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Ongoing Truce Negotiations Between Israel And Hamas; Release Of Russian-Israeli Women Held By Hamas; U.S. Hostage Envoy And Secretary Of State Involved In Talks; Potential Extension Of Truce; Uncertainty Surrounding Hostility Resumption; House Debates Expulsion Of Congressman George Santos; Santos Accused Of Misusing Campaign Funds. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired November 30, 2023 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN. CNN NEWS CENTRAL. It is the top of the hour, and we begin with breaking news. Two major stories we're following right now, one overseas and the other here at home on Capitol Hill. Any moment now, we expect to hear from Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a series of key meetings during his high-stakes trip to Israel.
And soon, the House is set to debate an expulsion resolution for Republican Congressman George Santos. The New York freshman remains defiant ahead of an expected vote to kick him out of Congress. Santos lashed out at his colleagues during a Capitol Hill news conference, accusing them of bullying in the wake of that scathing House Ethics Committee report. That report says that Santos spent thousands of dollars on things like Botox, personal vacations, paying off personal credit cards, and a pile of luxury goods. CNN's Lauren Fox is live for us on Capitol Hill.
So, Lauren, as lawmakers weigh whether to boot Santos from Congress, what are the chances he survives this vote tomorrow, as he's already done on two previous occasions.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that is really the key question and what we are going to be watching in the hours and day ahead. We expect that this expulsion vote will come to the floor tomorrow in the House of Representatives in the morning at some point. We also know, of course, that there are a lot of questions about whether or not some Republicans will be too uncomfortable with the fact that Santos has not been convicted of a crime at this point to actually vote to expel him.
Now, momentum has grown since the House Ethics Report has come out with these allegations that he misused campaign funds on some of the items that you laid out there on OnlyFans, as well as other luxury goods. But so far, despite the fact that reporters have pressed him repeatedly on if these allegations in the committee report are true, he says he doesn't want to go line by line. He says there will be a time for that, but he's not going to get into the specifics at this moment. He also just wrapped up a pen and pad meeting with reporters behind closed doors, so this was not on camera. But he answered additional questions about his future, about whether if he is kicked out of Congress tomorrow, he would continue to show up using floor privileges that members of the House of Representatives have as a member or former member of the House if indeed he is expelled.
But again, the key question is, are the votes going to be there? And right now, despite the fact that there was growing momentum after the Ethics Report came out, it's just not clear. You heard yesterday from House Speaker Mike Johnson that he was concerned and had some reservations about moving forward with expelling a member who has not been convicted. Obviously, a lot of members are looking to their new speaker as to whether or not they're going to be willing to move forward with that either. Boris.
SANCHEZ: Yeah. Congressman Santos would be the first member of Congress. First member of the House, I should say, kicked out since 1861 without facing a conviction. Lauren Fox, thank you so much. Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Here in minutes, America's top diplomat will answer questions from reporters after a day of very significant meetings with both Israeli and Palestinian officials. Secretary of State Antony Blinken trying to lengthen this delicate truce between Israel and Hamas for another day at least. So far today, Hamas released two female hostages who are now in Israel. And they're expected to release another six people as well. There is video that we have showing Mia Shem reuniting with her mother and her brother.
In exchange for these releases, Israel will set free another 30 Palestinian prisoners and detainees. The truce has been put to the test in very tragic ways. Three people shot to death by a Hamas member who opened fire at a Jerusalem bus stop. Blinken calling the shooting a terrorist attack. Hamas saying that these killings were in response to Israeli defense forces killing two children in the West Bank, shooting them.
Let's start with CNN's Jeremy Diamond, who is talking with us about the situation there with hostages and also the state of this truce, Jeremy. The hostages, as we understand it, are coming from different locations. What can you tell us?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's exactly right, Brianna. So far, we have seen two of the eight Israeli hostages who we expect to be released today come out of the Gaza Strip and now on their way to hospitals. Those first two are Mia Shem, that 21-year- old who you just referenced having that emotional reunion with her mother and her brother. She was also the first hostage that Hamas released a video of early in this conflict. The second hostage is 40- year-old Amit Susanna, who was also freed alongside Mia Shem. But there are six others who we are expecting to see emerge from the Gaza Strip tonight. The reason why these releases are happening separately is because it's believed that they are held in different locations within the Gaza Strip.
But amid all of this, Brianna, there is still a question about what comes tomorrow. We saw already as today that truce between Israel and Hamas that has allowed for the release of these hostages, that has allowed for the release of Palestinian prisoners, was renewed only minutes before it was set to expire. And we could very well be facing the same situation tomorrow. We know that yesterday, over the course of the day, there was extensive negotiation to try and salvage that truce to ensure that Hamas would release more Israeli hostages, to allow for the Palestinian prisoners to get out, as well as those hundreds of trucks of aid that the people in the Gaza Strip have benefited from, and we are witnessing something very similar brewing right now.
Both Hamas and Israel have made clear that if this truce is not extended, they will return to the fighting very soon. In fact, the Israeli prime minister saying that if this once this operational pause is ended, that he will unequivocally return to the fight. We know that Hamas made a series of proposals yesterday that weren't acceptable to the Israelis, and ultimately at the last minute Israel accepted to have eight hostages released today and include those two Russian- Israeli women who were released late last night.
But we are now getting to the point where Hamas may be running out of women and children who they can actually find and release as part of this deal. That is something that is certainly brewing. And beyond that, just their ability to actually abide by the terms of the deal, Israel to accept the terms that Hamas is willing to offer, leaving a lot in question and the very real possibility that war could be back on tomorrow.
KEILAR: All right. Jeremy, thank you for that report. I want to go now to Ben Wedeman to talk about this deadly bus stop attack in Jerusalem. Three killed, Ben, but also there were seven people wounded. Can you tell us what you've learned about what happened here?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. What happened? What happened in the morning during rush hour here in Jerusalem, two men driving a car from Sur Baher, which is a Palestinian neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, drove up to this bus station, opened fire, according to Israeli police, with an M-16 assault rifle and a pistol, killing three people, two women and an elderly man, wounding seven soldiers and bystanders, had weapons, and killed three people. Killed on the spot the two attackers.
Now, both of these attackers had been in Israeli prison. One of them had just finished in 2020, serving a 10-year term. And very soon after this attack, Hamas put out a statement on its Telegram channel, accepting, in their words, full responsibility for this attack. Obviously, here in Jerusalem, nerves are on edge. Because of the war, but certainly, this is the first major attack of its kind in Jerusalem since the 7th of October. Brianna.
KEILAR: Horrific. As we watch it there, Ben Wiedemann, thank you for the details there in Jerusalem for us. Boris.
SANCHEZ: We want to dig deeper now and get some perspective from retired U.S. Army Major Mike Lyons and CNN analyst David Sanger. He's also the New York Times, White House, and national security correspondent. Thank you both for being with us. Major Lyons, the U.S. has recommended that when hostilities eventually resume, the IDF narrow their focus to more targeted precision strikes in Gaza, an effort to prevent more civilians from dying. What do you think that could look like within Israel's goal of eradicating Hamas?
MAJ. MIKE LYONS, U.S. ARMY (RET): I mean, first and foremost, Israel is going to abide by the natures of the laws of land warfare, and they're not going to target civilians. However, I think they're going to do all they can to destroy Hamas's military capability. I think they start back with an air war, first and foremost, again, to try to collect some intelligence, turn the drones back on, see what the situation is before the ground forces start to move.
But they know that the world is watching as it deals with civilians. They know that from a conventional perspective, they have a tremendous amount of firepower that they can use. So, I think they're going to do all they can, but they're going to still proceed in a manner to make sure that they accomplish their military objectives.
SANCHEZ: David, given some of the inner workings of Israeli politics, how likely is it, do you think, that we'll see the IDF shift tactics?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, Boris, I think it's pretty likely. And our sources are indicating right now that in the conversations with Secretary Blinken, the Israelis have taken a pretty hard line, that their first goal is to destroy Hamas, and that if this process of, getting the hostages out, breaks down, they're going to move forward with that again. I think it puts them in a pretty problematic situation.
First of all, they're going to have to start moving the operation to the south. Well, the south, of course, is where they asked everybody to move to a few weeks ago. So, there are a lot of civilians who are sort of stuck down at the bottom end, trapped there, and that the war may follow them there. The second problem is they're going to have a lot of international pressure. You're already seeing that now. Not to be the ones to resume here, even if they're not getting hostages out at the numbers at which they hoped.
And so, Secretary Blinken is sort of pressing for time at this moment. He's just hoping that he can, you know, buy some time here to be able to get more hostage releases happening
SANCHEZ: Major Lyons, to one of the problems that David outlined there, Israel shifting its focus to southern Gaza. We've learned that one option that U.S. and Israeli officials are weighing is whether to move civilians in the south back north, I'm wondering what that process would look like. How would the IDF keep Hamas from moving as well, in theory? LYONS: Yeah, I think David's point is spot on. In fact, the last four or five days here, Hamas has likely moved most of its fighters to the south, trying to fight, you know, for another day. I don't see how they regress back up to the north, the civilians at least, because as we've seen from satellite shots, their houses are destroyed. There's not a lot of place to move the tens of thousands of people that are there. This is where it's going to require other Arab countries to come in, potentially Egypt, Jordan, other countries that are going to potentially have to take on some refugees here.
That is the real solution that that has to be somewhat negotiated at this point, because the fight is eventually going to the south. Israel is going to pursue Hamas right through those tunnels, right to where they are, to the very last one standing. And it's likely that that battle ends up in the southern part of Gaza.
SANCHEZ: David, on the question of a solution, we know that Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting with a number of officials overseas. One of them, the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. How critical is the Palestinian Authority toward a two-state solution?
SANGER: Well, they're critical, but it's not sure they're capable of it. I mean, there's been discussion of a two-state solution for many, many years, as you know, Boris. And during the Obama administration, I remember going to see Abbas with Secretary John Kerry at the time. And everybody thought that he was sort of at the end of his time. That he was so weak, both physically and politically, that he wouldn't last.
So, he's still there. And, you know, most American officials concede when you get them in private. There's no way that the Palestinian Authority has the heft and the capability to go run Gaza, which is right now the U.S. proposal, because the other alternative would be, have Israel run it. And so, you know, at this point, they don't really have a partner.
SANCHEZ: Yeah. David, quickly. Quickly, from the current Secretary of State to perhaps the most infamous, Henry Kissinger passing away at 100 years old last night. You wrote his obituary for The Times.
SANCHEZ: It is comprehensive, to say the least. And it lays out these dueling views of him. Some people see him as a war criminal. Others see him as a leader who prevented nuclear calamity. How do you see his legacy?
SANGER: It's complex. And he was a really complex figure. I think he was one of the most fascinating figures. I think he was one of the most fascinating figures in the 20th century. I think he was also clearly, as you indicated, one of the most controversial. Without Henry Kissinger, there may not have been an opening to China, certainly at the time that this was done during the Nixon administration.
There may not have been the first arms control talks and agreements with Russia, which began to bring down the arsenals. He negotiated an end to the Vietnam War. But each one of these was pretty controversial, particularly Vietnam, where he could have had the exact same deal just years before.
And one of the concerns is he could easily have cost a lot of lives, including a lot of American lives, had he, -- by delaying taking that deal at the time And then, of course, there were human rights abuses elsewhere, Indonesia, for example, Chile, where he turned the other eye or turned his back on it, while allies of the U.S. needed, but strongmen, ended up conducting great human rights abuses. So that's the complex legacy of Henry Kissinger. I think it's fair to say that he probably had more influence over American foreign policy in the 20th century than many presidents did.
SANCHEZ: David Sanger, Major Mike Lyons. We have to leave. The conversation there. Appreciate you both.
SANGER: Thank you.
SANCHEZ: Of course. Coming up, history in the House of Representatives. Lawmakers expected to debate the expulsion of Congressman George Santos. We're going to bring you that debate live. Plus, one of the three Palestinian college students who was shot while walking down the street in Vermont is now speaking out, describing how his training as an EMT may have saved his life. And the major influx of migrants in Chicago, combined with the rise of the U.S. government, is now a big deal. With dropping temperatures has officials worried about the winter months ahead. More on a potential growing crisis coming up.
KEILAR: All right, we are following breaking news and live pictures now from Capitol Hill, where any moment the House of Representatives is set to debate an expulsion resolution for Congressman George Santos. This ahead of a vote that is set for tomorrow to expel the New York Republican in the face of these damning allegations about his use, or we should say misuse, of campaign funds.
SANCHEZ: If he is voted out, he would be just the sixth member of the House ever to be formally ousted from Congress. We have a team of experts and analysts here. Let's start with CNN's Manu Raju first. Manu, what are we going to be seeing as soon as this starts?
MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the question is going to be whether or not there's going to be enough votes to kick him out of the chamber. That is still an uncertain question that we have an answer to, because there are a significant number of Republicans who are concerned about setting this new precedent, and others are privately concerned about the political fallout by losing a key vote in a swing district that Democrats could certainly pick up, narrowing the already very tight Republican majority.
And I spoke to a number of Republicans this morning. Some of them said it is absolutely time for George Santos to go amid the laundry list of scandals that he has endured all year long, and some said it's a very difficult decision for them to make.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R- CA): I'm in one of those difficult situations that the voters put him here. He said he's not going to run again. But removing him prematurely is a very tough decision, notwithstanding that he certainly is not out on escape.
REP TONY GONZALES (R -TX): I think it's very clear that George Santos does not need to be in Congress, and the sooner he's out, the sooner the people of his district can get real representation.
RAJU: Do you worry that this could fail, this expulsion resolution might fail?
GONZALES: I worry about a lot of things in the House. We tend to shoot ourselves in the foot on some things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: At the moment, there are not enough Republicans who have announced publicly where they may come down, and we don't know exactly where this may come down because Republican leaders are not whipping it. They're not telling their members to vote one way or the other, and that is going to be an indication that tomorrow we're going to head into this vote with an unclear sense of whether or not Santos will face the unprecedented nature of being the first member ever to be kicked out of the House without being convicted of a crime or being a Confederate.
So a lot of questions. There's a lot of questions here still, but some scuttlebutt in the hallway suggests that perhaps he could survive this in large part because the Republican leadership is opposed to this, including the Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, who said he has, quote, real reservations about the precedent this was set.
KEILAR: Yeah, it's so interesting. And, Lauren Fox, I know you're talking to members up there. Listening to Congressman LaLotta, who is a fellow New Yorker there, to George Santos, initially I think he had said that he thought they'd get 150 Republicans, and, man, did he dial that back yesterday to 75. I don't know if that number has changed again, but that just speaks to how uncertain they are on the outcome of this. What are you hearing?
FOX: Yeah, and he made the comments before he had heard Speaker Johnson say that he had real reservations. That's why he sort of corrected and pulled back the number that he thought Republicans would get on this vote. And I think that that is why there is so much uncertainty, because Republican leadership is not whipping this. Because there is concern about starting a new precedent. No member wants to just be on the other end of a scathing ethics report and then find themselves out of the job that they were elected to do. They want to make sure that they are not prematurely moving forward.
On the other hand, this ethics report was scathing, and it was extremely damning for Representative Santos. He also has yet, despite being pressed repeatedly by reporters, gone point blank. And he has refused, by point, to refute claims that were made in that ethics report, saying that he believes there will be a time and a place to do that, but that now is not that time. So, it's really a major question for Republican members. Do they want to start this new precedent? But on the other hand, do they think that Santos acted improperly? And if they did, do they think it's time for him to go? I think that that's what a lot of members are weighing in this moment, Brianna.
SANCHEz: CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali is with us. And Tim, Congressman Santos could be potentially joining quite the fraternity here. We heard Manu say that three House members that had previously been expelled were Confederates back in the Civil War, 1861. Two others convicted of a plethora of crimes, bribery, fraud. What's the historical context here if Santos does get expelled?
Tim NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, the context is that the House doesn't like to do this. And it's going to be remarkable if the majority party expels one of their own before there's any trial and a verdict in a trial. So that would be extraordinary. On the other hand, we right now are suffering from a deficit of trust in our institutions. And the glass half full part of me suggests it would be very healthy for the country to hear members of the majority party talk about the need to restore trust in the House and that having a con artist as a member of the party hurts the brand and undermines trust in Congress.
And that would be very healthy to hear. I'm not sure there are enough votes to expel Congressman Santos. But the fact that this debate is a free debate, the fact that it's not being whipped, the fact that the speaker has said he's not sure of what should happen, but he's not really coming down hard on keeping Santos in the House. A lot of those are good signs, which means we could actually have a useful, healthy, nonpartisan debate today.
KEILAR: Yeah, Alice, I wonder what you think the political calculus is here, because I can't imagine we hear Republicans. They don't they don't want to be talking about. George Santos, because then they're not talking about other things on the flip side. How important is it to have his vote? I mean, is it really George Santos that you want to have as you're deciding vote on something politically?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If it's a deciding vote? Yes. Look, he is certainly self-righteous. He is certainly ridiculous, but he is a reliable Republican vote. And those that are going to stand behind him are looking at that and that alone. I've spoken with many over the last few weeks and they're having a different tune. That ethics report was damning. It was embarrassing. It was scathing. And they think that someone that engaged in that type of behavior has absolutely no business being in the House. And look, he talks today about how he's being bullied and he's a victim. Look, he's claimed so many things in his lifetime, being a financier, saving the animals and being a collegiate athlete. He is not a victim. He did this wrongdoing, and he deserves to suffer the consequences. He talks about due process. Look, the Republicans, rational Republicans I talk with say, look, he will have this due process in the court of law where he's facing 23 indictments.
But in Congress, there is a standard of behavior that is set by them and enforced by them. And those that are looking at this as a distraction and an embarrassment are saying he does not deserve this position. And he's engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of Congress. And therefore, I think the numbers will be higher for his expulsion than we think.
SANCHEZ: On that note, Leigh Ann, Brianna brought up the fact that initially we'd heard estimates that some 150 Republicans might vote to, tell him that number has gone down since we heard from Speaker Mike Johnson. How big of a role do you think he's had in influencing the direction of this vote?
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's been really interesting talking to Republicans on Sunday and Monday. They were pretty confident that Santos was going to be gone by the end of the week. And now that tune has changed. They're not so sure anymore. A source told me close to leadership on Monday that there are conversations among leadership about what to do with this precedent setting measure and that there is some. Heartburn about it.
Speaker Johnson yesterday really seemed to tip the scales, even though he said that, you know, he might not even have to vote. The Speaker of the House doesn't usually vote, so he could choose not to vote in this situation. But those comments have really kind of changed the calculus here. And I think everyone is watching to see what everyone else does. And that's why it's no clear answer on how many Republicans are actually coming out for it.
KEILAR: What precedent are they worried it's going to set? Leigh Ann, you can't spend tax. You can't spend voters money on only fans. I mean, what's the matter with that?
CALDWELL: And what they're saying is that the threshold of kicking someone out of Congress is usually treason, as in the Confederacy, or conviction. And Santos has been charged with 23 crimes, but he has not yet been convicted. And so, I would say that this House of Representatives is kind of a precedent setting House of Representatives. And anyways, with all they've been through this year, but right now they say that it's the precedents, but there's also a lot of politics at play.