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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript: Trump Administration Policies

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MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk about what all of this means for the midterm elections with the two party chairs, Democrat Tom Perez and Republican Ronna McDaniel.

Plus, as football season begins and Colin Kaepernick makes headlines again Mark Leibovich of New York Times joins our panel to talk about his new book on the future of the game.

All of that, and plenty of political analysis coming up on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. At the end of an explosive week in the Trump administration we spoke with Vice President Mike Pence at his home on the grounds of the Naval Observatory here in Washington. We began by asking him about the New York Times op-ed and the more than two dozen high-ranking Trump administration officials who have denied writing it.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: In the past--

MIKE PENCE: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --respectfully, I mean, you suffered, when you were lied to by Michael Flynn. I mean, he was fired for lying to you. What-- do you believe the denials this time?

MIKE PENCE: I do, because I know the men and women who serve with us in this cabinet. But I also do because whoever wrote that editorial, and the narrative that comes out of some other writings recently, just doesn't know what really happens in this White House. I've seen this President in action. Is he demanding? Yes. Is he a strong leader who expects things done yesterday? Yes. But-- but for someone to say that-- that what we've accomplished in the last eighteen months is in spite of this President's leadership, it just reflects an ignorance about-- about President Trump and about our administration.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the claims made in the op-ed is that there had been discussion of invoking the 25th Amendment to even remove the President from office. Have you ever been part of a conversation about that?

MIKE PENCE: No. Never. And why-- why would we be, Margaret? I mean, the-- the truth of the matter is over the last eight years despite what we heard from President Obama on Friday.

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MIKE PENCE: I mean this-- this country was struggling. I mean, it was the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression because having inherited a recession, President Obama's answer was to raise taxes, to double the national debt, to increase regulation, to pass Obamacare into law, to stifle American energy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But he says the economic upswing began on his watch.

MIKE PENCE: Well, I know he said that but I don't think too many Americans noticed it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said that there are other writings that-- that you also think are inaccurate here. Bob Woodward had this book that just is about to come out describing in detail a number of incidents inside the White House where he, basically, describes people around the President trying to protect the country from him. What is it that you think is inaccurate in his description?

MIKE PENCE: Well, the only thing that's wrong about that narrative is everything because it-- it shows-- it-- it shows a-- a complete misunderstanding of how this White House works, and what-- what President Trump provides for this country every day is strong and decisive leadership in the Oval Office. The narrative that I have picked up, in-- in not only this book but the opinion editorial is suggests that-- that-- that things are happening in spite of the President's leadership, and nothing could be further from the truth. I mean our founders envisioned all executive power be invested in the President of the United States, and the American people should know all the progress that we're making is a result of the fact that President Trump engages in debate, he gets all of the facts and he's not afraid to make a decision and move forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Woodward says he has-- he spoke to a hundred people. He has recordings. He has notes to back up these first-hand accounts. I mean, one of the instances was he said that the President was stopped from tweeting about withdrawing U.S. personnel from South Korea because North Korea would view it as an act of war. These are specific instances. You're saying they didn't happen?

MIKE PENCE: What that suggests, and-- and what I-- what I get from other examples and narratives is-- is that-- that-- that people are-- are managing the President, when, in fact, what happens in the White House every day, Margaret, is the President invites opinions. He tends to put people around the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office who have diverse views. And-- and-- and he invites a vigorous debate over what policies ought to be embraced. Then he makes a decision and we go forward whether it's foreign policy, domestic policy, or whether it's legislation on Capitol Hill.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think he respects those advisers?

MIKE PENCE: And that's exactly the kind of-- that's exactly the kind of leadership the American people wanted when they elected President Donald Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN Some of the instances here are really specific. The President publicly has mocked Jeff Sessions, but in this book, these are specific instances of disregarding the commerce secretary to his face, insulting other cabinet officials. Do you dispute all of these examples?

MIKE PENCE: Well, I-- I would tell you I know this President has great respect for the men and women who serve in this cabinet. And these-- these accounts are very foreign to me. And-- and I-- I-- I'm just not aware of instances where they've occurred and/or where they would occur. But, look, I-- I- I want to stipulate that working in the White House is not for everybody.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Hmm.

MIKE PENCE: I mean this President is tough. He's demanding. He wants things yesterday. And I think it's one of the reasons why we've accomplished so much in such a short period of time. I mean, the truth is I-- I think President Donald Trump is the most accomplished President of my lifetime and I think already one of the most successful Presidents in American history--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think--

MIKE PENCE: --in our first two years.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --people should be fired because of this?

MIKE PENCE: Well, I-- I truly believe that-- that whoever penned this opinion editorial should do the honorable thing and resign. I mean the truth of the matter is that the-- the-- the opinions that they expressed are not only deceitful and false but they're also un-American and they represent an assault on our democracy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President has made clear though that he doesn't agree with his attorney general on a number of things. And earlier this week he suggested that Jeff Sessions should not have brought charges against two Republican lawmakers who were running for re-election because he thought it could jeopardize the party's control of Congress. I mean, this suggests that the Justice Department should be taking politics and making it a priority. Do you agree with that?

MIKE PENCE: Well, I think one of-- well, I think there are guidelines in the Department of Justice about not making decisions or taking action that may impact elections, and that's longstanding through numerous administrations. But, look, I think one of the things the American people--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So-- so Jeff Sessions, you agree, was--

MIKE PENCE: Well-- what I want to say, Margaret, is--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --correct in his actions?

MIKE PENCE: --what-- what the American people appreciate is this-- this President says what he thinks. He lets people know what he feels about things, but and-- and-- and really in a very real sense, what you see is what you get with President Donald Trump. And I think that's the reason why he's made the connection that he's made with people all across this country because--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But on something of-- of that--

MIKE PENCE: --while Washington, DC-- while Washington, DC, focuses on--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --when it has to do with a legal matter people argue that--

MIKE PENCE: --these various controversies--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that's dangerous--

MIKE PENCE: --he's focused on their interests.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that-- that may be frank. That may be what he thinks, but that there's a danger to saying things like that because it suggests that rule of law should be-- should be sublimated to politics.

MIKE PENCE: No. This-- this is a President who has strongly affirmed our commitment to the rule of law and to the-- to our justice system. I think you-- you need look no further than-- than the-- the hearings this week with Judge Kavanaugh to hear his strong affirmation of an independent judiciary. This President has reflected that throughout the policies of this administration. But-- but, look, he-- he is always going to be transparent about how he feels about things. And-- and, as I said, there's longstanding Department of Justice guidelines that have to do with making sure that actions are not taken that-- that-- that inadvertently impact the electoral process. But all of that being said, I-- I really do believe the President's candor is one of the reasons why the American people appreciate him.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What are your plans to sit for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller?

MIKE PENCE: You know we've fully cooperated over the last year--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Has he asked for an interview with you yet?

MIKE PENCE: --with the Mueller investigation. He has not. Although we've provided any and all information and we'll continue to do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you'd be willing to sit with him if he were to ask?

MIKE PENCE: I would. I would be more than willing to continue to provide any and all support in that. And we have outside counsel that will advise me accordingly. But I just have to tell you, Margaret, it's just not been my focus and it's not the President's focus. I mean the reason why we're making the progress that we're making all across this country, rebuilding our military, restoring American strength in the world, seeing the opportunity for peace emerge on the Korean Peninsula. I mean-- we-- we're hearing-- we're expecting a letter as we speak from Kim Jong-un communicating again as he did last week his-- his reaffirmation of his commitment to denuclearization. No more nuclear tests. No more missile tests. Our hostages are home. And I had the privilege of being there when the remains of fifty-five fallen Americans in the Korean War were returned to American soil--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't think the diplomacy is stalled--

MIKE PENCE: --that's all the result of the President's leadership.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --even though the Secretary of State called off his visit?

MIKE PENCE: Well, I-- I actually believe that when the President canceled the meeting a week ago because he wasn't seeing enough progress in denuclearization that that may well have resulted in what Kim Jong-un communicated to a South Korean envoy just last week, and we're anticipating the letter from Kim Jong-un and all the while our sanctions remain in place.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And do you think you need to cast the deciding vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh?

MIKE PENCE: Well, we hope not. I think the-- I think what the American people--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're not sure where you are on vote count yet?

MIKE PENCE: I-- we'll see where we are. But I-- I have to tell you that despite the embarrassing display by many Senate Democrats in the Judiciary Committee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh showed the intellect, the temperament, the judicial philosophy that I-- I believe should generate broad-based support in the United States Senate. And we have every confidence that Judge Brett Kavanaugh will very soon be Justice Brett Kavanaugh and take a seat on the Supreme Court.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the challenges of television interviews is going back and clarifying your words after the cameras have been turned off. We experienced that in our interview with the vice president Saturday. Here's what we asked at the beginning of the interview about who wrote the anonymous op-ed.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you don't think anyone on your staff--since they're calling themself a Trump appointee had anything to do with this?

MIKE PENCE: I-- I just-- I wouldn't know. And I would-- I really would hope not. And I was-- I was heartened to see so many of our colleagues make it very clear that they weren't involved in this in any way. Look, I-- I can tell you serving alongside this President is-- is an incredible privilege for me and I know it is for-- for every member of our cabinet and all the senior personnel in our administration. I mean this is a-- this is a President who, literally, gets up every day and works to keep the promises that we made to the American people and when you look at the record of success over the last eighteen months it's truly been remarkable.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: After the interview, the vice president told us he had misunderstood the question and asked if he could clarify. So, we turned the cameras back on.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mister Vice President, I-- I asked you earlier if anyone on your staff wrote this op-ed. Have you asked your staff?

MIKE PENCE: Oh, well, I-- I thought you were speaking about the administration staff. Let me be very clear, I'm one hundred percent confident that no one on the vice president's staff was involved in this anonymous editorial. I-- I know my people, Margaret. They get up every day and are dedicated, just as much as I am, to advancing the President's agenda and supporting everything that President Trump is doing for the people of this country so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you asked them?

MIKE PENCE: Well, you know-- you know, honestly, I don't have to ask them because I know them. I know their character. I know their dedication and I am absolutely confident that no one on the vice president's staff had anything to do with this. But that being said, you know, who-- whoever this was they should do the honorable thing and resign.

(End VT)

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