Full transcript of “Face the Nation” on Sept. 18, 2022

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

  • Rep. Henry Cuellar, Democrat of Texas
  • Jeh Johnson, former homeland security secretary
  • Robert Pape, University of Chicago professor
  • Andriy Kostin, prosecutor general of Ukraine
  • Major Garrett and David Becker 

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: Domestic and international crises test global relations, as world leaders converge in London for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral. Their next stop, the annual United Nations gathering in New York.

And, as President Biden struggles to fight economic headwinds, a political battle over immigration explodes, when red state governors pick up the pace on relocating migrants crossing their borders by unceremoniously relocating them to blue state sanctuaries, like the sidewalk in front of the vice president’s Washington home.

Plus, Russian President Vladimir Putin faces a public rebuke from a key partner and the cold shoulder from another, as Ukrainians retake more of their territory, uncovering horrors left behind by Russian forces.

Finally, our continuing coverage of the stress test of our democracy, as our nervous nation starts the 50-day countdown to midterm Election Day.

It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.

It is a somber Sunday as we come on the air today. In London, there is unprecedented security for the hundreds of world leaders, including President Biden, who are gathering for tomorrow’s state funeral of Queen Elizabeth. It will be the largest assembly of heads of state and government in years.

Our Scott Pelley spoke with President Biden before he left for the U.K. and discussed how he’s navigating the new world order for tonight’s season premiere of 60 Minutes.

(Begin VT)

SCOTT PELLEY: President Xi and Vladimir Putin have met on the same day that you and I are sitting here in the White House. And I wonder, if this is a new, more complicated Cold War, how do you manage it?

JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): I don’t think it is a new, more complicated Cold War.

Look, when President Xi invited Putin to Beijing during the Olympics, where they had their meeting and their — the new relationship, not long after that, I called President Xi, not to threaten at all, just to say to him — we have met many times.

And I said that: “If you think that Americans and others were going to continue to invest in China based on your violating the sanctions that have been imposed on Russia, I think you’re making a gigantic mistake. But that’s your decision to make.”

Thus far, there’s no indication that they have put forward weapons or anything that Russia has wanted. So — well, maybe I shouldn’t say any more.

SCOTT PELLEY: Oh, I wish you would.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: No.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Here at home, a political firestorm erupted between Republicans and Democrats over immigration, an issue made more complicated by challenging relationships between the U.S. and some of our neighbors to the south.

Republican governors have been relocating some who’ve crossed the border into their red states for months now. But, last week, the images of migrants flown or bused from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Vice President Harris’ residence in Washington and New York City has sparked a fury of political backlash.

(Begin VT)

KAMALA HARRIS (Vice President of the United States): I think it is the height of irresponsibility, much less just, frankly, a dereliction of duty when you are an elected leader to play those kinds of games with human life.

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R-Florida): They were so proud to be sanctuary jurisdictions, saying how bad it was to have a secure border. The minute even a small fraction of what those border towns deal with every day is brought to their front door, they all of a sudden go berserk.

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT (R-Texas): Now New Yorkers and people in Washington, D.C., are having to deal with it. And now Texas is sharing our pain with the rest of the country.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: The U.S. is set to record more than two million migrant arrests at the border with Mexico this year, a record high.

We turn now to Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar. He represents a border a district in South Texas. And he joins us this morning from Laredo.

Congressman, I know you feel strongly about what’s happening in your backyard. I wonder if both you and your constituents support busing these migrants up and down the East Coast?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR (D-Texas): Look, first of all, we need solutions, and not theater.

By sending off — folks off to New York and Chicago, it does bring attention, but I — we want to focus more on solutions on the border. We got to give Border Patrol, we got to give ICE, Homeland Security the equipment, making sure they have everything where they can enforce the law, because, if we don’t have repercussions at the border, we’re going to continue getting 8,000 people a day.

And let me mention one more thing, Margaret. They might get two buses a day in some of those cities. Just for my hometown in Laredo, we’re sending out 21 to 26 buses a day out of Laredo, just to give you an idea of what’s happening here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. Right. Understood, the volume, but, of course, in some of these places like Martha’s Vineyard, there aren’t even migration centers, and there was no coordination.

Is that the part you’re objecting to?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Yes, look, after all, the migrants are human beings, and we’ve got to treat them like human beings.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: They are being used as political pawns to get publicity.

But, at the same time, I represent some of the poorest counties along the border in the nation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

Well, I know you have shared with us some video of what’s happening in your district, that law enforcement officers have shared with you some pictures, some video that our viewers are seeing right now. Is law enforcement getting the resources that they need?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: No.

Look, the men and women in green, the men and women from Homeland, they need to get the support. They are good men and women, and what they need to do is have two things. One, they need to get more personnel, and we’re adding more personnel in the appropriations bill. They need to get the equipment. They need to get — but — they need to get help.

But the most important thing, is they got to be able to enforce the repercussions, because if you don’t enforce the repercussions…

(CROSSTALK)

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean? What does that mean, repercussions? Are you talking about the fact that many of these migrants that are being bused are from countries like Venezuela, where the U.S. cannot deport them because of diplomatic relations being so strained?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Look, right now, we’re getting people from Saudi Arabia, China, India, Bangladesh, and, of course, Cuba and Venezuela.

There are certain folks, the countries that might not accept some of the people, you got to look at asylum. But most of the people coming in don’t apply for asylum. We’ve got to do — as your next guest is going to say, Secretary Jeh Johnson, he treated the people with respect.

But at the end of the day, he enforced the law, and he returned people. And one of the things that this administration is not doing is, they’re showing people — he showed people going and landing in the countries in Honduras and El Salvador to show that there’s repercussions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Margaret, when was the last time you saw — you saw a picture or video of people going back? You only see people coming in. And you’ve got to have words, along with action to enforce it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

I mean, it’s pretty complicated. But Title 42 still is in place. There is expelling of migrants happening. It sounds like what I hear you saying is, you want the White House or higher-level officials to go and make these public statements.

Vice President Harris, when she was asked about this, pointed right back to people with your job, lawmakers, to go rewrite the laws and pass immigration reform. What actually needs to be done, and how do you respond to that?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Look, there are enough — and with all respect to the V.P., there are enough laws on the book right now that can return people back.

Secretary Johnson, your next guest, did it the right way. He treated people with dignity, but he returned people, and he showed images of people being returned, because, right now, the cartels are using people because they make, let’s say, $8,000 a person.

In two years, with all the people that have come in, the get-aways included, that’s about four million individuals. You multiply that by $8,000, and that shows you how much these bad guys are being enriched at the sake of these human beings.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

Well, on that point, the homeland security secretary was on this program back in July after those 53 migrants died in the most tragic smuggling incident in this country. And he said it is possible, because of how sophisticated these smugglers have gotten, to bypass U.S. checkpoint sometimes.

Is it that the framing of this conversation is completely wrong, that it’s not just people walking across, that it is very sophisticated criminal enterprises?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Look, everybody that comes across is somehow controlled by the bad guys.

I mean, people just don’t happen to walk across a river or across the border. It’s all controlled by the migrants. Every sector, for example, along the border is controlled by some sort of cartel across. Yes, they’re very sophisticated. Yes, they have got the money. Yes, they do counterintelligence.

What happened to those 53 migrants, we don’t have a checkpoint that’s big enough to handle what we’re seeing, so the bad guys were able to use that checkpoint, because we haven’t put the resources on that checkpoint like we need to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm. And I know you’ve shared images with us of some of the coyotes, some of the smugglers who have gotten these trailers filled with people across.

But there is interdiction taking place. I know you know that. What are you saying is needed?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Oh, yes, but I — but — well, what I’m saying is, if you look at the Border Patrol sectors in my area, 60 percent of the Border Patrol agents are in border processing centers, that is, they’re taking care of migrants; 10 percent of them are doing administrative work.

That leaves only 30 percent of the Border Patrol doing the work, 30 percent. Therefore, large numbers coming in will be crossing, and then you also have more deaths out there, because there’s less Border Patrol agents saving’ Border Patrol needs help. Men and women in green need help, no ifs, no buts about that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, lastly, one of the bigger problems in this country right now is the economy and the worker shortage that we have.

I wonder if this is part of that. If you have people who are desperate for economic opportunity coming here and America needs workers, isn’t there some way to make this work for America?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Absolutely.

I support a guest-worker plan. I support a way that you can — and we passed that from the House. And we’re waiting for our Senate to get that done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: And I will tell you that, if we have people under a guest-worker plan, then Border Patrol’s job will be done easier, because the people looking for a job will come in the legal way, and then Border Patrol can focus on the bad people.

So, it would help us on security. So, we need to make our legal system work better.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

All right, Congressman, thank you for your insights.

And we now to the guest you heard the congressman talking about, Jeh Johnson. He served as homeland security secretary under former President Obama. And he joins us this morning from New Jersey.

Mr. Secretary, your policies are being endorsed here. I don’t know if you want to respond, though, to what the congressman said, in terms of a stronger message needing to be sent by this administration, going to countries and showing that expelling of migrants is happening.

JEH JOHNSON (Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security): Well, thanks for having me on, Margaret.

First, I know that following me is Professor Robert Pape, who will present some findings on his research. I have been a big proponent of his research now about the concerns around white nationalism for some time. And I urge your viewers to pay close attention to what Professor Pape has to say.

Information — illegal immigration is an information-sensitive phenomenon. It reacts sharply to information in the marketplace about perceived changes in enforcement policy on our Southern border. This administration, I believe unfairly, is perceived as lax on border enforcement.

In fact, we are sending back over 100,000 people a month and have been for the last two years, over two million people. The lesson I learned managing this issue is, you’ve got to repeat yourself maybe 25 times before anybody will listen to you. You have to show that we are, in fact, sending people back…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why isn’t that happening?

FORMER SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON: … probably about as fast as — well, that’s a good question.

My friendly advice to the current administration, DHS and the White House is, we have to continually stress that we are, in fact, with the machinery of government, about as fast as we probably can, given the current legal construct and the resources we have, sending people back at well over 100,000, either expel expulsion or deportation.

That’s a lot of people. Now, there’s a larger problem here that, frankly, we did not face when I was in office. We were dealing principally with the Northern Triangle countries, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico.

This problem has become hemispheric. In addition to those countries, you now have Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela who are not cooperating with us. Their countries are literally imploding, and there is migration to the north and the south.

Our Border Patrol capabilities, our resources are bigger than they were eight, seven years ago, when I was in office. But they do struggle to keep up with this crisis.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

FORMER SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON: And, from my point of view, we need to stress that we are, in fact, returning people as fast as we can.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, when it comes to moving migrants around the country right now — you’re a lawyer — the federal government moves migrants from the border to other parts of this country quite often.

What’s the difference when a state governor does it, albeit, I know, without warning?

FORMER SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON: Well, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do that, Margaret.

The wrong way is, on 20 minutes’ notice, to send people by bus or airplane to the Edgartown Airport or to Mass Ave. in front of the vice president’s residence without giving local resources, NGOs, shelter’s local government an opportunity to plan for how they intend to feed and clothe and house migrants.

What the governors of Florida and Texas are doing, frankly, is a political stunt and treating people like livestock. The right way to move people to the interior — and I think it’s something that we should do — 8,000 a day into McAllen, into Henry Cuellar’s district, in Laredo or El Paso, I have been saying for some time is not sustainable.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

FORMER SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON: And so we do need to move people to the interior, but through a well-coordinated effort, in coordination with NGOs, Catholic Charities, state and local government and the federal government.

There is a right way to do that. It requires coordination and cooperation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why isn’t that happening, I guess, is the question we keep coming back to.

And, as you’re saying, it’s becoming politicized. The Wall Street Journal had an op-ed saying it’s hard to imagine a bigger spectacle of American political failure than the histrionics over migrants. They slam Republicans for staging a political stunt, but they also say Democrats are just trying to deflect away from their own border policy failures. Is that a fair assessment, in your view?

FORMER SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON: Frankly, Margaret, the politics currently are such that politicians, elected officials find it more advantageous to simply scream at the other side and complain about how evil or lax the other side is.

It does take political courage to come together and put together legislation on comprehensive immigration reform. It passed the Senate in 2013. It failed in the House in 2014. But that’s simply the only way we’re going to deal with this problem through guest-worker programs, through stronger border security, through trying to address the problem at the source.

It takes political courage, but, right now, the politics of this issue are all wrong. And I’m afraid nothing’s getting done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But we have a crisis, so it requires action. Do you see a clear, coordinated planning or strategy from the White House, that controls Customs and Border Patrol and Homeland Security and the people on the front lines of this?

FORMER SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON: I know DHS is working very hard. They’ve ramped up the resources to deal with the influx at the Southern border.

It’s much larger. The ability to move larger volumes of people is much larger than it was seven, eight years ago. But there needs to be a more comprehensive federal, state, local, executive and legislative branch effort at this. And we can do this, if we’re willing to cooperate, work together, exercise some political courage, have the governor of Texas willing to work with the governors of some Northern states…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

FORMER SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON: … at moving people in a more coordinated, cooperative fashion into the interior of our country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary Johnson, thank you for your analysis this morning.

Face the Nation will be right back. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to take a look now at the latest challenges facing our economy.

Our Mark Strassmann reports from Los Angeles.

(Begin VT)

MARK STRASSMANN (voice-over): Back on track, America’s railroads, with a tentative labor deal. But no one can seem to put the brakes on inflation, the latest rate, 8.3 percent.

That’s six straight months above 8 percent.

DIANE SWONK (Chief Economist, KPMG): We now have an inflation that may be much more entrenched and sticky.

MARK STRASSMANN: Economist Diane Swonk, an adviser to the Federal Reserve, worries workers keep losing ground.

DIANE SWONK: All the gains in employment we have seen, all the acceleration in wages we have seen, we have lost all of that, and then some, to inflation.

MARK STRASSMANN: Blame a tangle of lingering buffeters, including the pandemic recovery, consumer demand, Ukraine and the supply chain muddle, which is why averting a railroad strike was so critical.

This doesn’t help, the backlog at Southern California ports, the gateway for roughly 40 percent of American imports. Here, at the Port of Los Angeles, the director says 28,000 shipping containers need to go out by train. That number should be zero.

Good news, dropping gas prices; $3.68 gallon is the national average, down 26 cents in the last month. Now bad news. Grocery costs jumped 13.5 percent year to year, the biggest leap since 1979, electricity, car repairs rent all up, same for medical costs, even trips to the dentist.

With more people living paycheck to paycheck, the average household spending $460 more a month than a year ago, and mortgage rates also trending up. The 30-year fixed average creeped above 6 percent for the first time in 14 years.

For everyday Americans, it’s a lot. And the more entrenched inflation becomes, the thornier the recovery. On Tuesday, the Fed meets again, and you know the agenda. Analysts expect another rate hike, the fifth one this year.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our Mark Strassmann reporting from Los Angeles.

We will be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Ukraine and recent setbacks for Russian President Vladimir Putin, both diplomatically and on the ground in Ukraine.

That blue area is territory retaken by Ukraine in recent days, and they have made some horrific discoveries there.

CBS News foreign correspondent Debora Patta reports.

(Begin VT)

DEBORA PATTA (voice-over): This is what Russian troops left behind when they fled Izyum in panic, a pine forest of death, more than 400 wooden crosses marking shallow graves, and new allegations of atrocities to add to a list of war crimes so long, it numbers over 30,000.

It’s overwhelming for investigators, who’ve been at it for months now. Multiple torture chambers across the region dispense the terror that kept civilian populations under control. These grim discoveries come after a lightning counteroffensive reclaimed most of the territory seized by Russia in the northeast at the start of the war.

It began here in Bayrak, where Russian soldiers fled their bases down here in panic, clearing the way for Ukrainian forces to reshape the battlefields of Kharkiv.

Vladimir Putin’s war is not going according to plan. Here’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy braving liberated towns near the front line to pay tribute to his soldiers this past week.

President Zelenskyy…

Where he told us he intends to keep Russian troops on the run.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (Ukrainian President): The main thing is, we are coming back, and we are on the way to the end.

DEBORA PATTA: In striking contrast to Vladimir Putin, desperately needing allies, who has yet to visit his troops on the ground.

(MAN SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

DEBORA PATTA: Reduced to this, a video showing the leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner recruiting prisoners for the war in Ukraine, promising freedom in exchange for fighting on the front line.

Wagner has been accused of human rights atrocities in Syria and several African nations, raising the haunting fear of more wooden crosses on shallow graves in a country that has already endured unimaginable suffering.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our Debora Patta reporting in Ukraine.

We will be right back.

(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 are joined now by Andriy Kostin, the prosecutor general of Ukraine.

Good morning and thank you for being here.

ANDRIY KOSTIN, (Prosecutor General of Ukraine): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We just saw our correspondent show some pretty horrific images of what is happening in your country. You keep a database of possible war crimes. You have more than 30,000 documented. How do you begin to sort through them and prioritize? ANDRIY KOSTIN: First of all, at the moment we have fixed (ph) 34,000 war crimes in Ukraine. When we are talking about prioritization, of course, the cases, like we see today and yesterday and days before of war crimes committed in Kharkiv region, including the Izium, of course, such cases are our priority.

Nevertheless, we have a lot of cases which are still ongoing which started in places like Bucha and Irpin. And all of the shelling and destroying of all of civil objects in Ukraine are also fixed and then are also investigated.

So, what we see now is, of course, the horrible amount of potential war crimes committed by Russian aggressor. I would like to say even that what we see now is a system of Russian aggressor. What they do on the occupied territory. And it seems that, for me, that whenever Russian army comes, they turn this place into new Bucha, as we see in Izium.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your president was on this program in the spring in the wake of Bucha, where it was horrific, the images. He called that genocide. Are you seeing evidence of genocide? Can you bring that case to a court?

ANDRIY KOSTIN: We have a case on genocide in the office the prosecutor general. And we are in all the time in communication with international criminal court and Prosecutor Hahn (ph), because the International Criminal Court has also the authority to look at the genocide case. So, we understand that all of these facts put together will lead us to possible conviction in crime of genocide.

MARGARET BRENNAN: No sitting leader has ever been prosecuted for genocide. Can you actually prove that Vladimir Putin authorized or knew all of what was happening under the command of his military?

ANDRIY KOSTIN: Of course, it’s not an easy way to prove that this system of command, responsibility from the highest level. What we understand at the moment, that the crime of aggression is definitely, we know who is responsible for it because the crime of aggression is the mother of all of these crimes, of war crimes, genocide, because without aggression there will be no other war crimes. And for that reason, for the crime of aggression, the highest political and military leadership should be prosecuted and should be punished.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This past week the United States sanctioned the presidential commissioner for children’s rights — this is an odd title given what she’s accused of — who has overseen the taking of children and forcing them into Russia. Your ambassador has put that number at 91,000. There are reports that Secretary Blinken has cited that puts that number at 260,000 children taken from their families.

How many of these kids can be returned and can you prove that this is part of this pattern you’re talking about of genocide, an intent to destroy?

ANDRIY KOSTIN: We definitely understand that the kidnapping and forcibly moving of our children of the future of Ukrainian nation, forcibly — forcibly sent to Russia is, of course, from my point of view, is an element of potential genocide. I will tell you that at the moment we have more than 50 children, only 53, 55 children returned to Ukraine. Some of them now are in a safe place in Europe. But the number which we in the office of prosecutor general have is thousands and thousands of children, for which we have exact evidence that they were kidnapped and forcibly sent to Russia. We identified now more than 5.5 thousand (ph) children who were kidnapped and sent to Russia because we –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

ANDRIY KOSTIN: In our office, we need to identify definitely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. And the United States has now pointed that figure – figure – finger, excuse me, right at the Kremlin.

I want to ask you about sex crimes and sexual assault and rape. There have been some horrific accounts, women chained in basements, children who are attacked. I don’t even want to recite half of what I read yesterday.

Is rape a deliberate act of subjugation being used by Russia?

ANDRIY KOSTIN: We saw it in Bucha. We know that these cases where in Kharkiv region, which is now deliberated (ph), we have evidences of these cases. The most important is to find out proper evidences and to fix them properly. What – what I need – what I need at the moment now, I created a special unit in the prosecutor office general for the sexual violence crimes. And we have a specific team of prosecutors who are well trained for this category of crimes.

The — it’s important for us to communicate with people and to find out these cases in order for the victims of these cases to report about them. And for this reason, we also are in close contact with our colleagues in European countries where a lot of people who — Ukrainians who fled to Europe, some of them could be victims or witnesses of sexual violence crimes. And we are now communicating, trying to find also these cases. Not — in the office of prosecutor general, we have now more than 40 ongoing investigations on cases where we definitely know that the crime of sexual violence was committed by Russian aggressors.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sir, thank you for your time today, Mr. Prosecutor General.

ANDRIY KOSTIN: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good luck to you.

We’ll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to democracy and politics. University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape studies political violence.

And, Professor Pape, good morning to you.

ROBERT PAPE (University of Chicago Professor of Political Science): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s good to have you here in person.

When we spoke back in January about the research you’ve done at that point, you issued a warning that stuck with us because you talked about the threat of political violence around the midterm elections. We are 50 days away. What are you worried about now?

ROBERT PAPE: Margaret, we have not just a political threat to our democracy, we have a violent threat to our democracy. It’s important to remember that January 6th wasn’t just trespassing and going into a federal building. Thousands of individuals used violence to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

What we have been tracking at our center at the University of Chicago, the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, for a year and a half is the violent portion of that insurrectionist movement. Today, there are millions of individuals who don’t just think the election was stolen in 2020, they support violence to restore Donald Trump to the White House.

In fact, just over the weekend, that is just a few days ago, we conducted our most recent nationally representative survey. Today there are 13 million individuals — the equivalent, I should say, of 13 million individuals who support the use of force to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s about 5 percent of the U.S. population.

ROBERT PATE: Five percent.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have extrapolated out from your research. That’s obviously disturbing.

I want to ask you about the context we are in right now because we’re seeing a lot of stressors. The economy, clearly one of them, and what we’ve been talking about today, immigration.

ROBERT PATE: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And migration. You were on last time talking about something called the great replacement theory. And that is the belief among some of these insurrectionists that the Democratic Party is trying to replace voters with new people, more obedient voters.

How widespread is that conviction and does what is happening now in cities up and down the East Coast trigger this?

ROBERT PATE: It likely could, Margaret, reinforce these fears of the great replacement. To be clear, we’re focusing on not just support for Trump, but the violent support for Trump that overrides democracy. And when you look at that, what you see is there are two big drivers among those 13 million individuals. The first driver is this fear of the great replacement. The idea that the Democratic Party is replacing the current electorate, the current white electorate with more minority voters from the third world. And you hear the —

MARGARET BRENNAN: And to be clear, non-U.S. citizens cannot vote in federal elections in the midterm races.

ROBERT PATE: That’s right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Just to be abundantly clear. Please continue.

ROBERT PATE: That is correct. It is a conspiracy theory. But it’s not just on fringe social media, like Parler, Gab, 4chan, 8chan. This is every day on Fox News. It’s on Newsmax. It’s on OneAmerica. It’s on talk radio. So, this is driver number one.

Driver number two is a belief in the QAnon cult idea, which, at first blush sounds a little — almost laughable that they would believe a satanic group of pedophiles runs the U.S. government. But we’ve done focus groups with these folks and what they really mean by that, Margaret, is that there are politicians that have gotten on the Lolita Express with Jeffrey Epstein and have taken money for foundations, for political support.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Corruption.

ROBERT PATE: For corrupt. That’s what’s really what’s going on. So, if you marry those two together, you have a dangerous cocktail. You have the fear of this great replacement happening by a Democratic Party and then you have the fear of corruption and immorality. And that’s that dangerous combination that’s leading to violent support against our democracy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you just mentioned QAnon. And, as you just explained, it’s a set of conspiracy theories involving sex trafficking. And there is this belief that former President Trump is the one person — or one of the people who could end it all. And I want to play some video here because at a political rally last night, Mr. Trump used a song titled after a QAnon slogan. I’m going to play the sound and listeners will have to listen to the music, not necessarily what the president is saying. Listen to the background music.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It would never have happened with me as your commander in chief and for four long years it didn’t happen. And China, with Taiwan, is next.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That is a QAnon song. The former president has posted images of himself wearing a “q” on his lapel on social media with the phrase “the storm is coming.” That’s another one of their slogans.

What does all of this mean and is it threatening?

ROBERT PATE: First, it is threatening. Just to cut right to the heart of it. What it means is that the former president is willing to court, not just supporters of his, but those who support violence for his goals, number one of which is being restored to the White House. This is extremely disturbing because, well, in the fall of 2020, in a presidential debate, Donald Trump could be asked, well, do you know what a Proud Boy is or do you know what QAnon is, and he could say, oh, I’m not so sure. That’s not the case today.

Today it’s quite clear and the problem that we face is that over and over, in tweets by the former president, he is deliberately stoking not just the fires of anger of getting him political support, but the fires that are leading to that violent 13 — the equivalent of 13 million. And that is really the heart of our problem that we face as a threat to democracy because if it’s just a political threat, well, then we can have elections. But once it’s not just denying an election but using violence as the response to an election denial, now we’re in a new game. And that’s why it’s so important we have this conversation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What has the FBI’s search of the former president’s home done to the people you are tracking?

ROBERT PATE: So, what we’ve done in our poll, the one that we just recently did over the weekend, is we asked an additional question, which is, do you believe that the use of force is justified to prevent the prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information? And the numbers go up a bit. Not huge. Goes from 13 to 15 million.

But, interestingly, when we pull apart the data, you get a slightly different set of supporters. So, what’s really concerning is there’s a little bit of ebb and flow that goes up, as we see new issues come on the horizon. And that means that we need to just realizes, this is really important and we need to have this national conversation about what we really want in our country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that’s why we have you here today, to start that conversation, sir. Thank you for are sharing your information.

ROBERT PATE: Thank you, Margaret. Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be back in a moment.

ROBERT PATE: Thank you.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett and CBS News election law contributor David Becker, who have a new book out on the state of American democracy. It’s called “The Big Truth: Upholding Democracy In The Age Of The Big Lie.”

Congratulations to you both.

DAVID BECKER: Thank you very much.

MAJOR GARRETT: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, Major, I want to start with you because in those just literally the first page of the book you use the phrase “American Civil War.” You go on to write that in the upcoming election in November, and in 2024, trust itself is going to be tested. Democracy no longer suffers from a lack of participate energy, it suffers from a lack of respect, allegiance, knowledge, humanity, and most of all, trust.

How dangerous is the moment that we are in?

MAJOR GARRETT: It feels more dangerous, Margaret, than any I’ve encounter in covering politics at the national level since 1990. Stating what clearly what happened in 2020, it wasn’t a fraudulent election, no crime was committed. That doesn’t mean you have to be happy with the result. But one of the burdens of democracy is when you’re unhappy with the result, your obligation is to win the next election, not slander baselessly the election you fairly lost. And we have a component of American politics now that wants to slander an elections that was fairly lost because they’re unhappy. And that unhappiness does not entitle you to drag down American democracy because if, Margaret, we enter a phase in American life where either political party refuses to accept a fair and verified election simply because it lost, then we will dismantle democracy bit by bit before our very eyes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of our colleagues here, Nicole Skinga (ph), interviewed Kim Wyman (ph). She is the senior election security lead at — part of Homeland Security. She spent 30 years working in elections out in the state of Washington. And in this interview, she clearly is feeling that this threat is hitting home. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of the threats are real, you know, we’re going to hang you, I hope somebody puts a bullet in your head, that kind of thing. So, it’s unnerving. It’s unnerving.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s a Homeland Security official being moved to tears by what she is talking about. I mean, it’s extremely powerful to me to hear that.

How common is that right now?

DAVID BECKER: Yes, unfortunately, it’s very common. She, like so many of her colleagues, and she’s seeing this because she’s working with them, are facing an onslaught of threats and harassment and abuse in the aftermath of the 2020 election that is completely divorced from the reality of their success. The election professionals all over the country, red states, blue states, Republicans, Democrats, somehow managed the highest turnout we have ever seen in American history in the middle of a global pandemic. And the ultimate results of this election were — withstood scrutiny from 60 courts around the country. It was remarkable.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What’s the scenario they fear this November?

DAVID BECKER: They embrace aggressive transparency. They want everyone to see everything that they’re doing. And yet despite the facts, despite that transparency, all that seems to matter is that some people believe that it is impossible for their candidate to lose. And if we get so divorced from that reality, we get so divorced from our democratic principles that, as Major said, we start being unwilling to accept the possibility of defeat, what might then — what might be possible then?

And we’ve already seen this. This isn’t hypothetical. We’ve seen this on January 6th. And we could see in the future dozens of little January 6th not focused on Washington on one particular date, but focused in many different places on many different dates.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, Major, you talk about the political benefits to calling 2020 into election, particularly for the former president. According to CBS numbers, in battleground states, over 60 percent of Republican candidates on the ballot are election deniers. Two of the best known, perhaps, Kari Lake out in Arizona and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania.

Is this — indulging this simply the cost of winning an endorsement from the former president, who is a political power house, or do they believe it?

MAJOR GARRETT: It’s certainly the former, getting presidents in — President Trump’s endorsement runs through a sieve that requires you to say the 2020 election was stolen. And if you say it the loudest of any of the Republicans also vying for that endorsement in any particular state, you’re most likely to get that endorsement.

And Kari Lake is an interesting example of this phenomenon. She said before the primary was decided that fraud was afoot. She said while votes were being counted fraud was afoot. She was trailing and then she came out ahead late in the process and said it was, then, therefore, legitimate.

I would only say that is not a veil of hypocrisy, that is the very definition of hypocrisy. The exact process you assailed is the one that made you the GOP nominee. Therefore, it’s legitimate only because you become the nominee? That doesn’t add up.

MARGARET BRENNAN: David, we’ve talked in the past about Democrats who have questioned the outcome of elections. Republicans often point to that when this is discussed.

How concerned are you now that this kind of language is just becoming not normalized but made into just a political tool?

DAVID BECKER: Yes, I’m very concerned about that because factually speaking right now we have the most professional, accurate, transparent, secure election system we’ve ever had. And it keeps getting better every election cycle. But – and —

MARGARET BRENNAN: And it’s interesting you say that because, as you know, there has been this movement to change voting rights and to protect them. So, it is becoming discussed as if there is something, perhaps, not working right.

DAVID BECKER: It’s really troubling in the sense that while it’s not moral equivalence here, it’s not coming equally from both sides of the political spectrum, it is definitely coming overwhelmingly from the extreme right right now. There certainly are aspects of it coming from across the political spectrum. But we could get to a point that if this is seen as politics as usual, that this is just part of the game. We’re going to be at a very, very dangerous point for our democracy. If the losing side cannot accept defeat, especially in a country that’s divided 50-50.

MAJOR GARRETT: The great fear I have, Margaret, is, politics is a lot like the NFL. It’s a copycat league. Whatever succeeds, you replicate. On the right, in the Trump world now, the fastest way to social media fame and fundraising is to deny the 2020 election. You don’t think Democrats aren’t watching that? And maybe tempted by the same social media and fundraising lure that that has? They will be. That’s why we have to stop it, back away from it and say, not here, not this place. This part of our civic life is sacred.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you both for sharing the book with us and your insights.

We’ll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for watching. For FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan.

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