Gorsuch: I leave politics to the political branches, I'm here to talk about the Constitution

This is a rush transcript from "The Story," September 10, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: They're happy to see each other, right? It's just a good day. Thank you, Bret. Good to see you as well.

All right, breaking tonight, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was John Bolton's boss during the Bush administration, and she joins us live tonight with exclusive reaction to the national security advisors ousting. Bolton was the president's third national security adviser.

Good evening, everybody. I'm Martha MacCallum and this is “The Story.” Tonight, a lot to get to hear on set with Condoleezza Rice in just moments. But first, Fox News correspondent Gillian Turner with the Bolton back story this evening.

Good evening, Gillian.

GILLIAN TURNER, CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Martha. The he said she said continuing here at the White House. Tonight, aides say President Trump fired Bolton, but sources close to the former national security adviser insist it was his decision to leave first. This point, there's really only one thing both sides agree on.


HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: John Bolton's policies and priorities did not align with President Trump.


TURNER: A source familiar with Bolton's thinking tells Fox News, he was completely blindsided by the turn of events here over the last 24 hours. They described him as being shocked by the president's decision to deny him a dignified exit from the administration after serving for 17 months.

Bolton's resignation letter is short to the point. He said, "I hereby resign, effective immediately, as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. Thank you for having afforded me this opportunity to serve our country."

President Trump got to Twitter first today, though saying, "I informed John Bolton last night, his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the administration."

It's well known here at 1600 Penn that Trump and Bolton spent much of the last few months tussling over foreign policy across the globe -- from North Korea, to Venezuela, to Iran.

But ultimately, sources say, their running feud came to a head last night. The two duking it out over Afghanistan. Now, sources say, the president confronted John Bolton here last night about his opposition to the president working with the Taliban.

And now, Martha, the race is on for the president to tap an appointment for Bolton, we're hearing about five or six different names floated, so far, all of those people currently work here already in the administration. Martha.

MACCALLUM: Gillian, thank you very much. Gillian Turner at the White House. Here now, Condoleezza Rice, the nation's former national security advisor and former secretary of state under President George W. Bush. She's also the author of the brand-new book, To Build a Better World: Choices to End the Cold War and Create a Global Commonwealth.

Thank you very much, Secretary Rice. Very good to have you here this evening.


MACCALLUM: We were looking forward to having you here, anyway. And then, we got a lot of news today to talk about. I actually want to start by showing a sound bite. I actually spoke to John Bolton the night that he was -- he received this decision to be calling the national security advisor back on March 22nd 2018. And here is what he said that evening.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: There's a famous story about Dean Acheson, the secretary of state in the Truman administration, was asked by a reporter, maybe somebody like you, how, how, how is it that Acheson and President Truman had such a good working relationship? And Acheson, said basically, because neither the president nor I ever forgot who was president.


MACCALLUM: So, given that, it seems like I got to a point where John Bolton could no longer really care that he didn't agree with the president on this and the feeling was mutual.


RICE: Well, yes. I think so. But let me just start by saying something about John Bolton because he did work for me. John has tremendous intellect. He cares deeply about this country and the role of the United States abroad. And I'm sure he did his best to give the president his unvarnished advice which is what you're supposed to do as national security adviser.

But in the final analysis, if the national security advisor and the president are not on the same page, it's not the president who's going to go. And I'm sure that John understands that as long-serving diplomat, long serving policy expert.

MACCALLUM: You are gracious and I know that you worked together and that you have mutual respect obviously for serving the country and serving presidents. But there were times when you disagreed on things.

And he even said that the Bush administration was weak-kneed when it came to Iran and North Korea. And there were reports that you suggested from somewhat from a far that perhaps he would not be a person that you think should be in the Trump administration when those choices were being made.

RICE: Well, though, the last point is certainly not true. I did not suggest that John would not be someone to serve in an administration. I think that everyone who is as talented as John is, should serve our country.

Yes, we had our disagreements, but I was also secretary of state. And when I said with President Bush that we were going to do certain things, we went ahead and did them. But we wanted to hear from people who disagreed. That's the only way that you can make good policy, is if you're willing to take advice and listen, and then, you have to make your own decision.

But I have the utmost respect for John and, in fact, have stayed in touch with him over the time that he's been national security adviser.

MACCALLUM: So, what does this move tell you about where the Trump White House is right now on foreign policy?

RICE: It's not clear to me that personnel is policy in this case. I do think that there's been a kind of long simmering disagreement between John, and perhaps, the president, perhaps, others in the administration. John can be sharp in his views. He can have kind of sharp elbows sometimes, and so, maybe there's been a simmering disagreement.

But we'll wait and see whether there are real policy differences here. For instance, when it came to the decision about the Taliban. I do believe that the president looked at what happened in Afghanistan and said, how can I sit down and negotiate with those people, when they've just killed an American soldier, when they're keeping up the violence, and I'm glad he made that decision. Because I think the Taliban had come to the conclusion that we want an agreement more than they did.

They had reason to believe that and not just because of what the President had said -- President Trump about wanting to get out of Afghanistan, but that rhetoric went back to the Obama administration that we needed to end the war, we needed to bring the troops home.

So, I think the Taliban had become quite emboldened that they could keep up these attacks and they would negotiate, they weren't going to even acknowledge that there was a legitimately elected Afghan government that we'd supported for a decade and a half.


RICE: They were not going to acknowledge the Afghan Constitution reportedly. How could we sign an agreement like that?

MACCALLUM: Do you think if we -- if we pulled out that they would, you know, basically topple that government in short order?

RICE: Well, I don't know how strong they really are.


RICE: Only intelligence could tell you that. Because, so far, it's been more of a hit and run operation. But it's been very close to the capital. That suggests that yes, they would -- the Afghan government would be in danger.

And I'll say one other thing, Martha.


RICE: The book that we wrote, To Build a Better World is about America's staying the course for 45 years from the end of the war to 1990 when Germany was able to be unified.

America has stayed the course in Korea for six decades to keep the peace on the Korean Peninsula. We've stayed in Japan so that Japan didn't have to rearm. I don't think any of us would take back the decisions to provide that stabilizing force. And I understand that people want the war in Afghanistan to end.

But if we can end it in a way so that perhaps the military can tell the president that there's a sustainable presence for some period of time until the Afghans can defend themselves, we don't want to turn our backs on the Afghan people. And we certainly don't want to be in the position that we were 18 years ago tomorrow.

MACCALLUM: Yes, we certainly do not.

RICE: Where that attack came out of the territory of Afghanistan.

MACCALLUM: I want to ask you a quick question about Iran and then one about China if I may. The response from Iran to this news about John Bolton's departure seems to have emboldened them.

One of Rouhani's advisors said, "The marginalization and subsequent elimination of Bolton is not an accident but a decisive sign of the failure of the U.S. maximum pressure strategy. Do not doubt that we can manage the behavior of the United States toward Iran and we'll never back down.

RICE: Well, it's not surprising to me that the Iranians are going to crow about somebody that they disliked very much. But I, I hope and believe because I know Secretary Pompeo and others, anything that we do with Iran, even if the president tries to engage in some kind of personal diplomacy, it's still going to be under the shadow of the fact that this is the most disruptive, the most dangerous regime in the Middle East and in the entire region.

MACCALLUM: There's a lot of talk about engaging in conversation at the U.N. and reopening those talks. Do you think that we should revisit the Iran deal?

RICE: Well, I would revisit -- I would have revisited the Iran deal a long time ago because it was not a deal that frankly I supported. I wish that the Europeans had used the year after President Trump was elected and had said he was going to withdraw from the deal to try to improve that deal.

I don't have a problem with negotiations with the Iranians. In fact, I started the negotiations with the so-called P5+1, the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany to develop both sanctions against the Iranians and attract for negotiation.

There's nothing wrong with negotiation, just has to be on the right terms.

MACCALLUM: So, China, quickly, George Soros supported the president's moves in China being tough with them on trade. And obviously, recognizing that they present a big threat on a number of levels to the United States.

But he's warning the president not to back down on his firm stance against American companies doing any business with Huawei. What do you say to that?

RICE: Well, I do think that Huawei is the problem. Particularly, I would not want to see Huawei embedded in networks, in countries with which we share intelligence. Whether or not, though, we really should care if Huawei wants to sell headsets around the world. I think that's a different issue.

But the issue that the president is really having to deal with is China was admitted to the international system and to the World Trade Organization, well ahead of conforming its laws and its practices to true free trading practices.

That didn't matter when it was a kind of developing country, but now it's a huge power. And it is tilting the playing field in the international economy toward it. I want to see China grow because, without Chinese economic growth, we probably don't get internationally economic growth. I want to see it again on the right terms.

And so, the president should stick to his guns on saying that China has to change some of those practices. But we need to remember too that China is an integral part of a growing international economy and this is the policy that has to have nuance, not just legend.

MACCALLUM: Well, you know, as you -- I know, you enjoy your life as a professor. But as you know, every time I say to someone that I'm interviewing Condoleezza Rice tonight, I always get, at least, a few of them saying to me, tell her she should run for president or she should accept a position working for the current president.

What do you -- what can you tell them?

RICE: I can tell them that I'm a really happy professor at Stanford trying to help prepare the next generation. And I can tell them this, I care a lot about policy.


RICE: I have my chances to speak. I have good terms with people in this administration. But Martha, I worked for president who admired me, who trusted me, I admired him and we were together at a time of great consequence for the country. I'm not going to try to catch lightning in a bottle again. I'm doing what I was meant to do, my vocation is as a professor. I'll stay there.

MACCALLUM: And back playing piano. I understood, as well.

RICE: And back playing piano. That's right.

MACCALLUM: All right, Condoleezza Rice, always great to talk with you.

RICE: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: We'd love to see you again here. Thank you very much. The book is called To Build a Better World. Good luck with that as well. I'm sure, it will be a huge success.

RICE: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: Thank you very much, Secretary Rice.

RICE: Thank you very much.

MACCALLUM: Coming up next, did the media drop the ball by revealing too many details about a Russian spy who worked on behalf of the United States? That's next.


REP. DOUG COLLINS, R-GA: I really question, whose side is CNN on. This is a problem that we're seeing. I think it needs to be investigated.



MACCALLUM: So about 24 hours since CNN's bombshell report that the CIA extracted a top-level Russian spy in 2017. Largely out of concern they reported that President Trump might endanger the asset by sharing too much information.

Now what followed is a drip, drip of personal details in the New York Times and NBC News, a correspondent for the latter even knocking on the agent's door apparently in the United States. Now, you might remember, it was just over a year ago that a former double -- Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by a nerve agent in London. And incidents like this have the media on the hot seat for possibly putting this assets life now in danger.

Chief Breaking News Correspondent Trace Gallagher gives us all the backstory on this tonight. Hi, Trace.

TRACE GALLAGHER, CHIEF BREAKING NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Martha. It was CNN Correspondent Jim Sciutto who first reported on the efforts to extract the top CIA informer from Russia, and Sciuto pointed the finger directly at President Trump saying there was concern the president's mishandling of classified intelligence could result in the high-level source being exposed.

In a rare move, both the CIA and White House quickly and heavily pushed back saying CNN's narrative was not only dead wrong, it was dangerous. Congressman Doug Collins, the highest-ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee also weighed in calling for CNN to be investigated.

But this was far from just outrage on the right. The New York Times and Washington Post also came out saying the CNN report was wrong, adding there was no public evidence that President Trump endangered the informant. And while Fox News has confirmed the extraction actually happened in 2017, the decision to extract was apparently made in 2016 prior to Trump becoming president.

Other news outlets also contradicted CNN but then the New York Times and NBC were criticized because their continued reporting revealed more information about the source and the mission including how long the asset had been sending secrets to the U.S. and even details about where the spy lives and information about the home itself. Here's White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley on Fox News.


GIDLEY: And I have to tell you, for the media, the hypocrisy they have is so egregious to come out and try and say that this president is putting lives in danger with the way he handles information classified or not when they are the ones that actually go to this person's house with a video camera revealing where this person lives.


GALLAGHER: Former CIA station chief and Fox News Contributor Daniel Hoffman says this type of behavior not only puts our sources and methods at risk, he says it could prompt foreign governments to ask if the U.S. government is trustworthy. Martha?

MACCALLUM: Trace, thank you very much. Joining me now, Marc Thiessen, American Enterprise Institute scholar and Fox News Contributor and Juan Williams co-host of "THE FIVE" and Fox News Political Analyst. Gentlemen, welcome. Good to have you here.

MARC THIESSEN, CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be with you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: One, this is a troubling story on a lot of levels. What do you make of it?

JUAN WILLIAMS, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's important to have the timeline in front of us. So CNN broke the story as we just heard from Trace Gallagher, it was followed up by the Washington Post and New York Times.

And as Trace indicated, both the New York Times and Washington Post indicated that even though CNN said it could partly be tied to lack of confidence in the President's ability to keep secrets, his meeting with the Russian ambassador, the Russian Foreign Minister in January of 17 --

WILLIAMS: Yes, but that happened after they --

WILLIAMS: That's correct. But it was not -- it was not as a result of that anxiety in the Intelligence Community that the decision was made to expatriate this spy, that that decision had been made earlier. I will say that both CNN and the New York Times reported that they reached out to the White House and to government officials before the story was published and they got no pushback. And I think that that's also telling that there was not an effort by the Trump administration is they don't run with this story.

MACCALLUM: Well, we also know that Secretary Pompeo who's the former CIA Director refused to answer questions about this. And I know that General Petraeus the former CIA Director did not want to discuss this either because it is a highly sensitive issue. Marc?

THIESSEN: Yes, the most sensitive thing in the world is our -- is our assets that are placed around the world. But look, Juan, CNN still has the story. Jim Sciutto's web page on Twitter still has the story as his pin tweet.

They haven't retracted it. They haven't corrected it. It's still their story. It's fake news. If CNN doesn't want to be called fake news, stop reporting fake news. And what's lost in this whole story is that the premise of the CNN story was that Donald Trump was responsible for losing this asset. We know that's not true because the decision to pull him was in 2016.

What's lost in it is that it was the Obama administration that was responsible for burning this asset. It was the leak from the Obama administration in December 2014 to NBC News where they reported "two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows President Putin personally directed how hack material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, officials said."

That was the driving force that got them to do it. So it was the Obama administration leaking stuff to the -- to the media that got this guy burned. It almost got him killed.

WILLIAMS: No, I think exactly the opposite, Martha.


WILLIAMS: I think that what you had was you had reports in the course of the 2016 context in both the New York Times and Washington Post that said there were deep sources that were confirming that Russia had interfered and was trying to help the Trump --

THIESSEN: Leaked by who?

WILLIAMS: I'm sorry?

THIESSEN: Leaked by who?

WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know who leaked.

THIESSEN: The Obama Administration.


WILLIAMS: You're assuming that it's the Obama. I don't think --

THIESSEN: It has to be the Obama Administration. There was no other administration.

WILLIAMS: I think you're politicizing this and I don't think that was it. I think that --

THIESSEN: It all happened before Trump was in office.

WILLIAMS: No -- well, obviously, what happened even recently with Trump releasing -- tweeting a picture of Iranian assets and people saying is that classified, the Intelligence Community has concerns about Trump's ability to hold on to secrets. I don't think there's any question about that.

MACCALLUM: Yes, but unfortunately what's happening is and as you point out, “The Story” is still up there. “The Story” is either accurate or it is not. And the fact that this happened in 2016 and it also feeds the narrative because the question was whether or not Vladimir Putin was directing the operation to try to influence the U.S. election and to push that information out there and expose this person who was seen as the only person close enough to him to have divulged that information makes that a particularly dangerous situation. And whoever did it is the person who has this person's safety on their -- on their head, Marc.

THIESSEN: Absolutely. And on top of that, if you read the New York Times story, what is fascinating is that John Brennan was -- I'm sorry, the CIA - - the Obama administration officials, when they were passing this information to President Obama, it was so sensitive they didn't put it in the president's daily brief.

It was sent -- the information was given to the president in a -- in an eyes-only envelope that -- from a source inside the Kremlin saying that the Kremlin -- President Putin was directing the attack on the American elections and the missed story here is that he did nothing about it.

WILLIAMS: That's not true.


WILLIAMS: In fact, the Obama Administration --

THIESSEN: -- a source Kremlin telling him that they were interfering in our election and he did nothing.

WILLIAMS: The Obama Administration tried Mitch McConnell. He said he wouldn't join. He didn't want to have a bipartisan --

THIESSEN: Oh, come on.

MACCALLUM: I got to go, guys. I'm out of time. We'll pick it up next time.

WILLIAMS: I mean, it's unbelievable.

MACCALLUM: Thank you, gentlemen. Marc and Juan, until next time. Still ahead, my primetime exclusive with Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch after this.


NEIL GORSUCH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: About half the time, I go home at night thinking what I've had to do that he didn't like, Donald Trump like but it's something the law compelled.



MACCALLUM: All right, so believe it or not, it's election night this Tuesday. We're minutes away now from the polls closing in North Carolina's special election where Republican Dan Bishop and Democrat Dan McCready are vying for an open house seat in the state's GOP leaning Ninth District.

It has been vacant since last year's midterm election when results were tossed following allegations of ballot tampering from a consultant who worked for a different GOP candidate. Jonathan Serrie live at the headquarters for a Republican candidate Dan Bishop tonight as we await these results. Good evening, Jonathan.

JONATHAN SERRIE, CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Martha. Even though Republicans have controlled this district since 1963, tonight's race is expected to be very close. Dan Bishop a Republican state senator and attorney hopes President Trump's rally in Fayetteville last night will tip the balance in the GOP's favor.


TRUMP: A vote for any Democrat in 2020 and a vote for any Democrat tomorrow in North Carolina is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream.

DAN MCCREADY, D-N.C., CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: You open up Twitter or you turn on the news, you would think that this whole country has been possibly divided. I think the vast majority of people are actually just looking for leaders who will work together.


SERRIE: Democrat Dan McCready, a business owner and former marine, has focused his campaign on kitchen table issues such as lowering health care costs and improving public schools. Both parties are watching district nine closely as a possible early indicator of opinion among suburban voters nationwide.


ERIC HEBERLIG, PROFESSOR, UNC CHARLOTTE: Interest groups, parties are trying to see what moves North Carolinians now as a test case for next year as well as testing ground for national messages and methods to see what moves voters.


SERRIE: And most of the polls are closing right now with the exception of one where there was a gas leak forcing voters to move to a different location. The state elections board agreed to increase the hours of that site, extending it by 25 minutes tonight. Martha.

MACCALLUM: All right. We will be watching when those numbers start coming in. Jonathan Serrie covering up for us this evening, thank you, Jonathan.

So, President Trump's first Supreme Court pick largely out of the spotlight since Brett Kavanaugh came on the scene, but Justice Neil Gorsuch is now speaking out tonight in a prime time exclusive next.


MACCALLUM: You and Justice Kavanaugh, people have said that you've disagreed in your opinions 30 percent of the time, which is the largest amount of disagreement that we've seen since President Kennedy appointed two justices. So.

NEIL GORSUCH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT: Imagine that. We are not nine robots. We are nine judges.



MACCALLUM: Justice Neil Gorsuch was President Trump's first pick for the Supreme Court after the death of Antonin Scalia and the controversy over President Obama's selection of Judge Merrick Garland. That was of course later followed by the tumultuous confirmation process that we all watched so closely for Brett Kavanaugh.

Gorsuch says it was in part during that raucous time that he became concerned about the challenges facing our nation. He has written a new book, warning of the fragility of our enviable system of justice and governance. The book is called "A Republic: If You Can Keep It."

I sat down with Justice Gorsuch at the Supreme Court to find out if he believes we are in danger of losing it.


GORSUCH: I think during the confirmation process, one of the things that struck me is that there are some challenges we face today in civic understanding about our Constitution, some of the freedoms and protections it provides.

During the process that about a third of Americans, only a third, can name the three branches of our government. Another third can name one and 10 percent of Americans think Judge Judy serves on the Supreme Court of the United States. Now, I'm an admirer, but she is not one of my colleagues. And --


MACCALLUM: How did we -- how did that happen; how did we get to this place?

GORSUCH: Well, I don't know. I think part of it is that we stopped teaching civics in classrooms --


GORSUCH: -- and civility along with it.

MACCALLUM: Some people blame President Trump for the lack of civility in the country right now. What do you say to that?

GORSUCH: I leave politics to the political branches.


GORSUCH: I'm here to talk about the Constitution, why it is so important that we understand what it protects and what it doesn't protect --


GORSUCH: -- what judges should do, what judges shouldn't do. Those are some of the timeless themes that I talk about in the book.

MACCALLUM: People back at the Justice Kavanaugh process and then they think of yours and they think his was pretty easy. That was a smooth ride. Was it?

GORSUCH: You want me to relive the confirmation process, Martha?

MACCALLUM: A little bit.

GORSUCH: I'm surprised by very little in our country. It's a democracy, it's a raucous republic. Part of what makes us strong is that we have so many different points of view.

MACCALLUM: You and Justice Kavanaugh, people have said that you've disagreed in your opinions 30 percent of the time which is the largest amount of disagreement that we've seen since President Kennedy appointed two justices. So.

GORSUCH: Imagine that. We are not nine robots. We are nine judges.

MACCALLUM: Gorsuch first sat as one of those nine when he was confirmed to the Supreme Court in April of 2017. He took the seat once held by Justice Antonin Scalia, a man whose traditional footsteps Gorsuch has followed in his own approach to the law.

GORSUCH: I'm an originalist.


GORSUCH: An unabashed, unafraid originalist. Originalism is all about protecting and the way I approach any of these cases, it's all about protecting the original structure of the Constitution. So, your rights today and your children's rights are the same and never infringed, ever. Same now and always.

MACCALLUM: You quoted Justice Scalia at the end of your book. He said, "If you're going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resin yourself to the fact that you're not always going to like the conclusions that you reach. If you like them all the time, you're probably doing something wrong."

Why did you include that quote?

GORSUCH: I think that's the essence of being a good judge and part of what's just totally misunderstood by a lot of people about judgingly. Assume that if -- a lot of nonlawyers assume that if I rule a certain way, I must like that person or that policy or dislike the other person who lost and dislike that policy.

And half the time I go home at night thinking what I've had to do didn't like, found troubling but it's something the law compels. And it's important that judges stay in their lane.

MACCALLUM: How do you feel about those labels, you know, that because you're appointed by a Republican president, you're a conservative justice?

GORSUCH: I think they are very reductionist. And they failed to capture an awful lot. The Supreme Court of United States hears 70 cases a year. That's it out of the 50 million. And we only hear cases -- mostly only hear cases where the lower courts have disagreed.

We sit altogether nine at a time appointed over 25 years or more by five different presidents from across the entire country. We reach a unanimous decision 40 percent of the time. Do we have five-four cases? Yes, they are about a quarter of our docket, maybe a third and that's been true since about the Second World War as well, but they're not all the five-four that you read about or want to talk about.

MACCALLUM: Those are the decisions that people feel they -- you know, that maybe down the road on abortion on gun rights, all of these issues that people think about when they do go to vote, the Supreme Court is obviously not a political entity, and yet, the right for a president to appoint someone is something that people do take into consideration when they go to the ballot box.

GORSUCH: And the appointment of judges is left of the political branches and to the people. I accept that. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about what happens when the cases are before us. And really, the rule of law is our country. I think it's one of the longest in the world. And we sometimes forget how special it is here. And it isn't like this everywhere.

Is it perfect? No. I'm not here to tell you it's perfect. I'm here to tell you if you don't think it's fantastic, go spend six weeks in a courthouse in a country of your choice and then come back and talk to me.

MACCALLUM: There are some critics who were very unhappy about the Merrick Garland process who say they call you the illegitimate justice, the stolen seat. What do you say to them?

GORSUCH: Gosh. I don't say anything. I'm not going to get involved in politics, Martha. It's just not something I'm here to do.


MACCALLUM: Our thanks to justice -- to the justice for sitting down with us. But coming up next, as talks fall apart with the Taliban, five veterans of the war in Afghanistan joined me with their recommendations for the future of that battle.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: When I heard, very simply, that they killed one of our soldiers and 12 other innocent people, I said there's no way I'm meeting on that basis, there's no way I'm meeting.


MACCALLUM: President Trump explaining his decision to call off secret talks with the Taliban following months of negotiations to hammer out a peace plan in Afghanistan.

America has been fighting that war for nearly 20 years, more than 2,000 U.S. service members have been killed, and more than 20,000 others wounded with a price tag of roughly $892 billion.

So, what is the best path forward? For that we turn to five veterans, all of whom served there. Lindsay Rodman spent eight years on active duty and still serves in the Marine Corps reserves. William Ruger is an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

James Fitzgerald is a nine-year army veteran. He was injured in Afghanistan as a squad leader with a 101st Airborne. Nate Anderson serves in the Army Special Forces, and Amber Smith served as a helicopter pilot and command in air mission commander in the 101st Airborne Division.

Welcome all of you, first of all, and thank you so much for your service to our country. Obviously, this is a very hot topic. All of you have had a personal commitment to this mission.

Lindsay, let me start with you. What did you think of the president's decision, first of all to sit down with the Taliban and try to negotiate, and secondly, to call that off?

LINDSAY RODMAN, U.S. MARINES AFGHANISTAN VETERAN: Well, I'm actually here representing Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and as the veteran service organization that represents our cohort, the post 9/11 cohort, it's interesting to see these developments.

I don't want to say that the president's decision is good or bad, it's hard to represent veterans as a monolith.

We at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America did a poll of our members and we ask them whether they thought the Afghanistan conflict was worth it. And they said 60 percent thought it was worth it, 28 percent thought it was not worth it, a significant chunk didn't know.

So, for us, this is something that raises lot of conflicting emotions --

MACCALLUM: Of course.

RODMAN: -- and it's a time to reflect on our service and think about what we were able to accomplish in Afghanistan.

MACCALLUM: Now I absolutely understand where you're coming from. Speaking of polls, let's look at a couple other numbers as a jumping off point here.

This is a new veteran's poll, 50 percent is the one you're referring to, say it was not worth it. Thirty-eight percent say that it was worth it. And that is a veteran's poll as we just mentioned.

How about this other Pew poll, so you -- what you think of the way that President Trump is handling his duties as commander in chief of the military? Fifty-seven percent approve, 41 percent disapprove. Amber, where do you stand on the big question here?

AMBER SMITH, AFGHANISTAN WAR VETERAN: I think a withdraw is long overdue. I think we have to face the reality finally that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. We went into Afghanistan, we accomplished everything we set out to do after 9/11 and where we took a wrong turn is when our military and political leaders shifted towards nation-building and establishing this Afghan government that cannot survive on its own without the U.S. dollar and without the united states military.

So, I think that the outcome in Afghanistan looks the exact same, whether we leave tomorrow or whether we leave in 20 years, because the Taliban is not going anywhere. They will continue to fight us if we stay and they ultimately will resume power once we leave.

The only difference is how many more billions of dollars we spend and how many more children have to be raised in this country without their mother or father.

MACCALLUM: So, the other day I spoke with General Mattis, and he was talking with the fact that in South Korea, for example, we've had forces for a very long time, 40 years, a similar model was at work in Germany and other places in the world as well. Does anybody disagree, does anybody think that we need to provide a presence there in order to prevent another 9/11?

RODMAN: I would say a good deal of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America members believe that the conflict has been worth it and that their service has been worthwhile in Afghanistan.

And in that poll that I said, that was actually our members poll which are different numbers than the Pew poll and what's interesting is we've got active duty service members responding.

So, people just responding, just returning from Afghanistan are saying, hey, I was there yesterday and I thought that my service was worthwhile and what I was doing was important and that's really important to remember.


WILLIAM RUGER, AFGHANISTAN WAR VETERAN: Yes. I mean, I disaggregate. I mean, certainly, it was worth it to go in the beginning. We needed to do that after 9/11. It was really important, for example, that we punish the Taliban for supporting Al Qaeda. It was important that we decimate Al Qaeda. It was important that we kill Bin Laden.

But we accomplish that long ago, and so we have to disaggregate it and say what have we been doing since those times and is that necessary. And like Amber said, the nation-building product isn't worth it. It's not necessary for our safety and that really should be the number one thing we look at.

What is necessary for America's security and what is necessary for America's security isn't to stay in these countries and try to remake them in our image or even try to make them better, more consistent with our values, because that again isn't necessarily for our safety.

MACCALLUM: James, what was her feeling when you are out on the ground in terms of how of the potential for Afghanistan becoming a place where it was not possible for terrorists to have a safe haven. Did you feel like that was a possible goal?

JAMES FITZGERALD, UNITED STATES ARMY AFGHANISTAN WAR VETERAN: I absolutely felt like it was a possible idea, a possible goal that we could achieve in the United States military.


FITZGERALD: What I feel is lacking is a true guidance for the military. The military is most effective when it's given a clear objective and I feel that we don't have that in this case and I feel that we are also lacking stabilized leadership.

You have many incidents that just exacerbate the situation. We have a long period of time in which we did not have the secretary of defense during a time of war, which is unconscionable for our country. And we still have to deal with kind of the instability inside of certain areas of our government, which does not support our military.

So, we continue to do a disservice by not giving our military the clear objective that requires in order to do its job effectively, but we also do a disservice to the generations of soldiers that have defended this country by not supporting them in the ways they've require.

MACCALLUM: Yes. So, Nate, what you think, you know, is the response when they watch this back-and-forth? We're going to have peace talks with the Taliban, the Taliban is going to, you know, eventually have an ability to have some kind of relationship, was the hope, with the Afghan government, and then, you know, the complete pullout from those discussions?

NATE ANDERSON, U.S. ARMY AFGHANISTAN WAR VETERAN: I think that the better way to think about it isn't tying together the two issues of the peace process and withdraw from Afghanistan, I think that the two situations can be different conversations.

You know, I think a lot of us served in Afghanistan and probably lost friends and brothers and sisters in arms and that's what drives me on this issue. I served with some of the best Americans that I could -- you could ever think about meeting and I want to honor that sacrifice.

I think that America wants to honor that sacrifice also, and that the way that we do that is by focusing our resources and power towards securing America and also securing the things that makes this country great like the conditions of our prosperity, not by muddling along with other strategy, a coherent strategy in Afghanistan.

MACCALLUM: Does that mean potentially staying there and making sure that it is not -- that it doesn't ever become a haven for, you know, -- I mean, essentially the idea that if we pull out the Taliban is going to eventually knock over that very fragile government and be basically where they were on 9/11.

ANDERSON: I think the answer to that is based on the question of what our American's interests in this situation, like Amber said, I think that we accomplished what we set out to do long ago.

We decimated Al Qaeda, we uprooted the Taliban and punished them for harboring Al Qaeda and we killed Osama Bin Laden and those are the things that we set up to do and we've done it long ago.

MACCALLUM: It sounds like that is largely the consensus at the table with the exception of Lindsay, who understandably represents a lot of veterans and doesn't want to characterize them that way.

Thank you all for being here today. Your service is invaluable to our country and everybody who is out there watching this, I know thanks you and respects you for everything that you've done for our country. Good to have you all here tonight.

RODMAN: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: More of “The Story” coming up next.


MACCALLUM: Hurricane Dorian's death toll in the Bahamas climbing to at least 50. More than 2,000 are displaced and living in shelters there. Estimated up to 10,000 from the Abaco Islands the basic necessities like food and water.

Correspondent Ellison Barber has “The Story.”

ELLISON BARBER, CORRESPONDENT: Hurricane Dorian came through this area more than a week ago. This neighborhood, it's known as Pigeon Peas. On this side of the house that is collapsed, I'm standing on top of it. There is an orange D spray painted. There is another one right over here. Both signifying where bodies were.

This morning, we saw a rescue team recovered two bodies from this area. They moved back sheets of wood to get to one of the people. They were unrecognizable at first. So bloated and swollen from being out here for so long. You could smell it immediately.

That's been a consistent frustration with Bahamians. They feel like the government is not being honest about the devastation, the death toll in this area. They want transparency.

Right now, the official death toll is 50. But the reality on the ground suggests that that number is way off. Caribbean officials say that mortuary facilities in Nassau are overwhelmed and that body bags are temporarily being stored in refrigerated containers.

There are some Black Hawks we have seen fly over this area trying to find anyone who is still alive. But for the most part people are gone. The few that are left in this area are staying in a shelter not far from here. A makeshift shelter, no more than 15 people.

For the most part all that is left are these piles and piles of rubble. And the bodies still believed to be underneath them. Martha?

MACCALLUM: What a tragedy. Thanks to Ellison. That's “The Story” of Tuesday, September 10. We'll see you tomorrow.

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