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The Source with Kaitlan Collins
Supreme Court Refuses To Expedite Trump Immunity Ruling; DeSantis: Trump Indictments Sucked The Oxygen From Race; Wife Of American Held Captive By The Taliban: I'm Fighting For Ryan Because I Want Him Back Alive. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired December 22, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: A quick update now, on a story we followed, from the very beginning.
The 2019 death of Elijah McClain, in Aurora, Colorado, after police forcibly restrained him, and paramedics gave him what turned out to be a lethal dose of the drug, ketamine.
And today, jurors convicted the two paramedics, of criminally negligent homicide. An Aurora Police officer was convicted, earlier, on that same charge, and subsequently fired.
Well, the news continues. THE SOURCE starts now. Happy Holidays.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.
Not so fast. Special Counsel, Jack Smith, denied as Donald Trump gets something he very much wanted, from the Supreme Court. Will his federal election subversion trial be delayed, and by how long?
Also, tonight, breaking point, at the border, an unprecedented surge, a government overwhelmed, and the private militias, now taking it upon themselves, to patrol the border.
And as America pushes, to bring hostages home, from Gaza, Russia, Iran and Venezuela, I'll talk to a wife, who is pleading for her husband's safe return, from Afghanistan. He's one of three Americans being held by the Taliban.
Kaitlan Collins is off tonight.
I am Brianna Keilar. And this is THE SOURCE.
A win for former President Trump, at least for now, with the Supreme Court denying Special Counsel Jack Smith's urgent request, to put the issue, of Trump's claim of presidential immunity, on the fast track. A one-sentence order. Denied. No explanation, no notation, of whether any justices dissented.
And here's what this means. The nine justices will not bypass the D.C. Appeals Court, to decide whether Trump can be prosecuted, for alleged crimes, committed while in office. Arguments are set to begin, in that court, in just over two weeks. The case is expected to ultimately end up, at the Supreme Court, just not yet.
Still, this is a victory for Trump, who has been trying to delay, all his trials, until after the election. The immunity question must be settled, before his federal trial, for allegedly trying to overturn the election can begin. It's on the calendar, for March 4th, right before Super Tuesday. But that date now very much in doubt.
And as this case heads back, to the Appeals Court, I'm joined by retired judge J. Michael Luttig, who spent 15 years, as one of the country's most prominent figures, on the Federal Appeals bench. You'll recall that he testified, before the January 6 committee, last year. He advised former Vice President Pence that he did not have the authority, to interfere with the certification of electoral votes.
Sir, thank you so much, for being with us, tonight. A key night here.
Why do you think the court chose not to hear the case, right now?
J. MICHAEL LUTTIG, RETIRED U.S. APPEALS COURT JUDGE: Thank you for having me, with you, tonight, Brianna.
Today's perfunctory per curiam denial of Jack Smith's motion to expedite is not a victory, for the former President, nor a defeat for Jack Smith. This was just a typical decision that the Supreme Court made, not to expedite consideration.
The Supreme Court is fully capable of expediting consideration, of any matter, where it concludes that expeditiousness is necessary. In this instance, today, it's clear that that the Supreme Court decided that expeditious review, of the immunity question, simply was not necessary.
It's of surpassing an obvious importance, to the American voters, to know before they vote, in November of 2024, whether the former President, the presumptive Republican nominee, today, will have been convicted, by a jury of peers, of the criminal offenses, for which he has been charged, by the United States.
The Supreme Court understands the surpassing importance, of a verdict, in that trial, before the voters of America vote, in November.
KEILAR: Sir. Can I -- sir, can I just ask? I just--
LUTTIG: They concluded that still it wasn't--
KEILAR: I do just want to ask you. Isn't a delay though something? And I hear what you're saying. This isn't on the merits. But doesn't a delay work in the favor, of the former President, when he is wanting to push everything back, so that it can hopefully happen after the election?
LUTTIG: That's what I was just about to explain, Brianna. That there is not as of today, a delay, in the March trial, that's been scheduled. Now, here's what's happened. And here's what's going to happen between now and then. The Supreme Court denied the motion to expedite. The Supreme Court doesn't give reasons, for such a decision. And it did not today.
But it's fairly obvious, to me, and to others, who follow the Supreme Court, and the federal courts, in general, that the Supreme Court concluded that it would allow the D.C. Circuit to address the immunity question first. And it will do so expeditiously. The Supreme Court of the United States knows that as well.
So, the Supreme -- the D.C. Circuit, from which the appeal of the District Court's decision, denying immunity is, has already scheduled arguments, on the immunity question, in early January.
KEILAR: Yes. But are you thinking that that won't affect the March 4th schedule?
LUTTIG: The D.C. Circuit, in Washington--
KEILAR: You think that's not going to push that back?
LUTTIG: I do not.
LUTTIG: There's every reason to believe that the D.C. Circuit will expeditiously address the issue. And it will render an opinion, I believe, not likely, longer than February, and perhaps even earlier. At that point, the losing party, whether it's the government, or the former President, could appeal again, to the Supreme Court of the United States.
And now, for example, if the former President were to lose, in the D.C. Circuit, that is if the D.C. Circuit were to hold, as did the District court, that the President is not entitled to absolute immunity, from prosecution, for criminal offense -- these criminal offenses, then, it would be an option, for the Supreme Court of the United States, to deny review of that D.C. Circuit opinion, on a timeline that I've suggested that is reasonable and possible.
It's entirely possible that the March trial would not have to be delayed at all. But in all events, not delayed long, certainly no longer than one to two months, so that the trial would in all events begin sometime near the summer of 2020, four, five, six months before the election of 2024.
KEILAR: And judge, certainly that will be interesting to see, if that is what happens. We'll continue the conversation with you. Judge Luttig, thank you so much, for being with us.
LUTTIG: Thank you, Brianna.
KEILAR: I want to bring in retired California Superior Court Judge, LaDoris Hazzard Cordell; and former federal prosecutor, and CNN Legal Analyst, Jennifer Rodgers. To both of you, Judge, you first, what do you think about that? Do you think that ultimately this going to the Appeals Court, as was planned, will mean that there is not a delay, in ultimately this trial, for election subversion, at the federal level?
LADORIS HAZZARD CORDELL, RETIRED SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE, AUTHOR, "HER HONOR": Well, Brianna, I have to respectfully disagree with Judge Luttig. I am flabbergasted that the court did not find this case to be of such exceptional importance, to allow an expedited review. Especially, since 2019, the Supreme Court has agreed to expedite hearings 19 times.
So, what this will mean is that there's oral argument, January 9th, 2024, before a three-judge all-female panel, on the D.C. Circuit. Whoever loses has a right to request a rehearing, before the full court, all 11 justices, and on the D.C. Circuit.
Well, that's going to take time. They have to set a briefing schedule, and determine when those oral arguments will happen. And this whole time, that this happens, the proceedings before Judge Chutkan are stayed, meaning nothing can happen. No questionnaire sent out to jurors. Absolutely nothing.
So, when this whole process gets done, the three-judge panel, then the full court, en banc, the French meaning, "On the bench," 11 judges, and all the briefing schedule, of course the hearing is going to get delayed, there is no question.
And finally, there is no guarantee that there will be an en banc hearing, even all the justices, because the federal rules say that an en banc hearing is not favored, and will only be ordered if, and this is the language from the statute, if the case fits the exceptional importance criteria.
This is exceptionally important. And I believe there will be the full hearing. So, there's going to be a lot of delay, here.
The things will move. And I will just say finally, good news, it's likely that the full court of the D.C. Circuit will rule against Donald Trump, and find that he's not immune from prosecution.
I think then, the U.S. Supreme Court would then decline, to wade into this, refuse to hear the appeal, in which case, the decision of the D.C. Circuit stands. Jack Smith and anybody else who has a criminal case against Trump can have at it.
KEILAR: Yes. You and Judge Luttig, may agree on that point there, Judge.
Jen, what do you think, especially considering the court, to Judge Cordell's point here, the judge did agree to grant cert, on an expedited schedule, for a number of issues, from President Biden's student loan forgiveness program, to one of these key affirmative action cases, which we certainly know how those issues went here. What did you think about this outcome? And how much this could delay
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I thought it was likely that they would take the appeal now. So, I was a little surprised that they didn't. I think they didn't, because the argument is, so soon, two and a half weeks away.
I kind of come down somewhere in the middle, I have to say, of the two distinguished judges here. So, I'm the only one, without judicial experience. So, take it for what it's worth.
But I think that when it's heard, by the D.C. Circuit, they will hear it very quickly. I think that they can quickly do the en banc process, if Trump seeks that, which I think he will. And then, I think the Supreme Court will take it up.
So, I do anticipate certainly a delay, and I don't think we'll start trial, on March 4th. On the other hand, I'm hoping that if each court moves quickly, as they certainly can, that it won't be delayed, beyond a couple of months or so.
KEILAR: And Judge, just to your point earlier, we talk about this delay, being a victory, for Donald Trump. But, and correct me if I'm hearing you wrongly, but it sounds like you're saying, even though this refusal is out there, it doesn't actually speak, to the actual strength of the substance, of Trump's claims, in your opinion.
HAZZARD CORDELL: You're exactly right, Brianna. This was not a decision, based on the merits. Remember, these are procedures that are happening now. So, the court made a decision not to take it up, at this point. And they may never take it up there. That is a possible scenario, in which case it all gets decided in the D.C. Circuit.
KEILAR: Judge, Jen, thank you so much, to both of you, for being with us, this evening. And Happy Holidays.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Same to you.
RODGERS: Thanks, Brianna. You too.
KEILAR: We are 24 days only, can you believe that, from the first contest, in the 2024 primary race. So, what will this all mean, come election time? We'll have the political implications ahead.
Plus, Christmas is coming. Is there already proof of it, as you look here to the skies? We'll have this story coming up.
KEILAR: And we're back now, with the Supreme Court slamming the door, on Special Counsel Jack Smith's gamble, rejecting an urgent appeal, and quite possibly delaying the federal election interference case against Donald Trump. The High Court responding to Smith's request with a single sentence, denying the Special Counsel's hope for this expedited ruling, on Trump's claims of presidential immunity.
And then, tonight, the former President's legal woes are his GOP rivals' frustrations. Just listen to Ron DeSantis, here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wish Trump hadn't been indicted on any of this stuff.
Think it distorted the primary.
DAVID BRODY, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, CBN NEWS: Because it's helped him? Is that what you're saying?
DESANTIS: Well it's both that, but then it also, it's just crowded out, I think, so much other stuff, and it's sucked out a lot of oxygen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Joining me now is former Special Assistant, to President George W. Bush, and CNN's Senior Political Commentator, Scott Jennings.
All right, Scott, how do you see this decision through a political lens here?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, if it does delay, the March 4th trial date? I heard some disagreement on that earlier.
But if it does, it certainly pushes it back closer to maybe when the Republican National Convention is going on, closer to Election Day. And then, I think, you get into questions of whether you can even have a trial, at that point, out of fairness to the election, if Trump is the nominee.
The fascination with March the 4th, of course, is that the next day is Super Tuesday, March the 5th. And so, the specter of this happening, right before and during the most pivotal month, for delegate collection, in the Republican primary, had a lot of folks talking.
So, just as a technical functional matter, if this thing gets delayed, and Trump doesn't have to deal with it, while he's out finishing up the primary in March, that's probably a good thing for him.
KEILAR: Yes, certainly.
Maybe Judge Luttig is right. But he's certainly in the minority, thinking that this isn't going to delay this federal election subversion trial.
You hear Ron DeSantis there, lamenting, the oxygen that this has all sucked out of the room. Is he just saying the obvious? Or is he laying the groundwork for a potential loss?
JENNINGS: Well, look at Ron DeSantis' lived experience.
Go back to November of 2022. He steamrolls to reelection in Florida. People are unhappy with Trump. There's a thought that maybe he should just get into the presidential race, and go ahead and take over the party. He was leading Trump, in the national polls. He waited and waited and waited until the following May.
And what happened, in the intervening period? Donald Trump started getting in legal trouble, and Republicans got mad, and they rallied to Trump's side. By the time DeSantis got into this thing, Trump had already re-coagulated himself, and collected himself, and his campaign was well on its way.
So, I think as he -- if he does lose this race, and he looks back on it, he'll look at that period, and wonder what might have been? What if he had gotten into the race earlier? What if he had not given Trump all that space? And of course, what if these indictments hadn't come along, to put the jet fuel into Trump's campaign?
KEILAR: Yes. Look, certainly he can't control the indictments. There are so many people watching, I think, what's happening today. And it's not just incremental, because it speaks to this idea of a delay, really potentially impacting the political landscape, is this all going to play out before the election?
You have critics of Trump's, who really worry that if this is not decided, before the election, he potentially wins. He goes into the White House. They've raised concerns that he is going to maybe have an Attorney General, who dismisses all of this. Maybe he would go ahead and pardon himself. That is certainly something you hear people talk about.
What do you say to that?
JENNINGS: Well, I think, if he gets elected president, the federal cases go away. He'll just have the Justice Department drop the cases. Now, the state cases, I guess, are a different matter. But as far as the federal issues, yes, if they're still going on, I think they would just cease to exist, at that moment.
I personally think the American people want to see this resolved before the election. I do still believe there's a cohort of voters, some Republicans, some Independents, out there, who won't want to vote, for a convicted felon. And they're watching to see what happens in these trials.
And I also think, frankly, Donald Trump deserves a chance to clear his name. I mean, he's been accused of pretty serious stuff, not only in the Jack Smith case, around January 6, but also in the documents case. My view from the beginning of this is Donald Trump also deserves a chance, to clear his name, if he can, in a court of law, and not just fight this out, in the court of public opinion.
So, I think he should clear his name. I think the prosecutor should have a chance to clear their case. But mostly, I just think the American people should know whether or not they're about to cast their ballot, for a convicted felon, or possibly for someone, who just got acquitted of all these things they've heard that he was accused of.
KEILAR: Yes. Have there ever been any more interested parties than this, in the outcome of a legal case?
I do want to turn now to the Detroit News' report, on this recorded phone conversation, with Donald Trump and local election officials there. And also, RNC Chair, Ronna McDaniel, where they are pressuring these officials not to certify the 2020 election results, in the state.
Here is what George Bush's -- George W. Bush's former Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove said, about this earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH WH DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: I think the former President's got a problem with this. They had voted to certify the election. He attempted to force them to change their decision, which they tried to do. I think this is what we would call election interference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: What do you think? Do you think this is any different than some of the other conversations we've seen?
JENNINGS: It doesn't seem all that different, to me. It's just of course, happening in a different jurisdiction.
And although I'm not totally familiar, with Michigan election law, and the way, Karl is laying it out, if there is an interference statute, or if there is a law that he could be violating? I have no doubt the people, in Michigan, are going to be looking into that in light of this evidence. And of course, it just stacks on top of what he's already facing, in Georgia, and the other cases.
The only question I would have is, how long does it take? I mean, it's the thing with Trump. All the things that have happened, since the election, since January the 6th, it has taken an extraordinary amount of time, to get any of these things to the brink of trial. And even today, now, in the news, we see the probable delay, of a trial, regarding something that happened on January 6, 2021.
So, even if they get moving on that in Michigan, you just wonder, would that case ever even come to fruition, before November, when it looks like a lot of the other cases have been so slow?
KEILAR: Yes, no, it's a really good point.
Scott, great to have you. And Happy Holidays to you.
JENNINGS: Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. And thank you, for having me, tonight. KEILAR: Of course. Merry Christmas to you as well.
And ahead, a new record surge of migrants at the border, making an already urgent crisis even worse, some citizen militias are now stepping in, where the government is overrun. We have an inside look at that effort next.
KEILAR: Federal authorities say, they are encountering unprecedented numbers of migrants, at the southern border. Recently, more than 10,000 people have unlawfully crossed in, from Mexico, every day.
That reality, coupled with extremist rhetoric, on the right, is inspiring some civilians, to take action, inspiring some even to take up arms. The L.A. Times has a new report out, on one of these groups, calling themselves the "Arizona Border Recon." And they patrol a small fraction of the border, just west of Nogales, Arizona.
My next guest, the L.A. Times reporter, on this story, spoke to the group's leader, Tim Foley. He's a former Army member, recruiting volunteers, from all over the country. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Foley and his group may look official with their camo and guns. But they're not affiliated with Border Patrol, or any other law enforcement agency. They don't have the authority, to detain anyone. But they use their presence to intimidate people into stopping.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Keegan Hamilton is the Criminal Justice Editor, for the L.A. Times. And he's with us now.
Keegan, really interesting report here. You have reported that these groups, they aren't new. There are other anti-government militias doing the same thing, in Texas, and other parts of Arizona. But you've said what is new is the way that they seem to be taking this, to new extremes. Can you explain that?
KEEGAN HAMILTON, CRIMINAL JUSTICE EDITOR, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: Yes, I think, from what I saw, when I was out there, these groups were attracting people from all over the United States. I mean, the leader of Arizona Border Recon, lives in Arizona, near the border.
But some of the volunteers, who were with him, during the course of our reporting, from Connecticut, California, Idaho, Oregon, were coming out for like a week or so, at a time, to go out and do these patrols.
And the fact that he can attract, have that kind of reach, is one thing. And I think this also has attracted more of the conspiratorial- minded groups, like QAnon conspiracies, and also some of the more well-known extremist groups, like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, have also sort of turned their focus to the border. And have even said that there -- Arizona Border Recon's leader said that they spoke with the leader of the Oath Keepers.
So, I think you can see just how powerful the rhetoric around the border is, to attract folks like this.
KEILAR: And look, whether or not they are vigilante heroes, or villains, really depends on who you ask. I know you spoke to one couple, who are cattle ranchers, along Foley's camp. I want to play a bit of that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAMILTON: A lot of people consider what Tim Foley, and his guys are doing out there, vigilantism, they're taking the law into their own hands. Do you agree with that?
SUE CHILTON, CATTLE RANCHER: No.
HAMILTON: Why not?
CHILTON: Majority of what they do, like the majority of what the Border Patrol does, is they are first-rate rescue squad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: But they're not the Border Patrol, right? And they look so much like the military. I mean, they're kitted out, like the military, you could mistake them for that.
What the flipside compared to what that couple said?
HAMILTON: I mean, we also spoke to some humanitarian groups that are putting out water in the desert, to try to prevent migrant deaths when people get lost out there. And they've complained of harassment, and their water tanks being shot and stabbed and things of that nature.
And just generally, around these areas, with some locals, you get a sense of like this feels dangerous. Like, there are people out there, patrolling with guns, even law enforcement, who generally supports their activities, kind of acknowledge, like, it's tough to tell who the good guys are, and who the bad guys are, when you have these guys, in full camo gear, with rifles out there, doing their thing.
KEILAR: And there have been deadly incidents, in the past, right? I mean, that's one of the sort of specters that hangs over all of this.
HAMILTON: Yes, this community, Arivaca, that is down near the border, and where the leader of this group is based, had a horrible double murder, many years back, involving members of a different border group, the Minutemen. And I think that the fact that this has been going on, for over a
decade now, really speaks to the enduring nature of this border problem, like every year, it seems like it's a new crisis that's worse than it's ever been.
And that sentiment, I think, is what has provoked such extremism and has drawn people, from such disparate walks of life, in every corner of the country, to come out and take up arms, and put on camo, and do these patrols.
KEILAR: Keegan, are they doing anything wrong? I mean, is there any recourse that the government has, to enforce what their concerns are about this going awry?
HAMILTON: We spoke to the Border Patrol about this. And essentially, what they said is, look, we welcome any sort of tips or intelligence that any concerned citizen will pass along. And that's what Arizona Border Recon says they do. If they encounter something, they call it in.
On the other hand, the Border Patrol also said, look, we don't want anyone out here trying to detain migrants. That's against the law. You can't stop someone against their will. They don't have the authority to do that.
KEILAR: In the course of your investigation, you spoke to migrants, who are crossing the border, and also coyotes, who are helping them cross. What can you tell us about who these people are?
HAMILTON: I think there's really two -- they fall into two camps.
One is people, who are asylum-seekers, like the ones you're seeing here, folks who are really desperate, fleeing their country, because of violence, threats of extortion, things of that nature. And they're generally surrendering, at ports of entry, and trying to go through the system that exists, the legal process of claiming asylum.
The other camp is people, who are trying to sneak across the border, sometimes wearing full camouflage outfits. And, to hear the extremists tell it is those are all criminals, or drug smugglers.
The folks that we encountered were honestly just trying to go find work. One of them was a roofer, who had worked in Southern California, and said he could make 10 times more, supporting his family, working in California than he could in Mexico.
KEILAR: Well, Keegan, it's a great report, and quite an investment of time and effort. We appreciate you talking about it with us. Thank you.
HAMILTON: My pleasure. Thanks.
KEILAR: Problems at the border are only piling up, for Washington. So, what are lawmakers going to do?
Let's get insight from Democratic congressman, Ro Khanna, of California, to talk about this.
Congressman, you hear Keegan's report there? Are you worried about this phenomenon, of civilians arming up, and taking matters into their own hands, feeling that the government isn't doing what it needs to do?
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Brianna, I am worried. And the reason that this is happening is we don't have the funding, for Border Patrol agents. We don't have the funding for immigration judges. We don't have the funding for court hearings.
The Congress, when we were in control, and as a Democratic Party, passed that. President Biden has called for that. That's really what it will take to have a solution.
KEILAR: So, there is still no deal, to address border security or foreign war aid. And the fact is you have a divided Congress. So, that's what you're dealing with, right now.
Republicans have proposed some pretty tough measures, including limiting asylum, limiting who can be released on parole.
What are Democrats willing to compromise on? Because that's just the reality is that you're going to have to.
KHANNA: Well we're willing to compromise on issues like giving more funding for Border Patrol, for more technology, to secure our borders.
But we're not going to compromise on getting rid of parole. I mean, parole has been used, to get refugees, from Ukraine, from Afghanistan, from war-torn countries.
And by the way, if you get rid of parole, you're just putting more pressure, actually, of people coming to the border. The President has used parole, for an orderly process, from people fleeing Venezuela. If that wasn't there, those folks, from Venezuela, would be coming, to the border.
So, we're for rational solutions. But not for things that just eliminate asylum altogether, or parole.
KEILAR: President Biden has come under increasing criticism, from Democratic leaders, across the country.
New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, says he's not getting enough funding, for the city. Illinois governor says Biden hasn't done enough, to deal with Republican governors, who are sending migrants to Chicago.
What does the President need to do to address their concerns?
KHANNA: I think some of that criticism, on the President, is unfair from the Illinois governor, or New York mayor. I mean, they should be criticizing Congress. I mean, the President can start appropriation bills. He needs the funding. He has an Executive order, where he said we want to tighten the border
security. He said, let's have people apply before they come to the border. He has really tried to go to Congress and give us funding for the judges and the Border Patrol agents.
But it's Congress, that part of the body of government that I'm part of, that hasn't worked. And I think that's where the blame needs to be.
KEILAR: Do you think what we're seeing at the border, right now, is what you describe is at a breaking point?
KHANNA: I do think it's a crisis, Brianna. But I think we have to understand what's causing the crisis. First of all, countries overseas haven't recovered as fast, from the Pandemic. You have great political instability, in places like Venezuela. You have climate refugees. You have more outbreak of violence.
And then, we need to be thoughtful about how to address it. And it starts with securing our borders, but also having a actual rational system for asylum. The President has called for that. The problem is people want to politicize this, just by showing images at the border. I rather we work towards a solution that secures the border, but is humane.
KEILAR: Congressman, great to have you, this evening. Thanks for being with us.
KHANNA: Thank you. Happy Holidays.
KEILAR: You too, sir.
All right, tonight, Israel, indicating that it's expanding the military operation, in Gaza, as we're learning about hundreds of 2,000-pound bombs dropped, in the first month of the war.
KEILAR: Israel is bombarding Gaza at a level "Not seen since Vietnam." That is how a former U.S. defense official and U.N. war crimes investigator describes the first month of strikes on Gaza.
CNN and AI company -- and an AI company analyzed satellite images of Gaza. And specifically, we're talking about 2,000-pound bombs, bombs likely made by America, that is four times bigger than what the U.S. was dropping, on ISIS, in Mosul, Iraq.
The kill zone, a circle that can span 1,200 feet, an area equal to 75 football fields. Each of the red circles, on this map, is just one of those craters you just saw. This is an area, where more than 2 million people live. And this is the scene, on the ground, after one of those bombs, hits in Gaza.
Israeli officials have argued that heavy munitions are necessary, to eliminate Hamas, which is known to take refuge, in residential areas, of course. But the level of bombardment raises questions about claims Israeli officials have been making, since the war began.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are doing everything in our power to reduce any loss of innocent life.
MICHAEL OREN, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: We're taking extraordinary measures, to try to limit civilian casualties.
MAJOR (RES.) KEREN HAJIOFF, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: And choose specific munitions for certain Hamas targets to avoid unnecessary damage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: I'm joined now, by retired U.S. Army Major General James "Spider" Marks.
General, it's really amazing to see this analysis done, on this level. The Israelis have often drawn the comparison, to the U.S. fight, against ISIS. How does this compare to the type of urban fighting we saw there?
MAJOR. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, clearly, in Gaza, Brianna, the -- is so densely packed, it's unlike the fight that we had in Fallujah. It's unlike the fight that took place in Mosul, in Erbil. Gaza is just vertical as well as incredibly narrowly packed. So, the results of the strikes, you can see in front of you.
I can't get to the rationale that the Israelis are using. But the numbers that you described are being revealed, right here, in terms of the damage that's taken place. And I would also say, the numbers in terms of the KIA, as a result of this, of this fighting, we have to be a little bit skeptical of. But clearly, the numbers are quite staggering.
KEILAR: Yes. Those numbers, those Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health numbers, there may be some issues with them, but they do grossly represent what we see. And we're also seeing pictures, of course. So, we do have to note that. There are international organizations, who look at those numbers, and say, "This is reflective of what's going on, on the ground."
Talk to us a little bit about how Hamas' tunnels are working, with Israel using these weapons, specifically, because a lot of these, we understand, are likely dumb bombs. They're not bunker-busting bombs, we expect, although they may be able to penetrate down somewhat.
KEILAR: But maybe not enough to get to those tunnels.
MARKS: Yes, I think that's it, Brianna. What I think the Israelis were doing upfront, was probably a two-fold mission, which is to try to go after the command and control infrastructure of Hamas, which means their ammunition, the locations where they conduct their operations, or at least where they plan, and where leadership tends to get together.
Because as you know, they got offline. They weren't using their cyber capabilities or online capability. So, they had runners. So, yes, had to get folks together, in order to do your planning. That was number one.
Number two is, I think, the Israelis also thought that they'd get some deep penetration, as a result of the 2,000 pounders that would then invalidate, or at least put at risk for Hamas, to use the tunnels.
But as we've seen, as a result of the fight, Israelis have had to go into those tunnels. Maybe they were hoping a priori that they didn't have to go into those tunnels. But based on battle damage assessment, they had to put troops into those tunnels. And that's what they were probably hoping to avoid.
But when you look at this tunnel architecture, I mean, these are very, very deeply buried, in excess of 150 feet, underground. A 200 -- a 2,000-pounder might be able to have success, maybe not.
KEILAR: When you look at why Israel is doing this? I mean, there's different possibilities. They're doing it, why -- because of why they say they're doing it? Are they doing this with disregard for civilian life? Are they doing this to put pressure on Hamas, by putting pressure on civilians?
What is your analysis of that, as you look at this damage?
MARKS: I think the time element is the one thing among your options that you describe, and it's probably a combination of all of those.
I think Israel was hoping to achieve their desired end state, which was the destruction of the Hamas leadership, and the war-fighting, the terror capability and capacity that they've demonstrated. And so, they were trying to get as much damage done, and as -- along the lines of achieving that objective, in the shortest amount of time. And I think that's what we're seeing, right now.
So, there probably was a decision, when you go back to the rack, and you say, "What type of munitions do we want to use, on this particular target? What type of damage can we achieve in terms of getting closer to that objective?" I'm sure the time horizon was one of those priority objectives and considerations that they used, for their decisions.
KEILAR: Yes, certainly the eradicating ISIS took a while. And that's something that goes into this as a factor.
MARKS: I agree.
KEILAR: General "Spider" Marks, great to have you. Thank you so much. MARKS: Thank you, Brianna.
KEILAR: As the fight goes on, to free hostages, held by Hamas, there's a lesser known struggle, to bring home Americans, held by the Taliban, in Afghanistan. At least three Americans there, held in captivity, for more than a year. The wife of one of them is here next.
KEILAR: The wife of an American, held hostage, by the Taliban, in Afghanistan, for more than a year, is pleading for his release.
Ryan Corbett is one of at least three American hostages, held by the Taliban. Ryan and his family lived in Afghanistan, for more than a decade. He had a small business, and he worked with NGOs, to help Afghans start their own businesses.
But the family evacuated when Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. But then, Ryan returned several months later, for a business trip, and then again, in August of 2022. But the Taliban detained him, wrongfully, according to the State Department.
For months, his wife, Anna, has heard little, on efforts to bring him home. And now, she is taking matters into her own hands, taking the fight to lawmakers, herself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNA CORBETT, HUSBAND RYAN DETAINED IN AFGHANISTAN SINCE AUGUST 2022: He is held in solitary confinement for weeks at a time.
We recently learned that Ryan has been fainting and experiencing seizures. He is often threatened with physical harm.
He is told by his captors that he is forgotten, and that his country doesn't care about him. And why wouldn't he believe it, when other Westerners have come and gone so much faster than he?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Anna Corbett is joining us now.
And Anna, thank you so much, for taking the time to be here.
We hear your voice there. And what you are going through is clearly unbearable. Your family was asked to remain silent, on Ryan's captivity, for his safety. You've said your children lied to their friends, about where their dad is.
Tell us how you came to the decision that that way is not working.
CORBETT: You realize that 16 months is too long for this, to go on. And I was very concerned about his health. I heard reports, from others, who had been detained with him that he was not doing well. And it was so scary to realize that. And I was desperate to do whatever I could to get him home.
He doesn't have a voice, right now. But I have a voice. I have an opportunity, to speak out for him, and I want to do everything I can, to get him home alive.
KEILAR: You actually spoke with him, a couple weeks ago. Can you tell us? And admittedly, he's in Taliban custody. I know we have to keep that in mind, here. But what was he able to tell you?
CORBETT: It was great to hear his voice. It was really hard to tell how he's truly doing. He reported ringing in his ears, and his vision declining, which was really shocking. Because he left the States, when he was 39, perfectly healthy. And now, I've heard reports of fainting, and him not coping well.
And so, he was happy to hear how the children are doing. I have three kids, who are now 13, 16 and 18.
And I was also able to share with him that I'm working very hard for his release. I told him I was actually in D.C., when he called. And I had just spoken with the Secretary, and was able to give him some hope. So, I was so thankful.
And I was thankful to see encouragement, based on my going public that I got another call, because I had only had one call before that.
KEILAR: Yes, that hope will be very encouraging for him. And he'll be able to continue on, I think, with some of that.
What are U.S. officials telling you? And what are the families of other wrongfully-detained Americans telling you?
CORBETT: It's a really challenging situation, right now.
I actually just spoke with officials, at National Security Council, this afternoon.
I had the opportunity, to hear an update, from Deputy National Security Advisor, Jon Finer, in November.
And I have been asking to meet with National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. And I'm hoping to have that opportunity, in January.
It's really tough, because there are so many priorities, for the U.S. government. But the President, and Secretary Blinken, and many others have said that is their top priority. And so, I am fighting for that. I'm fighting for Ryan, because I want him back alive.
And I understand that conversations are important to continue, to take place. But Ryan has not been seen, in almost a year. And I'm really worried about him. And I need the government, to truly prioritize, bringing him home.
KEILAR: Well, Anna, we will keep telling Ryan's story. And we appreciate you joining us, tonight.
CORBETT: Thank you for the opportunity.
KEILAR: Thank you.
We'll be right back.
KEILAR: One CEO has a maybe not so warm and fuzzy end-of-year message for employees.
"Work more," Wayfair chief, Niraj Shah, sent a note, to the company, earlier this month, saying quote, "Working long hours, being responsive, blending work and life, is not anything to shy away from." Shaw also says laziness is not typically rewarded with success.
It's maybe not the kind of pep talk that workers need, or certainly that they want.
Wayfair's business surged, early in the Pandemic. But the company then struggled when people started going back to brick-and-mortar stores. Shah told employees, in his email, that the company is back to being profitable.
And before we go. Dasher, Dancer, and Vixen, is that you? What could have been an early Christmas miracle, in the skies, above Utah, well actually, it's just a routine checkup by wildlife officials. Instead of pulling Santa's sleigh, the deer were left hanging three at a time, from a helicopter, transporting them to biologists.
While NORAD tracks Santa Claus' journey, on Christmas Eve, Utah's DWR tracks the deer migration, with GPS devices. Oh deer.
Thank you, for joining us.
"CNN NEWSNIGHT WITH ABBY PHILLIP" starts now.