Transcript: White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short on "Face the Nation," Jan. 28, 2018

Marc Short on Mueller

President Trump's forthcoming immigration plan has come under fire from the right, with immigration hardliners and Trump loyalists decrying the administration's proposal to give "Dreamers" a pathway to citizenship as "amnesty." The bill would extend protections from deportation to 1.8 million immigrants brought the U.S. as children in exchange for cuts to legal immigration and a boost in spending on the border.

White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short serves as the White House's top liaison on Capitol Hill. He joined us to discuss the president's immigration plan, the Russia investigation and more.

The following is a transcript of the interview with Short that aired Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  


NANCY CORDES: Welcome back to Face the Nation. I'm Nancy Cordes. And joining us now is White House legislative affairs director Marc Short. Marc, thank you so much for joining us.

MARC SHORT: Thanks for having me back, Nancy.

NANCY CORDES: First off, why did the president want to fire special counsel Mueller? And why did he decide not to?

MARC SHORT: Well, Nancy, the president's never intimated to me in any way the desire to fire Mueller. I think that there's been a lot of sensational reporting on that. Let's keep in mind a few things. That report dates to some June conversation allegedly. We're now in January. Mueller's still special counsel. Don McGahn is still running the White House Counsel's Office. Millions of dollars- of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on an investigation that so far has proven no collusion with the Russians.

NANCY CORDES: Well, the investigation's not over, right?

MARC SHORT: Of course it's not because it's continuing to drag on. And it's dragged on for a long time at a great expense with yet no evidence of Russian collusion. And so the reality is that Mueller's still special counsel. McGahn is still head of the White House Counsel's Office. The president's never intimated to me in any way a desire to fire Robert Mueller.

NANCY CORDES: Have you advised the president, have others around him advised him of the consequences of firing either special counsel Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, who, you know, recent reports have suggested the president has now turned some of his ire towards?

MARC SHORT: I have no reason to believe the president's considered firing him. So there's no reason for me to counsel him one way or the other on that, Nancy. I think that, as I said, he's never intimated that one way or another to me. It's not a conversation typically I'd probably be involved in. But there'd be no reason to raise it.

NANCY CORDES: How serious do you think that this memo that purports to outline F.B.I. mistakes when it comes to the investigation is? You just heard Congressman Will Hurd, who's on the House Intelligence Committee, say that he believes it should be released at least among other members of Congress.

MARC SHORT: Right. Well, we haven't obviously read the memo. It's classified. So it's hard for me to speculate on what's in the memo. I do think that we typically prefer transparency. And so if there are concerns that I think it would be helpful for Americans to know about, we would be open for that being released.

NANCY CORDES: Even if it revealed F.B.I. sources and methods?

MARC SHORT: Well, I think there's plenty- there's plenty of ways you can redact a document to make sure that methods are not revealed. But if there are serious concerns about unmasking that happened in the previous administration, then I think that the American people should know that.

NANCY CORDES: I want to ask you about immigration. Lawmakers have been begging the White House for weeks to come out with your immigration plan. You do, and you get hit from all sides. You've got conservatives who are calling amnesty. You've got Democrats saying that this is a- a false choice. Basically you're creating a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, and then you're taking away a whole bunch of other rights in exchange.

MARC SHORT: Well, now, let's keep in mind a few things, Nancy. When they say they've been waiting for us, the White House submitted our priorities many, many months ago. When General Kelly was still secretary of D.H.S. he asked Congress to address this.

NANCY CORDES: Even Republican leaders said they had no idea where the president stood.

MARC SHORT: I think that's a convenient explanation. We were very clear with Congress what we wanted. We put our priorities in writing and sent them to Congress on October the 8th. October the 8th. We sent another document back in December. What this piece finally did is it refined what our position is on the DACA population itself.

And I think the president, as he said in that very public meeting at the White House, he said, "I will give cover on my side." The question is is Leader Schumer and Leader Pelosi stepping up to give cover to their side. They clearly have a radical left base that is putting pressure on them. And I understand the challenges in managing some of their conferences. But the president's put forward a very- a very tremendous compromise to get this solved once and for all. It's perplexed Congress for decades to get this. He's showing leadership to finally get it done.

NANCY CORDES: Democrats say that by preventing immigrants from sponsoring parents, or adult children, or siblings, you're tearing apart families. You're cutting legal immigration by 50 percent. In fact, here's what the largest Dreamer advocacy group said: "Let's call this proposal for what it is. A white supremacist ransom note."

MARC SHORT: Yeah, that's absurd. I mean, that's even ridiculous to try to respond to. Here's what it does. What we're trying to do is we're trying to protect the nuclear family, Nancy. And so we're providing those visas for spouses and children, trying to protect that. What's happening right now in our visa system is you're providing visas for aunts, and uncles, and siblings that continue to go on. Hence it's called chain migration.

So therefore there's a 4 million backlog. So you can't get children and spouses in because you're taking care of so many different distant cousins. What our proposal does actually is it protects the nuclear family and focuses on them as opposed to the extended relatives that are continuing to get into the country and get priority over children and- and spouses.

NANCY CORDES: But doesn't that belong in a comprehensive immigration negotiation? This is a much more narrow plan that is related to this specific population, young people who were brought to the country illegally.

MARC SHORT: Congress will always have a reason to do something later as opposed to fixing the problem today. This president is trying to solve a problem that has been perplexing our country for decades. He's offered a very- a very rational compromise to get it done. This was born out of many conversations with Democrats alike and Republicans to get to this point. It's actual help us get it done and protect us so we don't have this problem several years from now.

If you just do border security and DACA, all you're going to do is create an incentive for more people to try to flood the border because they're going to say, "I'll get the citizenship in the future, too." You need to fix it all. There's lots of things we're not doing. We put aside a lot of our interior enforcement requests to say, "Let's keep this more focused." This is a very focused, rational proposal.

NANCY CORDES: I've got about a minute left. So I want to ask you quickly about the State of the Union. The president giving his first State of the Union address on Tuesday. And he's going to outline a $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan. But if you look at the fine print, it's only about 200 billion in federal funds. Is it realistic to think that you can leverage another 1.5 trillion in private, state, local money when you're starting out with that little?

MARC SHORT: I think it's very realistic to leverage those dollars. I think as we continue to roll back the regulatory front there will be more private investment coming in. There are a lot of people who said the president couldn't create 2 million jobs in the first year, who said we wouldn't see unemployment at a 17-year low, who said we wouldn't see GDP at 3 percent, who also said that after the tax relief package-- in one month 3.1 million Americans, 3.1 million workers, have either received a pay increase or a bonus. The president's making an enormous impact on our economy. He's turning this country around. I wouldn't bet against him on the infrastructure plan either.

NANCY CORDES: Something tells me the economy is going to be a big focus of his speech on Tuesday night. White House legislative affairs director Marc Short, thanks so much for being here.

MARC SHORT: Thanks for having me, Nancy.

NANCY CORDES: Appreciate it. And we'll be right back with our political panel. Don't go away.