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State of the Union

Interview With Republican Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley; Interview With U.S. Secretary Of State Antony Blinken; Interview With Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX). Aired 12-1p ET

Aired September 10, 2023 - 12:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): United front? President Biden tries to rally allies overseas to counter China's influence and Russia's aggression.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The world stands at an inflection point in history.

TAPPER: But, as the war in Ukraine drags on, how long can the West stay unified? Secretary of State Antony Blinken is here in moments.

Plus, head to head. She's the strongest Republican to take on Biden, according to CNN's new poll, but can she convince Republican primary voters?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can do it, Nikki!


TAPPER: Former U.N. Ambassador and GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley joins me for a wide-ranging discussion ahead.

And clock's ticking, with just days left to prevent a government shutdown.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Keep the government open.

TAPPER: Republicans draw battle lines over support for Ukraine. Who will blink first? I'll ask House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul.


TAPPER (on camera): Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is focused overseas, particularly on the rescue workers currently searching for survivors after that horrific earthquake in Morocco.

This morning, President Biden is in Hanoi, Vietnam, laying out his China policy on the second leg of his international trip aimed at shoring up support among U.S. allies. In a news conference just minutes ago, Biden walked the line by insisting that he does not want to contain China, but rather wants China to succeed, playing, quote, by the rules.


BIDEN: We're not looking to hurt China, sincerely. We're all better off if China does well. China does well by the international rules.


TAPPER: Biden also found himself defending the G20 committee members' joint statement on Ukraine which did not directly condemn Russia's war. Ukraine is reacting, frankly, with frustration calling it, quote, nothing to be proud of after G20 members Russia and China had resisted stronger language in that final statement.

Let's get straight to Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley for her response to President Biden's trip. She's also the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Ambassador Haley, thanks so much for joining us.

Last year's G20 statement, as you know, explicitly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, though, of course, Russia did not sign off on that part of the statement. This year, the final statement stopped short of any direct condemnation of the invasion.

What is your reaction? What do you think is more important, unanimity or an explicit condemnation?

HALEY: It was a win for Russia and China. They're celebrating today.

I mean, what we should have had was, Biden should have really pushed hard to acknowledge what he acknowledged a year ago, that Russia invaded a pro-American, freedom-loving country. And that's a fact. And to deny a fact a year later is giving a win to Russia. And China is gloating, because they're looking at Taiwan as this is happening, and it's a shame.

TAPPER: Some House Republicans, as you know, are fighting to strip $24 billion in aid to Ukraine out of the upcoming government spending bill. Do you think that would be a mistake?

HALEY: I think that you have to look at the fact that 3.5 percent has been spent from our defense budget towards Ukraine. That's just 3.5 percent, that percentage of GDP. Eleven European countries have spent more than us.

We know that Russia has said, once they take Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics are next, and then you're looking at a full-on war. What we're trying to do is prevent war. That's a pretty good return on investment to prevent war.

So, I think that we need to continue giving them equipment and ammunition with our allies to win. I don't think we need to give them straight-up cash. I don't think we need to put troops on the ground. But we need to finish this, because we have to always remember, a win for Russia is a win for China. They have made that very clear.

And, right now, China is our number one national security threat.

TAPPER: So, House Republicans should keep that Ukraine spending in the spending bill, and should not separate it, and should support it?

HALEY: Republicans and Democrats should not pull an Afghanistan. Don't go pulling out now.

We have -- Putin is at rock bottom. We know that because he's getting drones from Iran and missiles from North Korea. We know that because they have raised the draft age in Russia to 65. Finish this. Biden has missed multiple opportunities to finish this. We need to make sure that we end this war quickly, that we finish it, but we do it the right way.


We don't want a further war. And the only way we can do that is to have Ukraine win. And there's no one that wants the Ukrainians to win more than the Taiwanese, because they know that, if Ukraine wins, China will stay away from Taiwan.

And so, yes, I think Republicans and Democrats need to keep their eye on the ball. And that is, let's finish this mission in Ukraine, and then we will handle Russia and China by just doing that.

TAPPER: Your fellow candidates Chris Christie and Mike Pence have traveled to Ukraine this year. Are you planning on traveling to Ukraine?

HALEY: I plan on traveling to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and the rest of the country. I don't have time to go to another country right now. I'm trying to earn the support of many Americans.

TAPPER: A special United Nations commission looking into human rights violations in Ukraine recently said that it had, quote, not reached a conclusion' whether there's genocide in Ukraine.

You were the U.N. ambassador. Is that finding acceptable to you? And do you think Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine?

HALEY: Well, first of all, it's hard to believe anything the U.N. says. It's a bit political. It's usually China-biased, and it's also Russian intruding into whatever they put out there.

I think that what you have is, when I was at the United Nations, we had no better friend than Ukraine. They voted with us on everything. They were supportive of everything that we did, and they're pro- American.

And I think what we know is that they're a democracy, and the reason that they are so careful in this war is, they're trying to protect people and trying to prevent Ukrainians from dying. I think, if there's any bullseye, you need to be looking at Russia. They're the ones that have invaded. They're the ones that are targeting schools. They're the ones that continue to have death that they don't care about, and I think that's the one we really need to be talking about.

So I don't take any U.N. report too seriously.

TAPPER: On the subject of China, the Biden administration, as you know, recently sent four top officials to China to try to stabilize relations.

You have said the Biden administration has the wrong approach, because they're looking for win-win cooperation with China. You say, quote, they don't see us as a competitor. They see us as an enemy, unquote.

Do you view China as an enemy?

HALEY: China's been practically preparing for war with us for years. Yes, I view China as an enemy.

And what's disappointing about what Biden has done is, here you have China has bought up 400,000 acres of U.S. soil, most recently near Grand Forks Air Force Base. They bought our largest pork producer in the country. They continue to steal $600 billion of intellectual property. They're sending millions of dollars to our universities and stealing our research and spreading propaganda.

Ninety percent of our law enforcement drones are Chinese. So, while Americans freaked out over the Chinese spy balloon, just imagine what's happening with all these mini-spy balloons. They have killed more Americans than the Iraq, Iran -- the Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam Wars combined with their sending fentanyl over.

I mean, how much more has to happen for Biden to realize you don't send cabinet members over to China to appease them; you start getting serious with China and say, we're not going to put up with it? They keep sending different cabinet officials over, Jake, and it's embarrassing.

You sent Raimondo right after she got hacked, her e-mails got hacked by the Chinese. You sent all of these cabinet officials over after a Chinese spy balloon went over our country. They are putting a Chinese spy base up in -- on Cuba, off the coast of Florida.

And don't wait for the fact that they are going to be sending Chinese military troops there. What are we doing appeasing China? Instead, we should say, you're not buying any more U.S. oil and we're going to take back what you have already bought. We're going to go and make sure that we don't have Chinese infiltration in our universities, because our universities are going to have to pick between Chinese money or American money.

We're going to end all normal trade relations with China until they stop killing Americans with fentanyl. And then we're going to build up our military, because China now has the strongest naval fleet in the world. They are developing hypersonic, artificial intelligence, cyberspace, neuro-strike weapons, which will -- they're the biggest developer, which actually affect military commanders' thinking and populations of people.

We need to make sure that we're serious about China and they know that we're serious about them, not going and being nice to them and thinking that they're going to change.

TAPPER: On the subject of fentanyl, I just want to take a diversion for one quick second, because I have heard some of your colleagues bring up an interesting subject, which is, you're right, fentanyl is -- it's obscene and horrific what's going on in terms of Americans being killed by this fentanyl crisis, Americans, kids, who might take an herbal supplement that is not illegal and it has fentanyl in it, and they die.

A friend of mine, his nephew died that way. I have heard some of your colleagues talk about treating the drug dealers in Mexico as if they are a terrorist cell and having the military, in cooperation with the Mexican government, obviously, treat those Mexican drug dealers as a terrorist cell.


What do you think of something like that?

HALEY: Well, first of all, I think we deal with China first, because that's the originator. That's where it's coming from.

But I actually do think we should send our special operations over to eliminate the cartels. We can't wait on Mexico anymore. We can't wait on any more Americans to die. We have to be aggressive on this, and we treat them like the terrorists that they are.

Those cartels, they're trafficking people, they're trafficking drugs, and they're killing Americans, and we have to put an end to it.

TAPPER: So, on the subject of China and Taiwan that you brought up a second ago, Vice President Harris was in Jakarta this week for a summit with Southeast Asian countries.

President Biden has actually been criticized for being too direct on the subject of Taiwan, for abandoning what was called strategic ambiguity and saying directly that the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily.

What's your position? Let me ask you directly. If you were president, would you, would the U.S. with a President Haley, defend Taiwan militarily if China invaded?

HALEY: We will defend Taiwan, and we will let China know there will be hell to pay if they do anything that hurts the Taiwanese or any of our allies.

You know, a strong America prevents wars, Jake, and that's what we have to do. You can't appease them. I was very disappointed that Biden sent Kamala over there for the ASEAN Summit.

This is an important summit. It's 10 countries that are really focused on Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, and China is going to go bully these countries who are desperately trying to fight back, the Philippines, Malaysia, and others, who want them to stop.

By sending Kamala there and not really showing that you have got serious -- seriousness on the fact that this Chinese aggression is hurting, when we know most of the World Trade goes through that -- the -- you know, that area of water, I mean, it's a mistake.

And, again, he says things. I appreciate it. Words are fine, but actions matter. And if he would have gone and really made a strong point there, I think that would have been much more important than having Kamala go there and smile and take pictures.

TAPPER: So, speaking of having a strong defense, speaking of having a strong navy, Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville is currently, and, for months, has been holding out more than 300 military promotions in the Senate, non-political positions, including the chief of staff of the Army, the commandant of the Marine Corps, the chief of Naval operations.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs' role is set to be taken at the end of this month. I know you have criticized his decision. The military says this is hurting readiness. I know, as a military spouse, you know military spouses are really upset about this.

Why is the Republican Party tolerating this?

HALEY: There's a couple of things here, Jake. I mean, let's speak hard truths, right?

First of all, Department of Defense never should have done this. I disagree with it, and I will put an end to it as president. You have to go through Congress. We have --

TAPPER: You're talking about the reimbursement policy for travel for abortion.



HALEY: Yes, because you have to do these things through Congress.

We have three branches of government for a reason. You can't slip something in there like that and think that Congress is not going to be upset. So, first, I will put an end to that, and you will handle it through the proper channels. Secondly, we don't need to be using military families as political pawns. That's a mistake.

These -- the military members and families, they sacrifice enough. They don't need to be a pawn in Congress. But look at the political games that continue to play. Chuck Schumer could still get this done if he went through and listed each member and had Congress vote on each member.

Right now, he's saying that --

TAPPER: But, Ambassador, do you know what that would do? I mean, do you really want to have -- I mean, the tradition is, generally speaking, that the Senate just votes unanimous consent for 300 people to be promoted.

Oh, you think the military is political now. You really want to have the U.S. Senate voting on somebody being promoted to major, to lieutenant colonel, to colonel, to ambassador -- I mean, to admiral? I mean, every single person is going to have their social media posts scrubbed.

You really want, like, in the U.S. military, Bernie Sanders, Joe Manchin, like, everybody's going to decide everybody's promotions? This is how we're going to do promotions from now on?

HALEY: Well, if you're going to talk about tradition, shouldn't Department of Defense do things the right way, so we're never in this mess to start with?

Let's -- I mean, let's call it like we see it. Department of Defense started this. I'm not saying Senator Tuberville is right in doing this, because I don't want to use them as pawns. But if you love our military, if you are so adamant about it, then go and make Congress, Republicans and Democrats, have to go through person by person.

Do you honestly think they won't say, OK, this is ridiculous, let's put an end to it?

TAPPER: Well, I --

HALEY: They will. But show -- show your -- show your true grit by going out there and saying, fine, if you all are going to play the military for the pawns like this, let's go member by member.

Let's make them pay the price.


Let's make them do their job. Let's make them suffer so that they know what they're doing to these military families.

This isn't about making it convenient for Congress. This is about making sure you're doing right by members of the military. This is making sure you hold the Department of Defense accountable.

Let's call that what it is, Jake, because, right now, everybody's saying, oh, but do you really want Congress doing this? You know what I want Congress to do is their job.

TAPPER: Right.

HALEY: I want Congress to do their job. I want them to deal with inflation. I want them to deal with gas prices and groceries. I want them to deal with the lack of transparency in schools.

I want them to deal with the fact that, yes, military members are being used as pawns, and they need to make sure that these families don't suffer. I want them to do their job. And the majority of Americans see that government's not working for the people. It's the people working for government.

And it's got to stop, including these political games that they play.

TAPPER: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has confirmed a report in Walter Isaacson's new biography of him that last year Musk personally blocked access to his Starlink satellite network in Crimea in order to disrupt a major Ukrainian attack on the Russian navy in Crimea.

Do you think what Musk did was appropriate? And are you OK with a private citizen having so much power over a war?

HALEY: Well, first of all, I don't know enough of the details about that to comment.

But what I would say is, if there's any sort of smoke, we should have transparency. We should be able to find out exactly what happened, who did it, when they did it, and why they did it. And then we should be able to take the appropriate action.

The bottom line is, we should always watch out for the national security of Americans and our allies. And if there was anything that came in the way of that, then we should address it. And if there's something there, then we should ask questions about it. But I think we need to look into it further.

TAPPER: Your campaign got some good news, some brand-new polling from CNN suggesting you are far and away the strongest Republican candidate to take on Joe Biden.

In fact, you're the only one in our polling who would decisively beat President Biden in a head-to-head race. Everyone else is within the margin of error.

Still, on the Republican side, you and all the other Republicans trail Donald Trump in the primary.

Why do you think the electability argument doesn't seem to be resonating more with Republican voters?

HALEY: Well, I think the reason that it shows that I would beat Biden by six points is simple. I think the majority of Americans know we need a new generational leader, that we need to leave the negativity of the past behind us.

The majority of Americans don't want to see a rematch between Trump and Biden. That's been very clear. And the majority of Americans think that we need to go with younger faces, younger voices, and we have got some work to do. They're tired of working for government. They want government to work for them. In terms of the primary, look, we're just getting started. Debate season is what kicks off the primary. We have made huge jumps in the primary polls so far, but this is the beginning of it. We have got quite a bit to go before we get to January.

I'm going to work hard to earn every person's vote, whether it's Iowa, whether it's New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, or across this country. We have a country to save, and I'm determined to do it.

It is time that we finally address the debt and the economy, so that taxpayers don't feel like their money is being wasted. It's time to address the fact that we need to have transparency in the classrooms, so that parents feel like they're in control of their children's education again.

It's time that we deal with crime and bring law and order back to our country. And it's time that we secure our borders and start focusing on Americans, instead of illegal immigrants that are coming in. And it's time that we finally have a strong national security, where America is safe and we're strong abroad. That's what Americans want. It's not rocket science. It's common sense.

And I think that they're going to continue to see that what we're saying is resonating.

TAPPER: Can the Republican Party credibly claim to be a law-and-order party with a nominee who is facing 91 felony counts?

HALEY: Well, Jake, I will tell you this.

I was at the United Nations, and I saw many countries who would say someone was a criminal before they were tried. This is America. We don't do that. You're not convicted until you have had the opportunity to defend yourself.

So, let's let Donald Trump defend himself. Let's see what happens. And if he is convicted, then the American people will deal with it then.

But let's have the blessings that we have in America, which is everybody's innocent until proven guilty. Let's let the evidence play out. Let's let the lawyers do their thing and let's see what Donald Trump does. And then we can make a decision.

But I have faith in the American people. I trust them, and I trust what will happen will be the right thing for our country.

TAPPER: One of President Biden's biggest achievements he's touting on the campaign trail is a $35 price cap on insulin for American seniors on Medicare. Some companies have extended that price, $35, to all their patients.


As president, would you keep that $35 price cap on insulin, or would you try to reverse it?

HALEY: I think what Biden did was a Band-Aid. Do we need to do something about health care? Absolutely.

My dad just got out of the hospital. I know the costs. But the way we deal with it is, we need to start exposing the insurance companies, the hospitals, the doctors, the PBMs, the pharmaceutical companies, make them all transparent.

Why should anyone go to the hospital and have an insurance company in the hospital negotiate the cost for the patient, with the patient not having anything involved? Why are drugs so expensive? Why do pharmaceutical companies get to decide this with government, and not have patients at the table? Why don't we have more competition and transparency in this?

When I am president, we will go through and expose all of that. If we just dealt with the insurance companies alone, we would cut health care in half. So, yes, it's great when you can say we're going to lower the cost of these drugs because people cannot afford them, but it's a Band-Aid. It's not fixing the real problem.

Let's do the hard work and fix the fact that we are the best country in the world with the most expensive health care, and regular, normal Americans can't afford it.

You know, when my mom went to the hospital, they gave her two Tylenol. She said, I don't need it.

Well, they said, well, honey, you might as well take it because you're going to pay for it anyway.

That's ludicrous. We need to break the system and refix it, not just keep putting Band-Aids over it, because it's just leaving more and more Americans suffering and unavailable -- unavailable to be able to afford their health care.

TAPPER: Your 2024 competitor Vivek Ramaswamy just recently said he would deport the children of undocumented immigrants who are born in the United States, children born in the United States, although those kids have been widely considered to have birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment.

What do you think? Do you think children born in the United States have birthright citizenship, or do you think they should be deported?

HALEY: I think that conversation is putting the cart before the horse.

What we need to do is go to Congress and say, do your job. They need to do immigration reform. First of all, we need to secure the border, stop anyone from coming over, and make sure that we do that by stopping catch-and-release, go to catch-and-deport, defund sanctuary cities, make sure that we go back to the remain-in-Mexico plan, because nobody wants to remain in Mexico, and put 25,000 Border Patrol and ICE agents, and let them do their job.

When it comes to legal immigration, Congress needs to get in a room and fix this. We need to go and deal with the fact that we shouldn't be bringing people into our country based on quotas. What about if we brought people into our country based on merit, where you looked and said, what do we need in our economy? What companies need workers? What jobs are we not able to fill?

If you brought them in based on that, all of a sudden, you're building our economy. You're helping America. You're not bringing in illegals who are coming in and using our system and that taxpayers are paying for.

Let's do it the right way. The fact that you want to talk about children of illegal immigrants, that's the cart before the horse. Why don't we talk about legal immigration, reforming it, stopping the border, and then talk about what we're going to do to deal with the children of illegal immigrants?

TAPPER: One last thing before we go.

There are a lot of candidates who are still in the race who are routinely polling in the very, very low single digits. As somebody not there, a little bit higher, do you think it's time for the field to consolidate a little bit? Should some of the other candidates drop out?

HALEY: Well, I think we have seen the field consolidate some. We started with 12. I think eight ended up on the debate stage.

The criteria will go up for the September 27 debate. I think the field will wind down a little bit more. And so, as this goes on, I think we're going to see it continue to get smaller and smaller. This isn't 2017, where we had -- 2016, where we had 17 people on the stage.

I'm thinking that we're going to have six when it comes to the next debate stage, and we will compete, continue to wind it down. And so, I'm comfortable with the process taking place the way that it is. And I think that the American people will start to kind of force this on their own and we will end up with the right nominee.

I expect to be that nominee. I expect to be the president. And I expect to get our country back on track.

TAPPER: Is South Carolina a must-win for you, you think?

HALEY: I think Iowa and New Hampshire are states that we need to do well in. I think I need to be -- have a strong showing in Iowa, a strong showing in New Hampshire.

And I think, if I do both of those, I think the people of South Carolina will show me the grace that they have shown me before.

We had an event in North Charleston just a couple of days ago. We had 1,000 people. The week before that, we were in Indian Land, South Carolina. We had 1,000 people there, several hundred in Boiling Springs.

So, South Carolinians have been good to me. They know I work, they know I fight for them, and they know, at the end of the day, I produce results. And so I expect that they will continue to want me to do that for them as we go into the presidential part of this -- of taking the lead in this country.


TAPPER: Ambassador Haley, always good to see you. Thanks so much. Come back soon.

HALEY: Thanks so much, Jake.

Go to and join our cause.

TAPPER: As President Biden wraps up his high-stakes trip around the world, I'm going to talk to his secretary of state next.

And then with Congress coming back from recess, Republican committee chairman Michael McCall will join me ahead.


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

This weekend, a global challenge with huge ripples on American soil. The president of the United States is wrapping up a G20 after a big joint statement shied away from going there directly criticizing Russia's brutal war in Ukraine.


TAPPER: And joining me now is Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Secretary Blinken, thanks for joining us.

I do want to start with this devastating earthquake in Morocco Saturday morning, the death toll staggering, expected to rise, of course, rescuers struggling to reach some hard-to-hit -- hard-hit areas.

Obviously, the first 24 to 48 hours are the most crucial. What is the U.S. doing to help?

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, Jake, you're right.


This is devastating.

And we reached out immediately to the Moroccan government to offer any assistance that we can provide. We have mobilized the government itself to be ready to provide that assistance. We have U.S. Agency for International Development, which takes the lead in these efforts, that is ready to go. And we await word from the Moroccan government to find out how we can help, where we can help.

But we're ready to go.

TAPPER: G20 leaders agreed to a joint declaration that, in part, called for countries to, quote, refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against other sovereign nations.

That is significantly weaker language than last year's joint statement, which called for Russia's, quote, complete and unconditional withdrawal, unquote, from Ukraine.

I mean, why did the U.S. agree to a watered-down declaration that does not even condemn Russia by name or explicitly call for Russia to leave Ukraine?

BLINKEN: Jake, the G20 countries in this statement all stood up for the importance of territorial integrity, sovereignty. And that's very clear. I was in the room when all the leaders spoke today with President

Biden, and it was very clear from everything that they said that not only do they want to see this war end, but they want to see it end on just and durable terms. And it was also very clear that the consequences of Russia's aggression are being felt throughout the G20 countries and throughout the developing world.

So, there was, I think, real clarity from the leaders in the room. And, again, the statement strongly affirms the proposition that this is about Ukraine's territorial integrity, its sovereignty, the principles that are at the heart of the United Nations Charter.

TAPPER: But I have heard you talk about this issue. You must be disappointed that they couldn't agree to a stronger language?

BLINKEN: No, I think it's very important that the G20 spoke as one.

I mean, to some extent, maybe it's the G19, because, obviously, Russia's also here. It's part of the G20. But the fact that we have a statement coming out collectively, again, affirming the importance of Ukraine, its territorial integrity, its sovereignty, that speaks loudly.

But what really speaks loudly, again, are the leaders in the room itself. And I think, if you are on the receiving end of what so many of them said, if you were in the Russian seat, it's pretty clear where the rest of the world stands.

TAPPER: So, Speaker McCarthy right now appears to be moving to separate the nearly $24 billion in new funding to help Ukraine from this potential spending deal to avert a government shutdown later this month.

What would that mean for Ukraine's offensive if the aid is separated and if that aid ultimately is not approved by Congress?

BLINKEN: Look, this is a moving picture.

And I think it's very clear to us and to many in Congress that this additional assistance is something that Ukraine needs in this moment to continue to carry out the counteroffensive to regain its territory, as well as to strengthen its defense, its military going forward. It's not only the right thing to do. It's the smart and necessary thing to do in our own interests, because, as we have said from day one, if we allow this Russian aggression to go forward within impunity, it's not just Ukrainians who are suffering.

It's virtually everyone around the world who relies on the principles that are at the heart of the U.N. Charter, including that one big country can't simply trample on the borders of another, invade it and try to take it over, because, if we allow that to go forward with impunity, if we don't stand up against that, then it's open season everywhere around the world.

I have heard Leader McConnell speak very powerfully to this, other colleagues on the House side, like Chairman Mike McCaul of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.


BLINKEN: So, we have had a strong bipartisan partnership with Congress throughout. I would expect that to continue.

TAPPER: So, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has recently confirmed a report that's in Walter Isaacson's new biography of Musk that, last year, Musk blocked access to his Starlink satellite network in Crimea in order to disrupt a major Ukrainian attack on the Russian navy there.

In other words, Musk effectively sabotaged a military operation by Ukraine, a U.S. ally, against Russia, an aggressor country that invaded a U.S. ally. Should there be repercussions for that?

BLINKEN: Jake, I can't speak to a specific episode.

Here's what I can tell you. Starlink has been a vital tool for the Ukrainians to be able to communicate with each other, and particularly for the military to communicate in their effort to defend all of Ukraine's territory. It remains so, and I would expect it to continue to be critical to their efforts.

So, what we would hope and expect is that that technology will remain fully available to the Ukrainians. It is vital to what they're doing.


TAPPER: I don't know that you can't speak to it. You won't speak to it.

Musk says he was reportedly afraid that Russia would retaliate with nuclear weapons. Musk says that's based on his private discussions he had with senior Russian officials.

Are you concerned that Musk is apparently conducting his own diplomatic outreach to the Russian government? Really, none of this concerns you?

BLINKEN: Jake, I can't speak to conversations that may or may not have happened. I don't know. I'm focused on the fact that the technology itself, Starlink, has been really important to the Ukrainians. It remains so. And it should continue to be part of what they're able to call on to be able to communicate with themselves and, again, to have the military be able to communicate.

Throughout this Russian aggression, we have -- we ourselves have always had to factor in what Russia may do in response to any given thing that we or others do or the Ukrainians do. And we have.

But what's so critical now is that Ukrainians had real success over the past year. I was just in Ukraine, as you know. The last time I was there was almost exactly a year ago. In that year, from the last time I was there until this week, the Ukrainians have retaken more than 50 percent of the territory seized by Russia since February of 2022.

They're now engaged in a critical counteroffensive. And we're doing everything we can to maximize our support for them, along with many other countries, so that they can be successful. Starlink is an important part of their success. And, as I said, we expect that it will continue to be so.

TAPPER: It sounds like Starlink is so important that the U.S. government doesn't want to risk offending a capricious billionaire who did some things that I think, in another situation, the U.S. government might want to say something about.

But let's move on. Last month marked two years since the Abbey Gate bombing in Afghanistan that killed 13 service members during the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal. I recently spoke to Gold Star family members of those lost service members, and they told me that they think the Biden administration, specifically, the Pentagon, is not giving them the answers and the accountability that they need for what happened to their loved ones that day.

Does the Pentagon need to be more forthcoming about what happened that day to those 13 service members?

BLINKEN: Jake, I can't even begin to put myself in the shoes of those who lost their loved ones and who were acting so heroically and bravely.

I can't begin to imagine what they're feeling. I can just say that, if I were in their shoes, I'd probably feel exactly the same way. And we're determined, as an administration, to make sure that, for the entire duration of the war, including Abbey Gate, that we draw the lessons that we need to draw from it and act accordingly. And we will, and we are.

At the same time, the president made a very difficult, but very important decision to end America's longest war, 20 years. And we want to make sure, and, as a result of what the president did, we can make sure that we're not going to have another generation going to Afghanistan to fight and die there, as we had for 20 years.

So we did the right thing. But, of course, we will look very hard at everything, every aspect of the decisions that we made to make sure that we get it right every time going forward and that everyone who is involved feels that appropriate justice has been done to the sacrifice of their loved ones.

But, again, for me, I had a chance to see many of these families when we brought their loved ones home through Dover. And it's something that, again, I just can't fully put myself in their shoes. I have so much admiration for the extraordinary courage of service of Sergeant -- Sergeant Gee, Corporals Lopez, Espinoza, so many others.

They were extraordinary. But I will say one last thing. Like so many other people, I have been engaged, as you have, in the war in Afghanistan, Iraq over 20 years. And during that time, I was in government virtually the entire time. I was out at Dover repeatedly as we brought the remains of our servicemembers home.


I was in a C-17 with a flag-draped coffin coming back from one of those battlefields. I know the sacrifice of so many over so many years, and I know that, because President Biden ended America's longest war, that won't be the case going forward, that we will not, as I said, be sending another generation of Americans to fight and die there.

TAPPER: Secretary Blinken, thank you so much for your time today.

BLINKEN: Thanks, Jake.


TAPPER: President Biden on the world stage. A top House Republican weighs in on the foreign trip, next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I continue to be Jake Tapper.

President Biden is wrapping up his overseas trip and he will return home to a host of political challenges as Congress returns from recess.



TAPPER: 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 disagreed with that part of 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's your response? What do you think?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): I agree with Ukraine. Last year, 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's 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 is 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 and it caught my ear, as well. President Biden talking about how he wants China to behave according to the way that -- that other nations behaved 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 that we have a relationship with China that is on the up and up, squared away and everybody knows what it's 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 Quads 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 weapons systems that we have yet to put into the country that I signed off on.

So if you have a lack of military deterrence, and a lack of military deterrence and are 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 and put a blockade in, get the sea cable and take over TSMC, by the way, that is 90 percent of the semiconductor chip manufacturing for the world?

This was the wrong message to send. It was not one of deterrence, and it once again, like with Afghanistan is 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 the 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 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 say diplomatically that being a play, I think it's a weak play because Chairman Xi doesn't understand weakness. He understands power.

And when you listen to his addresses, to his communist party and 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're 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 him carte blanche to move in after Afghanistan preventing 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 it has been -- let's talk about Afghanistan and it's been two years since the Afghanistan withdrawal and the fall of Kabul and the deaths of those 13 service members and 170 Afghans at Abbey Gate. You heard from Gold Star families of those service members and recent days on Capitol Hill.


We 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 -- are you prepared to issue subpoenas together?

MCCAUL: Well, we have, and I threatened to hold the secretary of state in contempt, but it took that to get a personal phone call to start getting cooperation. There's 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 give access to Colonel Whitehead who did not give permission to Sergeant Tyler to take out the suicide bomber. You know, they deserve to know 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 would go 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's easy for them to say no to me. It's very hard for them to say no to these families.

TAPPER: Yeah. 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 I 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: Well, the five snipers on the ground --

TAPPER: Right.

MCCAUL: -- confirmed -- and psy-ops, by the way, confirmed what Tyler said. We need --

TAPPER: We need -- we need more.

MCCAUL: If that's not correct, then give us access to other people.

TAPPER: A hundred percent, 100 percent.


TAPPER: You want transcribed interviews with specific members of the Biden administration?

MCCAUL: Yeah, 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 the ground. You know, John Kirby made the comment that no weapons were left behind which is insane. $7 billion in weapons, and I can show you the tapes of the weapons and the cash that were left behind.

Ned Price, you know, the State Department, making rosy comments and we need to -- we sent letters to have them testify all giving a rosy picture while at the same time what was happening on the 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 of 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, ISIS-K and that was let out of Bagram, by the way. TAPPER: Yeah. Speaking of General Milley, he's retiring as chairman of

the joint chiefs at the end of the month. His role might not be filled because your fellow Republican, Senator Tuberville of Alabama, is holding up more than 300 military promotions. These are not political positions and these are majors, lieutenant colonels and admirals and generals in the Senate because he opposes the 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 the 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 on the house side. We're going to conference in the senate. We're going to work out this abortion issue. There's 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.


TAPPER: And Ukraine's president is speaking out. That's coming up next.



TAPPER: Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us. Fareed Zakaria interviews Ukrainian and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy next.