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Trump Visits California's Fire-Ravaged Communities; Gillum Concedes to DeSantis in Florida Governor Race; Trump Says It's a Good Time for a Government Shutdown; Full Report on Khashoggi Death Tuesday; Britain's Messy Divorce; Netanyahu Faces Calls for Early Election; "SNL" Spotlights Steve Carell as Jeff Bezos. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired November 18, 2018 - 05:00   ET



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. The U.S. president spent time on the ground in the state of California, getting a first-hand look at the damage caused by these deadly wildfires.

At his side, Mr. Trump was joined by the state's governor and governor-elect. And he said it was sad to see the damage and he promised support for the people affected. Listen.


TRUMP: Nobody would have ever thought this could have happened. So the federal government is behind. You we're all behind each other. I think we've been through the staging.

Jerry and I have been speaking and Gavin and I now have gotten to know each other and we're all going to work together and we'll do a real job. But this is very sad to see. As far as the lines are concerned, nobody knows quite yet.

We're up to a certain number but we have a lot of people that are unaccounted for. This is the kind of destruction, in fact they're telling me this is not even as bad as some areas. Some areas are even beyond this charred.


HOWELL: Also asked about the impact of climate change, Mr. Trump sidestepped that question. Instead, implied again that poor forest management contributed to the fires. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it change your opinion at all on climate change, Mr. President?

TRUMP: No, no. I have a strong opinion and we can't go through this every year, so we're going to have safe forests and it's happening as we speak. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the fire -- you see there will be a change in fire management, will the state and local --

TRUMP: No, state, local and federal government. Federal government is going to work with the state. And we're going to help them fund it.


TRUMP: It's going to take a lot of funding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything with performancewise?

TRUMP: A lot of things have been learned.


HOWELL: In the meantime, the death toll from the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire continues to rise. Officials recovered five more bodies on Saturday. This brings the total to 79 people dead statewide. And also the number of names on a missing persons list continues to grow. That list has now almost 1,300 names on it. Officials say it could contain duplicates so the exact number of people of missing still unclear.

Online we also see many stories of survival come to surface. This one week after these fires started. One video shows one family driving through a burned neighborhood trying to escape a great deal of danger. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a fire going down Skyway by the health center. Going down Skyway, there's fire like crazy. I don't know if you can see it. Oh, my gosh, the whole side there. Get in. Oh, my gosh, look to the right, that house is on fire.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at that. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my god.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Robert, get in here now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. This is (INAUDIBLE). We are in hell. Look at right here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shut your window, quick. Quick. Quick. Quick!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're having us drive this way?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh, look at all these houses are gone. This is horrible. Look at this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you recording?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm videotaping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are your lights on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, you can't even see them.

Oh, my gosh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's explosions going on. I've got to put my window up, I can't breathe.

Oh, my gosh. Oh, this is horrible. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. These poor people.


HOWELL: Wow, could you imagine that?

So many families went through that very hell, trying to escape, not knowing whether more fire would be around the corner. Wildfires are becoming certainly a big problem across the western part of the United States. And one factor that plays into this climate change.



HOWELL: Now to the murder of "The Washington Post" reporter Jamal Khashoggi. The U.S. government not yet drawing any conclusions there as to who is responsible for his killing but this comes amid reports of a CIA assessment indicating that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, personally ordered the journalist's murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.

The U.S. president said he will get a full report on it come Tuesday.


TRUMP: It's a horrible thing that took place. The killing of a journalist, very, very bad situation, Khashoggi. And somebody who is respected. It should never have happened. They haven't assessed anything yet. It's too early. It's possible we're going to see a report on Tuesday and it will be very complete. In the meantime, we're doing some things to some people that we know for a fact were involved. And we're being very tough on a lot of people.


HOWELL: Let's go live to Turkey to CNN's reporter Jomana Karadsheh.

What has been the reaction you've heard so far?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, George, we've not had any reaction specifically to what seems to be these mixed messages. Mixed signals that are coming out of the United States over the past couple of days. Whether there has been an assessment from the CIA as we've heard from officials that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was ordered by Mohammed bin Salman.

And we've heard from the State Department and Donald Trump basically saying no final assessment has been made and we'll have to wait and see.

But here in Turkey, if you look at the Turkish strategy, what they've pretty much done in recent weeks is put the ball in the court of the United States and other Western allies. They've handed over what evidence they have. They've shared it with the CIA. They've shared it with other Western governments, so basically saying it is on them now to decide how they move forward.

But there has been this concern of stalling tactics by some in the Trump administration and some in Saudi Arabia, hoping that this will go away. You know, and then the concern there, George, also coming from the fact, if you look at the visit of the CIA director, Gina Haspel, that was more than four weeks ago, so this hasn't been moving particularly fast.

Then the complaints you hear from Turkish officials, they say it's a lack of cooperation from the Saudis as they see from these stalling tactics. They say simple questions, straightforward questions that they put forward from the Saudis and hope the international community will push the Saudis to answer that they haven't answered yet.

For example, where is the body? Where are the remains of Jamal Khashoggi?

Nearly 50 days since his killing and still no answers to that. A lot of theories. Take a listen to what Turkey's defense minister had to say about that.


HULUSI AKAR, TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER: Possibly, possibly, they count on that they military and then after that in three or four hours they left Turkey and because of the diplomatic idea of immunity, they handled that very easily after having a problem with the luggage. Possibly it's in the luggage and they carried the dismembered body of Jamal Khashoggi.


KARADSHEH: You know, we heard several other theories in recent weeks, whether his body was dissolved in acid. And we also heard from foreign minister in Turkey a few days ago saying they simply don't know what happened to the body, whether it was burned, destroyed, buried, saying the Saudis have to answer that question. That is why we got to the point where Turkish officials, initially calling for the extradition of the suspects held in Saudi, now feel that the time has come for an independent, international investigation, George.

HOWELL: Jomana Karadsheh, live for us in Istanbul, Turkey, thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

One more statewide race has been settled in the U.S. midterm elections.


HOWELL: Eleven days after that historic vote, followed by a very difficult recount there, the Democrat, Andrew Gillum, seen there on the left, conceded on Saturday in the Florida governor's race to Republican competitor, Ron DeSantis. Still undecided, though, the Florida contest for U.S. Senate. Here's CNN's Dan Merica with more.


DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum conceded his gubernatorial contest to Republican Ron DeSantis late on Saturday evening, ending what was a bid to become the first African American governor of the state of Florida.

That leaves all eyes on Senator Bill Nelson, who has yet to concede to Governor Rick Scott in his hotly contested race for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.

Andrew Gillum, while conceding this race, said the race became more than just winning the governor's mansion but became a fight for voting rights. Take a listen to what he said with regards to his Republican opponent.


ANDREW GILLUM (D), TALLAHASSEE MAYOR: We said we would fight until the last vote is counted. Obviously we are now closing out the hand recount phase in two of the statewide races. We wanted to make sure that every single vote, including those that were overvotes, undervotes, as long as it was a legally cast vote, we wanted those votes to be counted.

And now that we are rounding that process out, R.J. and I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Mr. DeSantis on becoming the next governor of the great state of Florida.


MERICA: Gillum's concession makes Ron DeSantis, a Republican closely tied to Donald Trump, the governor-elect of Florida. In the Senate race, Bill Nelson will now be forced to come to terms with the fact he is the only top-flight Democrat contending this race at this point and he is separated by about 12,000 votes in his race against Rick Scott, the current governor of Florida.

So far Democrats have frankly not done enough to close that gap. Here in Tallahassee, a federal judge has ruled against Democratic interests multiple times when they were trying to expand the universe of available votes for Senator Nelson.

And in vote counting sites across the state, the machine recount completed on Thursday did not do nearly enough for Nelson to close that gap. Now Nelson is having to contend with the fact he is now alone in the spotlight, with Gillum stepping aside. And he is now forced to come to terms this may be the end of his political career -- Dan Merica, Tallahassee.


HOWELL: Dan, thank you.

We are past the midterm elections and the U.S. House of Representatives will look a lot different come January. Democrats will have the majority and that raises the distinct possibility that Nancy Pelosi will yet again be Speaker of the House.

But it's not a sure thing. There are some Democrats that want to see a change, whatever his reason may be, the U.S. president also lending Nancy Pelosi a helping hand.


TRUMP: I will help Nancy Pelosi. She need some votes. She may need some votes. I will perform a wonderful service for her. I like her. Can you believe it? I like Nancy Pelosi. I mean, she is tough and she is smart. But she deserves to be speaker. And now they are playing games with her.


HOWELL: Pelosi has plenty of support and plenty of opposition. Our Tom Foreman looks at the case for and against Nancy Pelosi.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For congressional Democrats, Nancy Pelosi has been a huge power player for more than 15 years in the House of Representatives. Just look at some of the positions of leadership she has held.

And in those positions, she's wrangled votes for a lot of issue Democrats really care about, health care reform, credit card and banking regulation, tobacco regulations, the Fair Pay Act, food safety and much more.

She's also brought in a ton of money for her party. This is reportedly her haul for the party just for the midterm election, all of which is why her supporters say, yes, she's the natural leader; make her the Speaker again.

But there is opposition in her own party and here's some of their concerns. First of all, she is a lightning rod for Republicans. Her district near San Francisco is much more liberal than the rest of the country, on top of which they say she is simply too much about the past, about old grudges, old ideas, old coalitions.

And, they say, there are plenty of other Democrats out there that maybe could bring in new ideas if she simply would accept step aside. Right now, the people who are trying to oppose in her own party do not have enough votes to stop her from being chosen as the party's candidate for the Speaker.

They have their own vote first; she would easily win that. But when it comes out here onto the general floor, for the general vote, where Republicans get to play, too, if 17, 18, 19 of --


FOREMAN: -- these opposition forces in her own party said they would absolutely not vote for her, that could keep her from getting the majority she needs and that could force either concessions from her or possibly an entirely different pick by the Democratic Party.


HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with James Davis. James is the Dean of the School of Economics and Political Science at the University of St. Galen, in Munich, Germany.

A pleasure to have you on today.


HOWELL: We're getting a sense now of Donald Trump post the midterm elections. Mentioning everything from the possibility of a government shutdown, saying it could be a good time for that, to the border wall that he wants to build. Essentially drawing a line in the sand with Democrats. Listen.


TRUMP: We're talking about the border wall. We're talking about quite a big sum of money, about $5 million. And I think probably if I was ever going to do a shutdown over border security, when you look at the caravan.

When you look at the mess, when you look at the people coming in, this would be a very good time to do a shutdown. I don't think it's going to be necessary, because I think the Democrats will come to their senses.


HOWELL: You'll remember, the talk of the caravan just drew a big roar before the midterms and dropped right after the midterm elections. But we're hearing it again, as the president talks about what is ahead with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives come January.

How do you see things working between these two political opposites?

DAVIS: Well, I think the most important point here is in the leadup to the midterms, Trump did not run on anything like an agenda for the future for the next two years but, rather, he kept trying to stoke the fears of the Republican base. Part of that was about immigration, the so-called caravan or even

sometimes referred to as invasion. Part of that was about villainizing (sic) Nancy Pelosi. Suddenly, he's come to like Nancy Pelosi; he thinks he's going to get the wall. I don't think that's going to happen.

The president doesn't have a positive agenda. And it's going to be on the Democrats to come up with an agenda that moves the country forward on some of the issues that people are concerned about.

We see from the election results that those topics were health care, economic security and infrastructure. There may be room for compromise or bipartisanship with the president on the question of infrastructure. But I don't think the Democrats are going to give him the money for his wall.

They made that clear. And when you interviewed Americans after the election, what were the big issues?

Immigration was not one of them.

HOWELL: We saw Donald Trump in the state of California, this visit, of course, coming after that tweet that he sent nearly a week ago, blaming forest management. That tweet was not well received there in California. But Mr. Trump did tour the damage there. He praised the firefighters there.

And when the issue came up of climate change, Mr. Trump basically denied it, saying it's not an issue for him and said he wants a great climate.

What do you make of that?

DAVIS: The president has a reason to deny climate science because that is a position that is denied by his base. His base does not want to believe in climate change for a variety of reasons.

He also has a strong base of support in the oil industry. And so there are good economic reasons for him, as well as the kind of reasons -- for political reasons, for him to continue to deny the science of climate change.

But we know the science is solid. It's no accident, when you look at the Rhine River here in Germany where I'm at right now, it's at the lowest level in recorded history. When you look at California, we see the fires. It's just not a matter of cleaning up some underbrush but rather it's a matter of long-term climate change to which we'll have to adapt.

Where I think the president may be onto something is that there may be measures that we can continue to do a better job preparing for a dry future, where forest fires are going to be a common feature of life.

And there may in fact be some room for bipartisan movement on this with the new governor in California. But that's still something to be seen. HOWELL: All right. Just very quickly, Mr. Trump also mentioned that CIA report, according to sources, that indicates with high confidence the Saudi crown prince ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Mr. Trump not drawing any conclusions.

But from what we know of that report, do you see the president here buying more time before it comes out on Tuesday?

And when it comes out, does he have leeway here?

DAVIS: Yes. The president is in a bind. He has --


DAVIS: -- put his stakes, stock in the crown prince. Thinks the crown prince was going to be an important modernizing force in the region, has created a strategic alliance with the Saudis in the effort to box in the Iranians.

He's in a bind, because if it comes out that in fact the crown prince was directly related to this and all indications point to that, it's going to be very difficult for him to continue to justify the close relationship he's trying to build with the crown prince.

And there are a number of voices in Congress, both in the Senate and the House, Democrats as well as Republicans that have been questioning this growing alliance with the crown prince and I think they will make the life of the president quite difficult on this question.

HOWELL: We always appreciate your time. Thank you so much today.

DAVIS: Thank you, George.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, the president surveys the damage of the California wildfires. We'll have more on what he saw and said there.

Also the president praising Saudi Arabia, amid a report from the CIA that the crown prince ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. More on that as NEWSROOM pushes ahead.




HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from the mother ship here in world headquarters in Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following at this hour.


[05:30:00] HOWELL: The U.S. president spent some time in the state of California. He was visiting to tour the damage, the destruction there on Saturday. He met with residents and officials as he walked through the rubble and he promised federal support for the hard hit areas there.

He sidestepped the question about the impact of climate change. And implied that poor forest management contributed to the destruction. In the meantime, officials recovered five more bodies, now bringing the death toll there to 79 people who died across the state.

Also the names of people on a missing persons list has risen. Almost 1,300 people now on that list.

Fires have been publishing images -- fire officials, rather, have been putting out images of burned down structures from the town of Paradise, California. We compared them with Google Street View pictures taken before the flames. Take a look at these before and after shots. You get a sense of how bad the situation is.

This, certainly, a before. Now the things are left, only two trees -- look at that. It's just terrible to see the difference there.

Here's what used to be a car wash. It's now reduced to rubble.

Also, once a hospital, you can see it collapsed and is now unrecognizable.


HOWELL: Joining now to talk more about this is Sadia Quint. She's a survivor of the wildfires.

And Sadia, more than 1,000 missing and your uncle is one of them.

What more can you tell us at this point?

SADIA QUINT, NIECE OF DAVID MARBURY: We really haven't heard anything and we're reaching out to every organization that we can, And we've given DNA just in case we do get a call saying, you know, that he's not with us anymore.

But we are being just really, really patient with all the agencies. I'd just like to say, you know, that the lists that have been coming out haven't been accurate because today and yesterday my uncle hasn't been on the list, which is really frustrating because we actually went down in person and talked to two different sheriffs, one in Butte County or Oroville and another one in Chico, when we went to go give DNA swabs.

And they said they were going to put him back on the list. And then this morning he was on the list and then not on the list.

HOWELL: That's got to be so frustrating, for it to be your burden to go back and forth between officials. And to make sure that your uncle's name is on the list. Say his name, if you would, please. QUINT: David William Marbury.


And what is it like for you and your family to hold out hope but have so much uncertainty?

And again you're just trying to make sure his name is on the list.

QUINT: Right. It's just frustrating and kind of surreal. Like I never would have thought that I would be looking for a family member, so it just kind of sucks.

But we're being patient just because we know we're not the only family going through this right now. And everyone's in it together and everyone's being supportive on every single side you could imagine.

HOWELL: What is it like deciding what's next, certainly figuring where family members are, making sure everyone's accounted for?

But then the next steps, moving forward, not knowing whether a home is there or burned down?

QUINT: We already know his house has been burned down and his car was in his garage, so now we're waiting for the sheriff's department to go out there and let us know if his body is there or not.

If he is, you know, he's respiratory issues and he had back problems and he was 66, so --


QUINT: -- I mean it's hard to think about him, you know, not being here anymore. But as a family we have accepted, you know, whether we get good or bad news. So we're just prepared for both.

HOWELL: Just for our viewers around the world and also here in the U.S., please say his name again so we get it out there.

QUINT: David William Marbury.

HOWELL: And again, David William Marbury in the Paradise, California, area where the Camp Fire is still burning. Sadia, we certainly hope the best for you in your efforts to find him. We'll stay in touch with you as there are so many families dealing with so much uncertainty at this point. Thank you for your time.

QUINT: Thank you.


HOWELL: The U.S. State Department, Donald Trump, they say they have yet to reach a conclusion for who is responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The CIA had earlier made an initial assessment that the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was personally involved. But Mr. Trump calls that finding premature and says he'll get a report

on the death come Tuesday. His reluctance to place blame on Saudi Arabia has raised questions about his relationship with that nation.

Let's bring in CNN's emerging markets editor, John Defterios, following the story live in Abu Dhabi.

Always a pleasure to have you on the show, John. The president indicates he views the U.S.-Saudi relationship as essential in the Middle East. And Mr. Trump seems to lean toward supporting the crown prince.

Are they clashing over oil prices as a result of this investigation?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, that's part of the story, George. But I would suggest that the priority for Donald Trump is to maintain the business ties with Saudi Arabia. I'll be breaking it down into two key priorities.

First and foremost, I see Saudi Arabia as a bulwark against Iran and that country's expansionist policies right here in the Middle East, with say, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and particularly Yemen because of the conflict that's been going on there.

Number two, the president wants to maintain these business ties that he's talking about forever, whether it's with regards to oil but particularly the military contracts on the table.

I was going to add a third, his relationship that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. He has worked for many years to develop this partnership and the president doesn't want to see it disappear.

I think the challenge is, though, if the president contradicts or does not accept the assessments from the CIA in the United States, the CIA initially was suggesting that there's no way this murder of Jamal Khashoggi could have taken place without the knowledge of the crown prince, although they say there is no smoking gun and they can't say that with high confidence, because the evidence is not there yet.

But when the president was asked about it, what did he do, George?

He was talking at the military contracts of $110 billion. He goes back to it each time and suggesting the jobs that are tied to it. Let's take a quick listen.


TRUMP: We also have a great ally in Saudi Arabia. They give us a lot of jobs. They give us a lot of business, a lot economic development. They are a -- they have been a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development. I also take that -- you know, I'm president and I have to take a lot of things into consideration.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DEFTERIOS: You can see where the president stands on this, George. One of those considerations, perhaps, he's not thinking about right now is the sanctions bill that emerged out of the Senate on Friday, with bipartisan support, with three senators from the Democrats and three from the Republican side, including Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee.

There's uncertainty because of the sanctions emerging from the Senate. It put some pressure on the stock market today in Riyadh. They trade on Sunday. And the stock market is down about 1.5 percent. Where we had the height of the murder investigation with Jamal Khashoggi, you see the stock market making swings of 1.5 percent to 4 percent.

This is a selloff; not radical but it goes to show you that they're listening very carefully at what's being discussed in Washington and what's coming out of the president's mouth.

HOWELL: Well, that is important to point out, because these sanctions certainly complicate things for the president's desire to continue that relationship.

It's so good to have you on, John, to talk about this, because, with regards to Saudi Arabia, there are many lanes in play, certainly the investigation around Jamal Khashoggi but also the issue of oil production.

Mr. Trump has been challenging Saudi in the last week not to cut oil production. His view is that lower oil prices are a good thing. The Saudis, though, they disagree about that.

DEFTERIOS: This is a dispute, George, that goes back to April, when the president was suggesting that Saudi Arabia and the other players within this OPEC -- or not OPEC apparatus, notably, Russia -- keep the markets supplied. They were expecting sanctions to knock out the exports of Iran. That was the pledge from the president to take the Iranian exports down to zero.

So Saudi Arabia, Russia obliged putting better than --


DEFTERIOS: -- 1 million barrels onto the market and, lo and behold, the president gave aid exemptions or waivers to Iran, allowing exports last temporarily to 1.4 million to 1.5 million barrels a day. So it went from $86 a barrel in early October, down to $66. This is the international benchmark. So a bear market.

So Donald Trump saying lower oil prices are good for United States economy. In Saudi Arabia, the minister told me at a panel here in Abu Dhabi last week, no, we need to take about 1 million barrels a day off the market to rebalance prices because they don't want them to spiral lower.

They also think for it's good for the United States to have this price around $60-$70 a barrel because it protects jobs in the energy belt, where there's 10 million jobs related to it. It's not something that the White House and Riyadh see eye to eye at

this point but President Trump with his Khashoggi investigation taking place, kind of thinks he has leverage over the Saudis to do what he asks at this point and oil is one of those issues.

HOWELL: John Defterios, following this story for us in Abu Dhabi, John, thank you.

Now we're following the latest on Brexit for you. Labour Party opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn saying if Prime Minister Theresa May's deal on Brexit comes before Parliament in its present form, Labour will vote against it. Mr. Corbyn saying he does not believe it will serve the interests of the country.

Corbyn also said holding a second referendum is an option for the future. For her part, the prime minister says Britain will leave the European Union as scheduled. She adds, so far, there are not enough letters of no confidence to trigger a Conservative Party vote on her leadership.

And in an interview a few moments ago, she was asked a very interesting question. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you ever thought at any stage about just giving up, what's the point of this?

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: No, I haven't. And of course, it's been a tough week. Actually, these negotiations have been tough right from the start but they were always going to get even more difficult right towards the end, when we're coming to that conclusion.

But what I think is, this isn't about me. It's actually what's right for the people of this country. It's about what's in the national interest. That's what drives me.


HOWELL: Again, we see prime minister Theresa May, making the rounds, a media blitz, selling and getting support for this Brexit deal.

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a challenge to his leadership. What to expect from a snap election in a live report from Jerusalem as CNN NEWSROOM continues.





HOWELL: Time could be running outside for the government of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His coalition is collapsing, following the latest Gaza cease-fire. The defense minister there has resigned and there are calls now for an early election. A source telling CNN a date for the snap vote could soon be decided.

We're also expecting to hear shortly from prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is supposed to meet with his finance minister in a last-ditch effort to save government. CNN's Oren Liebermann following the story live in Jerusalem.

Oren, what is the likelihood of the prime minister saving his coalition?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It seems very unlikely at the moment, but you can't rule it out; Netanyahu still has a bit of time here, he's meeting with his finance minister later tonight.

So there are about six hours until that meeting. And you can't rule it out just yet. He has some room to maneuver here. But there are a lot of demands on his government. Following the resignation of the defense minister last week, the hardline education minister has demanded the defense portfolio or said he'll withdraw from the government.

That would topple Netanyahu's government. Meanwhile, the finance minister and the interior minister have called for early elections so the pressure is there and in this weakened position, other parties in Netanyahu's coalition can make demands of him. And that's what we're seeing now.

Can Netanyahu manage those demands?

That's about what we're going to find out, George.

HOWELL: Good question, Oren, can Netanyahu continue on as prime minister?

LIEBERMANN: All the polls in recent months have shown his Likud Party not only holding onto its power, which is 30 out of 120 seats, a quarter of Israel's parliament, but also growing that number of seats in the next election, even as the prime minister is under criminal investigation.

That seems to have only made him more popular with his base and strengthened his support. In fact, two members of the coalition just a couple of days ago said that Benjamin Netanyahu is the next prime minister.

The question, what will his coalition be and who will be in it?

Will is be another right wing coalition?

It could end up being the exact same parties if it does go to re- election, just a reshuffling of cabinets positions and a calming of the coalition.

Or Netanyahu could choose a unity government; he could move the coalition more towards the center. As of right now, it's basically up to Netanyahu what he chooses to do.

George, there are possibilities and wildcards I would call them that could change the outcome of the election, whether it's the investigations against him, which are expected to come that soon, or a couple of other parties that are expected to enter the race, how they shift things here.

But the smart money now is on Netanyahu because of how strongly his party has been polling.

HOWELL: Oren, one other question here, with regards to Hamas, where does that factor into this pressure on the prime minister?

LIEBERMANN: Hamas is known to be a factor in the next election. Hamas claimed victory when the defense minister resigned, saying it was their pressure that forced him to resign.

And if the government collapses in the next couple of days, Hamas will claim victory for that as well. Suddenly Hamas becomes a factor; Gaza becomes a factor in the elections, which it really wasn't in the last elections in late 2014 and early 2015.

Because this is a right-wing government there will be sort of a race to the Right in terms of harsh language against Hamas. And if we see another escalation like we did last week, it could be the response against Hamas, delivering a tougher blow to Hamas. So they will very much be a factor in this election.

And I have no doubt, George, they will claim victory if this government collapses.

HOWELL: Oren Liebermann, live for us, thank you.

"Saturday Night Live's" special message from Amazon's CEO. The comedy show's thinly veiled mockery of the U.S. president and his feud with Jeff Bezos. We'll have that story. Stay with us.






HOWELL: The American sketch comedy show, "Saturday Night Live," took on President Trump's long-standing feud with the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos. This week's host, Steve Carell, played Bezos and in the parody, he trolled Donald Trump with the introduction of a new Amazon delivery option and explained why Amazon chose Arlington, Virginia, and Queens, New York, as the locations for the company's next HQ2.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE CARELL, ACTOR, "JEFF BEZOS": I'm here to announce a brand new delivery option that doesn't involve the post office at all. Amazon Caravan. Any package going to any Trump building will get delivered by hundreds of Honduran and Mexican immigrants.

And I want to make sure to give back to the new communities who are joining. That's why I'm purchasing a building in Queens that used to be the crown Jewel of Fred Trump's real estate empire and converting it into public urinals.

In Virginia, we'll be very close to Arlington National Cemetery, so we can pay our respects to fallen veterans, even when it's raining outside.


HOWELL: The former vice president Joe Biden is welcoming a new addition to his family. Take a look here at Major. Mr. Biden and his wife adopted the German shepherd this weekend from a Delaware animal shelter. Major came from a litter of surrendered puppies and wasn't expected to make it.

But the Bidens fostered him to good health and decided that they just couldn't let him go.

We end the show this hour with a very happy birthday to one iconic mouse, Mickey mouse, now 90 years old. The beloved cartoon character dreamed up by Walt Disney made his debut --


HOWELL: -- on November 18th, 1928. He became a symbol of global entertainment empires.

The TV show in the United States, "The Mickey Mouse Club," was a big hit in the 1950s. You can find Mickey Mouse images on everything from T-shirts to lunch boxes, watches and those mouse ears on kids, that kids always wear at the Disney theme parks.

Walt Disney reportedly wanted to call him Mortimer Mouse until his wife said she preferred the name Mickey better. And a missing cartoon which predates Mickey Mouse turned up in Japan, a short from 1928 features the character of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

A Japanese anime researcher realized he had a copy of the film when he read a book about it. He contacted Disney to say that he purchased the film when he was in high school 70 years ago. Wow.

Thank you for being with us for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN news center in Atlanta. For viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is ahead. Thank you for watching CNN, the world's news leader.