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Inside Politics

Ex-Trump Lawyer Sidney Powell Pleads Guilty In GA Election Case; House Remains Paralyzed Without A Speaker; Israel-Hamas War Rages On As Biden Prepares For Foreign Policy Oval Office Address; Close To 20 Rockets Launched At Israel From Lebanon Thursday. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 19, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, Sidney Powell pleaded guilty to six counts of election interference in Georgia just a day before her trial was set to begin. As part of the deal, Trump's former attorney will be required to testify at future trials.

CNN's Zachary Cohen is covering all of the developments. Zach, what are you hearing?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Dana, this was a surprising reversal by Sidney Powell and one that could have significant implications not only for her, but for the other defendants in this case, including Donald Trump. Now, Sidney Powell had been adamant leading up to this that she would not take a plea deal, she wouldn't take her chances in trial that was supposed to start tomorrow.

But I'm told that in just the last several hours, you know, a deal did come together that allowed Powell to basically avoid being charged and pleading guilty to felonies. She was facing prison time if convicted of those felonies. Now pleading guilty to six misdemeanors that do take the pressure off her and do add some pressure to her fellow co- defendants.

As you said she has to now testify as a witness in the -- because of the terms of this agreement. So we could see her take the stand potentially in a hearing down the line, you know, featuring Donald Trump or Rudy Giuliani, where if she has first-hand knowledge of their efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia.

BASH: Zach, thank you so much for that reporting.

And here to expand on that and understand what it means for Donald Trump and her place in his orbit is Maggie Haberman of The New York Times. Thanks so much for coming on. Maggie, what are you hearing from inside Trump world about this deal? And what are the sort of reverberations happening? MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Dana, this caught Trump world by surprise as it did all of us. This was one of the best kept secrets out of that D.A.'s office in some time. They're still trying to figure out what it means. There are some people in his world who are telling me they don't think this is that big a deal for him. They think that her ability to actually really testify as marginal.

They're arguing that this shows that the D.A. overcharged in this case. The flip side is the argument that she intentionally charged this way so that she could end up getting guilty pleas. And there's nobody who's happy about it. You know, there is concern about the degree to which Powell could offer information not just about former President Trump but about Rudy Giuliani as noted before.


Now, the former president is still down and most concerned right now with the New York A.G. case, which is about his business. And that is really where the bulk of his mindshare is. But there's nobody in Trump world who is pretending this is a good development. They're just, you know, split on what exactly it means.

BASH: That's such an important point that we have to keep remembering. And it's easy to do when there's so much happening in the world. But the former president was in New York this week, because he is so worried about what the civil trial up their means for his businesses.

And -- but back to what this Sidney Powell situation means, and we should remind our viewers that we're talking about plans to overturn the 2020 election. And specifically, there was a key meeting at the White House, this was December 18th, 2020. Military seizing voting machines and states Trump lost naming Sidney Powell as a special counsel to investigate supposed voter fraud, and Trump invoking martial law to overturn the election.

This is just some of what we're talking about. And so if this is a White House meeting, and if, again, this is mostly about -- this is about Georgia, but still, if Sidney Powell is willing to spill the beans on what Donald Trump might have been saying in that White House meeting, that could be significant.

HABERMAN: There's no question. And Dana, to your point, that meeting related to what she was charged with. So, you know, I expect that you will see if she is called to testify, which I expect if there are trials in this case, she will be, her having to talk in full about that.

Now remember, she and other participants in that meeting, and it was a wild meeting that we reported on, that CNN reported on, Jonathan Swan at Axios reported on, it was a lengthy, wild meeting that laid bare how serious Donald Trump was about trying to stay in office once we learned of the details.

But it's a meeting that Powell and Giuliani and other people who were in that meeting from the other side trying to stop it. Testified to extensively before the House Select Committee investigating Trump's efforts to subvert the election. How much more she would offer on top of that? I don't know.

But certainly, prosecutors sometimes tend to ask different questions. And yes, there are a few meetings that were as revealing about Trump's mindset and what he was thinking about than that one, including the fact that he really was talking seriously to people as we reported, as others have about making her a special counsel in the White House and getting her security clearance.

BASH: Still, sort of -- that makes your brain jumble inside your head. Thank you so much, Maggie.

HABERMAN: So there's a lot there.

BASH: A lot there. Yes, that's an understatement.

HABERMAN: There's a lot there.

BASH: Maggie, thank you so much for coming on. Great to see you.

HABERMAN: Thanks, Dana.

BASH: Up next, someone who held the speaker's gavel not once but twice and fortunately kept her caucus in line. She weighs in on the Republican House chaos. Of course talking about Nancy Pelosi, she's here in minutes.



BASH: Quote, "Our diversity is our strength. Our unity is our power". That was Nancy Pelosi's motto when she was Speaker of the House. She is now the former speaker but still very much in the House of Representatives. Nancy Pelosi is here with me now. Thank you so much for being here.

First question is about whether or not you and other Democrats will vote to grant Patrick McHenry, more powers, to expand his power so that you can get on with the business of the American people since the Republicans don't have the votes to elect a speaker properly.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Well, my motto is still the same. Our diversity is our strength. So we respect our differences of opinion and that was -- that's what makes us strong. The -- our leader, Hakeem Jeffries has -- just manage this so very, very magnificently as we're listening to our caucus representing us so beautifully.

And he will decide what the agreement could be if there is one. So I'll just leave it up to him. However, I will say from the standpoint of the speakership, you really cannot give Mr. McHenry power. Someone suggested, well, just let them do this and let him do that. No, you have to make him speaker and then he has the awesome power of the speakership.

Question is, for how long? The longevity of it, my hearing is that it will be to the end of this session. So until the end of the year. Secondly, what is the legislative scope of it? What does it contain? And third, as the structure, what do they do anything about the motion to vacate or what we do about motions -- other motions on the floor?

So it's substance, its timing, its structure. It'll be up to Hakeem. And we all have confidence in him.

BASH: OK. So you'll go along with the current leader. But that's interesting what you just said because there have been a lot of discussions about expanding Patrick McHenry who is just a temporary speaker right now, expanding his powers. You're saying no, he just has to be full speaker.

PELOSI: Full speaker. Have to let him speak otherwise --

BASH: When you say elect him speaker, you mean have the votes on the --

PELOSI: Floor.

BASH: -- floor, but just do it for a limited amount of time?

PELOSI: Amount of time. And the other aspects of it relate to what agreement we could come to. I don't know what their vote is on the Republican side. I would hope that this could be a consensus vote but it just depends on the scope the language and time (ph).


BASH: One more question on that, does does there need to be a promise for bipartisan legislation to ensue to go through the House after such an agreement of Democrats around the border (ph)?

PELOSI: Well, that would be up to Hakeem Jeffries.

BASH: OK, got it. This is very much related, of course, to what's happening, not only in the Middle East, but in Ukraine, because the president is going to speak tonight. And he's going to make the argument that the American people, taxpayer dollars should be spent to help support these two democracies, particularly Israel. You can't do that if there's no House speaker.

PELOSI: Let's say -- well, we'll have to have House Speaker and I hope that, shall we say, there'll be some order -- the House will be an order, and that we can go forward. But to take -- before we get to that place, let me say our President has been just so strong. He just understand so well relationship between the United States and Israel as their values partner, as our strategic partner, and also our role in the world to be respectful of other people.

So I think that he has handled all this magnificently as he did with Ukraine. He has been a great -- a global leader.

BASH: You mentioned America's role in the world. I don't need to tell you, hundreds of thousands of Gazans, they're trying to get out of Gaza, innocent civilians. The Arab world, so far is not giving them a place to go. This year, the U.S. is giving Jordan more than $1 billion in aid. Egypt $170 million. How much of an obligation do they have?

PELOSI: Well, in case of Jordan, they had been receiving refugees from Syria for a very long time. So they have they're almost to a point of overcapacity in terms of absorbing people. But let me just say this in terms of the whole issue, we always have to stipulate to a set of facts.

The fact is, is that Hamas is a terrorist organization, so designated by the United States of America. That's how we regard them. They made a barbaric, brutal attack on Israel, killing maybe 1,000 people, maybe more. In a state about the population and the size of New Jersey. Imagine if that had happened here.

And so when we see the reaction to, oh, what's going to happen in return? Well, there has to be some stopping of the Hamas from doing this and -- I'm not talking about engines, we're talking about security.

BASH: So people calling for a ceasefire are premature?

PELOSI: Well, again, I don't know what the nature of their ceasefire is. But the fact is, is that whatever happens, we have to protect the civilians, the people of Gaza, who are not Hamas, but that's hard to do. And Hamas provoked this, knowing it would evoke a response and would have -- then they'd be hiding behind shields of civilian people.

But we, as Americans would, but I always tell the story of Israel when I was there once a speaker, the -- I visited the Hadassah Hospital, and then a couple days before, there had been an incident where Palestinians had attacked Jewish people there, Israelis. And they said, we treated them both the same.

We didn't treat the Palestinian differently, because he was Palestinian, we treated him the same, because we are Jewish. These are people of -- you know, it's so sad to see them get attacked. And then people say, well, when they tried to defend themselves, it's doesn't share our values. No, they do share our values.

But the President said it so well, we do have to help the people of Gaza. The Arab countries have to do more, especially Egypt in letting them in the Carter there. And again, Jordan has really carried a big load of --

BASH: From Syria.

PELOSI: -- refugees --

BASH: Yes.

PELOSI: -- from Syria.

BASH: Madam Speaker, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it.

PELOSI: Yes. Well, let's hope and pray that everyone can be as safe as possible on all sides of this conflict. BASH: Thank you so much.

PELOSI: Thank you.

BASH: And up next, sirens smoke and simmering tension. Rockets are flying across Israel's northern border and the raising alarms of a two-front war. We're going to go back to Israel straight ahead.



BASH: Today signs that Israel's war is getting hotter and renewed fears about a broader conflict. In Israel's North sirens sent people scattering for shelters. The IDF says it's now firing back at targets inside Lebanon.

CNN's Matthew Chance is in northern Israel. Matthew, this is the big fear about the second front where you are in northern Israel.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is Dana. I mean, as Israel prepares to enter the Gaza Strip in a land operation. We don't know when that's going to happen, but the assumption is it's going to be very soon. The real concern for regional peace and stability is what happens up here in the north of the country. Hezbollah which is of course backed by Iran has vowed to intervene in this is Israeli conflict.


And already, we're seeing a big upsurge in the amount of strikes that are coming across the border from areas in southern Lebanon, here to northern Israel course of the day. We've seen 30 attacks across the border from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Most of those rockets were intercepted by Israel's anti-missile systems.

But one of them landed here in this town, Qiryat Shemona, where at least three people injured. And so the escalation is really ratcheting up now, Dana.

BASH: It's really, really disturbing. Needless to say, be safe. And thank you for that incredibly important report, Matthew. I really appreciate it.

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