Full transcript of “Face the Nation,” March 24, 2024


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

  • House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas
  • Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy 
  • CBS News chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa
  • Sen. Raphael Warnock, Democrat of Georgia

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: A government shutdown is narrowly avoided, but when will Congress tackle the national security risks facing the U.S.?

Following the shocking, fiery raid on a concert hall on the outskirts of Moscow, a branch of ISIS claims responsibility, and U.S. officials confirm the terror group was solely responsible.

We will get the latest from the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, and former top counterterrorism official Samantha Vinograd.

Plus: As immigration officials brace for a spring influx of migrants, the head of Border Patrol tells us the national security risks that keep him up at night.

Then:

(Begin VT)

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): The motion is agreed to.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Shutdown averted. President Biden and Congress agreed to a $1 trillion funding deal. But striking that deal triggers a new attempt to oust the House speaker.

We will ask former Speaker Kevin McCarthy how Republicans can resolve their internal divisions.

And, finally, we will talk presidential politics with Georgia Democratic Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock.

It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation. We have a lot to get to this morning.

Tomorrow, the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, will face two legal threats, including the potential of having a half-billion dollars worth of his assets seized.

And President Biden again implores a chaotic Republican-led Congress to fund a foreign aid package and deal with the national security implications of border security.

But we begin on the devastating terror attack overseas. In Russia, citizens are observing a national day of mourning for the 137 people who were killed in an ISIS attack outside of Moscow.

Foreign correspondent Debora Patta starts us off with the latest.

(Begin VT)

DEBORA PATTA (voice-over): Investigators surveying the smoldering wreckage of the aftermath of the weekend massacre near Moscow.

On Friday night, armed men in combat fatigues burst into the Crocus City Hall, a popular concert venue, and methodically began shooting the audience, before setting the place ablaze. Videos posted on social media show people screaming and ducking for cover…

(GUNSHOTS)

DEBORA PATTA: … as the gunmen fired round after round of automatic gunfire.

“Someone’s shooting here,” this man says. “The hall is burning. They have set us on fire.”

Outside, the building was engulfed in flames. Inside, concertgoers tried to escape the relentless gunfire trapped in a crush of panicked people. Another video shows assailants moving with deadly intent through the complex as they gun people down, the full extent of the horror quickly made clear by a growing line of body bags.

The attack comes after the U.S. shared intelligence with Russia warning that ISIS was planning to strike and advising its citizens to stay away from concert venues. But, this week, after a questionable landslide election victory, President Vladimir Putin dismissed the U.S. warning as outright blackmail.

In a televised address on Saturday after the carnage, Putin told a shocked nation that 11 people had already been arrested in connection with the brazen attack, including four gunmen. And despite the fact that ISIS has claimed responsibility, he used the opportunity to bolster support for his war in Ukraine, now entering its third year.

(PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

DEBORA PATTA: “The assailants were moving in the direction of Ukraine,” Putin claimed, “where they had a Russian border crossing prepared from the Ukrainian side.”

It’s a charge Ukraine flatly denies and the U.S. has categorically repudiated.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That was Debora Patta reporting.

And we’re joined now by the Republican chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Texas Congressman Michael McCaul.

Good to have you here in person this morning.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-Texas): Thanks for having me, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Chair McCaul, this attack in Moscow was carried out by ISIS-K, a group that typically emanates out of Afghanistan.

We know the U.S. had advanced warning. From what you know, is there an ongoing threat in Eurasia, and are U.S. interests a target?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: Yes, I – I believe so.

I think that the CENTCOM Commander, General Kurilla, just testified this week before Congress that, within six months, that ISIS-K would have the capability to operate outside of Afghanistan, to do external operations. And it only took six days before they hit Moscow, or outside of Moscow.

And I think Europe is of concern. And it’s sort of like we’re going back to that old playbook where history repeats itself. And that’s why the fall of Afghanistan, the way it was done, and the way we left it with no ISR capability, that intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, puts us in danger, where this is a new battleground training ground for ISIS.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the U.S. did, though, have some ears on this if they warned Russia, right…

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: Correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: … that ISIS was a threat here.

You, in your committee, you have been very focused on Afghanistan. And you held a hearing with retired Generals Mark Milley and Frank McKenzie this past week. They both said the State Department failed to adequately plan for the withdrawal from an evacuation from Afghanistan.

Given the threat environment the U.S. is facing right now on multiple continents at once, Haiti, Niger, all the Middle East, are you confident that the United States government is prepared to protect its people in all of those posts and carry out evacuations if needed?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: I’m very concerned.

I think what happened in Haiti – our embassy is under threat right now. We’re starting to evacuate them. You know, what happened in Afghanistan, the generals are very clear. It wasn’t the DOD. It was a State Department that never came up with a plan of evacuation, which, by law, they’re required to do.

And so what happened? If you fail…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, they said it was too late when it was put into place. There was a plan, but it was too late.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: It – it – and it was put in place, but only at the time that Kabul was falling and the embassy was starting to be evacuated.

I think what the State Department thought they could do is continue our operations in the embassy and normalize with the Taliban and stay there beyond the military retrograde. And I think that was a serious error in judgment.

And Ambassador Wilson was the major culprit behind that, including all the way up to the White House.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the State Department has pointed out that the Trump administration that brokered the deal for withdrawal could have planned for an evacuation and did not.

What do you make of that?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: Yes, they – they’re by law required to plan. I think DOD was starting to pick up the slack.

You know, we saw the threats coming in, the threat vectors. The I.C. was telling us it was going to fall fast. The DOD knew this. And the State Department seemed to have these rose-colored lenses on. When you listen to the White House press comments about it’s not going to be like Vietnam, everything’s fine, and it wasn’t.

That’s why we had the dissent cable come out from the embassy, 23 employees, a cry for help, screaming to get out of there, because they knew what was going to happen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The government funding bill that was signed last night, 12,000 additional special visas to Afghan nationals who had worked with the U.S., were tucked into this funding bill.

What more needs to be done to help the Afghan allies who worked alongside the U.S.?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: Well, we promised them we would get them out, the Afghan partners, the interpreters. We left them behind.

And that’s the biggest sin of the Afghan evacuation. I think the 12,000 SIVs is a great response and a great start to that. I will commend Speaker Johnson. I worked very closely with him to make sure we had that in there, because, on one hand, Republicans can say oh, my gosh, we left them behind, but then we’re not going to do anything to help them get out with visas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

So, has Speaker Johnson given you any timeline for a vote on Ukraine aid, given that they are running out of ammunition?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: His commitment is to put it on the floor after Easter. And we are working on this bill.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As soon as you all come back April 9?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: I would like to be done as soon as possible.

I think the situation in Ukraine is dire. The front lines are – are – it’s – we can’t – if we lose in Ukraine like Afghanistan…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: … and – and lose to Putin and let him, you know, take over Ukraine and Moldova, Georgia, and abandon our allies, like we did in Afghanistan, does that make the United States weaker or stronger? I think weaker.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But why – why isn’t there that sense of urgency on the speaker’s part? I mean, respectfully, this has been stuck in the House for weeks. You have been warning about this. It needs to be acted on.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: He understands this.

He is in a very difficult spot. And this, you know, motion to vacate the chair thing – I believe he’s committed, because he understands national security. He leans on, you know, myself, the chairmen of Armed Services, House Intelligence for advice on this. And he knows how important this is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you trust that this will be voted on?

Because, as you just mentioned, that motion to vacate was just introduced by Marjorie Taylor Greene. This is an – an effort to oust him. She has put this in place. You’re all headed home to your districts. You are all going to be asked about this. She’s the only one so far saying she wants to oust the speaker. Will she stay the only one?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: You know, I think it’s indicative that even Matt Gaetz, who was the architect of ousting McCarthy, is saying this would be a huge mistake, because it could actually throw the balance of power over to Hakeem Jeffries.

I think that’s one argument. I think the other argument is, we don’t need dysfunction right now. And with the world on fire, the way it is…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Don’t we have dysfunction right now?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: Well, we do.

And with the world on fire the way it is, we need to govern. And that is not just for Republicans, but in a bipartisan way, get things done for the country. That’s in the national security interest of the United States. This is not just Ukraine. It’s Israel and Indo-Pacific as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

Before I let you go, 11 aid organizations have issued a letter saying that Israel is standing in the way of aid deliveries in Gaza, their firsthand experience. Do you doubt their testimonies?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: I think we are having difficulties.

I talked to, you know, Cindy McCain yesterday, World Food Program. David Beasley, her predecessor. Look, logistics and security are the issue. Israel knows it’s important to get that humanitarian assistance in, because – for a lot of reasons. We have to stabilize Southern Gaza.

But they also need to go into Rafah and take out Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas. So that’s a competing interest here. Unfortunately, cease-fire talks, I think Hamas is playing us…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: … playing – Director Burns talked to, you know, the Israelis. They agreed to the ratio. I don’t think Hamas will. They’re not playing fair.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Chair McCaul, thank you for your time today.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: Margaret, thanks for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, who joins us this morning from Bakersfield, California.

Good to have you back on the program, sir.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-California): Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, since you left Congress, we’ve had four high-profile Republican departures, including Mike Gallagher, a young rising star, someone you put in key positions, announced retirements, including from one of your lieutenants, Patrick McHenry.

Is the chaos within your caucus driving these departures?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Well, I think it’s causing some of it, yes.

I mean, the difficulty here is, when you allow eight Republicans to join with all the Democrats to determine who can run the House, when 96 percent decide one way, it creates some chaos. They’ve got to move through this, put the country first and be able to move on.

I think they’re able to do that. Speaker Johnson is doing the very best job he can. It’s a difficult situation. But, look, the one advice I would give to the Conference and to the speaker is, do not be fearful of a motion to vacate. I do not think they could do it again. That was surely based on Matt Gaetz trying to stop an ethics complaint.

I don’t think the Democrats will go along with it too. Focus on the country, focus on the job you’re supposed to do, and actually do it fearlessly. Just move forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Patrick McHenry, one of your lieutenants, said you can either die a speaker and worry about them taking you out or live every day as your last.

(LAUGHTER)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you suggesting Speaker Johnson is afraid to take a vote on something like Ukraine?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: No, no, not at all.

No, no, I don’t think – I don’t think Speaker Johnson’s afraid at all. And I don’t believe the motion will come up. What the – the motion Marjorie put in was not privileged. So it’s not…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: It’s not being called up for a vote. I – I don’t think the Democrats will go along with this either.

We’re close to the election. We watched what transpired the last time. You went three weeks without Congress being able to act. You can’t do anything if you don’t have a speaker.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: I think we’ve moved past that. We’ve got a lot of challenges. We have got FISA coming up before us. We’ve got Ukraine funding. We’ve got a border wide open.

Those are the issues the country is actually looking on, the economy and others. If we focus on the country and what the country’s desire…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: … I think the personalities can solve their own problems.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, when you were in Washington, you used to deal with Marjorie Taylor Greene, who filed this motion to vacate to oust the speaker.

She’s blaming Johnson for everything from chaos at the border. She says she’s starting this process to end the chaos that Americans are living in every single day. Do you endorse her tactic? What’s the game here?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Look, the one thing I have always found, when you sit down with a member and talk to them, find out what their concerns are, especially when it’s based upon policy, you can solve that problem.

And I watched that with Marjorie, from the vote to speaker to the vote for the Fiscal Responsibility Act. There’s times she was a difference of opinion. And you sit down and find common ground.

Matt’s case was much different. It’s about a personal thing that he had done. And that’s what he was trying, to get something illegally stopped. This is not the case here. So I would not be afraid of a motion to vacate. This is about policy.

And, you remember, our government is defi – is designed…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: … to find common ground.

And we’ve got a small majority. But, remember, Margaret, in those nine months, what was the small majority able to do? We actually passed the strongest border security bill – it’s now struck in the Senate – an energy independence bill. We stopped D.C. from decriminalizing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s – it’s dead on arrival in the Senate. It’s not just…

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: We reformed welfare. We made the largest…

MARGARET BRENNAN: … stuck there.

(CROSSTALK)

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: But – but listen to what did come into law, the largest cut in American history, more than $2 trillion…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: … welfare reform. Took $20 billion back from the IRS going after Americans. NEPA reform, hasn’t done in 40 years, parents bill of rights.

We’ve proven we can govern in many ways…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well…

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: … which would actually show to the American public, if we had a new president, got a majority in the Senate, America would be much stronger.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you’ve twice now mentioned Matt Gaetz. So I want to just ask you if you have evidence to back up your allegation.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Well, I think the Ethics Committee – – it was purely Matt coming to me trying – trying me to do something illegal to stop the Ethics Committee from moving forward in an investigation that was started long before I became a speaker.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Something illegal?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: I would not do that. I don’t know what the fact – I don’t know what the facts are there.

It’s a – it’s pers – a personal issue of what he’d done as a member of Congress. I simply would say the Ethics Committee has the right to look at whatever they’re going forward, and I’m not going to get in the middle of it one way or another.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

Putting that to the side, I want to talk about what you are actually seeing happen with legislation, because a lot of Americans look at what’s happening and say, this is chaos. We want actual, real problems dealt with.

On the national security front, that used to be a priority for Republicans. But, as we were just talking about with Chair McCaul, Johnson hasn’t given any timeline really for a vote on this Ukraine package, nor for Israel, nor for Taiwan.

Who is he afraid of? Is it Mr. Trump?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: No, I don’t think he’s afraid of anyone.

Remember, you have certain things before you. Government funding…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why not set a date?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Well, I think – I think – I think he is setting a date.

You also have to have – educate the members, be able to move forward with that. I have always believed, in that situation, when I was speaker, securing the border and dealing with foreign policy, you can do it the same time and together.

What I was going to move forward is, take our H.R.2 and also deal with the security issue. I think Israel is actually different. That should have been moved forward with no pay-for long before – especially right after October 7.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Because we have a world that looks like the 1930s. You’ve got this new axis of evil with China, Russia, Iran bounding together.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that – that was a Johnson choice that you’re criticizing there, just to…

(CROSSTALK)

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: You don’t want to send the wrong message.

Well, what I’m saying is…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: … you need to work together to move forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: You’ve got to secure the American border.

What I would use is the power of the majority, is to sit down, just as we did with the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Go directly to the president. If you sit around and try to do four leaders, you’re never going to get to an answer. Sit down and negotiate with the president directly about border security and Ukraine and Taiwan.

I believe you would get to an answer. And you’ve got the power, and use that power of the majority to move.

I believe, when they come back – you just heard the chairman there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it’s barely a majority at this – at this point.

I mean, by the end of April, you’re going to be down to 217 Republicans to 213 Democrats. I mean, the dynamics change here. Should you have – should you have stayed in Congress?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Yes, well, the one thing I will tell you, you still have the majority.

Remember, when we had a small majority of just five, we did pass the most conservative border security bill. We did cut more than $2 trillion. We did pass a parents bill of rights. We did be able to reform welfare. So we did things other Congress couldn’t do with 30-seat majority.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: You have the majority. You can still govern and use that power to do exactly that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It – it sounds like you’re – you’re providing some coaching advice there, sir.

I want to ask you…

(LAUGHTER)

MARGARET BRENNAN: … ask you, though, do you speak to Speaker Johnson? And I know you do speak to President – former President Trump.

Do you have plans to return to government potentially in a Trump administration?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Look, I have always said I – I will serve whichever way I – if I’m the best person for the job.

But I think people worried about whether they get a job in the next administration is the wrong place to be. You first have to have the election. I think you should be going out to the American public and showing them, yes, with President Trump get elected, we would have a secure border.

We’d have a stronger economy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: We wouldn’t be evacuating five embassies. We wouldn’t have war around the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, those are counterfactuals.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: We would be much stronger and the future would be much brighter.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Those – those are – are counterfactuals.

(LAUGHTER)

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: I don’t think so.

I served – I served with both presidents. That’s exactly the situation today.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: We have evacuated five embassies under President Biden. We’ve had high inflation under President Biden.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: We have a wide-open border. We have people who are on the terrorist watch list…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: … more people in one month of February getting across our border than the entire time when President Trump was in office.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’re going to – and we’re going to…

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: So, that’s actual truths of what’s happening today.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we’re going to talk to the head of Border Patrol later in the program and our immigration correspondent about some of the specifics of those issues.

Kevin McCarthy, thank you for coming back.

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

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Former President Trump faces a massive legal and financial deadline tomorrow, when he either has to post a half-billion- dollar bond following a judgment he and his company committed civil fraud or face the prospect of New York Attorney General Letitia James seizing his properties as collateral.

Joining us now is chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa.

Bob, this is a big point potentially in the campaign. Is he going to be able to pay for this?

ROBERT COSTA: Good morning, Margaret.

Former President Trump’s lawyers say he will not be able to secure this bond by Monday’s deadline. And there could be a delay tactic or an appeal they announce in the next 24 hours. But it’s very clear that, at this point, they don’t have the money to put up, even though Trump’s trying to maybe use the merger of his social media company to get some leverage here.

It is clear the attorney general of New York is moving very aggressively, already has a file in Westchester County to begin the process of seizing assets in that area of New York. And she could use a marshal or a sheriff to begin freezing Trump’s bank accounts and taking prized properties, like Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street, in the coming weeks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What are the political ramifications of this? Obviously, there are huge financial and personal ones for Mr. Trump.

ROBERT COSTA: Even as he faces this financial crisis, it could be a political crisis as well.

There is a cash crunch in the 2024 presidential race, President Biden’s campaign raising a lot of money. Trump might have to turn to the Republican National Committee to help pay his legal bills, his daughter-in-law Lara Trump now an executive at the RNC, at the same time, a logistical nightmare here, being mired in all of these financial transactions and a possible criminal case over hush money payments in the coming weeks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will learn soon more about that case you just mentioned on the hush money front.

Bob Costa, thank you for giving us your reporting.

And we want to note that tomorrow will bring another inflection point in that case regarding hush money. Mr. Trump is charged with falsifying business records to pay hush money to cover up an affair with a porn star. And Mr. Trump is seeking a delay in that past mid-April. Tomorrow, we’re going to find out when that trial will begin.

We will be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: For all the political news during the week, be sure to tune in to America Decides, a daily show on our streaming network that airs at 5:00, 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with Georgia Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock and an interview with the chief of the Border Patrol on the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

We go now to Georgia Democratic Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock. He is part of President Biden’s re-election campaign.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION.

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Thank you so much for inviting me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, your state of Georgia was so key to President Biden’s win back in 2020. Our polling now, though, shows Donald Trump with 51 percent of the potential 2024 vote, Biden at 48 percent. When it comes to black voters, support has dropped since the last election.

Why do you think that enthusiasm has declined?

RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Well, listen, you know, it’s still relatively early in the campaign. And I can tell you, as someone whose name has been on the ballot five times in less than three years, that the polls don’t tell you nearly as much as the people do. I think that at the end of day black voters, Georgia voters, will see that this is a binary choice. And the more Donald Trump talks, the better our fortunes will be. And, in the end, I believe that Georgia voters are going to do for Joe Biden what they did for me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But in states like Georgia, Democrats have been campaigning on action on voting rights, safeguarding democracy, police reform. The administration hasn’t been able to legislate really on any of those things.

Trayvon Martin’s mom was at an event this past week and said, “the people are not understanding what the politicians are doing, and the politicians definitely don’t understand what the people want.” She was talking about the state level, but at the federal level, how do you explain the inaction on these issues?

RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Well, nobody’s been more vigilant and focused on the issue in the Senate on voting rights than me. I was John Lewis’ pastor. And I saw up close his courage, the depth of his commitment, his understanding that change is slow. That’s the nature of politics and history. Often we take one step forward, we take another step back, but we keep pushing.

And in a real sense it’s the history of this country. There are moments when the democracy expands. There are moments when it contracts. And a Donald Trump part two would represent a contraction that we could not bear.

When we think about the threat, the threat on voting rights, the threat on women’s reproductive rights, their ability to decide what happens to their own body. And so we remain vigilant.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have been outspoken on the issue of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. According to CBS polling, it is 61 percent of black adults polled by CBS say Biden should encourage Israel to decrease or stop military actions. And the feelings are really strong, particularly among young voters.

Recently we also saw a thousand black pastors from congregations across the country issue a demand for a cease-fire. Sir, of all the issues facing the black community, why do you think this particular one is resonating in the way that it is?

RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Well, you know, we – we, in the African American community, understand human struggle. We know it when we see it. And I called for a negotiated cease-fire just a couple of weeks ago on the floor of the United States Senate.

Look, the state of Israel is our ally. And they’re – they are our most important partner in the Middle East. But right now we are having an important conversation about principles, about American values, and a real sense that’s what’s at stake.

We cannot forget about the awful attacks of Hamas on October 7th against innocent people, including Americans. We can’t turn away from that. And at the same time, we cannot turn away from the scenes of awful suffering and human catastrophe in Gaza.

And so we will continue to fight for a negotiated cease-fire. I have said very clearly that I think for the – for Mr. Netanyahu to go into Rafah, where some 1.4 million Palestinians are now sheltering, would be morally unjustifiable, it would be unconscionable and I hope that, at the end of the day, cooler heads will prevail and that one day we can get to a two- state solution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In terms of what the U.S. can control, the question of U.S. military support for Israel is being debated within your party, as you know. Just yesterday, 11 organizations, who operate in Gaza, including the Episcopal church, Oxfam, Save the Children, issued a letter saying, “the humanitarian response in Gaza, including U.S.-funded humanitarian assistance, has been consistently and arbitrarily denied, restricted and impeded by the Israeli authorities.”

Do you worry that continuing to provide American weapons to Israel will sacrifice moral authority? And do you believe that the Biden administration should suspend arms transfers?

RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Listen, Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood. And its enemies are more than just Hamas. There are serious and geopolitical concerns that we have to pay attention to.

But look, we – we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can be consistent in our support of Israel’s right to defend itself and, at the same time, be true to American values and engage this catastrophic humanitarian situation that’s on the ground.

We have a security supplemental right now that’s already passed the Senate, and it hasn’t been put on the floor of the House. That security supplemental will provide humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. It will support our partners in the Indo-Pacific arena.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

RAPHAEL WARNOCK: And it will also check Russian aggression in Ukraine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. But I hear you stopping short of saying it should stop transfers. Seventeen Democratic senators have said the administration should reject Israel’s claims that it’s not violating international law. You’re not comfortable with that statement?

RAPHAEL WARNOCK: I – I am saying that we have to continue to engage our partner and to ensure that humanitarian aid gets to the people of Gaza.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

RAPHAEL WARNOCK: And, ultimately, we need a ceasefire.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

Sir, I know it is Palm Sunday and you will be headed to church and to preach today. Thank you for sharing your time this morning with us.

We’ll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the U.S. southern border with Mexico, where the number of border apprehensions ticked up last month. About 16,000 more apprehensions from January.

Our immigration and politics reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez spoke with the chief of border patrol, Jason Owens, who says the agency is on track to record over 2 million migrant apprehensions this year and that most crossings are being aided by a criminal network of smugglers.

(BEGIN VT)

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: Are the smugglers setting the rules of engagement here?

JASON OWENS (Chief, U.S. Border Patrol): Yes, they absolutely are. They – they dictate what the flow is going to look like, and we respond to it. Then we try and get out in front of it and deny them the ability to use these areas, especially ones that we think are going to be dangerous for us and for the migrants. But at the end of the day, there’s over 1,900 miles of border with Mexico. Now, when you talk about 20,000 border patrol agents, that sound like a lot. But when you multiply that by 24 hours a day, seven days a week, across the entirety of the year, that number starts to dwindle very fast. And that’s exactly what they’re do. The tactic is, they’ll push groups across knowing that we’re going to respond from a humanitarian perspective and make sure that they’re safe. And while we’re tied up and occupied doing this, what are they doing a couple miles down the road?

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: Are you concerned about that, about the potential dangerous people or potential terrorists who may be infiltrating the country because you are so focused on processing asylum seekers, families and others who are in distress.

JASON OWENS: Absolutely. That’s – that’s – you ask any law enforcement officer, especially somebody that works in border security, that is what keeps us up at night. It’s – we’re at – you know, closing in on a million entries this fiscal year alone. That number is a large number, But what’s keeping me up at night is the 140,000 known got aways.

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: That is not part of the tally.

JASON OWENS: That is not part of that tally. And that’s just what we know.

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: Is that a national security risk?

JASON OWENS: That is a national security threat. Border security is a big piece of national security. And if we don’t know who is coming into our country and we don’t know what their intent is, that is a threat. And they’re exploiting a vulnerability that’s on our border right now.

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: You menged that there has been a dramatic shift in the demographics along the border. We met migrants from Peru, Ecuador, Nepal, Burkina Faso, Mauritania. How are people from Nepal and Africa coming here?

JASON OWENS: So far this fiscal year alone we’ve had people from 160 countries or more come across our border illegally. This is a global issues. We have people literally from all points across the globe making that same journey. And they’re using smuggling routes. Every country and every region has smugglers that try and facilitate a pipeline for them to get to where they’re going and they’re connected with one another. So, they may, if they’re coming from Europe or they’re coming from Asia, they’ll find ways to get to maybe South America. And then from South America they may make their way up through the Darien Gap and – and make their way up through Central America and ultimately find their way to decision points that take them to different points along our borders depending on what smuggling organization that they’re using. But it doesn’t matter where they’re coming from.

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: Former President Trump has said that we have millions and millions of people coming from jails and prisons. Is that accurate? Millions and millions?

JASON OWENS: I don’t know. I don’t know what the – I don’t know if – if – if they’re – other countries are releasing people from jails and those folks that got released are making their way up or not. I don’t know what the numbers would be. It’s the unknown that scares us.

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: By and large, though, are the vast majority of these folks good people, if you will?

JASON OWENS: Yes, I think they absolutely are – are by and large good people. I wish they would choose the right way to come into our country and not start off on the wrong foot by – by breaking our laws. There are still people that we’re finding in those groups, though, that have criminal backgrounds, that have – that have been convicted sexual predators, that have been convicted gang members. A very small amount in that population. But they’re still there.

Most of the folks that we’re encountering that are turning themselves in, you know, they’re coming across because they’re either fleeing terrible conditions, or they’re economic migrants looking for a better way of life. It doesn’t make them bad people, it’s just that they’re not being respectful of the laws that we’ve established as a country and they’re – they’re actually putting people in this country in harm’s way because they’re pulling the border security apparatus off of task.

(END VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’re joined now by CBS News immigration and politics reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez.

Great interview, Camilo. It is pretty shocking to hear an official of his level say essentially that the cartels are in charge of the U.S. border. What are the risks that he’s referring to here?

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: Well, Margaret, we should point out that at a very basic level the situation at the U.S./Mexico border is mainly a humanitarian crisis fueled by record numbers of desperate people who are fleeing desperate circumstances. But what the border patrol chief is telling us, is that it also has national security implications because he’s mainly concerned about the so-called got-aways. These are migrants who are actively trying to evade law enforcement and who are captured on cameras or sensors but are not apprehended for different reasons. And so far this fiscal year, since October, 140,000 people have essentially snuck into the country without being apprehended by border patrol along the U.S./Mexico border.

Border Patrol Chief Owens is concerned about their intentions. Whether they’re criminals. Whether they’re national security threats. And so that is a national security threat that he is outlining.

I do have to underscore too that statistics that are available on this do show that most of the migrants encountered by border patrol agents are not serious criminals. But again, as you know, it only takes one bad case for this to become a serious challenge for law enforcement.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And this is one of the most nuanced and complicated issues. And you were touching on that.

But I know you spent a lot of time recently in Texas and in Arizona. How prepared are the border communities for the uptick that’s expected to happen in next month?

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: That’s right. Well, Margaret, we traveled to the Tucson sector in Arizona which is now actually the busiest border patrol region for migrant crossings. More migrants are crossing in California and Arizona than in Texas. A dramatic shift from last year. And the main shelter system there is telling us that they may have to reject migrants, including families with small children, from border patrol because they’re running out of federal funds.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Even with this government funding that was just approved?

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: That’s right, which includes a reduction in funding to shelters and NGOs housing migrants. That was at the request the Republican lawmakers. And even that new funding will not get to these people in time. And so border patrol, Margaret, may have to release people into the streets of Tucson, the border patrol chief told us that that is a possibility.

And so while Washington, Congress and the White House continue to bicker over this, the communities at the border are bracing for another crisis.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you’re getting back to, it’s Congress that controls the purse strings.

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: That’s right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And provides the resources and the president tries to set the policy.

I want to ask you about a video that we’re going to show to our viewer because it’s been widely circulated and I think it needs some context.

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What we are seeing here are National Guard forces in uniform trying to prevent migrants, who are already on U.S. soil from Texas, from being able to claim asylum. What do we need to know about this, because it’s getting very politicized?

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: Well, what we have been told is that a group of several hundred migrants, most of them Venezuelan men, broke through these barriers that the state of Texas has set up near stretches of the border, including in El Paso, to deter illegal crossings. One migrant was arrested for assaulting a National Guard soldier deployed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. We don’t know what prompted this incident and the migrants to do this. But I do have to underscore that the Texas National Guard is there in El Paso and other parts of the border to physically block migrants from being encountered by federal border patrol agents. Why? Because border patrol agents have a legal obligation to process these migrants if they are physically on American soil and also to refer them to an asylum hearing if they request humanitarian protection. Texas is trying to actively block that. These migrants were already on U.S. soil because the international boundary there is actually in the middle of the Rio Grande, so they had to be processed under federal law.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that’s the subject for another conversation about that tension between state and federal officials.

Camilo, thank you for bringing us that interview.

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: Yes.

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

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re joined now by CBS contributor Samantha Vinograd, a former counterterrorism official for the Department of Homeland Security under the Biden and serving in the Obama administration.

Good to have you here again.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: Thanks, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, a lot I want to get to you with.

Let me first start, U.S. law enforcement, to be clear, says there is no credible, imminent threat to the U.S. homeland that is known emanating from that error attack that we saw ISIS carry out in Moscow. But how concerning is the terror environment right now for Americans?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: Well, I will say from a counter-terrorism perspective, the attack near Moscow was tragic but it was also unsurprising. The intelligence community has been warning for years that ISIS, despite territory leadership losses, has retained its ability to conduct operations largely through regional affiliated like ISIS-K, who’s claimed responsibility for the attack near Moscow. We’ve seen ISIS-K attack American interests outside the Kabul airport during the evacuation, attack the Russian embassy in Kabul in 2022, and increasingly increase the geographic scope of their operations in Central Asia, Iran and now Moscow.

We also know that ISIS is relying on its regional affiliates to attack its interests in the west. And from my time advising the secretary of Homeland Security, I will tell you that we were concerned about the threat that ISIS-K posed to the American interests and to the homeland and we took certain steps to mitigate them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you tell us what those were?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: Well, without getting into operational details, the Department of Homeland Security and its intelligence counterterrorism and law enforcement partners regularly seeks to get access to the best intelligence possible and then to use analysis of matters, like travel patterns, to inform screening and vetting, to inform cooperation with other partners globally, to try to prevent any potential known or suspected terrorists from just entering the hemisphere. And that’s really where, Margaret, having adequate resources from screening and vetting, both from an information standpoint and from a personal – personnel standpoint becomes incredibly critical.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that’s where we hear some of the political talking points about the porousness of the southern border and trying to make a connection to a terror threat.

We heard from the border chief here, 140,000 known got aways, but he’s worried about what wasn’t detected. What is needed to fill the blind spots?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: Well, just to put that’s number in contexts, the percentage of got aways to actual encounters between the Trump administration and the Biden administration is basically equal. But when we think about terrorist travel to the United States, we’re talking about travel via air, maritime travel and, of course, land travel.

Now, the federal government has the opportunity to position resources overseas to again try to prevent terrorists from even getting on a plane or boat here in the first place. But at the border itself we have to remember that every migrant being encountered is screened and vetted against terrorism and criminal history data sets. But at the same time, vetting is only as good as the underlying information that a migrant’s identifies are being vetted against. And that’s where I am concerned that we’re under resourced. We’re under resourced in terms of having the information available to make really informed vetting decisions.

With our withdrawals in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have lost certain intelligence capabilities because of other intelligence priorities, like great power competition with China and Russia, we have seen a resource shift. And in light of the expansion of countries of origin showing up at our border, we really need to rethink the kinds of criminal history and terrorism related arrangements we have with other countries so that the vetting team, not just DHS, DHS alone doesn’t conduct vetting, can make the most informed decisions possible based on timely and accurate information.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But to put a finer point on that, when you say it’s only as good as the information available. Not all of the countries if the world hand over their prison registries to the United States government, right? I mean there are certain places we won’t know.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: They certainly don’t. They’re – we won’t, and that’s where this has to be a mix of the best and most timely intelligence that we can gather, analyze and integrate into the vetting architecture, in addition to these voluntary arrangements that we can agree to with other countries. And my hope is –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are those being negotiated with like Venezuela, for example? That’s the example that we’ve talked most about.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: There are, based on my time at DHS and working with the Department of Justice and the Department of State, there is an ongoing discussion about how to enhance our information arrangements with other countries while concurrently within the intelligence community conversations about how to make the best use of intelligence collection and analysis resources. But we need to rethink the international information structure that we have to feed into our vetting architecture.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And there is a time limit on how long someone can be detained for under federal law. So, how quickly can you do all this vetting?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: Well, vetting is a point in time check. Vetting is based on the best information you have at that moment. If the federal government had additional resources, the federal government could vet migrants on an ongoing basis. So, even after they were released, if new information did enter the system, there would be a recurrent vetting process. And that’s where in terms of personnel and technology, the federal government would benefit from additional vetting resources so that all migrants could be vetted on an ongoing basis. That would help improve homeland security.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the border chief, in that interview, did ask for more technology and more agents.

Quickly, in terms of what’s happening in Texas, the state of Texas doesn’t have all of the vetting equipment that you’re talking about either, do they?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: The implementation of SB-4 would be hugely detrimental from a homeland security perspective. The vetting architecture that we use at the federal level is incredibly complex and relies on both unclassified and classified data sets. Texas has none of that infrastructure. If Texas detains a migrant, puts them into – puts them into jail, they could be holding a known or suspected terrorist, a transnational organized criminal without even knowing and without even having the proper security to ensure that there’s not a threat emanating from that individual to the homeland. It would be incredibly catastrophic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Important context.

Sam, thank you.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: Thanks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s it for us today. Thank you all for watching. For FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)



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