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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Rep. Steve Scalise Wins GOP Nomination For House Speaker; Israeli Official: Talks Underway To Allow American Citizens, Palestinians To Leave Gaza; Rockets Fired From Gaza As Israeli Troops Mass Near Border; Now: Biden Meeting With Jewish Community Leaders; Israeli Official: Iran Effectively "Gave Green Light" To Hamas Attacks, Initial U.S. Intel Suggests Iran Was Surprised By The Hamas Attack. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired October 11, 2023 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
The war in the Middle East at this hour appears to be expanding as it steps up the Gaza offensive. Israel has now formed an emergency wartime government in response to the Hamas terror attacks that have killed at least 1,200 people -- 22 or more of them Americans.
The Israeli government is publicly accusing the Iranian regime of, quote, giving the green light to Hamas, which it funds, to carry out the barbaric attacks over the weekend -- a statement that differs from sources familiar with U.S. intelligence.
If you thought the seriousness of this all, the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust, the war that will cost countless innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives, risks of a regional conflict. If you thought this all would motivate House Republicans to get their act together, to elect a speaker, so the U.S. legislative branch can function -- well, you would be wrong.
Behind closed doors today, the majority of House Republicans chose Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana to be their nominee to be the next speaker of the House, but 99 House Republicans did not choose him. And instead of coming together behind the majority choice of the majority party, the minority is, once again, rebelling. In the full House vote on the next speaker, which could happen have been happening right this minute, is not happening, and it is scheduled for -- well, who knows when, really?
Let's start on Capitol Hill with CNN's Melanie Zanona.
Melanie, when will this vote for speaker take place? At least one, when is it scheduled to take place? And does Scalise have enough Republican support to win the speakership? Or will he, by that time?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well Jake, at this moment, there is no floor vote schedule for today in the House. In fact, it seems very unlikely that is going to happen and that is because of your second question, which is Steve Scalise does not currently have enough votes to secure the speakership on the House floor. Remember, he only won the party nomination by a very slim margin. The vote was 113 to 99, and he needs 217 on the House floor.
So, Scalise has some work to do here and he did recognize that to reporters after he won the party nominations. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), MAJORITY LEADER: First, I want to thank my house Republican colleagues for just designating me as the speaker. Obviously, we still have work to do. We are going to have to go upstairs on the House floor and resolve this, and then get the House opened again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: Now, one thing that might help Scalise here is that Jim Jordan, his rival in the speakers race, has offered to give the nominating speech for Steve Scalise on the House floor and he's also encouraging his supporters to get behind Steve Scalise.
But, Jake, according to our tally, there are at least eight members who say they will vote for someone else other than Scalise on the floor and an additional eight member say they are either undecided or noncommittal. So, there's a math problem here. Steve Scalise is going to have to rally the support of the Congress, but at this point, he does not have the votes, all while critical issues like aid for Israel and government funding hang in the balance.
TAPPER: And what are we hearing from four Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, who started this fight by filing the motion to remove former Speaker Kevin McCarthy?
ZANONA: Yeah, so interestingly, Matt Gaetz is not one of those members who is vowing to withhold support for Steve Scalise. In fact, he's cheering on the idea of a Steve Scalise speakership. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I'm excited for him. Can't wait to be able to vote for Steve Scalise. Long live Speaker Scalise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: So, Matt Gaetz, as you heard there, seems content to have just taken down Kevin McCarthy. He's not seeming like he will try to make any demands or have any concessions that he needs, but that's not the case for other members. Some of them, including can Buck, one of the members who did vote to take down Kevin McCarthy, said, he wants to see several commitments from Steve Scalise, including what he's going to do on Ukraine aid, what he's going to do on government funding, and whether the 2020 election was stolen. That was a question that he has both candidates behind closed doors and neither of them would answer. So, again, the big picture here is that House Republican conference,
once again, struggling to coalesce around a single candidate, unable to elect a speaker and the house is paralyzed until they do, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.
We're turning now to our big breaking news story. Right now, the U.S. government is in talks to establish a humanitarian corridor, way for the innocent U.S. citizens in Palestinians who are in Gaza to leave, as Israeli forces carried out hundreds of airstrikes there, pummeling the region. Israel is also mobilizing forces along its border with Gaza. Number estimated to be around 300,000 troops.
Remember, Israel has conscription. CNN teams have seen tanks and other heavy military equipment rolling toward the border with Gaza.
In just a few minutes, President Biden is expected to speak at an event with Jewish community leaders. The White House released this photo of Biden's call this morning with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after which Biden reaffirmed his support for Israel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This moment, we have to be crystal clear -- there is no justification for terrorism. No excuse. And the type of terrorism that's exhibited here is just beyond the pale. As I said yesterday, my commitment is for the security and safety of the Jewish people is unshakable. The United States has Israel's back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Ashdod, Israel, north of the Gaza border.
And, Clarissa, you walk through some of the devastation in the Be'eri, Israel, what did you see?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it was a scene, frankly, that, I mean, it's hard to get your head around, honestly. The scale of the destruction, it took the Israeli military days of pitched battles to completely clear and gain control of what was once a sort of very tranquil oasis, a community of people who had lived together for a long time, roughly 1,000 or so. So far already, they have found the bodies of more than 120 people from that community.
There are many others, though, Jake, who are missing. It is unclear, were they taken hostage? Are they in Gaza? Are they alive? Are they somewhere else, possibly? And it was the first time that journalists had been allowed in and there was a huge group of us who were brought in at the very end of the day. It's difficult, in these situations, always, Jake. You realize you're
just starting to get a sense of the scale of the atrocities and it is difficult as well, of course, to put together a really coherent picture of exactly what happened.
What is clear is that there was an enormous amount of bloodshed. You can see blood all over the place. You can see the extent of the firepower that was required to try to take it back. You can see where fires were started by the militants, since they basically went through, door to door, executing people, abducting them.
We spoke to one resident who has lived there for 30 years. His eight year old daughter, I thought he had was his daughter, who had gone to her friends house for a sleep over. And she never came back.
He was lucky to be rescued, but his eight year old daughter is among those more than 120 dead. And so, you're really talking about the kind of loss and the kind of destruction, the kind of hatred that honestly is difficult to process, is difficult to understand. There will obviously be a lot of questions to be asked about how this happened and what exactly happened, and putting together a timeline, and trying to really thoroughly understand the whole anatomy of this massacre.
But make no mistake about it, Jake. It was a massacre and a horrific one.
TAPPER: Clarissa, you visited war zones around the world and bloodshed, war is always horrible, wherever it is. How does this scene of this particular massacre, these attacks on civilians. Not accidental killing of civilians, not collateral damage, but targeted slaughter of children, grandparents and women, how does this compare to other scenes that you've experienced?
WARD: I think it's always very difficult to compare, but I will say that there's something so shocking and horrifying about the intimacy of these killings.
WARD: It is not that one is morally better or worse, but these killings were done eye to eye.
WARD: These fighters could see who they were killing. They could see that they were civilians. This wasn't a drone strike. Again, I'm not saying that a drone strike is morally superior in any way, shape, or form.
WARD: I'm just saying that the psychological impact of seeing that up close killing or the aftermath of it, it is very shocking and it is not unusual, sadly. We have seen it in Ukraine. We saw it in Bucha, for example.
But it is something that, even after doing this job for nearly 20 years, Jake, you never, ever get used to.
TAPPER: And obviously, the terrorists of Hamas are the ones responsible and they, alone, shoulder the blame. But I have seen video from Israel of citizens, either speaking to camera on Israeli TV or confronting members of the Israeli cabinet, yelling at them, holding them responsible for the inadequate military readiness, the delayed response.
There's a palpable sense of anger that I can feel thousands of miles away. I'm wondering what your feeling there in Israel.
WARD: There absolutely is, Jake, and we actually put this to the general, the major general, who is showing these journalists around. How did it take so long? How did this get to this stage? How did this happen?
And he acknowledged that there needs to be a very in-depth investigation into the series of catastrophic failures that ultimately resulted in the horrors that we are discovering more and more now every day. He also said that he feels, and I think a lot of Israelis probably share this opinion, too, that right now, the most pressing issue, he said, is how do I get these hostages outside of Gaza?
Right now, the most pressing issue is, how do we go from being on the defense to being on the offense? And so, I think that is the mindset, certainly, of the Israeli military. Not wanting to necessarily shirk the responsibility, but saying that today is not yet the date for that discussion, Jake.
TAPPER: Clarissa Ward, thank you so much. Appreciate it, as always.
We are learning some of the names, some of the stories of the at least 22 Americans who were killed by Hamas in this terrorist attack. We are standing by to hear from President Biden this hour. He is convening around table at the wet with Jewish community leaders.
We will have much more ahead. We're going to squeeze in this quick break. Stay with us.
TAPPER: You are seeing images of some of the Americans that we know were murdered in that brutal Hamas terrorist attack in Israel over the weekend. Today, we learned that that list is growing at least 22 U.S. citizens were killed by Hamas, according to a State Department official.
An estimated 17 Americans remain missing, whereabouts, unknown.
CNN's Erica Hill details now what we are learning about those Americans who were killed.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ILAN TROEN, DAUGHTER AND SON-IN-LAW KILLED BY HAMAS: Deborah was a child of light and life. She went the equivalent of the Berkeley School and Music in Boston. She went to the Ramon (ph) School in Tel Aviv, when she met Shlomi, her husband. She is a singer, a child of life in the kibbutz which she chose to live.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Israeli American Deborah Mathias and her husband died, protecting their 16-year-old son, Rotem.
TROEN: We were on the phone with Debra as she was killed. We were on the phone the entire day with our son, our grandson, Rotem, as he lay first under her body, and then found a place to escape under a blanket in the laundry.
HILL: Hayim Katsman, a musician, deejay, and community volunteer is being remembered as a brilliant academic by his sibling. The Association for Israeli Studies also noting the emerging scholar who earned his PhD at the University of Washington was deeply committed to community service and engagement. He was killed while hiding in a closet with his neighbor.
AVITAL ALAJEM, FRIEND, HAYIM KATSMAN, KILLED BY HAMAS: He absorbed all the bullets into his body and when I went out, I saw him. He was a wonderful person, was a talented person, he was a funny person, and he was someone who wanted to live. His name is Hayim. Hayim in Hebrew is life. That's the meaning of his name, and he gave life to this planet, as he saved me and I was able to save two kids.
HILL: IDF Sergeant Roey Weiser's mother says her son always had a smile on his face. When his base was overrun by Hamas terrorists, she tells CNN, Roey diverted their attention. The 21-year-old, quote, died as he lived -- by putting others first because of his bravery, at least 12 other soldiers are alive today.
New Jersey born Itay Glisko also in the IDF, was covering a friends shift when the attack came. His aunt said, he was always offering to help and wanted to serve in the army, like his father. The family is devastated. Itay Glisko was just 20 years old.
Danielle Ben Senior was working at the Nova Music Festival. Born in California, she worked as a medic and also served in the IDF. Danielle last spoke with her father Friday night.
JACOB BEN SENIOR, DAUGHTER KILLED BY HAMAS: My heart, it's on the floor. She is everything for me. Without her, there is no value for life.
HILL: On Wednesday, Jacob's worst fears were confirmed, when he was told his 34 year old daughter had been murdered.
MATTHEW MILLER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Every day, we get new information. I do expect that unfortunately that the list of Americans who are confirmed dead will rise today.
HILL: Erica Hill, CNN, New York.
TAPPER: And our thanks to Erica Hill for that report.
Our next guest attended the Nova Music Festival on Saturday, where Hamas killed at least 260 people.
Twenty-five-year-old Lee Sasi hid for several hours after the attack began. She was able to survive by hiding under dead bodies.
And Lee Sasi joins us now.
Lee, I can't imagine what he went through. I can't imagine any of it. But it is important that the world bear witness to what you went through. Can you describe what happened?
LEE SASI, NOVA MUSIC FESTIVAL SURVIVOR: I will try to describe what I had been through, even to describe is not even equivalent to the "Walking Dead" movies series. We went to the party, our cousin was a deejay there, who is performing there as a deejay, so we decided to go as a family to go support. And we went to the party and arrived there at two a.m., three a.m., and we dance until sunrise. And right when 6:30 a.m. hit, hell broke loose.
We had to run for our lives. We saw rockets shooting in the air, so we ran to the car and we went to the nearest bomb shelter that was down the street, outside of the festival. As we got into the festival site, as we got into the bomb shelter, there was about 35 to 40 people who entered. When we got rescued seven hours later, only 9 to 10 survived.
Everyone that came into that bomb shelter I saw get murdered in front of my eyes. My eyes were murdered, my soul was shattered. Just to even talk about it, I can't even cry because it's like my tears are frozen from what I saw.
I had to witness, first hand, my uncle getting shot, not shot, excuse me, getting blown and exploded by a grenade that was thrown onto his stomach. I had to witness a girl getting a grenade hit on her back, and her back blew out, and I saw her sitting there, crying, her face blowing up, and she's suffering for two hours.
I saw so many things that I can't even explain. I saw guts, I had flesh all over my body. We had to bury ourselves under these dead corpses to protect ourselves from these grenades that were hitting and from the rifles, the RPGs. You could hear the terrorists laughing from excitement, laughing from happiness that we are dying.
These people that were with us, we -- I just found out today that there were two girls that were pregnant in my bomb shelter. Two girls that were pregnant. One survived, I'm so grateful, but what happened was, like, the Holocaust 2.0. I can't even describe to you. I never thought in my life that something like this whatever happened to me.
After sitting there hiding under bodies for seven hours, we just prayed. All I had to do is pray. I was in shock. I couldn't even cry, I was in survival mode.
That's when I knew that it's either now or never, you know? I thought my life was going to end, I thought I was going to die, so that's why I started taking videos. Started filling myself, I started making videos to my mom to, so that way, if I died, she could see what's going on on my iCloud. I sent my iCloud information to everybody.
TAPPER: Yeah, I want to apologize, we, let me update you for just one second and I want to give a graphic warning to any of our viewers who don't want to see the videos, let's show these videos.
SASI: Please show them. People need to see what's going on.
TAPPER: This is a video from outside the bomb shelter. Tell us what we are seeing here.
SASI: I don't see anything on my screen.
TAPPER: Okay, so this is a video from outside.
SASI: The video that I sent? Outside of the bomb shelter?
SASI: That was right when we were rescued. That video was shot at two or three p.m. exactly, to a three p.m. That girl over there, she was sitting with me.
TAPPER: Here's a video from inside.
SASI: I begged her not to go outside.
TAPPER: Here's a video from inside the bomb shelter. Tell us what this is.
SASI: We were dying. Half the people on the right side of the girl on the right over there where the gunshots, all of those people died. Everyone that was on the opposite direction died.
That girl with the curly hair, I don't know how she survived. She was right there where the grenades exploded. I was right there in front of her, we cried to death from our hearts, not crying like actual crying, but we really thought we were going to die. [16:25:13]
TAPPER: Lee, how old are you? Twenty-five?
SASI: I'm 25 years old. And I'm a U.S. citizen. I'm from Los Angeles, California.
TAPPER: What -- what do you do?
SASI: You know, I am not working right now. Right now, I decided I can't work.
TAPPER: I think you can take some time. SASI: Right now, I'm not doing anything, I can't, I can't focus right
now. I used to work with my uncle running a company, but I can't do that. Can't do that right now.
TAPPER: So, about 30 people went into that bomb shelter and they fired guns into, if they threw grenades into the bomb shelter, and maybe eight or nine --
SASI: They were firing rifles and RPGs.
TAPPER: Maybe eight or nine people came out, is that what you estimate?
TAPPER: And --
SASI: I can't even describe what I went through. I still can't believe that I am alive. But I am so grateful. All I did was pray to God and I sent my location to everybody that I knew in Israel, to all my family, and all I had to do was hope that someone was going to come and get us.
I really thought that I was going to die. I don't know how I am here today. Really, I went to my cousin's funeral today and he died in a separate bomb shelter, and seeing him being put to the bottom of the ground.
TAPPER: What was his name?
SASI: It's like, I need to be. They're like, I don't know how I'm here on the ground, just the smell, smell on him, it just gave me flashbacks of what I was feeling and I didn't understand what the smell was until I went and actually saw his corpse, not his corpse, because they wrapped body with a tallit.
SASI: It's different in the Jewish religion. So, I could spell his body because he was shot to death. In fact, there is a video of him being shot to death.
TAPPER: What was his name?
SASI: Him running outside the shelter and he's getting shot to death by seven terrorists.
TAPPER: Lee, what was his name?
SASI: Ledor Levi (ph).
TAPPER: How old was he?
SASI: I don't know, I think it was 28, 29. He was young. His girlfriend was with him in the bomb shelter. She was four months pregnant, that's my cousin, Itan (ph). I -- TAPPER: I'm so sorry that's happened to you, but I'm so glad that you
survived so you can tell this story.
SASI: Thank you so much for letting me be here to speak. I'm still in shock and I can't believe what I'm saying, but --
TAPPER: Yeah, I can't believe it as well.
SASI: I really hear my story and I hope people see the videos and see what we've been through.
SASI: The people that survived with us can't even speak. Like, they're not eating, they're not sleeping, I'm trying to contact everybody.
SASI: I don't know how I'm here on camera in front of thousands, millions of people watching me, I don't know how I'm here spreading my story, but I have to.
I am an American citizen. This is horrible. This could happen to anybody. This could happen to anybody and all over the world that wanted to come to this festival. There was the rave, there was -- the deejays that came to this rave were from all over the world. Look at the lineup, they were deejays from Nepal, deejay from Brazil, Mexico, we had so many loss, so many losses that day and babies were killed.
TAPPER: It's madness.
SASI: This festival was located down the road where they went and mass murdered families and babies.
TAPPER: I know.
SASI: And kids, and people in front of their friends, women and kidnapped them to Gaza.
TAPPER: I know.
SASI: Free -- I won't say anything, sorry.
TAPPER: Lee, thank you for joining us and thank you for bearing witness, and I don't know what else to say. Thank you for joining us today, we really appreciate it.
SASI: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciated, too.
TAPPER: And we'll -- we'll be right back.
TAPPER: Welcome back. President Biden is about to speak now at a roundtable with Jewish
community leaders at the White House. This, obviously, comes after the horrific Hamas attack over the weekend in Israel, the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.
He's being introduced by the second gentleman, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, Doug Emhoff. Let's listen in.
DOUG EMHOFF, KAMALA HARRIS' HUSBAND: -- and to make sure that hate has no safe harbor in America and the world. As an American Jew, I am so grateful that in this moment of tumult and pain, we have Joe Biden as president and Kamala Harris as vice president.
It is now my honor to introduce a true advocate for the Jewish community, please join me in welcoming, President Joe Biden.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Please.
Folks, I came, first of all, to say thank you. Thank you to all of you in this room. You've not only cared, but you've -- you've been breaking your neck the last couple of years to deal with this overall issue of antisemitism. And I know many of you are personally impacted by what's happened in Israel.
There are thousands of dual citizens, maybe some of your relatives are there and, Doug, I want to thank you for all the work that you've done on behalf of our administration to combat antisemitism. And I apologize -- I've been on the phone around the clock with our friends around the world, quite frankly, discussing what is going on in Israel. And I want you to know that -- I want to thank you as well for all of you, as well, for working -- the work you're doing to bring comfort in this moment of grief for those of you that are grieving, as well.
And you'll read this weekend in synagogue that Torah teaches us that God made stars to, quote, give light on the earth and separate light from darkness. Give light on the Earth to separate light from darkness. You know, it's been a hard to find that light during the darkness of these past few days.
When terrorist groups like Hamas brought not only terror, but sheer evil, sheer evil to the world, evil that echoes the worst matches, in some cases, exceeds the worst atrocities of ISIS. More than 1,000 civilians slaughtered in Israel.
By the way, I've been speaking with a number of Israeli leaders, a number of leaders around the world, leaders in the region as well, and, you know, among those who have been victimized of this evil, who've been -- who've been killed or at least 22 American citizens. This attack was a campaign of pure cruelty. Not just hate, but cruelty against the Jewish people. And I would argue is the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust,
the deadliest day since the Holocaust. One of the worst chapters in human history remind us all that -- expression I learned from my dad early on, silence is complicity. I'm not -- I mean, silence is complicity. It really is.
We want you to know, I think you've already figured it out, I refused to be silent. I know you refused to be silent as well.
You all -- I know you're here with my senior staff, you all represent a voice that America has to hear. America is not -- can't be silent. You know, we not only reject terrorism, but it goes beyond that. It goes beyond rejecting terrorism.
You know, I spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu for -- I don't know many times, again this morning and already, we're -- we're surging additional military assistance to the Israeli Defense Force, including ammunition, interceptors to replenish the Iron Dome and we moved the U.S. carrier fleet to the eastern Mediterranean. We are sending more fighter jets there to that region. And made it clear, made it clear to the Iranians, be careful.
We want to make it real clear, we are working on every aspect of the hostage crisis in Israel, including deploying experts to advise and assist with recovery efforts. Now, the press is going to shout to me and many of you are that, you know, what are you doing to bring these -- get these folks home? If I told you, I wouldn't be able to get them home.
Folks, there's a lot we're doing. A lot we're doing. I have not given up hope of bringing these folks home.
But the idea that I'm going to stand here before you and tell you what I'm doing is bizarre. So, I hope you understand how bizarre I think it would be to try to answer that question.
In the days ahead, we're going to continue to work closely with our partners in Israel and around the world, to ensure Israel has what it needs to defend its citizens, it's cities, and to respond to these attacks. As I said yesterday, my commitment to Israel security and the safety of the Jewish people is unshakable. The United States has Israel's back and I have yours as well, both at home and abroad.
You know, you can see the pain in some of your paces, I walked into this room.
TAPPER: All right, we're going to break away from President Biden speaking with the Jewish community leader groups. Here is reaffirming his commitment to the Jewish community in saying that the United States and Israel had an unshakable bond.
Coming up, new CNN reporting raising questions about whether Iran played a role in the attacks by Hamas. A senior Israeli official says, Iran was not only aware of the operation, but effectively gave the greenlight for the attacks. But U.S. intelligence contradicts that. U.S. intelligence suggests Saturday's attack caught senior Iranian government officials by surprise.
CNN's Matthew Chance is in Tel Aviv, Israel. Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon.
Let's start with you, Matthew, first to you. This is a change today from Israeli intelligence, suggesting the extent to which Iran was possibly involved.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well, this is a briefing I got from a senior Israeli official who is familiar with the latest Israeli intelligence. And to be clear, you know, there's a lot of overlap between what the Israelis say the involvement of Iran was or is, and what the United States says. Well, obviously, Iran is well known to be a funder for a long time, a trainer of Hamas militants, and a political supporter of Hamas as well. There's complete agreement on that.
But where there is a slight bit of difference, a bit of light between the two countries' assessments, I think, is that this Israeli official is saying that, look, Iran may have not known about the timing, the exact timing of this Hamas operation that led to so many Israeli deaths. It may not have anticipated the consequences would be so great. But it was aware, as far as he is concerned, this Israeli official is concerned, that the operation was being planned and it was going to go ahead at some point.
Now, that's different, is my understanding, from what the U.S. is saying, which is that this whole operations surprise Iranian officials, according to U.S. intelligence. And it doesn't go so far as to say, well, Iran orchestrated this whole thing from top to bottom. But it's somewhere in the middle, Jake.
TAPPER: Oren, what is leading U.S. intelligence to suggest Iran did not know, in fact, was surprised when the terrorist attack was launched?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So, multiple U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence in a briefing given to Congress say, the intel suggests, and suggests is an important word here at this point, we will come back to that in a second, but suggests that senior Iranian government officials were surprised by the attack, and that surprise is leading the U.S. to lean towards the conclusion, an early conclusion, but the conclusion that Iran was not directly involved with the planning or the preparations for this attack.
Now, those officials cautioned, yes, of course, Iran has backed Hamas for years and provide them with the finance, training, a bunch of the equipment, the military technology that would be necessary in such an attack. But again, the intel does not paint a direct line from Iran to this attack. And that's what the U.S. is looking at right now. But it is worth noting, of course, that this is early intel and the
U.S. and Israel are, of course, going back through all of the intel that they have, trying to figure out how they miss this, if there were signs leading up to this, as well as looking at current intel to see if there's any lines of communication.
So, there still is a lot to go through. But based on the early intelligence that U.S. officials are looking at, there is no direct evidence linking Iran to this attack, in terms of knowing about it or having prepped it, or giving an immediate greenlight there. So, that is what is leading U.S. officials to lean towards the conclusion that it was a Hamas attack in its planning, in its execution, and the decision on the timing.
But I will go back to a president Joe Biden just said to underscore the links still that exist between Iran and Hamas, whether or not it was directed to this attack on, but one Biden spoke, he specifically said Iran, quote, be careful. So, the link remains there and that's one of the things the U.S. is watching very closely, to see if the fighting that's currently limited to Gaza spreads beyond the region to Iranian other, Iranian proxies, Jake.
TAPPER: Yeah, and we should always distinguish between the Iranian regime, and the Iranian people. The Iranian regime is funding Hamas, the Iranian people is a whole other -- whole other thing. Matthew Chance and Oren Liebermann, thank you so much.
Right after a classified briefing on Capitol Hill today, U.S. lawmakers had very different takes on Iran's possible involvement in Hamas's barbaric attack on Israeli citizens.
Take a listen to a Republican member of Congress than a Democratic member of Congress, just minutes apart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DON BACON (R-NE): It's clear as day that Iran made this possible, helped them, yet the administration's in denial. I mean, I heard that in there. They're not sure of Iran's role. BS. Anybody with a brain knows Iran is behind those.
REP. JAKE AUCHINCLOSS (D-MA): There is no indication, as of right now, that Iranian leadership were directly puppeteering this attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Two military veterans speaking there.
Joining us now for a rare joint interview, the top Republican, the chairman, and the top Democrat, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Chairman Mike Turner from Ohio, and Democratic ranking member, Jim Himes of Connecticut.
Good to have both of you. Thank you so much. We always appreciate the bipartisan interview.
Chairman Turner, I have to take care of some business first. Obviously, it is an issue of national security right now, as to whether or not Congress has a functioning body. I want to check in with you on this speaker vote.
Are you happy with the prospect of a Speaker Scalise?
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): There's a lot of work that needs to be done. We came with out of our conference with 110 votes for Steve Scalise, that he can take to the House floor. He needs 217. At this point, he's working to try to communicate how he can bring the conference together.
There are a lot of members who are undecided. I'm one of them. There are those that are absolutely opposed. He's going to have to make the case as to how he can pull the conference together, after what has been a traumatic time in chaos on Capitol Hill.
TAPPER: Why are you undecided, if I may ask?
TURNER: Well, he came out with 110 votes. He needs 217. He's going to have to -- obviously, he's going to have to give us a message or understanding of how he's going to bridge that gap and make sure that he brings Congress together. And not divide the Republican conference more.
That's going to be an important message. I know he's working on it right now. I certainly wish him well. But there is work to be done to get to 217.
TAPPER: All right. Back to Israel, tell our viewers why there is this disconnect you think on how Republicans and Democrats or understanding the same pieces of intelligence.
TURNER: Well, I don't think the gap is very broad here. We all know and understand, even in public outside of the intelligence, that Hamas is a franchise of Iran. They supplied them the rockets, the munitions, the training, the reporter was listing all of the things that Iran supplies them.
So, the fact that Hamas would undertake a terrorist action when they're being trained to be a terrorist organization, and funded by Iran, is not really a surprise to anyone. So, there is no exculpatory evidence here that could indicate then a rain is not involved, when we know, for all this time, that they're really responsible for Hamas as a terrorist organization.
TAPPER: So, Congressman Himes, obviously, there's a disconnect between Israeli intelligence and U.S. intelligence. U.S. sources are telling CNN that senior Iranian officials in their understanding were caught off guard by the attack, even though obviously Iran funds Hamas, as Chairman Turner just said.
What's your -- what's your take on the intelligence? Do you think Iran knew that this -- that the Iranian regime knew that this attack was going to happen? If not, on that day, at least imminently?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Jake, I'll tell you what I think, which is that we are making way, way too much over the statements of a bunch of members of Congress who don't know, who don't have access to the kind of intelligence that the chairman and I do. For what?
They are still pulling bodies out from under bushes. They are still tracking down murderous terrorists. We will have an opportunity to see precisely what Iran knew when.
You know, the chairman makes exactly the right point, you know, unless you need to know why or whether Iranian officials, exactly who signed off or did what, when they did it, we know that for decades, Iran has provided weaponry, financial support, and all sorts of other support, to Hamas. So, of course, their hands are not clean here.
But this is a sort of fog of war situation. We are getting conflicting reports as well. Again, I would suggest that the focus right now needs to be on supporting the Israelis, on making sure that we can keep the hostages safe, and making sure that we do force protection, meaning that our men and women in uniform are protected abroad.
TAPPER: Chairman Turner, is the U.S. doing everything it can to help rescue the Americans who are likely being held hostage in Gaza?
TURNER: I think that the administration and Congress are unified in this. I can tell you, when we have our classified briefing, one thing was clear is among Congress, there's overwhelming support for Israel. I know this administration, from the reports we were receiving, are absolutely deploying as rapidly as they can, in all of these areas. And I think, certainly, you heard the president say, you know, I can tell you everything I'm doing, we are in the actual conflict, as it unfolding.
But I think certainly, the administration is absolutely committed to undertaking the intervention here.
TAPPER: And, Congressman Himes, what's your message to any American who is watching right now, who has loved ones missing, who likely are being held as prisoners to this terrorist group in Gaza.
Are you confident that that person's government is doing everything they can to bring that captive home?
HIMES: I am. And, of course, there's probably nothing you can say to a family who has a family member now inside of Gaza, in the control of some just murderous terrorists. I'm not sure there's anything that's going to make them feel better.
But the United States and Israel share two things that I think are very, very important right now. Number one is the set of values that we do not leave people behind. We will spare no expense. We will fight any fight to make sure that our people are recovered. We will negotiate, we will do everything we need to do. The second thing, of course, the United States and Israel share is
remarkable competence in such things. And, you know, we'll have an opportunity to dissect and do an autopsy on what appears to have been an intelligence failure with respect to the larger operation. But the Americans and the Israelis are about as good as it gets with respect to keeping hostages safe, and ultimately, recovering them.
TAPPER: Chairman Mike Turner, Ranking Member Jim Himes, you know I love that bipartisan appearance. More of it please. Thank you so much.
TURNER: Thank you, Jake. Appreciate it.
TAPPER: Lebanon is just across the border from Israel, the fears that the terror group Hezbollah there could join in on this fight against the Jewish state.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: We continue with breaking news in our world lead, Israelis living near the border with Lebanon, in the north, are on edge. Today, they were sent running for bombshell tours, after Israel's military warned of a, quote, suspected infiltration of its airspace from Lebanon. Later, the IDF rule that out, and said the warning sirens were set off in error.
CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Lebanon's capital of Beirut.
Ben, how involved are Hezbollah militants at this hour?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are very involved in what are becoming fairly regular and violent skirmishes on the border between Lebanon and Israel. And today, in fact, Hezbollah put out of video, it seemed to show a guided rocket, or missile, being fired at an Israeli position, at troops on an Israeli position on the border.
Now, Hamas -- Hezbollah claims that it killed and injured several Israeli soldiers, the Israelis have yet to comment on this incident. Certainly, so far, since Saturday, we know that three Hezbollah fighters have been killed in incidents with the Israelis, whether that air strikes, helicopter strikes, mortar or artillery barrages.
And the Israelis acknowledge that three of their troops have been killed as well. And also, we know, in addition to Hezbollah being involved, for instance, Palestinian Islamic jihad troops, or militants here in Lebanon, claimed to have launched a cross border attack as well earlier this week.
Now, but Hezbollah, it seems, wants to do enough to show that it's part of the theater at the moment, in terms of the war in Gaza, without going so far as to cause a full war between Israel and Lebanon, or more particular, Israel and Hezbollah -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Ben Wedeman live for us in Beirut, thank you so much. Stay safe.
One of our CNN anchors went to the town of Ashkelon today, that's been hit repeatedly by strikes in Saturday's initial terrorist attack, and she joins me next.