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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Interview With Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay; Interview With Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Interview With Maryland Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger; Interview With New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez

Aired August 31, 2014 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Weighing the options to confront aggression, both traditional and unimaginable, Putin's power push in Ukraine, and the brutal march of ISIS.

Today, Britain's prime minister rings in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What we're facing in Iraq now with ISIL is a greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: And the U.S. president tries to muffle the drums of war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But there's no point in me asking for action on the part of Congress before I know exactly what it is that is going to be required for us to get the job done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: ISIS, the job, and what it takes to get it done with the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Dutch Ruppersberger, and Iraq war veteran Congressman Adam Kinzinger.

Then, economic sanctions be damned, Russia opens another front in the Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It's very important to recognize that a military solution to this problem is not going to be forthcoming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: From Kiev, Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on whether anything is forthcoming. Plus, the felony indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: God bless Texas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: ... with a man who has been there, done that, former House Republican Leader Tom DeLay on Perry's future and his take on Washington from the outside in.

And:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Labor Day weekend, the end of summer reruns and the beginning of fall campaign. Are you ready for some politics?

This is STATE OF THE UNION.

Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley.

We begin with a new setback for ISIS, thanks in part to military action by the U.S. Today, Iraqi security and volunteer forces broke the ISIS siege of Amirli, a town north of Baghdad. The U.S. carried out airstrikes there Saturday.

As for the larger questions about ISIS, I am joined by the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, and Republican Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and as well -- and a veteran from the war in Iraq.

So, thank you both for being here.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Sure.

CROWLEY: Just we heard from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last week saying, if you want to get rid of Syria, it's going to take -- I'm sorry -- if you want to get rid of ISIS, it is going to take going into Syria.

We have heard everybody with hair-on-fire analysis of what this group is capable of and of the imminent threat to the U.S. and to Britain and to all of these places. And then the president comes out and says -- seemed to try to want to put the brakes on the idea that we might go after ISIS in Syria.

What -- what is the message here about what our current take is from this administration about ISIS? REP. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER (D), MARYLAND: Well, first thing is

that we have to protect Americans. That's the number one issue.

We got in -- into Iraq because we had humanitarian issues that we had to deal with and because we have to -- in our ways, we have to stop ISIS. It's a very dangerous group of people. They -- we know they are barbaric, but they're well-funded, they're organized. And we have to make sure that we attempt to stop it.

Now, as it relates to Syria, Iraq is different than Syria. Iraq, we have relationships there. The government wants us to come in. We have intelligence with the Kurds and some in the Iraqi military. In Syria, it's a different story. It's another -- it's another country. The Syrian government has airpower. So you just don't...

CROWLEY: Sure, but they don't like ISIS either.

RUPPERSBERGER: No, they...

CROWLEY: But the -- but the fact is that this -- that's not new. And so I think what -- what people questioned was, why isn't there -- why aren't we thinking about this?

KINZINGER: I think the question is, you know, are we going to contain ISIS or are we going to crush ISIS? And that's really what it comes down to.

If you want to contain ISIS, yes, you engage them in Iraq. And I do commend the president for making the moves in Iraq. I think, look, that wasn't easy for him to do, and it was the right thing to break some of the sieges, to push the momentum back of ISIS. And what we have seen is, airpower actually works.

When airpower comes in, in coordination with Iraqi security forces, Peshmerga forces, those are our boots on the ground, by the way, are the folks that are native to that area and have an interest in it.

CROWLEY: Kurds.

KINZINGER: And even our own military, when we find ourselves engaged in combat, the first thing our own military, who are, unchecked, the best in the world do is, they call for airpower, airpower to come in and crush the enemy and help them move forward.

CROWLEY: So, Congressman Ruppersberger...

RUPPERSBERGER: Yes.

CROWLEY: ... which is it? Do we want to contain ISIS or do we want to destroy ISIS?

RUPPERSBERGER: We want to do whatever we need to do to stop ISIS.

Now, in order to do that... CROWLEY: Would that be...

RUPPERSBERGER: Well...

CROWLEY: Sorry.

RUPPERSBERGER: ... we need a plan.

I know the president was criticized saying, we don't have a plan. We -- we're working, whether it's military intelligence, which happens to be the best defense against terrorism, getting together that plan right now.

Now, you just don't come in and bomb unless you know where you are, who you are going to get. You don't want collateral damage killing other people. And when the time is right, we will do what we have to do.

CROWLEY: Well...

RUPPERSBERGER: And the other question is our coalitions.

It's not just the United States. We can't be sheriff for the whole world. It's France. It's -- it's the Brits. It's -- it's the other countries that need to work with us, including countries like Saudi Arabia and that region, who also need to stop...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: United Arab Emirates.

(CROSSTALK)

RUPPERSBERGER: Yes, no question.

KINZINGER: Well, I was going to say, I agree with everything Dutch said.

But the key here is this, is you have a group that really delights in evil here. And this isn't new. This isn't something that really took us by surprise in the last month. In fact, I remember in January, I called for strikes against ISIS when they moved into Fallujah, called a war -- a warmonger for that and whatever.

But now we see that I think, had we engaged ISIS in January, we probably wouldn't be on your show talking about it today. So, I think it's going to take a very concerted effort. We have had a year that the president has talked about trying to put together a strategy in Syria.

I think it was unfortunate that he used the term, we have no strategy in Syria.

CROWLEY: And, Congressman, we -- we also heard sort of joining the holy cow, these people are really awful and they need to be stopped... RUPPERSBERGER: Yes.

CROWLEY: ... the king of Saudi Arabia, who issued a warning about Islamic extremists. He didn't -- he didn't talk about ISIS particularly, but it seem aimed at them, talking about them attacking the West.

He said -- quote -- "I'm certain that, after a month, they will reach Europe and after another month America."

So we have been led to believe by the public statements of the Pentagon chief, of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by the president, by a lot of people that this is an immediate threat to U.S. interests at home and abroad. And now we're saying, well, it's -- we got to get these people help get us on board, and we have got to do this and we have got to do that.

And the president is talking about years and -- so, how urgent is it?

RUPPERSBERGER: It's extremely urgent, but you just don't rush in because the media is talking about it. You don't rush in because other countries don't -- aren't going to tell us what to do.

When we do it, we're going to -- endgame, we're going to get it done. And we will do what we have to do to protect us from ISIS.

CROWLEY: Are you disappointed that the president did not appear to have -- does not appear to have an approach to Syria?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, I happen to get information on a regular basis. I know that the administration has briefed me, has briefed our chairman, Chairman Rogers. And we get information about where we are.

Now, we have the best capabilities in the world from an intelligence point of view and the strongest military. If we're going to go in, we are just not going to go in and drop some bombs. We are going to go in to stop them on a long-term basis.

We have to learn from Iraq. In Iraq, military just doesn't do it alone. That's why it's so important that we have to get other people. We have to get the Sunnis more active. What happened in Iraq and Maliki's government pushing the Sunnis out caused a lot of this problem.

KINZINGER: See, look, this...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Go ahead.

KINZINGER: A lot of this, though, is -- and I agree. You know, we have got to go in cautiously. We have to understand where our targets are. We should have been doing this for a very long time, assessing this. The problem is, half the battle in this is public perception, and

not just public perception of the American public, but our enemy. What is our enemy thinking after the president's press conference the other day? Were they more worried about the United States of America or were they less worried? And I don't think there's many people that would argue that the president gave a forceful press conference.

Prime Minister Tony (sic) Cameron did, and that was very forceful. I think, if the president came out and said basically, look, we're going to take our time to find out where the targets are, but ISIS should understand that they are not going to survive, period, they would quake in their boots, because they are no match for the fierce United States military.

CROWLEY: Let me move just to the idea of allies and creating this coalition, and first in the region. How helpful now and what can you tell us about information from Jordan, from the Saudis, from the UAE, all of whom have a vested interest in seeing that ISIS doesn't spread? They are living in the neighborhood.

RUPPERSBERGER: They are extremely concerned. We know that.

CROWLEY: But concern isn't help.

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, no, they are concerned. But we need their help also. We need intelligence from them. We need Saudi Arabia, as an example, to help fund a lot of the issues we're talking...

CROWLEY: We don't get that now?

RUPPERSBERGER: ... we're talking about.

We're getting it, but we also need to stand up, especially the Sunni population to stand up. There's one issue I do want to raise that hasn't been raised, though. And that's the issue that this ISIS is holding land. Usually, if you're a terrorist, you don't have to protect your land. You just move in and you attack.

In this situation, they are controlling land. So, right now, their focus is more in the region. That's why we don't -- we don't have intelligence at this point that an attack on the United States is imminent.

That's why we didn't do in the United States what was done in Britain. And Britain has other issues and a certain population there that they are concerned about. So, that's why they -- they decided to move forward.

CROWLEY: Let -- let me also ask the two of you about our European allies.

We have heard what Cameron had to say. We have heard from France saying, well, this is really terrible, and we need to have some meetings, but, really, we're kind of a little more interested in Libya right now. That's where we're worried about terrorists. We have Germany saying, well, you know, yes, we're looking at it,

and we maybe would be helpful in some way in providing military equipment to Iraq. It just isn't a, hey, if we -- if you go into Syria, we're with you.

This is always a difficult sell to people who have more at stake, it seems to me sometimes, than the U.S.

KINZINGER: Well, I think, you know, it's a -- it's a couple of issues here.

Number one -- and it's always been this way for the last seven years. And, frankly, I think it's good, because I would rather America be in the leadership role than anybody else. But Europe responds when America takes a very strong position and a strong leadership role.

I think, if the president and when the president -- and hopefully he does -- comes out and says, this is not just in the interests of not just our homeland, not just the borders within the -- within the two oceans, but, you know, our allies, our interests around our embassies and everything, this is in our interests, and he can motivate the Europeans to come along, I think they will.

But, look, no -- Europe has notoriously been reluctant to engage. You see it in Ukraine right now, because of what they have going on there. And so it takes strong American leadership. And I think the president, if he gets serious about it, can rally Europe behind this -- taking on this threat.

CROWLEY: As a final sort of wrap-up question, Congressman Ruppersberger, if -- if some of this allied support and support in the region is forthcoming in some way, shape or form, does the U.S. have to provide some sort of way by air with allies on the ground to go into Syria?

RUPPERSBERGER: Clearly, we're providing air already. By the way...

CROWLEY: In Syria?

RUPPERSBERGER: What?

CROWLEY: I'm talking about Syria.

(CROSSTALK)

RUPPERSBERGER: In Syria.

CROWLEY: Yes. Should the U.S. go into Syria?

RUPPERSBERGER: If we need to go -- we need to protect ourselves from ISIS, we will. And -- but it's got to be a coalition.

CROWLEY: Do we need to go into Syria to do that? RUPPERSBERGER: Well, it -- we -- we don't have the information,

which hopefully we will have in the next week or so, what the plans are going to be. And lot of it is classified.

Remember, you don't tell an enemy you're coming in to attack them.

CROWLEY: Sure.

RUPPERSBERGER: So, that's the -- that's the number one issue. You don't respond to the media. You respond to what the endgame is.

And, by the way, as far as other -- other allies we have, the Brits, the Australian, the Italians, the French are all in there with us. They were involved just in the attack that occurred yesterday in Amirli. So these -- these are coming together, these coalitions...

CROWLEY: Right.

RUPPERSBERGER: ... and the intelligence. We have got to get the intelligence.

I -- I think you will see action within the next week or so.

CROWLEY: And -- go ahead.

KINZINGER: Well, I just want to add to that, sure, you don't tell every -- you don't tell the media everything you're going to do.

I also would just throw out there, you don't constantly take things off the table either. The idea of no troops on the ground, none of us want 100,000 American troops there, but quit saying what you're not going to do. Quit talking about mission creep. Say, look, we have to destroy ISIS.

If you have cancer in your liver, and it's spreading to other parts of your body, you don't just treat the other parts. You treat the liver. The liver is Syria. I think we have to go to the heart of this and do it in a big way. And I think Dutch and I...

(CROSSTALK)

RUPPERSBERGER: And I agree with Adam, too. Syria is the most dangerous place in the world.

What -- the biggest threat that I see to the United States right now are Americans and Brits who have passports that have the ability to come into our country without getting a visa. We had the suicide American bomber who was radicalized, came home to visit his parents, went back and then killed himself. Now, that could have happened in the United States.

That's my biggest concern, is these individuals who have gone to Syria to fight...

CROWLEY: Who have training and sort of can operate as lone wolves.

(CROSSTALK)

RUPPERSBERGER: ... and have been trained and radical -- and then they can come back. And it's a lot more difficult for the FBI or Homeland Security to identify them.

CROWLEY: But is -- is that substantially different from lone wolves who do this for other causes? And Boston, you know...

KINZINGER: Yes.

CROWLEY: ... that was a -- a tremendously damaging attack. So, why is an ISIS lone wolf with a Western passport that could easily get in here different?

KINZINGER: Well, I don't think a person coming back that had fought with ISIS is defined a lone wolf. A lone wolf is somebody in their mom's basement that feels neglected and decides to jihad themselves, in essence. But...

CROWLEY: We're talking about someone who knows what they're doing.

RUPPERSBERGER: And another issue there, too, is that they are using social media. They are recruiting people.

KINZINGER: Right.

RUPPERSBERGER: And that is serious. They are sophisticated. They have money. This is ISIS.

And they have -- they have recruited people through social media and other arenas. So, that's -- that's of a concern. This is what intelligence is about. It's the best defense against what we need to do to protect our country from an ISIS. We will do whatever we have to do, whether Democrat or Republican. We will do what we have to do to protect our country.

And one of the biggest issues we have now is not the homeland as much. We have to always be concerned. Something could happen tomorrow. But we have to be concerned about protecting Americans in another part of the world now. Look what happened to Foley. Look what happened to...

CROWLEY: Right.

RUPPERSBERGER: ... other Americans who have been kidnapped.

CROWLEY: Right.

RUPPERSBERGER: That's the issue that -- as of today.

CROWLEY: Congressman Ruppersberger...

RUPPERSBERGER: OK. CROWLEY: ... thank you for joining us.

RUPPERSBERGER: Good. Good to be with you.

CROWLEY: Congressman Kinzinger...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: ... thanks to you as well.

RUPPERSBERGER: OK.

CROWLEY: While world leaders ponder what to do about ISIS, somebody else is focused on Ukraine. As Vladimir Putin's forces move in, we ask a U.S. senator on the ground in Kiev, how much can the U.S. mess with Russia?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Welcome back.

Just a really quick technical note. We do have Senator Robert Menendez standing by in Kiev. We're having a couple of technical problems, though, so it's going to take just a little bit to get him to.

But, right now, we want to talk Labor Day weekend conversation. That means it's time to get serious about the midterm elections and, of course, 2016.

Potential Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is fighting a felony indictment, alleging he misused his power as Texas governor. That's never a big plus on the campaign trail, but can Perry make it work for him?

I'm joined by someone who has been there before, former House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, quite familiar with both politics, as well as the Texas justice system.

Congressman, thanks for joining me.

Is it possible for Governor Rick Perry to fight these charges and still keep the light, a positive light on a presidential campaign?

TOM DELAY (R), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, it's going to be difficult, Candy. That's -- that's for sure, especially in raising money.

People that may want to give him money will wait until this is over to give him the money, or -- or they may go somewhere else, another candidate. It all depends on -- over the next few weeks. The judge could throw this out as frivolous, which it is, and -- and -- and the prosecutor not appeal it, and then it would be over.

But all of those decisions are going to be made in the next 30 to 60 days, and -- and we will just have to see. (CROSSTALK)

DELAY: It -- it -- mine -- mine went nine years. So...

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: Right, right, still ongoing.

DELAY: ... Rick Perry's could go longer.

CROWLEY: I know that an appeal overturned your -- I know an appeal overturned your conviction, and now the prosecution is appealing the appeal, so it has been, I know, a lengthy process for you.

Let me ask you, though. The pushback I know that you have heard in Texas and elsewhere is, wait a second. The -- the special prosecutor has ties to Republicans. He was appointed by a judge who also has ties to Republicans. How is this political?

DELAY: Well, it's political because the investigation was initiated by Rosemary Lehmberg, this rogue DA that runs this office, public integrity unit, in Austin, Texas.

She initiated the investigation. They appointed a new judge. One judge recused herself, and then -- then they appointed another judge. But the crux of whether it's politics or not is, look at the law. I'm not a lawyer, but I -- it happened to me too.

They -- they want the indictment. Then they find a law and twist it. They are using in Rick Perry's case a bribery...

CROWLEY: But I guess the point is that those who are doing the -- that the prosecutor who brought the indictment is not a Democrat in any way anybody can see and, in fact, has ties to Republicans. So, I'm wondering why that then...

DELAY: Well, that's not true.

CROWLEY: Go ahead.

DELAY: Candy, that's not true.

He has ties to Obama. He has ties to the Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: And he has ties to Republicans, yes?

DELAY: Well, yes.

CROWLEY: OK.

DELAY: But that has nothing to do with this.

What has -- what has to do with this is, you take a law and you twist it so you -- you can get the indictment. There -- that is prosecutorial misconduct, whether you're a Republican or Democrat. This prosecutor was appointed to make this investigation.

I don't know what went on behind the scenes, but he took the law and he twisted it and to make it fit the governor, who is doing nothing more than vetoing appropriations. That's -- that has -- I mean, that has partisan politics and -- and criminalization of politics written all over it.

CROWLEY: Let me move you and use your -- your vast knowledge of politics and your analytical brain and ask you...

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: ... Senator (sic) Perry is one of those who is thinking about a 2016 run on the Republican side, Chris Christie. We -- Rand Paul. We see Rubio, Marco Rubio.

As you look at those names being bandied about, who strikes you as possibly someone who can survive the primary process and be the Republican leader?

DELAY: Well, it's way too early to tell that, Candy.

What I do see is, we have got some great candidates. We have got not just those you have named, but several governors, Scott Walker in -- from Wisconsin, Bobby Jindal from Louisiana, who have great records. You still got Rick Santorum out there, who is building a grassroots campaign.

All of these candidates are really great candidates. And the best part about it is, they have a vision. They are focused on the Constitution, which excites me. I'm calling for a revolution for the Constitution. And most of these candidates are focusing on the Constitution and the difference between the left and progressives and the conservatives and then building a vision.

All of these candidates are exciting people. And -- and what the Democrats have to be worried about is bringing up a Clinton all these years, after all these years, and -- and having Clinton run against former governors, senators. We have -- we have got them all. And we -- and who knows who is going to emerge.

CROWLEY: Sure.

Let me -- let me ask you. You have got a lot of favorite sons running in Texas, or who we believe will be running...

DELAY: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: ... among them Governor Perry, Senator Ted Cruz.

So, if it comes down to a primary and you have got to pull a lever for Ted Cruz or Rick Perry, who are you going to pull it for? DELAY: Me?

CROWLEY: You.

DELAY: Oh, I'm not...

(LAUGHTER)

DELAY: I'm not going there yet, Candy.

(LAUGHTER)

DELAY: Not at all.

I want to see these guys call for a revolution for the Constitution and compare the -- the world views that have gotten us into the mess that we're in vs. the world view of protecting the rights given to us by the Constitution.

CROWLEY: How about you...

DELAY: That's what I'm looking for.

CROWLEY: How about your own future as you look at it? You may or may not be at the end of this judicial process and the charges against you, as it, overturning the charges, is now on appeal.

If this next court says, no, I'm -- we're going to let it stand, these charges are overturned, what does Tom DeLay do?

DELAY: Well, Tom DeLay will do what I have been doing for the last 10 years.

I certainly have been working on my legal cloud. But I have been involved in -- with a lot of different groups. I have been specifically involved in reaching out and calling for a spiritual revival, and that -- because so many Christians did not get involved in the last two elections, and we need to be bringing God back into the public square. And who knows what...

CROWLEY: Do you want to run for office again? Would you like to run for office again?

DELAY: I don't know what the lord has for me.

(LAUGHTER)

DELAY: I don't know. I just take it one day at a time.

CROWLEY: I'm going to go with a maybe on that, Congressman.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: Listen, thank you so much for your time today. We will talk to you in the future. I appreciate it.

DELAY: Be well. Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

We have much more on presidential politics ahead, but still ahead, Vladimir Putin says Russia can't stand by idly in Ukraine. How should the West respond? I will ask a U.S. senator who is in Kiev right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: A defiant Vladimir Putin warns the West, don't mess with Russia.

And in a new interview today, Putin says Russia can't stand by idly as people are being shot at in Eastern Ukraine. He also asked for substantive talks on what he calls the political organization of Ukrainian society.

Joining me now from Kiev is Senator Robert Menendez. He's chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, obviously on a fact-finding mission in Ukraine.

Senator, first, thank you for joining us.

And, second, just flat out, are Russian forces in Ukraine directly engaging Ukrainian forces?

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Yes, this is a watershed moment, Candy.

Thousands of Russian troops are here with tanks, missiles, heavy artillery, and are directly engaged in what is clearly an invasion.

CROWLEY: So, it is a watershed moment. And I -- just to review the bidding for our audience, we started out with some travel bans on individuals, freezing assets on some -- some of the elite in Russia, kind of moved to companies and some sanctions there. Then we went to sectors of the economy.

We now have a Russian economy that looks like it's headed towards a recession and a Putin who is more popular than ever. Nothing has moved him. What's the next step?

MENENDEZ: Well, I think Putin has sized up the Western and figured that the most difficult sanctions against Russia and the arms necessary for the Ukrainians to be able to defend themselves is not coming from the West.

And we have to prove him wrong. That means we have to look at sectoral sanctions. We have sanctions within certain sectors, individuals and companies. We have to seriously consider sectoral sanctions, whether that's in the financial services, whether that's in the defense industry, whether that's in the energy industry.

And we also should be providing -- and I hope the NATO summit will create an opportunity for this. We should be providing the Ukrainians with the type of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon Putin for further aggression.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about this, as you well know the president has not wanted to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine. He said, obviously, time after time this is not going to be solved in a military way.

Now, I think Russia probably thinks it can be solved in a military way. What do you think of the president's rationale right now for withholding weaponry and by that I mean lethal weaponry to Ukraine and can it stand?

MENENDEZ: Well, I think that was his initial assessment. And there are those in Europe and elsewhere who says, you know, we don't want to provoke Putin. Well, Putin doesn't need provocation. In this case weakness is a greater provocation for Putin act than strike.

And Putin only understands two things and that's strength either because of the economic consequences that we can levy upon Russia and hopefully the European Union will move with us into more significant sectoral sanctions. And also the costs to Russians as they send their sons and daughters back in body bags to Russia and Russian mothers say, what is happening here?

And that will come if the Ukrainians have the wherewithal -- they are more than willing to fight and they've showed a tremendous resilience. They've also showed a lot of restraint but it's at a point where a -- Russia has come, invaded with thousands of troops, with missiles, with tanks. This is no longer the question of some rebel separatists, this is a direct invasion by Russia. And we must recognize it as that. When I read the headlines back at home that suggests rebels are advancing in different parts of eastern Ukraine it's not rebels it's Russian soldiers.

CROWLEY: And so, you want the president, the U.S. to -- and other countries, I assume, to provide lethal weaponry to Ukraine. Do you have any reason to believe that the Obama administration will do that?

MENENDEZ: Well, I think that may be very well on the table right now. There's ability to consider that these are changed circumstances.

Look, Russia violated the international order that we had invited it to since the Cold War, a whole effort was to get Russia and other countries to observe that you don't solve disputes by invading another country, taking over their territory, and annexing them. Russia has violated that. So, it seems to me that this is a test from my perspective, Putin has a war against Europe being fought on Ukrainian territory. Because everything that he despises about Europe is what he's concerned about Ukraine moving towards.

And so at the end of the day this is also about our concerns globally. If there is not a heavy price for Russia to pay for its invasion of Ukraine, then what do we say to China in the South China Sea? What do we say to Iran as it seeks to pursue nuclear weapons? What do we say to North Korea and the Korean continent, I mean, you know, the Korean peninsula? These are consequences that flow even far beyond the conflict

that is taking place here. And that's what we have to think about in terms of our national interest security to preserve an international order that ultimately observes the rule of law and doesn't ultimately violate it by invasions and territorial annexation.

CROWLEY: So, Senator, if I'm hearing you correctly you say the circumstances have changed. Russia is now at war in Ukraine. And the U.S. has to -- and the Obama administration has to change its approach to arming the Ukrainian army.

MENENDEZ: I think the European Union, NATO, as well as the United States has to consider this is dramatically different and we have to give the Ukrainians the fighting chance to defend themselves. I'm not suggesting U.S. troops here or NATO troops here...

CROWLEY: Right.

MENENDEZ: ...but I am suggesting that the Ukrainians have the wherewithal to fight for themselves.

CROWLEY: Senator Bob Menendez, in Kiev for us today. He is of course the chairman of the senate Foreign Relations Committee. Thank you so much, Senator.

More presidential politics just ahead. Including a back to the future moment for Mitt Romney and the Republicans. Our panel weighs in on whether the third time, then a third run for the White House might be the charm.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) presidential runs but a growing Republican chorus is singing Mitt Romney's tune for 2016.

Joining me around the table Lanhee Chen, he is a former adviser to Mitt Romney, CNN contributor, Marc Lamont Hill, Penny Lee, one time adviser to Senator Harry Reid, and Republican pollster, Kristen Soltis Anderson. Thanks all.

Let me start with the poll because you know how we feel about polls. This was a "USA Today" poll about Republicans' choice in Iowa. For this - for 2016. OK. Just to put you into the future. Romney 35 percent, next closest Huckabee at 9 percent.

Now, I'd like to play you something that Mitt Romney who has, can we all agree, said he's not running, right? Many times. And so, here's Mitt Romney on "The Hugh Hewitt Show" this weekend I think.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have had the chance of running. I didn't win. Someone else has a better chance than I do. And that's what we believe, and that's why I'm not running.

And, you know, circumstances can change, but I'm just not going to let my head go there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Could you interpret this for us -- Mitt Romney for us and tell us what that means?

LANHEE CHEN, MITT ROMNEY 2012 ADVISER: That means Governor Romney is not running. He's not a candidate. He won't be a candidate.

I can understand why there's so much interest in Governor Romney. I mean, look, I don't think there has ever been a former presidential candidate who has been so on the money in his assessment on a president's failure. So, that's (INAUDIBLE) but Governor Romney is not running.

CROWLEY: And you think -- I mean, because he went on to say, well they all got together and came together and said, hey, we decided we can't do it you must do it. (INAUDIBLE) one in a million. And so it just seems to me he went -- to the door.

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's what politicians do.

And he said -- and he said someone else has a better chance of winning. So, that opens a door for a month or two or three months from now and say, you know what? I actually reassessed the situation and now I have He can say I reassessed the situation and now I have the best chance of winning, and so, I'm going to run. I think that's a bad idea, though.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it's highly unlikely that he's going to run. And what you're seeing in these polls right now is a lot of folks who are agreeing with Lanhee's assessment that Governor Romney was right on a lot of issue. And now looking back or thinking, wow, look what's happening around the world. The world is kind of on fire.

But in these polls it's a lot of name identification. People know who Governor Romney is. He was in the national spotlight. A lot of these other folks in the Republican field are lesser known quantities. But as 2016 approaches and voters get to know them more those polls will change.

PENNY LEE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think he's asking for the ready for Mitt campaign to start.

(LAUGHTER)

Let's see exactly whether or not. Because when you do talk to supporters Lanhee and others know there really is still an enthusiastic response towards his own candidacy. You even heard Paul Ryan, his running mate say, three times the charm.

So, you know, it will be interesting to see whether or not he does "get recruited" and there isn't a ready for Mitt kind of campaign effort.

HILL: I think it's an awful idea.

I mean, when he's not running everybody loves Mitt Romney. The challenge is when he's running will the Republican base say that he's not conservative enough. With the same concerns about everything from, you know, their concerns about religion. And this weird sort of (INAUDIBLE) about Mitt Romney not being strong enough, the whole 47 percent. All that stuff comes back out at the moment you throw your hat in the ring. It's best to stay -

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: But Mitt Romney is not the only person that may have to deal with that. Think about the other side of the aisle, Hillary Clinton, everybody can love her. And then as soon as her hat goes in the ring I suspect you might see things change for her as well.

CHEN: On the issues...

HILL: Yes.

CHEN: ...Mitt Romney has been asked (INAUDIBLE) whether you look at Iraq, Russia, or the economy, or Obamacare, those critiques have been absolutely right. And that's why people are enthused about the notion of a potential Romney candidacy.

CROWLEY: And when was the last time, like in history, that a group of people running for president went to someone else and said, oh, you should -- ?

LEE: It's usually the stop but come on and tell me. You know, usually it's the begging for that question to be answered whether or not do you really love me? Please tell me you really love me. I mean, that's usually the context in which you do it. And so, you know, we always say, it takes one person to talk you into it and 10,000 to talk you out of it.

So, you know, a lot of this people have the preconceived notion in where they want to go. Mitt Romney obviously has tried twice and (INAUDIBLE) as you can see even though there was maybe a Shermanesque moment there, you can tell it is not right now in his heart.

CROWLEY: Let me just move you quickly to Rick Perry.

How long can this indictment be pending before it begins to hurt him on the campaign trail. Unofficial campaign trail -- I think -- on official campaign trail?

People right now say, look for the primary audience, this is kind of OK right now. When does it start to hurt him?

HILL: I think he can ride this wave through a Republican primary to be quite honest because it looks like --

CROWLEY: Under indictment? HILL: Yes. I think it looks like power hungry Democrats. I

think it looks like an attack on him. It looks like a political prosecution and I think he can say, I'm being crucified right now. I think he can win on this.

CHEN: Think about who has gotten behind Rick Perry. You have Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal. All of these potential 2016 -

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: David Axelrod.

CHEN: And people on the left too.

(LAUGHTER)

The amazing coalition of the willing saying, you know, this is a clearly political indictment, a ridiculous charge. And I think Governor Perry has played it really well.

ANDERSON: I mean, think about what he's being accused of. He's being accused of exercising veto power. He's not being accused of mismanaging campaign funds or doing the sorts of conditional things we think of in terms of political corruption. He was trying veto funding because of the D.A. who did some things that, you know, the video sort of says it all.

LEE: This is much different than what Chris Christie is facing.

HILL: Right.

LEE: This is a must different indictment. This is as you say, from a flawed district attorney whose own office, Travis County office, is known to go after these political indictments.

Much different circumstances. One that you probably can ride a lot longer than Chris Christie.

CROWLEY: Let me (INAUDIBLE) because there may be several months for us to discuss this. We got to get in to a break and get to the election that's 65 days away.

Are there wild cards that could affect the 2016 election?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Congress repeals Obamacare insurance companies will go back to charging whatever they want.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's time to pay attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to want to do this to your TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll use my glock to blow your balls off. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I grew up castrating hogs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll stand up to the big spender.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: I just want to get you all in the mood...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: ...2014 elections, right?

So, just a couple of the ads. I want to also play you some -- Ted Cruz gave a speech this weekend and it was a stem-winder and it was to the party faithful and it really was aimed at getting out the vote. You all have to bring nine friends. He said there are issues here that will be at play. So, I want to play you two sound bites from him. The first one deals with immigration the second one with foreign policy, specifically Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: There's a good chance he's going to try again to illegally grant amnesty to millions more people. Let's be absolutely clear. Doing that is utterly lawless.

You look at Russia right now. Sadly the state of the world is the Russian bear is encountering the Obama kitty cat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So, two issues, first of all foreign policy, ISIS, Ukraine and immigration what the president may or may not do to extend the stay of some that don't have papers to stay here legally.

So, what other factors could move this election? Because it seems to me as you watch the state polls, typically for the Senate, where Republicans would like to take over, they get used to 40-40 races, and some 59-41 races. So little thing -- or big things can sway. What's going to sway this election or what could sway?

LEE: What you're not seeing is this whole wave election like we have seen in the where we have seen in the past where there was kind of this overarching narrative, you know, either anti-Bush or anti whatever that it was waving and sending people in.

So, you do have these individual issues that are going to resonate with the individual states in unique, different ways. So, it could be on the foreign policy front. It could be on immigration. Immigration can hurt and help in both ways especially for Democrats. It can help in Colorado, it can hurt in Arkansas.

So, they are going to have these things. You're going to have some maybe residual effects from Ferguson and an angerness from the African-Americans (INAUDIBLE) in their community. Will that drive them out? Will they feel alienated in North Carolina because of the voting rights laws? So, there going to be a lot of different issues that are going to affect each candidate and each race in very unique ways.

ANDERSON: I think right now both sides of the aisle have different approaches to whether something -- they want something to change the game at this point.

I think for Republicans sort of keeping the status quo, keeping these races close. I think sort of benefits them because the momentum feels like it's behind Republicans. Midterms they tend to be at an advantage. That's why you're seeing a lot of Democrats trying to push this narrative. The Republicans are going to impeach the president, that they want to shut down the government. That's why you're hearing all of this rhetoric coming out of the left that's trying to scare people into changing the dynamics so that Democrats can perhaps have a little bit more -- a better chance in some of these (ph) races (ph).

HILL: And I think there's an internal since Republicans will once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That they will drop the ball somewhere nearly October. And I think that's what people are hoping for. North Carolina is actually a good example of just how mixed up this race is.

(INAUDIBLE) I don't think it's about ISIS. I don't think it's going to be about Ukraine. It could be about the local dysfunction of the state legislature which favors Hagan or it could be a referendum on Obama which (INAUDIBLE). Or it could be the third party libertarian, Sean Haugh, who completely blows it. He needs a few thousand votes to make a difference here. So, I think that's how messy it is. You said, there's no overarching narrative.

CHEN: It is interesting though because this is really the first election we can think of in awhile where there hasn't been a single overarching issue. We've talked about this, right? Is it going to be ISIS or Ukraine, Obama care? Is the economy going to continue to create part-time jobs instead of full-time work? Those also are relevant issues.

And then the other thing is really going to be money down the stretch. And I know there's concern about getting the masses spent on the Republican side in states like Iowa, and Louisiana, and North Carolina, how is that going to impact the election?

But the one thing I think Republicans do have going for them this cycle is they got great candidates. And that's something they may not have had in the past. And I think they feel really good about the group of candidates they have particularly in states like North Carolina. And now you have got Colorado, New Hampshire, Oregon, Minnesota maybe coming online. This could be very interesting and broad election.

LEE: I always say that Democrats also have some great candidates especially in places like Kentucky, and Georgia, places that aren't normally seen as Democratic strong holds and places in which Democrats can excel at. So, you have two women candidates down there that might take out the minority leader and others. So, you do have this really interesting dynamic that is playing on but --

CROWLEY: Beginning to feel unsettled.

LEE: Yes.

CROWLEY: There was a while, oh my gosh, you know, a whole place is going to completely change. Now around to, wait a second, this could happen and that could happen.

Let me ask you about what apparently is an internal White House debate about whether the president should do an executive order that will allow some folks -- some undocumented folks here in the U.S. to stay, give them the papers and -- to stay and then there's some idea that maybe he should do this after the election. You alluded to that.

What are they thinking over there? Once you say you're going to do it, does it matter when you do it?

HILL: Yes, I think so. I mean, even -- obviously the conversation -- this conversation itself creates problems. But if you do it right now it just builds on this pre-existing narrative that the president is completely out of touch with the American people. He's going rogue. He's violating the constitution. All these things that are being said and I think it kills people in places like North Carolina where they're very much attached to President Obama or in Kentucky where Alison Lundergan Grimes can't take any more hits in order -- to win a tight election. This is going to be tough. I think you wait until after you do it. You take the hit afterwards.

ANDERSON: The politics of immigration depend entirely on the time horizon you're looking at. If you're looking at short term, if you're looking at 2014, I think the politics there favor Republicans particularly if the president comes out and says, I think I'd like to decide how I want be to enforce the immigration laws and allow millions of undocumented folks to stay.

And I think that long term is where Democrats may have the advantage on the issue.

LEE: Look at me. Look at why we're here. I mean, we had a Congress that couldn't even do anything especially with the border crisis that we were facing with the influx of children that were coming in from South American countries. All he was asking to do was provide the funding so that --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Which is all the more reason to say, really we need to have a Republican Senate.

LEE: Well, I think the Republicans just want those (ph) issues (ph). I think more than anything they don't want it to solve. They don't want to come up with the solution in and of themselves. And they will -- they actually want their -- almost daring the president to act so then they can make this even more a campaign issue.

CHEN: I disagree. I disagree. I do think the biggest problem with an executive action in immigration is that it freezes the real solution in the problem. From a policy perspective, it's a horrible idea because you've got some moderate Republicans who might be willing to come over and help the president to work with us (ph).

LEE: He asked. He was willing that the Congress would have acted.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: That's an argument we'll have on the campaign trail.

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: He would rather have Congress act.

CHEN: Well, I think -- I think the issue is this, if the Republicans take the Senate and have the House in 2015, there is an opportunity for Republicans to send to the president their immigration solution.

CROWLEY: Right. But there's also -- they're going to need to show something for it...

LEE: Yes.

CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE). I've got to leave it there.

Lanhee Chen, Penny Lee, Kristen Soltis Anderson, Marc Lamont Hill, thank you guys so much. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Be sure to watch us each weekend at this time or set your DVRs so you won't miss a moment.

Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," starts right now.