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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

IDF: Military Reached Heart Of Gaza City "Much Earlier Than Hamas Expected"; Hostage Families Confront Israeli Government; Trump Legal Team Fights Gag Order In Election Subversion Case; Biden On Instagram Jokes About Celebrating His "146th Birthday"; Young Voters In Michigan On Biden, Israel-Hamas War; CNN Speaks To 22-Year-Old Suing Elon Musk After The Tech Mogul Amplified A Baseless Conspiracy Theory About Him; Fears Grow In Iceland As Officials Warn Probability Of Volcanic Eruption Is Still High. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired November 20, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Zuckerberg-controlled platform added credibility. Accounts for the president, first lady, vice president, second gentleman have also all been created on threads.

We will have a special report tomorrow on the US government's relationship with Elon Musk and his companies like the Pentagon's $70 million deal with SpaceX for Starshield, which is a communication system based on the Starlink system of satellites that's been so crucial in Ukraine. So should the administration be putting their money where their mouth is? That's a special report coming up tomorrow.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight. It's time now for "AC 360."


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Tonight on "360," Israeli hostage families in angry confrontations with the government that some of them say is putting killing the enemy ahead of saving Israelis.

Also, with their client on the attack, lawyers for Donald Trump today trying to convince an appeals court that what he is saying about Special Counsel Jack Smith and the January 6th case against him -- and it's a lot -- is protected by the First Amendment.

Plus, the literally earth-shaking developments in Iceland in the shadow of a volcano that could be getting ready to blow.

Good evening everyone, John Berman here, in for Anderson. We begin with Israel's war on Hamas, the many pieces of it now in play and the one question that six weeks of fighting has yet to answer, namely, how a sometimes-divided democracy should fight a ruthless enemy, which hides among Palestinian non-combatants and holds hundreds of Israeli non-combatants captive.

Today, an Israeli military spokesman said troops reached the heart of Gaza City, quote, "much earlier than Hamas expected" and are engaging Hamas gunmen elsewhere in northern Gaza. In Washington, National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby said negotiators are, quote, "getting close to the end," unquote, in talks on freeing a number of hostages. He did not specify, though, what that number might be, nor would he comment on this CCTV video, which is rereleased, reportedly showing hostages being moved through Gaza City's Al-Shifa Hospital on October 7th.

Separately, the World Health Organization today gave an update on the neonatal babies from Al-Shifa who have been evacuated to Egypt by way of the Rafah crossing in southern Gentleman. According to the WHO, 28 are now in Egypt. Three others were reunited with families and remain inside Gaza, and two others died in Gaza over the weekend.

Also, today in Israel, hostage families did what some have been wanting to do for weeks now, namely, ask top members of their government tough questions with the lives of their loved ones at stake. Let's get more on that now from CNN's Oren Liebermann.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Gili Roman waited 45 days for this moment. His sister, Yarden, has been a hostage in Gaza since October 7th. And this is the first chance for the families of the hostages to meet with the war cabinet.

GILI ROMAN, SISTER HELD HOSTAGE IN GAZA: I do expect them to be transparent as much as possible about what can be done, okay? We all want to see everybody back today.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE speaking in foreign language.)

LIEBERMANN (voice over): Frustration boiling over after six weeks and two days of questions.

SHAI WENKERT, SON HELD IN GAZA (through translator): It's something very hard, very embarrassing that I have to stand here facing so many cameras and I have to go to a meeting in order to hear answers.

LIEBERMANN (voice over): But as the meeting was set to start, not all of the families were allowed in.

(DANNY ELGARAT speaking in foreign language.)

DANNY ELGARAT, BROTHER OF HOSTAGE ITZIK ELGARAT (through translator): In Gaza, there is enough room for the 240 who were kidnapped. And in the defense ministry, there isn't room for 130 families?

LIEBERMANN (voice over): For weeks, some families have slept outside the defense ministry to remind the war cabinet inside that they will not leave and they will not let up.

From Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, they marched to Jerusalem, picking up thousands of supporters along the five-day march to the prime minister's office, a public pressure campaign to force a meeting with Israel's leadership.

Adriana Adri's mother-in-law was a hostage in Gaza.

ADRIANA ADRI, RELATIVE OF HOSTAGE HELD IN GAZA: We don't have time. We don't have one hour more. We don't know if she is alive.

LIEBERMANN (voice over): The Israeli military says at least two hostages were found dead in the enclave -- 65-year-old grandmother Yehudit Waiss and 19-year-old Corporal Noa Marciano.

Now, some families have their own fight. Far-right Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir is trying to push a death penalty for terrorists through the Knesset, which the families say endangers their loved ones in Hamas captivity. Hen Avigdori's wife and daughter were taken on October 7th.

(HEN AVIGDORI speaking in foreign language.)

HEN AVIGDORI, (through translator): Maybe instead of talking about the dead, talk about the living. Stop talking about killing Arabs. Talk about saving Jews. This is your job.


BERMAN: And Oren Liebermann joins us now. Oren, did the families give you any sense of whether they think the IDF military campaign is helping or hurting their chances of getting their loved ones back?


LIEBERMANN: Well, the families who met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the other members of the war cabinet, several hours ago, had quite a few hours with them. But one of those whom we spoke with said they left disappointed -- very disappointed, in fact. They were looking for new information and they simply didn't get it.

One of the more disappointing and aggravating things they heard, according to this member, was that they wanted to press the government on whether bringing the hostages back was their number one priority. And they simply didn't hear that.

They wanted to hear that, above all else, the government was focused on making an exchange, a deal, an arrangement to bring back Israeli hostages. And instead, they heard that, although it's important, it is not more important necessarily than defeating Hamas. And that's what worries them, especially as the IDF says Israeli hostages have already been found dead in Gaza.

BERMAN: All right. Oren Liebermann for us tonight in Tel Aviv. Oren, thank you very much.

More now on the hostage talks and how the Biden administration sees them progressing. CNN's MJ Lee is at the White House for us tonight.

MJ, what is the latest you're hearing about the negotiations?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we are sensing a new level of optimism that an agreement may be near and may even be days away from being announced. Of course, the big caveat here is that we have been covering these negotiations for weeks now, and we have heard at various other points that a deal may be close to being announced.

But the recording from myself and our colleague, Alex Marquardt, is that according to a draft of a potential agreement, what would happen is that Hamas would release 50 hostages in exchange for Israel pausing the fighting for four to five days.

Now, the gaps between the parties, we are told, are beginning to close, though there have been deliberations, ongoing deliberations, about how exactly such a deal might be implemented and some questions about the humanitarian aid that Hamas has been demanding from the beginning by the hundreds of truckloads. This is something that is continuing to be deliberated, we are told.

Now, we have seen, and the White House has said, that they are really working around the clock to try to get to an agreement. We've seen, for example, Brett McGurk, who is the White House Middle East Coordinator, really hopscotching the region in the last couple of days. CIA Director Bill Burns has also been closely engaged.

But I think, John, all parties would agree that there isn't a deal until a deal is announced and really, until these hostages are physically out of Gaza.

BERMAN: And, MJ, I know you pressed John Kirby of the National Security Council, the spokesman, about the Americans being held hostage. What did he tell you?

LEE: Yes. You know, the White House has been saying for a number of weeks now that they do believe that Americans are among the hostages in Gaza. But officials have been very clear all along that ascertaining any kind of information about the hostages, their condition, their whereabouts, has been incredibly challenging.

And the information I tried to get from John Kirby today was whether, if there is such a deal that is announced in the coming days, what that might mean for the Americans that are missing. Here's that exchange.


LEE (on camera): Okay. On the hostages, if women and children end up being released first, which is what it sounds like the situation is probably heading toward, does the US have any sense of how many in that mix might be American citizens?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: I don't want to get ahead of where we are, MJ. And, I mean, I know that everybody's interested in the numbers and who they're going to be. We're working that through literally in real-time with both sides. So I think it's better if I just don't speculate about what that pool is going to look like.

Obviously, we are laser-focused on the American citizens that we know are being held hostage, and we want them out. All of them, everybody should be out now. But here we are in a negotiation.

And we're getting closer to the end, we believe, of that negotiation. So, again, I'm going to be careful.

LEE (on camera): Are any of the potential American hostages -- is there confidence that they are alive? I know that you've addressed the lack of proof of life videos and such in the past, but ...

KIRBY: I would say we have no indication otherwise.


LEE: And, John, just in terms of how tenuous these negotiations have been, sources told me and Alex that, in recent days, Hamas had actually gone dark and put the negotiations on hold. One of their many objections apparently was Israel's raid of Al-Shifa Hospital.

Obviously, the negotiations did eventually resume. But just an illustration of how incredibly challenging it has been to negotiate with Hamas about these hostages -- John.

BERMAN: MJ Lee at the White House, thank you very much.

With me here tonight, Michael Oren, Israel's former ambassador to the United States. Ambassador, thanks so much for being with us.

The deal that they're discussing, the parameters seem to be a four or five-day pause in the fighting for the release of 50 hostages. What do you see as the risk reward there?

MICHAEL OREN, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, MJ is absolutely right. You don't have an agreement with Hamas. And even if you have an agreement, you don't have an agreement because they don't negotiate in good faith.


They'll say 50 hostages, then they'll come out with 40 hostages. And if it's a four-day ceasefire, you get to the fourth day and you only have 20 hostage and they'll say, oh, we want another ceasefire.

They've broken every ceasefire in the past. They've never kept a ceasefire. So it's very difficult to negotiate with someone who's, like, moving that football constantly.

They're -- these are a bunch of -- these are violent thugs. And the -- meanwhile, you're going to get bodies showing up, like these two women who were executed. According to our forensic scientist, they were executed. They didn't die in captivity. They were shot.

And my sources tell me that Hamas won't release women who have been raped, and a great number have been raped. They don't want to come out and say how they are raped. So who knows what these poor women went through?

So you're going to have that, you know, the equivalent of a mafia person or somebody who -- a criminal sending a piece of a kidnapped person back that's going to be doing in order to ramp up all the time, the pressure for a prolonged and open-ended ceasefire because that's what they want.

It gets a ceasefire, that means Hamas wins. It gets away with mass murder ...

BERMAN: Even four or five days?

OREN: What are they going to do in the four to five days? They're going to rearm. They're going to reequip. They're going to booby trap everything so that when the army starts again ...

BERMAN: Rearm from where?

OREN: Oh, they have plenty of arms. They have to bring it from different places. And it's where going to cost us in terms of our soldiers' lives.

So here, you know, we're talking about history before -- Middle Eastern history. In history, I don't know a decision that's as difficult as this one that can be made by any government ever. All right? You have to take a hostage life versus a soldier's life. In many cases, they're the same age.

And then you're going to get to questions about, okay, 50 hostages get out. The families of the hostages that didn't get out are going to start increasing pressure on the Israeli government for a ceasefire. It's always going to be about the ceasefire because that's what Hamas needs in order to survive.

BERMAN: We were watching -- I had the opportunity to sit next to you while we were watching Oren Liebermann's piece of those frustrated, hurt, devastated families.

OREN: Soul crushing, soul crushing. (Inaudible) ...

BERMAN: You understand their frustration.

OREN: ... 240 people, these are children. These are old people. These are infirm people.

BERMAN: But these are (inaudible) with the Israeli government. They say the Israeli government is not doing enough.

OREN: Well, I think there's an impossible situation here. What does enough mean? If you put pressure on Hamas -- notice the Hamas wasn't willing to negotiate at all before Israel went out on the ground.

Now that Israel is getting closer, all right, then Hamas says, oh, well, maybe we're willing to talk. Well, if this what gets closer and closer and closes that noose on Hamas, the terms will get better. But keep in mind, these are the people not negotiating in good faith. They will always break the ceasefire and they'll break the terms.

BERMAN: I want to ask you about the CCTV video the IDF released over the last several days, which Israel shows two hostages inside the Al- Shifa Hospital. If this video shows what Israel says it shows, two hostages there, how many people do you think must have known that they were there between hospital staff, doctors, the security who had access to the CCTV video before presumably Israel did, perhaps international organizations that operate in and around Al-Shifa.

OREN: Well, it's not that Israel claims that this video shows the hostages being in, it's a Palestinian video. So it's not Israel's video, it's the Palestinian. It's a hospital video.

And, of course, everyone -- if you see in the video, everyone is just walking around watching this hostage being taken in. And there's guns and rockets throughout the hospital. There's a huge shaft under the hospital.

To say that nobody in the hospital knew what was going on is ludicrous. Of course, they knew what was going on, but they're afraid.

Remember, Hamas kills Palestinians, too. The head of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar, got his fame by killing what he called collaborators. So they live in fear, we can understand that, but you can't reasonably assume that they did not know what was going on in that hospital.

BERMAN: The IDF, over the weekend, said that they will continue their operations into the south -- follow Hamas into Southern Gaza. Southern Gaza is where Israel has told people to go inside Gaza. So what happens to the tens of thousands of people who have gone where Israel has told them to go if the IDF moves in there?

OREN: Which is why Hamas is moving to the south, too. Again, it wants to use this population as a human shield wherever it goes because remember, it wants a ceasefire. How does it get a ceasefire? By getting Israel to kill, inadvertently, Palestinians. That increases international pressure on Israel.

So Israel -- to make the ceasefire. Israel is going to do its utmost to limit that number in order to be able to keep fighting Hamas. So you see how difficult ...

BERMAN: Right.

OREN: ... this dynamic is. It's extremely difficult.

So Israel will continue to do its best to warn Palestinian populations if there's going to be an imminent attack and by leafleting, and sending text messages, and other methods to try to get them to move. And as they move, Hamas is going to keep on using them as shields.

Isn't that awful? This is the horrible reality of this war, and it's just in our -- no, it's not just a story. I'm a dad and a grandad, and it's just heartbreaking, the whole thing.

BERMAN: Ambassador Michael Oren, we appreciate you being here tonight.

OREN: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Thank you very much. Have a happy thanksgiving.

[20:15:01] OREN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Next, the gag order aimed at keeping the former president from attacking the court and intimidating witnesses against him versus the First Amendment rights we all enjoy, what his lawyers and Jack Smith's team said about it today, and what a federal appeals court panel made of it, and all the politics surrounding it.

Later, what voters in the key swing state of Michigan make of President Biden now and the impact it could have a year from now at the polls.


BERMAN: No offers yet tonight from the former president. Today, in an appeal almost certainly headed for the Supreme Court, his lawyers argued that the gag order forbidding him from publicly maligning prosecutor's court employees and potential witnesses in the federal January 6th case infringes on his First Amendment rights and, by extension, his campaign. The DC circuit appeals court judges, one Biden and two Obama appointees, were skeptical.


D. JOHN SAUER, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Criminal speech, obviously, is subject to the restrictions.


SAUER: But core political speech, that's part of campaign speech that raises (inaudible) ...

MILLETT: I don't know if that -- I don't -- I think that -- kind of calling, labeling it "core political speech" begs the question of whether it is, in fact, political speech or whether it is political speech aimed at derailing or corrupting the criminal justice process."



BERMAN: Perspective now from CNN Legal Analyst Karen Freeman Agnifilo and CNN's Senior Political Commentator and Former Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger.

Karen, let me start with you. Because the appeals court signaled that they're considering narrowing this gag order some to allow Trump to talk some about the Special Counsel Jack Smith and his legal team. I want to play a little bit more of what they said.


MILLETT: He has to speak Ms. Manners while everyone else is throwing targets at him.

JUDGE PATRICIA PILLARD, DC CIRCUIT COURT: Well, and it can't be that he can't mention Mr. Smith. Surely, he has a thick enough skin. He's on this team.


BERMAN: All right. So why include Jack Smith in the permissible attack column?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think they think it's fair game because this is a political campaign, where one of the fair things that the opponents will say is the fact that he's being prosecuted, he's accused of all these things. And so he should be able to respond to that, so he says, and call this a political prosecution.

But I think death threats, which is what happens when he says things about Jack Smith or Jack Smith's family, et cetera, I think that takes it a bridge too far. And that's what was going on today with the appeals court was, do we have to wait for something to happen before we limit it or can we limit it in advance because there have been so many threats to anyone who he targets and puts out there? And there's so much evidence of that in the record.

BERMAN: Do you think it will be a mistake to allow Jack Smith to be one of those people he can go after?

AGNIFILO: Look, again, being -- having death threats ...


AGNIFILO: ... and having people come and threaten you is terrifying, whether you're a prosecutor or not. So if it was just speech, I think, yes, Jack Smith has thick skin. He can take it. He's not going to do anything differently. But when people show up at your house or you're getting phone calls or things happen to your kids or your family, I think that's a bridge too far.

BERMAN: Congressman, you've dealt with Donald Trump in different ways for a long time. To what extent is this something of a win-win for him? Either he is permitted to say more things, in which case, you know he will or the court imposes some kind of gag order here, in which case he will say that he is being silenced here and he'll send out campaign fundraising notes, which he already is. So is this a win- win?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, kind of in a way. I mean, look, he's a professional victim. He's the best at being a victim of anybody I've ever met. From being the most powerful man in the world at one point, he was the victim of everything that ever came his way. And so outside of -- you know, on the political side of things, maybe people should think, if he truly is a victim, maybe he's not the strongest person to be president of the United States.

But yes, I do think it's a win-win, but I also agree with Karen. The difference here is this. Donald Trump has a tendency. He's very good at saying things in a way that, like, when people hear it, they know he kind of means something else, but he can get away with not saying it. Like, oh, I'm not saying to go attack them, right, you know? And so this is kind of the danger in it. And I can tell you from being in Congress and having my conversations

with people, through all the years of Donald Trump, kind of peel back the curtain here a little bit. When he says something, so if he goes after Jack Smith or says something personal, whatever it is, that gives license to every other member of Congress, every other political leader to then turn around and do the same thing.

So it's not just Donald Trump putting something on his fake Twitter, it's -- it now gives credit and permission to every other Republican to say the same thing. And when -- as you saw with Dr. Anthony Fauci, for instance, right, people disagreed with his COVID policies. Fine, you can disagree with them, but he's gotten a lot of death threats. And Donald Trump may have never called out -- come out and said, you know, go after Dr. Fauci physically, but his words have that impact on millions of people.

BERMAN: So, Karen, if the gentleman -- if a gag order goes back in place, which it seems likely some kind of gag order will go in place, what does Judge Tanya Chutkan do -- she is the lawyer -- the judge overseeing this case -- if he violates it? What can she do?

AGNIFILO: So she could do lots of different things. There can be fines or -- but if there's going to be some kind of putting him in jail as a consequence, which can be that way, in federal court, they'd have to bring a new action that would trigger a whole new trial, if you will, on whether or not he actually did violate it.

So she can do lots of things. She can fine him. She can sanction him. She can admonish him. But ultimately, she won't do this, I think, at first, but if he keeps continuously violating and I think potentially there would be this new contempt action.

BERMAN: Karen Agnifilo, Adam Kinzinger, thanks to both of you. Have a great thanksgiving.


BERMAN: Next, why the former president had reason to celebrate his 81st birthday today. In fact, why the current president had reason to celebrate his 81st birthday today, and the joke he just made about it. Although why new polling shows it's not so funny and what some key swing state voters make of it.


John King stops in with the latest installment of his 360 series all over the map.

And later, Iceland on edge after numerous earthquakes signal a possibility of a major volcano eruption. Our Fred Pleitgen is there with the latest.


BERMAN: President Biden turned 81 today. He made a few jokes about his age during the annual thanksgiving turkey pardon. And late tonight, this picture was posted on the president's Instagram account. It's a birthday cake ablaze with candles. The comment reads, "Thanks for the birthday well wishes today, everyone. Turns out on your 146th birthday you run out of space for candles."

The White House tonight leaning into what is considered one of Biden's biggest political liabilities, his age. Right now, he is showing poorly in the polls, particularly among younger voters. They backed him in 2020 by about 20 points.

Polls now show that support collapsing. A new one from NBC shows the former president, Donald Trump leading President Biden 46% to 42% among 18 to 34-year-olds.

What's more, 70% of young voters disapprove of Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war. The White House press secretary was asked about that disapproval today by our MJ Lee. This is what she said.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: But what I'll be very clear about is we're going to not going to govern by polls here. We're going to -- or poll numbers. We're going to focus on delivering for the American people. That's going to be our focus.


BERMAN: The war and young voters are the focus of John King's latest installment of the series for "360" all over the map. The series tracks the presidential campaign through the eyes and experiences of voters who live in key battleground states, tonight, Michigan. And John King joins me here now. So, John, what did you find out this time?


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, imagine you're back in college. You're 18, you're 19, you're 20. 81 seems pretty old and they, it's not just the number. They think he's just far away from them on the issues. They think he doesn't understand their issues. Even though he's tried to do some things on college debt, they think they don't get it.

So age was an issue anyway with this bedrock piece of the Biden coalition. And now, John, when you go to campus, you see the protests about the Israel-Hamas war. On both sides, people raise questions about how the President's handling it.


KING (voice-over): Midterms are done. Finals just ahead. There is a rhythm to life on campus. And this fall, a raw divide.


KING (voice-over): Maya Siegmann is a sophomore at Wayne State in Michigan. Studying social work. Chatting with friends here at the Jewish campus organization Hillel.

(on-camera): For Hillel, there's a police officer down the hall. That's not normal.

SIEGMANN: It is now.

KING (voice-over): Siegmann traveled to Washington last week to join thousands in support of Israel. Now, back on a campus divided.

SIEGMANN: The division is very clear. The tension on campus is very high.

KING (voice-over): Wayne State spans 200 acres in downtown Detroit. Ibrahim Ghazal among the 24,000 students.


KING (voice-over): Ghazal calls antisemitism horrible and disgusting.

(on-camera): Do you feel the flip side of it?

GHAZAL: In terms of Islamophobia?

KING (on-camera): Yes. More Islamophobia, people just saying hurtful things.

GHAZAL: Of course. I think it's disgusting that standing up for children dying and women dying and civilian infrastructure being destroyed, is being compared to supporting Hamas. I mean, holding up a Palestinian flag does not support Hamas. Hamas has their own flag. Nobody's carrying their flag.

KING (voice-over): This coffee shop is in Dearborn, where about half of the residents are of Arab ancestry. Ghazal and his friends say a president they supported in 2020 is now greenlighting an Israeli response they see as indiscriminate.

GHAZAL: And I don't think our country should fund that type of reaction.

KING (on-camera): Do you feel this way?

GHAZAL: To an extent, yes. I feel as though President Biden doesn't value my life as a Muslim-American, as much as he values other lives.

KING (voice-over): Young voters were a giant part of the Biden 2020 coalition. And this urban campus tilts deep blue.

(on-camera): If it's Biden-Trump next November, you would?


KING (voice-over): Summer Matkin is just 18. A theater major, an e- sports enthusiast and an LGBTQ. voter who wishes President Biden would yield to someone younger.

MATKIN: I think that weird generational gap is something that is very, very hard for young people. So when there's certain things that we want to be heard as young people, you know, with not only, you know, the conflict out with Israeli and Palestine people, but we also have like student loan forgiveness and all of these different financial problems that aren't being handled when they are very much capable of being handled.

KING (voice-over): Matkin isn't ruling out voting third party, but --

MATKIN: It feels like a weird kind of throwaway vote.

KING (voice-over): Joseph Fisher used to think that way. But right now, he favors a socialist party. In 2020, Fisher was just 17. But he helped the ACLU register voters back home in Georgia.

(on-camera): So you helped Joe Biden get elected?


KING (on-camera): What about 2024?

FISHER: I will not vote for Joe Biden. Not this time.

KING (voice-over): This is Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan, students writing the names of Palestinians killed in Gaza.

FISHER: One of our demands that we're pressuring admin for right now is complete divestment from the State of Israel.

KING (on-camera): You say genocide?

FISHER: Yes, I do say.

KING (on-camera): The Prime Minister of Israel or the President of the United States would say response to terrorism.

FISHER: Absolutely. It's absolutely essential that we call it for what it is, a genocide, and also say that it doesn't start on October 7th. It started in 1948 with the creation of the settler colonial state of Israel.

KING (voice-over): Some Jewish students say talk like that, beliefs like that, are stoking an alarming rise in antisemitism.

SIEGMANN: I wish it wasn't like this, but this is, well, we live right now.

KING (voice-over): 50,000 students here in Ann Arbor and interest in the college Democrats is up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've had 50, 40, 30 consistently for meetings. And --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the past it has been closer to maybe 10, 15, 20.

KING (voice-over): Seniors and co-presidents of the college Democrats, Anushka Chalasatky (ph) and Jade Gray (ph) helped generate big turnout here in 2020 and again in 2022. They have weekly meetings now to plan 2024.

(on-camera): Should we have somebody younger? Does that come up much?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely, it comes up. And I think that that's a, you know, it's a real point to make. It's a real conversation to be had.

KING (voice-over): The immediate challenge, though, is seeing students who agree on things like abortion rights and defending democracy at odds over the Israel-Hamas crisis and President Biden's response.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, Mr. President, I've seen you take key humanitarian steps, but I think the next step is a ceasefire. And I think that that would go a long way with voters.


(on-camera): We don't know what's going to happen, you know, next week or next month. But at the -- if the election were tomorrow, do you think that it is more likely some of your members would sit out or look for another option, third party, because they're mad at the President about this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of them, yes, they have shared with us that maybe this is making me reconsider.

KING (on-camera): Is it fair to say you're glad the election's not tomorrow?



BERMAN: So, John, we saw in the latest poll where former President Donald Trump is now ahead of President Biden with younger voters. Where does that fit with the data you're seeing?

KING: We didn't see, John, either at Wayne State, which is a very -- remember, in downtown Detroit, a blue campus, or even at Ann Arbor, a rush to Trump, but you do see a lot of hesitation about the president. So let me just bring up those numbers as we go through and you'll see the Michigan map here from 2020.

Here's that new national poll you talked about. One key distinction I want to make. NBC polled voters ages 18 to 34. In the exit polls, it's 18 to 29. We do know as voters start to get older, they're more likely. They're not rushing to the Republicans, but they're more likely. So, but still, if you look at this, and then if you go back and look nationally at 2016 versus 2020, President Trump got 36 percent of 18 to 29. He got 36 percent again in 2020. Both in 2016 and 20, President getting 36. So if he's above 40, that's a big gain for President Trump. So what is the issue? Look at President Biden. He got 60 percent in 2020 to 55 percent for Hillary Clinton. It was a key piece of the Biden coalition. And John, when you ask voters on campus, number one, the age. They see the president, they don't see him enough.

And so they think, wow, he's doesn't understand us. He doesn't get us. Those college Democrat presidents, they were trying to deal with that issue, saying, you're not just voting for the president, you're voting for who we puts on the Supreme Court. You're voting for abortion rights. You're voting to protect democracy.

They were just trying to start that conversation on campus. And then October 7th happened. And you see this divide on campus where the Jewish students say they feel afraid, and the progressive students saying the President should call for a ceasefire. They say if he doesn't, they might not vote at all, or they might go third party. And if you look how close Michigan is, that would be a problem.

BERMAN: And again, the Biden reelect campaign certainly knows all this. It'll be interesting to see how they choose to address it over the coming weeks and months.

John King, great to have you. Thank you so much.

KING: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, coming up, the latest twist in Elon Musk's endorsement of that antisemitic post on his social network. That and new details on a recent college grad taking on Musk after finding himself at the center of a far-right conspiracy theory that he says Musk amplified.



BERMAN: So Elon Musk defended himself this weekend without addressing the cause of his latest controversy, agreeing with an antisemitic post on his social media platform, X. Last week, Musk endorsed the claim that Jewish communities push, quote, "hatred against whites", writing in response, quote, "you have said the actual truth".

His statement prompted several large companies to pull ads from the platform that includes Disney, Comcast, and CNN's parent, Warner Brothers Discovery. On Sunday, Musk did not directly address what he posted, rather he wrote that there were hundreds of bogus media stories claiming he is antisemitic and that quote, "Nothing could be further from the truth".

Tonight we also learn that he is suing a progressive watchdog group Media Matters over analysis highlighting what they say is antisemitic content on X, once known as Twitter. As that continues to play out, Musk is facing a different battle, and he's facing a lawsuit that you may not have heard about.

It centers on a 22-year-old boy named -- 22 year old, I should say, named Ben Brody, who says his life was turned upside down by a conspiracy theory amplified by Musk on Twitter, which is what it was called at the time. Brody has never told his story on camera until he agreed to talk with our Donie O'Sullivan. This is the exclusive report.


BEN BRODY, SUING ELON MUSK FOR DEFAMATION: I was just, oh my god, is this for real?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 22-year-old Ben Brody was at home in Riverside, California when --

BRODY: I started getting these text messages from my friends. You're accused of being a neo-Nazi fed, look at all this stuff that's being said about you. And I was like, OK, this is just some prank.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): But it wasn't a prank. A thousand miles away near Portland, Oregon, two far-right extremist groups had gotten into a fight while protesting against a Pride event. Ben Brody was not there, but online trolls tried to guess who was involved using a video of the crowd. They found random photos of Ben online.

BRODY: They said, oh, this person looks like him. He has to be this person. You know, there's no way it's not him. It was just like an assumption that just went wrong.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): A person in the video resembled Ben, but even though it definitely was not him, the trolls thought they had found their man. They pulled information from Ben's fraternity page which said, "After graduation he plans to work for the government", and turned that into a lie that he was a federal agent who was infiltrating the extremist group to make them look bad. A so-called false flag operation.

BRODY: Hey, what's up guys? My name is Ben Brody and I wanted to address the false accusations against me.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Desperate to clear his name, Ben made this video. He even posted timestamp surveillance footage showing him at a store in California at the same time the brawl was happening near Portland. But the false claims about Ben's involvement continued to spread. Even the owner of Twitter, now ex-Elon Musk, weighed in, posting to his millions of followers, "Looks like one is a college student who wants to join the government, and another is maybe an Antifa member, but nonetheless a probable false flag situation".

BRODY: I knew that this was snowballing, but once Elon Musk commented, I was like, boom, that's the final nail in the coffin.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): And how much did it intensify then after --

BRODY: Yes. O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): -- Musk's involvement.

BRODY: It massively intensifies it. This guy DM'd me on Instagram, he's like, now even Elon Musk thinks that you're a fed. And what was really scary too, is that these people were threatening to tell my school. And I was scared that I wasn't going to graduate.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Ben's friends and others tweeted at Musk, telling him the person in the video was not Ben.

MARK BANKSTON, BEN BRODY'S ATTORNEY: This case at its core is about Elon Musk being reckless in making an accusation about this young man.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Mark Bankston is Ben Brody's attorney and is suing Musk for defamation.

BANKSTON: Ben published a video online to try to clear his name. It didn't work. So there's this incredible feeling of helplessness that there's millions out there, millions who think that Ben was involved in neo-Nazi activities.

And that is how I know you lied to me.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Bankston is best known as the lawyer who successfully sued Alex Jones for the lies he spread about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Now he wants to hold Elon Musk accountable. Writing in the lawsuit, "Musk made these ridiculously false and damaging accusations against Ben Brody, and it has led to severe personal harassment and permanent damage to his reputation".

BANKSTON: How did we get to a place where somebody so powerful can make that kind of accusation based on something so flimsy from just anonymous people on the internet.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): His home address was posted online and he worries his name will forever be associated with neo-Nazism.

BRODY: Someone posted saying a Klansman lives here and they gave the address with a picture of my house and I was like terrified.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Ben who is Jewish says being called a neo- Nazi has been especially painful.

(on-camera): Did you think your life was ruined?

BRODY: Yes, completely. You know, if you just put in my name into the search bar, you know, neo-Nazi fed Ben Brody.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Ben is seeking damages in excess of $1 million, but both he and his lawyer say it's about a lot more than money.

BANKSTON: We have to change how we deal with information, how we spread information, and how we attempt to influence others. BRODY: The fact that this is happening to private people, that's just terrifying. And it's going to happen again, unless someone stands up to this guy.


BERMAN: And Donie is here with me now. So, has Elon Musk commented on this?

O'SULLIVAN: Elon Musk's lawyer this evening, Alex Spiro, tells us that they expect this case to be dismissed. They have until the 5th of January to make that case, essentially, to the court where this is filed in Texas.

Look, what is in this lawsuit is page after page after page of Ben Brody's lawyer, Mark Bankston, making the case essentially that Elon Musk has this tendency to engage and praise and amplify racist and oftentimes antisemitic conspiracy theories or engage with accounts that push those tropes as well.

Obviously that is something we expect that Musk's lawyers will contest in court. But as you can see there, Ben Brody's life just on -- as he was about to graduate -- was really turned upside down. You know, it's one thing to have trolls, anonymous trolls pushing this about you, but to have it kind of be egged on or engaged in some way by one of the world's richest men and the person who runs X, it's a whole different story.

BERMAN: Unreal. All right, Donie O'Sullivan, terrific report. Thank you very much.

Next, a live report from near a volcano in Iceland that could be on the brink of a major eruption.



BERMAN: Tonight, Iceland is on a high alert. Officials there warning there is a high probability of a volcanic eruption. More than 700 earthquakes were detected in the southwestern part of the country this morning, stoking fears an eruption may be imminent.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is near an evacuated town close to the mountain in question. Fred, scientists are obviously watching the situation very closely. What's the latest they're saying about when an eruption might happen?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they think that it certainly could be imminent, and you mentioned that number of 700 earthquakes in the past 24 hours. The interesting thing about that, John, is that that is actually fewer earthquakes than we have seen over the past couple of days. Where on some days, it was 2,000 earthquakes that happened in the single day.

However, the scientists say that that actually could be a sign of an imminent eruption because they believe that magma is rising to the top towards the earthquakes quickly, and that's why there's fewer earthquakes. But that magma, of course, could burst through at any time. Here's what we're learning.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): It's a race against time. Residents only have a few minutes to gather some items, then they have to get out of Grindavik fast. The town in southwestern Iceland is right in the path of a possible volcanic eruption.

(on-camera): You had to leave quickly or?


PLEITGEN (on-camera): What was that like?

PETERSON: I don't know. It was horrible.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The brute force of steam from a massive underground magma stream already bursting through the streets and homes here causing massive damage. Those rushing out understand their homes, their town, their community might soon be gone for good.

(on-camera): Are you hopeful about the situation that maybe the town will be spared if the big eruption happens?

ELIZABETH OLAFSDOTTIR, GRINDAVIK RESIDENT: Yes, yes, yes. Regarding our house, no, not really. Because the lava tunnel is laying very close to our house. So, I -- we are expecting to lose everything if it will erupt.

INGIIBJORN GRETARSDOTTIR, GRINDAVIK RESIDENT: I'm not sure about the town. It looks awful. It's very hard to go there and see everything.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Iceland is in what's called a hotspot, where magma often breaks through the Earth's crust and can result in massive eruptions. And what happens here can affect large parts of the globe. In 2010, ash spewed into the atmosphere by a volcano in Iceland brought transatlantic air travel to a virtual standstill for weeks.

Iceland's government says this time around, the effects could also be devastating, with a geothermal power plant that supplies energy to the main airport in harm's way.

(on-camera): The authorities here are highly concerned about the town of Grindavik, and, of course, has been evacuated a few days ago, but also about the geothermal power plant here in this area, and they are working 24/7 to try and dig a trench to redirect the lava if it comes to the surface.

(voice-over): Government experts acknowledge they're not certain the barrier would prevent lava from damaging the power plant. A geophysics team from the University of Iceland is flying research missions with drones inside the danger zone.


This eruption won't necessarily be the biggest, but one of the most dangerous, Professor Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson tells me.

MAGNUS TUMI GUDMUNDSSON, UNIVERSITY OF ICELAND: The real danger is that eruption may break out somewhat to the north and the lava may then reach the town in a day, two, three, four days. And this is a scenario that we have to take seriously.


PLEITGEN: So they are taking this very seriously. And, of course, the Icelanders who deal with situations of volcanic eruptions quite frequently, John, they have a lot of contingency plans that are going on. But they're all predicated on one thing, and that is that humans are no match for nature.

They understand that if thing -- this thing blows up, they might very well lose that town. That's why this whole area has been evacuated on a grand scale. They also understand they probably wouldn't be able to hold up the lava as far as the geothermal power plant is concerned, that's why they are trying to divert it again. They say an eruption could take place in a matter of days. John?

BERMAN: All right, Frederik Pleitgen in Iceland. Fred, stay safe.

Just ahead, a look at the ceremonies honoring the life of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who died over the weekend at the age of 96.


BERMAN: Next week, the nation will pay tribute to Rosalynn Carter, the former First Lady and wife of 77 years of former President Jimmy Carter, died over the weekend at 96. A week from today, there'll be a wreath laying ceremony at Georgia Southwestern State University, following that services at the Carter Presidential Library. And two days later, a funeral service for family and friends of the Baptist Church in Plains Georgia, where the former president currently in hospice care taught Sunday school for decades.

The news continues. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts now.