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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Democrats Score Big Wins In Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia; Tonight: GOP Candidates Debate As Trump Holds Rally; Ivanka Trump Testifies In Father's Civil Fraud Trial; House Republicans Issue Subpoenas For Hunter And James Biden; House Censures Rep. Tlaib Over Israel Comments; Thousands Flee Northern Gaza Through Evacuation Corridor. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired November 08, 2023 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: This guy here, though, he may have been born with perhaps a grumpy face. Or you just doesn't like being brushed. He looked like a former president like from the 1800s. Do you know what I mean?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Yeah, he's got a lot going on there. But, you know, cats could get grumpy just like we can.
BROWN: And we all know this face. The hey, I'm innocent, I tell you, I'm innocent.
And this is not -- this one is one of my favorites. This is my bowl is empty disdain. I know that feeling.
SANCHEZ: Yeah, cats love -- they just love differently. We've got to go.
THE LEAD starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
A lot to get into ahead. For the very first time in American history, the daughter of a former president of the United States has been forced to testify as a witness in a case against her father, the former president. Ivanka Trump on the stand, testifying in the civil fraud trial against the Trump family business.
Emails in court today show that Ivanka once proposed that her father lower his net worth in order to get a loan. What might that mean for the case? That's coming up.
And also ahead, a woman from New Jersey who was trapped in Gaza. She spent nearly a month trapped there with her three kids. The youngest just 2 months old.
We've been telling her story since the Tuesday after that horrible October 7th attack by Hamas. She arrived back in the U.S. just two days ago. She's back in Jersey and is giving THE LEAD her first interview after escaping from that hell. Awful.
Also, off the top here, America sending a strong message and according to President Biden, quote, democracy won and MAGA lost, unquote. Three big wins for Democrats last night, in Kentucky, in Ohio, and in Virginia, in two red states and a purple state. Much different results than what new poll numbers show for President Biden himself.
If there is any one message that voters sent last night, it seems to be that they do not want politicians, whether politicians in Columbus, Ohio, or Richmond, Virginia, or Frankfort, Kentucky, they do not want politicians making decisions for women at the doctor's office.
In Ohio, a state that Donald Trump carried twice, voters last night decisively approved a ballot measure to protect abortion rights in their state constitution, continuing a winning trend for abortion rights advocates since the overturning of roe v. Wade last year.
Abortion also a major issue in Virginia, where Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin was trying to convince voters to give him full control of the government of the commonwealth, with promise of what he called reasonable abortion restrictions, a ban on the procedure after 15 weeks with some exceptions.
Youngkin invested a lot of time, effort and energy, money and personal capital. He got involved in the primary process. He took candidates to message boot camp and all for naught.
Instead, Democrats not only kept control of the state senate, they gained power, grabbing control of the state's house of delegates, quelling the momentum for any compelling argument for Youngkin 2024.
This afternoon, Governor Youngkin admitted he was disappointed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA: I think number one lesson is that Virginia is really purple. And that goes into these -- these elections, we knew that they were going to be tough. Abortion is potentially one of the most difficult topics in Virginia and around the nation. And my hope was -- is and continues to be that we could find a way to come together as Virginians and lead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And in Kentucky, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear won re- election in a deep red commonwealth after making protecting abortion rights a major issue in his campaign this year, defeated the state's attorney general, Daniel Cameron, a Republican superstar, it was thought. Cameron endorsed by Donald Trump often described as Mitch McConnell's protegee. Republicans spent much of their efforts to trying to nationalize the race, tying Beshear to President Biden, which Beshear thinks ultimately backfired.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: Well, my opponent certainly tried to make this race about Joe Biden. And it didn't work. These races, especially governor's races, are so state-centered and specific, because your job is to get things done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Just one observation. The party that wins the governor's mansion in Kentucky, has gone on to win the White House, the following year. That's five election cycles in a row. Will this make six in a row?
I don't know.
Despite these victories for Democrats, there were also some serious warning signs for the leader of the Democratic Party. A CNN poll released last night finds former President Donald Trump leads President Biden 49 percent to 45 percent in a head-to-head match-up. We are still, of course, a year away.
Let's break all of this down with CNN's John King at the magic wall.
John, walk us through how we could square these bad polls for Biden with this really impressively strong night for Democrats.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a giant debate in the Democratic Party. Did the candidates, did Andy Beshear, did the abortion right initiative, the delegates -- House of Delegates and Senate candidates in Virginia, did those Democrats win despite Biden? Is Biden weak and vulnerable and those Democrats winning, those issues are winning because the voters are with them but not with the president?
Or as the White House argues, when the president is on the ballot like Andy Beshear was yesterday, like the constitutional amendment was yesterday, and you're drawing a contrast, he'll be just fine? That's what the White House says.
If you look at our polling, and CBS, I mean, "The New York Times"/Siena College polling that came out, the president is in danger of losing all the states he flipped, right? He flipped these five. Hillary Clinton won Nevada.
If you look closely at the polling, and deep into, it vulnerabilities with his own coalition, disappointed about the economy, questions about whether he's too old, does he have the vitality to be president? The polling tells you that we have the possibility to have this again, right, to go back to go something like 2016, where Donald Trump wins the Electoral College, whether or not he wins the popular vote.
So, how do you square that? That's what the national polls show? That's what "The New York Times"/Siena College state polls show.
You're right, that's a great question. How do you square that with what we saw last night? You saw a Democratic governor, in a very red state, look at all this blue significantly the suburbs, around Louisville, around Frankfort, along Lexington, the Cincinnati suburbs in north Kentucky.
Andy Beshear ran it up. He outperformed Donald Trump in the state of Kentucky. Not in the percentage wise, but I mean in the suburban areas, right? So, how does this happen? That's the big question.
TAPPER: Sixty-seven thousand.
KING: Right. So, the White House says when Joe Biden is on the ballot, he can draw the contrast with Donald Trump, whoever is, just key to the contest with Daniel Cameron. That's what we're seeing. A big debate with Democratic Party about this.
TAPPER: And you've been traveling around the country. You've been speaking to voters. Our new CNN polling shows Biden is losing support among some key bloc, like Black voters. What do you hear what you're out on the campaign trail?
KING: So, we went here. If you look at the states, you see all that red? See all that red? Joe Biden won by 20,000 votes in Wisconsin. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 20,000 votes.
Down here, Democrats need to turn out Black voters here in Milwaukee County. In the city, this is Biden's problem, the enthusiasm problem. It's all about him.
But listen to Joanna Brooks. She owns a yoga studio, just over the line in Glendale, a suburb in Milwaukee. She's voted Democrat all her life. She says, maybe I should rethink that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOANNA BROOKS, WISCONSIN VOTER: Black people in general think tend to be pretty loyal to the Democratic Party. And sometimes I wonder, just based on how that party has performed thus far for people of color, if we should continue to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's not all just about Biden, that's sort of disappointed that goes back years for her.
Listen to Angela Lang. Angela Lang runs a community activist group, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities. She says on the issues that Joe Biden made promises, and he hasn't delivered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA LANG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BLACK LEADERS ORGANIZING FOR COMMUNITIES: People are wondering what is he doing in terms of police accountability and criminal justice reform? I get really concerned that Democrats don't have a solid enough message to push back on some of these tough on crime messages. And end up kind of stepping into the pitfalls in saying things that really aren't helpful.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: So, it gets back to the conversation we are just having. Joanna Brooks thinks maybe black voters to think about moving away from the Democratic. Not next year, because Donald Trump's attacks on voting rights, and on abortion rights, right? So, she says she's with the Democrats next year, it's a longer conversation. That actually backs of the White House point, that when Biden is on the ballot, it'll be okay.
Angela Lang says she's worried about being on the turn by voters out. Biden better get out. They better explain to people why they didn't pass criminal justice reform. She says, to the age question, he needs to be more visible on the streets.
TAPPER: All right. John King, thanks so much.
So, what did Republican presidential hopefuls take away from last night's elections? Has it changed their strategies going into tonight's third Republican debate?
CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at that debate site in Miami.
Jeff, what are you hearing from the Republican candidates as they prepared to take the stage?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we are hearing a lot about what happened last night. This debate is unlike the other two we've seen, one, it has only five candidates will be onstage. So, each of them will have more time to make their arguments, and they'll have more time to go after the former president as well.
I am told by all of the campaigners, they're going to try to both. Yes, try and distinguish themselves from one another, but also, point out some key differences with the former president, largely, the Trump era. The results of last night's election, largely show, in most of these candidates' views that the Trump era has been bad for the Republican Party. We've seen in midterm elections. Of course, we saw it in 2020 as well.
Look on abortion, for example, that is one key dividing issue. Tonight, for example, Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, she, for months, has been calling for a consensus on this issue.
A big difference between which he has been doing and what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis did right here in Florida. He signed a six-week abortion ban into law. So, look for that to be dissected tonight, under the lens the backdrop of what happened last night in those key races.
Also foreign policy, this is the first debate that has been taken place in the context of the Middle East war. Many differences on that front as well.
Jake, the bottom line is, time is running out for these candidates to make their move, make their mark. Many of them are hoping to do it, here tonight -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Miami, thank you so much.
Coming up next, Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, in court today. Her testimony in the civil fraud case against her dad in the family business.
Plus, the current president son, a new subpoena today for Hunter Biden, what is that about?
That's coming up.
TAPPER: In our law and justice lead now, Ivanka Trump, former President Donald Trump's daughter, is still on the stand right now, testifying in the New York civil fraud trial against her father, her brothers, and the family business.
CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the courthouse.
Kara, we know Ivanka is not a defendant in this case, when she was required to testify as a witness.
She's being cross-examined right now by Trump's defense attorneys. So, what did New York's attorneys press her on earlier today?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, that's right. I mean, she's no longer a defendant in this case and she lost her effort to block her subpoena to be here today. So, now, she's been on the stand all day long.
And the state attorneys have been pressing her about her involvement in a number of deals. The deals that got loans from Deutsche Bank that are at the heart of this lawsuit. And those include the Doral Golf Course in Florida, and also the old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C. And a lot of Ivanka Trump's testimony today has been about those relationships.
She was also asked about this apartment that she has in Manhattan, a penthouse apartment that she had an offer to buy for $8.5 million. On her father's financial statements, it was listed at two and a half times that, at $20.8 million. But Ivanka Trump distance herself from that saying that she didn't know what went into that calculation and what didn't.
But as it relates to those loans that are at the center of this, they saw -- we saw documents today of her involvement in this emails involving her. And she acknowledged that she was involved in. That she also said it was at a very high level. She wasn't involved at the granular nitty-ditty -- nitty-gritty details of it. So, again, trying to distance herself, just as her brothers Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump did when they testified last week in this case. You know, cross-examination got underway, and they were having her
talk about the relationships with Deutsche Bank, and under cross she was having a lot more leeway to explain that the bank was excited to do business with them. The co-chair of the bank came and met with her and her father at Trump Tower. Discussed future deals with them.
So, they are trying to counterbalance this narrative that the banks were victims in this case. And that is their defense. The banks had not lost any money, and that they were not victims. So, this is really Trump's side first opportunity to have a witness who is able to provide some of the defense that they have wanted to come out through this case.
Now, she is still on the stand, court reps at 4:30. It's unclear if she'll be back tomorrow, since they were still conducting cross- examination. But a lot of this focus today on these deals, the Doral golf course, and the old post office building, which she was very much involved with -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Kara Scannell in New York, thank you so much.
Also in our justice -- law and justice lead today, House Republicans issued subpoenas for President Biden's son Hunter as well as the president's brother James, calling for them to testify before the House Oversight Committee. This is part of the impeachment inquiry into President Biden.
Let's get straight to CNN's Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill.
Melanie, are Hunter and James Biden expected to cooperate? And when are they supposed to testify?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, this could become a showdown. The two sides are going to have to negotiate the terms of their cooperation. But Hunter's lawyer did give us a statement and said that Hunter Biden would be willing to cooperate in a public forum and at the right time. They also did dismiss this entire inquiry as a political stunt.
Now, in terms of the specifics, two subpoenas went out to both Hunter and James to sit for depositions in December. A subpoena also went out to Rob Walker, a business associate of Hunter Biden's for a deposition in November. And additionally, Republicans also requested voluntary interviews for transcribed interviews from a slew of other Biden family members and business associates.
And this all comes, Jake, as Republicans are trying to wrap up their inquiry into President Joe Biden. They've been specifically focused on being records from family members, trying to prove a link between the president and his son's foreign business deals. But they have not yet proven that the president directly profited off the sun's business deals, something that the White House a Democrats have repeatedly pointed out.
So, it's really unclear what these interviews will bring. There certainly a lot of pressure on Republicans to deliver in this final stage, especially because moderate Republicans are still not yet sold on the idea of impeachment. But no less, this is a big deal. These are the first subpoenas that been sent to members of the Biden family member. And no doubt, it marks a huge escalation in their probe -- Jake.
TAPPER: So, meanwhile, while they're focusing on this, next week, the U.S. government is going to run out of money. So this sets up another spending showdown. This can be the first big test for the new House speaker, Mike Johnson. Do you have any idea what Speaker Johnson strategy is here?
ZANONA: I don't know that Johnson knows his strategy yet. He's not tipping his hand. He has promised to reveal a plan within the next 24 to 48 hours. But there are multiple options that are being debated within the conference right now.
One idea, a clean stopgap bill that goes until sometime mid-January, leaves out critical aid for Israel, Ukraine, border, and Taiwan which is what the White House has requested.
The other option is the more complicated option, which is a sort of two tiered stopgap spending bill, where some agencies, would expire, perhaps in December some agencies would expire later this year. This is an approach favored by the House Freedom Caucus. So, Johnson has shown that he's paying a lot of attention to those members.
And then the final option would be to try to negotiate something with the Senate.
That is seen as the least likely option at this point. Government funding set to expire next week, Jake. We'll see what plan they come up with.
TAPPER: All right. Melanie Zanona, thank you so much.
Republicans in the House and the Senate are faced with the dilemma could the debate over aid for Israel pose a national security risk for the American people. I'm going to ask the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee next.
TAPPER: Moments ago, Ivanka Trump left a New York courtroom. There you see her walking out of the courtroom. She had been testifying in this civil fraud trial against the Trump family business.
Ivanka is not a defendant in the case. She was required to testify as a witness. Former President Donald Trump testified earlier in the week that trial is expected to wrap up in mid-December.
In the politics lead, it has been more than a month since Hamas's brutal attack on Israel, or more than 1,300 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed in unimaginable ways.
And United States Congress still has not passed an aid package for Israel, one of America's closest allies, as lawmakers in the House and Senate are currently sparring over whether aid for Ukraine should be included in that package.
Listen to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Republicans must shun doing the thing that some hard right Republicans want them to do. Take issues that are on their own have strong bipartisan support, and inject them with toxic provisions that make it impossible to get anything done. That's what happened last week with the House Israel bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Joining us now to discuss, Republican Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio, who's chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
Chairman Turner, you've been raising the alarm about a heightened terror threat level in the United States. Do you think all of this squabbling over the bill, especially the Republican infighting when it comes to funding the government, sending aid to Ukraine and Israel, do you think that makes America look weaker before the world?
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): No, I think these really are just substantive debates that are occurring about how we're going to fund this, what was a very large national security project or bill that came from the White House. That included, of course, funding for the border, funding for our interest in Asia, Ukraine and Israel itself.
So, I think now we can come up to the deadline of funding the government, and possible government shutdown, this is just part of the normal discourse. We will get this done. It'll get across the line Chuck Schumer and then may or may not be happy. But the work will happen and this bill will get done.
TAPPER: The Hamas-controlled ministry of health in Gaza says more than 10,000 people have been killed in Gaza. Whether or not you buy those numbers, and I know President Biden does not, I think we can all agree thousands of innocent people have been killed, too many people have been killed.
Here's how one civilian rights expert put it to "The Washington Post". The Jabalia strike, because it was a planned attack, shows that Israel must have a tolerance for civilian casualties which is orders of magnitude greater than that was used by say the U.S. Air Force in a war against ISIS, unquote.
Do you think Israel could and should be doing more to limit civilian casualties? TURNER: Well, I think the administration has been clear, and certainly
in Congress, our debates have been clear, that civilian lives in Gaza are very important, that Palestinian lives should be protected. What we have here, though, is that Hamas itself is holding Palestinians in Gaza hostage, and they have been for several years. They're much a victim of Hamas as Israel is.
And so, what you see now in this conflict is, Israel goes to defend itself, to dismantle Hamas, to take out its leadership, and it is very difficult process of fighting Hamas in and among Palestinians in Gaza. But, certainly, they have been strongly encouraged and cautioned by the United States with respect to civilian casualties.
TAPPER: But, yeah, you're the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. You see the intelligence. Are you convinced that Israel is really significantly sincerely trying to limit civilian casualties? Or not?
TURNER: Well, we just had a briefing this week, we all walked away with the impression that certainly Israel is attempting to do that. Of course, the United States is still not pleased that things are not up to the standards that we would expect or hope. And we are continuing to pressure Israel about that, and I think that is a discourse that's incredibly important. These are people's lives that need to be protected.
TAPPER: So, they're trying, but not hard enough? Is basically what you're saying?
TURNER: Well, I think there is a gap between what the United States standards would be, and what we expect and what we're seeing on the ground. I think the Israel and United States continue being discussions about that. And from the briefings we received, the discussions are being fruitful and they're certainly being taken seriously.
TAPPER: Quickly, you represent part of Ohio, so I want to ask you what the big news from last night. Ohioans voted to put the right to abortion in Ohio's constitution. Were you surprised at the results? And do you think your party is just out of touch on this issue for what the American people want?
TURNER: Well, I think what happened when we take a constitutional provision like this and write it into a state's constitution is unfortunate, especially since it's being written by people outside of the state. They have different goals and objectives than many of them have values that don't even represent the people who are voting to pass it.
I think this is very difficult debate that we're having across the country, to try to find that spot where people feel comfortable. This is why I think that does go too far. We'll have to continue this debate. It'll happen across the country, and I think it will continue in Ohio.
TAPPER: All due respect, seven out of seven times since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, seven out of seven, people in states such as Montana and Kentucky and Ohio have voted in favor of abortion rights. Maybe you don't like who wrote it, but Ohioans voted for it.
TURNER: My point was, I don't -- I don't like what it says, I think most Ohioans in the end, when they see the application of these what I think are very left provisions, even if you're pro-choice, there are limits and there are things that I think people will be very concerned about. It'll be the outcomes of these. That'll be about part of the Democratic debate that we have. And will come to, I think, as a society, a place that people feel might be more representative of even the people in Ohio.
TAPPER: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner of Ohio, thanks so much. Good to see you, sir.
TAPPER: The House of Representatives has voted to censure Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan over comments she has made about Israel in the wake of the Hamas attacks one month and one day ago. Last night, 22 Democrats joined most Republicans in formally rebuking Congresswoman Tlaib. She is the sole Palestinian American in Congress.
The resolution focused mainly on a video that she posted on social media last week, which accused President Biden of, quote, supporting genocide of the Palestinian people, unquote, and using this chant.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
TAPPER: That chant, from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free is often interpreted as a call to dismantle the state of Israel, which sits between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea. It is widely considered antisemitic, as it seeks to erase the entire Jewish state. It's a rally inquiry used by terrorist groups such as Hamas which, as you know slaughter Jews and committed atrocities against Israelis, on October 7th.
Here's Democratic Congresswoman Jared Moskowitz of Florida, one of 22 Democrats who voted to censure Congresswoman Tlaib on our show earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): From the river to the sea means the destruction of Israel, and everyone who's in it, okay? Just like "Mein Kampf" is not a coloring book and the final solution means exactly what Hitler meant it mean. From the river to the sea is calling for the destruction of an entire country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Congresswoman Tlaib says that the chant is, quote, an aspirational call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence. Not death, destruction or hate, unquote. Here she is defending herself on the House floor last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): I can't believe I have to say this, but Palestinian people are not disposable. We are human beings, just like anyone else. My city, my grandmother, like all Palestinians just want to live her life with freedom and human dignity, we all deserve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who just saw in that clip comforting Tlaib, called the censure ship a, quote, glaring hypocrisy.
She pointed to the statement made by Congresswoman Max Miller of Ohio about the Palestinian people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MAX MILLER (R-OH): They're not a state. They're a territory. That's about to probably get eviscerated and go away here shortly, as we're going to turn that into a parking lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Censure in Congress are relatively rare, only 25 members of the House before Tlaib have been censured. Tlaib is now the 26th.
Israel is giving Palestinian civilians a short window to move out of harm's way the walk to safety on one may be the only road to survival. That's next.
TAPPER: Today, the Israel Defense Forces opened a five-hour window for Palestinians to evacuate towards southern Gaza. The IDF says it's fighting Hamas in the north inside Gaza City. Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in Gaza during Israel's unrelenting campaign against Hamas. In the month since Hamas' barbaric rampage where terrorist group killed at least 1,400 people in Israel and kidnap an estimated 240 hostages.
CNN's Salma Abdelaziz reports now on the thousands -- thousands of Palestinians fleeing their homes as the war rages on.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Taking only what they can carry, families are fleeing Gaza City.
They waved white flags, made of anything they can find. And as the sounds of war echo around them, they signal yet again that they are innocent. Now we're supposed to be in the safe area, but you can hear the bombs
behind us, he says. All of our houses are gone, nothing is left. These really military has been calling for weeks on all those living in the northern part of the strip to move southwards. Most recently, opening what it called safe corridors for limited windows of time, pushing thousands here to Salah al-Deen Street, where evacuees described a harrowing journey.
We saw along the road, destruction, dead bodies everywhere. The Israeli tanks would demand to search the youth, she says. We saw one young men strip naked, we witnessed unbearable scenes.
The only way to reach the root is by foot or by cart for those who can find room.
There is heavy shelling on our neighborhood, we were forced to flee, we have to use these donkey carts, because there's no fuel, he says. They cut everything off to force us out of our homes.
Israeli troops are now in the heart of Gaza City, as Israel's defense minister, apparently, declared an entire city, the whole of the enclave's largest population center a legitimate target.
YOAV GALLANT, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): Gaza is the biggest terrorist stronghold that mankind's ever built. The whole city is one big terror base. Underground, they have kilometers of tunnels connected to hospitals and schools.
ABDELAZIZ: The U.N. calls this exodus forcible displacement and accuses Israel of the collective punishment of some 2 million people. And many fear they will never be allowed to return home.
Some here say this is reminiscent of the Nakba, the Arabic term for the expulsion of Palestinians from their towns during the founding of Israel.
We walked a very long way. It felt like the Nakba of 2023, she says. We walked by dead people who ripped to shreds, children were very tired because there is no water, people were dying. And there were elderly who couldn't walk.
And for those who do make it, bombardment in siege await them in the south, too. There is no true escape.
Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.
TAPPER: And our thanks to Salma Abdelaziz for that report.
An American woman who finally was able to escape Gaza with her three children, one of them a newborn, got back to her home in New Jersey. She will join us next.
TAPPER: And we're back with what passes for good news in this horrible war. Back in the first week of the conflict, on October 10th, to be precise, we interviewed Haneen Okal, a New Jersey woman with three kids, one of whom was just two months old. They were just a few of the hundreds of Americans who spent nearly a month trapped in Gaza. She was visiting family in the north when Hamas attacked, and then, as requested by the State Department, Haneen and her kids moved south towards the Rafah crossing, and four days, the Okal family waited, and waited, and waited as food and water ran out.
She shared shelter space with some 40 people, including Haneen's brother, Abood Okal, who was also in Gaza, whose story we also told you.
And, finally, last week, a brokered deal allowed both Okal families to leave Gaza, and they arrived back on U.S. soil about 48 hours ago.
And Haneen Okal joins me now from her home in New Jersey.
I am so happy to say hi to you in New Jersey. Welcome back to the United States. How are you? How are your kids?
You told us the baby would wake up at night because of the airstrikes. How's the baby doing?
HANEEN OKAL, PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN HOME FROM GAZA: Thank you so much, Jake. Yeah, we're fine. Thank God we made it through here to New Jersey. We're okay, way much better when we were in Gaza.
My -- the kids are okay. They are so happy to see their dad. My husband is so happy to see us. He was scared that he wouldn't be able to see us at all again, so we made it here to New Jersey, and I can't even believe it. Until this moment, I can't believe what we went through.
But finally, where here, and the baby is okay. The baby is okay.
TAPPER: You know, there wasn't today that we weren't calling or texting people on your behalf until you got out. We were on the case the whole time.
Tell us about those last few days in Gaza, and your experience getting out. What was it like finally going through and getting to Egypt?
OKAL: It was so hard. We got out of Rafah to the border, to the Palestinian side first, and on the Palestinian side, they saw our names on the list, and then they checked the passports, and then they sent us to the Egyptian side.
On the Egyptian side, they -- when we went there, they checked our names, and they said everything is okay. But in my case, with my son, Elias, you know that my son didn't have the passport because I had to deliver him in Gaza because of my medical situation. I had to deliver him two months ago. I couldn't travel back to have him here in the U.S. while I was visiting my family.
So Elias didn't have a passport. We tried, because we tried a lot to contact the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, and I had unemployment in Tel Aviv. Until the war happened, and then I couldn't be able to go there because, like, you know, the Erez border got bombed.
So it was miserable, I didn't have any way to get him a passport, so we conduct -- contacted the U.S. embassy in Egypt, and they did their best. Actually, they helped us a lot. Thanks to them.
They printed an emergency passport for him, and they were there waiting for us in the Egyptian side to give us the passport so we could give it to the Egyptians so we could enter.
And yes, as I said, the U.S. embassy were waiting for us on the Egyptian side. They were very welcoming.
They did everything they could do to help every U.S. citizen in there, in the Rafah border crossing, and they were absolutely helping us in every -- all that they could do.
I could travel to Egypt because of this, because they gave me the passport for Elias, my son because in that case, I believe, now, Egyptians, they allow Palestinians to -- I think Americans or anyone, through the Palestinian passport to enter into Egypt. If they don't have the passport, they allow them to have the ID number, but in my case -- I was, from the very few people who traveled, I was on the list the second day they opened the border. So at that time, it was very hard for people to travel without a passport.
OKAL: So I could go back to Gaza if I couldn't have the passport for my son, and we couldn't be able to travel without him. So it was very scary for me. I -- if I couldn't get the passport for my son, for my newborn, I would go back to Gaza with my other kids,, because we wouldn't be able to leave him. So --
TAPPER: All right. Well thank god. And shout-out to the hardworking U.S. embassy personnel in Cairo we got that passport --
TAPPER: -- for him.
OKAL: They told me that this was the first case that we did this for them. They did it for us, like, it's the first time that happened, but they printed an US. emergency passport, that the mom is not -- the mom or the dad is not showing up, it's just the information that I submitted on the application. And that's all, but I can't -- I can't like thank them enough. They did a hard work.
TAPPER: Yeah. Well, he's a special little boy. He's a special little boy, so some rules had to be broken for him. I'm glad it happen. As somebody who is trapped in Gaza for all those weeks, I have to ask
you, the Israeli airstrikes. Israel claims that they're targeting Hamas. You've got to see where they were bombing.
Did it seem as though they were targeting specific Hamas targets, or did it seem like they were bombing indiscriminately?
OKAL: Seriously, I don't know. Nobody knows there, because bombing is all over. Air strikes is around the city, around the south, it's everywhere. You call your relatives in Khan Younis or (INAUDIBLE), they all say that their areas are getting bombed.
So nobody knows. Absolutely, they are bombing Hamas, but nobody knows if it's only Hamas, because they want to reach from Hamas in any possible way, you know? But the way they are doing it, I don't know if it's the greatest way, because it will reach a point that it's -- you know? Indiscriminate. It's -- nobody knows. It's serious.
TAPPER: Yeah, you still have family in Gaza. What have you heard from them? Have you heard from the middle?
OKAL: Yeah. Until today like that's -- I try -- now, I try my best to get my -- the rest of my family because I have sisters live there. My brothers, my mom and my dad are still there.
I can't believe that, you know? My heart is broken. Because yes, I made it here and -- with my kids, and with my family, we're okay. But I'm not happy, because my family are there, and believe it or not, the rest of my family, they want to go out -- to get out of Gaza. They want to make it. Their houses are bombed.
So even if the war ends, they don't have a place to go back to, you know?
OKAL: It's really hard, because now, the food -- they're suffering. They're really suffering.
There is not enough food for everyone. They eat the canned food. There's not enough water. No electricity, no Internet, even now the solar system, it's getting bombed, you know? So there is no power.
It's really hard there. It's really miserable. I don't know if any human being can live in there. I feel so sad for all the Gazans. Not only my family members, but for all the Gazans.
I don't know how they're going to make it after all this.
TAPPER: Haneen Okal, stay in touch with us, because we want to keep on top of it. I know you are safe, and I know that your three kids are safe, and I know your brother, Abood, whose story we've also been telling, is safe. But obviously, there are still millions of innocent Palestinians who
are not. And we want to stay on top of it. But we are happy that you're back, Haneen. We are really very happy that you're back. So thank you for joining us.
OKAL: You're welcome.
TAPPER: A huge day for the Trump family. Instead of participating in tonight's 2024 Republican debate, former President Trump has his own counterprogramming planned.
Meanwhile, his daughter Ivanka just finished some counter programming of her own, testifying in the civil fraud case against her family. What did she say on the stand? That's next.