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State of the Union

Interview With Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX); Interview With Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley; Interview With U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired October 15, 2023 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Next stages of war. Nine days after the brutal terrorist attack by Hamas, Israel ramps up for a ground war in Gaza.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): It's only the beginning.

TAPPER: But how will civilians, including Americans, avoid the violence? U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan joins me live next.

Plus: on edge. As President Biden strongly backs Israel...

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, respond to this attack.

TAPPER: ... a divide over the war is splintering the Republican field.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to have Israel's back.

TAPPER: How would a Republican commander in chief approach the Middle East? Former U.N. ambassador and presidential candidate Nikki Haley is here exclusively ahead.

And house of cards? As U.S. officials promise Israel more support, House Republicans are still in odds over their choice for speaker. With Congress paralyzed, will they be able to deliver aid? Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw is coming up.


TAPPER: Hello.

I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is, frankly, heartsick, upset about the innocents taken from us starting eight days ago with that horrific Hamas terrorist attack, as well as the civilians killed since in Israel and Gaza, and concerned about what this next phase of the war in the Middle East will look like, and whether there is any real thought as to what is coming next.

The Israeli government says, after eight days of a brutal air campaign in Gaza, it is now preparing -- quote -- "significant ground operations" in response to the devastating terror attacks, in which 1,000 Israelis were slaughtered, the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust, which was accompanied by the kidnapping of more than 100 innocents.

Just look at these Israeli babies, reportedly hostages of Hamas, on the front page of the Israeli newspaper "Yedioth Ahronoth" this morning. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza, population 2.3 million, are desperately trying to flee.

There are reports from inside that country that Hamas, which uses Palestinians as human shields, has set up blockades to stop its own people from fleeing, while, of course, the Israelis and Egyptians prevent access out of Gaza, all of it leading to a disastrous humanitarian crisis.

From a top U.N. official -- quote -- "Hospitals overwhelmed with patience are running out of medicine. Morgues are overflowing. Homes, schools, shelters, health centers, and places of worship are under intense bombardment."

This morning, international officials say the only viable exit from Gaza, the Rafah Crossing, into Egypt's Sinai desert, remains closed.

CNN's Sara Sidner joins me now from Tel Aviv, Israel.

Sara, what is the mood on the ground there as Israel prepares for the next stage of this war?

SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: It's tense. It's anxiety-filling for the residents here.

And, as they prepare with more than 300,000 reservists who have gone to the border with Gaza, it seems pretty imminent that a ground war is about to get under way. The Israeli military had said that it is preparing for what it called the next stages of the war.

Well, we know that some of the early stages were a response from the sky. We have seen a lot of that overnight, where airstrikes have been hitting in Gaza.

But you have this humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Gaza now, partly because of the Israeli blockade, partly because Hamas is not aiding or letting people leave, according to reports inside of Gaza. And so you have this crisis that is unfolding.

You do not have fuel. You do not have potable water. You do not have food coming in to Gaza, and things are getting very, very desperate, never mind the number of people who have been injured, and the hospitals are at their absolute breaking point.

So the world will be watching this. And Israel -- I just spoke to Peter Lerner, lieutenant colonel with the Israeli Defense Forces, and he said, look, time is of the essence, essentially. Time is of the essence. They are planning to go to their next phase very, very soon.

Why is that, I asked him, and he said, because they need to rid Gaza of Hamas, and that is the ultimate plan. Now, the difficulty is how they do that, because there are aid organizations that are trying to get supplies, trying to get anything to those who are in desperate need of the basics of life.


And there are civilians in one of the most densely populated places on Earth trying to figure out where in God's name they can go to be safe, to just -- to get out of the way of harm. This is a really, really difficult situation that Gaza finds itself in, and, frankly, that Israel finds itself in as it prepares for a ground offensive, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, thank you so much, Sara Sidner, in Tel Aviv.

Joining us now, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Jake, when exactly do you expect an Israeli ground invasion to start, and what can you tell us about what that might look like?

JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, Jake, I'm going to have to leave that to the Israeli Defense Forces, to the IDF, to answer. They will determine their timetable, and, of course, they will determine the scope and nature of that operation. It's not for me to say.

I will say, we're in constant contact with them so that we can best understand what they are planning. But I can't sit here and give you any timetable or details on that operation. That's for them.

TAPPER: What's the ultimate goal of this incursion? Is it to invade, to kick out all of Hamas, to reoccupy Gaza? Who's going to take over afterwards? Will refugees who escape Gaza be allowed to come back?

SULLIVAN: Well, at the broadest level, the goal is to ensure the safety and security of the state of Israel and the Jewish people.

At the next level down, it's to eliminate the Hamas terrorist infrastructure, the Hamas terrorist threat, so that Hamas cannot pose a threat to Israeli citizens, to the state of Israel going forward.

You have raised the number of questions there that I think are really important. They're questions we are grappling with and talking to the Israelis about even now. What does the long term look like, even as you work on the immediate term?

I'm not in a position to give you definitive answers to that, but, of course, we are talking to the Israelis about the full set of questions, looking out into the future to ensure that Israel is safe and secure and also that innocent Palestinians living in Gaza can have a life of dignity, security, and peace in the future as well.

TAPPER: Is rescuing the hostages a priority at all? I mean, Israeli news media, like "Haaretz," they say it doesn't seem like it at all.

And frankly, Jake, if my kids were being held hostage in Gaza -- and, as you know, there are Americans being held hostage in Gaza right now -- I'd want you to send in the Navy SEALs. What's the conversation like in the White House about the U.S. conducting any sort of operations in order to save Americans being held hostage in Gaza?

SULLIVAN: Well, the president has been very clear that he has no higher priority than getting Americans back safe, Americans who are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza right now.

TAPPER: The Israelis are bombing the crap out of Gaza.


TAPPER: I mean, what -- it doesn't seem like saving the hostages are a priority at all right now.

SULLIVAN: Well, for President Biden, they are a priority. They're the highest possible priority.

And he has sent hostage experts to coordinate and consult with the Israeli government on hostage recovery efforts. He's also made sure that our diplomats are in touch with third countries in the region to explore avenues for their safe release.

I have to be cautious about how much I can say about certain efforts he's undertaking, because we want to protect those efforts to give us the best possible chance of getting our people home.

Now, Jake, one important point when it comes to the issue of the Navy SEALs is, we do not at this point have pinpoint location information for where the American hostages are. So, we have to continue to refine our understanding of where they are and even, Jake, who they are, because we know there are 15 unaccounted-for Americans, but we cannot confirm the precise number of American hostages being held by Hamas at this time.

All we can do is to continue to work closely with the Israeli government on hostage recovery options, which we are doing, and then work through third countries to see if there are avenues for release. Those efforts are under way. Our hope is that they can produce results. We will continue to stay focused on this.

It's as high a priority as the president has.

TAPPER: One senior political operative with Hamas floated the possibility a few days ago of a potential prisoner swap with the U.S. for the release of hostages.

Would the U.S. entertain that?

SULLIVAN: We have not looked at that. We have not heard from them something like that. That's not something that is currently under active discussion. It has not been proposed.

What we are focused on instead, as I said before, are pursuing avenues with third countries for release. I'm not going to get into the details of what that might look like, again, to protect those channels, in hopes that they can bear some fruit.

But I will say that President Biden has shown over the course of the past few years that he will make hard decisions to get American hostages home. In this case, our focus is on working through those third-country channels, and I will leave it at that for now.


TAPPER: So I think there are serious reasons to question how good any intelligence about what is in Gaza is. I mean, obviously, Hamas was able to carry out this horrific attack eight days ago, catching everybody completely off guard.

You just said that we don't know where the hostages are in Gaza. And yet the Israelis claim, the IDF claims that it is bombing places that it knows are Hamas targets. How can we be sure that that's true?

I mean, I -- Hamas is a terrorist group, don't get me wrong, but how do we know anything about what they're hitting, given the fact that it doesn't sound like any of the intelligence inside Gaza is particularly good?

SULLIVAN: Well, Jake, Israel has known where particular parts of Hamas' terrorist infrastructure have been located. They know, for example, where rockets are fired from, and they can go back to those locations to take out the rocket emplacements.

They know from various forms of intelligence collection where certain individuals are located who are senior commanders in Hamas who are part of the bloody and barbaric attacks that took place against Israel last Saturday.

So, they do have information to be able to go after specific targets, actionable targets, similar to the way the United States has been able to do that in other places in other contexts.

The United States has taken a very clear stand. It is a stand that we don't just take in this situation, but we have taken all along, which is that we stand for the rule of law, we stand for the law of war, we stand for the protection of civilians, and we want to make sure that innocent Palestinians who have nothing to do with Hamas can get to safe areas, where they will be safe from bombardment and where they will have access to necessities like food, water, shelter and medicine.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, you say you stand for the rule of law. Again, Hamas is vile. What they did eight days ago, they're targeting civilians. It's horrific.

But what's going on right now is not just a punishment of Hamas. More than 700 children have been reportedly killed in Gaza. And, obviously, electricity, food, water supplies have been cut off by Israel to the totality of Gaza. Obviously, the blockade is not just by Israel. It's by Egypt too.

Take a listen to what Secretary Blinken said last year when Putin was targeting Ukrainian infrastructure.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Heat, water, electricity for children, for the elderly, for the sick, these are President Putin's new targets. He's hitting them hard. This brutalization of Ukraine's people is barbaric.


TAPPER: Now, look, Israel is not Russia. Gaza is not Ukraine. It's a different situation.

But cutting off supplies, cutting off heat, cutting off water to civilians, what's the difference?

SULLIVAN: Well, first, thank you for saying that Israel is not Russia, because Israel is not Russia.

Second, as I said before, we are in constant contact...

TAPPER: But civilians are civilians, Jake. Civilians are civilians.

SULLIVAN: Yes, absolutely, they are. And they deserve, as I said before, access to water and medicine and food.

And we are working actively to ensure that that happens. And I can tell you this morning, Jake, that I have been in touch with my Israeli counterparts just within the last hour, who report to me that they have in fact turned the water pipe back on in Southern Gaza.

That has been the subject of discussion over the course of the past few days. The United States is going to continue working with Israel, with the U.N., with Egypt, with Jordan, and with a lot of the groups on the ground to make sure that innocent Palestinians get access to those basic necessities and are protected from bombardment, because they deserve that right, the right to those necessities, and the right to safety and security, every bit as much as Ukrainian civilians do or civilians anywhere do.

And the United States hasn't made any bones about that. We're working hard on that. We're working to make sure that that is the case as this unfolds. And it's something that has been a high priority for President Biden, for Secretary Blinken and for myself.

TAPPER: But you're not telling the Israelis to let the Palestinian hospitals have power?

SULLIVAN: Our position is that hospitals should be able to function, hospitals should not be targeted, people should be able to get access to lifesaving medical care. We don't qualify these statements. We don't say that there's some kind

of caveat to them. These are simple, clear, declarative statements. It is our position. That's consistent with the law of armed conflict, the law of war. It's consistent with our view as we have presented it.


And I would just say, Jake, that there's a lot of reports in the fog of war about things that happen. We're not going to respond to every one of those, because we will seek clarity in the appropriate way. But we will never back off our basic principles and our basic proposition, which we have made both publicly and privately, about our view about how civilians have to be protected.

TAPPER: I haven't asked you any of the fog of war stories. I have seen stories that blame Israel for things that, later on, it turns out Hamas did them.

I get it. I understand. But we have reports, and I'm sure you have them too, that hundreds of the individuals stuck in Gaza are American citizens. You know that too. There are also hundreds of thousands of Americans in Israel that are trying to get out also, and the Biden administration is doing a lot to get those individuals out; 29 of the individuals killed by Hamas were American.

And there are, I think, what is it, something like 40 Americans that are unaccounted for who were maybe taken prisoner by Hamas.

But I want to talk to you about one Palestinian American woman we talked to named Haneen Okal. She's from New Jersey. She's got three kids, 8, 2, and 2 months. I sent you the interview we did with her earlier in the week.

She got to the border, the Rafah Crossing. She can't get out. She can't get out of Gaza because the Egyptians won't open the crossing. Listen to what she told me earlier this week.


HANEEN OKAL, PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN STUCK IN GAZA: We tried to contact the U.S. Embassy so many times. Unfortunately, they couldn't help us at all. I contacted them through the phone, via e-mail. I texted, and I called different numbers.

But nobody -- I couldn't hear back from any. We are all here feeling abandoned there, and we're feeling that we're left alone.


TAPPER: I don't know how many billions of dollars we give the Egyptians every year.

Tell -- why can't you tell President Sisi to open the border to let Americans out?

SULLIVAN: We have told President Sisi to open the border to let Americans out.

The situation there at the crossing is actually more complicated. The Egyptians have, in fact, agreed to allow Americans to depart, to get safe passage through the Rafah Crossing. The Israelis agreed to ensure that the area around there would be safe, at least as far as they were able to do so.

The question when we tried to move a group yesterday was actually Hamas taking steps to try and stop that from happening. But we are continuing to work this around the clock. And we are doing all that we can to make sure that American citizens who are in Gaza can get through that border crossing.

Secretary Blinken, in fact, is in Egypt today meeting with the president of Egypt. This is at the top of his list to help get those American citizens out of Gaza. Anyone who is a U.S. citizen should have the right to free passage through there and then have the U.S. government facilitate their travel home.

TAPPER: Yes, I don't -- I don't doubt that the biggest problem in all of this is Hamas.

Jake Sullivan, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

She was U.N. ambassador. Now she wants to be president. So what does she make of the U.N. warnings about Israel's war on Gaza? Nikki Haley joins me live next.

And then: Are Republicans on track for another embarrassing speaker vote this week, another one? A congressman who is quite furious at what is going on with the GOP will be here.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

As the Israeli government warns of a new phase in its fight against Hamas, brand-new polling just into CNN shows how Americans are feeling about this war. The U.S. public broadly feels Israel's military response to the Hamas terrorist attack is fully justified.

But the difference by age is quite stark; 81 percent of Americans over the age of 65 feel the response by the Israeli government is fully justified. But just 27 percent of Americans 18 to 34 years old feel that way.

The humanitarian crisis is also top of mind for many Americans; 71 percent of Americans feel a lot of sympathy for the people of Israel; 41 percent feel a lot of sympathy for the Palestinian people.

Former U.N. Ambassador and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, Nikki Haley joins us now. Ambassador Haley, thanks so much for joining us.

If you were president right now, would you consider using the U.S. special operations to rescue American hostages being held in Gaza? You just heard Jake Sullivan say that one of the complications with that is, we don't know exactly where the hostages are, but I'm wondering how much you would consider such a thing.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for having me, Jake.

I think it's important. You have to tell hard truths to Americans. And when you're talking about this, when you showed those percentages of what people think and what they think we should do, you have to be honest with them. This is messy, right?

I mean, we desperately want to get those American hostages out. But if you saw those kids in the hands of those terrorists, like, with a mom heart, it made me sick to my stomach for all those parents having to see their children in those terrorist hands. So, of course, we want them out.

But why isn't it so easy that we can do that? It's because we don't know where they are. And I have been in those tunnels that are massive, that are sophisticated, and that Hamas uses to hide equipment and ammunition and to do their dirty work and maybe to have those hostages.

But where are those tunnels? They're underneath hospitals. They're underneath schools. They're in hard-to-find places. So this is incredibly tough. I feel for the Israeli families. I feel for the American families. And I feel for any other families who've lost a loved one or have someone in a hostage situation, because it's really bleak right now.

And it's hard for anyone to feel good about this.

TAPPER: Yes, we just showed images that your office gave us of when you visited Israel in 2017 and the IDF took you to those tunnels near the kibbutz Ein Hashlosha.

You said that, because those tunnels in Gaza are near civilian sites, it's going to get bad. It's already pretty bad, obviously. There are more than 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza. More than half of them are children.


Do you think the U.S., Israel, Egypt needs to be doing more to help these innocent Palestinian civilians get out of harm's way? Although you just heard Jake Sullivan say, one of the problems is Hamas is keeping the civilians in Gaza. They don't want them to leave.

HALEY: There are a couple of things at play here.

Hamas is going to do everything they can to not have them leave, because, guess what, they want them all to die. One, they want to use them as human shields, but, two, they want to blame Israel and show images of dead children and say, look at what Israel did.

But don't ever forget what Hamas did. Don't ever forget those girls running for their life. Don't ever forget those babies that were killed in cribs. Don't ever forget the people that they were dragging through the streets. And what were they saying, Jake? They were saying, "Death to Israel, death to America."

That's who we're dealing with. But I dealt with this at the United Nations. You're going to hear all of those Arab countries vilify Israel for what's about to happen. You're going to hear all of them say, how dare you not do more for the Palestinian people?

And you know what? We should care about the Palestinian citizens, especially the innocent ones, because they didn't ask for this. But where are the Arab countries? Where are they? Where is Qatar? Where is Lebanon? Where is Jordan? Where is Egypt? Do you know we give Egypt over a billion dollars a year? Why aren't they opening the gates? Why aren't they taking the Palestinians?

You know why? Because they know they can't vet them, and they don't want Hamas in their neighborhood. So why would Israel want them in their neighborhood? So let's be honest with what's going on. The Arab countries aren't doing anything to help the Palestinians because they don't trust who is right, who is good, who is evil, and they don't want it in their country.

So they're going to come and blame America. They're going to come and blame Israel. And don't fall for it, because they have the ability to fix all of this if they wanted to. They have the ability to go in and tell Hamas right now to stop what they're doing. They have the ability to tell Hamas to let those people out.

But you know what? Qatar is going to continue to work with Hamas and their leadership. Iran is going to continue to fund all of this and not say anything. And who's silent? Every one of those Arab countries are going to be silent. But expect for the finger to point to Israel, and the finger is going to point to Israel -- to America.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to this statement that Governor Ron DeSantis made about all -- I guess he's talking about all of the 2.3 million Palestinians.

He said this on the campaign trail in Iowa yesterday.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you look at how they behave, not all of them are Hamas, but they are all antisemitic. None of them believe in Israel's right to exist.


TAPPER: Now, just for our viewers' edification, according to recent polling earlier this year from The Washington Institute, which is a pro-Israel group, using the polling of a Palestinian center for public opinion, 62 percent of Gazans wanted the cease-fire with Israel to stay in place.

Fifty percent of Gazans want Hamas to stop calling for Israel's destruction, want Hamas to accept the permanent two-state solution based on the 1967 borders; 70 percent of Gazans wanted the Palestinian Authority from the West Bank to take over Gaza.

So I'm not really certain that Governor DeSantis has a real read on the difference between Hamas and the people of Gaza. What was your response when you heard what Governor DeSantis said?

HALEY: I dealt with this every day for two years.

And what I can tell you is, you have to realize that, whether we're talking about Gazans and Palestinians, all of them don't -- you have got half of them at the time that I was there didn't want to be under Hamas' rule. They didn't want to have terrorists overseeing them.

They knew that they were living a terrible life because of Hamas. You had the other half that supported Hamas and wanted to be a part of that. We see that with Iran too. The Iranian people don't want to be under that Iranian regime. They don't. We saw what happened to Mahsa Amini. We saw how they treat them.

There are so many of these people who want to be free from this terrorist rule. They want to be free from all of that. And America's always been sympathetic to the fact that you can separate civilians from terrorists. And that's what we have to do.

But, right now, we can never take our eyes off of the terrorists. I mean, what Hamas did was beyond thuggish, brutal, and sick. What the Iranian regime is doing to help them is terrible. But let's look back at, what did Biden do? Biden turned around and fell all over himself to get into the Iran deal. Obama did it before that.

You gave all of this money. And what did you do? You empowered Iran to go and strengthen Hamas, strengthen Hezbollah, strengthen the Houthis to spread their terrorist activity. We went and strengthened those sanctions and decimated Iran's economy. And what happened? Biden has loosened the sanctions.


Now we have got the fact that he gave $6 billion in hostage money. OK, now you have frozen it, but we have all these American hostages. Guess what they're going to want? If you gave them $6 billion for five people and released hostages, guess what they're going to be asking for all these others that we have?

So we have created this scenario where you have given Iran -- the Iranian regime too much power and too much pull and to be able to do this. We have got to be strong. We have got to have Israel's back. And, remember, as awful as these images are, and we have the back of Israel because they have been hit terribly, we have to have the back of them when they hit back as well.

TAPPER: So, speaking of having Israel's back, I want you to take a listen to what Donald Trump had to say about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few days ago.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (R) AND CURRENT U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has been hurt very badly because of what's happened here.

He was not prepared. He was not prepared and Israel was not prepared. And, under Trump, they wouldn't have had to be prepared.


TAPPER: He went on to call Hezbollah, which the U.S. classifies as a terrorist group, very smart. He called the defense minister a jerk, and he went on and on.

This was, I think, Wednesday, so four days after the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. What was your response when you heard that?

HALEY: It's why I continue to say it is time for a new, generational leader.

We have got to get past the headlines of the past. I mean, look, he congratulated the Chinese Communist Party not too long ago. He's saying Hezbollah is smart. I can tell you, at the United Nations, when I was there -- and I dealt with all of them every day -- you don't go and compliment any of them, because what that does is, that makes America look weak.

It doesn't make America look strong. It doesn't make America have friends with them. What you do is, you show strength. You let them know what we expect of them. So, complimenting Hezbollah and going and complimenting the Chinese Communist Party or criticizing a leader who has just watched so many of his citizens brutally murdered, it's the wrong place at the wrong time.

This isn't about Trump. It's not about him. It's not about what happened in the past. We have got to look forward. This is going to be tough days ahead for everyone involved. This is not the time to sit there and bash a leader. This is a time to sit there and give him the support he needs, give the Israeli people the support they need, and to help us get through this in the best way possible.

TAPPER: Before you go, the House still doesn't have a speaker for the first time in American history. This is nearly two weeks after Kevin McCarthy was stripped of his leadership.

They still can't even pass a resolution condemning the Hamas attacks. It's starting to look like there is not one House Republican who can get 217 votes. Republican Congressman Austin Scott said the chaos -- quote -- "makes us look like a bunch of idiots" -- unquote.

Is he right?

HALEY: Well, I will tell you what's right is, under the Biden administration, we have seen chaos within...


TAPPER: You can't blame -- you can't blame that on Biden. You can't blame this on Biden.

HALEY: No, you can -- well, you have to let me finish.


HALEY: We have seen chaos with inflation. We have seen chaos with the lack of transparency in education. We have seen chaos on the border. We have seen chaos with crime on the streets. And now we're seeing chaos around the world.

What I am saying is, you can't fix Democrat chaos with Republican chaos. They need to get it together. They need to get in a room and figure out who this is going to be and come out unified. That's what Republicans need to do. This is not a good look. This is not good for our country.

We saw what happened to Israel when they were distracted. America looks so distracted right now. When America is distracted, the world is less safe. We can't sit there and act like this is September 10. We better get it together and remember what it felt like September 12, because we have got a lot of threats around us and a lot of chaos around us.

And we need some strength. We need some stability. And, again, I will say we need a new, generational leader to right this ship.

TAPPER: Ambassador Nikki Haley, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

HALEY: Thanks so much, Jake.

TAPPER: House Republicans have finally chosen another nominee to be House speaker, but is there any way he can get 217 votes? I'm not so sure.

We will ask Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw of Texas next.




As Israel prepares for what it is calling a new phase in its war against Hamas, here in the United States, the House of Representatives is in utter chaos, as House Republicans continue to struggle to elect a House speaker. Congress could be called upon to pass an aid package for Israel as soon as this week.

But it's not clear that Congress can actually do that without a House speaker, and it's also not clear that they will have a House speaker, at least anytime soon.

Joining me now is Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw of Texas.

Congressman, Republicans, as you know, have not been able to choose a House speaker for 12 days for the first time in the history of the United States. And, honestly, Congressman, just as an American, it's kind of embarrassing.

What message do you think it sends to the world during this time of crisis?

REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): Well, it's not good. There's no positive messages here.

I don't want to give everybody the impression that it's a giant crisis either. And I know it sometimes feels that way. This is democracy. Democracy is always pretty messy. I think what the real problem is, is that we have allowed a different process of democracy to take hold within our own conference, which is that majority doesn't rule.

That's how Speaker McCarthy was deposed. He only had 4 percent of our conference actually against him, and somehow he was deposed. Now, of course, the Democrats made up the rest of that majority. There's -- nobody blames them for this, because it's just assumed that they're going to vote against the speaker.

But that's how this stuff happens. It's not pretty. There's real calls for changes in those internal rules that we abide by in the conference. But we're going to get through it. We're going to get through it.

Look, it's really hard to screw up America, Jake. A lot of people have been trying for well over 250 years.



CRENSHAW: And we're still at the top. So let's be optimistic.

TAPPER: So, the current speaker nominee is Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio.

But 55 five of your fellow Republicans suggested they're not going to support him on a floor vote. It seems like some of them will never support him because they don't like him. And some of them just don't want to reward the members of Congress who have prompted this mess, who either are part of the eight who got rid of McCarthy, or part of the 20 who opposed the more conservative spending bill.

You know who I'm talking about. Do you think Jordan is going to be able to get 217? Because it doesn't sound like, from my reporting, that he's going to.

CRENSHAW: Nothing's impossible, but it's going to be really, really difficult, based on what I'm hearing. I don't have a good read on whatever single member is thinking. As you said, there's a lot of different reasons with different members. It's impossible for any member of our conference to get 217 true believers, 217 people who truly think you're the best, right?

So, we have a democratic process for a reason. You have a race, and then somebody wins a majority. It's like a primary election. And I tell people all the time, if you don't like your primary candidate as a Republican, you don't go voting for the Democrat in the general election. Democrats, of course, don't do it either.

And that's how this is supposed to run. Like I said, we have gotten away from that, from that basic principle. And that's really killing us right now. So, what I -- and what I would really recommend to Jordan's allies too is that a lot of them have mounted this -- this high-pressure campaign.

They're going to -- they're going to whip up Twitter against the people who are against Jordan. That is the dumbest way to support Jordan. I'm supporting Jordan. I'm going to vote for Jordan. Like, and as somebody who wants Jim Jordan, the dumbest thing you can do is to continue pissing off those people and entrench them.

When I ask people who are taking that tack, I'm like, did that work on you when you were one of the 20 against McCarthy and everybody was bashing you? Did that entrench you?


CRENSHAW: Or did that make you see the light?

And I go, come on, people. Everybody's got to grow up, get it together. If there's differences, let's sort them out. I don't think we should take it to the floor. I don't think we should have that play out. People are like, it's going to be more public, and then we can have pressure.

And it's already pretty public. It's not necessary at this point. So, we need to have cooler heads prevail, talk about it, see what people want, see what made -- what has made people angry. And let's see if Jordan can be the leader we need him to be and help people through those -- through those issues.

TAPPER: Yes, there's a piece, a good piece in "The Times" today about that pressure campaign, about people like Congresswoman Luna and Amy Kremer and far right media talking about how they're going to push people, how are you going to -- how are you going to answer this question?

And I think you're right. People are going to be like, what? Shut up.

If it doesn't go to Jordan...

CRENSHAW: Yes, Twitter's not real life.

(LAUGHTER) TAPPER: And -- and, like, I think it's fair to say there are going to be like 20, 30 Republicans that don't like Jordan, and you really only need five.

What happens next? Is there not just a consensus candidate who might not be everybody's first choice, but, like, is just like a decent consensus guy, like Tom Cole, Tom Emmer. I mean, why not?

CRENSHAW: It's hard with hypotheticals right now. They're not running, OK? They're not even talking about running. Those names do come up, right, because they are in leadership. They have been around a while. They haven't made a ton of enemies. So that's why their names come up.

But people find reason to become enemies in politics, Jake. You have been doing this a long time.


CRENSHAW: You know that. You see it all the time.

And it's exhausting. And I wish the public understood that a little bit better, that..

TAPPER: I could say your name and, immediately, and, immediately, 30 people would say, no.

You know what I mean? I won't. Don't worry. I won't. I won't.



CRENSHAW: And you're like -- and people are like -- you could ask them, why don't you like him? Well, I don't know. I mean, I heard. Whatever.


CRENSHAW: There's manufactured divisions.

It's like a central tenet in modern politics. People will find reasons. And maybe that's because they want to extract personal favors. And maybe -- people talk about the establishments all the time, Jake. I think the Democrats have an establishment. They have sort of a centralized control. They can make people do things.

Republicans have none of it. By definition, you don't have an establishment if 4 percent can depose your speaker. By definition, you don't have an establishment when you get more popular by so -- by -- quote, unquote -- "bucking the establishment."


CRENSHAW: It negates the existence of the establishment.

And so we just have a very different dynamic here. It's democracy. It's messy. We're going to get through it.

TAPPER: So, I heard one hypothetical that, after the next -- so, that Jordan doesn't get it. And I should also note, just, like, there are Republicans who don't like how he was kind of like one of the conspirators on the attempt to overturn the election.

There's that whole OSU thing with the -- whatever. I don't want to get into all that. But there are people who think he has a lot of baggage.


Then it goes to some other round, and, like, somebody else tries and doesn't get it. And then I have heard this hypothetical where people say, well, let's just bring McCarthy back. And either that happens or McHenry gets it by default.

Is that possible, you think?

CRENSHAW: Anything's possible. These are very unlikely.

McCarthy has to actually want to run. There's -- out of protest, some members will vote for McCarthy. He has no intention of running. Jordan has been a true ally to McCarthy, at least from everything I have seen and what McCarthy is saying now.

And what I would remind a lot of the members who are against Jordan, because -- because his reputation precedes him, but his reputation has changed over time. He has become part of the solution, not part of the problem. He has long since been part of the solution.

I have had a lot of good conversations with him. I have gotten to know him. There's a reason I support him.

TAPPER: He was trying to...

CRENSHAW: Giving McHenry additional powers, well, that still requires -- that still requires a vote. And what kind of powers? I mean, at a certain point, you're just electing a speaker.


CRENSHAW: And he doesn't want that. He's asking us not to do that.

TAPPER: I mean, he defied the congressional subpoena and he was trying to get Pence to overturn the electoral votes.

But, anyway, you're in the Jordan camp.

CRENSHAW: But a lot of them did that. If I held that grudge, I wouldn't have friends in the Republican Conference, because a lot of them did that. So...

TAPPER: Right. That's two-thirds the -- that's two-thirds of the conference. That's an excellent point.

(LAUGHTER) CRENSHAW: I was on an island there.

TAPPER: Yes, I hear you.

All right, Congressman Crenshaw, it's always good to see you, sir. Thank you so much.

TAPPER: Coming up next: Their lives were forever changed by the brutality of Hamas, but those who lost the most eight days ago, well, they have a message for all of us that you might want to hear.



TAPPER: A warning of some graphic video here as we take stock of this really, really awful week.

Eight days ago, terrorists with Hamas invaded Israel and slaughtered hundreds of innocent people, hundreds, seniors at a bus stop, babies in their cribs, little kids at home, young people at a music festival.

It was the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. And none of this was about liberating the innocent people of Gaza from the oppression of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza. That blockade began after Hamas, which the U.S. and E.U. classify as a terrorist group, after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, and refused to disavow violence and refused to recognize Israel.

The people of Gaza indeed deserve to live without a blockade. They deserve to live in freedom and with democracy and human rights and without fear of their government, which Hamas denies them.

If any of this were about freedom and rights, why would Hamas have slaughtered, for example, Danielle Waldman? Danielle was 24. She was at the music festival. Do you know who her dad is? Her dad is Eyal Waldman. He's an Israeli tech CEO who had employees in the West Bank and Gaza to improve relations.

Here's Eyal talking to my friend and colleague Erin Burnett literally hours after he found out his beloved Danielle had been killed.


EYAL WALDMAN, FATHER OF VICTIM: I want to talk about peace. I was one of the first persons that have employed Palestinian employees.

We have treated our Palestinian employees the same as the Israeli employees, hoping for peace. Even today, our hand is reaching out for peace. We want to learn to live together, not to continue killing each other.


TAPPER: And this is Eyal's Instagram feed. "Please post this on your social feeds," he writes. "Every day this man," Netanyahu, "sits in his chair as prime minister

will cause suffering to all sides," he writes.

If any of this were about freedom and human rights, why would Hamas have killed Hayim Katsman, a peace activist who opposed the Netanyahu government for being too oppressive of Palestinians?

I spoke with Hayim's sibling, Noy Katsman.


NOY KATSMAN, BROTHER OF VICTIM: The most important for me, and I think also for my brother, was that his death won't be used to kill innocent people.

And, sadly, my government, our government, my government is using, cynically, the death of people to just kill. Like, they promised us it was going to bring -- it's going to bring us, like, security. But, of course, it's not security, because they always tell us, oh, that if we're going to kill enough Palestinians, or they're going to -- so it's going to be better for us.

But, of course, it never brings us peace, and it never brings us better lives. It just brings more and more terror and more and more people killed, like my brother.


TAPPER: One of the most disturbing parts of watching this disaster unfold from the United States is watching students on college campuses here embrace the symbol of the Hamas terrorist paragliders who attacked Israel that day, slaughtering innocent civilians and babies and women and the elderly, this symbol, as if it's some sort of rebellious icon.

Here's one from the University of Washington in Seattle, but they have cropped up all over college campuses.


TAPPER: I'm wondering what you think when you see your fellow Americans -- and, again, protesting for Palestinian rights, great. Do it. Those people deserve human rights.


But when you when -- you see people embracing the symbol of the Hamas murderers who murdered your cousin, what do you think?

DANIEL ZAKEN, COUSIN OF VICTIM: Well, first off, it's extremely shocking to see.

And I don't know if these people are misled or if they actually believe what they're supporting is helping the Palestinians. But it's simply not. It's -- they're supporting the wrong cause. The fight that Hamas is trying to fight isn't going to get the Palestinians anywhere. They're just causing more and more suffering in the region.

Their goal is to annihilate the state of Israel. They say it. They openly say it, and they're proud of it. And that's not something that's going to help bring dignity to the Palestinians. I think it's in everyone's best interests to get the most out of there and hopefully build a better future for everyone in the Middle East.


TAPPER: It's very difficult to see that better future now.

But we can all pray that the humanity of those three we just heard from will ultimately rule the day, not the brutality and barbarism that we saw from Hamas eight -- eight days ago, and not the death of innocents that we continue to see in Israel and in Gaza.

I wish you shalom, salaam alaikum. May peace be upon all of us, all of us.

I will be back at noon Eastern, new live interviews with the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog. And we will also have with us the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. That's at noon Eastern right here on CNN.

Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts next.