Return to Transcripts main page
The Source with Kaitlan Collins
NY Times: Israel Knew Hamas' Attack Plan More Than A Year Ago; Reports: Lawyer Told Trump Defying Subpoena For Classified Documents Would Be A Crime; Coast Guard Leaders Concealed A Report For Nearly A Decade That Documented Racism, Hazing And Assault. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired November 30, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Next week's episode is a very personal conversation, about loss, with President Biden, at the White House.
Episode One is available, right now. It's with a psychotherapist and author, named Francis Weller, whose work is really powerful, in grief. You can find Season Two of "All There Is" on Apple Podcasts, or Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Episode One is out there now. I hope you like it. And I hope you find it helpful.
That's it for us. The news continues. THE SOURCE starts now.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.
Hours from a critical deadline, will Israel and Hamas extend their truce another day?
That and a new report, from The New York Times that Israel actually knew the plan, for the Hamas attack, more than a year before it happened.
Plus, indicted Congressman George Santos could be out of a job, in just hours from now. And now, he's threatening to take down his own colleagues, if expelled, from the House.
And racism, hazing, sexual assaults, what top-ranking military officials have been concealing, from the public, for years, we expose a Coast Guard cover-up right here, tonight.
I'm Pamela Brown. And this is THE SOURCE.
And good evening to you. Kaitlan is off, tonight.
Just three hours from another truce deadline, what could be the end of the pause, in fighting, between Israel and Hamas?
Negotiations going down right to the wire, once again, on the seventh day of the truce, as a seventh group of hostages were freed, and are now safely back in Israel. Only eight hostages released in this handover. Israel and Hamas agreed to count the two extra Israeli- Russian hostages, released yesterday, as part of the 10 required in this deal. There are significant questions, about whether this deal can survive another extension. Negotiators initially believed Hamas wouldn't likely be able to offer more women and children, to stretch the pause, beyond an eighth day.
And meanwhile, there is a major story, tonight, from The New York Times, also reported by Israeli media that Israeli officials had the battle plan, for the Hamas attack, more than a year before it happened. But the Israelis largely dismissed it as aspirational, considering it too difficult, for Hamas to carry out.
I want to start with CNN's Oren Liebermann, who is live, for us, in Tel Aviv, tonight.
So Oren, let's start with the truce. It expires in less than three hours from now. What are you hearing, from your sources, in Israel, about what will happen next?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Pam, it is just after 4 in the morning here. So, there are three hours until this truce is set to expire, with no announcement from any of the sides here, neither from Israel, nor Hamas, nor from Qatar, which has led the negotiations that there is a deal in place to continue this, for at least another 24 hours.
It has been Qatar that has made many of the critical announcements, saying that it will continue that there will be more hostages released. We haven't seen that announcement yet.
Now, the IDF has basically said they're ready to continue operations, as soon as the order is given. We expect that order would come shortly after 7 in the morning, unless Hamas announces that they are ready to release 10 more Israeli women and children.
But we haven't heard from the political echelon here, about where those negotiations stand. We know they are ongoing.
Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, was here, and continues to be here, but spoke and said that the need for a continued pause is critical, not only to allow for the release of more hostages, but also for more humanitarian aid to go through.
He also said before Israel launches the second phase of its offensive, in Gaza, it needs to have a plan, for both the humanitarian aid, and a plan to reduce civilian casualties, in Gaza. That's been a major concern of the U.S., and frankly, of the international community.
Crucially now, we are simply watching the clock. Last night, this went down to the final few minutes, when Hamas produced a list that was acceptable to Israel. As our colleagues have reported, including Alex Marquardt, and MJ Lee, Hamas produced two lists that were unacceptable to Israel.
Now, it's unclear if we're in that same back-and-forth, right now. This will very much go down to the wire, Pam. We will absolutely keep an eye on it, to see if this war restarts, in just three hours now. BROWN: Really getting right down to it as before. Thank you so much, Oren. Appreciate it.
And I want to go to this New York Times reporting as well that Israel obtained Hamas' attack plan, more than a year ago. It has also been reported in Israeli media. And the Times reports that a veteran analyst warned Hamas conducted a training exercise, similar to what was outlined, in those plans.
And so, I want to bring in our Alex Marquardt, here on this, our National Security -- our Chief National Security Correspondent.
This New York Times article really lays out all the warning signs, from this pamphlet that the Israeli intelligence officials had received. Would the U.S. intelligence have been aware of this?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is possible, Pam. They obviously have such a close intelligence-sharing relationship.
This New York Times article, which just has some extraordinary warnings, about this document, they nicknamed the plan, "Jericho Wall," it actually ended up being Hamas' phrasing for it was the "Al- Aqsa Flood."
But you had this character in this piece, a female analyst, who warned that this was a plan, designed to start a war. She said it's not just a raid on a village. And her officer, a colonel, ignored that.
This was military intelligence. So, it is very possible that they were shared with the U.S. side, which would be the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is the Pentagon. But this Times article is also saying this may not have been shared, with the highest levels, of political leadership, in Israel. So, it likely was not shared, with the highest level of U.S. intelligence leadership, either.
But we did see some warnings, both from Israel, and from the U.S., that we've reported on, in the days before, this horrific set of attacks, on October 7th. But essentially, they weren't taken seriously, and what it's being called as not only an intelligence failure, but a lack of imagination.
The U.S. and others thought that Hamas could do something. But that if they did something, it would be rockets fired across the border that might get intercepted by the Iron Dome. And -- but certainly not that Hamas would be able to break out of Gaza, and carry out this kind of attack.
The U.S., since October 7th, has made clear that they view this very much as an Israeli intelligence failure. Hamas is not a major focus. Palestinian groups are not a major focus, until now, for the U.S. intelligence community.
BROWN: And it's interesting that in this reporting, that the view from some top officials, of Israeli intelligence, the defense was that it was aspirational, they wouldn't be able to pull this off.
But you see some of the Hamas, that GoPro video that they had, just waltzing across the border, essentially, unobstructed, right, without really anyone there, to stop them. And so, it really raises the question of why they were able to do that, and why the Israeli officials thought that it was so aspirational.
You heard Oren, talk about the truce that could end, in a few hours. I want to talk about that now.
BROWN: Because you have been extensively reporting on sort of why it has been going down to the wire. What can you tell us about what is going on, right now?
MARQUARDT: It really could go either way. And we've got less than three hours, before this deal expires.
And the ball really is in Hamas' court. Israel has made clear that they will continue this pause, if Hamas is able to come up with 10 more women and children. The U.S. and Qatar, which are the center of these negotiations, they want to see this pause, continue. But Hamas really does have to release more hostages.
Oren referenced the list that had been rejected, by Israel, last night. That's because they didn't include only women and children. They had some dead bodies, of which we believe there could be a significant number that Hamas has. Another list included elderly men.
But Israel is saying you have to give us all the women and children. So, there's a lot of focus on what happens, tonight. If they come up with a list of 10 women and children, we'll see this pause extended by another day.
But the U.S. definitely wants to expand the conversation, to include some of the men that they have, to include the Israeli soldiers that they have. So, even if tomorrow goes smoothly, and another 10 are released, we're getting into a possibly another chapter, where negotiations will have to start over the next categories.
And in the meantime, if those negotiate -- if the releases stall, we could see the military operation, by Israel, start back up again. That could happen if not tonight, then certainly in the coming days.
BROWN: And the big question, if it starts back up again, what will that look like? We heard what the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has been urging, for Israelis to be more surgical, in its approach, to limit those civilian casualties, so.
Alex, thank you so much, for bringing your reporting to us, tonight.
And I now want to bring in the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren.
I want to start with this new reporting that we were just discussing, with Alex, from The New York Times. What does this mean to the people of Israel, if as the New York Times is reporting that the government knew about the Hamas attack plan, more than a year ago?
MICHAEL OREN, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Well, good to be with you, Olivia (ph).
Actually the report doesn't say that the government knew. It says it was that the army knew. We don't know how high up the chain of command that information went.
But it's really part of an investigation that will follow this war. And it'll be a very thorough and far-reaching investigation. And everybody will be investigated, including the military, including the government echelon.
Clearly, there was an intelligence failure, here, of a magnitude of October 1973, at the outset of the Yom Kippur War, where there were people, in the intelligence community, who warned about an impending Arab invasion. And those warnings weren't taken seriously.
Just personally speaking, I was in the government, and I was involved in the Gaza issue. We all thought that Hamas wore two hats. It sort of wore a terrorist hat, but it also wore a governance hat. It was the de facto governance of Gaza.
And that Hamas could be incentivized to wear the governance hat more than the terrorist hat, by giving them a lot of Qatari money, and we're sure there'd be a lot of money, plus allowing about 20,000 Gazan workers, into Israel, every day, to work that would give Hamas something to lose.
So, it wasn't just that that people in the government was sort of underestimating the military prowess of Hamas, but really thinking that Hamas could be induced to be something else, than what it was, which is a terrorist organization.
BROWN: Well, and you are right to state that it -- we don't know if the whole of government of Israel knew. The Times says it is uncertain that -- this reporting could not indicate whether Netanyahu knew or not.
But I mean, wouldn't that be a failure in and of itself, for something like this, to not be go up to the highest levels, considering, I mean, according to the Times, you have an analyst, who is raising the alarm bell saying, "We're seeing Hamas fighters training exercises that match exactly what is in this blueprint that we have." They're using the same words that are in this blueprint.
Why wouldn't that have gone up to the top levels of the government?
OREN: Well, again, I can say, as someone, who spends a lot of time, in the military, and a lot of time, in government, you get a lot of warnings of this nature, in Israel. We are in a terrible neighborhood, and surrounded by enemies, on all sides. And so, warnings are coming in every day, and frankly, all night. And there's a lot of fog.
And you have to see through the fog and see, "OK, what is the real threat here," and it's not always easy. This is not to exonerate or forgive anybody. Clearly, there was a serious intelligence failure here. But just giving you a sense of the complexity of these issues.
I must say also that I'm a little disturbed by this report, not just because of what it says, about the intelligence failure. But it seems to me, already part of the, I don't know, sort of the back-and-forth, that political back-and-forth, about who is going to respond -- who's going to be responsible, for this intelligence failure, whether it's going to be the military or the government.
Obviously, somebody gave this report, to the New York Times. And I have to ask myself, what was the motivation behind that person in doing so?
BROWN: Right. But that aside, I mean, it is important reporting to understand, what was known, what wasn't known, before this horrific attack, on October 7th.
I want to talk to you about moving forward. As we look at these next few hours, we don't know if this truce is going to hold, right? It is right down to the wire. So, that means that Israeli military operations could start back up, right after.
The Biden administration has urged Israel to be more surgical, with its military operations, once the truce ends, to limit civilian deaths. So far, the Hamas-controlled Palestinian health ministry says more than 14,000 civilians have died, many of them women and children.
Here's what Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said today. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Before Israel resumes major military operations, it must put in place humanitarian civilian protection plans that minimize further casualties of innocent Palestinians.
By clearly and precisely designating areas and places in southern and central Gaza where they can be safe and out of the line of fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Do you expect Israel to be receptive to these demands?
OREN: I think Israel has always been receptive to these demands. And they actually don't even have to be made, as a demand. Israel, both on the moral plane, we have no interest in, in causing civilian deaths, among the Palestinians, but also on the strategic level.
Keep in mind, the more Palestinians, who are hurt, by the fact that they serve as human shields, for Hamas, that actually creates political pressures, on us, to agree to a ceasefire, right? It's actually a boomerang.
And a ceasefire means Hamas wins. It means Hamas gets away with mass murder. It means 250,000 Israelis can't go back to their homes, because they've been removed, from those homes. They wouldn't go back if Hamas can reorganize and launch further strikes. And that's precisely what the leaders of Hamas said they're going to do.
So, it is not in Israel's strategic interest, to increase the number of Palestinian casualties. Israel will do its utmost, to limit those casualties. But it's going to be difficult, because Hamas is going to continue to hide behind them and use them as shields. And we will try to be as surgical as humanly possible.
At the end of the day, we're fighting a vicious enemy, who doesn't care anything--
OREN: --about the lives of Palestinians. Nothing.
BROWN: But -- so you say that Israel has been receptive to U.S. demands. But clearly, the Biden administration doesn't believe it has been receptive enough, or hasn't been following it enough.
And we know that per, what the IDF has said, in testimony that they have been using dumb bombs, which they do say is to get to the tunnels there, in Gaza, that Hamas uses. Dumb bombs, though are more indiscriminate, right? They killed more people. They're not surgical.
So clearly, the Biden administration believes that it could be doing more, to limit those civilian deaths.
And do you worry that Israel's mission, to destroy Hamas, in the way that it is carrying this out, with more than 14,000 deaths, could actually backfire, by radicalizing more people to sympathize with Hamas, and then join its ranks?
OREN: Well let me just take issue with the 14,000. That's a statistic put out by Hamas. And let's be very straight about that. And Hamas routinely inflates its numbers. We know that.
We know they conflate the number of Palestinian terrorists, who have been killed in that number, as well as the significant number of Palestinians, who have been killed, by Palestinian rockets, that fall short. About 30 percent of their rockets fall short, and fall on Palestinian neighborhoods. We all remember what happened to the Al- Ahli Hospital, several weeks ago.
So yes, any casualties, doesn't matter what the number are too -- civilian casualties are too many. And it's in Israel's interest, as I said, morally and strategically to limit that, keeping in mind, we're dealing with a densely populated and densely built-up area. And Hamas is under that area with over 300 miles of tunnels. You imagine what this is like, for a military, to try to remove that threat. At the end of the day, Israel has to remove that threat. We cannot live as a country. And we will have to make some very difficult choices, about the hostages. I don't know how long these truces can go on. We are trying our best to get as many women and children, out of the hands of Hamas.
But at the end of the day, let's be clear, Hamas will not give up all the hostages. The hostages are the get-out-of-Gaza-free card, for Hamas. And they know that once they give up the last of those hostages, Israel then could flood those tunnels. It could set those tunnels of fire. We can't do that as long as there are hostages there.
BROWN: I want to talk a little--
OREN: Perhaps we could reach a situation where -- please, go ahead.
BROWN: Oh, go ahead. No, you're talking about the hostages. I want to follow up on that.
Because Hamas released this video of Yarden Bibas, today. He is the father of a 4-year-old and 10-month-old. And just yesterday, Hamas claimed, without any evidence, we should note, that the boys and their mother were killed, by an Israeli airstrike. Now we -- CNN has no evidence of their deaths, or the airstrike that Hamas is claiming.
We are not showing the video of Yarden. But we do have an image from it that we have showed. And that image, in this video, it shows Yarden begging Israeli officials, to bring him, and his family home.
Michael, what impact does a video like the one of Yarden Bibas have, on the families, of these hostages?
OREN: Well it's not the video. It's actually the whole story of the Bibas' family, which has become sort of emblematic, for Israelis, generally.
If you notice that, the demonstrations, calling for the release of all the hostages, have orange balloons. And that's a reference to the redheaded children here. And we don't know, we can't know, we can't verify, whether Hamas' claims that the -- most of the family, except for the young woman, Abigail (ph) has been killed.
We know in the past that Hamas has said the hostages have been killed. We found the bodies of two women, who allegedly, according to Hamas, had been killed, by an Israeli airstrike. But forensic evidence showed that they were alive, and they had been executed, by Hamas. So, we don't know.
Olivia (ph), if I could I just want -- I don't think I responded to your question. And I wanted to get to it. Will Israel be sort of risking the creating another generation of terrorists, through its military activities, in Gaza? Shall I answer that?
BROWN: Yes, go for it. We'll make time.
OREN: Yes, go for it. OK, thank you. Because it's important point, and it comes out often, it comes out often.
It simply is this. First of all, if every time a country went to war, against an evil enemy? The United States, in World War II, thought it would create more Nazis, by destroying Nazi Germany, then United States would never have gone to war, against Nazi Germany.
And every time we've gone to war, in the Middle East, and we've gone to war quite frequently, since our founding, in 1948, yes, we risk creating another generation of terrorists. But we have no option, of course. This is our option we have to live.
But the opposite, the positive side of this whole process is that every once in a while, people in the Middle East will internalize that war is not the way.
You could get an Anwar Sadat in Egypt. And Egypt made war against us four times, wars of national destruction. Jordan went -- made more twice wars of national destruction. And King Hussein internalized it, this wasn't the way, and we made peace. And we made peace with the signatories of four Arab countries, who were a part of the Abraham Accords.
So, it's not true that continued war, always going to create generations that want to wage war. Some generations wake up and say, "Maybe this is not the way to get a better future for our children and grandchildren." And that's the hope here. At the same time, we're going to have to continue to defend ourselves.
BROWN: All right, Michael Oren, thank you for coming on, to offer your perspective and analysis.
Another long-awaited reunion, caught on camera, an Israeli mother finally coming home to her husband, and daughter, she saved from being kidnapped, nearly eight weeks ago. Her cousin is with us, up next. You won't want to miss that.
Plus, indicted Congressman, George Santos, defying calls, once again, to resign on the eve, of another vote, to expel him, and claiming he is being bullied out of Congress.
BROWN: Tonight, we are learning more, about newly-released hostage, Yarden Roman-Gat. She is the Israeli mother, who saved her family, from Hamas, when they were kidnapped, on October 7th.
After they all jumped out of a car that was taking them to Gaza, Yarden handed her 3-year-old daughter, to her husband, and told them to run. While they escaped Hamas, Yarden did not. She hid behind a tree as Hamas gunmen closed in. And that was the last time they saw her, until now.
More than 54 days later, they are finally together again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(VIDEO -- MOTHER ABDUCTED BY HAMAS REUNITES WITH FAMILY)
GEFFEN (ph), YARDEN ROMAN-GAT'S DAUGHTER: Mummy (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: That is beautiful to see that reunion.
Maya Roman, Yarden's cousin, who was also at the hospital, is here with us.
You were there, to welcome her back, we should note, Maya. It's just, watching this video, it is so emotional. I can't imagine how you feel, as a family member, who has just been hoping and praying, all these days, for her to come back safely. We can see just how anxious it has been, for the family.
Tell us more about your reunion. And how is she doing now?
MAYA ROMAN, COUSIN OF YARDEN ROMAN-GAT, HOSTAGE RELEASED BY HAMAS: Yes. The reunion was, of course, amazing. We were all so excited to see her. Her daughter was so excited to see her.
The release that day was postponed more and more. And so, it was very late at night. And we woke up Geffen, at 2 AM, told her that we found mommy, and she was just going crazy at the house, ecstatic, and too nervous to explicitly say -- I kept asking her, "Do we know who we're going to meet?" And she was like, "You say it, you say it," because she didn't want to say the word.
And then, when they met, me and the partners of Yarden's and siblings kind of let them meet first alone, and then we were waiting around the corner. So, Geffen kind of came running towards us, saying, "You have to come. Mommy's back. You have to come," and running through the hospital. So, of course, it was extremely, extremely emotional.
And Yarden is doing well, considering what she's been through. Obviously, it's been a very, very hard time, especially the first few weeks, when she didn't know that Geffen was alive, and that Alon was alive. She had no idea that she succeeded in saving them. And so, she obviously said that it was very, very tough.
But then she luckily was able to hear on the radio. Actually, the first thing she heard was a song that her husband's cousin dedicated to Kinneret (ph), her mother-in-law that was murdered, on that day.
And he dedicated it to her, and to Carmel Gat, her sister-in-law, who is still held by Hamas. And that is how she understood, because he didn't mention Geffen, that Geffen and Alon are probably OK. And so, that was like the first time Yarden, she could feel some relief. She--
BROWN: And when was that?
ROMAN: --again, so she's--
BROWN: I mean, so she was held in captivity, 54 days. At what point in captivity was it when she heard that and pieced it together?
ROMAN: It was after about a month, three weeks to a month, something like that. So, for the first kind of month, she really was in the dark, which again, she describes as hell, as you would imagine. But yes, once she understood what was happening, it helped her a lot.
And she is, as you can understand, from the story of how she was kidnapped, she is an incredibly strong woman, and is still an incredibly strong woman. And the way she's dealing with what she's been through is just extremely inspirational.
And one of the main things that she was concerned about, after she saw Geffen, and saw that Geffen was all right, was, again, her sister-in- law, and where is she--
ROMAN: --and has she come back already? And that is why we are still, even though we're so happy and celebrating in the way, we are still very concerned that the rest of the hostages have to come back home.
This includes Carmel, who's 39. She's a young woman, and one of the last women, held by Hamas, but also all of the other hostages, and relatives of families that we have gotten to know so well, during these past extremely, extremely trying days. Yes, so we are still--
ROMAN: --very much thinking about them.
BROWN: What an emotional roller-coaster, you have been through.
Maya Roman, so much joy, today, with this reunion, but still so much angst, with the fact that the sister-in-law is still held hostage, and so many others are still held hostage, at this hours, and only a few hours left, in the truce, as it is going down to the wire.
Thank you, for joining us. We are sending our best to you, and your family.
ROMAN: You're welcome.
BROWN: And we are so glad that they were able to reunite. Thank you, Maya.
ROMAN: Thank you.
BROWN: And back in the U.S., it is the eve, of another vote, to expel Congressman George Santos. And he's not backing down.
Was this a threat?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): If the House wants to start different precedent, and expel me? That is going to be the undoing of a lot of members, of this body, because this will haunt them, in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Well George Santos could now be spending his final night, as an elected representative, in the United States Congress. We're just hours away now, from a House vote, to expel the embattled and indicted congressman, from New York.
This morning, Santos told reporters he's not giving up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTOS: If I leave, they win. If I leave, the bullies take place. This is bullying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Santos later took to the fight -- took the fight, to the House floor, deflecting blame off himself, and onto his colleagues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTOS: It is a predetermined necessity for some members in this body to engage in this smear campaign to destroy me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: With more on the impending vote, to expel Santos, from Congress, tomorrow, we are joined by Karen Finney, former Communications Director for the Democratic National Committee.
Also joining us tonight is Republican strategist, Alice Stewart, who also served as Communications Director for Ted Cruz.
All right, so before we jump in, I want to just go over, and remind our viewers what this ethics report, released earlier this month, reveals. Shall we?
So, it revealed misuse of campaign funds, for vacations, spa and botox treatments, even OnlyFans accounts, which is essentially a porn site. So, it alleges he was using campaign funds for that.
What are the chances, Karen, that he is still a member of Congress, after tomorrow?
KAREN FINNEY, FORMER DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, SENIOR ADVISER, HILLARY CLINTON 2016 CAMPAIGN: It seems highly unlikely, I will tell you.
And it was interesting, today, one of the things we heard members of Congress saying, those who were trying to speak, in support of him, was, "The people should be able to decide."
Well Marist had a poll recently that said 75 percent of New Yorkers, 83 percent of Long Island residents, and about 68 percent of the GOP in New York, think he should step down.
And as you'll recall, when we first learned, last fall that he had, completely lied, and misled people, about his resume? I mean, that seems like nothing compared to the rest of it, at this point.
BROWN: That's interesting.
FINNEY: Even then, people thought he should step down. So, the pressure is on, for the Republican Party, I think, to show that ethics actually matters.
BROWN: Right. And look, Republicans, I mean, they're in agreement, he is a serial liar. No one is denying that.
But there are some Republicans that we've heard from that are claiming, that they're concerned about the precedent that this would set, expelling someone from Congress, who was not, at this point, been convicted of a crime.
Alice, how much do you think it is the reluctance to expel him is that, establishing that precedent, versus the fact they need his vote, because there's such a slim margin?
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR TED CRUZ: Look, there's an argument to be made, that he is reliable vote.
And for Republicans that are only thinking about this through the political lens, they would rather keep him, and let the voters vote him out of office, he's not running for reelection, but -- when his time is up.
Look, here's what happens. When we talk about luxury vacations, and designer clothing, this is what happens, when you have a caviar dreams on a congressional salary. It turns into a nightmare. And this is of his own doing.
And what I'm hearing from Republicans, look, this is not a matter of him having his due process. Because he had the opportunity, to answer these questions, and put forth information, before the Ethics Committee. He did not do so. And he had the opportunity, to withdraw and step down, as many have asked him. He's not doing so. So, expulsion is the only answer.
And look, this is not a matter of the precedent of someone, who has never been -- had not been convicted, being expelled from Congress. Look, this is about there are conduct and standard of behavior, amongst members of Congress. He has not met that. And rational Republicans that I've been speaking with saying he is a disgrace--
STEWART: --not just to the Republican Party, but to politics, to the Congress, and also to this country, with his behavior.
And what he did today, as he spoke out there, on the floor, did not do him any favors. He lost votes.
FINNEY: But you know, I think the question is, for the Republican Party, given all that baggage, and the baggage that they've been dealing with, with Kevin McCarthy, and the chaos, will they actually be able to show they can come together and say, "OK, enough is enough?" And I think it's a big risk for them.
BROWN: Well, you bring up Kevin McCarthy.
BROWN: I want to talk about -- a little bit, about Kevin McCarthy, because the Washington Post is detailing this phone call that he apparently had, with Donald Trump, shortly after McCarthy was removed, as Speaker, in the House, in October.
The Post reporting that when McCarthy asked why the former President did not help him keep the Speakership, Trump blasted McCarthy, for not expunging his impeachments, and for not endorsing his 2024 campaign. McCarthy then reportedly told the former President, "F you."
And I spoke to a source, who did confirm that McCarthy felt very sort of free and emboldened to tell it straight to Trump what he was feeling, now that he has been ousted.
What do you make of this?
STEWART: Given all that Kevin McCarthy has done, to support Donald Trump, and going down there, to Mar-a-Lago, when he supposedly couldn't eat after he lost? Donald Trump certainly should have had his back.
This is a classic case of loyalty with Donald Trump is a one way street. McCarthy was loyal to Trump. He did not return the favor. He encouraged Matt Gaetz, to oust him, from being Speaker. And he didn't do anything to help him, when the votes were mounting up against him.
And I don't blame McCarthy. I would have said -- dropped the F-bomb and a lot more.
STEWART: But his campaign, I spoke with someone, from his team, said he says he didn't say that. He says they actually have a good relationship.
STEWART: They work well together. They talk quite often. They've agreed and disagreed in the past. And they have a good relationship.
FINNEY: But here's--
STEWART: But it's much better to talk about--
STEWART: --the F-bomb than kumbaya.
FINNEY: But here's what was also interesting in that piece. It talked about how people were saying Kevin McCarthy's rationale for why he had an endorsement? That was one of the issues Trump had. Concerns about fundraising, concerns about protecting vulnerable members. So that also -- I think that's a very important point that we should underscore.
I know the F-bomb is exciting. But that tells you the Republican Party knows that with Trump on the ticket, they have a problem, raising the money and the funds that they're going to need, to compete in some of these House races, probably in Senate races as well. Meanwhile, Democratic fundraising is going very well. So, I thought that was a very telling part of this story that there were very real concerns that Kevin McCarthy had.
BROWN: All right. Karen Finney, Alice Stewart, thanks, as always, for your wonderful analysis.
Coming up, did Donald Trump's own attorney provide testimony that could get him convicted, in the classified documents case?
We'll be back.
BROWN: Federal prosecutors appear to have damning testimony, against Donald Trump, in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. And it comes from Trump's own attorney.
ABC News first reported Jennifer Little told a grand jury that she had informed Trump, last year, that defying a subpoena, for classified documents, would be a crime. And a source told The New York Times, quote, "Ms. Little told prosecutors that the former President clearly understood her warning."
And joining us now is CNN Senior Legal Analyst, Elie Honig.
Elie, how significant is this testimony, from Trump's own attorney?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Pam, it's just straight-out bad news for Donald Trump, anyway you look at this.
This is testimony, from his own former attorney, that goes right to the heart of the obstruction charge, in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, a case which by the way, I already thought, had the strongest evidence of any of the four cases, against Donald Trump. Now, you add this on top of it.
This attorney's testimony goes right to obstruction of justice. She says straight-up, "I told him, 'We have a subpoena.' I told him, 'You have to obey it.' I told him 'If you don't, it's a crime.' And he said, he understood." You lay that out for a jury? That's obstruction right there.
And the thing that makes this witness extra-powerful is she's not somebody, who has an axe to grind with Donald Trump. She's not somebody, who's going to be easily cross-examined. She hasn't had a falling out with him. In fact, she's still his lawyer, right now, in another case. So, it's going to be really hard, to attack her testimony. Her testimony is going to go to the heart of the issues.
BROWN: Right. And people might be thinking at home, "Well hold on. So, she's his attorney. Why is she testifying about this? What about attorney-client privilege?"
Tell us, explain to us, walk us through, why and how she was able to tell a grand jury this without violating that?
HONIG: Yes, completely understandable why people would think that, because ordinarily, conversations between attorneys and clients are privileged. They're confidential. You can't be made to testify against them.
But there are narrow exceptions. And the exception that a judge found here is what we call the crime-fraud exception, meaning that these conversations were evidence of some sort of ongoing crime.
And here, the theory is well, when this attorney? And this attorney is not part of the crime. But when she tells Donald Trump, "If you do this, it's a crime," and then he does it? That's going to qualify for the exception. And so, a judge found, that's why the attorney-client privilege is pierced here. And that's why a jury is going to be able to hear this testimony.
BROWN: All right, so let's switch over to another case. And this would be the New York civil fraud case. So, we know the gag order on Trump and his lawyers in that case, it was reinstated, by an appeals court, today.
What do you make of that?
HONIG: It's not a surprising decision. And I think it's the right decision.
Because this gag order is so narrow, the only thing it prohibits Donald Trump from talking about is the judge's staff, the clerk, the people, who work in that courtroom. That's it. It leaves Donald Trump free to criticize the judge, the A.G.'s office, the case against him, even the witnesses. So, this is what you look for in a gag order. Look, judges have to be very, very careful, when they do impose gag orders, because any person, in Donald Trump's position, absolutely has very broad First Amendment rights. But they're not unlimited.
And attacks, on court staff? I'll tell you, from my experience, in courts. That is just out of bounds. You just do not do that. So, that is all that this gag order prohibits Donald Trump, from doing. I think the appeals court got it right by holding it up.
BROWN: And yet, later in the day, court officials have knocked down this Truth Social posts, from Trump, with these false claims, against the judge's wife.
BROWN: The former President shared these claims, from a far-right activist, accusing the judge's wife of writing negative stories, about him. But none of it is true.
So, what does Trump get out of further agitating the judge, here?
HONIG: Oh, my goodness, I have no idea why he would do this. Why he would think it's a good idea.
It's false to start with. It's wildly inappropriate, to follow up with. And other judges, not just this judge, but remember, he's got four other cases, four other criminal cases. They're watching this. They're keeping an eye on what he's doing.
It's a horrible idea. It's dangerous. And it's worthy of our reprimand. And, look, there's just -- it doesn't technically violate the words of this gag order, because the judge's wife is not a member of the staff. But it's wildly inappropriate and should be condemned.
BROWN: All right, Elie Honig, thank you so much.
HONIG: Thank you, Pam.
BROWN: Coming up, a long-concealed critical report that leaders of the Coast Guard, well, they didn't want you to see it.
But our team of investigative colleagues, we are going to show you what this report reviewed, because we got a copy of it. And we're about to share the alarming findings that expose racism, hazings, and incidents of sexual assault, across the agency.
We'll be right back.
BROWN: A documented culture of racism, hazing, discrimination and sexual assault exists within the U.S. Coast Guard. Top officials, at the agency, spent almost a decade, trying to make sure that you don't see what's in the report that we have now obtained. I'm talking about what's called an almost ironically titled "Culture of Respect" study. For eight years, the Coast Guard tried to keep it hidden. But CNN has it.
And it reveals some alarming conclusions, based on interviews, with hundreds of Coast Guard employees, including that "Coast Guard personnel accept poor behavior as status quo."
"The Coast Guard does not provide sufficient measures to prevent sexual assault."
A "Coast Guard personnel had been discriminated against and sexually harassed."
And "CG indicates we will not tolerate discrimination, yet even when found guilty of these offenses... there are no consequences."
One Coast Guard employee said the attitude is "Hey, I got through it. So can you." And the culture was, boys will be boys.
Well, this report was from 2015. But CNN has spoken to dozens of current and former Coast Guard employees, who say the culture, well it hasn't changed.
Our investigative team, reporters Blake Ellis, Melanie Hicken, Audrey Ash, and I did our first story, on the culture of cover-up, within the Coast Guard, back about five months ago.
And, at the time, we uncovered yet another damning report. That one focused on sexual assault, at the Coast Guard Academy. That report, like this newly-discovered one, was purposely buried, for years.
After our story, Congress held hearings. Coast Guard Commandant, Linda Fagan, promised transparency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA FAGAN, U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDANT: I'm committed to improving our prevention efforts, prompt and thorough investigations into reports of sexual assaults and harassment, accountability for perpetrators, compassionate support to victims, and full transparency with Congress and the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Yet this 2015 report, which also focuses on racism and bullying, was not released.
Over the course of our investigation, we talked to so many people, who were survivors of sexual assault, in the Coast Guard, hazing, racial discrimination, sexism. And that they believe that if these reports had been made public, perhaps the culture would have changed, and what happened to them might have been prevented.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KIMBERLY YOUNG-MCLEAR, RETIRED U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDER: When I saw the Culture of Respect report, I -- I knew that if they had implemented the vast majority of the recommendations, that it absolutely could have prevented what happened to me. And not just me. What continues to happen to service members, and federal civilians, across the entire U.S. Coast Guard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Well, after eight years of preventing its release, the Coast Guard says it will release this report, to the public, next week. And that will be at the same time it releases the results of a 90-day review that was ordered, after CNN's first story.
A spokesperson says of the 129 recommendations, laid out in 2015, in the Culture of Respect report, 60 have been at least partially enacted, and nine more are in the works.
Well up next, a fascinating new look, at one of the most stunning crimes, in American history that many of you may not even know about.
BROWN: Airing this Sunday, the all-new CNN Film, "Chowchilla," about one of the most shocking true-crime stories that you've never heard. It's about the 1976 kidnapping, of a school bus, full of children, and their driver, who were buried underground for more than 12 hours, before pulling off their own dramatic escape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They escorted me to where there was a hole in the ground with a ladder coming out. I looked down the ladder. And I could see Ed Ray. The kidnappers gave him one flashlight.
I did not want to go down there. I knew if I went down that hole, I was never coming back out. Time froze. And Ed Ray grabs my ankle. He says go inside, it will be OK. And I climbed down into there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: That is horrifying.
The new CNN Film, "Chowchilla," premieres this Sunday, at 9 PM Eastern.
Well thank you so much, for joining us.
"CNN NEWSNIGHT WITH ABBY PHILLIP" starts right now.