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State of the Union
Interview With Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA); Interview With Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT); Interview With Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired October 09, 2022 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Armageddon? President Biden says a cornered Vladimir Putin could be even more dangerous days before Russia suffers an attack on a major supply line. Is Biden right about Putin's goals and about how to stop him?
I will speak exclusively to Democratic Senator Chris Murphy and former ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, who was just in Moscow, next.
And Saudi setback? After an infamous fist bump, a slap in the face, as Saudis put the screws to the world's oil supply.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're looking at what alternatives we may have.
TAPPER: With gas prices now expected to climb, what can Biden do to fix it?
Plus: A big tent? An October surprise and election lies threaten the GOP's bid to take over Congress.
GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA): We have to come together in a way that we saw last year in Virginia.
TAPPER: A rising star in the GOP hits the road to put his party over the top. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin joins me exclusively ahead.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is jittery, anxious about the economy and news overseas, including North Korea, Iran and Ukraine.
President Biden heightened nerves this week, saying that the risk of nuclear -- quote -- "Armageddon" because of Vladimir Putin is the highest since the Cuban Missile Crisis almost exactly 60 years ago, as, yesterday, Russia suffered a major blow to its war efforts, a truck bomb slicing in half the only bridge that connects Russia to Crimea. This hour, we're going to ask a critical member of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee what happens now and a former ambassador about what he heard from Russian officials during his recent trip to Moscow.
But we're going to start here at home. With just 30 days until the midterm elections, swing state polls reminding us this week that the economy remains the top issue for most voters? Gas prices are going up. Inflation is persistent. But jobs numbers are strong as well. It's a complex midterm picture, with plenty of races that will likely turn on just a few thousand votes.
My next guest is a purple state governor who ran a campaign that brought together the anti-Trump wing of the Republican Party with today's MAGA conservatives and even won over some Biden voters in the process. He's been out campaigning for Republicans across the country, from Nevada, to Kansas, to Michigan, to Georgia.
Joining us now exclusively, Governor Glenn Youngkin, Virginia governor.
Thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.
YOUNGKIN: Thank you very much for having me. It's a great day.
And I have to say that being governor of Virginia is a huge privilege. And when we were inaugurated on January 15, we went right to work. And what's been so exciting is how much we have been able to get done, with lowering taxes, and investing in schools and in law enforcement, and getting Virginia open again.
And so I'm just really pleased by the progress we have made in our first nine months.
TAPPER: So, let's talk about the economy, which I know is a big -- a big issue for you in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
President Biden gave a major speech on the economy Friday. He acknowledged inflation is way too high. But take a listen to what else he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Our economy created 263,000 jobs last month. That's 10 million jobs since I have come into office. That's the fastest job growth at any point of any president in all of American history, historic progress.
The employment rate remains at a historic low, 3.5 percent unemployment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, yes, inflation is at an all-time high, but unemployment is low, job creation is high, wage growth is high.
And President Biden says that those parts of the economy are helping the middle class. Is that right? Do you agree?
YOUNGKIN: Well, I agree that getting people back to work is critically important.
But the reality is, we didn't have to be here where we have got this challenged economy. I mean, decisions were made in early days of the Biden administration to give up our energy independence. Decisions were made in order to encourage people to stay home and keep the economy closed.
And, in fact, one of the biggest challenges we have today is labor participation. And we see labor participation down across the country. It's one of the big challenges in Virginia. We used to have nearly 67 percent labor participation. Now we're down at 63 and change.
And that's a couple hundred thousand workers that have just disappeared. And we need them back. And one of the -- one of the issues that we see is that unemployment is low because these folks are not participating. And so we have got to get this economy moving in a way that reestablishes our energy independence, pulls people back into the work force, and just recognizes, until we do those two things, we're going to have a lot of challenge addressing inflation.
TAPPER: So let's talk about what you would do to bring down inflation and to bring up worker participation without increasing joblessness.
You have a background in business, obviously, The Carlyle Group. Friday's jobs report showed the economy is slowing, but it's still strong, which makes it likely that the Fed, the Federal Reserve, is going to hike interest rates even further to try to get inflation under control.
Would you support those Fed rate hikes?
YOUNGKIN: Well, I repeat, we don't have to be here. We shouldn't -- we shouldn't have to be here.
TAPPER: But we are. We are here.
YOUNGKIN: But we are.
YOUNGKIN: And I -- but I think we have to remember that we got here because of bad policy decisions.
And, of course, the reality is, the Fed has very blunt instruments, which is to raise rates and to shrink its balance sheets. And when -- and Virginians and Americans are seeing inflation go through the roof and cost of living skyrocket and grocery prices and utility bills, and, oh, by the way, cost of university tuitions and everything else they're seeing.
We have got to find a way to reestablish low energy prices, high labor participation. And, in fact, I don't think that the Fed needs to go as far as it has -- looks like it may go. And, to me, this is a moment where that, yes, the Fed needed to raise rates.
But now we have got to focus on reestablishing our energy independence and bringing energy prices down. That is a supply issue. And we have got to get labor back into the work force. And that's the kind of things we're doing in Virginia.
I announced an energy plan this week, which is all of the above.
TAPPER: Yes, I want to talk about that.
YOUNGKIN: We've got to embrace all of it.
And, oh, by the way, we have had 95,000 people come back into the work force, but we need more. And so we have a massive, massive work force issue under way, that we're going to try to get people back into the work force, retrained and get them off the sidelines. This is what we need to do in order to bring inflation down and have a soft landing, not a hard one.
TAPPER: So let's talk about the energy plan, because you just released it this week. It scales back Virginia's wind and solar energy emphasis, instead focuses on nuclear power, economic competition.
But I wonder if the events in your first year as governor, the more intense hurricanes, which scientists say they're more intense because of climate change, the war in Ukraine and this week's OPEC decision making the insecurity of where we get our fuel from highlighted, doesn't that suggest that you should be, that we should be leaning into more green energy, not less?
YOUNGKIN: Well, to be clear, what I -- what I have called for is an all-of-the-above.
And, in fact, it's not reducing an emphasis on renewables, wind and solar. It's correcting an error that was made in the previous administration's energy plan, which was to exclude everything else. And so we need to, yes, move forward with wind and solar. We need to move forward with carbon capture and natural gas.
We need to move forward with nuclear. And one of the things that I believe is that we have a great opportunity in Virginia to lead the nation in the development of small modular reactors in nuclear in order to provide baseload power. It's clean and reliable and affordable.
And this is why common sense has to come back into this equation, which is, we can't evacuate one of our strengths, which is the fact that we innovate in America. And we can, in fact, find a way that natural gas can continue to be a huge part of our overall power stack. We can innovate across nuclear, and we can embrace renewables, like wind and solar.
But we're going to have to adopt all of them in order to get where we want to be, which is reliable, affordable, and a clean power stack. TAPPER: Let's talk to one of the key issues that helped get you
elected, education, because you have this new policy for transgender students in Virginia that requires that a student's bathrooms and sports teams should be based on that student's sex assigned at birth, not how they they -- their gender -- gender identity.
Now, your policy's first two key guiding principles are -- quote -- "Parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children" and -- quote -- "Schools shall respect parents' values and beliefs."
But I wonder if -- I don't understand how a one-size-fits-all ruling for all of Virginia follows those guidelines of parents have the right to make decisions and schools shall respect parents, because I imagine, in a school in rural Southwest Virginia, they might look at this issue quite differently than across the river in Arlington.
YOUNGKIN: Let me begin with these basic principles, which is, first, parents have a fundamental right to be engaged in their children's lives.
And, oh, by the way, children have a right to have parents engaged in their life. And we needed to fix a wrong. The previous administration had had a policy that excluded parents and, in fact, particularly didn't require the involvement of parents.
And, I mean, let's be clear. Parents -- parents have this right. And children don't belong to the state. They belong to families. And so, in these most important decisions, step one has to be to engage parents, not to the exclusion of a trusted teacher or an adviser, but to make sure that parents are involved in their children's lives.
This is not controversial. And I just think the idea that we're going to have policies that exclude parents from their children's lives is something that I have been going to work on since day one. We campaigned on it. We empowered parents to make decisions with regards to masking in Virginia. We have empowered parents to make decisions with regards to curriculum that fits their families' decisions.
YOUNGKIN: And we're empowering parents here to be engaged in these most important decisions.
TAPPER: But, governor, this policy could be seen -- I could see very easily how it excludes parents.
What -- look, here's a question for you. The American Academy of Pediatrics says these kinds of laws about bathrooms and excluding people, ignoring their gender identity, they say, the American Academy of Pediatrics says these kinds of laws can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and even suicide among transgender youth.
Did you talk to any transgender youth when coming up with this policy? YOUNGKIN: Yes, so we have had -- we have had lots of interactions
across the -- across...
TAPPER: with transgender youth?
YOUNGKIN: ... across the -- the administration.
And let me just back up. What we're not saying is that there is no accommodation. What we're saying is, parents have to be engaged in that decision. And if a child and their parent, along with administrators and teachers, choose to have accommodations for that child, they will be granted.
And, see, this is where I constantly get back to, I would ask people to read the policies and to...
TAPPER: I did read the policy.
TAPPER: But it sounds like you're excluding parents that might be supportive of their child going to the bathroom or going -- or joining a sports team that is in alignment with their gender identity.
YOUNGKIN: Well, certainly not.
If parents actually want their child to be able to change a pronoun or their name or use a bathroom, if parents choose that, then, legally, that's what the schools will do.
With regards to sports teams, this is a different issue. And -- and I do believe that it's unfair for girls to have biological boys play sports with biological girls. There are sports with segregated -- with segregated sexes for those sports. And those -- those sports should be honored that way.
And there are sports where they're not segregated, where, in fact, both -- both -- both sexes get to play at the same time. Again, there's a commonsense approach here to this. And I do think we have to respect girls as well here.
Our policies were written in order to -- in order to respect the dignity of all children, their safety, and their confidentiality. We're in a 30-day comment period, and then we're going to finalize these. And then I expect the school districts to adopt something consistent with them.
TAPPER: Let's turn to abortion, because, obviously, the Supreme Court decision has kicked this back to the states, back to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
You're supporting the 15-week abortion ban in -- in Virginia after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. I know you're trying to be pragmatic because you think that that's what the Statehouse, you think you could probably get it through.
But you also have vowed to -- quote -- "take every action I can to protect life" -- unquote.
So, if a six-week abortion ban came to your desk, would you sign it?
YOUNGKIN: Well, let me back up.
So, Virginians elected a pro-life governor, and I have been very clear. I'm pro-life. I do believe in exceptions, in the case of rape and incest and when the life of the mother is at risk. And, in this case, where Virginia was just 22 months ago was debating on our General Assembly floor that, in fact, abortion should be extended all the way up through and including childbirth, and paid for with taxpayer money.
And I have said all along that I disagree with this. And that is extreme. That is really extreme. And so when the Roe -- when the -- when the Supreme Court issued their final ruling, we felt that a good place for Virginia to land, which was -- which was -- which was saving lives, because that's what Virginians have said -- we would -- we would like fewer abortions, as opposed to more -- is getting our leading legislators together and coming up with a compromise bill.
As governor, this is progress. And this is a place that I would hope that they can deliver a bill on my desk in January that I can sign that would, in fact, recognize a 15-week limit, where a child can feel pain.
I mean, this is when a child can feel pain. And we should, in fact, recognize that. And I hope they bring me a 15-week bill.
TAPPER: At 15 weeks?
TAPPER: So -- but, if they brought a six-week one, you would support it?
YOUNGKIN: Well, they're not going to bring a six-week bill.
I mean, hypotheticals are actually just hypotheticals. I do believe...
TAPPER: Well, it's a principle. I mean, the principle of -- that you believe that abortion should not be legal, except for rape, incest and the life of the mother?
YOUNGKIN: And I have been very clear on this.
So, I'm just saying, like, a zero week, you would support too?
YOUNGKIN: But practically -- but, practically...
TAPPER: OK. YOUNGKIN: ... as the governor of Virginia, I think that we can, in fact, find a -- find our way to a 15-week bill, and I sure hope that legislators can bring it to me, because I would sign it.
TAPPER: So, you're very popular on the campaign trail right now, lots of governors, Republican governors and candidates bringing you in.
You're headed to Arizona to campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who has repeatedly denied the fact that you accept that Joe Biden was lawfully, legally and legitimately elected in 2020. Kari Lake has also said, if she had been governor, she would not have certified the election, unlike Governor Ducey, your contemporary right now Republican.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney took -- takes issue with you supporting Kari Lake. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Governor Youngkin in Virginia is doing a good job. I think that he's demonstrated that he's somebody who has not bought into the toxin of Donald Trump.
But he campaigned recently for Kari Lake, who is an election denier who, is dangerous. And that's the kind of thing we cannot see in our party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, you haven't gone to Arizona yet, but you're about to. But what's your response?
Because I do think that there are a lot of reasonable, pragmatic, fact-based Republicans who are disappointed that you're doing this.
YOUNGKIN: In order for us to press forward in the Republican Party, we, in fact, need to do that, look forward, not backwards.
And what I found in Virginia was that we could bring together forever- Trumpers and never-Trumpers, and libertarians and Tea Party members, and, oh, by the way, lots of independents and lots of Democrats.
And I think that the Republican Party has to be a party where we are not shunning people and excluding them, because we don't agree on everything. We just don't agree on everything. But what we can agree on is that, in fact, in states led by Republican governors, those states have outperformed, by far, states run by Democrat governors.
And what Arizona deserves is a Republican governor who will keep taxes down, who will support school choice, who will bring companies into the economy to create opportunity. And that is a heck of a lot better than undoing everything that Governor Ducey has done.
And, therefore, as I have -- as I have supported a handful of candidates and campaigned with them, what I find is the same issues everywhere we go, is that Virginians and Americans are worried about the cost of living that is running away from them making ends meet...
YOUNGKIN: ... safety in their community.
And they're worried about education. And these are Republican values with commonsense solutions that I think Americans want and Arizonans.
TAPPER: But I thought...
YOUNGKIN: That's why they're going to be much better off with Kari Lake.
TAPPER: Until recently, I thought that standing up for democracy and the rule of law and election integrity was also a Republican value.
This isn't a disagreement over tax policy. This woman doesn't believe in legitimate elections. She says that she wouldn't have certified for the election for Joe Biden, which is nothing that you would do. And it's nothing that the current Republican governor did.
This isn't just about like, oh, we have a disagreement on education. This is about democracy.
YOUNGKIN: Well, let me just step back.
First of all, this is not about January 6, right? January 6 is -- was an abomination. And, in fact, anybody who committed violence on January 6 and broke the law should be held fully accountable. This is about making sure that we understand that there is -- there is distrust in the election process. Let's just be clear.
And, oh, by the way, that distrust was expressed by Democrats in 2000 and 2016. I ran against an election denier. I ran against...
TAPPER: Yes, but this is different. This is different.
But this was an effort by the president of the United States to undo the election. It's not just rhetoric or a vote here and there. It was an action -- you know this. It was an effort by Donald Trump to hold onto power.
YOUNGKIN: Well, what -- what I do know is that we have -- we have questions about the election process.
And what we have done in Virginia is go to work in order to shore up our election process. And people should trust our election process in Virginia. We have passed legislation on certified machines. And I would hope that -- I would hope they Kari Lake, when she's governor, because I think to elect her governor will do the exact same thing, which is to do with Florida did after the hanging chad incident, to do what we have done in Virginia, which is to invest in the process to secure confidence in it.
This is about future confidence in an election process. And this is what Republican governors should go to work on. And I have seen it all over the country that Republican governors have gone to work to secure the election process, to make people trust it and have faith in it. And this is what we should be doing.
TAPPER: So, last question is, it's -- people out there might not know you can only have one term as governor of Virginia.
After that, a White House run?
YOUNGKIN: Oh, goodness.
YOUNGKIN: I am so focused right now on being the best governor in Virginia that I can possibly be.
We have got a lot to do. There's real challenges. We have made huge progress, real challenges. I am focused on getting some Republican congressional candidates elected in Virginia and some governors elected around the nation.
2024 is a long way away. And I'm really humbled by the speculation, but, right now, I'm very focused on Virginia.
TAPPER: All right, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, thanks so much for being here.
YOUNGKIN: Thank you.
TAPPER: Really appreciate it.
A dramatic cut in OPEC's oil production is a harsh blow to the Biden administration. Did President Biden get played by the Saudis? Democratic Senator Chris Murphy is here.
Plus: As President Biden warns of -- quote -- "Armageddon," an American who just held high-level meetings with Russian leaders gives us his take on the mood in Moscow.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: And welcome back to the STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
President Biden said this week he's trying to figure out if there's an off-ramp for Vladimir Putin amid these military defeats in Ukraine and nuclear threats, as the president faces renewed pressure from Saudi Arabia after the nation essentially flipped the bird to the U.S., joining with Russia to cut oil production, in spite of an intense lobbying effort from American officials. The impact here at home is a potential gas price spike right before
you cast your vote.
Joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. He is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
So, Senator, lots to talk about.
So, President Biden made some stunning comments at this New York fund- raiser about the potential for Armageddon. But take a listen to three of the highest-ranking U.S. officials earlier asked their views about Russia using a nuclear weapon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I don't see anything right now that would lead me to believe that he has made such a decision.
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We do not presently see indications about the imminent use of nuclear weapons.
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are looking very carefully to see if Russia is actually doing anything that suggests that they are contemplating the use of nuclear weapons. To date, we have not seen them take these actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So what's President Biden talking about? Do you see Armageddon as a real possibility?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, I think the president is right to raise the risk of nuclear conflict, because Vladimir Putin is increasingly getting pushed into a corner.
This war is going incredibly badly for him. The mobilization that he has undertaken has backfired. This morning, you see scenes of hundreds of Russian troops essentially refusing to go into training and to the front. So, yes, this is a dangerous man. And the United States has to be ready for Putin to use a tactical nuclear weapon.
I agree I don't think there's any sign that he is going to do that imminently. And it's important for us to send signals about what the consequences would be, should he make that choice. But I think Joe Biden is right to just get this country ready for the fact that you are dealing with an incredibly dangerous human being in Russia, the war is going badly, and you just can't predict what he's going to do next.
TAPPER: Somebody I know who has ties to the Ukrainian government expressed concern to me that President Biden might be playing into Putin's hands by escalating the rhetoric.
Perhaps those European allies who are already a little bit wobbly when it comes to standing up against Putin might go wobblier if they think, God, if we keep going down this path, we're going to have a nuclear war.
MURPHY: Well, this war can end if Vladimir Putin decides to get his troops and personnel out of Ukraine.
He made a decision to invade a sovereign neighboring country. And the blood today and tomorrow is on his hands. Now, I think the president has made the right call to be very clear with Putin about what we're going to do and what we're not going to do.
We're not putting U.S. troops in Ukraine. We have been careful about transferring weapons to Ukraine that they could use to make attacks inside Russia. And I think, as long as we communicate the lines that we are not willing to cross, then the danger for escalation lessens.
But I don't want to get into a world in which we start blaming ourselves for escalation. This is Putin's war, and it's his decision as to whether it ends.
TAPPER: Let's turn to a major decision by OPEC this week to reduce oil production.
You're calling for President Biden to make a wholesale reevaluation of the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia. What do you want to see President Biden do? Should he stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia?
MURPHY: Listen, we sell massive amounts of arms to the Saudis. I think we need to rethink those sales.
I think we need to lift the exemption that we have given this OPEC Plus cartel from U.S. price-fixing liability. I think we need to look at our troop presence in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia.
I mean, listen, for years, we have looked the other way as Saudi Arabia has...
MURPHY: ... chopped up journalists, has engaged in massive political repression, for one reason.
We wanted to know that, when the chips were down, when there was a global crisis, that the Saudis would choose us, instead of Russia. Well, they didn't. They chose Russia. They chose to back up the Russians, drive up oil prices, which could have the potential to fracture our Ukraine coalition.
And there's got to be consequences for that. So, whether it's lifting the cartel's immunity, or whether it's rethinking our troop presence there, our security relationship, I just think it's time to admit that the Saudis are not looking out for us.
TAPPER: So it's been three months since President Biden met with Saudi Crown Prince and now Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman, shared that infamous fist bump. There it is, bang. The president's still defending that meeting this week, saying it
wasn't just about oil. It's about a whole bunch of other things. But given this week's decision by OPEC, what do you think? Did President Biden get played?
MURPHY: Listen, I don't have any problem with American presidents meeting with our friends or adversaries.
I think it's clear that, right now, the relationship is broken. But it's been broken under Democratic presidents and Republican presidents. So I'm never going to criticize an American president for meeting with another leader. It's clear that we didn't get as much as we needed to out of that meeting between the United States and the Saudis.
TAPPER: But didn't he give MBS legitimacy and hasn't MBS since that meeting behaved in almost every single opportunity -- way exactly the opposite way the U.S. would want him to, I mean, on human rights, on OPEC, on everything?
MURPHY: Well, again, I think we do have important equities with the Saudis. I think it's kind of naive to think that we shouldn't be talking to them.
But we can remove any hint of legitimacy that that meeting gives them by taking action right now, by deciding to downgrade our security relationship, by removing their liability. There are steps that we can take to make it clear to the Saudis that we are -- there's going to be a price to be paid if you take our weapons, if you accept the moral cover that we give you for your human rights crimes, and then you get in bed with the Russians on oil production.
TAPPER: So, another reason that the U.S. has been aligned with the Saudis is because the Saudis are enemies of Iran, another evil regime.
And violent clashes between human rights protesters in Iran and security forces there continue this weekend. Four more civilians were killed yesterday, bringing the total number of people killed to 185, according to a humans rights group. It's probably much more than that.
Are you satisfied with President Biden's response to these protests. What more should we be doing?
MURPHY: First, I think it is far higher than the number that has been disclosed, right?
TAPPER: Of course, yes.
MURPHY: I think we have no sense of the scope of repression and the number of protesters that have been killed.
Yes, I think the president's taking the right steps. So the president has sanctioned a vast swathe of Iranian leaders who have been leading this repression. He is working to try to make sure that communications are restored. We obviously have a limited ability to operate inside Iran. It's not
as if the United States has a big presence there with which to try to facilitate this -- this unrest. But I think the president has very clearly signaled and Congress should clearly signal that we stand on the side of these protesters.
This is a unique moment in Iran right now. And we should be doing everything we can to try to make sure that the people get what they want.
TAPPER: All right, Senator Chris Murphy, good to see you. Thank you so much.
MURPHY: Appreciate it.
TAPPER: Coming up next: a front-row view of the Russian regime.
Former U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson is just back from Moscow. He's here to tell us what Putin's team really wants.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
What will it take to get WNBA superstar Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan out of the Russian prisons where they have been detained unfairly?
One man who might know, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Richardson met in Moscow with senior Russian officials last month, despite some open criticism for that move from the Biden administration. And he has negotiated for the release of American hostages in the past successfully.
He joins us now exclusively for his first interview since his trip to Russia.
Governor Richardson, thanks so much for joining us.
So, you and your team were in Moscow last month holding meetings with Russian leadership. What can you tell us about who you met with? And were your conversations about trying to free Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, Jake, we were also there on behalf of other hostage families that have detainees in Russia, including an American POW in Eastern Ukraine.
So, here's my view. Number one, I'm a private humanitarian foundation. I don't work for the U.S. government, but we consult with them. We consult with Russian officials. I have had a track record.
I am cautiously optimistic on the Griner-Wheeler (sic) negotiations. I am cautiously optimistic. I think it's going to be a two-for-two. I don't want to get into who I met with. It was senior Russian officials, individuals close to President Putin.
I have coordinated with the White House. I have coordinated as much as I can. But, sometimes, they're a little nervous about my doing this on my own. But, at the same time, we have had success recently with Trevor Reed, the Russian -- the American hostage in Russia, some months ago, Danny Fenster, a journalist in Myanmar, at the end of last year.
So, I think I know what I'm doing. But, at the same time, it's important that we recognize that I work, our foundation, for families. We don't work for the U.S. government. We don't -- we do everything at no cost to families.
But, at the same time, we do coordinate with the administration. And we're doing that.
TAPPER: Well, the Biden administration was pretty publicly against your efforts there, it sounds like, anyway.
Take a listen to what the National Security Council spokesman, John, Kirby told me last month when I asked him about your trip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, NSC COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Our message is that private citizens should not be in Moscow at all right now, and that private citizens cannot negotiate on behalf of the United States government.
Look, we share Mr. Richardson's desire to see Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan home with their families and her teammates, where she belongs and where he belongs. And we're working very, very hard at doing that through government channels. That's the appropriate way to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, what's your response to that, sir?
RICHARDSON: Well, my response is, I'm not part of the government, the government channel. I have always made that clear. I respect that.
I think any decision, for instance, a release, a prisoner exchange, has to be made by the president. And I think the administration has done a good job on that. They recently did that in Venezuela. I think they're very serious about Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
But I don't work for them. And I think that little misunderstanding has been cleared up. But there are a lot of nervous Nellies in the government that think they could know it all, and that's not the case. Look at my track record over 30 years.
RICHARDSON: So, I'm going to continue these efforts.
TAPPER: So, obviously, Brittney Griner's wife was talking movingly in last few days about how upsetting the last phone call she had with Brittney was.
How quickly, how soon do you see this happening? You say you're optimistic. Do you think that you can get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan out by the end of the year, say?
RICHARDSON: I do think so.
Now, I hate making predictions, but yes. I know they're very despairing. We work closely with families, with the Whelan family, with the Griner family. I know they're very emotional. And this is a very emotional time.
All I can say is that the Biden administration is working hard on that. So am I. We coordinate, but not always agree on every tactical decision. But I'm not going to interfere in their process. I'm just giving you my assessment, after two visits to Russia on behalf of American hostages.
And, by the way, there are 47 other hostages around the world, in Iran, in -- four more in Venezuela, almost everywhere in hostile countries, that we, as Americans, have an obligation to bring back, whether it's the government or private humanitarian efforts.
TAPPER: Obviously, it's an extraordinary time to be in Russia, as they're waging war on Ukraine and meeting with Russian officials.
It's something none of us get to experience. Your visit comes as U.S. intelligence reportedly shows a member of Putin's inner circles voicing disagreement directly to Putin over the war.
I know you don't want to tell us the names of the officials with whom you met. But what was it like to be in the room? And did you get the sense that there was disagreement among Russian officials about hostages or about the war?
RICHARDSON: I got the sense that the Russian officials that I met with that I have known over the years are ready to talk.
And my hope right now is that, because of the nuclear situation, there -- that there should be nuclear mitigation, risk talks. We should talk about the nuclear reactors, about children, about humanitarian issues, humanitarian corridors, do something about the International Atomic Energy Agency dealing with the nuclear reactors, POWs on both sides.
I got a good sense from the Russians that the vibrations -- but I'm not a government official. And I was just there primarily to deal with the prisoner issue. And we have other Americans that are there.
RICHARDSON: So I am cautiously optimistic.
I want to ask you about North Korea also, because you have obviously have dealings with that rogue nation as well. North Korea launched two more ballistic missiles yesterday. That's eight in just two weeks, eight launches, including the first launch over Japan in five years.
The country is not responding to attempts to communicate with them by the White House, we're told. You have been involved with North Korean diplomacy for almost two decades. You have traveled there multiple times.
What's going on? Is this a different moment from what we have seen before?
RICHARDSON: I don't think it's a very different moment.
The North Koreans are unpredictable. They're inflammatory. But, in the end, they're pragmatic. Here's what I would do. I would talk directly to them. I would open discussions on humanitarian issues, the remains of American prisoners. I did that under the Bush administration, brought eight remains back of our servicemen.
I would talk about COVID. They have an outbreak of COVID. I would talk about food issues. I think it's important that we talk directly to them. What changes the landscape, China and Russia used to help us with North Korea. They don't anymore.
So, we have to forge a path that is based on humanitarian issues. What I would suggest to the Biden administration, there's a travel ban that the Trump administration initiated that prevents civil society, humanitarian groups from traveling to North Korea.
I think it's important that dialogue start on humanitarian issues, on food, on our American remains. And, there, I think there are strong efforts that the North Koreans want on remains, that we want that could be the start of a dialogue.
All right, Governor Bill Richardson, thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate it.
RICHARDSON: Thank you.
TAPPER: Coming up next: Are Republican candidates on the rise as the midterms approach? A look at the polling and flash points in this weekend's debates when we come back.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): The dollar you held at the start of the Biden administration is only worth 88.3 cents.
LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES (D-WI), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: People are being saddled with student loan debt, burdened with student loan debt, cannot fully participate in the economy.
REP. TED BUDD (R-NC): Joe Biden is on the ballot on November 8, and he goes by the name this year of Cheri Beasley.
CHERI BEASLEY (D), NORTH CAROLINA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Congressman Budd has been in Congress for six years. And what makes us thinks he's going to do something in the next six?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
Candidates in key Senate races there, Wisconsin and North Carolina, focusing on the economy in many instances in their debates, as a critical race in Georgia got a major surprise this week.
And that's where I want to start with our panel.
Obviously, allegations have surfaced that the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia, Herschel Walker, paid for his ex-girlfriend to get an abortion in 2009, and then asked her to get another one, and she did not, and then had his -- she had his child. He's denied the allegation.
I read something really interesting from conservative "Wall Street Journal" columnist Peggy Noonan about this I just want to read -- quote -- "I think Republican strategists misunderstand the scandal or miss the heart of it. It isn't really about abortion or hypocrisy. It's about children born and the father says to the mother, you can raise it by yourself or you can afford it, but I won't help you raise it and act as a father.
"Voters who would easily forgive abortion or running around or bad breakups or divorce are less likely to give a pass on that on four children left alone by their father, the rich handsome former football star and candidate for Senate."
I know that you prefer Republicans to Democrats, but, just for a second, if you could step outside of the control of the Senate here, isn't Peggy Noonan right?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, objectively, absenteeism and fatherhood is a major problem in this country.
I have four kids, and the idea of not being involved in their life, I can't even fathom it. And so it's objectively a true point she makes.
If you want, I will analyze this, though, for you...
TAPPER: Go ahead.
JENNINGS: ... the way Republicans in Georgia...
JENNINGS: Many of them, maybe not all, but many of them are going to analyze it, and it's going to be simply this.
Inflation is raging. We're in the middle of a national crime wave. The Southern border is overrun. Just this week, the president says we're on the brink of nuclear Armageddon. And he's not going to win father of the year, but neither is Raphael Warnock. And, at the end of the day, the country's in the ditch, and who you're going to call, the person who's enabled it or the person who's going to push back on it?
That's how many are going to analyze, not all. And on the margins...
JENNINGS: ... it could be a problem for Walker.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, first of all, Raphael Warnock, I know him very well and I know his ex-wife very well.
He's a great father. So, I just want to...
TAPPER: Yes, a messy divorce is not the same thing...
SELLERS: He's a great father. So let me just start there.
But, otherwise, I think the issue that people have is, yes, the hypocrisy, the abortion hypocrisy. You don't make exceptions for incest or rape or the life of the mother, but you do make an exception if a man's political career is in danger. That's first.
Second, we get criticized all the time -- and, a lot of times, it comes from the far right -- about black men not being in the home, taking care of their children. You hear this trope all the time: Where are all the black fathers? Where are their fathers?
And then they go and get Herschel Walker, who wouldn't know a father if one stood in front of him, because he has not raised his children. But that's OK.
The hypocrisy is just layered in Georgia.
MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I actually want to address the hypocrisy.
But I want to say this. The most disturbing part of this for me is the loss of life and how -- growing up in college, it was common knowledge that an abortion was a safe and effective way to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy.
I'm not making any excuses here. But he's gotten an opportunity to own up, stand up and say, I'm going to -- this is how it should be done. I'm going to do something differently.
But I want to address the hypocrisy, because most Democrats don't think he's done anything wrong, but they're going to use it to beat him up about it and win the seat.
So, I ask the question, what is more important, the issue or the seat?
FMR. STATE SEN. NINA TURNER (D-OH): But some Republicans are using the issue.
I mean, you had Dana Loesch, or Loesch, however she pronounces her name, basically say, this is a power grab and I don't care if he had -- helped some skank...
TAPPER: That's the word she used, yes.
TURNER: ... right, get an abortion.
So, how dare she, first of all, call another woman who she knows nothing about a skank? And if indeed that woman is a skank, what does that make Herschel Walker?
TURNER: Stop making excuses.
The people in Georgia, the people who are suffering, the working-class people, what they care about is who's going to stand up and fight for them. I just see this as a total distraction. And I'm glad that Senator Warnock just continues to focus on the economy and lifting people up.
But both parties are going to use this as a political football. Meanwhile, the people are being left behind.
TAPPER: And Senator Rick Scott of Florida, the chairman of the Republican Senate campaign arm, is going to Georgia on Tuesday to support Walker.
JENNINGS: Yes, so is Tom Cotton, senator from Arkansas.
Look, the Republicans functionally don't really have much of a choice here. Herschel Walker is the nominee.
TAPPER: Yes, you can't replace him. There's no legal way to replace him.
JENNINGS: That's exactly right.
And if you look at the map in totality, it's come down to a couple of states.
Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Nevada, I'd say, are the top three states on the map.
JENNINGS: And so if you consider how small the playing field is and how close Walker has been -- by the way, Democrats have spent $50 million on attack ads against Walker, largely on the issue of character, and the race has gotten closer and closer.
So I don't know what the ultimate impact is. I know that, when the Senate control is this close, you -- there's nowhere else to go. This is part of the final matrix for Republicans if they hope to get the majority.
TAPPER: And, Bakari, listen to President Biden senior adviser former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms expressing concern about voter enthusiasm among Democrats in Georgia.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Just as a voter, I can tell you, I am very concerned that the lack of enthusiasm in our state right now.
I don't feel and see the enthusiasm that I think voters across Georgia should have right now. And I know that, oftentimes, in midterm elections, people don't turn out to vote. I hope that won't be the case this year in Georgia.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: She's talking about Democratic voters, to be clear.
No, and, I mean, I think she's sounding the alarm, just as many people have been doing. But it ain't just Atlanta.
LOVE: That's right.
SELLERS: I mean, it's Philadelphia in the race in Pennsylvania. It's Cleveland in the race with Tim Ryan and J.D. Vance. It's Orlando and Miami in Val Demings' race.
And so Democrats have to do a better job, particularly -- and I can't wait for my phone to blow up after I say this -- but particularly with black men.
TURNER: Come on. Say it. SELLERS: Like, you just can't come to black men after Labor Day and say, come vote for us every two years.
TURNER: That's right.
SELLERS: There has to be a more direct, engaged approach with black male voters, who, by all intents and purposes, after African-American women, are the second largest turnout base.
TURNER: That's right.
SELLERS: And that's just something that we haven't done forever. And it drives me crazy.
TURNER: I totally...
TAPPER: So, you're in Ohio. Tell us.
TURNER: I am, and I'm amening what Bakari is saying.
I mean, the Democratic Party often leaves out the whole swathe of black men. And black men matter too. Their votes matter. And they are very much an integral part of the success of the Democratic Party.
And so Bottoms is absolutely right. The enthusiasm gap is there. And we have got to do a better job.
LOVE: Of course the enthusiasm isn't there. I mean, who wants to get up and say, OK, let me -- let me go and fill up my car with gas and try and get here? Or who is going to say my paycheck is not matching all of the things I have to buy?
SELLERS: But I...
LOVE: The enthusiasm, of course, is not there.
SELLERS: But gas has dropped for 14 weeks in a row.
And we just had the president of the United States just take action on marijuana, which we're very excited that he took. And we're examining rescheduling. I think the disconnect, though, is the sustained approach over time and the direct messaging and communication to these groups, which is what Nina and I are...
TAPPER: So, speaking of messaging, Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville hit the stage at former President Trump's rally in Nevada last night, and -- well, let's just roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): They want crime because they want to take over what you got. They want to control what you have.
They want reparation because they think the people that do the crime are owed that.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TUBERVILLE: They're not owed that.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, just to be clear, "They want reparation because they think that people that do the crime are owed that."
That is -- there's no other way to read that sentence. And we have reached out several times to Tuberville's team. There's no other way to read that other than: Black people want reparations, and they do the crime.
LOVE: Is that what he means by "they," when he keeps saying "they want that or they..."
TURNER: That is exactly what -- that is what exactly what he means.
TAPPER: There's only one conversation about reparations, and it's for descendants of...
SELLERS: And crime.
SELLERS: Tommy Tuberville can go to hell. And let me tell you why.
The fact is, he made...
SELLERS: He made tens of millions of dollars off unpaid black men as a football coach.
He literally has the stature he has because people went out there and assumed the risk and incurred the risk of concussions, playing hard and everything. And then for him to give these racist tropes, I mean, it infuriates me.
But this is a large swathe of the Republican Party that they have to deal with that they have never done. TURNER: Yes, I mean, the "they," just flat out, he's talking about
He should man up and say it. American descendants of slaves do deserve reparations in this country. They absolutely do.
But for him to equate a whole group of people as being criminal, you know what's criminal? Allowing people to languish in poverty, not supporting policies that will lift people up. That is what's criminal.
JENNINGS: There's -- by the way, there's a way to talk about crime in this campaign. It's an important issue. A lot of people are worried about it.
SELLERS: It is.
JENNINGS: This ain't it.
TURNER: Right. There it is.
JENNINGS: Objectively speaking, we do have violence...
TAPPER: Blacks are also overwhelmingly the victims of crime.
JENNINGS: And people across the political spectrum are worried about it.
JENNINGS: And so there's a way to discuss issues that are very serious, and this ain't it.
TURNER: His true nature came out.
LOVE: There's a way to talk about being upset with the police department without -- and saying, listen, the -- we can't defund police.
LOVE: We can't -- there's a way to talk about it.
And, again, it's just -- when somebody shows you who they are, you have to believe them.
LOVE: And it's unfortunate that we're sitting here at a table in America today and we're having this conversation.
SELLERS: But I wish we were having a conversation about early childhood education. I wish we were having a conversation that the reason that a lot of kids don't perform in school is the fact they go to school hungry.
SELLERS: How do we make sure community policing is something that we all embrace?
Like, my mama and daddy don't want to defund the police. But what they do want to do is have good police. They want to have respectable conversations in the community. They want to make sure that we undergird our community with the resources necessary, so that we can drink clean water, like in Jackson, Mississippi, so that you don't have inflation and poverty.
And those are the conversations about crime we should have, not Tommy Tuberville being the racist that he is.
TURNER: A racist.
TAPPER: Yes. Well, I'm glad nobody at this table was defending those comments, because they're pretty indefensible.
Thanks, one and all, for being here. Really good to see all of you.
Welcome back. It's been a long time.
TURNER: Thank you.
TAPPER: Good to see you.
There's something I'm excited about coming next week -- coming this week. I'm going to tell you about it next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Want to take a moment now to tell you about an exciting new hour of TV that I hope you will tune into.
Starting on Tuesday, so, in two days, I will be anchoring the 9:00 p.m. hour weeknights for CNN from now through the midterms.
We're going to try to bring you a new kind of show in prime time. We're going to try to go a little deeper on an issue or two of the day. We're going to try to have longer conversations with newsmakers and experts from all facets of our lives.
Join us. Let us know what you think. It starts Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/6:00 p.m. Pacific.
[10:00:04] Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right now.
I will see you Tuesday night.