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State of the Union
Interview With Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH); Interview With Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA); Interview With Fmr. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Interview With Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN); Interview With Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA); Interview With Benjamin Crump. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired January 29, 2023 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Justice for Tyre. The horrific police beating of Tyre Nichols shocks the nation.
PROTESTER: Justice for Tyre!
BASH: How could this happen again? Nichols family attorney Ben Crump will join me in moments.
And political vengeance? House Speaker Kevin McCarthy boots two Democrats off one committee, as the House prepares to vote as soon as this week on removing a third.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): This is not anything political.
BASH: Democratic Representatives Adam Schiff, Ilhan Omar and Eric Swalwell join me exclusively to respond.
Plus: campaign kickoff. Former President Donald Trump makes his first campaign stops, with some signs his party is leaving him behind. When will potential GOP rivals make it official? Republican Governor Chris Sununu joins me exclusively.
BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is sickened and heartbroken.
Americans are grieving today and they are demanding change, with protesters taking to the streets and cities across the U.S., spurred by the sight of five police officers mercilessly beating Tyre Nichols while he calls for his mother and begs to go home.
On Saturday, the Memphis Police Department disbanded the so-called Scorpion unit, whose officers, ironically, had focused on areas of rising violent crime. Of course, five members of that unit are now the ones charged with second-degree murder in Tyre's death. There are still a lot of outstanding questions about the reason he was
pulled over and whether anyone else will be charged in his death and also why an initial police statement downplayed the horror that we have all now seen on tape, officers intensely, aggressively going in hot from the moment they pulled Tyre Nichols over.
I want to warn you, the footage you're about to see is extremely disturbing and include some graphic language.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get the fuck out the car! Get the fuck out the fucking car!
TYRE NICHOLS, DIED FOLLOWING POLICE BEATING: Damn. I didn't do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn your ass around!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. All right. All right. All right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. All right. All right.
NICHOLS: You don't do that, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the fucking ground!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Joining me now is the attorney representing Tyre Nichols' family, Ben Crump.
Thank you so much for being here.
And I want to say, I wanted to play just that portion of the video to illustrate the fact, first of all, that police officers obviously know they have body cameras on and that this would come out eventually. They still acted with such rage, such flagrant violence. It almost doesn't make any sense, the way they conducted themselves.
It's like we're witnessing not police officers, but people acting like criminals themselves.
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF TYRE NICHOLS: Unfortunately, Dana, in communities of color, they often have different types of policing than many of our white brothers and sisters have in their community.
And this video illustrates it, that it's this culture that says it doesn't matter whether the police officers are black, Hispanic or white, that it is somehow allowed for you to trample on the constitutional rights of certain citizens from certain ethnicities in certain communities.
And we have to have a larger conversation about this, Dana Bash.
BASH: And I think we're going to start to do -- we already are starting to do that. And I want to talk more about that in a second.
But just to stick on this case for one more minute, a defense attorney for one of the now former officers, Desmond Mills, released a statement yesterday saying that he arrived late to the incident and suggested he couldn't see after getting pepper-sprayed.
Here's the quote: "We are confident that the questions of whether Desmond crossed the lines that others crossed and whether he committed crimes charge will be answered with a resounding no."
Are you confident that all of these officers will be convicted of murder?
CRUMP: I believe they are will be convicted of crimes. Whether all of them are going to be convicted with murder, we have to continue to dissect this video.
But one thing is for certain, Dana. All of these officers failed their oath. They failed their oath to protect and serve. Look at that video. Was anybody trying to protect and serve Tyre Nichols?
And the fact that they have all been charged and fired immediately and swiftly, the police chief said that the community needed to see swift action. They needed to see swift justice when it was these five black police officers caught committing a crime on tape.
Well, in our community, we say this is the blueprint going forward. Whether the officers are black or white, we expect to see swift action and swift justice, even if it's a white police officer that abuse us.
BASH: What does justice actually mean in this case?
CRUMP: Well, it certainly is about his family having criminal culpability and civil accountability.
But, as his mother says so passionately, she believes Tyre was sent on an assignment from God. And that's what she has to believe to try to cope with this tragedy. And shame on us if we don't use his tragic death to finally get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed.
We told President Biden that when he talked to us, because he should marshal the United States Senate with Senator Booker, Senator Schumer, and they should try to get the House to reengage. If not, Dana, we're going to continue to see hashtags.
CRUMP: Yes, ma'am.
BASH: So, justice in this case, what you're saying, is systemic, real change.
Can you legislate change in the culture of police departments? Can that be done in Washington?
CRUMP: You know, what Dr. King said: I can't stop a man from hating me, but the law can stop a man from killing man and make sure they have consequences.
And so they can do something, Dana Bash. They got to try. We haven't had federal police reform since President Lyndon Baines Johnson' Great Society. It didn't happen with Rodney King, it didn't happen with Michael Brown in Ferguson, and it didn't happen with George Floyd.
How many of these tragedies do we have to see on video before we say, we have a problem, America?
BASH: You have been doing this a long time. You have, unfortunately -- fortunate for them, but unfortunately that you had to do this -- representing families of Americans killed by police for your whole career.
Put this incident into context for us, given the experience that you have, the moment, the video, all of it.
CRUMP: You know, this is such a difficult video on many levels, the fact that it happened in Memphis, Tennessee, the place where Dr. Martin Luther King was slain.
When they first -- we first saw it before America saw it, we said that it's going to remind people of the Rodney King video in 1992. And that was a watershed moment for America. And I believe this video is a watershed moment for America.
The only question that remains is, how much progress have we made from 1992 with Rodney King video to 2023 with Tyre Nichols' tragic video, and what are our national leaders going to do?
BASH: That is the question.
Mr. Crump, thank you so much. Appreciate you coming in today.
CRUMP: Thank you, Dana.
BASH: Thank you.
And the nation is reacting to Tyre Nichols' death. We will get into that and what comes next with my panel.
Plus, House lawmakers will debate whether to remove Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from a key committee. She's here ahead with two of her colleagues who have already been removed from their committees.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:13:09]
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROWVAUGHN WELLS, MOTHER OF TYRE NICHOLS: Because that's what they did. They beat my son to death.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: He cried out for his mom.
WELLS: Yes. Yes, he cried out for me, because I'm his mother. And that's what -- he was trying to get home to safety.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
My panel joins me now.
Thank you all for being here.
I want to start with you, newly elected, newly sworn in Congresswoman Summer Lee.
You are the first black woman to represent Pennsylvania.In that context and just in the context of being a human, describe how it feels and your reaction as a new legislator to what we have seen in Memphis.
REP. SUMMER LEE (D-PA): Yes.
Obviously, Pennsylvania has never had a black woman represent us. Where I'm from, in Pittsburgh, this is a case that we have seen before. So when I think about this, when I think about the dehumanizing effect of videos like this, I think about a mother of the movement that I know myself who is from my own community.
So, we have seen this. We have seen these mothers cry out. We have seen this community cry out. So, reliving this is -- it's not unusual, right? We have we relived it. There are so many black cities across the country that have now lived this.
But it's painful every single time and never gets any easier. And people are wondering, what is going to change, even with a black representative? What will change even when we have people in higher positions, when nothing has changed before?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that one of the things that we have to begin to analyze -- and I -- we have a former legislator here and a current legislator here -- is the inaction that we have seen after these events occurred.
After George Floyd, we had the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and people were motivated to believe that things would change. But even if we limit qualified immunity, which we should, even if we have a database for bad actions by police officers, which we should, ban choke holds, ban no-knock warrants, all of these things which are policy-driven, we still -- and that's why your question in the last segment was so important to Mr. Crump -- we still have to have a conversation about culture, because what we saw and the conversation that we have to have is about the nuance around systems in this country.
And systemic racism is a word that people don't want to hear. They -- we're so anti-intellectual that they clench up when they hear it, but it's a conversation that we have to have.
BASH: You were in Congress when the George Floyd murder happened, and Congress had a swell of discussions.
And then, as you said, Bakari, they didn't go anywhere.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Well, that's what happens. So, and this may happen here at this moment, too, which is, you start to have real conversations.
I actually hate the term real conversations. I think it's a way to punt, but you actually begin to discuss ways to fix these issues. And then what happens is, the online kind of profit machine kicks up. And, on the right, it's all the sudden, like, we have to back the blue and not talk about any reforms. And sometimes, on the left, it ends up being basically -- you saw it to the extreme, defund the police.
And then you end up hating each other, not talking about it, not solving problems. This is a moment where I think, if we can actually be like, OK, look, neither side is going to get exactly what they want in policing or in reform, but we can make a huge difference, sort of like the George Floyd -- the Justice for George Floyd Act, we can make a difference.
But everybody's got to get away from just default to their corners.
BASH: I want to read a quote from the NAACP which was incredibly strong and I think very telling about what is or not going on in this city.
"If anyone needs to see this video, it's every single leader in Congress. Sit in your comfy leather chair, watch the video when it is released, and tell us what else you need to vote yes on police reform. By failing to write a piece on legislation -- piece of legislation, you're writing another obituary."
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's -- watching this video, and listening to the audio, and listening to these police officers and what they were saying while this was going on, we have an epidemic of hard hearts in this country.
I mean, how can one human beat -- drag somebody out of their car and beat them to death and say these things, and have any kind of a feeling for human dignity in their heart? We have -- we have hard hearts. It's an epidemic of hard hearts. I have questions about this event which we don't know the answer to
yet. A, what happened before the cameras turned on? Why was the stop made? And, B, maybe most importantly from a political perspective, I have questions about how these officers were hired. And what were the standards? Where do they come from? What was the testing?
And what kind of people are we putting with such power in our communities that they feel like they could drag you out of a car and beat you to death? I mean, these -- this is not protecting and serving. This is not law and order. You know, this is...
SELLERS: All of those are -- I mean, this is what you're talking about, because that's actually dead on. And we have to have those conversations about hiring practices, about the credentials it takes to be in law enforcement.
I want to take it a step further, though, to build on Scott and to build on what you're saying, because, for a long time, we said, officers need body cameras. Well, these officers beat his ass with body cameras.
They were like, we need more resources in these communities. We give them more resources, right? We need more training. You get more training, right?
So, the question that I have -- and I'm somebody who says that these are the type of things that we need to do. I am an advocate of those things, no doubt. But the question is, when this still happens, where do we go from here? And that's when you have a conversation, a real conversation, whether it's a hard heart conversation, or a cultural conversation, or a fact that black folk don't get the benefit of their humanity conversation, this is where we have to have this difficult conversation.
Because I draw a direct line from what happened in Memphis to black folks in Flint and Jackson not having water, to black students who go to schools where the infrastructure is falling apart, to the fact that black women are three times more likely to die during childbirth than white women.
That is systemic racism across institutions.
We talk about public safety, and there's a weaponization of that term. But where we stop short every single time is talking about, how do we invest in communities that have been underinvested? How do we ensure that black schools, black and brown schools are being invested in, that these kids have somewhere to go after school, that we're investing in good jobs, that we are doing all the work to make communities actually safe? We have data. We know what makes communities safe. But, every single
time, we defer, we kind of go back right to, well, policing in and of itself is public safety. Public safety doesn't begin or end with policing.
BASH: So, just on that note, now that you are in Congress, and you will have a vote on all of the things...
SELLERS: ... trying to get something done now.
BASH: ... all of the things that you just talked about, but also potentially police reform.
I know you're saying police reform is only part of it, but is it a start?
LEE: I think the start is looking deeply into our culture, looking deeply within ourselves and figuring out why we make policy decisions that we know have adverse impact on these communities, that we know are setting communities up for failure.
So, while it would be good, objectively, if we were moving on things, it would be good, objectively, had we moved on George Floyd Policing Act, but that is so much -- that we're so far past that right now that we need to really kind of escalate the conversation a lot faster than we are.
KINZINGER: Well, look, I think every American deserves safety. Every American deserves to feel safe at home, safe in their neighborhoods.
If you look in the inner city and you look in the rural community -- I represented a lot of rural areas -- the challenges are largely the same. It's broken homes in some cases. It's poverty. It's these issues, but yet these communities are pitted against each other politically. They don't have conversations to say like, OK, what is it we actually share and what don't we?
And I think that's something that needs to happen is, people have got to look kind of outside of typical political alignments and say, what has been a proven solution here? What's been a proven solution in this area?
And I got to tell you, recruitment of police officers, as Scott was saying, is huge. That is a huge issue, because, right now -- it used to be, when I was in college, if you applied for the police department, it would be they would hire one out of 50.
Now, if you apply, and you meet the bare -- the minimum qualifications, they will probably hire you. That may mean more police pay. It may mean better training.
BASH: Well, this is just the beginning of this conversation.
BASH: We have a lot more to discuss on all of the facets that all of you broke -- brought up.
Thank you so much for this, this important conversation.
All right, we're going to take a quick break.
Up next: back on the campaign trail. Donald Trump is there kicking off his 2024 campaign this weekend. Are potential rivals in his party getting closer to challenging him?
One of them will join me next.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
Former President Donald Trump kicked off his 2024 campaign yesterday with a pair of events in two crucial early voting states, South Carolina and New Hampshire.
But these weren't large, rambunctious rallies that the former president is known for, a new approach, perhaps, as the Republican Party considers whether it needs a new face at the top of the ticket.
Here with me now is Republican Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire.
Thank you so much for joining me.
I want to talk politics in a second, but, first, I want to ask about what happened in Memphis and the Tyre Nichols -- the video that we have seen, and, most importantly, the brutal beating, deadly beating.
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): I mean, I think the first time when I saw it, you see it as a -- I see it as a dad, right, and what that father must have been going through watching that. I mean, it's just so gut- wrenching.
But then, obviously, I do have to transition. And I think, OK, well, I'm the governor of the state. I oversee police standards and training. I oversee state police and law enforcement. What are we doing at our level? And so you want to make sure that those -- that there's a sense of accountability.
And it's not just training, of course. I mean, what you saw there was beyond a training failure. It was humanity. And I think everyone acknowledges that. So, again, you got to make sure you're being transparent. We want to make sure, for example, all our law enforcement officers are seeing that video, understanding what happened, what -- where those failures really were.
And they clearly go beyond that video, unfortunately, right? What is inherent within our system? So I think everyone across the country is taking a look at it. But that's the -- kind of the tough part of leadership, in terms of making sure that you're driving forward with the right process going forward and the right mentality, with your leader -- with your teams on the ground.
BASH: A lot of calls, renewed calls for Congress to deal with comprehensive police reform.
New Hampshire, your state is, famously libertarian, live free or die. Do you believe the federal government should take the lead in having a uniform, so to speak, set of rules and regulations on a national level?
SUNUNU: I don't mind the federal government creating guidelines, but let's understand what's -- what's important and what the issues are in a New York City, or in Boston, or in New Hampshire, or in an Arizona might be all very, very different.
What -- how we -- how we train is very different. In New Hampshire, we have one centralized training facility for local and state enforcement. So it allows us -- when we change one of our processes, it makes sure that it goes to the whole system. Not every state does it that way.
So I think the guidelines are OK, making sure that certain issues of mental health and mental illness, of safety of officers, of issues of bail reform and all of these sort of things. They can provide those guidelines, but I do believe that states and cities and towns really need to make a lot of those decisions on their own.
BASH: Let's talk a little politics.
You're here. Is it because Donald Trump was in New Hampshire?
No, I heard he was coming. I hadn't made my plans to be down here.
BASH: And then you said, let's get out of here?
SUNUNU: No. Heck no.
But one of the reasons he became the Republican nominee in 2016 is because he won the first primary state...
BASH: ... your state of New Hampshire.
SUNUNU: Could he do that again? Oh, he could. I don't think he will. He could.
One thing, I mean, obviously, he started this campaign after the election in '22. That obviously had a lot of stumbling blocks that he was trying to overcome. He comes to New Hampshire, and, frankly, he gives a very mundane speech. The response we have received is, he read his teleprompter, he stuck to the talking points, he went away.
So he's not really bringing that fire, that energy, I think, that a lot of folks saw it in '16. I think, in many ways, it was a little disappointing to some folks. And even he acknowledged it wasn't his best. He came to a predetermined crowd, not one of his big rallies.
And so I think a lot of folks understand that he's going to be a candidate, but he's also going to have to earn it. And that's New Hampshire. Even if you're the former president, you got to come and earn it person to person.
BASH: I want to play something that you said in your inaugural address earlier this month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUNUNU: It's not right to tell a private business what they can or cannot do. It is not the New Hampshire way to force locally elected and accountable school districts or town councils to bend to the statehouse's will.
That's not leadership, and it's not conservative, and it is certainly not freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: If I didn't know better, I would think that that was a thinly veiled shot at your fellow Republican governor down south Governor Ron DeSantis, Because he's made a point of picking fights with private businesses and schools over cultural issues.
SUNUNU: I think -- well, look, I think a lot of Republican leadership is getting behind this idea that we have to fight.
And I get it, as, in a leadership position, you have to be willing to have the fight. But we cannot have leadership that is only about the fight. I'm a free market...
BASH: Who is -- who does show that they are leading only about the fight? Who are you referring to?
SUNUNU: Oh, I don't think there's any individual.
I think, look, a lot of Republicans are frustrated. A lot of conservative, a lot of Americans, independents are frustrated, because they see this woke culture, this woke cancel culture invading our societies and in our communities. And we need to fight... (CROSSTALK)
SUNUNU: ... to be sure.
BASH: But you argue that that -- yes, but you argue that there's too much of that.
SUNUNU: There is.
BASH: That there's not -- there's too much of the focus on fighting that.
SUNUNU: My argument is, the government is not the solution to cultural issues, and we have a cultural problem.
But the government isn't going to come down with a big heavy hammer and solve that problem.
BASH: Is Ron DeSantis doing that too much?
SUNUNU: It's not about Ron. I think -- I think the Republican Party as a whole just wants to get out and fight, as opposed to saying, look, let's remember what we're about, limited government...
SUNUNU: ... local control, believing in individual responsibility.
That's the live for your die spirit in New Hampshire, and the model works really well.
BASH: University of New Hampshire released a new poll this week, you might have seen it, potential GOP 2024 candidates.
We will put it up on the screen. Ron DeSantis, is doing quite well...
BASH: ... over the former president. You are on there.
BASH: Speaking of that, when will you make a decision one way or another whether you will run for president?
SUNUNU: Oh, I don't have a timeline.
I mean, obviously folks are talking about it, but I really don't have a timeline. I'm spending a lot of time naturally trying to grow the party, as Republicans, talk to independents, talk to the next generation of potential Republican voters that right now no one is really reaching out to.
But I think we have a lot of hope and optimism and a way to kind of want them to be on our team. And they should want to be on our team. It's not just about the negativity that you see in the media and the press and that they have kind of been inundated with. It really is about good government.
And I'm trying to -- I think we have done that really well in New Hampshire, trying to bring that a little bit to the table, and then, down the road, if that leads into something bigger, so be it.
BASH: So you're considering it?
BASH: When do other people, whether it's you or anybody else, need to get in? Because he's the only declared candidate, former President Trump.
SUNUNU: Well, yes, I mean, obviously, DeSantis and Trump are the two candidates, right, so -- whether he's declared or not.
BASH: Well, he hasn't -- well, he has not declared.
SUNUNU: OK, not publicly declared, but he has hundreds of millions of dollars...
SUNUNU: Because, obviously, Ron DeSantis is looking to run for president, which is fine. And he would probably win New Hampshire right now, without a doubt.
I think other candidates will look to get in this spring or into the summer. I'm surprised other candidates, I think a lot of us, aren't doing better, right? And there's great candidates there, Mike Pence, and Nikki Haley, and Mike Pompeo.
BASH: Mike Pence wasn't even on the list.
SUNUNU: Yes. Yes, I don't -- I didn't see the poll, to be honest.
SUNUNU: But -- but, no, I'm surprised some of those aren't -- some of those...
BASH: But do you think they're -- that you all, you who are considering -- and I'm putting you in that category, because you just said you -- are aren't doing better because you're not more forward- leaning?, because you're not declared?
SUNUNU: Oh, yes, I'm surprised I'm on that poll at all, frankly, but -- because we haven't really been talking about that.
I think there's a lot of hope and opportunity for good candidates to get in, drive the message where it needs to be. But the discipline is getting out too. The discipline and saying, look, you're only polling at 5 percent, you got to get out. We don't want a crowded field here.
And as kind of the referee of the first-in-the-nation primary, I will have some opportunity there to pull some levers and really make sure that we're holding the candidates accountable. Make a good run at it, but if it ain't happening, you got to pull out and leave it down to the two, three or four candidates.
BASH: And we will talk another time about what happens when the referee is in the game, if that happens for you.
SUNUNU: Well, that will happen in South Carolina. That will happen in Florida, right?
BASH: All right. That's true. That's true.
SUNUNU: Last time I checked, Ron is the governor of Florida.
BASH: But I'm talking about -- but I'm talking about you, Governor. Thank you so much.
SUNUNU: Thank you.
BASH: Appreciate it.
And Speaker Kevin McCarthy is kicking Democrats off House committees.
The three members he is targeting will be here together to respond after a quick break.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is following through on one of his promises, to retaliate against Democrats who voted to remove two Republicans from House committees back in 2021.
Now that he has the gavel, McCarthy this week removed two Democrats from a key committee and is working on a third.
All three of those Democrats join me now, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Congressmen Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell of California.
Thank you, one and all, for joining me. I appreciate it.
I know that there's a lot to talk about in terms of the politics of what's happening here, but I want to air out some of the substance of the Republican allegations.
And, Congressman, I will start with you.
You said that there was direct evidence of the fact that Donald Trump colluded with Russia back in 2016. Special counsel Robert Mueller said in his report -- quote -- "The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government."
Republicans argue that's proof that you used your position the Intelligence Committee to intentionally mislead Americans, which is why you should not be on that committee.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If you read the Mueller report, he makes clear even in the first few pages of the report that he states no conclusion on whether Donald Trump and his campaign colluded with the Russians.
But what he does reveal in his report, what we found in our investigation is that Donald Trump's campaign manager was sharing internal campaign polling data and a strategy for key battleground states with an agent of Russian intelligence, while that same unit of Russian intelligence was helping the Trump campaign, both with the hacking-and-dumping operation, as well as a social media operation to elect Donald Trump.
To most Americans, that is collusion. Now, whether it's proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the crime of conspiracy -- that's what Bob Mueller was talking about -- I have always distinguished between the two.
But let me just set the record straight. This is only one of a shifting series of rationalizations and pretexts that McCarthy is using.
BASH: Well, let me give you another. He says that this is part of the pattern. Ahead of the first Trump impeachment, you said the committee had not spoken to a whistle-blower. In fact, that turned out not to be true.
You know "The Washington Post" said so in their fact-check.
SCHIFF: "The Washington Post" identified that, yes, before the person became a whistle-blower, they sought advice from the committee.
When I was asked the question, I thought they were referring to whether we had brought the whistle-blower in. And I should have been more clear in my answer.
But, again, let's be clear what's really going on here. McCarthy has said Adam Schiff prosecuted the case against Trump. Ukraine impeachment was a hoax. He's given 15 explanations. The only real explanation is, he needs Marjorie Taylor Greene's vote. He needs Paul Gosar's vote. He wants to retaliate for their removal from the committee.
And, apparently, he believes I was very effective in exposing his misconduct, Donald Trump's misconduct. And that's what they're trying to stop. So, I think that he benefits from having these smears repeated. And that's part of what he gains from it. But this is a pretext, and nothing more.
BASH: Yes, and which is why this is a chance for you to explain, and to give your side of that, as opposed to just simply repeating it.
On that, Congressman, you were also removed by Republicans from the Intelligence Committee. What the speaker said about you is that, beginning in 2012, a suspected Chinese spy developed ties to you and to your office, even put an intern there, raised campaign funds for you.
You say very clearly you cut off ties with this person back in 2015 when you found out. You cooperated with the FBI. But the bottom line question is this. Did you put yourself in a vulnerable position in any way, so that this alleged Chinese spy could have benefited or even learned American secrets?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Absolutely not.
But, Dana, don't take my word for it. Take the FBI's word for it. They never talk about ongoing investigations. And former Chairman Schiff knows this, as a member of the Gang of Eight. Three different times, they came out and said two things. All I did was help them and, also, I was never under any suspicion of wrongdoing.
But, more than that, Chairman -- Speaker Boehner was briefed on this investigation. He could have removed me, just as Speaker McCarthy did. He didn't. Devin Nunes was the chair of the Intelligence Committee, never made a public peep about this. Paul Ryan would have access to the same investigation, reappointed me to the committee.
Donald Trump, who villainized me at every rally, more access to classified information than any person who walked the earth, if he could have weaponized that to go after me, you know he would have. There's nothing there.
I did what every American should have. This is some Bakersfield B.S. It's Kevin McCarthy weaponizing his ability to commit this political abuse, because he perceives me, just like Mr. Schiff and Ms. Omar, as an effective political opponent.
BASH: Well, let me ask you, Congresswoman Omar, about what Republicans are saying about you, that there is a pattern of antisemitic and other controversial statements that make you unfit to sit on, in your case, the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
I'm told that Republicans presented a list in their meeting, in a private meeting, this past week. Included in that list is that you said that Israel hypnotized the world. You said Israel is an apartheid regime, that politicians with pro-Israel stance -- stances were all about the Benjamins, which you very notably apologized for, that you support the BDS movement, which a lot of people think is rooted in antisemitism, compared the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.
I want to give you a chance to respond to all of that, which they say is a clear pattern. REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Yes, I might have used words at the time that
I didn't understand were trafficking in antisemitism. When that was brought to my attention, I apologized. I owned up to it. That's the kind of person that I am.
And I continue to work with my colleagues and my community to fight against antisemitism. Now, I have never compared or made any comparisons. What I was referencing was a case that was in front of the ICC. And if they want to debate political differences, and that's something that we should all have the opportunity to do so, but to smear someone and their character, their love for their country and the work that they get to do on a committee is wrong.
And it is politically motivated. And, in some cases, it's motivated by the fact that many of these members don't believe a Muslim, a refugee, an African should even be in Congress, let alone have the opportunity to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
BASH: You have said that before.
It sounds like you're accusing Kevin McCarthy of racism.
OMAR: I mean, I'm not making any accusations. I'm just laying out the facts.
You remember Donald Trump coming into my state and saying, Muslims, Somali refugees are infiltrating our country. You remember Marjorie Taylor Greene coming to Congress after Rashida and I got sworn in and saying, Muslims are infiltrating Congress. You remember Boebert saying that I was a terrorist.
What did McCarthy do? He said, she apologized, and we don't have to worry about her Islamophobia.
That never happened.
And so these people are OK with Islamophobia. They're OK with trafficking in their own ways in antisemitism. They are not OK with having a Muslim have a voice on that committee.
BASH: Well, let me ask you, Congressman.
You are Jewish. And you have said that you were worried about some tropes that the congressman (sic) used, and -- which again, I want to be clear, you apologized for that, for that one, all about the Benjamins. Do you believe that the pattern that your caller here has put out there is, as Republicans are saying and some Democrats say, rise to the level of antisemitism?
SCHIFF: Dana, I believe that this is all a pretext.
And if you look at the leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, he is dining with white nationalists and antisemites. The people that Kevin McCarthy just put on committees like Marjorie Taylor Greene and others are speaking at white nationalist rallies.
This is, as my colleague said, Bakersfield B.S. This is all pretextual. And I don't accept the premise that this has anything to do with the conduct of any of the Democratic members. This is merely the weakness of Kevin McCarthy's speakership, that he's so reliant on these extreme members.
I mean, how can you, on the one hand, suggest that these are -- some kind of legitimate basis for unseating Democrats on committees, and put someone like George Santos on any committee? The hypocrisy just grabs you by the throat.
So I don't want to dignify the pretext that they're giving for any of us. What they're doing is really catering to the most extreme members of their conference.
BASH: I just -- I do, though, want to ask, because this has been out there. And it is definitely a big issue that we we're going to -- we're going to hear a lot more about on the House floor next week, Congresswoman.
So when you apologized for the -- all about the Benjamins comment, you said: "Antisemitism is real. And I'm grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of antisemitic tropes."
What did you learn?
OMAR: A lot.
I certainly did not or was not aware that the word hypnotize was a trope. I wasn't aware of the fact that there are tropes about Jews and money. That has a been very enlightening part of this journey.
To insinuate that I knowingly said these things, when people have read into my comments to make it sound as if I have something against the Jewish community, is so wrong. If you remember, when I first got elected to Congress, it was when the FBI report came out on the rise of antisemitism. As a rep-elected, the first op-ed I wrote was on that report, which I talked about how it was important for us, as a community, to coalesce around the Jewish community and fight against antisemitism.
I voted for every single resolution -- no Republican can say that -- condemning antisemitism. My work is clear. The collaboration and work that I do with my Jewish colleagues is very clear. The reason that the Democratic Caucus has not removed me and will not support my removal on the Foreign Affairs Committee is because I have done the work...
BASH: Do you think you will have...
OMAR: ... to make sure that I do not support any bigotry.
BASH: Two Republicans have already come out in support of you, saying that they won't vote to remove you. They can lose, what, one other, maybe two others. Do you think, next
week, when the House votes, that you will have enough votes? And have you talked to other Republicans?
OMAR: What I do know is that the two Republicans that have been public and some that have privately said that they are not going to vote to remove me are doing so because they don't want to be seen as hypocrites. They have taken a position in the last Congress, and they will continue to do that.
And I believe that that is a really important piece here, because threat stance to stand behind to members that were accused of inciting violence and threatening the lives of members of Congress was to say the minority -- that the majority should not have the job of removing the minority from their committees.
And I hope that they keep their word.
BASH: Final word.
SWALWELL: These smears inspire violence.
And the three of us have said over and over to Speaker McCarthy, when you say this, we hear it on voice-mails, we see it in e-mails or shouted at airports or public spaces parroting what you say. You have to condemn the violence and stop spreading smears. Otherwise, you have put a target on all of our backs, the backs of our families.
And there's real-life consequences, as we have just seen, sadly, with Speaker Pelosi's husband and the video that's come to light of it.
BASH: Thank you, one and all. Appreciate it.
OMAR: Thank you for having me.
BASH: Thank you for your time.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
BASH: Up next: Tyre Nichols, the man, before he was beaten to death in his own words and his own photographs.
Stay with us.
BASH: We want to leave you with some of the images Tyre Nichols took with his camera.
On his photography Web site, he wrote: "My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens. People have a story to tell. Why not capture it? Your friend, Tyre Nichols."
May his memory be a blessing.
Thank you so much for joining us this Sunday morning. The news continues next.