Full transcript: Correspondents roundtable on

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The following is the full transcript of the year-end CBS News correspondents roundtable with Jan Crawford, David Martin, Robert Costa, Catherine Herridge and Jeff Pegues that aired on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023 on “Face the Nation.” 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to Face the Nation on this Christmas Eve. 

It’s tradition here at CBS News to gather our Washington reporters and look forward to the year ahead. We begin with our beat reporters here in the nation’s capital. David Martin is CBS News national security correspondent. Jan Crawford is our chief legal correspondent. Robert Costa is our chief election and campaign correspondent. Catherine Herridge, senior investigative correspondent, and Jeff Pegues is our chief national affairs and justice correspondent. So thank you all for celebrating with us and being here at the table. 

Jan, I want to start with you because we are heading into a year where the Supreme Court is going to play such a central role to our politics. We saw just this past week, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the former President Donald Trump could be disqualified from holding office because he engaged in insurrection leading up to January 6, how firm of a legal-legal ground is this on here?

JAN CRAWFORD: I mean, yes, I mean, the court is going to be front and center and the presidential campaign. And that’s just one of a number of issues that these justices are going to have to confront in the upcoming year. This one asked whether or not he’s even qualified for being president, I mean, for running for president because of a clause in the 14th Amendment

Now, the Colorado Supreme Court was sharply divided on this, 4 to 3. And that’s a decision it reached, saying he wasn’t qualified under this provision that other state Supreme Courts have seen differently. There are a lot of problems with the arguments that they adopted, that they kind of just blow right by, and the Supreme Court, I don’t think is going to kind of give it that kind of gloss. I mean, some of the questions that I think the court will look very closely at if they take this up, and I think they have to take this case up, is how Trump can be considered an insurrectionist if he was not charged or convicted of insurrection, and whether or not the 14th amendment and this section specifically would even apply to him at all, as someone who’s a former president or running for president.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But apart from this particular case, there are others that the Supreme Court may take up in relation to the former president and current front-runner for the Republican nomination.

JAN CRAWFORD: I mean, it’s kind of like whack-a-mole, right? You know, like you got one over here and you got to try to, you know, he’s going to try to put this one up and knock it down. So with that, one is, of course, the threshold question of whether or not he could even be considered qualified to run for office. 

The — Another major issue, legal issue brewing is whether he can be prosecuted criminally for some of the actions around Jan. 6. Now, a federal district court judge here in DC said that he was not absolutely immune from prosecution as the former president, the special counsel who has of course charged, the former president, with the actions around Jan. 6, has asked the Supreme Court and of course, we’ll see how they handle this, has asked the Supreme Court to jump over an appeals court and decide whether or not the former president United States is immune from criminal prosecution for actions he took in office. That is also a major case involving whether or not Trump is even going to be standing trial in the next year, for Jan. 6.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is a big request to come from the special counsel, it’s unusual to try to bring it all the way to the court this quickly right on an expedited basis? Everything about —

JAN CRAWFORD: Everything about this is unusual. No president has ever been charged with a crime. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Fair point, fair point.

JAN CRAWFORD: You have all of this. And that’s what’s so interesting about the Supreme Court. I mean, you know, you go look, and I’m trying to say what’s the court going to do with this? Oh, wow. You know, there’s not really a lot of cases to look at, because so much of this is the issue— There are issues of first impression that, that the court is going to have to jump in and and decide. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And this will have major implications, obviously, Bob Costa on the campaign you’re covering, but tell me what you’re hearing about what the Special Counsel is thinking and going through the steps.

ROBERT COSTA: Well, I’m glad I’m sitting next to Jan here, because I think we’re going to be sitting next to each other a lot in the coming year, because politics is so now intertwined with what’s going on with the Supreme Court. 

And as I look ahead as a reporter, the campaign is going to come back again and again, likely to the high court and how it’s going to consider Trump’s conduct in and around Jan. 6, whether it’s the immunity question, whether it’s about the Jan. 6, defendants who have their cases coming before the Supreme Court, whether it’s about how the courts going to proceed, if Trump’s convicted in the Special Counsel case, all this comes down to what was an insurrection, what’s an insurrectionist type act? What was the president’s role? What did he not do? Did he conspire against the United States? 

And so even if the Supreme Court steps in in the coming days and weeks and rules on the Colorado State Supreme Court ruling, there’s still going to be that ultimate lingering question of what happens in the Jack Smith special counsel case and whether Trump is committed — convicted of conspiring against the United States. 

And based on our reporting at CBS News, the special counsel has has phone records, he has memos and diary entries from key witnesses like former Vice President Mike Pence. Key eyewitness testimony from people who are inside the Oval Office with Trump. And we got a bit of a taste of this with the Jan. 6 committee in recent years, but they had something in the special counsel’s office Jan. 6 committee never had, which is subpoena power to really go deep with witnesses and not just get public testimony. 

In some depositions, they’ve gone deep. And I’ve talked to people who’ve participated in this investigation as lawyers, sometimes even as witnesses. And it’s evident to me based on my conversations with sources that Jack Smith has a sprawling case against former President Donald Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He also has because it is so unprecedented.

JAN CRAWFORD:  And the question is, is he going to. I mean, that’s a short question on immunity is, is he going to be able to present that case? 

MARGARET BRENNAN  And does he- and does he want to and how far does that get pursued? Because this has such implications for the political decisions of voters, but also arguably the national security of the country.14:54:00

ROBERT COSTA  

Well, Jack Smith is moving and Judge Chutkin, the judge in Washington, DC, she’s moving as well. And Jeff and I have been tracking that, and this is a case that’s trying to move forward in March. But because of everything that’s before the Supreme Court, we could see that Jan. 6 case not start too much later in the year, if it ever starts at all. So you see an aggressive prosecutor in Jack Smith, but no guarantees on timing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Catherine and Jeff, I know you’ve talked to a lot of law enforcement sources as well. What’s the degree of concern about what happens how- as this plays out in the coming year? 

JEFF PEGUES: Already law enforcement across the country is dealing with an uptick in domestic terrorism cases? You were- you were talking about how you two might be sitting next to each other in the- in the coming year? 

[CROSSTALK]

JEFF PEGUES: Yeah. Which is a good thing. I might join you at some point, because there is this concern about how will the public react if there is a conviction in any of these cases, and already, the number of domestic terrorism cases that they’ve been investigating the FBI specifically, compared to the number of international terrorism organizations and those kinds of cases, there are about running even, so law enforcement is is also very focused on preventing any kind of domestic terrorism. 14:55:16

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: Just to pick up on what Jeff is saying, based on my reporting, we’re in this incredibly dynamic threat environment right now. The most recent bulletins talk about a heightened threat environment throughout the winter, not just around the holidays, and New Year’s Eve, which is what we traditionally see. And the focus squarely is on lone actors or lone offenders, individuals who are inspired by events overseas, or they’re inspired to act radicalized by domestic events, and very opportunistic. So it talks about car ramming attacks, it talks about weapons, it talks about knives, and a very short, what law enforcement calls flash to bang, that period in between wanting to act and then making the decision to act. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And David Martin, this, here’s where I want to turn to you, because we already have all this sort of kindling out here. And then you have a huge event, like we saw with Oct. 7, the attack in Israel and the subsequent very brutal war that continues to play out that the United States is really trying to bring to a conclusion. How far out are we because that is raising concerns about US national security at home?

DAVID MARTIN: Well, the Israelis have told the U.S., they think they can wrap up the current phase, which is this general offensive against Hamas in Gaza, in early January. 

But then they say this war is going to go on for months. Hamas has been compared to ISIS. So it’s worth remembering that our war with ISIS started during the Obama administration. We overran the last ISIS stronghold in the Trump administration. And here we are in the Biden administration and special operations forces are still conducting the occasional raid into eastern Syria to go after an ISIS leader. Now, Gaza is a lot more restricted than eastern Syria–

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s just 25 miles. 

DAVID MARTIN: And that, hopefully will keep this from being a yearslong battle. But terrorist organizations die hard. That’s just the fact.

MARGARET BRENNAN And you’ve had the Defense Secretary basically say this could create more radicalization because of what’s happening there, but also the impressions and what the world is watching in terms of this use of American Force.

DAVID MARTIN: Win the battle but lose the war. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Exactly.

DAVID MARTIN: Eliminate Hamas, but become less secure because of your tactics, which are losing you international support, and creating a whole new chain generation of young people that want nothing but to see the destruction of Israel. That’s, that’s the deadly game that Israel was playing here. But they, they sure don’t show any signs of backing off their original intention to eliminate Hamas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: No and that’s spilling out publicly now in these differences between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Biden in the vision for what happens next and how this plays out. In the Middle East, as well, David, the administration likes to say, while they may not be able to persuade the Israeli prime minister to do what they want, they think they’ve largely contained this from becoming the worst-case scenario they imagined of a wider regional war. But there’s still a lot of dangerous activity happening.

DAVID MARTIN : Well, you’ve had over 100 attacks by Iranian-backed militias against American troop locations in Iraq and Syria. The Houthis, who most people had never heard of before the start of this war, these- these rebels in- in Yemen, who were also backed by Iran have come in on the side of Hamas, and have fired more than 100 missiles and drones, either at Israel, or at any ship passing by that they think may be coming either to or from Israel. And the US is trying very hard not to let either of those situations get out of hand. After 100 attacks on American troops, you have to retaliate some, you can’t let the other guys just get free shots. And they have taken some retaliatory strikes, but they’re very limited. And I think that will stay the same unless and until one of these mortars, one of these rockets, one of these drones, gets through and kills or seriously injures Americans. And then the whole calculus changes. With the Houthis, the easy thing is to go after the sites, which are launching these- these drones and these missiles. The US instead is trying to form this international consortium of navies that will patrol the Red Sea, we’ll see how many countries actually contribute ships to this. And the Houthis have already said they don’t care, they’re gonna keep attacking. And the shipping companies and the oil companies have their own solution, which is just to avoid the Red Sea, go around Africa, even though it takes another extra two weeks to get there.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  And might raise prices.

DAVID MARTIN: And might raise prices.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And might raise prices by the way, bring it back to the economy. Well, there’s plenty to be concerned about on that front, but back on the domestic front. Jeff and Catherine, one of the things that we continue to track with this lack of progress regarding a new agreement for the US border is this degree of crossing that is happening on very high levels, sometimes not from Latin America, but young men, in particular, from other countries of origin. CBP put out a bulletin talking about this, that they’re actually see cartels bringing people from Africa, to transit through the United States border. What are they thinking about this at Homeland Security and the FBI?

JEFF PEGUES: Well, it is clearly a security concern. If you have problems like this and the influx of migrants through those borders, it’s- it would be relatively easy to miss someone connected to a terrorist organization trying to slip through the border. I think whether you’re Republican or Democrat on this issue, I think right now, everybody’s seeing that. Whether they get anything done in Congress is- is a big question. And you have CBP officials, they are asking for more help, because no matter how many people they surge to the border, for some reason, they’re always outnumbered. They don’t have the resources that they need. In addition to that, you have these cartels who’ve become fairly sophisticated at getting people in. If the CBP surges to one area, they’ll move to the next. So they’re finding holes in the system.

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: It’s not just about foreign nationals coming who may pose a national security threat. I’ve heard from whistleblowers at CBP who also complain that the collection of DNA from people who come into the country, something they’re supposed to do is not being done on a mass scale and they want that DNA so they can run it against an existing FBI database of cold cases so they can understand whether the people who are coming back into the country are also linked to outstanding crimes.

JAN CRAWFORD: Aren’t there 10,000? How many people are coming in the country now? 10,000?

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: They’re numbers that can’t be processed. 

JAN CRAWFORD: How could you possibly- here you’re talking 10,000 or more people a day coming in illegally.

MARGARET BRENNAN  Well, or being encountered, and- and that’s part of the argument with changing immigration law to basically make it harder to claim asylum. But there are so many big issues facing the country right now. It’s like almost impossible to squeeze them all in. But to go back to the legal challenges and the broader questions about our institutions and how they’re functioning, Catherine, you have this extraordinary job of covering the President’s own son and his legal issues. Hunter Biden, with these indictments, three related to a firearm, felony counts, nine related to tax issues. Where does this go? 

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: 2024 is going to be a year of incredible legal exposure for the president’s son and these criminal prosecutions are going to unfold at the same time that his father is running for reelection. 

In January, he will be arraigned in a California Court on the tax charges. And I would pay special attention to the California case. I had two lawyers look at the 56-page indictment. And they reached the same conclusion that it is a shot across the bow by the special counsel. He identifies Hunter Biden as a lawyer, a consultant, and a lobbyist and then goes into considerable detail about his business transactions with Ukraine, with China, Romania and others. 

And they see this as an indicator that the special counsel at the very least is investigating potential violations of foreign lobbying laws, maybe even a superseding indictment. And that matters, because that overlaps with what Republicans are doing in Congress with their impeachment inquiry. And it was this issue of foreign lobbying that led to the derailment of that July plea hearing. There was just this incredible moment in court when the prosecutor was asked whether he would rule out future charges on foreign lobbying, and he said “no,” and that is when the deal fractured.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Bob, how- we look at the transcripts of what all the candidates say, and Donald Trump spends a lot of time talking about the President’s son and these legal issues. As this plays out in a courtroom, you know, how important are the facts to voters and how important is the perception and how do you make sense of this? 

ROBERT COSTA: Well, at least inside the Democratic Party, there is mass support for President Biden. Privately, some of them say, President Jimmy Carter had his brother Billy, President Bill Clinton had his brother Roger, that private endeavors of siblings or children have always been an issue in presidential politics. 

And until Democrats believe there is evidence presented, if ever, that ties President Biden directly to his son’s business endeavors in terms of being a lobbyist or being someone who is influencing policy, coordinated with his son, they are going to continue from the rank and file to the leadership be behind President Biden. And you haven’t seen any Democrat of note come out about President Biden’s connection with his son as anything more than familial and something that presents a problem. When I’m talking to voters, it’s mostly Republican voters who see this as a serious issue. 

Though the House Republicans who are investigating Hunter Biden have been stymied by Hunter Biden. He has declined- declined to participate in a deposition. He wants to have public testimony as Catherine has covered extensively. And for now, Congressman Dan Goldman of New York and other Democrats have told me they’re okay with Hunter defying a congressional subpoena, which is quite a statement to hear from a lawmaker, but it’s indicative of where Democrats are in this issue. 

When I’m on the campaign trail, though, Margaret, whether it’s Jared Kushner and his involvements with business dealings on foreign soil, or it’s Hunter Biden and his, I don’t hear this rise to the level of conversation. It’s what you always talk about on this program. Voters are talking about kitchen table issues, whether it’s Republican or Democrat, the economy, economic pain, how they see inflation at the grocery store or at the pump. Sometimes they go into foreign policy a bit, but they’re not really talking about former President Trump’s legal challenges or Hunter Biden’s.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He is talking about them, as are others, you know, raising questions. When you look at some of these candidates and their rhetoric about, again, the deep state, bureaucrats, Ron DeSantis said he wants to slit the throats of bureaucrats Nikki Haley said she would fire a lot of the people who work at the Justice Department, Donald Trump continues to raise questions about our court system. And Jan, just bigger picture, you’ve watched the Supreme Court for so long, a court that Donald Trump says- he takes credit for shaping the- in terms of its conservative direction. Is there still faith in it and how it functions now that they are directly inserted right into our politics?

JAN CRAWFORD: We- I mean, President Trump’s nominees, three, certainly changed the Court and a much more conservative direction and we’ve seen that very clearly. I mean, this is the Supreme Court that overturned Roe vs. Wade. I mean to that- that, and we’ve seen the political fallout from that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: For years now.

JAN CRAWFORD: Yeah. And- and so I think what’s going to be really interesting for the Court right now is that they’re getting these cases, as Bob laid out too, that involve the president on any number of levels. And it’s a real opportunity for the Supreme Court, and particularly the Chief Justice, to show that they are above politics. The Court has had all of these contentious issues, abortion, affirmative action, they’ve taken a hit in polling, some of their- the kind of the faith and confidence in the court right now, according to polls, is at among its lowest point ever, still higher than the other two branches and the media, by the way. But at any rate, so this is a moment now where they can show that they are above politics, and that they follow the law, again, demonstrating that especially with some of these Trump cases. And I think that that is what you’re going to see. I think Trump’s gonna win some, and he’s going to lose some. And, you know, this is a court that can show they’re following the law, not politics. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: David, one of the institutions that still has some faith in it is the military when- when you look at public polling. The year we are about to start feels very consequential on the national security front, not only because of the Middle East, because of the war that is playing out in Europe at a decisive point, as we debate this Ukraine aid package. You look at Asia, the rising China, this upcoming January election in Taiwan that will be consequential as well. What’s happening inside the Pentagon right now as they gear up for 2024?

DAVID MARTIN: Well, they’re going in all sorts of different directions. But there’s sort of two Pentagon’s, there’s the one Pentagon that develops systems and plans for future wars. They’re now focused on China. And, you know, that is just a totally different ballgame than Ukraine or what’s- what’s going on in the Middle East. And then they still have to worry about- about terrorist organizations. So they’re going in all these different directions. But look, during the Biden administration, we’ve had the withdrawal from Afghanistan, we’ve had the start of the war in Ukraine, and we’ve had the start of the war between Israel and Hamas. They’re kind of on- on emergency standby all day, every day as it is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Exactly- exactly. And so I say consequential election for that day one, for the next president, or the current one who’s got quite a full inbox at this moment. But specific to the challenge from China and where we start the year. You know, I was reading, China’s top military official warned China will show no mercy to anyone who supports independent Taiwan. And it’s being framed as a choice between war and peace this upcoming election. Is the American military and the Chinese military in contact yet so that this doesn’t escalate?

DAVID MARTIN: Well, they’re trying to- what they’re called, is talks at the working level to do the high level contacts. But with everything having to do with China, it’s complicated. And one of the problems is the Chinese Minister of Defense, who you would think would be Austin’s- Secretary Austin’s counterpart is not because he does not control forces in the field. So they’re trying to get a meeting between Austin and the real head of the Chinese military who was a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. And these- these, all of these contacts were cut off after the trip that then Speaker Nancy Pelosi made to Taiwan. But even before the Pelosi trip, Austin had been unable to get that meeting with the guy that really mattered. But even if they get these contacts going, I mean, China’s behavior is not going to change overnight, they’re still going to harass American surveillance planes in the South China Sea. They’re still going to keep building up these disputed islands in the South China Sea. It’s just another mechanism for managing a very difficult relationship.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And at least in 2023, they started talking at the diplomatic level. I guess that was my bright spot. I forgot about it. You just reminded me, David.

DAVID MARTIN; And you should- you should know that the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General CQ Brown is now on record as saying he does not believe President Xi wants to take Taiwan by force.

MARGARET BRENNAN: By force. 

DAVID MARTIN: By force.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to take it. 

DAVID MARTIN: Oh, he’s made that pretty clear.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, very clear. Alright, we have to take a break here. Face the Nation will be back in one minute.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’re back with our panel of Washington correspondents. And here’s where you get to predict, Jeff Pegues, the future. What’s- what’s your big prediction?

JEFF PEGUES: Let me see. Let me rub this thing. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your informed prediction. 

JEFF PEGUES: All right, my informed prediction. Okay, well, that’s a little easier, I think. Crime is going down across the country. You wouldn’t think that based on what you hear in terms of some of the crime out there, but violent crime is down 13%. The final numbers come out early next year. Police officers across the country are understaffed and have managed to essentially get their arms around this problem. I predict that this trend will continue. However, there are some, you know, bad areas- carjackings, are- they continue to skyrocket– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: — Yes. Why? 

JEFF PEGUES: Well, it’s- it’s a good question. Some people think that some of it is fueled by these pictures on social media, giving people ideas. And then there- it’s hard to catch people who are breaking into cars and theft. Especially when you don’t have enough cops on the street. You don’t have cops walking the beats. So that’s still a challenge for law enforcement. But in terms of violent crime, it is going down.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Catherine? 

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: Well, mine’s a little dark. I just feel a lot of concern that 2024 may be the year of a black swan event. This is a national security event with high impact that’s very hard to predict. There are a number of concerns- concerns, I have that factor into that. Not only this sort of enduring, heightened threat level, that we’re facing, the wars in Israel, also Ukraine. And we’re so divided in this country in ways that we haven’t seen before. And I think that just creates fertile ground for our adversaries like North Korea, China and Iran. And that’s what concerns me most.

MARGARET BRENNAN: A lot of people up at night with that concern, Catherine. At least in this town. Bob? 

ROBERT COSTA: Talking to my top Republican sources for months, I’ve been trying to get an answer to the question of what happens if former President Trump is convicted in a federal trial or in Georgia, but more likely in a federal trial before the Republican convention. Is there a plan B? And even when I’m way off the record with elected officials and campaign strategists, they say almost a refrain: no. So if Trump is the nominee, we’re looking at a Republican convention this coming summer, where there really is no plan to move to another candidate, the Republican Party because of the way Trump has his fingerprints on everything, the state parties, the delegates are very much in his image politically, he could hold on to the nomination, even if he’s convicted of a federal crime. So my prediction is, you might have a crisis inside the GOP come summer, if Trump’s a convicted felon, but still no real plan of how to handle that in a general election campaign.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you actually expect the court system to move that quickly, that by this summer, you could see a conviction? 

ROBERT COSTA: It’s possible, everything Special Counsel Jack Smith is doing with his filings with his schedule along with Judge Chutkan in the January 6, case, equals speed. They want to get this moving come spring, early summer. Of course, as Jan has outlined, the court- the High Court could weigh in could change how everything is planned in terms of scheduling, but at this point, they’re moving.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is why you also correctly predict that you and Jan will be sitting next to each other answering a lot of questions in the next few months. 

JAN CRAWFORD: Picking up off Bob’s point on- on predictions. I mean, I predict that the Supreme Court is not going to save Donald Trump from the criminal trial. He- they are not going to rule that he is immune from criminal prosecution. And I don’t think it’s even going to be close. It could be 9-0 with the chief justice writing the opinion that a former president does not have absolute immunity from criminal prosecutions for actions they took while in office. 

And I think that the Supreme Court is- also my other prediction is they are not going to say Donald Trump is disqualified from running for president to the California-, I mean, that Colorado Supreme Court decision. So I think he’s going to stand trial. The Supreme Court is not going to save him and he will be on the ballot.

MARGARET BRENNAN: 91 different indictments, is that the tally?

ROBERT COSTA: If you include what’s going on with the hush money payments in New York. He’s also facing the ongoing civil fraud trial. Georgia. There’s the E. Jean Carroll case, you’re gonna have to have another hour to really dig into all of that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. So if your prediction plays out this- this could be a really interesting year. Get your rest in now. David, you correctly predicted last year, the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

DAVID MARTIN: I got one right. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: What’s your prediction this year?

DAVID MARTIN: So this year, I would have to predict the discovery of alien life to compete– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: What! I’m sorry? 

DAVID MARTIN: Excuse me, I said I would have to. I’m not. But in order to compete with a shocker– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. I think- David, when you speak everyone listens. And I believe it’s absolutely 100% true fact. So you really threw me– 

JAN CRAWFORD: — It also scares us all, every year.

DAVID MARTIN: I’ll take it from the top. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. 

DAVID MARTIN: In order to compete with the shockers that we’ve got coming up in this election year, I would have to predict something like the discovery of alien life, but I’m not going to go there. Instead, I am going to predict that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un will reap the rewards of having provided Putin with artillery for his war in Ukraine. And those rewards will take the form of technical aid to his nuclear weapons programs. And we won’t know it until we see North Korea testing new and improved weapons.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And perhaps that seventh nuclear test everyone’s been waiting for. 

DAVID MARTIN: Everyone’s waiting for that shoe. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So I- you have all set the table beautifully for my conclusion, which is that the only certainty is uncertainty. And anyone who tells you what is going to happen with this election, and how it’s going to play out over the next year is selling you something because there are just so many different variables that all of us are tracking, and all of us are weighing, which is why you need to watch CBS. But it’s also why none of us will sleep very much in the next few months. I want to now go back to you, Jeff, and ask you about what was underreported that all of us should have been paying more attention to?

JEFF PEGUES: I think as we head into 2024, I think we should look at these younger generations of voters, how engaged they are and what’s happening in the Middle East and some of the other issues, climate change, for example. I think we should watch for how they turn out. 

I mean, every- every election year we talk about how well the youth vote can really make a difference. This year, perhaps it will because of the level of engagement that some people have compared to what was happening during the Vietnam period. People getting into the streets and really voicing their opinions. So will there be this sort of similar reaction at the polls we’ll have to see.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Under reported?

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: I just feel like we can’t do enough reporting on our servicemembers, especially those who are struggling to get services who feel that their claims have been wrongly denied. Frankly, I feel that there are times when the Defense Department and the VA it’s not erring on the side of the veteran. 

And I think after 20 years of war, the global war on terror, so many are retiring with complex physical and emotional demands. And we are simply not doing enough and we need to do more reporting and have more accountability.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Bob? 

ROBERT COSTA: So often when we talk about the Democratic Party in our reporting, not just here, but everywhere, we’re focused rightly on President Biden and some of the progressive forces in the party like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortes. 

But an underreported story, in my view, is the story of Democratic governors who are rising throughout the country. They don’t get a lot of attention, Gavin Newsom does in California. But Andy Beshear just won a gubernatorial election in 2023 in Kentucky. You have Jared Polis in Colorado, Gretchen Whitmer, in Michigan, Josh Shapiro and Pennsylvania. 

Along with the progressives in Congress, it’s these governors are starting to define a new democratic party that’s making some gains in places like the South and even in the Virginia elections in recent months, you saw abortion rights come to the fore. And Democrats were seizing on that issue in a state that remains a battleground. So I’m going to keep paying attention to those governors, how in the post-Biden era, whether that’s January of 2025, or January of 2029. How will they define the party?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jan? 

JAN CRAWFORD: I’m going to pick up on something that- that Jeff was talking about. I mean, I think what has been really underreported is something that’s been brewing for years. And that is the major and dramatic change of the attitudes that we’re seeing on college campuses. Moving from you know, like this classic liberal principle where free speech is bedrock. 

The First Amendment is sacrosanct, to now, kind of, any unrestricted speech is harmful. That’s also framed with this kind of idea, the- the philosophy of victimhood and oppress versus oppressors. And we’re seeing that play out in any number of ways in our politics, especially, most dramatically after the terrorist attack in Israel in the wake of Oc. 7, people were shocked by what they saw kind of unfolding on college campuses that’s been brewing for many, many years. 

And it is replacing some of the classic liberal philosophies and moving to something very different that I think we’re going to see play out in any number of ways.

MARGARET BRENNAN: David?

DAVID MARTIN: I’ll pick a pentagon program called Replicator, rhymes with Terminator. And it’s a plan to field, within 18 months, 1000s of small, cheap, autonomous vehicles, drones, satellites, boats, that he would send off, and they would operate on themselves- by themselves. This is, in part to make up for China’s advantages in numbers. But beyond that, it’s part of this cosmic shift that’s going on from the Information Age to the Age of Artificial Intelligence.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  And automation, my gosh. So my underreported, and I feel like there are so many of them right now. 

But I do want to acknowledge how hard it is for so many people to go out and tell the truth on the ground as reporters these days and live. 64 journalists killed in the course of just a few weeks during this war between Israel and Hamas. It’s incredibly difficult to even get in to report in Gaza. And I’m proud, as I’m sure we all are of our colleagues who continue to do so while reporting on the destruction of where they live in really difficult times. 

But it’s not just there. How hard it is to get a visa to get in and report on the ground in China, the adversary the U.S. needs to know the most about and often knows the least about. In Russia, where you can even report on the war happening in Ukraine freely and openly. And that hurts our ability to stay informed. 

And as an electorate, everything functions around the quality of the information we receive, to be able to participate in democracy. So I just- my hat’s off to the people who are still able to go out in these extraordinarily difficult situations and report. So when you complain about the media, people like that, I do. The other bit I want to get you to do and this is hard, Jeff, good news for 2023. Do you have a good news story for us?

JEFF PEGUES: I thought we did that, I guess not? 

MARGARET BRENNAN:  No. We did predictions. We did under report. 

JAN CRAWFORD: It says a lot when you’re–

JEFF PEGUES: I mean, we couldn’t talk football though.

JAN CRAWFORD: Oh, that’s my story. 

JEFF PEGUES: Oh, I could do the Ravens. But every time I do the Raven, all right. Good news…. 

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: Do you want me to go? 

JEFF PEGUES: You guys. Yeah. Okay.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That sums up the year. I’ll take a pass on 2023. Catherine.15:27:14

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: You know, I think the highlight for me this year was really getting to know this retired colonel in the Green Berets Parris Davis. We first reported on him, his paperwork was lost at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in Vietnam. A lot of people blamed race for the loss of that paperwork. And he got the Medal of Honor this year. 

I met him first on the 14th Street Bridge, we did a brush pass, he sent me his documents to review. And I said we got a story here. And after almost 60 years of waiting, there was no bitterness in him. There was a lot of forgiveness. 

And his daughter said his story really showed the ability to sort of mend fences and that it’s never too late to do the right thing. And that to me was just such a bright spot in this year.

ROBERT COSTA: One of the saddest things in recent years I’ve seen as a reporter is going to the Capitol, especially during the height of the pandemic and seeing it empty. And in the past year, I’ve been really happy to see tourists, students, parents, families back in the United States Capitol, and I was there in recent weeks when they had the change in the speakership. 

And they were changing the sign above the speaker’s door in the Capitol, and there were no fights. There was no violence like we saw on Jan. 6, there was just some selfies being taken with the new sign for Speaker Mike Johnson and tourists were bustling around. And that is a citadel for democracy, and for too long, for obvious and understandable reasons with the pandemic. 

People are out of the Capitol, but people are back in. And that’s a special place to report. It’s a special place to visit. I’m glad to see people back there and back in Washington soaking in our country’s history and democracy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jan?

JAN CRAWFORD: You know, I always, I mean, I’m just such a sucker for stories when somebody kind of, you know, they- they stand up to the haters and they overcome the doubters. And so my feel-good story is how Nick Saban did the greatest coaching job in the history of college football. 

Alabama lost the second game of the season. The dynasty was dead, Saban was done, and now Alabama, my Crimson Tide, is back, potentially playing for a national championship going to the college football playoff. It would be Nick Saban and seventh national championship with the Great University of Alabama, Roll Tide.

DAVID MARTIN: The following brought to you, right?

MARGARET BRENNAN: David, you have good news for us?

DAVID MARTIN: This one was easy. Diversity in the armed forces. Secretary Austin, first African American Secretary of Defense is now in his third year. We now have an African American chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. We have a woman as chief of Naval Operations, the first female member of the joint chiefs of staff. And we have women who are heads of the U.S. southern and U.S. transportation commands. 

I cannot say that equality and diversity exists throughout the ranks. But these are important high profile jobs. And they, until now, have just been beyond the reach of women and minorities. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s a good news story, David. So mine is on the medical front. mRNA vaccines put aside COVID the technology and the research continues. 

And there have been some breakthroughs from Merck and Moderna recently about a vaccine against an aggressive form of skin cancer, there’s research into vaccines against breast cancer, and that’s a good thing. I think all of us would ultimately like to see the elimination or at least the reduction and increased survivability. So that is good news, medical breakthroughs. And we’ll be right back with a lot more Face the Nation, stay with us.



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