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ABC Reports, Meadows Granted Immunity For Election Case Testimony; Intense Hostage Talks As Freed Captive Says She Went Through Hell; Speaker Crisis Deepens As Newest GOP Nominee Drops Out Within Hours; Diplomatic Source: U.S. Working With Israel, Qatar, Egypt And Hamas To Try To Get More Hostages Freed. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 24, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's a visual reminder of just how much was lost, how many remain missing and how something like this should never, ever happen again.
And yet, of course, it keeps happening.
I'll be back with you tomorrow from Tel Aviv. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. See you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, new reporting that former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was granted immunity before testifying in the federal election interference case. Stand by for new details on what Meadows reportedly told the special counsel and a grand jury about Donald Trump's 2020 election claims.
Also breaking, intense talks aimed at freeing more hostages abducted by Hamas while a newly released captive opens up about the, quote, hell she went through as the Israel-Hamas war rages. The IDF now says its naval forces clashed with Hamas divers trying to infiltrate into Israel by sea.
And the House speaker crisis here in Washington deepens with the latest GOP nominee for the job dropping out only hours after being chosen. Is there any Republican who can pass muster in that very divided caucus as far right lawmakers and Donald Trump are flexing their muscle?
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
And let's get straight to the breaking news tonight, the former Trump White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, reportedly offering damning testimony against the former president to Special Counsel Jack Smith in exchange for immunity. That's according to ABC News.
Our Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is gathering details for us. Paula, what can you tell us?
PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, CNN previously reported that Mark Meadows has testified before a federal grand jury investigating former President Trump. Now, we're learning more about what he has reportedly told investigators.
Now, according to reports, he's spoken with investigators three times over the past year, and he's told them that in the weeks following the 2020 election, he says that he told Trump that these allegations of significant voter fraud were baseless.
Now, that is such a significant break from the rhetoric of former President Trump. It's also a significant break from what Meadows has said publicly, including in a book that he wrote because he said he wanted to, quote, set the record straight. He reportedly told investigators that Trump was being, quote, dishonest and that obviously we didn't win.
Now, Meadows is seen as a critical witness. He was the White House chief of staff and he can offer keen insights into Trump's actions and state of mind following the election.
Now, he also allegedly told investigators that he has never seen any evidence of fraud that would keep now President Joe Biden from the White House and that he agrees this was the most secure election in U.S. history.
BLITZER: Paula, this sounds like really, really much more bad news for Trump in his own legal battles that are ongoing right now. Tell our viewers what this means for the former president.
REID: This is one of the most significant developments in this entire Investigation he is arguably the most valuable witness the special counsel has secured for their case, which is expected to go on next March. And, again, when the January 6th committee on the Hill research everything about the events leading up to January 6th, efforts to subvert the 2020 election, they concluded that all roads lead to Mark Meadows.
So, there have been questions, Wolf, swirling about exactly what he was doing in relation to the special counsel investigation. Was he cooperating, was he getting immunity? And, remarkably, nobody in Trump's inner circle, none of his attorneys seemed to know exactly what was going on with Meadows. Now we know from these new reports that he has been granted immunity and has provided some really valuable testimony for prosecutors to use in their case early next year, what will likely be probably the only trial that former President Trump faces before the 2024 election.
BLITZER: Interesting. All right, Paula Reid, thank you very much.
I want to bring in our legal and political experts for analysis right now. And, Elie Honig, for some legal analysis, from a legal standpoint, how significant do you believe this development is?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Wolf, this is a genuine game changer for prosecutors and a major problem for Donald Trump. A couple things really stick out to me is important. Number one, we now know that Mark Meadows has been given immunity by DOJ, which means DOJ has decided we're going to give you a pass. We're not going to prosecute you, but in exchange, you now have to testify and testify truthfully. And this person, as Paula has said, Mark Meadows was the ultimate insider, the closest person to Donald Trump throughout the key days and weeks.
And that leads to the second big point, which is, based on this new reporting, Mark Meadows has come clean.
He is now saying, contrary to what he's been saying publicly for the better part of the last three years, he's now telling DOJ investigators there was no evidence of fraud and I said so directly to Donald Trump. That's crucial evidence for prosecutors.
BLITZER: So, what does it mean that Meadows was given immunity in this case, Elie?
HONIG: So, it means that prosecutors have struck a deal. When you have someone in Mark Meadows' situation, they gave him a subpoena, they asked him to testify in the grand jury. Usually someone in that situation, Mark Meadows' situation, takes the Fifth. He has that right.
The counter move available to prosecutors then is to say, okay, now you're immunized, meaning we're not going to prosecute you, you have immunity, you're getting a free pass. But now he has to testify. And, again, prosecutors don't give out immunity lightly. They only do so if, A, they believe the person is telling the full truth, and, B, they believe that testimony is essential for their prosecution.
BLITZER: Interesting. And, Jamie, you're doing a lot of reporting on this. How worried should Trump be right now about what Meadows is actually telling the special counsel?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Today is a very bad day for Donald Trump. But I would say, Wolf, I don't think it's a complete surprise for Trump, because they have been wondering for months now what Meadows was telling prosecutors.
It was public, as Paula said, that he had testified to the grand jury. We reported that back in June. But now Donald Trump knows that Mark Meadows has immunity. He is protected from whatever he might have been vulnerable to.
I want to add one thing to this. In addition to his testimony, Mark Meadows was ordered and would come under this immunity agreement to hand over documents, anything relevant, emails, text messages. So, there may be a trove of physical documents, communications that also add to the picture and the evidence, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, very significant development indeed.
Gloria, Meadows was certainly one of Trump's closest and highest- ranking advisers over at the White House. It's hard to overstate how big of a blow, potentially, this is for the former president, right?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly is. I mean, he was the enabler for Donald Trump, if he wanted to get to Donald Trump, you texted Mark Meadows. Even Donald Trump's own children on January 6th were trying to get to the president, and they texted Mark Meadows.
But there are a couple of interesting things that really stand out to me here. One of the things might work to Trump's advantage, believe on it or not, because the question is, what was Donald Trump's state of mind about whether he lost the election? And while speaking to investigators, Meadows was asked if Trump ever said to him, I know I've lost this election but I'm going to fight anyway. And Meadows told investigators that he never heard Donald Trump say that.
Now, we know that there are other witnesses who say that they have heard Donald Trump say that to them, but he didn't apparently to Mark Meadows.
The other ironic thing is that Meadows said that there were times that he was so frustrated that he was thinking of quitting and leaving the White House. But, ultimately, he didn't leave because he wanted to help secure a peaceful transfer of power. How did that work out for him?
BLITZER: Interesting. Laura Coates is with us as well. Laura, what does this tell you about the kind of evidence that Jack Smith's team has amassed in this case, at least so far?
LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we have all been wondering about the role that Mark Meadows was going to play in the overall evidence to a grand jury and ultimately at a trial. In fact, it's one of the reasons people sort of scratched their head quizzically for a second when they heard about the Fulton County charges against Mark Meadows because everyone assumed that Meadows was a cooperator in the January 6th investigation and probe by Jack Smith, and assumed there might have been some sort of discussion between Fani Willis and Jack Smith. We know, of course, there was no requirement that they had to communicate, but one wondered about that very aspect of it.
But this tells you that they are looking to have direct evidence of what Donald Trump said, what he thought, and what he intended to do based on information in real-time. We can often talk about how difficult it is, Wolf, to try to prove somebody's state of mind, trying to get inside the head of potential defendants. When you've got evidence to corroborate what the thought is, somebody who could actually hear or say, here's what I told the person, and not let the juries decide how they interpret it but actually hear perhaps what the person's response was to that information. That gives you connective tissue for a jury to be able to draw some conclusions. What they will, of course, is up to the jury.
But, ultimately, remember how significant these charges are for the January 6th probe.
They include defrauding the United States. It includes obstruction. It includes very serious crimes. But the only way to really get a strong arm around all of the evidence in many ways is not just circumstantially about what you think he may have been thinking but by those in the rooms where it happened. Mark Meadows is a very significant witness for all of those reasons.
BLITZER: And, Laura, let me follow up with you. What, if anything, does this mean for the very separate Georgia election subversion case where Meadows is one of Trump's co-defendants?
COATES: You know, I've been given that a lot of thought in the part where Mark Meadows even tried to move his and remove his case to federal court. That's when the light bulbs began to go off for many lawyers about, hold on a second, is he trying to get to federal court because there could be some advantage in terms of getting that secured immunity deal if there is one to come from Jack Smith.
Now, he could certainly still become somebody who were to plead guilty or who were, who was to cooperate in some form or fashion regarding the Fulton County case, but they are distinct charges from what's happening in Jack Smith's case and of course Georgia.
But if you look at past being prologue, and by past, I mean what happened to Ken Cheseboro, what happened to Sidney Powell, what happened to Jenna Ellis, all people within that inner circle, they've gotten too many people not significant jail time, but probation, the equivalent to many as a kind of slap on the wrist, although felony charges for at least the last two is very significant.
It could incentivize him to dispose of that case, hoping to have a lenient sentence akin to probation, maybe not even a felony charge, and then focus his attention and efforts on testifying and supporting the Jack Smith probe, which undoubtedly would have greater perhaps consequences if he were not to secure that immunity.
And, finally, Wolf, remember, getting the immunity deal is but one thing, but it comes with conditions. It's not a carte blanche for the rest of your life to get out of jail free. It actually requires you to do something, hold up your end of the bargain. He's got to do that.
BLITZER: And, Elie, there's more bad news today for Trump. Former Trump Campaign Lawyer Jenna Ellis pleaded guilty today in the Georgia election subversion case and will cooperate with Fulton County prosecutors, the third guilty plea in the past week alone. How much of a potential threat is this Jenna Ellis plea deal to Donald Trump?
HONIG: Well, Wolf, I think all of the plea deals that we've seen in Georgia of Jenna Ellis today and of Kenneth Cheseboro and Sidney Powell the last couple days are significant. They're not as direct a strike on Donald Trump as Mark Meadows testifying for the feds, but what each of those people in Georgia do is they help the D.A. fill out a piece of her case, whether it's the fake elector scheme, the attempt to breach the voting systems in Coffee County, Georgia. So, each of these folks, Powell and Cheseboro and Jenna Ellis, all of them help the prosecutors sort of put another brick in the wall towards building their ultimate case against Donald Trump. BLITZER: Laura, part of what we heard today from Jenna Ellis in court was that she firmly believed the election lies when she was saying them. What is the significance of that?
COATES: Well, shout out to Elie Honig for the Pink Floyd reference about this because it's really important to think about how it all stacks up. Remember, I understand and believe that people can have a kind of epiphany in what they've done.
Many pleads of deals and plea offers are about people realizing what they have done wrong, the consequences, the gravitas of their decisions, and then holding themselves to be held accountable for that very notion.
But one of the things that she did in her colloquy, which is called her statements that she would make to tell the court about what she has done wrong, is that she says she relied on the experience of older, more experienced attorneys. It doesn't take a genius to think about she's drawing a line to perhaps a Rudy Giuliani, who, of course, was once a federal prosecutor, a lawyer for many, many decades.
So, I think in part, she's accepting responsibility, but you're seeing a bit of a signal to what she might be suggesting as her own defense and then who she is willing to implicate as a part of that plea discussion.
And so think about the way she was unpacking it. She said that she had remorse, that she would have essentially not done this representation, had she known better, but by pointing the finger towards the older, quote/unquote, wiser attorneys, she's not to think similar to what Donald Trump has intimated, which is to look at one's attorneys for the fault.
BLITZER: Yes, she was very emotional in her apology to the court today. She even started crying at several points. Yes, go ahead.
BORGER: Wolf, you know, the differences between her and Mark Meadows is she was saying she didn't know. She was pleading naivete. And as a lawyer whose responsibility it is to do some due diligence, that's kind of hard to believe.
With Mark Meadows, what he is saying is that he knew, but he lied.
He lied in his book. He wrote things that he believed were not true and that he told the president things that he believed were not true. In a way, he encouraged him, including on the call with Brad Raffensperger, two very, very different kinds of statements we heard today.
BLITZER: Absolutely. All right, guys, thank you very, very much. We're going to stand top of the breaking news.
Also coming up, I'll get reaction to the breaking news from Republican Presidential Candidate Chris Christie. He's standing by live. And we'll also live to Israel for the latest on the war in the Middle East. Stay with us, lots of news going on. You're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: There's more breaking news tonight. The Israel Defense Forces is now reporting an attempt by Hamas fighters to try to infiltrate Israeli territory from the sea.
CNN's Anderson Cooper is joining us live from Tel Aviv right now. Anderson, so what is Israel saying tonight about this new clash with Hamas?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari of the IDF has said it was a cell of Hamas divers who came via a tunnel from the sea south of the city of Ashkelon and that they engaged with Israeli naval forces and that they were eliminated, I believe, he said, that we were just getting a short time ago.
But it is certainly something that the Israeli Defense Forces have been very concerned about. Obviously, not only just the border with between Gaza and Israel, but obviously any forces coming from the sea, even off Tel Aviv, you can see boats in the waters patrolling, Wolf.
BLITZER: What are we learning, Anderson, about the newly freed Israeli hostages and what they endured while they were being held by Hamas?
COOPER: Well, we heard today, earlier this morning, from Mrs. Lifshitz, who has been held hostage, was released just late yesterday. This is the first time we heard from her. She gave a very kind of impromptu press conference. It was a little bit chaotic, but I want to play you some of what she described.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOCHEVED LIFSHITZ, ISRAELI HOSTAGE RELEASED BY HAMAS: I want to tell you the truth. I went through hell.
I was put lying on a motorbike on my side while they flew with me through the plowed fields towards Gaza.
As I was lying on the side on the motorbike, legs here, body there, the Shabaab hit me with sticks. They didn't break my ribs, but it was very painful and made it hard for me to breathe.
SHARONE LIFSHITZ, DAUGHTER OF ISRAELI HOSTAGE RELEASED BY HAMAS: There are a huge, huge network of tunnels underneath. It looks like a spider web.
Y. LIFSHITZ: We arrived at a large hall. There we were 25 people. After two to three hours, they separated from my Kibbutz Nir Oz, five people who were put in a separate room. There we lied on mattresses. They really took care of the sanitary side so we won't get sick, God forbid. And we had a close doctor who came to see us every two to three days. The paramedic took it upon himself and took care of medicines. They look very well-prepared. They prepared for it for a long period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz talking about her experiences, really the first details we have heard from any hostage who has been released. As you know, a four in total have been released.
I spoke to Sharone, who you saw doing some interpretation there by her mother's side, shortly before that press conference. Here's what some of what she told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
S. LIFSHITZ: The nurse has said she's very sharp and very communicative and she wants to tell everybody what she knows. She's really the first person that have been with other people there. And I think she's very aware that she can pass on information.
COOPER: She was with other people?
S. LIFSHITZ: Yes, so she was with other people. There was medical care to some extent.
I know that she was with some children, it seemed, and then she would have done quite a lot of work with them. I don't think she kept kind of sitting in a corner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And she was very careful, both her daughter and her mom, Wolf, were very careful not to give any details about who her mother had contact with. That's something obviously she would want to do privately with the families because there are so many families desperate for any information about their loved ones. So, she will certainly be wanting to communicate through both with the IDF and other family members about what she saw, who she saw, specific names of family members, and particularly any children she saw. Wolf?
BLITZER: This is an 85-year-old woman that was taken hostage, 85 years old. Anderson Cooper, thank you very, very much.
And, Anderson, of course, will be reporting a lot more coming up on his program later tonight, 8:00 P.M. Eastern. Anderson, we will be watching.
Also breaking tonight, an Israeli military spokesperson is now ruling out any fuel deliveries to Gaza, despite an earlier statement by a top IDF official that fuel would be allowed into aid civilians in Gaza.
CNN's Clarissa Ward is joining us from Egypt once again. She's following all the Gaza relief efforts and the worsening humanitarian crisis now underway. Clarissa, what's the status of these potential fuel deliveries and other supplies that are so desperately needed in Gaza?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, fuel is definitely the central issue of the moment. One doctor in Gaza warning that his hospital will become a mass grave if they do not get fuel by the end of tomorrow, the U.N. agency that deals with -- that works inside Gaza also saying that by the end of tomorrow, they will have to completely suspend their operations if they don't get any fuel.
And we've had this strange sort of back and forth today from the IDF. Earlier on, the head of the IDF came out. He said, we're working on a mechanism to ensure that fuel can get to the civilian population and prevent it from getting to Hamas.
And then later on, as you mentioned, we heard an IDF spokesperson come out and say, actually, no. No fuel will be allowed because we can't trust that it won't get into the hands of Hamas and that they won't use it for their infrastructure and potentially for military purposes.
Now, this could have a truly devastating impact if this impasse is not resolved soon, not to mention all the other aid wolves, medical aid, food, water. Today, 28 trucks were supposed to go in. Only eight managed to pass through.
Take a listen to what one man displays from his home, now in the southern city of Khan Yunis, in Gaza, had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHMOUD SHAMIYEH, DISPLACED GAZA RESIDENT: This thing that is being distributed cannot be called aid at all. And it should not be referred to as such because these items do not cover any of the people's needs. People in Gaza are dying in two ways, a fast death or a slow death in refugee camps.
We are asking for the simplest and most essential elements that allow every person, young or old, child or adult, to stay alive. Neglecting our lives like this is unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: 1.1 million people are now displaced inside Gaza, Wolf. The scale of the need is just astonishing. And still the international community just struggling to come up with an effective and efficient way to open up a humanitarian corridor and ensure that that aid gets to where it needs to go, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Clarissa. Thank you, Clarissa Ward, reporting from Cairo, Egypt.
More than two weeks after the surprise attack on Israel, we're now getting new information about how Hamas plotted in secret and avoided detection.
CNN's Jim Sciutto is also now reporting from Tel Aviv. He's joining us live. Jim, what can you tell us about the intelligence being shared right now with the United States?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, from the beginning of this, the question had been how did Israeli intelligence and U.S. intelligence, two of the most highly capable intelligence services in the world, miss this? How did they not detect planning, training, communications prior to the October 7th attacks?
And with what we're learning today, we now have at least one indication of how that was possible. And that is that Hamas fighters, for as long as two years, were using land phone lines, phone lines installed in the network, the labyrinth of tunnels they built underground in Gaza to communicate amongst themselves as they were planning this attack.
Those landlines, of course cannot be intercepted by the highly capable surveillance technology that the U.S. and Israel have, particularly Israel pointed at Gaza. So, they used, in effect, old-fashioned technology landlines in the tunnels to communicate, and that is one significant way, it seems, Wolf, that they were able to avoid detection prior to those devastating attacks.
BLITZER: And they certainly did avoid detection in advance. Jim Sciutto, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, new reaction to the breaking news of a reported immunity deal for the former Trump White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows. Republican Presidential Candidate Chris Christie is standing by live. We'll discuss.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We have more breaking news we're following. Congressman Tom Emmer is dropping out of the House speaker's race just hours after earning his party's nomination.
Let's go straight to our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju. He's up on Capitol Hill. Manu, Congressman Emmer faced a lot of resistance from some of his fellow Republicans, including some significant resistance from Donald Trump. What comes next for the House GOP?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just simply chaotic moment for the House GOP, which is in complete disarray, unable to get in order in three weeks to the day since the ouster of Kevin McCarthy. Tom Emmer becoming the third Republican nominee for speaker to see his candidacy collapse, I mean, a revolt within the ranks for Emmer. It was members of the far right, members who were upset with some of his votes on spending, to certify the 2020 elections, to codify same- sex marriage. All these issues came up behind closed doors, and also the opposition of Donald Trump's -- Donald Trump ultimately sunk his candidacy, ensuring he would not have a path to the nomination.
Now, right now, behind closed doors, Republicans are still trying to pick up the pieces, trying to figure out yet again whether there's any other candidate who can get there. Right just moments ago, one candidate who had announced his intentions to run in this fourth leadership election, Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, announced he would step aside.
Now, there are five candidates vying for the Republican nomination. That vote expected to be held tonight. But it's still uncertain whether any of those candidates can get the 217 votes they need to be elected speaker.
In talking to the members of this conference, there is palpable frustration, anger within the ranks, and concern that voters will punish them come next November.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: How upset are you about this whole episode right now?
REP. VERN BUCHANAN (R-FL): It's outrageous. It really is. It's outrageous.
RAJU: In what way?
BUCHANAN: Just in terms of our inability to get the job done. We should have been -- this is going on two, three weeks. People are upset back home. I have a district like all of us, 800,000, they're very upset. The calls we're getting and everything else, they just feel like we can't manage.
RAJU: What are your voters telling you right now about this whole episode?
REP. MIKE GARCIA (R-CA): Just get it done. Like honestly at this point, it's been the same theme for a week.
They're less concerned about the personalities than I think and who the specific person is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: But, again, the question is, Wolf, can any of the candidates get the votes that they would need. The remaining candidates are Congressman Byron Donalds, Chuck Fleischmann, Congressman Mike Green, Congressman Mike Johnson and Congressman Roger Williams. All of them may have the same challenges that we have seen from one candidate after the other of this badly fractured Republican conference where you could only lose four Republican votes on the House floor to be elected speak other party line vote.
Today, Tom Emmer found opposition from at least 26 members, which shows you, Wolf, the challenges of anybody moving forward in this badly divided Republican conference, which is still at each other's -- at extreme loggerheads in the aftermath of Kevin McCarthy's ouster with no clear way forward, Wolf.
BLITZER: And the stakes clearly still very enormous. The House can't pass any legislation without a speaker. Manu Raju, thank you very much.
Just ahead, we'll discuss the Republican crisis on the Hill and more with GOP Presidential Candidate Chris Christie. Stand by.
BLITZER: We're back with breaking news, the former Trump White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, reportedly testifying with immunity in the federal investigation of Donald Trump and the 2020 election subversion.
Joining us now, one of Trump's current rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, the former New Jersey governor, Chris Christie. Governor, thanks so much for joining us.
You're a former also federal prosecutor. You were the U.S. attorney in New Jersey for about six years. How worried should Trump be right now about Mark Meadows being granted immunity?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Desperately worried. Wolf, tell you a story. The day that Donald Trump named Mark Meadows chief of staff, he called me and told me that Mark Meadows was going to be the next James Baker.
Now, look, if the person you call the next James Baker is now testifying that you were lying to the American people about the election results from election night forward, which is reportedly what Mark Meadows is testifying, and that you knew all along that what you were saying was not backed up by the facts, Donald Trump is in very, very big trouble, and he is going to face real jail time for doing this, if that's what's proven in court.
BLITZER: Right now, Trump is clearly still the dominant front runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Will this latest development with Mark Meadows actually impact how voters, Republican voters, feel about the former president?
CHRISTIE: Wolf, the walls are closing in on Donald Trump, Jenna Ellis pled guilty today. She's agreed to testify against the former president. Sidney Powell has agreed to testify before the former -- against the former president. Ken Cheseboro has agreed to testify against the former president, not only in Atlanta, but also in the federal January 6th trial for Jack Smith, and now Mark Meadows. And Mark Meadows was, as you know, Wolf, Donald Trump's shadow the entire time he was chief of staff. He will know every conversation, every lie, every illegal action that was taken by Donald Trump. And he's going to be able to testify to it.
And he's not going to be able to back off of what he told me, which was he considered Mark Meadows the next James A. Baker III. Well, if you think he's got that much integrity, trust and honor, that's the wrong person to have sit in the witness chair pointing the finger of guilt at you if you're Donald Trump. And that's going to affect Republican voters as we get ready to vote in Iowa and New Hampshire over the next three or four months.
BLITZER: Do you think these plea deals, these immunity deals, will lead to even more people from Trump's inner circle seeking immunity or a plea deal for that matter with the prosecutors?
CHRISTIE: Of course it will, Wolf, because it's like a game of musical chairs. There's only so many chairs and there's always more people than there are chairs. And the sooner you get in a chair, the sooner you know you're not going to jail. And you never know when the music is going to stop playing and they're not going to let you take a seat.
I did this for seven years, Wolf, in the fifth largest office in America. I did over 130 corruption trials without a defeat. I know how this is done. They are doing it textbook. It's clear that Fani Willis and Jack Smith are cooperating with each other, looking to buttress each other's cases. This is all bad news for Donald Trump.
But the worst news is his conduct. None of this would be happening if he hadn't lied about the election, attempted to overturn it and then incite people to try to stop the certification of it. All of those things are things that he'll be on trial for on January 6th. And we haven't even spoken about the illegal classified documents that he heisted out of the White House and how much trouble he's in for that as well.
BLITZER: Yes, lots going on. Chris Christie, thanks so much for joining us.
CHRISTIE: Wolf, thanks for having me.
BLITZER: I appreciate it.
Just ahead, we're going to take a closer look at the challenges that the four hostages released by Hamas will face as they try to recover from being held in captivity.
BLITZER: We are following breaking news. A diplomatic source telling CNN that the United States is now working with Israel, Qatar, Egypt, and Hamas to try to get more hostages freed. Hamas has released four out of more than 200 hostages it took captive during its assault on Israel. Now that the ordeal is over for these four freed hostages, the recovery process can begin.
CNN's Brian Todd has this story.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eighty-five-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz, seen in this video shot by Hamas, shaking the hand of one of her captors as she was released. When asked why she shook his hand, Lifshitz said it was because her captors had treated her well and supplied all her needs. She later elaborated.
YOCHEVED LIFSHITZ, RELEASED BY HAMAS AFTER 15 DAYS AS HOSTAGE: They were very generous with us and very kind. They kept us clean and they made sure we ate.
TODD: But Lifshitz also spoke about the torment of being held captive for 16 days and of her concern for her husband, Oded, who is still being held hostage.
GERSHON BASKIN, FORMER ISRAELI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: Had she come out and immediately done something completely opposite, maybe it would've endangered the life of her husband.
TODD: Yocheved Lifshitz is one of four hostages who have now been released by Hamas. All four are women. Their road ahead, according to analysts, will be difficult.
DANIEL O'SHEA, FORMER HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: Even if they were not shot or wounded in the initial kidnapping, or their captivity, they're going to have mental scars.
DR. JEFF GARDERE, PROFESSOR OF BEHAVIORAL MEDICINE, TOURO UNIVERSITY: We're looking at a post traumatic stress disorder here where they will have nightmares. They'll have flashbacks. They'll have intrusive thoughts. They'll have anxiety. They'll have depression. They'll have anger.
TODD: Jason Rezaian, "The Washington Post" writer who was held in Iran for nearly a year and a half, spoke to us about the initial changes stages after being released.
JASON REZAIAN, HELD IN IRAN 544 DAYS: Those first few months are really difficult. It's not really natural to just kind of come back to freedom. And then a couple that with sort of not being able to understand, hey, why am I not happier about this? It is an intense mix of feelings.
TODD: Why wouldn't a former hostage feel happier about their newfound freedom?
GARDERE: This is what we call that survivors guilt. Why me? Why am I free and these other people who are still in captivity? And this is why it is so difficult for them to get through the process of reintegrating into society, because they feel a piece of them is left behind.
TODD: And Psychologist Jeff Gardere and Rezaian say there's another layer to this hostage situation in Israel and Gaza, the abruptness and confusion of it all. Being taken hostage so quickly, then released as a war rages around you.
GARDERE: A person that is whisked into a hostage situation, dealing with people that they don't know or don't get to know, and then they are whisked out again, it is something that is not helping their emotional balance in any way.
TODD: And Jeff Gardere says, in these latest cases, there is yet another challenge. The fact that both of the elderly women who are just released, Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, have husbands who are still being held hostage, puts them in what Gardere calls psychological suspended animation, Wolf. A long road ahead of them.
BLTIZER: Certainly is.
All right. Brian Todd, good reporting. Thank you very much.
Coming up, a CNN team visits an Israeli community just across the Gaza border that was devastated by Hamas paragliders. We'll have a live report when we come back.
BLITZER: The Hamas paragliders, armed with machine guns, is one of the defining images of the group's attack on Israel. CNN is the first American news outlet to gain access to the community they attacked.
Jeremy Diamond has the story for us and a warning to our viewers, some of the video in his report is graphic.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On that day, Hamas delivered death from above.
One after another, Hamas militants landed here in Netiv HaAsara, killing 20 people in this community of just 800.
HILA FENLON, NETIV HAASARA RESIDENT: That used to be like an American style wooden house.
DIAMOND: Now this is all that remains.
They were at home that fateful Saturday morning, when Hamas terrorists burned their house to the ground, firing a rocket propelled grenade or a shoulder-fired missile here. Yocheved's remains were found charred inside. All they found of Nela (ph) were her teeth.
Hila Fenlon has called Netiv HaAsara home since she was a child, living within a few hundred feet of Gaza.
And now we can see here that there is smoke from Gaza.
FENLON: Gaza is very close to us.
DIAMOND: Now, after surviving the October 7th attacks, she wants the world to know what happened here.
FENLON: It's a small community. Everybody knows each other, we know every person that lost their lives here and they were 20 of them. We went to three, four, five funerals a day, eventually (ph) day, brought them to be buried.
DIAMOND: This is her first time inside a Nurit and Alon Burgers' (ph) home since the attacks. Her first time seeing where her friend Nurit was killed.
FENLON: I can't take it. Sorry, it's too difficult for me.
DIAMOND: This is where Nurit Burger lived her final moments. She died after these Hamas terrorists attacked this house from the outside. And as she was sitting there dying, her daughters, her three daughters and her husband, they went into this room.
We are told that they left this door slightly ajar, hoping that the terrorists would not think anyone was in here, because the door was not closed. And they hid here, in this corner, two of the daughters injured by shrapnel and by bullets.
For 40 minutes, they did not make a sound, waiting for the man who murdered their mother to leave their home.
FENLON: I feel responsible to tell their story because I know today, I mean, it has been two weeks today after that -- Saturday, that our lives turned into this. And I believe the world forgot it already, you know?
DIAMOND: Today, telling that story looks like this.
So, everywhere you go, you have to travel with security.
FENLON: Everywhere. For the last -- I mean, for the last two weeks, this is how it is. If you want to enter your home for one minute, you have to have somebody securing the house.
DIAMOND: And when you're this close to Gaza, you have only seconds to react.
(SOUND OF ARTILLERY)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, go, go, go, in, in, in.
DIAMOND: The sounds of war are not all that fills the air in this frontline community. A mother's wails and a father's prayer for their 17 year old son.
Every parent's worst nightmare come true.
DIAMOND (on camera): And, Wolf, as this community continues to grieve, many of them are not able to do so in their own homes. Instead, like so many of these communities on the border that suffered the worst of these terrorist attacks, their homes have become staging grounds for Israeli troops preparing for the next phase of this campaign.
Some of these troops are living inside the homes of those who lost loved ones and these troops massed around in this town and around it, all preparing to invade Gaza -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeremy Diamond reporting, thank you, Jeremy.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.