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Egypt Expected To Allow Aid Into Gaza Within Hours; Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) Wraps Talks With GOP Holdouts In Speaker Fight; Trump's Legal Peril Grows As His Former Lawyer Flips In Georgia; Pentagon: U.S. Navy Warship Shot Down Missiles & Drones Launched From Yemen And Potentially Headed To Israel; Biden Gives Wartime Address To Nation About An Hour From Now. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 19, 2023 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you ever miss an episode of "THE LEAD", you can listen to the show where you get your podcasts.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, new airstrikes on Gaza in the Israel-Hamas war, as President Biden is preparing to give a wartime speech from the Oval Office tonight, just hours after returning from the region. We're standing by for new details on what he will ask of Congress and the American people.

In the war zone, Egypt is expected to open a critical border crossing into Gaza within hours and allow the first aid trucks to roll in with life-saving supplies. Will it actually happen?

Also breaking, Congressman Jim Jordan just wrapped up a tense meeting with fellow House Republicans refusing to support his bid to become the speaker of the House. It's been a day of new feuding and dysfunction as GOP lawmakers struggle to decide the next step in their standoff over choosing a new speaker and reopening the House.

And Donald Trump's ex-lawyer, Sidney Powell, flips on the former president and pleads guilty in the Georgia election subversion case. Powell's deal with prosecutors putting Trump at even greater legal peril right now.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're keeping a very, very close eye on the conflict in Gaza right now, and we're now just two hours away from President Biden's rare primetime Oval Office address to the nation.

The president is set to lay out the stakes for Americans as war rages in the Middle East as well as in Ukraine. Our correspondents are standing by in Israel and on the frontlines at this very dangerous moment in the war against Hamas.

Let's start with CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She's joining us from Tel Aviv right now. Kaitlan, what do we expect President Biden to say tonight?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, it's only the second time that you've ever seen President Biden sit behind that resolute desk in the Oval Office and address the nation in primetime, that is, since ever taking office. And I think it speaks to the gravity that he is bringing to this message tonight, not only talking about the importance of sending aid here to Israel but also more funding for the war in Ukraine to Taiwan, of course, a major concern that he's had that he believes Ukraine could have a massive effect on, and also fortifying the U.S. southern border, something that you've heard Republicans talk about repeatedly when they push back on sending more money to Ukraine.

And so, in totality, the president is going to be asking Congress for a massive package, $100 billion. $10 billion of that, we are told, is going to be reserved for Israel. He says it's an unprecedented ask of the U.S. Congress. But expect overall this message about democracy and the importance of preserving that across the world to come through in the president's message tonight.

And, of course, he is driven in part by his trip here to Israel. He's been working on the tweets to that speech, including on the flight home here after he spent several hours here in Tel Aviv. And while he was here, he did not get everything he wanted. Certainly, he didn't even make it to those meetings in Jordan because they were canceled, that he was expected to go to.

During those meetings, the president was saying afterward that he had a call with the Egyptian leader, that he thought they made progress on actually getting somewhere on sending aid into Gaza, where it's so desperately needed, but he noted he didn't get what he wanted, which was getting civilians out of Gaza. So, still some big asks on the table for the president as he's trying to navigate not just the war in Ukraine, but also now this newfound war in Israel.

BLITZER: And, Kaitlan, we're just learning now that the humanitarian aid trucks are not going to be allowed through the Rafa crossing tomorrow, as had been earlier suggested. What's the latest?

COLLINS: Yes. Our reporters who were on the ground outside that Rafah crossing, which is the sole crossing from Egypt into Gaza, and is the critical way for that aid to get into Gaza because Israel says it cannot come through Israel. We are now had been seeing evidence that they were preparing to open up the Rafah crossing. They were moving cement blocks. They were trying to repair the roads from where they had been damaged earlier this week. But now a United Nations source is telling our colleagues, Jake Tapper, Alex Marquardt, Jennifer Hansler, that they do not believe that is going to be opening tomorrow.

Now, that doesn't mean it's not going to open, period. Maybe it will happen later this weekend. That's what White House officials have been hopeful for. But it just shows you the challenges, Wolf, that they have faced in trying to get this aid across the border. Because, yesterday, the president said that the Egyptian president had agreed to open it up, to let about 20 to 25 trucks of humanitarian aid, which have lined up. They are ready to go across that crossing into Gaza. That is something that officials in Gaza, people in Gaza have said is just going to be a small drip in the bucket of the actual aid that they need. But right now, it does not seem likely that that is going to happen tomorrow. It really remains to be seen when it does happen, if at all, Wolf.


BLITZER: All right. Kaitlan Collins reporting from Israel, thank you. And we'll see you, of course, again later tonight, 9:00 P.M. Eastern for The Source from Israel.

Let's bring in CNN's Erin Burnett right now. She's also reporting from Tel Aviv. Erin, today, the Israeli defense minister rallied troops near Gaza. Does his message give any insight into when an Israeli ground incursion could actually begin?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, I guess the one thing it gives insight into is that they know they have hundreds of thousands of troops sitting on that border who want to know what they're going to be doing and when they're going to do it. They have now been sitting there for 12 days as they've been massing along that border.

Some of those troops we've talked to, Wolf, have literally -- they come in and out 40 minutes every day to sleep in barracks. They're sleeping in mats in the open air. They are waiting at the defense -- Israeli defense minister. The exact quote, Wolf, is, you see Gaza now from a distance. You will soon see it from inside.

Now, does that mean anything about the size? Is some of that more drawing a painting of what's going to happen as opposed to a specific indication of how big this will be? Obviously, unclear. But the reality of it is, Wolf, is you've got hundreds of thousands of troops waiting, not home, eating at makeshift barbecues all along this border that we have witnessed, and I think at the very least reflects that they know that these troops are on pins and needles and on the edge and waiting. And they need to go and give them some support and bolster them for whenever this is, and if it happens to involve a lot more waiting.

BLITZER: Erin, you spoke to a group of civilians who stepped up to defend their kibbutz from Hamas. Tell us a little bit about that.

BURNETT: Wolf, their story is incredible. So, 6:30 in the morning, they hear rockets, they come in. One of them had actually hit his house on the second floor, he and his wife had run downstairs. They think that's it. They start hearing machine gun fire. And they go out.

Now, they have trained, Wolf, to protect their kibbutz for 20 minutes until the Israeli military. That's the entire extent of their training. Well, it took 5.5 hours. And they managed in this kibbutz, Mefalsim, as you know, Wolf, to defeat those terrorists and nobody died. So, a lot of shooting in the village, a lot of fighting, but nobody died.

This group of men, they were able to fend off the terrorists and one of them, talking about how many rounds, 250 rounds they were shooting. And here is part of what they said.


YARDEN RESKIN, MEFALSIM VOLUNTEER SECURITY FORCE: Eli (ph) shot from his kitchen, right? He shot from his balcony. I shot from in between houses of people I know all my life. He had to throw his kids over a balcony to another guy's house. I mean, it's real.

It's not when you're a combat soldier and you go whatever to do whatever you go. Okay, it's totally different.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are civilians, you know? We are families. We are not combat soldiers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Totally different story.


BURNETT: Wolf, I showed them the war plans that Hamas had to attack their kibbutz. They couldn't believe what Hamas knew about where things are in their Kibbutz, that they didn't even know.

And one of the, Wolf, a very poignant moment, he said, I saw a guy, he looked like my friend, so I yelled his name. And the guy yelled back at me a name I didn't know. It turned out he was Hamas and I was Israeli. He said it was a moment when I realized how much we look alike. And then I shot him. So, we'll have much more of that coming up later, Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly will. Erin Burnett, thank you very much. And Erin will be reporting from Israel once again, right at the top of the hour for her program, Erin Burnett Outfront.

Next, though, let's go to CNN's Sara Sidner. She's joining us now live from Jerusalem. Sara, Israel has been conducting some raids out in the West Bank as it wages this war against Hamas. How extensive are these Israeli military operations?

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Very extensive, to say the least. You know, the Israeli military says it has been conducting wide scale, what it calls counterterrorism activity in the West Bank where they have arrested more than 60 Palestinians in the last day or so. I should also mention that the tensions in the West Bank very, very high, especially after that blast at the hospital because the Palestinians basically do not believe the Israeli evidence or Israeli military's intelligence that Israel was not responsible for that blast. And they don't believe the U.S. intelligence that seems to at this point confirm the Israeli intelligence. They believe that it was undertaken by Israel and that is something that they certainly cannot forgive and have been out protesting in very large numbers.

But there have been smaller scale clashes that have ended in deaths of Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority said that there are about seven Palestinians who have been killed overnight during one of those raids by the Israeli military. And so, you know, the Israeli military says in that operation in Tulkarem, they went into a refugee camp and ended up arresting about ten people there, but seven Palestinians, according to the P.A., were killed.


That is just ratcheting up the tensions, as you might imagine, in the West Bank, which, of course, is not run by Hamas. It is run by what the international community recognizes as the leader of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara, how fearful are Palestinians over there on the West Bank of Israeli settler violence?

SIDNER: Look, there has been an uptick, a big uptick of violence by settlers against Palestinians. I don't know if the word is fear, yes, that is there, but it's more anger, it's more rage in having to deal with that as well.

We do know that there has been an uptick because of this group named B'tselem and others looking at the activity of settlers in the area, which has always been a flashpoint for Palestinians everywhere, but specifically and particularly in the West Bank.

I want to let you see what B'tselem, this group that tracks settler violence that believes that there is a full occupation by Israel that needs to end. They say that the settler violence against Palestinians has risen in both frequency and intensity with soldiers and police officers fully backing the assailants under the cover of war. Settlers are carrying out such assaults virtually unchecked. That is the group B'tselem, the Israeli human rights organization.

I also want to mention there are about 700,000 settlers in the West Bank, but, conversely, they're terrified as well and they will tell you so. And they constantly say, look, we feel like we are just defending ourselves, defending our families. And so you have this awful back and forth between the two groups. But, internationally, the settlements are not recognized and are considered illegal. But this is a battle that has been going on long before this major war has started. Wolf?

BLITZER: Sara Sidner reporting from Jerusalem, thank you.

We're also following new firefights along the Israeli-Lebanese border

CNN's Ben Wedeman is joining us now. He's in Southern Lebanon. Ben, what does the fighting look like around your location?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if it's been another day of strike and counterstrike between Hezbollah and the Israeli army along the border, but there have been deaths and injuries.

This afternoon, there was an incident where a group of journalists was pinned down by Israeli fire. They contacted UNIFIL, the U.N. peacekeepers in Southern Lebanon, to ask the UNIFIL to contact the Israelis to stop firing.

They did stop firing. They were able to get out. But according to the Lebanese Army, one of those journalists was killed and another was injured.

Meanwhile, there was a rocket fire on the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona, just south of here, where according to Israeli emergency medical services, three people were injured. So, there's continued tension here, but it still seems that the back and forth between Israel and Hezbollah is within the range where they're avoiding a full out war so far. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, let's hope. Ben Wedeman reporting from South Lebanon, stay safe, Ben. Thank you very much.

Coming up, the breaking news continues with more live coverage from the Middle East.

Also ahead, we'll have the latest on the speaker of the House Fight here in Washington, Congressman Jim Jordan pushing ahead with a third speaker vote, despite a lot of pressure from some of his fellow Republicans to drop out.



BLITZER: We'll get back to the Middle East for much more on the breaking news in just a few moments, but, first, an update on some other breaking news right here in Washington. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan now says he wants to hold a third speaker vote after lawmakers scrapped a plan to temporarily empower the interim speaker.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is joining us live from Capitol Hill right now. Melanie, Jordan just met with many of the GOP holdouts. How did that go?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. Well, Wolf, so far, Jim Jordan is failing to change any mind. You saw a lawmaker just leaving his office. I'm standing outside of it right now. But he did huddle with some of his holdouts for over an hour, just a little bit ago. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was also in the room. Interim Speaker Patrick McHenry was also there. But afterwards, Wolf, every single holdout that we talk to said their minds are not changed, and they are standing firm in their opposition to Jim Jordan.

In fact, during that meeting, we're told that they encourage Jim Jordan to drop out of the race, and that they delivered a pretty blunt message to him, which is that you're not going to be speaker, and this is the right thing for you to do, which is to drop out of the race.

And then something else coming up during the meeting, Wolf, are these threats that some of these holdouts are now facing because of their vote against Jim Jordan. Jim Jordan, of course, has denounced those threats, and during the meeting, he denied that he has any involvement in what has been an outside conservative pressure campaign at targeting some of these holdouts.

So, we'll see whether Jim Jordan is planning to carry ahead with this vote afterwards. Patrick McHenry, the acting speaker, said there are no decisions yet in terms of a floor vote and timing on that. Jim Jordan just said it was a good discussion. But we're told that if he goes ahead with another vote, he might bleed even more support.

So, at this point, Wolf, it is very clear that there is no solution in sight to end the chaos that has reigned in the House Republican Party for weeks now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point. Melanie Zanona, thank you very much.

Let's discuss. Joining us now, CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel and Our Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

Gloria, this plan that they had to empower the temporary speaker has gone away, apparently.


BLITZER: Is there any positive end in sight here?

BORGER: Well, not at this point. I mean, at one moment today, Jordan was all on board with that. We're going to have this speaker pro tempore, although he said he wasn't going to get out of the race, it would give him more time to consolidate his support, and then next thing we know, no, he's decided he's going to run and not do the speaker pro tempore thing.


So, we really don't know what's going to occur. We know, as Melanie was just saying, that the holdouts against him are sticking. They're standing firm.

And unlike McCarthy, who just had to worry about this group of rabble- rousers, Jordan has to worry about a lot of different kinds of people. He's got to worry about the centrists. He's got to worry about the people who thought he didn't treat Scalise the right way. He's got to worry about the McCarthy supporters. He's got to worry about the people who are getting death threats. And so he's playing whack-a-mole here. And so he's in a much worse position, I think, than McCarthy really ever was.

BLITZER: Good point. And, Jamie, amidst all of this, some of the Jordan holdouts are actually, and this is hard to believe, but it's true, are actually receiving death threats, calls. CNN's Jake Tapper obtained an exclusive audio of one of these threats to a congressman's wife. I want to play a clip from that call, and I want to warn our viewers, it has some very disturbing language. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a (BLEEP) warmongering piece of shit. So, listen, you're going to keep getting calls and emails. I'm putting all your information over the internet now, everybody else is, and you will not be left alone because your (BLEEP) husband. Jim Jordan, or more conservative, or you're going to be (BLEEP) molested like you can't ever imagine, and, again, non-violently. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How is all of this playing, Jamie, out there, among Republicans?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: This is outrageous. And when, you know, you start with dysfunction and now you have death threats, this is the reason that the numbers I'm told and what Gloria said, not only will he lose again if he calls a vote, but his numbers are going to go in the wrong direction.

So, the Republicans have got to figure out now how to get themselves out of this and tonight how to convince Jim Jordan not to call another vote although the last source I spoke to said it could happen tonight.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Gloria there are some very important real world consequences to what this chaos is causing right now. For example, President Biden in his Oval Office address will ask for an unprecedented package for Israel but the House of Representatives can't do anything without a speaker.

BORGER: Well, of course. And how does this look to the world? I mean, you know, it looks ridiculous domestically but also to the rest of the world when the president says this is what we need, this is urgent, and the House is so dysfunctional right now that the Republicans can't even come up with a person who can become speaker of the House and lead their party.

I mean, it's a symptom of a larger problem, obviously, in the Republican Party, and we could spend hours talking about that, but right now, they have to figure out a way to get their act together and, at this point, Republicans have to figure out if they are willing to work with Democrats in order to do that, and because in order to get somebody to lead, even if it's a speaker pro tempore, they're going to have to work with Democrats.

GANGEL: But they can't even work with each other right now, let alone work with Democrats.

And, look, I've spoken to sources on both sides of the aisle. The Democrats' attitude is why should we get in the way of this? I mean, why are they going to help the Republicans out of it?

BORGER: Unless they could get something out of it.

GANGEL: Correct.

BORGER: And the point is, you know, I spoke to one Democrat who said to me, look, we have -- you know, this doesn't come for free. And there are things that we want -- they would want to guarantee, for example, on Ukraine, on votes on Ukraine, and on Israel, and on spending.

And so, you know, would Republicans be willing to do that? Would the Republican conference say we'd have to have more than half of the Republicans in that conference agree to it, or would we be willing to go with a minority of Republicans to agree to some kind of a coalition? I mean, it's all over the place right now.

BLITZER: Meanwhile, it's very, very chaotic among the Republicans in the House of Representatives. Guys, thank you very, very much, Gloria and Jamie.

We'll have more breaking news just ahead, as sources tell CNN the Rafaf border crossing is not, repeat, not, expected to open Friday after all, further delaying vital aid from Egypt into Gaza.

Plus, we'll get an update from the White House on what the president will say later tonight in his Oval Office address to the nation.



BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, sources now tell CNN the Rafah border crossing in Egypt into Gaza is not expected to open up Friday to allow desperately needed aid to Gaza.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is joining us live from Tel Aviv right now. So, where it's early Friday already over there, Anderson, President Biden had expressed optimism the aid would start flowing within the coming hours. But now it doesn't look like it. What's the latest?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that's right. Egyptian state television and Egyptian security official had also indicated that they believed aid would start going on Friday. That apparently now, according to multiple sources, telling CNN that it's not going to occur Friday. One U.S. official expressed some optimism, perhaps Saturday that would occur, but they stress that this is a very fluid situation.

There are some structural issues they say with the road in Egypt that needs to be repaired, damaged on that road, to allow these heavy trucks to move across.


As you know, Wolf, as you've been reporting, there's some 100 trucks with the aid waiting to go in.

There's also concerns by Israel about how that aid is going to be distributed, who it's going to go to. They don't want it to fall into the hands of Hamas and be used by Hamas gunmen. And also there are concerns among U.S. officials about -- and humanitarian officials about is it just going to be 20 trucks, which is what, according to President Biden, Egypt's president had initially agreed to as a start.

The concern among humanitarian officials is if people believe it's just 20 trucks and that's going to be it, there could be chaos in people descending on those trucks trying to get what's in those last 20 trucks. So, they want to try to make sure that people know and that it will be a continuous flow of vehicles, not just 20 trucks, and that's it. BLITZER: On another issue, a very sensitive issue, Anderson, I understand you had a chance to visit one Israeli Kibbutz that was attacked by Hamas. Tell our viewers what you saw.

COOPER: Yes. This is the kibbutz near Oz. No journalists have really been able to go there until today. The IDF, finally, based on the security situation, allowed journalists to go. It is a scene of just horrific destruction. There are bedrooms with blood smeared on the floor where people were killed still. They buried five of the kibbutz residents there just today alone. There were some 400 people living there before the attack.

As many -- the official death toll right now is just -- it's more than 20, but about 80 to 100 people are unaccounted for or have been kidnapped or are missing. And two people who have been missing were just confirmed dead today by the -- or told the family yesterday, but we learned about it today. So, I'll have more about it tonight on 360, but it is just a scene of slaughter that took place, and mayhem.

BLITZER: Anderson Cooper reporting for us, and we'll, of course, see you later tonight on AC360, 8:00 P.M. Eastern.

As CNN learns that humanitarian aid isn't expected to arrive in Gaza Friday morning, as originally expected, Brian Todd is taking a closer look at the major challenges the delivery operation will face.

Brian, how difficult could all this be?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exceedingly difficult, Wolf. We have new indications tonight that even when those aid convoys do get into Gaza, the operation could be far from smooth between bombed out roads, confusion over what goes where, and the possibility that aid workers could come under fire.


TODD (voice over): Well over a hundred trucks with tons of supplies idling on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing into Gaza. Stockpiles of food, water, medicine and other aid to help displaced Palestinian civilians have already arrived in Egypt.

President Biden says he has secured an agreement for the Rafah crossing to be open to allow as many as 20 aid trucks at first into Southern Gaza. But aid officials say that's not nearly enough.

MARTIN GRIFFITHS, U.N. EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR: We need to go in at scale. We need to start with a serious number of trucks going in, and we need to build up to the 100 trucks a day that used to be the case of the aid program going into Gaza.

TODD: Inside Gaza tonight, the desperation mounts, empty shelves as food runs low, long lines for the last remaining drinking water, hospitals on the verge of collapse, no electricity plunging the streets into complete darkness at night, gas stations nearly depleted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been here for two days trying to get water, and there is no gas. For God's sake, have mercy on us.

TODD: But once the aid trucks get in, experts say there are major challenges to get the supplies to those who need them most, starting with bombed out roads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roads need to be repaired. There are major disruptions to the infrastructure.

TODD: Then there's the hurdle of actually directing the aid trucks.

DAVID SCHEFFER, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Where do the trucks actually go in Gaza? Will there be central areas where they can park and these supplies can actually be, in a coherent measure, unload it and provide it without triggering chaos?

TODD: Another huge concern, will the humanitarian convoys and the aid workers be safe?

JASON LEE, COUNTY DIRECTOR, SAVE THE CHILDREN: It is impossible to deliver assistance when there are airstrikes and shelling.

TODD: Israeli warplanes have already damaged the Rafah crossing near where the aid trucks have been staging. Could an aid convoy be hit by an Israeli airstrike?

SAMEH SHOUKRY, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Until now, there is no safe passage that's been granted.

TODD: And there's another security concern, the possibility that Hamas or other militants might hijack the aid for themselves.

SCHEFFER: At some point, there has to be clarification as to what secures these trucks from any kind of intervention by parties that simply are not entitled to the supplies on those trucks.



TODD (on camera): And, again, the breaking news tonight, sources say that while the Rafah crossing is not expected to open Friday, it could open by the weekend.

But we have to say that the on-the-ground bureaucracy there is also going to be a major hurdle. There are sticking points over who transports the aid between the U.N., the Red Crescent, and other groups. And aid monitors say part of the deal to allow aid in is that each truck has to be inspected, excuse me, to make sure that it's got only humanitarian supplies inside.

Wolf, all of this just really problematic to getting the aid to the people who need it most and fast. It doesn't look like it's going to happen.

BLITZER: Yes, so many lives are at stake right now. It's very, very important. Thank you very much, Brian, for that report. Just ahead, Donald Trump's legal peril could be growing tonight after one of his former attorneys pleads guilty in Georgia. What it means for his case right after the break.


BLITZER: We'll get back to our breaking news coverage in the Middle East in just a few moments.


We also want to share some significant new developments tonight in Georgia's election subversion case against Donald Trump and 18 co- defendants. Sidney Powell, a former Trump attorney, is now pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate with the prosecutors.

Let's get some more from our Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. Paula, this could potentially be a huge headache for the former president.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It really could, Wolf. This is the first member of Trump's inner circle to agree to plead guilty in this case. And as part of her deal, she has to testify at other trials.

Now, sources tell CNN her deal came together less than 24 hours before she appeared in court today.


DAYSHA YOUNG, FULTON COUNTY PROSECUTOR: How do you plead to the six counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties?


REID (voice over): Former Trump attorney Sidney Powell appeared in a Georgia courtroom this morning, the second person to plead guilty in the sprawling case over efforts to overturn the 2020 election in that state.

YOUNG: Do you understand that by pleading guilty, you are giving up the right to a trial by jury?


REID: As part of the deal, Powell will admit her role in the January 2021 breach of voting systems in rural Coffee County, Georgia, be required to write an apology letter to the citizens of the state and pay nearly $9,000 in restitution and fines, as well as turnover documents.

Powell admits to taking steps after the 2020 election for the purpose of willfully tampering with electronic ballot markers and tabulating machines, which were overt acts to affect the object of the conspiracy and with the intention of taking and appropriating information, data and software, the property of Dominion voting systems. But she is not expected to face jail time. Prosecutors are recommending a sentence of six years probation.

One name that did not come up at Thursday's hearing, her co-defendant, Donald Trump. The deal is the first by a member of his inner circle.

POWELL: I'm going to release the kraken.

REID: Powell was among the most vocal of his lawyers in pushing outlandish claims about the election, including that millions of votes were flipped in a global scheme against Trump.

POWELL: There should never be another election conducted in this country. I don't care if it's for a local dog catcher using a Dominion machine.

REID: Repeating those conspiracy theories eventually proved too much even for Trump, and she was ousted from his team.

And her plea raises new questions about a deal in the federal election subversion case. Trump is the only individual charged in that indictment, but Powell has been identified by CNN as one of the six co-conspirators listed by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who has signaled other people could be charged.

JACK SMITH, SPECIAL COUNSEL PROSECUTING TRUMP: The Department of Justice has remained committed to ensuring accountability for those criminally responsible for what happened that day.


REID (on camera): That federal trial is expected to begin in March of next year, and it could be the only prosecution that Trump faces ahead of the 2024 election. But at this point, it's unclear if anyone else will be charged, or if Powell would even be interested in a deal.

Now, what we're looking for is whether Kenneth Cheseboro, another Trump-affiliated attorney, who was expected to be charged and tried alongside Powell in Georgia this month, whether he too will strike a deal, and what that could mean for the federal case against former President Trump. Wolf?

BLITZER: We shall see. Paula Reid, excellent report, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, a U.S. warship shoots down missiles, potentially aimed at Israel. We have details. We'll share them with you when we come back.



BLITZER: We're also following other breaking news out of the Middle East tonight. The Pentagon now says a U.S. Navy destroyer shot down several missiles and drones that were launched from Yemen.

Let's bring in our chief national security analyst, Jim Sciutto.

You're working the story for us, Jim.

What do we know about this intercept and the risk potentially of escalation in the Middle East?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Wolf, when my colleague Oren Liebermann and I first reported this afternoon, what we know at the time was that a U.S. destroyer off of Yemen had intercepted multiple projectiles, missiles, target unknown. It has successfully destroyed those missiles. The question was where were they headed? Were they targeting those U.S., ships or elsewhere?

What we learned over the, afternoon as the Pentagon said is that they believe those missiles were headed northwest towards Israel. Of course, the danger there which is the Houthi rebels, which the U.S. believes fired these missiles, they are backed by Iran. They follow orders from Iran. Was this an instance where another front is being opened up against Israel in this war there?

As you know, there is U.S. assets around the region. You have two carrier groups in the Eastern Mediterranean. Of course, you have numerous ships in the Arabian Gulf, and off the coast of Yemen. And they could use their capabilities including anti-missile capabilities to take out potential threats. And that is what appears to have happened here.

Of course, the danger, Wolf, is escalation not only involving Israel, and other fronts opening up on Israel by, in effect, a proxy group. The Houthis controlled by Iran. But also you have U.S. forces in the line of fire, in Eastern Med, in the Arabian Gulf, and off the coast of Yemen. And it shows you, Wolf, the potential for escalation of this war.

Does Iran choose to open up another front to through its proxies? Whether the Houthi rebels or Hezbollah north of Israel. And U.S. forces pose a danger and effective getting involved? That's the real concern here of U.S. officials. It's why you heard U.S. president, from the beginning say if you are thinking about getting into this, Iran and others, don't think about it.


BLITZER: He keeps saying, "don't, don't, don't".


BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, excellent report, thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: Thanks.

BLITZER: And let's discuss this and more with retired General Frank McKenzie. He serves as commander of the U.S. Military's Central Command.

You did serve as the U.S. military central commander, which is responsible, as we all know, for the Middle East.

General, thanks so much for joining us.

How concerning are these interceptive missiles from Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen? Are they trying to take advantage of the tensions in the region that already exists?

GEN. KENNETH F. MCKENZIE (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Wolf, it certainly looks like an escalation, opening another front against Israel, attacking from another direction. But it matches other activities that Iran had been backing for the past few days, including attacks by their proxy forces against our soldiers and marines in Iraq and in Syria. So it's sort of a pattern, and frankly, it's disturbing.

BLITZER: Yeah, it's very disturbing indeed.

And on Israel's northern border as you well know, the IDF exchanged even more fire with Hezbollah today. The U.N. says one person was killed. Just how much could this conflict escalate to multi fronts?

MCKENZIE: So the possibility of an attack, a large-scale attack against Israel from Lebanon initiated by Lebanese Hezbollah, it's really the most significant threat I think Israel faces. Many thousands of highly precise rockets and missiles, that have been provided by Iran, across Syria and into Lebanon they are ready to fire. They're hidden in, schools, mosques and in places in private homes. It would be a very difficult target for Israel.

However, Lebanese Hezbollah will make its own calculations. I think if they lost a large-scale attack against Israel -- Israel would retaliate against them. And in 2000, six of bloody war for both sides, but Lebanese Hezbollah was hurt pretty badly from that. And so I think they'll have to fight very carefully before they decide to come into the conflict.

BLITZER: That's a good point there.

Israel's defense minister, General, he said today that troops will soon see the inside of Gaza. But explain why you have set a full scale Israeli ground invasion would become and I'm quoting you now, a bloodbath?

MCKENZIE: I think an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza would be the most difficult military operation anyone can contemplate. I have trained for a lot of my career, operations in urban environment. It is densely packed, you are fighting below the ground, in sewers, and in tunnels. You're fighting on the surface of the Earth. You're fighting in residential, buildings and high rise buildings.

At low altitude, Israeli drones will proliferate, but Hamas will also fly drones. Overhead, the IDF, Israeli air force, the IAF, I should say, Israeli air force, will also own the skies, and be able to have precision fires.

Here's the thing the Israelis will be very attentive to the law of war. They will attempt to avoid mass human casualties. They won't be able to do that. But there will be -- there will be everything I can to avoid that.

On the other hand, what Hamas wants and needs are mass casualty events, in order to operate any information say. They will use in effect, not only hostages that are there in Gaza as human shields, they will use the entire population of Gaza as human shields. It'll be a very difficult, tactical problem for the Israelis.

I know they're poised down there in the border, ready to go in. I don't know when that occur, I do know this, the one thing the Israelis can't control is when it starts. And so, they'll look very carefully about would give them the maximum tactical advantage when they go in, Wolf.

BLITZER: Israel doesn't appear to have a specific plan, at least now that we know of for Gaza, if it does eliminate Hamas, goes in on the ground, eliminates Hamas.

How important is it to prepare for what comes after potentially an Israeli ground invasion?

MCKENZIE: That is the important most important part of the plan. As we know from our own experience from Iraq, a successful combat operation needs to be succeeded by some form of a political event that sets a path for the future, and the Israelis need to get a great deal of thought, how Gaza is going to be governed after combat operations are complete. And, you know, the choices aren't great.

Hamas has clearly looped us, the Israelis and the world for the last few years by looking moderate, while planning for this terrible attack that occurred in southern Israel. So, I don't know that they're the partner, there are other possibilities for partners. You would hope that other nations in the region would get involved. But all wars have to have a political end. And the Israelis need to think very carefully about how they're going to craft a political end of this war.

BLITZER: Yeah, good point. General Frank McKenzie, the former commander of the U.S. military's Central Command, thanks so much for joining us.

MCKENZIE: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

MCKENZIE: Coming up, as we get closer and closer to President Biden's wartime address to the nation tonight, you are standing by for new information about what he will say.



BLITZER: We're back with breaking news on President Biden's address to the nation that begins a little over an hour from now.

CNN's Kayla Tausche is over the White House for us.

What more are you learning, Kayla?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the White House is pink this evening for breast cancer awareness month. But this evening later, President Biden will have a very different message for the American people. He's going to try and make a direct appeal to the public for why the U.S. should continue funding wars in Israel and Ukraine. He is going to seek to make the argument that in action would be more costly then continuing to greenlight funding.

To that end, the White House is expected to ask Congress in the coming days for more than $100 billion in a supplemental funding request, $60 billion or so of that devoted to Ukraine, about $10 billion of that according to senior administration officials to Israel.

Now, the president and his trip this week, gleamed from the prime minister, and his war cabinet in Israel, exactly what the countries needs on the ground are. And earlier today, he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about how that country is sustaining its own defenses, about 18 months after Russia's unprovoked invasion.

But it's safe to say, Wolf, that the president is addressing a skeptical audience tonight. While there's overwhelming support for Israel's ability to defend itself, there is not a clear consensus about what the U.S.'s role should be. And public support for the war in Ukraine has waned, and has become a very bitter partisan debate, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kayla Tausche at the White House for us, thanks very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts live from Israel right now.