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Inside Politics

Israel Gears Up For Next Stage Of War Against Hamas In Gaza; Blinken In Israel For Meetings With Israeli Leaders, Defense Minister; A Battle In Gaza, Fueled By A Millennia Of Mideast Tension; Jordan: GOP Needs To Come Together Ahead Of Speaker Vote; Rep. Jordan Flips At Least Three Holdouts; Federal Judge Issues Limited Gag Order Against Donald Trump. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 16, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, mass panic and fear. Israel's war in response to Hamas' barbaric slaughter of innocent Israelis intensifies. I want to show you a new video in northern Gaza, where it is now innocent Palestinian, suffering building after building reduced to rubble from Israeli airstrikes, trying to wipe Hamas leaders who make a point of living among innocent civilians off the face of the earth.

The humanitarian crisis is dire as thousands try to leave Gaza before and Israeli ground offensive that seems much more imminent. And President Biden is sending a clear message to the world that Israel has the United States' full support.


JOE BIDEN, 46TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Israel is going after a group of people who are engaged in barbarism that is as consequential as the Holocaust. And so, I think Israel has to respond. They have to go after Hamas. Hamas a bunch of cowards. They're hiding behind the civilians. They put their headquarters where civilians are in buildings and the like. But to the extent that they can separate out and avoid, I'm confident the Israelis are going to do everything in their power to avoid the killing of innocent civilians.


BASH: Let's get straight to Israel where CNN's Nic Robertson is. Nic, what is the latest on the ground at this hour?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's been a relatively quiet day in terms of rocket strikes, missiles, artillery going into Gaza, and not many missiles coming out of Gaza either. It creates the impression that they're not a pause, but at least demunition in the amount of military activity to perhaps give some space for some of the political discussions.

I said that, and you heard the explosion behind me. Yes, the afternoon has become increasingly punctuated by heavy explosions. That does sound like a missile strike landing on Gaza there. And perhaps as we go into darkness, I think we're beginning to see a perhaps a little uptick in the tempo here.

This is northern Gaza, right behind me there. We know that in northern Gaza late today, the IDF said that they hit a Hamas commander appearing to destroy a building, taking him out if you will. And along this border area, we're seeing that continued build up and preparations among the IDF in readiness for the possibility of a ground incursion.

Now I don't know how this may affect the military operations, but there was a very, very heavy rainstorm passed through here earlier today. But from a U.N. and humanitarian perspective, inside Gaza rainstorms are the last thing they need.

Half a million people understood to have left northern Gaza, there isn't enough shelter for them in the south of Gaza, isn't enough food, isn't enough water. So real concerns if the weather does deteriorate more on this more rainstorms. A lot of civilians are inside Gaza, not only trying to dodge missiles, but will also be caught out in some atrocious conditions.

BASH: Just an absolutely terrible situation. And of course, as soon as you say that it's been quiet. We heard the airstrikes behind you as darkness has fallen, where you are on the border -- near the border between Israel and Gaza. Thank you so much for that report, Nic.

And I want to now go to Jerusalem and CNN's Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy, I know you have been following and doing reporting on what the Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been doing, not just in Israel where you are. He is now back, but also the frantic shuttle diplomacy he has been engaged in across the region.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dana. Between Secretary of State Tony Blinken's visit to Israel last week and his visit today, he visited about a half dozen Arab countries in the region, countries ranging from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, et cetera.

And all of this in a shuttle diplomacy effort focus on several key lines. The first of which is the humanitarian situation inside of Gaza, trying to get the flow of aid back into to Gaza as well as allowing Americans to be able to leave through the Rafah crossing and go into Egypt.


In addition to that, the secretary of state also focused on trying to prevent this Hamas, Israel conflict from blowing up into a wider war. And then of course, there is the issue of those 199 hostages being held inside of Gaza, of which at least 20 of whom are believed to be American citizens.

Now, we know that the secretary of state today met with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the Israeli president and the defense minister. We just saw the secretary of state with a defense minister, where a Blinken effectively reiterated the U.S. commitment to the state of Israel to its right. And what he said is also its obligation to defend itself.

But one thing became very clear in this visit today is that, while Blinken is trying to address the humanitarian situation, trying to prevent this war from becoming a regional situation, he is not there to prevent war from growing bigger between Israel and Hamas.

And that was evidence when you heard the Israeli Defense Minister Gallant, saying that this will be a long war, and also warning that the price for Israel to defend itself will indeed be high. There is no sign as of yet that the U.S. is backing off from this kind of no daylight position with Israel. They are fully supporting Israel in its plans to widen this military campaign against Hamas.

What they are trying to do is to get Americans out of the Gaza Strip to get humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, and also ideally, to try and find some way of getting those American hostages who are in Gaza, out of there and out of harm's way. Dana?

BASH: Jeremy, thank you so much for that reporting. And today, aside, the world has been waiting to see. CNN spotted five U.N. fuel trucks entered Gaza. It is the first sign that the Rafah crossing, the one between Gaza and Egypt is even partially open. But this is important. It remains close to people, desperate Palestinian civilians trapped in a war zone.


JOHN KIRBY, NSC STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR: The Egyptians, they have to be willing to have that gate open and have a flow of human traffic get through that. And so, we're in discussions with them about what that could look like and how that can be managed in a way that that protects Egypt's national security interests as well.


BASH: But many Palestinians can't even get to the south of Gaza near that border with Egypt. Why? While both Israel and the Biden administration say that Hamas is preventing its own citizens from going south, instead Hamas prefers to use innocent civilians as human shields to make it harder for Israel to destroy the terrorists who are living among them.

Now, inside the Gaza Strip, thousands of lives are torn asunder by ceaseless Israeli airstrikes. Hamas is trying to use the very real images of devastation that you see on your screen right now to help turn the global tide against Israel.

And now if you peel back the layers even a little bit, and you see centuries of middle east tension. Calling a complicated is an insult to the depths of the rivalries, fractured alliances, generational wounds that factor into every word that you hear.

Right now, what we're seeing in real time is a contest for the hearts and minds. It's a battle, not just of rockets and guns, but perception. And it's a reality that Israel is all too familiar with. This weekend, Israel's president did his first American interview. He did it with Wolf Blitzer, and he offered the world of a reminder that it did not fire the first shot.


ISAAC HERZOG, PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL: OK, this booklet is an instruction guide, how to go into a civilian premises into a kibbutz, a city, a moshav, how to break in. And first thing what do you do when you find the citizens, you torture them.


BASH: Here to share their reporting and insights, CNN's chief national security correspondent Alex Marquardt, and former Deputy Director of National Intelligence Beth Sanner. Thank you so much. And thank you for sitting through that because there are times -- this just is so complicated. And again, there's so many layers of this that maybe it's important to sort of explain that and say it very clearly and bluntly.

Alex, you have been doing reporting on what Jeremy was talking about and diplomatically (Audio Blip) across the Arab world, most importantly, in the short term in Egypt, to get that crossing open so that those innocent Palestinian civilians have someplace to go other than a warzone.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I don't think we've ever seen a trip like this from Secretary Blinken, or really anybody, you know, during the Biden administration, to watch him just sort of, you know, bounce hopscotch from one country to the next has really been remarkable, adding stops.


And at this point, we still don't know when he's going to be coming back to United States. He's now in his second visit to Israel since this war began. I think what's interesting, Dana, is we are now nine days after this attack. And you have heard over and over from American officials that America stands in solidarity with Israel and Israel's right to defend itself.

But what we are hearing more and more of with every passing day is this concern about the humanitarian side of things, not only how to get Palestinian Americans out, but how Palestinian civilians can be moved to an area, perhaps within Gaza or outside of Gaza, where they can have some measure of safety and it is extraordinarily complicated.

You're absolutely right. The most pressing visit on that front was to Egypt. And it didn't go particularly well with President Sisi. It is very complicated in that Sisi doesn't want to have hundreds of thousands of Palestinians coming into his country. So, there was no resolution, no immediate resolution after that meeting between Blinken and Sisi.

There's a lot of finger-pointing going on. You just noted that the U.S. and the Israelis are pointing the finger at Hamas for blocking those Palestinians from going south. We've heard the Egyptians accused Israel of blocking that side of the border. And the Americans are clearly a bit frustrated with the fact that the Egyptians are not just throwing open their gates. And so, there's a lot at stake here. A lot of coordination needs to take place. Certainly, a glimmer of hope that those trucks were able to go into Gaza today.

BASH: No question. And Beth, I talked to a U.S. official this morning, just on the question of Egypt, because we talked about this last week. And about that, that border there. And the question of like, where are the Palestinians, Arab neighbors? Why are they not helping most particularly Egypt? And whether or not it went well. I think, certainly the gate is not open, the crossing is not open.

We'll see if that changes in the near future for these Palestinians. But, you know, for people who follow what happens in U.S. politics, maybe you sense this familiarity. And this is something that I was reminded of that the Egyptians, first of all, are worried about some national security. But there is also some prejudice there that they don't want a lot of Palestinians who have nowhere to go other than their country to come through the across the border.

BETH SANNER, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Yes, right. The context here is, we should go back a little bit in time. El-Sisi conducted a coup against the previous President Morsi, who was a Muslim brotherhood figure, Hamas Muslim brotherhood. So, the street that rose up in the so-called Arab Spring, we're the population of Egypt that is in alliance with the same cause that these Palestinians are.

El-Sisi's absolutely record low support right now. The economy is in the tank. So, he has to be very careful. He doesn't want to look close to us. But at the same time, these Palestinians are actually politically dangerous for him. And he does not want to see a big rising up of the same people that that rose up during the so-called Arab Spring. So, there's a lot of political contexts here that makes him very reluctant.

Now, today, we are having Ambassador Satterfield, the very experienced U.S. ambassador to the region, who's arriving in Egypt to negotiate one of the domestic U.S. political problems we have. We don't have ambassadors in the region. So, we had to draw in somebody like Ambassador Satterfield.

BASH: You know, I'm glad you brought that up. Because this isn't just about citizens of Gaza and citizens of Israel. This is about American citizens. And there are, if you're looking at that picture there, that kind of gives you a better sense of what we're talking about when we talk about the border between Gaza and Egypt. There are a lot of American citizens in Gaza, that the U.S. is and should be interested in helping get out.

MARQUARDT: There a lot of Palestinian Americans both in the West Bank and in Gaza. There were some confusions about whether those with American and other passports would be able to get out of the Rafah crossing. In fact, there are indications from the state department that American citizens might that clearly is something that has not happened.

We have seen evacuations of American citizens from Israel both by ship today, as well as on charter flights. And, Dana, there's still major concerns about Americans who are among the now almost 200 hostages that we know about, according to the Israelis.

And if you're looking at where Blinken -- where else Blinken went around the region, Qatar was a major stop because they host Hamas leaders in Doha. So, in terms of the hostage portfolio, the U.S. is dealing mostly with Qatar, because that's what the main conversation is going to be between Qatar, Hamas and Israel.


BASH: And really briefly, Beth, I know that you are not currently read in on the intel, but just knowing the way it works. It's amazing to hear U.S. officials who are read in, really open about the fact that they have no idea where these hostages are or who they are?

SANNER: It's very, very difficult to look inside these tunnels that are literally stories deep in some places that are so intricate. So, they're getting intelligence, but being able to pinpoint these hostages. As I said last time, I'm afraid that we do need to be prepared for not all of this going well. It's difficult times ahead. For sure in trying to locate those hostages. I think they're going to be doing it as they go.

MARQUARDT: And there's a very good chance they've been split up.

SANNER: Oh, for sure. And booby trapped and all the rest.

BASH: It's so great to have both of you here for your reporting, for your experience, all of it. Thank you so much. Coming up day-13 without a speaker of the House. Moments ago, we heard from a Republican who wants to gavel Jim Jordan and we're going to talk about what he said. And the question that matters right now because he had the votes. That's next?




BASH: The House of Representatives is on its 13th day without a speaker. Just moments ago, our Manu Raju spoke with a man Republicans nominated to be the next speaker, Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio. And the big question, of course, is whether he will have the votes on the House floor to get the gavel. Manu, you again just spoke with Jim Jordan. What did he tell you?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is actually pretty important news here. He says that he plans to force a vote on the House floor by noon tomorrow. Even if he does not have the 217 votes, he needs to be elected speaker. And at the moment, it seems like he does not have the votes, even though he has successfully managed to flip three key holdouts at this moment. But even though he's short, he says he plans to go to the floor. And he promised that tomorrow the House will elect the speaker.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Ann Wagner and Mike Rogers publicly saying they would support us. Two great members who do all kinds of great work. So that was really big, so I feel real good about the momentum we have. And I think we're real close. So, what's going to be tomorrow.

RAJU: Do you use -- will you go to the floor, even if you don't have 217 votes?


JORDAN: That's how our system -- our great system works. And we will go to the floor tomorrow. It's not about pressuring anybody, just about we got to have a speaker. You can open the House and do the work of the American people and help our dearest and closest friend Israel. If you don't have a speaker.

So, we get speaker, we get the House open, and we get to work on the resolution and supplemental for Israel. And we get back to work for the American people. And that's what I'm committed to doing. I think it's going to happen tomorrow.

RAJU: Because you had said before you won't have 217 first.

JORDAN: Well, I do think that's ideal. But as one of my colleagues in the room, I don't know if there's any way to ever get that in the room. I would love that. But I think the only way to do this is the way the Founders intended, is you. You have the vote tomorrow. We've set it for 12 o'clock. And I feel good about it.

RAJU: Well, you have more than one ballot if you don't get to 217 on the first?

JORDAN: We're going to elect the speaker tomorrow. That's what I think is going to happen. We got to come together. We have to unify. We have to come again.


RAJU: And a key acknowledgement there that here's the thing, anybody can get 217 votes initially. So, we could see a replay of what happened in January when Kevin McCarthy went to the floor on 15 belts. Ultimately, he got elected. At that point, he had opposition from the more conservative hardliners in the House Republican conference. Those hardliners, many of them who voted out Kevin McCarthy in historic fashion are supporting Jim Jordan.

The people who are opposed to Jordan at the moment are more of the establishment, more moderate members, some from swing districts, will they be the ones holding up their hands voting for somebody else and trying to scuttle Jim Jordan's ascension on the House floor that could open them up to a relentless and intense pressure campaign from Jordan supporters, including the former president, will they be able to withstand that pressure?

Jordan's allies don't think they will think that they'll ultimately come to his side. But as you're seeing you're here, Dana, we're headed to a significant cut potential confrontation on the floor here. After two weeks of Republican infighting and chaos and paralysis in this chamber. Can they get the chamber moving again? Jordan is betting they can vote tomorrow night.

BASH: Yes. And I just want to underscore for our viewers, the news that you just got out of Jim Jordan, that he is, you said it, but I think it's important to say it again, that he is going to take this to the floor of the House of Representatives tomorrow about this time in order to have a vote, even though he doesn't have that magic 217, which is the majority of those voting at this point that he needs to be speaker of the House. He's hoping that he will just push people, twist people's arms, make it happen, much like we saw, maybe not 15 rounds, but much like we saw Kevin McCarthy do in January.

RAJU: Yes, absolutely. And as you heard from that one question, I asked him, he said, will you be going to another ballot if you do not get the votes on the first ballot? You did not want to entertain that just simply saying, we will elect a speaker tomorrow night. But in talking to Jordan allies, Dana, they are absolutely prepared to go multiple ballots on the floor if they have to.

So, the question is, can they pick off those members or those members who are opposed to Jordan, his more conservative politics and style, and just oppose everything that went down over the last two weeks and angry those hardliners who pushed off Kevin McCarthy. Will they withstand that pressure to scuttle Jordan speakership? That is going to be a huge question tomorrow.


BASH: Big news from the air indefatigable. Manu Raju, thank you so much. Appreciate it. And let's talk more about the speaker's race with CNN's chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny, and Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief for the Boston Globe.

We were talking about this before, while the break was happening, and Manu touched on this. But I think it's important to explain the dynamics of why Jim Jordan thinks that he could be ultimately successful, and just shoving this through and calling out the moderates, because again, it is the moderates who look at Jim Jordan and say, ah, I'm not going to support him. And the reason is, Jackie?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, moderates, it is a no offense to any moderates out there, but they usually cave -- but they usually -- -

BASH: But there's a reason -- a political reason.

KUCINICH: Because they could be primaried, and they could lose their seat on the front end. Now, the issue is a lot of these moderates are from seats were Biden won. And so, they are much more prone to a Democratic challenger, than even potentially a Republican challenger. So, they're in a tight spot and they're going to be the first ones that voters take to task if they are angry, come November of next year.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There are 18 of those, there are 18 Republicans in Biden won district. So that'll be one area to watch tomorrow. But also, as Manu was saying the three who changed their minds this morning -- -

BASH: Let's put them up on the screen.

ZELENY: Sure. Missouri's Ann Wagner, Ken Calvert of California and Mike Rogers of Alabama. These are all very significant. I'm thinking of Ann Wagner. Last week, she was very defiant and that she would not support -- -

BASH: She is a true long-term establishment Republicans.

ZELENY: She has been, you know, she's been fluent with Republican party when she was a longtime co-chair of the RNC, a country club Republican, if you will, became a Tea Party Republican in some respects, she is a survivor. And the primary challenge or threat there certainly applies to her. But look, we will just have to see how this goes tomorrow. But there is momentum in his favorite.

And also, just the events of the world still impact the conversation there. And that sort of helps speed things along of where she's going. But boy, say if he does become speaker, talk about something that we never could have imagined. Any of us covering Congress a decade ago during the last government shutdown, when John Boehner called him -- -

KUCINICH: A unity candidate, no less.

ZELENY: Exactly. We're going to talk about a part of legislative terrorist.

BASH: I'm glad you mentioned that, because if he does win, we're going to be having a lot more conversations about this. But because it looks like we're going to have a vote tomorrow on whether or not he will be speaker. It bears a discussion right now, which is you said John Boehner, call them a legislative terrorist.

When I was covering Congress, when John Boehner was speaker, Jim Jordan was the bane of his existence. Jim Jordan was one of the flame throwers from the outside. The last thing he wanted was unity. He wanted sort of chaos because it helped push his ideals. At the time it was Tea Party and or Freedom Caucus, which was lowering spending and things of that nature. Fast forward to the Trump era.

And part of why the moderates, as you mentioned, the Republican moderates are reluctant on Jim Jordan is because of his role, alleged role in January 6 insurrection on that very building where they all work. And just a reminder of this is just reporting from December of 2021. A text that Jim Jordan forwarded to Mark Meadows encouraging Mike Pence to overturn the election on January 6, this is a day before. On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all. This is something that Pence many times since has said, was not his role to do.

KUCINICH: And we know from Jordan himself that he spoke to former President Trump several times that day is never known what the conversation was about, but Jordan himself has said that. And I think what this does, this is a big shift for the Republicans because as we've seen, speakers and minority leaders tend to be people that waited their turn, tend to be people that went through kind of the more establishment Republican channels.

Even Kevin McCarthy is someone who kind of came up in leadership in that very traditional vein. Jordan is a departure from that. He never got here. Yes, he got close to Kevin McCarthy, but he didn't come from the John Boehner school of becoming a leader. And what that looks like, I think we're guaranteed to have an even more partisan House as a result -- -

ZELENY: Over the next 24 hours, it's fascinating to see how many other arms you can twist here, but it's heading that direction. But who knows after 13 days without a speaker.

BASH: Well, speaking of Donald Trump, I want to go straight to Paula Reid, who has some new reporting on former President Donald Trump who has suffered a big blow in court. Paula, what happened?