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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
Blinken Meets with Abbas in Jordan; Palestinian in Gaza: "We are Dead & Alive at the Same Time"; Jim Jordan Closing Gap Appears Short of Support Needed to Win; U.S. House to Vote on Speaker; Jordan still Short of Majority ahead of House Vote; Minutes Away from U.S. House Speaker Vote. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired October 17, 2023 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: Hello, everyone, I'm Kasie Hunt. Welcome to our viewers watching in the United States and around the world
is 11 am here in Washington, where the House is just about an hour from a critical vote to elect a Speaker. We're going to bring you much more on
that later on this hour.
But we are going to start with breaking news out of the Middle East. President Biden will leave for Israel today. And what the White House says
is a show of solidarity. He'll meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.
Then he'll travel to Amman, Jordan, where he'll talk with regional leaders, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. U.S. National
Security Council Spokesman John Kirby told CNN a short time ago the President Biden has several goals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, NSC COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: The President believes that this is exactly the right time to go to Israel and to go to
Jordan to speak to other leaders in the region, about the humanitarian assistance that we want to make sure it gets into Gaza about Israeli plans
and intentions going forward how this is unfolding on the ground.
And absolutely to continue to talk to regional partners about those hostages and getting and see if we can getting them home back to the
families where they belong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: And at this hour, Israeli troops remain masked at the Gaza border. The IDF tells CNN that President Biden's visit will not affect any ground
invasion. The death toll from Hamas attacks in Israel stands at 1400 inside Gaza. Health Officials there say the death toll from Israeli strikes is now
at least 3000.
Outside Gaza humanitarian aid is piling up at closed border crossings. The World Health Organization says that some people inside Gaza are running out
of water near the Rafah crossing airstrikes not far from people who are trying to flee the fighting. CNN Senior White House reporter Kevin Liptak
joins us live now.
Kevin, thank you very much for being here, for those of us those viewers who haven't met you, of course, are often on these trips with the
President, I expect you'll be covering the Israel journey for us. What do we expect from the White House in the next 24 hours?
KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, I mean, this is an extraordinary trip. And it's one that comes with significant political
risks, diplomatic risks, and physical risk for the President. But I think in talking to people who have been around the President over the last
couple of days.
This was an opportunity that he felt he couldn't pass up. And in fact, he feels like this is the only way that he can really wield significant
influence on this conflict, going forward, have been in a symbolic trip. But you can be certain the President wouldn't endure the risks if he didn't
think that he would be able to accomplish something real on the ground.
And in fact, we are told that before the President committed to making this trip, and before it was announced, he did receive a commitment from
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, to open up Gaza to humanitarian aid. And that was sort of a point of discussion in this
lengthy marathon talks that the Secretary of State Antony Blinken held with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv yesterday.
So certainly the President going into the trip, really hoping to accomplish something significant, which is to ease that humanitarian crisis in Gaza,
but also to show support for Israel and to show America's backing for its allies as it endures this conflict because President Biden knows that
support for Israel around the world is not necessarily going to last forever.
Particularly as this humanitarian crisis in Gaza escalates, there could be potentially a backlash against the Israelis for what is happening there.
And President Biden sort of wants to go there sit down face to face with the Prime Minister to sort of contain the fallout and to ensure that
civilian lives are protected.
And certainly President Biden is someone who places a premium on these face to face meetings. You know, he really doesn't like phone calls. He doesn't
like zoom meetings. He is someone who believes that something really important can be accomplished when he gets in the room with Prime Minister
I mean, he has this lengthy relationship with him that he hopes to wield influence on this trip this week, Kasie.
HUNT: Yes, President Biden -- not liking the zoom. I got to say I'm with him a little bit younger, but I'm still there. Kevin Liptak, thank you very
much and stay safe out there, my friend. Alright, we're going to go now, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been conducting days of shuttle
diplomacy in the Middle East.
And you're actually watching live pictures right now, looks like maybe they're escorting the cameras from the room. Yep, there they go. But what
you saw was him meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan. We are going to listen in if they start talking live.
We will bring that to you assuming we have a translation of what's going on. And while we wait for that, let's dive into all of it with today's
panel. Joby Warrick is a National Security Reporter for The Washington Post and the Author of Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS.
Cedric Leighton is a CNN Military Analyst and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and Laura Barron-Lopez is a CNN Political Analyst and the White
House Correspondent for the PBS news hour. So, Laura, let me start with you. Just to kind of dig into a little bit of what Kevin was outlining here
with the President's trip.
Obviously, we've seen Blinken has been, you know, conducting an extended stay in the region. But this does come at, you know, it feels like a little
bit of a fraught moment right now, with the stresses piling up in Gaza with the Israelis not yet making this ground invasion.
It does seem like a critical moment for the President to say no matter what happens next, I'm with the Israelis right now, as they try to figure out
how to get these hostages back.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is a critical moment. And this is the second wartime trip for the President this year alone. He went
to into Ukraine earlier this year. But this is a trip that the President wanted to make a source close to the White House to the administration was
telling me that this is not something that Biden is being pushed into doing.
We know in the past, sometime Presidents are pushed by their Secretary of Defense or Secretary of States. This is something that Biden believes
deeply, and he wants to go there to show unity with Israel. But then also, while he's there, and having these one on one face to face conversation
with Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu.
He gets to also push the other priority for the administration, which is not to make sure that this doesn't escalate. And also to try to make an
argument about well, what's your final step strategy of getting out of Gaza and also the concerns about civilians being harmed in Gaza?
HUNT: Right, and, you know, speaking of civilians, we'll talk a little bit more about the plight in just a second. But, Colonel, I want to ask you
about some of the airstrikes that we have seen, because there have been reports of airstrikes around Rafah places, basically, where the Israelis
said to Palestinians.
We need you to leave we need you to get to safety. And then I think it's a little bit confusing sometimes for people to see that these airstrikes have
been happening in some of those places. But we have heard news that it has affected leaders of Hamas. Can you help us understand kind of what's going
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: So the targeting process for something like this, Kasie, is very complex. But the basic idea is, if
the goals, as the Israelis have stated is to decapitate, in essence, the Hamas leadership, what they're going to do is they're going to try to find
where those people are, and they're going to try to eliminate them.
And one way to do that, of course, is through these airstrikes. So what is probably happening is that these people are moving down south with many of
the refugees that have been leaving in places like Gaza City, and moving down south to recon units, and then toward the border area near Rafah.
They're kind of interspersed with some of these folks. So what do the Israelis do? Now they have a dilemma. They told everybody to go down south.
But these Hamas people, these Hamas leaders, are probably interspersed among these refugees. And now they have to pick them out and figure out how
to do that.
So if they can, they will try to, you know, what would be called in a sniper language a clean shot, they will try to go after them in that way.
But that becomes a really difficult thing to do and the pictures that result from that are of course, not good from a political standpoint or a
public relations standpoint.
HUNT: Right, now it's tough and Joby, you spend so much time and I honestly, I'm glad I don't do your job, because you're in a lot of darkness
a lot of time figuring out what's going on with many of these groups in the Middle East. Can you kind of expound on, you know, kind of what the Colonel
was explaining there?
I mean, what do Hamas leaders do in a situation like this? Where are the Israelis looking for them? What kind of behavior we've seen from them in
JOBY WARRICK, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER FOR WASHINGTON POST: What's one thing that's been interesting, Kasie, is there was an intelligence failure,
as we all know, with this attack itself, but since then, it seems like the Israeli intelligence has gotten a bit better, because they have taken up
several key leaders just in the last few days, another one announced this morning.
And so their ability to listen in to find people within this, you know, mazes of buildings and refugees, and just all the mess that's there, and to
take out individuals, that suggests a pretty high level of intelligence. It's very important right now because short of going in and destroying
Hamas completely, which is really still say, they want to do.
The other important thing is decapitation to take out the leadership and to be able to go back to Israeli people and say, look, the leaders that did
this to you, they no longer exist. We've succeeded, at least in that.
HUNT: That's great, because that, of course, is a political imperative for the current leadership of Israel as well, because they are under a lot of
pressure for this failure. Joby, let me stick with you for a second because I do think the other piece that I struggled to understand sometimes is that
Israel says they wanted to capitate these leaders.
We've heard the news of the officials, as you've outlined, that have been killed. However, there are some that have houses in Qatar that live abroad
that and that seems to be I think for you know, the layperson who doesn't fully understand this, like why are they allowed to do that?
And how many of those people still are abroad? And what kind of pressure is being brought to bear to change that, if any?
WARRICK: Yes, so Hamas does keep a separate political wing. So their political infrastructure partly exists outside the country in places like
Hamas, or places like Qatar rather, and in Turkey. And so you see those individuals speaking and being able to move publicly and sort of express
Hamas's point of view.
But they are not particularly safe I think in the long term because the Israelis have a very long track record of reaching out and sort of tapping
people that they want to make an example of and then --
HUNT: By tapping you basically mean killing?
WARRICK: Yes, let's use the -- word but --
HUNT: It's fascinating.
WARRICK: Exactly. It's happened fairly often. And often the targets are the engineers that are working in Tunisia. There was a Hamas engineer who was
making drones for Hamas. In Tunisia, they found him to kill them, so just because people exist outside Gaza, doesn't mean they're necessarily safe.
HUNT: Yes, I mean, Colonel, what is the sort of U.S. posture going to be on something like this, especially with the President go to the region?
LEIGHTON: Yes, in some ways, it's a dampening effect on what Israel is planning to do. Because I, you know, if Israel went full bore with what
they're planning to do, there would be a lot more destruction in the south, and we're currently seeing, and they really wouldn't care as much about the
So what the administration is doing is they're in essence enforcing the rules of war. They're telling the Israelis, we're with you, but you have to
behave in a certain way. Because remember, you said you're a democracy, you need to follow the same tenants, basically, that we do in the United States
and not that the United States is perfect.
But we do have a track record of trying to avoid civilian casualties. We're not always successful. But when we do engage in conflict like this, there
are some really stringent procedures that are followed in our targeting process. And that's what we want to teach the Israelis in essence.
HUNT: Right. Well, and of course not how Hamas conducted themselves in their indiscriminate slaughter of civilians and the initial attack here.
All right, our panel is going to be back. Still to come growing fears that Israel's war on Hamas could expand into a wider conflict will be live on
the ground ahead.
HUNT: Death follows wherever we go. Those are the words of one Palestinian father in Gaza who heeded Israel's call to head south with his family only
to narrowly survived the bombing near the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.
Israeli airstrikes still pounding Gaza amid the evacuation efforts. The Palestinian Health Ministry now says at least 3000 people have been killed,
many of them women and children. Some of the latest strikes hit Rafah where many Palestinians have gathered hoping to escape into Egypt.
Some people using their bare hands to try to dig for survivors. Conditions across Gaza are dire with aid groups warning of a humanitarian catastrophe
amid shortages of food, water and medicine. One man says that civilians are paying the price for Israel's war on Hamas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We tried to collect water leftovers from the municipality pipelines, which are not even drinkable. We tried to get one
piece of bread to everyone here. As you can see, we are dead and alive at the same time. We are civilians. We didn't participate in any war. We are
paying the price for something we didn't do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Aid is piling up in Egypt, but that Rafah crossing remains closed. Egypt has said it will not allow a mass exodus of refugees. They say that
that would amount to the expulsion of Palestinians from their land. Meanwhile, fears are deepening today that the war could expand into wider
Violence across the Israeli Lebanese border is escalating as Israel responds to Hezbollah attacks. The Lebanese Red Cross says at least four
people have been killed in Israeli strikes today. Let's get more now from CNN's Ben Wedeman he is in Southern Lebanon. Ben, can you help us
understand the latest here and how high is this risk of a second front?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's very high. It's very high because we've heard several statements from Senior Iranian
officials that they are not ruling out the possibility of opening another front in the war with Israel, the situation on the border along Lebanon and
Israel is tense.
And what we've seen the Lebanese Red Cross today, Kasie, is reporting that 4 people were killed in Israeli shelling. Hezbollah has also reported that
four of its fighters have been killed. We haven't yet been able to ascertain whether these are two separate incidents or the same people.
But certainly that would represent the highest death toll on the Lebanese side since the war broke out in Gaza. We've seen day by day the number of
attack and counter attack increasing Hezbollah. There are reports that Hezbollah has knocked out many of the Israeli surveillance cameras along
the wall which separates the two countries in many areas.
And Hezbollah has put out other video showing them hitting observation and surveillance and communications equipment as well. But until now, it still
hasn't reached what the Israelis are calling the threshold of escalation. There's always been an unwritten understanding between the two sides.
That as much as there might be some cross border violence, as long as it doesn't reach beyond a certain level. It's tolerable, but certainly at the
moment, with tens of thousands of additional Israeli troops deployed along the border with 28 communities on within a 1.2 mile area along the border
It's tense on that side. On this side, we know that for instance, the Canadian Foreign Minister yesterday suggested to Canadian citizens in
Lebanon that they may consider booking a ticket out of the country, because it's not clear how much longer civilian aircraft are going to be flying
Swiss Air has canceled flights to this country. Lufthansa a few days ago did the same thing. And even the Lebanese airline, Middle East Airlines has
moved five of its aircraft to Istanbul as a precautionary measure, Kasie.
HUNT: Yep, all intense warning signs. Ben Wedeman reporting from Lebanon, stay safe, thank you very much for that report. And our panel is back with
me now. And Joby let me start with you to kind of understand a little bit better. What exactly is going on? You heard Ben's reporting about the
cameras and things like that.
But the reality is Hezbollah has different capabilities than Hamas does. Can you help us understand what those are?
WARRICK: Yes, and it's apparently difference of quantity. Hamas has many, many times more rockets. They are precision guided rockets. So they are
potentially able to strike very important targets across Israel, from power stations to a nuclear plant to military bases, so that the threat is
really, really big.
Now, Hamas has not traditionally had those kinds of weapons. They have a smaller arsenal. The rockets and missiles they launched this past week are
mostly not smart rockets. They're dumb rockets. They don't have guidance systems. And so but we know actually that Hamas has some capability to put
guidance systems on even the missiles they have.
So if there is an escalation if they could produce a surprise for some kind of that might be one of the surprises is suddenly a launch of sea drones or
air drones or missiles with guidance systems that could do a lot more damage than we've seen so far.
HUNT: Yes, Cedric, you're nodding. And you know I'm also wondering, there is, this discussion of a second front and the question of whether the
possibility of that is tied into any delay around the Gaza incursion? What's your sense of what, Joby, just said, but also kind of the bigger
LEIGHTON: Yes, Kasie, so, Joby, is absolutely right. There are so many more in different capabilities that Hezbollah has compared to Hamas. But I,
we've seen how innovative Hamas has been in the last week or so they've proven themselves with their attack, you know, back on what was the eighth
or seventh of October.
And that is a very telling sign that, you know, as far as the intelligence is concerned, Israel, and frankly us probably didn't know everything we
needed to know about their capabilities. And you know, things like see drones his job we mentioned, that's a big risk for the aircraft carriers
that are coming into position in the Eastern Med.
It's also something to watch for when you look at the types of tactics that Iran uses in the Persian Gulf. Some of those tactics may be employed in the
Eastern Med as well, things like swarming tactics, you know, where they swarm U.S. vessel and try to, you know, do various harassment things there.
And then, as far as the bigger picture is concerned, Kasie, what you're seeing is, I think the Iranians are going to hold their fire until they see
what happens with President Biden's visit. They're also frankly, directing Hezbollah, in my opinion, to do the same thing. And then that probably
cascades somewhat to Hamas, although Hamas is engaged in a big war.
HUNT: Right. I mean, Laura, it does seem a little bit like the President's visit, sort of, I don't know if it completely presses pause, but it's a
little bit of like, OK, let's just wait and see how this goes before we start. You know, or God forbid, somebody puts a foot wrong, while the
President's in the region and risks sparking a much wider conflict.
BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. I mean, it is the Colonel was saying earlier, this is the President going there makes everyone you know, it's pausing Israel's
maybe not fully pausing, but at least they're not going full bore into Gaza at this moment with their ground troops there. There's holding these
meetings, the President are expected to get a briefing to have an understanding of what their comprehensive strategy is.
Because, again, you know that the President is making a calculated risk here in terms of betting, the White House is betting that long term, his
position of being fully in support of Israel, Will is the right one, and then also politically, it will be beneficial to him, all well knowing that
civilian casualties are going to increase.
And that from his left flank, from Democrats and Congress, he is getting more pressure to potentially put restrictions on the resources that the
U.S. is sending the weapons that the U.S. is sending to Israel. But there's no indication that the White House or the administration is going to put
any restrictions whatsoever on how Israel uses that.
And is fully going to stand behind them and saying you can defend yourself, as you see fit with our resources.
HUNT: Yes. Let's talk. Let's kind of as we wrap up here talk about Iran as well, because the Iranian Foreign Minister was tweeting or Xing, I'm not
sure exactly what we're supposed to call it these days. But the second half of the Foreign Ministers tweets stood out to me, he talks about Zionists
and uses other inflammatory language.
But he says I stressed this isn't a conversation with his counterparts that time is running out for political solutions. Probable spread of war on
other fronts is approaching unavoidable stage. Joby, is this just kind of saber rattling? Or is this real?
WARRICK: Well, it seems sort of standard language in these kinds of circumstances. But there are a lot of risks for the Iranians. And they
realize that if things do escalate, or there could be dire consequences for Hezbollah, which is its main proxy group in the region, a wider war is not
necessarily a good thing for the Iranians.
So they're agitating, they're cheerleading from the sidelines, haven't seen them commit so far in ways that could directly bring about an escalation.
But its early days, and one of the big nightmare scenarios is that everyone waits until the Israelis are completely committed in a ground offensive in
And then you see a large rocket launch from Hezbollah and perhaps activity from the West Bank as well.
HUNT: Right. All right, thank you all for being here. Cedric Leighton, Joby Warwick, hope you'll come back really appreciate your insights Laura
Barron-Lopez is going to stick around for our political segment. Ahead on "State of the Race", the pivotal vote to elect a new House Speaker
Does Jim Jordan have enough support to allow him to win on the first ballot? Or are we in for another long slog on the House floor our panels
HUNT: Welcome back to "State of the Race". I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Washington, where we are just over 30 minutes away from the House convening
to vote on a new Speaker. And really, of course, the only question is whether or not Jim Jordan has enough votes to win the gavel.
Jordan did win back some Republican holdouts over the course of the past 24 hours. But at the moment, our count still has some short of securing the
majority needed to succeed, Kevin McCarthy, who of course, was unceremoniously ousted by members of his own party.
Let's bringing the panel Alice Stewart, CNN Political Commentator and Republican Strategist, CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger and CNN
political analyst Laura Barron-Lopez all back with us for our discussion. Gloria Borger, there is so much here. I hardly even know where to start.
But I'm going to start with this -- . We've been without a House Speaker for two weeks.
HUNT: Jim Jordan has honestly been working extremely hard. He's playing a lot of hardball. Quite honestly, if you talk to people behind the scenes,
he is a different kind of, I mean, John Boehner, call them a legislative terrorist, right? So that's like his background. Now he wants to run the
Congressman Kelley Armstrong, who's from North Dakota and not considered to be like a flame thrower or a hardliner necessarily, had something really
interesting. And I thought telling to say about this. When he was asked about the message that Jim Jordan is bringing to the conference, take a
look at what Congressman Armstrong had to say.
Oh, sorry, it's a full screen. We this is not sound, which is unfortunate. But he says he is the best person to keep us out of a government shutdown
and the best person to keep conservative media off of our backs.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That interesting.
HUNT: As we face a shutdown. That keeps conservative media off of our backs.
BORGER: How important is that? You don't want conservatives to tweet against you. And that's the reason you're supporting somebody for Speaker.
BORGER: Yes, basically, that's a reason I haven't heard before. You know, they're all kinds of reasons they don't a lot of people don't like him. He
has been somebody who abandons everything. There's been a bit of a campaign conversion, I would have to say.
He's written a letter to his colleagues saying that he's the person to bring the caucus together. And --
HUNT: Obviously there's a lot of -- off that wasn't really --
BORGER: Right. So some people aren't really buying it. They're upset at the way he behaved when Steve Scalise was running and on and on and on. And
some people say they don't like to be bullied and some of his supporters have been bullying members of Congress on there, you know, on his behalf.
You know, this is an inside game. This isn't really an outside game, when you run for speaker. It's about how people feel about you. And I think he's
got a he's kind of smoothed over a lot of rough edges if he's going to get this job.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think even his own people will acknowledge he may not be the best man standing, but he may be the
last man standing. But there are enough rational Republicans that are a heck no on Jordan. They're just not going to go there. To Gloria's point,
they are frustrated with the way he treated Scalise and they're not budging from that.
But the problem is the speaker's position is not as much about policy isn't about uniting the party, big on fundraising. And also pushing our country
in the direction that Republican voters wanted, its Republican leadership in the House, we caught that car, we just don't know what to do now that
And the reality is, look, this is rewarding bad behavior. We had a vocal minority of Republicans who pushed McCarthy out of the spot. And now those
same people are saying we shouldn't have the minority people dictate what we do. What's ultimately going to happen is they're going to realize, we
need to put personal agendas aside and unite as a party for the good of the country.
HUNT: While I have a sneaking suspicion, it's still going to be Jordan, who comes out on top on this, although we'll see. There is one Republican Ken
Buck, who has been out saying he opposes Jim Jordan, or rather he has questions for Jim Jordan, because Jim Jordan won't say strongly enough that
Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.
Our colleagues caught up with Jim Jordan on the hill where they asked him about this and the response or lack thereof, was pretty telling, take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ken, what's the point -- for the Republican Speaker of the House to acknowledge that Donald Trump lost the election? Do you
acknowledge that? Thank you, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: More of the inside of that elevator was just so interesting.
BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. I mean, it's just to me that is the biggest piece of Jim Jordan speakership, which is that he in private and public will not
acknowledge that Joe Biden legitimately won the election. And that isn't even the extent of his denial of the truth, which is that he voted against
certification that day after the insurrection.
But he also was someone the January 6 report shows that was on multiple phone calls with President Trump, that was in multiple meetings leading up
to that day, encouraging, you know, trying to encourage Vice President Pence to reject the results, trying to find ways to invalidate the results
of multiple states, Americans votes in multiple states.
And so it just shows you that since Republicans are potentially on the brink of appointing Jim Jordan as speaker, how far the majority of the
party in the House has gone to say that they are fully going to be behind President Trump. And everything that that means including lying about the
BORGER: Yes, just the Trump party. And this and you know, the larger picture is it shows you how far the party has gone to Trump. I mean imagine
electing a man speaker who didn't believe in the last election. What would happen in the next election? That's a big question for Ken Buck, obviously.
HUNT: Right. It is a question for Ken Buck.
BORGER: And others.
HUNT: And I have to say, Alice, when I think about this, I flashback to Liz Cheney. So I was at the Capitol complex that day, and you could see some of
this play out on the floor from the C span cameras. You know, I had a producer in the room that was evacuated under those conditions, Jim Jordan,
went up to Liz Cheney on the floor, right.
And it seemed like he wanted to try to help her, you know, be a gentleman and a squirt the lady to the door. And Cheney looked at him and she said,
don't you effing did this, right? And to Laura's point, we learned a lot more about what he did in that January 6, report spearheaded by Liz Cheney.
But it's, it's astonishing to me that we're from there, to the Speaker of the House, very briefly.
STEWART: Right that is a classic case of the arsonist wanting to take credit for calling the fire department. Here let me help you out of this
mess that I helped create. And look now the fact that they don't want to talk about January 6, or they don't want to talk about the fact that Donald
Trump legitimately lost the election.
But that's really what all this is about. This is about the fact that Donald Trump wouldn't acknowledge the results of the election and question
the integrity of our election process. So as much as they don't want to answer these questions that's what this is about. This loyalty to those
people that refuse to accept the results of the election.
HUNT: All right, we're going to press pause on this conversation. My panel is going to be back with me. But that pivotal House vote is just minutes
away on Capitol Hill. I'm going to speak with the Republican member of the House who says he's backing Jim Jordan despite of course being opposed to
the ousting of the former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
HUNT: Welcome back, we are just minutes away from an expected vote on the House floor that the U.S. that could make Jim Jordan the new speaker. Our
next guest Republican Congressman Mark Alford supported former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, but now backs Jordan.
Alpha posted on the platform formerly known as Twitter that Jordan has his, "Absolute support" as the next House Speaker. Congressman Alfred thanks
very much for joining us.
REP. MARK ALFORD (R-MO): Thank you for having me.
HUNT: So let me start here. You, do you think that Congressman Jim Jordan has the votes to become speaker in just a few hours?
ALFORD: Well, it may take a few rounds. But I do think at the end of the day, by the time we go to bed tonight, we will have a new Speaker of the
House and his name will be Jim Jordan. This has been a long two weeks. We are basically a ship without a rudder right now.
And with a world on fire, we have to have someone in there that has a resolute spirit who can unify our conference and has a path forward to
getting things done in Washington that we desperately need to get done for Israel for our border security, to pass the eight remaining appropriation
bills. Those are the things we must do for the American people.
HUNT: Congressman, what changed overnight? I mean, what has Jordan been doing that has been changing, especially moderate minds?
ALFORD: Well, look, we left the Ways and Means Committee Meeting Room on Friday. I did in despair. We did not want to go home. The second vote we
had was a kind of a vote of who would support Jim Jordan if his name were to get to the floor. And there were at that time 55 holdouts, OK. Over the
weekend he has dramatically reduced those numbers.
And I think this is the gift of Jim Jordan, the coach, because he gets to you one on one. And it's not promising new things, but it's trying to hear
where you're coming from, and trying to move you on the team. This is about recreating a team in our Republican Conference, which is so, so desperately
needed right now.
HUNT: So you say it's not about promising things, but Mike McCaul, the Chairman, Mike McCaul, Republican, with obviously significant national
security experience and interests was on with my colleague, Kate Baldwin, who asked what was it that got him to come out and support Jim Jordan
because he's viewed as kind of a key holdout.
And he said, OK, fine, I'm ready to do this. Take a look at -- I want to show you what McCaul had to say. And then I'll ask you that on the side
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): I had a very good conversation with him. And I was concerned about national security issues, particularly if we pass an
Israeli supplemental national security bill, would Ukraine be included in that? And I was assured that he could link the two.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: I was assured that he could link the two. So it sounds like Jordan told McCaul that Israel aid and Ukraine aid could be linked together and
passed on the floor. That obviously is something that a lot of the hardliners in your conference have been watching very carefully and don't
want. What's your response to what McCaul had to say there?
ALFORD: Well, look, I'm against linking those two, I think Ukraine funding and our support for Israel need to be two separate votes. And I will push
for that as well. When I was talking about nothing being promised, and I have not been in these rooms with Jim Jordan and whoever else, but I don't
believe that's a character of Jim Jordan.
And he has said as such in our conference meeting, things that need to be worked out on different bills or measures, that's different than promising
someone a position on a committee or telling them they're not going to be on a committee if they don't vote a certain way, a strong arm tactic.
Jim Jordan is a master in wrestling moves, but he is not going to put someone in a full nelson to get them to vote for him.
HUNT: Quite a metaphor. So I mean, do you think that Jordan, that speaker the potential speakership for Jordan is at risk if it gets, if word gets to
these hardline members of the conference that he's planning on linking Israel and Ukraine together?
ALFORD: I don't think it's going to come down to that. Look, we are at a point in our world history right now, where the world is on fire. We have
Israel about ready to with their 350,000 reservists go into Gaza and try to eliminate Hamas. And so we don't have time to wait.
I think it may be maybe four or five votes; there will be some holdouts he is not going to win this on the first round of votes. But I sat here for
several days and 15 times stood up and yelled out Kevin McCarthy when my district originally wanted Jim Jordan to be speaker, but I told them, he's
not running and he's supporting McCarthy. And so I am proud to vote for Jim, for Jim Jordan, for Speaker of the House. And we'll do so as many
times as it takes.
HUNT: All right, let me ask you about one of your other colleagues, Ken Buck, who has ultimately been known as the more conservative member of the
conference, but he's very focused on the 2020 election, which has become, honestly a third rail in the Republican conference. This is what Ken Buck
had to say about what he wants to hear from Jim Jordan, take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Well, I think that Jim, at some point, if he's going to lead this conference during a presidential election cycle, and
particularly a presidential election year with primaries and caucuses around the country is going to have to be strong and say, Donald Trump
didn't win the election. And we need to move forward. Hopefully, you know, for Republicans, we get a Republican candidate in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUN: Do you agree with Congressman Buck? Do you want to hear that from Jim Jordan?
ALFORD: Look, Jim Jordan has made it quite clear. And he has been endorsed by President Trump. But Jim Jordan has made it clear in conference and
elsewhere that the election that happened, four States of the United States of America circumvented the Constitution in the United States.
And the voting laws were changed because of COVID. Not by the state legislators as prescribed for in the States Constitutions, in the U.S.
Constitution, but changed by the executive. Now, the Supreme Court did not go along with that finding. I don't know if they didn't want to take it up,
but for whatever reason.
President Biden is in the White House. He's headed to Israel. I think Jim Jordan has made his case quite clear to everyone.
HUNT: Yes, that the changes that were made during COVID were often made by the states. So you have no concerns that about the fact that you might go
into a presidential election year with the Speaker of the House, who didn't, might not certify the proper winner of the election or -- against
ALFORD: I'm sorry to interrupt you. But look, I'm new to this. I live through this as a person in the media, going through the 2020 election; I
am ready to move forward. You know, in my office in Longworth, I don't have one picture of anything from the past, I am looking forward.
This is what our country needs to do is to start looking forward to start looking forward as a body as a conference and as a nation, we are not going
to solve our problems until we start doing so.
HUNT: All right, Congressman Mark Alford thanks very much for joining me today. I really appreciate your time, sir.
ALFORD: Thank you.
HUNT: All right, let's bring our panel back now. Gloria Borger, let me start with you there, just kind of your reaction to you know, obviously,
Oh, it sounds like Gloria, we might not have Gloria. So let me, Alice, I don't know if you can hear me?
HUNT: But if you can, and you know, are able to kind of respond to what we heard from the Congressman just there. He clearly doesn't have any concerns
about this. You know, I take his point; the country is ready to move forward. Obviously, Ken Buck wants to make sure that things are squared
away ahead of the next presidential election, since we're dealing with honestly the same characters.
And it's going to; we're going to be facing some of the same questions as a country. But what did you make of what he had to say?
STEWART: Two things that really stood out the great interview, but look, the pressure campaign and the politics of this. He said, well, Jim Jordan
is a great wrestler. He didn't put anyone in a full nelson with regard to the pressure he's putting on people. That's not true.
The people I speak with that are really frustrated with the situation right now is the pressure that he and his supporters put on many of these members
of the House caucus to not support Steve Scalise. And the way they treated Steve Scalise is a big reason why he's not going to get the number of votes
he needs on this first round.
And he also acknowledged the truth here that the world is on fire. The problem is the House Republican caucus is too busy igniting flames within
the division of the party to look at what's best for not just Republican Caucus, America, and certainly on the global stage. And too many
Republicans are currently fighting these internal squabbles.
And I don't think Jim Jordan is a person that's going to unite this party, certainly doesn't have the fundraising capability that is needed in a
speaker and certainly not going to be someone that's going to help us in 2024, given the far right support that he has, we need someone that's much
more moderate. And that's just my, my feeling as we head into a long day of many votes for speaker.
HUNT: So Alice, I mean, I take your point in terms of kind of where the country is in a general election setting. But Gloria, I think you're back
with us now.
BORGER: I am.
HUNT: If you can hear me, awesome. You know, we were just Alice was just discussing what's kind of necessary here in terms of what kind of leader
the Republicans need. The reality, though, seems to be that it's the hardliners that are willing to take the most aggressive stance, moderates
have not typically been willing to take the burn it all down posture.
And you know all the reporting that that I have indicates that it's much more likely that its moderates that would fold in the face of a speaker
that is too conservative for them, not hardliners who are willing to fold in the face of somebody that they're unhappy with, because they're too far
to the left.
BORGER: Right. I think you're right. I think the hardliners are the ones who usually hold out. But you do have those moderates. And I don't know
what you call them anymore, whether they're moderates or not, but they did --
HUNT: Well, Republicans in Biden districts.
BORGER: That's right. They are Republicans in Biden districts who are 18 of them. And you know, a lot of them don't want to go home to their
constituents and say, look, we voted for somebody who believes that the election was rigged, and still, you know, doesn't admit the Joe Biden was a
duly elected President of the United States.
I think that that's difficult. Having said that, knowing members of Congress as they do, nobody wants to be the last guy or woman out there to
say, OK, I'm going to vote against Jordan, and it's going to be my one singular vote. I mean, maybe Matt Gaetz would have done that. But I don't
see any of those moderates doing that.
So I think what they want to do is sit back on the first round and sort of get a lay of the land. And that's what a lot of members are going to do.
They're going to sit back, they're going to see if he gets over 200, I think that's a key number, and just see where it all stands and then decide
what they're going to do after the first round.
HUNT: Yes. Laura Barron-Lopez, I mean, it's, it is going to be more you know we're approaching honestly the hour of this. It's just after 11.49.
Here, we're expecting the House floor to open at noon. The vote to happen, start to begin to happen just a half an hour or so after that.
And you know, to just follow up on Alice's point, my reporting indicates she's right about Jim Jordan using hardball tactics and Kevin McCarthy
frankly, using hardball tactics against Steve Scalise to get us to this point.
BARRON-LOPEZ: No, that's exactly right, Kasie. I mean, what's interesting is also how Kevin McCarthy when Scalise won the nomination for Speaker said
oh, I don't think he should go multiple rounds on the floor and maybe shouldn't even go to the floor if he doesn't have the votes.
Then come nominee Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy changed his tune saying Jordan should go as long as it takes on the floor. So there has been a lot
of hypocrisy going around the Republican conference in terms of who they're willing to go to the floor on how many rounds they're willing to go.
And also, you know, what's stunning here in terms of the arm twisting, Kasie is that, Congressman Jim Jordan appears to be getting help from Fox
News as well. And there's reporting that Sean Hannity's, Sean Hannity show was messaging lawmakers, emailing lawmakers, Republican lawmakers trying to
push them towards Jordan.
So that just goes to show you how this entire apparatus of right wing Republican ism and those who support Trump are getting behind Jordan in
trying to strong arm these moderates.
HUNT: Yes, I am Gloria, very brief last word that conservative media that Jordan could potentially manage that goes right to Laura's point.
BORGER: Yes, look, I think he is in sync with conservative media. And they've been really pressuring members. I think a lot of members don't
react well to that. The bottom line is that nobody's going to get anointed here. And we know that. And whoever becomes the Speaker of the House is
going to face the same problems that McCarthy faced.
And the question for the Republicans who have clearly moved to the right, if they're thinking even thinking of Jim Jordan, the question for the
Republicans is how do they get anything done? And what are they going to do on Ukraine aid, on aid to Israel and on the border? These are key issues
that members need to do something about, and they need to prove they can govern before the next election.
HUNT: Yes, we'll speak about that.
HUNT: Thanks again to the panel, Alice Stewart, Gloria Borger, Laura Barron-Lopez, thank you for rolling with us today. I really appreciate it.
And still ahead on "State of the Race" we are just minutes away from a vote; in the house for a new speaker will the influence of former President
Trump makes a difference? We're going to have a live report on that next.
HUNT: Welcome back to "State of the Race". We are just minutes away from a vote in the House on a new speaker. Here are live pictures from Capitol
Hill, beautiful day in Washington. The question is will Jim Jordan have enough votes?
And I think something we're going to be asking after the fact what role did or didn't Donald Trump's endorsement play in everything that we're going to
see unfold today? The former president is in a New York courtroom right today. He is attending voluntarily his ongoing civil fraud trial.
Sources tell us he's been making calls trying to get a read on the speaker's race, but that he's not actively whipping votes for Jordan. CNN's
Eva McKend joins me live, Eva, thank you for being here. You obviously cover politics. Of course, you spent a lot of time in Georgia where one of
the cases that's proceeding against the president is obviously this is a different civil case he's attending in New York.
But the reality is I don't think it's possible to cover what's going on in the House today without talking about the influence of former President
Donald Trump? Or honestly kind of the intertwining of these two things, because in a lot of ways, the politics that gave us Trump, I would actually
argue may have originated or at least we first saw them in the House Republican Conference, especially in these folks who are willing to
basically just say burn it all down.
And when I woke up one morning to the Trump endorsement, I thought, hmm, this is going to make it more likely that Jim Jordan is going to be
Speaker. Now here we are. What role do you think the president is playing here?
EVA MCKEND, CNN U.S. NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kasie, Congressman Jordan telling our team this morning he hasn't spoken to the
former president in a few days, and hasn't asked him to lean on members to support him. So he's not depending on Trump to whip votes here. He did not
seem to be telling that Trump endorsement as he heads into this crucial speakership -- .
And that's because the holdouts are moderate Republicans who suggested they're concerned that Jordan would try to placate the right wing of the
party and entertain things like government shutdowns.
But over the weekend, he did pick up support from key players that previously indicated they wouldn't vote for him. And finally enough, he's
facing doubts from a fellow Freedom Caucus member Congressman Ken Buck, though they are aligned on policy, Buck wants Jordan to say the 2020
election wasn't stolen. But Jordan, a fervent Trump ally, won't say as much asked again this morning and didn't respond, Kasie.
HUNT: Yes, we saw him instead, making mad dash for the elevator. Eva McKend, thank you for joining us today, I really appreciate it. I am Kasie
Hunt. Thanks to all of you for watching. CNN's coverage continues after a quick break. Don't go anywhere.