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tv   Natl Security Council Middle East Coordinator on Foreign Policy  CSPAN  January 27, 2022 10:03am-11:01am EST

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itself against that. host: we appreciate the update from you this morning. thank you for being here. that is all for this morning's program. we are here every day and we hope you are here too. back tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. eastern. next on c-span, we will hear from the national, brett mcgurk talking about the foreign middle east policy. i will take you there live, next. >> we have been there a year. it is difficult to answer that.
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that is kind of the nature of diplomacy. i do not want to categorize it like that. this is my fourth administration i have worked in. since 9/11, for two decades, the united states has pursued objectives in the middle east that are maximized and probably unachievable. from democracy -- from democratization, these maximus policies that every administration has set. that is a danger because you ricks -- you risk overconfidence. you risk overtaking band went -- bandwidth of the president of the united states. we have come in with the focus driven by our guidance from president biden. focusing on the situation we inherited. a very difficult situation we inherited.
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getting back to the basics of statecraft. it is too volatile, too important to simply disengage. we are not disengaging. i sometimes ask are we de-prioritizing the middle east region. that is the wrong classroom -- that is a wrong question. i was with the bush administration and the war in iraq, taking casualties every day. i live through that every single day. if you look at that time until now, it is quite different. that is important. we are not trying to pursue a
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transformation of this region. we are trying to pursue very corporate -- and our means and capabilities. it is a very important the medic point about how to approach this region. you will not see from the biden administration announcements of setting grandiose objections -- objectives without a factual foundation. it is important if you look at presidential history. jfk and we are going to moan. if you discover -- if you study that decision, one of the top scientists at the time said "mr. president, we can go to the moon. here is how you do it. here are the costs. it is not without risk but it is very achievable." that is a charge to my team and
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my students when i was teaching. also when i was coming from the president on down. when we set policies we want to make sure they are undergirded by a foundation of understanding and doing things we can achieve. >> i am all for that. i want to return to this issue, the debate of middle east watchers. those doing too much and those who argue we are not doing enough. the west wing, if i can call it that argues winning ourselves off of carbons, the rise of china. in the notion that most of the problems in this region are beyond america's capacity to compare -- to repair. you complacently acknowledge. the more argue we have critical interest there.
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humanitarian -- from one region to the other. unresolved, click -- unresolved conflicts that undermine american ability. where is the balance on doing too much on one hand and not doing enough on the other? governing is about choosing. >> i think that is a false choice. you have to look at the nature in this very important region. you look at a lot of ways from the suez canal. if you want to say it doesn't matter we had a couple of weeks of the canal shutting down --. we have no more failed states in this region.
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mcgurk: which is extremely dangerous and demobilizing. we couldn't bring laptops on airplanes. that was a threat coming out of syria. very serious threat. we want to make sure those type of threats cannot emerge. that is a goal. it is not less or more. it is the fact that if we try to pursue maximalist goals we will be over invested. if we focus on our interest, we can get it right. >> you touched on the key thing. a policy is another way of describing the search and pursuit on the set of objectives. ensuring you have the means and
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capacities to achieve those. i have my favorite three, i will identify them if we need to. i have my favorite three core american region -- cora made -- core american interests in the region. if you have to identify a discretionary to what we must have as opposed to what it would be nice if we have, if you would identify core american interests, what would they be? mcgurk: i do not want to categorize them from prioritization but, number one, our national security interests and our allies across the middle east region. we want to make sure the waterways for commerce stay secure.
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those are basic vital objections we are pursuing. through diplomacy and working to make sure we do not have any wars breaking out in the middle east, as best we can, it takes a lot of maintenance and work. a lot of tackling of diplomacy. three themes that work on everyday. deterrence. diplomacy without determinants -- without deterrence -- and we focus on around the region. one of the positive trends in the region to the healing of the gulf ridge to polarization to turkey and --. those dialogues are going on in something very important.
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it gives you a tool to avoid miscalculations. we want to de-escalate tensions where we can through diplomacy with a combination of deterrence. we are not going to make everybody happy. >> if the word vital pertains to the security and prosperity of the united states, what are the vital interests we have? you mentioned water although you didn't mention oil. we need -- but the rest of the world is going to depend on them for many years to come. you didn't say emergence of --
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important. ironic is the only region -- iran is the only region that -- and protecting the homeland. those will be my three. each of them pertains to the security and prosperity of the united states. there is a lot in the region that is discretionary. it would be nice to have but whether or not we are going to get there, i do not know. before we turn to the regional tour i want to take with you, a couple more big picture questions. values and interests. john mccain famously said our values are interests and our interests are our values.
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how would you describe the biden administration's conception of how human rights figures and american values figures in our policy? mcgurk: a duck tail of a past conversation, your summary is very accurate to what i write down. a central component policy in this region is no question. it is obviously something we deal with. particularly right now, given the global economic recovery as we begin to emerge from covid, which is ongoing. it will be ongoing through the coming year at least. that is a central component and affects our economy. that is into wrote -- that is interwoven, particularly in the gulf. i am glad you asked this
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question. jake sullivan put it this way, the question about human rights is at the table when we are having discussions about our national security interests in this region. that is how american diplomats where our values on our sleeves. representing the american people. that is very important. does that mean that human rights and values overtake -- we are the first administration that has not issued a --. we just had a conversation with some leaders in cairo yesterday. egypt is critical to israel.
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helping to find down that conflict in 11 days. also working to ensure we have some stability in gaza in the wake of it. they are central -- with each of it. it is complex and multifaceted. the issue of human values and human rights is a topic for discussion as we have these conversations. the first part of the meeting, i was focused on human rights. it is central to our administration. that is what makes us unique. >> we have a foreign policy in which human rights should play a significant role. we need to be consistent in the way we stand up for our values.
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the foreign policy i know for my own experience is littered with hypocrisies and contradictions and inconsistencies. it would be nice to think human rights and human democracy are central in foreign policy. in no administration i ever worked for was that the case. and it certainly isn't now. you mentioned egypt. we are going to get to saudi arabia and egypt in a minute. one big question they wanted to ask you, the question of our partners.
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do we have allies in the middle east or do we have partners? if an ally is a country where we share common interests and values, how would you best describe countries like egypt, saudi arabia and even the israelis where there is a high coincidence of interest in values. certainly, by no means, is that across the board, with respect to american interest. how do you look at our partners because our partners are critically important in the achievements of our objectives and our policies. mcgurk: i love talking to you because you have done this work and you understand the complexity of it. trying to think broad categories, let me give you an experience. if an ally is defined, dictionary definition is a
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treaty ally. an ally is defined as a state cooperative with another military in their affairs. let me give you an example when we had the afghanistan crisis and we had to bring out what became over 100,000 afghans. myself and others called every capital in the gulf and said we are going to have to ask your permission to use your facilities to bring out, we do not know how many afghans. we need your country for an indefinite. of time. i will call those allies. it was harder to get some cooperation from some. this is the nature of international affairs with every country. you are going to have agreements and disagreements.
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when the uae is facing a missile attack, the first phone call is to us in the middle of the night and we are immediately coordinating from the diplomatic level on down. however you want to define it, i will call those countries allies. we also have tremendous disagreements with our friends and partners in the gulf. in israel, joe biden said it before, the first principle is the security of israel. it is something we focus on everyday. we just had another strategic conference with israel the other day. miller: i only raised this issue, brett, because partners and allies relationships, we are best when each country respects
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the interests of the other. that raises the question of american leverage. how do we use american leverage in situations where we need to cooperate because our interests are involved, our material, tactical or strategic interests? in our values are undermined by the very countries with which we are cooperating and it is a very difficult line, an impossible line, i would argue to walk. for example, the issue of egypt and saudi arabia, see values as a more important propagation than interest. we are going to get back to the issue of saudi arabia. let's take a little regional tour. let's start with iran.
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your friend and former colleague of mine rob mellon. how would you describe the state. ? we will get to the fate of the negotiations in a minute. how would you describe the state on january 27? mcgurk: yeah, i spoke with him this morning. i think it is important to backup. it is important to backup.
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just go back and read where we were at the inn months before we walked in here. we had two dozen rockets falling at our embassy in baghdad. we were flying 250 bombers. we had iran in reaching irani to 4%. we are not placing blame. that is not our job. but this problem is not one that we should be having. because the jcp, whatever you want to say about it, it put a -- through 2021. where we are now, anyone who has dealt with iran knows that was
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the opposite of what was going to happen. it is getting to the point where the breakout time, we are starting to approach that window. we are going to know whether or not it is possible with the nuclear deal. that we in the community can accept.
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iranians have been surprised, especially at new raised energy. we are bringing negotiations back to what we were at the end of last summer. there is no deal we are prepared for that scenario. miller: to get a full compliance and lifting of sanctions, i will get to that in a minute, is it perceivable to create some kind of bridge for less compliance? mcgurk: we are very much focused
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on returning to full compliance. that is what gives us in the national community comfort that this program is not going to break out. miller: i know it is a tough question to ask you, but i will. wall street journal has reported in recent days the departure of richard nelson. who is going to forget more about sanctions, certainly more than i am ever going to know. do you have any explanation? is there a reason for that departure? some have argued there is a serious break between those who are arguing for tougher sanctions and those who are not. mcgurk: richard is an incredibly talented teammate. he is taking new positions. you have been on negotiating teams. it is a pretty intense 12 months.
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we are just going from the new position at the state department. the intelligence community, the department of energy, treasury, it is a pretty multifaceted team. i will give you an example of how this played out. when the team came back to talks in december, they walked in the door with all sorts of walking back with everything they have been done. in the former administration, and we had a choice. we just walk away from the table. what happen is irani had a united front, the uranian currency collapse. and the ronnie's came back a year later with the proposal. we are in the ballpark of a possible deal.
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these talks collapse very soon and we are going to shift to something. miller: let's move on to syria, a long-term interest of yours. human rights activists and hogs are hammering the administration as a believe our policy toward the regime has changed. it asks it is managed with -- to help consult his policy. we have not formally accepted and may never. we acquiesced efforts bringing them back from the cold. what is the biden administration's policy now? it will be on the talking points
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, i suspect. mcgurk: we do not support normalization of the assad regime. we have been very clear with that, on the record, behind closed doors. this is a trend. two or three years ago. this is a trend. if you travel around syria, pretty consistent from capitals around region, and israel. which we are pretty close with. they are trying to protect and pursue their interests. that is what is happening in the region. we have focused on a pretty comprehensive view of syria. we really focused on three core issues at the top.
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number one, a humanitarian situation. we worked -- number two, it is the main -- were violence is too low. we have a assurances that the major military offenses in syria is over. we want to keep that intact. third, importantly, the isis challenge in syria remains real. that is why we are there. we are also accountable for the southern regimes. supportive of efforts in europe and elsewhere to hold regimes accountable. we have increased sanctions on a
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side councils and that is something that is going to continue. looking for opportunities. -- the process to find a political rebel -- resolution. that is what we are doing. just doing that alone takes an awful lot of effort. i agree, you're not going to make everybody happy. that reflects not only the idea -- not only the views around the region, including very close partners and the situation on the ground. in terms of discussion, if jordan, a neighbor wants to have a discussion about -- with syria, we are not going to say no. that is very different than normalization. miller: your policy towards syria is following the transaction rather than the transformational of the --
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objectives you have identified. it is as you describe. the political filament in syria requires intense operation and in iran. that is not right now on anybody's bandwidth. the new york times reports that we have around 900 troops the point. mcgurk: we are in syria. together with partners. that is the basis for our
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coalition and having partners. if we look at the situation in osco last week, the attempted prison break, our forces have lent assistance to retake the british prison from isis fighters, it is a reminder isis remains a serious threat. that is why we are there. that is the only reason we are there. we will defend our forces from all threats. we have made that very clear to iranians and others. i should stay one more thing before leaving syria. syria activity remain a real threat to israel. we support israel's freedom of action to defending themselves. there are a lot of signs that a
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lot of these are tired of the regime. we support the action and we will defend our people,. -- people, period. that is the only mission, the only objective. miller: saudi arabia, the president candidate had some very tough words. a special meaning of characterization in the middle east. has that happened and if in fact it has happened, how would you differentiate the bidens administration towards policy in syria from the previous administration in syria? mcgurk: one thing with our approach in the region, our
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conversation in capitals have been very frank and direct. when it comes to saudi arabia, this is a historic partnership that is going to indoor. -- going to indoor -- endure. we have discussed the saudi's from the top down. it is something that is very dangerous for any country the
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defense of saudi arabia is a very important interest of ours sometimes when we have discussions with congress, the conflict is locked in a paradigm of 2015, 2016, 2017. over the last year, the saudi's have supported u.n. initiative. initiatives to wind down the war. they have answered these initiatives by launching against the town of --. -- mara. they do not want to live under
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putin. whose motto is death to america, death to christians, death to the jews. over last year, the who these have refused to give up these massive military to take mara. they have not succeeded. the -- have launched targeting, according to expert panels and u.s. security panels. this is the current situation and similar workings in the region, talking to others to try to find a way to get this conflict to cease fire. it takes two to get to a cease fire and end a war.
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miller: this prospect for a broader settlement in the almond, we are also dealing with a very problematic saudi partner. let's be clear, you have a would be king who is reckless and has proven his ruthlessness. over time. here is where the value proposition becomes important. i agree the saudi's are an important partner for the united states. -- deserve their fair share of responsibility, so unnecessary to the saudi's. the -- have gotten out of the war and appear to be re-engaging to some degree. i do not have the prospects and
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the mission he has got. let's move on. we are running out of time. the point on the israeli issue, if you had to rank dealing with the israeli, palestinian issue, on a list of priority of the administration, where would you put this issue? mcgurk: they are trying to ensure the embers of a potential conflict -- so we don't have the risk of a breakout of another conflict. it is a top-tier priority. we had the conflict i mentioned earlier. president biden was hands on.
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and wound down in the coming days. with the israelis and others to try to make sure the situation in gaza, a flareup was not there. similarly in the west bank, -- and i were just in israel before christmas, trying to ensure that situation also that congruent -- that can give extremist --. we are trying to create a political rising. trying to see if there is a foundation. get us listed back to the first
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principle. if we are not going to set expectations that are unlikely to be met. you know better than anybody, as americans we have to approach this with some humility. over time, we begin to establish an important political rising that has to be said. and trying to reduce of a conflict. in times of a natural peace process i do not think we are there yet. miller: with respect to the three major breakthroughs, all
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of those breakthroughs occurred without the presence of the united states. unless these palestinians own their operations, it is difficult for the united states to pay a broker in. what do we do about playing an environment. that allows potential conflict with the israelis over the issues about land settlement, confiscation. i suspect a two state solution is available now.
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what remains. an american vacuum is much more important than consequential role in the region. how do you process chinese and russian involvement in the region? mcgurk: we are the security partner of choice across the region.
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when a country comes under missile attack, we are the first call and we are there. this has been something we inherited. i was not surprised by too many things walking through the door. but i was surprised by a few of the inroads that china made. we have had a very close dialogue with our friends across the region about certain activities of jeopardizing the american quality. number one trading partner, that is obviously something ongoing. when it comes to certain activities, technology, military cooperation, that is when there are very serious issues at stake. i would say over the last year,
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my fellow coordinator here at the nsc, are pretty interwoven. having a dialogue with countries in the middle east about what china's actual enrichments are. what this project really means. it might be under the guise of a commercial project that it is actually quite different. that is something we have had a very good dialogue and a bit of an awakening with some of our partners in the middle east region about this. it is something that is ongoing. the russians is kind of a different story. russian intervention in syria was significant. they were in syria in the cold war. -- martin spoke about henry kissinger so it is not something particularly new. it is also something we deal with. if we find ways to work with
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russia, which we can, we have tremendous differences. that is something that is not going to change. i do not see interview our -- i do not see any of our partners saying "the chinese will have our backs." miller: on a security issue, i think you are right. it will be conventional in the region if we weren't deep priority. last question, we are actually out of time. looking out at 2022, brett, what is the single most important issue that keeps you up at night? is there one more than any other? mcgurk: i am inclined to give jim madison's answer, it is our job to keep others up at night. i will say the safety of security of our armed personnel. i have stayed a lot of time.
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diplo cap -- diplomatic personnel. our first read in the morning is to make sure people have what they need to defend themselves and protect themselves. that is really fundamental to live by. in the prospect of a nuclear armed -- is something i can assure you is something that is never going to happen. we think diplomacy is the best way to pursue. that is an outcome we will never see and we are committed to that. miller: brett mcgurk, i want to thank you for sharing your time and your thoughts and your views. i am glad you are working on it. thanks so much for coming. thanks to everybody for tuning in.
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think positive and test negative. mcgurk: thank you so much. >> this morning, house democratic representative james clyburn sits down with the washington post on voting legislation and president biden's social spending agenda. live coverage of that begins at 11:00 eastern on c-span. you can also watch online at or see full coverage on our new video app, c-span now. >> c-span offers a variety of podcasts that has something for everyone. book notes plus has in-depth interviews with writers about their latest works. the weekly uses audio from our archive to look at how issues of the day developed over years. in our occasional series, "talking with" features talks
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with historians. you can find them all on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts. >> congressman jimmy ruffin --rep. jamie raskin is with us to talk about his book "unthinkable", the suicide death of his son. i get so much for joining the washington journal. host: this is a book you had no way of knowing 2020 you would be writing a book of this kind. personally, as a man of
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congress, what propelled you to put this into a book? guest: it was my best effort to make sense of these horrific events that took place. it was a love letter to my lost son, tommy. it became a love letter to america, too. we suffered these shocks and traumas of losing tommy on the very last day of 2020 and exactly a week later, i was on the floor of the house when the violent insurrection took place. my daughter tabatha, my son-in-law and their daughter hannah were with me that evening. that was another crisis and it was a sleepless time for me. i used the midnight hours for five or six months to try to
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record these events, try to make sense of them and to pull out the threads of hope that i found , even going through these dramatic events. host: it is a multiple series of events. two traumatic events, you point out, a week apart from each other. at any point did you think "i need a pause. i need to back away from being a member of congress and take some personal time." did that thought ever enter your mind? guest: of course it did. the third part of the book is about speaker pelosi asking me to be the lead impeachment manager after the impeachment of donald trump for inciting a violent insurrection against the vice president and against the congress. i described in the book how i experienced that as speaker
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pelosi throwing me a lifeline. i was not eating, i wasn't sleeping. i wasn't sure i would do anything ever again in my life. of utility or substance or meaning. by asking me, speaker pelosi was telling me, you need to rally, foreign -- form this team. i think she threw me a lifeline by doing that. host: here is how you put it in your new book. you write that that request, "it was the hardest thing i ever had been asked to do professionally, at the time difficult i have ever experienced personally -- a pathway back to the living and a fountain of hope that renewed and strengthened my radical faith in democracy, the system of beliefs and practices to uphold the equal rights of
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individuals and demands we all work together to take care of our common inheritance." a year after that, now that you are on the committee, congressman, how do you view our state? guest: we are still in the struggle to defend and fortify our essential democratic institutions. we are not completely through the woods yet. there is a struggle, globally, to defend democratic institutions and values. against this resurgent, authoritarianism, racism and fascism in some places. this is the work of a lifetime. we are in the fight of our lives to make sure democracy survives. it is not too dissimilar to what blinken experienced -- what lincoln experience when he stood
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on the gettysburg battlefield. every generation has to ask itself the same question. we have to renew our commitment to the values of our democracy. host: we have congressman until about 930 time eastern. we welcome your calls. democrats, (202) 748-8000; (202) 748-8001, four republicans; (202) 748-8002, for independents; (202) 748-8003, for all others. guest: we have bumped into some
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obstruction and roadblocks right around donald trump, steve bannon, robert stone, mark meadows, who was a little bit doing the hokey pokey, one foot in, one foot out. most people have been completely forthright and candid with the supreme court. the supreme court struck a very important blow for the president's claims of executive privilege to try to stop information from coming over from the national archives to our committee. i would say we are making great progress. we have one area of concern we are still struggling through. we have a charge under the house to deliver complete comprehensive -- to the american people and to the congress. all of the events that took place on january 6, the causes behind them and to make recommendations about how to
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fortify democratic institutions so we are not subject to, vulnerable to who -- two insurrections in the future. host: what are you going to do if they eventually decide not to testify? guest: sherry thompson and vice chair cheney have made it clear we are going to use all lawful means at our disposal to get all evidence we have the right to get as the u.s. congress. the courts have upheld the legitimacy of not just the way to function here and purpose, conducting an investigation, it is hard to think of a more appropriate function than figuring out what happened in violent attack against the union. i see it built in three rings of
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judicial and that that day. -- turned into a mob brian which injured 100 50 of our police officers who were hit over the head with steel pipes and american flags and confederate battle flags. and sprayed in the face with deer mace and so on. there was a middle ring, the ring of the insurrection, which included the oath keepers, the 3% or's, the militia groups, the first amendment -- other domestic violent extremists who came with the expressed purpose of committing violence. smashing windows and for the first time in american history interfering with the peaceful power -- transfer of power. the innermost ring was the scariest. that was the ring of the coup. it was on and -- it was unusual
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to use. we have had our experience with a coup. we take with -- we think with taking against the president, this was organized by the president, against the president -- against the vice president of the united states. with the purpose of getting him to declare unilateral powers to reject electoral votes coming in from arizona, georgia and pennsylvania. lowering joe biden's votes to below 70. in order to kick the vote into the congress -- into the house of representatives. the house, although it is controlled by democrats now, we do not vote from one method, we vote to one state for a presidential election. after the 2020 elections, the gop -- democrats 22 was split
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down the middle. liz cheney, as part of that coalition still would have had 26 votes. they would have called donald trump the victor, declared him president for the next four years. likely, would have invoked the insurrection act as former national security adviser michael flynn was urging him to do, in order to declare something like martial law. at that point to put down the insurrection and chaos that donald trump unleashed. host: without asking the real confidential testimony or evidence, what has fertile -- what has further solidified your view that this was a plan or an intended coup? guest: the president spoke about it in a number of points. a steve bannon talk about it. another republican spoke about it.
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the professor who set forth the plan in memo that has gone public, we are perfectly well aware of. to this day, there are people asserting that was perfectly fine. he upheld his oath of office, unlike the president on that day and he refused to do it. do it which is why the mob came pounding at our doors. i could hear them chanting "hang mike pence." the members of the house had to flee. for the first time in american history, the peaceful transition of power was interrupted. the process was stopped by this violent attack. it did not even happen in 1861 after the election of abraham lincoln as he was crushing the country to get to washington.


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