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Isa Soares Tonight
World Food Program Describes Situation In Gaza As "Unimaginable Loss And Destruction"; Aid Workers Struggle To Help Those In Gaza; Lebanon Accuses Israel Of Shelling Town With Phosphorus; Republican Presidential Debate Fallout; Trump Present For Defense Witness In Fraud Case. Aired 2- 2:45p ET
Aired December 07, 2023 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, CO-HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: Hello, and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world, I'm Isa Soares in London.
JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: And I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. Unimaginable loss, destruction and misery. That is how the
World Food Program describes the just catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza that is getting worse by the hour. It says everyone is hungry,
starved of food as they flee their homes, trying to escape the relentless bombing.
But Israel is rejecting urgent calls for a ceasefire, saying it must destroy Hamas after those brutal attacks on October 7th that triggered this
war. It is exactly two months to the day.
SOARES: And exactly, civilians in Gaza are paying the heaviest price as we've been showing here on the show. Almost the entire population of 2.3
million people now homeless, with nowhere to go as fighting rages from north to south, and as temperatures drop as well, that is important to
We are about to show you two videos that are very disturbing. But they reflect the reality on the ground for Palestinians living in constant fear
that they may be next to die.
SCIUTTO: This is the aftermath of a bombing today in Gaza, as you can see children among the casualties.
SOARES: Also horrific scenes from a hospital in Khan Yunis. The Hamas-run Health Ministry says more than 17,000 people have now been killed, 350 of
them in just the past 24 hours. Let's bring it all into context for you, to bring the very latest, Jeremy Diamond in Sderot in southern Israel, Ben
Wedeman is in Jerusalem.
Ben, let me start with you first. Just bring us up-to-date on the situation inside Gaza as we just laid out for our viewers, just getting more dire and
more desperate every day.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what we're seeing is almost complete collapse of the medical system, the health system
in Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society says that in northern Gaza, it can no longer operate its ambulance service because they've run out of
fuel, and because all but one hospital is completely out of action.
The only hospital still working in service is the Kamal Adwan Hospital where staff say that they are coming under fire from Israeli forces. In the
south, we see the hospitals are overwhelmed, you talked about 350 people being killed in the last 24 hours, many more of course, are being injured.
And we're seeing in videos coming out of the hospitals in the south, for instance in Khan Yunis and Rafah, they are overwhelmed. The wounded are on
the floor, the ambulances are coming up every moment. Also donkey carts are being used to transport the wounded, and we've heard from the World Health
Organization's Gaza envoy that the health system is collapsing.
Not only the health system, basic things like getting food for people. Apparently, according to the World Food Program, 97 percent of the people
in northern Gaza have inadequate food, and nine out of ten people in northern Gaza have gone at least a day and a night without food as well.
We see that the situation is slightly better in the southern part of Gaza where many of the people, the displaced, have fled to. But many of them of
course, are sleeping essentially out in the open, in makeshift tents and shelters, where they're just covered by thin plastic sheeting.
And of course, what we're hearing as we say, day-after-day, diseases are spreading because there's no sanitation, there's very little in the way of
clean water, medical care of course, as a result of the collapsing medical system is also inadequate. Isa?
SOARES: Yes, and as you've been telling us, the temperatures have also been dropping with that, of course, medical concerns as we've been hearing
from NGOs. Let me go to Jeremy. And Jeremy, today, we heard from the IDF, the IDF claiming that it has eliminated multiple senior leaders in Hamas.
What more can you tell us about this? And what more are they sharing about the whereabouts of Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, two separate announcements from the Israeli military about what they say is having
killed senior members of Hamas' military command.
They talk about one strike on Hamas' central intelligence center, where they say that two senior members of Hamas were killed. And then they also
released a picture of 11 senior members of Hamas' northern brigade in a tunnel, and they say that five out of those 11 were killed in an Israeli
strike on a Hamas tunnel.
They say that among those five includes the commander of Hamas' northern brigade, its deputy commander as well as the head of its aerial brigade.
But the Israeli military is obviously operating not only here in northern Gaza behind me, but also in the southern -- in southern Gaza, where that is
really the thrust of their military offensive.
We have watched in recent days as Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers as well as infantry troops on the ground have been pushing into
the second largest city in Gaza of Khan Yunis. Also attacks from the air and the sea, strikes on the cities of Rafah as well as Khan Yunis, as well
as Deir Al-Balah, just further north in central Gaza.
This is part of a really significant Israeli offensive in the south, where they say that they are working to go after senior Hamas targets, including
Yahya Sinwar; the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Yesterday, the Israeli Prime Minister saying that Israeli forces had surrounded his house, but it
doesn't appear that he is actually there.
An adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister saying that this was more of a symbolic victory, something that we've seen in the past as the Israeli
military destroyed a few weeks ago in an airstrike the home of Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' exiled leader who has lived in Qatar for years now.
But the Israeli military clearly pushing forward with their offensive, and the Israeli Prime Minister today also speaking with President Joe Biden on
the phone. We know that the U.S. has been pushing for Israel to change the way it operates, carry out more targeted operations, and yet, as you can
hear from what Ben is describing, so far, the images that we're seeing out of Gaza do not seem to indicate a changed picture or a changed strategy
from the Israelis.
SOARES: Indeed. Jeremy Diamond, thank you very much, our thanks also to Ben Wedeman. Well, as the war between Israel and Hamas continues, aid
workers are facing massive challenges to help those in Gaza. Lack of housing as well as basic supplies are just some of the problems that we
have been hearing throughout the show.
Joining me now for more insights, Melanie Ward; the CEO of Medical Aid for Palestinians. Melanie, thank you very much for being on the show. Let's
start off with what you're hearing from your team on the ground. You were just telling me you have about 20 people inside of Gaza. What are they
MELANIE WARD, CEO, MEDICAL AID FOR PALESTINIANS: Well, yes, as you say, we have 20 staff in Gaza, they're all Palestinians, almost all of them are now
displaced, some of them have been displaced up to six times in the last two months, they've run from place to place to place to try to escape the
They're aid workers under international law, they're supposed to be protected, but they're unable to do their jobs, they're just trying to
survive like everyone else. Many of them are now in one of the supported safe zones in the southwest of Gaza, but the house they're staying in was
hit by a missile yesterday.
And what they're saying is that they fear three things, one, that they will die in Israel's bombing or in shooting or shelling from Israeli tanks.
Second, that they will die of starvation or disease, alongside the rest of the population of Gaza, or third, that they will be displaced out of Gaza
and into the Sinai.
SOARES: It's such a dire picture that you've just painted. It's one that we've been hearing this week for various NGOs. But you said that they've
been moved from place to place. You know, we have heard from the IDF asking people in the north to move to the south, now in Khan Yunis, moved away
from the fighting -- what you've just told me is that -- and correct me if I'm wrong, I'm interpreting here, there is no safe place.
WARD: That's exactly right. There is no safe place. And my own staff, one of them, Maud(ph) said to me yesterday, we have no safety, we have no
dignity. They're just trying to survive, they have no food. We're trying to send food into them so that they can try and survive alongside the medical
supplies that we are trying to get into hospitals.
SOARES: Where are they staying? Where are they staying? Where are they moving to? This is a question I keep asking NGOs?
WARD: Well, some of them have moved in with family in various different places, but there are some -- a lot have been staying in apartments with up
to 50, 80 family members. Some of them for a while -- we were in one of the U.N. shelters, but it was so overcrowded, it was like 600 people to one
Some of them are now staying in houses that we've rented and are supposedly de-conflicted, which means that it should be safe from the fighting. But as
I just said they're not --
SOARES: You can't protect --
WARD: Yes, they're aid workers, there's nowhere safe to go. It's absolutely terrifying.
SOARES: Yes, and with of course, so many people, so much displacement, 80 percent or so of Gaza displaced. The concern is -- I know this is something
we've heard, is that the illnesses that come with that, right? The health concerns. We have heard just on the program yesterday from Norwegian
Refugee Council saying they're ceasing some of their operations in Gaza.
Where are you in terms of the operations? How much -- how much are you able to deliver on your objective?
WARD: A million miles behind what is needed, and the truth of it is that it's becoming impossible to sustain human life in Gaza. That's where we
are. I know that the number of supplies that would be needed to keep people alive, we can't get them in. We can't get them inside Gaza across the
various different Israeli military lanes to the people in need. So trying to get anything into the middle area now, is impossible, never mind trying
to get supplies into the north of Gaza.
And it's important that we remember, this is not an accident, this is being done deliberately by Israel siege tactics. You know, very limited supplies
of food, water, fuel, medicine. This is not an accident, and that's why it has to stop now.
SOARES: And you were briefing the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, I think this is really important. What did -- not just -- did
you give them that message that this is not an accident? And what did you hear from them? Because this is important.
WARD: We told them, yes, it's becoming impossible to sustain human life in Gaza. This is how serious the situation is, that we are approaching the
marker where 10,000 Palestinian children will have been killed in Gaza in the last two months.
You compare this to almost any situation, conflict situation in the world, it's way larger than the number of human casualties that you have in any
other place. What they said back to me, frankly, was not very much. And I think, you know, there's going to be a big test tomorrow because the U.N.
Secretary General has taken this unprecedented step for him, of invoking Article 99. That's how serious the situation is.
SOARES: So, you think -- what -- on that, do you think that's going to be able to move the needle? Do you think that's going to change anything here,
WARD: Well, it's the only thing that can make a difference. There's no military solution to this. Politics and diplomacy is the only way out of
this, and a lasting ceasefire is the only solution. There is no military answer to any of this, and that's why the vote tomorrow matters so much.
We need the U.K. to vote for a ceasefire, but crucially, we need the United States to vote for a ceasefire, because anything else is just more civilian
SOARES: Do you think the U.K. will on this -- from what you've heard so far?
WARD: I don't know. I very much hope that they will. In the past, they've abstained. I think now this is a big test, because if you're not trying to
get a ceasefire, then you are supporting what is happening. And it's been no good, including from U.K. politicians we've heard in recent months, them
saying that Israel must uphold international humanity law.
It's very clear that it's not doing that. And so, you now have to move to a situation of taking action, which forces a change in behavior. A ceasefire
is the only way for that to happen, but meaningful action --
SOARES: Yes --
WARD: To put pressure on Israel and on the parties to the conflict to have a lasting ceasefire is the only way out of this.
SOARES: Let's see which way the U.K. government is going to vote. Melanie Ward, appreciate it, thank you very much, Melanie. Jim, back to you.
SCIUTTO: Well, now to the highly volatile situation at the Israel-Lebanon border. Lebanon state media is accusing Israel of shelling a Lebanese
border town with white phosphorus. CNN cannot verify that claim, and has reached out to the Israeli military for comment.
But video obtained by CNN, see it there, from the scene, shows columns of white smoke floating above that village. White phosphorus is classed as an
incendiary weapon, and under international law, it cannot be fired at or near civilian areas. Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant traveled to northern Israel, closed to the border.
The pair met with soldiers and Netanyahu had a stark warning for the Hezbollah militant group. That if it initiate an all-out-war, Lebanon will
see the same destruction as Gaza. Of course, forces in southern Lebanon have been shelling and firing rockets at northern Israel for weeks now.
CNN's Ivan Watson has been following those developments from Beirut. It has been -- I think you can call it a slow burn at the northern Israeli border
since October 7th? It has not broken out to all-out-war. But what is the status of that fire across the border right now? And from where you are,
how volatile is the situation?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, well, clearly, both Israel, the Israeli military and Hezbollah are -- they are so far
restraining themselves from using their most powerful weapons. I would almost argue that part of what Hezbollah is doing is harassing the Israeli
military, tying down Israeli troops so that they cannot fight down in Gaza.
And though, both sides seem to be restraining themselves, some -- there were some harsh words coming from the Israeli prime minister today. Take a
listen to exactly what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL (through translator): If Hezbollah decides to open an all-out-war, then within its own hands, it
will turn Beirut and southern Lebanon, which are not far from here, into Gaza and Khan Yunis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: So what is remarkable there, Jim, is that he's basically saying that what the Israeli military has done to major population centers in
Gaza, that Israel would then do the same to large parts of Lebanon as well. So, an admission of this kind of strategy of wholesale destruction, and
huge loss of life that's taken place in Gaza.
Those words have a chilling effect in places like Beirut where the population is very much polarized between those who support Hezbollah and
its efforts to kind of punish Israel for the ongoing offensive in Gaza, and those who do not support Hezbollah, which is not operating -- not
conducting defense policy and foreign policy in conjunction with the very weak Lebanese state.
When it comes to what's going on, on the border, the Israeli authorities have said that a 60-year-old Israeli man was killed by an anti-tank missile
that came across the border in one of the border communities in northern Israel, as he was farming. Hezbollah, for its part, has said that it
announced today that three Hezbollah fighters were killed.
We don't know what the circumstances of that were. As you mentioned, there were allegations of these phosphorus rounds allegedly fired by Israel into
a border community not far across the border from where that Israeli civilian died.
And in a separate incident, there were apparent Israeli airstrikes on a Lebanese town not far from the Lebanese border town of Bent Jbail, some
huge explosions there, and reports that Lebanese civilian students at an institute were injured there. All of this announced to, again, this fairly
restrained to some degree border conflict, which has killed at least 94 people here on the Lebanese side of the border, the vast majority of them,
Hezbollah fighters. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Listen, and it's led many tens of thousands of Israelis to flee from northern Israel to the south, because they don't feel safe there due
to that rocket and tank and artillery fire coming from southern Lebanon. Thanks so much Ivan Watson in Beirut. And still to come tonight, U.S. aid
to Ukraine held up in a political fight over immigration policy and security at the border with Mexico. What that means for the war against
Russia, Ukrainians are very worried. That's next.
Plus, Donald Trump was not there, but that did not stop the insults from flying at Wednesday's Republican presidential debate. We're going to break
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. New U.S. military aid to Ukraine is officially blocked in Congress. That $60 billion that can't reach Kyiv any
time soon as Senate Republicans quarrel with Democrats over border and immigration policy. States along the U.S. border with Mexico are dealing
with a huge migrant crisis, and White House officials warned the delay is a mistake. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL, WHITE HOUSE: And if you think the cost of supporting Ukraine is
high now, just imagine how much higher it's going to be, not just in national treasure, but in American blood, if he starts going after one of
our NATO allies. Because as the president also said, we take our article five commitments very seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron is urging American lawmakers to get the job done. Sitting down with CNN this morning,
he called the U.S., the linchpin of the whole western coalition against Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, FOREIGN SECRETARY, UNITED KINGDOM: Most of the people I met are on the Hill yesterday, support backing Ukraine, because it's the right
thing to do. I mean, if you fundamentally think about it, the country supporting Ukraine add up their economies and we out-match Russia 30 to 1.
We've just got to make that economic strength show and make it pay. And that's what this is all about. Obviously, it's complicated about exactly
how a bill goes through Congress and what gets attached to it, and I don't want to get involved in that, but I just absolutely know that this money
will make a huge difference to a Ukrainian campaign that actually is in many ways far more successful than people give them credit for, they've
taken back half the land that Russia stole from them.
The other night they destroyed 20 percent of Russia's attack helicopters in one night, thanks to American equipments, they've driven the Russian Navy
back across the Black Sea, they're exporting grain again, so their economy is growing again. This is an investment into their success, and the worst
thing in the world would be to allow Putin win in Ukraine, not just because that would be bad in itself, but he'd be back for more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Global affairs analyst and Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, Mike Bociurkiw, a well-known face here on the show joins us now from Kyiv.
Mike, well, good to see you. Let's first of all -- I mean, what has been the reaction, I wonder, to the $60 billion in aid to Ukraine being blocked
in Congress? I mean, was Ukraine expecting this?
MICHAEL BOCIURKIW, GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, sure, good to be with you, Isa. First of all, we're sitting in the darkness here in Kyiv, because
there's been a massive power outage, and I'm right next to the government district, so that's interesting. But the mood here, I would say, is very
A lot of people here in Ukraine had really thought that the United States had their backs, but of course, what happened, domestic politics began to
seep into this whole debate about aid to Ukraine. But you know, the Ukrainians, they will tell you if you talk to them in person, that we will
fight this alone if need be, because there are arguments, and it's a very legitimate argument, I think is that, if Mr. Putin is not held back, he
will come for more.
And that could be the Baltics, it could be neighboring NATO country, but it needs to be pushed back. And you know, another quick factoid if you will,
what Ukraine has managed to do in almost two years of war with about 3 percent or 4 percent of the U.S. military budget, and aid from other
states, they basically destroyed 50 percent of conventional military capability in Russia. That's a real deal.
SOARES: So what does this mean then, in terms for the counteroffensive? Of course, we haven't touched much on it because obviously the focus --
BOCIURKIW: Right --
SOARES: Has been taken away by the conflict in Gaza. How does this impact potentially this impasse, or if there is no funding here, no money, no
extra money, how does that impact, Michael, the battlefield? And those gains --
BOCIURKIW: Yes --
SOARES: That have been made. What are you hearing from your contacts on the ground?
BOCIURKIW: Sure. Yes, I spoke to a senior Ukrainian diplomat today, and they reminded me that the counteroffensive shouldn't be measured in inches
or kilometers. And they also told me that, you know, a big problem is, the mined areas facing the Ukrainians, there are multiple kilometers of
barriers that they have to go through.
The other thing that Ukraine is begging for, but hasn't yet received are longer-ranged from those U.S. missiles being --
SOARES: Yes --
BOCIURKIW: Supplied, for example, the attack on missiles. Not only do they need more range, maybe double what they have now, because they're only
about 150 kilometers. But more power -- I was told at a closed-door briefing in Washington -- sorry, in New York, that if they were given what
they asked for, if they did send a missile in the direction of Mr. Putin's pet project, the Kerch Strait Bridge, it would not only put a hole in it,
it would obliterate it completely.
So, that's a strategic -- that's a legitimate military target, and that's the type of things the Ukrainians need to destroy in order to help them win
SOARES: And you said in your first answer, Michael, that the mood was dire. I mean, you've given us a perspective of the battlefield --
BOCIURKIW: Sure --
SOARES: But I heard and correct me if I'm wrong here. In the corridors of power in Kyiv, there's also some tension, reported tension between
President Zelenskyy and Ukraine's military chief, who recently wrote a piece, said that the --
BOCIURKIW: Right --
SOARES: Frontline had reached a stalemate. This is what he said, "they'll most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough." I mean, how palpable
are these tensions?
BOCIURKIW: Well, you know, I suppose after almost two years of war, one can expect some kind of --
SOARES: Yes --
BOCIURKIW: Divisions to bubble up to the surface, and then it becomes public. But because -- you know, for the most part, the Zelenskyy
administration has been able to project a very unified front to the west. And of course, this is very important to donors. You don't want your chief
of staff contradicting your president.
But I think that they are united on one thing, and that is not giving up any territory. I spoke today to diplomats and they said there's no way
we're going to give up, for example, the Donbas or Crimea. And number two is that they're so intent on winning this war that they're also putting up
with so many other things, for example, the psychological problems that were seen emerge in hospitals here, from people who were at the frontline.
Also, there's been protests too, as you probably saw mothers and wives, saying the men and women are spending too long at the front.
BOCIURKIW: These tensions are all bubbling up, and one more thing, also questions about the millions, the 10 million or so who left Ukraine. If
this war drags on, will they come back? Because the Ukrainian economy really needs them. You can really notice, Isa, it has slowed down here.
SOARES: Yes, after two years, I can say, Michael, these are very important questions. Michael Bociurkiw, really appreciate you taking the time to
speak to us and for that analysis. Thank you, Michael.
BOCIURKIW: My pleasure --
SOARES: And still to come tonight, Republican candidates clashed at Wednesday's presidential debate. We'll have highlights as well as analysis
for you. Plus, Donald Trump wasn't at the debate, but he was in a New York court today, details from his civil fraud trial when we come back. You are
SOARES: The four top Republican candidates who are not Donald Trump squared off Wednesday at their party's fourth presidential debate.
Things got heated in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. They're all trailing Trump in the polls. But Nikki Haley's star is rising. The former South Carolina governor
came under fierce attack from some of her rivals. Have a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R-OH), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The only person more fascist than the Biden regime now is Nikki Haley.
NIKKI HALEY (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Love all the attention, fellows. Thank you for that.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Her donors, these Wall Street liberal donors, they make money in China. They are not going to let
her be tough on China. And she will cave to the donors. She will not stand up for you.
HALEY: First of all, he's mad because those Wall Street donors used to support him and now they support me.
RAMASWAMY: Nikki, I don't have a woman problem. You have a corruption problem. And I think that that's what people need to know. Nikki is
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Haley, would you like to respond?
HALEY: No. It's not really worth my time to respond to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: That was Haley fighting back, as you see there, against Florida governor Ron DeSantis and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy. Former New Jersey
governor Chris Christie actually defended Haley. He also had this intense exchange with Ramaswamy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You do this at every debate.
CHRISTIE: No, don't interrupt me. I didn't interrupt you, OK?
CHRISTIE: You do this at every debate. You go out on the stump and you say something, all of us see it on video, we confront you on it on the debate
stage, you say you didn't say it and then you back away. And I want to say --
CHRISTIE: I'm not done yet.
CHRISTIE: -- this is the fourth debate, the fourth debate that you would be voted in the first 20 minutes as the most obnoxious blowhard in America.
So shut up for a little while.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: There were cheers after that.
Former president Trump skipped this debate but Christie says his rivals aren't challenging the current frontrunner enough. He cited a Harry Potter
villain to make his point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: The fifth guy, who doesn't have the guts to show up and stand here, he's the one who, as you just put it, is way ahead in the polls. And
yet I've got these three guys, who are all seemingly to compete with, you know, Voldemort, he who shall not be named.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: CNN political director David Chalian joins me now.
Definitely and certainly entertaining, I tell you that much, David. Let me pick up with that point, that last point, from Chris Christie, because this
is one of their last chances here, before Iowa, to try and shake Donald Trump, to try and move him from that front-runner position.
Chris Christie went for it and has openly, correct me if I'm wrong, attacked Trump on numerous occasions.
Why have the others not attacked him as openly?
What do they fear here?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN HOST: What they see, is in all the survey research and all the polling out there, is that Republican primary voters, even those
supporting candidates not named Trump -- Haley supporters, DeSantis supporters -- do not want to see them attack Donald Trump.
He is a very popular figure inside the Republican Party. That's why he's so dominant in the race. So attacking someone that is very popular with the
very people who support you or who support your seeking, is something they are fearful to do, which is what Christie called them all out for doing.
That's why they're playing timid around Donald Trump.
SOARES: And instead of attacking Trump, they attacked Nikki Haley, who faced, as we played in that little clip, most of the attacks.
What does this tell us then about how they see Nikki Haley's position, how much a threat she is to them?
And how do you think she did, from what you heard last night?
CHALIAN: Yes, she definitely was in that front-runner's position. By that I mean, the front-runner on the stage, with the candidates who were there,
not Donald Trump.
She was a clear front-runner but she was taking all that incoming because of her momentum in this race, because she's consolidating a lot of support.
Her numbers are on the rise. Big donors are coming around to her and she's starting to coalesce a level of support to be seen as the likeliest
alternative to Trump at the end of the day.
We'll see, once voters actually weigh in.
We saw it in Iowa and New Hampshire. Nobody has voted in this process yet. But that's why all the incoming.
So how did she handle it?
That's your question?
I don't think she did herself much damage last night. She retreated at times to let it go by. I'm curious to see if voters think they learned some
new negative information about her they didn't know, because that was clearly DeSantis' and Ramaswamy's intent, to try and introduce new negative
information to voters about her.
She parried when she had to but she didn't go on the full counterattack. At times, she kind of retreated, which allowed people to think maybe this
wasn't the strongest of her debate performances.
SOARES: It does seem, from voters, at least the ones we've heard, that there are at least some in Iowa, they thought she did a good job. Have a
listen to this.
Have you got the sound?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly lately she's been the one with the momentum, so I expected her to take a lot of hits tonight. And the debate started with
them coming after her. And I think she handled it really well.
I think she also just is strong on policy. And she is just as strong in these debates and I think that's been a consistent part of her momentum.
She's been a strong debater.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people should arrows at the people that are winning. And I think she's winning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: They seem to think that she did really well. But in terms of polling -- and it's important to point out for our international viewers as
well -- that these polls are pre-debate, from November the 9th, I believe, from December the 4th.
But she's stern there. But like you said, she has received a huge endorsement, right?
So what are her chances like?
Do you think she can improve those?
CHALIAN: Yes, we should note, that CNN Poll of Polls, that's an average of a whole bunch of polls. You're right to note that it's an important debate
but it's also national. And this is a contest that is going to kick off in Iowa in 39 days and then New Hampshire.
And it goes sequentially and the whole name of the game for a candidate not named Trump, like Nikki Haley, is make a strong showing in those states so
that more money comes in and more support. That's the whole concept here.
Did she advance her cause?
You saw Gary Tuchman talking to those Iowa voters, they were very pleased with her debate performance. Again, I don't think she did much damage,
which means if you're the one with momentum and you didn't damage yourself, you're probably still riding some of that momentum.
SOARES: Indeed. There was one person who, when I woke up this morning, this side of the pond, was all over social media but not necessarily for
good reasons. That was Vivek Ramaswamy.
Not only, from what I've heard -- and obviously we didn't see the slight because it was very late here -- but he spewed a lot of conspiracy theories
but he was also pretty brutal and, if I can say, outright nasty.
What is his strategy here?
CHALIAN: Well, the conspiracy theory pieces, you are right. When talking about the conspiracy theory that January 6 was somehow an inside job, he
talks about the white replacement theory, which is a totally conspiracy theory.
And he's arguing for support from a segment of the fringe Right, inside the Republican primary electorate and he sees that as a potential base of
support. That's what he did on that.
What you're saying is the nastiness, and this is what Chris Christie called him out for, it seems to me that's a pure play for attention. So that he is
dominating on social media space, so he is in the conversation.
He clearly is of the mind and he has been throughout all these debates, that if you're in the conversation, it doesn't -- there's no bad headline,
as long as you're in the headline. Donald Trump has sometimes used that to great success, over the course of his career in business and politics. We
don't see Ramaswamy getting the same kind of traction.
SOARES: David Chalian, we appreciate your analysis, thank you, David.
SOARES: Take care.
SOARES: Jim, back to you.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Trump chose to attend a private fund-raiser instead of going to the
presidential debate and he is in New York today for his New York civil fraud trial, one of several trials, of course, he's facing.
A defense accounting expert is testifying. Trump not required to attend. He is though taking the opportunity to speak to the media. And he lashed out
once again at the New York attorney general, Letitia James, using strong language we've become accustomed to.
He called her a lunatic and said he's done nothing wrong. For her part, James wrote this on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying her team has
already proven its case. CNN's Brynn Gingras joins me now from outside the courthouse in New York.
Clearly Trump calculates that appearing there in court is to his benefit, there was no, to be clear, legal reason for him to be there today.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jim. He also wanted to be at the defense table when this witness took the stand.
This is an NYU professor of accounting, who really, so far with his testimony, has been the strongest witness to back up what the defenses
argument here is.
And that is that Trump and the other codefendants, including his two sons, did not violate any accounting principles when filling out those financial
statements of condition, which is at the heart of this case.
GINGRAS: Which the New York attorney general has said, where the Trumps have inflated the value of their assets in order to get better loans from
banks and interest rates. So this testimony, really, again, has been the strongest for the defense.
At times, even has gotten heated, where at one point before the lunch break in this trial, Jim, the state's attorneys objected to some of the testimony
that this witness was giving, saying he was not an expert for the testimony that he was giving, regarding some vague testimony.
And this witness actually lashed out and said, shame on yourself, talking to me like that. You make up allegations;; I'm here to tell the truth. You
ought to be ashamed of yourself.
Prior to that testimony, he did testify, saying that he looked over all these financial statements of condition and he doesn't see any examples of
Again, this is something, though, that the judge has already said the Trump and the defendants are liable of, is fraud, with those statements. So
again, this is a strong witness.
This is how the defense is going to wrap up its case, until they get to their final witness, which will be the former president. He's expected to
take the stand on Monday.
But this testimony is continuing with this witness and it's unclear when we'll get to cross examination, when the state will get to ask their
questions. We can only imagine it will be a robust set of questioning with the testimony we've heard so far.
SCIUTTO: Trump has attacked witnesses and others, clerks, in the past. There's been a back and forth on gag orders preventing him from doing so.
Where does that stand in this case?
GINGRAS: Yes, yes, so the gag order is still in place.
Now this has been an ongoing issue, right?
We know that this gag order was put on a temporary stay for about two weeks or so and then a full appellate court panel of judges reinstated this gag
order, because there have been so many threats after Trump has made some comments about the judge's clerk, in particular.
So this gag order is still in place. He's violated it twice. The attorneys for Trump have tried to appeal that gag order to the highest court in New
York, the court of appeals. However, they lost their bid to really expedite that process.
So when Trump does take the stand on Monday, he's going to have to be very careful not to talk about the staff of the judge. It's important to note
that gag order is extended to his attorneys. However, it's not extended to the point that Trump can't talk about the attorney general, which he
continues to do.
Can't talk about the judge, which he continues to do. But it will be interesting, he has to be very careful with his words on Monday. And so far
we've seen today, Jim, he's been very careful with his words when he goes out in front of the cameras today as well.
SCIUTTO: Brynn Gingras in New York, thanks so much.
And we will be right back.