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Soon: Biden Face-To-Face With China's Xi Amid Global Tensions; Israel Raids Gaza's Largest Hospital; Sources: Document Found By Israel Suggests Iran Sought To Help Hamas Make Its Own Weapons Ahead Of 10/7 Attack; Biden Compares Trump's "Vermin" Remark To Nazi Rhetoric. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired November 15, 2023 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: A high-stakes face-to-face with the power to reshape the whole world order. In moments, President Biden and China's President Xi meet on U.S. soil amid simmering tensions. Can they find common ground, or will competition turn into conflict.
Plus, Israeli troops raid Gaza's largest hospital after claiming Hamas is using it as a terror cell. Well, doctors there say vulnerable babies could soon die and that there's nowhere for them to go.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And President Biden takes the gloves off. Why he says Donald Trump's recent vermin rant is ripped from a Nazi playbook.
We are following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.
KEILAR: Within the hour, the leaders of the world's two most powerful nations are expected to meet face-to-face. President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, they will see each other in person for the first time in a year, in a historic estate south of San Francisco. And this is a meeting that has taken months to arrange and to choreograph. Still, expectations are low for these high stakes summit. U.S. relations have been on a downward spiral amid global turbulence, with simultaneous wars in Ukraine and the Middle East.
And we have CNN anchor and chief national security analyst Jim Sciutto here to explain this to us a little further.
Pretty amazing that they were actually meeting at all, considering the U.S. shot down that Chinese spy balloon just ten months ago, and things haven't been going all that well.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: No, I mean, they're on the wrong side of so many issues right now. They're on opposite sides. You have China somewhat on Russia's side in Ukraine, not quite arming then, but at least, supporting them in that war diplomatically and in terms of rhetoric, certainly on Taiwan, right? The U.S. greatly fears that China may choose to invade Taiwan. China will say Taiwan is really should be part of us.
And on economic issues as well because when you look at the Biden policy, it's to deny key technology to China. The U.S. views that as dual use technology to China, it's technology necessary to build their economy -- by the way, as their economy is suffering right now.
So, when you look at these issues, you have the ones like the spy balloon, there was a moment in time, in the past, China has since heartily suspended the program. But then you have other issues that are far more lasting. They're far more lasting now.
KEILAR: Were they likely to find some common ground?
SCIUTTO: So, the common ground -- listen, when you look at this, climate change is the big picture. Neither, the world is not going to go anywhere unless the U.S. and China, the world's biggest polluters, are cooperating on climate change. And both countries acknowledge them, that they need to work together and that this is a real problem.
So that's a possibility. They're not making enough progress. They made some progress.
Military communications suspended after this moment, if you remember, when Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. That's key because you got a whole host of close encounters between U.S. and Chinese warships. U.S. and Chinese warplanes, which the worry is they could develop into bigger issues if you don't have those military to military comms.
KEILAR: Explain how that normally works if you have something like that happening.
SCIUTTO: Listen, you had incident short -- just the last couple of weeks ago where a Chinese fighter jet came within 10 feet of a U.S. jet. If the wing clips the wing, right, then you have an international incident, potentially deadly one. By the way, that happened in 2001, if you remember, over Hainan Island. That was a major diplomatic row.
If you don't have a hotline, as it were, to communicate to, so it doesn't get bigger in those difficult moments, that's the real fear. So if they come out of this meeting restoring military to military comms, that is a step forward.
On fentanyl, of course, enormous health consequences inside this country for years. A lot of the ingredients come from China. If they make progress on that, that has -- that's a good olive branch between those two countries, which is a great importance to both parties in this country.
And on the economy, even when you have these differences over high technology, the U.S. and Chinese economies remained deeply, deeply entwined. So much of the stuff you and I buy every day is still made there, even with these restrictions.
And as President Biden said, he's not looking to decouple entirely. We still need to make stuff there and buy stuff from each other. So, if they could each get some, in terms of mutual interests, get some of that back on track, that's progress. It's something. It's not going to solve the big pictures issues, but it's at least going to cool down some of the hot issues.
KEILAR: Let's talk about some of those issues where they're still going to be a world apart.
SCIUTTO: Yeah, well, listen, on the economy issue is one. So, from the U.S. perspective, and, by the way, this is a bipartisan issue, the U.S. cannot be exporting its key technology to China anymore. China's like, I can't grow my economy. That's a problem for me. That's something they're not going to solve today.
But other ones, South China Sea, China says this is ours, the U.S. does not take a position on it, but notes there's half a dozen countries there. And to demonstrate, we fly our planes and sail ships through there, creates a lot of close encountries.
Taiwan, the U.S. has made very clear, you cannot invade Taiwan. We would consider that an international incident. By the way, you have a president in office now who said more than once, if you do, the U.S. is going to come to Taiwan's defense. That would be more between the U.S. and China. That's a big deal.
On Iran and Russia, China has relationships with both these countries militarily and economically. China is buying a lot of Russian oil right now, a lot of Iranian oil. Of course, from that U.S. perspective, that money is helping fuel Russia's war in Ukraine, Iran, backs Hamas, it's helping fuel the war in Israel right now.
And then we have an election coming up. People remember Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. They forget that China interfered as well, they interfered again in 2020 and the U.S. does not want to blow up again and has issued a lot of warnings to that effect.
To date, it's been largely misinformation and disinformation. Of course, the concern is, would any country take a step to try to change the results? Or attempt to change the results?
KEILAR: Yeah, it's a big meeting and this is a lovely place they're meeting at. They're rolling out the red carpet for Xi.
SCIUTTO: And that matters, you know?
KEILAR: It does.
SCIUTTO: First of all, they're talking and, you know, as much political hay is being made in this country over this from Republicans, to have the super power leaders talking is important to avoid war. And when that happens, where it happens and what the pictures look like, that matters. It certainly matters with Chinese auditions.
KEILAR: Oh, it sure does. All right. Jim, thank you so much for taking us through that.
BROWN: Thanks, Brianna.
Now to the Middle East, where Israel's raid on the largest hospital in Gaza has now been ongoing for some 20 hours now. The Israel Defense Forces claiming they have discovered, quote, concrete evidence to confirm what they've been saying for years, that Hamas use the hospital as a command hub. Doctors there have repeatedly denied this.
And one doctor told CNN they were all given a 30-minute warning before the tanks started rolling in to the complex. A top Gaza hospital official said IDF troops entered the surgery building, interrogating staff and patient, and conducting strip-searches. The IDF would not confirm this.
One surgeon spoke to a reporter from inside.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DR. AHMED EL MOKHALLALATI, SENIOR PLASTIC SURGEON AT AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL: We can't look through windows or doors. We don't know what's happening. Thanks are moving within the hospital. You can hear continuous shooting. You can hear it now.
But again, it's totally scary situation.
REPORTER: So, what are the sounds, doctor? I'm hearing sounds.
EL MOKHALLALATI: It's continuous shooting from the tanks.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BROWN: Hamas says Israel has full control of the hospital now.
Hundreds of patients, medical officials say the raids could be catastrophic as Israel faces intense scrutiny to provide the alleged of Hamas operations there.
We have regional coverage here. Nada Bashir is in Jerusalem for us.
Nada, the U.N., the WHO condemning this raid, officials say in this point. So, the urgent need for field hospitals. Tell us more about that.
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, you're absolutely right. There has been a huge outcry on the humanitarian front and the crisis facing the edge of the hospital as we have seen for some time now. The Israeli bombardment around the Al-Shifa complex has been edging closer and closer for days, as well as on the ground fighting between the IDF and Hamas.
But as we saw in the hourly hours of this morning, that raid now pushing Israeli troops inside the hospital complex and we heard those terrifying reports as you had there from the doctors within the hospitals, as well as Palestinian journalists around the hospital complex who have described the fierce fighting ongoing, the fierce shelling that has been taken place around the hospital complex. Doctors and patients told to stay away from the windows to take cover as that raid was ongoing.
And as you said there, the IDF says it has been Hamas positions, they believe there is a Hamas command and control center between the Al- Shifa hospital and says now that it has concrete evidence, though not details of what the evidence will look like, but, of course, there is a huge amount of concern that civilians are being caught up in the middle of what's become a battleground around the Al-Shifa hospital complex.
And I think it is important to underscore here that we are talking about hundreds of patients inside this hospital, hundreds of hospital staff, medical workers, as well as what is said to be thousands of civilians around the conflict who have flocked near the hospital, hoping to take shelter there, but clearly, this is no longer a safe space.
And as we know, of course, Al-Shifa has been facing a deteriorating situation for sometime now, as have all of Gaza's hospitals, but particularly hospitals in northern Gaza, the vast majority. In fact, all but one now not operational, Al-Shifa among them. They have been running out of medical supplies. They have been running out of fuel to keep the generators going, oxygen supplies completely cut off in the neonatal unit, forcing them to move premature babies and newborn babies into other areas, gathering them all together and wrapping them in foil and blankets to keep them warm.
Now, we hear today from the IDF, they released video purportedly showing IDF soldiers distributing boxes labeled with medical supplies, but no confirmation from the hospital or verification from CNN that this actually was distributed within the hospital and we've been hearing the warnings from doctors on the ground not only describe in the dire situation in the humanitarian front, but fears around how these fierce bombardment will impact civilians, particularly those who, of course, cannot evacuate.
And that is a huge concern here because, of course, as we know, the IDF, the Israeli military, has been telling civilians to evacuate northern Gaza, to southern Gaza. They say they have established for a safe evacuation from the eastern side of the hospital, but what doctors are telling us is it's simply not possible for many patients who require specialized medical evacuations, and on the front of all patients really, of all civilians, it is simply not safe enough to leave the hospital complex right now -- Pam.
BROWN: All right. Nada, thanks so much.
Let's bring in Oren Liebermann in Tel Aviv.
What is the IDF saying about this operation, Oren? And do we know if we learn about this -- this, quote, concrete evidence the IDF says it has that the hospital was being used by Hamas as a command club?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: First, it's important to note that we expect a briefing in about ten minutes, the standard evening briefing from the IDF's spokesperson. Here is an opportunity to put out what they claim was the concrete the evidence that Hamas is using this as terror infrastructure. It has been one of the fundamental points that the IDF has made, that the Al Shifa Hospital has been a fundamental part of Hamas's terror infrastructure that was backed up by the U.S., saying that they also have their own independent information that Hamas -- that Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, has been used by Hamas.
But we've had IDF spokespeople on throughout the day, and we have pressed them on what is this infrastructure, what is it that Hamas was doing, or what is the evidence you have? Here's an earlier answer from Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht, who is the chief international spokesperson.
He told our colleagues: We understand that there's a substantial Hamas infrastructure in the area, in the vicinity of the hospital, potentially under the hospital, and it's something we're working on. It will take us time.
Potentially is a keyword there because it has been a key claim, a key statement from the IDF that they have been under the hospital itself. In fact, the IDF put out a video several days or maybe a couple of weeks ago with a digital illustration showing tunnel shafts right below the hospital. That's what they need to substantiate here. That is what they have to show clearly and incontrovertibly in the evidence because we have seen denials and questions not only from many of the international organizations that work with the hospital, but from the hospital itself.
So, the IDF has the obligation to prove that they have evidence that shows that Hamas was using the hospital and underneath the hospital itself. That's what we expect to hear in several minutes from the spokesperson.
BROWN: All right. Oren, thanks so much.
KEILAR: Now to a CNN exclusive that provides potential insight into what Hamas and its primary backer, Iran, may have been doing before Hamas launched the terror attacks on October 7th that sparked this war. Sources say Israel recovered a document from a Hamas-linked computer in which a Hamas commander seeks to have operatives study technical training in Iran that would help the group make its own weapons.
CNN's Katie Bo Lillis got this exclusive alongside our Jake Tapper.
Take us through this reporting you have.
KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. So, Brianna, Israeli sources tell our colleague Jake Tapper and myself that a pickup truck that belonged to Hamas that was recovered inside of Israel after the October 7th attack, inside that pickup truck, they found a document that appeared to be a letter from a Hamas commander to Iran, requesting that seven of his fighters be allowed to travel to Iran to study at Iranian universities. They were going to study engineering. They were going to study physics. They were going to study management.
Now, former U.S. intelligence officials tell us that this appears to be part of a known and broader sort of scholarship program that Iran offers to students from allied countries and groups, as kind of an effort to spread their soft power influence across the region.
But what's significant here, Brianna, is that officials in Israeli and some former U.S. intelligence here now believe that this is an opportunity also for Iran to help Hamas to try to learn how to develop the technical skills necessary to develop their own weapons inside Gaza itself. And, of course, this is important for Iran and for Hamas, because it's because of the blockade, it's incredibly difficult to get ready-made weapons smuggled into Gaza sort of fully assembled, right?
LILLIS: And so, if Hamas can sort of develop the technical skills necessary to build their own stuff, that allows them to operate a bit independently. It's the "teach a man to fish" analogy.
KEILAR: I will say it's not great tradecraft to bring those documents on a raid or attack into Israel, just to be very clear there. But certainly helpful to the Israelis if they're looking for evidence here.
Does this suggest that Iran had a heads-up when it cam to the attack on October 7th?
LILLIS: No, still no evidence, that we are aware of from the officials we are speaking to, to suggest that Iran knew about the specifics or was involved in the planning of the October 7th attack themselves. That said, one thing we did learn from Israeli is sources is there are believed to be more than 50 individuals from Gaza that were expected to travel to Iran as part of the scholarship program, not all of which were Hamas fighters.
And, in fact, according to Israeli officials, really only a handful of actual Hamas fighters had been sort of confirmed as having traveled to Iran to participate in this program, but it does, I think, Brianna, give you kind of a sense of the scale and scope of the relationship in between Iran and Hamas.
KEILAR: So important -- we talk about Iranian proxies, this is what we mean. These are the details. So, such great reporting by you and Jake. Thanks, Katie.
LILLIS: Thanks, Brianna. KEILAR: Still to come this hour, President Biden hitting back at his predecessor, comparing Donald Trump's remark this past weekend to Nazi rhetoric.
Plus, potential third-party bids pose new threats to Biden's reelection chances. We're going to talk about it with former independent senator, Joe Lieberman.
And another key inflation gauge just had its steepest drop in three years. But this comes as retail sales also ticked down in October. So we're going to break all of that down for you.
KEILAR: President Biden is hitting back at Donald Trump for calling his political rivals "vermin". Biden compared his likely 2024 opponent's comment to Nazi rhetoric, telling donors yesterday it's, quote, language you heard in Nazi Germany in the '30s. The president also tied Trump to the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe versus Wade, saying the only reason there's an abortion ban in America is because of Donald Trump.
Biden also taking a victory lap for last week's election results, insisting the outcome was a sign that his agenda is resonating with voters, even though recent polling shows Biden trailing Trump in a hypothetical rematch.
Joining us now is former Democratic vice presidential candidate and independent senator, Joe Lieberman.
Sir, thank you so much for being with us today and giving us this time.
JOE LIEBERMAN, FORMER INDEPENDENT U.S. SENATOR: Thank you, Brianna. Good to be with you.
KEILAR: So, first, I want to ask you about these comments. Let's remember, it was reported in 1990 that former President Trump had possessed a compilation of Hitler's speeches and that he had read them. Ivana Trump had said so. A friend of Trump's had said so, that he had given them this book, even though Trump denied that he read them, if you did have them.
Do you think knowing that he can speak like this, saying things like vermin, threat from within, without knowing who and what he's evoking?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I'm always reticent to compare people today to the Nazis because they were so awful, but the recent comment about vermin is part of a general drop in the decency of former President Trump's rhetoric, which wasn't very good at all before that, and it has effect, that really leaders have an effect on their followers, that make sure things possible for others to say that they wouldn't say if the leaders said it, and honestly, President Trump could do more a lot for himself and the country if he would control his tongue a little more than he has, not just recently, but in recent years. He's hurt America with what he said or tweeted, it's divisive and it's degrading.
KEILAR: You happen to be in Israel during the October 7th massacre. You've seen the rise in antisemitism. You know, it sounds like you're saying when he speaks like this, he gives others permission in this climate to speak like this. Is that fair?
LIEBERMAN: It is fair. From all that I know about President Trump and his family, I would never say they're antisemites, that President Trump is an antisemite. But he has been so undisciplined, to put it mildly, in his use of the English language, that he has encouraged others who are haters, racist, antisemite, et cetera, to begin to speak out with their bigotry, where is for a long period in our history, it was just unacceptable in America. There were haters out there, but they just wouldn't say it publicly.
I think unfortunately -- and I'd like to think inadvertently, the terrible thing that the terrible things that Donald Trump has said encouraged a lot of haters out there to take it a lot of steps down and really express antisemitism, racism and all the rest.
It's just wrong, and I -- to me, he's just not a credible candidate for reelection to the presidency, unless he stops that kind of rhetoric. You can agree or not agree with things he did or didn't do as president, but honestly, as president and since then, his words have been really hurtful to -- not just him, but to our political system and to our country overall.
KEILAR: I do want to talk about the options before voters right now. You were a founding chairman of No Labels, which is, of course, this group that is laying the ground work for possible Third Party presidential candidate. Who's the alternative candidate then and how do you field a candidate like that without risking swinging the election to Trump, especially when you're looking at, you know, several months before you would have some sort of nominating convention?
LIEBERMAN: Yeah. So, those are really good questions, believe me. We think about them. We agitate over them. I mean, No Labels is into this 2024 project, because there's such -- because we think possibly running a bipartisan unity third choice ticket is exactly what our political system which is so partisan and divided needs to shake it up and move our politics and our government forward.
But it's not an easy decision. Right now, all we're doing, and it's a lot, is to try to get on the ballot with a third line choice in every state in the country. We're just forming a committee to recruit, review, select, recommend candidates for that ticket real early. Then the big decision, as we've said all along, we're only going to do this if we feel that we actually plausibly have a chance for this third choice bipartisan unity ticket to win.
And we understand that runs against history, but maybe people who are fed up with the two political parties and so, they find a choice of Trump and Biden again so distasteful, maybe that will happen.
KEILAR: Well, let me ask -- sorry.
LIEBERMAN: No, go ahead.
KEILAR: Sorry, sir, go on.
LIEBERMAN: No, I just wanted to say -- I'm sorry. The second standard we have, we don't to be spoilers. We're not going to get into this if that our ticket or gives lines to bipartisan ticket if we think next year that the effect of that will be to make it more likely that Donald Trump will be reelected because most of our members of both parties, all parties, don't want to see that happen to the country.
KEILAR: How can you not be a spoiler getting in that late, when our most recent polls show there is some appetite for another candidate, RFK, 16 percent, when given the choice between Trump, Biden, RFK and Cornel West?
LIEBERMAN: Yeah. So, look, our polling shows that a third choice, which gets a lot of support recently on a Gallup poll, given the choice of Trump, Biden or a third choice, 63 percent say they want a third choice, but that's not names. We get that.
So, we're going to be cautious in making this decision because we want this to be something constructive. I'm afraid that if it's Trump and Biden again, it will be a partisan slash-and-burn campaign and whoever gets elected president for the next four years, there will be more partisan gridlock, and our big problems are not going to be solved in this country.
I think it would be great if a third choice, a bipartisan unity ticket -- and that hasn't happened since Abraham Lincoln in 1864, but maybe the country is about as divided today as it was then during the Civil War, and this is exactly the choice that the American people want.
But trust me, it's not going to be an easy choice, or we're going to try to make it as thoughtfully and responsibly at No Labels as we possibly can.
KEILAR: Senator, we will be waiting. Thank you so much for your time today, Senator Joe Lieberman.
LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Brianna. Have a good day.
KEILAR: You too, sir.
So, just ahead, the highly anticipated and highly choreographed meeting between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping set to get underway this hour. We'll talk about what is on the agenda coming up.
And good news for your wallet. Why a thanksgiving dinner is going to cost less this year.