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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Ivanka Trump Finishes Testimony In Her Father's Civil Fraud Trial; Tonight; GOP Candidates Debate As Trump Holds Rally Nearby; Families Of Hostages Held By Hamas Speak With CNN; U.S. Carries Out Airstrikes In Eastern Syria; Feds: Clients Of "High-End Brother Network" Include Elected Officials, Military Officers And Government Contractors. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 08, 2023 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to The Lead. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, the agonizing wait for answers more than a month into the Israel-Hamas war. Hundreds of families still do not know the fate of their loved ones being held hostage. Right now, two families are here in D.C. hoping U.S. lawmakers can help. They will join me in the studio this hour.

Plus, America's latest abortion referendum as Ohio voters make abortion rights part of their constitution. Even conservatives are coming to terms with the shift in tide since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Take a listen.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: On the issue of abortion and Ohio tonight we continue the losing streak and the pro- life movement.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our pro-life movement, and I am part of it, needs to be better about the way we discussed this issue.


TAPPER: And leading this hour, another historic day of testimony in the New York City courtroom. This time from Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump's oldest daughter. She just wrapped up her testimony last hour and now State's Attorneys say they have rested their case. New York Attorney General Letitia James spoke just moments ago outside court calling Ivanka Trump cordial and courteous, but questioning her credibility.


LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: At the end of the day, this case is about fraudulent statements of financial condition that she benefited from. She was enriched and clearly you cannot distance yourself from that fact.


TAPPER: Let's bring in Tom Dupree, former principal deputy assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration and CNN Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid.

And, Paula, Ivanka didn't say anything outside the courtroom and like her dad or her brothers, Eric and Donnie. But what about in courtroom? Did she say anything noteworthy at all?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this was a big contrast from her father and her brothers. There was none of the political bias complaints and other sniping with the judge or the lawyers. And the question is really focused on technical aspects, questions about deals that she worked on when she was at the Trump Organization. And it did elicit what could be some helpful information for the state's case. For example, they talked about negotiating loan terms for the Trump Doral Golf course and spa, she was involved in that.

And the bank said look in order to get these favorable loan terms you have to maintain a net worth of $3 billion. Well, they presented an e- mail where she suggested lowering that threshold to $2 billion. They agreed on 2.5. But the question is, why would you make that suggestion because at the time her father on his financial statements said his net worth was over $4 billion gets to the heart of the case. They also presented evidence that the government had questions about their financial statements when they were trying to win the old post office project here in Washington, D.C., saying the way they were calculating things deviated from standard procedures.

They also had questions for her about a penthouse apartment she had in one of her dad's buildings, there was a purchase option for 8.5 million, but on her father's financial documents said that same apartment was valued at over $20 million. All of these things they seem in the weeds are very technical, but they get to the heart of the case about whether they were fraudulently representing the net worth of the former president.

TAPPER: Tom, what did you make of Ivanka's testimony? Did it help her dad at all or hurt him?

TOM DUPREE, PARTNER, GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER: You know, I think it probably helped him but at the margins. And look, I agree with Paula, they asked a lot of questions. On the other hand, I'm not sure she gave that many answers. She was very quick with the I don't recall, I don't remember, that was so long ago. For me the big takeaway today it was actually a normal day in court.

She functioned as a normal witness. She engaged the prosecutor's question. She smiled at the judge. She behaved as witnesses normally do in our system of civil justice, which is unusual in pretty much any Trump related litigation, that there were no thunderbolts, no denunciations of the justice system, no press conferences on the courthouse steps. So somewhat of a humdrum day in court that I don't think the state's attorneys really drew blood today.

TAPPER: Ivanka does tend to get judged on a curve, graded on a curve just because she acts like a human being quite often.

REID: Sure.

TAPPER: And unlike her dad, she was cross examined by --

REID: Yes.

TAPPER: -- her dad's lawyer.

REID: Yes, this is a bit of a surprise because we've been seen a lot of many cross examinations here. And you got a preview of the defense that they're going to put on. They use this cross examination to establish that there were really no victims here. The banks were paid, and it allowed Ivanka to talk about how happy the banks were. She recalled Deutsche Bank, she said was quite so happy to have this account, and she was able to sort of turn on the charm and talk animatedly about the old post office project.

So, this is a preview of the defense weather the judge is going to be swayed and reduce the penalties, I'm not sure about that. But the cross examination give us a little glimmer of what we're going to see over the next few weeks.


DUPREE: Yes, I agree with that. I mean look, her testimony on cross was largely an advertisement for the Trump brand or for the Trump property. So in that case, it was true to form. And I agree with the point that I think the Trump legal defense team needs to focus on the next stage of this. They need to number one, build an evidentiary record that will position them well to appeal what I'm sure is going to be an adverse decision.

I think they also can make this point that they have been already about this was ostensibly a victimless crime, that the bankers love dealing with the Trump's, no one was hurt, so why are we even here? I'm not sure that argument will resonate with the judge. It may or may not resonate with the court of public opinion.

TAPPER: Right. But they do get to present their case next and they will. All right, Tom and Paula, thank you so much.

Turning into our 2024 lead, tonight is the third Republican presidential debate. This one's in Miami. To no one's surprise, Donald Trump will be a no show. CNN's Kristen Holmes is in Hialeah, Florida, where Trump is instead holding some counterprogramming, a rally.

And, Kristen, Trump's holding this rally to try to make some inroads with Latino voters.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake. I mean, this is an area that is 95 percent Hispanic. And this is really an area that his team believes that they see opportunity. Trump had significant gains with Hispanic voters back in 2020 between 2016 and 2020. And they believe they can grow that ahead of a 2024 election.

Obviously, Biden won the majority of Hispanic voters, so there is room there. But they also believe that this isn't just critical in a general election, but also when a primary against Ron DeSantis. We know that they are planning on launching a series of ads on Hispanic media, including radio T.V. ads, all in the primary season. He also sat down for an interview with Univision yesterday. That's going to air today.

And I will tell you, Jake, you know, I've talked to a number of voters here, Hispanic voters, who say they are all in for Donald Trump. So clearly, you know, they're getting some of the messaging he is putting out.

TAPPER: And this all comes, of course, as the Biden campaign is launching two Latino targeted ads around this debate tonight in Miami. It's turning into a battle between the Democrats and the Republicans to win this voting bloc.

HOLMES: Yes, I think that it's very clear here, the fact that they're issuing these ads around the debate that there is some concern on the Democratic side. And that this could be some significant gains for Republicans among Hispanic voters. Now, it's not just those ads that they launched. They also put up billboards on the road to this event here in Hialeah attacking Donald Trump, also, the road that leads into the debate in Miami, targeting Hispanic voters and attacking Donald Trump, MAGA Republicans overall. But I do want to play for you one of the ads that Biden released.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Just like us, many come here for freedom and to make their dreams a reality. Joe Biden knows that because fighting for us to protect our freedom and our way of life is what Joe Biden has always done.


HOLMES: The reason why I think this is so interesting is that actually that messaging there protecting our freedoms, talking about looting to dictators, that's actually the same messaging that we are expecting to hear from Donald Trump at the rally tonight. So clearly, they are both trying to channel very similar groups, similar bloc of voters here, and it's going to be very critical in this race in 2024.

TAPPER: All right, Kristen Holmes, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

The former president has yet to show up for any debates. He has that civil fraud case against him of course. He's been charged in for criminal cases. What is it propelling him to be the GOP front runner in this race? We're going to get into that.

Also, word of a high end brothel network busted with clientele, including elected officials, military officers, government contractors with security clearances. The details on this breaking story, ahead.



TAPPER: Just in to CNN, the Minnesota Supreme Court has rejected an attempt to block Donald Trump from the state's Republican primary ballot next year. Challengers argued that Trump should be disqualified under the 14th Amendment, which says lawmakers who, quote, "Engaged in insurrection," unquote cannot hold future office. The court did say the challengers can try again to remove Trump from the general election ballot if he becomes the Republican nominee. Similar efforts are underway in Colorado and Michigan.

There is so much more to discuss in our 2024 lead. Cue the music. Nice. Three hundred and sixty-three days away from the 2024 presidential election.

Last night proved contrasting pictures of what Election Day could look like on the one hand, Democrats winning major valid victories in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia. On the other hand, new polls show President Biden losing for Republican candidates and key matchups, getting clobbered by the way, by Nikki Haley. Clobbered. Apparently that doesn't mean anything to Republican voters, but clobbered.

So, anyway, let me start, Doug, with you. Let's start with the debate in Miami. Trump for the third straight debate choosing to skip it. And I have to say, we were talking about this in our staff meeting today, the degree to which the public is not really seeing Trump, the full Trump, the Trump that we got for five, six years is really remarkable. And I have to wonder how much that is related to his strength in the polls.

The fact that people are not getting the full Trump and all that means, yes, they get little drips and drabs in the courtroom coverage, but he's not on the court -- he's not on the stage berating Ron DeSantis, berating Tim Scott, berating Nikki Haley, we're not covering his rallies anymore of the way we used to, he's not in the White House, obviously, and I wonder if you think that's part of the reason why he's doing better in the polls.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's part of the reason. You know, when Donald Trump came down that escalator, a lot of people, myself unfortunately included, sort of dismissed it, didn't take it for real. And as a campaign sort of morphed, it didn't really build, he didn't have a solid structure. He didn't have real campaign staff or real leaders. And what we see with his campaign now is he does, he has a team of pros, these are people whose advice he takes at least sometimes.


And that's why we've seen him be smart and strategic on some of these things, like avoiding these debates where he would only be fodder for attack. And by not being there, he not only deprives these candidates of the opportunity to attack him, but he also knows that he will be the definition of the story however he wants to be. And when he gets indicted, he's learned that his opponents are really opponents in theory than anything else. They not only not attack him quite often when he gets indicted, they reinforce his own messaging. Why would he get in their way?

TAPPER: And, Ramesh, it's not just that, it's like he's not tweeting.

RAMESH PONNURU, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: That's right. I think that's a big part of it.

TAPPER: You know, he's --

PONNURU: He's on Truth Social.

TAPPER: But nobody's -- but only his fans are on that.

PONNURU: His fans and then a couple of reporters who monitor him.

TAPPER: Right.

PONNURU: And that's it, it doesn't have the same impact.

TAPPER: And he's not doing -- he's really not doing really like mainstream interviews at all. He's -- you know, he did that one with NBC. But he's --

PONNURU: But we're not seeing him calling, apparently, for hiring new liars, excuse me, new -- that was Freudian slip, new lawyers, new lawyers to investigate and imprison his old lawyers, which is something that is reportedly is --

TAPPER: Yes, what I'm saying is like --

PONNURU: -- or talk like maggot (ph) Haberman (ph).

TAPPER: -- all the stuff that people didn't like.

PONNURU: Yes, right.

TAPPER: All the stuff --


TAPPER: -- people got sick of, all the people who voted for him in 2016 and that didn't vote for him in 2020, they're not seeing what they didn't like.

HEYE: So you're saying less is more?


TAPPER: I am. But that represent --

PONNURU: That will not lasted the general election. And I think that's one thing Republicans should be mindful of.

FINNEY: Yes, my call it a basement type strategy he might do.

TAPPER: But that's exactly right.

FINNEY: Exactly. Right? So, it is less is more. I mean, and frankly, I think we saw this play out earlier this week, frankly, in the court case, in that moment where the attorney general's office realize, let him keep talking, don't stop him. And he just contradicted himself.

It's a similar idea, right, in terms of if we were seeing more of him, if we were -- and, you know, the decision not to take his rallies live and all of that, I think there are a lot of good reasons. But I do think what it portends is that next year, when we do have, to Ramesh's point, more of a head to head assuming he becomes the nominee and you do see him engaging more publicly, and people are reminded what it felt like governing by tweet, his -- the nastiness that mean that particularly given that when we do report on it, it's all the more dark, I think, even than it was in 2020. I do think that that will be when we see an impact in the polls.

TAPPER: So you're talking about the pros around him and I think they are hiding from him the fact that they are hiding him from the public. I think he doesn't know or hasn't realized it. And like once he realizes the degree to which they are hiding him, that they are running a basement campaign, he will get mad and start to demand that he, put me on ABC, put me on CNN, put me on CBS, you know, I need to --

PONNURU: You're saying he likes attention.

TAPPER: Yes. But I'm saying, like, I don't think he -- like he loves the cocoon, I mean, most politicians do. And he loves the cocoon so much he doesn't even realize how much he is ensconced and only preaching to the choir and the American people aren't seeing him.

PONNURU: Yes, that's right. And the thing that people disliked the most maybe about the Trump administration was his constantly being in your face.

TAPPER: Right.

PONNURU: And so, if he gets in there -- people have had a reprieve from that. And so I do think that that is part of the reason why he's doing as well as he is in the head to head.

HEYE: And part of that is just staffing as well. I know you're friends with them, so please don't tell Michael Steele. But when I started at the RNC, there were sort of two series of requests that would come in.

FINNEY: Oh, yes.

HEYE: The ones that I would show him and the ones that I would quietly deal with and say, well, we just got these three or four requests. We didn't get the 500 that have actually come in. That's part of what the job of staff is do is when you're trying to limit your boss's exposure, you limit what they're exposed to as well.


TAPPER: I wondered why his --

HEYE: Wasn't you? No. Is it, we're going to do the Jake Tapper review. We're not going to --

FINNEY: Oh, yes.

TAPPER: I wondered why his time with at the RNC was so stable compared to, you know --

HEYE: It was stable?

TAPPER: -- compared to the MSNBC tenure (ph).

Anyway, so Chris Christie sent out a fundraising e-mail where he showed a page from his notebook on tonight's debate strategy. One of the lines included his attack plans against Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis saying they're auditioning to be in Trump's cabinet. Are these candidates wasting their time attacking each other? Shouldn't they be focusing on Trump? Trump is far and away in charge.

I know they're all trying to become the alternative to Trump, but didn't we see this in 2015, 2016?

PONNURU: That's exactly what they did in 2015, the rivals back then, including Chris Christie.


PONNURU: And it didn't work because, you know, you run out of time to make the case against the front runner.

TAPPER: To Christie, just -- I should know, Chris Christie is taking on Trump.


TAPPER: I mean, he's the only one really doing it.

PONNURU: That's right. And this attack on the other candidates is that they're not --

TAPPER: Right.

PONNURU: -- attacking Trump enough. And I think that's right. I think that -- look, there are central arguments against Trump that simply have to be one if somebody is going to beat him. One of them being that he ought to be at the debate. Another of them being that he's a loser, that he lost in 2020.


I don't know how you can maintain that you should be the nominee if you're not willing to even say that he lost last time around.

FINNEY: But you have to --

HEYE: Or last night. That's more relevant today than it was two days ago.

FINNEY: Yes. Yes. But you're doing logic and conventional wisdom. And one thing we know about Donald Trump, that does not work. I mean, you're right that Chris Christie has taken him head on very macho and he's tanking.

It's not working. The person though, who I think has actually made some progress, interesting to see how she does tonight and if she gets a bump tomorrow is Nikki Haley.


FINNEY: And I'm -- as someone who works a lot with women candidates, I'm interested to see if at the end of the day, it is the way she has taken him on, not directly naming him, but she has talked about some of his policies, she has -- you know, he's gotten some digs in here and -- here or there. Maybe that's the way to do it. We don't know.

TAPPER: Every poll suggests that she's the strongest candidate against Joe Biden.

FINNEY: I'm just saying.

TAPPER: And Republicans do not want to accept that fact. I want to play what Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said her takeaways were from last night's election. We all know her to be the wisest --


TAPPER: -- the wisest Republican in -- on Capitol Hill. So let's listen to her.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I think Republicans are weak. They never come through on the promises that they give to their voters. They never hold anyone accountable. Scott backing away from President Trump, he's winning the primary by massive numbers, he's winning the polling for the general election. Clearly people like President Trump and his policies.


PONNURU: Well, I don't think that it is true that candidates have done better by linking themselves more tightly to Donald Trump. And we saw that in Kentucky in the governor's race. I don't think Trump is responsible for the Republicans losing that race. But the fact that the gubernatorial candidate Daniel Cameron tied himself from him didn't seem to help him. We've seen that in a lot of other places as well.

TAPPER: I think Senator Herschel Walker would disagree with you.

PONNURU: Yes. There's a lot of 2022 candidates that's facing the same thing. HEYE: That one hurt.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks, one and all for being here. We liked him in the New Jersey Generals, that's why.

HEYE: Was that the USFL? I sort of know (ph) that.

TAPPER: Thanks one and all.

After the GOP debate tonight, please join my colleagues Anderson Cooper and Dana Bash for the Republican Presidential Debate, Post- Debate Analysis. Coverage starts at 10:00 Eastern only here on CNN.

Up here on The Lead, how successful are the IDF missions in Gaza in taking out Hamas? CNN on the front line with two veteran Israeli journalists given exclusive access to those missions. They're coming back with differing views. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our world lead. Israel's military says it is destroyed 130 Hamas tunnel shafts in Gaza since the start of the war, part of a vast underground network that allows Hamas terrorists to move undetected and where it's widely believed Hamas is holding the estimated 239 hostages. CNN's Nic Robertson is right outside of Gaza as Israel races against the clock to destroy the terrorist group.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLAMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): As crushing as Israel's airstrikes targeting Hamas are militarily, they've also become politically counterproductive. A crippling consequence civilians 1000s of them have been killed. Israel under U.S. pressure for a humanitarian pause.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): On the diplomatic front, we are working around the clock to provide the IDF with international maneuvering room for continued military activity.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Netanyahu is plan to destroy Hamas is under threat. Time may be running out.

RONEN BERGMAN, JOURNALIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": The two clocks, one of how long will it take the IDF to finish what they see is the target. And second, how long are the international community, specifically the U.S., will tolerate the continuation of this ground offensive? Those are two -- those two are not in sync.

RON BEN-YISHAI, ISRAELI MILITARY ANALYST: I am afraid that the United States will succeed in stopping us from completing the work.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Both Ben-Yishai and Bergman are respected veteran Israeli journalists, both had been taken by the IDF to the front line in Gaza.

BERGMAN: None of the strategic goals of this operation has been achieved. Hamas are not going out of the tunnels.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): According to the IDF, Hamas operatives killed, rockets captured, launch sites discovered. But according to Ben-Yishai at a pace that both Netanyahu and Biden can stomach.

BEN-YISHAI: They go very slowly because of two things. First of all, because of the Americans, to be honest. And secondly, because of the safety of the soldiers.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Bergman says he's asked IDF officers if they can route Hamas from its tunnels.

BERGMAN: When you ask them, do you think that you can take out the hole of sub terrain bunkers? They say no, there's no way.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Meanwhile, Hamas says regular rocket salvos into Israel reinforced that bunker resilience is working.

BEN-YISHAI: This demand by the United States to make a humanitarian posts hits the deepest emotions of the Israelis.

The prime minister and other speakers for the government and the military need to be by far more transparent and direct with Israeli public.



ROBERTSON: So there's a real sense here that one month on Israel is effectively weakened by its own strength that Hamas is empowered by as tunnels. But that additional pressure from the United States on Israel really may mean the security that so many people here want through disposing of Hamas, whatever it's called, isn't going to happen. And effectively, Hamas is weaponizing the civilian death toll and that's allowing them to buy more time and that means they may get to fight another day. That sense that Israel really is under the pressure of domestic U.S. politics. That's real, and it's uncomfortable. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Nic Robertson, in Sderot, Israel. Thank you so much. And then there are of course the many families caught up in this war, which is just past the one month mark, the loved ones of two hostages will join me next.



TAPPER: It's been one month and one day since Hamas's brutal terrorist attack on Israel and the loved ones of 239 hostages are still watching, waiting. Right now they're watching Israel's military advance in Gaza, where as far as they know their loved ones kidnapped on October 7th are still being held. Tonight we want to bring you the story of three of those hostages. We've been telling you the stories of so many of these hostages. Three of them tonight, Gali and Ziv Berman are 26-year-old twins from Kibbutz Kfar Aza, inseparable, best friends who have a shared love of soccer.

The last contact that they had with their family was a WhatsApp message to their mom on the morning of October 7th. Guy Illouz is also 26. He's a musician from Tel Aviv. He was at the Nova Music Festival when Hamas terrorists started their brutal attack. Joining us now to discuss Gali and Ziv Berman's brother, Liran, and Guy Illouz's mother, Doris, they're both here in Washington, D.C. to meet with American lawmakers.

And let me just hold this up. This is Guy Illouz. His mom is with us here. And this is just as an additional one. This is Guy's friend, Almog Sarusi, also 26. These are just young people. These could be your friends. These could be your sons. These could be your older brothers, just regular young people. In this case, they just happen to be Israeli. But there could be any young friends you have.

Doris, so you have not heard from Illouz in a month. The IDF is operating in the quote, heart of Gaza City. And I'm wondering what you what you think about that? Does that make you worry? Does it make give you hope? It must be conflicting emotions, I don't know, what?

DORIS LIBER, MOTHER OF ISRAELI HOSTAGE, GUY ILLOUZ: Definitely. There's days that I'm feeling, you know, afraid that the bombing will hurt him. Other days I'm thinking maybe he's hearing the bombs and he knows that we're coming. But all in all, I have faith in the IDF. And I know that they're doing all they can to bring him back to me so I trust them.

TAPPER: Liran, how do you think your brothers are holding up?

LIRAN BERMAN, BROTHER OF ISRAELI HOSTAGES, ZIV AND GALI BERMAN: I hope they are together. I don't know. I hope they are safe. I don't know. I do. Like those said, I do trust the IDF and the Israeli government that they know the approximate location, even not 100 percent. And they will not strike and harm they'll suggest. We do trust the Israeli government and the IDF that they will do whatever they can to pressure Hamas and keep the hostages safe. So fear is there. But we trust the government.

TAPPER: Do you think there's more that, you're here to meet with U.S. government officials, you've met with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, do you think there's more the U.S. could be doing to help get the hostages released?

LIBER: Definitely. Definitely.

TAPPER: What? What could the U.S. be doing?

LIBER: First of all, they have a channel to Qatar. And that's the channel that they need to, you know, progress in. There is not enough done because if there was they would be back.

TAPPER: Yes. LIBER: And yes, I think that's where the pressure should go.

TAPPER: Liran, the last contact from your brothers was that WhatsApp message to your mom. What more do you know about those moments leading up to and following that message? We do know that, what happened at Kfar Aza that kibbutz was horrific, horrific. It's one of the worst sites.

BERMAN: We know nothing after this message. And --

TAPPER: What did it say?

BERMAN: That we are safe in the safe room. And it was around 10:00 in the morning of Saturday. And after that complete silence. For 10 days we -- they were considered missing. We had no confirmation that they were in Gaza for 10 days. No visual confirmation, no video, no nothing, no picture. And then after 10 days, Israeli officials came to us and told us that they are kidnapped in Gaza. They didn't give us any more information. I don't know. Intelligence they don't know. But it was 10 days after they told us that they are hostages.


TAPPER: Doris, tell us more about your son's interests because I know he has a dog.

LIBER: Yes, Georgie.

TAPPER: Georgie and he was studying psychology and philosophy.


TAPPER: Tell us about him.

LIBER: He's a philosophical guy. We can go into deep conversations. He's very sensitive, opinionated about a lot of things. And he sees the world in terms of music. Somehow he translates everything in the music.

TAPPER: Have you thought about the first thing you will say to your loved ones when you see them again?

BERMAN: I love you. I love you both.


LIBER: I'll probably just smother him, you know. It's more touching for me. I love him. That's what I'm going to say to him. I love him.

TAPPER: Is there anything you want to say to any of the -- of anyone who's watching? I mean, this show is on around the world. Obviously, there are people here in the United States who watch it people all over the world who wants it? Is there anything, I don't know what camera you should look at. But let's assume into that one right there, is there anything you want to say? BERMAN: I want to say thank you to the American people for having us here, for listening to us, for taking action for us. Those are regular civilians who got kidnapped from the bed for my music festival at this music festival. They have nothing to do with the conflict. They just, we the families just want them home. And we need the support and the action of whoever can push the right buttons.

TAPPER: Guy and Gali and Ziv will be back. They will be back. And they will be back in your arms. And we'll keep covering it. We're going to keep covering it. And we're not -- the story hasn't gone away. And I know that there are protests out there. And the international community calling for a ceasefire. I wish that there were protests calling for the hostages to be released.

LIBER: Definitely.

TAPPER: That that should be on -- that should be -- that we should have more people holding up signs for that. But that's what we're going to do on the show. Thank you so much for being here.

BERMAN: Thank you for having us.

LIBER: Thank you.

TAPPER: And stay in touch. OK. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you now, the United States military carried out airstrikes in Syria today in response to a series of attacks against U.S. personnel in both Syria and Iraq. CNN's Natasha Bertrand is at the Pentagon for us now. Natasha, what were the strikes targeting?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, they were targeting a weapons facility that was used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to a statement that we got from the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. And these strikes were carried out by two F-15's, U.S. F-15's in eastern Syria. And it comes about two weeks after the U.S. conducted similar airstrikes against Iranian backed in Iranian proxy groups, weapons and storage facilities, as well in eastern Syria.

So obviously, the U.S. making an effort here to respond to the attacks that Iran back groups have waged against U.S. forces in the region. There have been about 40 such attacks in recent weeks by these Iran- backed proxy groups that the U.S. wanting to show that it is willing to conduct these strikes in self-defense.

But look, Jake, this is not the only thing that happened in the region today, far from it involving the U.S. military, the Houthis, which is another Iran-backed group operating in Yemen. They say and the U.S. has confirmed that they shot down a U.S. military MQ-9 Reaper drone that was operating off the coast of Yemen earlier today. And so all of this obviously, you know, contributing to the U.S. fears that this is going to escalate. But for now, the U.S. says that today's strikes conducted in eastern Syria, they were meant for self- defense, and they were limited in their nature and scope. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much.

Turning now to our Law and Justice Lead, the Justice Department just announced arrests in connection with what the Feds are describing as a quote, high end brothel network with clients who included elected officials and military officers, government contractors, with security clearances, and one imagines much, much more. CNN's Evan Perez is here. Evan, so far we know who was arrested, but not who were the customers.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. We don't know that any names of customers. But the prosecutors describe possibly hundreds of clients of this brothel services, this prostitution service. And they say that these, these people operated brothels in the Boston area, as well as in the Tyson's Corner in Fairfax County, here in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. This is an investigation that is still ongoing. They say that it stretches from Boston to Washington, all the way to California.

And what these people were doing is bringing people in from overseas and moving them around the country to service these clients who went through very elaborate means to prove who they were before they were even approved to be able to buy the services of this very high end service that they had. And prosecutors in Boston, Joshua Levy, who is the Acting U.S. attorney there, describe the who's who basically are the type of clients that were going here. Listen.


JOSHUA LEVY, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS: They are doctors, they are lawyers, they are accountants, they are elected officials, they are executives at high tech companies and pharmaceutical companies, they are military officers, government contractors, professors, scientists, pick a profession, they're probably represented in this case.


PEREZ: Jake, the service was charging between 350 to $600 an hour for the services. And as I mentioned, this is an ongoing investigation so you can bet, Jake, that there are a lot of very nervous people especially here in the Washington, D.C. area. We're talking about people who are elected government officials, people who are military contractors. All of these people with security clearance who of course, are still under investigation.


TAPPER: Yes. We've been through this before though, they never reveal the client list though.

PEREZ: Right. I think more reporting is reported is needed for that and well, we will stick to the story.

TAPPER: And they never seem to release the client list. Evan Perez, thank you so much.

Also today, the Justice Department announced the indictment and arrest of 10 alleged members of the Gambino crime family in connection with what the government says was an attempt to dominate New York City's private garbage collection and demolition industries. The defendants nickname sound like the cast of characters in a, well, Hollywood mob movie, Joe Brooklyn and Fifi and Vinny Slick and Vi and Uncle Ciccio. They and the others face charges involving violent extortions and assaults, arsons and other union related crimes.

Here's something you don't see every day, giant pandas in FedEx cargo containers, the Chinese government is taking the pandas back instead of extending their visit to the United States have we reached the end of the line when it comes to panda diplomacy?



TAPPER: The Pandas from the National Zoo in Washington are on their way back to China. An emotional moment for those of us who have come to know those bamboo eating bears, but it is also a sign of the escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington. And here to explain it all is Robin Wright, staff writer for The New Yorker. We usually have you on to talk about escalating tensions with Iran and the like. But you also have been tracking the pandas since 1978. And you were there this morning at the zoo. Let's start with the emotion frankly, because these are beloved bears, right? I mean, what was it like when they left?

ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: In this city that is so polarized about so much, the one thing that has united Washingtonians is really, the panda bear, it's become the unofficial mascot of Washington. So it was deeply emotional. It was almost like a celebrity funeral with a quartet of the big crates, each carrying the pandas out. And with the panda bears the pallbearers by the side it was deeply emotional.

TAPPER: Yes. I remember years ago when they were having trouble getting pregnant, how sad it was for people like I mean, it really was very sad and tragic.

WRIGHT: And the great contribution the zoo has made is in figuring out ways to encourage gene diversity, to help an endangered species become more versatile, to be able to survive its own numbers.

TAPPER: So you've taken pictures of the pandas over the years. What do you think was their impact on the millions in the U.S. who have visited them over the years?

WRIGHT: Oh, I think that, you know, there are people today who showed up who driven from all over the country to say goodbye and only to find out to the pandas were gone. And, you know, just the heartbreaking emotion of having to say goodbye to something that is so beloved, so cuddly, so charismatic and so endearing, you know.

TAPPER: Yes, they are beautiful. Are they -- are panda bears nice, though. Are they a nice animal? I know they're gorgeous. But raccoons are gorgeous too and they're very ferocious creatures.

WRIGHT: I suspect if you've got up close, and then they felt threatened, they might --

TAPPER: They're bears.

WRIGHT: Yes, they're bears but --

TAPPER: They are bears.

WRIGHT: But they're not meat eating, you know?

TAPPER: Well, not currently. The pandas have always been in the U.S. under agreements with China. China has renewed those agreements numerous times extending their stay. What does it signal for U.S. China relations that China did not extend it this time?

WRIGHT: For now panda diplomacy is dead. The zoos in Memphis and San Diego have already had to send their pandas back. Atlanta zoo will have to send the last pandas in the U.S. back. It's happening across Europe. It's happening next year in Australia, that China basically is saying we don't need this kind of goodwill diplomacy anymore. You know, we were not trying to kind of cater to public interest. We now are big enough power that we, you know, we're going to create this monopoly on our bears.

One of the few places to still have one is Moscow because 2019 Xi Jinping gave two to Putin, whom he called at the time his best friends and they will be there for 15 years.

TAPPER: Really?


TAPPER: So they're really just like, we don't care what you think about us?

WRIGHT: Yes, pretty much. I mean, this is a power play. And this is a way of saying on the eve of a very important summit between President Biden and Xi Jinping in San Francisco next week.

TAPPER: How can or should the U.S. try to repair the situation or is it irreparable do you think?

WRIGHT: I don't know that it's irreparable. But for now, this is something that that China is kind of exerting its muscle and it's, you know, it doesn't need to make those gestures like it did with the ping pong diplomacy and, you know, athletes coming to play on American teams. The zoo wants to have pandas again it's up, you know, tried to get them their leases renewed, but to no avail.

TAPPER: Well, I have an idea. I went to a zoo in Bulgaria and they had raccoons in the zoo, so maybe we can replace I guess it's not really that good an idea. Robin Wright, thank you so much. I'm really sorry. Because it's a -- they are beautiful animals. And it really is. It really is sad.

WRIGHT: For Washington particularly.

TAPPER: Yes. We don't have a lot that -- we don't have a lot of beauty and a lot that unites us in this town.

WRIGHT: No kidding.

TAPPER: Yes. All right, Robin, thank you so much.

This note, an honor of Veterans Day this week, you should join me for the seventh annual Homes for our Troops celebrity auction on eBay. You can bid on items go to, Homes for our Troops. The money will go to building adapted homes for wounded veterans. A few items up for this auction here, Jon Bon Jovi autographed guitar. You can golf 18 holes with Jason Bateman and Will Arnett. You can get George Clooney's watch right off his wrist, his actual watch, a purse from Jennifer Aniston. There's so many things, there baseball, football, basketball, check it out, Homes for our Troops. The auction is open until Monday. Please check it out.


If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show once you get your podcast. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer right next door in The Situation Room. I'll see you soon.