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Transcript: Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on “Face the Nation,” January 14, 2024

The following is a transcript of an interview with former Arkansas Governor, 2024 Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson, broadcast January 14, 2024.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We now return to the Republican presidential primary and candidate Asa Hutchinson, who joins us from Des Moines. You were a two-term governor, you helped found Homeland Security, you led the DEA, you were a member of Congress. But Donald Trump has remade your party. How do you define who your supporters are?

ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, first of all, you’re right. Um, he’s redefined the Republican Party, but not in a good way, and every time you watch, what I’m trying to do is call attention to the fact that Donald Trump is a weak candidate for us before the general election. I think the CBS poll you cited today reflects the fact that the only person who should like this poll is Joe Biden, with Trump having that kind of lead in the primary, my responsibility and that of the other candidates is to take the favorite if you don’t think he’s the one, we did it and it might come at a cost in the short term, but in the long term, fear, alarmism and grievance only get you so far. And so that’s the sign of a weak candidate as we move forward into this election year, so the voice is critically important, to alert people that we can’t mislead our voters and say that January 6 was in some way a patriotic act. This was an attack on our capital, on the rule of law in Congress, and we cannot believe Donald Trump’s misleading words.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, sir, our CBS poll shows that 81 percent of Republican primary voters say they agree with the statement that immigrants are poisoning the blood of the country. what do you think of this statement? and why does this resonate with self-identified Republican voters?

ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, because there is incredible anxiety about the border. As you talk to voters here in Iowa. Their main concern is the economy, as is border security. And so, uh, I don’t like his inflammatory language, I would never use that. Immigrants are important to our country, but we have to have a legal process and people are upset with the Biden administration and the porosity of the border. That’s why I can effectively make the case that I’m the only candidate for president who actually had the responsibility to secure the border, which also resonates with me and I’d rather talk about it in terms of what we need to do rather than talking in a pejorative way. rhetoric that truly misleads and harms people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Fentanyl is causing one of the deadliest drug crises in the history of this country and most of it, I think you know, is entering through these legal ports of entry into the states -United, but most of your competitors are blaming China squarely, blaming Mexico squarely. As you know, they have rules here, but how would you deal with the global crisis in America?

ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, you have to do that by partnering with Mexico to go after the cartels responsible for bringing in fentanyl. They should be declared foreign terrorist organizations, but your point is very well taken. They’re smuggling this through ports of entry and I’ve seen Senator Manchin talk about the need to close the border. What is he talking about ? Is he talking about entry points or between entry points?

MARGARET BRENNAN: mm-hmm

ASA HUTCHINSON: And you sure don’t want to stop all of our trade, it would hurt America if we did and so we need to use better technology and you need to partner with Mexico and use economic pressure to do that. And then we cannot overlook the importance of educating our youth about the risk of buying a Percocet pill on the street and how it could be laced with fentanyl.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

ASA HUTCHINSON: But we need to increase our resources for drug treatment. This is all part of my plan based on my experience leading the DEA.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you talk about economic pressure on Mexico, are you talking about temporarily closing transit between the two, as President Biden had to do in December? Or are you talking about imposing tariffs on Mexico? As Donald Trump says he wants to do.

ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, we’re also not going to go back, make China and, the president can help lead and say, some of this is going to end up in Mexico and our economic partnership is important. But as president, I will discourage this return of manufacturing to Mexico if they do not support the rule of law and partner with us. So there are different levels of economic pressure. And of course, I think we need to take strong action to get their attention and help us, but I think you can do it without harming American businesses that rely on this cross-border trade.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very good. Asa Hutchinson. Thank you for coming today.

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