▶ Watch Video: 6/18: Face The Nation

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

  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a 2024 GOP presidential hopeful 
  • Former Attorney General Bill Barr 
  • Former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster 
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut 
  • CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge, CBS News political correspondent Caitlin Huey-Burns and CBS News congressional correspondent Nikole Killion 

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan reporting from Beijing.

And this week on Face the Nation: Secretary of State Antony Blinken is here with an intense diplomatic push to try to improve relations between the U.S. and China.

(End VT)

ROBERT COSTA: I’m Robert Costa in Washington.

Back here at home this weekend, the 2024 presidential campaign picked back up, after a tumultuous week for former President and Republican front- runner Donald Trump. We will have the latest on the investigations and legal challenges facing Trump. And we will speak to his former attorney general, William Barr, plus one of the newest GOP contenders, one-time- Trump-confidant-turned-bitter-rival former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

We will talk with Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal about the investigations into the planned merger between the PGA Tour and the Saudi-owned golf league LIV.

It’s all ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation. We have got a lot to get to.

But we want to begin with Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China, the first U.S. diplomatic mission there in five years.

Margaret is in Beijing.

Margaret, it looks like good evening to you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It is Bob. And good morning to you.

Here in Beijing, more than five-and-a-half-hours’ worth of talks between Secretary Blinken and his Chinese counterpart concluded. They were very direct. They were very candid. But, frankly, it’s good that they were talking at all.

Bob, one of the U.S. officials in the room told me there was at least one point of agreement. And that was to stop the downward spiral in this relationship. But it is clear they still have profound


(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN (voice-over): Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, a close ally of President Xi Jinping, tackled a long list of grievances.

The U.S. goal? Open communication channels to avoid a military clash. Tensions spiked last summer, when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, and again in February after the spy balloon shoot-down. Now President Biden wants to move on.

JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): I don’t think the leadership knew where it was and knew what was in it and knew what was going on. I think it was more embarrassing than it was tension.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Beijing objects to the U.S. military presence in the Pacific. China’s defense chief refuses to speak with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, at a time when Beijing is massively expanding its nuclear arsenal.

LLOYD AUSTIN (U.S. Secretary of Defense): The door is open, and my phone is — my phone line is open.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Miscommunication risks a clash. Last month, a Chinese warship came within 150 feet of slamming into an American ship transiting the Taiwan Strait. And, in the South China Sea, a Chinese fighter jet buzzed the U.S. Air Force.

The divide runs deeper than a failure to communicate. Blinken also pressed authorities to crack down on the flow of fentanyl. That drug is now the number one killer of Americans under the age of 50. Beijing has its own motivations to meet. It wants investments to continue to flow as its economy is slowing.

The recent Biden administration decision to cut off the sale of some advanced technology and high-end computer chips is causing concern.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary Blinken will have a working dinner with his Chinese counterpart tonight.

And, tomorrow, he plans to meet with a top party official who oversees foreign policy, all of these meetings really an intense push to try to hit restart on this relationship — Bob.

ROBERT COSTA: Margaret, speaking of a restart, what do both sides hope to achieve from these meetings? And will there be deliverables?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Expectations have been set very low for actual achievements, in terms of deliverables, as they call them in Washington.

But we know that, here in Beijing, the ultimate hope may be for a face-to- face meeting between President Xi and President Biden this fall, perhaps as soon as September, or at a key conference in California this coming November.

So, all of this may be building up to that meeting between the two leaders of the world’s most powerful economies. In the meantime, it is that economic interest that is also a chief concern here. The U.S. and Chinese economies are so intertwined. There’s interest in lowering tension to alleviate some of that nervousness in the business community.

And we also know that, when it comes to concern about technology and investment, the U.S. wants to continue that flow between both countries and wants to tamp down some of the concern going into this next year. But, fundamentally here, President Biden believes that this country of China is the only one in the world that has both the power and the intent to change the global order.

This is about competition.

ROBERT COSTA: Margaret, will Secretary Blinken meet with Xi Jinping?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Bob, that meeting may depend on these next 24 hours and how they go.

But arrangements are being made for President Xi to meet with Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, who has been a key aide to President Biden over his many years in the Senate and in the White House. So, this is an important face-to-face to lay the groundwork for that possible presidential summit.

ROBERT COSTA: Margaret, thank you.

Margaret will be back later in the broadcast.

We’re joined now by William Barr. He served as attorney general under former President Trump. His book “One Damn Thing After Another” is now available in paperback.

Good morning, Mr. Barr. Thank you for being here.

WILLIAM BARR (Former U.S. Attorney General): Thanks for inviting me, Bob.

ROBERT COSTA: Former President Trump now says everyone except you says this indictment is about election interference and should not have been brought. He said you know the indictment is total B.S. That’s his — that’s our shorthand for what he actually said.

He’s also known for watching the Sunday shows. And he obviously saw your appearance on another network last Sunday.


ROBERT COSTA: Why is he wrong about this?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Well, he — you know, this is — this is not a circumstance where he’s the victim or that this is government overreach.

He provoked this whole problem himself. Yes, he’s been the victim of unfair witch-hunts in the past. But that doesn’t obviate the fact that he’s also a fundamentally flawed person who engages in reckless conduct. And that leads to situations, calamitous situations, like this, which are very destructive and hurt any political cause he’s associated with.

And this was a case that — entirely of his own making. He had no right to those documents. The government tried for over a year quietly and with respect to get them back, which was essential that they do, and he jerked him around. And he had no legal basis for keeping them.

But, beyond that, when — when he faced a subpoena, he didn’t raise any legal arguments. He engaged in a course of deceitful conduct, according to the — the indictment that was a clear crime, if those allegations are true, and were — was outrageous.

What he did was, he — according to the indictment, is, he took the documents out of storage, led his lawyer to believe that he’d be conducting a full search of the boxes, and then caused his lawyer to file with the court something saying that he had completed a search.

ROBERT COSTA: How strong is the special counsel’s case on obstruction specifically?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Well, it’s very strong, because a lot of the evidence comes from his own lawyers. And, furthermore, there’s evidence of him saying things that are completely incompatible with any idea that this was an innocent document dispute.

ROBERT COSTA: Do you believe he lied to the Justice Department?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Do I personally believe it? Yes, I do.

ROBERT COSTA: And do you believe that — that — he continues to claim that he has all these privileges and rights under the Presidential Records Act.

Is he mischaracterizing the act?


The legal theory by which he gets to take battle plans and sensitive national security information as his personal papers is absurd. It’s just as wacky as the legal doctrine they came up with for having the vice president unilaterally determine who won the election.

The whole purpose of the statute, the Presidential Records Act, is — was to stop presidents from taking official documents out of the White House. It was passed after Watergate. That’s the whole purpose of it. And, therefore, it restricted what a president can take. It says it’s purely private that had nothing to do with the deliberations of government policy.

Obviously, these documents are not purely private. It’s obvious. And they’re not even now arguing that it’s purely private. What they’re saying is, the president just has sweeping discretion to say they are, even though they squarely don’t fall within the definition. It’s an absurd argument.

ROBERT COSTA: Do you believe, if he is convicted, he should serve his prison sentence?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Well, I don’t — we haven’t even gotten to the point of, you know, whether he’s been convicted and also what his sentence should be.

ROBERT COSTA: But if it happens?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: I — I — you know, I don’t like the idea of a former president serving time in prison.

ROBERT COSTA: Republicans remain critical of the attorney general, who spoke out this week, as well as Director Wray at the FBI. They have rallied to Trump’s side.

Are they wrong to say that this Justice Department is acting in a political way?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Well, if they’re pointing to this case, I think they’re wrong.

I think the department had no choice but to seek those documents. Their basic argument really isn’t to defend his conduct, because Trump’s conduct is indefensible. What they’re really saying is, he should get a pass because Hillary Clinton got a pass six or seven years ago.

Now, I think, you know, that’s not a frivolous argument. But I — I’m not sure that’s true. I think, if you want to restore the rule of law and equal justice, you don’t do it by further derogating from justice. You do it by applying the right standard here. And that’s not unfair to Trump, because this is not a case where Trump is innocent and being unfairly hounded.

He committed the crime. Or, if he did commit the crime, it’s not unfair to hold him to that standard.

ROBERT COSTA: You say Trump’s alleged conduct is indefensible. So many Republicans continue to defend him.

What will it say if the party, your longtime party, puts him forward as their nominee?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Well, that’s the problem.

I don’t think they’re actually defending his conduct, but they are saying it’s unfair to prosecute him. But that then raises another question. OK, if it’s unfair to prosecute him, that’s not the whole answer. The question is, should we be putting someone like this forward as the leader of the country, leader of the free world, who has engaged in this kind of conduct?

The other thing is, this is not just an isolated example. Trump has — you know, has many good qualities, and he accomplished some good things. But the fact of the matter is, he is a consummate narcissist. And he constantly engages in reckless conduct that — that puts his political followers at risk and the conservative and Republican agenda at risk.

ROBERT COSTA: Would he put the country at risk if he was in the White House again?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: He — he will always put his own interests and gratifying his own ego ahead of everything else, including the country’s interests. There’s no question about it.

This is a perfect example of that. He’s like — he’s like a 9-year-old, a defiant 9-year-old kid who is always pushing the glass toward the edge of the table, defying his parents to stop him from doing it. It’s a means of self-assertion and exerting his dominance over other people. And he’s — he’s a very petty individual who will always put his interests ahead of the country’s, his personal gratification of his — you know, of his ego.

But our country…


FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Our country can’t — you know, can’t be a therapy session for, you know, a troubled man like this.

ROBERT COSTA: This is not the only special counsel investigation, an ongoing one on January 6, so many witnesses being called in.

You were the star witness for the House January 6 Committee. Are you willing to testify, or have you already testified before the special counsel?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Well, if they — if they call me in as a witness, of course, I would — would testify.

But all I said was what I said, you know, what I recounted in my book about this full story about a stolen election.

ROBERT COSTA: Have you talked to them in any way behind the scenes, if not formal testimony?


FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Well, I’m not going to get into any communications I had with the government, but I don’t expect to be a witness. But I will be glad to be one if I’m called.

ROBERT COSTA: Trump was just indicted and arraigned in the records case. Do you believe he’s a target, potentially, in the January 6 case?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Yes, and I have said from the be — by the way, I have defended him when I think there’s cases that are unfair, like the one up in New York and so forth.

And I have always said, I think the January 6 case will be a hard case to make because of First Amendment interests. But I’m actually starting to think they will pull the trigger on that, and I would expect it to be this summer.

ROBERT COSTA: Do you believe the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, will indict Trump in Georgia?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Yes, I don’t know much about her case. I don’t know if it’s a sound case or not. I’m skeptical about that. But I will — if…


ROBERT COSTA: Why are you skeptical?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Again, because of the First Amendment interests.

You know, we don’t want to get into a position where people can’t complain about an election and claim that an election was stolen..

ROBERT COSTA: But Trump said on tape he wants the secretary of state to find votes.

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Yes, I know, but there’s — there are innocent interpretations of what he said, which is, look, of all the votes that we think are bad, you certainly can find among them some that are slam-dunk.

But whether that’s the proper interpretation or not, I — I am more skeptical of that case. But, on the other hand, I think it’s likely that it will be brought.

ROBERT COSTA: Former Attorney General William Barr, we really appreciate you taking the time to stop by.

And Face the Nation will be right back. Don’t go away.


ROBERT COSTA: We turn now to the 2024 presidential campaign and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He is in Bay Head, New Jersey.

Good morning.

Governor, have some Republicans, especially those in Congress, been too quick to rally behind Trump this week without knowing the full scope of the evidence in the records case?

FORMER GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-New Jersey) (Presidential Candidate): Look, if you read that indictment — and, as you recall, Bob, I did this work for seven years at the United States attorney in New Jersey, the fifth largest office in the country.

And that indictment lays out some very, very disturbing facts about not only the president, the former president, keeping all these documents and national security documents that he had no right to keep on to the Presidential Act — Records Act, or any other law, but, worse, instructing his lawyers to lie and to obstruct the government from getting those documents back.

There’s some very disturbing conduct in there, including the showing of these documents to other people that were not cleared to be able to see them. So, I think that we’ve got to have a full trial here and a fair one. The president, the former president, is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

But the conduct in there, Bob, is deeply disturbing. And what I’m concerned about is, look, we need change at the Department of Justice. And, if I’m president, you can be guaranteed that we’ll put an attorney general in there who will lead without fear or favor and clear out anyone who does show partisanship.

But that’s a different issue than the conduct that Donald Trump engaged in. And, in my view, that’s not the conduct that we should have from someone who wants to be president of the United States again.

ROBERT COSTA: Governor, you just said you’d make some changes at the Department of Justice. Some of your rivals in the race have said that the Justice Department, in their view, is weaponizing this investigation, targeting former President Trump.

You know the FBI director for years, Chris Wray. Are your rivals wrong when they talk about the DOJ becoming weaponized?

FORMER GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Look, I think the DOJ under Eric Holder became weaponized. And the fact of the matter is when you look at what he did as his time as attorney general, both against Republicans and in refusing, along with Loretta Lynch, later on…

ROBERT COSTA: But what about now, Governor?

FORMER GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: … to prosecute Hillary Clinton.

Well, I will get to it, Bob. And I think now what we’re looking at is, people seeing things as being inequitable, that, if you don’t prosecute Hillary Clinton, and you choose to prosecute Donald Trump, that that raises real questions in Republicans’ minds. And it should.

But it does not change the conduct. We would not be here if Donald Trump had simply returned the documents the dozens of times the government asked him to return them, the times that the grand jury served a subpoena for them.

He waited, waited, and waited, defied the government, and then wound up having his — his house raided. And, when they did, they found over 100 more classified documents, after he had told everybody months earlier he had returned everything.

That conduct is indefensible, in my view. And if it’s true, as alleged in the indictment, he is in severe legal trouble.

ROBERT COSTA: Indefensible, disturbing, your words about this alleged conduct.

Is the Republican Party right now not only at a crossroads politically, but historically?

FORMER GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Look, I said this when I announced for president. We have been at a crossroads in numbers of times in — in our nation’s history, 1776, 1861, 1941, 1961, and 1981.

And all those years, we had presidents like George Washington, like Abraham Lincoln, like FDR, like JFK, and like Ronald Reagan, who had a choice between going small and going big, and doing big things for America. We need a president who once again is not looking at this small stuff in the rearview mirror, who’s constantly whining and complaining and moaning about how things are unfair.

What we need as a party and as a country is a president who will go big, lead America to big achievements and big goals again. And there’s nobody, Bob, who can do big better than me.

ROBERT COSTA: How will history see your own role with Trump?

FORMER GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Look, I made it very clear in 2016 I did not want Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States, and I think that was the right decision.

And my hope back in 2016 was that I could make Donald Trump a better candidate, and, if he won, a better president. I tried, and I was wrong. I couldn’t make him a better president. And he failed over and over again.

ROBERT COSTA: This is a race for the White House. You’re not the only one running against former President Trump. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is ahead of you in the polls.

Does DeSantis have what it takes to become the leading Trump alternative?

FORMER GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Well, look, we’re going to find out. I don’t know Governor DeSantis all that well. I trust I will get to know him much better over the course of this campaign.

But I will say this, Bob. And people can see this if — if they go to our Web site at ChrisChristie.com. They will see that, in the last two polls in New Hampshire, we are now solidly in third place after one week in the race, and only four points behind Governor DeSantis, who is in second place.

So this is a race to be the Trump alternative.

ROBERT COSTA: Right now, Tony Blinken, the secretary of state, meeting with Chinese officials.

Do you believe it’s the right decision by the Biden administration to engage with China in this way?

FORMER GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Look, Bob, I think the problem has been, the entire Biden administration has been filled with mishaps towards China.

First, let’s start with Ukraine, where Joe Biden said a small incursion wouldn’t be a problem. He sent a signal to Russia and China that a war in Ukraine would be OK. China is now funding it, because we gave them the signal it was OK, and Russia is killing innocent Ukrainian citizens, who only want their freedom.

He has made mistakes in terms of not being tougher against China on the stealing of our intellectual property, letting spy balloons fly over our country unharassed. Whatever he’s doing today is a day late and a dollar short, Bob. He should have been being much more direct with China right from the beginning.

And I think people who know me know that there will be no confusion on the part of President Xi when I’m president of the United States about what American policy is, and that, every day, we

will be fighting to make America the winner in this competition against China.

ROBERT COSTA: Governor Christie, we’ll see you on the campaign trail soon. We appreciate you being here.

And Face the Nation will be right back. Don’t go away.


ROBERT COSTA: As we head into the first official days of summer, we’re seeing mixed signals when it comes to the economy.

Mark Strassmann reports.

(Begin VT)

MARK STRASSMANN (voice-over): At San Francisco’s biggest shopping mall, default is the new black. Westfield mall’s owners have returned the keys to their lender, an unaffordable commercial loan and a cautionary tale about our economy’s next stress test.

FRANCES STACY (Director of Strategy, Optimal Capital): There’s going to be a wave of defaults along the commercial real estate the tighter banks are going to get with their lending, which means less credit is going to be available to consumers.

MARK STRASSMANN: Beleaguered consumers, millions of them.

WOMAN: Cost of living has really increased a lot. So it’s getting a little harder to do things that I would typically do.

MARK STRASSMANN: Inflation still high, but dropping. For the first time in 15 months, the Fed last week paused a hike in interest rates. A 30-year fixed mortgage now averages just under 7 percent, more than a doubling in two years.

Car loans, rates also now average roughly 7 percent, a 15-year high. And credit cards, typical rates on existing cards near 21 percent, the highest since 1994.

Here’s the flip side. So many Americans keep spending, big-ticket buys like cars, maybe encouraged by plunging gas prices. This time last year, gas averaged above $5 a gallon, a record, this weekend, about $3.60. Investors also buying. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq have hit their highest levels since April of last year.

But the stock market is not the economy, which brings us back to Westfield mall’s drama, what it represents. Banks have about $3 trillion outstanding in commercial real estate loans. More than

half that will come up for refinancing this summer. And, at today’s higher rates, many more borrowers may just walk away.

(End VT)

ROBERT COSTA: Mark Strassmann reporting from Atlanta.

We will be right back.


ROBERT COSTA: Tomorrow, the nation will be honoring Juneteenth.

That’s the anniversary of the date in 1865 in which word reached the last enslaved Americans that they had been freed, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

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



Before I traveled here to Beijing, I sat down in Washington with CBS News foreign policy and national security contributor H.R. McMaster to discuss some of the challenges with the U.S. and China.


MARGARET BRENNAN: The White House has said that there have been an alarming number of increasingly aggressive actions by the People’s Liberation Army, that’s China’s military, in recent months. There was video of a near-miss in the South China Sea in the air and then one at sea in the Taiwan Strait recently as well.

How unusual are these kind of incidents?

H.R. MCMASTER: Well, they’re not unprecedented, but it’s unusual in terms of the quick succession of multiple incidents. I think China’s sending a message, hey, we’re in charge now, you’re finished, to the – to the west and to the United States. And – and I think it’s indicative of what they hope to achieve, Margaret, which is to create kind of an exclusionary area of primacy across the Indo-Pacific region. Though they’ve laid claim to the ocean in the South China Sea, for example.

So, I think this really calls for us to have a strong response. I think, you know, with the – with

Secretary Blinken’s visit there it may portray a bit of weakness in terms of —

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean?

H.R. MCMASTER: Well, I think we’ve been so anxious to – to have this discussion with the Chinese, and the Chinese have been really playing hard to get in terms of the – in terms of the discussion.

I think what they hope, with the optics of this meeting, and I’m sure Secretary Blinken’s quite aware of this, is to create a perception that we’re going there to pay homage to the Chinese Communist Party because they want to use that kind of perception of China’s strength relative to the United States, to bludgeon countries in the region and say, hey, time to bandwagon with us. This is our era, what they call the – the new era of international relations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, arguably, a lot of the Biden administration policies look a lot like the Trump administration policies –


MARGARET BRENNAN: At least directionally here.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Relations have been going downhill for years now. This is the first visit since 2018. So, if the visit itself you question is a risk, how do you make this successful?

H.R. MCMASTER: Well, I think it’s OK to talk, right? Diplomacy is OK, it’s just the conditions under which the discussion is – is conducted and – and how it’s portrayed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So what do you mean by that? Location or –

H.R. MCMASTER: So I think — not necessarily location, but just the atmosphere around it in connection with China really, I think, wanting to try to get some concessions in exchange for just the – the privilege of talking with them.

And this might have to – have to do with some policy decisions about whether or not to restrict or ask allies to restrict chip sales, for example, to Chinese industries.

But I think what’s really important to note is that China has not come off the path of aggression. You mentioned the People’s Liberation Army aggression. But a broad range of economic aggression that China is engaged in. And so I think it’s important just to stick to our guns on this. And – and it’s important to have diplomacy with China but let’s have also diplomacy with countries that might be sitting on the fence to say, hey, your choice really at this moment is not between Washington and Beijing, it’s between sovereignty and servitude.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, one of Secretary Blinken’s stated goals is to help open up these lines of communication between the militaries. You can’t oppose that? You must want that.

H.R. MCMASTER: No, no, I think it’s important to have those kind of confidence-building measures, ways to de-conflict. But it takes two people – two parties to do it.


H.R. MCMASTER: One – one of the obstacles to this is the Chinese Communist Party is so centralized in terms of the power of Xi Jinping that he’s unwilling to de-centralize communications to anybody else many times. When you – when you meet with Chinese Communist Party officials, Margaret, it’s typically they’re reading off 5×8 cards. I mean you try to, you know, tell a few jokes, right, make a connection – a personal connection. It’s really hard to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, when we recently spoke with Bob Gates, the former CIA director and defense secretary, he said, even in the worst days of the Cold War there was at least a way for the United States and Soviet Union to have communications about these kind of military incidents to avoid escalation. That framework does not exist today with China. It — doesn’t one have to be created, or do you think that ambiguity or that risk is – is a choice?

H.R. MCMASTER: We ought to always say, hey, the door’s open for that kind of communication. But I think it’s up to the Chinese Communist Party. It takes two to be willing to have that kind of – that kind of a – that line open.

The CCP has become very aggressive, not only against the United States, but a broad range of nations. And not even to mention, you know, short of military aggression, how about cyberattacks, how about campaigns of economic aggression against, you know, Australia, Lithuania and others.

So, I think it’s important to look at the behavior of the party because they talk a great game, right? You know, the — a new era of great power relationship.


H.R. MCMASTER: You know, a community of common destiny for all mankind. Now, that sounds like a great program, right? I mean that’s not what I would want to sign up for, though, with the – with the Chinese Communist Party in charge.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, recently it was publicly disclosed that China has set up, and in – rebuilt part of its listening facilities that are located in nearby Cuba.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary Blinken acknowledged that this week.


MARGARET BRENNAN: To a lot of people they hear and see something like that and they think of the old Cold War.


MARGARET BRENNAN: How different is this model?

H.R. MCMASTER: It’s – it’s worse. It’s worse because —

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean?

H.R. MCMASTER: It’s a – it’s a more difficult problem set because of the way that our economies have become interconnected, in large measure based on these flawed assumptions about the nature of the relationship and especially the intensions of the Chinese Communist Party. That’s what we got wrong.

We thought that – that we could determine the behavior of the party by the way we engaged them. But, hey, guess what, I mean, the Chinese Communist Party leadership had aspirations that went far beyond anything in reaction to what we do. And China really does want to establish itself as it sees it at the center.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. What were the key phrases, they key things you are looking for and watching for out of this meeting?

H.R. MCMASTER: I think competition and – and a recognition on our part that the Chinese Communist Party has to change its behavior for there to be a better relationship.

There’s always an impulse in diplomacy. To think that a better relationship is an end in and of itself. But actually, if – if the perception is that we’re going to make concession after concession, just for a better relationship, I mean the outcome could be something that appears like a diplomatic achievement, but it could be a political disaster.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back.


ROBERT COSTA: In recent months the world of professional golf has been divided into two

camps, with players forced to choose between being either part of the PGA Tour or an upstart Saudi-backed golf league known as LIV. The two leagues recently announced plans to join forces. And there’s been considerable backlash among some players and in Congress due to Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights abuses and the killing of “Washington Post” journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal launched a Senate investigation into the merger and he joins us this morning from Bridgeport.

Senator Blumenthal, thanks for being here.

SEN. ROBERT BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Thanks for having me, Bob.

ROBERT COSTA: Senator, you’ve demanded more information from the PGA and LIV about how this agreement came together. Tell us, what exactly do you want?

ROBERT BLUMENTHAL: The subcommittee – Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair, is essentially trying to uncover the facts about what went into this deal, who was behind it, and whether there was any improper conduct or wrongdoing and what the structure and governance will be of the entity going forward. There are very, very few details.

But, remember, what we have here is essentially a repressive, autocratic foreign government taking control over an iconic, cherished American institution for the clear purpose of cleansing its public image. The Saudis have been very explicit that they have a strategic objective here. They’ve been engaged in numerous, malign activities, antithetical to American interests and values, killing Jamal Khashoggi, as you mentioned, as well as other journalists, torturing and imprisoning dissidents and critics and supporting anti-democratic activities, even terrorist activities, like 9/11, as well as the internal war in Yemen.

So, there’s a real risk to American interests in the Saudis taking over this American institution. We want to get to the bottom of it.

ROBERT COSTA: Well, how deep are you willing to dig? You’ve asked for records from the executives. Do you want records from the players?

ROBERT BLUMENTHAL: We welcome player cooperation. We have reason to believe that players are dissatisfied with this result. Many of them feel betrayed, as do the 9/11 families. And so we’re seeking records and documents right now. I’m not going to prejudge where we’re going. Obviously, there are options.

ROBERT COSTA: Is a subpoena on the table, Senator Blumenthal? Is a subpoena on the table if you don’t get what you want?

ROBERT BLUMENTHAL: Any of the tools at our disposal, including subpoenas and hearings,

recommendations for action and legislation are all on the table. We are ready and willing to seek information by whatever legal means we have to obtain it.

ROBERT COSTA: How soon could a hearing be held on Capitol Hill?

ROBERT BLUMENTHAL: I think a hearing is possible within weeks. The American people deserve a clear look at the facts here. Again, not prejudging what the conclusions will be but what the Saudis are doing here is not taking control of a single team or hiring one player. is not taking control of a single team or hiring a single player. They are taking charge of the entire sport. And it’s not just a Saudi individual, it is the regime.

ROBERT COSTA: Is that a national security concern, Senator?

ROBERT BLUMENTHAL: I think there are national security implications to this deal. Anytime there is foreign influence by a repressive regime over a central American institution there is a security risk. And, remember, this institution plays a central role in our society and culture. The players there are ambassadors and role models. And there are economic implications. The Travelers Tournament beginning this week is going to have an economic impact on local economies here in Connecticut in the tens of millions of dollars. So, there are clearly risk to American security in a repressive regime having this kind of influence over a central, iconic, cherished institution.

ROBERT COSTA: When you say this kind of influence, the counter has always been the claim that it’s a minority stake by the Saudis. What’s your response to that?

ROBERT BLUMENTHAL: We still have yet to hear authoritatively what the terms of the deal are. But, reportedly, the chairmanship is going to go to the head of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the PIF, Yasir al-Rumayyan, who is a close confidant of the ruling monarchy. And so we have every reason to believe that the Saudis are taking control.

And the 9/11 families feel betrayed. So do the players. And I sat with the leadership of the PGA tour just about a year ago, in Cromwell. They sought to enlist me and my colleagues in supporting their efforts to bring back players from LIV. There is an ongoing antitrust investigation reportedly by the Justice Department. A lot is going on here, and it should be.

ROBERT COSTA: A lot more to hear form you in the coming weeks.

Senator Blumenthal, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

And the PGA Tour declined our invitation for Commissioner Jay Monahan to appear on the broadcast as he’s on medical leave, but they said in a statement they are, quote, confident that once all stakeholders learn more they will understand how it benefits our players, fan and sport.

We’ll be back in a moment.


ROBERT COSTA: We mentioned that tumultuous week at the top of the show. So, who better to turn to than our CBS News political panel. With us this morning, political correspondent Caitlin Huey-Burns, congressional correspondent Nikole Killion, and senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge.

Thank you all for being here this morning. Terrific to have you here with me at the table.

Catherine, let’s begin with you.

Can you react to former Attorney General Bill Barr and his statement that he believes Trump could be indicted on the January 6th investigation?

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: Well, I took notes during your interview and what jumped out to me was his statement that this was not government overreach in the Florida indictment, that this was self-inflicted, fundamentally flawed, he said of the former president, and that it was reckless conduct. And the reason Bill Barr’s comments matter and may even sting for some is that he’s been attorney general twice. And when he served then President Trump, he was a staunch defender during the Russia collusion allegations. And what we know now from the special counsel’s findings, John Durham, is that the FBI, when there was evidence that conflicted with that narrative, they discounted it or they willfully ignored it. And, as we know, that’s completely inconsistent with the FBI’s assessment as being the preeminent law enforcement agency.

ROBERT COSTA: Nicole, you listened to former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. As the whole Republican presidential race heats up and Trump’s conduct’s in the spotlight. But you’re on Capitol Hill day-in/day-out, talking to congressional Republicans there, often to Speaker McCarthy. How is the response to the indictment just days ago and the arraignment unfolding on your beat?

NIKOLE KILLION: Yes, I think what struck me about what the governor said is multiple times he described this indictment as disturbing. And then ultimately said that he believes that the former president’s conduct was indefensible. Yet on Capitol Hill you pretty much have just the opposite with congressional Republicans largely rallying and defending the former president.

I mean take for instance I asked Speaker McCarthy just last week, was it a good look to have these boxes stacked in a bathroom at Mar-a-Lago. And his response to me was a bathroom door locks. So, I mean, that is the defense that some Republicans are putting forth.

That being said, I do think you are staring to see some daylight between Republicans, even among House Republicans. For instance, Ken Buck just recently said that if the former president is convicted he cannot support him in 2024. You look over at the Senate side, people like John Thune, one of the top Republicans in the Senate, saying that, you know, look, we’ve lost in ’18, we’ve lost in ’20, we’ve lost in ’22. This is really not a winning strategy to stick with a guy like the former president.

ROBERT COSTA: To take what Nikole just said, Caitlin, she used the phrase daylight. Is there daylight emerging in the presidential race? You’ve been talking to Senator Tim Scott, covering former Ambassador Nikki Haley and so many others. How is this going to affect the Republican presidential race beyond Governor Christie?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: You know what I think is so remarkable is if you take a step back you had, this week, the Republican frontrunner for the presidential nomination indicted, charged with mishandling national security by the federal government. You would think that would be a huge opening for Republicans who are vying to go and have that position to go after him. And yet we haven’t seen a real cohesive strategy on behalf of Republicans to take down Donald Trump. You’ve seen a lot of Republicans get into the race. The virtue of their candidacies is that they do sense that there is an opening of vulnerability with Trump. But they are, you know, loathe to cross him and especially his supporters.

So you saw this week, as you said, maligning the Justice Department, going a little bit farther. Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Mike Pence went a little bit farther than they have been to condemn what the allegations suggest.

But they are looking at the numbers here. And our CBS polling showed that 76 percent of Republican primary voters think that this – are more concerned that this was a political indictment.

So, the question moving forward is that the – the course of this primary is really going to be defined by Trump’s legal troubles. We have, as you were talking to Bill Barr about, the January 6th investigation. The investigation in Georgia. As this unfolds, does this boost him or does – do the candidates look at this and say, time to go after him? They haven’t reached that conclusion yet.

ROBERT COSTA: Speaking about a question moving forward, Catherine, who is going to represent the former president? So much chaos inside of his legal team.

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: Well, they haven’t ruled out adding even more lawyers, especially down in Florida, as they address this indictment in that state. What I learned in my conversation over the weekend with sources close to his legal team is that, as a threshold issue, they’re likely anticipating some limited discovery to kind of get under the hood of the special counsel’s case and the strength of the evidence. And then the other two top tier targets are a motion to dismiss based on allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, you’re familiar with that through your own reporting, and then the second is to get excluded these notes from Evan Corcoran, the former defense attorney, which are at the heart of this obstruction case.

And the thing that I learned this weekend, which was new to me, is that these notes are more than 40 pages in length. So I think it is fair to say in this indictment, we’re seeing a snapshot of those conversations and not quite the full picture.

ROBERT COSTA: Something we don’t have a snapshot of yet is Georgia. Former Attorney General Barr, Nikole, he seemed to wave it off a little bit. But you’ve been covering this for

months. And we’ve heard that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has a charging decision that’s going to be announced sometime maybe late July, maybe early August. Take us inside the latest on Georgia.

NIKOLE KILLION: Well, I think Fulton County definitely is preparing. And, you know, we saw that in a number of ways by Fani Willis coming out in two letters stating that she intends to announce these charging decisions at some point this summer, between July 18th, September 1st, even narrowing that timeframe perhaps into early August.

But this is a multi-facetted investigation. Obviously at the heart of it is an investigation into election interference in the 2020 election in the state of Georgia. It also deals with the issue of a false slate of electors, which we learned recently some of them accepted an immunity deal. And it also dives into potential data breaches that existed in other counties in Georgia. So, this is a very sprawling case.

What we do know, though, is that, you know, the special grand jury completed its report earlier this year. What they found was no widespread evidence of fraud. But they do believe that some of the individuals may have committed perjury.

We also know that some of the jurors have since spoken out since this report has wrapped up, suggesting that indictments are possible. So, that is why I think you see the district attorney trying to lay that groundwork for when she makes that decision. Georgia officials tell me, when and if the time comes they believe they’re ready.

BOB COSTA: I appreciate that update because it’s sometimes hard to keep track. There’s the New York investigation. There’s two special counsels. January 6th and records. And then, of course, what’s going on in Georgia. But as much as it seems to dominate the news, Trump and his legal challenges.

That’s not the only story right now in American politics. It’s just a year ago Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer. And when you listen to President Biden on the campaign trail this weekend, or you hear from Vice President Kamala Harris, you’re hearing about abortion rights. And so despite all the Trump frenzy, abortion rights, it does still seem to be front and center. What’s your reporting on that?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: And they are deploying Kamala Harris to go to North Carolina later this week to mark the anniversary. North Carolina, of course, just passed an abortion law recently. Democrats certainly believe that this is an animating force and they’ve seen that proven in Democratic politics.

But what’s interesting is that now that we are a year removed from the court decision, it kicked everything back to the states. The states decided their own laws. And now the real battle is in the state supreme courts. And that’s what we saw in Iowa this week. We are expecting a decision in South Carolina and in Florida. And so that’s real front here in this next phase. And also why a lot of activists are looking at constitutional ballot measures in states. I just got back from Ohio doing some reporting on that as well.

And what I think also, as you’re looking at the primary landscape and Republican Party politics, we have seen them kind of struggle to define positions. But what’s interesting now is that you’re seeing Ron DeSantis really take an opportunity to go after Donald Trump from the right. So as much as we’re talking about the investigations and whether Republicans want to talk about them, DeSantis is figuring this is an issue where he can boast a more conservative agenda than the former president.

ROBERT COSTA: Nikole, I just want to bounce off that with you.

When you’re on Capitol Hill and talking to congressional Republicans, someone like former Governor Christie often says, oh, a national abortion ban is never going to happen. There needs to be consensus in the states first. But do you believe if the freedom caucus types in the House get more power, and maybe their allies in the Senate get more power, that they would pursue a national born ban if it was a Republican-controlled Congress across the board?

NIKOLE KILLION: I think it’s possible, but I also think that the approach has been pretty fractured in Congress where you have, you know, some are pushing for a six-week ban, some support a 15-week ban. And, honestly, you know, since the Roe v. Wade decision was overturned, while there was a lot of hype at the beginning, is there going to be some type of national ban, we’ve really seen Republicans kind of push back off of it.

If anything it’s Democrats that are rally trying to keep this front and center. And next week we know that House Democrats will be introducing a discharge petition to try to restore abortion access, even if it’s just a symbolic move.

ROBERT COSTA: A lot to follow across all of the beats. Couldn’t be luckier than to have all of you here to open your notebooks. Really appreciate you stopping by on a Sunday.

We’ll be right back.


ROBERT COSTA: That’s it for us today. Thanks for watching.

And we want to wish all you Fathers out there, including my own dad, a very happy Father’s Day.

Margaret will be back next week For FACE THE NATION. I’m Robert Costa.


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