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State of the Union

Israeli Security Cabinet Declares State Of War; Israeli Official: More Than 600 Israelis Killed In Hamas Attacks; Israeli Official Confirms Americans Among Hostages In Gaza; IDF: Significant Number Of Israelis Being Held Hostage In Gaza; Lawler: Republicans Need To Reinstated McCarthy As Speaker. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired October 08, 2023 - 11:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Terror in Israel. A scramble to respond to a brutal attack by Hamas terrorists against innocent civilians.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: We will win this war, but the price is unbearable.

BASH: Could it tip the Middle East into chaos? Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs, Ron Dermer, is next.

And surprise attack. The American president pledges unwavering support for Israel.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not ever fail to have their back.

BASH: But how will it change his plans for a path forward in the Middle East?

And impasse? Chaos over the speaker's gavel paralyzes a U.S. Congress ready and willing to aid Israelis. Republican Senator Mark Wayne Mullin and Congressman Mike Lawler are coming up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the STATE OF OUR UNION is, praying for a quick end to a new war.

We begin with breaking news. Israel's ambassador to the United States says dozens of Americans are among the Hamas hostages taken since the explosion of war in Israel. The State Department is closely tracking those reports. Here is what the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, told me.


ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: 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: Coming up, we are going to ask a top Israeli official about those reports. And, of course, the broader reality on the ground there with hundreds of Israelis killed and many, many Israelis taken hostages. We're talking about more than 500 innocent men, women, children, grandmothers, sisters, mothers, husbands, brothers. It's left desperate families seeking information on their missing relatives, stolen from their homes, and from their streets by Hamas terrorists.

Today, Israel's cabinet formally declared a state of war. We're going to start here with General Spider-Markz, who is at the magic wall to give us a sense of where things are geographically and where the fighting not only is, but may end up. General?

JAMES MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Dana. I think it's important as this has evolved. What we're seeing now is the predominance of the fighting taking place in these areas identified. Realize, of course, that there have been a number of evacuations. Israelis have demanded that there be an evacuation of homes. Clearly, they're taking -- that's either taking place based on their own decisions or based on the level of fighting and where the Israelis plan on conducting operations, and they want to minimize, certainly, they want to minimize casualties on the Israeli side.

But what we're really seeing is this conflict now has completely grown and what is going -- what we're going to see over the course of time will be an incursion into Gaza at different locations.

Bear in mind, Gaza is about two plus million people. About 130 square miles, densely populated. And what Hamas does is they co-locate. They connect their command and control structure with the civilian population. So you buy a cup of coffee here in the booth next door, and you've got a command and control location.

So targeting becomes very, very important. Obviously, Israel knows how to target very precisely. I just simply don't know how this escalates, whether there will be any type of restraint. Of course, there will be, but I don't know the extent of that restraint that the Israelis will apply as they go after these Hamas targets.

BASH: General, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate it. It's nice and important to see the picture there of this very volatile, but very small geographical region that we're talking about.


Let's go to that region. CNN's Nic Robertson is in Sderot, Israel. He is talking to Israeli officers who are searching for hostages. Civilian hostages.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: And they're are also searching around here for infiltrators as well. There was one man from Gaza picked up in this town this morning. Others, a group of four Hamas militants picked up in another town, not far from here. And literally in the -- in the couple of minutes as the show was coming on the air here, Dana, there were incoming -- there were incoming missiles from Gaza. The Iron Dome system -- defense system kicked off. There were intercepts in the sky above us there.

And the thing about Sderot, and this is something that everyone who lives here knows. When the sirens go off and the missiles are coming at Sderot, there's literally a couple of seconds to take cover because the distance is so short. If that happens, we'll move. Let's hope we're OK here for right now.

But to the point of the hostages, one of the IDF Defense spokesman was here in Sderot talking with me earlier today. He told me about the carnage in the town. He told me about how just yesterday afternoon people were being pulled out of this town, taken across the border there by Hamas.

And I said to him, how are you going to get these people back? He said, we'll do anything. This is how he explained it.


DORON SPIELMAN, IDF SPOKESMAN: What I can tell you is that we're not going to stop until we exhaust every means possible of doing so. We will not leave any person behind, and we will do anything to make that happen. That's what's changed over the last 24 hours.


ROBERTSON: So right now -- right now, I can hear jets in the sky. I've seen a helicopter over here in the last 30 seconds or so. And we were looking at a drone. I can still see it up in the sky above me there. All that military effort is focused on making sure that that border fence is secure, that no one else from Hamas is getting in.

Any across the border fence in Israel proper are found and neutralized, captured or killed. That's the operation here at the moment. And the dusk is falling, and typically these are the times when we'll see more military activity pick up. And I'm also hearing explosions in the background as well here right now, Dana.

BASH: We could certainly hear that jet flying overhead. Before I let you go, I just want to underscore one of the key points that you're making here, which is, Nic, that there is a belief that there are still Hamas terrorists inside Israel looking to harm or capture additional civilians as we speak?

That's what the Israeli Defense Forces believes it's up against at the moment. Are they those who came across and laid low after yesterday morning? Or are there others still trying to get through the fence in other places where Israel isn't expecting it? I think this is why we're seeing so much drone activity to get that intense overview.

At times, we've seen several drones operating in the same area. But absolutely, the concern is that Hamas is still trying to get across the border to either capture or kill Israeli citizens and try to create havoc, create more havoc and create that sense of vulnerability. Because that's what Hamas succeeded in doing yesterday.

They created a sense of vulnerability in communities like this here. There are people in the houses here today who are literally hiding barricaded inside with Hamas outside trying to get in yesterday. That's a sense of vulnerability. A type of vulnerability people here haven't felt before.

They've known about the missiles and rockets, the bomb shelters. Just literally, I can see the next one just down the street here. That all around people here know to run to those for shelter. What they've not been had any experience or real training for is what to do when Hamas is banging on your front door with a weapon. That's the new -- that's the new fear. And Hamas is trying to build on that by trying to penetrate more even today.

BASH: Terrifying, which is why they are called terrorists. Thank you so much for that reporting, Nic. Appreciate it.

I want to now talk to an emergency worker in Israel, Rafael Poch, who volunteers with United Hatzalah. Thank you so much for joining me.

Look, we know that the job that you have because of the reality of terror attacks inside Israel is more common than certainly than it should be. So you deal with horrors that happen to civilians a lot, but nothing on the scale, I'm guessing that you've seen in the last 24 or 48 hours.


RAPHAEL POCH, UNITED HATZALAH OF ISRAEL: Thank you for having me. Yes. The scale is really the equation here. We've faced rocket attacks and conflicts with Gaza before. But something like this, the scale of what we're seeing right now is not something we haven't really seen in about 50 years since the Yom Kippur War, where there's a threat, a physical threat of like enemy forces actually entering Israeli territory. And that's something which is new to us, you know, who passed a few generations.

And we've -- all of our responders go through a lot of training, especially with mass casualty incident training, which we've conducted over the many years. But this is something that's definitely new. We've had a number of our first responders come under attack.

Earlier today, one of our ambulances sustained fire while it was treating various injured people. Yesterday, one of our first responders, Rabbi in his -- in his everyday life in the city of Sderot, was trying to reach a police officer to try and save his life after the police officer had been injured. And he was shot. So there's really been no deterrence against the Hamas terrorists from taking aim at first responders as well. As a matter of fact, they seem to be doing it a little bit purposely.

And we've got a number of first responders injured, unfortunately. That's something that's really horrific to see on any time, but specifically in this instance, even more so added with the tragedy and human tragedy that's taking place across the country.

BASH: And you talked about that this is not the kind of thing that Israel has seen in almost 50 years to the day since the attack on Yom Kippur in 1973. The difference between that and now, one of the many differences, is that it was a big army against their army, largely. And now, civilians are being sought out, targeted, killed, kidnapped.

When it comes to the civilians you are treating, can you talk about the kinds of injuries that you are seeing?

POCH: Injuries range anything to everything from gunshot wounds to stab wounds, people getting injured running for shelter, people being attacked physically in either by hand, by blunt objects, a lot of times gunshots to various different parts of the body.

It's been so prevalent. We've treated -- yesterday alone, we treated about a thousand people. Today, we've treated several hundred more. And it was so intense in such a small area that we actually ran out of medical supplies and had to resupply from the main logistics center.

So currently, we're trying to resupply because we've used most of our reserve medical equipment. We're sent to the south, both for our teams. We've also been supplying the IDF to an extent from their medical units who were working hand-in-hand together with in staging areas as both civilians and military personnel are being brought out of the conflict regions. We're treating them and then medivacking them to hospitals for further care, either getting them out by ambulance or getting them out by helicopters. And the volunteers are working non- stop. People are doing 18 hour, 20 hour shifts in order to provide as much medical coverage as possible.

We set up a medical clinic down. A number of medical clinics actually down in the Gaza periphery, which are treating both civilians and military personnel who are injured. And we've -- we're getting to the point where we're very quickly running out of supplies. So we have to restock continuously and that's been very, very taxing on the whole organization as a whole.

Obviously, we're pulling equipment and bandages, gauze, tourniquets from other places in the country as needed. But we're going to need to resupply those as well because there's a whole home front that still needs our services. We usually respond to over 2,000 medical emergencies day and a regular day throughout Israel. So this is just on top of all of that.

BASH: Well, on behalf of the world, thank you so much for what you do and for what everybody who works with you at Hatzalah does. And we wish you -- we wish you luck and good health and safety, of course. Thank you for joining us.

POCH: And thank you for taking the time. Thank you so much.

BASH: And the Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs, Ron Dermer will join us ahead.

Plus, a lawmaker who is furious at his own party. Republican Congressman Mike Lawler, on how his colleagues, he says, are hurting America's response to Israel's crisis and what he thinks they need to do to fix it, coming up.



BASH: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE UNION. As Israel formally declares war, I want to bring in Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs, Ron Dermer. Thank you so much for joining me.

Condolences probably don't even -- definitely don't even go as far as they could or should. But I want to start with what is currently happening on the ground and the ongoing fighting in the south of Israel. We have seen and heard fire also being exchanged in the north with Hezbollah forces there. There are still apparently terrorists in your country.

What can you tell us about the current situation?

RON DERMER, ISRAELI MINISTER OF STRATEGIC AFFAIRS: We still have to make sure that all the terrorists, as you say, within our borders are taken care of. There were a number of fronts and that's ongoing since this morning. We also had an attack from the north, as you mentioned, from Hezbollah.


And we're in a very, very tense moment right now. We had a horrific attack, which I know that CNN and other stations have been reporting on for the last 24 hours yesterday. We have many, many hundreds and the numbers, Dana, will keep going up.

We just want to understand that the American people to understand what happened. We are well north of 600 people who have been killed. It will probably be more hundreds, several hundred more. Put that in American terms. Israel is a population of about nine million people. America has a population of about 350 million people. It's about 40 times bigger than the Israeli population. So when you lose a thousand people in Israel in one day, it's like 40,000 Americans being killed in one day. That's about 10 9/11s. That's what happened in Israel yesterday.

The difference then, and I remember the feeling that I had, is somebody born and raised in America on 9/11, that's the exact feeling I had yesterday as a minister in the Israeli government. The sense of shock, the sense of outrage, of utter disgust. I think that's what you see across Israel.

There is a difference, Dana. Then your enemy was thousands of miles away. You had to send your troops thousands of miles away to deal with that. And you didn't know exactly where they were. You were looking for them in caves and mountains in Tora Bora and other places.

Here, we know exactly where our enemy is. And we're going to have to take action to exact such a massive price for them that they, every terror organization in Gaza, and frankly every terror organization in the Middle East and around the world, knows that this action is totally unacceptable. And that every civil society, every civilized society, not just free societies, should stand with Israel.

I'm very appreciative. And the prime minister is very appreciative of President Biden's clear statement yesterday. I just came from a conversation that they had just a few minutes ago, his unequivocal support. We've heard unequivocal support from many, many leaders around the world, particularly European leaders, and obviously the United States bipartisan support in Congress.

We hope that support will stay just as strong in the days ahead when we have to do what we have to do in order to restore security and also to exact such a massive price from this terror organization that they will rule this day.

This was a very dark day for Israel tomorrow. Hamas, the period, that's coming up, is going to be the darkest period in its history.

BASH: I'm going to certainly follow up on that and try to get a little bit more about what you mean and what that will look like.

You talked, Sir, about what you say are 600 -- more than 600 dead. What about the hostages? Let's start with Israeli hostages. Do you know how many there are at this point on the other side of the border in Gaza?

DERMER: We don't have the exact number because we don't know exactly how many dead people who we're not in touch with. I think that will take several more hours to figure out the exact numbers, but I think it's scores of hostages. I can tell you there's also American hostages as part of that number as well.

I don't want to get into a specific number, but these are women, they're children, they're elderly, they're Holocaust survivors. This is sick. It is a savage attack. And I would hope -- I know that I didn't hear that coming from the United States, but I heard it coming from other countries around the world. This calls for de-escalation.

Imagine that other countries would tell the American people after 9/11, after 10 9/11s that they want de-escalation. Israel is going to have to do whatever it has to do to restore security and make sure that no one will even think about doing something like this, a savage, brutal attack against civilization.

Every single country should stand with Israel in these critical days, because I have to tell you something, Dana, I've been through rounds of this before. I've been in media during rounds of this before, and I'm not accusing CNN of anything and certainly not you of anything, but there have been times where the terrorists have used the media, when you see pictures of even the most effective terror action that we can take. We can target the terrorists all we want, but there will be civilian casualties, and then everybody turns, and the terrorists are celebrating.

Don't let this happen this time. We have all of us. All the civilized nations in the world have got to send a message to Hamas and what they did yesterday is not going to pay. They're going to lose --

BASH: Yes.

DERMER: -- from what they did yesterday. The most important thing, and I would ask for a call. I would ask for a call. For every leader in the United States and elsewhere, a clear and unequivocal call to free the hostages. Free the hostages full stop.

BASH: Assuming that doesn't happen, my understanding, and please correct me if I'm wrong, is that Israel has never attempted a hostage rescue operation as complicated as this one would be with untold number of Israelis being held in Gaza.


Is a military operation to free them a realistic possibility?

DERMER: Well, first of all, just you know history, and you know it very well. In July 4th, 1976, Israel actually flew thousands of miles away. And its soldiers, the Prime Minister, lost his own brother, who was leading that operation in Jonathan Netanyahu in frame all the terrorists in Entebbe.

So what Israel is prepared to do to defend its citizens and defend its people, I think the world knows. I think they're going to know a lot more about it in the days ahead. I don't want to get into tactical decisions right now. We're very aware of what we're facing. I just will call on the world to make a clear and unequivocal statement to free the hostages.

BASH: I just --

DERMER: Free the hostages and not allow this thing to happen.

BASH: I was going to ask you about what happened in 1976 because of the fact that the Prime Minister's brother was killed during that hostage mission, hostage rescue mission. You spend a lot of time with him. I'm assuming that's going through his mind right now.

DERMER: Listen, the Prime Minister is our longest serving Prime Minister, about 16 years. He's one of the longest serving Prime Ministers of the Democratic world. Unfortunately, he's dealt with many security crisis over the years.

Israel's in very good hands, very steady hands. He's been very prudent throughout his history with the use of force. And he has to use the force that is necessary to achieve the objective. And the objective for us is we must cripple the capacity of Hamas and terror organizations in Gaza. We also have to crush their spirit. They have to understand that this thing will not be accepted in the community of nations.

We live in a very dangerous place. We were -- we can be very -- we can go from great strength to great vulnerability very quick. We rely on deterrence. We have to send a message to all the terror organizations, to all the people thinking that they're going to destroy the state of Israel, that they're not going to achieve their goal.

And, again, I'm employing the media in the days ahead to stand strongly by Israel's side. When Israel is a victim, everybody can be unequivocal in their support. They have to be unequivocal now in Israel being a victor. We have to achieve victory in its favor.

BASH: Minister Dermer -- Minister Dermer, I want to just ask a quick follow-up about something you mentioned about Americans. This is something that your ambassador to the UN also said this morning.

Can you give any more information about not only American hostages, but Americans killed?

DERMER: Unfortunately, I can't. You know, we have a lot of dual citizens in Israel. I suspect there are several, but we're still trying to sort through all of this information after this horrific surprise attack. And we'll make sure to put that information out so that the loved ones of these people who were killed and who were held hostage, they know as quickly as possible.

BASH: I want to ask you about something that I'm hearing from a fair number of people who are contacting me from inside Israel, friends and others, who are asking why your government was not better prepared for this kind of attack. I mean, Israelis, obviously, you pride yourselves on intelligence and on the kind of preparations you need to be in such a dangerous neighborhood. Why didn't that happen in this case?

DERMER: Well, you know, there's going to be a lot of questions that everybody will have to ask and their right to demand those answers. This, frankly, Dana, is not the time. We're in a war. We have to fight it, and we have to win it. And then there'll be a time to go through all of these questions and to make sure that we learn the lessons of the past and we don't make those mistakes in the future.

BASH: The other question is whether or not your government, the Netanyahu government, was distracted because of the domestic fights going on very, very public fights going on about the judiciary and others.

DERMER: No. I can tell you as a member of the security cabinet, we weren't distracted at all. We have our eye on the ball. Our focus was mainly on Iran. And remind you, Hamas' military budget, about 93 percent of it, those of the last numbers that I saw came -- comes from Iran.

We are trying to achieve a historic breakthrough with Saudi Arabia that you know about as well, that we've been actively engaged with the Biden administration and they're trying to create a deal with Saudi Arabia that I think would change the course of the history for the better.

BASH: Is that still viable?


DERMER: Yeah, I think it's viable. You know how it's going to be viable, Dana, if Israel wins. Because nobody makes peace with the weak in the Middle East. They take peace with the strong. It's our strength that will bring our neighbors, our Arab neighbors closer. And believe me, none of these Arab neighbors put aside everything they said in their official statements that come out.

Believe me, these countries who are partners in the region and who are forces for civilization, who want to move their countries into the 21st Century, they all want to see Israel win and defeat these terrorists.

It was an awful day and a horrific day for Israel. I think it's a horrific day for them. Israel, a strong Israel is good for them. A weak Israel is bad for them. And I think one of the reasons that Hamas did this action, not just in their heinous effort to kill Jews, you know, they're a genocidal terror organization. It's not just that they're a terror organization, which is bad enough. It's committed to Israel's destruction, which is bad enough. They're committed to the murder of Jews worldwide. That's in their charter.

So Hamas wants to kill Jews, that goes without saying. They also would like to kill the Saudi deal. That goes without saying. And they're also trying to do everything they can to free all the terrorists that Israel holds in our prisons. That's what they'd like to achieve. And we have to ensure that they do not reach their goals.

Our -- and I think that means to protect Jews, I think it's to advance a historic peace with Saudi Arabia and to ensure that those are terrorists who are out in prison.

BASH: While, I have you, I just want to ask you a couple more questions. Frankly, that I'm getting from citizens in Israel. One is, where was the IDF in these places in the South? And one question was whether they were too concentrated in the West Bank?

DERMER: I'm not going to get into recriminations. I have faith and confidence in the people who are working day in and day out to defend Israel, when a lot of the stories are told, they will see the bravery of many of the IDF troops who rushed against hundreds of terrorists there and killed many of them and saved many lives.

There were police officers who rushed in to this wave of terrorism. You probably saw the pictures of trucks, of these fighters that were going and slaughtering whole communities. We had a dance a festival of where you had a thousand, two thousand young people and a couple hundred were murdered and were just mowed down.

We have Kibbutzim where you have maybe two-thirds of the population who were murdered. So our soldiers and our police officers and our citizens, many of them showed tremendous bravery. And this is not the time to finger point. This is the time to unite the country and to defeat our enemies. We will have many, many -- we will have many opportunities to ask these whole -- all of these questions. But right now, I think the people of Israel are united.

There was another attack, a surprise attack on America in Pearl Harbor. And you remember what FDR. I told the American people that they're going to see the righteous might of the United States of America. Our enemies are going to see the righteous might of the State of Israel.

BASH: One last forward-looking question, you talk, of course, just as American officials do, about how much Iran supports, supplies, backs Hamas, the Hamas terrorists who did these heinous acts and are currently doing these heinous acts. Our strikes, Israeli strikes against Iran on the table?

DERMER: Listen, Iran is a country that, as you know, is committed openly to Israel's destruction. They call for our destruction. They work for our destruction every day. The Prime Minister has made clear on many occasions that he will do whatever he has to do to prevent that regime from developing nuclear weapons. But Iran also is the supporter, as you said, of Hamas. I mentioned 93% of their military budget comes from Iran. They're a supporter of Hezbollah in the north. They're a supporter of Shia militias in Iraq. They're the supporter of the Houthis in Yemen.

They have stirred the pot throughout this region, and they are doing their best to also, just like Hamas, to kill Jews. And to potentially scuttle a potential historic breakthrough in the Middle East. There are forces of peace, and there are forces of war. Hamas and Iran are forces of war. Israel and I hope Saudi Arabia and others will rally together and become forces of peace. And maybe after this horrific day, we can look forward to many days, not only right now, which will be difficult days of restoring security, restoring deterrence of achieving victory, but ultimately that victory hopefully will lead to peace.

BASH: You mentioned that the Prime Minister has said many times that going after Iran for its nuclear capability is on the table. Are you saying now that that is also true to retaliate against Iran for supporting Hamas in this attack, maybe even to prevent further attacks inside Israel?


Well, I'm not going to get into any of these decisions. We have to be prepared at all times, Dana, to defend ourselves against the threats we face. We face threats in the south. We face threats in our northern border with Hezbollah. As you mentioned earlier, we were attacked today. At any moment, you could see an escalation there. We face threats in Judea, Samaria, and the West Bank. And Iran is doing everything it can to fill these areas with weapons and with money in order to attack Israel.

And as you know, we have a history of dealing with those, dealing with our enemies who try to harm us. And that we will continue those policies in the future. That's all I'm prepared to say.

BASH: Understood. Thank you so much for spending time. And we want to reiterate our, not just thoughts and prayers, but disgust with what has happened with all of these civilians killed, torn from their homes and from their streets and taken hostage as well. And we really appreciate you shedding light on what's happening there and what might happen to come. Thank you.

DERMER: Thank you. Thank you.

BASH: And here in the U .S. Republicans in Congress are pledging their support for Israel. But with the House lacking a speaker, how long could it take to push that support forward? I'll ask two Republican lawmakers next.



BASH: Welcome back to State of the Union. Let's talk to a Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma. Thank you so much for joining me. You have been in touch with officials.


BASH: And you have been briefed. Can you let us in on what you have been told about the situation on the ground in Israel?

MULLIN: Right. We do expect it to get worse as the Israelis go in and take back territory that Hamas has taken and is currently in control of. We expect the numbers to rise. As we know, you already been told this. We have over -- we know 600 deaths. We expect that number to rise. We know there's over 2,000 wounded. We can't get an accurate number on the AMCITS, which are American citizens. We use the term AMCITS with. How many are actually held hostage? We know there's over 100 confirmed hostages that Hamas is currently holding. We do know there's going to be some Americans that have been killed. We just don't know what that number is yet.

And we're trying to work with the Israeli army and trying to figure out how we can assist to make sure we get our AMCITS out from the hostage situation. You know, one thing I do want to talk about this is we partner with Israel to make sure that they're protected from terrorist activities like this that Hamas is also sponsored by Iran. And we do that by having several defense systems put in, including David's Sling and then the Iron Dome. We know that there was over 5,000 rockets that were -- that were fired. And so far, the report is that the Iron Dome intercepted 90% of them.

So can you imagine the carnage that would have took place if we wouldn't have partnered with a strong ally we have in the Middle East with Israel? This number would be even more catastrophic than what it really is.

BASH: I just want to clarify something that you just said, you said that your understanding based on the briefing that you've gotten there are about a hundred civilian hostages or just hostages in general.


BASH: You're talking about total, not Americans? MULLIN: Yes. You know, yes ma'am. I'm talking about total. We -- we're not -- we can't get an accurate number on the AMCITS that are held hostage. We do believe there are some that's caught up in that. Just the same thing we can't -- we can't get the accurate number how many have been killed by this terrorist activity.

BASH: What are you hearing about any signs, signals that maybe this was coming from intelligence in Israel and in the U.S.?

MULLIN: Well, as of right now, we haven't really got briefed that -- that this scale of an attack was happening. We knew that the alliance between Russia with Iran, with North Korea and with China was wanting to focus on our strong allies. And what I mean by that is you have China that is taking a strong look, obviously at Taiwan where we have said multiple times that we're going to stand with.

You see North Korea supplying weapons to Iran, that's supplying weapons to terrorist active groups just like Hamas. And to Russia which obviously is attacking our friends in Ukraine. And they're trying to figure out the resolve of the United States because of our disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, they're testing it.

You know, Reagan said, peace through strength, unfortunately through the Biden administration we haven't seen that. And so either we want to see, are we really going to stand with our allies? You see in Ukraine where we have the Budapest Memorandum from 1994 that said that if Ukraine were to give up their nuclear weapons, we would stand with them. If in the case they were invaded specifically by Russia, right now they're wanting to say, are we really going to stand with our allies?

You see them attacking Israel which is a very strong ally of ours. Iran is directly funding this through Hamas. They want to say, are we really going to stand with our allies? And you're already seeing some that are saying that we need to de-escalate.


None of us would be looking to de-escalate if they were to attack L.A., if they were to attack New York again, if they were to attack Miami or Washington, D.C. We would be doing the exact same thing that Israel is doing right now.

BASH: Right.

MULLIN: So the last thing we should be saying is de-escalate. And so what we're seeing right now is through the intelligence community, is we knew that there was going to be a coordinated effort to test or resolve. We had no idea it was going to be to this magnitude.

BASH: Understood. The U.S. is currently without an ambassador to Israel, President Biden nominated former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to the role. That happened back in September. Considering what you are talking about, the crisis happening there, Democrats want to move this nomination very quickly and confirm him. Will you support that? MULLIN: Well, I haven't talked to him personally yet. I do feel like

before I'm ever, ever will nominate anybody, I want to have a personal conversation with him. I was in Israel just a few weeks ago, actually with my whole family. We sat down and spoke with the DCM and the team that's on ground. They have a very good grasp on what's going on. A very dedicated to the partnership we have with Israel, and the United States. So I don't feel like having a political appointed ambassador is causing us any negative results or any slowdown on the response that we have here.

BASH: This situation is unfolding as the House of Representatives, where you served before the Senate, is completely paralyzed.

MULLIN: Right.

BASH: And it is going to be that way until the House selects a new speaker. How critical is it that that happens immediately?

MULLIN: Well, Dana, first of all, this should never happen. We shouldn't have ever allowed eight Republicans to join 208 Democrats to oust the Republican Speaker for no other reason than just a Banditti towards him.

Second of all, it has completely stopped the ability for the House to do their work. We can no longer continue the investigation into Hunter Biden or the impeachment inquiry or even get started with the funding until we get another speaker elected. That is the utmost important thing to take place right now.

BASH: Right.

MULLIN: I really do hope that the House can come together. I think it's going to be very difficult, even though we have two candidates out there, Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan, who's running for the Speakership. We'll see if they can get the 218 on the floor. There's a lot of hard feelings that took place with McCarthy. And a lot of us feel like he should still be in place. McCarthy's a very, very dear friend of mine.

And what happened shouldn't have taken place, but if it is, then let's move forward and get this country back on track so we can make sure that we can show a true bond between America and our allies.

BASH: Republican Senator Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.

MULLIN: Dana, thank you for having me on.

BASH: Much more on the terror on the ground in Israel and the chaos here at home in the U.S. Congress, when we come back.



BASH: Welcome back to State of the Union. Israel is at war and the U.S. House of Representatives is paralyzed by a speaker's race. My next guest is venting his frustration at hardliner colleagues, calling them idiotic and telling them to stop screwing around.

Here with me now is Republican Congressman Mike Lawler of New York. He represents one of the most heavily Jewish districts in all of the United States. Let me start there, Congressman. Are you in touch with your constituents? Obviously you're hearing from them. But any that are specifically in Israel who are in trouble?

REP. MIKE LAWLER, (R) NEW YORK: Yes. Well, we have been in touch with dozens of constituents who are in Israel currently, you know, obviously for their safety and security, I'm not going to get too specific.

But we are working with them as well as the consulate to try and get them out as quickly as possible, given the situation on the ground. You know, we want to make sure that all of our residents here in the 17th District get home as quickly as possible.

BASH: Congressman, you tweeted that the fact that this is happening while the U.S. House is without a speaker is an unmitigated shitshow and that personal grievances and petty politics are destructive to our nation and the stability of our government. Is the paralysis in the House undercutting America's ability to respond to this crisis?

LAWLER: Well, anytime you have chaos and dysfunction, it is never good for the American people. But given the situation in the Middle East with one of our closest allies in the world, it is critical that we bring this to a close expeditiously.

I believe very strongly that Kevin McCarthy is the right person to lead by the House. And so I think it is imperative, frankly, that this nonsense stop, that Kevin McCarthy be reinstated as Speaker, and that we get about the business of the American people.

I think this has been a terrible episode in the history of our politics and our government. I think it is the single most destructive thing I've ever seen someone do. And it needs to come to a close quickly.

BASH: Is that realistic to get Kevin McCarthy back in the Speaker's chair? I can tell you in my conversations with many of my colleagues that sentiment is growing. People are extremely angry and frustrated by what happened.

And I think it's incumbent upon everybody in the House of Representatives, Republicans and Democrats, to understand that events can change at a moment's notice. And we cannot be paralyzed as a House. We need to act swiftly, including increasing funding for the Iron Dome to help our strongest ally in the Middle East.

This is a critical juncture. And much like the Yom Kippur War 50 years ago. We need to make sure that they have all the resources and equipment necessary to defend themselves, to protect themselves, and protect the Israeli people. BASH: Can I just follow up? Because the majority of House Republicans

didn't want to get rid of Kevin McCarthy in the first place. I don't need to tell you that. So in order to achieve what you're saying, you need to convince at least some, half of the eight Republicans who voted last week to oust McCarthy. Are those people really invincible?

LAWLER: Frankly, I'm not sure where they stand at this point. They've proven themselves to be unwilling to work as a team. But let's remind everybody, it took 208 Democrats to join with those eight Republicans to remove a duly elected speaker.

I think it's incumbent upon everybody, given the circumstances -- given the circumstances, to recognize that it is not time to play games. It's not time to seek political advantage. It's time to do right by the American people and by our allies around the world.

BASH: Yeah.

LAWLER: Any time you have chaos and dysfunction, it is destructive and destabilizing. And given the situation in the Middle East right now, given the situation in Ukraine, there are a lot of challenges around the globe.


Not having a House Speaker is a major crisis.

BASH: Yeah, no question about that. But let's be clear. Democrats didn't make the move to oust him. It was your fellow Republicans who did it. Assuming that your call --

LAWLER: There's no question, Matt -- Matt Gaetz -- Matt Gaetz led that effort. Matt Gaetz led that effort. But let's be clear, you needed to get to the requisite number and 208 Democrats voted to do that. They can't wash their hands of this and say they had no role in it.

BASH: Would you have voted to keep a Democratic Speaker in?

LAWLER: If there was a situation parallel to this where you had 4% of the Republican caucus seeking to remove a duly elected speaker with no basis in reality or grounds for doing so, then I would have done what was right by the country, absolutely.

BASH: OK. I want to ask, assuming that your -- your call for Kevin McCarthy to be reinstated as Speaker does not happen. I want you to listen to what your former fellow Congressman Liz Cheney has said about the possibility of Republicans making Jim Jordan, the Speaker of the House.


REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING: Jim Jordan knew more about what Donald Trump had planned for January 6 that any other member of the House of Representatives. If the Republicans decide that Jim Jordan should be the Speaker of the House, there would no longer be any possible way to argue that a group of elected Republicans could be counted on to defend the Constitution.


BASH: What do you say to that? And is there any world in which you could support Jim Jordan for Speaker?

LAWLER: Look, as I just said, I think Kevin McCarthy should be reinstated as Speaker. Obviously, this is something that's going to have to be discussed within the conference. We're coming back tomorrow for these conversations to begin about what happened last week as well as the path forward.

I have made it abundantly clear to any of the prospective candidates that what is imperative to me is that we have an open and honest discussion about what happened, what the consequences of that are, what accountability looks like for those eight individuals that torpedoed the House Republican majority and undermined the conference and frankly the country and the institution of the House of Representatives. And how they intend to govern with a 221-seat majority to get to 218 votes.

BASH: So you're open to Jim Jordan?

LAWLER: That's not what I said. I said any of these prospective candidates are going to have to answer questions. And they're going to have to explain how they are going to govern in a 221-seat majority. Ultimately, it's going to take 218 Republicans to support whoever the next speaker candidate is.

And to me, and a growing sentiment within the conference, the only person that is capable of doing that is Kevin McCarthy. And so that is where I am. And obviously, you know, any of these folks seeking this spot are going to have to explain how they are going to govern and do so expeditiously.

BASH: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about a conversation I had earlier in the day on this program with the Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, about what you're discussing. Democrats and Republicans working together to elect a speaker and work together following that in a bipartisan way. Is that something that you can see yourself doing?

LAWLER: Listen, I've been one of the most bipartisan members of Congress if anybody looks at my voting record, it puts me squarely in the middle. I have worked tirelessly with my colleagues, folks like Josh Gottheimer, on critical issues, including on the state of Israel.

I think leader Jeffries, frankly, it's a little hypocritical for him to be out there talking about bipartisanship. He has proven himself not to be interested in that. He and the Democrats have funded million-dollar ad campaigns attacking folks like me in the lead-up to any potential shutdown, knowing full well that I was on the record very clearly opposing a shutdown and working tirelessly to avoid one.

The reality is the American people elected a House Republican majority to govern. As a check and balance on the Biden agenda, the reckless spending, $5 trillion in new spending in two years. Our poorest southern border, where you have millions of migrants crossing over in just two and a half years, $6 million in fact.