Transcript: Vice President Mike Pence on "Face the Nation," January 20, 2019

Pence: Trump offer "an effort to compromise"

The following is a transcript of the interview with Vice President Mike Pence that aired Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, on "Face the Nation."  


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to "Face the Nation." We begin today with Vice President Mike Pence. Welcome and so good to have you here.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Yeah, morning Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You arrived here today with Secret Service agents who are with you 24 hours a day. Are they getting paid during this shutdown?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: They're not at this point and 800,000 federal workers are also going without pay and if we don't have a resolution then those paychecks won't go out at the end of this week. But we also have a crisis at our southern border, Margaret. Humanitarian and a security crisis. And as the president laid out yesterday we're absolutely determined to secure the border to end the shutdown. And what the president articulated yesterday was a good faith, common sense compromise where the president laid out his priorities: building a physical barrier on the southern border - a steel barrier - new resources for border patrol, humanitarian assistance technology. But the president also announced that- that he'd be willing to support legislation that provides temporary relief, three years of temporary legal status for those in the DACA program and also those who have temporary protective status. It really is an effort to- to compromise and- and we really look forward to the Senate taking this bill up Tuesday and beginning to work in earnest not just to end this government shutdown, which is a burden on the families of 800,000 federal workers but even more importantly in that to address the crisis that we face in our southern border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If this is a genuine attempt why weren't any Democrats included in the consultations for this?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, Margaret we've been talking to Democrats--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Who?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --over the last four weeks. Well, first the president's met repeatedly with Democrat leadership all the way through a week ago last Wednesday--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Democratic leaders have said this is a nonstarter.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well look, that- that meeting in the situation room a week ago Wednesday the president looked at Speaker Pelosi and said, "Ok if I gave you everything you wanted, if I signed legislation for most- funding most of the government and- and had a 30 day extension on homeland security." He said to her - I was sitting there - he said, "Would you give me funding to secure the border and a wall?" And she said, "no." So what the president directed us to do, our negotiation team, was to reach out with rank and file Democrats in the House and in the Senate. And what the president presented yesterday really is an effort to bring together ideas from both political parties. I- I think it is an act of statesmanship on the president's part to say, "Here is what I'm for. It includes my priorities, it includes priorities that Democrats had- have advanced for some period of time." And we believe it provides a framework--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which--

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --a framework for ending this impasse, securing our- our border and reopening government.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I- I didn't hear you say which Democrats are supporting it though.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Right. Well--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I need that.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --well the- the president met this week, we all did, with the problem solvers caucus. I think we all know who was there and we- we were grateful for their presence. But we've had- we've had good conversations with Democrat members of the Senate but look, their- their- their leadership has discouraged them in the House and the Senate from engaging the administration so I want to respect those conversations. But, I think what the American people saw the president do yesterday was say, I- I- you know I- I want to set the table for us resolving this issue in a way that achieves his objectives to secure the border, end the humanitarian security crisis, end the government shutdown, but also to- to bring together- bring together the Democrats' priorities to accomplish that. That's what the American people expect us to do. And- and honestly you know- you know the hearts and minds of the American people today are thinking a lot about it being the weekend where we remember the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But one of my favorite quotes from Dr. King was, "Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy." You think of how he changed America. He inspired us to change through the legislative process to become a more perfect union. That's exactly what President Trump is calling on the Congress to do. Come to the table in a spirit of good faith. We'll secure our border, we'll reopen the government and we'll move our nation forward as the president said yesterday to even a broader discussion about immigration reform in the months ahead.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've said that this is not- this offer on the table is not amnesty. The president this morning tweeted something that I'd like you to clarify though. He said, "Amnesty will- will be used on a much bigger deal whether on immigration or something else." Was that an offer for a path to citizenship?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well I'll- I'll let the president's words stand. But at the end--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you know what he meant?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: -- at the end. Yes I do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What was it?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: At the end of his remarks yesterday he made it very clear that while this proposal is just it's- look- it's- it's funding to secure our border, to build a steel barrier on the southern border, to give additional resources that the Department of Homeland Security has requested in terms of personnel and facilities and detection technologies as well as humanitarian assistance. But the president's also said he's more than willing in this legislation that comes to the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, to extend temporary relief to people that are in the TPS program as well as--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Three years--

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --the DACA program. But at the end of that speech I hope the American people heard him. So once we move past this impasse, once we begin to build more trust between the parties. This is a president who is absolutely determined to fix our broken immigration system in this country. But he has always said it all begins with border security.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will he come down from that five point seven billion dollar ask? Is that also up for negotiation?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well look, that's the president's request and the Senate leadership has agreed to bring the bill to the floor with our request for funding for the wall and all the other resources. But look we recognize the legislative process is a process of give and take. The Democrats want to bring amendments or recommendations forward. I know the president will give them due consideration, but the president is absolutely determined to build a steel barrier on the southern border in the 10 priority areas that the Department of Homeland Security said that we need a physical barrier. It's roughly two hundred and thirty four miles. It's not from sea to sea. It's two hundred thirty four miles of additional steel barrier. And- and- and frankly you look back at prior administrations- you know virtually the last four presidents have all built similar barriers on the southern border including President Obama. And we just want to respond to the needs that we have to secure our border. But once the legislative process goes forward I know President Trump will be listening to recommendations from the other party.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There is an inspector general report this week that said that the Trump administration actually separated far more children from their parents than initially reported, more than the twenty seven hundred. In fact they couldn't put a figure on it. Do you regret that policy?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well the president reversed that policy. And now we have in place--

MARGARET BRENNAN : But do you regret what happened to the more than twenty seven hundred children?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I think- I think we, we regret not only that circumstance but what's driving that circumstance. It's one of the reasons why the president had Secretary Nielson negotiate with Mexico that going forward we'll be able to allow families to remain in Mexico while they apply for asylum and it would obviate the need to bring them into our system that is ill-equipped to handle the extraordinary influx of families and unaccompanied minors that's coming across our border today. A majority of the sixty thousand people that are- that are detained attempting to come into our country illegally every single month more than two thousand a day are now families and unaccompanied children. We now have an arrangement with Mexico where those families can remain in Mexico. The president in his proposal also recommended that we allow children to apply for asylum--

MARGARET BRENNAN: In the countries of origin.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --in the Central American countries. Look, the human traffickers and the cartels take American cash to- to entice families to send either their family or their children on the long and dangerous journey north. We want that to end. These reforms will advance that from ending. But look it's time for Congress to come to the table and take this important step.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I do want to- I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I do want to ask you two- two quick things since it's so rare we get time with you. Do you care to comment on this BuzzFeed report that the special counsel seemed to have found some issue with, but wasn't specific. What part of this report was inaccurate?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, we- I- the- the special counsel said that the report of BuzzFeed was inaccurate and- and frankly the response by many in the national media to take it at face value and engage--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, what part of it was wrong?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: --and I- in- in hyperventilating about accusations against the president was really a disgrace. Look, look--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you don't know which part of it was inaccurate.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: There is a- there is an obsession in this town. Look, we- we've fully cooperated with the special counsel, over a million documents, we'll continue to fully cooperate. I'll let the special counsel address that issue. The president's maintained that he did nothing wrong. But look, what the American people saw this week was the obsession of many in the national media, and frankly some Democrats on Capitol Hill, to assume the worst about this president.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well that's why I wanted you to--

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:  And- and frankly we appreciate

MARGARET BRENNAN: --to tell us--  

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --the special counsel--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- what part of it was inaccurate.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well frank- we- we--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --but can I ask you--  

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --appreciate the special counsel making it clear that that report was inaccurate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Noted.

VICE PRESIDENT: --and- and look, the- the special counsel is going to complete his work. And we're- we're going to continue to focus on the issues that are most important to the American people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, four Americans were killed in a suicide attack in Syria this week. That same day you gave a speech and said the ISIS caliphate was defeated. Do you regret in hindsight saying that?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Well first and foremost--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Their deaths seemed to contradict what you said.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, look. First and foremost, we're deeply saddened at the loss of these four brave Americans and we were praying, especially yesterday, when the president joined their families at Dover Air Force Base. And- their contributions to our national security will forever be enshrined in the hearts of the American people. But look, President Obama withdrew American forces--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But should you have said that?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --from Iran. Well let me be clear- President Obama withdrew American forces from Iraq precipitously in 2011. ISIS rose up virtually out of the desert, overran--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- And that's the criticism--

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --overran vast areas of Iraq and Syria--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --of what the Trump administration is doing in Syria now.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: President Obama began a bombing campaign. But when we came into office two years ago today, President Trump said we are going to drive ISIS out of Iraq. We're going to drive the caliphate out of existence. And because of the sacrifices and the courage of people like those four brave Americans, last- the end of 2017 we captured the so-called capital of their caliphate in Raqqa. The- the ISIS state has been defeated. But as I said in that very same speech, the president wants to bring our troops home. But he also wants to make sure that we hand off the fight against--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: -- ISIS in Syria, what remains of ISIS in Syria, to our coalition partners and that we continue to support them with American assets in the region.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Vice President--

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: The ISIS caliphate has crumbled thanks to the courage of our armed forces and our allies in the region. But America is going to continue to support the effort until we drive any remnants of ISIS from the region and from the face of the earth.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Vice President thank you for your time today.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Next up, we'll speak to House Democrat Congressman Adam Schiff.