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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Two American Hostages Released By Hamas; Aid Trucks Lined Up At Rafah Crossing To Enter Gaza; One-On-One With Volunteer From U.S. Now In Israel; Mike Pence Responds To Release Of American Hostages By Hamas; Pro-Trump Lawyer Kenneth Chesebro Takes Plea Deal In Georgia Election Subversion Case. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 20, 2023 - 17:00   ET




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

This our breaking news to U.S. citizens Judith Tai Raanan and her 17 year old daughter Natalie Raanan, who had been kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, have now been released. And they're now back in Israel. We just got this new photograph of Judith and Natalie from the Israeli military. Israel believes that Hamas still has around 200 hostages. And as of this morning, Israel's military says that they believe most of them are still alive.

Plus, will they or won't they? That remains the key question at the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt. There are trucks lined up inside of which are much needed food and water and fuel and medicine. But promises that these trucks would be let in to Gaza this morning have not been realized. Here is the U.N. secretary general at the key crossing earlier today.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: Behind these walls, we have 2 million people that is suffering enormously. So these trucks are not just trucks, they are a lifeline. They are the difference between life and death for so many people in Gaza. What we need is to make them move, to make them move to the other side of this wall. To make them move as quickly as possible.


TAPPER: Inside Gaza earlier today, an airstrike from Israel hit a Greek Orthodox Church where both elderly and young children were taking shelter. Here is how one resident described it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They came in to escape the airstrikes and the destruction. They thought they were safe here. The destruction followed them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: We also have reports of at least 13 people killed including five children in the West Bank after Israeli forces entered the Nur Shams refugee camp. These scenes that are igniting protests in the streets across the Arab world, from Egypt to Jordan to Yemen to Turkey, tensions are high, emotions are raw. And there are legitimate fears that this violence could spread to become a wider regional conflict. Let's start with Erin Burnett who is in Tel Aviv.

And Erin, we're getting more details about the release of these two American hostages.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR, OUTFRONT: Yes, Judith Raanan and Natalie Raanan are both now in the hands of the IDF. You saw those images, Jake, an incredible moment. I mean, everyone would look at that and say what an incredible moment it was. And Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, says that soon they will be in U.S. embassy hands and then of course moves to reunite them with their family. This deal was brokered by the Government of Qatar which of course, Jake, as you know, has a history of dealing with a hostile adversarial non state actors in such hostage transfers whether it be with the Taliban or in this case obviously with Hamas.


Antony Blinken thank the Government of Qatar, specifically, when it was announced that Judith and Natalie would be released. He also said that though that there are 10 additional Americans who are still missing, and obviously, they believe some if not all of those may also be hostages. So, we'll see what happens next. But obviously huge news for this family.

Natalie, her brother Ben is -- I'm going to be talking to him tonight. He had talked about her as getting ready to go to the next stage of life and college and wanting to be -- loving art and how she wants to be a tattoo artist and an artist and all these things she wanted to do. This was a few days ago when he didn't know whether she would come home alive. And now this incredible news for this one family with the most joyful news one could possibly imagine, Jake. And of course, though, we still know there are 201 additional hostages that are not released, although we know from the IDF this morning that the majority of them are alive.

We've got more information on the hostages today than any other day, Jake. And obviously this incredibly significant news here in just these past couple of hours, begging the question of whether there will be more releases or what comes next as we are in these waiting and waiting for what comes next. In that, Jake, I will mention we have heard more floods (ph) in the past 10 minutes from Gaza here in Tel Aviv than I've heard in the past few days, actually, it had been an initial bombardment we heard as you know, then very quiet. And then in just the past few minutes, we did hear quite a bit.

TAPPER: All right. Erin Burnett, thank you so much. Stay safe.

CNN's MJ Lee is at the White House for us. And MJ, what is the White House saying about the release of Judith and Natalie Raanan?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it has obviously been an incredibly dark and challenging two weeks and the release of these two American hostages has marked a very rare dark spot. The President saying in a statement this afternoon that he is simply overjoyed that these two women now get to be reunited with their family. But he acknowledged too that this is far from over. A U.S. official confirming to me this afternoon that there are additional American hostages being held by Hamas, though we still don't know an exact number. Remember U.S. officials have continued to use language like a handful of hostages that are believed to be there.

And the President saying that he is committed to working around the clock to get more hostages out. Now, U.S. officials have been stressing for a while that it has been extraordinarily difficult and challenging to ascertain any information about American hostages, their condition, their number, where they're being held, whether they're even in one place. But it is clear that the Israelis played obviously a very important role in sharing intelligence with the U.S. and that the Qatari has also played a very important role in mediating this situation. One piece of reporting that I will note from earlier today, Jake, that I think is really important is that according to a U.S. official, they are still not aware of any so called proof of life videos concerning American hostages that is akin to the video that was released earlier this week by Hamas of a 21 year old French Israeli. So, Jake, just needless to say, this has been an incredibly dark sort of focus for the President trying to get these American hostages out.

We know that this was a significant focus for him when he traveled to Israel earlier this week. And it remains his top priority, he said, in the statement that celebrated the release of these two hostages.

TAPPER: All right, MJ Lee, thank you so much.

I want to bring in CNN Alex Marquardt.

Alex, what do we know about how this hostage release unfolded?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was really sudden, Jake, this was a surprised. We had not been given any indication from sources that there was much headway being made with Hamas and the release of any of these hostages. Earlier this afternoon, Kaitlan Collins and I heard from different sources that this was underway, that two American hostages, a mother and a daughter were on their way out. We didn't know who it was, of course now it has been confirmed as Judith and Natalie Raanan. I was told that they were handed over to the Red Cross, which obviously operates inside Gaza.

They're relatively independent organization, as far as any organizations are independent in the Gaza Strip, and they were driven south. There are two crossings out of Gaza into Egypt and into Israel. And so we know that very quickly from the time that we learned that this was happening, they did get out and they were handed over to Israeli authorities. The Israelis say that they were taken to a military base. We heard from Secretary Blinken earlier today who said that they will be visited soon by U.S. embassy officials, be given anything that they need.

Obviously the priority is on getting them home as soon as possible so they can reunite with their family. Here's a little bit more of what Blinken had to say.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: -- their release. We share in the relief that their families, friends and loved ones are feeling. But there are still 10 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.



MARQUARDT: So, some 200 remain. I had been told by a source who was familiar with the discussions that the mother, Judith Raanan was in, in poor health, and that may be an indication of why Hamas decided to release her at this point.

TAPPER: That doesn't make any sense. They go into Israel, they slaughter babies, they kill civilians, and then this woman's unhealthy so they release her, out of the goodness of their heart, for humanitarian reasons?


TAPPER: That doesn't make any sense.

MARQUARDT: No, not out of the goodness of their heart, but because it also serves their purpose.


MARQUARDT: Well, because it is a burden to take care of some 200 hostages.

TAPPER: And so just kill them. I mean, like they already killed 1,300 Israelis. Why?

MARQUARDT: Because they can still use these hostages as leverage.

TAPPER: For what?

MARQUARDT: To get concessions from the Israelis. To get --

TAPPER: They want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. I mean, what concessions?

MARQUARDT: Well, if you look back at the release of Gilad Schalit back in 2011, that was one Israeli soldier for more than 1,000 Israeli prisoners. So here as we prepare for the ground incursion by Israel, Hamas may believe that they could get aid, a temporary ceasefire and be able to trade these remaining 200 prisoners for Palestinians who are in Israeli prisons.

TAPPER: All right. I guess I can see that part of it.

MARQUARDT: But I mean, don't get me wrong, I do not believe that this is out of the goodness of their heart, but it is tough to feed water, move around 200 people.

TAPPER: I think it's more likely that it's because they're Americans.

MARQUARDT: Absolutely. That is also the case. These are not -- these are not other nationals.

TAPPER: Right.

MARQUARDT: These are not solely Israelis.

TAPPER: Right.

MARQUARDT: These are nationals --

TAPPER: And they weren't even dual citizens. They were just purely Americans.

MARQUARDT: And to the point about getting concessions out of Israel, they are releasing Israel's biggest backer, the biggest supporter of Israel as they go into Gaza to confront them.

TAPPER: Yes. All right. To be continued. Alex Marquardt, thank you so much.

CNN's Whitney Wild is in Evanston, Illinois, from where -- that's where the two freed American hostages come from.

Whitney, you're talking to the friends and family of the Raanans. How are they reacting? They must be just so relieved because obviously, Hamas is capable of anything.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Relieved, overjoyed. I mean, consider this, Jake, this community had been waiting in agony not knowing if they were alive or dead for two weeks. Their Rabbi spoke with us and spoke so glowingly of Judith and Natalie saying over and over how their kindness was simply boundless, which is what made their being hostages especially cruel. Here's what Rabbi Hecht had to say about just the collective feeling here, knowing that now these two women are going to be able to come home, Jake.


RABBI MEIR HECHT, RABBI OF RELEASED HOSTAGES: Judith is the type of person who would come over to our home, to our congregation all the time, with gifts for the children, 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, who loves 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WILD: It has been so challenging Jake to wait moment after moment not knowing if they were alive or dead, not knowing if they would come home. And that is still the experience for other American families whose loved ones are still over there. And it's those families pain that is weighing on this community still because this community will not be healed until this is over, until this conflict is over and until the rest of these Americans come home, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Whitney Wilde in Evanston, Illinois, thank you so much for that reporting.

Between the hostage released today and the confusion over whether there will be any aid arriving in Gaza to help the innocents in Gaza, there's a lot to ask the White House. In just a few minutes, I'm going to get to ask John Kirby from the National Security Council about all of this. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: You're looking at a new photo of the first known hostages released by Hamas since its heinous terrorist attack on October 7. Judith Raanan and her 17 year old daughter Natalie Raanan were in Israel visiting family when Hamas kidnap them. The Israeli government says Judith and Natalie are now safe in Israel. And the White House says President Biden spoke with Judith and Natalie's family this afternoon.

Joining us now, White House National Security Council Spokesman, Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Admiral, how much did the White House have to do with the release of these two Americans?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We were very much involved at various levels in helping secure their release. And obviously, we certainly give credit to the Government of Israel and the Government of Qatar, who obviously played key roles in this. I mean, it was a team effort across the interagency, but also internationally and all. We're just we're just glad that they're safe and sound and hopefully soon, we'll be able to get back to Illinois with their family where they belong.

TAPPER: But why would Hamas release them? I mean, not -- they wouldn't do it out of the goodness of their heart. They're a brutal, ruthless terrorist organization. Why would they just release these two Americans?

KIRBY: Yes, Jake, I think it's going to be -- we're going to have to be careful about what we say. And in terms of the machinations here that were required to get them home or get them out of there, because we know that there's still some Americans being held hostage, and we want to get them back to their families too. So, I hope you can understand that we're not really going to be able to talk much about motivations and the details here. We're just glad that they're safe and sound and hopefully home soon.

TAPPER: Just to explain for our viewers what's going on. I assume there are protesters outside the White House, which is a right that we as Americans celebrate the right to peaceably protest it or not so peaceably. Those -- are those people protesting for any particular cause?


KIRBY: It is difficult for me to understand exactly what they're saying is, what their point is. I'm trying to focus on you and your questions.

TAPPER: OK. Fair enough.

KIRBY: So I don't know what they're --

TAPPER: Fair enough.

KIRBY: I don't know what they're saying.

TAPPER: So, do you think or is the White House advising the Israeli government that the longer they wait before a ground incursion, the more successful it will be to get hostages out of Gaza?

KIRBY: I, again, want to be careful what I talk about in terms of the diplomatic conversations that we're having with Israel. I want to make it clear, we aren't interfering in their middle military operations. We're not directing, obviously, their military operations. They're a sovereign state and a very capable military. When President Biden went he, of course, asked questions of Israeli counterparts, the Prime Minister to find out what their thinking was, what their intentions were, how their planning was shaping up.

We want to be careful that we protect our operational security. But we -- I will also say, clearly, the issue of hostages not just Americans, but all hostages was front and center on the President's mind when he met with the Prime Minister and he had the chance to meet with some of the families of hostages while he was there. So, obviously, hostage recovery was key to one of the President's agenda items.

TAPPER: Do you know anything about the damaging, the strike of a church in Gaza today? There appears to have been a strike against an Orthodox Church in Gaza.

KIRBY: Yes, I've seen some press reporting on that, Jake. But I don't have any more detail about what exactly happened.

TAPPER: In terms of the continued effort to get humanitarian aid from Egypt into Gaza. Yesterday, President Biden and Egyptian officials said that the Rafah crossing would be opening this morning. It did not open this morning. When will it open? And what made President Biden confident despite the fact that confidence apparently was misplaced? KIRBY: I would beg to disagree on that misplaced confidence. I mean, he had a good conversation with President Sisi as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu and was able to secure an agreement for humanitarian assistance to get into Gaza. And he's confident and he said to again today that in the coming hours, if not a couple of days, we should be able to see that humanitarian assistance get in. One of the obstacles was quite frankly the road, the road that leads into the gate was damaged, and there was no confidence that the trucks will be able to traverse that road safely and efficiently. So the Egyptians are working on repairs to that road. I know that that is at least one issue holding it up.

But again, we're confident that it's going to happen. We hope very, very soon.

TAPPER: I have to say it sounds like there's a full scale rebellion going on at the U.S. State Department where, according to many press reports, as well as public statements, officials, and now former officials are concerned that the Biden administration is not doing nearly enough. And in some cases, they believe the Biden administration is derelict in protecting innocent people of Gaza. And I know you're going to say Hamas uses them as human shields, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that that's true. That doesn't necessarily mean that the Biden administration is doing as much as you could be doing to protect innocent people in Gaza right now. So how do you -- how do you respond to those charges being made by officials in your own administration?

KIRBY: Well, certainly they should be able to speak for themselves. I would simply say that, really, from the very early hours of this, we have been concerned about civilian casualties, we have been concerned about collateral damage inside Gaza. And you and I talked in the early days about the concerns that we had expressed to our Israeli counterparts about that, and the abiding of the -- by the law of war. It's something that's been front and center for us from the beginning.

And as for humanitarian assistance, look, we've also said since the very early hours, it's important that the people of Palestine -- of Gaza, the Palestinians in Gaza, that they don't suffer any more than Hamas is making them suffer already. They didn't do anything wrong. They're being victimized. They need food, water, electricity, and medical equipment. I mean, they need all that and the United States is right there with them.

We're going to do everything we can to not only get the gate open and get that stuff in, Jake, but put in place a sustainable method for it to keep going. So we have been focused on this really from the very, very early hours on. And again, I respect, not everybody has the same opinion and certainly right to express it and make decisions about their careers as they see fit. But I'm comfortable in the meetings I've been in and the discussions I've seen in my conversations with the President that he has been laser focused on this from very, very early on.

TAPPER: White House National Security Council Spokesman Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, thank you so much. Appreciate it. And as Israeli American soldier has left his family behind here in the U.S. to go to Israel to join the fight. I'm going to talk with him next.



TAPPER: As the Israeli Defense Forces prepare for their expected military incursion into Gaza, my next guest left his home and family here in the United States and arrived in Israel yesterday to fight with the IDF. Major Shy (ph), and we're not giving his last name, is a restaurant owner and chef who has lived in the U.S. for more than a decade.

He's also an IDF major. And he joins us from Israel in a location we're not going to disclose. And of course, as I told you, we're not going to use his first name, either.

Major, thanks so much for joining us. I appreciate it. What kind of fighting are you expecting? Are you expecting to take part in combat operations?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, I cannot talk about what we do here. I'm an Operations Officer. So I support part of our operations in coordinating communications.

TAPPER: It must have been tough to leave your family. How did you explain this to your kids?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was really hard. That part was very, actually very hard for us. My wife and I sat him down. We didn't fully tell them that I'm going to fight. We told them that I'm just going to help. We have family here in Israel, my daughters, they grew up visiting their family in Israel. And we explained to them that Israel is under attack, and we need to go help them because that's our family and friends, and they need our support and our help.

TAPPER: Unfortunately, throughout the world, and in the United States, there's been an increase of both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, since the Hamas terrorist attacks and since the war against Hamas began, has your family experienced any of that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have, this is actually -- I've never experienced that kind of anti-Semitism in the U.S. until I got here last week. Unfortunately, my family can -- my daughters could not go to school two days last week due to threats on our community, by -- even the FBI even arrested somebody that threaten our community and our school and our JCC.

And it's just something that I've never thought I'd had to deal with in the U.S., as a grandfather -- as a grandson of Holocaust survivors that came to the U.S. And the way the U.S. rescued us, my family. I've never thought that I'm going to have to deal with that kind of stuff. And not being able to send my kids to schools in America, because they're being threatened. TAPPER: Have you personally seen any expressions of anti-Semitism in the United States that surprised you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, in the last two weeks, previously, I did a little bit, but not to that extent, nothing in the past that has been, you know, I'm very connected to Israel and my family here. And that same notion all the time that we're not anti-Semitic, we're just anti- Israel. And I kind of let that go, which is obviously a mistake we see now. But now I really see the full picture. And it's not anti-Israel, it's really anti-Semitic because kids that go to school in the U.S. should not fear for their lives just because of their heritage or religious.

TAPPER: Do you have relatives in Israel or acquaintances who were affected by the Hamas terrorist attacks in any way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I have several relatives and friends that lost their life in that attack.

TAPPER: You have relatives who are killed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really hard and brutal. Friends, very, very close friends.

TAPPER: Oh, I'm so sorry. You were also in Israel for the 2014 Israeli operation against Hamas called Operation Protective Edge. Can you tell us what you did back then? The same thing thing that you won't tell us what it is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't really. Yes. I mean --

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you another question.


TAPPER: It is horrible what happened on October 7th, horrible. And I understand the argument that the Israeli government makes certainly about you cannot allow Hamas to operate right next door and have Gaza be a staging ground for future terrorist attacks against the Israeli people.

What do you what do you think when you see the pictures, the images of an innocent Palestinians. And I get the argument again, that Hamas uses its own people as human shields. I hear the argument. But what's your reaction when you see the images of innocent Palestinians wounded or killed in Israeli strikes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's heartbreaking to be artists. It is heartbreaking and I can tell you that is part of what I do is that we try to avoid it as much as possible. We do not target the Palestinian civilians. I actually have Palestinian friends in the U.S. and Israeli Arabs. Our fight is not with the Palestinian people. Our fight is with Hamas.

[17:35:15] It is heartbreaking and devastating when the Palestinian people are trapped in the middle of Hamas's attacks. And the whole notion of we have to destroy everyone in Israel, Jews and Arabs and Muslims in Israel, by the way. And the Palestinian people has to carry this burden and allow Hamas to hide behind them with their brutal and inhumane attacks.

And it's for me, seeing them trapped is just as painful as seeing Jewish people trapped in this conflict. But we cannot allow that. And we cannot allow Hamas hide behind them. We have to fight Hamas and somebody who's trying to fight you, we are going to do everything we can to prevent casualties and innocent people getting hurt. But we cannot let that stop us from stopping Hamas.

TAPPER: Major Shy (ph) thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: This unprecedented uncertainty in the Middle East quickly became political here in the United States, as does everything. Up next, former vice president and 2024 presidential candidate Mike Pence will join me live to discuss the war. And I'll ask him about the dysfunction among House Republicans back here in D.C. Stay with us.



TAPPER: As the Middle East is engulfed in war with fears of it spreading to the region, there is absolute chaos here in D.C. among House Republicans. We now turn to former vice president, current candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and former member of House Republican leadership, Mike Pence. Vice President Pence, thanks so much for joining us.


TAPPER: We have the news this evening, two Americans previously held hostage by Hamas have now been released. They're now in the care of Israeli forces, there are still 10 Americans unaccounted for. How would you if you were president at this point, how would you be handling the situation in the Middle East?

PENCE: Well, first, I think it's extremely important that every leader in this country speak with one voice, and make it clear to the world that America stands with Israel, and that we'll stand with Israel today and will stand with Israel tomorrow and through all of the difficult days that lie ahead.

Look, after that horrific, unprecedented terrorist attack on Israel, Jake. Israel has no choice but to hunt down and destroy Hamas at its source. And I believe that there should be no daylight between the United States of America and our most cherished ally, Israel. And we need to make it clear, particularly to other powers in the region, beginning with Iran. Also Assad's regime in Syria and Hezbollah and Lebanon, that any effort to expand this into a wider conflict, will be met with a complete and seamless alliance between the United States and America.

Only American strength is going to create the conditions in which Israel is going to have the room to do what they need to do to secure their country for the future and end the reign of Hamas once and for all.

TAPPER: Would you as president be considering using special operations forces to rescue American hostages if you were President right now?

PENCE: Well, I said the better part of two weeks ago, Jake, that if I was president, I would have already been on the phone with the Joint Special Operations Command. I would have given orders for Delta Force and the Navy SEALs to be prepared to work with Israeli Defense Forces to engage in hostage rescue. And then I would have told Hamas that you have -- you got 12 hours to turn loose every American, every Israeli hostage or we're going to come and get them.

Look, I welcome the release of the two American hostages today. But at the end of the day, we simply have the best fighting force hostage rescue capability in the world. And Hamas needs to understand that, that we would be willing to use that and we need to pressure them and demand that Hamas turn those Americans and turn those Israelis loose.

TAPPER: But if you were did in fact, give that order, and I'm not judging it but I'm just saying, if you were in fact, to give that order Delta Force, Navy SEALs into Gaza to rescue the American hostages, you would be in effect having sending boots in the ground into a place that is about 10 times bigger. If not, I think it's actually maybe I might be wrong about that, it might be 30 times bigger than Fallujah, it would be an incredibly difficult battle and that's boots on the ground into another Middle Eastern war.

PENCE: Right. And look, we're talking about Americans now, Jake. We're talking about Americans that have been captured and taken hostage by the brutal Hamas terrorists and that's what our team exists for. So I've look, I've seen the Delta Force rehearsals at Fort Bragg. I've stood on the beach at Coronado with the Navy SEALs. These are the best in the world.

But look, I also believe that we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel on this issue of aid into the Gaza Strip that Israel has made it clear no aid will pass across any border of between Israel and Gaza until those hostages are turned loose. I think we need to make that U.S. policy. And I would stand by that if I was president of the United States.


TAPPER: Speaking of aid, there can't be any additional aid package until the House of Representatives picks a speaker, which we have not had in the United States for 17 days because House Republicans cannot pick a speaker. You used to be House Republican leadership. It certainly was a lot more calm and organized back in those days. I remember when you were -- when you work, I believe your caucus chair, if memory serves.

PENCE: I was.

TAPPER: And in those 17 days, we've seen Americans captured and killed. We've seen all sorts of things happening in Ukraine. The government is facing a shutdown. What do you make of this unbelievable display of dysfunction, incompetence, self-regard, I could go on and on. But it's only a two hour show that we've seen from House Republicans like what is going on?

And if you were American voter right now, what do you think you'd be thinking? Well, you're an American voter, but I know you'd vote Republican anyway. But if you were an independent American voter, and you're watching House Republicans right now, what do you think you'd be thinking?

PENCE: Yes, yes. I got you. Well, look, all roads lead back to the group of eight Republicans that I call the chaos caucus, Jake. I mean, look, I was the Republican Conference chairman. I was a third ranking leader in the House of Representatives. And I cherished my years in the House. I never in all of my time when I led a lot of fights, you remember, against big spending Republicans, I battled a Republican president of my own party fighting against big government programs.

But never in my wildest imagination could I have conceived of a handful of Republicans joining with every Democrat in the Congress to ask the Republican Speaker of the House. But that's where we are today. But look, here's how it's supposed to work. The conference is supposed to get in a room, vote in the majority about who the conference wants to support as Speaker of the House.

And then every member in the conference is expected to go out and vote for that speaker. Steve Scalise won that round. The first time around, Steve Scalise would have been an outstanding Speaker of the House. Jim Jordan won that the second time around. Jim Jordan would be an outstanding Speaker of the House.

But my message to my former colleagues is, with everything going on in the world today with the struggles American families are facing in this economy with a crisis at our border. The people of this country want Republicans in Congress to stop fighting with each other and start fighting for them. I think it's time that they got in a room that they decide whether or not they want to be on the team. Choose a speaker, get to the floor and get back to work.

TAPPER: Former Vice President Mike Pence, thank you so much for joining us. Always good to have you on sir.

PENCE: Thank you, Jake.


TAPPER: Another one of Donald Trump's codefendants has flipped. Details on this latest plea deal and why -- what was admitted in court today is so significant. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: The gold plated walls around former President Trump appear to be closing in on him. First, former Trump attorney, Sidney Powell, have released the crack and fame, flipped on Trump in the Georgia election subversion case. And now, Wisconsin's own Kenneth Chesebro also took a plea deal. CNN's Nick Valencia has more on that. Nick, what happened in court today?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was a stunning development out of Fulton County. As part of this plea deal, Ken Chesebro has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit false documents. That's a felony count. But he's also going to have to pay a $5,000 fine, do 100 hours of community service.

But perhaps most importantly, as he's agreed to testify, in any future proceedings or trial for the remaining codefendants in this case, and that includes former President Donald Trump. After Ken Chesebro took this deal, I spoke to his attorney Scott Grubman outside the courthouse and I asked him what he would say to those critics who believe that Chesebro has turned his back on the former president and are calling him a snitch.


SCOTT GRUBMAN, KENNETH CHESEBRO'S ATTORNEY: He didn't snitch against anyone. He went in there. He accepted responsibility for what I would do as one of the minor kind of tagged on charges in the indictment. And that was that. I mean, I could absolutely tell you that again, if he's called, he'll go testify and answer their questions. But I would disagree. I don't think Mr. Chesebro snitched against anyone. I think he simply decided it was time for him to put this behind him and go on with his life.


VALENCIA: This was a significant win, a huge win really for the Fulton County District Attorney's Office because not only did they secure Sidney Powell on Thursday as a state witness against the former president, but now they also have Ken Chesebro. Two key witnesses as the Fulton County District Attorney's Office can narrow its case against former President Donald Trump.

Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.

TAPPER: And our thanks to Nick Valencia in Fulton County for that report.


Donald Trump punished today related to yet a different court case he's involved in. Why he was fined thousands of dollars, that's next.


TAPPER: Earlier today, New York judge fined former President Donald Trump $5,000 for violating a gag order. Judge Arthur Engoron issued a partial gag order for everyone involved in Trump's civil fraud case banning them from speaking about any members of the court staff. The gag order was issued after Trump attacked Judge Engoron's clerk on his Truth Social page. The post was removed from Truth Social, but it was not erased from Trump's campaign website. Judge Engoron admonished Trump's attorneys for what he called a blatant violation of the gag order. And he warned that future violations could lead to steeper financial penalties or even jail time.

Before we go, so many of you that have been watching our coverage have wanted to help Israelis and Palestinians with humanitarian relief efforts for the innocents who don't deserve any of this. CNN has been compiling resources. Head to, you'll find a list of vetted organizations on the ground responding trying to help. That's


Coming up Sunday on State of the Union, I'm going to talk to the House Intelligence Chair, Congressman Mike Turner, as well as former Republican congresswoman and January 6th Committee co-chair, Liz Cheney. She is going to join me for her first media interview in a year. That's Sunday at 9:00 a.m. at noon Eastern here on CNN.

Our coverage continues now with Mr. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM". I'll see you Sunday morning.