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State of the Union

Interview With Fmr. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R-GA); Interview With Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH); Interview With Sen. Sherrod Brown (D- OH); Interview With Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX); Interview With U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired February 19, 2023 - 09:00   ET




PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST (voice-over): Blunt warning: a tense meeting between U.S. and China officials, as the two nations reopen diplomatic talks.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are not looking for a new cold war.

P. BROWN: But can the U.S. counter rising global threats?

I will speak to two House Republican chairmen, Congressman Michael McCaul of Foreign Affairs and Congressman Mike Turner of Intelligence. Plus, U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield will join us.

And desperate for answers. Ohio residents on edge after a train derailment unleashes dangerous toxins into their community.


P. BROWN: Are our leaders doing enough to help and to prevent the next crash? Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown joins me ahead.

Plus: playing the field. former President Trump gets his first official challenger for the GOP presidential nomination.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you're tired of losing, put your trust in a new generation.

P. BROWN: Who is next?


P. BROWN: Hello. I'm Pamela Brown in Washington, where the state of our union is trying to keep our friends close, and you know the rest.

Tensions between the U.S. and China on high this morning after a blunt meeting between the two nations' top diplomats, the first since the U.S. shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon earlier this month. In a -- quote -- "very direct and candid meeting" on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his counterpart, Wang Yi, the balloon was an unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty that must never occur again.

The State Department said a senior official said that Blinken also criticized China for not engaging in military-to-military dialogue over the incident when Chinese military officials -- quote -- "refused to pick up the phone."

And underlying a concern raised in earlier remarks by the vice president, Blinken warned China there would be consequences if they provide military aid to Russia in its war against Ukraine. The informal meeting came hours after China's top diplomat criticized the U.S. response to the balloon and a speech to the leaders attending the conference, including a bipartisan group of top U.S. lawmakers.

And joining me now from the Munich Security Conference, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Turner.

Thank you both for coming on.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Thanks, Pamela.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): Thank you, Pamela.

P. BROWN: So, Congressman McCaul, I want to start with you here.

The U.S.-China relationship is a key topic of discussion at the Munich summit, where you are. China's foreign minister addressed the gathering and mocked the U.S. response to the Chinese surveillance balloon, calling it -- quote -- "absurd and hysterical" and an effort to -- quote -- "divert attention" from its domestic problems.

What is your response to him?

MCCAUL: Well, I had a conversation with the secretary's team.

I would send a very stark, stern warning to them that we will not tolerate a spy balloon that's committing espionage over the United States again. And I know there's talk of a private meeting, but this was a bit of a shot across the bow at this conference. And I know Blinken spoke as well.

This is a time when our relations have never been more -- the tension is very high right now, I should say. And I think the spy balloon was so embarrassing, going over three major military installations with nuclear warheads, the idea it could capture imagery and send it back to Beijing to another ship caused a lot of damage to our national security, but also political damage, in the sense that Americans saw this with the naked eye and it was flying so low to the ground.

P. BROWN: And, of course, the administration has countered that it prevented the balloon from able to gather information on sensitive U.S. sites and it learned valuable information from studying it, and they ultimately shot it down. Secretary Blinken's trip to China was delayed, canceled and China's actions were condemned. But President Biden this week stressed that the U.S. is not seeking a new cold war with China and said he plans to speak with President Xi at some point.

You just heard there, Congressman Turner, from Congressman McCaul about just how -- how the tensions are right now between the U.S. and China, how bad the relations are.


What should his message be to Xi? And do you think that Biden is right to try to lower the temperature with China in the wake of this incident?

TURNER: Well, remember, the balloon was an escalation.

And it was not thwarted from its mission. It flew over our missile defense sites, our nuclear weapons sites. And then it wasn't taken out of the game until the game was over in the Atlantic. The reality is, is that the administration admitted then, after it had shot down the balloon, that it should have been more proactive in the three subsequent shoot-downs that it did have of what appears to be harmless objects over North America.

So, the administration does have a shift that it needs to take in taking all of this a lot more serious, being more forward also with the American public and with China as to what we're facing and what their espionage plans were.

But, here, I do think that there is an opportunity to get back to a normal dialogue with China. No one, of course, wants a cold war, but that isn't the issue. What we want is a China that is not going to be an aggressor state, that's not going to be building up its military and threatening the United States, and certainly not making the negative comments that it's making, instead of just openly apologizing for sending a spy balloon over our most sensitive military sites.

P. BROWN: So, as we just heard, you both have been critical of President Biden's response to China here at home, but politics traditionally stops at the water's edge.

Are you and the Biden administration on the same page in presenting a united message to the world when it comes to countering China, where you are right now, in Munich?

Congressman McCaul, first to you.

MCCAUL: Yes, I think we have a unique opportunity to be bipartisan on this issue of national security against one of the greatest threats to this country and the world, for that matter.

And I think the fact that a select committee was voted on by a large majority of Democrats. So when we talk about particularly export controls, this balloon, by the way, had a lot of American parts in it. We know that the hypersonic missile that went around the world with precision was built on the backbone of American technology.

So there's a lot of discussion here at this summit about, how can we -- they steal a lot of this from us. But we don't have to sell them the very technology they can put in their advanced weapons systems to then turn against either Taiwan in the Pacific or eventually possibly the United States of America.

I think there's great bipartisanship on this issue, and, by the way, as well as Ukraine. I think our delegation has been very unified in our support for Ukraine and putting everything we can from a weapons perspective into Ukraine, so they can defeat the Russians.

P. BROWN: All right, let's turn to Ukraine.

As you mentioned, Congressman McCaul, it is a big talker there at the summit. I remember, last year, everyone was talking about Russia getting ready to invade. Now it's been nearly a year, and nearly a dozen members in your party have introduced a so-called Ukraine fatigue resolution to end U.S. support for Ukraine.

And a new poll is showing support among Americans for arming Ukraine is dropping. How concerned, Congressman McCaul, are foreign leaders you're speaking to that American support for Ukraine, particularly within your own party, is weakening?

MCCAUL: Well, I know that bill had about 10 co-sponsors out of 435 members of Congress.

I would say that support is still very strong. And this delegation, it's bipartisan, very strong support for Ukraine. I think where you're seeing a split from the administration, though -- and I have to say that, Pamela, this is bipartisan as well -- is that, for the past year, we have been very slow at getting these weapons in, in the name of it being too provocative, whether it be Stingers, Javelins, these short-range artillery

Now, longer-range artillery, ATACMS, they can take out the Iranian drones in Crimea, and also aviation like F-16. If we put the stuff in from the very beginning of this conflict, a year from now may have been very different, as we look at the anniversary on February 24.

The longer they drag this out, they play into Putin's hands. He wants us this to be a long, protracted war, because he knows that, potentially, he will lose -- we could lose the will of the American people, and therefore the Congress.

And we're seeing the same dynamic in the European parliaments, strong support now, but they're worried that, if this doesn't end with a resolution sooner, rather than later, this will be an issue for us.

P. BROWN: Yes. And you mentioned the need for Ukraine to have more weapons to fight Russia.

A bipartisan group in Congress, including some members on your own committee, wrote to President Biden, urging him to give Ukraine F-16 fighter jets. You said the U.S. should give Ukraine -- quote -- "everything they need to win this thing."

Congressman McCaul, do you believe the administration is considering taking that step?

MCCAUL: You know, I hope so. The ATACMS, though, have been on the table for months, and they haven't sent those in. And the same delivery applies to ATACMS as it does to the HIMARS.


But the fact is, the longer they wait, the longer this conflict will prevail. I -- honestly, every top military expert I talked to at this conference agreed with what I was saying, and I think Mike Turner, that we need to throw everything we can into this fight, so that they can win.

And Zelenskyy is going to tell us that soon as well. He had a speech here at the conference saying the same thing. And I think the momentum is building for this to happen.

P. BROWN: Congressman Turner, to you.

You're also on the Armed Services Committee, we should note. According to Politico, the top Democrat on that committee, Representative Adam Smith, said at the Munich Security Conference -- quote -- "There's more of a consensus that there that people realize that Ukraine is not going to militarily retake Crimea."

I'm wondering if you agree with that assessment.

TURNER: Statements like that Pamela are not helpful.

And we're at an international conference. You mentioned Republicans. There are 20 Democrats that sent a letter to Biden saying that we should have immediate negotiations and bring an end to this war. Putin hears that. He also hears statements like this.


P. BROWN: Right, but they retracted that letter.

And there's a difference -- you would agree there's a difference -- hold on. Do you agree there's a difference between urging peaceful resolution and withdrawing funding?

But go ahead.


TURNER: Pamela, you can't retract a letter from Putin hearing it.

So, it doesn't affect -- have any effect.

P. BROWN: Right, but that letter was about peaceful resolution, not withdrawing funding.

Go ahead.

TURNER: When 20 members recklessly write a letter who are Democrats who write -- who are Democrats and write a letter to the president -- by the way, Pamela, none of the conversations that we're having here are the kind that you're asking us questions of.

No one here is having the debate on Democrats and Republicans.

P. BROWN: Well, that's good to know. Tell us more about the conversations there, what you're hearing.

TURNER: Only when we're in this interview -- only when in this interview has people talked about Republicans and Democrats.

What they have asked is, is there bipartisan support? In fact, I just did a panel with the Director Burns, indicating our full bipartisan support on the intelligence side, on the Armed Services side, for full support for Ukraine.

You have a handful on both sides, both sides, Pamela, who have been cautious or who have said that they don't support or they want support to come to an end. That's not the over 400 -- there are 435 members of Congress. There are probably 400 that are for continuing this direction and this path.

P. BROWN: All right, well, that's good to know. And that's what we want to hear from you.

What are the conversations there like with world leaders? How do they view U.S. support of Ukraine? So it's really interesting to hear your insights to both of you.

Thank you so much, Congressman McCaul and Congressman Turner. We appreciate your time.

TURNER: Thanks, Pamela.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Pamela.

P. BROWN: The U.S. says Russia has committed crimes against humanity.

U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield is live up next.

Plus, is the federal government doing enough to prevent dangerous train derailments? Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown joins us ahead.



P. BROWN: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Pamela Brown.

President Biden is set to mark one year since the start of Russia's war in Ukraine this week with a speech in Poland, as the West looks to shore up its alliances and warns about a host of rising global threats. Joining me now is U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-


Ambassador, thank you so much for coming on.


P. BROWN: Secretary Blinken met with China's foreign minister yesterday, as you well know, at the Munich Security Conference in the first face-to-face meeting between the two countries since the spy balloon incursion.

Blinken said China did not apologize for violating U.S. airspace. Was that a disappointment?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, I can't characterize what the Chinese said or how they said it.

But I know what Secretary Blinken said to the Chinese. And it was very clear that what the Chinese did with these balloons was totally unacceptable. It was an extraordinary effort against our sovereignty. And the president made that clear. And that's why we took that balloon down when we did. And it -- China can't continue to do that. He made that clear.

China has these balloons in -- on five continents across about 40 countries. And we made clear, both to China, but also exposed to the world what China is doing.

P. BROWN: Do you think it will change anything?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It should. It should. And it has to, because what they did was totally unacceptable.

And it did have an impact on our relationship. But we know we have to continue communications, diplomatic communications, with the Chinese, so that we can ensure that they understand what our red lines are and not make the mistake of crossing them.

P. BROWN: The U.S. is also warning, we heard, from officials that China is considering providing -- quote -- "lethal aid" to Russia for use against Ukraine.

But, publicly, at least, China has kept its distance from Russia, urging for the war to end and warning against using nuclear weapons. We just heard that from the foreign minister, Wang Yi. So, should we not believe China when it says it wants peace in Ukraine?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We all want peace in Ukraine.

And our message to China is, China should not do anything that will provide lethal support to the Russians to assist them in their brutal attacks on the Ukrainian people. And we have made that message clear through the president. But, also, Secretary Blinken made that message clear in his conversations with the Chinese leader yesterday. P. BROWN: Right, but should we not believe the Chinese when they say

they want peace with Ukraine? We just heard that from the foreign minister yesterday .


And yet U.S. intelligence is indicating, according to officials that they want to give lethal aid to Ukraine (sic). So what should Americans believe?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we welcome the Chinese announcement that they want peace, because that's what we always want to pursue in situations like this.

But we also have to be clear that, if there are any thoughts and efforts by the Chinese and others to provide lethal support to the Russians in their brutal attack against Ukraine, that that is unacceptable. Again, that would be a red line.

P. BROWN: Secretary Blinken warned of -- quote -- "serious consequences" if China gives lethal aid to Russia.

What specifically would those consequences be?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Again, I think the secretary spoke very clearly about this.

We're not going to advance and announce what we're planning to do. But we made clear to the Chinese that there will be consequences should they make that unfortunate decision.

P. BROWN: All right, I want to ask you about something else relating to China.

CIA Director Bill Burns said yesterday that the U.S. sees indications that China is instructing its military to be ready for an invasion of Taiwan. Senator Marco Rubio said -- quote -- "I don't think we will reach the end of this decade without an intervention on Taiwan."

Do you expect China to invade Taiwan by 2030? And will the U.S. step in to defend Taiwan if so?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, this is why we are continuing to have diplomatic conversations with the Chinese.

We're continuing our efforts to communicate with the Chinese, despite what they did with the balloons recently, so that we have clear lines of communications with them to avoid such a thing happening. But if such -- such an event happens, we're very clearly prepared for that.

P. BROWN: One of your predecessors, Nikki Haley, just launched her 2024 bid for president.

Take a listen to what she had to say about the U.S. relationship with China.


HALEY: In the America I see, communist China won't just lose. Like the Soviet Union before it, communist China will end up on the ash heap of history.


P. BROWN: Is that your posture toward China too?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, the president has said we see China as the adversary it is.

We are prepared to compete with the Chinese. And we are compared (sic), when necessary, to confront the Chinese. And that's what we're doing. And that's what we will continue to do to ensure that our national interests are always at the forefront.

P. BROWN: We were just talking about China and how U.S. officials are concerned that it will give lethal aid to Russia in the fight against Ukraine.

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine. The U.S. has formally determined that Russia is guilty of crimes against humanity, including execution-style killings, torture, rape and forced deportations.

Secretary Blinken said -- quote -- "Putin has been trying from day one to erase Ukraine's identity." Doesn't all that fit the textbook definition of genocide, according to the U.N. Convention?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we're looking at all of the legal tools that we have available to us to call out and hold Russia accountable for what they are doing in Ukraine.

We declared from day one that they were committing war crimes. We have announced that they're committing crimes against humanity. And we're looking at the facts on the ground. I was in Ukraine in -- earlier this last -- late last year in November. I had an opportunity to visit a forensic lab that we're supporting and helping them to gather the evidence that they will need and we will need to hold the Russians accountable.

And so we're looking at all the tools that are available to us, as well as to the international community and to the Ukrainians themselves, who can use their legal system and their justice system to hold Russians accountable.

P. BROWN: And we should note it's been 10 months since President Biden called Russia's actions genocide, but, clearly, legally, his administration is not there yet. But they are saying that these are crimes against humanity.

There is also growing bipartisan pressure from Capitol Hill for President Biden to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Meanwhile, according to Politico, the top U.S. general in Europe told lawmakers that giving Ukraine F-16s could help them win the war. Has the administration ruled out given Ukraine those jets?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We're working very closely and directly with the Ukrainians on identifying what their needs are and when they need them.


And we're also working to ensure that they have the training and the capacity to use whatever weapon systems we provide for them. So, this discussion is continuing. But let me be clear. We are there to support the Ukrainians. We have never, ever wavered in our support for the Ukrainians. And President Biden has said we will be there as long as they need us.

P. BROWN: So, just to be clear, it hasn't been ruled out to send F- 16s to Ukraine?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We're still having discussions on the ground with the Ukrainians. And, again, we have to ensure -- and I think Secretary Blinken said this as well -- that they have the training necessary and the capacity to use weapon systems that we provide to them.

It doesn't help them if we provide weapons systems that they are not able to use and they don't have the capacity to maintain. So, the discussions will continue over the course of the next few weeks and months, as we determine how best to support them.


U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, I know how busy you are. Thank you for your time this morning.

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you so much. It was great to be with you.

P. BROWN: Would you want to bring your kids back home after this?

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is here to talk about the train derailment up next.



BROWN: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Pamela Brown.

Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, are worried about whether it's actually safe for them to return home. Some locals told us that they are suffering rashes, soar throats, nausea, and headaches.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown visited the site this week and joins us to talk about it.

So, the EPA administrator and the governor say that the municipal water and the air, they are both safe. But, residents, they are worried about contamination, and some say they have gotten rashes, sore throats, nausea, and headaches, as I just pointed out.

Senator Brown, you were just there this week on Thursday? Should the residents of East Palestine accept the assurances from the government, or are they right to be skeptical?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): Well, they're right to be skeptical.

The EPA administrator, when I was there -- both the state and the federal EPA administrators said that, but -- when you return to your home, we think the water is safe, but, when you return to your home, you should be tested again for your water and your soil and your air, not to mention those that have their own wells.

So, this is -- Pamela this is really the same old story. Corporations do stock buybacks, they do big dividend checks, they lay off workers. Thousands of workers have been laid off from Norfolk Southern. Then they don't invest in safety rules and safety regulation, and this kind of thing happens.

That's why people in East Palestine are so upset. They know they have -- they know that corporate lobbyists have had far too much influence in our government. And they see this as the result. And this kind of thing shouldn't happen. There was also a Norfolk Southern derailment in Sandusky on Lake Erie in Ohio. There was one just a few days ago in Detroit.

These things are happening because the -- these -- the railroads are simply not investing the way they showed in car safety and in the rail lines themselves.

P. BROWN: Yes, I was just reading, I believe this was "The New York Times," that this company, Norfolk Southern, invested more for stockholders to gain more of a profit than in safety improvements recently.

Before we get to what the fixes are and look a little bit closer at this company, I want to ask you, would you drink the water in East Palestine? And do you think the officials there who are saying it's safe, they should drink the water too to show the residents that they would drink it?

S. BROWN: Well, I think they are. I mean, I talked to the mayor. The mayor said definitively, emphatically, that people can drink the water. The mayor's -- I don't know. I don't think the mayor has small kids. He looks a little older to me. I didn't ask him, but -- about bathing his kids.

But he would -- he has said he would drink this water.


P. BROWN: Right, but to show the residents who are so skeptical, do you think that they should drink...

S. BROWN: Well, I think he probably is. Yes, I think he probably is. But I do think, though, as I said, when you hear all this stuff about

stock buybacks, and they're underinvesting, as you say, in rail safety, the tracks themselves and the cars, but when it really hits you is, I was at the home of Kristina Ferguson. I spoke at length to fire -- the fire chief, Chief Drabick. I then was at the home of Kristina Ferguson, who invited us in.

She fled her home. And then she came back to meet us there, but she's not living back there. She's skeptical, as she has a right to be. But the pain and anguish in her face -- she lives with a -- her mother-in- law lives with her, who has -- who is ill, and she's not ready to go back.

And you think about just the whole idea of you had to flee your home because of something -- because a railroad failed to do its job, as the executives and their lobbyists get richer and richer and richer. And there's something very wrong with that.

But when you see the faces of the fire chief and the face of Ms. Ferguson, it really strikes you that we have got a lot to do to fix this to make rail safer, to fight against lobbyists who keep trying to weaken these rules, as they did three or four years ago. That's our mission. That's our job.

P. BROWN: And I want to get to Congress in just a second, but I also want to talk about what the company says it's going to do for the residents.

They are offering residents $1,000 checks after this disaster, as well as reimbursing some expenses like hotels and food. But, as we have been talking about,this is a multi-billion-dollar -- do you think Norfolk Southern is doing enough? And, if not, what do you want to see from them?

S. BROWN: Well, they have made promises to me.

I have spoken to their executives. They made promises to the community. The first thing I say is, if they write a check to an East Palestine or Unity Township resident or people even a little farther away, never sign away your legal rights. You can accept the check, but don't sign anything that would sign away your legal rights. That's what companies like this do.


They have made promises. My job -- and I talked to a Republican congressman, Bill Johnson. I was there with him. We are working together on this to make sure that Norfolk Southern lives up to everything it needs to do. It's way more than a $1,000 check per person. It's -- the fire station is 20 feet from a rail line.

What would have happened if that train passed that fire station, if that had blown up, then derailed then? The whole fire station would have been enveloped with -- by fire and by chemicals and all that, so -- and residents, just the time away from their homes, the hotel bills, all those things. But Norfolk Southern has made commitments. We're going to make sure they live up to those commitments.

P. BROWN: What are the commitments? What -- can you be specific, so we can get it on the record here?

S. BROWN: Well, the commitments is the -- yes, sure.

I mean, the commitments they have told me is essentially making everybody whole. And that is all the cleanup, all the help for residents. It's going to be -- I don't know billions, like you suggested. It's going to be tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars in that community of 4,500 people and then the township, Unity Township, a little larger.

But they will -- whatever they need -- everything that's happened here, all the cleanup, all the drilling, all the testing, all the hotel stays, all of that is on Norfolk Southern. They caused it. There's no question they caused it with this derailment, because, again, they underinvested in their employees by laying -- there - my understanding, there are only three full-time people on that 50 -- it might have been more than 50-car train that went through town, because they have laid off so many people.

And, I mean, that's why I'm angry, when I look at these companies lay people off. They never look out for their workers. They never look out for their communities. They look out for stock buybacks and dividends. Something's wrong with corporate America and something's wrong with Congress and administrations listening too much to corporate lobbyists.

And that's got to change.

P. BROWN: OK, so let's talk about that.

S. BROWN: I mean, that's the fight I make.

P. BROWN: Let's talk about that, because regulations for rail companies...


P. BROWN: ... are coming under renewed scrutiny now. Companies are working under looser restrictions for toxic chemicals. They're using Civil War era braking technology.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg suggested this week that his department was constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation. The Democrats just held unified control of government for two years. Does Congress deserve some blame here for failing to regulate? And what more can be done?

S. BROWN: Well, I know this, that, three or four years ago, the -- every time there's a new administration, particularly a more conservative one that's more pro-corporate, they put all these regulations on the table about safety, about worker safety, community safety, the environment, consumer protections, and, at the behest of lobbyists, far too often, they weaken those laws.

That happened three, four, five years ago. I have urged President Biden by phone yesterday, I have urged Secretary Buttigieg by phone yesterday to make sure that they look at all these rules and restrengthen them. Part of it's on Congress. Congress has got to do its job better.

But it's -- there's simply, Pam, as you know -- Pamela, there's simply too much influenced by corporate lobbyists in Washington. And it's terrible in Republican administrations. It's not all that great in Democratic administration sometimes.

So, that's my job, to push the administration and to move in Congress on one more pro-consumer, pro-worker, pro-environment laws and pro- community safety laws to make sure these things don't happen.

P. BROWN: OK, Senator Brown, thanks for your time this morning.

S. BROWN: Always. Thank you.

P. BROWN: Well, more Republicans are starting to make their 2024 moves, but what is their plan to take on Donald Trump?

My panel joins me to discuss up next.




HALEY: What they don't understand is, I don't have to be 100 percent Trump or 100 percent anti-Trump. That's not how I am.

President Trump will tell you, I say what I think. When you're doing something right, I support you. When you're doing something wrong, I'm going to call you out for it. But at the end of the day, that's how I square it.


P. BROWN: All right, welcome back to State of the Union. My panel joins us now.

Thank you, everyone, for being here.

Alice, starting with you. You just heard what Nikki Haley said trying to straddle the line. What do you think about that strategy? How does a candidate for president running against Donald Trump straddle that line with embracing Trump, but also sticking to their own values?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's going to be the slippery slope for all of the GOP presidential candidates, is threading that needle of not alienating Trump's base, but also broadening the electorate. What Nikki Haley is doing, speaking with her campaign and people that

have been out there and seeing her campaign in New Hampshire, she's not focusing on Donald Trump. She is not punching to the side. She's punching forward to Joe Biden. And she has had really large events in New Hampshire, planning to go to Ohio, focusing on what she says is a positive vision for the future, looking for a new generation of leadership within the GOP.

And I think we can all agree we need a new generation, not just of age, but of attitude. And that means no more of this negative tone that we saw from Donald Trump and being more positive and looking at the future for this country and not past grievances of the past president.

What do you think...


KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But she is still going to be accountable to having served in the Trump administration.

That is a very viable question to say, OK, but you made a choice to serve as the U.N. ambassador for Trump and to go to the U.N. and, frankly, endorse and frankly defend the foreign policy of Donald Trump. That's a fair question.


And, in addition to that, at some point, she is going to have to defend her record as governor, which, while she's talking a bit about the flag and we can talk about how disingenuous that conversation has been from her, she also had a very extreme record.

She supported a full abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. So, she has some very conservative policies that actually, in 2023, 2024 are not going to fit with the mainstream of America.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, to Karen's point, I served with Nikki Haley. We sat beside each other, not at the same desk, but our desks were beside each other in the legislature.

And I have seen the rise of Nikki Haley to what she's become today. And, in 2010, you had somebody who was running third or fourth in the gubernatorial primary who just came through and beat all the boys. She beat Gresham Barrett. She beat Henry McMaster. She beat Andre Bauer.

And she showed that strength. She showed that savvy. She showed somebody who stood for something. The Nikki Haley today is not that Nikki Haley. And I think that's her problem. You can't be sometimes this and sometimes that. You can't put your finger in the wind. You can't be adiaphorous or fence-sitting.

You actually have to show that you stand for something. And the Nikki Haley that we see today, the Nikki Haley that worked for Donald Trump stands for nothing. And that's the problem. And that's what we're going to see. It's decently transparent throughout this political process. And one thing Donald Trump will show you when you stand on stage with him, people will be able to see your true colors and what you stand for. And either you stand with Donald Trump and his racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and pure ignorance, and anti-intellectualism, or you're against him.

You can't say -- it's not a buffet.

P. BROWN: Well, and it's interesting. And I want you to weigh in on what we just heard.

But there's the Nikki Haley strategy. And then there is what's going on in Michigan, where Republican officials rejected Donald Trump's candidate for state party chair in favor of someone more extreme, Kristina Karamo. She had run for secretary of state. She is a true election denier -- Karamo -- I'm sorry -- a true election denier who refused to concede her own race.

She said that abortion is -- quote -- "child sacrifice" and a satanic practice. She's spoken at a QAnon conference and has made anti-vaxxer comments.

I mean, can someone who sticks to traditional party values win? Or do you have to embrace the more extreme views to -- for some in the GOP?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, thank God, the third lane is starting to develop in the Republican circles, right?

Watching Nikki Haley come out, interesting time for her to get here, because she does have the foreign policy chops than other governors that are thinking about running. But I think, as you mentioned the situation arriving in Michigan, it's happening all over the country.

There's never been a bigger divide from state party politics and the average Republican that's worried about their job, worried about inflation, worried about crime. And so we're watching this play out. And a few hundred people can determine who wins these party races in these states.

And there's just this continued gravitational pull to the far right. It hurts our efforts. It gives us a bad press. And it continues to remind us of all the things that went wrong during the Trump administration, right? We talked about Nikki Haley is going to have to be accountable for some of the things that she attached herself to.

But Donald Trump got worse every day he was in office, and it ultimately came -- January 6 was probably the worst moment in his presidency. But we watched a series of really good conservative policies that played out during that four-year administration, but the antics that are around it and this gravitational pull to the far right is not helping us.

P. BROWN: And you just heard him say, Alice, this is going on across the country, what's happening in Michigan. So, where is the GOP now? Are they more in that camp? You heard Mitt

Romney also say this week that he thinks former President Trump is likely to win the Republican nomination.

STEWART: Look, I think we're a far cry from that.

And speaking with rational Republicans and, even more importantly, key GOP donors, they're ready to turn the page. They are looking at other candidates, whether it is Nikki Haley, whether it's Tim Scott, DeSantis, Youngkin, Asa Hutchinson, several people who are testing the waters, going out to these early states.

And they're getting the support and endorsement from big donors. And money talks. And they're gravitating toward a message of positive vision for the future. They're done with election deniers and conspiracy theorists, as we have seen in previous elections.

But here's the thing.


P. BROWN: Not in Michigan, clearly.



STEWART: But social evangelicals, which are a key voting bloc for Donald Trump and Republicans in general, they were supportive of Trump's endorsement of Scalia-like justices.

They are ready to turn the page because they realize too far to the right is good for a primary, but it's a losing formula for a general election.

P. BROWN: I really want to get this -- the FOX News bit in here before I let you all go.


P. BROWN: Because it all sort of ties into this, right, because we're seeing this play out on FOX News as well.

And that is where election denialism played out after the election in 2020. We're seeing now from this Dominion Voting Systems' 200-page lawsuit against FOX that they lay out instances of correspondents getting reprimanded for fact-checking and show that an anchor even pushed for one to get fired.

They show that many within the organization privately ridiculed election fraud claims made by Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, but FOX still allowed these lies to be promoted on.

FINNEY: A hundred percent.

FOX helped to promote lies that led to violence in the Georgia special election, as we have seen from the January 6 hearings, on January 6, and since.


I mean, we are still in a country that is largely divided around whether or not you believe the 2020 election was legitimate. FOX News has been part of creating that divisive part of America. And it's shameful, frankly.

And I want to say, they're also part of promoting Republicans in Congress. I mean, you're talking about sort of the brand of the Republican Party. It's not just Michigan. It is the Congress of the United States of America where we see election deniers and people who participated in January 6 running the House GOP featured on FOX every day.

DUNCAN: Well, look, it's not surprising to see it's -- eventually, all these facts and figures are coming out. It's taken two years to get here.

"The AJC" this morning was full of text messages and indictment speculations.

What happened on FOX News was hard for the Republican Party, right? It allowed -- it might take a decade to unwind some of those fans -- the fanning the flames of all these conspiracy theories, and it was painful to watch and listen to.

But I think all of media needs to find a better balance of managing a business model, which, look, this is a for-profit operation in every media outlet, but also how we tell the news, and how do we use that as a weapon or as a resource?

P. BROWN: Well, quickly.

SELLERS: No, quickly, I was just going to say, this all ties into what Alice was talking about, because, while Republican donors, those individuals who make the decisions, the heads of FOX News, et cetera, want to turn the page, the people who watch FOX News, the people who go to the Daytona 500, the voters, they don't.

They want Donald Trump. They want more red meat. They want those things that drive the energy of the Republican Party, and that's the problem. While they may want Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio -- flashback to 2016, right? That's who they wanted. They're going to get Donald Trump.

They may want Asa Hutchinson and Glenn Youngkin, but they're going to get Donald Trump.

P. BROWN: OK. Thank you all so much.

A beautiful relationship for more than 75 years, we're going to talk about it next.



P. BROWN: Ninety-eight-year-old former President Jimmy Carter is now receiving hospice care at home, as he decides to spend his remaining time with family.

Carter is perhaps best known for his extensive humanitarian work post- presidency. And I can attest to his warmth and kindness. When my father died late November of last year, President Carter sent me a personal note. And I also heard from him after my mother died two-and- a-half years ago. He really is as kind on a personal level as you see in public.

We're thinking of Carter and his beloved wife of more than 75 years, Rosalynn. Wishing him the very best and his family.