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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sources: Hamas Used Landlines To Avoid Detection & Plan Attack; Freed Hostage: IDF Did Not Take Hamas Threat Seriously; IDF Spokesperson: "No Fuel T Enter Gaza"; U.S. Intelligence: Iranian- Backed Militias Look To Ramp Up Attacks Against U.S. Forces In Middle East; ABC News: Meadows Testified Trump Was "Dishonest" With The Public; Relative Of Loved Ones Killed, Kidnapped By Hamas Speaks Out. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 24, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I'm standing on a rooftop looking out over Tel Aviv. It is almost midnight here and it has been 17 days since the horrific terrorist attacks by Hamas caught this country and frankly much of the world by surprise, setting up a cascade of responses and consequences that now includes a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Part of that humanitarian crisis, the lack of basic necessities, food, water, fuel. Moments ago a spokesman for Israel's military says no fuel will be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip because of concerns it will be stolen by Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip, and that lack of fuel is already having serious consequences. The World Health Organization says six hospitals have shut down due to a lack of power.

The Israeli military spokesman was responding to a question about whether Israel would consider allowing fuel deliveries in exchange for hostages. Out of approximately 222 people kidnapped by Hamas that day, only four had been released. And tonight one of those four is accusing the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli intelligence service of failing, failing at their jobs.


YOCHEVED LIFSHITZ, RELEASED HOSTAGE (through translator): The lack of awareness by IDF in Shin Bet did great damage to us. We were the scapegoat. They warned us three weeks beforehand, hordes of people came into the road and burned our fields. They sent fire balloons and the IDF did not treat it seriously.


TAPPER: That of course is 85 year old Yocheved Lifshitz, she was held captive for more than two weeks before being released last night, courageously telling the world what she endured after being kidnapped from her home in Israel. She says her captors, the terrorists of Hamas, threw her onto a motorbike, they beat her with sticks, they stole her jewelry. And this is just one person's story, at least 218 others including Lifshitz's husband are still being held hostage right now. Intensive talks are underway to secure the release of a large number of them. The desire to get them out, a major reason the U.S. continues to press Israel to further delay any ground operation into Gaza. This as CNN is learning exactly how Hamas was able to pull off its deadly surprise attack without tipping its hand. Let's start with CNN's Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Matthew Chance. A warning to our viewers, his report will contain some graphic images.

Matthew, sources tell CNN intense talks are underway right now to free a large number of hostages. What is Hamas asking in return?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, first of all, they're not spelling out exactly what their terms are. But our understanding is from U.S. and Israeli sources as well, is that the main demand of Hamas is they want fuel. They want fuel in exchange for lives. Fuel to, in the words of Israeli officials, to potentially fuel rockets that could be fired at Israel, fuel also to power the underground network of tunnels that Hamas has for lighting, of course, but also for oxygen supplies there as well. Officially, the Palestinian health ministry says it wants it to kind of fuel the hospitals, as well as lots of people in dire need of medical care, of course, in the Gaza Strip. Although the IDF, the Israeli military, is especially said that's not real, they already have supplies of fuel to do that.

Anyway, if that barrier cannot be broken, it's unlikely at this stage, it seems, there's going to be more of the hostage releases that we have seen. And already, as you said, we've seen over the past few days several hostages be released by Hamas into Israel. One of them earlier today, very old lady 85 years old, gave her stunning account of how she was captured and what she went through. And just a quick warning, you know, is Hamas video at the start of this piece. And so it's not clear what propaganda purpose they may have been thinking of when they allowed this to be filmed.


CHANCE (voice-over): This is the extraordinary moment an 85 year old Israeli grandmother was released by Hamas.


CHANCE (voice-over): In video recorded by the militant group you can see her shaking the hand of Hamas gunman Shalom or peace she says as she's led away. Back in Israel, Yocheved Lifshitz is speaking about her hostage ordeal.

Y. LIFSHITZ (through translator): I went through hell. They went on rampage in our kibbutz kidnapped me, lay me over a motorcycle on the side and flew with me through the cloud fields. They stormed our houses, beat people, some of them like me kidnapped. They didn't distinguish between old and young.

CHANCE (voice-over): The Hamas attack on a kibbutz of Nir Oz in southern Israel earlier this month, left a quarter of its residents killed or kidnapped including many children according to Israeli officials. Yocheved described that she was forcibly driven away with her elderly husband and hit with sticks on the journey into Gaza. Her daughter, who helped translate her mother's ordeal to reporters described a warrant of passages underneath Gaza where her mother and several other Israeli hostages were held.


SHARONE LIFSHITZ, MOTHER FREED: There are a huge, huge network of tunnels underneath, it looks like a spider web.

CHANCE (voice-over): The October 7 attacks, many of them recorded by Hamas gunmen themselves as they rampage through Israeli communities, took an unprecedented toll. Even at least 1400 Israelis dead and more than 200 like Yocheved kidnapped and taken to Gaza.

Y. LIFSHITZ (through translator): The lack of knowledge in the army in Shin Bet harmed us very much. We were warned three weeks ahead of it. They showed us masses reaching the road, they send fire balloons to burn our fields. And the army somehow didn't take it seriously.

CHANCE (voice-over): A catastrophic lapse in security that left so many Israelis exposed.


CHANCE: Well, Jake, that criticism that we heard there of the failure of the Israeli intelligence services is something we've heard from many Israelis we've spoken to. But I think the more urgent issue right now is what is Israel going to do next? Is it going to continue to delay this military action, this ground invasion into the Gaza Strip to allow for this process of hostage releasing to yield more results? Israel says that there will be no ceasefire, and it will keep up its military pressure on Hamas, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Matthew Chance, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

One big question since October 7 is how, how did Hamas carry out such a successful, sophisticated if you can call it that, terrorist attack while keeping it all so secret? And today we're learning that old school technology may have played a major role. CNN's Chief Investigative Correspondent Pamela Brown joins us now from the U.S.

Pamela, what does the intelligence show?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT & ANCHOR: Well, Jake, sources are telling me and my colleague Zach Cohen that a small group of Hamas operatives used hardwired phones in the tunnels beneath Gaza to communicate over a period of two years. That's according to intelligence shared with U.S. officials. Now those old fashioned landlines allowed Hamas leaders to communicate underground with one another and secret. They avoided using computers or cell phones in order to keep from being trapped by Israeli or U.S. intelligence, according to these sources, and frankly, it worked, Jake. Instead, they held meetings in person among a small group and they stayed off all digital communications. So this partially explains why Israel and the U.S. were caught so off guard by the attack. And how 1000 Hamas binders were able to pour across the border without being stopped showed here in this propaganda video released by Hamas. All of this communication happened in the miles of underground, a tunnel system beneath Gaza that the IDF nicknamed the Gaza Metro. You heard the hostage there in the story you just play, Jake, talking about the spider web of tunnels. That's where apparently these phone lines were hardwired underground.

Another way Hamas was able to keep this under the radar is that they kept the planning of the October 7 attack a secret even from other members. Only a very small group knew about this mission until just before it was carried out. Hamas ground unit commanders and fighters were in training for many months, and they were kept in a state of general preparedness, I'm told, but only found out about the specific plans just a few days before the terrorist attack. And one of the sources said some of the training above ground was observed by Israeli officials, but did not ring major alarm bells. The thinking was, I'm told, was, oh, Hamas always trains people like this, it didn't look different. But of course we know now, Jake, it was.

TAPPER: And Pamela, Israel actually found these hard wired phones in Hamas strong footholds in the past though, right?

BROWN: Yes, that's right. Israeli military found a similar kind of communication system when they raided a city in the northern West Bank over the summer, according to an Israeli official. They call this a joint operational command center and it had hardwired communication lines and closed circuit surveillance cameras to give advance warning of Israeli troop movements. So clearly, this is something that has been in their playbook, Hamas has had in their playbook and they used it to execute this operation, as you pointed out successfully, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

I want to bring in Mark Regev with me here in Tel Aviv. He is the senior adviser to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also a former Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom. Thank you so much for being here, really appreciate it. If Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, if it knows so much about Hamas, why wouldn't they know about these tactics? How could Shin Bet and the IDF not have seen October 7 coming in any way?


MARK REGEV, ADVISER TO ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: So it's clear there was an intelligence failure, Jake. It's clear, we were taken by surprise, and we paid a terrible price for that. What is it, 1,400 people killed and more taken hostage.

I think we win this is over. Now we're focused on winning this and we will win this. But when this is over, there will have to be an investigation, thorough investigation, lessons learned. Why was their intelligence failure? Why was it so easy for them to cross over the fence which was supposed to protect us with all the high tech and so forth? And why did it take the IDF so long to force them back to the other side and kill the people who'd come over to our side? There are all sorts of issues that need to be investigated.

In the past when we've had security mishaps like this, and this is more than a mishap, this is a major problem, we've had investigations, we've had committees of inquiry, we've had parliamentary inquiries. I'm sure when this is over, when we've won this, we'll have no sort of investigations. Ultimately, we're going to continue to live here. We live in a tough neighborhood. And we have to make sure we're at the top of our game, and it's clear we weren't.

TAPPER: But you heard the freed hostage, Yocheved Lifshitz, 85 years old this morning, saying this wasn't just an intelligence failure, there had been warnings in the weeks before Hamas doing things, the fence not strong people calling the security forces warning them. And these complaints, these warnings by the kibbutz around there ignored.

REGEV: So, it's clear she's speaking for many Israelis. I mean, we pride ourselves on having very good intelligence services, and the Mossad has an international reputation. The Shin Bet is the same. And yet here is obviously we weren't up to par. And I think Israelis expect more. And there will be investigations and there will be lessons learned.

TAPPER: Why do you think Hamas has been releasing hostages? That's four hostages released. Obviously two of them are American. I'm not sure about the nationalities of these recent two. Are they Israeli?


TAPPER: They're both just purely Israeli?

REGEV: That's what I understand.

TAPPER: OK. Why are they releasing hostages?

REGEV: Because they're under immense pressure. And their allies are under immense pressure. The Hamas wants a ceasefire. They hit us, they hit us hard and now they want a ceasefire to protect them so we don't destroy their military machine. But they're not going to get one.

We're going to continue keeping up the pressure. We're going to continue to target them. And with the international diplomatic pressure on their allies, we think we can get more people out.

TAPPER: Do you think there are going to be more hostages released in the next week, two weeks?

REGEV: I can't speak for Hamas, obviously. But we'll keep the pressure up. In the past, over the last week, pressure has got people out, keep the pressure up, increase that pressure, make Hamas feel the heat, make their allies feel the heat, you'll get more people out.

TAPPER: So last night, you told CNN's Kaitlan Collins, that Israel's not going to authorize fuel to enter Gaza, because it will just fall into Hamas' hands, even if it's meant for the hospitals.

REGEV: Correct.

TAPPER: Meant for humanitarian reasons, Hamas will take it, they control Gaza.

REGEV: Correct.

TAPPER: Only -- then this morning, the IDF Chief of Staff said it will, it will enter, fuel will enter Gaza but only for civilians. Then just minutes ago, an IDF spokesperson said no fuel full stop, because it will end up in the hands of Hamas. That's three different positions in less than 12 hours, I think. Why? What's going on? And what -- is there -- are going to end on one of these positions at some point?

REGEV: So the government decision that has been taken by our security cabinet is we're in favor of humanitarian aid, which is water, food and medicine.

TAPPER: Right.

REGEV: The trouble with fuel, and I know that they say they needed for the generators in the hospitals, and that's a genuine need is that the same fuel is taken -- stolen by Hamas. And as you've said, correctly, they control Gaza. They're the only people that with guns, they can take what they want. They take that off their military machine. And they use that for --

TAPPER: Rockets.

REGEV: -- for rockets and for their underground network of tunnels.

TAPPER: Right for the oxygen in the tunnels.

REGEV: Correct.

TAPPER: Right.

REGEV: And we obviously want to deny them that. But I want you to know we put out a statement earlier today the IDF, there is actually a huge amount of fuel inside Gaza today which Hamas has. Now if you could tell me, give me assurances, guarantees that fuel going into Gaza would only go for civilian purposes, that's fine, but I don't think anyone can give me that guarantee. And we saw last week CNN reported, I remember, there were six truckloads, six tankers waiting with fuel and we know for a fact that Hamas hijacked and stole part of that fuel. And so we're dealing with a formidable enemy.

There is -- should be no shortage whatsoever for the hospitals in Gaza, but Hamas is stealing that fuel from the people of Gaza.


TAPPER: Can you clear something up for me because I really can't get a straight answer on this. There are about five or 600 Americans stuck in Gaza. They've -- a lot of them are at the Rafah crossing. These are Americans. They have American passports.

Some of them are Palestinian American but, you know, they have homes in Massachusetts, they have homes in New Jersey, they've been calling the U.S. State Department. Why can't they get out?

REGEV: So I can give you a clear answer, Hamas won't let them out. In many ways, I think Hamas is also kicking keeping them hostage. I remember Secretary Blinken raised that issue. What was it over a week ago before the President was here, before your Secretary of Defense, was one of the issues that came up with us, and we said from our point of view, we'll do everything we can to facilitate their immediate release.

TAPPER: But only out of Rafah crossing because all of your crossings are closed.

REGEV: And they've been destroyed.

TAPPER: Right.

REGEV: They're not functioning. That's a warzone.

TAPPER: Right. OK.

REGEV: Very serious firefights there.

TAPPER: I understand. I understand.

REGEV: We're happy and eager to facilitate their exit. That's a promise to the Americans. We're serious about that. But Hamas has decided to play games with these Americans.

TAPPER: But it's not el-Sisi, it's not Egypt, it's Hamas?

REGEV: Yes, definitely.

TAPPER: All right. Former Ambassador Mark Regev, thank you for your time today. Really appreciate it.

As U.S. ramps up its military presence in the Middle East, is the Biden administration anticipating a wider conflict involving American troops? We're going to go to the Pentagon for that question next.



TAPPER: And we're back live from Israel as the U.S. increases its military presence in the Middle East. Today, the Pentagon announced the New Jersey Air National Guard's 119th expeditionary fighter squadron has arrived in the region and other air defense units are on the way. Since the October 7 attacks, the U.S. military has deployed additional missile defense systems, a U.S. Marine rapid response force and two carrier groups. But new intelligence suggests these American forces now face a major threat of an attack from Iranian backed militia groups looking to capitalize on anti-American sentiment in the region.

And Brigadier General Patrick Ryder joins us now. He is the spokesman for the Pentagon. Thank you so much for joining us, General. Iranian back, militia groups launched attacks against U.S. troops at least 10 times in Iraq and three times in Syria. CNN is reporting that they're looking to step up these attacks even more. What more do you know about this? And how concerned is the Pentagon?

BRIG. PATRICK RYDER, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: Yes, thanks very much for having me, Jake. So clearly, we are continuing to monitor this situation. As you know, over the weekend, Secretary Austin directed some additional assets into the region to include the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, which will go into the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility. Plus, we're deploying a fad battery and Patriot battalions into the Middle East, again, focused on force protection.

One thing should be absolutely clear, we will always maintain the inherent right of self defense, and we will take all necessary measures to protect our forces and our interests in the region.

TAPPER: You said Iran is not explicitly directing these attacks, the U.S. believes, but they are encouraging them. How will the U.S. respond to Iran if any American service members lose their lives in these attacks?

RYDER: Yes, well, look, I'm not going to telegraph or talk about any potential response or if we will take a response. If we do so, it would be at a time in place of our choosing. But again, it's critical for actors in the region to include these Iranian backed militia groups to understand that we will take necessary measures to protect our forces. But those forces in Iraq and Syria are there for one mission and one mission only. And that's to focus on the enduring defeat of ISIS.

And so they'll continue to stay focused on that mission, and we'll continue to stay focused on ensuring that we have the capabilities in the air to protect our people as they do this important mission.

TAPPER: One U.S. official says Iran likely does not want to engage in direct fighting with Israel or the U.S. So why are they doing this?

RYDER: Well, I'll let Iran speak for itself. You know, right now, the United States is very focused on supporting Israel, and its right to defend itself from terrorism. And so you see frequent communication between the Department of Defense, Secretary Austin with his Israeli counterpart to ensure that we understand what Israel's defense needs are. We're also very focused on deterring a broader regional conflict. No one wants to see a wider war in this region.

And that's why we've been very clear that any actor whether it's a state or non-state actor that's looking to take advantage of this situation and widen that conflict, our message is clear, it's don't. And so, we're going to continue to stay focused on deterring a broader regional conflict. We're also going to continue to stay focused on ensuring that our troops in the region are protected. TAPPER: Marine Corps Lieutenant General James Glynn, the former commander of Marine Forces Special Operations Command is in Israel to counsel the Israel Defense Forces ahead of this expected ground incursion into Gaza. What sort of advice will he be able to provide?

RYDER: Well, look, it's important to understand, as you well know that we have a long standing defense relationship with Israel and we're frequently sharing information with one another. Gen. Glynn, as a subject matter expert on the topic of urban warfare, is able to ask those difficult probing questions that the IDF need to consider as they contemplate an operation. Again, things that we're going to be focused on are what are the kinds of considerations for the three dimensional warfare that you see in these dense urban environments. But also importantly, taking into account the importance of civilian safety. And so these are lessons that we've learned in fighting groups like ISIS.

And so again, is an important and valued partner, we want to ensure that we can share that information and assist in that advice to our Israeli partners.


TAPPER: Well, we are seeing a growing civilian death toll in Gaza. More than 5,000 killed since October 7 according to the Hamas controlled health ministry, a ground invasion it could amplify this, could Lieutenant General Glynn perhaps counsel the IDF on how to minimize the loss of innocent life, as you just were suggesting?

RYDER: Well, look, across the board as we engage with our Israeli counterparts as you know and as we've read out in multiple phone calls, we have been encouraging our Israeli counterparts to abide by the laws of war and to take civilian safety into account. Look, they're a professional military led by professional leaders. They understand the importance of that.

Unfortunately, what you see here is a terrible, cruel terrorist group like Hamas hiding itself among civilians. No one wants to see innocent Palestinians be killed or innocent Israelis be killed. And so, again, we're going to continue to consult with our Israeli allies, and make sure that again, we're advocating that the law of war be followed and that civilian's safety be taken into account.

TAPPER: There are up to 600 Americans trapped in Gaza right now. A family in Michigan, the Alarayshi, is now suing the State Department and the Pentagon for not doing enough to evacuate their loved ones. Without commenting on the Alarayshi's lawsuit, what is the deal here? What is preventing those Americans from being able to exit the Rafah gate and get out of Gaza?

RYDER: Well, Jake, I know that the U.S. government that our State Department, the White House had been working very actively with Israeli officials and Egyptian officials, for example, to look at ways to get U.S citizens out of there. Again, I don't have any specific information to provide for my per chair at the Pentagon and that other than to say, we, of course, are always concerned about the safety and security of American citizens no matter where they are in the world. And so, that will continue to be an important focus going forward.

TAPPER: But who is keeping them from getting out? Is Hamas keeping them, because my understanding from talking to one of these Americans today is that people at the gate don't even know that they're supposed to be letting them out?

RYDER: Yes, I really I can't answer that question, Jake, because I just don't know the answer other than, again, I know from a U.S. government standpoint, our State Department has certainly been actively engaged on that front.

TAPPER: Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, thanks so much.

RYDER: Thanks so much, Jake. Appreciate it.

TAPPER: I want to get right to some major breaking news, former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, has spoken with the special counsels team multiple times this year, including in front of a grand jury, according to ABC News. The ABC News report says that Meadows was granted immunity to testify and that Meadows said he warned Trump that his election fraud lies after the 2020 election were in fact baseless. I want to bring in CNNs Evan Perez.

Evan, this seems rather significant.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it is significant. We've known that and we've reported that Meadows did go before the grand jury, we knew that he had spoken to the grand jury, as matter of fact, this has been a big source of conjecture within Donald Trump's circle, legal circles, certainly was the question of, of what level of cooperation was Mark Meadows having with the special counsel? Now we know from ABC's reporting that this was done under an immunity deal, and that he had spoken to the special counsel, including before the grand jury multiple times. And the key here is that according to this story from ABC, the former chief of staff to the former president told investigators that the former president was being dishonest when he claimed that that he had won the election immediately after the November election, November 2020 Election.

They also -- he also goes on to say that he had repeatedly warned the former president that there was no evidence to sustain his claims that there was this widespread fraud that could have made a difference in those election results in 2020. That's a big, big piece of information for someone so close to Donald Trump to provide to those investigators, to provide to Jack Smith. Now, what this means, Jake, is that this is somebody who is going to be certainly one of the top witnesses for Jack Smith and the prosecution when this case goes to trial early next year, and that's what we're looking at. We're looking at a trial that could start in March of next year.

And obviously the fact that Mark Meadows was not only one of the closest aides to the former president, he was also deeply involved in trying to find any evidence there was of fraud. He kept pressuring the Justice Department. He went down to Georgia to try to pressure state officials there to find evidence of this fraud. All of course -- all of which of course, Jake, we know was not there. [17:30:09]

So the idea that, Jake, that Mark Meadows is now in the camp of the prosecution, the only thing we've heard from his lawyers in the last, certainly the last few months that we've reached out on this issue is that Mark Meadows is going to tell the truth whenever he is asked to do that. So that the idea that he is now firmly helping the prosecution is going to be a big, big deal for this case going forward. Jake?

TAPPER: Evan, stick around I also want to bring in CNN's Jamie Gangel. Jamie, an important part of this "ABC News" report is that Meadows told investigators that Trump was being dishonest with the public when he started claiming fraud. In the hours after the election, a source telling "ABC News" that Meadows told investigators quote, obviously, we didn't win. But this was obviously not the message we were hearing from anyone around Trump at the time.

I mean, we, in journalism, in actual journalism knew that Donald Trump was not being honest when he made that claim. But the Trump White House was in full line mode.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So let's do a couple of things here. As Evan just said, this is incredibly significant, because he was the chief of staff. Mark Meadows was in the room. He was on the phone call to Georgia. He is aware of everything that's going on. And let's not forget, on January 6th, he sat there in the White House, according to Cassidy Hutchinson scrolling through his phone, while Donald Trump would not come out for, you know, 187 minutes and tell the writers to stop and go home.

He is the inner circle of everything that was happening, and he has been given immunity. And when you get immunity, you can't take the fifth, you have to testify to what you know. I think there's something else that's worth mentioning here. Mark Meadows during that whole period of time that he now says he was telling Trump that there -- this was baseless. He was saying something else publicly all of this time.

He wrote in his book that the election was still stolen and rigged. So what's been going on behind closed doors with prosecutors is completely different from what the public posture was. One question I'll have is, in addition to his testifying, honestly, about what happened, what does he get immunity from? What was his exposure in all of this, Jake?

TAPPER: Yes, no. And Evan that's -- that was -- that's my question to you, because Mark Meadows, is not just coming voluntarily, and saying to Special Counsel, Jack Smith, hey, you know, I'd love to participate. Obviously, you need to give me immunity just, you know, in case. I mean, obviously, this is some sort of, you know, hardcore deal, like, I would imagine, where Jack Smith says something like, this is what we could prosecute you on, unless we come to some sort of agreement, right?

PEREZ: Right. Exactly. Look, I mean, certainly, George Terwilliger, who is one of the attorneys for Mark Meadows is known here in Washington to drive a pretty good bargain. And so one of the things that certainly people around the former president Jake, have certainly been concerned about, is the fact that Terwilliger and the Meadows legal team has pretty much cut off all contact, you know, people reach out to them to try to see if they could coordinate some kind of information.

And they don't get any calls back. That's something that we've heard from sources over the last few months. And so that's really driven a lot of the concern inside Trump world that Mark Meadows had found a way to save himself and to protect himself and to make a deal. And so that appears to be what exactly had happened behind the scenes. And as you pointed out, Jake, what's going on in Georgia? We know more people are going to be taking those deals, all of which of course, raises questions for the former president.


TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez and Jamie Gangel, appreciate it. We're going to have more ahead on the breaking news reports that former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has testified to the Special Counsel. Stay with us.


TAPPER: We're back with more of our breaking news. "ABC News" is reporting that former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has spoken with the special counsel's team multiple times this year, including in front of a grand jury. The "ABC News" report says it Meadows was granted immunity to testify and that memo said he warned then President Trump that his election fraud claims after the 2020 election were completely baseless. I want to bring back CNN's Jamie Gangel. Jamie, what do you think the Trump team reaction will be to this news?

GANGEL: Yes, they're not going to be happy.


TAPPER: Meadows, of course, was one of the people closest to Trump.

GANGEL: Right. Look, there's nobody who knew more about what was going on than Mark Meadows. He was the Chief of Staff. He was arranging meetings. He was arranging calls. He was in the meetings. Just to be clear, Jake, we should go back and remind our viewers that we actually did report back in June, that Mark Meadows had gone in to testify to the grand jury.

But this ABC reporting is taking it further, because of two things. We now know that Mark Meadows spoke to prosecutors, in addition to that time with the grand jury at least two other times. And the big news here is he's been granted immunity. So the question is, you know, what kind of deal was made? What was his exposure? And then we just have to go back and remember that he may now be saying that he told Trump this was baseless. But what did Mark Meadows do? Or more aptly, what didn't Mark Meadows do? He did not ever publicly come out and say that the election was in fact, you know, fair and free. He stuck with Trump's lie on it. He sat there in January -- on January 6th, as Cassidy Hutchinson described, sitting on his couch, scrolling through his phone, never going in to, as far as we know, to tell Trump, you have to go out there and stop this.

And in the book he published after he left office, he continued to say the election was stolen and raked. We don't know yet exactly what the details are of everything that he's told the prosecutors, but this is the closest you could get to Donald Trump, what he knew, when he knew it, and the fact that he was perpetuating a lie that first led to the violence on January 6th. And as Liz Cheney, former Congresswoman Liz Cheney has said, she feels it remains a clear and present danger for more violence, Mark Meadows has stood by publicly silently.

TAPPER: All right, Jamie gal, thank you so much. We're going to keep following this breaking news. Stay with us.

Coming up next, more from Tel Aviv, many families in Israel, of course are dealing with grief on two fronts, some of their loved ones were killed. Other loved ones were kidnapped. I'm going to talk with one man facing this horror. That's next.



TAPPER: And welcome back to The Lead. I'm live from Tel Aviv, Israel. It's been 17 days since the Hamas terrorist attacks on October 7th, many families of course, are still waiting on word if their loved ones are dead or alive. Omri Almog initially learned that his sister and her husband and their four children were missing. And then he learned two of them had been killed in their home at Kfar Aza kibbutz.

His brother in law and the oldest child were killed. His sister and the three youngest children remain missing and feared kidnapped by Hamas. Omri Almog is here with me now and thank you for being here. Words, I don't have the words to -- I have no idea what it must be like to have your little sister and her three kids kidnapped. I can't imagine what that it's like. Tell us how you learned about it and what you think happened.

OMRI ALMOG, FAMILY KILLED AND OTHERS KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: I'm living in the upper north in Israel in (inaudible). So Saturday morning the 7th, we just exchanged a WhatsApp with Yam. She's the only one in the safe room.

TAPPER: Yam is the --

ALMOG: Yam is the oldest kid and she's the only one that communicate from the safe room and she talk.

TAPPER: That's here, right there? ALMOG: Yes. No, this is the one that missing, actually this is Agam (ph). Yes she's Agam (ph). She's 18 years old. Yam is murdered with their father in the house. She stopped communicate on WhatsApp or on 12:00 p.m. Saturday. And then they missing -- my parents were in a trip in Bulgaria and I have to control the situation and start to search for some information.

Sunday night from the kibbutz, we got some message that they are to confirmed dead which they know them in the kibbutz. And we got a final confirmation by DNA only on a Wednesday.

TAPPER: A DNA, a more recognizable?

ALMOG: Yes. I went to Kfar Aza last Friday. So I just go over the kibbutz from house to house. There was some house, burned completely. And Yadav (ph), my brother-in-law parents also was in Bulgaria trip with my parents. And their house completely burned. You have to understand also is I understand that we dealing here with people that they are very cruel and they do everything to ruin Israel and to ruin us and to hurt us as much as they can.

TAPPER: Right.

ALMOG: My sister and Yadav (ph), they lived there for over 20 years. They never left the home in Kfar Aza. No matter what the situation, Yam and the kids grew up into this situation into this sirens into this -- all the time we fight. And this is how they grew up. And that's why they stay there in the house.


TAPPER: Have Israeli officials talked to you? Have they shared any information about what they think might have happened to your sister and the kids?

ALMOG: Yes. Today, first of all, the army is always with us. And they give us some information. And the -- you have to understand there is no home now for my parents and for Yadav (ph) parents. And the families stay here in Tel Aviv in hotels. And I'm with them, all my family we just sitting together. Last night, we bury Yadav (ph) and Yam in Shra'im (ph), which is a kibbutz in center of Israel. And we're going to move them to Kfar Aza when we can to lay them in Kfar Aza forever.

So last night was my sister birthday. She's 49. And she wasn't there at the funeral of her husband and Yam heard her daughter. And this is amazing. And the two grandfather is saying Kaddish and you don't know where it is my sister and the other three kids. Now, the information that we got, we didn't know they were missing for over a week.

TAPPER: That's your sister?

ALMOG: This is my sister Khren (ph). Yes. And we grew up in the kibbutz next to Kfar Aza. And she met with Yadav (ph) in -- when they were 14. And from there on, they're together.

TAPPER: Tell me what she's like. What is she like?

ALMOG: She is -- she's very, very strong, mentally. She wouldn't let the kids go without her. We don't know what happened in the house. I was in her house in Kfar Aza. And there's blood everywhere. There's a shot and we were. It looked like a warzone. It's a kibbutz. You have to understand that looks like a war zone.

TAPPER: Yes. You said it was like --

ALMOG: It's amazing.

TAPPER: -- Pearl Harbor and 9/11 all at once.

ALMOG: It's all in ones. As you said, I think it's more than that. I mean, 1,400 people is murdered.

TAPPER: For Israel, that's like in America like 45,000 people. Yes.

ALMOG: You got it. So it's amazing that --

TAPPER: Is that it? Is that the house?

ALMOG: This is a -- it's not their houses, but this is how it looks like in the kibbutz around the Gaza Strip. I mean, it's, yes, it's crazy. It's crazy to go in Kfar Aza. You see a, you know, in the war zone, you see some things that you see at war, all over.

TAPPER: It's a sister community where people lived.

ALMOG: This is -- yes, this is a community --

TAPPER: How old are the three kids that are missing?

ALMOG: The kids, is Agam (ph) she is 18 years old. And the other two boys, Gal (ph) is 11 and Tali (ph) is nine --

TAPPER: Jesus.

ALMOG: -- years old. It's -- we are very strong from outside. We -- I believe they're alive. I believe they're together. But somebody in -- it's not just my private problem. It's the world problem because we're dealing here. If we don't bring back this 220 people back from the Gaza to Israel, three kilometers to east. There's -- it's going to be a problem in Israel.

Israel will have a -- is this belief between the State of Israel and the citizen. I mean the gap now that we have is the first thing we have to do before we do anything else is to bring these people back.

TAPPER: Yes. Well, they're innocent civilians?

ALMOG: Yes, yes. There's not -- they're not soldiers, is mainly kids. Kfar Aza lost 59 people confirmed dead in Kfar Aza. It's crazy. It's crazy. And when you talk to my parents I don't live in Kfar Aza, I know the kibbutz, I was there. Last time I see my sister was two months ago, seven weeks ago. But when you talk to my parents, you talk to Yadav (ph) parents, they said we're going back to Kfar Aza, we're going to live there. There's no other way.

And when you see them talking, you -- the heart goes out to them the way they think. I mean, they're 76 years old, but they live there for Yadav (ph) parents, they live there for over 50 years. My parents lived there over 20 years. So it's a difficult situation but we fight and I need the world, somebody need to help them to make it back from Gaza Strip back to Israel. They cannot do them this. They cannot do it themselves.

TAPPER: You're going to get your sister back.

ALMOG: Yes, I'm sure. I'm sure.

TAPPER: I know. Thank you so much.

ALMOG: Thank you.

TAPPER: We'll be right back.



TAPPER: We're live in Israel. We visited an auditorium earlier today at Tel Aviv University, an auditorium that's now on Memorial. From the stages, you see of more than 1,000 photographs stare back at you each on an empty chair, each telling a story of someone who was killed or someone who was missing presumed kidnapped stories as such as 22-year- old Amit Mann (ph), a paramedic, who spent her final hours treating others wounded from an attack before Hamas stormed her clinic and murdered her. Or 62-year-old Adriane Segal (ph) a missing Israeli- American kidnapped from her home or a nine-month-old baby kidnapped, nine months old, along with his four-year-old brother and mom from their kibbutz near the Gaza border.

The exhibit is called united against terrorism. It's a visual reminder of just how much was lost, how many remain missing and how something like this should never ever happen again. And yet of course it keeps happening.


I'll be back with you tomorrow from Tel Aviv. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. See you tomorrow.