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Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) On House GOP And Senate Clash Over Linking Israel And Ukraine War Aid; Growing Concerns Hezbollah Skirmishes Could Intensify In Northern Israel; Alarming Rise Of Antisemitic Threats And Incidents Across The U.S. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 01, 2023 - 07:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So my question is, is what Hamas did --


HARLOW: -- genocide?


HARLOW: Go ahead.

MOKHIBER: I -- yeah. I think that what we need is we need an investigation to determine the scope and the nature of the crimes committed by Hamas. There's no question that war crimes were committed. This is evident because of the large loss of civilian life that accompanied Hamas' attacks.


MOKHIBER: But the point of my letter was that the U.N. has no trouble in criticizing actions by armed groups like Hamas. Where they fall down and what was missing in this case was criticism of powerful states like Israel and, frankly, like the United States.

And this is what we need. We need an approach based on the rule of law where it's the rules that apply. Not taking sides of one party or the other.


MOKHIBER: -- but insisting on respect for the precious lives of civilians and for the principles of international law.


MOKHIBER: And that's where the U.N. has fallen down in this case -- parts of the U.N.

And Poppy, I want to be clear. I'm not condemning the whole U.N. here.


MOKHIBER: U.N. staff on the ground have been absolutely heroic. Humanitarian workers, dozens of whom have been killed under Israeli bombs just in the last couple of weeks, human rights monitors, and others have been doing what they are mandated to do.

HARLOW: Craig?

MOKHIBER: But the political side of the house has not really communicated what it needs to communicate with regard to the massive --


MOKHIBER: -- assaults on civilian populations, which I have concluded constitute genocide.

HARLOW: Craig, I want to understand a specific part of your letter. Let me read this. You lay out 10 things that you believe that the U.N. should do in this conflict.

Number three: one state based on human rights. You write, quote, "We must support the establishment of a single democratic secular state in all of historic Palestine.

What do you say to critics who view that and read that as calling for the elimination of Israel? Are you?

MOKHIBER: Well, I'm -- very clearly, what I'm calling for is the salvation of Israel. I'm not asking for the elimination of Israel; I'm asking for the elimination of what all international human rights organizations and Israeli human rights organizations have called an apartheid system.

I'm merely asserting the essential need, if we want to resolve this conflict, of establishing a place where everyone is equal. Where we have equal rights for Christians, Muslims, and Jews. And abandoning the current approach where the indigenous population are excluded from those rights.

So, if Israel is to be saved, it's going to be saved based upon a state where there are equal rights for everyone -- Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others. That is not the elimination of Israel; that's the elimination of apartheid.

HARLOW: Craig Mokhiber, thank you for joining us this morning.

MOKHIBER: Thank you for having me, Poppy.

HARLOW: Thank you.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this is new video you're looking into right now showing ambulances with injured people waiting to leave Gaza. We've learned at least 10 Egyptian ambulances are also waiting inside Gaza. We're going to have more from the ground throughout the morning. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL)


MATTINGLY: Well, the House of Representatives is officially working again -- positive news. Republicans have also put forth a funding bill -- emergency funding bill that includes $14 billion in aid to Israel but does not include any funding at all for Ukraine.

Speaker Mike Johnson has pushed to detach the aid from Israel -- to Israel from the Ukraine aid. And now, President Biden is formally threatening to veto this standalone Israel aid bill, saying it makes Israel, quote, "a political pawn."

Now, Johnson's first big move as newly-elected Speaker of the House is proving to be divisive -- to some degree, within his own party.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Treat all four of these areas -- all four of them. Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the border.

REP. VICTORIA SPARTZ (R-IN): We need to understand because President Biden has grandiose statements about Ukraine winning, but he's sending aid not to lose. And that is not a strategy that we need to have dealing with a very aggressive country like Russia.


MATTINGLY: Well, joining us now is Republican Congressman from Tennessee, Tim Burchett. It is Wednesday, so we are talking to Congressman Burchett. And finally, on a Wednesday, we can talk about policy instead of who the next Speaker of the House is going to be. Congressman, I appreciate your time.

You led a letter -- or co-led a letter back in mid-October making clear to Senate leaders that they needed to decouple Ukraine funding from Israel funding. Senate leaders, both Republican and Democrat, and the president have said that's a nonstarter for them.

Is there any way you would vote for an Israel aid package if it comes back to you from the Senate with Ukraine funding in it?

REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN) (via Webex by Cisco): I don't think so. I made it pretty clear where I've been on Ukraine funding.

Now, we've given them -- what is it, $120 billion now, basically unchecked -- that's Ukraine; not Israel. And the president characterizing this as an Israeli aid package is really kind of bogus. And him saying that we're politicizing when, in fact -- obviously, in politics, the first rule you learn is accuse your enemies of doing what you're -- exactly what you're doing.

But it's four different sheets of paper -- good gosh. You put a border package, which actually it's not really a border package. It's just a bureaucrat package allowing more illegals to get into our country -- the interior of our country -- which I'm still not understanding why the Democrats don't abandon. I know it's the Democrat challenger to the president. That's one of his main issues and it's struck a real nerve because a lot of people see --


BURCHETT: -- the (audio gap).

And also, Taiwan. If we're going to send Taiwan funds or arms, let's just do that. Let's separate the four packages -- are ridiculous.

And, of course, the insult of all insults to America was that during those 20-some-odd days that we did not have a speaker, that they -- we couldn't act on Israel when, in fact, he had never even sent the bill to the Senate.

And so, I think this is a good option for Mike Johnson -- for Mike Johnson, our speaker -- our new speaker. I think he's showing clear leadership.

And that a lot of people are not fond of the funding of the IRS when, in fact, one thing that was not covered about the IRS funding was that the reason that we're having such poor results from the IRS is because they're not in their offices. Dadgum, they're still taking off after COVID. They're working from home.

As a United States congressman, I'll write a letter to the IRS and it can take six months. As a United States congressman, I can't imagine what you as a citizen endure with the IRS. So, I -- you know --


MATTINGLY: Can I ask you, though, about the IRS funding -- and I understand the concerns. And part of the issue, besides the work-from- home policy, is that they felt like they were underfunded, which hurt their efforts to some degree -- has been the position that they've held.

But tax collection and more effective tax collection actually helps on deficit and debt issues in terms of raising funding. Whether or not you want lower taxes or not, that is just kind of how the IRS works.

You are a deficit hawk. You have made the debt a central issue of yours repeatedly in spending discussions, campaigns. This would add to the deficit by most scoring, and also, it doesn't really cover much at all in terms of a pay-for. Why go this route?

BURCHETT: Why does it add to the deficit? If you've got a set number of people and they're claiming we need to hire more -- they're claiming that all this is doing is refreshing when people retire. And so, why would -- why would more money --

MATTINGLY: Well, if you reduce the ability to collect more taxes then you wouldn't have as much money coming into the U.S. Treasury.

BURCHETT: Well, I understand your point, but my point is this. If you've already got this number of people --


BURCHETT: -- and then you're going to have these billions of new dollars to hire new people, wouldn't the money from the people that have retired -- wouldn't the new folks coming in -- wouldn't that be the same amount of money, or close in that ballpark for this amount?

And we know -- and in our hearings, we found out -- and there was nobody even in denial, Democrat or Republican --


BURCHETT: -- that part of the efficiency (PH) was --


BURCHETT: -- that they're not in the office answering the phone. And if they're not in the office, why are we paying these high rents on real estate? Why aren't we gutting this real estate?


BURCHETT: It just seems like a business (audio gap) approach be handled in all this and it would make more sense. Both parties agree to that but getting there right now with the political football of --

MATTINGLY: Of the back and forth.

BURCHETT: -- Israel in the mix --

MATTINGLY: A little back and forth. It means we're going to be talking about this next week -- next Wednesday as well, I'm sure.

Congressman Tim Burchett, we appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

BURCHETT: Hey, thank you, brother.

HARLOW: Well, the Senate has confirmed former Treasury Sec. Jack Lew as the new U.S. ambassador to Israel. It was a 53-43 vote primarily along party lines, with only two Republicans joining Democrats in support of Lew's nomination. Others voiced their displeasure about Lew's involvement in the Iran nuclear deal during the Obama administration.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer noted the urgency of filling that vacancy given the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

MATTINGLY: Well, breaking now -- into CNN right now, injured Palestinians from Gaza have begun arriving in Egypt one-by-one. We're going to continue to follow the situation at the Rafah Border Crossing. Stay with us.


[07:46:10] MATTINGLY: Welcome back where we continue to follow the breaking news. You're looking at live pictures at the Rafah Border Crossing where injured Palestinians have been met by ambulances. The first of them are starting to cross the border.

We're also learning up to 400 to 500 foreign nationals will be leaving as well, including Americans. Americans likely to start as soon as tomorrow, sources are saying.

Also, Israel says it continues to intercept threats on both the northern and southern borders, including an aerial threat by Iran- backed Houthis in Yemen. The spokesman for the Houthis forces says there are plans for more strikes until the quote, "Israeli" -- until, quote, "the Israeli aggression ceases."

As Israeli military -- Israel's military pushes further into Gaza and casualties mount, there is growing concern the war could widen throughout the region.

CNN's Jim Sciutto is live for us in northern Israel. Jim, you've been keeping a close eye on this critical border region, including the back-and-forths that we've seen. Do you have any sense of a clear escalation beyond what we've seen up to this point?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there's a lot of attention to Friday, and that is when Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, is expected to speak -- and folks here in Israel and around the region curious what he's going to say. Is he -- is he going to threaten more activity? Is he going to throw Hezbollah's lot in against Israel in a more aggressive manner? But already, Hezbollah has been taking shots multiple times a day across the border into Israel.

And I just want to draw your attention to one thing. We were here yesterday evening and the top of that hillside was on fire. We learned today that the target of that Hezbollah fire was that communications station up there. You can see those towers -- those communication towers.

And one difficulty at the northern border is that really, these communities are intertwined. The border is a zigzag of a wall here. I'll point in the direction over here. On either side of that zigzag wall, there is Lebanon, and that's one issue, right? These communities -- some of them cross the border. They're on both sides of it. It makes defending the border for Israeli forces so difficult as we've found as we've been spending time with Israeli forces here.

Have a listen.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Israeli soldiers gaze north toward Lebanon what they fear could be the next front of this war. And, in fact, Israel and Hezbollah are already exchanging fire across the length of the Israeli-Lebanon border. IDF Howitzers firing on Hezbollah targets and Hezbollah firing back. Virtually every village we visit along the border has come under fire.

SCIUTTO (on camera): When you travel along the Israel-Lebanon border you see things like this multiple times a day. The smoke rising there -- the flames from a strike. That's just across the border inside Lebanon. Not clear if that was outgoing fire from Lebanon or incoming from Israel.

We did just hear from the IDF a short --


And there's another explosion as we're speaking.

And we heard of another exchange of fire just a couple of miles down here. That wall you see along there -- that marks the border between Israel on this side, Lebanon on the other.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): The threat comes from further afield as well. Today, Israel said its Arrow high-altitude missile defense system fired for the first time since the October 7 attacks, responding to a missile launch by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Israel officials see one nation behind all these attacks, Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There are many actors who are acting at the behest of Iran, including the Houthis, who are trying to challenge us and to distract us from the war in Gaza. We remain focused. We are focused on the war in Gaza.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Gaza remains the main thrust, but the IDF is attacking inside Lebanon and Syria multiple times a day. This strike, the IDF says, hit Hezbollah infrastructure.

Funerals held for the last two days in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah saying nearly 50 of its fighters have been killed since the clashes began.


SCIUTTO: One result of this threat already is that these towns on the border -- they are under mandatory evacuation -- that's why I'm able to walk down Main Street in the middle of the day -- out of fear of that escalation. Anyone here is either a member of the military, reservist, et cetera.

And keep in mind, as you mentioned, Phil, that it's the worry now about escalation from multiple fronts. You've got Gaza in the south, Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, and then many hundreds of miles away, Yemen. But all of those places have Iran-backed proxies. If they make a decision to come into this conflict in numbers then, of course, this becomes a much broader war -- Phil and Poppy.

MATTINGLY: Jim Sciutto for us. Great reporting. Thank you. HARLOW: Yeah, Jim. Thanks very much.

An arrest of a student has been made after that student made threats against the Jewish community at Cornell University. All of those details ahead.

MATTINGLY: And we're continuing to follow the breaking news out of Gaza. Critically injured Palestinians and hundreds of Americans and other foreign nationals -- some on their way out. Others could finally be getting out soon. Stay with us.



HARLOW: Well, new details in the investigation into a series of very severe online threats made against the Jewish community at Cornell University. A 21-year-old student is now under arrest and charged with threatening to kill and injure Jewish students. Patrick Dai will make his first court appearance in federal court this afternoon.

Our Athena Jones is following all of this. Just reading the threats is so shocking.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, these were disgusting, violent threats, like urging people to commit acts of violence against Jewish students. And we know that this suspect is now going to be appearing in court, or is expected to appear in federal court his afternoon.

And the university says they're still having a stepped-up police presence on campus. The Dean of Student Life is talking to students and student groups. There's mental health support available. And in some cases, students might be able to take some classes via Zoom temporarily if they're feeling uncomfortable.

But this is important because I sat down with five Jewish teenagers in the Bronx a few days ago to talk about their feelings around the war. And the thing that struck me immediately upon sitting down with them was just how strong a connection each of them feels to Israel.

They have family there. They have friends there. Many have spent multiple -- made multiple trips to Israel over the course of their lives, including just last summer. And so, they consider it their second home.

And they spoke with me about the concerns they have for their loved ones in Israel and the impact the war will have on their lives here in America and on the world.


JONES (voice-over): It's a situation that hits close to home.

FRANCES GELLER, U.S. HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: We're such a tight-knit community. This is like our family. NOAH IVES-KURTZER, U.S. HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: It's a shock that's,

like, consistent and you can't escape it.

RIVKA TAMIR, U.S. HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: When I started reaching out to people to check up, and I was -- it was hours later and I'm still checking up on people and there are still more people to reach out and talk to, and people that I was really worried about.

JONES (on camera): What have the last few weeks been like being here in America observing what's going on in Israel and Gaza?

ADIN LINDEN, U.S. HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: I think it's been this sort of balancing act of worrying about, like, when is the other shoe going to drop here in America. And caring for and, like, making sure to be a good support system for, like, my friends and family in Israel.

JONES (on camera): Waiting for another shoe to drop? How do you mean?

LINDEN: I feel like right now in America we're in kind of this grace period with Israel where Israel was attacked and the general feeling towards Israel is still fairly positive in that pity is not going to be there anymore. And I think that that's when bad things are going to start happening in America to Jews.

DANIEL PUSTILNIK, U.S. HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: I disagree with the fact that the majority of American sentiment is one of pro-Israel or pity, or sympathy. I think now that Israel has been bombing Gaza and there have been attempts to get the hostages back, and all this -- all the military operations going on -- I think there's been a huge uptick in antisemitism.

JONES (voice-over): They say the political response to the war has been upsetting, especially what they're seeing on social media.

TAMIR: It's a very, I think, inherent Jewish value in times of grief to sit in your pain and sit in your discomfort in fast or in prayer in community and acknowledge what's going on. And that's our way of dealing with grief and processing. And I think to have such raw pain be turned into something political is very, very difficult to deal with.

IVES-KURTZER: It's an impossible situation when you've been attacked by this terror group that's also governing and hiding behind its own people. I can't, like, watch innocent Palestinians die but, like -- it's like you poke a bear. And Hamas poked a bear and then went and hid behind a -- behind a bunch of little cubs.

LINDEN: It's hard for me to hear free Gaza, free Palestine because that's -- that -- Hamas is hurting Gazan citizens just as much as it's hurting Israeli citizens. Like, being pro-Palestine or pro-Gaza should not mean being pro-Hamas.

JONES (on camera): How do you think this ends?

TAMIR: When you're working on the amount of precedent that there is with Israel, with Gaza, with the Palestinians, and with Hamas, I don't foresee this ending in a way that will feel very final.

IVES-KURTZER: Israel has lost. The innocent civilians in Gaza have lost. Nobody can win a war like this. And so, what does the end look like? It looks like loss.

JONES (on camera): Where do you find the hope in a situation like this?

PUSTILNIK: I have no hope that this conflict will be resolved in the next century -- like, not at all. I think this will be almost immutable facts of the Middle East -- the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

GELLER: This is where I turn to religion and prayer and God -- you know, really, the core of Judaism. And that's helping me get through this.

JONES (voice-over): Frances Geller was planning to spend a gap year in Israel before going to college. That plan is now uncertain.

GELLER: I truly believe that perseverance is in our DNA. I don't -- we've been -- we've been around for all this time. They tried to get rid of us. They won't. And how can you now believe that that's who we are? It's hopefulness.