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Senior adviser to Israeli prime minister optimistic that cease-fire will hold

This is a rush transcript from “Fox News Sunday,” May 23, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  I’m Chris Wallace.

A ceasefire in the Middle East, but how long will it hold?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES:  I believe we have a

genuine opportunity to make progress and I’m committed to working for it.

WALLACE (voice-over): President Biden walking a tight rope in his first

foreign policy crisis, praising the truce to end 11 days of conflict.

BIDEN:  The Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and

securely.

WALLACE:  But where does the situation in the Middle East stand now? And

what about the glowing split among Democrats over Israel?

We’ll sit down with Mark Regev, senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister

Netanyahu, only on “FOX News Sunday”.

Then, the House approves an independent commission to investigate the

January 6th attack on the Capitol, but opposition from Senate Republicans

grows.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  I’ve made the decision to

oppose the House Democrats’ slanted and unbalanced proposal.

WALLACE:  And Democrats slam Republicans for continuing to stand with the

former president.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER:  They’re caving to Donald Trump

and proving that the Republican Party is still drunk off the big lie.

WALLACE:  We’ll talk with Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the GOP

leadership, who says Democrats are playing politics with the commission and

get reaction from Congressman Adam Kinzinger, one of 35 Republicans who

voted for the investigation.

Plus, we’ll ask or send panel about the divides on Capitol Hill inside both

parties.

And our Power Player of the Week, the owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl, a landmark

in the nation’s capital for six decades, on how they survived the pandemic.

All, right now, on “FOX News Sunday”.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE (on camera): And hello again from FOX News in Washington.

That fragile cease-fire is still holding in the Middle East after 11 days

of fighting between the Israelis and Palestinians left almost 300 dead.

President Biden is walking a fine line, promising to rearm Israel while

working to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. And he’s also dealing with a

sharp split among Democrats about support for Israel.

In a moment, we’ll speak with Mark Regev, senior advisor to Israeli Prime

Minister Netanyahu.

But, first, let’s turn to Mark Meredith at the White House with the latest

on the conflict and the politics here at home — Mark.

MARK MEREDITH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, President Biden has spent a

lot of time on the phone lately, urging Palestinian and Israeli officials

to stop fighting and as you mention, while the cease-fire is holding today,

the president is facing a long list of questions about how he hopes to

achieve lasting peace in the Middle East.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BIDEN:  I’m praying this ceasefire will hold. I take Bibi Netanyahu when he

gives me his word, I take him at his word.

MEREDITH (voice-over): The U.S. says it firmly supports Israel’s right to

defend itself from terrorist groups like Hamas but some progressives say

it’s the Israelis who need to be reined in.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT):  We should be bringing people together, not

just being one-sided and saying everything that Israel does is good,

because it is not.

MEREDITH:  In the wake of civilian deaths in Gaza, some Democrats want the

White House to cancel a massive arms deal to Israel. Republicans say it’s

proof Democrats are divided.

MCCONNELL:  I think at least half the Democrats are hostile to Israel and

the rest of them are afraid to those who are hostile to Israel.

MEREDITH:  Violence abroad has many fearful of increased anti-Semitic

attacks at home. Cellphone cameras capturing multiple violent incidents

with Los Angeles Police investigating a fight at a restaurant as a possible

hate crime.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MEREDITH (on camera): Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit

the Middle East in coming days. He’s expected to meet Israeli, Palestinian

and regional leaders, all of whom who may be crucial to keeping this

ceasefire in place — Chris.

WALLACE:  Mark Meredith reporting from the White House — Mark, thank you.

And joining us now from Jerusalem, Mark Regev, senior advisor to Israeli

Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Ambassador, how confident are you that this ceasefire will last? Back in

2014, the last major outbreak of violence, it took nine truces over 56 days

before Israel and Hamas finally stopped fighting.

What are the chances we’re going to see that again?

MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO ISRAELI PM BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:  Well, as

you’ve just said, after that round of fighting in 2014, we did receive over

half a decade of relative peace and quiet. And so, that is possible and I

hope we can do that again.

Ultimately, in the operation, we gave Hamas a heavy blow. We dismantled a

large part of their terrorist military machine. We took out part of their

leadership. We hit their command and control.

Hopefully, they will think twice, even three times before they strike in

Israel again.

WALLACE:  There is no question that Hamas started the military conflict,

firing 4,300 rockets into Israel and killing at least a dozen Israelis. But

I think you would agree that the toll was much heavier on the Hamas side,

in Gaza.

Now, I want to put up some numbers on that. At least 248 Palestinians

killed, including 66 children and 39 women; 800,000 people in Gaza do not

currently have access to piped water.

Ambassador, any second thoughts about whether the Israeli response during

these 11 days was proportionate?

REGEV:  They were firing thousands of rockets, as you just said, on our

civilian population. They were trying to murder our people in their homes.

We were defending ourselves. Our operation was fundamentally designed

simply to protect our civilian population.

Now, in the process of fighting back, we were trying to be a surgical as is

humanly possible, in a very complex, combat situation. They were firing out

of schools. They were firing out of built up areas. They were firing out of

homes, out of mosques, even out of playgrounds.

And we tried to be, as I said, to hit the terrorists and not to see

innocent people caught up in the crossfire.

And while our goal was to avoid civilian casualties, Hamas had actually the

exact opposite goal. They were aiming their rockets at our people, trying

to kill them, and, of course, they were brutally abusing Gaza civilians as

a human shield for their war machine.

We know for a fact that many of the casualties in this operation were

caused by Hamas munitions. Almost 20 percent of their rockets fell short,

landing in Gaza, killing Gaza civilians. It didn’t bother them at all, they

kept doing that.

Part of the death and destruction was because of their ordnance, their

explosives going off. We made a maximum effort to minimize human

casualties, they did exactly the opposite.

WALLACE:  One difference is that this time, Israel came under some heavy

fire from the left wing of the Democratic Party. And I want to play some of

the clips of that kind of rhetoric this past week.

Take a look, sir.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI):  Palestinians aren’t going anywhere no matter

how much money you send to Israel’s apartheid government.

REP. ILHAM OMAR (D-MN): Every rocket and bomb that target civilians is a

war crime.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT):  Benjamin Netanyahu has cultivated an

increasingly intolerant and authoritarian type of racist nationalism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Ambassador, do you worry that Israel is losing support among some

major political elements here in the United States? And to what degree that

you’re losing that support does that bolster Hamas and hurt Israel?

REGEV:  Well, I can tell you this morning before coming to this interview,

I looked at the polling. And I saw that the overwhelming majority of the

American people stand with Israel, support Israel, are favorable towards

Israel. A majority of people who identify as Democrats also support Israel

or favor Israel.

And even I saw group — people who self identify as liberal Democrats are

favorable towards Israel. Of course, they want to see peace, but Israel

wants to see peace too. We’d love to have peace with our Palestinian

neighbors.

And people need to understand — Hamas is not just Israel’s enemy. Hamas is

the enemy of everyone who wants to seek peace and reconciliation in our

part of the world. There were brutal jihadist terrorist group. No one

should make excuses for them.

WALLACE:  So how do you understand, how do you regard the criticism you’re

getting from Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and

in addition from much more mainstream Democrats — for instance, the

chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez?

REGEV:  So, Senator Menendez is a champion of the Israel-U.S. partnership,

a champion of the alliance between our two democracies, a real friend of

Israel.

I think we weren’t quick enough. He was particularly concerned about an

attack on a particular structure and we weren’t quick enough in our — the

facts of that matter out because it was played that somehow Israel attacked

innocent civilians. It wasn’t the case.

In that building that the senator was concerned about, Hamas had its elite

scientific research unit that was working on ways to try to counteract the

guiding systems on our rockets. If they would have succeeded, not only

couldn’t we have shut down incoming rockets coming into Israel to kill our

people, but we wouldn’t have been able to be surgical in our strikes

against Hamas’ military machine, so that definitely was a legitimate

military target.

That Hamas was using journalists as a human shield shouldn’t come as a

surprise to anyone but we notify the journalists in advance and I’m happy

to tell you that there was not a single civilian casualty from that

operation. In fact, from my point of view, it was an Israeli tactical

success because we took out a legitimate Hamas target, a dangerous Hamas

target and at the same time, not a single innocent civilian was killed.

That’s a good thing.

WALLACE:  One concern — you talked about Israel wants peace. One concern

is whether Israel is doing enough to address the root causes of the

conflict. Here is a comment on Friday from President Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We still need a two-state

solution. It is the only answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE:  Does Prime Minister Netanyahu still believe that a two-state

solution is the only answer? And if so, what is he doing to achieve that?

REGEV:  I know my prime minister believes in peace very, very strongly. In

the last year, he — we’ve made it through peace agreements with four Arab

countries and we want to see more. He wants to expand the circle of peace

to include the Palestinians as well.

But let me be clear here, Hamas is not interested in peace. Hamas says that

every Israeli man, woman, and child is a legitimate target in their terror

war. Hamas says Israel, my country, should be destroyed, wiped off the map.

Hamas says any Arab or Palestinian leader who makes peace with Israel

should be murdered. I think in overcoming Hamas and defeating Hamas now,

maybe we’ve created some room for more Palestinian moderate voices to move

center stage because as long as Hamas is powerful, they can almost put a

veto.

WALLACE:  Yes, but, you know, there are a number of independent groups that

say it’s not all Hamas. The human rights group Human Rights Watch came out

with a report last month that made a serious charge against Israel for the

first time. I want to put it up on the screen.

They said the oppression of Palestinians there in Israel has reached a

threshold and a permanence that meets the definitions of the crimes of

apartheid and persecution.

Ambassador, it says that Israel has set up a system that oppresses

Palestinians, especially in Gaza and the West Bank.

REGEV:  I’d like to say when that report was issued, we read it carefully

and we rejected it. It’s simply not true.

Israel is a democracy. It’s a country with a free pass, a free parliament,

a country where we hold our freedoms very, very seriously.

We are in conflict with neighbors, especially in Gaza, run by brutal

terrorist organizations. There’s no parity here. You have a democratic

country trying to protect its people and a brutal terrorist organization

trying to kill civilians. We have to act to protect our people.

WALLACE:  Finally, and I have about a minute left, Ambassador.

With the — in the — there was an anti-Netanyahu coalition that was

reportedly within days, perhaps within hours, of forming a government and

ousting Prime Minister Netanyahu. Now that we’ve had these 11 days of

conflict, is that dead? And is Israel headed for a fifth election in two

years?

REGEV:  You know, Chris, this might be the land of the Bible, but I’m no

prophet and I can’t foretell the future. I don’t know what will happen here

politically.

I do know this: Israelis across the political spectrum were united in the

need to defend our people against these Hamas rockets coming in and the

need to take action and to stop it, and I think also Israelis were united

wall to wall in our appreciation for the president, for President Biden,

when he again and again reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend ourselves

against these incoming rockets. It was much appreciated.

WALLACE: Ambassador Regev, thank you. Thanks for your time. We’ll be

following developments in the region over next days and weeks.

Up next, we’ll ask our Sunday panel about the new controversy over U.S.

support for our oldest ally in the Middle East.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN:  I think that, you know, my party still supports Israel.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY):  Do Palestinians have a right to

survive? Do we believe that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez contradicting President

Biden’s claim there is no split inside the Democratic Party over Israel.

And it’s time now for our Sunday group, Guy Benson of FOX News Radio; Julie

Pace, Washington bureau chief for “The Associated Press”; and Charles Lane

from “The Washington Post.”

Julie, how much do you think the growing criticism from some Democrats and

as I mentioned in the last interview, especially from the chairman of the

Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez — how much do you

think that criticism rattled the Biden White House and pushed them to go

harder and sooner for a ceasefire from Israel?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:  I think the

White House was certainly aware that the Democratic Party is split over

this issue, that there is a much more vocal element of the Democratic Party

that is supporting the Palestinian cause, that is not as reflexively pro-

Israel as we have seen in the past.

I do think Biden, though, was trying to walk this very careful line. You

saw this over and over again in statements that he was making in readouts

of the conversations that he was having with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with

the conversations that Tony Blinken, Lloyd Austin, and others were having.

The thing they put forward there at the forefront was, we support Israel’s

right to defend itself. They felt like it was critical to have that

statement out there. But you did see then over the course of this conflict

a move, privately at first, and then publicly to urge Israel to stop.

I don’t think that was driven fairly by politics but certainly the politics

was something the White House was well aware of here.

WALLACE:  Guy, I think it’s fair to say that President Biden stood pretty

firmly behind Israel throughout this conflict, but you know, whether it was

the squad, whether it was Senator Menendez, whether it was senator Bernie

Sanders, you have talk of apartheid, of racism, and war crimes. What do you

make of that?

GUY BENSON, “THE GUY BENSON SHOW”:  Yeah, Chris, I listen to your interview

in the last segment very carefully and I hope that the ambassador is right

about America remaining steadfastly pro-Israel across-the-board and he said

he looked at some polling.

There’s a new poll out in the last few days of YouGov that shows when they

asked Democrats which side of this conflict they sympathize more with, more

Democrats say Palestinians than Israelis. I think it that is an

extraordinary sea change that we’re seeing in the Democratic Party. I think

some of the old guard remains pro-Israel but the younger, very vocal sort

of up-and-coming element of the progressive left, they have cast in their

lot with the Palestinians and I think in some cases amplify what amount to

Hamas talking points.

I think it’s frightening to see. I think Republicans are much more united

on this front, independents remain heavily pro-Israel. But there is a real

fight here in the Democratic Party over this issue.

WALLACE:  Chuck, let me pick up on that. Do you think the real story, the

big story here is that the continuing support for Israel among most

American politicians, Republicans and Democrats, or this growing criticism

of Israel from the left wing of the Democratic Party?

CHUCK LANE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  I would put it this way: when

commentators in the Palestinian community claimed victory in this contest

that has perhaps just concluded, the main point they cited was the growth

of support for the Palestinian cause in global opinion, particularly the

United States.

I don’t think they are wrong to see it that way. They paid a heavy price

militarily, but in public opinion around the world on the progressive left,

the Palestinian cause is now seeing, ironically, almost as sympathetically

as the Jewish and Israeli cause was seen 60 years ago.

I think it’s been a long time coming. There are a lot of reasons for that.

Certainly in the United States, one reason is that Prime Minister Netanyahu

made a very overt pro-Donald Trump, pro-Republican kind of lunge over the

last four years and that alienated a lot of Democrats. He became more

partisan.

And I think now we are going to see in our country, Israel, the Middle

East, become a much more partisan issue with Democrats on one side of it

relatively speaking and Republicans on the other.

WALLACE:  Let’s turn to the facts on the ground. Here was Prime Minister

Netanyahu this week. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER:  You can either conquer them,

and that’s always an open possibility, or you can deter them. And we are

engaged right now in forceful deterrence but I have to say we don’t rule

out anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE:  Julie, under President Trump, I think it’s fair to say that the

push for the two-state solution, the traditional diplomatic position of the

United States was put on the shelf and you saw a much greater effort to

achieve these Abraham Accords between Israel and other Arab countries like

Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. But didn’t these last 11 days show that

you just can’t ignore the central conflict between Israel and the

Palestinians?

PACE:  Or that if you do ignore it, that it’s not going to get any better

on its own and it will continue to flare up and continue to push its way to

the forefront here. And I think what’s interesting is that when Joe Biden

came into office, he didn’t put the Middle East, he certainly didn’t put

the Israeli-Palestinian issue at the forefront of his foreign policy. He

wanted to focus on rebuilding global alliances, he wanted to focus on Asia

more, trying to counter China.

And I think with these last 11 days have shown is that a U.S.

administration, whether it wants to or not has to deal with this situation.

I think what we’re going to be watching for in the coming weeks and months

is what the Biden position is going to be here. How actively involved is

his administration going to get in trying to potentially restart peace

talks here that the region has changed, you do have these peace accords now

between Israel and some Arab countries. That is an important dynamic that

has shifted here, but the Biden demonstration has a choice now to make

about what their own approaches going to be and how active and central this

will be to the president’s foreign policy.

WALLACE:  And, of course, adding to all the difficulties, you’ve got this

huge split inside Israel, the Netanyahu forces and the anti-Netanyahu

forces as we may be headed to the fifth election in two years and a huge

and growing split among the Palestinians between the more establishment

Fatah wing and Hamas. So if you are further away from the peace deal and

ever.

Panel, we have to take a break here. We’ll see later in the hour.

Up next, a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of the January

6th attack on Capitol Hill faces an uphill battle in the Senate. We’ll talk

to two key Republicans on opposing sides of the issue when we come right

back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE:  Coming up, the fate of the January 6th commission is now in the

hands of a divided Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL:  I made the decision to oppose the House Democrats’ slanted and

unbalanced proposal.

SCHUMER:  Shame on the Republicans for choosing the big lie over the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE:  We’ll ask our Sunday panel whether Congress will approve it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE:  Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to bring a bill to the Senate

floor soon creating a commission to investigate the January 6th attack on

the U.S. Capitol. But Republicans appear to have the votes to kill the

measure.

There is a sharp split inside the GOP about the need for an independent

commission. In a moment, we’ll speak with a member of the Senate

leadership, Roy Blunt, who says the panel will only slow down reforms that

are already underway, but first, from Illinois, Republican Congressman Adam

Kinzinger.

Congressman, after the House approved the commission with 35 Republicans in

the House breaking with the GOP leadership to support the panel, it

appeared that there was a possibility Congress was going to approve this

commission.

But then, the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spoke out this week.

Take a look at what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  It’s not at all clear what

new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could actually

lay on top of existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Congressman, with several congressional committees in both the

House and Senate investigating the events of January 6th, are there

questions? And if so, what are they, the biggest questions that you think a

commission would be able to answer but that these committees will not be

able to answer?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL):  Yeah, certainly. So let’s keep in mind the

investigations that are ongoing things like into specific criminal actions.

That’s why you’ve seen 400 people arrested. That’s what the FBI can do.

There can be discussions about, you know, did the House security fail? But

what we need is a comprehensive look at what happened that led up to

January 6th, who was talking to who? What were the lies?

And here’s the truth, Chris, the American people — and it’s Sunday and you

learned in Sunday school, truth matters. The American people deserve the

truth.

And my party to this point have said things like it was hugs and kisses, it

was Antifa and BLM, it was anything but what it was, which was a Trump-

inspired insurrection on the Capitol. And people deserve to hear the truth.

And I think now what’s going to happen if this thing fails is that Nancy

Pelosi will run a select committee and this could go all the way to 2024.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Why do you think that Senate Republicans,

led by Mitch McConnell, are apparently going to be able to block this

commission? Do you think it’s all about politics on their part?

And don’t they have a point that one of the reasons the Democrats are

pushing so hard for this commission is because they want to bring the

controversy over what happened on January 6th and over the alleged role

that Donald Trump played in it, they want to bring that into the 2022

midterms?

KINZINGER:  Well, you know, here’s a revelation, this is going to the 2022

midterms anyway, particularly if us as Republicans don’t take ownership for

what happened, if every other day, there’s a new conspiracy theory about

what happened at the Capitol, anybody but what it was. And so, yeah, that I

think it will go to 2022. And we’ll look like we are just sitting here

denying reality and facts.

I get it, it may have a political impact, but I’m going to tell you what

had a political impact on 2022, if anything does, it’s going to be the

attack on January 6th and then the subsequent denial to look in the mirror,

tell the truth, take ownership for what we’ve done and recommit to tell the

American people and Republican voters the truth. The Republican voter who

has had their patriotism abused by somebody that simply wants to use it to

maintain power.

Raw and noble patriotism is beautiful and leaders should be inspiring that

patriotism to defend democracy and not attack it.

WALLACE:  Let me ask you about one Republican leader in Congress.

Do you believe that it’s a conflict of interest for House Republican Leader

Kevin McCarthy to do everything he can to oppose this panel, do you think

it’s a conflict of interest given that he would likely be called by a

commission to testify about his various conversations with President Trump

both on the day of the riot on January 6th and then subsequent to that?

KINZINGER:  Well, I wouldn’t say it’s a conflict of interest because Kevin

is the leader. There’s probably a lot of people that are going to be

subject to being called in front of any investigation on this, even

criminal investigation.

But I do think Kevin has failed to tell the truth to the Republicans and to

the American people and it pains me to say. It’s not like I enjoy standing

up and saying this, but people, the 74 million voters that voted for Donald

Trump, the belief — a number of them that believe the election was stolen

believe it because their leaders have not told them otherwise. The people

they trust have either been silent or not told them the truth.

That’s where Kevin has failed, because he told the truth on January 13th,

something around then, and then he went to Mar-a-Lago and said Donald Trump

is the leader of the party. He’s right. Donald Trump is the leader of the

party, but we need to tell people the truth.

WALLACE:  You talk about the politics in all this on the part of the

Republicans who are trying to block the commission but you have set up a

political action committee called “Country First” and part of the goal,

maybe the central goal of “Country First” is to try and take the Republican

Party back from Donald Trump.

So, in effect, doesn’t the January 6th commission serve your political

purposes?

KINZINGER:  No, not at all, because when I tell you, history is going to

tell the truth anyway. It would be nice to confront that through January

6th commission. My whole thing with “Country First” — and it’s

Country1st.com — is just simply to say we owe the American people the

truth.

My very first video on there, I just say, look, the Republican Party has

lost its way. This party that built the interstate system, that freed the

slaves, you know, fought for the environment, is now the party that is

engaged heavily in mass battles, anti-vaccination and whatever the outrage

of the day is, including Dr. Seuss.

All that may be important but there are much more important things for this

country. And that’s what we want to get back to, is putting the country

before the party. And frankly, January 6th embarrasses me. That will in no

way benefit me at all.

WALLACE: Congressman Kinzinger, thank you. Thanks for sharing this weekend

with us.

And now let’s turn to Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri.

Senator, you’re a member of the Republican leadership in the Senate. How

confident are you that you’re going to be able to block the creation of

this commission in the Senate?

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): Well, I think it’s to too early to create a

commission and I — I believe Republicans in the Senate will decide that

it’s too early to — to create that commission.

You know, commissions often don’t work at all. And when they do work, like

the Simpson-Bowles Commission produced a good result, nothing happened as a

— as part of that result.

The one commission that we generally think did work was the 9/11

Commission, Chris. I think that was — I was part of putting that

commission together. I think it was 14 months after 9/11, after all kinds

of other information was out there for that commission to look at, before

that commission got started. And, believe me, it would be months before

this commission could get started.

I just was part of the Senate Intel Committee looking into the last

election, the Russian involvement in the last election. We thought that

would take a year. It took three years. And we already had a full staff

that was fully cleared to look at everything. It would take months, as

Chairman Burr said the other day, former Chairman Burr of — of our

committee, would take months just to get a staff ready to look at things

and you’ve got 400 plus legal efforts going on against individuals. That’s

going to produce a lot of information eventually.

But, believe me, the Justice Department will not let a commission have any

of that information. We just went through that with the — with the 9 —

with the effort we looked at after the last election. We got no sharing

from the Justice Department about a much smaller number of cases than

they’re dealing with now.

This information is all going to get out there. I’ve actually opposed the

idea of a commission from — immediately from the very first because I

think we’ll start waiting for a commission rather than moving forward with

what we know we need to do now.

There’s a bipartisan effort in the Senate with two committees to produce

not only a report, but also a number of recommendations, and we should be

able to do that in the first full week of June and we haven’t even waited

for that to decide what a commission should do.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that.

You are working with two committees, Senate Rules and Senate Homeland

Security. Both, of course, chaired by Democrats because they’re in the

majority.

BLUNT: Right.

WALLACE: And, as you say, they’re going to come out with a report, we

think, as early as — as next month. But the issue is whether or not

they’re going to answer — and this is what Congressman Kinzinger said —

some of the key questions that a lot of people have about January 6th.

I want to put those up on the — on the screen. What was President Trump

doing during the riot? Did he refuse to approve sending in the National

Guard? Did White House staff and the military work around Mr. Trump with

Vice President Pence?

Will your report, with those two committees, will they answer those

questions, and have you talked, have you subpoenaed, or have you heard from

top officials in the Trump White House?

BLUNT: Well, we had two public hearings and we’ve had several individual

interviews with people like the acting secretary of defense, the — the

secretary of the Army. There’s going to be a timeline that will come out

that — that talks about what happened, when it happened. There will be

plenty of answers to the questions, I think, of why we had that 30 minute

gap between the time that the Defense Department says they approved

National Guard assistance and the time they told the National Guard that

they’d approved that assistance.

WALLACE: But — but, sir, what about —

BLUNT: There are some questions there, but —

WALLACE: I — I don’t mean to interrupt, but what about what was going on

inside the Trump White House?

BLUNT: Well, I — I think you’ve got to decide, what’s the priority here?

Is the priority to secure the Capitol, to do what we need to do to better

train, better prepare Capitol Police, decide what we want to do in the

future, or is the priority to take what will be a of couple years, in my

view, to decide what happened inside the White House? I think that

ultimately will be out there. All kinds of books being written, all kinds

of efforts to look at that. Even a commission like the 9/11 Commission

started at the right time with the information they need, won’t get in the

way of us doing what we need to do.

But if we start a commission right now, just last week many people in the

press were saying about our report that will come out, it will be

bipartisan, it will be something that — that Chairman Klobuchar, Chairman

Peters, Rob Portman and I all will have signed off on.

WALLACE: Right.

BLUNT: When that comes out, people are saying, well, maybe we should wait

until we get a report from the commission. I don’t think we should wait for

another year or so to decide what we need to do to respond to 9/11.

WALLACE: Well, I — but you keep talking about the 9/11 Commission. The —

the two chairs of the 9/11 Commission, one Republican, one Democrat, they

put out a statement this week and — and here’s what they said. They

support creation of this panel, saying, unity of purpose was key to the

effectiveness of the group, the 9/11 Commission. We put country above party

without bias.

I — you know, I don’t think many people or anybody is saying that your

committees can’t do their work. The question is whether the — a — a

commission, an independent commission, no members of Congress, could serve

— could serve a useful function. As you say, it may be a year from now

before they comes out.

Can you honestly say, in opposing this commission, down — coming out down

the line, that you’re putting country above party?

BLUNT: Well, I — I think — first of all, I think I said a minute ago what

happened on 9/11. Obviously, what I meant what happened January 6th. Those

are clearly, in my time in — in the Congress, the two seminal moments were

the — were the — the country, the capital city itself under an attack

that we wouldn’t have anticipated.

But I — I do think that the 9/11 Commission had a lot more information

available to it when it started than this one would have and we made a lot

of decisions before the 9/11 Commission started that were important to

further secure the Capitol, to further look at our intelligence failures.

WALLACE: Right.

BLUNT: We need to be doing all of those things. We’ll see what my

colleagues think, but there have been very little bipartisan discussions

between the House and Senate on this topic.

WALLACE: Senator, I want to — I’ve got about 30 seconds here, so I need a

quick answer.

You’re part of a Republican group trying to come up with a deal with the

White House over infrastructure. They’re at $1.7 trillion. Yu guys are —

on the Republican side are around $600 billion. Even in Washington, that’s

a lot of money.

What do you think of the prospects for a compromise, a bipartisan

compromise on infrastructure? Thirty seconds.

BLUNT: Well, I hope we can get there. I think our best meeting on this

topic was the meeting we had with the president himself and the members and

a couple of cabinet officers, the secretary of Commerce and the secretary

of Transportation.

I think the president would like to get there on a bipartisan deal. Our

biggest gap is not the money. Our biggest gap is defining what

infrastructure is. And if we get to a definition of infrastructure that the

country would have always accepted, that becomes a much narrower space than

it appears to be right now.

I do think we’ve got about a week or ten days to decide if we can work

together on this or not. I’d like to. I believe the president would like

to. The number is too big because the scope of what the White House staff

wants to call infrastructure is way too big.

WALLACE: Right.

Senator Blunt, thank you. Thanks for coming in today and we’ll stay on top

of what happens to the commission and the Senate.

BLUNT: Thank you too (ph).

WALLACE: Up next, we’ll bring back our Sunday group to debate who’s playing

politics with this plan for an independent investigation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): What is clear is that House Democrats have

handled this proposal in partisan bad faith going right back to the

beginning.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Once again they are caving to Donald Trump and

proving that the Republican Party is still drunk off the big lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senate Republican and Democratic leaders sharply divided over the

idea of a commission to investigate the January 6th riot on Capitol Hill.

And we’re back now with the panel.

So, Guy, which side do you think has the better side of this argument, the

Republicans who it appears are going to be able to block the commission or

Democrats were are pushing for it?

GUY BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM, “THE GUY BENSON SHOW” AND FOX NEWS

CONTRIBUTOR:

Well, the Republicans may have the votes in the Senate, as Senator Blunt

alluded to.

In terms of the argument, I heard what Senator McConnell just said there.

And one person who would disagree is the Republican ranking member on the

Homeland Security Committee in the House who helped hammer out a bipartisan

deal on this commission. And it’s absolutely true that one way or another

there’s going to be an investigation by Congress into this attack on

Congress, which was an extremely disgraceful moment in our history. The

question is will it be bipartisan with each side having similar powers, not

exactly the same, but the exact same number of people that they’re

responsible for appointing to it, or will it be a partisan, Democratic-

involved situation on enterprise that Nancy Pelosi will run? And that’s the

point that Congressman Kinzinger made.

So I really do think that this is an appropriate purview for Congress to

look into. It’s not ancient history. The hands of Congress are not tied to

go do other things while a commission looks into everything that led up to

and happened on that horrific day. And I think Republicans are really

trying to just sort of move past it and look to 2022. I’m sympathetic to

that. But I think 1/6 was bad enough that it requires real answers.

WALLACE: Chuck, even if Republicans take a political hit in killing the

commission, as it at least appears now they’re going to do, couldn’t you

argue that it’s still smarter politics than creating this panel, which is

going to hold public hearings and bring the whole issue — I understand if

not it will be like a Benghazi commission, it will be set up just by one

party, Nanny Pelosi in the House, but, you know, an independent commission

has a real political downside to it as well for Republicans.

CHARLES LANE, “THE WASHINGTON POST” AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: The

independent commissions’ political downside to the Republicans is that it

has more credibility and, of course, this is a very bad story for the

Republican Party. I think a lot of Republicans are afraid of what it will

find out about their desperate but futile effort to get the president to do

something about this mob that was coming for them.

But, more importantly, I think they feel — the Republicans feel that they

have to move — just like they had to squash Liz Cheney to change the

subject, they have to squash this to change the subject so they have a

clearer field in 2022.

I just want to say that, you know, this is one where the Democrats are

galvanized and united and have sort of logic and truth in their direction

and the Republicans are divided and fighting against the pretty clear

merits of the subject.

WALLACE: Right.

Julie, let’s talk about this not from a political standpoint but from a

substance standpoint. Are there some questions that — about President

Trump’s role before the — the riot or — or during the day, January 6th,

that it commission might be able to answer and that these congressional

committees, and Senator Blunt made it clear they’re not calling top

officials from the Trump White House, that congressional committees are

never going to be able to answer?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “THE ASSOCIATED PRESS”: Absolutely. I

think the commission would be the perfect venue to try to answer some of

the unanswered questions. And most of those questions do focus on President

Trump, focus on what he was doing on the 6th, what private conversations he

was having with aides. We have snippets of details about conversations that

he was having with some members of Congress and others but I do think that

there’s a real gap in the history of this seminal moment in our country’s

history that has gone unanswered. And so this commission would likely be

the only real venue for being able to have a fair accounting of what

transpired inside the White House and around President Trump on the 6th.

WALLACE: Let’s turn to another big issue that I touched on at the end of my

interview with Senator Blunt, and — and that’s the question of a big

infrastructure bill. President Biden keeps saying he wants a compromise.

But at the end of this week, as I mentioned to — to Senator Blunt, the

White House is at $1.7 trillion and Democrats are about $600 billion. So

they’re more than a trillion dollars apart.

Guy, what do you think of the chances they’re able to — to resolve that

difference and also the difference of how they pay for it. Democrats want

to raise taxes on corporations. Republicans don’t. Or do you think in the

end that the president and Democrats will end up going the straight party

line reconciliation route in the Senate?

BENSON: A trillion dollars plus apart. And a huge disagreement on taxes. A

huge disagreement on scope, which I think was a key word from Senator Blunt

in that interview.

I think that there is some openness to bipartisanship on this on the

Republican side. The White House has come down in their number a little

bit. It’s still astronomically high. The Republicans want to focus on

traditional infrastructure, which I think makes sense. Maybe they’ll get a

little bit closer.

I’m currently, based on what I’m seeing, what I’m reading, what I’m

hearing, I’m more inclined to believe this is going to end up being a

partisan exercise by the Democrats to sort of ram it through because the

parties are so far apart.

The one potential opportunity though, four senators, two from each party,

put together a bipartisan bill on service infrastructure, roads and bridges

and that sort of thing for $303 billion. If they go at this on a piecemeal

basis, then perhaps there’s more room, more wiggle room for bipartisanship.

But I think the White House wants something big.

WALLACE: Julie, I’ve got less than a minute. How do you think this

infrastructure story ends?

PACE: I think unless there’s a significant shift in the dynamics this week,

we’re either going to go down a — a purely partisan route where a big

package gets passed only on Democratic votes or there is this potential

opportunity to explore what Guy just outlined there, where you break up the

bill into some smaller pieces. But the White House officials that I’ve

talked to are very concerned that taking that route would actually cause a

split within their own party where a lot of Democrats want to use this

opportunity to do something big and so there’s some weariness among White

House officials about doing that, doing that second step.

WALLACE: Well, we’ll be talk about that a little bit longer.

Thank you, panel. See you next Sunday.

Up next, our “Power Player of the Week,” a D.C. landmark on surviving the

pandemic and its special place in Washington history.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: As the country begins to get back to normal, a lot of us are

looking forward to enjoying a meal at our favorite restaurant. In D.C.,

that includes a local landmark that has played a big role in the nation’s

capital for 63 years. Here’s our “Power Player of the Week.”

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VIRGINIA ALI, OWNER, BEN’S CHILI BOWL: Well, we’ve faced many, many

challenges. The pandemic has been truly the most challenging.

Welcome to Ben’s. How are you?

WALLACE (voice over): Virginia Ali is the owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl, a

Washington institution that like so much was threatened by the pandemic.

WALLACE (on camera): How hard did it hit your business?

ALI: Oh, wow. I mean, we were open, Chris, from 7:00 in the morning until

2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. on weekends. That came to a complete halt.

WALLACE (voice over): Somehow Ben’s made it work, doubling down on carry

out and even starring in a Google commercial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People come here to see the photos on the wall, to meet

the family.

WALLACE: To understand the fuss about Ben’s, you need to know its history.

Ben and Virginia Ali were newlyweds when they opened the place in 1958.

Folks came for the half smoke, a sizzling pork and beef sausage served with

Ben’s signature chili on top.

ALI: He had this very special spicy chili recipe. You know, he came from

Trinidad, where spicy foods was the thing.

WALLACE: They were on U Street, known in the ’50s as the black Broadway.

ALI: All the clubs closed at 2:00 a.m. So from 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. you

could barely get into the Chili Bowl on a Friday and Saturday night.

And there was Duke Ellington, there was Pearl Bailey, Nat King Cole,

everybody.

WALLACE (on camera): That must have been some scene. What was that like?

ALI: It was just a joyful time. I mean the music was going on the jukebox

and we had these musicians coming in. We’re just happy to see them.

WALLACE (voice over): In the ’60s, the civil rights movement took over, but

Ben’s was still a meeting place.

ALI: Whenever Dr. King was in town, on occasion he would come down to the

Chili Bowl, have a sandwich and I’d have an opportunity to sit with him and

listen to him talk about his dream.

WALLACE: But in 1968, King was assassinated. Much of U Street was burned

down or boarded up.

ALI: Ben’s Chili Bowl was the only place that was allowed to remain open.

That was scary. But we were not touched.

WALLACE: In the decades since, Ben’s has remained a landmark, an essential

stop for African-American entertainers and politician, which brings us back

to the food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It’s so good, guys.

WALLACE (on camera): Can you tell me what the secret is to the secret chili

sauce?

ALI: Well, that’s our special chili sauce. That’s our special recipe. We

haven’t given that out yet. But you’ll be the first to get it, Chris.

When we do, you’ll be the first to get that recipe.

WALLACE (voice over): With D.C.’s COVID restrictions finally lifted,

customers are coming back to Ben’s and they can still find Virginia Ali at

the grill.

ALI: I like to turn them one at a time.

WALLACE: Cooking up those half smokes.

WALLACE (on camera): Why are you still working?

ALI: I don’t know that I call it work. When you do something that you

enjoy, it’s not so hard.

And you’ve been coming for 25 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

ALI: That’s pretty cool.

And meeting people, Chris, from all walks of life, just at Ben’s Chili

Bowl. I just have a good time every day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: If you want to check out that special secret chili sauce, Virginia

says there are plans to start bottling it and putting it on a shelf in your

grocery store.

And that’s it for today. Have a great week and we’ll see you next FOX NEWS

SUNDAY.

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