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GOP Sen. Tuberville Releases Hold On Almost All Military Nominees; Special Counsel Plans To Use Trump's Continued Embrace Of January 6 Rioters Against Him At Trial; Fewest Candidates So Far Will Be On GOP Debate State Tomorrow; UN Chief: Apocalyptic Situation In Gaza, "Nowhere Safe To Go"; Schumer: Senate Will Take Procedural Vote Tomorrow On Ukraine Aid; Parents Struggle To Find Newly Approved RSV Vaccines. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired December 05, 2023 - 15:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We're beginning with some breaking news coming off of Capitol Hill here. Some pretty big news: Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, says he is lifting most of his holds on hundreds of military promotions.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: The senator describing it as a draw in his sort of contentious hold with the Pentagon, not sure objective observers --

KEILAR: Maybe generous.

SANCHEZ: -- would describe it that way.

KEILAR: Generous to himself there.

SANCHEZ: Let's go to CNN's Manu Raju, who's live on Capitol Hill. Manu, what are you hearing from lawmakers?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of relief. Remember, there's been bipartisan opposition to Tommy Tuberville's stand. He had very little support within the Senate Republican Conference for trying to block all military promotions, something that really has never been done before, but something that any senator can do under the rules of the Senate.

What he's done for 10-plus months is hold up every military promotion until the Pentagon scrapped its policy, providing reimbursements for military personnel who travel out of states to get abortions. Well, the Pentagon has said it would not do that.

And then after some time, an increasing number of Republicans came out to say Tommy Tuberville needs to back down. And behind closed doors, Tuberville addressed his conference. He talked to Senate Republicans at lunch today and said that he would, in fact, back down and decided that instead of holding up all nominees, he would release most of those nominees. There are about 450 right now, but now will allow all of them except for 11 to be held up. Those 11 are four-star-ranked generals, and those are the people that he wants to have individual roll-call votes on.

Instead, he'll allow the rest of them to be approved in one fell swoop, something Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer said could happen as soon as this afternoon. Those are - those nominees typically are quickly confirmed by a voice vote in the United States Senate. But if one senator like Tuberville decides to hold up the process, either the majority leader could take time-consuming steps on the floor to overcome those objections or those blockade can last for months on end as what happened here with Tuberville.

So the question is what did he accomplish out of all of this? It's unclear because the Pentagon still has this policy. He believes that he got some concessions that helped him out to achieve some of his ultimate objectives. It's unclear exactly what that is, but I can tell you, in talking to Republicans in particular, they're satisfied with this because they were considering changing Senate procedures to overcome Tuberville's blockade. But they don't have to do that anymore now that Tuberville has agreed to back down, guys.

KEILAR: Yes, very interesting developments here. Manu, thank you for that.

SANCHEZ: We are tracking more breaking news, this time on the January 6th investigation into former president, Donald Trump. Special Counsel Jack Smith plans to present evidence at Trump's trial next year that his continued support for U.S. Capitol rioters shows he intended to inspire violence on January 6th 2021 as part of a conspiracy he led to overturn the 2020 Election.

KEILAR: Let's get more on this now with CNN's Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent, Paula Reid.

Paula, tell us more about what this means, how significant it is.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the first time we're getting a preview from the special counsel of the case that they intend to present next March when they try former president, Trump, related to January 6th and claims of election subversion.

Now, in this new filing, they're putting him and his lawyers on notice about exactly what they're going to put before a jury. And they point specifically to his continued public support for people who attacked the Capitol. They point to the fact that he has suggested that he could pardon some of them if he is reelected and he's also referred to them at times as "hostages."

And prosecutors say, look, this, in part, is evidence that he conspired to incite violence that day. They argue that things like this go to motive and intent. They also list things that happened long before January 6th.

You may remember in a 2020 presidential debate, then-President Trump was asked to denounce the extremist group, the Proud Boys. But instead of publicly denouncing them, instead, he appeared to publicly speak directly to them, telling them to "stand back and stand by." And we now know that members of that group embraced that. Of course, many of them were involved in the attack on the Capitol.

They also talk about how he refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power leading up to the election. And then following the election, they point to how he attacked anyone who refuted his claims of election fraud.


And notably, they point to the fact that for over a decade, going back to 2012, they say that Trump has claimed fraud any time he didn't like or didn't agree with an election outcome. So this is fascinating because it's the first time we've seen how prosecutors intend to support these charges as they become the first prosecutors to try former president, Trump. The first of two federal trials we expect next year. But this plan will have to be approved by the judge overseeing this case, Judge Tanya Chutkan.

We do expect that she will likely approve this plan, but this is all subject to her approval.

KEILAR: All right. Paula Reid, thank you so much for the very latest on that. Obviously, a significant development.

And tomorrow, Republican voters are going to see - it's really the least crowded stage.


KEILAR: Kind of an intimate stage, if you will, in the 2024 race for president. Only four GOP candidates are set to debate at the University of Alabama. The Republican National Committee saying Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy are the only ones qualifying for the stage.

SANCHEZ: Yes, but once again, Republican primary voters will not get to see the top contender in the debate room. Donald Trump, who leads all polls by seemingly comfortable margins, will be fundraising in Florida.

We want to deep dive into all of this with Matt Gorman. He was a senior adviser on the Tim Scott presidential campaign. We should note the senator got out of the race last month.

Alex Thompson is also with us. He's a national political correspondent for Axios.

And, Alex, I want to talk to you about Chris Christie because he just barely, with very little time left, squeaked into this debate. There is reporting in The New York Times that some Republicans are telling him to do what he didn't do in 2016 and get out of the race early. What are you hearing?

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, AXIOS: I'm hearing he's not going to do that. And you're absolutely right that he barely squeaked in. Arguably, it's not even clear that he actually made it. The - I mean, he definitely is going to be on the stage.


THOMPSON: But the actual guidance of how - who qualifies for the stage or not, it's a little ambiguous, and the RNC just said, actually, he did make it. I mean, but a lot of analysts, as of last week, thought he didn't actually have the polling.

So, to give you an idea, if there is another debate, he may not make it. As for him dropping out, I've talked to his team. They've indicated they don't plan to. In fact, they've even suggested that he could stay in till next summer.

Now, obviously, campaigns don't end. They run out of money. Unclear if he would actually be able to do that. The biggest threat with that is in New Hampshire, where him and Nikki Haley are basically tied for second place, and you have to imagine that a lot of his vote, if he were to drop out, would go to probably the next most moderate candidate, which would be Nikki Haley.

KEILAR: What about the possibility of Liz Cheney, Matt, throwing - I didn't even finish the question. I didn't finish the question, Matt.


SANCHEZ: (Inaudible) ...

GORMAN: I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

KEILAR: Don't laugh at the question.

GORMAN: I'm sorry.

KEILAR: She's - she knows - she's obviously toying with this idea, but there's a lot of considerations, right, about what that would mean and who that would influence the most. What do you think?

GORMAN: I just fail to see who the audience is here, who the constituency is. I mean, certainly Democrats won't come on board. She's a flawed messenger even before she was running among Republicans. So, look, I have nothing personal against Liz Cheney who go out and sell her books.

I fail to see, A, what's new in the book or what's new in her message. And candidly, what is, aside from Trump, what would be her vision or rationale for actually serving in office? That's an important part too. KEILAR: It seems like it's a message rationale, right? She wants to be out there as a foil to Donald Trump. But if you throw that in there as a real possibility, who do you think she might actually pull votes away from, considering some Democrats do like her?

GORMAN: Chris Christie, right? Because, to be fair, Chris has been the most in the field, striding consistently on a moral level against President Trump. He's at 11 percent right now. If - I would expect to see that on the debate stage. He's done it already a little bit, but that's somebody who you actually - she would actually take votes from.

THOMPSON: What - one thing I would just add to that is I think there are these independent voters that are sort of called the double-hater voters, basically people that hate Donald Trump, hate Joe Biden, and I think if she would have run as a third-party candidate, she probably would appeal to them.

But in terms of her larger mission of stopping Donald Trump from getting to the Oval Office, that would actually probably hurt that mission because there are some people that would otherwise vote for Joe Biden that would vote for her. So I actually would expect if her goal is to prevent Donald Trump, I bet you, and she said that she could end up supporting Joe Biden, I wouldn't be completely shocked if you see her speak at the convention next summer.

SANCHEZ: Wow, that would be a moment for sure.

Matt, over to you. I want to ask you about Nikki Haley. She's getting attention from donors. Her push to reform Medicare and other entitlements is really significant. But if she makes the general election, that argument may play well in the primary, perhaps not so much in the general.

GORMAN: I mean, look at where we were, say, 20 years ago, where in large part the George W. Bush' second term got derailed after he proposed reforming Social Security.



GORMAN: Flip it - really it was Trump who flipped the party and said, no, no, no, we're not touching Social Security. And that has become essentially the primary platform. My boss didn't want to raise retirement age. If you had gone back 20 years, that's different than party orthodoxy.

So in large part, Haley is going a little bit against the grain here, but the devil's in the details. When you say you want to reform Medicare, you want to reform Social Security, there are some very sticky policies that you have to commit to that are going to tick off either side.

KEILAR: So what do they need to do in this debate, and how, Alex, do you think the dynamics change with these four being the ones on the stage? Is there much of a change, do you think? THOMPSON: I think so, in part because we don't even know if there's going to be another actual debate before Iowa. So this is a case for some candidates to make their last real push on the stage. Now, Nikki Haley, arguably, has been the best debater and at the very least the most consistent debater across all of these. If you are Ron DeSantis, you have to stop her momentum, and that's going to be his main thing.

We've already seen him preview the attacks. I bet you you're going to see Nikki Haley do what sort of she's done in recent interviews is to be dismissive of them, say basically you're only doing it because you're behind. The question is if she's getting incoming from all sides because she is the candidate with momentum, can she withstand sort of a pylon from all three other candidates on the stage?

SANCHEZ: And, Matt, when it comes to Ron DeSantis, he has support in Iowa. He recently completed the full Chuck Grassley did all 99 counties. He has support from the governor, from evangelical leaders. Can he pull out a surprise win in January?

GORMAN: Highly doubtful. He can get a second, and that might be the equivalent of a win among the non-Trump candidates. But, look, when you go to all 99 counties and you're a distant second place, Trump's been to seven and he's pretty high up.


GORMAN: That kind of says a lot of where this race, this campaign, elections now were very much nationalized. You don't need to go necessarily to every rural county in Iowa to make a difference perhaps. So that might tell us not only about Ron DeSantis but where Iowa campaigning could go in the next 48 years.

KEILAR: They're in such a unique place, these candidates, right, in this debate, in this race as they're having a race amongst themselves but not really with the contender, with the lead contender in this. And I just wonder sort of what does that do to them as they're getting ready for this moment as they're staring down the Iowa caucuses, I mean, what is it really at this point that they are running for?

THOMPSON: They are all running to become second place and then hoping that in a one-on-one race against Donald Trump, you know, there is - that somehow that they can win. Even though there's no current data to show that basically that the - all data shows that the field consolidates. Trump's vote share will actually increase because some of those people that are currently supporting Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley would go to him. But still, that is really the hope.

This is a debate for second place. It's undercard. It's silver medal. And then the hope is that somehow if you're one-on-one against Donald Trump, there is a month gap between January 23rd New Hampshire caucus, February 24th South Carolina primary. If you get them one-on-one for that month, maybe something can change, but it's a bank shot.

KEILAR: Huge. All right, Matt, Alex, so great to have you both.

SANCHEZ: Thanks. KEILAR: Weird times we are in. It's just so unique and great to discuss with you guys.

Still to come, the Israeli military now says it is encircling Gaza's second largest city in the south and this is coming as U.N. officials are describing a "apocalyptic situation" with no place safe to go. We are live from the region next.

And the House is set to vote on a Republican resolution that condemns anti-Semitism in the United States and also globally. But some high- profile Democrats who also happen to be Jewish are urging colleagues to vote present. We'll discuss why, coming up.



SANCHEZ: Now to the situation unfolding in Gaza where Israeli forces continue their blistering barrage against Hamas with civilians, many of them sadly, faced with no place to go. Israeli defense forces say they are entering the third phase of the war targeting Hamas strongholds in northern and southern Gaza.

IDF leaders now say that soldiers are encircling Gaza's second largest city, Khan Younis, as well as the enclave's largest refugee camp, Jabalia, in the north. The U.N. says that civilians are running out of places to flee, warning of an apocalyptic situation that is only getting worse as Israeli forces order civilians to evacuate larger sections of Gaza. Let's take you now live to Tel Aviv with CNN's Alex Marquardt.

So, Alex, what more is the IDF saying about its ongoing operations in Gaza?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, it's not clear what is meant by a third phase of this conflict, but it does appear that Israel is entering a new phase. They say that they are securing the gains made in the north, like the Jabalia refugee camp that they say had the Hamas command and control and Hamas militants in it. And we have seen very clear moves towards the south, towards the city of Khan Younis, which is the biggest city in southern Gaza.

The top commander for Israel's army in - military in the south said that today was the most intense day that they had seen since the beginning of the ground operation that started at the end of October in terms of the number of Hamas militants killed, the amount of fighting, the number of firefights.

So, according to Israel's military, they are encircling Khan Younis; they are operating at the heart of Khan Younis, they say. Major concerns now, Boris, not only - well, mainly because of the number of civilians who are in and around Khan Younis. It is understandable why this is a target. Israeli and American officials say that Hamas' leadership has gone towards Khan Younis, but so have so many people who were told to flee the northern part of the Gaza Strip in the initial phase of this operation.


So now you have hundreds of thousands of people who are either - who have either fled to Khan Younis or are living there, who are now being told to go even farther south. So what we're hearing are civilians saying, "Where do we go now?" Humanitarian officials saying that they assume that many of these civilians will be going towards Rafah, which is on the border of Egypt, where we've already seen hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

You have these shelters that are bursting at the seams, people setting up tents, living on the streets. It is becoming an extraordinarily untenable situation, with both civilians and humanitarian workers saying simply that nowhere in Gaza is safe, Boris.

SANCHEZ: And Alex, it's notable that the White House is maintaining the public position that Israel has been receptive to its encouragement to take more steps to save civilian lives in Gaza. But we understand there's new reporting that indicates that that view is not shared by everyone in the White House.

MARQUARDT: They've been saying publicly and rather diplomatically that Israel has been receptive, but we have heard very clear warnings from the uppermost Biden administration officials. Secretary Blinken last week here in Israel, in Tel Aviv, saying that essentially intent is all well and good, but it's actions that matter. The Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, saying that if these high civilian death tolls continue, that Israel could win tactically but essentially lose in the long term.

One senior administration official spoke to our colleague, MJ Lee, saying that they wouldn't exactly describe Israel's attitude towards these American warnings as receptive. And on the aid front, we've also heard that the U.S. expects Israel to continue sending aid into Gaza allowing aid to be sent into Gaza, despite the fact that the fighting has been renewed.

But very clearly and publicly today at the State Department, the spokesman, Matt Miller, saying Israel is not doing enough to allow aid into the Gaza Strip and that more needs to be done by Israel. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Alex Marquardt live from Tel Aviv.

Thanks so much, Alex. Brianna?

KEILAR: There is a fight unfolding on Capitol Hill. Democrats and Republicans at odds over proposed supplemental military aid to Ukraine for its nearly two-year-old war with Russia. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowing to hold a procedural vote on funding for Ukraine tomorrow.

We have CNN's Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill for us live. Lauren, what are lawmakers saying ahead of tomorrow's vote?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, Republicans are preparing to vote against advancing the President's supplemental package, arguing that they want to see robust policy changes to the U.S.'s southern border. Specifically, they argue that more money for the southern border, which the President's supplemental request did include, is not enough. In fact, they've been trying to work behind closed doors and over the course of the last several weeks with their Democratic colleagues to try and find a middle ground on immigration policy.

But given the fact that this is an issue that's vexed Congress for the last several decades, no middle ground has been found. In fact, things reached an impasse over the weekend. And negotiators are still trying to find a way back to the table, trying to find a way forward.

But in the meantime, Chuck Schumer says he has to move forward with trying to advance this package and Republicans say they're not going to support it. They are not going to provide the nine Republican votes necessary in order to advance this package to a final vote.

So that gives you a sense of just how frustrated members appear on Capitol Hill are, given the fact that Republicans and Democrats largely agree, Brianna, that they do want to continue funding the war effort in Israel, the war effort in Ukraine. They argue that those are close allies of the United States. And yet Republicans and Democrats see the view very differently on how to handle immigration, with the Republicans insisting that border policy changes be included. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Lauren Fox, obviously something to watch here in the coming days. We appreciate the report.

As RSV cases surge, parents are struggling to get the antibody treatments to prevent severe illness for their babies. We'll have more on that just ahead.



SANCHEZ: It's just that time of year. Viruses are practically everywhere. It sparked a rush, especially among parents, to shield their little ones from the notorious RSV. The virus leads to more than 2 million hospital visits among kids younger than five. Now the new RSV vaccine is proving to be effective in protecting babies and toddlers, but finding one is a major challenge for many.

Here with more is now CNN Medical Correspondent, Meg Tirrell.

So, Meg, tell us about why RSV is such a nuisance and details on the new vaccine.

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So RSV is a pretty common virus. Most of us get it by the time we're toddlers, and typically it doesn't cause huge problems. But for very little babies, as well as for the elderly, it can be pretty severe. And this is actually the first season when we have new protection for both of those groups. And public health experts are particularly excited about this antibody shot. It's called Beyfortus, which is approved for babies.


Because in clinical trials, it was shown to reduce their risk of severe disease by about 75 percent. And so there was a real hope that this would keep babies out of the hospital with RSV ...