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Trump's Defense Argues First Amendment In Georgia Election Subversion Case; Appeals Court Rules Trump Can Be Sued Over January 6th Events; Former Israeli Intelligence Underestimates Hamas Threat, 40-Page Plan Revealed; Renewed Fighting In Gaza As Truce Ends, Israel And Hamas Continue Negotiations; U.S. Pressures Israel On Civilian Evacuations And Targets In Southern Gaza; Expelled Congressman George Santos Calls Ouster 'Dangerous' In Historic Vote; Former Deputies 'Goon Squad' Scandal Prompts Sheriff's Reforms In Mississippi. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 01, 2023 - 14:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Intense fighting back underway in Gaza, but could another temporary truce be on the way? CNN has learned that Israel and Hamas are continuing to negotiate, actively discussing the release of more hostages. The latest on that. Plus, former President Trump's attorneys are in a Fulton County courtroom right now defending their client there for the first time as they try to have his charges in the Georgia election subversion case thrown out.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And kicked out of Congress. In a historic move, the House votes to expel disgraced New York Congressman George Santos. He's calling his ouster dangerous. We're following these major developing stories, and many more.

SANCHEZ: We start this hour with a return to war. Israel and Hamas back to fighting after a week-long truce. Now, this video shows the Iron Dome intercepting the first rockets targeting Israel since the truce ended. This was near Tel Aviv. And in Gaza, Israeli airstrikes hit Khan Yunis in the south. Israel's military dropped leaflets there, directing Palestinians to evacuate the area, which was described as a fighting zone. In the meantime, essential supplies of food, water, and more have stopped entering Gaza.

Still, humanitarian leaders insist on being hopeful because negotiations for another truce have not stopped. In fact, officials believe one may restart today. During the week-long truce, 110 hostages were released for 240 Palestinian detainees and prisoners, and hundreds of trucks of aid were allowed into Gaza. Let's take you to the region now with CNN's Jeremy Diamond. He's live for us in Sderot. And Jeremy, bring us up to speed with the latest on the fighting, because in the last hour, we saw more intercepts stopping rockets coming from Gaza.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. Within minutes of that truce ending this morning at 7 a.m. local time, there were already bombs being dropped on the Gaza Strip, fighting once again renewed between Israel and Hamas, and indeed, several rock barrages -- and that was a very loud explosion that just hit in the background of our shot. I'm not exactly sure where that was, but that was very loud. It's actually setting off car alarms in Sderot. But we have been listening from our position here today to the fighting once again resuming, those sounds of war that we have been hearing for weeks now, but that over the last week have effectively stopped because of that pause in fighting that has led to the release of so many hostages.

Sorry, I just want to see if there's anything I can see behind me here. But to be clear, the Israeli military is not only renewing, it's military campaign inside of Gaza, but also pushing further south. We know that they are striking Rafah as well as Khan Yunis, two key cities in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. And amid all of this, the Israeli military has begun dropping leaflets there to tell residents that there is a new map that has hundreds, -- has divided Gaza into hundreds of numbered districts, effectively giving them the opportunity to evacuate some of those areas if indeed they carry out military operations in that area. But we can already tell that from today, from the strikes carried out in southern Gaza, just in Khan Yunis alone, a hospital there reporting that there were at least 30 people who were killed in a strike, hundreds who were injured, and all of this, -- hundreds who were injured in the Gaza Strip amid this renewed bombing campaign carried out in southern Israel.

Amid all of this though, Boris, there is indeed those negotiations to try and renew that truce that are once again ongoing. The hostage negotiations, negotiations over Israel's ability to release hostages are ongoing. The question is, can Hamas actually continue to come up with more women and children? They have indicated that they do not have that ability anymore. Israel has said that that is not true. And beyond that, there is the possibility of moving these negotiations towards men as well as Israeli soldiers.


SANCHEZ: Jeremy Diamond from Sderot, thank you so much for the update. From Sderot, we want to go now to Jerusalem because we have CNN's senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, there. Ben, bring us up to speed on what has been going on inside Gaza since the truce ended.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jeremy, just as Jeremy was saying, there's been intense bombardment, particularly in the Khan Yunis and Rafah areas, but also in the north as well. What we're seeing is,-- I've spent the entire afternoon looking at video shot by a cameraman we have in Gaza of just body bags in front of the hospitals, medics trying to save, for instance, a two- year-old girl who basically dies on the operating table.

According to the health ministry in Gaza, the death toll since this morning, and that's just over 12 hours ago, has reached more than 175, with hundreds of others wounded. Now, the Israelis have dropped leaflets on the Khan Yunis area, telling people around the city to move further south to the Rafah area right on the Egyptian border. This is an area, however, that is crammed with the displaced from the northern part of Gaza. There are more than a million people who are taking shelter in UN schools.

Now, the Israelis also published a map showing sort of dozens of little districts in the southern part of Gaza, and it includes a QR code, which people can check and see where might be safe at any given moment. Of course, the problem in Gaza is that many people don't have functioning cell phones at the moment, so they can't really access that sort of thing. But we're hearing from the UN and others that the situation is increasingly desperate. We heard from one doctor in one of the hospitals in Gaza saying, even though over the seven days of the truce, some supplies, some medical supplies got in, he said really, it's only about 1% of what they really need.

In addition to treating the wounded from today, there are thousands of people who are still getting medical treatment in these hospitals as a result of the Israeli bombardment. So, the situation, bad as it was even during the truce, is now getting dramatically worse for the people of Gaza. Boris.

SANCHEZ: Ben Wedeman from Jerusalem. Thanks so much for the update. Brianna.

KEILAR: Let's talk now with two Middle East experts. We have Bob Baer, who is a former CIA operative, and Hagar Chemali, who is a director. for Syria and Lebanon on the National Security Council at the White House. Bob, you have the New York Times reporting. It's really a bombshell here that Israel actually had a 40-page Hamas battle plan more than a year before the October 7th attacks. There was a name for what they were calling this operation that Hamas seemed to be planning, but officials just didn't take it seriously.

Here's part of the piece. 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. What did you make about this revelation?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, this is fairly typical of an intelligence service to underestimate the enemy. When they lose touch with the enemy, they lose touch with their capabilities, what they can get away with, their capabilities, their abilities to use drones and so on. Just like we did with Al-Qaeda in the '90s, where we lost, we just couldn't believe they were going to run airplanes into American buildings, even though there were a lot of warnings, even going back to 1993. So, this is fairly typical, and someone's going to pay the cost for this in Israeli intelligence. Count on it.

KEILAR: Yeah, no doubt. And, Hagar, you have like a minority voice coming from within the Israeli apparatus. There was someone who was saying, not so fast. This is not just aspirational, and we need to be treating this more carefully. This document called Jericho Wall. What did you think?

HAGAR, CHEMALI, FORMER SPOKESWOMAN, US MISSION TO THE UNITED STATES: Well, it's as Bob said, you know, when you have a situation where the intelligence services reprioritize threats, which is what they did, and the U.S. intelligence does the same thing every year. They identify the key priorities and threats, and then they kind of move resources around to go after those threats.

And that is what the Israeli intelligence did. But then when you have this one person waving their hand, their flag, and you have, as Bob mentioned, you have this disconnect with the enemy and, you know, being overly confident and relying on a security system that they had built in 2014 to underground tunnel and the above the -- sorry -- underground wall; and above ground wall; and machine guns that are that are motion activated. They relied too much on that. So, I would say that, yes, they had this disconnect that didn't take this threat very seriously. But they are also really, they reprioritize their resources, and particularly their military as well.


KEILAR: I think it might also be, um, alarming when people read this, Bob, to see that Hamas had actually done a dry run. Right, so do we want to, in a way, compare it to our reference point, which is 9/11. But they were actually seeing Hamas do some things, and inside the Israeli intelligence apparatus, it's being flagged. But there's disagreement about whether or not this looks exactly like this Jericho Wall plan that they had come upon. I know it's easy to look at this with hindsight, but to you, how does that stand out?

BAER: Well, you know, the Israeli military is used to fighting conventional wars, and they do very well at it. But when they see Hamas practicing on paragliders and flying drones, it looks like a pickup baseball team. And how could it possibly be a threat to Israeli armor and the rest of it? It's always in hindsight these things look different, just like 9/11 did. But again, I go back to the Israelis have lost touch with the Palestinians in Gaza, and it's typical. I mean, we had the same problem in Vietnam in the '60s. We lost touch with the enemy, and they did this, and they've just gotten better and better and better, and they've planned these.

And don't forget that they did not talk about this attack on 7th of October that same morning. It wasn't picked up in intercepts. So, this general planning, yes, people dismissed it, but the actual movement of people on the 7th of October, they did it in complete darkness.

KEILAR: Yeah, that's a good point Hagar. There is pressure on Israel right now, as we are looking at it, concentrating now on southern Gaza. Pressure to reduce civilian deaths. You have Israel directing Palestinians to evacuate the south, which is, of course, where they were directed to go when Israel began airstrikes in the north. You say the U.S understands Israel's need to go after targets in the south. Tell us what you mean.

CHEMALI: Sure. Well, Israel has a few goals here. Number one, they have to continue releasing the hostages that Hamas has. They have around 140 remaining. They also need to defeat Hamas. They need to defeat their military capabilities and their governing capabilities to ensure that Hamas never poses a threat to Israel again. And they need to also send this message of deterrence to ensure that Iranian-backed proxies across the region know not to pursue similar attacks.

That's something that the U.S supports and something that they are sympathetic to. But they've been very clear, especially this week. I've been quite impressed with how public the U.S government has been in sharing the talking points that they're using to press Israel on. John Kirby earlier this week said that they've asked, that they've told the Israeli government that they don't support operations in the south until and unless they can account for all the internally displaced Palestinians. And also, you saw Secretary Blinken today say that they want to ensure that any continued aggression avoids civilian casualties and make sure that no major targets like hospitals, civilian targets like hospitals, energy supplies and water supplies are targeted.

And so, they're trying to send this message, hey, we are with you in the need to defeat Hamas. But we need to make sure that for not just for moral reasons, but by the way, as a strategy to ensure that Israel builds a secure state and that they don't further incite violence or grievances or further terrorism, that you need to limit the civilian casualties. That's very important. And so, they're working with them on that. And they said, and I believe this, John Kirby said that the Israelis were receptive, and the Israelis do pay attention to the U.S. perspective. And so, I'm hopeful that we'll see more targeted-- aggression in a more targeted fashion.

KEILAR: Yeah. Do these short-term tactics they're taking, satisfy their long-term goals? Big questions there. Hagar, thank you so much, Bob. Thank you to you as well. And coming up, former President Trump's legal team right now, it's fighting to toss his Georgia election subversion case out the latest from that critical hearing next. Plus, New York Congressman George Santos no longer expelled from Congress following a historic vote. So, what happens to his House seat? Well, more on that ahead.



SANCHEZ: So right now, in Fulton County, Georgia, Donald Trump's defense lawyers are in court making arguments for the first time in the election subversion case against the former president and his numerous co-defendants. Trump's attorneys are telling the judge the case should be thrown out on First Amendment grounds.

KEILAR: And as that plays out, you have Trump, who is dealing with a serious blow in a separate legal matter because this morning, a federal appeals court ruled the former president can be sued over January 6th. That's a pretty big deal because there's a lot of lawsuits. So, let's talk about this now. We have CNN's Nick Valencia outside the courthouse in Atlanta. And then here in Washington, we have CNN senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero. Nick, to you first, as you're there outside the courthouse, what are we hearing from Trump's attorneys?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENCE: Steve Sadow, he's a high-profile criminal defense attorney here in Atlanta. And what he's effectively arguing is that when President Trump started peddling conspiracy theories and making claims of widespread voter fraud after his 2020 presidential election loss, that at their core, it was political speech and therefore protected by the First Amendment. In a legal filing on Monday, he said that this kind of speech should not be countered by a prosecution from the district attorney's office here. The state responded to that, though, saying that while it sounds good to say that this is a political persecution, that this is at its core about laws that were broken and crimes that were committed.


A judge has indicated, though, that he is not going to issue a ruling from the bench. He's not issued a ruling, any ruling so far from the bench. So, we should expect a written ruling in the coming days. Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Nick, thank you so much live for us there in Atlanta.

SANCHEZ: Carrie, it strikes me in this case that the judge already ruled against that First Amendment argument for two of Trump's co- defendants. Does it surprise you that his attorneys are now trying this?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It doesn't surprise me that they're arguing it, but I think it does preview what the likely outcome is, which is that the former president's First Amendment claims are not going to be persuasive. I think a lot of what might be going on here is that the former president's team is trying to establish a record for as many different tricky constitutional legal issues that they can to preserve them for appeal and potentially drag things out.

KEILAR: Four people, Carrie, in this case have flipped and are going to be testifying against Trump. Do you think that we're going to see any more of that as we get closer to the trial date?

CORDERO: We may. Those types of conversations between defendants and the prosecutors take place. They can take place on an ongoing basis, and each individual defendant has to look at their own potential likelihood. The most important thing is that they're going to be able to make a decision. about whether they're going to be able to make the decision of actually being found guilty and the various aspects of their life and whether or not they want to fight that. And so, each defendant is going to have to make a decision that's right for them.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. Katelyn, walk us through the details of this decision in the appellate court that Trump doesn't have the sort of presidential power to do as he pleases when it comes to the events of January 6th.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yeah, so these are lawsuits that have gone to the appeals court because Trump is trying to make constitutional claims there, too. And what the appeals court in Washington, D.C. decided today was something that everyone has been waiting on. Eight different cases by my count, maybe more, that have been waiting for this decision. And it is that Donald Trump can be sued even though he was president at the time.

And what the appeals court said today is they basically were drawing the line. They were saying there are things you do when you're president and that you say as president that are a part of the presidency, your official duties. And then there are things that even if you're the president, if you're running for re-election, those can be part of your campaign. And you don't have immunity when you're sitting in the office. So, they were saying and doing those sorts of things, things like cutting ads, appearing at fundraisers, giving speeches at rallies paid for by campaign or political entities.

Now, they didn't weigh in in this case today to say whether the January 6th speech that Donald Trump made is going to be not protected or protected under the presidency. That's something that they're going to get to fight over later. But they were very clear in writing this. The chief judge wrote when he acts, the president outside the functions of his office, he does not continue to enjoy immunity when he acts in an unofficial private capacity. He's subject to civil suits just like any private citizen. Something that we have seen before in the Nixon administration, and now the appeals court coming back and defining the presidency a little bit more.

KEILAR: An inducement to fraud is not protected free speech, right? Just to be clear about that as well. So, it's not absolute. We think of the First Amendment. It does have tremendous protections. But it's not absolute. And also, there are some things that are not protected. When might this go before the Supreme Court?

POLANTZ: That's a great question. There's a lot of bids that Donald Trump has in the cooker that he's trying to get probably before the Supreme Court in these lawsuits, potentially in his criminal case in Washington, D.C., too. But in this situation, these cases are going to come off being on ice, which they have been for a while. These lawsuits trying to hold him accountable for January 6th. But before it goes to the Supreme Court. I mean, it could now. The court is saying, actually, you have a little bit more opportunity to go back and decide the facts about what happened on January 6th.

There could be more evidence gathering around that. And Trump's spokesman even provided a statement saying the facts are showing that January 6th, he was acting on behalf of the American people. They're going to keep litigating that.

SANCHEZ: Notably, Trump made a similar immunity claim in the special counsel Jack Smith's case, the federal case over election subversion. That was in front of Judge Tanya Chutkan, still waiting on that decision. Do you think this civil matter might impact the criminal one?

CORDERO: I think they'll be determined independently, one being criminal, one being civil, and the Georgia case, of course, being criminal, and then these cases being civil on the federal side. I think the former president wants to be able to claim that these were official acts. And what the appellate court really is just saying in this particular decision that just came out is not necessarily that he does or does not have immunity, but that the case can go forward. So, it's actually not making the decision on the merits of these particular civil suits, that those cases could still go forward. But what the court is saying is they're just not going to dismiss it at this early stage.


SANCHEZ: And he could appeal on other grounds, perhaps?

CORDERO: He can continue to pursue it. This is the D.C. Court of Appeals. So, he can potentially take this to the Supreme Court. Again, this is all part of a strategy to -- these are tricky constitutional issues. It's an unusual situation with a former president. And so, I think in all of these cases, his lawyers are going to take every opportunity to take these cases as high as they can.

POLANTZ: And every time the appeals court speaks, other judges, other lawyers are going to be listening, whether it's on criminal or civil.

SANCHEZ: Katelyn, Carrie, Nick, thank you all so much. Still plenty more news to come on News Central, including the sheriff of a predominantly white town in Mississippi making major reforms after former deputies who call themselves the Goon Squad tortured and beat two black men and then tried to cover it up. And former Congressman George Santos now out of a job, expelled in a historic, black vote in the House of Representatives. Republicans, extremely narrow majority getting slimmer. We're going to break down what that means for their agenda.