Transcript: Rep. Pete Aguilar on “Face the Nation,” Sept. 25, 2022

The following is a transcript of an interview with Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar of California that aired Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to January 6, and the congressional investigation into the attack on the Capitol. Joining us is California Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar, who is on that committee and joins us from Los Angeles. Good morning to you.

REP. PETE AGUILAR: Morning, Margaret. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We had a poll, as you may have heard, out that shows 1/3 of Republicans and half of self-described MAGA Republicans think that the party should plan to challenge states and districts that Democrats win. This is in November. Seventeen percent of Democrats feel they should challenge if the GOP wins. What does that say to you about trust in elections and the risk of political violence like we saw on January 6?

REP. AGUILAR: It tells me that we have more work to do. But it’s deeply alarming that we had a former occupant of the White House who anytime a result went a different way than he wanted called it fake news. And he sought to undermine our democratic institutions time and time again. So it’s not much of a surprise that some of that has seeped into the American public. But our job is to make sure that we protect democracy and do everything we can to prevent that from happening. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you have this first public hearing since July, it’ll be this Wednesday. Politico is reporting that Vice President Mike Pence’s activities are a focus of that hearing. Last night at a festival in Texas, Congresswoman Cheney said that the committee is still in discussions with Mike Pence’s counsel but she’s optimistic he has an obligation to appear. Where do you fall on that? Do you need to subpoena him? Or is that written testimony that you’d accept?

REP. AGUILAR: Well, I think it’s important that we hear from the vice president, but the committee’s work continues. We haven’t made a determination on where we go with the vice president, specifically, those continue to be evolving discussions and if there is something to announce, I’m sure the chairman will announce that. But I think what’s more important is this hearing that we have coming up on Wednesday will be a continuation of what we heard in June and July, which was that the president played a direct role in trying to undermine our democratic institutions and prevent a peaceful transfer of power. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So the focus is not specifically on the vice president?

REP. AGUILAR: I’m not gonna get into the- the content of the hearing that we’ll have on Wednesday. But I think it’s fair to say that we- that the vice president’s role, the pressure that the vice president faced, that was the hearing that I led in June, that was a key focal point of the committee’s work. There are new details that we have learned broadly about the investigation, and we plan to share some of those this week. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: To that point, Congressman Cheney said there are 800,000 pieces of communication the committee has received from the Secret Service. What is in those documents? How material is it?

REP. AGUILAR: Well, we appreciate that we have finally started to get the documents that we asked for a year ago from the United States Secret Service. These are still not the- the text messages that were discussed before, but these seem to be communications internally amongst staff members. So, there’s a lot of information that our investigative team has been going through. We will detail all of it on Wednesday, but it’s important that they are providing the information and that it continues to help in our investigative work to understand what exactly was happening on January 5 and January 6 as this rally was happening and as the President was directing the mob to go to the Capitol.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the lead Secret Service officer on then-President’s detail, Tony Ornato, has been in question. He retired over the summer. Can you speak to him now?

REP. AGUILAR: Well, that’s a- a conversation for him and his attorney. We remain deeply wanting to- to hear from him. The Secret Service indicated that they would make him available prior to his retirement, and then he coincidentally went out and retired. So, we feel that it’s important. He has spoken to us, but obviously we’ve heard new details since his testimony that we feel are important to ask. So, he and others remain an important part of our investigative work that continues.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you mean to suggest that he retired so he wouldn’t have to testify?

REP. AGUILAR: I’m just saying that the- the timeline is the timeline. We were in conversations to- to hear from him, and then he retired. So, as a private citizen, we will continue to- to work with his private attorney to see if it- to see if he will come before the committee and share additional testimony with us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you mentioned at the top how critical the committee’s work is. And critics have pointed to the fact that you took a break over the summer as a counterpoint to that, saying it couldn’t be that immediate if you went away for six weeks. How do you respond to that?

REP. AGUILAR: Well, I can assure you that- that anyone looking at the calendar for the nine of us on the select committee would know that we didn’t go away. The investigative team continued their work. They continued looking through the documents that you referenced earlier. We continued to investigate, take depositions and testimony from key witnesses. All of those happened, they just happened out of public view. So, we look forward to continuing this discussion – over 20 hours of hearings that we have had so far. We look forward to the hearing this week. But ultimately, this is about protecting our democracy. And the final report in the future will have the committee’s stamp of what we do next and what happened, where we go from here and how precious democracy is and that it’s worth fighting for.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Aguilar, we’ll be watching this week. Thank you for your time today. Our CBS News coverage of the January 6 investigation hearing starts at 1pm Eastern. You can see it on our broadcast or streaming network on Wednesday.

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