Full transcript of “Face the Nation,” April 7, 2024


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

  • John Kirby, National Security Council spokesperson  
  • Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland  
  • Democratic Maryland Gov. Wes Moore
  • Rep. French Hill, Republican of Arkansas  
  •  Avril Benoit, Doctors Without Borders executive director, and Janti Soeripto, Save the Children president   

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: Six months to the day Hamas attacked Israel, there is breaking military and diplomatic news in the conflict that has cost tens of thousands of lives.

Overnight, in a surprise development, the Israeli military has pulled many of their troops out of Southern Gaza. Is the move signaling a new phase of the conflict? We have got the latest.

And the outrage following the killing of seven World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid workers by the Israeli military in Gaza has led President Biden to change course in his dealing with Prime Minister Netanyahu. But will it be enough to change the course of Israel’s war?

We will also look at the enormous toll of this war on aid workers and children in the Israel-Hamas war with Avril Benoit of Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children President Janti Soeripto.

As negotiations to release the Hamas-held hostages are set to restart in Cairo, we will talk with Rachel Goldberg-Polin. Her son Hersh was captured six months ago.

Plus, the city of Baltimore continues cleanup efforts and prepares for the daunting rebuild following the collapse of the Key Bridge. Maryland Governor Wes Moore is here with the latest.

It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.

There is breaking news this morning. We are seeing some significant developments out of Israel. The IDF has pulled some forces out of Southern Gaza. And Prime Minister Netanyahu said they are one step away from victory.

The Israelis will also send a delegation to Cairo to meet with CIA Director Bill Burns and Qatari and Egyptian officials to try to negotiate both a cease-fire and to get the more than 130 hostages believed to be held by Hamas.

Six months into the war, the Israeli military says they have eliminated 12,000 terrorists in Gaza, but at the expense of thousands of Palestinian lives. The Gaza Health Ministry reports more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed. The aid organization Save the Children cites the number of children killed in Gaza at 14,000. We will hear from their president later in the broadcast.

We begin with our Holly Williams, who’s in Tel Aviv.

Holly, what can you tell us about these developments and their significance?

HOLLY WILLIAMS: Good morning, Margaret.

Well, Israel’s military says it now only has one division inside the Gaza Strip. The other division that was there has left in the last 24 hours. The remaining troops are all either along Gaza’s border with Israel or north of an east-west road that bisects the Gaza Strip. The Israelis built that road recently, it’s thought, as part of their planning for the day after the war.

Now, I spoke with an Israeli military spokesman a short while ago, who told me that this is a – quote – “evolution” of the war effort and not a partial withdrawal. He would not give me any exact troop numbers. My colleague CBS News producer Marwan Al Ghoul is in Southern Gaza. And he says it is now possible to move freely from Southern Gaza all the way up to Central Gaza, and that has not been possible for the past three months.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Holly, there’s also a lot of political pressure within Israel right now and these ongoing protests against the Netanyahu government.

How is that affecting things?

HOLLY WILLIAMS: Well, Margaret, we actually just heard from Prime Minister Netanyahu a short while ago ahead of a Cabinet meeting here in Israel.

He didn’t mention this troop movement at all. In fact he vowed that Israel would fight for total victory. But he is under enormous pressure. Just as this news came out about these troops leaving Gaza, there’s also pressure from the right wing on Netanyahu not to give away too much to Hamas in negotiations.

And then, on the other side of the political spectrum, last night, across Israel, tens of thousands of people took part in anti-government protests. Many people here are angry with the government, with their own leaders for not doing more to bring the remaining hostages home.

And here in Tel Aviv, a car rammed into a group of protesters, injuring several people. And opposition leader Yair Lapid said that the incident was – quote – “the direct result of rising incitement from the government,” so more criticism there for Benjamin Netanyahu – Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Holly Williams in Tel Aviv, thank you.

And we turn now to John Kirby. He is the coordinator for strategic communications for the White House National Security Council.

Welcome back.

JOHN KIRBY (White House National Security Communications Advisor): Thanks, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Prime Minister Netanyahu says, Israel is one step away from victory, but they still plan to go into Rafah.

Has Netanyahu agreed to President Biden’s request to make this targeted, and not a ground assault?

JOHN KIRBY: We have been very clear with the Prime Minister and his team that we don’t support a ground operation in Rafah, that there are other ways, other options that they need to look at for how they’re going to go after the Hamas threat that still is in Rafah.

We had a virtual meeting last week. We expect to have an in-person meeting with Israeli counterparts in the next week or so – we’re still narrowing down the schedule – where we hope to be able to present in more detail our thinking, some of our alternatives, the kinds of things that we want them to learn from our own experiences about how to do operations of this regard.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, as you heard, the IDF says this is an evolution of the war to draw down some of these troops.

Exactly what are they preparing for? Is this for another front in this conflict?

JOHN KIRBY: Well, I certainly wouldn’t speak to IDF operations or their planning one way or another.

MARGARET BRENNAN: They haven’t told the U.S.?

JOHN KIRBY: It’s a sovereign Military.

The indications that we’ve – we’ve been getting from them this morning is, this is really largely rest and refit for troops that have been on the ground consecutively now for four months and, they need a chance to come – to come out now. What they’ll do with those troops after a rest and refit, I – I can’t speak to.

All I can do is say what I said before. We don’t support a major ground operation in Rafah. That has not changed. And we’re looking forward to having conversations with the Israelis about alternatives to those kinds of operations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know there has been a large amount of criticism and skepticism as to how Israel is waging this war in the wake of the deaths of those seven humanitarians this past week.

JOHN KIRBY: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said on Tuesday the U.S. has not found any incidents where the Israelis have violated international law.

How far-reaching is the U.S. investigation of Israel?

JOHN KIRBY: I wouldn’t call it a U.S. investigation of Israel. We have a normal process the State Department runs and governs where they take a look at incidents, particularly those that are being – operations being conducted by partner countries.

And they look at them, and they assess them against international law. And they’re doing that in real time, Margaret. So, some of them, they have looked at and concluded. Some, they’re still looking at it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, they may be in violation of international law?

JOHN KIRBY: Thus far, thus far, as I said the other day, we’ve not seen any indication they have violated international humanitarian law.

But we take this seriously. They take it seriously at the State Department. And we’ll keep looking at this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the secretary-general of Doctors Without Borders rejected Israel’s explanation of what happened in that World Central Kitchen attack…

JOHN KIRBY: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: … because he lost staff in Gaza, as have other humanitarians, more than 200 dead to date.

Take a listen.

(Begin VT)

CHRISTOPHER LOCKYEAR (Secretary-General, Doctors Without Borders): We do not accept it, because what has happened to World Central Kitchen and MSF’s convoys and shelters is part of the same pattern of deliberate attacks on humanitarians, health workers, journalists, U.N. personnel, schools and homes.

This is not just about implementing an effective deconfliction mechanism. Our movements and locations are shared, coordinated and identified already. This is about impunity, a total disregard for the laws of war, and now it must become about accountability.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: This isn’t a mistake, he says; this is a deliberate pattern.

And he is not the only aid organization to say so.

JOHN KIRBY: Well, we certainly understand…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will there be accountability?

JOHN KIRBY: We understand the frustration that they have.

We share that frustration. And there have been too many aid workers killed by Israeli operations.

And that is why the president was so firm with Prime Minister Netanyahu in their call this week about they’ve got to change the way they’re doing this. And the deconfliction process does matter, because there is already communication between aid workers and the IDF.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And he said, it’s pointless, it’s not working…

JOHN KIRBY: Clearly, this – clearly…

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s clearly failing.

JOHN KIRBY: Clearly, this broke down, no question about it. We’re not arguing that it hasn’t.

We’re – our case to the Israelis is, you got to do more.You got to do it better. It’s got to improve, because we’ve already seen some aid organizations now pulling back, not just World Central Kitchen, but others.

This is a time when the people of Gaza need food, water, medicine, fuel, more than any.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

JOHN KIRBY: So…

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the President’s own national security memorandum stipulates, as you know, that there can’t be an impediment to delivery of aid.

So is negligence, gross negligence, failure to communicate, failure to follow through to protect these aid workers a violation? Is there any accountability?

JOHN KIRBY: Certainly – certainly, those things are not acceptable.

And, again, that was the – the tenor and the tone of the conversation that the prime minister – I’m sorry – the president had with the prime minister. They have taken some measures of accountability here in the immediate wake of the – of the World Central Kitchen…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Two soldiers.

JOHN KIRBY: Two – two were fired.

We’re going to be looking to see – well, first of all, we’re going through the investigation ourselves right now. We want to reserve judgment till we’ve had a chance to look at their findings. And we certainly expect – and this is an important point – that the announcements the Israelis have made, while welcome and important, can’t be the end of it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

JOHN KIRBY: We’ve got to see sustained changes in the way they’re operating on the ground and the way they are allowing humanitarian assistance to get in, unmolested.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And – and, as you know, the Israeli government says that had nothing to do with the president’s calls, they had already planned to take some of these measures.

JOHN KIRBY: The president specifically asked for the measures that we saw them announce that – later that evening and then the coming day or so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll see if they follow through.

The former Defense Secretary, who you know well, Leon Panetta said on CNN: “In the past, in my experience, the Israelis usually fire and then ask questions.”

Is the Biden administration position still that there should be zero conditions on aid, military aid, to Israel?

JOHN KIRBY: I’m not going to get ahead of the president or decisions he might or might not make going forward.

He was very clear in his call with the prime minister that, if we don’t see some changes in their policies in Gaza and the way they’re prosecuting operations, we’re going to have to make some changes of our own.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you do – you do think these are Israeli policies then…

JOHN KIRBY: I mean…

MARGARET BRENNAN: … to block aid?

JOHN KIRBY: They have – they have – they get to decide how they prosecute this war. It’s their operation. We just talked about them pulling troops out and what that means.

They get to decide how they prosecute operations. We get to decide how we’re going to react to that and how we’re going to administer our own policy with respect to Gaza. We make those decisions. And the president was clear with the prime minister. If there’s not changes, if things don’t get better, then we’re going to have to make changes of our own.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the president is considering withholding, conditioning, doing anything here?

JOHN KIRBY: I would…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because, for six months now, we have been hearing complaints like this, humanitarians on this program telling us what’s happening.

JOHN KIRBY: Look, again, we – we see it ourselves. We’re – we’re not blind to the risks that aid workers are in, certainly not blind to the suffering that the people of Gaza are going through.

And the president, again, was clear. I won’t get ahead of him, Margaret. I won’t prejudge decisions he will or won’t make, but we…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why haven’t we heard from him on this? If he feels so strongly, why isn’t the president out there talking about this?

JOHN KIRBY: You saw his statement after…

MARGARET BRENNAN: I read a paper statement.

JOHN KIRBY: … the prime minister’s – call with the prime minister, and he will continue to talk to the American people and the members of Congress about what we’re doing and what we’re not doing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It is of direct national security concern, is it not, that, as the director of national intelligence says, there is a generational impact from what is happening on the ground there…

JOHN KIRBY: No question…

MARGARET BRENNAN: … that there could be an impact on terror recruitment…

JOHN KIRBY: No question.

MARGARET BRENNAN: … long term here.

JOHN KIRBY: No question. I mean, the…

MARGARET BRENNAN: So what is the U.S. policy, other than wait and see?

JOHN KIRBY: It’s not wait and see.

I would have to take issue with – with that. That is not the policy at all. Two things can be true at once. You can still be a friend of Israel and make sure that they have what they need to defend themselves. And they do need things. I mean, we’re talking about the war in Gaza, rightly so. Completely understand that.

But they’re under threat. They live in a tough neighborhood. They’re under threat…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Absolutely.

JOHN KIRBY: … from Iran and Iran-backed groups all around. They still have a need to defend themselves.

How they do that matters.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

JOHN KIRBY: How they conduct these operations matters. And that’s what we’re talking to them about. And we need to see some changes in the how, or we’ll have to make some changes in our support.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a timeline for when they need to act by? Because these…

JOHN KIRBY: We’re – we’re looking right now. I mean, again, they – they made some announcements in the – in the – in the few hours after the call.

They made some other announcements in the next day about opening up crossings. All of that is welcome. But we’re going to be watching this very, very closely. It has to be sustained and it has to be verifiable.

MARGARET BRENNAN: John Kirby, thank you very much for coming on.

And we turn now to continue the conversation with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen from the state of Maryland.

And good morning to you, Senator.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-Maryland): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to pick up on this same topic we’ve been talking about in terms of the developing policy, because you have been pressing for the White House to act – act on the president’s own standards for national security and to hold Israel to account, in terms of possibly conditioning military aid.

Were you clear on what the White House position is?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: I’m not clear.

First of all, I should say, I’m glad Bill Burns is in Cairo. I hope we get a cease-fire and a return of all the hostages. I was glad to see the president, at least as reported out, finally say to President Netanyahu that, if you don’t follow these – my requests, that there will be consequences.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: But the president and the White House have yet to lay out what consequences they have and they want to impose.

And we have had a situation where, for months, the president has made requests to the Netanyahu government, they have ignored those requests.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: And we’ve sent more 2,000-pound bombs. We cannot revert back to that.

We have to make sure that, when the president requests something, that we have a means to enforce it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president has the power to put limits on arms delivery to any country in the world that receives U.S. military support, even things that were approved by Congress in the past.

They get $3.3 billion a year to buy weapons, $500 million more a year for missile defense. You voted, along with other senators, on an additional $14 billion in aid. It’s held up in the House right now. Is any of that being reconsidered?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, first of all, that – that $14 billion was part of a much larger assistance…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: … package that provided $60 billion to the people of Ukraine to fight against Putin.

So what I have said, is once monies are appropriated, you still have to go through this process to actually transfer them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: And the president’s own National Security Memorandum Number 20 that you just raised with John Kirby says very specifically that, if a recipient of U.S. military assistance, including the Netanyahu government, is restricting the delivery of humanitarian aid, that we should not be sending more weapons.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: And so it’s very important that the Biden administration enforce its own policy that was signed by the president of the United States as a directive to the government. It needs to be enforced.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, when I have talked to folks who would be asked to implement the policy that you are talking about, in trying to say, OK, you can have defensive, but not offensive weapons, they say, it’s next to impossible to try to separate that out and to define which weapons are OK and which weapons are not.

How do you respond to that?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: There’s a very clear line here.

I was very involved in the negotiation of NSM-20.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Defensive weapons are things like air defense, Iron Dome. We’re not taking the position that we should not be sending Israel systems that it needs to defend itself.

But offensive weapons, I mean, airplanes, bombs, artillery, everything that’s being used right now in Gaza, these are offensive weapons that are being used. And so what it says is that you shouldn’t be shipping more weapons to the Netanyahu government when they’re not meeting their commitments, including the delivery of humanitarian aid, or if they’re not complying with international law.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, as part of this directive, May 8 is the date by which a report has to be delivered to Congress about whether Israel is abiding by, along with other countries, by the way who are being held to this standard.

Should it be made public whether or not they’re violating international law?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Yes. We need more transparency.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will the White House commit – have you asked the White House to do that?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, the NSM requires that the report be possible to the extent possible. But, obviously, that leaves some running room for the Biden administration.

We want this to be public, not just with respect to Israel, but, as you say, all the other countries that this will – this – this report will cover. And it’s a quite-extensive report on whether or not Israel is complying with these provisions, also a very important provision that asks whether or not they are using best practices to limit civilian harm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, are congressional Democrats comfortable with approving some of the weapons systems that are being asked for and may be in the pipeline, things that won’t be delivered for years?

Because Israel does live in a tough neighborhood. Should they be able to get fighter jets and things like that that they’re asking for?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Yes, when they comply with the terms of NSM-20 and when they meet President Biden’s requests.

This – this partnership cannot be a one-way street. So, my view is that the president needs to do what he said he was going to do, which is see if the Netanyahu government is going to implement these changes in terms of allowing more humanitarian assistances.

And we should measure that by people not starving to death, people being able to get medical equipment, kids not being able to – not having amputations without anesthesia. So we have a long way to go. And until – until those conditions are met…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: … then, no, we should not be sending more offensive weapons to Israel, not to stop them permanently, but to effectively use our leverage. That’s what we’re asking the president of the United States to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I have to ask you about your home state of Maryland and the disaster in Baltimore.

Congressman Trone of Maryland said that the bill pledge – pledging federal funding to help rebuild this bridge should essentially be Trump-proofed. He talked about the appropriations bill being structured – structured just in case President Biden is not reelected.

Do you share his concern?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, first of all, President Biden has been on this from the beginning.

And President Biden has already made sure that Maryland is part of what we call the Emergency Relief Program, which automatically means that the state of Maryland will get 90 percent of the funds for rebuilding the bridge.

And so what Senator Cardin and Congressman Mfume and I will do is we are going to introduce legislation for the other 10 percent, and also make clear that any monies that are recovered through lawsuits on liability come back to the U.S. federal taxpayer.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I will ask Governor Moore about the details of that.

Thank you very much, Senator Van Hollen.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Thank you

MARGARET BRENNAN: Face the Nation will be back in a minute. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: For more on the recovery following last month’s collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge and the plan to rebuild it, we’re joined now by Maryland Governor Wes Moore.

Governor, welcome.

GOVERNOR WES MOORE (D-Maryland): Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we are so sorry about the recovery and the fatal accident.

How do you describe where we are in this process of recovery and potentially rebuilding?

GOVERNOR WES MOORE: Well, I think, first, that the state is still heartbroken.

We lost six Marylanders. Just yesterday, we recovered the body of – of Maynor Sandoval. And – and our hearts continue to be with the families, and with all of the families. But we also know that we’ve got a long road to recovery ahead of us. But that road and that recovery is now happening.

You know, the – the – the enormity of this collapse cannot be overstated. We – we are literally talking about a – a ship that is the size of the Eiffel Tower and the weight of the Washington Monument that is now sitting in the middle of the Patapsco River with a bridge that is just iconic.

Like, I don’t…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

GOVERNOR WES MOORE: I don’t know what the Baltimore skyline looks like without the Key Bridge. It’s been there since I have been alive.

And it’s now sitting in the bottom of the river…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

GOVERNOR WES MOORE: … with part of it sitting on top of the ship.

So, the recovery is going to be long. But the resilience that we have seen from the people of our state and the people of the city of Baltimore has been inspiring, where we’ve really rallied.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So – we heard when the president visited that reiteration of a pretty aggressive timeline, though, to get things up and running again, perhaps even by the end of May.

Is that realistic?

GOVERNOR WES MOORE: It’s – it’s realistic. And I think that it’s going to take something that’s going to be a 24/7 operation, which is…

MARGARET BRENNAN: To have full functioning?

GOVERNOR WES MOORE: To have full functioning.

And – and that means being able to not just – not just continue the maritime operations that we have. And, also, it’s understanding how important that port is, not just to Baltimore, but to the entire country. And, right now, if you look at the Port of Baltimore, we have operations that are taking place via truck and via rail.

It’s just the – it’s the maritime operations that have come to a halt. But we are going to do everything in our power to make sure we’re bringing closure and comfort to these families, to be able to reopen this channel, to be able to support our workers and to support families who have been impacted by it, and also begin the process of the rebuild of the bridge.

It is an aggressive timeline, but we are going to work around the clock to make sure that we hit this timeline.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I read – all right, I have more to talk about with you, but I need to take a commercial break. So, please stay here with us.

And hope all of you will stay with us as well. Back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to recognize one of our favorite renaissance men, the legendary Bob Schieffer.

Since leaving the moderator’s seat here at Face the Nation, Bob has been fine-tuning his artistic skills. And his work is now being featured at a solo exhibition that opened yesterday at American University here in Washington. The 25 paintings on display were inspired by recent headlines, from the COVID pandemic to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

And the exhibition is on display until May 19.

We will be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

We continue our conversation with the governor of Maryland, Wes Moore.

Governor, I want to pick up on this question of how to rebuild and how quickly. I know you will be going to the Capitol this week to meet with lawmakers to discuss the funding Senator Van Hollen just mentioned. There are reports the price tag could reach as high as a billion, if not more. How much are you asking U.S. taxpayers for?

GOVERNOR WES MOORE: Well, we don’t – yet know what the – what the price tag is going to be. The thing that we know is that the Port of Baltimore is responsible for $70 billion of economic activity to the American economy. We know that the – that the Key Bridge had over 36,000 people who traveled over it every single day. People getting from where they live to where they work, to where they worship, to where they go to school. And so the importance of knowing that this is not just a tragedy that has regional implication, but a tragedy that has national implications, is incredibly important.

The Port of Baltimore is the largest port in this country for new cars and for heavy trucks and agricultural equipment and spices and sugars. And so the ability for us to have a collective and a bipartisan response to its rebuild is imperative inside this moment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the president has vowed to have federal dollars rebuild the bridge. He repeated that again Friday. And then he added on that he’ll make sure the parties responsible will pay to repair the damage as well.

How is that going to work? Do taxpayers front the cash and then insurance claims pay them back? How is this going to work?

GOVERNOR WES MOORE: That’s exactly right. So – so basically what he’s saying is, and I’m thankful to the president for saying, that this is going to be a national response to something that is a national tragedy. And at the same time, if people need to be held to account for what happened, they must be held to account.

There’s an – there’s an independent NTSB investigation that’s taking place right now. I can tell you, I want that investigation to be speedy. I want the investigation to be thorough. And if people need to be held to account for it, there needs to be accountability for what happened that night.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the court don’t work in a speedy fashion by design here. And the ship owner, Grace Ocean, and the ship manager have filed to limit their liability to $44 million. Do you have any expectation that they will pay for anything?

GOVERNOR WES MOORE: We expected that to happen. We were prepared for that to happen. There’s going to be an independent investigation that will take place. And if they are deemed liable and responsible for what happened, then they need to be responsible for helping with that cleanup.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden also said on Friday when he visited the port that U.S. steel and union labor will be used to rebuild it. Can you move swiftly with those kind of stipulations?

GOVERNOR WES MOORE: Well, I think it’s going to be important that we are building and rebuilding this with a way that is going to be on time and on budget with a very clear plan. I think if – one thing that people know about the work that we’ve done in the state of Maryland, you know, we believe in labor and we believe in union work. And we believe in making sure that those key criteria are hit.

I know this is going to be a long project. This is going to be an expensive project. And it’s going to require a whole lot of different hands and elements inside of it. But I think people have come to know that we support – we support labor in our state.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How is it going so far?

GOVERNOR WES MOORE: I’ve been amazed because if you would have told me nine days ago after what I saw that first morning that we could be here on this Sunday morning with already channels opened up, already ships that – up to a 14 foot depth that are now able to traverse the river and get to the port, if you would have told me that we were already starting moving – you know, we have now moved hundreds of tons out of the river. And if you look at the, you know, the fact that even just in the past few days we’ve received – we’ve removed over 250 tons from the river, that is the equivalent to the weight of the Statute of Liberty.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Wow.

GOVERNOR WES MOORE: And so I’ve been amazed at how this coordination between federal, state, local, the Coast Guard, the Navy SUPSALV, the Army Corps of Engineers, how everything is working in a synced way. And I’ve been very proud of the response.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, good luck with the effort.

GOVERNOR WES MOORE: Thank you. Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We appreciate your time today.

And we go now to Arkansas and Republican Congressman French Hill, who joins us from Little Rock.

Good morning to you, Congressman.

REPRESENTATIVE FRENCH HILL (R-AR): Good morning, Margaret. Good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I have a lot of topics to get to, but are you open, as a Republican, to helping to vote to get help to Baltimore to rebuild with federal dollars?

REPRESENTATIVE FRENCH HILL: Well, we had a serious collapse of the Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River in Memphis. And, so, I’m completely supportive of states working with the federal government to get the bridge back up and open as soon as possible.

Naturally, there’s a role for insurance, private settlement with the companies, and parties responsible. And then the traditional federal-state split for infrastructure programs. So, whatever it takes to get it done in the right way and get the bridge back functioning for the people of Baltimore.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. Some of your Freedom Caucus colleagues have been skeptical, which is why I asked for that.

I want to get to some of the things that are coming up, potentially, for vote and for expiration.

I know you sit on the Intelligence Committee and must be aware of not just this law enforcement bulletin warning of domestic terror threats but also the concern of retaliation by Iran for a strike Israel recently conducted. A key surveillance tool, 702, will expire April 19th. Are you confident Congress will authorize it in the coming days?

REPRESENTATIVE FRENCH HILL: I am confident that we will have support for renewing the authorization for the use of 702, which is a critical element – I’ve seen in intimate detail the vital role that 702 surveillance plays in keeping America safe. I think Congress will come together and we’ll reauthorize its use. But that’s also going to be part of 50 reforms in how the FISA court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and how the act operates. And it will be the first serious reforms in probably some 20 years. And these are 50 bipartisan reforms and reforms that I believe have the full support of House Republicans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And this will come up, I imagine, before we see any vote on Ukraine aid. Do you have any commitment from Speaker Johnson as to a date, a timeline, for moving aid that I know you support?

REPRESENTATIVE FRENCH HILL: Margaret, I believe that Speaker Johnson will bring up support for the supplemental appropriations for Ukraine, for Taiwan, for Israel, immediately after completing the work on FISA and FISA’s extension. That deadline of April 19th makes it a priority for the first few days that we’re back.

But Ukraine remains a priority, as does our support for Israel and Taiwan. And, yes, I believe he’s fully committed to bringing it up to the floor immediately thereafter. And I think that’s critical, as it should have been passed months ago.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You want to, as I understand it, make some changes, including attaching a provision that would allow for the U.S. to seize Russian sovereign assets and use them in the future to rebuild Ukraine. Any tweaks you make, doesn’t that slow down the pathway for this to actually pass through the Senate and get to the Ukrainians who say they are running out of time?

REPRESENTATIVE FRENCH HILL: Well, the Repo Act that you’re referencing, where we use Russian sovereign assets that are held in Western European or U.S. financial institutions, some $300 billion, would go a long way to filling the Ukrainian budget gap and be a good down payment for reconstruction to make Putin pay the ultimate cost of his illegal invasion of Ukraine. It had a strong vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 20-2, a strong vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, 40-2. These are good votes. And I think this provision would strengthen the package on the floor. I believe it has support in both the House and Senate. And it would be, in my judgment, a way to get more support for the total package for Ukraine, seizing these Russian assets. And there’s support in Europe for this. Prime Minister Sunak is supportive of this strategy and others in Europe.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There are some skeptics there as well.

But I need to ask you, because your Republican colleague, Marjorie Taylor Greene, as you know, filed this motion to vacate. That would oust Speaker Johnson. She says, “if he puts Ukraine aid to a vote and reauthorizes 702, the Republican base will go crazy.”

Do you agree, and is the speaker at risk of being ousted if he does these things you say are essential?

REPRESENTATIVE FRENCH HILL: Well, I don’t support – I don’t share the view that Americans, including Republican voters, believe that Putin should win in Ukraine. I think overwhelmingly Americans and Republican primary voters believe that Putin should be defeated in Ukraine. As I’ve said before, we should draw the line on authoritarian dictators, particularly permanent members of the Security Council, invading neighboring countries. And I believe both Democratic, independent and Republican voters support defeating Putin, backing Ukraine, and having a resolution here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE FRENCH HILL: It’s not in America’s economic, diplomatic or military interests for Putin to be successful in Europe or in the far east.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. All right, Congressman Hill, we’ll watch for those actions.

We’ll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Over 200 humanitarian aid workers have been killed in Gaza since October 7th.

We’re joined by the executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the U.S., Avril Benoit, she joins us from New York City, and Save the Children president, Janti Soeripto, is back with us here in Washington.

And I want to say, condolences to both of you and your organizations for the workers that you’ve lost in this conflict, and I appreciate you being here with us.

Janti Soeripto, you testified before the U.N. just this week about this ongoing problem. You said, “More children have been killed in this conflict than have been killed in all armed conflicts globally every year over the past four years.”

JANTI SOERIPTO (President and CEO, Save the Children): Yes. I know, Margaret, it sounds almost unbelievable when you say it out loud. And –

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s horrific.

JANTI SOERIPTO: It is horrific. And this – and people stop hearing, I think, when they – when you hear all those numbers, thousands, and they forget that behind every – all those thousands there is a child and their families behind it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Children.

And Avril Benoit, I want to go to you on this because you and the people you work with provide help, medical aid, to those who are injured, who might be able to survive what is happening there.

I want to ask you, why you think we’ve seen this outcry this week in the wake of the killing of the seven World Central Kitchen workers, including an American, but we didn’t hear the same after 225 aid workers were killed? Why do you think that is?

AVRIL BENOIT, (U.S. Executive Director, Doctors Without Borders, Msf USA): It certainly warrants an outcry, and it warrants an outcry every time these things happen. Not only have we seen so many civilians killed and injured, 33,000 killed, roughly 75,000 people injured, and it’s proportionate to the population so that – in terms of the number of children, women who are injured and killed, it’s very matching. And so you ask yourself, is this a war against Hamas, or a war against civilians? And among the civilians, we also have a pattern of attacks against journalists and we see a pattern also of attacks against aid workers who are there to do nothing more than alleviate suffering and save lives.

In our case, Doctors Without Borders has lost five colleagues. And they were in situations in some cases where they were literally at the bedside of patients in hospitals when they were killed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I’ll be less diplomatic. Do you think that there wasn’t outcry because these aren’t Westerners?

AVRIL BENOIT: No doubt the fact that World Central Kitchen, the victims of the attack, were internationals, is the kind of thing that attract morse attention. It’s certainly finally attracted the attention of President Biden. And that, of course, should concern us all because every life should be considered of similar value, of great value, whether it’s a Westerner or a Palestinian.

And so you can draw conclusions. We certainly are concerned about the fact that it took this attack for there to be the kind of international outcry that we’ve seen, although, frankly, we do think it’s warranted.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

AVRIL BENOIT: There has been, in this incident, just, you know, a sense that it was just an accident, that it was an isolated event, and that is far from being the case when you actually look at the pattern of attacks on aid workers thus far.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That is why I asked John Kirby about that pattern and if there was evidence of what you say, that it was deliberate.

And, Janti, you said this week at the U.N. as well that, “this is not just about dehumanizing the victims. It dehumanizes all of us.”

Explain what you mean. For people who think this is far away and doesn’t matter to them.

JANTI SOERIPTO: I think, you know, the fact that these – yes, attacks on aid workers, attacks on schools, on hospitals, to Avril’s point, is continually allowed to happen. I mean there are rules of war. Even in war, there are rules. There are laws against this wanton destruction of homes, of schools, of hospitals, the killing of civilians, and we’re just watching this unfold. And I do think that it is dehumanizing for all of us. Even more so for us actually than it is of the civilians caught up in this horrific conflict.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary Blinken did lay out specific metrics in terms of not just trucks but aid workers getting in.

JANTI SOERIPTO: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And he also said the reversal of some of the measurable impacts of famine. That takes time. How long does it take to reverse a famine?

JANTI SOERIPTO: Well, I guess the answer back is always, it depends. You know, how much unfettered access can we get? How much supplies are we going to have allowed in? It is great to hear some more outrage from the president and from Secretary Blinken. And yet, despite that outrage, the next day we signed of more arms to go to Israel.

So, you know, I would love to see some action behind those words because we’re not seeing it on the ground. We are not seeing more supplies coming in. We’re now hearing noises about crossings, more crossings openings, potentially better access to the north from the south, that would all be incredibly welcome. Long, long overdue but very welcome. But we have yet to see some of that really happen on the ground. And to see more details when this Erez Crossing is actually opening, for whom it is opening, when the port can be ready. But actually, there are thousands of trucks with food and water and medical supplies on the border in Rafah. I saw it myself two weeks ago. Thousands of trucks waiting. You can just let them in.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s a political decision.

JANTI SOERIPTO: That’s right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Avril, before if let you go, your organization is asking for an investigation into the deaths of your workers. Why hasn’t there been a response?

AVRIL BENOIT: Well, there hasn’t been a response because what we have seen time and again for the last six months is that Israel is conducting this war in a way that completely disregards the need to protect civilians at all costs. I mean there is – there are norms of war, the Geneva Convention’s International Humanitarian Law –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

AVRIL BENOIT: And we see systemically that this is disrespected. So, we would expect an answer on that, but just on the question of – of the famine and acute malnutrition, it’s a medical condition at this point. It’s a – it’s a slow motion massacre of people to subject them to the kind of deprivation of food and water that they have been subjected to for the last six months. It requires a medical response, massive influx, not just of food, of trucks, of flour, of lentils, but of medicines and of trained personnel who know how to bring a child who is in complete organ failure back to health after suffering this kind of malnutrition.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you both for joining us today.

We’ll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Parties are gathering in Cairo today to restart negotiations to release the more than 130 hostages being held by Hamas.

Rachel Goldberg-Polin’s 23-year-old son Hersh is one of those taken by Hamas six months ago and she joins us from New York.

Welcome to FACE THE NATION.

I cannot imagine how painful the last six months have been for you, the 184 days that your son has been away from you. But I know you’ve been on a mission. You met with the pope. You’ve been to the U.N. You have been to the White House. And tomorrow you will be back at the White House.

What are you expecting to hear?

RACHEL GOLDBERG-POLIN (Mother Of Hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin): Well, you know, this is such a painful, staggeringly indescribable odyssey that we are on. And, as you said, you can’t imagine. I often say, oh, I also can’t imagine what we’re going through. And, yes, we are going to be returning to Washington tomorrow to have meetings with different people in the administration. And we really want to understand what is happening to ensure that these people – and remember, Margaret, we have eight American citizens who have been held for 184 days, and we are feeling extreme desperation, despair. And we’ve had wonderful access and sympathy and open doors and lots of hugs from everyone in the U.S. government, but this is a very binary situation. We want our people back. Period. And that’s what we’re going to be talking tomorrow about is, what is actually going to be happening? What leverage? What levers need to be pulled in order to make this happen? Because six months is actually a complete failure on everybody’s part.

And I include myself in that as a parent, that I have not been able to save my son. And I don’t know – I think that you’re a parent, anyone who is a parent, can appreciate our job is to keep our children safe. And when they get in a situation when they’re not safe, our job is to save them. And I feel that I have failed and I feel that our governments have failed and I feel that all the parties at the table have failed to get these 133 souls back home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have said in the past you wish the mothers could be at the negotiating table. I also read you said, “Israeli leaders are not thinking straight because they’re speaking from a place of guilt-ridden trauma.” And you’ve asked the Jewish communities around the world to press the men in power.

What are you asking people at home to do to help you?

RACHEL GOLDBERG-POLIN: Well, there are so many different things that can be done. You know, there’s advocacy really that needs to be done so that people around the world understand who is this cohort of hostages that are being held? I think there’s so much noise and anger and hatred in the world that people are forgetting that there are so – there’s a representation of all different types of people being held. You know, we still have eight Muslim Arabs being held in this hostage cohort. We have seven Thai Buddhists being held. We have two black African Christians being held. We have people from Nepal and people from Mexico and people from Germany and people from France. People from all over the world. This is not just one homogenous group of people that is being held.

And I think that that kind of gets lost in all the noise. I think talking to your leaders, wherever you are in the world, certainly your local elected leaders in America, writing to the White House. Again, the Biden administration has been wonderful and very supportive, but we have one goal, we need these people home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. We wish you our best and we are watching your advocacy. And we’ll continue asking questions about your son and the others.

That’s going to be all the time we have today. We’re going to see all of you next week.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)



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