Transcript: Rep. Ro Khanna on “Face the Nation,” May 5, 2024

The following is a transcript of an interview with Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, which aired on May 5, 2024.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're joined now by California Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, good to have you here. And I know, you've visited college campuses across the country, in Michigan and Nevada, and the Biden campaign recently sent you to Wisconsin. Have we reached the point where the protesters are becoming a story in themselves and a distraction from the issues they are protesting?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): No, I don't think so. I mean, in Wisconsin, the issues that came up first were abortion rights. Second, the cost of living and what the president would do in terms of student loans, housing and rent. Gaza rose. But you know, one of the conversations in Madison with Jewish Americans and Arab Americans was extremely polite, thoughtful and constructive. So I think on many campuses, there are 4,000 in the United States, there is actually constructive dialogue happening.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the president doesn't like these kinds of listening sessions. Why?

REP. KHANNA: I think the president should and will enter the campuses. I- I think–

MARGARET BRENNAN: — He's called “Genocide Joe” when he goes to events.

REP. KHANNA: And look, that's part of protest. I condemn all protests that incite violence or are anti-Semitic. As someone whose grandfather spent four years in prison with Gandhi. I mean, the whole point of satyagraha was nonviolent protest. We must understand that this is a defining moment for this generation, comparable to protests against Vietnam, protests against apartheid and protests against the war in Iraq. And they tell us that over 30,000 people have died. It's time for this war to end. It is time to release the hostages that Hamas has, and they want to see leadership in America and around the world. This is not the world they want.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the president has said, however, that the protests won't force him to change his policies. He is unequivocally pro-Israel. It was a month ago that he said something had to change or American policy would change. Do you expect any change in US policy as a result?

REP. KHANNA: I do too. And I somewhat disagree. I think the protests and the larger movement have changed the president. I mean, you're looking at the president now talking about some of the consequences that could have for Netanyahu, the Erez Canal – the Erez Canal is open, the United States has not vetoed the resolution on the ceasefire in the United Nations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And then said it was non-binding.

REP. KHANNA: And said, not binding, but at least – look, everyone from the president on down is aware that young people are angry about what's happening in the Middle East. And I think there has been an awakening in Washington, that this war has to end, that too many people are dying. And if you look at the president's language, that has certainly changed in the last six months. Some of us want there to be consequences.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And this week we know that the administration is due to submit a report by May 8 on whether Israel and other recipients of US military aid are using these weapons in accordance with the law and whether or not they are blocking humanitarian aid. Will this be a fair accounting?

REP. KHANNA: I hope so. There is also an independent task force that released the report. And all–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –They're trying to predict…

REP. KHANNA: –Foreword–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –What the government can put out, because they're pretty clear in that nongovernmental report that they think there are violations.

REP. KHANNA: Yeah, so let's be nuanced about what the report says, because it's actually very thoughtful. They say: look, Hamas's attacks on October 7 were brutal and unjustified. Then they say that there are underground tunnels in Gaza, but they say that you cannot destroy residential buildings just because there is a tunnel, because under international law you cannot cause disproportionate damage to the civilian population. And they describe cases where that happens. They describe cases where residential buildings were destroyed without any military targets. So my expectation is that the State Department report should contain that kind of nuance and detail, and if it doesn't, people in Congress will wonder why.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So while you were talking about very specific policy changes for very specific allegations, you're also seeing some of these protests have things mixed in there, either outside agitators or extreme rhetoric. Your Democratic colleague, Elissa Slotkin, just tweeted about this protest at GW University. She said there were people shouting guillotine-guillotine and conducting a mock trial of school administrators. According to her, this creates a climate of fear for Jewish students. What is being lost in the conversation here?

REP. KHANNA: Well, she's right. I mean, you can't shout “guillotine, guillotine.” You cannot shout 'globalize the Intifada' or 'Zionists don't deserve to live'. What is lost is that the few protesters who incite violence or engage in that kind of anti-Semitism diminish the number of thousands of young people who simply want the war to end. And I guess I'd say look at John Lewis or Dr. King. In their protests they were above all criticism. When someone engages in bigotry, they call it out first and loudly. So I am proud of many young people who want to end the war, but they have to show the discipline that some universities have. Look at Cornell, look at the University of Minnesota, look at what's happening at Northwestern. There have been attempts to defund the police, to have a dialogue with the student protesters, to achieve much more peace and tranquility, and there are models for what can work in this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, it's always interesting to hear from you.

REP. KHANNA: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thanks for telling us what you're seeing on college campuses. We will be right back.

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