Read more transcripts from Face the Nation here.
MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST: It’s Sunday, July 15. I’m Margaret Brennan, and this is FACE THE NATION.
In the midst of the president’s controversial and confrontation-filled European visit, more evidence that top Russian spies worked to undermine Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Plus, new warnings from within his own Cabinet that America’s digital infrastructure is now under attack by Russia.
The president tried to lower expectations for his Monday one-on-one summit with Vladimir Putin in an interview with “CBS EVENING NEWS” anchor Jeff Glor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I go in with very low expectations. I think that getting along with Russia is a good thing. But it’s possible we won’t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: In Brussels, the president hounded NATO partners to increase their own defense spending, leaving them flabbergasted, as one European diplomat told us. Publicly, the president attempted a show of unity, but it was obvious the U.S. is not seeing eye-to-eye with its closest allies.
In London, President Trump sharply criticized Prime Minister Theresa May in a British newspaper over her Brexit negotiations. Just as the president arrived for tea with the queen, back home, special counsel Robert Mueller delivered a surprise, charging 12 Russian military intelligence officials with hacking into Democratic Party targets in 2016.
Remember then-candidate Trump’s challenge about Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: And it now appears terrorist Russia was listening, because, on that very same day, Russian officials named in the indictment began hacking into Clinton’s server.
Mueller’s move set the stage for a potential confrontation between Mr. Trump and Putin, but many fear the president won’t be tough enough on the issue of Russian meddling in U.S. elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will absolutely bring that up. I don’t think you will have any, gee, I did it, I did it, you got me. There won’t be a Perry Mason here, I don’t think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: “CBS THIS MORNING” co-host Norah O’Donnell is heading up the network’s coverage of the Helsinki summit. She will have a preview.
We will speak with two leading Republicans who have been investigating the Russian meddling, Senator John Cornyn of Texas and South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy.
New York Congressman Joe Crowley lost his primary in a stunning upset to a political novice last month. He will join us to talk about the future of the Democratic Party.
Plus, we will have analysis on Russia and all the political news in Washington just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning. And welcome to FACE THE NATION.
President Trump is still in Europe. And he’s heading next to Helsinki, Finland, for tomorrow’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Yesterday, he spent some time with “CBS EVENING NEWS” Jeff Glor at the president’s golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF GLOR, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: I saw the conversation you had with Jens Stoltenberg, which was a very direct conversation.
As you approach the meetings with Vladimir Putin coming up, do you expect a similar tone?
TRUMP: I don’t expect anything. I, frankly, don’t expect — I go in with very low expectations.
I think that getting along with Russia is a good thing, but it’s possible we won’t. I think we’re greatly hampered by this whole witch-hunt that’s going on in the United States, the Russian witch-hunt, the rigged situation.
I watched some of the testimony, even though I’m in Europe, of Strzok, and I thought it was a disgrace to our country. I thought it was an absolute disgrace, where he wants to do things against me before I was even — I guess before I was even the candidate.
It was a disgrace. And then he lied about it and, you know, talking about shutting it down, and we, we. And he says, oh, I meant the American people all of a sudden. He came up with excuses, I guess, give to a lawyer. But everybody laughed at it.
He was a disgrace to our county. He was a disgrace to the FBI. So, when I look at things like that — and he led that investigation or whatever you call it.
I would say that, yes, I think it hurts our relationship with Russia. I actually think it hurts our relationship with a lot of countries. I think it’s a disgrace, what’s going on.
And then you look how partisan it is, you look at what’s going on where — and they know. They know that. There’s no way he can get away from those horrible texts that he wrote. So, the other side knows, but it’s a very partisan thing.
GLOR: The Russians who were indicted, would you ask Putin to send them here?
TRUMP: Well, I might. I hadn’t thought of that, but, certainly, I will be asking about it.
But, again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration.
And I heard that they were trying or people were trying to hack into the RNC, too, the Republican National Committee, but we had much better defenses. I have been told that by a number of people. We had much better defenses, so they couldn’t.
I think the DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defenses. And they were able to be hacked. But I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans, too, but — and this may be wrong — but they had much stronger defenses.
GLOR: Who is your biggest competitor, your biggest foe globally right now?
TRUMP: Well, I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade.
Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe. Russia is a foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly. They’re a foe. But that doesn’t mean they’re bad. It doesn’t mean anything.
It means that they’re competitors. They want to do well, and we want to do well. And we’re starting to do well. You see what’s going on. We have the best employment numbers probably that we have ever had. Black unemployment is the lowest level in history, Hispanic unemployment the lowest level in history, Jeff, women unemployment lowest in 66 years.
Our numbers are great. Our GDP numbers are far greater than what they thought.
GLOR: A lot of people might be surprised to hear you list the E.U. as a foe before China and Russia.
TRUMP: No, I look at them all.
Look, E.U. is very difficult, I want to tell you. Maybe the thing that’s most difficult — don’t forget, both of my parents were born in E.U. sectors, OK? I mean, my mother was Scotland. My father was Germany.
And, you know, I love those countries. I respect the leaders of those countries.
But, in a trade sense, they have really taken advantage of us, and many of those countries are in NATO. And they weren’t paying their bills. And, you know I, as an example, have a big problem with Germany, because Germany made a pipeline deal with Russia, where they’re going to be paying Russia billions and billions of dollars a year for energy.
And I say that’s not good. That’s not fair. You’re supposed to be fighting for someone, and then that someone gives billions of dollars to the one that you’re guarding against?
I think it’s ridiculous. So, I let that be also known this time.
And I’ll tell you what. There is a lot of anger at the fact that Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars. There’s a lot of anger. I also think it’s a very bad thing for Germany, because it’s like, what are they, waving a white flag?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: We will have more of Jeff’s interview with President Trump in Scotland airing tomorrow on “CBS THIS MORNING” and later on “THE CBS EVENING NEWS,” as well as our digital network, CBSN.
We want to go now to Helsinki and CBS this morning co-host Norah O’Donnell, who is heading up the network’s coverage of President Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin.
Norah, in this interview and really throughout the week, the signals that the president has been sending seem very much at odds with his own national security team.
NORAH O’DONNELL, CBS ANCHOR: You’re exactly right, Margaret. This is an historic summit.
And you hear the president’s top national security advisers urging publicly and privately a more hawkish tone towards Russia, and yet President Trump continues his solicitousness toward President Putin, even once in the past couple of days saying that perhaps someday he could be a friend, when we have learned some interesting details about this meeting.
I spoke with a top adviser to the president just this morning who said that one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin is scheduled to last about — just about half-an-hour. It could even be longer than that.
And President Putin has met with three previous U.S. presidents. Never before has there been a private meeting of this kind before. So this would be unprecedented.
BRENNAN: And we know so many of the president’s advisers admit they don’t really know what happens when the president gets in the room, because he decides his own agenda. But what are these expectations on what they’re actually going to talk about?
O’DONNELL: Well, the president told our own Jeff Glor that he has low expectations, but that there might be some surprises.
It’s funny to hear him say that, because there are incredibly high expectations by everyone else in the world just about what they’re going to agree to in those private conversations.
We know that President Putin has a lot on his agenda that he wants accomplished and that he wants from the United States. So after that meeting that they will have together, there will then be sort of an expanded meeting that will include their top advisers. President Trump will be joined by his secretary of state. He will be joined by his chief of staff, John Kelly, as well as his national security adviser.
Then they may get into more specific substances. And then I think, Margaret, the only way for us to find out what was discussed in those meetings will be a press conference. And the U.S. has now confirmed this morning that there will be a joint press conference between President Trump and President Putin.
If you look at what President Trump did after Singapore, it lasted more than an hour. Can you imagine such a long conference, press conference, between these two leaders, and what they will say about the state of their relationship, about what Russia has done in the past to our elections, what they’re doing now in terms of trying to attack America’s democracy and our cyber-infrastructure?
So I think that’s — what we’re all looking forward to is what exactly comes out of this meeting, whether it’s a spectacle or substance.
BRENNAN: Norah, thank you.
We want to go now to Greenville, South Carolina, and Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight Committee. That’s one of the committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Congressman, you just heard President Trump once again refer to the Russia probe as a witch-hunt, and he specifically referred to the hearing that you chaired this past week with FBI agent Peter Strzok as proof of his claim.
Do you agree with the president’s assertions? And they do seem aimed here at discrediting the Mueller probe.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don’t think it’s a witch-hunt. I have never thought it was a witch-hunt. We now have two series of indictments against Russians, one for the social media, the other for the unlawful intrusions.
Russia attacked this country in 2016. That’s the number one thing we have asked Mueller to look at. What did Russia do? The second part, which, unfortunately, is where the hyper focus is, is with whom, if anyone, did they do it?
Margaret, no Americans have been indicted with respect to conspiring to impact the 2016 elections. My focus is on the first thing: What did Russia do? And that’s not a witch-hunt. That’s an attack on our country.
BRENNAN: So, you’re right, no Americans were charged, but 12 Russian military intelligence officers were for attacking the DNC and other Democratic organizations, going after Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and also attempting to break into state election boards.
So, how should Americans understand this?
GOWDY: That this is an attack on all of us. Our elections are just that, Margaret. They’re our elections.
And Democrats and Republicans are free to fight among and with themselves, but that fight ends at the border. And I would ask the president to give some serious consideration. Your first request of Vladimir Putin needs to be, tell us which airport we can pick up the 25 Russians that tried to interfere with the fundamentals of our democracy.
If you really claim you had nothing to do with it, then you should be as shocked as we were that your military was being used to impact our election. Tell us where you’re going to extradite those folks, because an American grand jury indicted them for undermining our democracy.
BRENNAN: You have now heard over 20 hours of testimony from Peter Strzok, who was named by the president there. You also met with Lisa Page, a lawyer at the FBI, involved with this Friday. I think you’re meeting with her again tomorrow.
In your investigations, have you seen any evidence of an anti-Trump bias at the FBI?
An anti-Trump bias? Absolutely. You just mentioned two of them, Strzok and Page. Strzok was biased against Trump before he began investigating him. Of course, on August the 6th, he promised to stop his candidacy. On the 15th, he talked about an insurance policy.
I think the most damning piece of evidence, Margaret, with respect to bias, is the day Robert Mueller was announced, special agent Peter Strzok wasn’t talking about indictments like you and I just were. He wasn’t talking about defending the country, like you and I are. He’s talking about impeaching the president.
That is an unprecedented level of bias. Now, how pervasive it was beyond those two, I think there are four of five other unidentified bureau and department agents and employees who also had bias, but there are 13,000 FBI agents, and 99.9 percent of them are doing exactly what you would want them to do in exactly the way you would want them to do it.
BRENNAN: Well, that’s a point here, though, that seems to be getting lost, or at least when the president is speaking, he’s conflating these specific individuals, the number you put, four or five, with the entire intelligence organization that is the FBI.
And there is some concern that that is corrosive to our democracy. Do you fear that your hearing is being used in that way?
GOWDY: Well, our private hearing was much more constructive than the public hearing.
I mean, public hearings are a circus, Margaret. That’s why I don’t like to do them. I don’t do many of them. I mean, they’re — it’s a freak show. The private interviews are much more constructive.
But I would also say this. I mean, put yourself in President Trump’s shoes for just a second. Jim Comey thought that impeachment was too good for you. John Brennan says you should be in the dustbin of history. Those are not insignificant people.
One headed the FBI. The other headed the CIA when you were under investigation. The lead FBI agent said that you would be destabilizing for the country and promised to stop your candidacy.
I mean, Margaret, if you were being investigated by people who had that level of bias and animus against you, I think you would be concerned as well.
What I would tell the president is, no American has been indicted for conspiring to hack the DNC. But Russia did attack us. So focus on the first prong of that Mueller jurisdiction. Let the second prong play out, but so far the with whom if anyone did they do it, we have got a big zero with respect to Americans.
BRENNAN: But, to play devil’s advocate here, there are other Republicans who were questioning the president as a candidate and comments he made and whether that made him fit for office.
So you’re not trying to argue that only Trump supporters should be involved with this investigation?
GOWDY: No. And thank God Republican candidates for president aren’t in charge of counterintelligence investigations.
I mean, put politicians in one heap. Thank God we don’t put them in charge of major investigations.
Peter Strzok was supposed to be a counterintelligence expert. He was put in charge of the probe. And he’s going from talking about stopping him to he hopes he resigns to impeachment.
Margaret, keep in mind, his main concern when he was trying to deliberate on whether or not to be part of Mueller’s probe is that it might not lead to impeachment.
If you were a counterintelligence expert, this is the chance of a lifetime to fight for your country against Russia, and you’re concerned that it might not lead to impeachment. No American would want Peter Strzok investigating them if he had that amount of animus against them. None of us would.
BRENNAN: Are you going to sign on to this effort to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that the House Republicans are talking about putting forward this week?
GOWDY: No. For what? Impeach him for what? No.
GOWDY: I have had my differences with Rod Rosenstein. I have talked to him quite often privately, which, again, is a lot more constructive than the public hearings we have. He’s a Trump appointee. So is Jeff Sessions. So is Chris Wray.
If President Trump is dissatisfied with Rod Rosenstein, he can fire him with a tweet. But to impeach someone, I mean, no. I would not be — I’m not convinced there is a movement. I read about it in Politico, and sometimes their sources are better than mine.
GOWDY: But I’m not part of that.
BRENNAN: Very quickly, are you going to investigate who the congressional candidate was who was in contact with the conspirators? This is named in the indictment.
GOWDY: I would love to know who that was, so I hope you will investigate it. I’m going to try to find out who it is.
Now, this is an unindicted — that’s important. Whatever this person did, it didn’t rise to the level of criminality. But I am incredibly disappointed that any member of Congress would reach out to WikiLeaks or Julian Assange or Lucifer — or Guccifer — or Lucifer…
GOWDY: … and try to get dirt on a Democrat. That is very disappointing. I don’t know who it is, but I would love it if you or I, one, found out who it was.
BRENNAN: All right, when you find out, get back us to, Congressman.
Thank you very much for your time.
GOWDY: You do the same. Yes, ma’am.
BRENNAN: We will be back in one minute with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including a conversation with the number two in the Senate, John Cornyn.
Don’t go away.
BRENNAN: We’re back with Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn. He’s the assistant majority leader in the Senate. He joins us from Austin this morning.
Senator, good to have you on the show.
Let’s get straight to the news on Russia, because you do — you have been part of this Senate investigation into Russian election meddling.
In the wake of Robert Mueller’s indictment of these 12 Russian, do you view this as an act of war, given that these were military intelligence officers, and has Russia paid a price?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, Russia’s long been engaged in trying to undermine confidence in our democracy. It’s just that they have — their game has now risen to the point where they actually had an impact.
Obviously, we wouldn’t be talking about this if they didn’t have an impact. And so we better wake up, because this is a warning shot for our next elections, and we better be ready.
On the other hand, I agree with my friend Trey Gowdy and Jonathan Turley, who wrote a piece recently, who said this didn’t have an impact in the — in terms of the outcome of the election. It would be like spitting into a raging ocean.
And — but this is serious. And I agree that Russians did meddle in our elections, and we better be prepared for the next time. But, again, there is no indication that it had an outcome — changed the outcome of the election.
BRENNAN: Do you think the president is taking this seriously enough?
CORNYN: I think the president is doing what you said earlier, which is conflating the meddling investigation with the investigation into potential collusion, for which there has been no evidence revealed so far.
And I think it’s personal to him, because he feels like he is under attack. And, of course, he is. The politics of this are very tempting to our friends across the aisle.
But I think he’s conflating those two, as are a number over people, and we need to keep those separate. Yes, the Russians did meddle. Number two, did any American involved collude with them? And so far, there is no evidence.
BRENNAN: So far, no evidence, but that investigation is ongoing.
Tomorrow, President Trump will be meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Do you think, given these indictments, that this is a good idea, for them to be one-on-one for at least 30 minutes, if not a full hour?
CORNYN: I think it’s always helpful when leaders of nations talk to one another.
To me, it would be counterproductive just to ignore that or to avoid that possibility. On the other hand, I think the president should be clear-eyed about who he is dealing with. Putin is an autocrat. He’s a thug. He does not respect the rule of law. Obviously, he doesn’t respect our democracy and wants to undermine it at every — every chance he gets.
But, on the other hand, there are commonalities here in terms of our desire to fight the Islamic extremism around the world. They have a problem in Russia itself, in the Chechnya area. And, of course — but we’re adversaries, clearly, in places like Syria in terms of their alliance with Iran, the number one state sponsor of international terrorism.
So, the president needs to be — and I think he is — clear-eyed about who he is dealing with. But there are some areas where I think constructive conversations can occur.
BRENNAN: The director of national intelligence said warning lights are flashing right now. Our digital infrastructure is under attack. And he named Russia as one of those attackers.
What’s being done to protect our elections?
CORNYN: He’s right. He’s right.
Well, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on which I sit, has released a preliminary report. We will release a final report, but we’re working with state election officials and trying to make sure that people are better prepared.
But if there is one area where I worry about the most, it’s that our lack of national, all-of-government response to the cyber-threat. And this is, to me, an area that is going to continue to be exploited by our adversaries, whether it’s the Chinese for economic reasons or to steal national security technology, or the Russians to undermine our elections.
BRENNAN: Senator, more to talk to you about, particularly the president’s pick for the Supreme Court.
But, if you can hold on, we are going to get back to you just after this break in a moment.
BRENNAN: We will have all the news from Helsinki starting early tomorrow on “CBS THIS MORNING.”
Then, on Wednesday, “CBS EVENING NEWS” anchor Jeff Glor will sit down at the White House with President Trump for a post-summit interview.
As for FACE THE NATION, we will be back in a moment.
BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, so stay with us.
BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
We want to continue our conversation now with Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn.
Senator, you whip and count votes for the majority. If Republicans vote as a bloc, Democrats really don’t have a way to stop the president from getting his nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, confirmed. Can you deliver your party?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, Neil Gorsuch got 54 votes when he was confirmed, and I think Brett Kavanaugh brings a similar academic and experience background and judicial philosophy that I think most people on my side of the aisle will find acceptable. But I know everybody feels serious about doing their job, doing their due diligence. As you know, the Constitution requires the Senate to provide advice and consent. And I know a number of senators who don’t yet know him are meeting him and satisfying themselves.
But I think we saw three Democrats vote with all of the Republicans for Neil Gorsuch. And I think we’ll see something in that range for Brett Kavanaugh.
BRENNAN: Three — three Democrats you’re putting money on?
CORNYN: Well, I think it would be hard to explain, why did you vote to confirm Gorsuch and you vote against Kavanaugh? I’d — it’d be — I’d be interested in what their distinction would be in their mind that would cause a different outcome. So — but we’ll find out.
BRENNAN: Democrats, one of the questions they have for Judge Kavanaugh when he goes before the committee is whether he would recuse himself, his thoughts on recusal, particularly if the Mueller probe ever were to reach the high court. How are you telling him to navigate these questions?
CORNYN: Well, Brett Kavanaugh is an experienced judge. He’s been on the D.C. Circuit Court for 12 years. And he is one of — one of the finest lawyers our nation has to — has to offer. So I have confidence he would make that decision appropriately if it were ever presented. But, to me, this is an indication of how much our friends across the aisle are stretching, the hypothetical that if a case ever became — got in front of the Supreme Court and he were there, would he recuse. I’m confident he will follow the ethical guidance of the rules of judicial conduct and would handle that appropriately. But I think it’s really a sign of desperation.
BRENNAN: Well, we will be watching those hearings, sir. Thank you very much for your time.
CORNYN: Thank you very much. Thank you.
BRENNAN: We turn now to Victoria Nuland, former assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. She is now at the Center for New American Security. And Tom Donilon served as national security adviser to President Obama. They’re both here with us now.
This — there’s so much to unpack from what we heard from President Trump in his interview with my colleague Jeff Glor. The very first question — first idea of a foe of the United States, the European Union, is what he said. What does rhetoric like that do?
AMB. VICTORIA NULAND, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Margaret, I think it’s very dangerous, whether it’s the rhetoric against the European Union or the rhetoric against NATO. The president has spent more time in the last week attacking our Democratic family than preparing for the real foes, President Putin, who he identified in his own national security strategy as a main threat to the United States. And so we’re essentially beating the family on the front lawn of the house and letting our adversary enjoy that over the fence. So it’s quite worrying.
BRENNAN: Tom, what do you make of this? Because some would just say this is, you know, this is sound and fury signifying nothing. This is Trump being Trump. And the policy is, as Ambassador Bolton would say, very clear and hard line against Russia.
TOM DONILON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, it may be that. It may be clear to his advisers. And I think there is a significant split, frankly, between the president and his advisers on the approach to Russia. No president has ever conducted himself, I think, Victoria, in the way that President Trump has in Europe over the last week. But this relentless attack on allies, this embrace of Putin, really undermining the United States with the publics of Europe, as well.
The European Union, NATO, these have been foundational partners for the United States for the last half century or more. And the attacks on them are really corrosive I think and really undermine the sense of reliability that I think Europeans have in the United States.
I think the appropriate thing would have been at NATO and in Europe would have been to develop a unified approach to Russia and point to the positive things that we have in NATO. Obviously that — Victoria was an ambassador (INAUDIBLE) —
DONILON: That positive things could have done. But to have a unified approach to NATO.
Instead, essentially what’s going on here I fear is really advancing Russian strategic goals, which have been for 70 years to divide Europe from the United States, undermine the western democracies and essentially whether purposefully or by accident the president’s kind of fallen into advancing those — advancing those goals.
BRENNAN: Ambassador Nuland, I should have pointed out, you were the ambassador to NATO, of course.
You were in the Obama administration at the time of the hacking. You’ve served Republicans. You’ve served Democrats as a career diplomat. But you were there when these GRU military officers attacked our democracy. At the time you came up with a list of ways to punish Russia. Do you think that Russia and Putin have paid a price for what they did to the U.S.?
NULAND: I don’t think the price has been anywhere near sufficient, but what I worry about more than going backward to 2016 is whether we are prepared for what they’re going to do in 2018, 2020. The president spent quite a bit of time talking about President Obama’s watch. President Obama did conduct a full investigation and hand that to President Trump. My concern now is we’ve had a year and a half where the U.S. government, directed by President Trump, should have been leading its own investigation of what Russians, Chinese, other adversaries of the United States can do to undermine our democracy, and building up our resistance, our deterrence to that. And, instead, this has all been about going backward.
We need to go forward to make sure it never happens again, including being extremely firm with President Putin tomorrow about real consequences for Russia in places that matter to them, like their economy, where Russia is not doing very well, if, in fact, this continues in the United States. And it has been continuing, as you illustrated, with the quote from DNI Coates.
DONILON: Yes, and he said something further, right, in addition to that. He said that we’re one keystroke away from having the same kind of thing happen in 2018 and 2020 as happened in 2016. There hasn’t been anywhere near the (INAUDIBLE) government response that’s required to this. We’ve had the United States government come out with an extraordinary set of indictments this week, right, where the United States said it was prepared to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, with public evidence to a jury that President Putin is lying about his denials with respect to the election interference and that we have absolute proof of this, and yet the response from the White House is a political response as opposed, as Victoria’s pointing out I think exact — directly, as opposed to an all government response about what this government and this nation’s going to do to defend itself.
BRENNAN: The president saying in tweets against in the past 24 hours, look, this happened on President Obama’s watch and he didn’t do enough, blame him.
What is your response? I know you weren’t in the administration at the time of the hacking, but do you agree with Victoria, the price hasn’t been sufficient?
DONILON: The president — he’s the president of the United States today. The — he’s pitting himself against a unified view of the intelligence and law enforcement services of the United States —
NULAND: And his own cabinet, by the way.
DONILON: His own cabinet. Exactly right, Victoria. And, you know, the question is, what is the United States going to do today to respond and to protect the nation. That’s where this needs to be. Not this kind of political — kind of — kind of — these political issues or blaming. It’s, what is the United States going to do?
Now, first of all, we did a number of things, including putting sanctions and other things on — on Russia. I would have to say, though, that there’s been kind of an averting of the eyes, kind of turning away from the conduct of the Russians by President Trump. I don’t think, at least by public reports, Margaret, there’s been a single cabinet meeting on this problem. I don’t think there’s been a single National Security Council meeting on this thing.
One thing — you know, one thing I wanted to say on this and it’s — I know, Victoria, you agree with me, because you were alluding to it. It’s not just the interference. The list of things — which is why this meeting shouldn’t happen tomorrow — the list of things, Margaret, Crimea, Ukraine, the shoot down of MH-17 killing 298 people, the use of nerve agents in the United Kingdom, aiding and abetting war crimes in Syria, the list of actively hostile actions by the Russians since Putin’s return to office is extreme and we don’t — really haven’t had any response from the president on this. This is really his responsibility now.
NULAND: But that’s exactly why the meeting should happen. So the president can take Putin on, on all of these issues and make clear that if they don’t come back into civilized behavior with the international community that there will be more consequence, economic sanctions, more freezing out, and instead this is now set up to be a lovefest.
DONILON: Yes, the meetings that you —
BRENNAN: And we’ll — but we will — we’re going to have the leave it there.
DONILON: Yes. Yes.
BRENNAN: But we’ll all tune in for that joint press conference to hear about what was discussed in this meeting.
We’re going to be right back to talk more about the politics of the Democratic Party.
BRENNAN: We want the take a closer look now at politics at home and the Democrats.
New York Congressman Joe Crowley lost his primary race in a stunning upset to a political newcomer last month. He is here with us today to talk about it.
Congressman, it’s good to have you on the show.
REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Margaret. Great to be with you.
BRENNAN: You were the first House Democrat to lose a primary in 2018. It can’t be good to hear that. But can you say, do you think your district was an anomaly or is there a bigger message to Democrats?
CROWLEY: I think there are a number of factors that went into this loss. And, first and foremost, let me say, it’s been a great honor, one of the greatest honors of my life to serve the people of the 14th Congressional District. And — and this is on me. This loss is on me. I had wonderful volunteers, hundreds of them, and a — and a great campaign effort. And just sometimes you come up short.
I do think, and I want to congratulate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on this effective win. Her campaign was a very effective campaign and she deserves this win.
But I think there were a number of factors. I think the year of the woman. I think that’s a fact that’s playing into this. And I like that for November. I think that’s really good for us as a party.
I think the timing of the primary itself, not being the normal September back into June and really was, you know, an isolated primary in many respects.
But, as I said before, I don’t want the take anything away from her win. This was a big win for her and for the future of our country as well. And, you know, this is — the loss, I have to take the responsibility for that. I did not do as I preach. You know, I talk about all politics being local. I — I didn’t remind folks of my accomplishments. I didn’t talk about what I had done to help people in my district. How I helped provide the votes to overturn gay marriage into — have gay marriage in New York state that went from 2-5 in the senate in New York state to 7-0. That was something that I worked with Governor Cuomo on making happen. I didn’t talk about helping people in my district and reminding people of where I stood. I just took that for granted, I think.
BRENNAN: You talk about some of the bigger sort of themes or takeaways from this. But just about 12 percent of registered Democrats turned out to vote in this primary. That’s pretty low.
CROWLEY: I think that gets —
BRENNAN: So are we over reading it?
CROWLEY: Well, I think it goes back to, again, the timing of the primary itself. And I think some people may have taken for granted that I’ve been around for a while and, you know, decided they’ll get me in November, so to speak. But, you know, I don’t think we really go back and relegate that aspect of it. We all play by the same rules. And Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and I played by the same rules.
I do think that the turnout was low. I think it’s more reflective, again, of some of the arcane nature — some of the arcane nature of New York state election law itself that may be contributing to this factor.
BRENNAN: The winner here, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as you said, 28 years old, political newcomer here. She’s accused the Democratic Party writ large of not taking the interests of people of color seriously, not paying much attention to working-class communities.
Do you think there is fair criticism of that?
CROWLEY: I think it’s always open the criticism in terms of policy. I think what we — we need to really steer away from is character assassination. And I think it’s a — what we really do is take that energy that’s been focused in terms of internal bouts and focus that on Republicans and win seats that Republicans hold today if we really want to make a difference.
I think the Democratic caucus is a big tent party. It’s reflected. Just look at our party. Take a picture of our — the people who represent the Democrats in the House and Republicans in the House. It’s night and day literally in terms of the number of minorities that are represented in the Democratic caucus. It’s there. And so I do think we need to focus now on winning seats in November and ensuring the Democrats are in control, for the sake of our country, quite frankly. I think the greatest threat to us is — is this president in the White House.
BRENNAN: If Democrats do take control, should Nancy Pelosi stay as leader?
CROWLEY: I think that Nancy — when history looks back at Nancy Pelosi, they will look at one of the smartest and hardest working speakers and leaders in the history of our country. She’s a —
BRENNAN: But your loss made some Democrats question that.
CROWLEY: Well, look, you know, I do think that that will be up to the new Congress to decide who the next leader or speaker will help (ph) will be. If we win the House back, Nancy will have a very strong case for holding on to the speakership. If not, there maybe be other issues that come to the fore at that point. But it’s up to the next Congress Democratic caucus to decide that fate.
BRENNAN: Congressman, it’s good to have you on the show.
CROWLEY: Thank you. Can I say just one thing? I love this country. I love it so much and I’m so proud to have represented my constituents. But I am very, very worried about the direction of this country. And I have a lot to be grateful for. And it’s given me a tremendous experience in life. But we need to win back the House to bring — to recognize this country once again.
BRENNAN: And I can imagine you’ll be working on that —
CROWLEY: Thank you, I will be.
BRENNAN: As we go toward the races in November.
We’ll be back in just a moment with our panel.
BRENNAN: Time now for some political analysis. Gerry Seib is the executive Washington editor at “The Wall Street Journal,” Rachael Bade covers Congress for “Politico,” who’s also a CNN political analyst, Ben Domenech is the founder and publisher of “The Federalist,” and David Nakamura covers the White House for “The Washington Post.”
Rachael, I want to start with you, because when we were speaking with Congressman Gowdy, he mentioned some of your reporting at “Politico.” I asked him about whether he’d sign on to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He said, “for what”?
RACHAEL BADE, “POLITICO”: A really telling answer right there. And I think it really highlights this quite divide we’re seeing going on right now between Republicans on The Hill, between Republicans like Gowdy, who want the Russia investigation to continue. Yes, they’re concerned about some bias with a couple of FBI agents, but overall they want to hold Russia accountable for election interference.
And then the Trump allies on Capitol Hill that are listening to the president. They see this as a witch hunt. And they want it to go away. And so, for instance, on Friday, right, when Rod Rosenstein was up announcing, you know, these 12 indictments of Russians, just a few minutes before, Conservative Mark Meadows, who leads the House Freedom Caucus, actually had a red folder in his hand on the House floor that would basically impeach Rosenstein. And he’s trying to get supported for that. And they want this investigation to go away. And so you’re seeing different Republicans clash. I think that Goody is a bellwether for a lot of Republicans because he is very close with the leadership. So I would listen to what he says in terms of whether or not this would go through. And it seems unlikely.
BRENNAN: Ben, I’m going to pigeonhole you as representative of all Republicans here in some ways.
BEN DOMENECH, “THE FEDERALIST: Oh, God. I’m not (INAUDIBLE) Republicans.
BRENNAN: I know. I know. I know. But, no, in your work and your research.
DOMENECH: Yes. Sure.
BRENNAN: But picking up on what Rachael’s saying, this divide from within. Why — in the efforts to muddy the water.
DOMENECH: Well, I do think that there — I do think that there is a divide. I think the divide that Rachael is talking about is accurate. You know, part of the issue here is kind of the change that’s happened in the nature of these indictments. When we originally had these indictments come out in February, they were primarily targeted at social media activity, mems, ads, and fake news that Russian activity was promoting here. Now you’re getting something that’s more serious, which is actual activity on the part of Russians to phish into DNC servers to try to get e-mails out of the various people involved there. And the implication of these latest indictments is that the next step for this Mueller investigation is going to be looking at some of the issues that Victoria Nuland was talking about earlier, concerns about the state level actions and Russians that could have targeted secretaries of state and voting processes. That, I think, needs to be the utmost concern at this point. We can re-litigate what happened in 2016 and how much it actually mattered, but what really matters going forward for the confidence of the American people is confidence in the upcoming mid-term elections and what that looks like. Republicans, I think, would be much wiser to be engaged on that point as opposed to fighting these kind of internally divisive wars.
BRENNAN: Gerry, when it comes to the president’s meeting with Vladimir Putin, he seems to be saying, this is in the past. Now it’s about my relationship with Vladimir Putin. Why does he need to bring up this meddling?
GERALD SEIB, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Well, I think, you know, it’s perfectly clear from Senator — what Senator Cornyn said, for example, Republicans are saying, look, this is an attack on the United States. It needs to be addressed as such. And I think that the reason to have a meeting is so that you can bring that sort of thing up.
I think, you know, one of the interesting things about the indictment was it actually may have been beneficial for the president that it came out before the meeting because it means that he has a reason to raise this with Vladimir Putin. I think it would have been much worse for the president if he had had this meeting and said some conciliatory things about how I don’t think the Russians really did this and then the indictment had come out later. That would have looked terrible. It would have looked as if he has been sandbagged.
As it is now, he has no recourse except to raise it. And Vladimir Putin knows that it’s going to be raised. I think it will be fascinated, as you suggested earlier, what’s this going to be like at a press conference tomorrow where they’re both standing up side by side and this is going to be topic a on the list. I don’t know how that’s going to go. But I don’t think it’s bad for the president that this is out there because it’s clear he has to raise it.
DAVID NAKAMURA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: But, you know, Gerry — Gerry’s right, he has to raise it. He raised it last year in his meeting — first meeting with Putin at the G-20, but then said, look, he denied it. What can I do? I had to move on. He’s already said that leading up to this meeting, that that —
BRENNAN: No Perry Mason moment.
NAKAMURA: Yes, no Perry Mason moment.
You know, I was looking at Jeff Glor’s interview with the president you played earlier. In one paragraph the president used the word disgraced six times in relation to this investigation and Peter Strzok’s testimony last week. That’s two times he has used witch hunt, once rigged and one partisan. That’s nine different times using words like that in one paragraph to talk about this.
This does not seem like a president who’s really going there to really hold Putin accountable. And if you look — you know, Trump says, I want to get in a room with these leaders, even if they’re geopolitical foes or rivals or enemies, like Kim Jong-un. But with Kim Jong-un he had a real strong strategy of pressure, maximum pressure, you know, rallying world allies, rallying other countries. Here he went to NATO and had this disruptive moment, seemed to divide NATO right before this meeting. It’s very different. We don’t even know what his real agenda is with Putin.
SEIB: And I think it’s interesting that one of the things the critics keep pointing out is that what the president talks about this, what’s missing is some statement of outrage about what the Russians did. It’s — you know, in the interview he says it’s the Democrats’ fault because they didn’t have adequate computer defenses up. And it happened on Obama’s watch.
I think what people are looking for in many cases here is some statement of outrage from the president of the United States, not about what happened to him, but what happened to the country.
DOMENECH: And that is kind of a stand-in for the fact that these indictments, even as significant as they are, are ultimately toothless. I mean Jeff Glor obviously asked him about whether he would bring up the possibility of extraditing the individuals named. I’m sorry, but that just seems very fanciful to me. We have no extradition relationship with Russia. And so that — essentially the rhetoric is a stand-in for doing something that actually matters.
BRENNAN: David, this complaint at NATO about paying more for your own defense is something we’ve heard president after president after president. With President Trump, what is it that Americans should know is different here? Why is it a problem when he says it the way he says it?
NAKAMURA: Well, look, the president has been very critical of the allies on trade. on immigration. And now on — on this defense spending.
What is interesting with Trump, though, is that he tends to sort of escalate some sort of problem where their — a problem may exist, whether it’s North Korea’s nuclear weapons, or this issue of collective defense spending, to a higher level and then tries to sort of swoop in at the last minute and sort of make a deal or create some sort of pressure or take some action or dramatic step and look like he solved some sort of problem. And he seems to have employed this again here, as he did with the Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un, where we don’t know that he’s made that much of a difference, but he sort of says at the end, you know, I was threatening to leave. I was threatening NATO. And now they’re coming around. They’re going to spend more. Even though these nations did promise ahead of time, even before he took office, to start spending more.
BRENNAN: Rachael, if your — if your memory is long enough and you can recall what happened on Monday, we did get a Supreme Court nominee.
BADE: Yes, yes.
BRENNAN: And you heard Senator Cornyn say he thinks he can get — flip three Democrats.
BADE: Right. And actually one thing that’s particularly interesting, Cornyn apparently cornered the minority leader, Chuck Schumer, in the Senate gym the other day when he was on an exercise bike and was like, good luck getting out of this one.
Look, Republicans, they actually — they’re going to get a victory here. And not just because they’re seeming united behind their appointee, but also because Democrats are not united on this. There are about half a dozen Democrats from states that Trump carried in the 2016 election that are on the ballot this fall and they see potentially the politics are better for them to ignore Schumer and to potentially vote for this nominee.
I think one person to watch, for instance, is Joe Manchin, who is from West Virginia. It’s a state that Trump carried by 40 points. And earlier this week one of my colleagues caught up with him in the hall and said to him, can Schumer twist your arm to get you to vote against this nominee? And he said, quote, I’ll be 71 years old in August. You’re going to whip me?, being Schumer, kiss my you know what. So it’s going to be an issue for Schumer.
SEIB: Well, plus, I mean, Democrats may be better off letting these people vote and win the next election.
BRENNAN: Well, we’re going to have to leave it there, unfortunately, because we’re out of time. We’re not out of news. But we’ll be right back.
BRENNAN: See all of you tomorrow morning on “CBS This Morning” as we continue our network coverage of the Helsinki summit. Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump’s meeting tomorrow.
For FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan. We’ll see you next week.
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