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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
Rep. George Santos Expelled From Congress; Republicans Were Divided On George Santos Vote; Santos: Congress "Just Set New Dangerous Precedent For Themselves". Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired December 01, 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 INTERNATIONAL HOST: Good day. I'm Kasie Hunt. We have breaking news at this hour. The House appears to have the votes to expel
George Santos, the Republican Congressman from New York, from his seat in the wake of a scathing ethics report that alleged he spent campaign funds
on personal items, Hermes, Botox, the not safe for work website OnlyFans. It's finally caught up with him. We may be about to hear the gavel. Let's
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): -- with two recorded as present. Two thirds voting in the affirmative, the resolution is adopted, and a motion to
reconsider is laid upon the table. The clerk will notify the Governor of the State of New York of the action of the House. Under Clause five D of
Rule 20, the Chair announces to the House that in light of the expulsion of the gentleman from New York, Mr. Santos, the whole number of the House is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: And with that, George Santos is no longer a member of the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives has expelled Santos. He is
just the sixth member in the history of the House of Representatives to be expelled, and he is the first who has neither committed treason nor been
convicted of a crime. We had seen as this morning unfolded a late push from the Speaker who said he was going to vote against -- did vote to expel --
not to expel Santos, excuse me.
It seemed as though perhaps some momentum had been moving in George Santos's direction. But, in the end, this was a pretty convincing vote
against him. This is of course the third time that the House has voted to expel Santos, but it's the first in the wake of that scathing ethics report
that so angered members of Santos's own party.
Let's bring in CNN's Sunlen Serfaty now. She joins me here, Sunlen, how did this vote break down, and how did we end up here today?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly fascinating. Kasie, and dramatic too. As you said, there was a late momentum in George
Santos's favor in the last hour coming from Speaker Johnson who indicated that he would be voting against expelling George Santos, and then we saw
some other Republicans who had previously been on the fence fall in line behind him. But, in the end, as you said, the vote was convincing to expel
him from Congress.
And every moment here, the scene unfolding on the House floor and still going, as you can see on the House floor, was certainly dramatic and
speaking to the historic nature of this moment, expelling a sitting member of Congress, who is currently charged with some serious misdeeds, not the
least of which is conspiracy, wire fraud, false statements, falsification of records, among many charges.
George Santos on his way into the House chamber this morning was asked in essence how he was feeling, and he said, no final words. He walked into
that chamber a few minutes ago, not knowing if he would leave a U.S. Congressman or not. And he sat in the back of the chamber, per our
reporters who were there watching in the room, alone for the most part.
A few members came over to speak with him, but he was alone in the final moments.
And as this vote started, as the vote started ticking against him, he left the chamber and went right off in the room off the chamber, presumably to
watch from there. Now, as far as what happens next, this is immediate. And you heard Speaker of the House Mike Johnson there announce that their
balance in the House changes.
It lessens by one. They have one less House member, while his seat now is formally vacant. And per House rules, the parliamentarian has updated us
what happened. His office is essentially assumed by the clerk. They have control over this until his seat is no longer vacant.
And this now turns to New York. The Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, she has between eight and 10 days to call for a special election. She has said
that she would be very happy to do so, and we expect her to do so in the next few days. That special election, Kasie, has to happen within 70 and 80
days from now. So, what we will see is his seat in the next two or three months of special election to replace him in Congress, but certainly a very
notable moment not only for George Santos, for the U.S. Congress today. Kasie.
HUNT: Indeed, it is. Sunlen Serfaty, stick with us.
I'm going to bring in to join us today's panel, Sarah Matthews, Deputy Press Secretary under President Trump; CNN Political Commentator Kate
Bedingfield, former Biden White House Communications Director, and Olivier Knox, a writer for The Washington Post's "The Daily 202". Thank you all for
Olivier, let me just start with you. I mean, you've covered these characters for decades here in Washington. You and I have seen a number of
them come and go. Your reflections? I mean, this was a pretty convincing vote. 311 voted to expel him. 105 Republicans said get out of here.
OLIVIER KNOX, WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST'S "THE DAILY 202", & NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah. That's right. I mean,
it lays bare some of the divisions at the Republican Party in the House, right? But, he has been definitely decidedly finally expelled after a month
in which Republican leadership protected him. Right?
The Republicans -- former Speaker Kevin McCarthy protected him for months. His other members of his party protected him for months. And then finally,
this House Ethics Committee report, which, yes, we've covered character, Kasie, but no one like this.
HUNT: No one spent money on only fans?
KNOX: As far as we know.
HUNT: Just to be clear if that was up on my computer, like it would --
KNOX: I mean --
HUNT: -- not be safe, definitely for broadcasting --
KNOX: Right. I mean --
HUNT: -- and not for any of us at the (inaudible).
KNOX: I guess you could argue it's one of the least obscene things people have done in Congress in the last 20 years. But, it's truly astonishing.
It's a remarkable fall for this incredibly colorful character. It does have some pretty serious political ramifications.
That seat could very easily fall into Democratic hands, which so -- in the House, we'd see a two seat switchover. That's pretty significant. I think I
can forecast that the political parties will be vetting their candidates in this special election, a touch better than they did the last time around.
HUNT: Yeah. I mean, it was a pretty, honestly, Sarah, a spectacular failure by Republicans to kind of not notice that this guy had all these problems
in the first place.
SARAH MATTHEWS, FMR. DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY UNDER PRES. TRUMP: And it was a spectacular failure on Democrats to not notice. There really wasn't the
HUNT: Yeah. That's true too.
MATTHEWS: -- in the opposite.
HUNT: They could have won. Yes.
MATTHEWS: You remember all of --
MATTHEWS: -- this during the campaign.
HUNT: Yes. You're right.
MATTHEWS: Instead, it all came out after he was already in office. But, I am encouraged to see Republicans take a principled stand after all these
months, but to finally oust him, because this isn't someone who should be serving in Congress. He defrauded his donors. He defrauded his voters and
his constituents. And I think that Congress will be better served without him in office.
But, I do hope that now this dials up the pressure for there to be a similar kind of pressure on Senator Bob Menendez in the Senate who was
indicted over allegedly colluding with the Egyptian government and working on their behalf and receiving gold bars. And so, I think this is the right
call for House Republicans. But, I hope that we see that similarly play out in the Senate.
HUNT: I will say with the Menendez rule is that the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee to have the allegations around influence for Egypt. I
mean, it honestly -- I mean, we've had a lot of laughs about the various things that Santos has done. But, that is a -- I think you're right to
point it out, because it is potentially extraordinarily serious.
Kate Bedingfield, the politics of this race, I mean, this district is going to be a little bit more Republican.
KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & FMR. BIDEN WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yeah.
HUNT: I think that gives some Republicans in the House, they're a little bit -- they're happier about that they're breathing a little bit easier.
But, still, it's a swing district. It could kind of go either way.
BEDINGFIELD: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it's one of the 18 Biden districts held by a Republican or up until a few minutes ago held by a Republican.
HUNT: Currently held by no one.
BEDINGFIELD: Currently held by no one.
HUNT: Yeah. But, yes, I mean, there is no question it will be a competitive battleground. I think what we've seen that in fact that Republicans
protected Santos for as long as they did, is a reflection of how much this is a margins game. The sort of public message from Republican leadership,
from the Speaker was, oh, well, the process.
Then he hasn't been convicted, and it's troubling and precedent. Like, no, this is about -- this is -- that's what you have to say publicly. At the
end of the day, it's about him not losing another seat, and making an already unmanageable coalition even more unmanageable, making his margin
So, it has enormous political ramifications, both the race, which will be really interesting to see how it plays out in New York, where it's going to
be an incredibly competitive race, but also what it does to Congress --
BEDINGFIELD: -- and to Johnson's ability to manage a caucus that he has struggled to manage so far.
KNOX: Yep. On the other hand, they also were facing the very real possibility of a weekly Santos press conference, reminding voters from now
through 2024 that this guy is still in Congress, and that the Republicans have failed to flush him out. Right? So, there was another liability at
play, I think, in the decision making on the Republican side.
BEDINGFIELD: But, I mean -- yeah. But, that's also -- that argues for the Republican leadership to put pressure on their members to get rid of him.
KNOX: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
BEDINGFIELD: So, it's sort of -- there is no question. This was not an easy political set of rocks to navigate here for the Republican.
HUNT: Yeah. I mean, let's talk about Speaker Johnson in this for a second, because he is a much different leader than Kevin McCarthy was. And -- I
mean, Sarah, I really got the sense McCarthy was all about that vote count. He was like, you know what? This guy is voting. He is voting the right way.
Like, I'm not going to mess around with it. And he voted not to expel George Santos. It was actually pretty unusual.
I mean, for example, when Traficant was expelled, Dennis Hastert, then Speaker of the House, did not vote. I mean, it's more traditional that
Speakers do not vote in these kinds of things. So, that's part of why I think this morning everyone thought, well, maybe he is going to be saved
because Johnson is now out there saying that he is going to vote not to expel him. Perhaps that would give cover to more members who are going to
be willing to go along with it.
But, it does seem like Johnson and company were at least trying to get Santos to resign in a more focused way than perhaps McCarthy's team had
MATTHEWS: Yeah. I think that what Speaker Johnson did was he told members that they could vote with their conscience. But then, he did come out and
say that he was going to be voting to not expel. And so, I think that was his way of signaling to the conference how he wanted them to vote. But,
obviously, Speaker McCarthy had been kind of protecting Santos more.
And so, obviously, this vote happened today. And now, Santos is out of the conference. It's going to make things more difficult for Speaker Johnson.
He only has three votes now for the majority. And I think that it was the right decision. But, I think that it took Republicans a long time to get
HUNT: Yeah. Sunlen, if you're still with us, can we just talk a little bit about in terms of perspective, kind of what Santos represented, the figure
that he cut in Congress. I mean, you have covered Capitol Hill as it be. It always does have a handful of characters. Sometimes, they bring in a little
bit of an element of the absurd. Certainly, they can be enjoyable to cover sometimes when what's going on is not necessarily harming other people. It
is a place where oddities are kind of a feature, not a bug.
But, the way that things have evolved in the Trump era just is, to me anyway, so strikingly different in the -- I mean, honestly, I keep coming
back to this phrase, like lack of shame, right? Like just watching Santos on the steps yesterday was just kind of a shameless performance.
And it really is kind of in the mold of Donald Trump, but it does seem to be getting -- oftentimes voters seem to be more willing to back people who
act that way than not. I mean, what did you see kind of big picture and how this saga played out?
SERFATY: Yeah. The saga, the arc of this saga has been really fascinating to watch. But, yes, it is kind of a criticism of the way Washington
politics in this era and this Trump era, post Trump era, potentially new Trump era, works, that there is -- it is. I think, shameless is a good word
to describe what some of these members feel that they can bring.
And what we saw from Santos this entire time with this very defiant posture, he had some explanations, but not a lot. And you saw when the
House Ethics report released that very scathing report just a few weeks ago, a report that notably tipped many Republicans to actually have him to
say we need to expel this guy. He said, I'm not going to go line by line. I'm not going to take up issue. He didn't defend himself so much as saying
I'm in the right. And that was the posture he took this entire time.
So, watching that defiance, purposely put in front of TV cameras, was notable, especially in his final act in Congress. And if I could just read
one thing, some Annie Grayer, a reporter on Capitol Hill, caught up with Santos on his way out after the vote to expel him happened.
And he said, it's over. Certainly, interesting comments there. And he said, the House has set a dangerous precedent for himself. This is an argument
that he and other Republicans, of course, had been arguing. And he ended with "To hell with this place" when he was asked if he potentially would
take advantage of any of the resources that former members of Congress potentially can on Capitol Hill, like the gym.
So, certainly, leaving with some personality and certainly laced with bitterness there. It has been -- I mean, he has been the center of this
massive story for months, and he has been dogged by member of the press corps, which is our job. And I want to read this to you guys, because I
think you'll like this.
He said, answering members, he says, I'm unofficially no longer a member of Congress. I no longer have to answer your questions. But, certainly, he has
a lot more questions to answer for his court.
HUNT: I mean, I will see -- say, he has felt free not to answer questions, basically, since he showed up there. He still won't answer -- wasn't -- in
the last two days, he is not answering questions when people are actually saying, hey, like, can you refute, you know, deny the actual allegations?
He just wouldn't even -- he wouldn't even answer. I did appreciate how he said I don't think you're even a member of Congress if Manu Raju isn't
chasing you around in the hall. That's for our colleague there.
Olivier, this guy, I just -- is he going to get a contract somewhere? I mean, what -- like, what happens next?
KNOX: It's a great question. I actually want to know a couple of things. One is, who -- which -- who among the Republicans voted to keep him?
Because that'll help us understand what positions the Speaker is in right now. Right? Who voted to remove or to keep him? The last thing I saw was
that he retains floor privileges until he is convicted.
HUNT: I was going to ask you about that.
KNOX: And --
HUNT: Oh yes, fascinating. Even when you're expelled, you could go on the floor?
KNOX: I think so, and that's Y_" I mean, I would look -- I looked at it very, very quickly. But, I think --
BEDINGFIELD: Yeah. Unless they do a rule to change Y_" to limit it, he -- until he is convicted --
KNOX: That's right. Yeah. That's -- OK. That's --
BEDINGFIELD: -- he would be allowed to --
KNOX: He obviously loves the limelight, loves the spotlight. The only -- someone once said the only thing worse than being talked about is not being
talked about. And he seems to believe that firmly. But, who is going to touch him? What constituency does he have? Right? This is not an incendiary
right wing Republican. That's not his brand. His brand is this very weird off kilter, as you said, only fans using campaign money to buy himself some
shoes, etc., etc.
HUNT: Don't cake cut a red Botox.
KNOX: And he does also bad.
BEDINGFIELD: I do think there is a -- you asked, Kasie, kind of what's the broader political --
BEDINGFIELD: --ramification here? What's the lesson we should take? And it's -- you look at somebody who is so over the line and odd ball, and it's
sort of easy to say, like, OK, this guy is crazy, and this was maybe a fluke, and -- but, I do think there is probably a lesson here about how
much voters are frustrated overall with the system.
They're -- they just believe it doesn't work. They see somebody like George Santos, you were saying, it's kind of in the Trump mold. They see somebody
like George Santos. Yes. It's -- obviously, he has now done criminal acts, is incredibly troubling. But --
HUNT: And charged with them.
BEDINGFIELD: -- charged with them, to be fair. But, in the way he talks on the campaign trail, it feels different. It feels like he doesn't care. He
doesn't have a reverence for the system in the way that others do. And clearly, that resonated in some respect with voters. And so, I wouldn't
overdraw lessons here. But, I do think there is an element of that that does connect with people who are just frustrated with the way Washington
works or doesn't.
KNOX: They're frustrated the way Washington works, but they are happy to return about 95 percent of House income every time. So, they hate Congress
generally, but they like their own Congress better.
HUNT: Yeah. I mean, as we kind of wrap up this conversation, I just will end on -- I mean, the reality is Santos had a model in Donald Trump and
others who have molded themselves that way for how you essentially break every norm that is out there. And that -- while he is a lot easier to joke
about than some of the more serious things that we've seen, certainly from the former President, it still is a representation of very serious and
troubling, honestly, change in the norms of our systems.
All right. Also this morning, we are remembering former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. She has died at age 93. O'Connor was a
trailblazer who became the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court. She was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981, and retired in 2006. We're going to
have much more on her life and legacy later on this hour.
We'll also have this. Ron DeSantis was on a debate stage on Thursday night, but there were no other Republicans or other presidential candidates. We'll
tell you why? He debated California Governor Gavin Newsom, up next.
HUNT: A potentially major ruling from the Federal Court of Appeals here in Washington, Donald Trump does not, they have ruled, have presidential
immunity from civil cases surrounding January 6. That could open the door to more lawsuits seeking financial damages from the former President.
What we don't know yet is how the same court will rule on Trump's presidential immunity in any criminal cases. Of course, that decision could
have more impact. But, we've been waiting for about a year for this one, and it is not insignificant.
Sarah Matthews, I just want to take a second to talk about this. I mean, when you hear this, I mean, it really seems to promise to embroil him in
even more lawsuits, cases, financial liability, as the election is unfolding.
MATTHEWS: Yeah. This is a brutal ruling for Donald Trump. Obviously, he is already dealing with multiple other court cases, and that cost a lot of
money. And so, now he is potentially going to have to pay money for these lawsuits. And I think that this is a really good ruling, though, because
this means that the families of the Capitol Police officers who died --
MATTHEWS: -- can sue Donald Trump. The Capitol Police officers who were there can also sue him, and also the January 6 defendants who were only at
the Capitol following Donald Trump's marching orders that day could also sue him too. And so, I think that it's the right thing and -- but certainly
a bad thing for Donald Trump.
HUNT: Yeah. All right. I want to turn now to this very -- honestly, it was an unusual spectacle. It was a -- it was billed as a debate. It was last
night on Fox News. It featured one Republican presidential candidate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis faced off against California Governor
Democrat Gavin Newsom.
Newsom is not running for President at least so far this year. We expect him to run in some future year or time. For DeSantis, this was a chance to
try to stand out from the Republican PAC and get some airtime on Fox News. For Newsom, it was a step onto the national stage. He used it to defend his
party's President, Joe Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON DESANTIS, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, he is in decline. Yes, it's a danger to the country. He has no business running for
President. And Gavin Newsom agrees with that. He won't say that. That's why he is running his shadow campaign. He should not be running. He is not up
to the job. And it is dangerous for this country.
GAVIN NEWSOM, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: Well, I'll take -- I will take Joe Biden at 100 vs. Ron DeSantis any day of the week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, after an hour and a half of back and forth, Newsom did have one quick jab that doubled his a little bit of perspective for both men.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWSOM: There is one thing, in closing, that we have in common, is neither of us will be the nominee for our party in 2024.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: All right. Let's get back to our panel. Kate.
BEDINGFIELD: Well, that's the killer line. Sorry to interrupt you, but you got to give credit where credit is due. That's a killer line. And a good
reminder that -- what we saw from Ron DeSantis last night was pretty desperate. I mean, listen, his campaign has not gotten the traction that he
wanted. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Put himself in front of the Fox audience, make the aggressive case against Democrats. I can understand why his campaign thought this would be smart.
But, he would have had to have won the debate in order for it to be smart, and it didn't feel like that was what happened.
MATTHEWS: I will say, I think Ron DeSantis actually did really well last night. I think he did better in a one-on-one format. But, the only thing is
I wish he would bring that same energy to the presidential run that he is currently in. And he is running against Donald Trump who he has not
And so, I wish he would bring that same energy in the presidential race. But, unfortunately, he is refusing to do so because he still thinks that
there is an ability for him to court those Trump voters. But, obviously, polling has shown us that Donald Trump is right now holding a very strong
lead, and that Ron DeSantis over the months has just been on a steady decline.
HUNT: Well -- and Olivier, I mean to that point, I mean, he did. DeSantis has started launching some attacks on Trump on policy. He will not touch
the personal legal morass that surrounds the former President. Here is at what DeSantis had to say on Fox last night about Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESANTIS: He had four years, obviously. We don't have a border wall. We don't have a drain swamp. Hillary, he let her off the hook. And then, we
had a massive explosion of the debt. That's just the reality. I don't know how we would be better as a lame duck President, even if he could get
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: And I'm sorry. That was this morning, the day after the debate. If DeSantis had tried attacking Trump in the beginning, do you think he would
have generated the kind of attention that could have actually sent his campaign somewhere else? Or was he always kind of -- I mean, it has not
been the -- what many observers and certainly his campaign hoped it would be.
KNOX: At the dawn of his campaign, he was leading Donald Trump in a whole bunch of polls. So, the potential was clearly there for him to take him on
as an equal. And then, we saw a couple of things. One was his reluctance to get his message out in traditional ways, via the news media or a
traditional launch. He tried to launch via X, hellscape, formerly known as Twitter.
And he broke with those traditions and it didn't help him. I will say this. He has attacked Donald Trump a lot more than he gets credit for in the
mainstream media on a whole bunch of different areas. On policy issues, we just saw that there. But also, his campaign has recently really stepped up
its efforts to portray Donald Trump the way Donald Trump likes to portray Joe Biden as old and out of touch --
HUNT: Yeah. That's true.
KNOX: -- and mentally befuddled.
HUNT: But, that didn't come till recently.
KNOX: It did not come till recently. They'd been very tentative with that sort of stuff. I think there is a universe in which he could have done a
lot better. There is also a universe in which Donald Trump does not get indicted. And we don't see a rally around the Trump effect that I think
hurt the DeSantis campaign quite a bit.
BEDINGFIELD: I thought it was interesting. One thing that DeSantis said there gets to a dynamic that I think is sort of underappreciated in this
race, which is that Donald Trump is an incumbent too. I mean, DeSantis said he said he had four years, and he couldn't get the wall built.
And so, when people sort of think about what a Trump versus Biden race is going to look like, Donald Trump has four years of record that he has to --
that he is going to have to defend. It's a lot easier to campaign and talk about how you're going to build the wall and get Mexico to pay for it, than
it is to build the wall and get Mexico to pay for it. So --
HUNT: Which is actually impossible.
BEDINGFIELD: Which is actually impossible. So, for any incumbent President, not just for Joe Biden, for any incumbent President, you want to make the
campaign about your opponent. You don't want to make it a referendum of what you've been able to do. That's not a reflection on Biden's record,
which I would argue is excellent.
That is just the reality of an audience of voters being promised something versus here is the reality of what we're able to get done. So, I think for
Trump to -- for Biden to have the benefit of essentially running against an incumbent and being able to make the dynamic of the campaign about Trump's
failed record, is really valuable. And DeSantis kind of got to that in that comment.
HUNT: So, I want to bring in Nikki Haley, because she released her first campaign ad yesterday, and she obviously is the person that is currently
like threatening Ron DeSantis the most, right, and it's the most talked about in the Republican field. She is also coming into contact with Chris
Christie in New Hampshire, because Christie has staked his campaign there.
And he had -- he put it in an interesting way, shall we say, this question of how to handle Donald Trump because Nikki Haley's ad, while it talked
about chaos and moral clarity, those words were clearly aimed at Trump, she did not use Donald Trump's name. Here is what Chris Christie had to say
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I saw a new TV ad today out from Governor Haley. And this is what she says. We have to leave
behind the chaos and drama of the past. What's that mean, exactly, Governor? Why not say it? The frontrunner in this race is Donald Trump. I
just said his name out loud. And lightning did not strike me. I did not fall dead of a heart attack. I have not been poisoned by a member of his
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: I mean, it's hard not to laugh, Sarah.
MATTHEWS: I mean, Chris Christie is hilarious, and I think he has brought a really important voice to this race and his willingness to call Donald
Trump out on a plethora of things. And he makes a good point that folks like Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis need to be able to call him out by name on
his failed policies or his character, the court cases, what have you.
But, I will say that I think Chris Christie also at a point needs to recognize that he needs to drop out of the race if he thinks that Donald
Trump is a threat that he is, which I wholeheartedly believe that Donald Trump is a threat to our democracy. And I need -- I would love to see him
defeated in a primary.
But, right now, that isn't going to happen until Republicans coalesce around one challenger. And so, Nikki Haley right now seems to have the
momentum on her side and seems best poised to do that. So, I wish that Chris Christie would drop out and endorse her, instead of attacking her.
HUNT: It seems unlikely. He told me straight up no.
BEDINGFIELD: It seems unlikely. But, I -- look, I think as somebody who fears a second Donald Trump presidency as well. I think for the
Republicans, they look at poll after poll after poll that shows there is potentially a path but it requires coalescing. It requires a tight
argument. It requires sort of a slingshot through Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, but it --
BEDINGFIELD: -- can be done. It can be done. But, not if they are all attacking each other in this way. I agree with their on that.
HUNT: Kate, Sarah, thank you very much for being here.
Still ahead, the resumption of war, Israel unleashes deadly new air strikes on Gaza after efforts to extend a shaky truce with Hamas collapsed.
HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Washington. Thick black smoke once again choking the skies over Gaza as
Israel resumes its war on Hamas after a week-long truce expired. Parts of southern Gaza now coming under fierce bombardment, including Khan Younis.
Israel called the densely populated city a fighting zone, telling residents to evacuate immediately.
In Israel, reverberations from a New York Times report that their government knew about the Hamas plan more than a year in advance, but
dismissed it as aspirational. It says they obtained a document that outlines the deadly incursion, and "Hamas followed the blueprint with
The document called for a barrage of rockets at the outset of the attack, drones to knock out the security cameras, and automated machine guns along
the border, and gunmen to our in Israel on mass in paragliders, on motorcycles and on foot, all of which happened on October 7.
Let's go now to our panel. Olivier Knox is back with us. We're also joined by CNN Military Analyst, the retired Colonel Cedric Leighton, and CNN
Global Affairs Analyst, Kimberly Dozier. Thanks to all of you.
Cedric, let me start with you just kind of on the -- kind of big picture here.
I mean, this is -- it expands on reporting we had a sense that perhaps they were aware of some of this, but The New York Times has this document. It is
quite dramatic. I mean, how big of a mistake was this?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST, & U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): It's a huge mistake, Kasie, and here is why. This is a failure of analysis.
So, the intelligence collection effort on the Israeli side worked really, really well, based on the reporting. The problem that they have was that,
once it went up the chain, once this information went up the chain of command, it was in essence rejected, thought to be too aspirational, as the
report says, too unlikely that it would occur.
And the problem with that is everybody in these intelligence agencies, whether it's the U.S., Israel, many others, they always look at mirror
imaging. In other words, what they're doing is they're thinking the way we think within our own societies. They need to think like the adversary, and
they didn't give Hamas enough credit. Like, Hamas would actually do this stuff because they were training for it. And there was very clear
indications that this would actually happen.
HUNT: And Kim Dozier, I mean, it does sound as though there were some people who were sounding, women in particular, more aggressive alarms. Why
weren't they listened to? What happened?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yeah. Haaretz has some amazing reporting, where they interviewed a number of the women army spotters who
were based along the border with Gaza, who were watching Hamas training, watching Hamas use drones to test the border wall. And they could see them
drilling for how they would overwhelm the wall.
They tried to warn their serious -- their senior commanders. They were rejected. When I and others have tried to get comment on this, what we keep
hearing back is, we'll be looking at this after the war. But, the accusation is that sexism is the reason. When you see that they had this
40-page document and coupled that with what their own troops were telling them on the ground, heads should roll.
HUNT: How long is Netanyahu, Olivier, going to be able to use this line, like all this has got to wait till the worst done?
KNOX: It's a great question, and I think it just got shorter with The New York Times reporting. But, it's not gone. I mean, he has managed to
navigate this so far, and say there will be a reckoning. I will be held accountable, but after the fighting stops. If he can keep his coalition
together, I would assume he can do this sort of indefinitely.
But, if someone who is hungry enough in the coalition wants to challenge him directly to see if they can be Prime Minister, then he has got a real
problem. But, we've heard senior -- other senior Israeli officials actually take responsibility. He has only said that he will be at some point, down
the road, be held accountable for this obvious failure.
HUNT: Colonel, where do you think responsibility ultimately lies for this?
LEIGHTON: Well, it always lies at the top, and that's the key thing. Like, Olivier was just saying, there are so many aspects of this where it really
-- it's really about the culture within each of these organizations. And in this particular case, the unit that was responsible seems to be Unit 8200,
which is kind of like NSA on the Israeli side. And what --
HUNT: So, that's like signals intelligence.
LEIGHTON: Correct. Yeah. For the most part, that's what they do. They do other things as well. But, that's one of their main functions. And as the
signals intelligence outfit, you take a lot of information basically from the ether, from all the signals that are out there.
And the idea there is to merge that with other pieces with what the spotters have reported, and what the analysts do. And when there is all
sorts of analysis taking all this stuff together, that's when that whole picture should have emerged. And they should have been able to look at that
and say, OK, this is strange. This is different. This is an anomaly.
And intelligence is often about picking out the anomalies of something and then saying, OK, they're going to do something different now. It's not just
a bunch of workers going into Israel from Gaza. Those workers were working for Hamas in an intelligence capacity, I can guarantee you.
HUNT: Final last word.
DOZIER: To your question about Netanyahu's future --
DOZIER: -- Netanyahu is still currently campaigning on the notion that he can keep a two-state solution from happening, especially by -- in the past,
he helped strengthen Hamas because that kept the Palestinian Authority weak and made a two-state solution not possible. So, in a very real sense, since
he enabled the Qatari funding, etcetera, to come in to the Hamas government, he allowed them to build up to a point where they were capable
of this attack, and he is not going to be able to escape that once the guns stop.
HUNT: Yeah. And there are also -- I've seen some of the -- some of the officials I've spoken to have said, you know, they also just fundamentally
took their eye off the ball of security, which is like a very fundamental mistake when you think about the creation of Israel and how that's always
had to be at the very forefront. Cedric Leighton, Kim Dozier, Olivier Knox, thank you guys very much for being here today.
All right. Still ahead, he is one of the few Senators calling for an indefinite ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. We're going to talk to
Vermont Senator Peter Welch about that and much more.
HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race.
Joining me now is Senator Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont. He serves on the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committees. Senator, it's wonderful to have
you on the show. Thanks for being here.
SEN. PETER WELCH (D-VT): Thank you.
HUNT: I want to start actually on this breaking news day has been rapid fire this morning. But, I want to start with your old -- you have -- were a
longtime member of the House of Representatives before you won your promotion to the upper chamber. The House, however, just expelled George
Santos. It's only the sixth expulsion in the history of the body, and the first that wasn't in a case of treason or a conviction, a criminal
conviction. What was your reaction?
WELCH: Well, I'm not surprised. I mean, George Santos was like an all-star when it came to the lying, everything in his campaign and then everything
in the House. And what I think is somewhat reassuring to me is that a Republican-led Ethics Committee, and I did serve on the Ethics Committee,
that a Republican-led Ethics Committee made the recommendation for his expulsion, because I would be worried if this was just a partisan deal.
But, this was clearly strongly bipartisan, led by the Ethics Committee, chaired by Mr. Guest. So, I'm not surprised, and I think it reflects the
horror that members of the House, Republicans and Democrats, have about the cereal lying by Representative Santos, former representative.
HUNT: Former already, indeed. Senator, you've been around this town a long time. What do you think what we've seen from Santos the way he handled
this, his refusal to resign, all of it? It is a microcosm. It takes place in a bigger picture where we also have many more members of Congress both,
honestly on the Senate and the House side, who are doing things that previously would have been considered completely unacceptable.
What does it say, and how do you feel about how what you do every day has changed?
WELCH: Well, it's changed a lot since I came here, 17 years ago now. There is a lot more performance in theater, and that seems to be the job
definition. So, new members basically don't see politics as a team sport. If they can go on cable news, if they can say outrageous things, if they
can get a lot of publicity by making a privileged motion, they're doing it.
And it's very detrimental, because ultimately, you have to work together to be successful. You have to work together with your own party. You have to
work together ideally with the opposite party. But, this performance approach to politics, which obviously has been facilitated immensely by
social media, and then you've got some people in public office now who get very good at that social media. So, they get publicity, but the American
people get no results. So, I don't like it.
HUNT: Fair enough. I'm not sure I blame you. Sir, let's talk about policy, and in particular, we were just discussing on our panel, the war between
Israel and Hamas. You are one of a few Democrats who have called for a ceasefire in the region. Why haven't more Democrats joined that call with
WELCH: It's a really troubling situation, because what Hamas did is unspeakable. And I'm among many of the Senators who saw the film that the
Israeli Defense Force put together, that had videos of the horror, and it was sickening and repulsive. So, all of us are supportive of Israel
striking back. But, the way in which Israel has struck back is with massive bombing, and it has had catastrophic consequences on innocent Palestinians.
So, the concern I've had is that this war against Hamas, which we're all against Hamas, has turned into a catastrophe for Palestinians. You know,
16,000 people, women and children have been killed. And now, there is no ability to really maintain or establish humanitarian aid for the million
and a half people who have been displaced, because if you have active bombing, that means that more than 100 people have already been killed.
Providing aid will be -- even more will be killed. And we're also seeing that the UN is saying we're going to have more loss of life from disease
because of the lack of sanitation.
So, there is an enormous impact on innocent lives, and that's the tension, the right to self-defense versus the manner in which that self-defense is
carried out, and the manner in which it is carried out, I think, is going to set us back because it is going to create a lot of bitterness towards
Israel and towards -- really towards the U.S. as well because of our loss of innocent lives. Very, very tough situation.
HUNT: Do you think President Biden is wrong in his staunch support for Israel in this?
WELCH: We all are strongly supportive of Israel. We're not supportive, I'll speak for myself, of the Netanyahu war plan, that massive bombing and the
loss of life that I mentioned, but Gaza City is in rubble, and now they're moving down towards the south.
So, the issue here is not whether there is resolute support for Israel, there is, and I think always will be. But, this Israel, led by Netanyahu,
with people in the cabinet like Ben Gvir, and Smotrich, who've been aggressively trying to dispossess Palestinians in the West Bank. That's a
different kind of political situation than we've seen in Israel ever.
HUNT: Do you want any aid to Israel that Congress passes here in the next few months to include conditions on how it's used?
WELCH: In fact, my position is really simple. I'm all for the Iron Dome. It saved many, many Israeli lives. I'm all for humanitarian aid. The more that
we can help, minimize the loss of life in Gaza, the better for Israel and for all of us. I'm against the bombs. I mean, the 2,000 pound bombs that
the Netanyahu government was dropping on refugee camps where there was massive loss of civilian life, I don't really think those should be part of
HUNT: So, are you urging the administration -- are you telling your colleagues and the administration not to allow American dollars to be used
for those bombs?
WELCH: Yeah. I don't want to spend money on those bombs. I mean, that is causing -- when you have massive civilian -- locate -- massive numbers of
civilians in a very small area and you're dropping bombs on it, there is going to be significant loss of civilian life.
So, I don't think that has a place, especially these 2,000 pound bombs. And it's true that Hamas is using Palestinians as human shields. So, it's a
very difficult situation militarily for the IDF. But, on the other hand, civilian lives have to be protected.
HUNT: Do you think Israel has committed war crimes in the context of this war?
WELCH: I'm not getting into that, because Israel got a brutal attack, and think about what we did after the brutal attack on us in 9/11. I'll leave
that to other people. But, our responsibility here, we're going to help our ally, that's Israel. But, I think that we can be very clear that on the war
plan, where the war plan that has played out so far, has so many civilian casualties, and where there is not even an ability to get the humanitarian
relief to avert disease and possibly starvation. We've -- I think we can assert that we want a different kind of work plan.
HUNT: All right. Senator Peter Welch of Vermont, I want to thank you very much for joining us, sir. I do hope you'll come back.
WELCH: Thank you.
HUNT: All right. See you soon.
Ahead, remembering a Supreme Court trailblazer, former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor passes away at the age of 93.
HUNT: This morning, we're remembering former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. She has died at the age of 93. O'Connor was a trailblazer,
who became the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981. She retired in 2006. Our Joan Biskupic is live in
Washington. Joan, for those who may not know, you are a biographer of Sandra Day O'Connor. This is somebody who you came to know. What are your
reflections on her life and legacy?
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Thanks, Kasie. It brings us back not just to 1981 when Ronald Reagan made this historic appointment
of the first woman ever to sit on the Supreme Court, but also to the court of the 1980s, 1990s, into the early 2000s before her retirement in January
of 2006. We had such a different court, and Sandra Day O'Connor really controlled that court.
She is remembered today as the first woman on America's highest court, but she also was incredibly influential in terms of her opinions on abortion
rights, affirmative action, the separation of church and state. She wrote those opinions after casting the deciding vote. Her effect was really
influenced by her time in Arizona, Kasie.
She was such a woman of the West, a woman of Arizona. She had been a state Senator there, the first woman to be -- the first woman nationwide to hold
the position of Senate Majority Leader. She was quite influential there. And then, what I like to say about when she came to Washington, she really
knew how to count votes in the conference room, working with her eight other colleagues. She would craft consensus in a very pragmatic way.
And the social policy, she definitely affected with abortion rights and affirmative action which frankly have now evaporated because of the current
courts pushed to the right. The Dobbs decision of 2022, Kasie, reversed her seminal writing in 1992 that upheld abortion. And then, just this year,
when the justices threw out affirmative action in higher education, it was reversing a 2003 milestone decision of hers.
But, she also had great influence in terms of regard for the states, because she had worked in the state legislature, she was always worried
about encroachment from the federal government on the states. And then, finally, just as a person, she was so much the social glue of the court
during those years.
She always insisted that they do things after hours together, because remember, she was a politician. She knew how to encourage the bonds of her
colleagues, and she would want them to play bridge together, go to social events together. So, she just -- she was missed almost immediately in 2006
when she left, and she certainly, her legacy really will be missed today, not just --
BISKUPIC: -- by her colleagues on the Supreme Court, but so many men and women across America who are aware of what she did for the country.
HUNT: They are, indeed. Joan Biskupic, there is no one better to have to reflect on her life. So, thank you very much for being with us.
BISKUPIC: Thank you, Kasie.
HUNT: And I am Kasie Hunt. That's the State of the Race for today, Friday, December 1. You can always follow me on Instagram and the platform formerly
known as Twitter. Don't go anywhere. One World is up next.