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U.S. Identifies Soldiers Killed In Jordan As Biden Vows Response; Source Says, Broad Framework For Hostage Deal, Gaza Ceasefire Reached; Senators Reach Border Deal As A GOP Negotiator Censured By His Party; Israeli Intel Report Shared With CNN Summarizes U.N. Workers' Alleged Involvement In October 7 Attack; Voting Tech Firm: One America News Network Executives "May Have Engaged In Criminal Activities". Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 29, 2024 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, the Pentagon identifies the three American soldiers killed at a U.S. base in Jordan, saying Iran has its fingerprints on the attack. President Biden is vowing to respond as new information emerges about why the enemy drone was not shot down. I'll get reaction from a former head of the U.S. military's Central Command.

Also breaking, a new agreement on a broad framework for a potential release of hostages and a ceasefire in Gaza. We're told the proposal is being presented to Hamas amid a warning that nailing down the details may be difficult.

And a new bipartisan deal on border security is moving forward right now in the U.S. Senate, even as Donald Trump and House Republicans are working actively to try to kill it. GOP division's on display as one Republican senator is being censured by his own party for taking part in the talks.

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

Tonight, we now know the names and the faces of the first U.S. service members killed since the war in Gaza sparked a wave of attacks on American forces. Our correspondents are covering all the breaking news on the deadly drone strike against U.S. troops in Jordan and the Biden administration's response.

First, let's go to CNN's National Security Reporter Natasha Bertrand. She's over at the Pentagon for us. Natasha, tell us first of all about the victims of the attack.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. So, we are learning the names of the three U.S. Army soldiers who were killed in this drone attack. And they are Sergeant William Rivers, 46, of Willingboro, New Jersey, Specialist Kennedy Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Georgia, and Specialist Brianna Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Georgia. Both Sanders and Moffitt enlisted in 2019 in the Army Reserves and Sergeant Rivers enlisted in 2011. Now, we are learning a little bit more as well about the service members who were injured in this drone attack. There were more than 40 service members who were injured and eight of them had to be medically evacuated from Jordan to Baghdad. And three of those had to be further medically evacuated from Baghdad to Landstuhl Medical Facility in Germany where they are continuing to be treated for their wounds.

The other five service members who were evacuated from Jordan, they were diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries and they are expected to return to duty very soon.

But, look, this attack was very large. Previous attacks of this kind, of this scale and of this nature have previously only injured a few service members. Never before have we seen this scale where more than 40 U.S. personnel have been injured. And, of course, the three U.S. service members who died, this is the first time we have seen that since October, Wolf.

BLITZER: Natasha, what more are you learning about the actual strike?

BERTRAND: Well, we're learning the possible reason for why this drone managed to hit the living quarters of this U.S. military facility, which is in Northeast Jordan, right on the border with Syria. And that is because, according to defense officials, there were two drones that were approaching at roughly the same time.

One American drone, which was returning to the base, returning from a mission to the base, and then roughly a few minutes or shortly thereafter, this enemy drone kind of snuck in. And it was flying at a low altitude, and therefore it may have evaded the base's air defenses for that reason.

And so officials now are going to be examining just how this happened. Was there confusion that led to a delay in the U.S. being able to respond simply because there were two drones, and it was unclear who they belonged to, and also is the military base going to have to bolster its security, because there are still 350 U.S. Air Force and Army personnel stationed there?

In addition to this, we are learning a little bit more about who may have been behind this attack, the U.S. saying that they do believe that it was Iran-backed militants responsible for this, and that Iran ultimately bears responsibility. Here's what the deputy Pentagon press secretary said about this.


SABRINA SINGH, DEPUTY PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We know these groups are supported by Iran, and therefore they do have their fingerprints on this, but I can't tell you more in terms of who directed the attack.


BERTRAND: Now, the administration is being careful not to say explicitly which group is responsible for this. They want to retain some element of surprise if and when they do respond to this, but we do expect to see some kind of response fairly soon, Wolf.

BLITZER: Natasha Bertrand at the Pentagon for us, thanks for that report.

I want to go to the White House right now. Our Senior White House Correspondent M.J. Lee is standing by. M.J., how is President Biden, first of all, responding to this deadly drone strike?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, the U.S. has been responding to these attacks from these Iran- backed proxy groups for months now.


But this weekend, obviously, marked a real turning point for this president and for this White House after three U.S. service members were killed. The president now has the job of figuring out and deliberating over exactly how to respond to this attack. We know that he met with his national security team yesterday as well as today.

And there are two things here, Wolf, that he is trying to balance here. And that is, for one, the desire to contain the situation and the volatility in the Middle East. This is something that the White House from day one has said is important to the U.S. to not have the Israel-Hamas War turn into a broader regional conflict. And the second is to respond with serious force to this attack that ended up taking the lives of three U.S. service members. And the White House today making clear that it is not ruling out or confirming the possibility of striking inside Iran, which would be hugely escalatory. Take a listen.


JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: We're weighing the options before them. We will respond. We'll do that on our schedule, in our time.

LEE: Is the president currently actively considering potential attacks inside Iran?

KIRBY: We are not looking for a war with Iran. We're not looking to escalate here. This attack over the weekend was escalatory, make no mistake about it. And it requires a response, make no mistake about that.


LEE: And there continues to be intelligence gathering over what exactly happened, including whether Iran directed specifically this attack on Sunday or whether a proxy group was largely responsible and directed itself and exactly which group was responsible.

But, Wolf, I can tell you all of this is further complicated for the president because of the ongoing hostage negotiations, which, of course, remains a top priority for this White House and the administration, as six Americans remain unaccounted for in Gaza. Wolf? BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point, indeed. M.J. Lee at the White House for us, thank you.

Another breaking story we're following right now, a new framework for a deal on releasing hostages held by Hamas.

CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt is over at the State Department for us. Give us the latest, Alex.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it does appear the progress was made at talks over the weekend in Paris that were attended by the CIA director as well as his Egyptian and Israeli counterparts and the Qatari prime minister.

We are being cautioned that there is still a lot of work to be done that details needs to be finalized before this agreement gets across the finish line. But at the same time, I'm told by a source who is familiar with the discussions that the broad framework that has been described as the Qatari prime minister as a blend essentially of different initiatives being put forward has been agreed to by those parties who attended the talks in Paris.

And this is essentially what it would look like. There would be a first phase of Israeli hostages released in Gaza that would be accompanied by around a six-week pause in the fighting. Now, that pause could be extended if more of the hostages, the IDF soldiers, men and women as well as the bodies of hostages who have been killed are released.

Palestinian prisoners would also be expected to be released, three prisoners for every one civilian hostage, that ratio could go up with the IDF soldiers.

Now, I asked Secretary Blinken earlier today about what has been discussed, where he thinks they are in the negotiations. He said this is a strong and compelling proposal and that there is some real hope going forward. Take a listen.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: I can just tell you that there is, again, strong, I would say, alignment among the countries involved, that this is a good and strong proposal. The work that was done over the weekend, including by CIA Director Bill Burns, was important in helping to advance this.


MARQUARDT: Now, Wolf, one party that was not at the table in Paris is Hamas. I'm told that, essentially, the ball is in their court. This framework, this proposal, was delivered to them earlier today by Egyptian intelligence. So their response is being awaited now. The source who told me that this framework has been broadly agreed to said, I sense optimism. Wolf?

BLITZER: Let's hope there's a deal that those hostages are freed. Alex Marquardt at the State Department, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado, he's a key member of both the House Foreign Affairs and the Intelligence Committees, and a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congressman, thanks for your service. Thanks so much for joining us.

Let me get your expertise on the deadly drone attack that we're all following right now. The White House opposes a wider war in the region, as you know, but it's also not necessarily completely ruling out striking various targets inside Iran. How should President Biden respond, knowing the risk of escalation?


REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Well, Wolf, first off, I'm grieving with the families of those who lost their loved ones. It's just a constant reminder that we have thousands of men and women, some of our best men and women in this country, who are overseas, who are in harm's way all the time. And it's a loss, a devastating loss whenever this happens.

But as the president said, we have to decide what to do in response. There's no doubt we are going to respond here, but two principles. Number one, we always respond in a time and manner of our choosing. We don't let other people force us into situations we don't want to be in. We decide. We control how we respond and how we're going to prevent this from happening again.

Number two, we have to make sure this doesn't escalate. As your prior guests pointed out, this is a very delicate situation. We have peace negotiations going on with Israel and Hamas right now for exchange of hostages and temporary pauses. We have to make sure we're preventing a wider conflict between Lebanon and Israel. We have the Houthi conflict and we have Iranian-backed proxies all throughout the region who continue to attack U.S. troops. So, making sure that we're responding, but not making the situation worse, is very critical right now.

BLITZER: I know you're well-briefed, Congressman, on these developments. Do you blame Iran directly for these drone attacks? And if so, should the U.S. strike inside Iran?

CROW: Well, that's something that the president and his closest advisers are looking at right now, and we're debating it in Congress. That's a very challenging situation. It's a very challenging decision to make. Certainly, it is on the table. We never take any option off the table. But the danger of that is escalating this and having this snowball out of control into a broader regional conflict, which we certainly don't want.

This doesn't serve our interests. It doesn't serve the interests of our allies and our partners. So, how do we respond? But how do we also contain this is the real question. And I know, for a fact, that right now the president and his advisers are looking at all of the available options.

BLITZER: Yes. As you say, no options are off the table, at least right now. I know you served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. You understand this ongoing danger to U.S. positions in the Middle East as well. What measures do you want to see to protect U.S. troops across the region from more of these kinds of attacks?

CROW: Well, Wolf, one thing that I know well is that it's really easy for politicians in Washington to pound their chest, to send out tweets, to talk tough, to say we should do this, we should do that, but you know what, there are men and women downrange around the world that actually have to do those things, that actually have to go into harm's way and carry out those policies.

So, let's put aside the tough talk for a minute here and actually look at what can we do to defend our service members, to defend U.S. interests, to make sure we're fighting back and pushing back against Iranian proxies and Iranian regional aggression, but not creating a much larger problem on our hands right now.

So, you know, talking tough is very easy, I found, but actually figuring out good policy is much harder. So, let's have that debate publicly about what's in our own interest as a country.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

And just ahead, as Senate negotiators put the final touches on a bipartisan, repeat bipartisan border deal, Donald Trump is turning up the heat on Republicans to reject the bill.

Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: A key Senate negotiator says lawmakers have finally reached a bipartisan border deal and that the text of the bill should be released in the coming days. This as Donald Trump turns up the pressure on Republicans to reject the agreement.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is up on Capitol Hill for us. She's got the latest. Melanie, what do we know about what is in this border deal?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Wolf, the bill text still has not been released yet, but we have learned about a few key details that have been agreed upon. One of those provisions would lead to an automatic shutdown of the southern border if average daily migrant crossings reach over 5,000 during a one-week span. Another provision would reform and speed up the process for those seeking asylum at the southern border, speed it up to a six-month process, and another provision would expedite work permits.

So, some pretty significant concessions there from Democrats. In fact, this would be the most conservative immigration deal that is being discussed on Capitol Hill in decades. And President Biden has indicated that he would sign that package into law if it reaches his desk.

But despite all of that, this deal is facing major headwinds inside the GOP, and that has really frustrated Republican negotiators like James Lankford. Let's listen to what he had to say about that.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Republicans four months ago would not give funding for Ukraine, for Israel, and for our southern border because we demanded changes in policy. So, we actually locked arms together and said, we're not going to give you money for this. We want to change in law. And now it's interesting, a few months later, when we're finally going to the end, they're like, oh, just kidding. I actually don't want to change in law because it's a presidential election year.


ZANONA: And, of course, a big reason for that change in tune among Republicans is Donald Trump. He has been publicly and privately urging Republicans to reject any deal because he wants to run on this issue, does not want to hand Democrats a victory. And now what we're seeing is many Republicans here on Capitol Hill eager to follow in his marching orders and are signaling that they're prepared to reject this deal when it comes over. Wolf?

BLITZER: Let's see what happens. Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Let's discuss this and more with our Political Commentators Maria Cardona and Scott Jennings. Scott, Republican Senator Lankford of Oklahoma was just censured by his state Republican Party for simply trying to reach this compromise. What does that say about the GOP?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, what it says about that particular state Republican Party is that it's manned by a bunch of unserious people because Senator Lankford is earnestly trying to solve the problem that the Republicans have successfully convinced the American people exists, which is that we have a humanitarian and national security crisis going on at the southern border. So, this man is in the Senate and he's trying to fix that and he should not be censured for it.


As for the rest of the Republican Party, they need to think hard about whether they want to look like an unserious group here. The American people are with Republicans on this. They believe Biden has failed. They believe this is one of the most serious problems facing the country. And if we want to look like a party that can be trusted with governing the country as president or as control of Congress next year, we better look like it today because if we walk away from the problem that we've said is serious today, how can we be trusted to solve it a year from now?

BLITZER: Good point. Maria, Trump, as you know, is again weighing in on this bipartisan bill on his Truth Social site, writing, and I'm quoting him now, a border bill is not necessary to stop the millions of people. They are using this horrific Senate bill as a way of being able to put the border disaster onto the shoulders of the Republicans. Maria, does Trump sense this could backfire on the GOP?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think he does and I think he is laying bare the fact that he wants to run on this issue going into the election because I think he's afraid that if he doesn't have this, he's going to be weaker than he normally would be.

And the fact of the matter is, Wolf, that if Republicans pay attention to Donald Trump and scuttle this deal on their own, they are going to prove to the American people that they are not just unserious about the border, but that they are unserious, unwilling, and unable to lead, to govern, or to find some real solutions to the country's biggest problems, which one of them absolutely is immigration.

And so I think going into the election cycle, it's not only going to be able to give Democrats a message about how they are the ones that are actually trying to find solutions to compromise, to negotiate, to solve this problem on the presidential level, but for House and Senate seats, we will be able to make the argument that Republicans do not deserve to lead, they are in complete disarray, they are in complete debacle, and that absolutely does nothing for the American people and they deserve better.

BLITZER: Scott, I want you to listen to Trump talking about this bill at a campaign stop over the weekend. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Please blame it on me, please, because they were getting ready to pass a very bad bill. And I'll tell you what, a bad bill is -- I'd rather have no bill than a bad bill.


BLITZER: So, Scott, do you think Trump and other Republicans successfully campaign on the border crisis if they actually go ahead and block this bipartisan compromise that has now been worked out?

JENNINGS: Well, they would have no choice but to follow Donald Trump's lead on this and say that the bill was bad, although -- and we haven't seen the text of the bill, and neither is he. So, he's already, you know, pronouncing it bad before he's had a chance to read it.

But that would only leave them one strategic retreat, which is to say this bill would have made it worse. I'm not sure you're going to be able to argue that when you consider that it does call for automatic shutdowns of the border, apparently, that it does go for some parole and asylum changes that even Donald Trump himself asked for when he was president.

So, that would leave them in the position of saying that this bill is worse than what we have today. But the Republicans have argued that what's happening today is as bad as it gets. And in the month of December, they were right. We had more illegal crossings in December than we've ever had.

So, I just think if you tell people it's an invasion and that it's a crisis, and then you also tell them, we can wait for a year to solve it, it is fundamentally an unserious argument that you've just made.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point.

Maria, Nikki Haley says Trump is simply wrong to stand in the way of this legislation. Watch and listen to this.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump, the last thing he needs to do is tell them to wait to pass a border deal until the election. We can't wait one more day. But they do need to get this right.


BLITZER: What's your reaction?

CARDONA: She's right. And, you know, it's interesting when you put Democrats in a position of saying that so many Republicans talking about this are right. Nikki Haley is right. Mitt Romney is right. Lankford is right.

All of the Republicans who were trying to negotiate on this, I think, are ones who, from the Republican standpoint of what they want on immigration, know that this is a good thing.

And, look, a lot of Democrats and the Democratic base are not happy with this deal because we believe many Democrats believe that too much was given away, too much compromise, too much negotiation. But even with that, Republicans cannot get to yes.

And so right now, we're in a position where the Democratic Party is the one that is seen as serious trying to solve the problem, that is a great message for us going into the 2024 election.

BLITZER: Yes. They say you cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Maria Cardona, Scott Jennings to both of you, thank you very much.

CARDONA: Thanks, Wolf.

Coming up, we'll get back to the breaking news we're following on the deadly drone attack on an American military base in Jordan. The former chief of the U.S. military Central Command, General Frank McKenzie, he's standing by live.


We'll discuss right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're back with more on the breaking news we're following, the Pentagon today identifying three American service members killed during a drone attack on a U.S. base in Jordan. More than 40 other service members were injured.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warns the danger in the Middle East right now is higher than it's been in decades and he's vowing to respond.


BLINKEN: We will respond decisively to any aggression. And we will hold responsible the people who attacked our troops.


We will do so at a time and a place of our choosing.


BLITZER: Joining me now, the former commander of the U.S. Military Central Command, retired General Frank McKenzie. General, thank you so much for joining uf.

As you know, the U.S. says Iran-backed militias are behind this deadly attack. To what extent do you believe Iran itself was directly involved?

GEN. FRANK F. MCKENZIE JR. (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Wolf, it's hard to know, but we know that Iran trains, equips and funds these militias. It's likely they provided some form of intelligence and targeting information. Whether they knew about the exact sequence of this attack is not from -- I don't know the answer to that, but they are certainly morally responsible for this attack.

BLITZER: You were head of the Middle East operations, the U.S. military's Central Command, as it's called, under both Presidents Biden and Trump. How would you advise this administration to respond now to this attack without sparking a much broader war?

MCKENZIE: Well, I think we begin by realizing, Wolf, that if we want to prevent escalation, we need to leave the theater. If our primary goal is to not have something escalate, we need to get out. That's obviously not our primary goal. So, we need to get comfortable with the fact that there can be escalation associated with this.

The next thing I would say, as Secretary Blinken's words are very strong, very forceful, very on point. We need to match them with action. And we have not done so over the course of the 150 attacks or so that have preceded this lethal attack and the loss of these three brave Americans.

BLITZER: CNN is learning now that this enemy drone actually followed an American drone onto this base in Jordan, causing lots of confusion and a delay in responding. How did that lapse happen? How does the U.S. prevent the next attack? MCKENZIE: So, we have a very good lessons learned process. I'm sure we're they're busily investigating how that happened out there. But, you know, Wolf, the fact of the matter is this, the battlefield is a difficult, dangerous place. People make mistakes. Anomalies occur. We will learn from it and we'll get better. And I would suspect we'll take immediate action to make sure it doesn't recur in this manner again.

BLITZER: Yes, the anti-aircraft, anti-drone systems got to work better the next time.

The U.S. has been striking targets in Iraq and Yemen, as you well know, General, to deter Iran-backed groups, but to no avail at least so far. Is it even possible for the U.S. to neutralize all these threats?

MCKENZIE: It's not possible for us to neutralize all these threats, Wolf, but it is possible, I think, for us to go to the source of these threats, and that would be Iran, who actually, ultimately, at least philosophically, directs what they do. And I think we should consider ways that we might put increased pressure on Iran, the very source of all these problems, rather than engage in endless tactical-level tit- for-tat operations across the region.

BLITZER: Retired General Frank McKenzie, thanks so much for your service and thanks for joining us. I appreciate it very, very much.

And just ahead, what E. Jean Carroll is saying about Donald Trump with the former president now on the hook to pay her $83 million. We're getting new insight into the trial, the verdict and the financial blow to Trump.



BLITZER: The writer, E. Jean Carroll, is speaking out just days after a jury ruled Donald Trump must pay her more than $83 million in damages for defaming her. Carroll arguing Trump saw the defamation trial and her underlying allegation of sexual assault as ammunition for his presidential campaign. Listen.


E. JEAN CARROLL, PLAINTIFF, TRUMP DEFAMATION SUIT: The courtroom was not a courtroom to him. It was a campaign stop. That was clear. So, we had two different objectives. Ours was to win a case. His was to win voters.

A man found liable for sexual assault is using the woman he sexually assaulted to get votes.


BLITZER: Let's discuss with CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman. She's also senior political correspondent for The New York Times. Maggie, thanks for joining us.

It was a very revealing interview on CNN This Morning from E. Jean Carroll, who, as you heard, is accusing Trump of seeing this case as just another campaign venue for him. Do you think that's right?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's right in part, Wolf. Look, I do think that he has used -- looked at all of these court stops as campaign stops or at least part of his campaign because he has seen some political benefit to lumping them all together. This was a civil case. The New York attorney general's case is also a civil case. Then there's the four criminal cases, but for a lot of his voters, they're indistinguishable one from the other.

I do think in part it was a rallying cry for his base, but I also do think that this involved a financial judgment and I think that he thought he was going to show up and try to, you know, sell the jury, essentially. It obviously did not work.

BLITZER: As you know, the jury awarded Carroll more than $83 million. And it's only one of several legal battles that Trump is facing. The Trump Organization, for example, could soon be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars. What kind of impact is this judgment and the potential for more having on Trump?

HABERMAN: Look, Trump never likes parting with money. And so there is no way that he is especially happy at the moment, either about the E. Jean Carroll verdict or the judgment or the fact that he is going to have to pay some penalty that will be decided and announced in the coming days in the New York attorney general's civil fraud trial.

What exactly it means for his company and his personal finances, we don't know. But it doesn't mean anything good. There is -- you know, this is a lot of liquid. There's always been a lot of question about how much cash on hand Trump actually has hanging both of these.


And he may not have to pay both right away. It's not exactly clear how the New York attorney general penalty will work. We do know with Carroll he will have to put something up while he's appealing but this is going to be costly.

BLITZER: It certainly will be.

Nikki Haley says she, quote, absolutely trusts the jury's verdict. We see her in recent days stepping up her attacks on Trump. What does this reveal to you about her strategy in her rather uphill battle right now in this race?

HABERMAN: Look, she does have an uphill battle, but she also has a lot of people who are encouraging her as the one person standing between Trump and the Republican Party nomination right now, and she is representing something of a vestige of the old GOP.

I was very surprised that she said that, frankly, because she's going somewhere that Republicans generally have avoided since the Access Hollywood tape from 2016, which is talking about allegations of sexual assault about Donald Trump or his own statements in the case of the Access Hollywood tape.

And so, you know, I don't know how frequently she's going to do it. I don't know if this is going to be, you know, an every other day occurrence. I don't know how often it will come up. It was said during an interview, which is not quite the same as doing it from the trail, and it's not the same as being on a television ad, but it does mean that she is digging in for some kind of battle against him. And it is the kind of thing, even if she were eventually to support him, that he will not forget.

BLITZER: Yes, that's important. Donald Trump is telling voters right now to blame him. If the border bill fails, this bipartisan compromise version, is there any concern among Trump and his team, and you do a lot of reporting on this, that voters will do just that if this bipartisan bill fails, just so the border can be used as a campaign issue by Trump?

HABERMAN: Look, they've been planning on using the border for quite some time. It's obviously worked very well in the primary. We certainly saw that in New Hampshire. Immigration is a big issue in New Hampshire Republican politics, and has been for a long time. But to your point the general election is different.

And not handing Joe Biden a political win or trying to prevent Joe Biden from having what would be a win and a win policy as well for the White House is very different than saying it's my fault.

And so Trump has a bit of a habit of reading the stage directions out loud, and that was one of them. And, again, being the person blamed if he was only being voted on by Republicans, that might be fine but that's not it.

BLITZER: Yes, and that's important.

Maggie, I want to get your reaction to something Trump posted earlier today. Let me put it up on the screen. This is the Trump stock market because my polls against Biden are so good that investors are projecting that I will win, and that will drive the market up. But earlier this month, as you know, Trump said he hoped and predicted the economy would crash. So, what's going on here?

HABERMAN: Well, what's going on is a couple of things, but one is that consistency is not exactly ever been one of his calling cards. The other is that the stock market literally was something he treated as if it was a pull of his own performance when he was in office.

If the economy is doing better, if metrics that people use to judge their lives and how things are going are better, that is widely seen as benefiting President Biden. And so it's not surprising that Trump is going to try to claim credit for it.

I don't know how much is getting through to people, through that website, through Truth Social, but I do expect you'll hear him say things like this on the campaign trail.

BLITZER: Yes, the economic numbers in recent days and weeks have really been excellent. Maggie Haberman, thank you very much for joining us.

Coming up, what an Israeli intelligence document shared with CNN reveals about allegations U.N. relief workers actually helped carry out the October 7th Hamas attack.



BLITZER: More developments out of Middle East tonight. An Israeli intelligence report shared with CNN detailing the alleged involvement of United Nations employees in the October 7th terrorist Hamas attack.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins us from Tel Aviv right now. He's got details.

Nic, update our viewers.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, Wolf, the outfall from these allegations that Israel has put forward has been moving on pace over the weekend. The U.N. has begun its own investigation today, its own internal investigation, but these new details we're learning from a document that shed light on the claims they're making.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): More than 110 days into the ugly war Hamas' brutal attacks triggered, Israeli allegations that 13 U.N. staff took part are themselves threatening to bring more suffering.

According to a document shared with CNN, six UNRWA employees infiltrated Israel as part of the attack. Four were involved in kidnapping Israelis and three additional UNRWA employees were, quote, invited via an SMS text message to arrive at an assembly area in the night before the attack and were directed to equip with weapons -- although it's not known if they showed up.

Israeli officials brief U.S. counterparts Friday, who quickly paused UNRWA's funding. A dozen other countries have followed, raising concerns the agency's absence could escalate suffering in Gaza.

JAN EGELAND, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: The impact will be devastating of cutting aid to the organization that is the backbone of services to Palestinian civilians. There was no other organization including my own, we're all there in Gaza that could take over what UNRWA is doing.

ROBERTSON: UNRWA is the only organization bringing aid into Gaza. Most of Gaza's 2 million residents depend on them.

[18:50:01] They provide food, water and shelter, desperation already so bad, aid trucks often looted before they reach warehouses. A cut in funding here is feared on a par with Israel's bombs.

This will mean more starvation, poverty and deprivation, this university professor tells us, which ultimately means more deaths.

This decision means killing us, killing the human being, she says. This is a death sentence. This is the only thing we live on and you want to cut it?

UNRWA has fired nine staff over the allegations and is investigating two others. One person is dead.

The U.N. promising a comprehensive and transparent investigation.

Israel's foreign minister is calling for UNRWA's director, Philippe Lazzarini, to step down and canceled a meeting with him Monday.

As other government lawmakers press for scrapping UNRWA altogether, a long-held aim for some.

DANNY DANON, LIKUD KNESSET MEMBER: For many years, we have said that UNRWA is involved with terrorism. They collaborated with Hamas for generations. The U.N. is in charge of the UNHCR, which take care of order refugees worldwide. Why do you need a special agency for the Palestinian refugees?

ROBERTSON: Egeland points to the ICJ ruling, Israel must enable humanitarian aid for Gaza.

EGELAND: There would be epidemic disease because of this, unless it is reverse. The stakes are enormous here, and I'm very disappointed with these donors who spent zero time in suspending aid to an entire organization for the sins of a few staff.


ROBERTSON: Now the European Union has said that it will continue its funding. It has no plans to change that. It will talk about it until we have a debate, but no plans to change it before the end of February.

The Arab League, all those nations are saying they'll continue with their funding and support for UNRWA. But you just have to listen to the weather right now. I mean, these storms in Tel Aviv down the cost in Gaza, it's the same there.

So many people in these tented shelters. Twenty different NGO organizations have come together to sign a letter and say, look, absolutely we must keep the funding going because they're concerned about the disease, about the food situation. All of these things getting worse and you can imagine when the temperatures are cold, people are overnight in this rain, they don't dry out during the day. That risk of disease goes up and this is what these aid organizations are so worried about right now, Wolf. BLITZER: Nic Robertson, reporting from Tel Aviv, thank you.

Coming up, a voting technology company makes explosive allegations against a pro Trump television network as it was promoting lies about the 2020 presidential election.



BLITZER: Voting technology company Smartmatic says executives at a conservative television network, quote, may have engaged in criminal activities.

Brian Todd is on the story for us.

Brian, tell us more.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are explosive allegations, Wolf. CNN getting this information from recent court filings which put the network, One America News, on the defensive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Election nightmare.

TODD (voice-over): Jarring new information in a lawsuit against the far right pro-Trump One America News Network. CNN is reporting that according to court filings in the wake of the 2020 election, the president of One America News, Charles Herring, sent an e-mail to former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell, an e-mail that had a spread sheet claiming to contain the passwords of employees of Smartmatic, the voting technology company.

CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We still have a lot to go in this case, but it seems like it could be a pretty explosive finding.

TODD: Smartmatic is suing OAN for defamation and its lawyers recently told a federal judge that the e-mail and attached spread sheet suggest that one America executives quote may have engaged in criminal activities because they appear to have violated state and federal laws regarding data privacy. The details about this spread have not been made public before.

CNN's Marshall Cohen and his team pieced the information together from three different court cases stemming from the 2020 election. It's not clear how Charles Herring may have obtained the spread sheet, or if the passwords were actually real.

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: If they find out the spreadsheet is actually authentic, meaning it does has the real passwords. Then you have to have an investigation as to how they obtain that spreadsheet and that is how what could lead to a federal indictment.

TODD: No one from one America has been charged with any crimes, but that e-mail from Charles Herring to Sidney Powell came at a time when one America and Powell were publicly promoting false conspiracy theories that Smartmatic had rigged the 2020 election.

SIDNEY POWELL, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I'm going to release the kraken.

TODD: The e-mail from Herring to Powell was sent in January 2021, one day after the voting systems in rural Coffee County, Georgia, were breached by some of Powell's associates who were looking for evidence to back up their baseless fraud claims.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you plead to the six counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties?

POWELL: Guilty.

TODD: In October, Sidney Powell pleaded guilty to state charges in Georgia stemming from that breach in Coffee County. Smartmatic is seeking billions of dollars in damages from Sidney Powell, One America News and other right wing outlets for spreading baseless claims that it flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden.

Last year, Fox News settled with Dominion voting systems for a record $787 million over similar false claims.

FISCHER: It's very, very likely that OAN could be crippled by a lawsuit of that magnitude that we saw with Fox. I don't think they have the cash on hand to be able to pay out a multi-million dollar settlement.


TODD: One America News denies any wrongdoing. The network's attorney said in a statement to CNN, saying, quote: this vague accusation is a clumsy attempt to smear OAN and to divert attention from Smartmatic's own misconduct.

Sidney Powell also denies wrongdoing in the defamation lawsuit. Charles Herring and an attorney for Powell did not provide a comment for the story -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, Brian, thanks very much.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.