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Trump Civil Fraud Trial Continues; U.S. Strikes Iran-Linked Targets in Syria; Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Grows. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 13, 2023 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: No water, no food, no supplemental oxygen. Now doctors at crippled hospitals in Gaza say they are taking drastic measures to keep vulnerable patients alive, including wrapping premature babies in foil. What Israel is saying about this.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: And back on the witness stand, Donald Trump Jr. facing new questions in the civil front case against the family business, but this time they're coming from his lawyer. How the defense is kicking off their case.

Plus, the makers of the popular weight loss drug Wegovy say they have discovered a brand-new benefit, and it could be another lifesaver.

We're following these major developing stories and many more. It's all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: We begin in the Middle East. Doctors at Gaza's largest hospital describing conditions today as catastrophic. All essential units at Al Shifa Hospital have now collapsed. Food, medicine and fuel are all in dwindling supply, even as thousands of Gaza civilians seek shelter there.

Doctors say they're taking drastic measures to keep newborns alive. Power outages at the hospital have forced them to take premature infants off of incubators. Israel's military has repeatedly said that Hamas is hiding itself among civilian infrastructure.

Today, they say troops killed 21 alleged terror suspects outside of al-Quds Hospital after an intense firefight at the hospital's entrance. The Palestinian Red Crescent has denied that there are armed individuals inside the hospital and said no shots were fired from inside. Video provided from the IDF and geolocated there, though.

We're also learning new details about the urgent ongoing efforts to save the more than 200 hostages still held captive by Hamas. One of them is a 3-year-old American. President Biden holding a phone call with the leader of Qatar, hoping to advance potential rescues.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is tracking all of these developments from Tel Aviv.

Oren, a U.S. official telling CNN that Hamas has a command node under the Al Shifa Hospital. We are seeing this video coming from Israel. Doctors at the hospital deny the claim coming about this command node. What are you learning?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Al Shifa Hospital has long been on the IDF's radar. They have long seen it as a -- as where Hamas has one of its most important command-and-control areas, using what should be a sanctuary, Al Shifa Hospital, on top to function under -- function down below underground and continue their operations from there.

Israel is essentially very close to Shifa Hospital. According to hospital officials, they have surrounded the hospital. According to the IDF, the east side of the hospital, remains open for those who want to evacuate, but it's also clear, speaking to those inside the hospital, that many are too terrified to evacuate, even if there is a humanitarian corridor by which to do so.

Israel and the IDF say they're trying to operate in such a way as to minimize civilian casualties, but the fighting, the Israeli strikes, and the operations in that area have damaged some of the outside buildings. In addition, the hospital itself, as of yesterday, essentially had to close down all of its essential units because it's simply out of supplies, and civilians are dying inside the hospital, even if it's not as a direct result of the fighting.

As an example -- and you referenced this, three babies died over the weekend in the neonatal intensive care unit because the generators that powered the incubators shut down, and doctors inside have had to rely on hot water and foil to try to keep those babies alive.

That's just a hint of how difficult the situation is in there as the humanitarian crisis across Gaza worsens. We are also hearing some booms, although we're not hearing red alert. It's difficult to know exactly what that is. We're going to see if we hear the red alert as I keep talking to you here, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, we're hearing that behind you, Oren. So we will be listening, obviously, as well too.

What more are you learning about the negotiations for the nearly 240 hostages that Hamas is still holding?

LIEBERMANN: This is an ongoing effort, and that effort led very much in Qatar, because the Qataris are in touch with Hamas, and that's how the negotiations are done on that side of it.

The negotiations also include the Mossad and the CIA trying to make progress on a hostage release, the idea of being, release a large number or all of the hostages as Israel, as demanding, for any sort of pause in the fighting.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN's Dana Bash that there would be no pause in the fighting until the hostages are released. President Joe Biden spoke with the emir of Qatar over the weekend and revealed for the first time that there is a 3-year-old toddler, an American citizen, being held by Hamas in, Gaza saying they should all be released at the same time, reaffirming his support for a Palestinian state after this is over and through negotiations.

Brianna, I will make one more point. There is a march planned for tomorrow by the families of the hostages from here to Jerusalem. And that's a symbol of the domestic pressure building on Netanyahu and on the Israeli government to come to some sort of arrangement for their release.

KEILAR: A lot of pressure to get those hostages out.

Oren live for us from Tel Aviv, thank you for that report.

With resources waning, hospitals in Gaza are being forced to make these impossible choices.

CNN's Nada Bashir has the story.

And a warning that some of what you're about to see is graphic.


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): These are the sounds of the final gasps from Gaza's collapsing health care system, medical staff in Gaza City working under near-relentless Israeli bombardment for over a month.

But now this chorus of frantic voices seen here working under torchlight tells its own gut-wrenching story. The al-Quds Hospital, the second largest in Gaza, has now collapsed. It is one of many hospitals in Gaza that are completely out of service, according to officials, those remaining now on a cliff edge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There is a direct injury in the head, internal bleeding. And we can't do surgeries, no surgeries, no oxygen, no electricity. We work manually. We are using a manual resuscitator. It is a clear injury. It needs an urgent surgery, a lifesaving one. He is less than a year-old.

BASHIR: Remarkably, this baby survived.

But his father, who was in the very same building when an Israeli airstrike hit, did not. At Gaza's largest hospital, Al Shifa, officials say three babies in the neonatal unit died after a generator powering incubators was damaged in an Israeli strike. CNN has reached out to the Israeli military for comment. The IDF regularly says it is targeting Hamas.

But doctors here say the hospital is now completely surrounded.

DR. MOHAMED KANDIL, AL SHIFA HOSPITAL: The situation overall is difficult. According to our colleagues there, there is no water, no electricity. They cannot communicate between each other. There is a lot of targeting around the hospital.

BASHIR: The Israeli military said Sunday it has sent 300 liters of fuel to the entrance of the Al Shifa Hospital, said to only be enough to power the hospital's generators for 30 minutes. But the IDF says Hamas blocked the hospital from receiving it.

Hospital officials, however, say staff were too afraid by surrounding Israeli tanks to collect the fuel. Inside the hospital, doctors are overwhelmed, morgues now long beyond capacity.

And with communications frequently cut off, contact between medical teams on the ground and with the outside world is growing increasingly difficult. Hospital officials say thousands of displaced civilians are still thought to be in the compound, taking shelter in what once was thought to be a sanctuary in the midst of this seemingly unending nightmare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We thought the hospital was a safe place, but it wasn't. If we had stayed another five minutes, we would have been killed. They started to bomb us, and we ran away from Al Shifa.

BASHIR: The Israeli military says it is now enabling passage from three hospitals in Northern Gaza. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telling CNN on Sunday that there is no reason why patients can't be evacuated from Al Shifa.

But doctors on the ground say a near-constant barrage of airstrikes has made it impossible for patients and staff to safely evacuate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is another form of torture. We have about six kilometers to go, no less. She got a stroke that caused her brain damage. She can't speak and is paralyzed.

BASHIR: Israel says additional routes have been opened to allow civilians to evacuate southwards, but the United Nations itself has raised doubts over the so-called safe zones outlined by Israel, warning that nowhere inside Gaza is safe for civilians anymore.

And for those too injured, too sick, evacuation is impossible, many doctors on the ground vowing to stay beside their patients, no matter what.

Nada Bashir, CNN, in Jerusalem.


DEAN: We are also learning details about new U.S. airstrikes in Eastern Syria, the Pentagon saying U.S. forces targeted sites linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.


CNN's Natasha Bertrand is at the Pentagon with more on this.

And, Natasha, you have some new reporting about the response to these latest airstrikes. What's going on here?


So, additional four attacks by these Iranian proxy groups on U.S. forces in Syria last night, including after the U.S. launched those airstrikes on those facilities that officials say were being used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as its affiliates.

So, obviously, the question now is, are these airstrikes actually deterring these Iranian proxy forces from staging these attacks on U.S. forces? And the answer right now appears to be no. Those additional four attacks that came after that U.S. airstrike last night do not appear to have resulted in any casualties or any damage to these military bases, but other attacks by these proxy groups have.

More than 56 U.S. service members have been injured, including many who have suffered traumatic brain injuries from these drone and rocket attacks that these Iranian proxy groups have launched, over 50 now that we are tracking since October 17.

Now, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, he did speak to this earlier this morning, and he said that the reason the U.S. is continuing to launch these airstrikes is to degrade these Iranian groups' ability to carry out these attacks. Here's what he said.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: These strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the freedom of action and capabilities of these groups, which are directly responsible for attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.

These attacks must stop. And if they don't stop, then we won't hesitate to do what's necessary again to protect our troops.


BERTRAND: Now it's unclear at this point whether there were any fatalities as a result of that U.S. airstrike last night in Syria, but the U.S. has done roughly three strikes in the last three weeks against these Iranian facilities.

And, as of right now, it does not appear to be deterring these attacks by these groups, Jessica.

DEAN: All right, Natasha Bertrand for us at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

And we want to discuss this further with CNN military analyst and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.

It's always great to have you on to kind of help us digest and metabolize what Natasha is just explaining to us.

So we know that the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, has said that these strikes were a matter of safety and self-defense. How significant does the threat have to be for us to be behaving this way?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the threat has to be very significant, Jessica. And when you look at the kind of situation that we have in Syria, we

have to remember we have got U.S. forces in places like Deir el-Zour and Abu Kamal. It is actually where the Iranians are, but we have forces here. We have forces up in this area. This area right here, because it's also close to where the Iranians are, it becomes a very important area for us to make sure that we protect our forces.

So the number one job in a deployed situation like this is to make sure that we protect our forces. It's basically called force protection for that reason. And that is why it's very significant that this is the kind of thing that we're dealing with right now.

DEAN: And in terms of escalation, obviously, the U.S. military moved very quickly to put those ships out at sea and try to deter any sort of escalation here.

And yet it does seem to be escalating. What else can be done to keep this from boiling over in a way?

LEIGHTON: Well, that's really a big question, because we have put out military assets, like you mentioned, the carrier battle groups that are out in either the Eastern Mediterranean or near the Persian Gulf area. We have got airplanes that have been deployed to the Persian Gulf. We have got economic sanctions. We have got diplomatic pressure.

All of these kinds of things really do make a difference. But the problem that you have is, Iran is here. Iran is a large country, has a large military, and it has a lot of influence in places like Iraq, places like Syria, and, of course, here in the Gaza Strip, and, of course, in Southern Lebanon with Hezbollah.

So, Iran, this is their neighborhood. And every time that we try to move into this neighborhood, Iran is going to react, whether we like it or not.

DEAN: And so at what point do you think the U.S. -- or do you think the U.S. would ever go directly at Iran? Because we're looking at all the nations around. But would they go directly after Iran?

LEIGHTON: Would they ever go directly here? That is a question.

It really depends on how much the Iranians do. Are they going to attack us via their proxies? Then we probably won't go after the Iranians, at least not directly. But if they attack us directly using Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps members or Iranian military, then the chances are much higher that we would probably do something here in the Persian Gulf area around the naval installations that are around this area, and also the air installations that are part of the Iranian order of battle in this part of the country.

So we're trying to keep away from Iran as much as we possibly can. But if the Iranians do things like attack our forces down here in Qatar, for example, or in Kuwait, which is right here, that would then change the ball game and could potentially result in a direct attack against the Iranians.


That would be the reason for that.

DEAN: And before we let you go, at this point, what is your assessment of Iran in game here? What do they want?

LEIGHTON: Yes, Iran wants to control this area. They're fighting a battle, basically a kind of a cold war.

Sometimes, it's a hot war, depending on exactly what they're doing with Saudi Arabia. Now, having said that, they have just reestablished diplomatic relations with the help of China. So it's a little bit of a different situation right now between Saudi Arabia and Iran. But we always have to remember, Iran is a Shiite Muslim country, Saudi Arabia, majority Sunni country.

And that is basically one of the main reasons historically why they have been fighting each other, but it's also about power and influence. It's about oil. Both countries have oil. The Saudis are much more connected to the world market than the Iranians are because of those sanctions that we talked about.

And Iran is basically trying to resume its powerful role, the role that it had back before the Iranian Revolution, where it was a major Middle Eastern power.

DEAN: Exert that power.

All right, Colonel Cedric Leighton, thanks so much for being here.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Jessica.

DEAN: And coming up: Donald Trump Jr. calls his father a real estate artist during testimony at their civil fraud trial. We are live outside that courthouse with the very latest for you.

Plus, it's a new speaker with the same old problem, the House leader now racing against the clock to avoid a government shutdown this coming weekend. Sound familiar?

And, later, a Hollywood murder mystery involving the son of a high- powered talent agent.

You're watching CNN NEWS CENTRAL, and we will be right back.



DEAN: Today, Donald Trump Jr. is back on the stand. He's the first witness for his father's defense team in that $250 million civil fraud trial that they're facing in New York.

Now, so far, Don Jr. has testified about roles within the family business that he and his brother Eric took over after their father became president in 2017. And then there was this interesting moment in court, the judge

overruling the New York attorney general's office after it objected to the showing of a Trump properties promotional video.

CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the courthouse for us.

And, Kara, why did the A.G.'s office object to the defense's presentation? And then what did the judge say?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jessica, so the attorney general's office was objecting to the -- Trump's lawyers wanting to introduce essentially pages from their Web site promoting all of the properties that they own.

So they objected to that. And the judge said that he said, you had six weeks to put on this case. Trump's lawyers have criticized the judge for cutting them short. He said, I'm going to give them enough time to put on their case. So he allowed this. And that is where most of the day has been, focusing on all of the properties that the Trumps have.

And Donald Trump Jr. testify how they had taken these properties that were often run-down, and then transform them. He used words such as -- about his father, calling him a visionary, an artist, and say he was on the leading edge. And all of that is part of their defense of how they were creating value for these properties.

Mar-a-Lago came up. That, of course, is one that has been a hair trigger for the former president because a tax assessor valued at $18 million. They were showing photos of Mar-a-Lago in court, and Don Jr. said he took umbrage of that, saying that -- pointing to an atrium there that was very -- just very ornate.

And he said that this atrium alone would cost more than $18 million to construct, so really trying to get the focus on how these properties were transformed into value, that there was value add, saying that his father foresaw using amenities in residential buildings, that he was also, they said, the first to make hotel-condo combinations and that other developers had followed.

So, trying to inject that they put value in this, that it's more than what the valuations are that the A.G.'s office said that were inflated, so trying to get to this point. But, for the most part, it has been taking a look at photos of the properties and having Donald Trump Jr. describe how they bought it, and a golf course was swampland, and turned it into something, as he said repeatedly, spectacular -- Jessica.

DEAN: Well, we have heard that turn of phrase before.

Kara Scannell, thanks so much for us live outside the courthouse in New York -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, let's talk more about this now with former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams.

OK, first off, Donald Trump Jr.'s testimony so far, has the defense taking the path that you expected that they would? And what's the effect of his testimony?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's really saying, Trump properties are valuable.

And I think, look, in getting back to that piece of evidence that Kara was talking about, there's this idea in the law called relevance, literally relevance, where a fact makes something more or less likely to be true. And the thing that they're trying to establish is true is that the Trump Organization is worth a lot of money.

And so they're showing these brochures and videos and so on. Some of it seems sort of silly, but that's the case they got.

KEILAR: The judge sided with the defense, right, by overruling the A.G.'s objection, what do you make of how the judge is approaching this?


KEILAR: I mean, they have kind of given some idea of it.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I think -- well, the judge said it last week. He's a little spooked here and doesn't want to go too far and ultimately get overturn.

What the judge wants to do, let the defense raise their case, don't step on them, because that's when judges make mistakes. And I think he's just trying to be cautious here.

KEILAR: It's really lengthy, the answers that are being allowed, right?

WILLIAMS: They really are.

And I think it's -- there's a big difference between cross-examination and a direct examination. This is the direct examination by Trump's own attorneys. And they are going to give him a very long leash to say as much as he wants. And unless he says something totally absurd, the prosecutors are probably just going to let him -- let him keep talking.

KEILAR: Are you expecting to see Don Jr. be cross-examined?

WILLIAMS: It's hard to see what prosecutors would gain from cross- examining him, because they had him on the week -- they had him on the stand a week ago.

Unless he were to say something that was so ridiculous that they needed to clarify, clean up or contradict him on, they don't really gain a ton from cross-examining him.


KEILAR: So, this weekend, the former president gave a rather dark speech, a Veterans Day speech. But he said he wanted -- I mean, he covered a lot. It was almost two hours. WILLIAMS: Right.

KEILAR: And in part of it, he was saying he wanted video cameras in the courtroom for the federal election subversion case.


KEILAR: Clearly, he thinks it works in his favor to have them.

His lawyers had alerted the court in that case that they wanted to agree with media organizations that they also wanted to have these cameras there, special counsel Jack Smith, saying that Trump wants this trial to be a media event. They're arguing against it.

How do you see this shaking out?


And a lot of people in the world and, frankly, I believe, including this network, believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant and cameras in the courtroom are actually a good thing. And this has been a longstanding fight in American history over where you put cameras in federal courthouses.

To me, the problem is, if you're going to do that,this is the one case in American history. All those people who are tried on drug offenses or embezzlement or anything else in American history never got cameras in their courtrooms, but one former president goes on trial, and all of a sudden, we have to change all of our policies and practices.

It's worth a broader national conversation about this. But I don't think that once again Donald Trump asking for something means that the entire American experiment needs to change to accommodate what he and his attorneys are asking for.

KEILAR: But he does get some special...


KEILAR: I mean, he does get accommodations, Elliot, let's just be honest.


KEILAR: Because he is a former president. So he does get accommodations in practice, we have seen that, that this drug dealer or that accused drug dealer doesn't get.


OK, former senator...

KEILAR: Just playing devil's advocate here.

WILLIAMS: OK. No, no. No, it's an important -- it's -- I love this conversation. Bob Menendez, senator, might go on trial. And there's no major

question as to whether you're going to put cameras in that courtroom as well. And I just think this is another example of Donald Trump sort of causing us all as a nation to sort of bend our norms a little bit.

Now, if we want to have a national conversation about cameras in the courtroom, let's have it. But I think Donald Trump drives so much hysteria in America, and even in courtrooms. I think that's what's tainting the conversation here.

But, look, on a whole, is it better for Americans to see what happens in their systems of government, be it Congress or courtrooms? Yes, I agree.

KEILAR: Supreme Court rooms, maybe?




KEILAR: Elliot Williams, thank you so much for the conversation.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

KEILAR: And the Republican primary pool getting smaller, Senator Tim Scott suspending his race for the White House. Won't say who he would support in the GOP pack for 2024. We will have more on that next.

Plus, a rite of passage for Speaker Mike Johnson, negotiating a government spending bill to avoid a shutdown. The countdown now on. Stay with us.