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IDF Appears On Verge Of "Significant Ground Operations"; Biden's Pledge Of Support Wins Praise Inside Israel; Tens Of Thousands Flee Northern Gaza After Israel Evacuation Order; Blinken Speaks After Meeting With Egyptian President; Jordan's Prospects For Winning Speakership Look Grim; Trump Criticize Netanyahu, Calls Hezbollah "Smart". Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired October 15, 2023 - 11:00   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Striking back.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Hamas is ISIS, and just as ISIS was crushed, so too will Hamas be crushed.

RAJU: Israel lays siege to Gaza as it reels from the horrific Hamas attacks. It's a full-scale ground invasion imminent.

Plus, united front.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an act of sheer evil. We must be crystal clear. We stand with Israel.

RAJU: Biden pledges unequivocal support as another global crisis tests his foreign policy instincts.

And a House very divided.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We really need to get our act together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's bordering on the absurd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're playing with fire, and we need to stop playing games.

RAJU: As a leaderless Congress devolves into chaos, can any Republican get the votes to be speaker?

INSIDE POLITICS, the best reporting from inside the corridors of power starts now.



RAJU: Good morning. Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju. We'll get to politics later in the show, but at this hour, major developments to tell you about in the Mid-East. Overnight, Israel says it struck more than 100 military targets inside Gaza, including Hamas headquarters, military compounds, and missile launchers. Hamas responded by firing rockets at the Israel city of Stradot.

The IDF also says a missile strike killed a Hamas commander who allegedly led deadly attacks on kibbutz near in Israel over the weekend -- last weekend.

The overnight strike comes as Israel forces are preparing for, quote, the next stages of the war. And as conditions inside Gaza continue to deteriorate, with water and food supplies running dangerously low, Doctors Without Borders is warning of a complete catastrophe in Gaza.

Israel, a bipartisan Senate delegation led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was forced to take shelter today from a Hamas attack.

A reminder, Schumer tweeted of the need for the U.S. to help Israel defend itself. And the Pentagon says the second U.S. carrier group led to the region, led by the USS. Eisenhower is deploying to the region. As Iran warns of far-reaching consequences, if Israel doesn't stop its attacks on Gaza.

The number of Americans killed in a Hamas attack says now risen to 29. And with at least 15 U.S. citizens remain unaccounted for and are potentially among the hostages held by Hamas inside Gaza.

And this morning on CNN STATE OF THE UNION, President Biden's national security adviser says covering those American hostages is a top priority for the administration.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The President has been very clear that he has no higher priority than getting Americans back safe, Americans who are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza right now.

We know there are 15 unaccounted for Americans, but we cannot confirm the precise number of American hostages being held by Hamas at this time. All we can do is to continue to work closely with the Israeli government on hostage recovery options, which we are doing.


RAJU: We're also hearing more heartbreaking stories from the families of Israelis who are desperate for a word on their family members who are kidnapped by Hamas.


ADVA ADAR, GRANDDAUGHTER OF KIDNAPPED WOMAN: I don't know if there's even a word that can describe how it feels to watch your grandmother, your 85-year-old grandmother being kidnapped.

We're very worried about her. And, you know, we haven't heard anything since this horrible video. We're trying to stay positive and help. Hope there's going to be help. And that she will survive this.


RAJU: I want to bring in CNN's Sara Sidner who's reporting today from Tel Aviv. Sara, what are you hearing from officials there? And is there an expectation that this ground invasion into Gaza is imminent?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think the clear answer to that is, yes, it is imminent. Israel saying that it is prepared for the next stages of war. That is how the IDF put it.

But they have amassed a huge number of soldiers on the border. We're talking hundreds of thousands of soldiers who have, many of them, reservists who have come back to Israel, who live in Israel and have been called up to duty. You're seeing some of those pictures now of a tank moving along the border with Gaza. We are seeing all sorts of preparations underway.


And we are also, you know, seeing airstrikes that had been going on throughout the overnight. And conversely, we have also received some incoming rocket fire from Hamas into Israel and actually very close to us here in Tel Aviv.

There is no doubt that a ground incursion is expected and is imminent after a 24-hour warning was given back on Thursday night, by the way, to those people residents living in Gaza to leave northern Gaza and somehow get to safety.

You know, it is one of the most densely populated places on earth. That seemed an impossibility. And indeed is, according to the UN, an impossibility, but there is some movement or people trying to get out from the Rafah border. That is the border with Egypt.

There is fear. There is anxiety in Gaza in a way that is -- that is certainly palpable for those who are there. There is also concern on the -- of course, this side of the border here in Israel. People are afraid for their family members as those rocket attacks keep coming and afraid for those who are soldiers who will likely be going in on foot and in tanks into Gaza. Manu.

RAJU: And, Sara, tell us about this humanitarian situation that is developing now inside of Gaza.

SIDNER: It's a disaster. I mean, the UN is very clear in saying, look, for the last seven days, there has been no water flowing into Gaza. There has been no food allowed into Gaza. There has been no fuel allowed into Gaza, meaning, that the electricity is completely out with a few exceptions of people that have generators with a very large tank.

But most of the city is dark. The hospitals are struggling. They don't have what they need. They have hundreds of people that they have been treating. And so it is a -- it is a disaster. The water is starting to run out where people do not have potable drinking water.

We did get some news today. The National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, speaking to our Jake Tapper said, actually, he's talked to his Israeli counterparts, and they have said they are turning the water back on in Gaza. That will be some relief to the families and the people trying to just survive all this who are innocent civilians trying to get through this war without being killed, maimed, or getting sick because of the situation there. It is a humanitarian crisis and it will likely get worse, Manu.

RAJU: A heartbreaking situation. Sara Sider, reporting from Tel Aviv. Thank you for that report.

And here with me now to share their expertise and insight, CNN Global Affairs analyst Kim Dozier, and Axios Political and Foreign Policy reporter Barak Ravid. Thank you both for joining us.

Kim, I want to start with you. You've been covering wars for some time, for many years now. And there's this talk about sending -- the U.S. sending these carriers into the region. The second set of carriers. There's also coming as Iran is warning of these far-reaching consequences if this war doesn't end. Hezbollah and Israel have exchanged some fire in the Lebanese border.

How concerning is it at the moment for officials in the region and here in the U.S. that this could turn into a broader conflict?

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, those carriers are there to send a signal to non-state actors like Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah in Lebanon and two factions within Syria that are armed with Iranian missiles, according to Israeli officials, that if they decide to get into the fight, they could face American firepower.

It's also a message to Iran itself not to think about taking advantage of this situation. But if Hezbollah does get involved at the border -- right now, it seems to be Hezbollah is just using mostly harassing attacks that engage the Israeli military, making it concentrate on two different fronts, making it split its assets like the Iron Dome assets.

But if that steps up and Israel has to split its effort and all of its civilians across the country are facing missile fire from the north, that's when you get into the game-changing multiple front war.

RAJU: And, Barak, you've been covering Israel for your entire career. In fact, just moving here a couple of months ago from Tel Aviv. What are you hearing from the Israelis about as they weighed this and planned this ground invasion? How much are they weighing that this could turn into a broader conflict in the region?

BARAK RAVID, AXIOS POLITICAL AND FOREIGN POLICY REPORTER: I think that for months, when you spoke to Israeli Defense officials, the Prime Minister's office, you heard the same phrase. This is a multi-arena conflict.

[11:10:02] They were preparing for such a thing. They did not think it would happen like that. They thought it might -- the West Bank might explode first, maybe Lebanon might explode first, they did not look at Gaza. But a multi-front conflict was something that they were talking about for a long, long time.

RAJU: And look, this is all as they weigh this ground invasion -- planned this ground invasion. This is going to be incredibly complicated in this densely populated area in Gaza. I mean, the U.S. had bad lessons from Iran going into places where similar situation in terms of the population, innocent civilians there.

How complicated will this ground invasion be in Gaza?

DOZIER: Well, Israeli officials have set themselves a very difficult goal of taking out the Hamas leadership and disabling the Hamas militarily and politically. Hamas has bragged that it has more than 300 miles of underground tunnels. It has factories that make everything from Kalashnikovs to missiles. All of that needs to be found.

And just for comparison, think about the battle for Mosul in Iraq that ISIS took over. It's about the same size and population of the territory of northern Gaza. It took Iraqi and U.S. and Western forces three years to clear that out. So we're looking at what could be a long campaign.

RAJU: I mean, and Israel is trying to decapitate the Hamas leadership. I mean, what if they're successful in that? What is the -- what is the long-term strategy for what this war will look like if Hamas, the leadership is eliminated here?

RAVID: I don't think anybody knows. I don't think there are -- not that I don't think -- I know that there was no discussion yet about the next step and about the exit strategy and about long-term because everything right now is focused on the goal of first taking out Hamas, dismantle its military infrastructure.

To be honest, I'm not sure that such a thing is even possible. OK? And we have to understand, you know, we make this comparison between Hamas and ISIS when it comes to its cruelty. And I totally agree with that.

But Hamas is not ISIS and the meaning that it has a political base among the population. It's not like this external actor that came one day and took everybody hostage. It won an election in 2005. So I think where -- we -- people have to understand that there's a broad base of support for Hamas in Gaza, even if there's a large part of the population that is -- that rejects what Hamas did. So it's not exactly like ISIS.

DOZIER: Now, there is an idea of inviting the Palestinian Authority in afterwards to maybe take over. But the worry is then that would make the Palestinian Authority look like Israeli stooges that are doing the Israeli bidding.

And already, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas both, they got elected and then they haven't held follow-up elections. They've just held on to power. So in many ways, with their own people, the Palestinian Authority has just as little credibility as Hamas does.

RAVID: And the Palestinian Authority can barely stand in the West Bank already. So sending their people to Gaza, I don't see that.

RAJU: Yes. Look, I mean, this all comes, of course, as we talked about the humanitarian crisis playing out. I mean, 2,300 people have been killed, including 700 children -- 423,000 people displaced, and buildings destroyed, widespread power outages, difficulties of getting clean water and food supplies.

The U.S. has been unequivocal, so far, in its support for Israel. But the question will be the limits of the support, if it turns into a larger scale, humanitarian disaster. This is what the president said about that.


BIDEN: We're making sure Israel has a need to defend itself and respond to these attacks. It's also a priority for me to urgently address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

You know, we have to -- we can't lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas, and Hamas is appalling attacks, and they're suffering as a result as well.


RAJU: I mean, is there a limit to the U.S. support here?

DOZIER: Let's be clear that the U.S. has to support Israel in this situation, but it is going to get worse. When you try to flush that many people south, if humanitarian aid could get in, the best-case scenario would be open-air U.N. style refugee camps.

And water, food is already running out in many locations. One of the things this is doing is these images are galvanizing support across the Arab world, among a young Arab population had really not paid much attention to the Palestinian crisis. That's why all these Gulf leaders were able to move ahead on normalization plans with Israel, because their population wasn't paying attention. These images, a whole new generation, is paying attention, and that is going to become a problem for the U.S. to come.


RAJU: Meanwhile, I mean, how are Israelis viewing how Netanyahu is dealing with this right now? And what does this mean for him and leading this country?

RAVID: First, Netanyahu's political situation, these days, is the worst it has been since 2006. OK. In the last poll that was done just the other day, the Likud got only 19 seats, which is, again, the worst since 2006. And I think that we have to look at the big picture for a second. Nine months ago, Netanyahu returned to the Prime Minister's office, started this judicial overhaul that ripped the Israeli society apart, weakened the Israel economically, militarily, internationally.

And Netanyahu was warned, time and time again, both in private and in public by his Minister of Defense. He fired his Minister of Defense because he warned him that such a scenario could happen because Israel's enemies were looking at the Israeli society being ripped apart and said, you know what? Maybe now it's a good time to challenge them. And this is exactly what happened.

So while there was a tactical surprise last Saturday, with this attack, strategically it was not surprising at all because all of Israel's intelligence services said again, in private and in public that such a scenario can happen.

RAJU: So much, so many questions about the intelligence field that has led to this crisis that's unfolded.

RAVID: No. I mean, that's what I was saying that it's not only, and there wasn't intelligence failure obviously, but it was more than that. The political echelon took a decision for nine months to focus on something that is completely unrelated to Israel's security and that was negative to Israel's security and this is where we are right now.

RAJU: So much to follow up there. Thank you both for coming in and talking about this morning.

And up next, my brand-new reporting from inside the House GOP chaos and Jim Jordan's ongoing battle to the Speakership.



RAJU: We're standing by for a press conference from Secretary of State Antony Blinken. We'll bring that to you live when it begins.

And now with Israel still reeling from the horrific scenes of violence after Hamas attack, President Biden had a clear and unequivocal message for Americans, Israel and the world.


BIDEN: This is an act of sheer evil. So in this moment, we must be crystal clear, we stand with Israel. We stand with Israel. There's no justification for terrorism. There's no excuse.


RAJU: That pledge of support reportedly watched live by nearly half of Israeli households as winning praise inside Israel, including in Tel Aviv billboards with the message, "Thank you, Mr. President." In a phone call yesterday, their fifth since the confer began, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Biden for his deep -- for his, quote, deep and unconditional support for Israel. But with the outbreak of yet another global crisis putting Biden's foreign policy experience to the test, a new CNN poll out this morning finds Americans, as they are on most things, split down the middle, with 47 percent saying they trust Biden to make the right choices amid the Israel crisis versus 53 percent who don't.

All right. Joining me here in the studio are my excellent panelists here. Guys, thank you all for joining us this morning.

Tamara, you covered the White House and you were watching President Biden dealing with this very closely. How -- the White House has a lot to balance here. Obviously, the President has a re-election campaign. Domestic politics are always front and center of the mind of voters.

How do you assess how the president is handling this and how much this is taking the focus away from the other pressing domestic priorities at the moment for the White House?

TAMARA KEITH, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So President Biden's foreign policy experience is a big part of his political identity. And the President and his team are clearly leaning into this crisis. They don't really have a choice but to lean into it.

And President Biden is quite pro-Israel. He is arguably more pro- Israel than the center of his party than many parts of his party. But he is -- he is leaning into this, owning this, delivering multiple speeches about it. He'll be on 60 Minutes tonight.

And in this coming week, we expect him to send up a request for funding to Congress, though Congress can't actually pass legislation right now, but to send up a request for funding for both Israel and Ukraine. Because the White House and the president don't want to let Ukraine drop.

Having foreign policy success doesn't necessarily translate to domestic political benefit, but having foreign policy failures can become a leadership failure, and that can translate to domestic political, right?

RAJU: Yes. And our colleague, Kevin Liptak, wrote about this for CNN, talking about how he's juggling these foreign policy and domestic political challenges.

Kevin writes in this piece, "The dueling focuses foreign and domestic have at moments felt somewhat jarring. Biden's outrage at fury at the images emerging from Israel has translated to some of his most forceful public speaking as president, making it somewhat dissonant to hear him deliver more routine messages about airline fees, firefighter pay, and the manufacture of hydrogen."

I mean, elections typically turn on domestic issues. Is it different this time, given what's happening in Ukraine, given what's happening here in Israel? LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It could be. And I was actually just talking to a Republican who thought that maybe Israel would help. And the way that the president has presented himself in response to what happened could potentially help President Biden and hurt Republicans.

And we saw how former president Trump reacted by calling Hezbollah very smart and going after Benjamin Netanyahu and then having to quickly backtrack that, because that's not something that a number of voters are --

RAJU: OK. I don't mean to interrupt. Antony Blinken in Cairo.


ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We are here at what is an extremely difficult and very tenuous time for the region in the wake of the slaughter perpetrated by Hamas.

We came here with four key objectives, to make clear that the United States stands with Israel to prevent the conflict from spreading to other places, to work on securing the release of hostages, including American citizens, and to address the humanitarian crisis that exists in Gaza.


We started, as you know, in Israel. And it was important to make it very clear that the United States has Israel's back. We will stand with it today, tomorrow, and every day. And we're doing that in word and also in deed. I spent time with Prime Minister Netanyahu to go through the needs that Israel may have to make sure it can effectively defend itself. And you've already seen a lot of that assistance moving forward, and that's a conversation that will continue.

Israel has the right. Indeed, it has the obligation to defend itself against these attacks from Hamas and to try to do what it can to make sure that this never happens again.

As I said in Tel Aviv, as President Biden has said, the way that Israel does this matters -- needs to do it in a way that affirms the shared values that we have for human life and human dignity, taking every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.

After we left Israel, we've gone now to -- I think I've lost track, but to six countries in the region; Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, now here in Egypt. And the purpose of seeing all of our partners was first and foremost to listen to them, to hear how they're seeing this crisis, and to look at what we can do together to deal with many of the concerns that it's raised.

What I've heard from virtually every partner was a determination of shared view --

RAJU: I think we lost our feed of there of Antony Blinken. We'll try to bring that back when we can. He's speaking in Cairo after meeting with the Egyptian president there.

CNN's Kimberly Dozier is back with me. Kimberly, what's your take on Secretary Blinken's comments right now? And why was it so important for him to meet with the Egyptian leaders at this key moment?

DOZIER: I think that Blinken is trying to keep communication open and keep this from becoming a multi-front war by listening to their concerns and trying to facilitate -- remember, there was some hope during this past week of facilitating a release of the women and children among the hostages being held by Hamas.

But this was also a message from Blinken to Israel. He said that Israel has a right to defend itself, but added, the way Israel does this matters. That is just a cautionary note to Israel over and over that it needs to be careful of civilian casualties. And I think that's one of the reasons we've seen a delay to a pre-planned possible ground invasion over this weekend, though the weather also was apparently not favorable for it.

RAJU: Thanks for that, Kimberly. Back here with me in the panel. I mean, this all comes as it's playing out on how the U.S. will deal with this, how Democratic leaders, Republican leaders, and the White House.

There's a new CNN poll out this morning that discusses about how Americans view how the president is dealing with this. I want to look at this.

One interesting thing, younger -- how younger Democrats are less likely to trust Biden about Israel. There's trust -- the question was about whether or not Biden is making -- is they have trust that Biden will make the right decision on Israel. This is among Democrats over the age of 45, 50 percent, under the age of 45, 18 percent. I mean, that is significantly different.

Among Democratic voters, younger voters don't seem to trust and Democrats Biden to make the right decision, but older voters do. What do you make of that?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, older voters do, but 50 percent is also not exactly overwhelming confidence in the president, right? And, Manu, I think what you have there is Biden sort of squeezed on both sides, where younger voters don't trust him to handle this in a way that's consistent with their values, which tend to be more skeptical of Israel, far more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

And older voters, I don't think the poll literally says this, but you see this kind of feedback on Biden consistently, don't necessarily see him as having just the vigor and fortitude to handle difficult situations. You know, this is a president who -- most people who work in the world of policy see him as having handled the war in Ukraine exceptionally well, certainly relative to the sort of comparable crises in recent years.

His polling numbers on that issue are not overwhelmingly positive. When you see a situation like this, where he goes out and gives this emphatically pro-Israel statement, every member of his administration is front and center dealing with this crisis and you're getting 50 percent confidence among older Democrats, that is a real sign of skepticism and in this administration in general.


RAJU: And meanwhile, Democrats, you know, and they have been some members on the left, far left to the Democratic Caucus who have been more outspoken in their criticism of Israel. They've gotten a lot of pushback and blowback. But there are a small number of members of Democrats who feel that way. Listen to what Jared Moskowitz says, a Florida Democrat is a more moderate member says about how Democrats are viewing this moment, and there was support within their party for Israel.


REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ, (D) FLORIDA: There's 212 Democrats, right? And you know, 207 of them, 208 of them have been steadfast with Israel, and always been steadfast with Israel. And so look, the members that have not done that are wrong, but they are the minute to minute, quite frankly, some of the fringe on the left, you know, have responded in a way that they're showing their true colors.


RAJU: And there's one member on the left of the Democratic Caucus who has disavowed his support for a socialist group in Michigan, because of the way that they had messaged the war here and had -- had some things that caused him alarm, showing you kind of how they are divided on this, on the far left. Listen to this.


REP. SHRI THANEDAR, (D) MICHIGAN: Behind all this talk, I saw anti- Semitism. I saw hate for Jews. And not their ability -- inability to accept what just happened, just trying to, you know, almost what should I say, glorify the -- the terrorist. If that is how they want to look at this, I don't want to be a part of that.

RAJU: You don't want to be associated with that part of your party anymore?

THANEDAR: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.


RAJU: And we just got our feedback with Antony Blinken. Here he is.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: -- moving forward, including practical ideas on getting assistance to Palestinians in Gaza who are in need, but also good and important conversations about the future, and where we hope ultimately, together we can -- we can bring this in a much more positive way. In terms of the conference that Egypt is putting forward. Look, we think these kinds of initiatives are good or good ideas. Anything that can look in practical ways that how we can help get assistance to Palestinians who need it, that can look at ways to ensure that this conflict doesn't spread, that can look to the future as well. I think it's a positive thing.

And what's very clear is this, there are two very different visions for the future and what the Middle East can and should be. There's a vision that we very strongly espouse that has countries in the region, normalizing their relations, integrating working together in common purpose, and upholding and bringing forth the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people. That's one vision. It's very clear.

There's another vision that Hamas has demonstrated in the most horrific way. And that's the vision of death, of destruction, of nihilism of terrorism. That's a vision that does nothing to advance aspirations for Palestinians, that does nothing to help create better futures for people in the region. And does everything to bring total darkness to everyone that it's able to -- to affect.

So I think the two -- the paths are clear, the visions are clear. And I have no doubt what path people the overwhelming majority of people in the region will choose and will prefer, if given the opportunity. So our responsibility, all of us who believe in that first path, and that's everyone I talked to. Our responsibility is to make it real, to bring it to life, to make it a clear, affirmative choice. And that's what we're determined to do. We have to get through this crisis first. And we're working to do that. But we also have to get back in a very clear, practical way to that vision to making it real. If we do that, everyone in this region will be in a much better place and so will the rest of the world. Thank you. Thanks, everyone.

RAJU: That's Antony Blinken speaking from Cairo after meeting with the Magician President speaking and very forceful terms, they're indicating U.S. support behind Israel as he speaks to leaders in the region.

Kimberly -- Kim Dozier is back with us now. Talked to us about Lincoln's strategy here. He's been going around the region, trying to align support behind Israel's cause here. What do you make of his strategy and what -- what he's been doing behind the scenes?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: He's embraced Israel and the Israeli public in their time of pain, reminding them that he is there when he was visiting as a Jew as well as -- as a U.S. official. But he's also having tough conversations with Arab leaders in private. He's setting himself up to be someone who praises in public and centers (ph) in private.


This means that when things go wrong on the ground in Gaza, he's building up the trust. So he will be able to say to the Israeli Government, you need to stop this, you need to change this. And we've already seen the results of that, that Israel's turning the water back on. So that is one sign that this strategy is working.

RAJU: Yeah. And the humanitarian crisis will continue to play out and the U.S. will have to play a key role in dealing with and dealing with those in the region. Kimberly Dozier, thanks for that.

And coming up -- coming up, more about the House GOP divisions and the fact that there is no speaker right now and Congress cannot act in providing aid to Israel at this key moment, more next.




REP. MARK ALFORD, (R) TEXAS: You can put Jesus Christ up for Speaker of the House and he still wouldn't get 217.


RAJU: Welcome to Day 12 of a paralyzed House. I've got new reporting this morning. Jim Jordan is quickly narrowing paths to the speakership. A senior Republican House member tells me he has spoken to 20 Republicans were vowing to block Jordan if he forces a vote on Tuesday. He can only afford to lose four, a big reason why Republicans don't want to reward the hardliners who ousted Kevin McCarthy and sunk Steve Scalise. His number told me we can't reward this behavior. He said, we can't let a small group be dictators.

But another source familiar with the matter says Jordan has had positive conversations with his colleagues this weekend and is ready to force that Tuesday vote. Jordan believes he can eventually convince the holdouts to back him.

Our panel is back. Leigh Ann, you're in the hallways every day with me talking to these members, getting a sense of -- of where they are, what do you think of Jordan's strategy, if he goes through with this Tuesday vote, potentially to dare those members to go up and vote for somebody else at this time?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, WASHINGTON POST EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR: Well, as one senior Republican aide told me, it's risky, because most people -- many people, I should say, who I talked to say that Jordan does not have the votes and that he's not going to get the votes. There is a lot of hard feelings. There's a lot of division, there's a lot of, you know, disarray within the Republican Party.

So I think that the question is, you know, some people want him to have this vote, just to put people on the record. See where everyone stands, how much support he is lacking. There is another Republican who told me that it is actually very dangerous to put a vote on the floor to show how many people would vote against Donald Trump, because Donald Trump isn't backpacking, Jordan, and against Jim Jordan. But -- so there's a lot of political calculations to be had. But ultimately, this party has been unable to govern to function and do the easiest thing possible, which is supposed to be elected leader. BURNS: I mean, there's just something genuinely funny at this point, actually, about somebody having the strategy and put this vote on the floor and dare people to vote against the nominee for Speaker of the House, right? Like, we've seen this plot several times. People are fully willing to do that. It sort of should be baked into the sort of strategic calculations of the people involved here.

And look, I think, you know, we heard this in your reporting that you just outlined, basic problem here is it's not really clear what the Republican Conference wants to do with power, right? That if they had a governing agenda that had some urgency and consensus support of the party, somebody would be able to make the case that the longer we spend chasing our -- chasing our own tail in the process of electing a speaker that is putting off our opportunity to do XY and Z for the American people. But what is that agenda?

RAJU: And look, and it's such a great point, because it's sometimes people say that they'd be better in the minority, lot of these members are just used to the minority not actually putting forward a governing agenda, which has been so difficult in this Congress. So there's a lot of possibilities how this could play out. Maybe Jordan forces this vote. Maybe he drops out. There has a conference meeting, I'm told, tomorrow evening. House Republicans are expected to meet. There's pressure to discuss their way forward. We'll see how that -- that goes here.

There's also the possibility that others could jump in if Jordan drops out, some names have been floated the way Congressman Mike Johnson, Congressman Mark Green, Byron Donalds, Tom Emmer, Patrick McHenry, who is the Interim Speaker, even speaker -- former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, himself. The problem was that none of them seem possible to get 217 votes, which is really the -- the underlying problem no of this.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. And to Alex's point, if Israel being attacked by Hamas, you know, I think there was some thought that after that happened, that maybe that would rally Republicans to move very quickly to try to find a speaker. And that didn't even get them to unify and find a speaker and they left for the weekend. And one House Republican texted me saying that the fact that they can't even get a speaker and be able to pass aid for Israel sends the wrong signal to adversaries that democracy can't work.

RAJU: Yeah.

BARRON-LOPEZ: So some of those Republicans that are more moderates are very concerned about the signal this sends to allies and adversaries abroad.

RAJU: And the distrust is just so palpable. I mean, that our members who just simply don't want to support who another candidate, the hardliners support because why should we reward them is the thinking among them. I just want to get a sense of just how much frustration there is among Republicans in their airing that are publicly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: How does it make you guys look?

REP. AUSTIN SCOTT, (R) GEORGIA: Makes us look like a bunch of idiots.

REP. NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS, (R) NEW YORK: This is petty. This is petty and I'm getting freaking tired of.

ALFORD: Were shifted, doesn't have a rudder right now and I'm thoroughly disappointed in the process.

REP. ANDY BARR, (R) KENTUCKY: This is not responsible. We need to elect a speaker.


REP. MARC MOLINARO, (R) NEW YORK: We've allowed emotion to get in the way of logic.

REP. DUSTY JOHNSON, (R) SOUTH DAKOTA: People are looking for a perfect system. They shouldn't be looking at U.S. House right now.


RAJU: I mean, that's the issue.

KEITH: Yeah.

RAJU: -- being able to get these guys to agree when they're all pointing at each other.

KEITH: And they all have different interests. And some of them have the interest of just getting attention and being on TV and that -- that that incentive structure that the -- the old incentive structure of wanting to work your way up into -- into leadership or to committees or having, you know, earmarks for your district, all of those incentives are broken. And now the incentives are get attention and get donations and become a celebrity and maybe get a cable contract. And when those are the incentives, then everybody is on an island.

RAJU: And put that in play to your base, because primary politics really drive so much within the House. And it's particularly among those members who voted to ouster -- eight who voted to oust Kevin McCarthy in that historic, unprecedented vote that happened almost two weeks ago now. And I got a chance to catch up with several of them, asking them about concerns, blowback that they may have gotten because of the fact that the house is paralyzed. They can't act on anything into the elected Speaker. But they say no regrets.


RAJU: Mr. Rosendale, do you regret your vote at all to our speaker?

REP. MATT ROSENDALE, (R) TEXAS: We made a lot of progress in there today. I'm really -- I'm really feel good.

RAJU: No regrets?

REP. TIM BURCHETT, (R) TENNESSEE: No regrets. No, follow the rules. That's the rules of Congress. And that's what we got.

REP. MATT GAETZ, (R) FLORIDA: I think it was the right call. And I think we're going to come out of this process stronger. A fighting Republican force.

REP. ELI CRANE, (R) ARIZONA: The way my voters feel, they look at the country, they look at the direction that we're going, and they don't think that we get out of this without pain or discomfort and either lie.


RAJU: But listen to how a swing district Republican Don Bacon feels about the position that those members put him in.


REP. DON BACON, (R) NEBRASKA: It hurts the country and hurts Congress. It's hurting our party. They're putting us in a bad hole for next November.

RAJU: They put a swing district like yours at risk?

BACON: Yeah, it does. It's -- there -- these guys want to be in the minority. That's exactly. I think they would prefer that. Because I could just vote no, and yell and scream all the time.


RAJU: I mean, there's a real fear that this all could cost up the House?

CALDWELL: Oh, absolutely, the DCCC, Democrats are watching this very closely. They don't even have to intervene in it, because they know the challenges that Republicans are bringing upon themselves. They have not been able to prove that they're able to govern anything that's monumental they've done. They've done with the help of Democrats, which ultimately could got Kevin McCarthy to lose his position.

And that is ultimately some of the challenge with Jim Jordan to is being the speaker. Some of these swing state Biden, district Republicans think that Jim Jordan cannot come to their district to raise money for them that it's only going to alienate those swing voters that they need in order to win. And so this, there's just so many complications here, so many layers. I don't see how the Republicans pull it together and unify over someone in the next few days.

RAJU: We'll see. The other question is do they try to prop up interim speaker, Patrick McHenry, something that could potentially be Democratic support to do, what the Democrats wanted to exchange, Hakeem Jeffries suggested, give them more power in the legislative process. I mean, the Republicans don't want to give up but those types of discussions will get more serious the longer this drags out.

All right, coming up, Trump under fire from fellow Republicans for his latest comments on Israel.



RAJU: Former President Donald Trump responded to the Hamas attacks on Israel like few others, praising Hezbollah and criticizing the Israeli Prime Minister.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: And they said gee, I hope Hezbollah doesn't attack from the north. Because that's the most vulnerable spot. I said, wait a minute. You know, Hezbollah is very smart. They're all very smart. The press doesn't like when they say it.

He has been hurt very badly because of what's happened here. He was not prepared. He was not prepared, and Israel was not prepared. And under Trump, they wouldn't have had to be prepared. Look at what we did for them.


RAJU: Republican presidential candidates are not known to equivocate in their support for Israel. So as Republican rivals who have been slow to attack him in the past, now we're quick to pounce.


RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bibi congratulated Biden in November. That's why he did it. He hates Netanyahu because of that. That's about him.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You pray for the peace of Jerusalem and those who do will prosper, I guess the former president just discloses that I don't know where he's coming from. He's just wrong.

NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's living in the past. He's living with the headlines of the past. And he's making it all about him.


RAJU: There's almost like a redux of when they attacked him over his abortion comments, to Israel, obviously much different situation, a very serious situation that's happening right now in that country. But is there any reason to think that this could have any impact on the race?

BURNS: Well, first of all, no. And second, the clip that you played at the top of him saying, you know, Hezbollah's very smart, the media doesn't like it when you say that. It's that second part of that quote, that's so revealing, right? That -- I mean, it's comical, the notion that you have a candidate saying, I will praise Hezbollah, even though the media doesn't like it. But it's just core to the Trump brand, going back to 2015, that he will stick his finger in the eye of the media, whether it's about John McCain, or whether it's the Access Hollywood tape, or whether it's about praising a violent militant group that he will go there and other people won't. And there's a lot of voters in the Republican Party that will fully embrace that premise.

RAJU: Yeah. I mean, he's obviously not known for his empathy. And obviously, this is an incredibly devastating situation that's playing out in Israel, but just listen to how he dealt with it. He was talking about it here.


TRUMP: This is the worst microphone I think I've ever had. I hope you can hear me back there. Justin, don't pay the bill for this mic. And then I don't pay a bill and they say, Trump doesn't pay his contractors, you know. It's unbelievable. Is that a rotten, lousy mic. The state of it, but it's not my deal. You don't have a good mic. It's a very difficult deal. You walk out for -- for two weeks, you're talking, you say what the hell happened to his voice? The State of Israel is a blessing to the world. Our prayers are with them now.


KEITH: This is classic. This is just classic Trump. Every part of this is classic Trump. Complaining about the microphone, complaining about the staging, calling dictators and despots and terrorists smart so that he can say that someone who, you know, generally the world community is on the side of is dumb. He -- he uses the same phraseology for President Xi for -- for President Putin. And now he does it for Hezbollah. And he's not punished for it.

RAJU: Yeah, I mean, he's not.

KEITH: No, because --

BARRON-LOPEZ: -- base, but it could be in general.


KEITH: Right.


KEITH: I mean, I -- you could see the ads.

CALDWELL: He also successfully transfer transition to the Republican Party from being anti-Russia to pro Putin and the course of his four years as president. So we'll see what his base and his followers --

RAJU: Yeah, I mean, look at the prior of the polls show that one just this past week, 59% Republican voters support him, 13% for Ron DeSantis, and 10% for Haley, Ramaswamy at 7%. So he is still dominant in this race. So it was interesting that some of these Republicans had a donor summit in Texas with billionaires, including Harlan Crow trying to unite the donors behind one of these alternative anti-Trump candidates. But they're not having much success.

BARRON-LOPEZ: No, they aren't. And Republican strategists and consultants that I've talked to across all these battleground states so far have mentioned that they don't think that any type of effort to unite the party behind one Republican candidate is going to work. They say that that's something that the party has been talking about for months, and it hasn't materialized. So a lot of them are kind of resigned to the fact that they think that Trump is going to be the inevitable nominee and things that are happening this week whether it's him praising Hezbollah or the -- him back came Jordan and the House GOP not being able to get together. Democrats see a lot of opportunity there for their general election strategist.


BURNS: And just huge opportunities for Democrats in the general election. I do think the message that you heard from the other Republican candidates there, is one that they should have been delivering as soon as this race started, right, which is it's not even attacking Donald Trump on the basis of ideology. It's just saying, Donald Trump is all about Donald Trump. And I am about the serious stuff that's going on in the country in the world. And it's a little late now for that message.

RAJU: Yeah, let's see so much to play out. Thank you guys all for joining us this busy, busy Sunday morning. And thank you for joining us on Inside Politics Sunday. A live State of the Union with Jake Tapper up next. We'll have the latest news out of Israel, so please stay with CNN. Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us, see you next.