On this “Face the Nation” broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (read more)
- Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. (read more)
- Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga. (read more)
- Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. (read more)
- Panelists: Byron York, Shawna Thomas, Michael Crowley, and Rachael Bade (watch)
Click here to browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s Sunday, May 5th. I’m Margaret Brennan. And this is FACE THE NATION.
Six weeks after the Mueller report’s completion President Trump is still taking victory laps. This time in a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He said something to the effect that it started off as a mountain, and it ended up being a mouse.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Russian interference in the 2016 election is, of course, what prompted the investigation in the first place.
KRISTEN WELKER: Did you tell him not to meddle in the next election?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We didn’t discuss that. Really, we didn’t discuss it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What should be done to punish Russia and keep them from meddling again? We’ll talk with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and attorney general William Barr faces a firestorm on Capitol Hill, angering Democrats on one committee–
MAZIE HIRONO: Please, Mister Attorney General, you know, give us some credit for knowing what the hell is going on around here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –and declining to appear before another.
STEVE COHEN: Chicken Barr should have shown up today and answered questions.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That same committee is threatening to hold him in contempt of Congress. We’ll explain why.
And there is outrage over some of Barr’s answers in testimony last month.
NANCY PELOSI: He lied to Congress. And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll ask the top Republican on the House Committee, Doug Collins, and California Democrat Eric Swalwell what’s next.
Plus, we’ll speak to the number-two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois.
We’ll have plenty of analysis on all of the news of the week.
It’s just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. It’s quiet here in Washington but that is not the case in other parts of the world. Overnight we’ve seen the worst flare-up in violence between Israel and Hamas in months. Hamas fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which responded with what Prime Minister Netanyahu called massive airstrikes in Gaza. Meanwhile, North Korea tested what appeared to be short-range missiles as President Trump’s diplomatic outreach stalls. Kim Jong-un personally oversaw that launch. And in Venezuela, a U.S.-backed uprising against Nicolas Maduro fizzled as opposition leader Juan Guaido was unable to peel away his key military support.
We begin this morning with America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Welcome to FACE THE NATION on a very busy morning for you. On this latest North Korea test, it appears to be short-range missiles. Does Kim Jong-un get a pass on this or are we looking at a situation where more sanctions are necessary?
MIKE POMPEO (Secretary of State/@SecPompeo): So the sanctions haven’t changed. The toughest sanctions in the history of North Korea remain in place. That’s probably what’s putting some of the pressure on Chairman Kim today. You saw this happen too right after his visit to Russia. Right– right after he spoke with Vladimir Putin, he made the decision to take these actions. We’re still evaluating the appropriate response. But I want everyone in your audience to know we’re going to exhaust every diplomatic opportunity there is. I continue to invite our counterparts for negotiations. We still believe there is a path forward where Chairman Kim can denuclearize without resort to anything beyond diplomacy. We’re hopeful that we can achieve that. We’ve made real progress between Singapore and Hanoi and we hope that progress can continue. It would be the best outcome for the world and Chairman Kim’s commitment that he made to President Trump back in Singapore remains in effect. He has said he’s prepared to denuclearize. My task as America’s most senior diplomat is to achieve that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So when President Trump tweeted “I’m with him,” he wasn’t saying that this test will go without consequence.
MIKE POMPEO: I think President Trump understands that the path forward that is the most optimal for the entire world is a negotiated solution to this. So we’re– he– I talked to him last night. We are full speed ahead and trying to work with the North Koreans to diplomatically achieve the verified denuclearization on the peninsula.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Cynthia Warmbier, the mother of Otto Warmbier, the college student from the University of Virginia who died in North– after being released from North Korean custody, spoke out forcefully about Kim Jong-un and the diplomacy under way. Take a listen.
CYNTHIA WARMBIER: This is not only a nuclear problem this is a problem that we’re dealing with absolute evil. There is a charade going on right now. It’s called diplomacy. How can you have diplomacy with someone that never tells the truth?
MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you respond to her?
MIKE POMPEO: Well, I’ve gotten to know the Warmbier family, especially Cindy. She is an amazing patriot and a remarkable woman and I have enormous sympathy for her and admiration for her as well, and I completely understand her remarks. We’re hopeful. We– we don’t expect Chairman Kim to tell us the truth. That’s why we’re going to verify any denuclearization that takes place. That’s why we will ensure that we see actual on-the-ground– on-the-ground outcomes. We’re not going to take anyone’s word for it but we want to work to try and do that in a way that is a negotiated solution and that’s our mission set.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you still President Trump’s lead negotiator on North Korea?
MIKE POMPEO: So far as I know.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the North Koreans have said that they objected to–
MIKE POMPEO: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –negotiating with you personally.
MIKE POMPEO: The North Koreans don’t get to choose our negotiator and we don’t get to choose theirs. Each of these two leaders is also very personally committed to this effort. They’ve both shown great effort to try and achieve this outcome. I– I’m working to support those two leaders so that we can get the outcome that the world deserves.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about China. Chinese officials are headed here to Washington for trade talks.
MIKE POMPEO: Mm-Hm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We heard from a Pentagon official on Friday, a pretty stark description of what is underway right now in China. He said that there are three million Muslims being rounded up into concentration camps in China. Why hasn’t the administration taken any kind of action or sanction against Beijing for this?
MIKE POMPEO: Oh, goodness. The– President Trump has pushed back against China in a way that no previous President had. They’d–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Concentration camps–
MIKE POMPEO: –they’d given– they– they had given the Chinese a free pass in every dimension. President Trump is now pushing back on the enormous trade abuses. You’ve seen me personally speak out about the same situation that you’re describing, this– this number certainly up to a million people held in reeducation camps. The Trump administration is going to hold every nation accountable–
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re okay with that term, reeducation camps, not concentration camps, which the Pentagon used?
MIKE POMPEO: We can– we can use lots of different terms to describe what’s taking place. This is an enormous human rights violations. I’ve spoken about it repeatedly.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Why the difference between–
MIKE POMPEO: The entire administration has spoken on it repeatedly.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You just said a million minorities.
MIKE POMPEO: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The Pentagon says three million.
MIKE POMPEO: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a discrepancy within the administration–
MIKE POMPEO: No.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –on what to do about this and what’s actually happening?
MIKE POMPEO: There– there– there’s– there– there’s not. Don’t– don’t– don’t play ticky tac. There’s no discrepancy. This administration this– this–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Concentration camps is a loaded term, Sir.
MIKE POMPEO: Ma’am–
MARGARET BRENNAN: And three million Muslims being rounded up is something that many would expect the United States to raise–
MIKE POMPEO: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –at the highest levels.
MIKE POMPEO: And– and we’ve done so.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So sanctions–
MIKE POMPEO: So– so it sounds like– it sounds like you’re satisfied with that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well–
MIKE POMPEO: Right. We– we’ve done so, right? And so– so don’t– don’t– don’t– don’t make– don’t make–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But why use sanctions? Should we expect that? Be– because the accusation as you know, Sir, is that the trade talks are causing the U.S. to choose its own financial interests over its values. Are you saying that’s not the case and there will be actions taken?
MIKE POMPEO: Thanks for the clarification of your question, I– I appreciate that. This administration can do more than one thing at a time. We’re working to stop the intellectual property theft that has destroyed millions of jobs in the United States. We’re working to stop the foreign technology transfer– foreign technology transfers that have taken place. We have got the largest defense budget in history in place, part of which will go to ensuring we counter Chinese military power. We’re working on these human rights violations, as well. This administration takes a backseat to no one in our efforts and our outcomes in achieving a more rational relationship with China. The previous administration put us in a bad place and we’re working to fix it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Were you just saying human rights are going to be included in the trade deal?
MIKE POMPEO: No. Human– human rights are– are going to be addressed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: On–
MIKE POMPEO: And we’ve done so. I’ve raised it in multiple conversations with my counterpart, their foreign minister, and with others.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ve got the whole world as your portfolio, so let’s move on to Venezuela and Russia. There was this phone call between Vladimir Putin and President Trump that just happened. The President described it to us in an Oval Office spray. Why didn’t he bring up election interference on this phone call when he said he did discuss the findings of the Mueller Report which found sweeping and systematic Russian interference in 2016?
MIKE POMPEO: Well, you’ll have to ask the White House that question. The President has been very clear. The administration has taken great action. I wish the previous one had stopped the election interference that took place in 2016. They failed to do so. Between 2017 when President Trump came into office and 2018, we had a successful election year, a set of midterm elections. We’re working diligently to ensure that the elections in 2020 aren’t interfered with by Russia, by Iran, by North Korea or anyone else. We have enormous resource deployed against that challenge. And the American people should be sure that their government is working hard to keep our election safe and secure.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said this week that Moscow has hundreds of people in Venezuela and you were very clear that you think it was Russia that convinced Nicolas Maduro not to get on a plane and to flee the country. Here’s what the President said during his– after his phone call with Vladimir Putin.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (Friday): He is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela and I feel the same way.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There seems to be a difference in how the President described the situation and how you and Ambassador Bolton have described it.
MIKE POMPEO: No, no difference, no difference. The pre– the President has said, I think he in fact tweeted that the Russians must leave Venezuela. We’ve asked every nation that is interfere– interfering with Venezuelan democracy, you’ve seen this. I– I was down on the border. We saw mothers who couldn’t feed their children fleeing the country. We saw families that had sick kids but couldn’t get medicine. It’s all sitting, sitting within 50 miles of where we were located. And Maduro won’t allow it to come in. The President has been very clear. We want the Cubans out. There are Iranians on the ground there. We want the Russians. We want everyone out so that the Venezuelan people can get the democracy they deserve, that includes Mr. Maduro leaving.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, when he says– the President says Putin is not looking to get involved at all in Venezuela, that is not the President accepting him at face value?
MIKE POMPEO: He’ll have to leave– he’ll have to live with–
MARGARET BRENNAN: He knows but that’s not the case?
MIKE POMPEO: The President has tweeted that he wants the Russians out of Venezuela.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, he was just putting a positive spin on things in that moment?
MIKE POMPEO: We are working very diligently to ensure that Maduro leaves and we get free and fair elections in Venezuela. That will require the 2,300 Cuban security personnel, frankly, the people closest to Maduro who are protecting the in-tight security for Maduro. They have got to leave. We’re working on that as well. We’re working with the Cubans to try and get an outcome that will let the Venezuelans have this opportunity.
MARGARET BRENNAN: On this– I know you will be meeting with the Russian foreign minister in the coming days. Is there a deal to be struck with Russia on this front? I mean Russia benefits, right, by having Venezuelan oil off the market, by having a level of influence in America’s backyard. Is the U.S. going to negotiate a deal with Russia on Venezuela?
MIKE POMPEO: I’ll certainly bring up Venezuela. It will be one of many topics that Foreign Minister Lavrov and I speak– speak about, whether there is a particular deal that can be reached, only time will tell.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senator from South Carolina, who I know you know well, tweeted this week, “Cuba, Russia send troop to prop up Maduro on Venezuela while we talk and have sanctions. Where is our aircraft carrier?” He seems to be calling a bluff here on your mention and mention from others that military options aren’t off the table. What is actually being considered here, because you can’t refer to the use of military force lightly? Is there an actual option that you are considering deploying in the coming days?
MIKE POMPEO: Oh, goodness. The President has made clear that no option is off the table. We worked this week to further the planning so that we’d have a wide range of options, diplomatic options, political options, options that would involve the Department of Defense. We have made clear the President has–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that hospital shifts or that’s actual offensive action?
MIKE POMPEO: There will be many options that we will fully bake, make sure they’re ready, get laid out in exquisite detail that are executable so that when the situation changes on the ground or the President makes a conclusion that it’s path he wants to go down that these options are prepared for him. We would’t want to be flat-footed and we have worked diligently to make sure that that capability–a wide range of capabilities are prepared to be executed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And just final point on this. Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader that the U.S. backs and many other countries recognize is a legitimate leader, has said that he, essentially, miscalculated the level of support in assuming the military would back him or break away from Maduro. Are you still saying a military option is on the table when the opposition leader we’re backing can’t get the support of his country’s military?
MIKE POMPEO: Well, he didn’t get it that day. Although the senior intelligence official left. It’s not the case that military haven’t left. There have been lots of Venezuelan military that have departed. But–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Not enough to make that successful.
MIKE POMPEO: Not yet. We’re not there yet. We won’t be successful until the day that we are. We are determined to see that the Venezuelan people have their democracy, as are 54 other nations, including most every nation in the region. They understand that three million refugees, three million migrants that have departed Venezuela and another two million this year is unacceptable for their region and they are working to build out a coalition to support the Venezuelan people and their democracy.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Mr. Secretary, I’m told we have to leave it there. Thank you for coming in.
MIKE POMPEO: Thank you, Ma’am.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the number-two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois. He joins us this morning from Chicago. Senator, I– I want to get to a number of these domestic issues with you, but I do know you had visited Venezuela within the past few years. Do you support the administration’s approach here?
SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D-Illinois/Minority Whip/@SenatorDurbin): Well, I support their approach, but I don’t agree with Lindsey Graham. I am not in favor of military intervention, but I– I can just tell you that I listened to Secretary of State Pompeo trying to explain this President’s conversation with Vladimir Putin, and I just don’t get it. This President is totally dazzled by Vladimir Putin, by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, by authoritarian leaders in countries like Brazil. He gets on the phone with them and he loses it, gets all googly eyed, over their assertions they have nothing to do with what’s going on in Venezuela. Listen to what John Bolton says; listen to what– even what Secretary of State Pompeo said. Russia has sent at least a planeload full of these little green men that we’ve seen in Eastern Ukraine and they are destabilizing the situation there. They’re there to– to support Maduro. They don’t want to see the change that the American people want to see and that’s to have a free election in that country, and a choice of someone democratically.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Now to the question of Russian election interference in this country’s election in 2016, which is, of course, what prompted the mush– Mueller report and what brings us to where we are right now with the attorney general testifying to Congress about his description of that to the public. Speaker Pelosi said this week that A.G. Barr lied. Do you agree with her?
SENATOR DICK DURBIN: Well, I don’t know what other conclusion you can reach. I asked him the question, point blank, and Charlie Crist of Florida asked him, “Well, is there any effort by the people who worked on the Mueller staff and such to raise questions about the accuracy of what you said in your letter.” And he said, “No, I don’t know.” And the fact is he’d received a letter from Bob Mueller just a few days before that explicitly said, in writing, the concerns which he had with the characterizations by Attorney General Barr. I don’t know any other way to characterize it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Let’s listen to that exchange that you just referenced.
CHARLIE CRIST (April 9): Reports have emerged recently, General, that members of the special counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they’re referencing with that?
WILLIAM BARR (Attorney General/April 9): No, I don’t. I think– I think– I suspect that they probably wanted, you know, more put out.
SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (April 10): Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?
WILLIAM BARR: I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusions.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That was Congressman Crist and then Senator Van Hollen. Those questions that you are saying you view as a lie. Republicans, defenders of Attorney General Barr say, “No, no. This was a– a matter of answering the question regarding members of Mueller’s own team disagreeing, not saying that he was not aware that the special counsel personally objected.” Why don’t you buy that excuse?
SENATOR DICK DURBIN: I don’t buy it at all. Let’s be honest about it. Attorney General Barr not only received that letter from Bob Mueller, saying in writing that he disagreed with the attorney general’s characterization of the Mueller report, he then had a telephone conversation with him to follow and to say he wasn’t aware of Mueller’s misgivings about his characterization. That is at– at the minimum misleading, if not worse deception, to the American people.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Now, you did have a chance to ask some questions of attorney– the Attorney General, yourself. The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham has since issued a letter saying that– offering Robert Mueller the chance to testify, specifically, about this phone call in conversation with the Attorney General. Do you expect him to testify and– and if he declines, do you consider that a closed matter?
SENATOR DICK DURBIN: Well, I hope it is not a closed matter because there’s so many unanswered questions. Remember there are two volumes to the Mueller Report. The first volume deals with Russian interference in our election. Much of that is redacted. We need to know what they did which led to the indictment of Russians by Mueller and led to, I hope, a– a new resolve by the United States to never let it happen again. But–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, do you expect him to testify? Take Lindsey Graham up on that offer?
SENATOR DICK DURBIN: Well, I would take him up on it but I asked him point blank on the record on Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, “are we going to have Bob Mueller before this committee?” And he said no. As far as he was concerned it was over. If he’s opened the door now to bring in Bob Miller– Bob Mueller, good. I believe he should testify not only about the first volume on Russian interference but, clearly, about his conclusions or lack of conclusions on obstruction of justice.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You wrote an op-ed recently challenging the Attorney General and saying he should recuse himself from a number of the related investigations that have sprung off the Special Counsel’s probe itself. Are you suggesting that the Attorney General would meddle in ongoing investigations regarding the President?
SENATOR DICK DURBIN: I’m not going to suggest that. But I’ll tell you this, for the sake of justice and in light of what we’ve seen in the rollout of Bob Barr, or Bill Barr’s rollout of this Mueller Report, he should recuse himself. Fourteen different matters are being investigated because the Mueller in– inquiry, the Mueller investigation and Mister Barr should not be a hindrance or raise any questions about whether this is going to be a– an investigation and a prosecution with total integrity. He has raised that question because of his characterization of Mueller testimony.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, should he resign?
SENATOR DICK DURBIN: Well, I– I’ve not called for resignation. Some of my colleagues have. But recusal? Yes. He should withdraw himself from any of the results that are leading– could possibly lead to prosecutions because of the Mueller investigation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But aren’t you concerned that this could just you know in some ways strengthen the President’s decision to take this as a fighting matter, make this a matter of partisan politics. He clearly feels that the Mueller report, in his words, exonerated him and that this is a fight he wants to have in the public space.
SENATOR DICK DURBIN: Well, the Mueller Report expressly said it was neither exonerating him nor finding him guilty. And that’s what led to the conclusion by Mister Barr and Mister Rosenstein when it came to the obstruction of justice. But as far as I am concerned there is work to be done on the Mueller Report in Volume 1 to protect us from Russian interference.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SENATOR DICK DURBIN: The fact that the President of the United States had this conversation with Vladimir Putin, within the last several days, and didn’t raise this issue after the Mueller report, what is he thinking? We don’t want to relive what happened in 2016 in the United States. The Russians ought to take their hands off of our election process.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, thank you for joining us this morning.
SENATOR DICK DURBIN: Thanks.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re joined– we will be joined in a minute with Congressman Doug Collins. He’s a top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. So, stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re back now with Congressman Doug Collins. He’s the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and joins us from Warner Robins in his home state of Georgia. Good morning to you. Have you read the full 400-plus pages of the Mueller report?
REPRESENTATIVE DOUG COLLINS (R-Georgia/@RepDougCollins/Judiciary Committee Ranking Member): Yeah. Good morning, Margaret. Yes, I have. And I’ve also read what Bill Barr actually– let us go back and he actually opened it up even more and I have went to the Department of Justice and read the less redacted report which means that of the whole report I have read all of it except a little less than 2%, almost 1% of the report.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And that is what the Democrats on your committee are calling for to be made public and, in fact, there is this threat of holding the attorney general in contempt if he doesn’t share more information and underlying evidence. Do you expect him to be held in contempt?
REPRESENTATIVE DOUG COLLINS: It’s really interesting, Margaret, what’s happened here. I mean a little over sixteen days ago the chairman asked for this material. He knows that he can’t get it in a normal oversight proceeding, but, yet, he’s continuing on and now with pressure, it seems like from his own side they are going to move to contempt over not producing the documents, not showing up. This is about the documents. But if you go back to any other press before Eric Holder, you know (INDISTINCT) or others. This is a longer process. We’re looking at sixteen days or a little over that to actually go to a contempt report on information that he knows he can’t get. My question to the Chairman is why don’t he go down– why doesn’t he read what’s already available and then if he wants more, then work with the Department of Justice to figure this out instead of having the public show of contempt and trying to discredit Bill Barr.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But, Democrats would say if they look at it and can’t talk about it publicly, then that’s not fair. But on top of this are you disappointed that the Attorney General didn’t come before your committee so you could have this conversation?
REPRESENTATIVE DOUG COLLINS: I’m very disappointed that my chairman let that happen. I wanted to actually talk to Bill Barr. He had that opportunity. And the day before he was in the Senate and in the Senate for over six hours and even did a double round of questions from Democrats. Bill Barr is not afraid of testifying. Bill Barr is frankly– has already said he will testify. He just didn’t want to be part of a show in which the Democrats who have not brought up impeachment because they know they can’t– in fact, I have a question for you, Margaret. Why would you impeach a president except for the– what is found out– because Mueller said there was no collusion, there was no obstruction. I mean, at this point– I mean, you– he is– we have the best economy we’ve had in years, 50 years of unemployment. What were you impeaching him for?
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re going to talk about that.
REPRESENTATIVE DOUG COLLINS: And I think they want to make it look like impeachment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re going to talk about that more with you.
REPRESENTATIVE DOUG COLLINS: They want to make it look like impeachment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re going to have to take a quick commercial break and I want to talk to you more about that on the other side of it so please stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Be sure to join us next Sunday. We’ll have an interview with Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. That’s next week on FACE THE NATION.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but we will be right back with more from Republican Congressman Doug Collins of Georgia. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We want to continue our conversation with the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Georgia Congressman Doug Collins. Congressman, let’s pick up where we left off. In terms of the Attorney General’s testimony and the questions about the accuracy and truthfulness of his accounts to the public and Congress we now know, because it became public, that the special counsel himself wrote a letter dated March 27th saying, quote, “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine the central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.” Do you want the special counsel to appear and explain exactly what he was objecting to here?
REPRESENTATIVE DOUG COLLINS: We’ve already asked for the special counsel to come, Margaret. We did that over a month ago because we believe, you know, actually he is the fact witness here. He was the one that conducted the hearing– the investigation over two years spending mult– you know, well over thirty million dollars, had all the assets in place with a grand jury and everything. He’s the one that is the central figure here. But the one thing he said in that letter I think is worth–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But do you know what he was objected– objecting to in that letter because you seem to be defending the attorney general?
REPRESENTATIVE DOUG COLLINS: Well, I think if you read the letter you see what he is concerned about. He is concerned about the public perception a la what has happened through the press on how it was–
MARGARET BRENNAN: He didn’t–
REPRESENTATIVE DOUG COLLINS: –being port– portrayed. When you– when you look at it–
MARGARET BRENNAN: The quote was as I read it–
REPRESENTATIVE DOUG COLLINS: –what he is saying is a roll out–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –there, Sir.
REPRESENTATIVE DOUG COLLINS: I read it and I read the letter as well in– in totality in which he never disagreed with the conclusions of the attorney general. He– the conclusions were right. And as the attorney general has said, and also Mister Mueller said in that letter, he was concerned about how it was put out. He thought there might have been more put out at a certain time, and it was the attorney general’s job to actually make sure on how he was going to put that out for most of the folks in the public to see it. That was, I think, believe the difference if you take a strict reading of the letter.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. This is not the only hearing. In fact, there are many investigations, there are many subpoenas that have been issued to the administration and– and it seems that really you’re seeing an– a head-to-head clash between the congressional branch of government and the White House on many fronts. Is the refusal to comply worrisome to you that this is setting a precedent that undermines the oversight capabilities and charge of Congress?
REPRESENTATIVE DOUG COLLINS: No, it does not, because it’s happened with every administration. In fact, you know, during the Obama administration there was a lot of pushback. There was always a slow walk of– of information requested and sometimes a rescheduling of witnesses. This is something that goes on between the administration and the congressional branch at all times. Now I am very much in favor of congressional oversight, no matter who’s in the White House. And we have that proper role, but there is a give and take between the two. And I believe if, especially in the regards of what we’re seeing right now from our chairman, if the chairman would actually engage and then find a way to find accommodations–offer accommodations, do the things that have been done in the past, historically, instead of rushing to do a contempt or rushing to a press release or rushing to make a– an assumption, then I think we could actually get to the oversight that we need to have on this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, thank you for your time this morning.
We turn now to Congressman Eric Swalwell who joins us this morning from Mason City, Iowa, where he is campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. Welcome to FACE THE NATION, Congressman. I know you are very–
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL (D-California/Judiciary Committee/@ericswalwell): Good morning, thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You are very much involved as well with these hearings and these investigations. So let’s start there before we talk about your 2020 platform. This hearing that we were just talking about that the attorney general did not show up for in the center of the room, one of your Democratic colleagues put a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and an actual chicken. It, obviously, got a lot of press attention but is this really the tone that Democrats want to set?
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: Margaret, the– the tone we want to set is to highlight that America was attacked by the Russians in 2016. The basic function of a government is to protect its people from a foreign attack and we needed the attorney general to come to Congress, a separate branch of power and tell us what the Russians did who they worked with and what we could do next. And he chose not to show up and there’s going to be consequences for that. And that was highlighted by another colleague of mine. But the bigger issue here is he didn’t show up.
MARGARET BRENNAN: He didn’t show up. They argue over these procedural arguments in regard to having other lawyers, staff lawyers, question alongside congressmen like yourself. For you, you think this is just a refusal to comply because of what?
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: You know, Margaret, I don’t care if we asked him to meet us here in Mason City to tell us about what the Russians did. We are a separate branch of power and we have the right to ask so we can protect the American people. And again, I think this is more about not wanting to play an away game. He had a home game with the Senate with Chairman Graham. He didn’t do so well there, it looks like he lied to Congress, and he didn’t want to come the next day where he would face even more tough questions. And again the bigger picture here, if we are not able to protect our people from a foreign attack do we really actually have a government that can defend us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said– you seem to agree with Speaker Pelosi that the attorney general lied, specifically, here. What is it that you are taking issue with?
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: Well, first, he prejudged the report before he even became attorney general. I think he should have never been confirmed, but once confirmed should have recused. Second, he falsely accused the Obama administration of spying on the Trump campaign. Third, he mischaracterized at the press conference and to Congressman Christ what Bob Mueller’s view was on the report. And, finally and most importantly, he missed the deadline last week to give us the full Mueller report. There have to be consequences for that. For that reason I think you have to move this obstructor out of the way and I’m recommending that we impeach Attorney General Barr so that we can get the information we need to protect our country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you read all the Muller report?
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: Yes. There’s an eighth of it that I’m not allowed to read that I should be allowed to read.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, your leadership has the ability to read it but we know that there’s a– a reason for that objection. But I want to get to the point of the– the sweeping and systematic Russian interference that is laid out in the report is substantiated. But I know you have been talking because you are also in an intelligence role on that House committee saying a number of things that I want to quote back to you. Up until this point, you said when you were asked in January, “Do you believe the President right now has been an agent of the Russians?” You said, “Yes.” You were asked again at the end of that month by a questioner, “I’m still not hearing any evidence that he’s an agent of Russia.” And you said, “Yeah, I think it’s pretty clear it’s almost hiding in plain sight.” The Mueller report did not substantiate any conspiracy or coordination with Russia. Do you regret prejudging the outcome?
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: No, actually, I– I think I should have been louder, considering the top of your show and you talked about the phone call between Vladimir Putin and the President, at the President’s request. And– and, Margaret, the Mueller team was not even allowed to look at the financial entanglements. So, I think it’s really hard to draw a conclusion about conspiracy if they couldn’t look at the President’s tax returns. They couldn’t look at the President’s loans from the–
MARGARET BRENNAN: You still believe he’s an agent of Russia?
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: I think he acts on their behalf. I mean, again I think ten years from, now we are going to– we are going to look at what happened this week and we are going to say, “Are you kidding me?” After Russia attacked the United States, after the special counsel laid out two hundred pages of links between the Russians and the Trumps and how they tried to help him, our President instead of calling the Russian president saying, “don’t do this again,” he talked to him for an hour and a half and said that the Russian president was smiling. I mean, that is just nutty, Margaret. That is putting the Russian’s interests ahead of the United States’ interests.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This, along with other investigations, the administration is pushing back on. Given the level of pushback, do you think that this is stirring up enough frustration among Democrats that they might change the judgment and go ahead with impeachment? Do you support impeachment of the President?
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: This President is taking us down that road. It’s– it’s maybe the only road to save the country. But right now, you know, I’ll– I’ll tell you with the attorney general, I think we should move to impeach him first. Now, I’m– I’m a father of a– a two-year-old and a six-month-old. We’re going through the terrible twos. When my son misbehaves, we take a toy away. We know if we don’t do that he is only going to get worse. We have a really bad kid at the White House and unless we start showing that there are consequences for their actions, he is only going to get worse and the next kid, the next President, is going to look at what we did now and judge their actions based on whether there were consequences or not. So we have to start taking this President seriously and speaking the only lan– language they know, which is force and consequence.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you’re running for President. Day one, more sanctions on Russia?
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: Yes. But also day one is take the oath and go on a global affirmation tour to assure our NATO allies and others that we are still with them and we need them to be a check on Russia.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, more to talk about with you, but we’re going to have to leave it there.
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: I look forward to that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Pick that conversation up–
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL: Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –another time.
And we will be back with our political panel.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to our political panel. Byron York is the chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner, Shawna Thomas is the Washington Bureau chief for Vice News, Rachael Bade covers Congress for The Washington Post, and Michael Crowley is the White House and national security editor at Politico. Not for long, though, because congratulations, Michael, I know you’re headed to a new assignment for The New York Times to cover the White House.
MICHAEL CROWLEY (Politico/@michaelcrowley): Thank you. I’m excited. Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And hope to have you back at this table. Byron, good to see you.
BYRON YORK (Washington Examiner/@ByronYork): Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The speaker of the House says that the attorney general lied under oath. Did he?
BYRON YORK: I don’t think so. I think you could– if– if you look at the text of what the attorney general said in that exchange with Representative Crist, you played it earlier, if you look at the text, Bill Barr gave an accurate and very lawyerly answer. We’ve seen that in Congress before. He was asked about Robert Mueller’s team, about a news story that appeared in The New York Times right before about members of Mueller’s team had told associates that they were unhappy with the report. Specifically, said they didn’t know what Mueller himself thought. And Bob– Bill Barr said, look, I talked to Robert Mueller himself. I don’t know what his team said, and that’s why I answered the question. It was not forthcoming. It was narrow, but it was not a lie.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But the letter from the special counsel that became public this week underscores, it seems, at least some level of disagreement between the special counsel and the attorney general in the public portrayal.
BYRON YORK: I don’t think–
MARGARET BRENNAN: How do we make sense of that?
BYRON YORK: Well, I don’t think there is any– any doubt about that. I think Barr would say, look, there was intense public pressure when the– when the report was sent over to the Justice Department on March twenty-second. I had to get something out. So in a couple of days, I summarized the report’s principal conclusions. I didn’t characterize the whole report. Basically, he said that Mueller had found there was the evidence did not substantiate a charge of conspiracy, and that he chose not to exonerate the President on obstruction. And he included that in his letter. So, look, I think a two-page letter is not going to characterize a four-hundred-and-forty-eight-page report.
SHAWNA THOMAS (Vice News/@Shawna): But what this underscores, and I think also what Barr is hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee underscores is the need to hear from Mueller. There were so many questions that Attorney General Barr got that day. And what I was struck by was they were asking him to characterize Bob Mueller’s thoughts. And there was even one time where he says, I don’t want to characterize Bob’s thoughts about a question from a Democrat. And I think if– if Bob Mueller is willing to speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee, to a House committee, that whole thing, he can actually answer some of these questions that Barr got. And that can help figure out, you know, was it a lie? Was it not a lie? All of those things actually sort of rest on Bob Mueller.
RACHAEL BADE (Washington Post/@ rachaelmbade): There’s also the saying that, you know, if you’re explaining, you’re losing. So maybe, you know, Barr can go out there and try to explain, well, I thought the question was this or that, but Democrats feel they definitely have enough in terms of saying he lied. And it’s not just that comment, you know, he has now ignored two subpoenas from the House Democrats. He did not show up at a hearing that he was supposed to attend last week. And they have a whole list of grievances with him. And so we’re going to see them, it’s interesting with your interview with Swalwell, he talked about impeaching Barr. You know, the Judiciary Committee–
MICHAEL CROWLEY: –question about impeaching the President.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
RACHAEL BADE: Right, right. Well, there’s this debate going on about, do we just hold Barr in contempt of Congress? Because they are going to do that. It’s a matter of when, not if, but, you know, if they impeach Barr, does that make it harder for them to one day impeach the President? And there was a private conversation with some Judiciary Democrats last week where they actually debated that very thing. Can they impeach both? Or if they’re going to impeach anyone, they would want to impeach the President, not Barr. So it’s sort of an interesting how they handle that will be interesting to watch.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Any attempt to impeach is dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate. So what does this accomplish? To people at home it just sounds like more fighting in Washington.
RACHAEL BADE: Yeah. So I think with the Mueller report, the Democrats had– the House Democrats had a call right after the Mueller report came out. And the message was still the same: Do not talk about impeachment. Well, let’s talk about investigating the President. We’ll keep investigating him and see where it leads. But there was a turning point I feel like last week with a lot of Democrats when the President came out and said, “I am going to ignore all the subpoenas. That infuriated a whole bunch of Democratic investigators in the House. And that more than the Mueller report I would say has made more people start talking about impeachment. Now Pelosi is still pushing back on that, but she is feeling a lot of heat from her members right now, which I think is why you see her rhetoric become sharper and sharper accusing the President being worse than Nixon, for instance.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
RACHAEL BADE: But, you know, she’s going to have to find a way to sort of calm the caucus down if she doesn’t want to do impeachment, because a lot more Democrats are talking about it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Michael, is it a fair question? And itself a question I put to secretary of state, I’ll say that, but is it a fair question to ask why the President didn’t bring this up with Vladimir Putin given that it has been discussed, they have confronted him in some way through other channels? Does– in the wake of the Mueller report, should we have expected the President to have pushed Vladimir Putin?
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Well, I wouldn’t have expected it because at this point we know that the President just doesn’t want to talk about this. He doesn’t want to prioritize it in his relationship with Putin. And I– I find it, although, you know, strange on some level, also utterly unsurprising. And what’s more striking to me is, in general, the President’s tone toward Putin is just completely unchanged. So, in other words, it’s not that particular point about election interference and is he still pushing that. It’s that he’s still talking about trying to have a– a good relationship with Russia, speaking in generally positive terms about Putin, kind of describing this, you know, this kind of bon ami that they have between each other, this light rapport, joking around, Putin was smiling through the telephone, that kind of strange formulation the President used. And, you know, I do wonder if there is some part of Trump that now feels that all the Russia stuff is behind us and I can get back to work on this relationship with Putin. Now, Congress has really tied his hands, made it difficult for him to change U.S. policy. There’s still a lot Trump can do in terms of building relations with Putin, giving Putin more freedom around the world to act, his comments about Venezuela, although he said one thing verbally and another thing on Twitter, as Mike Pompeo pointed out, he can still make it easier for Putin to operate in Venezuela and elsewhere, places like Syria and the Middle East, if he wants to. So I would say beyond that particular question, which is very important, I am watching to see whether Trump now feels like he can resume this effort to develop some kind of relationship. And the last thing I’ll say, Margaret, very quickly, is Pompeo meeting with the Russian foreign minister to tee up a potential Trump-Putin meeting–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: –at the G20 summit in Japan this summer? I think that’s very possible.
BYRON YORK: Can I say one thing on– this Trump–
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re going to have to take a break and then finish. I’ll give you that thought on the other side of it.
So stay with us. We’ll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re back now with our political panel. Byron, start with you. I cut you off before the break.
BYRON YORK: Well, the–
MARGARET BRENNAN: We were talking about Russia and the President’s lack of confrontation with Putin.
BYRON YORK: Yeah. I mean the Trump-Putin show is a recurring show. Trump has consistently refused to publicly condemn Putin. It just happens over and over and over. I think he makes a mistake every time he does that. But with Trump, as with everything else, there are always two levels going on. There’s what the President says publicly and what the administration is doing. I was at a Hoover Institution event a few days ago, Stanford. Michael McFaul, who was the Obama administration’s ambassador to Russia, no fan of Trump at all, said, “I don’t see a big difference between the late Obama years and the early Trump years. I see more continuity along the three big dimensions: Strengthening NATO, punishing Russia for belligerent behavior, and strengthening Ukraine.” So there is always a two-level thing going on. And you do have to remember what the President’s administration is doing against Russia in addition to what he is saying.
SHAWNA THOMAS: But it also puts his administration in a weird position. I mean one of the things about Secretary Pompeo’s interview with you is he had to find himself either ignoring or explaining away the President of the United States. And you’re right, we see this happen over and over again and it’s worth paying attention to what the administration continues to do, but what does that say to our friends, our allies, the people who don’t like us around the world when the President continues to say one thing, but Secretary Pompeo and everyone else say something else. It is just confusing. And it– it isn’t– it isn’t clear. And the President’s words do matter in foreign affairs.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: And just one sentence on this. Now that the Mueller report is behind us and Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy at least to collude with Russia, will the President now feel more freedom to try to change U.S. policy? So that is behind us, what you just described. And I am just waiting to see what comes next. We may be in a different environment now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And I’m interested in what you said about potential meetings since the President has floated this idea of a nuclear deal with Russia and with China. So more to come on that front. Well, let’s turn back here to home. Rachael, in an interview with the New York Times, Speaker Pelosi said the best plan to defeat President Trump, not to impeach him, but is to win at the ballot box in 2020 but she said own the center left, own the mainstream. Is that a message being heard?
RACHAEL BADE: Yeah, it’s really interesting to see Pelosi, you know, for– for years we saw Republicans sort of paint her as this San Francisco liberal, you know, this bogeyman. And she more than any other leader in the Democratic Party is really taking a pragmatic approach to impeachment to 2020. She has pretty much put any notion of putting Medicare for All on the House floor to the side. They’re having hearings on that, but she’s not talking about it. She says calm down on impeachment. And this just shows the sort of cautious approach that she is taking when it comes to keeping her own majority and this fear that she has that, you know, her caucus could potentially overreach or being accused of overreaching when it comes to these investigations. And I– it could have a blowback not only on the House but, you know, potentially giving Trump a second term, which is the last thing that she wants. I– I also think it’s interesting to look at the Republicans side, too. Because, you know, you asked Collins about if he had any concerns about precedent here–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
RACHAEL BADE: –and about Trump stonewalling all these investigations. You know, I covered– his response was something along the lines of, oh, every administration does this. And it is true. There’s always a tug-of-war between, you know, the House and– and the White House. But I– I covered the IRS scandal and the Benghazi investigation, and the White House, the Obama White House that hated those investigations, they gave over a ton of information. They let people do depositions. And so it’s really interesting to see that Republicans don’t have any concerns about precedent here, because they’re actually going to be undercutting potentially themselves in the future when there is a Democrat in the White House and they regain control of the House.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Byron, why isn’t there more concern about that?
BYRON YORK: You know I am actually a little mystified at Pelosi’s behavior. She has been putting the brakes on this a lot on– on– on impeachment talks. She knows a lot of her base wants it. And a lot of senior Democrats, like Pelosi, believe that impeaching Bill Clinton was political suicide–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
BYRON YORK: –for Republicans back in 1998. And, in fact, in 1998, Republicans thought they were going to pick up seats in the House with impeachment, and they didn’t. They actually lost a few seats. But they won control of the House. And after impeaching Clinton, they won control of the House in ’98, 2000, 2002, and 2004, and when they lost in 2006, it had nothing to do with Bill Clinton. And in addition, they won the White House in 2000 and 2004. Impeachment was not political suicide for Republicans, and I think actually Nancy Pelosi has a difficult case to make to her base on that.
SHAWNA THOMAS: But Nancy Pelosi also says, and– and I think this came up in that phone call that they had right after the Mueller report came out but all the Democrats were scattered throughout the country because of the recess, that some of the things we remember from– from the Nixon situation, the hearings, John Dean talking, all that stuff, weren’t impeachment hearings. They were hearings about the investigation, and they were hearings about what was going on.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SHAWNA THOMAS: And that her point was we can get our version of the Mueller report out into the world, because we know lots of people aren’t going to actually read it. We can do that through committee hearings. We can do that through hearings without quite going as far as impeachment when we know we are going to lose that argument in the Se– in the Senate. So I think what she’s focused on is, like, how– what is the PR way to do this? Like, can we get all this? Can we get Mueller out in front of it?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SHAWNA THOMAS: Can we do all that and not have to call it impeachment?
RACHAEL BADE: The problem there, though, is that, you know, with the President doing the stonewalling of Congress, the Democrats, that plan is going up in smoke right now. I mean, they wanted to put Don McGahn–
SHAWNA THOMAS: Not if Bob Mueller.
RACHAEL BADE: Well, Bob Mueller is one thing. And it sounds like he is going to appear before the House at some point here in the next couple of weeks, but Don McGahn, for instance, was a key witness in the Mueller investigation and, specifically, on questions of obstruction of justice.
SHAWNA THOMAS: Right.
RACHAEL BADE: But the White House is saying they’re not going to let him appear, so that whole plan of investigating and laying it out for the public it’s sort of shot right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we will see. The special counsel does testify. It will be much watched– must-watch television.
We will be right back with the other part of this must-watch television in a moment.
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