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Supreme Court Unanimously Rules To Keep Trump On Colorado Ballot; 2024 Stakes On Display Ahead Of Super Tuesday, State Of The Union; Vice President Harris Wraps Talks With Netanyahu Rival Amid Push For Gaza Ceasefire; Supreme Court Rules In Trump's Favor In Historic 14th Amendment Case; Thousands Escape From Haitian Prisons As Gangs Seize Control Of Capital. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 04, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: 2029, of course, that would be the year that Jason Kelce becomes eligible to enter the professional football hall of fame. Mr. Kelce, as a Philadelphian and an Eagles fan, and an attendee at the 2018 Super Bowl, all I can say is thank you so much.

We are getting ready to kick off a big day here on CNN. Live coverage of Super Tuesday starts at 6:00 P.M. Eastern tomorrow. You can watch it on CNN and streaming on Max.

The news continues on CNN, and I will see you for election coverage.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now breaking news. Colorado's top election official responds to the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling keeping Donald Trump on the ballot in her state and others. Secretary of State Jena Griswold is joining us live.

Also tonight, the huge stakes of the 2024 election are on vivid display this week as Trump aims to sweep Super Tuesday contests tomorrow and President Biden prepares for his critical State of the Union Address Thursday while also facing dismal new poll numbers.

And there's more breaking news. Vice President Kamala Harris just wrapped up talks with a top political rival of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu escalating the Biden administration's push for an immediate six-week ceasefire in Gaza. We're getting a readout of the meeting.

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

The Colorado secretary of state is standing by to discuss the consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous rejection of her state's efforts to remove Donald Trump from the presidential ballot. I'll speak with her in just a moment.

But, first, let's get a breakdown of the landmark high court decision from CNN Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Former President Trump today claims the Supreme Court has unified the country by securing his place on the 2024 ballot.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The voters can take the person out of the race very quickly, but a court shouldn't be doing that and the Supreme Court saw that very well, and I really do believe that will be a unifying factor.

REID: In a unanimous opinion Monday, the court ruled that Colorado could not remove Trump from the ballot under the Constitution's ban on insurrectionists serving in office. States may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office, but states have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the presidency.

The justices warned that allowing states to each make different decisions about ballot eligibility would result in a patchwork creating chaos around elections.

The victory for Trump was expected after February oral arguments, where justices from both sides of the aisle appeared skeptical of Colorado's case.

JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I think that the question that you have to confront is why a single state should decide who gets to be president of the United States.

REID: And the chief justice, John Roberts, signaled where he would ultimately find consensus across the court.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: The whole point of the 14th Amendment was to restrict state power.

REID: While the decision was 9-0 and applies to all 50 states, there was some tension below the surface with four justices writing concurring opinions. The three liberals saying their colleagues went too far by finding only Congress can enforce the 14th Amendment. Justice Barrett, a Trump appointee, agreed but didn't sign on to the liberal justices' language, instead highlighting unity on the court. For present purposes, our differences are far less important than our unanimity. All nine justices agreed on the outcome of this case. That is the message Americans should take home.

The liberal watchdog group and longtime Colorado Republican who brought the state lawsuit disagreed with the court's decision and argued that the issue isn't settled yet.

JASON MURRAY, ATTORNEY ANTI-TRUMP CHALLENGERS IN COLORADO: The issue of Donald Trump's eligibility for the office of the presidency remains very much a live issue.


REID (on camera): But, of course, it's unlikely that Congress will do anything before November. And in less than two months, the court will hear arguments on another major Trump case that could impact the outcome of the election. There, the question is if Trump has immunity that could protect him from criminal charges related to his efforts to subvert the 2020 election.


Now, Wolf, most legal experts do not think Trump will win on the merits, but the fact the court has even taken the case could help them delay it until after the presidential contest.

BLITZER: We shall see, a huge, huge decision coming up on that front as well. Paula Reid at the Supreme Court, thank you very much.

Joining us now, the Colorado secretary of state, Jena Griswold. Madam Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

The high court says states don't have the power to remove federal candidates from the ballot. What's your reaction to this historic decision today?

SEC. OF STATE JENA GRISWOLD (D-CO): Well, thank you for having me on. First and foremost, I'm glad that they issued a decision. Colorado voters and American voters all across the country deserve to know whether Donald Trump is qualified or not as we go into Super Tuesday.

But in terms of the bigger decision, I am disappointed. We believe that it's up to Colorado or any state to determine whether to disqualify oath-breaking insurrectionists from our ballots. Ultimately, the United States Supreme Court disagreed, votes for Donald Trump will count, and he is on our ballot.

BLITZER: The court didn't address the sensitive issue whether Trump is actually an insurrectionist. Are you disappointed by that? And what worries you most about this decision?

GRISWOLD: I wouldn't say I was surprised they didn't address it, but it is the big elephant in the room. Only two courts have looked at the question of whether Trump engaged an insurrection, and they both determined that he did.

And I think one of the concerns from this decision is that, without congressional action, oath-breaking insurrectionists running for federal office will not be able to be stopped from appearing on ballots. Although Congress could act, it's highly unlikely with such a Congress that we have that just doesn't function very well.

As you heard, Madam Secretary, even the three liberal justices agreed that Trump can't be removed from the ballot. Given that, did the Colorado Supreme Court, from your perspective, go too far?

GRISWOLD: I don't think the Colorado Supreme Court went too far. I think there's different opinions that's why we have a judicial system as to whether Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is self-executing, whether states can apply that provision of the Constitution to protect our ballots from oath-breaking insurrectionists. And I also think that the big concern is still there. Donald Trump incited the insurrection. He incited that violent mob onto the Capitol to try to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power. And he has not stopped his attacks on democracy since then.

BLITZER: So, it's clear you disagree strongly with the Supreme Court decision as a legal matter. But, Madam Secretary, is it better for the country that if Trump goes ahead and loses the election, it is a result of the voters making their choice at the ballot box?

GRISWOLD: As an elected official, as Colorado secretary of state, it's my job to uphold the law in the Constitution. If there is a provision in the Constitution that would bar someone like Trump from appearing on the ballot, it's my job to enforce that.

And when there's big questions, well, goes into litigation. And we have seen that play out exactly how it did. Trump is a qualified candidate. The United States Supreme Court has decided states do not have the authority to remove him.

And, ultimately, Wolf, it will be up to the American people to save our democracy in November at their voting centers.

BLITZER: Trust in the Supreme Court, according to various polls, is near record lows right now. Will today's decision lower the court's standing with the public even more so? Do you have less faith yourself in court?

GRISWOLD: My opinion on the court does not immediately matter to this case in hand. I am disappointed, but as secretary of state, I will uphold the United States Supreme Court's decision.

Donald Trump, I believe, is a danger to American democracy. We already see MAGA extremists trying to undermine confidence in 2024. Trump himself is facing 91 felony counts in four separate cases. The American people, from the very beginning, have all the power in the world to safeguard our country. I was never waiting on the Supreme Court to do that because that will be the American voters job this fall.

BLITZER: We shall see what happens. The Colorado secretary of state, Jena Griswold, thank you so much for joining us.

GRISWOLD: Thank You.

BLITZER: All right. Let's get some reaction right now from our legal and political experts, and, Laura Coates, I'll start with you. How significant is today's decision?

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, it's a huge decision, Wolf.


The idea that we've been waiting for over a month, of course, very interesting as well, but this tells you that they have foreclosed in some respect, not only a former president being able to be found in this way, but also any official that's not explicitly laid out in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

It's consequential because they told the state, essentially, although your job is related to oversee elections, to stay in your lane. If it's a state issue, it's all yours, but for a federal office, you cannot. And that's pretty significant here.

BLITZER: What did you think of what we just heard from the Colorado secretary of state, her reaction?

COATES: Well, I think it's obvious she wanted a different conclusion. Her job as an official, obviously, is to carry out the law as it's written. But the notion that they're taking away the state's ability to decide who can be on their own ballots is a huge step to the Supreme Court.

And why? Because they believe that it's inappropriate for one state to decide how the rest of, essentially, the union will be able to operate. But their role is, hold on, if I'm in charge of my own state elections, then why would I not be in that best position here for my own voters?

This is a way, I think, for them to have the off-ramp that she was even herself because of being happening. And here it is, the off-ramp and the Supreme Court got off at that exit.

BLITZER: What did you think, Norm Eisen, from what we just heard from the Colorado secretary of state?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, there are legal issues that reasonable minds can disagree about. I think Secretary Griswold's position that the evidence strongly supported Donald Trump engaged in insurrection, and in our federal system, states run elections.

So, it was reasonable for her to say, yes, I should not put him on, but I think this was a reasonable off-ramp for the Supreme Court as well. There were some crazy ones, like saying the president -- Trump argued, the president is not an officer of the United States. That would have been a head scratcher to me if the Supreme Court nine justices agreed on that. This is one where reasonable minds can disagree.

And the other thing is they did not accept Donald Trump's invitation. He said, please say in his papers, please say I'm not an insurrectionist. 9-0, they declined to take him up on that request.

BLITZER: They didn't discussed that at all in the Supreme Court decision. And if you read it, fascinating, 20 pages, I've gone through it single.

David, what do you think of the secretary of state of Colorado saying that Trump still represents a threat to democracy here in the United States?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, listen, she's referring to a candidate who has said he intends to use the Justice Department if he's elected and serves as president again to go after his political enemies. I think that is a fair assessment, that that is a threat to the democratic norms of the system.

I think here, though, you can't underestimate the political win for Donald Trump. A 9-0 unanimous Supreme Court decision is just something we saw him do it this afternoon. You could just take out and sell on the campaign trail as validation.

Now, I know this wasn't the thorniest or trickiest of all the legal issues he faces and that he had a pretty strong case here to take before the Supreme Court, but that is still sort of a feather in his cap now to -- as he's trying to do away with all of these legal challenges, to get a 9-0 Supreme Court decision on one that keeps you on the ballot is no small thing.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a good, important point.

You know, Laura, based on what we saw today with today's Supreme Court decision, how, if at all, do you think that potentially could affect the other major Supreme Court decision that's coming in the weeks ahead, whether or not the president, the former president in this particular case, has presidential immunity? In other words, he can't be charged with a crime.

COATES: Well, there was this idea that the Supreme Court might sort of split the baby. They might say in the Colorado case, okay, you're on the ballot, which, again, be careful what you wish for, because if your whole shtick is that I'm kept off of a political martyr, now that you're back on, if you should lose, you can't really blame the Supreme Court, although likely someone will.

Then the other part of it is, hold on a second, you've got this immunity case here. Well, that seems to be a much stronger argument in favor of not allowing a president to be immune, which would be the other side of the coin for the Supreme Court not having a win for Donald Trump.

Now, if they are inclined to make us a political calculation, that would be outwardly surprising, but there's a legal argument as to why he would not have immunity as opposed to one strong in the other direction.

Either way, if the timing holds, it took about a month to actually have a decision. If you have an oral argument in April, on April 22nd, if it's a month from then you have an actual decision, well, there might, in fact, be some time on the clock before the election to have some meaningful arguments or a trial.

EISEN: And to David's point about putting the wind in Donald Trump's sails before Super Tuesday, clearly, they're focused on the political calendar and the right of every American to be informed.

Well, if you apply that same logic, how much more so supermajority of Americans wants to know, did Donald Trump abuse the powers that he's seeking to regain?


They want a jury verdict on that. So, perhaps that's a sign that they'll meet that schedule so the January 6th trial can take place.

BLITZER: We'll see what, if any, impact today's Supreme Court decision has on the voting tomorrow, the Republican primaries in all these states coming up, Super Tuesday coming up.

We'll have much more, all of the day's important news right after this.


BLITZER: We're following more breaking news right now, the vice president, Kamala Harris, just wrapped up a meeting with a top political rival of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The war cabinet member, Benny Gantz, here in Washington right now for high level talks despite Netanyahu's opposition.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is covering the story from Tel Aviv.


CNN's M.J. Lee is over at the White House. She's getting new information.

First to you, M.J., what can you tell us about this meeting and the message it sends?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the meeting certainly underscores the Biden administration's growing urgency when it comes to this conflict. We are told by the White House that the vice president made clear a couple of things to Benny Gantz in this meeting that just wrapped up.

We're told that she made clear how deeply concerning the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is right now, including bringing up that tragic situation last week where dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed, just trying to get their hands on humanitarian aid.

We're also told that she talked about the importance of getting to a ceasefire deal, where hostages can come out. This is something, of course, that U.S. officials have been working on for weeks and weeks. And we're also told that she made clear that Israel simply needs to do more in trying to provide more humanitarian assistance.

The backdrop here, of course, is that the U.S., as we saw over the weekend, began making airdrops of humanitarian aid, including food, so that the people there could have more assistance as they're going through this really horrific situation of not being -- you know, having access to basic life necessities.

You know, it's important to note for context, Wolf, that Benny Gantz's visit was not without controversy in Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu making clear his displeasure that his political rival is getting this kind of audience with senior U.S. officials. The White House has defended those meetings, basically saying, look, he's a member of the war cabinet in Israel. When he's visiting Washington and asking time, we're going to give it so that we can have the opportunity to discuss a lot of these important wartime issues.

BLITZER: And, Jeremy, you're there in Tel Aviv. You're getting more information. How much has this visit irritated the Israeli prime minister?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question that it has wrinkled not only the Israeli prime minister but also many of his allies in government who viewed this visit by Benny Gantz as somewhat of a breach of protocol. But, of course, it's important to keep in mind that Gantz is effectively Netanyahu's chief political rival even as they are both in this kind of uneasy marriage of political convenience within the war cabinet.

An Israeli government official saying that Gantz is not officially representing Israel along during this visit, the Israeli ambassador in Washington was instructed not to facilitate this visit, a sign of the disapproval of this visit. But, of course, all of this spotlights the possibility, the alternative that Gantz represents not only here in Israel but also in the United States, where U.S. officials have been growing increasingly frustrated with the current Israeli prime minister. And this is certainly an opportunity for them to get a look at what Israel's next prime minister, which he would be if elections were held today, might look like.

BLITZER: Very, very important. Jeremy Diamond in Tel Aviv, M.J. Lee at the White House, important developments, we're following all of this.

There's more breaking news we're following right now, a United Nations team finding what it calls clear and convincing, direct quote, clear and convincing information that Israeli hostages in Gaza were sexually abused and that there are reasonable grounds to believe the sexual violence is ongoing.

That report also finding evidence that rape and gang rape occurred during the October 7th Hamas terror attacks in Israel. We're watching this story as well.

Just ahead, we'll have more of Donald Trump's reaction to his Supreme Court win today and how he's using it to push his next big case before the high court.

And we're also getting new insights right now into President Biden's strategy as he prepares for his high-stakes State of the Union Address this week on Thursday amid new warning signs for his re-election bid.



BLITZER: Tonight, on this, the eve of the Super Tuesday primaries, Donald Trump is already taking something of a victory lap, celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of efforts to remove him from the presidential ballot in Colorado and other states.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is joining us right now from West Palm Beach, Florida, that's right near Mar-a-Lago, covering the former president. Kristen, after talking about the Supreme Court Colorado ballot ruling, Trump started also talking about his other legal battles out there. Tell our viewers what he said.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. He spent very little time actually talking about the ballot case. He said that he was praising the Supreme Court, that they did a really good job, but then he almost immediately pivoted to the immunity claim.

Now, this has been really important to the former president. He has become fixated on these claims of immunity and the fact that the Supreme Court has decided to take up those arguments. The one thing to keep in mind when we're talking about this ballot case is that Donald Trump and his team believed they were going to win.

They watched the oral arguments, they thought their team did really well, and they actually believed that this case was the case they had the most legal evidence to prove. And so after the win, of course, Donald Trump taking a victory lap, as you said, but then moving on to immunity.

Now, the big thing about immunity is that while his team doesn't necessarily believe that this is a winning argument, they do believe that it is fundamentally delaying the trials, the federal trials, and that is a win for them, Wolf.

BLITZER: And all of this sort of plays into new reporting you also have about the Trump campaign's finances. Tell us about that.

HOLMES: Yes. Alayna Treene and I, our colleague, reported out this story about how the Trump campaign has been reining in their expenditures as they prepare for a general election. Now, this included scaling back those large scale rallies, making them much smaller, looking for cheaper venues, cheaper hotels, even included different staffers, calling Susie Wiles a miser, and making sure that everyone was aware that they were taking the cheapest modes of transportation because they were really concerned that the heads of the campaign were looking at their line items and worried about it. It just goes to show you down, down, down that they were watching this money being spent.


The other part of this that we learned was that they had mismatched cheap furniture in all of the various state locations. A part of this is because they didn't want to repeat of what happened in 2020 when they essentially burned through hundreds of millions of dollars in that campaign and then they had a cash crunch right before the November election.

But the other part of this is that while his campaign has taken a lot of pride in the fact that they are a leaner operation, some of this might be a necessity as they try to figure out how they're going to pay that half a billion dollars in legal fines and that doesn't even include Donald Trump's mounting legal fees, meaning those lawyer bills, Wolf. BLITZER: Kristen Holmes in West Palm Beach, Florida, for us, thank you very much.

Donald Trump is having a good week with that U.S. Supreme Court win today behind him and a potential sweep of Republican contests on Super Tuesday tomorrow. All this as President Biden is facing a huge test when he delivers his State of the Union Address on Thursday amid a slew of new polls now showing the current president trailing Trump by various degrees as their expected rematch is getting closer to becoming official.

David Chalian is back with us along with CNN Political Commentators Van Jones and S.E. Cupp.

And, David, let's start with you. How bad of a sign is all of this for the Biden campaign?

CHALIAN: Well, it's not where a president would want to be heading into the heat of his re-election campaign. That being said, you just showed a slew of polls. Trump, in a couple of them, is outside the margin of error with a slight lead, in others, it's within the margin of error. No clear leader. The average is 48 to Trump, 46 percent for Biden.

Here's the difference. Four years ago, we here at CNN did 12 polls matching up Biden and Trump throughout the entire '19 and '20 election season. Donald Trump was never numerically ahead of Joe Biden. That's not the case now.

So, Joe Biden enters with low approval ratings, historically low approval ratings, and he is doing so in a weaker position than, no doubt, his campaign would want to be at this point. I just think we're now getting to the season of a fully engaged campaign battle.

BLITZER: Yes, still plenty of months to go before the actual election, so we'll see what happens.

Van Jones is with us. The New York Times poll showed this, nearly three quarters of voters, Van, 73 percent say Biden is too old. They say he's too old to be an effective candidate, including actually a majority of Democrats. Just 42 percent say that of Trump. Should this be a major flashing red light for the Biden campaign?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It should be, and it is. Unfortunately, he can't get any younger, so there's not that much that they can do about it. He has a chance this week, though, to remind people that sometimes having a good grandpa on the case is better than having a bad grandpa on the case, and that's really what he's got to lean into it.

He's got to own it. He is an older guy, but he's an older guy who's a good guy, he's a good man, he's done well for the country, and he's got a track record to run on. But, you know, anybody who says this is not a real issue or it's just something that the media is making up, that's not true. BLITZER: S.E. Cupp, the writer, Evan Osnos, has a new article in the New Yorker Magazine, in which he speaks to President Biden and others. He writes this about President Biden's polling struggles right now, and I'm quoting from the article. A series of senior aides told me that they doubt Biden is trailing Trump as much as some polls have suggested. Polling is broken, one of them said. Is the Biden White House, S.E., in some sort of denial right now.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, I read that interview. Biden was defiant. And that's a good look for him, right? Being angry, being determined that's good, but there's a fine line between defiant and denial. And there is a denialism inside the White House about his age and about the importance of some of the issues to a lot of Americans, including to Democrats.

And I watched over the weekend as all these not great polls came out for Joe Biden and my liberal friends on Twitter were tweeting, slamming the media and the polls themselves, very similar to what you heard in that article. And that's very Trumpian. That sounds very Trumpian to blame the media and the polls.

And, you know, I don't think that's going to serve him really well. He's got to, like Van said, I think address this head on, tackle it, lay out the stakes at the State of the Union of what exactly is at stake here and get people to see beyond this mess, the mess of his age and the mess of some of these issues that have just not been dealt with.


BLITZER: Well, Van, let me get you to weigh in on this as well. Is the White House in denial?

JONES: I think that if the White House thinks that the age issue is, you know, a media made up thing, they're in denial, if they think these polls are made up, they're in denial. It is true that Biden -- that the Democratic Party tends to do a little bit better than we expect almost every time, given how bad Biden's numbers are.

So, you know, the red wave turned out to be a little red trickle. We did a little bit better. These off-year, weird-year elections, we've been doing a little bit better. We're doing better than Biden. But how is Biden going to do better than Biden? That's the thing that's hard for me to understand. They think that, well, listen, Democrats keep doing better.

The only hope is that the economy continues to heal, abortion stays a strong issue, and people start paying more attention to what it would really mean for Trump to get in there.

But in the meantime, this is the hard-sledding season for Biden, and you want to see him come out strong this weekend and take this issue on.

BLITZER: We'll see how he does in the State of the Union Address on Thursday. David, among the so-called must win blocs out there that Biden must win in order to be re-elected as president, these latest poll numbers are not necessarily showing a lot of good news for the current president.

CHALIAN: No. It's showing a similar story that we've been seeing over the course of the last year. He is losing ground with some key constituencies. Take a look on the screen here. You can see The New York Times poll there on the left compared to the 2020 exit polls.

Now, one is a poll and one is voters coming out of the voting booth telling us what they did. But, nonetheless, those under 30, Biden has a 12-point advantage in this poll. Well, it was twice that in the 2020 election. Among female voters, Biden is tied with Trump in this New York Times poll this weekend. He had a 15-point advantage. You see with black voters, he's got a 43 point advantage, that's substantial, except in the 2020 election, it was a 75-point advantage.

And then if you look at non-white voters without a college degree, you see he's got a six-point advantage over Trump, but that was a 46-point advantage in 2020. So, clearly, they have a to-do list here, there's no doubt, to try and bring some of these key pieces of the coalition back into the fold at the robust levels that they were for years ago.

BLITZER: I'm sure when they read these New York Times/Siena poll numbers yesterday in The New York Times, there was a lot of depression over there.

CHALIAN: But probably little surprise.

BLITZER: Yes, a little, good point. All right guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee will join me in the Situation Room. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news right now, the high- stakes meeting today between Vice President Kamala Harris and an Israeli war cabinet member who's a top rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That meeting just wrapped up a little while ago.

And joining me now, the top Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

What message does it send for the White House to host Benny Gantz today? That's something they haven't granted Netanyahu since his re- election.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well, Wolf, I think it's -- I hope two things are going on. Number one, it sends a signal that the United States stands with Israel and that we have not forgotten the horror that was visited on Israel on October 7th, and the necessity, the righteous necessity to make sure that Hamas is not an operative force ever again.

It also, and I imagine that behind closed doors this message was delivered, is essential that the conflict in Gaza, the Israeli attacks in Gaza happened in a different way than they have these many months in a way that is much more consistent with the kind of humanitarian improvement we would like to see in Gaza, and in which Hamas is the target and in which there is much less damage done, fatalities, casualties amongst the civilian population.

BLITZER: Because I know, Congressman, you've joined most of the Democrats in criticizing Netanyahu's far right policies. But given the very sensitive talks over a potential ceasefire and hostage deal, could it actually backfire on the White House to anger Netanyahu?

HIMES: Well, you know, I don't know about angering Netanyahu. What the United States is doing here, and I think the vice president was very clear in her statements in pointing at Hamas as the barrier at this point to a cessation of hostilities to allow for the humanitarian situation to be addressed, to allow for the release of hostages.

And, you know, the United States needs to continue to play a role in saying to the Israeli leadership, regardless of who it is, and, of course, Benny Gantz is in the war cabinet, that we must, together, undertake the attacks in Gaza in a different way than they have been.

You know, the way they have been undertaken from a humanitarian standpoint is just not tenable going forward. And, you know, as you know, Wolf, the Israeli leadership, Prime Minister Netanyahu, most notable amongst them, has not been open to that message, and it's really going to be critical, not just for the moral reasons, but for ultimately the ability, and we all hope that this ability comes sooner rather than later, but to migrate this catastrophic situation to something that is ultimately about the peace and the security and the safety of the Israeli people and of a legitimate end state for the Palestinian people, which, of course, is a two-state solution.

So, my hope is that the conversation in the White House is about taking the steps to get us closer to that, what seems like today, very distant solution.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, the vice president, Kamala Harris, is speaking out a lot more forcefully and publicly about the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza right now.


And the White Houses frustration with Israel clearly is growing.

I want you to listen and watch this. Listen to this.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane. There must be an immediate ceasefire.


For at least the next six weeks.


BLITZER: For the last -- at least the next six weeks, she added. Should President Biden himself, Congressman, be speaking out like this?

HIMES: Well, obviously I think we all believe that the vice president is echoing a message that that is consistent with the president, consistent with the administration, consistent with a lot of members of Congress.

And, you know, I have to say this a lot to my constituents, Wolf, which is that two things can be true at the same time. Number one, that what happened on October 7th, what was perpetrated by Hamas was inexcusable, was barbaric and was monstrous, and that Hamas must cease to be a player in the region and on the global stage.

It is also true that 30,000 dead Gazans is not a tenable situation, that a humanitarian crisis in which Gazans are not getting enough nutrition, not getting the medicine. That is also untenable.

So, again, sadly in this conflict, people have a tendency to take sides. We have to remember that the life of an Israeli and the life of a Gazan are morally equivalent and that we shouldn't take sides. And that, yes, we need to prosecute the war were against Hamas, but we need to do it in a way that is different, frankly, from the way we have seen the war undertaken in these last several months.

BLITZER: Congressman Jim Himes, thank you so much for joining us.

HIMES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we'll have much more news just ahead.



BLITZER: Now back to our top story. The United States Supreme Court's historic decision today rejecting efforts to remove Donald Trump from the ballot.

CNN's Brian Todd has a closer look.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the 14th Amendment has some very colorful history behind it. And Donald Trump and the Supreme Court have just put it to the test.


TODD (voice-over): Donald Trump put the United States in uncharted waters, never before in American history has the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, the so-called insurrectionist ban, been applied to a top presidential candidate. But then again, no American president has ever tried to overturn an election as Trump did.

What is the 14th Amendment?

PROF. STEPHEN VLADECK, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS LAW SCHOOL: The idea was if you engage in insurrection after previously swearing an oath to the United States, you are disqualified unless two-thirds of both chambers of Congress say you can come back.

TODD: Specifically, Section Three of the 14th Amendment says no person who's previously taken an oath to support the Constitution shall hold any office who has engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.

The Colorado Supreme Court had ruled that's what Trump did on January 6, 2021, when he implored his supporters to go to the Capitol.

TRUMP: We're going to the Capitol.

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

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Those reconstruction amendments in 1868 came about because her country was torn apart in the civil war.

VLADECK: The purpose of section three, at least in that moment, was to make it impossible for Jefferson Davis or Alexander Stephens, or the other senior leaders, the confederacy to simply come back into the national government as if nothing had ever happened.

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

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

More recently, Coy Griffin, a county commissioner in New Mexico, was removed from office in 2022 on 14th Amendment grounds, because he actually was a convicted January 6 rioter. Now, the Supreme Court has said, not only does Trump stay on the Colorado ballot, but states can never keep a federal candidate off their ballot for insurrection, their biggest ruling on elections since 2000.

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


TODD (on camera): Donald Trump denies doing anything wrong on January 6. And as of now, he's not been convicted of any crimes related to January 6. But legal analyst Stephen Vladeck says at least one of those previous cases where Congress has denied seats to people based on the 14th Amendment is an indication that you don't have to have been convicted to be prevented from holding office under that amendment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very important.

Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you, Brian, very much.

Coming up, a state of emergency in Haiti right now as gangs seized control of the nation's capital.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're following dire developments in Haiti right now, were much of the capital Port-au-Prince has been taken over by ruthless gangs. The government declaring a state of emergency and a curfew after thousands of inmates escaped from prison.

CNN's David Culver traveled there for a firsthand look.

David, how volatile is the situation?

DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dire is the best word for it, Wolf. And you used it.

We've seen a surge in violence gripping Haiti over the past 72 hours. The U.S. embassy there urging Americans to leave. And as you mentioned, we were on the ground just before this most recent outbreak. We went along with an undercover unit of Haiti's national police. They're tasked with going after gangs.

But what stood out to us is that the amount of influence these gangs have gained. The U.N. estimates gangs now control 80 percent of the capital. Our route driving through Port-au-Prince with sometimes change hourly, given gunfire and violence, abrupt -- erupted, unpredictably, honestly. And we notice kidnappings, extortions were rampant.

All in all, this is a desperate situation. And over the weekend, more than 3,000 inmates were believed to have escaped from Haitian prisons.

Now, a Haiti police union warning that if those numbers are accurate, quote, we are done. No one will be spared. Most concerning for the government is that these gangs have started

coordinating with each other, Wolf. They're showing a unified force against prime minister Ariel Henry. And many folks were chanting as we were there that they want Henry to go.

Late last week, Henry resigned an agreement with a -- for a thousand Kenyan police officers to deploy. And this is part, Wolf, of a multinational security support mission.

BLITZER: David Culver, thanks very much for that report.

To our viewers, thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.