Full transcript of “Face the Nation” on March 5, 2023
On this “Face the Nation” broadcast, moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks to Robert Costa
- Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia
- Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois
- Rep. Brad Wenstrup, Republican of Ohio
- Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb
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: the spring to-do list on Capitol Hill gets even longer, and the Republican Party struggle to define itself continues.
Congress scrambles to deal with rail safety and environmental concerns. Yet another Norfolk Southern train derailed yesterday in Ohio.
Plus, a key Democrat says he’s had it when it comes to the nation’s debt.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN (D-West Virginia): It can’t be this total political division. It’s not my fault. It’s your fault. It’s their fault.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We will talk with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
Then: The Republican race for the 2024 nomination is on, and key Republicans are picking sides. But the bigger question is, what exactly does the party stand for?
DONALD TRUMP (Former President of the United States): We had a Republican Party that was ruled by freaks, neocons…
FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: … globalists, open border zealots, and fools.
MARGARET BRENNAN: As more candidates consider jumping in, one is opting out.
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN (R-Maryland): It was a tough decision, but I have decided that I will not be a candidate for the Republican nomination for president.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan tells our Robert Costa why he made that decision.
And we will talk to Illinois Democrat Governor J.B. Pritzker. He’s being recruited to help President Biden’s expected reelection campaign.
And was COVID-19 a result of a lab accident in Wuhan, China? New intelligence reports from the Department of Energy and FBI conflict with other agency reviews. Ohio Republican Brad Wenstrup is heading up a new committee investigating the origins of the virus. We will talk to him., Then former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb will help us sort through it all.
It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.
Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.
Saturday’s Norfolk Southern derailment in Springfield, Ohio, was the fourth train derailment in Ohio in the last five months, including the one in East Palestine that spilled toxic chemicals. Norfolk Southern tells CBS News that no one was injured and no toxic substances were on board the train involved in yesterday’s incident. The CEO of Norfolk Southern is expected to testify before a Senate panel on Thursday.
We want to begin the show with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who joins us from Charleston, West Virginia.
Good morning to you, Senator.
I want to start on that…
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Good morning, Brennan. Thank — Margaret, thanks for having me.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to start on that derailment.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The president last week praised bipartisan railway safety legislation that would have new rules for trains carrying hazardous materials, increased fines for safety violations, phase in newer cars.
Will you vote for it? Is that sufficient?
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Yes, I’m going to be supporting that. We need to do it.
Back in 2015, in Mount Carbon in West Virginia, we had a derailment, 27 cars, tanker cars carrying Bakken oil. It went off the tracks and derailed and exploded and caused a tremendous problem there. And it was very, very dangerous. It could have been a little — a lot worse, if it had been a little farther down the tracks, could have torn up a whole town.
But with that we were recommended that the electronic pneumatic brakes should be something — should be considered that might prevent this, routine maintenance checks and auditing and things of this sort. I don’t think any of that has been done.
And it’s time for us to get serious about this. We’re moving many, many products, many more products on the rails and on our roads than we ever did before. And we have a lot of people who don’t want any pipelines. Pipelines would help alleviate a lot of this problem with the oil that we need in our country and we will be using for quite some time to do it safer.
But out of sight, out of mind. They are thinking, if you don’t have a pipeline, you won’t be using the product. Well, that’s far from the truth. And this is the results of people just not making good decisions. And it’s what’s broken in — in — in West Virginia. And — and…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: … broken across the country as far as in Washington, the politics.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want…
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: It’s broken. It needs to be fixed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want — I want to come back to energy in a moment.
You’re saying it’s broken. You gave a pretty fiery speech a few days ago in the Senate. You’re at odds with the White House and with many in your own party because you are saying that Democrats need to talk about out-of- control spending and are refusing to negotiate.
You did ding Republicans for not offering specific cuts. If you are the dealmaker — you seem to be positioning yourself there — where is it that you see room for negotiation?
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Well, Margaret, first of all, I encourage Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
I was hoping that he would, first of all, take things off the table that doesn’t cause a conflict, but most — most importantly, sit down with the president. And reached out to the White House. They did sit down, had a meeting. I’m encouraging much more of that.
But what we can do is, can’t we get together and just talk about how do we have this much debt accumulated this — in this short of a period of time? Within 10 years, Margaret, we have accumulated the greatest amount of debt in the history of our country in the shortest period of time. Can’t we at least find out what we did and how we expanded?
I know that COVID did so much of it. But, you know, we’re past the COVID…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: … problems. And what we need to do is to get back to normal.
But we’ve gone from $3.5 trillion in spending to over $6.2 trillion in spending every year in the last 10 years. That’s just unacceptable. You’ve got to sit down. Anybody that thinks we don’t have a problem in Washington, anybody that thinks that the politics is not broken in Washington is not living in reality, does not want to face the facts and the truth.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
So — so, what is the truth here? Because Social Security and Medicare make up nearly 40 percent of spending in 2023. If no one is touching those programs, where are you finding the cuts?
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Well, first of all, just do our job on time.
We’ve been told that, if we just had a budget done — we don’t even have a budget anymore. The president is — is a month late in putting his budget out, which will come out next week. But I don’t see the House or the Senate bringing a budget forward. And, basically, by a piece of legislation was passed back in 1985, we’re supposed to have our budgets…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: … from the House and the Senate done by April the 1st.
The president basically submits his in February, and, by September the 30th — I’m told there’s billions and billions of dollars of savings just right there if we just do it on time.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure. But that’s not…
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: We’re not even doing that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That — right.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: That’s what I say it’s, not working. That’s…
MARGARET BRENNAN: But that — but…
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: But it gets a downward trajection, basically, and capping…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, but more has to be done…
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: How about capping some of the…
MARGARET BRENNAN: … done than that. I mean, you know…
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Yes, capping some of the discretionary spending.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You — OK.
Well, there’s a lot to talk about right there. But I want to ask you, what is Joe…
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Hey, Mar…
MARGARET BRENNAN: What is Joe Manchin looking for in this deal? Are you looking for your permitting reform, for example, that Democrats didn’t deliver on, though they had told you that you would have an agreement on?
Are you looking for that to be tucked into a potential bill in this agreement that you’re saying has to be struck between Republicans and Democrats?
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Well, rather — tucking something in, we’re not trying to hide anything, basically.
If we don’t do permitting, and we don’t have permitting reform in America, we’re not going to meet the challenges and be energy-independent energy- secured. If you’re not energy-secured, you’re definitely not going to be a superpower of the world, and depending on other parts of the world to provide what you won’t do for yourself.
That has to be done. I don’t care what side of the arena you’re on, if you want transmission, if you want pipelines, if you realize we’re going to have a balanced energy proposal. That’s what the Inflation Reduction Act was for, energy security. The administration, this administration has touted that as strictly an environmental bill.
It’s good for the environment, but it’s also very, very necessary for us to have the fossil energy…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: … using it better and cleaner than anywhere in the world to have the security we need. That’s what we need to do. And that’s what they’ve been avoiding.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: You have to have permitting. If not, all this is going to be voided.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about what appears to be some separation between you and the president.
You were quoted a few days ago as saying: “We’re just in different ball games. We’re not even in the same ballpark on many things.”
Are you going to endorse Joe Biden if he runs for reelection?
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Oh, there’s plenty of time for the election. This is the problem with America right now. We start an election every time there’s a cycle coming up.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, he’s the leader of your party.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: I — I — no, the bottom line is, let’s see who’s involved. Let’s wait until we see who all the players are. Let’s just wait until it all comes out.
My main purpose right now is to work for my country and my — and my state. That’s my responsibility. I’m not going to make my announcement for anything until the end of the year. I’m not going to make a decision what my political position is going to be or where I’m going to do for my political future.
I won’t do it until the end of the year. I got too much work to do now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Your political future, you mean the question of whether you personally are going to run for reelection in the Senate in West Virginia.
Your Republican governor, Jim Justice, says he’s going to run for your seat, or he thinks he’s got a good shot at it. Why haven’t you made up your mind?
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: There’s too — the bottom line, I got plenty of time to make up my mind. The election is not until November 2024. We don’t even file until January of 2024.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: And to be running and basically — not basically looking at the problems you have, we’ve got a runaway debt. We got inflation that’s killing people.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: We’ve got an unsecured energy. We have a border that’s out of control.
You’re telling me we’re in the same ball game or the same ballpark? I don’t think so.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said let’s see who all the players are when it comes to running for president.
You’ve said you’re not running for president. Is that an open question, though? Who — who do you think…
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything about that.
I — the bottom line is, I will make my political decision in December, whatever it may be.
MARGARET BRENNAN: To run for president?
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: I’m not taking anything off the table, and I’m not put — and I’m not putting anything on the table.
I said I will make a decision in January — at this — at the end of this year.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ll make a decision at the end of this year as to…
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Simply that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: … as to who you will endorse for president?
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: What my political future will be, what…
MARGARET BRENNAN: No, but for president.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: What I will be involved with, how I will be involved.
I will be making — any decisions I make politically will not be done until the end of the year. I’m focused on fixing what’s wrong with Washington. And the politics are so toxic, the more you talk about this party, that party, what candidate and this candidate.
Look at what you have facing you right now. You’ve got inflation. You’ve got, basically, energy. You’ve got these unsecured borders. You’ve got geopolitical unrest. And we’re talking about everything but that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We are — we have a lot to talk about.
And, Senator Manchin, you’re welcome back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We got to leave it there, because…
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: I’m happy to come back, Margaret, any time.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Manchin was just talking about not wanting to talk about campaign 2024.
But we’re going to do that. It is up and running, because front-runner former President Trump was in the Washington area yesterday speaking at a conservative political gathering, where he had some pretty tough talk about what would happen if he is not reelected.
Our Robert Costa spoke exclusively with former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan about why he is not jumping in.
ROBERT COSTA: You think by sitting out — the field, maybe it’s a little tighter?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: I hope so.
ROBERT COSTA: It’s a little harder for Trump to get that nomination?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: I sure hope so.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Bob’s here. We’re going to be talking with him next. And you will hear more from that interview with Governor Hogan.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So far, there are only three major Republican candidates in the 2024 campaign, but more than a dozen are still undecided.
Our Robert Costa spoke to former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan on Friday.
And, Bob, he told you he’s not running. Did he explain why?
ROBERT COSTA: He did.
The former Maryland governor said he felt conflicted as he made this decision. Let’s hear what he had to say.
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: I was struggling, because my heart was telling me to run. My head was telling me, no, that just does not make sense for a whole host of reasons.
And my gut was flipping back and forth. So it really came down to, if I wasn’t 100 percent convinced, then I shouldn’t do it.
ROBERT COSTA: You were torn?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: I was torn.
ROBERT COSTA: Toughest decision of your political career?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Absolutely, toughest decision I ever made.
ROBERT COSTA: Politically, by staying out of the race, it’s a smaller field, may be tougher for Trump to get the nomination?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: I didn’t want to have a pileup of a bunch of people fighting.
Right now, you have Trump and DeSantis at the top of the field soaking up all the oxygen, getting all the attention, and then a whole lot of the rest of us in single digits. And the more of them you have, the less chance you have for somebody rising up.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Bob, he doesn’t see a path for himself. He worries about too many challengers carving a path, essentially, for the former president.
What else did he have to say about the campaign?
ROBERT COSTA: Margaret, as you know, there is this lingering divide between traditional conservative Republicans and the Trump wing of the Republican Party.
The former governor said, as he looked at the race, he saw a narrow path for Republicans like himself as they look to 2024.
Let’s hear what he had to say about that.
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Well, there’s no question it was — it’s challenging.
There’s a big, big fight for the — I would say the heart and soul of the Republican Party that I have been talking about for years. It’s still going on. We’re making progress, though. I mean, it went from about 90 percent of the Republican primary base was behind Trump, to about 60 percent after January 6, to it’s down to about 30 percent now.
There are — there’s about two-thirds of the people in the Republican Party, while they might have supported Trump and Trump’s policies, they really are ready to consider moving in a different direction.
ROBERT COSTA: But he’s still leading the polls.
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: He’s leading in the polls, and there’s no question it’s — he’s a formidable challenge.
But I think a year is an eternity in politics. And the first primaries are about a year away. So I think what it looks like today could be completely different than what it looks like a year from now.
ROBERT COSTA: You are a two-term governor, just left office. You’ve long been connected to the legacy of Ronald Reagan, conservative movement politics.
Is your decision to not run in 2024 in any way an acknowledgment that that party, that version of the Republican Party is fading or even gone?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: You know, I don’t feel that way at all.
I think we certainly went off in the wrong direction. And we’re not back on track. It’s going to take a while. We’re not there yet. I would say the party of Reagan is not dead, and neither is the party of Trump.
ROBERT COSTA: How serious is this moment for your party in terms of beating former President Trump? If he wins the White House again, what would that mean for American democracy?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Well, I’m — I’m hopeful that it’s not going to happen.
ROBERT COSTA: But what does it mean if it does?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Then I think it’s — we’re going to have to do some soul-searching. We’re going to be digging out for a long time.
But, look, we’ve lost seven out of the last eight popular votes for — in the presidential race. And we’ve lost — we’ve had three horrible election cycles, where we should have done — had a huge pickup in the last election, and we didn’t. We lost, before that, the Senate, the House, and the White House.
We’ve got to start getting back to a party that — that people will vote for, or we don’t get to govern.
ROBERT COSTA: When you look at your effort to try to get the Republican Party to come back to its conservative roots, you’re facing a lot of obstacles.
There’s a big battle over what the truth is. And the recent Dominion lawsuit against the FOX News, the FOX Corporation is one example of how there’s a real battle over whether election fraud happened or not. All these false claims of fraud are out there right now in the political discussion, especially on the right.
What’s your response to the Dominion lawsuit against FOX News? And what does it reveal about the Republican Party and perhaps FOX News?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Well, I don’t know all the details of the Dominion lawsuit, but I’m certainly following the controversy.
And it’s not — it doesn’t come as a surprise, because, for years, we’ve had people who, you know, I would hear from, elected officials, and leaders of the party, and people in Congress, or fellow governors, or people in conservative media that would say privately, something — I was always telling the truth.
And I was sometimes criticized for it. But I always stood up and said exactly what I thought. People would say to me: “Oh, I agree with what you’re saying. But I can’t say it.”
Or they would — they would be — you know, they would know the truth, but say something different just to win votes. And I think that’s part of the problem. And I think we’ve got to get back to truth-telling. And we’ve got to stop the conspiracy theories. It’s why we lost all the elections in– in this last race.
I mean, the people that were spouting election lies and that were saying that nothing happened on January 6 or that the — the pandemic was — was fake, the virus didn’t happen, they all lost. And the people who actually won were the commonsense conservative Republicans like me who were actually able to win swing votes and that were talking about issues like the economy, like crime and education. They were focused on things people cared about.
We can’t keep looking backward and we can’t keep denying facts.
ROBERT COSTA: Is Governor DeSantis somebody you could see yourself supporting as the non-Trump candidate in your party?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Well, look, the people of Florida just overwhelmingly elected Ron DeSantis. I have said earlier that I think governors is — are a good training ground to become president.
We have a lot of great governors to consider. I — maybe Ron DeSantis and I have different styles, but, certainly, he’s — he’s got every right to get out there and make the case.
ROBERT COSTA: Where do you stand on Governor DeSantis’s effort to counter Disney and its self-governing zone in Florida?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: The controversy, to me, was about telling a business that, if you don’t agree with me, I’m going to put you out of business or take it over.
And I’m a — I’m a traditional kind of small-government conservative Republican who doesn’t believe in heavy-handed local governments telling businesses what to do. So we come at it from a different perspective. It’s not about the — the — the issues themselves that they were fighting over, but how — how it’s being handled, I would disagree with.
ROBERT COSTA: He’s talking about his battles with what he calls woke culture.
What does the DeSantis approach tell you about his politics?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Well, I think he’s going right after the Trump base, and he wants to be, I think, the younger version of Donald Trump.
And, you know, he’s trying to fire up the base, which is OK. And it may be a good strategy to win a primary, but my point was, you — you have to actually focus on winning swing voters as well, or we’ll have Joe Biden as president, and that’s not what we need.
ROBERT COSTA: How rough could it get, DeSantis vs. Trump?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Could get rough. You know, time will tell. It’s going to be very interesting.
Joe Biden is not the guy who should be the next president. And I think most people would agree. But you can’t beat somebody with nobody. We have to come up with the best candidate.
ROBERT COSTA: You’ve been friendly with former Vice President Mike Pence. Someone you could support?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Yes, absolutely. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Pence. And I thought he certainly is the kind of guy — he’s full of integrity and experience.
ROBERT COSTA: And if another potential contender is listening to you today, what do you hope they hear from this decision, from your move?
FORMER GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: I love competition, and I hate coronations.
My advice would be, don’t run just because you want to get your name known, or you want to be on TV, or you want to write a book, or get a TV deal, or because you want to be a Cabinet secretary. You should only run if you believe that you’re capable and qualified and that you have a real chance to be the — not only the nominee, but the next president.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When we come back, we will hear from Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.
Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois.
Good morning to you, Governor.
GOVERNOR J.B. PRITZKER (D-Illinois): Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I have a lot to get to with you, but I want to get something out of the way.
“The New York Times” has a big feature on you, calling you the Democrats’ SOS candidate, saying you’re keeping your options open for a presidential run in 2024 in case Biden doesn’t run.
Is that true?
GOVERNOR J.B. PRITZKER: No, I’m supporting Joe Biden. He’s running for reelection, and he’s going to get reelected.
I’m just happy that people think of me in that way. That’s certainly very flattering. But I intend to serve out my term as governor of Illinois.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you are, according to CBS reporting, potentially serving on an advisory board to the president if he does run for reelection.
You might have heard Joe Manchin, who just told us that it was kind of an open question as to who would be running. He said: “Let’s see who all the players are.”
He didn’t endorse the president. Does that surprise you?
GOVERNOR J.B. PRITZKER: Well, I’m sorry to hear that.
It does surprise me a bit. I will say that Joe Biden has an awful lot that he gets to run on here. He’s gotten a tremendous amount done for the country, saved literally hundreds of thousands of lives by making sure that vaccines were distributed. He passed legislation in a bipartisan fashion.
We got the IRA, which is going to help us fight climate change, infrastructure, which is helping everybody across the country, the CHIPS and Science ACT, which is going to help us bring manufacturing back to the United States, and what is Joe Biden’s superpower, and that is, he demonstrates empathy in everything that he does. He truly cares about the American people.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So do you think he needs to make it official and say he’s running, so that there isn’t more speculation or people considering other options?
GOVERNOR J.B. PRITZKER: I don’t think there’s anybody that’s serious that’s actually considering running against Joe Biden, because he’s done such a great job.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you.
On the issue set that Democrats are running on, your office told — told us you’re very focused on school board races in Illinois to make sure extreme right-wing candidates aren’t dominating them. I’m wondering how strong the Republican ground operation is on things like school boards.
Is parents’ rights really something you think Democrats need to be concerned about on a national scale?
GOVERNOR J.B. PRITZKER: Well, what Republicans are trying to do is, of course, ban books in libraries. They’re trying to keep our schools from teaching black history.
They make up things about CRT in schools that just don’t exist. And so they have got a lot of extreme right-wing candidates, frankly, on the crazy end of things that are running. And we just want to make sure that people know who they are and know not to vote for them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Governor, there’s a lot I want to get to with you on the other side of this commercial break, so please stay with us.
And we will be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more Face the Nation.
Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
We want to continue our conversation now with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.
Governor, thank you for staying with us through the break.
I want to follow up on something you said right before we took that break. You said you want to make sure people know who they are and not to vote for them. You were talking about Republicans you said trying to do things like ban teaching black history, ban books, and ban CRT. Are you talking about people in Illinois? Who are you talking about? Where is that happening?
GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): Well, you asked – you asked me about schoolboards.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
J.B. PRITZKER: And I’m telling you we’ve got people running at the local level who believe that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Got you.
J.B. PRITZKER: But, of course, the Republicans are carrying this as a national message. And, honestly, it’s something that’s offensive to most Americans. This idea of banning black history. It’s important for people to understand the history of slavery in the United States, you know, and our – – our entire U.S. history, warts and all.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
In Florida, where I think you’re gesturing to, they are not banning black history. It was specifically that AP college course. That’s what you’re referring to there? That version of it?
J.B. PRITZKER: Well, when they’re trying to dive in and take over an AP history exam and edit it and edit out parts that they don’t like, that’s banning history. That’s what they’re doing in Florida. That’s what Ron DeSantis is doing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. A potential 2024 candidate.
I want to ask you about the issue of abortion because I know you are one of 20 Democratic governors very much deeply involved in trying to build a firewall here against restrictions.
There’s a Texas judge who may soon decide a case that could revoke the approval of the abortion pill, which is the most common kind of abortion in this country. If there is a ruling to restrict it, how will governors respond? What will you do?
J.B. PRITZKER: Well, in Illinois, we protect the other abortion drugs that are available. And we protect women’s right to express their reproductive freedom. And so we’re helping our clinics in Illinois. We’re making sure that all the refugees from the states around us that have banned abortion know that there’s an oasis here in the Midwest, here in the state of Illinois, to protect their health and their reproductive rights.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Walgreens is an Illinois-based pharmacy. I know you called in their CEO, Ros Brewer, for a meeting on Friday. They had announced they won’t sell abortion pills in states in which Republican attorneys general have threatened legal action. Can you get them to change the policy and that — they’re still waiting, I guess, on certification to sell the pill in Illinois itself. Can you get them approval?
J.B. PRITZKER: Well, that’s something that happens at the federal level, but I offered to them to work with the federal government to try to speed up the process of certification. They want to certify it in Illinois and they want to be able to sell it here. So, we’re going to help in any way that they ask us to.
But, look, on a broader scale, we should just recognize that these pharmacies need to protect women’s health. That is the business that they should be in. And so in states where it’s legal to have an abortion and legal to sell an abortion pill, they should still be doing it. And I’ve told them that. We need to make sure that the other pharmacies do the same.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we’ll be following that.
I want to ask you as well about crime as an issue for Democrats. In the city of Chicago, the mayor, Lori Lightfoot, just failed to make the runoff in the Democratic primary. She was challenged by a former school CEO backed by a police union and the Cook County commissioner, who was endorsed by the Chicago Teacher’s Union.
So, I’m wondering what the takeaway message is here for Democrats? Is it, don’t take on the teacher unions, as she did, or is it to focus more on violent crime?
J.B. PRITZKER: Well, it was a messy primary. There’s no doubt about it. Nine candidates, nobody got 50 percent, or anywhere near 50 percent. So, we have a runoff coming up.
I think that these two candidates have to make sure that their messages are clear, what they’re going to do to protect health care, what they’re going to do to address crime. Frankly, they have not been specific on a lot of these issues. And I’m asking them to be.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, thank you very much for your time today.
J.B. PRITZKER: Thanks, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Ohio Congressman Brad Wenstrup, who chairs the select subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic.
Doctor, welcome to the program.
REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-OH): Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There are 18 different intelligence agencies in this country, no consensus on Covid’s origins. Two intel agencies undecided, four say it was natural transmission and then last week we learned that the Energy Department has joined the FBI in saying the virus likely spread through a mishap at a Chinese lab.
Is all of the evidence circumstantial? Have you seen the intelligence?
BRAD WENSTRUP: I’ve seen quite a bit of intelligence, as you might imagine, sitting on the Intelligence Committee. We haven’t seen all that we want to see necessarily. And some of it is very classified that I have seen. And so we have to continue driving forward and getting questions answered because the more we find, the more questions that we may have.
So, you do have a variety of opinions. And, really, what we are trying to do is to follow the breadcrumbs, if you will, look at the forensics of what took place. Obviously, this is one of the more serious things that has ever happened to mankind. And so it is important to find the origins of Covid.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you expect the FBI and the Energy Department to testify to your committee?
BRAD WENSTRUP: That — there may come a time for that. I would hope that they do it willingly.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, if this was indeed the result of a lab leak, what is Congress doing to prevent this from ever happening again?
BRAD WENSTRUP: I’m hoping, at the end of the day with the subcommittee, that we have a bipartisan product that can really help us with our readiness going into the future. I keep using a variety of terms that we want to be able to predict a pandemic, we want to prepare for a pandemic, we want to protect ourselves from a pandemic, and hopefully prevent a pandemic. And that should be our goal. And we’re going to have to work with a lot of scientists and specialists to be able to do that. But we have to get to the truth of what actually happened in this pandemic.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, in terms of the specifics, I know the White House is said to be considering recommendations from the National Science Advisory Board For Biosecurity to put oversight on gain of function experiments. Those are the things that I guess genetically alter a virus to enhance its functions and maybe make it more deadly. This was allegedly what was happening at this lab in Wuhan.
Would you want this kind of regulation, and does that come from the White House or does that come from Congress?
BRAD WENSTRUP: Well, it may be a combination of both at the end of the day. And I think it is important that we do that.
Look, if we were taking taxpayer dollars to fund research, not only in the United States but in China, concerning this type of methodology, the creation of a chimera, or it’s called gain of function research, where you can take two viruses and put them into one, I don’t see a whole lot of commercial use for that necessarily. So, it’s something that if it’s going to take place, it certainly should have oversight or should have had oversight.
In 2015, Ralph Baric of North Carolina, along with Dr. Zhengli Shi in China, published their article about the ability to create these chimeras. And they did that. So, we know that this technology exists.
My real question is, why are we doing this with an adversary like China? And we have to look into what the reasoning was for that, and what actually took place, where the money went, and why did it go there?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I know that there has been a lot of focus on Dr. Fauci, who has since retired from NIH. And I wonder if you think that is misplaced to personalize the scrutiny so much when the intelligence agencies are all so divided. I mean can you reasonably probe this question, in a bipartisan way, without villainizing people?
BRAD WENSTRUP: Well, I think that’s the goal. I mean, I just want to get to facts. And when I was asked to chair this select subcommittee, one of the first things I did was call Dr. Raul Ruiz, Democrat from California, emergency physician. As physicians, we have worked on many bills together and we get along very well. We may disagree on a lot of other policies, but we work very well together, especially when it comes to health.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I think a lot of people would welcome just sticking to the facts, which is why I want to ask you about the membership on your committee, because you have Marjorie Taylor Greene on it. She’s shared misleading information about deaths and Covid vaccines. She compared vaccines to Nazis forcing Jews to wear gold stars. Dr. Ronny Jackson, who said masks never worked. He called the omicron variant the midterm election variant.
How do people take your committee work seriously with members like this on it?
BRAD WENSTRUP: Well, I think we have a lot of serious members that — on both sides of the aisle that are just after the truth. I think that they come from a variety of backgrounds.
Look, there were things that were said, hey, this is a conspiracy theory, stop this conspiracy theory that it may have come from the lab. Well, now you have agencies that are coming forward and saying that we do think it came from the lab.
Look, we have to conduct ourselves in a way that is professional, and I hope that we will. I can’t control everybody.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
BRAD WENSTRUP: And that goes on both sides of the aisle. Dr. Ruiz can’t either.
But, at the same time, what I’m seeing from all the members is that they have backgrounds of severe interests, significant interests. They either owned a business, they’re health care providers, they’re concerned about the adverse events that may come from the vaccine. These are legitimate things for Americans to be concerned about.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
BRAD WENSTRUP: And through this process, I think we took doctors out of the equation all too often and left it up to non-physicians to tell America how to treat themselves.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re from Ohio, so I want to make sure I ask you about what was a second train derailment from Norfolk Southern in your state yesterday on top of this toxic one. President Biden has praised some of the bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would up railway safety. Do you see a need for this kind of legislation right now?
BRAD WENSTRUP: Well, certainly. And any after action review or review of something that happened, if we see that there’s some gaps in our safety, then we should take a look at that. Let’s not put things out there that aren’t necessarily facts and say that there was a safety issue if it wasn’t. But, at the same time, you do want to address these issues.
Look, we’re always trying to do better. I hope that we can. And the other thing that I would like to see come out of all this, especially with the one where there was such a chemical, toxic reaction with the fires that were started from the derailment is, do we have a standard operating procedure of how we manage a community, what our reaction is from the government, what are we looking for, how do we protect our people? Let’s make sure that we have a good standard operating procedure so although these instances are rare, according to the numbers, we have to be prepared for that 0.1 percent or whatever the case may be.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Dr. Wenstrup, we’ll be watching the hearing this week. Thanks for your time.
We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we are back now with former FDA commissioner, and Pfizer board member, Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
Good morning. Welcome back. Good to see you.
DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB (Former FDA Commissioner): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Dr. Gottlieb, I wanted you to sort of give us some context here, because I know you’ve said in the past on this program that we will likely never know the origin of Covid-19, short of finding the exact animal that carried the virus or a smoking gun proving that it accidentally leaked out of the lab. You said both theories were plausible.
Has anything changed that makes you more certain now?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I think that there’s enough information in the public domain to create a presumption that this could have come out of a lab, maybe a strong presumption. We have seen some incremental reporting. There’s classified information that hasn’t been made public. You heard the congressman even refer to classified information that even Congress hasn’t seen in this instance. And I think based on that premise, that there’s, you know, a likelihood that this came out of a lab, we may never be able to prove it with certainty, we should start behaving like it did come out of a lab and start taking the steps to make sure that that couldn’t happen again. There’s a lot of things that happened around the labs in China, particularly the lab in Wuhan, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, that created sloppy conditions. They were doing high-risk research in low level – low security labs. They were doing risky research. You heard the congressman talk about the gain of function research that was going on in that lab. We know the Chinese military was operating in that lab simultaneously. So, we need to look at all those things.
I would be focusing on the activities in and around that lab and deriving from that what steps we need to take going toward to make sure that we get better security around high risk research that if this did come out of a lab, it’s not going to happen again.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’ve talked on this program to Matt Pottinger who served in the Trump administration, who said intelligence needs to be a more robust part of pandemic protection. And I know you agree with that.
You know, there was a piece in “The New York Times” by David Wallace Wells, an opinion piece called “We’ve Been Talking about the Lab Leak Theory All Wrong.” And the argument is that, lean into the lab theory and just look at how to prevent lab leaks. He’s calling for things like a national registration on research based on risks and benefits, new safety standards, global governance to go with this as well.
Why doesn’t that exist, and why isn’t that being created?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yes, I think it should be. I mean we’re three years into this. There is some recommendations that are on the president’s desk. I think we need to start getting serious and looking at what steps need to be put in place.
You know, we’re still stuck on the debate about whether it was or wasn’t a lab leak. I don’t think we’re going to prove that. I think we should work on the assumption that there’s a probability that it was a lab leak and start putting in place the kinds of protections that we need.
The congressman talked about gain of function research. He made the point that there isn’t a real commercial prerogative of doing that kind of research. I agree with him. We ought to look at whether we outlaw that kind of research. And certainly, if it’s going to take place, conduct it and be a cell-4 (ph) labs, high security labs under very strict conditions where we know what’s going on and don’t outsource it to labs in China. Sometimes the highest risk experiments get outsourced to the worst labs around the world because they’re the ones willing to do those experiments. And so if we’re going to do high risk research because we think it’s important from a national security standpoint, and that’s the only context in which this would make sense. There really isn’t a commercial context in which this would make sense. We need to get better control over it.
And to Matt’s point, Matt Pottinger’s point, we need to get the intelligence agencies engaged in this as a national security – as a part of their national security mission and look at public health preparedness through a national security lens. I think we’re doing that now, but we need to be very explicit about that. And that does mean also surveillance around some of the high risk activities that can create these kinds of risks.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So – but that’s the White House and that’s the intelligence agencies, rather than a congressional mandate?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Look, Congress certainly has a role here. I think that Congress could start coming up with a list of recommendations to the administration. The administration has recommendations from independent bodies.
Ultimately, this is going to be federal rules that get imposed on research that gets funded by the federal government, as well as what we try to do through international conventions, working with the WHO and the World Health Assembly to try to get international agreements in place and what countries are and aren’t going to be willing to do.
Now, you can’t prevent rogue regimes from doing this kind of research. That’s where the intelligence agencies come in to do monitoring to see if rogue regimes are doing high-risk research that create conditions for a lab leak, either inadvertently or deliberately.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And the Biden administration has called on China to release more information. And they have not delivered it. Dr. Fauci talked about that in November on this program.
I also want to ask you about what we just learned about President Biden’s health. He had this skin cancer diagnosis, a basal cell carcinoma lesion removed. Given his age, is there any reason to worry more about it?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: There’s no reason to be concerned about this particular lesion. This is a slow growing cancer, usually confined to the surface of the skin that can be completely excised with a small surgical procedure. It sounds like the president had this fully removed. It shouldn’t reoccur. It typically doesn’t spread. These kinds of lesions typically occur in regions of the body that are exposed to sun. It is related to exposure to UV light. And so typically you see it on the neck or the face. Just for awareness, it’s not like a melanoma where it appears as a very dark, irregular lesion. Typically it will appear as a sort of a clear and waxy kind of lesion, maybe scaly. So, it has a different kind of appearance. But the president should be fully cured of this through a small surgical procedure to remove it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Dr. Gottlieb, always good talk to you.
We’ll be right back with a look at the anniversary of a major milestone in the civil rights movement.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden will travel to Selma, Alabama, later today to commemorate the 58th anniversary of bloody Sunday, a landmark event for the civil rights movement and for the late Congressman John Lewis. In 2015, our Bob Schieffer visited Selma with John Lewis and crossed the legendary Edmund Pettus Bridge.
BOB SCHIEFFER: This week marks 50 years since the shooting of Jimmy Lee Jackson, whose death at the hands of a highway patrolman, at a peaceful protest, inspired one of the iconic events of the civil rights movement, the Selma, Alabama, march.
BOB SCHIEFFER (voice over): Movement leaders had chosen Selma as the place to dramatize the demand for the right to vote. After Jackson’s death, a 54- mile march from Selma to Montgomery was planned. Fiery young activist John Lewis was one of the leaders.
JOHN LEWIS: We are marching to our state capital to dramatize to our nation and to the world our determination to win first-class citizenship.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But the march was not to be. The protesters ran into trouble soon after they started as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
I had never been to Selma, but with the anniversary of that march looming, I went there yesterday and walked across that bridge with now Congressman John Lewis, and asked him what was going through his mind on that fateful day.
JOHN LEWIS: We were marching in twos in an orderly, peaceful, non-violent fashion, on our way to Montgomery, to dramatize to the nation that people wanted to register to vote. I really thought we would be arrested and jailed that day.
BOB SCHIEFFER (on camera): When did you realize when you got to the high point here, that’s when you saw all of the law enforcement people down there?
JOHN LEWIS: We saw down below the state troopers and behind the state troopers, and the sheriff’s posy on horseback.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to disperse.
JOHN LEWIS: We got to the bottom of the bridge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See that they turn around and disperse.
JOHN LEWIS: And they came toward us, beating us with night sticks, using tear gas and trammeling us with horses.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You were right in the front and –
JOHN LEWIS: I was in the very front.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So, you were among the first that was hit?
JOHN LEWIS: I was the first person to be hit. And I still have the scar on my forehead. I was – I was knocked down. My legs just went out from under me. I thought I was going to die on this bridge. I said to myself, this is the last protest for me.
BOB SCHIEFFER: What happened? Do you remember anything after that?
JOHN LEWIS: I remember being back at the church. I don’t even recall how I got back to the church. But apparently someone carried me back. And I guess I become conscience. And someone asked me to say something to the audience, and I stood up and said, I don’t understand it, how President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam and cannot send troops to Selma, Alabama, to protect people whose only desire is to register to vote.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And then, in a matter of weeks, of course, he did send the troops and you were able to make that march to Selma.
LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (March 15, 1965): There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Selma. Their cause must be our cause too.
JOHN LEWIS: And two weeks later, after President Johnson delivered that speech, we did make the march all the way from Selma to Montgomery. It was a sea of humanity marching on this highway.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And you did have people protecting you then all the way.
JOHN LEWIS: All the way, people inspecting the bridges along the way, guarding the camps at night. It was – it was our military, it was our military at its best.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, Congressman, a lot of people who were not there, who didn’t know how it was, they don’t know how different it is now.
JOHN LEWIS: Well, it is — it’s a different – it’s a different world. Back in 1965, only 2.1 percent of black of voting age were registered to vote in this county. You had to go down to the county courthouse. It was the only place you could attempt to register on the first and third Mondays of each month. You had to pass a so-called literary test. There were people to asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap, the number of jelly beans in a jar. People stood in unmoving lines.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So, things are better, but not as good as they ought to be, I guess is the way I would say it.
JOHN LEWIS: Things are much better, but we’re not there yet. We still have problems and we’ll make it. We will get there. Selma was a turning point.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s it for us today. Thank you for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan.