Below is a transcript of an interview with former New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu that aired on Face the Nation on June 11, 2023.
John Dickerson: We now turn to the first of two Republican governors who joined us today, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, who announced last week that he would not be a candidate for president. Welcome Governor, thank you for being with us. I’ve looked at the indictment. Do you think the frontrunner for the Republican nomination should be given the responsibility of handling the most sensitive national security documents, again? With re-election?
Governor Chris Sununu: Well, I guess we’ll find out. Yeah, I mean, look, if — if half of what they say they’re provable can be provable, then he’s got a real problem on our hands. It is self-made. Let’s remember that this was- he had every opportunity in the world to return all those files and documents. He did just the opposite. He prided himself on keeping it. So this is self-inflicted. I mean, I think we’ll find out out of the 37 counts or whatever counts there are, how much he’s likely to be guilty, so we’ll see where he goes, what’s disqualifying and what’s not. But I think you know, that last part that you had was- it was really telling. It’s just another example, that he can win the nomination, but he can’t, mathematically, win on November 24th, which is why the GOP needs to look at another candidate, and they have so many great options ahead of them.
John Dickerson: It seems like it gives them an opportunity not to look at another candidate, because they stick around. I want to read something for you – from National Review, which wrote of this indictment, “It is impossible to read the indictment against Trump in the Mar-a-Lago document case and not be horrified by it. The way he handled classified documents as a former president and responded to the authorities’ attempt Federal restore them. You seem to share this opinion, but many – the majority in your party and the majority of public servants have a completely opposite point of view.
Sununu: Yes, this is the problem with the Ministry of Justice, and whether you want to approve it or not is irrelevant. The fact is, a lot of people look at this kind of cloud over the DOJ, and they say there’s been a lot of politics in this department over the last couple of years, and there’s been a lot of allegations about political dealings. So they have a responsibility to say, look, this is different. This is much more severe. And I think they should.
John Dickerson: Let me ask you this, Governor. But first of all, the Department of Justice is investigating the current president, there’s a special counsel. So the same standard is applied to it. And isn’t it — isn’t it the Department of Justice that applies a different standard, but politicians who are the same, in some cases, Kevin McCarthy et al., who apply a standard to Donald Trump that they haven’t applied to others? Most of them, you know, Hillary Clinton is the first.
Swallow: Yes, but you can’t get even – Yes, if you please, you can’t dodge between the two. right. So you have close to — at the bottom — you can’t equate the two sorry, but look, these are politicians, they’re — they’re on the Republican side, for the most part, they’re going to advocate for the political position. The Department of Justice has a responsibility to be above all else, and it should be, and historically it has been, but recently it hasn’t been. And so the average American is watching this. You and I are in weeds, right? We’ve been talking about this issue all the time, for the past 48 hours. The average American looks at this thing for 90 seconds. And they say, wait a minute, they found files there. They find a servant in Clinton’s bathtub there. They find the files here. What is the difference?–
Swallow: There is a very big difference.
John Dickerson: What’s the difference? right
Swallow: There’s a big difference. But this must be explained to the American people.
John Dickerson: But I mean, Governor, that’s like saying New York and New Hampshire are the same because they have a new word in their diction. I mean, there are huge differences in terms of obstruction of justice in the — in my case of President Biden for example, and the case of the President — former President Trump. So –
Sununu: Let me ask you this-
John Dickerson: Unfortunately, we’re running out of time. So wait, we’ll put you on the other side of that, the half hour and we’ll come back to this. We’ll take a break. Stay right there. We have more when we get back to Face the Nation.
John Dickerson: Welcome back to Face the Nation. Now back to the Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu. Conservative, we’ve been talking about uniform application of standards, whether that’s by politicians or the Department of Justice. Former Attorney General Bill Barr weighed in on this question on Fox News. When asked if this was politically motivated, he said, “I defended the president on the gateway to Russia.” She stood up and called out Alvin Bragg, a Manhattan district attorney, to politicize the influential job. And for 30 years she has spoken out about the misuse of the criminal justice process to influence policy. . But this is simply not true. So you have the former Attorney General saying that these armament accusations are not true. I wonder what you think a responsible politician looking at the evidence before us should say about the Department of Justice, and is there any danger in saying arming when you have an ex-attorney general saying, no, that’s on the level?
Sununu: No, I– I think that’s a great point. I think Bill Barr is absolutely right. I – I don’t see this as political. But you–but again, the point I keep coming back to is,-the average person–may still think he’s political, and a lot of people clearly do. And so if you’re going to take unprecedented steps like this, which are as valid as they are correct, as they are, they have to, again, acknowledge the responsibility to show all sides of it, to show how it’s not political, and not just say, don’t worry, it’s not political. They’ve done it before, and it just didn’t work out so well. So they have a responsibility to show how apolitical he is, to give that calm, to give that confidence and that faith in the system. Therefore, when this is advanced, when it is condemned, there is confidence that it was done in the right way,
John Dickerson: As a bona fide politician, what is one’s responsibility when clearing this? When — when you know, that’s not a weapon — when you know, there’s no evidence of weaponization? What should you say to the audience, the audience may feel one thing, but if the facts of the case point to more complexity and gray areas, what does a well-meaning politician say to the audience?
Sununu: Yeah, well, look, I-I-I’m a big believer, everyone should be very clear and transparent about that and acknowledge the facts of the seriousness of these accusations. And — and these claims, and the fact that they again, they’re very real, self-inflicted, that’s nothing like we’ve seen before — anything we’ve seen before. And — and it’s very likely, I think, that we’ll get some kind of guilty verdict on the President, at least on some of these charges. And again, we all have this responsibility. Now, who takes that? Who wants to play political games? This is me — I think, everyone, unfortunately, you know, will tend to do it on both sides of the aisle, by the way, you just have to acknowledge both sides. You really did it.
John Dickerson: Let me turn to New Hampshire, the first primary. Is that — you want to change the conversation away from Donald Trump and get some other candidates, maybe get another candidate. Does this focus on rallying around former President Trump make it more difficult?
Swallow: It makes it more difficult. But look, my message to all of the candidates is very clear. It’s better for you to come out, just as — you acknowledge, you have to come out and reflect — and they should come out and acknowledge that this is different. This is serious. Even if half of those things are true, he’s in real trouble. It is self-made. And I just see a lot of candidates trying to get around him, and we’ll see what happens. For your point of view, you need to be clear and transparent. You are working against this man. He’s yelling 40 points at you. Everyone needs to go out in concert. So not just Chris Christie beating up Donald Trump, or this candidate beating Donald Trump. It’s a partisan message. This is very, very important. Because Donald Trump does not represent the Republican Party. He does not represent himself – he only represents himself. And so — it shows when all candidates come out equally and unequivocally speaking about the issue in the right way.
John Dickerson: Did you mention that to Governor Burgum when you had breakfast with him this morning?
Sununu: Sure. Listen, Doug is a great governor, I think he’d be a great candidate, and he’s starting to work with — with all the things you need to — to be successful, and — and a lot of the other candidates — kind of get their machines up and start hitting the ground running, so we’ll see where it all goes. something. But I think Doug is a great ruler and will be a spark to watch this fall.
John Dickerson: Another person I met this week is also in the running, and that’s former Vice President Mike Pence. That’s the thing that baffles me, he’s by all accounts old-fashioned politics, good old-fashioned conservative, and yet polls consistently show that – despite the protesters – they are the ones who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, calling for By hanging him, he seems to have paid a more political price for that than the person who gave rise to the circumstances that prompted them to hang him, i.e. his former boss. What does that say about the nature of things?
Swallow: Well, look, all the candidates are a little different. But I think you have three candidates for the same position. All the great people, the great candidates. Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, former Vice President Pence, those were all on Trump’s team, right, and now they’re kind of off the team and — and they’re all running against him. So they each just have to present their cases, they know how to run a floor game. They know how to talk to people with a sense of authenticity about what it is and what has changed between then and now, but each of these candidates is in a similar situation, I think, and they’ll have to make their case as to why they — they just aren’t — or got The job, but what will spark and what will raise beyond 5, 6, 7 percent in the polls to get people excited this fall.
John Dickerson: Well, Governor Chris Sununu, thank you very much for being here. We will definitely talk to you again. we appreciate that. And we’ll be right back.