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State of the Union

Current State of the Presidential Race?; Interview With Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX); Interview With Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired July 09, 2023 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): As President Biden heads overseas to shore up support for Ukraine, he says the U.S. will send them a controversial weapon.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a very difficult decision on my part.

TAPPER: But is it the right one? I will ask House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and the only House member who voted against the Afghanistan war, Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee, next.

And party of one? Republicans set a date for the Iowa caucuses, where Donald Trump's rivals are trying to gain steam, while he zeros in on his closest opponent.


TAPPER: Does Ron DeSantis have a new plan to turn things around?

CASEY DESANTIS, FLORIDA FIRST LADY: He is the man to do it. My panel will discuss ahead.

TAPPER: Plus: mercury rising. A record-breaking heat wave blankets the globe. Overseas, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pushes China on climate.

JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: We have a duty to cooperate.

TAPPER: But is any country doing enough to stop the climate threat?


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is wondering about long-term consequences.

Just days after announcing his controversial decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine, a weapon his administration once referred to as constituting a potential war crime, President Biden is heading overseas this morning, where he and the larger NATO alliance will face a key test over whether they can remain united as they face down numerous thorny international challenges.

Tomorrow, the president starts his trip in the U.K., meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, then visiting with newly crowned King Charles III. Then it's off to Lithuania for what will undoubtedly be the trickiest part of the president's trip, two days of meetings with key NATO allies over Russia's war in Ukraine the refusal of NATO members Turkey and Hungary to welcome Sweden into the NATO alliance, conflicting opinions on curbing China's growing influence.

The meeting will require diplomatic deftness, with questions about the endgame in Ukraine and just exactly how committed NATO is to Ukraine winning the war, all while dealing with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's calls to immediately admit Ukraine into NATO.

Zelenskyy told my colleague Erin Burnett this week that that decision is entirely up to President Biden. Biden told my colleague Fareed Zakaria that Ukraine is not ready to join NATO.

Joining us now to discuss, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas.

Chairman McCaul, thanks so much for being with us.

So, one of the biggest subjects on the NATO agenda, whether to fast- track Ukraine's push to join NATO.

I want you to take a listen to what President Zelenskyy told my colleague Erin Burnett this week.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The U.S. decides today whether Ukraine will get invited to NATO. This is today's situation, and it's a fact.

The majority of the NATO countries support inviting Ukraine to NATO.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: The majority support?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Those who have their doubts look only at President Biden, and he knows that this depends on him. It will be his decision.


TAPPER: Do you think President Biden should support an expedited process for Ukraine to join NATO?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): I think it should be incremental, Jake.

I think, first, they have to win the counteroffensive, secondly, have a cease-fire, and then negotiate a peace settlement. We cannot admit Ukraine into NATO immediately. That would put us at war with Russia under Article 5 of the United Nations. So I think what the conversation is going to be about is, what

security agreements can be put in place with Ukraine as a predicate to perhaps NATO -- ascension of Ukraine into NATO? I think it's way too premature to be talking about that.

But I do think just to talk about it does provide deterrence against Russia. But we have to be careful in the way we do this. Now, remember, back in the Budapest agreement, they gave up all their nuclear weapons to Russia, and then we threw them under the bus with that agreement.

If we do another security agreement with NATO -- with Ukraine -- I'm sorry -- it has to be one that's solid that all of NATO is behind as a security agreement. The issue of ascension into NATO is a whole different issue.

TAPPER: Yes, you refer to the NATO Charter, Article 5, an attack on one is an attack on all.

MCCAUL: Correct.

TAPPER: So, after the war is over, which presumably is a day that will come at some point, would you then support admitting Ukraine into NATO?


MCCAUL: Yes, but it would have to be done, again, incrementally.

I think a security agreement with Ukraine to lay the predicate down the road, they would have to come up to certain standards within NATO qualifications to be admitted.

But I think, if anything, Jake, they have demonstrated a will to fight, a will for freedom and democracy against tyranny and oppression. And I think they have earned it. But we have to put it on the right path forward, not an immediate ascension into NATO.

TAPPER: So let's talk about cluster bombs, because you have been calling for the U.S. government to give cluster bombs to Ukraine for months, and now President Biden has agreed to do so.

Mexico, all of Western Europe, dozens of other countries, in fact, a majority of countries throughout the globe have all banned cluster bombs because they can cause indiscriminate damage. They can kill civilians, especially later if they fail to detonate.

The U.S. is still spending millions cleaning up cluster bombs in Laos from the 1960s. Do you have any reservations about giving cluster bombs to Ukraine?

MCCAUL: Well, you're right. Geneva Convention, there are signatories to that convention who do not agree with these munitions. We are not a signatory to the Geneva Convention on cluster munitions.

Neither is Ukraine. And, by the way, Russia is dropping with impunity cluster bombs in Ukraine, in the country of Ukraine, right now. All the Ukrainians and Zelenskyy are asking for is to give them the same weapons the Russians have to use in their own country against Russians who are in their own country.

They're -- they do not want these to be used in Russia. They want these as self-defense to use against Russians in their own country of Ukraine. I don't see anything wrong with that, because, quite honestly, Jake, as you look at the counteroffensive, it's been slowed tremendously because this administration has been so slow to get the weapons in.

These weapons would be a game-changer. They are highly effective, and particularly hitting flanks of troops inside of Ukraine. They would be a game-changer in the counteroffensive. And I'm really pleased the administration has finally agreed to do this.

But, lastly, ATACMS, my committee,we voted bipartisan to release those ATACMS, longer-range artillery, that can hit the Iranian drones in Crimea. And also the F-16s need to get in country as soon as possible to deliver the Storm Shadows that the U.K. has put in there as well.

But it'll take a while to train the pilots. But we got to move all this quickly and stop spending so much time.

TAPPER: Let's turn to China. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was just there trying to strike a balance between competition and cooperation with Beijing.

She tried to confront China on trade, on manufacturing, on the climate crisis. Were you satisfied with the Biden administration's message on this trip?

MCCAUL: I think, just to get the meetings, they made a lot of concessions on sanctions and export controls.

I would like this to be -- it is a great power competition. I think she was willing to say we're not in a conflict or in a competition. This is just -- we're just trading partners. I think that's a little bit devoid of reality.

I think it's good to have diplomacy. I think it's good to have discussions moving forward. But what has China done? Their response is export controls on rare earth minerals. As a result of this meeting, they're going to cut exports of rare earth minerals to the United States in what would be considered a trade action or a trade embargo.

And this highlights the bigger, great power competition we have with China, first semiconductors that I took on with the CHIPS Act. Now we got the rare earth minerals. Globally, China controls about 80, 85 percent of those critical minerals. We have to compete with them in every continent, including Africa, South America, Indo-Pacific.

And we're not doing adequately so far.

TAPPER: Speaking of those special minerals, let's turn to Afghanistan, because it was two Fridays ago when the administration, the Biden administration, chose late Friday afternoon before the long Fourth of July weekend to release a damning Afghanistan report that faulted both the Biden administration and the Trump administration for the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.

I want you to take a listen to President Biden's response to that report.


QUESTION: Do you admit there was mistakes during the withdrawal and before?

BIDEN: No, no, all the evidence is coming back there, remember what I said about Afghanistan? I said al Qaeda would not be there. I said it wouldn't be there.

I said we would get help from the Taliban. What's happening now? What's going on? Read your press. I was right.


TAPPER: So, just in case everybody out there could hear, the question was, do you admit there were mistakes during the withdrawal and before?

And President Biden said: "No, all the evidence is coming back. Do you remember what I said about Afghanistan? I said al Qaeda would not be there. I said it wouldn't be there. I said, we'd get help from the Taliban. What's happening now? What's going on? Read your press. I was right."


What's your reaction?

MCCAUL: No, it's devoid of reality.

Jake, it's a little bit eerie that a president of the United States would have so -- be so disillusioned about what's happening on the ground in Afghanistan, the idea that al Qaeda is gone. His own secretary of defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff, Milley, have said al Qaeda is on the rise in Afghanistan. He's saying they're gone. He's saying the Taliban are helping us.

What happened right after he withdrew? Zawahiri was harbored by the Haqqani Network, which is al Qaeda, essentially. So, you got Haqqani and the Taliban harboring Zawahiri, al Qaeda, bin Laden's number two guy, in Afghanistan right after the fall. And now he's saying, I was right. The Taliban is helping us and al Qaeda is gone.

I just don't really understand it. It's a bit bizarre to me that a president would be so devoid of his own foreign policy. And he just really wants to sweep Afghanistan under the rug. That report was very damaging, found that we should not have abandoned Bagram, where we had over $7 billion of taxpayer weapons left behind that now, by the way, the Taliban are selling to our adversaries like Iran and the Palestinians against Israel.

This is a huge foreign policy blunder.

TAPPER: You're in Miami right now, as anybody who's looking at the screen and sees the top right bug where it says your location.

Tuesday is going to mark two years since protesters in Cuba took to the streets in the largest anti-Cuban government demonstration in a decade. And you're in Florida, you say, to meet with Cuban American activists tomorrow. Do you support regime change in Cuba? Do you think that's the only path forward?

MCCAUL: Well, I think we have to be careful in South America about regime change. We have had a history of that.

I support the people of Cuba. I support them. If they want an uprising against their leadership, we should support them in that effort. I will be with them tomorrow. They're very passionate about their country. They want their country back. They want freedom and democracy in Cuba.

And what is happening in Cuba right now? China is in Cuba. We have the latest reports now that the Chinese are setting up a spy station in Cuba, the likes of which we haven't seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis. And where am I sitting? SOUTHCOM in Miami, CENTCOM, which is Central Command. That's all the Middle East.

SOUTHCOM is Central and South America, our military. JIATF is our intelligence task force in Key West.

All these facilities, Jake, 90 miles away from that tiny island, from where I sit right here in Miami, 90 miles that can intercept, through Huawei and ZTE and a spy station, our intelligence communications, that is a clear and present danger and a threat to the security of the United States just 90 miles off the coast here.

TAPPER: The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, good to see you, sir.

Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

MCCAUL: Thank you, Jake. Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: My next guest was famously the only House member to vote against the war in Afghanistan. And now she is warning President Biden he's about to make a mistake in Ukraine.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee joins us next.

Plus: Casey DeSantis on the campaign trail in a crucial early voting state. Could she help turn around her husband, the Florida governor's seemingly struggling campaign?

Stay with us.


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

My next guest was the only member of the House of Representatives after 9/11 to vote against the war in Afghanistan. That was more than two decades ago. And now she is strongly breaking with the Biden administration over its decision to send controversial cluster bombs to Ukraine. She's warning the U.S. shouldn't -- quote -- "stoop to Putin's level" -- unquote.

Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, where she is also running for the U.S. Senate.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

So, here's how the White House is trying to justify giving Ukraine cluster munitions, despite the risk that they pose to civilians. Take a listen.


JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There is also a massive risk of civilian harm if Russian troops and tanks roll over Ukrainian positions and take more Ukrainian territory and subjugate more Ukrainian civilians because Ukraine does not have enough artillery.

That is intolerable to us. This is their country they're defending. These are their citizens they're protecting. And they are motivated to use any weapon system they have.


TAPPER: What do you think? Do you buy that argument? What's your response?


No, cluster bombs should never be used. That's crossing a line. Once you see what takes place -- we know what takes place, in terms of cluster bombs being very dangerous to civilians. They don't always immediately explode. Children can step on them. That's a line we should not cross.

I think the president's been doing a good job managing this war, this Putin aggressive war against Ukraine, but I think that this should not happen. He had to ask for a waiver under the Foreign Assistance Act just to do it, because we have been preventing the use of cluster bombs since, I believe, 2010.

TAPPER: So, when Putin started using cluster bombs, the Biden White House said that that would potentially be a war crime. Do you think that, therefore, the U.S. government, the Biden administration, will potentially be engaging in war crimes if this goes forward? LEE: What I think is that we are -- would risk losing our moral

leadership, because, when you look at the fact that over 120 countries have signed the convention on cluster munitions, saying they should never be used, they should never be used.


And, in fact, many of us have urged the administration to sign onto this convention. And so I'm hoping that the administration would reconsider this, because these are very dangerous bombs, they're dangerous weapons, and this is a line that I don't believe we should cross.

TAPPER: You, notably, were the only member of the U.S. House of Representatives to vote against authorizing the war in Afghanistan in 2001.

Now, of course, a State Department report on the chaotic Afghan withdrawal effort found that the Biden administration failed to prepare for the worst-case scenarios, that, ultimately, many of them came to pass. I know you supported the goal of leaving Afghanistan. Do you think President Biden deserves some blame for the way that withdrawal spiraled out of control?

LEE: I don't believe the administration deserves any blame for this.

We have to remember that Donald Trump made this agreement with the Taliban. Secondly, the Trump administration literally gutted our State Department and our diplomatic corps. I believe that the State Department and those who were involved in this end of the Afghanistan war, which should have happened before then, I believe, did the best they could.

But, having said that, it wasn't as smooth as we would have liked to have seen it. And, in fact, we still have to fund our State Department and our diplomats, just like we're funding the Defense Department. I believe that, had we stayed in Afghanistan, we'd be there another 20 years. There was no military solution.

That's why I voted against that overly broad authorization in 2001, which was a 60-word authorization that set the stage for forever wars.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the climate crisis, because, Thursday, the Earth had its warmest average temperature on record, since -- since scientists began keeping records of this kind of thing. This was the fourth day in a row of record-breaking global temperature averages.

The U.N. secretary-general says these numbers show that -- quote -- "climate change is out of control" -- unquote.

As someone who represents a state on the front lines of the climate crisis, are there steps, do you think, that President Biden could be taking right now to combat the climate crisis that he is not taking?

LEE: This is a climate emergency. We see wildfires. We see floods, the hottest days ever in history recently. And this administration, I think, has done phenomenally well in terms

of investments and releasing our investments, business investments, private sector investments, to begin to rely on more clean energy -- a clean energy economy, making sure that we get away from using fossil fuels and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, also making sure that our water and air is clean by the investments in the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS Act.

And so I think that it's important to recognize that we have done everything, the Biden administration has done everything it can, given the political dynamics of the House and the Senate, that we can do. But we have to do a heck of a lot more. We have got to address environmental justice and injustice in communities of color and in low-income and poor communities.

I'm working with Congressman Raul Grijalva on an environmental justice bill. But I believe that this administration understands that there are injustices in our own country and have made investments into communities of color to clean up the pollution that we have to deal with each and every day.

The health impacts are horrendous. And so we need to do more. But I think that this administration has done a very good job in making investments in our climate emergency.

TAPPER: You're out on the campaign trail running for the U.S. Senate.

President Biden is traveling the country, extolling his economic policies. He's calling them Bidenomics. Polls consistently show that a majority of the American people disapprove of the president's handling of the economy.

And, as you know, and I'm sure you hear from the people out there, they're still hurting from inflation, the high cost of living, income inequality and more. Are you running on Bidenomics, or do you understand why so many voters aren't feeling the benefits?

LEE: The cost of living, of course, in California is extremely high.

The affordability crisis is high. We have record job growth, but yet job growth and wages have not kept up with the cost of living. And what I am talking about with voters and with people throughout the state -- first of all, in the Golden State of California, we have at least 20 million people who are living one paycheck away from poverty.

And so we have got to make sure that reduce the cost of housing. We have a huge unsheltered population. We have to make sure that we provide for childcare, for women, especially, who want to get back into the work force. And we have to make sure that we fight for a living wage for everyone here in California, because people cannot afford to continue to live here because the cost of living is so high.


And so the president, I believe, has done a remarkable job in moving forward this economy and creating more good-paying union jobs. But we have a heck of a lot more to do, especially for states which the cost of living is extremely high and the wages have not kept up with what it costs to live in a wonderful state such as California.

TAPPER: You are running for the U.S. Senate to succeed Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has missed dozens of very important votes during her months-long absence from the Senate earlier this year.

Questions about her health and her cognitive abilities, of course, have been circulating for years. Your fellow Californian Congressman Ro Khanna has repeatedly called on Feinstein to resign. He's not just a colleague. He's your campaign co-chair.

Does he speak for you when he calls for her to resign? Do you also think she needs to step down?

LEE: I have said over and over and over again that I, first of all, am most concerned about Senator Feinstein's health. She's back at work, and she's doing her job.

I am running for the United States Senate. We're building our organizations. We -- organization. We were in the Central Valley last week, in Los Angeles and San Diego. And let me tell you, we have been listening, I have been listening to the challenges that people here in California have of inequality, the cost of living, the cost of housing.

That's what's important to me, that people understand that I see them, I hear them, and I'm going to fight for them so that they can have the type of life that Californians all deserve, and that is making sure that they're able to live the California and American dream.

That's what I'm doing, listening and explaining to people why I am running and making sure they understand that my experiences, my abilities to negotiate, appropriate and legislate, which have been proven, will be very useful for Californians when I'm elected into the Senate. And so I'm excited about this campaign that I'm running in.

TAPPER: Right, but does Ro Khanna, who's your campaign co-chair, does he speak for you?

LEE: Look, first of all, I respect my congressman, my friend, Congressman Ro Khanna.

I'm speaking for myself when I say that I hope that Senator Feinstein continues to improve. She is back in Washington, D.C., and she is doing her job. And what I am doing is talking to voters and putting forth my record, my experience, my lived experiences, and connecting with people, so that people understand that I'm going to be fighting continuously for them, for a better life for everyone.

TAPPER: Thank you so much for joining us early in the morning there in California. We appreciate it, Congresswoman.

LEE: Thank you.

TAPPER: A top DeSantis supporter is admitting that Donald Trump is the runaway front-runner for the Republican nomination. Can a new strategy by the DeSantis team boost his campaign?

My panel is next.




TRUMP: He became Ron DeSanctimonious to me.

And he would be a total disaster. First of all, he's got no personality. You have probably found that out, because his polls are crashing.

DESANTIS: I will go out and I will fight for Ron DeSantis, not because he's my husband. That is a part of it, but it's because I believe in him in every ounce of my being.


TAPPER: Welcome back to -- welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Donald Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis' wife, Casey,on the trail in Iowa, as we learn the Iowa caucuses have a date, January 15 of 2024.

My panel joins me now.

Doug, let me start with you.

You were the communications director for the 2012 GOP Iowa caucus. Donald Trump lost it last time, narrowly, but he lost it to Ted Cruz.


TAPPER: How do you think things are shaping up, up there?

HEYE: Well, we typically say with Iowa that it's not determinative. It's what starts to cull the field.

If Donald Trump wins Iowa this time, the field is over. So all things are going to come down to Iowa in this case. If Ron DeSantis wins, if Mike Pence is able to 99-county his way into a victory, then we have a wide-open race. But if Donald Trump wins Iowa in January -- and it's six months and one week to go, so there's a long time -- this race, I think, is effectively over.

TAPPER: And so I guess one of the things you're getting at there is the fact that Iowa, the Republican electorate is made up so much of evangelical conservative Christians, who Donald Trump had not quite sealed the deal with them in 2016.

How do you think things are going to shape up?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Doug is right in terms of, if Donald Trump wins Iowa, it's over. The question that I have is,how many people can still stay in the race

until Iowa? You have to fund-raise to keep organizers on the ground, to run political ads. And, right now, it doesn't seem like a Nikki Haley or Tim Scott or -- is -- they're really going to make that mark to last for another, what, six or eight months.

But I do think if a Mike Pence or Ron DeSantis could even come close, they might hang on until New Hampshire. But, at this point, if they don't close the field pretty soon, it's going to be a Donald Trump walkaway.

TAPPER: And, Alyssa, you saw DeSantis campaign this week. What did you think and how do you think he's doing?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know what? Ron DeSantis plays well in Iowa. I saw him in New Hampshire, not a place where he's quite as popular.

And, to Ashley's point, he goes into the race focusing on Iowa, and he actually will have the money and the momentum, I think, to be in for the long haul. But there has been misstep after misstep by his campaign. Rather than trying to differentiate himself from Trump in something that could his best point is electability, except he undercuts it with the policies he's running on.

He just put out one of arguably the most homophobic ads I have ever seen that is literally radioactive to women, college-educated voters, every coalition you need to win back to win a general election. So I think he's is in the race for the long haul, but I don't know that I see momentum picking up in terms of his polling.


I have said this until I was blue in the face, but the more voters meet Ron DeSantis, the less they like him, which is why I think his wife going on the campaign trail is a value-added.


I have to disagree with Doug slightly. I do believe that the race is over January 15, which is King Day. I don't know if anybody finds that ironic that...



SELLERS: ... Iowa is having their primary on King Day, but whatever.

But I -- for the life of me, I cannot believe that no one has actually challenged Donald Trump significantly on issues that truly matter. And I don't think there's a lot of time left. I know you...


TAPPER: Like what? What issues?

SELLERS: I -- when you attack Donald Trump, you have to attack him substantively. You have to talk about January 6. You have to talk about character issues. You have to differentiate yourself. Chris Christie's done it very well.

TAPPER: Asa Hutchinson too, and Will Hurd too.



TAPPER: So, like, I think that you -- I think that my point is that one of these candidates, like a Tim Scott, like a Ron DeSantis, if you're going to have credibility in a platform, you have to be willing to hit him, to your point, on issues that matter.

You cannot out-Trump Donald Trump, is my point.

HEYE: I think the word platform here is important. And when I say we have a long time to go, we have a debate in six weeks. And until we have debates -- we will have to see if Donald Trump shows up or not -- a lot of this is conjecture and being run online and on TV through ads and so forth.

These candidates have to stand next to each other and go after each other. This nomination doesn't go around Donald Trump. It goes through him. Luke Skywalker had to confront Darth Vader. These Republican candidates will have to do the same.

FARAH GRIFFIN: I have talked to a number of these Republican candidates, and they're all getting the same advice early on, which is, you can't alienate the Trump voters. Don't go after him too much. Go after the policies.

The problem with that is they miss the opportunity to differentiate themselves and to define themselves. Nikki Haley, an incredibly talented, politically savvy person, there's not a way to break through because she wasted so much time not going after Donald Trump.

TAPPER: So let's talk about going after Donald Trump, because former Vice President Mike Pence, who's also running, is in Iowa. He's putting a lot in Iowa.

And he was asked by a voter about January 6. By the way, we're expecting the Justice Department to move on possible indictments on the January 6 insurrection. But listen to what one Iowa voter had to say to Vice President Pence and his response.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it wasn't for your vote, we would not have Joe Biden in the White House.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did exactly what the Constitution of the United States required of me that day. I kept my oath.


PENCE: I'm sorry, ma'am, but that's actually what the Constitution says. No vice president in American history ever asserted the authority that you have been convinced that I had.

President Trump was wrong about my authority that day, and he's still wrong.


TAPPER: So, what do you think?

ALLISON: Well, I thought the question that she posed was interesting, is that she disregarded 70 million other people's votes, based on Mike Pence's one vote.

And that's because Donald Trump and many people in the Republican Party, to be honest, have done a really good job in lying to the American people about the authority. I also think, after January 6, terrible day, people put Mike Pence on a pedestal for doing his job.

And so it made him -- made people feel like, if you're drinking the Donald Trump Kool-Aid, that he had more power than he did. As Pence said, every other vice president has done this, so why would I be the exception to the rule?

But it's the lies that the party has yet to put a stop to, including people in the Republican field right now.

SELLERS: I get that it's an extremely low bar. I agree with you.


SELLERS: But Mike Pence did exactly what you have to do. That answer had moral clarity. It was extremely clear. He said: Look, I'm going to lose this one woman's vote for this decently ignorant question, but I'm going to show people that I can lead.

And that's what you have to do in this race. Now, I don't know if Mike -- if this is Mike Pence his time. I disagree with Mike Pence on 99.9 percent of his policy points, but that's the way that you run for president of the United States.

TAPPER: Alyssa, what do you think? If there are indictments of Donald Trump and others around him for January 6 for trying to overturn a free and fair election, do you think that will have any impact on Republican voters?

FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, listen, it will be the third indictment of the former president, and his numbers have only gone up with prior.

It will depend largely on how this field chooses to handle it.

SELLERS: Right. FARAH GRIFFIN: And this is what requires moral leadership, is for somebody like a Mike Pence to explain why this matters, for someone like a Nikki Haley.

But I don't know that that's what we're going to see. So I would encourage the field, if they're there, cling to that and explain to the public why what he did was so unprecedented and undermined our democracy.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We got another panel coming up, another block of panel coming up.

President Joe Biden has joked that he's as old as the United States itself. Will that help defuse voters concerns about his age and cognitive abilities heading into 2024?

My panel returns right after this quick break.




BIDEN: I'm a little under 103.

I know I'm 198 years old.

When I was graduating from high school 300 years ago.

I look back on my career of 280 years.

I know I look like I'm only still 29.

I believe in the First Amendment, not just because my good friend Jimmy Madison wrote it.


TAPPER: President Joe Biden trying to laugh off concerns about his advanced age headed into 2024.

My panel is back with me.

Effective? What do you think? I mean, there are -- if you look at polls, people, including Democrats, are concerned about his age and his ability to do the job because of his age.

SELLERS: Yes, it's a very real concern. That is a fact. Democrats share that concern. But I think also Democrats realize that he's our horse and we got to ride him. So that's first.

The second thing is, there is an advantage Republicans have when it comes to this 2024 election in terms of this new generation of leadership versus the traditional same old, same old Washington. But after Donald Trump wins Iowa, to go back a little bit, that advantage is also disappearing.

FARAH GRIFFIN: But, on that, I mean, don't Democrats think that Donald Trump is an existential threat to American democracy?

I even personally think so.


FARAH GRIFFIN: So, why are we -- you guys staking that on the back of an 80-year-old man who everyone has concerns about...



TAPPER: Well, what's -- so game out on this, because I have had this conversation a million times.

So, then what? So, what's the alternative?

SELLERS: Exactly. what are we doing?

FARAH GRIFFIN: I mean, you guys could have a nominating process.

It would seem like -- I would think that, if you were so worried about the future with Donald Trump as president again, you guys would put up a better...


FARAH GRIFFIN: I'm engaging in the primary to try to put somebody up.

SELLERS: But that's the only detraction. I mean, you have somebody who -- and we can get into a policy discussion, but you have somebody who's actually implemented tangible and, in many times, bipartisan policy positions that many Democrats love.

And so I'm not going to retire the horse simply because he's run a few races.

ALLISON: Yes. I...


TAPPER: I think one of the things is -- and I'm coming right to you...

SELLERS: I'm beating this horse to death.

TAPPER: ... is, one of the things that is motivating him, in addition to the fact that, like, let's be honest, every single president has a very healthy ego, but, beyond that, he probably thinks that he -- I think he thinks he's the only one that can beat Donald Trump, that, like -- that he would step back today if he thought Vice President Harris or Secretary Buttigieg or whomever could do it, but he thinks that they can't. ALLISON: Joe Biden has had a pretty successful term in office.

He got infrastructure done. He got bipartisan gun reform done. He got us out of the pandemic with getting vaccines in people's arms. America -- he is doing the right thing on Russia and Ukraine and not potentially letting a dictator take over.

When you have a record like that, you run again for reelection. And every other president has. And the reality is, the reason why he thinks he can beat Donald Trump is because he did beat Donald Trump already. And so it's not Democrats' responsibility to put somebody else up on the top of the Republican ticket.

It's Republicans voters to see, yes, Donald Trump is an existential crisis to our democracy, so don't nominate him, and then let the race play out. But, like, it's not fair to -- and I agree with Bakari. Yes, people know his age is a problem. But Donald Trump is no spring chicken either.

He's what, four years younger than Joe Biden.


ALLISON: And those are the two front-runners.

TAPPER: And also, Doug, what's interesting is just my favorite group of voters out there are the double-haters.


TAPPER: They don't like Biden, and they don't like Trump. They're my favorite because they're so important.

The double-haters in 2016 went for Trump over Hillary.

HEYE: Yes.

TAPPER: The double-haters poll right now overwhelmingly for Biden.

HEYE: Yes.

TAPPER: They don't like either one, but they go, but I'm going to go with the old horse.

HEYE: And that's why we have seen states like Georgia and Arizona flip, potentially North Carolina, this race.

But to use the horse race analogy just one step further...

SELLERS: We're beating this horse to death.


HEYE: ... this is -- this nomination process is...

TAPPER: Whoa. HEYE: This election is....


HEYE: ... very well done -- is the Belmont Stakes.

It's a very long race. And you come at a time where Joe Biden is at an age where you age faster and in a job where you age faster than any other job.


TAPPER: That's true.

HEYE: And in your last book -- I look forward to reading the new one -- you wrote about Frank Sinatra.

And Biden right now reminds me of seeing Frank Sinatra towards the end of his career. One minute, he is crushing "My Way," and the next minute he can't remember the words to "Come Fly With Me." And if he has that moment, and it's public and we all see it at a debate or at a speech, Joe Biden and the Democrats have a very real existential problem.

ALLISON: Can I just say something on that, though?


ALLISON: I think people are waiting for that to happen. People have mistakes. We all are on television and sometimes read the wrong line or say the wrong thing. It's what humans do. We're not robots, thank God.


ALLISON: We're not ChatGPT.

TAPPER: And Biden was pretty gaff-prone before.


ALLISON: Yes, exactly.

And so I think everyone is putting too much on like -- I don't know. I trip once a week as well. We don't want it to happen. We don't want to see our leaders have it.

SELLERS: But that's -- but, also, Republicans...

ALLISON: But just one more -- I also think that he is...

TAPPER: Biden is.

ALLISON: Biden is handicapped a little bit because, for the last two presidents, we have had superstars. Whether you like -- whether you would buy a ticket to their show or not. Barack Obama was a once-in-a-lifetime, generational leader that you just loved, right? Either you hated him or you loved him. Donald Trump is the same way. That's why 50 percent of your party still wants him to be president. They're celebrities.

Joe Biden is not a celebrity. Joe Biden is a politician.


SELLERS: But the bar is also -- they set the bar extremely low. And I think Republicans make that mistake often.

They're like, oh, my God, he's so old that he can't put a sentence together. And then when he sits down with somebody like Fareed Zakaria and is actually coherent, everybody's like, oh, my God, he actually can...


SELLERS: So that the...

FARAH GRIFFIN: You can't lose in this conversation, though, that you have a historically unpopular vice president in Vice President Kamala Harris, who's pulling beneath the top of the ticket, Joe Biden.

Usually, the V.P.'s job is do no harm and give people confidence that you could step in the next day and become president. That could be a drag on that. Someone like me, who's a neither-sider, that's a drag on the...


SELLERS: Well, first of all, I got to address the first part.

I mean, she's also the first vice president of the United States that doesn't look like any of the other ones that came before her. And so the media...

TAPPER: First woman, the first person of color.

SELLERS: Correct.

And the media is struggling and figuring out how to cover her, as well as she was trying to figure out how to do the job well. And the vice presidency is not a job usually that comes with the glitz and glamour.

She's not held to the same standard of Mike Pence. She's not held to the same standard of Joe Biden. So, I want to clarify that, for last.

TAPPER: All right, wonderful conversation.

Thanks, one and all, for being here.

Coming up next, something I'm proud to share with you all after years of hard work. Stay with us.



TAPPER: If you will indulge me for one moment, summer is here, which makes it the perfect time to pick up a new book.

And I humbly submit you might like my new thriller, "All the Demons Are Here," which comes out Tuesday. And I hope you will pick up a copy. It takes place in the wild 1970s. The main characters are the kids of the protagonists of my previous two novels, Ike, a Marine who's gone AWOL -- he's in Montana -- and his sister, Lucy, an aspiring journalist in D.C. on the hunt for a series killer.

I tried to interweave all sorts of real people and politicians and events from that era into the mystery and the plot, such as '70s icon daredevil stuntman Evel Knievel. In the book, Ike works for Evel Knievel. He's on his pit crew in Montana.


1977 is, of course, also the Summer of Sam, the infamous serial killer who terrorized New York City. It's a story that helped propel the rise of tabloid journalism in the U.S., which the character Lucy deals with. She works on a tabloid in D.C. owned by a Murdoch-esque magnate.

The book includes various 1977 moments, "Star Wars," UFO sightings, the opening of Studio 54, a celebrity discotheque that changed New York nightlife. But I also tried to get in how that era was a really a time of great unrest, with the New York City blackout and post- Watergate and post-Vietnam War distrust of government. There was a real prevalence of cults and, of course, great sadness surrounding the death of Elvis Presley.

I think it's a fun read. And I hope you check it out. "All the Demons Are Here," it comes out this Tuesday.

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.

Fareed Zakaria sits down with President Biden -- that's right -- after this quick break.