Transcript: Trey Gowdy on "Face the Nation," October 27, 2019

Gowdy leaves door open to joining Trump legal team

The following is a transcript of an interview with former South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy that aired Sunday, October 27, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to former Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy. He used to lead the main investigative committee in the House of Representatives and he joins us this morning from Greenville, South Carolina. Good to have you back on "Face the Nation." 

TREY GOWDY: Yes ma'am. Thank you. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You told me earlier that you had agreed to work for the White House earlier this month as outside counsel for the president on the impeachment proceeding but you didn't. And that's because, as you describe it, a restriction on former members of Congress in terms of communicating with an intent to influence for about a year after leaving office.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So--

TREY GOWDY: Yes, ma'am. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- when that year ends. Will you be joining the White House fight?

TREY GOWDY: I have no idea. I don't represent the president as of today. I don't know what if anything will exist in January. It may be over. My sense is the president needs folks that can- that can represent him now before the House, the Senate and- and indirectly through television shows and print media. For one year I can't talk to the House or Senate and my reading of that statute, and it's a restrictive reading I'll grant you, but my reading is I can't even communicate indirectly on behalf of a person with the intent to persuade. So I could not come on your show and give advice to House Republicans or House Democrats on how they ought to run their investigation if I were working for the president. So, I don't even know if I'm going to be alive in January. If Dallas doesn't start playing better, I won't be alive in January. So, I don't know what- who I'll be representing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well it surprised a lot of people to hear you'd be thinking of coming back to Washington, you used to tell us on FACE THE NATION you were so sick and tired of politics here you wanted to go back home and you were going to dive into one of the most divisive vitriolic arguments that could be had.

TREY GOWDY: Yeah, my wife asked me a lot of those same questions. To me, impeachment is the political death penalty, MARGARET. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So-- 

TREY GOWDY: There's a reason our country has never removed anyone from office. So, I look at it as a lawyer. What process is entitled- is someone entitled to if you are seeking to remove him or her from office-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

TREY GOWDY: And assign to them a stigma that will echo through the halls of history? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well--

TREY GOWDY: How much process is due? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well you- you're talking about process there and that's very specific here in terms of some of the criticisms from Republicans of this Democrat-led investigation. You said to me on this program in April in 2018 the following:

[BEGIN CLIP] TREY GOWDY: Well, our private hearing was much more constructive than the public hearing. I mean public hearings are a circus, Margaret. I mean that's why I don't like to do them. I don't do many of them. I mean there- it's a freak show. [END CLIP]

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you still believe that?

TREY GOWDY: One hundred percent. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So these hearings--

TREY GOWDY: I- I- I have always-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- should remain- these depositions should remain private?

TREY GOWDY: Well you can't pick and choose which aspects of due process you're going to use. It's not just the privacy, I mean the reason we respect executive branch investigations isn't because they're behind closed doors, it's because there are no leaks. I mean John Durham- you have no idea what John Durham has been doing. You have no idea what Michael Horowitz is going to say in his FISA report. There were no leaks with Bob Mueller. You contrast that with the fact that Adam Schiff has had more press conferences this weekend than those three men have had in their lives. He uses an opening statement to give a parody. He lies about a whistleblower. So yes, I prefer executive branch investigations because they're fact-centric, because you wait until the end to draw conclusions, and because there are no leaks. So I do understand the Republican frustration with the current investigation. My bias has always been towards investigations that wait until the end before they share their conclusions. It's just not fair to do it on an hour-by-hour basis. I- I- one other point Margaret: there's a reason in courtrooms, the judge tells the jury, you can't even begin to make up your mind until the last witness has testified, and the last piece of evidence has been introduced. I mean, if it's good enough for the justice system why should it not also be good enough for the political system?

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, in other words, the storming of the classified area by some Republicans was a bit of a political stunt and you think that what is being revealed behind closed doors should be heard out before judgments are made on whether or not the president should be impeached?

TREY GOWDY: I think two things: I'm a rule follower, I threw a Republican out of a hearing because he was not a member of- of the committee. I didn't take pictures on the House floor, even though I was in the minority. I'm a rule follower. So, I think if you're going to have private investigations with unlimited time for questioning and cross examining witnesses that's a good thing. What's not a good thing is to have selective leaks where you pick one sentence out of an eight hour deposition, run to a bank of microphones and try to- try to prejudice the outcome of the investigation. Again, Horowitz doesn't do it. Durham doesn't do it. Mueller didn't do it. All three of those investigations we have respect for.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're talking--

TREY GOWDY: I don't--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --about Justice Department investigations versus the political process--

TREY GOWDY: Absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --of impeachment?

TREY GOWDY: Absolutely, yes ma'am.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But when it comes to the political process here with impeachment and those depositions behind closed doors and about 47 Republicans are permitted to be in there for those depositions alongside Democrats, who are the majority of course, we heard something this week that was viewed as pretty significant from Bill Taylor the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. He was about the fourth U.S. official to substantiate in his detail, he said from notes, that President Trump's aid to Ukraine and his conversation with the president, all of this was predicated on the investigations of Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company Hunter Biden served on the board of, and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Those are two quotes. Does that sound appropriate to you?

TREY GOWDY: Well let's take them separately. Is it an impeachable offense to condition aid on cooperating with the 2016 election investigation? I mean are we going to remove a President from office if he conditioned aid on figuring out who tried to interfere in our 2016 election-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- Well Congress gets to decide-- 

TREY GOWDY: -- I don't think so-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- what an impeachable offense is. But conditioning sounds a lot--

TREY GOWDY: -- they do--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- like quid pro quo.

TREY GOWDY: Well you know that means something for something. I need to know what both of those somethings is. If the something is we're not going to give you aid until you help us figure out who tried to interfere with the levers of democracy in 2016. MARGARET, I can tell you if a Democrat did that we'd be adding something to Mt. Rushmore. I mean we spent two years as a country trying to figure out who tried to interfere with our elections. So clearly, it can't be an impeachable offense. It can't be an impeachable offense to ask for the server because Jim Comey wanted the server, so--

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

TREY GOWDY: I need to know--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sorry, just to-- 

TREY GOWDY: -- what's the something--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- to be clear on the server--

TREY GOWDY: -- sorry. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- you're talking about the Democratic National Committee's computer server. Are you saying it's hidden in Ukraine?

TREY GOWDY: I have no idea--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. 

TREY GOWDY: -- I have no clue--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That- the president has said that--

TREY GOWDY: -- part of the limitation--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- so it's- it's--

TREY GOWDY: Well I- I-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- a theory that's been debunked.

TREY GOWDY: Well this is the theory that has not been debunked. Jim but- Jim Comey wanted the server. I don't think it's an impeachable offense for Bill Barr to also want the server. I don't have any idea where it is, but I don't think it's an impeachable offense to say "if you know where it is, would you mind telling us?" Keep in mind that is the server the Russians hacked to gain access to emails. There was a point in time where we all wanted to know about that. So what is the statute of limitations on interfering with our 2016 election? I don't know. As for the rest of Taylor, I've read his opening statement, Margaret, but I- I would need to follow up with questions. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

TREY GOWDY: I would need to also watch what other members ask--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. 

TREY GOWDY: -- and significantly, what the cross-examination would have looked like before I could draw any conclusions. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Trey Gowdy, thank you for your time today. 

TREY GOWDY: Yes, ma'am. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back on this busy day with Senator Amy Klobuchar.