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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Truce Ends: Israel Resumes Combat Operations In Gaza; Soon: Lawmakers To Vote On Expulsion Of Embattled Rep. Santos; Govs. Newsom and DeSantis Face-Off On Fox News. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 01, 2023 - 05:30   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Hostages released earlier in the truce now beginning to tell their stories, describing the conditions and, in some cases -- many cases -- all cases, the horrors of their captivity.

Let's bring in Dr. Itai Pessach, director of the Safra Children's Hospital at Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Doctor, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

This is such a difficult situation to -- for all of us to understand.

Can you help us understand what conditions many of these freed hostages have been in? And also, what particular challenges they face in recovery because many of their wounds, of course, you can't see on the outside.

DR. ITAI PESSACH, DIRECTOR, SAFRA CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL AT SHEBA MEDICAL CENTER (via Skype): Yes, indeed, these are very difficult times for all of us here in Israel but especially to those that were taken by Hamas and spent several weeks in captivity.

We -- the teams that are caring for them at the Safra Children's Hospital and other hospitals in Israel try to really embrace them when they come back and have them meet their families. But very soon after the joy of coming back, which is a very happy event -- an optimistic event after all that time, we start hearing from them the hardships and actually, the terror they have endured while in captivity.

It's the psychological stress they were under along with the strain that the captives have undergone. Their takes continued all the time to -- I don't -- for a lack of a better word to play with their minds and actually give them hope on one hand, and then take it away on the other, which is really a psychological, let's say, combat.

And then, on top of that, they underwent very harsh conditions. Some of them suffered abuse -- physical abuse, sexual abuse, and so on. And that's throughout the variety of ages.

At our hospital, we treated 29 returnees out of the -- out of the group that has come back. Children starting at the age of three and until elderly ladies at the age of 84. Each story of these returnees is different. Each of them underwent a very different path starting at the horror of October 7 when they were taken, and then the incredible journeys.

Some of them were kept alone for all this time. They don't even know -- they didn't even know what happened to their families and loved ones. When they come back we have to also -- on top of all the tragedy and terror they underwent, we also have to break the -- those horrible news to them.

So the psychological effect and the physical injuries that they have suffered are a huge challenge for us as teams -- our medical teams and professionals. But also, it's going to take a very long time for them to recover and hopefully, go back to their communities and to their -- to their lives.

HUNT: Doctor --

PESSACH: When I hear these stories, as a physician and as a human being, the only thing I can think of is that they -- it reminds me of the darkest ages of our time. These are stories that we heard during the Second World War and after it and that's the extent of the -- of the pain and of the anguish that has been inflicted on these people.

HUNT: Doctor, what is your reaction to the fighting resuming with, of course, there still being hostages held in Gaza?

PESSACH: So we -- at the Safra Children's Hospital, we were expecting more hostages to come back. We -- I think -- I speak for myself but also for the rest of Israeli nation we really want all the hostages freed. And when I meet those that have come back and I understand their conditions and the -- and the pain that those that are still there are at this moment under, I can only hope that the fighting would have not resumed.

But on the other hand --

HUNT: Yeah.

PESSACH: -- this has to be solved. So I hope that there will be some prospect for those that are still there and some solution to get them back --


HUNT: Um-hum.

PESSACH: -- as soon as possible because every day --

HUNT: Right.

PESSACH: -- they spend in captivity is a nightmare.

HUNT: It is, indeed.

All right. Dr. Itai Pessach, thank you very much for spending some time with us today. I really appreciate it.

All right. Thanks to -- PESSACH: Thank you.

HUNT: Thanks to a House ethics report, we know George Santos likes his Ferragamo, his Hermes, his Botox, his OnlyFans. We also know that the embattled congressman loves the limelight, speaking at both a news conference and on the House floor yesterday. Santos lashed out at reporters and his own colleagues. He even threatened to bring up their supposed rap sheets and air their dirty laundry all ahead of the third expulsion vote over allegations he fraudulently exploited his campaign for personal profit, among other things.

Let's bring in Mychael Schnell, congressional reporter for The Hill. Mychael, good morning. It's always good to have you on the show.

Santos on the floor yesterday -- who was sitting with him but Matt Gaetz, and he had this to say about the possible expulsion.

What is the precedent here? Does Santos --


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I rise not to defend George Santos, whoever he is, but to defend the very precedent that my colleagues are willing to shatter.


HUNT: So he's making the precedent argument. He's not wrong. This is unprecedented. This is a very rare thing.

Why is there willingness to do it now?

MYCHAEL SCHNELL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE HILL: Well look, Kasie, a number of lawmakers are making this precedent argument, saying that George Santos has not been convicted in a court of law, which means he still deserves to serve in Congress.

But I'll tell you what. The leaders of the effort to expel Santos are taking that argument head-on and essentially saying that the allegations against George Santos -- the allegations outlined very detailed in the 56-page House ethics report -- lays ground to expel George Santos.

Essentially, these proponents of expulsion -- specifically, those New York Republicans -- are saying that the allegations against George Santos are so damning they deserve a new precedent. That if you get elected to Congress on a litany of lies that are detailed in this much specificity, that should be grounds for expulsion. And they're going to take that argument to the House floor today and see if it's going to be able to garner that two-thirds majority vote needed to oust a sitting lawmaker.

HUNT: Yeah.

I mean, part of this is that Santos has refused to resign, right? I mean, in previous situations, these people who have done things like this -- and there have been a number of members of Congress who have done things that are arguably illegal, certainly unethical, and certainly look bad. Normally, the leadership kind of says to them hey, like, you need to leave, and they do -- and he's not.

SCHNELL: No, and he's swiped away at multiple calls to resigning. And remember, Kasie, these calls to resign have been going on since as early as January after that bombshell New York Times report came out in December. He was sworn in, in January. The controversy started immediately.

But time and time again, he has said he has no plans to resign. That he's going to defend his -- that he's going to defend his record. That he's going to have his day in court.

And just yesterday, he held a press conference -- an early-morning press conference outside the Capitol. And he essentially said if I resign they win. He also previously said if I resign that is me essentially saying that everything in the ethics report was true. He wants to have his day in court and have an opportunity to fight these allegations.

So there is no expectation that up until this vote, which is expected to happen this morning, he is not going to resign. And he is going to force his colleagues to take this vote, which for a number of them -- arguably, all of them -- it's a very difficult vote when you have this conversation about weighing precedent but also weighing the political ramifications and the fact that for a lot of these lawmakers, George Santos is a political problem back at home.

HUNT: Yeah, he sure is.

Mychael, while I have you I want to talk about what's going on on the other side of Capitol Hill -- on the Senate side, and Tommy Tuberville, the senator who has held up -- has had this blanket hold on military promotions. It seems like at least a good chunk of that dam has finally broken.

What do we know about why and how these promotions might unfold next?

SCHNELL: Well, look, there are a lot of signs that this Tuberville hold could be coming to an end. One of the most formidable signs coming from the senator himself, telling Politico in an interview that he will end this soon but not today -- not yet.

But the fact that he's acknowledging that this could come to an end soon, telling senators in a lunch this week that he's got options for an escape hatch from this months long hold -- I think it's a lot of the political pressure here coming from both sides of the aisle.

Republicans and Democrats have made strong fronts and strong arguments to have Sen. Tuberville stop this military blockade and push through those hundreds of military promotions that are being stalled. But it's also this looming vote and this potential vote on a resolution that would change the Senate rules to essentially allow the Senate to be able to go ahead with and push through most of these promotions.


I think Sen. Tuberville may be nervous that he may be getting -- eventually getting rolled by members of his party and Democrats by changing these Senate rules, so he wants to be able to fix it on his own. Whether or not he has a viable escape hatch, we'll just have to see.

But, Sen. Schumer, this week, saying that if this military blockade is not ended by the end of next year -- beginning of next year, he's going to bring that rules change resolution to the floor.

HUNT: Right, and that's a threat that many, many of Tuberville's fellow Republicans do not want to see happen.

Mychael Schnell, of The Hill, thanks very much for joining us. Always appreciate you being here.

All right, you're going to be seeing more of Nikki Haley on your TV, especially if you live in an early primary state. We'll have more on that next.

Plus, former President Trump reviving his calls to replace Obamacare. How that is almost certainly going to help President Biden. That's ahead.




GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM, (D) CALIFORNIA: There is one thing, in closing, that we have in common -- is neither of us will be the nominee for our party in 2024.


HUNT: That was California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and that reality did not stop him from debating presidential candidate Ron DeSantis last night in what could be described as an unusual, even bizarre, spectacle.

Newsom, who was widely expected to run for president -- well, maybe not widely expected to run for president in 2024 but certainly talked about as a potential rival to the current president, Biden -- he instead played the role of Biden advocate and surrogate last night.


NEWSOM: I will take Joe Biden at 100 versus Ron DeSantis any day of the week at any age.


HUNT: DeSantis also lashing out during the debate.


NEWSOM: When it comes to --

DESANTIS: That's being a liberal bully. That's being a bully.


HUNT: So for more on this fight for attention on Fox, let's bring in national political reporter for the Associated Press, Michelle Price. Michelle, good morning. It's always wonderful to have you on the show.

What do you make of this?

MICHELLE PRICE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I mean, this was something -- I'm not sure who was wanting this debate besides Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom. It's helpful for both of these men.

Gavin Newsom, if he might run for president in a future cycle in 2028 -- this shows that he can go into a more Republican-friendly area and give a preview of what a general election debate would look like. But it also just shows him, as you said, as a surrogate for Joe Biden -- making arguments for Joe Biden as a good soldier as a Democrat.

If Ron DeSantis -- this is something that he's trying to make the case that he can be a fighter. That he never backs down from a fight. He certainly is embracing this one even though it seems like a fight that is somewhat of a sideshow right now with this campaign.

And this is the kind of thing that can donate -- generate donations for his campaign as he's making his points and kind of hitting on a favorite punching back in -- for Republicans and the California governor.

HUNT: Right. And, I mean, DeSantis, of course, honestly, has changed his media strategy as his campaign has foundered and has gone from refusing to talk to anybody in the mainstream press to basically talking to anyone. And he has challenged Nikki Haley, as well, to a debate in this format because she's been so strong in the main format. We'll see how this kind of -- kind of ricochets.

So, I want to talk about Haley because she is kind of coming up against Ron DeSantis. She's out with a new -- her first -- her first campaign TV ad. We've seen a lot from the super PAC. This is the first that we're seeing directly to camera from Nikki Haley. Take a little -- take a look at a little bit of that ad and we'll talk about it.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to leave behind the chaos and drama of the past and strengthen our country, our pride, and our hearts. I'm Nikki Haley and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: "Leave behind the chaos and drama of the past." Now, that is a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to Donald Trump. However, in that ad, there is no -- the name Donald Trump is not used.

Chris Christie, who is starting to take shots at her because they are now suddenly rivals in New Hampshire as Haley and Christie, frankly, have risen in polls there. Take a look at what Christie had to say.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I saw a new TV ad today out from Gov. Haley and this is what she says. We have to leave behind the chaos and drama of the past. What's that mean exactly, Governor? Why not say it? The frontrunner in this race is Donald Trump. I just said his name out loud and lightning did not strike me. I did not fall dead of a heart attack. I have not been poisoned by a member of his staff.


HUNT: Christie has a way of cutting to the truth of the matter in this particular instance.

PRICE: He does, and that's a tactic that works in some places where there's a bit more of an independent-minded voter, like New Hampshire.

But look, for Nikki Haley, she's also running this ad. It's a big ad buy. It's $10 million. It's also running in Iowa where Donald Trump is still popular. So for your first ad, there are political reasons that kind of make sense to thread the needle and maybe not go directly after Donald Trump.

Governor Haley has mentioned his name more directly when she has been on the campaign trail, tying him specifically to that chaos and some other things in his policies. But she's only just started to really ramp up in Iowa, and that's a state where she's kind of making up ground against DeSantis.

So there's a political reason for her to maybe back off of this, but if she continues to dance away from it you can bet that Chris Christie is going to keep raising this point over and over again.

HUNT: Yeah -- no. I mean, it's a good point that she does say -- she has been willing to use Trump's name on the campaign trail. But there's a big difference between the kind of traction and exposure that you get doing that at a campaign event that perhaps get some earned media and spending $10 million to tell people what you think on the airwaves.


So, Donald Trump, of course, remains the frontrunner here, right, even as DeSantis goes on Fox to debate Gavin Newsom, even as Nikki Haley rises in the polls. He is also out with -- it's his campaign's first ad since August. Let's show -- let's show the ad and we'll talk about it on the other side just because I think that there are some context that needs to be added. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have seen the heartbreak when parents are trying to figure out how they're going to pay for a medicine to keep their kid healthy. But we are seeing lots of positive changes. And thanks to President Biden and Vice President Harris, families can afford medication now.

The idea that we could go back to the policies that helped the rich get richer and left so many people behind -- I don't want to go back. I can't go back.


HUNT: So, that's my mistake. That's a Biden campaign ad on Obamacare. And this is actually, honestly, something that's very much worth talking about. Because the reason the Biden campaign is seizing on this now is because Donald Trump has been out on his social platform essentially saying that he wants to repeal Obamacare.

Now, this was something that he tried to do while he was president. John McCain sank it on the Senate floor in a late-night vote. And it is widely viewed among Republicans, especially here in Washington, as a complete loser and that Donald Trump has basically handed a gift to Joe Biden in focusing on this.

Why is it that the former president has decided that he wants to revive this debate after it was clearly a failure for him when he was president?

PRICE: Well, I think you've just hit the nail on the head. That was a failure for him when he was president. It was something he wasn't able to get done and it was, frankly, kind of an embarrassing thing at the time. He had members of his own party voting down this plan that they spent months having working groups for trying to repeal and replace Obamacare. That was kind of the refrain of the year -- 2017.

You know, the last line of that ad where the woman is saying we can't go back -- I feel like there's a lot of Republican senators who don't -- who feel that way -- that was not a successful debate for them. And you've seen that there's a very tepid response to taking this up again. And Democrats would love nothing more than to add to the list of issues they would like to run on because it was a popular issue for them in the 2018 midterms.

HUNT: Yeah.

All right, Michelle Price, of the Associated Press. Thank you very much for being with us. Have a wonderful weekend.

PRICE: Thank you. HUNT: Former President Trump touting a new endorsement. How former Fox host Tucker Carlson's support could make an impact ahead on "CNN THIS MORNING."



HUNT: Time now for sports. The Cowboys rally in the fourth quarter to beat the Seahawks in a Thursday night thriller.

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


You know, when it comes to who is the MVP of this NFL season, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott -- he is making one compelling case. In his past seven games, Dak now has 21 touchdown passes and just two interceptions.

And he had to rally the Cowboys last night. The Seahawks taking a 35- 27 lead here in the fourth quarter when Geno Smith found DK Metcalf for their third touchdown hook-up of the game. But after a Cowboys field goal and another stop, Dak had the ball. And he found Jake Ferguson here -- a 12-yard score to put the Cowboys in the lead.

And they would hold on to win this one 41-35 to improve to 9-3 on the season. They've now won 14 in a row at home.

And here was Dak after the comeback win.


DAK PRESCOTT, DALLAS COWBOYS QUARTERBACK: Resiliency. Resiliency and just trust and belief in one another. That was why this game was so important -- a close game -- back and forth -- down in the fourth. To be able to overcome that and get this win. Yeah, this team is ready to fight and our brotherhood is real, so we've got to continue to use that.


SCHOLES: Bills linebacker Von Miller, meanwhile, is free on a $5,000 bond this morning after surrendering to police near Dallas. The Super Bowl L MVP is accused of assaulting his pregnant girlfriend following an argument. Miller allegedly left the scene before officers arrived. The woman was treated for minor injuries and not hospitalized, according to police. CNN has reached out to Miller for comment.

All right. Tiger Woods returning to competitive golf for the first time since The Masters back in April at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. And Tiger played well yesterday but he kind of ran out of gas, going four over on the last four holes to finish with a three- over 75, good enough for 18th place out of the 20 golfers competing there.

Afterward, the 15-time Major champ admitted he was a bit rusty.


TIGER WOODS, 15-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION: I'm sore, there's no doubt about that. And we've got some work to do tonight. And I was saying to Todd tomorrow, I'll get back in the gym and activate and get ready for it and hopefully, hit some better shots. And now I know mentally what I need to do better. I think that's something that -- you know, physically, I knew I was going to OK. Mentally, I was really rusty and made a lot of -- a lot of errors in the mind normally I don't make.


SCHOLES: All right. And finally, doctors have cleared USC freshman Bronny James to return to basketball four months after suffering cardiac arrest during a training session. The 19-year-old son of Lakers superstar LeBron James expected to resume practice next week and then he's going to return to games soon after that.

And LeBron told reporters last night he'll be at Bronny's first game no matter what, saying family over everything. He'd miss a Lakers game to do it.


But Kasie, such great news there after that scary moment over the summer that Bronny is going to be back on the court for a game at USC soon.

HUNT: No, you love to see it. I'm so glad he's healthy. I'm sure LeBron is as well.

Tiger Woods -- man, that shot out of the Caribbean brush -- yikes.

SCHOLES: It's scary when you're seeing Tiger have to lean and use -- and use that angle. But hey, he said -- he said he felt pretty good health-wise.

HUNT: Yeah -- no. That's great as well.

All right, Andy. Thanks very much.

SCHOLES: All right.

HUNT: Have a wonderful weekend.

Thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt. I hope you also have a wonderful weekend. Don't go anywhere. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.