Return to Transcripts main page

State of the Union

U.S., Israel Grapple With Unprecedented Iranian Attack On Israeli Territory; Interview With Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL); Interview With Senator John Fetterman (D-PA); Interview With Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH); Interview With Iranian Activist Masih Alinejad. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired April 14, 2024 - 12:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Unprecedented attack. Iran fires hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel, risking a regional war.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Israel's enemies right now want to destroy Israel.

TAPPER: With Israel already fighting on two fronts, how will it respond? Florida Senator Marco Rubio joins me live.

Plus urgent push. In the wake of Iran's attack, Congress moves on aid to Israel after Republicans blocked the foreign aid package over Ukraine.

SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): Israel is being held hostage for Ukraine.

TAPPER: Will Iran's attack sway their votes? Ohio Senator J.D. Vance is here exclusively.

And fine line. President Biden condemns Iran's assault but is walking a fine line in helping an ally.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to do all we can to protect Israel's security.

TAPPER: Without getting pulled in deeper. Can the U.S. help stave off further conflict? Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman is next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

TAPPER: Hello, I'm Jake Tapper in Washington with a special live expanded edition of STATE OF THE UNION, where the state of our union is on edge.

President Biden has been meeting today with leaders of fellow G7 nations who, quote, "unanimously condemned" Iran's unprecedented attack against Israel and called for de-escalation. That's according to the European Commission president who posted the photo we just showed you a short time ago.

The United Nations Security Council is holding an emergency session this afternoon. And in an Israel, the war cabinet meeting for hours, met to decide how to respond to Iran. One hardline Israeli minister not in the wartime cabinet, but in the cabinet, Bezalel Smotrich, called this a, quote, "moment of truth" that requires a firm response.

Over the course of five hours last night, Iran launched about 170 attack drones, more than 30 cruise missiles, more than 120 ballistic missiles, according to Israel, which said that more than 99 percent of them were intercepted. Israel says a 7-year-old girl, an Arab-Israeli girl was injured by shrapnel in the attack.

President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israel should consider the overall results a win and that the U.S. would not participate in any offensive operations against Iran. That's according to a senior Biden administration official.

Let's bring in CNN correspondent Jeremy Diamond in Israel right now in Jerusalem to be precise.

Jeremy, the Israeli war cabinet still meeting. Tell us more.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake. The Israeli war cabinet is currently meeting -- has been meeting over the course of the last several hours to discuss what kind of response Israel will have to this large scale, unprecedented attack that Iran carried out on Israel last night. As you mentioned more than 300 drones and missiles. The first time that Iran has ever carried out a direct attack on Israeli soil.

The fact that very few of those missiles actually made it through Israel's defense system certainly one of the components that this war cabinet is going to be talking about as they work to decide exactly how Israel will respond. One Israeli official put it to me this way. Will they go with a response that will, quote-unquote, "break all of the dishes," or will they instead go for something more measured, something that will not further escalate this situation.

We are already starting to hear from some of the members of this war cabinet, including Benny Gantz, who is Prime Minister Netanyahu's top political rival, but he is a member of this war cabinet that is making these decisions. And he said that Israel will, quote, "exact a price from Iran in a way and time that suits us." We have seen in these videos from this war cabinet meeting that you have Netanyahu there, Gantz, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as the Israeli military's top general, top intelligence official.

So all hands on deck certainly for this moment, Jake, that could certainly be a major inflection point for the region.

TAPPER: All right. Jeremy Diamond in Jerusalem, Israel. Thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss Republican senator from Florida, Marco Rubio. He's the vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Senator Rubio, thanks so much for joining us. You are the vice chair of Senate intelligence. What are you hearing about this attack and what is your assessment of Iran's goal here?

RUBIO: Well, Iran's goal has always been the same and that is to make Israel an unlivable place. Iran does not believe that it can hit -- Iran knows it cannot beat Israel militarily. But what it does aspire to do is make Israel an impossible place to live and a place no one wants to visit. I hear a lot of talk right now about how this was a performative attack and how that none of them got through. And this is all great.

It's good that those strikes did not get through and harm anybody. But what do you think the tourism numbers are today in Israel and in the next couple of weeks? What do we think the business numbers are going to look like?


This is -- all of this is harmful to the Jewish state because that is the goal of Iran ultimately, and that's why they want us out of Iraq. That's why they want us out a Syria. That's why they want to overthrow the king in Jordan. And that's why they want to continue to surround Israel from Gaza, from Lebanon, they aspire one day from Jordan, from Syria, from Iraq, have all these proxies that are able -- and then from Iran now able to attack Israel and make it an unlivable place so that the Jewish state will collapse from within economically and socially.

That is their goal. That is their aspiration. That is why many of those drones had lights on so you could see them coming in and the terror aspect of that. And that's what we need to understand here is that at the core of all of this is not simply to respond to the death of an IRGC killer, but it is also to continue to move forward on this plan to make Israel an unlivable place.

TAPPER: We're waiting to see how Israel responds to this attack. Iran is already warning that any Israeli retaliation will be met with a more severe response from Iran. You called this the most dangerous moment for the Middle East since 1973. What do you think Israel should do?

RUBIO: Well, I'm not going to tell Israel what to do because I'm not the one that was attacked by 300 rockets and missiles and drones. I do know that Israel has a very clear military doctrine and that is that they respond to attacks by responding to those with something much more severe. It is how they have survived. This is a country, a Jewish state that on its very first hour of existence was attacked from multiple directions by multiple countries, and it has not stopped since then.

They have faced constant existential threats to their existence on a repeated basis throughout their history. In fact, their history is defined by that. And so they have made the decision on their military doctrine that they respond to attacks on Israel disproportionately and it is the reason why we have not had another 1973 or a 1967 situation.

Now, look, this is -- I imagine that Israel does not want a full-scale war either. And one of the ways they have prevented it in the past is through the kind of deterrence that comes from firm attack. So I expect that they will respond. I don't think they're going to ask us nor do they need us to help them in that regard. Ours has been largely a defensive posture. What I don't understand is why Joe Biden and the administration would leak to the media the contents of a conversation in which he tells Netanyahu he doesn't think Netanyahu should respond at all.

It is the continuing part of this public game that they are planning which frankly encourages Iran and Hezbollah, which we haven't even talked about, and the Houthis and all these other elements that are targeting Israel.

TAPPER: Your leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, says the first order of business in Congress is for the House to pass that foreign aid supplemental bill that passed the Senate months ago which includes funding for Israel as well as Ukraine and Taiwan. Do you agree?

RUBIO: Well, I know when it comes to Israel, the House is on I think two occasions now passed Israel funding. It sits languishing on the floor of the Senate. I know there was an effort by Senator Roger Marshall to pass Israel aid. This was a couple of months ago. It was blocked by the Democrats. So yes, we could go on Monday to Washington, D.C. and we can pass aid Israel right away.

TAPPER: What about the House acting? You're -- I mean, that's the --

RUBIO: The House has already acted and I imagined if the Senate -- if the House were to send, if the Senate where to send the House an Israel aid bill on Monday, the House will pass it. I have little doubt about it because they have done it already before.

TAPPER: You don't support tying it to the Ukraine aid?

RUBIO: Well, the problem with tying it to the Ukraine aid is that as we have said very clearly in that -- I don't think there's any mystery here. I for one, but not everybody, but I for one am prepared to help Ukraine, but I want to see us deal with the southern border and that was the negotiation. That was the talk. That was the agreement. That's what what's going to happen. And it didn't happen. What they came up with was unacceptable when it came to the border.

But I remain a supporter of helping Ukraine, but I'm a big supporter and even bigger supporter of helping America. I'm an American senator. And so I hope those two things can happen in conjunction. But when it comes to Israel this is something that has long enjoyed strong bipartisan support. We can vote on it on Monday. It should be able to pass unanimously. If not we should take votes on it. And I am confident the House will pass it very quickly thereafter because they've done so already.

TAPPER: Iran says this attack, and you already alluded to this, was in response to the alleged Israeli strike on the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus, Syria, in which at least seven Iranian military officials were killed including a senior IRGC official.

What do you say to those who wonder if Israel crossed the line by targeting an embassy? And what do you say to those who say that that gave Iran no choice but to respond?

RUBIO: Well, first, I think that they're misinformed. What was hit was an annex building next to a consulate. It was an annex building occupied by IRGC agents who are target -- they are on the ground in Lebanon every single day coordinating and helping Hezbollah and others in the region attack Israel.


I think lost in all of this, we talk about the 300 launches against Israel yesterday, the night before, just the night before, 30 to 50 rockets were launched from Lebanon by Hezbollah against Israel. There are close to 90,000 currently internally displaced Israelis that cannot return to their homes in northern Israel because it is under constant bombardment from Hezbollah.

How is Hezbollah attacking them? They are using the targeting information being provided by those IRGC agents, the weapons being provided to them and these long-range missiles rockets and precision- strike weapons being provided to them by those IRGC officials. This is almost a daily occurrence. It almost is like, oh, yes, there was another 50 rockets yesterday. Those are the guys running that.

And those guys are legitimate military targets, and they were struck in an annex building that was near the consulate. That's what that was. So, yes, I mean, you're attacking Israel, and we're just going to let those guys sit there behind some desk and continue to coordinate the delivery of weapons and intelligence information so that Israelis cannot live in the north? It is part of the strategy. And this idea -- it's just like the Soleimani stuff, where all these people around crying because Soleimani was killed. They called it an assassination.

This guy -- his hands were drenched in the blood of Americans because of the IEDs that they helped provide in Iraq during that conflict. These people are legitimate military targets.

TAPPER: Your colleague, Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, called on President Biden to, quote, "move quickly and launch aggressive retaliatory strikes on Iran, unquote.

Do you support U.S. strikes on Iran? And if not, how do you think the Biden administration should respond?

RUBIO: Well, I support defending American troops in the region. We have people stationed in the region, in multiple countries, and we sent them there, whether people like them being there or not. The bottom line is, we sent these young Americans there, and our job is to protect them. So I'm in favor of doing anything I can to protect them and prevent them from being attacked. But Israel is not asking us to launch attacks on Iran.

I am not -- have ever heard the Israelis come to us and say, will you help us or will you attack Iran or go in after Iran? They're not asking for that. They're not asking for it. But I think we go from that to the other extreme, which is Joe Biden telling Netanyahu, take the win, don't do anything, and then his people leaking it to the media, leaking it to the press. And what it sets up is they know that Israel is going to respond.

They know this for a fact. So why would the White House leak it? There's only one reason they leaked that, and that is that so when Israel does respond, the White House can say, we told them not to do it, and at least somehow, in some way, appease these so-called peace activists, by the way, the so cease-fire now people, who were out yesterday cheering the launch of hundreds of rockets and drones and missiles against Israel.

People that are out there cheering military attacks of this scale and scope are not peace activists. These are antisemites, anti-Israel, pro-terrorist elements out there, and we need to stop calling them peace activists. They are not peace activists. You don't -- peace activists do not cheer massive attacks against other countries, which is what they were doing yesterday. So I guess this is part of the White House's effort to appease them by putting this out there proactively.

TAPPER: Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, thank you so much, sir, for coming on today.

RUBIO: Thank you.

TAPPER: My next guest may be on the same page when it comes to supporting Israel but they could not disagree more when it comes to Ukraine. Senators John Fetterman of Pennsylvania and J.D. Vance of Ohio are next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to our special live expanded edition of STATE OF THE UNION.

Just in we're getting new images of the Israeli war cabinet meeting today to determine how Israel will respond to the Iranian bombardment on its country.

Here at home, U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are weighing a path forward.

Joining us now to discuss Democratic Senator John Fetterman from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Senator, what is your reaction to Iran's attack on Israel, and how worried are you that this is the beginning of an open war between the two countries?

SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): Well, a couple of things actually. I think it really demonstrates how it's astonishing that we are not standing firmly with Israel, and there should never be any kinds of conditions and all that. When a nation can launch hundreds of drones towards Israel, I'm not going to be talking about conditions ever.

And second, I think that also was Iran had to have some fireworks after Israel smoked that Iranian general. And I am here for that. And I think it's just a matter of theater, part of it as well, too. And finally, it demonstrates how unstable things are and why we need to lean in and stand with Israel.

TAPPER: How do you think Israel should respond? Should Israel strike within Iranian territory, or are you concerned that that might only escalate matters further?

FETTERMAN: Well, I'm not going to suggest what Israel should or shouldn't do on that, but I also do think that Iran is pleased with -- they have enough money on the table with all of its proxies all around in the region as well, too. And Iran certainly can't take on Israel, and certainly not us. So I think they would just like to keep things as they go. And then, after they made a point back, I think they could go pretty quiet and go back to just using their proxies.

TAPPER: A senior administration official tells CNN that President Biden told Prime Minister Netanyahu that the U.S. will not participate in any offensive operations against Iran.

Do you think that's the right call, or should direct U.S. military action, as some of your colleagues and the Senate are suggesting, should that be on the table?

FETTERMAN: I don't agree with that. You know, and I just think we should follow and have Israel's back in this situation. I don't agree with the president. That doesn't change anything that he's a fantastic president. I'm proud to stand with him and campaign for him and vote for him.

TAPPER: Marco Rubio was just on the show, and he said the White House leaking the fact that Biden told Netanyahu not to directly respond, to "take the win," quote-unquote, was offensive to him because it seemed to suggest that it's Biden trying to appease the far left in his party.


What's your response?

FETTERMAN: Well, I don't know. I mean, the president is entitled to his own views and whatever he decides to do. But I would never capitulate to the fringe. I will never pander to that as well. In fact, that helps -- that empowers Hamas. And Hamas is -- they're actually convinced that they are winning the P.R. war, and they're never going to negotiate at this point. They think that they're going to hold on to the very end.

And I know why they're not willing to provide any kind of proof of life. And I don't know why there's not more of that conversation in the media. Like, what about the hostages? What's happened to them? Where are they now? And let's just bring them home. And then all of the harsh words should be directed at Hamas, which started this and now continues to hold all of over 100 Israeli hostages.

TAPPER: Well, why do you think there isn't more criticism of Hamas and acknowledgement of the fact that they are holding however many are still alive, dozens perhaps, hostages from Israel in tunnels in Gaza and elsewhere?

FETTERMAN: Well, of course, Hamas, they're just -- they're cowards, they're rapists, and they attack civilians, and they are now hiding in those tunnels. And it's really true. The president couldn't end this war today. Netanyahu couldn't read this -- end this today. But Hamas could end this today right now and all the devastation and the death and all of that if they just released all the hostages and surrendered. And, of course, they won't do that. And that's why we're in this situation.

TAPPER: Former President Trump was in Pennsylvania last night, Schnecksville, Pennsylvania. He said that President Biden's, quote, "weakness" was to blame for the attack on Israel and said it would never have attacked -- have happened if he was still president.

What's your response to that? And are you worried about Trump's strength, according to polls in Pennsylvania?

FETTERMAN: Yes, well, I got 99 things, and what Trump's saying isn't one of them. And I really -- my advice for him is, he should really be focusing on his time in court tomorrow.

TAPPER: He will be in court tomorrow in the first criminal trial. Are you worried about Trump winning Pennsylvania?

FETTERMAN: Well, no. I mean, it's going to be close. And Trump isn't -- of course, he's very popular here. I have been saying that same thing eight years ago in 2016. And I was concerned. And now I'd like to point out that Joe Biden is the only American that ever beat Trump politically. And he's going to do it again. And he's going to carry Pennsylvania. And it's going to be close, but that -- you know, that also requires that he's going to put in the work. And he's doing that. In fact, this upcoming week, he's going to do just that.

TAPPER: The minority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said that the speaker of the House should put forward that foreign aid package and pass that bill as soon as possible. It includes aid to Israel, but also aid to Ukraine and Taiwan.

I asked Senator Rubio what he thought about that and he said that -- he seemed to be suggesting that aid to Israel could pass the Senate tomorrow, that it had already passed the House on its own, and that aid to Ukraine should not be attached to that. What's your view?

FETTERMAN: Well, that's appalling. And I will never understand that. You know, when I was growing up, we all agreed that Russia is the evil empire, and we've got to stand with that. We're all in that same fight. And we all need to stand with all these democracies, Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan as well, too. And I understand my colleague is coming up after me. And I don't understand where my colleague Vance has about Ukraine as well, too.

In fact, he owns, in my opinion, the dumbest thing I have ever heard about Ukraine, where he claims, to some effect, that he doesn't care what happens in Ukraine. And that's astonishing to me. And I don't understand the motivation to that as well, too, but all I can conclude is that that aligns with what Donald Trump says. And I don't understand why Donald Trump seems to love Putin as well, too.

But it's a disgrace if we don't deliver this aid. I voted for it, and we need to deliver that and stand with our allies and stand with democracy.

TAPPER: All right, Senator John Fetterman from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

FETTERMAN: Thanks for having me on.


TAPPER: And as you just heard from Senator Fetterman, we also have with us the Republican senator from Ohio, close ally of Donald Trump, Senator J.D. Vance, Republican of Ohio.

So I will get to the Middle East in a second, but he just put the Ukraine issue on the fore. And what is your response?

SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): Well, first, Jake, the idea that Putin loves Donald Trump or Donald Trump loves Putin is absolutely absurd. Putin was actually pretty well-behaved during the Trump administration. He invaded another country during the Biden administration. So for these guys to say that Putin prefers Donald Trump is -- completely ignores the underlying realities on the ground here.

We actually had some real security deterrence when Donald Trump was president. And, of course, it's not just in Ukraine. So, again, what Fetterman is saying is preposterous. Reality shows Putin didn't like when Donald Trump was president and was a lot better behaved. And I think to accuse Donald Trump of being pro-Putin completely ignores the reality on the ground.

TAPPER: Well, what Fetterman might say where he here is that Putin was getting a lot of things that he wanted out of Donald Trump, so he didn't need to be as hostile. Donald Trump was clearly more friendly to him than other presidents have been, one way or the other. But, also, Donald Trump was more hostile to NATO.

VANCE: I don't think that's right, Jake. What I think Donald Trump did is he engaged in strategic deterrence. You have to negotiate sometimes even with bad people, even with your enemies. But you have to deter those people. And if you engage in smart deterrence, like Donald Trump did, he doesn't invade countries like Ukraine. So I don't buy that argument. But I understand why Democrats repeat that talking point.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you about Ukraine. VANCE: Sure.

TAPPER: Because you wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times" saying that you don't think it makes sense, the Biden pitch for aid to Ukraine. You have been accused of appeasement.

VANCE: Sure.

TAPPER: You have been accused of surrender. Even "The National Review" had a column about that. And, again, I'm going to get to Iran and Israel, which I know is a big, pressing story. But I do want you to address that, because "The National Review" is basically saying that your solution to the problem of Russia invading a sovereign nation, Ukraine, is to just surrender. Are they wrong?

VANCE: No, look, my solution to the problem is to rebuild our own country. The reason that we're in this position, Jake, is because we're stretched way too thin. We're stretched way too thin in the number of weapons systems that we need, that Ukraine needs, that Taiwan needs, that Israel needs. And we can't do all of these things at once.

So, when you're stretched too thin, you have got to focus, and you have got to rebuild your own country. Let's take just one of those weapons systems that we're talking about, 155-millimeter artillery shells. The Russians currently have a 5-1 advantage over the Ukrainians. The Israelis will need this stuff. The Taiwanese need this stuff. And, of course, America needs this stuff. Can we possibly fight all of those conflicts at once? No. The math just doesn't make sense.

So what we should be doing is with Ukraine encouraging them to take a defensive posture, not these disastrous counteroffensive the Biden administration has been promoting. And we should begin focusing on our problems.

TAPPER: The counteroffensive is within Ukraine, though. They're not seeking land from Russia. And I fact just today --

VANCE: No, I'm not passing judgment on the morality of what they're doing.


VANCE: Of course, it's their territory, Jake. But you have to acknowledge military reality on the ground.

If they're going to waste a ton of money, a ton of lives, and a ton of ammunition on a counteroffensive strategy, but a defensive strategy might actually work, we have got to choose the strategy that might actually work.


VANCE: And that's the strategy.

TAPPER: The counteroffensive is within Ukrainian territory. Just today, Zelenskyy was suggesting that the strike by Iran on Israel should serve as a wake-up call in terms of this greater battle -- and maybe you disagree with people who see it this way -- between autocracies and democracies. Israel being a democracy, as is Ukraine, Iran and Russia being autocracies.

What do you say to that?

VANCE: Well, I think foreign policy is not a nursery rhyme, and it should serve as a wake-up call, but it should serve as a wake-up call that we have to rebuild our own industrial base.

Let's take another weapons system that's really important. The Patriot interceptor system definitely -- almost definitely saved a lot of Israeli lives last night. The Ukrainians want thousands of those per year. Do you even know how many we manufacture in a year, Jake? Five hundred and fifty. We cannot possibly -- I have repeated this for years now. We cannot possibly support Ukraine and Israel and our own defense needs in the way that these guys demand.

So I think we should focus. I think Israel is a much closer ally. It's a much more core American national security interest. And, of course, we have got to focus on ourselves. That means encouraging the Ukrainians to take a defensive strategy. I -- this is really important, Jake, because you're going to hear a lot of calls across Washington, D.C., that we now have to pass the supplemental.

TAPPER: Right.

VANCE: But if we pass the Ukraine and Israel supplemental and send a ton of weapons to Ukraine that the Israelis need, we're actually weakening Israel in the name of helping them. It doesn't make any sense. It ignores mathematical reality.

TAPPER: Well, the supplemental -- the supplemental, which your leader, Senator McConnell, has called on the House to pass, the supplemental contains money for Israel and Ukraine and Taiwan. So it's not a question of either/or. It's a question of both.


VANCE: I think it is a question of either/or, Jake, because it's not about the money. Again, it's about the weapons. If we pass the supplemental, we go from making 550 Patriot interceptors to 650. That's 100 more, and the world needs thousands of these things. So, really, it goes back to the basic math of this. If you don't make enough weapons to fight three wars, you have got to figure out how to focus. And my proposal is, we focus on ourselves and we focus on our closest allies.

TAPPER: So let's talk about that. What do you think Israel should do, what do you think the U.S. should do in response to Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel?

VANCE: Yes, well, look, first of all, we condemn the Iranian attack. It's great to actually see bipartisan leadership from across the aisle saying that. We certainly stand with our friends in Israel.

I'm not going to pretend to counsel Israel on their strategic response to this. I think the most important thing for the United States here is to, one, prevent this from becoming a broader regional conflict because we're already stretched very thin, and, two, to support our Israeli allies. I'm sure they're talking to the Iranians through back channels. I'm sure they know a lot more than a senator in Washington, D.C., And I think we should defer to their strategic wisdom because it's their country, and they should call the shots.

TAPPER: What about those who fear that Israel escalating -- and, again, I'm not expressing my opinion on this.

VANCE: Of course.

TAPPER: But what about those who fear that Israel escalating risks a greater war? I mean, and you heard -- we have heard -- Senator Coons was on the show earlier saying everyone needs to take a breath. And then you heard John Bolton on the show saying that this is an example of what deterrence has got us and there needs to be a much more muscular response.

VANCE: Well, look, I certainly think there is a real fear of escalation. Senator Coons is right about that. Part of the reason why we have a fear of escalation, Jake, is because our deterrence is so weak. And why is it so weak? Because the world sees the United States that is stretched so thin. I think if we want to reestablish deterrence, the most important thing is not how we or Israel respond to this attack. It's how we focus on the long term, on rebuilding our country.

People aren't worried that we're not thumping our chest enough. I know that's the John Bolton response to this. People think that the United States is a paper tiger right now. We have got to rebuild our manufacturing capacity. We have got to rebuild our capacity to support our own troops and our allies with weapons systems. That is what will reestablish deterrence. And that's, unfortunately, why I think this supplemental actually spreads us even further and even thinner, instead of focusing. Focus is what's going to create deterrence.

TAPPER: So you would -- you would agree with what Senator Rubio said earlier in the show, that the Senate should just pick up the aid bill for Israel, just discretely for Israel, that the House passed?

VANCE: What's important, Jake, to remember, what Senator Rubio said, as I understand it, is exactly right. The Senate could pass an Israel supplemental tomorrow in the United States Senate. The House has taken it up already. The Senate's already taken up a couple different versions that Senate Democrats have blocked. So we could get this out of the U.S. Congress tomorrow if Democrats didn't block it.

And, again, we've got to focus on our core problems. I think Israel is much more important to the United States than Ukraine is.

TAPPER: All right, Senator J.D. Vance, Republican of Ohio, please come back again soon. Thanks so much. TAPPER: Next I'm going to ask a former director of National

Intelligence about the significance of Iran's attack and what he thinks Israel should do now. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to our special live expanded edition of STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

You're looking at new video today from the Israel Defense Forces showing Israeli fighter jets downing Iranian projectiles targeting Israel specifically missiles and attack drones.

Joining us now, the former director of National Intelligence under president Obama, retired General James Clapper.

So, first of all, just the size and scope of this. We've never seen anything quite like this in terms of Iran directly launching attack on Israel. So it does seem to mark a change, an inflection point of some sort. Yes?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No question. Which take that -- a Rubicon has been crossed here with Iran directly attacking from Iranian proper to Israel proper. That said, though, the size of the attack I think was very measured. It did not -- I think the Iranians had to know that it would not overwhelm the coalition air defense system. And then at the end of it, they declared it was done without having accomplished much in the way of damage.

So I think there was a messaging here but I still believe despite this very profound event that the Iranians don't want a wider war as strange as that may seem.

TAPPER: Well, so explain to people at home who think -- they are saying, General Clapper, how can you say they don't want a wider war, they just fired 300 attack drones and missiles at Israel? But you think that the way they did it is significant.

CLAPPER: Well, I do because first they telegraphed it. They sent slow- moving drones out first, which you had hours to prepare for. And the Iranians have a lot of missiles, ballistic missiles and cruise missile. So if they had wanted to, I believe they could have overwhelmed the Israeli air defense system and out of the coalition, which was very important. You know, just 20 percent or so of the projectiles were neutralized by U.S. or other coalition elements.

So the whole way they went about this I think was very deliberate, very measured. I don't think they want a wider war. And of course now it's all up to the Israelis.

TAPPER: So the United States does not have an embassy in Iran. Iran doesn't have an embassy in the United States. You think that this information -- about a week ago maybe or maybe a little bit less the Biden administration started announcing or leaking to newspapers there's intelligence that Iran is going to attack Israel.


You think it's possible that Iran leak that intentionally?

CLAPPER: I think it's quite possible they may have conveyed it to us. I think they probably weren't all that careful about masking their preparation. The fact that President Biden came back from Delaware early, convene National Security Team, all these things tell me that we had good insight into what the Iranians were going to do. And --

TAPPER: So why do it? So why would they do it?

CLAPPER: Well, I think the Israelis have -- the Iranians have their own domestic political pressures. They have some, you know, very hard liners now surrounding the supreme leader so I think they had that constituency to placate. And the fact that they showed the parade or if you will of celebratory parade in Tehran of the joyful Iranians so happy about the attack. And I think that's what was important to the Iranians. And I still believe they don't want a wider war in congruence is that may sound.

TAPPER: But their proxies are doing things that are not meant to be eliminated. Their proxies Hamas slaughtering, you know, 1200 Israelis, Hezbollah firing rockets into the north of Israel. So as you know, tens of thousands of Israelis can even live in their homes. The Houthis shutting down coastal passages. I mean, now ocean passages. So that seems incongruous, too.

CLAPPER: It does. And I think that was the question, just how much control Iran actually has over the proxy. So I think they have their own objectives and they're going to try to fulfill them. And in case particularly in the case of Hezbollah, well, this is a great opportunity for them to weigh in an increase the attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. So, you know, this is not a rosy picture for Iran either. Put a doubling.

TAPPER: All right, retired General James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence. Thanks so much for being here. I appreciate it.

Celebrations in Iran after the strikes as the general just said, but did Tehran attack Israel as a distraction from its own regime? Will ask an Iranian journalists and activists next.



TAPPER: And welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. A special live expanded edition. I'm Jake Tapper.

And joining us now to discuss Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad. She's has been outspoken critic of the Islamic regime throughout her career.

Masih, thank you so much for joining us. So you have condemned the strikes launched by the Iranian regime against Israel. What do you make of this over action by Iran in what has been for decades basically a shadow war fought by proxies or in darkness.

MASIH ALINEJAD, IRANIAN JOURNALIST AND ACTIVIST: Exactly. I think this is the end of proxy war. And that became a turning point in the Middle East. That from now on, the Islamic republic is directly involved. Yes, I have strongly condemned the attacks alongside millions of Iranians. The opposition from Syria, from Iraq, Iran, they condemn that but we believe that should be a tipping point for democratic countries to use this opportunity to have a united alliance against the Islamic Republic because look, people of Iran don't want war.

But these amok republic wants to bring stability in the region for them, doesn't matter. It's spring war in the region and that's why we believe that a lack of action will embolden the Islamic Republic to actually come back more stronger.

TAPPER: So you think that Israel should respond militarily and strongly by what's, striking military targets within Iran?

ALINEJAD: You know, it's not (INAUDIBLE) on the Israeli government to make decision. But of course, I don't want my people to be hurt, but targeted military action against a high-ranking member of Revolutionary Guard actually made a lot of Iranian people to celebrate the killings of the commanders, like Qasem Soleimani, and recently in Syria because a lot of people believed that all these high-ranking members of Revolutionary Guards were there to plan another October 7th.

So that's why I strongly believe that the democratic countries right now has no excuse especially the E.U., Canada, the allies of the United States of America, to designate the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, first, and second, they should be all united to empower the people of Iran, the people of Iraq, Syria, who want to get rid of Islamic Republic. So they have to think about how political change.

This is the ultimate solution if you want peace and stability in the region. We should think about ending the war-monger regime of Iran by empowering the civil society, especially the women of Iran.


Right now that I'm talking to you, the Islamic Republic is waging war against women, beaten up in the streets. So by empowering these unarmed women to end the Islamic Republic, that would make the rest of the word and the region much safer place to live.

TAPPER: How concerned are you about Iranian women and people who have taken to the streets to protest the regime in Tehran, given what seems a real moment of significant instability in the region?

ALINEJAD: You know, it is beyond sad because I remember after the brutal murder of Mahsa Amini, when more than 800 innocent people got killed, we have warned the united -- you know, the democratic countries that if you don't take actions and don't support the people of Iran to end this war monger regime, you will face them on your soil, and that brought them in a position, emboldened them to actually attack civilians in Israel, which there we Canadian citizens.

They were like, you know, citizens across the globe, unarmed people. Their naked body was grabbed and raped by Hamas, who was sponsored and trained by the Islamic Republic.


ALINEJAD: So being quiet against Islamic Republic they will encourage them to create more chaos across the globe.

TAPPER: Masih Alinejad, thank you so much, really appreciate it as always. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: Join me tomorrow morning for another big story. Donald Trump, his first criminal trial, the New York hush money cover-up case. CNN's special coverage begins at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Wolf Blitzer picks up our special coverage next on CNN. See you tomorrow.