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House Republicans Vote To Advance Impeachment Against Mayorkas; Biden Says He's Decided How To Respond To Drone Attack; Hamas Says It Is "Studying" New Truce Proposal. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 31, 2024 - 05:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

It's 5:30 here on the East Coast and obviously, on Capitol Hill where lawmakers on the House Homeland Security had a late night debating articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas. Republicans are trying to oust him for his handling of the southern border.

After 15 hours of debate, the committee ultimately voted along party lines to advance two articles of impeachment for a full House vote. The controversial move could make Mayorkas the first cabinet official to be impeached in nearly 150 years.

Let's bring in congressional reporter for the Associated Press, Farnoush Amiri. Farnoush, good morning.

Bring us up to speed here. It was a very late night. What happened during these 15 hours of debate?

FARNOUSH AMIRI, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATES PRESS (via Webex by Cisco): Yeah. So, as folks who have covered or seen previous markups of articles of impeachment they tend to go very long mainly because one side, usually the minority, is trying to employ a series of tactics to encourage their colleagues on the other side to not impeach this individual. Usually, it has been the President of the United States. Obviously, we're seeing, for the first time in 150 years, a cabinet secretary.

And what we saw was party line disagreements. I mean, Democrats made the argument that what Mayorkas has or has not done does not reach the level -- the high bar of high crimes and misdemeanors that has usually been employed for an impeachment inquiry and for an impeachment effort.

And Republicans said that his -- he breached public trust and he willfully refused to employ laws on the border, and there was a contentious, as you said, 15 hours of debate.

HUNT: Yeah, for sure.

So the question now, of course, what happens on the full House floor? And Republicans have, like, the narrowest of narrow majorities, which makes basically every Republican answer to this question relevant and interesting.

I want to show you what Ken Buck told my colleague yesterday about where he stands on this vote -- watch.


REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): I do believe that there has to be some very, very egregious acts that is just like a crime. And so, in my view, Sec. Mayorkas has not committed that. I am a lean no at this point. I'm still open-minded.


HUNT: So he says he's a lean no. And a reminder for everyone. Ken Buck is leaving Congress and doesn't have a ton to lose there or a ton of things that members can hold over his head to try to get him on board.

What is your sense of the likelihood that this actually makes it through on the House floor?

AMIRI: Yeah. I mean, like you said, there is -- Speaker Johnson has no room for error. They -- as he's talked about, they have a two- person majority at this point and they're already having two people who are saying they are a lean no.

I would note as someone who covered the Biden impeachment inquiry vote that the House authorized last year, Ken Buck was a lean no and a hard no, actually, up until the last few weeks, then he ended up voting yes. So, I mean, he's definitely one to watch. I think Rep. McClintock is also an interesting one.

But like you said -- I mean, for folks who are retiring or who are not running again for reelection, this does seem to be one of those moments where you could vote your conscience. But I think it's likely that by this time next week, we will see a House vote on Mayorkas and it's likely to pass with --

HUNT: Yeah.

AMIRI: -- this Republican majority.

HUNT: Yeah, I don't disagree with that assessment.

Farnoush, this obviously all contrasts pretty deeply with what's been going on in the Senate. We did have the House -- the Republican Conference meeting yesterday. A lot of folks coming out of that meeting saying that basically, any Senate compromise is totally dead in the House. They seem to be soldiering on with it in the Senate.

Where do things stand there in terms of actually -- I mean, are they really going to take this to the floor of the Senate and make people take, potentially, a tough vote if they know that it's going nowhere in the House? I mean, what's next with all this?

AMIRI: Yeah. I mean, we've been all operating under the guise of days. We're days away from legislative text. It has been -- it has been days for -- since January 1. So we're all alert and ready at any time for them to drop text.


But like you said -- I mean, the longer they take to drop text the more there is pressure from the former president, from Republicans in the House for them to destroy any semblance of coalition -- of bipartisanship that has been building around this deal.

But as of right now, I think we are still under the premise that it would come out sometime this week. That once that bill text comes out people don't have to wonder what's in it. Don't have to go off rumors. They can really look and see.

And like many have reported, including us, it is an extremely conservative border policy bill. And I think it will be harder when there is text out for House Republicans to point and be -- and say we shouldn't do this, especially as we're looking at the increasing number of migrant crossings every day.

HUNT: Yeah. I think it's important to underscore that this is likely the very best chance that Republicans would have to get some of these conservative -- more conservative border policies enshrined into law, whether it's because if Democrats do well in the election they could potentially retake the House. Unlikely to happen. If Donald Trump were to win the presidency there's no way Democrats would go along with it. We'll see if they take the opportunity.

Farnoush Amiri of the AP. Farnoush, thanks very much. I appreciate it.

AMIRI: Yeah, thank you.

HUNT: All right. President Biden is still deciding how the U.S. will strike back, but he says he has decided after a deadly drone attack killed three U.S. service members in Jordan. U.S. officials blame Iran-backed militants and Iran denies any involvement. The president has been walking this careful line between diplomacy and making a strong response.

He talked to reporters on Tuesday.


REPORTER: Have you made a decision how you'll respond to the attack?


REPORTER: Mr. President, do you hold Iran responsible for the deaths of those three Americans? BIDEN: I do hold them responsible in the sense that they're supplying the weapons to the people who did it.

REPORTER: Directly responsible?

BIDEN: Well, we'll have that discussion.


HUNT: So, with the course of action decided, the when and the how still remain as open questions. Officials say it will likely be much stronger than the retaliatory strikes that we've seen in Iraq and Syria in the last week.

The president also spoke with family members of the fallen soldiers and he is expected at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Friday for the transfer of the remains of those fallen troops.

Let's bring in CNN military analyst, retired Air Force Col. Cedric Leighton. Colonel, it's always good to have you on the show. Thanks for being here.

So the White House is suggesting that any of this action is going to be aimed at degrading the Iran-backed rebel capabilities. They do want to try to send a strong message. We obviously have Republicans on the Hill arguing that this should be a strike inside Iran.

What is your view of how the administration is likely to balance these competing demands?


I think the big way in which they're going to balance these demands -- they are going to go after one of the main groups in Iraq, and that is the Iranian-sponsored paramilitary group known as Kataib Hezbollah. That is the one group of several that seems to be the most prominent and seems to be the one that based on intelligence is being viewed as the one that's responsible for the attack on Tower 22 in Jordan.

So, that's the first thing that they'll do. They'll go after that.

They may go after some of the logistics areas that Iran uses -- some of the movement areas where they move weapons to groups like Kataib Hezbollah, and they may strike outside of the immediate Iraq-Syria area to do some of these things. But they also don't want to widen the war. And the other thing that could happen Kasie is that they could launch some kind of a cyberattack or special operations attacks.

But those seem to be the main options that President Biden is considering at this point or has considered at this point in time and probably accepted a few of them.

HUNT: So you mentioned Kataib Hezbollah. So, they released this statement in recent days after the drone attack. They said, quote, "We are announcing the suspension of military and security operations against the operation (sic) forces -- occupation forces" -- they mean U.S. troops -- "in order to prevent embarrassment to the Iraqi government."

What does this mean?

LEIGHTON: So, what they are saying is they are going to stop their activities against U.S. forces. They have been largely responsible for a lot of the drone attacks against U.S. installations in Iraq and Syria. So they say they're going to stop that. Everybody is waiting to see if they are really going to do that.

But the point about embarrassment to the Iraqi government -- basically, every time that we respond to one of their attacks, the Iraqi government condemns our movements and our actions against Kataib Hezbollah. They actually have -- Kataib Hezbollah and similar groups have a lot of influence in Iraq and a lot of influence over the Iraqi government.


So what they're trying to do is, on their side, thread their needle to make sure that we don't attack them -- or they think that we might not attack them, or at least not as hard of an attack as we would normally conduct. But I don't think it will have much effect on the U.S. response because we're pretty fired up about this, especially since three of our service members were killed.

HUNT: Yeah, indeed. Let's not lose sight of them, obviously.

OK, Col. Leighton. Colonel, thank you very much for being with us this morning. I appreciate it.

Up next, it's the kiss that triggered a MAGA meltdown. Trump supporters apparently fearing the power of that woman you see right there, Taylor Swift.


HUNT: Welcome back.

Hamas says they're, quote, "studying a proposal" for a renewed truce in Gaza and the return of Israeli hostages. The framework comes after talks in Paris with officials from Israel, the U.S., Egypt, and Qatar.


Hamas saying in a statement yesterday that while the group is, quote, "open to discussing the proposal, they remain insistent that the priorities ending the unjust aggression in Gaza and the complete withdrawal of the occupation forces."

Let's bring in Joel Rubin. He is former deputy assistant Secretary of State in the Obama administration. Joel, good morning. It's always wonderful to have you.


HUNT: Let's start here on this hostage deal. And Netanyahu said yesterday that Israel will not release thousands of Palestinian prisoners or withdraw the IDF from Gaza. And we've obviously heard grumblings that -- around this proposed deal that the Israelis aren't fully happy with it.

How does this complicate things, and what do you see as the path forward?

RUBIN: Yeah, Kasie. Look, it seems like every day there is a twist and turn in these negotiations. And this is why Hamas -- we have to remember -- why they kidnapped these Israelis. It was to protect them when their backs are up against the wall militarily. And that's the position that Hamas is in right now, which is they are using these hostages as a final last gasp way to protect their leadership.

But all of that said, a diplomatic deal has been the only proven way to get the hostages out.

And so, I think for Prime Minister Netanyahu, what he's facing domestically are two poles of pressure coming at him very aggressively. One is the families of the hostages who are very public about the need to have him get a deal to get them out.

And then, on the other side, Itamar Ben-Gvir, for example, a far-right member of his coalition who basically says no to everything. He's sort of like the Matt Gaetz of Israeli politics and he pulls the strings on whether or not Netanyahu survives in his leadership. So, Bibi is really caught.

But ultimately, this does require diplomacy and that's why we see Bill Burns, the CIA director, involved. And that's why we continue to have hope. And I have hope that this will come together but it is every day a twist and turn.

HUNT: No, that's a really illuminating comparison -- the Matt Gaetz of Israeli politics.

RUBIN: Yeah.

HUNT: I really -- I appreciate that quite a bit.

Joel, speaking of the politics of all of this there have been these reports about the call between President Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu where the message was sent that the United States is not up for a year of war in Gaza. Now, obviously, what happens a year after the October 7 attacks? We're going to be headed toward the U.S. presidential election.

What do you -- like, what is your understanding of the situation of Biden transmitting that message and how that is going to affect what actually happens in the Israel-Gaza war?

RUBIN: So, the president's been incredibly supportive of Israel, as you know well, Kasie, I mean, he's been consistently publicly calling for Israel's right to defend itself and privately providing that kind of assurance. And we've been providing significant military aid as well. But there is a political problem growing here domestically, certainly on the Democratic side, for the president's policy, and it's one that allows him a little more space and time but not that much.

And I think that, frankly, Israel as well is recognizing that it doesn't have a permanent ability to wage war against the Palestinians. And so, for President Biden, he's trying gently to get the Israeli government to transition to a more diplomatic phase and focused military operation inside of Gaza. Israel -- the Israeli military leadership seems to be moving in that direction a little bit, but the political leadership gets -- just as we were talking about a moment ago related to the hostages -- very nervous about appearing weak.

And I think that President Biden, though -- he's going to continue to provide that support but he ultimately is telling Netanyahu that if you don't have a diplomatic path out of this you're not going to win the war overall, and the Israeli people are not going to be more secure.

HUNT: Joel, what is your sense of -- Donald Trump has not formally locked down the Republican nomination but he does seem to be on a --

RUBIN: Yeah.

HUNT: -- steamrolling his way to it. And the way that Netanyahu interacted with U.S. elections as far back as 2012 but definitely in 2016 -- it raised some eyebrows because he seemed to be putting his thumb on the scale, in some cases, for Republican candidates.

With that matchup looming -- I mean, are the Israelis thinking about that? Is Netanyahu thinking about that? And if so, how does it affect things?

RUBIN: You know, Kasie, without a doubt, Prime Minister Netanyahu enjoyed having Donald Trump in the White House. He appreciates President Biden, too. But to be direct about it, I think he would like to have Donald Trump back in the White House next year. And I think that his calculations are one where he's not just thinking about next month but also about the next year and can he get the kind of freedom of action and irresponsible leadership out of the White House that he got when Donald Trump was there.

Remember, Donald Trump, for example, destroyed American diplomatic credibility in the Middle East when he ripped up the Iran nuclear deal. Our allies in the region look at us with a bit of a side eye, wondering whether or not we're really reliable, especially if Trump comes back in.


And ripping up that deal undermined our security interests and allowed Iran to advance this nuclear program to a point where it's very close to getting a nuclear weapon. So -- but for Netanyahu, that was a win. And I think the prime minister -- we saw in 2015 when I served at the

State Department, he came to Washington and attacked President Obama's nuclear deal. And he did that in coordination with the Republican leadership -- with John Boehner -- at the time. So he certainly understands that there is that longer game.

But it's a losing hand. I just want to add that it's a losing hand. Support for Israel and the United States depends upon bipartisan support. Democrats vote for supporting -- Democratic leaders vote for support for Israel consistently and Jewish Americans, strong backers of Israel, also are Democratic.

And so, I think it's really a problem for Israel's long-term political position in the United States if the prime minister plays politics here again, as he did in the past, especially as President Biden has been so supportive of Israel's right to defend itself right now in this war.

HUNT: Yeah, I remember that, too, when Boehner invited Netanyahu. It was a pretty remarkable moment.

RUBIN: It was a moment.

HUNT: Joel Rubin, thanks very much as always for your insights. I really appreciate it.

RUBIN: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Up next here, the special prosecutor in Donald Trump's Georgia election subversion case is preparing to testify in his own divorce hearing. We'll have more questions he will not be asked about coming up.




JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, ABC "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Let me get this straight, OK? The same people who believe Joe Biden has dementia and needs Kamala Harris to feed him butterscotch tapioca every night also believe that he has somehow planned and executed a diabolically brilliant scheme to fix the NFL Playoffs so the biggest popstar in the world could pop up on the jumbotron during the Super Bowl in between a Kia and a Tostitos commercial to hypnotize her 11-year-old fans into voting for Joe Biden.


HUNT: Taylor Swift is really driving some people in the MAGA movement totally crazy, right? Now that the Kansas City Chiefs and their most famous fan are heading to the Super Bowl, the MAGA conspiracy theories are exploding.

A couple of weeks back there was this one where Swift is a secret agent of the Pentagon. Then there's the one where she and Travis Kelce are making this all up -- their romance -- to try and boost COVID vaccine sales.

And then, there was former presidential candidate and now Trump supporter, Vivek Ramaswamy, who is taking a step further. He says he believes that the romance is concocted and he wrote this. Quote, "I wonder if there's a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall."

OK, guys, maybe we should all just shake it off, OK?

All right, let's go now to actual sports. Five professional hockey players facing sexual assault charges in Canada over an alleged incident that happened more than five years ago.

Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Coy, good morning.


The four current NHL players and one former player were all part of Canada's World Junior Hockey League at the time. One woman claims that she was sexually assaulted in a London, Ontario hotel in June of 2018.

Police initially investigated but closed the case. It was later reopened after Canadian sports channel TSN reported the sport's governing body, Hockey Canada, had settled a lawsuit involving the woman, eventually prompting parliamentary hearings over Hockey Canada's handling of the case. Investigators are scheduled to address the charges in a press conference Monday.

Former Ottawa Senators forward Alex Formenton, who now plays professionally in Switzerland, turned himself into police on Sunday, according to his legal team. The others, according to their lawyers or their clubs, include New Jersey Devils Mike McLeod and Cal Foote, Philadelphia Flyers goalie Carter Hart, and Calgary Flames center Dillion Dube.

The players have all taken leaves of absence from their teams and through their lawyers deny any criminal wrongdoing, and say they will fight the charges.

The NHL declined to comment when reached by CNN. CNN has also reached out to the woman's lawyer and Hockey Canada, which apologized in 2022 for what it said was inadequate action regarding the assault allegations, replacing its CEO and board of directors.

Let's turn to the NBA now. The Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers getting some new swag, showing up to catch the Golden State Warriors face the 76ers. And Steph Curry was money like a Brinks truck, draining eight 3-pointers on the way to a 119-107 win.

Sixers fans would have been holding their collective breath seeing reigning league MVP Joel Embiid get his leg fallen on in the fourth. He would limp off the court. Embiid is set to have an MRI on his left knee later today.

LeBron and the Lakers playing next door here in Atlanta. Hawks stars Trae Young and Dejounte Murray combining to score 50 points at the ATL cruises to a 138-122 win. Young made his first six 3-pointers finishing with 26 points and 13 assists.

Now, there were some questions about whether LeBron would even play in back-to-back nights but he played 36 minutes, dropping 20 points.

Our Andy Scholes spoke with King James after the game.


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Do you think the fans appreciate what you're doing at 39 years old? I mean, like, how hard is it for you to still play at your level?

LEBRON JAMES, FORWARD, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Um, I don't really get involved in that -- the thought process. I just try -- when I'm healthy enough to go out there and play I just try to perform at a high level and help my teammates do great things on the floor. Try to be productive and be satisfied with the way I approach the game. That's all I can ask of myself.


WIRE: And finally, Kasie, your beloved Baltimore Orioles may soon have a new owner Peter Angelos has agreed to sell the baseball team he's owned for more than 30 years to a group led by billionaire David Rubenstein and includes Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. The price tag, $1.7 billion. That's almost exactly 10 times the $173 million Angelos and his partners paid back in 1993. The sale still has to be approved by the other MLB owners who are set to meet next week.


But seems to be some positive reaction there in Baltimore and hopefully --

HUNT: I --

WIRE: -- things go well for your Orioles.

HUNT: If Ripken is coming back or is going to be more involved, I can't see Baltimore anything other than loving it. I think the most important thing to me is that they just stay in Baltimore, which seems like we've gotten an answer --

WIRE: There we go.

HUNT: -- to that question.

Coy, thank you so much --

WIRE: You got it.

HUNT: -- for that.

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