Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

DHS And FBI Warn Of Increased Domestic Threats In U.S. Following Israel's War Against Hamas Terrorists; FBI Director: Antisemitism Reaching "Historic Levels" In U.S.; McConnell Pushes For Combined Israel And Ukraine Funding Bill; Protesters Removed From Senate Hearing On Israel Aid; Split Between House, Senate GOP Leaders On Israel Aid; WH: Biden Touts "Record Agreements" For UAW And Autoworkers. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 31, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: A spike in threats at home. Top U.S. officials are warning the Hamas attacks on Israel could motivate similar terrorism here in the United States. CNN's Evan Perez is covering the story. Evan, what have we heard so far this morning from these administration officials who are testifying on Capitol Hill?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, one of the most important things you heard is just this rise of antisemitic threats, which the FBI Director Chris Wray said was -- has risen to historic levels.

And a lot of this is coming in the wake of the Hamas attacks in Israel in just, you know, a few weeks ago and, of course, the ongoing conflict in Gaza. That is what is driving a lot of this. In the case of of the domestic threats, Chris Wray, the FBI director said that what they're seeing level of threats that we haven't seen since the ISIS, the rise of ISIS, when we saw a lot of people getting inspired to try to carry out attacks. And that's one of their top concerns.

But really, the -- a lot of it is being felt by both the Jewish communities in the United States and Muslim and Arab-American communities. Here's the director -- I'm sorry, the Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas describing that threat.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: In the days and weeks since we have responded to an increase in threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab-American communities and institutions across our country. Hate directed at Jewish students, communities, and institutions add to a pre-existing increase in the level of antisemitism in the United States and around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PEREZ: And Dana, you know, this is a threat that was already pretty high. There -- we have gone through several years of incredible number of threats, antisemitic threats in particular. And so just adding this to the cauldron really is making things a lot worse.

And so they're concerned not only about keeping an eye on people who might be supporting Hamas and other terrorist organizations here in the United States, financing and others, but the big concern is always that someone could carry out an attack here. Dana?

BASH: Incredibly scary. Evan, thank you so much for that reporting.

And as we said, the FBI Director, Christopher Wray, was on Capitol Hill this morning testifying, and he said that antisemitism is reaching, quote, "historic levels in the United States".


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The Jewish community is targeted by terrorists really across the spectrum. Homegrown violent extremists, foreign terrorist organizations, both Sunni and Shia, domestic violent extremists and, in fact, our statistics would indicate that for a group that represents only about 2.4 percent of the American public, they account for something like 60 percent of all religious-based hate crimes.


BASH: In incidents across the country, we have seen levels of open Jewish hate that look more like Europe in the early 30s than America ever. In Beverly Hills, California, a Holocaust survivor found this antisemitic graffiti on her home. One of two antisemitic graffiti incidents reported in less than a half hour.

In Parkland, Florida, on Saturday, a Jewish congregation leaving synagogue faced a group shouting antisemitic slurs and, quote, "kill the Jews". And on Friday, for the second time since the Hamas attacks, students in a Stamford, Connecticut school arrived to find swastikas defacing their campus.

To help us understand these threats that Director Wray testified about and that we're seeing with our own eyes, I want to bring in Senior CNN Legal Analyst and Former Deputy FBI Director, Andrew McCabe.

I want to just start by taking in what Christopher Wray said. The Jewish population is a little more than 2 percent.


BASH: Almost nothing in the United States. More than 60 percent of the threats. And we can look at data, or we can talk to our friends and family about how it feels. It's never felt this way in the United States for, I'll start with Jews, for Jews. The level of concern and fear is palpable.

[12:35:06] MCCABE: And it's understandable, right? Threats, antisemitic threats, threats to the Jewish community have been an inescapable aspect of life in America for as long as we can remember. But when you look at the statistics, some of which the director discussed today, that has been elevating over the last few years.

So between 2021 and 2022, the ADL says antisemitic acts and threats went up 20 -- I think 29 percent. The director quoted 60 percent of religious-based threats are directed at the Jewish community, and that's a number that he clarified later in his testimony. That was before the current unrest in Gaza. So we are at a watershed moment for this community and for federal law enforcement and intelligence's ability to get out in front of these threats and protect our communities.

BASH: You know, you have been -- we've been dealing with conspiracy theories in America and what it has done to the body politic since 2020 and before.


BASH: This is the oldest conspiracy theory that Jews are responsible for X, Y, and Z. Pick your poison, and it tends to be the reason for, or at least the canary in a coal mine for rot in society.

MCCABE: Right.

BASH: So this was there and there are lots of different very complicated reasons for being there and growing even before this attack. And now it is exploding in a way that you've heard law enforcement officials testified today that they're very concerned about.

I want to play a little bit more from what we heard from from Director Wray about this, and more broadly the threat of attacks in the homeland.


WRAY: Our most immediate concern is that violent extremists, individuals or small groups, will draw inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks against Americans going about their daily lives.


BASH: And look, this happened to a little innocent boy in Chicago. That this -- it was, I mean, I don't know if you would call it a homegrown extremist, but it was a guy listening to talk radio and got upset and brutally killed an innocent boy just because he's -- he was Muslim and really injured his mom. And so, the rhetoric that we're hearing, most of it uninformed, particularly from the extremes, is quite dangerous.

MCCABE: It is. It is. Terrorist activity overseas always inspires related terrorist activity in other places. This, the terrorist attack on October 7th, and the resulting U.S. official position of support to Israel will invariably direct frustration and ire and responses here in the United States by people who are like minded with Hamas, who are supporters of their cause, maybe who are members of the group.

So your first concern as a homeland security official right now is worrying about sympathetic attacks that might take place here. But in addition to all that, you have a population of extremists as the director described this morning across the board, homegrown violent extremists, foreign terrorist groups, domestic violent extremists who will see this elevated level of hostility as an opportunity to play out.

They're already deep seated antisemitic biases. And so, we are at a moment of great concern in terms of trying to protect this community.

BASH: Yes. Well, I think, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

MCCABE: Absolutely.

BASH: So I guess that's the key.

MCCABE: For sure.

BASH: We did a lot of sunlight right now. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

MCCABE: You're welcome.

BASH: And also on Capitol Hill, it's very busy there today. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are making their case and they're facing the Senate in a key hearing over the question of funding for both Israel and Ukraine. We'll talk about that next.



BASH: U.S. funding for Israel and Ukraine are front and center on Capitol Hill today, as is the split among Republicans on how to approach it. The new House speaker is pushing a standalone bill to fund Israel and to pay for it. That is not what the Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell wants to do. He believes the spending bill should fund Israel, Ukraine, and more.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: So at the risk of repeating myself, the threats facing America and our allies are serious and they're intertwined. If we ignore that fact, we do so at our own peril.


BASH: That came as the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and the Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, made their own case to the Senate this morning. And as it happened, protesters, seemingly from the left wing protest group Code Pink, disrupted the proceedings.


ALL: All wall have got to go from Palestine to Mexico. All wall have got to go from Palestine to Mexico.


BASH: CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Manu, how is the Biden administration making its case right now on Capitol Hill?


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're saying that both Ukraine and Israel are central to the American interests, central to national security here at home. But the question is, do they have enough support to get it out of the House and the Senate and what will happen if the House Republican, the news speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, runs head -- runs right into the Senate GOP leader.

Mitch McConnell was a completely different position on how to deal with these issues. McConnell is in line with the Republican -- with the White House on this issue, thinking that these issues must go together, Israel and Ukraine. The speaker of the House going on a much different approach, seeking $14.3 billion in aid simply for Israel.

And also including cuts to IRS funding, something that would actually has generated significant Democratic opposition, given the fact that most of these packages are not paid for and believing that this would actually reduce tax revenue coming to the government by pulling back on IRS funding.

But McConnell has some opposition as well, including from some Republican senators, including his own fellow Kentuckian -- Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who told me earlier today that he believes that Senator McConnell is undermining the speaker of the House and also is hurting the case for conservatives back home.

So McConnell is hearing some dissension, Dana, in the ranks from his own colleagues and certainly from House Republicans. The question is, can they get the votes? Can they get together? And what will happen if the House can get something out of the House and can't get out of the Senate? The Senate can pass something, but can't get out of the House and waiting in the wings will be funding for Israel. Can it get there? Still a major question at this moment, Dana.

BASH: It all is. Thank you so much for that, Manu.

And our reporters are back with us. What does this tell you about the new speaker, that he chose Israel to separate it from Ukraine, and to do it first, and to insist that it's paid for?

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR HOST, "WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY" AND "UP FIRST": Well, I think what he's trying to say is, is, look, I mean -- so when it comes to Israel, there's widespread support for that. And obviously there's very big support for Israel from the evangelical community, which we know the speaker is a part of. And so -- and, but then he also wants to say, but I'm tough. I'm not down with the, you know, the swamp, so I'm going to get rid of some IRS funding and I'm going to stick it to the man.

The thing of it is, is that Mitch McConnell and the Senate has been around for a long time. And so he may be looking at, this is a very dysfunctional Congress. You're not going to be able to get a million bills through. Let's throw this all together. If we want to help Israel, you're going to have to help a lot of people.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: And there's a reason the Appropriations Committee today brought in Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken for a hearing about funding. They wanted to send a strong message of what the administration's position is, the need for this funding.

The question is $106 billion package or something similar is probably going to pass the Senate. The question is how much Republican support does it get and as much Republican support as it gets. It'll be a strong signal to the House of Representatives and the new speaker.

RASCOE: I mean, I would say, you know, I think it is a question of this old guard versus the new guard. But it's also just a question of what in the world do Republicans want? And I feel like, as an observer, I don't have any idea what they want and I don't think they know either, like as a whole. And so that's like, who wins out?

BASH: Well, they do want different things.

RASCOE: They want different things.

BASH: And what is interesting is that this issue, it definitely splits the Republicans as we've shown, the leaders or have a different approach on either side of the Capitol. But also the Democrats, which might be why Speaker Johnson decided to put this out there the way he did because, a, he wants it that way, but also he knows that it divides Democrats.

CALDWELL: It's a great point. Yes, he's trying to divide Democrats. He's trying to get some Democrats to vote against aid to Israel because of this other IRS issue.

BASH: Yes, which is not hard to do because there's a divide among Democrats.


BASH: Thanks. Thanks so much for your reporting and your expertise.

The United Auto Workers have a deal. What the pending deals between the union and the Big Three car companies mean for workers, for President Biden and the economy? That's next.



BASH: The six week strike against the Big Three automakers may finally be coming to an end. GM became the third of the Big Three to reach a tentative agreement, giving autoworkers their biggest pay raises in decades. The end of the strike also ends a perilous chapter for President Biden.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins me now from the White House. Priscilla, I'm sure that the talk of this deal is welcome, even though there's big strikes elsewhere, this is pretty important when it comes to the president's re-election, to Bidenomics, all of it.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Dana. Officials here are breathing a sigh of relief for now over this tentative agreement. Of course, the concern with this strike was that it would be prolonged and have economic consequences at a time where the president is campaigning on by dynamics, but also as the White House is trying to convince Americans that what the President is doing on the economy and his policies is are working when there is some question and doubt over whether it is.

And so, this tentative agreement could end what has been the longest auto strike since the 90s. And we heard from the President directly just yesterday who called this, quote, "historic and hard-fought". Take a listen.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have reached a historic agreement and a hard-fought faith agreement that was really battled for a while, but it was all done in good faith. These agreements ensure the iconic Big Three can still lead the world in quality and innovation. I applaud UAW and the leaders of automobile companies for agreeing.


ALVAREZ: Of course, the key question is whether UAW will endorse President Biden. And if they do, when? Because, of course, Dana, unions have buoyed the President's bid before.

BASH: They sure have. Priscilla, thank you so much for that reporting.

And thank you for joining Inside Politics today. CNN News Central starts after the break.