The following is a transcript of an interview with Reps. Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado, and Tony Gonzales, Republican of Texas, that aired on Nov. 5, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’re back with the co-chairs of the For Country caucus in Congress. It’s a group of veterans who are working across the aisle. Its leaders are Colorado Democrat Jason Crow, and Texas Republican Tony Gonzales. It’s good to be here in person with two people working across the aisle, this kind of conversation rarely happens these days. And one reason we wanted to have it is because when we spoke to the former Defense Secretary Bob Gates months ago, he said in a very dark outlook, one of the few things that gives him hope is this caucus and these kinds of efforts. How do you restore civility to politics in an environment like this, Jason?
REPRESENTATIVE JASON CROW: Well, good to be back with you, Margaret. Listen, Tony and I are friends. We’re buddies. Despite the fact that he’s Navy and I’m Army, we’ve been able to get over that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It was deeper than the political divide.
REP. JASON CROW: Which is deeper than the political divide sometimes. But, you know, we-we have debates all the time, pretty-pretty fierce debates. But what’s missing in this country, and what this caucus is all about is respecting each other and being able to have those debates where we can agree on some basic facts. We don’t call each other evil, we don’t call each other names. We’re not maligning each other personally, we’re actually having policy debates and figuring out how we move our country forward. That is what this caucus is about. And as fellow veterans, we’ve been able to find common cause in that,
MARGARET BRENNAN: Why do you think, Congressman Gonzales, that being veterans somehow changes the the way you’re able to speak to each other about these things?
REPRESENTATIVE ANTHONY GONZALES: I mean, it’s as simple as service and folks that have worn the cloth, and regardless of service, they love this country, and we work together to solve real problems. That’s what I appreciate the most about For Country Caucus, I’m talking real serious issues. One of them is the Global War on Terrorism Memorial that is going to be built right next to the Lincoln Memorial. This is something that’s going to be for our generation of war fighters, that is going to be there for them to-to cherish. Also the Afghan special interest Visas. I mean, these are very important issues. A lot of us spend a lot of time, I spent five years in Afghanistan, we don’t want to lose sight of our allies, and we don’t want to leave those people behind. And then the last piece is what-what’s happening in Ukraine and supporting our allies. We’ve pushed hard with this caucus to give Ukraine everything they need to win this war, to include F-16s. We were very early, we were the first bipartisan caucus to push the administration for F-16. And now you’re seeing them start to come around.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it actually sometimes easier for you to talk to Democrats about Ukraine than it is some of your fellow Republicans?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: You know, it’s a tough time in Washington period to have a serious conversation. But that’s what I think you see in this- in this caucus, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, we are serious legislators. We’re very different, you know, 435 members coming from different districts and having different priorities. But we are serious in our discussions. We’re also deliberate in delivering. I think that’s the other piece of it, too. It’s not just rhetoric, we don’t just talk about it, we figure out ways how we get it signed into law, how we get it in the National Defense Authorization Act. I sit on the Appropriations Committee, how do you put money behind these different things? So it’s, that’s what I appreciate it, whether Republican or Democrat, it’s serious conversations.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So to that point, we’re also facing some serious deadlines and decisions that need to be made ahead of November 17th, when government funding is set to run out. The new Speaker is in place, he’s indicating more short term funding bills, do you both think we can avoid a government shutdown? And do you have to work across the aisle to do that?
REP. JASON CROW: I do think it’s possible. And we’re going to have to work across the aisle, I think. I mean, to get out of this-this mess that the Congress is in and the House of Representatives is in, necessarily, we’re going to have to try to carve out some bipartisanship. You know, last congress that’s how most of the big things that we got done, got done on a bipartisan basis–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But there is a political consequence for that.
REP. JASON CROW: There is a political consequence. But you know, listen, we’re not asking people to storm the beaches of Normandy, we’re not asking people to, you know, deploy and, and, you know, members of Congress to deploy and give their lives like we often time ask our servicemen and women. We’re asking people to show some courage to lean out there and maybe take some tough votes. And yeah, there will be consequences to it. But that’s what service is about. I’ve done that. As a Democrat, I’ve parted from my party and the administration at times. And he’s done that as a Republican because we are about a service to the country first.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think we can avoid a shutdown?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: I do. But I don’t think I don’t think the partisanship in this town is going to end all of a sudden, because we have a new Speaker, I think you’re gonna see this continuing partisanship happen. I was-I was–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Why?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: Why? Just the division in the country in general, it’s so much easier to blame the other side for everything that’s wrong instead of coming together and finding a solution and taking ownership for the problem. It’s easier to just blame the administration or blame the House Republicans and round and round we go, but I do think it was positive to see us pass in the House a couple of appropriations bills this week. And I’d like to see more of that, you know, the House continued to get its work done and then ultimately get the Senate to pass their appropriations bills. These are all positive things. I’d also say to the folks that were kind of against Kevin McCarthy and against continuing resolutions, all of a sudden, you know, it’s-it’s a different person, since it’s Mike Johnson, maybe CRs aren’t that bad after all.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I was just, you know, we’re talking about restoring civility. And yet, it’s just within the past few weeks that we have seen credible death threats. We’re not just talking about calling names. We’re talking about credible death threats against members of Congress within both of your parties, but within yours just for votes placed as to who should be that next speaker and members of this caucus. Mariannette Miller Meeks, Steve Womack, Don Bacon, Nick LaLota, they all face death threats for votes they took. How do you get past that kind of fear that that must put in the hearts of some of the lawmakers?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: You know, sadly, in today’s environment, it- for many of us, this is service, we’re coming up here and we’re voting our conscience. We’re voting our district, and we’re taking incoming, you know, thinking back to our time in the military, it’s no different. After Uvalde, after Uvalde happened in my district, I was getting death threats. I mean, since then, it’s just seems-
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you were pushing for legislation that would restrict or have more…?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: The interesting thing is I was getting death threats from the left, I was getting death threats from people that wanted to ban certain things, and they were blaming me for what was occurring. So it’s just, the whole world is turned upside down. I think we get back to civility by having conversations, we disagree, or we agree on certain things. But we do it in a manner that’s productive, and ultimately delivering for the American people. It can’t just be rhetoric, people want solutions, whether it’s the economy, whether it’s the border, whether it’s national security, all of this, the Americans demand solutions. So I think there’s an opportunity in all this chaos in all this division, I think there’s an opportunity for lawmakers to stand firm and who they are, and come together.
REP. JASON CROW: And Margaret is not just an opportunity, but I think we believe it’s our obligation.
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: That’s right.
REP. JASON CROW: We are in a time of high partisanship, vitriol, families are divided. Communities are divided, neighbors aren’t speaking to each other anymore. I mean, the people watching the show understand this. When you’re a leader, you don’t get to choose the moment in which you lead, your-the question only is whether or not you’re going to rise to that occasion and answer the call. We have answered the call before. That is what our caucus has done. We have a demonstrated track record of it. And we are ready to lead again. And it will be hard. It’s gonna be very, very hard. And it’s not without sacrifice. But we’re ready to do it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Let me ask you about something where you have been outspoken recently. You have both, I should say at the get go, have been outspoken in your belief that Israel has a right to defend itself in the wake of those horrific terror attacks that were carried out October 7th. You Congressman Crow have said just this week, Israel’s military confirmed it was an Israeli attack that bombed that Palestinian refugee camp and Gaza, you said, “This should not have happened. I fought wars in crowded cities, when civilians were present, it changed our plans.” Arguably, this is potentially a war crime. Why did you think it was important for you to say this?
REP. JASON CROW: Because I stand with Israel and its right to defend itself. And I believe very firmly that Hamas must be destroyed, cannot be allowed to exist as a terrorist organization and pose threats to the Palestinians and to the Israelis. I fought three times in Iraq and Afghanistan, this- this nation spent 20 years at war, spent over $3 trillion to destroy al Qaeda- to destroy ISIS. And yet those organizations still exist. So the lesson drawn from that is that you cannot destroy a terrorist ideology with military means alone. You have to have politics, you have to have diplomacy, you have to have humanitarian aid because you can kill a terrorist, but if you destroy or kill innocent civilians, you create more terrorists in the process. So, that is why I am adamant that to support Israel to do this the right way, we have to put front and center the protection of civilians. And I have done that, with regard to the United States. I’m the founding member of the Protection of Civilians and Conflict Caucus. And every time the United States makes a mistake, or strays from our path, I call it out. Because the path to getting better and improving is being honest.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But with this particular conflict, some of the things that you just said, will bring some sharp criticism to you.
REP. JASON CROW: Absolutely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What happened after you said this?
REP. JASON CROW: Well, we’re in an era where a lot of times you don’t make anybody happy. Right? I put that–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But this is often framed as either for or against terrorists. You’re saying no, you can prosecute a war on terrorism without causing mass civilian casualties.
REP. JASON CROW: I spent years in my earlier career fighting terrorists, literally fighting terrorists, and seeing some of my friends give everything during that process. I am a very ardent national security Democrat, I lead on national security issues and pushing for a strong national defense also for our partners and allies. But I know that there is no military solution to these issues alone. And because I want success, because I want us to do better and to learn from our mistakes, we have to be honest when we do make those mistakes, and when our partners make those mistakes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you agree with that, Congressman Gonzales?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: I think war is ugly. And I think in war, there’s a lot of nasty things that happen. I think it’s important- what you saw this week in the House is the House passed aid to Israel in a bipartisan manner. And many- many people on the other side of the aisle didn’t agree with the structure of it. But you saw a dozen Democrats unconditionally support Israel. I unconditionally support Israel. Whatever comes over our way, I think we have to unconditionally stand with our allies.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But unconditionally is different from what Congressman Crow was saying, which was you can prosecute a war on terrorism without causing mass civilian casualties. Do you agree with that?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: I would- I would argue that Israel is not trying to cause civilian casualties. They–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But they have…. the fact of that bombing…
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: In every war- in every war, there’s casualties.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You think it’s unavoidable?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: I think it’s unavoidable with what is happening. But I also believe Israel is doing everything it can to make this military targets and not punish a population. But how do you eradicate a terrorist organization that is embedded in every aspect of- of a civilization? It’s a very difficult problem set to have. But think back to the 1,400 Israelis that were slaughtered? I mean, Israel didn’t start this war. I’m of the mindset, you know, ceasefire needs to occur when Hamas is eliminated.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. But you were drawing a distinction between Hamas and thousands of civilians. And that’s the pushback on your argument- is that there needs to be a brighter line.
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: There does- there- there needs to be a distinct when does this war end? How does this conflict end? In my eyes, the conflict ends when Hamas is- is eliminated. And also, I think back to these threats are not just abroad, they’re here in the United States. You know, myself and Marco Rubio, we introduced a resolution that deports anybody on a visa that is supporting a terrorist organization. This is already law, this is already law, but the administration isn’t abiding by that law.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But what do you mean by that? I saw that and I was honestly kind of confused, because terrorists aren’t welcomed into the United States. How do you define support? What do you mean by that? Who is it that you want to deport?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: I’m seeing a rise- I think Americans are seeing a rise in anti semitism in this support- this open support for active terrorist organizations, if that occurs, especially you’re seeing it throughout the these different protests. And there’s a difference between first amendment, you know, kind of speaking out in a peaceful manner, and those that are kind of enticing terrorism. And so if you’re on a- if you’re here on a visa, let’s say you’re visiting our schools, and all of a sudden you’re over here promoting Hamas-
MARGARET BRENNAN: You mean fundraising for a terror group, things that are already illegal?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: I mean- I mean, exactly- I mean, actively supporting- supporting Hamas, and you’re- you’re on a visa, it’s a no brainer that you should be deported. But the administration isn’t doing that. That’s why this- I think this resolution is important, to hold the administration accountable. You can’t just say–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have evidence that they’re not deporting fundraisers for Hamas?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: They haven’t deported anyone. Just look at the- how many- how many people have they deported on visas- on visas that openly are supporting some of these terrorist organizations? The answer is zero. They’re not- they’re not even looking at it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you know how many cases there are of what you’re talking about?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: They’re not even looking at it. They’re- the administration–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But how do you know that then?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: Because the administration is not even- considers that a problem. It is a problem. It is a growing problem of antisemitism and- and this- this belief in terrorism is okay. And it needs to- needs to end. And- and part of that is holding the administration accountable and to just do the law- do what is already on the books.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There has been a rise in antisemitism the administration has talked about, we’ve talked about, the FBI has talked about in fact, the FBI director said, Jews make up 2.4% of the public but account for 60% of the religious based hate crimes. That was before October 7. this has been a problem in the United States of America. Let me ask you about rhetoric, though. Do you oppose Donald Trump’s repeated calls for a ban on Muslims? He just recently brought that up again.
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: I- I don’t pay attention to what the previous president is kind of–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –You endorsed him.
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: But I don’t pay attention. I mean, okay, I mean, ban on Muslims, folks coming over here from these different countries. I’m of the mindset of this–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –Because it would contradict what you were talking about with the Afghan Adjustment Act.
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: Well, I’m of the mindset of this- I’m of the mindset of this. People that can come over here legally, people that are coming over here to do, you know, to visit our schools and do these different things, perfectly fine. I don’t care where you come from, what religion you are, but if you are actively going against the United States, if you’re actively encouraging, inciting a riot and terrorism, your visa should be immediately revoked and you should be deported. You can do both. It doesn’t have to be a universal ban on everyone. It also shouldn’t be a no laws are enforced. This is where the administration is getting it wrong. They’re not enforcing anything.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure. Just on the theme of civility, I think preciseness in language and not using ethnic groups or religious groups, ….would you advise that, that anyone in office not call for bans of religious groups or ethnic groups, or deportations? I know you pay a lot of attention to immigration issues.
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: Sure. I don’t look at the- I don’t look at the race, religion, creed, I look at the action. And I think if we focus on the action, the action in which these individuals are doing, and we focus on that, and then we hold them accountable. Once again, the administration is not deporting anyone that is actively opening- that is actively inciting this terrorism. This is where the words, when you when the President gets up there and says, I stand with Israel, your words have to equal your actions.
REP. JASON CROW: I’ll just say providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization is against the law. There are numerous investigations along those lines, there have been numerous prosecutions, and I have no reason to believe this administration does not enforce those laws and to take that very seriously. They do. I know they do. And they should continue to. I’m extremely concerned about the surge of antisemitism, it is unacceptable. I condemn Hamas and I condemn those who support or provide a permission structure for Hamas. And I’m very disturbed about incidents on campuses and incidents around the country where we see young people doing that. Obviously, there’s freedom of speech. But there’s a point at which freedom of speech becomes a violation of law, if you are providing material support. If those instances do happen, there are laws on the books to address it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Let’s talk about something that is also being considered or the White House hopes is going to be considered. And that is something to do with border security and immigration as part of a broader national security package. This is an area I know you both feel strongly about. Congressman, outside of Denver, there’s been a record number of border crossings and influx to your area in Colorado, how much of that fault lies with members of Congress? And how much of it lies with the administration?
REP. JASON CROW: Well, it predominantly is an issue of Congress, right? The United States Congress determines our immigration laws, our immigration laws are broken, they’ve been broken for a very, very long time. And Congress needs to legislate to fix this issue. There, of course, is enforcement. And I’ve been talking to the administration about how we can do better at the border, the current border situation is not sustainable. It has to be addressed. And we need a secure border. There’s no doubt about that. We have firm agreement on that issue. And you know, Tony knows it well as he has the largest stretch of border of any member of Congress, I believe. So we have to address that issue. I believe it should be done in a humane way in a way that centers human dignity as well as is a good- makes us good stewards of the taxpayer dollar. That’s why I did not support a wall because I thought it was a waste of money. But I do support efforts of increased enforcement, surveillance technology, other things that I know well, from my time in Afghanistan, that do work and work in a more humane way.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So what needs to be in this $14 billion request to Congress to help with border security that the White House has made as part of this broader package? How do you get that through and get Republican support in the House?
REP. JASON CROW: One thing that I want to add here is the issue of supporting our USCIS. So the backlog in our immigration court system is enormous, right, the pathway towards processing asylum and refugee cases right now is extremely backed up. We don’t have enough judges, we don’t have enough folks in that system. So we can relieve substantial pressure to, to help that system and get some of the folks who are sitting in detention centers, sitting on the border, get them processed through the system in a way that’s compliant with our laws. And then the next piece is I have an immigration detention system- center in my district. It is a privately run immigration detention system or center. And I’ve been pushing very hard to end private for profit immigration detention centers. I think that it creates perverse incentives, that profit motivation ahead of human dignity. This is a government function and should be done by the government, not by companies.
MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you get, I know you just supported the standalone Israel bill. But the Senate and the White House are saying everything’s going to be bundled together with the border in it. How do you get Republicans on board?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: I think you’re-you’re going to have Republicans like myself that stand with Israel unconditionally, no matter what comes over, we’re not going to shy away from supporting Israel, especially in the middle of this conflict. When you talk about the border. It can’t just be throwing money at a problem and expecting it to be solved. There has to be policy changes, and it’s why I’ve been speaking with the administration. It’s why I’ve been speaking with Senators on both sides of the aisle and talking about sensible solutions. A couple of sensible solutions, we introduce a piece of legislation. It’s called the SAFER Act. And what it does is when-when somebody comes over, they get their case heard in days, not years. And if they do not qualify for asylum, they get sent back to their country of origin. This includes the State Department being involved in this. These are some things that can happen today. They’ve already started to do some of that, you saw some deportation flights to Venezuela, but you’re talking hundreds where it should be thousands.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Has the new speaker promised you that some of your proposals will be part of the border package?
REP. ANTHONY GONZALES: There is no doubt that I have been very vocal in Congress, and I remind my colleagues that no one will ever out-border me whether they want to or not, I have the longest stretch of border. I’m talking about the border every single day. And I will always have a seat at the table in the conversation. I’m looking for meaningful, sensible solutions that can ultimately protect our country from these terrorist threats that we have, and also have a lien for those that want to come over legally through the legal route.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, gentlemen, thank you very much. Tall order to do list. We’ll be right back.