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State of the Union

Interview With U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken; Interview With Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL); Interview With New York Congressman-Elect Mike Lawler; Interview With Sen. Sherrod Brown (D- OH). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 04, 2022 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Georgia rematch. Once again Georgia votes.

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): You all sound like you're ready to win an election.

HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: We decided to get the wrong leaders in Washington.

TAPPER: As Democratic hope to improve their Senate margin, what would they do with it? One progressive with ambitious plans for December, Senator Sherrod Brown, joins us in moments.

And the next fight. Kevin McCarthy tries to shore up his support for speaker, as his party faces an uproar over Donald Trump's ties to antisemites and his new call to terminate the Constitution. What will a Republican-controlled House look like? New Republican Congressman Mike Lawler is ahead.

Plus: defiant. Mass protests erupted in China and more bloody crackdowns against protesters in Iran. Is the Biden administration doing enough to help the fight for freedom? Secretary of State Antony Blinken joins me next.


TAPPER: Hello.

I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is wondering what is on Georgia's mind. Voters are turning out in record numbers this week in the run-off between Senator Raphael Warnock, the Democrat, and Herschel Walker, the Republican.

On Tuesday, Democrats will find out if Warnock is headed back to the Senate, giving his party some breathing room as they try this month to pass key priorities before Republicans take over the House of Representatives in January.

Now, this week, we got a hint of what a Republican-controlled House could look like, as a handful of lawmakers on the fringe of the Republican Party, frankly, vowed to block Leader Kevin McCarthy's bid for speaker, while the party squirms around former President Trump's dinner with notorious antisemites and Holocaust deniers and Trump's refusal to disavow them or assail their twisted ideologies and, as if that weren't enough, Trump's new call Saturday to -- quote -- "terminate" rules in the Constitution so as to reinstall him as president.

Coming up, we will talk about December priorities with Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who is set to defend his seat in two years in increasingly red state Ohio, plus Republican and congressman-elect Mike Lawler, who is warning his Republican colleagues not to cause chaos on their first day in charge.

But we begin today's show with foreign policy and a remarkably strong uprising against authoritarian governments in China and Iran, while, here in the U.S., President Biden underscored ties with European allies and the unified West's opposition to Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine.

Joining us now to discuss, Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Secretary Blinken, thanks so much for joining us.


TAPPER: Let's start with Ukraine, because it's clear that Russia is openly terrorizing the Ukrainian people with attacks, not just on civilians, but on civilian infrastructure.

There are many in Congress, including Speaker Pelosi, who have called on the Biden administration to label Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Now, I know the White House says that such a move could have unintended consequences, such as delaying food exports.

But, frankly, the government of Ukraine isn't buying that explanation. They say that you could avoid that with carve-outs for food and goods. Why haven't you labeled Russia a state sponsor of terrorism?

BLINKEN: Jake, let's look at what's happening first.

Putin tried to erase Ukraine from the map, erase its identity, subsume it back into Russia. That failed. Then he engaged in a land grab in Eastern Ukraine and Southern Ukraine. That's been failing because the Ukrainian military has been pushing back and taking back a lot of the territory that Putin gained.

Now, to your point, what he's doing is trying to weaponize winter, turn out the lights, turn off the heat, put the Ukrainian people into darkness and cold just as they head into the winter months. This is indeed barbaric.

We're pushing back very strongly in our support for Ukraine, making sure that they're getting the missile defenses they need, working on getting them the different pieces for their energy infrastructure that they need, as Putin tries to destroy it. As to sanctions, we have leveled unprecedented sanctions against

Russia, unprecedented export controls, all of that in coordination with dozens of countries. I just got back from meetings in NATO. The solidarity among the NATO partners, the G7 partners is very strong and resolute.

So, we're constantly looking at different measures that we can take to, as necessary, increase the pressure. We're working with Congress right now on legislation that would help us get around some of the challenges of using the state sponsor of terrorism designation, which, as you said, has some unintended consequences.


BLINKEN: We're finding -- working with Congress on a way forward to get to the same place.

TAPPER: So, you have imposed the sanctions. That's true.

Here's another question for you, though. What new costs has the U.S. government inflicted on Russia for its targeting of Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure since these new bombings started in October? I don't think there have been any new costs since October.


BLINKEN: Jake, the costs are accumulating every single day, because the impact of the sanctions is both immediate, but then it grows over time.

And what we're seeing is Russia having an inability to replace the weapons it's using, in large part because of the export controls that we put in place, meaning they can't get the spare parts, they can't bring things in from the outside.

We see, across their economy, devastating effects from the sanctions that only grow. And, in particular, if you're looking at Russia's efforts to modernize its economy, whether it comes -- whether it's energy technology, whether it's its basic telecommunications, infrastructure, whether it's its defense and aerospace industry, every single day that goes by with these sanctions in place, the burden on Russia gets heavier and heavier, its ability to prosecute these kinds of wars gets weaker and weaker.

TAPPER: The Biden administration has been outspoken in its support for the Iranian protesters.

You're taking a more tepid approach to the protests in China against zero COVID policy and other government overreaches. Republican Senator Marco Rubio has called your response so far weak and nothing short of cowardly when it comes to China.

Now, I know the U.S. supports the rights of all people to protest, but specifically on the zero COVID protesters in China, does the Biden administration support the protesters in China? BLINKEN: Of course we do. We support the right people everywhere, whether it's in China, whether it's Iran, whether it's anyplace else, to protest peacefully, to make known their views, to vent their frustrations.

And as that repressed in one way or another in any given country, we speak out against it, we stand up against it, and we take action against it. In the case of Iran, we have worked very hard to impose sanctions on those responsible for the crackdown on mostly Iranian women, who've been leading these -- in an incredibly courageous way, these protests since the death of Mahsa Amini, as well as trying to make sure that Iranians have in their hands the communications technology to allow them to continue to talking to each other and connected to the outside world.

We have spoken out against the repression of protesters anywhere, including in China. But, fundamentally, Jake, this is not about us. This is about people in both countries trying to express their views, trying to have their aspirations met, and the response that the governments are taking to that.

TAPPER: You're traveling to China at the beginning of the new year.

What are you going to say to Xi Jinping about the protesters?

BLINKEN: We will say what we always say and what President Biden has said to Xi Jinping, which is that human rights and basic civil liberties go to the heart of who we are as Americans.

And no American government, no American president is going to be silent on that. But this trip early next year follows the president's conversations with Xi Jinping on the margins of the G20 summit that we recently had in Indonesia.

And it's very important that we're communicating directly and clearly with China. We want to make sure that there are no misunderstandings, no miscommunication, that we have a floor under the -- under the relationship. And the president's had a productive conversation in that sense.

We want to make sure that there are active channels of communication, and that is the best way to make sure that there's no miscommunication.

TAPPER: Let's turn...

BLINKEN: At the same time...

TAPPER: Go ahead.

BLINKEN: Go ahead, Jake.

TAPPER: No, I'm sorry.

BLINKEN: No, just to say, at the same time, we're in an intense competition with China. There's no secret about that. And, by the way, there's nothing wrong with competition, as long as it's fair, as long as it's on a level playing field.

But we want to make sure that that competition does not veer into conflict. So, I will be pursuing these conversations early next year. Others in the administration will be engaged with their counterparts in China.

The world expects us to do that. The world expects us to manage this relationship responsibly. And, by the way, if we can find places to cooperate, because it's in the interests of our people, but also in the interest of people around the world, we will try to do that too, for example, on climate, on global health.


So, on the matter of Iran, take a listen to what one of your predecessors, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, told CNN this week about negotiations over Iran's nuclear program during this time of protests.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I would not be negotiating with Iran on anything right now, including the nuclear agreement. I don't think we should look like we're seeking an agreement at a time when the people of Iran are standing up to their oppressors.

And we are giving them hope and heart.


TAPPER: Are nuclear negotiations with Iran still ongoing?

BLINKEN: First, let's remember how we got here.

We had a nuclear agreement with Iran reached by the Obama administration. It put Iran's nuclear program in a box. Unfortunately, getting out of that agreement, which was the decision of our predecessor administration, has allowed Iran to push its program out of the box.

We have gone from having a breakout time -- that is the amount of time it would take to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon -- under the agreement, it was more than one year. Now it's down to a matter of weeks. That's the situation that we find ourselves in.

We continue to believe that, ultimately, diplomacy is the most effective way to deal with this. But that's not where the focus is. And, as Secretary Clinton says, the world is rightly focused on these protests, on the efforts by Iranian women and young people to make known their views, to speak freely, and, in particular, in the wake of the killing of Mahsa Amini.


That's where the focus is. TAPPER: All right, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, thank you so

much for your time today. Really appreciate it.

Good to be with you, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up: Can a Democrat still win statewide in Ohio? I will ask Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, if he can do it again, plus his new push to regulate cryptocurrency. That's next.

And moderate Republicans warning a fight over the new speaker could hurt the Republican Party. Congressman-elect Mike Lawler, Republican of New York, is coming up.


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

As Democrats hope for a win in Georgia's Senate run-off on Tuesday, they're already looking ahead to the 2024 cycle, when they will have to defend seats in increasingly red states such as Ohio, where my next guest, a progressive Democrat with a strong blue-collar base, hopes to win reelection in 2024.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

So, the U.S. economy added 263,000 jobs in November. That's a sign that the economy is still faring well, despite aggressive efforts by the Federal Reserve to cool high inflation. The Fed will meet again next week to decide how much higher to raise interest rates, if at all.


You're the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. What do you think they should do?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): Well, I think that I -- I tell Jay Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve this, whenever we talk, that his allegiance is to two things. It's to keep inflation down. It's also to fight for a fuller -- a full employment economy, that dual -- the dual responsibility he has.

And I think we're on track to do that. Job growth is still good. Inflation on gas prices are down to three -- average, I think in Ohio, in my -- at least in my neighborhood in Cleveland, $3.19, $3.29, that level. That's down sharply from several months ago.

I think we're on the right track. We have got a lot to do.

TAPPER: Speaking of right track, the Senate passed legislation this week to avert a potentially devastating strike by railway workers.

A push to include workers' key demand for seven days of paid sick leave, that failed. Here's what one union member told CNN. Take a listen.


REECE MURTAGH, ROADWAY MECHANIC: We have a pro-labor president who loves to pat himself on the back for that. And when the going got tough, he turned his back on the people he's supposed to be looking out for.

Joe Biden forced a contract on our unionized workers who voted against it.


TAPPER: Now, you, Senator, you voted to add the seven days of paid leave. But after that amendment failed, you still voted for the final deal.

How do you explain this to a union worker like Reece? It doesn't seem like Democrats were truly standing up with all of their force against these billion-dollar rail companies?

BROWN: Yes, I mean, we have -- every Democrat but one voted for the sick pay days, the seven sick days -- sick days. Only six Republicans did. We couldn't get to 60 votes.

We're -- I take a backseat to nobody in fighting for workers, in fighting for union members, and non-union members too. But the issue here is, we have to keep the economy going. I'm going to go back, and I'm working with staff, working with the leader's office, working with the White House on, how do we help these workers to make sure eventually they get these sick days?

But we also know, if there had been a strike, that, literally, hundreds of thousands, maybe more, workers would have been out of work for a lengthy period of time. We have to look at the whole economy, but I will never lose my focus on those workers who didn't get as good a deal as we'd like to have had.

But, again, almost every Republican voted no. We're continuing to try to work bipartisanly with them and with the White House to fix this.

TAPPER: You just asked Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen this week to work with Congress to propose new regulations on cryptocurrency. That's after the recent collapse of the FTX crypto exchange.

Congress has not done anything on this issue for the -- for years. You're the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Why is it taking so long to pass any protections for Americans investing in cryptocurrency? And do you think that the millions of dollars that former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried donated to Democrats, do you think that has made a difference in blocking regulation?

BROWN: No. First of all, he donated equally to both parties.

This is not about FTX or one crypto company. This is about everything about national security, from Russian oligarchs, to North Korean cyber criminals, to gun runners, to drug traffickers.

This is -- that love the thought of using unregulated, unrestricted cyber. To say Congress has done nothing is not quite accurate. We have done a series of hearings exposing the problems with crypto, the problems for consumers, the problems for our economy here, and the problems internationally and for our national security.

We will continue that. The SEC, we have -- I have sent a letter to Secretary Yellen and to all of the regulators, the SEC, the CFPB, the CFTC, the Federal Reserve, the OCC, the FDIC, all these -- all these federal agencies that can -- that can together do the kind of regulatory effort we need to make sure that crypto doesn't harm our economy here and doesn't contribute to illicit finance and all that cyber criminals and crypto -- and international gun runners and drug traffickers want to do.

TAPPER: So, hearings and letters are fine. When I said nothing's been done, I was referring specifically to regulations and protections for working people.

BROWN: I understand that, yes.

TAPPER: And, yes, it's true that Bankman-Fried gave money to Republicans as well, a lot of it through dark money, but Democrats are in charge of the Senate. You're -- you're running things.

And I'm just wondering, do you think there's even an appearance problem that crypto billionaires give money to Democrats that run the House and run the Senate, at least currently, and there are no new regulations protecting people?


And you saw what happened with FTX, all these people whose life savings, whose retirement accounts, poof, gone, because there's no regulation.

BROWN: Well, and that's why I have urged -- I mean, there are authorities at the SEC and others, they have the authority to do a good bit of this regulation.

We still have half the Senate, the Republicans and a handful of Democrats still think crypto is legitimate, and that it is something that should be a significant part of our economy. So, it's not like we snap our fingers and get crypto -- get a crypto bill through the Senate and through the House.

But I am -- I talk to the regulators regularly and will continue to that they can -- they can put -- they can put regulations out there to protect the public from this kind of consumer fraud and protect our country and our national security -- in terms of national security from the -- from the hackers and the crypto criminals.

So, it's -- we're working on two tracks there. I would love to do something legislatively. I don't know that Congress is capable of that because of crypto's hold on one political party in the Senate and the House.

So -- but we're trying every day. That's why I'm working with Yellen, the secretary of the Treasury, and Gensler at FDI -- at SEC, and others to do what they can do to crack down on crypto.

TAPPER: So, finally, sir, you're up for reelection in 2024 in Ohio. You're a top target for Republicans.

Your friend Congressman Tim Ryan just ran as good a race as Democrats could have hoped for against an unpopular Republican in Ohio, and he still lost by six points to your new colleague J.D. Vance. How worried are you ahead of your own reelection bid? Is Ohio even still a swing state?

BROWN: Of course it is. I'm not worried. I'm always -- I mean, I know it's a challenge always, but I'm going about doing my job, where I'm going to -- I have been to 15 counties talking about the PACT Act, that really important bill that will protect -- that will provide health care to veterans exposed to these football-field-size burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We're working on the -- we delivered on the pension bill; 100,000 Ohio union families are getting their pension restored. Just this week, bricklayers in Northeast Ohio got their pension money finally. We're working on the infrastructure bill and implementation there.

So much of what we have done in that first year-and-a-half, of everything from child tax credit, to pensions, to infrastructure, to the CHIPS Act, is now all about implementation. So, my job is to help get them through the Congress. And I have been a leader on a number of those things as main sponsors of some of those bills.

My next job is to work with local communities, local businesses, local labor unions, local government officials to implement infrastructure and implement the CHIPS Act and implement the PACT Act and working with veterans and all that.

So, that's what I will do for the next year or two, not many people thinking about the 2024 election. I will do my job. We will see how that goes.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, if I don't see you, happy holidays to you and your journalist wife.

BROWN: Thanks, and to you. Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Always a big fan of the journalist wife out there.

Thanks so much.

TAPPER: What happens if Kevin McCarthy doesn't get 218 votes for speaker? I will ask a new House Republican if he would consider anyone else.

That's ahead.



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

Already, there are questions about how Republicans will manage their new House majority.

Former President Trump is bringing his own brand of chaos back to his party, just as Kevin McCarthy is trying to convince a rebellious conference to back him for speaker.

My next guest says that fight would hurt the Republican Party just as it takes control of the House.


TAPPER: And joining me now to discuss, incoming Republican congressman-elect Mike Lawler of New York.

Congressman-elect, congratulations on your victory.

I do want to ask you about something that the front-runner for your party's presidential nomination, former President Donald Trump, wrote on his social media platform this weekend.

He says -- quote -- "Do you throw the presidential election results of 2020 out and declare the rightful winner, or do you have a new election? A massive fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution" -- unquote.

So, congressman-elect, what is your reaction to Donald Trump calling for the termination of the U.S. Constitution?

MIKE LAWLER (R), NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: Well, obviously, I don't support that.

The Constitution is set for a reason, to protect the rights of every American. And so I certainly don't endorse that language or that sentiment. I think the question for everyone is how we move forward.

I ran for Congress to address the challenges that we're facing and be forward-looking. Frankly, I think people are tired of looking backwards. I think people are tired of discussing the grievances of prior elections. And they want to know what we're going to do to address the challenges.

And I think the former president would be well-advised to focus on the future, if he is going to run for president again.

TAPPER: All right.

Let's -- let us move on, because, right now, there's a big House leadership race. And you are supporting Kevin McCarthy, the current Republican leader, for speaker. You say -- quote -- "You stick with the one who brought you to the dance."


As of right now, it does not seem as though McCarthy has the 218 votes he will need to become speaker .Are you worried there's a chance he won't become speaker, he won't get those 218 votes?

LAWLER: Well, listen, a month is a long time in politics, but I am confident that Kevin McCarthy will have a 218 votes on January 3 to become speaker.

And I myself, as has been alluded to, am in full support of Kevin. And, frankly, Kevin is the only person that I will be voting for, for speaker, if it's one vote or multiple votes. And I think there's many of my colleagues who feel the same way. And, frankly, we're not going to be held hostage by a handful of members, when the overwhelming majority of the conference is in full support of Kevin.

I think the objective here needs to be to focus on our agenda and what we all got elected on, which was, number one, to stop the out-of- control Biden agenda, and, number two, the Commitment to America.

And I think the American people are looking for members of Congress to be serious, to be sober, to be focused on addressing these challenges. And that's where our efforts and attention should be. The conference has spoken loud and clear. And I think all of my colleagues should move forward in support of Kevin, so that we can get to work on behalf of the American people.

TAPPER: You're right, it is just a handful of House Republicans that are opposing him. But, as of right now, there are at least five of them. And he can't afford to lose five of them.

There might be multiple votes, as you say. You're saying that you're going to stick with McCarthy even if it is multiple votes?

LAWLER: I will only be voting for Kevin McCarthy for speaker. And I know many of my colleagues within the conference feel the same way.

So, this is potentially obviously something that could come to a head. But I do think cooler heads will prevail. And I do think, on January 3, Kevin will have the necessary votes to become speaker.

TAPPER: Let's talk about some issues of policy.

Republican Senator John Thune, who's a member of the Senate Republican leadership, he said this week that he thinks the next Congress -- so that's the one that you will be a member of -- will have to deal with raising the debt ceiling.

House Republicans say that they're prepared to use that vote, raising the debt ceiling, as leverage to force spending cuts. Are you comfortable with that tactic, risking default on U.S. debt?

LAWLER: Well, listen, there's no question our debt is out of control. I mean, we're talking about over $30 trillion. We need to get spending under control.

Under the Biden administration, we have increased spending by over $4 trillion. There's no question that this is unsustainable. And so, certainly, there are levers of power within Congress, and debt ceiling votes are one of them. At the end of the day, we have to pay our debt and we have to ensure that the government is functional and operating.

But I think there really needs to be, frankly, a come to Jesus on this when it comes to spending. Both parties have been guilty of this over recent years. And we need to be serious about tackling our out-of- control spending and debt.

And so I think this is going to be a discussion that is warranted moving forward.

TAPPER: I mean, you say that. And you note it's both parties. And it -- that's true. I just want to note that the deficit grew every year under the Trump administration, and the debt grew by $8 trillion. Two of those years, obviously, Republicans were in control.

I don't sense an appetite among your fellow House Republicans to take on the fight. There are individuals like John Thune and others, but generally, in the House, I don't sense it.

Senator Thune floated this week an effort to -- quote -- "get serious" about possible changes to make Social Security and Medicare more sustainable. He wants to do this during the debt ceiling battle.

Would you support any changes to the social safety net or entitlement programs?

LAWLER: Well, as I said, during my campaign, we have to protect Social Security and Medicare. It is critically important.

There are obviously significant challenges with both programs going forward. We need to ensure that the trust fund is sustainable. And so I think we need to evaluate what needs to be done. Frankly, I think there should be a blue-ribbon commission, much like was done back in the '80s, a bipartisan commission, to evaluate the long term aspect of Social Security and Medicare.

But we have a responsibility to fulfill our commitments there. And so my objective is to make sure that they are sustainable for the long term.

TAPPER: All right, congressman-elect Mike Lawler of New York, thanks so much for being with us today.


LAWLER: Thanks for having me.


TAPPER: It seems as though some folks might have skipped the chapter on the U.S. Constitution in civics class. Perhaps a lesson from "Schoolhouse Rock!" with my panel next.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Hey, do you know about the USA? Do you know the about the government? Can you tell me about the Constitution?




WALKER: He voted Joe Biden 96 percent of the time, which he didn't know he was voting with him or he loved that man.

WARNOCK: He was an amazing running back. And he will need those skills, because, come Tuesday, we're going to send him running back to Texas.



WARNOCK: We're going to send him running back to where he received his homestead tax exemption.



Herschel Walker, Raphael Warnock facing off in the Georgia Senate run- off in just two days. Who will be able to clinch that seat?

My panel joins us now.

And I have to say, Jonah, an interesting get-out-the-vote technique from Donald Trump, telling the world that he thinks that the U.S. Constitution should be thrown out the window so he can be reinstalled as president, as always, eyes on the prize.



GOLDBERG: I mean, you can see sort of a coalition of political consultants and his own personal lawyers, like Jerry Maguire, begging him, help me help you.


GOLDBERG: Look, I think we don't know anything more than we have known all week.

But the interesting thing seems to me about the Georgia race is that it's in some ways very much an analogue to sort of Trump vs. Biden. I think Warnock is a particularly weak candidate. But Herschel Walker, even though I completely agree with him on the werewolf issue...


GOLDBERG: ... is an even weaker one.

TAPPER: See, that's where you're wrong, but...

GOLDBERG: This is a total...



TAPPER: Then again, I have always been owned by big vampire.


FINNEY: I was just going to say.

GOLDBERG: But it does tell you something that this is a -- what should be at least a pink state. I know it's moving bluer, but they don't want...


GOLDBERG: They don't want Donald Trump anywhere near the state in the homestretch...


GOLDBERG: ... which tells you something about why it would be crazy to nominate the guy in 2024, if he would actually cost a Georgia election again for the Republicans. If he's unsafe in Georgia, what states are -- is he going to pick up?

TAPPER: Yes, that's a good -- it's a good point.

You feel pretty bullish on Warnock, right?


And I'm with you about the vampires, by the way.


FINNEY: And if you really have watched the films, you understand how to take them down.

TAPPER: Let's...


FINNEY: That being said, back to -- back to Warnock, look, I think he is -- I disagree, obviously. I think he's a very strong candidate.

I think it's a tough environment in Georgia. But, having worked on the 2020 special election, they're running the right playbook, which is focusing on African-American voters and actually trying to increase turnout.

And, so far, what we have seen, turnout has come pretty strong in Fulton County and some of the other places where you would expect to see strong Democratic turnout.

TAPPER: But it's not just Donald Trump, I should say, changing the subject, although his subject is wild, but Joe Biden changed the subject a little bit this week.

Congresswoman Bustos, he is now proposing a drastic reshaping of the Democrats' primary election calendar. It used to be or has been Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina. Now he's proposing first South Carolina, second, Nevada and New Hampshire, third, Georgia, fourth, Michigan.

Now, you represent part of Illinois, right across the Mississippi River from Iowa. Do you feel like Joe Biden is stabbing the Midwest in the back by taking away this special status?

REP. CHERI BUSTOS (D-IL): No. No, I don't feel like he's stabbing the Midwest in the back.

We have got Michigan among the top five.

TAPPER: Fourth, yes, OK.

BUSTOS: Well, it's still in there. And it's a state that's better -- better exemplifies the makeup of our country.

But here's what I will say about Iowa. I have lived on the border of Iowa for 30-plus years. My husband actually grew up on an island in the Mississippi River between Iowa and Illinois. So -- and I worked for 20 years in Iowa, most of that time as a reporter.

So the bad part is the economic impact on Iowa. So I will just say that, because you have got all the reporters coming in and the attention on the state of Iowa.


BUSTOS: But the other thing is, do you think of a presidential candidate is going to care about ethanol or care about farm country as deeply as they do now, because Iowa was always that first state for the caucuses?

And so that's the kind of thing that concerns me. I have got close to 10,000 family farms in the congressional district I represent. So it's more about, what issues are going to take a backseat because of this? That is a concern I have.

TAPPER: What's your take?

I mean, it has been pointed out that Joe Biden is rewarding the states, generally, South Carolina and Nevada... SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

TAPPER: ... Georgia, Michigan, that helped him get the nomination.

JENNINGS: Yes, I mean, it's good to have the White House when you want to do -- make the party do stuff. He's able to do that and reward the states that he feels good about.

I think Barack Obama protected Iowa for years after he had his big victory there. So, it's good to have the White House,. And I don't really care what these Democrats do.


JENNINGS: I mean, I think Joe Biden is a particularly -- going to be a particularly weak reelection candidate, if the Republicans nominate someone new.

If we nominate Trump, he will probably win reelection. And so, to me, that's really what more Republicans are focused on.

FINNEY: Can I just make one quick comment about the calendar?

Because I was there in 2005 when we added South Carolina and Nevada, and that was after 2004, when people came in and said, you know what, we have got to do a better job of vetting our candidates and making sure that they are talking to voters in the West, in the South, in the Northeast, and we can't -- the tyranny of Iowa and New Hampshire cannot stand.

And so I think this was a -- it started in 2005, this march towards changing the calendar and putting the voices and faces that represent the core of the party up front and center, labor, African-Americans, Latinos, rural Americans, suburban, urban.


And it makes out -- I hope it will mean that we have a stronger general election candidate.

TAPPER: As a student of the Goldberg oeuvre, I know that you oppose all primaries.

GOLDBERG: I think primaries -- I think primaries -- the 1972 reforms, which the Republicans followed after the Democrats implemented them, made the parties weaker.

It's not the only thing that made parties weaker. The rule in political science used to be that democracy is what happens between parties, not within parties. The parties, between -- between the primaries and the changes in campaign finance reform, have made it very difficult for the parties to select their own candidates in a rational way and vet their own candidates.

I would much rather see something like nominating conventions. We had primaries for over a century, and they didn't matter. It was only until the 1970s that they actually mattered. I don't think our politics have gotten healthier because of it.

TAPPER: You like smoke-filled rooms.


GOLDBERG: I also spent a lot of time in smoke-filled rooms. So...


TAPPER: But what do you make of that argument that democratizing the process has not actually been the best thing?

I mean, George McGovern was not a particularly strong candidate. It sounds like primaries will lead to Donald Trump perhaps getting the nomination.

JENNINGS: I'm not sure about that yet.


JENNINGS: Yes, I mean -- I mean, it depends on how many people are in it, right? I mean, our rules are this winner-take-all system where you can get 40 percent of the vote and get all the delegates.

TAPPER: But the activists are the ones that do the picking, not the not the moderates in the center.

BUSTOS: Well, it does require everybody running for president to show up.

And I go back to 2007, when Barack Obama was running in Iowa. I was working there at the time. And he did all these rural health task force and all these task forces to bring your rank-and-file Democrat into the fold. And I think it requires these candidates to show up in places that they may not otherwise.

And so I think that's why it's important.

TAPPER: But what about the argument that Iowa and New Hampshire, because they're smaller states, allow less well-funded candidates to actually meet voters and do better than just the most funded camps?

FINNEY: Well, I would argue that the media markets in Iowa and New Hampshire are pretty expensive and actually are difficult for a lot of candidates.

TAPPER: Not compared to South Carolina and Georgia and Michigan.

FINNEY: Well, I don't agree with that, actually, when you look at the how they rise up around the time of the...

TAPPER: Oh, well, sure.


FINNEY: When it matters, when you're a candidate. Look, but the whole point is, you can do all of those things in

Michigan and Georgia, do -- sit on the front porch, sit in the backyard and talk with people, go out to farm country and talk with people, sit around and talk to labor.

I think -- I get -- I agree with the congresswoman. It makes -- it will also make journalists get out of Iowa and New Hampshire, which is predominantly white, and go talk to black and brown people and hear what issues we care about.

GOLDBERG: It will also break the food bowl of generations of political consultants who grew up as experts on Iowa and New Hampshire who populate throughout Washington.


FINNEY: That's right.

TAPPER: Thanks, one and all, for being here.

Tune in to CNN's special coverage of the Georgia Senate run-off. That's Tuesday night on CNN.

Coming up: the cost of looking away from antisemitism and Holocaust denial in very personal terms.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: It has been a good few weeks in the United States for antisemites and those who support Nazism, a sentence I never thought I would say.


KANYE WEST, MUSICIAN: There's a lot of things that I love about Hitler, a lot of things.

I'm not trying to be shocking. I like Hitler. I do not -- I -- the -- the Holocaust is not what happened. Let's look at the facts of that. And Hitler has a lot of redeeming qualities.


TAPPER: Kanye West, also known as Ye, with his 18 million Instagram followers, 49 million Spotify listeners, spreading antisemitic and Holocaust-denying filth to audiences bigger than the entire worldwide Jewish population, which is about 15 million, numbers reduced significantly, of course, because of the Holocaust, when Adolf Hitler and Nazis slaughtered six million Jews.

Ye is currently being mainstreamed by former President Donald Trump, who dined with him and another heinous Holocaust denier and antisemite named Nick Fuentes, who also praised Hitler at a white supremacist conference earlier this year.


NICK FUENTES, WHITE NATIONALIST ACTIVIST: Now they're going on about Russia and Vladimir Putin is Hitler. And they say that's not a good thing.

And I shouldn't have said that.



TAPPER: The GOP response to this debacle has been a lot of playacting, sadly.

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, for instance, acting as if she did not know who Fuentes was.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): He sounds like a very immature young man saying hateful things about people. I don't know why Kanye West would align himself with that.


TAPPER: Comments that might make more sense, Congresswoman Taylor Greene, if you had not stood on stage with Fuentes at that very same white supremacist conference earlier this year.

She, of course, remains a member in good standing of the House Republican Conference, whose leader, Kevin McCarthy, is now refusing to make even the most tepid criticism of Donald Trump for dining with these Holocaust deniers.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes. He has no place in this Republican Party.

I think President Trump came out four times and condemned him and didn't know who he was.

QUESTION: Well, he just said he didn't know who he was. He didn't condemn him or his ideology.

MCCARTHY: Well, I condemn his ideology. It has no place in society.



QUESTION: And what about the former president deciding to have that dinner?

MCCARTHY: The president didn't know who he was. And the president...


QUESTION: But he knew Kanye West. He knew who Kanye West was.

MCCARTHY: You know what? Well, he didn't -- so, he knew who Kanye West -- but he didn't know who Fuentes is.


TAPPER: Donald Trump has never condemned Nick Fuentes or Kanye West. He hasn't done it once, much less the four times Kevin McCarthy claimed.

I confess, I'm finding all these contortions to defend Nazism and the tolerance of Nazism rather difficult to stomach.

This is my great uncle, David Edwin Palmatier, a warrant officer and tail gunner with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was shot down and killed by the German Luftwaffe on June 22, 1943. He was only 22.

He was killed, along with around 800,000 service members from Canada and the United States and the U.K. and Australia and elsewhere, the Greatest Generation that we so proudly herald, except, of course, at moments like these, when politicians and others besmirch their memories by refusing to clearly condemn the evil and the tolerance of that evil that they gave their lives to stop.

After all, what are we talking about tolerating here? Antisemitism and Holocaust denial, pure evil, the evil off camera in this photo. See the little kid there on the left side showing the other kids the flower? See that kid? These are Hungarian Jews in 1944. And, unbeknownst to them, they were waiting to be killed. They were about 100 to 200 meters away from gas chambers.

These are images from inside those concentration camps, where Jews, after years of being demonized by Nazis, whose lies were first tolerated and then subsumed by politicians and the public, Jews were ghettoized, and then rounded up and slaughtered, along with millions of Roma, gays, Catholics and others.

This is what my uncle Edwin and hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to stop, this. And the tolerance of the evil ideology behind it is what apparently too many politicians in the United States are unable to muster the courage to condemn in clear and unequivocal ways?

Whom are you afraid of alienating?

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts next.