VP Pence on Kavanaugh, Trump-Putin Summit, Mike Flynn


In a wide-ranging interview with Bret Baier, Vice President Pence says the White House is encouraged by the early response to President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, that Trump believes in engagement with Russia, and that the president was right to dismiss General Flynn.

BRET BAIER: Joining us now -- Vice President Mike Pence. Mr. Vice President -- thanks for the time.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Yes. Thank you -- Bret.

BAIER: You're up here obviously shepherding, if you will, the new nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. It's all about counting heads in the Senate.

Tonight as you sit here, how do you feel about this potential vote?

PENCE: I think we feel very encouraged at the early response, not just here at the United States Capitol, but really all across the country to Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to his personal story, to his incredible record -- 12 years on the District of Columbia court of appeals. He had fully 12 different opinions that were adopted by the United States Supreme Court.

He's someone that has the character, the background, the career and the record that gave President Trump the confidence to know that when he appointed Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court that he would be -- like Neil Gorsuch, like Justice Scalia -- he would be another constitutional conservative who would faithfully interpret the constitution as written.

BAIER: I want to talk about his record and the substance and what's being said about it by the left.

But I want to talk quickly about process. You have Senator Murkowski saying there's a long record here and we need to slow down.

PENCE: Sure.

BAIER: And they need to take their time looking at it. Senator Grassley says this all needs to be sped up and move this process along and it shouldn't drag out. Who's right there?

PENCE: Well, I'm meeting tonight with Senator Grassley and Senator Feinstein to talk about the Judiciary Committee's process and the role. Look, the administration is going to work very closely with members of the committee and members of the senate to make Judge Kavanaugh available, to make the information available that they need to do their important constitutional role.

But I have to tell you, Bret -- as you look at this good man, as you look at a lifetime of service in a variety of different roles and you look at that record, 300 decisions that he made on the District of Columbia court of appeals, we have every confidence that as members of the senate come to know and appreciate Judge Kavanaugh, as the American people come to know and appreciate this principled jurist that we will see him confirmed.

BAIER: You know, there's a huge pushback from the left. Here is Senator Kirsten Gillibrand last night.


SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: President Trump did exactly what he said he was going to do. He has appointed someone who will not protect a woman's right to make decisions about her life, her health care, her reproductive freedoms. This judge must not become the next justice on the Supreme Court. And what that will take is all of us fighting as hard and as long as we can.


PENCE: What President Trump was looking for was a judge with the background, the temperament and the experience who we would be confident would faithfully interpret the constitution as written. The President wanted to put someone on the bench who would not legislate from the bench, who would not, as has been too much of the case in the last generation or more, where we've had members of our federal judiciary who literally have been making policy and making law from the bench.

The President looked at this judge and all of the candidates for this opening through that prism and that was the basis of this decision.

BAIER: Here's the other argument -- the Senate Minority Leader today about this choice.


SCHUMER: Senator McConnell told the President that there were other nominees who could have been confirmed more easily. Why did the President stick with Kavanaugh? Because he's worried that Mr. Mueller will go to the court and ask that the President be subpoenaed and ask to do other things necessary to move the investigation forward. And President Trump knows that Kavanaugh will be a barrier to preventing that investigation from going there.


BAIER: Does this decision have anything to do with the Mueller investigation?

PENCE: I don't believe it did in any way. What the President focused on was a judicial philosophy. What he focused on was a body of work by Judge Kavanaugh, and we examined other candidates who were finalists for this position to see if we could in that body of work determined that this was a judge who would faithfully uphold and interpret the constitution as written.

It really was the loadstar in the course of all of this. Now, look, make no mistake about it, Judge Kavanaugh -- he's a conservative jurist. He is a principal conservative in the tradition of Justice Scalia.

And when you look at cases that he is ruled on, on limited government, on federalism, on the Second Amendment, on religious liberty -- in one case after another you see a consistent judicial philosophy come forward.

BAIER: We are obviously looking at all of the reaction and when this vote will come together. But there are other things happening namely, the meeting in NATO, the President heading overseas, and then the summit with Vladimir Putin.

The President was asked whether Vladimir Putin is a foe or a friend. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really can't say right now -- as far as I'm concerned, a competitor, a competitor. I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing. I said that many times.

I have the U.K., which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all, who would think? Who would think?


BAIER: So is Vladimir Putin a friend or a foe?

PENCE: The President made it clear that we have competing interests with Russia. But it doesn't change the fact, whether it be Syria or Russia's involvement materially on behalf of the Assad regime where our military forces have bravely been in the process of destroying ISIS at its source, we need to find a way to work in common cause for a long-term solution in Syria.

We have the issues in Ukraine, other issues that exist between our countries. And as President Trump has said many times he always believes in talking and he believes in sitting down with leaders and determining whether there is a way that we can make progress in the relationship. And I think he goes into this summit very much in that spirit.

BAIER: But in the wake of what happened in North Korea and what we are seeing so far, is there skepticism about this, you know, considering what you saw from Secretary Pompeo's visit there?

PENCE: I think President Trump believes in engagement, but he's someone who is a realist about the world. With regard to North Korea, I will tell you that pronouncements following the secretary of State's recent visit by some in the foreign ministry of North Korea notwithstanding, President Trump still believes that the agreement that was reached in Singapore where North Korea agreed to complete denuclearization represents a commitment that we can make progress on and we are going to continue to work through that.

We are not going to be sidelined or sidetracked. And you heard the Secretary of State speak about the progress in the midst of other challenges that we have. But look, we have great challenges around the world. What the American people can be confident of is the President I serve with every day is always going to put America first. It's one of the reasons why this president signed the largest increase in military spending since the days of Ronald Reagan -- $700 billion in military spending.

I mean the commitment this president has made to call on our allies at NATO to live up to their commitment to our common defense is all about making sure that both the United States is secure, that the alliance of the West is strong and from that strong position will engage leaders on the Korean Peninsula, in the Asia Pacific, in Russia, and elsewhere around the world, but it will be seeking peace through strength.

BAIER: The last thing -- Mr. Vice President. The last time I talked to you in this very room actually, an interview -- I ask you about former national security advisor Mike Flynn.


PENCE: I think it is an affirmation of the President's decision to ask General Flynn to resign.


BAIER: Today he's in court dealing with the possible sentence for lying to the FBI. Jim Comey and Andrew McCabe both told Congress that the interviewing agents, they didn't believe, in their testimony saw any signs of deception.

Is it possible that Flynn was confused when he talked to you? Do you think that all went down the right way as you look back at it now?

PENCE: I think the President made the right decision to dismiss General Flynn in the wake of those events. And as I said, we are fully cooperating with the special counsel to make sure that they have all the information that we have relative to those issues. But what I can assure the American people is as all of that goes on, the progress that we are making in making our country more secure and strong, military investments, making our border more secure, dealing with the crisis on our southern border, rolling back regulations and cutting taxes so that we have tremendous economic growth are all a result of the determined leadership of President Donald Trump and our entire team to keep our promises to the American people.

And this nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States is just the latest installment of what -- whatever else might be going on, whatever else might be a focus of people in the media, that this president is going to always get up every day, just as we all do, and stay focused on a stronger, more prosperous, more secure America. And that's just what we are accomplishing.

BAIER: Mr. Vice President -- we appreciate the time.

PENCE: Thank you -- Bret.

BAIER: When we come back we will talk to a special panel about Judge Kavanaugh and his prospects up here on the hill. Stay with us.

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