Full transcript of “Face the Nation,” May 19, 2024

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

  • Sen. J.D. Vance, Republican of Ohio 
  • Sen. Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan
  • Oksana Markarova, Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
  • Chris Krebs, the former director of CISA and a CBS News cybersecurity expert and analyst
  • Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates

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: From the courtroom to the campaign trail, election 2024 is in full swing. Crisscrossing key states, former President Trump and President Biden spent the weekend rallying crucial voting groups just about one month before they have agreed to face off in the first presidential debate of 2024.

But will it be enough to turn out voters?

We will talk to Ohio Senator J.D. Vance, a possible running mate for Mr. Trump and one of the Republicans who showed up to support the former president in New York, where he faces charges of falsifying business records to pay off an adult film star to benefit his 2016 campaign.

And we will hear from Michigan Senator Gary Peters, who’s in charge of defending Democrats’ slim majority.

Plus: new threats to our elections. What do we need to know about foreign interference and the dangers of A.I.? We will get the latest from cybersecurity expert and analyst Chris Krebs.

Then: Russia’s advance on Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv marks one of Moscow’s biggest territorial gains to date. Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova will join us with the latest.

Finally, Robert Gates once led the CIA and the Defense Department, serving under eight presidents. We will get his thoughts on the state of U.S. national security, the 2024 election and more.

It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.

With Election Day less than six months away, President Biden is navigating a host of challenges at home and abroad. His national security adviser is in Israel today for talks with embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the war in Gaza enters its eighth month.

Netanyahu himself is facing an ultimatum from a member of his war cabinet, Benny Gantz, who is the president of the United States who is threatening to quit government unless a postwar plan for Gaza is delivered by June 8. Earlier this week, the defense minister also publicly questioned Netanyahu’s strategy.

And that conflict overseas is making waves at home. Voters’ dissatisfaction with President Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza is overshadowing his commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta this morning, where some students and faculty have protested his appearance.

The speech is just one of the stops this weekend aimed at shoring up support from black voters. Recent polling suggests he’s falling behind his opponent in key states. A new CBS poll shows the president trailing Trump by five points in Arizona, despite Biden winning that state in 2020. And, in Florida, Trump is comfortably up by nine after winning that state in the last two cycles.

We begin this morning with Nikole Killion, who’s in Atlanta.

(Begin VT)

PROTESTER: Free, free Palestine!

NIKOLE KILLION (voice-over): Protesters greeted President Biden outside of Morehouse ahead of his commencement address to graduates at the all-male historically black college.

KOLLIN BROWN (Morehouse Graduate): You do want to remain conscious of what’s going on in the world, but, at the same time, it’s a time and place for everything.

NIKOLE KILLION: Hundreds of Morehouse students and faculty petitioned college leaders to rescind Biden’s invitation, arguing the president’s support of Israel’s war in Gaza goes against the school’s legacy of social justice.

ROBERT MYRICK (Morehouse Alum): I definitely think it’s an important speech. I think this is an opportunity for Biden to come out, talk – talk about what he’s done for the black community, as well as address young people and voters of color’s disdain for the actions of Israel in Gaza. I still think it’s an opportunity for him to win us over.

JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): The fact is that, this election, a lot is at stake.

NIKOLE KILLION: Saturday, Mr. Biden stopped by a popular black-owned restaurant in Atlanta, continuing his push with black voters, as recent polls show him trailing former President Trump in several key battlegrounds, including the Peach State.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: You hear about how, you know, we’re behind in the polls. Well, so far, the polls haven’t been right once.

DONALD TRUMP (Former President of the United States (R) and Current U.S. Presidential Candidate): I think you’re a rebellious bunch, but let’s be rebellious and vote this time, OK?

NIKOLE KILLION: In Texas, the former president picked up an endorsement from the National Rifle Association. He encouraged gun owners to turn out, even teasing a third term, which is barred by the Constitution.

FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We won a landslide that is, here’s the expression, too big, too rigged.

(End VT)

NIKOLE KILLION: Back here at Morehouse, some of the students and faculty are holding a silent protest, wearing Palestinian scarves or the color of the flag.

President Biden will keep making his case to black voters, heading from here to Detroit to speak at an NAACP dinner later today – Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s Nikole Killion in Atlanta.

And we’re joined now in studio by Ohio Republican Senator J.D. Vance.

Good to have you here.

SENATOR J.D. VANCE (R-Ohio): Morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning to you.

So, you were at Mar-a-Lago recently. You were in New York at the Manhattan courtroom. You were in Ohio alongside Donald Trump at a fund-raiser. I know you keep getting asked whether or not you’re going to be vice president or not. And you said you haven’t spoken to him about it.


MARGARET BRENNAN: But we’re also looking at a pretty tight race in the Senate. So, I wonder, do you think you’re more helpful to him in the Senate or in the White House?

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Well, I will let him make that decision, ultimately. I think he knows how to best run his presidential campaign.

And what I have said is, I’m happy to be an advocate for the agenda in the United States Senate. I think that’s the best way for me to help the people of Ohio. I’m certainly interested in helping him in other ways, if that’s what – what matters, because, look, Margaret, we have to reelect Donald Trump as president.

The contrast is so extraordinary between higher inflation at home and war overseas – that’s the Biden record – and the Trump record of peace at home and prosperity. That is an incredible thing to run on. And, importantly, it’s an incredible thing to deliver for our country. So I think we need to help Donald Trump get across the finish line.

That’s why I have spent a fair amount of time with him the past couple of weeks helping him raise some resources, showing up in support in New York. But it’s all about getting him elected president. I actually don’t care that much who the vice president is, because Trump’s ultimately going to govern.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you call yourself one of the most pro-labor Republicans in Congress.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You were out there with automakers who were striking a few months back. And you’ve been very broadly supportive of tariffs.

Why are you opposed to President Biden, then, putting tariffs on batteries and electric vehicles and other technology from China? It seems inconsistent.

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Well, I think there are two things here.

First of all, many of the tariffs that Joe Biden has endorsed in the last couple of weeks are tariffs that he ran against in 2020. But now that he sees that Donald Trump is…


SENATOR J.D. VANCE: … leading him in polls, he’s adopting the Donald Trump agenda. That’s not actually being a good policy president. That’s shifting on politics because you know you’re about to lose.

This is also important. There’s another…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, he’s targeted these pretty directly.

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: There’s a second thing, Margaret, that’s really important here, is, Biden’s entire agenda, such that it exists, has been about protecting green energy jobs, at the expense of the industrial heartland.

If you are in Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania, you are not being empowered or enriched by Joe Biden’s green energy agenda. So, him applying tariffs on the green agenda stuff, does it help steelmakers? Does it help natural gas workers? Does it help the heart of the American economy? The answer is no, which is another reason why Donald Trump would make a much better president.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you know, it’s, what – Chinese electric vehicles are like, less than 2 percent of the market. But the point here is…

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Well, but it’s a lot of the supply…

MARGARET BRENNAN: … all tariffs, though on – on – but, to your point, all tariffs, which you’re – you seem to be in favor of, they’re inflationary.

So how is the Trump-Vance idea here going to help make things more affordable for people, if you’re putting taxes on goods they’re purchasing from overseas?

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Well, I – I don’t necessarily buy the premise there, Margaret.

If you apply tariffs, really, what it is, is you’re saying that we’re going to penalize you for using slave labor in China and importing that stuff in the United States. What you end up doing is, you end up making more stuff in America, in Pennsylvania, in Ohio and in Michigan..

MARGARET BRENNAN: That did not happen in the Trump administration, though.

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: And I think that – well, it – it actually did happen in the Trump administration, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Manufacturing jobs came back?

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: You did have – you did have significant onshoring. You had significant increases in people investing in factory construction.

But it takes time, Margaret. And that’s one of the things, one of the reasons why I think that we need a second term of President Trump, is, this stuff is not going to happen overnight. The American heartland wasn’t destroyed in – in – in four years.


SENATOR J.D. VANCE: It’s not going to be rebuilt in four years. But you really need to double down on this policy of bringing good jobs back to the heartland and, more importantly, making stuff in America. We have to be self-reliant as a country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. We haven’t heard a lot of specifics. I mean, there’s been ranges of a 10 percent to 60 percent tariffs. Do you know what the plan is?

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Well, look, I’m not going to speak for Donald Trump, but I certainly agree that we need to apply some broad-based tariffs, especially on goods coming in from China, and not just solar panels and E.V. stuff.

We need to protect American industries from all of the competition, because here – here’s the thing, Margaret. The reason China beats us, it’s not because they have better workers. It’s because they’re willing to use slaves to make things there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Or it’s state funding.

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: We want American – we want American workers to make this stuff at good wages.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about some of the things you’ve said about American universities. I know you’ve been very critical of them.

You gave an interview in February. You said: “The closest conservatives have ever gotten to successfully dealing with the left-wing domination of universities is Viktor Orban’s approach in Hungary. I think his way has to be the model for us, not to eliminate universities, but to give the choice between survival or taking a much less biased approach to teaching.”

He seized control of state universities and put them in foundations that were then run by his allies. Is that what you’re advocating be done in the United States?

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Well, Margaret, what you’re seeing in the United States actually is that universities are controlled by left-wing foundations. They’re not controlled by the American taxpayer.

And yet the American taxpayer is sending hundreds of billions of dollars to these universities every single year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I don’t want taxpayers controlling education necessarily.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that what you’re advocating for, federal government control?

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Margaret, what I’m advocating for is for taxpayers to have a say in how their money is spent. Universities are part of a social contract in this country. They educate our children. They produce important intellectual property. They get a lot of money because of it.

But if they’re not educating our children well, and they’re layering the next generation down in mountains of student debt, then they’re not meeting their end of the bargain. I think it’s totally reasonable to say there needs to be a political solution to that problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, America’s universities still attract talent from around the world, as you went to one of America’s very top schools. But – but…

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Look, there’s still good things about American universities, but it’s going in the wrong direction, Margaret.


MARGARET BRENNAN: But so – but Viktor Orban, in particular, as you know, I mean, he – he rewrote the constitution. He neutered the courts. He has tried to control the media.

These are not necessarily conservative principles. So why would you want to mimic him?

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Well, look, I’m not endorsing every single thing that Viktor Orban has ever done. I don’t know everything he’s ever done.



SENATOR J.D. VANCE: What I do think is, on the university – on the university principle, the idea that taxpayers should have some influence in how their money is spent on these universities, it’s a totally reasonable thing.

And I do think that he’s made some smart decisions there that we could – we could learn from in the United States.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, he was just welcomed at Mar-a-Lago.

And – and, as you know, Leader McConnell just spoke out on the floor of the Senate this past week after Xi Jinping visited Hungary. He’s trying to broker trade deals. They’re brokering trade deals, not just with Russia, but with Iran. Orban – because of this – McConnell said it should be a red flag for anyone seriously concerned about competition with China.

So why take any policy cues from a man and a country and a strategy cozying up to America’s adversaries?

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Well, look, Margaret, Hungary is a nation of 10 million people. America is a nation of 330 million people and the most important economy in the world.

I don’t think that we should take every cue. But I actually have to reject the premise here, because why is Viktor Orban getting closer to China? In part, because American leadership is not making smart decisions. We are pushing other nations into the arms of Chinese – the Chinese, because we don’t make enough stuff, because we pursue a ridiculous foreign policy very often.

We have to be more self-reliant. I don’t like China. I don’t like that China has stolen a lot of American jobs. The reason they’ve done it is because American leadership has made bad decisions.


SENATOR J.D. VANCE: That’s our fault, and that’s something we can fix as Americans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You – you’ve talked a lot about the – the need for the United States to pivot to Asia…


MARGARET BRENNAN: … and let the Europeans focus on Europe. But Xi Jinping is focusing on Europe.

Why would you cede influence?


MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re – because you’ve really been opposed to helping Ukraine in its fight. You’ve said a lot of things that are suggestive…


MARGARET BRENNAN: … that you just want to pull – pull back.

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: … let me – let me – let me address that point, Margaret.

First of all, I think the reason that we have to be smart in Ukraine is, we don’t have a strategy. What is Joe Biden trying to do? What is another $60 billion accomplishing that $120 billion hasn’t? We have to have a smart strategy to spend American taxpayer dollars.

But – but, on this – but on the Europe…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Eighty percent of it funds the U.S. defense industrial base from the – the supplemental that just passed.

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: But, Margaret, but on – on this question, Europe and China and the intertwinement between those two, look, the reason Europe has become weaker is because they’ve deindustrialized.

And why have they deindustrialized? Because they’ve pursued a green energy agenda, following the lead of the Biden administration, and that necessarily empowers China and Russia. We need to acknowledge that it’s our decisions that are making these countries stronger. We need to fix that, not whine at countries that have 10 million people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Or – or people just like cheap stuff, no matter where they live, right? So – and they look for cheaper providers. But…

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Well, they’d love to have cheap energy in Europe, and they don’t have it because of the policies of the green energy lobby.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about abortion…


MARGARET BRENNAN: … because we see it in our polling as so motivating.

But President Trump has adopted this position that it should be states that control abortion access.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You said back in 2022 that a proposal to limit abortion access after 15 weeks of pregnancy was something you would support and some minimal national standard.

What is the minimum national standard that you want the federal government to have on abortion?

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Well, look, Margaret, I think that, first of all, we have to acknowledge that political reality is, I think, really motivating a lot of these considerations.

What Donald Trump has said, which is very consistent with what I said during my own campaign, is that the gross majority of abortion policy is going to be made at the state level.


SENATOR J.D. VANCE: And I actually think, if you compare his view of saying, look, this is a tough issue, we need to let people debate and decide this very tough issue in this new environment, where it’s been kicked back to democratic legislators…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. But you want a minimum federal standard.

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: But – but – but, Margaret, compare this to the Biden administration approach is, we want Christians to perform abortions and we want American taxpayers to fund late-term abortions. I think…

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s not true.

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: … the Trump approach – that is absolutely what Democrats have endorsed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Prohibited under that Hyde Amendment.

But – so you don’t have a – a minimum national standard?

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Margaret, what I have said consistently is, the gross majority of policy here is going to be set by the states. I am pro-life. I want to save as many babies as possible.

And, sure, I think it’s totally reasonable to say that late-term abortions should not happen with reasonable exceptions.


SENATOR J.D. VANCE: But I think Trump’s approach here is trying to settle a very tough issue…


SENATOR J.D. VANCE: … and actually empower the American people to decide it for themselves.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Vance, thank you for joining us today.

SENATOR J.D. VANCE: Thanks Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Michigan Democratic Senator Gary Peters.

Good morning to you, Senator.

SENATOR GARY PETERS (D-Michigan): Well, good morning to you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you just heard us run through a whole bunch of these statistics with our polling data. And you are in charge of helping to defend the slim Democratic majority in the Senate.

Are you still confident that you can pick up a seat in Florida? And are you bullish that you will actually be able to pull off a win in Arizona?


I’m still very, very confident. We have all the pieces in place to be successful. And, basically, it’s very similar to how we were successful in the last cycle, when folks thought that that was not possible in a midterm with a – a party in power in the White House.

We did. We made history last cycle. We’re going to do it again. And it’s primarily because of candidate quality.


SENATOR GARY PETERS: We have outstanding Democratic candidates, outstanding Democratic incumbents who have served their state against deeply flawed Republican candidates.

So I’m confident we’re going to be able to win.


So, just to put up on screen, because I don’t think we did that, the candidate in Arizona I was talking about, Ruben Gallego, is leading Kari Lake by 13 points. That’s – that’s pretty stark.


MARGARET BRENNAN: So, should -you – are you confident?


And here’s a – here – I – the lead is great. But I – you know, I take every poll with a grain of salt. We’re still going to have a tough race. We’re going to still be focused on Arizona to make sure that Ruben wins.

But if you look at the contrast, his service to the – the state of Arizona through his work in Congress…


SENATOR GARY PETERS: … versus Kari Lake, who’s been an election denier, she’s been traveling around the country, not in Arizona, people of Arizona want someone who’s going to be there fighting for them. And that’s what they have in Congressman – there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. But that is what’s happening down-ballot, but President Biden in the state of Arizona is down five points versus Donald Trump. So what is – what are they missing at the top of the ticket here?

SENATOR GARY PETERS: Well, I – I’m still confident that Joe Biden will win in Arizona as well. The – the election will continue to play out. These are going to be close races.

As I said, with his lead, you know, I – I always take these polls with a grain of salt, in the fact that these are competitive battleground states. By definition, they’re going to be very close. We’re going to win because – – not just because of the candidates, but also because of our ability to run better campaigns, reaching out to our voters, getting them engaged, getting them to the polls.

That’s how you win these close races. It’s what we did last cycle.


SENATOR GARY PETERS: It’s what we’re going to do again this year in election time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, in Florida and Arizona, we polled in both of those states. By almost 3-1, voters say President Trump would be better for their finances than President Biden.

In Arizona, Trump has a 10-point advantage on the specific question of, who cares about people like you a lot? And the economy, again and again, number one issue. What can President Biden do to fix that?

SENATOR GARY PETERS: Well, President Biden has been focused on the economy.

And, actually, if you poll folks about their individual view about themselves, polls are pretty consistent. They feel good about what’s happening in their family. And it’s about focusing on that aspect. Ask people about yourself and are you better off.

But, certainly, President Biden, as well as Democrats in the Senate, have been looking to reduce costs. For example, prescription drugs, bringing down the price of prescription drugs for families, it is a focus of the president that will continue.

And, you know, you have to look back on the previous administration. You know, folks forget that, when the former president was there, we were in a pandemic.


SENATOR GARY PETERS: And he just mishandled the – that pandemic in a spectacular fashion.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that is why – that is why it is…

SENATOR GARY PETERS: … that caused so many hardships for people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. And that is why it is so stark when people say they think he’s going to be better for their finances. It’s pretty stunning, frankly.

On the issue of the border, we know, just on the facts, the number of migrants crossing the Southern border has actually been declining for the past few months. And the Biden administration has talked about, you know, new efforts under way here.

But it’s not showing up in any sort of better reviews for the president’s border policy. That is so essential for support in the state of Arizona. He’s trailing by five points. What does he have to do on the border that’s going to help stop the bleeding?

SENATOR GARY PETERS: Well, as you said, the numbers are getting better. They’ll continue to get better.

And – and President Biden, his administration has been focused on that. We also, as Democrats…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does he need to talk about it more?

SENATOR GARY PETERS: He – absolutely. And that’s what a campaign is about, and the campaign to make sure people have that information. As you also know, Democrats worked with Republicans to have the most comprehensive border security bill that would’ve been passed in decades.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And it didn’t.

SENATOR GARY PETERS: That would’ve made it even better.

And yet Donald Trump said, don’t vote for it because it’s going to be a political win for Biden.


SENATOR GARY PETERS: He’d rather see problems on the border. the American people don’t want that. They want solutions. They want folks who roll up their sleeves, get things done.

We were on the edge of doing that. And Donald Trump tanked that effort.


SENATOR GARY PETERS: And Republicans just listened to him. They’re – they’re basically hypocrites on this issue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But he consistently talks about immigration.

President Biden very, very, very rarely discusses the things that you were talking about. And, on immigration, we just see that these policies here, 13 percent of Biden – say Biden’s policies benefit U.S. citizens over immigrants. Trump policies overwhelmingly are viewed as more positive.

I mean, there’s just a perception issue here. How do you battle that?

SENATOR GARY PETERS: Well, it – that – it is a perception issue. It’s not a fact issue. The facts are clearly wrong when it comes to that.

President Biden has been addressing this issue. The numbers show it. And that’s what a campaign is about. That’s what we do, is to make sure that there’s a very clear contrast painted. When voters go into the voting booth in November…


SENATOR GARY PETERS: … they will know the facts. They will see that there’s a clear contrast. And they’re going to vote for the person who’s actually delivered, which is President Biden, as well as Senate Democrats across the country as well.

That contrast will play out as the – the campaigns get into full gear.


And we know President Biden is headed to your home state of Michigan shortly. Thank you very much, Senator Peters.

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


MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re joined now by the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, who is just back from a trip to Kyiv.

Good morning.

OKSANA MARKAROVA (Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States): Good morning. Always good to be back.

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

Secretary Blinken was just in Kyiv. You were there. What did you learn from these face-to-face meetings with President Zelenskyy?

AMBASSADOR OKSANA MARKAROVA: Well, it was, as always, very candid, very good, very productive discussion. The secretary has been there for two days, so not just meeting with the president, which, of course, has been very deep on every aspect of our strategic friendship, but also with prime minister, with Vice Prime Minister Fedorov, so many visits.

Most importantly, I think it was good to align what are we going to do, how we are going to – to put to the best use these funds that Congress has provided. And this $2 billion announcement of FMF support, which could, by the way, go to joint production and Ukrainian-made production is, I think, a great step forward.

So, very good visit. Always good to – to – to see secretary there in person.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are the weapons arriving fast enough?

AMBASSADOR OKSANA MARKAROVA: Well, there is no such thing as fast enough when we are up against such a bad enemy, and we have to catch up for a long pause in – in weapons ordering or starting the supply.

So, no, we need it to be faster.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ambassador, we have more to talk about.

But I’m going to have to take a commercial break in order to do that and come back with a more in-depth chat with Ambassador Markarova. So, stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: My colleague Norah O’Donnell interviewed the pope at the Vatican last month.

And you can watch it tonight on 60 Minutes, plus a one-hour prime-time special this Monday at 10:00 p.m.


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 continue our conversation now with Ukrainian ambassador to the United States.

Ambassador, President Zelenskyy has made clear on multiple occasions now that Ukraine needs more patriot missile systems. He says your country only has about 25 percent of the air defense systems it needs.

Is the United States going to provide that help?

OKSANA MARKAROVA (Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S.): Well, first of all, let me second President Zelenskyy on the need. I mean clearly I was there just for two days but every day we hear in the news just today, you know, the horrible hit in Kharkiv (INAUDIBLE) again, 27 wounded, five dead already. We don’t know, maybe more.

Clearly Russia is doubling down on their war crimes. They found new friends to produce more of these glide (ph) in bombs, horrible. Just trying to destroy as many peaceful citizen in Ukraine as possible. So, the fast way to stop it is to provide us with more than air – more air defense.

It’s also the efficient way, you know, because not only it will save lives, but it will save the energy generation. And everything then (ph) we will have to spend a lot of money and effort to restore and rebuild.

So, desperately need it now. We are in – in very active conversations. Literally Pentagon. And I would like to thank them as we are preparing for the new Ramstein group meeting next week, working day and night to find it. But, frankly, this is the time when everyone have to give us a little bit of theirs. So, we’re very grateful to those who are providing us with their systems. We are grateful to the U.S. for looking for them, locating them, funding some of them, but we need more and it’s time to literally take some brave decisions and provide us with more of this so we can see them right away where we need them two – at least two we need in Kharkiv and that area.


OKSANA MARKAROVA: But other places need to be protected as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And Germany was looking to provide some help, as I understand it, on that front.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You know – you just mentioned an upcoming summit in Ramstein. C.Q. Brown, the chair of the Joint Chiefs, told reporters Ukraine has asked the United States for help to strike inside Russia. The U.S. has been afraid to have U.S. weapons used in that kind of a strike. What is it that Ukraine’s seeking to do?

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Well, first of all, you remember we had this discussion for two years now. We have the right to defend ourselves. This – we are defending ourselves whether we are striking Russian troops on our territory or Russian troops outside of our territory. And we have been trying to do that. But, of course, there were some restrictions.

Now, I will not go publicly into discussions where we are on discussions with either U.S. or any of other partners. But I just want to say that it’s clear that Russia is an aggressor here. It’s clear when they are preparing something. So, the U.N. rules, the international law and every other rules that exist in this country, which Russia violated by the way, give us a clear right to defend ourselves and by striking an aggressor whether on our territory or for – or where they are launching or threaten (ph) the attack from.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you need more training for your troops? I know there’s now a new draft, a lower age, you need more men fighting.

OKSANA MARKAROVA: And the training is ongoing. And, frankly, this is where we are cooperating with the U.S. and with other partners. We would like to see more training been done in Ukraine so that not only we’re training our troops, but we are also becoming institutionally more strong, building their – our army of the future which will be protecting, not just Ukraine but all of us from Russia. So, yes, in training it’s going to be one of the key discussions with the allies.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And in Ukraine. Interesting.

Ambassador, thank you for providing us that update.

We’ll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’re joined now by CBS News cybersecurity expert and analyst Chris Krebs, who is the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Good to have you back.

CHRIS KREBS: Good to be back.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, in our polling that we just carried out in Arizona in particular, it was a center of election denialism back in 2020 and we’re seeing this again. I mean half – nearly half of Trump’s supporters say the 2024 presidential results in Arizona should be investigated and challenged if Biden wins. Seven in ten from those who identify themselves as MAGA.

Is this going to be a repeat of 2020? I mean what – what’s going to happen?

CHRIS KREBS: Well, you know, all these claims are despite any credible evidence being presented in the courts or, you know, to everyone else and the experts out there. We’re continuing to see claims of problems with 2020, even 2022, the midterms. So, I think the incentive structures, the way they’re aligned right now, it – it creates plenty of room and a permissive environment for those to allege that there are problems. Again, despite any credible evidence and continued investments in election security, election resilience, modernizing election systems. You know, back in 2020 we talked about having 95 percent or so of ballots, you know, cast on paper. Now that number’s probably closer to 98. So, we have made improvements over the last several years.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s interesting you make that point about paper because on the campaign trail Donald Trump claims 2020 was rigged, claims 2024 might be as well.

Listen to what he just said.


DONALD TRUMP (R), (Former U.S. President And 2024 Presidential Candidate): Our goal on election will be one day voting with paper ballots, proof of citizenship and voter I.D. It’s very simple. If you want to save America and your Second Amendment, register, get an absentee or mail-in ballot, vote early or vote on Election Day, I don’t care.


MARGARET BRENNAN: So, two things there. Now he is for mail-in ballots. He was against them in 2020. But you just said there already is a paper trail. He’s saying there is none.

CHRIS KREBS: The vast majority of votes cast in the United States right now are with a paper trail. There is a small percentage that are recorded down on election – election systems, but that’s for accessibility purposes, for those that may have visual impairment or otherwise. And it’s important to ensure open and accessible voting processes.

The one-day voting – this push, this drive, it’s actually counterproductive. It actually is counter to participation in the democratic system and resilience in security. That longer run up, the weeks, months in advance of the election, allows us to detect if there are any issues, get on top and fix them.

If you had an election on one single day, life happens first. Somebody might get sick, you could get in a car accident, you might not be able to get to the polls. But if something happens early on, it could have this cascading, catastrophic impact on getting people to the polls and voting on election day.

So, I’m much more in favor of a – of the system we have now with early voting, with mail-in and absentee ballots.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the director of national intelligence, your successor, as I said, Jen Easterly, also testified that they are so prepared, election infrastructure has never been more secure. But then we also hear from U.S. intelligence that China, for example, is experimenting with things like generative AI to influence voters.

How do people understand that influence effort versus actually tinkering with ballots?

CHRIS KREBS: I think that’s the right distinction. There’s interference, which is the technical manipulation of systems, and as Jen Easterly, my successor at CISA said earlier this week in a Senate hearing, the investments we’re making, the continued improvements across systems, it – I would even suggest that, you know, when – when we said in 2020 that it was a safe and secure election, it’s even more safe and secure now because those continued investments, because of continued improvements across those systems.

But to your point on influence, the scope, the scale, the technology available to our adversaries, including AI and deep fakes, it is a much more precarious threat environment. The Chinese are active. The Russians are very active. They’ve been using deep fakes in Europe. We’ve seen AI pop up in Moldova, Slovakia, else – Bangladesh. So, it is – it is going to be a tool.

My sense, however, though, is threats that are AI powered or AI enabled will be much like what happened in New Hampshire with the robo call. It will be immediately detected, it will be investigated quickly, and it will be prosecuted. And that’s what’s happening right now.

I think the biggest concern though is that this is cumulative. It’s accretive. So, rather than one single catastrophic AI enabled event –


CHRIS KREBS: It’s going to be a steady drum beat where we, where the voters, the public, are just going to lose confidence and trust in the overarching information ecosystem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’re seeing that in our polling already, a lack of confidence.

CHRIS KREBS: Some might say that’s part of the strategy.


CHRIS KREBS: Absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: CNN was reporting both the Chinese and Iranian governments had tried to use fake AI content back in 2020 but chose not to deploy it. Is that accurate?

CHRIS KREBS: I – I can’t speak to the specific intelligence there. It should not be a surprise though. It – we’ve been talking about deep fakes and AI as a risk vector for years, for half a decade at least. So, to say that – whether it’s the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, the North Koreans, whomever, have been tinkering or researching this technology as recently as four years ago, I think that’s entirely credible. We are seeing it now though. We are seeing, as I mentioned, already in Europe. We’re seeing it here as well. And I would expect that between now and the election we will continue to see AI created content pop up.


CHRIS KREBS: And this is where it’s important for the tech platforms to ensure they’re on the lookout for it.


CHRIS KREBS: That the AI companies are ensuring that their platforms cannot be manipulated. The challenge, of course, though is there are opensource models that can be used.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we need to keep talking to you about this, unfortunately, in the months to come because it sounds like it will be a persistent issue.

CHRIS KREBS: Absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to former defense secretary and CIA director, Robert Gates, who we spoke with on Friday from the College of William & Mary, where he serves as chancellor. We began by asking him why national security should matter to voters this election year.


ROBERT GATES (Former Defense Secretary and Former CIA Director): Our leaders need to bring these issues home to the American people in a very direct way. The world isn’t going to ignore us just because we think we can ignore the world. So, the first thing is to make clear that if we don’t deal with these problems early, they become very dangerous problems and very costly problems for the United States down the road.

The other is to explain to the American people, for example, how we need – how we are economically interconnected with the rest of the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, if President Trump were to win again, what could he do differently in a second term that would give him a stronger legacy? I know you’ve been critical of some of his behavior when he was in office.

ROBERT GATES: I think you’d probably see significantly different domestic policies in – in a number of areas. I think one thing he’s been clear about for a long time is the need for tariffs to protect American industry and so on. I think he would also have a different approach in many – in many areas with respect to foreign policy and in terms of trying to end the war in Ukraine. It’s never made quite clear how he’s going to do that or what terms he would have to agree to or how he would handle the issues in the South China Sea differently.

So, you know, I think that there’s an element of unpredictability in – in the – in his case of – of not knowing what he really has in mind to deal with any of these specific issues, especially on national security.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you be open to voting for Mr. Trump?

ROBERT GATES: Oh, I’m not even going to begin to go there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you did write an essay in “Foreign Affairs” a few months ago where you were – you were pretty specific in criticism. You said his disdain for allies, fondness for authoritarian leaders, erratic behavior undermined U.S. credibility. You were also critical of President Biden in his withdrawal from Afghanistan, which you said further damaged the world’s confidence in America.

Do you think Mr. Biden has been able to repair that damage?

ROBERT GATES: I think that he gained a lot of credibility with the speed with which he assembled the coalition of partner countries, allies and friends, before, during and after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, putting together that three dozen countries willing to help Ukraine with money, with military assistance and so on. Being able to warn the allies before the Russians actually invaded so that when they did we had enormous credibility with others that we knew what we were talking about and we knew the nature of Putin’s threat.

I think a lot of people would agree that there has been some unnecessary delays in getting necessary equipment to – certain kinds of equipment to the Ukrainians. And I’m not talking about the six-month late supplemental that – that was just passed by the Congress. I’m talking about going back a year and a half or two years, whether it was tanks or missiles or aircraft that after long debate and deliberation the decision was finally made to provide them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Vladimir Putin was in China this past week visiting his ally, Xi Jinping. And he said Friday, Russian troops are advancing daily in Ukraine. What do you think it will take to stop this momentum?

ROBERT GATES: Well, this is one of the places where, frankly, the six-month delay in getting the supplemental passed is – has been a problem because – and poses a real crisis, I think. The circumstances in Ukraine right now are – are quite dire. The Russians are moving, not only around Kharkiv, but elsewhere along the front. Putin has taken the last six months to a year to rearm, reequip, to recruit. I’ve read numbers that he’s putting as many as 30,000 new troops a month into Ukraine. They have more troops in Ukraine now, the Russians do, than they did at the beginning of the war.

MARGARET BRENNAN: During that time Russia has also built up more support for its effort with Iran, with North Korea, supplying it weapons, with China now, U.S. intelligence says, helping to reconstitute Russia’s military industrial base, even jointly producing drones.

What consequence should there be for a country like China for helping this war to continue?

ROBERT GATES: There are a variety of other sanctions that are available to the administration and to the Europeans that – that could bring additional pressure on the Chinese at a time when their economy is not doing very well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would they make a difference?

ROBERT GATES: They could. They could. The Chinese have very large stakes in other problems, in other relationships around the world, in addition to Russia. And, you know, until a year or so ago they were being pretty careful about what they were providing to the Russians. They still have not, as best we know, have not provided actual weapons to the Russians. That’s been a red line for the United States.

And – and, Putin, frankly, and if you look at the cabinet changes that Putin has just made, they’re all focused on militarizing the Russian economy to sustain a huge military for a long time going forward.

This is not a one-time problem with just Ukraine. Putin has decided to take Russia in a different – in a different direction that poses a real threat to all of its neighbors. And the Chinese, by helping them, are enabling that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the Chinese president was just touring through Europe, and he was in France. I wonder what you think about the French president’s statement that nothing should be ruled out when it comes to sending western troops to Ukraine. I know some other European countries have also leaned into that idea. Should it be taken off the table by both Biden and Trump?

ROBERT GATES: I think the notion of deploying NATO troops into Ukraine causes a lot of domestic concern, not just in this – in the United States, but in Europe as well. I don’t think you take things off the table, but I – but I also don’t think you put them on the table in an explicit way.

You know, part of my problem is that our government talks too much and some other governments talk too much as well. Sometimes it’s better just to do things and not tell people you’re doing them.


ROBERT GATES: But maybe that’s the old CIA guy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that suggesting more training then of Ukrainian troops?

ROBERT GATES: I think – I think we are clearly – and there’s going to have to be more training of – of the Ukrainians, particularly with their new conscription law and – and a number of new young people coming into the Ukrainian military.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should that take –

ROBERT GATES: That training can take place in western Europe or it conceivably could take place in Ukraine as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the guests on our program, J.D. Vance, a senator from Ohio, has likened U.S. support for Ukraine to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, making that argument that there’s like a creeping U.S. role potentially.

He also went to the Munich Security Conference but skipped meetings with President Zelenskyy and – and the head of NATO, saying he wouldn’t learn anything new. What do you say to a leading Republican like him?

ROBERT GATES: Rather than get into specific personalities, I just think that people need to open their eyes and – and be willing to listen to other points of view and be willing to learn, particularly from people who have been around, like Senator McConnell and others, who – who can help him understand – help him and others understand that – that this is a different kind of aggression by far than what happened in Iraq in 2003. And – and there is no assurance that – that Putin will stop with Ukraine. And – and to not understand that potential threat, and also the degree to which it encourages other aggressors around the world, I think – I think some – some additional information, briefings and education may be required.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about the Middle East, where there already are multiple shooting wars on multiple fronts involving U.S. ally Israel.

Do you agree with President Biden’s decision to withhold some specific armaments from the Netanyahu government while surging others?

ROBERT GATES: One of the things that has struck me has been the degree to which the Netanyahu government has essentially ignored the views and – and requests of his closest ally, beginning with more humanitarian assistance and – and taking care of the – of the civilians in Gaza. I think that there are – there are ways that we can pressure Israel.

The truth of the matter is, 2,000 pound bombs that are not precision guided inevitably lead to a lot of collateral damage. They basically collapse buildings. I’m all for providing all other kinds of weapons to Israel, including precision guided bombs, and – and other equipment that they may need. But I think when – when our allies ignore us, and particularly on issues that are of huge importance to us and to the region, then I think it’s reasonable to take actions that try to get their attention.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There were extraordinary statements from Israel’s defense minister this past week where he publicly criticized his own prime minister, saying he can’t get an answer to some key questions like what happens at the end of this war. He called on Netanyahu to make a decision, declare Israel will not establish civilian control or military control over the Gaza Strip and start talking to international actors about who is going to govern. What do you think about such a public split like this in the midst of the war?

ROBERT GATES: Well, it’s pretty extraordinary, but – but I think not unexpected. You know, the United States government has been asking Prime Minister Netanyahu for months, what’s your plan? What happens after the shooting stops? Where are you going with this? What’s the solution politically? What’s the solution economically and in humanitarian terms? And there – and neither we, nor the Israelis, including his own defense minister, get any answers to those questions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you said you’ve never been a fan of Bibi Netanyahu. You said you met him back in 1989. Are your concerns in regard to U.S. national security that he could draw the U.S. into a wider conflict?

ROBERT GATES: My biggest concern, and we need to back up and have a little perspective here. There are, in fact, four wars going on in the Middle East right now. Not only the war in Gaza, but the war on Israel’s northern border with Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen and what – the disruption of the global supply chains through their attacks in the Red Sea, and then the militias in – in Syria and in Iraq. There is one power behind all four of these conflicts, and that’s Iran. And what we’re not talking about, we’ve become so preoccupied with Gaza, what we’ve failed to talk sufficiently about is, how do we deal with an Iran that is basically the – the one providing the arms, the planning, and the intelligence in all four of these conflicts, and that Iran is the source of the problem.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back.


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


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