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Now, Biden Holds High-Stakes Meeting With Chinese President; House Republicans Face Major Obstacles As They Struggle To Pass Full- Year Spending Bills; Right-Wing Hardliners Give Johnson 10 Days To Win Them Over; Hamas: Gaza's Largest Hospital Now Controlled By Israeli Forces. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 15, 2023 - 14:30   ET



XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT: I wish to thank you for your thoughtful arrangements for our meeting today and for our participation at the APEC meeting.

Thank you.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, thank you, Mr. President.






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are walking out. We're going to start walking out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can head out that way.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: We just heard two leaders, President Biden and President Xi Jinping, speak at the summit right outside San Francisco.

Both leaders wanted to convey their messages in this quick spray that we just saw. You heard the president of China saying conflict would be unbearable between China and the U.S.

He said the China/U.S. relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world.

You heard President Biden, for his part, say it's important to talk. He said he valued the candid, frank, straightforward conversations he's had with Xi. And he says that's important to avoid any misconception or miscommunication, which I thought was key because, if there is a miscommunication or misconception, that could be, as Xi Jinping put it, unbearable.

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. No, that's really the core of this. I mean, Joe Biden likes to have face-to-face contact. That's not what this is.

This is specific. This is about the fact that they don't necessarily trust that Xi Jinping is getting accurate information from the people around him, that the people who are conveying to him what American attitudes are telling him the hard truth.

Specifically, when the United States says it will seek to defend the security of people in Taiwan, is that message actually getting to Xi Jinping?

That's the kind of -- on the same note, when they say they're concerned about the possibility of a real conflict in the South China Sea, is that message getting to Xi Jinping?

So the word today from Joe Biden was avoid miscommunication.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Will Xi be receptive to that? I mean, is he going to be putting trust in Americans over those who are counseling him in China?


And I think what was most striking to me about this is, if you remember the first time the United States and China met after Biden's election, in Anchorage, Alaska, it wasn't the top officials, but it was some of their top security advisers.

The meeting started off with the United States with a laundry list of complaints for China and China returned the favor with a long haring on camera.

This was a different meeting, more respectful and diplomatic. So a change in tone, I think, from the beginning of the administration.


KEILAR: How do you really find agreement? Is it more just about containing the negative?

We are talking about two countries who have so many beefs with each other. They're putting on the niceties, yes. There isn't a litany of negatives.

But from the fentanyl ingredients originating in China to concerns about Chinese interference in elections.

Not just American elections, but elections around the world that the U.S. has concerns about, China is really flexing its influence, to obviously its military stance, to Taiwan, to the world order, writ large.

How do you really find some kind of agreement?

KROENIG: Well, one of the things that the administration has adopted the concept that conflict is not inevitable with China.

They're trying to get us out of the mindset that we're destined to collide. Their belief is you can manage the competition. And that's the word, "competition."

These are two powers that will be competing fiercely in the decades ahead. It's going to be acrimonious.

What they're trying to establish is a modus operandi where we can not only pick up the phone and talk to each other but that we have an understanding that the United States isn't trying to bring about regime change in Beijing.

That kind of idea that can sound like a very big point needs to be expressed clearly at the highest levels or Xi Jinping and his peers can come to some other assumptions.

BROWN: Just to quickly follow up on that, it seems like, if you peel back the layers of what was said, from what we heard briefly in the summit, both leaders have different outlooks or perceptions of their relationships. Or at least, that's what they're trying to project.

OSNOS: Yes, very much so. I mean, China has been very cool, hesitant to embrace this idea of a great power competition. They say that sounds a little bit too close to the conflict that he described today would be unbearable.

But they're trying to bring it back, in a way, to an earlier period. Xi Jinping would love this to be not smooth sailing that he described a moment ago. That's not realistic.


The fact is, they are, as Matt described, they entered a new era where they have to come up with a new basis for communication.


KEILAR: Oh, sorry.

KROENIG: If I can jump in. You have to ask, why is Xi agreeing to this meeting now? I think part of the reason is they fear maybe the Biden administration strategy is working, the de-risking economically is hurting the Chinese economy.

One of the areas where the Biden administration's China strategy has been most successful is building alliances and partnerships. I think that's worrying China. And it's not going to be as attention-grabbing as this meeting but the Biden administration -- President Biden will be meeting with allies at the APEC meeting, Japan and South Korea, their trilateral cooperation against China, also this quad grouping in Asia, India, Japan Australia.

So I think part of the reason China is here is to get out from under the pressure the Biden administration has helped to build.

KEILAR: Yes. They're sort of on one side of a line there with their friends and maybe their enemies.

I want to get back to M.J. Lee, who is following the trip of President Biden as he's meeting with President Xi on the sidelines of the APEC summit.

Are they on the same page where they want this meeting to go, M.J.?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, it stood out to me that President Biden said that he expected these discussions today to be frank and candid.

I think that's pretty euphemistic language to signal he expects these meetings to be surrounded by tough conversations and tough issues.

We already know some of those issues that will come up. U.S. officials want to press their Chinese counterparts, for example, on the upcoming elections in Taiwan. They want to signal to them you better not interfere with those elections.

We know issues about human rights will come up. We're told President Biden, at least in passing, is likely to mention the issue of the spy balloon.

I think what we're seeing right now is the culmination of a month-long effort by U.S. officials to try to grind down their Chinese counterparts over the month and really convince them it's to Beijing's benefit to re-establish some sort of normalcy back to U.S./China relationships.

Including those communication channels we talked about and just a little bit more if an openness between the two countries to work together and talk together.

Again, I think this is not, as you guys have been talking about, two friends who are leaders, who are getting together. They are two leaders of two superpower countries that are getting together to try to resolve some of these differences and find rare areas of cooperation.

But I think it's going to be a marathon of meetings that will really cover some very tough issues for both countries.

KEILAR: Yes, it certainly will be, with so many people watching this.

M.J. Lee, live for us there in Woodside, California, following this very important visit of the president there to California, meeting with the Chinese president. And such an important meeting as we've been talking about.

The entire list of issues that they're going to be going through, it has this effect of almost that standoff before what may be a very long boxing match determining who is going to be the world leader, China or the U.S. It's a question unanswered at this point.

But certainly, this is a faceoff that we're seeing. Friendly enough right now. Does it continue to be? Can they find areas of cooperation and at least avoid some misunderstandings, as we've seen these close calls in the South China Sea?

We'll continue to cover this trip. We'll be right back in just a moment.



BROWN: Disaster averted for now. It is clear major obstacles face the House GOP as they fail to pass full-year spending bills. And after a day of pure chaos, tensions remain high as Speaker Mike Johnson worked with Democrats to get the bill passed.

One caucus member warning Johnson, that's strike one and strike two.

Let's get straight to CNN Capitol Hill reporter, Melanie Zanona.

Melanie, GOP hardliners are delivering Speaker Johnson a sharp rebuke. What are you hearing?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: There were no physical fights today, as far as I know. There have been some verbal fights over spending issues.

The House passed a bill yesterday to keep the government's lights on temporarily until early next year. That's expected to pass the Senate as soon as today. There won't be a government shutdown Friday.

But the House is still struggling to pass the remainder of their long- term spending bills.

Today, a few moderates and some conservatives teamed up to tank a procedural rule for a long-term bill to fund the Commerce and Justice Departments, which prompted GOP leadership to cancel votes for the rest of the week and send members home early for the Thanksgiving recess.

Conservatives want a clear commitment and plan from the new Speaker Mike Johnson about his vision for cutting spending. They said their vote today should serve as a warning shot.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): We're standing up and we said no today. The speaker has now 10 days to work it out and get Republicans to actually stand up and fight when we get back. He's promising a fight. We're sending a message right now.

REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): We understand the situation is not of his making, but moving forward, we expect tang expect tangible results to move us down the field in the right direction.


ZANONA: The honeymoon period appears to be already over for the new speaker. Now he's not going to lose his gavel over this, but this floor defeat today suggests those next government funding deadlines are going to be a very heavy lift -- Pam?

BROWN: Let me ask you something else, while we have you, Melanie. When do we expect the House Ethics Committee to release its George Santos report?

ZANONA: I'm told that the House Ethics Committee is planning to release this much highly-anticipated report into its probe into Georgia Santos as soon as tomorrow.

They've been investigating the congressman since March over a number of issues, including whether he engaged in any unlawful activity related to his 2022 congressional campaign.


Now investigators are expected to detail all of their findings in the report, but they are not expected to include any disciplinary recommendations.

But any member can force a floor vote on something like expulsion, which they did not too long ago. It failed.

However, depending what's in that report, we could see that expulsion effort actually succeed. So George Santos could very well become the latest member to be expelled. That hasn't happened in over 20 years here on Capitol Hill -- Pam?

BROWN: That would be a big deal.

Melanie, thanks so much.

Joining us now is former Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

So the House is out for Thanksgiving one day earlier than expected. Now you have these GOP hardliners giving the new speaker of the House Johnson 10 days to win them over on spending. How do you see this playing out?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the hardliners will be disappointed between now and February 2nd. Because what will happen is they're going to write the appropriations

bill to the number that were agreed to in the law that Speaker Johnson voted for back over the debt ceiling. They'll have to write the bill to that number.

What they're doing in the House right now with these long-term spending bills is they're writing them to lower numbers that were not agreed to in the law. Everybody knows that's a joke. It's a waste of time.

When they negotiate with the Senate on these spending bills on January 19th and February 2nd, they'll write the numbers into law. The hardliners will hate that because they don't agree with the numbers. It's that simple.

BROWN: So bottom line, there's no way he can play with these hardliners?

DENT: No, unless he wants to shut the government down indefinitely and have rolling shutdowns on January 19th and February 2nd. So they're going to be very disappointed.

The speaker did the right thing on the continuing resolution to fund the government short term. But they still have to deal with these long-term spending bills at the number that they agreed to in the law.

BROWN: You served in the House of Representatives. Things are always tense. Have you ever seen it like this, this much party tension among the GOP caucus? I mean, you heard Melanie say, hey, at least there wasn't a physical altercation today.

DENT: Yes, that's a good thing.


DENT: Look, I've seen some very tense moments. This has been building up for some time. When they're in session as long as they are for so many weeks on end, that capital turns into a pressure cooker and they have to go home just to release the tension.


BROWN: Is that part of the reason they're going home earlier?

DENT: Absolutely. They took down an appropriations bill today. The Republicans -- when you're in the majority party, you're expected to vote for the rule to bring up the bill. They're not voting to bring up the bill.

The Republicans are killing the speaker's ability to even consider the bill. At that point, I think he threw his hands up in the air and said we have to get them out of town. Because this is an enormous problem.

I want to mention, too, on the ethics side, I was chair of the Ethics Committee.


DENT: It's highly unusual for the Ethics Committee to give an update on an investigation. They almost never do that. When I was chair, we only released statements when we were about to announce a sanction.

BROWN: What do you make of it?

DENT: I think they're under tremendous pressure to show they're making progress on the Santos measure because of the expulsion resolution offered last week. They wanted to show they're making progress and doing a real investigation.

BROWN: All right, former Congressman Charlie Dent, always great to hear your perspective. Thanks so much.

And just ahead, Israel continues its raid on Gaza's largest medical facility as the U.S. repeats its call to Israel not to target hospitals from the air.



KEILAR: New details, including footage, will be published later showing what the Israeli military claims is, quote, "concrete evidence" that Hamas has used the Al Shifa Hospital as a terror headquarters. That's according to a senior Israeli official.

Right now, the situation continues to grow increasingly dire at the hospital during Israel's ongoing raid there. Doctors are warning of catastrophic conditions for patients and staff. And it is believed that thousands of civilians are sheltering inside.

Joining us now, we have retired Army Colonel Peter Mansoor. He served as executive officer to General David Petraeus during the Iraq War. He's now a professor of military history at Ohio State University.

Colonel, just talk to us about this. And look, this is very tricky because you have the IDF in this hospital, and they say they are there for good reason, but this is a place with so many vulnerable people and so evidence is so important.

The IDF is saying they are being precise and they are being targeted in their actions here. Is that what you are seeing?

COL. PETER MANSOOR, U.S. ARMY, RETIRED: Well, a hospital is protected sanctuary by the laws of war. Now it loses that status if the enemy forces use it as a military facility.

So that's what the Israelis are claiming that Hamas has turned this hospital into a command center and, therefore, it's free game for their military forces.

But they still have a responsibility to protect civilians as they clear the building. It would be best if the Israelis actually evacuate the civilians from the building and they can search it and discover the tunnels underneath it and do whatever they need to.

But it's a very, very tricky military operation to clear a hospital with all its corridors and rooms and so forth while there are still maybe hundreds of patients inside.

KEILAR: We know the U.S. believes there is intel that shows Hamas is using part of this facility. It's also possible Israel cannot evacuate, right?

We've heard from hospital officials who say they do not trust Israeli forces when it comes to helping them. And obviously, they're in dire need of help but they still don't trust them.

When you hear about them talking about being surgical, when you hear the IDF saying they're not aware of people firing inside the hospital. This is what we heard from one IDF spokesperson here on CNN. They say they're shooting men "if we see Hamas terrorists."

What do you make of that?

MANSOOR: Well, it's hard to gauge because there's no embedded reporters. Israeli forces tend to be disciplined. They are trained according to Western standards. And by and large, they obey the law of war. There's no reason to dispute the spokesman's claims.


But if I were the Israeli commander, I would force the civilians inside the hospital to evacuate, give them an order to do so as the hospital has become a battleground and it's no place for civilians if that's the case.

KEILAR: Colonel, part of this, the IDF was looking for hostages. They believe that they were in another hospital that had evacuated.

And, in doing this, we're talking about a very dangerous type of warfare. Can you describe what they're going through?

MANSOOR: Yes, finding hostages without accurate intelligence is looking for a needle in a haystack. They have to examine every room, every basement, every piece of the facility, plus the tunnels underneath.

And then the chances are that the hostages will be evacuated before the Israeli forces can reach them. So this is a very, very difficult situation in which the IDF finds itself.

And my guess is that the mission to destroy Hamas comes first, because it's an existential crisis for Israel. The recovery of the hostages is probably a secondary goal, although still an important one.

KEILAR: There's two wars here. There is the war that is going on to destroy Hamas.

There's also a P.R. war for the hearts and minds and for a generation, certainly, of the Arab public, not just in Gaza, around the world and for people who are sympathetic to them and sympathetic to the Palestinians, and that has huge ramifications for the future.

How do you see this going right now?

MANSOOR: Right now, it's going against Israel, despite the fact that Hamas started this conflict with a brutal and horrific terrorist attack on October 7th.

The fact that Israel has responded and has now killed more than 11,000 Palestinians in retaliation, I think the world sees it as overkill.

And, unfortunately, although the Israelis are doing what they're doing to secure their national security, they're losing in the court of world opinion.

And I don't see that changing. There's just simply going to be more noncombatant losses to come as the Israeli Defense Forces grind their way through Gaza City.

KEILAR: Yes, the scenes are horrific.

Colonel, we appreciate your time and your expertise. Thank you.

MANSOOR: Thank you.

KEILAR: And still to come, the Fulton County prosecutor's office in Georgia is now asking a judge to seal evidence in the case. This is happening as we're learning who admitted to leaking video interviews from the case. We're live from outside the court.