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Police and Protesters Clash Outside DNC; Military Equipment at Al-Shifa Hospital; Biden Hopeful About Hostage Release; IDF Promises More Evidence; Biden Says Xi is Still a Dictator. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 16, 2023 - 09:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Capitol Police forced to evacuate several top Democrats after violent struggles between police and protesters outside DNC headquarters.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: (INAUDIBLE) is now in control of Gaza's harbor and questions remain about what the IDF actually found inside Al-Shifa Hospital. Israeli's military says it will soon present more evidence that Hamas used it as a base of operations.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The new video released today of Alec Baldwin on the set of "Rust," and the new light that it's shedding on the safety precautions in place on that movie set.

I'm Kate Bolduan, with Sara Sidner and John Berman. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

BERMAN: And breaking overnight, one person was arrested, six officers injured after a protest turned violent in Washington, D.C. Members of Congress, including top House Democrats, were evacuated as tensions erupted between police and protesters. Demonstrators outside the Democratic National Committee, they were calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is on the ground for us this morning.

Gabe, what happened and where do things stand now?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so, John, if you look behind me you can still see those police barricades set up here outside the DNC headquarters. That is where this clash between Capitol Police and around 150 protesters really started. Many of those protesters were locked arm in arm blocking the entrance.

But the physical altercations erupted, and they spilled out onto the street, onto the sidewalk behind me. And look, organizers had said the plan was to block entrances around the building, around the DNC headquarters, to force some of the members of Congress, including leadership, Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, Pete Aguilar, to come out of the building and be confronted by protesters who were calling for a cease-fire. But we never got to that point because this scene erupted and those members of Congress, close to a dozen of them, had to be evacuated from the building.

One of those members of Congress, Representative Sean Casten, tweeted out, he said, "you have the constitutional right to peaceably assemble and protest," speaking about the protesters outside, "but blocking all entries to a building with multiple members of Congress in it, protected by Capitol Police officers who have lived through January 6th, is putting you and other innocent people at risk."

And look, we know that both sides, police and the progressive Jewish organizations that organized this protest, that have organized many in recent weeks, overnight they're pointing the finger at the other side saying it is that other party that's really to blame for escalating this scene. Capitol Police tweeting out, saying that "six officers were treated for minor injuries." They said "one person arrested," as you mentioned, "for assault of an officer." But their language was interesting. They said, "we appreciate our officers who kept these illegal and violent protesters back and protected everyone in the area."

And look, the organizations that were involved tell a very different story. "If Not Now," one of those organizations, put out a statement saying, "protesters nonviolently blocked one entrance to the DNC headquarters," the one behind me. "Police violently attacked them and it led to 90 injuries, including being pepper sprayed, minor cuts and dragged by the hair."

And to give you some context, John, these groups that organized the protests, these progress Jewish organizations, they've organized a lot of cease-fire protests here in Washington and around the country in recent weeks. They shut down Grand Central Station in New York at one point. They occupied the Rotunda inside a building on Capitol Hill.

But, look, most of those protests that we have seen have been quite peaceful. Nothing like what we saw last night. Even though hundreds of people were arrested, they were acts of civil disobedience that the organizations going into those protests acknowledged they expected people to be arrested but that they would have a cordial relationship with people. It's what I have seen up to this point at the protests I have reported on, those cease-fire protests. The scene last night, nothing like that here, John, outside the DNC headquarters.

BERMAN: Yes, just looking at these pictures, Gabe, some very heated moments there.

Gabe Cohen, outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Thanks so much for your reporting.



SIDNER: All right, thank you, John.

Today, Israeli forces remain both inside and in the vicinity of Gaza's largest hospital. They are active in both places. The IDF has promised to present what it says is concrete evidence Hamas was operating a command base out of Al-Shifa Hospital. New videos released by Israeli - the IDF says - show that the weapons they say they found inside of the hospital complex. But for years Israel has insisted there is a huge Hamas tunnel complex they believe is under the hospital. So far, the evidence released does not show the network of tunnels under Al- Shifa that Israel said long said has been there and that Hamas has been operating from or any sign of the hostages that they are still looking for.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us now from Tel Aviv.

Ed, what are you hearing from the IDF? We are seeing these pictures that came out of these weapons that were found in Al-Shifa Hospital, making it a place where Israel says, look, this is what's been happening coming out of the hospital, so we have every right to be here.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Right, the Israeli military says it's just a matter of time before they can present to the world the, quote, concrete evidence the military here believes exists around and inside of that Al-Shifa Hospital inside of Gaza.

This military operation, which started early yesterday morning, well into its second day now, and it is continuing ongoing. But late yesterday afternoon, Israeli military officials released the first video they say begins to prove their case that this area and this hospital in particular is used by Hamas fighters. You can listen to a little bit of what one of the Israeli military spokespeople presented to the world, walking around what is an MRI office inside this hospital complex.


LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, SPOKESPERSON, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: Military equipment. There is an AK-47. There are cartridges and ammo. There are grenades in here. Of course, uniforms. And all of this was hidden very conveniently, secretly, behind the MRI machine.

These weapons have absolutely no business being inside a hospital.


LAVANDERA: Now, as you can see, that is the -- what the Israeli military and officials here in Israel has said is the beginning of the evidence that they will discover. That does not really kind of reach the level of the vast underground tunnel system, multi-layered tunnel system that military officials near -- in Israel have said for years exist, that it serves as a command and control structure and a place of operation for Hamas fighters. But officials here in Israel say that as soldiers continue to move through the compound, through -- discover more tunnels and all of that, they will be able to release more in the hours and days ahead.


SIDNER: Yes, there are a lot of people waiting to see what more that they may have found there in Al-Shifa and also how people are being treated through all of this inside that hospital.

Thank you so much, Ed Lavandera, to you and your crew there in Israel.


BOLDUAN: There's also new reaction from the White House today on that raid at Al-Shifa Hospital and the findings released by the IDF. And also with it a clear statement from John Kirby at the White House about what the White House view is of what Hamas is doing in that medical complex.

Listen to this.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: We're confident, based on our own intelligence analysis, that the basement areas of that hospital, underneath that hospital, and the hospital itself, has been used, is being used by Hamas as a command and control mode.


BOLDUAN: President Biden says that is a war crime. And Biden was also asked about the ongoing hostage negotiations at his press conference yesterday.

Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I meant was, I'm doing everything in my power to get you out. Coming to help you. Get you out. I don't mean sending military in to get them. Is that what you thought I might mean?


BIDEN: No, no, no, it -- I was not talking about the military.

I'm getting in to much detail, I know, Mr. Secretary. I'm going to stop. The -- but I am - I am mildly hopeful.


BOLDUAN: So, the latest that - the latest is believed is at least 239 hostages were taken by Hamas on October 7th. And that includes ten Americans.

There's also now this. First Lady Jill Biden has received a letter from Israel's first lady in which she says one of the hostages has now given birth while being held captive in Gaza.

CNN's Scott McLean is tracking this for us and he joins us now.

Scott, you heard President Biden there. He's mildly hopeful on these negotiations. They're delicate. They've been ongoing. What's the latest you're hearing?


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, mildly hopeful is what President Biden is saying. Not going to be an American military intervention, but he says that he's actually deeply involved in the negotiations himself. He says that it's five or six times a day that he is trying to be helpful on that hostage release. He didn't give any specific insight into where exactly things stand. Talked about a pause that Israel has agreed to and then kind of cut himself short.

But we know from recent days, and U.S. and European officials, that there is some level of optimism that a deal might get done for at least a partial release of these hostages. The broad parameters would be that Hamas would agree to release primarily women and children. They've pegged the number at around 70, though obviously that's not final. In exchange for a prolonged pause in the fighting. Perhaps up to five days. And during those five days, an unknown number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails would be released alongside those perhaps 70 or so women and children held hostage in Gaza as well.

This week we also learned about a three-year-old American girl who is amongst those hostages. And her great aunt, Liz Naftali, was actually on CNN's air last hour. And she wore the number 41 on her lapel. That represents the number of days that young Abigail Edan has been missing. Both of her parents were killed, two of her older siblings actually managed to survive and get away. They're now with relatives.

And Naftali described on CNN her hopefulness that she could be released perhaps even before her birthday, which is the day after American Thanksgiving next week. And she described how Abigail managed to survive despite her father, who was holding her, being shot and killed.



LIZ NAFTALI, GREAT AUNT OF THREE-YEAR-OLD HOSTAGE ABIGAIL EDAN: What - what happened with Abigail is that was under her father's body and she came from - from under, blooded by his body - by his blood, and walked to a neighbor. They let her in, a family. Another member of the kibbutz had seen the terrorists walking this mother out with these four children. This took us a few days because of everything. And when we learned that, we understood that this mother, her three kids, and Abigail were all hostages.


MCLEAN: And President Biden, Kate, was also asked to react to the fact that Abigail is being held, again, just three years old. And he said, "that's why I'm not going to stop until we get her."


BOLDUAN: Scott McLean, thank you for the update.


BERMAN: Yes, and just a reminder, there are 239 hostages, Israel says, although it's unclear whether that number is now higher if a baby was born in captivity based on that letter that Kate was just reporting on right there. And this would be their 42nd day in captivity.

With us now is General Wesley Clark, CNN military analyst, former NATO supreme allied commander.

General, we're talking about the operation that continues to take place around the Al-Shifa Hospital right now. The Israeli troops have control of that vicinity (ph) and they're searching through it. They have produced images of weapons that they say they have found there and they say they found evidence of a Hamas command center, yet at this point they've produced no evidence of tunnels underneath. Why do you think that is?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, if I were the Israelis, John, I'd be very cautious about going into those tunnels. First of all, there's been a lot of discussion about it, so Hamas knows the Israelis are coming. Those tunnels are likely to be booby trapped at the entrance, inside. There's just no telling what's in those tunnels. So, they've got to move step by step to go into this area.

They've said they've found numerous entrances. They found weapons up there. You know, under international law, you cannot defend a hospital like that and be in it when -- and resist because that makes the hospital a target. So, what Hamas is doing is already illegal. If the Israelis say they're going to get into those tunnels, I'm sure they will, but they're going to do it cautiously because they have to protect their own troops. And there may be hostages in there. So, it's not just a matter of going in and blowing up the tunnels.

BERMAN: Yes, you make a good point there, the Geneva Convention states clearly that hospitals should be protected unless they are used to store munitions. And, again, Israel releasing the photos we saw moments ago of those weapons that they say they found there.

Israel clearly operating around this hospital. I have a picture of this right now. We're also getting information that there are these negotiations over hostages, General. If there were some kind of a pause, if part of the agreement over releasing some number of hostages were to pause military operations for some number of days, what would that do to the operations at Al-Shifa or, in fact, all over northern Gaza?


CLARK: Not necessarily anything, John. It depends on where the hostages are, the details of the negotiations. First of all, the Israeli forces have the inherent right to defend themselves. They're not going to pull back out of Gaza. And they're still in combat. Every day there's reports of fierce fighting around that hospital. And hospitals has - it's got a lot of different buildings in it. It's a complex set of buildings on grounds that are pretty large. So, you can't look at it as just a single hospital building.

So, going back and forth through those grounds, that's tough. Every Israeli soldier that's exposed is liable to get shot. They know there are still people in there, I'm sure. And when they say they're -- they've got control of the hospital, that doesn't mean you got a ring of soldiers with arms locked around the hospital perimeter. It means you've got forces out there. It doesn't mean there's not people sneaking in and out. There's tunnel networks in there. So, this is still a complicated military operation.

If the negotiations said, oh, the hostages are right there under the hospital and if you'll stop shooting we'll release the hospital -- we'll release the hostages, fine. That's a different set of circumstances. But we don't know where the hostages are. They could be in some tunnel network in south Gaza. And so it's not going to necessarily have any impact whatsoever on Al-Shifa.

The Israeli mission is to go after Hamas. They've got to go after the command and control nodes. And they say that command and control at least one of them is in Al-Shifa they're going in.

BERMAN: All right, General Wesley Clark, very important perspective. Thanks so much for explaining what is likely going around - going on around this hospital right now. Thanks, General.


SIDNER: Still ahead, Biden's significant sit down with China's President Xi, the man he has called a dictator. How the Chinese government is responding to those comments and the meeting, which there was some progress. That's coming up next.

Now in Georgia, prosecutors in the election subversion case want to put one of former President Trump's co-defendants in jail. Why they're worried about witness intimidation now.

And the never before seen video of Alec Baldwin firing guns while filming "Rust" just days before a live round that he fired killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.



BERMAN: All right, new fallout this morning from President Biden's meeting with a man he called a dictator. And new official reaction from those comments specifically. President Biden's four-hour meeting with Chinese Leader Xi Jinping produced progress on fentanyl, military communication and artificial intelligence. Less certain is if anything has been clarified on China's posture toward Ukraine, North Korea, Iran or Israel for that matter. And this morning, the Chinese foreign ministry is calling Xi's

response - sorry, calling President Biden's response to a key question from our MJ Lee extremely erroneous. This is that exchange.


MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, after today would you still refer to President Xi as a dictator? This is a term that you used earlier this year.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, look, he is. I mean he's a dictator in the sense that he - here is a guy who runs a country, that is a communist country, that is based on a form of government totally different than ours.


BERMAN: You heard her voice right there. Now CNN's senior White House correspondent MJ Lee joins us from San Francisco.

MJ, what's the latest on this?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, we did get that fiery response from China's foreign ministry overnight. As you noted, they said the president's comment referring to President Xi as a dictator was extremely erroneous and also an irresponsible political maneuver. We already knew, of course, that this is a label that Chinese officials are extremely sensitive to.

And I gather that Chinese officials are going to want to sort of move on from this, if they can, and try to sort of point back to all of the progress that both Chinese and American officials were trying to herald yesterday after this four-hour summit where they said there was real progress made in trying to take some tension out of that relationship.

And, of course, one of those key deliverables that we saw get announced yesterday was that restoration of military-to-military communications between the two countries. That had been severed last year by Beijing when there was a lot of conflict and disagreement, especially on the issue of Taiwan. And President Xi, John, for his part, he is spending a lot of time here while he's in San Francisco, trying to build alliances with the business community here. He attended an event last night that was attended by Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

And this is a part of what he said. He said, "if we regard each other as the biggest rival, the most significant geopolitical challenge and an ever-pressing threat, it will inevitably lead to wrong policies, wrong actions, and wrong results. China is willing to be a partner and friend of the United States."

Now, President Biden, for his part, is going to be attending a number of apex summit events today. We will hear him speak a little bit later this afternoon. This is a part of the Biden administration's ongoing efforts to try to nurture its alliances with many other countries in the Asian region. U.S. officials have said all along that this is key to their efforts to counter China's dominance in this region.


BERMAN: All right, our MJ Lee in San Francisco, right in the middle of all this reporting.


Thanks so much, MJ.


BOLDUAN: And joining us now is CNN political analyst, White House reporter for the "Associated Press," Seung Min Kim.

Seung Min, just on what MJ and John were -- started off with there, when President Biden talked about yet -- once again saying that Xi is a dictator, and then the response coming out of China, do you get a sense from the White House today that they're regretting that the president made this statement, or trying to clean it up at all?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that his comments point to just how complicated this relationship can be. I mean you heard President Biden say over and over how much progress that they had made, how he felt good about this meeting, how now they can pick up the phone and call each other and try to ease any urgent concerns should any arise. But the reality for President Biden remains that, in his view, that Xi is still a dictator, which is something that clearly is not going over well in China right now.

And I think this is all kind of part of what President Biden says over and over is a complex relationship to navigate. That these two global superpowers are in constant competition with one another. Whether it comes to the economy, certainly they differ -- we - we differ with China on the form of governance. But you just have to do whatever -- the two leaders have to do whatever they can that it -- that the relationship doesn't veer into - over into conflict.

BOLDUAN: And focusing on China, everyone will remember, was at the beginning of his term, Biden's kind of foreign policy issue number one, where he wanted to put his focus.

KIM: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Then, as the presidency, you know, began to play out, other things demanded his attention very clearly. Why is China so important to President Biden, specifically so important to him right now?

KIM: Well, I think it's going to back to what we were just talking about, that it is the two world's - the world's two biggest powers. And you really do - like, you -- the United States and China really do need to cooperate on major issues. First and foremost, climate change. That wasn't an area of agreement last night per say but certainly one that the U.S. believes they need China's cooperation and communication to solve on a global stage. But certainly you're right that every time that the president tries to

turn his eye towards Asia, towards China, towards dealing with that relationship, there are foreign policy crises that arise out of nowhere. Certainly we're seeing that with the war - the Israel/Hamas war right now.

But this is also going to be President Biden's kind of -- one of his calling cards as he campaigns for re-election. He is someone that talks over and over about his decades in public office and his decades dealing with foreign leaders. And he says that's an experience that no one else can match. And certainly you're going to be hearing a lot of that over the next year as he gears up for re-election.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you a -- kind of sliver of that - a slice of what he might be facing in re-election. Joe Manchin, since announcing that he is not running for re-election, he's talking more about his next move, though it's unclear. It obviously remains unclear. He spoke to Kaitlan Collins last night and, one, he did not commit to staying in in the Democratic Party and, two, he said that no matter what he does next, he does not want to be a spoiler in the presidential race. He doesn't want Trump elected.

Let me play this.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Let me just tell you, I'm not going to be a spoiler, I'm not looking for any spoilers. But I'm looking for basically how we're going to govern this country, Kaitlan, from the middle. You cannot run your life from the extreme.


BOLDUAN: Seung Min, what are you hearing from people at the White House about that?

KIM: Right. Well, I think that everyone's kind of fixated on Senator Manchin not ruling out over and over a potential presidential bid as he travels the country and sort of tries to find a movement for the middle, as he said over and over.

But I think the really important phrase is what he just told Kaitlan last night, that he doesn't want to be a spoiler. And senior sources I've talked to, you know, both in the administration and on The Hill believe that's kind of the key here. I think - I think they are banking on the hope that Manchin knows deep down that should he launch sort of this long shot third party bid that he would be a spoiler. And the spoiler in a way that probably would ultimately hurt President Biden.

You also heard in that interview with Kaitlan that he doesn't want Trump back in office and I think that's kind of what - that is certainly what Democrats who are working to get President Biden elected are hope - are really focusing on right now. And they feel - they feel pretty good that - that he may not - that he probably will not launch a bid at the end of the day, but obviously we'll keep watching and Manchin will keep us guessing.

BOLDUAN: I was going to say, they're pretty sure and also we are pretty sure that Joe Manchin will keep everyone on their toes.

KIM: Right. Right.

BOLDUAN: It's great to see you, Seung Min. Thank you so much.


SIDNER: All right, thank you, Kate.

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