --it's good to have you in studio. I want to get to one of the lawmakers who's going to actually have to do what you're telling him he has to do.