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GOP-Led House Impeaches Mayorkas In Historic Vote; Now: Last Minutes Of Voting In Key Race To Replace George Santos. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 13, 2024 - 20:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Israel has publicly accused Sinwar of being the mastermind behind Hamas' attack. And the IDF then released a second video, which they say show Israeli forces in a section of the tunnels where they believe Sinwar was hiding. And what they're showing here is a kitchen, bedrooms and tons of money. Again, these are IDF footage. CNN cannot independently verify what it is or that Sinwar is the man seen in the video or when it was recorded.

The IDF has not provided additional evidence to support their claims. Nonetheless, that footage is, of course, fascinating.

Thanks so much for joining us. CNN special coverage of the New York special election starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: In New York right now, first, a contested special election is underway. Voters have been braving a snowstorm to cast ballots in the race to replace ousted Republican congressman, George Santos. The outcome will determine if Republicans shrink or expand their razor-thin majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and could send a message about both parties' prospects in the November battles for Congress and the White House.

I'm Anderson Cooper in New York with CNN special election coverage.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And I'm Jake Tapper in Washington. We are counting down to the first results in this high-stakes contest with urgent implications for American politics in 2024. The vote to fill the seat previously held by Congressman Santos comes after many months of scandal and a litany of lies that led to his indictment on 23 criminal charges, followed by his historic expulsion from Congress in December.

Tonight's heated race pits veteran Democrat and former Congressman Tom Suozzi against a relative newcomer to politics, Republican Nassau County legislator, Mazi Pilip. This is a potential nail-biter of a race that's about much more than just who represents New York's 3rd Congressional District in the Long Island area, once reliably Democratic turf that is now a political battleground.

This race tonight could provide important clues for the Biden and Trump campaigns as they gear up for an expected rematch that may be decided by moderate suburban voters such as those who dominate the 3rd Congressional district. And it will have a direct impact on the balance of power in Congress. Republicans are eager to add to their current seven-seat advantage in the House. Democrats hoping to make the GOP's slim majority even slimmer.

As the special election unfolds, members of the U.S. House of Representatives just got a fresh reminder about how much every vote counts. Republicans successfully impeached Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas just minutes ago after a similar vote last week narrowly failed in an embarrassing public defeat for GOP leaders.

CNN's Manu Raju joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Manu, big night - big night for Republicans.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. By the slimmest of margins just now, Jake, 214 to 213, making Alejandro Mayorkas just the second cabinet secretary in American history to be impeached. Republicans moving this after that embarrassing defeat last week then said this is going to go over to the Senate despite three Republicans just now voting against it. Expect the Senate, potentially by a bipartisan majority in the Senate, to quickly dismiss this.

But Jake, this margin underscores the significance of this race tonight. One vote would have made a difference here. If the Democrat, Tom Suozzi, were in this seat, that would have been enough to scuttle this effort. Mazi Pilip, the Republican, told me just recently that she would have voted yes. That would have given them cushion on this vote and that is why this moment is important about there are huge issues that are pending before the House. These two members, how they come into Congress, that will impact how the Republican leadership deals with it. Everyone watching this race so intently tonight, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju, thanks so much.

Now, let's get an update on voting in that special congressional election in New York. CNN's John Berman is at a voting site in Carle Place, New York on Long Island.

John, show us around and tell us about turnout today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Yes, welcome to Carle Place High School, home of the Frogs, as we like to say here. And right now, over the last few minutes, we did have a few voters show up, which actually, I have to say, is a little bit unusual because we get about 20 minutes with no voters here.

You can see there are 14 voting booths here, 14 voting booths as of now, one. One is occupied. And turnout could be part of the big story here, Jake, because as of now, 80,000 people have voted on Election Day in New York 3, 80,000 - 80,000 people voted early. So it's even between the early vote and the Election Day vote.

Why does that matter?

Because in the early vote, it broke down, 46 percent of the early vote was registered Democrat, 32 percent registered Republican.


So the Democrats theoretically have an edge in the early vote, in the mail-in vote, the Election Day vote. You would think that the Republicans are about to make up a big margin there.

As I said, it was dead quiet here in the morning during the snowstorm. It picked up in the afternoon. After you vote in those booths I just showed you, you bring your ballot over to this machine over here. I'm not allowed to show you the screen, but I can read off of it. 262 people have voted in this machine, and there are seven of them here.

As I said, it's been fairly light, 80,000 total in the 3rd District voting today. By comparison, in 2022, 192,000 people voted on Election Day. So that is a much, much lower turnout. I'm walking outside here.

First of all, you can see some of the snow in the background and a voter.

Sir, what's your name?

DONALD: Donald (ph).

BERMAN: Donald (ph), thanks for talking to us. Thanks for coming out. I know you voted here in the special election. What were the major issues that brought you here?

DONALD: Immigration.

BERMAN: Immigration? And who did you vote for?


BERMAN: Mazi. She was the one you thought could do best on immigration.


BERMAN: All right. Thanks for talking to us. Thanks for being here.

I do want to note, and it is interesting, we've talked to a number of voters today, almost universally, they said the border and immigration is the number one issue, but it doesn't break purely for the Republicans. Many, if not most of the voters we've spoken to here say that they prefer the Democrat, Tom Suozzi, on the issue of the border and immigration. He's run all his ads on that, so we are perhaps seeing some persuasion here, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. John Berman in Carle Place, New York, thanks so much.

Let's go over to John King at the Magic Wall to talk to us about New York's 3rd congressional district. So it's in Long Island and part of Queens?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's in Long Island and part of Queens. I left it out broadly just so you see exactly where it is. You see New York City here, then you see Long Island comes out and goes. This is the district, the light gray area.

Why is it significant? First and foremost, because of the math over your shoulder. Number one, you just saw that - you mentioned the House Republicans impeaching the Homeland security, a very narrow majority right now, 219 to 212, a few vacancies. This is one of the vacancies that will be filled, New York's 3rd congressional district.

George Santos is gone because of - he disgraced himself ...


KING: ... and disgraced the country. He's gone.

So what are you looking for? Is there a national message out of New York tonight? Is this just a one-off race? We'll learn as the votes come in. But this is an interesting district for a number of reasons. Let's just take a look as we come through here and bring it out.

Number one, this is a district - if you look at the last 10 years of American political life, the Democrats should win. George Santos was a Republican. Why should Democrats win? Democrats have been doing very well among those higher educated voters. This district won - about one and a half times the national average in terms of voters that have a college degree, at least a bachelor's degree or higher, so it is more educated. That is one reason in recent political times you would say it should tilt Democratic.

Another reason, this is a very affluent Congressional district. If you look here, 200,000 - a little less than 200,000, 22 percent, above 200,000 income, nearly 30 percent. Again, more than one and a half times the national average, the median income in this district. So it is more educated and it is more affluent, which means if you look, New York suburbs here, but - the Philadelphia suburbs, the Cleveland suburbs, the Atlanta suburbs, the Phoenix suburbs, the people who made Joe Biden president are the people who live in districts like this in New York. So that's one reason to look at it.

Another reason to look at it when you think about it as we go on through November, let me stretch this out a little bit. Really interesting demographics in this district. Not a huge black vote in this district, a traditional piece of the Democratic base.

So Tom Suozzi has to get, number one, nearly six in 10 voters in the district are white. I talked to him about, yes, a couple of weeks ago when he was in here, he pointed to this, the Asian population, the Asian voters. It's nearly 23 percent of the population in the district. It is a giant swing constituency and he said it was trending back toward the Republicans and he needed to pull it back.

Also, we've seen in the 2020 presidential election, Latinos starting slowly, not hugely, but enough to make a difference trending back toward Republicans, more than 13 percent of the electorate in this district. So it's the suburbs, you have two great swing groups, Latinos and Asians to keep an eye on and let's see - let's see if it sends a message.

Number one, tells Mike Johnson how big his majority is. And number two, we'll see if there are some November lessons.

TAPPER: Exciting stuff.

Dana Bash, over to you.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, these are two candidates who have very, very different backgrounds. In fact, the notion of the two of them wanting to be the representative from this district is about all they have in common.





BASH (voice over): The veteran politician ...


TOM SUOZZI, (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: My name is Tom Suozzi and I'm running for the United States congress.


BASH (voice over): ... versus the newcomer.





BASH (voice over): The high dollar, high stakes Long Island special election in New York's third district.


SUOZZI: For me, it's Mazi versus Suozzi and I'm hoping people will vote for Suozzi, not Mazi.


BASH (voice over): Their names may rhyme, but that's about all Republican Mazi Pilip and Democrat Tom Suozzi have in common.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I plan to vote for you.

SUOZZI: You plan to vote - oh, don't watch the debate then because I don't want to lose your vote. (END VIDEO CLIP)


BASH (voice over): Whoever wins this seat, vacant since Republican George Santos was expelled, will have a big impact on a House with a narrow GOP majority. Suozzi is a seasoned politician with deep roots in the district.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voy a votar por usted.


BASH (voice over): He held the congressional seat for three terms, but left in 2022 in what ended up a failed bid for New York governor.


Why do you want to go back to Congress?

SUOZZI: Our country's in a lot of trouble and I feel like I have got a unique set of skills that can help during this difficult time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations, you are now a county legislator.


BASH (voice over): His opponent hadn't held any office until three years ago.


BASH: You were born in Ethiopia, moved to Israel when you were 12 and then came here.

PILIP: Yes, that's the beautiful things about my journey. Even though I was born in Ethiopia in a small village, at the age of 12 I immigrated to Israel. I finished school there, joined the IDF. I came to this country about 17 years ago. My husband also emigrated from Ukraine to this country.


BASH (voice over): The mother of seven, an Orthodox Jew, is not your average Nassau County Republican and that's the point.


BASH: I was just looking at a picture up there of a bunch of white men who are more typical of this area. What makes you think that in divided government you'll be able to do what you say you want to do?

PILIP: I will. I will because it's all about coming (inaudible) government. I'm very good at working with people, collaborating with people, communicating. For me, it's not about Republican, Democrat. For me, it's about all - about the people, about our country.


BASH (voice over): For many voters, the top issue here is immigration.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biden has to do something about the border.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The border is a big, big issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me right now, it has to be the border and everything that's been going on with that.


BASH (voice over): Most of the $21 million spent on ads about the border.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biden's open border leads to violence right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've been hearing a lot of nonsense blaming Tom Suozzi for the migrant problem.


BASH (voice over): It was the most explosive issue in their only debate.


PILIP: When you are in the majority in Congress, you voted to open the borders. You created the migrant crisis. And yes, you kicked ICE from here.

SUOZZI: When people said, let's abolish ICE, I was only one of 18 Democrats. I went against my party.

Hi, there, buddy.


BASH (voice over): That's Suozzi's strategy, sound as tough as any Republican.


BASH: We're nowhere near the southern border here in New York. Almost every single person I've talked to, they've said the border is their number one issue.

SUOZZI: Well, it's right here in our backyard. I mean, there are a lot of migrants that have come up from Texas and it's affecting people's lives here. And the Republicans have very effectively weaponized it as an issue, as they did with crime a few years ago here in New York.


PILIP: Look at the borders ...


BASH (voice over): Pilip came out against the bipartisan immigration bill that died in the Senate last week.


PILIP: It wasn't answering the issue of the border crisis and not because we don't want ...

BASH: What's the solution then?

PILIP: The solution is we need to come up with a plan in place, how are we going to bring people legally to our country. The way I came to this country, the way my husband came to this country.


BASH (voice over): Before Santos turned it red, Biden comfortably won this suburban part of Long Island. Democrats see it as a key indicator for this November, and they want it back.


BASH: Joe Biden won what is now this district by eight percentage points. Why is this close?

SUOZZI: People are just upset that they're not seeing anything get done to address the things that affect their lives.


BASH (voice over): And what about the Santos effect?


SUOZZI: I think people are fed up with the whole George Santos thing. It's over. It's yesterday's news. But for the fact that my opponent has not been transparent at all.

BASH: Are you saying she's not transparent ala George Santos?

SUOZZI: Exactly the same. It's Santos 2.0. She's - I would have not said this, but for her ...

BASH: It's a pretty big charge. She's been indicted.

SUOZZI: Yes, but we don't know anything about her.



BASH (voice over): Bruce Blakeman is executive of Nassau County, where the GOP machine is feverishly working to keep Suozzi from turning the seat blue.


BLAKEMAN: He walked away from the job and now he wants to come back and represent people, so why give him a second chance?


BASH (voice over): But at the polls, voters we talked to were split.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think a guy like Tom Suozzi has had a lot of opportunity to make an impact here in the community already in Long Island.

BASH: So better to have some - a new face and new blood?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would think so. I would think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We vote for Suozzi.


BASH: How come?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he's normal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need some normalcy in our country.



BASH (on camera): And when Tom Suozzi says it's about Suozzi versus Mazi, he's not just making a pun, he's making a really important point that he wants voters to see him for the longtime local politician that he is, not like Joe Biden, who he admits is underwater in his district. Not like the squad he mentioned. He went out of his way to tell me that he's concerned about the leftward drift of his party.

And Anderson, Mazi Pilip, she also tried to run her own race. She didn't even admit to voting for President Trump until a few days ago. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Dana, thanks. Back with the team here in New York.

Scott Jennings, what - to you, what is the importance of this race? Just kind of big picture.


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, number one, you see the party spending so much money on this. They're trying to buy some narrative momentum, right? If Republicans can win, shows a little bit of momentum. If Democrats can take a seat back, it kind of staunches some of the bleeding that they've been doing in the national media cycle lately. So that's number one.

Number two, testing out this immigration issue. It's obviously the top issue in the race. And the Republicans really do believe that it is going to be useful in all kinds of districts across the country that are nowhere near the southern border. So this is the first test case for that.

Now, they have been outspent about two to one and I think the Republicans are targeting about 24 districts this year that are less Democratic than this one. So even if they don't win, if they get close here or win using immigration as an issue, I think you're going to see this become a, obviously, a key strategy and all these other targeted races throughout the rest of the year.

COOPER: Kathleen, just in terms of the race, how do you see it going?

KATHLEEN RICE, (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, so this is obviously we have to keep in mind that this is a special election, so I think that they have been trending more Democratic since 2023 and last year with Pat Ryan, who won a special election. But I think if you look at the registration, it should be Tom Suozzi. If you look at the turnout, at least early voting, it should be Tom Suozzi, but I think it's going to be (inaudible) ...

COOPER: Democrats traditionally in this district vote early and Republicans vote ...

RICE: Yes.

COOPER: ... on the day of the election.

There was a snowstorm this morning ...

RICE: Right.

COOPER: ... turnout a little low this morning. Question is, will it (inaudible) ...

RICE: So that set it back a little bit, but the numbers are still very, very close.

And I think what - as Scott was talking about, what the issues are, two years ago it was public safety, now it's the migrant issue. And these have been very good issues for Republicans to run on. But if you look at - since 2020, when Democrats say, oh, this was a Biden plus this or Biden plus that, since 2021, at least on Long Island, the trend has not been Biden. It has not been Democrats. There has not been a Democratic win on Long Island since 2020. VAN JONES, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Which is why if we beat - I mean, Democrat, if we beat them today, it begins to punch back on this idea that immigration is going to be a big killer issue for the Republicans.

RICE: Yes, definitely.

JONES: It's important because ...

COOPER: But immigration does seem to be the biggest issue here.

JONES: Yes. And if we win, it shows that it's not going to be this walkaway issue that Republicans think. They've generated this whole thing. They put a bunch of migrants on buses and sent them up here to scramble up politics in blue states and blue cities to make it tough for us, to make immigration a real issue for us.

If it turns out that somebody who's a Democrat, but who's strong and smart immigration can beat back a Republican tonight, it shows this issue is not going to go the way, I think it's going to go nationally.

RICE: Can I - if I can just add, I would say that I think Tom Suozzi has done a really good job talking to the voters and how they feel. He is not talking about a national message. He's talking about being a common sense Democrat who knows how to get the job done, who knows how to fix the problem. He is acknowledging how voters are feeling and I think that is refreshing, at least on Long Island to hear a Democrat talk that way.

COOPER: Mazi is - I mean, is more well known in the area, has got a longer track record - excuse me, Suozzi is more well known than Mazi is certainly, but she does have the Republican machine behind her.

VITO FOSSELLA, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Yes, if I were to use like a football or Super Bowl analogy, Suozzi would be the San Francisco 49ers coming in. He's known, he's won in that area. As was mentioned before, the President Biden had won the district by eight points. Registration favors the Democrats. But the question is in - on this game day, who's going to show up.

And as a special election, what often happens is turnout is dramatically lower and pullout becomes a key ingredient. So can Nassau pull out the vote? And if they do, she will win. And if not - and I - and let me just take, I know the word immigration. I think it's not immigration, it's the migrant issue that is really topical here. It's not your normal immigration conversation that we've had in this country for the last 30 or 40 years. It's where people come here illegally. They're sent to places like New York City. They're kicking cops in Times Square in - on 8:30 ...

JONES: (Inaudible) ...

FOSSELLA: ... and watching. So I think that's where we're going to go.

COOPER: Yes, immigration crime, the issue. As we count down to the end of voting, the first results in tonight's pivotal House race we'll be joined live by a Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, just days away from her next primary showdown with Donald Trump. Much more of our special election coverage ahead.



TAPPER: Welcome back. We are counting down to the end of voting in a pivotal special Congressional election in New York, the New York 3rd congressional district to fill the House seat previously held by Republican congressman, George Santos, until his rare expulsion from Congress in December. The GOP's razor thin majority in the House of Representatives could be strengthened or diminished depending upon what happens this evening. Both parties will be gauging the impact of divisive issues that are playing out in New York and nationwide, including immigration and inflation, abortion rights, the Israel-Hamas war.

Tonight's special election comes, of course, as another momentous vote is around the corner, the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, which is only 11 days away.

Joining us now from South Carolina, Charleston specifically, GOP presidential candidate and former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley.

Governor Haley, thanks so much for joining us.

I want to ask you about tonight's race. The Republican candidate, Mazi Pilip, took great pains to distance herself from former president, Trump, throughout this campaign. She was even reluctant to say whether or not she voted for him in 2020, though she did admit to doing that three days ago. What does that say to you about Trump and this seat?

NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it says that she's looking at past history. I mean, you look at the fact that he lost it for Republicans in 2018. He lost it for Republicans in 2020. He lost it for Republicans in 2022.


But even look at last week, he lost it for Republicans on a border issue. He lost it for Republicans on an Israel issue. He lost his own immunity and the party chair lost her job. I mean, everything that he is involved with, with Republicans, we lose. And I don't know how many more times we have to lose before everybody realizes that he's actually part of the problem.

TAPPER: So early this morning, as you know, the U.S. Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid package to help Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. But even though it passed in the Senate with bipartisan support, House Speaker Johnson says he's not going to bring this bill to the floor for a vote. Instead, this evening, the House spent its time impeaching the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and - Mr. Mayorkas. Obviously, that's not going to go anywhere in the Senate. I'm wondering what your reaction is to both of these actions. HALEY: Well, it shows the dysfunction of Washington, D.C., right? It shows the dysfunction of Congress. It shows the fact that they care more about peacocking than they do about getting anything done. But let's first say the number one priority is to secure the border, period. That's the focus that should be happening. We wouldn't be having all this if the focus would go back to the border. And you look at the bill that we had last week. It was weak in some ways, it was strong in other ways, but Congress should have stayed there and figured it out.

The American people, both parties are saying secure the border before something happens. Trump never should have come in and said, don't pass it until the general election. We can't wait that long. But pass a good bill, a strong bill, one that's going to actually protect Americans.

You look at the foreign aid bill and I look at why hasn't Joe Biden told Americans why they should care? Congress hasn't done it either. Tell people why they think Ukraine is important and the fact that helping Ukraine prevents war. Tell them why Israel is important, because it actually helps us avoid terrorism when we do that. Tell them all these things while talking about the border.

It's so disjointed what's coming out of Washington, D.C., from the President to Congress, that the American people don't know what to think anymore.

BASH: Gov. Haley, I want to follow up on something that you said earlier today. You said that you thought that President Biden should resign in the "best interest" of the country. Are you saying you don't believe he's able to serve out the rest of this term, the next 11 months?

HALEY: I mean, I think that Democrats see this for what it is, Dana. This is - I wish him well, I really do. But there's no way Democrats aren't totally panicking right now. You look at the special counsel report that says he's mentally diminished. But it's not just the report. We can look at him from two years ago. We can see that he's diminishing. But that's what happens when you're in your 80s. Those things happen.

And I think the fact is we've got to put country above these people. Joe Biden has worried all about himself. Donald Trump is worried all about himself. But nobody's worrying about the American people and doing what's right. The party that lets go of their 80 year old candidate is the party that will win and I think both parties need to realize that.

BASH: But just to be clear what Hugh Hewitt, who interviewed you this morning, said is that he wrote a piece arguing that - but never mind the next election, that he should resign now. And it looked like you agreed with that. And you said that it - that would be in the best interest of the country.

HALEY: I do agree with that.

BASH: So resign now, Kamala Harris should be president?

HALEY: I do - I do agree with that. And listen, I am not excited about Kamala Harris being president. I think that that should worry everybody just as much because we've seen she couldn't handle the border, she couldn't handle artificial intelligence. We don't know - but at the same time, I look at how diminished Joe Biden is. And what bothers me is how does Russia see that, how does Iran see that, how does China see that.

We have to look at this from a National Security perspective. This is not about being nice to him because he's sweet and he's done his service and all that. This is about we need somebody at the top of their game making decisions on National Security and the future of our economy. We don't have that right now.

BASH: Governor, on National Security, President Biden criticized Donald Trump today for suggesting that he would encourage Russia to invade NATO allies who didn't pay enough in dues. Biden called Trump's comments dumb, shameful, dangerous, un-American. He sounds like what you've been saying about Donald Trump lately.

HALEY: Well, I think, you look at what he said about NATO, it goes back to when Donald Trump leaves the teleprompter, he is unhinged and we saw that. The idea that he would suggest to not defend our allies in NATO, but to go a step further and actually encourage Putin to invade our allies, the same allies that stood with us at 9/11 is unthinkable.


HALEY: But more than that, think of what he's doing. Donald Trump is siding with a thug that has caused half a million people in Ukraine to be wounded or killed. He's siding with someone who kills his political opponents. He's siding with Putin, who has arrested Evan Gershkovich just for doing his job of journalistic --

BASH: Right.

HALEY: -- journalism. I mean, he's siding with someone who has wanted to destroy America. That is not someone that you want at the top of the ticket. That's not someone you want to lead our country, and that's not someone who's going to prevent war.

BASH: This kind of -- these kind of comments that you just made now about Donald Trump combined with your reaction to what he said this week about your husband being absent, even though he's representing America and serving America, in Africa, in the military, made you say that you don't think that Donald Trump is qualified to be president. Are you rethinking your pledge to support Trump if he's the nominee?

HALEY: What I said is, if you look at what he said, look, it's not personal with me and Michael. We know that in politics, you get a lot of arrows thrown at you. It's not personal. And that's actually very different than Donald Trump, who takes everything personally. This should be about the American people. The problem with what he said is, if you mock one person in the military, you're mocking everybody in the military. This sacrifice -- they don't make this sacrifice because it's fun or for kicks and giggles. They sacrifice and they're willing to shed blood because they believe that this is about something bigger than themselves. They know freedom is not free.

BASH: Right.

HALEY: And the fact that he would mock them, but this is a pattern that we've seen over and over again. When he said that dying military members were suckers or losers. Or when he was at Arlington National Cemetery and he said what was in it for them. To keep saying these things is an insult to every military family who sacrifices when their loved ones go away.

And that, how do you have someone who's going to lead our country when you don't think he's going to protect the people who are willing to make that extreme sacrifice? It's just very concerning.

BASH: So it sounds like you are rethinking your pledge to support him if he's the nominee?

HALEY: What I'm thinking is you all need to ask him what he has to say about that because he owes a lot of military families an explanation with that. He owes a lot of veterans an explanation on that. You don't disrespect someone who's done something that you weren't willing to do.

He was not willing to go overseas, but supposedly because he had bone spurs. He's never been near a military uniform. He has no right to talk about anything that a service member does, because that's off limits with him when he wasn't willing to serve himself.

BASH: Governor, thank you so much for being here tonight. We appreciate it.

HALEY: Thanks so much. Go to

TAPPER: There is much more coming up in our special election coverage as voting is winding down in the congressional race to replace expelled Republican Congressman George Santos.

Up next, the trail of lies and alleged crimes that stunned Santos' constituents and the nation, finally persuading even his fellow Republicans to remove him from Congress.



TAPPER: Tick tock, time's running out for New York voters on Long Island and parts of Queens to choose a new representative in Congress. We are standing by for the very first results in this high stakes special election to replace a famously or infamously expelled member of the House, now a criminal defendant named George Santos. There would not be a special election tonight if it were not for the George Santos saga. Manu Raju covered every moment of it. Manu, walk us through as many of the lies and allegations surrounding Santos as you can squeeze into a package that doesn't last seven hours. And that did lead to his rare expulsion from the House.

RAJU: Yes, look, he'd weathered the storm for months and weathered expulsion vote after expulsion vote. But at the end of the day, the criminal indictments on top of a damning House ethics report proved to be too much for Republicans and Democrats.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Santos, Mr. Santos, your reaction --

RAJU (voice-over): George Santos left a historic legacy in a short time in Congress.

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R), NEW YORK: George Santos is the Mary Magdalene of United States Congress.

RAJU (voice-over): Just maybe not the legacy he would have wanted. He became the sixth member ever expelled from the chamber. And the first to be expelled without being convicted of a crime or supporting the Confederacy.

It all started with an unexpected rise.

COOPER: In New York's 3rd District, George Santos, they pick up for the Republican Party.

RAJU (voice-over): And a dramatic fall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In light of the expulsion of the gentleman from New York --

RAJU (voice-over): A disgraced congressman defiant until the end.

SANTOS: I'm not going to sit here and continuously debate my entire life.

RAJU (voice-over): Before his election in 2022, few had ever heard the name George Santos. And it might have stayed that way, if not for a bombshell report about his background.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: A newly elected Republican congressman from New York is under scrutiny this morning. Major aspects of his resume are being called into question.

RAJU (voice-over): Santos seemed to lie about virtually everything from his family.

SANTOS: My grandparents survived the holocaust.

I'm a Latino Jew.

My mom was a 9/11 survivor.

RAJU (voice-over): To his education.

SANTOS: They sent me to a good prep school.

I actually went to school on a volleyball scholarship.

I put myself through college and got an MBA from NYU.

RAJU (voice-over): To his work experience.

SANTOS: I'm an aspiring politician and I work for Goldman Sachs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You work for Golden Sachs in New York?


RAJU (voice-over): A picture of a man whose public face was built on lies. Lies that made him fodder for late night comics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know how I'll be remembered as a martyr.

SANTOS: I was the first openly gay Jewish Republican Latino to walk on the moon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't consider the things I've said to be lies. They're what my great grandfather Winston Churchill. He would call them embellishments.

RAJU (voice-over): And a pariah in Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's an embarrassment to our party. He's an embarrassment to the United States Congress.

RAJU (voice-over): Whose unpredictable antics kept everyone guessing.

SANTOS: You guys are staying down here all day, so I just wanted to make sure you guys are taken care of. One of my staffers baby, look at this baby.

I want him out of here. He's an animal.


RAJU (voice-over): But as the lies mounted, Santos admitted to fabricating some of his background.

SANTOS: I always joke. I'm Catholic, but I'm also Jew-ish. As in, ish. Did I embellish my resume? Yes, I did. And I'm sorry.

That's insecurity, stupidity. I don't know. Look, I'm human. We make mistakes.

RAJU (voice-over): But remained steadfast in rejecting calls for his resignation and was even preparing to run again in 2024.

SANTOS: It's a great day to be an American. It's a great day to be a Republican. And it's a great day to announce reelection.

RAJU (voice-over): Before a sweeping indictment issued by the Justice Department.

SANTOS: It's a witch hunt. It makes no sense.

RAJU (voice-over): 23 charges in total, embezzlement, wire fraud, money laundering, campaign finance violations, the list goes on. Yet Santos survived not one, but two attempts to expel him, with many members waiting for the House Ethics Committee before taking action. But when the ethics report was released, it was explosive.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There were hotels and taxi bills from Las Vegas charged to his campaign. Makeup at Sephora, Botox even. OnlyFans? Charge to the campaign too.

RAJU (voice-over): OnlyFans is a subscription-based risque website, a website that Santos swore he had never heard of in March, four months after his purchases.

SANTOS: I just discovered what OnlyFans was about three weeks ago.

RAJU (voice-over): The damning report turned the tide against Santos in the House.

SANTOS: This is bullying.

RAJU (voice-over): And when it led to another expulsion vote, it was a landslide. Santos seemed relieved to reach an end of this saga in Congress.

RAJU: Tell me what this year has been like for you.


RAJU: Hell?

SANTOS: Hell. Hell in the most profound way.

RAJU (voice-over): Relishing his post-expulsion fame, doing interviews with comedians.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The lesson is to stop inviting new places.

SANTOS: But you can't. People want the content.

RAJU (voice-over): And making money recording videos on the website Cameo.

SANTOS: Well happy, happy birthday. Or I can just do the happy birthday to you.

RAJU (voice-over): Tonight's election is simply the latest chapter in this chaotic saga. A special election with a chance to shrink the House GOP majority to a razor thin margin. And possibly, a first referendum on President Biden in this crucial election year. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Wow. That was something to live through.

Joining us now, one of the most outspoken Republicans in calling for the ouster of George Santos, Congressman Mike Lawler of New York. Thanks so much for joining us, Congressman.

First of all, as you know better than most, there are a lot of House Republicans reluctant to kick Santos out of the Congress because of the very narrow majority Republicans have. If Mazi Pilip, the Republican, does not win tonight, will you regret calling for Santos to be ousted?

REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): No. It was the right thing to do. He was unfit to serve as a member of Congress. He not only defrauded the voters. He defrauded donors, stealing money through shell companies, through the campaign.

His treasurer pled guilty, a campaign staffer pled guilty to impersonating Kevin McCarthy's chief of staff. You have to have standards. And ultimately, he was allowed and afforded due process with the Ethics Committee, which is what many of my colleagues were concerned about.

Myself, Anthony D'Esposito, Nick LaLota, Marc Molinaro, we called for him to resign immediately when these allegations first surfaced. Because from our own interactions, we thought there was something wrong with him.

But ultimately, when you see all the evidence that came out, putting litany of lies, but the criminal evidence that came out, 23 felony counts, he was unfit to serve. So I stand by the decision to expel him. Sometimes you have to take a stand that's bigger than party.

And frankly, when you see what's going on, for instance, in the Senate with Bob Menendez. You know, people like John Fetterman are standing up and saying he needs to go. I think in Congress, if we want to restore the reputation of this institution and give the American people something to believe in, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

RAJU: So, just taking it to where we are now, I mean, how much is what, everything that we saw, the chaos, the George Santos, the back and forth you had with the GOP, how much is that affecting this race tonight?

LAWLER: Look, I honestly think not very much. I think when you see the polls --

RAJU: Because -- I should just interrupt because --


RAJU: -- Mr. Suozzi is trying to say she's another George Santos. We don't know anything about her past. LAWLER: Well, listen, voters know a lot about Tom Suozzi. He's been in office for 30 years. He's lost five times. And tonight, he's going to lose a sixth because Mazi is going to beat Suozzi. And the reason is that the issues are on Mazi's side.


When you look at the border crisis, when you look at high crime in New York City, when you look at the affordability crisis, New York leads the nation in out migration for a reason. It has nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with the cost of living.

And so, voters in the 3rd District are going to send a big message, like they did back in 2011 when Bob Turner won the special election to replace Anthony Weiner. This is going to be a big message that voters are dissatisfied with the president. They're dissatisfied with the governor and the mayor of New York City, and they want change.

And Mazi Pilip, an Ethiopian born, you know, immigrant who went to Israel, served in the IDF came to America, mother of seven, served her local community, and unlike George Santos, actually is Jewish. She will do very well tonight in this district.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How did it change your vetting process? Meaning these voters are sort of owed an explanation as to how George Santos made it as far as he did. I have to assume going in this time around, maybe it was a little more aggressive. How did you think about who you wanted to represent the district?

LAWLER: Well, Chairman Joe Cairo, the Nassau County Republican Chairman runs one of the best county organizations in America. And obviously, I think he was deeply hurt by what happened. I know that they had a very thorough vetting process in this process to select Mazi Pilip.

CORNISH: But Santos slipped through twice, so.

LAWLER: He did. And, you know, frankly, Tom Suozzi is part of the reason that he was unvetted. Wait, Tom Suozzi --

CORNISH: Yes, but isn't it, you have one job --

LAWLER: Tom Suozzi admitted, Tom Suozzi admitted that they never did an oppo research book on George Santos when he ran in 2020. And to me, that's insane. I mean, listen, I've been a consultant. I've been an elected official. You do oppo research on your opponent.

This was a failure on the part of both parties to vet the candidate. Both the Republicans who failed to vet him prior and the Democrats who I guess took for granted that they were going to win a seat that Joe Biden won by about eight points and just thought it would be a breeze.

And frankly, the press. I mean, the national press and the New York press did not really do a good job. The local press actually did.

CORNISH: But I'm asking because Suozzi -- LAWLER: And so --

CORNISH: -- is now making an argument that who is this person? She is not out and about as much as she could be. She waited until the very last minute to really accept a debate. And so he's saying, look, yet again, there's another perfect resume. But what do we know about this person?

LAWLER: Listen, with respect to debates, I mean, we can go through the litany of people who only accept one debate or multiple debates. That's not really what voters hang their hat on. Voters want to know what it is that you're going to do to help them.

She has been working tirelessly across this district. I was there just a few weeks ago. We had over a thousand people at the event in support of her. She had another rally just the other day. She's out in the district, and she's serving as a local elected official. It's absurd to say that she's unknown.

She's serving in her local community currently. Tom Suozzi is somebody that people know. They've known him for 30 years. He was elected the mayor of Glen Cove in 1993. He has lost five elections in large part because people know he's a phony.

This is a man who literally bragged about kicking ice out of Nassau County when he was county executive and now says that he's going to do something about border security and the migrant crisis in New York. This is a man who voted 100 percent of the time with Joe Biden while a member of Congress and now says, oh, I don't want Joe Biden to come to Nassau County. I don't want his support. Are you kidding me?

TAPPER: All right, Congressman, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

Voting ends in New York just minutes from now and just in less than 12 minutes. And the strength of the Republican majority in the House is very much on the line. We are awaiting the first votes and clues about which party will prevail this evening.

Also ahead, we're going to talk with one of the biggest names in New York's congressional delegation, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria- Ocasio Cortez, also known as AOC, is standing by. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Voting ends just minutes from now in this high-stakes special congressional election in the Long Island area of New York. The House seat previously held by ousted Republican Congressman, George Santos. That's him right there. Remember him? Over two months after his historic expulsion from Congress.

Many voters today looking to move past the Santos scandal as they choose between the Democrat former U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi and the Republican Nassau County legislator Mazi Pilip. Their close fight to represent the third congressional district will determine if Republicans hold onto this New York seat, expanding their slim seven- seat advantage in the House. Or if Democrats pull off a win, that chips away at that GOP majority.

As the polls are about to close any minute, let's go back to a key voting location. John Berman is in Carle Place, New York. John, what's happening where you are and what happens next?

BERMAN: Yes, Carle Place high here, home of the frogs. It feels like last call, to be honest here, Jake. You can see the poll workers have already started to push the voting machines together. We did see one voter there getting his last minute ballot in.

If you are in Carle Place, close by Carle Place high in the next six minutes, you can show up. Anyone in line at 9:00 will be able to vote. But I will tell you, if there's no one here, they're going to shut this place down at 9:00 sharp. Then the work begins here.


Again, every ballot that was cast here, and most of the people you see here are either poll workers or poll watchers at this point. Once the ballot are cast here, and you can look here, they are fed into these machines and there are seven of these machines here.

At 9:00, once the polls close here, each one of these machines, they're going to close them up. They're going to take the paper ballots out and they will print what they call tape receipts, and those will have the results, preliminary results from each one of these machines.

Here's one, here's another. You can see they line the walls here, seven of them. From each machine, we will get the results and they will be fairly telling just Election Day results, just Election Day results.

And I can tell you on this machine, for instance, 103 ballots -- 113, I'm sorry, 113 ballots, were cast today. On this machine, 274 ballots were cast today. We'll get the results in about 15, 20 minutes from each one of these machines, and it will be telling, why? Because the Election Day vote here has been low compared to normal elections. High for a special election, but low, especially in comparison to the early vote.

Early in mail-in vote, 80,000 people voted early or by mail. And the registration breakdown of the early votes, 46 percent Democratic, 32 percent Republican, the rest or other. So you get a sense, the Election Day vote, Republicans will have to make up. Mazi-Pilip will have to make up significant ground, in theory, in the registration, in the Election Day vote.

And this is Nassau County, which is over the last few years, traditionally more and more Republican. Will she have an edge here from these machines in the Election Day vote? That is one of the things we'll be looking for. If she doesn't have an edge or not a big edge, it may, it may give you a sign of where this night is headed, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, John Berman, thanks so much.

It's about to close down in that voting place. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay there. John King, we're at the magic wall here. This is New York's Third Congressional District. What are you going to be looking for?

KING: You could stay there if you want to watch them counting. Watch John Berman do some math on live television, that'd be fun. Look, John makes a very important point. Number one, what is the final number, Jake, of the Election Day vote. Because we do know Republicans view it more as a holiday.

They tend to more be more traditional and vote on Election Day. We see that all across the country. If Democrats had an advantage in early voting, did the weather. Did the fact that it's a special election, did that combination depressed turnout, does that help the Democrat? We'll see. We'll be counting votes in just a matter of minute.

So you mentioned this is the district. Let's zoom a little bit. One thing interesting about it, John, is in Nassau County. Let me just put the county lines up here. You see the line right here. This is Queens County. This is part of New York City. Queens County is part of Queens, right? So you're on the edge of New York City. Tom Suozzi has to run it up here.

And we'll get some early votes here pretty early on. They're likely to be -- when we get those early votes, they're likely to be lopsided democratic. That's good for Tom Suozzi. But remember, as we've seen in recent elections, especially since COVID, there's more early voting. It tends to be disproportionately democratic so that he needs that.

But that doesn't mean, oh, game over. We have to count throughout the night. So you'll see that early on, but that's Queens County. Then you come over here. This is where John is out in Nassau County. This is where Mazi Pilip just simply has to, you know, not only compete in the early vote when we start to see that, but run it up.

But it is a different district in the sense as you move away from the city, you get more suburban. And that is the tug-of-war. How is this district matter? Let me pull out a little bit. Come back here. Just in New York, right? I'm going to show you in the country, we have so- called swing districts. These are districts, Republican-held districts that Joe Biden won, right?

So you watch this right here. Let me come out and pull it out to the thing. Here, this is -- this one right here is here. If you come back and look at the House of Representatives now, right, this one is here, we're looking at tonight, but then if you pull it out, there are 17 of these. And so will this district tell us anything about these?

If you're the Democrats, now in a presidential cycle, these -- Joe Biden won these districts in 2020. Republicans won them in 2022. So in the tug of war for the control of the House of Representatives, you know, Republicans are going for the narrow Biden wins, but the Democrats are trying to take them back.

So does this district in New York tonight tell us anything that you might apply, because many of these districts like this one, are those competitive suburban districts. Higher education, higher income have been trending democratic. But we have seen signs the Republicans are starting to pull them back. That tug of war gets one vote tonight as we count votes in a bit.

TAPPER: Congressman Mike Lawler, who we just interviewed, Republican from New York, he also comes from one of those Biden districts.

KING: He sure does. He comes from right here. You come up here and look how close it was. He beat a very important. Remember Sean Maloney ran the Democratic --


KING: -- campaign committee.

TAPPER: He was a member of the Democratic leadership.

KING: Yes. A key Nancy Pelosi ally in the House leadership. I look how close it was in the 2022 midterm. So Mike Lawler, one of the reasons he wanted to get rid of George Santos, I take him at his word. He thought George Santos was a disgrace to the institution.

He also wanted to get rid of him because of the baggage George Santos caused. Anybody who's running in a very competitive district does not want to -- you know, you have to -- you want to deal with your own race. You don't want to be answering questions about somebody else at the same time.