Return to Transcripts main page
State of the Union
Interview With Fmr. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY); Interview With Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired October 22, 2023 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Next stage. Israel now escalating its Gaza airstrikes ahead of a likely invasion, as fears grow the region could be drawn into the conflict. What is Israel's plan?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I caution the government of Israel not to be blinded by rage.
TAPPER: Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Turner joins me.
And lifeline, more humanitarian trucks poised to enter Gaza carrying desperately needed food, water and medical supplies.
ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: These trucks are not just trucks. They are a lifeline.
TAPPER: But as Israel preps for the ground war, are conditions about to get much worse?
Plus: at odds. With future U.S. aid to Israel on the line, House Republicans are back to square one in their speaker search fiasco.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We are in a very bad position as a party.
TAPPER: As they plan for more votes, can anyone unite the conference?
Former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney is here for her first media interview in more than a year.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is grieving so much pain and loss of life.
This morning, the Israeli military says it is stepping up its airstrikes against Hamas in Gaza. The IDF also hit a mosque in the West Bank to prevent what it called an imminent terror attack, all as we learned, more unimaginable, unimaginable details about the brutality of the Hamas terrorist attack on Israeli civilians on October 7. Now, with the anticipation of a ground war building, the human
devastation in Gaza is coming to a clearer focus. Disturbing new video just into CNN shows a hospital in the Central Gaza district overwhelmed with bodies following overnight airstrikes.
Just now, more aid trucks are beginning to be allowed to enter Gaza through Egypt's Rafah Crossing, although it's not clear how many or what they were carrying. The first aid trucks were just let through yesterday, as the U.N. warned civilian lives in Gaza are being pushed -- quote -- "to the edge of catastrophe."
And as anger at Israel and his supporters in the West grow throughout the Middle East, there are new signs of concern about this escalation growing into a regional war. The U.S. military is deploying additional missile defense systems to the Middle East -- quote -- "in response to escalations throughout the region."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with his Qatari counterpart last night to discuss further efforts to get American hostages released after two American hostages were released by Hamas and are making their way home. What Hamas got in exchange for those two hostages has not been disclosed.
Joining me now from Northern Israel is CNN's Matthew Chance.
Matthew, when it comes to fears of this war spreading to becoming a larger regional conflict, Israel says it is evacuating even more communities near where you are.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
I'm in the northern town of Kiryat Shmona, which has already been evacuated, the authorities sending buses to get those out who couldn't get out by their own -- their own vehicles. And towns and villages all across this very volatile region in the north of Israel close to the Lebanese and close to the Syrian border as well, they have all been cleared out.
We're talking about hundreds of thousands of people both here and in communities in the south of Israel as well who evacuated because of the attacks last week in Gaza who have now been displaced because of this ongoing violence in the country.
The situation here in the north is particularly of concern, because the Israeli military say there's been an upsurge in attacks by Hezbollah forces across the border of the course of the past several days, drones being flown above Kiryat Shmona, rocket strikes, anti- tank weapons being fired at the border fence, infiltrations of militant fighters that have been repulsed as well.
And all of this, the Israeli military say they have responded to. They have been carrying out an increased number of attacks inside Southern Lebanon, but they have warned Lebanon as well and Hezbollah as well that it will press further, that it will launch enormous strikes on Hezbollah and, indeed, on Lebanon if that escalation continues. One IDF spokesperson saying that Hezbollah is playing a dangerous game and dragging Lebanon into a war that it will lose. And so, yes, look, there's a lot of concern about what Lebanon is doing, about what Hezbollah in Lebanon is doing, but an absolute kind of commitment, it seems, from the Israelis to strike back hard if that escalation continues, Jake.
TAPPER: We have seen Israeli troops and tanks building up on the border with Gaza.
Do we know anything about any sort of timeline for an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza?
CHANCE: No. I wish we did.
But, obviously, we're all very nervous and tense watching when that move will be made across that frontier into Gaza. Already, the Israelis say that they have been stepping up airstrikes, and they intend to do that to put more pressure on Hamas. The objective remains the same, of course, they say, which is to, in their words, destroy Hamas and dismantle its military infrastructure.
But in terms of when the actual green light for a land invasion is going to be put on or not, we don't know yet. I mean, there is a possibility -- although this isn't an official position at this point, there is a possibility that Israel may be waiting to see what further results the talks between the United States and Qatar and Hamas may yield in terms of more hostage negotiations and more hostage releases.
Already, two U.S. citizens held by Hamas, of course, in the past 24 hours have been released. Obviously, there's a hope that more can be, their freedom can be brokered as well. But that's not the official Israeli position. They're saying they will choose the exact time and the exact moment when it's best suited for a military incursion for them to green-light it -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Matthew Chance, thank you so much.
Joining me now for her first media interview in more than a year, former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney. She was the number three Republican in the House and, before that, was a high-ranking State Department official.
Thank you so much for being here.
FMR. REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Thank you.
TAPPER: It's good to have you.
So, as you know, Gaza City is very densely populated, and Hamas embeds itself within the population. Do you think it's wise for Israel to stage a ground incursion, strategically? And do you think Israel's been doing enough to prevent the loss of innocent life? We know Hamas embeds itself within the population. That's one of the
things they do. They're a terrorist organization. But is this smart for Israel?
CHENEY: Look, I think that, number one, people need to recognize that what's happening in terms of the conditions in Gaza is the responsibility of Hamas.
The reason that people in Gaza are facing the situation they're facing, Hamas has been in charge in Gaza since 2006 at least. So, Israel -- we have moved so quickly beyond the focus on the devastation of the terrorist attack, the absolutely barbaric slaughter of men, women and children, the stories that we continue to see come out of babies tied up with wire and murdered brutally, of people tortured in front of their children.
I mean, the fact that people have moved on from that is really wrong. And Israel must...
TAPPER: Just FYI, we have not, and we continue to tell those stories on CNN. Just...
CHENEY: No, and I think it's very important.
What we have seen, though, around the world...
CHENEY: ... is even, frankly, before Israel began any kind of a response in Gaza, we saw this massive expansion and explosion of demonstrations around the world, antisemitic, anti-Israel, here in the United States on our university campuses.
It's outrageous. It's dangerous. It needs to stop. Israel must take whatever action they need to take to defend themselves. And the United States should not be in the business of telling them to stop, to slow down. They have got to defend themselves. And that means they have got to defeat Hamas.
TAPPER: Sure, but let me ask you, just in terms of advising a country that is an ally -- a lot of people are drawing parallels to 9/11, although, proportionally, this was worse. This is about -- would be the same as killing 40,000 people in Israel, as opposed to 3,000 that happened here in 9/11.
On 9/11, your father was vice president. You came to work at the State Department after 9/11. Take a listen to what President Biden said in Israel this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: But I caution this: While you feel that rage, don't be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. And while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Given the goal of not just defeating Hamas, but a long-term goal of Israel living in peace, of a two-state solution, if that's even a serious proposition anymore, what lessons do you think we have learned as a country that we could tell Israel, that we could share with Israel?
CHENEY: Well, look, I think probably the biggest mistake that we made post-9/11 was President Biden's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan the way that he did.
I think the biggest lesson that we have learned -- and, frankly, after 9/11, the fact that the steps we took for over 20 years now have prevented another mass casualty terrorist attack at the hands of Islamic terrorists, is something that we all ought to be very clear about and we ought to remember.
The lesson that we have learned and the lesson that we need to apply here is, first of all, these conflicts are connected. Iran absolutely is behind what's happening with respect to Hamas, with respect to Hezbollah. Some of the Hamas terrorists, they found Iranian munitions, North Korean munitions in their kit.
The Hamas leadership itself has talked about their ties and relationship with Russia. We have got an ally -- we have got an adversaries arrayed against us who only understand strength, who only understand that they don't -- weakness to them, frankly, is provocative.
And if they think that we're weak, if they think that we're going to lose our resolve, they will, in fact, be strengthened. So the lesson that we need to learn here is, Iran needs to recognize, if they do come in, then they will face very severe consequences from Israel, from us.
But the forces of freedom are at war with the forces of tyranny and terrorism around the world, and America has got to lead. I thought that part of President Biden's speech from the Oval Office was good. I think that those themes of the indispensable nature of America and America's leadership in the battle for freedom globally, that's exactly right, exactly what we need to be saying.
The administration needs to make some fundamental changes with respect to their Iran policy. The -- we saw just last week, for example, the sanctions preventing Iran from exporting missile technology lapsed. Those are gone now.
TAPPER: Yes, they expired.
CHENEY: And the administration didn't take any steps to stop that.
We need to do a better job. We need to actually enforce the sanctions with respect to Iran's oil exports. We ought to put the Houthis back on the terrorist list. So there are a whole range of things we need to do. And, in my view, the lesson from the post-9/11 era is that American strength is what matters, what's going to keep us safe.
And Israeli strength is something that we ought to be supporting and advocating for.
TAPPER: The attack was on October 7, a Saturday. I think it was Wednesday that Donald Trump gave a speech in which he insulted Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, said the attacks wouldn't have happened if he had been president, said that Netanyahu let him down.
He said it was -- had something to do with the strike against Soleimani, but a lot of people interpreted it as because Netanyahu congratulated Biden after Biden won the presidency. He insulted the defense minister of Israel, called him a jerk. He praised Hezbollah as smart.
What was your reaction to that? And did it surprise you that Trump could say all of that about the prime minister while they were still burying the dead after the October 7 terrorist attack, and it didn't have any impact on Republican voters or what Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill said about Donald Trump?
CHENEY: They were appalling comments.
And you're absolutely right that there should have been a response. I think that every Republican member of Congress ought to be asked about those comments. Every Republican candidate for the presidency ought to be asked about those comments.
The other thing to remember about Donald Trump is that he reportedly shared Israeli intelligence with the Russians very early in his term. He also, as we know now from the indictments that we have seen from Jack Smith, shared highly classified military documents apparently relating to military action potentially against Iran. He shared that with Mark Meadows' ghostwriters and political consultants, it seems, according to the indictments.
So, if you think about not only is he out there advocating for complimenting America's adversaries and, in fact, terrorist organizations that slaughter innocents; he also seems to have shared very highly classified intelligence information, both ours and the Israelis, in fact, with adversaries.
So I think it's simply the latest example of why Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States.
TAPPER: Who do you think is providing better leadership on the international stage right now, Biden or Trump?
CHENEY: Oh, certainly Biden.
TAPPER: President Biden also pushed for more aid to Ukraine.
I want you to take a listen to what a sitting Republican senator had to say about the package that Biden is pushing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): Whatever your views, Sean, on Ukraine, it is a separate country and a separate problem. I think what the president did is completely disgraceful. If he wants to sell the American people on $60 billion more to Ukraine, he shouldn't use dead Israeli children to do it. It was disgusting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Your response?
CHENEY: Look, I mean, what J.D. Vance is saying is completely wrong, ignorant, uninformed. As I said before, America is facing four adversaries right now, and major adversaries, in China and Russia and North Korea and Iran. And what happens with respect to our willingness to defend Ukraine has a direct impact on all of those other challenges and conflicts we face.
And the idea that we're now in a situation where you have got this growing movement on the part of Republicans not to support American aid to Ukraine is dangerous. It's wrong. Anybody who's today saying they don't support aid to Ukraine needs to be asked, and, frankly, I hope they will be asked in the candidate forum tomorrow night for speaker, why in the world would you be engaged in surrendering to America's adversaries?
Because that's what that is. If you do not support aid to Ukraine, given the global atmosphere and the context in which we're living, you are, in fact, helping America's adversaries. You're demonstrating weakness at precisely the moment when we need to be showing strength. So, it's dangerous and ill-informed.
TAPPER: Congresswoman Cheney, stick around. We have some questions to ask about the candidates for speaker coming up.
We will be right back after this quick break.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
The House of Representatives or, more specifically, the Republicans in the House of Representatives are no closer to finding a speaker than they were two weeks ago. So, with billions of aid for Ukraine and Israel on the table waiting for their consideration, with Americans literally dying, House Republicans did what your boss would no doubt let you do if you were way behind on crucial projects.
They took the weekend off. With at least seven members now saying they're going to put their names forward for speaker, the conference will reconvene tomorrow night for a speaker candidate forum, with a possible vote on Tuesday.
Back with me now is former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who was once the third-ranking Republican in the House.
I have to ask, what has it been like to watch this fiasco play out over the last few weeks?
CHENEY: I mean, it is -- it's hard to describe. I wish that it were surprising.
What we have seen is a result of really the leadership decisions that Kevin McCarthy made all the way back after the 2020 election, and certainly after January 6, and looking the other way in the face of the kind of assault on our democracy that we have seen from Donald Trump and his allies in the House, including Jim Jordan, elevating those members, frankly, some of whom are white supremacists, some of whom are antisemitic, a number of whom were involved directly in the attempt to seize power and overturn the election.
So, it's not a surprise, when you see that those people have been empowered. But it's also -- it's really dangerous.
TAPPER: McCarthy empowered them, right?
CHENEY: Exactly. Exactly...
CHENEY: ... you know, in order to be able to obtain the votes he needed to become speaker.
But I also have been watching the extent to which political violence and the threats of violence have now reared their head once again. Those have become part of our politics in a way that certainly they never should.
I talked to one of my former colleagues who was in the meeting with Jordan and the holdouts a few days ago. And he told me that, when some of the members who were receiving these threats of violence raised it and asked Jordan about it, that another of our colleagues, Representative Davidson, also from Ohio, said, essentially: It's not Jim Jordan's fault. It's your fault because you're voting against Jim Jordan.
Now, that kind of acceptance of violence is completely inappropriate and dangerous in our politics. So, I -- we need people who are serious and who recognize and understand the dangers that we're facing globally, as well as from Donald Trump and those who support him.
TAPPER: It used to be that that kind of what's called stochastic terrorism, the idea of people demonizing their enemies, and not specifically, not specifically calling for violence against their enemies, but demonizing them in such a way, you know, "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?"...
TAPPER: ... and then -- and then people come and threaten them, that that was -- that that was frowned upon, that was discouraged in politics.
Do you trace it back to Donald Trump? Like, when did this become an acceptable part of Republican politics?
CHENEY: I think you certainly would have to trace it back, in its modern version, to Donald Trump.
And we now know, frankly, because of the lie, we know that the lie about the election, we know that telling people that they have to use violence in order to take back their country, we know that that lie was very effective in sparking violence. And it hasn't stopped.
I mean, one of the -- one of the issues that I -- again, I hope will come up at the speakers forum tomorrow night is the question that Ken Buck keeps asking, is, do you understand, do you accept that Donald Trump lost the election in 2020? And do you understand and recognize the connection between continuing that lie and the political violence that we have seen unleashed across the country?
TAPPER: And a bunch of the candidates for speaker, Kevin Hern, Byron Donalds, Mike Johnson, Jack Bergman, all of them voted to object to the Electoral College results in Arizona and Pennsylvania and to disenfranchise millions of Americans based on those lies.
Is that disqualifying?
CHENEY: Certainly. I think there's no question.
And I think it tells you, though -- over 140 members of the House Republican Conference voted to object, and voted to object after the violence. So...
TAPPER: After people were dead, after bodies were lying dead in the Capitol.
CHENEY: Right, after the -- and after the mob that Donald Trump provoked had invaded.
So, it certainly should be a disqualification.
And I think that, if it isn't a disqualification, it will send a very clear message, yet one more clear message, to voters, as they think about who they're going to vote for in 2024, to what extent can you trust this group of Republicans to defend the Constitution if they're unwilling to even acknowledge the rulings of the courts, as well as the constitutional process that unfolded and the complete lack of evidence, as well as all of the testimony that we put on in our hearings in the January 6 Committee?
From the leadership of Donald Trump's own campaign, from the leaders of his White House Counsel's Office, the Department of Justice making clear he did not win the election, and he knew he didn't win the election.
TAPPER: I mean, I guess Congressman Tom Emmer, who is the majority whip, I believe, he's -- he did not vote that way.
But I feel like it's almost disqualifying among House Republicans to be reality-based.
CHENEY: Well, that's been my personal experience. So...
CHENEY: And I don't want to -- I hesitate to endorse anybody, because I think that won't be helpful for them.
But I do think people need to...
TAPPER: But listen to what you're saying. That's crazy.
TAPPER: You are super conservative. You are more conservative than almost any of the House Republican leadership. You're more conservative than the woman who replaced you, Elise Stefanik.
You're just not nuts.
TAPPER: You're just not anti-democracy.
Well, look, and I think that really is a testament about where we are as a country today. And we have to have a party that gets back to advocating those conservative policies, gets back to embracing the Constitution. That is not what the Republican Party is doing today.
TAPPER: It's just -- I mean, do you ever just, like, stop and think about the world that we're in right now, where a majority of Republican voters and a majority of House Republicans just think the moon is made of green cheese?
I mean, it just -- I don't even...
CHENEY: No, I do, certainly.
And I have spent the last almost a year now working on a book -- it's going to be out at the beginning of December -- that really looks at these issues and tells the story of the evolution inside the Republican Conference, for example, as we were walking through this whole period of, how do people keep accepting behavior that they never would have accepted before?
And it's a cautionary tale, because it happened very easily that people said, we're going to go with Trump, instead of the Constitution. TAPPER: What do you think it says about Jim Jordan and what do you
think it says about House Republicans that, in his last public ballot, 25 House Republicans voted against him, but then, in the secret ballot a few minutes later, more than 100 Republicans voted against him, a majority?
CHENEY: Right. Right.
Look, well, first of all, I'm very glad that they decided -- I think that, if it took a secret ballot to send the very clear message that Jim Jordan can't be the speaker of the House, I'm glad they did that.
But I do think that, if we're going to be able to get back to a place in this country where we actually have people who are advocating for the Constitution in both parties, then we're going to need people to have some more courage than my former colleagues are showing right now and be willing to say, no, I won't accept this, I won't stand for it, when you have to stand up and say so and put your name next to that vote.
Because this notion of the secret ballot being the only time that you can go against Donald Trump helps to strengthen Donald Trump.
TAPPER: So, former Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro just struck plea deals this week in Fulton County. Both have agreed to testify in future trials.
Based on your investigations as vice chair of the Select Committee investigating January 6, do you think they have information that could have bigger consequences for people up the food chain, including Donald Trump?
CHENEY: Certainly. I think there's no question.
And I think that, in both cases -- I mean, we know, for example, that Sidney Powell was in key meetings at the White House, including one where Donald Trump may well have signed -- invoking the Insurrection Act, with Mike Flynn in the room, who advocated seizing voting machines.
We know that Kenneth Chesebro was directly involved in the fake electors scheme, where fraudulent electors...
TAPPER: It was his scheme, I think.
CHENEY: Well, he certainly helped to put it in place, but, at the end of the day, Donald Trump oversaw everything.
CHENEY: And that scheme of presenting false electors to the United States Congress in order to seize power, to overturn an election, to try to convince Mike Pence to take unlawful and unconstitutional action absolutely directly touches Donald Trump.
TAPPER: A New York state judge fined Donald Trump $5,000 for violating his gag order in the civil fraud trial, even raising the prospect of possibly imprisoning him.
To be clear, $5,000 is pocket change for Donald Trump. But this is about Donald Trump smearing one of his clerks, falsely accusing the clerk of having an affair with Chuck Schumer. There's literally no evidence of this.
You know what it's like to be on the end of a Donald Trump smear. And now some House Republicans, other than you and Kinzinger, know what it's like to get death threats.
Do there need to be more serious consequences for Donald Trump when it comes to this sort of thing?
CHENEY: I think what we have seen over the course of the last almost three years now since January 6 has been, almost without exception, almost without exception, the judiciary has just been -- just stalwart in terms of recognizing and understanding the threat to the republic that's posed by Donald Trump's past behavior, by what he did leading up to January 6, and, frankly, what he's continued to do.
And so I think that it's really important that people recognize the efforts that he's putting in to try to tear down every institution of our democracy. And I think that we have -- we all need to be very clear about the extent to which the judges and the justices in this country, and, again, as I said, almost without exception, whether they have been appointed by Democratic presidents or Republican presidents, have a very clear understanding of the danger here and a very clear understanding and dedication to the rule of law.
And, as a nation, we all ought to be very grateful for that. And we ought to reject the kind of attacks that we're seeing, obviously, launched by Donald Trump, but also the kind of lies coming out of Jim Jordan and some other House Republicans, the notion that the entire judiciary system or the FBI is weaponized against us.
And I would urge that people think about, as we look at the threats globally, the notion that we have got Republicans saying, we're going to defund the FBI, we're going to defund the Department of Justice, Jim Jordan wants to stop a number of the programs that have kept us safe since 9/11, that is very dangerous.
And people like that don't understand the threat we face.
TAPPER: And, as you know, it's not just House Republicans. It's not just Donald Trump. It's FOX. It's an entire right-wing ecosystem that is amplifying these lies.
And Donald Trump is likely to be the next Republican presidential nominee, and he has a decent shot of being elected the next president. I mean, it could happen.
What would a second Donald Trump term look like?
CHENEY: Well, he cannot be the next president, because, if he is, all of the things that he attempted to do, but was stopped from doing by responsible people around him at the Department of Justice, at the White House Counsel's Office, all of those things, he will do.
There will be no guardrails. And everyone has been left warned. After January 6, after our investigation, after all of the evidence that we laid out about all of the steps in his multipart plan to overturn the election, there can be no question that he will unravel the institutions of our democracy.
So we are facing a moment in American politics where we have to set aside partisanship, and we have to make sure that people who believe in the Constitution are willing to come together to prevent him from ever again setting foot anywhere near the Oval Office.
TAPPER: But, if it came down to it, even though you disagree with Joe Biden on almost every issue under the sun, other than maybe Ukraine and Israel, would you vote for him over Donald Trump?
CHENEY: We're going to see what happens. We're going to see how things unfold.
I think Donald Trump is the single most dangerous threat we face. I would imagine that there will be a number of other candidates in the race that I think...
TAPPER: Would you be one of them?
CHENEY: I will tell you what I'm -- what I'm definitely going to do. I'm going to spend the next year, between now and the election, certainly helping to elect serious people, helping to elect sane people to Congress.
TAPPER: Of both parties?
CHENEY: Yes, because I think that we could well find ourselves in a situation, given what we know the Trump folks are doing, in terms of attempting to question the results of the election -- we don't want a situation where the election is thrown into the House of Representatives and Donald Trump has any possibility at all of prevailing under those circumstances.
So, we have got to elect people who believe in the Constitution and who take their responsibility seriously to Congress. So, I'm going to be spending a lot of time doing that, in addition to other things.
TAPPER: But you're not ruling out a presidential run?
CHENEY: No, I'm not.
And we will see you when your book comes out.
CHENEY: Thank you. I look forward to it.
TAPPER: OK. CHENEY: Thank you.
TAPPER: Congresswoman Liz Cheney, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time.
CHENEY: Thank you.
TAPPER: Coming up next, we have got some breaking news about the White House's message to Israel.
The chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence will join me live next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
We have some breaking news for you now. The Biden administration is asking Israel to delay its ground incursion into Gaza. That's according to two sources briefed on discussions who say that the delay would potentially allow for both more negotiations over the hostages that Hamas took on October 7 and also would allow for more aid to be allowed to be delivered to innocent civilians in Gaza.
The sources say that Friday's release of two American hostages, Judith and Natalie Raanan from outside Chicago, signaled that negotiators believe they could make progress on freeing some of the more than 200 hostages believed to be currently held by Hamas.
Joining me now to discuss is the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio.
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): Good morning.
TAPPER: Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
So, two American hostages were released by Hamas. This is obviously a brutal terrorist group. They didn't release the hostages out of the goodness of their hearts or for humanitarian reasons. So, why did they release the hostages? What did they get in exchange?
TURNER: Well, certainly, they're continuing to have negotiations and discussions.
But what we're very aware of, which, as you just noted, is, Hamas is a franchise of Iran. The brutal terrorist attacks that have occurred in Israel are going to result in Israel entering into Gaza and in taking this conflict to Hamas itself in order to diminish their ability to continue to threaten Israel.
As we see that unfold, certainly, getting humanitarian aid is important, getting the hostages back are important. And as there are opportunities, that those break, certainly, they need to be pursued. But the United States should not be dictating to Israel the
prosecution of this conflict. They certainly are on the ground. They know the risks. They know the consequences. And, certainly, the United States supports their efforts to diminish this terrorist threat.
TAPPER: How involved were American officials in securing the release of these two American hostages? And are you optimistic more hostages might be released?
Do you know how many more Americans are currently being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas?
TURNER: No, I would certainly say that Hamas needs to release all hostages, and certainly all American hostages.
There are some reports that have been public that perhaps all of the Hamas leadership was not aware of the brutal terrorist attack that was going to occur into Israel. There may be some surprise in the leadership of Hamas that they now find themselves with tanks on their borders and a conflict going to ensue.
And they may see that these hostages are an important opportunity to return them back to Israel and the United States, so that they can get out of the way and hopefully address this issue of, how will they move from a terrorist organization in the state, a franchise of Iran, to an area where there can be peace?
TAPPER: So, obviously, as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, you're a member of the Gang of Eight. You get to see the very top classified intelligence.
Who is responsible for the explosion at the Baptist Hospital in Gaza Tuesday, which the Palestinian Health Ministry, which is obviously controlled by Hamas, blamed on the Israelis, but U.S. intelligence seems to have concluded it was actually more likely to have been caused by Palestinian Islamic Jihad?
Who is responsible, according to the evidence you have seen? And how conclusive is that intelligence?
TURNER: Well, my counterpart, Ranking Member Jim Himes from Connecticut, the two of us received a briefing that included not just the conclusions by the administration, but also the assessment, what was the process undertaken in order to determine that this was not the fault of Israel?
And both of us concluded, in fact, we released a statement, that we concur with the administration's conclusion that this was not a result of Israeli action.
TAPPER: There are -- there is a Democratic member of Congress who is out there still blaming it on Israel. And I have heard some members say that she should be briefed. And I'm wondering, is there an intelligence briefing being offered to
members of Congress, so that everyone can be informed as to what the latest information is?
Well, the administration has actually done a very good job of pulling together both the leadership in the House. We have been to the meeting with Jake Sullivan at the National Security Council and getting their information and get a briefing directly from him.
Plus, all of the House of Representatives were called into a briefing where we both had the Office of Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Defense. So, there's been a tremendous amount of effort to get information to members.
And I think this is very important, as it has been in the Ukraine conflict, especially as the administration moves forward to look for an aid package to get through Congress for both the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel.
TAPPER: Based on what you know, do you think the Israelis are doing enough to protect the innocent civilians in Gaza?
I'm sure you have heard Israeli leadership say that Palestinians are victims of Hamas as well.
TURNER: And, then, they are.
I mean, there is no question there was an election in which Hamas came to power in Gaza, and then suspended all elections, and, certainly, the people in Gaza are captive to them. And they're certainly a brutal terrorist organization that is ruling that area. And I do think that the people and the Palestinians in Gaza are victims of them as well.
Israel has done a great deal of effort to try to get people to move out of the way as they go in to try to remove Hamas and its ability to execute terrorist acts. This certainly is going to be very, very difficult.
I do know that the United States is working both on the intelligence side and the strategy side with Israel to try to determine ways to increase the security of Palestinians in the area who are not involved in Hamas. But this is obviously going to be very, very difficult.
And it goes both to the security and safety of the Palestinians and the Israelis that Hamas be removed.
TAPPER: President Biden just announced a $105 billion aid package for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan, and the Southern border.
Obviously, the legislative branch of the United States government can't do anything until House Republicans pick a speaker. A, do you support the package? B, at what point does the dysfunction of House Republicans jeopardize national security?
I do support the package. I think it's incredibly important that we move forward to make certain that we stand up against the authoritarian regimes that are trying to undermine democracies that are our allies. I think also that we should be more focused on Russia as a threat to the United States than we have been, because this is not just an issue of Ukraine or not Ukraine.
This is an issue of, Russia is our adversary, and they intend to do us and our allies harm. And, of course, with Israel, this is one that has great clarity. We have all seen and have just been saddened by the atrocities that we have seen and the need for addressing the issue of Hamas.
With respect to the national security, clearly, having a House that's not functioning is certainly a security threat for our country. The -- this aid package, though, is not being delayed as a result of the House. At this point, the Senate has taken up this aid package. It looks like it'll be about two weeks before that package comes out of the Senate itself.
And, certainly, we all hope we will have a speaker by then.
TAPPER: There are seven candidates so far for speaker. Is there one that you particularly are leaning towards? And do you think that that person can get 217 votes?
TURNER: You know, getting 217 is obviously going to be very difficult and is the sort of Rubik's Cube of the answer to all of this.
I supported Kevin McCarthy. I supported Jim Jordan. I supported Scalise. I supported Jim on the floor also. I think we need to find someone who hopefully can get to 217 before we're all poised, in very drama fashion, on the House floor, trying to determine how this will unfold.
I really hope, in the next several days, as we come together as a Republican Caucus, that we're able to resolve that, so that we go unified to the House floor and deliver a speaker.
TAPPER: I hope you don't take this personally, but do you guys have any idea how clownish you look?
TURNER: Well, you know, Jake, I'm very fond of saying that Congress is like high school, but even more so.
So, hopefully, we will get past this. And I certainly have been part of the governing majority, and I'm going to stay part of that and look forward to those who are on the fringes hopefully coming together, so that we can get a speaker.
TAPPER: I said that to Congressman Steve Womack last week, high school, and he said that that's an insult to high school students. It's more like junior high. TURNER: Yes.
TAPPER: Congressman Turner, Chairman Turner, good to see you.
TURNER: Thank you.
TAPPER: I hope you guys pick a speaker sometime soon.
TURNER: Great. Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Coming up next: What happens when the fog of war is used to push propaganda? The impact it could have on every one of us.
TAPPER: As Israel prepares for a ground war, the Biden administration has been trying to caution the Netanyahu government to think strategically and not out of the understandably ferocious anger that Israelis are feeling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: But I caution this: While you feel that rage, don't be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. And while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What were some of those mistakes?
Well, just to name one, during the war on terror, U.S. service members killing Iraqi and Afghan civilians, for whatever reason, accident, negligence, the luxury of superior munitions. That makes creating a sustainable peace far more difficult, because civilian deaths often creates even more enemies.
In 2021, I gathered most of the commanders of the war in Afghanistan and asked each one what they might do differently if they could.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL (RET.), FORMER U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: Right after the 9/11 attacks, I would have made a decision inside the U.S. government to do nothing substantive for a year. What I mean by nothing, no bombing, no strikes, et cetera.
I would have gone around the world, as the aggrieved party, and built up a firm coalition for, what ought we do about al Qaeda? I would have done a mass effort to train Americans in Arabic, Pashto, Urdu, Dari to get ourselves ready to do something that we knew would be very, very difficult.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Now, it is difficult to tell another country to take their time before making any major military moves after such an atrocity has taken place.
But wise counsel is to think very strategically about what comes next, because it is so difficult to know. Remember that scene in the movie "Charlie Wilson's War?" The U.S. has helped the Mujahideen defeat the Soviets, and Americans are celebrating.
But CIA agent Gust Avrakotos warns Congressman Wilson to be humble, because one never knows what comes next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, ACTOR: There's a little boy.
And on his 14th birthday, he gets a horse, and everybody in the village says, how wonderful? The boy got a horse.
And the Zen master says, we'll see.
Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, how terrible. And the Zen master says, we'll see.
Then, a war breaks out, and all the young men have to go off and fight, except the boy can't because his leg is all messed up. And everybody in the village says, how wonderful.
TOM HANKS, ACTOR: And the Zen master says, we'll see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Of course, we know now some of those Mujahideen abandoned by the U.S. became al Qaeda.
After the U.S. left Iraq, ISIS emerged. After the U.S. left Afghanistan, the Taliban picked up where it left off.
Surely, the Israeli government's desire, its goal to destroy Hamas is understandable. But are they doing it the right way? Is there a coherent strategy for what comes next, for what will fill the vacuum, for what will bring peace to Gaza, to the West Bank, to Israel, the long game?
Is what's happening now, under the same leadership of Israel that was in charge on October 7, is that going to ultimately produce a safer Israel, not just in a month, but in a year, in a decade?
But at least, unlike its neighboring countries, Israel has a thriving free press, where journalists can ask those questions. Before we go, so many of you who have been watching our coverage have
expressed a desire to help with humanitarian relief efforts for the innocent people of Israel and in Gaza. CNN has been compiling resources. And you can head to CNN.com/impact to find a list of vetted organizations on the ground who are responding. That is CNN.com/impact.
Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us.
The news continues next.