Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

IDF Conducts Operation Inside Gaza's Largest Hospital; U.S. Warship Shoots Down Drone Believed To Be From Yemen; CNN Obtains Exclusive Bodycam Video Of A Hamas Militant Documenting Terror Attack On Oct. 7; Biden Meeting With China's Xi In Effort To Ease Tensions; Hunter Biden's Lawyers Seek Subpoenas For Former President Trump & Former A.G. Bill Barr; Biden On Trump: "Damn He Shouldn't Be President". Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 15, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Israel Defense Forces are almost a full day into what they call a precise and targeted operation to hunt out Hamas in a hospital. What exactly does that mean?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Inside that hospital in Gaza now a military scene, where Israel and the U.S. say Hamas is hiding a command center under the hospital. What -- what's the goal of this targeted operation?

Also, brand new on THE LEAD, 100 minutes of horror. Exclusive video obtained by CNN from the bodycam of a terrorist. For the first time, you can see video from inside a Hamas tunnel before that group's horrific October 7th attack.

Plus, you might not believe this -- Hunter Biden wants to subpoena Donald Trump.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Gaza's largest hospital is under siege. Israeli forces launched a raid on the Al-Shifa hospital in the early hours Wednesday, after accusing Hamas of operating from tunnels beneath the vast complex, the claim supported by American intelligence. A Palestinian reporter inside Al- Shifa hospital says, the complex is surrounded on all sides. Explosions are shaking the walls, and hundreds of patients and staff are blockaded inside the complex.

Earlier at a different hospital in central Gaza, a man described what Hamas denies. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): As for the resistance -- they come and hide among the people. Why are they hiding among the people? They can go to hell, and hide there. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That man clearly upset and claiming that Hamas hides among the people in Gaza. Interesting.

Back in the United States, the White House insisting Israel did not give the United States any advance warning of this Israeli excursion at Al-Shifa hospital, as calls grow from Democrats and Republicans for President Biden to use his influence with Israel to implore the Netanyahu government to be more mindful of the humanitarian needs in Gaza.

And in a war that seems to have had a tragically high toll on the children of Gaza, today is Israel's first lady, Sara Netanyahu, revealed that an Israeli hostage has given birth in Hamas captivity. So, the youngest hostage now of Hamas is now a newborn.

We are going to start with CNN's Nada Bashir, as doctors in Gaza are racing to save patients stuck in the middle of a massive military operation.


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Weeks of bombardment had already left Gaza's largest hospital and what has been described as a catastrophic situation. Doctors at Al-Shifa, working under impossible circumstances, caring for hundreds of patients, as Israel's military incursion moves inside the hospital.

DR. MOHAMMAD ZAQUOT, DIRECTOR OF GENERAL HOSPITALS IN GAZA (through translator): The occupation soldiers are still on the ground floor. They are searching employees, civilians, even the injured and patients. Some were stripped and place in dehumanizing and miserable conditions.

BASHIR: Israel's raid on Al-Shifa has been described as precise and targeted, focus, they say, and claims of a Hamas command center beneath the hospital.

But it is civilians, including medical staff and patients, that have been caught in the center of this unrelenting battle.

DR. AHMED EL MOKHALLALATI, SENIOR PLASTIC SURGEON AT AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL: We can't look through windows or doors. We don't know what's happening. Thanks are moving within the hospital. You can hear continuous shooting. You can hear it now.

But again, it's totally scary situation.

REPORTER: So, what are the sounds, doctor? I'm hearing sounds.

EL MOKHALLALATI: It's continuous shooting from the tanks.

BASHIR: Israeli defense officials say that soldiers found concrete evidence that Hamas used Al-Shifa hospital as what they have described as a terror headquarters. But no further details were provided on the nature of this evidence. Both Hamas and health care officials have alone denied a military presence within Al-Shifa.


CNN cannot verify either side's claims.

The IDF has not specified which area of the large hospital complex they operated in. And with over 1,000 patients and medical staff still inside, many have expressed alarm over the civilian impact of the Israeli military's operation.

MARTIN GRIFFITHS, U.N. EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR: Our concern on the humanitarian side is for the welfare of the patients of that hospital, which is, of course, in great peril at the moment. We have no fuel to run it. The babies have no incubators. Newly-born, some are dead already, we can't move them out, it's too dangerous.

BASHIR: On Wednesday, the Israeli military said their troops had delivered incubators and medical supplies to the Al-Shifa hospital. CNN cannot independently verify this claim, and has not been able to reach the hospital for confirmation.

However, the director general of Gaza's hospitals has warned the babies at Al-Shifa are in severe danger, as conditions in the hospital deteriorate further. Adding that there is no place to move dozens of incubators outside of a hospital, under current circumstances. But even as Israel tightens its grip on Al-Shifa, now said to be under the complete control of the Israeli military, according to Hamas, doctors say they will continue to do whatever they can to save the lives of those wounded in this devastating war.


BASHIR: And look, Jake, the U.N.'s humanitarian relief chief, Martin Griffiths, has described this raid on Al-Shifa as a appalling, but has called on both sides to prioritize the safety of civilians at the Al- Shifa hospital complex. As we know, more than 1,000 patients and medical staff are there. So, there are civilians around the complex and of course, we are still hearing those calls for civilians to evacuate southwards. Doctors are saying it is near impossible to get the vast majority of these patients out safely in the current conditions they are facing -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nada Bashir, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Tel Aviv. He has more information on this ongoing military operation by the Israelis in the Al-Shifa hospital.

Ed, let's take a look more closely at the sprawling hospital grounds. What do we know? Pardon me. What do you know about where the IDF is operating?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not specifically clear where some of the latest information that the military officials have put out. But as you can see from that picture of the hospital, it is a massive complex and the Israeli military officials had said that they had gone through there before this raid, which started almost 24 hours ago, urging people to get away from the windows and seek safer areas in their, as these military operations began.

The Israeli military also says that this afternoon, they released some details saying that they had concrete evidence of how this area was being used as a command and control operation area for Hamas military fighters. And they started releasing information about what they were finding, and one of the specific places they were talking about was in a room where MRIs are conducted.

I can't tell you exactly where that is on those grounds, but that's the latest information that we have.

TAPPER: And walk us through this latest video released by the IDF, which we should note, CNN has geolocated it, but we can't, of course, independently verify what is said or shown, at CNN's not on the ground there and we have not gotten comment yet from hospital officials. But tell us about it.

LAVANDERA: Right, this was a video that was just published a short while ago by the Israeli Defense Force spokesperson's office. And in that video, you can see there, as they tour this MRI office, we will let you listen to a little bit of what the spokesperson said and what they discovered in that area.


IDF SPOKESPERSON: -- absolutely no business being inside a hospital, military kit for one Hamas terrorist. A live grenade. Ammunition, fighting vest with insignia. Boots and, of course, uniforms and the last but not the least, standard AK-47 inside the hospital staff, we found another go-to bag.


LAVANDERA: So, it's important to point out here as they have walked us through this video they saw a collection of firearms and other kind of military equipment. Israeli officials say that as this operation is ongoing, they had suggested that there would be a video concrete evidence of this command and control structure. What has been released so far does not exactly show that. This is just one area of this massive hospital complex. So, we are waiting to see if more of this information will be released in the hours or if not days ahead.

TAPPER: All right. Ed Lavandera in Tel Aviv, thanks so much.

And with us now in studio is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Texas Republican Congressman, Mike McCaul.

Chairman McCaul, thanks so much for being here.

REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TX): Thank you.

TAPPER: So, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, your colleague, Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio, told me last week the U.S. is, quote, not pleased with Israel's attempts at reducing civilian casualties.


He said, they are trying, but it's not enough. Do you agree?

MCCAUL: Well, you know, look, this hospital is a military base, essentially, the infrastructure. When I talked to the --

TAPPER: Military base for Hamas?

MCCAUL: For Hamas. And they use, you know, human shields, civilians and hostages.

We talked to the minister of defense when I was in Israel. So, look, you have to release this, you know, evidence of what they are doing -- the tunnels, the hospital, to get this information out. I was really pleased that Kirby and the White House came out with a truth that this hospital is being used as a military base, in essence, and putting innocent civilians at risk and hostages. That's what they're doing.

Now, the humanitarian pause, the Israel support that. Netanyahu told us that, that's four hours every day to allow innocent civilians to take the road through the buffer zone they have created to southern Gaza, where the humanitarian efforts are taking place -- food, medicine, water coming through the Rafah gates from Egypt into southern Gaza is a perfect no.

But Hamas is putting their own people at risk here and I just, you know, when I met with the prime minister, he showed the Hamas videos of them invading Israel and barbarically killing, raping, decapitating, and burning. So, let's not lose sight of who the victim really is.

TAPPER: So, it's interesting. I'm wondering what you make of the fact that we hear criticism from the United Nations and from NGOs of the Israelis attacking Hamas in that hospital, for example. But I have yet to hear, and maybe I missed it to be quite honest, but I have not heard -- and again, this might be my fault, but I don't think I've heard the U.N. and some of these NGOs criticizing Hamas for having a command node underneath the hospital or for setting a bases and unbending within the population of Gaza.

Did I miss it?

MCCAUL: No, you are absolutely correct. I mean, they are a foreign terrorist organization, designated as such by U.S. law. They oppress the Palestinians, and it's very important point to make that in Israel, they want to liberate the Palestinians from their oppressor and there will not be peace in the Middle East until Hamas is eliminated as a governing body.

Israel has no intention of occupying Gaza, by the way. They want to turn it over. They said, the two things that can't govern would be Israel and Hamas. And the international communities need to come together, Gulf State, Jordan, Egypt, all need to come together as part of this solution. And the reason why Hamas invaded in the first place, in my judgment,

is the 50-year anniversary of Yom Kippur. But also, the fact, you know, that the Saudis were working out this normalization agreement with Israel. That terrified Iran and Iran lit up their proxies.

TAPPER: Yeah, you said something just a second ago about Israelis being the victim and I want to play part of something you said after we watched the footage that you just referred to of Hamas attack on October 7th.


MCCAUL: They wanted members to see this ten never forget, to remember what happened on October 7th, as we see the narrative shifting that somehow, the Palestinians are the victims. Well, I can assure you everyone who saw that video today knows who the real victims are. The victims were the Jewish people.


TAPPER: I just wonder, though, I mean, it's not really an either or. I mean, there are victims in Gaza as well, right?

MCCAUL: Of course.


MCCAUL: And the Palestinians are victims of Hamas. Just as the Jewish people are victims of Hamas, this is the largest killing of Jewish people since my father's war, World War II, and the Holocaust.

And that, you know, is hugely important. Our gripe is not with the Palestinian people. We want to liberate them from their oppressor. And so, for the protesters, I am not sure -- first of all, it would be great if they could see this video.

But secondly, what I see on social media is a disinformation campaign run by Iran, Russia, and China because TikTok is running a lot of the stuff. They control the algorithms. If you type in Israel and Palestinian, it's going to feed you information that's pro-Hamas.

TAPPER: Today, there was another incident where U.S. warship shot down a drone they think originated from Yemen. This comes after a string of attacks by Iran-backed proxies on U.S. forces in the Middle East.


What's your message to Americans who fear that all of this could quickly evolve or devolve, rather, into a wider war? Whether it's the U.S. fighting Hezbollah or the Houthi rebels, or more?

And people are -- people are genuinely afraid. I mean, the U.S. has been attacked in Syria and Iraq. People are afraid that this is going to end up with U.S. boots on the ground.

MCCAUL: Yeah, and this is a nightmare scenario. My committee will produce the authorization use of military force. We're not authorized to hit Hezbollah, Hamas, for Iran, for that matter.

We do not want to see that happen, so deterrence is really key, right? So, you have the carrier strike force in the Mediterranean, the carrier strike force that's going into the Persian Gulf, and a nuclear submarine, all providing that deterrence.

Now, we've been hit 55 times in Iraq and Syria.

TAPPER: Right. So, what kind of deterrence?

MCCAUL: With only three responses, I brought this up in the classified briefing that I monitored the other day. You know, that's not deterrence.

TAPPER: Right.

MCCAUL: But I do give the administration credit for this. The presence is very strong on Israel and they have put force protection in the region to make sure that this does not lead to Hezbollah firing their 100,000 rockets, which would overload the Iron Dome.

TAPPER: But if all that presents in the media training is not providing the deterrence to dissuade the Houthi rebels or Hzbollah from attacking U.S. forces, then what will?

MCCAUL: I think they need iris's response regard to these attacks. They're very worried about firing rockets into Yemen. Again, an authorization use of military force situation.

TAPPER: Right.

MCCAUL: The defense of Israel, not our troops. So, our troops in Iraq and Syria, that's Article 2 self-defense and but they don't have authorization to hit Yemen or Hezbollah and Lebanon, or Hamas, for that matter, and Gaza.

And I think that's -- we don't want this to escalate.

TAPPER: Right.

MCCAUL: I think the deterrence is the best way to ensure that does not happen. And I think Congress should be talking about this a lot, that we are prepared to do an authorization if that will deter an escalation.

TAPPER: You guys should be talking about it instead of shooting elbows into each other's kidneys in the halls, right?

Chairman Mike McCaul, thanks so much for being here.

Coming up next --

MCCAUL: I wasn't involved in that.

TAPPER: I know, I know. What's really remarkable video, body cam footage from a member of

Hamas showing his unbelievable free rein during the October 7th attacks, video you will only see on CNN. It's shocking and horrifying.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we are back with our world lead.

When Hamas terrorists broke through the border fence and began their attack on October 7th, many were wearing GoPro cameras. They wanted to document their terrorist attack. Some of the footage would be used as Hamas propaganda, but not all of it because some of the terrorists were killed.

And CNN obtained exclusive video from the Israeli military, the IDF says, it shows the reality of what happened, which many call Israel's 9/11. One long, continuous video shows 100 minutes of horror.

We have to warn you, some of what you are about to see is graphic and upsetting.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An explosion before dawn on October 7th. The time is here and the attack is underway.

"Allahu Akbar," God is great, they chant, as they cross the breached fence.

Go right, go right, go right, they say.

Less than two minutes later, they cross the second security fence. They are in Israel heading towards a kibbutz.

The sun is up in a day that will reshape the region has begun.

This video comes from the body cam of one of the terrorists who took part in the attack. It was obtained exclusively by CNN and the Israel Defense Forces.

For the first time, we also see video inside Hamas tunnels before the attack. It is a look into a network of tunnels, with what appeared to be supplies stored in the darkness. Writing on the wall is in Arabic says, what's hidden is far worse.

Above ground, the gunman fired his first shots. Go on, men. Go on, man, he screams.

They stop on the way. More than a dozen militants gathered here to prepare for the next assault. One has several rocket propelled grenades on his back. Minutes later, a group advances across an open field, moving towards

the village of Kissufim. The gunman charges the last bit, and spots an Israeli soldier on the ground.

Others join in celebration.

Moments later, he's more composed as he turns the camera on himself. He says his name and that he's 24 years old. He's a father. He says he killed two Israeli soldiers, he asks god for victory and well-deserved martyr.

On motorbikes now, they keep advancing, moving together along empty Israeli roads, or nearly empty. The man tears as he sees bodies on the road. His is not the first wave. He rounds a corner.

Here, we have seen this place before, among the first videos to come out after the attack. This is dash cam video from a car on the same road moments earlier. The car approaches a group of militants who opened fire. The car coasts, it's driver almost certainly dead by now. It's just after 7:40 in the morning.

After a quick reload, the group approaches a military base near the kibbutz of Re'im.


For 65 minutes, since crossing the Gaza fence, they've had nearly free rein in Israel. The gunman closes the distance with a weapon he took from an Israeli soldier, opening fire. And fire comes back.

This man's part of the attack comes to an end. The terror is just beginning.


OLBERMANN (on camera): One of the questions asked by someone in this group and the hundred minutes of video we saw is, where are the soldiers? That's a question the IDF will have to answer in the investigations that follow this war and those investigations, from those we have talked to, will be long and thorough, as they try to figure out what went wrong on October 7th.

Jake, if I may say, this was some very difficult video to watch. We had to look at it numerous times in the making of this piece. So, I would like to thank the team that worked with me on this. Pierre, my producer, Pete, my editor, and our translators who helped us with this, Norhan and Magdi (ph).

TAPPER: Yeah, pretty brutal.

Oren Liebermann in Tel Aviv, thanks so much.

For hours now, President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping have been meeting behind closed doors. The length of the meeting speaks to just how much attention there is to talk through. We'll get into that next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


TAPPER: Also in our world lead, President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are in the third hour of their talks out there in California. Both are attending the summit of leaders from countries that border the Pacific Ocean.

This meeting comes as U.S., China relationship may be at its lowest point since relations were normalized in the late 1970s. At the start of this meeting, on camera, both leaders, trying to sound and look optimistic.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I value our conversation because I think it's paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunication.

PRES. XI JINPING, CHINA (through translator): Planet earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed and one country's success is an opportunity for the other.


TAPPER: CNN's MJ Lee is in San Francisco and CNN's Marc Stewart is joining us from Beijing.

MJ, what is President Biden hoping to accomplish here? And do we have any hints yet about how things are going in this third hour of their meeting so far?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to President Biden himself, one of the goals is simply to change the relationship for the better.

Jake, U.S.-China relations had hit such a rock bottom that when the two leaders met around last year, about a year ago on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia, the goal there was simply to establish a floor in that relationship.

Now, heading into this summit today, U.S. officials are saying that what they want is to reestablish diplomacy and particularly open up those lines of communication that they say are so important between two superpowers like the U.S. and China, and particularly focusing on that military to military communication that China had recently severed when the two leaders met each other and greeted each other here, they did acknowledge that things had been rocky, at times.

Take a listen.


XI (through translator): China, U.S. relationship has never been smooth sailing over the past 50 years and more, and it always faces problems of one kind or another. Yet, it has kept moving forward amid twists and turns.

BIDEN: Mr. President, we have known each other for a long time. We haven't always agreed, which is not surprise anyone. But our meetings have always been candid, straightforward, and useful.


LEE: And candid conversations, of course, Jake, means that they are going to be touching on some tough issues for the two countries. U.S. officials had said heading into this summit that President Biden does intend to discuss with President Xi issues related to Taiwan, including their upcoming elections. U.S. officials do not want the Chinese trying to interfere with those elections.

There's also the issue of China's provocations, the South China Sea, the spy balloon is expected to come up as well. But again, the big hope for the U.S. is to have the start of improve relations between the two countries.

TAPPER: And, Marc, what's the attitude where you are in Beijing? How is this meeting being interpreted in China?

MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is interesting, Jake. We have been looking at social media, we've been looking at state media, which is essentially the government's messaging service. And there is very much a theme of encouragement and optimism concerning U.S., China relations.

In fact, one phrase that caught my attention was this idea of cooperation over competition, and this optimism actually maybe very much needed. And it is important for Beijing to project because if we look at China right now, there are a number of domestic struggles it is facing, including a slow going economy, high youth unemployment, as well as a housing crisis.

I was talking to one analyst. One take away that China would like to see from this meeting is more foreign investment, including that from the United States. Hence, this air of optimism that China and Beijing are trying to project right now.

TAPPER: All right, MJ Lee and Marc Stewart, thank you both.

Coming up, why Hunter Biden believes he has good reason to subpoena Donald Trump and that's not the only name on his subpoena list.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, Hunter Biden, the president's son, wants to subpoena former President Donald Trump and three other senior officials, including former Attorney General Bill Barr.

Hunter Biden's lawyers claim that the former president applied political pressure to launch a criminal investigation of him that led to three federal gun charges against him. Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to them.

Let's bring in CNN's Paula Reid.

Paula, the twists and turns of this case are quite fascinating, as always. What information are Hunter Biden's lawyers hoping to garner with these subpoenas?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So, they would hope to get documents and other evidence that would support their argument that hunter has been investigated and charged as a result of improper political pressure.

I know, for example, former Attorney General Bill Barr talked about it in his book how Trump called him and asked about the status of that investigation. Barr refused to engage, but that's a kind of think that they are looking for here.

Now, I will note that when Hunter Biden's plea deal fell apart earlier this year and he was subsequently charged, it was a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney handling the case, but none of these other officials were in office.


But this is also part of the more forward-leaning strategy that Hunter and his attorneys have been taking. It's more aggressive, they are punching back at people who they perceive have targeted Hunter over the past several years.

TAPPER: I want to turn to the civil fraud case in New York against Trump and the Trump family. Today, Trump's legal team filed for a mistrial, alleging that the judge will decide the case is biased against him. Is this like, just like illegal Hail Mary? Like we will lose this case, so might as well try to get a mistrial?

REID: Jake, usually I completely avoid this sports analogies, but even I can tell you that yes, indeed, this is a Hail Mary. But they are not necessarily focused on winning in court, right? Part of this is about the court of public opinion. Because they're arguing, once again, that the judge and his clerk are politically biased against him.

Now, the former president is currently under a gag order that prevents him from attacking the clerk. But this is another way to make that argument in public. Of course, it's the judge who's been overseeing this trial that's already found him liable for fraud.

He needs to decide on this. It's expected that he's not going to grant this, but it could also be appealed.

TAPPER: Also today, there are so many trials.

REID: So many trials.

TAPPER: It's very difficult. REID: God bless of all of them, for my job's security.

TAPPER: Also today, a judge overseeing the election subversion case in Georgia says that he plans to lock down sensitive evidence after the recent leak of videotape interviews of defendants who struck plea deals with prosecutors. This was our A block at 5:00 yesterday, speaking of job security.

REID: Yes.

TAPPER: What can you tell us about that?

REID: So, of all the trials that I've covered, this is one of the stranger things that we have seen. We saw these videos leak. These were the statements that several Trump allies gave as they entered plea deals with Fulton County.

TAPPER: Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis.

REID: Exactly.


REID: And there were others that we haven't seen yet, so these leak and then they tried to figure out, all right, who done it? And a defense attorney for one of these defendants, Harrison Floyd, said in an email to the district attorney, it was us, but then rescinded that said actually no, just kidding, that was a typo. It wasn't us.

And then today in court, attorneys for another defendant, Misty Hampton, said actually, we are the ones that leaked this information. We believe the public had a right to see this.

So, the judge, understandably, has here issued a protective order to prevent the leak of additional, sensitive information. Now, several media organizations, including CNN, are opposed to this kind of protective order, believing there's a public interest in seeing evidence like this.

But the judge notes that, look, there are some things that are jury will never see. There is a reason for that. For the protective order is going to stand.

So, it is unlikely, but not impossible we'll see any of the leaks --

TAPPER: I'm always in favor of leaks, always in full transparency.

REID: Agreed.

TAPPER: Get it all out.

REID: And leak it to us.

TAPPER: Leak it to us and let the American people see it.

All right, Paula Reid, good to see. Let's say Donald Trump doesn't make the cut as the 2024 GOP nominee,

it could happen. Unlikely, but it could happen. Who would be a better choice for Republicans? Governor Ron DeSantis or Governor Nikki Haley?

I will pose that question to a third Republican presidential candidate, next.



TAPPER: President Biden slamming Donald Trump, accusing the former president of using language similar to Nazis after Trump in a speech in New Hampshire on Saturday called his political rivals vermin. Biden warned donors at a campaign event that Trump would use his second term for revenge and retribution, saying, quote: There's a lot of reasons to be against Donald Trump, but damn, he shouldn't be president.

With me now, Republican candidate for president, Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey.

Governor, do you agree with President Biden's warning?


And, look, not only is it awful, but it is reminiscent of the worst language used in Nazi Germany during the '30s. And look, I am used to this guy doing this kind of stuff, for the Republican Party, ten days ago or so, he got on the stage because I had been earlier in the day and called me a fat pig.

I mean, you know, this is the guy who, there is nothing he won't say or do if you don't kiss his rear end.

TAPPER: I think one of the alarming things about it, though, is the dehumanizing rhetoric isn't just rhetoric. There is this element of violence that he's really introduced an acceptability to in the Republican Party, that we've seen play out and continues to play out.

CHRISTIE: Look, I think what he has done with his use of language is give permission to a lot of people who then believe they can take it even further. And they can actionize the things that he's saying, weaponize the things that he's saying.

And most of all people won't use that type of language because they know there is a risk of that. He doesn't care.


CHRISTIE: He just doesn't care, Jake. I mean, his view that if it is good for him at that point, he'll do it, and if something bad happens, he'll disown any responsibility for it.

TAPPER: You just returned from a trip to Israel, you gave a major foreign policy address today in which you said the world needs to make sure Israel has the time and the resources that Israel needs before there can be any calls for a cease-fire.

President Biden has agreed with you on the cease-fire, but he has been calling for a humanitarian pause for two reasons, to help secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas, and also to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza for the civilians.

Do you disagree with the humanitarian pause?

CHRISTIE: Look I don't think it is our call, I think it is the call of the Israeli defense forces. Look, they're in a war, Jake. The fact is that they need to do what they need to do to eliminate the threat of Hamas.

I was at Kfar Aza kibbutz 600 yards from the Gaza border on Sunday. When you see the utter destruction there, I went to one home where a 24-year-old couple used to live. They were both murdered on October 7th, the bloodiest all over the coaches and the floors of their homes.


And I counted them, Jake, there was 140 bullet holes in the walls. I mean, you cannot negotiate with folks like this because their goal is simply to eradicate, not just Israel, but is to eradicate the Jewish people.

And so, you know, I understand it, we don't want any loss of innocent civilian life. But let's remember two things. There was a ceasefire on October 6th, and it was Hamas that broke it on October 7th. And, secondly, you can not allow people in Gaza to be used as human shields and all the rest, and then blame it on the Israelis.

It is Hamas that's enslaving their own people.

TAPPER: Do you think that there is any good that could come out of this, in other words, is there any hope for a two-state solution from this? You get rid of Hamas if that's even possible? Because in some ways, Hamas is an idea, as much as it is a terrorist group. You get rid of Hamas, is there some way that a Palestinian state emerges out of this?

CHRISTIE: Well, it's one of the things, Jake, but I was saying in Israel this weekend. I've been saying it publicly here, is that the first two priorities are obviously to protect Israel's territorial integrity, the safety and security of their people. And second is to eliminate Hamas as the military and governing force in Gaza.

But the third is to continue to isolate Iran, because Iran is the banker of terrorism in that region, and really in large parts of the world. And so, in a two-state solution is part of the way to continue to isolate Iran. But you also need Arab neighbors to continue to be willing to work with you. And so, the very tough needle that Israel needs to thread is to do what they need to do militarily, but not goes so overboard that it looks just like retribution.

And then you are going to tie the hands of other reasonable Arab states who want to have relationships with Israel. And you want to use it to isolate Iran, even further than they are isolated already.

TAPPER: Do you support a two-state solution ultimately?

CHRISTIE: I do, I do.

TAPPER: Yeah. Let me ask you one political question, I know you are in it too when it. You want to win. And I understand that you definitely think Donald Trump should not be president.

Let me just ask you, between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, do you think that one of them would be a better president or at least a worst president in the other?

CHRISTIE: I'm not ready to make that call yet. I think there's a lot more to learn, and a lot more for them to show.

But I will say, it's really very discouraging to me that hearing Nikki Haley on the stage one tonight saying don Trump was the right president for the right time, however say that she would be willing, she was inclined to pardon him. And for Ron DeSantis to say all the support of things that he said about Donald Trump, including, remember, both of them raised their hands on the stage in the first debate and said they would support him even if he is a convicted felon.

George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, they are rolling in their graves. If they knew that anyone would have the audacity as a felon, which Donald Trump will become this spring, to run for president? And that other people running for the office would be willing to support someone like that? They would have added you can't be a convicted felon to age 35 and natural born American citizen as requirements for the presidency.

And to say that you could be the rightful heir of the legacy of Washington and Adams and Lincoln and FDR? As someone will say I will support a convicted felon, that gives me grave concerns, Jake, about their judgment, and whether it is just nothing more and craven politics.

And by the way, one last thing, you can't beat him unless you try to beat him. I mean, they are continuing to come up to the guy. He's up by 30 points. So, I am trying to beat him. They are trying to come in a very respectable second.

I don't think that is the way to run any race, it's never the way I around one. I'm not going to run this one that way.

TAPPER: Former Governor Chris Christie, welcome back from Israel, good to see you, sir.

CHRISTIE: Jake, thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

TAPPER: And we are just getting word that the meeting between Presidents Biden and Xi Jinping just wrapped up in California after nearly three hours. Meanwhile, the House committee on China is releasing a frightening new

report on the discovery of a drug lab in California that had vials containing, according to the labels, the AIDS virus, COVID, and more.

The top Republican and top Democrat on that committee will be here with their report given first to CNN.


That's next.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, an all-out war between President Biden and the state of New Hampshire. No shots fired, but Biden will not be on the state's primary ballot. That's big, and it could have major implications on his 2024 reelection chances.

Plus, fed up in Texas. Republican Governor Greg Abbott so frustrated with the federal government in what he sees as lax border enforcement, he's going another route. He's trying to make border crossings illegal at the state level, trying to give local law enforcement and judges the power to make arrests and deport violators. Will the Biden administration step in? Could this go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court?