Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Trump Attorneys Appear in Georgia Court Hearing; Israel-Hamas Truce Expires. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired December 01, 2023 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The truth -- truce expires and Israel unleashes fresh attacks on Gaza, the IDF warning civilians in the southern part of the strip that they are in a war zone. We are following the latest on the ground and the state of negotiations for hostages.

Donald Trump's defense attorneys are facing a Fulton County judge for the first time, fighting to have the Georgia election subversion case thrown out on First Amendment grounds. But does this have any chance of working?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: And George Santos joining a not-so-elite club. He becomes just the sixth member of the House of Representatives ever to be voted out of Congress.

We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: Israeli combat operations are back under way after a weeklong pause in fighting, the IDF unleashing on Gaza in its mission to eliminate Hamas.

Critical aid has stopped flowing into the enclave, and the IDF is urging civilians to evacuate the southern city of Khan Yunis, dropping leaflets, calling the area a -- quote -- "fighting zone."

And while the truce is over, hostage negotiations are not.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is following the latest for us.

Oren, tell us what you are hearing.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, the war very much back on, as it has been since the truce expired at 7:00 this morning.

Both Israel and Hamas have said they were ready to resume fighting. And, frankly, they have very much shown it, Israel unleashing powerful strikes across Southern Gaza, including Khan Yunis, the major city in Southern Gaza, as well as near Rafah, the major border crossing, where humanitarian aid is no longer flowing in as of this morning, according to an eyewitness we're in touch with there on the ground. That's despite Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that the humanitarian aid needs to continue to alleviate and help the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza. Meanwhile, Blinken also said that Israel needs to take steps to reduce the number of civilian casualties.

So far, as a result of Israeli strikes, health authorities in Gaza say more than 100 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds more injured. Take a look here. I just heard from my cameraman off to my left here that there are interceptors being launched as we speak here. Oh, and I can see two Iron Dome interceptors launched from our position here towards rockets incoming from Gaza.

That's the second set of launches we have seen this evening, others just happening about an hour-and-a-half ago. Hopefully, we can pull up this picture for you in a moment here, and you will see those interceptions. A couple of launches earlier today. We saw about 10 of those, if not more, intercepting rockets fired from Gaza, so Hamas showing its ability to still wage war now that the truce has ended.

Meanwhile, hospital authorities -- or health officials, I should say, in Gaza saying the biggest facility there is at 200 percent capacity. So you get a sense of the difficulties in trying to manage the number who have been injured and killed as a result of the fighting there.

Meanwhile, negotiations continuing to try to bring about a truce again, as we keep an eye on the sky here, negotiations continuing, Israel indirectly in touch with Hamas through the U.S., Egypt and Qatar. There has been at least some optimism expressed from a senior State Department official that it's possible to get back to a truce, despite the fighting we're seeing on the ground right now.

Oh, and, there, I just heard the interceptions coming from my left there, the loud bang in the air of Iron Dome picking off incoming rockets. A couple of more bangs from the interceptions there.

The challenge, of course, is, Israel demands 10 women and children released for another pause in fighting. Hamas insists they don't have that ability, since they don't have that many women and children at this point. They say they want to talk to Israel about expanding it to include elderly women -- I'm sorry -- elderly men, as well as men and women who are younger, and maybe soldiers.

Israel refused those negotiations, according to Hamas. So that's where we stand here, as we see, on this first night with the truce ending, the war very much continuing. We will keep an eye on the sky and, of course, we will keep an eye on what's happening in Gaza.

KEILAR: Yes, obviously, a lot of activity there in Tel Aviv, where you are, Oren, with interceptions from the Iron Dome, from incoming rockets. And we will keep an eye on that.

Oren Liebermann live for us in Tel Aviv, thank you -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Let's discuss the situation there and more now with a former member of Israeli intelligence. Eyal Hulata served as national security adviser under Israeli Prime

Ministers Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid. He's now a senior international fellow for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.


Eyal, thank you so much for being with us.


SANCHEZ: According to Israeli officials, part of the reason that talks broke down had to do with Hamas not providing Israel with the names of 10 living hostages.

We understand that Hamas doesn't have all of them. According to CNN's reporting, some 40 to 50 hostages are in the hands of other fundamentalist groups and even just random individual criminals. With that in mind, where do negotiations go from here?

HULATA: Well, first of all, I mean, this is a Hamas narrative.

I mean, I think, at this point, it's fair to say that Hamas knows exactly where all the live hostages are.

SANCHEZ: You believe that?

HULATA: I'm totally convinced in this.

As you recall, a few days after we started the ground operation, the IDF rescued Ori Megidish, one of the female soldiers that was in an apartment, as you said before, randomly scattered around. Hamas learned the lesson from that, and they have put them all together.

I think the truth is more difficult than that. I think that there are many more of the hostages that have died under the hands of Hamas. In Gaza, I would presume that this is the reason why they cannot provide more names. But, hopefully, I'm wrong and, hopefully, there are more names such as that.

And if this was the case, we could continue, because the government of Israel has made it clear that they will continue this setting of 10 a day. There have been about 80 already, more than I expected, I have to say. I thought that Hamas would play the bargaining chips more tightly. But I'm very happy that all of those have been released.

Now, for the future, Hamas at the moment insists that, for the release of men, elderly men or younger men, they want many more prisoners to be released, and he wants terrorists to be released, terrorists who murdered Israelis. The government of Israel cannot agree to that, of course, at this point.

So the fighting resumes.

SANCHEZ: So I do want to ask you about "Jericho Wall." That's the name of that 40 page document that "The New York Times" obtained that was circulating among Israeli officials.

It apparently shows a blueprint for the attack that Hamas carried out on October 7. That was circulating more than a year before this attack happened. I actually want to share some more from the reporting with our viewers about why more wasn't done to prevent it.

It says -- quote -- "Underpinning all these failures was a single, fatally inaccurate belief that Hamas lacked the capability to attack and would not dare to do so. That belief was so ingrained in the Israeli government, officials said, that they disregarded growing evidence to the contrary."

You served in the Israeli government until January. Were you aware of this document that had come across your radar?

HULATA: So I was not aware of this document as of January of '23, when I finished my role.

I was, of course, aware of intelligence analysis that Hamas was preparing to surprise us. We have been under this -- evidently under this assumption for years and years before that. It is true that, during that time, the assumption was by the IDF that the Hamas was not capable of doing so.

But, also, we were in the process of negotiating a deal to release the four hostages from 2014, Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed. And during that time of negotiations, I think the situation was a bit different at the time.

I'm sure that Hamas continued the preparations. It is indeed a disastrous failure of all of our establishment to pick those signals in time and to present them in a way that the government could make the decisions. It is also a failure of the government that did not follow up on these issues and make sure that there was readiness throughout this time, the way that a government should do, the way that myself, as national security adviser, has done on other issues during this time.

This publication, of course, sheds some light. There are more, I'm sure, to come. Piece by piece, things will be revealed. And there will be no other way but to have a very serious investigation from top to bottom to see how this happened to us.

SANCHEZ: And as a result of that investigation, what does accountability look like? Who should be held accountable for these failures?

HULATA: Well, I will broadly say, in these kinds of failures, accountability belongs to everybody, but it starts from the top.

The fact that something like this happens means that the processes the government has made, the prime minister has made, that the Cabinet has been conducting failed to make sure that those threats have been put out there. I have no doubt in my mind that the heads of the security establishment that have already said that they feel complete responsibility will be accountable for that. Even I said that on Israeli TV, because I served during this time. We

all -- I every day ask myself what would have happened otherwise in these circumstances. But the responsibility starts from the top.

SANCHEZ: Do you think Prime Minister Netanyahu should resign?


HULATA: Look, I would not address that. It's a political question.

But I will say that I'm -- I will be -- I will say it this way. If Prime Minister Netanyahu thinks that he can evade the responsibility for something that happened so long into his government, with all of the past history of the way that we dealt with Hamas over the years, I think he's wrong. And I'm sure that, eventually, he will need to take responsibility.

SANCHEZ: Eyal Hulata, we have to leave the conversation there. We very much appreciate you sharing your perspective with us.

HULATA: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Well, let's take a look now at Israel's military offensive in Gaza with our CNN military analyst retired Major General James "Spider" Marks.

Spider, let's start with the airstrikes by the IDF today. We're looking at Rafah, of course, in this and also Khan Yunis. Both are in Southern Gaza, which is where Israel had told Palestinians to evacuate down from the north to when the conflict began. You had the Israeli military dropping these leaflets.

Here's one from Khan Yunis designating it a fighting zone now, warning people to evacuate further south to the Rafah area. What does Israel's focus here on Southern Gaza signal to you, and what are the complications that this brings about?

BRIG. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's certainly an expansion of the fight.

The pause is the result of the hostage release. We totally understand that. I think we should all expect that there will be, on the part of Hamas, a desire to have some additional pauses. This is an opportunity for them to resupply, refit, improve their positions.

What this means is that the fighting is going to continue. Gaza City now is a location where the IDF has established a footprint, is doing some now in-depth, I would say, pursuits of leadership, both military and political leadership of Hamas in the Gaza City area, and they will expand their operations further south.

Operations on the ground will usually -- and we're seeing it play out today -- will be preceded by an effort from the air to strike command- and-control activities. And then the notion of precision strikes comes into effect, not only from the air, but also on the ground. As they go after individual leadership, that becomes rather surgical in nature.

But you have got to set the conditions for that. And that's what Israel's doing right now with these airstrikes.

KEILAR: Yes, I want to talk to you a little bit about that.

You had Secretary of State Tony Blinken. He was just in Israel. He met with various leaders. And he called Israel's military -- quote -- "one of the most sophisticated militaries in the world," point being that they need to be doing better, is what he was getting at there.

The U.S. has been urging Israel to be more precise in its targeting, as you were mentioning. You can see here in this drone video that we're looking at, this is from Khan Yunis this week, just blocks and blocks of buildings that have been turned into rubble. Obviously, a lot of this is residential buildings, people in these buildings.

What would more precise targeting look like? What would that require?

MARKS: Precision targeting, really, the Israelis have the capability to go after. You can deliver munitions in the upper right window or the lower left window. I mean, that's the level of precision. Once it gets inside, it starts to explode, and you see the kind of damage that you're seeing right there.

I mean, barrage bombing would have zero infrastructure at all. So this is a distinction with a difference. And what the Israelis obviously are trying to do is to presage these attacks with notices, as you have described, Brianna, which is, get out of town, move to these locations. We are going to telegraph, we're going to broadcast what we're trying to achieve, and then we're going to go after these targets.

Increased precision really gets to the notion of collateral damage minimization. You want to try to eliminate, as best you can, civilians that are caught in the middle of this, that innocents will, in fact, die. Innocents are not being targeted, but that's a result of strikes where the Hamas wrap themselves in Palestinians.

So you're going to end up with stuff like this. So precision is a matter of degree. Some places, it looks very, very surgical, and other places, the images that you're portraying right now demonstrate what someone could say is precise targeting, it's not as precise as somebody else's definition.


And then up until the seven-day truce, Israel's ground operation, it was very much focused on the north. That's where we were looking. Can the IDF maintain gains they made, even as civilians are potentially returning to that area and the IDF is turning more of its focus to the south, where they say that Hamas leadership has fled?

MARKS: Yes, Brianna.

And that really -- what you just described is really the nature of the three-block war. Civilians can move back in. Israelis can hold the terrain that they have -- in Northern Gaza that they have taken over. Israeli forces are not going to vacate that. They can hold that.

But it now becomes an economy -- what's called an economy of force. You don't use the mass, you don't use the preponderance of your forces, but you hold what you have, and then you expand further south. You can relocate civilians back in. That is that you can -- three- block war being you can fight conventionally on one block, you can build a hospital on the next block, and you can try to maintain peace on the third block, and those decisions being made by 18- and 19-year- old soldiers.


That's exactly what you're describing right now. And it's well within the doctrine of what the Israelis do. It's certainly what the U.S. military does and has great experience in.

KEILAR: General Marks, thank you so much.

Obviously, a lot of questions raised by this renewed fighting, and we appreciate your perspective.

MARKS: Thank you, Brianna.

We're also following two big headlines from the Trump legal world, with a ruling here in D.C. setting a new precedent about whether the former president is protected from civil lawsuits.

Plus: George Santos out, expelled by the House in a bipartisan vote. And now a former congressional colleague, one of them, says that Santos stole thousands of dollars from him and his mother.



KEILAR: We're following two big legal developments that affect former President Trump. He was just handed a major setback in a federal appeals court. This was a three-judge panel ruling that Trump is not protected by presidential immunity when it comes to being sued over things related to January 6.


And in Atlanta right now, Trump's lawyers are about to appear in court to defend him for the first time in the racketeering case that's tied to 2020 election interference in Georgia. They're trying to get that felony case dismissed.

CNN chief legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid and CNN reporter Zach Cohen are here to discuss, also with us, courts correspondent for Lawfare Anna Bower.

Thanks, all, for being with us.

Zach, first, talk to us about what's been happening inside the courtroom today.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, guys, if hearing from Trump's lawyers for the first time is sort of the main event of today, the warmup act has been one of the lawyers for his fellow co- defendant also charged in this case.

And that is David Shafer. He was the top fake elector in Georgia, and he's accused of organizing, essentially, all these fake electors to sign those certificates and sending them to Congress. And Shafer's attorney is essentially arguing that there were no fake electors, because they weren't fake. They were contingent electors, and that really they were just on standby, because Donald Trump was still trying to fight this out in court.

Now, if that sounds familiar, it's because it is. We have heard this before from the same attorney, who argued this same point in federal appeals court when she was trying to get Shafer's case moved to federal court unsuccessfully.

Now, the judge, the federal judge, was not having this argument, and it will be interesting to see if the Georgia judge maybe is a little bit more receptive to it. But we're still waiting to see the main event, like I said, Donald Trump's attorneys to make their debut in Fulton County.

SANCHEZ: And we're actually watching one of his attorneys right now. Let's listen in.


STEVEN SADOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: ... indictment alone is sufficient. And I think that's what Hall (ph) indicates. And I'd ask you to reconsider that particular part of the order. Thank you.


Let's -- why don't we go ahead and just begin with the state's argument, and we will see where we land. I know we had some other counsel stepping in at 1:30 around there.

But maybe, Mr. Wooten, if you're taking this argument, we can pick it up right there with the Hall case, which was not one any party raised at the outset, but it certainly seems on point on this issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge, I just would request to be able to screen- share. I don't think I have got the...



All right, so we need Mr. Wooten. (INAUDIBLE)

KEILAR: We will keep an eye on what is happening here in this Fulton County courtroom, as we talk about what is happening today. Anna, to you. One of the arguments from Trump's lawyers, one of whom we just heard from, is that he's protected by the First Amendment. But the charges, of course, go well beyond just speech. They have to do with a lot of action. And this judge has already rejected similar arguments from co-defendants.

ANNA BOWER, LEGAL FELLOW AND COURTS CORRESPONDENT, LAWFARE: Right. You're very right. He has rejected similar arguments from co- defendants, that -- those arguments arose with Sidney Powell on Ken Chesebro, if folks recall.

And Judge McAfee rejected those arguments. He said, basically, that the First Amendment claims were not ripe, meaning that there needed to be more factual development. And if folks were just listening to Judge McAfee just now, he mentioned this case called Hall. That is a new case that Trump's attorneys have raised in their own arguments.

They're trying to get McAfee to reconsider his reasoning that he raised in the Chesebro and Powell denial of those First Amendment claims, based on this new case. So it remains to be seen whether he will do so. But even if McAfee decides that now, in light of this new case, that he can look at these First Amendment arguments, I still think that it's a very slim chance that Trump will succeed here.

As you mentioned, Brianna, the First Amendment, although it is robust, it does not protect inducement to fraud, which is one of the charges that is involved here that's been brought against Trump and others, so, for example, inducing the fake electors to make claims that were that were false in terms of representing themselves as the legitimate electors from the state of Georgia.

Those are things that would not fall within the protections of the First Amendment. So I think, even if McAfee says, OK, I can rule on the merits of this First Amendment claim, I'm very doubtful that Trump will succeed.


SANCHEZ: Not the only development for Trump in court today, because, Paula, there was an appeals court ruling earlier in the day that Zach kind of alluded to. Walk us through that.


We have been waiting for this decision for a long time. Here, the Court of Appeals concluded that Trump can be sued for his actions on January 6. Now, they're not saying that he's liable.

What this means is that Capitol Hill police officers, lawmakers, others who have sued Trump related to January 6, they can have their day in court, because Trump and his lawyers had previously argued he couldn't even be sued, that he enjoyed immunity, protection that all federal officials enjoy when they are conducting their official duties.

He argued that, look, I was president. I was acting in my official capacity, so I can't be sued.

But, here, the Court of Appeals found that, no, in fact, you were at a pro-Trump rally and acting as what they described as an office-seeker, not an officeholder. So, here, they're drawing a line between your official conduct as the president or someone who is campaigning.

And they said -- quote -- in the opinion -- I'm going to quote here. They said: "When he acts in an unofficial, private capacity, he is subject to civil suits, just like any other private citizen."

Now, Trump has reacted through his spokesman, Steven Cheung, saying -- quote -- "The facts fully show that, on January 6, President Trump was acting on behalf of the American people carrying out his duties as president."

Now, the big question here is, what does this mean in a criminal context? Because we know that he is likely going to try a similar argument, while this was about civil suits, in the criminal context. And he goes to trial here in Washington, D.C., in March related to election subversion and January 6.

We don't really have any definitive answer on immunity in the criminal context. But, here, you have a Court of Appeals saying that not everything you do while in office is protected, so not good news for the former president.

KEILAR: Trying to make this a First Amendment issue, is the goal to try to get this to go to the Supreme Court? And is that likely?

REID: That's usually always the goal with the former president, right?

KEILAR: Right.

REID: If you lose, just keep kicking it up to that court that he has stacked.

KEILAR: He wants to take it to his friends, who are not always his friends, on the Supreme Court, by the way.

REID: Not always his friends.

And when you come to something like this, you have the First Amendment argument, or this with immunity, these are a lot of really fascinating constitutional questions, really ripe for Supreme Court review. But it's unclear how willing this court is going to be to wade into these big questions that could potentially have an impact on the outcome of the election.

KEILAR: Paula, Zach, Anna, thank you so much to all of you. We appreciate the discussion.

And still ahead: Republican Congressman George Santos forever etched in history as the sixth member to be booted from the House, expelled now.

His parting message? "To hell with this place" -- quote.