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State of the Union

Interview With Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY); Interview With State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-MI); Interview With Finnish President Sauli Niinisto; Interview With Gov. Pete Ricketts (R-NE); Interview With Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 15, 2022 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Pure evil -- 10 people shot and killed at a Buffalo supermarket in a racist rampage.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): A military-style execution.

BASH: How can shootings like this be stopped? New York Governor Kathy Hochul is next.

And fighting spirit. GOP heavyweights split with former President Trump over primaries, while Democrats wonder if their voters will turn out this fall. What issues are motivating them? I will talk with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Governor of Nebraska Pete Ricketts ahead.

Plus: on Putin's border. As Ukraine fights, Finland applies to join NATO, exactly what Putin tried to avoid.

SAULI NIINISTO, PRESIDENT OF FINLAND: You caused this. Look at the mirror.

BASH: How will Russia respond? I will speak exclusively to the president of Finland, Sauli Niinisto, in moments.


BASH: Good morning.

I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is heartbroken and horrified.

This morning, we are grieving the loss of 10 people in Buffalo, New York, shot and killed while shopping for groceries. Three others were shot, but survived, victims of a rampage by an 18-year-old white male shooter who authorities say traveled for hours and used an assault- style weapon to carry out the racist attack. Eleven of the 13 victims were black.

The shooter has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in an attack streamed live on social media, as the Justice Department examines whether he committed a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.

President Biden suggested the shooting was domestic terrorism. Investigators are reviewing a 180-page manifesto posted online in connection with the shooting probe, two law enforcement officials tell CNN.

And the manifesto's author describes his perceptions about the dwindling size of the white population in the U.S. and claims of ethnic and cultural replacement of whites. He describes himself as a fascist, a white supremacist, and an antisemite who picked up most of his beliefs on the Internet.


BASH: Here with me now is New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

Governor, thank you so much for joining me. I'm sorry it's under these conditions.

Can you first tell us what more you've learned about the shooter's motive and this purported manifesto?

HOCHUL: Well, this manifesto tells everything to us. And that is what is so bone-chilling about it, is that there is the ability for people to write and subscribe to such philosophies filled with hate, the white supremacists acts of terrorism that have been fermented on social media.

And to know that one this one individual did has been shared with the rest of the world, as well as the livestreaming of this military-style execution that occurred in the home -- in the streets of my hometown, and that is what is so fundamentally disturbing about this, that this is not just a long time ago, members of the KKK would sit in a hall and plot what they're going to do in their community.

This spreads like a virus. And that's why I'm calling on the CEOs of all the social media platforms to examine their policies and to be able to look me in the eye and tell me that everything is being done that they can to make sure that this information is not spread.

They have to be able to identify when information like this -- the second it hits the platform, it needs to be taken down, because this is spreading like wildfire.

These theories that result in the radicalization of a young person sitting in their house is deeply scary and something that has to be dealt with.

BASH: Yes.

Well, you have called it a -- quote -- "feeding frenzy" on social media for white supremacy. We also know that this is based on something that's truly disgusting. It's called Replacement Theory. The idea is that non-white people living in America are trying to replace white people.

And it's being pushed by some prominent right-wing voices, and it's been done so for years. What can be done to stop that?

HOCHUL: They need to be called out.

And leaders, elected officials from both parties need to be -- stand up at this moment and call it out and just shame it and to make sure that these people crawl back into their holes and stay there.

This cannot be part of our mainstream dialogue here in the United States of America. So, leaders have a responsibility to call it out. As a leader of the state of New York, I also have a responsibility to make sure that we protect people with respect to guns.


And we have some of the toughest laws in America on the books here, but the guns are coming in from other states, or the enhanced magazine, which is exactly what happened here, the high-capacity magazine that led to the slaughter of people in my hometown.

BASH: Well...

HOCHUL: So, we're dealing with it on the gun side, but also on the social media side, and the combination of the wild access to guns, unfettered.

We need national laws to deal with this, as well as the unfettered sharing of hate information on the Internet. That is a lethal combination. We saw that on display here just hours ago last -- yesterday.

BASH: Talking about guns, do you know whether the shooter legally obtained and possessed this weapon?

HOCHUL: The gun was purchased in a gun store in New York State legally, an AR-15.

But what has made this so lethal and so devastating for this community was the high-capacity magazine that would have had to been purchased elsewhere. That's not legal in the state of New York. We don't know whether it was purchased in Pennsylvania, but, literally, the Pennsylvania border is minutes away.

And we -- there already is the flow of guns and illegal capacity magazines coming from gun shows purchased legally. And they end up in someone's trunk. They bring them up I-81. They head into New York State, head over to the Bronx, head over to Brooklyn, head over to the city, or they go to places like New York, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester.

So, that's how it's spreading. Other states do not have the same laws that we have, and people are just crossing those borders.

BASH: Governor Kathy Hochul, joining me from your hometown of Buffalo, thank you so much.



BASH: Here with me now is the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

Madam Speaker, thank you so much for joining me.

On the shooting in Buffalo, the racist purported manifesto is based on the really repugnant white supremacist idea that people of color are replacing white people in the United States. And as you know, this isn't just a fringe theory on the corner of the Internet. It's being pushed by right-wing media personalities and some political figures.

What do you say to them? And do they share any responsibility in this attack?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Well, I do think that it's so horrible.

And it's a horrible way to wake up on Sunday for these families to face that reality, and to have it be part of a philosophy in our country, as you described.

But I do think that some of the people of faith, as well as leaders and sense of community and the rest, not necessarily political people, because that might be dividing, that people have to come out and say that this has no place in our country.

We see it with our Asian Pacific America community. We see it in terms of the people from all parts of the Latino community, which is very diverse. And it's just not right.

And our chairman Bennie Thompson for years has been pleading for there to be stronger attention to and objection to any domestic terrorism. And that's what this is, domestic terrorism.

BASH: And yet we have been here so many times before. You and other Democrats call for new gun restrictions year after year.

Democrats have united -- unified control of the House and the Senate and the White House. I know that, in the House, you have repeatedly passed gun measures and that your majorities in Congress are slim, but should you and the president and other Democrats -- other Democratic leaders make this a bigger priority?

PELOSI: It is a huge priority for us. And it has been a huge priority for Joe Biden, for President Biden.

Time and time again, we have met with survivors, families of survivors. I just did on -- in terms of Mother's Day, because we had moms who had lost their children to gun violence. We honor them at a luncheon in San Francisco. My daughter helped put that together with Mattie Scott, who was -- who lost her son to gun violence. But we're doing it year in and year out. And it's grown, sadly, a club no one wants to belong to. But the fact is, the 60-vote majority in the Senate is an obstacle to

doing any -- many good things, unfortunately. And, again, we have -- we are not going away until the job is done. We have said it over and over again to the families of Newtown, the Florida families, the Pulse families, the -- it's not just, though, the main of these mass murders, which are horrible. They're high-profile.

It's what happens every single night across the country in our cities and other places in our country. So, there has to be, there has to be -- and it's overwhelmingly popular. And people of -- members of the NRA, gun owners, hunters and all the rest, they have to have a background -- a background -- they have to have the background check.


Why shouldn't everyone who wants to have a gun have that? And we will see. Now, would it solve every challenge we have? Maybe not. But it would take us a long way. And we know, when the Brady bill first passed -- and I was part of that -- that millions of purchases were stopped and lives were saved.

So, this is -- this is about safety. And safety is what -- we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. The inference to be drawn is the safety also of the American people.

BASH: Let's turn to Roe vs. Wade.

You protested for abortion rights this week on the Capitol steps.


BASH: But, as you know, Roe is still likely to be overturned.

And the bill you passed in the House to legalize abortion is not going to become law anytime soon. So, what can you do to help women who will be seeking abortions, but live in states where it's banned?

For example, would you encourage private companies to provide travel for abortions as a health benefit?

PELOSI: Well, of course, that, but the fact is we, as a country -- this is -- let's just put this in perspective.

What we want women and families and everyone to focus on is the nature of this decision. This is -- our country, the genius of our founders was to have a Constitution that enabled freedom to expand. And it did with marriage equality, it did with Roe v. Wade, in many ways, defining freedom more fully.

This is the first time the court has taken back a freedom that was defined by precedent and respect for privacy. So, let's stay focused on who we are as the country and not turn into something where we have to depend on the privacy. I think that's all good. It's helpful to the women, and that's important.

But it's also important to know that this is not right. This is not the path of freedom for our country. So they're putting freedom on the ballot. And our democracy has been on the ballot because of what they have -- are doing to elections.

But this is a place where freedom and the kitchen table issues of America's families come together. What are the decisions that a family makes? What about contraception for young people? It's just beyond a particular situation. It's massive, in terms of contraception, in vitro fertilization, again, a woman's right to decide.

And it's OK -- we want to mitigate for the damage, but we have to get rid of the damage.

BASH: Many Democrats are angry. You're -- I know you're one of them.

A lot of people in the grassroots are despondent over this draft ruling. And one reason why they're upset is because conservatives have played the long game here. You know this. They have said over and over for decades that this was their goal, to overturn Roe v. Wade, and that Democratic leaders should have seen this coming.

I'm sure you have heard this too.

PELOSI: Well, I mean, no, I mean, the point is, is, who would have ever suspected that a creature like Donald Trump would become president of the United States, waving a list of judges that he would appoint, therefore, getting the support of the far right, and appointing those anti-just freedom justices to the court?

So, this is not about long game. We played a long game. We won Roe v. Wade a long time ago. We voted to protect it over time. We have fought, have elected a Democratic House of Representatives that is pro-choice.

The -- again, you have the 60-vote thing in the Senate and some lack of clarity on part of some of the Republicans who say they're pro- choice, and then vote against a woman's right to choose.

But it isn't -- let's not take our eye off the ball. The ball is this court, which is dangerous to the freedoms of our country.

BASH: So...

PELOSI: Beware in terms of marriage equality. Beware in terms of other aspects of it.

And so it is -- let's not waste our time on that. The fact is, this is a dangerous court to families, to freedom in our country. And that is why people have to mobilize. And my saying is, we don't agonize; we organize.

BASH: And what -- and on -- what impact...

PELOSI: We go out there and make sure people know that, if they -- actually, elections have consequences.

The man that elected... BASH: So, what impact will this have on the midterms?


PELOSI: ... what's-his-name did.

Well, I would hope that we could have some resolution of it before. We'd rather have it resolved, rather than an issue for a campaign, because we're talking about a woman's decision-making, her family, her God, her doctor, her own decision-making.


So, we have to fight the fight on the issue now. I think that it would have an impact on the elections. But, right now, I want everyone to just focus, just focus on what this does and what this means to you.

And I say this as a practicing, devout Catholic, five children in six years and one week, I don't disrespect people's views and how they want to live their lives. But I don't think that it's up to the Donald Trump appointees on the court or any politicians to make that decision for women.

And I just do -- I will just say what I have been saying for decades. Understand this. This is not just about terminating a pregnancy. This is about contraception, family planning. They have been against it. They have told, me some of my Republican colleagues, we're not for any family planning domestically or internationally, when we have tried to get rid of the gag rule and things like that.

BASH: Well, speaking...

PELOSI: So, this is as personal as it gets. All politics is local, Tip. This politics is very personal.

BASH: Yes, understandably.

And speaking of families, I want to ask about baby formula and the shortage in America. And one manufacturer expects the shortages to last for the rest of the year. There are American parents who can't feed their babies right now.

So, when can parents who need help expect that? For example, Madam Speaker, should the present use the Defense Production Act to manufacture more baby formula?

PELOSI: Yes, I think so.

But the -- as the law is now, it is not possible to do that. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who had -- she's the chair of the Appropriations Committee, as you know. She's been on this case for a while. She was the chair of the new -- Ag Committee, Subcommittee on Appropriations, before.

And that's ag, but it's also nutrition and everything that goes with that. So we have been talking about that. And she feels quite certain that we have to change the law in order for the Defense Production Act to be called into play. And we certainly should.

But, in the meantime, this week, we have two bills coming up. Bobby Scott, chair of Education and Labor Committee, has a bill to loosen some of the red tape associated with how people can buy formula and other aspects of that. Fifty percent of the formula is purchased under the WIC program, and so to facilitate that, A.

B, we then have another bill that Rosa, Madam Chair, is putting together that will allocate resources for us to be able to purchase more. And that is, there are four countries, Mexico, Chile, Ireland and the Netherlands, who have supply that we may be able to acquire immediately.

Now, the president has rightfully said, rightfully said, we have to be as fast as possible, but as cautious as possible, so that we have safety. In addition to all of this, we have to subject these companies to some scrutiny about the safety of this and how we got to a place where we have babies crying in our country because they're hungry...

BASH: Yes.

PELOSI: ... and the shelves are bare.

We have to fill them immediately.

BASH: Real quick. We're...

PELOSI: I say that as a mother of five, yes, grandmother of nine.

BASH: Understandably.

Before I let you go, one more thing on the plate of Congress is the coronavirus relief package. The Senate didn't pass it because Republicans want to attach immigration to it, keeping a pandemic border rule called Title 42. Some Senate Democrats are now signaling, well, they're open to passing both of those together.

Real quick, yes or no, would you support that?

PELOSI: Well, listen, we're observing in these days a million people who have died of COVID.

The sadness of this lingers on, causing all kinds of trauma for families, mental health issues, sadness for families. You would think that the Republicans would take that into consideration. They couldn't pass the Ukraine bill, with the senators going over to Ukraine, empty- handed with a promise. We passed the bill.

We wanted to put COVID on there. They said no. We said, OK, Ukraine, urgent, right this minute. We will do that. But we have to do the COVID package. There's no use holding it up to blackmail, as the Republicans are trying to do you.


We're working on it. We will find a way. It has to be done, because people continuing to hear every moment -- all the time now, hopefully not as deadly as the previous COVID-19. But, nonetheless, we must pass the package.

BASH: Even if means Title 42 is on it?

PELOSI: And, again, they should not connect it.

I don't even know why 42 would be on it. It has nothing to do with it.


PELOSI: But, nonetheless, I think of it -- I think Title -- Title 42, the president made the right decision.

The fact is now that we have to either substitute for it, but we must pass the COVID package.


Madam Speaker, I have to let you go. Thank you so much for joining me this morning.

PELOSI: Thank you.

BASH: I appreciate it.


BASH: My next guest backed a different candidate than former President Trump in his state's Republican primary this week, and the governor won.

I will Alaska Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts about the future of his party next.

And Finland will apply to join NATO. And it appears that Russia is already retaliating. I will talk exclusively to the Finnish president on why the dramatic change.

That's coming up.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Former President Trump is looking at this spring's primary races as a test of his power over his party.

But Trump suffered his first loss this past week, when the candidate he backed to replace Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts lost to be candidate Ricketts endorsed to replace him. And now a host of GOP heavyweights, including Trump's own former vice president, are hoping to pull the same thing off again in Georgia.

Here with me now to discuss is Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, who is also co-chair of the Republican Governors Association.

Thank you for joining me, Governor.

I'm going to get to that in a moment, but, first, I want to ask about the shooting in Buffalo yesterday. The shooter's purported manifesto centers on white supremacist nationalism and the idea that nonwhite immigrants are replacing white people in the U.S.

And, frankly, a lot of this has been perpetuated by some right-wing media and even some political figures. So, as a GOP elected official and a leader in your party, can you offer some moral clarity here about these views and the people who espouse them?

GOV. PETE RICKETTS (R-NE): Yes, absolutely.

Racism has no place in America. And, of course, we grieve for the victims and keep them in our thoughts and prayers. And this is where the FBI does need to investigate. If it was racially motivated, it needs to be a hate crime and prosecuted that way, on top of the murders.

And we really need a strong -- send a strong message that this is just anti-American, that if you are pursuing these kinds of goals, this is not a place for you. You need to go someplace else, because that's not what this country is about.

BASH: I want to ask a question about guns.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul told me at the beginning of this program that the shooter obtained this weapon legally. He's just 18 years old. There is a bipartisan bill in Congress to raise the minimum age to buy an assault-style weapon to 21. Do you support that?

RICKETTS: I haven't looked at the details of that bill.

I think, when we're talking about events like this, one of the things that we ought to be doing is what we have kind of done here in Nebraska, is work to be able to open up good lines of communications between educators, law enforcement, behavioral health specialists to try and be more preventative.

We launched our System of Care here in Nebraska back in 2016 to be more preventative, specifically around mental health issues and children. And that's one of the things I think we can all focus on.

There was a study last year that showed that these shooters have a lot of mental health issues. And that's one of the things that I think we can do more on. And, in fact, in Nebraska, we're dedicating millions of dollars to try and attract more people to the behavioral health field, because we have got such a shortage of workers.

BASH: Is there any gun legislation to put tighter controls or new age limits, even in -- on the state level? It's only 18 in your state as well.

RICKETTS: Yes, we don't have any restrictions like that. And I -- again, I think the focus ought to be on trying to be

preventative, rather than to restrict legal buying from people. It really needs to be focused on what is the issue here with each individual and trying to find how we can be more proactive in spotting those folks and getting them the help they need.

BASH: All right, Governor, let's talk about the Republican Party.

The candidate you endorsed to replace you just defeated the candidate that former President Trump endorsed in your state's Republican primary. Does this show that there are limits to the power of the Trump endorsement?

RICKETTS: Well, here in Nebraska, the candidate that President Trump endorsed was a deeply flawed candidate, had a number of different scandals around him.

It's one of the reasons why I picked one of his opponents. In a contested primary, we ought to expect that the Republicans are going to be on different sides of this. It's not unusual. I support many of President Trump's policies, but, in this case, we were on opposite sides of it.

And at the end of the day, I think voters in individual states -- and it's certainly true here in Nebraska -- they make their own decisions. People outside the state can have an influence. But, at the end of the day, Nebraskans look to their own. And Nebraskans made the decision they wanted for their state.

BASH: This isn't just about Nebraska.

You're going to travel to Georgia this week, just like Chris Christie and Mike Pence are, to campaign for Governor Brian Kemp. He's running, again, against a Trump-endorsed challenger, that being David Perdue. I think it's fair to say there are few Republicans who Donald Trump dislikes more than Brian Kemp, after that governor refused to overturn the 2020 election.


Would it be easier, your job as the co-chair of the Republican Governors Association, if President Trump just stayed out of these primaries?

RICKETTS: Well, I try to focus on the things I can control. And what President Trump does is not one of those things.

As co-chair of the Republican Governors Association, we have been very clear that we support our incumbents. Brian Kemp is a great incumbent. He's done a fantastic job in Georgia. We're excited to support him. And that's one of the reasons why I'm going into Georgia, because I think Brian Kemp deserves another term.

And I think he's going to be able to beat Tracy (sic) Abrams. So...

BASH: Yes. RICKETTS: ... this is a man who has done a great job, and he deserves to be reelected.

BASH: You can't control him.

So, is it true that you asked the president, the former president, to stay out of the primary in your home state of Nebraska, and he refused?

RICKETTS: Yes, that -- well, he -- at the time, he didn't refuse. He said he would get back to me later.

But, yes, I did call him last summer and asked him to stay out of the primary race. But I guess that's a great example of things you can control and things you can't control.

BASH: And the former president just announced he's endorsing Doug Mastriano in the Pennsylvania governor's race.

He was a key player in trying to overturn the 2020 election in Pennsylvania in that legislature. Party leaders there worry he can't win the general election.

As the co-chair of the RGA, would you support him if he's the nominee?

RICKETTS: So, we support the people that -- the Republican nominees that the people of those states elect.

We make those decisions based on where we think we can be effective. Our policy has long been we get involved in races where we think we can win. So, that candidate, whoever gets elected in Pennsylvania, will have to show that they're going to make it a good race. And if it's a good race, the Republican Governors Association will be there to support our Republican nominee.

BASH: That's not a ringing endorsement.

RICKETTS: Well, again, I'm not familiar specifically with all the candidates in Pennsylvania.

Where we have an open seat like that, the Republican Governors Association doesn't get involved. So, we wait until the people of that state pick their nominee.


RICKETTS: And then, of course, we decide on which races we can be effective in.

And that's where we allocate our resources.

BASH: How do you see former President Trump right now? Is he the leader of the GOP?

RICKETTS: You know, I would think one of the things that I think there's a lot of misconception about just generally is that there's some big monolithic thing called the Republican Party.

It's very decentralized. Certainly, President Trump has a very big influence on the Republican Party. Again, I get back to supporting his policies, which were fantastic when he was in office. You could see the results in the economy, the reduction in income inequality, reduction in -- of African-American unemployment, Asian American unemployment, just how many people were working in our work force, so, great policies that helped out our country.

And I think that continues to have an influence in Republicans, because the policies that he was putting in place were ones broadly Republican support. So I think that, without a Republican president, there's a lot of different leaders.

President Trump certainly has a lot of influence because his policies were so good.

BASH: Before I let you go, one final question about Roe v. Wade.

The Supreme Court appears poised to reverse that. Nebraska, your state, does not have a so-called trigger law on the books. But there was an effort, as you know, to pass one. It failed by only two votes last month. The abortion ban that you tried to pass did not include any exceptions for rape or incest.

So, can you clarify? Do you think that the state of Nebraska should require a young girl who was raped to carry that pregnancy to term?

RICKETTS: So, Nebraska is a pro-life state. I believe life begins at conception. And those are babies too.

So, if Roe vs. Wade, which was a horrible constitutional decision, gets overturned by the Supreme Court, which we're hopeful of, here in Nebraska, we're going to take further steps to protect those preborn babies.

BASH: Including in the case of rape or incest?

RICKETTS: They're still babies too. Yes, they're still babies.

BASH: So, if Roe is overruled and overturned, will you call a special session right away to ban abortion in Nebraska?

RICKETTS: Well, if we do get that, Roe vs. Wade, overturned, we will take -- I will work with our speaker of the legislature to work on a special session and do more to protect preborn babies.

We will have to wait and see what that decision is before we can take further steps, but that would certainly be my intention.

BASH: OK, Governor Ricketts, thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate it.

RICKETTS: Great. Thanks for having me on.

BASH: And Finland is applying to join NATO. How will that reshape the world order and affect Russia's ambitions?

The Finnish president joins me next.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

This morning, Finland formally moved to join NATO and set aside decades of neutrality.

The decision, the country's president told Vladimir Putin on a call this weekend, was a direct result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. NATO expansion along Russia's Western border is the exact opposite of what Putin said he was trying to accomplish with the war.

And he told Finland's present this weekend that he was making a mistake.


BASH: Here with me now, the president of Finland, Sauli Niinisto.

Mr. President, thank you so much for joining me again.

And just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, we spoke, and you told me you did not see any reason for -- quote -- "dramatic, sudden changes" to Finland's relationship with NATO.


Here we are just three months later, and you've just announced you're going to formally apply to join the NATO alliance.

Is this because you're worried Russia could attack you as well?

NIINISTO: Not necessarily.

But two things took place. First, Russia tried to deny any enlargement of NATO. And that changed, in a way, very much our position here. So far, we had thought that, OK, we are nonaligned of our own will. But when they said that, that meant that we do not have any will there left.

So, that was the first stage. And, surely, 24th of February, when they made a huge attack to Ukraine, that changed quite a lot. Well, it showed that they are ready to attack to an independent, neighboring country.

BASH: So, you were worried that you could be attacked?

NIINISTO: Not necessarily.

But I would say that things, they are changing also, undoubtedly. And what we see now, Europe, the world, is more divided. There's not very much room for nonaligned, in between. So, that was also what we are thinking.

I do not believe that they planned, no, any attack on Finland, not then, nor now.

BASH: A few years ago, Vladimir Putin said, when he looks at your country, he sees friends, but warned that if you join -- join NATO, he will see an enemy instead.

I know you spoke with the Russian president yesterday. Does he now consider Finland an enemy? And how concerned are you that he may retaliate against you before your process continues and before you can fully qualified to be a member of NATO?

NIINISTO: Actually, why I called him, I wanted just to confirm that now the situation has changed. We are going to apply membership.

And, in the same way, he confirmed he thinks it's a mistake. We are not threatening you.

Altogether, the discussion was very, would I say, calm and cool. And he didn't repeat those threats he had earlier and his people had been telling, that is, that, if Finland joins, that means some kind of contra-steps, military contra-steps, whatever that meant.

But he didn't repeat it now. So, I was not necessarily surprised, but it was, like I said, quite calm and cool.

BASH: Did he say anything that did surprise you?

NIINISTO: Actually, the surprise was that he took it so calmly.

BASH: Do you really believe that...


BASH: ... that his tone actually will match how he feels?

NIINISTO: Well, I was about to come to that.

That was something I was about to come in security policy, especially, talking with Russia. You have to keep in mind that what he said doesn't mean that you shouldn't be all the time quite, well, aware and follow up what really is happening.

But, so far, it seems that there's no immediate problems coming.

BASH: You need the unanimous approval of all 30 NATO members in order to join the alliance.

But, on Friday, the Turkish president, Erdogan, said he does not look -- quote -- "positively" toward Finland and Sweden joining. I know you said you're confused by his reaction. But do you think Turkey actually could block you from joining NATO?

NIINISTO: First, why I was astonished, because I had a telephone discussion with the president, Erdogan. That is about one month ago.

And then he said that they will estimate, well, positively our aim to apply membership. And now it changed.

I believe that there will be a lot of discussion still, and I'm not that worried about that.

BASH: You're not? You think that, ultimately, Turkey will join the other NATO countries in approving your application?


NIINISTO: It's very obvious that they demand some type of discussion with Sweden and partly with Finland too.

Maybe they will enlarge that discussion to other countries. We don't know. That's dealing with their PKK movement.

BASH: You spoke with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine just a few days ago.

And, as you know, he's extremely frustrated that NATO has not allowed Ukraine to join the alliance. Once Finland is part of NATO, will you advocate for Ukraine to be offered membership as well?

NIINISTO: Actually, it's not in our hands.

But I just want to tell that -- that President Zelenskyy was very positive with our membership. Maybe he sees that it's good that NATO shows that it is possible to enlarge, and may be waiting for the future for them to try to do same.

BASH: President...

NIINISTO: But, at the moment, we hear that it is not a solution.

BASH: President Sauli Niinisto, thank you so much.

It's nice to see you again. As you said, a lot has changed in the three months since we spoke last, and I hope to speak to you again soon.

NIINISTO: Let's hope that, if a lot is changing, again, it would change in a better.

Thank you.


BASH: Two Republicans are surging ahead in Pennsylvania's primaries, but members of their own party are worried they can't win in the fall.

Our political panel is next.



NARRATOR: What do we really know about Kathy Barnette? We can't trust Kathy Barnette for Senate.

MEHMET OZ (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I have been finding out things that are very alarming to me. And it will be fodder for the Democrats.

This is our seat the lose, folks. We don't want to throw this away with a candidate who is not well-vetted.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kathy is going to be a lot of trouble. I think she's going to be a lot of trouble. She's totally, totally an unknown. And we can't have that.


BASH: Down to the wire for the Pennsylvania Republican primaries. And that happens -- actually, Democratic primaries too.

But let's talk about the Republican primary with our panel. And we have David Urban here, who is Mr. Pennsylvania.


BASH: I should say that you are supporting David McCormick...


BASH: ... in -- OK -- in the primary for the Senate.

But how worried are you about Kathy Barnette pulling off a surprise?

URBAN: I think -- look, I think -- Dana, I think everybody's kind of concerned a bit, right, as you said, as the tease led in, that Kathy Barnette is just unvetted. She's unknown.

There's lots of -- there are more questions about Kathy Barnette's resume than there are answers. And, as you know, that is fodder for the Democrats in the fall. She has already run for Congress once and got drubbed.

BASH: Yes.

URBAN: And the concern is that she will run again and get drubbed in the fall this year. And we can't do that. It's too important.

BASH: Let's pull back a little bit to widen the aperture, as they say, and look at what this means, Mia, for the Republican Party, because this is just going to be the latest in a real tug of war over whether or not people who Donald Trump supports -- and that's almost exclusively people who believe in the big lie and so forth -- vs. others, maybe those who consider themselves more traditional conservatives. MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, OK, so first of all, I

need to say that just there's something that's poking at me.

Those same words were said about me, by the way: I wasn't vetted enough. I didn't have enough experience, even though I was a mayor and on the city council.

So, I -- unless you have something that is concrete that you don't like, I really believe that you just need to give people a chance to get out there and talk about issues.

So let's go back to talking about issues. That is what's going to make a difference.


URBAN: Yes, but, Mia, this is a case -- this is a case where there's holes in her resume. There's big holes about her military record, about her service.

She said she worked on Wall Street. She worked in a bank in St. Louis. There are big holes about what she did in the military she's not answering to the press. The press is asking her about tweets. She's refusing to answer them.

LOVE: But this is what elections are for. This is exactly what elections are for.


URBAN: Those are -- that's unvetted. That's not -- that's not -- that's not you that -- arguing about qualifications. That's just not answering questions.

BASH: And this...


BASH: This speaks to the larger picture of what Pennsylvania looks like.

Paul Begala, you are no stranger to Pennsylvania politics. You have run a race or 10 there.




BASH: And the question is, where is -- it's a purple state. But if you have a Republican candidate for Senate who maybe you would consider unelectable for governor, perhaps unelectable, do Democrats have what it takes to win those seats?

BEGALA: Well, they do. First off, they -- Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by 80,568 votes. I say

that because it's -- not because it's news, but because it's fact. And the leading Republican candidate for governor, Mr. Mastriano, denies that fact. He is a liar. He believes in the big lie.

That seems to be a litmus test for Republicans. On the Senate side, I mean, I will just let you two fight it out. But it's -- this guy McCormick, who's from Connecticut, this guy Oz, who's from New Jersey, and this woman Barnette, who's like from MAGA land, I'm not sure if any of them really reflect Pennsylvania, but it's you guys' party, so you can sort that out.

BASH: Well, let me bring in the state representative from Michigan who -- you're talking about Michigan and other stuff -- excuse me -- state Senator Mallory McMorrow.

Thank you so much, first of all, for coming here and being on the panel.

What are your views on this general idea of election deniers vs. more traditional conservatives and what it might mean for the Democrats on the ballot?

STATE SEN. MALLORY MCMORROW (D-MI): It is catastrophic.

And I want us to take a step back and stop talking about putting up numbers and scores and what it means for Democrats and Republicans, because the question is, what does it mean for our country?

What's happening in Pennsylvania is what's happening in Michigan right now, where it is a competition to see who can say the craziest, most offensive things, people who are more than willing to throw out the election.

The Michigan Republican Party has been replacing Board of Canvassers with people who will willingly overturn the election. And it is not hyperbole to say this may be the very last free and fair election we ever have if traditional Republicans don't stand up and say it's enough and Democrats don't grow a spine.

LOVE: I think this is going to be about what is happening in the economy, the person that can talk about the issues that we are facing, and they're very, very big issues, inflation, gas prices, labor shortages.

That's what Americans are worried about. And the person that can cut -- not talk about yesterday, not talk about even what's today, but what's next, and they have a vision for what's going -- we need some leadership. And Americans are tired of relitigating...

URBAN: And that's great for a general election. I don't -- I don't dispute that. That's exactly general election.

But primary elections are very different. Paul knows it in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Democratic primary is very messy. The Republican primary is very messy. Those things aren't what is resonating.


MCMORROW: But, then, David, where's the line?

Where does the Republican Party stand up and say, this has gone too far, and we have to put an end to it?

LOVE: I have a specific example.

If you look at J.D. Vance in Ohio, he got the nomination of -- he got the endorsement of Donald Trump. And that -- what it did was really just push him over the edge of five candidates. But if you think about it, 340,991, to be exact, votes out of one million.

URBAN: Sixty-eight percent of people didn't vote for him.

LOVE: That means 68 percent did not vote for him.

BASH: I want to talk about issues in one second, but, before we leave Pennsylvania, if Mehmet Oz or Kathy McCormick win -- excuse me.

URBAN: Kathy Barnette.

BASH: Kathy Barnette -- win the primary in Pennsylvania, will you vote for either of them?

URBAN: Well, I don't vote...

BASH: Would you -- I know you don't vote there. Would you have?

URBAN: No, listen, I would support...

BASH: Do you support them?

URBAN: I would support the Republican nominee in the Senate primary.

BASH: No matter what?

URBAN: No matter what.


URBAN: I think, however, that David McCormick is the best general election candidate there by far.

And, in the governor's race, if Mastriano wins, I think he will lose.


BEGALA: But will you support him?

I'm sorry to press it, but he's telling a lie. Mallory is right. This is existential. It's not fight about taxes. This is a guy who's lying to the people in Pennsylvania about who...

URBAN: But who is lying?

BEGALA: Mr. Mastriano -- about who won Pennsylvania.

URBAN: No, I don't disagree. Well, I don't disagree with you.


BEGALA: OK, but is that disqualifying as a voter, though?


BASH: But this -- I asked about...


BASH: I asked the Senate. Let's talk about the governor's race.


URBAN: Yes, the governor's race, listen, I don't think I could support Doug Mastriano.

I think he's -- I think he will lose badly. And I think that's the fear amongst -- you saw it in the pages of the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page. You say it amongst lots and lots of Republicans in this town and across America, that we are going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Pennsylvania with Doug Mastriano and either Mehmet Oz or Kathy Barnette.

I think that's a giant concern.

BASH: Let's talk about issues.

There is a new Monmouth University poll out this week that shows abortion nearly tied with the economy as voters' top concern going into the midterm elections.

MCMORROW: It is not surprising.

So, to paint a picture of what this looks like, when Roe falls in Michigan, there's a 1931 law on the books right now that will go into effect immediately that makes abortion a felony. It is going to send women, girls, providers, families to jail for seeking abortion care, and with no exception for rape or incest.

This is a devastating moment that I think a lot of people knew was coming. And this is an economic issue. The ability to decide when it is right for a woman to become a mom is an economic issue.

LOVE: This is something that it just honestly sears my soul.

I feel as if this -- in this country, we're forced to take sides between the mother and an unborn child, when those are -- it's unacceptable. I believe that we should be an advocate for life for both the -- a mother with an unwanted pregnancy and an unborn child. Somebody has to have -- somebody has to advocate for that unborn child. So I think what Washington should be doing is doing more to give women more access to their reproductive health before they have to make a decision between ending a life and keeping a life.

We're trying to deal with this issue on the back end, instead of doing everything we can to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Why not empower women and also do everything we can to save the life of a child?

BASH: You want to respond?


And I appreciate that answer, but it's operating in a reality that doesn't exist. This is a country that has no guaranteed paid leave, where child care is unaffordable, where the idea of having a child or not -- Michigan has the second steepest drop in birth rate in the entire country, behind only Illinois.

And when I talk to my constituents, they can't afford it. So, yes, we have to work to support families, but the Republican Party right now has done nothing to support that. We haven't supported Build Back Better to put those pieces in place to say we're supporting families.

Instead, it is forcing women to be reproductive vessels.

LOVE: And it shouldn't be that way.

There is no reason why we can't get contraceptives over the counter, which is a bill that I pushed and supported, which it was both Democrats and Republicans that had a hard time getting on that. So, we are not -- again, it's unacceptable.

We may be living in this reality, but I don't accept this reality. We have to change it, because it's unacceptable to just say that -- to ignore that there's actually an unborn child that needs an advocate.

BASH: This is the quietest I have ever heard these men at the table ever.


BEGALA: For a good reason.

URBAN: You know, how -- this is a great debate.

BASH: Yes. No.

URBAN: Obviously, Mia and Mallory have very important voices in this. I don't think I can add much.

BEGALA: Yes, I will add, Mallory's home state of Michigan and my home state of Texas has a law just like that, Mallory, life in prison, life in prison, no exception -- for the doc -- no exception for rape, no exception for incest.

That's the reality that Texas women are going to wake up to in a few weeks. And I do think that's unacceptable.

BASH: Thank you so much.

MCMORROW: Well, and this is an issue that is fundamentally about women and their doctors making a choice.


BASH: Got to end it there.

Thank you so much for that very lively discussion.

Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us.

Fareed Zakaria is next.