Transcript: Sen. Mark Kelly on “Face the Nation,” April 14, 2024


The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Mark Kelly, Democrat of Arizona, that aired on April 14, 2024.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re joined now by Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly. Welcome back to Face The Nation, Senator.

SEN. MARK KELLY: Thank you for having me on. Margaret,

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you are on the Intelligence Committee, you track a lot of national security issues. The U.S. intelligence assessment back in February that was declassified said Iran is quote, “not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons development activities necessary to produce a testable nuclear device.” Are you concerned that some of these calls for strikes on Iran by Israel or for- even U.S. participation in them, could that change Iran’s calculus?

SEN. KELLY: Well, I think it could and that’s why we don’t want to see this escalate. You know, last night, we supported Israel in their defense very successfully. This is a very aggressive act by Iran. They’ve been doing this for months now through their proxies, but now directly from Iranian territory, so this is significant. We don’t want to see this escalate into a wider conflict. At the same time, I am constantly looking at the Iranian nuclear weapons capability. They could get pretty close, pretty fast if they chose to do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But they have not, as yet, decided to make that political decision.

SEN. KELLY: That- that is our intelligence community’s analysis of this and I would agree with that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. In a poll that was taken before this Iranian reprisal, Democrat’s support for sending weapons to Israel has dropped from almost half to a third since October , according to our latest poll that we released today. Democrats are now more sympathetic to Palestinians than to Israelis. Are you concerned that Israel’s conduct in this war in Gaza and the use of U.S. military equipment is going to hurt President Biden in November?

SEN. KELLY: Well, my- my first concern here is the Israeli people and the Palestinian people. I mean, Israel was violently attacked on October 7. I’ve watched an hour of footage from that day, it was horrific, and Israel has a right to defend itself. The way this has been conducted in Gaza, I have serious concerns, I’ve expressed those. Just most recently, about a week ago with the Israeli ambassador about what happened with the World Central Kitchen; reckless act and irresponsible, and they need to do better. We provide them with significant aid, and we’re going to need to provide them with more by the way here because of what happened last night, we were going to need to replenish their rounds. Yeah, I mean, I’m always you know, I’m concerned with perceptions and- and an election. But the thing that’s always top of mind for me, because I sit on the Intelligence Committee, I’m on the Armed Services Committee, it’s our own national security and the national security of our allies.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, Senator, I know, You’ve been concerned about the security of Ukraine as well and that national security supplemental. I want to talk to you more in depth about that and what’s happening in your home state in a moment, but I’m gonna have to take a commercial break here. So stay with us and we hope that all of you will stay with us as we talk as well about the Arizona Supreme Court decision last week that shook the political world. Stay with us

–COMMERCIAL BREAK–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation. We are continuing our conversation now with Senator Mark Kelly. Senator, before we leave national security space, I want to ask you about some U.S. intelligence information declassified and shared with reporters this week at the White House, that China’s surging equipment to Russia for its war with Ukraine, helping Moscow fill gaps in its production cycle, including helping to produce drones and artillery. Why is China using this moment to help Russia with its war in Ukraine?

SEN. KELLY: Well, I think they realize that Russia, the outcome of this war, Russia against Ukraine is critical for their own decisions with Taiwan in the Western Pacific. This is all connected. Iran, Ukraine, China, the stock of Ukrainian ammunition is dwindling. They’re going to run out of ammunition. Russia’s capacity, we look at this all the time, is going up. With the help of China, Russia can win this. If we support Ukraine, Ukraine can win. We passed an emergency supplemental two months ago. It’s sitting on the speaker’s desk, he should bring that to the floor tomorrow night, get it passed. This is also going to help Israel, we can replenish, you know. the stocks that they used last night.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I take your point, Senator, on them all being connected. I want to ask you about what’s happening in your home state of Arizona, as you know the State Court ruled an 1864 Civil War era law can take effect that would criminalize abortion, it’s on hold at the moment, but this is a live issue. Do you have confidence that your state legislators will take action before it goes into effect?

SEN. KELLY: Well, let me start by saying this has been a disaster for women in Arizona. They’ve lost a fundamental right to abortion, and it’s all because of Donald Trump. And our legislature, yeah, they tried to fix this a couple of days ago, that did not work. We’ve got to get- we’ve got a ballot initiative in November to fix this. Donald Trump owns this. He said just yesterday that he broke Roe v. Wade and because he did that, this enabled our court to bring back this draconian 1864 law to take away this right, send doctors to jail.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean, to be fair, your Republican state legislators have some agency here too, they could have done something different, but I take your rhetorical point.

SEN. KELLY: They could have. Yeah, they could have and right, they did not do- do anything about it. They had the opportunity. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, there is that initiative you just mentioned to put on the ballot in November a chance for your state to vote on this particular issue and it would guarantee abortion access up to viability, which is anywhere between 21 and 24 weeks, typically, of pregnancy. From a political position, how much is this going to help offset some of the disappointment and exhaustion we’re seeing in polling from Democratic voters? Will this issue drive up turnout in a way that benefits the president in your state?

SEN. KELLY: Well, my first concern is women in Arizona and their- and their health and women could die from this 1864 ruling that once again was enabled by the former president. So that’s my biggest concern. We’re going to have an election in November. I imagine we’re going to have large turnout because of this issue. I also want to point out, Margaret, that I don’t think this represents who we are in the state of Arizona. This is a moment in time, we’re gonna get through this. We have an opportunity to fix this in November.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we will be watching to see what happens. Senator, thank you very much for joining us. 

SEN. KELLY: Thank you. Thank you, Margaret. Today



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