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Five Republican Candidates Squared Off in a Messy Debate; One Killed After Russian Missile Hits Cargo Ship in Odesa Region; Ukraine Says It Killed Kremlin-backed Lawmaker Mikhail Filiponenko in a Car Bombing; Blinken Wrapping Up South Korea Visit, Will Head to India Next; Trump Absent From Third GOP Presidential Debate; Ivanka Trump Testifies in Civil Case Involving Her Father; Country Stars Pay Tribute to Late Jimmy Buffett at the CMA; Trump Floats Tucker Carlson As Potential Running Mate; U.S. Lays Out Its Vision For Gaza's Political Future. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired November 09, 2023 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And welcome to all you watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I am Kim Brunhuber. Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM. From name calling to the missing candidate in the room. We'll break down the highs and lows of the third GOP presidential debate.
And as Israel says it's now in the heart of Gaza. We're hearing different versions of what postwar-Gaza could look like. Plus.
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It was 100 percent worth it. 100 percent worth it. It's a seminal deal.
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BRUNHUBER: Hollywood actors are heading back to work after a grueling 118 days on strike. Their union reaches a deal with studio executives.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN NEWSROOM with Kim Brunhuber.
BRUNHUBER: And we begin in Miami where the third Republican presidential debate wrapped up a few hours ago. Only six of the candidates qualified for this debate but frontrunner Donald Trump skipped it again. The debate also came after elections on Tuesday saw significant democratic wins, hosted by NBC, the less crowded field offered the candidates a chance to stand out as an alternative to Trump.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny was at the debate in Miami and has our report.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: At the third Republican presidential debate here in Miami, the race to become the leading alternative to Donald Trump was more furious and louder than ever. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took immediate aim at the former president for those Republican losses on Tuesday night.
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GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And he said Republicans were going to get tired of winning. Well, we saw last night, I'm sick of Republicans losing.
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ZELENY: Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who has also served as U.N. ambassador in the Trump administration also said it's time to move on from Donald Trump.
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NIKKY HALEY (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody wants to talk about President Trump. Well, I can talk about President Trump. I can tell you that I think he was the right president at the right time. I don't think he's the right president now. I think that he put us $8 trillion in debt and our kids are never going to forgive us for that. I think the fact that he used to be right on Ukraine and foreign issues, now he's getting weak in the knees and trying to be friendly again.
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ZELENY: Haley has been gaining momentum in the polls because of her debate performance. She and Governor DeSantis sparred repeatedly on China, on the environment, even on the economy and their handling of their respective governorships. But they clearly are going after one another trying to become again that leading alternative to Donald Trump. But it was South Carolina Senator Tim Scott who talked about abortion and urged both of his rivals to support a 15-week ban.
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SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would challenge both Nicky and Ron to join me at a 15-week limit. It is in our nation's best interest.
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ZELENY: The winner of the evening may not have been on the debate stage at all. He of course is former President Donald Trump. Just a few miles down the road in Hialeah holding a campaign rally of his own. Of course, he has a commanding lead in this race. Now about two months before voting begins in Iowa.
Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Miami.
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BRUNHUBER: And joining me now is Lanhee Chen. Lecturer on public policy and law at Stanford University. Thanks so much for being here with us. So, first off, do you think anyone really came out on top last night?
LANHEE CHEN, LECTURER IN PUBLIC POLICY AND LAW, STANDFORD UNIVERSITY: Well, I thought there were -- there were two candidates who did distinguish themselves. I thought that Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley both had very good debates. Now. They are also the two candidates who are most likely competing for the mantle of the Trump alternative in this race. So, they had to come out and have good nights and I think they did.
Now, none of that may matter very much if and less the field winnows very quickly. And not down to two alternatives but really one if there to have any chance at all of defeating the former president for the Republican nomination. The field is going to have to narrow and I think it's going to be one of DeSantis or Haley left standing against the former president.
BRUNHUBER: Yes. Who is still enjoying just a huge lead in the polls. And are you surprised that again, you know, we heard a little clip from Nikki Haley kind of going after Donald Trump but no one really went after Trump especially considering all the all the indictments.
CHEN: Well, Kim, they've got to be careful because Donald Trump is still regarded quite positively even by those Republican voters. Many of whom who have said listen, I'm not really interested in voting for Trump again.
I like what he did. I think he's unfairly treated. A lot of Republican voters generally will fall into that category. So, if you're looking to garner the support of those who might be searching for a Trump alternative, the answer probably is not to go hard after Donald Trump. That's the reality of the primary contests we're in. And so, what you're going to see Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis do is to try as much as they can to draw a contrast not directly about the President's character, or about who the president is, but fundamentally about ways in which maybe the President didn't keep his promises.
The former president may have failed, and the ways in which Republicans are losing because of the former president's influence, that's where you're going to see these candidates go in an effort to pick off support from folks who might be looking for an alternative.
BRUNHUBER: Yes. And the party also losing possibly because of a very important issue to voters. Abortion. All of the candidates are on the losing side of an abortion question that seemed again, so decisive in the elections this week. Did you detect any softening in their position given the results we saw?
CHEN: No, I mean, I think what you saw actually was a bifurcation in positioning on abortion. You have Nikki Haley continuing the line of both language and policy and abortion, that will be more appealing to independent voters. Maybe some of these suburban women that Republicans have been losing support from over the last couple of cycles. Nikki Haley continued her language and you contrast that with Tim Scott, the senator from South Carolina who actually I think doubled down on a -- on a more significant position on abortion.
That will be interesting to some Republican voters, but probably not entirely helpful as he looks toward the general election. Now, it'll be interesting to see again, to what degree that hardcore position on abortion will benefit someone like Tim Scott who really is probably pretty close from the precipice in terms of needing to be one of those candidates who exits this race soon.
BRUNHUBER: Yes. He might not make it next time round. All right. So, you mentioned looking towards the general, the way to go after Donald Trump used to be to say, sure, you know, the base loves him, but he's not electable in the general. But the most recent polls, kind of seem to invalidate that argument. How do you think the most recent polling played into any of the arguments that we either heard or didn't hear last night?
CHEN: Yes. You didn't hear, Kim, a lot of you know, I'm more electable than Donald Trump because to your point, the latest polling we've seen out of multiple media organizations suggests that the former president is running very strongly against President Biden. So that may not be the strongest argument. And I'm not even sure that was a strong argument to start with. I think a lot of Republican primary voters sort of shrugged their shoulders and said, well, look, we have a guy who actually did win the presidency of Donald Trump versus somebody who is trying to win the presidency for the first time and Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley.
So, the argument about electability, I'm not really sure that that is one that a lot of Republican primary voters put a lot of stock in. The reality is this. The reason why Donald Trump is running so well against Joe Biden right now is because a lot of voters are focused on the President's economic record, they're dissatisfied with their personal economic condition here in the United States.
And so, Biden's numbers as a result have really suffered. That may change as the campaign defines itself a little bit more as it comes down to Trump versus Biden. Things may become a little bit more clear. But for now, at least, the President is suffering under the weight of what are some very difficult polling numbers, in part because of people's considerations about the economy.
BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. And Donald Trump giving these debates a miss, keeping the eyeballs off the debate strategically. Seems like it was the right move.
CHEN: Yes. And he's not going to show up at the next debate. If there is a next debate, the Republican National Committee has earmarked the December debate already and they're looking to hold it in Alabama. The former president has already said, listen, I'm not interested in showing up to that. And, frankly, the political analysis here would say he's right. There's no reason for him to show up and be the punching bag.
He didn't show up at the first three. It didn't affect his standing in the polls. So why go to a debate where you're going to be the target of incoming fire? So, I think the former president is not going to show up in another debate. And it's entirely possible that we may not have another debate, quite frankly, if the field continues to win out. And it's clear that this is not doing the Republican Party any favor necessarily.
BRUNHUBER: I really appreciate getting your analysis. Lanhee Chen, thank you so much for speaking with us.
CHEN: Thank you, Kim.
BRUNHUBER: All right. So, as you just heard there, GOP front runner Donald Trump decided to skip the debate in favor of holding a rally in Florida. Now this comes amid speculation about who the former president might choose as his running mate in 2024. And during the Wednesday interview on a talk show -- talk radio show Trump was asked if he had former news hosts Tucker Carlson in mind. Here's what he said.
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CLAY TRAVIS, FOX NEWS HOST: Would you consider Tucker though based on the --
DONALD TRUMP (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I like Tucker a lot. I guess I would. I think I'd say I would because he's got great common sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: Donald Trump is the likely Republican nominee in 2024. But he's facing numerous criminal charges which make his ability to hold office unclear if he is convicted.
With Israeli forces intensifying operations against Hamas in and around Gaza City, there's been a renewed focus on what the political end game could look like in Gaza. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will be in charge of the territories' overall security indefinitely after the war. And on one side, the U.S. pushed back against that laying out its future for Gaza's future.
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ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Gaza cannot be continue to be run by Hamas. That simply invites a repetition of October 7th and Gaza uses the place from which to launch terrorist attacks. It's also clear that Israel cannot occupy Gaza. The only question is are the -- is there some transition period that might be necessary? And what might be the mechanisms that you could put in place for that to make sure that there is security?
But we're very clear on no reoccupation just as we're very clear on no displacement of the Palestinian population.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BRUNHUBER: For more, Elliot Gotkine joins us from London. So, Elliott, so as you heard there, we're hearing different ideas about what will happen to Gaza after the war.
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We have a slight -- slightly different visions of what might happen after the war, Kim. We have, of course, this debate about what follows this Hamas-Israel wall was sparked by Netanyahu's comments about Israel maintaining overall security responsibility for in his words, an indefinite period of time. Then we heard the White House, that set off alarm bells at the White House which, you know, pushed back on any hint that Israel could reoccupy the Gaza strip in the way that it did from 1967 until 2005.
And then we had those further elaborations from Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Israel, for its part isn't really going into a lot of detail as to what it sees as coming after this war is over. But it is pretty clear about what won't.
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MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Israel is not interested in just letting things fall apart after we -- after we destroy Hamas. We have to make sure that the security situation is stable. We have to make sure there isn't a residual terrorist element that starts to grow again, and Israel will not -- cannot ignore what goes on in Gaza.
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GOTKINE: So, the U.S. and Israel are -- agreed in that Hamas cannot continue to remain in power in the Gaza Strip. Obviously the most convenient, and the most logical administration that would follow and this is what the Secretary of State was articulating is that the Palestinian Authority would come back and retake control of the Gaza Strip, which it had between 2005 until 2007 when Hamas violently removed it from power there.
But there are a few problems with that supposition. It's not going to be easy, because first of all, the Palestinian Authority is weak. It's unpopular. It is widely viewed as corrupt. It lacks legitimacy. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, he is in the 19th year of a four-year term. And he's hardly going to want to add to that laundry list by being seemed to be some kind of puppet of the Israelis or the U.S. by going into the Gaza Strip and taking control there as well.
Although he did say that he would consider doing so when he met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken but only as part of a broader political agreement that would lead towards an independent Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel in 1967 and with East Jerusalem as its capital. But that of course, right now seems pretty fanciful. And we can speculate about the other options, perhaps some kind of international peacekeeping force, perhaps led by Arab allies of the United States and Israel. But right now, Israel is very much focused on this war, on destroying Hamas militarily so that it can never again perpetrate a massacre of the saw that he did on October the 7th or threaten Israeli civilians with rockets. And also, politically as well. Israel says it's making progress on that objective. It says overnight that it was -- that there was a 10-hour firefight, in which it took over what it describes as a military stronghold In Jabalia and that it recovered weapons and destroy tunnel shafts and kill come Hamas militants and the like.
It says it's making progress. But it's clear that, you know, this war has still got a lot of time to run. And although it's very useful and probably advisable to start thinking about what comes next, I think that it's still quite a long way to go. We don't even know what the Gaza Strip will look like the day after this war is over. Kim?
BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. All right. Elliot Gotkine in London. Thanks so much.
In the skies above Syria, the U.S. has retaliated for second time against Iranian-backed militias attacking them American forces.
The Pentagon says to F-15 fighter jets struck a weapons depot in eastern Syria used by Iran's Revolutionary Guard and other affiliated group. But as Natasha Bertrand reports, the U.S. is taking a measured approach to striking back.
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: The U.S. conducted an airstrike against a weapons storage facility in eastern Syria that U.S. officials say was being used by Iran and its proxy groups to store weapons that were being used to carry out attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria over the last several weeks. There have been over 40 such attacks in recent weeks since October 17 by Iran-backed proxy groups on U.S. and coalition bases in Iraq and Syria.
And the US says they conducted this strike which is the second in just over two weeks on these kinds of weapons storage facilities in Syria, in order to degrade Iran and its proxies' ability to carry out these attacks in the future. They said that there's targeting this infrastructure in order to send a message to the Iranians that these attacks will not be tolerated and also to destroy their weapons stockpile.
Now, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin did release a statement about this and said that this strike was carried out in self-defense, it is a precision strike. And he emphasized that the U.S. does not want to see this war expand any further but that the U.S. is committed to defending its troops and that it will do so in every possible scenario. And so, Secretary Austin, other defense officials really emphasizing that they are carrying out these strikes in limited self- defense in order to destroy Iranian weapons supplies.
But that this does not indicate a broader desire by the U.S. to escalate the conflict any further. However, all of this comes on the same day that Houthis in Yemen, who are backed by Iran. They shot down an M.Q.-9 Reaper drone that was carrying out surveillance activities over at the Red Sea. And so, this conflict obviously -- the U.S. is very concerned that it could spiral, that it could expand but right now we're doing everything possible to take limited steps to try to defend U.S. troops as well as degrade this Iranian proxy group's ability to attack us forces in the future.
Natasha Bertrand, CNN, at the Pentagon.
BRUNHUBER: After almost four months, the actor strike is over.
The union is celebrating. We'll share what we know about the tentative agreement with Hollywood Studios. That's coming up after the break. Stay with us.
BRUNHUBER: The months long Actors strike has officially ended just hours after the actors union reached a tentative agreement with the major film and television studios late Wednesday. The group representing the studios praised the deal, saying it provides the biggest contract gains in the history of the Union. It also gives extensive compensation protections in the use of artificial intelligence, which had been one of the main sticking points.
The presence of the Actors Union Fran Drescher posted on Instagram "We did it. The billion plus dollar deal three times the last contract." The agreement still has to be ratified by the roughly 160,000 members of the SAG-AFTRA union. Let's bring in CNN media critic Brian Lowry joining us live from Los Angeles. So, Brian, lots we still don't know. But what can you tell us in terms of any details here?
BRIAN LOWRY, CNN MEDIA CRITIC: Well, the details will come out over the course of the next few days. But the broad strokes are that-- it sounds like the Actors got concessions on practically everything they wanted. They got raises, they got additions to their pension and health fund, and they got protections regarding the use of A.I. and digital imagery which, you know, at certain points, it was suggested that that they would be able to digitize an Actors license and use it in perpetuity without permission.
So, they like the Writers Guild got a number of key concessions. And I think that was a byproduct of them feeling like they had to take a stand now and not wait for another contract three years from now.
BRUNHUBER: Why is that? I mean, they got these big concessions from A.I. and, you know, on streaming residuals and so on. But why were they so determined to stick this out now?
LOWRY: Well, you know, the strikes in Hollywood are traditionally driven by technology. And the change to streaming has really upended the business and upended the business model of Hollywood. And actors and at various levels have been suffering as have Writers and other talent. And I think once the strike started to drag on, which is usually the way the studios to sort of try to break the resolve of the guilds, what instead happened was the guild said, well, if we're going to endure this pain, let's endure it now.
Let's take as long as it takes to get a deal that we want. So that is -- as one actor put it several months ago, so we don't have to do this again in three years. So, you know, six months, that really half this year has been sacrificed. Two strikes by the Writers and the Actors. And I think the longer it dragged on, the more they felt that this really had to be sort of a watershed deal to justify that.
BRUNHUBER: Yes. And for the studios. I mean, the clock was ticking. They were losing a lot of money and the calendar, you know, timing is important here. Right?
LOWRY: Right. Well, the, you know, the studios and streaming services, obviously, they have much deeper pockets than Actors and Writers even -- well-paid Actors and Writers. But this dragged on long enough that the initial savings that they were enjoying from not spending money on producing movies and T.V. started to get to the point where they were worried that the pipeline was going to dry up and that some of their summer releases wouldn't be available for next year.
That there would be big gaps in the movie release calendar that television networks would have no original programming. You know, come next spring. And I think they really reached a moment where they felt like they had to make a deal which was, you know, gave the guilds the leverage they needed to get some of the concessions that they were asking for.
BRUNHUBER: So, some of the issues are solved. I guess, as you said, they don't have to come back to the table on these -- in another three years. But the industry still faces lots of challenges and there's still lots and flux here.
LOWRY: Oh, there's a tremendous amount. I mean, this is, you know, it's been said several times that this is an inflection point for the industry. And, you know, the issue with streaming, which everyone saw as a salvation, especially during COVID is that streaming offers, you know, tremendous revenue, in some respects, you see what Netflix has done with it. But for the traditional studios, it cannibalizes their existing businesses.
It takes people away from traditional networks and it has people staying home, instead of rushing out to the theaters to see movies. So, you know, it's a very rough time for Hollywood, and you may see a reduction in production in the months ahead. In fact, that's anticipated. So, you know, it may be kind of a bittersweet victory for these guilds because they will be getting paid better for the work that they do but there may be less work to go around for everyone.
BRUNHUBER: Yes. So broadly speaking, good news for many, not just actors, but many across the whole industry. Brian Lowry, thank you so much for being here with us. Really appreciate it.
LOWRY: Thank you. BRUNHUBER: All right. Coming up. The U.S. Republican presidential hopefuls lay out their foreign policy platforms while attacking Donald Trump were not joining them on the debate stage. Stay with us.
BRUNHUBER: And welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States and Canada and all around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is "CNN Newsroom".
U.S. Republican presidential candidates have just survived a another raucous debate full of foreign policy arguments and name-calling. The candidates were mostly in alignment with support for Israel in that country's war with Hamas. But there was a wide gulf of opinions about giving more support to Ukraine. And it took the candidates took 99 minutes to address the elephant in the room, the Republican Party's losses in elections on Tuesday because of their unpopular policies towards abortion.
Now, one of the key players wasn't in the room, former president Donald Trump did not stand on stage with his rivals, a fact that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tried to use to his advantage. Here he is.
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GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, if you look where we are now, it's a lot different than where we were in 2016. And Donald Trump is a lot different guy than he was in 2016. He owes it to you to be on the stage and explain why he should get another chance. He should explain why he didn't have Mexico pay for the border wall. He should explain why he racked up so much debt. He should explain why he didn't drain the swamp. And he said Republicans are going to get tired of winning. Well, we saw last night, I'm sick of Republicans losing. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: The debate came just one day after Democrats scored some impressive wins in Tuesday's off-year elections. They include Democrats retaining control of the governor's mansion in deep-red Kentucky. Ohio voters approving the right to abortion in the state's constitution. (inaudible) Virginia's Republican governor, Democrats won control of the state house and kept control of the state Senate.
All right, here is how some Republican lawmakers characterize the election results. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): It's about execution. It's about messaging. Yesterday, to me, was a complete failure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody who's trying to engage in culture war is going to lose. (Inaudible). SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): When we're talking about some social issues, they could become a highly divisive and we end up not doing as well as we could've.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: Now, those losses are now prompting Republicans to debate whether they need to change their policies and messaging on abortion and other key issues. CNN's Manu Raju reports from Washington.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, Republicans are reeling after Tuesday's election losses across several key states. This, coming after other election cycle losses, including one that is still fresh in the minds of Senate Republicans, 2022, when they fell short of taking back the Senate majority when they had a clear chance of winning the majority. But also in the House, despite winning the House majority in 2022, falling short of the landslide that they had hoped, a big majority, now having a narrow majority, something that has caused them problems all year long.
Now, many of them say that there needs to be another message, a better message when it comes to abortion. That was a key issue across several states, some of them played out ever since the Dobbs decision last year, something we saw on the midterms last year, saying that they needed either to discuss the issue differently, embrace federal legislation or perhaps avoid it altogether. There's a debate within the Republican Party about how to deal with it.
There's also a debate about the top of the ticket. One of Donald Trump's closest allies on Capitol Hill, Marjorie Taylor Greene, made clear to me that she believes that Republicans are losing in part because they are not embracing Donald Trump.
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): There is multiple problems. One of them is being that I think Republicans are weak. They never come through on the promises that they give to their voters. Stop backing away from President Trump. He's winning the primary by massive numbers. He is winning the polling for the general election. Clearly, people like President Trump and his policies. So I think there should be changes.
RAJU: But in large part, the real concern among Republicans is the failure to effectively sell their message, their agenda, things that they believe that they can win on. The economic issues have not played as well as they expected in the last cycle, despite Joe Biden's sagging approval numbers and the fact that polls after poll has shown that Donald Trump is actually beating Joe Biden in a head-to-head matchup, many Republicans are worried that if they don't change their approach on some of these key issues and broaden their appeal to some of the key demographic groups, namely suburban women, that they could once again los not just the White House, but also control of the House next year.
Those are major concerns that Republicans have. They try to figure out a way forward and make sure that what happened on Tuesday does not repeat itself again next year.
Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.
BRUNHUBER: Efforts to keep Donald Trump off the Minnesota primary presidential ballot failed, for now. Some voters in that state allege that Trump's behavior leading up to the January 6th riot at the Capitol Hill disqualifies him from running. They cited a section of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits people from holding future office if they "engaged in insurrection." Well, the state supreme court did not go along saying "There is no state statute that prohibits a major political party from placing on the presidential nomination primary ballot or sending delegates to the national convention supporting a candidate who is ineligible to hold office."
Now, the case is not over. The challengers can appeal the decision. The court ruled they can re-file a case for the general election if Trump wins the Republican nomination.
All right, a deadly strike on a cargo ship in Ukraine. Coming up, why Russia is ramping up attacks on vessels entering and leaving Odesa Port. Stay with us.
BRUNHUBER: The war in Ukraine is grinding on with Russia ramping up attacks on some frontline settlements in the east. A Ukrainian official says villages in the southern Zaporizhzhia region are seeing more than 150 attacks a day. And on Wednesday, two civilians were injured. Further south, the Ukrainian officials say Russian missiles struck a civilian vessel entering a Black Sea Port in the Odesa region, killing the ship's pilot and injuring four others. Now, officials say this is the 21st attack on Black Sea Ports in the Odesa region since Russia left the grain deal in July.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is claiming responsibility for the assassination of a Russia-backed official in the occupied eastern city of Luhansk in a car bombing Wednesday. Ukraine claims Mikhail Filiponenko had been involved in the organization of torture chambers in the region.
BRUNHUBER: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is wrapping up talks in South Korea as he gets ready to head to New Delhi next hour. He met with south Korea's president and its foreign minister to discuss growing military ties between North Korea and Russia, and Pyongyang's suspected supply of arms to Moscow for uses in Ukraine. He also thanked the president for South Korea's pledge to provide humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Washington remains focused on the Indo-Pacific region despite other global challenges, including the Israel-Hamas war. Blinken's visit comes after a whirlwind trip to the Middle East, and the meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Tokyo. All right, thanks a lot for joining us. I'm Kim Brunhuber. For viewers in the United States and Canada, I will be back with more "CNN Newsroom" after the break. For our international viewers, "World Sport" is up next.
BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States and Canada. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is "CNN Newsroom". Five Republican presidential candidates appeared in Miami on Wednesday night for the third televised debate, just two months ahead of the Iowa caucuses. Frontrunner Donald Trump didn't attend. Now, on foreign policy, the candidates were mostly in alignment with support for Israel in the country's war with Hamas, but there were stark differences about giving more support with Ukraine.
And at times, the debate got personal. Listen to Nikki Haley as she responded to Vivek Ramaswamy in one particularly heated exchange about the controversial app, TikTok.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to laugh at why Nikki Haley didn't answer your question, which was about looking at families in the eye. In the last debate, she made fun of me for actually joining TikTok, while her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time. So, you might want to take care of your family first before preaching to anybody else.
NIKKI HALEY, (R) FORMER GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Leave your daughter out of your voice.
RAMASWAMY: (Inaudible) The next generation of Americans are using. And that's actually the point. You have her supporters propping her up, that's fine. Here's the truth, the easy answer...
HALEY: You are just scum.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, one of Trump's more vocal critics, blamed the former president for failing to act against TikTok when he had the chance. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And this is one of the big failings among many of the Trump Administration. He talked tough about TikTok. I heard him do it many times. But when it came down to it, he did not ban them when he could have and should have.
And now, since then, we've had an additional nearly six years of this type of poison being put out throughout the United States, even putting aside the spying which we know is going on and the theft of American personal data and information. So in my first week as president, we would ban TikTok.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: And with us from Portugal is Michael Moran, Lecturer at the Korbel School of International Affairs at the University of Denver. Thanks so much for being here with us. So, for you, were there any winners or losers here last night? Did any debate performances move the needle at all?
MICHAEL MORAN, LECTURER, KORBEL SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY OF DENVER: You know, a lot of people expected that Nikki Haley would come in for criticism, for attack. It did happen. She has been having some momentum in recent weeks in polling in key states, and that has put her in the spotlight. Also, obviously, the fact that the world is so incredibly unstable right now, the eruption of the Hamas-Israel war has put her foreign policy experience in the spotlight as well.
She's the only one with any foreign policy experience on that rostrum. So, she had a night that she didn't hurt herself. She withstood a lot of attacks on her ideas. And I think, in a lot of ways, you look at this and you look at where President Trump is in the pools -- former president Trump, and you wonder, is this just a race for vice presidential nods? It's really hard, separate sudden surges in the polls. The only thing that's taking Trump down at this point is either legality or mortality. I mean, he's really dominating this field.
BRUNHUBER: Yeah, absolutely right. So listen, you mentioned foreign affairs there. So I want to tap into your expertise on that subject. The candidates' answers on their support for Israel, they're pretty similar. They did differ quite a bit on Ukraine.
MORAN: Yeah, there's just no consensus in the Republican Party anymore for the kind of automatic U.S. response and leadership and willingness to support allies, that there used to be. The Republicans have a very strong isolationist streak now. Vivek Ramaswamy was probably the most vocal example of that last night. The old-school Republicans still believe that Ukraine is got to be supported, that the United States has longer-term interests in countering what Haley rightly pointed out as a kind of an axis of powers that would like to see Ukraine lose, if only to hurt U.S. interests and to show up the U.S. and the west. So that being, of course, China, Russia, and Iran.
What was striking is the vitriol, I mean the degree of simplistic vitriol with regard to Iran. Obviously, no American candidate is going to stand up and cheer for Iran.
MORAN: But there was a real kind of concerted attack from every candidate on Iran, to the point where you wonder if any of these people were president, would they have to make good on some of these threats?
BRUNHUBER: Yeah, good, question. I'm sure that any Republican voters will be ultimately making any decisions based on the nuances of foreign policy here. But you never know. Trump was sort of an afterthought for most of the night in terms of the candidates going after the frontrunner here. Any surprises there?
MORAN: Right now, I think, you've got Chris Christie, of course, so you can count on him to go after Donald Trump. Doesn't appear like he has much of a chance in the nomination. To look at where DeSantis is an interesting exercise right now. He has gone back and forth on Trump. He realizes I think that he's very much seen as the Trump-ish alternative to Donald Trump. So, he walks a very fine line. He didn't really act aggressively at all in this debate, and that was probably a mistake.
He has to start to separate himself and make the case that, "Look, we can all agree to disagree here, but somebody has to be the non-Trump candidate in the primaries. And if there's five or six of us, there's no point in having the primary." So, I don't think he succeeded in that regard. And on that level, none of them really broke out in this debate.
BRUNHUBER: Yeah. And some will likely end up dropping out before the Iowa caucuses. For those who make it, clearly, I mean that's the big hope, to come up with something. Could Iowa pose any surprises here?
MORAN: It always has. There are always surprises in either Iowa or New Hampshire, those first states. They're not very representative states, interestingly. When you look at United States demographically, they are both predominantly white states, they are both conservative in a kind of old-school lower-c case way. These are places where maverick candidates have tended to do well, people like the late John McCain.
So ultimately, I think what you're going to see is, they are going to hold on to as long as they can, especially I think DeSantis and Haley. I think they have to see if they can pull out something in Iowa. And after that, it really becomes a game of arithmetic. Money stops to flow if you don't do well. And ultimately, at the end of the day, it takes a lot of money to run for president.
BRUNHUBER: Yeah, absolutely right. All right, we have to leave it there. Michael Moran, thank you so much for speaking with us, appreciate it.
MORAN: Thank you, Kim.
BRUNHUBER: Ivanka Trump took the witness stand in New York Wednesday, testifying the civil fraud trial against her father, Donald Trump. The New York Attorney General says Ivanka was cordial and very courteous in court, unlike her brothers and father. But she says, Ivanka's testimony raises questions about her credibility. Kara Scannell has the latest.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The New York Attorney General's Office rested their case today after calling their final witness, Ivanka Trump. She was on the stand all day long and the focus of her questioning had to do with her involvement in two loans that she shepherded at the Trump Organization for the golf course in Florida as well as the old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C. So Ivanka Trump testified that she was involved in the loans at a high- level, but she said with the nitty-gritty details, she didn't recall much of that information. And these loans are the center to the case because the attorney general's office has alleged that the banks received false financial information on their statements, and that they provided better interest rates to enrich the Trumps.
So that is part of the questioning today that they really focused her in on. They also asked her about an apartment that she owns in Manhattan. She had a option to buy that apartment for about $8.5 million one year. On Trump's personal financial statements, that apartment was reflected with a value more than twice as much, north of $20 million. She was asked about that and she said she was not privy to her father's financial statements, did not know what went into them. Distancing herself from them, just as her brothers Don Jr. and Eric Trump did when they testified last week. So after she completed her testimony, the AG's Office rested their case. Here's what the New York Attorney General Letitia James said outside of court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LETITIA JAMES, ATTORNEY GENERAL, NEW YORK: At the end of the day, this case is about fraudulent statements of financial condition she benefited from. She was enriched, and clearly, you cannot distance yourself from that fact. The documents do not lie; the numbers do not lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCANNELL (on camera): Trump's lawyers are going to begin their defense on Monday. They've signaled that they might call back Don Jr. and Eric Trump to testify, as well as some experts and some bankers to bolster their defense.
Kara Scannell, CNN, New York.
BRUNHUBER: If you ever thought the works of Shakespeare seemed out of this world, you may have been on to something. Filmmaker Jack Jewers has sent this portrait of Shakespeare, along with a speech from one of his best known works to the edge of space. That comes 400 years after the publication of his first folio (ph) on November 8th, 1623. A weather balloon with a camera and GPS tracker took the portrait, accompanied by a speech from " A Midsummer Night's Dream" into Earth's upper atmosphere. It will be part of the short film " Lovers and Madmen" in which a young woman enters an art contest by attempting to send a portrait of Shakespeare into the air.
All right, and before we go, a moving tribute to Late Jimmy Buffett at the Country Music Awards in Nashville. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(MARGARITAVILLE BY JIMMY BUFFETT PERFORMED LIVE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: Country stars Kenny Chesney, Mac McAnally, and Alan Jackson laid down a live version of Buffett's signature hit "Margaritaville" before an appreciative (ph) crowd. Buffett who died in September won two CMA awards during his career, and was inducted into the national Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006.
All right, that wraps this hour of "CNN Newsroom". I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back in just a moment more news. Please do stay with us.