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The Lead with Jake Tapper

No Americans In Latest Round Of Hostage Release; Source CIA Director In Qatar To Push Broader Hostage Deal; U.S. Urges Israel To Be More Precise In Gaza Strikes; UNICEF In GAZA On Dire Need For Food, Water & Medicine; Koch Network To Back GOP Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley; Pro-Iran Hacking Group Attacks Pennsylvania Water Plant; Tribute Service Held For Rosalynn Carter. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 28, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: He was kidnapped October 7, alongside his four year old brother Ariel. The boys cousin told CNN this today.


EYLON KESHET, COUSIN OF KIDNAPPED FAMILY: He had to go through gunshots and shouting and blood and body parts in the street. This is the reality they had to go through. And now 53 days they're going through this nightmare. And it doesn't make any sense, like, are these the enemies of Hamas? Are these the enemies of anyone?

Should these children be used as bargaining chips? No, they shouldn't.


TAPPER: Meanwhile, it is believed that Hamas does not have dozens of other hostages, that those hostages have likely been placed with other terrorist groups such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which further complicates efforts to secure those hostages release. Back in the United States senior Biden administration officials are begging Israel to try to be more precise and take fewer risks in future strikes in Gaza against Hamas once the pause in fighting ends. Coming up this hour, we're going to take you to Gaza and speak with humanitarian worker on the ground there.

Also ahead this hour, a major boost for a runner up in the 2024 Republican field in the form of a big shiny endorsement from one of America's richest families. But first, let's get right to CNN's Oren Liebermann in Tel-Aviv.

And Oren, what do you know about the condition of this latest group of hostages released today who appear to be mostly older women?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, first let's take a look at this video right now. This is moments ago at Sheba hospitals, one of the largest hospitals in the country, not that far from where we're standing right now. This is shortly after a helicopter landed, bringing the hostages from Kerem Shalom from the crossing where they had entered Israel and taking them to Sheba Medical Center. Eight of the hostages taken there. We have not yet gotten an update on their condition.

We expect that sometime later on tonight, perhaps very early tomorrow morning. Two other Israeli hostages were taken to Ichilov Medical Center, also in Tel Aviv. And then two foreign nationals were taken to Shamir Assaf Harofeh Medical Center. That's where all of the foreign nationals has gone -- have gone. You can see those hostages -- I'm sorry, those -- yes, those freed hostages being loaded onto buses there after coming off the helicopters.

As you point out, those are elderly women. In fact, of the 10 hostages released, only one was a minor. One was a 17 year old Israeli woman. Those are now being treated. And they'll begin the process of the medical evaluations and of course, the mental health checks that are the far more complicated, far more difficult part of the entire process.

Crucially, the process worked today and the truce held. And that was a major question. It played out a little later than we thought it would, but as you can see from these images, it did in fact play out and that bodes well for tomorrow where we expect the release of another 10 Israeli women and children in exchange for another 30 Palestinian prisoners, women and children released from Israeli jails. We of course, saw that happen tonight, as well. The question what happens beyond that, CIA Director Bill Burns in Qatar, where the majority of these negotiations have taken place, the U.S. trying to extend this beyond that to include not only women and children, but also elderly men and IDF soldiers, men and women, that however, Jake, remains a very challenging question at this time.

TAPPER: And Oren, both Hamas and Israel are accusing each other of violating this pause in fighting today, there was a skirmish in Gaza, I think northern Gaza. What exactly happened? And what might this mean for any hopes of this pause continuing at least a few more days?

LIEBERMANN: Jake, this was the clearest violation of a ceasefire terms to this point. Of course, different stories from both sides here. Israel says three explosive devices were detonated near their troops who are sitting in agreed upon positions. They also say they came under fire and returned fire. Meanwhile, Hamas accused Israel of initiating skirmishes.

Regardless of how this exactly happened, and of course, we're not in Gaza so we can't verify exactly how this played out on the ground, the truce itself held. We have seen it on fragile thin ice before. But the terms of the truce held together, hade continued to go in, the hostages continued to come out. And at least in the short term, Jake, it bodes well for tomorrow. After that, again, as I said, very much an open question at this point.

TAPPER: All right, CNN's Oren Liebermann in Tel Aviv for us, thanks so much.

CNN's Senior White House correspondent MJ Lee and CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt joining us now.

MJ, is -- well, I'm sure they are disappointed, but what -- to what does the White House attribute the fact that other than the two Americans at the very beginning of this crisis in this batch of Hamas releases over the last few days only one American has been really so far, that that four year old little girl whose parents were murdered?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, they had definitely hope that by the end of the four day pause that three Americans would have gotten out, so far we've only seen Abigail Edan on Sunday. You know when you speak to U.S. officials that are close to this, I mean this is a very, very, very difficult situation. I don't think I've heard a single U.S. official talking to me about the hostages ever say anything with 100 percent sort of confidence. There are caveats attached to everything, right, their whereabouts, their conditions, not in addition to the fact that Hamas just simply can't be trusted.


One interesting thing that a senior official told me yesterday, though, is that so far, they don't believe that Hamas is sort of purposely holding back these American hostages. But that does get to Hamas's motives, which I think nobody feels confident talking about.

TAPPER: Yes. I'm going to have to ask Naftali Bennett, the former prime minister, we're talking to him in a few minutes. We'll see what he says.

Alex, the CIA director, Bill Burns, he's back in Qatar where a lot of these negotiations are taking place. What should we make of his frequent trips there?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's a remarkable meeting today with his Israeli Qatari and Egyptian counterparts to talk about these hostage negotiations. This really sends the message that he is the Biden administration's point man on all things hostages. He really is a not just the U.S. spymaster, but he's a very capable diplomat, longtime diplomat, well respected in the region. So he is out there to push what the administration wants right now, the efforts to get those American hostages out, to extend this pause, and then Jake, to broaden this conversation out into the much more difficult conversations, getting those men back the negotiations about those IDF soldiers who are being held.

And really to echo what the White House is saying and that if Israel is going to start up their military operations, again, what the U.S. wants to see is a much more cautious approach and much more surgical approach.

TAPPER: And speaking of that, this surgical approach, this is -- I've been hearing this from the administration, and, frankly, from Democrats and Republicans in Congress that they want Israel to be more surgical when the fighting resumes, which everybody expects it will at some point because unless Hamas surrenders or, you know, decides to go on a cruise to Yemen, that Israel is going to go back, they're not giving up until Hamas is gone. And they want the civilian casualties to lessen, at the very least. Do -- or is Israel going to start listening? Do the administration think? LEE: I mean, U.S. officials say that Israel has been heeding their advice, at least in part, they have been stressing, you know, particularly in anticipation of the offensive starting up again after the pauses over, that when it comes especially to southern Gaza that they want to see operations that are more targeted, that are more surgical, that they want the Israelis to be more just deliberate and careful. They are saying that we have seen them take that advice, at least in part, they said, basically, that the operations actually would have been even bigger and scale, war it not for the U.S.

I think, Jake, we're seeing this sort of interesting rhetorical shift coming from the White House. You know, in the early days, we were hearing a lot of emphasis on. The U.S. can't tell the Israelis what to do. We are not involved in making their military decisions. And now we're getting a lot of, we are advising them, they are taking our advice, they seem to be sort of helping to shape the tactical decisions, this is according to U.S. officials. I think the administration knows that there are real questions about whether Israel really can go back to doing what it was doing once this pause is over, both politically and militarily.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, obviously, the biggest problem is that Hamas embeds within the population. It's not like there's a Hamas military base in Gaza. The whole area is a Hamas military base.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

And former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett joins us now. Sir, thank you so much for joining us.

We have only seen one American hostage in this round of hostage releases. Obviously, there were two American hostages released at the beginning. But in this round, and this round of hostage releases by Hamas, only one American has been released despite U.S. pressure. Why do you think that is?

NAFTALI BENNETT, FORMER ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: I think it's just random. From Israel's perspective, we don't make a distinction between the Israelis that are in captivity and have been kidnapped by Hamas. Regardless of their particular foreign citizenship, we don't care, we want them all back. So, we're working hard to do that.

TAPPER: Who is deciding who gets released? Is that just random by Hamas?

BENNETT: No, it's -- the negotiations going on and it's done primarily by criteria that Hamas is not abiding to but by and large, getting children and their parents out together. Hamas is deliberately sometimes keeping one or two of the parents back in Gaza. But children, younger people and the parents of children first, and then later on the rest.


TAPPER: Even though you were not in office on October 7, you still say you bear responsibility for the failures of the Israeli government that led to what happened on that day. The current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still has not acknowledged responsibility. The longer this war goes on, it seems like Netanyahu is growing weaker in the eyes of the Israeli public, at least according to polls. Do you think he's going to continue to get weaker and weaker?

BENNETT: I don't want to comment on the domestic Israeli politics. And certainly I won't attack the prime minister on foreign press. We're all focused on winning the war.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about Israeli strikes on Gaza, because ultimately, this pause in hostilities is going to end and Israel is going to continue to try to destroy Hamas. One thing I continue to hear from Israeli supporters in the U.S. government, whether it's the Biden administration or Congress, whether they're Democrats or Republicans, I keep hearing that the IDF needs to be much more careful when it comes to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, that the IDF needs to use more precision munitions, that the IDF needs to take fewer risks, even if the conservative estimates are right, with 15,000 killed, even if 5,000 of them are Hamas, that's still a two to one ratio of civilians to Hamas. That's a lot of civilians who have been killed. Is Netanyahu going to continue to ignore President Biden on this issue of civilian casualties?

BENNETT: Well, Jake, we're not magicians, there's no magic way to dramatically reduce collateral damage when Hamas's deliberate goal, intention of globalist increase Gaza casualties in order for you to ask me that precise question. You see, Hamas wants to stop the war in a cynical way by effectively killing its own people by placing them in harm's way. If there was some magical solution where we could tweeze our people out and just hit the rocket launcher that's shooting rockets at Israelis, we would do it. We do try to reduce unnecessary civilian casualties, but the reality is that there's no magic, the current ratio, the current ratio, is lower than what it was at the beginning and low and international standards from World War II through Iraq and Afghanistan, you'll see that Israel has one of the lowest ratios.

TAPPER: What do you think is going to happen in Gaza after the war is over? What will Gaza look like? And who is going to take over? Who is going to keep order?

BENNETT: Well, I'll tell you what I think we ought to do. The first thing is to fully disarm Gaza and ensure that it's -- there's no more arms, no more explosives there after we dismantle and eliminate Hamas. I mean, the first thing is to kill the Hamas leadership and the terrorists then clean up the Gaza from weapons and explosive so something like this could never happen again. The third thing I would do is create a buffer zone into Gaza of about one and a half kilometers deep, which would become a no man's land between Gaza and Israel again so this sort of thing could not happen. And that Israel would retain overall security and defense responsibility, but we don't want to govern the Gazans.

So what I think we would do is create an interim technical product self-government that would, say, for about five years govern Gaza, de- Nazify Gaza, which means clean out all the incitement, all the education that all Jews are pigs and devils. And after five years, we would revisit and figure out how to create a sustainable government, perhaps with our Abraham Accord partners, countries in that area.

TAPPER: Well, what do you mean by de-Nazi -- I mean, no free speech. People can't say nasty things about Jews and get rid of them? How?

BENNETT: No, free speech doesn't allow for educating and poisoning the minds and hearts of --

TAPPER: OK, so you mean like in the education?


BENNETT: -- the Gazan children.

TAPPER: You mean in the education system?



BENNETT: System and the media. We cannot -- here's what we learned, one of the lessons learned is that when people are incited with propaganda from the moment they're born till they're 20 years old that all Jews are pigs and devils and need to be slaughtered while they go out and slaughter Jews. And if it's something that we used to sort of procrastinate on or not take care of, we can't, we can't ignore it anymore.

TAPPER: But don't you think the last six weeks have done a lot to incite and inspire a whole new generation of terrorists? I mean, all the civilian deaths? I mean, don't you worry that that in itself is going to raise and inspire a whole new generation of Palestinians who hate Israelis?

BENNETT: It depends what we do next. I want to remind you that in Nazi Germany in the final months of the war, there were many, many civilian casualties, yet, Germany was de-Nazified after the war, and we had a new Germany. So, obviously, as I said, we don't have a goal of killing civilians, we have a goal of reducing the number of deaths civilians. But look, if anyone has a magic plan on how to eradicate Hamas without any collateral damage, bring it on and we'll adopt it. Barring that, we're going to have to get the job done and then you de-Nazify Gaza.

TAPPER: Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, thank you so much, sir. Appreciate your time.

BENNETT: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Up next, the status check from inside Gaza and the 24/7 operation to get critical resources there before this pause in fighting ends. And this today from Russia, American Paul Whelan the Marine who's locked up there says he was attacked by a fellow prisoner. What he's telling CNN about the incident, that's coming up.


TAPPER: Staying in our world lead, the Red Crescent reports that 200 trucks carrying much needed food and water and baby formula and blankets have arrived in Gaza since the pause in fighting. But the Red Crescent also claims that today the IDF blocked the fuel truck from entering northern Gaza. While this much needed aid arrives, the World Health Organization is warning that disease could kill more people in Gaza than airstrikes as the humanitarian crisis grows more dire by the day.

Let's bring in UNICEF Spokesman James Elder. He joins us on the phone from Gaza. He's on the phone because the internet connection in Gaza is too poor for us to access.

James, while this temporary truce has been extended for another two days, it's still not a lot of time to get in all the humanitarian aid needed for the millions of people in Gaza. Describe what you've seen the last few days and the toll it's taken on people especially children?

JAMES ELDER, UNICEF SPOKESPERSON: Yes, look just immense destruction desperation. I think just almost a death on the streets, Jake. You know, it just tells me consistently this war's relentless assault on civilians, on children, you know, tells me the story of a war on children. This is a place as you know, it was full of energy and life and like a collective darkness, they've sort of fallen upon the Gaza. But as you say, look, the aid coming in, it's the right type of aid, but the enormity of need hospitals look like war zones and camps where people used to live in apartments with televisions and nice warm bed.

So, it's desperate. It's the right aid, but it's not enough. And this only will be enough if this pause turns into a prolonged ceasefire.

TAPPER: You said you visited a hospital, you could smell rotten flesh. You saw children with ghastly wounds untreated because of the lack of medical aid. How dire is the situation when it comes to medical needs?

ELDER: It's horrendous. If a child getting a lot of diarrhea or a lot of serious illnesses now because of unclean water, parents know what their children need. Jake, they give it to them, those children not going to get care. I go into a hospital and you see doctors, tireless doctors who have worked around the clock having to make decisions on children with horrendous wounds of war, shrapnel eye injuries, broken bones, which ones do they treat? I helped carry a boy off a bus who had already lost a leg and had not had treatment for three days because he'd come down from Shifa Hospital, we got him off the bus, and then he sat lay on the floor in a hospital.

There was only these hospitals, but again, doctors were treating other people, people who may have been bleeding out or something. So, I've not seen anything like it. Everywhere you turn is a scenario like this. And again, it just leads to I think why -- you know, I keep every conversation around, it should come back to empathy. And it does, I think worry UNICEF and worry me that some can overlook these things and these tragic deaths and indeed, some are comfortable that the idea that these horrors, these attacks may start again.

TAPPER: The images of the babies in the NICU transported out of Gaza to Egypt, they're just heart rending. We see three to even four sharing the same beds. What can you tell us about those -- how those babies are doing?

ELDER: Yes, good news. You know good news for those who've gone out, not all did bless but those that did, you know, they're in Egypt, they're in peace, they're in hospitals and they should have the proper care. So it's everything you want to see. It seems like that's what life is. If these sweetest (ph) Israeli kids who got out, you know, that the torment over the hostages released, these children in incubators, Jake, out of Gaza.

But there's more than a million children who are not, you know, the children who literally grabbed me as I walked through a camp in tears, beautifully articulate were these brilliant brains merged with beautiful hearts and just say, you know, with dignity, why does nobody -- why does nobody care? I just wanted to go home. You know, I had a young girl, Jake, who said the only time she seen homelessness was when she was doing her Albright scholarship in D.C. She'd never seen it in Gaza. It's everywhere in Gaza, everyone's almost homeless.


TAPPER: UNICEF James Elder in Gaza thank you. Please stay in touch with us.

ELDER: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, a major win for 2024 Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley and not a Republican -- not a major win for Donald Trump. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Our 2024 lead -- come on guys, cue the music. You know I love the election. Thank you. It's like Elvis Costello to me. We're just 48 days before the Iowa caucuses and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley has picked up a huge endorsement from a very influential, powerful, and let's be honest, super rich PAC, backed by the Koch brothers. This endorsement gets Haley nearly a very significant financial boost. His time is quickly running out for any of Donald Trump's rivals to catch up to the Republican frontrunner.


Let's bring in our political panel to discuss. So Kevin Madden, a Trump campaign spokesman didn't even let Haley have a moment to relish the incoming cash. They said and, you know, there -- they have a way with words, let's put it that way. No amount of shady money from George Soros, Democrats, and Never-Trump RINOs in partnership with endless-war swamp creatures in Washington.

And that, by the way, that does not describe the Koch brothers, But we'll stop the MAGA movement or President Trump from being the Republican nominee and defeating Crooked Joe Biden. That's the Trump people, spokesman for Ron DeSantis, who won the support of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds criticized the Koch brothers endorsement of Haley saying, every dollar spent on Nikki Haley's candidacy should be reported as an in kind contribution to the Trump campaign. What do you make of it?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, I think it's kind of par for the course and that the Trump campaign does what it does best is they attack everything --

TAPPER: Right.

MADDEN: -- and anything that moves away from Donald Trump. So that makes sense that they're doing that. DeSantis is a little bit more puzzling, because, first of all, I think anytime you see one of your opponents get an endorsement in the campaign. First of all, you don't want to showcase it.

TAPPER: Right.

MADDEN: Right? You want to bring attention to it. And I think that does this. And you also want to show a level of poise, which is that you're so confident in your organization, you're confident in your message, you're confident in the momentum that your campaign has, that you're not worried about it. And instead, trumpet the endorsements that you have.

And I think the endorsement that Ron DeSantis got last week from Bob Vander Plaats is a very significant endorsement. If you look at the last two folks that have won the Repub -- or if you look at Santorum in 2012 and Huckabee in 2008, that endorsement was key to the momentum that they had. So --

TAPPER: In winning Iowa.

MADDEN: Yes. Winning Iowa, yes, winning Iowa.

TAPPER: If nothing else.

MADDEN: Right. But they haven't -- it has an organizational value to it, focus on that. Don't be worried about what Nikki Haley has.

TAPPER: I still find it interesting that Nikki Haley, by all accounts, according to polls, is the strongest Republican candidate against Joe Biden. And yet, she is nowhere close to Donald Trump. She might be the strongest Republican, according to some polls in some states against Donald Trump, you know, compared to DeSantis, but she's still Republican Donald Trump is for and above.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes, they all are. I guess the question is, what is Ron DeSantis? What is Chris Christie? I'm not even going to consider really debate keys like at 1 percent now. But what are they going to do? Who is going to blink first and get out of this race? Because with all three of them in there, Donald Trump wins. Like no one is going to be able to overcome him. But if, even Chris Christie gets out of the race, most likely his support will go to Nikki Haley, whether DeSantis, they probably split Donald Trump and Nikki Haley. But that's one reason why I think that's the reason because she's a woman and we've never had a female president.

TAPPER: First choice for pred -- let's put that poll up again, guys. I'm coming to it right now. Don't be impatient. The Des Moines Register NBC News poll shows Trump with a commanding lead over his nearest rivals, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, they're tied for second. I mean, it's not bad 16 and 16.

I mean, I guess, you know, if you consolidate it, it would be 32 and so on striking distance but, you know.

MADDEN: I mean, like, the thing that you look on, as you look at with polls is the trendline. And clearly the trendline is good for Nikki Haley.

TAPPER: Right.

MADDEN: And she's got a level of momentum right now. Ashley is right. Can she turn that into some level of consolidation? So far, we haven't really seen that. The thing that I would worry about if I were in any of these campaigns other than Trump is that it's taken on sort of a feeling of a very conventional track that we had in 2016, which is that the dominant force in the race, Trump --


MADDEN: -- is sort of left to his own devices. And the other campaigns are sort of fighting over the non-Trump vote rather than really focusing and training their efforts on consolidating the non-Trump vote, and putting a training their attacks on Trump and he's sort of gotten away with not many, not at least a broad and sustained effort from one campaign.

TAPPER: And now you have Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot endorsing Trump's campaign for reelection. And it seems to be kind of like this, I'm interpreting so don't be mad, Mr. Marcus if I'm wrong, but it seems to be like he's going to get the nomination. I might as well just get on board now. He wrote, we cannot let his brash style be the reason we walk away from his otherwise excellent stewardship of the United States during his first term in office, I guess except for the COVID part. But --


MADDEN: I guess, when I grew up in Yonkers, New York. And when I first started out in politics, city politics, there was an old saying that if they're going to run you out of town, get in front and make it look like you're leading your own parade. That kind of -- that principle kind of applies to fundraisers more than anything.

ALLISON: I mean, he -- his great first term, hello, January 6th like, our country was on the brink of our democracy falling apart, and we're going to credit. He separated children from their mothers. I mean, so many things that he did is not the reason you, you know, I guess that's why he's endorsing him, but it wouldn't be because he is most likely had a great first term, maybe because he could potentially win.

TAPPER: So Jamie Gangel had some great exclusive excerpts from Congresswoman Liz Cheney's new memoir comes out next week. And there is this part where Liz Cheney confronts Kevin McCarthy on when he went down to Mar-a-Lago and basically threw Donald Trump's lifeline after January 6th. And this is just incredible, incredible story. Cheney goes up to him, Mar-a-Lago? What the hell, Kevin? McCarthy says, they're really worried. Trump's not eating so they asked me to come see him. Cheney, what? You went to Mar-a-Lago because Trump's night eating? McCarthy, yes, he's really depressed.

MADDEN: Well, I'm sure --

TAPPER: I hope you enjoy. First of all, I hope you enjoyed my --

ALLISON: It was great.

TAPPER: I really put some Stanislavski skills to the --

MADDEN: Very good.

TAPPER: Thank you.

MADDEN: I mean, it's the rationalizing their support for Trump.

TAPPER: It wasn't even eating Kevin, he wasn't eating.

MADDEN: And the, you know, the reason why is that Trump has the one or I guess the two things that they all want, which is the adulation and the small dollar donations of the most active most vocal GOP base voters.

ALLISON: Can I just say that if the Republican Party wants somebody who is not eating because he can't accept the results of the election, like this is the leader of the free world that has nuclear codes, like that's who we want, OK, or does all want?

MADDEN: He doesn't --

ALLISON: Not us.

MADDEN: He doesn't look like he wasn't eating.

ALLISON: No body shaming.

TAPPER: No body shaming. All right, thank you both.

Coming up, what we are learning about a rather serious cyberattack and the suspected Iranian hackers claiming they took control of the computer system at a U.S. water supply station. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our World Lead, former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is wrongfully detained in Russia is now saying that he was assaulted by a fellow prisoner in that Russian jail. Whelan tell CNN that a Turkish prisoner who has anti-American leanings, punched him in the face earlier today in a remote labor camp where they're being kept. Whelan says other prisoners stepped in to help him and he was able to visit the prison doctor. Whelan has been detained unjustly in Russia for nearly five years, and has been left behind in prisoner swaps between the United States and Russia.

In our national lead, a growing digital threat with real consequences, real world consequences, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating a cyberattack aimed at taking down a water station outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A pro-Iranian hacking group has claimed responsibility.

Here to outline what we know and how this latest attack fits into other cyber threats. Recently as Sean Linga, CNN's cybersecurity reporter and John Miller, CNN's chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst. Sean what do we know about this pro Iran hacking group and why they targeted this particular plant in Pittsburgh?



TAPPER: Sean --

MILLER: I'm sorry.

TAPPER: Let me do Sean, sorry. Let me annunciate that.

MILLER: It sounded like John to me.

TAPPER: Sorry, Sean, Sean, my bad.

LYNGAAS: No problem. Jake, the -- this particular group has been pretty rampant around geopolitical conflicts like what we have right now with Iran, and I'm sorry, Israel and Hamas. They call themselves the hacktivist group that, you know, politically motivated group that's trying to make statements.

But in reality, this is one of several groups that a lot of cybersecurity researchers and U.S. officials think is doing the bidding of the Iranian government. And it's more about noise and sort of information operation than his actual impact on the ground. So what we saw here was this, these hacking group getting access to industrial equipment at this Pennsylvania water facility.

I talked to the general manager, he had no idea that he would be caught up in a geopolitical event like this. I asked him if he anticipated being, you know, the subject of attention from Iranian hackers. He was like, no, we got 15,000 people in our community that we're trying to get water to.

TAPPER: Right.

LYNGAAS: So they were startled by this, and they called the Feds immediately. There was no threat directly to the water systems, but it's really another shot across the bow in terms of U.S. critical infrastructure. And sometimes the ease with which some of these hackers are able to gain access to systems, Jake.

TAPPER: And Sean Lyngaas, the water plant was able to keep the systems running, they caught it early.

LYNGAAS: They caught it early. They are playing it safe, they are changing out the equipment, he told me. They're cooperating with the FBI. They gave the FBI a digital copy of the hacked computer. And so they are very much trying to cooperate and never in a million years, they said did imagine being caught in this sort of crossfire.

TAPPER: And John Miller talk if you would about this, the larger issue we hear the cyber threat from Iran and Russia and China because this is a big deal in the growing in the coming years. It's going to become a bigger deal, and it's going to touch many more of us.

MILLER: Well, it is. And this is one of the things one of the things we did in New York City working with the Manhattan district attorney, the NYPD's Intelligence Bureau, the FBI cyber task force was to create something called CCSI which was basically to take all of our critical infrastructure partners that's water, power cellular phones, hospitals. Basically, Jake, all the systems that, you know, cannot fail, and get them together as a task force where we were able to, if one of them was attacked, all of their experts would come together to fight that attack.


But more importantly, we were feeding them Intel every day on, these are the indicators of compromise, search for them. These are the IP addresses the bad guys are using to get in search for them and lock them out, so that this was a constant daily affair. I think what Sean is sharing with us also is they've taken to targeting smaller places with lower levels of defenses to try and learn their way into systems and to exploit that.

TAPPER: And John, hospitals have also increasingly become a targets of cyberattacks, especially ransomware attacks, where they just want money. And we now know an attack that diverted ambulances from East Texas hospitals on Thanksgiving is actually was more widespread than previously thought. It actually caused ambulances to be diverted in New Mexico in New Jersey, a huge danger to our healthcare system, potentially.

MILLER: Jake, this was targeting the computer systems of a major hospital provider that connected 40 hospitals and it affected a number of them. But you know, we think of cyberattacks as well, it's a non- violent crime. There's no blood on the floor. Once you do something that's diverting ambulances and critical care with a potential heart attack patient or a trauma wound and you're diverting, say, from Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, New Jersey, to Belleville, or to Newark, you're adding miles and you're adding minutes, and that means people could die from this. It's very serious.

TAPPER: All right, John Miller and Sean Lyngaas, thank you so much to both you.

Coming up next, moments of humor and moments of inspiration in today's tribute service for former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Stay with us.




JASON CARTER, GRANDSON OF ROSALYNN CARTER: She was like everyone else's grandmother in a lot of ways. Almost all of her recipes call for mayonnaise for example. We all got cards from her on our birthdays, $20 bill in it, when I was 45, $20 bill.


TAPPER: Later moment from the grandson of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter during her moving tribute ceremony today. And Carter passed away last week at the age of 96. Despite his frail health, her husband, the former President Jimmy Carter was there, along with all the living former First Ladies and President Biden and former President Bill Clinton. CNN's Nick Valencia shares more of the emotional day for the Carter family and for the country.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a brisk Atlanta day under the beaming Georgia sun, family and friends at the former First Lady Rosalynn Carter gathered to celebrate her life. At 96 years old, her death was far from a life cut short, her husband of more than 77 years, who was rarely seen without her, the former President Jimmy Carter was there by her side for one final time despite his frail health. The 39th president has been receiving hospice care since February, sitting alongside former First Lady's and Presidents Biden and Clinton, Carter's physical appearance was visibly diminished. But he was reportedly so determined to be there. He had a new suit, tailor made for the service.

Three generations of Carter's were present. All four of their children and 11 of their grandchildren who served as honorary pallbearers. Their marriage described by so many, especially their own children as one of the greatest love stories of all time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That given us such a great example of how a couple shivered late.

AMY CARTER, DAUGHTER OF FMR. PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER & ROSALYNN CARTER: My mom spent most of her life in love my dad. VALENCIA (voice-over): Their youngest child and only daughter, Amy struggling through tears, reading a letter written 75 years ago by her father to her late mother.

A. CARTER: When I see you, I fall in love with you all over again. Does that seem strange to you? It doesn't to me. Goodbye, darling until tomorrow, Jimmy.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Jason Carter, the couple's grandson, recounting some of his fondest memories of his grandmother.

J. CARTER: We were on a family trip and we were on a flight on Delta from here to somewhere and we were all sitting in the back of the airplane together and it took off and we looked over, my grandmother took out this Tupperware of pimento cheese and this loaf of bread and she just started making sandwiches. And she gave it to all of us grandkids. And everyone, we started giving them to other people on the plane.

VALENCIA (voice-over): And dear friends describing a woman full of immense love.

JUDY WOODRUFF, FMR. ANCHOR & MANAGING EDITOR PBS NEWSHOUR: Because of Rosalynn Carter. Millions of lives are better off what a gift she left.


VALENCIA (voice-over): And country singers Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks performed, a touching tribute for a woman who led such a full life and brought hope to so very many people in this world.


VALENCIA (on camera): Today's service was poignant. It was somber and even at times light hearted. Today was much so a public celebration of life for Rosalynn Carter, tomorrow will be the third and final day of her memorial services. The funeral procession will continue in her small hometown of Plains. The First Lady is headed home. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Nick Valencia in Atlanta, thank you so much.


A look near the White House where the National Park Service is saving Christmas as we speak a sappy ending to this one. That's next.


TAPPER: A story now whose bark is worse than his bite. The National Christmas Tree was no match for the gusty weather here in D.C. This afternoon, people watched on pines and needles as crews finished lifting the tree back into place after it toppled over. Wind gusts hit 40 miles an hour in the nation's Capitol today. The National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is scheduled to take place on Thursday. And because I know you're wondering the National Park Service says, the tree is a 40-foot Norway Spruce. Two big programming notes picking up tonight, 30 team's compete, eight advanced, one champion coverage of the NBA in-season tournament tonight at 7:00 Eastern on "TNT" and on "Max."


And then a big night tomorrow on CNN, Gayle King and Sir Charles Barkley for the premiere of their new show, King Charles. That's tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern only, only here on CNN.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room live from Tel Aviv. I'll see you tomorrow.