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State of the Union

Interview With Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX); Interview With Former Vice President Mike Pence; Interview With Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY); Interview With U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired October 08, 2023 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Mighty vengeance. Israel responds after brazen and brutal Hamas terror attacks.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (voice-over): Citizens of Israel, we are at war.

BASH: Will that war engulf the Middle East? U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken joins me next.

And how could it happen? Israeli civilians killed and abducted as the world scrambles to understand how Hamas pulled off such a surprise attack House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul, and former Vice President Mike Pence join me ahead.

Plus: rock solid. President Biden voices strong support for Israel.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop.

BASH: And Congress rushes to condemn the Hamas attack. But without a speaker of the House, could that hamper any U.S. response?


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is standing with Israel. Breaking news just in to CNN: Israel formally declared a state of war.

And CNN is reporting more than 500 Israelis are likely dead after a surprise terror attack by Hamas. Today is the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, one of the most joyous holidays of the Jewish calendar. People are usually dancing and celebrating.

Instead, Israelis are in mourning, mourning the hundreds who were killed and looking for their kidnapped babies, grandmothers, sisters, brothers and husbands captured by terrorists in their streets and in their homes.

Desperate parents are still praying for information about their children who are Hamas hostages.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard terrorists speaking in Arabic to my teenagers and the youngest saying to them: "I'm too young to go."

They're 16 and 12, so it was very, very hard to hear. And the phone went off. The line went off. That was the last time I heard from them.


BASH: As we speak, Israeli tanks are rolling towards the Gaza border.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns of a long and difficult war to come.


BASH: Joining me now is the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken.

Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.

First, what can you tell us about what's going on, on the ground in Israel and in Gaza right now? And how worried are you about how rapidly and how widely this could escalate?

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, Dana, the first thing to say is this.

This is the worst attack on Israel since the Yom Kippur War in 1973, 50 years ago. But there's a big difference. That was a conventional war between countries, between armies. This, a massive terrorist attack on Israeli civilians, indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilians, thousands of rockets, men and women and children dragged across the border into Gaza, including a Holocaust survivor in a wheelchair, people gunned down in the streets, civilians.

So you can imagine the impact this is having on Israel. And it should be something that revolts the entire world. Right now, what we're seeing is relative calm throughout most of Israel, but intense fighting continuing to go on in the Gaza area.

We immediately reached out -- President Biden reached out to Prime Minister Netanyahu, spoke to him on the phone early yesterday. I spoke to the Israeli president, Herzog, to the foreign minister, Eli Cohen. We have been on the phones throughout our government over the last 24 hours, engaging everyone in the region and well beyond, both to make sure that there is support for Israel and that every country is using every effort to pull Hamas back and to prevent this from escalating.

BASH: Well, how concerned are you about that last point that you made, that this will escalate beyond what's happening in Israel and in Gaza? BLINKEN: Well, our first focus is to make sure that Israel has what

it needs to deal with the situation in Gaza, to deal with the some thousand militants who came into Israel, again, attacking Israeli civilians in their homes, in their towns.


They, as of now, seem to have been pushed back, for the most part, into Gaza, but we want to make sure that Israel has what it needs. At the same time President Biden was very clear in sending a message to anyone in any other area who might try to take advantage of the situation not to.

And whether that's in the north with Hezbollah and Lebanon, whether it's in the West Bank, or whether it's elsewhere, we have sent that message very clearly, and we have sent it directly, and we have sent it through other countries.

BASH: When you spoke with your counterpart in Israel, when the president spoke with the prime minister, did they ask specifically for help from the U.S.?

BLINKEN: So, we, as you know, Dana, provide significant assistance to the Israelis. We have ever since President -- then-President Obama signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel to provide $3.8 billion a year in military assistance.

We are -- we're looking at specific additional requests that the Israelis have made. I think you're likely to hear more about that later today.

BASH: Can you give us a preview?

BLINKEN: Let me not get ahead of it, but, again, we're -- we want to make sure that -- President Biden's direction was to make sure that we're providing Israel everything it needs in this moment to deal with the attacks from Hamas.

And, as I said, I would expect that there will be more on that later today.

BASH: Before I move on, I just want to ask about any Americans who are in Israel. Is there any indication that Americans were either killed or kidnapped by terrorists?

BLINKEN: Yes, we have reports that several Americans were killed. We're working overtime to verify that.

At the same time, there are reports of missing Americans. And there again, we're working to verify those reports.

BASH: It does seem like this very coordinated attack came out of nowhere.

I want our viewers to listen to what the U.S. national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said just nine days ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades. Now, challenges remain, Iran's nuclear weapons program, the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, but the amount of time that I have to spend on crisis and conflict in the Middle East today compared to any of my predecessors going back to 9/11 is significantly reduced.


BASH: That obviously has changed dramatically, not just for Jake Sullivan, but for all of you.

And this isn't specifically about anything that Jake missed, but more broadly about the intelligence failure, not just by the Israelis, but the U.S. What can you say about that?

BLINKEN: Well, two things, Dana.

First, what Jake Sullivan said was right. If you look at the relationship among countries in the Middle East, you saw, with a lot of work by the United States, countries coming together, the region integrating, hostilities diminishing. And we have been very engaged in pursuing, for example, normalization between Israel and its neighbors, building on what's already been done, including with Saudi Arabia.

And other conflicts, like the conflict in Yemen, where we have had a truce now for almost two years, have made a huge difference. What happened over the last 24 hours, it doesn't go to state-to-state conflict, where Jake is exactly right. It's diminished. This goes to a terrorist attack by a terrorist organization.

At the same time, we have been intensely focused on tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. That's why we brought them together in Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba to try to get both sides not to engage in acts that could precipitate hostilities, violence.

And that, unfortunately, does not include Hamas, because it's a terrorist organization. And it took action, as we have seen over the last 24 hours, that has had a terrible impact. But that's what was going on.

In terms of the intelligence, there will be plenty of time in days to come to look and see what anyone missed, what might -- what we could have done better. Right now, the focus is on helping Israel, making sure that it has what it needs to deal with this attack.

BASH: Understand.

The U.S. -- you mentioned Saudi Arabia. I wanted to ask you about that, because the U.S., your administration, has been working to help craft a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Do you think that this attack was in part to disrupt that, and could that be successful?

BLINKEN: Certainly, that could have been part of the motivation.

Look, who opposes normalization? Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran. So it wouldn't be a surprise that part of the motivation may have been to disrupt efforts to bring Saudi Arabia and Israel together, along with other countries that may be interested in normalizing relations with Israel.


So, that's certainly a -- certainly a factor. And I think it speaks to the fact that, if we could achieve normalization, which is incredibly difficult -- there are a lot of hard issues to work through -- but, if we could achieve it, it would bring even greater -- even greater stability to the region.

It would move the region away from decades of turmoil, decades of conflict. At the same time, what we have been very clear about and others have been very clear about is, normalization cannot be a substitute for Israelis and Palestinians resolving their differences.

In fact, it ought to be able to reinforce it, to strengthen it. So there's -- there are really two paths for the region. One is a path of much greater integration, much greater stability, and a resolution of the challenges between Israelis and Palestinians, including equal measures of democracy, of opportunity, of justice, and dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians, or the path that Hamas is engaged in, a path of terror, of wreaking havoc in people's lives, and of doing nothing to better the lives of Palestinians.

On the contrary, every action that Hamas has taken is only making it worse for Palestinians, as well as Israelis.

BASH: Secretary Blinken, do you have evidence that Iran directed this attack?

BLINKEN: There's a long relationship between Iran and Hamas. In fact, Hamas wouldn't be around in the way that it is without the support that it's received from Iran over the years.

In this specific instance, we have not yet seen evidence that Iran directed or was behind this particular attack. But there's certainly a long relationship. It's one of the reasons why we have been resolutely taking action against Iran and its support for terrorists and terrorist proxies and other groups over the last few years of this administration.

We have sanctioned more than 400 Iranian individuals and entities precisely because of their support for things like Hamas.

BASH: While we're talking about Iran, I just have to ask you to -- if you want to respond to what we're hearing from Republicans, who are over and over since this happened using the word appeasement when it comes to Iran and your administration.

They criticized the decision to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian funds. I know and want to state that that money, according to your administration, has not yet been unfrozen. Iran does not yet have it.

But the accusation is that Iran's posture -- excuse me -- that the U.S., your administration's posture towards Iran has helped contribute to this. I want to get you -- give you a chance to respond.

BLINKEN: Well, there are two things here.

First, with regard to the funds that you mentioned that were released to or made available to Iran for humanitarian purposes as part of getting Americans back who were being held and detained in Iran, let's be very clear about this. And it's deeply unfortunate that some are playing politics when so many lives have been lost and Israel remains under attack.

The facts are these. No U.S. taxpayer dollars were involved. These were Iranian resources that Iran had accumulated from the sale of its oil that were stuck in a bank in South Korea. They have had from day one, under our law, under our sanctions, the right to use these monies for humanitarian purposes.

They were moved from one account to another in another country to facilitate that use. As of now, not a single dollar has been spent from that account. And, again, the account is closely regulated by the U.S. Treasury Department, so it can only be used for things like food, medicine, medical equipment. That's what this is about.

And, by the way, the previous administration set up a very similar mechanism to enable Iran to use its oil proceeds that were blocked in various places or stuck in various places for humanitarian purposes. So people are either misinformed or they're misinforming. And, either way, it's wrong.

BASH: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about the United Nations saying that they have detected rockets coming from Lebanon toward Israel and that Hezbollah is claiming responsibility.

Have you seen intelligence that Hezbollah is contemplating a more fulsome attack in the north of Israel...


BASH: ... and perhaps maybe would even get help from groups like the Taliban or Iran, as we have been talking about?

BLINKEN: Well, one of the reasons President Biden was very clear from the very first moments that no one elsewhere should try to take advantage of this situation is precisely to do everything we can to ensure that there's not another front in this conflict, including Hezbollah in Lebanon.

We saw some limited firing of missiles by -- coming from Lebanon toward Israel. That seems, for now, to have stopped. The Israelis responded immediately. And, as of now, that's quiet. But it's something we're watching very carefully.

BASH: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, thank you so much for your time this morning on this very dark, dark day. Appreciate it.


BLINKEN: Thanks, Dana.


BASH: And, up next, we will get a live report from the ground in Israel.

Nic Robertson is there and will join us in minutes. I will also speak with the top Democrat in the House, Hakeem Jeffries, about what the U.S. is learning about the attack and chaos in Congress.

The House of Representatives is at a standstill while all of this is happening in the Middle East.


BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Israel and the world is reeling from yesterday's shocking terror attacks by Hamas. CNN analysis suggests that the death toll in Israel is likely to surpass 500. Many of them are civilians, including women and children. Hundreds more are wounded.

And Israeli officials say a significant number of Israeli civilians have been taken hostage inside Gaza.

For more on all of this, let's go to CNN's Nic Robertson in Sderot, Israel -- Nick.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The situation that we're seeing here in Sderot is just really hours after the Israeli Defense Forces took back control of this town from Hamas.


Hamas was holed up for a while in the police station here. You can see the level of destruction. The firefight by Israeli Defense Forces to take that building, just that building alone, back last night was intense. It was going on in the early hours of this morning.

But as you drive into this town here, everywhere along the road you're finding smashed cars, cars shot up, this burnt-out, well, shot-up vehicle here. There's a big pool of blood on the other side of it. It's this sort of thing that you're seeing all across this town. We're just a couple of miles from Gaza here.

We're hearing drones. We're hearing fighter jets. We're hearing explosions as well going on in the area of Gaza. And I was speaking with an Israeli Defense Force spokesman just a few minutes ago about that issue of all the hostages that are being taken.

And I asked him: "Well, how are you going to get them back?"

And he said: I can tell you this. We're not going to leave anyone behind."

This presents a huge political challenge at the moment. The situation in Sderot, the Israeli Defense Forces may have control of it. But as the spokesman was telling me, just a few hours ago, they picked up a Gaza resident in the town here. He'd come out with the militants. He'd come in here to loot and rob in the town and had been stranded and left behind.

And across this area, still in Southern Israel today, there are still contested areas with Hamas militants. And the area, the whole area around here is on a very, very high level of security.

You go through checkpoints here and the soldiers have the safety catches on their weapons off. You don't see that normally. And that gives you an idea of just the heightened sense of alert here because of the reality that all the Hamas militants are not back in Gaza or, as the Defense Forces here say, neutralized, captured or killed -- Dana.

BASH: That is such an important point. This is very much an ongoing, a very fluid situation. It could not be over, given the fact that there are still terrorists inside Israel.

Nic Robertson, thank you.

Joining me now is Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the House minority leader, the Democratic leader in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning, sir.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Good morning.

BASH: First question is what you have been told, your information.

I know you were briefed about the situation going on in Israel.

JEFFRIES: Well, it's a very heartbreaking situation, a tragic situation. We mourn for the loss of life that has taken place and for those Israelis who are currently being held hostage either in Southern Israel or in Gaza.

I had a conversation with the White House, as well as the National Security Council, yesterday. The most important thing that needs to be said is that the United States will continue to stand strongly behind Israel. America's bond with Israel is unshakable and unbreakable.

We have stood strongly behind Israel during its first 75 years. We will stand strongly behind Israel for the next 75 years and beyond.

BASH: You are part of what's known as the Gang of Eight, and this is the top eight leaders in the House and the Senate who get very sensitive intelligence information.

Was there any indication that any of this was on the horizon or even a possibility, this kind of terror attack inside Israel?

JEFFRIES: Well, that remains to be seen. We have not had a Gang of Eight briefing yet, as we have been scattered throughout the country.

I do anticipate that we will have an opportunity to have a secure briefing at some point next week. But our commitment to Israel's security is ironclad. The most important thing that can take place right now is that we make sure Israel has all of the resources that it needs to secure the situation the ground to bring about a more amenable, permanent security situation within the region and, of course, to rescue the hostages that are in place.

I'm confident that, at some point down the road, the Israeli officials will undertake a complete analysis of what happened, why it happened, how do you present -- or prevent this type of security situation from ever happening again.

BASH: The Biden administration is now mulling, asking you in Congress for additional aid and support for Israel. It sounds like what you're saying is that you would very much support that.

How much and in what form should additional U.S. support take?


JEFFRIES: Well, it's my understanding that there are some things that the Biden administration has the ability to do on its own without coming to Congress.

And I certainly urge the administration and expect that it will provide whatever assistance it can to Israel and to the IDF at this moment in time. Short of congressional action, there will likely be a need for some additional appropriations with respect to Iron Dome or David's Arrow, David's Sling, some of Israel's defense systems that perhaps will need to be bolstered, given the likelihood of a prolonged engagement that is going to take place in the region.

And Congress should certainly be prepared to do that sooner, rather than later.

BASH: I don't need to tell you that the United States does not currently have a speaker of the House right now, a moment of global peril.

The U.S. House is frozen and can't respond until that happens. How big of a problem is this for America and globally?

JEFFRIES: Well, it's my hope that our Republican colleagues get their act together, can settle on a speaker who can receive 217 votes and that we can move forward to get the business of the American people done, both as it relates to our domestic needs, solve problems on behalf of the American people, as well as our national security considerations, in terms of being there for Israel, being there for the Ukrainian people, being there for our allies all throughout the free world.

Now, to the extent that our Republican colleagues are unable to resolve the ongoing Republican civil war, we have made clear as Democrats that we are ready, willing, and able to find common ground, to enter into a bipartisan path forward, so we can govern the House in an enlightened fashion that ensures that bipartisan priorities that have significant support from Democrats and Republicans in the House can receive an up-or-down vote, so that we can move forward and get things done for the American people, as opposed to allowing the extremists within the House Republican Conference to continue to dominate the agenda.

BASH: And you're talking about doing that even if there is no formal speaker, meaning even if the temporary speaker, Patrick McHenry, is still in the chair?

JEFFRIES: Well, we will be back in Washington Tuesday or Wednesday.

And we have said from the very beginning of this Congress, as House Democrats, we are willing to find common ground with our Republican colleagues in a bipartisan way whenever and wherever possible. And we repeatedly demonstrated our willingness to do it.

Democrats provided a majority of the votes necessary to avoid a catastrophic default on our debt that would have crashed the economy. Democrats provided the majority of the votes necessary to avoid a government default and make a shutdown and make sure that we were able to fund the government in a way that addressed the health and safety and economic well-being of the American people.

And so we're ready, willing and able to continue to find that bipartisan path forward under the current moment that we're in or as we move forward if the Republicans are able to elect a speaker.

BASH: Yes. And you published an op-ed this past week stating just that.

Just really quickly, are you having conversations with moderate Republicans about how to achieve what you just said?

JEFFRIES: I have not had a conversation over the last day or so with my Republican counterparts in leadership.

There are ongoing discussions that I believe are taking place between Democrats and Republicans at different levels across the House Democratic Caucus and the House Republican Conference. Those are conversations that hopefully will bear some fruit.

At some point, I will have the opportunity to speak to my Republican counterparts in leadership. And we are there. We are ready, we are willing, we are able to find the common ground necessary to solve problems on behalf of hardworking American taxpayers, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans.

BASH: Leader Jeffries, President -- former President Trump endorsed Jim Jordan for speaker.

Former Congresswoman Liz Cheney said -- quote -- "If the Republicans decide that Jim Jordan should be speaker of the House, there would be no longer -- there would no longer be any possible way to argue that a group elected Republicans could be counted on to defend the Constitution."

Do you think Jim Jordan is fit to be speaker?

JEFFRIES: Well, it's not my job at this moment to weigh in to the politics that are taking place in the House Republican Conference, other than to make clear that it's time for the GOP to end the Republican civil war, in order for us to be able to come together in an enlightened and bipartisan way to get things done for everyday Americans.


BASH: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, I really appreciate you coming on this morning.

JEFFRIES: Thank you.

BASH: The Israeli flag is flying across Europe, as the world weighs what comes next for Israel.

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, will join me next about what he's learning about the attacks and the House Republicans' messy path forward.


BASH: We're looking at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany lit up last night in blue and white in solidarity with Israel.

Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Israel is digging in for a long and grinding war.


My next guest is promising American aid. The question is, how quickly will Congress be able to deliver?

Here with me now is Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul.

Thank you for joining me.

You have been to this region many times. Have you spoken with anybody there about the attack? What can you tell us?


I have been to the Gaza border many times. There are tunnels that go into Gaza, Hamas tunnels. And the civilians that live there are always terrorized by balloons that have bombs attached to them or fires. Also, they have drones that fly into their homes and videotape them.

So it's not going out struggle for them. And, sadly, I just got a text from this beautiful woman who toured us around the kibbutz in Gaza. Ms. Aza (ph) is her name, and her parents were killed yesterday in this massacre. So it's real.

It's just -- it's such a tragedy to hear about this. As the secretary said, this is not about armies going to war against each other. It's really an act of terrorism and invasion of Israel, with terrorists kidnapping children, killing people indiscriminately.

And, unfortunately, it's just going to be a long, drawn-out struggle, because they're going to have to go house to house in Gaza clearing the houses. They can't just indiscriminately bomb the homes and the buildings in Gaza.

BASH: No, no question about that.

And given what you just said, how worried are you that this is going to become a full-blown war, not just in this area, in Gaza and Israel, but in the broader Middle East, in fact, other nations like Hezbollah or even the Taliban might get involved?

MCCAUL: Well, and I have seen indications that the Taliban wants to come to liberate Jerusalem, in their words, to fight the Zionists. It's very concerning.

And Hezbollah to the north, they have 100,000 rockets in Lebanon. And so we don't want this to escalate, obviously. I think that's why the diplomacy is very important right now between Egypt, Jordan, surrounding nations, even talking to the Saudis and Arab nations to try to bring this to an end, because we don't want to see it escalate.

We do know that Iran is behind this. They have financed this every step of the way. And they have trained these terrorists. This must have been planned for months to strike on the 50th anniversary of Yom Kippur, the war in 1973. And that's very evident.

I'm also concerned about the $6 billion in lifted sanctions that have now gone into Iran. I don't think it played a part in this event, but it certainly could play a part in any future terror activities.

BASH: Well, you heard Secretary Blinken make very clear just on that. I have other follow-ups to some of the things you just revealed.

But on the $6 billion in frozen money that Iran had that the U.S. is going to unfreeze, it hasn't happened yet, he argued that there are guarantees and it is traceable that it will only be used for humanitarian assistance and that this is something similar, maybe not at this scale, but something similar to what the Trump administration did.

MCCAUL: Right.

If I were doing this, I would send humanitarian aid from South Korea, rather than wiring cash to Doha, and then trusting the ayatollah with that cash.

We heard from the president of Iran. He's very clear in his words that: I'm going to do whatever I want with that money. I believe his words. I'm not real sanguine about this so-called money

transfer, laundering operation through Doha. The fidelity of that seems to be a little uncertain. The JCPOA was half-a-billion, and this is $6 billion in exchange for five hostages. That's about a billion dollars per blue passport.

BASH: Yes.

MCCAUL: I'm worried about that kind of money in the hands of the largest terror sponsor in the world.

BASH: Yes. And just to reiterate what the secretary of state said, that there's a lot of misinformation out there about this money.

What you said about the Taliban, sir, what information do you have that the Taliban is actually planning to get involved and planning an attack of their own when it comes to Israel?

MCCAUL: Well, my hope is that they can't make it to Jerusalem. But we have seen through their postings that the intent and the desire is there.


If we have a call for jihadism in Jerusalem, that's what really concerns me. I think, as it stands right now, the Israeli military capability far outweighs Hamas, and they can take care of this problem. But it will take time to go house to house.

But if this lights up into a larger sort of war on jihad -- or jihadist war against the Zionists, if you will, that's what always keeps everybody up at night. I don't want to see it escalate to that point.

BASH: Can you and your fellow lawmakers provide more congressional aid to Israel when you don't have a speaker of the House?

MCCAUL: Well, it's not ideal.

It wasn't my idea to oust the speaker. I thought it was dangerous. I look at the world and all the threats that are out there, and what kind of message are we sending to our adversaries when we can't govern, when we're dysfunctional, when we don't even have a speaker of the House?

I mean, how does Chairman Xi in China look at that when he says democracy doesn't work? How does the ayatollah look at this, knowing that we cannot function properly? And I think it sends a terrible message.

Now, with respect to funding, we have appropriated $3.3 billion in foreign military financing that is available to the president through a drawdown. He can draw down that authority. But I -- we have to get a speaker elected this week, so we can get things on the floor, like replenishing the Iron Dome, get a resolution that Chairman -- or Ranking Member Meeks and I have been working on, bipartisan resolution, condemning Hamas for what they have done to Israel.

We want to get that on the floor by unanimous consent, whether or not we have a speaker in place, because I think we cannot wait.

BASH: Yes.

MCCAUL: We have to get that message out as soon as possible.

BASH: Well, to do that, you and your fellow Republicans will have to coalesce in a way that has been very difficult to do since you took the majority in January.

Who will you support? Will you support Jim Jordan?

MCCAUL: Yes, we're going to have a candidate forum on Tuesday. And my delegation will be making its decision after that candidate forum.

But we have to move quickly on this. We cannot paralyze democracy, especially when we have these hot spots all over the world. And again, Dana, I just worry about the messaging that we're sending to the rest of the world and specifically our adversaries.

BASH: Are one of the two candidates, Jim Jordan or Steve Scalise, going to be the next speaker?

MCCAUL: I believe so.

I think the concern is, can they get to the floor and they get the requisite votes to pass? So, you remember, with Kevin McCarthy, it took 15 ballots. I don't think any of us want to go through that again. I think we're ready to unify as a conference, unify around one speaker, and not have the civil war, as was mentioned, disrupt the legislative process.

And we're just in too dangerous of a time right now to be playing games with national security, and I think that's what I worry about the most.

BASH: Just last question. You're not ready -- can you say who you personally will support?

MCCAUL: I think either one can provide the solidarity that we need to stop these motions to vacate from hitting the floor.

BASH: Yes.

MCCAUL: And so they're both strong candidates, and we will be making our decision on Wednesday when we vote.

BASH: Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, thank you for your time this morning. I appreciate it.

MCCAUL: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: And up next, we're going to head to the Magic Wall to break down Israel's military strategy. And then: He has some sharp criticism for his fellow Republicans also

running for president, including his former boss, in the wake of the Israel attack. GOP candidate Mike Pence is coming up.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION, as we follow the unfolding war in the Middle East.

I want to go to retired Major General Spider Marks at the Magic Wall to help us with some context -- General.


What we see right now is the area that's been under attack is this area right here. As we can see, this is Gaza. And by way of context, there have been a number of references to the '73 war, which really was a conventional fight that took place here, and then Israel was saved up in this area.

But what we're looking at right now is this area specifically in the vicinity of Gaza where the various engagements have taken place. There has been a number of engagements. There have been close to 500 casualties. What the -- what Hamas did, which is quite unique in this case, number one, it's a terrorist attack, but they used all manner of synchronized elements of warfare in order to achieve this surprise attack.

What they did is, they tried to do some amphibious assaults. Those were picked up by the Israeli navy. They also did a number of drone attacks that came in, and in excess of 2,000 rockets were fired in all of these locations, which was completely a surprise to the Israelis, certainly on the 50th anniversary of that Yom Kippur War back in '73.

BASH: And, General, this was a massive intelligence failure on the part of the Israelis, perhaps the United States too. What went wrong?

MARKS: Yes, I think it's a number of things.

First of all, Iran supports Hamas, clearly. We need to underline that very clearly and not talk around it. And what took place, obviously, Hamas has been able to achieve tremendous support from Iran, and the planning for this probably took place over the course of years.

Israel exercised some tremendous restraint back in May of '21. You're not going to see that element of restraint here because of the amount of support and the amount of damage that has been -- taken place, and the confidence that Hamas now has.

I don't know that this is going to expand any further, but what we're going to see is fighting in Gaza that will be quite extensive.

BASH: Thank you so much, General Marks. I really appreciate that. And the war in Israel, as we just heard, is prompting a lot of

concern. It's also revealing a split among Republican candidates who want to be president.


Let's talk to one of them. Here with me now is former Vice President Mike Pence.

Thank you so much for joining me.


BASH: How worried are you that this could turn into a broader war that pulls in other countries in the region?

PENCE: Well, first, I want to condemn this massive and unprovoked terrorist attack by Hamas against our most cherished ally, Israel.

I mean, to hear the stories to -- my wife and I have been to Sderot, a beautiful community that has never really been free from terrorist impact, as Chairman McCaul just said. But nothing on this scale for 50 years has happened.

And I think now is the time for all of us to speak with one voice and say that America stands with Israel, and not only say that we will provide them with the resources and the means, but also that we will stand with them through the difficult days ahead.

I think the fact that the American Embassy in Jerusalem initially issued a call for restraint that we have heard some moral equivalency. Look, Israel has got to be given the support from the United States and countries around the world to crush Hamas and to defend themselves in this moment.

And I think it's extremely important that we send that message that we will stand with you today. We will make sure that Israel has the resources to defend themselves, that the United States will send a message to countries around the world that they need to stand down and let Israel do what it needs to do to end this terrorist threat against them emerging from Gaza or anywhere else -- anyone else in Israel.

BASH: I'm not sure if you heard earlier in the program. The secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told me that there are missing and dead Americans as part of these terror attacks.

So, the question is whether or not you -- if you were in the Oval Office right now, what would you do given that situation? And these are reported dead and missing Americans.

PENCE: Well, I -- I'd want answers.

But I want to make sure that we're putting into Israel's hands the ability to go and do the hard work that needs to be done. It was back in the Bush administration when they turned over Gaza to Hamas. I knew that would be a disaster then. It has been an utter historic failure.

But in the wake of this unprecedented terrorist attack, land, sea, and air coming out of Gaza City, it's just time for us to give Israel what they need to hunt down -- to save those hostages, but also to recognize, Dana, I mean, look, I just -- I know the way that world and global opinion turns so quickly against Israel.

And I just think now, more than ever, we got a call on this president, we got a call on the Congress to make it clear that America stands with Israel.

BASH: I want to focus sort of on this strain here. I want to focus on what you had to say about some of your fellow Republicans.

You said that this is what happens when leaders in the Republican Party signal Americans' retreat as leader of the free world. Weakness arouses evil.

Are you talking about your former running mate?

PENCE: Well, I am, but let me begin where we ought to start.

I mean, that disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan has emboldened the enemies of freedom around the world. And now war is raging in Eastern Europe. And President Joe Biden's kowtowing for the last two-and-a- half years to the mullahs in Iran, lifting sanctions, begging them to get back in the Iran nuclear deal, and then paying $6 billion in a ransom for hostages, I think set the conditions for this unprecedented terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel.

But I also believe this is what happens when we have leading voices like Donald Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Ron DeSantis signaling retreat from America's role as leader of the free world. I -- look, what happened in Ukraine was an unprovoked invasion by Russia. What happened this weekend was an unprovoked invasion by Hamas into Israel.

And I really believe now, more than ever, both the debate within the Republican Party and the debate within America, is whether or not we're going to once again stand without apology as the leader of the free world, as the arsenal of democracy.

The heartbreaking images coming out of both of these theaters of operations remind us that America is the indispensable leader of the free world. And if I'm president of the United States, we will lead from American strength.


BASH: When it comes to Iran, I should say that there are some really intense sanctions imposed on Iran. And the administration notes -- and they're right -- this didn't come out of the U.S. Treasury. These are unfrozen -- or they will be unfrozen Iranian funds, which hasn't even happened yet.

But I want to ask you about the praise that you...


PENCE: But, Dana -- but it's all about the posture. Our administration isolated Iran as never before.

We put punitive sanctions on them. We got out of the Iran nuclear deal. And from day one of the Biden administration, they have pursued a policy of appeasement toward the mullahs in Iran. And there is no question in my mind that Iran is behind, has subsidized, has approved, and in the last day has even applauded this extraordinary terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel.

What we need to be doing is have leadership in the White House that will once again bring a maximum pressure campaign on Iran, isolate them as never before. And when you see an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, when you see that China brokers that agreement, it really is evidence that there's a vacuum of American leadership on the world stage that China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are going to make an effort to fill.

If I'm president of the United States -- and that's the debate here, whether we're going to shrink from our role as leader of the free world or whether we're going to lean in this moment in Israel and also in Eastern Europe to say that we will not, we will not tolerate violence against authoritarian regimes, against terrorist regimes.

We're going to stand strong with our allies and stand up to our enemies.

BASH: Former Vice President Mike Pence, we are out of time.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning.

PENCE: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: And thank you for joining us.

I will be right back here at 11:00 a.m. Eastern for two more hours of STATE OF THE UNION. We have a lot more people to talk to, including Israel's strategic affairs minister, Ron Dermer, a Republican congressman who is furious at his colleagues, and much, much more, including going to our excellent reporters on the ground in Israel.

Stay with us.

Fareed Zakaria is picking up right now.