Full transcript of “Face the Nation,” Jan. 7, 2024


On this “Face the Nation” broadcast, moderated by Margaret Brennan: 

  • House Speaker Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana
  • Former Rep. Liz Cheney
  • 2024 GOP hopeful Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis 
  • Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland

Click here to browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”    


MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation: We traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border for a firsthand look at what a growing number of Americans are calling a crisis.

Plus, an in-depth conversation with the new speaker of the House, Mike Johnson.

It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and our CBS News polling shows that many Americans in each party are uneasy about the prospects of a peaceful transfer of power in future elections, with half the country expecting there will be violence from the side that loses.

Our polling also shows that three in four Americans see the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border as either a crisis or a very serious situation. That 45 percent is a notable increase. Both of those issues, democracy and immigration, are dominating the campaign trail as we head into the last week before the first votes in the 2024 election are taken in Iowa.

But first: We traveled to Eagle Pass, Texas, last week and caught up with House Speaker Mike Johnson, who led a delegation of 64 Republican members of Congress to the Texas-Mexico border on a fact-finding tour.

(Begin VT)

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON (R-Louisiana): We have a humanitarian catastrophe here, and, of course, huge national security concerns.

What we saw is in – in some ways difficult to describe, just the magnitude of the chaos here, of the number of lives that are adversely affected, the, you know, minor children that are being trafficked into the country, and fentanyl overdoses and poisoning that has been a scourge on the country.

These are transnational, dangerous criminal organizations. And the maddening thing about it is that the White House is allowing all this. These are policy choices that – that created this chaos. And it is thus policy choices that could change it. And that’s what we’re trying…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which policy choices do you think need to be changed?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Well, on his first day in office, President Biden came in and issued executive orders that began this chaos.

Remain-in-Mexico is – is one of them. The – the catch-and-release program has created part of this problem. You could end catch-and-release.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you need the logistical and financial support to be able to do that.

Congress has the purse strings to give them the money to do that.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Well, that’s true, but I will – I will quote to you the – the deputy chief of the U.S. Border Patrol.

He said: “It is as if we’re trying to administer an open fire hydrant.”

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: He said: “I don’t need more buckets, I need for the – I need the flow to be turned off.”

And the way you do that is with policy changes. We’re just asking the White House to apply common sense.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: And they – they seem to be completely uninterested in doing so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, we toured the Firefly facility, that tented facility. You all went on the same tour.

And what we were told is, there – there is a need for consequences, Border Patrol officials say, but they also need the money. They need the resources to be able to process. They said they didn’t have enough men, they didn’t have enough logistical support to even deport people when they wanted to do that.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, can you look them in the eye when you talk to them and say, I’m going to get you the money that you need, because that is part of the challenge?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: We did look them in the eye. Many of these, I mean, from the top officials to the rank-and-file, and they all say the same thing: Please stop the flow.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you saying you wouldn’t authorize new funding to help out those agents with what they say they need, unless it is matched with these bigger policy changes?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Right.

The – I think anyone with common sense would tell you that you cannot throw more money at a bad system. We don’t want to empower more of this. They – the White House, the administration, Secretary Mayorkas have put a welcome mat out.

And you know that…

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you couldn’t even go through the deportations that you would like to see happen without the funding to actually have the process function.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Well…

MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean, ICE has the capacity to hold 40,000 beds. That’s not nearly matching what you’re describing.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: In a triage situation, you have to stop the flow first before you can commence with the – with the surgery.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: And we – we’re hemorrhaging here. And everyone knows it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: These are very, very real and immediate issues.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: They are.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It is a crisis.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So don’t you need the help of the homeland security secretary, instead of trying to impeach him?

(LAUGHTER)

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: We’ve been asking Alexander – Secretary Mayorkas since he took office to enforce the law, to do his job, and he’s done exactly the opposite.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But…

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: He’s testified un – untruthfully before Congress repeatedly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But – but why focus the congressional resources on going ahead with an impeachment, when they could be dealing with the actual issues here on the ground?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: I believe Secretary Mayorkas is an abject failure, but it’s not because of incompetence.

I believe he has done this intentionally. I think these are intentional policy decisions that he’s made. And I think there must be accountability for that.

Secretary Mayorkas…

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re going to impeach the guy you need to negotiate with.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Secretary Mayorkas is not a good faith negotiating partner. He is unwilling to enforce existing federal law. Why would we believe that he would do any new provision?

He’s lied to Congress repeatedly. He’s lied to me personally, under oath.

MARGARET BRENNAN: About what?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: He’s stood in front of my committee on multiple occasions and insisted that the border is closed and secure, when everyone in America knows it’s not true.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So the senators who are negotiating with the White House right now have not shared the text of what they’re putting together with you. Is that accurate?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, one of the main Republican negotiators, Lindsey Graham, was with us on Sunday.

And he said, there were three things that would help get a deal to pass the House, asylum reform, limitations on parole, and reinvoking expulsion authority.

Those things are being negotiated. So what more do you need?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Well, you’ve heard us say repeatedly, insisting upon the provisions of H.R.2, which is our legislation that we passed more than seven months ago.

Provisions of H.R.2 include reforming that broken parole system, reforming the broken asylum process, also…

MARGARET BRENNAN: But it’s got no future in the Senate. Even Republican senators like James Lankford and Lindsey Graham say they don’t want it. Biden’s going to veto it. So, it’s dead on arrival.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Well, I – I don’t know if you can speak for all the senators. There’s a lot who understand why those provisions are important.

And the reason is, if you only reform one of those five provisions, if you don’t end catch-and-release as a policy, if you don’t reinstitute remain in Mexico, if you only fix asylum or parole and not these other things, then you don’t solve the problem. You don’t stem the flow here.

And, again, that’s the number one objective, so that we can get a handle on this crisis.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you believe that more border funding is needed?

Because the White House says they want to hire more agents, they want to do all sorts of things, and you are standing in the way in the House.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: That’s nonsense. It’s absolute nonsense.

They have to solve the crisis here. And throwing more money at the broken system will not do that. All it will empower…

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you’re not opposing funding? That’s what I’m trying to clarify.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: No, but we have – no, we – we understand that Border Patrol needs the necessary resources to do its job.

But they can’t do the job that they’re hired to do unless you change the policy here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you would potentially be open to what the Senate is negotiating and put it on the floor in the House?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: It’s – it’s a hypothetical question. Again, they’ve not sent me any of these provisions. But I have told them what we expect.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm. But you want a deal?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Of course we want a deal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: We want to solve this crisis. We have to. We have a moral obligation to do so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Look, you at the end of this month are going to have a majority of just 219 Republicans. You need 218 to govern.

Have you talked to the Democratic leader about what it would take to get a bill through? Have you talked to the White House?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: No.

I – I mean, Hakeem Jeffries and I are colleagues and friends, and I have a good relationship with him. I’m not deterred by this at all. I’m – I’m undaunted by this. We deal with the numbers that we have. It will be one of the smallest majorities in the history of the Congress, clearly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It doesn’t give you a lot of wiggle room.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: It – it doesn’t.

But we do have, I think, a lot of unity on the big, important issues that we’re really focused on. And I’m confident that we’ll get the job done and be able to demonstrate that we can govern well, and I think that’s one of the reasons that we will expand this majority in the next election cycle. I’m very optimistic about that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, first, you have got to keep the government open, January 19.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: We – we do.

And we’ve been negotiating in good faith all through the holidays every day over the holidays, except for Christmas, on the – the top-line numbers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: And I – I think that we may be close to a deal, but we have insisted that federal spending must be addressed in a very serious and sober manner.

We – we crossed an important threshold this week, 30 – $34 trillion dollars in federal debt. It’s – there’s never been anything of that magnitude in the history of the country. And it’s not sustainable. The – the Congress has a responsibility.

We have the power of the purse, of course.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: And we have to be good stewards of precious taxpayer resources. We – we cannot continue to borrow money to spend it.

And so reducing non-defense discretionary spending must be a priority of Congress. And we’re trying to insist upon that in these negotiations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When President Trump says immigrants are poisoning the blood of our country, is that a statement you agree with?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: That – that’s not language I would use, but – but I understand the urgency of President Trump’s admonition.

He’s been saying this since he ran for president the first time that we have to secure the border, and I think the vast majority of the American people understand the necessity of that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: And I think they agree with his position.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that statement goes beyond what you are personally comfortable with?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: It’s – it’s not language I would use, but – but I understand that it comes from…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because it sounds hateful.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Well, it’s – it’s not hateful.

What President Trump is – is trying to advance is his America first priority. And I think that makes sense to a lot of people. The – the current president, President Biden, wants additional supplemental spending on national security, but he denies the most important point of our own national security.

And that is our own border. And so that’s frustrating to him.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you can say that without talking about blood and purity.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: It’s – President Biden’s position is frustrating to us. It’s frustrating to the American people, and certainly to President Trump. And I think that’s what he’s – that’s what he’s articulating there.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: The White House declined our invitation to have Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas join us today, but we will continue to ask for him.

According to administration officials and sources familiar with the negotiations in the Senate, a deal to surge resources to the border and make significant policy changes is expected this week. Details are being finalized.

More of our interview with Speaker Johnson and former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney when we come back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Aid to Ukraine is being held up in Congress by Republicans who want to tie it to a border security package, including Johnson, who told us he believes Russia’s Vladimir Putin must be defeated, but that the U.S. must – quote – “secure the U.S. border before we secure anyone else’s.”

We asked the speaker if the two aid packages could be passed by February. Speaker Johnson says President Zelenskyy personally told him that was the date by which he needs the U.S. funding.

(Begin VT)

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: I think, if the White House and the Senate are serious about this, and they listen to the American people, remembering this is an 80 percent issue with the American people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: They understand the necessity of what we’re talking about.

We have to insist upon securing our own country, and also if we get the necessary information and the necessary answers with regard to what – what is the endgame in Ukraine, and how will be – we be responsible with the – the expenditure of those resources. The White House has not given us the necessary information.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you spoken with President Biden recently or Donald Trump recently?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Yes, both. I mean, yes, I have spoken to President Trump very recently. And President Biden, but – well, before the holidays.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you take counsel from the former president, or what are your conversations like?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Well, very friendly. I mean, I have – I have known the president well. I think – I think he will be the nominee, and I think he’s going to win the election and be the next president of the United States.

So it’s important to maintain that relationship. It’ll be an important one for the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Back in 2021, you were the lawmaker who circulated the – – the legal brief known as the Texas amicus brief challenging the 2020 election outcome in a number of states, which, by CBS editorial standards, makes you an election denier. So…

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: That’s nonsense. I’m not an election…

(CROSSTALK)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that’s – can I get you on the record on that?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: I have always been consistent on the record. Did you read the brief? Did you get a chance to read what we filed with the Supreme Court?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I have read extensively some criticisms of that, but…

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: You read commentary about the brief, but not what we submitted to the court, right?

MARGARET BRENNAN: But do you recognize that President Biden won the 2020 election? Can you just put that aside as an issue?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: President Biden was certified as the winner of the election. He took the oath of office. He’s been the president for three years.

What I – the argument that we presented to the court, which is our only avenue to do so, was that the Constitution was clearly violated in the 2020 election. It’s Article 2, Section 1, and anyone can Google it and read it for themselves.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: The – the system by which you choose electors to elect the president of the United States must be done by the individual states, and the system must be ratified with the state legislatures.

That is language, plain language, out of the Constitution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you still have issues with the validity of the 2020 election?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: The Constitution was violated in the run-up to the 2020 election, not – not always in bad faith, but in – but in the aftermath of COVID, many states changed their election laws in ways that violated that plain language.

That’s just a fact. We presented that argument and that – that – those facts to the court. And – and it was never directly addressed because of the Texas litigation. But that was the only vehicle we had to present that issue squarely to the court.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But it was completely shut down as an issue.

But your colleague Liz Cheney, your former colleague, wrote: “Mike Johnson and our Republican leaders had played a destructive role.” You – you, she says, “convinced 125 other Republican members of Congress to sign on to an amicus brief that many never read, that made numerous false factual and constitutional claims.”

How do you respond to that and the impression that you might have contributed in some way to January 6?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: No, I – I don’t spend much time responding to Liz Cheney’s criticism these days.

Liz Cheney worked with the Democrats on the Jan. 6 – January 6 Select Committee to – to make all of this even more politicized than it was. She was a – a close friend and colleague before…

MARGARET BRENNAN: She said that in her book about you.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: … she made those choices. Yes. I – I – well, look…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is why she’s surprised, she said.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Well, I’m surprised that she’s given that criticism, because, during that process, Liz and I were in constant dialogue about that.

And at one point, she even considered signing on to that bill – I will – I will tell you that that is a fact – to that amicus brief. And we talked about that at great length, and we had a difference of opinion on the law, and – and people can agree to disagree on that.

But I’m telling you that the plain language of the Constitution has never changed. And what happened in many states by changing the election laws without ratification by the state legislatures is a violation of the Constitution. That’s a – that’s a plain fact that no one can dispute.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you make sense of the idea that you still have issues with the validity of the 2020 election, but you have to negotiate and talk with the president of the United States, Joe Biden?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: This is water under the bridge.

I mean, when – when the Supreme Court passed on the Texas litigation and did not address the issue, I believe in the rule of law. This is our system. We move forward. And I – I work with President Biden as the president of the United States.

I think that he will be a one-term president. But this discussion about what happened in 2020 is – is yesterday’s news.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I want to ask you, though, because a majority of House Republicans voted to authorize an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden recently.

What do you think he should be impeached for? And how do you negotiate with him in the process of that impeachment or potential impeachment?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: The House has – among the very heavy responsibilities that the House of Representatives holds, next to the declaration of war, impeachment is probably the heaviest power that we have.

In the previous administration, we were very critical of the House Democrats because they politicized impeachment. That is not the way that we should handle that heavy power of the House.

We do have a responsibility, however, to investigate things that are untoward. And this has happened with the Biden administration, very methodically, very carefully in a way that is exactly the opposite of what the House Democrats did during the Trump administration.

And now the investigation is being impeded. The White House has suddenly refused to turn over documents that have been requested and certain witnesses that are key to unwinding exactly what happened. So it came to a certain point that the House had to pass the impeachment inquiry as a measure, because that puts us at the apex of our constitutional authority, because we’ll have to enforce the subpoenas in a court of law. That was a necessary step that we had to take. So, again, we – it’s still not been prejudged. We’ve not made a determination that impeachment is going to happen here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you haven’t made the conclusion that you’ve seen evidence that you’ll move forward with this?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: Well, no, you can’t prejudge an impeachment inquiry or investigation.

I think that would be a violation of our duty under the Constitution. You have to investigate and follow the truth where it leads. There is a lot of smoke here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE JOHNSON: And Congress has the responsibility to find the fire if it exists, and that’s what they’re doing right now very, very carefully.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If it exists.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our full interview with Speaker Johnson is available on our YouTube channel.

We turn now to former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney. Her book is “Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning.”

Good morning to you here.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyoming): Good morning, Margaret. Great to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to give you a chance to respond to the Speaker.

Is it a fact, as he asserted, that, when you were in House leadership, you considered signing on to that challenge to Donald Trump?

LIZ CHENEY: It is not.

We were, as Mike said, in constant contact throughout that period. I actually know precisely when he sent me the brief and precisely when, less than 30 minutes later, I told him my concerns with the brief. Mike knows that as well.

The brief itself was – was legally and constitutionally infirm. I made that clear. Mike’s claims that somehow – and this is very dangerous – that, somehow, as a member of Congress, he has the right to reject, ignore the rulings of the courts – you know, we have dozens of state and federal courts that assessed the claims, assessed the constitutionality and rejected them.

And Mike’s position, which – which people really need to think about because it’s so chilling, is that, somehow, as a member of Congress, he has the right to ignore the rulings of those courts, to assert, absent any fact – finding of fact, that somehow he feels that something that happened was unconstitutional, and, therefore, that he can throw out the votes of millions of Americans.

That’s tyranny. It’s not the rule of law. It’s tyranny. And – and it’s important for people to understand that, because this notion of rejecting, ignoring, refusing to abide by the rulings of the courts is also what we will see in a second Trump term if Donald Trump is reelected.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you write extensively about this in your book, and you say it was actually Donald Trump’s own lawyers who wrote that legal brief that Speaker Johnson circulated.

LIZ CHENEY: Correct.

And the other thing is, he – Johnson – and I made this clear to him too the very first time we spoke after I reviewed the brief – that he was misrepresenting the brief to the members of the conference.

I also told him that I thought that signing on to this brief for anyone who was a member of a bar raised significant and serious ethical issues, because you were asserting to a court facts that not only were untrue, but which had already been rejected by other courts, and for which you had no basis, no knowledge.

So, he knows the truth, but the American people, beyond the disagreement between Johnson and I, need to recognize how dangerous it is to have elected officials who think they can ignore the rulings of the courts.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And so for – for those folks who say, oh, this sounds very complicated, one of the reasons we’re talking about this is because the members of the House Republican leadership signed on to it.

LIZ CHENEY: Correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All of the members of the House Republican leadership supported Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and currently are endorsing him to be the next president of the United States.

LIZ CHENEY: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, from your perspective, it sounds like you’re saying you don’t trust Republican leadership in the House and their conduct in the upcoming election.

LIZ CHENEY: Look, they – you’ve had two members of Republican leadership in the House on television this morning.

You’ve had Mike on, again, claiming that he has the right, individually to decide that he’s going to throw out millions of votes and ignore the rulings of the courts. You’ve had Elise Stefanik on this morning talking about the J6 hostages. I mean, you don’t have to take my word for the fact that you can’t count on these elected Republicans to defend the Constitution.

Every time they go out and give an interview, they demonstrate it themselves.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now, Elise Stefanik was on another network this morning. You just mentioned her.

The quote was: “I have concerns about the treatment of the January 6 hostages.”

Hostages is a very specific word. And there are well over 1,200 people in the U.S. legal system going through legal proceedings right now for their role in the attack that day. That word she used is exactly the word that Donald Trump uses.

LIZ CHENEY: And that’s why she’s using it.

And it’s outrageous, and it’s disgusting. And if you – if you go and you look at what individuals have been convicted for who are incarcerated, you’ll find, you know, extensively, these are people who were involved in violence against police officers in the assault on the Capitol.

And it is really – it’s disgraceful for Donald Trump to be saying what he’s saying. And then for those who are attempting to enable him or attempting to further their own political careers to repeat it, it’s a disgrace. And you cannot say that you are a member of a party that believes in the rule of law, you can’t say that you’re pro-law enforcement, if you then go out and you say these people are – quote – “hostages.”

It’s – it’s disgraceful.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We have other Republican candidates for president like Ron DeSantis who have said they are open to reviewing the cases against these defendants and considering pardons for them.

LIZ CHENEY: Look, the president has – has pardon power and pardon authority.

I think that it’s a very important piece that people ought to consider when they’re thinking about for whom they’re going to vote. Someone who says that they would pardon individuals who assaulted the Capitol, who attempted to stop a constitutional process, who assaulted police officers – I mean, it was a bloody battle.

I had police officers, one, tell me that it was – it was like medieval hand-to-hand combat. The notion that the Republican Party would continue its efforts to whitewash that day, when the peaceful transition of power is at the core of the survival of our republic…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

LIZ CHENEY: … tells you that they’re unfit for office.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We have to take a break, but I want to come back with you on the other side of it.

So, stay with us. We’ll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our trip to Eagle Pass also included a firsthand look at what officials need to help handle those crossing into the U.S. and why some of those migrants want to come to the U.S. in the first place.

That’s coming up after Liz Cheney.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more Face the Nation.

Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

We return to our conversation with former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney.

The Supreme Court is going to take on that Colorado case where the state was going to remove him from the ballot citing insurrection and the 14th Amendment. The special counsel, Jack Smith, charged Donald Trump with a number of things. Insurrection was not one of them. So, given that it doesn’t meet that Justice Department standard, do you think the Supreme Court will ultimately disqualify Trump?

LIZ CHENEY (Former Republican Congresswoman from Wyoming): We’ll see what happens in the courts. If you – if you look at the select committee’s work, we made a criminal referral with respect to the part of the 14th Amendment that talks about providing aid and comfort to an insurrection, I certainly believe that Donald Trump’s behavior rose to that level. I believe that he ought to be disqualified from holding office in the future. It’s working its ways through the courts. And in the meantime, and in any case, we have to be prepared to ensure that we can defeat him at the ballot box, which ultimately I believe we’ll be able to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Supreme Court may ultimately hear it, but right now the D.C. Circuit will be taking on this question of presidential immunity from criminal prosecution this Tuesday.

LIZ CHENEY: Lindsey Graham was on this program, the senator, last Sunday saying, “no one’s immune from prosecution, but presidents do have immunity in order to do their job.” And he said Trump just gave a fiery speech.

As a conservative, what do you make of this and the broader argument that this would be undermining presidential immunity?

LIZ CHENEY: Look, I think that there’s – there’s no basis for an assertion that a president of the United States is completely immune from criminal prosecution for acts in office. And I suspect that that’s what court will hold.

I think it’s really important for people, as they’re looking at all of this litigation, to recognize what Donald Trump’s trying to do. He’s trying to suppress the evidence. He’s trying to delay his trial because he doesn’t want people to see the witnesses who will testify against him. And – and we just saw again this morning news reports that Dan Scavino, Pat Cipollone, testimony they have apparently given in front of the grand jury, that once again confirms, you know, what we were able to discover in the select committee, confirms that Donald Trump did not want to tell people to go home, did not want to tell the mob to leave the Capitol, that he watched the attack on television.

And – and Trump knows that the witnesses in his trial are not his political opponents. He knows that they’re going to be the people who are closest to him, the people that he appointed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

LIZ CHENEY: And he doesn’t want the American people to see that evidence before they vote. They have a right to see that evidence before they vote. And so I think it’s very important he not be able to – to delay his trial.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, what do you think of the fact that Secretary Austin has been hospitalized since January 1st and didn’t tell the White House until days later?

LIZ CHENEY: I – I think they’ve got some very serious explaining to do. I think that there’s a – there’s a real difference between public transparency and, you know, alerting the commander in chief to the fact that the secretary of defense is in the hospital. Apparently the deputy secretary was on vacation in Puerto Rico. I think it’s – it’s – it’s – it’s inexplicable. We need to know more about exactly what happened there. But that’s not the way the Pentagon ought to be conducting business.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Still be – asking questions about it.

Thank you.

LIZ CHENEY: Thank you. Good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Liz Cheney, thank you for being here.

The very first votes of 2024 will happen next Monday in the Iowa caucus. Our Ed O’Keefe is there.

(BEGIN VT)

ED O’KEEFE (voice over): Just over a week to go and Donald Trump remains confident.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because I always say, how the hell do I lose Iowa? I got the farmers of this country $28 billion. How the hell do I –

ED O’KEEFE (voice over): The former president is running a far more formidable operation than the first time he ran in the first in the nation caucus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Calling from the Trump team.

ED O’KEEFE (voice over): And Iowa is like the rest of the country, increasingly concerned about the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

ED O’KEEFE: What’s the sort of number one, number two issues that you’re worried about?

MAN: Close the border.

ED O’KEEFE: Immigration?

MAN: Immigration.

MAN: Well, the border for sure.

ED O’KEEFE (voice over): With more migrants being sent north and west to big cities, most Americans now oppose providing temporary housing and social services in the areas where they live.

WOMAN: All these millions of people that have nowhere to live and that our system cannot support, we are not helping these people.

ED O’KEEFE (voice over): Another hot topic in Iowa, January 6th. Two-thirds of Republicans nationally support Trump’s calls to pardon those who forced their way into the Capitol.

TRUMP: Some people call them prisoners. I call them hostages. Release the J. 6th hostages, Joe.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Trump’s assault on democracy isn’t just part of his past, it’s what he’s promising for the future.

ED O’KEEFE (voice over): How Trump responded to January 6th and broader concerns about American democracy are now leading themes of President Biden’s re-election campaign.

TRUMP: They were there with love in their heart. That was an unbelievable and it was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful day.

ED O’KEEFE (voice over): But while Trump may be leading here in Iowa, that isn’t stopping GOP opponents Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, both running hard for second place.

(END VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That was Ed O’Keefe reporting in Iowa.

We go now to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who joins us from Des Moines, Iowa.

Good morning to you, Governor.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL) (Presidential Candidate): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, when we were in Texas, we saw Florida law enforcement trucks patrolling along that Texas border. I know you’ve been very supportive of Governor Abbott of Texas. Do you think that immigration should be left up to federal authorities, or do you also plan to have Florida try to use its local law enforcement to arrest migrants?

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, when I’m president, we will, of course, it’s a federal issue, a federal interest, but states and localities should absolutely be able to supplement the federal government. And we’re in a situation now where the federal government asserts, under the supremacy clause of the Constitution, that they have the sole dominion over enforcing immigration laws, but they’re choosing not to faithfully enforce immigration laws.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But supplementing is different than superseding. And as you know, the Supreme Court was asked to weigh in on this in the state of Arizona back in 2012. Are you saying in Florida you’re going to use law enforcement to arrest migrants now?

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: What I’m saying is, as president, I am going to deputize state and localities. And you’re right about that Arizona case. I actually think the Supreme Court would – would reevaluate that today, especially in light of what we’ve seen. But as president, I am going to say, state and localities have the authority to enforce immigration laws as long as they’re upholding the law. It’s one thing if a state was trying to frustrate the law. Of course, under the supremacy clause, they couldn’t do that. But that’s not what we have here. It’s the federal government that’s frustrating the imposition – the enforcement of the law. It’s the states that just want the law enforced.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, there were at least two groups of migrants fleeing Cuba that landed in your state of Florida this past week. But the numbers versus last year are actually way down. The Biden administration said anyone caught at sea will be banned from humanitarian parole programs. Do you believe that the Biden policy has helped Florida?

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, what’s helped Florida, Margaret – because the Coast Guard does a good job and they are in charge of that. We started to have a rash of boats coming and there were a lot of gaps because the Coast Guard didn’t have enough resources. So, I marshalled state resources, state maritime assets. We filled in the gaps. And so what would happen, if you had a boat coming from Haiti, let’s say, Florida law enforcement would interdict. We would have to turn over the potential illegal aliens to the Coast Guard, but then the Coast Guard would deport them back to Haiti or Cuba or wherever. That had a huge, huge deterrent effect because people are not going to want to go over those choppy waters knowing that most likely they’re just going to end up back where they came.

It’s the same principle applied to the southern border. People know if they just get to the border they’re going to get free passes into the United States. So, they’re going to be willing to pay thousands of dollars to coyotes and cartels. If we have a new sheriff in town on this and they know they’re going back to their home country –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: You’re going to see a dramatic decrease in people that will even try this voyage.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, let me ask you about that because you said this past week you would like to deport nearly 8 million undocumented migrants. Would you deport those who are waiting asylum legal proceedings before they’ve had their day in court?

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, what we are going to do is, we are going to streamline that. You know, we’re going to do a presumption against asylum for the people that come across the border illegally, from the – from the traditional countries which, you know, look, America is a better place to live than some of those countries, but they just don’t qualify for asylum. So, yes, they will be included. We’re going to work through that to make sure that we can streamline it. But the idea that you can come to the southern border –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think you need Congress to do that?

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: I think we can do – I think we can do a lot through executive action. I do think it would be helpful for Congress to do some things on that. And I know the House of Representatives, with HR-2, is doing that. I would support that.

But we have a situation now, you show up at the border, you say the magic words, then they give you a sheet of paper and they say, come back in two years.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Enjoy your stay in America. How is that something that is ever going to get this border under control?

And I’ll tell you, I’m – I’m here in Iowa now, talking to people in New Hampshire, South Carolina, these early states, they’re frustrated with how the federal government will treat people coming into our country illegally better than Americans in some respects, free lodging, free transportation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that’s – that’s –

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: You know, the Biden administration was charging people to get out of Israel to take them to Greece. I sent planes to Israel. We – we set – brought people back free of charge.

So, we’ve got to put the American people and our sovereignty first.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our CBS polling shows half the country expects there will be violence from the side that loses in future elections. Do you share that concern about this race?

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Oh, I – I – I hope not. I mean I think that, you know, we have an opportunity – one of the – you know, one of the reasons I’m running is I think the Republicans, we have a great shot to win if we frame the issues about the problems facing the country, the failures of the Biden administration, and how we have a great set of ideas to – to turn the country around. And I’ve shown how that can be done in Florida.

I think if we’re relitigating the – the past elections, if it’s about, you know, Donald Trump or his legal issues or criminal trials or all that stuff, you know, I think it’s going to be a really nasty election. I don’t think that puts Republicans in a good position to win. So, we – we need to have an election on the issues. You know, we need a candidate that can win a clearcut victory. And we need to start looking forward as a country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have never lost a political race in your career. You are a second in the CBS Iowa projections. Is that victory enough for you?

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, we’ve got to win a majority of the delegates. This is a long process. We’re doing really well in Iowa. You know, I kind of like being underestimated, Margaret, so I hope people kind of say – say that. But we’ve got the enthusiasm – when the calendar clicked to ’24, you see, we’ve got more undecided voters coming out to all our events. So, we’re going to outwork everybody.

But this is a long process. There’s a lot that happens to accumulate all these delegates. We’re going to do well in Iowa, but we’re also going to be competing in all these other states. And I think that there’s a lot of real estate. I think a lot of things are going to happen.

I wish the former (INAUDIBLE) I mean I think if you’re going to stand for nomination, you should be able to stand on stage to do it. I’m happy to debate him on your program, or if your network wants to host a debate in New Hampshire or South Carolina. But the idea that he can go and just read off the teleprompter for 45 minutes and then go back, you know, back home, that doesn’t cut it in Iowa and that doesn’t cut it in a lot of these states. And so let’s go get on the stage and let’s have the debate of ideas. And I hope Donald Trump will be willing to do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will see.

Governor, thank you for your time this morning.

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Maryland Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen spent the last several days in the Middle East. He and Senator Jeff Merkley visited the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and he joins us this morning from Amman, Jordan.

Senator, what is the choke point? Why isn’t aid making it into Gaza?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, Margaret, Senator Merkley and I went to the Rafah crossing to find out exactly that question. There are two big things that are happening. One is the unnecessarily cumbersome process going through the Israeli screening process, which I believe is the result of political decisions by the Netanyahu coalition. For example, many items that are – should be allowed to go into Gaza, water, sort of filtration systems, other systems like that, were in a warehouse of rejected items that we visited. While we were there, we saw a truck turned away that had a big box from UNICEF, which is, of course, the U.N. organization that helps children. It was a unit to help with water desalination. It was rejected. And when one item on a truck is rejected, the entire truck is rejected.

The other big issue is within Gaza. The so-called deconfliction process, which is just a fancy name for those who are providing humanitarian assistance to have the confidence that they can deliver it without being killed. And according to all the international NGOs that we talked about who have been operating in conflict zones around the world, they’ve never seen a worse process for assuring the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance. And so that, of course, makes it very difficult to get the help to people who need it, people who are starving and where they’re on the verge of outbreak of cholera and other diseases.

MARGARET BRENNAN: France and Jordan made the decision to airdrop aid in because of those issues going in by land. Should the United States do the same?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think we should consider every means to try to get desperately needed humanitarian assistance into Gaza. The problem with airdrops is it’s just not at scale. In other words, it’s good, but what we need is far more trucks to be able to cross into Gaza. After all, before the war started you had 500 trucks crossing into Gaza. And today, you know, this last week it was around 150 trucks per day.

We need to make this a 24/7 operation. The Israeli screening sites are only operating on like an eight-hour-a-day schedule, taking some days off. This is a 24/7 humanitarian crisis, and we need a system that will recognize that people are – are – are dying every day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Of course some from bombs. We have over 22 people dead, two-thirds of them women and children, but also this humanitarian crisis.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said you believe aid is not getting in because of a political decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. If that’s the case, does that government need to face consequences from the United States, their ally?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Yes, I do think there have to been – have to be consequences. And, you know, Secretary Blinken and President Biden have been right to insist on two things, a reduction in the unacceptable levels of civilian casualties, and much more cooperation when it comes to providing humanitarian assistance. We’ve not seen that. This is one reason why I and other senators have proposed an amendment that would apply to every country that the United States provides military assistance to, whether it’s Ukraine, Israel, or any other country, that would require that country to cooperate fully with the United States in providing humanitarian assistance in an area of conflict where U.S. provided weapons are being used. It would also require all recipients of U.S. military assistance to abide by international humanitarian law. These are some basic principles that should be universally applied by the United States.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The White House, so far, has not signed on to that.

Before I let you go, sir, I want to ask you, since you’re coming back to Washington to work, 63 percent of Americans, according to our polling, believe Joe Biden needs to get tougher at the U.S. border. I’m wondering if you are comfortable with provisions that would tighten asylum law and give more expulsion authority to turn away migrants coming to the United States?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, Margaret, President Biden is well aware of the unacceptable challenges that we’re facing right now at the U.S. border, which is why he provided large numbers of additional – proposed additional resources for border patrol agents.

As you know, there’s a bipartisan group of senators that are discussing various policy changes. I’m looking forward to hearing the results of those discussions. I’m told that both the Democratic Senate caucus and the Republican Senate caucus may be briefed as early as this week on a framework, although I don’t know for sure.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: I’m going to have to look at every proposal before I make any final decisions. I can tell you that some of the House proposals –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Are way too extreme –

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. All right, Senator –

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: And undermine the idea of America as a (INAUDIBLE) of immigrants.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, I’m sorry, because of the delay, I’m going to have to speak over you and cut you off because this commercial break. I apologize, sir.

We’ll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We toured a federal border facility and a migrant shelter while in Eagle Pass, Texas, to understand the full border picture. Here’s what we saw.

(BEGIN VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN (voice over): Four-day-old Juan Onhel (ph) is one of America’s newest citizens. We met him and his 26-year-old mother, Lesley (ph), at a temporary shelter the day after they were released from the hospital. She just had an emergency c-section.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you in pain?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in a foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking in foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you’re smiling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in a foreign language).

MARGARET BRENNAN (voice over): Thanks to God, everything is OK, she says.

After a two-month journey from Honduras with her nine and four-year-old, Lesley told us she went into labor in the Rio Grande while crossing illegally to the U.S.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He is a U.S. citizen now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in a foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking in foreign language).

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that’s what you wanted?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in a foreign language).

MARGARET BRENNAN (voice over): Yes, that was the plan, she says.

Lesley said she came to the U.S. seeking better opportunities. But the road ahead is unclear. She can’t take this Texas state funded bus to a different city since newborns and America aren’t permitted. Shelters that receive federal funds, like this one, only assist non-citizens, so newborn Juan cannot stay.

Some of these asylum seekers have family in the U.S., but there’s no federal program to settle them. The average wait for asylum to be granted is four years. There’s a backlog of 3 million pending cases and less than 800 immigration judges to process them.

Families make up 40 percent of arrivals in this sector senior border patrol officials told us. This is the facility where migrants are processed. It can hold a maximum of 1,100 people for no more than 72 hours. Many arrive wet from the river and are offered food and dry clothes. They’re given mylar blankets, which are resistant to lice, and medical checks. Boys 14 and older are fingerprinted.

Sixty percent of the migrants now are single adult males, mostly Venezuelans, held in these plexiglass pods.

Border patrol estimates smugglers make $32 million a week in this 242 miles remote border stretch. They target this thinly resourced area.

Since September, agents in Eagle Pass apprehended migrants from 61 countries from as far away as Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The FBI is investigating one picked up last week. The agents admit they don’t know who they might have missed. They’re frustrated that before Christmas 90 percent of this sector went unpatrolled while they dealt with a crush of illegal entries.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What’s going to happen to these kids?

MARGARET BRENNAN (voice over): There are caregivers for the unaccompanied children. This six-year-old boy came on his own from Mexico. These young girls made the dangerous trek from Honduras on their own. And that weighs on the agents that apprehend them.

A Border Patrol agent wanted us to know, as he put it, we’re not monsters.

VALERIA WHEELER (ph): We have seen a lot of moms that have left their kids in the – in the river.

MARGARET BRENNAN (voice over): Valeria Wheeler runs the only shelter in Eagle Pass. She helps as many as 1,200 migrants a day after they’re released by Border Patrol. She thinks Congress should make clear the trek isn’t worth it.

VALERIA WHEELER: We know that not everybody is going to be granted for asylum, so what’s the point of all the struggles that they have to pass through and all the suffering that this is causing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can America balance the national security risk of a hemisphere wide crisis while keeping our humanity and stay a nation of immigrants. That’s the vexing challenge.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s it for us today. We’ll see you next week.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)



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