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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Two American Hostages Released By Hamas Now Israel; Fears Of Regional War Intensify Amid More Attacks; Thousands Protests Israel's War Actions Around World; CNN's Anderson Cooper Shows Devastation In Nir Oz; CNN's Clarissa Ward Interviews An Angry Palestinian Protester; Abby Phillip Interviews Kenneth Chesebro's Attorney. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 20, 2023 - 22:00   ET


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Officials, for their part, have told CNN that if an evacuation order is given, even to a hospital, they say it's because Hamas is hiding inside and beneath hospitals and schools, among other places, often using civilians as human shields.


In the meantime, the Red Cross says that Gaza's entire health care system is on the brink of collapse tonight. The humanitarian relief that has been piling up across the border in Egypt and dozens of trucks that we have seen, we are told that the first delivery is scheduled to be 20 or so trucks of that aid but that is just a small drop in the bucket compared to the 100 trucks a day that the United Nations has Gazans need.

I want to thank you so much for joining us tonight and every night this week for this coverage here in Tel Aviv. Oftentimes it is difficult to watch but it is so important. Thank you for watching.

I want to turn it over to CNN NEWSNIGHT with Abby Phillip right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: News signs that Israel may be pushing pause on its ground invasion of Gaza as the clock ticks on the fate of dozens of hostages and millions of civilians there. That's tonight on NEWSNIGHT.

Good evening, I'm Abby Phillip.

As tanks, troops and firepower line up at the border, Israel's impending ground invasion of Gaza now looks to be on hold tonight, this after Hamas freed two American hostages, a mother and a daughter from Chicago. Here's her father speaking just moments ago.


URI RAANAN, FATHER OF NATALIE RAANAN: I've been waiting for this moment for a long time, for two weeks. I haven't been sleeping for two weeks. Tonight, I'm going to sleep good.

I spoke with my daughter earlier today. She sounds very good. She looks very good. She was very happy and she's waiting to come home.

I'm going to hug her and kiss her and it's going to be the best day of my life.


PHILLIP: The White House says that the U.S. was involved in negotiating their release while Israel credits military pressure on Hamas. The women are currently in an Israeli military base where they spoke to President Biden.

Now, the urgent questions tonight are, is the United States asking Israel to wait to invade until more hostages are freed? And will Hamas even agree to give up what they perceive to be as leverage in this battle? And, of course, what happens to millions of civilians caught in this crossfire who are now slowly dying without life-sustaining supplies?

I want to start first with CNN's Kaitlan Collins, who is on the ground for us in Tel Aviv. Kaitlan, Hamas agreed to release two American hostages today. What are we hearing about how they're doing and just how this release even came about?

COLLINS: Yes. We've been hearing updates. We know they're getting those medical checkups, Abby. Obviously, they need those. They've been in the custody of Hamas being captured for two weeks now. So, that was one of the first things that officials did.

Of course, they have questions for them. But as I was just speaking with an Israeli official, they were saying, you know, these are normal people who have been terrified over the last two weeks. And so, obviously, they have to be treated gently as they have first just come across that border with Gaza after those two terrifying weeks with Hamas.

And so how this all came together were some negotiations happening behind the scenes. The White House was pushing for this, but you weren't hearing them talk about it much publicly at all, including when President Biden was here on the ground in Tel Aviv. And that's because they wanted to hopefully get at least some of these hostages released. It was happening very quietly.

Now, Hamas, for its part, I should note, is saying that this is a humanitarian reason that they released these two hostages, Judith Raanan and her daughter, Natalie Raanan, who is just 17 years old, days away from turning 18.

Of course, the IDF has been scoffing at that, saying, you know, if that was really how Hamas felt, they could release all of these hostages, or they wouldn't have abducted them in the first place or killed and raped so many Israelis as they did during that brutal attack.

And so I think that's the big question tonight, because we know there are many more hostages still being held here in Gaza, which is right to my south, to my left. And so that is the big question tonight, whether or not they are going to be released, Abby. PHILLIP: It very much is. And it will be, unfortunately, for some

time, I think. Kaitlan, thank you so much for all of that. And joining me now is CNN Senior National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem, a former Department of Homeland Security official, and also with us, Rula Jebreal, Israeli-Palestinian journalist, and a foreign policy analyst.

Rula, I want to start with you, because earlier today, something interesting happened. A reporter asked President Biden as he was heading on Air Force One about whether he was asking the Israelis to hold off on this ground invasion to give them more time to get these hostages out.


He answered with one word, yes, but then the White House walked that back saying he didn't hear the question properly. But do you think that that is part of what is going on here?

RULA JEBREAL, JOURNALIST AND FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: I honestly don't know if they're pushing asking, whatever they're asking the Israelis, the region is listening to something else. The people in the streets, whether it's -- if you listen to the people in Egypt, in Turkey, around in Jordan, in Lebanon, the region is about to explode. And they're about to explode because they heard President Biden's speech last night and they are not -- they don't believe the words, they believe the facts and the deeds.

And what they heard is $14 billion in military aid to the Israelis without conditionality, which is, for them, was an important paramount. The Egyptians and the Jordanians were asking the president to put on the table some kind of pressure on Israel for humanitarian aid for Gaza, but above all to basically end the military occupation of the West Bank and to freeze the settlements.

And President Biden, my understanding from talking to a diplomat in the region, he did not do it or he basically took time, said, you know, it's not the moment, let's delay, there's something else. But they've been telling him, without that, we cannot control the public opinion. We cannot control our people who've been flooding the streets.

I mean, today in the Tahrir Square, the place where the Arab Spring took place, hundreds of thousand people went to that square. And what did they say? What did they chant? Freedom, bread and social justice. These were the slogans of the Arab Spring.

Sisi doesn't like Hamas. He hates them. He loathes them. He actually sees them as the offshoot of the Muslim brother who he ousted. Yet he was forced to concede for the demonstration for one reason. He understands the implications.

PHILLIP: So, that is what's happening in the streets. But, Juliette, clearly, these backchannel conversations worked. What is working in this case? If you look at both sides of this negotiation, what's working in the United States?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, we're going to measure success by what's not happening. Okay, so there hasn't been a massive land incursion by the Israeli government into Gaza yet, okay? So, that something is going on to stop that. Iran and Hezbollah have remained relatively quiet in Northern Israel. We wouldn't have predicted that right after the terrorist attack. That is also good.

Biden speaks about humanitarian effort. We're having problems with Egypt in getting that corridor open, but he has not abandoned the Palestinians. So, I'm looking at success after such a horror as what's not happening because the Saturday after that terror attack, you couldn't have imagined, yes, the streets are not happy, but Hamas is -- the Arab leaders are not embracing Hamas.

PHILLIP: Why would they release two American hostages?

KAYYEM: They're American. They're American. So, what's basically happening is -- I mean, you hear President Biden, there's going to be -- there will be some sort of action in Gaza. I think the administration is clearly very worried that Israel does not have a day two plan, which I think is a safe bet that they are. And so waiting to try to get as many hostages out as possible is plan A right now for the United States, that these two who were American is not a surprise.

But you have to remember, Hamas is now being attacked by people that they thought were their allies or would support them. So, this is also a concession. This is a narrative for the Arab leaders who who have essentially are now condemning them.

PHILLIP: That they are the ones acting in a humanitarian fashion.

KAYYEM: Yes. And the fact it's not a coincidence they're Americans. They're not Europeans.

JEBREAL: And it was interesting to see MBS, you know, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Suddenly, he come out and put a proposition on the table, said to the Americans, look, I've been telling you this will happen. The Egyptians have been warning you. Actually, the Egyptian, the foreign minister called Bibi Netanyahu ten days before the attack, said, we are seeing our intelligence are telling us something is happening there.

And, again, they've been reporting to President Biden, saying, well, the priority for Bibi Netanyahu was the settlement in the West Bank, where Hamas is not there, was actually to consolidate. And it was interesting to see the Saudis and other Arab leaders said, this is what -- this is the equation annexation and settlements. That means you will have Hamas. In some form you will have radicalization. So, you have to decide go back to the '67 borders, give Palestinians sovereignty, give Palestinians freedom.

And when President Biden talked about this, it was interesting because he was not heard. What they heard is we will give you a charity, which is $100 million, food and whatever, which is okay for now. But, ultimately, Arab leaders want a solution on the table. They want freedom for Palestinians and end of the occupation.

[22:10:01] KAYYEM: Yes, I think that's right. I mean, what's interesting is it's not being heard. But, you know, when Biden says he supports Israel, the second part of that paragraph is, and I'm meeting or I'm talking to Arab leaders about Palestinian self-rule, essentially.

And we've both been around a while. I have not heard a U.S. president talk about the Palestinians in a very long time, let alone other Arab countries. The Arab rulers have not been great to the Palestinians either. And so this is the first time in a long while in which the United States and the Arab nations are beginning to realize we cannot advance until there is a discussion about the Palestinians. You cannot move forward.

And this is the first time in a long while that I hear a U.S. president talk about a two-state solution. It's a long way off, but at least it's back on the table.

PHILLIP: Some of that is perhaps because of the Trump years.


PHILLIP: But just very briefly before we go, the humanitarian situation remains really stuck in place and absolutely catastrophic. How much of that really needs to get resolved before Israel acts, just if you're an outsider looking in at the situation?

JEBREAL: I'm sorry, I didn't -- Israel acts before the invasion?

PHILLIP: Before they go in on the ground.

JEBREAL: Yesterday?


JEBREAL: People are -- talking to people in Gaza. They're drinking one sip of water a day. Children are starving. This is what we called in Ukraine a war crime. When Putin was using food as a weapon of war and water, this is when the international community clearly defined this as a war crime, that Israel would use this against what they did, not only Hamas, because on this television, they said we are at war with civilians.

And that, for the people, especially the global south, that President Biden wants on their camps, they hear that and said, okay, this is a red flag. We don't want this. So, there's pressure, but the situation is catastrophic.

There's doctors that are drinking IVFs from the --

PHILLIP: I.V. fluid?

JEBREAL: I.V., my apologies, or drinking waters from the sea. I mean, the situation is so catastrophic that they fear also all the bodies that are under the rubble that they can't take out. So, this can be an outbreak of all kinds of diseases. PHILLIP: Yes. We have more on the situation for folks in Gaza later on in the show. Juliette Kayyem and Rula Jebreal, thank you both very much.

And up next, I'll speak with the family of Americans trapped in Gaza, as we were just discussing. They're angry with the Biden administration over a lack of answers.

Plus, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling is back with me at the map where the risk of regional war is growing by the hour.

Plus, Anderson Cooper joins me as protests erupt around the world against Israel and the west.



PHILLIP: Tonight, we're learning that the drone attacks intercepted by a U.S. destroyer off the coast of Yemen encountered a larger and more sustained barrage than was previously known. The USS Carney shot down 15 drones and 4 cruise missiles over a nine-hour period.

Joining me here at the wall is CNN Military Analyst and retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

That's more than we understood even yesterday when we were just speaking. This is just a broad picture of the region and where this all occurred. I'm just going to highlight this right here. This is where the USS Carney, we believe, intercepted these missiles.

Tell us what we should be looking out for. We've been talking about the risks of escalation. What are you seeing?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the Carney had just come out of the Suez Canal. They were in this area and they intercepted quite a bit of both cruise missiles and drones. But this isn't all. You know, the Houthis in Yemen have been looking for the -- to overthrow the government. They are anti-U.S., anti-Israel, anti- Saudi Arabia. They launched these kind of missiles into Saudi Arabia. But these missiles appeared to be going to Israel.

You combine those with the popular mobilization fronts that we're seeing in Iran, in Northern Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon with Hezbollah, in South Egypt. You know, Israel, as we said last night, Abby, is surrounded. They've got a lot of enemies on all sides. And there seems to be a movement being directed by someone. I won't say who, but it's probably this guy right here.

PHILLIP: You're feeling like this is starting to feel a little bit more coordinated?

HERTLING: Yes. Well, it's -- I'm not sure coordinated would be the word, but I'm certain that they are pushing actions by various groups throughout the Middle East. PHILLIP: So, tell us more about the USS Carney, because they were able to actually intercept all of these missiles. What can this ship do?

HERTLING: You're in trouble asking an army guy to talk about a Navy ship. But by coincidence, I've actually been on one of these ships, not this one. This is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, guided missile carrier. It's about 500 feet long, 30 feet wide. It has a crew of about 300. This one, the DDG-64, is commanded by a guy named Jeremy Robinson. How's that for a little fun fact?

They have all sorts of guns, a crew of about 300, 30 officers, 30 petty officers, and about 230 sailors. But they can knock things out of the sky. They can fire Tomahawk missiles. They can do short-range air defense and missile defense. And they can even shoot torpedoes at submarines.

So, while this looks like a small ship and you don't see much on the top side, it has guns.

PHILLIP: Oh, that's okay. We can see -- the guns are big enough. We can see.

HERTLING: It has guns. It has radars. It has all sorts of things that can knock things down.


HERTLING: And, by the way, there are four of these kinds of ships in the Ford battle group and another couple in the Eisenhower strike group.

PHILLIP: One of the other things we want to talk to you about, we have a little bit of a closer look here at the tunnel system that we believe Hamas has and is obviously utilizing in Gaza. It's really all over -- this is Northern Gaza here. This is the area that Israel has said to evacuate. And we have a flow of potential refugees here, civilians moving southward. But as you can see here, there are tunnels not just in the north but in the south. What does that mean for Israel's plan of attack for a ground war?

HERTLING: Well, in the last operation that Israel did in here, Operation Protective Edge, they did a main assault into the northern part but they also did supporting actions in the center and the south.


They understood that there were a lot of tunnels, and these tunnels have since expanded.

Now, the last time Israel went in, they mobilized 70,000 soldiers. This time, they're mobilizing 300,000 soldiers. A lot of the fighting could go on above ground, but I would suggest, Abby, when you see these squiggly lines, that's only representative of tunnels in each one of the areas that are about the size of the New York subway system. PHILLIP: And making even more apparent the concern that maybe nowhere is safe in Gaza for civilians.


PHILLIP: All right. General Mark Hertling, thank you so much.

And more than 200 trucks full of aid that is desperately needed in Gaza, they're stuck on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing.

Joining me now is Sammy Nabulsi. He's the friend and attorney of a Massachusetts family that is currently trapped in Gaza. Abood Okal and Wafaa Abuzayda, and his one-year-old son, have been visiting family in Gaza when Hamas attacked Israel nearly two weeks ago. Now, they have not been able to leave since then despite making multiple attempts to cross into Egypt.

Sammy, I want to thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really want to understand what's going on with this family. When was the last time you spoke with them and what is their life like right now?

SAMMY NABULSI, ATTORNEY FOR MASSACHUSETTS FAMILY STRANDED IN GAZA: It's been several hours. Connectivity and plugging in is a huge issue for anyone in Southern Gaza at the moment. Now, life is not good for them. It's incredibly dangerous and dire for them and the, frankly, my understanding, hundreds of other American citizens in Southern Gaza waiting to enter into Egypt.

Abood was telling me that two days ago there was an airstrike between 100, 150 meters away from the home that they're staying in, woke up the children in the house, were inconsolable all day. There were cracks all over the walls. They ran out of drinking water yesterday and had to drink salt water for an entire day. Food is becoming limited. They're running out of cooking oil and have to look to other alternatives, such as wood fire. That's not only becoming dangerous from the air, but there's now the risk of hunger and dehydration as well. It's incredibly dangerous and incredibly dire.

PHILLIP: And all of this with a one-year-old child, an infant, really, in their care.

You've been asking for the U.S. to create a safe zone for the town of Rafah where the crossing into Egypt is. That is, we should reiterate, not open for people to go across. Have you heard anything and has this family heard anything from the Biden administration about any of that or any plans to get them out of Gaza?

NABULSI: Nothing, nothing. There is at the moment no confirmed departure option or even a timeline for this family or a single other American citizen that is in Rafah right now waiting to cross into Egypt. Because of that, because there's no plan, there's no timeline, they haven't been even communicated any sort of instructions on crossing, I've asked that at the very least, we turn to the benefactor of the U.S. military and financial support and ask that at the very least there is a safe zone or protection area over Rafah, because presumably, remember, everyone was ordered to evacuate to the south, my understanding is any American citizen that wishes to leave Gaza is going to do so through Rafah. So, they're all there, yet the bombardment continues.

PHILLIP: Sammy Nubulsi, thank you so much for joining us and we continue to hope that this family finds a way out. Their situation does sound incredibly dire as you've described it. Thanks for joining us.

NABULSI: Thanks for telling the story. I appreciate it.

PHILLIP: And up next for us, Anderson Cooper joins me from the ground. You'll see what he witnessed at the site of one of these massacres in Israel.

Plus, one of the diplomats who's negotiated peace deals under several presidents joins me live on what he says is the way out of a full blown crisis.



PHILLIP: Anger rage and frustration on full display across the Middle East today, people taking to the streets of Jordan, Egypt and other countries to protest Israel's war on Hamas. And more than 4,100 people have died in Gaza since Israel launched its retaliation against the militant group for its October 7th attack on that nation, which killed nearly 1,400 of its citizens.

And tonight, we're getting more insight into the devastation of that Hamas attack.

I want to bring in CNN's Anderson Cooper, who is on the ground in Tel Aviv. Anderson, you recently visited Nir Oz, one of many kibbutzes that were devastated by this attack by Hamas. What did you see when you were there?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. You know, it really strikes me that two weeks since this terror attack and we're just a few hours away from the actual two-week hour that this attack began, we are still learning more information and seeing places for the first time.

We journalists were just allowed in Nir Oz yesterday. This is a kibbutz of some 400 people before the terror attack. The IDF says probably about a quarter of the population is either dead or currently missing two people were just -- their bodies were just identified two days ago who had disappeared from Nir Oz. The devastation there, it's -- there isn't one house that has not been touched.


You see safe rooms where people were hiding that gunmen worked for hours trying to break in through, trying to pry the doors off and pry the window shutters off. And sometimes successfully.

Blood is still on floors there. People's possessions are strewn all around. And just the overwhelming kind of grief for the residents who are now scattered elsewhere in Israel, hoping one day to return. But the grief that everybody in this country has been experiencing for the last two weeks.

I mean, this is Tel Aviv. I mean, and this is a Friday night in Tel Aviv. There is no one on the streets. There is nothing open, and it's been that way for two weeks. And there's no sign of any kind of regular life returning anytime soon.

PHILLIP: Wow, I cannot even imagine. These are really tiny communities, devastated and decimated in some ways by this horrible attack. Anderson, thank you very much.

And joining me now is Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Senior Associate Dean for Executive Programs at Yale University. He's also the co-author of a new article on entitled, "How Peace and Prosperity in the Middle East Can Still Be Reached".

He's been an informal personal advisor to several presidents, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, and also Joe Biden. He was also an advisor to the Abraham Accords, which of course, was struck during the Trump administration.

Jeffrey, great to have your expertise on this. We were just talking to Rula earlier in the show, and she was saying the Arab world is about to basically explode. And it strikes me that there's a real risk here, that there could be, you know, maybe tens of thousands of Palestinian casualties in a ground invasion of Gaza. How Israel conducts this war -- is that going to be a factor in whether peace is possible after it? Y

JEFFREY SONNENFELD, SENIOR ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR EXECUTIVE PROGRAMS: Yes, absolutely. I wrote that article that you mentioned with Dennis Ross, who was the Chief Middle East envoy for President Obama, and then for Adam Bowler, who had a comparable role for President Trump who worked with Jared Kushner very closely.

And we're optimistic that there's a possibility. It's not immediate because the ground invasion is a -- it's going to be tremendous losses of life that are horrible. The Israelis have to control, of course, the collateral damage. This must be strategic in every possible way and very, very careful.

But you can't take out Hamas without a ground invasion. Campfire is going to not do it. You can't have any of the outcomes that people were chanting, as Rula said just before the break, that they were chanting for freedom, chanting for bread, chanting for justice, she left off in the list of nouns, peace.

And that's right, because Hamas already back to its charter is looking for the genocide of the Jewish people, driving Israel into the sea. They don't have in there -- they are a terrorist organization running a state. There's not a single Arab leader that either ruler or anybody watching the show that can tell us that supports Hamas. They got more support from Norway than they get from any Arab nations. PHILLIP: But those Arab nations are watching what's happening in

their streets and they're concerned about it. In Egypt, there are protests there when they're typically not allowed to be.

Are they going to be able to -- putting this -- their interests clearly are not aligned with Hamas. But given what is happening with their population, are they going to be able to come to the table and say, let's make peace a lasting peace happen? How would that happen?

SONNENFELD: Well, the great momentum that we had before this -- two weeks ago -- with the Hamas, a completely unprovoked Hamas invasion, the invasion came because the progress on the Abraham Accords was so promising. Morocco had signed on, they had normalized relations with Israel.

Of course, UAE had, Bahrain had, and we had great relations, as we saw, with Egypt and Jordan. This was remarkable. Saudi Arabia was all lined up. All parties agreed they were ready to sign, and that's why these guys came across as the -- as the destroyers, the disruptors, to try to throw a wrench in, which they did. And who's behind it?

Well, it is Iran, as General Hertling was just saying beforehand. All these coordinated attacks are through Iran. And the Saudis have every interest in still blocking every one of these parties. The Palestinians, if war were to stop today, the quality of life doesn't improve under Hamas rule in Gaza.

Things don't get better for Israel. Things don't get better for the Saudis. They have to get rid of Hamas and stop the Iranian influence. And that's what the Saudis want to do. And the Saudis have a lever to pull to deal with their mobs, if you want to know.


PHILLIP: Who's the most important player in all of this right now, when it comes to peace? Whose actions are most important?

SONNENFELD: What the Saudis can do right now, because they do have inflamed populations because of misinformation. We've seen lots of major wars erupt.

PHILLIP: You think it's the Saudis?

SONNENFELD: What the Saudis can do, is the Saudis under President Trump were producing a third more oil. For whatever reason, whether or not they didn't like Joe Biden or they liked President Putin, whatever it was, they voluntarily cut their oil production from 13 barrels a day down to nine.

If they add those barrels back in, those -- back up to 13 barrels a day, those four billion, a million barrels a day, they could replace the Iranian oil. We have lifted the sanctions, lifted the restraints on Iranian oil. Iran can only fund all these terrorists around the region through their oil money.

If they put oil caps on, which were easily done, very effectively done against Russia, I helped design them with the Treasury Department. They had to tighten them in the last few weeks. But if they put those sanctions on Iranian oil, cut that out, then Iran can't fund any of this. And suddenly we don't see people from Yemen, we don't see people from Islamic Jihad, we don't see Hezbollah, we don't see Hamas with the fuels that they need to fund their war.

PHILLIP: Look, a lot of people at home are watching all of this, and they're saying, you know, 75-plus years of violence and this kind of despair in the Middle East. Do you realistically think this could be an opening for a true end to all of this?

SONNENFELD: Well, it's a little harder now, for sure. It's a lot harder now than it was two weeks ago. But the idea of this was to help bring a better quality of life to the Palestinians. It was a way of doubling their GDP in just a couple of years, a way of tripling their exports, a way of bringing in great infrastructure.

There were $50 billion of immediate infrastructure under the Abraham Accords was coming in. There was just a $5 billion bridge Blackstone and others had committed to build this high-speed railway connecting the Palestinian Authority, connecting the West Bank to Hamas, but Hamas to that -- to Gaza. But we have to -- that has to be replaced.

And Dennis Ross had a very good suggestion on some sort of an interim authority, some sort of a Gaza interim authority until the Palestinian authorities ready to come and take control. But Hamas has to be eradicated. There's not a single Arab leader that wants Hamas to stay there despite whomever is chanting on the street. And they have oil money to use to take Iran's influence out of the equation here.

And also, there's a lot of U.S. support. We have 160 major U.S. CEOs in the last few days -- have come around and said they're fully behind, very full-throated support of Israel and quite condemning of the atrocities of Hamas.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, this kind of conflict here and in Ukraine, it's definitely one of those types of events that no one in the business world wants to see happen. It only creates far more uncertainty than they like to see. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, thank you for your expertise on all of this.

And up next, another Donald Trump co-defendant pleading guilty in Georgia. Directly implicating the former president. Will Kenneth Chesebro take the stand against Trump. Well, his attorney will join me next.



PHILLIP: A huge legal blow for former President Trump with a third co-defendant pleading guilty in the Georgia election interference case. And this time, it is the person who is at the heart of the fake elector's plot. Pro-Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro pleading guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit filing false documents. Now, prosecutors are recommending that he serve five years of

probation, and he's also agreed to testify in future court proceedings. I want to bring in now Kenneth Chesebro's Attorney, Scott Grubman. Scott, thank you for being here.

Look, today your client has now implicated Trump in this criminal conspiracy. If he is called upon to testify in this Georgia case, is he willing to implicate Trump on a witness stand, which seems to be required in this plea deal that he just struck?

SCOTT GRUBMAN, KENNETH CHESEBRO'S ATTORNEY: So, Abby, first of all, thank you so much for having me. Second of all, I am going to respectfully disagree with you on one thing. I don't think he implicated anyone but himself.

And I just want to point out two important facts that I think will get exactly to your question. Not only did he avoid jail time, but this is the most important. He did not plead guilty to the RICO charge. Mr. Chesbro pled guilty and I printed it out to make sure I had the exact words. conspiracy to commit filing of false documents. The RICO charge was dismissed.

And listen, Mr. Chesebro accepted the responsibility for count 15 of the indictment. And he agreed that if he were called by the state, he would come testify truthfully. And he is a man of his word and he will do that. Whether his testimony is going to be helpful to the state, that's going to be for the state to decide.

I personally do not see his testimony being helpful for the state, but if the state wants to call him, he absolutely can come and tell the truth. And if they think that's helpful for them, and they think they could convince a jury that his testimony is helpful for them, then so be it.

PHILLIP: So, who in Mr. Chesebro's view was the architect of this fake electors plot?

GRUBMAN: Mr. Chesbrough doesn't think there was a fake electors plan and Abby, please again, I know I'm repeating myself, but the fake electors plot was part of the RICO conspiracy and Fani Willis dismissed the RICO charge. And the charge that he pled to has nothing to do with being the architect of the fake elector plot.

And I will say, and I will ask anyone listening to ask themselves this question.


If Mr. Chesebro was the architect of the fake elector plot, then would the District Attorney of Fulton County offer him five years probation and first offender? I don't think she would.

And that really just proves that while he did accept responsibility for count 15, that he was never the architect of the fake elector plot. And I think if you asked him who was, I think he would say there wasn't a fake elector plot and there certainly wasn't an architect. And it certainly wasn't him.

PHILLIP: Have any of the other co-defendants in this Georgia case reached out to your client?

GRUBMAN: No, not to my knowledge.

PHILLIP: I want to also ask you about some reporting from "The New York Times" just a couple of days ago that mentioned some emails from late December 2020 between Mr. Chesebro and other lawyers that were involved in all of this. They discussed the filing of some legal litigation in an effort to fight the election results.

So, one of the emails says, reportedly, "I particularly agree that getting this on file gives more ammo to the justices fighting for the court to intervene. I think the odds of action before January 6th will become more favorable if the justices start to fear that there will be, quote, wild chaos on January 6th unless they rule by then either way."

That was notably just a couple of days after Trump sent that tweet, "will be wild on January 6th". It seems that that suggests that there was some, at least, political motivation for your client. But more to the point, was he coordinating with Trump to pressure the courts to weigh in on the outcome of the election?

GRUBMAN: Abby, I know people are going to say I'm his defense lawyer, so of course I'm going to say it, but I can absolutely guarantee you there was no such coordination. And while the use of the word wild was, of course, say, not convenient coincidence, I acknowledge, it was a coincidence. And in terms of --

PHILLIP: Do you think he used the word wild in quotes coincidentally? He quoted the word wild, just to be clear.

GRUBMAN: Yeah, but yet but I can absolutely guarantee you. I have looked through all the discovery in this case and the state has looked through all the discovery in this case. And not only do I not think there was any coordination. But I can tell you with absolute certainty, I have never heard the state say once that they believe that there was a connection between those two things.

The first time I heard that was when it was reported in "The New York Times", that was the first time I had heard anyone try to make that connection. I had never made that connection. The state never made that connection. I've never seen any evidence to suggest that. The same word was used, yes, and that is very unfortunate. But I have never heard anyone in a court of law suggest that there's evidence that those two things were connected.

PHILLIP: So, will your client testify if he is asked in a trial in which Donald Trump is a defendant that there was no conspiracy in which Donald Trump was a part of. Will he be able to say that under oath?

GRUBMAN: Well, that's not even admissible evidence. What he would be able to say under oath and what a judge would allow him to say is he would talk about his involvement in giving legal advice to the campaign regarding the Electoral Count Act and the alternate slate of electors.

A judge would never let Mr. Chesbrough say one way or the other whether he thinks someone else broke the law. He would simply talk about the facts. And of course, the jury would have to decide whether that's supportive of one side or the other. But let me say this, Mr. Chesbro would will absolutely go testify if called.

But he'll also go testify if called by the defendant. And he will testify truthfully regardless of which side he's called by. And whoever the jury thinks that supports, well, that's the way our criminal justice system works. I personally don't think that there's any reason that Mr. Chesbro's testimony would be particularly harmful to any other defendant in this case.

PHILLIP: All right. Scott Grubman, thank you for joining us tonight.

GRUBMAN: Thank you so much.

PHILLIP: And next, the guilty plea, a fine for Trump, and chaos on Capitol Hill, the no-good, very bad day for MAGA in just a few moments.




PHILLIP: We saw more angry demonstrations today across the Middle East protesting the worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza, and some of them directly confronting CNN about Israel's actions and the way that this story is being portrayed in Western media. Our own Clarissa Ward was near the Rafah border crossing in Egypt today, and she heard some of those angry words and thoughts of these protesters.


CLARISSA WARD, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For days they have been waiting. More than 200 trucks full of aid desperately needed in Gaza, but stuck on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres hoped to be here for a much- needed diplomatic win.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: As smoothly, as quickly as possible.

WARD (voice-over): Instead, he found himself in the midst of a protest, his remarks drowned out by the crowd.

WARD (on-camera): People are chanting over and over again, "With our blood, with our souls, we will defend Palestine".


There's a huge amount of anger, a huge amount of emotion, much of it directed at the West.

PROTESTERS: We need justice! We need justice!

WARD (voice-over): And much also at Western media, who people here feel have favored Israeli voices over Palestinians.

PROTESTER: Where is your humanity?

WARD (voice-over): A protester starts shouting at me. We invite her to do an interview with us.

PROTESTER: Okay, fine. When a thousand plus Palestinian babies die, you don't feel the same. You don't feel the same as when I tell you one of your own has died. But these are our own. And it is unfair and Egypt will tell with Palestine. All Western channels are talking for Israel.

If the United Nations is standing for Israel, if all these international institutions are standing for Israel. Who's there for the Palestinians? And don't call it a war. The jargon is even more infuriating. It's not a war, they're not on equal footing. It is not a war.

WARD (voice-over): For many, it is deeply personal. A Palestinian man holds up his I.D.

MADI ABU ABEID, PROTESTER: I can't contact with my family there.

WARD: You can't -- your family's on the other side?

ABEID: Yeah, I have seven sisters and my father, my mother, grandmother, uncles. All my family is there. I can't contact with them.

WARD: Are they okay?

ABEID: I don't know if they are okay or not.

WARD (voice-over): As Egyptian soldiers stand by, the demonstrators get more animated. Protests are normally illegal here, but today the Egyptian president called on people to take to the streets.

WARD (on-camera): So, this is rapidly becoming a very chaotic scene now. They're trying to get the Secretary General out of here.

WARD (voice-over): We are ordered back on to the buses and escorted out through the crowd back to Yasser (ph) Airport where piles of aides sit by the runway, so close to where they need to be, but held back, the U.N. says, by complications over how to monitor the trucks that enter Gaza and how to establish a continuous humanitarian corridor.

When you saw the anger of those protesters, most of it leveled at Israel and the U.S. but also at the international community for failing to stop the situation, what's your response?

GUTERRES: I think what's important to say is that we are doing everything we can, engaging with all the parties, to make sure that sooner rather than later we are able to have not only a first convoy, but continued aid to the population in Gaza.

WARD: But no timeline.

GUTERRES: I think it should be as quickly as possible and with as many as possible trucks to cross in the first few days.

WARD (voice-over): But that is little comfort to the people of Gaza, for whom every day, every hour is vital.


PHILLIP: Our thanks to Clarissa Ward for that and ahead, more from the ground in the Israel-Hamas war, including the release of two American hostages back in a moment.




PHILLIP: And thank you for joining us on "News Night". "Laura Coates Live", as always, starts right now. Hey Laura.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: I'm always live. I love that. Thank you so much.

PHILLIP: As always. Good to see you.

COATES: Nice to see you. Great show and great week. Congratulations on a wonderful week, Abby Phillip.

PHILLIP: Thank you. You, too. A lot of news --

COATES: A lot of news.

PHILLIP: -- on the horizon for both of us. But I know you'll be covering it right now.

COATES: Good news tonight. Thank you. We'll see you again on Monday.

PHILIP: That's right.