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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on Aug. 28, 2022

CBS News 8/28/2022 CBSNews
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On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Major Garrett:

  • CBS News chief elections and campaign correspondent Robert Costa and CBS News national security contributor and former acting CIA director Michael Morell 
  • CBS News director of elections and surveys Anthony Salvanto 
  • DNC chair Jaime Harrison
  • Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan
  • Astronaunt and Artemis team member Kate Rubins

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."  

MAJOR GARRETT: I'm Major Garrett in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation: Alarming information surfaces from the affidavit justifying the search of former President Trump's Florida home.

The 38-page document was heavily redacted, but its release at this early stage of the investigation very unusual. Already, we're starting to see the impact of this historic FBI search on the midterm elections.

One key question, how damaging was it that highly classified material, according to the government, was improperly stored at Mar-a-Lago. Another question, is Trump's legal jeopardy increasing? We will have the latest.

Our CBS News Battleground Tracker shows Trump's true believers are still with him, but for how long? What about voters troubled by these recent revelations?

Both sides are gearing up for a blistering fall campaign, as can be heard on the campaign trail for Florida governor.

(Begin VT)

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R-Florida): We will never, ever surrender to the woke agenda. Florida is the state where woke goes to die.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

REPRESENTATIVE CHARLIE CRIST (D-Florida): This governor couldn't care less about your freedom. He's abusive. He is a bully. He is a bully. And he's dangerous.

(End VT)

MAJOR GARRETT: Nationally, the political landscape appears to have shifted in the last month. Democrats overperformed in some races last Tuesday, as midterm primaries near the end.

(Begin VT)

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D-California): Republicans should be very, very, very scared this morning about their prospects.

(End VT)

MAJOR GARRETT: One factor helping Democrats, abortion rights.

(Begin VT)

JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): MAGA Republicans don't have a clue about the power of women.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Let me tell you something. They are about to find out.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(End VT)

MAJOR GARRETT: Will that momentum last to November? We will talk to the head of the Democratic Party, DNC Chair Jaime Harrison, and Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan.

Plus, we will have the latest from Ukraine, as the threat of a disaster grows as Russian and Ukrainian forces trade fire near the continent's largest nuclear power plant.

Finally, nearly 50 years since NASA's last trip to the moon, we will preview Monday's launch of America's next moonshot, the first rocket of the Artemis mission. We will talk with astronaut and Artemis team member Kate Rubins.

It's all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Face the Nation. Margaret is out and we hope in the final stages of recovery from COVID-19.

August has been -- there's really no other way to say it -- an extraordinary month here in Washington. And one of our tasks today is to work to understand the legal and national security implications of Friday's release of a redacted affidavit outlining the justification behind the FBI's retrieval of classified documents stored at former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.

To help us, CBS News chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa is back from West Palm Beach, Florida. And we have also brought in Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA, now a CBS News national security contributor.

Gentlemen, good morning.

Bob, I want to start with you.

Outline for the audience what you see as the potential legal peril for the former president.

ROBERT COSTA: The affidavit from the government spells it out.

There have been tensions between the Trump legal team and federal investigators for months about his handling of classified material. The affidavit mentions possible obstruction. It also mentions how Trump had in possession, in their view, documents that were highly sensitive, that could even deal with information derived from human intelligence sources.

And this led to them to have an FBI search of the property Mar-a-Lago just weeks ago.

MAJOR GARRETT: And there is a political dimension to this, of course.

How do you assess that? And you were down in West Palm Beach for the entire week. What is the atmosphere there?

ROBERT COSTA: It injects uncertainty into the midterm elections.

For Republicans, this is the standard-bearer of their party. Even though he's former President Donald Trump, he is still someone who's eying 2024 presidential bid. So many candidates in the party are echoing his version of politics. Now to have him facing legal challenges across the board, not just in Florida, adds that uncertainty to the discussion.

MAJOR GARRETT: And one thing that happened recently, a judge reviewing a request from the former president for a special master, put in a legal document that this judge is possibly inclined to do so. Does that change anything, from your vantage point?

ROBERT COSTA: To be determined at this point. We will watch in the coming days whether a so-called special master or neutral party is appointed by a Florida federal judge to review and return the evidence. They have asked the government to provide a list of information. It could move in that direction.

But let's remember the government already has a filter team in place at the Justice Department reviewing what they collected weeks ago. So this is a late entry into the legal discussion.

MAJOR GARRETT: Mike Morell, evaluate the affidavit for our audience, please.

MICHAEL MORELL: Major, I had two reactions when I read it.

The first was the fact that these documents were mixed in with unclassified documents. You had classified documents in the vast majority of the boxes. That suggested to me a sloppiness in the handling of classified documents at the White House.

The two White Houses that I know best, the Bush White House and the Obama White House, there were very rigorous and strict protocols with regard to the handling of classified information, where it was. Records were kept. Retrievals were made. That's what normally happens. That didn't happen in this case, it sounds to me.

The second thing that jumped out at me were the markings HCS, HUMINT control system, and S.I., special intelligence. HUMINT control system means information from CIA spies. And special intelligence means information from technical operations of the National Security Agency. This is the -- this is the most sensitive material of the United States intelligence community.

MAJOR GARRETT: So, the next natural question, it seems to me, is, how vulnerable to compromise were the documents you were just talking about and were outlined in this affidavit?

MICHAEL MORELL: So, I think they were vulnerable, even at the White House, since they seem to have been mishandled at the White House as well, right? We have to look at that, as well as Mar-a-Lago.

And, as the damage assessment goes forward, I think they need to look at both of those places. Not everyone at the White House has a top secret clearance. So you have to worry about who had access to those documents who didn't have a clearance to do so.

In terms of the vulnerability from foreign intelligence services, a little context. If you look back at the history of espionage in the United States, you will see a number of Americans who were charged and convicted of espionage.

And when you look at how long they spied before they were caught, and you do all of that math, what you what you learn is that, at any given moment in time, they're on average four Americans spying for foreign intelligence services without us knowing it at the time. And those are the ones we ultimately caught.

So, there's a lot of spying going on in Washington, right? And if you're a foreign intelligence service, and you want to target the United States government, what's the number one place you want to target? The White House.

MAJOR GARRETT: You mentioned your experience with the Bush and Obama White Houses.

There's a procedure inside the building, obviously, for classified and secure documents. Is there a similar process off-site for any president, meaning at a place like Mar-a-Lago or for President Biden right now when he goes back to Delaware?

MICHAEL MORELL: So, there are things called SCIFs, sensitive compartmented information locations, that are actually approved for holding classified information. I had one in my attic when I was the deputy director.

And you're allowed to hold classified there. But these are places that are approved by security officers, right?

MAJOR GARRETT: And, if they're not, then they don't follow procedures, and they may not follow federal law?

MICHAEL MORELL: Correct. And you may be at risk in those cases of mishandling classified information.

MAJOR GARRETT: And, Mike, this is a question that circles around this relentlessly. Is there a formalized process for a president to declassify classified information?

MICHAEL MORELL: Unfortunately not. There are statutes that allow the president to declassify information. The Supreme Court has upheld those statutes a number of times.

But those statutes do not outline a step-by-step process for the president to do so. So it's murky. I actually know a case from the Bush White House where President Bush declassified part of the 2002 Iraq WMD national intelligence estimate, so Scooter Libby could use that information at his grand jury testimony. And President Bush did that without ever telling the intelligence community.

So, presidents can do this, right? But there's an appropriate way to do it. And the appropriate way to do it is to paper it over, right, to have the president sign a document that says: I hereby declassify this information.

MAJOR GARRETT: With important reporting and context, Bob Costa, Mike Morell, thanks very much.

Our new CBS Battleground Tracker finds Republicans are still leading the race for control of the U.S. House of Representatives, but Democrats are gaining momentum. In July, our estimate was that Republicans stood to win 230 seats, 12 more than the 218 needed for a majority. Today, Republicans would stand to win 226, still a majority, but a slimmer one, after Democrats narrowed the gap last month.

We turn now to CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto.

Anthony, good morning.

So, this is not a prediction. It's an estimate, but it appears that the prospects Republicans once thought of a big red wave election appeared to have dimmed. Is that true?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Yes, there are some breakwaters in here, to continue your metaphor, against that wave.

And we learn, when we talk to people across all the districts -- because, remember, this is a contest for 435 seats -- is that they are abortion. It is a little bit of improvement in the economy and prospects, so a little bit of improvement for Joe Biden, and then, three, the Trump factor.

Let me take those in order. Let me start with abortion, because that really stands out. Democrats now say that is very important to their vote, even more so than the economy. And then we see gains for the Democrats among this key voting bloc, college-educated women. They live in swing districts. Democrats have rebounded with them.

They have always counted in the last two cycles on that group. So that's important. And then related, there's this view among women, among independents that should the Republicans gained Congress, that the Republicans would prioritize abortion restrictions. So that's how that all ties together on the abortion front for Democrats, Major.

MAJOR GARRETT: So, one of the problems Democrats have had structurally all year is President Biden's low approval ratings. Is there anything in this data that suggests those have begun to turn?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: And some of those approval ratings have come from lower approval among his own base, among Democrats. So that's the story coming in.

But now we see a little bit of improvement there for him. So, his overall numbers are up. That's bolstered by a sort of return, the sort of coming home from a lot of Democrats, and that's tied to the economy, so his handling of gas prices, of inflation a little bit better, certainly from Democrats saying that.

And one of the things we have seen is that his numbers have been tied to those gas prices. It's often how people think about the economy, right, what they're paying, right, right up there at the cash register or the pump.

And then the other part of this is the Democratic base shoring up with young people, maybe some of that related to support for the debt relief. But you do see a little bit of that bounce-back among Democrats, and that's helping him.

MAJOR GARRETT: Anthony, history tells us midterm elections, new presidency, almost always a referendum on the current occupant of the White House. That would be Joe Biden, obviously.

But there's data, I understand, that suggests that former President Trump still looms large in this midterm conversation.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Yes, this midterm is different. And I will say that a lot over the next few months. But one way it is, is that Donald Trump, former president, is still a factor, voters tell us, for most people in their vote choice, one way or the other, positive or negative.

Now, let's look right now at the effect of Mar-a-Lago and the search, first of all, big difference in partisan views. For Republicans, this is a political attempt to damage the former president. For Democrats, for independence, it's looking after national security, OK? So that's number one.

But then what happens politically? Republicans want their leaders to defend Donald Trump on this and stay with him. That's seven in 10. It's a big number. But, for everybody else, Donald Trump ends up being a net negative in that sense, for Democrats, for independents, in the vote.

The other part of this, Major, is, Donald Trump was endorsing candidates throughout the primary process. We pick up now from voters a feeling among key groups that the Republicans have nominated candidates who they feel are more extreme than the Democrats have nominated in general.

And that's part of that effect beyond the Republican base that you see from Donald Trump.

MAJOR GARRETT: Historically, midterm or general election, economy front and center. There has been some, as you have outlined, encouraging signs for Democrats.

And, look, they're desperate to find encouraging signs. They haven't had any for months. But yet the economy still appears to be difficult for them. True?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, people still say it's not good, even if there's some improvement. And Republicans are winning the voters for whom the economy is most important.

And that is underpinning that Republican gain, however large we estimate it is at this point, right? So that's number one. Number two is, Republicans are still seen as more likely to prioritize inflation if they gain Congress. And that's a gap that the Democrats still have not filled.

And maybe they're not going to erase that because there's a year of voter frustration behind it, right, behind that for the Democrats, all of which is to say, Major, again, what is this election about? That's often the most important question. If it's about the economy, the Republicans have an advantage, if it's about all these other things we have been talking about, maybe some hope for Democrats.

MAJOR GARRETT: And very quickly, Anthony, energy on both sides.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Energy, enthusiasm is up. Enthusiasm is high.

At this point, very strong turnout would be what we'd be looking at here.

MAJOR GARRETT: Anthony Salvanto, always a pleasure to be with you. Thanks so much.

Face the Nation will be back in one minute. Please stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MAJOR GARRETT: Welcome back to Face the Nation.

We go now to the head of the Democratic National Committee, Jaime Harrison. He joins us from Columbia, South Carolina.

Mr. Chairman, great to see you. Good morning.

JAIME HARRISON (Democratic National Committee Chairman): Thank you so much for having me.

MAJOR GARRETT: So, you heard in our battleground tracker that there's momentum Democrats have.

Do you believe that momentum is real? And is it so real, Mr. Chairman, you're prepared to predict this morning, Democrats will retain their slender majority in the House of Representatives?

CHAIRMAN JAIME HARRISON: That momentum is real.

And I've been predicting since I became chairman that Democrats are going to keep their majorities in the House, that they're going to grow the majorities in the United States Senate, and we're going to pick up some governor's mansions along the way.

MAJOR GARRETT: So, our battleground tracker shows that 33 percent of the country believes Democrats have a plan to battle inflation, meaning the vast majority of Americans don't believe Democrats have a plan to deal with inflation, the number one economic issue in the country.

Now, I know you'll probably refer to the Inflation Reduction Act, Mr. Chairman. I invite you to do that. But also polling tells us that, after the American Rescue Plan and the infrastructure plan, either you didn't sell it or the American people didn't give Democrats credit for it.

What's going to be different?

CHAIRMAN JAIME HARRISON: Well, listen, in the end of the day, this is about the accomplishments of this administration.

And they're vast. When you take a look in a historical perspective of what Joe Biden has been able to do in two years, there's some presidents who've served for eight years can't add up to what Joe Biden has been able to do, the Inflation Reduction Act, the American rescue plan, the bipartisan infrastructure law, the PACT Act helping our veterans, Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, the CHIPS and Science Act.

I can go on and on and on. And we're seeing record job growth. We're seeing the lowest unemployment that we've seen. And this is -- this is the package that Joe Biden has done, because his focus has been on improving the standing of all of America's people.

And that's what we've done. That's part of our plan. And we're seeing gas prices right now go down. We're seeing now that seniors are so excited that prescription drugs costs are going to go down, capped at $2,000. For the first time ever, Medicare's going to get an opportunity to negotiate lower prescription drugs.

We would have gotten insulin prices down for all Americans, but the Republicans voted to take that out of the legislation. So, in the end of the day, Major, what we're seeing is that the American people are waking up to how Democrats under Joe Biden have been delivering for the American people, while the Republicans definitely don't have a plan.

They -- the only plan they do have is how to gut Social Security and Medicare. You can ask Rick Scott about that. But Democrats are fighting for the American people each and every day.

MAJOR GARRETT: Mr. Chairman, the President took pains to highlight abortion as an issue in the midterm elections this week.

When you think about the history of these midterm elections, when that history is written, will abortion or the economy be more important?

CHAIRMAN JAIME HARRISON: I think abortion is going to be extremely important, and because the reason why so many people come to America is because we are the land of freedom. It's liberty and justice for all.

And abortion is about privacy and freedom, freedom of women to control their own bodies. For the first time in 50 years, these extreme MAGA Republicans have chipped away at a freedom that we've had as American people. And women are upset about it. Men are upset about it. And you're seeing it in special election after special election.

You saw it in Kansas, that people are rising up, because they know it's a slippery slope. You take away privacy and freedom rights. You are chipping away at voting rights. You're going after people's freedom of speech. I mean, that is not who America is.

But that's who the MAGA extremists in the Republican Party want America to be. Joe Biden is standing in that gap and saying, you will not do this. You will not do -- President Joe Biden is there: You will not do this on my watch.

It's about protecting freedom. And that's what the Democratic Party is doing each and every day.

MAJOR GARRETT: Mr. Chairman, earlier this week, the president referred to the MAGA, Make America Great, agenda as almost like -- quote -- "semi- fascism.

You heard the President's inaugural address, the same way I did. In that inaugural address, President Biden said we should not view each other as adversaries in this country, but as neighbors, and we should treat each other with dignity and respect.

How does semi-fascism as a label for the Republican Party fit with that inaugural address?

CHAIRMAN JAIME HARRISON: Well, the one thing that President Joe Biden has been is always been consistent, and he has always been somebody who does what my grandfather used to do, which is speak it plain, say it plain to the American people.

And what we see right now is a full frontal attack by these extreme MAGA Republicans in this country. And that extreme attack in our freedoms...

MAJOR GARRETT: And so you -- you -- Mr. Chairman, you embrace...

CHAIRMAN JAIME HARRISON: ... freedoms as a people.

MAJOR GARRETT: Mr. Chairman, you embrace the rhetoric semi-fascism to describe the Republican Party?

CHAIRMAN JAIME HARRISON: Well, it's not about the embracing. It's calling what it is what it is.

In the end of the day, we are a country built on freedom. And when you chip away at that, when you see the bullying that takes place in place like Florida with DeSantis, when you see them chip away at privacy rights, when they try to demonize the other, the attacks on transgender kids and their families, the attacks on marriage equality that we're hearing from the Supreme Court, this is not who America is.

We're about freedom and rights for all of America's people, not just a select few. But the Republicans are turning a blind eye, this extreme agenda. And this is what this election is all about. It is the great contrast between a party, the Democratic Party, that is standing up for the hopes and aspirations of the American people and protecting our rights as Americans and our freedoms.

And a Republican party that is focused on fear, that's focused on fraud, that is focused on just getting power.

MAJOR GARRETT: Mr. Chairman...

CHAIRMAN JAIME HARRISON: I mean, what party do you ever see...

MAJOR GARRETT: Mr. Chairman...

CHAIRMAN JAIME HARRISON: Did you ever think that the party of Reagan would actually celebrate when they stalled the PACT Act in the United States Senate?

But that's what we have in this -- in today's Republican Party.

MAJOR GARRETT: Mr. Chairman, will President Biden run for reelection and should he?

CHAIRMAN JAIME HARRISON: The president has consistently said that his intention is to run for president in the United States. And I can tell you, the Democratic National Committee will be fully behind him and Kamala Harris.

This president has a record of achievement, and America needs President Biden to continue that effort.

MAJOR GARRETT: Can you tell us what the status of the Iowa caucuses is? The Democratic National Committee has continued to delay a decision about that. It appears that Iowa will lose its first-in-the nation caucus status. True?

CHAIRMAN JAIME HARRISON: No, that is not true.

Listen, in the end of the day, the DNC is focused on these midterm elections, and we're going to allow the presidential cycle schedule to be determined after we're done. And the end of the day, for us at the DNC...

MAJOR GARRETT: Mr. Chairman, thank you for that.

CHAIRMAN JAIME HARRISON: ... it's about money -- we've raised record amounts of it -- message and mobilization.

MAJOR GARRETT: Thank you for that. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, thank you for that. I know Democrats in Iowa will listen to you very, very carefully.

Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for your time.

And we will be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MAJOR GARRETT: Welcome back.

We are joined now by Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan.

Governor, good to see you. Good morning.

GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN (R-Maryland): Good morning.

MAJOR GARRETT: So, you heard my conversation with the DNC Chair Harrison about semi-fascism as a label that President Biden has applied to Republicans. What do you think of that?

GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: You know, I think it's that kind of divisive rhetoric on both sides that's really bad for America.

And I have been talking about the toxic politics, and when -- if Republicans are calling Democrats socialists and communists and we have the president of the United States calling Republicans fascist, I don't think it adds to the -- the overall discussion. We ought to just talk about the differences we have on the issues and focus on the problems that most people in America want us to focus on.

MAJOR GARRETT: Real quickly, do you see any strains of authoritarianism in the Republican Party?

GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Well, there's no question we see some -- some signs of that. And I'm one of the ones speaking out.

MAJOR GARRETT: Very good.

Governor Hogan, thanks so much.

Please stay with us. We will continue our conversation after a quick break.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MAJOR GARRETT: Here's a promise. We will be right back with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. And we will also have a preview of the Artemis launch.

Please stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MAJOR GARRETT: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm Major Garrett, in for Margaret.

We continue our conversation with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

Governor, we started the show talking about not only the FBI search at Mar- a-Lago but the affidavit that was released late this week. Many Republicans believe this is a political effort to harm and tarnish the reputation of former President Trump.

Do you agree with them? And do you think the government has been transparent enough in this extraordinary set of events?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, it is an extraordinary set of events. It's never happened before with a former president. And so, the very first day, I called for more transparency. And I -- I thought it was a good idea for the attorney general to finally come out and make comments. I thought it was a good idea for them to release some of the information on the affidavit.

But we still don't know a whole lot. I mean most of it was redacted. It didn't give us a lot of color. And so I think some Republicans are saying, without you showing us more to it, we don't - we think it may be political.

MAJOR GARRETT: Are you satisfied?

LARRY HOGAN: No, I mean, I'd like to see more transparency because --

MAJOR GARRETT: What would you like to see that you haven't seen yet?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, it's hard to tell because in a - in a federal investigation they've got to keep some things confidential.

MAJOR GARRETT: Do you want to know more about what the documents were?

LARRY HOGAN: We want to know whether or not it was justified or not. And so, on the one hand, it could be, as some Republicans think, just a - you know, just a political witch hunt. On the other hand, it could be really serious, you know, federal felonies that we don't know about yet.

MAJOR GARRETT: Where do you come down on that question, witch hunt or legitimate exercise of the federal government's legitimate, not only curiosity, but prosecutorial interest in the handling of sensitive documents.

LARRY HOGAN: Well, it's hard for me to imagine that -

MAJOR GARRETT: You haven't made up your mind on that?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, I think -- I don't know that we have enough information yet. I think - it's hard to believe that the Justice Department and the FBI would take steps unless they had something pretty serious that they were investigating. We just don't know the facts yet.

MAJOR GARRETT: Do you think there's any Republican hypocrisy remembering the "lock her up" chants from 2016 about Hillary Clinton and her email server?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, I think so, but I think there's also, you know, some of the argument the Republicans are making is that they didn't really take these kind of actions - these steps when --

MAJOR GARRETT: Then and they're taking them now?

LARRY HOGAN: Yes, then, but they are now. Yes.

MAJOR GARRETT: So, you - so you side with Republicans who are still very deeply skeptical about this?

LARRY HOGAN: I understand why it's dividing the country and why Democrats and Republicans view it differently.

MAJOR GARRETT: As I understand your travel schedule, Governor, you're heading to New Hampshire again. You've been there before. You've been to Iowa. When are you announcing your 2024 bid?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, maybe this morning. No, I'm - I'm just teasing. I -

MAJOR GARRETT: Go right ahead, Governor.

LARRY HOGAN: I'm just going to finish my term as - as governor. In January

MAJOR GARRETT: Well, why are you going to Iowa and New Hampshire?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, I'm going to New Hampshire to help the Republican caucus, the House Republican caucus up there. I'm helping candidates across the country. But, you know, it's great to get out and see --

MAJOR GARRETT: You are looking at it very seriously, true?

LARRY HOGAN: I think it's -- that's probably an exaggeration. I think we're going to finish the term as governor -

MAJOR GARRETT: Lukewarm looking at it?

LARRY HOGAN: Lukewarm maybe, lukewarm.

MAJOR GARRETT: Very good.

In that context, as you think about what you may or may not do on the national stage, how either alarming or maybe giving you moment for pause was it to see your preferred Republican gubernatorial candidate, Kelly Schultz, lose in a Republican primary for governor in your own state of Maryland? What does that tell you?

LARRY HOGAN: What was really -- it was really sad. And it's what I've been talking about for two years, that, you know, this should be a really huge year for Republicans just because of the failures of the Democrats and -- who are in control of everything and Biden's low approval ratings. But we could blow it by nominating unelectable people. And that's exactly what's happening across the country and why the wave is going to be more of a - of a ripple rather than a tidal wave.

MAJOR GARRETT: You called the winner in that Republican gubernatorial primary, Dan Cox, a QAnon whack job and a nut. I take it you're endorsing the Democratic nominee, Wes Moore?

LARRY HOGAN: No, I'm not endorsing anybody in the race.

MAJOR GARRETT: Why not?

LARRY HOGAN: But what I'm doing is helping --

MAJOR GARRETT: But you're bashing all the Republican nominees. Isn't that the same thing?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, I've just told the truth. I - you know, when people ask me a question, I usually give them a direct answer. And I, you know, made it very clear that this guy should not be the nominee. He shouldn't be governor. But I'm not getting involved in endorsing in the race.

But this is just -- not just Maryland, this is happening across the country. This is something that it's why Mitch McConnell is saying they're not -- we may not win the Senate. It's why we were hoping to pick up seats in governors' races and now we're not.

MAJOR GARRETT: It's curious to me --

LARRY HOGAN: It's why we're -- the margin in the House is so much smaller.

MAJOR GARRETT: It's curious to me, though, Governor, I mean you won election and then you won re-election with a good number of Democrats in a blue state supporting you. They look to you in this question. Are you going to sit out and not tell them who you think the next governor of Maryland should be?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, I think they already have their mind - I think they already have their mind made up. But, yes, Maryland's only got 23 percent Republican. You know, and I had to win, you know, a big -- almost all the Republicans and independents and 25 percent of the Democrats to win. But that -- this candidate is not going to do that.

MAJOR GARRETT: So, is, for you, Governor Hogan, for the remainder of your active political life, election denialism a litmus test?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, it's certainly something that we shouldn't be focused on. Look, I think the voters are going to decide on issues, like inflation, like the out of control crime --

MAJOR GARRETT: I mean would you endorse someone who denied that Joe Biden won the 2020 election?

LARRY HOGAN: No. No, I would not.

MAJOR GARRETT: Would you actively campaign against that Republican?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, it depends on who they're running against, whether it was a primary or not. But I've been supporting folks all across the country in Republican primaries that were running against candidates like that because I think if the Republicans are to get any power back, we're going to have to start talking about the issues people care about and not relitigating what happened in 2020 or, you know, denying things that are fact.

MAJOR GARRETT: So, I want to talk about something that's somewhat topical in Pennsylvania, in the governor's race there. GOP nominee Doug Mastriano posed for a picture in 2017 wearing a confederate uniform. Now, this was part of a faculty photo at the Army War College.

Now, Mastriano has a Ph.D. in history. The district he represents in the legislature includes Gettysburg. Is this disqualifying in your estimation?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, it's the first I've heard the story and I don't know the circumstances around it, but these are the kinds of problems that I think we're having. We have a similar situation in Maryland with an attorney general candidate whose a (INAUDIBLE) --

MAJOR GARRETT: Not disqualifying, but problematic?

LARRY HOGAN: It's very problematic and could be disqualifying.

MAJOR GARRETT: Could be disqualifying. Why? Tell -- explain to voters who are like, what's the big deal? What would you say (INAUDIBLE)?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, again, I said, I don't know the facts regarding that, but this is a - you know, just not the kind of way that Republicans are going to win races, that's for sure. And that's my big concern and what I've been talking about for two years.

MAJOR GARRETT: So, what is your assessment as governor of Maryland of the president's decision on student loan debt relief? Did he have the authority? Is it inflationary? Support/against?

LARRY HOGAN: I'm not sure whether he had the authority or not, but I think it was the wrong solution to what is a real problem, but the wrong solution at the wrong time because, I agree, it's like throwing gasoline on a fire. Inflation is out of control. And, you know, it's an issue we've tried to solve in Maryland by holding a line on tuition, by giving, you know, scholarships to community colleges, by removing the requirement for four- year degrees, by trying to make interest deductible on your student loans off of your taxes. But just handing out money to people and being unfair to the people who worked hard to pay off their debt and pouring that money into the inflationary economy is really bad.

MAJOR GARRETT: Back to politics. If Republicans underperform in these midterms, how much of that will be credibly attributed and blamed on former President Trump?

LARRY HOGAN: Well, I think the focus away from the issues and onto President Trump and away from the future and back to the past is going to hurt Republicans. It's a matter of how bad it's going to be.

MAJOR GARRETT: What are your fears?

LARRY HOGAN: My fear is that we don't - we don't win the Senate, that we don't pick up gubernatorial seats and potentially lose them, and that -- I think we'll still take the House, but it's going to be closer than people think.

MAJOR GARRETT: Republican Governor Larry Hogan, a pleasure, sir.

LARRY HOGAN: Thank you.

MAJOR GARRETT: Thanks for being with us.

And we'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MAJOR GARRETT: Welcome back.

We are joined again by directors of elections and surveys, Anthony Salvanto, and chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa.

Bob, I want to start with you. In your conversations with Republicans quite separate from the drama at Mar-a-Lago, what is the Republican sentiment? Do they feel they are losing momentum?

ROBERT COSTA: There's alarm inside of the Republican Party. Just weeks after the vote in Kansas on abortion rights, you now see the Democrats passing the climate and spending bill and starting to gain traction. They're also starting to frame the Republican Party in a sharper way on the issue of democracy, running hard against election deniers and even President Biden, taking a new step in terms of his rhetoric, referring to the Republican Party, as you said, as semi-fascist.

MAJOR GARRETT: Anthony, does our data tell us anything about the possible strength of that kind of rhetoric or any warning signs possibly for the president to go not maybe that far.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: We went through the primaries, in one after another, and voters for the Republican side were saying they wanted the party not only to support Donald Trump but they wanted Donald Trump's endorsement behind a candidate and they also wanted Republican candidates to be talking about things like the 2020 election. All of that, other voters tell us, is out of sync with what the larger electorate wants to talk about, the economy, that's the number one issue, inflation, the number one issue. So, it's not just that kind of rhetoric, but it's the subject matter too.

MAJOR GARRETT: And you heard the Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison say the president has got this tremendous set of accomplishments, he should run for re-election, the DNC will be fully behind him, and yet our data and other data continues to show Democrats aren't yet sold on that.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, no, because they've got a lot of ground to make up, number one. Number two, on the House -

MAJOR GARRETT: But they're not even sold on Biden as a re-election candidate.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, that -

MAJOR GARRETT: Specifically.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Yes, that may be -- look, a president is always a factor, as we've discussed, and Biden is certainly a factor. The question is, can they motivate Democrats to actually go out and support him? And what we have seen, this is changing, but what we have seen so far is Democrats a little bit more reluctant to do that than Republicans who are sort of chomping at the bit to go and vote against Joe Biden.

ROBERT COSTAS: There's no one chomping at the bit based on my reporting to run against President Biden in 2024 in a Democratic primary. One of his rivals from 2020, Senator Bernie Sanders, has been in lock-step politically most of the time with President Biden when it comes to the big picture on policy.

And look at the comments just this past week from California Governor Gavin Newsom comparing President Biden to FDR in terms of his governing accomplishments. Newsom's widely seen as a future presidential candidate, but he's not making any move to challenge Biden. In fact, he's praising Biden.

MAJOR GARRETT: And looking to maybe dial back the sense that some Democrats had a month or a month and a half ago that he was trying to position himself just in case. Looked like he was dialing that - dialing that back a little bit.

Anthony, what to watch in the next couple of weeks?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Oh, start with the Senate. We've got to - we've got to start looking at the Senate. We'll be polling in a lot of these races. And whether folks have -- the Senate is different from the House in that it is going to be more candidate focused. And it comes back to what I was just saying about, have Republicans nominated candidates that can appeal to a wider electorate? I think we're going to see tests of that in Pennsylvania. We're going to see tests of that in Georgia. We're going to watch Arizona, among others. These will become household state names, if you will, as we go through this campaign.

MAJOR GARRETT: Yes.

And, Bob, in that regard, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio, all test cases for the Trump effect and this extremism label.

ROBERT COSTAS: And there's a tension inside of the GOP I'm picking up in my reporting between what I would call the McConnell world of the GOP, the long-time Republican business friendly establishment in power in the Senate, versus Senator Rick Scott, who runs the national Republicans campaign on the NRSC.

There's a strategic sense that Scott is aligned with Trump and Trumpism inside the Republican Party and that he's embraced candidates who might not have the best shot to win. So now you see McConnell and his super PAC arm, the Senate Leadership Fund, trying to do their own thing, not necessarily everything that Rick Scott's doing at the NRSC.

MAJOR GARRETT: Intraparty maneuvering, it's not uncommon.

Bob Costa, Anthony Salvanto, thanks so much.

And we'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MAJOR GARRETT: We turn now to the war in Ukraine, where fears are growing over a potential nuclear disaster at Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

CBS News foreign correspondent Debora Patta has the latest.

(BEGIN VT)

DEBORA PATTA: There are fresh warnings of the risk of radioactive leaks at the Russian occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations of renewed shelling there this weekend, and, on Thursday, the plant was down to a precarious last resort when it was disconnected from the grid due to fire damage. For more than 24 hours, the plant was operating on backup diesel generators.

HERMAN HALUSHCHENKO (Ukraine Energy Minister): Frankly, that is one step before the catastrophe.

DEBORA PATTA: Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko explained a constant electricity supply is critical for cooling down spent nuclear fuel and avoiding a disastrous meltdown. If the backup generators fail, it sets in motion a chain reaction.

HERMAN HALUSHCHENKO: We have probably an hour and a half, two hours before the reaction started inside the - the unit.

DEBORA PATTA (on camera): So we narrowly escaped nuclear disaster?

HERMAN HALUSHCHENKO: I must say that we were not far. Not far.

DEBORA PATTA: Ukrainians living in the shadow of the reactors prepare for a worst-case scenario, and authorities are handing out iodine tablets to help protect against radiation.

The minister is hopeful the United Nations nuclear watchdog will inspect the site early this week.

HERMAN HALUSHCHENKO: From our point of view, it's very important to create something to like permanent mission. Not just to come there to check and to leave.

DEBORA PATTA: It's been just over half a year since Vladimir Putin did the unthinkable and invaded Ukraine. In the east, war-weary residents still wake up every day to a living hell. They count the dead, clear the debris.

The Russians are torturing us, said Katiana Veahintza (ph). We're exhausted by the endless shelling. But we are still alive.

(END VT)

DEBORA PATTA: As the war stretches beyond the halfway mark, Ukrainians are digging in their heels, prepared for the long haul. Just today, a rash of explosions in the south and the east, which Ukrainian authorities claim destroyed Russian military bases.

MAJOR GARRETT: Debora Patta, thank you.

The other big story we're watching is the Artemis mission. Tomorrow, NASA hopes to launch its first flight as our Mark Strassmann reports from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

(BEGIN VT)

MARK STRASSMANN (voice over): NASA's now in its countdown cadence for tomorrow's launch, with its mammoth SLS (ph) rocket on Pad 39-b.

CHARLIE BLACKWELL-THOMPSON (Artemis 1 Launch Director): I think it's ready. By on launch day I'll know.

MARK STRASSMANN: Charlie Blackwell-Thompson has final say on readiness, the Artemis 1 launch director.

CHARLIE BLACKWELL-THOMPSON: It is that first step, or that next step in getting humans into deep space again. And then, after that, it's boots on the moon.

MAN: OK, Neil, we can see you coming down the ladder now.

MARK STRASSMANN: In the Apollo era, America's space dream, get boots on the moon first.

MAN: A man on the moon, a walk on the moon, and yet to say the words and to stop just a moment to think about them still sends a shiver up and down the old spine.

MARK STRASSMANN: But with Apollo 17 three years later, moon fatigue closed the program. No one has moon walked since 1972.

RICK LABRODE (Artemis 1 Lead Flight Director): The technology is so different than what we use today.

MARK STRASSMANN: When Artemis 1 lifts off, Rick LaBrode takes charge of this test flight. It's Orion's space capsule, without a crew, will go to the moon, orbit it for three weeks, and return to earth. NASA's deep space hopes will ride along.

RICK LABRODE: We've got to have a successful flight to prove the capabilities before we put the astronauts on the next mission. Otherwise, you're not putting astronauts on the next - next mission.

MARK STRASSMANN: Two Artemis missions from now, NASA intends on a moon landing. Artemis 3's crew, yet to be announced, will include an astronaut of color and a woman.

With Apollo, the moon was the dream. With Artemis, it's a way station to deeper space.

KAYLA BARRON (NASA Astronaut): We want to travel to Mars. And so we need to learn how to put humans on another planetary body to live there for a long duration. And the perfect place to practice that is the lunar surface.

(END VT)

MARK STRASSMANN: This one round trip will turn this Orion capsule into an instant million miler flyer. Then again, NASA engineers also have a lot of ground to cover in these 42 days of flight.

Major.

MAJOR GARRETT: Mark Strassmann, we thank you.

We are joined now by Astronaut Kate Rubins, a candidate for a future crewed Artemis mission. She joins us from the Kennedy Space Center.

Dr. Rubins, good morning.

This is a test flight. What are you looking for in terms of safety as you evaluate what we're about to see in the coming days?

KATE RUBINS (NASA Astronaut, Artemis Team): Good morning. It's great to be with you.

As you said, this is a test flight. And so one of the reasons that we're testing before we put humans on top of this incredible machine is to really push the edge of the envelope. So, from an engineering perspective, one of our main objectives is to look at the heat shield. In order to get the heat shield at this 5,000-degree heating and check out all of our objectives around the moon, we need to do this test launch.

And so we're looking for things like the loading to go out, the launch, and then we're -- our eyes are really on re-entry for the heat shield and the capsule recovery.

MAJOR GARRETT: And for those who might remember, as I do, Apollo, what is different between the heat shield then and the heat shield stresses now?

KATE RUBINS: Yes. So, we've got similar profiles and similar re-entry speeds, but the materials are completely different. So, you know, we've had 50 years in the intervening time to adopt a lot of these modern advances in material science. I work on the space suits, and we're actually adopting a lot of that in our new space suit design as well.

MAJOR GARRETT: I mentioned that I remember Apollo. I don't remember Mercury. But I remember all of the excitement nationally about the space exploration projects then. They were all almost entirely led by white men. There is a greater diversity for women and for people of color at NASA now.

Talk about the component involving women, such as yourself, in Artemis and everything else that NASA's undertaking right now.

KATE RUBINS: Yes. I think one of the great things about the astronaut corps these days is, we're not really looking at it in terms of categories anymore. We have such a great diverse and talented workforce. And you see this in the whole of NASA. If you look at all the centers across the U.S. So, our astronaut class, we've got a diversity of backgrounds. You know, we've got scientists, engineers, fighter pilots. We've got military and civilian. We, of course, have thrown open those doors for women and people of color. And it's pretty cool to get to hang out with these people from a variety of backgrounds and see what they all bring to the program.

MAJOR GARRETT: And, Dr. Rubins, for those who might say, yes, it's been 50 years since we've been to the moon, do we need to go back? And is that the only thing we're trying to accomplish? And doesn't that feel somewhat repetitive? What would you tell them?

KATE RUBINS: That is a really good question. And we do need to go back. We're going to go back in a completely different way. So, the first part of this program is really to establish a sustainable lunar presence on the - on the lunar surface and then both in orbit around the moon. This is helping us get ready for Mars. We really need to learn how to operate long term in deep space in order to be able to explore.

And the places that we're going are incredibly different. So, Apollo was focused on one kind of pretty easy to get to equatorial area. We're taking the challenge on to go to the polar regions, these permanently shadowed regions. They are always in darkness. That's where we found water ice. And this is -- water ice is so crucial for things like building fuel for a Mars mission and a lot of the scientific discoveries. We've got volatile compounds in that water ice that could unlock a lot of things about how the earth and our solar system formed.

MAJOR GARRETT: And for a layperson like me, should we think of the moon as a potential launching platform for this eventual exploration of Mars?

KATE RUBINS: It absolutely could be. You know, it's also a place that we're probably going to take vehicles and do some long-term deep space checkouts before we really commit ourselves to a Mars voyage. And it's also where we're going to be learning about how to do extensive surface operations.

So, we're building new planetary suits. We're learning how we can have humans live in rovers, how they can do a human/robotic partnership to uncover a lot of terrain and explore a lot more. And what's it - what's it like to really have that sustained presence on another planetary body.

MAJOR GARRETT: So you are a candidate to be one of these Artemis astronauts. So, just personally, what's it going to be like for you tomorrow, your level of personal, scientific anticipation and maybe apprehension?

KATE RUBINS: Yes, we were talking about it with the other astronauts that are here. And everybody said, you know, when it's your launch, you get calmer and calmer as the launch approaches because you've trained for this, you know your procedures, you've been in the sim for thousands of hours. So, I mean, you're just - you're just absolutely calm right up until the moment of liftoff.

With this, we're getting more and more nervous as we go. I think we are all so excited about this. It is a test flight, so, you know, we're tempering our expectations. We've got a lot of great Florida weather and those kinds of things, but - but -- we are -- we're very excited and we can feel the excitement mounting.

MAJOR GARRETT: And very quickly, Dr. Rubins, for America, do you think this is a turning point in terms of the next phase of space exploration?

KATE RUBINS: Absolutely. I really see that when I go talk to kids in classrooms all across the U.S. and you tell them, you know, we're going to the moon. And it's something that we haven't had for several decades in terms of something to inspire kids and provide this kind of exploration activity that the whole world can look to.

MAJOR GARRETT: Dr. Kate Rubins, we thank you so very much.

CBS News will be carrying a special report tomorrow around 8:30 a.m. when the rocket is expected to launch.

And we will be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MAJOR GARRETT: That is it for us today. We thank you for watching.

For FACE THE NATION, I'm Major Garrett in for Margaret. Good day.

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