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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Two American Hostages Released By Hamas; Secretary Of State Blinken Speaks After 2 Hostages Released; Aid Trucks Lined Up At Rafah Crossing To Enter Gaza; House GOP Drops Rep. Jordan As Speaker Nominee. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 20, 2023 - 16:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: It's so critical because each day we hear the situation is becoming more and more dire there in Gaza. But, this is the news. Two hostages released, two American hostages released by Hamas, on humanitarian grounds as they are saying because the mother in this case was not in good health.

We are waiting this press briefing from the State Department. Let's toss things over to Jake Tapper and THE LEAD.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We start today with breaking news. Two American hostages have been released by Hamas. And any moment we expect to hear from the Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister's office confirmed that Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie are now back from the Gaza Strip.

Let's listen into Secretary of State Blinken.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: -- held by Hamas were released. These two Americans are now safely in the hands of Israeli authorities in Israel. We expect a team from the U.S. embassy to see them very shortly. Over the coming hours, they'll receive any support and assistance that they need and, of course, we're very anxious to be able to reunite them with their loved ones.

We welcome their release. We share in the relief that their families, friends and loved ones are feeling.

But there are still ten additional Americans who remain unaccounted for in this conflict. We know that some of them are being held hostage by Hamas along with an estimated 200 other hostages held in Gaza. They include men, women and young boys, young girls elderly people from many nations. Every single one of them should be released.

Since the early hours of this crisis, the president has made clear that he will do everything possible to secure the release of every hostage. During my own recent travel to the region, I emphasized the urgency and importance of this to the United States and pressed or partners to do everything they can to help us secure the release.

Since that time, we continue to work relentlessly with partners to do just that. I can't speak publicly about the details of these efforts. I know you understand that. But, the urgent work, to free every single American, to free all other hostages, continues. As does our work to secure the safe passage out of Gaza for the Americans who are trapped there.

In this particular instance, I want to thank the government of Qatar for their very important assistance. When I was in Israel last week, I met with the families of U.S. citizens that Hamas has taken hostage. President Biden, too, had the opportunity to hear directly from the families.

It's impossible to adequately put into words the agony they're feeling of not knowing the fate of their loved ones, worrying relentlessly about them, for their safety and their security and well being. No family, anywhere, should have to experience this torture.

What I shared with the families, as the president did as well, that the entire United States government will work every minute of every day to secure their release, to bring their loved ones home. They have my solemn pledge, those who continue to have loved ones held hostage by Hamas, that we'll continue to do that, working as though these family members were our own.

With that, I'll take a few questions.

REPORTER: Mr. Secretary --

REPORTER: Thanks for coming down, Mr. Secretary. I'm just -- you said you couldn't talk about specific details but I'm wondering, you did thank the government of Qatar, and I'm wondering, since you were there, and they have an office, they host a Hamas office, if you could elaborate a little bit on what their role was and if you continue to think that that channel there, them having an office there, is worthwhile?

And then secondly, a lot has been made by you, by the president, by other officials about how it is important for Israel once, if and when it begins a ground incursion into Gaza. For it to respect the rules of war and international -- and I am curious if you think that to date, even before that ground incursion that started, if Israel is respecting those rules and laws. Thank you.

BLINKEN: Matt, thanks for the questions.

You'll understand that because this is an ongoing effort, an ongoing effort to get hostages -- Americans who are hostages in this moment in Gaza out to secure their release to get them back with their families, I really can't go into any details about what we're doing, how we're doing it.

And all I could say with regard to Qatar, is in this instance, we very much appreciate their assistance. Beyond that, I really can't -- I really can't say because, again, we want to focus on making sure that we're getting those who remain hostages back home and with their loved ones. That's the single most important thing.

With regard to how Israel is conducting its operations. I think you heard the president speak to this very clearly and you've heard me speak to this very clearly, we've said we believe strongly that Israel has not only the right but the obligation to defend itself against what -- it is very hard to put into words, the nature and the barbarity of the attacks and they really do have the obligation to defend themselves against it, to do whatever they can to try to make sure that this doesn't happen again.

But we've been break through, that the way Israel does it matters, and in particular, it's important that operations be conducted in accordance with international law, humanitarian law, the law of war as applicable, and that everything be done to minimize the lost of civilian life. And we continue to focus on that, just as we're also focusing on getting assistance into people in Gaza who need it.

There will be plenty time to make assessments about how these operations were conducted. But for on the part of the United States, this is important to us. And again, it is what distinguishes us, distinguishes Israel from terrorist groups like Hamas, which not only have absolutely no concern for innocent human life, they intentionally use innocent human lives to hide behind, to use as quite literally as human shields, knowing that civilians are going to suffer in conflict.

REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, just following up on that, Hamas has issued a statement through rabbi and I know with the huge caveat that it is a terror group and one does not attach credibility to that. But they've said that all of the hostages, the civilian hostages, which includes the Americans, could be released, that this could be the start of something bigger if there are no air strikes.

Would this be a moment where, if under Israel's discretion, obviously, it would be wise to pause, to give it more time, to see if this is a moment that the ground invasion is not started, should even the air strikes be stopped to see if you could get more people out? And it was notable without going into details, that in the president's statement he said he expressed his thanks to Israel, to Qatar rather in partnership with Israel, a notable connection there. The obvious inference is that they were working together on this.

Does this give you hope, that despite everything that's happened, that there could still be a broader relationship and avoid a wider war?

BLINKEN: Thanks, Andrea.

So, two things there. First, it's very simple. Hostages should be released immediately and unconditionally. That's been our position from day one. It remains our position.

And to your point, I would not take anything that Hamas said at face value. I'm not sure anyone in this room would take it face value or report something that ISIS had said. Same applies to Hamas.

Our position is clear. Every hostage needs to be released and needs to be released now. There is no doubt from my own travels in the region that one of the important things throughout this very difficult period, and since the attack -- the unconscionable attack by Hamas is to continue to find ways for countries to cooperate, coordinate when it's in their interest to do so.

And we'll continue to look to that and any cooperation that we could illicit, that facilitates the release of hostages and any cooperation that secures the provision of the humanitarian assistance to the men, women and children in Gaza who are so desperately need it. We work on that every day. And I think we could say that we've seen some of that cooperation.

The broader question, though, I think is usually important, because what's abundantly clear is the vast majority of countries, the vast majority of people, want the same thing. They want a region where countries are working together, where relations are normalized, where there's greater integration, where people are working together, studying together, traveling and doing business. Overwhelming majority of people want that.

And we want to see as well the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people fulfilled in the context of that kind of region. And that's one vision and it remains very much alive in every conversation that I had. The alternative is equally clear, and it's very stark. It's Hamas, it's Hezbollah, it's Iran. It's destruction, it is death, it is terrorism, it is darkness.

So, the more we're able to make real that first vision, the more I'm convinced that that is the vision that everyone or virtually everyone will subscribe to. So, even as we are working through this challenge, this crisis, it's important to keep that vision alive, because it's important that people know that there is an alternative, and that everything that they hope for and that they aspire to is going to be best addressed through what I've just described, that first vision. We'll continue to do that.

MODERATOR: Jennifer?

REPORTER: Yes, Mr. Secretary. What could you tell us about the condition of these two Americans who have been released? What is their health status and do you have any details on the condition of the Americans who are being held hostage? Have you seen any proof of life on them?

And then on the Rafah crossing. What is the hold up in operationalizing this deal and will we see it open this weekend?

BLINKEN: I can't speak to the condition of the two hostages who were just released -- first out of respect for their privacy, second because we haven't had a chance yet, maybe it's happening as we speak to get our own team in there to see them, to evaluate them and most importantly to reunite them with their loved ones.

So, I'm sure that will come out in the hours and certainly the days ahead. But I don't have anything for you on that now. Nor do I have anything for you on the status of or condition of Americans that continue to be held by Hamas. With regard to the Rafah crossing, as you know, when some of us were

traveling together, in the region over the past week, getting assistance moving was among my top priorities. And we worked very hard with the government of Israel, the government of Egypt, to do just that.

And we secured an understanding that we would develop a plan to move assistance. That understanding was cemented by President Biden when he was in Israel and also speaking to President El Sisi of Egypt.

In the time since we've been working with Ambassador David Satterfield on the ground, working with the United Nations, with Egypt, with Israel to put that into motion. And my expectation is that you'll see that moving soon.

Thank you. Thanks, everyone.

REPORTER: Thank you.

TAPPER: All right. So that was Secretary of State Antony Blinken talking about the hostages, two hostages released by the terrorist group Hamas in a deal that was arranged by the government of Qatar working with the government of Israel. Israel said that these two American hostages, Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie, that they are now back from Gaza, in Israel, they're heading to be reunited with their family.

The Raanans live near Chicago. They were visiting relatives in Israel when they were kidnapped during the Hamas terrorist attacks on October 7th.

Let's bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon.

Oren, what does Hamas have to gain by releasing these hostages? They didn't do it out of the goodness of their hearts.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: No, but they do have a few different bits to gain here. Potentially quite a bit.

First of all, it looks good for them to release hostages, given the international pressure and that's not just the U.S. and Israel, that is Qatar has called for the release of women and children, as have other countries. So from that perspective, it is good for Hamas. But it's not just that perspective, right? If there are other hostages alive, as the U.S. and as Israel believe, that means -- that gives Hamas leverage in this case. Whether that's leverage to try to get some sort of ceasefire here or get humanitarian aid, it is the belief that they could get something out of that.

As you pointed out, they're not holding people or releasing these two out of the goodness of their hearts. It is because they stand to gain something, and it's because they believe there is value in keeping these hostages, keeping them alive. The U.S. believes they're held in different locations which makes it hard for the Israelis and the Americans to pinpoint exactly where they are. But there is another point to be made here, and that as we look back

at the relationship between Israel and Hamas, that has largely been managed through Qatar over the course of the past several years and that is Hamas in the past, when they've launched rockets or held fence protests, or even launched flaming balloons, they have seen Israel and specifically the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make concessions in the form of tens of millions of dollars of money from Qatar flowing into Gaza or Israel expanding the fishing zone off the coast of Gaza or expanding number of permits.

So at least before the previous two weeks, there was a precedent for Israel and Netanyahu making concessions for violence.

Now, this is, of course, an entirely different scenario. But if they believe that precedent is still in place, perhaps they believe they could get concessions out of holding these hostages, whether that's concessions on the Israeli side or somewhere else.

So clearly, Jake, they believe there is value in keeping these hostages and perhaps releasing proofs of live at certain point, and depending on the success of Qatar in this situation. Releasing more hostages in the future as it is to their need and as they think they could benefit.

TAPPER: Oren Liebermann, thank you so much.

I want to now go to the rabbi for the Raanan family, Rabbi Hecht.

Rabbi, thank you so much for joining us.

You must be pretty happy, I imagine, the worst fears imaginable have been going through your head since October 7th. How did you find out? What are you hearing from the Raanan family?


The news that we received that Judith and Natalie Raanan have been released is overwhelming. We are, of course, tremendously grateful to the Almighty God, so much gratitude for this incredible beyond belief miracle. At the same time, you could understand that there is so much pain and deep concern for the over 200 hostages that still remain in Gaza in the hands of terrorists, Hamas have just done the most vicious and evil crimes against humanity, two weeks ago.

So the fact that they released two hostages, of course, to us that is incredible and it's a member of our community. Someone who we see every week in our congregation, someone who's close to us like family and we're elated, we are still continuing to pray and we are still continuing to ask everyone to do all you can.

Prayer helps. Look, we got Judith and Natalie out, but continue the prayers for the over 200 hostages that still remain in the hands of Hamas, vicious terrorists and for the -- the entire nation of Israel who is still mourning over 1,400 who were visually murdered, babies and men and women and children, and we are hoping and praying that we will all be able to celebrate the end of this evil very, very soon.

TAPPER: Rabbi, what could you tell us about Judith and Natalie?

Obviously, without violating their privacy, what could you tell us about them as people?

HECHT: Judith and Natalie are such kind, sweet, giving sharing, generous souls. Judith is the type of person who could woman over to our home, to our congregation all of the time with gifts for the -- for the children, always wanting to be there to spend this spiritual moment of prayer with everyone together, always wanting to join a class or any kind of gathering, a person who loves life, who loves humanity, and being together with other people.

And like mom, like daughter, Natalie has been described by all of her friends as such a kind and sweet and generous girl. And we are so, so grateful to Almighty God for this miracle. We are so glad to get this news. And again, we still need to pray and we are still paying a deep concern for the rest of the hostages.

TAPPER: All right, Rabbi, here's the tough question. I'm a journalist. So -- how do you explain this? I mean, you talk about praying to God, somebody comes to you and said if there is a God, how do you explain October 7th? If there is a God, how do you explain Hamas? How do you explain people that would do this? How do you explain the actions that took place?

HECHT: Jake, people have choices and people have the ability to perform evil. We are living in a world where there is good and evil. That's the world that we live in. That is the world that God placed us in.


At the same time, it is our job to bring light in the face of evil. Hamas performed evil and that is a war of good versus evil. This is a war of kindness and goodness and light versus evil and darkness, and it is our job to shine that light.

So, tonight, it is almost the Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, every Jewish woman should please before the Sabbath and before sundown light the Shabbat candles and every person, every human being should be out there standing up for civilization and for the light of goodness in this world. Make a prayer, do a good and kind deed for your fellow, it will make a difference.

It made a difference for Judith and Natalie, I believe so, and it will make a difference for the rest of the hostages, the rest of the Israel and all those who are suffering.

TAPPER: Rabbi Hecht, thank you so much. I'm glad you got some good news today because God knows we could all use some good news in these dark times. Have a good Sabbath.

HECHT: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Appreciate it.

Dan O'Shea is with me now. He is a former Navy SEAL hostage coordinator. Dan, I know that we don't know how this all happened. But what does the release of these two American hostages and it does not escape notice that they were Americans --


TAPPER: -- say about the potential fate of other 200 or so?

O'SHEA: Well, hostage taking is how terrorist organizations negotiate with the West. This is their own leverage that they have. So, these -- this release, which is shocking and surprising, it is a miracle. It's actually a very positive sign.

I know that public perception in the Arab world has turned against them because largely their hostages are grandparents, they're families, they're children. That is not serving their cause.

And everything is about public imaging because right now, there's tremendous pressure for all of the countries that have hostages, their governments are pressurizing the IDF not to go in and do, you know, massive scale operations because largely, we're looking at a Ramallah or Fallujah type scenario, which it would be very challenging. So, this is a very brutal, but it's actually a brilliant tactic and, again, this thing is going to play out because there's 200-plus missing. This is the first chapter in what would be some happy ending, but probably some tragedy as well.

TAPPER: Well, earlier today, the Israeli defense force said a majority of the hostages, we think there are about 200 or so, that's the estimate -- they said, the IDF said that a majority of them are still alive.

How would they know that?

O'SHEA: You know, there is -- there's no idea. There could be 200 different holding locations or holding in six or seven locations. You know, all of that is based on the intelligence that the IDF had and Mossad per se. But they were -- the October 7th attacks, I mean, that shows you a link, a damaged link in the intelligence collection.

So there is no guarantee that they have this vaunted intelligence system because they should have stopped this. They should have known about this incoming. So there really is no guarantee. There is never 100 percent attendance (ph) of grid (ph). You rarely get that type of accurate intelligence on the hostages.

And that is the needle in the haystack and that will be the case for every one of the hostages, where they are potentially located.

TAPPER: Is there a strategic or military reason for the IDF to claim that the majority are still alive, even if they don't know?

O'SHEA: Of course. No, of course, absolutely. You know, they are -- they have leverage on every word. These hostages are now, they are -- they are the Danes geld (ph), they are part of the exchange, the Danish gold that is an ancient tactic about taking hostages and that is the leverage.

And so, this was a very smart move by Hamas to do this, because this is going to drag out as long as there is the possibility that those hostages are still alive, there is tremendous pressure from foreign governments that have hostages being held in Gaza right now.

TAPPER: All right. Dan O'Shea, former hostage negotiator with the Navy SEALs, good to have you here. Thank you so much.

O'SHEA: Thank you.

TAPPER: As we learn of this American mother and daughter released from the grips of Hamas, hundreds of other families are agonizing over the still unknown fate of their loved ones. I'm going to talk with a man whose brothers and nephews are believed to have been kidnapped and being held right now by Hamas. That's next.



TAPPER: Other families are living in despair, obviously, overwhelmed by the silence of not knowing if their relatives who are kidnapped by Hamas are okay or frankly even alive. For example, Yaniv Yaakov's brother, Yair and his girlfriend Nerav Tal (ph), they were kidnapped from their kibbutz in Nir Or in Israel on October 7. Yaniv's two nephews ages 12 and 16, they were also kidnapped.

And Yaniv joins us now.

Yaniv, I'm so sorry that you and your family are going through. How are you holding up?

YANIV YAAKOV, FAMILY KIDNAPPED: Hello. It's been 13 days since that started, since the terrorist attack took place. We are struggling. We are trying to get a sign, something that will show us their status, whether they are healthy, whether they are eating, drinking, how do they feel? Are they together? We don't know. We don't have a clue where are they being held, or what are they doing?

I was listening to Antony Blinken's words and finally I heard someone restated all of our goals since day one. Release the civilians back home alive. That's all we ask since day one. They're not supposed to be breaking news --


YAAKOV: --of releasing the two hostages, I heard about it a couple of minutes before I went to this interview. And then the fact that they were released gives us some hope in our hearts, but there are 200 more that are held by Hamas and think about what you just said when I heard you saying, it's my brother and his two kids, and his girlfriend.


A whole family has been kidnapped. Imagine our thoughts, imagine what we're going through. And now the world starts to see what we saw on the first day. This should never happen.

The evil that we saw was so frustrating, so hard for us. And we must stop it. This should not happen neither in Israel nor anyplace in the world.

TAPPER: Tell us about Yair.

YAAKOV: Well, Yair is a people's guy. Whenever he gets into a room, it doesn't matter where, you could put in -- him in anywhere and after five minutes, he will have so many friends around him. He will be contacted to so many people, different people. They don't have to be the same.

I'm his youngest brother. He's older than me by 12 years and I've always as a child looked up and wanted to be Yair, wanted to be like him. He was always bringing joy when he entered a room, when he was there, and also his kids.

He has two marvelous kids, really, really enjoyable and always laughing. Always making jokes at each other.

I have a son. My oldest son is very close to the older son that was kidnapped, 16 years old. My son is 17. And his daughter was saved in that horrible situation.


YAAKOV: My brother's oldest daughter was saved. But when she saw this week, we went to visit her, also, and when she saw my son, she said, it is a mixture of the two brothers that were kidnapped.

He's part of them. They are so happy. They are so joyable as I explain.

TAPPER: How old are your -- how old are your nephews that were kidnapped? How old are they?

YAAKOV: Twelve and 16.

TAPPER: Just kids.

YAAKOV: Two little kids.

TAPPER: A friend of your brothers --

YAAKOV: I truly hope --

TAPPER: Go ahead.

YAAKOV: Yeah, sorry. I truly hope and I truly believe that the world is the only one who could influence this situation, right. Israel is in a war with Hamas. We know that. And since Israel is in a war and Hamas is in a war, none of -- none of

those two can influence each other. They are fighting. We need the world with us. That's what I started to do two days after the whole thing started and I really understood that my brother was kidnapped.

It's not just us who now understand it. Think about it. Today, 86 Nobel laureates signed a petition to immediately release them, the civilians and the children. Even one of them was Iranian. Every one of them signed that petition.

So the world understands and we must do something to continue to push Hamas to release the civilians back home.


YAAKOV: Not just release them back home but also alive.

TAPPER: Yaniv Yaakov, thank you very much. I hope you get your brother and his girlfriend and your nephews back soon.

YAAKOV: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.

TAPPER: When will that desperately needed humanitarian aid get into Gaza?

CNN's Clarissa Ward just traveled to the Rafah crossing where dozens of trucks are sitting in Egypt and waiting and waiting. She'll join us live next.



TAPPER: Stacks of humanitarian aid that were supposed to have already gone into Gaza today will now cross the Egyptian border within the next 24 to 48 hours, supposedly, in about 200 trucks, which carrying dire humanitarian aid, water and food and medicine are just sitting there, just a short distance away, from the tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians, innocent civilians who desperately need it. The United Nations is calling this a difference between life and death.

CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Cairo, Egypt, for us.

And, Clarissa, officials say road repairs were needed before the crucial aid could pass through. Is that really the only reason for this 13-day long delay so far?


We were actually at the Rafah border crossing today, the U.N. said there is a number of other issues. Firstly, the issue of the Israelis wanting to verify everything that is in those trucks to make sure there is no weapons there. They need to come up with some kind of a mechanism to do that.


But that takes time. How would they do that, where would they do that?

The second issue, they say, is that they don't want this to be a one- off of just 20 trucks going in. They want to have an agreement in place for a sustained continuous humanitarian corridor. They are worried potentially that their trucks and their workers could get attacks or mobbed if this is just that one -- one sort of shipment or movement of 20 trucks.

All of this, though, Jake, is really coming down to the wire now, with fuel stocks about to run out in a matter of days and anger getting ever, ever higher.

Take a look.


WARD (voice-over): For days, they have been waiting. More than 200 trucks full of aid desperately needed in Gaza, but stuck on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres hoped to be here for a much-needed diplomatic win. Instead, he found himself in the midst of a protest, his remarks drowned out by the crowd.

People are chanting over and over again, with our blood, with our souls. We will defend Palestine.

There is a huge amount of anger, a huge amount of emotion. Much of it directed at the West.


WARD: And much also at Western media where people here have favored Israeli voices over Palestinians.

RAHMA ZEIN, PROTESTER: Where is your humanity?

WARD: A protester starts shouting at me. We invite her to do an interview with us.

ZEIN: When a thousand plus Palestinian babies die, you don't feel the same. You don't feel the same, as when I tell you one of your own has died. But these are our own. And it is unfair and Egypt will stand with Palestine. All Western channels are talking for Israel and the United Nations are standing for Israel, all these international institutions are standing for Israel.

Who's there for the Palestinians and don't call it a war. The jargon is even more infuriating. They are not on equal footing. It is not a war.

WARD: For many, it is deeply personal. A Palestinian man holds up his ID.

MAHDI ABU ABAID, PALESTINIAN CITIZEN: I can't contact my family. WARD: Your family is on the other side?

ABU ABAID: Yeah, I have seven sisters and my father, my mother, grandmother and uncles, all of my family is there. I can't contact with them. I don't know --

WARD: Are they okay?

ABU ABAID: I don't know if they are okay or not.

WARD: As Egyptian soldiers stand by, the demonstrators get more animated. Protests are normally illegal here but today, the Egyptian president called on people to take to the streets.

So this is rapidly becoming a very chaotic scene now. They're trying to get the secretary general out of here.

We're ordered back on to the buses and escorted out through the crowd back to El Arish airport, where piles of aid sit by the runway, so close to where they need to be, but held back the U.N., said, by complications over how to monitor the trucks that enter Gaza and how to establish a continuous humanitarian corridor.

When you saw the anger of those protesters, most of it leveled at Israel and the U.S., but also at the international community for failing to stop this situation, what is your response?

ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think what is important to say is that we are doing everything we can, engaging with all the parties, to make sure that sooner rather than later, we are able to have not only a first convoy, but continued aid to the population.

WARD: But no time line?

GUTERRES: I think it should be as quickly as possible, and with as many as possible trucks to cross into the first few days.

WARD: But that is little comfort to the people of Gaza, for whom every day, every hour is vital.


WARD (on camera): Jake, one of the other sticking points here appears to be the issue of fuel. There has been agreement about food, about medicine, about water. But fuel is desperately needed to power the generators that are keeping those hospitals going, that are keeping the refugee centers overwhelmed as they are still going.

President Biden as you mentioned in the introduction said hopefully within 24 to 48 hours we may start to see movement. But there are still obstacles to overcome and the secretary general is saying we desperately need to end this impasse, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Clarissa Ward in Cairo, Egypt, for us, thank you so much. This photo just in to CNN. The Israeli government says it shows the

two American hostages just released. Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie right after they were allowed to leave Gaza, and reentered Israel.


The Raanans live near Chicago and had been visiting relatives in Israel when they were kidnapped during the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel on October 7th.

Jim Jordan is out. His bumpy road to the House speakership met its final road block and now several House Republicans are jumping into the speaker's race. That's next.


TAPPER: In politics today, after forcing three votes for speaker, despite never having actually secured enough support, and in fact losing support on each subsequent vote, Jim Jordan finally today officially acknowledged that he lost the room. This afternoon, in secret ballot, House Republicans officially decided he is no longer their choice to become speaker.

CNN reporting that Jordan lost by a rather sizable margin.


So what's next? Republicans say they're going to meet for a candidate forum on Monday. At least seven Republicans say they are throwing their hats into the ring for speaker and Kevin McCarthy is already giving an endorsement saying he'll back House Majority leader, Congressman Tom Emmer of Minnesota, even though just hours before he had delivered a ringing endorsement of Jordan in a speech nominating him on the floor.

With me now is Republican Congressman Steve Womack from Arkansas who had voted against Jordan three times. Congressman, your conference voted by secret ballot and determined that Jordan should not remain the speaker candidate.

So I have to ask. In the midst of foreign policy crisis and this pending government shutdown, what on earth was this week all about? Why did Jim Jordan force three votes and waste this entire week?

REP. STEVE WOMACK (R-AR): Well, Jake, your right. Sometimes we can be slow learners. You know, it's kind of ironic that we're doing this interview in the shadows of the Will Rogers' statue from Oklahoma right behind me.

And you remember what will said about this whole business of learning, you could learn -- people learn by reading, people could learn by observation, and sometimes people learn by just peeing on the electric fence for themselves. So that is a situation that is reminiscent of House Republicans right now, that it has taken us. Now 17 days since the removal of Kevin McCarthy, for us to be in a

situation where we can, at least see some clarity, some light at the end of the tunnel. But right now, it's another weekend, a quiet day at the Capitol after all of the activities here and members are going home. And we'll be back Monday night at 6:30, and we'll start this process all over again.

TAPPER: I also know Will Rogers said, I'm not a member of an organized political party, I'm a Democrat and maybe that was true of the Democratic Party at time. But it sure describes your party right now, which is at least on the House side just a god awful mess.

Do you think you'll get it together, your party? I mean, can you all rally against -- all rally around someone like -- are you -- is there somebody you like? Tom Emmer perhaps seems like a Womack Republican, maybe.

WOMACK: I like anybody that we could muster 217 votes for. But that's certainly an illusive target right now, because of the fractures in the conference. You know, we have -- we have a lot of different groups that have certain ideologies and certain leanings and certain favorites. House Freedom Caucus being one of those, and they were trying to prop up the candidacy of Jordan.

But there was something telling today, Jake, in my strong opinion and I tried to communicate this to our leadership. And when I met with Mr. Jordan on Monday at noon, I tried to communicate that to him. And that is, Jim, got 194 Republican votes in the open on the House floor, about five hours ago. And then we went -- went down to HC-5 in the privacy of our conference in a secret ballot, he got 86.

Now --

TAPPER: Right.

WOMACK: -- that tells me that he was not nearly as popular --


WOMACK: -- among our colleagues as he was among a lot of people that have given me a lot of advice on the phone here over the last several days.

So, we -- you know, we voted Tuesday. He was down 20 of our members. He's not going to get a Democrat vote. And then 22 on Wednesday. And then we wasted Thursday. And came back on Friday. And then it went to 25.

And it was about to be a lot worse if we had gone to a fourth vote. But, you know, we're going to -- we're going to try to come back Monday and restart and see where it takes us.

TAPPER: So, may I humbly offer you guys some advice. Have you considered ranked choice voting, where you do your -- first, second and third votes and then maybe you can at least come up with top three and like maybe that would help you achieve some sort of compromise candidate.


TAPPER: Because that might not be a horrible idea and really we need a speaker. Like the country needs a speaker.

WOMACK: Yeah, we do.

TAPPER: This isn't about, you know, prom king. Like, we need a functioning legislative branch.

WOMACK: Yeah, well, that's the obvious. And we'd like to be able to deliver on that. But, we seem to have a hard time understanding that in a narrow majority, where you could only lose four votes and it may be less than that if your members aren't here, and so you're at 217. You got -- we got 430 -- I think 431, 432 members in the entire House and you have to get 217.

And there is a litmus test. Democrats are not going to vote for a Republican nominee. That's just the way this process works. But you know, if that is going to be the case, then you've got to get 217 in your own conference and as fractured as it is.


And let me tell you, Jake, there are some deep wounds right now. There are some hurt feelings. There are some angry people. And --

TAPPER: I know, but you know what? None of us out here care. Really, honestly.

WOMACK: I know. Well --

TAPPER: Like it's just like get over it. We see Nancy Mace -- one of your members blocked Nancy Mace and then Nancy Mace made a kitty cat, pussy cat emoji at him.

It is like, seriously, this is like high school. But like we need -- like there is legislation and -- there are literally Americans being killed abroad and we need this to work.

WOMACK: Yeah, that's kind of offensive to high school people, because it's really junior high stuff. I mean, this is really --

TAPPER: That's a good point.

WOMACK: This is junior high stuff.

I mean, look, we get wrapped around the axle of nonsensical things. But, yes, the world is burning around us and we're fiddling and we don't have a strategy. Our rules direct us to do this a certain way and quite frankly, I don't like relitigating the past, but the fact that Steve Scalise never got a chance to get his candidacy to the floor of the House and test that vote was disappointing to me. And it formed the basis for why I went the way I went in every vote that I took this week. But we'll hear from the candidates. There will be a bunch of them.

Only one of them will survive. I don't know who that will be.

I haven't looked at the field. We'll hear from them on Monday night and then vote perhaps on Tuesday.

And it will probably be like what we call queen of the hill, you know? The last one will be out and then we'll go back and do it again. So, look, this is not over.

But Jake, I'm going to also told you this, that even when we do get a speaker, the hard left is still out there and that is how do you get a rule passed on the floor, and push legislation if you carry the fractures of your conference into the legislative body? So, this is going to test leadership. Leadership has to be equal to the challenge that we could get all of our members on the rope pulling in the same direction --


WOMACK: -- not caring about who going to get the credit if we succeed or the blame should we fail. That's the bottom line. And that's the ultimate test of leadership.

TAPPER: Well, you have my vote.

Congressman Steve Womack, appreciate you. Thank you so much. Hope you have a good weekend and I hope --

WOMACK: Always good -- yeah, always good to be with you, Jake.

TAPPER: I hope your party gets it together.

WOMACK: Yeah, thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, the latest on the breaking news. Two Americans, a mother and her daughter previously held hostage by Hamas, thank God they've been released. What we're learning about how that release came about. We're going to go live to their home town.

Stay with us.