Transcript: White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short on "Face the Nation," March 18, 2018

WH has faith in CIA and State Dept. nominees

A tumultuous week for the Trump administration was capped by the firing of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe on Friday night. His ouster came just days after President Trump dismissed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over Twitter and amid reports that H.R. McMaster will likely lose his position as Mr. Trump's national security adviser.

Marc Short, director of legislative affairs at the White House, joined us to discuss McCabe's firing, the Russia investigation and the confirmation fights ahead in the Senate for a new secretary of state and CIA director.

The following is a transcript of the interview with Short that aired Sunday, March 18, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to "Face the Nation." I'm Margaret Brennan. We turn now to Marc Short, White House Director of Legislative Affairs, to get the administration's perspective on all that is going on in Washington. Marc, you're a busy man. Let's start on the nominations question. Republicans really can't afford to lose a single vote. You just heard Senator Rand Paul says-- saying he opposes both the nominee to be CIA and the Secretary of State. How do you get enough votes to get your guys through?

MARC SHORT: Well, we think we have two incredibly qualified candidates there. Mike Pompeo, as you know, graduated top of his class at West Point, graduated top of his class at Harvard Law School, served our country with distinction in uniform, served our country in distinction in Congress. He's done a phenomenal job at restoring morale at the CIA. We think he's a phenomenal choice. He earned 15 Democrat votes in his confirmation only a year ago.

BRENNAN: You're going to need some of those Democrats this time too.

SHORT: Well, I think it's unfortunate where Rand Paul's position is and before the hearings begin and getting some of the answers to his questions. I think that, you know, Rand himself ran for president on a policy that is kind of to put your head in the sand about North Korea and Iran and just hope they don't develop nuclear weapons. That's out of-- that's out of sync with the rest the American people which is why they went a different direction. But we think there's enough Democrats that'll help support our candidates. And I think with Gina Haspel, you know, as you mentioned in your previous interview, 33 years of service in the CIA, station chief in multiple of the most dangerous places in the globe. Somebody who has earned the support not just of Republican people who've run the CIA, but also Democrat heads, people like Leon Panetta, people like Brennan, people like Clapper, not even-- not at the CIA, but in the intelligence community. So she has broad bipartisan support. We think she'll earn the support of many Democrats in her confirmation hearing too.

BRENNAN: Will the president agree to allow the CIA to publicly release information, the details of her background that Rand Paul and Angus King say they want to hear more about.

SHORT: I'm sure that we're going to look to provide as much information as necessary without compromising any international secrets so we're going to want to be cooperative. But again I think that we have two incredibly qualified candidates the president's very excited that he's nominated them and that looks forward to putting them in office. It's possible. You know Margaret as we as we face negotiations with North Korea. It's all the more important that this happened expeditiously. It's important that members come together and make sure these confirmations happen quickly in the next coming weeks.

BRENNAN: This was a decision the president made. And you're saying you need a secretary of state well he had one until he fired him.

SHORT: Well that is true Margaret but I think that the reality is that these are negotiations that are now beginning. It's important the president be on the same page as the secretary of state who he works with and agrees with on many fronts. And so we- we think that Congress should work quickly. We're very frustrated the pace of Congress in many nominations as you and I have discussed off camera. The reality is that so far the number of filibusters on our nominees is four times greater in one year than the last four presidents combined in their entire first terms. It's really reached an historic obstruction.

BRENNAN: And behind on nominations, too.  But I want to ask you about the place you work every day. Senator Jeff Flake said Republicans should come out against the president if he starts attacking Robert Mueller that that is a red line. The president's had a lot to say about the special counsel this morning. Are you hearing outcry from Republicans?

SHORT: I've not heard a lot of outcry from Republicans. And all due respect to Jeff Flake, I'm not sure as far as him representing the Republican Party -- couldn't get reelected in his own state today.  So the reality is --

BRENNAN: You think Republicans are okay with the kind of --

SHORT: I'm not-- I don't-- I'm not--

BRENNAN: -- messages the president is sending this morning?

SHORT: I don't think that the president or anybody right now in our White House is suggesting not cooperating-- any way with the Mueller investigation. We have cooperated in every single way. Naturally --

BRENNAN: The president's attorney called for an end --

SHORT: Everyone -- 

BRENNAN: -- to the investigation.

SHORT: Everyone in the White House has cooperated on this, and what I said is-- is that we have cooperated in every single way, every single paper they've asked for, every single interview. And I think the reality, Margaret, is that yes, there's a growing frustration that after more than a year and millions and millions of dollars spent on this, there remains no evidence of collusion with Russia.

BRENNAN: The investigation is ongoing.

SHORT:  Of course it is!  It's-- it's ongoing over a year. And it's been ongoing also in both the House and the Senate-- doing their own independent investigations where the House has concluded there was no collusion. I think at some point the American people are owed an answer to say, "okay, if there was no collusion, how much longer will this drag on?"

BRENNAN: Well, that is why the Justice Department put that special counsel in place saying that the American people deserve an answer to that question of what Russia's influence was. So in these public statements, isn't the president appearing to discredit or attempt to discredit the outcome of that?

SHORT: I think the president is expressing his frustration, which I think is well-warranted and merited. As I said, there has been no evidence whatsoever of collusion. There has been millions (sic) and millions of dollars spent -- at taxpayer expense -- trying to uncover this, and the reality is that there's two separate issues here. One is Russia interference, Margaret, and if you look at Russian interference, this administration has imposed sanctions.

This administration has helped to arm Ukraine with defensive weapons to protect it against Russian aggression. This administration, partnered with NATO, condemning the most recent murders in Britain by Russia.

BRENNAN: Right.  But the president--

SHORT: The previous--

BRENNAN: -- hasn't tweeted--

SHORT: -- the previous--

BRENNAN: -- about those things today, which was why we didn't ask you --

SHORT: -- the previous administration--

BRENNAN: -- about Ukraine.

SHORT: The previous-- well, the previous Obama administration did absolutely nothing as far as combating interference in the elections. So this administration has taken action as it relates to collusion, there is none.

BRENNAN: How's morale at the White House? We know the chief of staff held a meeting this week to reassure people.

SHORT: Morale on our team is great, Margaret. I think the reality is -

BRENNAN: The legislative team?

SHORT: I think the reality is- is what the American people want to know is despite the media's coverage of who's up, who's down, what's the latest palace intrigue --

BRENNAN: The secretary of state was fired this week.

SHORT: They want to know what the latest palace intrigue --

BRENNAN: That's not the media.

SHORT: What the American people want to know is what is the unemployment rate? It's the lowest in 17 years. How are jobs doing? Lowest unemployment rate for Hispanic-Americans in history, lowest for African-Americans in history. You see an economy that's growing again.

BRENNAN: But you're confident that the staffers you're working with who come to work every day feel that their jobs are safe? I mean, why did the chief of staff have to have that meeting?

SHORT: Anytime, anytime in this environment there's always going to be a lot of turmoil, Margaret. That's something you sign up for. You recognize you serve at the pleasure of the president. We sign up knowing that we're trying to do the will of the American people, and as you look at the records of this administration, what the American people are pleased with the way the economy is growing and the way that they're being protected. ISIS having lost 99 percent of the territory it-- contained prior to this administration. We're making America safer. The economy is booming. 4.5 million Americans have either received a wage increase or a bonus since tax plan came into effect. The economy, where we are as a country, the consumer sentiment reached a 20 year high just this week.

BRENNAN: All right well, Mark, you've got a lot of work to do this week. Thank you very much for --

SHORT: Thanks for having me on, Margaret.

BRENNAN: Making time to come on the show. We'll be right back.