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Full transcript of "Face the Nation," Nov. 26, 2023

11/26: Face The Nation
11/26: Face The Nation 46:01

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

  • Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister  
  • National security adviser Jake Sullivan 
  • Phillippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees
  • World Food Programme director Cindy McCain
  • Sen. Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado
  • Rep. Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado

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: Could the fragile temporary truce between Israel and Hamas hold? And does it signal we're near the end of this brutal war?

For the first weekend in almost two months, relief and joy in Israel, with more than two dozen hostages returning home as part of a deal with Hamas in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

We will bring you an exclusive interview with one of the deal's architects, the prime minister of Qatar, on the fate of the remaining hostages and just how long this truce could last, plus National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and a look at the global consequences of Gaza's humanitarian crisis with the leaders of two of the U.N.'s organizations.

Finally, back home, we will check in on Congress' sprawling year-end to-do list, including a border deal that could tighten asylum rules.

It's all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.

It is day three of the brief pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas. And a third group of hostages is expected to be released today by Hamas in exchange for Israel releasing Palestinian prisoners and allowing in humanitarian aid to Gaza. Hamas has given the list of 13 hostages to Israel for review. And multiple sources tell CBS News that an American name is on that list.

The truce negotiated by Qatar and the U.S. is expected to last for at least four days, and it's unclear at this hour what will happen this week on day five.

We will have an exclusive interview with the prime minister of Qatar in a moment.

First, here's the latest from Imtiaz Tyab in the West Bank.

(Begin VT)

IMTIAZ TYAB (voice-over): After seven weeks in captivity, freedom for a second group of hostages, including 9-year-old Irish-Israeli Emily Hand, who was initially presumed dead, now in her father's arms, just one of many overjoyed reunions.

In all, 13 Israelis, six women and seven children, and four Thai nationals were released last night, and 39 Palestinian prisoners, six women and 33 children, including these teenage boys, who were given a hero's welcome in the occupied West Bank. Since the start of the agreement, a total of 41 hostages have been released and 78 Palestinian prisoners.

But there were fears on Saturday the fragile deal between Israel and Hamas was close to collapse after it was delayed for hours when Hamas accused the Israeli military of repeatedly violating the terms of the agreement, forcing Egyptian and Qatari mediators to intervene, while, in Gaza, the pause in violence allowed war-weary Palestinians to return to their homes in the north of the strip, only to find entire city blocks gutted by airstrikes.

Hamas leaders said Israeli forces had been preventing aid trucks from entering the area, a stark reminder of how brittle the truce agreement is, as Israel continues to vow it will resume its campaign to destroy Hamas after the pause, despite the growing international pressure for a longer break in the bombardment that has so far killed almost 15,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health, and has displaced over a million more, many of whom have fled to the relative safety of the south of Gaza, where CBS News producer Marwan Al Ghoul reports.

MARWAN AL GHOUL: The feelings of the people here in the south, actually, it's mixed, because they could see each other and very sad too. They heard that they lost their houses. They lost everything.

IMTIAZ TYAB: There is still some optimism that the four-day break in hostilities could be extended after Israel offered to prolong the cease- fire by an extra day for every 10 more hostages released.

(End VT)

IMTIAZ TYAB: And Israel has already received the names of the next 13 hostages that are due to be released, and Hamas has been alerted of the names of the 39 other Palestinian prisoners, while, in Gaza, for the first time since the war began, a Qatari delegation has entered the Palestinian territory, Margaret, the first foreign diplomats to do so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Imtiaz Tyab reporting from the West Bank.

We're joined now by the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani Mohammed. It is his first interview since Qatar helped broker this hostage deal between Hamas and Israel. Qatar has also facilitated getting Americans stuck in Gaza out of the region.

Good morning to you, sir.

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL THANI (Qatari Prime Minister): Well, thank you very much for having me, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sheikh, the White House told us that at least one American is expected to be released by Hamas today. You've seen the list of hostages.

Will we see 4-year-old Abigail Edan released today? And are you confident this exchange will happen?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL THANI: Well, so far, things are moving in the right direction. We've been working very closely with the U.S. government, with the White House, of course.

And we are hoping that we will see the release happening shortly. And, within the list, they include Abigail, the young girl, 4 years old.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will we see more Americans released soon?


There are still some names which supposed to be on the first group. Until now, we didn't get the confirmation yet. But, you know, we are working on daily basis and making sure that, every day, we have the list of the next day.

So, we are hopeful that to have – to have a confirmation of a proof of life for them and, hopefully, the result at the end of the agreement. As I mentioned, things are happening on a daily basis, and we are focused on today's operation. And, hopefully, that will happen very shortly from now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Mr. Prime Minister, I understand a Qatari delegation visited Israel yesterday and Gaza today. Do you expect that this four-day truce will be extended, and, if so, for how long?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL THANI: Well, actually, we are – we are hopeful.

According to the agreement that been agreed upon in the last few days for this four-days pause, the agreement has a provision that if Hamas are – will be able to prove, to locate, and secure some of the hostages that are within the criteria of the first group, which is women and children, then it will be extended.

Depends on – on the number that they will have. This is something we cannot confirm yet, until we get to the fourth day. Then Hamas should present the list if they are available with them.

Our delegation who have reached to Israel and to Gaza, they are totally two separate delegation. The Gaza delegation is focused on ensuring that humanitarian aid are sufficient, that they are going to – the humanitarian aid that's going in Gaza, and it's a pure humanitarian mission.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you know where Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas commander believed to have planned these attacks, is right now?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL THANI: Well, I don't think that this information is available with anyone, except you know, the people who are close to him.

And this is information really that doesn't relate much to what we are doing right now and on the ongoing negotiations. Our communication throughout the years that we had with Hamas has been very exclusive to the political wing and the political representatives and the office here in Doha.

And that's it. And we don't deal directly with or never have any dealing with the military wing.


Well, Qatar is home to the very large U.S. military base. Qatar is a major non-NATO U.S. ally. But, in this country, a number of Republican lawmakers, in particular, have publicly called for your country to hand over those Hamas political leaders.

What is the future? Will they remain in Qatar?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL THANI: Margaret, our relation with U.S. is a very solid relationship and alliance that been established throughout the decades.

We've been working together very closely in ensuring peace and stability in the region. And, in several occasions, Qatar has been always stepping up to this partnership. And, if you recall Afghanistan, and, currently right now, we've been working very closely with the White House, with the CIA and State Department to ensure that this deal is happening.

The president of the United States is in constant contact with His Highness, the emir, and I have been in constant communication with our colleagues in the White House, CIA and State Department as well.

There is a relation that's based on trust, based on mutual interest of both countries. This office, when it's established, it's established in coordination with the U.S. to establish the communication with Hamas. And it's been always useful, not only for the U.S., but for the U.S., Israel, and for the stability of the region.

And as long as this is something useful – and also, right now, we are in the middle of the negotiation – we will always keep the communication open with everyone.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you see an opportunity in this short truce to have some kind of diplomatic agreement to end the conflict? And will Qatar play a role in the future of Gaza?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL THANI: Well, our relationship Margaret, is with the Palestinian people, with the Palestinian cause. Our support for the Palestinian people has been ongoing for decades.

And this is what Qatar stood for. Whoever is governing the Palestinians, it's their choice. And I believe that our focus right now is how to end this war, how to ensure that this is not repeated. And the only way to ensure that this is not repeated is to resolve it peacefully, to have a political solution and provide the Palestinian people with a political horizon for – for a state.

And then the day after and who will govern Gaza and the West Bank should be one unit, one country, under one leadership that will be chosen by the Palestinian people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Prime Minister, I appreciate your time in the middle of this intense diplomacy. We will be watching and hoping for progress.

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL THANI: Thank you very much, Margaret, for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: A source with knowledge tells CBS that a group of hostages was just handed over to the Red Cross. We will be following that.

We spoke earlier this morning with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, before the prime minister, and asked him whether the U.S. could confirm Americans are on the list to be released.

(Begin VT)

JAKE SULLIVAN (U.S. National Security Adviser): Well, Margaret, we do have reason to believe that Americans will be released today, at least one American will be released today.

I cannot confirm who it will be or that it will absolutely happen, because, until we see that American out of Gaza, in safety and ultimately in the hands of their loved ones, we won't have full confirmation.

And so we have been in close touch with the Israeli authorities, with Qatar, with Egypt. And we do have reason to believe that there will be an American released today. But let's wait and see what actually happens, because, of course, we are dealing with a terrorist group here, and we can't immediately trust. We have to verify.


And – but as part of that diplomacy – this is that delicate exchange, Palestinian prisoners, aid going in. Are all those other pieces on track today?

JAKE SULLIVAN: Well, there continues to be quite a bit of intensity around the logistics of the delivery of humanitarian assistance. That humanitarian assistance is flowing. It has been flowing for several hours this morning.

The Israelis have indicated the list of Palestinian prisoners they're prepared to release, so that should be on track. We have every reason to believe that this will come together again today. It has for the last two days.

But implementation of something as intricate and complicated as this is difficult.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know this first phase of the deal is focused on women and children. There are 10 Americans unaccounted for at this point.

Do you anticipate this truce will be extended and that all the Americans, including the men, will come home?

JAKE SULLIVAN: I have every confidence that, ultimately, all of the Americans and all of the individuals being held hostage will come home. We are determined not to rest until that happens.

But whether or not this particular deal gets extended, that's really up to Hamas, because Israel has been very clear, as part of the deal, it is prepared to continue the pause in fighting for every day that Hamas produces an additional 10 hostages.

So, the ball is in Hamas' court. If Hamas chooses on the fifth day and the sixth day and the seventh day to continue to produce hostages, to return them to their loved ones, to return them to safety, then Israel is prepared to continue the pause in the fighting. If Hamas decides not to do it, the responsibility will request – will rest squarely on Hamas' shoulders.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your deputy Jon Finer was on Face the Nation last Sunday and told us Israel believes Hamas leaders are hiding in the south of Gaza. Combat operations are planned for that area. But he said they should be held off until civilians are accounted for in Israel's military planning.

Is the U.S. satisfied with the assurances provided by Israel?

JAKE SULLIVAN: Well, really, this is about operations, and not just about conversation.

So, what the United States is hoping to see and, frankly, what I believe Israel is hoping to see is the conditions being set whereby any military action only takes place after civilians have been accounted for and have the opportunity to be in safety, to have access to humanitarian assistance, and to be out of the way of any military operation that is conducted.

That's the conversation we're having with the Israelis right now. It's a constructive conversation, and the details of it will remain behind closed doors. But the basic notion that continuing military operations should learn lessons from the north to be applied in any further undertakings, this is something that we have been discussing with the Israelis at length.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden was asked this past week about the call by some of his fellow Democrats to put conditions on military aid to Israel, and he said it was – quote – "a worthwhile thought."

What specific conditions are you considering putting on U.S. aid?

JAKE SULLIVAN: Well, Margaret, what the president actually said was, it's a worthwhile thought, but the approach that I have taken, I, Joe Biden have taken, has actually helped generate results.

It has been high-level presidential diplomacy, deep, personal, and oftentimes private engagement…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, he said it wouldn't have gotten us where we are now.

JAKE SULLIVAN: … that has led to – a deep, personal, and private engagement that has led to a substantial and increasing amount of humanitarian assistance going into Gaza, thousands of foreign nationals, including American citizens being able to depart safely from Gaza, a pause in the fighting for the first time since the conflict began, and a hostage deal that is bringing hostages home to their loved ones after 50 days.

That has all been the result of what President Biden has described as the approach that he has taken in this conflict. And when he answered that question, he acknowledged the idea, but then he said in the same breath that the approach that he has taken is what has been generating results.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you saying that what the president was indicating was, no, there won't be any restrictions?

JAKE SULLIVAN: No, we all saw what he said. He acknowledged the idea.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, there might be restrictions?

JAKE SULLIVAN: And then he said, but the approach I'm taking – Margaret, the president made clear in his comments that he thought the approach that he is taking is the approach that has generated the results that we have seen so far.

And he is going to continue to engage in exactly that kind of diplomacy.


JAKE SULLIVAN: In fact, he has a call set up for today with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

And I think you will see the United States continue to do what we have been doing, and particularly President Biden continue to do what he is doing, because that is what is generating results.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, because Senator Sanders has an op-ed in "The New York Times" making very specific demands in terms of restrictions on aid, saying there should be a freeze on settlement expansion in the West Bank, a commitment to a two-state solution.

Are those reasonable things to require of the Israeli government before additional aid is handed over?

JAKE SULLIVAN: Nobody has been a stronger advocate for a two-state solution than President Joe Biden, who has been speaking about it from the beginning of this conflict…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood. And the Israeli – the current Israeli government has not been.

JAKE SULLIVAN: … and has done so publicly, as well as privately.

And as far as the president is concerned, this is the sine qua non of a lasting peace in the region. We need to see a two-state solution, Israelis and Palestinians in equal measures of freedom and dignity living side by side one another in peace.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think this is a moment for that diplomacy, given what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said, given what some members of his government have said?

JAKE SULLIVAN: We believe that this is absolutely a moment for us to be working with everyone in the region, the Israeli government, the Palestinians, the Arab countries, our European partners, others towards, a two-state solution.

And President Biden laid that out in detail in an op-ed that he wrote in "The Washington Post" not long ago. So, the answer to your question is, yes, we do think this is a moment for that kind of diplomacy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jake Sullivan, thank you for your time this morning.


(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: And Face the Nation will back in a moment. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to the commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, Philippe Lazzarini.

Welcome back to Face the Nation.

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI (Commissioner-General, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand you're joining us from Amman, Jordan, this morning.

Roughly 108 of your staff members in Gaza have been killed, according to your reports. That's the highest number of U.N. workers killed in the history of the United Nations. We are very sorry for your loss.

I'm wondering, given that you are sharing your location coordinates with both parties, why is there still such a high death toll?

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: Yes, Margaret, this is definitely devastating news. And the United Nations never, ever lost as many staff in such a short period in the conflict.

Now, it is also true, Margaret, that about 70 of our location sheltering more than one million people have been hit since the beginning of the conflict. And we had about 200 people who have been killed, plus 100 injured, and this despite the fact that we are constantly deconflicting and notifying the Israeli authorities, but also the de facto government of Hamas about our location.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, who is hitting these locations?

I have seen your own U.N. reports that say you discovered some UNRWA schools have been used for military purposes, Israeli tanks nearby. You have also seen weapons storage in some of these facilities. Is that Hamas?

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: We will definitely need to have investigation about all these allegations.

For the time being, we are in no position to determine who has been behind each of the incidents we have reported until now. But, clearly, here, this has been a blatant disregard of international humanitarian law, a blatant disregard of the U.N. premises, and a blatant disregard of a civilian population.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The White House says Israel's combat operations in South Gaza should not happen until there are assurances about protecting civilians in the south of Gaza.

Have you given – been given any kind of assurances here? Are you confident you can operate there safely?

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: Well, therefore, we are not confident, because there haven't been any safe place until now in the Gaza Strip.

But people were initially asked to move from the north to the south. And we have seen that a number of people have been killed in the south. So there haven't been. any safe place yet.

That – having said that, we have this week reached more than one million people, more than half of the displaced people in the Gaza Strip being sheltered in U.N. premises. And we will continue to ask that the Israeli authorities and the warring parties to make sure that these places be respected in line with their obligation with international humanitarian law.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How dire is the humanitarian situation?

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: Listen, I went back last week to Gaza for the second time.

The situation is much worse than what I saw the first time. Just to give you an example, I visited the vocational training center of UNRWA. We are sheltering 35,000 people there. I met a father with his five children. They live in a four-square-meter makeshift – basically sleeping on the floor, no mattress, no blanket.

Winter is coming. And, all of a – suddenly, he's bursting into tears and saying: "Well, my dignity has been stripped."


PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: And his story is a story of hundred of thousands of people in the Gaza Strip.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We have to take a break here, and we will continue our conversation the other side of it.

Please stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will hear more from Philippe Lazzarini in our next half-hour, plus World Food Program Director Cindy McCain.

For more information on their organizations and how you can help, visit and

We will be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more Face the Nation.

Stay with us.



And our conversation with Philippe Lazzarini of the U.N. Relief Agency for Palestine refugees.

Mr. Commissioner-General, how much aid is getting into Gaza now as part of this diplomatic deal?

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI (Commissioner-General, United Nations Relief and Works Agency): Since two days, I would say the beginning of the truce, we have seen a significant increase of trucks entering Gaza. I would say on the first day we had an average of 40 trucks, which was far, far, far too little compared to the immense need in the Gaza Strip. And now I would say over the last few days we had an average of 160 to 200 trucks crossing Rafah and entering into - into Gaza.

Having said that, I do believe that 200 are hardly enough for a humanitarian response. If we want to reverse the impact of the siege into Gaza Strip, we need also commercial fuel.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you, sir, about your organization, which continues to be criticized by some in Israel, including their intelligence minister, who published an op-ed recently in the "Jerusalem Post," and she said, "UNRWA has done zero to help the Palestinian people, even though it has an annual budget of over a billion dollars." She argued that the international community should instead fund the costs of moving Palestinians to other countries. I wonder how you respond to that.

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: You know that UNRWA has a mandate from the general assembly, and basically is requested to provide protection and assistance to the Palestinian refugees across the region, not only in Gaza, until (INAUDIBLE) there is a firm and lasting political solution. Since then, when we refer to the $1 billion budget we have in our school, more than half a million girls and boys learning education from grade one to grade nine. We have more than 2 million people benefiting from our primary health not only in Gaza but also in Lebanon, in Syria, in Jordan, in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And resettling the – all of the Palestinians, I imagine, you would strongly disagree with.

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: UNRWA does not have the mandate from the general assembly to resettle the Palestinian refugees.


PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: The assumption is there need to be a political solution, a lasting one, and that that's the way an organization like ours would then phase out. Unfortunately, for 75 years there haven't been any (INAUDIBLE) solution and basically we are dealing with the longest-lasting, unresolved conflict.


We will continue watching what happens.

Commissioner-General, thank you for your time today.

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we turn now to the executive director of the World Food Programme, Cindy McCain, also part of the United Nations.

Director McCain, we just heard this ceasefire is bringing some aid into Gaza, but UNICEF just published some information saying that there is a life-threatening form of malnutrition in children that could increase by nearly 30 percent in Gaza. Weakened immune systems, weight loss, death from illness, like common cold and diarrhea. They are talking simply about the children who make up half the population. What are you doing to prevent this from happening?

CINDY MCCAIN (Executive Director, World Food Programme): Well, thank you for having me.

First of all, the - the bottom line here is that we need to get more aid in, as – as has been said. We are looking at possible – possibly being on the brink of famine in this region. This is something that's not only terrific, but it will spread. And - and with that comes disease and - and everything else that you can imagine.

Bottom line, we need more trucks in, we need more aid in, we need to be able to have more access to be able to distribute the aid. And - and, you know, hopefully maybe a longer time to do that, not just four days. We look forward to - to making sure that we can work with all of our partners on the ground and in the area to make sure that this can happen. And I want to thank the Egyptians for being so helpful in all of this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: UNICEF also said approximately 30,000 children under the age of five in Gaza had stunted growth. And this was even before the war began.



CINDY MCCAIN: Well, I – the access for aid, again, prior to the war and then, of course, since the war has been an issue all along. And the ability to make sure that these children get the proper nutrients, not just food, but the proper nutrients in this. It's a terrific situation. It's a - it's - it is - it is a massive, catastrophic event that is occurring, and it will cross regions as it happens. We have got to be able to get in there. And not only that, we have to make sure that we can safely have access to be able to feed the people that we need to feed. So far we've fed about 110,000 since the - since the ceasefire, but we need to do a lot more than that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: For the next generations, no doubt.

I know you are looking at the entire globe here, and there is a lot of need right now. I read that the World Food Programme had to cut off 10 million people in Afghanistan. In Africa you've announced you'll have to end food aid for more than a million people in Chad, suspend aid in Nigeria, in Carr (ph) and Cameroon. How do you possibly prioritize need and how do you decide who to cut off?

CINDY MCCAIN: Oh, it's - it – Margaret, it's something that keeps me awake at night. And I - I - that - that's the honest truth. It's very difficult to do. But the - the problem is - is - is not - is not just the ability to not be able to feed, but it's – the problem is the world needs to step up and help us. We – cutting off 10 million people, primarily women and children, in Afghanistan is – it's deadly. It will - it will kill the country. So, we've got to be able to make sure that we can get aid in. And, more importantly, we need our countries around the world, not just the United States, but every country in the world to step up and help us, to feed people who cannot feed themselves.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The last time we spoke you emphasized that some countries could provide technology, advice on how to do it if they don't want to kick in money. China, of course, is one of those countries that's been pressed to do more here. Are you seeing anything more?

CINDY MCCAIN: Well, I'm seeing other countries, yes, step up and offer things and begin to work with us on a daily basis to see how we can better improve. Not just - not just what we - we give, but how it's grown and - and can be grown with less water, more technology. It's a - it's a series of things to try to combat not only climate change but the effects of Covid as well as conflict. It's a long-range prospect, but we do need the technology.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And specifically, the crisis was made worse by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which is such a bread basket for the world. How significant is that conflict now on supply?

CINDY MCCAIN: Well, as you know, it has - it has managed to really devastate many countries, not just from not having enough grain to be able to distribute, but also enough money to be able to do that. The - the - the Russian invasion has caused catastrophic effects that have dribbled all the way down through Africa, as was mentioned and so forth. It – Ukraine was very significant in all of this.

We are getting grain out. As you know, it's going in different directions. But we are getting some out. But we – this is a catastrophic event, as I said. And it's affected nearly every country in the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Director McCain, we thank you for working on these hard issues and your time today.

CINDY MCCAIN: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the senior Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet.

Good morning to you, Senator.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, when Congress comes back from this break, they have a lot of work to do. I understand you are part of a small group who has worked during the break on this very tough issue regarding the U.S. border and President Biden's request for about 14 billion to help with it. Where do talks stand now?

MICHAEL BENNET: Well, I think the - the really important thing, that there's broad bipartisan support for in the Senate right now, is that we've got to get recognition and we've got to get the Ukraine funding done as part of this package. We've got to get the Israel funding done, humanitarian funding done, and the funding for Southeast Asia as well. There are some Republicans who have said that in order to do that, in order to have that vote they want to see something done on the border. And I think we have had good conversations over the last several days and before that trying to see if we can get to some sort of solution. I believe, of course, that the Ukrainian people have earned a vote to support them without a negotiation on the U.S. border. But there are others in the Senate who feel differently, and we're trying to see if we can get to a solution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you mentioned that because, as I understand it, the indication in the Republican-held House is that border needs to be bundled with Ukraine aid in order to get it through. Is that still the case?

MICHAEL BENNET: That is what – yes, that is still the case from the House. I mean when you think about what the – the courage of the Ukrainian people has meant for humanity, it really has been extraordinary. They have taken back over half the territory that Putin took from them. They have rendered the Black Sea fleet, Putin's Black Sea fleet, can't do what - what they've tried to do to the grain you were talking about with Cindy McCain is actually going out because of what the Ukrainian people did. And now the United States, I think, has an obligation to continue to support them in this fight, not just for Ukraine, but a fight for democracy. And I - I don't know whether the House will come to the conclusion that that's enough for them. So, we're continuing to see if there's something we can do on the border.

My - my view is, there's always room to make our immigration system better on behalf of the American people. And I hope people of good faith can come together and reach a solution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. So, on that front, if - if your leverage here is the border, tell me, what is the sticking point at this - this stage? Is it still that Republicans are pressing to tighten qualifications for claiming asylum and there's some Democratic resistance? Is it resistance to including dreamers? What are the specifics that you're actually able to tackle?

MICHAEL BENNET: Well, the – obviously I would love it if we could include the dreamers in this - in this package. Ninety percent of the American people believe that the dreamers should have a pathway to citizenship. There has been discussion about whether or not we ought to think about changing the asylum standard. One of the things we all have to recognize I think as Americans is that over the last ten years gangs south of the border have created a billion-dollar business that's smuggling human beings across the entire world to the southern border. And the southern border, as a result of that, is being undermined and - and - and - and is being more - - much more difficult to manage. That's been a problem in Republican and Democratic and, you know, administrations. And if we can find a way to help fix that in a bipartisan way that would be great.

The point I'm trying to make is that whether we succeed or not in terms of getting to that agreement, this Ukraine funding has to happen for the sake of democracy and for the sake of the western world. Putin, you know, believes he could lose on the battlefield in Ukraine. The battlefield he's trying to win on is the battlefield on Capitol Hill. And Democrats and Republicans have got to come together to make sure that doesn't happen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have clear guidance from Leader Schumer on how he wants this to play out in the next few weeks? I mean you're running out of time in 2023.

MICHAEL BENNET: We're running out of time in 2023. I've literally talked to Leader Schumer almost every day except Thanksgiving and his birthday over the course of this holiday weekend. I've had the chance to talk to Democrats and Republicans individually. Everybody knows what's at stake here and everybody knows how short the time is.

You said at the beginning of this interview, Congress has a lot of work to do. That's true. For once we should do that work instead of playing politics. The stakes are just too high.

MARGARET BRENNAN: On the other conflict that we haven't talked about, with Israel and Hamas, President Biden said when he was asked, "it is a worthwhile thought" raised by some democrats that there should be conditions placed on Israel aid. Now, you heard the national security adviser avoid any specifics there. Are you asking for any conditions to be placed on aid to Israel?

MICHAEL BENNET: I haven't so far, but I think that's a debate we're going to – certainly we're going to have in the coming days. In the meantime, it's critical that everybody understand that Hamas, you know, is a terrorist organization that - that Israel has to defend itself, that it's been made much more difficult because of Hamas' use of civilians as human shields, and that it is incumbent on Israel notwithstanding that, notwithstanding that difficult issue to meet the highest standard. That's critically important for Israel to make sure that they kill as few civilians as possible as they defend themselves against Hamas and that they subscribe to the rule of law.

And I - I know we're going to have a debate about that in the Congress and - and perhaps we should. But we have always disappointed ourselves when we've not met the highest standards, when we've been in armed conflict. And I think Israel's going to be facing that high standard as well, which is the right standard for Israel, for those of us that support Israel, and the right standard for those of us that have high aspirations for democracy, which those of us that are supporting both Israel and Ukraine at this moment have.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Senator, we'll continue to track the work you're able to get done.

We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Republican Congressman Ken Buck, also from the state of Colorado. He announced his retirement from Congress earlier this month.

Good morning to you, sir.

You've still got a bit of business to handle in these next few weeks that's for sure. Congress has a lengthy to-do list. Reauthorizing the FAA, finishing the defense bill, taking on all of these supplemental requests from President Biden. Can you get all of that done in the remaining weeks?

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): We can. We have three weeks of legislative business ahead of us, if not more, and we can get those things done and they're very important to get done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have, on that issue of Ukraine, which I understand is controversial among some Republicans, you are part of the Freedom Caucus. That puts you more to the – to the right of your party. But you are for aid to Ukraine.

I'm wondering if you think it is possible to do what Senator Bennet just laid out and said was essential, which is have that aid passed no matter what, you know, even if it doesn't get bundled with a border bill.

KEN BUCK: I think it's absolutely essential to get aid to Ukraine. I think President Biden has slow-walked different types of military equipment that Ukraine has needed. And we need to make sure that they have the very best equipment and support that we can give them in - in fighting the Russians. I hope it gets done.

The question, Margaret, is always, where does the money come from? And so, to expect that the Democrats help us find ways to pay for the Israel aid and the Ukraine aid I think is absolutely fair. For the Senate we've already sent the Israel aid to the Senate. It is sitting there. Has been for weeks. They have done nothing. I think that's irresponsible. We need to work together to find ways to pay for this aid and then to make sure that both the Israel aid, and the Ukraine aid are sent to those countries.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you voted against this latest short-term spending bill to keep the government open. Do you anticipate that the new speaker of the House, Speaker Johnson, will face more of a rebellion from the right flank of your party if he tries to partner with Democrats on this?

KEN BUCK: I don't think that most Republicans blame Speaker Johnson for the problems that he is now facing, the challenges he's facing. Those were created during the McCarthy time period, and Speaker Johnson is doing a good job to work his way through those issues. So, no, I don't think he's going to face a rebellion. I think he's going to face support when he finds ways to reduce our national spending, our $36 trillion debt at the end of next year. $1 trillion of money that is being spent to service that debt. Those are real existential issues that America needs to deal with, and I think Speaker Johnson's going about it the right way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that mean Speaker Johnson has been working through the break and has a plan to do this and a way to pay for it in the next three weeks?

KEN BUCK: Yes, absolutely. The Israel aid was conditioned on the 87,000 new IRS agents –

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that's dead on arrival in the Senate and the president said he would - would - would veto that as structured.

KEN BUCK: Well, and - and the Democrats are going to own that. If we don't get aid to Israel – they haven't sent a package back to us and said, we don't agree with all of these cuts, we agree with some of them. And - and if the Democrats want to hold up Israel aid, that's up to them. I think it's important that we find ways to pay for the - the needs that Israel has, and Ukraine has and - and to do it in a responsible way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. Well, we'll have to see if that can get done.

I want to ask you about how I introduced you, which was mentioning your retirement. We've seen a tremendous number of retirements announced in just the past few weeks. It's the highest number of retirements in a single month for over a decade. You said too many Republican leaders are lying to America. Who do you have in mind when you said that?

KEN BUCK: I have – everybody who thinks that the election was stolen or talks about the election being stolen is lying to America. That's everyone that - that is - that is making that argument. Everyone who makes the argument that January 6th was, you know, an unguided tour of the Capitol is lying to America. Everyone who says that the prisoners who are being prosecuted right now for their involvement in January 6th, that - that they are somehow political prisoners or that they didn't commit crimes, those folks are lying to America.

As a Republican Party, if we're going to offer good, solid policy answers to the - the - the real challenges we face in America, we've got to get past the lies and we've got to have credibility with the American public. And - and I think we can do that but we have to move forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you know that the speaker of the House tried to reverse the 2020 election results by signing on to that Texas amicus brief. By CBS standards that makes him an election denier. But you support him.

KEN BUCK: I do support him. I - I signed onto that brief also. And I believed that going through the courts to challenge an election is absolutely proper and it's been done dozens of times in - in American history.

What's wrong is to try to stop a legal function, a legislative function like counting the votes in an election as happened on January 6th. Mike was not the leader of the party at the time that so many Republicans voted against the certification of electors. While I disagree with some of his -

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does he need to be more clear, though, now?

KEN BUCK: I hope he is - I hope he becomes more clear. I hope all of my Republican colleagues become more clear and recognize the fact that Joe Biden is an existential threat to this country, and we need to defeat him and we do that with someone who's not lying to the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Congressman Ken Buck, we appreciate your time on this post-Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

KEN BUCK: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We have some good news we want to share with all of you, just out of Gaza. We have learned from a source with knowledge that four- year-old American Abigail Edan is in the custody now of the Red Cross. The Qatari foreign ministry also says 39 Palestinians will be released by Israel as part of this latest hostage swap in exchange for those prisoners being released.

We will be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Before we go today, we want to pay tribute to our friend and colleague Ricardo "Rick" Whitson, who died last week at the age of 57 years old. He was a talented lighting director adored by us here, and our thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends at this hour.

For FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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