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Gaza Under Airstrikes, Civilian Concerns Rise; Biden and Xi Jinping to Meet Amid Tensions; Government Shutdown Risk Grows, GOP Divided; House Speaker Mike Johnson's Finances Questioned. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired November 10, 2023 - 14:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: As pressure mounts for a ceasefire, Secretary of State Tony Blinken says, far too many civilians have been killed in Gaza. In the meantime, a mass exodus of Palestinians trying to escape the violence. We're live from Israel with the latest ahead.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: And after the US downed a spy balloon and encountered several dangerous military jet maneuvers over the South China Sea, President Biden and President Xi Jinping of China will meet face-to-face for the first time in over a year, all in hopes of breaking the ice between the two world powers. But will it move the needle?

And New York appointing its first ambassador to loneliness will explain why. We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN News Central.

KEILAR: It has been another bloody and violent day across Gaza as Israel's war on Hamas intensifies. And a warning, some of what you're about to see is graphic. You may find it disturbing. Some stunning new videos showing the aftermath of Israeli airstrikes on Thursday. People buried under collapsed buildings. Scores of other people trying desperately to pull survivors from the rubble, trying to pull them to safety. But as one UN official put it today, nowhere in Gaza is safe.

Case in point, take a look at this. This is gunfire sending Palestinian civilians near one hospital in northern Gaza scrambling. And this comes amid reports Israeli airstrikes damaged several hospitals. The IDF has maintained that it exclusively targets areas with ties to Hamas and that any civilian losses are unintended. But the head of Al-Nasr Hospital says Israeli tanks have completely surrounded his facilities, cutting off patients and doctors without power, water and critical medical supplies.

In the meantime, thousands of other Gazans were able to flee south today. Israeli forces opening a 6-hour evacuation corridor with the promise of more pauses in the future. We have CNN's Jeremy Diamond who is in Tel Aviv. Jeremy, what more is happening on the ground there today? JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, the Israeli military now says that hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians have been able to take advantage of those evacuation routes going from northern Gaza and fleeing to the south, which the Israeli military says is safer, but clearly they are still operating in parts of the south carrying out airstrikes there as well. But nonetheless, today the significant development on this evacuation routes front is the fact that it is not only Salah Al-Din Road, which is kind of one of the main arteries going north-south, but also the coastal road along the Mediterranean, which was also open today for the first time for Palestinian civilians to flee to the south.

Now, the United States is trying to take some credit for what they are calling humanitarian pauses. The Israelis are simply referring to as evacuation corridors. But either way, the United States saying that they have seen some progress from Israel in terms of addressing civilian needs in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis unfolding there. But at the same time, the U.S. Secretary of State making very clear that much more still needs to be done.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Much more needs to be done to protect civilians and to make sure that humanitarian assistance reaches them. Far too many Palestinians have been killed. Far too many have suffered these past weeks.



DIAMOND: And Israeli forces are continuing to advance deeper and deeper inside Gaza City. And in fact, the Israeli military, we have heard them in recent weeks as they have made clear that they believe that Hamas is operating inside and underneath some of the major hospitals in Gaza City. We have not been able to independently verify some of the evidence that they have put forward, but they have made clear that these hospitals could potentially be targets should Hamas militants continue to use them for their operations.

And overnight, we watched as several of these hospitals, Israeli forces operating very close to them, engaging in gun battles with Palestinian militants very near to those hospitals. At least one of the hospitals, Al-Nasr and Al-Rantisi Pew3ediatric Hospital, the director of that hospital telling CNN that Israeli forces had surrounded it. We also saw as strikes, unclear if they were from the Israeli military or from Palestinian militants, landed in the compound of Al-Shifa Hospital as well. And there were tens of injured and wounded Palestinians over there.

So, the Israeli military advancing on these hospitals calls for international assistance to evacuate patients from these hospitals. Now, a very, very precarious situation with Palestinian civilians caught in the middle. Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Jeremy Diamond, thank you for that report. Boris. SANCHEZ: President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are set for

a highly anticipated meeting Wednesday in the San Francisco Bay Area. It's a positive sign as relations between the two countries have spiralled downward in recent years. CNN's David Culver joins us now with the details. David, bring us the context of this meeting. What is its signal?

DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's first say, Boris, fundamentally, nothing has changed between the U.S. and China. It's still a very fraught relationship. Still, we're looking at a couple of places here where we could maybe see some agreements, one of them being climate, the other being enhanced communication efforts between the two countries' militaries. And that, of course, could help diffuse some of the tensions and prevent conflict.

Now, this will be President Xi Jinping's first visit to the U.S. since 2017. Since that time, U.S.-China relations, they have been in this freefall, as you put it, Boris, that's been compounded by the pandemic. China's cozy relationship with Russia amidst its war in Ukraine. You've got tensions in the South China Sea. There's also mounting pressure over Taiwan, not to mention concerns over U.S. national security. That suspected Chinese spy balloon that was shot down earlier this year, that only made things worse.

So this is really a test to see if these two leaders can stop that downward spiral. China needs this, too. Its economy is suffering. They've got a housing market that's in crisis, youth unemployment at record highs, so much so they have stopped releasing official figures.And for the first time in 24 years, a deficit in foreign direct investment. International companies are now uneasy about putting their money into China.

So, Boris, these are major concerns for an authoritarian leader whose Communist Party's unofficial agreement with its people is financial opportunity, prosperity in exchange for social stability.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, Xi Jinping certainly feeling that economic strain in China. Notably, there were multiple missed opportunities for a previous meeting between these two leaders. They haven't met again in more than a year. What did it take for this to come together now?

CULVER: Yeah, the fact that President Xi is traveling here to U.S. soil, to California, that is significant. And it's taken months to pull off. While the summit is slated to happen on the sidelines of APEC in San Francisco next week, there have been multiple subnational visits and meetings to make this happen. Biden's cabinet secretaries from state, from Treasury, from Commerce have travelled to Beijing in recent months. China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, coming to the U.S., was in D.C. last month. And even California's governor, Gavin Newsom, he was in Beijing a few weeks ago and he actually had a one-on-one meeting with President Xi.

So, no way will all of this settle the many issues between the U.S. and China. But this is happening, Boris, at a time when the world is in desperate need of stability, particularly between the two global superpowers. And you saw Jeremy Dimond's report there. No doubt one of the big topics that's going to be in discussion between these two leaders is going to be the Israel-Gaza issues.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. Dialogue, hopefully the first step in ironing all of this out. David Colbert, thanks so much for the reporting. Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Let's bring in CNN global affairs analyst Kim Dozier to talk a little bit about this meeting. Kim, what's the importance of this Biden-Xi meeting? Do you expect to see any significant thawing's, even a little progress in this relationship between U.S. and China? And how important is it that there is some?


KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, for both sides, having the leaders even agree to meet is a huge signal that they're willing to meet face-to-face. And with Biden, those face-to-face meetings often do lead to better understandings. But you have to remember that both sides are firmly entrenched in their positions. When it comes to the issue of Taiwan, while the U.S. publicly says that it supports the one-China policy, it continues to arm Taiwan in various different ways as China has continued to step up patrols around the island, harassing Taiwanese jets, harassing Taiwanese ships.

And that kind of behavior also has continued throughout the South China Sea, wherever China has decided, yes, this might be labelled an international waterway according to international law, but we consider it part of our territory and we're going to patrol it accordingly. That's the kind of thorny issue that Biden is going to have to bring up.

KEILAR: How critical is it to managing this frosty relationship as the war in Ukraine continues, you know, and the U.S. is countering Russia, and now you have the Israel-Hamas war threatening to balloon into a broader conflict in the Middle East?

DOZIER: Well, in some senses, the U.S. comes to this conversation a bit wounded by having to support Israel on the international stage, despite the horrendous action of October 7th. What has dominated at the U.N. and in media channels across the world are the pictures of Palestinians on the receiving end of Israeli airstrikes. And so, when Biden tries to get China to stop supporting Russia, for instance, in the war on Ukraine, they can come back with the riposte, well, the Israelis cut off various food, water, electricity, and now you're asking us to censure Russia for doing the same and prosecuting its war.

So, in a sense, the U.S. comes at this without the same moral high ground that it usually has, and you can see in the international community, especially among the global South, there are no members of the global South at last check who've sanctioned Russia over the war in Ukraine. In a sense, China's ally, Russia, is winning in the global population stakes. So, it's all the more important that each of the two capitals find a way to keep talking to each other while they have this global rivalry shaping up. KEILAR: As we turn to Israel, we heard from Secretary of State Blinken this morning what was really one of the most direct condemnations of the civilian death toll in Gaza, which now is in the thousands upon thousands. This comes as CNN has obtained a diplomatic cable from American diplomats in the Arab world warning the Biden administration that its strong support for Israel's military campaign in Gaza, quote, is losing us Arab publics for a generation. How are you looking at this moment and the long-term ramifications as the Biden administration will have to deal with them?

KEILAR: Well, we know that in private, the Biden administration, Blinken directly, has been cautioning the Israelis against indiscriminate airstrikes. We also know that within the State Department, there have been complaints and slowly, one by one, some of the top U.S. allies have lined up in favor of calling for a ceasefire, not just humanitarian pauses or tactical pauses on the ground. So, Blinken does have to be seen as understanding this anguish and pain, especially in light of his own diplomats reporting back to him that there is this anti-Americanism rising.

But note, he very carefully didn't blame a particular side for all of the deaths. The U.S. officials have also been very careful in all their briefings with us to say that they blame Hamas for putting its armed facilities, its HQs, its headquarters, its weaponry inside civilian areas, specifically next to or under schools, hospitals, et cetera. And while CNN hasn't been able to confirm that independently, it is what we keep hearing as reporters from both U.S. and Israeli officials.

KEILAR: Yeah, I mean, these deaths may be unintended, as we hear the Israelis saying, but they are highly predictable, and they are astronomical at this point as we are watching this unfold. Kim Dozier, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

And ahead, with just one week left, House Republicans say they still don't know Speaker Mike Johnson's plan to prevent a government shutdown. We're live from Capitol Hill on that. Plus, a new court order in Donald Trump's classified documents case means his trial could happen before the 2024 election. And women dominating this year's Grammy nominations with Taylor Swift writing her name in the history books. We'll have more on that ahead.



KEILAR: Well, here we are again just a week away from a potential government shutdown and with deep divisions on capitol hill there is still no clear path on how to avoid it. New Speaker Mike johnson running into the same spending battles that plagued his predecessor and ultimately cost his predecessor his gavel. A source telling CNN house republicans could release the text for a potential bill tomorrow which would set up a potential floor vote as early as Tuesday. With the clock ticking though the house went home for a 3-day weekend.

Yes, a senior GOP congressman giving this blunt assessment of the situation saying quote the house is a mess. CNN's Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill. That is a pretty succinct exact description. Tell us where things are.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Succinct and accurate I would say. As of right now there is still no plan to avoid a government shutdown which is now just 7 days away if congress doesn't act. Speaker Mike Johnson is aiming to release bill text by tomorrow so they can put something on the floor by Tuesday, but as of right now we are told that bill text is not finalized with even some top republicans in the dark about what Mike Johnson plans to do.


And some lawmakers growing anxious for him to reveal his hand. And some lawmakers are also warning that the honeymoon period for Mike Johnson, the new speaker, might already be coming to an end. Let's listen.


REP. THOMAS MASSIE, KENTUCKY (R): I think there's a honeymoon period here. I'm not sure how long it lasts, maybe 30 days. The honeymoon might be shorter than we thought. And every time the CR expires, the speaker's putting his head in the lion's mouth.

Now, Speaker Mike Johnson has really been wrestling with this decision-making. He knows this is likely the most consequential decision he will make as speaker so far. But the problem for him is that his conference is divided. On one hand, you have moderates and appropriators who are pushing for a straightforward, clean stopgap bill. But then you have conservative hardliners who are pushing for this more complicated option that would extend funding for government agencies in two separate batches, essentially setting up multiple fiscal cliffs throughout the rest of this year and into next year. And that is something that would be a nonstarter in the Senate.

So that is why Johnson has really been torn over which direction to take. And meanwhile, the White House says the Office of Management and Budget is already taking formal steps to prepare for a potential shutdown. So, a lot on the line for the new speaker, not a lot of time to figure it out, and all while critical issues are hanging in the balance. Brianna.

KEILAR: And there you are, Mel. I see you working. I see the tour guide behind you working as people are taking tours of the Rotunda. I'm working. Congress, not just like us today, for sure. Melanie Zanona, live for us on Capitol Hill. Thank you. Boris.

SANCHEZ: Well, as new House Speaker Mike Johnson becomes the point person for passing trillions of dollars in government spending, he's also facing questions about his personal finances. His most recent financial disclosures show that he has no savings account, may not even have a retirement account. In fact, he reports no assets at all beyond his house. CNN's Sunland Sarfati has the details.


minted Speaker of the House Mike Johnson facing questions over how he keeps his own financial house in order.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Look, I'm a man of modest means.

SERFATY: CNN's review of Johnson's personal financial disclosures and campaign financial documents since coming to Congress in 2017 reveal that the new speaker appears to be living paycheck to paycheck.

UNKNOWN: Your left hand on and then the right hand off, we face.

SERFATY: Financial records show that Johnson, like many Americans, does not appear to have much of a safety net. For the past 2 years, he has not reported any assets and has never even reported a checking account on financial disclosure forms. The Speaker's office says he has a personal bank which is exempt from House reporting rules because it is non-interest bearing, meaning he does not have to disclose this type of account under House rules.

While it's unknown how much is in that account, a source with knowledge of his financial situation tells CNN that account is not big enough to be leaving large sums of money in interest on the table. All this says Johnson's liabilities are plenty, a mortgage for his family home valued between 250 and $500,000, a personal loan from 2016 between 15,000 and $50,000 and a home equity line of credit taken in 2019 for less than 50,000. As a Congressman, Johnson was making $174,000 a year. His salary will now jump to $223,500 as Speaker. And he has made over $100,000 teaching online courses at Liberty University since 2018. Last year alone, Johnson collected nearly 30,000 from the college.

On Capitol Hill to save money on steep DC rent, Johnson is one of the many members of Congress that sleep in their offices. A source with knowledge says the Speaker will continue sleeping in his office for now but did not know if that will always be the plan going forward.

JOHNSON: There are a lot of things on the minds of the American people.

SERFATY: Johnson's financial standing in stark contrast to many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill with the median net worth of his colleagues in 2018 at just over $1 million. Some former speakers have done well. Nancy Pelosi is worth more than $110 million. Before coming to Congress in 2017, Johnson was a lawyer. In 2016, he reported making over $200,000.

JOHNSON: I was a lawyer, but I did constitutional law and most of my career I spent in the nonprofit sector.

SERFATY: And has said that much of his money goes to taking care of his large family.

JOHNSON: We have 4 kids, 5 now, that are very active, and I have kids in graduate school, law school, undergraduate. We have a lot of expenses. [14:24:59]

SERFATY: That financial reality not unlike most American families.

JOHNSON: I didn't grow up with great means, but I think that helps us be a better leader because we can relate to every hardworking American family. That's who we are. And I think it governs and helps govern my decisions and how I lead.

SERFATY: Now, we don't know much about Speaker Johnson-Wolf's wife and her full financial picture, but we do know she is earning some income. And it's coming from a few places, a Christian counselling company, her work with the Louisiana Right to Life Educational Committee, as well as a general listing on these disclosure forms for various clients. Now, lawmakers, they are not required to reveal the amount of money their spouses are earning, but Johnson actually does.

In some of the earliest disclosure forms, he reveals that she's made about $45,000 to $50,000 a year, but he has not declared her salary since 2021. Again, all of this, a very limited snapshot into her side of the earning for the family. Sunlen Serfaty, CNN, on Capitol Hill.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Sunlen Serfaty. Coming up, CNN exclusive reporting on the staff at Mar-a-Lago that may be called to testify in Donald Trump's classified documents case. And it's not just those from the former president's inner circle. Stay with CNN.