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Vote to Expel Santos; Republicans Divided on Santos Vote; Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) is Interviewed about Santos; Israel-Hamas Truce Ends; Numbers in the Santos Vote. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired December 01, 2023 - 09:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, history unfolding before our eyes this morning. Congress poised to do something it almost never does, kick out one of its own members, possibly. This could be the last hour or two in Congress for New York Republican George Santos, a man who faces a 23-count federal indictment for alleged fraud, money laundering and more, a scathing House Ethics Committee report on his use of campaign funds for spa visits, Botox and Only Fans and more, and a mountain of reporting that exposed lies about where he went to college, if his mother was at the World Trade Center on 9/11, whether he is Jewish and much, much more.

At this moment, House Republicans are meeting behind closed doors. An expulsion vote is expected on the floor shortly.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, George Santos, yesterday, declared that if he is kicked out, what it means is the bullies win, accusing fellow members of denying him due process.

And then this morning Santos took to television to offer what is likely his closing argument.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I want people to vote their conscience and I don't want to make anybody feel uncomfortable. So, if it's their choice to change precedent and loop me in with three confederate turncoats who were expelled for treason and two convicted members - members who were convicted in a court of law, so I'll be the first person to get expelled from Congress without a conviction or without committing treason. And it sets a dangerous (INAUDIBLE) the demise of this body even (ph).


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, you heard his words there. We will hear much more from him I am sure. Expulsion requires, however, a two- thirds super majority. Only five House lawmakers have ever been removed this way. For Santos today's vote could be the culmination of a political career, as you heard from John, filled with lies, scandal and drama.

We have team coverage of this historic vote this morning. CNN's Manu Raju and Melanie Zanona joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Let's start with you, Manu. What are you hearing this morning about this vote and the potential that he may be expelled?

MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I'm asking dozens of Republicans walking into this conference meeting behind me how they will vote. Many of them just simply say they don't know, others won't say at all, which just shows you how uncertain it is about whether there are the two-thirds majority to expel George Santos from the House of Representatives. It would require 77 Republicans, assuming all members are here and voting, to get there. We don't have 77 Republicans who have publicly announced where they will go and the Republican leadership is expected to oppose it, but they are not whipping their members. They say you can vote your conscience, which is making it very uncertain whether George Santos will become the first member ever to be expelled who has not been convicted of a crime and who is not part of the confederacy.

And in talking to those members over the last day, it is clear that opinions about Santos and his conduct span the gamut.


REP. STEVE WOMACK (R-AR): We have a member of Congress that has admitted to a lot of things that I think fall woefully short of the standards that are expected of a member of Congress. And, you know, setting aside the criminal implications and the fact that he'll go through a trial next year, the fact is that the Constitution provides that members of the House can discipline their members.

REP. BRUCE WESTERMAN (R-AR): It's the precedent thing that I'm having to consider. Do we want to set a precedent that's not there right now? You know, the evidence looks pretty damning, but, again, it's not - it's more about the institution and the precedent than about him.

REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): I have to answer a specific question about whether taxpayer dollars should still be paying a guy who has no intention of running again and has - you know, the facts are the facts from the Ethics Committee. So --


RAJU: So, that's what you're hearing from Republicans. Some of them concerned about the precedent that this would set. They don't want to go down that route. But then there's also the shear political calculation here. This is a narrow Republican House majority. If George Santos becomes the sixth member ever to be expelled from the House, this could put a swing seat - a swing district that Joe Biden carried in 2020 in play, potentially narrowing that already very, very tight Republican majority.


And that is not lost on these members, which is why some people believe George Santos may survive this vote in the next hour, given all those factors at play. But, again, we just don't know the outcome of this vote.

Mr. Hice, have you decided how you're going to vote yet?

And so, as you can see, a lot of people simply are not saying how they'll vote yet.

SIDNER: Classic.

RAJU: Mr. Hice, who I talked to yesterday about it, said that he didn't know. He said he was torn. And he waved me off there on that question. But there are a lot of questions still about whether there are the votes here to expel George Santos as members are filing into this meeting. And we'll see how they ultimately come down on this.


BERMAN: Go get them! Go get them!

SIDNER: Go - yes.

BERMAN: Stop talking to us. Go get them.


BERMAN: Find out what they're going to do. Report back to us as soon as they tell you, Manu, because, look, the fact of the matter is, we don't know.


BERMAN: We do not know where this is headed. It hangs in the balance.

Let's go to Melanie Zanona now.

If - if Santos is expelled today, and, again, we simply don't know if that's going to happen, what's next for him?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, this would be a very dramatic and unprecedented step. As Manu was saying, there have only been five members who have ever been expelled, and they were already convicted of a crime or already part of the confederacy and convicted for treason. Now, if it does happen, what would happen here is it would be handled much like a vacancy here in the House. So, the clerk would assume control of the congressman's office, would make decisions on that office's behalf. His district office would remain, though, for constituent needs. Though (ph) Santos, congressman for himself, has said that he would go gracefully and peacefully, that he would leave willingly, that he would pack up his office and leave, go head back to New York tomorrow.

But then, within ten days, the governor would have to call a special election. They would have to set that election within the next 70 to 80 days. And, remember, this is a Biden won district in a very blue district. So, there's a strong chance that Democrats could really flip this seat. There would be a lot of money, a lot of resources, a lot of attention on that potential special election and that is certainly weighing heavily on the minds of Republicans as they decide whether to take this dramatic step of expelling one of their own colleagues.

BOLDUAN: Melanie Zanona on the steps of the Capitol for us, thank you so much. She's standing by for that.

Let's try to get some more answers about where members of Congress are right now. Joining us right now is Republican congresswoman from Indiana, Victoria Spartz.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for being here.

Have you decided how you are going to vote this morning on this expulsion?

REP. VICTORIA SPARTZ (R-IN): Yes, I looked through all of the evidence and reports and there are sine very, you know, serious allegations. But, you know, as I think there was an old saying, you know, if any D.A. can indict a ham sandwich if you wanted it to.

So, I think if we are going to be expelling people and overrule the will of the people based on indictments and allegations without going through proper due process and convictions, we're going to set very dangerous precedents. And the Ethics Committee didn't even go through the trial process. So, I am not going to be voting to expel Representative Santos. And I think - I hope my colleagues are going to think seriously because we already turned into circus, we already turned into kangaroo court. And I think we're not doing our job and actually doing a lot of distraction.

So, I think it's going to be very split Republicans on this issue and I hope Democrats will stop being political and also start thinking about this institution.

BOLDUAN: So to be clear, as of Wednesday, which was the last time I had heard commentary from you, you had said that you were not sure yet on how you were going to vote. You were still going through the report. And what you're saying now is you're going to vote against expulsion?

SPARTZ: I will because I look at -- and I was actually very surprised that the Ethics Committee, on such a serious decision, didn't even bother to go through the trial process. They decided that is for political expediencies we don't want to deal with that. You know, we go pretty much from investigation to conviction. That is not, you know, the rule of law. That is not how things should happen. And I was very surprised even to see that they acknowledged that. That they're just going to not even go through the whole trial process.

So, that is unfortunate, but ultimately this is going to be very dangerous precedent and we will have so many now resolutions because, you know, as my good friend, you know, Clay Higgins said, listen, we're dealing with a place like a Brussels (ph) here. There are a lot of, you know, bad things happening here. So, if we're going to start doing this, we'll be on the floor instead of doing governing, just really going after each other and have this resolution day and night, which is really unhealthy because we have really, really big problems to deal with. BOLDUAN: But here's the thing, you're not actually doing this day and

night and also there is -- this isn't about the rule of law necessarily because the House Ethics Committee, it's not -- it's not a legal proceeding. The what -- what expulsion is about is about the behavior of members of Congress, giving a two-thirds majority the power to expel if they do not think that members should be a part of it.


It's not about rule of law.

SPARTZ: Of course, but it is. You know, we've had duly elected people. We are overruling the will of the people. I mean we have elections every two years for a reason that people can get rid of representatives they don't like. And we do have a process that is there that, like, for example, if somebody got convicted of a crime and doesn't want, you know, to leave Congress. So, they were set up.

This has to be taken very serious. Even censoring we don't taken it seriously. We do a lot of presentation and people vote for things for political expediencies. But we're setting up precedents where now, instead of doing the work, we have privilege resolutions. Democrats had it. They started it. Now Republicans are doing it where we're just harassing members we don't like and appease the voters instead of actually governing and delivering on real issues. And it's very unfortunate.

BOLDUAN: So, when you - when a fellow Republican, Dusty Johnson, put it this way to Manu Raju, "if Republicans aren't willing to police our own, how can we possibly look at the American people in the eye and tell them that we're able to police folks on the other side of the aisle as well?" You do not see that as -- you do not see that as a good point?

SPARTZ: Well - we're not a police. I understand, you know, we are -- everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Whether it's President Trump. Whereas we have a very serious allegation against President Biden right now. We're actually going to have hearing on these issues. But we have to believe in the rule of law.

BOLDUAN: Right, but, again, if -- this is not a court of law. This is about - you - if members - here's what it says in the Constitution with regard to expulsion.


BOLDUAN: "Each house may determine the rules of its proceedings.

SPARTZ: Right.

BOLDUAN: "Punish its members for disorderly behavior and with the concurrence of two-thirds expel a member."

Disorderly behavior. The Ethics Committee, the way they concluded it is that, "Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit." Why do you want someone like that to be one of your colleagues in voting with you in the House?

SPARTZ: This is a serious allegations but we have to have a level of proceedings to get to go before we go to conviction to expel. This should be a last resort. It's only been done where people were convicted in the court of law in crimes or treason. So, we cannot just set a new precedent.

One thing when we go and actually do censure some of the members, which also we take lightly, but let's say this is very different, but we are overruling the will of the American people. And we were going to go to that, we really better have very clear evidence and convictions, not just sitting here and having kangaroo courts. Everyone should go through the process. The committee, Ethics Committee, didn't even bother to go through the trial. They have a process. They decided not to do it.

This is not fair to anyone. And what the problem is, you know, listen, I'm not defending - their allegations are pretty serious and it's unfortunate that we have people getting into Congress and a lot of people with very shady reputations, not just him, but let's not go there. But I think they - they don't even bother to actually go through investigation and trial process. They just pretty much sat down, look at some things and decided they're already judges to expel someone.

This is a very last resort tool and should be used very rarely or we'll set a precedent in this institution, just change of power, like a mob rule. We'll turn into mob rule. Let's have - we're in power. Let's do it. Other side looks like doing the same things. And I think it's going to be very destructive for this institution. And we have people, you know - you know, Senator Menendez in the Senate, you don't see him getting expelled, you know. So, I think this is something you have to have really, you know, proven evidence and the judgments are done in the courts that before you decided to go to something to overrule the rule of the people.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, how much did the calculation -- did it factor into your calculation on how you wanted to vote the fact that if he is expelled the Republican majority is even more slim?

SPARTZ: I honestly like tight majorities because now our leadership is willing to govern for the people. So, I don't mind tight majorities. I'm not one of those people that wants to actually have a, you know, people go and be complying (ph) to leadership and not challenge my own party because we have a lot of challenges to deliver for the people and we don't have a lobby for the people. So, I actually don't think of it politically. And there are a lot of things and votes that may be politically not convenient.

And I'm not looking at political expediency. I'm looking at the precedents and the institution and what things need to happen. That is the most important thing because ultimately we are here temporarily. And, you know, what we've done here, it has implications for the future and we need to be careful and not take this decision lightly. So, that doesn't bother me. I actually - I'll be honest with you, I

enjoy having a tight majority because conservatives like me have a voice now for the American people to get some things done.


BOLDUAN: Congresswoman Victoria Spartz from the great state of Indiana, it is always fascinating to have you on and have a good conversation with you. Thank you.

SPARTZ: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: Of course.


SIDNER: All right, now to the Middle East.

The truce is over. Fighting has now started again in Gaza. The IDF accusing Hamas of violating the truce first by firing rockets towards Israeli territory and now saying they are once again out to destroy Hamas. Israeli troops moved through the north. Air strikes hit in the south. Already more than 100 people have been killed in the strikes according to the Hamas-controlled ministry of health.

Inside one of Gaza's last functioning hospitals a spokesperson for UNICEF said a bomb landed very close by.


JAMES ELDER, UNICEF SPOKESPERSON: Children are sleeping. There was a bomb literally 50 meters from here. I cannot overstate how the capacity has been reduced of hospitals in our seven weeks. We cannot see more children with the wounds of war, with the burns, with the shrapnel littering their body, with the broken bones in action by those with influence is allowing the killing of children.


SIDNER: The hospital system there, too, is completely overwhelmed as you saw. In the largest city in the south, that's Khan Younis, leaflets dropped from the sky warning residents in the city that it is a fighting zone now and to evacuate immediately. You will remember, that was the city that was the safe zone when there was fighting in the north. Now the people are being told to evacuate.

And in Israel, citizens woke up to air ride sirens warning of incoming rocket fire there. The IDF intercepted several rockets which they say were fired from the Gaza border.

Despite the truce expiring, Qatari officials claim negotiations to free the remaining hostages have not completely broken down. Israel believes there are still 137 hostages being held captive in Gaza, 20 are women and two are children under the age, of course, of 18.

Let's get right to CNN's Oren Liebermann who is in Israel for us. Oren, what do you know at this point from your standpoint in Tel Aviv

about the IDF's military operations in this last couple of hours?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sara, Israel had said over the course of the past several days that its operation when the war resumed and senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made it very clear that it would resume, they said it would be stronger than the campaign to this point. And that certainly appears to be what we're seeing play out in Gaza with our teams down there hearing artillery strikes, air strikes reported in southern Gaza. As you pointed out, southern Gaza is where Israel told Palestinians in the north to evacuate to. So, now targeting areas there.

The Hamas-controlled ministry of health says more than 100 Palestinians have been killed in the first hours of strikes here. That campaign continuing there. The IDF did drop leaflets with a QR code which then leads to a map of Gaza broken up into a lot of different parcels. It appears they may be preparing to tell Gazans in specific areas to evacuate. Maybe a response to Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanding that before Israel launches the next phase of its campaign it has more protocols in place and more concrete steps to prevent civilian casualties.

Crucially, we are just hours into the breakdown of the ceasefire. So, we'll see how this holds, if it works, if there is a reduction in civilian casualties. Right now the fighting there very intense. Israel and Hamas have both indicated they are ready for the resumption of hostilities, and that's what we're seeing now.

As for the hostages that remain in Gaza, Israel demanded more women and children be released. Hamas had said they don't have enough for a continuation in the pause in the fighting. Instead saying, Israel rejected their offers to move the negotiations to include elderly men and then men and women of soldiers' age.

Now, the negotiation are ongoing. The first truce was reached through negotiations in the middle of war. And that's the effort right now. A senior State Department official, Sara, saying it may be possible to get back to a truce, but from where we stand right now, the odds look slim at this point.

SIDNER: All right, Oren, thank you so much for all of your reporting there from Tel Aviv.


BERMAN: All right, Manu Raju is chasing people down on Capitol Hill. We are getting a fresh count on where the vote stands to possibly expel Republican George Santos from Congress. We've got new information coming in.

Also, new reports that Israeli intelligence officials had access to a 40-page document a year ago detailing almost every aspect of the October 7th attacks. What we are learning about why they did not act.



BERMAN: All right, the clock is ticking. Within the next hour or so the House will vote on whether to expel Republican George Santos from Congress. How close are they to hitting the number they need to get to?

With us now CNN's senior data reporter Harry Enten.

What do they need to get to? How close are they? Who needs to flip?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, OK. So, this is all about math. It's a mathematics game.

So, let's sort of lay this out, right. House votes needed to expel George Santos. You need 290 total. You'll probably need 77 Republicans if every Democrat votes to expel. So, the question is, will we get to 77? This is what we're trying to figure out.

So, the GOP House votes needed to expel George Santos, 77 likely are needed. Keep in mind, 24 have previously voted to expel him, so you can count on those, 20 more say they will now. So, this is the key number, 33. Thirty-three more are needed. And that's what you see Manu Raju going down the hall trying to find whether or not these 33 actually exist. And, of course, there are many GOP members not saying how they're going to vote.


So, this is really something going down to the wire.

But again, this is a mathematics game. It's a question of whether or not these 33 extra votes actually do exist. We don't know.

One reason why they may not exist is because Mike Johnson wants to keep his narrow majority, and it is very narrow. At this particular point there are 222 Republicans to 213 Democrats in the House. This is tied for the narrowest majority in the last 90 years. So, it's a real question, do you really want to make that majority even narrower.

And if we do, in fact, expel George Santos, it could go to a special election. And keep in mind, New York's third district is very much a swing district. Joe Biden won in 2020, won it by eight points. But keep in mind, not only did George Santos win in 2022, but Joe Pinion, the Republican candidate for Senate, won it by four points. So, if it went to a special election, we don't know exactly what would happen, guys. And that's, I think, part of the reason why this vote today could be so very close.

BOLDUAN: We also don't know what's going to happen today. Like, there's a whole bunch of we don't know what's happening.

SIDNER: Yes, no idea. Yes.


ENTEN: It's bizarro land.

BOLDUAN: No, it's not. It's exactly how it should be.


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Harry.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Joining us now is Doug Heye, Republican strategist, former communications director for the RNC, years of experience on Capitol Hill, and Emily Ngo, the co-author of the "Politico Playbook" in New York.

OK, since we don't know what's going to happen, what do you think is going to happen?

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That is really an unfair question because of - because of exactly what Harry laid out. I worked in the House the last time we expelled a member, Jim Traficant from Ohio. That was a -

BOLDUAN: Oh, that's right, you were there then.

HEYE: Yes, I'm that old.

BOLDUAN: Yes, you are.

HEYE: That was a clear cut case of somebody who was convicted of a crime. And so when you hear, whether it's Congresswoman Spartz or other members talk about precedents, there are two reasons they're doing that. One, that's a very real thing, and what the ramifications for that are is if this passes tomorrow or next week we get to see Marjorie Taylor Greene file motions to expel any Democrat she's mad at on any given day and Democrats retaliate.

The other thing is, when they - when they lean on precedent, they're also not saying, George Santos is a good, hard-working member of Congress who should be here. It's sort of an out for them.

BOLDUAN: I - that surprises me on the precedent thing. I always thought the precedent thing was kind of like a thing they can hide behind just because they don't want to lose another member. I don't know.

EMILY NGO, CO-AUTHOR, "POLITICO NEW YORK PLAYBOOK": If they're waiting for conviction to be the bar, George Santos is not due in court on those indictment charges, on those fraud charges, that 23-count indictment, until next September. So, he's going to be in office until then. And if Republicans, especially in leadership, are worried about the balance of power in the House itself, those pushing most vocally for Santos' ouster are those who are also in swing seats whose re- election campaigns are also at stake. So, they would want those constituents, those voters, to be appeased as well.

SIDNER: Kate brought up a really important note, and it is about the fact that this is an ethics committee. This is not a court of law. It is not -- that's not its job. It's job is to look at the ethics of its members and to see whether or not they should be representing their district.

In his case, and he has admitted to some of these lies, he lied his way into office and then all these other charges are something else. They are bigger. They are grander. But the lying is all part of this. So why don't - and I'll start with you, Emily, why don't members know what they're going to do or are they just telling us because they do know what they're going to do and they don't - they don't want to tell anybody until they actually do it because it's embarrassing?

NGO: They're waiting to see what everyone else does. They're watching what their colleagues do. No one is formally whipping these votes. Certainly not House Speaker Mike Johnson.

SIDNER: Right.

NGO: Santos himself has said he's not trying to sway votes one way or the other. He's convinced - he's told me and other reporters that he's out today. And my colleagues from "Politico" on The Hill have done some whipping of the votes themselves. It seems that that two-thirds vote is there but there's a lot of discussion, not just about ethical transgression, but any sort of criminal laws that may be broken because whether he stays in office or not he's up in court in a couple months' time facing a lot of very serious charges.

BERMAN: And in case people have been living in the forest for the last few years and are coming to this for the first time this morning, just forget the federal charges, the 23 federal charges.

SIDNER: Right.

BERMAN: Forget the Ethics Committee report, which -

BOLDUAN: What are (ph) you going to pull out now

BERMAN: Which said, you know, that he misused campaign funds for vacation, meals, spa, Botox and purchased ((INAUDIBLE) Only Fans, which I only learned what it was last week because of this -

SIDNER: Because -

BOLDUAN: You did say that and I still don't believe you, but it's fine.


BERMAN: But - but the reporting - but the reporting before that George Santos lied about his high school resume -

SIDNER: Right. BERMAN: His college resume, that he worked at Goldman Sachs, that he lost employees in the Pulse nightclub shooting, that he had a non- profit charity, that his mother fled socialism in Europe, I can't even get through the list here without losing -- it made me lose my voice, Doug Heye.

HEYE: Yes.

BERMAN: So, that's what's - that's what's being faced here.

That aside, again, you've been there. What's - what's happening behind closed doors in Congress right now? This vote is coming up. What are they all really doing? What are they all really saying to each other?

HEYE: Well, think of the conversations we've had about Donald Trump over the past few years. Republicans say one thing publicly, a different thing privately. We just heard that with what Liz Cheney has said about Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump not eating and all those kinds of bizarre things.

That's very true here. I know you're a fan of Shakespeare. So, let's going to Lady Macbeth.


HEYE: When she said, out, damned spot.

BERMAN: Out, damned spot.


HEYE: This is where these Republicans who either voted against Santos first or are moved to do so now, this is where they are. They want to get rid of George Santos, one, because he's a blight on the House, two, the Republican Party