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Candidates Clash On Abortion During The GOP Debate; U.S. Airstrikes Hit Iranian Weapon Warehouse In Syria; Actors To Return To Work After Walking Off The Set July 14. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 09, 2023 - 09:00   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: It is Thursday morning and we are just 67 days from the Iowa caucuses and the gloves are off. Candidates clashing and getting pretty personal on stage at the third GOP presidential debate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: New airstrikes in Syria, U.S. officials calling it a move in self-defense against Iran. But also raising questions, are U.S. deterrence efforts working?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Lights camera, action, a deal to end the month long after strike. So when will your favorite shows be back on the air? Let's hear it for Matlock. I'm John Berman with Sara Sidner and Kate Bolduan. This is CNN News Central.

SIDNER: Tick, tick, tick, the clock ticking for Republican presidential hopefuls to make an impact in a race that is dominated by the front runner, former President Donald Trump. Five candidates took the debate stage last night and things got really nasty. They clashed over everything from abortion to foreign policy. Trump, though, wasn't there. Instead, he held his own rally trying to get eyeballs just a few miles away. But that didn't stop his Republican rivals from finally going after him.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll say this about Donald Trump, anybody who's going to be spending the next year and a half of their life, focusing on keeping themselves out of jail and courtrooms cannot leave this party or this country.

NIKKIE HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can talk about President Trump. I can tell you that I think he was the right president at the right time. I don't think he's the right president now.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He should explain why he didn't have Mexico pay for the border wall. He should explain why he racked up so much debt. He said Republicans were going to get tired of winning. Well, we saw last night, I'm sick of Republicans losing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: And the attacks weren't, of course, just directed at Donald Trump. They were directed at each other.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you want Dick Cheney in three inch heels, and in case, we've got two of them on stage tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Ramaswamy, thank you.

HALEY: I'd first like to say they're five inch heels. And I don't wear them unless you can run on them.

RAMASWAMY: In the last debate, she made fun of me for actually joining TikTok while her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time. So you might want to take care of your family first.

HALEY: Leave my adult daughter out of your voice.

RAMASWAMY: -- the next generation of Americans are using it. And that's actually the point. You have her supporters propping her up. That's fine. Here's the truth --

HALEY: You're just scum.

RAMASWAMY: -- the easy --


SIDNER: All right, that was political WWE, in case you missed it. CNN's Steve Contorno joins us from Miami this morning. Steve, this was -- it got quite personal. And did anyone sort of differentiate themselves though, because now we're getting down to the smaller group of people who have made it onto the stage, five people. What did you take away from this?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Sara, with so much turmoil in the world right now, there was a lot of focus last night on foreign policy. And on a lot of topics, there was agreement between the candidates, how much to support Israel and as a war with Hamas, how to handle China and Iran as emerging threats. But there were deep divisions over how much the U.S. should be supporting Ukraine and its war against Russia.

On one side, you have Vivek Ramaswamy, who says that the U.S. commitment should end that he -- and he went so far as to cast aspersions on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And then you have Nikki Haley saying that that kind of rhetoric emboldened Putin, emboldened China. And Chris Christie said if we took a turn our back on Europe now that this could lead to something akin to World War III.

And then in the between you had sort of Tim Scott and Ron DeSantis kind of dodging the issue a little bit instead of turning the focus to the southern border. And then abortion, of course, is another issue that was quite topical, given the election results on Tuesday night.

And all of these candidates are anti-abortion, but how they would use the government to defend that position going forward. There was some widespread disagreement. Take a listen to what they had to say about the issue last night.


HALEY: When we're looking at this, there are some states that are going more on the pro-life side. I welcome that. There are some states that are going more on the pro-choice side. I wish that wasn't the case. But the people decided.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a 15-week federal limit. Three out of four Americans agree with a 15-week limit.

DESANTIS: You got to do a better job on these referenda. I think of all the stuff that's happened to the pro-life cause, they have been caught flat footed on these referenda and they have been losing.


CONTORNO: Now DeSantis has signed a six week abortion ban in Florida. However, he has dodged the question of whether or not he would support that at the national level. And, you know, he's kind of flipped a little bit in the second debate. He said he would support a 15-week abortion ban if it reached his desk as president. However, last night, he mostly said this is going to come from the States. Sara?


SIDNER: Clearly saw what happened on Tuesday. So we'll have to keep watching and see what happens going forward. Steve Contorno, thank you so much live there from Miami. John?

BERMAN: All right with me now Republican strategist and former RNC communications director Doug Heye, and Lanhee Chen, former public policy director for Mitt Romney. Doug, let me start with you discuss the myriad ways that this debate altered the course of the race.

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Here are no myriad ways, there are zero ways. And you know, Sara liken -- Sarah likened this earlier to political WWE. So let me quote , Ric Flair, the 16-time World Heavyweight Champion from Charlotte, North Carolina, who said very famously, to be the man, you've got to beat them in. And if you look at the polling right now, and not just right now, all year long, Donald Trump has been the man in the Republican primaries.

And what we've seen is a battle royale of people who are trying to come in second or rocket into third place. They're not directly taking on Donald Trump or even worse. They're -- they've been shoring up Donald Trump's core messaging when he gets indicted the first time, the second time, the third time, next time. It's why Donald Trump is as strong as he is in the primary. And everything that we saw last night, essentially is political -- is the political equivalent of one hand clapping. BERMAN: Lanhee, I could see in your face, the smile on your face, you're trying to come up with a Rowdy Roddy Piper quote. In the absence of that, if Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, were both trying to differentiate themselves maybe emerge as the clear number two, to what extent did either of them do that?

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER PUBLIC POLICY DIRECTOR FOR MITT ROMNEY: Well, I think they're both in the conversation. I think what they made absolutely clear is that it is the two of them. It is Ron DeSantis, it is Nikki Haley. And for everybody else in the field, the time may have come to get out. And I think that may have been the message after last night. That could be the single best thing, that Republicans who do not want Donald Trump to be their nominee can do, which is to winnow this field as quickly as possible.

Now, it may not come quickly enough to make a difference. I think that's the point. But fundamentally, what last night was, was a demonstration that both Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley can be credible candidates as the Republican nominee. I thought DeSantis had a much more steady night than he did in the prior debates. I think Haley obviously emerges as somebody who can compete not just in the primary, but in a general election.

So both of them did what they needed to do last night, I think the question is, will it matter for the longer term dynamics of the race? And unless something happens in terms of at least a few other candidates getting out very, very soon, it may not make a difference in terms of how this race develops, and who ultimately becomes the Republican nominee.

BERMAN: What do you think of Doug's point, Lanhee, that none of the candidates except for a little bit at the beginning, took on Donald Trump, do they need to do that more, especially Haley and DeSantis?

CHEN: I think they need to take on Trump. I'm not sure that debate stage is a great place for them to do it. I mean, even if you look at the nature of the arguments that were put forward, you know, he didn't make Mexico pay for the wall. And, you know, he wasn't the same guy he was before. All of the data we have shows us that these attacks don't tend to land on Donald Trump, it doesn't matter.

It's very hard to dodge -- to attack Donald Trump from the right. That's the reality of where we are. And so for these candidates, yes, they're going to have to go after Donald Trump. The question is, what is going to be your pathway, the debate stage, again, I don't know if that's the best place to do it. It may be for their campaigns and their Super PACs to do some more on television. That might have to be what they do and on digital media.

But on the debate stage, trying to draw contrast and saying essentially, look, Trump's not conservative enough, or Trump didn't do enough. I'm not sure that that argument is the right one. And so that's the dynamic. That's why this race is so hard, because there's not much you can say that will affect conservative voters mindset about Donald Trump as a candidate. BERMAN: You know, Doug is not every debate you have the word scum tossed around like you did last night. And that dynamic, that dynamic between Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy is interesting. And I'm curious to what extent do you think that she uses him as a proxy for Trump to show that she's not afraid to mix it up with someone?

HEYE: Well, that dynamic is definitely true. And I think we've seen Nikki Haley in the past have very strong debate nights. The challenge is, then how do you capitalize on that? How do you build momentum from it? And you mentioned Rowdy Roddy Piper earlier, you know, he said one time, we just when you think you know the answers, I change the questions. And debates are moments where you change not only the answers, but what the questions are, at least that's what you shouldn't be doing.

And we've seen Republicans really failed to do that. Chris Christie had a moment last night. He usually does, where I think he encapsulated a lot of what Lanhee was saying when he said Donald Trump essentially is going to be distracted for the next year and a half in courtrooms that is an argument that's not right or left. It's a process argument that could work for Republicans to say we need a nominee who will be laser focused on defeating Joe Biden come next November, and Donald Trump won't be able to.


But they've not prosecuted that argument for a long time. And in fact, when Donald Trump gets indicted and has gotten in trouble, they reinforce his core messaging on a two-tiered system of justice or the process is rigged. And Donald Trump is in a stronger position, in a large part, because his opponents haven't given Republican voters anywhere else to go.

BERMAN: Doug Superfly Heye and Lanhee Macho Man Chen, thank you both very much for being with us this morning. Kate?

HEYE: Thank you.

CHEN: Thanks, John.

BOLDUAN: All right. Let's turn now to the Middle East. We have new reporting about U.S. airstrikes overnight in Syria, the target official say was a weapons warehouse connected to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the motivation, retaliation. Since October 17th, U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria had been targeted at least 41 times by attack drones or rocket attacks. CNN's Alex Marquardt is following this. He's joining us now from D.C. Alex, what are defensive defense officials saying about these airstrikes now?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well retaliation, Kate, sending a warning to Iran and its proxies and taking out weapons that have been used, they say, against U.S. forces across the region. The Pentagon is describing this as a strike of self-defense against this IRGC and Iranian proxy facility in eastern Syria, this weapons storage facility. It is aimed to send a strong message of deterrence to Iran and Iran-backed groups to not expand the conflict that we are seeing in Israel and in Gaza.

They want to send that message. They've been doing so very overtly. They've been doing so covertly. And so these strikes serve the purpose of not just sending that message of deterrence capable, we're told, also taking out that weaponry in that storage facility. You noted the more than 40 strikes against U.S. forces across the region. A senior defense official is saying that they saw explosions after that strike indicating that there were indeed weapons in that facility. Kate?

BOLDUAN: We're also hearing about a U.S. military drone being shot down off the coast of Yemen by Houthi forces. What is going on here? What are you picking up?

MARQUARDT: So this plays into the concerns about escalation by Iran- backed groups. Houthis are some of the most capable Iran-backed proxies in the region. And we understand that they were able to take down a very sophisticated American drone called an MQ-9 Reaper. The Pentagon says it was in an international airspace, over international waters, it really shows the significant capabilities that the Houthis have in taking that down.

This is not the first time that they've taken down an American drone. But Kate, it does follow firing by the Houthis of drones and missiles towards Israel several weeks ago, that a U.S. destroyer had to take down. So there really is significant concern over those Houthi capabilities, and of course, how that could play into a possible escalation and expansion of this conflict.

So the U.S. is trying to send the message to Iran and its groups do not get involved in this conflict. And they're doing that with by moving the strike groups into the region, a guided missile submarine into the region and direct conversations with Iran and its proxies out of this fear that the conflict could expand. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Remains a question, though, are these deterrence efforts enough to do what they're hoping to do? Standby on that. It's great to see you Alex, thank you so much. Sara?

SIDNER: Thank you, Kate.

Just into CNN, U.S. Intel officials have met with Qatar and Israel today to discuss new proposals to try and finally get the hostages out of Gaza. What we're learning about those conversations just ahead.

Also former President Trump's defense team now has a chance to present his case in the New York civil fraud trial, a look at their potential strategy.

And your favorite television shows may finally be back in production very soon, much to the delight of actors across the country. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am so happy. I'm so happy. I'm so happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [09:14:37]

SIDNER: I mean, that's some good action right there, I think. What's inside the tentative billion dollar deal with Hollywood Studios, that's next.


BERMAN: All right, breaking overnight, an historic and grueling strike in Hollywood is over. After 180 days SAG-AFTRA announced a tentative agreement with the studios giving 160,000 actors the OK to return to work. Union officials call the scope of the billion dollar deal, extraordinary.


CAITLIN DULANY, SAG-AFTRA NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE: All of our fabulous actors can get back to work. And it is a great deal. We voted unanimously to approve it. We're really excited about the AI protections and many other things that we fought hard for.


BERMAN: All right, CNN media analyst Sara Fischer is with us now. What they get Sarah?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: It's a huge deal, John. So this contract sees wage increases at a level that hasn't been done in 40 years. The streaming war right now has made it so that actors really wanted compensation for some of those titles. They're going to get it.

And then the big thing of course, is that AI is included in this deal. AI has never been mentioned in any sort of actors' agreement with studios before. They're essentially going to get protections, compensation and they're going to have to require consent if they want to use an actor's likeness in AI.


BERMAN: What did the studios get out of this? It seems as if the actors got almost everything that they were striking for.

FISCHER: They did. They really did. The studios honestly just get to back to work. That's the big thing. You had some companies suggesting that they could lose up to $500 million in profit this year alone, John. A lot of them also had to move their big blockbusters out of the fourth quarter, which tends to be a very lucrative time. So for them, they get to go back to normal. And there's a lot of pressure right now from Wall Street to these big entertainment companies to make money.

BERMAN: So when do I get new episodes of Matlock, yes, it's not Matlock. When do we get new episodes of our favorite shows?

FISCHER: This is the big question. Unfortunately, it's not like the Writers Guild where they can go back to work overnight. First of all, they're going to have to ratify this contract, which means that the union members have to vote to approve it. And then once that happens, we're looking at Thanksgiving and the holiday season. You also have to ramp up in terms of booking venues, getting your sets moved. So I don't think we're going to actually get into real production until January. And then you can start to see shows come back in the first quarter, which is great, but I know a lot of people are eager to get them back now.

BERMAN: Sara Fischer, you've hit on that from the beginning. Thanks so much for helping us understand the deal that was reached. Appreciate it. Sara?

SIDNER: All right, thank you, John.

All right, Israeli troops expand their ground operations in the heart of Gaza City, large explosions and airstrikes can be seen and felt near the border. And of course, inside of Gaza, large plumes of smoke rose from the Gaza skyline just this morning. You're looking at those pictures now. In the past day, the Israeli military claimed to have killed a Hamas commander in an airstrike, struck anti-tank missiles, launching posts and taken care of a Hamas military stronghold and destroyed 130 underground tunnel shafts. We have not -- CNN been able to verify some of the claims.

This is while tens of thousands of people in northern Gaza continue to flee what is now being called a fierce combat zone. Today's six hour evacuation window just closed this hour. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is joining us now from Tel Aviv. Jeremy, we're learning some new information about the hostage situation as all of this is still going on there, the bombings still happening, people still leaving. What can you tell us about the conversations happening between U.S. intelligence chiefs, and those folks in Qatar, the officials there about what may be some solutions here to getting some of the hostages out?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sara, as you know, these hostage negotiations have been ongoing for weeks, and they have centered on talks being mediated by Qatar, involving U.S. Israeli and Hamas officials as well. But we're told today, according to a diplomatic source, familiar with the talks that the heads of U.S., Israel and Israeli intelligence sat down with Qatari officials in Doha today to discuss possible releases of hostages.

The talks apparently centered on a plan to release 10 to 20 civilian hostages in exchange for a three day pause in the fighting in Gaza. This would also allow for the entry of additional humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip as well as for Hamas to compile and share a list of the hostages that are being held inside the Gaza Strip.

Now, this doesn't mean that there is an imminent deal that is about to happen here. But it does mean that there are significant talks happening between U.S., Israeli and Qatari officials, that this is one of the plans that is potentially being discussed. We don't know yet how realistic it is whether it is something that the Israelis or Hamas would agree to at this stage.

What we do know is that Israel has made clear that it will not agree to any kind of ceasefire, unless hostages are released, unless a significant number of hostages are released. And so that is apparently what these discussions are focused on is, can Hamas agree to a releasing a significant enough number of hostages in order for Israel to be able to agree to a temporary ceasefire, and then perhaps discussions can evolve from there.

Now we know that negotiations have also centered on exchanging hostages for Palestinian prisoners. That is also a point that we know has been discussed. But all of this coming as Israel is still pressing forward with its offensive inside of Gaza. We know that Israeli troops are moving deeper and deeper into Gaza City. Overnight, Israeli troops according to the Israeli military taking down a Hamas stronghold In Jabalia, that refugee camp in the western part of Jabalia.

So this offensive is very much moving forward. But we have also seen, of course, an increasing number of Palestinian civilians being able to leave from Northern Gaza to the Southern Gaza Strip, using an evacuation corridor facilitated by Israeli troops. Just yesterday, according to the Israeli military and also U.N. monitors, 50,000 people were able to leave, flee the destruction in Northern Gaza where of course we know that the humanitarian conditions are worsening. Hospitals are shutting down due to a lack of fuel and medical supplies. Sara?


SIDNER: There is still a real humanitarian crisis happening in Gaza. And we are looking at some of the pictures taken just earlier today of the tens of thousands of people who are fleeing Northern Gaza into Southern Gaza. Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much for all your reporting there. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the state has rested. Now it's time for Donald Trump's defense.

And it's been described as a quote, high end brothel network used by elected officials and even military officers, who the Justice Department is targeting and what it's calling a major sting? We'll be back.