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State of the Union

Interview With Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel; Interview With U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired February 26, 2023 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Unwavering support. As Russia's brutal invasion enters a second year, President Biden sends more aid to Ukraine.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's worth fighting for, for as long as it takes.

BASH: And as U.S. intelligence shows China considering lethal aid to Russia, how will the White House react?

I will speak to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan next.

And united front? The GOP announces its first presidential debate, as a host of candidates consider joining the race, but can they all agree to come together in the end? Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel will be here exclusively.

Plus: common goal. In a bitterly divided House...

REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): We have got our work cut out for us.

BASH: ... two lawmakers from across the aisle are coming together to try to help families across the country.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is wondering how long this can go on.

This week, Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine entered its second year. Ukrainian leaders say Russian forces marked the anniversary with a slew of rocket attacks, airstrikes and shelling along the front lines, as the deadly war grinds on.

On Friday, President Biden announced another $10 billion of aid to Ukraine, which the country's fighters will use in a spring offensive. But, one year into this conflict, it's still not clear how or when it will end, as both sides insist they will not give up Ukrainian territory. For now, President Biden is ruling out sending Ukrainian F-16s --

sending Ukraine F-16 fighters that President Zelenskyy and some top congressional Republicans say could bring a faster end to the war.

And we're learning new details about that U.S. warning for China. Sources tell CNN that U.S. intelligence shows the Chinese government is considering giving Russia drones and ammunition, an escalation that could help Russia prolong the fighting.

Joining me now is President Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning.

Director of the CIA Bill Burns says he is confident that China is considering giving lethal aid to Russia. How soon do you believe China could actually start providing that assistance?

JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, first, thanks for having me on, Dana.

The other thing that Director Burns, Bill Burns at the CIA, said was that we haven't seen them do it yet. We actually haven't seen them take a final decision to provide the aid to Russia. And we haven't seen the aid be provided to Russia.

So, we will watch carefully, we will be vigilant, and we will continue to send a strong message that we believe that sending military aid to Russia at this time, when they are using their weapons to bombard cities, kill civilians and commit atrocities, would be a bad mistake, and China should want no part of it.

BASH: If China does go ahead and give the lethal support that your intelligence shows they're considering giving to Russia, can you please be specific about how the U.S. would respond?

SULLIVAN: Well, again, you're talking about a hypothetical situation, because, at present, China has not moved forward, as far as we can discern. We have not seeing them do it.

And I would prefer to keep our messages to China on this question, what the consequences would be, in the private high-level diplomatic channels that we have established to discuss these issues. Secretary Blinken saw China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, just a few days ago in Munich. They had a detailed conversation the subject.

Secretary Blinken laid out the U.S. position in perspective. And I'm going to leave that important and grave set of conversations around the stakes of China coming in behind Russia in their war in Ukraine for behind closed doors.

BASH: Yes, so, just to be clear, you don't want to say it now on international television, but the consequences if, in fact, China, does this have been very directly and specifically communicated to China privately? SULLIVAN: President Biden has made clear in previous reflections on this issue, because this is not a new issue. We have been dealing with the question of whether China might provide military aid to Russia going back to the beginning of the conflict.

BASH: Right, but you said that Secretary Blinken made clear...



The point I was making, Dana, is just that President Biden has said previously, we're not just making direct threats. We're just laying out both the stakes and the consequences, how things would unfold.

BASH: I see.

SULLIVAN: And we are doing that clearly and specifically behind closed doors.

BASH: How concerned -- just kind of look at this big picture. How concerned are you about these two major U.S. adversaries working together on the battlefield in Ukraine and what that means sort of more generally about the relationships here?

SULLIVAN: Well, look, the U.S. position in this conflict is straightforward.

We're not going to stand by and allow one country to roll over another country and try to wipe it off the map. And we're going to build and have built a coalition of more than 50 nations to resist that and help the Ukrainians defend their own territory.

China's position in this is much more awkward. In fact, there was just a vote at the U.N. General Assembly in which China abstained. They did not vote with Russia. They were one of a number of countries that just tried to stand on the sidelines. When China talks rhetorically about the war in Ukraine, they tie themselves into knots, because they know that going all in with Russia in this war in Ukraine would alienate a substantial number of countries that they are working hard to maintain good relations with.

So, from our perspective, actually, this war presents real complications for Beijing. And Beijing will have to make its own decisions about how it proceeds, whether it provides military assistance. But, if it goes down that road, it will come at real costs to China. And I think China's leaders are weighing that as they make their decisions.

BASH: President Zelenskyy is still asking the U.S. for F-16 fighter jets, but President Biden said on Friday that Ukraine doesn't need the F-16s now.

I know you said that Ukraine doesn't have the training and the maintenance capacity to use the jets, but is the real reason you're not giving Ukraine these jets because you're trying to balance how far to go in supporting Ukraine without antagonizing Russia too much?

SULLIVAN: The real reason, Dana, is that we are taking a very hard look at what it is that Ukraine needs for the immediate phase of the war that we're in.

And this phase of the war requires tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, artillery, tactical air defense systems, so that Ukrainian fighters can retake territory that Russia currently occupies.

F-16s are a question for a later time. And that's why President Biden said that, for now, he's not moving forward with those. So, as far as we're concerned, the U.S. effort has got to be to get Ukraine the tools it needs for the mission at hand. And the mission at hand is to have a successful counteroffensive where Ukraine is able to take back its own territory, away from the hands of the Russians.

BASH: So, you're not ruling out giving Ukraine the F-16s at a later time?

SULLIVAN: What President Biden said is what goes across the administration. And he was very clear. He said: I'm ruling them out for now.

BASH: Got it.

Want to ask about Crimea. Today marks exactly nine years since Russia illegally annexed Crimea. The Biden administration still repeatedly says that Crimea is part of Ukraine. You also say that Ukraine gets to define what victory look like. So I want you to sort of give a yes-or- no answer to this.

If Ukraine decided that victory means recapturing Crimea militarily, would the United States support that?

SULLIVAN: Dana, I can't give a yes-or-no answer to what is a hypothetical question.

Right now, what President Zelenskyy is focused on is getting into the best possible position on the battlefield, so that he can be in the best possible position at the negotiating table. And he spoke as recently as this week about diplomacy.

We want to help Ukraine turn battlefield gains into diplomatic leverage. And that requires us to give them the military assistance they need to make those gains. What ultimately happens with Crimea in the context of this war and a settlement of this war is something for the Ukrainians to determine, with the support of the United States.

But I'm just not going to get into hypothetical questions, because what we're facing today is a counteroffensive in the east and the south that we need to give them the tools to fight, and we are doing that.

BASH: You're talking about supporting Ukraine, and you're talking about them taking the lead on how they define victory, which is understandable. It's their war.

But the administration is also promising them that America will support them as long as it takes. Can you level with the American people about what expectations should be? Could there still be a full- blown war going on a year from now, on the second anniversary, that the U.S. is still supporting at the levels it is now?

SULLIVAN: I can level with the American people in saying that war is unpredictable.

One year ago, we were all bracing for the fall of Kyiv in a matter -- in a matter of days. One year later, Joe Biden was standing with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv declaring that Kyiv stands.


So, I cannot predict the future, and nor can anyone else. And anyone who is suggesting they can define for you how and when this war will end is not leveling with the American people or anyone else.

What I can say is that the United States is going to continue to marshal this wide international coalition of countries to provide Ukraine with the tools that it needs to defend itself and to take back territory that the Russians have occupied. And we are prepared to do that. We have the staying power for that. We have proven we can sustain unity.

We have proven that we can sustain this level of effort. And President Biden went to Kyiv to indicate that our support will be unwavering.

BASH: Before I let you go, I want to ask about a new "Wall Street Journal" report out this morning that a classified intelligence report from the Department of Energy concludes that the coronavirus pandemic most likely did not emerge naturally, but it did come from a laboratory leak.

Did the coronavirus pandemic start in a lab? Is that what you believe now?

SULLIVAN: Well, Dana, there is a variety of views in the intelligence community. Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other. A number of them have said they just don't have enough information to be sure.

Here's what I can tell you. President Biden has directed repeatedly every element of our intelligence community to put effort and resources behind getting to the bottom of this question. And one of the things in that "Wall Street Journal" report which I can't confirm or deny, but I will say the reference to the Department of Energy, President Biden specifically requested that the National Labs, which are part of the Department of Energy, be brought into this assessment because he wants to put every tool at use to be able to figure out what happened here.

And if we gain any further insight or information, we will share it with Congress and we will share it with the American people. But, right now, there is not a definitive answer that has emerged from the intelligence community on this question.

BASH: Jake Sullivan, the president's national security adviser, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me, Dana.

BASH: And the month and city for the first Republican primary debate is set. What will the requirements be for candidates to get on the stage? RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel is here next.

Plus, a new bipartisan push in Congress for paid family and medical leave. You heard that right, bipartisan.

Stay with us.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

The Republican National Committee this week announced its first presidential debate scheduled for August in Milwaukee. What we do not yet know is what the party will require of candidates in order to participate in that debate.

Here with me now exclusively from her first interview since she was reelected chair of the Republican National Committee is Ronna McDaniel.

Thank you so much. Congratulations. Fourth term.

RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Thank you. Fourth term. Great to be with you.

BASH: Thank you.

It was a tougher-than-expected reelection campaign and race. It really exposed some pretty deep divisions in your party. What lessons did you take away from it?

MCDANIEL: I ran on a unity platform and about bringing the party together.

And we can't be so vicious and vitriolic with each other that we don't want to support each other in the end. And I chose to run that way. It won. I want 2-1. And I'm already working to bring the committee together.

But I think this is a symbol of our party. We can't be attacking each other so much that we lose sight of, we have to beat the Democrats. We have to beat Joe Biden in 2024. And we may have divisive primaries and differences of opinions, but, in the end, we have to settle those to win the big picture, which is governing our country and doing the right thing by the American people. BASH: Well, on that note, right before you were reelected, the

Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, praised your opponent, Harmeet Dhillon. He called for new blood.

Have you and the governor spoken since then?

MCDANIEL: Ron and I have a good relationship. And we're going to work well together. Everybody's going to work well together towards 2024.

I campaigned with Casey quite a bit during this last election cycle.

BASH: His wife.

MCDANIEL: His wife. And I campaigned with the governor.

So, we are going to move forward. And that's what I'm focused on. We cannot be so divided as a party that we lose sight of a border crisis, a fentanyl crisis, an inflation crisis. Most Americans right now are living paycheck to paycheck. They are very much hurting under Democrat policies and under this Biden administration.

And the one thing Republicans can do to make sure we don't win is fight each other all the time.

BASH: On that note, as I mentioned, your party announced that the first Republican debate will be in August in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Will candidates be required to sign a pledge saying that they will support whomever becomes the nominee in order to get on that debate stage?

MCDANIEL: We haven't put the criteria out, but I expect the pledge will be part of it. It was part of 2016.

I think it's kind of a no-brainer, right? If you're going to be on the Republican National Committee debate stage asking voters to support you, you should say, I'm going to support the voters and who they choose as the nominee.

As RNC chair, if I said I wouldn't support the Republican nominee, I would be removed from office. I would. I'd be rightly removed. It'd be part of our bylaws, and I would be kicked out as RNC chair.

Anybody getting on the Republican National Committee debate stage should be able to say, I will support the will of the voters and the eventual nominee of our party.

BASH: I want you to listen to what former President Donald Trump said a couple of weeks ago in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on this very topic.


HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: If you're not the nominee, will you support whoever the GOP nominee is? DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would depend.

I would -- I would give you the same answer I gave in 2016 during the debates. It would have to depend on who the nominee was.


BASH: So, are you prepared to block the former president if he doesn't sign it?

MCDANIEL: Well, he signed it in 2016. He did.

BASH: I know.

MCDANIEL: Everybody signed it in 2016.

BASH: But this is about the here and the now. He didn't commit to it.

MCDANIEL: Yes, I think they're -- I think they're all going to sign it. I really do.


I think the voters are very intent on winning. And they do not want to see a debate stage of people saying, I'm not going to support this guy. I'm not going to support this guy. What they need to say is, I'm going to do everything I can to defeat Joe Biden. And that means supporting the nominee of the Republican Party.

BASH: You can't see a scenario where Donald Trump would just skip the debate if he's forced to sign something saying he will support others?

MCDANIEL: I think they all want to be on the debate stage. I think President Trump would like to be on the debate stage. That's what he likes to do.

And I expect they will all be there.

BASH: I want to look at it sort of from the other side of this, which is that others who are not Donald Trump, candidates like -- potential candidates like former Governor Asa Hutchinson, they're not happy about this requirement.

He said -- quote -- "For leaders such as myself who believe Donald Trump is not the right direction for the country, and I said specifically that January 6 disqualified him, what would -- that would certainly make it a problem for me to give an across-the-board, inclusive pledge."

How do you make candidates like him, given the reality of what has happened on January 6, go against his -- what he's saying is his principle?

MCDANIEL: I think you support the voters. The voters get to choose.

And if the Republican voters pick the nominee, then everybody on that debate stage who is running on the Republican National Committee debate and the Republican National Committee primaries should say, I'm going to support the nominee.

Listen, I say this all the time. Dana, I am Mitt Romney's niece, and I was appointed to the RNC by Donald Trump. And I would support both -- support both of them if they were the nominee of our party over Joe Biden. But I don't know if they would support each other.

We have to come together as a party. We saw big races lost this cycle because of Republicans refusing to support other Republicans. And unless we fix this in our party, unless we start coming together, we will not win in 2024. And I am committed to making sure we come together as a party.

BASH: Understandable, but at, the same time, what you hear somebody like Asa Hutchinson, who is -- he's no moderate. He is a tried-and- true conservative Republican -- effectively saying is, you would be asking him to put country -- to put party over country.

You would be asking him to put party over country.

MCDANIEL: Oh, I don't see it that way. That may be how he sees it. I don't see it that way.

I think, if the voters choose Donald Trump to be the nominee, if they choose Mike Pence, if they choose Mike Pompeo or Asa Hutchinson, everybody should support the will of the voters. And we're not going to defeat Joe Biden if we get in this tit for tat of, I'm not going to support this nominee and I'm not going to support this one.

So that's why we want to put this to bed early. This is a pledge that's been in existence. It was there in 2016. And we should make sure that every candidate on the Republican National Committee debate stage does what I have to do, which is support the nominee of our party.

BASH: One more question on this.

How do you enforce it? Once -- once you get to the point where there is a presumptive nominee, the debates are going to be over, so how do you even enforce this?

MCDANIEL: We're saying you're not going to get on the debate stage unless you make this pledge.

And I think people in our party really want to see that. They want to see us come together. They don't want the infighting. And, by the way, it's not a good look, right? If we're fighting each other, what young person -- I think of my 17-year-old and my 19-year-old. They don't want to see a Republican Party fighting. They want to see us talk about how we're going to make their lives better, they're going to come out of college with a job. we're going to tackle the border, we're going to tackle fentanyl.

They don't want to see us infighting. Let's talk about issues. That's what we need to get back to. And that's how we're going to win in 2024.

BASH: Any other requirements that you believe should be there when it comes to a threshold on polling?

MCDANIEL: Oh, I think there should be a threshold. And that makes sense. We will get that out probably closer to the debate.

BASH: What do you think it should be, 3 percent, 5 percent?

MCDANIEL: I would not get ahead of our debate committee.

We have been talking about this for a year-and-a-half, but there should be some threshold. The Democrats had that in 2016. You want to make sure that people are on the debate stage who are running for president. We don't want people running for book deals or media contracts or Cabinet positions. We want people there who are running for president of the United States.

BASH: Can you promise, when we're talking about promises now, that whomever the Republican nominee is ultimately will accept the results in 2024?

MCDANIEL: I expect that they will accept the results in 2024. I'm not -- I don't know who that person is right now. But, yes, we're going to accept the results.

And we're going to move forward and work to govern this country. But I think they're going to accept the results because they're going to be the president.

BASH: You talked about book deals and other reasons why maybe some candidates have historically wanted to get on the stage, other than actually thinking that they could be president.

We could have a pretty big stage.

MCDANIEL: It should be a big stage.

BASH: Do you think that's good for the party to have more voices? Or will it make it harder to do what you're saying, which is unify the party?

MCDANIEL: Oh, I think it speaks about the deep bench we have. I mean, we have so many great governors, senators, congressional members, business leaders, a former president. We have such a great bench of candidates.

I look at the Democrats, what they're doing to limit any competition to Biden. Look at the fact that they just changed their entire primary schedule. They made sure that New Hampshire is gone from being the first-in-the-nation primary. Why? Because Joe Biden came in eighth.


So that is a president who's weak, who's worried about competition from his own party, and we have a broad bench ready to run for president.

BASH: Just one sort of philosophical question that I have been wanting to ask you.


BASH: You have seen Florida Governor Ron DeSantis taking a really hands-on approach when it comes to the agenda on what's going on in schools, for example, more cultural issues, pushing to ban funding for diversity and inclusion programs at public universities, banning gender studies, trying to strip down -- actually stripping Disney of some of its authority for those reasons.

You also see some conservatives saying, that's the wrong approach, that is not the way the conservative philosophy should be, because we want government out of your life.

What's your philosophy?

MCDANIEL: I think that's going to be up to the voters as we get closer into this -- into this process at the state level or the national level. They take that to their voters.

I will say, as a mom from the state of Michigan, my kids were masked. They were out of school for two years. They're dealing with deficits. I have seen this in our community. I wish we had a state like Florida, where kids -- my nieces were in school. They got the education they deserved. I think Republicans in general are looking out for kids, things like school choice, making sure that kids have access to good education.

BASH: You accuse President Biden of using scare tactics when it comes to Republicans wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Mike Pence this past week, who's widely expected to run for president, said that he believes that the speaker -- he respects the speaker's commitment to take Social Security Medicare off the table for the debt ceiling, but that, in the long term, they should be on the table.

Is that the right approach?

MCDANIEL: Medicare and Social Security are off the table. Speaker McCarthy has said this. Leader McConnell has said this. This is not up for negotiation.

And I'm not going to give the Democrats any leverage on this.

BASH: Is that what Mike Pence is doing?

MCDANIEL: I think the -- Speaker McCarthy and Leader McConnell has said it's off the table.

And to see President Biden go in front of the American people and trying to scare them was something that he knew wasn't true. It was a lie. Republicans are going to make sure that we honor our commitment to Social Security and Medicare.

BASH: Before I let you go, I want to ask about something that's going on in your home state of Michigan... MCDANIEL: Sure.

BASH: ... which is, the person who took -- took your old job -- you were chair of the party in Michigan -- Kristina Karamo, she is an election denier.

She, on January 6, talks about the conspiracies that happened. She lost her secretary of state race by double digits. Does she represent your party? And will her presence as head of the party in Michigan hurt your chances in that very important state?

MCDANIEL: You know, I don't know her very well. And I wasn't at this recent convention. So the delegates chose Kristina.

But I'm committed to Michigan. It's my state. I wish you were talking about the power being out. We had no power for four days. We still have 230,000 people in our state with no power right now. But we have a Senate seat. We have House seats. I love our great state. And the RNC is absolutely committed to Michigan.

BASH: And should election denialism be a thing of the past in order to win places like Michigan, especially given...


MCDANIEL: If there's a problem with an election, we should be able to talk about that right.

And I do think you should be able to say, hey, tabulator machines went down.

BASH: What about 2020?

MCDANIEL: But I think we should be able to talk about issues that we see in elections.

We should always be able to talk about that. I don't think we should be able to -- we should remove that from the conversation if people...

BASH: Absolutely.

MCDANIEL: ... aren't getting ballots or not able to vote.

BASH: No question, but I'm talking about the past election.

MCDANIEL: But I'm looking forward. I'm looking forward to 2024 and, how do we win the Senate with -- when we have a much better map? How do we keep the House and how do we win the presidency?

And I will say the path forward is a united Republican Party. We have got to find our way to be there. That's what I want to be as a leader. I'm going to talk positively. I'm going to be optimistic. And I want to make sure that we're putting a vision forward that lets young people and women and other people look at our party as something that they aspire to be part of. BASH: Well, with a -- by definition, a primary race being about talking about the differences, being a united party is going to basically give you a lot of challenges.

But I will look forward to...

MCDANIEL: I'm up for the task. I'm up for the task.

BASH: ... watching you.

MCDANIEL: We can do it.


Ronna, thank you so much. Appreciate you coming in.

MCDANIEL: Thank you, Dana. Appreciate it.

BASH: And what is President Biden's timeline for announcing reelection? The first lady just gave us a clue.

Our panel is going to break that down next.




JAMES AUSTIN JOHNSON, ACTOR: I had to come here and see these wonderful people who have been abandoned by Biden.

He's on spring break in Ukraine with his friend Zelenskyy in the T- shirt.


BASH: Welcome back to State of the Union.

"SNL" doing their best Donald Trump impression after his trip to East Palestine this week.

My panel joins me now.

Thank you all, one and all.

I want to start with both of you.

Nina Turner, you are a daughter of Ohio. I know you have been to East Palestine. Do you think that the administration is doing enough?


The state administration is not doing enough. I'm not pleased with Governor Mike DeWine, who actually drunk some of the water, giving people confidence that that water is OK, when, in fact, the EPA didn't do the deepest dive that they can do to deal with the carcinogens that are there, the air, the water.

No. And when I went there, Dana, I saw both fear and anger in the eyes of the people there. I had a local guide. His name is John. He grew up in and around that area, and also Jess. And I got a chance to talk to some of the people.

And one lady that I talked to, she said: "I never want to see another vehicle carrying chemicals come through my community again."

And so while you have some of the GOP side saying less government, you have the residents of East Palestine saying that government is not doing enough. And they have been -- not just them. They have been failed by subsequent, many administrations. It's not just the Trump administration. It was the Obama administration. Now it's the Biden administration.


So now we have the facts. They are out there. The NTSB said this could have been avoided. The thing is, what are we going to do to solve the short-term and the long-term needs of the people. And then just one more point. For the neo-liberals who say that the residents of that area deserve what they are getting because they voted for President Donald J. Trump is abhorrent.

This is about poverty. This is about poor working-class white people who are enduring some of the same things that poor working-class black people endure, whether it's Flint, Cleveland, or Jackson, Mississippi. And so I want to lay down, the cultish behavior and politics right now, it is a sin and a shame that, when people are suffering to this magnitude, you got people who will fix their mouths, to quote my grandmother, to say that they are getting what they deserve.

What they deserve is clean air, clean food, clean water. They deserve relief, both in the short term, and also in the long term.

BASH: David Urban, you are from just over the border in Western Pennsylvania.


BASH: Nina mentioned this. The Trump administration did take apart a lot of the regulations that would have, at least in theory, made sure that this kind of thing didn't happen.

URBAN: So, look, let me just applaud Nina, right, because Nina and I get along where...


TURNER: ... right now.

URBAN: Strange bedfellows, right?

And so, interestingly, like, Nina nails it directly, right? So there's plenty of blame to go around on this -- on these kinds of -- when these kinds of things happen. But what's important is what we do moving forward, right, to take care of the people in these towns and communities.

And I think that what the big brouhaha here concerning the Biden administration is, did President Biden -- was he empathetic enough? Should he has shown up at the outset and said, listen, I feel your pain, something that Clinton -- that President Clinton was very good at, right?

Kind of sloughing off these folks, saying, oh, well, nobody really died there, it wasn't a big deal. No one died. When you saw those images, this is something that this administration seems to have not really grasped onto. You see the images of Afghanistan, people clinging into the wheels of the planes. Here, you see this big, black ominous cloud, something out of -- something akin to a "Stranger Things" episode, right, looming over the poor people of Western Pennsylvania and Southeastern Ohio.

TURNER: That's right.

URBAN: And the administration should have been there. They should have their arms around people, saying, listen, we know this stinks. We know you don't trust companies, you don't trust the government. We're here to help you.

BASH: So, speaking of the administration, President Biden has still not formally announced that he is running for reelection.

We believe, according to sources in and around him, that it could happen in April-ish. At least that's the plan now.

But, this week, his wife, the first lady, did not hold back on her assessment of his reelection plans. Take a listen.


QUESTION: Is all that's left at this point is just to figure out a time and place for the announcement?


JOE BIDEN: God love her.

Yes, look, I meant what I said, I have got other things to finish before I get into a full-blown campaign.


BASH: Jeff Nussbaum, you have worked on and off for President Biden for many, many years. What's your sense?

JEFFREY NUSSBAUM, FORMER BIDEN SPEECHWRITER: My sense is that he belongs to the Ricky Bobby school of politics. If you're not rising, you're following. If you're not first, you're last.

And so he's wired to run. And why shouldn't he? He has a record of accomplishment that's really second to none. And so I see no reason why he wouldn't.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the problem that Democrats are going to face is that Biden is not without risk.

He would be the oldest man elected president. There are moments when he seems feisty and ready to fight Republicans. And there are moments that do leave doubts in the minds of voters who are watching. Whenever you ask voters how they would feel about, say, a Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden rematch, there's a very negative reaction to that prospect that we could be going through that again in 2024.

But the problem Democrats have is, if not Biden, who? That's a huge question mark. The sitting vice president in polls that my firm and others conduct doesn't tend to do very well against potential Republican contenders. There are others on the list, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, California Governor Gavin Newsom. They have all got issues.

And so, right now, in some ways, I think Republicans would love to run against Biden. On the other hand, I think Democrats have to be a little nervous that, if it's not Biden, then who would it be?

BASH: Do you think...

TURNER: There's no need to be nervous. I mean, we got to feel -- people should just jump in. Let's jump in. Let people jump in.

You got Marianne Williamson out there saying she may run. We have...

BASH: So he should be challenged, President Biden?

TURNER: Oh, absolutely he should be challenged.

Voters deserve...

URBAN: See, Nina and I agreeing on everything today.


NUSSBAUM: This is one where I don't agree.

TURNER: That's OK. Voters deserve, right -- this is democracy. This is not a dictatorship. Voters deserve to have choice, period.

And I rock on the freedom-fighting side of the ledger. I want to see a robust debate. One of the things that our campaign did in 2016 and also in 2020 -- I'm talking about Senator Bernard Sanders -- is, we lifted the debate in terms of what people really need and deserve in this country.


And the only way to get that kind of robust debate is to have people on that stage. So, on the Republican side, the more, the merrier. And on the Democratic side, the more, the merrier. BASH: Jeff?

NUSSBAUM: So, what I was going to say is, when you look at Nikki Haley's announcement video, when you listen to what Tim Scott saying, a lot of the messages like new, new, new.

And I keep thinking like, yes, well, New Coke was new, but it didn't do very well. Like, new alone is not necessarily a winning argument. And so you need to put forward something. And I'm paying attention to what's going on, on the right, because I'm totally in it for Joe Biden. I think he's got the record and he's done what he said he was going to do. And so I think that's powerful.

But I think -- I don't see -- I don't see a message coming out of the other side.


URBAN: ... voters.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: New Coke doesn't work because people like original Coke.


NUSSBAUM: Well, people like original Biden.


TURNER: Well, see, this is not about Coke, though.

I don't disagree with Jeff about, if it's just new, that's not it. But we need a vision that provides provision for the people.

BASH: Before we go, you just heard earlier in the program, the RNC chair, that she say that she is going to have candidates sign a pledge to get on the stage that they would support other candidates.


BASH: Good idea?

URBAN: Well, you saw -- no, I think it's -- I think it -- well, it's -- I would not take what -- Ronna has done a great job running the party in this very difficult time.

But it's hard to enforce, right? You saw the clip right afterwards...

BASH: Yes.

URBAN: ... where Donald Trump said, well, maybe I will, maybe I won't, right?

And if he's not going to do it, then everybody else is going to say, well, we're not going to disarm.

BASH: Ten seconds. Does it matter?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Republican voters do not want to see their party fight itself. They want to see their party fight the Democrats, period.


TURNER: I would hope they want to see they probably serve the people, period.


BASH: All right. Wow, we agree on something.

URBAN: Look at that. Kumbaya.

BASH: Thank you so much, everybody.

And could Congress finally make progress on passing paid family and medical leave? A new bipartisan push -- that's next.



BASH: The two women you're about to hear from come from opposite sides of the aisle in a deeply divided House.

They don't agree on much. But they have found one area where they can get something done. At least they hope so.

It's the latest in my series "Badass Women of Washington."


BASH (voice-over): A party on Capitol Hill to launch a renewed effort in Washington.

REP. STEPHANIE BICE (R-OK): We are here to come to some sort of bipartisan solution and, for once, get this done.

BASH: You heard that right.

You're looking at Democrats and Republicans together vowing to tackle a persistent American problem, no universal policy for paid family and medical leave.

(on camera): The United States is one of only seven nations in the entire globe that doesn't have some benefit when it comes to paid family leave. How is that possible?

BICE: Yes, I think that's one of the surprising elements of this, is, we live in the greatest nation in the world. But when you're talking about families, this is one area that we have struggled.

BASH: And we're talking about countries like Papua New Guinea, Palau, Tonga, Micronesia, Marshall Islands.

REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): Places that many people couldn't find on a map. I think it's, frankly, an embarrassment that we are one of us seven nations or so that doesn't have this kind of focus on the family.

BASH (voice-over): Chrissy Houlahan is a Democrat from Eastern Pennsylvania outside Philadelphia. Stephanie Bice is a conservative Republican from Oklahoma.

Their ideologies and districts they represent are very different. What they have in common, they are both moms.

BICE: I worked for a company 20 years ago that actually provided paid family leave, which was almost unheard of.

BASH: Bice says she was lucky, since 75 percent, three-quarters of the country's workers, do not have access to paid family leave.

(on camera): And if you didn't have the good fortune of working for a company that gave you eight weeks paid time off...

BICE: Yes.

BASH: ... you might have left.

BICE: There are lots of things that we considered, either leaving the work force or looking at cutting back on expenses significantly. We had to figure out, how are we going to make this work?

BASH: And the economic impact is huge. You take the woman out of the work force, they're going to make less money, they're going to spend less money, right?

BICE: It's a vicious cycle.

BASH (voice-over): Houlahan was an officer in the Air Force when she became pregnant with her first daughter.

HOULAHAN: I really struggled because I think that the military's policy at the time was six weeks of convalescence, effectively. And I know, I remember cutely that the childcare on the base was a-six month waiting list.

To be really honest, it was one of the reasons that drove me to separate from the military.

BASH: This month, the White House marked 30 years since the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows Americans to take time off without getting fired. But Houlahan and Bice say that's not enough. They're working with other bipartisan members, including Texas Democrat Colin Allred, a trailblazer on paternity leave.

BICE: We, as a conference, have talked a lot about pro-family initiatives supporting the family. And this is one of the ways that we can do that. The time is now. I mean, 30 years is too long. SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): We need a national paid leave


BASH: There are bipartisan advocates in the Senate too, including Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy.

To be sure, both parties have tried to pass paid family and medical leave for years, but failed because of deep philosophical differences in how to approach it.

HOULAHAN: We have got our work cut out for us. And I do think that we have an opportunity-rich environment right now, to use a military term, to make sure that we take advantage of this really special time, honestly, where the majorities and minorities are so small and so slim, that it really requires that we work together.


BASH (on camera): That's an interesting point. People from the outside look at Washington and say, it's so broken, parties don't cross the aisle to work together enough.

You're sitting here together. You are trying to do that.

BICE: And I think more of that happens than people realize back home. This is certainly something that has gained traction over the last several years.

We have 33 Republican women now serving in Congress, the highest number ever.

HOULAHAN: And we are fortunate to be at this moment in history and this moment in time where there are a critical mass of us, frankly, in many cases, women, who are really intrigued and interested in making a difference in this area, and enough history to build upon to make this happen.


BASH: And up next: A young TV reporter was killed on the job this week. How friends and colleagues are remembering Dylan Lyons.



BASH: We want to take a moment to remember an up-and-coming journalist who was killed this week; 24-year-old Dylan Lyons was covering a deadly shooting Wednesday in Central Florida.

And police say a gunman there returned to the scene and shot Lyons, along with his cameraman, who is recovering right now from his injuries. Lyons' colleagues at Spectrum News 13 said Dylan loved his job and was particularly close to his mom, whom he thanked on social media at different points in his career. We are so sorry for her unthinkable loss and for Dylan's grieving

colleagues as well who are all, just like he was, doing their jobs.

May his memory be a blessing.