On this “Face the Nation” broadcast, moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
- House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Mike Turner, Republican of Ohio
- Ret. Gen. Frank McKenzie
Clickto browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington.
And today on Face the Nation: Israel says an invasion of Gaza is imminent. Palestinians say the humanitarian crisis is dire, with more than a million Gazans trapped there. And the key question, will the conflict spread to other countries in the Mideast? Promising an invasion by land, sea and air, Israeli forces made last-minute preparations to destroy Hamas in retaliation for last week’s brutal massacre of hundreds of Israelis in a surprise attack. But there are more than a million Palestinians, plus foreign nationals and American citizens, trapped in Gaza.
And Israeli missiles have been decimating the densely populated region all week. Evacuation efforts are still under way, but time is running out. President Biden has made it clear.
JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): The United States, make no mistake about it, stands with Israel.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The United States stands with Israel.
PROTESTER: Free, free Palestine!
MARGARET BRENNAN: But around the country and the world, Palestinian sympathizers are urging support for their cause.
And security has been ramped up with the increased threats sparked by the Hamas attack.
All the news, plus analysis, just ahead on Face the Nation.
Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.
As we come on the air, Israel is on the brink of an expanded war that could have enormous repercussions. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is grim and likely to worsen, as thousands attempt to flee before the ground offensive starts.
The United Nations warned yesterday that it would be impossible for such a rapid exodus of civilians without devastating humanitarian consequences. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in the region, shuttling between Mideast countries, to negotiate opening a crossing from Gaza into Egypt to get civilians out.
Tomorrow, he plans to return to Tel Aviv for additional meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
We begin our coverage from Israel with CBS News foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata.
We want to caution viewers, some of the content is quite distressing.
CHARLIE D’AGATA (voice-over): Israeli artillery and airstrikes have pounded Gaza in one of the most intense, sustained bombardments the narrow strip of land has ever seen.
Authorities in Gaza say more than 2,300 people have been killed, a quarter of them children. Hundreds of thousands of people have been heeding warnings from the Israeli military in leaflets dropped from the sky to evacuate from north to south.
The U.N. says nearly one million people have been displaced, nearly half the territory’s population, with thousands crowding the Rafah Crossing with Egypt, where CBS News found American Susan Posazo (sp?).
SUSAN POSAZO (American Citizen): The bombing, the killing, terrorizing kids, women, killing everybody.
CHARLIE D’AGATA: Also among those trying to escape, British schoolgirl Miriam.
MIRIAM (British Schoolgirl): Like, every place I go, I go run away, and I just find bombs and I find dead people. And, like, maybe one day, I will end up like them. But it’s a really scary thing for me.
CHARLIE D’AGATA: Even under fire, Hamas continues to launch missiles into Israel. And sporadic fighting broke out on a second front after the militant group Hezbollah fired rockets into Israel from Lebanon.
Nearer to Gaza, Israeli troops and armor are massing for an expected ground invasion on an unprecedented scale. The Kfar Aza kibbutz, where Hamas gunmen went on a murderous rampage against families and children, has now become an Israeli front line, burnt-out vehicles and destroyed homes, the corpses of Hamas gunmen left to rot where they fell.
Drones buzzed overhead, explosions rang out as Colonel Golan Vach walked us through the bloody aftermath and blackened homes.
COL. GOLAN VACH (Israeli Military): You can still see the beast here. In this bed…
CHARLIE D’AGATA: Mm-hmm.
COL. GOLAN VACH: … two…
CHARLIE D’AGATA: Women.
COL. GOLAN VACH: … women were lying.
CHARLIE D’AGATA: Murdered inside the safe room that was supposed to protect them.
COL. GOLAN VACH: He was sitting here and shot everyone that stepped outside.
CHARLIE D’AGATA: The Israelis call this the neighborhood of slaughter. Nearly every single resident was killed here, 66 people on the street alone.
A lot of children?
COL. GOLAN VACH: A lot of children.
Some of them, some of the children tried to hide behind these bushes. And they found them, and they slaughtered them. And they were happy.
CHARLIE D’AGATA: Amid the sadness here, a growing anger.
Why weren’t communities so close to Gaza better protected? And why did it take Israeli forces hours to respond?
COL. GOLAN VACH: We failed, period. We failed protecting the civilians. It shouldn’t have happened, not like this, never, not in this scale.
CHARLIE D’AGATA: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the country’s expanded emergency cabinet for the first time today, saying: “Hamas thought we would be demolished, but it is we who will demolish Hamas” – Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s Charlie D’Agata in Tel Aviv.
We go now to Imtiaz Tyab, who interviewed the political spokesman for Hamas yesterday – Imtiaz.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Well, Margaret, as you can imagine, this was a challenging and often combative interview with Dr. Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for Hamas and senior member of its political bureau.
Now, Dr. Hamad denied Hamas received any outside support for its attack on Israel, including from Iran, which contradicts earlier statements to the BBC that it did.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Did you receive support from outside? Did you receive support from Hamas?
DR. GHAZI HAMAD (Hamas Spokesman): No. No, it just a decision taken by Hamas only.
IMTIAZ TYAB: You have received no support from any country outside of Gaza?
DR. GHAZI HAMAD: No. No, no, no, no, Never.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Now, he also denied Hamas fighters deliberately targeted civilians, saying their target was only the Israeli military and Israeli military infrastructure, something we, of course, challenged him on, given the vast amount of video evidence of Hamas fighters shooting at civilians in civilian areas.
Now, as for why Hamas carried out such a brazen and brutal attack inside Israel, Dr. Hamad blamed successive Israeli governments for refusing to end the now decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories.
He said Israel’s current government, which is often described as extreme, far right, has pursued an agenda of such harsh and punitive measures against Palestinians, which is why, he says, Hamas carried out the devastating attack, an attack which, of course, has resulted in Gaza being bombed like never before, and a death toll there that already exceeds the four previous wars, something he blames squarely on Israel.
But he would not take any responsibility for the Hamas attack being the trigger for this extraordinary violence. Now, when questioned about the dozens of hostages abducted by Hamas fighters and still being held captive inside Gaza, including some Americans, here’s what he said:
IMTIAZ TYAB: Why don’t you just release the people who are abducted?
DR. GHAZI HAMAD: OK, we want – we want – first of all, we want to stop this daily death in Gaza, daily killing in Gaza.
It is our priority now. Your priority should be how to stop killing, and this is – or genociding Gaza. It is – it is really genociding Gaza.
And you hear that even International Red Cross, all the international organizations, all of them say that situation in Gaza is catastrophic, is big disaster. We have to stop this. Maybe after that, we can talk any – about anything.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Imtiaz Tyab, in Jerusalem.
Our Scott Pelley spoke with President Biden late last week for 60 Minutes about the Israel-Gaza crisis. Here’s a preview.
SCOTT PELLEY: Are the wars in Israel and Ukraine more than the United States can take on at the same time?
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We’re the United States of America, for God’s sake, the most powerful nation in the history – not in the world, in the history of the world, the history of the world.
We can take care of both of these and still maintain our overall international defense. We have the capacity to do this, and we have an obligation to. We are the essential nation in this, to paraphrase the former secretary of state.
And, if we don’t, who does?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Now, you can see more of Scott’s interview with the president tonight on 60 Minutes at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
We go now to White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
Jake, I want to get straight to it. This is going to be very brutal urban warfare when Israel moves into Gaza. How much time do you have to get the 500 to 600 Americans trapped there out?
JAKE SULLIVAN (U.S. National Security Adviser): Well, Margaret, we’re in daily, indeed, hourly contact with our counterparts in the Israeli Defense Forces and security services.
And we’re talking to them about their plans for moving in on the ground in Gaza. It’s not for me to say what their timetable is. I think they will need to speak to that.
But we are very focused on, first, as you said, making sure that all American citizens in Gaza have safe passage out of Gaza and into Egypt. We’re working on that around the clock. We’re not going to rest until that happens.
And, second, we’re very focused on making sure that the broader civilian population of Gaza – because the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza have nothing to do with Hamas – that they can get to safe areas, that they can get access to food, water, medicine, shelter, and that they can be protected from the fighting as it intensifies and as a potential ground operation moves forward.
MARGARET BRENNAN: If any of those Palestinian civilians are permitted to leave Gaza, does the United States have assurances from Israel that they will eventually be allowed to return to their homes? Or will they just become refugees?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: The United States has a very simple proposition on this, is, when people leave their homes in conflict, leave their houses in conflict, they deserve the right to return to those homes, to those houses.
And this situation is no different.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The United States deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Eastern Mediterranean.
I’m wondering if you have new intelligence that shows that the threat from Iran is growing.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: We don’t have some specific new intelligence that the threat is different today from yesterday.
The threat yesterday was real. The threat today is real. There is a risk of an escalation of this conflict, the opening of a second front in the north, and, of course, of Iran’s involvement.
That is a risk. And that’s a risk that we have been mindful of since the start. It’s why the president moved so rapidly and decisively to get an aircraft carrier into the Eastern Mediterranean, to get aircraft into the Gulf, because he wants to send a very clear message of deterrence to any state or any actor that would seek to exploit this situation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Iran’s foreign minister put out a public statement saying that Iran cannot remain a spectator.
What does that mean to you? Are you concerned about proxy forces? Are you concerned that the state of Iran is getting drawn in?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: Well, first, we are concerned about proxy forces.
Lebanese Hezbollah, a proxy force of Iran, is there a raid on Israel’s northern border with considerable military capacity and a history of attacking the state of Israel? And, in fact, we have seen in the last few days skirmishes across that northern border. That only enhances the risk of escalation.
But, of course, we can’t rule out that Iran would choose to get directly engaged some way. We have to prepare for every possible contingency.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there diplomatic outreach to Iran right now?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: We have means of communicating privately with Iran. And we have availed ourselves of those means over the past few days to make clear privately that which we have said publicly.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But there are two million Palestinians living there who – as you have said, many of whom have absolutely nothing to do with Hamas.
So, at this point, are you expecting Israeli military forces to occupy that area long term? Who steps in and governs if Hamas is rooted out?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: These are important long-term questions to begin asking and grappling with today.
We believe that Israel is grappling with them. We are talking to them about them. It is absolutely critical, as President Biden said from the very beginning, that we, as fellow democracies, the U.S. and Israel, that we embrace the rule of law and the laws of war.
And the United States will work with Israel, the United Nations, Egypt, Jordan, and other countries to do all that we can to ensure the protection of civilians and that those civilians have access to the basic necessities of food and water, of shelter, of medicine.
That is a priority of ours.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And the targeting of that kind of basic infrastructure is potentially a war crime; is it not?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: There’s a lot of fog of war.
What we will say is, the protection of civilians and the protection of those people who are trying to get to safety, as well as their ability to access food, water, medicine, shelter, these things should be respected and should very much be a central focus of everyone involved in this, including ourselves, the Israelis, the United Nations, and the regional countries.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
The Palestinian Authority a long time ago renounced violence. I saw President Biden spoke to Mahmoud Abbas yesterday. Is your expectation that the Palestinian Authority would potentially govern Gaza? And how concerned are you that violence will spread in the West Bank?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: Look, again, I think you’re asking a very important question about the long term in Gaza.
What I will say is this. Gaza being governed by a brutal and vicious terrorist organization is not just a challenge for the state of Israel. It’s a challenge for the Palestinian people, because Hamas does not represent their highest aspirations.
Hamas is not looking out for, caring one iota about their welfare and well- being. So the Palestinian people in Gaza do deserve a leadership that allows them to live lives in peace and dignity and security. What that exactly looks like going forward, I’m not in a position to say today.
But it is the right question to be asking now, as this unfolds, because we have to think not just about the immediate term, but about the long term too.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This is not the only crisis you’re dealing with. There’s still a land war in Europe.
You said just a few days ago to congressional leaders that U.S. aid to Ukraine was running dangerously low, that as there’s a renewed offensive. How close to crisis are we on that front?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: We can continue to sustain deliveries of critical ammunition for them to defend against that Russian offensive and continue pressing forward in other areas in Ukraine.
And you’re right, Margaret. That Russian offensive is very much under way. The Russians are throwing a lot at the Ukrainians in the northeast and the east, and we need to make sure that we continue rushing necessary military supplies to them. We’re doing that.
But we need Congress to act. And the president has made clear that he is going to go to Congress with a package of funding for Ukraine, as well as continued support for Israel. You can expect intensive engagement with Congress this very week, as we work on such a package and seek to secure bipartisan support for it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And that’s a $2 billion package that would bundle Ukraine, Israel, the border, support for Taiwan altogether?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: Well, the number is going to be significantly higher than that.
But it will, as I said, certainly include the necessary military equipment to defend freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity in Ukraine and to help Israel defend itself as it fights its terrorist foes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to the president, thank you for your time today.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be right back, so stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. And he joins us from Tallahassee.
Good morning to you, Governor.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R-Florida) (Presidential Candidate): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re running to be the next commander in chief, so I want to focus on some of the crises we’re seeing right now.
You were once a Navy JAG, which means you advised on the law of armed conflict. With Israel about to launch this invasion of Gaza, I wonder what you would advise them in terms of distinguishing between legitimate targets and civilians.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, one, Israel has a right to defend itself to the hilt. And that means the complete elimination of Hamas, the eradication of their terrorist infrastructure.
Israel has put out warnings to civilians about where Israel is going to conduct operations and has told civilians there to leave the area. Hamas is telling those civilians to stay in the area. So, they’re using the civilians as human shields.
So, of course, when you’re in war, you want to avoid that. But if there are civilian casualties, that’s the fault of Hamas. That’s not going to be the fault of Israel.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But would you advise, for example, the Israeli military to avoid attacking infrastructure, to provide water and electricity, as they have done?
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, Margaret, the Hamas is holding people hostage still.
You have Israelis being held hostage as well, as Americans being held hostage.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand that.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: I don’t think they’re under – but I don’t think they’re under an obligation to be providing water and these utilities while those hostages are being held.
Hamas should return those hostages before any discussions are had. And it’s a disgrace what they’re doing. And Israel has every right to use all the pressure that they can to get those people back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There are 2.3 million people living in Gaza.
Collective punishment is something you support?
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: It’s not a collective punishment.
Hamas is the one that is creating this predicament. Hamas is the one who always uses civilian targets to conduct operations. And we dealt with this some in Iraq, where al Qaeda in Iraq would commandeer mosques. So, under normal circumstances, of course, you don’t target a religious institution.
But if you have terrorist groups that are converting that into a base of operations, then you absolutely treat that as military targets. But that’s because Hamas is making those decisions to convert that infrastructure into the use for terrorist purposes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there any caution you would give to the Israeli military? Would you ask, for example, the prime minister to hold off until the 500 to 600 Americans who are trapped in Gaza manage to get out?
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, look, I think that that’s something, in terms of those that, of course, you would have discussions with.
We would be willing to do, if I was president, apply resources to be able to help any American who was either being captured or in harm’s way. I would note, I, as governor of Florida, have actually launched flights to bring Americans home from the war zone now. We’re going to have the first flights landing in Florida today.
We’re going to bring hundreds of people back from Israel to the state of Florida, and they’ve had trouble dealing with the federal government. So, of course, that’s an important thing that you want to consider.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. But there are 500 to 600 Americans stuck in Gaza specifically.
And let me ask you a little bit more about that, because, of the two million people who live in Gaza, half of them are under the age of 18. Let’s take a listen to something you said yesterday.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: We cannot accept people from Gaza into this country as refugees. I am not going to do that. If you look at how they behave, not all of them are Hamas, but they are all antisemitic.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m sure you know all Arabs are Semites.
But how can you paint with such a broad brush to say 2.3 million people are antisemitic?
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, first of all, my position is very clear.
Those Gaza refugees, Palestinian Arabs, should go to Arab countries. The U.S. should not be absorbing any of those. I think the culture – so, they elected Hamas. Let’s just be clear about that. Not everyone’s a member of Hamas. Most probably aren’t. But they did elect Hamas.
If you look at their education system…
MARGARET BRENNAN: In 2006. And then the military occupation happened after that, where they went in, and haven’t allowed elections since 2007.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, look, let me finish. Let me finish.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, in 2006, there was an election, not since then.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: I know, but there was a lot of – there was a lot of – there was a lot of celebrating of those attacks in the Gaza Strip by – by a lot of those folks who are not Hamas.
But if you look at their education system, this has been an issue for a long time. They teach kids to hate Jews. The textbooks do not have Israel even on the map. They prepare very young kids to commit terrorist attacks.
So, I think it’s a toxic culture. And I think, if we were to import large numbers of those to the United States, I think it would increase antisemitism in this country, and I think it would increase anti- Americanism in this country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: And that’s something, after seeing those demonstrations pop up in our country, just with – with blood still flowing amongst Israeli citizens over the weekend, you had people taking to the streets cheering on the barbarism of Hamas in our own country.
That was a chilling thing to see. And I don’t think that that’s something that we should ever think is acceptable.
MARGARET BRENNAN: No, but no one’s talking about getting Gazan refugees here right now. They can’t even get out of Gaza at the moment. That’s…
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, people have mentioned it. I think some of the far left have said, this is something that we should do. The U.S. has done – done similar things in the past.
And so I just put my stake in the ground. That’s where we’re going to be. And I think that everyone running for president on the Republican side should follow suit.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, we have more conversation to be had on the other side of this commercial break, but I have to take that right now, so if you’ll stay with us, please.
And we hope all of you will stay with us. We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: If you miss an interview or an episode of Face the Nation, go to our Web site, or you can check out our YouTube page. Just search Face the Nation.
We will be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be right back with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, plus House Intel chair, Ohio Republican Mike Turner.
So, stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
We continue our conversation now with Governor Ron DeSantis.
Governor, thanks for sticking with us through that break.
I want to pick back up. You just heard the president’s national security adviser say that the request to Congress will be for well beyond $2 billion in support. That is for Israel. That is for Ukraine.
In the past you’ve said you don’t want a blank check to Ukraine. Do you want a blank check to Israel?
GOV. RON DESANTIS: No, I think that there’s actually two different things. One, with Israel, we’ve provided a lot of support since its inception, about $158 billion in the last 75 years. We’ve done over $120 billion just for Ukraine in two years. So, it’s a different level that we’re talking about.
Also, with Israel, they’ve never asked us to displace their responsibility. They take their defense very seriously. What we do complements and supplements what they’re already doing for themselves, but they are not going to ask us to fight this war for them. We have a long-standing security relationship. They’re a very strong and long-standing ally. And we’ll be willing to support in the traditional ways that we have.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There are no U.S. troops fighting in Ukraine.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: No, but, Margaret, what Biden’s policy is, is – is a blank check, in his own words, for as long as it takes. They have not articulated what the concept of victory is going to be. In fact, people have said, this is going to go on for another five or six years.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Yes.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: That would require potentially hundreds of billions of dollars more. We’re not just sending weapons, we’re paying salaries for Ukrainian bureaucrats, funding small business ventures, all kinds of things. So, I think if you look, as you mentioned Iraq, and I served there, our foreign policy the last 20, 30 years has suffered when we don’t have a clear concept of victory, when we have conflicts like Iraq, and like Afghanistan, where we don’t have a clear resolution.
So, he owes a strategy to the Congress. And I think most Republicans, or a lot of the Republicans in the Congress –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Are going to insist on that before they authorize additional money.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We don’t have a clearer definition of success from the Israeli prime minister either. I asked the national security adviser, and he just said generally safety of the Jewish state.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, I actually think we do. I think we do, with all respect. I mean, I think – I think he has said that it is the – the total and complete defeat of Hamas where they’re no longer existing as a functioning entity. I think that that is achievable. I think Israel can do that. And I think they have every right. And indeed I think they have the duty to do that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, what is your view then on who should rule the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza? Do you fundamentally believe that they have a right to their own state or do you want Israel to maintain a military occupation after they go through this invasion?
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, Israel is not occupying it. They pulled out in 2005.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but they’re about to invade.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Now, they’re obviously – well, no, no. Well, of course. Well, I – we’ll have to see how that goes. I mean I would say this, there have been generous offers by Israel to provide Palestinian Arab states. Of course you go back to 1948, they had an opportunity to have an Arab state, and the Arabs rejected it and went to war. So, they’ve always cared more about eliminating the Jewish state than they have about receiving their own state. And I’m not sure that that’s changed in terms of their outlook. So, we’ll see what happens as this –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Who is they?
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Excuse me?
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m sorry, who is they?
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: The Palestinian Arabs in both the West Bank and Gaza. Their view has always been –
MARGARET BRENNAN: The Palestinian Authority is moving towards a two-state solution. That’s why I asked if you had support for a two-state solution.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, they’ve rejected that in the past. Arafat rejected it in 2000.
MARGARET BRENNAN: No, it’s – it’s –
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: It was a ridiculous deal. It probably would have put Israel in situations where they would have had some serious security concerns. But they were willing to go forward. And I think the history of the last 75 years, Israel has always been willing to take tough steps for peace and they’ve always had rejection on the other side and the other side has typically chosen war. So, that’s the cycle. So, I would not push Israel to grant statehood to people that don’t recognize their right to exist as a Jewish state.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the Palestinian Authority does, but I hear you personally do not support that.
Let me ask you about something here at home when it comes to the U.S. border. And there’s talk right now about the need to provide more aid. You and the – to the U.S. border.
You, in the past, have said you would authorize the U.S. military to go to the U.S. border and shoot cartel members. You told my colleague Norah O’Donnell, quote, “when somebody’s got a backpack on and they’re breaking through the wall, you know that’s hostile intent and you have every right to take action under those circumstances.”
Can you explain how that would work? Would a soldier have to ask his commanding officer for permission before he shoots anyone wearing a backpack, or is this just a blanket, shoot anyone with a backpack?
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, first, cartels are invading this country and they are killing tens of thousands of our fellow citizens with fentanyl. And this is happening in communities all across our country. We have every right and duty to fight back against that. It’s typical how you would have, with law enforcement or military, you define rules of engagement. They have positively identified somebody that’s hostile, either action or intent, and they engage. But we are going to engage. The days of our communities being ravaged by fentanyl are going to be over.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Yes, we’re going to stop the invasion. Yes, we’re going to build the wall. We’re going to do all those things. We’ll deport people when they come illegally. But you have to hold the cartels accountable. And I’ll do that as commander in chief.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Well, I think a lot of Americans would support that given how terrible fentanyl is. But in terms of the specific proposal here, how would you differentiate who’s a threat? How would you say shoot people wearing backpacks?
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, be – Margaret, when you’re down at the border, I mean you see, like, the cartels will actually have lookouts where they’ll just bring people across. They will have, yes, they will be carrying different types of –
MARGARET BRENNAN: But how do you know what’s in the backpack?
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Well, you have to make those judgments based on intelligence and all the other things that you do.
But I can tell you this, once you show the willingness to actually take this threat seriously, you are going to change their behavior. They’re eating our lunch at the border right now because we don’t do anything to fight back. That’s going to change on January 20, 2025.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, thank you for coming on the program today. We hope you’ll come back.
And we’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Turner, who joins us from Dayton.
Good morning to you.
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We heard the national security adviser Jake Sullivan say that the request to Congress will be significantly higher than $2 billion in terms of aid for Ukraine and for Israel. What can you tell us about what is needed?
MIKE TURNER: Well, I met with him and members of the National Security Council with my – the counterpart, Jim Himes, at the end of last week. And they’re talking in terms of a quad (ph), really of a need of a national security package. And that is certainly the border, additional funds there for border control, the border barrier, the wall that the administration has now said needs to go forward in areas, Ukraine. Obviously, now that we’re dealing with this – this crisis with Israel, bolstering our support for them, and then also looking in the southeast as to what we might be able to do to support Taiwan.
As they’re putting those together so that we don’t piecemeal this and we look at this as an overall national security package, it will give us a better understanding of ability to have a debate as to what’s needed from the United States.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Don’t piecemeal this, you said. So, you support bundling all of those things together? Do you think your fellow Republicans will support that?
MIKE TURNER: You know, at this point, Margaret, we’re having a hard time keeping the House floor open. I don’t want to have to keep trying to bring people in and convince them to vote for minor pieces of overall security bills that we know are going to have to come to the House floor over the next – this year and next.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, to that point, because, of course, Congress is paralyzed until a speaker is chosen, do you know how long it will take before Republicans can select a speaker so you can do this important business?
MIKE TURNER: No. And this really is the tragedy. As you know – you know, Kevin McCarthy was fired because he had sought a bipartisan solution to keep the government open. And those who wanted to close down the government instead closed down the House of Representatives with the aids of – of Democrats. You know, this was a – this was a very bad deal for America and certainly was a bad deal for Hakeem Jeffries as he got all the Democrats to vote with less than, you know – the vote was less than 4 percent of Republican votes. To take down a speaker who is working for bipartisanship. It’s going to be hard for them in the future if – when they want to work in bipartisanship, when they fired the guy that was sitting there for doing so.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But – so in the past you’ve supported Jim Jordan. He doesn’t have the votes right now to become speaker. Kevin McCarthy acknowledged as much on – on another network this morning.
MIKE TURNER: Right. And he’s working to do so. Kevin, when he first came out of conference, when you’re nominated to be speaker, also did not have enough votes to be elected speaker. Well, actually, he didn’t have enough votes when he first got to the House floor. And then the – the coalition formed that elected him. Jordan’s working right now to put that coalition together to get to 217.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, do the allegations that he turned a blind eye to sexual assault at Ohio University cause any problems for you or the allegations that he had knowledge of Donald Trump’s attempts on January 6th, and leading up to it, to stop the election certification?
MIKE TURNER: Of course, Margaret, the allegations at Ohio State, there’s not one person who’s ever said that they have knowledge of Jim Jordan having any knowledge. And what occurred at Ohio State wasn’t even under Jim Jordan. He was not the head coach. This was not something that he had responsibility for. So, those that are making accusations are making, you know, just presumptions of, well, he would have had to have known. But it – there’s no one – and, mind you, this was years ago, no one who has come forward at all ever, and ever said that there was actual knowledge on Jim Jordan’s part. Of course, he condemns what occurred there.
With respect to Donald Trump, I – you know, that’s a mess that’s going to continue going on, on the issue of January 6th and Americans are going to be able to have that debate as we go forward in this next election cycle.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So no – no pause on your point – part for Jim Jordan. Do you think that there is an alternate here where Republicans work with Democrats to find a mutually acceptable speaker?
MIKE TURNER: Well, you know, I – I’ve – that would not be my preference since Hakeem Jeffries walked away from the opportunity to do that when – when Kevin McCarthy was on the floor.
You know, the vote on the floor was, should the speaker, Kevin McCarthy, be removed? And every Democrat, 208 of them, voted to remove Kevin McCarthy. So, at this point, I would prefer there to be, you know, a Republican solution because when – when they rejected bipartisanship, it’s kind of hard to then go back to it.
But we have a lot of people on the bench. I think Jim Jordan will be an excellent speaker. I think he’ll be able to get to 217. If not, we have other leaders in the House. And certainly if there is a need, if the radical, you know, almost just handful of people in the Republican side make it unable – make it – us unable to be able to return to general work on the House, then I think, obviously, their – a deal will have to be done.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Wow.
I want to also ask you about a comment you made on this program recently. You were talking about classified documents mishandled by the current president. And you said that when it came to Biden and Trump, “they’re both equally egregious with equal classification issues.”
This past week, President Biden was interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Hur. Will there be legal consequences? Will your committee do anything to act on this? I mean – and what exactly do you mean equally egregious?
MIKE TURNER: Well, when you look at the documents, both the classification level and the subject matter, both sides, Trump and Biden’s documents, if they had been released in the public, or gotten into the hands of nefarious parties, would it be damaging to the United States national security.
When I look at those documents, there are documents on both sides, equally egregious, that would have negative consequences to our means, methods, techniques and our allies. Now, in this instance, I think President Biden needs the same consequence that – that – that they pursue with President Trump, that the actions are the same. And in this instance, if you notice, you’re getting leak –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Indictment?
MIKE TURNER: You’re getting leak after leak after leak on the Trump documents. You’re hearing nothing on the Biden documents. So, you’re continuing to see the inequality that comes out of the Justice Department as there is silence on the other side with respect to Biden’s – and, by the way, he was a – he was a serial classified document hoarder. I reviewed documents that were from –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
MIKE TURNER: All the time that he’s been in government. This really is a very serious breach by President Biden.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Just to be clear here, though are you saying that President Biden had top secret and TS/SCI classification level documents in his personal home, wherever?
MIKE TURNER: That’s – that’s – that’s public already, Margaret. That is – so, I’m not confirming something that – that people don’t already know. That is correct.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. So, I think you’re saying that he should be indicted when you say treated the same?
MIKE TURNER: I think they need to be treated exactly the same. Now, they’re continuing their investigation with – with President Biden. I don’t think if President Biden, in the end, has been found to violate the law and I believe, from what I’ve seen, that he has, that he should be treated any differently than Donald Trump. Why would he? Just because he’s president or because he’s a Democrat? And that’s how the Department of Justice has been acting. They need to be treated the same.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But have you seen evidence of a – of a crime? It sounds like that’s what you are saying.
MIKE TURNER: I have seen evidence of the fact that classified documents of some of the highest levels have been mishandled by President Biden, yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mike Turner, we will stay tuned to watch what happens with your party in the coming days and stay in touch.
We’ll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Retired General Frank McKenzie last served as the commander of U.S. Central Command and oversaw military operations in the Middle East, central Asia, parts of south Asia, and he joins us now from Tampa, Florida.
Good morning to you, General.
GEN. FRANK MCKENZIE (Ret., Former Commander of U.S. Central Command): Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to get your perspective as to the very dynamic situation on the ground. Earlier today, when I spoke with Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, he said there was no specific change in intelligence that led the U.S. to send that second aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean. But he said there is a real risk of the state of Iran getting involved.
How do you see that threat right now?
FRANK MCKENZIE: So, I think the second carrier is designed to send a strong message to Iran that we have the – that they’re not going to be able to act with malice to get into this conflict. We would like to keep them out of it.
What the second carrier does, along with the ships that are associated with both of those big deck carriers, is it gives ballistic missile defense capability to Israel. Should Iran elect to fire their large stable ballistic missiles towards Israel, we’ll be able to assist Israel in intercepting them, which would then allow Israel to conduct other tasks. Largely, though, it increases flexibility and options for our president should he need to do something in the region.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, a U.S. official told our David Martin this morning that a Marine expeditionary unit, which had been conducting an exercise in Kuwait, is back on board a ship in the Red Sea waiting to hear about movement into the eastern Mediterranean. Does that signify anything more to you?
FRANK MCKENZIE: I think it’s all part of the same thing. What we want to do is send a strong signal, I think, to Iran, and to Lebanese Hezbollah particularly up in Lebanon, that now is not the time to enter this conflict. I think the Israelis have the capabilities they need to conduct their Gaza operation. But I think what we’re really trying to do is prevent the conflict from widening at this time. And I think all these actions are designed to establish that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So give us a sense here, you know, Israel is a very advanced military. They have a lot of technology. They have a lot of surveillance power. But then they just had this massive intelligence failure.
So, as they are about to launch this ground invasion, what are the things that are of concern to you about how this is going to play out?
FRANK MCKENZIE: Well, first, Margaret, I think when we go back and look at what happened in the run-up to the attacks of the last weekend. We’re going to find that there were indicators there. You always look back in hindsight. You can find things that were evident, things that you should have seen. So I think that that will probably humble the intel guys a little bit as we look at going into Gaza.
The Gaza problem is an extremely difficult urban environment. Urban fighting is fighting where technology is – the ability of a technologically advanced force is – begins to be limited because you’re in very close quarters with a potential enemy, you’re fighting on the ground, you’re fighting below the ground in sewers and in the elaborate tunnel system that Hamas has erected, and you’re fighting at low-level altitude.
Now, Israel has clear air supremacy over Gaza, but we should expect Hamas to try to fly drones, even as the Israelis will fly their large inventory of highly capable drones. So, it’s going to be a very bloody, tough, ugly fight and it’s going to come down to an infantry fight. Young men and women at very close quarters.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And Israel doesn’t have a lot of recent experience in that kind of fighting. The U.S. does in Iraq, certainly in Fallujah, the Marines did. Is that the kind of advice that you think the U.S. military is providing to the Israeli military right now, how do you that kind of urban warfare?
FRANK MCKENZIE: I’m sure it is. Although the Israelis, I know, have done a great deal of thinking about it. Their main battle tank, the Merkava, is a tank that is optimized for urban warfare, has the engine in front, which – which not a lot of tanks in the world do. Has a true compartment for carrying troops in back. The Israelis have given this a lot of thought and I have high regard for the IDF and their ability to prosecute this fight. We just need to realize it’s going to be a – it’s going to be an ugly – an ugly affair. It’s going to drag on probably longer than people want. Israel is going to go to great lengths to avoid collateral civilian casualties. Hamas is going to do go to great lengths to kill more civilians, to place them directly in harm’s way, so that they can profit in the information sphere.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Israel’s defense minister said Israel won’t shoot civilians on purpose but the camouflage of the terrorists is the civilian population. How – how difficult is it going to be to avoid large-scale civilian casualties? That is going to put a lot of pressure on the world to get Israel to be very cautious in the coming weeks.
FRANK MCKENZIE: Margaret, you’re right. And I believe that Israel will go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. The fact of the matter is, though, there are going to be civilian casualties, principally because Hamas is going to create circumstances, for example, by basing their rockets in schools and mosques and hospitals and in other locations where civilians are gathered. They’re going to – they’re going to create every opportunity for civilian casualties to occur.
So, Israel’s going to have to work very hard at this and they’re not going to be perfect. They’re – mistakes are certainly going to be made and it’s tragic to predict it now but civilians are going to die. But I think there’s a clear philosophical distinction between the two actors here. Israel is going to seek to minimize those casualties. Hamas is not going to seek to minimize those casualties. So, there’s no sense of equivalence in this fight.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
The U.S. has troops in Syria and Iraq, a small number. What would draw the United States into it?
FRANK MCKENZIE: I think we would seek to stay out of it as best we could. I think we have undoubtedly sent messages at the diplomatic level about the force protection and the security of our forces in Iraq and Syria. And I believe that moving the two carrier into the region sends a very strong signal. This is ample historical evidence that Iran respects the flow of combat force into the theater. It does affect their decision calculus. And as Iran’s decision calculus is affected, so is Lebanese Hezbollah’s calculous affected.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about something that former President Trump said on Wednesday. He said, in regard to the drone strike that took out Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, in January 2020, he said, Israel pulled out of the operation and, quote, “Bibi Netanyahu let us down. That was a very terrible thing.” Did Israel pull out and let America down?
FRANK MCKENZIE: Margaret, I am unable to know of any communication, of course, between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu. But I can tell you that this was a U.S. operation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So that would mean that’s not accurate?
FRANK MCKENZIE: That would mean that this was a U.S. operation. It involved only U.S. forces in the operational design and the execution of the mission.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood.
You – when you were with us recently said that Iran is the most significant threat to peace in the region. Iran’s supreme leader says his country did not play a role in the Hamas attack on Israel. Do you buy that?
FRANK MCKENZIE: I – I believe it’s likely they did not know the date or time of this particular attack. But Iran, by supporting Hamas with hundreds of millions of dollars down through the years, by providing them with equipment, by providing them with training, and by supporting their ideology, is certainly the moral author of this attack, even if they didn’t know the exact time – the exact timing of this particular attack.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think this will engage the state of Iran in this fight eventually?
FRANK MCKENZIE: I think we’re going to try very hard to keep Iran out of it. And I think the actions the administration have taken are all good to that end. I think, again, Iran respects power. We’re flowing power back into the region. And I think it will have an effect on them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: General McKenzie, thank you for your insights.
We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s it for us today. Thank you all for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan.