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Robin Wright is Interviewed about the White House's Three Key Pillars for Israel War; Li Cheney's to Release New Book; Trump team Seeking to Relitigate Election. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 29, 2023 - 06:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaking in Brussels. He is expected to travel to Israel as well this week as negotiators push for another truce extension. We're going to continue to monitor this and we'll let you know what is coming out of it.

Also we want to point out, Phil has some new reporting this morning from behind the scenes on those intensive efforts by the White House when it comes to these negotiation, Phil.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, the scale, obviously, it has been intensive since October 7th, in the wake of October 7th. But in the wake of a, I think, pretty significant diplomatic victory to get hostages released, the work that has continued over the course of the last several days has been critical, really centering on three crucial pillars according to senior administration officials.

And those pillars are being worked on, on an almost hour by hour basis, from the president on down to his team, getting hostages home, surging humanitarian aid into Gaza, and then what comes next, both the near term, the intensive and officials say both blunt and candid discussions on the next phase of Israel's combat operations, and more quite, longer term efforts in the region to lay the groundwork for a post-conflict Gaza.

Joining us now is Robin Wright, a contributing writer at "The New Yorker" and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Robin, thanks so much for joining us.

I want to start with I think the third piece of this, the third pillar,, if you will, in terms of near-term combat operations, when a truce ends, whenever that is. I have been struck over the course of the last couple of days in talking with administration officials how very candid they are about how what Israel does next is immensely critical in terms of their operations in the south. They simply can't repeat what they've done in the north. Do you think they have the leverage to have an effect here? ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": Probably a little bit. The problem is the Israelis are hell bent at the moment on eliminating Hamas, and the United States is trying to say, look, you have a just cause in - in taking on Hamas but you really need to think about what happens down the road.

And Israel faces the same kind of questions that the United States did in Iraq and Afghanistan, what's the exit game? What comes next? Who rules? And Israel has not provided any of those answers yet. The United States is trying to urge Israel to think about a two-state solution, to try to get this moment to bring together all the elements that have been building, better relations with the Arab world symbolized by relations with Saudi Arabia creating a two-state solution.

The problem is, the mood in Israel right now is - does not support a two-state solution. And that seems, frankly to me, having covered this for a half century now, further away than at any time since 1993 during the Oslo Accords and maybe even since 1948, when this crisis or conflict began.

HILL: There's this support in Israel. There's also the wider global position when it comes to public opinion. So, as we talk about what's happening behind the scenes, that is also coming into play. And there was some talk when this pause started about how public opinion may or may not shift in this moment. What are you seeing over the last few days and what does that say moving forward for Israel?

WRIGHT: Well, we've seen this conflict, which pits a country the size of New Jersey against an area the size of Philadelphia, have a rippling effect across the world. And different parts of the world are getting very different coverage, perceptions of what's happening on the ground. And that's led to a deep fissure. And it makes it more difficult, I think, for the United States and the west to not, you know, not do more to try to find a political resolution or provide humanitarian aid or try to get some balance in this conflict.


At this point seven -- more than seven weeks in, the death rate is about ten Palestinians for every Israel killed on October 7th. And that's having an impact. It's having -- we're seeing it already in the polls that in - that for President Biden, in an election a year from now.

So, yes, I think this becomes - we're at a real turning point right now in terms of Israeli military strategy, the hostage negotiations now begin to amend (ph), and that's going to, I think, play out much longer than issues over the women and children. Just much more complicated as of today.

MATTINGLY: Robin, what's your sense - you know, the administration's defense when they face political attacks from within their own coalition is, tell us what the alternative could have been here. U.S. diplomacy is why hostages are being released. U.S. diplomacy is why aid is now being surged into Gaza. Not nearly enough, they say, but a significant amount more than had been over the course of the weeks prior. Was there an alternative here?

WRIGHT: Well, I mean, you can go back in history and say, look, there have been a lot of peace efforts that one side or the other didn't accept and could have prevented this. The problem is we've gotten to a point where it's now an existential conflict. Hamas wants to destroy Israel. Israel wants to destroy Hamas. And neither is likely to achieve that goal.

And one of the great problems is, we don't know what winning is or the perceptions of what winning is are very different. And we also don't -- we have different interpretations of what defeat is. It's very hard for Israel to defeat the idea of resistance or opposition. And Hamas has symbolized that more than ever.

And - and it's actually seeing a surge in support in the West Bank, which people are forgetting that there's a lot of violence playing out in the West Bank as well. And the danger is that even if Israel is successful against Hamas, the West Bank, which has been the main interlocutor with Israel, finds itself - finds -- the government there finds it very difficult to deal with Israel down the road. And that's where a political resolution has to come.

HILL: Robin Wright, always appreciate your insight. Thank you.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, can you guess who called Donald Trump, quote, orange Jesus? I have some thoughts. Liz Cheney spills the secret in her new book and she reveals what the new House speaker did for Trump behind closed doors.

HILL: Plus, could George Santos be hours away from losing his job? New information this morning on when the next vote to expel the congressman will happen.




LIZ CHENEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSWOMAN: We are confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before. And that is a former president who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional republic.

I think Donald Trump is the single most dangerous threat we face.


HILL: That is, of course, former Congresswoman Liz Cheney blasting Donald Trump's bid for a second term in office. This morning she's eviscerating him, frankly, and his supporters in a new book that CNN has exclusively obtained. That new book, "Oath and Honor" comes out December 5th. Cheney also condemns the actions of her former colleagues following the election, writing, quote, "so strong is the lure of power that men and women who had once seemed reasonable and responsible were suddenly willing to violate their oath to the Constitution out of political expediency and loyalty to Donald Trump."

And, Phil, she is naming names.

MATTINGLY: You know, I don't think we should be too surprised about that. You just listen to the sound in the lead-in here. But Cheney certainly pulled no punches here, calling out Republicans, quote, "cowardice" in the wake of the 2020 election for their support of then President Donald Trump, whom she labels, quote, "the most dangerous man to ever inhabit the Oval Office."

Now, one particular target of her ire, former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whom she says told her Trump knew his election claims were bogus. She says just two days after the election McCarthy told her that Trump, quote, "knows it's over. He needs to go through all the stages of grief." But later that night, McCarthy went on Fox News and pushed Trump's lies anyway.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): President Trump won this election. So everyone who's listening, do not be quiet. Do not be - do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes.


MATTINGLY: The public versus the private, always interesting. But don't worry, it wasn't just McCarthy who fell in line with Trump and was criticized. Cheney also calls out Jim Jordan, now Speaker Mike Johnson, Mitch McConnell, others powerful Republicans who continued to fall in line with Trump's effort or remain silent, even when they knew it was a farce. She says, Jim Jordan, quote, didn't think the rules mattered when it came to Trump's legal efforts. Quote, "the only thing that matters is winning."

And as Republicans were encouraged to sign their names on electoral objection vote sheets, Representative Mark Green uttered, quote, "the things we do for orange Jesus." That answers the tease question from before the break. She lays out her fears ahead of January 6th, but she says -- she says nothing prepared her for the violence of that day or for what Kevin McCarthy did afterwards.

What was that? Well, I think everybody remembers and will probably never forget this famous photo. Just three weeks after January 6th, when McCarthy flew down to Mar-a-Lago to show fealty to Trump. It's a photo Cheney claims she didn't actually believe was real when she first saw it. She actually talked to McCarthy about it. "What the hell," she asked him. McCarthy told her, "they're really worried," speaking of Trump's team. "Trump's not eating, so they asked me to come see him." Cheney replied, "what, you went to Mar-a-Lago because Trump's not eating?" McCarthy said, "yes, he's really depressed."

Now, it's worth noting, she is not the only Republican whose eyebrows were raised by the visit. Some - she writes, "some mocked him, circulating that Trump/McCarthy photo along with the clip from Jerry Maguire where Tom Cruise tells Renee Zellweger, you complete me." No word on the goldfish from Jerry Maguire as well.

Now back with us to discuss, Maura Gillespie, Shane Goldmacher and Maya Wiley.

Maura, I want to start with you because you worked so closely - worked on the January 6th committee with Liz Cheney. Was there anything in this book that surprised you, not just about naming names but in terms of what she disclosed about Republican members?

MAURA GILLESPIE, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO FORMER REP. ADAM KINZINGER: Well, from what Liz -- I'm obviously very excited to read it next week when it comes out.


But, no, none of this surprises me because the January 6th committee laid out all the ways in which Donald Trump knew he lost. So, now we're even talking about these legal battles that he is still, you know, trying to convince us that he did not lose the 2020 election. We're seeing Liz Cheney again once reminding us that he very well knew. And this Kevin McCarthy revelation, this conversation is - it's embarrassing.

It's really embarrassing for him because not only was that photo just shocking to so many of us, but it just shows how, like she said, the fealty that he felt to Donald Trump, the loyalty, and what they're willing to sacrifice as far as any respect for themselves to go down there and do that. And it just doesn't show good leadership, quite frankly.

HILL: Maya, based on what we know in these - in these excerpts that we have so far ahead of this book, what strikes me every time when more of these details come out or we're reminded of what happened is, the people who Liz Cheney likely most wants to reach, Maya, what are the chances that she can reach them?

MAYA WILEY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: You know, that's - that is, I think, the big question here. And I think we're going to learn more about how this reinforces so much of what we're seeing in the indictment that Donald Trump is facing and the fact that we're going to see a lot more evidence come out of trial about, again, it's going to reinforce what the January 6th committee already said and found. But it is additional evidence, and it's happening in multiple jurisdictions.

And so I think what we're going to see is that the American public is going to continue to be, not just reminded, but be given more window and insight into just what it means to have lost 40 lawsuits that were challenging the outcome of the 2020 election. Not a shred of evidence that supported the denials. All of these things that also reinforced what we're seeing in Congress right now, which is the weaponization of Congress to try to advance some of the conspiracy theories that have already been debunked. Those are things that are very dangerous to democracy, but also means

that the American public are not getting their needs met. And all of that's going to continue to play out, I think, as we - as we go into this 2024 election cycle. And hopefully in a healthy and good way because we're looking at facts and not fiction.

MATTINGLY: Shane, what's always been striking to me about Cheney is, she is a rock-ribbed conservative Republican. That has not changed on a policy basis. She is in a completely different stratosphere than where Nancy Pelosi is or where Chuck Schumer is or where moderate Democrats are on this issue. And yet the Republican Party, you know, she issues a very explicit warning, saying that they're going to - "Republicans in the current Congress will do what Donald Trump ask no matter what. I'm very sad that America can no longer count on a body of elected Republicans to protect our republic."

You've reported so much on this. Why? Why are Republicans in that place?

SHANE GOLDMACHER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "NEW YORK TIMES": I mean why is a tough question to answer. But I do think she's diagnosing the issue, which is that the party has shifted, right? The rock-ribbed conservative principles that she had are not the main principles defining the Republican Party today.

MATTINGLY: What of it?

GOLDMACHER: It's where do you - it's where do you stand with Donald Trump? And he's shifted on some of those core issues. Trade has flipped, right? It was a free trade party when Cheney came about. It is not longer a free trade party.

But I do think that with Trump it's not just the policies, it's do you stand with him and are you willing to fight the left. And, you know, the word fighter just comes up when you talk to voters and when you're traveling and on the campaign trial. Everyone wants to be a fighter, right? And they want to be a fighter for what Trump stands for and not necessarily for conservative principles.

Look, Mike Pence was one of the most conservative members of Congress. He ran for president this time and got no traction. He's out of the race despite having been the vice president under Donald Trump.

MATTINGLY: That's such a good point.

Real quick.

GILLESPIE: Oh, just because I think he focused on policy. And, unfortunately, a large swath of the Republican voters who vote if primaries aren't concerned about policy, they're concerned about personality, and they like Donald Trump for the reasons that you just mentioned.

MATTINGLY: Shane, Maura, Maya, we appreciate it. Stick around with us.

HILL: We just have some new information on which hostages could be released today. What the family of the youngest hostage, just 10 months old, told us moments ago.

MATTINGLY: And, today, Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter will be laid to rest in Plains, Georgia, in a private service. This follows Tuesday's tribute service where her husband of 77 years, former President Jimmy Carter, was wheeled into the church. He did not speak, but their daughter, Amy, shared a letter he wrote to her mom early in their marriage.


AMY CARTER, DAUGHTER OF JIMMY AND ROSALYNN CARTER: My darling, every time I have ever been away from you, I've been thrilled when I returned to discover just how wonderful you are. While I am away, I tried to convince myself that you really are not, could not be as sweet and beautiful as I remember. But when I see you, I fall in love with you all over again.


Does that seem strange to you? It doesn't to me. Good-bye, darling, until tomorrow. Jimmy.



MATTINGLY: Well, those 2020 election lies, it seems they just won't die. New reporting, former President Trump's legal team, they're now requesting a trove of classified documents from the Justice Department seeking to relitigate the 2020 election, arguing Trump had good reason to believe the election was fraudulent and that, quote, "his concerns regarding fraud during the 2020 election, rather than knowingly false or criminal, were plausible and maintained in good faith."

HILL: Our panel is back with us.


So, when we look at this, and, Maya, let's start with you on this one, you know, they were -- his concerns, they were not knowingly false or criminal. They were plausible and maintained in good faith. Where does that go - do you see it going?

WILEY: Not very far when you have so much evidence demonstrating that that's similarly not the case. There's so much evidence. You know, his own campaign said, look, you're not winning this. You should not go out and announce your victory. This is a - this is a case the January 6th committee had already uncovered a lot of these facts, but this is why we're seeing so many indictments, including Georgia, as well as the federal indictment in D.C. that's saying, yes, no, actually we're looking at election crimes, fraud.

This is about zero evidence. But again, you know, what it really comes down to is an effort to say something that either party, any party in this country would have normally said if the norms of democracy had held is, no, you know, once the voters have spoken, once you've lost 40 lawsuits, once you have Republican governors in states like Georgia and Nevada saying, no, you actually lost, once you have elected officials who are Republicans in Arizona saying, no, that's not true, usually it's done. That was not the case here as well as having violence.

So, it's very difficult to see how this becomes a real credible defense, but it's also incredibly difficult to see why we have a political system that's not standing up as - as we've heard from Liz Cheney that says, we have a democratic norms in our politics, as well as in our laws, that require us to act to say, yes, that's a road too far.

MATTINGLY: You know, Maura, to that point, you know, beyond the fact that this filing doesn't seem to be maintained in good faith, to quote from it, on some of the -- take the other side of it. Good, let's relitigate all of this. Is that not - we're going to have the same outcome. Why is it not - OK, fine, let's do it

GILLESPIE: Because I see it as Trump's attempt to gin up the base again, get them angry, and maybe he's seeing a dip in his poll numbers, maybe he's seeing a dip in his fundraising because all of his money is going to legal fees. So, this is an opportunity for him to remind his base that he actually won the 2020 election and to reinvigorate their anger. And to me that is a scary thing to be proposed with is that, that's the goal here.

Again, it also calls into question his competency. We've been talking a lot about that I think just in terms of Biden versus Trump, the competency there, the age issue, the age question. His relitigating this again after being told by knowing it, being told by members of his own team within the White House, his former Trump officials telling him that he had lost by doing this again, should we not question his competency again.

HILL: You know, in terms of those comments, President Biden, at a fundraiser, off-camera comments last night, was talk about Donald Trump, I mean, he hasn't stopped losing, bringing up his comments about vermin.

What's interesting is you talk about competency, right? We have these conversations. Does Joe Biden need to be saying more of those things on camera and saying more of those things publicly?

GOLDMACHER: I mean what we've seen for years with Joe Biden is he sort of tests things out behind with donors where there are reporters there but there's not cameras and it eventually it spills out. There's not really two different Joe Bidens. What he's saying behind closed doors he ends up saying in front of the cameras eventually. So, his campaign's already ramping up their Trump focus and their Trump rhetoric.

I'll say, I think you make a really interesting point though, which is, when you look at the legal - this is a legal filing. It's really hard to differentiate between a Trump legal and a Trump political document at this point, right? The campaign is part of his legal strategy. The legal strategy is part of his campaign, right? He -- these are completely intertwine. If he is to stay out of prison, winning the presidency is one of the ways to do so. And so, really, it's really important to think of these as two issues that really are one in the same.

MATTINGLY: Maya, on that point, to the last word, is that a plausible, legal strategy? Be intertwined, kind of co-mingling the politics and the legal here?

WILEY: It's a political strategy. It is not a legal strategy. The law is the law. It says what it says. The facts speak for themselves. The evidence will build. The mound where we've already seen it.

But I do think it goes back to this issue of whether or not even social media platforms are allowing debunked theories where there's plenty of evidence to show that they're not true, all the ways in which it's permeating to reinforce what becomes very dangerous to democracy, including 12 million Americans who said they'll support violence for Donald Trump. This is very much an existential threat that requires everyone no matter your party to say stop it already.

HILL: Maya Wiley, Shane Goldmacher, Maura Gillespie, great to have all of you with us this morning. Thank you.

MATTINGLY: And CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Officials in Doha are in agreement, they want to work to extend the current pause.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Ten more Israelis, two Thai citizens are back home.