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Now: D.C. "March For Israel" After Hostage Families March In Israel; Netanyahu Believes IDF Ground Advance In Gaza Has Increased Pressure On Hamas To Make Deal; Soon: Vote To Avert Shutdown Tests Johnson Speakership; Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) Discusses About His Take On Mike Johnson's Two-Part Funding Bill. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired November 14, 2023 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now, thousands are gathered on the National Mall supporting Israel and demanding the release of the hostages that Hamas is holding. This as President Biden expressing optimism that a deal to free the hostages is "going to happen."
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Plus, the healthcare system in Gaza is collapsing. The U.N. warns only one hospital in northern Gaza remains operational, while Israel insists Hamas is using civilian infrastructure to hold weapons and hostages.
The House is set to vote this afternoon on Speaker Mike Johnson's plan to fund the government, with just three days left before a potential shutdown. The far-right House Freedom Caucus already came out against the plan.
We are following these major developing stories and many more, all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.
KEILAR: Today, 10s of thousands of people are marching here in the nation's capital, showing solidarity with Israel and demanding the release of hostages that Hamas is holding right now. The rally is coming as President Biden says a deal to free the hostages is "going to happen." And the Israeli prime minister says Israel's ground advance in Gaza is ramping up pressure on Hamas to negotiate.
That offensive, though, is also unleashing a humanitarian crisis that is growing worse by the day. Gaza City's only operating hospital has three surgeons for some 500 patients, and Gaza's last working flour mill is almost out of fuel as many residents already face food insecurity.
Let's go now to the region.
CNN's Nada Bashir is in Jerusalem. All right. Nada, tell us a little bit about what is going on. It sounds like in the healthcare system, we're talking about manual types of medicine. There is just so little that can be done for people who are in dire need of real healthcare. NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, and the situation is really deteriorating by the hour. As you mentioned, there is only one hospital in northern Gaza left operational. We heard, in fact, from the last hour from a British Palestinian doctor, Dr. Ghassan (ph), who was set speak to our Isa Soares, describing the situation at the Al- Ahli Baptist Hospital.
It is the only hospital now receiving new patients, but he said that they are having to prioritize surgeries really. They are carrying out daily surgeries without anesthetic. And, of course, as we know, the situation in other hospitals, including the Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest hospital, is catastrophic.
That's how it's being described by medical teams on the ground. They've run out of electricity and fuel to power the hospital. They're running out of medicine, running out of food and safe water for patients. And, of course, as we know, there are hundreds of patients and hundreds of medical staff at the Al-Shifa Hospital, as well as thousands of Palestinian civilians who have flocked to the Al-Shifa complex in search of sanctuary there amid the ongoing bombardment.
Now, of course, there has been huge concern around the situation for the neonatal unit at the Al-Shifa Hospital. Today, we have seen new video being broadcast by Al Jazeera showing doctors at the Al-Shifa Hospital transferring premature newborn babies into another part of the Al-Shifa Hospital.
As we understand, oxygen supplies completely cut off in their neonatal unit. They're having to place babies all together in one empty operating room in order to keep them warm, wrapping them with foil and with blankets.
And this is distressing video, of course. But this is the reality that many hospitals are facing. As we know, the bombardment continues across northern Gaza. The IDF says it is targeting Hamas. It has claimed that there are Hamas command and control centers beneath the Al-Shifa Hospital. These are claims that have been echoed by a U.S. official with knowledge of U.S. intelligence. But, of course, these are claims that CNN cannot verify, has been unable to verify. And, of course, claims that have been denied by both Hamas and by doctors at Al-Shifa and on the ground in Gaza.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military is still calling on civilians to evacuate southwards.
We know, of course, that they are calling on patients at these hospitals to evacuate. But many doctors are saying it is simply impossible for their patients to leave, for their medical staff to leave with their patients, unless a safe, guaranteed medical evacuation route is established. Clearly, that is not the case at the moment.
As we have seen, hundreds of people now trying to make that difficult journey on foot. But, again, distressing video, I have to warn our viewers. We have seen some describing the situation as hugely fragile. One man seen in video holding his baby, a toddler, who died en route as they were attempting to evacuate from northern Gaza to southern Gaza.
And, as we know, those airstrikes are still continuing in southern Gaza. The U.N.'s own humanitarian chief warning that there is nowhere safe for civilians inside Gaza to turn. Brianna?
KEILAR: That is horrible. Nada, thank you so much for that report, live for us from Jerusalem.
And let's go now to CNN's Ed Lavandera, who is in Tel Aviv.
Ed, the IDF push into Gaza, obviously ongoing. Where do things stand with that ground advance?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, all the indications we have right now is that the Israeli defense forces continue to believe that the maximum amount of military pressure on Hamas will create the conditions that they hope will release the hostages. Whether or not that comes to fruition, we do not know yet at this point.
But Israeli military officials saying that they have now taken control of a refugee camp about three miles from the center of Gaza City. So indications that the Israeli military continues to make a deeper and deeper push inside of Gaza and take control of areas.
And if you've been watching the reporting of our colleague, Nic Robertson, who was inside of Gaza with Israeli military teams yesterday, you could really see the level and the extent to which the Israeli military has taken hold of many of the streets and neighborhoods that he was able to pass through there.
Israeli military officials also say since the beginning of this ground offensive, they've spotted and located about 160 entrances to tunnels throughout the Gaza regions that they've entered. And that so far they've been able to strike nearly 3,000 what they - as what they describe as terrorist infrastructure inside of Gaza as well, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Ed, thank you.
And I want to go to the White House now where we have CNN's MJ Lee.
MJ, we were hearing earlier from someone very involved in former hostage negotiations for Israel that this isn't done until it's done. And he thinks right now when you hear a lot about hostage negotiations, it can just be noise. But when you listen to what we're hearing from President Biden, it does sound pretty hopeful. So where do things stand?
MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. Before President Biden left Washington to head here to San Francisco, what we heard him say about the hostage negotiations was, I believe it's going to happen. Now, he has sounded optimistic in the past. But one of the reasons that this seemed noteworthy, particularly today, was because a senior U.S. official familiar with the ongoing talks had told CNN that Israel and Hamas were moving closer to a deal.
Now, they did caution that it's closer, but it's not done, essentially saying closer does not mean close. There are many, many details that still have to be worked out. And, Brianna, this is what we do know about the ongoing parameters that are being discussed, we know that there would be an exchange of a large number of hostages for a number of Palestinian prisoners that Israel is holding and that all of this would take place when there is a sustained pause in fighting up to about five days is what we were told and that the priority would be given to particularly vulnerable populations like women, like children.
But there are so many sticking points. These talks have been so incredibly complicated. And just as you said, parties that are involved in these talks have said before, look, we've gotten close, but we haven't had a deal yet. And just one illustration of that is that we were told that the Israelis had initially asked for 100 hostages to be released. But if you listen to what the Hamas' military wing has said recently, it is that they are discussing potentially 70 hostages being released.
So as one Israeli official basically summarized it, they said Hamas is trying to release as few hostages as possible. In exchange for the longest ceasefire possible. So at least from the U.S.'s perspective, yes, we are seeing some hints of optimism creeping into these conversations. And they're going to be very, very relieved when those hostages get out. But I think you're very right that until they are actually out and physically out of Gaza, there's not going to be a real sense of relief.
KEILAR: Let us hope that some come soon.
MJ Lee live there in San Francisco, thanks for the report. Pam?
BROWN: Thanks, Brianna. Well, a moment of unity right now in Washington, where thousands are gathering on the National Mall in a march for Israel.
The event is bringing together people supporting the war against Hamas. But it's also drawing heightened security. Homeland Security gave the gathering its highest possible security designation, as the U.S. has seen an unprecedented surge in anti-Semitic incidents in recent weeks.
I'm joined now by Elisha Wiesel who is at the rally. He is the chairman of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.
Thanks for coming on. I hope you can hear me. I know how loud it is there.
First of all, if you would just tell us, what is the significance of today's demonstration?
ELISHA WIESEL, CHAIRMAN, ELIE WIESEL FOUNDATION: Thirty-five years ago on Freedom Sunday in 1987, my father and many other speakers got on a stage here and protested on behalf of Soviet Jewry at a time when Soviet Jews were also hostage to the Soviet Union, at a time when they were the evil empire.
What was heard that day, when 250,000 people gathered, was loud and clear. And I believe, as do many, played a role in the ultimate collapse of the Iron Curtain, strengthening President Reagan's knowledge of the moral high ground that the United States had in the Cold War.
So these rallies can make a profound difference. And today, my highest aspiration and hope is that the hostages know that we are here together speaking for them and that Israel will come to rescue them. With the support of the Jews all around the world.
BROWN: And that, of course, is a big focus of today's rally, bringing those hostages held in Gaza home. President Biden said this morning he believes a deal for their freedom will get done. Do you share his optimism?
WIESEL: I share the optimism that ultimately Israel is going to win this war, that Hamas will be defeated and the reason that I have that optimism is that the Jewish world is completely together, and more importantly, we have allies, we have incredible allies like President Biden and the United States and Congress that are standing behind Israel's right to exist in peace and security, that know what it means to battle an ISIS or an al-Qaeda who desires the destruction of democracy, the destruction of human life that we value so dearly.
So I know that we have what is needed to fight this battle all the way through and rescue the hostages and seek peace in the Middle East. The rally that you are at right now, we see behind you, it's drawing several high-profile speakers, including members of Democratic leadership. There has been some division, as you well know, amongst Democrats on the Israel-Hamas war. How are members of the Jewish community, like yourself, reading this division?
WIESEL: Look, there are always going to be haters in any crowd. They might be Democrats. They might be Republicans. It's always possible in a big enough crowd to find some extreme fringe that don't align with basic values of human decency, that understand that Israel is a bastion of democracy in a very tough neighborhood, and that we stand for the same principles that the United States does over there.
So my reaction is, haters going to hate. I feel overwhelming gratitude to the majority of Congress, to this administration and to all of our allies, who are standing with us. We have far more to be grateful for with regards to the United States than we do to point fingers at.
BROWN: I'm going to talk about this op-ed published today in The Hill, where you write: "Neither Israel nor Gazan civilians can afford this to be anything other than the last battle." This war can only end with the complete destruction or surrender of Hamas. Do you really believe that this will be the "last battle"?
WIESEL: I don't see how Israel can tolerate Hamas existing after what they did. You've seen the images. It's barbaric. They raped, they desecrated, they baked babies in ovens. We have not seen evil this extreme since the Nazis. There is no way that on the outskirts of Berlin we would have stopped before that final step to go in and wipe out the Nazi leadership. This is it. Hamas' time is up and the whole world knows it.
BROWN: Elisha, thank you for coming on. I appreciate it, especially considering how hard it must be to hear us. Thank you.
Well, the government shutdown clock is ticking as House Speaker Mike Johnson's funding plan faces a key vote this afternoon. Republican Congressman Ken Buck joins us live up next.
And then later, how China is using the world's largest known online disinformation operation to harass Americans critical of Beijing.
KEILAR: Any moment here now, House Speaker Mike Johnson will face his first major test on the House floor as he pushes his two-part funding bill to keep the federal government running past Friday. But without enough Republican support, Johnson has moved to sidestep them and lean on Democrats to get a bill passed.
You might recall that same move cost Kevin McCarthy the Speaker's gavel last month. Johnson has to get a two-thirds majority vote for passage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): When you 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. We know all the effects of that. And so we have to avoid that and we have a responsibility to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Here with us now, Republican Congressman Ken Buck of Colorado. He is also a member of the House Freedom Caucus, which came out against Johnson's funding plan today.
All right. Sir, thanks for being with us.
First off, are you on board with this?
REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): I am going to make a decision, sort of a game time decision for me. I have not decided yet whether I'm going to support this or not. This really isn't Mike's fault that he is not - that he is working to maintain spending levels that Republicans didn't vote for a year ago. And the reason is that the appropriations bill were not brought to the floor in May and June and July in a way that we would be in position to pass them by September 30th.
So I don't blame Mike for what's going on right now, but I still have - I am reluctant to support a spending level that I did not support last year.
KEILAR: Even though you said, I like the latter approach?
BUCK: I do like the latter approach. I think it's very important that we make sure that we have a group of spending bills that we can pass and send to the Senate and conference. And just start the muscle memory of passing appropriations bills and doing the right thing on spending.
I like the latter approach. I don't like the fact that we don't have border requirements in here. I don't like the fact that we don't have other spending cuts in these appropriations or in the CR.
KEILAR: So this issue of getting Democratic support and bypassing some Republicans is what some Freedom Caucus members ousted McCarthy for. Not all of them. To be clear, you had broader reasons. But they rebelled when McCarthy relied on Democrats for support in keeping the government running. Are they going to try to oust Johnson for it?
BUCK: No, I don't believe anybody is interested in vacating the chair again and getting rid of Mike Johnson. I think that Mike has inherited a mess and he is doing his best to work through that mess. And that mess right now needs to receive a bipartisan solution. I understand all that.
Mike is really doing his best to make sure that we do pass appropriations bills with the Senate.
KEILAR: Okay, but can I stop you for just one second, because I want to understand this?
KEILAR: If Mike Johnson is doing his best and it is the same as what Kevin McCarthy did, I mean, is that not Kevin McCarthy's best? If Freedom Caucus members don't oust Johnson for relying on Democrats instead of keeping Republicans together, are they irrelevant? He's Speaker, Mike Johnson, because of them. And he is bypassing them on his first major maneuver as Speaker.
BUCK: Yes, but he's not and understand, Mike Johnson and Kevin McCarthy are in a much different position. Kevin started as Speaker in early January. The appropriations bills weren't brought to the floor until late July. We took an August recess. We got back in September. We passed a few. And the CR came about because Kevin McCarthy wanted an omnibus bill. He delayed the appropriations process so that we would have an omnibus bill.
That's not what Mike did. Mike has inherited this mess. He's doing his best to get appropriations bills passed. And he's working with Democrats to keep the floor open, completely different story. KEILAR: All right. Separately, but sort of connected. This alleged kidney punch or hard kidney nudge or knock that Congressman Burchett says he received from former Speaker Kevin McCarthy today. Burchett, of course, one of the eight in the GOP who ousted McCarthy. McCarthy is denying his claim. Who do you believe here?
BUCK: Well, I believe the reporter who was present when Tim was pushed or struck by Kevin McCarthy. It wasn't just Tim's view of what happened and it wasn't just a crowded situation where Kevin was pushed into Tim. And so I think the reporter made the eyewitness account and I believe that Kevin while he was guarded by four police officers, went and did what he did, I guess.
KEILAR: So you think he's lying, to be clear?
BUCK: Kevin McCarthy and lying are like peanut butter and jelly.
KEILAR: Why do you think he's lying? I mean, why do you think in this case - and look, I will grant you this because the NPR reporter who was there said he walks by and I've been in that hallway, you're right, it is not that narrow that you couldn't avoid a fellow congressman. She said that she saw Burchett sort of lunge forward. And clearly he was shocked by what had happened.
Why do you think Kevin McCarthy would do that and then insist, even in the face of having a reporter having been there and describing what happened, that he's insisting he didn't?
BUCK: Yes, I don't know what goes through the mind of Kevin McCarthy. I know he doesn't want to take responsibility for the financial mess that we're in right now. I know he doesn't want to take responsibility for pushing a congressman who voted against him in the motion to vacate.
I think that Kevin McCarthy is, obviously, very upset still that he is not speaker. And he is - he doesn't hold any leadership position now. He is a rank and file congressman like me and it's got to be upsetting to him. And so he took it out in the way he took it out. And now he denies it. I don't know how to explain that to anybody.
KEILAR: Congressman Matt Gaetz is taking this to ethics. Do you think that's right?
BUCK: I think this is a family issue that we have a conference at some point and we talk about and move on. I don't think that we need to publicize this any more than it's been publicized.
KEILAR: So - then it sounds like you - you're seeing this - from the outside and it sounds like maybe what you're saying, but I don't want to put words in your mouth, it's so dramatic. This drama, why are so many of your fellow Republicans having a hard time quitting this drama?
BUCK: I don't know the answer to that question. I - every night I go home and I sing "Kum Ba Yah." I have no idea why other people aren't getting along around this place. It is upsetting that we have member on member pushing. There was an incident over in the Senate also today.
I think, honestly, we have been here for a long time, a number of weeks in a row. A lot of us haven't been home much to see our families. I think that wears on people. But that's not an excuse for pushing another member.
KEILAR: What was the Senate incident?
BUCK: Oh, Markwayne Mullin evidently stood up in a committee meeting and challenged somebody and in a way that just isn't appropriate in the Senate or the House.
KEILAR: The decorum you're saying is just not normal.
BUCK: It's not normal. I think I think there's a lot of folks on both sides of the Capitol that are really - the stresses is wearing on them and I think we need to move on, pass appropriations bills, do our job and make sure we keep things in perspective.
KEILAR: All right. Congressman Ken Buck, thank you for taking the time with us today. We do appreciate it.
BUCK: Thank you.
KEILAR: And with President Biden set to meet President Xi of China, CNN uncovers a huge campaign by the Chinese government to intimidate Americans. We have the details.