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Source Says, GOP Leadership Aiming to Release Bill Text Tomorrow as Spending Deadline Nears; Blinken Says, Far Too Many Palestinians Have Been Killed; Election Officials on Alert After Suspicious Letters. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 10, 2023 - 10:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: One week, a very new House speaker and a very divided Congress, a recipe for a perfect mess. That is what you are look at with a government -- with government funding about to run dry once again. The new reporting on what House Republicans might try to pull off.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And Secretary of State Antony Blinken offering his most direct rebuke of Israel's approach to its war with Hamas. He says, that far too many Palestinians have been killed and that Israel isn't doing enough to protect civilians.

BOLDUAN: Dangerous discoveries at a election offices across the country, suspicious letters addressed to public officials in a variety of states, at least one containing fentanyl. The investigation, the new heightened threat and what it means for 2024.

I'm Kate Bolduan with Omar Jimenez. John and Sara are off today. This is CNN News Central.

Let's begin this hour in Washington, where Congress now has one week to reach a deal and avert a government shutdown, another one. This is because they barely reached a deal the last time, which gave them -- they could only get it together to get the government funding for just 45 days.

This time, it is also a new House speaker that is now forced to navigate the choppy political waters that are not just between the Democrats and Republicans on any day, but also from within the House Republican conference as well, though a source is telling CNN that the House Republicans could release text for a potential funding bill as early as tomorrow.

Let's get back over to CNN's Lauren Fox who is on Capitol Hill. So, Lauren, will that funding bill have any legs and any chance of survival?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the key question, because we don't know what Speaker Johnson is actually going to release in that text, Kate. And that why it is such an anticipated move by House Republicans, because all week, we have been hearing from the conservatives who want this two-step approach with two various deadlines where the various agencies across the government would have their funding expire on different dates.

And yet you have some moderates and veteran appropriators who are arguing to leadership that the best course of action is to just live to fight another day, have another short-term spending patch while the Republicans try to unite around the remaining spending bills that they have to pass out of their own chamber and then have that showdown with the Senate in January.

But we just don't know which direction is Speaker Johnson going to go. Is he going to listen to advice of some veteran appropriators who have been through many of the showdowns before or is he going to cave on those on his far right who want to have as many fiscal fights as possible? And that is why so many people in Washington and not just House Republicans, but also the United States Senate, are watching Johnson's actions so closely.

Now, we may see text as soon as tomorrow, like you said.


Once that text is released, then lawmakers need at least 72 hours to review it. That means that they may not get to a vote until Tuesday or early next week at the soonest possible date. And that just doesn't leave a lot of time to negotiate with the United States Senate.

So, if he puts out a plan that conservatives like but the Senate doesn't like, that obviously sets up a showdown, raises the prospect of a government shutdown. If it is closer to a clean short-term spending bill, then you could see a scenario where the House and Senate can move very quickly and avoid that government shutdown date coming on November 17th. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Okay, you stay there. It's the only reason I ever feel safe. It's good to see you, Lauren. Thank you. Omar?

JIMENEZ: Well, Kate, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is making his most direct statement yet, condemning the civilian death toll in Gaza.

This morning, during a visit to India, Blinken said that far too many Palestinians have been killed during this conflict and that Israel isn't doing enough to keep them safe. These comments come just one day after Israel agreed to a humanitarian pause each day in Northern Gaza to allow people time to escape to the south.

Today's window closed about an hour ago and reports from the Israeli government show over 130,000 people have fled the north in the past 48 hours.

So, to talk about it all, let's go to CNN's Oren Liebermann, who is live in Tel Aviv for us. Oren, now, the U.S. is giving its full support to Israel here, but the secretary of state has been pretty critical here of what's happening in Gaza in particular. What are you learning on your end?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: One of the strongest statements we've seen yet come from a senior American official about what's happening in Gaza.

First, to be clear, President Joe Biden has said now is not the time for a ceasefire, and that is support for Israel's ongoing campaign in Gaza, to root out and destroy Hamas. But he also says he was pushing for humanitarian corridors and pauses over the course of the past several days, if not longer, and trying to make it happen, hoping it would have happened already.

But the U.S. certainly pleased with the fact that these humanitarian corridors are in place. They're announced every day by the Israeli military. We saw it open for six hours and thousands of Gazans fleeing the deepening and growing Israeli campaign in Northern Gaza, heading south at the same time.

The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health and the occupied West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in Gaza say more than 11,000 Palestinians have now been killed since October 7th. That as Gaza's hospitals are facing a growing crisis, and that prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to warn essentially of the situation there. Listen to this.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: These steps will save lives and will enable more assistance to get to Palestinians in need.

At the same time, much more needs to be done to protect civilians and to make sure that the humanitarian assistance reaches them. Far too many Palestinians have been killed. Far too many have suffered these past weeks. And we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them and to maximize the assistance that gets to them.


LIEBERMANN: Meanwhile, Israel says it has encircled Gaza City in Northern Gaza over the past several days and it's deepening its operation on the ground there as it goes after Hamas and tries to destroy Hamas' underground infrastructure.

JIMENEZ: Yes. Oren Liebermann, we'll see if language -- of course, it is the strongest we've seen from the secretary of state, we'll see if that type of language continues or if this is one that's a little out of the ordinary. I appreciate the reporting, as always. Kate?

BOLDUAN: And Blinken's comments, they come as heavy bombardment is being reported near four hospitals in Northern Gaza.

New video showing the moment an apparent strike hit near or at the Al- Shifa Hospital. There is also video of the aftermath of that apparent strike, though it is not known what hit the hospital, people seen bloodied and asking and begging for help in the aftermath. Explosions were also reported at two other hospitals in Northern Gaza. And what you're looking at there is what is outside, been seen outside the only children's hospital in Northern Gaza. The scene outside the windows there, a hospital now surrounded by Israeli tanks and an army closing in.

CNN's Nada Bashir is in Jerusalem for us with much more on everything. Nada, we now are getting new information about the strike at Al-Shifa Hospital. What are you learning?

NADA BASHIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: Well, look, Kate, we've been hearing the warnings for some time now from hospital officials on the ground, from medics on the ground, that these airstrikes or strikes are edging closer and closer to Gaza's hospitals.

Now, a spokesperson from the World Health Organization describing the Al-Shifa Hospital as coming under bombardment. We've heard those eyewitness accounts. And as you saw there, we have seen that dramatic footage coming out of what appears to be the outpatient center at the Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza's largest hospital.


Clearly, many people injured in this latest strike, witnesses on the ground accusing Israel of carrying out an airstrike on the vicinity of the Al-Shifa hospital. Though at this stage, the Israel Defense Forces has not responded to CNN's request for comment on this latest strike.

But, of course, as you mentioned this is not the only hospital that has seen strikes in its vicinity. We have seen, of course, two other hospitals, the Al-Awda Hospital, among them officials there saying that strikes targeted the vicinity of this hospital. At least ten people almost said to have been injured. Their damage is said to have been sustained to both hospital infrastructure and ambulances.

Meanwhile, officials at the Al-Nasr and the Al-Rantisi Pediatric Hospitals are appealing urgently for the Red Cross to facilitate evacuations from those hospitals. They say they are now completely surrounded. And, of course, the concern is that many patients, many medics, will not be able to evacuate these hospitals, of course, many patients desperately reliant on that urgent medical care. But, of course, we've also heard from doctors who have said they refuse to evacuate, to abandon patients there. And as we know, the vast majority of Gaza's hospitals are now completely out of service.

And as these airstrikes continue and as the siege continues what we are seeing is more and more hospitals coming under attack, more and more hospitals being thrown out of service and, of course the death toll steadily rising. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Nada Bashir, thank you very much, from Jerusalem. Omar?

JIMENEZ: Well, and we're also, of course, keeping an eye on strikes that have happened outside of just Israel and Gaza. We're learning of four new attacks on U.S. and coalition forces since U.S. strikes in Eastern Syria Wednesday. Now military officials say Wednesday's strike targeted a weapons storage facility used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and are very certain there were no civilian casualties.

So, let's turn to CNN's Natasha Bertrand, who joins us now. Natasha, look, there have been at least 46 attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Syria and Iraq since October 17th. Do we know if there have been any injuries at this point?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: There have been over 50 injuries. Over 50 U.S. service members have been injured in these attacks and roughly 25 of them have suffered traumatic brain injury from these attacks that have been launched by these Iran-backed proxy groups.

Since October 17th, there have been, as you said, 46 attacks in Iraq and Syria targeting U.S. and coalition bases there. And just hours after the U.S. launched an airstrike targeting that weapons storage facility in Syria, the groups again launched four additional attacks on U.S. and coalition bases in Iraq and Syria, and that wounded an additional three U.S. service members, two of which were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.

So, this is a very serious situation, and the Pentagon says that they are treating it as such, and that is why we have seen those retaliatory strikes being taken by the military to try to deter additional attacks by these Iran-backed groups, and importantly, to try to degrade the infrastructure and the weaponry that they had been using to carry out these attacks.

But, look, obvious questions being raised here about whether it's actually working, because the U.S. conducted similar airstrikes against a weapons storage facility being used by Iran, and its proxies roughly two weeks ago, and the attacks did not stop, and as we saw on Wednesday, additional attacks after that latest U.S. airstrike.

So, these groups are clearly not deterred. And the question now that the administration has been facing is whether this approach by the U.S. to continue launching these retaliatory strikes is sustainable, because the proxy groups, they're able to launch these attacks on U.S. forces using small drones, rockets, and they're causing damage, they're causing injuries. So, the question now is how do you stop it? And that is one the administration is grappling with, Omar.

JIMENEZ: Yes, exactly. These aren't just harmless strikes, that people are actually being affected by this every single time.

Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much.

Kate, obviously a lot to keep up with over the course of just the region entirely, a lot of either conflicts or factors to keep an eye on.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And you're talking about attacks towards U.S. and coalition forces in Syria and Iraq. That is also -- the IDF is also dealing with this as well. Retired Army Major General -- Army Major Mike Lyons is here with me.

Let's talk about this. Omar was talking with Natasha about attacks toward U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, in Syria, but also, overnight, we know that the IDF struck a site in Syria. This was after a drone attack hit a building in the southern city of Eilat. And this is the latest in a string of attacks coming in from Yemen towards this city specifically, is what they believe. Let's start there and why are they attacking.


MAJ. MIKE LYONS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, first, a lot is a source of Israel Navy forces are there, a couple of Navy sources there, and that's a platform that they're using to fire some of their weapons back against Yemen.

For example, the Arrow 3 was now deployed from Israel. Think bullet hitting a bullet in space. Yemen is firing an intercontinental ballistic missile into Israel. Israel deployed this weapon system. They haven't deployed yet. This is the first time we've seen it deploy there.


LYONS: Yes. And, again and again, bullet hitting bullet in outer space, tremendous technology. It's really designed to ward off ballistic missiles coming from Iran. But, again, by testing it really with this bullet from Yemen, it makes a lot of sense.

BOLDUAN: And also why this is significant and what I've been hearing is these are the longest range missiles to be fired at Israel since Sadam Hussein.

Let's go through some of these specific attacks, the series that we've seen coming at Israel from Houthis, from down in Yemen.

So, we know that on October 19th, the U.S. Navy released images of the USS Carney. This is when they fired off two intercept missiles coming to -- they believe it was targeted towards Eilat, towards this southern city. And this is the first U.S. military action taken to defend Israel since this conflict. How was that significant, what we're talking about (ph)?

LYONS: Yes. So, it's brought this deterrence of this umbrella that Israel has to have as it's coming from these other countries, right? You figure the real threat is still Iran. If they decide to get into this fight and then decide to fire ballistic missiles over Iraq and over into Israel, that is the real threat.

So, what the air defenses systems that we bring from the Navy and from our platforms and inside of Israel are protecting them from these counter-ballistic systems.

BOLDUAN: Talk to me. You mentioned the air defense system. Normally, everyone talks about and knows and is familiar with the Iron Dome. The Arrow 2, the Arrow 3 that have now been used for the first time, what is different about them and why does this add to why this is so significant in this conflict aAnd the threat coming from Iran and Iran proxies, especially the Houthis and Yemenis?

LYONS: Yes, strategic level weapon, hypersonic missiles, travels into outer space, intercepts it in space. A tough problem set when you think about it, developed by the United States and Israel over the course of years. I'm surprised we likely use it in our technology as well here at home. But it's the kind of system that's going to protect Israel from those far threats coming from Iran.

BOLDUAN: So far too. It's great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

LYONS: Thanks.


JIMENEZ: Well, coming up for us, suspicious envelopes sent to election offices in multiple states, at least one contained fentanyl. And authorities are now racing to find out who's behind these threats.

And a plumber, a woodworker and a maid, those are just three of the potential Mar-a-Lago employees that could be called to testify against Donald Trump as part of the classified documents investigation. And we just got new details about the timing of that trial and how close it will be to the 2024 election. That's next.



JIMENEZ: This morning, federal officials are trying to find the person responsible for sending more than a dozen suspicious letters to election offices across the country. The letters were sent to these six states, and at least one of them contained fentanyl. Officials now believe another letter that is on its way to Georgia right now could also contain the dangerous drugs.

CNN National Security Analyst and former Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security Juliette Kayyem joins us now to discuss. Juliette, good to see you.

To start off, I want you to take a listen to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as he talked about this particular saga.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: What we have been informed by the postal officials is that there's a letter in transit. So, it's a three to five-day transit through their system. And so, obviously, they'll try to intersect that when it comes to the Atlanta processing facility. But it hasn't arrived to Georgia yet, so we don't know if it will be intercepted.

And that's why we prepared staff at the Fulton County Election Office. If it does actually make it through the system and it arrives, this is what you would do and this is how you'd handle it.


JIMENEZ: And part of that, he said their offices would be armed with Narcan to help. And he also has described this as domestic terrorism.

Now, one, would you go so far as to say that is the realm we are dealing with here, but also where do you even start with an investigation like this?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, let me start with the second piece first, which is just essentially the good news in, if one can say, there's any good news in this, is that it seems to be single sourced and that all the letters came from one place or one individual. There might have been multiple individuals. That means one mistake will then disclose who it is. And there're lots of mistakes can be made with that many letters. So, that's the good news, is that it just seems like they'll be able to focus on single source.

And they know how to do this. Unfortunately, we have a lot of experience, not just with fentanyl and the use of mail systems for fentanyl, but obviously and the anthrax attacks in 2001. And they'll basically look at video surveillance of drop boxes, materials purchased, any other thing that would disclose it.

So, in the realm of things, I'm relatively confident that they'll be able to find someone or at least have hints about who it is.

On the, is this domestic terrorism, well, there's no domestic terrorism statute, but this is a federal crime. You are disrupting an election. We tend to think, oh, it's letters. No, the letters and some of them laced with fentanyl are disrupting our democratic processes. Election facilities are closed. People who run elections are intimidated, some could even get sick.


You open up a letter with fentanyl laced in it, and you can get sick, in the same way that a first responder often has to use PPE before they go help someone who may have overdosed on fentanyl.

So, this is no joke, and the intent was clearly a disruption of our democratic processes. And I'd like to say we haven't seen anything yet. It is -- we are not even in the full swing of the 2024 presidential election.

This is a tactic that is being used by those who would disrupt our elections, and the only solution is to find out who it is and a severe penalty.

JIMENEZ: And, of course, those factors of intimidation are ones that we've seen of play out, especially over the past few years.

I want to read really quick a stark statistic that just since 2020, just in the western part of the U.S., across 11 states, more than 160 top election officials have left their positions. In Arizona, 12 of the state's 15 county election officials have left their posts as well. So, we are seeing this on a widespread basis.

DOJ has launched a task force focused on these election security-type threats. So, should we anticipate these types of threats getting worse or because we're paying more attention to them, will we see them pop up more frequently?

KAYYEM: I mean, I'll be honest with you, it's going to depend on who the nominee is for the Republican Party. This is not a both sides issue. This is not -- this is -- you know, if Donald Trump gets the nomination, we now know. There's no surprise here. I'm just reporting that we now know that he will utilize the intimidation, the threat of violence, the things that he does as an extension of his campaign.

He's not hiding it. We're not airing it, but you just go on air and online and you see what he's saying. It is about the rigged election. It is about individuals who are within law enforcement, within the processes of the judiciary, judges, prosecutors in the Georgia case. We know it. We don't have to. And so, therefore, because we know it, we can prepare for it.

But if Donald Trump gets the nomination, we ought not to be surprised. We can be dismayed. But we ought not to be surprised if he utilizes the use of this intimidation as relates to the election. And it's not just him. It's others who listen to him, and so not a surprise.

So, I think that we have to be cognizant of what 2024 will entail in terms of violence as part of the election process and be ready for it and report it and speak out about it because that's the only way that people then will feel like there's consequences for it, including jail time in this guy's case.

JIMENEZ: Yes. And, look, these are all things that local secretaries of states have all spoken about and are hoping to be prepared for as we head towards 2024.

Juliette Kayyem, thank you so much as always. Kate?

BOLDUAN: And now to a CNN exclusive reporting. Sources tell CNN federal prosecutors, they may call several Mar-a-Lago employees to the witness stand in the criminal case against Donald Trump over his handling of classified documents, called to testify about what they saw working at the Trump property.

The potential witnesses include a woodworker who installed crown molding in Trump's bedroom last year, a maid, and a plumber who's worked on the property for years.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz has this exclusive reporting. She's joining us now. And, Katelyn, you're also getting new information about the timing of this trial potentially.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Judge Aileen Cannon just spoke in the court docket and she says that Donald Trump's trial is still on for May of 2024, that date she had previously set and that Trump's team has not wanted. They do not want him going to trial as a criminal defendant in this case or any others before the November election of next year.

But Judge Cannon says, yes, maybe we can revisit that. I'm going to give you more time to prepare for trial now until the spring. But as of now, the trial is still set for May of 2024.

Part of the reason that Cannon is giving Donald Trump's legal team a little bit more time to work on evidence and work on their motions leading up to the trial is because it has so much to do with classified documents in this case. It's a really complex thing for someone to go to trial around where Donald Trump is accused of mishandling 32 national security records.

But, Kate, this trial isn't going to just be about documents. There's a human element that Paula Reid and I were able to gain a better understanding of, where we did learn that there are people like this plumber, a maid, a chauffeur, a woodworker, Secret Service agents, intel officials, people that were around Donald Trump either in his White House, in his political sphere, or just people working at Mar-a- Lago, temporary workers going in and out that the prosecutor.