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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

House Expels George Santos Over Ethics Violations; Trump Attempt To Dismiss Federal Jan. 6 Case Denied; Justice O'Connor's Former Law Clerk On Her Legacy. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 01, 2023 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And abortion and other social issues, she supported, were eventually overturned, as the Court became more conservative.

In 2018, when she was diagnosed with dementia, she wrote, in a letter, to the public that she was grateful for her countless blessings.

She's survived by her three sons. Sandra Day O'Connor was 93-years- old.

That's it for us. The news continues. Have a good weekend.

"THE SOURCE" starts now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.

Congressman George Santos is history, and making history, after being evicted from Congress in disgrace. Now the fight for his crucial seat, in a narrowly-divided House.

Plus, airstrikes resuming in Gaza, widening to some targets, in the south, where thousands of civilians were told to relocate. And with more than 130 hostages still in captivity, will negotiators strike a deal, for another pause?

And breaking news, in the federal election interference case, another loss for Donald Trump, hear the judge's blistering new ruling.

I'm Jim Acosta. And this is THE SOURCE.

Good evening, everybody. Kaitlan is off, tonight. I'm Jim Acosta.

We're going to bring you the very latest, from Israel resuming airstrikes, in Gaza, tonight, as its Iron Dome intercepted rockets, today. Still no deal yet for another fighting pause.

But first, to our other major story. The congressman, who infamously lied his way, into the U.S. House, is now out. George Santos expelled with an overwhelming number of bipartisan votes, 311 to 114, after committing an overwhelming amount of ethics violations, not to mention also facing 23 federal fraud and conspiracy charges. Along a distraction, up on Capitol Hill, no sign of the New York Republican there anymore, literally Santos' sign has been taken down, outside of his office. The lock is now changed, on his door. He's now a member of a dubiously elite club of six, to get a House eviction, the first time since the Civil War, someone who was ousted without a criminal conviction, an alleged con man, but not a convict yet.

His exit shrinks an already-thin Republican majority, and sets off a scramble, for his crucial seat, ahead of a high stakes special election, early next year. New York Governor, Kathy Hochul, now has 10 days to schedule it.

Disgraced politician, punch-line historical footnote, while we're at it, fraud, accused criminal, suspected con man, the possible descriptions go on and on, almost as long as the list of lies, told by George Santos.

But the story of a man, who has compared himself to everyone, from Rosa Parks, to Mary Magdalene, is far from over. The original Star Wars was in movie theaters longer than George Santos was in office.

But the farce was strong with Santos. It was December of last year when The New York Times raised questions about his resume. But a local newspaper, called the North Shore Leader, was sounding the alarm months before, in part because even among his fellow Republicans, there were questions, as basic as his name.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another congressional nominee, George Santos. George, who we know is a friend, as -- and he's known as Anthony Devolder to me. So, I don't know where George Santos came into the thing, but that's what it says here.


ACOSTA: What followed was a barrage of bloviating BS, a flowchart of falsehoods, from his education, the prestigious prep school, with no record of him, to the fictitious All Star volleyball career at a college he never attended.


JOSEPH CAIRO JR., NASSAU COUNTY, NY GOP CHAIRMAN: Told me, I remember specifically, "I'm into sports a little bit" that he was a star on the Baruch volleyball team, and that they won the league championship.


ACOSTA: There were tall tales about being a mover and shaker, on Wall Street, with jobs at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs that never happened.

Then came the brazen and heartless attempts to cloak himself, in some of the world's most horrific moments, lies about being the descendant of Holocaust survivors, that went along with claims he was Jewish, about having lost employees, in the Pulse nightclub shooting, and multiple shifting claims of some connection to the attacks on 9/11.

It's astonishing, his past did not catch up with him sooner, when there were active investigations, for check fraud in Brazil, multiple court dates for failing to pay rent, and his role in what the SEC called a Ponzi scheme. And then, there are the accusations of funneling charity money, into his own pocket, even funds meant for a disabled veteran's dog. Woof.

But it seemed shamelessness was his superpower, on display, time and again, when he was confronted with his lies.


GEORGE SANTOS, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: I've lived an honest life. I've never been accused of any bad doing.

"Oh my god, George Santos stole money. George Santos bought designer clothes." That's what I buy.

I just discovered what OnlyFans was about three weeks ago, when it was brought up in a discussion, in my office.



ACOSTA: Santos launched a 1,000 Late Night jokes, but lost in the jokes about appearing on Hannah Montana, or producing one of the most notorious flops, in Broadway history, the failed Spider-Man musical. What a tangled web we weave.

There are also the people of Long Island, more than 700,000 people, in New York's Third District, Santos was paid to represent in Congress.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like that I can trust him to represent myself, my interests, or the Third District.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lied to everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we deserve better.



ACOSTA: There were the messy interviews, even tantrums, in the halls of Congress, at one point with a baby in his arms.

Santos leaves the House, facing multiple federal indictments. The stack of charges includes unemployment insurance fraud, lying to Congress, falsifying campaign fundraising reports, and scamming the very people he was elected to serve.

Because this is George Santos, who somehow managed to turn a criminal indictment, into a salacious read, as prosecutors detailed a lifestyle of lavish trips, shopping sprees and online porn.

But in the end, he did accomplish one thing. He brought Democrats and Republicans together, for one brief shining moment, up on Capitol Hill. That's right, a rare moment of bipartisan agreement that it was time for Santos to go.

I'm joined now by former Senior Adviser to Mitch McConnell, Scott Jennings; and former Senior Adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod.

Gentlemen, thanks very much. Pardon the long wind-up there. But it's a long saga for George Santos. I mean, I think we probably left some things out there.

Scott, what's the significance, now, of George Santos now being a former congressman? He can't lie about that.


I was a little puzzled by some of the Republicans who, in recent days, made him a bit of a cause celeb. And it seems to me that the leadership of the House Republicans, today, this morning, after sort of being quiet about this, to some degree, misread their own Conference. I know a few more Republicans than not voted to keep Santos.

But you could tell, a lot of Republicans did not want to be associated with him. They were alarmed by the Ethics report. And they were standing by the Republicans, on the Ethics committee, and also the Republicans, of New York, who were desperate to tell the Leadership, "Hey, we got to get rid of this guy."

I was really puzzled by their votes.

But I suppose in this case, all's well that ends well. Santos is out. He deserves to be out. And this was, if anything, a victory for the Institution, for the institutional integrity of the Ethics committee process, and hopefully, cleansing the Republican brand of Santos' unique problems, which had been an embarrassment to the entire party.

ACOSTA: And David, as a Democratic strategist, do you kind of wish he wasn't leaving?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, he would have been DOA in any kind of reelection campaign. He's facing these charges, as you've mentioned.

And he's really victimized the people of his district, in a way that I don't think he would ever be forgiven for. I think the only -- the only term that George Santos will serve, in a federal building, in the future, will probably be in a prison, not in the U.S. Congress.

But I agree with Scott, on everything that he said, including, I was baffled as well as to why the three Republican leaders voted, to save Santos.

Republicans had a choice. And it was a tough choice, which was give up a precious vote, in a House that is almost evenly divided, and that has been hard to manage as it is. Or have a guy on your team, who was so radioactive that he threatened to cost them the House, in the next election.

Six of the swing district battles that they have to defend in 2024, to hang on to the House, are in the State of New York, three of them on Long Island. And that's why those New York legislators were so vehement, about getting rid of Santos, who was of course--


AXELROD: --big news in their media markets.

ACOSTA: Yes, Scott, I mean, the new Speaker, Mike Johnson did not vote, ultimately, to kick out George Santos. The Leadership was sort of standing by him. What was going on there, do you think?

JENNINGS: Well, I mean, look, one of it is just pure politics. As David mentioned, it's a narrow majority, for the Republicans. And they were thinking about, well, when this seat is vacant, we'll have an even narrower majority, and there's going to be a special election, and we may not win this seat back.

This is one of those districts that was represented by a Republican that Joe Biden won, so there's no guarantee a Republican's coming back. So, you might look at it through the lens of just math. And they don't want it to be any harder than it already is, to govern this unruly House Republican majority.

I happen to also think that this became a bit of a cause celeb, for the Freedom Caucus guys. And you saw a lot of those people vote, to preserve Santos.

ACOSTA: Right.


JENNINGS: And I wonder if the Leadership was trying to signal something to them. But at what cost? Because you could see in the votes totals, the so-called Normies in House Republican Conference, clearly did not want to be associated with Santos anymore.

And this idea of undercutting the members of the Ethics committee? I mean, remember, Ethics Committee is a bipartisan deal. It's evenly split. And as soon as they finish their report, the Republican chair could not wait to get to the floor, to file a motion, to expel this guy.

To vote against him, and to vote against the people you put on that committee, to do the work that they did, really cut the legs out from underneath. So, I'm glad the Ethics Committee ultimately prevailed here. But I'm sure that ruffled some feathers.


AXELROD: Yes, Jim, I'd say the couple things I want to -- couple of things I want to say about this.

One is I absolutely believe the House did the right thing today. But as with everything else we've seen, you worry about this is a norm that has now been set aside, because generally, members have to wait for a conviction, before they're expelled from the House.

He was so flagrant in his abuses, that he invited this. And the Ethics committee report was so outrageous, in the scope of the charges against him that he had to go.

But I hope it doesn't become another one of those things, where this becomes weaponized, and used as a kind of partisan weapon, in the future. And that's always a fear, in this political environment.

And the second thing, really quick, is this was a failure, on the part of Democrats as well. Part of that Ethics committee report was a 137- page self-research document that his campaign produced, that surfaced a lot of these scandals that took place, before he ever was elected. And somehow, the Democrats did not make sure that that information was known. Perhaps they didn't do the research.

And also, this was a bit of a media failure, because there was a local newspaper, there, working on this story, or some aspects of it.

ACOSTA: Right.

AXELROD: And it just never caught up.


AXELROD: It just never caught on, because it wasn't thought to be important enough.

So, there were failures all around on this one.

ACOSTA: Yes. I mean, the story was just unfolding, at that point. No question about it.

And Scott, here's what Democratic Senator, John Fetterman said, on The View, today. I thought this was interesting. Let's listen to this.


SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): We have a colleague in the Senate that actually done much more sinister and serious kinds of things. Senator Menendez, he needs to go. And if you are going to expel Santos, how can you allow to somebody, like in -- Menendez, to remain in the Senate?


ACOSTA: Scott, I mean, I suppose people will give credit to Senator Fetterman, there, for going after Bob Menendez, and calling him for removal as well.

But is there something to be said for waiting until the legal process plays out? Are we going to enter an era here, where allegations are enough, for members of Congress to be expelled?

JENNINGS: Well, in the case of Santos, the report, as David said, was so egregious. I mean, what they found and uncovered was so bad that the members of the Ethics committee felt like "We can't wait. I mean, this guy is really beyond the pale."

And so, I think, if you're going to have an ethics process, you've got to let them make recommendations. That's what you do with any other committee. I mean, every other committee makes recommendations to their chamber, and you tend to go with the experts on it. That's what the Ethics committee is for.

I think Fetterman is right on this. I mean -- every time I hear John Fetterman, lately, I find myself agreeing with him, which is a shocking state of affairs, for me. I was not a fan of his candidacy. But he's right on Israel. He's right on Menendez. He's right on this Santos situation. So, he's making a lot of sense.

And I just think as a commonsense matter, when you look at what Menendez is accused with?

AXELROD: Pennsylvania Democrats -- Pennsylvania Democrats, save this tape.

JENNINGS: Yes. But it's not going to help you in an election, in Pennsylvania. I can assure you, David.

But I just think that what Menendez is accused of? He's right. I mean, if it's true, and if you had an Ethics committee look at it and say, yes, it looks like he's doing things with a foreign country that jeopardizes the national security?


JENNINGS: How could you wait?

AXELROD: One thing that--

JENNINGS: How could you wait for a case?

AXELROD: Listen, I hold no brief for Menendez. And these charges are egregious. But he was indicted before, and he was acquitted.

So, these -- this is -- it's a little bit different, because, Santos was a serial liar. And that was proven. And there was no dispute about the trail of lies that he told.

This needs to be adjudicated. Menendez denies it. But listen, I think that if they're proven--



AXELROD: --that he should go. And I don't think he should be privy to classified information, when he's accused of trading on it for his own personal profit.

ACOSTA: Yes. I think we know where George Santos is headed next. And that is his own biopic, or a series of some sort, on a streaming service, like Netflix or Max. I have to assume that's the next step. Infamy always leads to one of those types of deals it seems these days.

David Axelrod, Scott Jennings, thanks a lot, guys, really appreciate it.

AXELROD: Thanks, Jim.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Coming up next, breaking news, a federal judge not only denies Donald Trump's motion, to get his January 6 trial thrown out. She issued a blistering takedown of his basis for it, saying he doesn't have the "divine right of kings."

Plus, an American icon is gone. We look back at the life and remarkable legacy of the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor. She passed away, earlier today, at the age of 93.

We'll be right back.


ACOSTA: We're back now, with breaking news, tonight.

U.S. District Judge, Tanya Chutkan, handing down a decisive blow, to Donald Trump, and his legal team, rejecting their attempts, to dismiss charges of the January 6 case, here, in Washington, D.C.

Joining me now, to talk about this, CNN National Security Reporter, Zachary Cohen.

Zachary, what do we know?


ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Jim, this is really a forceful rebuke, of Trump's argument that he should have absolute immunity, for really, any crimes he may have committed, while in office. That includes what he said he did after the 2020 election.

And the judge, in this case, Judge Chutkan really making clear that she does not agree, with what Trump's lawyers are arguing, in this case.

I want to take you through a couple passages here, just to highlight them. The first one compares Trump to a, divine kings, as four years as

Commander-in-Chief do not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade criminal accountability.

She goes on to say "Whatever immunities a sitting President may enjoy, the United States has only one Chief Executive at a time, and that position does not confer a lifelong 'get-out-of-jail-free' pass."

So, this is an issue, presidential protections that's going to have to be sorted out by an appeals court, before Trump can go to trial. Obviously, this case is scheduled to go to trial, in March.

But the judge, in this case, making clear that she has no issues, unless a federal appeals court steps in, and takes a different side. We're going to have to see how quickly the appeals court can take up this issue.

But certainly, a major blow to Trump's legal strategy, in this federal election subversion case.

ACOSTA: Absolutely, and in a blistering way, as well.

All right, Zach Cohen, thank you very much.

Joining me now, to talk about this, former counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Carrie Cordero; and former U.S. Attorney, Michael Moore.

Carrie, what do you make of this ruling, and the judge, Judge Chutkan? I mean, really, it's almost as though I feel like, when I read what she has to say, in a lot of these cases, it almost sounds like she is talking directly, to the former President.


ACOSTA: "You do not have the divine right of kings" and so on.

CORDERO: She is very clear.


CORDERO: She is clear on that point. And she is clear, on the point that to the extent that the former President's team makes arguments, about what kinds of cases can be brought, against a president, she consistently says, "But he is not president anymore. He is not the president."

And so, it is a different situation, when you have someone, who is making these claims, trying to use the cloak of the presidency, and Executive authority, when that simply isn't his position anymore.

That being said, there are unique aspects of these cases that are brought against him. And so, he does have unique challenges, because the conduct that's alleged was while he was president.


CORDERO: And now, he is also a candidate for future office. So, that's why sometimes these First Amendment claims get more attention.

ACOSTA: Yes. Michael, I mean, a lot of this gets wrapped up in "Well, I was president when this happened. And now, I'm running for president, while it's happening. I need to be granted all these favors and special privileges, because all of these things happened while I was either president or running for president."

What do you make of what the judge is saying tonight?


I mean, she stung him pretty good, in the order. There's no question about it. I mean, she went to great lengths to talk about whether or not a president should -- or a former President should have immunity.

I do think it was interesting to me, there was a little bit of lack, in talking about the fact that this happened, while he was President, as she refers to him repeatedly as the former President, doesn't enjoy (ph) this, she put up the quote about, "Well, we have, only one president at a time," nobody questions that.

The issue is the conduct that occurred at the time that he was the sitting President of the United States. I mean, I do think it's a blow to the Trump camp. I also don't think that they were naive enough to think that this was going to get settled, in the first inning of the game. And that's kind of where we are. This will have to make his way up to an appellate court.

And ultimately, she even recognized at the end of her order, she recognizes that these are issues of first impression, and I'm not trying to be overbroad. And so, we're going to hear from nine folks sitting up there, at the marble building, at some point, about what they think of the case.


And Carrie, what is your sense of it? Do you think this might delay things? Because if it goes up through the appellate process? And we know the Trump playbook is delay, delay, delay. Could this have an effect on the start date for this trial?

CORDERO: It could, potentially. I mean, the judge, in this case, has indicated she wants to move the case along, in a measured way.

And she thinks it's in the interest of justice, and the public interest, to move the case along, promptly. Not too soon that is unfair to the defendant, but in a way that takes in account, the fact -- the realities of the environment, and the fact that there is an election out there.

I think it could delay. I think that also is the point. So many of these claims that are made, I mean, she knocked down claims that his team made, on the impeachment judgment clause, First Amendment claims, claims of absolute immunity, double jeopardy, due process, I mean, they threw everything--


CORDERO: --in there, I think, in part to preserve any potential issue on appeal, so that they have lots of opportunities, to be able to write those briefs that potentially would go, to the Supreme Court.

ACOSTA: Yes, Michael, I mean, it sounds like this judge is determined to get this case started, on time. And she wants to get these issues resolved before it gets going.


MOORE: I think that's right. I mean, she is clearly one, who thinks that there's a public interest in moving the case forward. And I agree the public interest has a right in that.

I think though we also ought to have -- we ought to step back a little bit, and think about the public's interest in protecting the norms and the institutions that we have. And what we don't want to do, at the end of the day, is get ourselves wrapped up, like a pretzel, just because of a dislike or disdain of a particular former President. I'm not suggesting that she's doing that.

But there's a reason to have a measured process that we don't rush a case, like this, because the issues are of such great magnitude, that we want to decide it in the right way. And so, I would suggest, and I think we will end up--

ACOSTA: You think she's running the risk of that?

MOORE: Well I--

ACOSTA: You think the judge is running the risk of that, Mike?

MOORE: Well, I think what will happen is that the Supreme Court will get it, or an appeals court will get it, and they'll err on the side of slowing down, or changing the trial date, to make sure that there's a full and fulsome argument, to be made, from both sides, about the issues here.

Because it's not just affecting the former President. This is something that's going to affect every president, from now on. And she -- they raised, his team raised that, in the order, and she kind of batted it down time and time again.

But the reality is, this, what we're talking about here is changing how former Presidents are viewed, and sitting Presidents are viewed for conduct. Both in this order, and the order that we saw from the Court of Appeals today, dealing with whether or not a president can be civilly liable for certain things, and--

ACOSTA: Yes. MOORE: --that happened during his campaigning, as opposed to while he was sitting in the Oval Office. So, these are issues that are going to wind their way to Supreme Court.


MOORE: And that's the place it'll be decided.

ACOSTA: Yes. Future precedent is important, of course. That is if we have a former President in the future, who is in as much legal hot water as Donald Trump, which I suppose remains to be seen.

MOORE: Sure.

ACOSTA: All right, Michael and Carrie, thank you very much, much appreciated. Thanks for joining us, tonight.

MOORE: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: Coming up, the bombing has restarted, the casualties mounting again, as the truce between Israel and Hamas ends without another agreement to extend it. We are live on the ground. That's coming up.



ACOSTA: There are new strikes, in Gaza. Israel restarting its military campaign, against Hamas, after a week-long truce with the group expired.

The IDF is also focusing, on targets, in southern Gaza, dropping leaflets, in the City of Khan Yunis, warning civilians to evacuate, even as questions grow over where they can safely go.

But hope for a truce and the release of more hostages remain, as sources say negotiations are ongoing.

The IDF says it believes 17 women and children are among more than 130 hostages, still in Gaza, including several women, in their 20s and 30s, kidnapped from the Nova music festival. Time is of the essence.

The deaths of three Israeli hostages, in Gaza, were confirmed, today, by their families.

And CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Sderot, Israel, with the latest.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the war between Israel and Hamas is very much back on, as that fragile week-long truce collapsed, early Friday morning.

Since then, we have seen Israeli military operations resuming, and expanding into the southern part of the Gaza Strip, ground operations now taking place, in southern Gaza, as well as airstrikes, in the key cities of Rafah, as well as Khan Yunis. Hamas, for its part, has fired several barrages of rockets, on Friday, at cities, in central and southern Israel. We actually witnessed several of those heavy barrages, aiming directly at the city, where we are, the City of Sderot.

We saw these barrages coming in, towards our position, the Iron Dome system, intercepting dozens of rockets that were fired, in this direction, a very dramatic scene, certainly the heaviest barrage of rockets that we've watched fired, from northern Gaza, towards this position, in weeks now.

And that's especially significant, when you consider the fact that the Israeli military has said, for several weeks now, that they are in control of northern Gaza. But clearly Hamas still has an ability, especially after this week-long truce, to fire rockets, from some of the northern most positions in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, the Israeli strikes, in southern Gaza, resulting in heavy casualties, hundreds killed and wounded, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, in Gaza. Among them, you can see some of the scenes. They include women and children injured and killed, as well.

But despite the fighting, resuming, what is still also ongoing, is those negotiations, between Israel and Hamas, to see whether or not there is the possibility of resuming that operational pause, in order to allow for the release of hostages.

Negotiations happening in Doha, Qatar, with intelligence chiefs from Israel, the United States, Egypt, and several other countries, involved, in trying to see if another deal is possible, not only to get the rest of the women and children, who are in Gaza, held hostage, by Hamas, out, but also to potentially start looking at a broader deal that would see men, as well as Israeli soldiers released, as well.

The Israeli government knows that that will come at a much higher price. And the Israeli Prime Minister has made clear, he believes that the fighting, that the military pressure on Hamas, will help to lower that price, pushing Hamas to the negotiating table, for those individuals.


ACOSTA: Jeremy, thank you very much for that.

For more on this, I'm joined by a member of Israel's Knesset, and a former Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much, for joining us, this evening.

Any sense of where the negotiations stand, at this hour? Might we see another truce come into the picture, over the next couple of days?


If it was up to us, we would have continued with the pause. And we would be very happy to see more hostages coming back to Israel. In the last week, we saw more than 100 hostages coming back to their families, mainly women and children.

Unfortunately, Hamas chose to stop this kind of agreement we had with them. They were not willing to send us the names of the women and children. And we know that they have 17 women and children in their capacity. So it's unfortunate.

We resumed the fight. And I believe that while we will use more force, we'll be able to resume the talks, maybe in the future. But now, we are focused on the military activity. And we are getting ready, to use our weapons, our military, to go after the Hamas leaders.


ACOSTA: Ambassador, there are some far-right members, of the Israeli government, including the Finance Minister, who have called for Israel to back out of hostage talks altogether, cut contacts with mediators, in touch with Hamas.

Do you agree with that?

DANON: So, we have a government. And the government decided that we support this kind of an agreement. And, by the way, we will be willing to extend it without any government vote. So, the government wanted to continue. It was Hamas, who decided not to continue that. Maybe in the future, there will be another opening.

We are committed to achieve both goals of the war. The one goal is to eradicate Hamas. The second goal is to bring all the hostages back home. It's out, Jim, it's two parallel goals. But we are committed to achieve both of them.

ACOSTA: And, as you know, all the eyes, around the world, are going to be focused on how Israel conducts this next phase of its offensive. It's estimated that 80 percent of the Palestinian population, in Gaza, is now in southern Gaza.

Today, the IDF drop leaflets over the city of Khan Yunis. You're looking at -- we're looking at some video, right here.

We did hear from a journalist there, who said quote, "From day one, displaced from one place to the other," this is what some of the people are saying to journalists, there, "from the north to the south, from the center, only God knows where next. And there is no electricity, no water, no food, no good living conditions." And this is what civilians are telling journalists, at outlets, like Reuters.

Where do you expect civilians to flee, if they've already been told to move to the south? How does a Palestinian, on the ground, in Gaza, in the southern part of Gaza, sort through this?

DANON: So, our goal, Jim, is to minimize civilian casualties. Unlike Hamas, they want to achieve exactly the opposite.

And we proved it. When we maneuvered in the northern part of Gaza, we allowed the population to move south. We created corridors for them, to arrive to safe zones. It will be the same, when we operate in the south.

We will actually direct the population to move to the west. We actually sent a map, to the people, in Gaza, showing them where the safe areas are. And we will continue to do that. It's not easier for us to do that. But we are willing to wait. We are willing to allow the population to move out. So, we will able to maneuver and to fight with Hamas, while we minimize the casualties.

You know Hamas is threatening the people to stay put and not to move. And we do exactly the opposite.

ACOSTA: Let me ask you this, Ambassador. I'm sure you know about this.

The New York Times reporting that military and intelligence officials, in Israel, knew of Hamas' attack plan, more than a year before it happened. It appears that this was just a spectacular intelligence failure, on the part of the Israeli government, and the intelligence community.

How far up did this intelligence go? And what is your response to all this?

DANON: So, Jim, I sit on the Foreign Affairs and Defense committee. And we had a few discussions about this issue. We decided, as a nation, not to start inquiry now. First, we are committed to be united, and to defeat Hamas. And then, we go back and do the proper inquiry. Then, we'll do that. We have to do that.

So, we knew about the intention of Hamas, to invade Israel. But we were not aware, when it will happen, in what capacity? You know we have so many threats in Israel. Every day, we have threats, coming from the north, from Iran, from Hamas. So, we knew about the intentions. But nobody knew about the actual date, and the operation that Hamas planned.

ACOSTA: But there was a lot of specificity, in this blueprint, as it's been described. I suppose you did not know about it. But you have to think, I would think, at this point that there are some very serious questions, to be asked, not only of the intelligence community, but also of the Prime Minister. Isn't that the case?

DANON: Well, I think once we will get into the inquiry, we're going to have to ask difficult questions.

First, the intelligence authorities, in the IDF.

Also, what happened on the day of after the attack started, why it took us so long, to get to the border, and to push back those animals, who raped our daughters and killed so many Israelis, civilians?

And the third will be the decision-makers, for sure, also government officials about what they knew, and what they did all those years, when Hamas actually was preparing for that. And when you look at the border with Egypt, for example, they bought so much, the ammunition, explosives, from the border with Egypt. We're going to have to look at all the visuals.

ACOSTA: Right. Well just to button this up, Ambassador, do you think more should have been done, with this information? Was this a failure?


DANON: Absolutely. No doubt it was a failure. And we paid a heavy price for that failure. But now, we are committed, Jim, to win the war. And we are united. We work together, left and right. Opposition, coalition, we stand together, as a nation.

We paid a heavy price for those mistakes. But now, we are committed to win the war, to eradicate Hamas, and to build a new future, for the people, in Gaza. So it's not only about our future. It's also about the people in Gaza.

ACOSTA: All right, Ambassador Danny Danon, thank you very much, for your time, tonight. We appreciate it.

DANON: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: Thank you.

In the meantime, the holiday season is in full swing, so is virus season. Hospitalizations are on the rise, with respiratory ailments, like the flu and RSV, causing the spike.

A top doctor, on how concerned we should be, about the health threat. We'll talk about that, in just a few moments.


ACOSTA: You may have heard it yourself, coughs and sneezes, around the office, or in school. A lot of people are getting sick, right now. Respiratory illnesses are on the rise, across the U.S., especially among children. Weekly pediatric hospitalizations, due to COVID, flu and RSV are surging.

All this, as hospitals in China are overwhelmed with young pneumonia patients. Last week, the World Health Organization asked China for more information.

And joining me now, to talk about this, a familiar face, Dr. Ashish Jha, former White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, and Dean at Brown University School of Public Health.


Dr. Jha, it's great to see you again. It's been too long, in a way though I feel it's a good thing that I haven't talked to you, in a long time.

But let's start with these respiratory illnesses, and this rise that we're seeing. How concerned should we be, right now?

DR. ASHISH JHA, FORMER BIDEN WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, so good evening, Jim. It is good to be back. I agree, it's good to have taken a little break from all of this.


JHA: But here we are. Respiratory season is back.


JHA: And we are dealing with four different things. We got RSV, flu, COVID. We also have this Mycoplasma pneumonia that comes around, every winter, a little worse this year.

So, my view is, we can get through this. Our health care system can manage this. Really important for people to get up-to-date on their vaccines. And if people do, we will get through this winter without too much illness.

ACOSTA: And so, you're not concerned that we're seeing? I mean, all the experts are saying we're not seeing a novel virus. We're not seeing anything that coming out of China, for example, that is going to take the world by storm, such as what we saw with COVID-19. You're not seeing?

JHA: No. And let me tell you what. I mean, first of all, again, the data from China is not always as reliable as we would like, right? So, my view is yes, the Chinese are saying that this is pretty typical stuff. But we need to verify that.

We are looking around. We've got a surveillance system now that looks at what's happening in other places. We've got travelers, coming out of China. We've got -- we're seeing no evidence that there's anything new or novel happening there, from any of our surveillance systems that we have built up, over the last few years.

So yes, so based on everything we know, right now, I feel pretty confident, there's not a new virus happening.

ACOSTA: And you just lobbed (ph) into my next question, which is China has a terrible reputation, for not being upfront, with the global health community, about these issues. And Chinese officials have been criticized for, dating back to the early days of COVID-19.

Has China, in your view, has China gotten any better, at sharing this information? Or is it still a problem?

JHA: Look, they are better. I know there are ongoing conversations between our CDC and the China CDC. That scientific sharing is happening.

I always think countries should be more open, more transparent. I would like to see China share more of its data than it has. But we have -- my view, when I was at the White House, and my view now

is, it's fine to listen to what the Chinese government has to say. But we should also have a verification system that goes beyond what the Chinese government is reporting, and have our own surveillance system that allows us to track what's happening.

ACOSTA: All right, very good. Dr. Ashish Jha, sound advice. Thanks as always. Please, take no offense. I don't want to see you on a daily basis. It means nothing, personally, I swear. But Dr. Jha, great to see you again.

JHA: I don't take it personally.

ACOSTA: Thanks a lot. Appreciate the pardoning (ph).

JHA: Thank you.

ACOSTA: In the meantime, she blazed a trail through history, as the first woman, on the Supreme Court. Next, we remember former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, who died at the age of 83 (ph).



ACOSTA: Tonight, we remember a trailblazer. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, died today, at the age of 93. O'Connor paved a path for generations of women, including the five, who followed her, on to the Supreme Court.


SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, FORMER ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: In my lifetime, I have seen unbelievable changes in the opportunities for women.

In positions of power and authority, that women are well-represented that it is not an all-male governance, as it once was.


ACOSTA: During her nearly quarter century on the bench, Justice O'Connor was a key swing vote. She stepped down in 2006, to care for her husband, who was suffering from Alzheimer's. Five years ago, O'Connor shared her own diagnosis with dementia.

And joining me now is Marci Hamilton. She was a clerk for Justice O'Connor.

Marci, great to talk to you. Thank you so much for being with us.

In 1971, I guess, Justice O'Connor, then Sandra Day O'Connor asked the President, to name a woman, at the Supreme Court. And 10 years later, she was that woman, thanks to former President Ronald Reagan. What does that tell us about the kind of person she was, and the legacy that she leaves behind? MARCI HAMILTON, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, FORMER LAW CLERK TO JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR: She was an extraordinarily strong woman, who saw the future, right in front of her.

She really did believe that she belonged in places of power, and managed to make it through Stanford Law School, to be a state lawmaker, to be a state judge. And then, not terribly surprising to her, I think, to be a female Justice of the Supreme Court.

ACOSTA: And you described Justice O'Connor, as the perfect person, to be the first female justice. What did you mean by that?

HAMILTON: She had both the gravitas and the warmth, to be the person, who received hundreds of letters a day, asking her to speak at schools and universities and events.

She spent so much time, being both an ambassador from the Supreme Court to the country, and being a justice. It was really remarkable to watch. And she just was extraordinarily well-rounded on -- and just capable in positions of power, and at the same time talking to a group of little kids.

ACOSTA: And which decisions was she the most passionate about? I mean, there's been a lot of talk about how she was a key vote, on the matter of Roe versus Wade. What can you tell us about that?

HAMILTON: So, she was the reason that Roe v. Wade was not overturned, until relatively recently.


HAMILTON: During the time that I was clerking, 1989 to 1990, there were many challenges that had been brought to the court. And the hope on the right of side of the court was that she would be the fifth vote.

She was such a strong individual, who had her own mind. She was never looking around, trying to figure out what to think, because of what other people thought.


And she just held firm, she truly believed in the right of women, to reproductive freedom. She truly believed in the power of women, to be able to serve publicly. And so, I think she was very proud of that.

ACOSTA: All right, well, Marci Hamilton, thank you so much, for helping us remember, Justice O'Connor. Thanks so much, for your time, tonight.

HAMILTON: Thank you.

ACOSTA: And actress, Felicity Huffman, speaking about the college admissions scandal that briefly put her in prison. Why she felt she, quote, "had to break the law?"


ACOSTA: "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman is speaking for the first time, about the college admissions scandal that sent her to prison. She was one of 33 wealthy parents arrested, as part of a conspiracy, to get their kids into college. She pleaded guilty to paying $15,000, to inflate her daughter's SAT scores.

Here's what she told CNN affiliate, KABC.


FELICITY HUFFMAN, ACTRESS: I had to give my daughter a chance at a future. And so, it was sort of like my daughter's future, which meant I had to break the law.


I kept thinking 'Turn around, just turn around.' And to my undying shame, I didn't.


ACOSTA: Back in 2019, Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison, a year of probation, and 250 hours of community service. She was also fined $30,000.

Do the work yourself. Study hard. You might get ahead.

I'm Jim Acosta. See you later on, this weekend. Thanks for joining us.