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Trump Asks Supreme Court To Stay Out Of Immunity Dispute For Now; Trump To Appeal Colorado Ban To U.S. Supreme Court; Biden Says, U.S. Pushing Israel And Hamas To Reach Deal On Hostages; U.S. And Venezuela Agree To Release Of 10 Americans In Prisoner Swap; Judge Says Former Georgia Election Workers Can Go After Rudy Giuliani's Assets Immediately. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 20, 2023 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Go back as far as the 1960s with critics arguing that the Native American that you see there on horseback in the center of the seal there, that's a reference to the displacement of indigenous people throughout Minnesota's history.

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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. I will see you tomorrow. I hope you're getting ready for Christmas. See you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Donald Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay out of the legal dispute over his claim of immunity from federal election subversion charges, at least for now, the Trump team opposing the special counsel's request for the justices to immediately review the case.

Trump is planning to take a very different matter to the high court. We're awaiting his formal appeal of a historic decision barring him from the Republican primary ballot in Colorado.

Tonight, Trump's GOP rivals are taking his side and slamming the ruling.

Plus, President Biden says the United States is pushing Israel and Hamas to reach a new deal to free more hostages held in Gaza. We'll get an update on the talks and the potential terms and timing.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

Tonight, the U.S. Supreme Court could rule at any time on whether to expedite a review of Donald Trump's immunity claim in the federal election subversion case, this after the Trump team's legal filing a short while ago opposing the special counsel's attempt to fast track a decision.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is following all of these developments for us. Jessica, what are Trump's lawyers arguing?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, they want the Supreme Court to let this appeals process play out and to not step in at this point to hear the immunity issue.

So, this is what Trump's lawyers are arguing. They're saying the special counsel urges the court to leapfrog the ordinary process of appellate review and rush headlong to decide one of the most novel, complex and momentous legal issues in American history. The special counsel seeks to embroil this court in a partisan rush to judgment. The court should decline.

And this argument really goes to the Trump's team desire to let this appeal drag out as long as possible. Because, really, if they can somehow delay the start of this election interference trial past the March 4th, which is now the scheduled start, that really increases the likelihood that the trial could be pushed past Election Day. And that would increase the likelihood that Trump could ultimately instruct his DOJ to dismiss these charges if, in fact, he were to be elected in November.

Now, the issue in this particular case is whether Trump is immune from prosecution. Trump is claiming that he was well within his official duties and everything that he did and said surrounding January 6th, and also that he's immune because the Senate ultimately acquitted him in his impeachment trial.

Now, the lower court judge ruled that Trump is not immune, that he can face these charges. And even though that ruling is against Trump, his legal team is hoping that they continue to slow-walk the final resolution of this issue, since, Wolf, all of the proceedings right now are on hold until the question of immunity is ultimately resolved. It will likely get resolved by the Supreme Court and the justices really could decide at any point whether they're going to weigh in quickly here and decide whether they're going to hear this case quickly as well.

BLITZER: And, Jessica, where do things stand after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled to remove Trump from the state's ballot?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. So, the state Supreme Court here said its decision to take Trump off the ballot, it is on hold until at least January 4th. And we're expecting that Trump's lawyers will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court before that date, which would then put this ruling on hold even longer while the Supreme Court is deciding what to do on this issue.

And that's crucial because the Colorado secretary of state has to certify the primary ballot by January 5th. So, it's all but certain that Donald Trump will, in fact, continue to appear on the primary ballot and then any determination by the U.S. Supreme Court, that would really only affect Trump's placement on the general election ballot if he's the nominee.

But, really, regardless, it's going to be interesting to see what the nine justices do with this big issue. This issue has never been decided by a federal court, and it really obviously will have big implications for Trump's candidacy nationwide, whether or not he can even be on the ballot because of this insurrection issue.

BLITZER: Yes, big implications, indeed. Jessica Schneider, thanks for that report.

And now to the political reaction to the Colorado ballot ruling that is clearly a bombshell. CNN's Omar Jimenez reports Trump and his presidential campaign rivals, they are now all weighing in.



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN HOST (voice over): First came the ruling, now the fallout. A sad day in America, Trump writes, as he reacts for the first time on social media, since the Colorado Supreme Court's decision to keep him off its state's 2024 Republican primary ballot.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: And I'm thrilled to be back in your incredible state.

JIMENEZ: And with just 28 days until the Iowa caucuses, every major Republican presidential candidate is coming to Trump's defense.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They basically just said, what, you can't be on the ballot? I mean, how does that work?

NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will beat him fair and square. We don't need to have judges making these decisions. We need voters to make these decisions.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDNETIAL CANDIDATE: I think he should be prevented from being president of the United States by the voters of this country.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unelected judges are not going to decide willy-nilly across the state who ends up on a ballot and who doesn't.

JIMENEZ: Even as they defend Trump, his rivals are still campaigning to beat him in the GOP primary, with time running out until the first contest in January.

DESANTIS: It will give Biden or the Democrat or whoever the ability to skate through this thing. That's their plan. What they don't want is to have somebody like me who will make the election not about all those other issues.

JIMENEZ: The Biden campaign says it's ready for any of the Republican candidates, regardless of the courts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not going to comment on ongoing litigation. What I will say is that the president looks forward to defeating Donald Trump or whoever else emerges from the Republican primary on the ballot box in November in 2024. JIMENEZ: The court's ruling is based on the 14th Amendment, which disqualifies anyone from future office if they engaged in insurrection.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Whether the 14th Amendment applies, we'll let the court make that decision, but he certainly supported an insurrection.

JIMENEZ: The court's decision will now most likely end up at the United States Supreme Court.


JIMENEZ (on camera): Now, as we've seen with many of the legal cases during his presidential campaign, Trump is already fundraising off the Colorado State Supreme Court ruling based on the us versus them theme that we have seen to be a staple of his campaigns.

Outside of the politics of it all, Trump is still on the ballot for now, as this ruling is essentially on hold until January 4th, ahead of the deadline to be certified as a candidate and pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could critically decide this issue for the country. Wolf?

BLITZER: It certainly could. Omar Jimenez, thank you very much.

Let's dig deeper right now with our legal, political and Supreme Court experts, and, George Conway, I'll start with you on Trump's presidential immunity filing, which is going on right now. Where do you think the Supreme Court will go on that?

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: I think they'll probably take the case and I think they'll probably take the case this week and set a very expedited briefing schedule with briefs due in January and argument probably in February with a decision in February. That's my guess. But they could actually turn it down. They could defer it. They could wait for the D.C. Circuit to rule, and then they could decide whether to take it at that point.

BLITZER: You're our Supreme Court analyst. What do you think?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: I think George is just about the tenth justice right now, yes. No, I actually think that's just a very practical, logical approach.

Look, they haven't had this question before. They haven't had either of these questions before. And it's better to sooner rather than later decide it. It's actually one where they could say Donald Trump is not immune, but he still has other defenses. So, they'd be ruling against Donald Trump, but not making it impossible for him to defend himself against Jack Smith's charges.

BLITZER: And, Joan, this is all pretty much uncharted territory for the U.S. Supreme Court.

BISKUPIC: It definitely is. In fact, I mean, just look at what we saw today. This is the only state ever that has ruled that a president can be knocked off the ballot because of the 14th Amendment. And that's another one where I'm certain they will definitely take it up. It's just a matter of when. And some of that will depend on when Donald Trump's lawyers get their papers up there.

But the immunity question is also fresh in the criminal prosecution. We know that it's been tested in the civil trial context, but it's never been tested in a criminal prosecution.

So, both of them are fresh issues, but both are them that only the Supreme Court can decide. There's no other nine people who can decide it.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Gloria, that we just heard Trump's Republican rivals, they're basically all with him on this Colorado Supreme Court decision.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they can't catch a break. I mean, what are they going to do? They're saying, you know, we don't want the courts to decide who can be on a political ballot. And, you know, DeSantis at least raised the point of saying, you know, this goes to the question of Trump's electability.

But time and time again, these candidates find themselves defending Donald Trump, who has become a professional victim. And he is -- you know, his base is energized and the base is behind him. And so what are they going to do? Are they going to alienate the people they want to vote for them to split off from Donald Trump? No. But, once again, they're in the position of defending Donald Trump.


When you want to beat him in a primary, the last thing you really want to do is to keep defending the guy. But this is exactly what the position they found themselves in today.

So, this will work for Donald Trump. The worse things go for him, the better it works for him in the.

BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed.

George, you wrote an important article in The Atlantic, and let me quote from some of what you wrote on the Colorado Supreme Court decision. You wrote this. The argument seemed somehow too good to be true, but last night changed my mind, not because of anything the Colorado Supreme Court majority said, the three dissents were what convinced me the majority was right. The dissents were gobsmacking for their weakness. Explain what you mean by that dissent.

CONWAY: Yes. I have this habit when I read appellate opinions that are of a divided court, to read the dissents first because they're shorter, they're punchier, they're more fun to read. But a good judge will basically stick a knife right through the heart of the majority opinion if it's got a real problem, and I didn't see anything there.

These were pretty -- they write well, they're obviously smart jurists, but they had nothing. And I was expecting -- I hadn't delved into it as much as maybe others have. But I thought, you know, I was pretty convinced by the federal society law professors who wrote the initial article that put this issue in play, and by my friend, Judge Luttig, and by Professor Tribe, they thought it was very strong.

And I said, yes, it does sound strong legally, but, you know, it's too good to be true. I don't know if a court's really going to go that far. There's going to be something that comes up. And right now, there's nothing. And the Supreme Court, if they're going to reverse, they got to come up with something better.

BISKUPIC: But didn't you think the dissents, though, went after the state law issues much more than the fundamental ones?

CONWAY: And that doesn't help Donald Trump in the Supreme Court, because the Supreme Court of the United States has no business countering what state courts say about state law. The last word on issues of state law is a state Supreme Court.

BORGER: So, the Supreme Court, correct me if I'm wrong, guys, has to decide what an insurrection is, define what an insurrection is, and also decide whether the president is indeed an officer of the United States. Those are two sort of crucial issues, constitutional issues.

BISKUPIC: Well, the reason I even raised the state court part, because I didn't actually think the dissenters were weak. I thought they just went after a key part for their own state law, frankly.

BORGER: Right, that it doesn't apply to the president.

CONWAY: It doesn't help.

BISKUPIC: Right, it doesn't help in the appeal, but it's real for what's happening in Colorado because under the state election law.

CONWAY: But he lost, it's over.

BISKUPIC: Yes, under the state election law, they showed the flaws there.

CONWAY: That's right. But he can't -- he's done in Colorado courts. He's got no further avenue of review for those state law issues that the dissents raised.

BISKUPIC: Right. One other thing on that, though, Wolf, which is why it's important for the Supreme Court to come in and rule on this in a comprehensive way, is if there's any kind of due process problem with what Colorado did, it will not affect other state litigation over other process.

BLITZER: We shall see on that front.

Gloria, Trump reacted these cases by saying, and I'm quoting him now, this is exactly how dictatorships are born. He's the one saying -- he is the one who said in recent days he wants to be a dictator on day one and he's still pushing his very hateful racist rhetoric, echoing Adolf Hitler. Listen to this. Listen to this.


TRUMP: They're ruining our country, and it's true. They're destroying the blood of our country. That's what they're doing. They're destroying our country. They don't like it. When I said that and I never read Mein Kampf. They said, oh, Hitler said that in a much different way.


BLITZER: He's referring to immigrants to the United States.

BORGER: Right. And if I'm not mistaken, when he originally started talking about this, it was actually on teleprompter. So, I think this is something, whether or not he's read Mein Kampf, maybe somebody who works for him has. And I think this is deliberate.

This is a way to, again, play grievance politics, which is exactly what he does to great success. And he's going to keep doing it. There's nothing stopping him from it. Certainly, his political opponents who are challenging him for the nomination aren't stopping him from it. So, if they're not stopping him, who will?

BLITZER: Yes. And, George, smearing these immigrants like this, it's horrible.

CONWAY: It's horrible. I mean, three of his four children, I think are children of immigrants and it's just mean. And this man claiming that he hasn't read Mine Keimpf, it's funny that he knows the name of that book when Chief of Staff General Kelly had to explain to him what Pearl Harbor was.

BLITZER: Interesting. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, are Israel and Hamas any closer right now to agreeing on a new pause in the fighting and the release of more hostages?


We're going to get an update on the negotiations. That's next.


BLITZER: Tonight, we're following the urgent humanitarian crisis right now in Gaza. Israel says 165 a trucks crossed into the territory today, but the situation there remains very dire, with many Gazans going hungry and struggling to survive.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has our report.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For weeks, this is what we've seen of the war in Gaza, Israel's brutal military might pounding neighborhoods into dust. In Central Gaza's Nuseirat, whole blocks reduced to rubble, seemingly deserted, unlivable. But there's also this, the near surreal scenes this week in Nuseirat, the hustle and bustle of the street market. It's the story of every war where life doesn't stop. It goes on for those trying to survive.

But Gaza is like no other place. It's where more than 2 million are cramped into this tiny strip of land that now looks like it's been bombed back into ages past, where those who've lost everything have nowhere left but the streets.


That's where Mutnis (ph) is building a clay oven, hoping people would pay him a shekel or two to use it. He says maybe then he'll have enough to buy his children cheese or tomatoes.

Our lives are a million years behind. We live in sewage, Mutnis says. Every time it rains, the sewage overflows. It's cold, there's no food, no water, no warm clothes.

Most here have escaped the bombs only to be trapped in this misery. Disease and starvation, the U.N.'s warned, may soon kill more than those bombs. Half the population, it says, are now starving, people going entire days without eating.

Umahmed (ph) says she collects a bit of flour from here and there to bake bread for her children. We're all thrown into the streets, she says. They said go to the south. We came to the south to die slowly.

Human Rights Watch says Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war. It's a war crime Israel denies and calls it a lie. It accuses Hamas of stealing aid.

In the wake of October 7th, Israel's defense minister announced a siege of Gaza, quote, no electricity, no fuel, everything closed until all hostages were returned. Some aid and water delivery resumed, but nowhere near enough. Much of the blockade remains in place, what rights groups call collective punishment.

Sometimes the lucky ones find more than lentils and bread for the hungry mouths they have to feed. This mother uses a pair of jeans for her fire to boil some chicken wings and bones.

I'm using clothes and cardboard to make fire and cook, she says. The situation is disastrous, but I need to find a way for my children. We're in the street because we have nowhere to shelter.

Fleeing the bombs, scrounging for food, now the people of Gaza desperately wait for the moment they can try once again to live.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.


BLITZER: Jomana Karadsheh, thank you very much. Also tonight, Israel is back at the table for negotiations on freeing more hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. And the White House says the talks are, quote, very serious.

CNN's Will Ripley is joining us live from Tel Aviv right now. He's got a progress report. So, Will, where do these talks stand?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that the talks are in the very preliminary stages, Wolf. This is not something that's likely to come together in a matter of days. It could actually take weeks. Remember, the last hostage deal that resulted in a phased handover of hostages took more than a month to come together.

And the reason for that, according to the Israeli side, is that they don't believe that Hamas is necessarily interested in having this come together quickly when the global pressure right now is on Israel to provide concessions, as many concessions as Hamas hopes that they can get in order to release these hostages, given that there is very intense international pressure, and perhaps even more importantly for the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, there is domestic pressure to work out a hostage deal after the accidental shooting deaths over the weekend of three Israelis who were held in Gaza.

And actually even more information is coming to light by the hour, including new audio revealed from a GoPro camera recovered from a military dog on the scene of where these hostages were shot and killed over the weekend. On this GoPro camera, you can actually hear the hostages, their voices, clearly identifiable. This is five days before the incident over the weekend where they were shot and killed.

This is raising a lot of questions about what is likely chaos and confusion on the ground in Gaza, questions about why the IDF didn't know that these hostages were being held in this area. And it's putting a lot of spotlight on the military effort, which so far has failed to actually rescue any more than just one Israeli hostage. The rest of the hostages that were released, the result of diplomacy. So far, the IDF has rescued one hostage and three hostages have been accidentally killed.

And so what Hamas is asking for, essentially in exchange for a potential handover, is the release of very high level, high value prisoners. You're talking about potential militants, people who have been convicted of crimes here in Israel to be handed over in exchange for the women, elderly and patients in desperate need of medical care that Israel is asking to be handed over in exchange for a one-week pause in the fighting and offer that there's a number of articles now here in Israel saying that Israel has potentially been told that Hamas rejected that initial offer.

So, clearly, nothing coming together anytime soon, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens. Will Ripley in Tel Aviv for us, thank you.

Coming up, the Colorado Supreme Court ruling banning Donald Trump from the state ballot is rocking the Republican presidential contest. [18:25:00]

We're going to take a closer look into the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is at the center of the controversy.


BLITZER: Tonight, Donald Trump is lashing out against the Colorado Supreme Court ruling, which would keep Trump off the state's primary ballot on Super Tuesday. That decision will be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Brian Todd is taking a closer look at the constitutional amendment right at the heart of the controversial ruling. What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. There's some very colorful history behind it. And tonight, Donald Trump is testing its bounds.


TRUMP: We did nothing wrong.

TODD (voice over): Donald Trump has again put the United States in uncharted waters.


Never before in American history has the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, the so called insurrectionist ban, been applied to a top presidential candidate. But then again, no American president has ever tried to overturn an election as Trump did.

What is the 14th Amendment?

STEPHEN VLADECK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This forward-looking rule that if you have engaged in insurrection against the United States, you may not hold federal office unless two thirds of both chambers of Congress say you can.

TODD: Specifically, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says, no person who's previously taken an oath to support the Constitution shall hold any office who has engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. And the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that's what Trump did on January 6, 2021, when he implored his supporters to go to the Capitol.

TRUMP: We're going to the Capitol.

TODD: The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, another period of raw political turmoil.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Those reconstruction amendments in 1868 came about because our country was torn apart in the civil war. VLADECK: When Congress drafted Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, it was already worried about the problem of southern states, states that had been part of the Confederacy, sending back to Washington officials who had fought for the Confederacy, officials who had been leaders in the confederate government.

TODD: In 1870, Zebulon Vance, who had served in the Confederate Army, was appointed as a senator from North Carolina, but the Senate refused to seat him, citing the 14th Amendment. Vance later got amnesty and did end up serving in the Senate.

In the early 1900s, Victor Berger, a socialist from Wisconsin, was refused a seat in the House of Representatives twice after having been elected. His opposition to World War I had led him to be criminally charged with disloyal acts, and the House used the 14th Amendment to keep him out. But he eventually got his conviction overturned and did serve in the House.

More recently, a county commissioner in New Mexico was removed from office in 2022 on 14th Amendment grounds because he actually was a convicted January 6th rioter.

Now, we have the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the Colorado ruling and decide whether Trump can be on state ballots. It would be the first time since Bush versus Gore in 2000 that the Supreme Court would have weighed in on such an important matter in presidential politics.

BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN ELECTION LAWYER: The country is much more divided now than it's ever been before. I mean, in a sense, if you're a Supreme Court justice, it makes Bush versus Gore look like a walk in the park.


TODD (on camera): Donald Trump has denied doing anything wrong on January 6th. And while he has been charged, as of now, he's not been convicted of any crime related to January 6th.

But legal expert Stephen Vladeck says at least one of those previous cases where Congress has denied seats to people based on that 14th Amendment, well, that's an indication that you don't have to have been convicted to be prevented from holding office under that amendment. We'll see what the court rules later on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very significant decision coming up. Brian, thank you very much, Brian Todd reporting.

Joining us now, Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan and a key member of the House Armed Services Committee. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

Do you believe Trump's conduct on January 6th disqualifies him from holding office? And would you be comfortable with a court, not voters, with a court making that decision? REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Well, I mean, I think, I was fascinated by your last segment. I didn't know that history. And this is why I do think it is in the hands of the courts, right? And Colorado obviously knew what they were doing when they put this case together. They're trying to push -- to have this metered out in federal court, and now it will be.

So, I personally don't know the answer between the 14th Amendment and everything else that was just cited. So, I think it makes sense, frankly, in Colorado. We've got similar cases going on here in Michigan and other states to let the courts meter this out.

BLITZER: You're running for Senate in Michigan right now, Congresswoman, where Biden, according to recent polls, is, what, ten points behind Trump in Michigan. The Washington Post is reporting that you voiced concerns that you may not be able to win with him, with Biden at the top of the ticket. Is President Biden a liability for you and other swing state Democrats?

SLOTKIN: Yes. First of all, I mean, I don't know why we learn and relearn this issue on polling every single time, people always hand- wring over polls. But for me, it is very, very clear Michiganders care about results.

And if you want to talk about who has gotten results in this state, I can show you dirt being moved, bulldozers pushing dirt and building new factories, doing major infrastructure projects, the CHIPS act, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, like real things that have passed, real things that are moving in my district, and that I would put up that sheet, that list of things that he's done against anybody.


And I think voters are going to have that chance, right? There's going to be -- right now you have to assume that the frontrunners are Joe Biden and Donald Trump to be the nominees from their respective parties. I mean, that is a very clear choice.

And Donald Trump has made very clear who he is. He's made very clear that he has an extreme agenda. He's going to be vindictive and without restraint in a second term. That's the opposite of Joe Biden.

So, in my mind, this is going to be a clear choice for voters, for them to make, and I hope they make the right choice.

BLITZER: I want to turn to Israel's war in Gaza. While I have you, Congresswoman, you and some fellow House Democrats with a lot of national security background called on President Biden to push Israel to majorly change its military strategy right now in Gaza, what more leverage do you want to see President Biden use?

SLOTKIN: Well, look, I think the folks who signed that letter, we wrote it together, most of us served in some form or fashion in the global war on terror, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. I served in places like Ramadi. And I think the letter came from a place of wanting Israel to learn the lessons that we learned the hard way in our wars. And that means the way you conduct your tactical military operations has a long-term effect on people, that you can't bomb your way out of an ideology. And we tried that.

And I served in Western Iraq, and we had a lot of tactical victories against Al Qaeda, and then two years later, this group called ISIS came out of the ashes and took over an area the size of Texas.

So, I think it's from a place of wanting long-term stability and security for everyone in that region. That's why we wrote it. And I do think the secretary of defense going out there and saying very similar things, he was the commanding general in Iraq of our regional forces.

So, that conversation is happening in public now. It should be happening in private among allies. But I think we need to hear each other because we all want long-term security in the region.

BLITZER: I want to get your thoughts on the deadly strikes in the Rafah area of Gaza right now, right along the border with Egypt, where Israel forced civilians to flee in massive numbers, as you know, and the United Nations now saying that half of Gaza is starving. Is this war becoming a strategic failure?

SLOTKIN: Well, look, I mean, you can't be a human being and look at pictures of the humanitarian situation and not feel for people, not feel for children, not feel for the significant loss of civilian life. And we have to be clear that the death of a child, no matter whether they're a Palestinian child, an Israeli child, is the death of a child.

And these are some of the reasons that led us to write this letter, right, that if you tell people to go to a certain area and then you strike that area, that is not something that I think is in their long- term national security interests. It's not in ours as the United States.

So, that's part of why, again, we're having this conversation now in public instead of in private, because the humanitarian situation is a really dire thing. That's not made up. That's not a fabrication. That is a real thing.

And I think that pressure that's now being put on the Israelis and others to sort of really change that approach, they have every right to go after Hamas and to go after the groups that perpetrated this specific attack. But that doesn't mean that civilian casualties don't matter in war. And that's what we're trying to say to them in this letter.

BLITZER: Representative Elissa Slotkin, thank you so much for joining us.

SLOTKIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we're learning about a particular source of immense frustration right now for President Biden as he looks at his poll numbers with 2024 just around the corner.



BLITZER: Tonight, we're getting a new readout of President Biden's growing frustration as his poll numbers set off alarm bells and voters seem unmoved by some important improvements in the U.S. economy.

CNN Senior White House Correspondent M.J. Lee is working the story for us. M.J., so what's driving the president's irritation?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Biden White House and the campaign, of course, would like to turn around the public sentiment when it comes to the economy. But what we are learning is that the president himself has publicly shown some frustration to his senior advisers, that when he is trying to tout some of these big signature legislative accomplishments from his first term in office, that he can't point to as many physical evidence and structures and construction of some of these projects that those signature bills are supposed to fund as he would like for.

Right now, the White House has to settle for putting up signage, signs that basically say these projects are to come, that they will be built at a future date. One senior administration official telling us that the president feels immense frustration about this, another source telling us simply that he wants this stuff now.

Sources, of course, say that the president very much understands that the implementation of these kinds of big laws will take a lot of time, but that he is still impatient to try to better showcase what is supposed to be a big part of his economic record. The president actually tried to do just that earlier today in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Through the historic bipartisan infrastructure law. My administration is investing $15 billion to replace every lead pipe in every community in this country. Our goal is to do that.


LEE: And actually, Wolf, there has been a ton of strong economic indicators for the White House to point to. Inflation is continuing to fall. Consumer confidence is moving up and improving.


And all of these things are things that the White House will eventually translate to a better public outlook when it comes to the economy, especially headed into next year -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We shall see. MJ Lee at the White House for us, thank you.

Coming up, we're getting new details on a prisoner swap agreement between the Biden administration and Venezuela. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Tonight, ten Americans are leaving Venezuela as part of a prisoner swap in exchange for an ally of the Venezuelan president in U.S. custody.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is over the airport in San Antonio where some of the Americans are due to arrive in just a few hours. Natasha Bertrand is here in Washington with us.

Let me start with you, Ed. What do we know about the Americans who are being released and heading to Texas, where you are?


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have been told that later tonight, here at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, that six of the ten Americans that have been released, we will see here later tonight. We've been able to gather some of those names so far.

Eyvin Hernandez, Jerrel Kenemore, Joseph Cristella, and Savoi Wright. We're still waiting on confirmation of the other two. But we also don't have much information on the other four. What we have been told, there being taken to another location, but we have been told that the six that we will see here later tonight have been officially designated by the U.S. government as people who were wrongfully detained in Venezuela. We have heard over the last few months from several family members who described the ordeal that they've been through.

Savoi Wright's family said that they love one was taken hostage, that they had paid ransom several times over the last few months. Another relative, Eyvin Hernandez's family said that he was losing hope that he would never be able to get out of Venezuela again.

BLITZER: Natasha, how did this deal come about? And what is the United States agreed to do?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was really the result of months and months of negotiation among the presidents top national security officials, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, as well as his top hostage negotiator Roger Carstens who traveled to Venezuela multiple times to meet with the detainees there.

And it comes as the Biden administration has agreed to release into Venezuelan custody a very close Maduro ally, Alex Saab, who was awaiting trial here on money laundering charges. The president decided to grant him clemency in exchange for these ten Americans that are now going to be released, and on top of that, an additional 20 Venezuelans who are going to be released from Venezuelan prisons, who are deemed to be political prisoners there.

And so, the Biden administration really views this as a victory, but broadly, it is just a sign of the increasingly thawing tensions between the two countries. They have started to negotiate and cooperate on a number of different issues, including immigration, of course, which is a very key priority for the Biden administration right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is. Ed, what happens to the Americans once they land in the United States?

LAVANDERA: Wolf, one of the reasons they're being brought here to San Antonio is because this is home to Brooke Army Medical Center, and I'm of a program called the Post-Isolation Support Activities Program. And this is a Department of Defense program that helps people react when eat back into normal life. So, we're told that these Americans will have the option of going through that program here in San Antonio. Trevor Reed, Britney Griner, another military POWs over the years have used this.

And from what we're gathering, you know, some of these family members and their initial reactions to hearing the news of the released today are worried about the conditions that their loved ones will be coming back to the U.S. Savoi Wright's family has issued a statement earlier today saying that these past few months have been the most difficult of our lives, and we are relieved that this ordeal has ended. We are grateful to the U.S. government for bringing Savoi home so quickly. We'd respectfully ask for privacy and space as we welcome Savoi home and help him recover from the trauma of this ordeal.

And the other thing will be looking for here later tonight, Wolf, is just how many family members will have been able to make it here to Kelly Field, to greet these Americans once they walk off the plane and onto the tarmac here in San Antonio later tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Ed Lavandera, Natasha Bertrand, thank you very, very much.

And we'll be right back. More news coming up.



BLITZER: We're following breaking news right now. New developments in Rudy Giuliani's nearly $150 million verdict in the defamation case of two Georgia election workers, Ruby Freeman, and Shaye Moss.

Our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider has the latest information.

Jessica, what can you tell us?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Wolf, we saw the verdict come down on Friday, and now, today, the judge in this case is saying that Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, they can begin trying to collect this $148 million verdict immediately.

Typically in these cases, the plaintiffs who win have to wait at least 30 days, but the judge in this case is really coming out with some scathing language against Rudy Giuliani, in giving these plaintiffs the greenlight to start or try to start collecting anyway their $148 million right now.

And she's really criticizing Rudy Giuliani and his failure to really cooperate with this process. She's saying that he refused to turn over evidence, revealing his worth. He refused to do that earlier. And she put it this way -- she said, such claims of financial difficulties of Giuliani, no matter how many times repeated, are publicly disseminated, just are difficult to square for the fact that Giuliani affords a spokesperson.

Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, they pointed out that Rudy Giuliani owns property in Florida, in New York. His New York apartment actually on the market right now for $6.1 million. They also pointed to his contract with Newsmax for a show.

So, they have repeatedly pointed out that Rudy Giuliani has money. And now the judge is saying you can immediately, starting today, go after that money and try to collect your $148 million verdict -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Jessica, I know that Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss have also filed another lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani. What are they suing him for in this new suit?

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, pretty quickly after we saw that verdict on Friday, they didn't stop. They filed another lawsuit trying to stop Rudy Giuliani from making any further comments about them. Obviously, this was part of a huge defamation case that Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss won. And then they -- because of the comments, Rudy Giuliani made outside the courtroom during the course of this four-day trial, these women went to court again, filed another lawsuit, and asked a court to stop Rudy Giuliani from saying anything further, even though their original case had concluded.

So, this is an ongoing saga, Wolf. We're seeing this other lawsuit, and now, today, the district court judge saying they can try to begin collecting those millions of dollars that is owed to them by Rudy Giuliani immediately, Wolf.

BLITZER: Almost $150 million. We'll see how much they wind up getting.


BLITZER: Jessica, thank you very much. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM room. You can always follow me on X, formerly known as Twitter, and Instagram @WolfBlitzer, tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

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