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U.S. Strike Kills Commander Responsible For Attacks On Americans; Senate Republicans Block Bipartisan Border Deal; Tomorrow, Historic Supreme Court Hearing On Trump Ballot Ban; How Colorado's "Insurrectionist Ban" Trump Case Made It All The Way To The U.S. Supreme Court; Police: Stabbing Of Palestinian American Man Meets Definition Of A Hate Crime. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 07, 2024 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I'm going to lead CNN special coverage. CNN's Kaitlan Collins will be at the court tomorrow morning at 9:00 Eastern here on CNN.
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Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. I will see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, the United States conducts another retaliatory strike in the wake of that deadly attack on American forces in Jordan. U.S. officials confirmed the operation successfully targeted and killed an Iran-backed militia commander in Baghdad.
Also breaking tonight, more chaos on Capitol Hill, the United States Senate rejecting the bipartisan border bill despite months of negotiations. What the stunning failure could also mean for aid to Ukraine and Israel.
Plus, final preparations for tomorrow's unprecedented U.S. Supreme Court arguments on Donald Trump's Colorado ballot ban. We have exclusive new reporting on the Trump team's strategy just ahead of the historic hearing.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
First up tonight, breaking news, the United States launching a targeted retaliatory strike against an Iran-backed militia commander blamed for the attacks on US troops in Jordan.
Our correspondents and analysts are standing by with more on all the late-breaking developments. First, to CNN's Oren Liebermann. He's over at the Pentagon. He's getting new information. Oren, what do we know about this strike and the commander targeted?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was a direct targeted strike against a senior Kata'ib Hezbollah commander who the U.S. says was taking part in the planning and the operations and the attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, more than or approximately 170 attacks on U.S. forces in the region to this point. The U.S. holds this Kata'ib Hezbollah commander partly responsible, and that's why you see this attack.
If you look there on your screen, you could see how targeted this was, going after a vehicle specifically. U.S. officials say this was a drone strike. The target, according to three U.S. officials, Wissam Mohammed Sabir al-Saadi, a senior Kata'ib Hezbollah commander who was taking part in those attacks on U.S. forces. And that's why the U.S. made the decision to carry out these strikes.
This goes above and beyond Friday's strikes in Iraq and Syria. You can see a map of those locations here in just a moment. Those were attacks on facilities, weaponries, hubs used by not only Kata'ib Hezbollah but also other Iran-backed militant groups.
This was very different. This, a targeted attack on a commander of one of those militant groups, instead of going after their capabilities, this was going after their leadership.
Kata'ib Hezbollah is part of the Islamic resistance in Iraq. The U.S. holds them responsible for a drone attack that killed three U.S. service members and wounded scores more at the end of January. The challenging part here for the U.S. and the diplomatic side is they are also part of the popular mobilization units, meaning they fall under the Iraqi government. And that's where we're seeing some tension here.
The U.S. -- this looks like part of the U.S. response to that drone strike, the U.S. promising more response ahead.
BLITZER: Stand by, Oren. I'm going to get back to you. I want to go to M.J. Lee over at the White House for us.
M.J., I know you're doing a lot of reporting on this. What is the White House signaling with this latest strike?
M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you will recall that after the attack that killed three U.S. service members, the president was presented with a range of options immediately by his advisers. And early last week, he approved a range of options as a part of the retaliation.
And what an administration official tells me is that this is simply not over, that what we saw today is just a part of the ongoing retaliatory strikes that the U.S. is executing in the region. And in terms of this strike in particular, I am told by a White House official that the actual execution itself, as well as the timing, were both carefully considered to try to avoid the loss of innocent life. And when you look at that video, you can see how important that caution would be, given that this is clearly a street with cars and people going by.
A White House official, Wolf, reiterating to me as well that this has everything to do with the three U.S. service members that were killed and that the president's message continues to be that we will not hesitate to defend our people and hold any and all who seek to harm Americans.
Now, of course, Wolf, the reality is that these Iranian-backed groups in the region have been targeting U.S. forces and U.S. bases in the area for years, and the U.S. has been striking back, but we've seen those provocations, those strides really escalating since the Israel- Hamas war broke out. And this, of course, is just yet one more reminder of the U.S. trying to balance having a forceful response and making sure that this doesn't break out into a broader conflict in the region.
BLITZER: Very important. M.J., stand by. Oren, I want to go back to you at the Pentagon.
What are the implications of another major U.S. strike like this one on Iraqi soil, especially in the capital of Baghdad?
LIEBERMANN: Well, the Iraqi government is clearly angry about this, calling this new aggression by the United States. They have said other strikes the U.S. has carried out in Iraq are a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. And they say this undercuts the agreements and understandings they have with the U.S.
So, in addition to the challenge of finding these high-level militant targets in Baghdad, the U.S. has to deal with the diplomatic fallout of a partner that's clearly unhappy in the region.
U.S. Central Command said they're not aware of any casualties or civilians affected by this strike, but Iraqi police say there was at least one other person in that car.
BLITZER: Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, M.J. Lee at the White House, to both of you, thank you.
I want to dig deeper right now with CNN Military Analyst, retired Colonel Cedric Leighton, and CNN National Security Analyst Beth Sanner.
Colonel Leighton, when you look at the video, and we've been showing our viewers the video, how targeted was this strike right in Baghdad?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, it was extremely precise. It was in the Al Mashtal neighborhood of Baghdad, which is just southeast of Sadr City. It's a Shiite neighborhood, and as you can see from the traffic, it is a very crowded, densely populated area. So, this targeting effort was extremely precise using the intelligence that we had on his movements, al-Saadi's movement. And it was also a way of demonstrating our capability to go after each one of these leaders, should we choose to do so.
BLITZER: Beth, now give us your analysis of this strike and the significance of taking out this specific commander.
BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. Well, Wolf, it reminds me a little bit of the strike on Soleimani and that precision strike that happened four years ago in 2020, where it was Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of IRGC and the deputy of the popular mobilization forces, Muhandis, who was also a founder and leader of K.H.
So, it is definitely a flashback here in that K.H. continues to be this just prime suspect of these attacks against the United States. And this commander was reportedly responsible for K.H. external operations in Syria and maybe in some of the other surrounding areas. And so, absolutely, the intel about that linkage is clear.
BLITZER: That K.H., Kata'ib Hezbollah, which is different than the Lebanese Hezbollah, but it's a very, very big proxy of Iran, to be sure.
Colonel Leighton, you heard M.J. Lee's reporting from the White House, this isn't the end of the U.S. response. What more do you believe needs to happen to deter these Iran-backed groups from continuing to strike against the United States?
LEIGHTON: Well, a lot depends on how Kata'ib is going to react next, you know, what they're going to do. And, of course, the statements that we've seen so far indicate that they're going to try to avenge this attack on their leader.
But what I think we need to do, if that happens, if this proves to be correct, I think we need to make sure that we can go after other leaders just like this, and also, of course, make sure that we go after their weapons storage facilities, their drone facilities, in essence, more of the same, but perhaps with a greater degree of intensity, especially if we get wind of a possible attack on U.S. forces. So, that becomes, I think, the most critical thing for us to do at this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm curious, Beth, what sort of response do you expect will happen from inside Iraq and indeed across the region against the United States?
SANNER: I think that everybody in the U.S. forces and the bases there and in Syria are hunkering down right now with the full expectation that K.H. will respond, just like they did in 2020, just like they had in when we struck another commander in January in another part of Baghdad.
So, one of the other groups has already put out a statement saying that, you know, strikes should take place now, retaliation should take place. We remember that Kata'ib Hezbollah, K.H., had already pledged not to retaliate against the United States for this period of time.
I personally did not take that seriously. I thought that was kind of a coerced statement by the Iranian overseers. And I think that all bets will be off now. But we also notice here, no Iranians have yet been killed or in retaliation.
BLITZER: But, Colonel Leighton, what message does this send to Iran?
LEIGHTON: Well, it definitely tells Iran that we have the capability to go after very specific people. They knew that already, of course, but it serves to underscore that we have continued to keep our intelligence current on their movements, on their activities, and we continue to have the ability to conduct attacks like this.
So, Iran has been put on notice once again, and they are really, at this point, looking at this in a way that allows them to either go in one direction, which would be to be more antagonistic to the United States or to stand down at least for a temporary period. So, they have a choice right now. The question is, which fork in the road will they take?
BLITZER: We shall find out. Colonel Cedric Leighton and Beth Sander, to both of you, thank you very much.
Coming up, we're going to have much more of the breaking news overseas, but there's also breaking news right here in Washington. Chaos on Capitol Hill as the bipartisan border bill tanks in the U.S. Senate. A key Democrat in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Chris Coons, is standing by live.
BLITZER: There's breaking news here in Washington, more chaos in Congress tonight after very embarrassing back-to-back vote failures in the House. Now, it's the U.S. Senate in turmoil as lawmakers block a border deal despite months of bipartisan negotiations.
CNN's Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill with details. Manu, so where do things stand in the Senate right now?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now senators in both parties are engaged in an urgent round of negotiations to try to see if there's any way, if there's a path forward for a $95.3 billion aid package for Israel, for Ukraine and for Taiwan.
That would not include new immigration and border policy provisions. Why? Because earlier today, Senate Republicans killed that measure and that has caused deep frustration and anger in the ranks.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RAJU (voice over): It's been the story of the 118th Congress, intense GOP divisions and the failure to effectively govern and now a new speaker struggling to get his agenda through.
REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): I had many people reach out to me via text message and say, what the hell are you guys doing up there? We may have the gavel, but we're not acting like we're in the majority.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been a frustrating couple of days.
RAJU: And the longest-serving Senate leader in history failing to convince his own conference to back a national security package after nearly five months of painstaking negotiations over border policy, all playing out as Congress has no path forward to respond to the crisis along the border or to provide much-needed aid to U.S. allies Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.
REP. STEVE WOMACK (R-AR): When you have the majority, there is an expectation that you will be able to govern and we have just struggled with that over and over again.
RAJU: With the slimmest of majorities, the House GOP has struggled to simply keep the lights on for the government, with GOP warfare leading to the first-ever ouster of a sitting speaker, eventually giving the task of running the unruly chamber to Mike Johnson, who has faced pitfall after pitfall.
REP. ELI CRANE (R-AZ): I think there's a lot of squishy, you know, Republicans that don't really represent our base or our voters.
RAJU: Anger coming after Johnson miscalculated in the GOP push to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): The resolution is not adopted.
RAJU: Following one vote short after Democrat Al Green unexpectedly showed up despite recovering from surgery.
REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): He needs to count votes before it comes to the floor. As bad as Pelosi was, she knew her votes before it took place.
REP. LANCE GOODEN (R-TX): I was embarrassed for our conference, for our party, because we can do better than we did last night.
RAJU: Speaking to reporters today, Johnson downplayed the failure and also attacked House Democrats for rejecting $17.6 billion in aid to Israel.
JOHNSON: I don't think it's a reflection on the leader. It's a reflection on the body itself.
RAJU: But Johnson also has angered many Republicans for siding with former President Donald Trump and vowing to kill the Senate's bipartisan border security deal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's been a real lack of leadership on this.
RAJU: Because Johnson vowed to kill the Senate border plan, many Senate Republicans said there was no point in debating it and blocked the measure today, as some on the hard right call for McConnell's ouster.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): A Republican leader should actually lead this conference.
RAJU: McConnell said he was simply listening to the GOP demands to act on the border first.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I followed the instructions of our conference who were insisting that we tackle this in October.
RAJU (on camera): Now, ultimately, Mitch McConnell sided with most Senate Republicans and voted to block that bipartisan border deal that he helped craft.
Now, ultimately, only four Republicans voted to move ahead with that package. One of those four Senate Republicans is Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. I asked her about her level of frustration, Wolf. She said that she's going through the various stages of grief, but she says, today, quote, I am just pissed off. Wolf?
BLITZER: It's a direct quote. All right, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you.
I want to bring in a key Democrat right now on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Chris Coons. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
As you know, intense talks are underway right now on trying to move forward with the aid package without the border component. Are you confident that that bill can get the 60 votes in the Senate it needs and then pass the House as well?
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): No, Wolf, I'm not. Frankly, the world is on fire. We have conflict all over the world. And nation after nation is calling for American leadership, for America to continue to contribute to peace and security in several different important regions.
This is a serious time, and it calls for serious legislators. Unfortunately, House Republicans have shown they are utterly unserious, trying to address the border security challenges we face, our crisis at the southern border, not with the bipartisan, long- negotiated package that we had on the floor here in the Senate, but by trying to impeach the Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, even that they failed to do.
Right now, as the introduction just revealed to everybody who's watching, Wolf, we are trying to put back together the package that would provide critically needed support to Ukraine, to Israel, to Taiwan, and humanitarian relief that would help millions who are struggling in Gaza, in Ukraine, and in dozens of other countries.
I hope and pray we will do so, but, no, I can't tell you I'm confident about what the House will do about anything.
BLITZER: Senator, why did the bipartisan-negotiated package on border security failed in the U.S. Senate floor today and do you question whether Republican senators are reliable legislative partners?
COONS: Yes, I question that. This isn't the first time that we've had a real failure on immigration policy. In 2013, we passed a big bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill in the Senate, sent it to the House, the Republican majority never took it up.
In 2018, a bipartisan group of us worked four months to produce a bill after then-President Donald Trump said, bring me a bill that will fund the border wall. I will sign a bill that gives DREAMERs a pathway to citizenship. Former President Trump himself killed that bill on the floor that day. That's what's happened here.
We had a strong bipartisan majority eager to move this bill forward until just a few days ago, as you just heard Senator McConnell said, it's because Republicans were insisting on a border security provision before they would support Ukraine that we began this four-month-long journey of negotiation.
And it's James Lankford of Oklahoma, one of the most conservative members of this Senate, who was the lead negotiator on the Senate side, they struck a hard bargain. Don't take my word for it. Brandon Judd, the head of the Border Patrol labor organization, has endorsed this bill. He's someone who is no fan of Democrats, but said that this bill would make the border more secure. Even in the face of that, because Donald Trump said, don't solve the border problem, I want an issue to run on, unfortunately, Republicans in the Senate have abandoned this bill.
We are now going to try to take up the bill without the border provisions, and I hope and pray we will succeed in passing it and sending it to the House.
BLITZER: While I have you, Senator, I quickly want to turn to this latest U.S. drone strike targeting a commander in Iraq who the U.S. says was responsible for those attacks on U.S. forces in the region. What's your reaction?
COONS: I think this was the right thing for our president to do. It was last Friday that I stood on the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base with our president, secretary of defense, senators from Georgia and Delaware, as we welcomed home the remains of the three American Army reservists, all from Georgia, who were killed in a strike in Jordan just a few days earlier.
Our president said we would respond at a time and in a means of our choosing, and there was an initial round of strikes at a variety of different bases used by this militia who are supported and funded by Iran to attack Americans. This strike showed a willingness, a determination to strike at the very leadership of these organizations and to exact a price for those who would kill Americans in the Middle East.
BLITZER: Yes, right in the heart of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. But how concerned are you, though, about possible escalation as these retaliatory strikes continue?
COONS: Look, ever since October 7th, when Hamas carried out the horrific attack against Israeli civilians, our president has been focused on the risk of escalation. As the Houthis have carried out attacks in the Red Sea, as Hezbollah has fired rockets into Northern Israel, and as these militias controlled by Iran, mostly in Iraq, but also in the region in Jordan and Syria, have attacked American troops and bases.
Throughout all of that, we should be concerned about escalation. That's why I'm grateful we have a president with decades of seasoning, of experience in foreign policy, who understands the region and who understands how to strike the balance, to work to restore peace, to deliver relief and aid to the Gazans, and to work with Israel and other nations in the region to contain Iran and to push back on their proxies.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Senator Chris Coons, thanks so much for joining us.
COONS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, the U.S. Supreme Court preparing to decide whether Donald Trump can stay on the 2024 presidential ballot. What we know about the arguments and why the former president won't be there tomorrow.
BLITZER: We're now just hours away from the U.S. Supreme Court weighing in on the groundbreaking challenge to Donald Trump's ballot eligibility.
Our Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is here with me in The Situation Room. She has more on tomorrow's crucial hearing.
PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): What started as a long shot bid to bump Donald Trump off the 2024 ballot with a fringe legal theory has ended up at the highest court in the land. Thursday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether to disqualify Trump from holding office because of his role in the January 6th Capitol attack after a landmark decision from Colorado's top court, which concluded the 14th Amendment's insurrectionist ban applies to Trump.
ERIC OLSON, ATTORNEY FOR COLORADO PLAINTIFFS: Trump engaged in insurrection, and therefore cannot appear on the ballot.
SCOTT GESSLER, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Frankly, President Trump didn't engage. He didn't carry a pitchfork to the Capitol grounds. He didn't lead a charge.
REID: In the years-long lead-up to the case, the challengers looked for states where they believed they could succeed based on a constitutional provision that hasn't been tested since 1919. Their efforts have been met with mixed results, with only Maine and Colorado taking him off the primary ballot. Even California opted to include Trump.
Trump's team insists that states should not be able to deprive voters of their choice of candidates.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This whole thing is rigged, election interference.
REID: But now, after turning several recent hearings and other cases into campaign stops --
TRUMP: I want to be at every trial day.
I want to watch this witch hunt myself.
REID: -- Trump is not expected to attend the Supreme Court arguments. That change-up is part of a more disciplined approach the team is taking to this historic case.
Arguing on Trump's behalf will be Jonathan Mitchell, a former Texas Solicitor General. This will be his sixth appearance before the high court.
JONATHAN MITCHELL, FORMER TEXAS SOLICITOR GENERAL: Supreme Court justices are ultimately political appointments.
REID: And this case is not just a test for Trump. The justices have also been under intense scrutiny over questions about ethics and partisanship.
And for Chief Justice John Roberts, his legacy is on the line as someone who tries to steer the court clear of the politics that divides Washington.
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: We do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. We do not caucus in separate rooms. We do not serve one party or one interest. We serve one nation.
REID: Roberts under pressure to build consensus.
NOAH BOOKBINDER, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: This case puts the court in a tough position any way around. I think they'd rather not be thinking about these issues. But it is what the democracy requires and what the Constitution requires at this moment. We think that the court is going to rise to that occasion.
REID (on camera): Trump's legal team has just wrapped up a second day of mock arguments. And after they finish tomorrow's hearing, they're going to have to quickly pivot to another likely Supreme Court appeal on immunity. The Trump team has until Monday to signal to the high court they intend to appeal that case. Wolf?
BLITZER: Interesting. And stand by. I got some more questions for you, Paula Reid reporting.
I also want to bring in our Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic and CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig, a bunch of seniors here.
Elie, do you think Trump's team has the upper hand going into the arguments tomorrow?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I do, for sure. Let's keep in mind, first of all, Colorado is an outlier here. There have been a couple dozen of these challenges brought around the country, and Colorado, in addition to Maine, which is sort of still in process, is the only state to actually remove him from the ballot.
And I think when you look at the core problem here from the position of Colorado is we don't know exactly how the 14th Amendment works. We see different states applying it in different ways, and I think that's going to cause a real problem when it comes to the justices.
BLITZER: How much do you think that Chief Justice John Roberts will try to get a unanimous decision? How important is that?
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COUR TANALYST: Well, it's important to be more than 6-3 Republicans versus the Democratic appointees. I think he's going to go for a seven-justice solution here. And that's because he wants to break at least the 6-3 lock.
Just to remind you, as I said, there are six on one side who, in the public's mind, would be ready to keep Donald Trump on the ballot and then these three liberals. And I've seen John Roberts do this before, strategize enough behind the scenes to take what would be a very narrow vote, 5-4, and work on his colleagues to make it 7-2, so it doesn't look so partisan.
And I think the most likely person from the left who could join John Roberts' colleagues on the right would be Elena Kagan. She's as strategic as he is.
And I do have to say, this is all premised on the idea, that they're going to go narrowly, that they don't want to go to the absolute question of, was Donald Trump engaged in an insurrection? And I think right now, not having heard the arguments yet, that's the conventional wisdom and it's also the wise wisdom, that this is a court that is not going to want to break a lot of ground, and it would be breaking ground, because this has never been interpreted in modern times, especially to involve someone like Donald Trump and his chances to be on the ballot and essentially affect who would become president of the United States.
BLITZER: We'll hear those oral arguments tomorrow morning.
Paula, you're reporting that the Trump team is taking a more disciplined, different approach this time compared to some of the other legal battles they've been fighting. What's behind this?
REID: Well, over the past few months, we've seen that Trump has brought the campaign and really a circus to a lot of hearings in other cases, sometimes represented by people who didn't have a lot of experience in those specific matters or in those specific jurisdictions.
So, here, you're seeing them change it up, right? He's not expected to attend. He's a very experienced lawyer and they're preparing, they're doing the things that most people would do, right, if they were in this same circumstance.
Now, part of that is because they recognize the seriousness, just how high the stakes are here, according to the sources around him that we've spoken with, but it's also sort of an admission that what they've done over the past few weeks and with these other hearings hasn't reaped the benefits that they had hoped.
BLITZER: Interesting. Elie, give us your sense of the options that the Supreme Court has to deal with this historic, very sensitive issue.
HONIG: Yes. So, there are pragmatic concerns behind this. I think the Supreme Court, I take a pragmatic view of them. I think they take a pragmatic view of the cases. If they uphold Colorado's disqualification of Donald Trump, then, of course, Trump will be off the ballot in Colorado. But they're also opening the door to other states. They should expect to see Maine coming up to them, maybe Illinois. There's other states that have said, we're going to wait and see what the Supreme Court says.
So, if they rule in Colorado's favor, they are almost ensuring that they're going to get a whole bunch of other challenges. On the other hand, if they strike down what Colorado did, if they do it in a certain way, if they say either the president does not count under the 14th Amendment, or if they say it's not up to the states, Congress has to act first, then they'll put an end to this for good.
BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Joan, it's interesting because Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has the most experience in dealing with the January 6th insurrection. What will you be watching and listening for as these oral arguments go forward?
BISKUPIC: Sure. And our audience is going to get a very nice window into President Biden's first appointee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, who came on in 2022, but after she had first been on a trial court and then on the D.C. Circuit.
And when she was on a trial court, she presided over the early January 6th cases and just for a couple months, but she had a chance to see face-to-face the consequences of that attack and the people who were involved in it.
And she is distinct among her colleagues in that way, and at one point she referred to the violence at the Capitol as -- you know, she compared it to a lynch mob. So she had very strong words. She's had to experience it in a way that her colleagues haven't.
The other thing I would mention is she's already a historic justice that, you know, we haven't seen really an action much yet. She's the first African-American woman on the court. So, I think, you know, people will be wise to be listening to her.
But unlike Elena Kagan, her more senior colleague on the left, she is probably not going to be ready to be part of a compromise at the center, but she will probably speak some uncomfortable truths about January 6th.
BLITZER: Let me follow up with Elie. Which justice are you going to be looking at and listening to get a sense of what's going on?
HONIG: Well, the three liberals, if I can choose three, it's going to be fascinating. Is there any inclination there? Are they going to be leaning at all towards a broader consensus than just the usual 6-3? And, of course, the chief, Chief Justice Roberts, I mean, he is sort of the middle of the court more or less right now. And I agree, I mean, Joan has reported this. The last thing in the world Chief Justice Roberts wants is for his tenure to be seen as the one where the court split apart.
And so I think Joan did some great reporting about how the chief worked behind the scenes to get opinions together and to get consensus on the healthcare case and other cases. And I think he's going to be doing a lot of background work there too.
So, I think a lot of times when they ask the questions, they're not really asking for their own edification. They're asking both for the public tomorrow and for each other and trying to bring each other along.
BISKUPIC: Yes. I just want to add a lot of people don't realize they have not discussed this case yet. This will be the first time they're essentially discussing it, so they will be making arguments to each other to make their own cases.
BLITZER: We'll be listening. It will be very significant. Paula, before I let you go, I know you've been doing some new reporting on the Justice Department and this investigation of President Biden and his handling of classified documents.
REID: Yes, that other special counsel that doesn't quite get as much attention as Jack Smith, Robert Hurr has been investigating the possible mishandling of classified documents at two locations connected to President Biden.
Now, we have just learned, the attorney general had just sent a letter to Congress saying that Hurr has concluded his investigation. He submitted a report to the attorney general, but that report has now gone to the White House Counsel's Office. They're reviewing it for possible privilege.
Now, our reporting is that there are no criminal charges expected here, but this is expected to be a very detailed report and perhaps highly critical of President Biden and those around him in terms of how they handle these documents.
BLITZER: We'll be anxious to read it once it comes out. Thanks very much, Paula Reid, guys, thank you very, very much, a big day coming up tomorrow.
Just ahead, we'll have the latest on the diplomatic efforts to secure a hostage and ceasefire deal in Gaza, as Israeli and U.S. officials are weighing in on a Hamas counteroffer.
BLITZER: Secretary of State Antony Blinken's efforts to help secure a hostage release and ceasefire deal in Gaza were dealt a possible setback.
CNN's Jeremy Diamond has the story.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The ball is back in Israel's court, and it's being swatted right back.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We haven't committed to anything. We haven't committed to any of the delusional demands of Hamas.
There is supposed to be a process of negotiation between the mediators, and from what I see from Hamas' reaction, they are not there.
DIAMOND: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissing a Hamas counterproposal for a ceasefire that would see dozens of hostages released. But U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says there's still room to maneuver.
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: While there are some clear non- starters in Hamas' response, we do think it creates space for agreement to be reached, and we will work at that relentlessly until we get there.
DIAMOND (voice-over): The latest Hamas position outlines three phases, each lasting 45 days, beginning with the release of women, children, sick, and elderly hostages, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners, an intensification of humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza's population centers, in line with a prior Israeli framework.
But Hamas's proposal also calls for the release of all Palestinian prisoners detained since October 7th, a nonstarter for Israel.
Phase two would see the release of all male hostages and soldiers, as well as the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Gaza.
Dead bodies from both sides would be returned in phase three.
As negotiations dragged on, no respite for those trapped in Gaza. Overnight, ambulance crews in central Gaza rushing to the scene of another Israeli airstrike, searching through the rubble, rushing survivors to the hospital.
But in Gaza, even the hospitals are no guarantee of safety.
DR. AHMED MOGHRABI, NASSER HOSPITAL: Hello. Good morning, my friends.
DIAMOND: Speaking from inside Nasser Hospital, Dr. Ahmed Moghrabi describes the scene at the hospital's main gate.
MOGHRABI: This is the gate of the hospital and how the people are standing, you know.
DIAMOND: Snipers on rooftops. People trapped in fear.
MOGHRABI: Nobody can move outside of the hospital. You see the people how they are standing. They can't -- they can't go. If anybody would go outside of this gate, he would be killed. See.
DIAMOND: Outside the hospital, a lifeless body explains that fear. Locals say she was shot by a sniper.
In Gaza City, the sounds of gunfire sparking panic. Hundreds of people waiting for humanitarian aid trucks now suddenly running for their lives, but nowhere seems safe.
BLITZER: Jeremy Diamond reporting for us -- Jeremy, thank you very much. And we'll be right back with more news.
BLITZER: Tomorrow's historic U.S. Supreme Court hearing on Donald Trump's Colorado ballot ban all hinges on a single clause from the U.S. Constitution.
Let's bring in our Brian Todd. He's looking at all of this.
What can you tell us, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there were long odds that this section of the 14th Amendment would ever make it anywhere. It hadn't been invoked for more than 100 years. But the backlash from January 6 triggered a movement.
TODD (voice-over): It was an obscure clause in the U.S. Constitution from the civil war era and its path to the U.S. Court for arguments tomorrow on whether to disqualify former President Trump from office because of the January 6 insurrection was a wild ride.
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The idea that you would actually bring a case, you would find a set of state courts willing to entertain it, that you would win all the way up the line and then that the case would be before the United States Supreme Court being argued, that was a long shot.
TODD: Section Three of the 14th Amendment saying no person who's engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution or, quote, given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof, can hold any state or federal office. The Supreme Court's now got the case because of a landmark decision from the Colorado state Supreme Court in December, ruling that Trump couldn't be on the ballot in that state because of his involvement in January 6.
But the momentum had started earlier. Before the 2022 midterm elections, a left-leaning advocacy group called Free Speech For People, filed lawsuits to try to disqualify some House Republicans like Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene from running because of their ties to the January 6 riot. Greene testified in court.
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I was not asking them to actively engage in violence or any type of action.
TODD: Those lawsuits failed, but they drew a lot of attention to the 14th Amendment. And that same year, a public official was thrown out of office based on the 14th Amendment. Coy Griffin, a county commissioner in New Mexico, who actually was a convicted January 6 rioter, was ousted in response to a lawsuit filed by another left- leaning group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington or CREW
EISEN: That was another important milestone along the way. If it got apply to Coy Griffin, it could apply to Donald Trump.
TODD: The initiative picked up speed when to conservative members of the influential Federalist Society published a law review article saying Trump should be disqualified and were backed up by a conservative former federal judge.
J. MICHAEL LUTTIG, RETIRED FEDERAL APPEALS COURT JUDGE: His conduct constituted an insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution of the United States. TODD: Last year, the group CREW filed its lawsuit in Colorado, seeking
to use the 14th Amendment to get Trump off the ballot there. Its lead plaintiff, a 91 year-old Republican and former Colorado lawmaker, Norma Anderson.
NORMA ANDERSON, LEAD PLAINTIFF IN COLORADO 14TH AMENDMENT CASE: To engage in insurrection or rebellion.
TODD: In December, after a Colorado state judge had rule that Trump should stay on the ballot, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed her decision, ruling that Trump was ineligible for office.
EISEN: That was a bombshell that reverberated all over the United States and around the world.
TODD (on camera): The U.S. Supreme Court doesn't have a timeline for issuing a decision in this case, but many legal experts believe the court will move relatively quickly, given that the 2024 presidential campaign is in full swing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you very much.
Coming up, we have breaking news out of Austin, Texas, with police determining the stabbing of a Palestinian American man meets the definition of a hate crime.
TODD: We're following breaking news.
Police in Austin, Texas, say the stabbing of a 20-year-old Palestinian American meets the definition of a hate crime.
CNN's Dianne Gallagher is following the story for us.
Dianne, give us an update.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf, this news just coming in from the Austin police. I want to read part of the statement they sent to CNN. They said, quote: The hate crimes review committee has reviewed the February 4th, 2024 incident and determine the facts of the case meet the definition of a hate-crime. The information has been provided to the Travis County District Attorney's Office.
Now, the D.A.'s office will make the final decision on whether to elevate the charge offense to a hate crime or not. We have reached out to the D.A.'s office. On Sunday, 36 year-old Burt James Baker was arrested and charged with second degree assault with a deadly weapon. He's accused of stabbing 23-year-old Zacharia Doar.
Now, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations, Doar and three Muslim American friends were leaving a ceasefire rally in Austin when a man on a bicycle tore a flag off the back of their car that had the Palestinian keffiyeh, as well as free Palestine on it. They say that suspect then use the N-word and pulled one of the men out of the car. When the other three got out to defend their friend, that they say is when Doar was stabbed in his ribs, breaking one rib, he had surgery. He is now out of the hospital and recovering, Wolf.
But again, this family wants to see hate crime charges presented. We reached out to the public defender for Baker. They said they have no comment.
BLITZER: Dianne Gallagher reporting, Dianne, thanks very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.