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The Source with Kaitlan Collins
FBI Investigating Threats Against Colorado Justices Who Disqualified Trump From 2024 Presidential Ballot; Blinken, Mayorkas Meet With Mexican President Tomorrow Amid Unprecedented Migrant Surge At Southern Border; Putin Critic Found At Remote Prison After 20-Day Disappearance. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired December 26, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: You know how many kids, at this point, can actually tell time, from an analog watch?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: How many?
ENTEN: Only about 75 percent of them can actually tell time, from an analog watch, adults under the age of 30. 25 percent actually struggle, on this question.
So, the fact is, I think this could be a very good thing, because it might force the kids, to go back to school, and actually learn how to tell time, John,
BERMAN: As Chicago likes to say, does anybody really know what time it is, Harry? Does anybody really care?
ENTEN: It's Hammertime (ph).
BERMAN: Harry Enten, thank you very much. Great to see you.
ENTEN: Thanks, buddy.
BERMAN: The news continues. "THE SOURCE" starts, right now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.
The clock ticking, for Donald Trump, to appeal the Colorado Supreme Court's unprecedented decision, to kick him off the 2024 ballot, as justices there, now reportedly facing violent threats, in the wake of the historic decision.
Plus, Israel ramping up operations, in Gaza, as the U.S. increases pressure, on its ally, to lower the intensity of the war. A key meeting, between a close confidant of Prime Minister Netanyahu, and White House officials, just wrapping.
And amid an unprecedented surge of migrants, at the southern border, cities as far north as New York are scrambling to contain the crisis. Populations, in shelters there, are exploding. We're going to talk to someone, who is at the center of the battle, to provide shelter. Kaitlan Collins is off tonight.
I'm Brianna Keilar. And this is THE SOURCE.
Anytime now, Donald Trump could appeal, to the United States Supreme Court, after Colorado Supreme Court disqualified him, from the 2024 ballot, one week ago. That decision cited the clause of the 14th Amendment that bars insurrectionists, from holding office, ruling that Trump directly participated, in the attack, on our democracy, on January 6, 2021.
And time's running out. Trump has until January 4th, next Thursday, to appeal, a day before Colorado certifies the candidates, ahead of the state's March 5th primary. And Trump's team has vowed to swiftly appeal.
The former President taking a dark turn, on Christmas Eve, ranting online, about the Colorado ruling, calling it a quote, "Political delusion," marking Christmas, by calling for his enemies, to quote, "Rot in hell."
In the meantime, the FBI says it's investigating reports, of violent threats, against the Colorado justices, who decided the Trump case. They say they're working, with local law enforcement, to vigorously pursue all threats.
I'm joined now, by Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell, who spent many years, on the bench, in California's Superior Court.
Judge, thank you so much, for taking the time, to be with us, tonight.
LADORIS HAZZARD CORDELL, RETIRED SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE: Sure.
KEILAR: I think, we might have expected threats, given the environment that we're in, which is alarming in itself.
But how worried are you about these threats?
HAZZARD CORDELL: Well, Brianna, all judges have an obligation to make decisions, without fear or favor.
But just one year ago, Chief Justice, John Roberts, used his annual year-end report, to address the fear that judges face today. And what he said was, part of it, a judicial system cannot and should not live in fear. He was right. And the reason he said it then, and it was actually a year ago today, he said it, because of threats of violence, against the courts, in 2022.
So, what did Congress do? Congress enacted a law that expanded security, to family members, of the U.S. Supreme Court justices. That's a good thing. But it's not enough.
And just ask the four Colorado Supreme Court justices, who ruled that the 14th Amendment makes Trump ineligible to run, they now have targets on their robes. And I saw some of the online posts, aimed at them, that it was especially violent, things like "Kill judges," "Behead judges," "Roundhouse," "Kick a judge into the concrete."
And so, it just brings us back to the fact that Trump's statements, that politicize the courts, and attack judges, they are the key drivers, of this violent rhetoric.
The man has made fear, the new normal, for judges, in America. And the normalization of this violent rhetoric, plus, in my view, the lack of remedial action, by social media platforms, are really the key and the core, to the problem.
So, what Trump should, but he won't tell his followers that these violent threats, and the violence against judges are not acceptable, and they should stand back and stand down. Now, that would be the mature--
KEILAR: Yes. I mean--
HAZZARD CORDELL: --and patriotic thing to do.
HAZZARD CORDELL: But he's neither mature nor patriotic.
KEILAR: He doesn't do that. He doesn't lower the temperature. I mean, even when we see people--
HAZZARD CORDELL: Right.
KEILAR: --do that on social media. They post something. Someone goes after someone else, on their social media platform. They're very careful, to go out of their way. Of course, he does not do that.
Are you worried, and this may be a separate issue, that that kind of thing could actually have a chilling effect, on judges, on people involved, in the legal process? Or do you think they'd just tune it out?
HAZZARD CORDELL: Brianna, you have really hit the major issue. I believe -- well let me put it this way. Imagine what the U.S. Supreme Court justices would think, if they were inclined to affirm the Colorado Supreme Court's decision?
I'll tell you what they'd think. They'd think "Good lord. Threats and violence against me are going to ramp up. So, why put myself and my family in harm's way," even if it's the right thing to do, and even if it's the constitutional thing to do?
So, when that happens? When it's no longer fear of God, but fear of mob? When judges' fears trump their oaths to the Constitution, our judiciary and our democracy? It just, it's almost on its deathbed.
So yes, in fact, these threats of violence -- these are human beings, in black robes. These threats of violence, absolutely go to the core, of their very being. And of course, they're going to react to it. They're not just going to slough it off and say, "Oh, no, no big deal."
HAZZARD CORDELL: And this is happening to judges on the federal courts, but all throughout the country, on the state courts as well. That is my concern.
KEILAR: I want to ask.
HAZZARD CORDELL: So, the fourth -- go right ahead.
KEILAR: I was going to say, I definitely want to ask you before our segment is over, about election subversion, and the indictments that former President Trump is facing. And his legal team is citing, right now, his acquittal, by the Senate, in his second impeachment trial, following January 6th, claiming that Trump has already been tried, for the same and closely related conduct.
When you look at that argument?
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes.
KEILAR: Does that really fly to you as a double jeopardy claim?
HAZZARD CORDELL: It is not, in fact, double jeopardy. It is not, in fact, legally, double jeopardy. They are two distinct proceedings. They have different burdens of proof. So, no, that's again, it's just grasping for straws, and it has no merit whatsoever. So, good luck to them on that, because it's not going to happen.
The bigger issue is whether or not he can be prosecuted. And his position is well, he's just immune, because that's, he had a position as president and that's it. That is the key issue, not double jeopardy.
KEILAR: Yes. And we'll see that go before the Appeals court. Ultimately, we expect, maybe back to the Supreme Court. And we'll see how that all goes.
Judge, it's great to see you again. Thanks for being with us.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Sure. Thank you.
KEILAR: And joining us now, with more, on the former President's legal troubles, and how this affects him politically.
We have Democratic strategist, and CNN Political Commentator, Paul Begala.
And former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, and former Senior Adviser to Mitch McConnell, Scott Jennings, with us.
So, Scott, tonight, you've seen it. Trump, continuing his scorched- earth social media strategy. He said, of Special Counsel, Jack Smith, that he should go to hell. And that's after his Christmas Day rampage, where he said his political enemies should "Rot in hell. Again, Merry Christmas," he added.
Where's the line, to you, between rallying his base, and appearing rather unhinged, to any Republicans, who may actually be on the fence about him, who don't want to vote, for Biden, in a general, assuming he does end up becoming the nominee?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I actually don't think there's that many Republicans that are on the fence about him. I don't think there's that many Americans that are on the fence about him.
They know who he is. They know how he acts. They know what he says. They know what motivates him. They know how he campaigns. They know what issues he cares about. So, I actually don't think any of this is out of character for him, based on what we've seen, over the last few years.
The only question is, is about the 46 percent of the vote he hopes to command, in the upcoming election, because that's the number he got in the last two, is going to be enough to defeat Joe Biden? It was enough to defeat Hillary. But it wasn't enough to defeat Biden in 2020.
So, I guess I just don't think that it's -- there are too many people, sitting out there, going, "Well, I was going to vote for Donald Trump. But then, he tweeted that thing about 'Go to hell,' because some guy indicted him." I don't think that voter presently exists, right now.
Now, is it a good thing to do? Is it something we should aspire, to be like, on the internet? No, of course not. It's not good role model. But in terms of voter behavior, I find it inconsequential.
KEILAR: Yes, fair point.
Paul, Trump sharing a post, the other day, a word cloud that seemingly cosigns messages of revenge, dictatorship, to describe the former President's political goals. We should note, this is an image that was originally from a Daily Mail survey that asked a 1,000 likely voters what they think about a potential Trump second term.
What does this preview to you, about a second Trump term, as he puts this out there.?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I will give him this. Mr. Trump is transparent. He wants to be a dictator. Now, he says just for a day. But let's see.
I think actually the way Democrats and Republicans running against him respond to this is important. I don't think they should just pearl- clutch. "Oh, he wants to be a dictator. Isn't that terrible?" I think they need to turn this against him this way. Because every dictator, around the world, poses as a populist, and says "I need this power for you." I think they should take that back from him.
And so, the only reason he wants absolute power is because of himself. He wants that dictatorial power to protect himself. His legal woes, his financial problems, his business deals, his cronies, his tax breaks, for his fellow billionaires. He doesn't give a rip-snort about you, America. He wants that power for himself. And I think that's an important distinction, instead of simply saying, "Oh, he shouldn't do that."
It's analogous to this comment about, on Christmas, telling people, to "Rot in hell." I am a Christian. That's blasphemy. And I actually disagree with Scott on this. I think there are a lot of Christians, who -- he carried the Protestant vote. He lost my fellow Catholics to my brother Catholic, Joe Biden.
There're a lot of people going to look at that and say, "You know, this is our holy day, our Savior, the light of the world, the Prince of Peace. And he's using that to blaspheme, and to say 'Rot in hell?' I'm going to wait."
And I'd probably be disappointed. I want to see church leaders on this. I want to -- I'm a Catholic. I want to see my bishops, my cardinals speak out on this. I want to see evangelical leaders speak out on this. I want to see the leaders of our great Christian universities speak out on this.
I think it can have an effect, if people of good faith, and my faith, will stand up and say, "Well, wait. No. There's nothing Christian about telling people to rot in hell on Christmas Day."
KEILAR: Scott, my money is on you saying that it's not going to matter with those voters of that Christian denomination. So, tell me if I'm wrong. This will determine if I buy a Powerball ticket or not.
JENNINGS: No, I think you're right.
And with all due respect, to my friend, Paul, I think that the idea that a tweet sent, in December of 2023, mattering to a voter? I mean, let's take the average Christian voter, evangelical voter, going to the polls, next November.
They're not thinking about Donald Trump's tweets, from the previous Christmas. They're thinking about all the cultural issues that they are worried about, right now. They're worried about the society they see around them, as totally hostile to their worldview.
And although Donald Trump, I don't think, often models Christian behavior, I don't think they're hiring him to sing in the choir. They're hiring him to guard the doors of the church, is how they would probably describe it.
And so, no, I think Brianna, you're right. Paul is wrong. And that's the way it's going to be.
KEILAR: All right. I'll split my winnings, I guess, with Scott, but also with you, Paul. There's enough. It's a big -- it's a big pot, this time.
OK. So, this New York Times -- The New York Times, today, publishes this deeper look, into Trump's plan to wield power, should he win the presidency. Like you said, he's transparent, Paul.
It highlights numerous priorities in a second Trump term that includes using the DOJ for vengeance, against political adversaries, cutting back funding to NATO, deploying American troops, in Mexico, an American ally, even deploying American troops, on U.S. soil, which, by the way, is unconstitutional, outside of invoking the Insurrection Act.
Do you think, Paul, that that is registering with, let's say, Democrats, do you think that Democrats are registering what Trump is previewing?
BEGALA: I think they are. But I think sort of, like Scott said about Republicans, they're mostly baked in.
I think, again, the way to go after this is to talk about you, not him. Don't make it about Trump. He wants this power, because he wants to take advantage of these good people, who vote for him, in order to line his own pockets, feather his own nest, keep himself out of jail.
He was President for a while. You know what happened? He didn't build his stupid wall. Opioid deaths went from about 70,000 a year to over 90,000, a year, while he was president. A million of us, of our brothers and sisters died of COVID, while he was getting the best health care in the world, at Walter Reed. When he had COVID, he was telling his supporters to inject bleach. I think this is the way to go after Trump.
He wants to be a dictator, because he's in it for himself, and not for you. That's a very different argument than the one you usually get, from my fellow Democrats, who simply say, "Oh, isn't he terrible? And he's rude." No. "He's going to hurt you. He's going to take advantage of you to help himself." I think that's a much better way to go after him.
KEILAR: All right, Scott, let's talk about, you know, I think a lot of people, they think of Trump as the presumptive nominee. But he has competitors. And the landscape has been changing. I think we're all watching Nikki Haley, going into Iowa, New Hampshire here.
But let's talk about Ron DeSantis, who has -- was ascendant, is now descendant. The New York Times today citing one of his closest advisers, who when asked about his presidential hopes, has quote, privately said "They are now at the point in the campaign where they need to 'make the patient comfortable,' a phrase evoking hospice care."
That is not good.
JENNINGS: Rough quote.
If I may take five seconds and agree with something Paul said? I actually agree with his strategy. The way to peel voters away is to make it personal. Actually, I think it's how Biden peeled off some senior voters in 2020.
JENNINGS: They got the idea Trump didn't care as much about their health, as Joe Biden did. And I think some of those senior voters that Republicans have relied on, did go the other way. So, I agree with something that Paul said.
KEILAR: Very interesting.
JENNINGS: On the DeSantis campaign? Yes, on the DeSantis campaign, look, obviously they've reached the troubled waters phase. And I think it's terrible when advisers courageously speak anonymously, and using their most colorful ways, to describe a campaign.
And look, he's got to throw a miracle touchdown pass, here in Iowa, not necessarily win, but get close enough, to keep it rolling forward. And so, it's really what I'm watching is, can he get close enough to Trump, to make the case, to keep the campaign moving?
Because if he can't, if he gets crushed, in Iowa, or if he finishes third, or finishes so far back? He'll probably drop out. And if he drops out, where do you think his people are going? They're probably going, a lot of them are going to go off to Trump.
So, in some strange way, his underperforming in Iowa would be of a detriment, to Nikki Haley, even if he got out of the race before New Hampshire. So, she's got a couple of problems. Where do DeSantis' people go? And then, what does Chris Christie do? He says he's not getting out. She's got a couple of things, dragging on her, as she tries to catch up with Trump, in New Hampshire.
KEILAR: Yes, it's a very good point.
And look, during this holiday week, you guys agreed on something. And for that, I congratulate both of you.
BEGALA: We do. I love, Scott. And I wish him a Merry Christmas. And you, Brianna.
JENNINGS: It's a full moon. It's a full moon, in Kentucky. I don't know if it's a full moon in Texas, or wherever Paul is. But it's a full moon in Kentucky.
KEILAR: I think it is.
JENNINGS: So, we agreed on it.
KEILAR: I think that's how it works.
All right, Paul and Scott, thank you so much, to both of you.
BEGALA: Thanks very much, Brianna.
JENNINGS: Thank you. KEILAR: So ahead, the U.S. Military striking terrorists, inside Iraq, on orders of President Biden, in response to an attack that injured three American troops. Concerns of an escalating conflict in the region.
And Ukraine, claiming that it destroyed a Russian Navy ship, in Crimea, video surfacing, you see it here, of a massive fireball there, on the water. What the Kremlin is saying? Next.
KEILAR: President Biden ordering Christmas Day military strikes, in Iraq, after a group of militants there, known as the Kata'ib Hezbollah, targeted and injured three American service members, one of them critically, using an attack drone.
You are looking at video of the aftermath, of the U.S. airstrikes, which Central Command says likely killed a number of Kata'ib Hezbollah militants.
Joining us now with more is CNN Pentagon Correspondent, Oren Liebermann.
Oren, tell us first, about this attack, on the U.S., that prompted this strike.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, the attack itself was carried out, according to U.S. Central Command, by a one- way attack drone, or a suicide drone. It targeted U.S. forces in Erbil, Iraq, so in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The attack happened, early in the morning, on Christmas. And three service members, as you point out, were injured, one of those remains in critical condition.
President Joe Biden was briefed, on the attack itself, and was given a number of options, to respond.
Kata'ib Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack. And that, of course, is where the U.S. targeted its strikes, carrying out strikes, as you just saw the video there, on three locations, in Iraq, specifically focusing, on the drone capabilities, of Kata'ib Hezbollah. So, trying to cut those off, those have been used, the drones, in attacks, on U.S. forces that we've seen.
At this point, the U.S. has seen approximately 100 attacks, on U.S. forces, in Iraq and Syria. But most of the responses, from the U.S., have been targeting Iranian proxies in Syria. It's rare to see the U.S. targeting groups in Iraq.
U.S. Central Command says they likely killed a number of Kata'ib Hezbollah militants, and that there were no civilians affected. However, the Iraqi government's saying there were civilians injured in the attacks, and also coming out forcefully, against the U.S., calling these hostile acts that are an infringement on Iraq's sovereignty.
Now, Brianna, this is important, because the U.S. Military operates, in Iraq, at the invitation of the Iraqi government. So, anything that upsets that is something we have to watch very closely here.
KEILAR: Yes, certainly.
So, I think we're kind of getting used to this rhythm, right, of U.S. limited responses, but frequent responses, to Iranian-backed proxies and militant groups, in the region.
This initial concern that we had at the beginning of all of this, that this would broaden into a larger conflict that would rope in the U.S., is that something that you're hearing from officials?
LIEBERMANN: The U.S. is still watching that very carefully.
And you're right that the U.S. is trying to calibrate its responses, to send a message, and to try to deter, against further attacks. That deterrence clearly not working. But also, to make sure this doesn't spread into a wider regional conflict, beyond the Gaza war, which the U.S. has tried to separate.
That being said, we are seeing conflict, in very specific areas. And one of those areas, we're watching very closely is the Red Sea, where the Houthis, another Iranian proxy, in Yemen, has carried out strikes on a number of commercial and military vessels, or at least tried to target them.
U.S. Central Command saying the U.S. Navy assets, in the Red Sea, intercepted, and this is an incredible barrage, 12 one-way attack drones, three anti-ship ballistic missiles, and two land-attack cruise missiles launched by the Houthis. No ships were injured, or no injuries were caused as a result of those strikes.
But clearly, Brianna, this is something we're going to watch very closely.
KEILAR: Yes, that is something.
Oren Liebermann, live for us, from the Pentagon. Thank you, for that report.
And joining us now is retired Air Force Colonel, Cedric Leighton.
Cedric, thanks for talking to us about this, tonight.
What goes into the calculus, of a proportional U.S. Military response, like this, even as America is trying to avoid getting sucked into a broader conflict?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Brianna, good evening.
The big thing (inaudible) ingredient for this calculus is proportionality. What is equal to or slightly greater than the force that was used to attack us? And in this particular case, when you're looking at what happened here, the strikes -- one of the strikes, at least that the U.S. undertook, in retaliation for the Erbil airbase strike, occurred about 300 miles away from Erbil.
So, we're looking at different areas. We're looking at Command and Control nodes. We're looking at the kinds of things that would actually have an influence on the operation of Kata'ib Hezbollah, or similar groups. And the idea is to prevent that group, from doing this kind of stuff again.
But as Oren pointed out, this deterrence effort is really not working, at least doesn't seem to be working, right now. And it will require a few more efforts, like this, to have at least some effect on these Iranian proxies.
Now, if we do get a Command and Control node, that could have a greater effect, potentially than what we're seeing at the moment. But it's still a long way to go before I think we'd limit their activities.
KEILAR: Most of the injuries so far that we've seen in these strikes, on U.S. interests, in the area, have been TBIs, which I mean, we've seen the effects of them, Cedric. I don't mean to diminish them at all. But those have been more minor than this case, where you have a service member critically injured.
Did the fact that a service member was injured, so severely change the U.S. response to Kata'ib Hezbollah? And should it have?
LEIGHTON: I think it did. It's hard to say exactly what went into the Pentagon discussions, in the Central Command discussions, relating to this response. But it's pretty clear that the level of response, the frequency of response, all of that was really calibrated, because a service member was so critically injured.
So, as you mentioned, a TBI, a traumatic brain injury is one thing. But these physical wounds, in addition to these other wounds, those things can really play a role, in our response.
And one of the key things that we're looking at is, how much of our force is actually protected in these areas. And if that force protection effort is not something that is actually helping, are keep our people safe, then these kinds of responses will of course, be calibrated, and the level will be raised much higher than it was prior to this.
KEILAR: I want to switch to Ukraine now, because you've seen the news here. Ukraine is claiming that it destroyed yet another Russian vessel, when it attacked a port town in Crimea.
There's some new video, obtained by Reuters, of a massive explosion, after Ukraine's strike. Let's take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) (bleep).
(VIDEO - UKRAINE'S AIR ATTACK ON CRIMEA PORT TOWN)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So, pretty amazing to see this. Big symbolic victory, at the very least, for Ukraine. But at the same time, Ukraine has all been retreated from Marinka, which is a city in Donetsk.
Where does the war effort overall stand, right now?
LEIGHTON: So, this is a really interesting question, Brianna, that has a lot of political implications, here in the U.S.
It's clear that the Ukrainians can still mount spectacular attacks, like this one, that we see here in Crimea. And of course, the effects are profound to take out a Russian transport ship, like this, which apparently had a lot of ammunition on board, where given the size and level of this explosion, that makes a big, big difference.
But when it comes to the actual fighting, on the ground, in Ukraine, that effort is basically stalled. The tone of Marinka, is a bit of a loss for the Ukrainians. However, the Ukrainians have not really given up that much territory, compared to the Russian efforts, against their forces.
So, the Ukrainians are in essence holding the line, right now. How long they'll be able to hold that line, of course, is an open question. It certainly seems that they will need a lot of Western support, to keep things, as they are, let alone take things into the Russian occupied territories, right now.
So, the way the war stands, is basically at a stalemate, on the ground, with some actions, by the Ukrainians, on the periphery, such as Crimea, that really have a profound effect, at least psychologically, on the Russian ability to hold those kinds of territories.
KEILAR: Yes, that video alone.
Colonel Cedric Leighton, thanks for being with us.
LEIGHTON: You bet, Brianna.
KEILAR: In the meantime, Israel warning of a long fight ahead, as the U.S. works to convince its ally, to scale down the war in Gaza.
One of the few reporters, granted access to Northern Gaza, is here, with what he's witnessed, on the ground.
KEILAR: Last hour, top Biden officials wrapped up a four-hour meeting, with Ron Dermer. He is a confidant of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
And a White House official tells CNN that Dermer and senior U.S. officials discussed the need, for Israel, to focus on high-value Hamas targets, steps to improve the humanitarian situation, and also Israel's post-war plans in Gaza.
This comes after Netanyahu himself made a trip, to the besieged enclave, on Monday, and vowed a quote, "Long fight," ahead, even as Gaza officials said the death toll had climbed past 20,000. Now, CNN cannot independently verify the numbers, or establish how many of those include Hamas terrorists. But the scenes on the ground are horrific.
And in one account, from Central Gaza, an official, from the World Health Organization, described an overwhelmed hospital. More than 500 people injured, from an airstrike that killed 250 people. One of them a 9-year-old boy, slowly dying, from a brain injury, the result of shrapnel. And it's just a glimpse of the agony, going on, inside of Gaza, as the civilians there contend with yet another communications blackout.
Joining me now is Ronen Bergman. He is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine. He's also the Author of "Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations."
Ronen, thank you so much, for joining us, this evening.
RONEN BERGMAN, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: Yes.
KEILAR: And you have reported that Ron Dermer, Netanyahu's adviser, has been tasked with planning, for post-war Gaza. How much of that is what this meeting is about, even as Netanyahu said, this weekend, the fighting is not close to ending?
BERGMAN: Well there are reports, and some sources indicating that he was dispatched, he's probably the closest confidant, to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and has a long experience, as an Ambassador to the U.S., now a Minister of the cabinet, and he was dispatched to the U.S., according to some sources, to understand why were the Israeli requests, for further ammunition, and military gear, delayed, or not positively accommodated by the U.S.? One topic.
The other one is, of course, what's next for the Israelis? What's planned for -- or the Israelis are planning for the Gaza invasion? The Israelis basically assured the United States that they're going from Phase Two to Phase Three. In other words, that they're going to redeploy much of their forces, inside the Gaza Strip.
And they will stop what they call the maneuvering phase, which basically means far less air bombing, far less exchange of fire, and more, as the U.S. demanded, an intelligence-derived Special Operation raids, in order to basically finish the last part of Hamas control and Hamas infrastructure, the subterranean massive network. The Israelis, when they entered the Gaza Strip, the IDF intelligence thought that they are 100 kilometers of tunnels. You calculate how many that is in mind. Now, they believe there are 600. So, double six, they were fatally wrong, in their assessment. There is much more assignment, much more work, for them to do.
Realistically, with those images on your screen, I don't think that Israel could stay in Gaza, for the next two years, as they are planning, in order to finish this, destroying the subterranean infrastructure.
KEILAR: So, when we ask Netanyahu aides, Ronen, if they worry that they are creating more terrorists, than they're killing, which is a very real concern of American officials, who are very much on the side of Israel on this, but have experience?
BERGMAN: The radicalization.
KEILAR: Yes, that's right. They have experience, fighting ideologically-based terrorism, and sort of what it spawns.
Those Israeli officials never publicly entertain that notion. Privately, do they have any of those concerns? Or, they just totally dismissing this concept, even privately?
BERGMAN: No, I don't think that they are dismissing it. And I don't think that -- there are some debates in the U.S. and the U.S. government, I understand, amongst some analysts, about the Israeli attempt to destroy Hamas.
I don't think that Israelis are that naive that they can destroy Hamas. Hamas is a social movement, a religious movement. Cannot eradicate, cannot destroy something that is also in the minds and hearts of people.
But I do think that what happened on October 7th, was so horrific, was so robust, was so -- such a shock and humiliation, for the Israeli public, and for the Israeli establishment, that they sort of relieved themselves, Israeli leaders, military thinkers, political leaders, Army chiefs, they relieved themselves from the need to plan.
They just felt that something needs to be done to counter that threat, and make sure that the people that survived this, were evacuated, the hundreds of thousands of people that were evacuated, from the Gaza border, can go back to live.
And in a way, I was asked by an American colleague, what's the Israeli strategy? And I answered that when he finds out, what's the Israeli strategy, please let him call me, and tell me what is the Israeli strategy.
I think that there is a -- there's a lack of planning. And we also heard that Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered the government, and the cabinet, and the military, or basically declined, on assembling the meetings for the day after Israeli withdrawal, who will take over? Because Benjamin Netanyahu promised that it will not be the Palestinian Authority. And he doesn't want to have a meeting dealing with that, because he knows that there's no one else that is suitable, to take the job, and govern, the Gaza Strip, and try to start rebuilding it after the war.
KEILAR: Yes, and that's why you have officials, with the Israeli government, saying, talking about that post-war situation is premature, at this point in time. There aren't really good answers, at this point in time.
KEILAR: You've also reported on Iran, accusing Israel of killing a high-level Iranian military adviser in Syria. You've written a whole book, on targeted killings. What are you learning about this?
BERGMAN: Well this is -- this belongs in set with the other fronts that Iran is trying. And according to some of Iranian higher-end sources, who spoke with my colleague, Farnaz Fassihi, at the New York Times, even boasting in trying to open the other fronts, of the so- called Jabhat al-Muqawama, the "Axis of Resistance" against Israel.
So, why Iran is not having any kind of direct exchange of fire, or hostilities, with Israel, it is pushing -- you just spoke with the General, before me, about the Houthis, who just yesterday launched an unprovoked massive missile and cruise missiles, and kamikaze drones, on Israel, all intercepted by the U.S. and Israel. But just imagine what would happen, if they would hit Israel, those attacks?
So, I think, while not taking responsibility, using some kind of, I want to say, we-cannot (ph) language, the Israeli Military spokesperson, just the day before yesterday, when asked, he said, "I do not comment on any reports in the non-Israeli press. But as you know, Israeli army has the obligation to defend Israeli security," which basically is it's not pushing back, and basically is like, sort of taking responsibility, for what happened.
This was an act. Israel was, I think, trying to give a message, to send a message, to Iran, that while Iran is pushing other proxies, to fight Israel and the U.S., it should not think that it is not held responsible.
And Iranians, Iranian officials, the Guards, the Revolutionary Guards, the Quds Force, they will pay the price, for what is happening in even different and remote areas, of the Middle East, for this.
KEILAR: Yes, it certainly is.
BERGMAN: Because it happened the day before yesterday. And yesterday, the Houthis attacked. I'm not sure they got the message.
KEILAR: That's a very good point.
Ronen Bergman, so informative to have you. Thank you for joining us, tonight.
BERGMAN: Thank you, Brianna. Thanks.
KEILAR: And ahead, with an unprecedented new surge of migrants, at the southern border, we're going to talk to someone confronting the crisis, head on, in New York City. Her battle to shelter an overflow of migrants transported there, next.
KEILAR: With officials, on the southern border, grappling with an unprecedented surge of migrants, a critical meeting, set to take place, tomorrow, in Mexico.
Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, will meet Mexico's president. And the hope is that the two sides can come up, with a new agreement, to help ease the border crisis.
CNN's Rosa Flores is at the U.S.-Southern border, in Eagle Pass, Texas, with the latest.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, here's the reality. Border Patrol is stretched thin. And some border communities are frustrated.
Let me start with the brave men and women, of U.S. Border Patrol. These are law enforcement officers. They have badges. They carry guns. They interdict drugs. They catch the bad guys.
But when there is a border surge, like the one that we've seen ongoing, for several weeks now, they're reassigned to apprehend and process migrants. And normally, these are men and women, mothers and dads, who are turning themselves in, to immigration authorities.
Now, according to the U.S. Border Patrol chief, that's when cartels and smugglers take advantage of that, and use that opportunity, to smuggle drugs, and smuggle criminals, into the United States.
Now, when it comes to frustrated communities, take Eagle Pass, Texas, for example. The law enforcement here, the local law enforcement is being used, to help with the migrant situation. One of two bridges that cross over to Mexico is closed. Now, imagine being on the border. You have family on the other side. And you can't go see them, because it takes you hours to come back.
Now, the other issue is the division, over the migrant situation. It's tearing this community apart. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSIE FUENTES, LOCAL BUSINESS OWNER: This crisis has just torn the community apart. And -- and I'm on one side that says, you shouldn't put a title on an individual. They're human beings. The other side is, and its draconian, you know? It's something that --
that is disparaging, as humans that, you know, people say ugly things, about other human beings. And that's the ugly side. And it's hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: Communities, like this one, have high hopes for the conversations that are going to happen between U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and Mexico's president.
One of the things that they're hoping for, especially here, in Eagle Pass, Texas, is that legal trade and travel continue, now, uninterrupted. Again, there's one of two bridges that are closed here. And people of Eagle Pass are hoping that after these talks, that bridge is open.
KEILAR: Rosa, thank you, for that report.
And in New York City, officials say every day, about 500 new migrants are arriving. And they are facing a cold reality, literally. So many of them arriving to the northeast, without proper winter clothes, as they are struggling to find housing. The city says nearly 70,000 migrants are packed, into emergency shelters. Thousands more are either in tents, at the edge of the city, or sleeping on the streets.
Joining us now is Christine Quinn, a former New York City Council Speaker, and the President and CEO of WIN, which is the largest provider of shelter, to the city's homeless families, especially for women and children.
Christine, thank you so much for being with us, this evening.
You are, of course, an advocate, working with migrant families. I wonder, if you can just shed some light, on what these families are going through, especially as we are aware of this 60-day shelter limit that is imposed, by the city. And here we are, in winter.
CHRISTINE QUINN, FORMER NYC COUNCIL SPEAKER: These individuals have demonstrated so much bravery, and so much fortitude, to get to the United States, and then to get many of them sent here, get to New York. I mean, these are folks who've literally walked, and walked through rivers, to get to a place that will be better for them, and their family.
And then, unfortunately, they're kind of retraumatized, when they're thrown into the homeless situation -- homeless system, and a situation as a homeless New Yorker now. And far too many, particularly singles, are left out, on the street, waiting for help.
Now, right now at WIN, we have over 1,000 refugees that we are housing and taking care of. And we await another building, where we will do the same. But what the city is doing for families is saying that every 60 days, they have to go back, to intake, and reapply for shelter. It really, and I hate to say this, in a word, it's harassment. What the city hopes is that for some reason, with some opportunity, people won't return.
But these are individuals, who have no other option, but to be in the shelter system. And what we should be doing isn't harassing them. But finding a way to expand the number of beds, expand access to permanent housing, and get these individuals, the legal and other services they need, like work permits, so they can start the life that they've fought so hard for.
KEILAR: You've been critical, of the city's response here.
You've heard the Mayor, Eric Adams. He's putting blame, not just on Republican governors, who have bussed many of the migrants, to other cities. But he's also blaming President Biden. Here's what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, (D) NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: The federal government said to New York City, "We're not going to do our job. You do our job. You take care of 4,000 people a week, Eric, you and your team."
I am not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel from the federal government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So, he said that Biden hasn't sent enough funding.
As you look at this, is this a federal failure? Is it a city failure? Is it a combination? What do you think?
QUINN: Well, when you have individuals who've, like I said, risked their lives, to get to the United States, and they're sleeping on the street, in front of the Roosevelt Hotel? It's everybody's collapse, in leadership. You can't point the finger at just one part of government, when that is happening.
Now that said, the Mayor is right that the federal government should be doing more. It was great that they gave temporary protective status, to Venezuelans. They should have done more countries. And they still should do more countries. They should be giving New York more money. There is no question about that.
But what the Mayor isn't doing? Yes, that's good. He's calling out the failure of the federal government. But at the same time, he needs to ramp up the city's response, in a more thoughtful and comprehensive way, and really recognize, for better or worse, the challenge is now, the city's, because the federal government is wrongly not responding.
Right now, the city is spending so much money, putting the migrants in hotels. About $383 a night, in a hotel, for a homeless family. If we were to give those families, vouchers, that you can use, to pay your rent, in a permanent apartment, it's $72 a night. If we extended that benefit, to undocumented people, the city would save $3 billion, as it relates to expenses for the migrants.
The city could do that, could get these vouchers out there, if the Mayor decided to. And it could be a game-changer.
KEILAR: Christine Quinn, thank you so much for being with us. This obviously continues to be a problem without an end in sight. And we'll continue the conversation.
And we'll be back after a quick break.
QUINN: Thank you.
KEILAR: Tonight, Putin critic, Alexei Navalny, finally found alive, after going missing, for 20 days.
CNN's Nada Bashir has the story.
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): One of President Putin's most famous adversaries, relieved, exhausted, but most importantly, alive.
KYRA YARMYSH, NAVALNY SPOKESPERSON: We filed 608 (ph) requests in different Russian prisons, trying to locate Alexei.
BASHIR (voice-over): For weeks, Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny's whereabouts were unknown.
Now, his team has located him, at a remote penal colony, north of the Arctic Circle, after a journey, Navalny says, took almost three weeks. "They brought me here on Saturday night," messages posted on social media, by his aides say, "I didn't expect anyone to find me here before mid-January."
Navalny's team raised the alarm, weeks ago, after he failed to show, for recent court hearings.
At the time, the Kremlin stated it had neither the capacity, nor willingness, to monitor prisoners' whereabouts.
YARMYSH: According to Russian law, after the prisoner is being transferred to another colony, they have to notify his relatives. But we know very well that there is no law that applies to Alexei, and they will never notify anyone about his whereabouts.
BASHIR (voice-over): In a statement, on Monday, the Director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation said the colony, in northwestern Siberia, known as the Polar Wolf colony, is infamous for its remote location, and harsh conditions. Navalny was sentenced to 19 years, in prison, in August, after he was found guilty, of extremism-related charges, which he and his legal representatives have consistently denied. This, in addition to a previous 11-and-a-half-year sentence for fraud and other crimes.
(VIDEO - NAVALNY AT THE ANTI-GOVERNMENT STREET PROTESTS)
BASHIR (voice-over): Known for organizing anti-government street protests, and using his blog and social media, to expose alleged corruption, in the Kremlin, Navalny has posed one of the most serious threats, to Putin's legitimacy, during his rule.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
BASHIR (voice-over): His disappearance, coming to light, just days after Putin announced, he would run for reelection, in March 2024.
VLADIMIR MILOV, NAVALNY ADVISER: It is no coincidence that Navalny disappeared exactly the moment when the so-called sham presidential elections were announced, and Putin announced that he's going to be running again, for, sorry I lost count, for which -- which term already.
BASHIR (voice-over): And while news, of his whereabouts, has brought some reassurance, to supporters, there is deep-seated concern, over the conditions, the opposition figure, now faces, at Polar Wolf.
Nada Bashir, CNN, London.
KEILAR: And thank you so much, for joining us, tonight.
"LAURA COATES LIVE" starts now.