CBS’ John Dickerson joined me Friday morning to discuss next week’s vote to proceed to debate on the Senate GOP health care bill:
HH: I’m joined by John Dickerson, host of CBS’ Face the Nation. John, are you familiar with Brave Sir Robin?
JD: I am, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Lovely thing to hear a sitar.
HH: How many Brave Sir Robins do you expect the Republican caucus has? In other words, how many will vote not to proceed next week?
JD: I don’t know. Well, so that’s not to proceed, you mean vote not to proceed as opposed to being against the bill itself?
JD: I don’t…
HH: They don’t even want to debate it.
JD: Yeah, yeah. Well, I don’t know. I don’t know where we are at the moment, Hugh. So for example, Mike Lee has said he’s quite, you know, he’s not certain about this new proposal. Ted Cruz seems to be okay with it. But does Lee say I’m not certain about it, but I’ll vote on the motion to proceed so that we can have debate about it? And then what’s the strategic benefit of doing that or not doing it, obviously? If you don’t get it on the floor, you don’t get the political messiness as they debate out loud. On the other hand, you have a huge problem of not fulfilling the seven year promise of repealing and replacing.
HH: And you get the Brave Sir Robin tag.
HH: I honestly think you will never recover, politically, if you don’t vote to proceed to the debate. Rand Paul might be able to withstand five years from now a no vote, because he wanted a complete repeal. But to refuse to proceed to debate, even Susan Collins, who’s wildly popular in Maine, I believe, loses a lot of Republicans. They may even vote for her Democratic opponent if she refuses to proceed to debate. Dean Heller will be toast if he refuses to proceed to debate, because they ran on this, John Dickerson. How many times have you at the Face the Nation table, how many times have you talked about the need to repeal and replace Obamacare with Republican senators?
JD: That’s right. I mean, you have that, and then you have the underlying thing, which is that people, that first of all, the motion to proceed is something that over the years, I mean, it’s a fascinating inside thing. But for regular people, my view is, and it’s not uninformed, you know, is wait a minute, you’re not even going to talk about it? You’re not even going to debate it? Now the problem there is that also plays into Democrats, who say hey, we haven’t had enough of the right kind of talk about this. It’s a bit of a procedural thing, but I think people, as you quite rightly point out, particularly conservatives who’ve been waiting for this for seven years, say you didn’t even, you didn’t even get far enough that you could have an conversation about it. I think that’s, yeah, no, it’s a problem, and obviously it’s a problem for some Republicans more than others.
HH: Now I think if you’re Susan Collins, you might actually be surprised if you offer an amendment demanding that the bill be set aside so that a special committee of eight, four and four, shall meet to repair and replace Obamacare, that alternative to be considered simultaneously in eight weeks with the GOP bill. I actually think that would pass.
HH: I think a number of Republicans would go through that eight week process if they were offered a chance to do it, but she, if she votes to refuse to proceed to debate, it won’t even get offered. I honestly, John, it will represent all that is wrong with Washington if they don’t debate this bill.
JD: Yeah, I think that’s, I think that’s, I think you’re within, you’re totally within bounds to make that claim. I think you’re, I think you’re right. I don’t think, well, I don’t know. It’s so hard to predict things in Washington these days, but I think you’re on solid ground.
HH: Now let me switch over to Trump scandals. I’ve been using the analogy of summer blockbuster movies. Some open and exceed expectation, some fall flat. Don Jr. emails, big blockbuster and an unexpected one, the, I will be talking with Ron DeSantis tomorrow on my MSNBC show about the Comey memos and his call for an investigation. That’s a small release. We’ll see if that gets legs. But the one I don’t think has opened, yet, or if we even know in production is the President’s connection to collusion. And first president question, John, when I say collusion, I think we ought to start saying espionage. That’s what it means, in my view. What do you think collusion means?
JD: That’s interesting. So I think you’re right. I mean, espionage, I guess what, espionage is what the Russians were doing for sure. Now…
JD: …if you were participating in that, then you are participating in espionage, but are you if you’re, I think, I like, the reason collusion is, it kind of represents the two players that are required. You can have espionage and just have it be the Russians. So in order to keep the apples and oranges separate, I don’t, I think it might be useful to have two different words. Where I was thinking…
HH: Well, the reason I like one word only because it suggests the depth of the seriousness of the allegations.
HH: There is a second, you get et convicted of espionage if you’re not the president, and you can also get convicted of the False Statements Act if you lie. And so that’s a subsidiary thing. But people keep throwing around bizarre statutes. These people are either going to be guilty of espionage or lying, or nothing else. That’s, everyone involved in this are either going to get on espionage grounds, where they cooperate with and advance the Russian attack on our elections, or lying about it. Those are the two vulnerabilities.
JD: Right, and I think the second vulnerability is one that’s interesting, because as you know, right, every time we have some new revelation, it’s not only the underlying revelation and whether it means anything or whether it’s just people jumping at shadows, but then it initiates a secondary moment where you get to see whether people are being honest in the moment. And one of the challenges for the President’s son here is we’ve had at least three versions of what happened. And that is bad, you know, politically, but as you quite rightly point out, if there have been different versions that have been told in any kind of an official capacity, interviews or otherwise, then that opens him to, or others, to big problems.
HH: Yeah, it is the great trap door under everyone who serves in government or talks to a government official, 18USC1001. John Dickerson, 30 seconds, who’s your guest on Sunday?
JD: We’ll have Rand Paul on Sunday and Mark Warner, and then Jay Sekulow will be there talking about some of these issues. We’ve also got Jeffrey Kluger, who’s got a book about Apollo 8, which I didn’t know that much about.
HH: I know nothing about.
JD: But amazing American ingenuity.
HH: Well, when you get Senator Paul, ask him why he doesn’t just proceed to debate so he can offer an amendment to completely repeal, because he’s one of the guys driving me crazy. John Dickerson of CBS’ Face the Nation, thank you, John. Always a pleasure talking to John. He’s serious, he’s reflective, and he often agrees with me.
End of interview.