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Face the Nation.

Face the Nation.

On this “Face the Nation” broadcast, moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken 
  • Former Republican Rep. Liz Cheney 
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell 
  • Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees

Click here to browse full transcripts of “Fac the Nation.”


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation. I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington.

There have been dramatic developments overnight in the Mideast, as the Israelis step up air and artillery strikes, now firing missiles into Southern Gaza, an area where they’d earlier urged residents to evacuate, as well as the occupied West Bank and two airports in Syria.

There are still five to 500 to 600 Americans trapped in Gaza and at least 10 Americans who are unaccounted for and potentially hostages of Hamas. Plus, there are clashes at Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, home to the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah.

Overnight, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin deployed additional air defense systems in response to recent attacks on U.S. troops in the region.

We have a lot to get to today, but we begin in Israel with Charlie D’Agata.

(Begin VT)

CHARLIE D’AGATA (voice-over): The full force of Israeli airstrikes and artillery resumed overnight and this morning and a rare airstrike in the West Bank on a suspected Hamas terror cell in Jenin.

Two weeks of heavy bombardment has left Gaza in ruins, with a death toll that surpassed 4,300 people, another 13,000 injured. There had been a brief lull with the release of American hostages Judith Raanan and her daughter Natalie from Chicago, the first and only hostages to emerge from captivity.

Rescuing the rest in the middle of an expected full-scale invasion presents an unprecedented challenge, the former head of an Israeli special forces unit told us.

DORON AVITAL (Former Sayeret Matkal Commander): This is the responsibility of the state to 200 hostages, infants, wounded. There’s no way the country can move without taking this into consideration. This will be an element in the handling of the war.

CHARLIE D’AGATA: A war Israeli forces are readying more than 350,000 reservists for.

What we have witnessed is a steady buildup of hundreds of thousands of Israeli troops and heavy equipment like this in staging areas all pointed in one direction, about a mile from Gaza.

The stated aim of the complete destruction of Hamas means an invasion on a scale never seen here before.

Former Major General Israel Ziv once commanded Israeli forces in Gaza.

MAJ. GEN. ISRAEL ZIV (RET.) (Israeli Military): We’re completely changing the tactics. We’re going to use a lot of fire. We don’t want to play to their hands, to their traps, to whatever they prepare for us.

(End VT)

CHARLIE D’AGATA: This morning, the Israeli spokesman said that that strike on a suspected terrorist cell in Jenin eliminated what he called a ticking bomb, while the wave of attacks overnight in Gaza City resulted in the deaths of dozens of Hamas militants.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s Charlie D’Agata reporting from Tel Aviv.

Imtiaz Tyab spent time in Ramallah over the weekend. And he is back in West Jerusalem.

IMTIAZ TYAB: Well, across the Middle East and around the world, we have seen massive demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians.

In London, over 100,000 people took to the streets of the British capital demanding an end to Israel’s war in Gaza. There’s also been similar scenes in Arab capitals, from Sanaa in war-torn Yemen, to Cairo, where the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi called for a – quote – “day of rage” just hours after his phone call with President Biden earlier this week.

It was a phone call in which a deal was reached between Egypt, the U.S. and Israel to allow 20 trucks of desperately needed humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, which started arriving only yesterday.

On the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the violence there is only getting worse. We were at one protest where we witnessed Israeli snipers shoot at least three Palestinians.

Now, earlier, we spoke with Mustafa Barghouti, the president of the Palestinian National Initiative and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council since 2006.

(Begin VT)

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI (President, Palestinian National Initiative): I’m shattered. I’m angry, mainly because I don’t understand why this all should happen.

But what breaks my heart so much is the suffering of civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli. And what I don’t understand, why the president of the United States comes here, and instead of telling Israel, enough is enough, you wanted to respond, you responded, you already killed 4,000 Palestinians, stop, instead of that, he’s encouraging them to have an invasion, a ground invasion.

IMTIAZ TYAB: So you think President Biden’s visit was a catastrophic mistake?

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Catastrophic from three aspects. First, it was a huge political and diplomatic failure, as I told you, because nobody wanted to meet with him except Israelis.

Second, it’s a strategic mistake, because he’s dragging the United States into a very dangerous area where war crimes are committed, and, third, because he is consolidating the absence of peace process.

IMTIAZ TYAB: Do you see a scenario where this ends?

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Yes, one scenario. There is no other scenario, immediate change of the behavior of Western leaders, who are now participating and encouraging Netanyahu to commit these war crimes, and, two – and the United States is the only country that has the real leverage over Israel.

And they should tell Israel, stop. Stop. Enough. Let’s have cease-fire. Let’s have immediate exchange of prisoners, so that all Israeli prisoners would come back home safe. And let’s initiate a true peace process to solve the roots of the problem, which is occupation and the system of apartheid.

(End VT)

IMTIAZ TYAB: Now, efforts to create a Palestinian state have been at a standstill for years now, largely because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s successive hard-right governments have been firmly opposed to it.

And while the Biden administration continues to back calls for a peace process that would lead to a two-state solution, it’s done very little practically and diplomatically to advance that goal. And after Hamas’ brutal attack and a looming Israeli ground war in Gaza, it’s a goal that seems even further away than ever.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is at the State Department.

Good morning to you, Mr. Secretary.

ANTONY BLINKEN (U.S. Secretary of State): Good morning, Margaret. Good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Tension is very high in the region. Are you changing your security posture? Are you pulling any U.S. personnel out of the area?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Margaret, we are concerned at the possibility of Iranian proxies escalating their attacks against our own personnel, our own people.

We’re taking every measure to make sure that we can defend them and, if necessary, respond decisively, not at all what we’re looking for, not all we want, but we’ll be prepared if that’s what they choose to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So it sounds like quite possibly pulling people out.

In terms of the threat from Iran you just referenced there, President Biden in his Oval Office address said that the U.S. would hold Iran accountable. What does accountable mean?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Well, what you’ve seen already, Margaret, is very – a very clear message from the president, backed up by the deployment of two of our largest aircraft carrier battle groups, to make sure that it’s clear no one should take advantage of this moment to escalate further attacks on Israel or, for that matter, attacks on us, on our personnel.

And this is not by way of in terms of what we’re doing by provocation. It’s designed to deter, designed to make clear that no one should use this moment in any way to escalate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll stay tuned.

In terms of what’s happening in Gaza, I know there are an estimated 500 to 600 Americans there. Is there any chance Israel lets some of those Americans out or Egypt allows some of those Americans in?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: You’re exactly right.

And to date, at least, Hamas has blocked them from leaving, showing once again its total disregard for civilians of any kind who are – who are stuck in Gaza.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you asked the Israeli government to delay in order to give you more time to broker the release of these hostages?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: First, step back for a second, because it’s important to remember what happened.

It’s incredible how quickly that gets lost, because it was only a couple of weeks ago that Hamas invaded Israel with its terrorist fighters and slaughtered – and I use that – that word very deliberately – slaughtered so many people…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: … again, men, women, young children, babies, old people, you name it.

And they continue to rain rockets down on Israel. When I was there. a few days ago, we were in the bomb – we were – we had to take shelter a couple of times,because of incoming rockets from Hamas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood.

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: So, my point is this.

No country, no country can be expected to tolerate this, to live with this. And, as we said from the start, Israel has both the – the right and even the obligation not only to defend itself, but to try to make sure that, to the best of its ability, this can’t happen again.

So, we talk to the Israelis about what they’re – what they’re planning. We give them our best advice. It’s important, as we said, not only what they do, but how they do it, particularly when it comes to making sure that civilians are as protected as they possibly can be in this crossfire of Hamas’ making.

But in terms of what we’re talking to Israel about in their – with regard to their military operations, it really is focused on both how they do it, and how best to achieve the results that they seek.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, let’s talk about how they do it.

You’re right to lay out just how absolutely horrific that attack was two weeks ago. Turning the page to what has happened during the following two weeks, UNICEF says 1,524 children have been killed in the Gaza Strip during these bombings.

Why isn’t the U.S. calling for at least a temporary cease-fire?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: First, Margaret, when I hear the stories, when I see the pictures of young children who have lost their lives in this conflict of Hamas’ making, whoever they are, wherever they are, whether they’re Palestinians, whether they’re Israelis, whether they’re – they’re Jews or Muslims, it hits me, and I know it hits virtually everyone right in the heart.

And that’s why it’s so important to do everything possible to protect them and why it’s so important to do everything possible to get assistance to those who need it, food, medicine, water.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, why not ask for at least a temporary pause in the bombing…

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: We’ve – we’ve seen…

MARGARET BRENNAN: … as was proposed at the U.N. this week?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: We’ve seen, first of all, that, in order to get assistance in, we’ve had – we’ve had that happen. And you saw the first 20 trucks go in yesterday. I expect more will follow today and the day after that.

We want to make sure that we have sustained delivery of food, medicine, water, the things that people need. At the same time, I said something a minute ago that – that we have to – we have to remember. Israel has to do everything it can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Freezing things in place where they are now would allow Hamas to remain where it is and to repeat what it’s done sometime in the future. No country could accept that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of my colleagues who is on the ground in Israel and has traveled to the West Bank conducted an interview with Mr. Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian politician I’m sure you know.

He said he doesn’t understand why President Biden, when he was in Israel, did not say: “Enough is enough. You wanted to respond and you responded. You killed 4,000 Palestinians. Stop. Instead, you’re encouraging a ground invasion.”

How do you respond to “Enough is enough?”

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Enough is enough should have been the case with – with Hamas two weeks ago.

It would be good to hear the entire world speaking clearly and with one voice about the actions that Hamas took, about the slaughter of people, about the fact that that should be absolutely intolerable, unacceptable to anyone anywhere, any country, any people.

Second…

MARGARET BRENNAN: In terms of U.S. interests in the region, one of America’s closest allies, the king of Jordan, gave an impassioned speech, saying: “Palestinian lives seem to matter less than Israeli ones. Our lives matter less than other lives. The application of international law is optional and human rights appear to have boundaries based on races and religions.”

That’s a warning from one of America’s closest friends in the region that this is a dangerous message to be sending, and it could have blowback. Are you concerned?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Margaret, every life, Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Muslim, Arab, every life has equal worth.

When I see the reports, when I see the photographs, when I hear the stories of young children, Palestinian children, who’ve been killed or injured, it hits me right in the gut too, just as it does when I hear – when I see these other stories, wherever it is.

We had, here in our own country, a little boy, 6 years old, Wadea, in Chicago, who was viciously murdered, apparently because he was Palestinian American, a little boy, 6 years old, didn’t do anything to anyone. I feel that strongly across the board, no matter where it is.

But this is on Hamas. And the fact is, Hamas doesn’t represent the Palestinian people. It doesn’t represent their just cause. It doesn’t represent their aspiration, and legitimate aspiration, for a state of their own.

On the contrary, it does everything to make life worse and more miserable for the…

(CROSSTALK)

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: … people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does the U.S. assess that it is actually possible for Israel to destroy both Hamas as an entity and its ideology? Is it actually a military possibility?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: The best way, the only way to defeat an ideology, no matter how warped – and, in the case of Hamas, it’s about as warped as it possibly can be – is to make sure that there is a better, a clearer alternative for people.

And that alternative is very clear. And it’s very stark. We have, on the one hand, countries throughout the region who want to come together, to integrate, to normalize relations, and to lift up the rights of the Palestinian people, to be able to have a future where they work together, go to school together, do business together, travel to each other’s countries. That’s one vision.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: The other vision is the vision that Hamas has, death, destruction, nihilism, darkness.

Now, the responsibility that those of us who believe in the first vision have is to do everything possible to make it real, so that people not only see it, but they can achieve it. That’s exactly what we were working on before this horrific attack on October 7.

And that’s the vision that we need to get back to.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: But, at the same time, we also have to deal with the fact that Hamas represents an active, ongoing threat, and that has to be dealt with too.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time this morning.

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Thanks, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And Face the Nation will be back in one minute with former Congresswoman Liz Cheney, so stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re now joined by former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney.

Good morning, and good to have you here in person.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyoming): Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Good to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we’ve been talking about what’s happening in the Middle East right now. I know you watch the region closely.

President Biden counseled Netanyahu during his trip to Israel last week and repeated a certain phrase I want to play for you here in his Oval Office address.

(Begin VT)

JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): But I caution this: While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. And while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that was a nod to 9/11 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq, potentially an overreach.

Do you agree with that warning President Biden is issuing there, that there is the risk here of Israel taking actions that could backfire on their own security?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: I think that our support and defense of Israel needs to be unwavering.

I think that, for the most part, that’s what President Biden has demonstrated. I thought that most of the themes that he laid out in his Oval Office address were exactly right about the importance of American leadership, the importance of understanding this is a battle between the forces of freedom and the forces of tyranny and terrorism.

With respect to his comments about 9/11 and post-9/11, I would say the fact that we had not a single additional terrorist attack, mass casualty terrorist attack, in over 20 years now demonstrates that the steps that we took were, in fact, effective.

And I would say the biggest mistake, frankly, post-9/11 was the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan that the – President Trump started, President Biden completed.

(CROSSTALK)

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: So I think we need to set that – we need to set – set our differences about those issues aside. We certainly do have them.

But with respect to what’s happening in the world today…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: … I think it’s crucially important for the world to see that the United States, we are united across party lines in the defense of Israel and in the importance of the destroying Hamas, and also a very strong warning that the president has issued to Iran.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: And – and that, frankly, the Biden administration policy needs to be changed to make it consistent with the kind of warning that we’ve seen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But in terms of that comment about reacting from a place of rage and unintended consequences, Secretary Blinken said the only way to defeat an ideology is by offering a better alternative.

What is the better alternative for a conflict that has been going on for this many decades?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: The – there is no notion in which this is a battle of ideologies when you look at what Hamas did.

And I think that the world has moved on far too quickly from what Hamas did. Hamas slaughtered innocents. They invaded Israel, and they slaughtered women and children and tortured people and raped people. And the fact that the world has moved on from that now, that is an ideology, if it even is one, of evil.

And so the way to battle that is making sure that you destroy Hamas, making sure that we sent a very clear message to Iran that Iran will face severe consequences if it tries to get involved here. We also, though, need to recognize, the – the rising antisemitism and the expressions of antisemitism that we have seen across our country and across the world, since October 7 must be absolutely rejected.

And the world must stand against that. So, this is not a, you know, moral equivalence. This is not a peace process question. This was out-and-out slaughter. And – and we absolutely stand against that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm. And CBS continues to tell those stories. So, just to be clear, the journalists have not moved on.

When will you make a decision about whether you want to run for president of the United States?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: Well, what I am doing right now, what I will continue to do is very much focus on making sure that we get people elected at all levels who are serious, people who believe in the Constitution.

I think we’re at a moment in this nation where we certainly have seen we face significant threats internationally. We’ve got Iran, Russia, North Korea, China arrayed against us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: This is a threat atmosphere that we have not seen certainly since the end of World War II.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Bob Gates said ever…

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: Right. Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MARGARET BRENNAN: … but also said there’s no presidential alternative, in terms of an affirmative vision for America’s role in the world.

Have you heard any candidates for president offer that vision?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: I think that, certainly, you have seen some. I think that it needs to be a much louder – we need much louder voices within both parties, within my own party – I don’t even know if I should call it my own party – within the Republican Party right now, the extent to which you’re seeing people suggest that we should abandon Ukraine, which, essentially, is surrendering in this battle between freedom and tyranny, and that would be very dangerous for our security.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As you know, this massive national security package can’t pass until there’s a speaker of the House.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: Correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Last month, you said Congressman Patrick McHenry would make a great speaker of the House – or it was earlier in October in a speech. He says he’s not looking for a job.

What is the vision for it? Is there anyone who can lead? Is – is – is he an alternative?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: Look, I think what you’re seeing right now in – among the Republicans in the House is a direct result of the decisions that Kevin McCarthy made to embrace Donald Trump, to embrace the most radical and extreme members of our party, to elevate them.

So it’s not a surprise that we are where we are, but it’s a disgrace, and it’s an embarrassment. And there certainly are serious people among the Republicans. I hope that that one of them – particularly, I think it’s important somebody not be an election denier.

And I also think everybody should be asked tomorrow night at the candidate forum about this issue of Ukraine assistance, and they should be asked from the perspective of, we face a global challenge, an existential threat. And how in the world could anybody defend at this moment, surrendering to one of our adversaries by walking away from Ukraine?

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you think is driving the domestic threats against lawmakers within the Republican Party and also among some Democrats?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: The domestic threats are absolutely being driven by Donald Trump and, unfortunately, some of his supporters, who, in fact have encouraged and taken steps that have resulted in, as we saw on January 6, political violence.

When you have a member of Congress reportedly, like Warren Davidson from Ohio, who, in the meeting with Jim Jordan last week, when some of the holdouts raised with Jordan the fact that they were getting death threats, one of them told me that, in response, Congressman Davidson said: “Well, that’s not Jim Jordan’s fault. That’s your fault for voting against him.”

That is the kind of encouragement and acceptance of violence that is – absolutely has no place in this party, should have no place in our country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s intimidation.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: It is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congresswoman, it’s great to have you here.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: Great to be here. Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back with a rare interview with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has not done many interviews this year, but he invited us to Capitol Hill Friday to talk about President Biden’s request to Congress for more than $100 billion in aid for Ukraine, Israel, and U.S. border security. And that’s where our conversation began.

(Begin VT)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We have big power competition from China, from Russia, and we still have terrorism problems as the Israelis have certainly experienced in a brutal way in the last week. So, I think it requires a worldwide approach rather than trying to take parts of it out. It’s all connected. The Chinese and the Russians said they’re now friends forever. Iranian drones are being used in Ukraine and against the Israelis.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There’s resistance among some Republicans, including here in the Senate, about bundling things together. Is it possible to pass Ukraine aid if it’s not tied to Israel?

MITCH MCCONNELL: I just think that’s a mistake. I mean, I know there are some Republicans in the Senate, and maybe more in the House, that think Ukraine is somehow different. I view it as all interconnected.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you’ve said that you believe there is enough oversight of aid to Ukraine. Why hasn’t that persuaded some members of the Republican caucus?

MITCH MCCONNELL: If you look at the Ukraine assistance, let’s – let’s talk about where the money’s really going. A significant portion of it’s being spent in the United States in 38 different states replacing the weapons that we sent to Ukraine with more modern weapons. So, we’re rebuilding our industrial base.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s what President Biden is seeking to do.

MITCH MCCONNELL: It’s – it’s correct. No Americans are getting killed in Ukraine. We are rebuilding our industrial base. The Ukrainians are destroying the army of one of our biggest rivals. I have a hard time finding anything wrong with that. I think it’s wonderful that they’re defending themselves.

And also the notion that the Europeans are not doing enough. They’ve done almost $90 billion. They’re housing a bunch of refugees who escaped. I think that our NATO allies in Europe have done quite a lot.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You sound like you have a lot in common with President Biden and his world view based on what you just laid out.

MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, not on the domestic side, but on – on this issue that we’ve – we’re discussing today. We’re generally in the same place.

MARGARET BRENNAN: On the issue of Israel, that does seem to be a unifying issue for many Republicans. And I want to ask you about this $10 billion request the president is making. Do you think there need to be any provisions in there that would account for the risk of human rights violations in Gaza?

MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, we want to make sure we’re not sending money to Hamas. I can tell you that. But there are genuine humanitarian needs of the people in Gaza who are not Hamas, who’ve been thrown under the bus by what Hamas did. Innocent people. But we want to be careful about how the money is spent, be sure it actually gets where it’s supposed to get.

MARGARET BRENNAN: For any military aid that’s going to Israel right now, do you think there needs to be – need to be strings attached?

MITCH MCCONNELL: Israel’s our strongest ally in the world. We trust them. And we have a very tight relationship with them, both on an intelligence side and a military side. So, I – I don’t think the kind of oversight we are talking about for Ukraine, for example, would be necessary for Israel.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, to do all of these things, you need a partner in Congress. Senator Welch said you are the only Republican negotiator right now because of all the disarray in the House. How can you deliver on this at a time when you’re saying it’s essential?

MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, I hope we’re going to have a speaker sometime soon. And we –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Before November 17th?

MITCH MCCONNELL: We – we need one.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Government funding.

MITCH MCCONNELL: We need one because the House can’t do anything without a speaker. And it’s a – it’s a problem, but I hope it’s going to get solved pretty quickly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there anyone in the House who can lead the Republicans?

MITCH MCCONNELL: Look, I’m not an expert on the House. I have my hands full here in the Senate. And we’re going to do our job and hope the House can get functional here sometime soon.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There is no current U.S. ambassador to Israel right now. And some of your Republican colleagues have voiced concerns about President Biden’s nominee. Do you have concerns about Jack Lu?

MITCH MCCONNELL: He is a very controversial nominee because of his relationship with the Iran nuclear deal, which was opposed by everybody in my party. And, by the way, that – I hope that flirtation with Iran is finally over with regard to the nuclear deal. And Senator Cotton and I also have a bill to freeze the $6 billion that was on the way to the Iranians in relation to the hostage release. So –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it’s in Qatar, and the White House says Iran hasn’t been able to make any withdrawals from it.

MITCH MCCONNELL: Yes, but we’d like to make it law so that it can’t be undone.

Look, I think we need to get tougher with Iran. And I do think the weakness of both the Obama administration and the Biden administration is the thought that somehow we could do business with Iran on something. And I think it’s pretty clear we can’t. I mean they’re funding Hezbollah, Hamas, creating problems all over the Middle East. And we shouldn’t be doing any business with them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden said he’s going to hold Iran accountable. What do you think that means?

MITCH MCCONNELL: Yes. Well, I – I think the proof will be, what are we going to do to hold him accountable. And that’s – it’s got to be credible. You can’t – you can’t, on the one hand, be negotiating with Iran on some kind of nuclear deal that you know they won’t keep, and then turn around and declare that you’re going to get tougher with Iran. I think, number one, quit talking to the Iranians about any kind of nuclear deal. Number two, don’t give them the $6 billion. And, number three, back up the Israelis in every conceivable way after this attack by Iran-sponsored Hamas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You oppose all diplomacy with Iran?

MITCH MCCONNELL: It’s not a question of whether you ever talk to them or not, but it’s a question of, what – what do you do? What do you do? And, clearly, the nuclear deal that the Obama administration agreed to, and the Biden administration tried to reconnect, is – is not the way to go. There’s an axis of evil in the world, China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. And we need to stand up to the axis of evil, not try to do business with them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I – I want to ask you as well about the moment here in Washington that we are in. A number of members of Congress, including Representatives Miller Meeks, Ferguson, Bacon, Ken Buck, have said just this week that they have had death threats against them. How concerned are you about violence against lawmakers working here?

MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, I – I think there have been more threats lately, and I am concerned about it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you concerned about more political violence going into an election year here?

MITCH MCCONNELL: Look, I think, since 9/11, the – and – and January 6th, we’ve had heightened security here at the Capitol. I’m sure we’re a target for all kinds of evil doers, both in the United States and abroad.

MARGARET BRENNAN: People wonder about your health. How are you feeling? How are you doing?

MITCH MCCONNELL: I’m fine. I’m completely recovered, and just fine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You and your office felt the need to – to share and disclose some of the details about your health because of some of these public incidents. And the doctor here said there was no evidence of Parkinson’s disease or a stroke or – or a seizure. And I wonder, is there anything the public should know that wasn’t disclosed?

MITCH MCCONNELL: I’m in good shape, completely recovered, and back on the job.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, does that mean that you think you are able to continue serving and you want to continue serving here at a time when we are talking about incredible dysfunction in Washington?

MITCH MCCONNELL: I think we ought to be talking about what we were talking about earlier rather than my health.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ve made clear you have a lot of policy disagreements with the former president, Donald Trump. Doesn’t it trouble you that he is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination given the questions he has raised about aid for Ukraine, for example?

MITCH MCCONNELL: I’m not going to comment on the various candidates for president on either side. I’ve got my hands full here in the Senate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Former Secretary of Defense Gates told us this is one of the most dangerous moments that he has ever seen for our country. And we’re talking about the basic functioning of our democracy being a problem right now.

I’ll ask you again, who can lead the Republican Party, not just in the House, but to deliver on the vision that you are laying out here?

MITCH MCCONNELL: Typically, it’s the candidate for president, when you have a presidential election, who becomes, obviously, the most visible person in your party. And we don’t know who that’s going to be yet.

In the meantime, we have divided government. We have a job to do. The election’s not until next year. Dabbling in the presidential election is something I’m just not going to do. I don’t think it’s productive.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: More of our interview with Republican Leader McConnell will air on our CBS News streaming politics program “AMERICA DECIDES,” tomorrow at 5:00 p.m.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Philippe Lazzarini is the commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees. The U.S. is its largest donor.

Good afternoon to you.

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI (Commissioner-General, U.N. Relief and Works Agency): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I – I want to go straight to questions, but I did want to first acknowledge our condolences. I saw that 29 of your employees were killed in Gaza according to the announcement, some while sleeping in their beds at home during these bombings. We’re sorry.

Can you tell us what people at home need to know about what’s happening inside of Gaza right now?

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: Well, listen, Gaza, it’s an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, which is unfolding under our watch. We have 1 million people who have moved from their home. The – Gaza City has been – entire neighborhood have been shut (ph) down. Hospital have been hit. People near our shelter have been hit. More than a third (ph) installation of the U.N. have been also hit. Thousands of people have been killed there. And as you indicated, we have 29 staff also killed among our (INAUDIBLE). They’re all teachers, doctors, gynecology, psycho social workers, and certainly we might have more people to come. What we know so is Gaza is under total siege. Until yesterday, absolutely nothing enter into Gaza.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I saw that those 20 trucks did make it in yesterday through the Rafah gate, but that the U.N. estimates that’s, what, 4 percent of an average day imports. Secretary Blinken said he expects more trucks. What do you know about what aid is coming?

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: Look, what we need is the significant scaling-up of a supply line into Gaza. And it needs to be sustained and it needs to be uninterrupted. Before October 7th, we had up to 500 trucks entering into Gaza. And this was under a blockade at the time already 80 percent of the population was dependent of international assistance. So, we need – we need, Margaret, much more than that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood. I do want you to address something, though, that got a lot of political attention here in the United States. There was a tweet from your agency that strongly implied aid was being taken by authorities who have links to Hamas. That tweet was then deleted from your account. And UNRWA issued a statement saying no looting had taken place.

Was there looting? Is aid ending up in the hands of terrorists?

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: There was absolutely no looting. Medicine and fuel have been taken from our headquarters in Gaza at – in Gaza City. And it has been handed over to local (INAUDIBLE) workers, coordinated with the local coordinator of the World Health Organization. And this material ended up into various hospitals and the fuel which has been taken also ended up in the hospital.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you are running short on fuel now?

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: Today I issued a statement, an alarm, because in three, four days we will have no fuel any more in Gaza. And what does it mean? No fuel, no water, no bakery, no running hospital. But, beyond that, that means also there will be no humanitarian operation. We need fuel to move the trucks to reach the people in need.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This week you said UNRWA was on the verge of collapse. There was already a $75 million shortfall. President Biden did announce that the U.S. would provide about $100 million to help Palestinians in Gaza in the West Bank from already allocated funds. Will that help your organization?

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: Well, the – as you mentioned, the U.S. is our largest donor for the time being. I do not know yet the break down all this 100 million additional dollar. But it is true that our agency has been weakened for one decade of financial crisis. And if there is no input of additional financial resources, we will certainly not be up to the challenge. And we are, for the Palestinian, into Gaza Strip, but also in the West Bank, the main lifeline and the main hope for them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are essentially filling the void of a government in providing some of these services.

UNRWA, will it be able to continue operating after Israel launches this expected ground invasion?

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: Listen, I have no intent to interrupt any operation. We have to continue to advocate to keep the border open, to bring fuel inside, to bring the supplies inside, and also asking to the Israeli and the – and the – and also the armed group into Gaza Strip, the Hamas, not to target any civilian infrastructure, not to target our shelter where we have half a million people seeking a protection in the Anwar (ph) school. And basically whether there is a ground invasion or not, we need to continue to provide assistance and protection to the civilians more than ever.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Commissioner General, for your time.

We’ll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: According to the Israeli government, there are more than 200 hostages being held in Gaza, including some Americans. President Biden has vowed to get them all out.

Freeing hostages from captivity is one of the most sensitive and complicated forms of diplomacy. Just last month, five Americans held hostage in Iran were finally freed in a controversial deal that involved $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue. I spoke to Emad Shargi, one of those hostages, for tonight’s “60 Minutes.” Here’s part of that interview.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That emotional up and down and the isolation, I mean, how are you getting yourself mentally through all of this?

EMAD SHARGI: You think about what other people in life have gone through, and everything is relative. You know, we know people who’ve gone through far, far worse things. So, you always count your blessing, and you just make sure that that day turns into night, and one day – one more day is finished and perhaps you are one more day closer to freedom.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you do that? How do you stay sane?

EMAD SHARGI: All those times there was never a doubt in my mind that my government would get me out. That was my hope.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why did you think that?

EMAD SHARGI: I had to cling onto something. The only hope I had is that I was an American. That I was caught because of the blue passport I kept in my pocket. I knew my government would come to get me. I just didn’t know when.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Tell me what it was like for you when you landed back on U.S. soil for the first time at Fort Belvoir?

EMAD SHARGI: On the aircraft, for the first time in five and a half years, we felt like human beings again. And to be treated like a human being again was – it’s a wonderful feeling. Everyone was extremely nice to us. It was a jovial atmosphere.

And landing right outside of Washington at Fort Belvoir was amazing. Just to come over the city at around 5:15 in the morning, all the lights of the suburbs were on. We could see the lights of D.C.

We landed, and we opened the door and stepped out. Our families rushed towards us. I haven’t seen my daughters for five and a half, six years. I have missed all their graduations, birthdays, anniversaries with my wife. It’s like being born again.

So, you know, we hug, we kiss, we had throughout we were going to be freed so many times, and this was it. And then you walk out and then you see American service men and women in uniform, it’s 5:30 in the morning, with the American flags on their arms, and they treat you like – they treat you like a human being.

People who are at the height of their career, they are – they to are coming home. They say, welcome home, sir. It’s an honor to be here. I shall never be able to look at another American serviceman and servicewoman not remembering those seconds. I’m forever indebted to them. They were so kind. They were so nice.

It’s – when you’re – when you’re viewed as a criminal for five and a half years and you come back to that warm reception, it’s the greatest boost in the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think, though, that in giving Iran access to $6 billion, even in a restricted account, it’s a significant sum of money. Does it incentivize future hostage-taking? Does it put a price on other Americans’ heads?

EMAD SHARGI: Hostage-taking didn’t start with us, and it won’t end with us. It didn’t, you know, start with the $6 billion, and it won’t stop with the $6 billion. These are macro policies that governments have to come up with to stop this behavior by certain governments around the world. And we all know who they are.

Now, it is incumbent upon us, in the United States and in Europe, to come up with policies that stops innocent people being taken as hostages. And those policies need to be stronger than sanctioning somebody.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: And there are at least two dozen Americans considered wrongfully detained and held in countries all around the world. U.S. diplomats are trying to bring them home, in addition to those held by Hamas.

We’ll have more of my interview with Emad Shargi, which will air tonight on “60 Minutes” right after football.

That’s it for us today. Thank you for watching.

For FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

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