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?
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
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
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
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
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”.
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
(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
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
(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
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
Well, the Republicans may have the votes in the Senate, as Senator Blunt
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.
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.
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.”
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
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,
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
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
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
And that’s it for today. Have a great week and we’ll see you next FOX NEWS
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