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State of the Union

World Ignoring Uyghurs?; Interview With U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield; Interview With Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV); Interview With Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired February 06, 2022 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Bipartisan appearance. As both parties split even further apart in Congress...

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The issue for us is unity. How do we unite us again?

TAPPER: ... I will speak to two people known for their independent streaks and for reaching across the aisle. What's broken, and can it be fixed? A rare joint interview with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski next.

And: not a game. As the world braces for potential war on Russia's border, the Winter Olympics kick off in China with a controversial start. But as the world grapples with Beijing's human rights atrocities, are athletes safe to speak out?

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield joins me ahead.

Plus: legitimate political discourse. The Republican Party officially embraces the January 6 insurrection and censures two of its own for telling the truth. Does truth-telling...


TAPPER: ... mean political compile from today's GOP?


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is wondering if we're about to emerge from a rough couple years.

President Biden is enjoying a week of positive headlines for the first time in quite some time, a January jobs report that far surpassed expectations, good news in the pandemic, as COVID cases and hospitalizations plummet.

But the president's agenda is still mired in Washington, D.C., dysfunction. The president has had trouble getting all 50 Democrats in the Senate to support his plans, and support from Republicans has been rare, as the GOP remains completely cowed, in many instances, by the shadow of former President Trump.

On Friday, the Republican National Committee declared the events on January 6, 2021 -- quote -- "legitimate political discourse" and censured the only two House Republicans on the committee investigating the attack, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, making the notion of compromise seem almost quaint.

But just a day before, President Biden returned to one of the major themes of his campaign and his career, bringing Americans together at the National Prayer Breakfast, calling Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell a friend and calling for Americans to put aside their differences.


BIDEN: How do we unite us again? Unity is elusive. But it's really actually necessary. Unity doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. But unity is where enough of us, enough of us believe in a core of basic things.

There's so much at stake. The division has become so palpable.


TAPPER: Not everyone agrees it's possible or even desirable to try to heal those divisions.

And yet, in a 50/50 Senate and a bitterly divided country, bipartisanship is necessary for the nation to move forward. In the past several weeks, we have featured bipartisan conversations on the show.

And, this morning, we're going to take on the very idea of unity in a very special conversation, an exclusive interview with two of the most powerful senators in Washington, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who is here for her first Sunday show in more than five years, and has bucked the majority in her party on issues from health care to the Supreme Court, along with Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has been one of the deciding votes on much of the Biden agenda.

They're both here today for a substantive conversation on bipartisanship and whether that idea, which is both revered and reviled in politics, bipartisanship, is still possible in today's Washington. Senators Murkowski and Manchin, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Great being with you, Jake.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): Great to be back, apparently, five years.


TAPPER: Five years.

MURKOWSKI: I didn't realize. OK.

TAPPER: So, Senator Murkowski, we have a lot to talk about.

But let's start with the major bipartisan achievement perhaps of the last even decade, and that is the infrastructure bill, the infrastructure law.

How did that plan succeed where so many -- pardon me -- where so many other previous attempts at bipartisanship have failed? And how is that a blueprint possibly for moving forward?

MURKOWSKI: It really came about because you had a small group of people that said, we need to get something done, rather than just send a message from our respective parties.

We do that a lot around here, but a commitment to a solution, a commitment to getting to yes. And I think that's what -- that's what we had with that small working group. It was four and four, expanded a little bit. But there was a good-faith effort to work through the hard things.

And I think, sometimes, when the going gets tough, we just say, that's too hard, and we retreat to the party messages. But I think there was a recognition that the country needed something. The country needed a step towards healing.

As the president just said in that lead-in, how do we get to unity? Well, part of the problem that we have, we're not -- we're not going to agree on things. We're a big country, so there's plenty of room for disagreement.


But we have got to get to the place where we understand one another. And you can't get to understanding without listening. And I think what happened with that bipartisan group was, we were listening to one another.

You think about infrastructure needs for the country. I come from a state, we don't have mass transit. I looked at the proposals. Like, we don't need to spend that much money on mass transit. But then I had to explain to them why, instead of surface transportation, I needed -- I needed support in Alaska for things like a marine highway system, when you have 80 percent of your communities that aren't connected by road. And so I had to listen to people like Mark Warner, and Mark Warner had

to listen to people like me, explain what goes on in my part of the country. And we listened to one another, gained an understanding, and said, it's -- the country needs this. The country needs to know that we can get something done for the good of everybody, not for the good of our respective parties, but for the good of the country.

So, that's what we did.

TAPPER: And you're working right now, both of you, on election reform.


TAPPER: The previous efforts didn't get -- well, you didn't support changing the rules, the filibuster rules...


TAPPER: ... although you supported the two election reform bills.

And, right now, the Electoral Count Act of 1887, there's ambiguity in it. I mean, everybody -- there's consensus as to generally what it means, but it's written in such a way -- what sticking points are left? Where is that going?

MANCHIN: We're -- as Lisa had said, first of all, you have people that got together who understand each other, but know each other and like each other, Democrats and Republicans.

That's how we came together on the other one. And, if you recall, leadership broke down for five months, and we had unemployment was going to expire. We had businesses were still hurting. We weren't sure about the COVID vaccine. All that was still in doubt when we did the December bill, the bipartisan 908 bill.

We did that because we said, something has to be done. So, all we did was take the practical approach with friends who could talk to each other, and look exactly what the country needed, our states and our country, put the country first. And we did that and worked at it. And we broke down our groups, took our -- what we had interest in and what we had some expertise in, and brought it all together.

And then they took it from there, put it up, and we voted for it.

TAPPER: And...

MANCHIN: But, Jake, on what you're talking about right now...


MANCHIN: ... what really caused the insurrection?

They thought there was a kind of ambiguity -- ambiguity, if you will, and there was an avenue they could go through and maybe overturn the election, because there was. It was not clear. And when one congressman and one senator can bring a state's authentic

count to a halt, it's wrong, and basically not protecting the electors, and you can change electors before you send the here, after the election, all these things.

This is what we're going to fix. And we have a group right now that's continuing to grow.


MANCHIN: We're over probably 15 to 20 people that want to be part of it now.

TAPPER: So, do you think it's going to pass?

MANCHIN: Oh, I think absolutely it'll pass.

Now, there will be some people saying it's not enough. There will be other people saying that it's more than what we should do or we don't need it. And what we will do is try to bring them all together and say, listen, this is what we should do because this is what caused the problem. And it's what we can do. And let's do that.

TAPPER: And, Senator Murkowski...



MURKOWSKI: If I can just interject here, because, to Joe's point, some are going to criticize it for not being enough. Others will say too much.

So, I kind of have said, we're going to take the Goldilocks approach here.

TAPPER: What is just right.

MURKOWSKI: We're going to try to find what's just right.

MANCHIN: That's exactly right.

MURKOWSKI: And it's not going to be just right for everybody, but will it be -- will it be a step ahead? Will it be important for the country? Yes.

MANCHIN: It'll solve the problem that caused the problem.


TAPPER: So Vice President Pence, on Friday, former Vice President Pence addressed this, talking about how he didn't have the ability to change the election, despite some bad-faith reading of the Electoral Count Act.

Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election.

Frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.


TAPPER: So, I know you agree with that. And that's what you're looking to clear up and make sure there's no discrepancies.

Is there anything else that you're willing to do in terms of preserving the right to vote in this country, along with clearing up the Electoral Count Act?

MURKOWSKI: Well, and this is where this group, and, as Joe says, a growing group, is looking to explore.

I think we have identified clearly some things within the ECA, the Electoral Count Act, that need to be addressed, the ambiguities that need to be addressed, but is there more that we can do?

And I think this is where we're seeking to find that common ground? I know, for one, we want to make sure that if you are -- if you're going to be an election worker, if you're going to be there at the polling booth, that you don't feel intimidated or threatened or harassed, protections for that.


What are we doing to ensure that states have the ability to provide security for their elections? So, we're looking at application of the HAVA Act, which is the Help Americans Vote Act, which has been in place for a long while now, working with the Electoral Commission Act, to determine, all right, what more can we do in terms of safeguards, safeguards to voting, ensuring that there's an appropriate chain of custody once ballots are cast?

So, we are sitting down, I think, again, as members in good faith, to ensure that election integrity across all 50 states moves forward in a positive way.

MANCHIN: What we have seen, basically, the courts have overturned some of the redistricting.

And that means the Voters Rights Act of 1965, there's still parts that are still very protective and good. What we're looking at is now, how do we protect what happened in the insurrection, that will never happen again, such as that people think they can come here and overturn it, but, on the other hand, how do we protect voters -- I mean, election workers with the federal crimes if someone threatens them or intimidates them or interferes with the election?

TAPPER: What about attempts in some states to make it tougher to vote, which is clearly going on?

MANCHIN: Well, here's what I have tried to do. And we're trying to -- we want to keep this alive and talk, for every American has absolutely the right to vote, and it should be protected by law.

But it's not written. This is what we're looking at that, if we can do that without infringing, but, basically, that's pretty -- pretty common sense.

The thing that we have been talking about, and I came up with -- just I threw an idea out, and this is how we kind of discuss things. And I said, since we don't want anybody telling Alaska what your election law should be or anyone telling West Virginia, the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, states' rights -- these would not be federal elections.

But don't you think the last election we might have had that wasn't in conflict would be 2018? So, if we said, OK, that will be the baseline for every state? Whatever your elections laws were in 2018, that will be your base?

TAPPER: Is that something you could go along with?

MANCHIN: You can't regress.

MURKOWSKI: This is...


MURKOWSKI: This goes back to what I had said earlier. Let's listen to one another.



MURKOWSKI: Let's listen to one another.

I have shared some things about issues related to chain of custody when you're in a state like Alaska, where, again, how you move those ballots...

TAPPER: Right.

MURKOWSKI: ... from a tiny little village that may be shut down by whether, and the only way to move them is by small airplane, and there's no small airplanes that are coming in for four days. What do you do?

That's a different thing, where they can get the car in West Virginia.

MANCHIN: They don't realize that. Until she tells us that, we couldn't even figure -- I said, what she's talking about?


MURKOWSKI: And so let's listen to one another. Let's listen to what we might be able to come up with.

You might notice that Joe and I were two that were working on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act...


MURKOWSKI: ... to see if we couldn't get a bipartisan...

TAPPER: But you were the only Republican that was willing to listen to...

MURKOWSKI: And you know what? We have got to be able to count around here too.

We have got to be able to count to ensure that we can do more than just come together in good faith and goodwill and get some good ideas on paper and say, we like this.

But if we don't have the votes to make it happen...


MURKOWSKI: ... it doesn't happen.

TAPPER: You need to get to 60.

MURKOWSKI: And so how we're going to do that is work it...


MANCHIN: Jake, what happens, people are afraid to even discuss anymore.


MANCHIN: You know, you're guilt by association before. Now you're guilt by conversation.

We're not worried about that. We're still talking. We're still trying to throw ideas off of each other. We have a lot of Republicans that like some of the things we're talking about. They might have some concerns they bring up. We have to understand their concerns. They have to respond to their constituency.

But we respect each other. There's a difference. But you have to work at this. This is not easy, because, basically, everything's pulling you apart. We're fighting against everybody pulling us apart to bring us back together.

TAPPER: Before -- I do want to ask you one non-bipartisan-related question before we take a break...


TAPPER: ... which is Build Back Better, is it dead? Is there any opportunity for it to come back with your support? MANCHIN: Well, the Build Back Better as it has been presented over, what, the last seven, eight, nine months, that bill no longer will exist, OK?

Should there be parts of it? Do you want to talk about different things? I think the president said there might be certain parts and this and that.

My biggest concern and my biggest opposition, it did not go through the process. Whether Lisa votes for it or not, being a Republican, she should have at least the opportunity to have input. It should have gone through the committee.

These are major changes. It is going to change society as we know it.

TAPPER: Yes. Are you guys...

MANCHIN: And those changes, there should be a hearing. There should be a markup. And then you're going to have a better product, whether your friends on the other side vote for it or not.

But they have to have input.

TAPPER: Have you talked to President Biden about that?

MURKOWSKI: We could work on energy and climate if we went through the committee.


TAPPER: Right. You are on the committee together.


TAPPER: In fact, I want to talk about that in one second.

MANCHIN: Oh, we will.

TAPPER: Let me -- stick around.

We have much more to talk about, including Senator Murkowski running for reelection.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're back with two senators, Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who share an unpopular belief here in Washington that both parties can still work together.

And, in fact, Senator Manchin, you did something very unusual in 2020. You crossed party lines and endorsed Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine for reelection.

I can't help but notice that Senator Murkowski...

MANCHIN: I'm endorsing my dear friend Lisa Murkowski.

Alaska could only be so lucky to have her continue to serve them.

MURKOWSKI: Oh, thank you.

MANCHIN: She knows I feel that way, too, very strongly.

The only I have said, it's hypocritical to basically work with a person day in and day out, and then, when they're in cycle, you're supposed to be against them because they have an R or a D by their name.


If these are good people I have worked with, we have accomplished a lot, why in the world wouldn't I want to work with them and continue to work with them? It doesn't matter whether I'm a Democrat and they're Republican, or vice versa.

They have been my dear friends, and we get a lot accomplished. And we -- I think the country has fared better with us working together than not.

TAPPER: Senator Murkowski...

MURKOWSKI: There used to be a time when we did that.

MANCHIN: I know.

MURKOWSKI: Stevens and Inouye, legendary.

MANCHIN: I'm all for you.


MANCHIN: I'm all for you.

MURKOWSKI: They would go and campaign in one another's states.

TAPPER: Oh, Stevens from Alaska, Inouye from Hawaii...

MANCHIN: Oh, yes.


TAPPER: ... yes, would campaign pay for each other.


TAPPER: It's a weird time, though, for partisan politics, right? And I dare say it's a little weirder for Republicans right now. The RNC just on Friday censured Cheney and Kinzinger, two very conservative members of Congress, because they're participating in the investigation into January 6.

And, in fact, they called -- they accused Kinzinger and Cheney of participating in the -- quote -- "persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."

Now, you tweeted yesterday that description is just plain wrong. "We cannot allow a false narrative to be created."

It must be uncomfortable to be a non-rigidly partisan person during this period.

MURKOWSKI: During this part -- period, yes.

But it can be uncomfortable -- it can be uncomfortable when you say I'm not going to align myself neatly with what the party is saying just because the party is saying. You have got to be comfortable enough in who you are and who you represent and why you're here.

I mean, I'm not here to be the representative of the Republican Party. I'm here to be the representative for Alaskan people. And I take that charge very, very seriously. So, when there is a conflict, when the party is taking an approach or saying things that I think are just absolutely wrong, I think it's my responsibility, as an Alaskan senator speaking out for Alaskans, to just speak the truth.

And I think that that's hard, because we seek protection...


MURKOWSKI: ... in our lanes, over to the right and over to the left, and that gives you company.

But is that really why people sent you here? Is that really what they want? I don't think people in Alaska want that. I don't think people in West Virginia expect that.

MANCHIN: Not at all.

MURKOWSKI: And so, yes, it's harder. It is harder.

The easier thing to do is just go along to get along. But I don't...

TAPPER: Or just keep your mouth shut.

MANCHIN: Jake...

MURKOWSKI: Just keep your mouth shut.


MURKOWSKI: But you know what?

That's not why we're here. We're here to do some hard things. And, sometimes, the hard things are to say, I want to get something done, rather than just follow the messaging from our respective parties. Let's try to get something done.

MANCHIN: I don't think politics was designed to be comfortable. But it sure as heck wasn't designed to be miserable, OK?


MANCHIN: And it's almost turned into a miserable situation...


MANCHIN: ... because common sense and just civility, collegiate -- collegiality, all the things that you would think that should go with it and you have heard about in the way it used to work, we're working like the dickens.

We have to work harder now to be together, to work on things together, basically buck our leadership maybe at times. We have been very fortunate. Our leadership, Schumer, he understands what we're trying to do. He's been absolutely positive. He says, well, if you can get something done, do it.

I have gone over and talked to Mitch. Mitch has been supportive of things that we're doing now.

So, basically, they understand. And I think they all want us to work together. And, like you say, it should not be miserable. And I'm not going to be in a miserable situation when I have good friends I can work with.

TAPPER: Yes, but now you're under fire.

It's not the same thing, obviously, but it's -- you're under fire for not supporting changing the filibuster rules, so as to pass the election reform bills.

Bernie Sanders has said he supports a primary challenge to you and to Senator Sinema. Schumer has not said that he is endorsing you.

MANCHIN: We have talked about that and everything.

And I told -- Chuck and I were talking the other day, and I said, Chuck, basically the best thing to say that I would think in a situation like that -- but they're going to support.

I don't -- no way, shape or form will Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer not support their caucus.

TAPPER: Right.

MANCHIN: It just doesn't happen.

Now, with that being said, I just said, sometimes, you tell me, Chuck -- Jake, I want to be for you. I can be for you or against you. What helps you the most? TAPPER: Yes.


TAPPER: That's funny.

MANCHIN: And Chuck -- it might be, in Chuck's situation, he will say, Joe, I can be for you or against you. What would help the most?

With that, you put a little levity to that, but I don't put any stock in that.

I have had a primary. I have been running since 1982.


MANCHIN: I have never run unopposed.

MURKOWSKI: I will be there for you, Joe.

TAPPER: You're going to endorse him?

MANCHIN: You endorse me?

MURKOWSKI: If he's running, I'm endorsing him.

MANCHIN: See, there we go.

TAPPER: Is -- just a quick follow-up on something I asked in the previous segment.

Have you talked to President Biden about Build Back Better in any way forward, a smaller bill?

MANCHIN: We have had a conversation, but we really didn't get into that, because, right now, our main concern is to get a budget.

TAPPER: You want a budget bill first?

MANCHIN: We have to get a budget bill first.


The bottom line is, the budget bill -- we just talked to the military. We had a secure meeting, all of us there, and the geopolitical unrest that we have, especially with Ukraine and Russia and with all of Europe and all of our NATO allies. And the military was there.

And they were asked point blank, what challenges do you have if we stay with a C.R., continuing resolution?

We're working off of basically the last year of the Trump administration's budget.


One thing I want...

MANCHIN: And they need help. They want a budget.

TAPPER: The -- President Biden right now is trying to decide who he is going to nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And I'm wondering if -- how important it is, you think, for him to pick somebody that can definitely get bipartisan support? He doesn't necessarily need it, right? But there -- for instance, there's a candidate, a possible candidate from South Carolina, who Lindsey Graham has said very positive things about.

It's an opportunity, I would think you would think, for him to put his money where his mouth is in terms of bipartisanship and unity.

MURKOWSKI: Exactly so.

It goes back to his words at the Prayer Breakfast. How are we going to -- how are we going to unify? What is it that we need to do?

Well, one of the signals that he can send is putting forth a nominee for the Supreme Court that will, will gain a level of bipartisan support. And when I say a level, I think it has to be more than just one, because, as much as that is, it does not necessarily mean that you have that broader support.

TAPPER: Not just Susan Collins or you.

MURKOWSKI: Well, seriously...


MURKOWSKI: ... there are many, many exceptionally well-qualified African-American women who could -- who could move forward into this position.

So, Mr. President, I'm asking you to look through those critically, and not pick the one that would be to the furthest left, but to pick that one, that individual, who will enjoy some level of bipartisan support.

TAPPER: Do you have someone in mind?

MURKOWSKI: I think that that sends a signal to the public that maybe, maybe the courts are not as political as the legislative and the executive branch.

MANCHIN: You know, and it's...

MURKOWSKI: Because, right now, the country is starting to believe...

MANCHIN: Oh, yes.

MURKOWSKI: They're losing faith in their courts.

They're looking at them as nothing more than an adjunct of... TAPPER: Very partisan, yes.

MURKOWSKI: ... elected bodies because of the partisan nature.

So, demonstrate, demonstrate some bipartisan support.

MANCHIN: Everybody that's been mentioned so far, Jake, is extremely qualified.


MANCHIN: ... either one -- any of these candidates.

TAPPER: Of the three major candidates that...


MANCHIN: Yes, they could all do a very good job. And they have the background and the experience to do it.

The thing about -- I was the governor, so I named some judges in my tenure as governor. And they're very independent. They might philosophically not come exactly where you are on certain issues. But that doesn't really make them a -- less qualified.

The bottom line is, look for the person that has the upbringing and things that basically would make someone a real rounded candidate. And you look at the makeup of the Supreme Court, and I think that the -- Justice Childs from South Carolina...


MANCHIN: ... that grassroots support.


TAPPER: That's the one that Lindsey Graham said nice things about.

MANCHIN: Yes, they're all -- and I will predict that the person that the president, whoever he chooses, I think will get a majority of votes. It will get 60 or more.

TAPPER: You're somebody for whom diversity is important.

You're the first woman senator in Alaskan history?



So, I noticed that you haven't criticized President Biden's idea that he wants to nominate an African-American woman for the position, given the fact that there has never been one even seriously considered.

But some of your colleagues have really attacked that point.

MURKOWSKI: They have attacked it.

I think we need to look at this -- look at this critically and recognize that you have a court that, over its history, some, I don't know if it's 110, 115 Supreme Court justices, you look at -- you look at the pictures...

TAPPER: Yes, a lot of white male faces.

MURKOWSKI: You said it.


MURKOWSKI: And so how we -- how we make sure that, again, our court is representative of the country.


MURKOWSKI: And so I want to make sure that the president nominates an exceptional candidate, an exceptional individual.

And I would be honored to be able to support an exceptional African- American woman.

MANCHIN: I think, basically, the court should represent the makeup of our country.

TAPPER: Yes, big...

MANCHIN: And it's time for this. It's time, absolutely time.

TAPPER: Big picture. And this is the last question for both of you.

What are the forces that are making bipartisanship difficult? And how do we -- how do we change the incentive structure in this country?

Let me start with you on that.

MURKOWSKI: The things that are making it difficult, I think, are outside groups that basically say it's an either/or proposition.


If you can't get as much as we want on voting rights, then we're going to smack it down. If you can't come to -- if you can't do it our way with the Violence Against Women reauthorization, we're going to key vote it. We're going to -- we're going to make this an either/or proposition.

And so what happens is, you have -- you have messages that are wholly partisan, that are not able to get the support that you need. It's OK to recognize that somebody on the other side of the aisle might have a good idea that can be incorporated into what we have done.

And it might not be the best idea, but it's a good idea. And if it builds that support, let's allow it. But we have this...

TAPPER: It sounds like common sense, but I think...


MANCHIN: First of all, Jake...

MURKOWSKI: It's what we tell our kids.

MANCHIN: ... I'm not a Washington Democrat. I'm a good old West Virginia Democrat...


MANCHIN: ... who likes all my West Virginia Republicans.

And I know that I have to have their input for us to get good outcome for our West Virginia citizens we represent. We have a lot of friends who aren't stereotype Washington Republicans, OK? There are Alaska Republicans and there's all different Republicans who represent a state.

Never forget where you came from. Never forget who you work for. Never forget your purpose of being here.

And I have always said this. I want to make sure I take care of my country. I'm an American before I'm anything. I'm an American first. And I'm so proud of my country and the opportunities I have had.

I also am here to do a job for the people of West Virginia. So they're my employers.

TAPPER: Senator Manchin, Senator Murkowski, thanks so much for being here today.

MURKOWSKI: Thank you.

TAPPER: Really interesting conversation.


TAPPER: And there are probably a lot of people out there feeling a little bit more hopeful about Washington.

MANCHIN: Well, and, Alaska, just go vote for Susan -- Lisa, not Susan.



MANCHIN: Susan in Maine, Lisa in Alaska.

MURKOWSKI: That's exactly right.

TAPPER: All right, thanks to both of you.

MURKOWSKI: Thank you. Thanks, Jake. TAPPER: Really appreciate it.

As -- at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, China did something, the Chinese government, that was seen as giving the middle finger to the rest of the world.

I'm going to ask the U.N. ambassador about that next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

One of the most unusual Olympics ever is under way currently in Beijing, China, and the United States has earned its first gold.

But the athletic portion of the Games risks being overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, and, of course, Olympic host China's dismal record on human rights.

Joining us now, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas- Greenfield.

Madam Ambassador, thanks so much for joining us.

You have accused the Chinese government of committing genocide against the Uyghur ethnic minority group, torture, forced sterilization, labor camps, and more.

At Friday's Opening Ceremony, with Chinese President Xi looking on, a Uyghur athlete helped light the Olympic cauldron. How did you see that move? Do you agree with those who saw it as essentially President Xi giving a middle finger to the international community?

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We -- as you noted, Jake, we have made our position very, very clear on the situation in China.

This is not business as usual. We know that a genocide has been committed there. We have called them out on it. The president has called them out on it. And we have made clear that crimes against humanity are being committed in China.

So, it is important that the audience who participated and witnessed this understand that this does not take away from what we know is happening on the ground there. You have reported it regularly on your network. And others have reported this.

We have to ensure that we continue to raise these concerns in -- that are occurring in China at the moment.

TAPPER: But how did you interpret the fact that one of the two athletes that lit the torch was from, at least according to the Chinese government, the Uyghur community? THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, I -- this is an effort by the Chinese to

distract us from the real issue here at hand, that Uyghurs are being tortured, and Uyghurs are the victims of human rights violations by the Chinese.

And we have to keep that front and center.

TAPPER: Speaker Pelosi said on Friday that she fears for the safety of any U.S. athlete who might speak out against the Chinese government's human rights abuses.

Do you also fear that American athletes are in danger?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We support our athletes. And we think our athletes are there to perform in the areas that they have been preparing for, for four years. And we would hope that the Chinese would not take any actions.

But I will be clear that our goal is to make sure our athletes are safe. And we're doing everything possible to ensure that.

TAPPER: Can you reassure U.S. athletes that they're safe and their freedom of speech will be protected?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can reassure U.S. athletes that the United States government will be standing with them in China, and we will be there to protect them.

TAPPER: Are you concerned at all that the rest of the world might look at the position that the Biden administration is taking when it comes to the diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, and think that the moral protest cannot be taken as seriously as it should, given that the Biden administration has been less vocal about human rights violations elsewhere, for example, in Yemen, where the U.S. continues to provide maintenance for the Saudi F-15s that are being used to bomb civilian populations in Yemen, despite President Biden's pledge to end that?


THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, Jake, our commitment to human rights are unquestioned.

We joined the Human Rights Commission on day one -- rejoined the Human Rights Commission on day one, or announced our rejoining the commission. And human rights are front and center in our foreign policy. We don't play down human rights violations anywhere in the world, including in Yemen.

I have had a number of meetings in the Security Council where we have raised our concerns about human rights violations there being committed by all sides.

TAPPER: But how seriously can that be taken, given that a Saudi pilot might drop a bomb from an F-15 in Yemen, killing innocent civilians, and then land the plane, and there is the U.S. government there to help them provide maintenance on that very plane?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We call out those efforts.

But let me be clear. There are human rights violations being committed in Yemen on all sides. We are dealing with a force there, the Houthis, who have not taken into account any efforts to protect the rights of people who are under their own protections, supposedly.

So, again, this is a situation where we're working constantly to address any issues related to civilian injuries and violations being committed of human rights of everyone in that country.

TAPPER: The world saw President Xi meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week at the Olympics in a show of unity, amid tensions with the U.S.

China and Russia committed deepening their countries' strategic coordination, in order to have what they called -- quote -- "a far- reaching impact" on the world.

What might that mean to democracy, to freedom worldwide if this Russia-China partnership strengthens?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have seen that partnership building up over time.

And it says to all democracies in the world that we have to redouble our efforts to protect democracies and to protect attacks on democracy wherever they may happen. So, this meeting of President Xi and President Putin, I think, reinforced our resolve that we have to continue to fight for democratic values, whether it's here in the United Nations or in Ukraine or other places around the world where we see such attacks happening.

TAPPER: Do you think President Xi is watching the U.S. and NATO response to Russia's aggression towards Ukraine to determine whether or not China should move even more aggressively on Taiwan?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think, of course, he's watching it.

We saw in the Security Council on Monday China side with Russia in the efforts to block the Security Council from having a meeting to discuss the situation in Ukraine. So, their partnership certainly is one that we have seen building up over time. And I was not surprised to see this meeting with President Putin take place during the Olympics.

But as it relates to Taiwan and China, we are committed to protecting the security and supporting the security of the people of Taiwan, while, at the same time, our policy has always been to recognize the one China policy.

So, if China is making efforts toward -- toward Taiwan because of what they see happening in Ukraine, these are two different types of situations.

TAPPER: General Milley and Secretary Blinken and other top Biden administration officials briefed lawmakers, informing them that U.S. intelligence estimates Putin has assembled 70 percent of the military personnel and weapons that he needs for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

That intelligence suggests that, if Russia does decide to invade, Kyiv could fall within 48 hours, tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians could be killed.

How likely do you think it is that this invasion happens?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We're still working to discourage the Russians from making the wrong choice of choosing confrontation.

This is the reason we held the meeting in the Security Council on Monday last week, to have the Russians hear a unified voice from the vast majority of members in the Security Council that they should pursue a diplomatic solution to their security concerns.


And we will continue to work on a diplomatic solution. But, at the same time, we know that the Russians continue to prepare, and we will be working to address the security issues.

TAPPER: The Pentagon says that four civilians were killed after ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi blew himself up during a U.S. special forces raid in Syria.

Syrian rescue teams on the ground, however, say that the civilian death toll is higher, and that some of the civilian victims appear to have been killed by U.S. weapons.

Is there a commitment by the Biden administration to investigate this discrepancy and release all the facts to the public?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: As you know, the -- excuse me -- the military is still in the process of doing an after-action review of what took place on the ground.

But we know that terrorists such as this organization use civilians to protect themselves. And it is clear -- it's been done before -- that there were civilians on the ground.

President Biden made clear to our military that he wanted to do everything to protect those civilians, which is why we put troops there, instead of using what would have been easier, which would have been an air attack.

So, again, we're still reviewing the situation. And we will share that once the review has been completed.

TAPPER: Madam Ambassador, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us this morning. We appreciate it.

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much, Jake.

TAPPER: The world has disturbing information about an Olympic host country, but chooses to hold the Games there anyway.

This has happened before. Is history repeating itself? That's next.



TAPPER: This is Helene Mayer, one of the greatest fencers who ever lived, though her athletic dreams were compromised after Adolf Hitler came to power in her home country, Germany, and the anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws were passed in 1935, stripping her of her rights because Mayer's father was Jewish.

Mayer got a second chance, however, as a movement spread throughout the world to boycott the international Olympic Games in 1936 because of host country Germany's religious persecution of Jews.

The head of the American Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage, had an idea involving Helene Mayer, who was then living in California.

Here's an Associated Press story from March 1936 that shows the successful results of Brundage's plan -- quote -- "Despite a tendency in some quarters to rock the boat, official Germany has banned racial or religious discrimination in athletics. The famous girl fencer of Jewish extraction Helene Mayer has been welcomed back home and named to represent Germany in the Olympics. Visiting Jews, whether athletes or spectators, will be safer from indignities here than they would be on any New York subway during rush hour" -- unquote.

And then you see the subhead there, "No Anti-Semitism."

Yes, I'm talking about Germany in 1936.

And I tell you about Helene Mayer and how she served as the way the Nazi German government could pretend in 1936 to be something other than the monsters they were, because the Chinese government seems to have learned from her example.

On Friday, the torch for the Beijing Olympic Games was lit by two athletes, one of whom was Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a crosscountry skier for the Chinese team, a woman whom the Chinese government says has ancestral roots in the ethnic Muslim minority the Uyghurs, the Uyghurs, a minority in China who are oppressed, who are tortured, who are interned by the Chinese government in the Xinjiang region.

The Chinese government forces them to be sterilized. The Chinese government is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. It's an accusation the Chinese government denies, of course, despite clear evidence of their atrocities, so clear that the U.S. and other countries are currently diplomatically boycotting the Beijing Olympic Games.

So, Helene Mayer in 1936 and Dinigeer in 2022 are being used to serve the same purpose. Now, the governments are not fooling anyone who's paying attention, but their roles in the Olympics allow the folks who are willing to put their morality on hold, the Avery Brundages of the world, to pretend otherwise, to feign.

And we have seen this play out before, the embarrassing double standard that the NBA and Hollywood, for example, regularly display when righteously calling out injustices here in the U.S., while self- censoring about Chinese government atrocities.

We have covered this before. And we will continue to do so, the way American corporations ignore literal genocide and forced labor in the pursuit of Chinese cash. It is disgusting.

Take the Coca-Cola Company. Coca-Cola last year criticized a restrictive new voting rights law in Georgia, but Coca-Cola has not spoken out about China's human rights abuses, even as Coca-Cola co- sponsors the Olympic Games in Beijing, along with many other major American companies.


In July, Coca-Cola's global vice president for human rights, Paul Lalli, told Congress -- quote -- "We apply the same human rights principles in the United States that we do across the world."

But then, before the Senate, he declined to answer this:


SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Do you believe that the Chinese Communist Party is committing genocide against the Uyghur people?

PAUL LALLI, GLOBAL VICE PRESIDENT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, COCA-COLA: We're aware of the reports of the State Department on this issue, as well as other departments of the U.S. government.

We respect those reports. They continue to inform our program.


TAPPER: "We respect those reports. They continue to inform our program."

I'm not sure which is worse, ignoring the human rights crimes or, as some nations seem to have decided, to care more about China's investments in their countries than this genocide, because, while the U.S. and a handful of other countries are diplomatically boycotting these Games over human rights issues, the vast majority of the world, including majority-Muslim countries, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, are refusing to diplomatically boycott the Games, to take a stand against the crimes against the ethnic Muslim minority the Uyghurs.

Nations deferring to Chinese power and influence mum, corporations lusting after Chinese cash, the competition for who is most helpful to Chinese President Xi in his desire to pretend the genocide is not going on, to pretend the crimes against humanity are not going on, that's a competition rivaling the competition among the athletes.

Let the shames begin.

(AUDIO GAP) exclusively with the new German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, right after he meets with President Biden tomorrow on "THE LEAD," which airs from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Fareed Zakaria is next.

I will see you tomorrow.