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

  • U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda, Democrat of Hawaii
  • Abbe Lowell, attorney for Hunter Biden 
  • U.S. Rep. Mike Tuner, House Intelligence Committee chair 
  • Neda Sharghi, sister of Emad Shargi  
  • University of Chicago professor Robert Pape  

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


MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation: The fires in Maui are now the deadliest in more than a century.

Plus, another special counsel investigation is announced, this time focused on the president’s son.

A growing crisis in Hawaii, as the death toll from the fires that ravaged the small town of Lahaina continue to climb.

(Begin VT)

WOMAN: Oh, my God. This is a nightmare.

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MARGARET BRENNAN: We will get the latest from Congresswoman Jill Tokuda, who represents the district where the fire raged, and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell on what the federal government is doing to help.

Then, the investigation into President Biden’s son Hunter expands, after Attorney General Merrick Garland elevates a prosecutor to special counsel. We will talk with Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell.

Plus: Iran is set to free five Americans wrongfully held there for years. What is Washington giving Tehran in exchange? We will hear from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Turner, and Neda Sharghi, the sister of one of the prisoners.

Finally, former President Trump braces for a possible fourth indictment, as a grand jury considers whether Trump and his associates attempted to subvert the will of Georgia’s voters in the 2020 election. We will check in with the University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape, who has new findings on the rising support for political violence in the wake of Trump’s indictment.

It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation. I’m Margaret Brennan.

We begin today with the horrific, almost surreal scenes of devastation in Hawaii, where county officials now say 93 people are dead in the wake of the wildfires that continue to burn. Crews are bringing in additional cadaver dogs to sift through the rubble of thousands of buildings burnt to the ground, mostly homes.

And officials say about 1,000 people have been reported missing. The death toll is expected to climb. We will look into the local recovery effort and the federal government’s assistance, but we want to start with the latest on the ground.

Here’s CBS News correspondent Carter Evans.

(Begin VT)

CARTER EVANS (voice-over): Fire crews are still battling flare-ups across five square miles of scorched earth in the small town of Lahaina. So far, authorities have only searched about 3 percent of the area for victims.

MAN: It may be the worst fire that America ever faced by the time it’s done.

CARTER EVANS: Rescue workers now have the grim task of identifying charred remains.

JOHN PELLETIER (Maui County, Hawaii, Police Chief): When we pick up the remains, and they fall apart, and some of you, that’s what you’re stepping on. I don’t know how much more you want me to describe it. That’s what you’re stepping on.

CARTER EVANS: On Tuesday, the fire came with no warning.

LATANYA PARKER (Tourist): I didn’t realize it was really that bad, until, like, we started smelling the smoke.

CARTER EVANS: LaTanya Parker and her family were staying at a hotel in Lahaina when they realized help was not on the way. They barely made it out through the flames.

Others who escaped from their homes in Lahaina are now eager to get back.

WOMAN: We lost everything. Thank God that, like, we still have each other. It’s like we’re the only things we have now, because everything that we had in the past is gone.

CARTER EVANS: Investigators say what’s left is a toxic mix of debris, too dangerous for people to return. Questions remain about the cause for the fire, and the state’s attorney general is now investigating the response.

There are studies showing that exactly this type of fire could have happened in Lahaina caused by a hurricane. What has been done to prepare for and prevent a fire like this from occurring?

GOV. JOSH GREEN (D-HI): This is the first time we have ever experienced a wildfire in the context of these dry conditions, global warming, and with a hurricane that’s just passing us. There’s no question this could catastrophe is going to change the way everyone looks at fire across the globe.

(End VT)

CARTER EVANS: Margaret, the response here is massive.

The National Guard is on scene, along with a team of 150 people from FEMA. And more are on the way. Authorities are asking the public here for patience as they sift through the rubble. The road to recovery will be a long one.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s Carter Evans in Maui.

FEMA Director Deanne Criswell toured the damage yesterday with local officials.

Our Jonathan Vigliotti spoke with her after.

(Begin VT)

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: You were on the ground touring the disaster zone. What did you see? And what struck you the most?

DEANNE CRISWELL (FEMA Administrator): It’s absolutely heartbreaking to just see an entire community that is no longer there.

And I think one of the things that was just really the most shocking, I guess I would say, is the row of cars of people that were trying to drive and escape and then couldn’t get out fast enough. And these are the ones that ended up running or jumping into the water, and those cars just there.

I mean, it was like a scene from an apocalyptic movie.

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: We heard from the governor and we heard from the police chief, who says only 3 percent of the disaster zone has been searched.

What are your agents being told in terms of how many people they should expect to be searching for?

ADMINISTRATOR DEANNE CRISWELL: I was able to talk to the USAR teams, the urban search-and-rescue teams, today and see the dogs.

And they have gridded out the area. They use the dogs, and they have the teams that go in there. But it’s hot. The ground still has hot spots. The dogs can only work so long before they need a break. And so the 3 percent covers 3 percent of the grids that they have mapped out. And now they will just methodically continue to go through that.

But I think one of the challenging things is, many of the areas that they’re in searching, there’s structures that are partially standing. And so the engineers are embedded with them to evaluate the stability of that structure.

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: There are currently hundreds of people still missing. How long do you think it will take to conduct this search effort?

ADMINISTRATOR DEANNE CRISWELL: I think it just depends on the conditions around us and how long the dogs can continue to go in there. The dogs are the ones that are really making a big difference in helping to identify the location, where then the rest of the rescuers can come in and identify if there’s any remains there.

We’re bringing in more. We’re bringing in more teams and more dogs, so we can speed up that process as much as we can.

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: Sources close to the search, several of them, tell me the death toll could be in the hundreds. Could that be accurate?

ADMINISTRATOR DEANNE CRISWELL: If that’s what they’re telling you, I wouldn’t second-guess them. They’re the ones that know best on what they’re seeing and how many people have not — not been accounted for.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s Jonathan Vigliotti and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.

We go now to Democratic Congresswoman Jill Tokuda. Lahaina is part of her district. And she joins us from Oahu this morning.

Congresswoman, I am very sorry, as all of us are here, for the losses that you all are experiencing.

You toured the area yesterday with FEMA, I understand. Do you know when the fires will be out? And where are we in this recovery?

REPRESENTATIVE JILL TOKUDA (D-Hawaii): Well, you know, we walked through the streets of Lahaina yesterday.

And I can tell you it was absolutely heartbreaking. It was shocking, surreal. We have heard all these words, but to actually walk those streets, and to still see fires smoldering in the distance, to see cars literally melted into puddles that have hardened over on the road, X’s on buildings and cars to say that it has been searched for signs of casualties or even life.

We are not — we are not at a point where we can say a time frame in terms of when people would be allowed back into the area. But what I can tell is, is just I feel the anger and the angst, that people want to go home. Everyone wants to go home. There are so many of our friends and family that never left.

And that’s what we have to remember. We are trying to respectfully make sure that every person unaccounted for right now, we are praying for their safety, that they’re in shelters. But we know that too many are in buildings.

Dr. Criswell was talking about the cadaver dogs that have been brought on site that are going to make the difference. Yesterday, when we were touring there, we met the dogs. We met the handlers. We were talking about the gridding system. And one of my aides mentioned, because we heard the dogs barking loudly — and she said, when she turned to look at them, they were sitting in front of a building and barking.

And, sadly, we know exactly what that means when a cadaver dog sits and barks towards a point. So, every moment, every day right now, we have front-liners who are doing so much to bring all of our family and loved ones home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, Congresswoman, I mean, the state — the state claims to have had one of the largest hazard warning systems out there, something like 80 sirens in the Maui area.

How did this system fail to warn those people to flee?

REPRESENTATIVE JILL TOKUDA: Well, you know, everybody who’s ever lived in Hawaii knows the warning sirens. It goes off once a month, at the beginning of the month, at 12:00 noon, and it blares.

And, if it doesn’t, it gets fixed, because that is our first line of defense. Unfortunately, in this situation, sadly, tragically, in this situation, those sirens likely did not go off. The warning signals that were on cell phones, we had no cell coverage or electricity in some of these areas.

And the reality is, with those warning signs, it tells all of us to turn on the television or look at our phones or turn on the radio. The reality is, with how fast this burn was — and you could see it in the videos that survivors were showing me. You could see it in the wreckage.

If you turned on your phone, you turned on a radio, if you even could — remember, things were out at that particular point — you would not know what the crisis was. You might think it’s a tsunami, by the way, which is our first instinct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE JILL TOKUDA: You would run towards land, which, in this case, would be towards fire.

MARGARET BRENNAN: FEMA has estimated the cost of reconstruction will be close to $6 billion.

But they have also said they are facing a $4 billion shortfall by the end of September. How do make the case to your colleagues back here in Washington that, with so many natural disasters and so much need in this country right now, that Hawaii needs to be the priority?

REPRESENTATIVE JILL TOKUDA: Absolutely.

We were never expecting this disaster and tragedy. No one ever does. But you heard it from my constituents that have been on air. This is a national crisis. This is a national problem. I cannot tell you how many individuals we have talked to, we have met. They’re not from Hawaii, but they have been severely impacted.

We know, at the end of the day, loss of life will take place not just for Hawaii residents, but for individuals from across the country that were in this area. This is a national disaster we are facing.

And one thing we have to remember too was, this is rural America. Rural America is getting hit by these types of climate change chaoses every single day, disaster. Rural America, which is what Hawaii is, faces the crisis of also being able to get those first responders and support as fast as they need to, to be able to respond in these situations.

So we have to make sure FEMA has the tools and the resources to be able to execute support back home at Hawaii. But, quite frankly, this is going to be happening across the country. And they need the money to be able to respond to wherever disaster strikes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I know President Biden has asked for another 412 billion to replenish disaster relief funds. This is going to be a continued conversation here in Washington.

Congresswoman, we wish you well. Thank you for joining us today.

REPRESENTATIVE JILL TOKUDA: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the investigation into Hunter Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland’s decision to grant special counsel status to the prosecutor who has been on that case for years after a plea deal with Hunter Biden’s lawyers fell apart last month.

For more, we’re joined by our senior investigative correspondent, Catherine Herridge, and chief election and campaign correspondent, Robert Costa.

Good to have you both here.

Catherine, I want to start with, because, you know, David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, had been said to have full ability to bring a prosecution. Why did he feel he needed special counsel status? And what actually changes now?

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: Well, as you mentioned, Margaret, David Weiss has said that he had the ultimate authority.

But, based on the order Friday for special counsel status, at his request, he wanted that ultimate authority now in writing. And that makes a lot of sense to me, based on our reporting here at CBS News, because we heard exclusively from these IRS whistle-blowers who allege that David Weiss wanted to partner with U.S. attorneys in California and Washington, D.C., to bring charges, but he was refused.

He’s disputed that. But if you look very closely at the language here in the order, it says that the special counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes in any federal jurisdiction. So, now he’s got it in black and white, so there can be no question.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that suggest something political, rather than legal?

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: This is one of the lingering questions in the case, is that why Weiss suddenly decided, after five years, that he needed this elevated status.

I think that some of the clues, Margaret, are in the court filings this week where he said that they had reached an impasse in the negotiations with Hunter Biden’s team, and he saw no resolution short of going to trial.

I just want to emphasize that plea deal was not standard, so irregular that the judge in Delaware hit pause on it and at one point said to one of Weiss’ prosecutors, what is the legal precedent for this case? And they said there was none. And that is why the criticism from Republicans that it was a special deal for a special defendant has resonated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Robert, you know, Democrats seemed caught by surprise by this announcement of a special counsel, though still dismissive of this idea that the president’s son did anything more than what has been substantiated in this five-year investigation.

But doesn’t this status make it more difficult to just dismiss this as political?

ROBERT COSTA: Inside the White House this weekend and inside the Biden campaign. I have made a lot of calls, and it’s evident that they don’t welcome what’s going to be potentially a drip, drip, drip of developments on the Justice Department front with Hunter Biden, but they see it ultimately as a distraction, not something that’s going to be a burden for President Biden’s campaign.

There is a real church and state in how they look at this inside the White House. The Justice Department is something they can’t talk about, they won’t talk about, but they will talk about the House Republicans and their investigation, because they believe Republicans are going to overstep here.

Already, Speaker McCarthy is talking about a so-called inquiry on impeachment into president in Biden. He’s getting pressure from the right to move forward on impeachment. But you have others I have spoken to, moderates in the House, who say, hold off on this. Don’t go too fast. Let the Justice Department special counsel play out as it’s going to, because, if you move too fast, it could put Republicans in a position where they seem like they’re overeager to get ahead of the Justice Department on this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, Robert, bigger picture here, obviously, the Republicans think it’s continued — it’s worth continuing to talk about this, even if Democrats don’t think it sticks.

You now have two special counsels directed at the Biden family, in addition to Trump’s legal issues. What’s the bottom line here? What happens with the Biden special counsel looking into his handling of classified documents?

ROBERT COSTA: There’s a real emphasis right now in President Biden’s inner circle to not allow the Republicans, in their view, to make this some kind of equivalent situation.

They believe that President Biden has responded to the records request in a timely fashion, and that Trump, facing now potentially four indictments if Georgia comes this week, across the board is in a totally different situation. And they believe Republicans are going to talk about the special counsel on records, the special counsel on Hunter as much as possible.

But when they’re out there, they don’t believe that this is going to sit there as an issue. When they look at polling, private polling, and private focus groups inside the Democratic Party — and I have heard this from multiple top strategists in the party — the issue that they’re more concerned about is President Biden’s age.

That’s being raised by voters.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What should we expect in regard to what you just mentioned possibly coming down the pike in Georgia this week?

ROBERT COSTA: We’re all going to get very familiar with aspects of the Peach State this week, because Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, based on CBS News’ reporting, is expected to move forward with sweeping indictments in a case about what happened in Georgia after the 2020 election.

We have heard a lot about Brad Raffensperger and the call Trump made to Georgia’s top election official. But we’re also going to likely learn this week that others in this whole Trump orbit are going to be indicted, those who tried to be so-called fake electors in Georgia, showing up to the Coffee County election building and allegedly even trying to breach voting machines at some level.

Fani Willis is building a sprawling case. You have heard that phrase RICO before, racketeering. Sometimes, they use it to prosecute the mafia. She’s using a RICO-style prosecution to go after many people, part of this sprawling alleged effort to overturn the election in Georgia.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Robert and Catherine, thank you for your time.

And we will be back with Hunter Biden’s lawyer Abbe Lowell in one minute, so stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: And joining us now is Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell.

Good to have you here in person.

ABBE LOWELL (Attorney For Hunter Biden): It’s nice to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, let’s start with why this plea deal hit the impasse.

ABBE LOWELL: So, if you were in court or read about what happened on July the 26th, you have to ask yourself, as you just asked me, why?

And there are only a few possibilities. Remember, it were the prosecutors who came forward and asked if there was a resolution possible. They’re in charge of figuring out the form, the document, and the language. They did that.

And so the possibilities are only, one, they wrote something and weren’t clear what they meant, two, they knew what they meant and misstated it to counsel, or, third, they changed their view as they were standing in court in Delaware.

So, to answer that question, I will ask you a question and everybody else who’s paying attention. What group of experienced defense lawyers would allow their client to plead guilty to a misdemeanor on a Monday, keeping in mind that — knew that there could be a felony charge on a Wednesday? That wouldn’t happen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How could there be such a fundamental disagreement on this issue of how broad immunity would be for your client?

Because that’s what I understand it came down to in that transcript from July.

ABBE LOWELL: It did come down to fundamentally that and then a couple of issues as to what a judge’s role could be in the proceedings that the prosecutors wrote the documents for.

And how could it happen? I gave you the three possibilities. They wrote the language. They insisted on that language. They insisted on two different documents.

MARGARET BRENNAN: With the understanding that it would be broad immunity, and then…

ABBE LOWELL: With our understanding that it would be broad immunity.

And the language, as the judge pointed out, is a very broad phrase. It says encompassing all the facts that were in the document that sets out the transactions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

ABBE LOWELL: So, what happened is one of three possibilities. And I again point out that no good defense attorney — and…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

ABBE LOWELL: … this — and Mr. Biden had quite a few of them — would allow somebody to do a misdemeanor on a Monday thinking that, three days later, there could be a felony.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you saying that the government prosecutors are incompetent?

ABBE LOWELL: I’m saying there’s one of three possibilities.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that was one of them, is what you’re suggesting. So…

ABBE LOWELL: I wouldn’t say — I didn’t use that word. You did.

MARGARET BRENNAN: No, I did.

ABBE LOWELL: I said that they changed their decision on the fly standing up in court.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The U.S. attorney said, due to this impasse, a trial is in order.

Is a trial going to happen? Can you avoid one?

ABBE LOWELL: Well, the answer to the second question is, you can.

But let me answer the first question. When you do not have a resolution and somebody pleads not guilty, as Hunter did…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

ABBE LOWELL: … then two things happen. A judge could put together a scheduling order, the end of which would be a trial. There’d be discovery and motions, et cetera.

So that’s why that statement was made.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So it’s not inevitable?

ABBE LOWELL: It’s not inevitable. And I think what I…

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you’re trying to avoid one?

ABBE LOWELL: I — we’re — yes, we were trying to avoid one all along. And so were the prosecutors who came forward to us and were the ones to say, can there be a resolution short of a prosecution?

So, they wanted it, and maybe they still do want it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, that was dealing primarily with the tax-related charges.

There was also this diversion agreement related to the gun possession. Is that part of the agreement still in effect?

ABBE LOWELL: So, there are two different agreements, as you point out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

ABBE LOWELL: And, on July 26, what was very clear is that the prosecution presented the diversion agreement, which they signed, which we signed, and as an agreement of which they have described it as being a stand-alone, independent, bilateral agreement with two signatures on it, that agreement is different than the plea.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So…

ABBE LOWELL: The plea has not fallen — the plea did not go forward. The diversion agreement is already filed in court, and it has the signatures necessary for it to be binding.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You believe that it will remain binding, that the…

ABBE LOWELL: I believe that is…

MARGARET BRENNAN: That Weiss is sticking with it?

ABBE LOWELL: I can’t answer what happened — look what happened on July 26. One of the possibilities, is the prosecutors stood up and decided for lots of reasons that might be apparent to the viewer they didn’t like what people were saying about the deal they approved. And so I can’t answer that.

What I can say is that, as recently as in the last week or two, they have made a filing at court, they being the prosecutors…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

ABBE LOWELL: … which called it a bilateral agreement between the parties. And if it’s a bilateral agreement between the parties, it’s an agreement that’s in effect.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the things that Judge Maryellen Noreika brought up in court that day was, she said, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, she asked specifically whether that would be handled within the scope of this deal.

Is your client being investigated for that?

ABBE LOWELL: Our client has been investigated in a five-year, long, thorough, painstaking investigation for every transaction that he was involved in.

That includes…

MARGARET BRENNAN: But she specifically asked if immunity would cover that.

ABBE LOWELL: But you asked me whether or not that has been part of the investigation.

And after five years and what we know happened in the grand jury, of course, that had to be part of what the prosecutor has already looked at, as well as every other false allegation made by the right-wing media and others, whether it’s corruption, or FARA, or money laundering. That was part of what this prosecutor’s office had to have been looking over for five years.

I can assure you, that five years…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.

ABBE LOWELL: … concluded that the only two charges that made sense were two misdemeanors for failing to file, like millions of Americans do, and a diverted gun charge for the 11 days that Hunter possessed a gun.

Everything else had been thoroughly looked at. So, is that possible that they’re going to revisit it?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

ABBE LOWELL: Let me answer it one way.

If the now-special counsel decides not to go by the deal…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

ABBE LOWELL: … then it will mean that he or they decided that something other than the facts and the law are coming into play.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We have to take a break and finish this conversation on the other side of it.

Stick with us, Abbe Lowell.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

We want to continue our conversation with Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell.

Let’s pick up on where we left off before the break.

ABBE LOWELL (Hunter Biden’s Attorney): That’d be great, because I know we were a little rushed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: To get –

ABBE LOWELL: So, to answer your question squarely –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

ABBE LOWELL: People should keep in mind that while Mr. Weiss’ title changed last week, he’s the same person he’s been for the last five years. He’s a Republican U.S. attorney appointed by a Republican president and attorney general who had career prosecutors working this case for five years looking at every transaction that Hunter was involved in. So whether it was tax or the gun or possible any other charge, if anything changes from his conclusion, which was two tax misdemeanors and a diverted gun charge, the question should be asked, what infected the process that was not the facts in the law.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Or new evidence. I mean are — are you confident your client won’t face new criminal charges?

ABBE LOWELL: I’m confident that if this prosecutor does what has been done for the last five years, look at the facts, the evidence and the law, then the only conclusion can be what the conclusion was on July 26th. It’s new evidence. There’s no new evidence to be found. Some of these transactions are years old. They’ve had people in the grand jury. They’ve had data that was provided to them. I don’t know the possibility exists after this kind of painstaking investigation for there to be, oh, my gosh, there’s a new piece of evidence which changes. The only thing that will change is the scrutiny on some of the charges, for example, the gun charge.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it your position that Joe Biden was completely walled off from Hunter’s business affairs? As you know, this is a focus in Congress.

ABBE LOWELL: I understand. And my opinion doesn’t matter. What matters is the facts and the evidence.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

ABBE LOWELL: And the facts and the evidence that have been pursued by however many members of Congress and their staffs and media, looking for any possible connection, have shown time and time again it doesn’t exist. If the most people that are criticizing the Biden family is, is that when the president calls his son every day and it goes on the speakerphone, he says hello to the people in the room, that is not an offense. That is nothing other than a living father.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the illusion of access is something – is a phrase that was used by some in the room when Devon Archer, his former business partner, testified.

But these foreign interests are very much being scrutinized. And within that plea memorandum that was released, it details a number of Hunter Biden’s financial transactions. He was in the throes of addiction. He wasn’t able to pay his taxes at the time, but he also had income from a Chinese business conglomerate, an infrastructure investment company, a Ukrainian energy company, a Romanian business.

Is there any chance that any of this crossed a line?

ABBE LOWELL: If you say crossed a line, here’s, again, what we know. Five years, thorough investigation looking at the Chinese, the energy company, the other foreign businesses he did. That was not something that wasn’t looked at.

Think of it this way, what did this group of prosecutors, who are Republicans appointed by Donald Trump, what did they have as a motive to turn the other way to anything that they found that would have indicated wrongdoing against Hunter Biden? There was none. And that’s what is missing in the equation. Everybody keeps yelling that this was some sort of deal that was too good. What’s not too good, what it’s about, it is that it reflects the five-year investigation. And no one has come up with a reason why anybody who was on the prosecution team would have gone easy on Hunter Biden if any of that, that you just set out, had ever been the case. So, the answer is, confident that after five years nothing should change other than the fact that Mr. Weiss now has a new title.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be tracking what happens next, Abbe, with your work and Hunter Biden.

We’ll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re joined now by the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Ohio Congressman Mike Turner.

It’s good to have you back in studio.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I want to get to you on a number of national security fronts, but you also sit on House Oversight –

MIKE TURNER: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is investigating the president’s son Hunter, and has called for U.S. Attorney David Weiss, now Special Counsel Weiss, to come and testify.

Do you have confidence in him and his ability to conclude this in a fair way?

MIKE TURNER: Well, obviously, there are concerns. You know, one, like Catherine Herridge (ph), I also looked at the appointment. And the appointment seems more narrow than what Bill Barr had given him. The — Attorney General Barr.

The — this says that it’s limited to the case that – that was brought before him initially. That that’s the scope, instead of all of the matters related to unpaid taxes.

The concern here, obviously, with – with Barr being special counsel — excuse me, Weiss being special counsel, is that he was the one that allowed the statute of limitations to expire on some very critical felony charges that could have been brought against Hunter Biden.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why would he have done that?

MIKE TURNER: The IRS whistleblower said that it was – that interference from the Department of Justice. There’s some question as to whether or not it’s prosecutorial misconduct. But it – it certainly could be, you know, prosecutorial malpractice.

In any event, when you – when you’ve been given the charge to handle claims of – of such explosive nature and allow the statute of limitations to expire, resulting in, you know, Hunter Biden has in his pocket $125,000 worth of taxes that were owed to the United States that, as a result of these being expired, remain in his pocket.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why would a U.S. attorney, appointed by President Trump, working under a Republican attorney general with career prosecutors, have that level of conspiracy?

MIKE TURNER: Well, I — it’s not conspiracy. That’s an actual – that actually occurred, that those —

MARGARET BRENNAN: To deliberately allow for the statute of limitations to pass?

MIKE TURNER: I think those are questions that he has to answer.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

MIKE TURNER: And why did this occur? The IRS whistleblowers said that it was interference from the Department of Justice that allowed them to expire. Now, the prosecutor, Weiss, had been working with Hunter Biden and his attorney and actually getting waivers from — for those statutes of limitations period, and he stopped getting the waivers. So, he certainly was knowledgeable, aware that it was going to be inspiring, and then something occurred where he allowed those to expire.

But, you know, also his appointment is coming right on the heels of James Comer’s release of bank records that indicate that we’re now up to $20 million worth of funds that came from foreign sources.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Allegations in this but (INAUDIBLE).

MIKE TURNER: But there are actual bank – they are actual bank records.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Evidence.

MIKE TURNER: These are not – no, the bank records are right up –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Of connection to Joe Biden.

MIKE TURNER: The – the bank records are right on the website of the House Oversight Committee, over $20 million released August 9th that went to Hunter Biden, his family, and business associates that come from China, Russia.

You know, as the chairman of the Armed –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

MIKE TURNER: As chairman of the Intelligence Committee, serving on the Armed Services Committee, this is a great concern because you have foreign individuals that are making payments to the son of the vice president, now son of the president –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

MIKE TURNER: And – and, obviously, they’re buying something.

MARGARET BRENNAN: (INAUDIBLE).

MIKE TURNER: They weren’t buying his business advice. They were buying influence.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we – we just heard from the attorney who had said, you know, no crime has been substantiated on that front. But I want to ask you while you’re hear —

MIKE TURNER: Well, he’s representing Hunter Biden because he’s in court for crimes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He is and he has a different standard than members of Congress because what you do is political and he has to meet a legal benchmark in court, as with those Justice Department prosecutors.

MIKE TURNER: Well, no, I think what he just did was actually very political. He’s not in court when he’s on your show.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Fair. Fair.

Can I please ask you about Iran, though –

MIKE TURNER: I would love you (ph) to ask about it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because I want to get to your other hat that you wear as chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Tensions very high. The U.S. has sent more Marines, more – more ships to the region. And the president has brokered this tentative agreement with Iran to bring home these five Americans.

You’ve been briefed. Are you comfortable with the terms?

MIKE TURNER: Well, we – we haven’t really been briefed. And that’s certainly the concern. The – what —

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congress was updated (INAUDIBLE).

MIKE TURNER: At this — at this point we have not received the – the – the terms of the deal or even what the – the proposed deal is. The administration has signaled that the release of these detainees is part of a broader negotiation with respect to reinstating some controls on the nuclear weapons and – and enrichment programs of Iran dating back to the JCPOA. And the concern is that — “New York Times” has reported is that the administration may be pursuing an informal deal as opposed to the formal deal that we had before that had congressional oversight.

And what we don’t want — obviously everybody wants the detainees to come home and – and hostages to come home. We want the administration to work diligently to bring American home – Americans home, whether they’re in Iran, or Russia, or elsewhere. And our hearts certainly go out for them.

But in this instance, the administration is signaling, if this is part of a broader deal concerning Iran’s enrichment program. And if that becomes a secret deal, then that’s obviously a great concern to – to Congress.

MARGARET BRENNAN: These are de-escalatory first steps. You would consider that a what? I mean do – do you –

MIKE TURNER: Well, I think –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you opposed to what the administration’s trying to do?

MIKE TURNER: No, what –

MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean there has been reporting –

MIKE TURNER: What we need –

MARGARET BRENNAN: And CBS has – has also confirmed that Iran has, you know, at least reduced some of its nuclear development.

MIKE TURNER: Well, actually, there’s — there’s no real reports of anything being reduced. They’re currently at 60 percent enrichment prior – prior —

MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m sure you read “The Wall Street Journal” report that had specifics on enriched uranium.

MIKE TURNER: They were at 3.5 – they were at 3.5 percent in the JCPOA.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

MIKE TURNER: They’re at 60 percent. They had one-year breakout with the — in getting to the enrichment level that could result in a weapon. They’re now weeks away.

Freezing them now, where before in the JCPOA agreement they actually surrendered some of the enrichment that they had had that was over the levels that were sought.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

MIKE TURNER: In this, if we just have a deal that freezes where Iran is, and really without the understanding of all aspects of their program because they had thrown out the U.N. inspectors from the IEA, they had removed the cameras from sites, we really don’t have the fidelity of understanding of where they are and what they’re doing at this point.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you would support a broader diplomatic deal and negotiations with Iran to achieve that?

MIKE TURNER: Absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

MIKE TURNER: And certainly in negotiations I think, as they’re going forward, are — are – are certainly critical. But the terms of the deal are absolutely important because, you know, last time we had an insufficient inspection regime. We had terms that were critical that expired. In this instance they appear to be careening toward a deal that would be informal, not subject to congressional oversight, because we wouldn’t know all the terms. You know, on the last deal that actually came before Congress for a vote, they had to disclose what the deals were.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I – I remember.

MIKE TURNER: Right. And at this point –

MARGARET BRENNAN: It wasn’t (INAUDIBLE).

MIKE TURNER: What we’re concerned about is, we don’t want a secret deal with Iran.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, should Congress ban travel to Iran?

MIKE TURNER: I think it’s – it’s some — it should be certainly considered. I think the – I know you’re going to have, coming up, one of the family members of one of the detainees. And – and I think her message is incredibly important. People should not be going to Iran.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, thank you very much for your time today.

MIKE TURNER: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re joined now by Neda Sharghi. She is the sister of Emad Sharghi, one of the four Americans who was recently transferred from Evin Prison to house arrest.

Neda, your brother’s a step closer to freedom. Have you spoken with him? How is he?

NEDA SHARGHI (Sister Of Emad Sharghi): Not only have I spoken to him, but I actually saw his face on a video call that he made. And I was able to look into his eyes. I’m happy to say that he’s — he survived, he’s alive, and we’re so hopeful that we can have him at home in our arms hopefully soon.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Was that the first time you’d seen his face in some time?

NEDA SHARGHI: In about a year, yes. And, you know, I – I looked into his face and I just realized that everything we’re doing is so worth it. You know, I looked into the eyes of an innocent American who has been through so much, as have the others. And so I’m just grateful for everything that’s going on to try and – and get them home finally.

And this week has been great, you know, but I have — there’s just been so much speculation about the – the deal and the terms of the deal and all of that. By looking at him, I just – I was reminded that we’re talking about people. We’re talking about innocent Americans. And let’s just get them home soon.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The White House said there is still negotiating to do, and not everyone is safe yet, but September could be when the prisoners return home. Do you have any idea when that might be or what happens next?

NEDA SHARGHI: You know, my family and I are, um, just on pins, like pins and needles. We’re – we’re – we’re incredibly nervous about what happens next. And we don’t know the details. I know there’s lots of people out there who are speculating. I know for a fact that there’s someone out there speculating who actually doesn’t know anything about what comes next. So, we just have to continue being optimistic, realize that we’re dealing with innocent Americans, and do everything we can to get them home quickly and, you know, have an American story of celebration when they come home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It is so hard when it comes to hostage issues, particularly with Iran, because it’s such a complex challenge for policymakers. But, as you just said, you’re talking about human beings and families at the other end of it. So, when you hear the criticism of releasing billions of dollars to a regime who did this to your brother and who has done this to others, how do you respond when people say you’re rewarding bad behavior and they’re going to do it again if you release billions of dollars to Iran?

NEDA SHARGHI: You know, I’ve been advocating for other hostages and wrongful detainees in my role on the Bring Our Families Home campaign. I have seen families struggle and suffer. I – I know the – the devastation that families go to – go through as they’re trying to bring their loved ones home. I’m in that position myself right now. We can have issues – we can have discussions about how to prevent this from happening in the future, but we don’t do that on the backs of innocent Americans. We need to bring them home, and then we can have discussions about how we can prevent this in the future.

And you even heard Chairman Turner say he’s not against bringing home Americans, innocent Americans. They should come home. We should do whatever we can to bring my brother home to his parents, to his wife, to his lovely two daughters, who you have met. And then let’s sit and have the discussions that we need about how we can prevent this from happening again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your family has been on this program begging for an audience with President Biden, begging for more attention. What do you think about what the administration has done?

NEDA SHARGHI: I wish they had done it sooner, but they’re doing it now. I want them to finish this and bring my brother home, let my aging parents see him before it’s too late. And I want them to work on bringing other Americans home. We – we need their help. (INAUDIBLE) them. They need to do it (INAUDIBLE), work on bringing others home too.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should there be a ban on travel for Americans to Iran?

NEDA SHARGHI: I think that –

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s hard when you have family.

NEDA SHARGHI: It’s hard. Look, my brother went to Iran after his two daughters graduated high school, and he was an empty nester. And like thousands of other Americans with Iranian heritage, went back as a tourist. You know, I don’t want to prevent people from doing that. But the reality is, we need to sit down together, both sides of the aisle, and come up with ways that we can prevent this from happening again.

But, again, I say this, Margaret, we – we do that, but we don’t do that on the backs of innocent Americans who are currently held hostage abroad. Every single one of these hostages, my brother included, has a family waiting for him, for them. And they need to be brought home. And those discussions about prevention and deterrence can and should happen after they’re home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we will continue following that, as well as your brother, and we wish you well, Neda.

NEDA SHARGHI: Thank you so much.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for sharing your story at this sensitive time.

NEDA SHARGHI: Thank you very much.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Security has been stepped up in downtown Atlanta ahead of possible charges that could be handed down against former President Trump this week. There is new research that support for political violence is on the rise following Trump’s numerous indictments to date.

Robert Pape, a professor at the University of Chicago, joins us now with details. It’s good to have you back.

ROBERT PAPE (University of Chicago Professor of Political Science): Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I know you’ve been tracking this really troubling trend in American politics for a while here. And the survey you did in June on the second federal indictment of former President Trump, after that point, what impact did you see? Is it feeding more anger, or is it just sort of baked in?

ROBERT PAPE: What we’re seeing is the country as a whole, on the edges, but now moving into the mainstream, is becoming much more angry, much more radicalized. And this is particularly happening just in the last three months.

What is occurring — I study this not from the perspective of a political pollster who’s ahead in a political horse race, but from 30 years of experience in studying political violence. And the biggest picture to take away from the survey of our dangers to democracy tracker is that political support for — support for political violence is now reaching into the mainstream. That’s different. It’s not just about Oath Keepers, Proud Boys. It is now breaching into the mainstream. And we are seeing the consequences of that in many ways in our society.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In looking at some of the research you shared with us, one of the things that stood out, you are seeing this radicalization on both sides of the political spectrum. Thirty million people, according to your numbers, think the use of force is justified to prevent Donald Trump from being president, 18 million think it’s justified to restore Trump to the presidency.

ROBERT PAPE: Exactly. What we’re seeing is not simply a manifestation on the right. That is absolutely important. And there’s no doubt that January 6th, the crowd that sieged the Capitol is something that has not happened on the left, so I’m not trying to draw that equivalence. But, nonetheless, what we need to look at are the sentiments on both the right and the left that are being radicalized to millions and millions of Americans.

And this is important because political — these sentiments are a bit like understanding wildfires, the first part of your show. It’s the dry kindling that is so important that we can measure in advance. We can’t measure political – political scientists like myself or meteorologist a campfire that could set off that kindling or powerlines that could set off that kindling.

What we can actually measure and see whether it’s growing, shrinking, are the sentiments for political violence in the country. And those are growing. And it’s important, not because every one of those people is going to commit political violence, but because it helps to legitimate political violence, and it is the pool of people that ultimately do commit acts of political violence.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is your response to those who say, well, that’s a small percentage. You’re saying that could have huge ramifications.

ROBERT PAPE: And we’re seeing those ramifications in Utah. But Utah’s not an exception to this or in –

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re talking about the – the 74-year-old man who was shot by the FBI when they were trying to serve a warrant to his home, because he had been making threats online about President Biden.

ROBERT PAPE: And what’s important is not that we’re just seeing the rise of online chatter in the last few years. Remember, we studied that with ISIS as well. What we’re seeing now is the rise of determined threats by individuals. The man in Utah made threats online in March, was visited by law enforcement, and then did it again, this time brandished a gun.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

ROBERT PAPE: Now, that’s a determined threat.

If we look at the man who was arrested in front of Obama’s home just the month before that, he was at January 6th breaking into the Capitol.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

ROBERT PAPE: Then he surveilled the area the day before in a 17-minute video. Then he comes back with guns and bombs.

Brett Kavanaugh attacker before that. The Pelosi attacker before that. These are determined — what we’re seeing is determined individuals, not simply online chatter. And our surveys, this tracker of dangers to democracy, helped to give and inform the situational awareness and how it’s changing in our country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: With the – the – the older man in Utah, this was online threat posting. But there are individuals around him who have said he wasn’t necessarily a threat. So, there’s some probing of whether the – the political rhetoric matches actual intent.

ROBERT PAPE: And that will be the –

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you measure that?

ROBERT PAPE: That will be the case in every single instance of a specific individual. There is always psycho social circumstances. There’s always biographical constraints of being able to execute violence itself. Those will be often very and become unique to every single individual. It’s not the one individual case, Margaret, it’s this pattern that we’re seeing now going back now years of determined — normally the FBI comes — law enforcement knocks on your door and says, hey, we don’t like this threat to the president, maybe you should knock that off. That often just goes away. That’s not what happened in this case. What happened in this case is they ramped up. They got more aggressive as President Biden was about to come to Utah. So,, Biden is coming closer to him.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

ROBERT PAPE: It is not at all weird that then — I mean, just think of what had happened if – if something had gone wrong –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

ROBERT PAPE: And the law enforcement had not gone and knocked on this man’s door. We don’t want to wait until we actually have to react after an event. And, so — but this isn’t a lone wolf.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

ROBERT PAPE: This is not a (INAUDIBLE) case. What we’re seeing is, case after case after case of this. And we should go back to January 6th –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

ROBERT PAPE: Where the crowd is chanting, “hang Mike Pence.”

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

ROBERT PAPE: Building a gallows.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know.

ROBERT PAPE: And not just sort of dismiss that as, well, is that just chatter.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Were not. And that’s why we’re going to continue following that. Thank you.

ROBERT PAPE: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s it for this week. I’m Margaret Brennan.