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The Situation Room
New Group Of Israeli Hostages Freed As End Of Truce Looms; Rep. George Santos (R-NY) Defiant As House Wraps Debate On Expelling Him; Trump Lashes Out As Gag Order In New York Civil Trial Reinstated; Senate Panel Subpoenas Powerful Conservatives In Probe Of Supreme Court Ethics Controversies; Israeli Prison Service: 30 More Palestinians Released Today. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 30, 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 ANCHOR: The lawsuit accuses Ronaldo of using, quote, deceptive statements to sell a collection of non-fungible tokens or NFTs last year. Just last week Binance agreed to pay more than $4 billion in fines and penalties for enabling transactions linked to child sex abuse, narcotics and terrorist financing. Notably, Ronaldo is still promoting Binance on X, talk about an own goal.
Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, six more Israeli hostages were just released, hours after two other captives were freed. This comes as Hamas forces have been alerted to be ready for combat as day seven of the Gaza truce is nearing an end. Will there be another last minute extension?
Also breaking, indicted U.S. Congressman George Santos remains defiant as the House considers whether to expel him from Congress. Stand by for details on the debate that wrapped up just a short while ago, and the nail biter vote that's expected tomorrow.
Plus, Donald Trump is lashing out big time after an appeals court reinstated the gag order in his New York civil fraud trial. The judge in the $250 million case now revealing when he's likely to issue a ruling.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, the latest hostages released from captivity in Gaza are back in Israel. Six more Israelis free as time is clearly running out on the current truce extension.
Let's go straight to CNN's Oren Liebermann. He's joining us live from Tel Aviv. He's following all the breaking news for us. Oren, give us the very latest.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a total of eight Israeli hostages, women and children have been released in Gaza -- out of Gaza today, are in Israeli territory on their way, or already in three separate hospitals for treatment. Certainly eight is a bit of an odd number, but Israel and Hamas agreed to count two extra Israeli- Russian hostages released yesterday.
Of course, the question now is, is there enough momentum, and are there enough women and children released to push this for one more day?
LIEBERMANN (voice over): Tears of unbridled joy, as the mother of Mia Schem found out her daughter is coming home after 55 days held hostage in Gaza.
The French-Israeli citizen was last seen in this Hamas video released in mid-October. Her injured arm pinned in place. Please get us out of here as soon as possible, she pleads, please. Schem and 40-year-old Amit Soussana were released from Palestine Square in Gaza City, a sign that Israel does not have complete control over northern Gaza.
The reunions are never far from the pain. One day after American- Israeli Liat Beinin Atzili was released by Hamas, the spokesperson for their kibbutz, said her husband, Aviv Atzili, was confirmed killed on October 7th.
And this image is from a Hamas clip of Yarden Bibas, father of the Bibas family, including ten-month-old Kfir, the youngest hostage kidnapped on October 7th. Likely under duress, he pleads with Israel to rescue him and bring home the bodies of his family.
Hamas' military wing claimed, without evidence one day ago, that his children and wife were killed in an Israeli airstrike, a claim Israel said was assessing. CNN has not confirmed the deaths nor the claim of the strike.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the region on the 7th and potentially final day of a temporary truce amid a diplomatic push to extend it further. Blinken met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We made clear the imperative that before any operations go forward in Southern Gaza, that there be a clear plan in place that puts a premium on protecting civilians as well as sustaining and building on the humanitarian assistance that's getting into Gaza. And the Israeli government agreed with that approach.
LIEBERMANN: After the meeting, Netanyahu promised the war will continue.
We swore, I swore to eliminate Hamas, he says, and nothing will stop us.
The truce held at least one more day Thursday, despite an attack in Jerusalem claimed by Hamas in which three Israeli civilians were killed, as were two Palestinian gunmen.
Meanwhile in Gaza, the clock is ticking. Israeli forces are poised to resume a war that's destroyed parts of Gaza and killed nearly 15,000 Palestinians, according to Hamas' run health authorities. Hamas says they're ready for war as well.
Humanitarian aid has flowed in, but still far short of what's needed. Amid the wreckage, Gazans stocked up on food and supplies before the fighting begins again.
In the brief break, video from an ultra Orthodox news outlet shows soldiers setting up a Hanukkah menorah in Gaza. But the celebrations will soon end.
With all of the releases over the past week, it's unclear how many women and children are left in captivity in Gaza. Scenes like this prompting the U.S. to urge for more Israeli precision in the next phase of the war that's grown closer by the hour.
LIEBERMANN (on camera): Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel was aware for the imperative for more humanitarian aid and aware of the need for a plan to avoid civilian casualties. But what does that look like? Well, we may very well find out quite soon, Wolf. It's about 1:00 in the morning here. Hamas had until 7:00 in the morning yesterday to deliver a list of hostages that would be released to avoid the resumption of hostilities. It came down to the last minute. I suspect it will come down to the last minute again.
Wolf, we will keep following this, of course, very closely.
BLITZER: All right. Oren Liebermann, stay safe over there. Thank you very, very much.
Let's get some more on the breaking news right now. Joining us are Chief National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt and our White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz.
Alex, you've been doing excellent reporting on all the tensions behind today's hostage release and how the negotiations will only get tougher from here. That's what we all anticipate. Update our viewers, what can you tell us?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as Oren was just pointing out in just under six hours, this deal could expire. It all depends on whether Hamas comes up with another list of ten women and children to release tomorrow. Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear that when this phase of hostage releases ends that Israel will go back to the fighting.
So, they clearly are taking this day by day. It really was touch-and- go there last night for quite some time, for most of the evening. We understand from officials that there were at least two lists that were presented to Israel, one that had dead bodies on it, one that had elderly men on it that were rejected by Israel. Finally, Hamas came up with a list of eight women and children that Israel did agree to. Those were the eight releases that we saw today. There was a belief going into this two extra days of pause that Hamas did have enough women and children to get through tomorrow. But that remains very much to be seen, Wolf.
And then we get into a situation where, do the sides, Israel and Hamas, agree on the release of civilian men, of some of those IDF soldiers? Will Hamas change the terms and ask for more Palestinian prisoners, for example? What seems to be clear right now, Wolf, is if these hostage releases stall, then the fighting will start again.
BLITZER: Arlette, you're over there at the White House. What are the concerns and the challenges right now for the Biden administration?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Secretary of State Antony Blinken and officials here at the White House made clear today that they want to see an extension of this truce to get more humanitarian aid in and more hostages out of Gaza.
And really top of mind for officials here at the White House is the status of those remaining Americans who are still in Gaza. That includes that one American woman that officials had been hopeful would be able to get out as part of this negotiated release. The White House so far has been unable to provide any update on her status or condition. And then there are also seven other American men who are being held, including three IDF reservists soldiers.
Officials also have said that they need to get more information about each of the conditions and status of these hostages. Red Cross officials, as part of the deal, were supposed to get in, get access to the hostages, but so far that has not happened, really leaving the administration in the dark in many ways about the status of those Americans.
Now, the possibility of expanding the hostage list beyond women and children could potentially get others out. The U.S. had been pushing for later on for there to be conversations about getting elderly men out and then also turning to trying to see what they could do relating to those IDF soldiers.
But certainly the path ahead is very complicated and it's unclear whether there would be any expansion of that list of the types of hostages they would release before this truce could potentially end in the coming hours.
BLITZER: Important point. Alex, Israel is clear it will eventually resume fighting and Secretary Blinken, who's in Israel now, insisted today that will come with guardrails to protect civilians in Gaza. What are you learning about that?
MARQUARDT: Yes, Wolf. He called it an imperative. It is clear that the U.S. is nervous about what comes next in terms of Israeli fighting, the Biden administration being extremely vocal that Israel has to be much more cautious than we have seen before about civilians, about civilian casualties, about damage to civilian infrastructure. They want Israel to go about their military operations in a very different way than we saw in the first part of this fighting for the past seven weeks.
Two of the things that Secretary Blinken very clearly said was that there need to be safe areas in Southern and Central Gaza for Gazans to go to get out of the line of fire.
He said that Israel also has to take much more caution to void critical infrastructure like hospitals, power stations, and water facilities.
He did say that Netanyahu and the war cabinet agreed that these precautions needed to be taken, but it still remains very much to be seen whether they will heed that American advice, those U.S. warnings, Wolf.
BLITZER: Alex and Arlette, guys, thank you very, very much.
Right now, I want to bring in Mark Regev, the senior adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Mark, thanks very much for joining us.
How close is Israel right now to a deal with Hamas to extend this truce at least into an eighth day?
MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: So, I'd like to tell you we're close, but, unfortunately, you're either there or you're not there. And the truth is, we'll find out.
As you know, as you've reported on CNN repeatedly, that Israel is open to extending the truce on the condition that we can get more hostages out. It's not clear that that's possible. And the truth is, we're ready for all possibilities. We're prepared for the extension of the truce if Hamas agrees to release hostages in accordance with the understandings reached. And we're also ready for return to combat. The army is ready. The IDF said so this evening. If we need to return to combat, we'll be ready to go.
BLITZER: Is Israel open to expanding this deal potentially to include some male hostages if Hamas is unable to guarantee ten more women and children to be released as hostages?
REGEV: Wolf, I apologize, but I can't go into the details of what is being discussed. It is clear that if we can achieve the release of more hostages, then, of course, we're open to extending this humanitarian pause in the fighting. But once again, it's not clear how serious Hamas is about this.
Our position is clear. Four hostages, we're willing to extend the pause, but without that, we're going back to the combat to defeating Hamas. Hamas is a brutal enemy and they will be defeated.
BLITZER: Which is more important to Israel, Mark? Bringing home all the hostages or resuming its military campaign against Hamas? REGEV: They both complement each other. There's no contradiction. Because if Hamas is prepared, and has been over the last few days, to release hostages, and we got some 80 Israelis out, which is every life that we've saved, that's amazing, and people are very happy about that. But they would never have done that without the military pressure that the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, has been placing on Hamas.
We've been destroying their military infrastructure. We've been eliminating their senior leadership, their senior commanders. Hamas didn't suddenly release these 80 Israelis because they became nice people. On the contrary, they're only doing it because of the pressure. And so there's no contradiction. Getting the hostages out and the military campaign against Hamas go hand in hand.
BLITZER: As you know, Secretary Blinken, who's now in Israel, he said earlier today that Israel offered what he called concrete steps to protect civilians in Gaza when the fighting does resume. What are those steps?
REGEV: Well, I cannot go into all the details of what we said in the meetings with the secretary of state, but I can say this. We shared with him maps where we said here in the southern part of the Gaza Strip we have humanitarian safer zones for the Gaza civilians who need to flee fighting. And we have thought about that in advance, and we are suggesting that the Gazans who are in neighborhoods where there will be serious fighting, please evacuate. We don't want to see you in harm's way, and we've designated special areas, not one, but a number in Gaza where people fleeing fighting can go and find a safer situation.
BLITZER: I just want to be precise, Mark. Did Prime Minister Netanyahu commit to Secretary Blinken that Israel will put in place a civilian protection plan before resuming fighting?
REGEV: The plan has already been presented. It was done so today. And we're also talking about keeping aid at very high levels. We -- it's not that if the fighting starts again, then the aid will stop coming in on the country.
As we pursue Hamas, and we will pursue Hamas relentlessly, they are a brutal enemy, and we must, and we will destroy their military machine, and we will end their rule over Gaza. But at the same time, as we pursue our campaign against Hamas, we'll do all that we can to safeguard Gaza's civilian population to keep it out of the crossfire between the IDF and the terrorists, and at the same time, in parallel, of course, work to -- that aid enters the Gaza Strip, food, water, medicine, other things for the people of Gaza to limit the level of suffering.
BLITZER: Mark Regev in Tel Aviv, thanks so much for joining us.
REGEV: My pleasure, Wolf, thank you for having me. BLITZER: And just ahead, will Republican Congressman George Santos be booted from Congress? We're going to take you inside today's House debate and tomorrow's highly anticipated vote.
BLITZER: Republican Congressman George Santos is defiant tonight, just ahead of tomorrow's vote, to expel him from the House of Representatives. Santos refusing to resign and threatening to take down his colleagues if he is ousted.
Let's bring in CNN's Manu Raju. He's joining us from Capitol Hill right now. Manu, give us the very latest.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. House Republicans who are pushing for George Santos' ouster are trying to convince 77 of their GOP colleagues to vote for the expulsion resolution tomorrow. That will be essential to getting the two-thirds majority support. But at the moment, they don't have the votes.
RAJU (voice over): Since he was sworn in, George Santos has been at the center of the storm, now about to meet his fate.
REP. BRANDON WILLIAMS (R-NY): He is a dedicated, committed conman who is in the halls of Congress and access to government secrets, to a lot of things that could be damaging to this country. He has to go.
RAJU: With the House said to vote Friday and whether to expel Santos --
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I will not stand by quietly.
RAJU: -- it remains uncertain how many Republicans will vote to remove him, which required two-thirds support in the chamber.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Santos is a liar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, sir, are a crook.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A total fraud and a serial liar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got to go.
RAJU: So far, Santos has survived two attempts at his expulsion amid his 23 federal criminal charges and the widespread lies he's told about his past.
The scathing bipartisan ethics report has led to growing GOP calls for his ouster after it alleged he sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.
REP. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-SD): Having him here is unbecoming of the House. And, frankly, if Republicans aren't willing to police their own, how can we possibly look at the American people in the eye and tell them that we're willing to police folks on the other side of the aisle as well? RAJU: Santos will be just the sixth house member ever expelled, the
first since James Traficant 21 years ago, and the first ever to be kicked out before being convicted of a crime or being a member of the Confederacy.
Today, a defiant Santos said he would not resign.
SANTOS: Now, if the House wants to start different precedent and expel me, that is going to be the undoing of a lot of members of this body because this will haunt them in the future where mere allegations are sufficient to have members removed from office.
RAJU: Some of Santos' biggest foes are fellow New York GOP freshmen.
REP. MARC MOLINARO (R-NY): George Santos is doing what every conman and four-year-old does, which is to ignore the truth, take no responsibility, and point at others and suggest they're worse.
RAJU: Yet many are wary about setting a new precedent, including Speaker Mike Johnson and other top Republicans.
Are you concerned about the allegations of the Ethics Committee report about campaign --
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I think we're all concerned about those things, but that's a call for the voters. I'm not going to support that.
RAJU: The expelling Santos would narrow the GOP's already razor-thin majority and give Democrats a pickup opportunity in a swing district.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): Removing him prematurely is a very tough decision, notwithstanding that he certainly is not on a scale (ph).
RAJU: In recent CNN interview, Santos admitting to some of his lies.
But can you just answer me, why, the why.
SANTOS: I've already told you this. It's insecurity, stupidity. I don't know. Look, I'm human. We make mistakes.
RAJU (on camera): Now, amid his defiance, George Santos today refused to weigh in in the specific allegations, the findings that were in the bipartisan ethics report about fraud, campaign finance fraud and alleging that he spent money on personal items.
Wolf, I just asked him about that. I said, why won't you respond to these specific allegations, this evidence in the report that are detailed here? He said, quote, you're a lot smarter than to ask that question. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Manu Raju reporting for us, Manu, thank you very much.
Coming up, Donald Trump lashes out on social media after a New York appeals court reinstates a gag order in his civil fraud trial. We have details on his latest legal troubles. That's coming up next.
BLITZER: New developments tonight in Donald Trump's civil fraud trial in New York, the former president already appearing to defy the gag order that was just reinstated by a state appeals court.
Our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is joining us right now. Evan, the court just weighed in on those Trump social media posts attacking the judge's family.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And like a lot of things on the internet, it appears these social media postings that the former president and some of his allies have been obsessed with are just not hers. They're not real. And so that's one of the things that the judge, the court administrator's office has said. They said that Judge Engoron's wife has sent no social media postings regarding the former president. They are not hers.
And so, of course, Wolf, as you can see from some of these messages that are on there, this is stuff that the former president has been obsessed with for some days, lashing out against the judge's wife, saying that she and the clerk who works with the judge are biased against him and have been posting things online against him. Of course, according to the court, this is not at all related to the judge's wife. So, it appears the former president is lashing out for no reason.
BLITZER: And I understand that the judge also gave an update today on the timing for a decision.
PEREZ: Right. This is a trial now that's been going on for nine weeks, Wolf, and it appears the judge says that we're going to see something in January. The end of January is when he expects to release his written opinion at the end of this civil fraud trial. We expect that some of the closing arguments will start happening in the next few weeks, and all of this is going to take several more weeks for it to wrap up, Wolf.
BLITZER: Evan Perez updating us on all the legal issues, thank you very, very much.
Meanwhile, former President Trump is causing growing alarm inside the Republican Party right now after vowing to repeal Obamacare despite failing to do so while he was president in the White House.
CNN's Kristen Holmes has some new reporting for us. Kristen, even members of Trump's team were surprised by this renewed focus.
[18:30:01] Update our viewers.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, well, they've had a number of conversations with Donald Trump about what policy would look like if he were to be re-elected to the White House and none of those conversations centered around health care.
Even his in-house policy team, which has drafted policy proposals again for if he was to reclaim the White House on immigration, on overhauling the federal government, they hadn't even drafted anything when it comes to health care.
Now, as you mentioned, on top of that, Republicans, even many Trump allies, are still scarred by what happened in 2017, when Trump was unable to fulfill a core campaign promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare, even though he had a complete GOP monopoly of power in Washington.
Now, I want to read to you what one operative told me, and this is someone who is Trump-aligned. They said, health care was a loser in 2018 and it's a loser now. Talk about the border. Talk about the economy. Talk about no more foreign wars. Don't talk about health care.
Now, there's probably one clear reason for that, and Trump's renewed interest has really given new ammo to Democrats. The Biden campaign has seized on his threats. They have put out surrogates. They actually put out an ad today attacking Trump on health care. So, it will be interesting to see what the next steps here, if we will actually get a policy proposal on what it would look like to repeal and replace Obamacare. I will remind you, this is something that Trump promised, but that
even back in 2020, he left office without ever delivering an actual plan that would replace Obamacare.
BLITZER: Yes, good point. Kristen Holmes reporting for us, thank you very much.
I want to get some more now from CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman. She's a senior political correspondent over at The New York Times. Maggie, thanks for joining us.
I want to get to Kristen's reporting in a minute, but let me start with Trump's various legal problems. Minutes after that gag order was reinstated, as you know, Trump attacked the judge's wife on his Truth Social site. What do you see as the significance of this?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, if the timing is, as you say it, as I have not seen the timing of the specific post, although I think I know which one you're talking about, the significance would be if it was intentional that he is trying to test the bounds of what the judge said he is going to do with this gag order now that it's back in place, which is impose it rigorously.
Now, the judge had already fined Trump once before. Trump backed off a bit after that. Once the gag was stayed while this was pending appeal, Trump went right back to attacking. And he has been saying things about the judge's family, the judge's wife, that the office of the court administration says flatly are just not true.
Now, Trump seems, as we have seen him do many times over, determined to try to test the boundaries of what he can get away with. He clearly wants to and also thinks this is helping him politically. It's not going to help him legally. This is the judge who was overseeing this case. There is no jury trial because of decisions the Trump team made and it's hard to see how this is good for Trump's cause, but it, I think, makes him feel better.
BLITZER: Judge Engoron said today he's aiming to issue his ruling by the end of January. And that means, of course, that we'll learn about his decision as voters are going to the polls in the early primary states. What sort of impact do you think that could have?
HABERMAN: I think it depends. I think mostly, Wolf, considering that, yes, there are six outstanding counts that the judge has to rule on, the judge has already issued a partial summary judgment saying that there was widespread fraud conducted by Trump and his company. So, I don't think that this changes much in terms of the actual outcome.
What does matter is the penalty phase and the judge is going to set that, and that could have some kind of effect on Trump, at minimum, psychological in terms of how he moves forward. He is pretty effective at compartmentalizing. I'm not so sure how good he would be at that. His business is under serious threat right now.
Now, will voters care about that? I don't know but he certainly will.
BLITZER: He certainly will.
In the Trump classified documents case, Maggie, you've reported that a second Trump attorney has now told the special counsel, Jack Smith, they also warned Trump that not complying with a subpoena for the classified materials would be a crime. How big of a deal is this?
HABERMAN: Look, it's significant in the sense that this could speak to Trump's state of mind. It could speak to consciousness of guilt. ABC was the first to report this. We confirmed the reporting with some additional material.
The reality is that several people, several lawyers in Trump's orbit, but including these two, Evan Corcoran and Jennifer Little, warned him that you had to comply with a subpoena. He was, you know, seeking opinions from a number of people.
He, as he often does, tries to look for someone who is going to tell him what he wants to hear. Everyone he spoke to, at least from that group, said you must comply. And we know what happened after that.
BLITZER: Trump surprised many with his post on his social media account, as you know, saying Republicans should, quote, never give up on trying to terminate Obamacare.
[18:35:01] President Biden and Democrats immediately seized on his comments. What are you hearing about the reaction in Trump's orbit to all of this?
HABERMAN: So, as you say, many were surprised that, as Kristen noted, included Trump's own advisers. There are -- Trump has generally been more focused as a candidate than we have seen in the past. Four indictments probably have the effect of focusing the mind. But he still does things that are potentially self-destructive, attacking the governor of Iowa was one. This was another. There is not a plan internally in Trump world to repeal Obamacare and certainly not to replace it.
Now, is it possible that they will come up with one in the coming weeks? Yes, it is, but this is not, as Kristen said, something that Republicans, at least at a higher level among electives, want to be running on. It was Trump's biggest policy failure in 2017, and he has never quite figured out why. I don't see what would change right now.
BLITZER: Important. And, Maggie, I know we've all seen Nikki Haley gain some momentum in the GOP primary race, but Trump hasn't gone after her the same way he has gone after Ron DeSantis. Does he see her as a threat and do you expect that to change?
HABERMAN: I think that he really hates Ron DeSantis. I don't think he really hates Nikki Haley the same way. I also think that his team sees leaving Nikki Haley where she is and inflating her to some extent as helpful in keeping Ron DeSantis down.
Now, what does that ultimately end up looking like when Iowa voters go to caucus on January 15th? I don't know. You know, these things can take on a life of their own. I don't think that you are going to see him really attack her unless she starts gaining more ground Wolf as she gets above 25 in a survey. And if he does start attacking her, I think that will be very telling.
BLITZER: Maggie Haberman, we always appreciate having you here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very, very much.
And just ahead, a truly horrifying first-hand account from one of the Palestinian students shot in Vermont this past weekend.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Tonight, one of the Palestinian students shot in Vermont this past weekend is speaking out to CNN and other news outlets about his harrowing ordeal.
CNN's Brian Todd is tracking the story for us. Brian, we're finally getting a first-hand account of this truly terrible attack.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Kinnan Abdalhamid, who was wounded in the attack, has harrowing and jarring accounts of how coldly the shooter targeted them, and he says at one point he thought his two friends were dead.
TODD (voice over): For the first time, a victim of Saturday's shooting in Burlington, Vermont, revealing a horrifying timeline of the attack in his own words. 20-year-old Kinnan Abdalhamid, one of three Palestinian college students who were wounded, tells CNN in a telephone interview that as they were walking close to the suspect's house, they saw him on his porch, first looking away from them.
KINNAN ABDALHAMID, VICTIM IN BURLINGTON, VERMONT: and he turns around, looks at us. And without saying a word, it's almost surreal, just went down the steps, pulled out a pistol and shot my friend. I heard the thud on the ground and then he started screaming.
TODD: Abdalhamid says a split second later, the suspect shot his other friend and he heard another thud on the ground. He says he took off running. He drew a diagram for police showing that he ran to two different houses for help. He says at that point he thought his two friends were dead.
ABDALHAMID: It really seemed like he was aiming to kill. He was aiming for vital spots. And I thought he'd shot them again.
TODD: Abdalhamid has a bullet wound in the right glute. His friend, Tahseen Aliahmad, was shot in the chest, and Hisham Awartani suffered a bullet wound to the spine.
MARWAN AWARTANI, FATHER OF HISHAM AWARTANI: I have no words. I just hope he will walk again.
TODD: Appearing with his mother on ABC's The View, Kinnan Abdalhamid says he didn't think he or his friends would have left the hospital if they hadn't heard the suspect had been caught.
ABDALHAMID: I still have this underlying fear because of the experience. So, sometimes even like knocking at the door could give kind of a bit of a fear response.
TODD: The suspect, Jason Eaton, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder in the second-degree. But because two of the three young men were wearing traditional Palestinian scarves called keffiyehs at the time of the shooting, and because they had been speaking Arabic and English to each other, police are investigating whether this was a hate crime. Police say Eaton bought the gun he used in the attack legally.
Meanwhile, police in Syracuse, New York tell CNN Eaton's ex-girlfriend called them ten years ago and asked them to remove his shotgun from her home, saying she was afraid to return the gun to him herself, citing his history of mental illness and domestic violence. NBC reports no criminal charges were filed at the time.
STEPHEN GUTOWSKI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, ANALYST ON GUN ISSUES: Even a domestic violence misdemeanor would prohibit somebody from owning guns legally for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, he didn't have that on his record either.
TODD (on camera): Kinnan Abdalhamid also told CNN that he and his friends had taken at least one other walk through the neighborhood that weekend before the shooting, also wearing their keffiyehs at that time. He says he fears that the suspect might have seen them then and he might have stalked them before the shooting. Wolf?
BLITZER: What are the victims, Brian, and their family saying if they believe this was a hate crime?
TODD: Kinnan Abdalhamid says he doesn't really see any other explanation for it. He says he talked to his friends in the hospital after the shooting. His mother, when she appeared with him on The View, said that she really believes have they not been wearing keffiyehs and not been heard speaking Arabic and English to each other, this might not have happened.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, Brian, thank you very much.
And just ahead, very tense moments and heated exchanges today in the U.S. Senate. We're going to tell you what vote prompted every Republican to walk out of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee.
BLITZER: The Senate Judiciary Committee has just authorized subpoenas for two powerful conservatives at the heart of recent Supreme Court ethics controversies. Republicans on the panel actually walking out before the final vote today and slamming the investigations as biased.
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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This is an investigation of private citizens, Senator Cornyn, that I think is politically motivated, not legislatively motivated.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Keep in mind as we talk about expanding the limit opportunity under subpoenas and whether we're going too far, we have named two individuals who we have worked with for months trying to secure this information.
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BLITZER: Our senior Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. She's got more on these late breaking developments.
What's the significance, Joan, of what we saw today? [18:50:00]
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, this is another chapter in the ongoing inquiry into Supreme Court justices' off bench behavior, and if they're being influenced by wealthy conservatives.
Today's action traces to earlier news reports about luxury trips that mainly Clarence Thomas has taken on the dime of Harlan Crow with -- who was one of the men who had the subpoena today, and also, Leonard Leo. And, you know, the Senate Democrats, and, again, it's a completely partisan right now, Senate Democrats want information from these two individuals that would let them know just what kind of activities have been going on but get to the core of whether there's any undue influence here.
BLITZER: So, how have Harlan Crow, Leonard Leo responded, Joan?
BISKUPIC: Sure. Kind of in keeping with House Senate Republicans have responded. Leonard Leo, a Federalist Society leader, said Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats have been destroying the Supreme Court. Now they are destroying the Senate. I will not cooperate with this unlawful campaign of political retribution.
And then Harlan Crow put out a statement that said: The Judiciary Committee Democrats' violation of the committee's own rules to issue an invalid subpoena, further demonstrates the unlawful and partisan nature of this investigation.
The Senate Republicans have two complaints. One very substantive saying Democrats have just trying to bully the Supreme Court and their allies, but they also had a procedural concern about whether the subpoena vote was actually done properly.
BLITZER: We know the Supreme Court actually adopted an ethics code earlier this month. We all covered that.
BLITZER: How does that play into what happened today?
BISKUPIC: Well, that ethics code was the first time they put anything on paper formally. But they had no mechanism for complaints to be filed about them, and they basically are saying we will be the judge of our own behavior. We'll be the judge of whether we're adhering the code.
So that code was a first step. But as the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Durbin said it fell short of what the committee wants and what I think a lot of the people in the public want in terms of accountability on the part of Supreme Court justices.
BLITZER: Joan Biskupic, thank you very much.
BLITZER: Coming up, my visit to an Israeli hospital treating freed hostages as they take their first steps on the road to recovery.
BLITZER: This just in to CNN, the Israeli prison service announced it has released 30 Palestinians today. That's in keeping with the term of the Israel-Hamas truce deal after the latest group of Israeli hostages was freed just a little while ago.
Now, take a look at this really touching video just sent in to us from a hospital in Israel. Two freed hostages embracing as one of them will be discharged. I visited that hospital in Holon, Israel, just outside of Tel Aviv, where a number of released captives have been treated and I got of sense of the challenges they faced as they try to recover from their ordeal.
BLITZER (voice-over): For these women released from Hamas captivity, this hospital is a key stop on their road to recovery.
DR. ADAM LEE GOLDSTEIN, DIRECTOR OF TRAUMA SURGERY, WOLFSON MEDICAL CENTER: The hospital, you know, since the war began, every hospital turns into a, quote, war hospital where we're prepared for anything at any moment.
BLITZER: The team at Wolfson Medical Center has been gathering health records and talking to family members to anticipate any potential concerns.
Thank you so much for all you're doing.
Dr. Adam Lee Goldstein is the head of trauma surgery and saw patients to confirm they didn't have any traumatic injuries.
GOLDSTEIN: Most importantly for us to make sure they're okay health wise, and to reunite them with their families which is -- which is, you know, just as important as anything else.
BLITZER: Still, there's a long road ahead for those who spent weeks in Hamas captivity.
GOLDSTEIN: We had a multidisciplinary team dealing with all the aspect from psycho social to nutrition, surgical, infectious.
BLITZER: Those long awaited family reunions, an incredible relief for loved ones in limbo.
GOLDSTEIN: Families are waiting in the private rooms, and, you know, the second that these women saw their families, nothing else mattered really. When you're dealing with life and death, they're just happy they're alive.
BLITZER: But Dr. Goldstein fears for the fate of other hostages still in captivity. GOLDSTEIN: We're trained to think about worst-case scenarios and how
to -- how to treat worst-case scenario. I just want them to get home.
BLITZER: Despite the trauma, these survivors show incredible resilience.
GOLDSTEIN: When you have one of these women and the first thing she says to you, I'm so sorry for making you work tonight. After everything she's been through, you know, you never -- it's things you never expect, and, you know, it just shows what type of people these are.
BLITZER: These doctors and nurses, they are so, so special, doing incredibly -- incredibly important work. Thanks to all of them.
Finally tonight, a closer look at the eight Israeli hostages released by Hamas today. They are, take a look this, Sapir Cohen, age 29, Shani Goren, also 29. Nili Margalit, 41, Ilana Gritzewsky, 30, Bilal Ziyadne, 18, Aisha Ziyadne, 17, Amit Soussana, 40, and Mia Schem, 21.
To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on X, formerly known as Twitter. You can Instagram me @WolfBlitzer, tweet the show @CNNSitRoom, And THE SITUATION ROOM is also available as a podcast wherever -- wherever you get your podcasts.
Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.