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Dem Congressman Dean Phillips Announces Presidential Bid; Explosions Seen Over Gaza City; Extensive Airstrikes Over Gaza Strip. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 27, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Just when you think the 2024 presidential field is set, a new candidate enters the race and this time, it's on the Democratic side.


REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am today announcing my candidacy for the presidency of the United States of America.


BASH: That's Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips, a multimillionaire and the former chair of Talenti Gelato. He announced his bid to challenge President Biden today, but it could be a long shot bid. And the question is, what this means for his political career, more importantly, for President Biden?

CNN's Eva McKend is in New Hampshire. Eva, the congressman just filed to appear on the New Hampshire ballot. What is his argument to Democratic voters?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, he says he can appeal to an exhausted majority of Americans. He argues that it's time for President Biden to pass the torch here. You know, I asked him why so late? Why not a year ago?

He has already missed the filing deadline for Nevada, for instance. And he told me that he has long been trying to appeal to Democrats to get in this race and now he feels like the time is now to get in himself since others won't. Let's listen.


PHILLIPS: I've been trying to encourage the president to pass the torch. I've been encouraging other Democratic candidates to enter the stage. It's time for change. I love the president. I voted for his policies. I'm a Democrat. I support our policies and will continue to do so with new twists, with new approaches and new visions.

The issue right now is not who Joe Biden is, what we have done collectively. The issue is very singular. America wants change.


MCKEND: So he shares that he knows that the beltway will sort of laugh him off the stage and maybe won't take his candidacy seriously. But he maintains that Democratic voters across the country want an alternative. And here he is one.

Also, Dana, we know that he is a man of great personal wealth. I tried to ask him, well, how much is he personally going to invest in the campaign? He just told me he gave the campaign some seed money, but is still going to have to rely on small dollar donors. Dana?

BASH: Eva, thank you so much for that.

Let's bring in our political panel to talk about this. Gloria Borger and Jeff Zeleny and CNN's Daniel Strauss. Thank you so much to all of you for being here.

Let's start with just kind of set the table with what Dean Phillips thinks that he sees as an opening from his perspective, the way he argues that it's a necessity. Actually, you guys stand by because I'm hearing that we need to get to Nic Robertson right away in Israel.

Nic, what are you seeing?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: We're seeing at the moment, a few minutes of calm, but it has been anything but over the last couple of hours here. There have been huge rounds of outgoing tank fire from where we are. Round after round of artillery fire going into Gaza as well. Multiple impacts reported in Gaza or in Gaza City and Jabalia refugee camp, and the other towns in the north of Gaza behind us here.


And at one point, about an hour ago, we saw a huge wall of smoke literally blowing off of Gaza through this town here. It really cut down visibility. Impossible to say what that smoke was, but it's the sort of smoke that the military used when they're trying to cover their maneuver and action on the ground.

We're hearing still some heavy detonations coming out of Gaza. We've heard heavy jets flying overhead. There's one I can hear flying right now as the explosions and detonations continue. The IDF has had incursions, limited incursions into Gaza last night and the night before. They've involved tanks, they've involved troops with heavy armor, heavy armored infantry troops going in.

They've been limited incursions. They've gone in and retreated out in the morning. These are preparatory attacks, preparations for a bigger offensive. This is what the IDF has said, and the IDF has given every indication that they are ready and readying for a much bigger incursion. The peace talks that have been going on in Doha had earlier tonight been hopeful about a hostage release of the proviso that we were hearing from those talks was that there would be a lull in the fighting.

Tonight, the voices we've heard here have been the voices of multiple weapons. It is the guns that are doing the talking that we hear at the moment. We perhaps won't know if there's an incursion underway here until tomorrow morning when the IDF have typically given their briefs after the incursions are over. Dana?

BASH: That's really a critical point that you just made there, which is that -- you're kind of alluding to this, that we could be seeing the beginning of the invasion, the incursion, the more aggressive incursion that the prime minister has been saying that is going to come, but we don't know for sure. And we won't know for sure, likely until either later when the IDF tells us, or maybe even until the morning.

ROBERTSON: And the way that the military operations roll out, they ramp up very quickly. You can maneuver the tanks and infantry in as we've seen that happen. They do it under the cover of tank fire, just as we've heard this evening. We've seen that play out on previous evenings.

And what they intend to do when they get there? Limited incursion or do they plan to hold territory and stay there for a while? Betanoon (ph) is just across the border from us here, about 2.5 miles from where we stand. 2014, that was the first target of the IDF incursion into Gaza. Back then, and the aim was to take control of the town and the IDF took control of neighborhoods of that town.

We are being told that the big incursion here when it comes, will be on a scale and scope bigger because the IDF fully intends to take out Hamas, take out their tunnel infrastructures, take out their command infrastructures, their commanders, and the mechanisms by which they communicate. The phone systems, the rocket launches, all of these things are on the target list for the IDF when they go in.

Precisely how they plan to achieve it and precisely how they hope, as they say they will, that they will keep down civilian casualties, which continue to grow through today, through the past several weeks, and that was one of the points of pressure at those, the peace talks that were underway in Doha about the hostages.

At this moment, on this night, it is hard for us to say, standing here precisely what's happening on the ground. But the barrage of artillery fire and tank fire that we heard before, sustained close to this location really gave the impression of a military action in progress.

BASH: All right, Nic, don't go too far. We will obviously get be getting back to you as you continue to watch and experience what is happening there right on the Israeli side of the border. Appreciate it.

I want to go now to Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado. And Congressman, full disclosure, we brought you on to talk about the massacre in Maine because you represent an area in Colorado that unfortunately had to deal with that 11 years ago in Aurora. But you are also a former Army Ranger. You were in Afghanistan. You were in Iraq, part of the 82nd Airborne Division. Given that experience that you have, Congressman, as we see what may be happening right now in Israel, can you comment on that from the perspective of somebody who has been at war?

REP. JASON CROW (D), COLORADO: Well, good to be with you, Dana. But first of all, I have to just send my prayers, my thoughts. I'm grieving for the people of Maine.


I represent a community, as you mentioned, that has seen several mass shootings from Columbine to the Aurora Aurora Theater shooting to STEM School, to Arapahoe High School. We've had numerous mass shootings in my district so I'm grieving with the community because I understand what that's like.

And, of course, my dear friend, Jared Golden, who is a leader of compassion and integrity is leading this community in the way that he must. And, you know, at the same time, there is a terrible tragedy continuing to unfold in this crisis with Israel still reeling from these horrific barbaric attacks on October 7th.

And we have to make sure that we're supporting Israel and its right to defend itself. But we absolutely must make protection of Palestinian civilians and innocents a priority here. That is a moral imperative and it must be a priority but it's also a security imperative.

I learned during the 20-year war on terror fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that if you don't prioritize protection of innocent civilians, you cannot accomplish your military and security objectives, period.

BASH: Well, you know, that is something that President Biden talked about when he was at -- in Israel, when he was with the Prime Minister. And he was asking him, apparently, according to sources sort of in a Socratic method about whether or not he has the strategy, whether the Israelis have the strategy to not just take out Hamas, but the what next.

CROW: I'm very concerned about the timing of this. I would like to see a humanitarian pause that would allow in a sense to escape the conflict zone. A corridor opened up, the Rafah crossing in Egypt. We need to push Egypt, frankly, to open up that crossing to provide refuge and humanitarian supplies and basic needs to the Palestinians.

And we need some time to make sure that this doesn't spill over into a regional conflict. I'm extremely concerned about Iran entering into the the conflict even more so than it already has by supporting proxies like Hamas. I mean, they could directly enter the conflict. The same with Lebanon and Hezbollah.

The risk has never been higher, certainly in my lifetime, for a broader regional conflict. And we need some time to get our arms around that issue and prevent even larger, more devastating regional conflict.

BASH: Right. And that is something that the U.S. -- the Biden administration certainly has been talking about with, the Israeli officials, not just on a presidential level, but on down. We do know that.

Congressman, if you don't mind standing by, I want to go back to Nic Robertson, who was there on the ground in Sderot in Israel. Nic, what are you seeing right now?

ROBERTSON: Yes, Dana. I just told you when we were speaking a couple of minutes ago, there was two minutes of silence. It's not silent anymore. The guns have picked up again. We're hearing the fighter jets, hearing explosions, some of them very heavy behind us here right now.

Also, we just saw a flash on the skyline. Didn't hear an explosion from that, which indicates it could be some distance away from us. But if we had a sense here a few minutes ago that the intense bombardment of earlier might have been easing off, I think the last two minutes here while you have been talking to the congressman, it has really picked up and intensified again.

I think it will do this for some time the fluctuation. I can hear guns artillery firing out from this direction. Possibly we'll hear the impacts in Gaza behind us. But some of the impacts have been exceptionally loud, exceptionally strong. You can feel them shaking the ground here. Not clear precisely what the targets are, other than Hamas and its infrastructure.

Not quite clear how the rest of the night will roll out. But it -- but what we are feeling and seeing from here right now is quantifiably a step up from previous nights, Dana.

BASH: And I just want to underscore something that you talked about earlier and that Alex Marquardt has been reporting on, Becky Anderson as well, which is sources saying that there were significant discussions, progress in those discussions about hostages. More than 200 hostages being held on the other side of the border from where you are, Nic.

And the question that you posed, as you're seeing the increase in action there and military action right before your eyes, how that could impact the ability to get the hostages out and whether there is any connection anymore at this point.

ROBERTSON: Yes, the diplomacy around the table is in essence hostages for humanitarian aid, a humanitarian pause, or we understand Hamas has, at some point, asked for a five-day ceasefire. Israel has been very clear all along. It is not about to have a ceasefire.


There's been increasing pressure and using different language from different countries. The European Union putting pressure for a kind of humanitarian pause. You're probably seeing some of the flashes behind me there of some of the strikes that are underway. We're hearing the fighter jet.

That blast that you heard there, I'm assuming you could hear it, was the sort of thing we've just been hearing repeated, repeated, repeated, repeated over the past few hours. That seems to have been a missile coming from a fighter jet because I'm hearing it fly away.

But the idea that Hamas was talking about a ceasefire, the idea that the hostage release could come about as part of a deal where there would be a cessation in the fighting. This is all diplomacy. But there's another part of the equation, and that's the military part.

In this diplomacy, both sides go toe to toe, make their demands, wait for the other side to take concessions. These are concessions, as we say, over fuel into Gaza or humanitarian aid. But there are also -- the two sides are going toe to toe in military terms as well, waiting for the other to back down.

It was only a few hours ago that Hamas was firing rockets into Tel Aviv that hit an apartment there. The IDF clearly stepping up its action in this part of Gaza tonight. So these are all ways of pressuring the other side, and where the talks now stand as there is not a clear pause in the military offensive.

In fact, the reverse, I would say, an escalation over earlier in the day. And I think it's worth just pointing out at this point. You know, a week ago, a week ago today, Friday last week, there was intense diplomacy behind the scenes for the release of those two hostages, the American hostages, the mother and the daughter. They were released late Friday night.

Well, in absolute contrast to today. Thursday and Friday last week were very quiet in military terms. We barely heard any shelling or any aircraft strikes. Compare and contrast that to now, to today, and you get that real sense that if it took two days of pause to release two hostages, absent any pause, absent perhaps the release of 50 hostages.

BASH: All right, Nic, standby, please. And please let us know if there's anything we need to come right back to you for. But I want to get to Jeremy Diamond, who was also in Israel. Jeremy, what are you hearing from sources there?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, just like Nic, I mean, we are here -- we heard earlier in the day that there was perhaps some progress in these hostage negotiations. But now, what we are hearing are the sounds of war, the most intense bombing, at least in terms of what I can hear from my position here in Ashkelon, that I have heard in the nearly three weeks that I have been here covering this war.

We are hearing intense and repetitive percussive thuds, bombing, artillery also clearly going out. And what we're also seeing is Hamas responding with at least two rocket barrages towards central Israel as well as right here towards Ashkelon within the last 20, 30 minutes or so.

So this is certainly taking on a different tone and tenor from here. It's hard to say if this is the beginning of that invasion that we have been expecting from the IDF, that they have made clear that will be happening at some point.

You know, we know, Dana, that in recent days, Israeli officials had clearly told the Americans that they were willing to give them a few days to see how these hostage negotiations developed. And while we don't know officially whether those talks have completely collapsed, what is clear is that Israeli officials were not going to wait indefinitely in order to move forward with their ground campaign.

Again, we don't know whether that is what we are starting to see on the ground, but what we are seeing is certainly an intensification of strikes on Gaza. There are also reports of telecommunications being out in Gaza. And in addition to that, we know that in recent days, we have seen a stepped up pace, not only of the airstrikes, not only of the targeting of those Hamas tunnels underneath Gaza, but also increasing raids inside of Gaza.

At least over the last two nights, there have been tanks going into Gaza to carry out targeted raids as the IDF describes them to take out some of those tunnels, to take out some of Hamas's infrastructure. And what we also saw last night was the Flotilla 13, which is Israel's equivalent of the Navy SEALs going into southern Gaza via the sea and carrying out a raid there as well.

All of that in the lead up to what we are now hearing, Dana, which again is a very serious intensification of airstrikes, much louder bombing than we have heard perhaps in these nearly three weeks of this war.

BASH: Jeremy, thank you. Stand by as well.

I want to bring in General Mark Hertling, who was the commanding general of the United States Army Europe and the Seventh Army. General, what are you seeing when you hear our reporters and you see the images that we are?


LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well specifically, Dana, what I'd say is Nic's reporting is excellence from northern Gaza. I'd be interested in what's happening in the south. Jeremy just talked a little bit about what's happening in the most southern extreme of Gaza with the Israeli Navy, but what also is happening in Khan Yunis.

Are there the same kind of explosions going on in those areas? Because I think the Israeli Defense Forces are going to hit all sectors of Gaza. But what you've seen, as Jeremy just pointed out, over the last several days, an increase in airstrikes, an increase in intelligence probes by ground forces which went into Gaza and then came out, which tells me they were seeking more intelligence, more targeting data for a final push.

So what you're seeing primarily, I believe from the Air Force and perhaps even artillery fire from outside of Gaza is a preparatory stance by Israel. They are conducting final prep fires, putting a lot of forces in it. And remember, these weapons don't just kill what they're bombing Gaza with and hitting them with artillery, it's also psychological.

When you're under that kind of fire as a terrorist operation, you know something biggest is happening. And they've been under these kind of bombs for the last 20 days. At the same time, as Nic so rightly pointed out, the Israeli Defense Forces have been mobilized almost 20 days now.

You can't just keep a large force of 300,000 waiting in a field for that long. They tend to start losing their edge and the Israeli government, the one Mr. Netanyahu, who's going to literally pull the trigger and start the operation and all indicators are he's been holding back because of the divisions within his cabinet.

When he does that, he has to have the full force of the attack going. Whether or not ground forces are going to come in and go back out or come in writ large and stay, you know that's yet to be determined. But I'd suggest, it probably tonight or tomorrow is going -- we're going to see some of the major effort of the Israeli defense force going in with main forces to strike some of the targets that they've been collecting intelligence on.

BASH: General, thank you so much. Stand by. I want to go back to Nic again, who is in Sderot, who, as the general pointed out, is in -- you're in the northern part of the border between Israel and Gaza, on the Israel side. What are your -- I just want you to kind of expand on what the general just said about the potential for this being preparatory, but also probably not that far ahead of this ground incursion that the prime minister himself has been telegraphing for quite some time.

ROBERTSON: Yes, I think when you take the limited ground incursion the night before last, the one last night the fact that the IDF has said they will continue in the coming nights, this feels like a military buildup where you go in across the border, you do something and set the conditions for a bigger incursion to come and a safer passageway for the troops when they go in.

So I think you have that on the one hand that there's a military narrative and a military doctrine that's at play here. But I also don't think we can overlook the possibility, although it seems stretched at the moment, but the possibility this military action is a big push to try to push along the negotiations about the hostages to -- from an Israeli perspective, to signal to Hamas, you'd have no room for maneuver.

We are not about to back down. These are our actions. You're seeing our actions. You're feeling our actions. You're hearing our actions. The next move is on your part. You need to concede something. It can be that sort of military/diplomatic language.

BASH: Yes.

ROBERTSON: But it's hard to read. We're not in the room at the talks. We know they had gone better, but we don't know where they're at right now.

BASH: Hard and soft power at the same time. That's really interesting.

General Hertling, what are your thoughts on that?

HERTLING: Yes, I think Nic brings up very good points. But there's also the message, not only, you know, we're going -- you don't have the options, Hamas. We're going to do something. But there's also probably the feeling within Israel, we're through playing around.

Hamas has been playing with these hostages. First releasing two, and then two elder ones. They say they're in the middle of negotiations, but they don't have the ability to negotiate. They need to act. And I think that also is the message that the Israeli government is sending.

We're through playing with this. And there may be international interest from the United States and others to continue with the hostage release.


But Israel, I think, is saying they also have to send the message that they don't want to wait any longer because they don't want to be fooled by any action that Hamas is taking again, playing the victim doctrine, which they're so famous for.

BASH: Oh, no question about that. And Jeremy Diamond, if you're still there, the -- this is something that the general just alluded to, the idea that there's been reporting, the New York Times and others, about the internal divisions, internal when it comes to Benjamin Netanyahu and his top war Cabinet about what to do, when to do it, how to do it.

And the question is whether or not that could be playing out. Now, we just don't know the answer to that. But also, as -- you answer this question, I want to remind people where we are and how we got here. And we are almost three weeks to the day when the Hamas terrorists came into Israel and butchered innocent civilians, more than a thousand of them.

And maybe part of the disagreement inside the War Cabinet, inside the Israeli government, is because it's this combination of anger and pressure and guilt, but also understanding that you need a strategy beyond just wanting to get rid of the Hamas terrorists. What do you do afterwards?

DIAMOND: Yes, that's right, Dana. And Benjamin Netanyahu is also facing a really complex converging, a series of political pressures onto him right now, you know. On the one hand, you have the families of these hostages who are naturally demanding that they'd be freed and demanding that the Israeli government make getting them out of Gaza a priority over any other factor.

And at the same time, you also have a really, you know, strong sentiment here in Israel that these shocking attacks carried out by Hamas must be the last ones, and that the Israeli military must do something to take Hamas out of the equation entirely. And so, the Israeli Prime Minister is facing those, you know, converging political factors as he weighs this decision making. And at the same time, even though we have heard a lot of bellicose rhetoric from Bibi Netanyahu over the years, he has tended to be a fairly cautious politician, especially when it comes to matters of war.

And -- but what is also interesting is that he's now part of a unity, you know, an emergency government, War Cabinet, with his former political opponents Benny Gantz, who has been extremely hawkish on matters of Gaza --

BASH: Right.

DIAMOND: -- and as it relates to Hamas. So I'm sure that that is playing a factor as they consider these next steps.

BASH: Nic, I want to go back to you. What are you seeing right now?

ROBERTSON: Yes, at the moment, the last 30 seconds quiet, but we were hearing a lot of impacts prior to that. I think this is the fluctuations. We're just going to see through the battle. There were flashes behind us in the past two or three minutes. We could hear the detonations.

Yes. This -- you really here right now in this situation, in this confrontation, in this conflict, you could only really speak in terms of the matter of minutes because it changes its dynamic. I'm hearing a jet flying overhead, which is an indication we may get a large explosion in a minute.

BASH: General Hertling?

HERTLING: Yes. I think that's true. It's probably a combination of this massive strike early on but also the -- truthfully, the transfer of aircraft in and out of the area. You know, you can't keep flying those aircraft around all night long unless you have a good plan. And you're probably in a lull right now because aircraft have dropped their ordinance and are going back to base. And we'll probably see a new set of aircraft here shortly.

The other thing I've mentioned to, Dana, that we can't forget. This is the day of prayer for Muslims. It is the Shabbat for Jews. To have an attack tonight is fascinating to me because it normally doesn't happen on that night, the religious day for both of these organizations. It would normally happen the next day.

BASH: That's such an important point. Of course, the Hamas terrorists didn't care that it was the Jewish Sabbath or that it was a Jewish holiday, Simchat Torah, when they attacked three weeks ago. But what you just said begs the question about whether or not perhaps this is what both you and Nic were talking about, which is a warning as they're negotiating to get the hostages out.

We mean business. And we mean it so much that this is on the Muslim Sabbath and the Jewish Sabbath. HERTLING: Well, and just like we're debating, what does this mean right now? You can bet that there are Hamas terrorists inside of those tunnels thinking, what are they going to do next? So Israel has acted. They've hit decisively with a lot of strikes tonight. What's going to happen next is, as important to them as it is -- as we debated as well.

BASH: General Hertling, thank you so much. Thanks to Nic and Jeremy. We're obviously going to continue watching this.

"CNN NEWS CENTRAL" picks up right now.