Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

CNN Reports From Inside Gaza With Israel Defense Forces; Mar-a- Lago Maid, Plumber Could Testify At Trump Docs Trial; Joe Manchin Won't Run For Reelection In Major Blows To Dems; Exclusive: McCarthy Unloads On GOP Reps Who Voted For Ouster; New House Speaker "A Man Of Modest Means," Sleeps In DC Office. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired November 09, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, CNN inside Gaza for a firsthand look at the fighting. And as Gazans suffer, Hamas leaders are nowhere to be found. Some are living a life of luxury a thousand miles away. A special report coming.

Plus, exclusive CNN reporting on the Mar-a-Lago documents case. A wide-ranging list of potential witnesses, including maid, a plumber, even a woodworker, all on that list. And Trump is, quote, ballistic over it.

And an OUTFRONT special report. China, a superpower with a stunning message for Chinese women: Quit your job, stay home. Go have babies.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erica Hill, in tonight for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, a firsthand look at Hamas training camps. And these are new pictures from inside Gaza. Our Oren Liebermann was embedded with Israel's military as they made their way to a Hamas training camp.

So, the camp, as you can see here, include several buildings. It's important to note, CNN reporter from Gaza under the escort of Israel defense forces at all times. CNN does maintain full editorial control, and we'll have much more from Oren in just a moment.

According to Israel's military, they are now fighting Hamas block by block, house by house, closing in on what they are calling the heart of Hamas's intelligence and operational activities.

According to Israel, an estimated 80,000 people traveled south today alone, to escape the fighting. This mass migration coming as the White House and Israel is agreeing to pause its military operations in northern Gaza, for four hours a day, so people can leave.

Just moments ago, though, the Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear this is not a cease-fire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: One thing we haven't agreed to a cease-fire. A cease-fire with Hamas means surrender to Hamas, surrender to terror, and the victory of the Iran's axis of terror. So, there won't be a cease-fire without the release of Israeli hostages.


HILL: So, all of this comes as another group in Gaza that Palestinian Islamic jihad acknowledged for the first time that it too is holding Israeli hostages. So, they are holding in addition to Hamas, as we knew. The group released a video of two hostages, a 77-year-old woman, and a 13 year old boy. The group says it is ready to release them based on humanitarian grounds, but did not elaborate on when or if these two would actually be released, or it would actually happen.

Oren Liebermann is OUTFRONT live in Tel Aviv.

So, Oren, walk us through what you saw today inside Gaza.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Erica, it's nearly impossible at this time as a journalist to get into Gaza either from Israeli side or the Egyptian side. So, we had an opportunity to go in with the Israeli military.

I'll mention this disclosure here about the conditions under which we entered Gaza. CNN reported from Gaza under IDF escort at all times. As a condition for journalist embed with the IDF, media outlets must submit footage filmed in Gaza to the U.S. military for review. CNN had editorial control over our reporting.

Having said that, we went in on a Merkava tank with the IDF. We stayed in northern Gaza, probably not getting in deeper than a mile, but everything we saw, as first what was farmland, was essentially all torn up. The fields lying fallow, there was not a sign of life, in pretty much any direction.

And as we got deeper in, we got closer to what had been areas of civilian buildup, where there has been homes, apartment buildings, entire neighborhoods that have been destroyed in Israeli airstrikes with the Israeli ground operation as they moved in. That was in pretty much every direction you looked.

We stopped at one viewpoint, and look down to what was, according to the IDF, a Hamas training site, one they knew about, and one that was fairly close to the border there that had been destroyed. The tank commander that had a chance to speak with said they had a mock Israeli tank that they were practice fighting and attacking, how to dismantle and essentially fights a tank. They had put out these videos.

The IDF, when they went, destroyed that training site. We got to see what was left of it as we moved around. We're about 90 minutes to two hours inside of Gaza, before it was time to come out after looking around.

I will point out, one more interesting thing we saw as we went in. We actually saw that there were a number of destroyed vehicles that were right on the Gaza border there. And when I talk to the tank commander about what they were, he said those who destroyed vehicles that have been pulled out of Gaza for the Israeli military and Israeli experts to look at in what he called essentially a contract between Israel and the families of those who have lost loved ones in the October 7th attack.


Israel will look at those vehicles and tried to find some remnants, some remains of a body, to try and get some sort of closure there as something they see as a duty that they have to do for the families that have lost loved ones, not only in the fighting but on the attack on October 7th -- Erica.

HILL: Oren Lieberman, really appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

While civilians in Gaza continue to suffer, many Hamas leaders are nowhere to be found. In fact, U.S. officials say those Hamas leaders are actually living in luxury abroad. This as Gazans faced an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Israel's 162nd division in urban combat in central Gaza. This video was provided by the Israel Defense Forces. They say their troops are now well inside Gaza City, where they found Hamas command and control as well as weapons-making facilities.

We are now fighting a ground offensive that will only deepen, the IDF spokesperson says, in the heart of Gaza City. We will reach more and more Hamas strongholds.

Gaza's civilians continue to suffer, as Israel presses on with its offensive. Tens of thousands fleeing the northern part of the Strip in recent days according to the U.N., while the Palestinian ministry of health says thousands have been killed or wounded in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Still, tough talk coming from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh threatening the Israeli army.

They are drowning in the sounds of Gaza, he says. This will cost them a lot on all fronts, including the life of their hostages.

But Ismail Haniyeh himself isn't even inside Gaza. Like much of Hamas's political leadership, he's in the safety and comfort of Qatar, recently meeting with Iran's foreign minister there.

A cynical situation, Israeli columnist and Hamas expert Shlomi Eldar tells me.

SHLOMI ELDAR, ISRAELI JOURNALIST: So it's very easy to tell that Palestinians in Gaza Strip, okay, fight, make the jihad. The jihad is a war against Israel. And we gave you order from outside of Gaza.

PLEITGEN: Both Israel and the United States claim Hamas's leadership is wealthy and, quote, live in luxury abroad. CNN is not able to verify those claims, but it's a stark contrast to the deteriorating living conditions to majority of Gazans have faced under a 16-year blockade, as the standoff between Hamas and Israel intensifies.

After Hamas's October 7th attack, killing more than 1,400 in southern Israel, with hundreds taken as hostages into the Gaza Strip, that has turned into a full scale war with all its consequences.

Hamas's leadership making clear, again, from outside of Gaza, they are willing to sacrifice more civilians in Gaza.

Do we have to pay a price, he asks. Yes, and we're ready to pay for it.

And Hamas leaders in exile are calling on citizens of nations in the region to sacrifice as well.

This is former Hamas boss Khaled Mashal who was also not inside the Gaza Strip.

I call firstly on the surrounding countries, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, all of its sons and daughters. Your duty is bigger because you are closer to Palestine.


PLEITGEN (on camera): Now, Erica, one of the things that Hamas leadership in exile is doing is traveling around the region, obviously trying to further their agenda. In fact, Khaled Mashal who we saw at the end of our report there, he was part of a Hamas delegation that's also included the head of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, which traveled to Cairo in Egypt today. Now, all we know from that meeting is that they met with the head of Egyptian intelligence, and spoke about the situation inside Gaza, of course, as the suffering there continues -- Erica.

HILL: Fred, such an interesting report. Thank you.

OUTFRONT now, former CENTCOM commander, retired General Joseph Votel, who oversaw military operations across the Middle East.

General, good to have you with us tonight. I love if we could just begin with what we just heard from Fred, the fact of these Hamas leaders are living in luxury abroad. It is such a stark contrast with what we are seeing in terms of how Gazans are living every day.

Does it in any way threaten their hold on the area or their power?

GEN. JOSEPH L. VOTEL (RET.), FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER: No, I think -- first of all, it's great to be with you. Yeah, I think that in Gaza, I mean, it demonstrates the lack of credibility in some of these leaders. This is not unlike what we saw with the Taliban and Haqqani and al-Qaeda. Taliban, in particularly, kept the leadership in Qatar.


And, of course, Taliban, Haqqani, and al-Qaeda all kept their senior leaders in the comfort of Pakistan, while their fighters were in Afghanistan.

And, of course, Iran, you know, executes all of those operations through proxy forces that are located and gives orders from the safety of Tehran. So this is, I think, very common to these types of organizations.

HILL: In terms of these organizations, you have a unique perspective. You've been inside a Hezbollah tunnel in northern Israel. We saw some of this new video from Oren of that Hamas training camp, which the IDF took him to in Gaza.

When you look at that, your experience, what stands out to you in that video?

VOTEL: Well, first of, all I was going to look at that image right now. That is not dissimilar to the type of training we would do us some of our forces, markups, training rooms, multi-floor structures to allow our troops to train. I mean, this is exactly what they are trying to do. I think what it demonstrates is that this is sophistication of these organizations, that they are not stagnant. They learned, they're innovative, they make good use of the resources they have.

And to me, this just highlights the importance of continuing to keep pressure not just on Hamas and the other terrorist organizations that we normally do, but, really paying attention to this as a long term problem in the region.

HILL: So many questions about how long the long term could be.

I also want to get your take on the hostages for the first time today, the Palestinian Islamic jihad, which is another terrorist group operating in Gaza, confirmed that it is holding some of the Israeli hostages, possibly as many as 40 according to reporting from Barak Ravid of "Axios". How much does this complicate efforts? By this, I mean the acknowledgment and more than one group is holding nearly 240 hostages. How does that impact efforts to get them released?

VOTEL: I think what it takes is a problem that is already hard, and as another layer of complexity on to having two or more groups were holding hostages. Each one will have separate demands. They will look at the hostages in different ways and value them differently. Some may see more as strategic asset, others may see them in a different light.

And, of course, for negotiators that are working on this to try and get a peaceful release of these hostages, it makes it that much more difficult. Then, of course, the military and those looking after this, having different organizations doing different things here I think just complicates the overall collection around these hostages.

HILL: It raises questions of whether they will be working, too, in those efforts as they're holding the hostages.

I do want your take, President Biden said today, U.S. weapon storage facility in Eastern Syria that used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, because in the words of the president, quote, they struck us. Adding the U.S. will strike again if we have to.

So, we now have new Pentagon video of that strike yesterday. U.S. and coalition forces in the region have been targeted 46 times in just the past three weeks. How concerned are you about a widening war in the Middle East and U.S. involving in them?

VOTEL: Now, I would be very concerned as most Americans should be. I mean, these Iranian-backed militias only have to -- only have to be right one time to cause significant number of casualties or American deaths here, and we're in a different part of the war.

So, I am glad they were striking back, but I do think it's important that we direct our strikes at those who are actually orchestrating the strikes on us. I think -- I think our job here is to remove the uncertainty with Iran and with these Iranian-backed groups that we will not put up with this.

I think it's a very important message for us to send right now, and I think it actually helps contain the conflict and make it very clear to those who want to enter that that is not the right approach.

HILL: General, appreciate your insights tonight. Thank you.

VOTEL: Thank you. Great to be with you.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, CNN exclusive reporting. Special counsel investigating Trump's handling of classified documents may want Trump's plumber, a maid, even a woodworker from Mar-a-Lago to testify. And that's apparently getting under Trump skin.

Plus, a big blow to Democrats. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin saying he will not run for reelection. But, is that because Manchin is eyeing a run for the White House?

And, he sleeps in his office. And like so many Americans, he is living paycheck to paycheck. Is the new House speaker unlike his constituents and his colleagues?



HILL: Tonight, sources telling CNN exclusively that special counsel Jack Smith could be casting a very wide net when it comes to calling witnesses in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. A plumber, a maid, a woodworker, just to name a few of those who may be called to testify against former President Trump. In fact, the list of potential witnesses is -- also we're learning -- getting under Trump skin, when he learned that the maid who cleans his bedroom suite was asked to speak with federal prosecutors. A source says Trump went, quote, ballistic. Paula Reid who broke this exclusive reporting is OUTFRONT tonight.

So, Paula, what exactly is special counsel Jack Smith hoping to learn from these witnesses?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Erica, these folks represent the eyes and ears of Mar-a-Lago. These are ordinary people, who showed up to work, and may have come into contact with some of the nation's most sensitive secrets. Now, certainly, prosecutors also expected to call intelligence officials, Secret Service agents, but, we've learned how far law down to Mar-a-Lago payroll investigators have gotten.

Let's take, for example, the woodworker you mentioned. This is a man who was working on crown moldings in Trump's bedroom in February 2022. He believes he may have seen classified documents. Now, later, he sort changed his story and suggested it could've been a movie prop, but he has spoken with federal investigators multiple times.

And, Erica, I think when people saw the indictment, they were shocked. Many of them to see boxes of classified documents in a ballroom, in a bathroom, in a bedroom, places they do not belong. And this group of witnesses made a, chauffeur, a plumber, these are folks who can really talk about the environment at the resorts, and speak to just how vulnerable these secrets were on a day-to-day basis.

Now, as you noted, the former president is quite frustrated with how deep into the resort investigators have gotten. But, before any folks could be called as a witness, there needs to be a trial.


And right now, the judge overseeing the case, she is contemplating whether to push this back beyond the election. That's something that Trump lawyers have been pushing for. And if former President Trump, if that happens and Trump is reelected, he probably could get the entire case dismissed.

HILL: Yeah, we will be watching to see how all of that plays out.

Paula, appreciated it. Thank you.

OUTFRONT now, Ryan Goodman, former special counsel at the Defense Department, and now, a co-editor in chief of the Just Security legal blog.

Brian, when you look at this, how significant do you think this testimony could be from these various employees at Mar-a-Lago?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: It could be highly significant, especially if you try to match up with the indictment and what it alleges. So, one of the most important pieces of the indictment is the idea that Donald Trump directed one of his aides, Walt Nauta, to take the boxes from the storage facility, bring them to his private residence, where he then picked up and pick up the documents he had. He only returned half them to the storage facility. So, who would know about that? Well, he went ballistic when he found

out that the maid who cleans the bedroom suites was speaking, or could be speaking, was asked if she could the FBI. Why would you go ballistic? Probably because he is worried about something that's not good for him and that she knows about it. She should maybe identify if there were 64 boxes in his private residence, and if this takes time as a several day period in which he's maybe going through them.

HILL: These are really the eyes and ears, right? They could hear see and hear so much.

Paula also mentioned potentially Secret Service agent, intelligence officials, what kinds of constraints could there be, in terms of their testimony and security, national security?

GOODMAN: It's a great question. So, they could have very important information. There's also like the eyes and ears they're witnessing everything because there may be accompanying the former president. But at the same time, you got to be concerned.

You want a judge who has experience with national security matters, who can ensure that the evidence that is relevant to the case comes in. But at the same time, it does not reveal important security information that could be damaging for how these details work, what are the movements of the former president, how do they operate when they're trying to protect him? And that is, in some ways, potentially relevant because we want to know where he was at which times. So, I think that's the delicate balance that has to be shocked.

HILL: The judge, Aileen Cannon, who's a Trump-appointed judge, we're also learning that there is a chance, right, she may push this, supposed to start in May 2024, may push it past the election, citing the former president's busy schedule. And also, this need for the attorneys to go through all the evidence here.

What do you think the chances are that this does in fact get pushed past the election?

GOODMAN: I think it's a very good chance it does get pushed. The judge in this particular case has demonstrated extraordinary favor towards the president last year. She got return twice by a unanimous conservative panel at the 11th Circuit.

And they didn't just say, like, she got it wrong, they're basically things beyond the law what you have done. You shouldn't even have exercise jurisdiction in the first place. That part of the case.

And then she extraordinarily hostility towards a government that I haven't really seen from a judge, even the government just trying to say to her, you know, when you're setting the deadline for the cases going to be, we just want to put you on notice that in our other case, Trump is asked to suspend that case. So, if he's asking to suspend, that it does not interfere with you moving ahead.

And she got upset with the government for suggesting that to her, just bring it to her attention to it. That's very unusual. Usually, a judge would say thank you for being my attention.

HILL: And that's sort of standard practice from the DOJ, correct?

GOODMAN: Very standard practice and completely not standard practice in the part of the judge. So I think that she very well might say, look, I'm going to give him what he wants. What does he really want? To have this trial put back beyond the election.

HILL: It would be interesting to see -- perhaps impacts the other cases. Ryan, really appreciate it. Thank you.

GOODMAN: Thank you.

HILL: So, OUTFRONT next, what do Joe Manchin and the rock of uncommon? Here is your hint, 2024.

Plus, a CNN exclusive, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy unloading on Republicans who ousted him.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't believe he wins reelection. He doesn't have a conservative bent in his philosophy.




HILL: New tonight, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is not seeking reelection in 2024, a major blow to Democrats hoping to hold on to the Senate seat in West Virginia, a state Donald Trump won by 39 points in 2020.

Is that just about control of the Senate? Manchin is also hinting now at the run for president.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): What I will be doing is traveling the country, and speaking out to see if there's an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle, and bring Americans together. We need to take back America and not let this divisive hatred that further pulls us apart.


HILL: OUTFRONT now, Harry Enten, our numbers wiz. Also, Margaret Hoover, the host of PBS's "Firing Line", and David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama.

Nice to see you all of you tonight. Harry, take us through the numbers here. When we look at them, what sort of support does Joe Manchin have were he to launch a bid for the White House? HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I guess it depends on the eye

of the beholder. It's 10 percent. Now, depending on who that is, that is either really high or it's really not high.

HILL: Better than nine, I guess?

ENTEN: Better than I, better than zero, certainly not of the front runners. But, you know, 10 percent to be a lot in a race in which you already have two other third-party candidates involved, right, Cornel West and, of course, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., where there is support when you take that into account, the two front runner nominees, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, are well under 40 percent at this point.

We could end up in a situation where the winner ends up well south of the majority, because a lot of folks simply put don't like them.

HILL: When we look at this, David, in your estimation, who fares better here with a Joe Manchin in the race? Joe Jiden, or Donald Trump?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I don't really have to think very hard about this. I think Joe Manchin is a Democrat, he's been a Democrat all his life. I think it'll be very troublesome for the president if he were there.

I think, generally, these third party candidate and independent candidates, Cornel West, even Robert Kennedy who has big appeal to some Republicans, I think they helped Trump because they lower this threshold that you need to win. Trump has never gotten above 46 percent of the vote. He needs a lower ceiling in order to win the presidency and 30 party candidates helped them. That was true in 2016.

So, this would not be good. We'll see what Senator Manchin does. I'm reminded that Dick Durbin, one of his colleagues, called him the greatest tease in American politics. And I suspect we're going to see -- we're going to see why in the next few months

HILL: We may be hearing some of those lines repeatedly.

You mentioned -- we've heard Cornel West, RFK Jr. mentioned here, but Jill Stein also not throwing her hat in the ring.


HILL: And, Harry, remind us, Harry, in 2016 when she ran, what does that look like in terms of numbers?

ENTEN: Yeah. I mean, look, she only got about 1 percent of the vote nationally and the key swing states as well. But remember how tight the race was. When you look at those key battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, the amount of votes she got was more than the margin between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

So, she -- in many people's minds, played a bit of a spoiler. And again, when we are looking at such a tight race this time around, any extra addition to the equation, goes into one state of who knows? It might make a difference.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The other aspect of this is that Joe Manchin could be on a ticket that is a national ticket, but not at the top of the ticket. There is another independent effort, the No Labels effort, to get on the ballot and all 50 states, that reports of if you are Democrat and Republicans together, you have, and they give them credit, they are sincere in their earnestness, that this would be a noble alternative to a tired Biden-Trump election.

But what they really believes that you could have, take a Republican at the top of your ticket, Democrat who's popular, maybe Manchin is not the top of the ticket. Maybe he -- you know, their argument is that Republican at the top of the ticket with a Manchin second would pull from Trump. That is their argument, and they have a lot of polls to show -- David Axelrod and Harry Enten can rebut. But, that is -- that is the argument that they are making.

HILL: It's fascinating when you look at it. It's also, I mean, we are in this place, right? It's a year out, so many things could happen. I was fascinated, though, by another potential, we don't know, maybe fresh faced in politics, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

ENTEN: Oh, God.

HILL: Just on Trevor Noah's podcast, he said he's actually on the radar of both parties. Take a listen to this moment.


DWAYNE "THE ROCK" JOHNSON, ACTOR: The beginning of the year, at the end of the year, rather, in 2022, I got a visit from the parties asking me if I was going to run, and if I could run.


JOHNSON: I said it's a big deal. It came out of the blue.

NOAH: Wow.

JOHNSON: It was one after the other. They brought up that poll. They also brought up their own deep dive research that would prove, should I ever decide to go down that road.

NOAH: You would be a real contender.



HILL: David, what do you make of that?

AXELROD: Well, look, he is a really popular figure, and he is a popular country culture. I think we've now seen that people can make the jump from popular culture to political success in America. You know, he crosses a bunch of lines, racial lines, political lines and so on. But, there's a lot -- there is a lot of between there and what it

takes to actually run for president, become president. He said family consideration caused him not to do it. So, we'll see. I think it's a conversation for the future.

The one we just had is very relevant, because no matter what the No Labels party says, I think Harry Enten will tell you that you should put down money that one of the major party candidates is going to win. But third-party can't be -- these third-party candidates could decide which candidate that is.

HILL: With a prediction like that, I might have you picked my lotto numbers, David Axelrod.

Margaret, when you look at that, I mean, I don't know that the Rock is a No Labels guy at this point. But, it is always fascinating to hear about parties reaching out to, as David points out, somebody who checks lot of boxes. But does that mean they are really fits and have the experience to run a country?

HOOVER: I wonder --

HILL: What?

HOOVER: Look, by design, the founding fathers wanted civilians to be servants. So, I mean, I don't think there's any pedigree as we know to being president other than getting the majority of the electors in the Electoral College.

I will, say I don't know which parties to reach out to him. It sounds like No Labels query. But, it's hard to imagine like --

HILL: He said they both did.

HOOVER: But, you know, either way, what it shows that we're in this fantasy baseball chapter of our presidential contest, where the field is winnowing, it looks like we know with the candidates, or we have a sense of where the candidates are going to be on the Republican side. It feels winnowing on the Democratic side. We suspect it will be Joe Biden, and people are looking around for others.

We have also heard, there are people in the donor class who whispered about Oprah and fantasize about Oprah still joining in a No Labels ticket as a VP, because, you know, she is new to politics.


I mean, so there is --


HOOVER: Everywhere, all the time, it is because people get tired of the choices.

HILL: Yet, these are the choices they have.

AXELROD: Margaret?

HILL: Yeah?

AXELROD: Margaret, you call it fantasy baseball, I think there are others who probably call it a nightmare.

HILL: Harry, what do you call it?

ENTEN: I call it a dream come true because I would never have experienced anything quite like this. I mean, this is like something out of an Aaron Sorkin script rather than realism, but apparently, we're now living in the "West Wing" or something like that.

HILL: We just -- we just might be. There is a lot, and it'll be interesting to see how it all plays out, because you're right, we know with the players are, and, yet we keep hearing all these things.

All right. Great to see all of you. Thank you. Thanks for playing along.

OUTFRONT next, House Speaker Mike Johnson. He sleeps on the floor of his office. His liability say here is in the hundreds of thousands. Is he frankly more like the average American than the average congressman?

Plus, quit your job, stay home, have children. That's exactly what China is now telling women to do. This is 2023.



HILL: Tonight, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy unloading on the Republicans who ousted him. In an exclusive interview with our Manu Raju, McCarthy sharply criticized Congressman Matt Gaetz and Congresswoman Nancy Mace, both representatives join six other Republicans to vote McCarthy out as speaker.

Here is more of what he said about Gaetz and Mace.


MCCARTHY: People have to earn the right to be here. And I just think, personally, he doesn't have a conservative bent in his philosophy. Just the nature of what he focuses on.

If you've just watched her philosophy, and the flip-flopping, yeah, I don't believe she wins reelection. I don't believe she earned the right to get reelected.


HILL: And this comes as McCarthy's replacement, Speaker Mike Johnson is struggling to come up with a plan to avoid government shutdown in just eight days.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT tonight.

So, Manu, McCarthy asked certainly not mincing words there.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, certainly not. In fact, there are still major questions, too, at this moment, about exactly how the new speaker, Mike Johnson, will avoid government shutdown, and will avoid the same fate as Kevin McCarthy, who had to rely on Democratic support in order to avoid government shutdown passing short-term spending bill. That prompted a revolt from his right flank, ultimately pushing him out of the speakership.

Now, Mike Johnson in a similar predicament. Those concerns are Johnson could get pushed out, but there are concerns about whether not he can pass a bill in the house. There is no words from the speaker's office about how he plans to proceed with just eight days until the government shuts down. The House is out of session, the Senate is out of session, nobody is here.

But, before they left town, they were warnings, and concerns from some of his colleagues that the honeymoon period that he has enjoyed for this brief period could be ending.


REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): I think there's a honeymoon period here. I'm not sure how long it lasts, maybe 30 days. With what's going on the floor today, I think that indicates the honeymoon might be shorter than we thought.


RAJU: So, the question is that how he plans to proceed. If he tries to move too far to the right to keep the government open, then he's going to lose Democratic support, maybe even some moderate support. He could prompt a revolt from the Senate, prompted opposition from the White House, that could potentially lead to a government shutdown.

But, if he did try to move forward with legislation that could get support from the Democrats that could prompt the same problems that McCarthy had. And as one congressman just told me, Erica, the House is a mess. He went on to say Speaker Johnson will have to threats a difficulty needle, while walking at high-wire in gale force winds. That's us right now.

HILL: Yeah, sort of a hamster wheel, but I don't need to tell you that, Manu, do I?

Manu, I appreciate it.

Be sure to tune in for Manu's full interview with former Speaker McCarthy on "INSIDE POLITICS" this Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Well, Speaker Johnson faces his first major test on Capitol Hill, we are still learning more about the Congressman himself, who he is. A CNN investigation into Speaker Johnson's finances show he has more in common with most Americans than he does, frankly, with most of his colleagues.

Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Freshly minted Speaker of the House Mike Johnson facing questions over how he keeps his own financial health in order.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Look, I'm a man of modest means.

SERFATY: CNN's review of Johnson's personal financial disclosures and campaign financial documents since coming to Congress in 2017 revealed that the new speaker appears to be living paycheck to paycheck.

Financial records show that Johnson, like many Americans, does not appear to have much of a safety net. For the past two years, he has not reported any assets, and has never reported a checking account on financial disclosure forms. The speaker's office says, he has a personal bank account, which is exempt from House reporting roles because it's non-interest bearing, meaning he does not have to disclose this type of account under House rules.

While it is unknown how much is in that account, a source with knowledge of his financial situation tells CNN that account is not a big enough to be leaving large sums of money and interest on the table.

All this as Johnson's liabilities are plenty, a mortgage for his family home value between $250,000 and $500,000. A personal loan from 2016, between $15,000 and $50, 000, and a home equity line of credit taken in 2019 for less than $50,000.

As a congressman, Johnson was making $174,000 a year. His salary will now jump to $223,500 as speaker. And he has made over $100,000 teaching online courses at Liberty University since 2018. Last year alone, Johnson collected nearly $30,000 from the college.


On Capitol Hill, to save money on stiff D.C. rent, Johnson is one of the many members of Congress that sleep in their offices.

A source with knowledge says the speaker will continue sleeping in his office for now, but did not know if that will always be the plan going forward.

JOHNSON: There are a lot of things on the minds of the American people.

SERFATY: Johnson's financial standing in stark contrast to many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill, with the median network of his colleagues in 2018 at just over $1 million.

Some former speakers have done well. Nancy Pelosi is worth more than $110 million.

Before coming to Congress in 2017, Johnson was a lawyer. In 2016, he reported making over $20,000.

JOHNSON: I was a lawyer, but I did constitutional law, and most of my career I spent in the nonprofit sector.

SERFATY: And has said that much of his money goes to taking care of his large family.

JOHNSON: We have four kids, five now, they're very active and have kids in graduate school, law school, undergraduate. We have a lot of expenses.

SERFATY: That financial reality, not unlike most American families.

JOHNSON: I didn't grow up with great means, but I think that helps us be a better leader, because we can relate to every hardworking American family. That's who we are. I think it governs and helps govern my decision to how I lead.


SERFATY (on camera): Now, we don't know much about Speaker Johnson's wife and her full financial picture. But, we know she indeed has some coming in. She, according to disclosure forms, has income coming from a few places. A Christian counseling company, work with the Louisiana Right to Life Educational Committee as well as what's listed as various other clients on these disclosure forms.

Now, these lawmakers are not required to stay and disclose how much their spouses are making, but, Johnson -- he goes a few steps farther in some earlier disclosure forms, Erica. He reveals how much she makes and is about 45 to 50 grand a year. And that's in the earlier portions. Now, he has not reported her salary since 2021. So, again, all this just a very small snapshot of the family's full financing.

HILL: Sunlen, I appreciate it, thank you.

OUTFRONT next, China's president is now urging women to drop out of the workforce, and have more babies. Why?

Plus, the FBI now investigating letters sent to election workers in multiple states that may have been laced with fentanyl.



HILL: Tonight, Chinese President Xi Jinping with a frankly stunning message for women -- quit your job, get married, have babies.

Will Ripley is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China's communist rulers face a looming population crisis, a crisis some say, they helped create. Now, they want women to help solve it, by staying home and having more babies.

The one-child policy, decades of forced abortions, and other draconian measures imposed on Chinese people, preventing an estimated 200 million births may be backfiring, experts say.

For the first time since the post-famine years of the 1960s, China's massive population is shrinking. It's maybe too late to turn things around, 1.4 billion people, living longer, getting older, aging faster than the social welfare system can keep up.

China's birth rate also falling fast -- far fewer babies, a baby bust that could cripple future growth. Adding to Beijing's biggest economic charge in four decades, youth unemployment skyrocketing, many Chinese young people struggling to find decent paying jobs, unable to financially support themselves, never mind their aging parents.

Marriage, children, forget about it. The male-dominated government says the solution is simple. A return to traditional family values.

XI JINPING, CHINA'S PRESIDENT (through translator): We should actively foster a new type of marriage and childbirth culture.

RIPLEY: Speaking at the Chinese communist party's annual women congress, President Xi Jinping focused more on family and fertility than women in the workforce. China's most powerful leaders since Mao making his position clear, women need to go back home, have children, and care for the elderly.

XI: Firmly listening to party's instructions, and follow the party.

RIPLEY: Sparking fears of a state sponsored time warp, where women's rights take a backseat to boosting Xi's vision.

YAQIU WANG, RESEARCH DIRECTOR FOR CHINA, HONG KONG AND TAIWANT AT FREEDOM HOUSE: Women would serve as reproductive tools at that time, and now the party wants more people, so the party can do similarly abusive things but just in the opposite direction.

RIPLEY: Propping up the patriarchy, in a nation authorities for suppressing, arresting, and silencing feminist voices -- voices on Chinese social media, the comments not screwed by state censors seem to have a cynical take on traditional family values.

One user writing: Seeing what my mom is going through, I have no desire to get married or have children.

The kind of feeling some fear could ignite calls from the ruling elites to make sure Chinese young people do exactly what the party wants them to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HILL: I mean, it is really something. And, Will, just to really drive this point home, this whole process started in part because of the communist party's own one child policy.

RIPLEY: This is the sad irony of the whole thing, Erica. And, sadly, when families were forced to choose, son or daughter, a lot of families in China chose to have a son. And as a result now, there is a shortage of women in China, 34 million more men than women.

So, they need women to give birth if they don't have enough in part because of this policy and the force abortions that took place when families had to choose, to make a choice that no family should ever have to take in the opinion of certainly most people in the Western free world.


The other thing that's interesting is that one of the most powerful things that the Communist Party is saying is something they're not saying. It's a phrase they use every year at the women's congress. Gender equality is a basic national policy. They're not saying that anymore, and that says a lot, some are saying.

HILL: I mean, it is, it does. It speaks volumes. Will, such an important story. I'm really glad you brought it to us tonight. Thank you.

OUTFRONT next, an alarming discovery. Suspicious letters possibly laced with fentanyl, have now been sent to election offices across the country. And the FBI is investigating.


HILL: Tonight, federal law enforcement on high alert as suspicious mail is sent to election offices around the country. Some of it potentially laced with fentanyl, which could be lethal.

Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, and Georgia among the states where that email was sent.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaking out about the letters.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: If they don't condemn this, then they are not worthy for the office that they are running for. This is domestic terrorism, and it needs to be condemned by anyone that holds elected office, and anyone that wants to hold elected office.


HILL: Fentanyl was found out in an envelope received by election officials in Kings County, Washington, as well. That's home to Seattle, of course. That letter arriving as officials counted ballots from this week's elections. It prompted an evacuation of some 150 workers.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

"AC360" starts right now.