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Biden Says He's Decided How To Respond To Deadly Attack On U.S. Base; Israeli Special Forces In Disguise Raid West Bank Hospital; Georgia Prosecutor Reaches Deal To Avoid Questioning On Alleged Affair; Conservatives Push Taylor Swift Super Bowl Conspiracy Theory; Hamas: "Studying" Proposal For Renewed Truce In Gaza. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 30, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Her Broadway career spanned decades, from West Side Story to Bye Bye Birdie to Chicago. Rivera scored a record Ten Tony nominations for her performances. Her most recent screen credit was in Netflix's 2021 movie, Tick, Tick, Boom.

Rivera's longtime publicist says Chita Rivera died earlier today after a brief illness. May her memory be a blessing.

If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show whence you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer, right next during The Situation Room. See you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the world is awaiting President Biden's next move. After he says he's decided how to respond to the drone attack that killed three U.S. soldiers in Jordan. We're breaking down the military options.

Also tonight, Israeli Special Forces conduct a deadly raid on a West Bank hospital disguised as medical staffers and other civilians. We'll take you inside the operation.

Plus, there's breaking news on a huge controversy hanging over Donald Trump's election interference case in Georgia.

The top prosecutor just entered an agreement, that means he won't be questioned in court tomorrow about his alleged affair with the district attorney.

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

Our top story tonight, growing anticipation about how, when and where the United States will respond to the deadly drone strike on American forces in Jordan.

President Biden's revelation that he's made a decision is only adding to questions right now about what happens next.

Our correspondents are standing by over at the White House and the Pentagon. First, let's go to CNN Senior White House correspondent M.J. Lee. MJ, what do we know about the president's decision?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know that the White House has been extremely careful to avoid telegraphing any moves in advance. But, of course, the president and his national security advisers have been waiting for days now exactly what kind of retaliatory strike to take. And officials have made clear that what is to come is likely to be

more serious and powerful than some of the strikes that we have seen in the past in Iraq and Syria, and that they are considering a range of options that include strikes that could be multi-pronged, that could happen in stages.

And when the president spoke with reporters earlier today, he made very clear that, in his mind, there is one country that is responsible for the deaths of these three Americans. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I do hold them responsible in the sense that they're supplying the weapons to the people who did it.

I don't think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That's not what I'm looking for.


LEE: And what you just heard from the president really captures that tough balancing act for the president. He says he doesn't want a bigger war, but he also wants to respond with serious force. So, how does he do that without a major escalation?

We're also seeing the president grappling with the reality that some of these strikes from the U.S. in the past clearly have not been successful in terms of deterrence. And so when the president was asked by our colleague, Arlette Saenz, what will be different about the strikes this time, he simply answered, we'll see.

BLITZER: M.J., I understand the president also had a chance today to speak to the families of the three killed U.S. service members.

LEE: That's right. There were three phone calls, Wolf, that the president made earlier today. He spoke with each of the families of the three soldiers killed. We are told that the president expressed his gratitude, his sorrow to these families, and promised that the country would continue honoring their service to the country.

We're also learning that, on Friday, the president does plan to attend the dignified transfer of their remains at Dover Air Force Base. We are told that the president actually asked the families in these phone calls whether that would be okay with them and that they gave their permission and encouraged him to be there.

And so these three Americans that were killed obviously very much changing the calculation and also just bringing to clarity the cost of this ongoing conflict and the situation in the Middle East for the United States and this president and this White House, Wolf. BLITZER: Interesting. All right, M.J. Lee, thank you very much.

Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann right now. Oren, what are you learning? How is the U.S. military preparing to respond?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the U.S. won't telegraph exactly what it intends to do, nor will it make clear how it will carry out the response, but that response is very much coming. And that's been made clear by both the White House and the Pentagon.

There are a number of options on the table, as M.J. pointed out. This could be a multi-pronged, even perhaps a response that takes more than one day. Strikes in Iraq or Syria or both, attacks on weapons, facilities are going after the leaders of some of these groups.

However, a strike inside Iran itself, as some congressional Republicans have called for, is considered unlikely, and that's because the administration is very much trying to avoid an open regional war with Iran.


So, although it's possible, an official had told us nothing had been taken off the table before President Joe Biden said he'd made a decision, a direct strike in Iran, not considered one of the likelier options here.

It is worth noting that the U.S., although it hasn't stated exactly who it holds responsible for the Sunday attack that killed three soldiers, has said that Kata'ib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful Iranian-backed proxies in the region, has their fingerprints on this attack. And that group issued a statement earlier today that they had ordered their group and some of the groups associated with them to cease attacks on U.S. forces in the region so as not to embarrass the government of Iraq.

Asked about those statements, the Pentagon said that actions speak louder than words and pointed to 166 attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria over the course of the past couple months, including, according to the Pentagon, three since the attack that killed soldiers in Jordan.

So, the Pentagon making it very clear that that statement for whatever it means and for whatever it's worth, will not stop a U.S. response. In this case, Wolf will make one final point here, the Pentagon announced a short time ago earlier today that two of the soldiers killed in the attack, Specialist Kennedy Sanders and Specialist Breonna Moffett had been posthumously promoted to Sergeant. They will have that dignified transfer of remains along with Sergeant William Rivers on Friday. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also expected to attend at Dover Air Force Base.

BLITZER: Yes, it's so important. Oren Lieberman at the Pentagon, thank you very much. Joining us now, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

I know you and some of your colleagues from the Intelligence Committee were just briefed by the CIA Director and the Director of National Intelligence. Did they give you an update -- I know you can't give us a lot of specifics, but did they give you an update on this drone attack?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): They did, Wolf, and thanks for having me. And they did. And it was a pretty somber meeting, because of course, you just look at those photographs of Sergeant's Water and Moffett and Sanders, and you just see these young people who didn't deserve this coming. So, it was a sobering moment.

But, yes, as you might imagine, we have a lot of eyes and ears in the region. We have a pretty good idea of how this raid was undertaken, who was behind it, no surprise. We may not know precisely exactly how directly the Iranians were engaged here. But they trained, they funded, they armed these groups.

And so there was a lot of conversation about that. And there was a lot of conversation about really achieving the twin very difficult objectives here, sending a very strong message that this will not be tolerated, and it cannot happen again, deterring as you would.

But also, again, since neither the United States nor Iran wants a full-out shooting war, how do we do that without increasing the probability of that happening? That's a very tough needle to thread.

BLITZER: Very tough, indeed. I know you've called, Congressman, for President Biden to pursue a very strong response to this drone attack against the United States, but without necessarily striking inside Iran. So, what does that look like?

HIMES: Well, a lot of these decisions will be made by people who have a lot more facts than I do. But if you abide by the principle of not substantially escalating to a point where Iran would feel the need to go after more Americans, to kill more Americans, but that, in fact, the message should be about deterring future activity, you're going to do two things. You're not just going to take a strong strike. You're going to take out as much equipment, logistic routes, maybe leaders, as you can. But you're going to be very, very careful about doing something that the Iranians would perceive as substantially escalatory.

If we undertook an attack in Iran, no question that that would be viewed as escalatory. And, you know, you could imagine circumstances where that wouldn't be too big a deal if you sort of took out an isolated factory and nobody died.

On the flip side, of course, anytime you're operating militarily, you can't be perfectly precise. And if we go in and kill a whole bunch of Iranian civilians, I think we all would recognize that that would be a fairly dramatic response. And now all of a sudden the leadership of this appalling regime in Iran is being looked to for what they're going to do to respond to our escalatory activity.

So, you know, you never take anything off the table, but you do want to be very, very careful about inching towards a wider regional war in what is already a very complicated situation.

BLITZER: Yes, it is. And as you know, Congressman, this drone attack against the U.S. is one of many threats from Iranian proxies all over the Middle East, including in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Is it even possible to fully deter these attacks across the region?

HIMES: At the end of the day, it's not. It is simply not. There's too many of these Iranian-backed militias operating in largely ungoverned spaces in places like Iraq and Syria and in Yemen. And though we can interdict a lot of weapons flows, we're pretty good at that, we can't interdict everything.

And remember, Iran, at the end of the day, has a strategic objective, which is chaos. They don't want chaos that is going to result in a war that ends their regime, so they too have some red lines. But, no, they appreciate chaos because it is a criticism, if you will, a very kinetic criticism of the world order that they can't sustain, and, quite frankly, the Vladimir Putin and others can't sustain.


BLITZER: Congressman Jim Himes, thanks as usual for joining us.

HIMES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we want to send our condolences, our deepest condolences to the families of those three U.S. soldiers killed in Jordan. May Sergeant William Rivers, Sergeant Kennedy Sanders and Sergeant Breonna Moffett rest in peace, and as we say, may their memories be a blessing.

Just ahead, the breaking news out of Georgia, on a deal the top Trump prosecutor just struck only hours before a hearing where he was expected to be asked about an alleged affair with the district attorney who hired him.


BLITZER: All right. There's breaking news out of Georgia right now related to allegations of an affair between Donald Trump's special prosecutor in Georgia and the Fulton County district attorney.

CNN's Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is working in the story for us. Paula, what can you tell us?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, Nathan Wade is the special prosecutor appointed to oversee the sprawling election interference case down in Georgia.


And former President Trump and two of his co-defendants in that case have accused Wade of having an inappropriate relationship with Wade of having an inappropriate relationship with the district attorney, Fani Willis. Of course, her office is the one that has brought this case. She appointed Wade. And they've also alleged that Wade used his own money to take Willis on lavish vacations.

Now, Wade and Willis have not publicly responded to these allegations, and much of the evidence to support these allegations has surfaced during his divorce proceedings. And tomorrow, he was scheduled to have a hearing in that divorce where he was expected to take the stand and possibly be asked about these allegations.

But he and his estranged wife have come to a settlement to resolve the issues between them and not have to have this hearing. So, he will not take the stand tomorrow. He will not have to face the questions about this inappropriate relationship. But he and Willis have until the end of the week to respond to the judge overseeing the criminal case, who now has to decide if the office or either one of them should be disqualified.

BLITZER: Paula Reid reporting for us. Thank you, Paula, very much.

For more on the breaking news right now, I want to bring in our Legal Analysts Elie Honig and Elliot Williams.

Elie Honig, I'll start with you. How does this development, the breaking news we just reported, impact the ongoing controversy over this alleged relationship?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, it's a temporary reprieve for the D.A. and for Nathan Wade. It means that Mr. Wade will not have to testify at his own divorce proceeding tomorrow, but it really doesn't do anything to undercut the core allegations made here by Donald Trump and some of his co-defendants.

Those allegations are that there's a conflict of interest, that the DA, Fani Willis, had some sort of improper, allegedly romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, that's yet to be determined, that she chose him for this job, even though he's underqualified, he's never tried a felony criminal case, and yet now he's in charge of this massive RICO case, that he was paid exorbitantly. He's been paid over $650,000 on this case, while the other contract attorneys on the case have been paid under $100,000. And then, as Paula said, that some of that money was used to pay for personal recreation for Wade and for the D.A.

So, none of that goes away. It just means it's going to take longer until those facts come out. There is a hearing in this case scheduled for February 15th, so it's a reprieve until then.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Elliot Williams, Trump and his co- defendants were closely anticipating Wade's testimony tomorrow. Is there any way they could still compel him to testify?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's hard to say, Wolf, they certainly will -- they're bringing a conflict of interest claim on the court and they've said that they're going to subpoena the testimony. Now, it's up to the judge to decide whether to allow that.

Now, look, this is a profound mess, and to the broader point, and Elie touched on this a little bit, the relationship between these two individuals may well have been perfectly permissible both in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of ethical rules that govern all Georgia attorneys.

The simple fact is it still puts a cloud over the work of the prosecutor's office and those are two very different things. People -- adults can engage in various forms of conduct or misconduct that may not run afoul of the law but it still casts doubt on the public's faith in the integrity of an investigation and this continued cloud is going to stay over the case if any of these people are going to come up and testify.

BLITZER: Elie, as you know, Trump and two of his co-defendants, they are seeking to disqualify Fani Willis, her office, and to have the case completely dismissed. How do you see this playing out?

HONIG: So, I think the first part of that potential disqualification of Fani Willis and perhaps others in her office, that absolutely could happen. If the judge hears all the facts and decides there is a conflict of interest relating to the hiring of Wade, the payment of money, the use of that money on the D.A.

And if we want precedent, look at this case, because during the investigative phase about a year ago, Fani Willis was, in fact, disqualified from a piece of it because she created a political conflict of interest for herself when she subpoenaed someone and then did a political fundraiser for that person's political opponent.

So, she already has been disqualified from a small piece of this case and that same rationale could be used to disqualify her from the larger case.

As to the second possibility, dismissal of the charges, that feels remote to me because this doesn't have to do with the actual criminal allegations against Trump and the others.

BLITZER: Elliot, what do you think?

WILLIAMS: No, I think that's absolutely the case, Wolf. The charges themselves aren't affected by the conduct of any of the attorneys. They had to be brought before a grand jury and there had to be probable cause established that these charges are legitimate.

Now, as to getting the people kicked off the case, there's a few different options that the court is going to have, and this will be the point of this hearing. Number one, whether to remove the prosecutor's office all together, number two, whether to bring in an outside party who could -- like, you know, the prosecutor from another office who could run the case, or, number three, have someone from within the office run the case.


Those are all sort of messy and it's complicated just how this is going to get resolved.

BLITZER: Very quickly complicated, indeed. Elliot Williams, Elie Honig, to both of you, thank you very much.

Coming up, House Speaker Mike Johnson claims it's absurd, his word, to think he's doing Donald Trump's bidding, even as he's vowing to do exactly what Trump wants when it comes to a Senate deal on border security.


BLITZER: Tonight, the White House is trying to turn up the heat on the House speaker, Mike Johnson, urging him to back a bipartisan Senate deal on border security.


This comes as Johnson is telling fellow Republicans the bill is, in his words, absolutely dead.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is following all the action up on Capitol Hill. Melanie, tell us more about the political maneuvering as we're still waiting for the Senate to release the actual text of the border bill.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, Wolf. This is a very complicated negotiation. Senators are still working to turn this deal into bill text. But if it wasn't already obvious that House Republicans were going to reject this deal outright, House Speaker Mike Johnson made that crystal clear today, both in a private meeting this morning and in a subsequent press conference.

And what we've seen really is Republicans changing their tunes when it comes to their message on this topic. Initially, it was Republicans who were demanding policy changes when it comes to the southern border in exchange for Ukraine aid. But now, many Republicans, including Trump and the new speaker, are saying that the Biden administration already has the power to act and that Congress does not need to pass legislation in order to secure the southern border.

Our Manu Raju asked the speaker whether Republicans are just doing Trump's bidding here and trying to help him politically. Here's what he had to say.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): No, Manu, that's absurd. We have a responsibility here to do our duty. Our duty is to do right by the American people to protect the people. The first and most important job of the federal government is to protect its citizens.

I have talked to former President Trump about this issue at length, and he understands that. He understands that we have a responsibility to do here. The president, of course, President Trump, wants to secure the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZANONA: So, Johnson denying any political motivations here, although he did acknowledge that he has talked to the former president at length about this issue. But even though Johnson says they're not trying to help Trump politically, some of his own members are saying something different.

I talked to Troy Nehls just a little bit ago. He's a Republican Congressman from Texas who's very close to Donald Trump. And he said outright to me that they should not pass this Senate border deal and that they should not do anything to help President Biden's poll numbers. Wolf?

BLITZER: Interesting, indeed. Melanie, I got a follow-up question. House Republicans, as you well know, are moving forward right now with impeaching the Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas. What is happening on that front?

ZANONA: Well, the Homeland Security Committee has been meeting all day to consider these two impeachment articles for me for Mayorkas. Republicans say that he has willfully mishandled the situation at the southern border and he has lost the trust of the American people.

But Democrats say Republicans are just trying to score political points, and if that they really wanted to solve the crisis at the southern border, they could easily pass this emerging Senate border deal, which they have made clear they will not.

So, this meeting has grown quite contentious today. Democrats have forced a number of procedural motions hoping to derail or delay this meeting as long as possible. But we are expecting those articles to pass through the committee later today with a floor vote expected sometime in the coming weeks, even though we should know it is dead on arrival in the Senate, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is. All right, Melanie Zanona, thank you very much.

Let's get some more analysis in all of this. Our political experts are standing by.

Frank Luntz, let me start with you. This potential impeachment in the House of the secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, even if it gets -- even if they get impeachment in the House as, we just heard from Melanie, it's unlikely to get convicted in the Senate. So, what's the point?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST: So, the Senate legislation is dead on arrival in the House. The impeachment is dead on arrival in the Senate. We have a disaster at the border. We have chaos. It's truly broken, and yet they're playing politics. It's one of the reasons why the American people say, to hell with both of you, do something. Help us. Secure the border. Stop playing politics. I think it's why Trump's numbers are where they are, and why Biden's numbers are where they are. Solve it. Stop talking about it.

BLITZER: We have Karen Finney. So, what do you think the White House and Democrats should be doing about this?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'd like to see Democrats being a lot tougher on this because it's not just about, you know, Republicans trying to play politics. This is Trump. This is Trump. Again, you know, government, the way it's supposed to work is we may disagree on policy, but Joe Biden won the election. So, we're going to -- so his Homeland Security secretary gets to do the job that Joe Biden put him there to do. But that's not what they're doing. They're saying, we disagree with you, so we're going to impeach you.

That's not how democracy works. And I think it's important for Democrats to be a lot more aggressive, calling this out. This is what Trump's America looks like, the chaos, again, of him basically pulling the strings in Congress.

I mean, think about it. I was listening to members of Congress all day sit and tell our anchors that, well, it's my duty. But if it's your duty, then why aren't you walking over to the Senate and saying, okay, guys, let's hammer out an actual deal, particularly given the Democrats have come so far.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're trying to do that. They're trying to.

FINNEY: No, the House members are not.

BORGER: No, no, the Senate is trying to hammer out a deal.


And the truth of the matter is --

BLITZER: On border security.

BORGER: On border security.

And the truth of the matter is that they're never going to get a better deal from the Democrats than they're going to get right now with Joe Biden as president. And Republicans are even saying that, you know, on asylum, there are going to be lots of progressives that would be very upset about it. But it is a deal that a lot of Democrats won't like, but they will vote for it.

Donald Trump could not get this deal if he were president of the United States.

LUNTZ: I want to state this in a non-partisan, non-political way. Joe Biden is president. It's his administration. These are his policies, correct? They are failing. The American people think they're failing. The experts think they're failing. And the fact that you're trying to blame Donald Trump is ridiculous when it is Biden's policies at the border.

FINNEY: Trump is literally telling Republicans don't do a deal. I want to keep -- hold on. And what Biden is asking for is additional resources to fix the problem. And we know that it's not just about border security. It is about a full press (ph) on immigration reform. He's asking for the resources to actually help cities that are dealing with the overflow of migrants to actually shore up the border and they're saying no.

LUNTZ: These are talking points.

FINNEY: It's actual facts.

LUNTZ: The reality is, who's president, who is director of Homeland Security, since January 20th of 2021?

BLITZER: Who appropriates the funds to do all that?

FINNEY: I was just going to say --

BLITZER: Not the president, the Congress has to appropriate -- that's their role to appropriate, to provide the money to do what you want.

LUNTZ: That is correct. But the policies are Biden's policy.

BLITZER: So, if Trump is saying don't support any additional appropriations for this bipartisan compromise, who's to blame?

LUNTZ: On this bipartisan compromise, the Republicans. On the policies that have failed, the Biden administration.

BORGER: Well, they're going to get blamed for it. Presidents are always going to get blamed for. Donald Trump was president, if I recall, before Joe Biden, and there were problems at the border. But in this particular -- but on this deal, it is so cynical, it is so cynical that Donald Trump puts his thumb on the scale and suddenly Republicans in the Senate scatter and say, you know what, we're not going to sign on to this deal.

I mean, you have conservative Republicans who are actually negotiating this in good faith, and they're upset because he just marches in, talks to the House speaker, which he probably didn't have to do, the House Speaker was probably with him anyway, and says, no, no, I don't want this. I want the issue.

And this is what the American public is upset about.

LUNTZ: Accept that. Please let me respond to her. I accept that. And Republicans are going to have a problem explaining why they're doing this.

BORGER: Right.

LUNTZ: But why are we in this situation right now? Because for year after year, Joe Biden and the Democratic philosophy did not protect this border. Republicans complained about this in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

You are correct. You are correct about what they did and we didn't have this when Donald Trump was president, nothing anywhere near this. So, the issue now is, are we going to play politics, are we going to be partisan or are we going to try to solve it? And, yes, that is the problem.

And that's why the American people are so angry right now with Washington. They see the problem at the border. They see it as a crisis. They see it as chaos and they're asking for a solution.

BLITZER: Gloria, while I have you, I want to get to the 2024 politics right now and the election that's upcoming. The Trump campaign, as you know, released a very scathing new memo today attacking Nikki Haley. Among other things, it reads in part now, and I'll quote, Nikki Haley and her team are directly aiding and abetting Joe Biden by staying in the race, when even a ten-year-old knows that there's not a path to winning.

The Haley campaign responded with this meme from the movie Mean Girls, captioned, quote, why are you so obsessed with us? What do you make of this?

BORGER: Well, I think the response was pretty funny. And I don't know why the Trump campaign would even do that. I mean, I'm not in the business of telling a campaign how to run itself. But if you think Nikki Haley is last year's news, why pay attention to her?

FINNEY: Trump doesn't like it when women don't do what he says.

BORGER: Right. So, instead, they put out this memo, any ten-year-old would know, why do that? If you're winning, you're winning. That's it. Move on. Act like you're just the total nominee, right.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Guys, thank you very much. Welcome to The Situation Room, Frank.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you. And just ahead, stunning video from an undercover Israeli raid on a West Bank hospital. More on the fallout from the controversial operation designed to kill suspected militants.


That's coming up next.


BLITZER: There's new fallout tonight from a stunning undercover Israeli raid on a West Bank hospital. IDF Special Forces dressed as civilians infiltrating the complex and killing three suspected militants.

CNN's Nic Robertson has more on the raid. Nick, you're joining us live from Tel Aviv. What can you tell us about this operation and the questions it raises?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, you can see some of the operatives as they come in. One appears to be dressed in a doctor's white coat wearing a surgical mask. There's another one later you see in blue scrubs and another one looking like he's in a ward, sort of more purple uniform carrying a wheelchair. They're all heavily armed.

This is a complex and carefully planned raid.


The IDF said that they were targeting three terror suspects, one from Hamas and two from Palestinian Islamic Jihad. One of those suspects, they said, Mohammed Jalamneh, they said, had planned an upcoming terrorist operation, and that was the need to go in.

Now, it raises all sorts of questions, one about international humanitarian law, which says, yes, as a military, you can use a ruse to go into, to sort of get past and undetected, pass the enemy, but you can't use medical insignia or medical equipment or try to sort of pass yourself off as medical professionals, which is what appeared to happen there.

And also, there's possibility that at least two Geneva Conventions were broken, one of them a war crime. That is, you don't shoot somebody while they're asleep if they could be arrested. And the hospital director said that the three men were shot in their beds. And, certainly, there was some video evidence that appeared to show a shot had gone through a pillow.

And another point as well, breaking Geneva Convention, according to lawyers, you can't target somebody who's in hospital getting treatment, even if they're a militant. And one of the people killed was in hospital for a drone injury that had left him partially paralyzed, according to his mother.

So, this incident is raising a lot of questions, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Nic, in Gaza, meanwhile, there's also intense fighting around a hospital in the south and dire reports of hunger. Give us the latest. What are you learning?

ROBERTSON: Yes. In the al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, that has been surrounded by for the past eight days by the IDF, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent and people at this facility that's now sheltering about 8,000 displaced Palestinians. They say that the IDF has driven their tanks into that compound now that they've been firing live rounds and firing tear gas in that compound.

The IDF has been telling the residents there that they must evacuate the area. But, of course, the concern is that they can't do it safely. And so -- but this is now the military, the IDF actually inside the hospital compound.

And further north, the reports, because we know and we understand from aid officials, that getting aid into the north of Gaza is one of the hardest things to do at the moment. And that's where the hunger and desperation is felt most strongly. And people there are saying that they are literally, literally eating grass and drinking infected and dirty water. It paints a very, very tough picture, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very tough, indeed. All right, Nic Robertson in Tel Aviv, thank you for that report.

Coming up, baseless conspiracy theories are circulating among far right conservatives alleging a plot involving the biggest game in football and the singer, Taylor Swift.



BLITZER: We're 12 days out from this year's Super Bowl, but instead of focusing in on the football games, some far-right conservatives are actually pushing absurd conspiracy theories involving the NFL and the 2024 election with superstar Taylor Swift right at the center of them.

Brian Todd is following this for us.

So, Brian, what's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the conspiracy theorists are in a frenzy tonight, convinced that Taylor Swift is being manipulated by sinister forces to swing this year's election to President Biden and fix the Super Bowl.


TODD (voice-over): The conspiracy theories had already been in overdrive even before this moment. Pop superstar Taylor Swift's embrace of her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, after the Chiefs beat the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday to earn a trip to the Super Bowl.

Before the game was even over, pro-Trump broadcaster Mike Crispi posted on X, quote, the NFL is totally rigged for the Kansas City Chiefs. Taylor Swift, Mr. Pfizer, Travis Kelce, all to spread Democrat propaganda. It's all been an op since day one.

A piece in yesterday's "New York Times" mentioning that President Biden's team would like to have Swift's endorsement in this campaign seem to fan the flames.

Former GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, a noted conspiracy theorist, posted on X yesterday: I wonder who's going to win the Super Bowl next month. And I wonder if there's a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped up couple this fall.

JONATHAN WEISMAN, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The attention that is being paid to Taylor and Travis, these days, is extraordinary and it's got MAGA world in an absolute lather.

TODD: Recently, Fox News host Jesse Waters asked on the air whether Taylor Swift is a Pentagon asset.

JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: Have you ever wondered why or how she blew up like this? Well, around four years ago, the Pentagon psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting.

TODD: What's the general thread of these conspiracies involving Swift and Kelce?

WEISMAN: Between the two of them, there's a sense in MAGA land that they can reach hundreds of millions of people and turn them against Donald Trump and turn them in favor of Joe Biden.

TODD: In September, Swift urged her fans on Instagram to register to vote. The group reported its saw a surge of about 35,000 registrations in just one day in response.

Swift did endorse Biden in 2020. And in 2018, she endorsed to Democratic candidates in Tennessee, where she owns property. One of them ran against Republican Marsha Blackburn now a senator from that state, who Taylor Swift was captured being very critical of in a Netflix documentary.


TAYLOR SWIFT, MUSICIAN: It really is a big deal. She votes against fair pay for women. She votes against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which is just basically protecting us for domestic abuse and stalking, stalking.

TODD: Another facet of the conspiracies, the fact that Travis Kelce did an ad for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, fueling the ire of anti- vaxxers.

While the theories are largely absurd, they are consequential.

JARED HOLT, SENIOR RESEARCH ANALYST, INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC DIALOGUE: The people spreading these conspiracy theories have millions of followers online. They are part of media organizations that, you know, reach over the course of a week, millions of people.


TODD (on camera): The Trump campaign, which had largely stayed away from this hysteria, has now publicly dismissed concerns about a possible Taylor Swift endorsement of President Biden. A Trump campaign spokeswoman saying she doesn't think an endorsement would save President Biden from what she called the calamity of his presidency -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Got three words, shake it off. That's what I got.

All right. Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you for that update.

Still ahead here on THE SITUATION ROOM, the families of Hamas hostages meet with top White House officials amid new efforts to bring them home. I'll speak with one of them. That's next.


[18:55:32] BLITZER: Tonight, Hamas says it's looking into proposal for a renewed truce with Israel in exchange for returning captives, potentially including IDF soldiers. This as families of American hostages are here in Washington right now to meet with President Biden's national security adviser.

Ruby and Hagit Chen were in that meeting. They're joining me right now in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks very much to both of you for coming in.

And, Ruby, let me start with you. Your son, Itay, he's an American IDF soldier, believed to be in Gaza right now, tell us about that.

RUBY CHEN, SON KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: We had last contacts with him October 7 in the morning where he said that place that he was at was on the attack, which is something unfortunately that is not uncommon when you live in south of Israel. And after a few hours when we were unable to reach him, we understood it was a bit different. We started seeing the news videos coming out and he was initially identified as missing an action, meaning nobody knew where he was. And then after a couple of days, we got that knock on the door for people that on the stand. What that means you have on the other side of the door to high ranking IDF offices wanting to talk to you.

BLITZER: Tell us about the meeting. Both of you just had with the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

R. CHEN: So, first of all, this is I think a couple of times that we met him. We met him ten days ago as well, and I think we need to thank Mr. Sullivan for meeting us over and over again and wanting to share what's going on.

I would say cautious optimism that the parties are getting together and meetings such as in palace and intending to meet again in the near future in Egypt. And that gives us hope that this ordeal that we're living in for 116 long days will come to an end.

BLITZER: What do you think, Hagit? Are you a little bit more hopeful now after this meeting, you just had with Jake Sullivan that perhaps your son will be freed anytime soon?

HAGIT CHEN, SON KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: Yes, I think we are more hopeful. We have more hope now but you know, until I don't see my son at home, no, I cannot rest, you know, we keep fight.

It's 116 days and then we miss him, I miss him terribly. I'm worried. I'm terrified. You know were not going to be at rest until he's home, safe home.

BLITZER: You know, it looks like this tentative deal that they're working out would only allow the IDF soldiers who are being held by Hamas in Gaza to be released at the very end, after the civilians and others would be he released. So, this could be a while, right? R. CHEN: Yeah, this is why I have my hour glass, meaning that the

hostages don't have time and no one after 116 long days of torture, starvation needs to be stayed in captivity. And he I'd like to address the leaders that are tied to bring this conflict to an end. President Biden, you know, please keep your focus on the hostages issue until all the hostages are out.

We have all failing as Americans the hostages, specifically the eighth U.S. hostages that are still in captivity. Benjamin Netanyahu, what is his legacy? Is his legacy going to be the colossal failure of October 7th or the ability to bring the hostages back home, and normalization with the Arab countries?

Last but not least, the leader this of Egypt, Qatar, that claim they are allies of the United States. Now is the time to show and step up and show their support, especially about the U.S. hostages and bringing them back home

BLITZER: I'm interested, Hagit. Your son, Itay, he turns 20 this Friday.

H. CHEN: Yeah.

BLITZER: Twenty years old? What's your message to Prime Minister Netanyahu as he's considering this proposal?

H. CHEN: I can't believe that he's going to be 20 this Friday and he's not at home. He should be home.

My message is it's enough. We suffered enough. We -- all the families, all the 136 hostages, the families suffer enough and we cannot handle this situation anymore. So I beg, I beg him to put an end to our suffer.

R. CHEN: I like also like to send our condolences to the U.S. servicemen that were killed in the Middle East and we also need to remember also on the others, U.S. citizens that were killed on October 7 and send our condolences to them as well.

BLITZER: Yeah, may they rest in peace.

All right. Thank you very, very much for coming in. Good luck. We hope Itay comes home very, very soon.

H. CHEN: Thank you. Thank you very much.

R. CHEN: Thank you for having us.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.