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State of the Union

Interview With U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan; Interview With Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ); Interview With Fmr. Gov. Chris Christie (D-NJ). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired July 16, 2023 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Taking sides. Congress splits sharply over defense priorities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans are choosing MAGA extremism over our military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A woke military is a weak military.

TAPPER: As President Biden signals a drawn-out war in Ukraine.


TAPPER: But can the president guarantee the U.S. is in it for the long haul? National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is next.

And on the rise? Six months until the Iowa caucuses, and new numbers revealing voters' views of the GOP field. Is Donald Trump leaving an opening?

FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, there's really broad support for the candidacy. That means I'm going to be on the debate stage.

TAPPER: GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie is coming up.

And melting down. The Southwest is roasting under extreme heat with no relief in sight. Will all these climate disasters finally change minds on Capitol Hill? Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly will join me.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is deadlocked.

This morning, Ukraine is digging in for a drawn-out war with Russia, asking allies for more weapons to support their ongoing fight, as Vladimir Putin declares the Ukraine counteroffensive a failure. President Biden is just home from a summit with NATO allies, where Biden promised to keep supporting Ukraine for -- quote -- "as long as it takes." But Biden returned to Washington to find Congress at odds over the Pentagon spending authorization bill, traditionally bipartisan legislation that traditionally passes overwhelmingly. And that's how the bill looked as it came out of the House Armed Services Committee and passed 58-1.

But this bill might not even get to President Biden's desk for the first time in 60 years, because, on the House floor, Republicans added amendments relating to controversial social issues in the military and, for some, over ongoing support for Ukraine as well, making the bill likely DOA as is in the U.S. Senate.

Joining us now to discuss, President Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

Jake, let's start right there.

This national defense bill would eliminate funding for service members' travel to states where abortion is legal, block coverage for transgender health procedures, and eliminate military diversity offices. Would President Biden veto this legislation as is?

JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, this legislation is never getting to the president's desk, because what you have seen from an extreme group of Republicans is to put forward a set of amendments that try to mix domestic social debates with the needs, the security needs, of our nation.

TAPPER: Those amendments passed the House.

SULLIVAN: And, Jake, at end of the day, this -- this Defense Authorization Act, Jake, from my perspective, is really about a bipartisan exercise in defending America, defending Americans' national security.

And, historically, year after year, you have seen the Defense Authorization Act pass with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. We should not walk away from that. This should be an area where politics stops and national security starts. And we believe that, at the end of the day, after the Senate has done its work, after the Senate has come back together with the House, we will end up in a place where there is a broad bipartisan bill that can go to the president's desk that he can sign.

That is what is necessary for our men and women in uniform and to keep faith with the American people our fundamental duty to keep them safe.

TAPPER: Jake, you blame this on an extreme group of Republicans. Those amendments passed the House of Representatives. They got a majority of the House of Representatives.

SULLIVAN: A huge number of folks in the House, including Republicans, in my view, are not particularly interested in having politics come into the middle of the Defense Authorization Act.

You yourself noted that, when this came out of the committee, it was 58-1, showing you that an overwhelming number of Republicans, as well as Democrats, were willing to support a bill that could get broad bipartisan backing.

So it was a small group of Republicans who essentially created a trap, a circumstance we don't need to find ourselves in, Jake. Just go back and look at the bill as it came through, a bipartisan effort, a Republican-chaired effort in the House Armed Services Committee. That's the kind of approach that we want to see.

That's the kind of approach, I believe, that most Republicans in the House, as well as in the Senate, would like to see in bringing forward a Defense Authorization Act that, as I said, year after year has commanded overwhelming bipartisan majorities, precisely because it has not brought domestic social debates into the middle of our national security.


That's what a certain group of Republicans are trying to do now. In the end, I don't believe it will succeed because I believe wisdom will prevail.

TAPPER: You keep talking about a -- what most Republicans believe. I mean, they showed you what they believe with their vote.

But let's move on. At this week's NATO summit, the G7 countries agreed to provide -- quote -- "security guarantees" to Ukraine. Two months ago, President Biden finally decided that he would allow European countries to give F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine and to teach Ukrainian pilots how to use those jets.

But a Pentagon spokesperson told Politico this week that formal approval was -- quote -- "still being reviewed" -- unquote. Will the U.S. allow European countries to start training Ukrainian fighter pilots today?

SULLIVAN: Yes, we will.

The president has given a green light, and we will allow, permit, support, facilitate, and, in fact, provide the necessary tools for Ukrainians to begin being trained on F-16s as soon as the Europeans are prepared. You said today what the -- what the Europeans have said is that they need a couple of weeks to be able to put in place the necessary training facilities.

And the president has said we are going to meet whatever timeline our European partners need today, tomorrow, the next day. It doesn't matter. The United States will not be the holdup in ensuring that this F-16 training can get under way.

TAPPER: Another momentous and quite controversial decision by the president had to do with the decision to give Ukraine cluster bombs to use on the battlefield against Russia.

Has Ukraine started using those cluster bombs yet? SULLIVAN: So, the cluster bombs have arrived in country. I don't have

a report for you today as to whether they have actually been deployed at this point.

But, if they have not yet, they will be in the coming hours or days, because they have now very rapidly been shipped into the fight and are in the hands of the Ukrainian defenders on the front lines.

TAPPER: Mike Kinsley once described a gaffe as when a politician accidentally tells the truth.

President Biden said recently that the U.S. gave cluster bombs to Ukraine in part because the U.S. is low on other ammunition to give the Ukrainians. That's a pretty shocking admission. Is it acceptable to the Biden administration that the U.S. is low on ammunition? And what are you going to do about it?

SULLIVAN: Well, when we came into office, we found that the overall stocks of .155 ammunition, which is the NATO standard ammunition you use for artillery rounds, was relatively low.

But, more importantly, Jake, we discovered that the ability to mass- produce that ammunition would take not days or weeks or months, but years to get to the level that we needed. So, the -- President Biden ordered his Pentagon to work rapidly to scale up the ability of the United States to produce all the ammunition we could ever need for any conflict at any time in the future.

We are in the middle of doing that. And, month on month, we are increasing our capacity to supply ammunition. But there is a need. There is a need for a bridge between today and the day when we have hit the mark that we need some months from now, where providing cluster munitions fills a gap for Ukraine. And the president was determined not to leave Ukraine defenseless and allow them to have that.

It's interesting. The previous present used to talk frequently about how his generals told him they were running out of bullets. When we came into office, nothing was under way to solve that problem. We are solving that problem. We have been working on that going back to the beginning of this war, when we discovered the problem.

It takes some time. But the president is confident that we will put the United States in a position to have all the ammunition that we need for any potential contingency at any point.

TAPPER: A big issue, an area of concern for the Biden administration has to do with the national security threat from China.

Chinese hackers, we learned, broke into e-mail accounts for multiple government agencies this week, including the State Department, and the account for the secretary of commerce, Gina Raimondo, herself.

Were these Chinese hackers able to access any sensitive information? Were they able to gain insight ahead of Secretary Blinken's trip to Beijing? And what is the Biden administration going to do to retaliate?

SULLIVAN: Well, first, Jake, the intrusion here was actually into Microsoft's cloud system. And they got into that system and then through that into the unclassified e-mail accounts of U.S. government officials.

And I stress these were unclassified e-mail accounts. So they did not get any classified information. They only got unclassified information, point one.

Point two, it was actually the U.S. government that discovered the hack, and we did so because we have increased our cyber defenses over the course of the past couple of years. We discovered it. We quickly shut it down. And now we have taken steps to make sure this is not an ongoing vulnerability.


And then, third, this has been going on for a long time. Through multiple administrations, we have faced things like this. We take steps in all of these instances to hold those responsible -- those who conducted this responsible. We will attempt to do so here as well.

We're continuing to study precisely how this happened, which unit did it, with what means. And, as we do that, we will work to hold them responsible.

TAPPER: More than 80 million Americans are under heat warnings this weekend; 55 million are under flood alerts.

Climate envoy John Kerry is traveling to China today. China is on track to become the world's worst all-time polluter, in part because the United Nations allows China to maintain higher emissions because they categorize them as a developing nation.

Now, the House of Representatives voted 415-0 to reverse that in March. Isn't the House right? Isn't it time for the U.N. to stop allowing China to categorize itself as a developing nation when it comes to climate change?

SULLIVAN: Well, actually, Jake, the Paris climate agreement, which was agreed back in 2015, in which we have rejoined in the Biden administration, actually lays out that every country, including China, has a responsibility to reduce emissions.

And the world, I do believe, should step up and encourage, indeed, pressure China to take far more dramatic action to reduce emissions. They should not be able to hide behind any kind of claim that they are a developing nation to step up to their responsibility.

And their responsibility, under the Paris climate accord, is to take significant, substantial action to reduce emissions on a defined time frame in the near term. And there is more work for them to do on that front. And Secretary Kerry will make that point when he's in Beijing.

TAPPER: Jake Sullivan, thanks so much for your time today. I appreciate it.

SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: Is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie making any headway in a key early voting state? He joins us next. Stay with us.

Plus: The state -- I'm sorry -- the Senate wants information about UFOs to be made public. Are we about to learn more about the great unknown?

I will ask a senator and former astronaut ahead. The truth is out there.



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

New fund-raising totals are giving us insight into which Republican candidates are gaining steam and who is falling behind. Those numbers are even more important than usual, since small donors will help decide whether Republican candidates can make the debate stage next month.

And joining me now is a candidate who says he has already met those fund-raising requirements, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Governor Christie, thanks for joining us.

So, your campaign reports having raised $1.7 million in the first 25 days of your presidential bid. That's more than Mike Pence, but behind not only Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, but also Nikki Haley and Tim Scott. They were in the race longer than you, we should note.

But you are going to have to do a lot better than that in the next quarter. So how are you going to achieve that?

CHRISTIE: Well, look, Jake, if we continue to raise money at the pace we have been raising it, we're going to do just fine.

I mean, as you noted, Tim Scott transferred a significant amount of money from his Senate campaign. Nikki Haley has been in the race, I think, since February. We essentially were raising money for three weeks, so we feel good about what we have done. There's also a super PAC that has been supporting our effort which raised another $6 million on top of that.

So I think we had a pretty good three weeks.

TAPPER: I want to get your reaction to something said by the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, last night about the criminal charges that he's facing now and perhaps charges that might be pending. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every time the radical left Democrats, Marxists, communists, and fascists indict me, I consider it to be a great badge of honor and courage.

I'm doing it for you.


TRUMP: I'm being indicted for you. Better me than you, right?


TAPPER: "Great badge of honor and courage. Better than -- better me than you."

What do you make of that?

CHRISTIE: He's a liar and a coward.

He's not getting indicted for anyone other than because of his own conduct. There's no other of the 200 million Americans he spoke about who illegally retained classified national secrets after being asked politely, quietly, and professionally for 18 months to voluntarily turn them back over after he left the White House.

There's no other of those 200 million Americans who lied to their own lawyers about where those documents were. And there's none of those other 200 million Americans who lied to the prosecutors about it and flashed around documents regarding an Iranian war plan to people who didn't have the clearance to see them.

Look, he's indicted because of his outrageous conduct, and that's why he's been indicted. He now has the opportunity to go to court and make the government proves that case beyond a reasonable doubt. But now he says he doesn't want to have a trial until after the election in 2024.

I don't think he's doing that for us either. He should resolve this thing before people vote, so that we know exactly who we're voting for to put behind the desk in the Oval Office. When he says he's doing it for us, that's a lie. And when he was doing all the things that he was doing with those documents, it shows exactly what a coward he is.

TAPPER: I know -- you just mentioned your super PAC, and I know you're legally not allowed to coordinate with your super PAC, so you might be seeing this ad I'm about to play for the first time, but I want to play you a video that your super PAC is going to release tomorrow.


NARRATOR: Should you show up to the debate? Because, if you do, your opponents will bring up the impeachments, the indictments, bring up how you lost to Joe Biden.

So, Donald, you need to decide, are you a chicken or just a loser?


TAPPER: They're calling him a chicken or a loser. I guess they have to -- he has to make a choice there.


What's your reaction to this ad?

CHRISTIE: Well, it's the first time I have seen it, but I think it's probably a pretty good question.

And he should show up at the debates and defend his record. The Republican Party voters who are deciding who our nominee should be should be able to make that decision by comparing all the candidates who qualify for the debate stage right next to each other, challenging each other's records, discussing each other's plans for the future of America and how they're going to beat Joe Biden.

And we're happy because now, Jake, almost 45,000 individual donors went to and donated, that we have qualified for the debate stage. We will be there on August 23, and we will be waiting for Donald Trump.

TAPPER: But let me be candid here. You are starting to gain some ground in New Hampshire, but Donald Trump is still leading by about 20 points just in New Hampshire.

He's up in Iowa. He's up nationally. Is it not just a fact that, as of now, Donald Trump remains far and away the choice of Republican voters, even if you cannot understand why?

CHRISTIE: Well, no, the fact is that he's ahead in the polls right now, Jake. You have reported that accurately. I will fact-check you, and that is a correct fact that you have put forward.

But the good news is that no one's voting in Iowa until January 15. No one's probably going to be voting in New Hampshire until later that month or early February. And there's a lot of campaign to go here. In fact, we haven't even had the first debate yet, as you mentioned. It's not until August 23.

I think most people, let's say, in my region of the country are down at the Jersey Shore right now enjoying their summer vacation, maybe in New Hampshire at Lake Winnipesaukee. They're not focused on this yet. Just you and I are and a few other candidates.

So let's get people focused when we get here late summer, early fall. Let's engage in an election where we talk about some very simple issues, Jake. First is, are you going to get the truth? You deserve the truth as a Republican primary voter and as an American.

And will you get a candidate who will make the truth important? We know Donald Trump hasn't done that. And will you get someone who will deliver results on the issues that you care about? Donald Trump was arguing again last night about immigration. He didn't do anything to change the immigration laws to make them better or stronger for America. And he built 47 miles of new wall in his four years as president.

Jake, at that rate, he would need 110 more years as president to be able to finish the wall between United States and Mexico.

TAPPER: The first debate, as you note, now almost a month away.

I want you to take a listen to what your fellow 2024 candidate former Texas Congressman Will Hurd had to say about those who take the debate pledge to support the eventual nominee. This is what he had to say a couple of weeks ago.


FMR. REP. WILL HURD (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't lie to get access to a microphone. I'm not going to support Donald Trump. I recognize the impact that has on my ability to get access to the debate stage, but I can't lie.

It'll be easy to say I will do it, and then, when it comes down, change your mind. But I just can't -- I can't do that.


TAPPER: In your -- I'm sorry -- in Will Hurd's formulation, are you lying to make the debate stage by signing a pledge to support the nominee, no matter who it is, including if it's Donald Trump?

CHRISTIE: Well, I won't see -- I won't see Will Hurd on the debate stage, and that's OK by me.

The fact is, we have got to change our party, Jake, and change our country. And we had these debate pledges eight years ago, as you will recall, and all of us signed them. And then, when we got on the debate stage and we were asked to reaffirm it, Donald Trump refused to raise his hand, the only one of 10 candidates who did.

The fact is, he has set the precedent here. And I will sign the debate pledge, and I will take it every bit as seriously as he did in 2016.

TAPPER: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, thanks so much for joining us today. I appreciate it.

CHRISTIE: Jake, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

TAPPER: And I hope you will tune in when I sit down with another Republican presidential candidate this week. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will join me for an interview on Tuesday in Columbia, South Carolina, where he will be campaigning.

Tune in to watch that on "THE LEAD" Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. We obviously have quite a bit to discuss.

Heat could top 120 degrees in the Southwest today. Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, a Democrat, joins me next to discuss the climate crisis and Democrats' serious new concerns ahead of 2024.

Stay with us.



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

More than 80 million Americans are currently under life-threatening heat alerts just this weekend, with temperatures nearing 120 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of Arizona, this crisis on the heels of record high ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, catastrophic flooding in the Northeast, and toxic smoke from Canada's worst wildfire season ever.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona.

Senator, I don't need to tell you, you are dealing with dangerous heat levels right now in your state. Your state is a battleground state. You have a lot of Republicans, including a lot of GOP officials, who may have in the past previously cast doubt on the existence of the climate crisis or man's role in it or refused to do anything about it.

When you talk to people like that who have been skeptics, who have been reluctant to do anything, is all this evidence that they're feeling, that they're seeing, is it changing any minds? Has it changed your own view of how aggressive the U.S. government needs to be on this issue?

SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AZ): Well, thank you for having me on, Jake.

My view hasn't really changed .And we are suffering a heat wave here in Arizona. It is typically very hot in the summer. This is obviously dangerous to seniors and folks who are living on the streets.


Hey, when I went into space four times, I mean, I could see how thin the atmosphere is over this planet. It's as thin as a contact lens on an eyeball, and we have got to do a better job taking care of it.

I have not seen in my time in the Senate many folks that deny that the climate is changing. That was a thing of the past. Now is, what do we do about it? We passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which is a big down payment on reducing the amount of carbon we put up into the atmosphere. That will make a difference over time. We obviously have to do more.

TAPPER: Your Arizona colleague Congressman Ruben Gallego, who's running for Senate, not against you, against Kyrsten Sinema, he has legislation that would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, to respond to extreme heat the same way that FEMA responds to hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

This legislation would allow federal dollars to go to communities such as yours that are currently struggling to respond to these dangerous temperatures. As extreme heat becomes more frequent, should the federal government start treating it officially as if it's a natural disaster, like a hurricane?

KELLY: Yes, I think maybe in some cases. I haven't taken a look at his legislation, the specifics on it, and I will. But that could be an approach here.

Hey, you know, we have got to continue to work towards reducing the amount of carbon dioxide we're putting in the atmosphere. We're taking some steps here in Arizona. We have got a company called Li-Cycle that's recycling the components that go into batteries to help us enable this renewable energy economy.

We have got a KORE -- company called KORE Power that's building utility-scale batteries that's going to help us transition to solar power, instead of using fossil fuels. So these are very positive things enabled by the legislation that we passed in the last Congress.

TAPPER: You just heard Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, defending the Biden administration's efforts to train Ukrainian pilots on -- to fly F-16 fighter jets.

To date, no country has given any actual F-16s to Ukraine. The Ukrainian government says they don't anticipate they will actually be able to be deployed to the battlefield until next March. Is that acceptable to you, or do you think this is slow-walking that will ultimately cost Ukrainian lives?

KELLY: Well, Jake, an F-16 is not like training somebody on how to use a 777 howitzer. I mean, it's a lot more complex. They have got to stand up, essentially, a squadron to do the training. They have got to get airplanes there to train the Ukrainian pilots.

They have got to identify the pilots. They got to come up with a syllabus and then train maintainers. This is going to take some time. I don't think it's being slow-walked, but the process is a lot longer. The F-16 has incredible capability.

When I was over and speaking to Zelenskyy in April about this, they weren't exactly sure, between him and his national security team, what they wanted to use the F-16 for. I mean, you're talking about possibly a dozen different missions. Certainly, the suppression of enemy air defense is something that I would put very high on the list.

But all of that stuff is still being sorted out.

TAPPER: Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, is headlining a New Hampshire town hall tomorrow. It's hosted by a group called No Labels, which is considering running a third-party unity ticket in 2024.

Senator Manchin has repeatedly refused to rule out running for president himself in 2024, No Labels qualified to be on the ballot in Arizona, which, as I don't need to remind you, President Biden won by less than half-a-percentage point in 2020.

Do you think Manchin and No Labels could potentially cost Joe Biden his reelection? KELLY: Well, let me start with why I don't think No Labels is a

political party.

I mean, this is a few individuals putting dark money behind an organization. And that's not what our democracy should be about. It should not be about a few rich people. So I'm obviously concerned about what's going on here in Arizona and across the country.

I think the president has a very strong record to run on, and we have got about 18 months before the next election, and my hope is that this all gets sorted out.

TAPPER: Have you talked to Senator Manchin about this?

KELLY: Yes, I talk to Senator Manchin frequently about a lot of things, this included.

TAPPER: What have you told him?

KELLY: Well, I'm not going to go into details of conversations I have with my fellow senators. That's sort of a policy of mine, Jake.

TAPPER: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation to create a review board to declassify government records relating to the sightings of unexplained aerial phenomenon, or UFOs.


Do you support that legislation? And, as a pilot, have you personally ever seen any unidentified, unexplained aerial phenomenon, either as a fighter pilot or as an astronaut?

KELLY: I have not. And none of my colleagues have, as far as I know. And we actually very rarely even speak about this. I can't remember one time in space that we actually talked about aliens or focused on a mission.

Hey, if it doesn't have a negative impact on our national security, I think transparency with the American people is the best option. So I haven't seen this -- maybe I have. Let me also say, Jake, that, when we have extraordinary claims, we need some extraordinary evidence. That's what Carl Sagan said about this kind of stuff.

And I think it's important to get the information out there, as long as it doesn't impact our national security.

TAPPER: You sound skeptical.

KELLY: A little skeptical, I mean, I -- the distances involved from -- when you think about the physics of spaceflight and how -- what it take to get around just our galaxy.

Now, having said that, there's two trillion, minimum, galaxies in the universe, each with hundreds of billions of stars. So, when you think about the potential of life in the universe, even within our galaxy, it's tremendous. But I have yet to see any strong evidence of any life-form visiting being us from another part of our galaxy.

TAPPER: Yes, you talk about how -- the challenge of traveling that distance, but that's just with our little tiny brains, Senator. I mean, who knows what's out there?

KELLY: Well, that's right. And we have -- exactly.

And we have come a long way in the last 120 years, right? We went from first flight of an airplane to Neil Armstrong stepping foot on the moon in about 70 years. Think about what we're going to be able to do in 1,000, 10,000, 10,0,000 years. Yes, I get that.

I think it's important to get that information out there, again, if it doesn't have a negative impact on our country's national security.

TAPPER: All right, Senator, good to see you. Thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

KELLY: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: New warning signs for some top Republican campaigns. We're going to dive into the latest numbers when my panel joins me next.




TRUMP: DeSanctimonious and his establishment handlers are wasting such precious time and resources to divide the party. They're dividing the party.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's been a culture of losing that's developed in this party over many, many years. We had red waves in Iowa and Florida. We were supposed to have it around the country in 2022. It didn't happen, had really disappointing results.

So you got to win.



The top two Republican contenders taking shots at each other, one directly, one tacitly.

My panel joins me now.

First of all, let's just start with the fund-raising figures, because that's really significant in terms of how much support somebody is going to be able to get in the -- or somebody is getting.

Biden and the Democratic National Committee, $72 million, Trump $35 million, DeSantis $20 million, Haley $7.3 million, Tim Scott $6.1 million. Some of that was transferred from his Senate account -- Ramaswamy $2.3 million, Christie $1.7 million, Burgum $1.6 million, Pence $1.2 million. And then there are three candidates who were -- got under a million, Suarez, Hutchinson, and Elder.

Any surprises here for you?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No surprises in terms of what they were able to do individually out of their campaign committees.

I was interested that the cash on hand numbers, which is what you have left to spend, show that Tim Scott actually has more cash on hand than DeSantis. Of course, the counter for that is that DeSantis has a massive super PAC out there that's going to be able to augment what he's doing.

So, look, these candidates that have millions of dollars in the bank, there's an upper tier of it and then there's a lower tier, as you mentioned.They will have enough money to operate and to communicate, and that's what matters, getting to Iowa, and then do you have enough money to make it to the next two or three states?

So, clearly, though, some of these folks are going to struggle to make it to the end of the year.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Houlahan, I know a lot of Democrats were hand- wringing about president than Biden and his reelection campaign. That's a pretty great number, $72 million, more than Trump, more than DeSantis combined.

It is less than Trump was able to raise at this four years ago from the White House. Is this going to stop the hand- wringing, do you think, or...

REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): I absolutely think it does. I think that $72 million is a pretty stunning number, in comparison.

I think it's more than all the other Republican candidates combined, as I recall. So I think that's a very, very good sign for the vibrance and health of the campaign.

TAPPER: Sarah Matthews, take a look at these headlines, some bad ones for Governor DeSantis

"DeSantis campaign sheds staff amid cash crunch." "DeSantis fund- raising slowed after initial campaign launch, filing shows."

Should he be worried here at all?


TAPPER: I mean, he's letting -- letting go of staff this early is not nothing.

MATTHEWS: Definitely not a good sign, but he did manage to outraise Trump, and he raised over $20 million in just six weeks.

So I think it shows that he has the fund-raising power and mechanisms in place. But, obviously, their burn rate is really high, and they're trying to offset some of their costs by off-loading staff, which doing that this early isn't great for them.

TAPPER: Who do you worry about the most as a Democrat? Which Republican do you not want to get the nomination because you think they would offer the toughest challenge to Joe Biden?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I learned a long time ago to never say who I would prefer or not prefer to run against.


TAPPER: Not on camera anyway.

FINNEY: Not on camera anyway, of course. Been at this a minute, Jake.

But I would say I think the person -- the people who would create the most of a challenge would be someone like a Tim Scott, who is younger, who is African-American, brings a different perspective, different ideas.

I just don't think he's going to get the nomination for a whole host of reasons. I think it's pretty clear that Donald Trump's support is pretty -- is quite hardened. And that base that he has got, they are with him. Whether or not they will stick with him all the way through Iowa, we will see.

But I just don't see anyone really taking him out, so to speak, and I think it's likely he will end up with the nomination.

TAPPER: So let's talk about the defense authorization bill, because it passed the House Armed Services Committee 58-1, big bipartisan majority, which is usually how these bills go.

But then it goes to the floor of the House, and Republicans, majorities, voted to add more controversial amendments having to do with getting rid of the Pentagon's Office of Diversity, having to do with stopping the Pentagon from paying for transgender health procedures.

And then there's that travel policy allowing individuals who are service members or married to service members who are in states where abortion is essentially illegal to travel, not paying for the procedure of abortion, but paying for the travel, as the Pentagon does for other health procedures.

I want you -- here's how a Republican from a swing district, Congresswoman Jen Kiggans, explained the vote -- quote -- "Taxpayers should not be paying for elective surgery. This wasn't a bill about abortion. It was about taxpayers paying for travel for military members for elective procedures."

What do you make of this all? HOULAHAN: Incredibly frustrating narrative coming from Representative


Abortion care is not always an elective decision, and I think that what's missing here is how we have just basically said to women in service and their families that their reproductive freedoms and their reproductive health is not important to the American people.

And I think nothing is -- nothing is shorter from the truth. I think I'm enormously frustrated that we have taken what was, as you mentioned, an enormously bipartisan bill and turned it into a wish list of Republican campaign ideals. And I think it's actually going to backfire on them.

I think it's going to end up with places like my part of Pennsylvania recognizing that we're even playing games with our American people and men and women in uniform. What's going to happen to them? This is a backdoor to, I think, a federal ban on abortion.

JENNINGS: Republicans obviously see it differently, and they believe the military should be about one thing, lethality, protecting America. And they think, under the Biden administration, a lot of ancillary programming has been added that has nothing to do with that.

And so they voted to strip it out. My sense is, this will all be worked out in committee, and what can pass the House under Kevin McCarthy is probably different than what will pass the Senate under Chuck Schumer. So there will be a conference committee, and we will see what survives.

TAPPER: I want to turn to something on the Democratic side that emerged this weekend.

There is growing angst that potential third-party challengers Robert Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson could really hurt President Biden's reelection chances. RFK Jr., "The New York Post" reports, with video -- it's not just their account -- spreading some really deranged lies about the -- about COVID that really walk into antisemitism and anti-Asian bigotry.

"The New York Post" has tape of Kennedy saying -- quote -- "COVID-19, there's an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese. We don't know whether it's deliberately targeted, that or not. We do know that the Chinese are spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing ethno -- ethnic bioweapons" -- unquote.

There is no truth to this. There -- plenty of Ashkenazi Jews and plenty of Chinese and Asian people died of COVID. It's a deranged argument,. But this guy is posing -- he's polling in the double digits among Democrats.

FINNEY: Well, but, again, I think that is about more about name recognition. His own family doesn't support him. And as you just said, that is a deranged, disgusting thing to say.

Let's just be very clear. Does not represent the values of the Democratic Party. So, I think when voters -- he's not on the ballot in any states. And I think when voters actually get to hear him say things like that, those numbers will fall.

I'm not concerned. And as the congresswoman said, the fund-raising numbers from the Biden campaign are -- should just shut up the people who have been wringing their hands. We see it every cycle. I'm very confident in President Biden's ability to run a solid campaign.

And the last thing I will say very quickly is, in part because a lot of what 2024 is going to be about is, who is an American? Who gets to be an American? When we talk about the defense authorization bill, a lot of what is in there are anti-LGBTQ, anti-woman, anti-civil rights. We're seeing this at the state level. We're seeing this at the federal level.


And it's -- and calling it culture wars is such a disservice.

TAPPER: Yes. So...

MATTHEWS: I want to say on Karen's point, too, about the people who have been kind of underestimating President Biden, I think that his fund-raising numbers need to be a wakeup call to Republicans as well, because I feel like a lot of people are pointing to his low approval ratings and everything.

But if Republicans nominate someone Donald Trump, then Biden could succeed and win reelection. But I think if we put up anyone else, we could pose a threat to Biden. But these fund-raising numbers are really strong.

TAPPER: Any thoughts on what Robert Kennedy had to say? I mean, I can't...

HOULAHAN: I have to echo the fact that it's nauseating and disgusting and divisive, and the Democratic Party has no room for that sort of narrative.

I don't think he will gain any traction, and I'm not worried about it. I am confident that it will end up being a rematch of Biden and Trump, and I believe President Biden will prevail.

TAPPER: All right, thanks, one and all, for being here. I really appreciate it.

We will be right back after this quick break.



TAPPER: Illegal border crossings have dropped in the wake of President Biden's new asylum policy.

But, frankly, everyone in Washington agrees the entire U.S. immigration system is long overdue for an upgrade. So, why will Washington not take it on?

Tune in tonight, when Fareed Zakaria looks at the "Immigration Breakdown: A Fareed Zakaria Special." That airs tonight at 8:00 p.m. only on CNN.

On Tuesday, a reminder: Be sure to tune in to my exclusive sit-down interview with Florida Governor, GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. That's on "THE LEAD" this Tuesday 4:00 p.m. Eastern, 1:00 p.m. Pacific

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts next.