Watch CBS News

Full transcript of "Face the Nation," March 3, 2024

3/3: Face the Nation
3/3: Face the Nation 45:51

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

  • Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas  
  • House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Mike Turner  
  • Rep. Ro Khanna, Democrat of California  
  • Sen. Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska  
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms director Steven Dettelbach   

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: Political bickering over the border takes on a more dire tone. And our new poll contains some worrisome signs for President Biden.

Former President Trump swept up more delegates Saturday, winning GOP caucuses in three states, as he continued his efforts to tap into voters' fear as a reason to support him.

(Begin VT)

DONALD TRUMP (Former President of the United States (R) and Current U.S. Presidential Candidate): Biden's conduct on our border is, by any definition, a conspiracy to overthrow the United States of America.

You know, he talks about democracy. He is a danger to democracy.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Both Trump and Mr. Biden made trips to the southern border on Thursday.

(Begin VT)

FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Now the United States is being overrun by the Biden migrant crime. It's a new form of vicious violation to our country. It's migrant crime.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden made his case for a bipartisan bill that would make significant changes to existing immigration policies and blamed his rival for killing it.

(Begin VT)

JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): Someone came along and said, don't do that. It will benefit the incumbent. That's a hell of a way to do business in America for such a serious problem.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will ask Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas what the president can do to secure the border without the help of Congress.

Plus, the latest on the Israel-Hamas war and the growing U.S. sentiment for Israel to curb their military actions. We will talk to Biden surrogate and California Congressman Ro Khanna.

The head of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Turner, will also be here, along with Alaska Republican Senator Dan Sullivan. They're pushing Congress for foreign aid for Ukraine and Israel.

Finally, a conversation with ATF Director Steve Dettelbach about guns in America and why new technology might require new solutions.

It's all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.

We begin an important week in the 2024 election, in which both President Biden and former President Trump are expected to win hundreds of delegates in Super Tuesday contests in more than 15 states.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden will make his State of the Union address. Our CBS News poll out this morning shows the former president with a four-point edge over the current president among likely voters nationwide. That is Trump's largest general election lead yet in our surveys this cycle.

Joining us now is our executive director of elections and surveys, Anthony Salvanto.

Anthony, good to have you here.


MARGARET BRENNAN: So our polling has shown perceptions of the economy have been improving, so why isn't that helping Joe Biden?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Because it's the comparison that people are making between how they rate the economy today and what they remember it being during the Trump years.

And it's – the remembering is the key word there. I specifically asked, how do you remember it? And two-thirds of voters say they remember it being good, which is also interesting, because, if you go back and look at the polling from that time, people did in fact rate it good in 2018, 2019, but then views of the economy cratered after the pandemic and the shutdowns.

And it doesn't seem like they're remembering that part of it here. But that's the reality today. So it's that comparison that isn't holding up for the White House, number one. And then, number two, you push that forward and ask, well, whose policies might make prices go down, and there's a lot of Republicans who think that prices will go down if Donald Trump gets elected.

But what's troubling for Joe Biden is that you still get him associated with price increases, because a lot of people think that prices would continue to go up under his policies. That's why.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Memory is an interesting thing, isn't it?


MARGARET BRENNAN: Anthony, the campaign is leaning heavily into issues of democracy, access to voting, even calling Donald Trump a threat to democracy itself.

Why isn't that helping the Biden campaign?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, that's in the electorate's mind, but it's kind of priced in at this point, in this sense.

You get a majority of Americans that do think that the former president tried to stay in office past his constitutional term. The ones who think that his approach to that was illegal, which is just under half, are in fact voting for Joe Biden.

But everybody else, the ones who think he was following constitutional processes or wasn't planning to stay, they're all ready to return Donald Trump to office. So, that split in many ways kind of defines not just the race, but also where we are as a country right now. Maybe it moves a little bit as the trials go forward, maybe if there's a conviction, certainly something to watch.

But, net-net, you get about an even split between Biden and Trump right now on who would do best at keeping democracy safe.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Democrats are putting reproductive rights front and center in this campaign, betting that it will drive turnout among voters across party lines who are just concerned about this issue.

Is that a safe bet?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: So, there is a majority that feels that the overturn of Roe v. Wade was bad for the country.

But what's interesting to me is this difference between then who blames Donald Trump for that, which is what the Biden campaign is trying to do. And that's a smaller number. But then, coming even more immediately, the recent IVF ruling, we asked about that. And, in fact, a large majority thinks that IVF should be legal.

So, again, this issue is going to stay top of mind and certainly is going to be a factor, I think.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And it's interesting, because, in Alabama, where that ruling happened two weeks ago, they are working very swiftly to protect it within the state legislature, and the governor expected to look at some of those bills this week.

So it shows how resonant that one issue is.


MARGARET BRENNAN: But, Anthony, this is going to be such a key week.

We have Super Tuesday upon us. Has Biden been able to consolidate the base of his party, the really – the people who are committed to coming out as Democrats?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, in many ways, no, not yet. And that's really important for two things.

One is that a lot of the measures I have been describing here for Joe Biden are driven in part by the fact that Democrats are more critical of him and more critical of their president than Republicans are of Donald Trump. Now, this…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that always the case?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, in some ways, that's kind of typical for Democrats, right? It's often a more transactional approach. They will have a little more criticism in there, whereas Republicans – and they have told us they really value loyalty to Donald Trump. So some of that is baked in.

But, having said that, it comes out in the political story in, right now, Democrats being less likely to say that they will definitely vote. And a lot of Joe Biden's numbers are in part lower because of that. His campaign has work to do to drive up that motivation. And he's not doing as well as he did in 2020 with some key Democratic groups.

I would add this though, Margaret. And I think it's important. Joe Biden is trailing Donald Trump when we ask, who has a vision for the country? And that speaks across party lines in many ways. And what I think is important there is that these are uncertain times in the minds of many voters.

When people see uncertainty, even if they don't rate things right now as good, and they don't, they want a road map. They want to know where things are going. And that's a key gap that I'm going to watch over the next few months.


Anthony Salvanto, thank you for your insights.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we turn now to America's immigration challenges.

A U.S. official tells CBS News that Border Patrol agents recorded nearly 140,000 migrant apprehensions in between ports of entry in the month of February, an increase from 124,000 in January. That doesn't include asylum seekers or those who were processed at a port of entry.

Joining us now is the homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas.

It's good to have you here in person, sir.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS (U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security): Good morning, Margaret. Thanks for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We know that immigration is a key issue for voters across the country. And, according to our polling, by more than 5-1, voters believe President Biden's policies will lead more migrants to try crossing the border, compared with President Trump's policies.

Only 22 percent think your policies will decrease migrant crossings. President Biden himself has said, the border hasn't been secure in 10 years. Is there anything he can do without Congress to act now?

SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: Margaret, we as an administration have taken executive actions. Those executive actions are being litigated. We do need Congress to act.

For more than three decades, our system has been broken. A bipartisan group of senators have put forth a real solution that would provide the Department of Homeland Security and other departments and agencies involved in the immigration system with resources that we need, as well as policy changes that will fix this system. We need Congress to act. That is the enduring solution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Congress won't act, as you saw. That proposal, which we covered extensively on this program, isn't moving forward in the Senate and no future at this point in the House.

And it has been reported that immigration and – that ICE is drafting plans to release migrants and slashing capacity to hold detainees because that Senate bill and the funding that was in it failed.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's inaccurate?


MARGARET BRENNAN: That was in "The Washington Post." And that is not true?

SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: That is – that is inaccurate. And let me – let me say that…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you have to reprogram funds?

SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: Since we – we have done – we have reprogrammed funds in the past, because we have not been adequately resourced, again emphasizing the importance of the legislation that would provide not only more personnel and more resources for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but 1,500 personnel for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 4,300 asylum officers.

This is vitally important. But in terms of enforcing our law with the resources we have, since May of last year, we have removed or returned more people than in any entire year since 2015. Over the last three years, we've removed, returned or expelled more people than in the four years of the prior administration.

We are doing more with less, but we need more, and we need the system fixed. President Biden said it very frankly and very powerfully from Brownsville, Texas, just a few days ago. We need Congress to have a spine, do its job, which is work for the American people, and, rather than allow a problem to fester for political reasons, to actually deliver the solution that everyone agrees is needed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Short of this massive change of heart in Congress and productivity, CBS is reporting that the president is considering executive action and invoking executive authority 212(f), I believe it's called, to suspend the entry of foreigners when it's determined their arrival is not in the best interest of the country.

If your agency is so strapped in terms of resources, could you implement that?

SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: Margaret, we've taken executive actions.

Former President Trump invoked 212(f)…


SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: … a statutory provision, and that was enjoined by the courts.

And so, when administrative actions are taken, they are often litigated, and they do not endure. The American people deserve and expect enduring solutions, and Congress needs to deliver on the American public's expectations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do I understand you saying there then that you would have reservations about trying to use this same authority that the Trump administration had tried to use?

SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: No, that's not – that's not what I'm saying.

We have an obligation to consider all options, as we do day in and day out. But those options are not going to deliver what legislation would.


SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: We cannot administratively provide nearly $20 billion to the Department of Homeland Security and the Departments of State and Justice to make our immigration system work better and to stop the ever-increasing immigration case court backlog that has been building year after year after year.

We can't – we can't administratively give the resources that we need. You need Congress to appropriate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congress controls the purse strings.

But I want to ask you about a criminal case that has become a political rallying point. You heard Donald Trump use this phrase, "migrant crime." A 22 year old nursing student – I know you've been following this – Laken Riley, in the state of Georgia was murdered allegedly by an undocumented Venezuelan migrant.

The suspect had been detained by Border Patrol upon crossing, released with temporary permission to stay in the country. He then went on allegedly to commit crimes twice, once in New York for driving a scooter without a license, and once in connection with a shoplifting case in Georgia.

Did those states and their law enforcement communicate to the federal government that this had happened? Should this man have been deported?


First, Margaret, first and foremost, an absolute tragedy, and our hearts break for and our prayers are with the family, number one. Number two, and, importantly, as a prosecutor, having prosecuted violent crime and other crimes for 12 years, one individual is responsible for the murder, and that is the murderer.


SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: And we work very closely with state and local law enforcement to ensure that individuals who pose a threat to public safety are indeed our highest priority for detention and removal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But are you saying there that the federal government had been informed about this individual and the alleged crimes he had committed in those states? Because he could have been deported if that was the case. Was there a breakdown in the system?

SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: So, Margaret, there are a number of cities around the country that have varying degrees of cooperation with the immigration authorities.

We firmly believe that if…

MARGARET BRENNAN: And New York did not?

SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: We firmly believe that, if a city is aware of an individual who poses a threat to public safety, then we would request that they provide us with that information so that we can ensure that that individual is detained if the facts so warrant.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And it sounds like they were not coordinating.

SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: Well, different cities have different levels of cooperation. We were not notified in this instance.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Secretary, so much more to talk to you about. We hope you'll come back in the future.

SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: Thank you so much, Margaret.

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


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're back with the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Mike Turner.

Good to have you here in person.

A lot to get to, but I want to just button up on the border, because you've been warning, and you have on this program, of your concern of the national security emergency and the risk of terrorism…


MARGARET BRENNAN: … because of the porous border.

Mr. Trump has described the border as a Biden conspiracy to overthrow the United States of the Amer – of America. Do you think that's the case? And, if so, doesn't that argue for Congress taking up the bipartisan bill in the Senate?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: Well, this is what I think.

So the FBI director, Director Wray, has himself personally stated that we are at the highest threat since 9/11 for a terrorist attack within the United States.


REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: And he cites the open border for that.

Now, we know that the – the Biden administration, this didn't just happen to them, that President Biden took a number of executive actions, over 50, that have resulted in the current situation that we have. It represents a national security threat, and it needs to be fixed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Congress writes laws.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: The law that came out of the Senate…

MARGARET BRENNAN: You guys control the funding.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: The law that came out of the Senate would not have fixed this. In fact, it would have allowed a sig – you know, thousands of people to come across the border illegally.

And I think that's probably where most members in – in Congress fell off, away from this bipartisan deal, is that we would, in fact, be sanctioning what the administration was doing and allowing people to come across the border. The border needs to be – to be closed. We need to get back to legal immigration.


REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: We need to reform our legal immigration processes. And – and it represents a national security threat, as you said.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it – it would have given more authority to a future president as well.

But I want to move on to a number of different topics, because there are a lot of crises right now. In the Middle East, do you support the administration's decision to carry out these airdrops of food aid into Gaza and potentially create a maritime corridor?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: Well, I think it's – I think it's essential that aid get into Gaza.

Now, I was just briefed by the CIA director, Burns, Friday personally. He is the one who is conducting the – the cease-fire negotiations. And he believes that we're close. And I think that's going to – that is very, very important to accomplish, one, because there are – are hostages that are still being held as a result of Hamas and the murderous onslaught of October 7, but also because of the desperate need for aid to get into…



What's unfortunately – is the Palestinians are being held hostage by Hamas. That they're down in bunkers, cowardly not responding to the conflict that they began…


REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: … while their people are starving, shows exactly that Hamas is really all about Iran, and not about the Palestinians.

MARGARET BRENNAN: On Friday, President Biden twice mistakenly referred to Gaza as Ukraine. But, in his remarks, what stood out to me was this.

(Begin VT)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We're going to insist that Israel facilitate more trucks and more routes to get more and more people the help they need. No excuses, because the truth is, aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's the most direct I have ever heard him say Israel's responsible for a large part of this holdup. Should there be consequences for Israel standing in the way of that aid?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: Well, I think, as Director Burns is – is negotiating, we're really close to a cease-fire. That is going to resolve this issue.

It's going to open up the aid corridors. And, certainly, I think, in – in any conflict, both sides need to be held accountable. And I think, certainly, there are going to be questions as to what Israel has done and - - and the manner in which it has operated.

But it doesn't take away from the issue that the Palestinians are in a crisis because of Hamas.


REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: And the fact that Hamas, in attacking Israel and in the manner in which they have hidden during this conflict, have allowed the – the condition of the Palestinians to be in this state certainly says a lot about Hamas.


REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: And this – and I have to give Director Burns tremendous amount of credit. He's doing an excellent job. And I think he's going to be successful.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll watch those developments as we get closer to the beginning of Ramadan.

You raised public concern that got a lot of attention last month. That led to the White House declassifying intelligence that Russia's pursuing an anti-satellite capability, serious concern. They said it would violate a treaty that bans weapons of mass destruction in space.

Did your disclosure make a difference here? Do you think the administration is now dealing with it?


And I – I did not do this alone. Let's be clear. My committee 23-1 voted to disclose this information to Congress, because that's kind of our – our responsibilities when we have something that's critical, and as oversight of the administration, when we believe that they're not taking action, to notify Congress of – of this.

And I do think they were sleepwalking into an international crisis. And I do think that, as a result of the fact that we notified the rest of Congress, we did hold the administrate account – administration accountable, and they're taking action.

I – from what I understand, there was conflict with the administration as to what to do. I think Jake Sullivan here needs a tremendous amount of credit for moving on this and recognizing it's important. I can't confirm or deny exactly what this is, because they haven't declassified it all.

But assuming if you take the news reports to be hypothetically accurate…


REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: … you know, Jim Himes, my ranking member has – has said this.

You know, if this – if this is true, this would be the equivalent to a Cuban Missile Crisis in space. Well, unfortunately, we don't have John F. Kennedy as – as president. And we need an administration that acts, and that understands that that this is a huge national security and international security threat.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Wouldn't it also argue for the Republican-controlled Congress to green-light this aid to Ukraine that the speaker has still not set a date for voting on? I know you support this.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: Yes, I – I absolutely do. We have to…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have a date?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: We have to support Ukraine. The speaker does support Ukraine.

And I do think that that probably the most important development that occurred last week was the minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries, came forward and said that the Democrats will not join with the small number of Republicans I frequently refer to as the chaos caucus, who say to the speaker that we will – we will remove the speaker if he moves forward on Ukraine, moves forward on spending bills.

They cannot do that without Democrats' support. He said Democrats will not support that. We're – as long as we're moving forward bipartisan bills that includes funding the government, that includes Ukraine, that includes Israel, I believe, as a result of that step, that Speaker Johnson now has the leeway and the flexibility to work through Congress and the Appropriations Committee.

I think it's going to be moving quickly. We're going to get our appropriations…

MARGARET BRENNAN: They run out of ammunition in April.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: They're not completely out of ammunition.

So, I have been to – I was in Kyiv last month and met with Zelenskyy, also at the Munich Security Conference, and certainly spoke to our military. And they are rationing, but they are not out. This is critical.


REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER: We have to support them now, or they will lose.

And I think, you know, the speaker sees that emergency. Hakeem Jeffries sees that emergency. And I think we're going to see bills hit the floor.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll stay tuned for when that happens.

Mike Turner, thank you for joining us.


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

So, stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Tune in at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Tuesday for a full hour of network Super Tuesday coverage. Our streaming channel starts at 8:00 p.m. We will have all the latest results and analysis. And, on Thursday, we will be on at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for President Biden's State of the Union.

We will be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a report from the Middle East and Congressman Ro Khanna of California.

Stay with us.



We turn now to the latest on the war in the Middle East, where urgency grows to get aid into Gaza.

Our Imtiaz Tyab reports from Tel Aviv. And we want to warn you, some images are disturbing.


IMTIAZ TYAB (voice over): High above Gaza, three C-130 aircrafts air drop 38,000 meals in coordination with U.S. ally Jordan. On the ground, and the food parcels landed on the southern earned of the besieged Palestinian territory, where around 1.5 million people are sheltering. A minuscule amount of food given the massive need.

President Biden made the rare American humanitarian intervention after at least 115 Palestinian were killed and hundreds more wounded when Israeli forces opened fire as thousands had gathered for one of the first food aid deliveries in Gaza City in months. In what Palestinian leaders are calling Israel's flour massacre, people had swarmed the trucks in the desperate hope of getting a sack of flour, only to be killed.

The Israeli military continues to insist the deaths were caused by a stampede. But a United Nations observer, sent to Gaza City's Al-Shifa Hospital, found the majority of the dead and wounded from the convoy had suffered from bullet and shrapnel wounds. The chaos and carnage only underscores how desperate the situation across Gaza is. Since the start of the war, the Israeli military has blocked most food, water, and medicine into the besieged Palestinian territory, triggering a near famine in the north of Gaza, affecting hundreds of thousands according to the U.N., including 10-year-old Yesin Al-Kafarna (ph). His mother says he has special needs and getting just the basics, like bananas and eggs, to keep him alive has been impossible.

"I want the world to understand what we are going through," she says. "I want them to help my son."

But until Israel agrees to allow for a dramatic increase in aid through the land crossings it controls, and distribution challenges are solved, starvation will only spread.


IMTIAZ TYAB (on camera): And pressure is only growing to get a cease-fire and hostage release agreement between Israel and Hamas before the start of Ramadan next week. Both sides have signaled they may be close, Margaret. But in the words of a top national security official, until a deal is done, it's not done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Imtiaz Tyab reporting from Tel Aviv.

And we're joined now here by Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California.

Good morning.

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA (D-California): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good to have you here.


MARGARET BRENNAN: I imagine you support the decision to air drop in aid to Gaza. But this is only happening because the – an ally of the United States, the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world, was not allowing in the aid, and now that it is coming across the border, the distribution is a massive logistically complicated and unsafe operation.

Should there be consequences for standing in the way of U.S. humanitarian aid?

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: Yes, Margaret, there should. I mean we should make it clear that we're not going to continue to transfer weapons, as I asked Secretary Austin at the hearing.

But, Margaret, look –

MARGARET BRENNAN: He didn't answer you.

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: He – he did not, but even you could tell from his testimony that he was concerned, that we were continuing to transfer aid.

Look, we can't transfer weapons. We can't continue to transfer weapons while we're transferring aid. That policy doesn't make sense.

Here's the thing. Look, the killing of over 100 Palestinians who were simply going to a food truck to get food, whether by a stampede or by shooting, we don't know all the facts, there should be an investigation, but that has shocked the conscience of the world. And my plea to this president, who I support deeply, is, Mr. President, call for a permanent cease-fire, there's too much suffering, and the release of all hostages. The policy of bear-hugging Netanyahu has not worked. Reach out to some of the former Obama officials, like Ben Rhodes, Tommy Whiter (ph), who have been saying we need a new directional policy, we need a permanent cease- fire, release of hostages, we need to call for a Palestinian state, a summit with our gulf allies. The current policy is not working.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you believe, truthfully, in an election year, that the president of the United States could be that head-on direct in criticizing the prime minister of Israel?

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: Yes. You know who was? President Obama.


REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: And he won two terms. And, you know, Ben Rhodes -

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which Mr. Biden didn't agree with when he was vice president.

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: Well, look, Ben Rhodes actually - he texted me this picture of Wisconsin in 2012 with the – two days before the election, and they were a sea of young people out there, a – hundreds of thousands of young people. We need that base.

I don't think in the head-to-head polling this is the issue that is showing up. But I'll tell you, this is an issue for activists, this is an issue for organizers, this is an issue for young folks, and this is going to be a turnout direction. And right now they want a new, moral direction for our nation and for what's going on.

Everyone agrees Hamas is a terrorist organization. What they did on October 7th is brutal. It should be condemned unequivocally. But the point is now, it's time to get a permanent cease-fire and release of the hostages. And the president can do it. With one call he can do it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that – we'll see. But on what you just went to from policy to politics, you are a Biden campaign surrogate.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Proudly you say. In announcing the air drops, I want to play this sound bite for you because this is what President Biden said.


JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): In the coming days, we're going to join with our friends in Jordan and others in providing air drops of - of additional food and supplies into Ukraine and seek to continue to open up other avenues in Ukraine, including the possibility of a marine (ph) corridor, to deliver large amounts of humanitarian assistance.


MARGARET BRENNAN: This was a big decision. This was a big announcement. And the president of the United States twice got confused as to the country and place where the aid was being dropped. He said Ukraine twice. Doesn't that concern you?

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: He misspoke. I just misspoke earlier when I said we need to stop transferring weapons. I said aid. I mean people misspeak on television. He misspoke. He misspoke.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This was the announcement of a major policy change.

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: Look, I - I - I – here's the thing. I - I have been very direct in criticizing the president's policy in the Middle East. I have spoken with the president. He is fully coherent. He is on top of details when I have talked to him just a couple of weeks ago.

My view is, let's focus on policy, let's focus on saving lives, and he'll have the opportunity to make the case about his age to the American people. But I have confidence in that part of it. I believe he'll – what he needs to do is to - to stop the killing, the suffering.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. But - but you are also talking about young voters and progressive voters and they see that.

On the issue of the policy, in Michigan we saw these two efforts to essentially protest against Joe Biden by coming out and voting uncommitted. In Minnesota, another Super Tuesday state, there's a simpler campaign underway. Are we going to see something like that in California as well?

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: There are efforts on uncommitted in California and a number other Super Tuesday states and in Wisconsin.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it significant?

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: It's significant. I don't think - look, the president's winning overwhelmingly, and I don't think – in the primaries, and I don't think this is going to affect his vote total, but it is going to affect his turnout and base.

But, Margaret, this is not just a political issue. This is a humanitarian catastrophe and Secretary Austin said over 25,000 dead. Our weapons are going there. There's starvation that's taking place. There are reports that 58,000 more Palestinian dead within six months if we don't have a cease- fire. The president can get this done.

The disagreement is Hamas wants a four-and-a-half month wait. Bibi Netanyahu doesn't want to have that long a cease-fire. Get – have the president in there, get it done, become a peacemaker, recognize a Palestinian state, a two-state solution. And I - I think he can and I think he can win back young people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But just on the policy point, there aren't new authorities the president would need to halt those arms shipments. He has those authorities. He's choosing not to use them.

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: He has them and he can call for a cease-fire. He can stop protecting them at the U.N. There are a lot of levers -

MARGARET BRENNAN: And he's choosing not to.

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: And I'm hoping after this morning he'll - he'll move in the direction of - of taking a new approach.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I - I point this out because also, back to the - the cynical politics of this, in our polling we see nearly twice as many Democrats rate Biden's presidency fair or poor compared with Republicans who say the same about Trump. The president is having a problem with his base.

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: And that's why I think he needs to do something bold.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is a problem now.

REPRESENTATIVE RO KHANNA: This is - this is a problem. But if he can turn it around, not just by calling for a cease-fire, if he becomes the first American president to convene Gulf allies, to convene Israel, to convene municipal leaders in Palestine and civic society and said, I'm going to get this done, I'm going to recognize a Palestinian state, I'm going to have a two-state solution, and I'm going to recognize that the security of Israel matters but the end of occupation matters, he can become a hero. And this is – look, the president has had an amazing public service career. My plea to him, forget electoral politics, do this for people in the Middle East. It will be a capstone to his legacy. I hope he'll meet with some of the progressive members of Congress to make that case to him.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ro Khanna, good to have you here in studio.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Congressman.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska.

Good morning and good to have you here in studio.

SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN (R-Alaska): Good morning, Margaret. Good to be here. Thanks.

You have said the U.S. is in the mist of one of the most dangerous times since World War II.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We just heard from the House Intelligence Committee chairman saying it is imperative to get this aid to Ukraine. They run out of ammunition soon.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you confident Republicans can deliver this?

SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: Well, look, I voted for the supplemental and I voted for the supplement – the national security supplemental. And I did for a couple reasons. The first one is what you just said, Margaret, which is, this is a new era of authoritarian aggression. We've got the dictators all around the world, Xi Jinping, Putin, Iran, the ayatollahs in Iran, North Korea, they are working together. We need a strategic response to that. A very dangerous time.

Second, the Biden administration, with regard to national security, has not been serious. They cut the defense budget every year, inflation adjusted cuts. By the way, the secretary didn't mention it, they cut homeland security every year too. Those are the two areas this administration consistently cuts, weakens our homeland security, weakens our defense. But this aid should be much more in terms of how we talk about it in terms of the supplemental. It's less a foreign aid package and more a package about rebuilding our own industrial capacity to -


SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: To build weapons for ourselves.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mitch McConnell talks about that.


MARGARET BRENNAN: But it's your fellow Republicans in the House who seem skeptical because the Democratic votes are there.

SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: Well, part - part of the reason that I'm - I'm on your show today is to talk about it because 60 percent of this supplemental - and, look, it's not a perfect bill. The House can make it better - 60 percent goes into our ability to build weapons for America. Everything from nuclear subs - by the way, almost 40 percent of our attack subs are in maintenance right now. We don't have the industrial capacity to protect ourselves.

Xi Jinping is scared to death of American subs. This supplemental unlocks $6 billion for our sub capacity to build subs, $5 billion to produce 155 millimeter howitzer rounds, and everything in between, javelins, stingers, tomahawks. So, this is about our industrial capacity to protect America first and then, of course, we need to get some of these weapons to our allies who are facing existential threats, whether it's Taiwan, Israel, and Ukraine. And I think when you talk about it from that perspective, it should unite Republicans, not divide them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I imagine it would help if Donald Trump endorsed this package. He hasn't done it. Here's what he said last night at a rally in Richmond about Vladimir Putin.


DONALD TRUMP (Former U.S. President and 2024 Presidential Candidate): Putin, you know, has so little respect for Obama that he's starting to throw around the nuclear word - you heard that, nuclear. He's starting to talk nuclear weapons today. I was waiting for that to happen. But we have a fool, a fool as a president. He said, we will never leave until there is complete and total victory. We might there be a long time.


MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you have endorsed Mr. Trump. He seemed there to confuse Biden for Obama. He also suggested that there were U.S. troops serving in Ukraine. Are you comfortable about his mental fitness?

SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: Yes. Yes. Compared to the current president, 110 percent. And as your polling shows, I think the American people have real concerns where President Biden is with regard to his fitness for office, particularly his mental acuity, and relative to President Biden - or relative to former President Trump, I don't even think it's a close call when you see the two in action.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, to be clear, there are no U.S. troops serving on the battlefield in Ukraine. There are military advisors. There aren't troops, correct?

SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: No, but I mean, look, I mean the other thing that -

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, because that - some within your party believe that, and that was what he suggested there.

SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: Well, I mean, I - I - I would – again, I would go back to who is demonstrating more mental fitness to be the president. And I don't even think it's a close call between President Trump and President Biden right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You recently retired after 30 years in the Marine Corps.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Jim Mattis, you know him well.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Retired and revered general, wrote in his resignation letter from the Trump administration he had to leave because of a difference of views on treating allies with respect and being clear-eyed about competitors.


MARGARET BRENNAN: John Kelly, also retired Marine Corps general who served with Mr. Trump, described him as a person that has no idea what America stands for, has no idea what America is all about, a person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators.

That's a stunning assessment from two people who served alongside him as to the values of Donald Trump. Why do you think this represents your vision for America?

SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: Well, I think one of the things - and, look, I respect General Kelly and Secretary Mattis tremendously. I think the key, though, Margaret, is to look at the record, and the record of what a Trump administration, working with Republicans, did in terms of foreign policy was dramatically stronger and focused on our allies than certainly the Obama administration, the Obama-Biden administration. And let me just give you a couple examples.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You remember why Mattis resigned?

SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: No, I do remember why - why - why - why Mattis resigned.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That had directly to do with allies.

SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: I mean I'll give you an example. In terms of Russia, particularly – you remember President Biden - President - the - the Biden – Obama-Biden administration was providing them MREs after the invasion of Crimea.


SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: What did the Trump administration with Republican support do? We got them javelins.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, lethal support for the first time.

SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: We significantly - significantly bolstered – significantly, American troop presence in the Baltics and in Poland, which the Obama administration refused to do. We dramatically increased American defense spending. The second term of the Obama administration, Obama-Biden, cut defense spending by 25 percent. They wrecked readiness. I'm the ranking member on the readiness subcommittee on Armed Services. Trump and the Republican Senate, we brought military readiness back and we unleashed another element of American power, and that's American energy.


SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: So, these are all strong elements of the Trump administration -


SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: Record working with Republicans that made us stronger. And right now, if you look around the world, you see chaos. And a lot of that, in my view, has been driven by the Biden administration's weakness.


I have to leave it here because we are out of time.

Senator, good to have you here.

SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: Margaret, good to be here. Thanks.

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


MARGARET BRENNAN: Our CBS News poll also found that crime and gun policy were among the top issues for voters in 2024. On Friday we toured the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms here in Washington. Although violent crime is down across the country, ATF Director Steven Dettelbach says the agency is trying to do more to reduce gun violence.

(Begin VT)

STEVEN DETTELBACH (Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms): I think it's fair to say that for the agency that is the only federal law enforcement agency that solely deals with violent crime, if you're really concerned about violent crime in the United States, this agency is way, way, way too small.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Five thousand people.

STEVEN DETTELBACH: Five thousand people total. Twenty-five hundred agents.

Let me give you a sort of a baseline. In one city, New York City, there are 36,000 police officers, right. Seventeen times the entire ATF agent corps for the entire country. I mean if - there's no such thing as public safety on the cheap. You know, we have to support the police and we have to support the federal agents that are out there risking their lives every day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a way to use what you have now in a sharper way, in a more targeted way?

STEVEN DETTELBACH: We have to do that, right? That's the name of the question that I have every day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you need?

STEVEN DETTELBACH: If we don't get any more resources, the president has asked for more, if we don't, what we are doing to try and sharpen, we use what's called crime gun intelligence, which is a fancy term but basically it applies to being able to follow the gun. So, a crime gun, which is something that's involved with a crime, and squeeze every last bit of evidence and intel we can out of the thing that comes out the front of the gun, the bullet, the cartridge casing that's ejected out the back of the gun, the outside of the gun, things like the serial number, and the inside of the gun, the markings inside of the gun.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The ATF is prohibited by law from creating a centralized database of registered gun owners. How big of an impediment is that to actually stopping gun traffickers?

STEVEN DETTELBACH: This happened in Highland Park in the July 4th massacre, right? Firearm, serial numbers put in. We run an urgent trace and get back to the police in just a matter of hours the identity of the person who purchased that firearm. They catch the person before they kill again. OK, how does that really happen in real life. The way it doesn't happen is, we punch in a person's name and up comes, oh, they own so many guns.


STEVEN DETTELBACH: Congress has prohibited us from doing that. We pay somebody to take out search function in order to apply with the congressional notion that there can't be a gun registry – the law that there can't be a gun registry in the United States. It's not a notion, it's a law, and we comply with it. That - that means that we have to work within that system.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Last week the Supreme Court heard arguments over bump stocks, devices that effectively turn semiautomatic rifles into machine guns, and the question of whether a Trump administration ban was lawfully implemented by the ATF.

STEVEN DETTELBACH: This debate that we heard is about more than bump stocks. It's about these - these - these – all these different products which are being used to turn semiautomatic weapons into machine guns.


STEVEN DETTELBACH: And if you had asked most police chiefs, or most agents who are running towards this gunfire, it's a very dangerous situation for them too. Whether ten years ago they thought this was even a possibility, 15 years ago, they'd have said, no, machine guns went the way of Al Capone and the Tommy gun.

Unfortunately, technology can be used for good and technology can be used for bad, right? And what I want people to understand is, we at ATF are doing everything we can within the law to try and protect them under the laws we have from these unlawful machine guns. Now, if somebody wants to pass additional laws, we'll take those.

MARGARET BRENNAN: For a lot of people at home they are horrified when it comes to their own children. Whatever their view on guns are, they want their kids to be safe. How do Americans protect their children against gun violence in this environment?

STEVEN DETTELBACH: Well, I'm a parent. We were talking about that. And I've raised two children. And I think about this too. I think the temperature on this issue is way, way, way too high. And it - and I understand why it is because, as you say, this is our kids, right? The leading cause of death of children in the United States is firearms violence, right? Not cancer. Not cars. Guns.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is kids and teenagers.

STEVEN DETTELBACH: On the other hand, people have very passionate feelings about their Second Amendment rights, right? I sat in a room in Lewiston, Maine, last week, with families and survive of the - the mass shooting that happened in Lewiston a couple months ago. And there were people in that room – first of all, of tremendous grief, unspeakable frustration and anger. There were people in that room who had really different views on the sort of policy questions, right? Everything from, how can somebody get a weapon like this in this country, to – to, you know, but I really value my weapons, in the same room. Weeks after they've lost a brother or a father or been shot themselves, right? Those people were able to sit in that room with all that grief and have a discussion. If those people in that grief can disagree with each other but still sit and have a conversation in a civilized way, what is the excuse for the other 350 million of us not to be able to do that. We owe it to those people to try to get what we can agree on done.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you can see more of that interview on YouTube.

We'll see you next week.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.