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Biden Holds News Conference After G20; Biden Takes Questions During News Conference; Biden Makes Stop In Vietnam After G20 Summit; Gold Star Families Push For Answers On 2021 Kabul Bombing; Military Officials Slam GOP Senator For Blocking Nominations. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired September 10, 2023 - 10:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to this special elongated version of STATE OF THE UNION. If you're tuning in to watch Fareed Zakaria, we will bring that to you as soon as we can. But right now the world is on edge as we await President Biden to speak. He is in Hanoi, Vietnam. And we have been waiting for some time for him to come out and take questions from reporters in a press conference that was originally scheduled for an hour and a half ago.

But we are still waiting with baited breath for President Biden to talk about his trip. Let me bring in the panel to discuss some of the things that we're expecting to hear from him.

Beth Sanner, what did you think President Biden's -- we hear in his re-election campaign how he has united the Western world to take on the threat of Russia. And to an extent, it is accurate to say that NATO is more united than ever before. In fact, it has new members. I think Putin is probably at least as responsible for that as President Biden. But President Biden does get good marks for his leadership of NATO.

But it's also true, I think it's fair to say, that China is a much greater threat to the United States than Russia, don't you think?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I do. And that is why I think that we also have to kind of give credit to the Biden administration for working on all of the Asia policy --

TAPPER: OK. We continue to have difficulty --

SANNER: With the prime minister.

TAPPER: OK. There you go.

SANNER: I'm so sorry. I don't know why. But, anyway, the partnership especially with the Japanese prime minister has been just phenomenal. And in linking both of these areas. The foreign minister of Japan was just in Ukraine, a few minutes ago -- a couple of days ago. So I think that these kinds of things, that these alliances and this trip to Vietnam is absolutely essential to dealing with China as Representative McCaul said. So this -- I think that you have to give a lot of credit honestly to

the Biden administration. There were no alliances of any consequence during the Trump administration. So, I hope that no matter what happens in our election, that we don't squander these alliances. These alliances are absolutely crucial to countering China and they need to be nurtured and built.

TAPPER: Jeremy Diamond, while we await President Biden coming to the podium there to take your questions, there is some criticism here domestically of the fact that this G20 communique is weaker than last year's was when it comes to the condemnation of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine. What are Biden administration officials saying about that, if anything?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're really pushing back on it, Jake. And in particular we heard the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan yesterday saying that he believes that that joint statement actually shows that countries are united in opposing any land grabs by means of war. That they believe that this statement made a strong -- a strong statement as it relates to the idea of territorial integrity and respecting the sovereignty of other nations.

But it is true that it did not include that language that you just mentioned that was in the communique or the joint leader statements last year. And ultimately they believe that countries like India, like Indonesia, other developing nations, are united in that kind of understanding. But there is no question that the fact that this statement did not directly condemn Russia shows the divisions that remain in that group of 20.

And that is an undeniable fact. But at the end of the day, this was never going to be a statement that fully went after Russia given the fact that Russia is very much a member of the G20. China, even though Xi Jinping didn't show up, Chinese delegates were involved in the crafting of this statement as well, and they have refused to condemn Russia.


So these were complicated politics. The White House believes that the statement landed in the right place. But as you mentioned there has been criticism otherwise. I think the question today for this news conference that we're expecting to start any minute now is how does the president address the future of that war.

We have not heard him recently weigh in too much on the progress of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and there are a range of views on that front including within the U.S. government about how much progress Ukraine is actually making in that effort and one of the key questions to ask the president is certainly how much progress does Ukraine need to make in the coming months in order for this international coalition that the president has been able to maintain at least from a Western perspective, you know, how much progress do they have to make in order to maintain that support? The president is also facing this battle with Congress over

supplemental funding for Ukraine. And that is also very much coming to the forefront now. So a lot of dynamics for the president to handle here and we'll see how many of those different topics he's able to address in this news conference.

TAPPER: David Gergen, earlier when I asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken about this report in Walter Isaacson's new biography of Elon Musk, that Musk declined to provide the Starlink satellite service that he provides in Ukraine, he declined to provide it in Crimea in an effort by the Ukrainian military to defend itself from the Russian Navy because Musk had been talking to senior Russians and was convinced that if he did that and allowed the Ukrainians to launch this counteroffensive, it would lead to an escalation of the war.

Blinken would say nothing other than to talk about how vital Starlink was. And he really wouldn't criticize Musk at all, which made me conclude that the U.S. government is so convinced of the vitality and essentialness of Starlink that they're afraid of doing anything to offend Elon Musk which really says quite a bit about the power of this private citizen.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It sure does. It was a startling revelation by Walter Isaacson. I think it does suggest very, very heavily that we're moving into a new world in which the tycoons of the internet world can have -- can exercise this kind of power. You know, we long have had statutes on the books that say that private citizens cannot, you know, essentially negotiate for the United States. That they can't be doing that.

So I do think that there is a real question now not just what Musk has done in the past, but what does this mean about the future and how powerful individuals in this new world, A.I. world and internet world, and social media world, you know, how much that power they really do have at a time when power is seeping away from elected officials and, you know, we're worried about the rise of authoritarianism in many other countries because of the breakdown of domestic governments.

And here in the United States now we have to decide, we have the big huge (INAUDIBLE) coming up on the internet side who are going to be players. And, you know, I think everybody has to sort of figure out what are the ground rules for those players.

TAPPER: So the meeting -- the explanation as to why President Biden has been running late is that his meeting with Vietnamese officials ran late and he was, you know, tending to the important business of diplomacy. But we have been given the two-minute warning so in roughly a minute and a half President Biden will appear and take questions.

And Tim Naftali, I wonder if you would put this Elon Musk power in perspective. I mean, I know we have had in history individual Americans whether Carnegie or Ford or others who have had a great deal of power. But I know of no one whose decision, whose personal decision and personal diplomacy have had effect on wars.

I'm sorry I'm not going to get to ask you the question. Here is President Biden.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is evening, isn't it? This around the world in five days is interesting, isn't it? Well, you know, there is that one of my staff members said remember the famous song, you know, "Good Morning, Vietnam?" Well, good evening, Vietnam. And good morning back in America.

Before I begin, I want to express my sadness by the loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquake in Morocco.


Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Morocco and my friend King Mohamed VI, I should say, and my administration including Secretary of State Blinken who is here with me today is working with Moroccan officials on long distance here. We're working expeditiously to ensure American citizens in Morocco are safe, standing ready to provide any necessary assistance to the Moroccan people as well. We made that offer.

Now turning to the important visit here in Vietnam. As general secretary and I just shared earlier today, this trip has been a historic moment. Today we could trace 50-year arc of progress in a relationship between our nations from conflict to normalization. This is a new elevated status that will be a force for prosperity and security, one of the most consequential regions in the world. We've elevated our cooperation directly to the Vietnamese highest tier of partnership referred to as the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

That means the United States has strengthened our ties with another critical Indo-Pacific partner. Our progress today builds on Camp David trilateral with Japan and the Republic of Korea and the United States. Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, the United States launched with ASEAN last year, an engagement with Pacific Island forum. Our strengthened alliances with the Philippines and AUKUS partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom, our elevated Quad engagement with India, Australia and the Japan, and the Indo-Pacific economic framework for prosperity.

And all the effort we've advanced from day one of my administration to demonstrate to our Indo-Pacific partners and the world, the United States is a Pacific nation. And we're not going anywhere.

Now let me also speak to significant business we got done in India during the G20 summit. This is an important moment for the United States to demonstrate our global leadership and our commitment to solving the challenges that matter most to people around the world. Investing in inclusive growth and sustainable development, addressing the climate crisis, strengthening food security and education, advancing global health and health security.

We showed up ready to work and we showed the world the United States is a partner with a positive vision for our shared future. As the G20 -- at the G20, we made progress on issues like multilateral development bank reform to get to those nations that are neither poor nor wealth but couldn't qualify before. Debt relief, an increased infrastructure needs not only in the global south but other parts of the world as well.

We forged a groundbreaking new partnership that will connect India to Europe, with the Middle East and Israel, with transportation by rail and by shipment through an energy supplies and digital connections that are going to open up untold opportunities for transformative economic investment through that -- on that entire corridor.

We've also discussed Russia's brutal and illegal war in Ukraine. And there was sufficient agreement in the room on the need for just and lasting peace that upholds the principles of the U.N. charter and respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.

I want to once again thank Prime Minister Modi for his leadership and his hospitality in hosting the G20. He and I have had substantial discussions about how we're going to continue to strengthen the partnership between India and the United States building on the prime minister's visit to the White House last June. And as I always do, I raised the importance of respecting human rights and the vital role that civil society and a free press have in building a strong and prosperous country with Mr. Modi.

And we've gotten a lot of important work done and I'm looking forward to another good day tomorrow here in Vietnam.

And now I will take your questions. Let me see. They told -- they gave me five people here. Nanda of Reuters.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you for taking my question, Mr. President.

BIDEN: There you are. I can't see you. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Hi. Last week China questioned the, quote, "sincerity" of the Biden administration.

BIDEN: I'm sorry, the what?


BIDEN: The sincerity of the Biden administration.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Of the Biden administration, and accused the United States of containing China while pushing for diplomatic talks. How would you respond to that? And do you think President Xi is being sincere about getting the relationship back on track as he bans Apple in China?

BIDEN: Look, first of all, the -- I am sincere about getting the relationship right.


And one of the things that is going on now is China is beginning to change some of the rules of the game in terms of trade and other issues. And so one of the things we talked about, for example, is that they're now talking about making sure that no Chinese -- no one in the Chinese government could use a Western cell phone. Those kinds of things. And so really what this trip is about is less about containing China, I don't want to contain China.

I just want to make sure we have a relationship with China that is on the up and up, squared away, everybody knows what it's all about. And one of the ways you do that is you make sure that we are talking about the same things. And I think that one of the things we've done, I've tried to do, and I've talked with a number of my staff about this for the last I guess six months, is we have an opportunity to strengthen alliances around the world to maintain stability.

That is what this trip was all about. Having India cooperate much more with the United States, be closer to the United States, Vietnam being closer to the United States. It's not about containing China. It's about having a stable base. A stable base in the Indo-Pacific. And for example, when I was spending a lot of time talking with President Xi, he asked why we were doing -- why was I going to have the Quad, meaning, Australia, India, Japan and the United States. And I said to maintain stability.

It's not about isolating China. It's about making sure the rules of the road, everything from air space and space in the ocean is the international rules of the road are abided by. And so -- and I hope that -- I think that Prime Minister Xi -- I mean Xi has some difficulties right now. All countries have difficulties. It is an economic difficulties he's working his way through. I want to see China succeed economically. But I want to see them succeed by the rules.

The next question was to Bloomberg.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, following up on your comments on China and the economy, you recently called China's economy a ticking time bomb. Do you believe the country's slowdown could risk destabilizing the global economy or causing China to be more aggressive defensively --

BIDEN: Say the first part of your question again? This fan is going on and it's behind me.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: No worries. Do you believe the country's slowdown in growth could risk destabilizing the global economy or cause China to be more aggressive defensively including with Taiwan? And separately, sir, are you worried about the meeting between President Putin and Kim Jong-un, the fact that he and Russia has more gains in the war in Ukraine?

BIDEN: Look, I think China has a difficult economic problem right now for a whole range of reasons that relate to the international growth and lack thereof and the policies that China has followed. And so I don't think it's going to cause China to invade Taiwan. As a matter of fact, the opposite probably doesn't have the same capacity that it had before. But as I said, we're not looking to hurt China. Sincerely.

We're all better off if China does well. China does well by the international rules. Grows the economy. But they have had some real difficulties in terms of their economy of late, particularly in the real estate side -- that end of their bargain, and I think the actions that they're going to have to take are ones that are -- they're in the process of deciding right now. And I'm not going to predict what will come out.

But we're not looking to decouple from China. What I'm not going to do is I'm not going to sell China material that will enhance their capacity to make more nuclear weapons, they're engaged in defense activities that are contrary to what is viewed as most people think was a positive development in the region. And -- but we're not trying to hurt China.

OK. BBC, Laura? Am I correct? Is that correct?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It is, my name is Laura, BBC News.


Good evening, Mr. President. How are you?

BIDEN: Well, thank you.


BIDEN: This five-day trips around the world are no problem.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I can imagine. It is evening, I'd like to remind you.

I mean, in the last six months, you've signed pacts and deals with Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Australia, and even the Pacific Highlands. You're here standing in Beijing's backyard. Now China said this is part of your cold war mentality. Are they right, sir? Are they right, Mr. President? Is there a danger of a cold war and when will you meet Mr. Xi?

BIDEN: Well, I hope I get to see Mr. Xi sooner than later. I've spent more time than many other world leader has sum total over the last 12 years, and so I hope I get to see him again soon. But, no, look, for example, one of the things we did in India, we provided for a new path that's going to save everybody money, increase the third world -- the global south capacity to grow by sending -- we're going to have a new railroad from India all the way across to the Mediterranean shipping lanes and pipelines across the Mediterranean, through Europe up into Great Britain and beyond.

That's all about economic growth. That's nothing to do with hurting China or helping China. It has to do with dealing with everything from climate change to making sure that these countries can succeed economically and grow.

Look, my thesis has been from the beginning, both domestically and in terms of foreign policy, invest in your people. Invest in the people. Give them a chance. Everything is better off when people -- I know it's going to sound trite, if everybody in the world had a job, they get up in the morning, they wanted to go to, and they could put three squares on the table for their family no matter where they live, the whole world would be better off. We'd be a lot better.

That is the notion here behind this. For example, you know, one of the things that we're doing in terms of -- I proposed a long time ago at the G7, now it's going to come to fruition in the G20, is making sure that we build a railroad all the way across the African continent. Think about it. There is no way to cross the African continent by road -- by rail. And there's not even direct highway across. Now let's assume for the sake of decision, we talk about food shortages.

Assume there was one country in that vast continent that had an excess of food stuffs and resources, how would they get to where they're going to go? How are they going to do it? That's why we're also going to invest billions of dollars in solar facilities in Angola, to have the largest -- the largest solar facility in the world, or one of the largest. That helps Angola. But it also helps the whole region.

So I think we think too much in terms of cold war terms. It is not about that. It is about generating economic growth and stability in all parts of the world. And that's what we're trying to do.

Sorry. OK. Am I pronounced it right? Odelia (PH)? Did I pronounce the name correctly? There you are.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes. Thank you, Mr. President. I had a question on the climate crisis, you just mentioned the G20. Just this week the United States warned that if there is no phasing out of fossil fuels it won't be possible to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement. There was no agreement at the G20 on fossil fuels. How concerned are you about this lack of consensus?

BIDEN: It wasn't so much an agreement that we would try to meet the goals of the G20. The United States is going to meet those goals by the way. We're going to exceed those goals. A lot of other countries are as well. But we want to give those countries that don't have the economic wherewithal and did not cause the problem in the first place. For example, I met with Lula in Brazil. I started off way back in the '80s with a really fine Republican senator named Dick Lugar. He said here's what we're going to do. If you owe us money, we're going to forgive your debt if you maintain your forest because they become carbon sink. They are the things that take carbon out of the air.

And so we're talking that we should be going and the countries that clear their land and put cattle on it, and farming and did all the things that increase development, they're in fact are the reasons why, the main reason why we've gotten this far down the road to disaster here as we have.


And so if we have the economic capacity, we, those nations, should be getting together and providing help for the nations that don't have the wherewithal to do it. The economic wherewithal and the infrastructure wherewithal. And that's why, for example, I mentioned in the interest of time, I just mentioned Angola again.

Angola has the capacity to generate megawatts of energy through solar energy. They don't have the economic means to do that. Isn't it the interest of the whole world if they're in fact able to generate significant capacity to absorb, to prevent carbon from being released in the air? I think that is. So, what we're trying to do is help those nations, particularly in the global south where they're not as wealthy, where there are not as many opportunities to be able to deal with the things that they want to deal with.

For example, and I'll end with this, there is more carbon absorbed from the atmosphere on a daily basis, and I look to my friend John Kerry, I've forgotten more about this than most people know. Correct me if I get this wrong, John, but I'm quite sure I'm right, and that is that there is more carbon observed from the air into the Amazon region, into the ground, into the ground than in the entire United States on the same basis.

Now imagine if people go in and do what we did, 150, 250 years ago and cut down the forest and start farming in that area, no longer have that big carbon sink. It would be a gigantic problem. So we should be going to areas whether it's in the Congo or other places as the G7 nations then, as the wealthy G20 nations, and providing the kind of infrastructure they need to be able to benefit. And guess what, in addition to helping the environment overall, the only existential threat humanity faces even more frightening than a nuclear war is global warming, going above 1.5 degrees in the next 20 -- 10 years.

It will be real trouble. There is no way back from that. And so there is a lot we could do in the meantime. For example, that pipeline, that railroad that we're talking about going across from India through the Middle East and across the Mediterranean into all through Europe, that is going to have hydrogen pipeline there. This is going to significantly reduce the amount of carbon emitted into the air. But it costs a lot of money to put that down.

And the world is going to say it's in our interest, collective interest to do it. So I have not -- I have not given up at all on the notion that we're going to be able to, you know, how can I say it? I think -- I think we could triple the renewable capacity for -- as it relates to global warning by the year 2030. Countries following the IRA playbook, which is the one we passed, the clean energy jobs are going to create manufacturing jobs. For example, the consequence of what we've done, we have the most -- we have the strongest economy in the world today.

Right now today the United States of America has the strongest economy in the world. In the world. Now we've got more to do. But we have a strongest economy in the world. And one of the reasons that we're doing it, we changed the mechanism how we deal with this, and that is instead of trickle down economy, that is if the wealthy and the corporations do very well, everybody is going to do well.

Well the truth of the matter is, I've never bought that theory. But I think that times have changed and a lot of leading economists are beginning to agree with me. This flat straight-out academic economists, and that is we should build -- economic build -- from the middle out and the bottom up. When that happens, everybody does well. Everybody does well. The wealthy still do very, very well. They have no problem. You could still be a billionaire under that system as well. But you're going to start paying your taxes if I have anything to do with it. That is a different issue.

But all kidding aside. So we have -- I think the other thing that's dawning on people, many of you are foreign policy experts and have been engaged for a long time. Do you ever think you'd be sitting at a G20 conference where everyone was preoccupied with the notion of global warming? Not a joke. Did you ever think that?


And there is -- my brother loves having these famous lines from movies that he always quotes. And one of them is this movie about John Wayne. He's an Indian scout. And they're trying to get the -- I think it was Apache, one of the great tribes of America back on the reservation. And he's standing with the union so he's -- they're all on -- they're on their horses and their saddles and there is three or four Indians in headdresses. And the Union soldiers -- the Union soldiers basically keep saying to the Indians, come with me, we'll take care of you, everything will be good.

And the Indian scout -- the Indian looks at John Wayne and points to the Union soldier and says, he's a lying dog-faced pony soldier. Well, there's a lot of lying dog-faced pony soldiers out there about global warming. But not anymore. All of a sudden, they're all realizing it's a problem. And there is nothing like seeing the light. Let's see. I'm just follow my orders here.

Staff, is there anybody who haven't spoken yet? Now, I ain't calling on you. I'm calling on -- I'm told there are five questions. Anita, from VOA.

ANITA POWELL, VOA CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. I hope you didn't think that calling only on women would get you softballs tonight.

BIDEN: Oh, I know better than that.

POWELL: OK. Well, let me start with President Xi.

BIDEN: If you send me a softball, I wouldn't know what to do. I'd probably strike out even worse.

POWELL: Well, let me ask you about, you've spent lots of time talking about all the time you spent with President Xi and the importance of leader-to-leader communication. Yet you two haven't spoken in 10 months. And I just wonder, are you worried that this is destabilizing the U.S.-China relationship and what are you going to do about it?

And then if I may on Ukraine, sir. He was upset the G20 communique didn't name Russia as the aggressor. Have you managed to rally more support or sympathy across the G20, or is this emerging as a wedge issue with the global south? And does that change your commitment to Ukraine?

BIDEN: It is not a wedge issue of the global south. It's a wedge issue with Russia's president and with China which is -- which has representation. And so -- and by the way, I am -- my team, my staff still meets with President Xi's people in his cabinet. In fact, I met with his number two person here in -- excuse me, in India today. So, it is not like there is a crisis if I don't personally speak to him. It would better if I did.

But I think -- look, this is not a criticism. It is an observation. He has his hands full right now. He has overwhelming unemployment with his youth. One of the major economic tenets of his plan isn't working at all right now. I'm not happy for that, but it is not working.

So, he's trying to figure out, I suspect, I don't know, just like I would -- trying to figure out what to do about the particular crisis we're having now. But I don't think it is a crisis relating to conflict between China and the United States. As a matter of fact, I think it is less likely to cause that kind of conflict.

I don't -- anyway, I just think that there are other things on leaders' minds, and they respond to what is needed at the time. And, look, nobody likes having celebrated international meetings if you don't know what you want at the meeting. If you don't have a game plan.

He might have a game plan. He just doesn't share it with me. But I'd tell you what, I don't know about you, but I'm going to go to bed.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did you talk about Mr. Lee? You said you spoke to the number two from China who was in India today.

BIDEN: Yes, we talked -- we talked about it -- we talked about it at the conference overall. We talked about stability. We talked about making sure that the third world, excuse me, the third world -- the southern hemisphere had access to change, had access -- it wasn't confrontational at all.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, everybody. This ends the press conference. Thanks, everyone.

BIDEN: Thank you. I've raised it with every person I met with.

TAPPER: President Biden walking off the stage there in Hanoi, Vietnam, after a major international swing. He met with the leaders of the G20 nations earlier and there he is after arranging a major diplomatic arrangement with Vietnam, which has been heralded by both Democrats and Republicans in order to counter Chinese aggression in the Pacific.

Welcome to STATE OF THE UNION, a special edition that has gone longer than our allocated one hour. We are into the second hour because of President Biden's press conference. And I am here with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas.

Chairman McCaul, first, I want to get your reaction to the fact that the G20 communique is weaker this year than last year when it comes to Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Obviously, Russia is a member of the G20 and blocked it. Last year, the diplomatic situation was different so that Russia just disagreed with that part of the communique.

Ukraine responded today by saying that the G20 has nothing to be proud of because this communique specifically does not condemn what Russia is doing in Ukraine. What is your response? What do you think?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: I agree with Ukraine. Yes, last year at the G20, they basically said that, you know, there is a path forward for Ukraine to join NATO after security agreements, after the war is over. This year they're saying, there is no Russian aggression, a major departure from last year, and a real slap in the face to Zelenskyy, as they're conducting the counteroffensive. So, the timing couldn't be worse. The other thing that I took out of that was that we're not here to contain China.

TAPPER: Let me run that sound because I want people to hear it. It caught your ear. It caught my ear as well. President Biden talking about how he wants China to behave according to the way that other nations behave said this.


BIDEN: So, really, what this trip is about, it was less about containing China. I don't want to contain China. I just want to make sure we have a relationship with China that is on the up and up, squared away. Everybody knows what it is all about.


TAPPER: What was your response to that?

MCCAUL: I mean, what a frightening foreign policy to go to the G20. Xi Jinping did not attend. We know the Quad is there. I mean, countries that don't like China.

The whole point of him going to the region in my view was to get our friends and allies and partners together in the event of an invasion of Taiwan and a greater invasion into the south pacific sea. And the only way we can stop that is through deterrence. Deterrence in diplomacy and deterrence in weapon systems that we have yet to put into the country that I signed off on.

So, if you have a lack of military deterrence, a lack of diplomatic deterrence and you're economically saying, we want to work with you, what deterrence does Chairman Xi have in his mind that would prevent him from making that bold move to take and invade Taiwan, put a blockade in, cut the sea cable and then take over TSMC, by the way, that is 90 percent of the advanced semiconductor chip manufacturing for the world?

This is a wrong message to send. It was not one of deterrence. And, once again, like with Afghanistan, he's projecting weakness which will draw aggression. TAPPER: I want to get to Afghanistan in a second. But just to keep talking about China for this second, you could -- one could make the argument, look, President Biden is the first president to ever toss aside this strategic ambiguity and say directly, we will help Taiwan militarily if China invades. So, that deterrence is already there.

And this would be him, I'm just trying to put, you know, myself in his head, this would be him saying, come on, China, come back to the world of nations and behave like a normal country. Now, maybe you think they're so far beyond that you can't even do that. But what of that argument?

MCCAUL: Well, I can see diplomatically that being a play but I think it is a weak play.


Because Chairman Xi doesn't understand weakness, he understands power. And when you listen to his addresses to his communist party, to his congress, very clear reunification of Taiwan and a broader ambition. To basically, in the 100-year marathon, have 100 percent military economic control over the globe and that is where they are headed unless we can provide the deterrence.

This kind of language -- if I'm Chairman Xi, this is great. This is like when Biden lifted Nord Stream 2 on Putin and gave me him carte blanche to move in like after Afghanistan projecting weakness then we see the Russian federation moving in. I don't think projecting weakness ever works and the language I heard I thought was very weak.

TAPPER: So, let's talk about Afghanistan. It is been to years since the Afghanistan withdrawal, the fall of Kabul, the death of those 13 service members and 170 Afghans at Abbey Gate. You heard from Gold Star families of those service members in recent days on Capitol Hill. We've talked to many of them as well. Are you getting the answers you need from this administration about what went wrong in the withdrawal and at Abbey Gate, and if you're not, is your committee and are you prepared to issue subpoenas to get them?

MCCAUL: Well, we have. And I threaten to hold the secretary of state in contempt but it took that to get a personal phone call to start getting cooperation. There is no reason why this administration should not be giving these Gold Star families all the answers, all they want is the truth. They want transparency. And when they don't do that, it makes them wonder why are you hiding things, right?

So, I feel like I'm the advocate on behalf of the Gold Star families. They deserve to get access to Colonel Whitehead who did not give permission to Sergeant Tyler to take out the suicide bomber. You know, they deserve to know about why an air strike was not given to take out the very individual who was in charge of the suicide bombing operation with ISIS-K. They need to know why they were released from Bagram air base and this will go all the way up the chain of command, both state, DOD, and ultimately within the White House.

But I would ask that they give these families answers. I mean, in a way, they have more power than I do. It is easy for them to say no to me. It is very hard for them to say no to these families.

TAPPER: Yes. So, just so you know, because we've been covering this a lot. I think the Pentagon would -- and I'm not the Pentagon, but think the Pentagon would take issue with the idea that that sergeant had the actual suicide bomber in his sights, per se, and that information about ISIS-K in that hotel was actionable intelligence in terms of the bombing. I don't know. But I'm just saying, I asked the same questions and that's what they told me.

MCCAUL: Wel, the five snipers on the ground confirmed --

TAPPER: Right.

MCCAUL: -- and PSYOPs, by the way, confirmed what Tyler said.

TAPPER: We need more.

MCCAUL: You know what? If that is not correct. Then give us access to --


TAPPER: A hundred percent, a hundred percent. You want transcribed interviews with specific members of the Biden administration?

MCCAUL: Yes. We want to talk to Jen Psaki. The messages she was sending out from the White House were so different from what was happening on ground.

You know, John Kirby made the comment that no weapons were left behind, which is insane. There are, you know, $7 billion of weapons and I can show you the tapes of the weapons and the cache that were left behind.

Ned Price, you know, the State Department, making rosy comments. And we need to -- you know, we sent letters to they have them testify, all giving a rosy picture while at the same time what was happening on ground was very different.

I don't know where this is going to end, Jake, but as a former federal prosecutor, I'm going to follow all the facts. I'm not out to take -- you know, I have great respect for General McKenzie and General Milley, by the way. I don't know if any of this actually went up to their level. But I do know that an air strike was denied that could have taken out the suicide bombing team of ISIS-K. That was led out of Bagram, by the way.

TAPPER: Yes. Speaking of General Milley, he is retiring as joint -- chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the end of the month. His role might not be filled because your fellow Republican, Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, is holding up more than 300 military promotions.

These are not political positions. These are majors and lieutenant colonels and colonels and admirals and generals in the Senate because he opposes to a Pentagon travel reimbursement policy having to do with abortion. Expert after expert, military individual after military individual says, this is hurting readiness. How long is this Republican Party going to let this one senator do this to our military?

MCCAUL: I just talked to this guy named Dakota who got the Medal of Honor yesterday, this is paralyzing the Department of Defense.


You know, the idea that one man in the Senate can hold this up for months, I understand maybe promotions but nominations is paralyzing the Department of Defense. I think that is a national security problem and a national security issue. And I really wish he would reconsider this because we're working this issue out in the National Defense Authorization.

We worked it out in the House side. We're going to conference in the Senate. We're going to work out this, you know, abortion issue, that has been a tradition within the NDAA. But to hold up the top brass from being promoted and lower brass, I think is paralyzing our Department of Defense.

TAPPER: Chairman Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, thanks so much for being here. I really appreciate it. We'll be right back after this quick break.


TAPPER: Welcome back to our special two-hour edition of STATE OF THE UNION.


President Biden just took questions from reporters in Vietnam. Let's talk to our CNN White House correspondent who was there on the ground in Hanoi, Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy, give us the highlights?

DIAMOND: Yes. Well, there was a heavy emphasis, Jake, on foreign policy here and in particular on China as the president has been making a series of moves in the region intended to try and counterbalance China's influence in the region, no less than here in Vietnam, where the president upgraded that relationship with Vietnam to the highest level of diplomatic relations in this country.

And what the president tried to say very clearly was that he is not trying to contain China. And throughout this news conference the president really tried to send that message to China. To say that even as he is shoring up and strengthening these partnerships in the region, not only in Vietnam but also in India, as it relates to the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, really a whole of region effort by the president, he wanted to make clear, I am not looking to hurt China, he said. And he even said that he wants China to do well.

He believes the world does better when China does well. And it was as if the president who we've seen dispatch his top cabinet officials over these last several months to Beijing, to try and normalize relations, to re-establish military to military communications unsuccessfully so far. It was as if the president was trying to coach Xi Jinping back into a more productive relationship. But so far that effort has not succeeded in large part because China really rejects the world order as it currently stands and doesn't want to play by the same rules of the game. Nonetheless, the president seems eager to continue to push on that front even as he strengthens those relationships.

Now, there's no question that the White House was carefully selecting the questions here today and there was a heavy emphasize on foreign policy. We didn't get a chance to hear the president talk.

He got a question on the war in Ukraine. He did not actually answer it. And we did not get a chance to ask the president more politically pointed questions related to his reelection.

As you know, Jake, this has been a significant moment in the president's reelection campaign over the last couple of weeks as we've seen his poll numbers, really low approval ratings, about six in 10 Americans disapproving of his job as president. And the question is, does today's performance, does this trip at all help move the needle for the president?

We heard him repeatedly talk about all of the travel that he's doing, trying to show that vitality. But at the end, Jake, he also ended the news conference by saying, I'm going to bed. Look, no question, these are exhausting, exhausting trips but I don't know that that's necessarily the message that the White House wanted to send to close out this news conference.

TAPPER: Those trips are exhausting. Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much.

Beth Sanner, watching the president's press conference there and those whom he carefully selected to ask questions, the BBC and such, who focused on substantive questions dealing with foreign policy and avoiding questions about domestic politics in the United States. What stood out to you?

SANNER: Well, you know, this is a message I think that was really aimed at that regional audience and at the foreign audience. It is a positive message for the global south and for these fence-sitting countries and even for many of our allies like South Korea and Japan that don't want us to try to contain China.

And so, that positive message of, you know, he wants China to succeed is -- it is not exactly music to the ears of the Republicans here in the states. But, you know, if you're sitting in that region and most of your trade is with China and China generates

over 30 percent of the global GDP, it is a fact that it is important.

But at the same time, I think, it is a little unfair of Representative McCaul to say that, you know, talking about not wanting to contain China, it isn't a good thing to say. I mean, frankly, the Chinese believe and all of the statements coming out, even after the Raimondo trip, is about how the United States is containing China. So, maybe Biden's -- TAPPER: Beth, we're still having problems with your connection there.

Tim Naftali, how much does foreign policy matter when it comes to the United States elections?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I don't think it matters. Well, since the end of the Cold War with the exception of the first few years after 9/11 I don't think it matters that much. What will matter, however, is a sense of stability, price levels in this country, and the world can affect that.

So, maybe directly foreign policy won't appear to shape the voters in Georgia and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Nevada which will be key states again, but the feeling Americans have about whether the world, whether we are moving in the right direction, that in fact could be influenced by international affairs.


So, that is why I would say that though the president will get dinged for the lack of strong language in the G20 statement, despite that fact, I believe the statement, more importantly the discussions around the G20 and what is going on right now in Vietnam, are going to lay the basis for a more stable world, a more rules based-world which will not be music to the ears of Xi Jinping or Putin but could make -- could make 2024 a slightly more stable world than 2023.

It is a lot better, I would argue, than announcing that we're containing China. You know, the word containment, we only use when we decided that Stalin was an enemy. We can't yet conclude that Xi is an enemy. He's an adversary.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much, Tim and Beth. With the world focus again on his country this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sat down with our Fareed Zakaria for a wide-ranging interview. And you can watch that interview on "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS" at 1:00 p.m. Eastern later today.

Thanks so much for joining us. I'll see you back here at noon Eastern.