Return to Transcripts main page
The Source with Kaitlan Collins
Trump Tries To Defend Against Warnings He's A Threat To Democracy By Accusing Biden Of The Same Thing; NYT: Donors & GOP Strategists Ask Christie To Drop Out Of The Race To Make Room For Haley; IDF: Two Civilians Killed For Each Hamas Terrorist Is "Tremendously Positive" Ratio For Urban Combat. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired December 04, 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: The Republican National Committee has just announced that only four candidates will take part, in Wednesday night's fourth GOP presidential debate, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie. The former President is not expected to attend.
Asa Hutchinson didn't make the cut, due to stricter polling and fundraising rules. And the rest have suspended their campaigns, after not getting traction, including North Dakota Republican governor, Doug Burgum, who announced today that he is out.
We'll have post-debate coverage, Wednesday night. Hope you join us.
The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.
Dire new warnings, about a second term of Donald Trump. Six weeks out from the first votes of 2024, he is claiming it is President Biden who is anti-democratic.
Plus, just in, we have just learned who has made the debate stage, for Wednesday night, in the fourth Republican debate.
Also, George Santos already has a new gig. Days after being ousted, from Congress, he is now making personalized videos, for anyone who is willing to cough up the cash, labeling himself an icon.
I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.
Good evening. Tonight, we are now just six weeks out, from the first votes being cast in Iowa. And with former President Donald Trump still holding on to a significant lead, in the 2024 GOP primary, he's not only sharpening his rhetoric, using the language of autocrats.
He also appears to be making a concerted effort, to accuse President Biden, of what he himself stands accused of doing, undermining democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: But Joe Biden is not the defender of American democracy. Joe Biden is the destroyer of American democracy. And it's--
TRUMP: It's him and his people. They're the wreckers of the American Dream. The American Dream is dead with him in office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The Biden campaign responded to those comments, saying that Trump is deflecting that this is just his latest desperate attempt, at distraction.
Trump has a tried and true strategy, of course, of accusing people what he himself stands accused of. But those comments, from the Republican frontrunner, come, as the warnings about what a second Trump term would look like, are now coming into clearer view.
Also, why the stakes of it would be much higher, including a report, in The New York Times, about how Trump quote, "would be backed in a second term by a well-funded outside infrastructure."
We'll have more on that report, with Maggie Haberman, in a moment, including on what the staff of a second Trump term could potentially look like.
But this is coming as some of his own former cabinet members have warned he should not be president again, including his Vice President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Trump asked me to put him over the Constitution.
And anyone who asks someone else to put themselves over the Constitution should never be President of the United States again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: More now, tonight, from a former member, of the January 6 Select Committee, Democratic congressman, Jamie Raskin.
And good to have you here tonight, Congressman.
Obviously, what we have been hearing today is from someone that you served, on that January 6 committee with, Congresswoman Liz Cheney. She is now warning that she says if Trump is elected, again, that she doesn't think he would leave the White House that she doesn't think he would leave power.
What do you make of those comments?
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, we heard the same thing, from Michael Cohen, when he testified before the Oversight Committee, several years ago. And we've heard this from a lot of former Trump people, and the people who've studied the situation closely. He's reduced Lincoln's party, which used to be a party of freedom, a pro-immigration, anti- slavery party, into a cult of authoritarian personality, around him, which doesn't accept the results of elections that don't go their way, and which embraces political violence, as an instrument, of obtaining power. It has become an authoritarian and fascistic party. And they understand that that is becoming very clear to large parts of America.
And so, of course, Trump will immediately try to cloud the picture, by pointing his finger, at Joe Biden, and accusing him of being anti- democratic, which is ridiculous. When he says, Joe Biden is not the defender of democracy, you know that Joe Biden is the defender of democracy.
Meantime, Donald Trump has surrounded himself, with a bunch of former criminals, who he pardoned, people like Michael Flynn and Joe Arpaio, and Dinesh D'Souza, and Steve Bannon.
These are all people, who Trump used the presidential power, to pardon for crimes they were convicted of. And now, they basically form the inner circle, of his campaign. So, you can see him, trying to create the embryo of a fascistic authoritarian criminal party, once he gets back into office.
And Liz Cheney's got it absolutely right. If he gets back in, does any person think that really he would ever leave office again? If you believe that, you're just too innocent to be let out of the house by yourself.
COLLINS: So you agree with her? You don't think that if he was elected that to a second term that he would leave the White House of his own will, at the end of that term?
RASKIN: Well, I mean, he's been spreading the Big Lie, from even before the election, when he knew he was going to lose, and he was trying to condition his followers, to believe that the election was going to be stolen.
And then, when he lost by more than 7 million votes, 306 to 232, he proceeded to try to overturn the election results, by spreading that big lie. It was rejected, of course, in 60, federal and state courts, across the land, including by eight judges, he himself had named to the bench.
But he continues to tell that lie. And he continues to say that he will pardon the January 6th insurrectionists, convicted of everything from assaulting federal officers, to seditious conspiracy, which means conspiracy to overthrow or put down the government of the United States.
So, he's made it clear, and he has repeatedly said explicitly, that he is more important than the Constitution, and the Constitution should be set aside, in order to restore his power. And does anybody think he's got any public interest in mind? No. What does he want to do? He wants to get the money-making operation going again.
COLLINS: Well, can we--
RASKIN: He transformed the presidency into--
COLLINS: Can we talk about what that would look like?
COLLINS: But on what that would look like?
RASKIN: I mean--
COLLINS: Because I do think this is a really important part of this conversation. It is not just the fact that he's the Republican front- runner, or that he could get reelected, which I mean, based on what we're seeing today, he certainly could. But it's what he would do if he was reelected.
He's made clear that he would use the Justice Department, for revenge, against his political opponents. He talks about purging the federal workforce, these harsher immigration policies, some things that aren't surprising for what a Republican candidate would want to do. But some that like using the Justice Department, which he's made very clear, he would do to go after his opponents.
I mean, as a lawmaker, what ability or role do you think Congress would have in whether those more extreme policy plans, those ideas, in a second term, would become a reality? What role does Congress play in that?
RASKIN: Well, he would like to turn the presidency into dictatorship. And his models are, of course, his heroes in the world, people like Vladimir Putin, the autocrat of Russia, Xi in China, Orban in Hungary, the apostle of illiberal democracy. And these are the people he wants to hang around with, and that he's been consorting with.
His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, brought back a cool $2 billion, from Saudi Arabia, for the company he created, the day after the Trump administration ended. And it is a money-making operation, from top to bottom.
He has no public program. I mean, I sat there for four years. They talked about infrastructure week, infrastructure month. They just never had an infrastructure bill.
Joe Biden got that done, in the second month of office. And we put $1.2 trillion into rail and trail and the roads and the highways and broadband. We've got a real program for the country.
So, the Democrats aren't perfect. But we are a party of democracy, which believes that the government must be an instrument of the common good, for the people, and not an instrument for private self- enrichment of the President and his family, and his buddies. And we know that's what they want to do, because that's what they did before. That's what they've been doing ever since. And he wants to keep the grift going.
And the problems on Earth are just way too serious. The world is on fire, right now. And, we've got to deal with climate change. And the autocrats cannot save us. The kleptocrats, the plutocrats, the theocrats, like Mike Johnson, they're not going to do it. It's only the Democrats, at this point. So, that is the basic frame, for this election, going into 2024.
COLLINS: Congressman Jamie Raskin, as always, thank you, for your time, tonight.
And for more insight, into Trump's latest claims, what he is saying, I want to bring in CNN's -- or New York Times Senior Political Correspondent, CNN's Political Analyst, Maggie Haberman, who is here, and have been doing a lot of reporting on this.
Maggie, but first off, on what you were hearing the Congressman talk about there, Trump now saying that Biden is the anti-democratic candidate in this race? I mean, how much of that is just this age-old habit that we have seen of his, of accusing his opponents, of what he himself stands accused of?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's no question, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Literally, in this case?
HABERMAN: Yes, we've seen him -- we've seen him do that over and over. He did it with Hillary Clinton, in a debate, famously in 2016, where she called him a puppet of Putin. And he said, "No puppet, you're the puppet." I mean, this is whatever he gets tagged with, he pushes back on.
But I think your question is the right one, which is, why is he doing this now? And I do think that the Congressman is correct, that there are enough voters, in the country, who are concerned about -- this is not concerned about the framing of stories -- are concerned about Trump's own actions, that when people talk about his efforts, to stay in power, when people talk about what happened, on January 6th, it's not an especially helpful fact-set to Trump.
I think that his team is aware of that. And so, they are trying to put this back on Biden, because there are Trump supporters, who are upset that he was criminally charged.
Now, you can look at the various things he was criminally charged with, and decide whether you think that was necessary.
But he is trying to turn this in into how he is the victim, which we have seen over and over again.
COLLINS: Yes. And I should note, I mean, he's not ad-libbing what we're hearing, just off the cuff, in random interviews.
COLLINS: He's reading off the -- a teleprompter often. And Maggie, I mean, it seems to suggest this more concerted effort, to push back, on that charge. I mean, what do you make of whether or not--
HABERMAN: I think that--
COLLINS: --this is a more formal position he's taking?
HABERMAN: Look, it certainly was the case, over the weekend, Kaitlan, when there were signs, at a Trump event, in Iowa, accusing Biden of attacking democracy that were on various seats. This wasn't just some impromptu ad-lib. This is something that his team had thought about.
And again, to go back to what we said before, they're clearly doing it for a reason. If this was not a trouble spot for him, if this was not a concern to voters, about Trump's own behavior, and his own statements, they wouldn't be doing it.
COLLINS: What are you hearing, from sources, on what would be different, in a second Trump term, in terms of not just Trump himself, but who's around him, and what those efforts to enact his policy ambitions look like?
HABERMAN: Yes. So, my colleagues, Jonathan Swan, and Charlie Savage, and I have been working on a series, about what a Trump second administration would look like, going back to June.
And this is not hypothetical, Kaitlan. These are generally based on his own piece in June was about how he said he was going to appoint a real special prosecutor, quote-unquote, to "go after" President Biden and his family.
He has talked about wanting to have more control over cities. There was a comment that he made, in March, where he talked about, "We're not going to wait for permission to go in," something to that effect.
It was a clear reference to the Insurrection Act, which he did not use on U.S. cities, when there were protests, and some of which turned into riots, in 2020, in response to the killing of an unarmed Black man, in Minnesota, George Floyd.
But he is saying a number of things that he is planning. He has a policy staff that is working on a very, very radical immigration plan. It's not that dissimilar from what Trump was talking about, in 2016.
He has outside groups that are working on efforts to try to not just staff a second administration, but help him gut the civil service, and to try to take greater control over pockets of authority -- of independence within the government.
So, this is all from his own mouth and -- or from his close allies or his advisers. And this is what would happen, next time. And he'd be walking into a presidency, with a weakened Congress, with the people, who have been the most opposed to him, in his own party, such as Liz Cheney, not in her seat anymore, Mitt Romney leaving, you know, can go down the list. There were not many of them. And they are basically gone, because he has bent the party to his will.
And he has a supermajority of conservatives, on the Supreme Court, which could change things as well.
COLLINS: Yes, and no worry about having to be reelected, after that.
Maggie Haberman, great reporting, as always.
COLLINS: Thank you.
HABERMAN: Thank you.
COLLINS: Up next, Trump is not going to be there, on Wednesday night. But we have learned who will be there, in Tuscaloosa, for the next Republican debate, on Wednesday. We'll talk about what their strategy could be. That's next.
Also from former -- from lawmaker to accused law-breaker, George Santos now has a new way, to make money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE SANTOS, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Thank you for the love. Thank you for the kindness. You know, Botox keeps you young, fillers keeps you plump. Mwah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: This just in. The Republican National Committee has now confirmed who will be on the debate stage, this Wednesday night, for the next Republican debate. The list of qualifiers, now down to four, as you can see here, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Chris Christie, all expected to be on the stage, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
What happens there could be maybe critical for some of these candidates, and their efforts, to win the Republican nomination, to defeat Donald Trump, who, yes, qualifies for these debates, but has skipped every single Republican debate so far, and plans to skip this one as well.
Joining me, tonight, Republican strategist and pollster, Kristen Soltis Anderson; and former National Coalitions Director for the Biden-Harris 2020 campaign, Ashley Allison. Let me start with you because the debate stage has been set. But this is a group of people who, despite some of them shifting in the polls, Nikki Haley, they have not really -- they definitely have not been able to dethrone Trump's lead. I mean, what do they do, on Wednesday night? What do they need to do?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there's what they need to do. And there's what I suspect they will do.
What I suspect they will do is go after each other that they are all fighting over this piece of pie that they think is the sort of Republican voter, who is open to an alternative to Trump.
The problem for them is, at the moment, that does not look like a big enough slice of the pie. And so, what they should do is spend at least some of their time, talking about the guy who's not there, and why it's time to turn the page from Trump.
Now, for somebody like Nikki Haley, she may say, "Look, my strategy seems to be working thus far. I'm going up in the polls. I don't want to disrupt things and change gears too much. I don't want to tick off the part of the party that does still kind of like Donald Trump."
But if you're Ron DeSantis, if you're Chris Christie, at this point, what do you have to lose? You need to go for the big guy.
COLLINS: Well, and The New York Times is reporting that Trump donor or -- excuse me, Republican donors, strategists are urging Chris Christie to drop out. They believe that he should drop out, let that support consolidate, moreover, to a Nikki Haley type.
He has no plans on doing that, though. I mean, he told me he plans to stay in this race, until the Convention, potentially.
What does that look like for a Chris Christie?
ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Chris Christie has the extreme long shot of becoming a Republican nominee. The question is what does that do for a Nikki Haley?
Because if you -- who knows who's going to win Iowa, right? Like I was talking to a friend, who does Republican polling, today, and I said, "I still think Donald Trump may be the nominee." And she laughed in my face, and she's like, people aren't even registering that there really is a primary, because they just assume Trump is going to be the incumbent nominee.
But if you get to a New Hampshire, if we -- so, let's say we move past Iowa, and you get to a New Hampshire, where Nikki Haley is doing pretty well, getting Chris Christie's share of the pot, if he were to drop out, could really bring her much closer to Trump, if not over the finish line. But if he's saying I'm staying in it, then the question I guess I ask a Chris Christie is why are you running for president? Maybe to be president. But I thought it was ultimately so that Donald Trump would not become president. And if that means you need to drop off to consolidate, on the right's, for someone to likely to beat Donald Trump, then it might be the time to do that.
COLLINS: Well, and Trump himself is treating this like a two-man race, between him and Joe Biden, already.
COLLINS: He's kind of totally dismissed his Republican rivals.
I mean, is it guaranteed based on, what she heard from that Republican pollster, the idea that he -- I mean, could he maybe lose Iowa, and continue on with this? I mean, is it a given that he's going to definitely take Iowa?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: I will not put any money against Donald Trump winning Iowa.
But I think what's interesting is to think about historical precedent for this. So, we say, "Oh, Donald Trump he's totally unprecedented."
Actually think back to the 2000 campaigns. We're really rewinding like a quarter century here. But you had the juggernaut of George W. Bush, win in Iowa. And then, suddenly, in New Hampshire, things get weird. And that's because in New Hampshire, Independents play such a large role. John McCain that year surprises everyone, takes New Hampshire.
The problem then is you go on to South Carolina.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: And that's when the Juggernaut realizes "Oh, no, the insurgent campaign has got us."
And that's where I suspect even if Nikki Haley is ultimately successful, in New Hampshire, can she sustain through her home state of South Carolina? That's the bigger hurdle. That, and also getting Chris Christie to hand over his 10 percent to 15 percent of the vote to her, which he doesn't seem likely to do.
COLLINS: Yes, he doesn't seem prepared.
But can we -- just given this picture, and the how far ahead Trump is, and what we just talked about, on what a second Trump term would be, with Maggie's great reporting? I mean, what does the White House think about this?
Because when you do look at these polls, Biden is not running away with this race. I mean, in a lot of them, in key swing states, he's down to Trump. Why is that? And how are they planning to address that, going forward, given Trump's likelihood of potentially winning this nomination? ALLISON: The way they need to address it is really making it -- if it's Donald Trump and Joe Biden? Make a true comparison, and remind voters what it was like under a four-year term of Donald Trump.
What was one of the first policies he put in place? The Muslim ban. Who were the three Supreme Court justices that he put on the Court to overturn Roe, which is an issue around abortion that is a really bipartisan issue with Republicans, Independents and Democrats. It's really about painting the contrast.
Now, I don't want to do a Pollyannaish picture of this. I don't think just the alternative versus the -- what is Joe Biden saying--
COLLINS: The almighty?
ALLISON: Mighty versus the alternative? I don't think that's going to be enough for folks.
I think they also are going to have to make it very clear, for young voters, for voters of color, for the Muslim and Arab community, what a second term, under Joe Biden, would look like. Because let's be honest, that population, right now, is not waving the Joe Biden flag. But I don't think with a year out that we can just say, "OK, then we forget about those voters." There is an argument to be made.
And I'll just close with this. Before the conflict with Israel and Gaza started to happen, Joe Biden's domestic policy was really popular, with many of these young voters, whether it was on student debt, or decriminalizing marijuana, or climate.
There are things that people like about Joe Biden. The campaign is going to have to get out there, and sell it to these voters, though.
COLLINS: Yes, it's a really interesting point about second Biden term, not just what a second Trump term would look like.
Thank you both for being here, as always.
Of course, up next for us, after being unceremoniously booted, from the House of Representatives, former congressman, George Santos, has a new gig, sort of. The question is will people buy what he is selling?
COLLINS: Tonight, the Israel Defense Forces, urging more civilian evacuations, as it is stepping up its military operations, in southern Gaza. Previously, they had been mainly in northern Gaza. Now, we have seen them move to the south.
In addition to airstrikes, the IDF has now expanded the ground operations there, to the entire Gaza Strip. This, as a top humanitarian relief official, for the United Nation, says that the quote -- the situation is getting quote, "More apocalyptic" by the day, another warning of a hellish scenario if more aid doesn't get into Gaza soon.
Also tonight, the IDF is confirming a report that two Palestinian civilians have been killed, for every one Hamas terrorist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESMAN: I can confirm the report. And I can say that if that is true? And I think that our numbers will be corroborated. If you compare, though that ratio to any other conflict, in urban terrain, between a military and a terrorist organization, using civilians as their human shields, and embedded in the civilian population, you will find that that ratio is tremendous -- tremendously positive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Joining me now Axios foreign policy reporter, Barak Ravid.
I mean, can we just talk about that comment, first off, saying it tremendously positive?
BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL & GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, I heard that too. I'm not sure that's a good choice of words.
Regardless of what you think about what's going on in Gaza, I don't think that the fact that 10,000 civilians, if we take the version of the IDF, 10,000 dead civilians is positive in any way.
COLLINS: Yes. I mean, and also, as they're facing immense pressure, from the U.S., as far as what they're doing right now with what is happening, in southern Gaza, stepping up these military operations.
They have said they're more targeted. Is that the sense that you have from what you're hearing from sources?
RAVID: Everything is relative. OK? What they -- what the IDF did, in northern Gaza, was basically before the ground troops came in, there was a massive, massive, massive barrage of airstrikes, basically, to clear the area, and then artillery fire, and only then the ground forces came in.
This will not be the case in southern Gaza. In southern Gaza, we will see much more targeted raids. I'm not sure we'll see artillery at all. And if there will be air strikes, they'll be much more targeted.
But I think that one of the things that we will see is that Israel was facing a dilemma, in the last 24 hours. And this dilemma was what to do, with the huge pressure, the U.S. was imposing, on Israel, regarding the increase in humanitarian aid into Gaza. And the Israelis, I think, realize that the only way they can get U.S. backing, for an operation, in southern Gaza, is if they approve more aid. And this is what the Israeli war cabinet did, just a few hours ago.
COLLINS: Is there a significant amount more than what was going in?
RAVID: Again, I think everything is -- again, everything is relative, OK? If until -- before the ceasefire, only 60,000 liters of fuel entered Gaza, during the ceasefire, it was 120,000. Now, it's going to be 180,000. So, it's an increase every time. And I think we'll see something between 250 and 300 trucks a day. It's an increase. Is this what the civilians in Gaza need? No, they need more.
RAVID: But it's more than they got.
COLLINS: And all this is coming as today, we saw the United Nations host this moment, a special session, as they call it, to address what happened, on October 7th, as far as the sexual violence against women, on that day, by Hamas. There was some really disturbing testimony that we heard, from several people, who what they had heard from survivors that day.
Sheryl Sandberg now, obviously worked at Facebook, turned women's rights advocate had this to say today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERYL SANDBERG, WOMEN'S RIGHTS ADVOCATE: Rape should never be used as an act of war.
This truth must be upheld despite the politics of our time. Because no matter what marches you're attending, what flag you are flying, what religion you practice, or if you practice none at all, here's one thing we can all agree on: there are exactly no circumstances that justify rape.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: What do you make of the fact that she felt the need, to have to come out and say that, because of the silence that we had heard, for two months, from places, like the United Nations?
RAVID: Yes, and a lot of women's organizations -- women's organizations around the world, NGOs. It was pretty disturbing. When you think about it, when there's every day that passes, you hear more and more evidence and testimonies.
And some of the videos they showed today, at the U.N., were videos of people, who came and gave testimonies, to the police. It's not just people, who gave interviews to journalists. They went to the police, with a police interrogator, and they gave a testimony about some people saw, in their own eyes, a woman being gang-raped, in the music festival. Others saw women getting mutilated.
And I think another interesting thing is what we heard today, from the State Department spokesperson, from the podium, saying that he thinks that the reason Hamas did not release the -- between 15 to 20 women, it is still holding hostage, is because it does not want them to tell what they've been going through, under its custody. And I have to say that I heard the same assessment, from at least two senior Israeli Defense and Intelligence officials, in recent days. This is something that was kept pretty quiet, in Israel, this assessment. They didn't want to put it out. And they were quite surprised that the State Department said it publicly, today. But I think it reflects the intelligence assessment, of the Israeli intelligence assessments.
COLLINS: Why did they not want to put it out? Were they worried it would jeopardize the hostage release that was ongoing?
RAVID: I think they--
COLLINS: Or what is that?
RAVID: I think they were worried that it might harm the hostages that are still in Gaza, the women themselves. But again, I think there is, at least what I hear from Israeli officials, is that they claim that they have intelligence that shows that some of those women were harmed.
COLLINS: Just disturbing to hear that testimony, from them, and to think of the women, who are still being held, right now, tonight by Hamas.
Barak Ravid, thank you for that reporting.
RAVID: Thank you, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: We have more to come, on that expanded ground operation, in southern Gaza, the same area, where Palestinian civilians, where Gazans were just told to leave their homes and go to.
We'll be back in a moment with someone, who witnessed the humanitarian crisis, unfolding in Gaza, firsthand.
COLLINS: We have some awful news to share, tonight, about our own family, here at CNN, as we follow the situation in Gaza.
Since the beginning of this war, our producer, Ibrahim Dahman, has risked his life, doing fearless reporting, on the ground, in Gaza. After nearly a month, he fled with his immediate family, showing us what it was like, to have to do that, with two small kids in tow.
This weekend, he learned that at least nine of his family members, who were in northern Gaza, still trapped there, have been killed, including his uncle and his aunt, when an airstrike hit the family's home. His childhood home was also hit, in a separate strike.
He said that he'll never be able to forget, quote, "Every stone and corner of the house in which I was born and raised and in which my children were born." We are thinking of Ibrahim, and his family, tonight, as they go through something that unfortunately so many families are also experiencing.
This as we're learning today that Gaza is in what has been called a near-total blackout, according to the internet monitoring firm, and all telecom services there have been completely cut off. That means Palestinian civilians can't check in each other. They can't call for help. They can't get all those orders telling them where to evacuate.
Joining me now, UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell, who just returned, I should note, from Gaza, last month.
And thank you, for being here. It's good to have you again.
CATHERINE RUSSELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNICEF: Thanks.
COLLINS: Given it's so rare to hear from someone, who's been, on the ground, in Gaza?
COLLINS: What did you see in southern Gaza, where you were?
RUSSELL: Well, it was really striking actually, because I was in Khan Yunis, which now is so much in the news, because it's really under assault, at this point.
But when I was there, that wasn't the case. There were -- I was there two weeks ago. So, there were so many people, just even in the street, teeming with people, who hadn't moved from different parts of Gaza, and were looking for some refuge.
I went to a hospital there. And every place I walked, there were people kind of sleeping in the corridors or sort of camped out in the quarters on blankets, children, adults, everyone, they were just there seeking refuge.
And so, it was just I was -- I remember feeling kind of overwhelmed, by the sheer numbers of people that I saw. And then, I also saw just huge amounts of trash. I mean, I think that all of the sort of typical services have been disrupted.
And now, we see in the news every day, that's now a place that's being hit with bombardment. So, it's even worse.
But what I saw was just really unnerving, really, to see how many people were there, and to hear from them, about how many of them had moved multiple times, had come from different places, had lost family members, and where they are trying to find some peace.
COLLINS: And given that -- I mean, that Southern Gaza, and where you were, Khan Yunis, and where they're conducting operations, right now, that is where they were told to go, by the IDF, when this was initially happening.
COLLINS: Now, they're being told, more targeted areas, to leave those areas. A lot of them don't have internet service. I mean, and they're talking about QR codes that are on the leaflets that the IDF is dropping.
COLLINS: Are they able to even know where to go, and what to do?
RUSSELL: No, I don't think so. I mean, we estimate that 1.8 million people, in Gaza, of the 2.2 million people, who live there, have been displaced. OK? So, imagine that. They're not home.
Electricity, power is very hard to come by. So how do you look at a QR code with what, right? Do you even have -- if you have a phone, does it -- is it even charged up? How do you do that?
I think people the challenge is that they don't -- they don't have any security at all. They've been moving. They keep moving. They're afraid. They're living in terror. And they don't know where to go. They don't know where it's safe.
And I think, the challenge for the world is to say, we're in a situation where -- I think of it as kind of like a piece of paper, right? You fold it in half. So move south. Fold it in half again, fold it in half again. At some point, there is no place for them to go. There is no safe place. And they know that. And they feel that and they're terrified.
COLLINS: And are we at that point now?
RUSSELL: I think we're close to that. I don't know where the -- I mean, first of all, all of Gaza is not that big. I mean, it's a small place, as it is. And there just is so little space. And it's very -- it's one of the most densely populated parts of the world. And there just isn't any place to go. There isn't any place where people feel safe.
COLLINS: Yes. I mean, it's the size of Las Vegas.
COLLINS: And there are 2 million people there.
COLLINS: Cathy Russell, thank you for sharing that experience with us.
COLLINS: Thank you for being here.
RUSSELL: Of course, thanks. COLLINS: We'll be back in just a moment.
COLLINS: Newly-expelled Republican congressman, George Santos -- former Republican congressman, George Santos, I guess, I should note, already has a new job. And his coworkers now include Real Housewives and 90s boy band members.
He is now on Cameo. For those of you who don't know, it is an online service, where you can get personalized videos, from celebrities, to reality TV stars, athletes and now, disgraced former congressman.
For $200, the indicted former lawmaker is offering anyone, who is willing to pay that, maybe for a Christmas present, a birthday shout- out, a pep talk or advice. Yes, he is advertising that he is giving out advice.
He brands himself as a former congressional icon, and is cashing in with messages like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTOS: You know, Botox keeps you young, fillers keeps you plump. Mwah.
Look, don't let the haters get to you. Haters are going to hate. And if you have haters? That means you're doing something right, girl. So just keep going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Want to bring in Capitol Hill Reporter, Melanie Zanona, who is here with me.
I mean, I guess he's not letting the haters get to him. But I mean, what this just shows me -- yes, I'm sure, it's amusing. It's entertaining. It's just we're in a reality TV world. I mean, we're not just covering politics. It is covering reality TV.
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. And we have actually seen an increasing number of disgraced or washed-up politicians use Cameo, to make money, and to try to stay in the spotlight. So, I guess, in some ways, it's not at all surprising that Santos would hop on here. And there was so much demand that he even upped his price to $200 a pop.
COLLINS: Oh, yikes.
ZANONA: And I remember talking to Santos, in the Capitol, once, and he told me when life gives you lemons, make margaritas. That seems to be a motto of his.
And he clearly is relishing in all the attention, even though it's negative attention. He was mocked by SNL, on Saturday. He's been tweeting at a bunch of different celebrities, going back and forth with him.
But it is worth reminding people what he's accused of is very serious. He's accused of defrauding donors, defrauding voters, lying, stealing cheating. And now, he's essentially being rewarded for that behavior.
But yes, Congress lately has felt like covering Real Housewives. So again, it's kind of not surprising to see him here, on Cameo.
COLLINS: I don't know Real Housewives sometimes seem to have like a tighter grasp on reality maybe.
But, I mean, we're seeing people take advantage this. Senator John Fetterman, who has been very critical, of Senator Bob Menendez, another member of his party, who is also facing an indictment, he actually paid George Santos, to say this to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTOS: Hey, Bobby. Look, I don't think I need to tell you, but these people that want to make you get in trouble, and want to kick you out, and make you run away, you make them put up or shut up. You stand your ground, sir. And don't get bogged down by all the haters out there. Stay strong. Merry Christmas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: I don't think that he actually knew that he was making that for Senator Menendez, until John Fetterman -- Senator Fetterman posted it, on Twitter?
ZANONA: Yes, yes, that's exactly right.
So, Fetterman, who just as a reminder, he has called for Menendez to resign. He had his campaign commission this video. You heard it, urging him to stay strong. And they made it out to Bobby, from New Jersey. So then, after Fetterman tweeted this, then Santos responded, and said, "Oh, I wish I knew the Bobby in question." But "LOL. And I love it." So, this isn't the only example.
The Ohio Democratic Party also commissioned a video, and they had Santos thank Bernie Moreno. He's a Republican candidate for Senate, for maxing out to Santos' congressional campaign in 2022.
So, it appears that Democrats are trying to score some political points, trying to use Santos as an unwitting player in that. But it's really unclear who's having the last laugh here, because again, Santos is getting paid.
COLLINS: They're paying him.
COLLINS: He got $400 for that.
ZANONA: Exactly. And he probably made thousands of dollars, if you do the math. I don't love math. That's why I'm a journalist. But $200 a pop for 150 of those? That's a lot of money in one day.
COLLINS: So, could go to some Ferragamo loafers, some would say.
ZANONA: Some Botox, fillers.
COLLINS: Melanie Zanona, I mean, you're on the reality TV beat. Thank you so much for being here.
In just a few moments, you will hear directly, from Senator John Fetterman, on George Santos, Senator Menendez, much more. Abby Phillip will be speaking with him, at the top of the hour. You're going to want to watch that.
Also tonight, the shocking announcement, so controversial the U.S. senators, and not one, but two candidates for president, are outraged about, they're demanding answers. We have the answers here, and the receipts. That's next.
COLLINS: It is no secret to anyone who watches this show, or follows me on Twitter. I am a diehard Alabama football fan. After defeating the number one team, in the country, Saturday night, the Crimson Tide was selected as the fourth seed, in the college football playoff.
That means the selection committee denied Florida State the chance to play, for a national title. This has caused a bit of uproar, given the Seminoles didn't lose a game this year. They won the ACC. Their coach, Mike Norvell, said it is a snub that quote, "goes against everything that is true and right in college football."
Now, I can bring up Alabama's tough schedule, or how the committee was clear that an injury, like the one that talented FSU quarterback, Jordan Travis experienced this season, would factor into their decision-making.
But you can also see just how divisive this is, when you've got O.J. Simpson, on one side, saying that they got the decision right. Donald Trump, blaming Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, on the other side, saying it's his fault that Florida State didn't make it, in addition to that angrily-worded letter, Florida Senator Rick Scott has sent demanding answers.
For more on maybe some of those answers, joining me now is ESPN college football commentator, Paul Finebaum, the one and only.
Paul, I just wonder, you were the first person I thought of, when we were thinking about this, today. I mean, what do you say to people, who believe that FSU was snubbed here? PAUL FINEBAUM, COLLEGE FOOTBALL COMMENTATOR, ESPN: Kaitlan, I'll be respectful here. It's late at night. They have a valid argument, if this committee takes deserving.
But, in my mind, we should have the four best teams, in America, playing in the most important event. And FSU is not one of them. They lost their best player, a generational player, Jordan Travis, their quarterback. And without him, they (inaudible) they have an elite defense. But they really shouldn't be part of what we're seeing.
And a lot of the reason for that is what happened last year. TCU got to the final game and lost 65 to seven against Georgia. And I think in the back of this committee's mind, they did not want that to happen again.
COLLINS: Yes. That's what I thought about as well, what happened with TCU. I mean, you've seen the arguments after arguments. And Jordan Travis was a huge talent. But it is a different team without him being able to play on it.
And as you rightly noted earlier, the Seminoles actually would have been in the playoffs, had we already been operating with the 12-team format that is going to go into place next year.
FINEBAUM: They would have played Liberty, another team that's undefeated. I'm not going to argue for Liberty, getting in the CFP. But it's interesting that they did this to themselves. The ACC commissioner and two other Power 5 commissioners went against the norm. This had already been approved for 2023, Kaitlan. Instead, we're having to wait till next year.
But the one other thing I want to say is if people want to use accusations, like "Alabama got in because of Nick Saban," "Alabama got preferential treatment?" I haven't heard that on CNN last night. That is absurd. That is absolutely absurd.
Alabama beat the number one team, in the country, in the biggest game of the year, the SEC championship game. OK, they have a loss. We're all aware of that. They lost to Texas, on September 9th. Where did Texas Land? The number three team in America. That's the best loss of anybody under consideration. And it's easily the best win.
COLLINS: Paul, I texted my dad, as I told you before, who I should note, you know, my dad used to pick me up in junior high, and we would listen to you, every afternoon. I never listened to the top songs or music that everyone else might have just listening to. We listen to people calling in to you to ask these kinds of questions.
He wants to know what your predictions are, for the score for Michigan, Alabama and Pasadena.
FINEBAUM: Kaitlan, I am not just patronizing you. But I am one of your biggest fans, as you know. But Alabama is going to win that game.
And the one thing we haven't even talked about is the fact that Michigan is in there, despite all kinds of accusations, effective the head coach Jim Harbaugh was suspended, not by the NCAA, but by his own Commissioner, at the Big Ten, for the sign-stealing scandal.
So, I think, hopefully, we can get you a break, from your bosses, in New York, and we will see you in either in Pasadena, or in Houston, for the National Championship game.
COLLINS: We'll make it a deal.
Paul Finebaum, as always, love listening to you. Great to have you on. Thank you for joining me.
FINEBAUM: Thank you, Kaitlan. My pleasure.
COLLINS: Love when we get a moment to talk about Alabama football, here on the show.
Thank you so much, for joining us, tonight.
"CNN NEWSNIGHT WITH ABBY PHILLIP" starts, right now.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Does the left have an anti-Semitism problem? That's tonight, on NEWSNIGHT.