Return to Transcripts main page

One World with Zain Asher

French President Emmanuel Macron Send A French Ship To Gaza To Assist Hospitals; Mike Johnson Becomes An Official Nominee For House Speaker; Israel's Ambassador To The U.N. Says His Country Will Not Be Issuing Entry Visas To Any U.N. Official; Actor Richard Rountree Passes Away At 81. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired October 25, 2023 - 12:00   ET




ZAIN ASHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: All right, race against time. The U.N. says if Gaza does not get access to fuel by the end of the day, aid

operations will come to a standstill.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: "One World" starts right now. Because of that blockade, the people of Gaza have no idea if life-saving

supplies will keep coming. We'll have the latest on the growing humanitarian crisis.

ASHER: Also ahead, happening this hour -- deja vu. The House is expected to vote on another speaker yet again.

GOLODRYGA: And the next hour, U.S. President Biden will make remarks at the White House. It could be the first time he takes questions live since the

conflict in the Middle East began. Hello everyone, live from New York, I'm Bianna Golodryga.

ASHER: And I'm Zain Asher. This is "One World". I want to start with what is happening in Gaza right now because a crisis is unfolding literally as

we speak. Fuel feeds everything in Gaza, not just the obvious things like, for example, lights and vehicles. But food cannot be cooked. Water cannot

be purified. In some cases, water cannot even be pumped. And hospitals cannot function without fuel.

GOLODRYGA: And now Gaza's fuel has almost run out. It is believed that no fuel, not a drop, has entered Gaza since Israel began its siege following

the October 7th Hamas attacks. Israel says Hamas is to blame for this, claiming that the terror group has plenty of fuel and that anything that

gets shipped in will be stolen by Hamas and used to fuel their terror machine.

ASHER: The fuel crisis comes as Israel continues its assaults on Hamas positions in Gaza, even as the U.S. and other allies try to convince Israel

to delay the ground war into Gaza just for a little while longer.

And just a short time ago, French President Emmanuel Macron said that he would send a French ship to Gaza to assist hospitals who are really

struggling right now to stay open. I want to bring in CNN's Salma Abdelaziz, who's been tracking the situation in Gaza.

I mean, when you think about it, Salma, I mean, Gaza right now being pummeled by airstrikes. I mean, hospitals are overcrowded right now. One of

our CNN producers who's on the ground in Gaza talked about drinking toilet water because there is no clean water. Just explain to us what happens next

as Gaza runs out of fuel.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Quite simply the clock is ticking here. Doctors say that if this fuel doesn't come in soon, you're essentially

issuing a death sentence to the many, many wounded in those hospitals, to premature babies who can't be hooked up to incubators, to families who can

no longer access clean drinking water.

You mentioned that allegation from the Israeli military. It says that it doesn't want to allow fuel inside. You'll remember Israel imposed a

complete siege because of its concerns, its speculation that it would be taken by Hamas in the past.

Anwar has denied that any of their fuel has been stolen by Hamas. And all these aid agencies are essentially pleading with Israel to deal with the

facts on the ground. And the facts are that Gaza needs fuel now. Take a look at our report.


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Aid is slowly trickling into Gaza. But in U.N. camps, families desperate for food and water say they're getting bars of

soap. This so-called aid provides nothing. We're dying a slow death, this man says. You don't hear the people scream at night when they fight over a

piece of bread. There's not even water to drink.

So far, the total amount of aid delivered is less than 1 percent of what the enclave would receive on a daily basis prior to this conflict. And a

crucial lifeline is missing, fuel. Without it, UNRWA, the main U.N. agency on the ground, says it will be forced to halt operations by Wednesday

night. The International Community is begging for help.

UNKNOWN: We are appealing. We are pleading. We are on our knees asking for that sustained, scaled up, protected, humanitarian operation. Israel's

reply? Ask Hamas for fuel.

DANIEL HAGARI, REAR ADMIRAL, CHIEF ISRAELI MILITARY SPOKESPERSON: Fuel will not enter the Gaza Strip. Hamas used the petrol for its military

infrastructure. Fuel Hamas stole from UNRWA should be taken back from Hamas and given to the hospitals.


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): UNRWA previously denied the claims of fuel looting. And as Israel intensifies its bombardment of Gaza, with more than 200

hostages still being held by Hamas, the fuel shortage is already costing lives, doctors warn. At least six hospitals have shut down due to a lack of

fuel, and hundreds of patients, from premature babies to the many wounded in ICU, are at risk.

If the hospital is not provided with the necessary fuel for the generators, we are issuing a death sentence, this doctor says. The execution is in the

hands of the free world. Everyone is guilty.

Water pumps will soon stop working, too, making it even more difficult to get clean drinking water. Bakeries are closing. Aid deliveries are more

difficult. And more than two million people, half of them children, already under bombardment and under siege, could face starvation. The clock is



ABDELAZIZ (on-camera): Now, there are intense diplomatic efforts underway to solve this crisis to basically unlock this crisis and allow that fueling

but no indications, no signs that that's going to happen.

UNRWA, that main U.N. agency on the ground, says it's already looking at winding down its operations, deciding which of the critical bits of aid it

has to cut to the 600,000 people it shelters. Simply Gaza could be plunged into darkness if this fuel doesn't arrive soon.

ASHER: All right, Salma Abdelaziz, live for us there. Thank you so much.

GOLODRYGA: I want to just take a moment to show you some scenes of the desperate situation there in Gaza. The Reuters news agency found this

example of just how bad the situation is and it seemed that looks like something out of another century.

What you're seeing is a family trying to bury their son, who was forced to transport his body via a donkey cart, because reportedly no other

transportation was available.


UNKNOWN (through translator): There is no transportation, fuel, ambulances, cars. We tried to find a car just to move this body, but nothing. All we

could find was this donkey-drawn cart to use it to take to where we will bury our son. We have so many killed. It's a massacre.


GOLODRYGA: We also want to show you some other dramatic video reportedly showing an attempt by Hamas divers to infiltrate Israeli territory by sea.

The Israeli Defense Forces, who released this video, says Navy soldiers eliminated the divers south of the city of Ashkelon on Tuesday.

ASHER: This is incredibly bold and brazen. The IDF is adding that the divers entered through a tunnel in the ocean off the northern coast of

Gaza, and that its fighter jets also struck the military compound in Gaza where they actually came from. I just want to point out for clarity though

that CNN is unable to verify this video, but Hamas' military wing did confirm an infiltration, as well.

GOLODRYGA: We're also hearing from sources that U.S. military officials are trying to steer Israel away from a full-scale ground assault on Gaza by

invoking the lessons they learned in Iraq. The shadow of Fallujah in 2004 loomed large. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war and its

immediate aftermath.

ASHER: And with that in mind, American advisors on the ground in Israel are urging, are pleading with the IDF to use a combination of precision

airstrikes and targeted raids. That is more special operations than an all- out ground invasion. Observers worry that a full-on incursion into Gaza could, of course, endanger hospitals -- or rather hostages, which we have

talked about a lot, and, of course, civilians, and also further inflame tensions in the region.

GOLODRYGA: So, for more on this, let's get the view from the Pentagon now with our Oren Liebermann. Oren, it's good to see you. So, the U.S. is

trying to invoke past examples with the Israelis to show their experience in battling insurgencies.

You know, Israel saying, yes, we hear you, but the problem is we're not dealing with a threat that's thousands of miles away. It's just across the

border. So, is this -- is there signs of a conflict between the two or the two sides at least publicly showing that they're on the same page here?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I don't know that either U.S. or Israeli officials would describe it as a conflict between each other.

But the U.S. is trying to give best advice and sort of best practices from U.S. wars that we've seen in the Middle East, in Fallujah, as you point

out, in 2004, and then a dozen years later in Mosul, in Iraq, the different ways the U.S. operated there.

Fallujah was much more house-to-house, building to building, street-by- street, advancing, and it was a brutal battle, as you pointed out, considered one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq War.

A dozen years later, Mosul was also a very bloody battle, but there the U.S. relied somewhat more on precision strikes and special operations

forces raised to try to be more precise, even though it was still an incredibly bloody battle.


It is because of that experience that the U.S. is trying to urge Israel in a different direction than an all-out ground invasion. And that, perhaps,

why Lieutenant General James Glynn, the Marine Corps general with decades of experience, especially in urban combat, is on the ground there trying to

offer his big picture perspective, according to one U.S. official.

The problem is the realities on the ground in Israel. U.S. officials believe because of the public sentiment and because of the political

pressure, Israel may still carry out an all-out ground invasion, even with all that entails in the very densely populated, dense streets of the Gaza

Strip, a challenging endeavor no matter how you look at it.

But there hasn't been a decision, from what we're understanding here, made yet on how this will play out. The U.S. also trying to urge Israel to have

a clear strategic plan goal and a picture for what the for what Gaza looks like post an invasion or an incursion or post an Israeli military


A source familiar with the conversations between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Biden has tried to urge Netanyahu in

this direction to think about what this all looks like, not only the operation itself, but what happens post the invasion. That source says

Biden has urged Netanyahu to use his head, not his heart. Bianna and Zain.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, this is a very complicated situation, the one thing we continue to hear from Israeli officials, from the prime minister on down,

is that this operation is expected to be a lengthy one. Oren Liebermann, thank you.

ASHER: And here with us in New York to talk a little bit more about all of this, CNN Military Analyst and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander,

General Wesley Clark. General, so good to have you on the program. I want to go back to something that I shared with our viewers just a couple of

minutes ago. This idea that Hamas fighters are allegedly still trying to infiltrate Israel by sea is incredible. It is incredibly bold. It is

brazen. Just what do you make of that?

WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think they still want to do everything they can to provoke Israel to launch the full-scale ground

invasion of Gaza. This has been the objective from the beginning. They know it.

It's a two-phased operation. It's first to get Israel in, bring them in, and then kill the Israeli military at close range. And they've had years

and years of preparation to be able to fight off an Israeli ground offensive inside Gaza.

They'll have improvised explosive devices. They'll have ambush sites. They'll have tunnel inferences and exits. They'll come up behind the force.

So, it'll be a very difficult battle when Israel goes in, and they want them to do it.

And, Zain, you have to look at the big picture on this, as well. There's fighting in the West Bank. There's Israeli concern about Syrian activity,

so they've struck Syrian airfields. There's action going on on the north with the Lebanese and Hezbollah.

You had the meeting today between -- that's been announced yesterday between the Iranians, Hezballah and so forth. And so, everything's shaping

up for a phase three, which is what the United States is trying to prevent, which would be the escalation of the war into a really three-front war for


GOLODRYGA: Yeah, and General, it is a tinderbox as you just described. And the President and

and U.S. officials up until this point have just been telling other adversaries in the region that may try to use this as an opportunity to

attack Israel or U.S. forces don't.

But now we see from reporting from "The Wall Street Journal" that Israel has agreed to delay its ground invasion so that the U.S. can rush more

missile defense programs to the region. There are some 30,000 U.S. troops there. Do you think the deterrent of having two carriers and the President

of the United States warning, "don't" wasn't enough?

CLARK: Well, I think the deterrent is certainly helpful. The second carrier, as I understand, is not quite there yet. But clearly, that's

helpful. But it's also helpful for the Israelis to have more time.

You know, before the United States went into the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004, it was planned for six months. There was a deception plan, an

information plan, a logistics plan. Everything was completely organized. And it wasn't put together overnight.

When you're fighting in a city, you need much more ammunition because it's a much more difficult environment. All of that has to be taken into

account. And so, it's not bad that Israel has delayed this operation.

How the operation eventually shapes up, whether it's the full assault that Netanyahu is talking about or it's a more limited action that is being

talked about with special forces and precision bombing, we don't know yet. But preparation helps. Hamas is not going anywhere. And the longer the

United States has to work the diplomacy to prevent the escalation, the better.


ASHER: Here's the thing, though, General. Netanyahu is under so much political pressure, so much pressure. I mean, a lot of people blame him for

failing to respond. He has been in power in Israel for far too long not to really bear some responsibility for what went wrong here. So, there is a

lot of pressure on him in terms of how he responds.

And his entire political future, I mean, you know, we've talked a lot on this show about whether or not he even has one in Israel, will be dependent

on his response. So, how does he manage this? Especially if the U.S. is now telling him, listen, we don't think you should go in just yet.

CLARK: Yeah, he's in a really tough position, and it's a position he put himself in. For years, he has managed to forestall action against Hamas.

The Israeli strategy was called mowing the grass, and they thought that Hamas was somebody they could live with. Occasionally, there would be

trouble, some infiltration, some rockets, but they could handle it. And basically, Hamas was going to be worried about the Palestinian people.

But that's all a lie. And now Bibi has to face the consequences of all the distraction of trying to change the Supreme Court, of what's going on with

the settlers in the West Bank and the resistance by the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority there, and how the Palestinian Authority's

credibility has been destroyed by somewhat by the Israeli actions.

So, all of that is coming down on Mr. Netanyahu's head and there's no question about it. But the political reckoning has to await the outcome of

making Israel safe and secure. And that's the primary concern, I'm sure, for most of the Israelis right now.

GOLODRYGA: Well, we know the Prime Minister has a history of having a hawkish posture. But when it comes to actual action, he's been quite risk

averse. So, this is yet another challenge that he's facing as he's amassed hundreds of thousands of reservists there on the border. Do you see any

effectiveness up until this point of the continued aerial bombardment then of Gaza?

CLARK: It's really hard to know how effective that is. They must be going after specific targets. You know that the Israelis have had lots of

collaborators on the inside. They're getting human intelligence. They're getting electronic intelligence. They're getting overhead intelligence.

There's no telling where they're getting the target sets, but from having run an air campaign, I can tell you it's very difficult to generate 400

targets a day. And from the sense of the non-kinetic battlefield that they're in, what we're hearing is all about refugees. And what a tragedy it

is. And it is a tragedy for the people in Gaza to have to live under the control of Hamas, which wants to use them as hostages and only aims at the

destruction of Israel.

But the information -- the other side of the information is not coming out from Israel yet in a way that's effective to offset these horrible pictures

of suffering and bombing and so forth in Gaza. And all that has to be understood.

You know, the Israelis telling us about who is Hamas, how do they get in charge, what are they doing? And that's not happening. So, Prime Minister

Netanyahu's got a lot of work to do with his own government to sort of set this straight. And he will be held responsible.

My concern is, in his anger and desire to please politically, he blurted out instructions about eliminating Hamas. I'm not sure that's possible. I

think you can go in, but I'm not sure you can eliminate an organization like that that's got tendrils everywhere and widespread international


ASHER: Yeah, we've talked a lot about that also on this show about whether or not that's even that's even possible at all. General Wesley Clark, thank

you so much. All right, I want to turn now to the drama that continues to unfold pretty much every -- we get news literally every day.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, it's never ending.

ASHER: On Capitol Hill. So, Mike Johnson is now the latest in a long line of people who have thrown their hat in the ring to become House Speaker.

He's now officially the nominee. His nomination is going to be going for a vote on the House floor.

Later on this hour, there is simply no guarantee, though, that he can win this job. It's been three weeks of chaos since the historic ouster of Kevin


GOLODRYGA: So, is the fourth time a charm, is the question here. Republicans selected Johnson as their fourth nominee in a secret ballot

vote on Tuesday. Now, they're under intense pressure to find a new leader as the house remains in a state of paralysis and can't govern without a

speaker. Johnson says he believes he has enough votes to win and that he's ready to take charge.


MIKE JOHNSON, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: We're going to restore your trust in what we do here. You're going to see a new form of government, and we are

going to move this quickly. This group here is ready to govern, and we are going to govern well. We're going to do what's right by the people.


And I believe the people are going to reward that next year, but we have a lot of big priorities ahead of us right now.


ASHER: Now we can act. We'll see whether or not he can rally the troops behind. But you'll remember yesterday, he brought you the story yesterday

as well, yesterday Tom Emmer actually dropped out of the speaker race just a few hours after House Republicans had chosen him as their third nominee.

So, this is a fast-moving story.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, so Johnson is a controversial pick for some House members, though. He's an ally of Donald Trump and voted against certifying the 2020

presidential election results. Here's how he's responding to questions on that particular subject.


REPORTER: Mr. Johnson, you helped lead the efforts to overturn the 2020 election --


GOLODRYGA: Okay then. So, for more on this, let's bring in CNN's Annie Greyer on Capitol Hill. So, Annie, for our viewers who may not be familiar

with who Mike Johnson is, they should take solace in knowing that other lawmakers, including some senators, like Susan Collins, quoted saying that

she's going to have to Google him, as well. So, you're not alone. Tell us more about this pick.

ANNIE GRAYER, CNN REPORTER: Well, right now, Republicans are filing into the House floor. And members are starting to vote as an attendance vote to

see who is going to be in session today. And that number is going to be crucial for determining how many votes Mike Johnson can lose and still

become speaker.

I caught up with Mike Johnson right before this vote started. And he is very confident that he can win the votes and secure the Speaker's gavel

today, something that Republicans have been unable to do for, now, 22 days. He told me he's even done a whip count of the conference and feels

confident that he has the votes necessary to become Speaker.

But as you mentioned, there's a large part of Mike Johnson's background that's kind of an unknown entity here. He is pretty much untested when it

comes to leading the Republican conference. He's had kind of a junior position in leadership up until this point. His fundraising is not what

normal previous speakers have had in the past.

And as you mentioned, he has very strong positions on the 2020 presidential election. He actually was the member who was asking Republicans

individually to sign on to a brief trying to overturn election results in specific states. He voted against certifying the 2020 presidential


So, if Johnson is able to pull off winning the gavel today, and again, that is a big, if still, he has a number of challenges in front of him, like

keeping the government open past November 17th dealing with the wars that are breaking out in Israel and Ukraine. But Republicans, after three weeks

of chaos and tumult, are desperate to try and put this behind them. And from the people I'm talking to today, it sounds like they're ready to do


GOLODRYGA: Well, we shall see, we'll be following the vote as it begins. Annie Grayer, thank you.

ASHER: All right, still to come, Israel is vowing to teach the United Nations a lesson after comments by the U.N. Chief about the situation in

Gaza. We'll have more on that next.



ASHER: All right, Israel's Ambassador to the U.N. says that his country will not be issuing entry visas at all to any U.N. official. That's in

reaction to comments made by the U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.

While addressing the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, Guterres said Hamas' October 7 assault on Israel, quote, "did not happen in a vacuum", adding

that Palestinians had endured 56 years of suffocating occupation. Israel's Foreign Minister is now refusing to meet with Guterres. He says that there

is no place now for a balanced, two-sided approach. Take a look.


ELI COHEN, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: Right now, there is small children and babies in captive. There is any cause for this? There is no cause for this.

And shame on him.


GOLODRYGA: Today the U.N. Chief pushed back saying that he was shocked by misrepresentations of his comments and that it's false to accuse him of

justifying the Hamas attack.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I believe it was necessary to set the record straight, especially out of respect to the victims and to their



ASHER: All right, Israel has released horrifying audio of what it says is a Hamas fighter seemingly bragging, boasting essentially to his parents, his

families about killing Jews during the October 7 attacks.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, it's just unbelievable what you hear in this audio. We should mention that CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the

audio itself, where it came from or how it was obtained. The Israeli foreign minister played the recording during a United Nations Security

Council meeting on Tuesday.


COHEN: I would like to listen to this recording.

MAHMOUD (through translator): Hi dad. I'm talking to you from Mefalsim. Open my WhatsApp now, and you'll see all those killed. Look how many I

killed with my own hands! Your son killed Jews! It's inside Mefalsim, dad.

DAD: May God protect you.

MAHMOUD (through translator): Dad, I'm talking to you from a Jewish woman's phone. I killed her and I killed her husband.

COHEN: This is a terrorist of Hamas. What he said there in Arabs, he, telling to his mother and father that he is proud that he has blood of ten

Jewish that he murdered.

ASHER: That audio, deeply troubling for a lot of people to hear. All right, Hamas paragliders armed with machine guns are one of the most defining and

troubling images of the terrorist assault on Israel back on October 7. CNN's Jeremy Diamond visited the Israeli community where they first landed.

And of course, we want to warn our viewers that some of the images you're about to see are indeed graphic.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: On that day, Hamas delivered death on paragliders. Seen in this exclusive video obtained by CNN, Hamas

militants landed here in the Tifasara, killing 20 people in this community of just 800.

UNKNOWN: This is Yaakobi and Bila Inon that used to be like an American style wooden house.

DIAMOND: Now, this is all that remains. They were at home that fateful Saturday morning when Hamas terrorists burned their house to the ground,

firing a rocket-propelled grenade or a shoulder-fired missile here. Yaakobi's remains were found charred inside. All they found of Bila were

her teeth.

Hila Fenlon has called Netiv HaAsara home since she was a child, living within a few hundred feet of Gaza. And now we can see here that there's

smoke from Gaza.

HILA FENLON, NETIV HAASARA RESIDENT: Gaza is very close to us.

DIAMOND: Now, after surviving the October 7 attacks, she wants the world to know what happened here.


FENLON: It's a small community. Everybody knows each other. We know every person that lost his life here and there were 20 of them. We had -- we went

to three, four, five funerals a day when eventually they brought them to be buried.

DIAMOND: This is her first time inside Nurit and Alon Berger's home since the attacks. First time seeing where her friend Nurit was killed.

FENLON: Oh, I'm sorry, it's too difficult for me.

DIAMOND: This is where Nurit Berger lived her final moments. She died after these Hamas terrorists attacked this house from the outside. And as she was

sitting there dying, her daughters, her three daughters and her husband, they went into this room.

We're told that they left this door slightly ajar, hoping that the terrorists wouldn't think anyone was in here because the door wasn't

closed. And they hid here in this corner, two of the daughters injured by shrapnel and by bullets. For 40 minutes, they didn't make a sound, waiting

for the men who murdered their mother to leave their home.

FENLON: I feel responsible to tell their story because I know today, I mean it's been two weeks today after that damn Saturday, that our life turned

into this. And I believe the world forgotten already.

DIAMOND: Today, telling that story looks like this.

DIAMOND: So, everywhere you go you have to travel with security.

FENLON: Everywhere. For the last -- I mean, for the last two weeks this is how it is. If you want to enter your home for one minute you have to have

somebody securing the house.

DIAMOND: And when you're this close to Gaza you have only seconds to react. The sounds of war are not all that fills the air in this frontline

community. A mother's wails and a father's prayer for their 17-year-old son. Every parent's worst nightmare come true. Jeremy Diamonds, CNN, Netiv





GOLODRYGA: Welcome back to "One World". I'm Bianna Golodryga.

Asher: And I'm Zain Asher. Right now, we are keeping a very close eye on Capitol Hill, where members of the House are going to be voting any minute

now for a brand-new speaker.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, it's unclear if Mike Johnson will get the votes. He needs to win the gavel. He is the fourth Republican nominated by his party after

Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the job more than three weeks ago. That seems like a lifetime ago.

Republicans are under intense pressure to find a new speaker. Without one, business in the chamber remains paralyzed. Republican Strategist Doug Heye

joins us now to discuss the House Speaker vote. Doug, so, if for no other reason than sheer exhaustion, is this the guy?

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It appears so, and I think exhaustion is really the operative word here, Bianna, because of what members have gone

through, not just over the past few weeks, but just look at yesterday as a good example. We thought somebody had emerged, then it turned out they

didn't. They got sunk -- Tom Emmer. And then they had to go through another series of forums and elections.

When you have more than one House Republican Conference meeting in a day, and unfortunately, I've lived through these, that is a bad day. And where

members on the Republican side feel right now is it's sort of like the last day of school. The problem is summer school begins tomorrow. There's a lot

of work ahead if Mike Johnson becomes Speaker.

ASHER: And obviously that's a very big if, but as you point out, there are people that are just so -- I mean they are so tired that they might just

cave in and just rally around him. Just in terms of what we need to know about him, he's kind of an under-the-radar name here. So, just explain to

our viewers who he is. Obviously, he's a Trump supporter. He is somewhat of an election denier. Just walk us through -- give us his resume briefly.

HEYE: Well, yeah, right there, I think you've defined pretty much every Republican in the House of Representatives right now. He comes from

Louisiana. And that's interesting because Steve Scalise is also from Louisiana and typically you don't have two members from the same state that

high up.

He's also former Chair of the Republican Study Committee. So, he's not under the radar for House Republican members. That's essentially a larger

Conservative group within the House of Representatives. The Freedom Caucus was formed sort of as a splinter around that.

He's also the Vice Chair of the Republican Conference, which means he's already a member of leadership. So, he's been approved and say vetted if

you will by House Republican conservatives, and then also by House Republicans in a more broad sense in leadership.

So, this is a promotion, but he's in his fourth term right now. And when Kevin McCarthy became Speaker, there's a lot of conversation about how

quickly he ascended to the speakership. This is faster than McCarthy for sure.

GOLODRYGA: So, let's assume that he gets the votes needed and he becomes the next speaker. In terms of what we should tell our viewers the country's

up against and Congress is up against is the fact that he opposed providing aid to Ukraine, which is something the President is pushing forward.

He opposed the current stopgap motion bill to -- excuse me -- to keep the government open, and that is something that McCarthy approved and

supported. So, does this suggest that we could very well be seeing a government shutdown in just a couple of weeks?

HEYE: Yeah, I think whatever happens or happened over the past few weeks told us that a shutdown is very possible. One of the things I think that

was interesting and didn't really get reported widely over the past few weeks is when it appeared that Jim Jordan might be the Speaker, when he was


Chip Roy, one of the leaders of House Republican conservatives, said that Jordan should be given some grace to negotiate, a grace that obviously

Kevin McCarthy didn't get, Steve Scalise didn't get either.

And we're going to have to wait and see whether or not Johnson is allowed that grace, allowed that slack to negotiate to keep the government open,

what he does when it comes to Ukraine, whether that's paired with Israel or not, and how that may move forward. There are a lot of things to negotiate

to keep the government open.


What he does when it comes to Ukraine, whether that's paired with Israel or not, and how that may move forward. There are a lot of challenges for

Republicans moving forward. They're breathing a sigh of relief today, but again, the real work begins as soon as that vote is gaveled through.

ASHER: So, bottom line is, just in terms of whether or not Mike Johnson can take the gavel here, he can afford to lose only about four votes. So,

what's it looking like just in terms of the final tally?

HEYE: At this point, things appear to be good. But when we go through this vote process, what I'm going to be looking for are members who are absent

when their name is called, meaning they're back in their office watching the vote, talking and texting with members as to whether or not they're

going to be there in the end.

If he has the votes, everybody will be for a minus maybe one or two holdouts. Otherwise, it will go down on the floor, as we've already seen

with the Jim Jordan vote.

GOLODRYGA: I forgot. This could be multiple rounds, as well. Doug Heye, oh, how we long for the good old days, where just one vote got you your

speaker. Thank you so much. Those days are over.

HEYE: All right. Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, all of this as ABC News is reporting. The Donald Trump's former Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, has been granted immunity from

prosecution in the investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. This is a big development.

ASHER: Yeah, and this deal could actually pave the way for Meadows to testify under oath in this case. ABC also saying that he has spoken with

Special Counsel Jack Smithstein at least three times this year. He also apparently told investigators that he did not believe the presidential

election was stolen.

All of this, of course, happening as former Trump attorney Michael Cohen has been back on the stand in New York testifying against Trump in a major

civil fraud trial. All of this, of course, not exactly music to Donald Trump's ears.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, well, coming up after the break for us, what life is really like for those who've been forced to flee their homes in Gaza and

those who are finding history repeating itself. That's next.



RANIA, QUEEN OF JORDAN: I mean, there is a glaring double standard here, and it is just shocking to the Arab world. This is the first time in modern

history that there is such human suffering, and the world is not even calling for a ceasefire.



ASHER: Queen Rania of Jordan accusing Westin leaders of failing to condemn the deaths of civilians who are under bombardment. In Gaza, Palestinians

who have had to abandon their homes, of course, are finding emergency accommodation that is certainly sparse and supplies are limited. Some of

them are very familiar with the struggles of life as a refugee, as our Nada Bashir reports.


NADA BASHIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: Carrying whatever clothes they were able to bring with them, making do with however much water is still

available. This is life for the internally displaced in Gaza. Sheltering under what they tell us is the constant buzzing of Israeli drones.

UM HAITHAM, GAZA RESIDENT (through translator): Let us return to our homes. We cannot cope living under these conditions. Our children are tired.

They're all getting sick.

BASHIR: For this family, a single tent is all they have for shelter. They were forced to evacuate their home in northern Gaza, warned by Israel that

airstrikes would only continue to intensify. But for so many here, this is not the first time they have been made refugees.

SOUAD AL-ALEM, GAZA RESIDENT DISPLACED IN 1948 (through translator): I lived through the Nakba of 1948, and now I'm living through the Nakba of

2023. I was already affected psychologically by the first Nakba, but the second one is worse. I see death 20 times every day. The force of the

blasts affects us psychologically. It feels like it is on our heads when it is nearby.

BASHIR (voice-over): The vast majority of Gaza's residents are either amongst or descendants of the more than 700,000 Palestinians who were

expelled or forced to flee their homes following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

It is a tragedy that is remembered by elder Palestinians as the Nakba, a catastrophe now feared by a new generation, forced to face horrors no child

should ever have to witness.

JAMAL HASSAN, GAZA RESIDENT (through translator): We were evacuated from the north of Gaza. Now, we are in Khan Younes. They said that this was a

safe place, that we would be comfortable. But we are not safe. There is no water, no food, nothing. We only managed to eat one piece of bread for the

whole day.

BASHIR (voice-over): Aid supplies getting into the besieged Gaza Strip are just a drop in the ocean. And with food, water, electricity and fuel

quickly running out, the U.N. has warned that Gaza is now facing a humanitarian crisis of unthinkable scale.

UM HAITHAM, GAZA RESIDENT (through translator): Our children need milk and food. They don't understand why we are here. They don't understand that

this is against our will. We don't have money, we don't have gas, we don't even have electricity.

BASHIR (voice-over): The U.N. estimates that some 1.4 million people in Gaza have now been internally displaced, but available shelters have now

exceeded capacity. The death toll in Gaza is rising with each and every hour. Hospitals are overrun and medical supplies are dangerously low.

Men, women, children, all hoping for an end to Israel's relentless air campaign. They say the situation feels almost apocalyptic. And for some,

the prospect of being evacuated, of being exiled once more, seems a fate worse than death. Nada Bashir, CNN, in Amman, Jordan.


GOLODRYGA: Meantime, another top story we've been covering -- Qatar, says that it is hopeful for a breakthrough soon on negotiations to release

hostages held by Hamas. That's according to the country's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Qatar and Egypt are mediating between Israel, the

U.S., and Hamas to secure their release.

ASHER: And Israel has also said that the militant group is holding more than 200 hostages, as we mentioned yesterday, four have been released so

far. All right, still to come, U.S. President Joe Biden is going to be speaking at the White House alongside his Australian counterpart. It could

be the first time he actually ends up taking questions since the conflict in the Middle East began. When that happens, we will of course bring it to

you, live.



GOLODRYGA: Hurricane Otis is moving inland over southern Mexico, causing storm surge, heavy rains, and flash flooding. It is weekend since its

landfall, as you see videos there from Acapulco. Winds are now at 130 miles per hour, making it a Category 4 hurricane. Otis is forecast to dissipate

over the mountains of southern Mexico later today or Thursday.

ASHER: All right. U.S. President Joe Biden expected to make remarks live at the White House in the next hour or so. It could be the first time that he

actually answers live questions since the war in the Middle East began. So, we are waiting for that live.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, earlier, he welcomed Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to the White House. Biden said the visit was a long time coming,

adding that their partnership has never been more important than it is today.

CNN's Kevin Liptak is at the White House. And Kevin, this visit reiterates the significance of the administration's shift towards China and Asia, and

yet the Middle East has pulled the president back in to that region. What are we expecting to hear from him today?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, and certainly the crisis in the Middle East will be a component of their talks in the Oval

Office that are underway right now. But you're right, this visit does sort of demonstrate how rapidly the president's foreign policy priorities had to

be reprioritized after this crisis, because certainly Australia is a linchpin of the president's strategy in the Pacific to try and bolster

these traditional American alliances as a counterweight to China.

You've seen him execute these plans with us. Like the AUKUS partnership to provide eventually Australia with nuclear powered submarines, also trying

to boost economic ties to Australia. But this crisis in the Middle East has been essentially all consuming for the president over the last week or so.

White House officials do say, of course, that the President can do all of these things at the same time. But at the bottom line, there are limited

amounts of time, limited amounts of resources to put into these foreign conflicts, these foreign theaters. And so, certainly, President Biden, I

think, is trying to balance all of this at the same time.

Now, we do expect the President to talk a little bit about Gaza, about Israel when he comes out for this press conference, which is supposed to

begin in about 45 minutes. And certainly, you can expect that he would receive a number of questions about the crisis that's unfolding.

We did hear him answer questions a little bit on Air Force One last week when he was coming back from Israel but he hasn't had sort of a formal

press conference since this crisis started.

So, certainly, there is a number of topics that people want to get him on, including this idea of humanitarian pauses in the Israeli airstrikes in

Gaza, the idea that the U.S. is asking Israel to delay a ground invasion until the hostages are out, all of these topics that I think the president

will want to talk on and want to clarify some of his positions on at this very critical moment in the Middle East, guys.


GOLODRYGA: Okay, we'll be watching closely. Kevin Liptak, thank you.

ASHER: And finally, before we leave you, tributes to a man who helped pave the way for so many black actors across the world, but especially in

Hollywood and actually beyond. Richard Rountree, the trailblazing star of stage and screen has died, passed away at the age of 81 after a very short

battle with pancreatic cancer. He is considered the first black action hero with one role in particular that guaranteed him iconic status.


He's a complicated man, but no one understands him but his woman. John Jack.

GOLODRYGA: For those of you living under a rock, of course, he played the notorious private detective John Shaft, who featured in several films from

the early 1970s onward. Shaft was part of a change in how movies portrayed the African American experience at a time when Hollywood had largely failed

to consider black talent in leading roles. Roundtree went on to be part of famed TV shows like Roots, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Desperate


ASHER: He really did pave the way for so many and just really allowed for more opportunities to be given to actors of color. All right, that does it

for the show. I'm Zain Asher.

GOLODRYGA: And I'm Bianna Golodryga. Thanks so much for watching CNN News Central Starts after the break.