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Rep. George Santos (R-NY) Says, Expulsion Vote is Bullying and Theater; IDF Says, Two Israeli Hostages Transferred to Red Cross; Secretary of State Blinken Visits West Bank, Tel Aviv. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 30, 2023 - 10:00   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, some world leaders are mourning death of the controversial giant in the foreign policy world. Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state, died Wednesday, he was 100 years old. His legacy and influence are felt in policy from Vietnam, the Middle East, to China. Kissinger was the only person to serve as national security adviser and secretary of state at the same time, a polarizing figure, to be sure, on the global stage, but he didn't seem to mind that.

CNN Presidential Historian Tim Naftali explains.


TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Kissinger's great concern was that the United States would -- its influence would collapse as a superpower as a result of the fact that the United States had to get out of Vietnam.

So, with Nixon, he designed the structure, and it continues to influence us to this day, as our relationship with China is extremely controversial. That relationship is built on the foundations set in place by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.

Henry Kissinger loved the lime light. He loved being the center of -- on the stage, the world stage and other stages, too. He was perfectly adept at charming those who interacted with him.

He was not a retiring professor. He was a professor who loved theater.


SIDNER: Lashing out, deflecting and denying, George Santos speaking on Capitol Hill as he stares down the possibility of being expelled. What the New York Republican is saying about tomorrow's expected vote and his colleagues in the House.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, Donald Trump was warned. One of his attorneys said the former president was told and absolutely understood that failing to comply with the subpoena from the Justice Department would be a crime. There is new reporting this morning.

SIDNER: And Secretary of State Tony Blinken is in the West Bank and Tel Aviv to meet with Palestinian and Israeli leaders. He is back in the region hours after that fragile truce between Israel and Hamas was extended for one more day. Could we see another extension to get more hostages out of Gaza and more aid in?

I'm Sara Sidner with John Berman. Kate Bolduan is on assignment today. This is CNN News Central.

Right now, the House is gaveling in as lawmakers weigh the political fate of Republican Congressman George Santos. A vote is expected tomorrow on a measure to kick him out of Congress. And this morning, he made it clear, he ain't going quietly.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): If I leave, they win. If I leave, the bullies take place. This is bullying. The chair of the committee putting out a motion to expel, just introducing it, and not calling its privilege was designed to force me to resign.

The reality of it is all theater. It's theater for the cameras. It's theater for the microphones. It's theater for the American people at the expense of the American people because no real work is getting done.


SIDNER: The Ethics Committee would say otherwise, saying they have receipts. This is all unfolding after the House Ethics Committee found Santos defrauded donors and used the money for himself. The scathing report says the New York Congressman spent thousands of donor dollars on things like Botox, luxury goods and even lavish personal vacations.

That is not all. Santos is also facing 23 federal charges, including wire fraud, lying to the FEC and House of Representatives, identity theft, device fraud, money laundering and stealing public funds.

This would be a rare and historic move, however, making Santos just the sixth person to ever be kicked out of the people's House.

CNN's Manu Raju is joining us now from Capitol Hill this morning. Manu, I know you have been talking to a lot of the lawmakers there, as you always do. Does it look like he might survive this attempt to oust him?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is very possible in large part because of the Republican leadership is signaling opposition to this measure. Mike Johnson, the speaker of the House, I asked him about this yesterday. He said there, quote, he has real reservations about the precedent that this would set. And, of course, this would be an unprecedented vote.

The other five members who have been expelled from the House, two of them were convicted in the court of law, the other three were part of the confederacy. And George Santos has not been convicted yet.


He has been charged with 23-count indictment, he has plead not guilty, so this would set a precedent.

But also by kicking him out, it would also narrow the House Republican majority, which is already razor thin and something that has not lost on the minds of many Republicans. But I spoke to one -- some of these Republicans who about that precedent that would be set, one of them who was pushing for his ouster said that's okay.


REP. NICK LALOTA (R-NY): This individual who lied about every single thing about himself and his background. And the new precedent should be, when you lie about everything, we will expel you.

REP. VICTORIA SPARTZ (R-IN): There are some, you know, even committee chairs that they went to like some kind of like expedited process, which I don't like that. So, I'm going to look at it seriously, because I think we're setting a very serious precedent, and I'm a great believer in due process.


RAJU: Now, I just spoke to the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jim Jordan, who told me that he opposes expelling George Santos, saying that it should be left up to the voters. And the math is going to be the issue here.

We expect that they would need about 53 Republicans who voted against expelling Santos to flip the vote for expelling him now. We are estimating about 18 at the moment. Many are undeclared, which means that this vote expected tomorrow could be very close.

SIDNER: This is two-thirds of vote, right? Manu Raju, very hard to get for anything, especially in the time we live in now. We will see. I know you'll be all over this. Thank you so much. I Appreciate it. John?

BERMAN: All right. With us now is CNN Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten.

So, George Santos did not resign this morning when he gave this news conference. What it was constituents wish he did?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: They wish he would have resigned. I mean, take a look here. Support them resigning, we have 2023 Long Islanders, that's, of course, where George Santos is from, 83 percent.

I want to put this in some historical perspective, though. Remember, of course, Richard Nixon resigned in August of '74. Only 67 percent of Americans supported that decision for him to resign. So, the fact is more Long Islanders want George Santos to resign at this point than Americans wanted Richard Nixon to resign back in August of 1974.

BERMAN: You heard Jim Jordan, Manu, just reported there, Jim Jordan, other Republicans say they're not going to vote for expulsion. Do they fear some kind of Republican backlash? Should they?

ENTEN: I don't think that they should, because take a look here, this is Republicans who held a positive view. This is nationally. Just 15 percent of Republicans, Republicans nationwide, hold a positive view of George Santos.

Again, remember Richard Nixon, there was this whole idea that it was a bipartisan push to get him out. But, in fact, there were a lot of Republicans who still liked Richard Nixon and the public back then, it was 50 percent. George Santos at 15 percent falls well short of that historical analogy.

BERMAN: So, it may not be a backlash, they fear, but what Republicans like Jim Jordan and maybe the House speaker, Mike Johnson, might fear is just the pure numbers game in the House.

ENTEN: Yes, it's a pure numbers game. I think this might be it right here. Okay, so the U.S. House of Balance of Power, Republicans only have 222 seats, Democrats at 213, right near behind. This is tied for the narrowest majority in the last 90 years. So, the fact is, they lose one vote, we've seen a lot of these close votes going on in the House, so one last vote for Mike Johnson. He might say, hey, that's less of a chance to pass legislation.

BERMAN: And I ask you this, if there is a special election in the New York Congressional district, is it clear who would be favored?

ENTEN: Not necessarily. Because if you take a look, remember, yes, Biden won this district by eight points back in 2020, but you look at 2022, the U.S. Senate race, Joe Pinion, the Republican, won it by four points. So, this is a swing district. It's one that Republicans have actually done pretty well in the special elections, the elections especially held after Joe Biden became president.

BERMAN: And winnable by Democrats but not a slam dunk necessarily.

And then I just wanted to do this, backed by popular demand, because we did this once and it became an internet sensation. It really took over the internet, Harry.

ENTEN: Yes, that's what we do, John.

BERMAN: Relatively speaking, like where does George Stanton stand in overall popularity?

ENTEN: Yes. So, this is a New York's third district for Santos, nationally for the others. Just 7 percent of voters in New York's third district hold a favorable view of him. Compare that to the Earth is flat nationally, 10 percent of Americans believe the Earth is flat. 12 percent believe that the U.S. faked the moon landing. So, a fewer people have a favorable view of George Santos than what I call them in those line of beliefs. If you can't get above the Earth is flat and the U.S. faked the moon landing, you're a pretty unpopular dude.

BERMAN: George Santos losing to the Earth is flat right now.

ENTEN: He's one of a few.

BERMAN: All right. Harry Enten thank you very much for that. Sara?

SIDNER: You are the combo the world needs, you two.

All right, joining me now, Republican Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis. Sorry, they just threw me with some of their stats there about the world is flat, the Earth is flat. You are from New York. You are watching all this. I know the New York delegation has been pretty hot on this issue and very worried about it. You, though, voted not to remove Santos last time.


Will you be changing your vote after this really scathing ethics investigation?

REP. NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS (R-NY): I believe the Earth is round and that George Santos needs to go. And, look, the previous vote, you had Republicans and Democrats vote against it simply because we were waiting for the Ethics to do its due diligence, to do the due process, and come back and furnish the report so we could see what type of evidence and facts they were able to find.

That is what we requested of the Ethics Committee early this year. And it was premature to be voting on an expulsion before getting the results of their investigation.

But following the report being released, I don't see how somebody can vote to keep him here. I mean, it is clear they found the evidence and the facts and produced it to us that he took money from his campaign donors and used it for personal reasons.

And the argument that this will be -- you know, he meets his day in court, yes, he will have his day in court as it relates to the criminal charges, the 23 charges that you mentioned earlier, but he had due process as it pertains to expulsion and whether he should remain in the House.

SIDNER: Okay. Your colleague and the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, has said that he has real reservations about expelling Santos and the precedent that it might set. Does that give you pause? What do you make of that?

MALLIOTAKIS: Look, I just disagree. I think that -- and he's been clear, and he says that every member has to vote their conscience and their constituents. And my conscience tells me that George Santos is a stain on the institution. He does not represent his constituents well. He does not have the trust of his constituents nor the members of Congress. And the sooner he is removed, the better off we will all be. So, that's my belief, and I believe that my constituents agree with me. SIDNER: I want to ask you about what you're hearing from your colleagues. So, you're hearing this from your constituents. We're certainly seeing from Harry Enten looking at the numbers that voters are deeply, deeply unhappy with George Santos. You know, what are your colleagues saying to you and how do you think they'll vote? Do you think that he will be expelled?

MALLIOTAKIS: Well, like I said, I think that many of the individuals who voted no a couple of weeks ago, because it was premature prior to the vote being released, will flip. And I think we will have the votes necessary to remove him.

As was mentioned, this is historic. He is the first Republican, by the way, who has been expelled. The previous five members were all Democrats. But this shouldn't be political. It should be what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong.

Somebody who inappropriately took donations from his donors and then spent it on all sorts of luxury items, on OnlyFans website, on Botox, should not be here. Somebody who also created fake loans and then used his donor money to repay himself should not be here.

And as I said, the due process point, the part about having due process, look, the committee reviewing and doing -- they reviewed 170,000 pages of documents. They issued 38 subpoenas, interviewed 40 witnesses. That is due process. That's what we asked the Ethics Committee to do. Their recommendation is to expel, and we should honor that and do it immediately.

SIDNER: Congresswoman, I last want to ask you, this is a very, very tight majority that the Republicans have in the House. Are you concerned that Republicans won't be able to hold on to the seat?

MALLIOTAKIS: Look, of course, I'm concerned about losing a Republican vote, but that should not be taken to account at this moment. The question is whether this man deserves to remain in Congress, and he does not.

I believe that we can hold on to that seat, particularly in a special election. Look, Nassau County, if you've followed the trends, they flipped everything in that county, not just the congressional races, but the county executive, the county legislature, the district attorney. So, I have faith that the Nassau County operation will be able to maintain this seat going forward. That's up to the voters at the end of the day.

SIDNER: Yes, you've said two things that are going to stick in my mind. The Earth is round and George Santos should be expelled. I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you for coming on and being very forthcoming. John?


BERMAN: All right, Sara, thank you.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Tel Aviv this morning, meeting with Israeli leaders, as the pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas is set to expire tonight, unless it gets extended again, what we are learning on that front.

New insight on a Republican congressman's role in a former President Trump scheme to stay in power, what was said in text messages and mistakenly released last night.

And a top aide is switching teams in the race for the White House. Vivek Ramaswamy's national political director joining Team Trump.



BERMAN: All right. Happening now, we just learned that two Israeli hostages are on their way back to Israel. The IDF just confirmed that they were transferred to the Red Cross.

At the same time, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is making the rounds in Israel and in the West Bank. His visit comes as the clock is ticking to extend the pause in fighting between Hamas and Israel inside Gaza.

In Jerusalem, Hamas claimed responsibility for a bus stop shooting that killed three people this morning. In response to that shooting, Israel's prime minister, once again, stated his promise to resume fighting and eliminate Hamas.

CNN's Katie Bo Lillis at the Pentagon with the very latest. This Jerusalem shooting only complicates things, Katie Bo.


KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Yes, of course, John. Blinken meeting with a number of senior Israeli leaders today, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to discuss, among other things, not only the ongoing negotiations over the release of hostages still held by Hamas inside Gaza, but the need to try to extend this fragile truce now in its seventh day for as long as possible.

This truce agreed to one more day, one more extension, just in the final moments before it expired last night under the same terms that we have seen for the past week, 24 hours of a pause in fighting in exchange for every 10 living hostages released by Hamas.

This comes as Israeli negotiators believe that there are still 245 hostages still held by Hamas inside Gaza, with just enough women and children hostages remaining to allow for perhaps one or two more days of a truce at best before the discussions have to turn necessarily to the potential release of Israeli civilian men and even Israeli soldiers. Obviously, a much more difficult discussion, a much more difficult proposition, and so I think at this point there's a looming sense that it's a question of not if the fighting will resume, but when.

Still, Secretary of State Antony Blinken hailing this truce as a victory. Take a listen to what he had to say after a meeting this morning with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: From day one, we have been focused relentlessly on trying to secure the release of hostages from Gaza, from Hamas. And we have seen over the last week the very positive development of hostages coming home, being reunited with their families, and that should continue today.

It's also enabled an increase in humanitarian assistance to go to innocent civilians in Gaza who need it desperately. So, this process is producing results. It's important and we hope that it can continue.


LILLIS: John, the focus, of course, for the American side remains the release of the remaining American hostages. One American woman released yesterday, putting the count now at eight Americans still in Hamas custody, seven men, one woman. John?

BERMAN: Again, this is a fluid process, the talks going on. Katie Bo Lillis, keep us posted. Thank you so much. Sara?

SIDNER: Well, the U.S. is pressuring Israel to protect civilians when the truce ultimately ends and the war ramps back up. Sources are telling CNN one solution that's being put on the table is saying, look, have the residents move back to the north.

An area, by the way, that was evacuated at the beginning of the war, because Israel said they were going to have heavy military operations there.

If you look on the map there, all of that red that you see up there marks damage in Gaza. Most of it you see is there in the north, huge swaths of damage. So, that leaves it basically uninhabitable in many, many places. As much as 50 percent of all structures in the north are said to be damaged.

CNN's M.J. Lee brings us this reporting from the White House. M.J., is Israel being receptive at all to this idea of sending people back to the north while they do operations in the south?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sara, what we know is that those discussions are very active right now between U.S. and Israeli officials really just about what the military operations by Israel would look like once this truce ends. President Biden and his top aides have been stressing to their Israeli counterparts that what they do not want to see once the war picks back up again is the kind of sort of massive air campaign that we saw in Northern Gaza to be directed in Southern Gaza.

Now, one of the ideas, we are told, that is being deliberated is this idea you mentioned of the civilians that had initially fled south eventually moving back up north once military operations have concluded there. But as you noted and as you showed on that map, this would be a very significant undertaking given just the reality that so much of Northern Gaza has been completely decimated and this is a big part of the reason why we are seeing U.S. officials talk so much about the importance of surging that humanitarian aid not just generally into Gaza but specifically to Northern Gaza.

Now Israel has, of course, made clear that they are not done in northern Gaza but that they will eventually turn its focus to Southern Gaza. And one of the reasons, we are told, is that there is intelligence that shows that Hamas leadership had fled south.

SIDNER: Yes. And another big thing, as I'm just watching this videos over and over and over again of the damage that there's no humanitarian aid there, either that would be a whole different thing to try to get that in back into the north.


All right, as all of this is playing out, I mean, how is President Biden seeing all this and handling this as he watched these extremely intense negotiations?

LEE: Yes. You know, Sara, just here domestically, this has been such a complicated issue for the president. There are divisions in his own party over the issue of providing aid to Israel. We've, of course, heard some lawmakers saying that that aid needs to be conditioned on various humanitarian provisions.

And I think we are seeing that there is attention right now here in the U.S. between wanting the war to eventually come to an end and really come to an end as quickly as possible while minimizing the criticism that the White House has already received, while also continuing to support Israel's stated mission of eradicating Hamas' ability to do what it did back on October 7th.

But I think the recognition here, at least for now, really is that the war, whenever it does return, needs to return in a very different shape and form, Sara.

SIDNER: M.J. Lee, your reporting has been stellar, as always. Thank you so much for all those details. John?

BERMAN: Right. It's going to be a crime, new reporting, that was the warning from former President Donald Trump's attorney that she says he absolutely understood.

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