Tulsi Gabbard Interview on CNN's State of the Union

Tulsi Gabbard Interview on CNN's State of the Union

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union, especially in Hawaii, is a bit traumatized.

We saw panic and confusion in paradise Saturday after a false message was sent out over radio, television, and cell phones warning: "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill."

It took 38 minutes before a second message went out telling residents and tourists that the alert had been sent in error.

The incident prompted immediate anger and outrage from state leaders, Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz calling it an abomination, the governor of Hawaii saying the false alarm was totally unacceptable.

Officials blame human error for the mistake, saying an employee pressed the wrong button during a shift change.

The frightening false alarm adds to the stress Hawaiians are already feeling over the escalating nuclear tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

I want to get straight to Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She's also a veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Congresswoman, first, how are people in Hawaii doing? That must have been unbelievably traumatic.

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: I think traumatic understates the experience that the people of Hawaii went through yesterday, getting that alert that went out to over a million cell phones all across the state, to speak of the visitors who were there who got that same alert, saying an incoming missile is headed your way, take shelter, this is not a drill.

Hawaii has just started, a few months ago, these monthly nuclear attack sirens as a test and telling people, hey, you have got -- you hear this siren, you have got 15 minutes to seek shelter.

So, when the people of Hawaii got this message yesterday, they're literally going through this feeling of, I have got minutes to find my loved ones, to say my last goodbyes, to figure out, where could I possibly find shelter that would protect them from a nuclear attack, and not having an answer to those questions.

This was unacceptable that this happened. But it really highlights the stark reality that the people of Hawaii are facing.

TAPPER: And you were telling me about parents who had to decide which child they were going to spend their last minutes with.

GABBARD: Yes.

I mean, I was hearing from people all across the state yesterday, telling me what they went through when they got that alert. And one was a father who had two kids who were in different places on the island. And he had, in those seconds, to make a decision about which of his children he was going to go and spend the last minutes of his life with.

TAPPER: That's so awful.

I think a lot of people are, in addition to being deeply touched -- and I hope the people of Hawaii know how much the rest of us in the other 49, how seriously we take it and how horrible we feel.

But I think a lot of people are surprised that this could happen because one person touched one button.

GABBARD: Yes.

TAPPER: Now, you sit on the House committee on -- Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee. Shouldn't there be more safeguards than one person touching one button?

GABBARD: Absolutely.

The fact that these processes failed so epically that caused this trauma, that caused this terror all across the state of Hawaii must be fixed immediately. And those responsible for this happening need to be held accountable, making sure that this cannot, it cannot happen again.

TAPPER: I think there are a lot of people out there -- and I don't want to be flip about this.

I think there are a lot of people out there who are happy that this at least didn't happen while President Trump was watching "FOX & Friends," and, instead, it happened when he was out on the golf course, and he was informed about this by layers of advisers and such, because we know that, historically, misunderstandings and false alarms have almost led to nuclear confrontation, nuclear war.

GABBARD: Right.

TAPPER: Are you at all worried about the fact that an accident, a misunderstanding might lead to something like this?

GABBARD: There's no question.

And that really highlights the global consequence of what Hawaii just went through yesterday. This is not just about what happened to Hawaii. And this is where I really hope that people across the country, that leaders here in Washington are paying attention to what people went through and what the consequences of that can be.

So, we are facing a very direct nuclear threat from North Korea. By the way, we also are the country, with Russia, where we have thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at each other that could be launched within a moment's notice.

So, understanding what is at stake here when we're talking about nuclear war and the threat of nuclear war hanging over our heads, it's not just the president making a decision to launch a nuclear weapon. It's these kinds of mistakes that we have seen happen in the past that bring us to this brink of nuclear war that could be unintentional. And that's really what is at stake here for the people of Hawaii.

And what makes me angry is, yes, that this false alarm went out, and we have to fix that in Hawaii. But, really, we have got to get to the underlying issue here of, why are the people of Hawaii and this country facing a nuclear threat coming from North Korea today? And what is this president doing urgently to eliminate that threat?

TAPPER: Now, you have said that he's taking too long to deal with this and he's not taking the threat from North Korea seriously. What do you want President Trump to be doing?

GABBARD: Well, I have been talking about the seriousness of this threat for years, since I have came hear to Congress.

And I have been calling on President Trump to directly negotiate with North Korea, to sit across the table from Kim Jong-un, work out the differences, so that we can build a pathway towards denuclearization to remove this threat.

There's a few things that have to happen in order for those negotiations to be successful. First of all, they have to happen without preconditions. And this has been a learned lesson from the decades of failed leadership that the people of Hawaii are paying the price for now, where they set these unrealistic preconditions, for example, saying North Korea, we're only going to talk to you if you first get rid of your nuclear weapons.

What would be the point of having a conversation if they get rid of their nuclear weapons?

TAPPER: Yes.

GABBARD: There would be nothing to talk about at that point.

But the second issue is understanding why North Korea has developed and is holding on so tightly to these nuclear weapons, because they see it as the only deterrent against the U.S. coming in and overthrowing their regime there.

So, that exists as a result, again, of our decades-long regime change or policies around the world, that North Korea is now in a position where Kim Jong-un is saying, no way, I'm not going to give up these nuclear weapons, because he doesn't see that credible message coming from the United States that we don't -- we're not interested in overthrowing your government. We're interested in removing this nuclear threat from our country and the world.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Gabbard, we always like having you on the show. And I'm really sorry it was under these conditions.

Please convey to the people of Hawaii how much the rest of us care about what happened.

GABBARD: Thank you.

TAPPER: Thank you so much.