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State of the Union

Interview With Fmr. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE); Interview With Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND); Interview With Senior Presidential Adviser Mitch Landrieu. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 05, 2024 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Veepstakes. Donald Trump hosts "The Apprentice" 2024 edition with potential running mates at Mar-a- Lago. But with all the challenges of being Trump's number two, including a new refusal to rule out violence again if Trump loses, who does Trump think can deliver for him?

V.P. contender North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum joins me exclusively next.

And campus crackdowns,more arrests, as colleges try to turn from chaos to commencement. Could protests continue and affect Democrats' hope for November? Biden campaign co-chair Mitch Landrieu and former Senator and University of Florida president Ben Sasse ahead.

Plus: star turn. Riveting trial testimony recalls the damning "Access Hollywood" tape from Trump's 2016 campaign.


TAPPER: As the case against Trump takes shape, can he defy political expectations again?


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is auditioning.

Out of court for the weekend, Donald Trump was back in his element, fueling speculation over who he might choose to be his number two. Yesterday, at a donor retreat at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump called half-a- dozen vice presidential hopefuls up on stage and openly discussed whether one of them might join him on the ticket.

In his remarks to top donors, Mr. Trump also continued to lie about the 2020 election. He vented about special counsel Jack Smith and the other lawyers prosecuting him, and he referred to his Democratic opponent Joe Biden as -- quote -- "running a Gestapo administration" -- unquote. He also said, according to "The New York Times" -- quote -- "When you

are a Democrat, you start off essentially at 40 percent, because you have civil service, you have the unions, and you have the welfare. And don't underestimate welfare. They get welfare to vote" -- unquote.

Quite a turnaround from, on Friday, when Trump was a criminal defendant, compelled to sit in a New York courtroom, fined by a judge for violating a gag order and forced to listen as a former top aide, Hope Hicks, his private reaction to that infamous "Access Hollywood" tape released in October 2016.

Joining me now is one of the vice presidential contenders on stage at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

Governor Burgum, thank you so much for joining us.

So, you were there with Donald Trump last night at Mar-a-Lago, where he claimed Biden was like the Gestapo, referring to the Nazi secret police. Are you comfortable with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee comparing the Biden administration to the Gestapo?

GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): Well, Jake, first, great to be with you.

And I would say, yesterday, we had an opportunity to listen to the president talk for 90 minutes without a teleprompter, covering a wide range of topics, and largely very upbeat, because, if the election was held today, Trump would be winning.

And relative to the reference you're discussing, I mean, this was a short comment deep into the thing that wasn't really central to what he was talking about. But I understand when -- and I think Americans understand, a majority of Americans feel like the trial that he's in right now is politically motivated.

And if it was anybody else, this trial wouldn't even be happening. So I understand that he feels like that he's being unfairly treated. And I think that it's reasonable that someone who's being kept off the campaign trail as the presumptive nominee has got some frustration about that.

TAPPER: So, a public trial with witnesses, a jury, a defense counsel, that's like the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police?

BURGUM: Well, he certainly didn't say that yesterday. And he wasn't referring to this trial when he made that -- made that comment.

But I do think that people understand. I mean, I'm a business guy. This is a business filing case. If it was anybody other than a presidential candidate, this would be a misdemeanor. How it got turned into 34 felonies, when there isn't even a -- the alleged crime, which is -- they haven't even convinced anybody there was a crime.

But if it were, it would be a Federal Election Commission crime. And that would be pursued by the federal courts, not by a county DA in New York. And so I think, again, Americans, the outcome of this trial doesn't affect them.

What affects them is Joe Biden's policies, the inflation that's taken 30 percent of their savings, come like a thief in the night. Inflation's an insidious tax that takes money away from people that need it the most at the low end of the income sale.


And so the trial is maybe a spectacle for cable TV, but average Americans have already baked in what they think about President Trump, President Biden, they're looking at the policies, not at the people, and they were better off under President Trump's policies.

TAPPER: According to polling, a plurality of the American people think that President Trump did commit a crime when it comes to this case. And if you add in those who think it was unethical, but not illegal, it's a vast majority.

Let me just ask you, if Donald Trump becomes a convicted felon because of this case, will that affect your support for him for president?

BURGUM: Well, if he becomes a convicted felon in this case, that's a -- just a travesty of justice, because, as I just said, when you have got a business filing error that is for something that was -- again, it's not illegal to pay people for nondisclosure agreements.

That happens all the time. I'm sure this network and others have done that. So that's not illegal. And then you have got a -- again, they're trying do this. And the only reason this trial is happening right now, it's the only one that could actually be brought forward. The other four couldn't be brought -- the other three of the four couldn't be brought forward before the election.

So this one is largely intended to try to achieve a result before the election. And then you can be assured, as Americans would know, that any kind of appeal would be pushed until after the election. So that's why everybody sees this as politically motivated.

And, like I said, a filing error is not something that would affect any American people that are trying to put food on the table and gas in the car. It doesn't affect them. And so this is why the outcome of this trial is not going to change a lot of people's minds. It might actually in some ways help President Trump because it reinforces the idea that the Biden administration is willing to use lawfare to try to attack a political opponent.

TAPPER: There's no evidence that Joe Biden has anything to do with this case brought forward by district attorney Bragg.

And you keep describing it as a filing error. I guess that's one interpretation. Another interpretation is that Donald Trump's attorney Michael Cohen paid hush money for -- to hide from the American people before the election the fact that Mr. Trump had had a rendezvous with a porn star and that they wanted to hide that from the American people until after the election. So far, the evidence that I have seen suggests there at least was some

political motivation to this, and they hid it so as to hide that from the public. That's a little bit more than just checking the wrong box on a form.

But let's move on, because I want to ask you about something else Mr. Trump said. "The New York Times" reported that, last night, Mr. Trump said that some Americans get -- quote -- "welfare to vote."

Is that how you see the electorate? You have, I think, more than 100,000 North Dakotans on Medicaid. Are they getting welfare to vote?

BURGUM: No, and I don't think that's the intention that he meant when he said that.

But, I mean, I do think that what we have here is the -- when Joe Biden -- he can't campaign on, I mean, his open border policies. You know, 2016, that was about immigration. Now it's about national security and public safety. And open borders is something the majority of Americans are very concerned about.

Inflation touches every single American, the wars that are breaking out around the world. So, in places where President Trump had success, Joe Biden is having failure. Where President Trump was strong, Joe Biden has been weak.

And so that's what people are actually thinking about. But then you throw on top of things like the student loan debt, and you start trying to give away hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money, and it's not even -- it's like we're borrowing to give it away. It's not tax and spend. It's borrow, borrow from the Chinese, and give it away.

When you see those, those citizens understand those are like preelection payoffs. Those are like, hey, folks, please vote for us because we're -- we're relieving your debt. So at what point does it cross over, programs like student debt, to just vote-buying?

And I think, again, the people that are working hard and are paying off their debts and aren't getting don't loan relief are saying, hey, this is just isn't fair. And, in America, people want things to be fair, not unfair. And I think it's clear that there's vote-buying going on at a scale like we have never seen before.

TAPPER: Does that offend you more than Donald Trump telling a room full of donors, wealthy people, millionaires, billionaires, that he's going to cut their taxes? Is that -- is that buying votes any different?

BURGUM: Well, first of all, I just reject the whole premise of this idea of wealthy donors.

I mean, the room of people that were there yesterday are all people that were job creators. These are -- these are Americans that were -- took risks, that...

TAPPER: So, they're not wealthy?

BURGUM: ... sometimes risk everything they had to start -- to start a business. Well, they're wealthy now because the American system of capitalism worked for them to create jobs, to help them build their communities.

These are among the most generous people in the country. They're the ones that are giving back to their -- to philanthropic efforts and building strong communities. They care about their kids and their grandkids. Because they have been successful and because they have worked hard is not somehow that they should be disparaged.


This is what we should be celebrating. These people represent the American dream. And part of the way the American dream works is when we have low taxes and low regulation. And Joe Biden wants to -- he's proposing the largest tax increase in the history of America, and proud of it. That's...

TAPPER: Yes, I wasn't disparaging them.

But let me ask you something, because there's something else Donald Trump said in an interview with "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" and also with "TIME" magazine. He's refusing to commit to accepting the results of the 2024 election. He told "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" -- quote -- "If everything's honest, I will gladly accept the results. I don't change on that. If it's not, you have to fight for the right of the country," echoing language he used on January 6.

When "TIME" magazine asked him about potential violence if he loses, he said -- quote -- "If we don't win, you know, it depends."

Now, you called the violence on January 6 reprehensible and you said it does not represent American values. Donald Trump is openly discussing right now pardoning all of the January 6 criminals. I think that you heard a song from them last night at the fund-raiser. And those criminals, by the way, include those who have been convicted in an American court of violently attacking police.

He's talking about pardoning them, and he seems to be leaving the door open to potential violence if he loses again. Based on comments you have made in the past, that must concern you.

BURGUM: Well, I think the bigger context here, Jake, is really about elections in America.

I mean, you go back in my lifetime, when -- 1960, it came down to one county. We talk about an election like it's one thing in our country. But elections are still run at the state, the county, and the precinct level. And in Cook County, it was very close between Kennedy and Nixon. And Nixon conceded.

In 2000, they have made movies about it, and that election was contested for two months in the courts afterwards. And it was -- you know, it came down to Broward County and some hanging chads. In 2016, this network and many others challenged the results of the 26...

TAPPER: We never challenged...

BURGUM: Falsely claiming that there was Russian interference.

TAPPER: We never challenged the results of the election.

BURGUM: Well, there's a -- plenty of -- plenty of -- plenty of stories supporting -- supporting that.

TAPPER: Nixon and Al Gore both conceded.

I'm talking about the violent insurrection that you yourself have decried.


BURGUM: Yes, well, I'm -- I'm looking forward to next January, when Vice President Harris certifies the election for Donald Trump.

I mean, the American people are the ones that get to decide these elections. But for both parties and for all Americans, we have got to make sure that every county, every precinct is beyond reproach, that everybody can be confident in our country.

In North Dakota, we're doing that. Nobody's questioning the results of an election in any county or precinct in North Dakota. It can be done. It's done all over the nation, except, in some cases, we have got -- we could have a handful of counties that this election could turn on again, and we have just got to make sure that, when it's done, both sides feel good about how it was counted.

TAPPER: Do you believe Joe Biden won the 2020 election?

BURGUM: I -- I believe that Joe Biden won the 2020 election, but I also -- based on the number of votes that were in, but I think that, because of COVID, there was a huge number of irregularities, because we changed a bunch of rules in certain places, in certain precincts, in certain states.

And the number of mail-out ballots, not mail-in -- we do absentee ballots in North Dakota. We do use -- make sure we're verifying signatures. But when you're mailing out more ballots than there are people that are actually on the registers for the voting rolls, that creates a massive moral hazard.


BURGUM: And then when you have got unmonitored drop boxes and a bunch of single-bullet votes that only vote for one candidate, I think all of us have to say, is that the way we want to have elections?

TAPPER: I don't know what you're talking about, single-bullet votes.

BURGUM: So I think that 2020 was a special case.

TAPPER: I mean, you agree with...


BURGUM: Well, a single-bullet vote is a ballot that comes in where no -- it's very unusual to get that many ballots where someone just votes for president and not for anybody else downballot. That's what I'm talking about.

TAPPER: Attorney General Bill...

BURGUM: So, it's a -- that is a...

TAPPER: Attorney General Bill Barr said that there was no significant fraud that would have changed the results of the 2020 election. Do you disagree with that or do you agree with that?

BURGUM: Well, again, we're talking about -- what are you talking about, what happened before the ballots came in or after they came out?

TAPPER: I'm talking about the results of the 2020 election.

BURGUM: If you say, hey, we counted up all the ballots and this -- yes, and I'm saying -- I just said it. I think that there was a special set of circumstances around COVID, where we had -- did things like we have never done before.

The millions of mail-out ballots was a new thing for America. And when you mail out more ballots and they just go out to -- I mean, I know people in states where they got three ballots mailed to them. That's a problem. And we should all be concerned about that.

But I'm looking forward. We're talking about making sure that the 2024 election is secure. And there's no need to keep relitigating 2020. We got to talk about the policies that are going to help people understand. And, again, how do we make America safe? How do we get our economy strong again? How do we secure our borders?


President Trump is going to is going to do all those things. And this is a unique point in history, because we haven't -- since Grover Cleveland, we haven't had a former president running against a current president. So Americans have got a better chance than ever to say, was I better off under President Trump than I am under Biden?

And the answer for the majority of people is that they were better off under President Trump.

TAPPER: So, just quickly, if you could, if President Trump asks you to serve as his vice president, will you say yes?

BURGUM: Well, I think any of that right now is all speculation.

I mean, as you opened the show, talking about the veepstakes and the group of people on stage, you couldn't get it -- if you had had any more on there, they'd have been falling off the stage. And prior to that, he said there was 50. So I think the short list needs to be modified. Maybe there's a list of 50.

If I'm on it, who would know? But it's not why I'm out supporting the president right now. As someone that runs a natural resource state, as a governor, I have had a chance to serve under President Trump as governor and under President Biden. And I can tell you, the difference is night and day for our citizens, for our small businesses, because, right now, we're under a barrage of red tape that's trying to basically shut down U.S. energy.

We're a big energy state. And when we shut down U.S. energy, the supply gets filled by other suppliers around the world who produce it less cleanly than we do. So it's -- it drives inflation up. It destabilizes the world. It creates -- puts money in the pocket of Russian Iran and Venezuela are adversaries. And then it makes the environment less clean.

And so his -- it's a trifecta of being in the wrong direction on Joe Biden's energy policies. And I understand that that's -- if we don't get that turned around, the U.S. is going to continue to be in decline relative to our position in the world.

A strong energy policy is going to be good for the world's environment. And it's good for how we compete with China and Russia and all the challenges we have in front of us.

TAPPER: North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, thank you so much for joining us today. Really appreciate it, sir.

So, coming up: some warnings from top Democrats that Trump's new attack on Biden is working. A top campaign adviser from the Biden campaign will join me.

And colleges are not day care centers. The president of the university system that said that joins me coming up.



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

On Tuesday, tied to Israel's day of commemorating the Holocaust, President Biden will give a speech at the U.S. Capitol, in which we are told he will call out the surge in antisemitism in the United States, as top Democrats worry that protests over the Israel-Hamas war might overshadow the Democratic Convention in Chicago this August and play into an attack line from Donald Trump.

Joining us now to discuss, co-chair of the Biden/Harris reelection campaign, former New Orleans mayor and White House official Mitch Landrieu.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.


TAPPER: President Biden condemned the escalating unrest on college campuses this week. He called this a moment for clarity.

But even after the orthodox rabbi at Columbia told Jewish students to leave campus because it wasn't safe for them, it still took a week- and-a-half. I mean, that was two weeks ago that happened. It still took a week-and-a-half for President Biden to address the nation on this, and only then after pressure from Republicans and even some Democrats.

Why? Why did it take so long? If this moment called for clarity, why was it so slow and coming?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, the First Amendment is critically important.

The president has always believed that people ought to have the opportunity to redress their grievances against their government. This is not something new. It's been going on since the beginning of our time. You see different campuses handling this in a different way. And, finally, you see some campuses doing this better than others.

The president has been very strong about this from the beginning. And the president came out the other day. And, as he said, as he has always said, he understands that people have a right to protest, but they have to do so peacefully. But when it turns violent, that's when things have to end. You're going to have a university president on after you have me on, and they're going to continue to work through this.

But the president has been very clear about this. He's also been very strong about the need to stamp out antisemitism and Islamophobia. It's a very difficult time, very passionate opinions on both sides of this issue. The president has been handling it, I think, very, very well, and he's going to continue to do so.

TAPPER: I have seen some pretty ugly antisemitic incidents right where you are at Tulane University in New Orleans. Months ago, I saw that. It was caught on video.

Politico has a story out this morning noting that a lot of the multimillionaires and billionaires funding the most explicitly anti- Israel groups, ones that think Israel has no right to exist, that are active on campuses, that these groups are funded by big Biden donors, the Pritzkers, the Gateses, George Soros, David Rockefeller Jr.

Should they stop funding these groups? Are they causing unrest for the American people?

LANDRIEU: Well, let me say this. I think that everybody, as the president has said, needs to kind of get focused in on the very core principles of what our Constitution allows and what our Constitution protects.

And that is this. Everybody has a right to protest, but they have to protest peacefully. If they're protesting violently, that has to end. There's no place for that. There's no place for antisemitism. There's no place for Islamophobia. Everybody has got to really get close to that, understand that, and continue to act in accord with that.

TAPPER: Here's what Senator Bernie Sanders told CNN a few days ago about what the impact of Biden's handling of the Gaza crisis and these protests might be.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): This may be Biden's Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson, in many respects, was a very, very good president. Domestically, he chose not to run in '68 because of opposition to his views on Vietnam.


And I worry very much that President Biden is putting himself in a position where he has alienated not just young people, but a lot of the Democratic base.


TAPPER: As President Biden's strongest ally in the ascendant progressive wing of your party warning that Joe Biden might end up like LBJ, how seriously do you take that warning?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, I think comparing it to Vietnam is an overexaggeration. This is a very different circumstance.

I think that people who actually live through that very difficult time, they would say that this isn't comparable. However, that is not to say that this is not a very serious matter. Senator Sanders also said a couple of weeks ago that, notwithstanding where we are at this difficult time that doesn't leave any good options for anybody, that young people have a wonderful reason to vote for Joe Biden.

Because they're interested in climate. They're interested in their freedoms being taken away. They're interested in relief of student debt. This is, as it has been -- and, Jake, you have covered this very, very well. There are -- there are not a lot of great options on the table for anybody as a result of the terrorist attack that Hamas invoked on October 7 and what has happened since then.

The president, as you know, has been very strong in his call for Bibi Netanyahu to make sure that this humanitarian aid, make sure that the hostage crisis gets resolved sooner, rather than later, and that we get to a cease-fire as soon as practically possible.

TAPPER: I know that the Biden campaign, the Biden/Harris campaign sees support for abortion rights as a real asset for November.

I have to note that, in his 50 years in politics -- and I have been covering him for, I don't know, 25 of them -- Joe Biden has been all over the map on abortion. In '74, he said Roe v. Wade went too far and that a woman should not have -- quote -- "the sole right to say what should happen to her body" -- unquote.

That was a long time ago, of course. In 2006, he said -- quote -- "I do not view abortion as a choice and a right." Just this year, he said -- quote -- "I have never been supportive of, you know, it's my body, I can do what I want with it" -- unquote.

By his own admission, Biden is an odd man out with his party on abortion. Do you think his own long complicated history on this issue, do you think it muddies his message and undermines the contrast with Donald Trump?

LANDRIEU: Well, let's be clear about what the facts are here first, which is, Donald Trump appointed three Supreme Court justices to the Supreme Court for the specific purpose of obliterating Roe v. Wade and starting a war on women.

And Donald Trump just this week in "TIME" magazine, when given another chance to kind of think about how he was when he was president, said that his biggest mistake was he wasn't mean enough, and then went on to talk about the fact that states, states, meaning police powers, can actually monitor women's pregnancies, and has said, when asked about what the repercussions of that are, well, it's going to be what it's going to be.

And the states have actually taken him up on that. So you have seen in the state of Texas, you have seen in Oklahoma, you have seen in Florida incredible instances where women have -- lives have been threatened. That is Donald Trump's record.

Joe Biden obviously has evolved over time, but, in the last eight years of his life and since his presidency, he has been very strong in his support of a very simple notion, that he trusts women to make decisions about their reproductive health. Donald Trump trusts the states.

That is kind of where it is right now and that is where both of them say they will govern from. I think most of the people in this country agree with Joe Biden's position this issue, and I think they're going to vote that way in the coming months.

TAPPER: All right, Mayor Landrieu, it's always good to have you on. Thank you so much, sir. Enjoy Jazz Fest.

LANDRIEU: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: He spoke his mind as a Republican senator. Now that he leads a large university, what does Ben Sasse think about the campus protests?

I will ask him next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper. We're watching a developing story out of Los Angeles this morning,

where the University of Southern California says the LAPD is moving to clear these pro-Palestinian anti-war encampments. USC says in a new message that -- quote -- "People who don't leave could be arrested" -- unquote.

This all comes after protesters at the University of Michigan this weekend interrupted commencement ceremonies Saturday. The University of Florida warned that -- quote -- "The university is not a day care. And we do not treat protesters like children."

Joining us now to discuss is the president of the University of Florida, former Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse.

Do I call you senator? Do I call you president? I'm not sure what I'm supposed to call you.

FMR. SEN. BEN SASSE (R-NE): Ben is good. It's a glorious morning in Gainesville. You got to get down here, Jake.

TAPPER: I will call you Ben, I guess. It feels weird, though.

So we have seen some disruptions already at the University of Michigan this weekend. Other schools like Columbia, obviously, it's been hell for a lot of students and faculty there for weeks. University of Florida is holding graduation ceremonies this weekend, multiple ceremonies.

What are you seeing? Are they being disrupted by protesters? What's going on where you are?

SASSE: It's pretty glorious. It's an amazing day for a commencement. We have three more today. We have 17 colleges and schools. We're through about two-thirds of our commencements. They're not being disrupted.

What you have is a lot of tears of moms of first-gen kids throwing their arms around their kids as they get to graduate. Obviously, a lot of these kids graduated high school four years ago. And, because of COVID, they didn't get a commencement. It's been a pretty glorious weekend of celebration around here.

TAPPER: So that is what probably -- passions about Gaza and Israel aside, that's probably what most parents and students would want is a commencement where their accomplishments are celebrated. Obviously, however, there are free speech lines and free speech and debate that we also hold dearly in this country.


It's interesting, because, notably, after Governor DeSantis ordered campuses at Florida to deactivate a more radical pro-Palestinian group called Students for Justice in Palestine, you opted to not do so because of free speech concerns.

Where does a university president draw a line between free speech concerns with the right of every student on campus to feel safe and secure and also, frankly, to enjoy college and graduation?

SASSE: Hear, hear. Great question.

I think the line is between speech and action. I'm a First Amendment zealot. And it's a glorious thing that our First Amendment gives us free speech, free -- freedom of religion, press, assembly, protest or redress grievances. There are five glorious freedoms in the First Amendment.

And what we tell all of our students, protesters and non, is, there are two things we're going to affirm over and over again. We will always defend your right to free speech and free assembly, and, also, we have time, place, and manner restrictions, and you don't get to take over the whole university. People don't get to spit at cops.

You don't get to barricade yourselves in buildings. You don't get to disrupt somebody else's commencement. We don't allow protests inside. I have -- on my run this morning, after I left the Swamp, which is our football stadium, I got to run the stadium this morning, I ran by our group of protesters waving their Palestinian flag.

We protect their right to do that. But we have rules. And one of those rules is, we don't allow camping on campus. And so you can't start to build an encampment. But our goal is not to arrest people. It's to help them get into compliance with the rules. They can protest. They can try to persuade people.

But they don't get to build a camp. Nobody -- nobody else does either.

TAPPER: So, some of the student groups that have been protesting on the University of Florida campus released a list of demands. It includes divesting from companies that do business with Israel or support military industrial complex, as it were.

I imagine you're not on board with that, but there are some smaller steps that they're requesting, such as disclosure of the schools investment portfolio, creating a student panel to give input on investments. Would you maybe be open to any of that?

SASSE: We just don't negotiate with people who scream the loudest. That just doesn't make any sense to me.

We believe in the right of free speech. We believe in the right of free assembly, and you can try to persuade people. But what you see happening on so many campuses across the country is, instead of drawing the line at speech and action, a lot of universities bizarrely give the most attention and most voice to the smallest, angriest group.

And it's just not what we're going to do here.

TAPPER: You say you have the highest number of Jewish students of any campus in the nation. Do your Jewish students feel safe? Do your Muslim students feel safe?

SASSE: I want everybody to feel safe here, because I want everybody to be safe here. And I think, right now, everybody's safe.

It was pretty great to get to celebrate a seder week a couple of days ago. We are the most Jewish school in the country. We're very proud of that, our Chabad, our Hillel, our Greek life, Jewish fraternities and sororities, we got some real special communities. We have plural communities inside this place, and we're excited to lift them all up.

And I think everybody's safe here. And it's a pretty special community.

TAPPER: President Biden said on Thursday that -- quote -- "Dissent is essential to democracy, but dissent must never lead to disorder. Violent protest is not protected. Peaceful protest is."

As a university president, do you wish that the Department of Education or President Biden were doing anything differently?

SASSE: Well, you know, Jake, that I made a pledge. I have taken a 36- month pledge of partisan celibacy, I think is the term I use.

So I don't get near policy issues that get to the edge of politics, and we're obviously in an election year. So I won't comment much on the president's positions or the Department of Education's positions.

But I will just say that it's pretty obvious that there's not enough education happening on campuses across the country. When we have all the screaming going on, "From the river to the sea," which river? Which sea? Where are we discussing this in class?

When you have paraglider memes replacing Che Guevara T-shirts, I want to say, which paragliders, the ones that -- the savages who raped teenage girls at a concert? Like, I think universities and university boards of trustees need to step up and mind their own shops more.

So there are definitely some policy changes, maybe beyond my 36-month mark. I will make more public arguments about ways that I think the Department of Education could do more to advance healthy higher ed for 18-to-22-year-olds in the country. But, right now, I think we need a lot more university leaderships and a lot more boards of trustees to be asking fundamental questions about whether enough education is happening on our campuses.

TAPPER: Before I let you go, I do have to ask.

Donald Trump is once again the Republican nominee for president in 2024. I think I know what you're going to answer is -- the answer is going to be. But you were one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict him in his impeachment trial after January 6, 2021.


Should we interpret your vote as your view of his fitness for the presidency?

SASSE: I have made a pledge, and I keep my word. I don't talk about politics for 36 months. So, the former president hasn't asked my advice on much. We obviously

disagreed on a ton of stuff, but, interpersonally, we could wrestle together pretty well, but I don't talk about politics. I'm not -- I'm not good at ducking, but I gave my word that I'm ducking politics for 36 months.

But if you want to get into the really important politics of the future of college football, have me back on.


TAPPER: OK, University of Florida president Ben Sasse, it's good to see you, sir. You look 15 years younger.

SASSE: Thanks, Jake. Good to see you. Thanks for the invite.

TAPPER: Vice presidential hopefuls auditioning for Donald Trump this weekend. Who is he likely to really choose for the most thankless job in Washington?

My panel weighs in.




GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): What I'm going to do from now on, until we get to November, is continue to go across this country and talk to people about Donald Trump, talk to them about how he's the right man in the White House.

BURGUM: I have had an opportunity to serve under President Trump and I have had an opportunity to try to lead a state under President Biden. It's like a beautiful wind at your back or a gale-force win at your face.

SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): I think it's important to support President Trump as Republicans because I think he was a good president and I think that he made the country more prosperous.


TAPPER: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE UNION.

The veepstakes to beat Donald Trump's running mate in full swing. My panel joins me to discuss.

So, first of all, we should acknowledge, Governor Burgum coming on the show, he didn't do it to audition for the role, but it is something of an audition for the surrogate role. How do you think he did?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he just looked like he didn't believe half of what he was saying. He just seemed uncomfortable. And it just is such a reminder that this process in auditioning to be V.P. for Donald Trump is such a parade of debasement. You just watch these people sort of have to do something to put forward, yes, I believe Joe Biden won the election, but let me explain why all of the votes weren't -- why things shouldn't be counted the way they were counted.

I mean, you take otherwise -- some otherwise serious people and sort of just watch them, like, kowtow to Donald Trump. And the only other thing I would say about his conversation, it was amusing to me to watch him defend Donald Trump's framing of student debt forgiveness as paying voters or welfare for voters, when I believe Doug Burgum was the one who was handing out $20 gift cards to people to get them to donate to his campaign.

TAPPER: It might have even been $100 gift cards.

BEDINGFIELD: So, I found that -- I found that sort of interesting.

TAPPER: What did you make of it all?

MARC LOTTER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN: Well, I went through the veepstakes in 2016 with then- Governor Pence.

I always ask the same question for all of the candidates, not just Doug Burgum, is, what do you bring to the presidential campaign that they think they need or they want more of? Because that's really what vice presidential picks do. Usually, it's either demographic, geographic, a policy area, or to unite the party.

And so, for all of these names, I'm like, what do you offer them that they want?

TAPPER: So let me just bring in some sound for one of the other veepstakes hopefuls, J.D. Vance, a senator from Ohio, author of "Hillbilly Elegy." He was on Kaitlan Collins' show the other night talking about January 6. Take a listen.


VANCE: I'm extremely skeptical that Mike Pence's life was ever in danger. I think politics -- in politics, people like to really exaggerate things from time to time, from Jack Smith.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: But they were chanting that they wanted to hang him.

VANCE: Look, Kaitlan, did a few people say some bad things? Sure. But do we blame Donald Trump for every bad thing that's ever been said?


TAPPER: I'm going to come to you in a second. But you worked for Pence. I mean, what do you think? I mean...

LOTTER: I don't think it was well-answered, no.


LOTTER: Put it this way. I -- put it this way. I -- in one way, he's protected. He -- at the time, he was protected by the United States Secret Service. His life was probably not in direct jeopardy. They would have gotten him out of there if they had to, if they had to pick him up and carry him.

But were there people that were coming after him? Yes. Yes.

TAPPER: What do you make of that answer?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It was just a little light hanging, by the way. They weren't...


BEDINGFIELD: Just a casual hanging, yes.

TAPPER: Hung-ish.



ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, J.D. Vance is from my home state of Ohio, and the trajectory of his -- some of his ideologies has shifted greatly ever since he wanted to become a senator and get Trump's endorsements.

And so you saw him at some point go after Donald Trump, oppose Donald Trump, question some of Donald Trump's behavior, and then now you see him flipping, like most of the people who are on his short list for vice president.

The thing that makes me so nervous about this and the reason why it was a poorly answered question is because Mike Pence had to certify the election. And everyone is -- wants our democracy to stand strong. Well, on January 6, Donald Trump pushed our democracy to the brink of breaking, and whoever he selects as his vice president, we need to know what they're going to do if he wins in November.

And so it's yet again a frustrating position to be in, because people are picking literally politics and this man who wants to destroy our democracy over the country they swear they love so much.

TAPPER: It was interesting to hear Governor Burgum talk about when Vice President Harris is going to certify the election in favor of Donald Trump in -- next January, an acknowledgement that the vice president does not have the power to throw it all away.

You are the man that posts dog photos every morning on Twitter.


TAPPER: So I want to get your perspective. Here is a Politico headline or a Politico article.

"Kristi Noem's damage control tour is in full swing. It appears destined for the same fate as her late dog Cricket, dead in a gravel pit somewhere near Pierre."



TAPPER: I have to say, that is a great lead.


TAPPER: What do you make of why she -- why she did any of this, the killing of Cricket, et cetera. et cetera?

GOLDBERG: Well, it's a good -- first of all, let me just say I condemn shooting puppies. Just I want to go out there.


GOLDBERG: I'm on a limb. I know it's a divisive issue.

BEDINGFIELD: That's bold.


GOLDBERG: And I do love the idea of someone writing a book called "Never Go Back" or Don't Go Back" going back and revising her book.

TAPPER: Also about her meeting with Kim Jong-un.

GOLDBERG: That's right.

But I think the question actually tees up an important point. I agree with Marc entirely on the four things that people -- that campaigns look for and vice president. But there's one -- there's sort of -- there's the fifth kind of heat here, right, which is Trump is looking for something -- looking for someone to be sort of a vice presidential Roy Cohn, someone who is willing to say and do anything in his defense.

And that's why I think Burgum did poorly today, is because Burgum was unconvincing. I mean, if you looked closely, you could see him blinking in Morse code, I don't really believe the things I am saying, right?

And he wants someone to fully commit. And I think what Kristi Noem was doing in that book was, pardon the expression, dog-whistling...

TAPPER: Oh, boy.

GOLDBERG: ... to Donald Trump that -- on the advice of people like Corey Lewandowski, that she was willing to...

TAPPER: Do they know each other? GOLDBERG: There are rumors that effect.


TAPPER: Keep going. Keep going.

GOLDBERG: And that you have to prove that you're willing to say and do anything on behalf -- the messy, ugly stuff on behalf of Donald Trump if you want to be his veep.

And I think that was the theory.

TAPPER: So we only have a minute left.

But, speaking of messy, ugly stuff, Hope Hicks testified on Friday. "And Trump wanted to know how it was playing" -- this is about the Stormy Daniels -- "and just my thoughts and opinion about the story versus having the story, a different kind of story before the campaign had Michael not made -- paid that -- made that payment. And I think Mr. Trump's opinion was it was better to be dealing with it now, after the election, and that would have been bad to have that story come out before the election."

It's still going to be up to the jury whether or not that is definitive.


TAPPER: But it does seem to suggest that the politics were at play.

BEDINGFIELD: It does. I mean, I think she -- that was pretty damning testimony. And she's somebody who knows Donald Trump, knows him intimately, knows how he thinks.

And her presenting that picture of him saying, effectively, this was politically better for me to come out when it did, that's pretty damning. That pretty much undermines the entire defense.

LOTTER: But she did add that he was worried about how it would be received by Mrs. Trump and his family.

TAPPER: Mrs. Trump as well, of course.

Thank you so much for being here.

I want to tell you about somebody that my family lost this week and what I came to understand about what this man taught himself in life. And that's next.



TAPPER: With your permission on this Sunday morning, I would like to take a moment to remember someone to whom my family said goodbye this past week, my mom's partner of nearly 45 years, a man named Sylvester Stone.

Stone, as we knew him, was born in Philly in 1928. An only child, Stone enlisted in the Army when he was 17. He served in Korea from 1946 to 1949. You might notice something about that platoon there. President Truman had yet to desegregate the troops. So, his was an all-black unit.

After the army, Stone became a machinist. He worked his way up from putting ball bearings in barrels to becoming -- sorry -- a machine operator who made parts for locomotives, to ultimately making parts of aircraft engines.

Stone loved Philadelphia. He loved the food and the people and the musicians he got to see there through the years, John Coltrane and Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk, and Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Count Basie, Duke Ellington.

Stone had impeccable taste and style. When we met him, he drove a Jaguar. He knew how to fish. He knew how to garden. He could bake and cook. He could fix anything that would need fixing. Only later in life did I realize that Stone had taught himself all of that, everything. He was entirely self-made.

He was called Papa Stone by my children and Grampy Stone by my brother's kids. We all loved him dearly. He made my mom laugh. He made my mom happy. Stone died at the age of 95.

We will miss you, Stone. We love you.

Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us.

Fareed Zakaria picks it up next.