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Speaker Mike Johnson Holds First Formal News Conference; Israel At War; IDF Raised Count To 242 Hostage Held By Hamas; Interview With CNAS Senior Fellow And Director Of Middle East Security Program Jonathan Lord; A.I. Helps Beatles Drop Their "Final" Song; Interview With Host On SiriusXM's "80s On 8" Channel Mark Goodman. Aired 10:30- 11a ET

Aired November 02, 2023 - 10:30:00   ET



REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: They've been taking in the evidence as it goes. So, we're going to follow the evidence where it leads and we'll see. And I'm not going to predetermine it this morning.




JOHNSON: Scott Ruppert (ph).

SCOTT RUPPERT (PH), REPORTER: Yes, Mr. Speaker, this has obviously been a whirlwind week for you with a lot of changes. You have a security detail now. People want to take photos with you in the Capitol. It's been probably a jarring transition. Can you talk on a personal level what this week has been like for you and your family back at home?

JOHNSON: Well, I'm from Louisiana, so I describe everything in either football or hurricane metaphors. Let me say, this is like an F-5 hurricane. It's been a whirlwind, but in a great way. Scott, I've -- we're so humbled and blessed to have been asked by our colleagues to do this and to have a unanimous vote on the floor was an extraordinary thing, and we needed that to unify our conference. And the energy that's being felt around the country.

I'm under no illusion. It's not about me. It's about this idea that we can unify, this team can pull together and get this job done for the country. And so, it's a historic moment. And I did not -- I don't believe I overstated it. And I think I said this on the floor Wednesday night, but I genuinely believe that the future of our republic may well be decided in the next 12 to 14 months. There -- this is a heavy time.

If you look over the scope of all of human history, and I'm a -- I'm an amateur historian myself. You know, there -- you'd be hard pressed to find a moment in our history where there are so many challenges, sort of compounded upon us at the same time. And so, maybe the time of the Civil War. I mean, I think arguably even in the world wars and the Great Depression, we've not seen the collection of challenges upon us as we face right now.

So, we go into that very sober minded. The first week in the job has been has been a whirlwind. We've had -- spent. time with three heads of state, cabinet officials, you know, the secretaries of defense, and the chairman of the joint chiefs, and individual members of the Senate, and all of them collectively and everyone. And my message has been the same to everyone. Let's stay the course. Let's be steady. Let's provide principled leadership. And I commit that that's going to happen in the House. We're serious about it and we'll continue.

CROWD: Mr. Speaker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have some appointments to make as well, whether it be to intel and your Debt Commission. You said you've been thinking about chairing and kind of want to launch that this week. I think you said on Sunday, in a matter of days it can launch. Have you thought about who's going to chair the commission and who you would appoint on intel as well?

JOHNSON: I've thought a lot about it, but I'm not going to reveal it here. But we have some great candidates to chair the Debt Commission. And by the way, it will not only be bipartisan, I don't know if you noticed, but when I mentioned that on the floor last week, many of our Democrat colleagues applauded that as well. They're -- that's a very encouraging sign that we -- this is not a partisan issue. The debt is something that we all have to contend with

And so, it's not only going to be bipartisan, but also bicameral. So, I mentioned I had lunch with the Senate Republicans yesterday, they were all there. And I mentioned that and the idea was met with great enthusiasm. So, I believe we're going to have very thoughtful people on both sides of the aisle and both chambers come together and have some very productive discussions about that.

And by the way, I believe it's also an important principle that the speaker not predetermine the outcome of that or dictate, you know, objectives or benchmarks. I think it needs to be an organic decision process that's made by very thoughtful people who have a passion about the issue and have expertise in the subject matter.

And we have, thankfully, an embarrassment of riches because we have so many people in our conference, for example, who do have great expertise and many ideas on this, and I think that the time has come for it. So, when I said I wanted to do it immediately, I meant that, and it's a top priority right now. Let me take one more.

CROWD: Mr. Speaker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, one more please.

JOHNSON: OK. Let me get Jake and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker -- government funding -- JOHNSON: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- because you're two weeks away from the government funding deadline. Is your plan to move forward with the CR into January? And when do you plan to move on that?

JOHNSON: Well, it's yet to be determined. I mean, I think everyone here recognizes that just because we're running out of time that we may not get all this done by November 17th. This quickly has removed the approach bills here. The Senate's a little behind and obviously we have the conference committee process and all of that. So, there's a growing recognition that we're going to need another stopgap funding measure.

I've made clear that my initial idea was to extend that to January 15th to get us beyond the sort of the Christmas rush and the things that it typically jam us in the House. I think there's some good arguments for that. But some of my colleagues have other ideas as well. One idea that was pitched this morning, to be very frank with you, is a laddered CR. I'll unpack for you what that means here in the coming days, but potentially that you would do a CR that extends individual pieces of the appropriations process, individual bills. We'll see how that goes.

I think we can build consensus around it, but I think there's a recognition that we have to complete the job. And we run out of the clock on this but we want to do what's right with the American people. So, stay tuned for further details. Last question with Jay (ph).


JAY (PH), REPORTER: Do you -- on just Israel, I want to nail you down on that, and Ukraine, you -- you're just saying you will not pass Israel aid bill unless it's offset. Is that the correct interpretation of your --


JOHNSON: That's what we're going to do. And the reason for that --

JAY (PH): But I'm saying when it comes back from the Senate, that's your --

JOHNSON: Look -- right, right. We're -- their decision, they have to make on their own, but our decision is -- look, the reason we pulled it from the Israel fund is that's a pile of money, $67 billion that's sitting over there to refurbish, build up, and hire new IRS agents and the rest. If you have to look at the scope and the importance of our commitments right now, my belief is that these -- this dire situation in Israel is so important that it's more immediate than that.

And if Democrats in the Senate or the House or anyone elsewhere else want to argue that hiring more IRS agents is more important than standing with Israel in this moment, I'm ready to have that debate. But I did not attach that for political purposes, OK? I attached it because, again, we're trying to get back to the principle of fiscal responsibility here. And that was the easiest and largest pile of money that's sitting there for us to be able to pay for this immediate obligation. And so, we're going to stand for that, and I'm going to continue to message that to the American people. And you know what, I suspect they're with us on it.

JAY (PH): And on Ukraine --


JAY (PH): -- just how do you intend to handle that?

JOHNSON: Ukraine will come in short order. It will come next. And you've heard me say that we want to pair border security with Ukraine because I think we'd get bipartisan agreement on both of those matters. Look, the American people feel very strongly about this, and I do as well, and I can tell you House Republicans do. We have obligations and we have things that we can and should do around the world, but we have to take care of our own house first. And as long as the border's wide open, we're opening ourselves up for great threat.

And, again, it's just a matter of principle that we -- we're going to take care of a border in Ukraine, we need to take care of America's border as well. And I think there's bipartisan support for that idea. We're going to get right to that Thank you for your time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, can you take in one more?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: All right. You've been listening to the first news conference from the new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson. A little news there. He said there will be a vote on Israel funding this afternoon, tied to cuts in IRS funding, which the President has said he would veto, and it's pretty much a nonstarter to the Senate. He said they are reaching a decision point on impeachment for President Biden. And he suggests that maybe there is a plan to avoid a shutdown, which could happen in just a few weeks.


BERMAN: Maybe. Let's get right to Manu Raju who is standing outside the room where it all just happened. Manu? I guess you're over here, Manu. Tell us what you heard there.

MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY AND CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that the two big pieces of news here. One of that is that he is still insisting that a package to fund Israel, to help with Ukraine, and the like, needs to essentially be paid for. There need to be spending cuts to offset the price tag. That typically is not done on these emergency funding measures. Typically, they are approved and they are approved quickly because they are emergencies. This is -- the speaker has taken a different approach in this Israel aid bill that it will -- is expected to be approved by the House this afternoon, that's $14. 3 billion. It also goes after IRS enforcement as a way to pay for it. Now, there's a dispute -- this congressional budget office actually says it actually increases the deficit. Republicans dispute that nonpartisan analysis. But nevertheless, his philosophy is to try to essentially make -- ensure there are spending cuts with a package here, with a package to deal with Israel and Ukraine.

That is a nonstarter for Democrats, for the White House, for actually several Republicans in the Senate as well. So, the question is, how will they be able to reconcile that and still pass the Israel aid? Also, indicating he is open to Ukraine, money for Ukraine. That is -- he has previously voted against it in the past, but privately he has been indicating a more openness to it. But he is saying that it must be paired with more border security measures.

There's been a push among Republicans to change immigration policies. To tighten immigration policies and add that to issues involving Ukraine aid. That is also a nonstarter for many Democrats. Also, some conservative Republicans won't go for that either. But as he says will be next on the agenda. Even though the Senate Republicans, along with the White House are trying to tie all of this together. So, that is a signal of a big fight that's still going to happen over Israel and over Ukraine.

And then how does he avoid a government shutdown? Again, indicating he plans to move a short-term continuing resolution up until January. But he still isn't likely to try to pursue spending cuts with that short term plan. Again, setting the stage for huge fights with Democrats. So, laying out his vision here for governing, but unclear how any of this gets resolved amid all these issues that are happening overseas and here at home.

BERMAN: All right. Manu Raju, thank you very much for that. Keep us posted.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Laying down a lot of markers. Let's see where the fight goes from here.

A lot going on. We're going to head back for our -- continue our coverage with new developments at the Rafah Border Crossing in -- with Gaza. And we are -- we'll take you back there in a second. We'll be right back.



BERMAN: An official from the Israeli military says now that they have raised their count of hostages taken from Israel on October 7th to 242. 242 hostages, this would now be their 27th day in captivity. This, as we're getting new details about the Israeli ground operation moving into Northern Gaza on three fronts. Our Jeremy Diamond is just outside Israel with Gaza literally over his shoulder in the Israeli City of Sderot.

Jeremy, what are you seeing right now in terms of Israel's moves?


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we've been witnessing over the last several hours is some very, very intense fighting in the northeastern most part of Gaza. The city that you have behind me, the Gazan City of Beit Hanoun, which if you can see on a clear day, the buildings behind me have been really left shells of themselves.

And what we've been witnessing over the last several hours has been intense fighting between Hamas militants and Israeli troops. We have been hearing the steady thud of artillery coming from near our position here, but also what appears to be mortar fire from inside of Gaza or in that area, at least close to the City of Beit Hanoun. We're also hearing a lot of gun battles, small arms fire coming in both directions.

And what that tells us, John, is that even Israeli forces say that they are closing in on Gaza City, that they are at the gates of the city, and now Israel's military chief of staff saying that they have been operating inside Gaza City in significant areas for several days, it tells us that even as they are doing that, they are also still battling Hamas in closer to some of the points where they made the initial entry into Gaza on a Friday night, six days ago.

And part of that has to do with the tunnel system that Hamas has below Gaza. We were told that last night, Israeli forces in Northern Gaza were actually ambushed by Hamas fighters. It would appear that they made use of those tunnels in order to ambush those Israeli forces. And so, that is the kind of danger that Israeli forces are dealing with as they try and make their advance. And also knowing that even as they advance, they could be snuck up. Hamas fighters could sneak up behind them as well.

So, that is why we've seen Israeli forces really targeting those underground tunnels very intensely. And also, that has been leading, of course, to a number of civilian casualties as we saw yesterday and the day before in the strikes on the Jabalia refugee camp.

BERMAN: All right. Our Jeremy Diamond and Sderot right here in Israel. Beit Hanoun, which Jeremy was talking about right behind him, where he has heard some blasts and seen some smoke rising. Thank you, Jeremy.


BOLDUAN: All right. Joining us right now is Jonathan Lord. He's a senior fellow and the director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

It's good to see you, Jonathan. Thanks for coming in. We've just heard from the chief of staff for the IDF saying that they are now -- the Israeli military is now in very significant areas of Gaza City. That's the latest coming in, and you make an interesting comparison to what people thought would happen with the ground operation, and what is actually happening. Flicking on a light switch when actually it's a dimmer switch. What are you hearing that they're -- why are you hearing they're doing it that way?

JONATHAN LORD, SENIOR FELLOW AND DIRECTOR OF MIDDLE EAST SECURITY PROGRAM, CNAS: Well, that's right, Kate. Thanks very much. There are a few reasons that the IDF is operating in this very deliberate, steady, gradual way. For one, operationally, it makes a lot of sense. They're moving very deliberately to clear territory along the lines of a counterinsurgency campaign. Whereas in the past, we might have seen more CT, counterterrorism, attempts to take out terrorist networks, to stop and debilitate terrorist activity.

They're seeking to displace Hamas wholly throughout the Gaza Strip, and so they're going to move and hold territory as they go. Additionally, when it comes to the issue of concerns about escalation, by moving in this way versus, you know, almost like the IDF sergeant blowing a whistle and thousands of troops come out over the top, doing it this way makes it harder for Israel's adversaries to identify a specific decision point at which they feel politically pressed to make a decision to escalate themselves in a very meaningful way. So, by doing it in a deliberate way, they're actually injecting more uncertainty into Iranian-backed proxy's decision making.

And very finally, when it comes to the issue of hostage negotiations, it seems that Hamas is using dribs and drabs of hostage releases to try to forestall Israel's advance. Israel can counter that by deliberately and slowly building up the pressure, moving in step by step, to put counter pressure on Hamas to release more hostages as they go.

BOLDUAN: I was actually going to ask you about the circumstances around the hostages. 242 hostages, still 27 days into this war, still being held, believed in Gaza by Hamas. How do you think Hamas is -- what they're trying to do, how they're trying to use the hostages in these, if we want to call them negotiations? And how does that impact Israel's approach to this ground operation?

LORD: Yes, well, it's very clear that Hamas is using these hostages to try to restrain Israel's action, to keep them out of Gaza City, and to ultimately, hopefully permanently forestall Israel's in ground incursion and to keep themselves in power in Gaza.


In the meantime, they're using social media and a lot of images of civilian casualties to try to press the International Community and individuals to press Israel into a premature ceasefire. That's their game. And for Israel's part, they do largely assess that that's what they're trying to do. It was reported that Israeli Mossad, the intelligence chief, David Barnea, was in Qatar getting briefed on these negotiations. And in part, Israel is moving very deliberately to try to press Hamas into releasing more people.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you, you were talking about the fear of escalation, the concern. Tomorrow we are going to hear from the head of Hezbollah, and he's going to be making his first public speech since the start of this war. What is your sense on the calculation for escalation by Hezbollah? If Hezbollah goes in, does that effectively mean that the United States will be in another war in the Middle East?

LORD: That remains unclear. It's also unclear what Hassan Nasrallah may say in his speech tomorrow. I imagine it will be loud and blustery and demonstrate immense solidarity with Hamas. But thus far, the level of activity we've seen on the northern border indicates to me that Hezbollah wants to do just enough to demonstrate solidarity with Hamas without actually getting themselves embroiled in a war.

Hezbollah has a lot to lose here. Lebanon is in a total state of chaos, it's functionally a failed state, and Hezbollah has a lot to do with that. And the one good thing that, in recent months, that has happened in Hezbollah -- in Lebanon is the offshore gas deal. Hezbollah had an option to try to scuttle that or take some credit for it, and they chose the latter. They understand they're going to be held responsible if Lebanon goes through a terrible war as a result of their actions.

BOLDUAN: It's great to have you on with your expertise on this, Jonathan. Thank you.

LORD: Thank you, Kate.


BERMAN: All right. It is a kind of music miracle. A new song from The Beatles, and Paul McCartney says, it will be their last.



BOLDUAN: A new song from the Beatles just released now 50 years after they broke up. Paul McCartney also says it is likely their final and last song. Came together with the help of A.I. It's fascinating, this entire thing. The song is called "Now and Then". It includes the voice of the late John Lennon, guitar by the late George Harrison, Paul McCartney on bass, and Ringo Starr on the drums. Listen.


THE BEATLES: And now and then, if we must start again. Well, we will know for sure that I will love you.


BERMAN: I wish you could hear more than 15 seconds of it. With us now is Mark Goodman, the host of SiriusXM's "80s on 8" channel. Mark, so nice to have you with us. John -- this is a John Lennon song, to be clear. It was a John Lennon solo song. He recorded his voice in 1978. George Harrison put together the guitar in 1995. And now, in the last year, Ringo and Paul put their stuff in it. But when you listen to it, just what's your vibe when you hear it? MARK GOODMAN, HOST ON SIRIUSXM'S "80S ON 8" CHANNEL: Look, I'm a baby boomer. And I'm a baby boomer in the radio business. So, for me to be able to say there is a brand-new song from The Beatles, that's really, really exciting. The technology used, incredible, to be able to extricate John's voice from that really rough demo, and the way that they did is great. But any Beatles fan knows, even a casual Beatles fan, how does this song stack up to their legacy? It's not the greatest, but I'm thrilled to have it, nonetheless. All four members on it. That's a great thing.

BOLDUAN: Can you talk about the A.I.? What did A.I. do? A.I. didn't come up with the voices, didn't come up with -- it described the use of A.I. here and how it all came together.

GOODMAN: Yes, really important to point out that nothing is created by A.I. on this track. This is all real. What it did, Peter Jackson developed this technology and used it on the "Get Back" documentary, it extricated John's voice from a rough demo. He was sitting in his room in the Dakota. And just playing on a piano and oftentimes his voice was drowned out by the piano. And we didn't -- in '95 when George Harrison was still alive and when they were working on this track, that technology didn't exist, and they just dropped the track. They just stopped working on it. It was supposed to be for the Red and Blue anthologies. Now, we have the technology and that's incredible.

BERMAN: It is incredible.


BERMAN: And I'm not arguing with you. I mean, it's not like the best Beatles --

BOLDUAN: Have you heard the whole song yet? We had --

BERMAN: I did. I listened to it in break.

BOLDUAN: Oh, I haven't had time yet. You clearly are better --

BERMAN: Yes, what I should have been preparing for the rest of the show, I was listening to "Now and Then" by the Beatles.