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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Israel Has List Of Hostages Expected To Be Freed Today; Koch Network Backing Nikki Haley In GOP Primary; George Santos Vote In House Now Expected Thursday. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 29, 2023 - 05:30   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: A source telling CNN they are in agreement toward extending the pause in the fighting.

More hostages are set to be freed in the coming hours. Sources say a list of names has been given to Israel and families have been notified. Hamas released 12 hostages at the Rafah Crossing on Tuesday -- 10 Israelis and two Thai nationals.

Here is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We are committed to completing our missions -- freeing all of the hostages, eliminating this terrorist organization above and below ground, and, of course, to ensure that Gaza not return to being what it was and will no longer constitute a threat to the state of Israel.


HUNT: All right, let's bring in Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar who is the author of "Getting to Know Hamas." Shlomi, good morning to you. Thank you so much for being here.

Can you help us understand how this temporary truce is being seen and viewed in Israel? Is there public support for it as long as hostages keep getting released?

SHLOMI ELDAR, ISRAELI JOURNALIST, HAS INTERVIEWED HAMAS' LEADER (via Webex by Cisco): Of course. This is the main mission for the Israelis to release the hostages, but there is a dilemma. When Benjamin Netanyahu promised the Israeli audience that he can aim -- he can bring two missions. One of it, eliminate Hamas, and releasing the hostages.

And I can see this all targeting -- all target can be -- goes together because Yahya Sinwar, the head of the Hamas in Gaza Strip -- he knows how to play the game. He promises well, OK, I release the civilians but he asks for ceasefire. And a ceasefire -- tomorrow, again, a ceasefire. And he tried to get the permanent ceasefire. And this is a dilemma. If you declare a permanent ceasefire you can forfeit the second mission -- eliminate Hamas. HUNT: Right. That makes sense.

As you point out, the hostages released so far have been women and children, by and large.

You've interviewed Hamas leadership before. How much more complex will the negotiations be when this shifts to a different population of hostages -- to men and soldiers?

ELDAR: Yes. This is I think the main issue when Hamas will release all these civilians -- children, women, and old people. Then they have about 80 soldiers.

And I following Hamas for many, many years and now I am researching Yahya Sinwar's personality. And as I can understand, when he tried to negotiate the Israelis, he will ask two requests. One of it, permanent ceasefire. And the second, releasing all the prisoners from the Israeli prison.

I don't see Israeli now can fulfill this request because when you declare ceasefire -- permanent ceasefire, this is the ending of the war. And I don't see Israelis release all the prisoners -- the Hamas prisoners from the Israeli prison.

For example, one of them -- his name is Abdullah Barghouti. Abdullah Barghouti was sentenced for 46 life prison in the Israeli jails because he murdered 46 Israelis during the Second Intifada. I don't see Israel just releasing all of them. And, you know, for political reason, Netanyahu will refuse for it because if he released all the prisoners and declares a permanent ceasefire, this is the end of his political career.

HUNT: Right, yeah. It's really quite a dilemma for him.

I mean, speaking of --

ELDAR: Yes, and also for us -- for the Israelis.

HUNT: Yeah, for sure.

Do you -- do you think that the second goal that -- I mean, obviously, we talked about the release of the hostages -- this second goal of eliminating Hamas -- do you think it's actually possible?

ELDAR: No, I don't think. And I was agreeing with the political figures in Israel when the -- at the beginning of the war. They started to say we have to eliminate Hamas and for permanently. It's very difficult. It's very difficult because Hamas is supported by many, many Palestinians.

And the second thought that -- in Qatar, there are two leadership of Hamas. It's Khaled Mashal and Ismail Haniyeh. And they can recover all the time -- even if you assassinate Yahya Sinwar -- and I think he's the Israel from the beginning of the war trying to targeting Yahya Sinwar.


But I don't think it's possible, especially now when you have two missions. One of the hostages and one unfulfilled mission to eliminate Hamas. And it's very difficult.

I think that Israel started to speak about the day after the war and think who will replace Hamas? It's too early to talk who will replace Hamas because Hamas is now the sovereign of Gaza Strip and I don't see them go anywhere, especially now.

HUNT: Hmm. All right, Shlomi Eldar. Thanks very much for your perspective, sir. I really appreciate your time.

ELDAR: Thank you very much and good morning.

HUNT: All right.

Another boost for Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. On Tuesday, she got a pretty big endorsement from Americans for Prosperity Action. That's an influential political network. It's backed by the billionaire conservative Charles Koch -- emphasis on billionaire.

Haley did not comment on the shiny new endorsement when she held a town hall in New Hampshire last night, but her competitors had a lot to say. The DeSantis campaign spokesman knocked it as a quote, "in- kind contribution" to Trump. The Trump super PAC, MAGA Inc., saying that the group -- the Koch group, quote, "continues to light money on fire."

Let's bring in CNN national political reporter Daniel Strauss to talk more about this. Daniel, good morning to you.


HUNT: Let's talk -- I mean, the Koch group is a sprawling one. It comes with a ton of money. It also potentially, critically, comes with organization.

What kind of impact do you think this is going to have? Because, I mean, on the flip side, supporters of Jeb Bush spent $100 million and they did basically light it on fire because his campaign went nowhere. There is no proof that this big money necessarily actually wins elections. What's your view?

STRAUSS: I mean, it's true that money doesn't always propel a candidate to elected office. At the same time, here, with AFP, you have to remember that this is a group of conservative activists and those are the kind of voters you want supporting you and backing you early or in the middle of a Republican primary. That's the advantage.

And what they are likely to do, according to a memo that AFP released, is provide contact through voters and outreach on the ground, and money to support Haley. But beyond this, this is also just helpful to Haley because it builds momentum and hype. This has been a major talker in political circles over the last day or so, which is what Haley needs. We're at a point in this primary cycle where the real danger for any candidate is to disappear into the back of a voter's mind and be forgotten, and that's one advantage that an endorsement from AFP gives to Haley.

HUNT: Yeah -- no, it's smart points all.

Daniel, I want to talk to you about Donald Trump as well because CNN exclusively obtained a copy of former Congressman Liz Cheney's new book. Suffice to say that we are getting some interesting tidbits about the dynamic between the former president and House leadership at the time.

I want to read you this exchange about Kevin McCarthy's now-infamous trip down to Mar-a-Lago in the wake of the January 6 attacks. Remember, before he did this, of course, he had condemned Trump on the House floor. Basically, he was being sent into political exile.

So, Cheney says to him: "Mar-a-Lago? What the hell, Kevin?" And then McCarthy says, "They're really worried. Trump's not eating, so they asked me to come see him." Cheney says, "What? You went to Mar-a-Lago because Trump's not eating?" McCarthy: "Yeah, he's really depressed."

Let's just pause there for a second. So we learned that McCarthy has gone down to Mar-a-Lago because Trump is not eating. I mean, this basically -- I mean, for context, this basically revived Trump in the eyes of the GOP.

STRAUSS: Yeah, and it came after McCarthy pretty much denounced Trump and connected him directly to the mob attack on the Capitol on January 6.

Look, I think it is clear from this excerpt that McCarthy -- that the critique of McCarthy as someone who tells colleagues what he thinks they want to hear has some juice to it. McCarthy did not have to go down there. But -- and it's conceivable that Trump, like many other presidential candidates who have lost an election, was down after this one. But at the same time --

HUNT: Yeah, it's tough, but --

STRAUSS: -- it is clear from this excerpt that McCarthy did not want to acknowledge the gravity of his actions in this situation.


HUNT: I was -- I was going to say -- you know, this also -- it's funny. This kind of plays into Jack Smith's argument that perhaps Donald Trump actually knew he lost the election. He at least knew enough to be depressed.

STRAUSS: Yeah. I don't really know how incriminating depression via elections can be.

HUNT: I'm largely joking --


HUNT: -- but, yes.


But yeah. I mean, look, this is -- this is clearly something that is going to go into the former -- the further legal proceedings that Trump faces. And it's telling that after so much time we're still learning about January 6 and the immediate aftermath in the coming days and weeks.

HUNT: Yeah. We've also -- we also learned a little bit from that book about how now-House Speaker Mike Johnson and his interest in insinuating himself in the former president's circles. I'm sure we're going to learn a lot more in the days ahead.

CNN's Daniel Strauss. Thank you very much, my friend. It's always great to have you.

Well, up next here, Hunter Biden says he's willing to testify on Capitol Hill next month in public. We're going to have more on that up next.



HUNT: Welcome back.

The clock is ticking for embattled Congressman George Santos after several of his House colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, brought forward resolutions Tuesday to expel the New York lawmaker after a damning ethics report revealed, quote, "overwhelming evidence of law-breaking."

This now means the House has to act on it within the next two days. And Santos' GOP colleagues seem increasingly willing to give him the boot.


REP. GREG PENCE (R-IN): Oh, I think the Ethics Committee -- you know, if you read the report I think that says it all. And I like the chairman a lot and if that's -- it was unanimous and I think it's the right thing to do.

REP. RYAN ZINKE (R-MT): I think -- I think George Santos is toast.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Uh-huh. Does that mean that you're a yes?

ZINKE: That's a yes.


Let's bring in Farnoush Amiri. She's congressional reporter for the Associated Press. Farnoush, good morning. Thank you so much for being here.


HUNT: Look, Santos survived a couple of attempts to remove him this year but, of course, now, this report, which is incredibly damning could make it different. We know that they've been trying to convince him behind the scenes to resign. Part of why we see this so infrequently is that most of the time these people get pushed out before they get a chance to be thrown out. Santos seems to be different.

Do you think he can survive this vote or not?

AMIRI: I think it's tough, right? I mean, if you look at what the parameters Republicans had put around expelling Santos -- a very rare rebuke that happens once in a century in the House of Representatives -- was that they wanted to wait for a conviction. They wanted the legal process to play out.

And then this scathing and, in some parts, shocking ethics report comes out and suddenly Republicans' tunes completely shift. They do not want to wait for a legal process to play out. They want to be done with George Santos well before any of the caucuses that begin early next year. They want both for a moral reason and a political reason to be done with George Santos before the end of the year.

HUNT: Yeah. So, Kevin Hern, congressman, told reporters that Speaker Johnson spoke to Santos yesterday about his future. And Hern told reporters after he left Johnson's office that, quote, "It's our understanding the speaker and George have had conversations up until recently, even an hour ago, about the right thing, possibly, for him to do is examine the position and resign."

What does this say about Johnson that this pressure isn't working, or does it say more about Santos than Johnson in our era of -- our shame- free politics?

AMIRI: Yeah. I mean, I was one of the reporters in the gaggle.

I mean, it was -- it was pretty stunning. If you look at the power of the House speaker is they put out a statement, they put out a tweet, they come and talk to reporters, and things usually get done in most -- you know, in most situations. And Johnson is learning on the job that you have to have -- there's a level of respect and authority that you have to have. That your word has to mean something.

And in some ways, I think this is more about Santos. I mean, I think he really wants for them to expel him. I think he wants them to take this extraordinary rebuke and make a case out of him -- an unprecedented case of waiting before someone is convicted in a criminal court. But I think it will be really interesting. I mean, at this point, it's going to be a large bipartisan vote. But the precedent and the damage that it could potentially do to the institution is something that both Johnson and Santos are arguing for in this case.

HUNT: Right. Well -- and it really kind of underscores how a lot of these members look outside Congress. The ways they're going to make money once they leave. Becoming a martyr, in many ways, honestly, probably furthers George Santos' bank account in the long run, which says a lot about where we are -- not all of it good.

Farnoush Amiri of the Associate Press, thank you very much for being with us this morning. I really appreciate it.

AMIRI: Yeah, thanks for having me. Thanks.

HUNT: All right.

A new strategy emerging from Trump's legal team late Monday night. The lawyers representing him in the DOJ's election subversion trial are requesting thousands of classified documents from the Justice Department. They're arguing that these records, which would come from several past government investigations into Trump's conduct, could help him try to prove that the 2020 election was fraudulent.

They write Trump's fraud claims were not criminal but rather, quote, "plausible and maintained in good faith."

All right, let's bring in CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson with more on this. Joey, good morning. It's always great to see you.

I'm going to set aside the fact that now we know that Trump was depressed when he went down to Mar-a-Lago. He wasn't eating and that Kevin McCarthy had to go talk to him about that. It seems like he actually did know he had lost the election.


However, I'm interested in your view on the legal strategy here. What are they trying to do? Is this a delay tactic? Could it work? What's going on?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yeah. So, Kasie, good morning to you.

So, what happens in any criminal case is you want if you're defending your client anything and everything that may possibly shine light on the potential innocence of your client.

So as a practical matter, number one, there's something called Brady material -- Brady material. What is that? It's named after a case that says that anything that helps the accused must be turned over by the prosecution. So, step one is prosecutors, if they have something that could be helpful to the defendant, need to turn it over.

I'm presuming that prosecutors have done that or they could -- you have a continuing obligation and you will continue to do that if you uncover it.

Separate and apart from that, Kasie, is the defendant and their attorney's responsibility to try to get anything else that may potentially be helpful. So there's a distinction between a fishing expedition and something that may be relevant and material to your defense. A judge will ultimately conclude if there is any relevance at all with respect to this request.

But I am one for broad discovery. Give me anything and everything and we can make a determination as to whether it assists, right?

The last point, and that is that if you don't do it and you're the judge then it leads to the narrative oh, this is a witch hunt. I told you they're being unfair.

HUNT: Yeah.

JACKSON: So you have to be very careful assessing if you're the judge whether you should attend to this obligation or not.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, clearly, they're trying to push that narrative every chance they get.

Joey, while I have you, Hunter Biden -- he offered back in December to testify before the House Oversight Committee into his actions, but only if he could do it publicly. The chairman, James Comer, has rejected that idea. He argued that Hunter was trying to play by his own rules by asking for a public hearing instead of this closed-door deposition that's scheduled for December 13.

What's the strategy here on the part of the Hunter Biden team?

JACKSON: Yeah. I think the strategy is let's face this, right, face- forward. Let's go right into this. And why should we do it in private? Why doesn't the world have a right to know? Why can't I express myself without any spin that may come out that would suggest that my testimony was deceptive, that I was evasive, or anything else?

And so, I think the strategy is, clearly, embrace it. Go in and state your piece. But don't do it in darkness; do it in the light of day. And I have nothing to hide. I know I'm under various clouds but I'm going to be forthcoming. I'm going to be honest. I'm going to be forthright. Why wouldn't you let me testify in public as opposed to doing it in private?

And so, it's a strategy I think they are embracing that is Hunter Biden's theme and that they think they can pull off. I think the indications are he'll testify in private first and then at some subsequent time will testify publicly, perhaps.

HUNT: Yeah, public proceedings can get out of control sometimes and trying to control the narrative is a big part of the -- what's going on here.

Joey Jackson, thank you very much. I really appreciate your time.

JACKSON: Sure, always.

HUNT: All right.

Up next, Palestinians hoping that the Israel-Hamas truce will become permanent. We're going to take a look at the likelihood of Israel extending the pause again, ahead on "CNN THIS MORNING."



HUNT: Welcome back.

The NBA In-Season Tournament bracket now set. The Kings making it in thrilling fashion.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


So a little refresher for you. To make it to the quarter-finals of the In-Season Tournament, you had to either win your group -- there were three groups in each conference -- or have the best record with the best point differential to grab the one wild card available in each conference.

And the Kings and the Warriors -- they were playing last night to determine the winner from Group C in the west. Steph Curry helping Golden State get out to a 24-point lead in this one, but the Kings rallied all the way back. Under a minute to go, Malik Monk going to come up big. He hits a three of the steal to cut the lead to one. Then after another Warriors turnover, Monk is going to get this circus shot to go right here.

The Kings winning a wild comeback, 124-123, to win their group.

The Bucks meanwhile, clinching the top spot in the east last night, rallying to beat the Heat. Damian Lillard hitting two big threes in a 16-6 run to close things out. He and Giannis combined for 65 points. The Bucks win 131-124 to head to the quarter-finals.

So the Celtics knew they had to beat the Bulls by at least 23 points to win their group and they made sure they did. Head coach Joe Mazzulla even apologizing to Bulls head coach Billy Donovan for running up the score. Boston would win that one 124-97.

The Knicks also running up the score against the Hornets, winning 115- 91. And due to point differential, they grabbed the Eastern Conference wild card spot.

So the quarter-finals -- they're now set and you're going to see all four games on our sister network TNT. Monday, it's the Pacers and Celtics, followed by Knicks and -- or the Kings and the Pelicans. Then Tuesday, it's the Knicks and the Bucks, followed by the Suns and the Lakers.

Reminder: the final four teams are going to head to Vegas in two weeks for the semifinals. The championship game will be December 7.

All right, and finally, the second-to-last college football playoff rankings -- they were announced last night. And the headline is that Florida State, despite losing their star quarterback Jordan Travis -- they're still going to be in there right now at number four.

The undefeated Seminoles -- they play Louisville in the ACC title game Saturday night. Georgia, one; Michigan, two; and Washington, three. The Huskies and fifth-ranked Ducks play Friday in the PAC-12 title game. So one of those two teams is going to be in.

The rest of the big conference title games are going to be on Saturday, headlined by top-ranked Georgia facing Alabama right here in Atlanta.


And Kasie, this is the last year for only four playoff teams. Here's hoping they get some chaos. And the biggest thing to make the chaos happen would be for Alabama to beat Georgia. Then the decisions would get really tough for the committee.

HUNT: All right, fair enough, although I've got to tell you I can't -- I can't roll tide. I can't do it. I can't do it.

Go, Blue! That's all I have to say.

Andy, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

HUNT: I really appreciate it.

And thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.