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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump Disqualified From 2024 Ballot In Colorado; Trump's GOP Rivals Face Balancing Act Over Colorado Ruling; Fate Of 2024 Election Could Fall To The U.S. Supreme Court; Israel Returns To The Table For Hostage Negotiations; U.N. Agency: Half Of Gaza's Population Is Starving; Iceland Volcano Lava Flow Slows But Pollutes Air With Smoke & Toxic Gases. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 20, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Should Donald Trump's actions and inaction on January 6th disqualify him from the presidency?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Any moment now, we are expecting team Trump to appeal the ruling by Colorado Supreme Court that Trump disqualified himself for president by engaging in insurrection.

Bill Barr, former U.S. attorney general under Trump who emerged as a critic of the former president during Trump's desperate attempt to hold on to power, is here to discuss.

Plus, signs from both Israel and Hamas that a temporary pause in fighting might be on the table, part of a deal for the release of 40 hostages currently held by Hamas. What a source tells CNN about the talks happening right now.

Plus, breaking this hour, the deal brokered between the U.S. and Venezuela leading to the release of 10 Americans, six of whom the State Department says were deemed wrongfully detained. Who is the U.S. going to give up in this latest prisoner swap?


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

And we start today with a stunner in our law and justice lead, and the legal and political shockwaves reverberating across the country, after the Colorado Supreme Court last night ruled that Donald Trump's engagement in insurrection on January 6th disqualifies him for the presidency. The Colorado judges said Trump should not be on any state ballots because of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads in part, quote, no person shall hold any office without having previously taken an oath shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion, unquote.

Now, the Trump campaign says it will appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, that some of that we're expecting rather quickly. There are great constitutional scholars, including Michael Luttig, a retired conservative judge that we will hear from in the next hour, who says that this ruling is constitutionally sound. But there are others who disagree.

And there are, of course, serious questions about the consequences of such a decision, and what kind of precedent it might set. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is already suggesting that some states could remove Joe Biden from the ballot over the crisis at the southern border. One thing we have learned about Washington, D.C., is that once a norm is shattered and a new precedent is set, there tends to be no going back.

The reality is, Donald Trump has not been found guilty in a court of law, yet, of anything related to January 6th. And there are no details in the U.S. Constitution about what it means to be engaged in an insurrection, or how such a ban should be enforced.

While we wait for this court -- while we wait for this case to officially make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is already, of course, become a central focus on the campaign trail. As Trump's Republican opponents have, not surprisingly, rushed to his defense.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Somebody is convicted or something of some of these things, there was no trial on any of this. They basically just said, what, you can't be on the ballot? I mean, how does that work?

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will beat him fair and square. We don't need judges making these decisions. We need voters to make these decisions.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not believe Donald Trump should be prevented from being president of the United States by any court. I think he should be prevented from being president of the United States by the voters in this country.


TAPPER: Asked about the case today, President Biden said he will let the courts decide if Trump ultimately makes it onto the Colorado ballot. And yet --


REPORTER: Is Trump an insurrectionist, sir?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think it's self evident. We saw it all. Now, whether the 14th Amendment applies, I'll let the court make that decision. But he certainly supported an insurrection. There's no question about it. None. Zero.


TAPPER: Now, we should note, this is not the only Supreme Court case U.S. Supreme Court that could dramatically impact the upcoming election. This afternoon, the Trump team asked the U.S. Supreme Court to project the request from special counsel Jack Smith, who had asked the justices to expedite and quickly rule on whether Donald Trump is immune from prosecution for the alleged crimes he committed while he was president.

We're going to cover all of this on THE LEAD today, starting with my very first guest who served as the top law enforcement officer under Donald Trump, and then famously broke with him over the election lies.

With me now in studio, former attorney general, Bill Barr.

Thank you very much for being here, General Barr.


TAPPER: What's your initial reaction?

BARR: Well, as you know, I strongly oppose Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. But I think this case is legally wrong and untenable.


I think this kind of action of stretching the law, taking these hyper- aggressive positions to try to knock Trump out of the race are counterproductive. They backfire.

As you know, he feeds on grievance, just like a fire feeds on oxygen. This is going to end up as a grievance that helps him.

TAPPER: So, the Colorado Supreme Court made its ruling based, in part, on the district court in Denver. And the district court found that Trump did engage in insurrection.

And this is what they said: Trump acted with the specific intent to incite political violence and directed at the Capitol with the purpose of disrupting the electoral certification. When the violence began, he took no effective action, disregarded repeated calls to intervene, and pressured colleagues to delay the certification.

The court finds that the language Trump used throughout January 6th, 2021 was likely to incite imminent violence. And therefore, that petitioners have established that Trump engaged in an insurrection on January 6th, 2021 through incitement, and that the First Amendment does not protect Trump's speech.

Beyond the decision by the Colorado Supreme Court, do you disagree with any of that?

BARR: I disagree with the court's ability to make those findings. The core problem here is the denial of due process, to deprive somebody of the right to hold public office requires due process. It requires an adjudication of two core issues. One, was with their insurrection. Did the public disturbance rise to

the level of an insurrection? And second, what was the role of the individual there? Was it engagement? Did they do something to break their oath of office?

Those are -- those are complicated facts. And this was denied due process. It was a five-day hearing. There was no jury, it was before the judge. They were not able to subpoena witnesses and compel the attendance of witnesses. They relied on the hearings, the January 6 Committee hearings, which is mostly hearsay. There was no right to cross examine during those hearings and so forth.

So, all -- as the dissent said, by the way, the three Democratic justices who dissented, their opinions, I think, are masterful. And as they pointed out, they said the process here was a procedural Frankenstein.

TAPPER: So, I'm sure that if your friend Liz Cheney were here, she would say that the January 6th hearings were not mostly hearsay. It was mostly witness testimony. But beyond that, well, let me ask you first -- first of all, let me just ask you, as a D.C. legal hand, how do you think the U.S. Supreme Court is going to go with this? You think they're going to take it up and rule against him? What's your best guess?

BARR: Well, I think if they take it up, they're going to slap it down very quickly, and I hope they do take it up quickly and slapped down, because otherwise, he could be left off the ballot in this primary.

TAPPER: So, if I'm hearing you correctly, you're not even saying that you disagree necessarily with what the district court in the Colorado Supreme Court founded in terms of its direction. You think it's the wrong process. You think, for instance, Jack Smith's trial, although he's not actually charged with insurrection.

BARR: Yeah, important -- legally, the real -- denial of due process is fatal here. But as you've alluded to in your opening comments, the 14th Amendment is not something that can be applied willy-nilly by the states through sort of ad hoc proceedings. It was contemplated the federal government set up the enforcement mechanism.

So, you have some standard, you know, what is the proof that's required? What's the procedure that's required? And hopefully, some calibration (ph) of what exactly the insurrection is.

Now, we're going to have those issues addressed.


BARR: He hasn't charged -- Jack Smith has not charged the president. The federal investigation has not charged President Trump with insurrection or incitement. And -- but that's a trial that's going too take place with due process and it's going to get into all these issues.

What was his state of mind? What were his actions? TAPPER: Right.

BARR: That is the kind of proceeding where these things could be established.

TAPPER: Would Jack Smith's case be relevant to a 14th Amendment challenge? In other words even though Trump has not been charged with insurrection or inciting an insurrection in that case, if Trump were to be found guilty and that's -- who knows what's going to happen? If that were to happen, would that be grounds for a 14th Amendment challenge in the state do you think?

BARR: I'm sure it could prompt that. But my own view of it is the federal government -- the mechanism that's in place is charging him with insurrection or rebellion. And there's -- and Congress did pass that after the 14th Amendment. Congress passed two laws that were meant to implement it. One was the ability to remove someone from office. That was passed in 1870, and it was done away with in 1948.


And the other was making it a crime to breach your -- to breach your oath and then hold another office. So, to engage in rebellion and insurrection, and I think that's what would be required at the stage.

TAPPER: Do you think there is a case to be made to charge Donald Trump with insurrection or inciting insurrection?

BARR: I haven't seen the evidence that I think would support that charge. But I think it would be interesting to let the January 6th case go forward and see what the evidence is.

TAPPER: David -- let's talk about the politics of this for one second, because again, you have been out there saying you don't want Donald Trump to be the nominee. You think there are better Republicans that could take the party forward. You are conservative long establish Republican in town.

David Frum wrote a new article in "The Atlantic". It's entitled: The Colorado Supreme Court just gave Republicans a chance to save themselves. And Frum wrote, quote, For those Republicans, here's your chance. The Colorado court has just granted you what should be your fondest wish, a clear path to the Republican nomination for a post- Trump candidate. Chris Christie, Nikki Haley even Ron DeSantis would all be more constitutional presidents than Donald Trump -- and Haley especially would likely prove herself more compelling candidate.

What do you think of that?

BARR: That doesn't justify not following the law. I mean, the rule of law has to be adhered to here, and due process is fundamental. And second, the practical consequence -- put principle aside, the practical consequences of this ruling would be chaos, where you would have, essentially no standard as you pointed out a mushy exactly what it is an insurrection? What does engagement mean? Now, every state is going to make their own rules on this. You know,

set up their own procedures. You know, is the proof going to be beyond reasonable doubt? Preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing substantial evidence. Everyone does a different thing. It knocks people -- knocks the national candidates off ballots --


BARR: It would be chaos.

TAPPER: So one of the rulings was that before it got to the Colorado Supreme Court, was that Donald Trump did engage in an insurrection but he is not actually covered in the 14th Amendment. The trial judge in that case ruled it applies to officers of the U.S. -- but that officers does not include the president of the United States. Do you think that was legally correct?

BARR: Actually, that's a close question in my view. But I think it sort of subordinate, because there are other issues that really dictate the result. But it's actually a close question.

TAPPER: You served in the Trump administration. Obviously, I want to play some warnings that we have heard from other former Trump administration officials and Republicans about what they think a second Trump administration might look like.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: I think that Donald Trump in the second term does not have any -- will not have guardrails. I think we saw that at the end of the first term with how things played out after he lost the election.

FORMER REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): If you imagine that people who are on the absolute fringe, the people who are the least responsible, people who may well be unstable, and you imagine giving them supreme and ultimate power, that's what Donald Trump would do.


TAPPER: So, you have been cited as one of the guardrails. You, John Kelly, General Mattis, others who, loyal conservative Republicans, who served in the administration, and trying to keep the president on the straight and narrow in terms of within the confines of the law. Do you worry about the kind of person that he might bring in were he to win a second term? Because I don't think they're going to be a lot of people like Bill Barr, John Kelly, and General Mattis in that team.

BARR: Well, first, I want to make clear, that I have worries about Biden.

TAPPER: Of course.

BARR: What he would do as president.

TAPPER: You have worries about what he's doing right now.

BARR: And, you know, I think there are serious stakes there. And I've expressed concern about a second Trump term. I really point to the secret audiotape that came out that had Bannon talking before the election, saying -- and he wasn't aware he was being recorded, telling supporters that Trump was going to stay in office no matter what. And that a second term was going to be off the hook because he never had to go back to the voters again.

And I know that, in talking -- trying to persuade the president to take a particular course, the most important thing to him at that point in the first term was, how would it affect him? How would it affect his reelection? And without that factor, then, you know, I'm concerned some -- I have some concerns about the kinds of decisions he would reach. But at the end of the day, you all have to weigh those risks against the risk if Biden and Trump are the choices, that would be very sad for the country, but I would have to weigh the risks that I think both would pose.

TAPPER: And not a difficult decision if it were Biden against Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, or Chris Christie?


BARR: Yeah. I mean, the reason I'm opposed to Trump is precisely because I am a conservative. I believe that any of those three candidates would win a far bigger victory and be able to affirmatively advance a sound conservative agenda for the country.

TAPPER: I want to play this moment from Trump's rally in Iowa last night. He keeps talking about how South American, or Latin American, Asian and African immigrants are poisoning the blood of the country, which is obviously language that evokes uglier times in the history of this world, and has concerned a lot of Republicans.

Here's what he said last night in Iowa.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: It's crazy what's going on. They're ruining our country, and it's true. They're destroying the blood of our country. That's what they're doing. They are destroying our country.

They don't like it what I said that. And I never read "Mein Kampf". They said, oh, Hitler said that, in much different way.

TAPPER: So, let me posit that you're conservative, I'm sure you believe the need to be stricter controls on the border, tighter immigration measures, on and on. I just talk about the language now about poisoning the blood of our country. What your reaction is?

BARR: I'm offended by it because it has racist overtones. I actually feel -- as you say, we have to control the border and a lot of people coming from the border anywhere the world. We don't know where they're coming from. But at the end of the day, the fact of the matter is the Hispanic

Americans that have come up from South America have made great citizens. They have strong values. They're entrepreneurial.

My son-in-law was a marine combat officer and he said the best marines in his unit in Iraq were recent Hispanic immigrants. So, I don't like these racist overtones, the broad sweep of history the fact that we have a reservoir to our south of these people who come out of the Western tradition, their religious people, good family people in general, it's a boon to the United States.

Does that mean they're all like that? No. And does bringing in a lot of people at once from different country, does that put strains on our system and harm the country to an extent? Yes, it does.

But the attacks on the idea that they pollute our blood you know, I think are foul.

TAPPER: Bill Barr, former attorney general of the United States, thank you so much for time today. Thanks for legal analysis of this case. I think we're going to have a lot of legal discussions in 2024. And I hope you come back. Thank you so much.

BARR: Thanks.

TAPPER: As mentioned, the Colorado case is not the only challenge Donald Trump plans to take the U.S. Supreme Court. Coming up, how the justices could have a say in another Trump case, and in the 2024 election.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our law and justice lead.

There are now three enormous cases pending or potentially pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. That could drastically impact the 2024 presidential election. Trump's legal team says that it plans to immediately appeal the Colorado Supreme Court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court not surprisingly. We're also waiting to see if the justices in the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the question of immunity, whether Donald Trump can actually face charges for actions he committed while president.

The court is already weighing in on a different January 6th case, and that could jeopardize one of the most serious federal charges against Trump.

I want to bring in CNN senior Supreme Court analyst, Joan Biskupic.

Joan, let us start with this Colorado case, because, obviously, there's a pressing timeline here for the Supreme Court to decide if it's going to even take it up. JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT: Right, and I think it has to.

It has to decide what the 14th Amendment says, in regard to keeping any candidate on the ballot or not.

And here's what the timeline is. The Colorado Supreme Court, in its decision last night gave Trump's lawyers essentially until January 4th to get to the Supreme Court. It paused the ruling. The January 4th date is important, particularly, because January 5th is when the secretary of state in Colorado has to certify the primary ballot.

Now I can't imagine the Supreme Court is going to decide this big question by the 5th, which means that the ballots that get mailed out are likely to have Donald Trump's name on them in Colorado, even though the Colorado Supreme Court has said he should be disqualified.

I think what this does, Jake, it points up the urgency of the nation's highest court, resolving this question of what does Section Three of the 14th Amendment mean when it comes to a candidate like Donald Trump? It's the only court in America that can decide it. And we're about to see a patchwork of rulings from the lower state courts.

TAPPER: So, you and I are old enough to remember Bush v. Gore in 2000. Almost exactly 23 years ago, I guess. And we're already hearing comparisons of this case with Bush v. Gore, which ultimately had the effect of delivering the presidency to George W. Bush.

That case, of course, was cited as like this decision exists in a vacuum. And you can never mention it ever again. Or rely on it ever again. This one, you think, could even be more consequential?

BISKUPIC: It could be more consequential for a reason that's more political. In terms of the kind of stakes, Bush v. Gore, which you and I were together on Bush v. Gore, two candidates facing off. Bush versus Gore. But what's different now, how polarized, political, the country has gotten in the lack of trust.

Do you remember what Al Gore did, then Vice President Al Gore when Supreme Court ruled? He said, essentially, okay.


BISKUPIC: He walked away.


BISKUPIC: He did not inspire people to storm the Capitol. He did inspire people to do anything but except it. Even though, arguably, half the country thought that Al Gore had been robbed, just because of how divided everyone was.

So, this case comes to us now in a way that is so much more polarized.


And that just, again, points on the Supreme Court should really come in and show some stature and try to rule on these issues quickly. TAPPER: Yeah. Al Gore was vice president, and on January 6th, 2001, he

presided over the ceremony that Mike Pence was. Can you imagine if he thought he had the power that Trump's acolytes falsely argued Mike Pence had? He would -- he could have just rejected Florida's --

BISKUPIC: Absolutely.

TAPPER: I mean, obviously, just underlying the point, it's not true -- Mike Pence did not have that power.

When it comes to presidential immunity, this afternoon, Trump's team asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay out of this. Why? They just want to drag it along?

BISKUPIC: Yes. Because actually, Trump is appealing what a trial judge had said. A trial judge said that Donald Trump, you can't have blanket immunity from criminal prosecution for election subversion which is the case brought by special counsel Jack Smith.

He's appealing that trial judge's decision in the trial judge had set March 4th trial date. He's appealing it to the U.S. court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. And he wants it slowed down there, and he does not want the Supreme Court to intervene yet, because he wants it to play out over a longer time period.

Now, arguably, he's got some grounds to say, look, the normal course of things is that it's first term by an appellate court and then it goes to the Supreme Court. And it's, you know, something that they're just a lot of material for him to look at, and to make his case about why he should be immune. What Jack Smith is saying is, the Supreme Court, you're going to have to decide this immunity question at some point anyway. Come in now because we have to know, can a former president be held accountable for his actions during the 2020 election?

TAPPER: It's entirely possible that the Supreme Court will say, no, this needs to go to the appeals process.

BISKUPIC: Right. And I --

TAPPER: Give Donald Trump some extra time.

BISKUPIC: I do think, Jake, that we should know in a few days, if not a week.

TAPPER: Joan Biskupic, the finest Supreme Court lawyer -- reporter in the land, thanks so much.

Talks are happening right now in Egypt that could result in more hostages being released by Hamas. What sources are telling CNN about these negotiations? That's next.


[16:30:59] TAPPER: In our world lead, a glimmer of hope for the loved ones of around 112 hostages believed to still be alive, still being held by the terrorists of Hamas and other groups in Gaza. At least eight of these hostages are American, eight.

Israel and Hamas through Qatari mediators are reportedly back at the negotiating table. A source telling CNN that Israel has offered Hamas a pause in fighting for a week in order to release about 40 hostages. In exchange, Hamas wants Israel to release more, quote, heavy duty prisoners than before, unquote, according to an Israeli official.

Let's bring in CNN's Will Ripley on the ground for us in Tel Aviv, as well as Alex Marquardt at the State Department for us.

Alex, you're at the end of your news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken today. He said, quote, Hamas is the problem, he points to the fact that they reneged on releasing women and children in the last round of negotiations. How optimistic are you about this new potential hostage deal?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESONDENT: These conversations appear to have picked up. I mean, I spent the last few weeks in Israel, and those conversations about hostages appear to be at a standstill. And now, you've got this flurry of activity.

Earlier in the week, the CIA Director Bill Burns was in Europe. He was in Warsaw meeting with his Israeli counterparts, as well as the Qatari prime minister -- of course, who is one of the principal mediators. We had a meeting today in Egypt between Hamas, a top Hamas official, as well as the Egyptians.

So, these conversations are happening. We're told that Israel is being more proactive. I was told by a source earlier today that Israel is saying that it's possible that in exchange for hostages, they would stop the fighting for a week. But, Jake, as you mentioned, there is certainly an expectation that if Hamas is going to release more hostages, particular when you talk about men and some of the IDF soldiers that Hamas is going to start demanding a higher price as it were, in terms of the Palestinian prisoners that they want back from Israel -- Jake.

TAPPER: Will Ripley, what are you hearing from your sources in Israel?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, they don't expect Hamas to accept this initial offer. They believe that Hamas is trying to humiliate Israel and the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over their head that they hold their cards, so to speak. But there's a tremendous amount of domestic pressure to get this deal done, especially after the accidental shooting deaths over the weekend of three Israeli hostages.

And new revelations just within the last few hours, that the hostages may have been captured on GoPro video, worn by a military dog. We are actually see the hostages clearly in the video, and hear them speaking, although it's not clear exactly what they were saying in the video. The families of those hostages have been out every single day and night, protesting, demanding that the government facilitate their return. But, clearly, as Alex mentioned, it's going to be very difficult to get done, Jake?

TAPPER: And, Alex, for weeks, the Biden administration has said that they were pressuring Israel to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza, as Israel targets Hamas. Today, Secretary Blinken called the civilian death in Gaza gut-wrenching.

What else did you have to say?

MARQUARDT: Well, he was speaking about what he's seeing what we're all seeing, in very personal terms. Gut-wrenching, he also said the scenes are touching him, affecting him very, very deeply. The Biden administration has said, time and time again, that there remains a gap between what they're calling the intent by Israel to protect civilians. They believe that intent is there, and what is actually playing out on the ground.

Blinken did not mention that today. He did not overtly criticize Israel. They've been very careful not to do that. But he did say that he believes that civilian casualties will go down as Israel moves into what's being called a lower intensity phase from the higher intensity phase that we are seeing right now. That would be much more targeted operations that could result in fewer civilian casualties.

When that's going to happen under what conditions, the Biden administration certainly is not saying. They don't want to appear to be telling Israel what to do. But they do want that transition to happen in the near future -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Alex Marquardt at the U.S. State Department, Will Ripley in Tel Aviv, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's bring in former deputy director of national intelligence and CNN national security analyst, Beth Sanner.

Beth, let me start with something that John Kirby, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, said earlier this week, and I'm paraphrasing.


But he said if people hate what is happening to the people of Gaza, all Hamas needs to do is turn over the hostages stop attacking Israel and lay down their arms. All of it will end.

Is that true? And why do you think it's probably not that simple?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think you just entered the question by saying why is it not that simple? Yeah, I don't think that Israel has any intention of stopping until they eradicate Hamas. And, you know, yes, okay people could turn in their weapons but Hamas isn't going to do that.

So, you know, it all sounds good, but like, practically --

TAPPER: Right.

SANNER: -- how would you get that to happen?

So, I mean, morally, is what he saying, right? Morally --


SANNER: Okay. Yeah. I get it. Hamas are the bad guys here. But --

TAPPER: I guess his point is, the world seems to be turning against Israel because of all these horrific civilian casualties. And Kirby's point is Hamas has the power to end this today. They're not winning the war. They're not going to win the war.

Why not just surrender and give up the hostages and all of this death, all this unnecessary death, will end?

SANNER: Yeah, well, you know?

TAPPER: That's his argument, anyway.

SANNER: I get it, I get it. But, you know, we don't to do a moral equivalency here, which is the danger, right, in saying that he's wrong, you know, we're trying to do this moral equivalency. Well, you know, what Israel is doing isn't the same as what Hamas did.

Well, obviously, that's true. But there's also a wrong in what Israel is doing in the way that they're going about it. And you can't erase that either.

TAPPER: Right.

SANNER: So, I won't erase that.

TAPPER: Right, and I'm not asking you to.


TAPPER: I'm just asking to counterpoint what I hear from Kirby. I've had my druthers, I would have you and Kirby discussing this instead. But this is just tough on my mind because Kirby also says, well, Hamas embeds with the population, and that's why there's all these civilian casualties.

SANNER: Yeah, absolutely, the Hamas tactics. And, you know, we're seeing we just saw -- I just watched an interview earlier today with the head of one of these hospitals in northern Gaza, where the head of this hospital is a member of the military wing of Hamas.

TAPPER: Right.

SANNER: So true, all true. But wouldn't it be better to not bomb a hospital or you know attack it in an assault sort of way? Now that they're bombing it but attack in an assault sort of way, but really do this kind of counterterrorism operation where you're going with special forces? But the dilemma for the Israelis is that they're tolerance for the number of soldiers that are being killed in those kinds of operations --

TAPPER: Israeli soldiers, right.

SANNER: Israeli soldiers is just -- you know, they are using blunt instruments because, you know, they can't lose that many soldiers by using all of these tactics in this kind of urban combat. That is just intense.


SANNER: I don't know. You know --

TAPPER: None of this is easy, I know, I just said it.

SANNER: Right. It is all sad.

TAPPER: Yeah. Let's talk about the hostage negotiations going on right now. You just got at one of the issues here. Who has the most leverage in these negotiations? I almost feel like you're going to say Hamas because they care the least about what happens.

SANNER: They care the least about what happens in terms of hostages or civilians, but they care --

TAPPER: Including their own civilians, is what I mean.

SANNER: Oh, totally.


SANNER: That's what I mean to.


SANNER: But they -- but they care a lot about survival for themselves. So, we don't know honestly do we know where Sinwar is? Could he have used one of these tunnels that was obviously was used to take all of the steel and equipment into Gaza from the Egyptian side of the border?

TAPPER: Yahya Sinwar, is the head of Hamas.

SANNER: Yeah, the head of Hamas. Like, maybe he's not there, in which case --

TAPPER: He could be in Dubai for all we know.

SANNER: How much pressure do we know that they need? Did they need this week? That is in exchange. So, what the Israeli say, 40 hostages in exchange for a weeks cease-fire. That seems like a fairly good deal that Hamas might want. But Hamas has a lot to gain right now by dividing the Israeli public, by increasing international pressure on Israel, increasing criticism on Israel.

The hostage families are now back to daily demonstrations in front of government buildings. The pressure has never been higher on the Netanyahu government. So, yeah, I'm going to vote for Hamas.

TAPPER: This new poll --

SANNER: Not for them, sorry, I don't mean that. You know -- keep the mail down.

TAPPER: They have more leverage, is what you're saying.

SANNER: Yeah, yeah.

TAPPER: And a new poll by Israel's democracy shows two out of three Israelis want new elections as soon as the war ends. We talk to an Israeli columnist last week, who said don't think that Netanyahu is not cynical enough to like extend the war to stave that off.

SANNER: Exactly. I think this hostage negotiation issue, so Biden just said, no expectations.


He just said that today in terms of what will happen here. And part of that is because they've got to press for another three weeks.


Beth Sanner, the conversation continues. Thank you for being here.

A rare sight in this war, active food markets in Gaza, which many people are suffering from lack of food and water. But, unfortunately, even with more aid, we're told, it's nowhere near enough for the new 2 million people stranded in Gaza. How dire is the situation? That's next.


TAPPER: Continuing with our world lead, as Israel continues its military campaign against Hamas, a terrorist group that embeds among the Palestinian civilians, massive explosions in Gaza today in the south. Videos show extensive damage to what looks like an apartment building.


While on the north, Hamas says 46 people were killed during heavy Israeli airstrikes, although CNN cannot dependently verify those numbers, it is clear for those who escaped the bombs, hunger, disease, lack of access to basic needs, threatened to kill many, many more innocent civilians.

And while the first convoy of aid from Egypt entered Gaza through Israeli territory today, as CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reports Gaza needs much, much more -- much, much more quickly.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For weeks, this is what we've seen of the war in Gaza. Israel's brutal military might pounding neighborhoods into dost. In central Gaza's Zeitoun (ph), whole blocks reduced to rubble, seemingly deserted, unlivable.

But there's also this. The near surreal scenes this week in Zeitoun, the hustle and bustle of a street market. It's the story of every war, where life doesn't stop, it goes on for those trying to survive.

But Gaza is like no other place, it's where more than 2 million are crammed into this tiny strip of land that now looks like it's been bombed back into ages past, where those who've lost everything have nowhere left but the streets.

That's where Motnis (ph) is building a clay oven, hoping people will pay him a shekel or two to use it, he says. Maybe, then we'll have enough to buy his children cheese or tomatoes.

Our lives are a million years behind. We live in sewage, Motnis says. Every time it rains, the sewage overflows. It's cold. There's no food, no water, no warm clothes.

Most here have escaped the bombs only to be trapped in this misery. Disease and starvation, the U.N. warned, may soon kill more than those bombs. Half the population, it says, are now starving. People going entire days without eating.

Uma Ahmad (ph) says she collects a bit of flour from here in there to bake bread for her children.

We're all thrown into the streets, she says. They said, go to the south. We came to the south to die slowly.

Human Rights Watch says Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war. It's a war crime Israel denies, and calls it a lie. It accuses Hamas of stealing aid. In the wake of October 7th, Israel's defense minister announced a siege of Gaza, quote, no electricity, no fuel, everything closed until all hostages were returned.

Some aid and water delivery resumed, but nowhere near enough. Much of the blockade remains in place, what rights groups call collective punishment.

Sometimes, the lucky ones find more than lentils and bread for the hungry mouths they have to feed. This mother uses a pair of jeans for her fire to boil some chicken wings and bones.

I'm using clothes and cardboard to make fire and cook, she says. The situation is disastrous. But I need to find a way for my children. We're in the street because we have nowhere to shelter.

Fleeing the bombs, scrounging for food, now the people of Gaza desperately wait for the moment they can try once again to live.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Jomana Karadsheh for that report.

CNN is live on the ground in Iceland where a volcano is still very active. The state of emergency this is creating in surrounding areas is next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, lava flowing in from southwest Iceland is slowing down, but it's also filling the air with smoke and toxic gas.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in the heat of it all in Grindavik, a time just under two miles away from the volcano where efforts are currently underway to has more than 4,000 evacuated residents.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Up close as the earth spews fountains of lava. South Iceland remains in a state of emergency as the volcanic eruption continues.

This is as close as the Icelandic authorities are going to allow us to the actual fissures, to where the eruption is happening. I'd say we're a mile, maybe a little less than a mile away from it.

Now, things have come down a little bit, but the same time, of course, the danger is still there. Authorities fear there could be new events that might open up pop-up and that more lava could be gushing to the surface, and then could be coming to the surface in fountains like we've seen over the past day and a half.

So, while things have gotten a little bit more muted, certainly, the danger is not over.

In the early stages of the eruption, a wall of lava spewing hundreds of feet into the air. While it has subsided somewhat, the underground magma tunnel remains active and dangerous.

BIARKI KALDALONE FRISS, GEOLOGIST: Too dangerous. And of course, the magma that's coming up is 1,200 degrees hot when it comes to the surface. And it takes a long time for the surface to cool down.

PLEITGEN: The area around the eruption zone remains cordoned off, critical infrastructure in danger. The world famous blue lagoon hot springs, closed.

Here's another reason why the situation is so dangerous. You see over there, it's the volcanic activity. And if we pan over in this destruction, over there is a geothermal power plant that's extremely important for the electricity here in this area. The authorities are trying to protect that power plant by building a berm against any lava flows.

For the local residents, no respite. KATRIN JAKOBSDOTTIER, ICELANDIC PRIME MINISTER: We now have this

volcanic eruption, but close to Grindavik, I think it is -- it has proven widesome (ph) -- that the town was evacuated in November. We have been buying flats for the residents, so now, we actually have 70 flats that people can move into before Christmas, which is the most -- people who are in most dire need of housing.

PLEITGEN: Leaving many residents wondering if they will ever see their homes again.


PLEITGEN (on camera): You know, Jake, one of the main reasons why the authorities aren't letting residents come back here for good is that they believe if there's another option, it could happen fast.


In fact, they say from the first time that they detected significant seismic activity to the big eruption on Monday, it was only about 90 minutes, certainly not enough time for a large-scale evacuation, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Iceland for us, thanks so much.

Moments ago, you heard it here on THE LEAD, former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr called Colorado Supreme Court decision that would disqualify jump from the Colorado 2024 ballot, quote, legally wrong and untenable. How is this decision bound to plane out in the 2024 race? We'll discuss next.


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

This hour, a dramatic new prisoner swap.