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CNN Goes Deep Inside Gaza Combat Zone With Israeli Military; Today, House to Vote on Rep. Mike Johnson's (R-LA) Government Funding Plan; . Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired November 14, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. New this morning, an inside look at what has become the frontline of the war against Hamas in Gaza, from a military standpoint, from a moral standpoint and also from the standpoint of culpability. We're talking about the hospitals there. Only one hospital out of the roughly 30 facilities in Northern Gaza is still receiving patients. That's according to a new report from the United Nations. They are run ought of fuel, food and medical supplies.
Reuters has provided video of bodies piling up outside the courtyard of the Al-Shifa hospital. You can see that video there. We have also seen video from Reuters of this, babies outside incubators at Al-Shifa in need of incubators.
Now, we just got new information the IDF says it has offered incubators to that hospital, and they have released an audio recording of that offer.
Now, President Biden does say that hospitals need to be protected, and, indeed, the Geneva Conventions state that clearly. An official explanation reads, civilian hospitals are entitled to protection under the convention, whether they contain patients or not, but it may under, no circumstances, be used for non-medical purposes.
All right, non-medical purposes, what does that mean? Again, from the official commentary on the Geneva Conventions, listen to this, that means the use medical units to shelter able-bodied combatants to store arms or munitions, as a military observation post or as a shield for military action.
Now, remember, that both Israel and the United States say that Hamas is using hospitals to conceal command tunnels under Al-Shifa there, and also to hide the weapons caches. The IDF released video from outside the Al-Quds Hospital. You can see here they have circled that person they say as Hamas terrorist holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher that is right inside of this hospital.
Now, CNN's Nic Robertson embedded with this IDF to see the destruction surrounding a children's hospital, the Rantisi Children's Hospital. He embedded with them. He saw a whole lot on the frontlines. This is a hospital the IDF says hid weapons, tunnels and more. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): Driving into Gaza with the Israeli forces. It's a war zone. The conditions of our access only show officers, no faces of soldiers and don't show sensitive equipment.
We are passing mile after mile of destruction, buildings blown, collapsed, nothing untouched for the fury of Israel's hunt for Hamas. Streets here crushed, back to sand.
Shops, everything that we see, no sign of any civilians here.
A few miles in, we pull up at a command post, soldiers living in blown apartment buildings.
Every building I'm looking at here, wherever you turn, it's destroyed, it's shot up.
Hard to imagine how civilians endured the bombardment here.
Our next journey, much deeper into Gaza, we arrive 100 meters from a battle with Hamas.
Tanks blasting targets in nearby buildings. The IDF's top spokesperson waiting for us.
BRIG GEN. DANIEL HAGARI, IDF SPOKESPERSON: We are now conducting an operation inside Gaza next to Rantisi Hospital.
ROBERTSON: Israel is facing massive international pressure over the destruction of homes, the shockingly high civilian death toll, and in the last few days, over its apparently heavy-handed tactics at hospitals.
HAGARI: We are searching for tunnels with the bulldozers to reveal the tunnels that we suspect that are underneath the hospital.
ROBERTSON: Hagari has brought us here to show the connection he says exists between Hamas and the Rantisi Children's Hospital.
HAGARI: We are now here in an area between a hospital, a school and a terrorist house.
ROBERTSON: A Hamas commander, he says, lived there. He points out the solar panels on the roof.
HAGARI: This is a tunnel that was sliding, like this, the floor. You can see here.
ROBERTSON: This is the ladder going down?
HAGARI: This is the ladder going down.
ROBERTSON: I see the ladder going down.
HAGARI: Okay. This is a 20-meter tunnel.
And look at here. Look at the tunnel. Be careful here. But look down here. The cables are going down to the tunnel. Okay?
ROBERTSON: So, they're hardwired into the tunnel?
HAGARI: So, why I wanted show you the solar panels on the terrorist house provide electricity directly to the tunnel.
ROBERTSON: We're in what is an active fire zone here. You can hear the small arms fire. The IDF say they're still clearing this area out. We're getting down here, just taking a bit of cover, because they say we're still taking fire.
But over here, we were able to smell what smelled like rotting flesh, bodies perhaps, buried underneath the rubble.
Hagari later tells us he took a big risk, bringing us into such a combat zone. It is clear he wants this story told.
As we finally reach the hospital, it is already getting dark, a huge hole has been blasted through the walls into the basement.
Why is the hospital so damaged?
HAGARI: We'll talk -- why is the hospital so damaged? I'll explain. It's an important question.
ROBERTSON: Yes, it is.
HAGARI: We came to this hospital five days ago. There were still patients inside the hospital. We did not enter into the hospital.
ROBERTSON: He claims since then all patients were evacuated by hospital staff.
HAGARI: We assist this evacuation, of course, to make it a safe pass for all the patients in the hospital. We do not know that the hospital is entirely clean. We do not know. We only entered to this area, which was suspected because we were being fired.
ROBERTSON: Hagari leads us through a warren of basement corridors to this room.
HAGARI: This was the armory, okay?
ROBERTSON: This was the Hamas armory?
ROBERTSON: He shows us a few rusting guns and some explosives. These guns alone have potentially huge implications for Gaza's hospitals and Israel's apparent push to take control of them. The International Committee for the Red Cross say that hospitals are given special protection under international humanitarian law in a time of war. But if militants store weapons there or use them as a base of fire, then that protection falls away.
In other rooms, he shows us a motorbike with a bullet hole in it that he suspects was used by Hamas attackers October 7th, and nearby, possible evidence hostages could have been held here.
HAGARI: We are now in the basement in the same area yards from the motorcycle. We see here a chair, we see here a rope. We see here a woman's clothes or a woman's something covering woman.
ROBERTSON: So, you think a woman was tied up in this chair?
HAGARI: This is an assumption, going to be checked by DNA.
ROBERTSON: More evidence, Hagari says, points towards Hamas and possible hostage presence below the hospital.
And by bringing us here to this hospital and showing us the connection that you believe exists between the terrorists and the possibly hostages, what does this say about the other hospitals here in Gaza?
HAGARI: Cynically, Shifa Hospital is known by facts, by intelligence to be a terrorist hub and also it's suspicious also in holding hostages. This is the best shelter for the terror war machine of Hamas.
ROBERTSON: But the hospital authorities said they have no knowledge of Hamas or other groups inside the hospitals. Is that possible?
HAGARI: I think that it's not possible for a hospital to have this kind of an infrastructure. We knew the terrorists were here. We knew.
ROBERTSON: How did you know?
HAGARI: We knew, by intelligence and also we got some fire from this area.
ROBERTSON: From this area, this building?
HAGARI: From this area. And we were right to fire because what we found an armory.
ROBERTSON: But so much damage all around here.
HAGARI: Yes, there is damage all around here because Hamas made it impossible for us to fight them. They built all these infrastructure in tunnels and in hospital, around areas populated.
ROBERTSON: As we exit the hospital, it is already dark.
We're just getting ready to leave right now. The firefight is still going on, still intense, bullets fired, explosions going on up the street there. This war and the controversies surrounding it far from resolved.
ROBERTSON: And even now night falling again here this evening a day later after we left Gaza there and looking into Gaza right now, John, if you can shoot over my shoulder there, you can see a big plume of black smoke coming up. There was a huge explosion there just a couple of minutes ago. We could feel the shockwaves there. It is the second time that particular location has been hit.
We don't know what is happening on the ground, and that's part of the picture. When you're out here, you don't know what is happening on the street. But when you are inside of there, you get the firsthand look that we saw, and you really get a sense of just how hard the fight is in the city, how much destruction is happening, and, of course, all of the questions about why and what about the people and when even, and no one is really asking this question yet, can they come back to places that have been so badly hit. John?
BERMAN: Nic Robertson, to you and your team, it is such an important perspective to see that firsthand, for you the show us what you did, to risk your lives to give us that look. We thank you for that report. Again, please, continue to stay safe. Kate?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Days, hours, minutes, and time is again running out for Congress to pass a funding bill to avoid a government shutdown. Any moment, House Speaker Mike Johnson is set to meet with reporters about this. And then this afternoon, the House is expected to vote.
Now, this is a House speaker that is now in the exact same position as the last one who was pushed out over almost exactly the same thing. To avoid a shutdown, Johnson, like Kevin McCarthy before him, needs Democratic votes. What is going to happen with this latest mess?
CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill with the very latest. Lauren, what are you hearing there in the hallways?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I'm standing right outside of the Democratic caucus meeting, which is still ongoing, but Leader Jeffries left, and he said that they are still evaluating the terms of this short-term spending deal.
He said now the good news for Democrats is that there are no spending cuts that were included, there are no poison pill. He said they are still evaluating those bifurcated dates, the realty that some of the government funding is going to run out January 19th, other government funding is going to run out on February 2nd. He said they're still evaluating the impact of that on the American people.
But I will say that a number of the House Democrats who are coming out of this meeting are sounding pretty upbeat about this proposal. Representative Pramila Jayapal, who is the leader of the House Progressive Caucus, she said she still wants to meet with her caucus about what they think about this proposal, but she said she thought it was a major victory for Democrats that spending cuts were not include here. And she said that she is considering that as a major win for the party and something that she could likely get behind. She said she just wanted to make sure that other progressives in her caucus felt that way before saying for sure that she was going to support this.
So, you're getting a sense from Democrats that they see the writing on the wall. They know that Friday is coming up very quickly. They know Thanksgiving is around the corner. No one wants a government shutdown. And so while this is not the proposal every Democrat had hoped for, it's not the proposal Democrats would have written themselves, they are sounding very open to backing it despite the fact that Jeffries told us we would have to wait and see what happened on the floor. Kate?
BOLDUAN: We always have to wait and see. That is the fun of it all. Lauren, thank you so much there on the hallways.
If Democrats are upbeat right now, does that mean that Republicans should not be or is this a rare moment of partisanship, John?
BERMAN: Well, let's find out, shall we?
With us now is Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican from New York. Congresswoman, thank you very much. And I should warn you, we're also monitoring a news conference being held by your congressional House leadership, including the House speaker.
But while we wait for that, let me just ask you, how will you vote on this plan when it comes to the floor later this afternoon? Will you support keeping government open this time?
Congresswoman, can you hear me?
REP. NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS (R-NY): Hi. Can you hear me?
BERMAN: Hi, yes. Good. It's a miracle. It's a television miracle. Let me just ask you very quickly in case we lose you again. How do you plan to vote this afternoon? Will you vote to keep the government open?
MALLIOTAKIS: I will be voting to keep the government open. Number one, it is the responsible thing to do. I don't think there is really much appetite here from the Republicans or the Democrats to see a shutdown right before the holiday season. And also we just have to be able to extend the current funding level so that way we can continue our work in the appropriations.
As you know, the House has passed 7 of the 12 bills. The Senate has passed 3 of the 12 bills. And we need to be able to make sure that we complete the work that is needed to be done, and we just simply need more time because we lost three weeks when the eight Republicans and the Democrats had voted our speaker out and brought us to a standstill.
BERMAN: So, the House Freedom Caucus, which is Republicans, have just come out against this spending plan.
How do you feel that more Democrats might vote for this than Republicans?
MALLIOTAKIS: Well, the reality is we have a very slim majority in the House, and the Senate is facing the same reality. We have to work in a bipartisan manner where we can, if we are not going to get agreements among the Republicans.
Ideally, what we want to see done is these individual spending bills, that is what the Freedom Caucus wants, that's what I want as well. But the fact is because a small group of those few members voted to remove our speaker a few weeks ago, we lost three weeks' worth of time to be able to pass those individual spending bills.
And so we need to do what we have to do right now to keep this government open while we continue that process.
I think we are all in agreement, though, that we will be able to save money in the long run, that we will be able to cut wasteful, excessive spending, and we'll be able to put in place better policies if we do it the way it was meant to do, the way the founding fathers, quite frankly, wanted us to do it by taking it up issue by issue as opposed to jamming through these massive omnibus spending bills at the end of the year, that we have stopped, which is the good news.
BERMAN: Given what the Freedom Caucus is doing, are Democrats easier for you to work with on this right now than some Republicans?
MALLIOTAKIS: Look, I've always said, I'll work with anybody willing to do the right thing for the American people. And right now, avoiding a shutdown is the most important thing.
I think the Freedom Caucus -- look, there are many times where we agree as well. We agree that we need to cut excessive, wasteful spending. We have a $33.5 trillion debt. We have a 1.7 annual deficit. We need to address some of the spending issues that have actually just had Moody's downgrade us once again, as well as Fitch.
So, we need to be able to address those issues, but we need time to do it. And this will give us the three to four weeks necessary to pass the remaining bills so we can then go to the Senate and negotiate.
I think what the Freedom Caucus sometimes misses is that we are one part of a federal government that is mostly controlled by Democrats. We only control one-third. And so when you see us at the negotiating table, we are not going to get every single thing we want all the time, and we can't be threatening a government shutdown in the event that we don't get every single thing that we want.
I think the number one priority for us is to get a border that is secure. We are very concerned about the unsustainable flow of individuals and fentanyl and sex and human trafficking that is occurring over our southern border. We can use this upcoming appropriations process to leverage, to get some changes. And I think that is one of the critical things that we're looking in the long-term at the end of this fight in January.
BERMAN: So, Congresswoman, leading presidential candidate on the Republican side is former President Trump at this point, who is facing several either criminal cases or one in New York City, which, of course, is where you live. He just reposted on social media something that said, quote, "My fantasy, I would like to see Letitia James and Judge Engoron under citizens' arrest for blatant election interference and harassment." So, endorsing a call for the arrest of a judge and the New York attorney general, how comfortable are you with that level of heated rhetoric?
MALLIOTAKIS: Well, look, I would not have taken it that far, but I do believe that Letitia James is politicizing this issue. I mean, I would like to see her instead going after the drug cartels that are poisoning our children in New York City. I would like to see her go after the Biden administration for the open border that is affecting New York City to the point where the mayor is saying it is destroying our city. We need to see those laws enforced. Other governors in other states have sued the federal government for not taking action. I think that this is politically motivated, unfortunately, and that she could be spending her time doing other things. So, that is my difference of opinion would be there.
BERMAN: All right. Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis from New York, we appreciate your time. Thank you. Fred?
MALLIOTAKIS: Thank you.
FREDRICK WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up, tens of thousands of people are expected to rally today in D.C. to support Israel and condemn anti-Semitism. Officials say security for the event is at the highest level.
Plus, former President Trump allies who cut a deal with prosecutors in Georgia are revealing new details about plans to overturn the 2020 election. One Trump former attorney says she was told he didn't plan to leave office no matter what.
And in any minute now, we will hear from President Biden about a new $6 billion plan to fight climate change.
WHITFIELD: All right. I want to take you straight to Capitol Hill and listen to House Speaker Mike Johnson.
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): -- without being ripped apart. I agree with our friend, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who said this is a battle between good versus evil, between light versus darkness, between civilization and barbarism. And we want to make absolutely clear where America stands in that fight, and we will continue to do that. The only goal of these barbaric savages, if you could see in these videos, and you've is seen the still shots and all of the rest, that they were -- as was said, they wanted to kill and rape and maim Israeli citizens, innocent citizens, families, small children, pregnant women, the elderly. They want the annihilation of Israel and it's their intent, and it is demonic. It's the only way to describe it.
The Middle East is a tinderbox right now. We know that. And we have to do all we can to avoid a broader regional conflict and prevent further escalation. And so it is absolutely imperative that we send this aid to Israel immediately and show the rest of the world that these acts of terror against the allies is not just be met with unflinching condemnation but with steadfast support. It is in our national interest to do so, and I think everyone who looks at this objectively has to agree it is true.
In my acceptance speech three weeks ago, I said a strong America is good for the entire world, and I believe that. We believe that to our core. We are the beacon of freedom. And right now, we need to act like it. So, we call on our Senate colleagues, we call on the White House to get that measure completed.
We have the C.R. today, and I know you will have questions about that, so we will go to a few of them.
Yes, go ahead. Fox?
REPORTER: My question how hard as sell has this been to your members, because they've said this is essentially the same thing that bounced Kevin McCarthy? And if you get fewer votes from the Democrats than he got -- or fewer votes from Republicans than the previous C.R., doesn't that undercut the essence of what you are doing?
JOHNSON: No, Chad. This is an important innovation, okay? And as was explained earlier, as long as I've been in Congress for seven years, we have governed by omnibus bills right before Christmas. It is a terrible way to run a railroad. And the reason that we're in such trouble with our federal debt is because Congress is addicted, obsessed with this deficit spending.
What happens is, you know, there's a C.R. that goes right up to Christmas break, and then they jam upon us, as was been said, thousands of pages in legislation that no one really has a chance to adequately read through and digest or amend or anything else.
Last year it was $1.7 trillion, you know, with a few hours' notice, and they added $100 or $200 billion extra sprinkled on top of spending that no one had ever actually vetted or gone through. We cannot do that anymore.
We have a $33 .6 trillion federal debt. Moody's downgraded our credit rating this week. Two weeks ago, the Treasury Department announced we have to borrow, borrow $1.5 trillion over the next two quarters to keep the government going. We cannot do that anymore.
And so the latter C.R., the two-step C.R., everybody calls it something different. It's a new innovation. But it's going to change the way we've done this. We have broken the fever. We are not going to have a massive omnibus spending bill right before Christmas. That is a gift to the American people because that is no way to legislate. It is not good stewardship. It's the reason we're in so much debt, that and the effects of Bidenomics, but we have to change it.
And so we've gotten together, I believe there's going to be bipartisan agreement on that, to break it up and put it into January, January 19th, for the first tranche of the bills, and February 2nd for the rest. And that will allow us to go through the deliberative process in good faith. I'm going to take everybody at their word that we're doing this in good faith to do the appropriations process, as it should be done. It should have been done before.
REPORTER: That could seem to satisfy some of the arch concerns within your conference. That's why the Freedom Caucus put out a statement when they were voting.
JOHNSON: Chad, I'm one of the arch conservatives, okay? And I want to cut spending right now. And I would like to put policy writers on this. But when we have a three-vote majority, as we do right now, we don't have the votes to be able to advance that right now.
So, what we need to do is avoid the government shutdown. Why? Because that would unduly harm the American people. Troops wouldn't be paid. You know, we know all the effects of that. And so we have to avoid that, and we have a responsibility to do it.
But this allows, as was said, as the majority leader said, this allows us as conservatives to go into the fight on the next stages of this, to talk about real border changes, policies at the border, to close the southern border, to get it under control, to talk about the oversight that's necessary on additional Ukraine aid, to get Israel done, if they don't do it, as we beg them to do.
All these other matters in the supplemental, that puts us in the policy discussion, and we'll have stringent fights on principle and philosophy and cuts as well.
We'll go here.
REPORTER: Just to follow up on that, a number of Republicans are supporting your plans to prevent a government shutdown, but you've obviously heard the concerns from the some that are not. What did you tell those members who call your plan a mistake, who say it's a surrender?
JOHNSON: We're not surrendering. We're fighting. But you have to be wise about choosing the fights. You've got to fight the fights that you can win, and we're going to. And you're going to see this House majority stand together on our principle, and we're going to do that. But the shutdown would occur on November 17th. Look, it took decades to get into this mess, right? I've been at the job less than three weeks, right? I can't change -- I can't turn an aircraft carrier overnight, but this was a very important first step to get us to the next stage so that we can change how Washington works.
And I think the latter C.R., the two-step C.R., however you describe it, is a big important part of that, and I think every member in that room agrees that that's an important innovation, and it changes the way things are done.
JOHNSON: Let me go Manu real quick. Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're doing what Kevin McCarthy did. You're extending government funding. You're not including spending cuts. Democrats, you're going to need them to carry this. He lost his job in large part over this. Are you concerned at all that this could make your speakership any less secure?
JOHNSON: I'm not concerned about it at all. And Kevin should take no blame for that. Kevin was in a very difficult situation when that happened.
This is a different situation. The innovation that we've created, this new vehicle that the Democrats initially was said was so frightening, actually turns out to be something that would change the way we do this.