Transcript: Sen. Joe Manchin on "Face the Nation," March 4, 2018

President Trump went against many members of his own party during a remarkable televised meeting with lawmakers to discuss guns this week, seeming to embrace several positions endorsed by Democrats. 

Mr. Trump specifically mentioned a bill backed by Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, who drafted legislation with Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in 2013 to expand background checks that ultimately failed. He joined us to discuss the current politics surrounding gun control, Mr. Trump's newly announced tariffs and White House security clearances.

The following is a transcript of the interview with Manchin that aired Sunday, March 4, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Senator Joe Manchin. He is a Democrat from West Virginia, a state that gave candidate Donald Trump 68 percent of the vote and has the fourth highest gun ownership rate in the country. Senator, welcome to the show.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Thanks for having me, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you are trying to do something on gun control. You were with the president this week. Do you have any idea what the vote count is on the bill you're putting forward?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well first of all, it's not gun control, it's gun sense. Pat Toomey and myself -- I introduced the bill in 2013 and Pat was my cosponsor and we worked together on this, and we protected the Second Amendment rights, we protect the law abiding gun owners. All we did was go into the loopholes of the gun shows, on the internet sales, commercial transactions when you don't know people and make sure that we do that background check before you have that gun.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that bill did not cross that 60 vote threshold back in 2013. Where are the votes now?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Excuse me, if President Trump would have been president in 2013 that bill would have passed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You think he is giving the kind of leadership now that will allow your bill to pass?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: No one - well - I'm - I'm very hopeful. President Trump has said background checks is needed. This bill of ours, the Manchin-Toomey bill should be the base bill they work off of. John Cornyn has a good fix NICS. That was part of our bill let's incorporate those, but this makes gun sense. It makes common sense. It keeps it out of the hands of the wrong people. When the terrorists go on the website and said, "If you want to do harm in America go down to the gun show buy what you want." That's all we're saying. But you have to respect a law abiding gun owner. They're not going to sell their gun to strangers or criminals or terrorists. They're going to do the right thing. But when you don't know and the transactions commercial, you should make sure you have a background check. That's all we've said. So I think we can with the president. He can set his legacy. President Trump coming forth to something like this and putting his support behind will give Republicans enough cover to support this in most reasonable responsible way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you don't have an explicit commitment yet from the president?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: No he's - we had a great meeting on Wednesday and I know the NRA said they had a great meeting on Thursday. So if we both had great meetings, can't we come to get a good great result from those meetings and do something that's supporting and protecting our children. And we have school-- we have to have school lockdowns. We have to have schools secured. That has to be done. Mental background, making sure the bill that Lindsey is talking about is very good. When people say something and they come forward and we should act upon that.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: The president called out your partner on this bill and said that Pat Toomey was afraid of the NRA because you didn't include an increase in the age limit for purchases of some weapons in this bill. Are you actually going to consider including that?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Oh the age, it's a no brainer.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are going to revise your bill to include it?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: That's a no brainer, but I'm saying - but again it's going to take the president's support to put that into the bill to make sure we can get the votes to pass it. But you know if it's not -

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that why - this provision isn't in there right now.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN - the provision was not in there, it was not brought up at that time. That's the only reason it wasn't. It wasn't said, it wasn't brought to our attention that that was a criteria that we should say, well your handguns is 21 but long guns or the assault rifles or at 18. That wasn't considered we were just trying to move the ball forward to say listen. Background checks just at gun shows and on and the Internet makes gun sense, it's common sense. Couldn't even get that. So when he said you didn't put that in there it wasn't considered because it wasn't brought up to that level.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're very specific in what you're proposing. But broadly speaking are you concerned that this push among Democrats for more gun regulation could hurt your own personal prospects.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well it'll - it'll stop everything. I'm not going to take the guns away from any law abiding gun owner. I'm going to protect the Second Amendment rights, but we have to make sure that we're moving in a way that we can get something accomplished. How do you secure the schools? How do we make sure that the children, I said the only fear a child should have going to school in the morning that they do their homework and are ready for their math and English test. That's what they should be scared of. They shouldn't be scared of their safety. And we've got to make sure that we do that, mental back -- there's so many things that contribute to this, but to have an open system to where you can go to a gun show and go to a table, that's not by a federal licensed dealer and buy whatever you want without anyone asking one question needs to be stopped.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about trade do you support the president's proposals?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I like where the president is going on this. I really do. I'm -- here, in West Virginia, Weirton, West Virginia, Ravenswood, West Virginia we've lost thousands and thousands of jobs.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So 25 and 10 percent tariffs. You're fine with that?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I'm not going into particulars okay? I think at the end of the day will come to what's responsible. But if someone's charging West Virginia or charging United States of America twenty-five percent for us to send our goods to their to their shores and they're coming into our market at 5 percent, don't you think it should be tit for tat? It should be basically equal. We're talking about fair trade, free trade hasn't worked well for West Virginia it really -- we've lost thousands of jobs. And we're talking about a fairness to the system.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And concerns about trickle down costs, prices going up for your constituents you dismiss those?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: That's Wall Street talking, that's all Wall Street talking. I know exactly, and there's an old saying, 'follow the money.' That's what's talking here. The people at Main Street are saying we've got devastated, we got hurt. We've lost good jobs with benefits. We can't compete. When you have China producing 50 percent of the world's steel, you have the United States of America basically is consuming the largest importer of steel. Put the dots together, and Lindsey talked about that, connect the dots. We've got to do something, but also we shouldn't punish our favored trading nations where we have surpluses with them. And there's not a negative trade you know, trade war.

MARGARET BRENNAN : I want to ask you because you sit on the Intelligence Committee: three dozen White House officials had their security clearances downgraded this week. Does it concern you how the White House is handling classified information?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN Well it's a serious consideration there, my goodness yes. Because I know, sitting on the - just giving you an example, I sit on the Intel Committee, there's 15 of us that sit on the Intel Committee of the Senate, we can't even discuss with the other 85 senators what we talk about and what we understand, what we learn. That tells you how serious it is a top secret information that we're able to have access to. This is very serious. I have faith in John Kelly that he'll get this under control. It is of serious concern. And something has to be done and we have to get those people in responsible positions with a clearance as quickly as we can. If there is a problem you can't get through it, then they're going to have to make some decisions on who they want to have this information.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Manchin, thank you for joining us on set.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: It's always great to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you. Appreciate it.