CBS NEWS’ “FACE THE NATION” INTERVIEW WITH SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL)
JOHN DICKERSON: And we begin this morning with Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who joins us from Miami.
JOHN DICKERSON: The president has called the investigations a witch hunt. What’s your opinion of that?
MARCO RUBIO: Well, I know he feels very strongly about it. My advice to the president is what I communicated publicly. The way I’ve tried to communicate to everyone on this issue. And that is this. It is in the best interest of the president and the country to have a full investigation.
I really – If I were the president, I would be welcoming this investigation. I would ask that it be thorough and completed expeditiously and be very cooperative with it. That’s what ultimately I anticipate they will do. That’s in the best interest of the president. I really believe that. I think it’s in the best interest of our country that we have a full-scale investigation that looks at everything so that we can move forward.
JOHN DICKERSON: So regardless of what you may think about James Comey’s firing as F.B.I. director, you think it should be investigated?
MARCO RUBIO: Well, I just think it’s important to answer questions. Because otherwise, if people have any doubts, it undermines confidence in our system of government, in our elections, in our leaders. As I said, I – the best thing that can happen for the president and for America is that we have a full-scale investigation that is credible, that it reaches its conclusion one way or the other so that we can move on. But at the same time be knowledgeable. We have to know everything the Russians did and how they did it so that we can prevent this from happening in the future.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about what the Russians did. You voted for the sanctions bill in the Senate that would punish the Russians for that meddling. Do you think the president will sign that when it gets to him?
MARCO RUBIO: I hope so. It’s important to send that message, that this is – as I said, that this is not acceptable. And I remember back in October when those leaks came out and I was, I think, one of the few Republicans in the country that wouldn’t discuss WikiLeaks. Because I don’t want that to be a part of our system here.
We can simply not allow foreign governments to be meddling and interfering in our elections that way, but they’re going to keep doing it. They’re doing it now. They’ll keep doing it in the future. We need to know how they do it so that Americans are more knowledgeable about that and take that into account when making their decisions at the ballot box.
JOHN DICKERSON: When you were running for the Senate, you talked about the Senate being a check against the administration, whoever was going to be president. Do you see this Russian sanctions bill in that form? In other words, the administration seems reluctant to punish Russia for this. The Senate is stepping in and saying that, “Well, we’re going to punish Russia.” Is that a check essentially on the administration?
MARCO RUBIO: It is but not perhaps for the reasons people think. A lot of people – It has nothing to do with the investigation per se. It’s more along the lines of the secretary of state believes that he wants to explore the opportunity to get Russia to be more cooperative on a number of issues.
It’s a foreign policy view that they have. And so they think that these sanctions may undermine that effort. And while I respect that point of view and have considered it, ultimately I think it’s incredibly important for us to make clear that there are consequences for doing what they did during the 2016 election. And that’s why I supported these sanctions.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about Cuba. Speaking of consequences, there are new provisions the president has put in place to put pressure on Cuba for its human rights record. But when the president– go ahead.
MARCO RUBIO: Go ahead. I’m sorry. No, no. I wouldn’t view it just as putting pressure. I really don’t. I think this is an effort to strengthen individual Cubans. Understand what this does. This basically says that American travelers to Cuba, they’ll continue to fly on commercial airlines or get there in a cruise.
But when they get there, they have to spend their money primarily with individual Cubans who own private businesses, which is what everybody who supported the Obama opening was always bragging about. They were saying there was all these new small businesses. Well, we want to put them in a privileged position.
And so American travelers to Cuba will have to spend their money with them instead of the Cuban military. That was the goal of this, is to empower individual Cubans to be economically independent of the Castro military and of the Castro regime.
JOHN DICKERSON: But when the president gave his speech, he said that, “We will not lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until all political prisoners are freed.” He talked about freedom of assembly. He talked about all political parties being legalized. So I guess what I was interested in is that when he went to Saudi Arabia, he said he’s not going to lecture Saudi Arabia about its considerable human rights challenges and what’s happening in Yemen that Saudi Arabia is funding. And I wondered if you could square for us on the one hand a very public lecturing of the Cubans and no lecturing of countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and how you see that.
MARCO RUBIO: Yeah. Well, a couple points. First of all, what you talked about, not lifting sanctions until they have elections, that’s actually the law. That’s the law of the United States. It’s codified under Helms-Burton. It says that. The embargo goes away when they meet these conditions. And you’ve outlined them. And the president outlined them.
As far as squaring the two, obviously the administration will have to do that because I criticize Saudi Arabia as well. In fact, I – I take a backseat to no one on criticizing them or anybody in the world when it comes to human rights and the violations or lack of democracy.
I will say this, however. This is in our region. This is 90 miles from our shores. The western hemisphere 35 years ago was largely controlled by dictators. Basically every nation in this region has had a free and fair election at some point over the last 20 or 15 years except for one. And that’s the island of Cuba.
So in our region, in our own backyard, we are not going to allow tyranny and dictatorship to grow and to surge. We want the people of Cuba to have the same opportunities the people in the Dominican Republican have had, the people in Haiti just had, the people of Colombia have. And that is to be able to vote for their leaders.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about domestically the issue of health care. Your Republican colleague Senator Ron Johnson said, “I want to know exactly what’s in the Senate bill. It’s not a good process.” What’s your assessment of the process of evaluating health care in the Senate?
MARCO RUBIO: Yeah, it’s always tough because it’s difficult to put something like this together, in – you know, in front of every camera in the world. But ultimately every camera in the world’s going to have to see what’s in it. And we’re going to have to have plenty of time to debate it.
So I have no problem with a group of people meeting to conduct a proposal. But ultimately that proposal cannot be rushed to the floor. And I don’t think the Senate rules would permit it. So it’s fine if they’re working on the starting point. But ultimately we’re all going to see what’s in it.
The whole world is going to see what’s in it. And then the rest of us or all of us are going to have an opportunity to make changes to it as a condition of our vote. And so that’s the way I view this. This is not the – The Senate is not a place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote on the floor. There’s just – Especially on an issue like this. So the first step in this may be crafted among a small group of people, but then everyone’s going to get to weigh in. And it’s going to take – you know it’s going to take days and weeks to work through that in the Senate.
JOHN DICKERSON: Finally, senator, the shooting this week in Washington. What do you think is the lesson in the aftermath of the?
MARCO RUBIO: Well, I mean, the only person to blame for that shooting is that person who did it, who is obviously someone who had big problems both mentally and other – behaviorally. That said, I do think it’s an important moment for us to understand that violence is the opposite of dialogue.
And we in this nation have the first amendment. And while the law continues to protect the first amendment, I think we have to ask ourselves whether we are culturally cracking down on free speech, where we’ve reached the point now where we’re blocking people from speaking because we disagree with them.
You know, it’s funny on the one hand to hear people say, “We should be engaging in dialogue with Raul Castro,” and yet you have mainstream politicians in the United States being boycotted at graduation speeches across America. We cannot have a whole generation of young Americans growing up to believe that if you disagree with someone’s points of view, the way to do it is to try to shut them down.
I’m not saying that’s the shooting. I am say that we have to be as a nation capable of debating issues on the merits of the issues without dehumanizing or demonizing the person on the other side. You and I can disagree on the right approach to Cuba, taxes, or health care. I don’t have to go around telling you you’re a evil human being for what you believe in.
Because once you convince someone that the other side is evil, that I think in the minds of a deranged individual is an invitation to commit a violent act against them. I’m not blaming the shooting on any Democrats or the left. I’m just telling you both sides need to think about that as we move forward.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Senator Marco Rubio, thanks so much for being with us.
MARCO RUBIO: Thank you, John. Thank you.
CBS NEWS’ “FACE THE NATION” INTERVIEW WITH SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT)
DICKERSON: Joining us now is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He’s in Burlington. Senator Sanders, I want to start with this week’s shooting. In talking to Senator Rubio, he said, “Obviously this was – the man who did the shooting is responsible for his own actions.” But in the wake of that and his conversation about what leads to the heated political atmosphere, Senator Sanders- Senator Rubio pointed out that when people try to stop free speech, stop people from talking, it creates pressure in the system that might cause people to act out. What do you think of that theory?
SANDERS: I think he’s right. Look. Freedom of speech, the right to dissent, the right to protest, that is what America is about. And politically every leader in this country and every American has got to stand up against any form of violence. That is unacceptable. And I certainly hope and pray that Representative Scalise has a fully recovery from the tragedy that took place this week.
DICKERSON; There’s been a lot of protests on campuses when people come to speak. They’ve been– People have protested and said they shouldn’t be allowed to speak. Where do you come down on that in the context of this put pressure on free speech?
SANDERS:I think people have a right to speak. And you have a right if you’re on a college campus not to attend. You have a right to ask hard questions about the speaker if you disagree with him or her. But what- why should we be afraid of somebody coming on a campus or anyplace else and speaking? You have a right to protest. But I don’t quite understand why anybody thinks it’s a good idea to deny somebody else the right to express his or her point of view. I think, John, what is very clear is we are at a contentious and difficult political moment in our country’s history. I have very grave concerns about the Trump agenda right now. We will — We are looking. We’re not looking. There’s a health care proposal in the Senate which nobody has seen yet. But the proposal that passed the House, as you know, would throw 23 million Americans off of health insurance. I mean, that to me is just incredible. It would raise premiums very significantly for older workers. It would defund Planned Parenthood and deny 2.5 million women the right to get the health care that they want, cut Medicaid by over $800 billion. You know, we- I and I would the vast majority of the American people have strong disagreements with that approach. But you don’t have to be violent about it. Let’s disagree openly and honestly. But violence is not acceptable.
DICKERSON:I want to get to the details of that health care plan in a moment or the details you don’t know at the moment. But let me just, staying on this question here, is anything going to change in the wake of this in Washington at least in the way lawmakers deal with each other? And is there something that should change?
SANDERS:I think, and, again, where this is such a strange moment is we are looking at a lot of dishonest news that comes across where people are lying outrageously about other people. And I hope that folks on all sides could say, “Look, I disagree with him or her, but that is an outrageous lie.” Let us, on the other hand, to be frank, there are real differences of opinion that exist in Congress. It’s not like, you mentioned Marco Rubio. I like Marco Rubio. But we disagree on issues. And people should understand it’s not that there’s all kinds of hatred in the Congress.
There’s a fundamental disagreement. President Trump made- brought forth a budget which will go nowhere. But this is a budget that over a 10-year period would give $3 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1 percent, the very wealthiest families in America, while making massive cuts in education, in health care, in nutrition programs. Really devastate the working class of this country. I disagree with that. But obviously that debate has got to be played out based on the facts. And let’s debate it.
DICKERSON: Let me move here now to health care. You mentioned some of the policy differences. But there is a procedural debate going on about how this is being handled in the Senate. Some Democrats are suggesting because the- because you don’t know what’s in the bill and the bill’s being worked on in secret to just stop all Senate business, to just shut the place down as a way to kind of force play. Are you onboard with that?
SANDERS: John, here is the situation. We know the legislation that passed the House. It was the worst piece of legislation frankly against working class people that I can remember in my political life in the Congress. Throwing 23 million people off of health insurance is beyond belief. Now, in the Senate what you have is you have I believe it is 10 Republicans working behind closed doors to address 1/6th of the American economy. That’s what health care is. Republicans. The average Republican doesn’t even know what’s in that legislation. My understanding is that it will be brought forth just immediately before we have to vote on it. This is completely unacceptable. I mean, nobody can defend a process which will impact tens of millions of Americans and nobody even knows what’s in the legislation. And, John, the important point here is the reason they don’t want to bring it public is because it is a disastrous bill. I suspect similar to what passed in the House. Who is going to defend cutting Medicaid by $800 billion at the same time as you give massive tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent? So they want to keep it secret. They don’t want the media involved. They don’t want members of Congress involved. And in the last minute, they present it. They push it through. And that is 1/6th of the American economy and millions of people thrown off of health insurance. That is unacceptable. I believe Democrats should do everything they can to oppose that legislation in any way that we can.
DICKERSON: All right. Senator Sanders, we are at our last. So thanks so much for being with us. And we’ll be back in one minute.
CBS NEWS’ “FACE THE NATION” INTERVIEW WITH JAY SEKULOW
JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to Face the Nation. We’re joined now by Jay Sekulow, he’s a member of the president’s legal team and Chief Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. Mr. Sekulow I want to start this morning with the president’s tweet
JAY SEKULOW: Sure.
DICKERSON: In which he wrote, “I’m being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt!” What’s he talking about?
SEKULOW: The president issued that tweet on social media because of the report in the Washington Post from five anonymous sources none of which, of course, anyone knows about, alleging that the president was under investigation in this purported expanded probe. The fact of the matter is the president has not been and is not under investigation. So this was his response, via twitter, via social media was in response to the Washington Post piece with five anonymous sources. And by the way John the five anonymous sources, they don’t even identify the agencies upon which these individuals reportedly worked. So the response there is clear andI want be really clear about this. The president is not and has not been under investigation.
How do you know?
SEKULOW: Because we’ve received no notice of investigation. There has been no notification from the special counsel’s office that the president is under investigation. In fact, to the contrary. What we know is what James Comey said, the last thing we know is when he testified just a couple weeks back. That the President was not and is not a target of investigation.
DICKERSON: Of course, there have been events since James Comey told them that. But is it your view and just to educate viewers that- that if you were under investigation, there would be an obligation for the special counsel to let you know. Couldn’t you be under investigation and they’re just not letting you know yet?
SEKULOW: Well, look, I- I can’t imagine a scenario where the president would not be aware of it. Number one, there is a serious constitutional issue here. I mean I want you to think about the context upon which this would take place. Under the Washington Post theory of the case, this is the Washington Post theory, that the president of the United States, after being advised by his Attorney General and the office of the Deputy Attorney General, determined to remove James Comey from the FBI directorship. If the Washington Post leaks were correct, the President of the United States, would be, if this was correct, would be under investigation for taking the action that the Department of Justice asked him to take. That raises not only a serious – not even a serious constitutional question, it’s an easy constitutional questions. That’s impossible. The President can not be investigated, or certainly can not be found liable for engaging in a activity he clearly has power to do under the constitution.
DICKERSON: Powers to fire the FBI director and let me ask you this question–
SEKULOW: James Comey acknowledge that by the way John. James Comey said he served at the pleasure of the president.
DICKERSON: More broadly the big question really is: Did the president interfere in any way in the investigation that James Comey was undertaking?
SEKULOW: No, in fact he said to the contrary, remember in part of the interviews that he’s given he acknowledged that when he removed James Comey, especially during the Lester Holt Interview, when you read the entire context the transcript of that interview he acknowledged that by firing James Comey as FBI director the President acknowledged that he would in fact probably extend the nature and length of the scope of the FBI, the special counsel probe.
But he thought it would be best for the American people and look, I’ve got the letter—
DICKERSON: Let me ask you—
SEKULOW: And the two letters from both the—it’s important here. The FBI director was removed after a deliberative process and in part based on, of course, the statements coming from his own Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General who said, and I want to read this, “As a result the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges to never repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors the director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective changes.” So, this is not coming out of whole cloth.
DICKERSON: Let me ask—
SEKULOW: This is coming out of recommendation. Yes, sir.
DICKERSON: The President said he would speak under oath about all this. That, I assume, is still true?
SEKULOW: Yeah, the President was very clear about that. He said if he was asked to do it he would. That’s been asked and addressed. Again–
DICKERSON: Would he do it with Congress-
SEKULOW: I want to be clear here–
DICKERSON: Would he? Because when you’ve got this investigation going on, it takes a long time, he could kind of short-circuit by just going up to Congress. Senator Graham and others have called him to testify in front of Congress. Could that get at this faster?
SEKULOW: Well, that doesn’t short-circuit anything. There’s multiple tracks of investigation going on here, which is problematic because once the special counsel was appointed it changes the nature of who can and who will not participate before Congress. So, I haven’t discussed that with the president at all. He stated he would testify under oath. He didn’t specify the venue. We’ll just leave that as it is. Again, there are multiple tracks of investigation, but again, I want to be clear here, the President is not under investigation. James Comey said it. Nothing has changed since then.
DICKERSON: The president said last week he would release the tapes of – if there were tapes – of his conversation this week. That hasn’t happened. Where is that?
SEKULOW: I think the president is going to address that in the week ahead. There was a lot of issues this past week. The President gave a major address in Cuba, but we had the assassination attempt of Steve Scalise. There were a lot of intervening factors. So the issue of the tapes, I think right now was not priority issue number one when the country was facing an assassination attempt on Steve Scalise and other members of Congress and their staffs by the way. And our thoughts and prayers are still with him. I know he’s still in a very difficult situation. But also, he gave a major address in the situation in Cuba and the attempt there to reconcile and redraft a policy that makes sense so the president has a lot of issues and I think it shows that the president is concentrating on governing. This issue will be addressed in due course and I suspect next week.
DICKERSON: Alright Jay Sekulow. Thanks so much.
SEKULOW: Thank you for having me.
CBS NEWS’ “FACE THE NATION” JOHN DICKERSON’S NOTEBOOK: ENDING POLITICAL HATE REQUIRES MORE THAN HOPE
JOHN DICKERSON: After Wednesday’s shooting, Congressman Gary Palmer said, “our Republic is in danger” and that we are “fraying at the edges.” Congressman Rodney Davis said, “the way we talk to each other has to change. The political hate has to end.”
It’s not the words we use, it’s what’s in our hearts. We are meaner than we used to be. According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of both parties see the other in “very unfavorable” terms, a view that has doubled since 1994. We used to think our opponents were just wrong. Now, a lot more of us think they are evil. Politics defines more of our lives, which means this is all more personally felt.
The political system uses hate to motivate voters. No fundraising letter or “get out the vote” flier starts: “Hey, the other guy has a point.” Instead, the other guy is “corrupt,” and “heartless.” In debates — in social, partisan and mainstream media — if you are skilled at pointing out dark motives in your opponents, the market will reward you.
We can stop applauding this, and we can stop taking the bait. We can start acting in the ways we praise after a tragedy: recognizing our common humanity, acting with restraint, assuming good motives. Your opponents have families just like you do, who would worry about them in a crisis. Their kids amaze and confuse them, just like yours do.
Lumping people into groups steals the humanity we recognize in times of tragedy. Judging motives off the bat starts conversation in the gutter. This doesn’t mean ending the battle of ideas. It means returning to ideas, and not being lazy and defining other people by the left, or the right, or “your ilk.”
Let’s hope lawmakers are successful toning down the hate. But we can do more than hope. We can act and we must, because we are all part of the problem.