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Biden Departs for Israel; Mark Regev is Interviewed about the Hostages in Gaza; House to Vote Today on Speaker. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 17, 2023 - 06:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Kate, with all of your experience working in the White House, as you balance delicate, delicate things, and the risk that Bobby just laid out, do you believe the White House has a degree of certainty that the president will leave with tangibles accomplished on the Rafah crossing at the southern border and on how, as Secretary Blinken said so importantly, how Israel does this matters?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think they feel confident that this is the kind of thing that President Biden does best. He is - obviously, he's going to go. He's going to show an unprecedented display of support, but he's also going to help try to guide them in the right direction. Hopefully there will be tangible accomplishments that come from this trip.

But, over the long term, what the president's doing is showing - is really showing the durability of his belief that American alliances -- and that showing up and engaging on the world stage is the best way to move us away from hopefully a further spiraling conflict and also to ensure that the humanitarian plans and -- are in place and that humanitarian aid can flow in an incredibly difficult situation.

You know, I've travelled with President Biden to Israel both when he was vice president and president. And I can tell you that he and Netanyahu have an incredibly direct and candid relationship. He will spend a lot of time on this trip listening, but also, again, you know, being very forthcoming and direct in his advice.

So, you know, for the president, we'll see whether there are tangible accomplishments that, yes, he can walk away from this 24, 36, 48 hours and point to. You know, over the long term, I think what he's showing is that American presence, American guidance is meaningful on the world stage. And I think that's a function of his experience and his time dealing with these kinds of crises in office.

So, he will hopefully help provide a steadying hand. But as Bobby said and a you've laid out, you know, this isn't without risk. Obviously, this is a moment where he is inserting the United States into what is likely to be a protracted conflict. And certainly risk comes with that. But the calculation here is that his presence, his guidance and the full force of the United States can help move things in a productive direction. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Kate, you were there when the president

had the surprise trip to Kyiv. You were there in 2021 when he and his team worked with Egyptian President El-Sisi to secure the cease fire. Were you surprised by this decision?

BEDINGFIELD: You know, I actually really wasn't. You know, when I saw that they had begun discussing this idea, you know, I knew that the president would want to go, in part because, exactly as you said, you know, I've seen up close how important it is to him to do face to face diplomacy. He truly believes that at the end of the day showing up, being able to talk face to face, being able to have those direct conversations where you can look someone in the eye, understand what they need and want, and also tell them very directly what you, what the United States, needs and wants. You know, there's no -- he believes truly there's no -- there's no substitute for that.

And so, you know, working on, for example, as you mentioned, working on the secret trip that he took to Kyiv earlier this year, you know, there were a lot of security risks. There was a lot of guidance and suggestion offered to the president that maybe he shouldn't go. He felt incredibly strongly about the need to show up, to physically show support and engage.

So, it actually -- you know, it does come with some risk, but that is, you know -- this trip, I should say, does come with some risk. But it didn't surprise me because I have seen how President Biden chooses to act in these moments. And he does not shy away from asserting American leadership. So, it actually - it did not surprise me at all to be honest with you.

HARLOW: Bobby, he'll also face questions, no doubt, with - the administration already has, but he will there about what -- how far the U.S. is willing to go to try to free those Americans believed held hostage. Would that include Navy SEALs? Would that include special forces? And also will be asked about refugees and if the U.S. will take refugees. And we heard Chris Christie saying the U.S. shouldn't. We heard Ron DeSantis saying the U.S. shouldn't. Two critical questions he has to answer directly.

BOBBY GHOSH, EDITOR AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, "BLOOMBERG": Yes, he does, particularly the one with the hostages.


GHOSH: And he has expressed his feelings on this quite evocatively. The administration -- everything we're hearing from the administration is that there will not be U.S. boots on the ground, but that the U.S. will supply intelligence as best as they can gather.

HARLOW: Although Kirby didn't take it off the table when he talked to Fox on Sunday.

GHOSH: He can't -- he couldn't possibly have done (ph). I mean there's no way, when there are American lives at risk, you're never going to say that Americans will not be involved in that process. But the -- what the administration is briefing journalists is to say that, look, the Israelis know how to do this. We are going to try and help them. We're going to give them every assistance.

If they ask for American physical assistance, we'll cross that bridge when we come - when we come to it. But right now that's not what the Israelis are asking for.

But, yes, the president will have to have an answer ready for that. As for the - as for the hostages, you know, the - the -- as far - as far as the refugees are concerned, you know, the -- whether the U.S. will take some refugees is arguably a second order of problem.


The scale of the refugee crisis is so big that the first order is whether they can go somewhere nearby first to get some safety, some -- get away from the bombs and get away from Hamas. Can they be put somewhere for a temporary amount of time and then we can have a further discussion of where can they go next? They can't go anywhere -- Egypt will not take them on a permanent basis. Or if Egypt does at all.

So, the questions about whether Europe will take some of them, whether the U.S. will take some of them, whether the Arab states, first and foremost, will take some of them, those questions will come up. But I think those are a second order problem. The first and most critical one right now is, how to get these people out of harm's way some place safe.

MATTINGLY: Bobby Ghosh, Kate Bedingfield. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: This just in. There's new drone video, and what it shows is very difficult to see. That is a mass burial in Gaza this morning. This is happening as we were just discussing, President Biden heads to Israel. We will talk to one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's senior advisers straight ahead.




KEREN SCHARF SCHFM, MOTHER OF MIA SCHEM WHO'S BEING HELD HOSTAGE IN GAZA: I didn't know she's dead or alive until yesterday. What I knew is that she's may -- might be kidnapped. And I'm begging the world to bring my baby back home. She only went to a party, to a festival party, to have some fun. And now she's in Gaza.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Erin Burnett, live in Tel Aviv.

That was Keren Schem, the mother of one of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas. A young woman named Mia. She was speaking out just a short time ago, pleading for her daughter's release after Hamas released a hostage video of Mia. Yesterday I spoke with Yoni Asher, a man whose wife, and his two young

daughters, and his mother-in-law, were all taken hostage. We have been speaking to him several times after he recognized his family in this viral video. His daughters, ages two and four now, huddled in the back of that truck. And he told me about the guilt -- the guilt that he actually feels for not being able to rescue his family.


YONI ASHER, HIS WIFE, DAUGHTERS, MOTHER-IN-LAW WERE TAKEN HOSTAGE BY HAMAS: You know, the worst thing as a father - well, I have three girls, wife and two little babies, is the guilt. Is this guilt. Why? Why are you not coming to get us? I'm thinking about them sit there maybe if they're alive and thinking, why is daddy not coming? And I can't -- I want to. I'm afraid that they will forget me. I'm afraid that they will not recognize, you know, for children, it's a day, it's like a month for us adults.


BURNETT: I'm joined now by long-time confidant and senior adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mark Regev.

And, Mark, I very much appreciate your time. Sorry to be speaking to you under these circumstances.

You heard Yoni Asher there. I mean his entire life is gone and his home, I mean, you know, with his children's toys and a pink monkey, and there's no children. And how a person even can endure through such pain and fear and loss is incomprehensible.

Is there anything you're able to tell us, Mark, now that there's been one hostage video, about your knowledge as to the safety of what you say are 199 hostages being held in Gaza?

MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: So, I think what we all can learn from this terrible, terrible, shocking story from that father is that we understand who we're up against. And when President Biden and my prime minister talk about an ISIS-type terrorist group, it's not just words. This is the reality. They are brutal, inhumane killers who target the innocent. Why on earth could anyone with any sense of humanity kidnap young infants, a two-year-old and a four-year-old?

This is -- this - this has to outrage everybody. This isn't about Israel and the Palestinians. This is about humanity against people who are so barbaric in their behavior that they are, as President Biden said, they are sheer evil.

BURNETT: Is there a way, Mark, given, as you say, that this is not about Israel and the Palestinians, obviously, the -- many around the world do see it as about Israel and the Palestinians. But if it is not about that, if it is specifically about Israel and Hamas and the people who perpetuated this barbaric, horrible crime, is there a way for you to defeat them without putting thousands and thousands of IDF troops in Gaza? REGEV: So, we might have to. And my own daughter is being called up

for national service. She's a reserve officer in the IDF. She actually raced back. She was on holiday in Europe and raced back to volunteer. And her call-up notice came as she - as she returned. And she's like tens of thousands or more of young Israelis who understand the threat we're facing.


REGEV: They've seen the barbarity of our opponent. They will risk their lives to protect our country.

BURNETT: Mark, we have met so many of them. And it is incredible, their bravery. Many who finished their reserve service, still coming back in.

But when you say we might have to, is it still your hope, is it still the goal of what seems to be heated negotiations now and over the next few days that you could avoid such a ground incursion?


REGEV: I cannot - and I apologize, but I cannot go into the Israeli strategy ahead of time. We will surprise Hamas in what we do.

But I can tell you, our goal is clear, and there's going to be no wavering on this whatsoever, we will destroy Hamas the way ISIS was destroyed in Syria and Iraq. We will crush their military machine. We will dismantle it, and we will take apart their political structure.

We didn't want this war. We didn't start this war. It was forced upon us. But we will finish this war with a new reality in Gaza, a reality where Gaza will no longer be this enclave run by a brutal terrorist organization.

BURNETT: So, Mark, you talk about the humanitarian fears. And, you know, we have a producer, Ibrahim, who lives in Gaza, and he's got a seven and an 11-year-old child. They have been trying to make their way south, right? Their children looking out, bombs coming down, the sounds and the horror and fear.

Civilians are dying. Are you committed -- are you able to commit to there being real humanitarian relief coming in from Gaza? And I separate that even from opening a border in a way that would allow people out, because I understand that's a complex issue, related but separate. Are you able to commit to aid coming in?

REGEV: When I represent, and we want that to happen, but I want to tell you two things that happened just while Americans were asleep over the night. One, yesterday, as CNN reported, there were truckloads, tankers of petrol that were sent in for humanitarian reasons to help so there would be fuel for the generators in Gaza's hospitals. We know for a fact -- and it was actually reported, that some of that fuel was stolen by Hamas for their war machine. They are the people with guns. They are the people who have the power inside Gaza. And they have no qualms whatsoever about stealing materials that are meant for the innocent civilian population of Gaza and siphoning it off for their war machine. And that's what happened yesterday.

So, I think what we need to establish are mechanisms so there will be safeguards against that sort of thing. There's no point of the international community coming to support the people of Gaza if it's going to just be siphoned off and taken away by Hamas.

The second point you have to know is that we had agreed, and arrangements were made, for the exit yesterday of dual nationals, people with foreign passports. It was all agreed that they can leave. And at the very last moment, Hamas blocked the Rafah border crossing, as if to say, we are holding these foreign nationals as hostages, just as they are holding the 200 Israelis, just as they are holding the civilian population of Gaza as a human shield. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised by Hamas's behavior, whether it's with dual nationals or with the oil. That's who they are, and that's the brutal enemy we're up against.

BURNETT: Mark Regev, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. A senior adviser to confidant to the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, here in Israel.

Poppy and Phil, back to you.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, Erin.

A Supreme Court justice weighing in on the ethics questions hanging over the high court. We're going to tell you what Amy Coney Barrett had to say.

HARLOW: Also, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan facing a deadline with his potential speakership on the line. He may not have the votes he needs. What does that mean for the upcoming House floor showdown today.

Stay with us.




REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): I met with Jim for about a half hour tonight. I'll have another meeting with him tomorrow. But I told Jim tonight that I'm a no, and look forward to our meeting tomorrow and answer some more questions.


MATTINGLY: That was Republican Congressman Ken Buck telling CNN last night he is currently a no on Jim Jordan. But that could change his mind as the House votes today on Jordan's bid to be the next speaker. Could he? Well, of course, we'll have to see.

Jordan has gained the support of several key Republicans over the course of the last 36 hours, but as of now, according to our stellar Capitol Hill team and its whip count, still short of the 217 votes necessary to win the gavel. He can only afford to lose four members of his conference.

Joining us now, CNN's senior political analyst and anchor John Avlon, and Josh Barro, who puts out the "Very Serious" newsletter and podcast.

All right, Josh Barro, I was surprised watching some of the flips toward the Jordan column yesterday. There's kind of an alliance of appropriation guys, defense guys who seem to be hard no's and all of a sudden started moving in that direction. Do you think he gets over the finish line?

JOSH BARRO, WRITER, "VERY SERIOUS" NEWSLETTER AND HOST, "VERY SERIOUS" PODCAST: I don't know. I mean I think that the -- I don't think we're going to see the scenario that some people were thinking about where he might have as many as 50 people voting against him on the floor. If he doesn't have 218, I think he will be fairly close. But the problem is, you know, Kevin McCarthy was fairly close in January. It still took him 15 votes to get all the way there.

I think, you know, you have these folks who are on the Appropriations Committee, involved in national defense policy in the House, they had specific asks. And who knows exactly what Jim Jordan is saying to them behind closed doors. But it makes sense that it's possible to get them over the hump because they have concerns about funding the government, about spending levels on defense and he can make promises about that and he can conceivably even deliver on those promises. Might be more easily able to deliver on them than someone like Kevin McCarthy or Steve Scalise because he's going to have more of a leash from the Freedom Caucus guys. He's already out there saying he intends to do another continuing resolution.

But then you still have these sundry people who have other concerns. Ken Buck is a very idiosyncratic member there from Colorado, very conservative, quite upset apparently about Jim Jordan and also Steve Scalise refusing to say that Donald Trump had lost the 2020 election.


BARRO: You have these two members from Florida who come from - from the Miami area in Florida, plus some others farther upstate. They have, you know, a particular political culture down there. Might be a little bit more insulated from some of the national pressure that Jim Jordan can bring as a conservative. And so, you know, even if he's 11 votes short, 15 votes short on the floor, that's still short. It could go many votes.

HARLOW: John, you have said that the idea that Jim Jordan could be the next speaker, could get to 217, is in your words, should be absurd.


HARLOW: But is it more -- if he gets there, is it more the moment than the man? This is a moment of global crisis -


HARLOW: And the House still has no speaker.

AVLON: It should not be because ultimately the man is the person who is going to lead this conference, this Congress. And the idea that Jim Jordan can somehow unify the Republican congress -- conference and lead Congress is a sick joke. I want to be really clear about that. This is somebody who was directly implicated in the plot to overturn the election that led to an attack on the Capitol. Liz Cheney said that he knew more than any other member of Congress, was working with members of the Trump administration to overturn the election, which led to the attack. Remember, on the day of the attack, she said, you did this.

This is someone who has the -- one of the lowest legislative records of anyone in Congress in terms of passing legislation, let alone working across the aisle. Someone who's primarily - who was described by former Republican Speaker John Boehner as a legislative terrorist because he's focused on destroying and taking things down rather than building things up.

So, the idea that he's moderating and willing to make deals and open to concessions is a sick joke. And if Republicans make this decision today, because of fears that they look weak because they're divided, rather than any of the other members they could have put up, they'll reap the whirlwind, especially those 18 Republicans from districts Biden won.

MATTINGLY: I will at least confirm that I don't know that any of the 220 Republicans currently in the House figured Jim Jordan was going to be their speaker at any point this year, and yet here we are.

AVLON: Correct. For good reason.

MATTINGLY: I do want to talk about, though, he's a very close ally to the former president. The former president, who is now latching on to the global crisis, that Poppy referred to, with sentiments like this.


Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We aren't bringing in anyone from Gaza, Syria, Somalia, Yemen or Libya or anyone else that threatens our security.

If you empathize with radical Islamic terrorists and extremists, you're disqualified. You're just disqualified. If you want to abolish the state of Israel, you're disqualified.


MATTINGLY: It was part of the kind of re-proposing of the travel ban, which went so well for them in the opening days of their administration in 2017, and yet, politically, became this cajole, hot button issue that his supporters glommed on to back them. It's disgusting politics and yet it is, in Trump's view, effective politics.

BARRO: Well, I mean, I don't think it's likely that we are going to take a substantial number of refugees related to this - related to this situation in Israel.

MATTINGLY: But that's part of the reason why - like the idea of, I'm going to implement a new travel ban and I'm going to do it --

BARRO: Right.

MATTINGLY: Like, there's no - what -- for what? Like, it's purely a talking point.

BARRO: It's -

MATTINGLY: Not tied to any policy or any type of reality.

BARRO: Right, it's purely a talking point. But, I mean, I don't think that the - you know, when we get into the presidential campaign, if that is a key issue in the - in the presidential campaign, that's going to be because of Donald Trump, it's not going to be because of Jim Jordan or anything that's happening in the House of Representatives.

MATTINGLY: Right. But you've heard - you've seen multiple Republican candidates now jump on this issue.

BARRO: Yes. Uh-huh.

MATTINGLY: Over the course of the last week or two. Clearly they think something's there.

BARRO: Yes. No, I think - I think they do. And I think that, you know, I think that you see also that in politics of Europe and all around the world. I think that there is a backlash related to - related to migration and the situation at the border with the substantial number of people coming to the U.S. and making asylum claims. I think that, you know, the - I -- the extent to which the former president made hay about that in 2016, he's probably on stronger political ground to do it now.

AVLON: Look, obviously the politics of immigration people rightfully say that we want to have borders that are secure. But this is about anti-Muslim fears, stoking those fires.

HARLOW: Which, to Phil's point, the Supreme Court knocked it down twice, the first attempt and the second attempt at the travel ban because of your point.

AVLON: This is play to the base politics.

HARLOW: It's only the third time that a small sliver of it was upheld. AVLON: That's right. But, look, I mean this is not about actual - this

isn't about policy, this isn't about the Supreme Court, it's about play-to-the-base politics, pure and simple.

MATTINGLY: All right, Josh Barro, John Avlon, thanks, guys.

HARLOW: Thank, guys.

MATTINGLY: Appreciate it.

AVLON: Thank you.

BARRO: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, this morning, the Supreme Court allowing the Biden administration to continue regulating what are called ghost guns, ordering two internet sellers of gun parts to comply with regulations. Now, ghost guns are homemade weapons made from kits people buy online to assemble their own firearms. These weapons are untraceable because the parts don't have serial numbers. Critics say they attract people who cannot own legal firearm. Last year the federal government issued rules requiring anyone buying the kits to undergo background checks and also required any gun parts to carry serial numbers. The Supreme Court's temporary order now allows those regulations to remain in effect while a legal challenge from a firearm manufacturers plays out in lower courts.

And Amy Coney Barrett is the latest Supreme Court justice to address ethics concerns, saying it would be a, quote, good idea for all nine justices to adopt a formal code of conduct. Her comments came during an appearance at the University of Minnesota Law School.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you favor of a code of conduct for Supreme Court justices? And what -- what benefits do you see that would provide?

JUSTICE AMY CONEY BARRETT, SUPREME COURT: I think it would be a good idea for us to do it, particularly so that we can communicate to the public exactly what it is that we're doing in a clearer way than perhaps we have been able to do so far.

There's unanimity on all nine -- among all nine justices that we should and do hold ourselves to the highest standards -- highest ethical standards possible.


HARLOW: That's significant, though, because she's talking about specific guidelines being a good idea. Ethics in the high court have come under close scrutiny after Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito failed to report lavish trips and gifts. Two other justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch did not recuse themselves from cases involved Penguin Random House Publishing despite making money from book deals with the same company.

CNN THIS MORNING continues now.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden is planning to make a historic wartime visit to Israel on Wednesday.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a big win for Israel. A real show of strength and solidarity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes me proud to see our president standing up to terror.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody wants war, but I think people are willing to accept war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the most sadness that Gaza ever had.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: A plan that will enable humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Gaza, and them alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every day the numbers of the missing, higher and higher and higher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So many people are suffering similar loss, similar questions, similar unknowns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm begging the world to bring my baby back home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Israel will do all it can in order to release these prisoners.

MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We still don't know the condition of those hostages.