Full transcript of “Face the Nation,” March 17, 2024

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

  • Former Vice President Mike Pence 
  • Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland 
  • Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat of Illinois, and Mike Gallagher, Republican of Wisconsin
  • Kara Swisher, author of “Burn Book”
  • UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell

Click here to browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”   


MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation: Congress tries a takedown of TikTok’s Chinese ownership, and the split between some allies of Israel and the Netanyahu government grows.

With the arrival of spring in the nation’s capital, House lawmakers moved with surprising speed to push a bipartisan bill to try and force the social media platform TikTok to change the way they do business. But with 170 million American TikTok users, what’s not so surprising is the politics playing a part in the back-and-forth over a ban, since both parties see the app as a platform to woo young voters.

(Begin VT)

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D-California): This is not an attempt to ban TikTok. It’s an attempt to make TikTok better, tic-tac-toe, a winner.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will talk with the heads of the House Committee on Communist China, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Mike Gallagher, and tech journalist Kara Swisher.

Plus, with the aid package to Ukraine and Israel languishing on Capitol Hill, new criticism of the Israeli government’s handling of the war in Gaza makes its outlook even more uncertain.

(Begin VT)

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-New York): Prime Minister Netanyahu has lost his way by allowing his political survival to take the precedence over the best interests of Israel.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will talk with Maryland Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen. He’s pushing for tighter control on aid to Israel.

Plus, we will talk with the head of UNICEF about the dire situation facing hundreds of millions of the world’s children.

And one year after his public split with the former president over January 6, we will sit down with Mike Pence. He says he won’t endorse Trump, but can he convince others to follow his lead?

It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation on this St. Patrick’s Day.

Former Vice President Mike Pence joins us in person, in studio.

Good morning to you, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE (R-Presidential Candidate): Good morning, Margaret. Good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There’s a lot to get to with you today.

But I want to begin with some remarks Mr. Trump made yesterday at a rally in Ohio. He walked onto the stage to a song recorded by a choir of prisoners facing charges for their role in the violence of January the 6th.

Take a listen.

(Begin VT)

DONALD TRUMP (Former President of the United States (R) and Current U.S. Presidential Candidate): You see the spirit from the hostages, and that’s what they are is hostages.

They’ve been treated terribly and very unfairly, and you know that, and everybody knows that. And we’re going to be working on that soon. The first day we get into office, we’re going to save our country, and we’re going to work with the people to treat those unbelievable patriots, and they were unbelievable patriots and are.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know, in the past, you’ve said Mr. Trump’s reckless words endangered you and your family on that day.

What do you think when you hear him refer to those people facing charges as hostages and patriots?

MIKE PENCE: Well, I think it’s very unfortunate, at a time that there are American hostages being held in Gaza, that the president or any other leaders would refer to people that are moving through our – our justice system as hostages.

And it’s just – it’s just unacceptable. I was there on January 6. I have no doubt in my mind, Margaret, that, that some people were caught up in the moment, and that entered the Capitol.

And – and they’re certainly entitled to due process of law for any nonviolent activities that day.

But the assaults on police officers, ultimately, an environment that claimed lives, is something that I – I think was tragic that day. And I will – I will never diminish it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the legal system is processing these individuals through and giving them trials.

I wonder what you think, though, about Mr. Trump and whether the public needs to hear and see some of the evidence in regard to the federal charges related to his alleged role in January 6? Do you think that needs to happen before Election Day?

MIKE PENCE: Well, I – look, I think the American people lived through that moment.

I and my family and my team lived through it at the Capitol that day. I think most Americans know what happened. I – you know, as I have said before, I – I truly do believe that – that the judgment about the president’s conduct that day should have been left to the American people.

I know it’s been brought into a criminal trial now. And – and we have cases around the country that have been brought related to that, notably in Georgia. But, at the end of the day, I think the American people know what happened that day.

And I – I said, the people that – the people that ransacked the Capitol need to be held to the fullest account of the law. And I believe that they are. But the judgment about the president’s efforts that day, I think can be left to the American people.

But – but, look, I – I said last week that, after a lot of prayer and reflection, I have come to the conclusion that I’m – I won’t be endorsing Donald Trump this year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

MIKE PENCE: I mean, look, I’m very proud of the record of our administration, Margaret.

It was a record that left America more prosperous, and – and more secure and – and our liberties and the sanctity of life stronger than ever before in my lifetime.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you’ve said Mr. Trump’s walked away from conservative principles.

MIKE PENCE: Well, I do.

I said it during my presidential campaign. The president and I have profound differences. And many people think it’s just over January 6. And, frankly, the fact that the president continues to insist that – that I had the right to overturn the election that day is a fundamental difference.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

MIKE PENCE: But I want to be clear that I – I have forgiven the president in my heart for what happened that day.

I – as a Christian, I’m required to do that. I have prayed for him in that regard. But the – the issue of fealty to the Constitution is not a small matter.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

MIKE PENCE: But it’s not just that.

I mean, the reason that I – I cannot in good conscience endorse Donald Trump this year also has to do with the fact that he is walking away not just from keeping faith with the Constitution on that day, but also, Margaret, with a commitment to fiscal responsibility, a commitment…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

MIKE PENCE: … to the sanctity of life, a – a commitment to American leadership in the world.

I mean, the president’s reversal just in the last week on – on TikTok…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

MIKE PENCE: … following an administration where – where we literally changed the national consensus on China, is the reason why I – after a lot of reflection, I just concluded I – I cannot endorse the agenda that Donald Trump is carrying into this national debate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that the final word from you? Can you be persuaded, if he changes tacks, to vote for him? Would you vote for him?

MIKE PENCE: I – I won’t be endorsing Donald Trump this year.

But, look, I want to be clear…

MARGARET BRENNAN: But would you vote for him?

MIKE PENCE: … I respect the right of Republican voters who’ve made it clear who they’re for, who they want to be our standard-bearer this year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

MIKE PENCE: What I’m going to focus my energies on is in the – what remains of this year on what we should be for, because I joined this party when I was in college…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

MIKE PENCE: … because I heard the voice and the values of another good Irishman named Ronald Reagan, who – who said that we need to be – have a strong national defense, but also recognize we’re leader of the free world, and we need to stand for traditional values, the sanctity of life.

We need to stand for the Constitution and limited government. And in the balance of this year and in the years ahead, I’m just going to continue to champion those values that I think are not just good for the Republican Party, Margaret, but I think that they are the right policies for a stronger, more prosperous America.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But I – I ask you about persuasion and voting because this is not just Mr. Trump. He has taken the party with him. He has taken the Senate Republican leadership, who are endorsing him. He has taken the House Republican endorsements with him too in terms of leadership.

Are all of those people, from Mitch McConnell to Mike Johnson, walking away from the conservative principles you say?

MIKE PENCE: Well, I – I don’t want to say that they are. I want to say that my deep conviction is…

MARGARET BRENNAN: They are endorsing Donald Trump.

MIKE PENCE: … that this is a conservative party with – this is still a party, I believe, that stands for less government, less taxes, American leadership in the world, traditional moral values, and the right to life.

I just think, frankly, the disaster of the Biden administration has – has resulted in people going back to what’s familiar, and I understand that. I…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

MIKE PENCE: I worked day in and day out for four and a half years to build that record of the Trump/Pence administration. I’m incredibly proud of it.

But as I look at what Donald Trump is running on now…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

MIKE PENCE: … I simply cannot in good conscience endorse his candidacy this year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But on the issues of the economy, which many Republicans refer to, as you know, something the Trump/Pence administration did well with until COVID, Trump’s campaigning on that.

Last night, he was talking about electric vehicles, in particular, and said, when it comes to Chinese companies who manufacture in Mexico, he’s going to put in tariffs.

But I want you to listen to exactly what he said.

(Begin VT)

FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to put a 100 percent tariff on every single car that comes across the line.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And you’re not going to be able to sell those cars, if I get elected. Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole – that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country. That will be the least of it.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean?

And given how divided the country is, does that language concern you, particularly when it comes to political violence?

MIKE PENCE: Well, first, I want to – I want to commend you, Margaret, for putting that in context.

(LAUGHTER)

MIKE PENCE: I woke up this morning seeing online all the discussion about bloodbath. And, as you’ve just reflected, the president was clearly talking about the impact of – of imports devastating the American automotive industry.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Was that clear to you? Because it was a little muddled.

MIKE PENCE: I think it was.

Look, I want people to know, my – look, the president and I – it was very clear for four years, the president and I have – have different styles.

(LAUGHTER)

MIKE PENCE: We’re different men.

But my differences with him are not over style. It’s not over language. And, as I said before, it’s not personal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

MIKE PENCE: I mean, for me, the reason why I won’t endorse Donald Trump this year is because I see him departing from the mainstream conservative agenda that has defined the Republican Party over the last 40 years and still has the best hope for the future of the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And it sounds like you’re trying to move the party back in that direction, which is why I’m asking you if you’re persuadable here.

But on that point you made about the commitment to the sanctity of human life, you say Mr. Trump’s walking away from it. President Biden is telling voters that Donald Trump’s trying to ban access to abortion, even though he really hasn’t given any specifics as to what he actually thinks.

What – would you like him to say that – that he will endorse a 15-week restriction, like you did?

MIKE PENCE: Well, I’m pro-life. I don’t apologize for it. I couldn’t be more proud to have played a role in the administration that appointed three of the justices that sent Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But there doesn’t seem to be a conservative consensus on this issue, which is so motivating to so many voters.

MIKE PENCE: Well, but, look, the states around the country have been advancing the principles of life.

I was very disappointed during our presidential campaign when Donald Trump denounced and said a pro-life bill, a six-week bill enacted in Florida, which had already been enacted in Georgia and in Ohio, was, I think, in his words, terrible.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

MIKE PENCE: Look, we’re – we’re a pro-life party.

I mean, I really do believe that there is a national role. I would like – I would like to see our nominee endorse a minimum 15-week ban, but, also, I would like to see a nominee that’s affirming the sanctity of life as it’s debated in states across this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And protections for IVF?

MIKE PENCE: This is a pro-life party.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Protections for IVF?

MIKE PENCE: Absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And endorsing – should embryos be considered children?

MIKE PENCE: Well, I – look, I’m – I’m – I’m someone that believes in the sanctity of human life, that life begins at conception.

My family, as you know, Margaret has benefited by fertility treatments.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We have discussed that.

MIKE PENCE: And I think they should be protected.

But I – I also believe that, in the days ahead, we would do well to ensure that – that – that unborn human life, including embryos, are properly treated and properly respected in the law.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we will track that.

Mr. Pence, thank you for coming in and sharing your views with us today.

MIKE PENCE: You bet.

Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Face the Nation will be back in a minute, so stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: The push to get food and humanitarian aid into Gaza is intensifying.

But, at this point, it’s still far short of what is needed. The World Food Program said last week that famine was imminent if the amount of aid going into Northern Gaza was not increased exponentially.

Our Chris Livesay reports from Tel Aviv.

(Begin VT)

CHRIS LIVESAY (voice-over): U.S. Air Force pilots glide above Northern Gaza, dropping three tons of food, water, and other aid, lifesaving to those who can reach it, but, according to one pilot, a drop in the bucket meant to offset this leaky supply line, more than 200 trucks entering the strip daily, Israel says, but much of it lost to looters, the dangers of open combat, and a lack of truckers brave enough to drive through it.

MAN: That they cannot collect and distribute.

CHRIS LIVESAY: But aren’t aid groups getting shot at over there? Is it fair to put that burden on them?

MAN: We acknowledge that there are challenges, but, mostly, they’re distributing for the last two-and-a-half weeks without any violence.

CHRIS LIVESAY: Additional aid is on its way by sea for the first time in this war. Nearly 200 tons from Europe arrived Friday on a humanitarian ship.

It couldn’t come fast enough for these children.

“We want food. We want flour. We want the barest essentials of life,” they demand.

(WOMAN SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

CHRIS LIVESAY: “Gaza is slowly dying, if not from the missiles, then from hunger,” says this mother.

In one instance, Hamas accused the Israeli military of opening fire on hungry Gazans as they waited for food, killing 21. Israel adamantly denies it, pointing instead at Palestinian gunmen.

The humanitarian cost of the war and more than 100 hostages still in Hamas captivity for five months are too much to tolerate for these Israeli protesters.

Protesters don’t only want the hostages back. They want Benjamin Netanyahu to step down. October 7 happened on his watch, and they have not forgotten.

PROTESTER: I think now we should get all the people that are kidnapped back to their homes.

CHRIS LIVESAY: So, even if that means retreating, pulling out of Gaza entirely and handing over all of the prisoners back to…

PROTESTER: I think they should do any deal to get them home. This is the first thing that a country owes to her citizens, is their security. And – and this is the reason why they should do any effort.

(End VT)

CHRIS LIVESAY: And what’s notable about this latest proposal from Hamas is that, reportedly, they’re no longer insisting Israel completely withdraw from the Gaza Strip or on a permanent cease-fire.

And now, Margaret, three U.S. officials tell CBS News they’re optimistic that both Hamas and Israel can come to an agreement about a pause, albeit temporary, in the fighting.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s Chris Livesay reporting from Tel Aviv.

We’re joined now by Maryland Democrat Senator Chris Van Hollen.

Senator, a lot to get to with you.

But I do know you met with some families of hostage members this past – family members of hostages – excuse me – this past week. Talks are about to resume. What did the hostage families tell you?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-Maryland): Well, they – they came and talked about the – the terror every day of not knowing what’s happening to their family members.

And they were very clear we need to focus on getting the hostages back and a cease-fire. And this is why I’m for a cease-fire and the return of the hostages.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that cease-fire would also allow for aid to move in. That’s what the Biden administration is championing.

I want to go to some specific things that I know you’re focusing on. There’s this government funding debate happening in the next few days. Some Republicans want to cut off support for the U.N. agency UNRWA. That supports about six million Palestinian refugees, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza Strip, West Bank.

You said last week, senators need to read the classified report prepared by the director of national intelligence about the Netanyahu government claims about that agency. You seemed to be implying that the links to terror groups are unfounded.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Oh, there’s no doubt that the – the claim that Prime Minister Netanyahu and others are making that somehow UNRWA is a proxy for Hamas are just flat-out lies. That’s a flat-out lie.

If you look at the person who’s in charge of operations on the ground in Gaza for UNRWA, it’s about a 20-year U.S. Army veteran. You can be sure he is not in cahoots with Hamas. Netanyahu has wanted to get rid of UNRWA since at least 2017. That’s been his goal, not just in Gaza, but also in the other places you talked about.

And if you get rid of UNRWA in Gaza today, it is the primary distribution system for food and aid. So, if you cut off funding for UNRWA in Gaza entirely, it means more people will starve, more people won’t get the medical assistance they need. And so it would be a huge mistake to cut them off.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you explain why you believe that the prime minister is trying to dismantle UNRWA, which is the agency that has 13,000 people distributing aid? No one else has that kind of infrastructure in Gaza.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, that’s exactly right.

And there have been allegations made by the Netanyahu government that up to 14 of those 13,000 people were involved in the horrific October 7 attacks. We should investigate it. We should hold all those people accountable.

But, for goodness’ sakes, let’s not hold two million innocent Palestinian civilians who are dying of starvation, let’s not hold them essentially accountable for the bad acts of 14 people.

Netanyahu has wanted to get rid of UNRWA because he has seen them as a – a means to continue the hopes of the Palestinian people for a homeland of their own.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: And he has been opposed to a two-state solution. And this has been his primary objective, stopping a two-state solution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Back in February, you pushed the Biden administration to craft what ended up being a national security memorandum that requires countries who receive U.S. weapons, all countries, to certify that they are in compliance with U.S. law, and they are not blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Israel has until March 24 to turn in a letter. They reportedly did so. Are they in compliance?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: No, they’re not, not as of today.

And you’re right. This is a very important tool that the Biden administration’s put forward. It applies to Israel and any other country that receives U.S. military assistance.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will President Biden’s administration say that they’re not in compliance? Are you confident?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: I hope they will, because President Biden himself has repeatedly said that the Netanyahu government is unnecessarily restricting desperately needed humanitarian assistance. I mean, the president has said it a number of times. He’s said no excuses.

So it may be that the minister of defense in Israel signed this. But I cannot imagine a scenario right now where Secretary Blinken can find that that promise is credible and reliable, when, the day it was signed, clearly, the Netanyahu government is not in compliance, because we see that – that they’re continuing to restrict humanitarian assistance.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll watch to see if Secretary Blinken affirms it or denies it.

But what’s the consequence here? I know you’ve said you don’t want to cut off all military support for Israel. You’re talking about offensive weapons.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Yes, this – this would not apply to the Iron Dome or any defensive systems, but it would say no more bombs for use in Gaza until you come into compliance.

So it’s not a total cutoff. I mean, the Netanyahu government can open the Erez Crossing to help starving people in Northern Gaza. They can stop turning away maternity kits, you know, claiming that, somehow, they pose a – a dual-use danger, that they could be used for military purposes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: They could stop turning away water purifiers, because, when they do that, they send the whole truck back for four weeks.

So they need to allow more assistance in, and they need to really deal with that deconfliction issue. People need to be able to deliver assistance without getting killed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

Well, and the U.S. ambassador, David Satterfield, who works for the Biden administration, has said that police have been hit while helping U.N. convoys be delivered.

Do you believe that the Israeli government is deliberately targeting to stop humanitarian aid deliveries? Because the Israeli government denies that.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, we know, in the case of, I think, about six of these so-called blue helmeted security escorts, that they were targeted, because Israel claimed that they were part of Hamas, when they were sort of – so – so, we know, in that case, that was a deliberate targeting.

But you’re right. There have been other cases where Israel has – has, you know, used force. And a convoy, for example, in the north passed the inspection and then was hit by a naval missile.

I do want to point out also, Margaret, that Ambassador Satterfield has said very clearly that, when it comes to U.N.-provided humanitarian assistance, like humanitarian assistance through UNRWA, there’s been no evidence of diversion to Hamas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that…

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: So, he said this very, very clearly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And all of Congress has received that information?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: I have tried to tell my colleagues who keep coming back from meeting with…

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: … Netanyahu government officials, spreading this…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: … this – this lie, this myth about diversion from UNRWA.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Now, there may be diversion in other places, but not from UNRWA.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, we’ll watch what happens in the coming days.

We’ll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: For all the political news during the week, be sure to tune into America Decides at 5:00 p.m. weekdays on our streaming network.

We will be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

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

Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

Last week the House passed a bill requiring TikTok to divest from its Chinese owner or face removal from the U.S. app stores.

Joining us now are the leaders of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, Republican Mike Gallagher and Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi.

Good morning to you both.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Good morning.

REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI): Thanks for having us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, I want to go to you as the lead Democrat here.

President Biden said he would sign this bill if it makes it to his desk. Have you gotten any indication from Leader Schumer that the Senate will take this up or whether this legislation will die in the Senate?

REPRESENTATIVE RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, we’ve got an indication that leader is going to take it up in his process. And, obviously, we respect his process.

Mike and I have had conversations, very positive ones, with different members of the Senate who are very interested in this bill and who were very surprised by the – the size or the margin of the overwhelming bipartisan support in the House.

And as you know, the White House has asked the Senate to take up this bill quickly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, as you know, President Biden has his campaign on TikTok. Do you agree with Senator Warner that it looks like he’s basically speaking out of both sides of his mouth on this one? Is it unhelpful?

REPRESENTATIVE RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: No, I – I – look, I – I’m not going to tell the president how to campaign. I don’t have it on my personal app – on my personal phone. And it’s, of course, banned from all of our government devices.

I would just say that it’s legal now, but I – I would ask everyone to exercise caution with regard to the app because of the various risks that we’ve outlined as part of this bill.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Gallagher, on the risks, we are eight months out from the presidential election. And in the U.S. intelligence assessment that was made public on Monday, it specifically mentioned that the Chinese government propaganda arm used TikTok to target candidates from both political parties in those midterm elections in 2022. So, we can only assume this is going to be happening in 2024 as well.

Do you actually believe a forced sale will happen before November?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE GALLAGHER: It absolutely could. I would be in the financial interest of ByteDance’s investors to effectuate a forced sale. I think the user experience on the app would improve and you wouldn’t have this concern over being propagandized. The opaque algorithm influencing what information you see, that would go away. So, I imagine it would actually increase in value.

And I think all the more reason why we have to tackle this now, the closer we get to an election, the risk just gets greater and greater. You mentioned that unclassified DNI report. Every single intelligence community official that testified before the intelligence committee last week suggested under its current ownership structure TikTok is a threat to national security, which is why we are trying to force TikTok to separate from ByteDance and by extension from the Chinese Communist Party.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But we have been hearing, respectfully, for four years or more that this is a national security threat and something needs to be done, and the it dies in Congress or in the courts. If this version becomes law, how does this actually – how do you actually stop it because this app is already on 170 million phones? Can you claw it back?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE GALLAGHER: Well, if a divestiture happens, if the sale happens, you wouldn’t need to claw it back. People can continue to use the app and post weird dance videos, they can campaign on the app.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But how do you force a company?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE GALLAGHER: The force – the – the forcing function we have in the bill is if they do not pursue a sale, then they would no longer have access to the app store so you couldn’t do new downloads. The website would actually – would also be affected, and so it would affect the functionality of the app. But, again, that’s not the outcome we want. The outcome we want is a forced separation. We think that’s the healthiest for all parties involved. And just given the reporting we have, and TikTok’s own behavior in the last month, look at the pop-up notification they forced on millions of users that resulted in kids calling with school bells in the background saying, you know, if you don’t – if you don’t rescind this bill I’m going to kill myself. That’s just a taste of how this app could be weaponized. Imagine a more consequential vote going forward about an authorizing force to defend Taiwan or altering permanent, normal trade relation status with China. That’s the risk we’re trying to guard against.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But is it really, gentlemen, just TikTok? I mean there are no guardrails virtually in place for any kind of social media that those kids or us adults have access to, Congressman Krishnamoorthi.

REPRESENTATIVE RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: I agree. And Mike and I would love to work with others with regard to putting guardrails in place with regard to other apps, regardless of their ownership.

But this one is different in the sense that we have a foreign adversary controlling this app. Just to give your viewers a sense of it, essentially ByteDance is the 100 percent owner of TikTok. ByteDance basically has its editor in chief who’s also the secretary of the Chinese Communist Party cell embedded at the highest echelons of the company to control all of its products. And he has been tasked with, quote, “making sure all of its products, including TikTok, adhere to correct political direction.” And so this is a different type of threat than we’ve seen before.

And this divestment is not without precedent. There was an app called Grinder –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: A popular LBGTQ app that was acquired by a Chinese company. And when the U.S. government found that the CCP had access to sensitive data about LBGTQ members of the military and U.S. government officials, it required the divestment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: It happened very quickly. Why? Because the app is very – was very valuable, much like TikTok, and there was no disruption to users. That’s what will happen with regard to this divestment as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Gallagher, Mike Pence was here saying how disappointed he was that Donald Trump has changed his views on TikTok. This week he was on CNBC and said that, you know, oh, well it will just benefit Facebook if you crack down on TikTok.

Doesn’t that just incentivize the slow rolling of any legislation until after November? You know, the lobbyists can really grab right on to that.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE GALLAGHER: While there is a – an unprecedented lobbying campaign, they’re really weaponizing the swamp against legislative action. Over half a million dollars spent last quarter alone on seven different lobbying firms. It’s disgusting. Former members of Congress lobbying on behalf of TikTok. By the way, that should be illegal. Members of Congress should not be allowed to lobby in general, let alone on behalf of foreign adversaries. Side note.

But I do think the fact that we got a vote, really a huge vote in the House, bipartisan, 352, makes it impossible to ignore. And that’s a testament to Raja’s leadership, the fact that we were able to come together at a time when the parties don’t trust each other on anything.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE GALLAGHER: Far better for Congress to step up and legislate a solution so that we’re not bouncing back and forth between different presidents, different executive orders. That’s a recipe for chaos.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And to be fair here, I mean TikTok –

REPRESENTATIVE RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: Margaret, can I jump in for a second on that?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure. I to just want to say that TikTok, as you know, insists that it is not under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.

Go ahead, Congressman.

REPRESENTATIVE RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: That is completely – that is completely false and that is exactly why TikTok is in trouble on Capitol Hill. Their CEO has appeared on Capitol Hill repeatedly and made various misrepresentations, Margaret, that have caused members on both sides to really scratch their heads and vote for this bill.

Just two – I’ll just point out two very briefly. One is that he claimed that ByteDance, China based employees, never had access to American user data. And that was proven to be false. They repeatedly access it, even unbeknownst to TikTok USA employees. And the second misrepresentation is that he said that this data, American user data, was never used against Americans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: That was proven false. And the company admitted that they spied on journalists who were covering TikTok.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: And they used their geolocation data to surveil them.

So, this is why they’re in such hot water on Capitol Hill.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, congressmen, thank you for joining us in this rare bipartisan action very quickly on TikTok. We’ll be following what happens next. Thank you.

And we’ll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to tech journalist and podcast host Kara Swisher, who is the author of “Burn Book.” She joins us now from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Kara, good to have you back on the program.

KARA SWISHER (Author, “Burn Book”): Thanks, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, we just heard from two of the congressmen really pushing this legislation right now. But notably, of a key Republican senator, Josh Hawley, who supports the bill, said “The Senate will nickel and dime it, death by a thousand cuts. Nothing that big tech doesn’t want moves across the Senate floor.”

Do you think he’s right?

KARA SWISHER: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why would this be different than any time in the past?

KARA SWISHER: Well, I think – you know, there’s a lot of lobbying going on about this bill and the Senate is slower and there’s some issues in the bill that probably they’re going to want to correct. And so, you know, slow rolling, it’s the best way to – to have this thing not pass.

It is unprecedented that it moved so quickly in the House, although it’s been a long time coming. You remember Donald Trump’s the one that had the executive order around TikTok and – and its service. And so this has been brewing for a long time. It’s just that it will take a lot longer in the Senate to do it. And there’s opponents like Rand Paul and others and Chuck Schumer hasn’t been particularly supportive or non-supportive of it.

So, it will just take longer and that’s in – in the favor of – of TikTok.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I know you’ve said in the past on this program, you use TikTok but only on a burner phone. In other words, you don’t trust –

KARA SWISHER: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That you could carry it on a phone with you into private spaces and not be spied on?

KARA SWISHER: Look, Margaret, I don’t trust any of them, but I particularly don’t trust a Chinese owned company. That’s all. I had it on a burner phone. I wrote a column in “The New York Times” about four or five years ago about it. I think it’s an exciting app. I think it’s a broadcast network. It’s obviously entertainment. And it does it really well. I just feel like every Chinese company I’ve covered has had the tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party involved in it, whether they like it or not. You know, in the case of some of them, they don’t like it, but that’s the case.

Now, that’s not to be said, there’s not issues with every single U.S. based company, Meta and Alphabet. But this is a very different step level as far as I’m concerned. And these are – this is a foreign adversary and it’s very different. China – a Chinese-owned company would not be able to own CBS. And I consider – this is a media company. And so that’s the question, are we going to allow a media company from China to have so much purview around the United States? We are not allowed to be in China. Our companies are not allowed to be there, and so there’s not reciprocity, because they would be worried about the exact same things we should be worried about, which is propaganda, surveillance, anything else.

And I get the First Amendment arguments and everything else, but TikTok’s not going away, kids. This is the thing that sort of – that TikTok is using a little bit that is, I think, disingenuous in that it’s not going away. Someone’s either going to buy it or they’re going to be allowed to continue to operate with some guide – guardrails, which they’re – which is happening now with Project Texas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

KARA SWISHER: Which I won’t go into details.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

KARA SWISHER: But there’s got to be some way to monitor this particular service more than the others. At the same time, we should have privacy bills, anti-trust bills, algorithmic transparency bills, which the – which Congress has not act on – acted on in two decades of internet hegemony, essentially.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Exactly. Exactly. There aren’t really guardrails period.

TikTok is valued at approximately $100 billion according to Wedbush Securities, but just $40 billion without the source code.

KARA SWISHER: Uh-huh.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Who would buy this?

KARA SWISHER: Oh, a lot of companies. You could see Microsoft picking it up. Maybe Apple. There’s a whole bunch of consortiums. Steve Mnuchin has one. Bobby Kotick, who – who just sold Activision to Microsoft. There’s a lot of people who would buy this.

No, I think the question is – and I had a really interesting discussion with Mark Cuban about this recently, what do you buy precisely because the algorithm is not coming with this company? The Chinese government would never let that happen, because the algorithm will actually, if you could reverse engineer it, prove possibly that there is problems with it or anything else.

I don’t know if there is. I just know, should there be allowed to have the opportunity? And so what are you buying? You’re buying the 170 million say U.S. users and a great brand and – but the algorithm isn’t there and one of the magic of TikTok is the algorithm and the history that you have there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The thing that targets you.

This past week, Elon Musk, who you cover in depth, posted that this bill is all about censorship and government control and it’s far too broad. There have been concerns about foreign investors in X and Twitter. What do you make of this argument from him?

KARA SWISHER: Well, this is the guy who just fired someone for give – doing an interview. I don’t know. I don’t believe anything about what he says. I don’t – you know, you could make that argument, but why is it if it’s owned by a U.S. entity? It will be able to – you will be able to do whatever you want. And again, Twitter is chock full of foreign investors and everything else.

So, I don’t know. I don’t – I don’t really take that into account much. He just likes to say free speech a lot and then does the exact opposite. So, I don’t know what to say.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re referring to an interview that Don Lemon did with Elon Musk and the controversy over that (INAUDIBLE)?

KARA SWISHER: Yes. I’m sorry, I’m not being specific.

No, it’s constant like that. Like, talks about free speech and then freezes out journalists and stuff like that. I just – anyone that goes on and on about free speech, really, you have to really look more carefully about what they actually do rather than what they say.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. But I –

KARA SWISHER: In any case, you know, that’s the argument from that side. That is that argument. So –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. But I raise him particularly because Mark Warner, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had said there’s not a single person more beholden to the Chinese Communist Party than Elon Musk because of his other businesses, and yet he owns this –

KARA SWISHER: Yes, I would – I would agree. I don’t know. I just – you have to – you know, consider the source. That’s how I would put it. I always consider the source, Margaret. In this case, really consider the source.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you – you know this business and this industry so well.

Kara Swisher, thank you for your insight.

We’ll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: According to UNICEF, 81 percent of households in Gaza don’t have enough access to clean water, and nine in ten people do not have enough food to survive. The organization’s executive director is Catherine Russell, and she’s here with us.

Welcome to FACE THE NATION.

CATHERINE RUSSELL (Executive Director, UNICEF): Thank you very much. Thanks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You focus in particular on the children. We heard this week from the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community that there will be a generational impact from what is happening in Gaza. The implications of that they were looking through the national security lens.

From your perspective, what does that mean? What does a generational impact mean?

CATHERINE RUSSELL: Well, it means – it means that what’s happening now is more than 13,000 children already have been killed, which is an astronomical, horrifying number. Thousands more have been injured or we can’t even determine where they are. They may be stuck under rubble. Thousands more have lost one or both parents. Some of these children, you’ve seen them on the news, they’re just by themselves managing their younger siblings. I mean it’s a horrifying situation.

So, when you think about the impact of that on those children as they grow up, even on their children, right, it is an impact that is so profound because of the stress that they’re living under and the – the grief and the loss and the fear that they’re living under, it’s – it’s bound to have impacts on them the rest of their lives.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Since October 7th, 33 Israeli children have been killed in those horrific attacks of that day. As you just said, 13,000 in Gaza that you know of.

CATHERINE RUSSELL: That we know of.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s just horrific for the youngest –

CATHERINE RUSSELL: It’s all horrific. You know, honestly, the – the children who were killed in Israel, the children who were taken hostage –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

CATHERINE RUSSELL: There are still children who have not been returned to their families in Israel. All horrific, right? Every one of those cases is so heartbreaking for that child and that family. I think these numbers that we’re seeing out of Gaza are just staggering. I mean we haven’t seen that rate of death among children in almost any other conflict in the world. It’s really shocking.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, your organization says 31 percent of children, one in three under the age of two in northern Gaza suffer from acute malnutrition. This isn’t just trauma, this is – this is stunting them for life.

CATHERINE RUSSELL: Yes. Well, if they survive.

And I have to say, I’ve seen a lot of children, unfortunately in my job, around the world who suffer from malnutrition. And it is a shocking thing to see. I mean essentially the body starts to consume itself because it has nothing else. And it’s a painful, painful death for children.

I’ve been in wards of children who are suffering from severe malnutrition. The whole ward is absolutely quiet because the children and the baby have – – don’t even have the energy to cry. I mean it is a devastating thing to see. And you’re right, if they survive it, if we can manage to get – what we do is provide therapeutic feeding for them – if we can get that to them, they can survive, but often they’re stunted for life. And stunting means that your ability, your cognitive ability is impacted as well. So, it is a lifelong challenge for these children if they survive. But we know now that children are dying from malnutrition in Gaza.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The CIA director testified about children starving in Gaza.

CATHERINE RUSSELL: Yes. Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What are you able to actually get in at this point? And we know there are air drops happening. You can’t air drop vaccines. You can’t air drop things that need to be refrigerated. So, what’s getting in and what do you need to get in?

CATHERINE RUSSELL: Well, first of all, the one thing we know for sure is, not enough is getting in. And the air drops are – are, as you say, come – some things are coming in that way. Some things came in through this maritime corridor. But it’s a drop in the bucket in both cases.

And what we need to get in for children is, what I said, this therapeutic feeding, which is something called plumpy’nut, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but it’s fantastic and it can save their lives, but we need to get it to them. And we have so little access right now. And it’s very challenging.

We also are facing very great bureaucratic challenges moving trucks in. Trucks and moving things by land is by far the most efficient, effective way to get aid in. But there are a lot of challenges to that where we can’t, you know – I think, excuse me, Senator Van Hollen mentioned, if things are dual used, sometimes they get rejected. So, we can’t get plastic pipes in, we can’t get some medical kits if they have a little scissors in them. I mean it’s – it’s completely – almost (INAUDIBLE) sometimes trying to figure out how we get things in through this bureaucratic mess.

And I think, at the end of the day, those are choices that are made, right? If the choice is –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Those are political choices.

CATHERINE RUSSELL: They are choices. And I think of the choice is to say, we need to get as much humanitarian aid flooded into this area as possible, everyone can do better in that regard. And I think that the population there is suffering in such a terrible way. And I think one of the big challenges is, because there’s such limited access for the press, in addition, it’s hard to see that, right? And I think it would be great if there were more transparency, if everyone could see what the challenges are, what the legitimate bottlenecks are and how we could all do better.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. We rely on our producer who lives in Gaza, Marwar al-Ghoul, but we cannot get in, you’re correct.

CATHERINE RUSSELL: Yes. Terrible. Exactly. Which is not – right, it should be – you should be able to get in. You should be able to see what’s happening. The world should be able to see what’s happening and make their own judgments about what’s going on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, the Israeli government has not permitted that to date.

The ongoing crisis in Haiti, I need to ask you about that.

CATHERINE RUSSELL: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is so close to U.S. shores. Americans are watching it now. What is happening there? I read that two-thirds of children need aid.

CATHERINE RUSSELL: Yes. Haiti is a horrific situation. I was there several months ago. There was so much violence even then and there were gangs who were controlling parts of the capital. Now they’ve basically taken over the capital. They’ve taken over the airport.

What that means for people is that we can’t get aid in, again, it’s very difficult for us to do that. Many, many people there are suffering from serious hunger and malnutrition and we’re not able to get enough aid to them. It’s – it’s – it’s almost like – it’s like a scene out of “Mad Max,” honestly. That’s what it seems like. Gangs, vigilantes responding to the gangs. I mean somehow we need to get more control over that situation so that we can get the humanitarian response in and so that this, you know, population that has suffered kind of one thing after another over the years, earthquakes, cholera, Covid, I mean it’s literally one thing after another for Haiti. And I think right now it’s the worst that anyone has seen in decades.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s saying a lot.

CATHERINE RUSSELL: That’s saying a lot.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Catherine Russell, thank you for sharing your insights.

CATHERINE RUSSELL: Thank you, Margaret. Thanks, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s it for us today. Thank you all for watching.

Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

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