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The Situation Room
New Warfare in Gaza After Israel-Hamas Truce Expires; Trump Lawyers Argue at First Hearing in Georgia Election Case; To Hell With This Place, Rep. George Santos (R-NY) Storms Out After Expulsion; Russia Outlaws "Extremist" LGBTQ Activist Movement. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 01, 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: Coming up, Sunday on State of the Union, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, also Democratic Congressman Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who's chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, that's Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern and again at noon here on CNN.
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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, fierce new warfare in Gaza hours after the Israel Hamas truce expired. I'll ask an Israeli military spokesperson about the battle plan going forward and whether there is any new effort to protect Palestinian civilians as the U.S. had been pushing for.
Also tonight, Donald Trump's lawyers in court and on camera at the first hearing in the Georgia election subversion case, the defense arguing if President Trump is re-elected president he could not be tried until after leaving office.
And we're following the drama up on Capitol Hill now that Republican George Santos has been expelled from Congress. Santos storming out after the historic vote as he leaves his divided party with an even slimmer majority in the House.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in The Situation Room.
Tonight, the skies over Gaza have been lighting up again. Israel and Hamas back in combat mode after a week-long pause in the fighting and the releases of dozens of hostages.
Let's go right to CNN's Matthew Chance, he is in Tel Aviv. Matthew what is the latest on these renewed attacks?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, those renewed attacks are intensifying tonight with Israeli forces warning Palestinians now to move from areas in the south of the Gaza Strip to avoid that military action. Israel says it is pressuring Hamas in order at least in part to get more of its hostages released.
But already the human toll has been high with Hamas-run health officials, the health ministry, saying that more than 170 Palestinians have been killed in this first day since hostilities resumed.
CHANCE (voice over): This is what Israel vowed would happen if Hamas stopped releasing its hostages. After a seven-day pause and more than 100 freed, Gaza is being pounded again. Israeli official say military pressure will force Hamas to release more.
EYLON LEVY, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Having chosen to hold on to our women, Hamas will now take the mother of all thumpings.
CHANCE: Israel says it was Hamas that broke the truce, firing rockets out of Gaza striking Israeli tanks. But it is inside of the Gaza Strip where the intensity of this war has resumed. Hospitals already overwhelmed now facing a new flood of casualties.
JAMES ELDER, UNICEF SPOKESPERSON: We cannot see more children with wounds of war, with the burns, with the shrapnel littering their body, with the broken bones. In action by those with influence is allowing the killing of children. This is a war on children.
CHANCE: Amid U.S. calls to protect civilians, Israel has distributed leaflets in Gaza with links to this online map, dividing the entire territory into a grid. Israel says it is warning Palestinians which blocks to avoid.
I'm asking you to look at this map carefully, this Israeli military spokesperson says in Arabic, and move from your residence as instructed.
But with unreliable internet access, it is unclear how many Gazans will get the message.
Meanwhile, reports Israelis officials failed to act on an intelligence dossier, first reported by The New York Times, warning of Hamas plans to storm Israeli towns and military bases, abducting and killing soldiers and civilians, exactly what happened on October the 7th.
It is unclear also now when there will be more hostages released. Mediators say talks to free more are ongoing despite the fighting. But until there is a new pause, relief for so many families may have to wait.
CHANCE (voice over): Well, Wolf, behind the scenes, negotiations are continuing to try and negotiate a new pause and, of course, the release of more hostages. But for the first time now in more than a week, Gaza is once again being shaken by Israeli guns, back to you.
BLITZER: Matthew Chance in Tel Aviv, thank you very much.
Joining us now also Tel Aviv, the Israel Defense forces spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus. Lieutenant Colonel, thank you so much for joining us.
First of all, what can you tell us about Israel resumed fighting that's ongoing right now in Gaza after this pause and where that leaves talks for the release of more Israeli hostages?
LT. COL. (RES.) JONATHAN CONRICUS, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: Yes, thank you for having me on the show, Wolf.
We've said from the beginning that the two goals of the war are to take out Hamas and make sure that October 7th will never happen again, and to return all of our hostages. And if there is an opportunity to return more hostages through negotiations, then the IDF definitely has the flexibility to adjust its posture again, if the government will tell us to do so. And we're always ready to seek and exploit opportunities to bring our people back home.
But what we're focusing now on in lieu of such directives are, is to fight Hamas, to bring the fighting again towards the enemy, to attack Hamas where they are hiding and to bring about a defeat of Hamas so that we could return our civilians to the communities in Southern Israel and start rebuilding that has been destroyed by them.
BLITZER: As you heard, Lieutenant Colonel, The New York Times has reporting that Israeli officials actually obtained a document more than a year before the October 7th attack laying out Hamas' battle plan point by point. How do you respond to this reporting and how did Israel so severely underestimate Hamas' capabilities?
CONRICUS: You know, the chief of staff of the IDF, Lieutenant General Halevi, just a few days after October 7th, long before this was reported, and it has been reported, insinuated in Israeli media before, long before all of that happened, he said very clearly, in Hebrew, to Israelis, that the IDF failed to deliver the very basic thing that we're supposed to deliver, and that is security and safety.
And what is reported on in this report, when we take note of it, and all of that will be analyzed, assessed and brought for conclusions at the end of the war. I'm not confirming what the report says, but I'm saying that we will take it into consideration. And at the end of the day, what really matters is the lives lost. Thousands Israeli civilians, hundreds of Israeli soldiers and 250 Israeli hostages, that is the real result that we care about, not who knew what and when and before. It is important but it is not really what matters now.
What we're focusing on now and all of our attention is geared towards defeating Hamas and restoring security to Israelis in southern Israel, and that is where we are. There will be a time for all of those things, for the soul searching and reckoning and for people to take responsibility, but that time is not now.
BLITZER: As far as Israel's operations in Gaza, Lieutenant Colonel, you've created this interactive map for civilians to follow where Israel will strike. But how do people access this without steady internet and where are they supposed to evacuate to?
CONRICUS: Fair question. And it is not an ideal situation in Gaza. What we're doing is the best thing we can in order to disseminate the information, to get it out to Gazans and to give it to them in good enough time so that they could actually use it can become something that helps them make the right decision.
And that is why we have been pushing it out via phone calls, text messages, leaflets, of course, dropped from the air and internet-based services. And, yes, we are aware that the service is patchy and sometimes even worse than that, but those are the means available.
And what we want people to do is to listen to a warning sign, the purpose of this map is to provide very detailed level of information so that people of specific neighborhoods can get the information from us where we will say the people of certain neighborhood, which will be designated by a number in a certain area, you need to evacuate and the place that we are requesting that you go to is area and then the number that they need to go to, and, of course, all in Arabic, all accessible, all understandable.
The purpose here is, again, we're showing and we're acting in order to get civilians out of the battlefield.
We're definitely listening to criticism. We hear what our allies and friends around the world are saying. They're telling us that they support our justified mission to get rid of Hamas for the sake of Israelis and for the sake of regional stability. That is clear. Nobody argues with that.
And we're also listening to concerns about noncombatants and civilians and we want to minimize that, and that is why we're taking another step. We have a humanitarian zone, which is designated, and our hope is that we will find partners and help within the international humanitarian community that will help us bring Palestinians there into relative safety.
BLITZER: Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
And just ahead, Donald Trump's lawyers are arguing against his criminal indictment in Georgia and arguing for a delay in his election subversion trial. Was the judge buying it during this key pre-trial hearing today?
And we'll break down the House vote to expel George Santos and what it could mean for the Republican Party.
BLITZER: In Georgia, an election pretrial hearing wrapped up just a short while ago in the criminal case against Donald Trump. The on- camera arguments gave us a new window into Trump's defense against election subversion charges.
CNN's Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is with me here in The Situation Room. She's got details.
So, what are Trump's lawyers arguing right now?
PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today we got a preview of how Trump and his attorneys intend to defend him down in Georgia.
Now, the first argument is that this entire case should be dismissed because they say that Trump's claims about voter fraud was all political speech protected by the First Amendment.
But this same judge has already dismissed that argument for two of Trump's former lawyers turned co-defendants. It's unclear if he's going to prevail on that.
But the issue of timing was also a big thing here today. Trump's lawyers have argued that he is going to be the leading candidate for the presidency and that this case should not go to trial next year. But the district attorney has been very specific. She wants this case to go to trial in August. It's expected to last between four and six months.
Let's take a listen to what Trump's lawyer has said in court today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN SADOW, DONALD TRUMP'S LAWYER: I don't see how any way this court could be set for trial in August. It's very possible that time with my client will be running for election for president of the United States for the Republican Party.
JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE, FULTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: If your client does win election in 2024, could he even be tried in 2025?
SADOW: The answer to that is I believe that under the supremacy clause and his (INAUDIBLE) to the president of the United States, this trial would not take place, if at all, until after he left (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That question of whether sitting president would be shielded from a state level prosecution, that is not settled law. So, it's still an open question.
Wolf, we're for waiting now for the judge to set a trial date or possibly multiple trial dates if they split this up. But look at that 2024 calendar. It's going to be a busy year.
BLITZER: You're also tracking, Paula, a significant ruling that went down today around the January 6th attack and Trump's liability.
REID: It's a big one. We've been waiting for this for nearly a year. Here, the court of appeals here in Washington, D.C. finding that Trump can be sued for his actions on January 6th.
Now, he had previously insisted that he was immune from civil liability because he was president on January 6th and that everything he did that day was part of his official duties as president, and federal officials enjoy immunity for anything they do as part of their job.
But here, the court found that what he did on January 6th, that, quote, pro-Trump rally, they said that was more like campaign activity. They said that he was acting more like an office seeker than an office holder, and, therefore, he is open to civil liability.
Now, it doesn't mean that he is going to be found liable, but it means that Capitol Hill Police officers, politicians, they will get their day in court. They have sued Trump.
The big question now, Wolf, is what this means for possible criminal liability. We know he's going to make a similar argument in his criminal case. This is not a good sign for whether he'll be successful there, but that's really the question now going forward.
BLITZER: Potentially liability, very important. Paula, thank you very, very much.
Let's get some analysis and all these developments. Our legal and political analysts are with us. Michael Moore, let me start with you on today's hearing in Fulton County, Georgia.
How do you read the Trump team's arguments against an August 2024 trial date?
MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm glad to be with you all tonight. I think it's a good argument. And I think the reality is in what the district attorney has tried time and time again to skirt around is the idea that the law applies to everybody, so we shouldn't do anything different here.
Well, the truth is, and there's an article about a week old in the Atlanta paper here talking about the backlog of criminal cases and people trying to get their case in court. And so somehow to sort of shoehorn this case in is if it has to be tried before the election, I think, is a problem.
And I think the good argument for the Trump team to be making here, there's no reason the case has to be tried that early. There's likely to be a federal trial going on. And the idea that somehow we're going to make it a special exception to get a candidate for president of the United States before a state court to be tried on a case that has been pending since the last presidential election, basically, I think is a little bit of a stretch. And I think the judge will take that into account.
It doesn't mean co-defendants can't be tried. It doesn't mean other people, like maybe you'll see Mehta's case, the Giuliani case. Other people can't be locked together out of this RICO group, the allegations that have been made against this group. You may see some separate trials.
But we already know the case has been estimated to take at least five months with additional time for jury selection.
And I think that's pretty much an unworkable situation going into next year.
BLITZER: Going into November 2024 in the election.
Elie Honig, you've said in August 2024 trial date is totally unrealistic. What do you see as the most likely outcome here?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, I stand by that. I think if we do the basic math here, if we look at a proposed trial date starting in August 2024, as the D.A. has asked for, that would mean Donald Trump is physically required to be in that courtroom, physically pulled off the campaign trail in August through the general election, September, October, through and during Election Day and beyond in November. I just don't see any practical way that a judge allows that to happen.
But very important to keep in mind the other election subversion case, the federal one in D.C. That one is scheduled for trial in March of 2024. I do think that one is very likely to happen in that timeframe and to be completed before the election. So, we will, as an American public, at least have the resolution afforded by one of these two trials before the election.
BLITZER: And, Gloria Borger, just how much would this trial, and the others are already scheduled, impact Trump's ability to campaign in 2024? What would this actually look like in the heat of the election season?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it would affect it tremendously because, as Elie says, he could be stuck in court. And, you know, he might be able to get some kind of special dispensation to not be there every day, but when you have jury trials, you know, it's protocol that you do show up when you're the defendant. And so I think this has a huge impact.
Now, can Trump turn it around and use it to his advantage, to say, I'm being victimized here, look what they're doing to me, this is a political prosecution? Sure, he would do all of that. But I think to not have him on a campaign trail would really illustrate that he's got some real problems and might make voters think twice about whether they would want to vote for somebody who could be convicted of a felony.
BLITZER: Yes, good point. Elie, how is this ruling around Trump's presidential immunity in this civil case relevant in his criminal cases?
HONIG: Well, Wolf, the stakes are going to get even bigger here because Donald Trump already has argued that he's civilly immune, but he's also arguing in his criminal cases that he's criminally immune, meaning not only can he not be sued, but he also cannot be prosecuted.
In order to succeed on that argument, Donald Trump is going to have to convince our courts of two things, first of all, that there is such thing as criminal immunity for a federal official. We actually don't know the answer to that. We probably will get an answer, yes or no, from the courts in the course of this case. But, second, Donald Trump has to convince the courts that even if there is such thing as criminal immunity, he was acting within his job as president. And here, we have a court of appeals saying, no, you were not. You were acting outside your role as president.
Now, different courts of appeals might differ, but, ultimately, Wolf, if this is headed up to the U.S. Supreme Court. We're going to get some real groundbreaking decisions here with massive consequences.
BLITZER: Michael, do you agree it's likely heading to the U.S. Supreme Court?
MOORE: Yes, I think we're watching the regular old football season and nothing really matters until we get to the Super Bowl. That's really where this thing is headed. I mean, you've got different courts saying different things and it's just not going to matter until we get there. And that's also something to keep in mind about all this scheduling for the trials.
The defendants here and Trump's lawyer here in Atlanta, I think is doing a good job in laying out a constitutional argument about the First Amendment, these things are going up. And so these are going to be reviewed by much higher courts. And that's going to throw the mucky wrench in the scheduling just as well. But I don't know if I agree with everything that the ruling said today, when it comes down to it. I hope no president is ever out on a campaign event and has a car wreck because it looks like they can get sued. So, I think there's a lot more to the story of the Supreme Court's will have to weigh in on.
BORGER: Well, there is a lot at stake here because this goes to the heart of presidential power. And I think it may be difficult to distinguish sometimes between what's an official act and what's an unofficial act.
And that's, you know, the case that Donald Trump's lawyers were making today, which is that when you're president, everything is an official act. And, you know, we have to wait and see what the court decides on this, if they decide to take this case, but I think it's a really important question when it comes to presidential authority.
BLITZER: Yes, these are really critical, legal issues and it's only just beginning. Guys, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, Congressman George Santos is expelled from the House of Representatives after less than a year on the job. What comes next for the totally disgraced New York Republican?
And I'll get reaction to that and much more from Republican Presidential Candidate Chris Christie. He's standing by live.
BLITZER: Disgraced Republican Congressman George Santos has officially now been expelled from the House of Representatives on the heels of a withering ethics report detailing truly stunning allegations of fraud.
CNN's Lauren Fox has the latest from Capitol Hill.
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): In light of the expulsion of the gentleman from New York, Mr. Santos, the whole number of the House is now 434.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): An unprecedented and historic vote as New York Republican George Santos becomes just the sixth member of the House to be expelled from Congress. Santos leaving the Capitol before the vote was officially announced, saying he has no plans to return.
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Why would I stay here? To the hell with this place.
FOX: 105 of Santos' Republican colleagues joining with all but four Democrats after a bipartisan Ethics Committee report concluded Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.
REP. DAVID JOYCE (R-OH): Basically, he defrauded the voters of his district. His life was made up, it was a lie. And then he used his campaign as a scam the whole time, taking money from donors and turning it into his personal use.
It's not that deep, it's theft.
FOX: The ethics panel finding that Santos blatantly stole from his campaign, including for travel, Botox and even OnlyFans. One Republican congressman alleging Friday he was personally impacted.
REP. MAX MILLER (R-OH): Mr. Santos took not only my credit card personally, he took my mother's credit card. This man has cost my family $30,000.
FOX: The vote comes even after GOP leaders raised concerns about expelling a member before they were convicted of a crime. Speaker Mike Johnson took the rare step of voting against the resolution.
JOHNSON: I personally have real reservations about doing this. I'm concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.
FOX: Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Whip Tom Emmer also voting no.
Santos has pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges. SANTOS: If it's their choice to change precedent and loop me in with three confederate turncoats who were expelled for treason and two convicted members who were convicted in a court of law.
FOX: Santos' ouster could have a major impact on the GOP's already narrow majority.
FOX (on camera): All eyes are on New York Governor Kathy Hochul and when she will schedule this special election, which has to be held within the next three months. Obviously, Democrats already trying to compete for this seat, which Joe Biden won in the 2020 election. Democrats vowing, they're going to invest a lot of money in this race. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Lauren Fox up on Capitol Hill, thank you.
Joining us now, Republican Presidential Candidate Chris Christie. Governor, thanks so much for joining us.
I want to first get your reaction to George Santos' expulsion from Congress. What does it say to you that top Republican leadership voted against it?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I disagree with them, and I think it was the right thing to do to expel George Santos. He's a liar and a thief. He needed to be expelled from Congress. He should have never been there in the first place.
And so from my perspective, the 105 Republicans who voted yes did the right thing. And if I were there, that's what I would have done.
BLITZER: Let's get to some other important issues. A federal appeals court, as you know, ruled that Trump doesn't have presidential immunity from civil lawsuits over the January 6th insurrection. How big of a blow do you think that is to Trump, Governor?
CHRISTIE: It just continues to pile on his already existing problems, Wolf. It means that he's not going to be able to skate away from having to defend those civil cases in court. And let's face it, it was not an official activity of his. It was an activity of his campaign to try to stay in office after the election results had already been returned. He was attempting to stop the election results from being implemented. That's not an official action of the president. That is an action based upon his political campaign. And I think the court made the right decision.
BLITZER: The fourth Republican presidential debate is now set for next Wednesday. Only Governor DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy appear, at least so far, to have qualified for the debate. Are you confident, Governor, you will be on that stage? And will you reassess your campaign if you're not?
CHRISTIE: Wolf, I'm not going to have to do any reassessing. I'm confident that I'll be on the stage for the debate on Wednesday. Remember, these same reports were made before the last debate about Tim Scott, that he did not appear to qualify.
You know, Politico and these other publications don't know exactly what the RNC criteria is, don't know what polls they consider or don't. And so I'm more than happy right now with where I'm situated. We're surging in New Hampshire and we'll be on the stage in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday night.
BLITZER: I know you've dismissed Nikki Haley's rise in this primary, and I'm quoting you now, you're calling it her soup of the day, a soup of the day moment, but you're still polling behind her in New Hampshire. Are you getting in the way of Haley who seems to have a better chance of taking on Trump?
CHRISTIE: I don't know why you say she seems to have a better chance. Wolf, you look at polling over the last few cycles, you know who was winning the race in 2007 on Thanksgiving? It was Mitt Romney, who was winning the race. In 2011, it was Newt Gingrich.
And in 2015, it was Ben Carson.
So, I have to tell you, polling is very unreliable. It's getting more unreliable by the day. I know what I'm reacting to on the ground. I was last night in Concord, New Hampshire, and we had a crowd where we had to close the room because it was overflow. We had no more room for standing room in the room.
I'll worry about this when voters vote, not when pollsters poll, because if the pollsters were right, Wolf, we'd be getting ready to end Hillary Clinton's second term. So, I think we've had a lot of experience with pollsters over the course of the last number of years.
BLITZER: I know, Governor, you visited Israel recently. The military has now re-launched its offensive in Gaza after its truce with Hamas broke down. How would a Christie presidency, Governor, advice Israel right now?
CHRISTIE: I would advise Israel to continue to be aggressive to eliminate the Hamas military capability. I was in a kibbutz, a Wolf, 600 yards from the Gaza border. I see the inhumane destruction that Hamas brought to the people of that kibbutz. And, quite frankly, how could you ask any of the people who survived that attack to go back to their homes until you can assure them that you've degraded the Hamas military capability?
And so I think Israel made a smart decision to have a temporary pause in the fighting to get as many hostages out as they could. Quite frankly, Hamas should release all the women and children. The fact that they haven't is completely inhumane as well.
But I think Israel is correct to go back into the fight. They have to eliminate Hamas military leadership and Hamas military capability to assure the safety and security of the people of Israel. And America under a Christie presidency would be supporting Israel in that fight 100 percent. BLITZER: Governor Chris Christie, thanks so much for joining us.
CHRISTIE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll remember the life of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who died today at the age of 93.
BLITZER: The former U.S. Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to hold a seat on the nation's highest court, has died at the age of 93.
CNN's Jessica Schneider has a closer look at her life and career.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Sandra Day O'Connor grew up a cowgirl from Arizona, 25 miles from the nearest town.
FORMER JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I tend to be a bit of a pragmatist probably, because we had to solve all our own problems out on the ranch. If the truck broke down, we had to fix it. If some animal needed medical attention, we had to provide it. There wasn't much we didn't have to do.
SCHNEIDER: She had the toughness ranch life can breed.
MARCI HAMILTON, FORMER O'CONNOR LAW CLERK: She was incredibly fearless about life and part of that was because her early life was very hard. Her parents died, her grandmother died, she was shuttled back and forth between the ranch and relatives in Texas to go to school and she just became very self-sufficient.
SCHNEIDER: O'Connor went to Stanford in the same law class as future Chief Justice William Rehnquist. They dated for a time and he even proposed. She turned him down, but they stayed lifelong friends. Upon graduation, no law firm would hire O'Connor, so she eventually helped start her own, later becoming a powerful state lawmaker, then judge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Reagan today settled the question of when he would nominate a woman to the nation's highest court.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: She is truly a person for all seasons, possessing those unique qualities of temperament, fairness, intellectual capacity, and devotion to the public good.
SCHNEIDER: In 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated her to be the first woman on the Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed O'Connor unanimously, 99-0.
In 1988, the justice survived a breast cancer scare and returned to work just ten days after surgery. Her dry, western wit remained intact.
O'CONNOR: The worst was my public visibility, frankly. There was constant media coverage. How does she look? When is she going to step down and give the president another vacancy on the court?
SCHNEIDER: Over time, O'Connor became known as a moderate conservative on the court and often the swing vote on hot button social issues, a reference she didn't like.
O'CONNOR: We have an equal voice and I'm no more powerful than anyone else on this court. That's for sure.
SCHNEIDER: Some criticized her as a fence sitter, waiting to see which way the wind would blow.
HAMILTON: Those would be the people who have never met her. Anybody who's met her knows that she makes up her own mind, and she's not at all concerned about where anybody else is on the spectrum.
SCHNEIDER: Her most well-known votes, upholding abortion rights in Planned Parenthood versus Casey, supporting the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative action program, and siding with her conservative colleagues in favor of George W. Bush in Bush versus Gore.
In 2006, she stepped down from the court to care for her husband, John, who had Alzheimer's disease. She became a passionate advocate for Alzheimer's research.
O'CONNOR: It does take a staggering toll on the families and the caregivers. I can certainly attest to that.
SCHNEIDER: In 2018, O'Connor revealed she too had been diagnosed with dementia and withdrew from public life.
The retired justice was grateful, she wrote, for her countless blessings and experiences, including helping to break the glass ceiling.
O'CONNOR: It wasn't too many years before I was born that women in this country got the right to vote, for heaven's sakes. And in my lifetime, I have seen unbelievable changes in the opportunities for women.
I think it's important that women are well represented. That it is not an all-male governance as it once was.
BLITZER: And thanks to CNN's Jessica Schneider for that report.
I had the chance to speak with Justice O'Connor back in 2010. She told me she'd like to see more female justices appointed to the court. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How do you assess the Obama administration and its first year in office, as far as judicial issues are concerned?
Sonia Sotomayor, for example, becoming the third woman on the Supreme Court.
O'CONNOR: I was pleased to see another woman selected. We don't have many that brought -- back up to two, that's the most we'd ever had at the Supreme Court. Our nearest neighbor Canada has at least four of the nine in the Canadian Supreme Court, are women, and their chief justice is a woman. So we can do better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our condolences to Justice O'Connor's family and friends. And we'll be right back.
BLITZER: Tonight, the expulsion of George Santos from Congress is the newest chapter and a long history of scandals up on Capitol Hill.
Our Brian Todd is taking a closer look for us.
Brian, how does Santos compare to the other disgraced former members of the House?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he's right up there with some real legends, members of Congress who have taken bribes, engaged in racketeering, even some members who joined the Confederacy.
REPORTER: Mr. Santos, your reaction --
FORMER REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): No question.
TODD (voice-over): George Santos, seemingly always wanted to be thought of as exceptional. And tonight, he certainly is. Historians say you have to be a special kind of scoundrel to be expelled from the House of Representatives.
RAYMOND SMOCK, ROBERT C. BYRD CENTER FOR CONGRESSIONAL HISTORY: It's very rare for the House of Representatives to expel a member. It has only happened five times before, and now, George Santos makes that number six.
TODD: The last one was James Traficant, the flamboyant Ohio Democrat known for invoking a Star Trek phrase when he was particularly outraged.
FORMER REP. JAMES TRAFICANT (D-OH): Beat me up -- TODD: Traficant was expelled from the House in 2002 after being
convicted of racketeering, bribery, and tax evasion. He served seven years in prison.
SMOCK: He wore a wig that look like a muskrat for all practical purposes and he was a well-liked, colorful, comedic member in so many ways. But he was also a crock.
TODD: In 1980, Pennsylvania Democrat Michael Myers was expelled after being convicted for taking bribes, part of an investigation called Abscam.
REP. MCHAEL MYERS (D-PA): Money talks in this business and bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED) walks.
TODD: This FBI sting video shows Myers accepting $50,000 to help a fictional Arab sheikh.
In 1861, three congressmen were expelled for joining the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
Then there are the members who are not expelled but whose corruption was legendary. Authorities uncovered $90,000 in cash hidden in a pie crust in the freezer of the home of Democratic Congressman William "Cold Cash" Jefferson. He was convicted of bribery in 2009.
PROF. LARRY SABATO, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: There are lots of places to hide $90,000. The freezer is very inventive and creative.
TODD: Prosecutors said Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter took $250,000 in campaign funds and spent it on video games, groceries, and other household items. And $14,000 Italian vacation. Then, he claimed it was all his wife's idea, until she called him out on him in court.
SABATO: When you are a thief and a cab simultaneously with your own wife, I think it makes too much less sympathetic.
TODD: In 1838, Congressman William Graves of Kentucky actually killed a fellow house member in a duel. Graves not only wasn't expelled, he wasn't even censured.
Historians say in some ways, scandals have become part of the fabric on Capitol Hill, with more than 11,000 people having served in the House throughout American history.
TIM NAFTALI, SENIOR RESEARCH SCHOLAR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I suspect that as long as money and power, they'll have it, at the same place, corrupt individuals will try to take advantage of that nexus.
TODD: Michael Myers, that congressman convicted in the Abscam case more than four decades ago is back in jail, sentenced last year for taking bribes in a ballot stuffing scheme in Democratic primaries -- Wolf. BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, Brian, thanks very much.
And we'll be right back.
BLITZER: In Russia right now, LGBTQ people are being targeted by ruthless new government crackdown.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen has our report.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As Vladimir Putin continues his brutal invasion of Ukraine, at home, the Kremlin is prosecuting illegal war against the LGBTQ community. Russia's supreme now labeling its members as extremists.
JUDGE OLEG NEFEDOV, RUSSIA'S SUPREME COURT (through translator): The court decision to ban the activities of the international public LTGBT movement and its structural subdivisions shall be subject to immediate execution.
PLEITGEN: That means this may be considered extremist behavior in the future.
Saffron is a drag artist often performing at an underground club.
SAFFRON, DRAG QUEEN (through translator): What scares me is that a large layer of interesting ideas, interesting people, and interesting creativity will be lost. I fear for the safety of these people. If they continue to do what they are doing, they could be in danger.
PLEITGEN: Sodomy and pedophilia, that's how Kremlin controlled TV has been labeling the LGBTQ community for years in a sustained media blitz.
SERGEY KARNAUKHOV, HOST, "SOLOVYOV LIVE" (through translator): Sorry, I don't want to talk about these, but I won't even say these disgusting words out loud. I'm a terrible homophobe. If it would be my choice, they would be shot for what they do to each other.
PLEITGEN: Combating what he sees as nontraditional sexual behavior propagated by the U.S. and its European allies is part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's rationale for the war in Ukraine, and one of his propaganda points in a confrontation with the West.
Putin styling himself as the defender of what he calls traditional Christian values, even as he recently praised Russia's cultural diversity.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Our diversity and unity of cultures, traditions, languages and ethnic groups simply doesn't fit into the logic of Western racists and colonialists. PLEITGEN: The LGBTQ community has long faced violence and arrests in
Russia, but some LGBTQ activists believe now things could get much worse, as Vladimir Putin gears up for presidential election next March.
SERGEY TROSHIN, RUSSIAN POLITICAL PARTY "YABLOKO" (through translator): It seems to me that this is part of the presidential election campaign but the elections will pass and that court decision will remain.
PLEITGEN: Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.
BLITZER: And thanks to CNN's Fred Pleitgen for that report.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.