Full transcript of "Face the Nation," Feb. 25, 2024

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

  • Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel 
  • U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, Democat of Michigan
  • U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Jared Golden, Democrat of Maine
  • Oksana Markarova, Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.   
  • Fiona Hill, former White House Russia expert  

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


MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation: Donald Trump trounces Nikki Haley in South Carolina, and an interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The former president played for the cameras and the conservatives at a Washington gathering before polls closed yesterday, sharpening his latest campaign line, in which he likened himself to the late Alexei Navalny.

(Begin VT)

DONALD TRUMP (Former President of the United States (R) and Current U.S. Presidential Candidate): I stand before you today not only as your past and hopefully future president, but as a proud political dissident. I am a dissident.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Far-fetched as that comparison may be, consider this: his attempt to say that black voters were flocking to him because they related to the criminal charges against him.

(Begin VT)

FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The mug shot. We have all seen the mug shot. And you know who embraced it more than anybody else? The black population. It’s incredible.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Biden campaign called the remarks insulting, moronic and racist.

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley cited the comments as another reason why she’s staying in the race.

(Begin VT)

NIKKI HALEY (R-Presidential Candidate): I don’t believe Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden. Nearly every day, Trump drives people away.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our Robert Costa will be here with political analysis and news about Nikki Haley’s next steps.

Then, on to the international challenges sparking political turmoil here at home. Will backlash over President Biden’s support of Israel’s war in Gaza hurt him in Tuesday’s Michigan primary? We will talk to a key Democrat, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell.

And as year three of Russia’s war in Ukraine begins, we will look at a new push in the House for a vote on critical foreign aid to arm the Ukrainians.

We will cover it all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.

Yesterday’s South Carolina Republican primary turned out as expected, with a big win for Donald Trump. Last night, in Charleston, former Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley put her best spin on the result.

(Begin VT)

NIKKI HALEY: I’m going to count it. I know 40 percent is not 50 percent.

(LAUGHTER)

NIKKI HALEY: But I also know 40 percent is not some tiny group.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: As for the former president, his Friday night remarks at the Black Conservative Federation gala in Columbia, South Carolina, continued to overshadow his victory.

(Begin VT)

FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Black conservatives understand better than most that some of the greatest evils in our nation’s history have come from corrupt systems that try to target and subjugate others to deny them their freedom and to deny them their rights.

You understand that. I think that’s why the black people are so much on my side now, because they see what’s happening to me happens to them. These lights are so bright in my eyes that I can’t see too many people out there. But I can only see the black ones. I can’t see any white ones, you see?

(LAUGHTER)

FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That’s how far I have come.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We begin with CBS News chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa, who joins us from Charleston.

Bob, this was an open primary in South Carolina, but just 3 percent of voters were black. Do Donald Trump’s remarks about black Americans give the party any pause here?

ROBERT COSTA: It’s giving Nikki Haley a road ahead at this point, Margaret.

She and her campaign believe there are many traditional Republicans across the country who are fed up, not only with former President Trump’s legal problems, but his incendiary comments on race. And they believe that they – – that could ostracize key voters across the country come November. That’s why she’s staying in right now, going to Michigan this week for that primary, staying in through Super Tuesday.

But there is real worry that, as Trump takes over the party and the Republican National Committee, there’s no reckoning about how he’s handling issues like race and immigration.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How long can Nikki Haley stay in the race?

ROBERT COSTA: As long as there’s money.

I have been talking to donors over the past 12 hours, and they say they’re going to keep pouring money into her campaign and into her super PAC. But, at the same time, they know that Super Tuesday come early March, that’s going to be a real crossroads for her.

Going past Super Tuesday going to be very difficult in terms of organization and fund-raising, and she has told reporters in recent days that she’s not thinking beyond that at this point.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Day to day.

All right, Robert Costa, thank you.

We turn now to the crisis in the Middle East and the war between Israel and Hamas.

Joining us from Tel Aviv is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Welcome back to Face the Nation, sir.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (Israeli Prime Minister): Thank you. Good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Prime Minister, the U.S. is working on a hostage deal that President Biden has said would bring with it at least six weeks of calm.

The intelligence chiefs met on Friday. Are we close to a deal?

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, I’m not sure the exact duration, but I can tell you that we’re all working on it. We want it. I want it, because we want to liberate the remaining hostages.

We’ve already brought half of them back. And I appreciate the effort, the combined effort of Israel, the United States, to bring back the remaining hostages. I can’t tell you if we’ll have it. But if Hamas goes down from its delusional claims and goes down – can bring them down to earth, then we’ll have the progress that we all want.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What specifically is holding up the deal at this point?

Reportedly, this would have 30 to 40 hostages, women, elderly, wounded, released in exchange for a few hundred Palestinian prisoners being released.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Hamas started out with just crazy demands.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: And it’s – it’s too soon to say if they’re – if they’ve abandoned them.

But if they – they do abandon them and get into what you call the – the ballpark – they’re not even in the city. They’re on another planet. But if they come down to a reasonable situation, then, yes, we’ll have a hostage deal. I hope so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There are at least six U.S. citizens among those being held by Hamas. For you, is the return of living hostages necessary and essential for you to declare victory in this war?

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I have set three war goals. The first is to release the hostages. The second is to destroy Hamas. And the third is to ensure that Gaza does not pose a threat to Israel in the future.

And, obviously, the three are intertwined. They – they’re achieved basically by our very effective and often heroic military operation and also by tough negotiations. We’re combining the two. And I hope it – it yields a result.

But understand that, unless we have total victory, we can’t have peace. We can’t leave Hamas in place. We can’t leave a quarter of Hamas battalions in Rafah and say, well, that’s – that’s fine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: On the issue of the hostages, as you know, time is of the essence here.

So, if this deal happens, and there are six weeks of calm that go with it, does that provide an opening to end this war? Or will you still go into Southern Gaza, into Rafah regardless?

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Yes, well, victory is within reach. And you can’t have victory until you eliminate Hamas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How within reach?

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Hamas is a terrorist organization that – yes.

Once we begin the Rafah operation, the intense phase of the fighting is weeks away from completion, not months, weeks away from completion. And that is – we’ve already destroyed 18 of the 24 Hamas terrorist battalions. So, we – we have a – and four of them are concentrated in the Rafah.

We can’t leave the last Hamas stronghold un – without taking care of it. Obviously, we have to do it. But understand too that I have asked the army to submit to me a double plan, first to evacuate, to enable the evacuation of the Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and, obviously, second, to destroy the remaining Hamas battalions.

That gets us a real, real distance towards the completion of our victory. And that – we’re not going to give it up. If we have a deal, it’ll be delayed somewhat. But it’ll happen. If we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway. It has to be done, because total victory is our goal, and total victory is within reach, not months away, weeks away, once we begin the operation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the White House says they need to see a credible and executable plan to protect civilians and the 1.4 million people who are sheltering in Southern Gaza.

This morning, the White House says they still have not seen such a plan, and no major military operation should proceed without it. Have you approved the plans that you’ve said you’ve asked for?

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Actually, I’m – Margaret, I’m going from here to a meeting with the general staff, where they’re going to show me this dual plan…

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: … a plan to evacuate and a plan to dismantle those remaining battalions.

So, yes, we – by the way, we agree on this. I mean, we don’t have to be prodded. It’s – we’re on the same page with the U.S. on this, because that’s how we do it. The reason you have that population in Rafah is because we actually cleared them away from the other places, the zones, combat zones that we had. That’s why they’re there.

So now there’s room for them to go north of Rafah to the places that we’ve already finished fighting in.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s where you’re going to move…

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: And that’s basically what we’re going to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s the plan?

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: To move 1.4 million people into Northern Gaza? Can you guarantee that the IDF will not push…

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I didn’t say Northern Gaza. I said…

MARGARET BRENNAN: … will not – sorry. Go ahead.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I said north of Rafah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I said north of Rafah. In the northern part of the Gaza Strip, we still have fighting going on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: But we – we are – that is important.

It’s important to understand, moving civilians out of an area that is going to be a combat zone is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: And that’s what Israel is going to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Un – understood.

But the IDF, can you guarantee that they won’t push Palestinians out of Gaza and into Egypt? As you know, Egyptian officials have said, if you do that, you are putting at risk 46 years of peace.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Look, I – I think that the Egyptians know very well that that’s not our purpose. And that won’t be the result. And we’re coordinating.

We’re talking to the Egyptians all the time. So that’s not – I don’t think that’s an issue. The peace between Israel and Egypt has served the interests of both countries, and will continue to serve the interests of both countries. I don’t think it’s in – in any danger.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said that victory is within reach.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But U.S. Intel says the IDF has only destroyed 30 percent of Hamas leadership, and that the amount of – of tunnels that Hamas uses have really only been tiny in terms of what has been destroyed by the IDF.

There is growing distrust…

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well…

MARGARET BRENNAN: … of you personally, sir – you know this – in the U.S. Congress and within the Biden White House.

When your closest ally is telling you things like this and telling you that you need to reconsider a strategy, isn’t it worth considering?

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Look, I – I think that the U.S. is – agrees with us on the goal of destroying Hamas…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: … and on the goal of releasing the hostages.

The decisions of how to do that are left with us and with me and the elected Cabinet of Israel. And we’re doing that. A lot of things that the U – that we were told by the best of friends initially turned out not to be true.

They said you can’t enter the – the ground war without having enormous complications. They said you cannot fight – you can’t enter Gaza City. You can’t go into the tunnels. It will be a terrible bloodbath. All of that turned out to be not true.

Our soldiers are in the tunnel network. We don’t have to take apart hundreds of kilometers of tunnels. We are taking apart the missile production factories that are underground, the command-and-control headquarters, the computers that are there, the money that is there, the weapons that are there, and the ammos that – that is there.

We’re doing that methodically. So, we’re – we’re doing the war – you can’t substitute for the Israeli military command. And we’re doing it very responsibly. The – John Spencer, who’s the head of urban warfare at West Point…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: … says that no other army has gone to the lengths that Israel’s army has gone to clear civilians out of harm’s way, even though Hamas…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure…

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: … is doing everything to keep them in harm’s way.

We respect our American friends.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure, but the former head of Central Command was on this program just a few weeks ago and said, basically, you have not articulated any specific endgame here.

So – but, putting that aside, I want to come back to a few different things you said.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: No, well, wait a minute. Margaret, Margaret, hold on. You – you lob these – these grenades at me, and you keep on moving.

Well, first of all, you say, there’s no confidence in me. Well, the Israeli public has confidence in me. Last week, Knesset voted overwhelmingly…

MARGARET BRENNAN: There were massive protests throughout Israel yesterday.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Of course we have protests. We – we have protests. Israel is a democracy. We’ve had protests for 30 years.

But the Israeli people are united as never before. Last week, they voted 99-9 in the Knesset for my proposal that says that the way – that we have to do two things. We have to win the war, have total victory, but also not have an international dictate of a Palestinian state on – shoved down our throats that would endanger Israel.

The people are overwhelmingly united on this. When is the last time we had 99 votes in the Knesset?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I will tell you, 30 years ago.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: So, the people are united. The policy is right. The people support it. And I intend to take it to completion, because that’s what we have. We can’t compromise with total victory, because I will tell you, we can’t win the peace if we don’t win the war.

(CROSSTALK)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: And we will win this war.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the members of the Knesset, the former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said he asked the Americans about what you just said about a unilateral declaration of recognition of a Palestinian state, and he said: “You invented a threat that doesn’t exist. There is not one official in the world that suggested unilateral recognition of the Palestinians.”

So, putting that aside, I want to…

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Yes, actually, the foreign secretary of Britain just spoke about it.

There have been many…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, this was the U.S.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I hope that’s true.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: We’ve heard – we’ve heard a lot of briefings coming from – from the U.S. to that effect. So, I hope it’s true.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: And, if it’s true, then – then that will reinforce the decision made by the government – by the people of Israel, through their elected representative.

And, by the way, if people try to foist it on us, it will be a terrible mistake…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: … because it would be seen as a reward for terror, after the most atrocious attack…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: … committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So…

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: So, the people of Israel are not going to buy it.

And – and if you want peace, you shouldn’t go that route. Peace will be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties down the line. I don’t think the Palestinians are ready for it. But when they are, that’s the way it will be achieved, not by international fiat.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to come back to something you said where you were raising questions about U.S. intelligence and advice to you from the Biden administration, where you said it was wrong.

You also said there was no bloodbath.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I didn’t say it was wrong. I said – I said some good friends gave us advice. It turned out to be that we performed a lot better than they anticipated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: And, by the way, we performed a lot better than we anticipated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, on the no bloodbath, Doctors Without Borders went to the U.N. this week and said the civilian toll in Gaza is so high, they came up with a new term: wounded child, no surviving family.

Save the Children says there are over 1,000 children who have lost a limb over these past days, since the beginning of the October 7 war. What Hamas has done is horrific, but President Biden has said your actions, sir, are over the top.

Aren’t you concerned that Israel is creating more terrorists than it is killing?

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I – I think that any civilian casualty is a tragedy. And I don’t say that halfheartedly. I lost a brother in war. I myself was wounded while releasing hostages from a kidnapped – from a hijacked plane.

I have lost friends in battle. I – I know what it means to lose friends and what it means to lose family members. So, I – we don’t have an argument there. But this war has been forced upon us by a cynical enemy that not only targets our civilians, has raped, beheaded, burnt babies alive, killed children in front of their parents and parents in front of their children.

This enemy not only targets civilians, but hides behind civilians, Palestinian civilians.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: So, they’re committing a double war crime.

I have to come back and say that, in terms of the – the way this battle is fought, there is no parallel to the difficulty that we face. And John Spencer, the head of urban warfare at West Point, says that no other army has faced such a task. He – he gives one comparison.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, that’s not the question I asked, though.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: He gives Mosul as a comparison.

Well, it is, but it – that’s the answer. You can’t say, oh, you – you give immunity to the terrorists because they’re hiding amongst civilians and forcing civilians not to leave. So, what do you do? You say, OK, we’ll give you immunity? Hamas survives, will live to fight another – to commit another massacre and another massacre?

What would America do?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: What would America do, Margaret…

(CROSSTALK)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: … if you faced the equivalent of 20 9/11s…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: … 50,000 Americans slaughtered in one day, 10,000 Americans, including mothers and children held hostage? Would you not be doing what Israel is doing?

You’d be doing a hell of a lot more. And all Americans that I talk to, nearly all, say that. So Israel has gone to extraordinary lengths, calling up people…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: … civilians, Palestinians in Gaza, telling them, leave your home…

(CROSSTALK)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: … sending pamphlets. We have done that effort. Hamas tries to keep them at gunpoint.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: We’ll clear them out of harm’s way, we’ll complete the job, and achieve total victory, which is necessary to give…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: … a secure future for Israel, a better future for Gaza, a better future for the Middle East, and a setback for the Iran terror axis.

That’s in all our interests. It’s in America’s interest too.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Prime Minister, I’m told we are out of time.

Face the Nation will be back in one minute. We hope you’ll stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden’s refusal to call for a cease-fire in Gaza has been a source of considerable controversy in Michigan, which holds its primary on Tuesday. The state has a significant Arab and Muslim population. A good number are Democrats.

Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell joins us now from Southfield, Michigan. Welcome back to Face the Nation.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL (D-Michigan): Good morning, Margaret. Good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congresswoman, I know there is this protest effort underway to vote uncommitted among some Democrats to voice upset with the president. Will this damage him in a significant way?

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: So I want to say to you, I know many of this community. I have lived in Dearborn for many years with my husband, and there are two campaigns.

One is an abandon Biden campaign, but the other, the major campaign that has made over 100,000 calls – we’ll see how many people vote on Tuesday – are trying to make sure the president hears them.

They have so many family in Gaza. I cannot tell you how many people I know who have lost grandparents, some parents, aunts and uncles and cousins, families who have lost 20 or 40 members. I – the case work that I’m doing, the people – I don’t sleep at night, when you talk to them about how they don’t have food, how they don’t have any access to health care.

They’re drinking saltwater, and almost out of saltwater, which isn’t healthy. The sanitary conditions on the ground, there’s – I mean, one woman, the aunt of somebody, goes to the bathroom once a day. There – a month ago, there was one toilet for every 220 people, one shower for every 15,000 people.

It’s a nightmare. And they’re scared for their families and they’re worried. But I also – when we get a cease-fire – they need this cease- fire – then we sit down and – and – and talk.

And there are a lot of things that Donald Trump have done who are pretty – which are pretty horrific. And when you go back and review them, we’re going to have to remind people of what he said.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand, and the nuance of what you are saying there, that this is not political, this is personal for a lot of people.

On – on that note, we just heard from the Israeli prime minister that he is going into Southern Gaza whether President Biden likes it or not. You said you’re working to help some of your constituents without family. Do you think the United States is doing enough to get Americans or families of Americans out of harm’s way?

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: So, I’m going to first say that none of us know what’s going on in all of these negotiations.

We know that Bill Burns was over in – the director of the CIA was in Paris. I know members of the National Security Council have been there. And I know that the president has directly told the prime minister that he is very concerned and he needs to be very careful.

People need to understand that – what is going on in Rafah right now. The population of Gaza is approximately 2.2 million people; 1.5 million of them have been forced into Rafah. We’ve already lost somewhere – you know, we can argue about the numbers. Nobody denies that 12,000 children have already died.

You just heard the – the – during that interview that the Doctors Without Borders have talked about 1,000 children who have lost limbs, the number of children that don’t have families. It would be outrageous for further innocent civilians to be killed. I know that the White House is working very closely with a number of other countries to make it clear that we cannot continue this loss of life.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does the…

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: And I – I continue to talk to the White House every day, tell them how important it is. And they assure me that the president is very engaged in delivering very direct messages.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But he has not rhetorically called for a cease-fire.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: They – he has, in private conversations, say he is working towards a temporary cease-fire.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: You know, I know we need a cease-fire.

A temporary cease-fire…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: … if you get the six week cease-fire, then hopefully leads to – we also need the…

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: … that – we need the hostages to be returned.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: There are people hurting on both sides.

I think that that’s…

(CROSSTALK)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. I want to talk to you more. I just have to take a commercial break.

So, let – stick with me, if you would, Congresswoman. We’ll be back with more.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more Face the Nation, including the latest push for Ukraine aid.

Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

We continue our conversation now with Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell.

Congresswoman, you have been very clear the humanitarian side of this conflict. In terms of the political impact, was it a mistake for President Biden, when he went to Michigan, not to meet with any members from this particular community?

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: Look, I do believe that he is going to need to do that at some point down the road. This community is pretty angry right now.

Look, I get protested. I had a town hall meeting this week and a number of people – and I think I’ve been one of the people that has been the most empathetic and has been working this issue really hard. I think he sent his team out. What – when he sent many of his team out, they developed relationships or connected with people that from both sides I’ve heard that they’ve got ongoing conversations. And that’s got to continue.

I mean this is really – look, Michigan’s a purple state.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know (ph).

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: I want to make that clear. It’s been a purple state as long as I’ve been doing presidential elections. This is a very important issue here, but there are going to be other issues too. This state’s going to be purple from now until November.

And I’ll tell you one more thing because I am the person that fought 30 years to have a state like Michigan as one of the early primaries. I want to be talking about this issue now, in February, because it will matter in November and not on October 15th, which has happened too many times in previously presidential elections that issues that matter in November aren’t talked early.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

Is the concern about reproductive health care access enough to cancel out these negative headwinds?

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: Look, we – Michigan had an unprecedented turnout two years ago when the issue was on the ballot. I’m going to tell – I’m going to be blunt. You know me, I am. We’ve got to get young people, we’ve got to get women, and we’ve got to go into union halls. And it’s great that we’ve got the union presidents and the union organizations endorsing, but we’ve got to go in those union halls and draw the comparison, remind people about what Donald Trump did and didn’t do, he talked, didn’t deliver, and about what Joe Biden has delivered on.

Women turning out is going to be absolutely critical. And they thought that when they voted on this on the ballot last year they were safe and now we’ve seen what the Alabama court has done in terms of IVF.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: Now the Republicans are scared to death and all running out and saying they support IVF.

You know what, they’ve never been someone who’s tried to get pregnant. They’ve never had to live through all of this. And I think a lot of women are going to be very emotional about their women’s health decisions should be made between them, their doctor, their faith and their family, and the federal government’s got no business in it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congresswoman Dingell, thank you.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL: Or state government.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for being direct, as you said.

We’re going to leave that conversation there and pick up another one with Republican Brian Fitzpatrick and Democrat Jared Golden, two congressmen who have proposed an alternative to the foreign aid bill that passed the Senate and was declared by the speaker of the House to be dead on arrival.

Do you have any confidence that there’s a way to get Republican leadership to move on this?

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK (R-Pennsylvania): I do. We have a bipartisan bill. It’s the only one in the House. And as of Friday, we have filed with the clerk, expedited consideration. Normally any kind of discharge like that would take 30 days to even be considered right (ph), but we figured out a way with the parliamentarian to expedite that to a seven-day period.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Just to be clear, this is to go around the speaker of the House, who has refused to put a bill on the floor, or forcing him to consider this?

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK: Well, it’s – it’s – it’s just a way to get – a mechanism to get a bill to the floor.

And just to be clear about what we’re trying to accomplish here, this is time sensitive, it’s existential. I just got back from Ukraine. Avdiivka fell in the past seven days. We lost Laken Riley in the past seven days, and in the past seven days 200 families had to bury their kids because of fentanyl. So, what our bill does is it combines border security with this foreign aid, both existential, and we are forcing this bill to the floor to make sure that everybody acts because as President Zelenskyy said, they have weeks and not months to – to get reinforcements on the front lines.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you are trying to create an alternative to the bill that’s about $60 billion. Yours is about 49 or so billion.

Congressman Golden, here, one of the things that’s not in this bill, though, is humanitarian aid for Israel and for Ukraine. That’s a non- starter for a lot of Democrats. And you have a Remain in Mexico border security policy here that forces migrants to wait outside the U.S. while their asylum claim is processed.

How are you going to get fellow Democrats to get on board with this?

REPRESENTATIVE JARED GOLDEN (D-Maine): Well, I think the – the most important thing to remember here is that the votes are there to support Ukraine and our other allies, Israel, Taiwan, and I think that the votes are there on border security as well.

You know, the Senate started with a bill. They had to boil it down to whatever it could get, 60 votes. The House needs to go through a very similar process. Brian and I are actually talking about having a more open debate on the House floors. Amendments should be in order. We need to find a way to get a deal that gets us to 218. I think a deal like that has to grow out of the middle and is unlikely to begin with a one-party solution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, are you saying within that then, if your bill is up for consideration, amendments like adding in things like humanitarian aid are possible?

REPRESENTATIVE JARED GOLDEN: Potentially, yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE JARED GOLDEN: Although I think that we also have to set priorities. And so, at the end of the day, what are the most important crises that we have to deal with in the here and now in the very short term? And I would say that that would be securing our border and also helping avoid battlefield catastrophes in Ukraine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Fitzpatrick, in choosing to go this route, it is defying the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, who has said that, you know, he – I mean he said the initial Senate bill was dead on arrival here. But then he is also seemingly speaking to the Democratic leader in the House.

Are you concerned that you might be undercutting the opportunity to get that bigger package ultimately passed, or is it indeed so dead on arrival you need this backup plan?

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK: I don’t think we’re short-circuiting anything. We are adding a pressure point to make sure this gets done because we cannot afford to wait here. And, you know, if the Senate bill were to make it to the floor, it would have, you know, a lot of Republican votes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You would vote for it?

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK: I would.

If our bill gets to the floor, it will also have a lot of votes. I mean Jared can – can reflect the Democrat caucus perspective, but we think, you know, super, you know, super majority, I think two-thirds of the House would support this. It is open to amendments. So, our bare-bones language was just a vehicle to get to the floor, but what we’re trying to do is to make sure that we do not waste another day because these are – I mean Ukraine is in dire straits right now, and that’s what I wanted to do. That’s why we’re doing this. This is actually to complement all of the other conversations going on in a potential compromise that might ensue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, does the Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries support what you’re doing?

REPRESENTATIVE JARED GOLDEN: You know, they currently are pushing for the Senate bill. Obviously, they have a discharge petition. What I would say is that discharge petition doesn’t have any Republican support. What we have now is a bill with a discharge petition that is led by a Republican.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is just a procedural way to bypass leadership to get a vote?

REPRESENTATIVE JARED GOLDEN: Correct. That’s right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you’re not concerned, to borrow your phrase, that you’re short-circuiting the bigger package?

REPRESENTATIVE JARED GOLDEN: My concern is, what is it going to take to get a bill to the floor, that can enable the House of Representatives to take actions on two, key priorities. One, how do we get our own border under control, two, how do we support our allies in their existential fights in Ukraine and in Israel?

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, we’re also up against the deadline of this potential partial government shutdown March 1st. What is the timeline for what you’re trying to do and isn’t the priority number one keeping the lights on?

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK: Absolutely, and maybe we hitch a ride on the CR with this, right? I mean, hopefully, we can –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Something this big, you think?

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK: Yes, this is not very big. This is – I mean this is –

MARGARET BRENNAN: $50 billion.

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK: This is a paired down – well, it’s military aid, which, by the way, 80 percent of which gets spent inside the United States. That’s a big misnomer that’s being perpetuated. You either believe that what we’re doing for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan is an act of charity or you believe it’s an act of global security. We believe it’s an act of global security. That’s an investment. Eighty percent of that money gets spent inside the United States, modernizing our own military in a way that we weren’t prepared to do before.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Patrick McHenry was with my colleague here on CBS just the other day and he said, “You can either die as speaker and worry about them taking you out or live every day as your last.” He’s trying to prod the speaker of the House to be more decisive. Is your action a sign that you also think Speaker Johnson needs to be more decisive?

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK: I think Mike’s in a tough political spot right now and needs all the help he can get from all of his allies in the House. So, this is a mechanism –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because he could be ousted?

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK: That’s always a risk. I mean any time you have a one person motion to vacate, which, by the way, is never going to happen ever again. We’re not going to buy that line ever again because you see what – how it’s manifested on the floor this cycle. It’s basically created gridlock. We will never, ever agree to that ever again. But we’ve got to get through this cycle. We have time sensitive existential challenges right now. Ukraine is weeks away from giving up significant ground and we cannot allow Russia to win.

So, what we are doing is adding an additional pressure point to get a bill to the floor that has bipartisan support in the House. My conversations with my Senate colleagues, any bill that comes out of the House with bipartisan support in all likelihood will emerge out of the Senate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Even though this would not be what the Senate has already approved? This –

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK: We’re going to open it up to amendments.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK: We’re – our – our vehicle is bare bones. It’s going to be opened up to amendments. And let the House work its will.

REPRESENTATIVE JARED GOLDEN: I think it’s important to point out that the Senate would likely take up something that passes the House with a bipartisan vote.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. We will watch this important move, and we’ll talk more about Ukraine ahead in the program.

We’ll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Saturday marked two years since Russia launched a full- scale invasion of Ukraine. And we are joined now by the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova.

Good to have you back with us.

OKSANA MARKAROVA, (Ukrainian Ambassador to The United States): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It is a solemn weekend I know. Your president just acknowledged 31,000 Ukrainians have died in this fight. He also said that the Congress knows that your country is running out of funding and weaponry.

Where are we right now? How close are we to having battlefield setbacks in a significant way?

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Thank you. Yes, two years of full-fledged war, ten years of war, 31,000 just defenders. We don’t even know how many civilians actually are dead until we liberate everything.

And we see on the battlefield that this war is still very winnable if we have supply of weapons and support, but also it’s – it’s the war that, unfortunately, can be lost if the support is not there and we run out. So, we really need it yesterday, and I’m very glad that there have been very active discussions all this time and I really hope that the House will come back this week and that we will see real solutions and we will see decisions taken.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

Well, you just heard from the two congressmen that they are now forcing consideration as soon as March the 7th for this aid to Ukraine. Your president said today, we need support within a month.

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Absolutely. And that support could be there within a month. Like, we hear –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is military support enough?

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Well, we need all the support. We need military support. We need budget support. We need humanitarian support because we need to sustain the effort on the battlefield but elsewhere. We need to care for people. We need to teach people. We need to create bomb shelters in order to protect. It’s all very much interrelated.

But what we also heard, and we know that we do have strong bipartisan support. We have the votes as the two colleagues just said here. And also we know publicly from Speaker Johnson that he understands the – the need to win for all of us. It’s – it’s a global security play. And we heard the concerns. You know, of course, some concerns are not related to us, that – that he voiced and some about the transparency and accountability and we have provided a lot of information. So hopefully with the constant dialog between the two parties, between the White House and Congress, we will see the decisions because, as we said for a number of times, we need it yesterday.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The White House says that Russia had its first battlefield victory in a year within the past week in this eastern town in Ukraine because there aren’t enough weapons and ammunition being provided. And – and Jake Sullivan pointed to Congress as the reason why. Is it that simple?

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Well, the war has always been about weapons, you know. We always had enough motivated Ukrainians to defend our homes and we always needed more weapons at any given time. But, of course, now the situation is critical.

And I wouldn’t call it a victory because we defended Avdiivka for ten years. And Russians simply destroyed it. They did not take it over. They – they destroyed the whole town, like they’ve done to so many. And they already have lost almost 400,000 people in Ukraine trying to invade us.

So, you know, we went in this war, we liberated 50 percent, we cleared the Black Sea. It’s a critical, pivotal point now in which, if we receive the support and weapons, we can liberate more. And we cannot only liberate us, we can defend the free world because it’s not just about Ukraine, it’s about Russia together with Iran and North Korea, who are supplying missiles, and all democracies together can we defend ourselves. And I really want to answer that question, yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. It is becoming an election year issue with the former president, Donald Trump, arguing against support for NATO essentially. And he has a history with your president. And, obviously, that first impeachment hearing where he – that infamous phone call with President Zelenskyy.

Are you looking at – at that really dictating what’s possible right now? A presidential campaign is impacting what you are saying is the future of democracy in Europe.

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Well, any – any president of the United States, or any candidate of the president, is the president of this great country that is based on the values for which we are fighting on the battlefield. It’s, as I said a number of times, the issue of support in Ukraine, freedom, democracy, the issue of standing together with a democratic ally is not a partisan issue. It’s strongly bipartisan issue. And I’m sure it will be bipartisan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

OKSANA MARKAROVA: And I think the only competition there could be how to do it faster, how to win faster, how to show that democracies can stand their ground.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I met this week three children from Ukraine who had been kidnapped by Russia as part of this state sponsored program. It was very hard to hear what these children have been through. But your government says there are at least 30,000 other kids that you know of who were also taken.

How is it possible that there is no coordinated international effort right now to bring these children home?

OKSANA MARKAROVA: This is not only a war crime and a tragedy, but something that is a blank in the international law. Russians actually claim they have hundreds of thousands of our children.

MARGARET BRENNAN: They said 700,000.

OKSANA MARKAROVA: They said 700,000. So, it can be as bad as that. And, literally, you know, it’s – it’s one of the first times after World War II and Nazis when they simply abduct children, put them up for speedy adoption, torture them, indoctrinate them, put them through these reeducation camps. That’s why we have created this Bring Kids Back UA initiative and that’s why we’re so glad that so many countries, and I’m so glad that U.S. has joined it so we can actually formulate the mechanism of how to deal with it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

OKSANA MARKAROVA: And this is horrible. You know, Putin should be in prison until the rest of his life, at least for this crime.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Just another thing that U.S. funding is used for.

Ambassador, thank you.

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Thank you very much.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re back with former White House Russia expert Fiona Hill.

Welcome back.

FIONA HILL (Former National Security Council Senior Director, European And Russian Affairs): Thanks, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yesterday the body of opposition leader Alexei Navalny was handed over to his mother after she had asked for more than a week to have him released, his corps released. Why do you think Vladimir Putin changed his mind and let it happen?

FIONA HILL: I think he actually realized he’d gone far too far. He was starting to get protests, even from Russian orthodox priests. I mean Putin prides himself on being this great religious leader, of extolling Christian values. So there were Russian orthodox priests saying that Putin was worse than Pontius Pilot in the Bible for denying another mother and the family the body. All kinds of celebrities.

And, of course, there was quite a bit of revoltsion (ph), you know, about this as well because Navalny’s mother, a very brave woman, actually went on to YouTube, which can still be seen inside of Russia as well, and basically pointing out that Putin, or the Kremlin, or the prison authorities were all acting against the law by not handing over the body they were violating, and even their own norms and terms. And I think that really got a reaction because people will look at the mother, you know, for who she is, the actual mother of someone who has died, not a political person until that moment. And I think it was really escalating out of -out of control in terms of the message that the Kremlin was trying to enforce. It was making it a very big deal.

The question now will be about the funeral because, of course, what she said very openly was they were blackmailing her to have a secret funeral. So, not to have the traditional Russian public viewing of the body and then basically a commemoration of the graveside. So, it’s going to be a question now about what they allow to happen next.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And whether he created a martyr, (INAUDIBLE).

FIONA HILL: He did. He has created a martyr. Absolutely right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This past week, though, we – we saw not only the victory in eastern Ukraine, you saw the death – death of Alexei Navalny. You saw Russia take another American prisoner because she donated $50 to a Ukraine charity.

FIONA HILL: Yes. That’s right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He seems very emboldened right now.

FIONA HILL: He is. And, I mean, that’s – you know, really fits into the whole theme of your discussions this morning. Putin thinks that he’s winning because we’ve blinked, because we don’t seem to have the courage, either politically or morally right now, to stand up and support Ukraine in fending – in fending him off, in fending Russia off.

He’s also basically a month away from his re-anointment, I can’t really call it an election, as the president of Russia. And Putin’s basically saying, you’re going have me until 2036 because he can have two more six year terms. And I’m so much in control of this situation that I can do literally whatever I like. He’s trying to intimidate everyone and to basically remove any sense of hope whatsoever.

And, you know, these targeting of, you know, young woman who has given $50. I mean that’s actually fairly ridiculous. But the whole message of it is to say, I mean business. Any kind of dissent, no matter how minor, will be punished with the full weight of the state behind it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we’re in the middle of an election in this country. You worked for Donald Trump when he was in office. He has continued to call himself a political dissident. He actually compared himself to Alexei Navalny.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: It’s a lot of – a lot of (INAUDIBLE).

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a form of Navalny. It is a form of communism or fascism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARGARET BRENNAN: He’s talking about legal cases against him. He’s talking about Russia quite a lot on the campaign trail again. What’s going on?

FIONA HILL: Well, there’s a couple of things. I mean, first of all, former President Trump has made it very clear that he admires Vladimir Putin. I mean he continues, you know, to really extol him, despite all of the evidence, you know, to – to the contrary, you know, from what his views should – should be here, that Putin is an evolved enemy at this particular point of the United States. I mean he’s openly declared war on the United States. He’s taking American citizens hostage. It’s not just the young woman who was recently taken, who’s a dual citizen, but it’s also Evan Gershkovich from “The Wall Street Journal,” it’s also Paul Whelan, the – the former Marine who was taken years ago. President Trump actually ought to have a sense of responsibility about American citizens. And, instead, you know, what he’s doing in the most brazen and frankly shameful fashion is trying to suggest that the United States is like Putin’s Russia.

I mean since when have we been assassinating our opposition candidates in this country. Since when have presidents of the United States been wanting to sort of take out political opponents through poisoning or through imprisoning them in, you know, basically the equivalent of arctic penal colonies.

So, what President Trump is doing is degrading the United States. I just don’t understand how people don’t call him out for this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, we hear from Trump supporters at rallies, though, questions about aid to Ukraine. Is what he is talking – is he planting seeds that last, even if Joe Biden wins the election?

FIONA HILL: Of course he is. And he’s also, frankly, parroting the kind of propaganda that we’ve been having coming out of Russia for more than a decade now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Uh-huh.

FIONA HILL: I mean since Russia first made moves against Ukraine, which goes back a considerable period of time, to cut offs of their gas back in 2006, for example, the annexation of Crimea in 2014, President Putin and the Kremlin have been a full-on propaganda of it basically against Ukraine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

FIONA HILL: And, frankly, President Trump is starting to repeat some of the same things that the – the Russians have been saying too.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Fiona Hill, it’s always great to talk to you. We hope to have you back again soon.

We’ll be right back.

FIONA HILL: Thanks.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Before we go today, we want to wish our friend and colleague, Bob Schieffer, a very happy 87th birthday.

Thank you all for watching. Thank you, Bob. We’ll see you all next week for FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

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