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Supreme Court to Hold Hearing on Trump Ballot Access; Republicans in Chaos?; Hamas Proposes Hostage Deal. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired February 07, 2024 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: A possible path to peace. Hamas answers Israel's offer with a three-step proposal for freeing the hostages it's holding and eventually ending the war in Gaza. But is it a deal that Benjamin Netanyahu can accept?
Secretary of State Tony Blinken is trying to persuade Israel to sign on. We're going to be hearing from him next hour.
And congressional confusion. Republicans try to impeach a Cabinet official and fail in embarrassing fashion and then try to pass their Israel aid bill and fail again in embarrassing fashion. Now even some Republicans are wondering if the new speaker's inexperience is showing.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: And new CNN reporting on an alarming campaign by Chinese hackers to infiltrate critical U.S. infrastructure.
We are following these major developing stories and many more. It's all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.
KEILAR: Welcome to CNN NEWS CENTRAL. I'm Brianna Keilar, alongside Jessica Dean, here in Washington.
And right now in the Middle East, we're seeing a high-stakes back-and- forth that could determine the fate of dozens of hostages in Gaza. Secretary of State Tony Blinken is in the region trying to shepherd through a hostage deal that would pause the fighting between Israel and Hamas again. But the Hamas counteroffer goes further than a pause. It calls for negotiations on ending the fight.
CNN's Alex Marquardt is here with more.
Alex, walk us through the sticking points and also the prospects here for success.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the prospects to getting to an initial phase are pretty good. Everything we have heard out of most of the parties is rather optimistic that something could happen in the coming days and the weeks. It does not appear to be immediate.
I have just been listening to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who for the first time in public was responding to Hamas' counterproposal that just came out yesterday. And he said that: "We haven't committed to anything. We haven't committed to any of the crazy demands from Hamas."
So, that isn't exactly the most positive reaction, but he's -- it's also not a full-throated rejection. And the major sticking points that I see at this point -- and there are so many parts to this potential multiphase deal that would almost -- that would likely lead to a release of more than 100 hostages, hopefully, as well as to a significant pause in the fighting.
But the major sticking points are the presence of the Israeli soldiers in Gaza.. Hamas wants them all out, at least in a second phase, not initially, but in a second phase. Israel is saying that that is essentially a nonstarter. There's also the question of prisoners. In exchange for the hostages to be released, Hamas wants Palestinian prisoners, and they're asking for a huge number, including 500 they say they want to name who Israel would say have blood on their hands.
And then, finally, I think the biggest sticking point is, Hamas wants to see an end to this war, that at the end of this pause, the war is over, whereas Israel says there is still work to be done to eradicate Hamas for a complete victory over Hamas.
KEILAR: How much sway does Secretary Blinken really have over Netanyahu here?
MARQUARDT: He has a significant amount.
And I think, Brianna, there are really three types of pressure that we're seeing come to bear here, the domestic pressure, which is immense. Israelis want to see these hostages home. I have spent time with these hostage families. They have essentially told me, do whatever it takes to get these hostages home, including emptying out the prisons.
You can release all the Palestinian prisoners you want to get these hostages home. There's the international pressure. Israel is increasingly isolated around the world, because we have a growing number of countries calling for a cease-fire, and then American pressure.
And America has really stood by Israel throughout this, not calling for a cease-fire, not calling for an end to the war, not voting against Israel in the United Nations. So there is not only that pressure from the United States to wind down this war, but there are also carrots. There are things that the U.S. can offer, more military aid with fewer conditions.
Of course, that's a major debate here in Washington. Saudi normalization with Israel, which is something that Netanyahu would certainly like to see.
But, certainly, the impression that I'm getting in speaking with U.S. officials is that the U.S. sees this not just as a way to get to a pause in the fighting and more humanitarian aid into Gaza, get the hostages out, but really a key, the key to unlocking the end of this war, to getting to a place of more stability and peace. But there are major questions that still need to be answered.
DEAN: A long way to go. All right, Alex Marquardt, thanks for that reporting.
Well, just minutes from now, Senate Republicans are expected to tank a major bipartisan border deal and foreign aid package. This would be the most significant bill in decades to address the unprecedented surge in migrants at the southern border. This is an issue that has vexed Congress for decades.
But GOP infighting and pressure from the former President Donald Trump have effectively killed it.
KEILAR: Yes, and this is going to cap off what has been really an embarrassing 24 hours for Republicans on Capitol Hill.
In the House yesterday, GOP leadership failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and then, just moments later, they rejected their own stand-alone bill that would provide more than $17 billion in aid to Israel.
Let's go now to CNN's Melanie Zanona on this.
So, Mel, what more are we hearing from House Speaker Mike Johnson?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, well, there are a lot of questions right now about the fate of a potential stand-alone Israel and Ukraine package, something the Senate is planning to move on once that border deal security package fails in the 2:00 hour, which is what we are expecting.
Now, Speaker Mike Johnson was asked whether he would put a stand-alone Israel and Ukraine package on the floor, and he said, we need to see what the Senate comes over with. So, he was not committal on that subject, and that could be a huge problem for him, because many Republicans in his conference are opposed to additional Ukraine aid.
And Johnson really is struggling to manage his unruly and razor-thin majority, which is what led to those two embarrassing defeats on the House floor last night. We saw them fail to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary. That has been a longtime priority of the GOP.
And they also failed to advance just a stand-alone Israel aid package amid opposition from Democrats and Republicans.
Our Manu Raju asked Johnson about all the dysfunction we're seeing on Capitol Hill. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Democracy is messy. We live in a time of divided government. We have a razor-thin margin here, and every vote counts. So, we're governing here. Sometimes, it's messy. You're seeing the
messy sausage-making, the process of democracy play out. And it's not always clean. It's not always pretty, but the job will be done at the end of the day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: So, Republicans really trying to pick up the pieces here.
Now, on the impeachment of Mayorkas, they are committed to trying to bring this back up again. Republicans are confident that, once Steve Scalise, the House majority leader, comes back -- he's been battling cancer and receiving treatments -- that they will ultimately have the votes to impeach Mayorkas.
But no doubt there's a lot of questions in the Capitol right now about the GOP's ability to govern, Bri.
KEILAR: Yes certainly.
All right, Mel, thank you for that report.
And joining us now to discuss all of this, and there is plenty of it, we have CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Alice Stewart.
It was so interesting to hear the speaker there say, we're governing here. Sometimes, it's messy.
I mean, there's messy and then there's a dumpster fire that you can see from outer space, right?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's chaos.
KEILAR: And he knows that, right? He knows how embarrassing this was.
BORGER: First of all, they're not governing. And, secondly, yes, democracy is messy, but House Republicans are messier.
And what happened yesterday with Mayorkas was as a result of House Republicans not having the votes. And the first rule of leadership is understanding how to count. And they say they were surprised that Democrats brought a member of Congress back in a wheelchair to vote, but they shouldn't have been surprised.
I mean, this is -- this is Congress. And they put everything on the line on Mayorkas. Now this raises questions. Gee, if impeachment for Biden got to the floor, what would ever happen with that? I mean, there are all kinds of issues about leadership here, that this just opens up a Pandora's box.
DEAN: And, Alice, I want to ask you about that, because you hear Johnson kind of trying to normalize, oh, this is just the sausage- making process. This is... ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
DEAN: But we have all watched -- you have been on the Hill. You -- I have been on the Hill. You all have been up there.
DEAN: This is not normal sausage-making that we're watching happen.
And, in fact, we saw Thomas Massie, who's, of course, pretty far right, he tweeted: "Getting rid of Speaker McCarthy has officially turned into an unmitigated disaster."
So he's now getting heat from people within his own party. What does this mean for Johnson's leadership moving forward and then more broadly for America as things need to still get done?
STEWART: Look, this is the problem in perils of having such a razor- thin majority. You have to learn how to count.
To Gloria's point, you have to whip these votes and know where you stand before you take it to the floor, because if you take it to the floor and you don't have the votes, then it's a hugely embarrassing loss. And to your point, look, there are many Republicans that supported Johnson and support his leadership, but they're frustrated with the fact that they are not getting things done.
And, look he says, we had a razor-thin majority and things are difficult. But when you don't have certain people there, enough people to make these votes, like Scalise, you have to make sure that you do have the votes. And they did a procedural move towards the end. Bruce (sic) Moore voted no on this, so they can bring it back.
There's more than likely an opportunity for them to bring this back and have this conversation again. But to be quite frank, I happen to view this from the standpoint of just because you disagree with Mayorkas on policy, that doesn't mean there's grounds for impeachment, and there's much more important things they can be focusing on, like border security.
And, again, to the point of Republicans who have been saying, we need to secure the border, we need immigration reform, we have a bipartisan plan on the table, and they are so hell-bent on no, they won't even listen to details and have the negotiations.
KEILAR: That brings us to today.
KEILAR: So that's sausage-making of last night, just wait, because there's more, and it's next hour.
This is a procedural vote of this agreement that has been weeks and weeks in the making and that, honestly, the White House, the president has come so far in giving Republicans changes to asylum.
KEILAR: Alice, it's stunning. I mean, I wonder if Republicans are ever going to get something like this.
BORGER: They wouldn't under Donald Trump. That's for sure.
KEILAR: It -- but it's not going to pass, is the point.
First of all, they have spent their time -- and I think you would agree -- all their time saying, we need a serious border bill, we need a serious border bill. So they get a serious border bill, and they have a conservative senator, Lankford, out there working on it.
KEILAR: He's on the floor right now.
BORGER: Right, working his heart out, saying to people, I feel like I have been run over by a bus and then backed up over by a bus again.
And that's exactly what happened, because Donald Trump put his thumb on the scale and said, I don't want this. And so they're saying they asked for a tough border bill, they got a tough border bill, and now they're saying they don't want it.
I mean, that sounds a little childish to me.
DEAN: And, Alice, is there any question now? I think we have all had this conversation multiple times, where it's, well, are there parts of the party that Donald Trump doesn't have control over? Senate Republicans for a long time, Mitch McConnell, did have some independence.
It doesn't look like it anymore.
STEWART: No, there are really no parts of the party in Washington, D.C., that Donald Trump doesn't have his finger on, especially in public and especially when it comes to putting their name on the line and voting on these issues.
And the concern that many have is that, we do acknowledge that there does need to be tighter security at the border and there needs to be immigration reform. And the fact that Donald Trump and many refuse to even listened to the text of this bill before they made a decision they wanted to be a firm no on this is extremely problematic.
Donald Trump says, I want this to be perfect. And, unfortunately, you're letting the perfect be the enemy of the good and making meaningful, incremental immigration reform. And that's the problem. But you also have to remember, it's not just Republicans who have a problem with this. Hispanic Caucus in the Senate has concerns that there are no protections for dreamers. DEAN: Right.
STEWART: So there are people on both sides that have concerns, which all the more reason to continue to have negotiations and make this a bill that satisfies more people in the process.
BORGER: Well, but Biden was willing to do it. And that's an important point. He was really willing to take on people in his own party who were going to be upset.
Now what he's got is a campaign issue, because he can go out there now and say, I gave them a serious border control bill, and they nixed it. The Republicans nixed it because they wanted a campaign issue instead.
And I guarantee you that Biden will be campaigning on this.
DEAN: And does that get at some of those independent voters...
DEAN: ... right, that maybe were on the fence? And then Biden now can go and say to them, look, I tried.
BORGER: I tried, yes.
DEAN: Does that work, Alice?
STEWART: Look, there are a lot of independent voters and the people that are going to make real difference in this general election that are going to read into this, look, Democrats and President Biden tried to make meaningful immigration reform, and Republicans didn't do so.
But, again, Republicans are trying to make the case that there needs to be -- we need to have more of an emphasis on migrants coming into this country. We need to stem the flow of them coming into this country. And that's going to be their priority number one. That's what they're focusing on and continuing to push that message.
They feel as though Donald Trump did a better job in controlling the flow of migrants into this country. President Biden came in and overturned some of the policies that Trump put into place, and that has led us to the situation that we're in. That's the message that Republicans will continue to put out there. But..
KEILAR: They both had record numbers. I mean, and that's the fact is, in this...
KEILAR: What this bill would afford -- let's say -- let's say Donald Trump were to become president again. He would want this authority...
KEILAR: ... because he tried to use this authority, and a federal court shut him down. So it's pretty shortsighted also for him as well. This is something
that he actually wanted as president.
BORGER: But he wants the issue.
BORGER: And I think the next -- the next question is what happens to the aid part of this package...
BORGER: ... to the Ukraine that they're going to be dealing with.
Would Republicans go for a clean bill that provides aid to Ukraine and Israel and protects Taiwan? Will they do that now? Speaker Johnson, who pooh-poohed it, didn't really rule it out this morning, because what do Republicans have to show for governance, you know?
STEWART: And that's one of the issues that Senator Lankford pushed back on this morning and, like, yesterday, was, Donald Trump did have the opportunity to do a lot of what is in this current measure, and didn't do so in 2017, 2018, 2019. He had the chance to do so, and he didn't.
So now it's an opportunity to encourage Republicans and Democrats to work together to make those changes.
DEAN: Well, we will see. There will be more to come, I'm sure.
All right, Gloria Borger and Alice Stewart, thanks, both.
DEAN: Good to see you.
Well, last-minute preparations are under way for what is set to be a historic day at the Supreme Court. We have new reporting on how Donald Trump's attorneys are preparing to make the case that he should not be banned from state ballots.
KEILAR: And this just in: The U.S. Marine Corps has found that military helicopter that had gone missing overnight. At least five Marines were on board here.
What we are learning about the search efforts -- ahead on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.
KEILAR: We're less than 24 hours away from a Supreme Court hearing with potentially huge implications for former President Trump's presidential run, and yet the former president here apparently is not going to attend.
Instead, he will be leaving it to his lawyers to argue why he shouldn't be barred from state ballots over the January 6 insurrection.
DEAN: Trump's absence, sources say, is not for a lack of interest, but rather a sign of just how serious he considers this case, which is interesting.
A source close to his legal team telling CNN -- quote -- "There is no upside to him attending these arguments. The stakes couldn't be higher."
So let's discuss this now with CNN's chief legal affairs correspondent, Paula Reid, and CNN senior Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic.
Great to see both of you.
Paula, let's talk first about this shift in strategy.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
DEAN: Because Donald Trump has attended all, almost all of his hearings, and he's been in court. That's been such a part of his strategy.
What do you think is the thinking here?
REID: Well, in speaking to sources, it was interesting to learn what a contrast the approach is here to what we have seen over the past few weeks and months, where they have just really tried to bring the campaign to any courtroom hearing, including the D.C. Circuit.
Now, the changeup is partly because they recognize that the stakes are high here. This is a more serious matter, obviously, the highest court in the land. But it's also a tacit admission that really the circus approach didn't quite serve them in the way that they had hoped, right?
So you're seeing this more traditional, more disciplined approach. While Trump is not expected to be there, he will be represented by Johnathan Mitchell. I mean, this is a very experienced lawyer. This will be his sixth time arguing before the Supreme Court. This is someone who writes law review articles on textualism, right, not the usual Trump lawyer.
And yesterday and today, they have been engaged in mock arguments, moot court. That's something most people would do to prepare for the Supreme Court, but, as we know, the Trump team not always conventional. And they do expect that they will win on the merits of this case, which is also why they feel more confident leaning more into the legal and less into the political antics.
KEILAR: And when it comes to the political, that's an area that the chief justice has tried to steer the court clear of, Joan. And yet it's kind of difficult, just inherently, when you're dealing with something like this.
How is the court going to look at this issue?
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well, first of all, they have a legal question before them. They have several questions that go to the text of this section of the 14th Amendment that would bar anyone who had taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and then incited or engaged in insurrection.
So the lawyers from -- Colorado who are challenging Donald Trump and want him off the ballot are really going to try to get the justices to focus on January 6 and the attack on the Capitol. But I think this is where the chief is going to try to steer the conversation toward the text of the constitutional provision and away from the horrendous activities that we all witnessed on January 6.
And the chief justice, who sits at the center of the bench, also is the strategic center of the bench. And he has gone into the breach before and been able, in very tough cases, like the Obamacare case in 2012 or previous Trump cases in 2020, been able to figure out a way to get a majority or nearly a unanimous court by strategically working with justices.
And I think what we're going to hear tomorrow is where he's headed on these questions. Now, there are easily a dozen legal issues that they could plumb here, including, did Donald Trump engage in an insurrection?
But, as I said, I think the chief will probably try to steer away from that, steer away from some of those political considerations. But he is well aware that this whole thing is clouded in the politics of January 6, but also the politics of this year's election.
And however they decide this case could actually influence who becomes the next president of the United States.
And, Paula, to that end, if there was a unanimous ruling on this, that could dispel some partisanship claims. Is that just out of the realm of possibility? Is Trump's legal team even considering that that could happen?
REID: They're confident that they will likely prevail on the merits, but it's unclear what form that will take. Certainly, a unanimous ruling would be tidy for them and for the court.
The chief justice is under enormous pressure to try to build consensus. This is a court that is under scrutiny for questions about partisanship, about ethics. So he is going to be under a lot of pressure to try to build consensus somewhere in the middle.
Again, it's certainly possible there could be a unanimous decision, but I think what's interesting is, this is not only a test for Trump, but, to Joan's point, it's really a test for the chief justice and the court.
DEAN: For sure.
KEILAR: It certainly is.
Paula and Joan, thank you so much to both of you.
It is the case that could upend the presidential election. Will Trump be on the ballot? We'll listen live as attorneys argue before the nation's highest court starting tomorrow morning at 9:00 right here on CNN.
And days after the FBI director warned that Chinese hackers could wreak havoc on the U.S., we have learned that hackers have already been lurking in U.S. infrastructure systems for years. This new CNN reporting is just ahead.
Plus, investigators say they remain uncertain about why four critical bolts were missing, just gone from a Boeing 737 MAX 9, allowing a hole to blow open mid-flight at 16,000 feet -- ahead, why the NTSB chair warns that this could happen again.