Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Negotiations Continue Despite Resumption Of Fighting; Fed Appeals Court Rules Trump Can Be Sued Over Jan. 6; House Votes To Expel George Santos 311-114. Aired 3:00-3:30p ET

Aired December 01, 2023 - 15:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Just moments after a seven-day truce expired, Israel resumed combat operations against Hamas in Gaza, but Qatar says negotiations for the release of hostages are still ongoing. We have the latest from the region.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Plus, lawyers for former president, Donald Trump, are in court right now in Georgia, defending him for the first time in the 2020 election interference case there. We're going to break down their legal strategy, how they're trying to get that case dismissed.

And in a historic vote, the House is expelling Congressman George Santos. He's the first House member removed from the chamber in more than two decades, the first to not be convicted of a crime in more than 150 years or so.

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

KEILAR: The sounds of war have returned to Israel and Gaza. Since the truce expired hours ago, rockets fired into Israel have been intercepted. We've seen it just over the past two hours here. But Gaza has suffered major hits, including in the southern city of Khan Yunis. Israel Defense Forces dropped leaflets there, directing Palestinians to evacuate. People, some of them, are now on the move. But the critical aid that they need has stopped flowing into the enclave from Egypt.

During the truce, some 200 trucks were able to get into Gaza each day. Humanitarian groups are hoping that another truce could happen soon because negotiations are still underway.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is in Tel Aviv for us. Oren, we just heard blasts in Sderot in the last hour. We have been hearing them as we've been talking to you throughout the show. What are you experiencing?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, we heard from our colleague, Jeremy Diamond, who is in Sderot just off the northeastern edge of Gaza there, saying that he has seen one of the most sustained barrages of rocket fire coming from northern Gaza in weeks. That, in and of itself, is significant. Northern Gaza is where Israeli forces have been operating and where they are based, so that Hamas is still able to operate and fire rockets from there, a significant statement about what Israel is able to control there and what it is not able to control there.

Meanwhile, we have seen at least two major barrages fired towards where we are in central Tel Aviv. Here rockets, Iron Dome interceptors fired and intercepting rockets headed for this area. So that - a statement about what Hamas and other militant groups there are still able to carry out on their part of the war. They said they are ready to resume operations, and they have very much done that, as we've seen from our position here.

Meanwhile, Israel has carried out punishing strikes against southern Gaza, focused on Khan Yunis, the major city there, as well as Rafah, which is the border crossing where humanitarian aid has not gone through since the resumption of fighting. Israel said it has carried out some 200 strikes against what it calls 'terror targets' in southern Gaza, but we have seen the results of those strikes and the results on the civilian population there.

Health authorities in Gaza say that more than 100 people have been killed since strikes have resumed. Meanwhile, hospital officials and health authorities there say the largest hospital that is still functioning in Gaza is operating at more than 200 percent capacity.

That gives you an idea of the international increase burden already on the hospital systems there, as we have seen the horrible pictures of injured children being rushed to hospitals there. And with fighting here set to continue, we - the number of Palestinians killed there is almost certain to rise here in the coming hours.

KEILAR: And Oren, even as this bombardment continues and these rockets are being fired, these negotiations, these multi-party talks about hostages are continuing.


What can you tell us?

LIEBERMANN: Absolutely, and perhaps that's not too much of a surprise. The first truce came about as the result of negotiations in the middle of some of the most intense fighting of the war. And that's where negotiators are once again right now. Israel and Hamas talking indirectly through Qatar, which has been the main mediator here. Egypt, as well as the United States, trying to get back to a point where you can have a truce. Israel's conditions remain the same.

If Hamas wants another 24 hours for a pause in the fighting, they have to release 10 women and children. Israel believes they have those numbers. The IDF spokesperson said a short time ago that Israel believes they have 17 women and children that can be released as a part of the current state of negotiations.

Hamas, meanwhile, says they don't, in fact, have the numbers to meet that requirement. Instead, they say they tried to expand the agreement to include elderly men, as well as men and women who could be of fighting age in the IDF or reservists. They say Israel rejected any attempts to expand the talks there. Meanwhile, those negotiations are ongoing to try to come to some sort of agreement on a continuation of the pause. A senior State Department official had said - had expressed some level of optimism that they could be back to a pause in the fighting sometime in the next day or two. But from where we're standing now, from what we're seeing now, that does seem a far way off.

KEILAR: Yes, it certainly does.

Oren Liebermann live for us from Tel Aviv, thank you for that.

I do want to go now to Jerusalem, which is where CNN's Ben Wedeman is following what is happening in Gaza. Ben, people in Gaza, they are experiencing this bombardment and, of course, that means death and destruction after what was a week of relief.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. In fact, a week of relief where the guns were silent, now no longer silent at all. According to the health ministry in Gaza, the current death toll at this point in the day is 278, hundreds more injured. The worst strike was in the city of Khan Yunis in the south, where our cameraman was told in one House, 15 people were killed. In a House next door, 10 people were killed.

And we've seen footage from that strike where we - there's a two-year- old girl on the table in the emergency ward. Medics are trying to revive her and then realize that she has died. And there's many more images coming out of Gaza, many civilians, yet again, are being killed.

Now, the Israelis have dropped leaflets on the city of Khan Yunis, telling people in the areas around it to leave those areas because it's going to be an active military zone. They've been told to go to Rafah, which is the furthest south in Gaza's strip. But that area is already crammed with people. We understand that the U.N. schools that have been converted to shelters are completely full. One person saying that there are 600 people for every single toilet.

Now, the Israelis also published a map of Gaza, showing it sort of cut up into little districts that are numbered on that publication. There's a QR code, which supposedly is going to tell people where at any given moment they can be safe. Keep in mind, however, many of the people who fled from the north to the south of Gaza actually had to do so on foot.

So, if suddenly they find out that they're in a dangerous area, they're going to have to move to another. That's going to be difficult. But even more difficult is the fact that internet coverage, cell phone coverage in Gaza at this point is very weak. So they may not be able to find out through this publication.

And I say publication, it's not even a leaflet, they're not going to be able to find out how they can - where it is that they can actually go. So the situation is difficult and getting worse. Now, John Kirby, the spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, has come out and said actually some aid has gotten to Gaza. He's talking about perhaps a dozen - dozens of trucks. But that's nothing compared to the approximately 200 that were getting through during the truce. And keep in mind that before the war, about 500 trucks were getting through to Gaza every single day. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Ben Wedeman, thank you for that report from Jerusalem.

Right now, former President Trump's defense lawyers, they're trying to get his Georgia racketeering case just thrown out. They claim that the Fulton County indictment tied to election interference violates his free speech rights. Short - so they're also pushing for the trial to be postponed. We'll see if that is going to work here, potentially for years.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Meantime, in Washington, a federal appeals court just paved the way for the former president to be sued over his role in the January 6th insurrection.


The major ruling says that Trump is not protected by presidential immunity for certain lawsuits. Let's break it all down.

We have CNN's Nick Valencia outside the courthouse in Atlanta. And in studio, we have Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent, Paula Reid, and CNN Legal Analyst, Norm Eisen.

Nick, first to you, what have the two sides argued today so far?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, really interestingly, this is the first time that we're seeing Trump's attorneys in court in this case. And what they're saying is that this indictment should be thrown out based on the First Amendment. What Steven Sadow, his high-profile criminal defense attorney, is arguing is that when President Trump, after he lost the 2020 election, when he began peddling conspiracy theories and claiming that there was widespread voter fraud, that that at its core was political speech protected by the First Amendment.

In a legal filing on Monday, Sadow went on to say that false speech should not be countered by an indictment from the Fulton County District Attorney's Office. But the state responded, and while it sounds good to claim that there's political persecution here, this is about laws that were broken and crimes that were committed.

Another big headline that came out of here had to do with scheduling. And in a recent interview, the district attorney here, Fani Willis, told the Washington Post that she wants this trial with Trump and his co-defendants to start in August of 2024. Listen to what Steve Sadow had to say about that in court a short time ago.


JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE: If your client does win election in 2024, could he even be tried in 2025? STEVEN SADOW, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: The answer to that is, I

believe that under the Supremacy Clause and its duty to the president of the United States, this trial would not take place at all until after he left his term of office.

MCAFEE: It's only against him.

SADOW: It's only against him.

MCAFEE: All right. And Mr. Wade, again, I'll give you the opportunity to respond if you so desire. All right. I think, obviously, that's something we're going to be taking up in greater detail in the new year.


VALENCIA: It's really important to remind everyone that even as Trump's defense attorneys argue that this indictment should be thrown out against him, four of the former president's former co-defendants have admitted to guilt in this, to the crimes alleged in this indictment. Three of them are his former attorneys. All four of them, in exchange for that guilty plea, will potentially testify against Trump in a future trial. Boris, Brianna?

KEILAR: And, Nick, the judge has - he has made it clear in the past where he's been on this free speech issue as this comes up again.

VALENCIA: That's right and that's really important to note. This First Amendment challenge has come up with Ken Chesebro, with Sidney Powell, those former co-defendants. And what Scott McAfee, the ruling that he issued there, is saying facts and evidence need to be established first in court before that First Amendment challenge could be put into the equation. Brianna?

SANCHEZ: So, Norm, this First Amendment argument, as we noted, the judges struck it down before. Any doubt in your mind that that happens again this time around?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's virtually certain, Boris, that this trial is not going to be slowed down by the First Amendment argument before we get to trial. Now, it is possible when you get into trial and the facts and evidence come in and that's what the judge signaled. He may say, well, we're going to take this piece of the case out, some of the remarks on the Ellipse on January 6th. You're not going to be allowed to argue that to the jury.

So he may peel away little pieces here and there, he may not. But for now, First Amendment, not an obstacle.

KEILAR: And Trump's lawyers are attempting to get all of these criminal trials delayed here.

EISEN: Well, and we got a taste of that in the afternoon session of the argument before Judge McAfee today. He's a new judge, but he's been so impressive because he surveyed the waterfront, all of the reasons that there might be delay, other cases, the fact that Trump's a presidential candidate.

But then he was very smart. He said to Trump's lawyer, Mr. Sadow, well, what if Mr. Trump is not a candidate? Or what if the other cases have been resolved? Why should I kick the case forward now? Showing a very flexible approach. I think we're going to stick with the August target of a trial date now and see what happens. Some of those other cases could move, like the Judge Cannon, Mar-A-Lago case in Florida, that could slip. This case can slide right in.

SANCHEZ: Sure. So that is happening in Fulton County, Georgia. Meantime, Paula, here in Washington, D.C., a significant ruling when it comes to Trump's potential liability and his role as president - his immunity as president - playing a role on January 6th.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: A huge decision, one we've been waiting for, for a while. Here the appeals court affirming that Trump can be sued for his actions on January 6th. Now, it does not mean that he is liable. What it means is that Capitol Hill police officers, lawmakers who have tried to sue him, that they will now get their day in court unless, of course, it's appealed and overturned.

But Trump has argued that he can't be sued because on January 6th, he was the president. And federal officials from the president on down enjoy immunity for things that they do in their official roles. But here, the court found that his speech on January 6th was part of a "pro-Trump rally," that this was more of a campaign activity. They described him in this moment as being "an office seeker," not an office holder.

And they said, in this opinion, they said, when he acts in an unofficial private capacity, he is subject to civil suits just like any other private citizen. And today, his team, though, once again insisting that he was acting in his role as the president. But this is a big question going forward. This is about civil liability. The question now is criminal liability, because a similar issue is going to come up in the criminal context, his trial that that judge says is going in March no matter what, he'll likely try to test this here. We don't know how that'll pan out. But here you have an appeals court saying, look, not everything you do in your official role as president is immune from liability.

EISEN: It was so telling, of course, Paula's right on the money in analyzing the case. But the test that Trump was pushing here, the Nixon v. Fitzgerald test that if this is within your outer perimeter of presidential duties, you can't be subject to legal process, that's the same argument that he's pushing for criminal immunity before Judge Chutkan. So if you can't get it here, this signals that he's probably going to lose in front of Chutkan. It's actually one of the most significant days, I think, as we look at the criminal case. Hey, he's not going to be able to stop that March trial date, probably.

KEILAR: Can we talk about what this means for him, though? I mean, he has so many court proceedings in different cases before him. And then this - what - there's at least - I think, at least 10 cases involving police and lawmakers alone on January 6th. So even if they're unsuccessful, he still would have to mount a defense.

REID: Yes, it's a lawyer employment act ...

KEILAR: That is a lot.

REID: Yes.

KEILAR: That is a lot.

REID: And we - actually, we've seen this for, right, the past seven years. So you're going to have to employ more lawyers. He's chosen a pretty narrow group so far to cover the field and all of the places he needs to be defended. But yes, this is going to be costly, both in money and time. And that calendar, man, it is crowded between campaign events, election events and all of these trials.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Paula, Norm, Nick, thank you all so much, appreciate the perspective. Come back anytime, you're welcome here at NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: Stick around.

SANCHEZ: Still to come, the House's overwhelming vote to show Congressman George Santos the door. What it means for the already slim Republican majority?

And later, the death of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, how she inspired generations of women. That and much more coming up on CNN in just a few minutes.



SANCHEZ: In a historic move, the House overwhelmingly voted 311 to 114 to expel New York Republican congressman, George Santos, from his seat. House Speaker Mike Johnson, along with three other top Republican leaders, actually voted to keep Santos, partly perhaps because the math now changes for House Republicans, making their slim margin - their slim advantage over Democrats even slimmer.

I would like to bring in Melanie Zanona alive from Capitol Hill.

Melanie, obviously, a lot of Republicans voted to oust Santos, yet many still supports someone facing multiple felony charges.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, and that's why there was a lot of uncertainty hiding into this vote, because the GOP has really been divided over this question of whether or not they should expel George Santos. And you saw that really reflected in the vote tally, because House were pretty evenly split down the middle on where they ultimately landed.

There were plenty of Republicans, including the top four Republican leaders, who said they were concerned about the precedent of voting to remove someone who had yet to be convicted in the court of law. But there were many other Republicans, including the chairman of the House Ethics Committee, who pushed back on that argument and they said that the evidence is overwhelming, it was damning, and they argued that Congress has a constitutional right to police itself. Let's listen in.


REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): I'm upset about it, because you're talking about erasing the very fabric of what's made us the greatest nation in the world. And it's not the actions of George Santos. It's the fact that everybody is afforded their day in court and that was the (inaudible) ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) George Santos gets his day in court, today he lost his job.

REP. MICHAEL GUEST (R-MS): In years past, I think we have seen members who have committed conducts substantially less severe than Mr. Santos was on. Most members don't want to put themselves their family, their constituents through this process. We know that that was not the case with Mr. Santos.


ZANONA: So, in the end here, 105 Republicans ultimately voted with most Democrats to expel George Santos, and already the clerk has taken over his office. My colleague, Haley Talbot, reports that the sign has already come down, and when you go to his former website, it directs to the clerk's office.

So, on his way out the door, Santos had very few words for the press, but he did say, "To hell with this place." I'm sure a lot of members probably have similar feelings towards their former colleague. But one thing is clear, the George Santos saga officially over here on Capitol Hill, guys.

SANCHEZ: For now, we'll see. Unpredictable guy. We'll see what he might do next, the next chapter of this saga.

Melanie Zanona, thank you so much from Capitol Hill.

So, she was the first woman on the Supreme Court, former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has passed away at age 93.


We have a look at her life and legacy straight ahead.



KEILAR: She ushered in a new era for the United States Supreme Court, inspiring generations of women to join the legal profession. Today, America is mourning the death of former Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O'Connor. And joining us with more on a remarkable woman is Evan Thomas. He is the author of the book, "First: Sandra Day O'Connor."


Evan, thank you so much for joining us on - to talk about the justice here.