Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Trump Jr. Testifies In Fraud Trial; Gaza Hospitals Face Critical Shortages Government Shutdown Looms Again; Supreme Court Adopts Code Of Conduct; Secret Service Agent Shoots At Suspects. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 13, 2023 - 14:00   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: Now it's their turn. Donald Trump Jr. back on the witness stand as Trump Organization lawyers kick off their defense in the $250 million civil fraud trial. Why Trump Jr. says his dad is, quote, an artist.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And desperation in Gaza. Hospitals running out of basic critical supplies, forcing doctors to wrap premature babies in foil. What Israel is saying about this and what it could mean for hostage talks. Plus, here we go again. The U.S. racing toward yet another potential government shutdown. Will the Capitol Hill, will Capitol Hill chaos continue or will cooler heads finally prevail? We are following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN News Central.

DEAN: Just minutes from now, Donald Trump Jr. will return to the witness stand in the Trump organization's $250 million civil fraud trial in New York. He's the first witness for Trump's legal team, which started presenting its case today. CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the courthouse. And Kara, Don Jr. testified for about 2 hours this morning before the court took that lunch break. And there was an interesting moment where the judge allowed into evidence this document by the defense of the valuation of one of Trump's resorts over objections by the AG's office. What more can you tell us about that exchange?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, so Trump's lawyers wanted to introduce this PowerPoint presentation that went through all of the properties that they own, and essentially pulled from their website. The attorney general's office objected to this, saying they didn't think it was relevant and that it was coaching the witness because he could read the lofty descriptions of all of these properties.

The judge said he would allow that. He said the AG's office has had 6 weeks to present their case. And then he actually thought it was interesting and relevant to know the history. And that is what we spent most of the morning doing. Donald Trump Jr. starting off saying that his great-grandfather during the gold rush was building hotels for miners in Yukon, part of Canada. And from there, we went to Trump Tower, walking through all of the properties that they own and that they've built. So, Trump Tower in New York, numerous hotels in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, as well as a number of golf courses.

And of course, Mar-a-Lago. This is the property that Donald Trump has become the most irritated about how it is being treated in this case, the valuations given to that property. And Don Jr. echoing his father, saying that he took umbrage with this $18 million tax assessment assigned to Mar-a-Lago, saying that the atrium, very ornate atrium that we saw photos of in court, would take more than $18 million just to construct that today. That also was another theme that kept underscoring today's testimony, talking about how his father, he used the words visionary, artist, leading and cutting edge, how he would take certain properties and transform them and enhance the value.

That was what he was trying to underscore, talking about how when they had commercial properties, they added amenities for tenants and residential properties, claiming his father was the first to introduce amenities there. And then also carrying that through into this hotel, saying that he was one of the first to do the hotel condo combination, which was ways to get value out of that.

Another property that is the focus of this investigation is Doral, the golf course in Florida. There, Donald Trump Jr. saying that that was a property they came in, they showed photos of Doral, how they had expanded on that, changed it, added value to that. He said his father closed one of the golf courses, adding condos to it. And he said the creation of value like that in an instant. So, really just trying to make the point that these properties have a lot of different components coming up with the values. Of course, the AG has alleged that the valuations that they gave to them were inflated compared to what appraisers and others have said.

So, they're trying to show the judge here that there were a lot of different pieces that go into valuing a property, including some of these softer things. But of course, that is something that appraisers and others would know. Now, Don Jr. will be back on the stand shortly. If he is still on direct testimony. So, if the state does decide to cross him, it's likely we'll head into tomorrow with him back on the stand, continuing his testimony. Jessica.


DEAN: All right, Kara Scannell, who's been tracking every twist and turn in all of this, thanks so much for that update. And let's talk more about this with former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. Harry, great to see you. Talk us through



DEAN: -- what Trump's team has to do here to make their case.

LITMAN: Well, it's pretty hard because the judge is going to be the actual jury. So, all of this stuff this morning, it's his chance to sort of tell his story and, you know, Donald Trump's a visionary and every property is a crown jewel. But you could ask, what does it really have to do with the charges which are inflating values? It's his chance to do what you would normally do to a jury. And also, I think he's talking to the American public. But what he really has to do, and the defense has to do is rebut the charges that the valuations were inflated and false and they knew it. And this has kind of been, you know, an infomercial for the first few hours.

It doesn't really speak to that a lot. That's why the AG was objecting so much. This is irrelevant. It's a narrative. But the judge is saying, you know, let it go. I don't want to have any problems on appeal. Let him tell his story. You had 6 weeks. So that was the basic theme of this morning.

DEAN: And I want to ask you about something you just mentioned, which is how much of this is being directed at the American people, less so toward the judge. I mean, we've talked a lot about how the former president likes to play things out in the court of public opinion versus inside the courtroom. How much of what we're going to be hearing from Don Jr. and Eric and if the former president gets back on the stand is really aimed at shaping this narrative outside the courtroom?

LITMAN: I would say 99 percent, maybe 100, because again, it's the judge who's going to decide. It'd be one thing if Don Trump Jr. was turning to the jury and trying to turn on the charm such as such as it is. But it's the judge who's going to decide. I think they've pretty well concluded that the judge is going to decide against them. And this whole story won't really do anything on appeal. So, I think the only real explanation besides just giving him a chance to tell the story of why his father is a visionary and it's a fantastic brand and the like really is for us, the public. It doesn't really have much to do with the decision that the trial judge and not a jury is going to make.

DEAN: And so much of last week's questioning was centred around emails, communications indicating that the two sons were aware of this valuation and what was being done in these finances, despite them testifying they didn't have any knowledge. This was all of the accountants. How will the team now reshape this narrative and how does that play into what you and I were just talking about, which is a lot of it is kind of -- it sounds like in the last several hours, like -- like an infomercial talking about how you can value properties based on other things outside of -- of what maybe you would traditionally use?

LITMAN: Yeah, so I think that's right. And, you know, we're going to have a cross-examination now, which we didn't have before. And they're going to be very pointed questions, Jessica, about exactly that. Well, wait a second. You said this and you said you had some role. The one thing he said today that I thought was a mistake is he said everybody shared responsibility for everything. And that suggests a role for all of them in these potential false evaluations. So, what's going to happen now, I think, is he'll try his best to give, you know, different explanations about how things work, but come cross- examination, he's going to face some very pointed questions both about valuations and about the spectacular failures and business losses of this company that supposedly was the visionary for the whole real estate reel.

DEAN: Yeah, so much more to come. All right, Harry Litman, thanks so much for your analysis there. We appreciate it.

LITMAN: Thanks, Jessica.

DEAN: Brianna.

KEILAR: Catastrophic, collapsing. Doctors say the situation right now at hospitals in Gaza, it is dire. Medical teams forced to work by flashlight in a desperate bid to save lives. In the meantime, Israeli forces continue to fight Hamas. The IDF saying it took out 21 alleged terror suspects today outside of Al-Quds Hospital. Video released by Israel's military appears to show a fighter with an RPG launcher near the hospital entrance. The Palestinian Red Crescent has denied that there are armed individuals inside the hospital and says no shots were fired from inside. This video near the entrance though.

This as we are learning new details about the urgent negotiations to free 239 hostages still held by Hamas. The White House revealing one of those hostages is a 3-year-old American. CNN's Oren Liebermann is in Tel Aviv for us with the very latest. Oren, what more is the U.S. saying about these hostages?


OREN LIEBERMANN, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Briana, the focus of the hostage negotiations has been in Qatar, and that's because the Qataris are able to speak with Hamas and try to put pressure on them, pressure that Israel and the U.S. are encouraging them and pushing them to put on Hamas to establish a larger hostage realise. All of the hostages released, the Mossad and the CIA also involved in those conversations. They are ongoing from what we know. The hard part to gauge is how much progress in there -- is there.

President Joe Biden spoke with the Emir of Qatar over the weekend, and he brought up for the first time as we've learned, a 3-year-old toddler, an American citizen who's being held by Hamas. That would be the youngest American we know who was captured and kidnapped in the terror attack on October 7th. He said all of the hostages should be released immediately. He also underscored in his call with the Emir of Qatar the need for a Palestinian state and Israelis and Palestinians living side by side.

Meanwhile, domestic pressure is growing here as well. The families of the hostages are planning a march from here in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem tomorrow over several days that will End at the prime minister's office. They're pushing for a hostage release and a hostage exchange here. Hamas has demanded all for all, all the hostages in Gaza for all of the prisoners in Israel. Meanwhile, there's also been discussions of a hostage release for a several-day pause in the fighting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted there will be no pause in the fighting until all of the hostages are released. The difficult part is trying to find any sort of common ground here in the middle of a war between Israel and Hamas that would allow nearly 240 hostages to be released. KEILAR: Oren, the situation when it comes to health care in Gaza, as i

just mentioned, we're talking about the largest hospitals in Gaza. Give us a sense of what's going on there.

LIEBERMANN: It is far worse than dire from everything we can see and everything we're being told inside of Gaza. Al-Qud's hospital, the second largest hospital in Gaza, already shut down over the weekend, closed off its medical services because it no longer has the supplies, the energy, the food, the fuel to run the hospital. And that brings us to Al-Shifa hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza that's treating some 650 patients, with thousands of people trying to find sanctuary inside as fighting rages on the streets there between Israel and Hamas.

That hospital, we learned from the hospital director, had to shut off all of its essential units, meaning it's barely, if at all, able to treat patients inside. As an example, in the neonatal intensive care unit, the incubators that keep the babies alive shut down over the weekend when the generator could no longer operate. Three babies in the neonatal intensive care unit died as a result of that.

Now, according to the hospital director, they're relying on hot water and foil to try to keep the babies warm and, frankly, keep the babies alive so they can keep finding some way to treat them. And that is just a small fraction of the challenges here. We're about to show you a clip here. Just a warning, this is a graphic clip, so please keep that in mind here as we play this from inside one of the hospitals describing the situation.


UNKNOWN: 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 life-saving one. He is less than a year old.


LIBERMANN: The IDF says they tried to provide 300 litres of fuel to Al-Shifa hospital. They say Hamas interfered in the delivery. Meanwhile, the hospital director denies that. He said they asked the fuel be delivered through the red cross, and the staff was too afraid to go out to get it because of the presence of Israeli troops. Brianna, either way, 300 litres of fuel would have kept the hospital running for about half an hour. Brianna.

KEILAR: Yeah, not long at all. Oh, these poor babies, Oren. Oren, thank you so much. I want to turn now to Daniel O'Shea. He is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL commander and coordinator for the hostage working group in Iraq. Daniel, the parties involved right now, as we talk about hostages here, they are working on a deal to get a sustained, days-long pause in fighting in exchange for a large group of hostages being freed.

We know that President Biden actually spoke with the Emir of Qatar about the hostage situation. Does that perhaps signal to you that there is progress in getting Israel on board with this big step?

DANIEL O'SHEA, NAVY SEAL COMMANDER (RET): Well, there is intense pressure on Netanyahu, not only coming from the allies. You know, 30- plus countries have nationals that are being held hostage, with the 238 total that they still have listed. You've also got pressure from the families themselves in Israel that are going to march on his residence, demanding the release. So, all pressure is on Netanyahu right now, not only from his own people, especially the family members of the hostages, but the international community as well.

KEILAR: What does that signal to you that Biden spoke to the emir?


O'SHEA: Well, obviously, this has got the world's attention because, you know, we've had over 50, nearly 50 strikes on US positions in Syria and Iraq directly related to this. So, everyone is trying to de- escalate this. And at the center of this is the hostages, which is the focus of international discussions. And it's the one bargaining chip that Hamas has, that and world opinion. And right now, world opinion and the hostage situation is weighing heavily on the IDF to slow roll their attempt to go wipe out Hamas in the entire region of Gaza.

KEILAR: The White House has revealed that Hamas is holding a 3-year- old American as a hostage. Does that change the way America approaches this? We know that there are 9 missing Americans, so we know that there are American hostages. We expect that we don't know the number. Does this 3-year-old change anything?

O'SHEA: Well, it just goes to the level of, honestly, the barbarism on October 7th. You have, we've heard 3-month-old children, upwards to 85-plus-year-old grandparents are being held, innocent noncombatants. But again, this is how terrorist groups negotiate with the West. They grab hostages. And frankly, world opinion is driven very much by this young American child, and it's getting the US president involved. So, it's serving their end state. No matter how barbaric it is, it is serving their end state, and why hostage terrorism is such an effective tool for organizations, terrorist organizations like Hamas.

KEILAR: The IDF has implemented these, what they're describing as daily localized humanitarian pauses in Gaza for the past 10 days. This is what is allowing these civilians out of Gaza along these 2 main highways. Do you see this as a practice run for a larger pause, or should we really just see this for what it is?

O'SHEA: Well, anything could happen right now, because the conjunction with the al-Shifa hospital, it's the largest hospital, reportedly has a command structure, a Hamas command structure, bunker system. The hostages very well could be hidden underneath this hospital as well. We've already heard that people are fleeing to that hospital right now. So that's the challenge, that Hamas not only uses the hostages as human shields, they use their own populace.

And that's what makes this so challenging for, you know, the stated goal for the IDF is to go in and wipe out Hamas. And it's pretty hard to do when Israeli hostages and Palestinian civilians are co-located with the very, very terrorist organization you're trying to wipe off the face of the earth.

KEILAR: Yeah, it's a near impossible problem, as we are seeing, which is the point, no doubt, for Hamas. Daniel, great to have you. Thank you so much.

O'SHEA: Thank you.

KEILAR: Still ahead, less than five days to make a deal. We're going to go to Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are under intense pressure to avoid a shutdown for the second time in as many months. That's right. Here we are again. Plus, breaking news out of the Supreme Court amid some pretty serious ethics concerns. What the high court is doing about it. Stay with us for that.



DEAN: This just in to CNN. Amid growing pressure and questions over conflicts of interest, the Supreme Court saying now it will adopt a code of conduct. Yeah, let's bring in CNN's Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid and Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic. Paula, starting with you here. I mean, this is huge. What's in this code of conduct?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're still working out just how big this is, how much of this is new and how it will be enforced. But clearly the court is trying to address concerns about ethics on the bench after a series of high-profile stories about benefits that justices have received. Now, we've looked through the code of conduct now and again, it's not clear how this will be enforced, but it is an important step because we know the nine justices, they are not bound by a formal ethics code, unlike lower courts, which are.

And in recent months, really over the past couple of years, there have been a series of big stories about things that justices have received and sometimes for people who are close to cases that they will hear. So, this is interesting because the court says that they derive this code of conduct from the one that the lower courts abide by, but they didn't accept it wholesale. So right now, we're going through and trying to figure out what is different, what is new. But Democrats in Congress are, of course, threatening to pass legislation to mandate ethics reform.

They asked the chief justice, John Roberts, to come before the court and testify. He declined. And in April, when he declined, he sent them a letter and attached to it was a statement of ethics and principles, practices that they abide by. This appears to be going a little bit further. But again, it's unclear how much of this is new. And the big outstanding question is, okay, well, how are you going to enforce this?

DEAN: Right. And there's so many questions. They're still hashing all of that out. But, Joan, you covered the Supreme Court for so long and you really understand its intricacies. It seems as if the public trust in that institution had really fallen recently with all of these questions around these ethics, potential ethics breaches. And as Paula mentioned, Democrats were pounding down the door. How significant is this that they're making this move now?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: It's a significant first step. Let me put it that way. Back in April, when the chief justice first put out a statement about how they already try to abide by lower court dictates, he said that we follow them. We want to clarify that we do follow them here. He's saying they're actually trying to promulgate a code. But there are so many open questions here about exactly how that will get done. Who will be the judge of that? How binding will this be? What if somebody in the public or Congress, which is very much scrutinizing the justices right now, has a complaint? How would that be resolved?

But I have to say it is something that all nine signed it because there was some dissension within their ranks about whether anything even needed to be addressed. We saw some justices, Elena Kagan, Amy Coney Barrett, for example, saying yes, a code would be a good thing. But then we also saw some resistance by Samuel Alito, for example, telling the Wall Street Journal, I already abide by code, by ethics principles. You know, a code might not be necessary.


So, the chief justice at least got all 9 to sign this. But we still have to figure out, you know, just what is being promulgated here? What kind of a true ethics code? And is it a kind of code that would lack teeth? Because if there are any kind of potential violations, there'd be no panel or not higher authority, but at least an authority within their orbit to question it.

Now, again, to the court's credit, it does say at the very end that they are trying to hash out a lot of those questions. They're going to be talking to their own legal counsel within the Supreme Court to see what kind of specifics might need to be added here. But I do have to say, this clearly reflects the justices trying to respond to public criticism, trying to respond to what has been going on in the Senate as recently as last Thursday when Senator Durbin was trying to press subpoenas for people who had, you know, given financial benefits to the justices. And as I say, I think this is a concrete first step, and we'll just have to see whether there's any teeth behind it.

DEAN: Yeah, and that is the big question, right? I think so many people, too, still remain shocked that up until now this didn't exist.

BISKUPIC: Right. And well, one thing I should say real quick, Jessica, is that bothered the chief that so many people would say that. You'd say everybody thinks we're not, we're not abiding by ethics, but we really were. And this will communicate to people that we were and now we're going to actually promulgate something.

DEAN: Enshrine it. All right. Paula Reid and Joan Biskupic. Thanks so much for being here.

BISKUPIC: Sure. DEAN: A Secret Service agent opens fire after three suspects tried to break into a government vehicle. We're going to share the details behind that incident next.