Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Biden to Address Nation On Israel-Hamas War Tomorrow; Biden, U.S. Intel Convinced Israel Not Behind Hospital Strike; Biden Warns Israel, Don't Repeat U.S. Mistakes After 9/11; Muslim Boy Slain By Landlord In Chicago; Still No Speaker Of The House; Suspected Killer Of Natalee Holloway Admits To The Crime. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 18, 2023 - 22:00   ET



MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: So, again, even though Jim Jordan himself not involved in these arm-twisting efforts, it does appear to be backfiring and the opposition is only hardening against Jim Jordan. Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I mean, and just seeing this drag out. I should note, I mean, I was told that -- by a source that this is something that even was brought up during President Biden's meetings with Israeli officials today, the fact that there is still no House speaker.

Melanie Zanona, we will check back in with you again tomorrow night and see what the update is, and thank you very much.

And thank you so much for joining us tonight here live on the ground in Tel Aviv. We'll be back here tomorrow night.

Now I want to turn it over to CNN Newsnight with Abby Phillip.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: In a region known to be a powder keg, there are serious concerns that a fuse has been activated as a war of bloodshed and a war of misinformation intensifies. That's tonight on Newsnight.

And good evening. I'm Abby Phillip.

President Biden is scheduled to address the nation tomorrow night to discuss the conflict between Israel and Hamas that is quickly expanding. Now, the primetime address signals that Biden wants the country to be prepared for what could be a pivotal moment for the world. It also signals his confidence that Israel is not responsible for that deadly attack on a hospital in Gaza. And so far, there is good reason for him to be.

As misinformation runs rampant, here is what we know so far. U.S. intelligence believes that Israel was not responsible based on missile activity, the type of explosion that they've seen, the damage and also images of the aftermath.

Now, Israel has also purported to have audio of Hamas discussing an errant missile. Meantime, the Palestinians and Hamas have not provided any specific evidence that it was an Israeli strike. Instead, Hamas is offering up conspiracies and, predictably, anti-Israel rhetoric.

But the question is, does proof matter to an Arab world already distrustful of the west? And will that distrust fuel even more violence?

I want to start now with CNN's Kaitlan Collins, who is on the ground in Tel Aviv. Kaitlan, President Biden is now making it very clear that he believes that, according to U.S. intelligence, Israel's version of events here, when it comes to this hospital blast, what can you tell us about how he got to that point?

COLLINS: Yes, Abby. It really just showcases why it's so important at a critical moment like this when there are things happening so quickly on the ground in places like here in Tel Aviv, but also closer to the border here in Israel to double check that information.

And that is something, a message that really complicated President Biden's trip here today, as he was set to take off from Washington before he came here. That was as the White House was issuing a statement saying they were concerned about the loss of life, but they did not say who they believe in this situation.

Was it the Israelis who were denying it? Was it the Palestinian authorities and what they were saying about who they believed was responsible, which, of course, was Israel? But when President Biden got here today, it was one of the first things that he said.

It wasn't a very forceful statement initially. He said to Prime Minister Netanyahu that they believed it was the other team who was responsible for that strike. But then later on, you heard President Biden saying in his final remarks here that they did believe it was an errant rocket that came from a terrorist group in Gaza. And that is what hit that hospital and caused that deadly blast.

That, of course, despite whoever is responsible still had real life consequences for those civilians who we know have been living in dire conditions in Gaza before this war even happened.

And so what we've heard from administration officials since then is that they did their own homework here. They're not just relying on Israeli denials or Israeli evidence. The Pentagon, the National Security Council, intelligence officials looked into this. They looked at open source reporting. They looked at intercepts. They looked at infrared activity. And that's how they made that determination, which they said pretty explicitly tonight that they did not believe Israel was responsible.

But, of course, you're right, Abby, to note, this has set off a ton of protests here in the Middle East, in the area. And despite President Biden coming out and saying that, that hasn't really dampened that anger. That is something that all of these world leaders are dealing with as they try to move forward in this conflict.

PHILLIP: Yes, absolutely. And we can see there are some of those protests unfolding in the Middle East. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

And for a closer look at what we do know and what we don't about this blast, I want to bring in CNN Military Analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling here.

General, look, we have some video here, and I want you to just take a look at this.


This is some footage that seems to show a rocket going up here and then something happens that's pretty catastrophic. When you see this, what do you see?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I see a flame out of a rocket. And we've been talking about this all day, and it's a result of what happened yesterday.

But when you see that rocket going forward, this happens a lot with these kind of rockets that are supplied by Iran, Abby. It is a rocket motor that doesn't work. It gets a certain distance, and then it just flames out. And a rocket has a trajectory of a brick once it doesn't have a force behind it, so it immediately drops.

So, you see it right --

PHILLIP: This is a slow motion picture of that video.

HERTLING: -- there, flame out.


HERTLING: So, it loses its rocket motor, and then it just drops down.

But what you also have when that happens is the fuel that's part of the rocket that hasn't burned. So when it hits the ground, we'll see next the explosion.

PHILLIP: Here's the video of an explosion from a viewpoint from the ground.

HERTLING: Yes. Now this isn't a very big piece of ordinance. It's a relatively small ordinance. So, the actual explosive isn't that big. But what is big is the fuel that it hasn't used. That caused a lot of cars in that parking lot to burn. We see the after effects of that. We see a very small crater. If it had been a crater from --

PHILLIP: Let's actually take a look at what you're discussing here. I'm going to just break this down a little bit more for folks. This -- what I'm showing you here, this is to be clear provided by the IDF, this shows what looks like satellite imagery of the area where this rocket may have come down, right? This is the explosion site.

They're saying that if you look over here, this is what typically you would see if there was an IDF strike, even as large as 19 meters, a much larger crater. It doesn't seem like we see that here. And we also have some before and after images here. This is the hospital, the Al- Ahli Hospital. This is the explosion site in this area here. And here it is after. So you were just discussing the size of the crater.

We don't -- some of the images are not super clear whether there was a crater or not. But when you look at this, this is up close at the cars and the side of the fire. What do you see?

HERTLING: Well, what I saw earlier today was a photo of a very small crater about right there. What you see in this area are a lot of burned cars. What you see over here are cars that are not burned. What you see across at this building, if you had a picture of the building, which I think we do -- no, I'm sorry.

PHILLIP: We don't have enough close at the building, but we do have these --

HERTLING: What we do see is pock marks on the side of the building.

PHILLIP: You can look at this video here and it shows some of the aftermath on the buildings.

HERTLING: Well, it will show up here. You see the burned car, but as the camera scans over here, you'll see cars that aren't burned, very close. So, it had an effect of the explosive capability of a rocket, which is relatively small, but a lot of fuel blowing up after it that didn't burn off the rocket motor.

So this is evidence of certainly not a bomb that would come off of an aircraft. You see the pock marks, the blown out windows, but not a whole lot else. I mean, there's not a whole lot of damages to the building.

Now, the doctors inside of the building said that there were patients that were injured. That could have been from the blast, glass flying inside of the building but it certainly wasn't a strike on the hospital itself.

PHILLIP: And just briefly, if you were to have seen a strike, a true strike coming from Israel -- I want to also just, as I'm saying, to show you, this is an image that shows, according to the IDF, the trajectory of this rocket. And it comes from somewhere inside of Northern Gaza, and it goes this direction. It goes east.

HERTLING: What you have here is something called a point of origin. That's where the rocket was fired from, right where that red dot is. You see multiple tracers coming off of those. Those are the different rockets that come out of that rocket pod. The one that came out right here came out over the hospital. And I believe that that was the one that lost its engine and fell on close to the hospital, not on the hospital.

So, this is part of the proof that the Israeli Defense Forces gave. They said, hey, this is something called a Q-36 radar. They used these radars to connect with the Iron Dome to shoot down rockets. So, when you see all these coming off of a missile site and one dropping over the top of a hospital, you can see where it was, truthfully, an accident, a missile that didn't go through to its final mission.

PHILLIP: Yes, and as you've pointed out many times, these Iranian- provided missiles, they tend to do that.

General Mark Hertling, thank you very much for breaking all of that down for us.

And President Biden, reflecting on the difficult decisions ahead for Israel's leaders, here is part of what he said.



JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I've made wartime decisions. I know the choices are never clear or easy for the leadership. There's always cost. But it requires being deliberate. It requires asking very hard questions. It requires clarity about the objectives and an honest assessment about whether the path you're on will achieve those objectives.

The vast majority of Palestinians are not Hamas. Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people.


PHILLIP: I want to bring in now Aviv Ezra, a senior Israeli diplomat at the New York Consulate and a former Consul General in Chicago. Aviv, thank you for being here.

This incident has had real ripple effects. And putting aside for a moment any dispute about who's responsible and who's not, we just broke that down. Has it altered Israel's plans for a ground invasion of Gaza?

AVIV EZRA, SENIOR ISRAELI DIPLOMAT: Well, the way we see it, this is actually a triple war crime. On the one hand, they're sending missiles from population areas in Gaza. They're shooting at population innocent civilians in Israel. And, thirdly, when they misfire, they hit their own population in the Gaza Strip.

So, for us, this is not only a triple war crime, it is something that later on that took a life of its own into the conversation of who is in charge and the fake news that came out of it with the entire conversation last 24 hours ago created a situation where Israel was guilty before we (INAUDIBLE).

PHILLIP: But I'm sure you can imagine that that is likely to happen here. Does the fallout from this, even if it's as a result of misinformation, change the calculus for Israel as it tries to decide what happens if there is a ground invasion and whether that is something that can be done or should be done right now?

EZRA: Well, for Israel, it's pretty clear that we have to make sure that what happened in October 7th would not happen again. Therefore, we want to make sure that we extract the price tag from the from Hamas.

PHILLIP: What is the price tag from the Israeli people -- the Palestinian people, because they've borne really the brunt of the burden?

EZRA: Correct. So, we want to differentiate between the Palestinian people and Hamas. And like the president said, Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people. Hamas is a terror organization, a vicious, barbaric terror organization that needs to pay a price. And, by the way, when they talk about free Gaza, I think they talk about free Gaza from Hamas.

So, we are doing everything we can to make sure to make that differentiation. We open corridors, safe corridors to have the innocent population go down south. We invested four days that we are waiting to make sure that they make it out. We create safe shelters over there. We actually have, on the other hand, Hamas pushing them back into the war zone, by that, creating another world.

PHILLIP: Do you understand why there is so much distrust in the Arab world of the information coming from the IDF and the narrative about what happened in this hospital blast? And how is Israel going to deal with the fact that some of that distress comes from a real place because there have been past incidents in which the IDF has given incorrect information?

EZRA: Well, the IDF, I think, is most of the time that we are focused on investigating and understanding what happened, it takes time. This is what happened this time around, this is what happened in the past. When we get it wrong, we try to fix it and sometimes we also try to fix things that we have got wrong in the past.

I think credibility is crucial here. We are comparing between a liberal democracy with checks and balances and a terror organization. And I think at this time it's black and white. We have to, first of all, stand by Israel like the president said.

PHILLIP: All right. Aviv Ezra, thank you very much for joining us, we appreciate it.

EZRA: Thank you so much.

PHILLIP: And ahead for us, President Biden is facing a significant moment in his primetime address for tomorrow. Fareed Zakaria joins me live.

Plus this --


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): President Biden, not all Americans with you on this one and you need to wake up and understand that. We are literally, generally watching people commit genocide and killing a vast majority just like this and we still stand by and say nothing. We will remember this.


PHILLIP: A Democratic congresswoman criticizing Biden at a protest calling for a ceasefire in Gaza after she blamed Israel for the hospital bombing.

This is CNN's special live coverage.



PHILLIP: As President Biden returns from Israel tonight, it is not uncommon for American presidents to visit active war zones. But what is rare is that between Ukraine and Israel, this president has now visited two war zones that don't directly involve U.S. troops.

FDR famously met with Stalin and Churchill in the 40s, becoming the first president to ride on a plane. LBJ went to South Vietnam twice in two years, followed by Nixon. Several presidents hit the Korean DMZ, including Carter and Reagan. Bush 41 spent Thanksgiving in Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield, and then later Somalia during a civil war. His successor went to Bosnia twice for peacekeeping missions. Bush 43 made at least six trips to war zones, mostly Iraq and Afghanistan, of course, the same for Obama, to those two nations at least four times. Now, Trump visited Iraq and Afghanistan as well as his infamous visit to the DMZ to see Kim Jong-un.

And it is noteworthy, though, this context, because in his speech today, President Biden connected some wars of the past in a warning to Israel.


BIDEN: Justice must be done. But I caution this while you feel that rage. Don't be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. While we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.


PHILLIP: Here to discuss President Biden's visit and where we go from here is CNN's Fareed Zakaria. He's the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS.

Fareed, President Biden made this visit a very short but important visit to Israel. Did it help or did it hurt what is happening on the ground?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Oh, I think it helped. Look, President Biden understands that in order to have any kind of influence over Israeli policy going forward, he first and most importantly needed to affirm that he supported Israel, that he understood the horror they had just been through with this terror attack, that he had Israel's back, that the United States had Israel's back.

[22:20:21] And that in a sense, if you think about this as Israel's 9/11, first and foremost, sending a message of support and reassurance was absolutely crucial, it was the only message to send and he actually did it very well and eloquently.

But now he is transitioning to providing friendly advice to an ally. And that advice is very important and President Biden couched it very well by talking about American mistakes after 9/11. After 9/11, America was traumatized. It acted out of emotion and fear and rage. And looking back, there were a number of things the United States did that didn't help achieve the objectives it was looking for, that actually backfired in many ways. So, what he's saying to the Israelis is learn from our mistakes.

PHILLIP: Yes, it's a very notable message. It jumped out in everything that he had to say. One of the other backdrops of this trip, of course, is this explosive story of what happened in this hospital strike. And we are quickly entering this moment where misinformation around this stuff is having very serious consequences. It's not just the fog of war at this point. On the battlefield, it's global.

What do you think that this means for the conflict if we cannot determine what is true and what is not quickly enough to prevent it from spiraling out of control?

ZAKARIA: Look, this is one of the most partisan issues in the world. It has always divided the Arab world and Israel. It has always divided the world. So, we shouldn't be so surprised that people have, you know, kind of alternate narratives. But I do think it is dangerous to let these fester.

I was actually surprised at how quickly experts were able to come to a reasonable analysis. And as far as I can tell, the weight of evidence very much is that this was not an Israeli airstrike. This was probably exactly what Mark Hertling said, a failed rocket launch.

I think it would be very important in that situation to keep putting out more and more evidence as it accumulates more photographs. Perhaps there are remnants of the missile one can find or photograph, because I do think that pushing back against what appears to be a manufactured story or really more people conveniently believing the part of the truth they want to believe is part of what the problem here is. The United States and Israel should provide as much evidence as they can to break that narrative.

Now, will it work? I don't know, but at least it will show a good faith effort. It will show, provide more evidence. The Israelis already have done some of that. The United States has done some of that. But, otherwise, I think it becomes one of these issues that, like so much of what we experienced today, one side has its truth and the other side has its truth.

And I think particularly for us in the media, it is important, just as you did with Mark Hertling, to try to arrive at some kind of more objective analysis of what happened. PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, we may not be able to say definitively, I'm not on the ground at the site of the strike, but there is evidence out there that we can analyze.

Fareed, as you just pointed out, people have made their minds up. I want to get your response to some comments made by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib earlier today on Capitol Hill. She, by the way, pretty early on, put the blame for this on Israel. And here's what she had to say about President Biden.


TLAIB: President Biden, not all America is with you on this one. And you need to wake up and understand that. We are literally, clearly watching people commit genocide and killing a vast majority just like, and we still stand by and say nothing. We will remember this.


PHILLIP: This is, of course, I should say, very personal for her, a Palestinian herself. But what do you make of how President Biden has handled the backlash from the left and the prospect that that backlash could get worse as U.S. support for Israel, if this becomes a ground war, becomes even more solid going forward?

ZAKARIA: Well, that clip suggests that any political figure should be careful and get as much objective information as you can before rushing to judgment.


You know, as I say, it does appear the weight of evidence suggests that the congresswoman was wrong about the fact or the conjecture that Israel, this was an Israeli airstrike.

But I also think she's wrong about where the American public is with regard to President Biden's handling of this. I think President Biden is handling this pretty well, effectively. He's taken it very seriously. He's exercising American leadership, not just, as I said, providing Israel with support and then counseling Israel to be wise and cautious and strategic in how it strikes, he's also put two carrier task forces in to deter outside actors. The most important thing here, certainly from an American point of view, is that this conflict not spread.

And what he is showing is that the United States really is indispensable in this situation. The Russians can't play that role, the Chinese can't play that role, and the president is taking it seriously. The little polling I've seen on this suggests that most Americans are comfortable, in fact, even support what the president is doing. Obviously, that might change.

But I think that there is a tendency sometimes with these kind of situations to -- again, to let emotion and anger and fear and rage overwhelm what has actually been a fairly strategic and wise course the president has taken. PHILLIP: Well, Fareed, your insights into all of this are also indispensable. We really appreciate you joining us tonight.

ZAKARIA: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next for us --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is about two little who will never get to play together again.


PHILLIP: -- he's the six-year-old boy allegedly murdered in Chicago for being a Muslim by someone who was angry about the war. I'll speak with the mother of this little boy's best friend, next.



PHILLIP: As the war rages in Israel, hundreds of people back here in the United States turning out for a vigil in Chicago honoring a six- year-old boy. Police say that Wadea Al-Fayoume was a kindergartener and he was stabbed to death by his family's landlord because he was Muslim.

Now, many people of different backgrounds and religions are reaching out to Wadea's family, including five local rabbis, his uncle saying this.


MAHMOUD YOUDEF, UNCLE OF WADEA AL-FAYOUME: Actually, I'm overwhelmed because we thought we're going to come here to see a Muslim-only community.


PHILLIP: And joining me now is Cynthia Glass. Her son was Wadea's best friend. Cynthia, thank you so much for being here. Your son, Dexter, and Wadea were very close. They were the best of friends. What can you tell me about their special friendship?

CYNTHIA GLASS, SON WAS BEST FRIEND OF 6-YEAR-OLD KILLED FOR BEING A MUSLIM: Well, they were -- they're actually in kindergarten together this year. And they've -- they've known each other since preschool. So, they've been in the same class for a couple of years now. And that's, you know, how we -- that's how we met Wadea.

Our son came home. It took him a while to start speaking when he -- when he was younger and one of the first words that he ever said when he came home unprovoked from us just trying to make a conversation was, Wadea, and he kept saying it over and over again. And it was just -- we didn't know what he was talking about at first. But then the school picture came home, the class picture, and there

was Wadea. And we were just so excited that he had made a connection with somebody at school that he was talking about. And so, we just kind of -- we had to go, you know, meet this little boy at school. We would go for classroom parties and things and, you know, it just kind of grew from there.

The -- the teachers -- his teachers told me that they do -- they pair them up a lot at school. So, they, you know, did a lot of stuff together, but he was just -- he was just a sweet little boy. We all just kind of got attached to him. He rode the bus with Dexter. So, he would, you know, we would see him every day.

And it was just, you know, it was just -- they were just friends. They were class -- classmates and friends and they just wanted to play together. And, um, so --

PHILLIP: This --

GLASS: Yeah.

PHILLIP: This has been such an incredible tragedy, um, for this community. What have you been able to tell Dexter about what happened to his friend? Does he know about any of this?

GLASS: No, I mean, he -- he knows something is going on, something big. I tried to just kind of explain to him that Wadea had to go away to heaven. It was really hard for me to use an excuse. Some people, you know, told me, well, just tell him he moved away, tell him he went on vacation. I didn't feel like that was the right thing to do because eventually he's going to figure out what really happened.

And I want to start now, you know, just trying to get him adjusted and make sure that he's okay. Again, seen a little bit of change in him, but I think right now he's just processing it. And, you know, fortunately we have a wonderful school, our administration, our teachers, they're doing a wonderful job with all the kids.


So, I think they're all going to be, they're going to be okay, but it's still, it's something I should never - no parent ever should have to do this. They should never have to tell, you know, their child that, you know, something so horrible happened to their son and, you know, now we're keeping it pretty light, but someday he's going to learn, you know, what happened.

PHILLIP: And Cynthia, I know that Dexter is nearby. Does he want to say anything about his friend?

GLASS: Yeah. Dexter, come here real quick. Come here. I want to give you a hug. Oh, hi. Do you want to say hi?


PHILLIP: Hi, Dexter. Hi. Hey, Dexter. GLASS: Hello.

PHILLIP: Hey, how are you? How are you feeling?

GLASS: How are you feeling? Are you feeling good?

D. GLASS: Feeling good.

GLASS: Yeah. Feeling good right now.

PHILLIP: You're feeling good? Good. Dexter, I've been hearing about your friend. I've been hearing about your friend, Wadea. Can you tell me about him? Do you like your friend?

GLASS: (Inaudible)


GLASS: Can you tell them that you love Wadea. He said (inaudible). You know. Yes.

PHILLIP: Yes. Good. I know you do. Thank you for saying hi, Dexter.

GLASS: Yeah. Okay, bye.

PHILLIP: Thank you. Good night.

GLASS: Okay, say bye-bye. Bye, good night.

PHILLIP: Cynthia, thank you so much. Thank you.

GLASS: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next for us, Erin Burnett joins me on her powerful conversation with the parents of two children who were kidnapped by Hamas. You'll hear the phone call with their daughter when the militants attacked. That's next.



PHILLIP: It's been nearly two weeks since Hamas's militants abducted dozens and dozens of hostages in Israel. And their families are growing desperate. More tonight from my colleague, Erin Burnett, who's in Tel Aviv. Erin?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Abby, it has been 12 days since those hostages were abducted. I mean, you have to think about what they've been enduring in that time. We understand maybe held in tunnels. Who knows what the circumstances are? And of course, their families are desperate for any sign of their loved ones. They all tell us they just want a sign of life, any kind of a sign of life.

Earlier today I had a chance to talk to the parents of two of the hostages, Maya and Itay Regev. They were both abducted by Hamas at the music festival. At least 260 people were killed, of course, at that festival. And their parents thought they were among them at first. Their father played me a harrowing phone call from his daughter Maya as she came face to face with Hamas's terrorists.


UNKNOWN: I can't do this.


MAYA REGEV, DAUGHTER OF ILAN REGEV: I've been shot. I've been shot. Dad, I've been shot.

ILAN REGEV: Where are you?

MAYA REGEV: I don't know. He is killing us, Dad, he's killing us.

ILAN REGEV: Where are you? Please send a location. Hide. Find a place to hide.

MAYA REGEV: Dad, I love you. We are in the car, we can't leave.

ILAN REGEV: I'm coming your way. Send a location, send a location, send a location.

She loves me, she says she loves me.

I thought she was dead. I thought both of them dead. My son -- both of my child in the car. And then she says, they kill me, they kill me. I love you, pap. I love you, daddy.


BURNETT: I mean, obviously, it's incredible to watch that. You can see Marit's (ph) reaction and Ilan, of course, the heartbreak, but they wanted the world to hear that call. Ilan had not listened to it since he actually spoke to his daughter. Marit (ph) had not heard it until that moment. And you could see her stealing herself to hear it, but she wanted the world to hear it because they want the world to know.

They also told me that they saw a video on social media, a very brief one from Hamas that showed their son taken hostage, and they haven't seen any video of their daughter, although they say that Israeli authorities just a few days ago told them, the Israeli army came and told them on Monday night that both of their children are being held in Gaza. So, they thought it obviously very important that the Israeli government, Abby, knew that, but the Israeli army refused to tell them exactly how they know this information.


But of course, Abbe, you can see the anguish and the pain as those parents wait and wait and pray for a sign of life of their children. Abby?

PHILLIP: Erin Burnett, powerful, devastating reporting. Thank you very much. And we'll be back in just a moment.


PHILLIP: The U.S. House tonight is still without a speaker, and today some vulgar quotes that describe the circus that unfolded.


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This will be like the biggest circle jerk in the history of circles, or jerks.


SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): Over there they think it's all entertainment. It's entertainment, you know? And now it's turned into which dick is it going to be?


PHILLIP: Jim Jordan losing his second chance at the leadership and this time the margin of Republicans who voted against him is actually growing wider. So, what happens now? A provocative question tonight. What about someone like Liz Cheney for Speaker of the House? Senior political analyst John Avlon is here for tonight's Op-Ed.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Abraham Lincoln said a House divided itself cannot stand. Well, House Republicans are now showing the wisdom of that warning. After empowering the radical right, they just can't cobble together a governing coalition. And the problem predates Kevin McCarthy. Since 2010, every GOP speaker has been pushed out or jumped because they couldn't corral what John Boehner called knuckle-draggers and anarchists in their caucus.

Steve Scalise dropped out after less than a day in the race, and the current candidate, Jim Jordan, is even less suited to uniting the caucus, let alone Congress. He's more extreme, with basically no legislative record and part of Trump's attempt to overturn the election. But there is a solution to this circular firing squad. Republicans should free themselves from the far right and put forward a candidate who could win just enough Democratic votes to become Speaker. The center needs to grow a spine.

Look, I get it. Colleagues are always saying I'm trying to bring Aaron Sorkin scripts to life in a capital that's far closer to Game of Thrones. Fair enough. Cynicism passes for wisdom in Washington for a reason. But this is a rare opportunity to break the hyper-partisan doom loop, with a speaker who leads not based on ideological agreement, but trust and mutual respect. What a concept, right?

Now maybe it's empowering interim speaker, Patrick McHenry, or Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Nebraska's Don Bacon, Wisconsin's Mike Gallagher, Steve Womack from Arkansas, or Texas' Mike McCaul, or even Liz Cheney. Look, I get that this is a long ball, but it's not Mission Impossible. In fact, it just might be the most practical path forward for the country. PHILLIP: John, you know, I admire your optimism. But you know what?

One of those names that you put out there, Tom Cole, he voted for Jim Jordan today. What makes you think the Democrats are going to back any of these Republicans?

AVLON: Because there have been bipartisan talks going on in the background since last weekend. Speaker Hakeem Jeffries wrote an op-ed saying -- where you would support a bipartisan coalition. This is a nascent movement to be sure. It's a plan C or D. But someone like Tom Cole has been mentioned behind the scenes because he is respected across the aisle. Is he a conservative? You bet. But is he seen as trustworthy? Well, that too. And that would help.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, I'm going to largely agree with you, but I want to offer a different name. So, Liz Cheney, as much as I would love for that to happen, I don't know if she'd get a single vote in the current House Republican Conference. Congressman Will Hurd, who just dropped out of the presidential race, supported by many Democrats, beloved in the House Republican Conference. If you're going to put forward a, you know, unanimity ticket, that might be it.

But listen, the reality is, the only way I see this being solved soon is interim Speaker Patrick McHenry being there essentially as a caretaker, somebody to just keep the functions of government going. And he can do a lot of that without even a formal vote.

PHILLIP: So, Alyssa, I actually want to play something. This is you just a few days ago. Take a listen.


GRIFFIN: -- forbid something like a natural disaster happens that requires an emergency declaration by Congress or some sort of business that needs to be taken care of in the next week.


PHILLIP: And lo and behold, you were absolutely correct. That now Congress is here, there's nobody running the place. And hey, it might be a Patrick McHenry, but who would have thought Patrick McHenry would be the guy to potentially save the day here as an interim, more empowered speaker pro temp?

AVLON: Look, the worlds on fire, the House is on fire, those two things are in conflict. The problem with the interim thing is that we could end up having a cycle of interim speakers. We could have, you know, he might not even last the full year. And that's why it's important to get a stable coalition. But at the very least, yeah, that kind of balanced funding, Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan border, not having the government shut down in November, regular order, these are all reasonable things that could be the basis of bipartisan cooperation.

GRIFFIN: Well, in that moment, in the clip that you played, I remember thinking, you know, a hurricane, something that might happen that we just expect in the normal course of events. I did not think our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel being in a state of war with Hamas. This is something that if that is not a sobering moment for House Republicans to get their act together and decide they need to put rank partisanship aside and just try to do something unifying, I don't know what is.

PHILLIP: I mean, so far it has not been.

GRIIFFIN: It has not been. And I think if I may say, I think that Jim Jordan is kind of taking a play from Kevin McCarthy's book of I'm going to fight it and I'm going to keep going back for as many rounds. I worked for Jim Jordan. I know him well. That is in his nature to be a fighter. But the votes are fundamentally not there. Without massive concessions that I think would irreparably damage the House, I don't see how anyone could get 217 votes.

AVLON: And the idea that he could lean into the crisis by saying, we're in crisis, please elevate me, when the Congress didn't unite after the attack on the Capitol, which Liz Cheney directly implicated Jim Jordan in.


So, he's the wrong messenger for this moment.

PHILLIP: So, Alyssa, you used to work for the Freedom Caucus. You know this as well as anyone. If any Republican signs onto a compromise with Democrats, what is that primary going to look like? I'm talking anyone, not just the ones in Ruby Red Trump districts.

GRIFFIN: Listen, it would be a disaster. So, there's 18 Republicans who won in districts that Joe Biden won. I think some of those are starting to think, is it worth it? Should I end up supporting a Speaker Jeffries or try to come up with a consensus candidate? But it all but guarantees that they will be primaried by someone to the right who then, by the way Republicans, will then lose to a Democrat in the general election.

This -- what is going on right now is jeopardizing the House Republican majority and --

AVLON: This is the fundamental structural problem, right? It's these hyper-partisan districts that have been drawn not enough competitive for general elections. Everyone's looking over their shoulder afraid to lose a primary. And it's also the threats that are being put forward. We were talking earlier.

I mean, Mariannette Miller-Meeks from Iowa said that she voted against Jordan the second time and got credible death threats. That's not the way, that's the way our politics is being run right now. The extremes are so empowered that they're threatening members if they don't do what they want. That's not healthy.

PHILLIP: And then members' phones are ringing off the hook with angry constituents. It's getting pretty messy over on Capitol Hill. John and Alyssa, thank you both very much. And up next for us, it's an 18-year mystery that gripped the nation. And tonight, a confession in the death of Natalee Holloway.


PHILLIP: After nearly two decades, we finally now know what happened to Natalee Holloway. She's the 18-year-old Alabama woman who vanished while on a high school graduation trip to Aruba in 2005. In court documents released today, Jordan van der Sloot, the man long suspected of having a role in her disappearance, has confessed to murdering her. Van der Sloot has admitted that Holloway refused to sexual advances and that he bludgeoned her to death with a cinderblock. He then pushed her into the ocean.


Holloway's body has never been found and her mother finally feels some sense of justice.


BETH HOLLOWAY, MOTHER OF NATALEE HOLLOWAY: Because all he's going to hear is that jail cell door slam to remind him he's a double murderer.