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Shocking Blow to House GOP; Haley Loses in Nevada; Hamas Offers Counterproposal; John "Fozzie" Miller is Interviewed about the Israel- Hamas Negotiations. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired February 07, 2024 - 09:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: "Ten minutes of humiliation that will live in House lore." Those word from "Axios" as Republicans suffer back-to- back stunning failures. The question now, are they just getting started? What will today bring?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN ANCHOR: And, this morning, Nikki Haley's team shrugging off a major embarrassment in Nevada. But where does the campaign that just lost to literally none of these candidates really go from here?

BERMAN: And Tokyo goes gaga for Taylor as Swifty mania collides with Super Bowl LVIII.

Kate and Sara are out today. I'm John Berman. Lucky that Rahel Solomon agreed to be here. CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts now.

This morning, the headlines are just brutal. House Republicans managing to pull off the historic in all the wrong ways. "The New York Times" called it "a den of destruction." "Axios," "ten minutes of humiliation that will live in house lore." "Punch Bowl," "a debacle that defies definition."

And this morning it could all go downhill from here. Republican leadership fell one vote short of impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Then, just minutes later, they failed to pass a standalone aid package for Israel.

Now, this morning, the Senate is poised to kill the bipartisan border deal that many Republicans had initially asked for, which will all set up what might be the defining moment for aid to Ukraine. It is no overstatement to say the whole world is watching and cringing.

CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill with the very latest this morning.

What a night, Lauren. What a morning it may be.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. I mean this moment last night with the failure of the vote to impeach Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the House floor really caught everyone by surprise, including, of course, Republican leadership. It became very clear that something was afoot because you had this first vote series in which you had Democrats with one absence. Then, when the vote to impeach Mayorkas began, all of a sudden Al Green, a Democrat who wasn't anticipated to be there, was wheeled on to the House floor, voted against the impeachment. And because there were already three Republicans voting no, they had no margin for error. Suddenly it was tied, which means a failure on the House floor.

And, John, it really is this moment in which, if you were going to do something that hadn't been done in nearly 150 years, you have to count the votes. And that includes knowing who is there on the other side of the aisle.

Now, we should note that Republicans really thought, because they had done this vote checking vote right beforehand, that there was a Democratic absence. In fact, Andy Biggs, who's a Republican of the House Freedom Caucus, he said, I like a good game. Democrats played a good game. I'm just upset that Republicans lost here. Certainly, Democrats kept this one up their sleeve.


BERMAN: Yes, and as I said, Lauren, it's really not over yet. This is all part of a complicated cocktail on Capitol Hill that's taking place right now. We're in the middle of it. And it could lead to what is a decisive vote on aid to Ukraine later today in the Senate. Explain what's going to happen here.

FOX: Yes, so, first they're going to vote on a procedural effort to try and advance this supplemental package that includes the border bill that they had been fighting so hard for over the course of the last several months. But after that fails, and we expect it will, then Schumer will have a procedural vote on a standalone aid package that would include aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

And the reason that Schumer is going through with that is that Republicans have signaled that they are likely to support that package. Now, there's going to be some conservatives who are opposed to more aid to Ukraine who will vote against it, but a large majority of the Republican conference in the Senate is supportive of aid to Ukraine.

Now, that does lead to a larger question, what does this mean in the House of Representatives where it's very clear Mike Johnson has his hands full with a narrow margin and some conservatives who have made clear that putting aid to Ukraine on the floor of the House could be a problem for the future of Johnson's speakership. How he's going to handle and manage that is another question entirely.


BERMAN: Look, what Mike Johnson wants to do and what Mike Johnson can do, they've been very different things during his speakership. We will watch this very closely.

Lauren Fox, great to have you there. Keep us posted. All right, Lauren. I mean Rahel.

SOLOMON: All right, John, now to this embarrassing defeat for Nikki Haley in Nevada.


She lost the state's non-binding GOP primary despite being the only major Republican candidate on the ballot Tuesday. Instead, more Republican primary voters selected the "none of these" option. Now, Donald Trump skipped this contest and no delegates were at stake, which made it largely symbolic. The former president instead will compete in Nevada's caucuses tomorrow where 26 delegates will be awarded.

Let's bring in CNN's Kylie Atwood, who joins us now.

So, Kylie, I mean what does this result now mean for Haley?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, as you said, Rahel, this is mostly an embarrassment for her campaign because when folks went in to vote in this primary, more than double of those who voted for Nikki Haley voted for that option on the ballot that said "none of these candidates." It was at the bottom of the ballot.

Now, we should note that Trump's allies in the state had been encouraging Republican voters to go in and cast a ballot for "none of the candidates" because it would obviously help Trump say that Nikki Haley just really isn't a contender. And Trump's name wasn't on the ballot either. He is competing in the caucus later this week, which actually awards the delegates in the state. So even though she lost this primary, it doesn't mean that she has given up any delegates that she was actively competing for.

Now, her campaign is trying to downplay this loss with saying this morning, quote, does Donald Trump - Donald - "even Donald Trump knows that when you play penny slots, the house wins. We didn't both to play a game rigged for Trump. We're full steam ahead in South Carolina and beyond."

But we should note that this is a setback for her campaign at a moment when they're trying to show that there's momentum behind her campaign, you know, hauling in more than $16 million in donations in January, even though she hasn't yet been able to win an early state.

SOLOMON: Yes, also shrugging it off saying that they didn't really invest a lot of time or money in Nevada.

So, Kylie, talk to us about the week ahead. I mean where does her attention head now and what's her week look like?

ATWOOD: Yes, well, when you look at Nikki Haley's schedule, there's a few things that are quite clear. The first of which is that they are really actively competing in South Carolina. We haven't seen Trump host any campaign rallies over the course of the last two months in the state. She has been campaigning really hard there. The second thing they're trying to do is focus on that fundraising.

They had a really successful month of January. And when you look at the calendar over the next two weeks, she's in California today fundraising, she's going to be in South Carolina fundraising, she's going to be in Texas fundraising. She's really making an effort to get in front of donors and make sure that they are still with her.

And the other thing that they are really focused on is trying to double down on that commitment that she's in it for the long haul. We heard from her campaign manager saying that so long as they have the resources, they're going to go to distance. And one interesting thing about today is that, when she's in California for that donor event, she's also going to be hosting an event in the state. It's her first event in the Super Tuesday state.


SOLOMON: All right, we will wait and see.

Kylie Atwood, live for us in Washington. Kylie, thanks so much.


BERMAN: All right, with us now, Bakari Sellers, CNN political commentator and former South Carolina Democratic state representative, and Maura Gillespie, she served as press adviser to then House Speaker John Boehner, and she's the founder and principal of Bluestack Strategies.

Bakari, since you're in South Carolina, I want to start with you.

Losing to one thing. It's bad. Losing to like literally no one or anyone else, how bad is that?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, that's bad. I think the only thing that's worse than losing to none of the above is running unopposed and losing that race, too.

I think Nikki Haley has the momentum in South Carolina. I'm not sure many people understand the primary or caucus system in Nevada. I don't think many people are paying attention to it. I apologize to John Rosten (ph) who would get upset at me, or Rosten, for who would get upset at me for saying this, but Nevada really doesn't matter in the larger scheme of things, particularly for Nikki Haley.

And I think she's actually gaining momentum here. I think she's doing events around the state here. People are talking about the race between her and Trump here. It's the buzz here. I mean it's the biggest thing going on here, other than college basketball in Columbia. So, it is a huge, huge item and topic. But I don't think coming in second to none of the above is going to do her any favors.

BERMAN: I'm interested to hear Bakari say that Nikki Haley is getting momentum in South Carolina because Bakari and I have talked about this a lot over the last few weeks and he was - he was bearish on Nikki Haley in South Carolina. Now he says he's seeing some stuff there. What do you think she does now? What can she do over the next few weeks?

MAURA GILLESPIE, FOUNDER AND PRINCIPAL, BLUESTACK STRATEGIES: I think she -- doubling down on her commitment to be in this for the long haul. You know, trump has a lot of legal issues that have been coming out and bills to pay that, you know, the GOP is struggling to - to fundraise. And she is doing really well in fundraising on her own. So, I think capitalizing on that and showing that momentum and showing donors that there is a viable option because I think largely when you're looking at, you know, again, the RNC struggles and the fundraising issues that are happening, Donald Trump is fundraising for one person, himself.


And that money is going to his legal bills. It's not going to other candidates in the GOP. It's not helping the House majority expand. It's not helping senators take back the Senate. And so that money is - is largely being outfundraised, you know. Democrats are outfundraising Republicans. And we've seen that. And so Nikki Haley can prove, hey, I'm -- I'm worth investing in. I'm worth donating to.

BERMAN: So, Maura, you're a creature of the House.


BERMAN: And I say that with admiration.

GILLESPIE: I am. That's right.

BERMAN: Like that - I don't mean that pejoratively, I mean that with admiration.

What happened last night was just a debacle. I mean counting is hard, but it's not that hard, right? So, what are the main lessons you take away from what we've seen over the last 20 hours?

GILLESPIE: This is what happens when you have a Freedom Caucus member as your speaker of the House who did not bring over any staffers who have institutional knowledge. He didn't want to have anyone who has experience in leadership. That's a net, you know, loss for him because not having people who are familiar with member services and the importance of doing what counts and getting out there, that's a real struggle and a real weakness for Speaker Johnson. And, again, their inability to count and prepare for - again, you don't bring a bill to the floor if you're not there on it, if you don't have the votes. And so, again, I think it's his lack of experience. And he's been really timid as a speaker and not wanting to put things forward. And he did this and he lost.

BERMAN: Is his job on the line?

GILLESPIE: I don't actually think so because it's already been so clear that, unfortunately, Republicans are failing to govern. And to throw the House into another round of chaos, as they have already this year, or last year, is isn't to their benefit.

BERMAN: So, Bakari, I know Democrats were standing there literally cheering and laughing at all of this. But - but their priorities aren't going anywhere either. The bipartisan border bill, which a lot of Democrats had a lot invested in also, that's dead. Aid to Ukraine, which a lot of Democrats care about, very much in jeopardy. So, what do you see happening now?

SELLERS: Well, first of all, I think there are a few things. One, Speaker Johnson's inept, he's incompetent and he can't count. And I don't think we have to go back that far in history to see what an effective speaker was. And her name was Nancy Pelosi. He lost more bills in one night than Nancy Pelosi lost in two terms. And so let's put that into perspective.

The fact is, I don't think Democrats are celebrating the failures of the Republican Party. In fact, we wish we had two parties that could lead, who had ideas, who could debate policy. But that's simply not the case.

I mean it doesn't take a lot, John, for me to remind people that Republicans, not long ago, were going to replace and repeal Obamacare. And what have they done? Absolutely nothing. And now they want to talk about immigration. And when you have a bipartisan immigration bill that gives conservatives what they want in the bill and forfeits a lot of things that liberals have been asking for, for a long period of time, only for that to be stunted, it shows that the Republican Party is not a real party when it comes to policy.

BERMAN: How much of -


BERMAN: Go ahead.

SELLERS: Chuck Schumer is going to pass funding for Ukraine, Israel, and he's going to pass -- he's going to pass those spending bills. It will pass the Senate. It will come to the House. And I believe it will pass the House.

But Mike Johnson really does - he -- the job is literally too big for that man. Maybe they should try a woman.

BERMAN: Maura, if aid to Ukraine and Israel gets to the House floor and through to the Senate today, and we'll have an answer to this question later. All of a sudden, I mean this -- the question is upon us today. Do you think the House takes it up. Does Johnson put it to a vote? Does it get through the House?

GILLESPIE: The bigger question is, does Johnson bring it to the floor. I mean that's the first hurdle to get through. If it gets to the floor, I do think it will pass. I think there are enough common-sense Republicans. I know that seems like a hard term to wrap your head around. But I o think there are enough that understand the importance of getting this across the line, across the finish line. And to what it says to us as a nation, but also to our allies around the world, it's for our security as well. And I think those members on the Republican side will really hone in on that messaging and hopefully be pushing Johnson to bring this to the floor. You know, they can continue to harp on the border stuff and push Biden to use the powers he already has, they can continue to message on that, but this is immediate need and it needs to get done.

BERMAN: It is interesting. This does sets up that aid to Ukraine hinges on the decision that one man will make, one man who has had a rough go of it over the last few weeks. It will be interesting.

Maura, great to see you.

Bakari Sellers, thank you, as well.


SOLOMON: All right, John, still ahead, moments ago, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. is, quote, intensively examining the counteroffer from Hamas on a possible hostage release. What we know about the negotiations, still ahead.

Plus, the jury foreperson in the Jennifer Crumbley trial speaks to CNN. Hear how they reached their unprecedented decision to convict the school shooter's mom of manslaughter.

And Taylor Swift just wrapped the first of four concerts in Tokyo. Coming up, we are tracking the fan craze there and the timeline to make sure she makes it back for the Super Bowl.



SOLOMON: Welcome back.

Right now, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Israel for critical talks on the war with Hamas. And moments ago he said that he and Israel are, quote, "intensively" looking at a Hamas counterproposal for the potential release of hostages in exchange for a temporary ceasefire.

Now, the three-stage deal would last several months. It would include the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the delivery of desperately needed aid. But an Israeli officials tell CNN that there is, quote, "no way" that Israel will agree to this plan.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're reviewing that response now. And I'll be discussing it with the government of Israel tomorrow. There's still a lot of work to be done, but we continue to believe that an agreement is possible and, indeed, essential.


And we will continue to work relentlessly to achieve it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SOLOMON: All right, CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is live in Tel Aviv for us.

So, Nic, we are now hearing that Netanyahu is expected to speak very shortly. Walk us through what we can expect to hear.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, in a few hours' time he's expected to give a press conference in Hebrew. So, I think the audience is going to be the domestic audience here in Israel. We're not sure what he'll say, but I think it would be expected that he'll be referring to Hamas' count proposal. Secretary Blinken also having his own separate press conference, expected probably a little bit after the prime minister's. So, we'll get two narratives from both sides about what they think about this proposal. The proposal, in essence, from Hamas picks up on some of the threads that were in the proposal that came from the United States, Israel, Qatar and Egypt over a week ago. And that is that this will be a three-phase process, 45 days between each phase.

And the phases would run like this. In the first phase, Hamas would release the women, the children, the elderly, and the sick hostages. They would expect Israel to pull back their forces out of civilian areas, stop all military operations, stop drone activities, open up Gaza so humanitarian aid could get in. They want a massive input of humanitarian aid, 60,000 housing units, 200,000 tents. They want people to be able to move around Gaza.

Now, during that phase one, Hamas say we've got to talk about the permanent ceasefire that we want. And as they get into phase two they say phase two would have to see an agreement on that permanent ceasefire. Phase two would also, they say, lead to the release of all the male hostages, whether they're civilians or serving in military forces.

Phase three, 45 days later, if everyone gets that far, that would be the release of all the hostage bodies.

Now, there are some big problems in this - in the Israeli government because what Hamas is also asking for in this phased approach is a release of all their prisoners. And as you said, Israel says absolutely no way are they going to release prisoners whom they captured on October 7th, who were involved in the - in that horrendous attack.

So, the impasse here is that Hamas is talking about a phased approach but ultimately a complete ceasefire, and Israel is saying no to a complete ceasefire and the Israeli prisons releasing all the Hamas and Palestinian prisoners that they have. That's the impasse. Is there a diplomatic nuance that - can the needle be threaded here? We'll get an idea of that when we hear in these press conferences later today.

SOLOMON: Yes, we'll hear them, sort of dueling narratives as you've pointed out.

Nic Robertson, live for us there in Tel Aviv.

Nic, thanks so much.


BERMAN: Again, we will wait to hear from the Israeli prime minister a few hours from now.

With us now, retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral John "Fozzie" Miller.

Admiral, thank you so much for being here.

I want to put up this Hamas plan that's been proposed, and I want to highlight one other aspect of it here, withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza in phase two. How do you think Israel feels about withdrawing all of its troops from Gaza?

VICE ADM. JOHN "FOZZIE" MILLER, U.S. NAVY (RET.): I don't think - and thanks for having me, John.

I don't think Israel is going to be willing to withdraw all of their troops from Gaza until they have assured themselves that Hamas ceases to exist either as a military entity or as an entity that can govern in Gaza because I think the end game for them as they will never - the Israelis will never go back to a pre-October 7th situation with Hamas inside of Gaza, in charge, heavily armed and ready to attack Israel.

BERMAN: Well, that's the other thing that's not in this deal. I mean there is absolutely no mention from Hamas, and I put a zero there, an empty space, of what they will do with their political leadership inside Gaza. I mean, how does Israel guarantee that Hamas simply doesn't exist in Gaza after that? Is this even possible?

MILLER: Well, until Hamas agrees that - that their - they're willing to give up governance, they're willing to turn in their weapons, they're willing to exchange the hostages for some prisoners, until all that is done and the Israelis will leave it, then I don't believe the Israelis will believe that the mission is completed. And they've been very clear on this from the very start of the war that, at the end of the war, Hamas would not be in charge of governing in Gaza and they would not be a militarily significant terrorist organization any longer. And I don't think Israelis are going to back down from that point.

BERMAN: Want to talk about U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who, obviously, has just wrapped up meetings with Israeli leaders right there, where do you think these two sides, the United States, Blinken and Netanyahu, diverge here and how they view the current situation?

MILLER: Well, I think there's - there are areas of great convergence, and we ought to be optimistic about that.


Everyone agrees. Even the -- Hamas agrees that the hostages ought to be released at some point and hopefully some point soon.

I think where the divergence is, is how much destruction of Hamas needs to occur before the Israelis are convinced that whatever organization or whatever form the next governance in Gaza takes place, looks like, that it's not going to include Hamas in any fashion whatsoever. And I think the U.S. is anxious for a ceasefire and then an opportunity to negotiate. I think the Israelis are anxious to insure that Hamas will no longer exist as a military or governing organization and then they're willing to go to a ceasefire.

BERMAN: You know, Tom Friedman, "The New York Times" columnist, famously says that you can't believe anything from Netanyahu unless he says it in public, in Hebrew. In other words, assurances that he makes behind closed doors in English, they don't matter. What matters is what he says in public to his own people. We're going to get a sense of that in about three hours. What will you be listening for in this press conference or address or whatever it will be that he's going to make to the Israeli people?

MILLER: Well, hopefully there's some clarification on how far he believes the IDF needs to go in order to consider the military operations to be successful. It's also important to note that Netanyahu is under enormous pressure from the Israeli population to get the hostages back. And, you know, we're now hearing reports that as many as 50 hostages have perished in custody. That can't really be a surprise given the conditions they're likely living under. But I think it's important that Netanyahu addresses his plan to safely return the remaining hostages and those that have passed, unfortunately, back to the Israeli people.

BERMAN: Admiral John Miller, great to have you on this morning. Thanks so much for being with us.

MILLER: A pleasure. Thank you.

BERMAN: Rahel.

SOLOMON: All right, John, still ahead, a guilty verdict for Jennifer Crumbley. What her response in that Oxford High School mass shooting carried out by her son will mean for parents moving forward, and what the jury is saying about why they convicted her.

And, did the head of the cable network, One America News, seek even more information on Smartmatic employees after the 2020 election? We'll have the latest allegations when we come back.