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First Deaths Reported From Japan's Powerful 7.5 Earthquake; Israeli Supreme Court Reject's Key Piece Of Netanyahu's Overall In Move That Could Reignite Wartime Tensions; Israel Withdrawing Some Gaza Troops But Expects Fighting In The Strip To Last Throughout The Year; Trump Expected To Appeal Colorado & Maine Ballot Bans Tomorrow; Special Counsel Pushes Back On Trump's Immunity Claim; Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Is Interviewed About Israel Withdrawing Some Gaza Troops But Expects Fighting In The Strip To Last Throughout The Year; Trumps Dominates GOP Field Two Weeks Until Iowa Caucuses; Naomi Osaka Victorious In Return To Tennis After Yearlong Hiatus. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 01, 2024 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CASEY HUNT, CNN HOST: California is also requiring gender-neutral toy aisles in big department stores, although additional and separate boys and girls toy departments are still OK.
Happy New Year.
All right, now this. Before her slew of NFL game appearances and the midnight kiss with Travis Kelce, Taylor Swift faced a court battle over the lyrics to "Shake It Off."
We'll go to the music world and explore that case in the CNN special called "TAKING ON TAYLOR SWIFT." It airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.
Happy New Year to all of you.
Don't go anywhere. Our coverage continues right now with Brianna Keilar in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, the first deaths are reported from a powerful earthquake that flattened homes and unleashed a wall of water in Japan. Stand by for new images and information on the massive 7.5 quake and its aftermath.
Also this hour, at a critical moment in Israel's fight against Hamas, the nation's high court striking down a key part of a controversial government plan to limit the power of the judiciary. The unprecedented decision now threatening to fan wartime tensions and division.
Plus, 2024 is here. The first presidential votes are now just two weeks away. We'll get the lay of the political landscape as Donald Trump's rivals battle to be the last Republican standing in his way to the nomination.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. And this is THE SITUATION ROOM, SPECIAL REPORT.
We begin with breaking news. The earthquake disaster in Japan turning deadly. At least four deaths now confirmed, a number that could easily climb as damage assessments are under way.
Our Brian Todd has an update on the impact of the 7.5 magnitude quake.
Brian, what do we know about the situation in western Japan right now?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, just a short time ago, Japan's chief cabinet secretary told the country that, at the moment, there are no reported irregularities with nuclear power plants, including the one closest to the epicenter.
But the U.S. Geological Center says there have been at least 31 aftershocks from this earthquake. And damages are still being assessed at this hour.
TODD (voice-over): Inside this office in Toyama City, the shaking was violent and went on for several seconds. TV monitors fell off the shelves as the entire room convulsed.
TODD: In the same city, this parking garage is shaking so hard, it seemed to be on the verge of collapse. This building in Wajima did collapse. Its second floor smashing down onto the first.
TODD: These shoppers in Toyama huddled together as the supermarket they were in shook all around them.
These were the scenes in western Japan today as a 7.5 magnitude quake struck the region. Multiple deaths and serious injuries have been reported.
One Taiwanese tourist in Nagano spoke of the panic there.
JOHNNY WU, TOURIST: Suddenly, pretty strong earthquake. You can see all the snow from the electric wire goes down and also from the roof goes down and the car is shaking. And everybody was panicked at that time.
TODD: The quake's epicenter was near the Noto Peninsula, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Initially, tsunami warnings were issues and people were urged to evacuate as tsunami waves up to four feet hit several areas along the coast.
Here, a tsunami wave crashes over the harbor seawall in Suzu City. The tsunami warnings were later canceled.
But the quake and dozens of aftershocks caused fires, large fissures in roads. Several people were reported trapped under collapsed buildings and tens of thousands of people experienced power outages.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
TODD: A woman in Wajima screams in panic as she surveys the damage from the upper floor of a home.
Experts say the western coast of Japan has rarely experienced earthquakes this large. Instead, they say, it's has smaller scale, so- called swarming quakes.
Not of the scale of the devastating earthquake off Japan's east coast in March 2011, 9.1 in magnitude, which triggered a horrific tsunami, damaged several nuclear reactors and killed about 20,000 people.
Still, aftershocks from today's event, experts say, can be dangerous.
SUSAN HOUGH, SEISMOLOGIST, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: It could easily have aftershocks bigger than magnitude six. So that's going to be a hazard in its own right.
TODD: Aftershocks could be even more dangerous because some buildings have already been structurally compromised.
JEFFREY PARK, SEISMOLOGIST, PROFESSOR OF EARTH & PLANETARY SCIENCE, YALE: The damage that's been caused to structures in the fault zone, basically the entire peninsula, are sometimes hidden.
And then can be further damaged by smaller earthquakes and smaller amounts of shaking. So the danger of maybe collapses or for humans being inside damaged structures is still quite real.
TODD: And again, an update on the latest information we have, at least four people are reported to have died from today's earthquake. That's according to authorities in Japan's Ishikawa Prefecture.
Also, the U.S. Geological Survey says there have been at least 31 aftershocks following the earthquake. Seismologist Jeffrey Park says these aftershocks, Brianna, they could continue for months, maybe even up to a year.
KEILAR: Yes, it's unbelievable.
Brian Todd, thank you so much for that report.
CNN is in the region as this earthquake crisis unfolds. Our correspondent, Marc Stewart, joining us live now from Seoul, South Korea.
Marc, can you tell us the latest on the injuries and the rescue efforts, including all those people who were stranded on bullet trains.
MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, at one point, about 1,400 people were stuck on the Shinkansen, Japan's bullet train.
We have new reporting from the last 30 minutes or so from Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, that those trains have now been able to move and people have been returned to the stations. In fact, food was delivered on board.
But there is this bigger question about this rescue effort. The sun is starting to rise in Japan. Perhaps we'll get a better idea as to what the day ahead will hold.
But infrastructure is going to be a very big challenge. We have roads that were cracked, as we saw in Brian's report. We have highways that are damaged. Moving people, moving rescue supplies, moving the basics like food and water from point A to point B is going to be complicated.
Right now, Japan's army has 1,000 soldiers helping out on this effort. An additional 8,500 have also been put on standby.
In addition we heard from the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, who says American troops, because of the sizable American military presence in Japan, will be able to help.
And then, Brianna, there is this other question about people who may be stranded, who may be stuck, who may be homeless.
This happened in the middle of the day. People were out and about enjoying the January 1st holiday, the New Year's Day off.
At this point, we know some shelters have been set up, about 21, to help people who may be stuck or stranded.
KEILAR: Marc, you were previously reporting out of Japan. From what you know, was Japan prepared for this?
STEWART: I think so. Obviously, these forces of nature defy the best of engineering, but the technology is there.
For example, with the bullet train, it is very likely -- we need some confirmation, but it is very likely that that bullet train actually stopped before the worst of the earthquake hit.
The detection systems in Japan are that good, that you can get some warning ahead that an earthquake is going to strike.
And then there are some simple things. For example, seawalls along the coast to prevent water from rushing in in the event of a tsunami.
KEILAR: Very important to note and lots of lessons learned since 2011's massive quake.
Marc Stewart, live for us from South Korea, thank you.
Turning now to Israel where a major decision from the nation's Supreme Court striking down an extremely controversial change to the judiciary threatens to splinter the fragile wartime cabinet. Elliott Gotkine is joining us now from Tel Aviv with details.
Elliott, what are the implications of this ruling?
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN JOURNALIST: There are a couple of big implications here. Brianna.
First of all, this is the first time the Supreme Court has ever struck down a basic law or an amendment to a basic law. These are the equivalent of the closest thing that Israel has to a constitution.
It is significant because it's a blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, which made this judicial overhaul almost like a flagship project of its coalition government.
This is the one part of this judicial overhaul it managed to pass and now this has been struck down by the Supreme Court.
I suppose the third big implication is, before this war with Hamas, which began with the Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7th, it seems like a life take away now, but before then, the only thing that seemed to matter that was on everybody's mind was this judicial overhaul.
There were tens of thousands, sometimes more than 100,000 protesters out on the streets every week protesting the government's plans for this judicial overhaul because of their concerns that it would do irreparable damage to Israel's democracy.
On one occasion, and I was on the streets at the time, the defense minister resigned -- or was fired, excuse me, as a result of his encouragement with Netanyahu to scale back these plans. That sacking was quietly forgotten.
So quite a few implications that could reopen these major divisions in Israeli society while it's fighting a war.
We have yet to hear from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as to what his response will be. Will he abide by this ruling -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Yes. That will be the key question.
And, Elliott, there are signs that Israel may be shifting to what's been referred to by U.S. officials as lower-intensity fighting in Gaza. What can you tell us about that?
GOTKINE: So this is because Israel is saying to about 20,000 troops that they can leave the fighting. They can go back to their families, their work, their communities.
The government is saying this is to allow them to rest and recuperate and retrain and give a bit of a boost to the economy, which is really suffering with so many key workers and managers being involved in the war. What this could also mean is that we may see low-intensity fighting in
parts of the Gaza Strip, maybe in the northern part where it's almost job done from Israel's perspective in terms of destroying Hamas' infrastructure.
But I think any hopes for a lower intensification in other parts may be dashed. Certainly, if we listen to what Netanyahu and his government say, which is that this war will continue until they reach the objective of destroying Hamas and getting the hostages home -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Elliott Gotkine, live for us in Tel Aviv, thank you.
The Israeli Supreme Court decision rejecting changes to the judiciary comes after months of uncertainty over how Benjamin Netanyahu might respond.
Here is what the prime minister told our own Wolf Blitzer last summer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: If the court does strike this down, will you abide by that ruling?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, we're going into uncharted territory. I really would like to believe they won't do that.
The reason is that -- first of all, also because of the rule of law. The prime minister is subject to the rule of law, the Knesset, our parliament is subject to the rule of law. The judges are subject to the law. Everybody is subject to the law.
Now, the closest thing we have to a constitution are basic laws. That's what we're dealing with.
What you're talking about is a situation, a potential situation where, in American terms, the United States Supreme Court would take a constitutional amendment and say that it's unconstitutional.
That's the kind of spiral that you're talking about. I hope we don't get to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Let's get some analysis now from former U.S. State Department Middle East negotiator, Aaron David Miller.
Aaron, how significant is this ruling? What happens if Prime Minister Netanyahu refuses to accept it? You heard him there not committing to accept it.
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I heard it loud and clear. And thanks for having me, Brianna.
I think the prime minister, in the end, will accept it, because to not accept it will mean the end of his war cabinet.
Benny Gantz who brought his coalition seats in an act of patriotism, despite his mistrust of Netanyahu, has joined this cabinet. He already said that the Supreme Court decision today has to be respected.
Yair Lapid, a former coalition member, has said the same thing.
Two, I don't think he has the credibility and support of the Israeli public to split the country even further by ignoring or going against the Supreme Court decision.
It would essentially mean that, if given an order, for example, to the Shin Bet, they'd have to decide, are they following the government or following the Supreme Court?
I would suspect they'd follow the Supreme Court in this matter, not the Netanyahu government.
KEILAR: What could this mean for Netanyahu politically? He's already facing such incredible pressure after the intel failures and leadership failures, arguably some have said, his critics, have said, after the October 7th Hamas attack?
MILLER: There's no mechanism to remove the prime minister. I suspect when the more intensive phase of the war ends, it may well be that the heads of Shin Bet, Mossad, head of Israeli military intelligence, chief of staff may also make their resignations.
And Benny Gantz who makes the war cabinet, the emergency, quote, unquote, "unified government possible," will likely leave. He will tell the nation why he is leaving.
At that point, either a new government will be either formed in place or you'll have elections. I suspect that will occur sometimes in 2024.
Right now, I don't think this prime minister is going anywhere. He knows that his political future means a successful prosecution of this war, and frankly, a longer war.
KEILAR: How do you read Israel's decision to draw down some of the IDF troops from Gaza?
MILLER: I think, by and large, the Israeli Defense Forces have reached the conclusion that, for retraining, for morale, for the Israeli economy, they can afford to draw down. These are reservist brigades.
I do believe, however, pressed by the Biden administration, by the end of January, we will, in fact, see a lower-intensity war.
It will shift from division operations, heavy on artillery and airstrikes, to a more-focused, intelligence-driven set of operations.
Which will hopefully allow the badly needed surge of humanitarian assistance into Gaza to deal with the misery and suffering that so many Palestinians right now are experiencing.
If the Israelis don't change the intensity of the conflict, I suspect the Biden administration will have to make some additional decisions with their Israeli partner.
KEILAR: It is catastrophic right there in Gaza right now.
Aaron David Miller, thank you for being with us.
MILLER: Thank you, Brianna.
KEILAR: Coming up, the stakes for Donald Trump and the 2024 election as he's expected to appeal his removal from primary ballots in two states tomorrow.
This is THE SITUATION ROOM, SPECIAL REPORT.
KEILAR: Tonight, Donald Trump is on the brink of formally challenging decisions to ban him from the presidential primary ballots in two states, Colorado and Maine.
CNN's senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is following these historic cases for us.
Evan, what are we expecting to see tomorrow?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We expect the former president, Brianna, to ask the Supreme Court to basically throw out these two rulings, the one by the Colorado Supreme Court and the one by the secretary of state in Maine.
There's been a number of other states where Trump has won against these challenges, in Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, where he has succeeded in turning back these challenges.
What you're seeing is a number of other ones that are starting to spring up in other states. For example, Oregon, which now has a challenge pending.
That's one of the concerns for the Trump campaign, is they want to try to go to the Supreme Court to try to get this question answered, whether the former president can be banned from the state ballots on the basis of these findings that he is an insurrectionist and should be banned under the 14th Amendment.
It is something that is, of course, on a collision course on a couple of other things, including the Supreme Court is probably going to hear again the question of whether Trump is immune from the Jack Smith charges in the election subversion case.
KEILAR: Election officials, Evan, in both Colorado and Maine, have received threats. Can you give us details on that? PEREZ: That's the pattern. You see any ruling or any official action
that involves the former president, and some people reach out and start doing these things.
In the case of Maine, there was a swatting incident where someone prank-called and got emergency services there at the home of the secretary of state.
Listen to the concern from Shenna Bellows, who is the secretary of state in Maine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHENNA BELLOWS, (D), MAINE SECRETARY OF STATE: I certainly worry about the safety of the people I love, people around me and people charged with protecting me and working alongside me.
We have received threatening communications. Those are unacceptable. But regardless, my considerations in this proceeding is to adhere to the process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: Brianna, this is obviously something that is a huge concern for the FBI and for local law enforcement because wherever these types of threats happen, you know there's also -- there is a possibility of something going really, really wrong -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Yes. It really is.
Evan, thank you for that report.
Let's bring in our legal experts now. We have Norm Eisen and Shan Wu with us here.
Thank you for joining us on this New Year's Day.
Trump is expected to appeal these decisions in Maine and Colorado as soon as tomorrow. How is this going to go?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the decisions of Maine and Colorado were based on a combination of the federal Constitution, which says you can't run for office if you're an insurrectionist, but also their state laws.
Not every state let's a secretary of state knock a candidate off of the ballot. So the Supreme Court has never confronted this question before.
And they're going to have a tough struggle reconciling that with the nationwide pattern because there are other states where secretaries can't do it.
They're going to struggle with the Constitution and with the question of uniformity as they deal with this. KEILAR: So what do you make of the argument from Maine's secretary of
state that she does have the authority to exclude Trump from the ballot? Colorado, obviously, the state law, has to do with the Supreme Court doing it.
And then you have critics who say, what are they doing? This should be up to Congress.
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the states do have the right to run their own elections.
From my point of view, it's fine to have different outcomes. I think it's important for the Supreme Court not to overreach here in all this talk about uniformity.
There are clearly at least a couple of solid constitutional issues for them to interpret and rule on, such as doesn't apply to a president, is he an officer?
And also perhaps the question of, what is self-executing or not? Does Congress need to legislate first?
But I think they need to be careful to say we're not going to answer the questions for all these states because they can't. These are different kinds of laws and different kinds of cases.
KEILAR: You expect a narrow decision then that doesn't create a giant uproar? What are you predicting?
WU: Either way it's a giant uproar.
KEILAR: Well, that's --
WU: But I'm hoping for a narrow decision.
KEILAR: All right.
Norm, you have the special counsel pushing back on Trump's claim of absolute immunity in a new filing. What do you think about this?
EISEN: The Trump absolute immunity claim is a very tough argument for him to win. And Jack Smith hammers him with all the weaknesses of this claim in this new filing.
There is nothing in the Constitution, not its text, its structure, its history. There's no precedent, no case law for this kind of absolute immunity.
Smith nails him on getting into the Oval Office would be like a get- out-of-jail-free card, to commit any crime you wanted. Jack Smith has the upper hand here.
[17:25:05] What matters is timing. Trump knows he's going to lose. He's playing for delay, trying to push this out as long as possible. Smith is telling the D.C. circuit, hurry up, decide fast.
KEILAR: That's right. Because Smith asked the Supreme Court, hey, can you figure this out ahead of the appeals court? The Supreme Court said pass. Back to the appeals court. Now you have Smith asking them to do this expeditiously, which is rather rare.
Do you think they're going to comply with his request?
WU: I think the D.C. circuit will move quickly on this. I think they'll comply with -- whether even them moving expeditiously is fast enough to get things wrapped up in time, I worry about that.
KEILAR: That's a very good point.
When we take a look at the 2024 legal calendar facing Donald Trump here, let's talk about how this might lay out, Norm. How realistic is it that more than one of these criminal cases actually goes to trial this year?
EISEN: Well, you have the combination of the legal calendar, Brianna, and the political calendar.
A lot of it will depend on what the D.C. circuit judges do with this immunity case. Smith has said, instead of the usual long delay, when you decide -- and I think they will decide within a week or less of the hearing on January 9th.
When you decide, you should give Trump no more than five days in which he's going to need to seek a stay, seek some further relief, or we're back on that trial schedule.
The Supreme Court -- say it makes it to the Supreme Court -- they may or may not take it. They very often refuse to consider, cert denied, refuse to consider Trump's request for relief on democracy-related issues.
If that happens and it's wrapped up, then this trial -- I don't think it can go March 5th, but it can go in March. There's room for one or two others.
The other case that is scheduled, and it is also an election interference allegation, is Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan D.A. He claims Trump interfered in the 2016 election. I expect that to go as well.
KEILAR: We'll be looking for that.
Norm, Shan, thank you so much to both of you and happy New Year.
Coming up next hour in THE SITUATION ROOM, I'll be speaking with Colorado's Secretary of State Jena Griswold.
And up next, Vladimir Putin ushering in the new year with deadly wave of attacks against Ukraine and a vow to grow Russia even stronger in 2024.
And we'll look ahead to an extremely busy political year here in the United States as we count down the days to the Iowa caucuses.
KEILAR: In Ukraine, the first hours of the new year brought more death and destruction as Russian forces launched a fresh wave of attacks across the country. CNN's Jill Dougherty is on this story for us. Jill, tell us about how extensive this Russian assault was.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was really huge Brianna. And you know, New Year's Day is really the biggest holiday both in Russia and in Ukraine, traditionally going back years. It's a family holiday. And so I think psychologically, all have this really vicious cycle of retaliation is even more devastating. So beginning with Ukraine, it was hit across the country, once again, in at least four different cities, Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia. And that wave of attacks by the Russians was apparently in retaliation for an attack that Ukraine carried out on the Russian city of Belgorod, in which they killed some 24 people.
So it is really at this point, I think you'd have to say, and judging by what President Putin said, this is not going to end soon at all. Putin is intent on using everything that they've been saving up all of the missiles, drones, et cetera, for an all out attack that he says is going to continue for a long time.
KEILAR: And you had both Presidents Zelenskyy and Putin giving New Year's speeches, what stood out to you?
DOUGHERTY: Well, I think Zelenskyy was really trying to say, look, we've -- there was a phrase, he said, we've defeated the darkness. And what he's arguing is, yes, times are difficult. This is a really, really difficult war. But we've come through to this point. We've done as well as we could stick together. This is one big family. Specifically, he did talk about the training that Ukrainian pilots are getting on the F-16s. That won't take effect for a while though.
He talked about the steps for joining the European Union. And interestingly, he did not talk about the big issue of getting that $60 billion that the U.S. Congress still has not appropriated. And then President Putin I would say, very militaristic, we are united. We will never back down. It was really kind of, I'd say a full steam ahead, trying to get his people united for what he feels, I think will be a long battle too.
And don't forget, you know, in March, Brianna, there's an election in Russia. And so he will be up for reelection. There's no question that he will win it. But he wants to give the impression to his people that he is a strong leader. And that's why he had this really tough guy type of speech.
KEILAR: Yes, we certainly saw that. Jill, thank you for that. We appreciate it.
Let's dig deeper now with a key Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Chris Van Hollen who was with us. Thank you for being with us on this holiday, sir. And I just wonder as you, you know, you saw these speeches. You see what Putin is doing. How much is Putin emboldened as U.S. funding for Ukraine is running out? Do you have any hope that the Senate might reach a funding agreement soon?
SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, Brianna, it's good to be with you. Happy New Year. And Putin's speech and this escalation that we've witnessed, just in the last few days, underscores the importance of the United States Congress acting quickly. President Zelenskyy, I came before the Senate, met with members of Congress just a few weeks ago, essentially stressing the importance of air defense, for example. And now we're seeing exactly why that's so important, but also other assistance and weaponry to make sure that the people of Ukraine who are giving up their blood and lives can continue to fight for their freedom and their sovereignty.
So it's really grossly negligent and outrageous that the United States Congress has not yet met President Biden's request for assistance to Ukraine and what's happening now just underscores why it's an urgent matter.
KEILAR: If we can turn to Israel now, the Supreme Court there just struck down a key law that would have weakened Israel's judiciary. Prime Minister Netanyahu refused to tell Wolf Blitzer back in July, if he would respect this kind of ruling. Do you have concerns that he will not?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, I do have concerns, of course, we'll have to wait and see what he actually says. But what you have in Israel is this very extreme right, extreme right coalition that Netanyahu put together with people like Smotrich and Ben-Gvir who have histories of very right wing extremism, trying to undermine the independence of the Israeli Supreme Court to eliminate all the checks and balances that might stand in the way of this extreme Netanyahu coalition, essentially imposing its way on the country.
We saw the people of Israel take to the streets. And now we have this opinion. Let's see what happens here. But I was pleased to see the Israeli court assert its independence and to help protect that independence and the rule of law.
KEILAR: Narrowly eight to seven, when you look at those 15 justices.
VAN HOLLEN: Very narrow.
KEILAR: Israel is about to draw down some of its troops from Gaza. It says the fighting will continue well into 2024, though. Do you expect to see fewer civilian casualties here in the near term? VAN HOLLEN: Well, we have seen unacceptably high civilian casualties throughout this war. We're now over 20,000 Gazans dead, two thirds of them women and children. And as I listened to what the Prime Minister Netanyahu said that they're redeploying some of their troops out of Northern Gaza, where they are sort of finishing up some of their operations, but the intensity of attacks in southern Gaza in places like Khan Yunis in the south, remained very high.
And the Biden administration has continued to press Netanyahu to reduce civilian casualties to allow more humanitarian assistance into Gaza. We're getting reports of half the population nearing starvation levels. And so my view is the Biden administration needs to do even more to use U.S. leverage to accomplish the objectives that President Biden has set out.
KEILAR: Conditions on weapons?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, my view is that we need to require that all recipients of U.S. military assistance, whether it be Ukraine, Israel or others, apply the international rules of war, international law abide by U.S. law, and that they fully cooperate with U.S. efforts to provide humanitarian assistance in theaters of conflict where U.S. weapons are being used. So together with my colleagues, other senators, we've proposed an amendment to the supplemental bill, and we're hoping that we can get that included in any package going forward.
Again, Brianna, it would apply to all recipients of U.S. military assistance. We think there should be accountability when it comes to the use of taxpayer dollars.
KEILAR: All right, we'll be looking for that. Senator Van Hollen, thank you for being with us.
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.
KEILAR: Just ahead, two weeks away until the Iowa caucuses, a look at the first major test of this year's election and what's at stake in the 2024 presidential race, next.
KEILAR: Today officially starts off the first month of the 2024 presidential primary season and the first event is only two weeks away, the Iowa caucuses. Let's bring in our panel to discuss this. Ron Brownstein to you first, it is such a strange primary season, as we see just a very clear cut leader here. How likely do you see something unexpected coming out of these early states?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, you know, it has been bizarre, not only because we've had such a clear leader, we've had that before. But the situation we're in where the candidates running against Donald Trump really have never seen to be fully engaged in trying to beat him. I mean, they've all gone only so far and no further either out of fear of alienating his supporters or a desire to kind of maintain their viability after him.
Look, I think the -- what will likely happen in Iowa and New Hampshire is that when we get to the end of that after January 23rd, one, there will be a general perception that there is one truly viable alternative to Trump. I think it is more likely to be Nikki Haley than Ron DeSantis. I think she's going to do better in New Hampshire than he does in Iowa. But at best even if they can get down on one on one race, all -- what that's going to do is set up an opportunity for them to show in South Carolina that they can make this genuinely competitive because right now Donald Trump is on a track to end this in all likelihood, in South Carolina itself at the end of February.
KEILAR: Scott, what are you watching going into this?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Margin of victory for Donald Trump, if he wins the Iowa caucus, does he win by an amount that would cause somebody to drop out of the race, a Ron DeSantis, who's really all in on Iowa, that's where he's making his stand. However, if Donald Trump were to, as you suggested in the open, have a surprise and win by a smaller margin, does that keep the ball bouncing for Ron DeSantis. But you can see a situation here where he crushes an Iowa, then he moves on to New Hampshire, wins New Hampshire and really makes the case of the Republican Party.
Look, guys, this is over the de facto incumbent in this race, you know, you're nominating me, we need to go ahead and unify behind my campaign, Ron suggested they may try to go have the last stand in South Carolina, I would just point out Trump is crushing in South Carolina right now in order to drag him down, it would take somebody a showing that, you know, God can bleed one of these first two states. And so what I'm looking at here is margin of victory.
KEILAR: Yes, that may be, Maria, what Democrats are watching for as everyone. But how are Democrats viewing these critical weeks?
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that Democrats are viewing this. Probably in the same way. I believe that historically, no one that has gone into these contests with as much of a margin that Donald Trump has now has lost. Right now, if anything, though, has taught us in politics in the last several years is that we should expect the unexpected, so who knows.
But if Donald Trump wins in Iowa by a healthy margin, if he wins in New Hampshire by a healthy margin, I think the question is going to be, does Nikki Haley drop out before being incredibly embarrassed in her home state of South Carolina? Because Scott just said it, right now, Trump is crushing in South Carolina. And I still think that Nikki Haley's flub on the Civil War is going to be deeply hurtful for her in the Live Free or Die state because of the history there that I don't think she may be thought of when she flubbed that answer.
I mean, let's remember that in New Hampshire during the time of the Civil War, a 10th of New Hampshire men were fighting in the Union Army, and a lot of them died for the exact cause of the civil war that Nikki Haley pretended not to know anything about. So I think that's going to hurt her more than people think. And so again, the question for her is going to be that she dropped out. If she does, it's done. Donald Trump has it in hand.
KEILAR: Scott, what do you say to that?
JENNINGS: Well, I think among Republican voters, it's unlikely to hurt her. I think these sorts of media outrageous, you know, Republicans slough it off where the real rubber hits the road on it, are probably the independents, the ones in New Hampshire that can go into a Republican primary if they so choose. Those people, she needs them. She's been asking for them to come in. If they have concerns because of the episode that Maria reference, that could be a situation.
They're also in Iowa, don't forget, you can actually go in and caucus, whichever party you want and what the Democrats not doing a caucus in Iowa. Was she hoping to possibly get a few non-Republicans to caucus for her in Iowa and pop up a little bit? Maybe that gave them some pause. I don't know how you'd measure it at this point exactly. But to Maria's point, if I'm a New Hampshire independent voter, it's probably not what I wanted to see the Republican who I'm hoping moves the party beyond Donald Trump mess up on in my home state.
KEILAR: Yes. Ron, we have seen New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who's endorsed Nikki Haley saying, Chris Christie needs to get out of this. It's a two person race between Trump and Nikki Haley, what do you think?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, so Chris Sununu says Chris Christie has to get out because anyone drawing votes from Nikki Haley makes it more likely for Donald Trump to win. Chris Christie says, I will get out because I don't trust Nikki Haley to truly make a case against Donald Trump, if I leave the field. And the reality is they're probably both right. I mean, the reason the remarks about the Civil War are potentially a problem for Haley for exactly the reason that Scott and Maria said. It's not so much driving away Republicans is preventing independence from crossing over is because it does feed a, you know, the biggest wrap on her as a candidate, that she tries to be all things to all people that she won't take a clear stand on key issues in the party, including whether she believes Trump is fit to be president.
So Sununu is right, in one sense that if Christie got out waters are probably going to go to Haley overwhelmingly, but Christie is certainly right that if he got out, there might not be anybody making a strong case against Donald Trump, as he's been doing.
KEILAR: Ron, Scott and Maria, thank so much to all of you and a Happy New Year. Thanks for being with me.
CARDONA: Happy New Year. Thanks very much.
BROWNSTEIN: Happy New Year.
JENNINGS: Happy New Year, friends. KEILAR: Happy New Year, friends.
Coming up, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka returning after a year-long hiatus from the sport is the former world number one ready to reclaim her ranking.
KEILAR: Former world number one, Naomi Osaka, was victorious today in her highly anticipated return to professional tennis. CNN's Carolyn Manno has the latest.
CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS: Brianna, when you're a four time major winner and a global superstar, the pressure to perform is always going to be there. So it's so great to see Naomi Osaka get this win and her return to tennis after spending more than a year away to prioritize her mental health and then also becoming a mom over the summer. But the former world number one did admit that she was super nervous in her straight sets win over Germany's Tamara Korpatsch in the first round of the Brisbane International to kick off the new year in style. Osaka currently unranked after not playing competitively for the last 15 months. She pulled out of last year's Australian Open before later revealing to all of us that she was pregnant. And she said she's really excited to be back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAOMI OSAKA, 4-TIME GRAND SLAM CHAMPION: The last couple years that I played before, you know, I had my daughter, I didn't return as much love as I was given. So I really feel like that's what I want to do in this chapter. I just really appreciate people coming out and people knowing me and cheering for me because I feel like there was a time that I was just a little kid trying to watch my role models play so it feels really surreal sometimes to be playing on these courts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANNO: Brianna, next up for Naomi Osaka is the meeting with another former world number one Karolina Pliskova. That will be in the second rounds. We will see what happens from here.
KEILAR: Yes, we will. Carolyn Manno, thank you for that.
Coming up, Donald Trump prepares to appeal decisions barring him from the ballot in Colorado and Maine. I'll get reaction from Colorado's Secretary of State.