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2 Hospitals In Northern Gaza Say Israeli Strikes Landed Nearby; Manchin Will Not Seek Reelection, Not Ruling Out WH Run; FBI, DOJ Investigating Suspicious Letters Sent To Election Offices In 6 States, Some Contained Fentanyl. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 10, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A subtle message shift but a very strong message from Secretary of State Tony Blinken saying far too many Palestinians have been killed.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin says he's not running for reelection, threatening Democrats chances of keeping control of the Senate next year and stoking speculation of a possible third party presidential run.

BOLDUAN: Plus, federal law enforcement dispatch for election offices across the country, suspicious letters addressed to election offices in at least six states. Workers finding fentanyl in at least one envelope, the new threat to 2024. I'm Kate Bolduan with Omar Jimenez. John and Sara are off today. This is CNN News Central.

This morning, Secretary of State Tony Blinken says Israel must do more to protect Palestinian civilians. This is really seen as one of his most direct condemnations yet of the civilian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war. This is also as we're hearing new reports of explosions at or near hospitals in northern Gaza. Watch this.

So explosions were seen near two hospitals, where you will remember Israel says that Hamas has placed some of their headquarters underneath and tunnels just a few miles away. Apparent shelling was heard and felt at Gaza's largest hospital. And then a fourth hospital, this one for children has been surrounded by tanks, as Israel pushes further in.

Let's go to CNN's Oren Liebermann in Tel Aviv, Nada Bashir standing by for us as well in Jerusalem. Omar -- Oren, let's start with you. These comments from Secretary Blinken, are you hearing any response from Israeli officials yet?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We have not seen a response from Israel to the comments coming from Secretary of State Antony Blinken. But this is as you pointed out, some of the most vocal criticism we have seen of Israeli operations in northern Gaza and the broader coastal enclave as the IDF says it's deepening its operations with Gaza City surrounded. Now it is worth noting that President Joe Biden made clear that Israel still has full U.S. backing and Biden doesn't believe that now is the time for a ceasefire. The U.S. also lauded or praised the opening of humanitarian corridors and the effort to make those regular and continuous on a daily basis. Still, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was very critical here of the number of civilians that have died in Gaza now since October 7th. Here he is.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: These steps will save lives and will enable more assistance to get to Palestinians need. At the same time, much more needs to be done to protect civilians and to make sure that the humanitarian systems reaches them. Far too many Palestinians have been killed. Far too many has 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: Several hours after Blinken made those comments, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the occupied West Bank, as well as the Ministry of Health in Gaza, it's controlled by Hamas, said more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7th, a number that includes 4,500 children and 3,000 women. So you can see the concern there on the U.S. part.

Kate, one of the things to watch will be whether we see the same statements from Blinken, whether the criticism gets more vocal about the rising civilian death toll or whether there is some sort of backing off here. And whether that leads to political pressure on Israel or change and how the IDF is operating.


BOLDUAN: A very good question. It's good to see you there, Oren. Thank you.

Now Nada, let's talk more about the apparent strikes, the explosions that I mentioned at the very top, you're learning more about these strikes and what's come. What are you hearing?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, absolutely Kate. We have been hearing those warnings from health officials from medics on the ground across Gaza's hospitals, that these air strikes or strikes have been edging closer and closer to Gaza's hospitals. Now a spokesperson for the World Health Organization has described the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, the largest hospital in Gaza, as coming under bombardment.

And what we have seen overnight into the early hours of the morning is more video emerging showing the impact of this apparent strike on the ground. Several injured and what it says has been the outpatient clinic at the Al-Shifa Hospital, many clearly injured in this latest strike, eyewitnesses on the ground accusing Israel of carrying out, an airstrike on the vicinity of the Al-Shifa Hospital. They're seen and has put that question to the IDF, no response just yet. But as you laid out, Kate, we have seen other hospitals also facing bombardment. We've heard from the officials at the Al Awda Hospital. They say that some infrastructure and including two ambulances were struck again accusing Israel of carrying out airstrikes there, at least 10 people are said to have been injured today.

And of course, we have had those warnings from a further two hospitals. Officials at the Al-Nasr and the Al-Rantisi Pediatric Hospital have said that they are around and surrounded by on the ground fighting. They've described the hospital as being completely surrounded and are appealing to the Red Cross to facilitate and avert an urgent evacuation of medical teams of patients and civilians there.

Of course, it is important to underscore here that we are not just talking about patients and medical teams, there are thousands of Palestinian civilians who have flocked to these hospitals, in the hopes that they will remain a safe haven, in the hopes that they can take shelter there, some 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza are displaced.

And of course, when it comes to the humanitarian situation, we know that the majority of Gaza's hospitals are now out of service. And this humanitarian, situation the crisis facing hospitals, particularly with no fuel getting in is deteriorating by the hour. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Nada, thank you so much for being there. Thank you for the reporting. We're going to continue to follow all the developments in Israel and in Gaza, a lot going on overseas and a lot big news coming back home.

JIMENEZ: A lot going on back home. On Capitol Hill, we are following Senator Joe Manchin. It is the end of an era for him, potentially the beginning of a new era for Senate Democrats. The West Virginia Democrat says he's retiring at the end of this term. Manchin has served in the Senate since 2010, helping Democrats maintain a blue seat and an otherwise red state.

His decision to step away could prove costly for his party. As it stands, Senate Democrats hold the slimmest of margins. You see it right here, 51 Democrats to 49 Republicans. So CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill. Lauren, we know the stakes as far as numbers go. But what are you hearing as far as the real time fallout and reaction to this news?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can expect, there's a lot of disappointment from Democrats who know that holding this seat in West Virginia is now nearly impossible, right? This was always going to be a tough race for Joe Manchin, even if he was the one to decide to seek reelection in ruby red West Virginia. But now that he is announcing he's retiring, that means the Democrats are going to have to try to find other opportunities to pick up seats.

And let's just paint you a little bit of a picture of the races heading into 2024. You have other Democrats who are running in red states like Ohio, like Montana, and that's before you get to swing states like Nevada or Arizona. We still don't know what Kyrsten Sinema, an independent in the state of Arizona plans to do whether she plans to run for reelection. And, you know, Democrats are facing a really difficult map because there were 33 members up for reelection, 23 are either Democrats or independents who caucus with the Democratic Party.

And Republicans have just 10 seats to defend, that is why this was such a massive flow. There's also the other factor here, which is that some of the most centrist dealmakers that you have in the United States Senate, they've announced they're retiring. People like Mitt Romney, people like Joe Manchin, what does that mean for the future of bipartisanship in the United States Senate? I think that that's another major question that some in the party are asking themselves this morning. Omar?


JIMENEZ: Well, Lauren Fox, thank you for staying on top of draw. It's going to be a busy week coming up so I hope you're well rested coming up for us. Lauren, thanks. Kate?

BOLDUAN: So in West Virginia, this major new political reality is also really just setting in. Manchin's political allies, thanking him for his service today and also everyone wondering what this means and what is next. The chair of the West Virginia Democratic Party, Mike Pushkin called Manchin, a larger than life figure in the United States Senate, and also said that his name has been synonymous with West Virginia politics and government for 41 years. Mike Pushkin joins us now. Mike, that shows what a kind of political earthquake this really is for West Virginia. How is this announcement hitting you?

MIKE PUSHKIN, CHAIR, WEST VIRGINIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, good morning, first of all. Senator Manchin called yesterday about a little bit before the announcement went out and we spoke and we had a good conversation. And, you know, he told me he has been in an office for 41 years in public office, whether it's the House of Delegates, the State Senate. He was the Secretary of State, two term governor. And he's been in, you know, now in the U.S. Senate.

And when he completes his term, I'll be 42 years of public service. And he expressed the interest in spending time with his family and his grandchildren. So I definitely thanked him for his years of public service. And it's true. He is a larger than life figure in the Senate. And West Virginia being such a small state, we've really benefited from having a legacy of senators who were larger than life, whether it was Jennings Randolph or Robert C. Byrd, or Jay Rockefeller.

And Senator Manchin, who also got a lot done for the state of West Virginia, in most recently with the Inflation Reduction Act, the bipartisan infrastructure bill that he was able to work with President Biden on and that we've seen unprecedented investment in West Virginia due to this. And I think it goes without saying that these accomplishments occurred during the first two years of the Biden administration, with the Democrats had control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to work with President Biden in order to pass these monumental pieces of legislation. And we want to continue that.

BOLDUAN: And let's talk about the continue that, you know, from the outside looking in, many see this moment as meaning that this Democratic held seat is now Republicans for the taking, especially when you have Jim Justice vying for it. I mean, are West Virginia Democrats in a tougher spot today than they were yesterday?

PUSHKIN: Oh, there's no denying that it's a tough spot. But, you know, the people of West Virginia are worth fighting for. And we're going to continue to fight for them. And if you look at, you know, next door in Kentucky, ruby red Kentucky, the state that brought you Rand Paul, the state that brought you Mitch McConnell, they just elected Andy Beshear, reelected Andy Beshear as governor because he's a good governor. He does a good job. And people like and trust Andy Beshear.

If you look next door in Virginia, where the Democrats both held on to the State Senate and flipped the Virginia House of Delegates back to the Democratic column pushing back against some of the extremist policies that have been coming from the Republican Party and then across the river in Ohio, where you saw a landslide election in support of protecting a woman's right to choose, push back against the extremist taking of rights that we say right that women have almost taken for granted for 50 years now in this country has been taken away by extremism in the Republican Party.

And you can talk about Governor Justice. Governor Justice when he ran for governor back in 2016, as a Democrat claimed to be pro-choice while he signed complete abortion ban and recently in West Virginia. I mean, talk about Florida, where they're talking about six-week ban. West Virginia has a zero week ban. We have a complete ban in West Virginia. And Governor Justice signed the bill that the Republican legislature sent him.

BOLDUAN: The big question on a lot of people's minds is the what next? And why is Manchin announcing this now? Is it actually a tease to something to his next steps? The take from his former -- one of his former senior advisors in the Senate is that you should always just take Manchin at face value. Let me play with what -- let me play you what he said.


JONATHAN KOTT, FORMER TOP AIDE TO SEN. MANCHIN: I think he's going to do exactly what he said in his op-ed. He's going to travel the country. He's going to see if he can mobilize the middle. And see if he can give a voice to those people that he actually thinks are there like the 65 to 70 percent of the country that doesn't work on the fringes and doesn't care what happens on Twitter, and just wants to get stuff done in the middle.


BOLDUAN: But, but, but this is obviously very much fueling speculation that he is itching to jump into the presidential race in 2024 as a centrist third party -- on a centrist third party ticket. Where do you put the chances that he does? PUSHKIN: Well, first of all I do -- I agree that there is a desire from where most people are in this country and that's in the middle. And then everybody knows that's where the real work gets done. However, I know Senator Manchin and I know that he's been around politics long enough to know that there is no real clear path to victory for a third party candidate in the presidential election. There never has been.


Teddy Roosevelt was unable to do it. And Teddy Roosevelt is on Mount Rushmore. I think, in the past third party candidacies for president have only resulted in playing the spoiler. And I know that if it was -- if the result was the election of Donald Trump, I mean that's somebody who's Senator Manchin has referred to as the greatest threat to our democracy. And I think he knows that and I don't think that he wants that to be his legacy.

BOLDUAN: We are going to see what is next for him all together. Mike Pushkin, it's good to have you on. Thank you so much. Omar?

JIMENEZ: A lot of threads to follow. We will see.

Coming up for us, federal law enforcement is hunting for the person who sent suspicious letters, one containing fentanyl to election officials and states across the country.

Plus, who could be called to testify in Trump's classified documents case? CNN has new exclusive reporting on the Mar-a-Lago resort workers who may be brought to the witness stand.

And a major first in the medical field. Ahead, how doctors performed the world's first whole eye and partial face transplant. That's next.



BOLDUAN: This morning, the Justice Department and FBI are investigating a series of letters sent to election offices in at least six states. More than a dozen suspicious letters were found in Washington in Oregon, Nevada, California, Texas and also in Georgia. At least one of the envelopes contained fentanyl inside. Let's get over to CNN's Nick Valencia. He's tracking this for us. And he has more on what is being done to try to figure this all out. What's the very latest, Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Kate. This is really chilling stuff. And investigators are treating all of the letters as if they are connected. They are all coming from or sent rather around the same time. So that could be a clue for investigators to figure out ultimately who is behind this.

The Department of Justice investigating this, as well as the U.S. Postal Service and right here in Atlanta, Fulton County, one of these elections offices that was targeted. Fulton County has been in the news a lot lately. Of course, it's one of the spots where the former president has been indicted. It's drawn the ire of the former president. And it's really been sort of a target, if you will, for far right election deniers and conspiracy theorists.

And it was shortly after it was discovered that one of those letters that may be containing fentanyl was sent to Georgia or was in route to Georgia that the Secretary of State held a press conference. And he really was full throated and asking elected officials and those running for office to condemn these suspicious activities.

It goes without saying that Georgia election officials are very nervous given what has happened here to election workers. Take a listen to what they had to say yesterday.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: We're going to make sure that we prepare all 159 counties and prepare them for events such as this. So make sure that there is Narcan available for all the election offices. I do receive incoming mail and train them and they use of that.

ROBB PITTS, FULTON COUNTY, GA COMMISSIONER: There's crazy people out there who will go to any extreme to disrupt, interrupt, fair, open, transparent elections in our country. It's my personal belief that this is just probably a four run into what we can be prepared for in 2024.


VALENCIA: Raffensperger took it a step further and personalize this issue. Speaking there at the podium, he mentioned the death of his son about five and a half years ago, who died as a result of a fentanyl overdose. He used the antidote to underscore just how dangerous the substance is. He called it poison. Of course, Kate all of this is happening amid the backdrop of elections officials really across the country being threatened or being intimidated. So Rob Pitts, you heard they're calling this a forerunner to what we may expect in 2024. We can only hope that he's wrong. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Nick Valencia, thank you. Omar?

JIMENEZ: Well, Kate, coming up for us, what did the woodworkers see? It sounds like a sort of a riddle. But a CNN exclusive reporting unveiling the Mar-a-Lago workers who federal prosecutors may call to testify against former President Donald Trump in the classified documents case. We'll explain coming up.


Plus, an emotional plea, the families of Israelis taken hostage during the October 7th terror attack, begging us to help free their loved ones. Ahead, we'll speak to a man whose brother is still missing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JIMENEZ: Now to a CNN exclusive report. Sources tell CNN that several Mar-a-Lago workers including a maid, a plumber, a woodworker, and a chauffeur might be asked to testify. It's all a part of the federal investigation into Donald Trump's handling of classified documents at his Florida property.

Also new today, the judge in this case has decided to keep the trial scheduled for May next year which is significant because the head of the 2024 presidential election. So, to talk about it all, joining me now is CNN legal analyst Michael Moore. He is also a former U.S. attorney and partner at Moore Hall in Atlanta. Good to see you. I want to start with what is the significance of everyday staffers at Mar-a- Lago, for example, you know, plumber, maid, chauffeur, otherwise, what would be -- what would prosecutors be hoping to learn from them in this case, as opposed to maybe what you would learn from people who are more in Trump's inner circle?

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, I'm glad to be with you this morning. I mean, I think the latest reporting is really significant from the sense that these are lay witnesses. So these are people who typically would have no political bent. They might not come in with some preconceived notion that where they can be argued to a jury that they're on one side or another.


What they do is essentially give context to this picture that Jack Smith was trying to paint. So we're talking now about maybe somebody who saw something in a room where they were cleaning the club.