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Sen. Manchin Won't Commit To Staying In Democratic Party; UN Agency: "Total Communication Blackout" In Gaza; New Videos Show Alec Baldwin With Prop Gun On "Rust" Set. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired November 16, 2023 - 11:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin says he does not want to be a spoiler in the 2024 presidential race. But the jury is still out if he wants to be a Democrat. Listen to this exchange with Kaitlan Collins.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Are you going to leave the Democratic Party?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Well, you know, I'm -- I don't know if I've ever -- I've never considered myself a Washington Democrat. I've been a very independent person. And I don't really think that you have --

COLLINS: Does that sound --

MANCHIN: Were --

COLLINS: That sounds like you're leaving.

MANCHIN: Well, no. You have a D or an R by your name or not by your name. It shouldn't identify who you are.


BERMAN: And in a different exchange, he would not rule out running for president as a third-party candidate against Joe Biden but says he does not want to be a spoiler in that race. With me now is Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. Senator, thank you so much for being with us. How could Senator Manchin run as a third-party candidate without being a spoiler?

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): Well, I think he would be. And I don't think that that would be helpful to the nation. I certainly don't think that we need to return Donald Trump to the White House that he, for sure, is leading in the Democrat -- in the Republican primaries right now. I certainly don't want a grifter back in the White House. So, it would be a shame if Senator Manchin were to decide to play that spoiler role, no matter what he calls it. BERMAN: And you've been listening to Senator Manchin who will not run for reelection and just told our Kaitlan Collins, he's considering leaving the Democratic Party. Do you understand what his issues are?

DUCKWORTH: Well, his issue are -- is that his state has become more and more conservative over the years. And I think he feels that he is an endangered species that we've had many Democrats in West Virginia switch their affiliation to Republican from being democratic is just the nature of his electorate in Virginia -- in West Virginia, and so I think he's reflecting the pressures that are on him.

But frankly, Joe Manchin, you know, has made some great votes. He's made some great decisions. I've worked with him over the years, especially on veterans' issues, and I hope he stays a Democrat.

BERMAN: So, you had a late night -- the whole Senate had a late night until 3:45 in the morning, and this was the continued argument with Senator Tommy Tuberville, and also Mike Lee of Utah this case who are blocking military promotions over reproductive rights issues. And there was a lot of anger last night, including from some Republican senators who are against what Tuberville is doing. Anger, but no action. You were angry about this in July. So, where's the action?

DUCKWORTH: Well, the action is this resolution that we've come up with as a way to get around Senator Tuberville. We'll be able to vote on it soon, which would allow us to get these promotions to the floor, get them voted on without Senator Tuberville being able to exert his hold, you know. The best way forward is for him to just not object when we ask for unanimous consent to promote all these folks, which is the way it has been done for literally decades. But he chooses to have a partisan political agenda and stop us from having a ready military.

I mean, we've got two ships off the coast of Israel, and we have no Fifth Fleet Commander. Well, there's a war raging in Ukraine with U.S. troops in Poland and Romania, and we don't have a permanent three-star representative at NATO because she can't take charge officially because she's not been promoted to the position.

So, we need to end this crisis in terms of military readiness that Senator Tuberville has inflicted upon our nation. And whether it's unanimous consent, whether it's naming one -- each person one by one or this resolution, we got to get this done, and we'll get this done before the end of the year.

BERMAN: You're a military veteran. How would you feel -- put yourself in the seat of one of these military members and their families who were waiting on a promotion, but it hasn't happened because of Tommy Tuberville? How would you feel?

DUCKWORTH: I will be absolutely furious. There are families that are in limbo right now. Kids were pulled out of school because they thought they were moving to a new base and can't go. Spouses who've lost their jobs or who applied for a new job got, accepted to a new position at the new base, but now they can't start that job.

[11:35:00] Families are spending a lot of extra money that they can't afford in order to stay in this limbo status. And, you know, when I served, it was all about the security and the well-being of this country. And Tommy Tuberville has put that in jeopardy.

BERMAN: I said, You're a military veteran. You're also a veteran of the House of Representatives. I don't know if you've been following what happened over there over the last hour with this ethics committee report on George Santos.

The House Ethics Committee chair is going to introduce a resolution to expel Santos. If you were still in the House, how would you vote on that? What's your view?

DUCKWORTH: I would certainly vote to expel him. I mean, it's clear in the ethics report that just came out from a bipartisan ethics committee that had equal numbers of Dems and Republicans on it, let's be clear, shows that he has egregiously violated House Ethics and he doesn't belong in Congress. He's a grifter. He's a serial liar and a grifter and he doesn't belong in the People's House.

BERMAN: All right, Senator Tammy Duckworth, we appreciate your time. Thank you so much for being with us. Sara?

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up. Human Rights Watch is calling for an investigation into Israel's attack outside a hospital in Gaza. I will speak with the group's director as things are changing once again in Gaza. We will have all of that coming up next.



SIDNER: Just moments ago, the UN agency operating in Gaza says there is now a total communications blackout in Gaza because of the lack of fuel. And this morning, the agency's High Commissioner for Human Rights is warning that massive outbreaks of infectious disease and hunger now seem inevitable. It comes, as we are now learning, Israel has dropped leaflets on parts of southern Gaza now suggesting Israeli forces could possibly soon expand their offensive against Hamas there.

Sari Bashi, the Program Director of Human Rights Watch is joining me now. Thank you so much for taking the time in this really difficult moment. I know you were there in the West Bank.

I do want to start with what we are just learning from UNRWA, the UN agency that is operating in Gaza, that there's a total communications blackout due to fuel. At one point Israel says look, we allowed fuel in, we allowed -- we wanted the hospitals to be able to get it, but the hospital director of Al-Shifa said, look, their staff was too afraid to go and get it considering what's been going on around the hospital. What happens next? I mean, what can be done here?

SARI BASHI, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Well, first of all, to clarify, the Israeli government has been blocking the entrance of fuel into Gaza since October 7. So, the fuel that was allegedly delivered to Shifa was a few hundred liters of fuel which would have lasted for a half hour, and it was put outside the hospital in ways that the steps that they couldn't access it. But that's a little bit beside the point.

Under ordinary times, Gaza needs millions of liters of fuel every week to power very basic humanitarian functions, like bakeries, hospital ventilators, water and sewage pumping, and telecommunications. The Israeli military has blocked that even though it is inspecting shipments and it certainly inspects fuel shipments as well.

Yesterday for the first time, it let in a few thousand liters of fuel only for the trucks delivering humanitarian aid, but it still refuses to allow hospitals -- to allow fuel for any other use, including for hospitals and including the telecommunication system.

SIDNER: What do you see happening here? What is Human Rights Watch -- rights watch which goes around the world and looks at conflicts in particular. What do you see happening right now in this conflict?

BASHI: What I'm most worried about is the way that all parties to the conflict have been flouting their obligations to civilians. So, this latest escalation began with an attack by Palestinian armed groups against Israeli civilians, which are war crimes, and it is continued with the Israeli government perpetrating war crimes against Palestinian civilians.

The Israeli government has blocked aid into Gaza, electricity, and drinking water supplies, saying that it is fighting human animals and would not allow aid to enter Gaza from its territory. That's collective punishment. It is punishing 2.2 million people in Gaza, nearly half of whom are children for the despicable actions of a few thousand fighters.

In addition, its refusal to allow the UN to bring life-saving fuel into Gaza via the Egyptian border is costing lives. Already, there have been multiple reports of hospital patients dying because their incubators, their ventilators, and their life-support machines shut down after the last drop of fuel from generators ran out.

There is -- are terrible outbreaks of infectious diseases, a seven- fold increase in diarrhea among children under five because there's no way to purify the water. The Israeli military has cut drinking water into Gaza and is not allowing the fuel needed for desalination plants and water -- and water pumps to operate.

The amount of aid it is allowing in via Egypt is a tiny trickle. And to be clear, in all previous hostilities, even under fire, the Israeli military found ways to open its own crossings into Gaza to allow humanitarian aid to enter. It can do that now and it needs to do that now, to open its crossings for the hundreds of trucks needed to give people in Gaza a fighting chance, and to stop blocking fuel into Gaza.

SIDNER: One of the things that Israel always says when they are letting fuel in or when they are asked to let fuel in is that it is used or confiscated by Hamas as well as other things. When you look at the situation there with Hamas, there has been firing according to one of the reporters for the Palestinian network, WAFA, around the hospital, there have been some rockets fired, and then there have been some actions taken by Israel around the hospital.


What do you see happening there? How does Human Rights Watch look at this? Is Hamas just as much to blame for some of the actions it has taken? Also, Israel showing some of the weapons and munitions that it says it found inside of Al-Shifa hospital as well. What is Human Rights Watch concerned there?

BASHI: So, Human Rights Watch looks at this from the lens of International Humanitarian Law. And it's called humanitarian law because it enshrines very basic principles of humanity that everybody needs to uphold, even during the very ugly business of war. What we found is that all parties have been flouting those principles.

So, when Hamas fires rockets indiscriminately at Israeli communities, that's a war crime because it's indiscriminate fire against civilians. Similarly, if Hamas is indeed hiding fighters or weapons in hospitals, and we haven't been able to confirm that, if they are, it would be a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law because it would unlawfully endanger civilians. But those obligations are non- reciprocal. So, the fact that one party is committing war crimes, doesn't mean that you can commit war crimes.

Hospitals are not stripped of their very special protections under international humanitarian law because of the presence of fighters. There are rules that need to be followed. They can only be attacked if they're committing acts harmful to the enemy. And even then, effective warnings must be given.

We have documented the Israeli military striking hospitals, under circumstances in which either no warning was given, or warnings were given that were impossible to comply with. Because they told people to leave, but there was no safe place to go and no safe way to get there. And the people being told to leave include patients in intensive care units.

In terms of the fuel, international law allows the Israeli military to inspect the fuel, to make sure there's no weapons, and to monitor it to protect against diversion. And that's what the Israeli government has done for the past several decades in Gaza. It has monitored U.N.- sponsored humanitarian aid that has come in to protect against diversion. It can and should do that now.

But what it can't do is drain Gaza of life-saving fuel. The telecommunication system has gone down a few hours ago because there's no more fuel to run the generators. That means that ambulance drivers cannot communicate with hospitals. Rescue workers cannot get to the rubble where people could still live, somebody could come to get them out of there. That is not -- that is far from what international law requires of the -- of the Israeli military in terms of civilian actions. SIDNER: Sari Bashi, thank you so much for explaining what is an incredibly devastating situation there in Gaza, and also what Israel experienced on October 7. We appreciate your time. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up for us. A never-before-seen video of Alec Baldwin firing prop guns on the set of the movie "Rust." Baldwin also seen talking to cinematographer Halyna Hutchins days before she was killed on that set. We'll be back.



BERMAN: All right, just into CNN. An arrest has been made in the death of a Jewish protester in Southern California. A short time ago, police detained 50-year-old Loay Alnaji on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter in connection to the death of Paul Kessler. Authorities have said Kessler fell and hit his head following an interaction with a pro-Palestinian demonstrator doing -- during dueling rallies earlier this month. Alnaji's bail will be set at one million dollars.

Police in Las Vegas are looking for any information about two teenagers in connection with the beating death of 17-year-old Jonathan Lewis. He was assaulted outside his high school over what police think was a stolen vape pen. Eight teenagers are already charged with murder in this attack. Some will be charged as adults. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Most of these new today videos obtained by NBC News show Alec Baldwin handling a prop gun while filming scenes for the movie "Rust." The never-before-seen footage is from 2021 and it was taken days before Baldwin prop -- Baldwin's prop gun fired a real round on set, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring the director on the project. And a grand jury will soon decide whether to recharge Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter.

CNN's Josh Campbell has been following this and continues to follow twists and turns on this. Walk us through these videos and what we see.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, some really interesting insight into this new video obtained by NBC News. You know, prosecutors had originally accused Alec Baldwin of recklessness, saying that there was this culture of unsafe practices on that set.

However, in this video, this is pre-production of that movie, you actually see Alec Baldwin talking to members of the set about safety. I want to play just a version of that here. Just listen to his directions to the members of the crew.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Step back to your original mark. So, one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one -- I'm getting up.


BALDWIN: Then when he drops his arm, Halyna, get out. If he drops her, that means Brady's close. I'm going to start to really get up.



BALDWIN: There -- here we go. Let's try it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roll and rolling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And everyone, you're not going to need to be right here, like in the path of the gun. Could you please move?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just want to be over him a little bit so we can see --


BALDWIN: Now, wait a second. I'm going to shoot right. You're going to go on the other side of the camera. I don't want to shoot too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be right here.

BALDWIN: OK. Look, I'm going to shoot close to you. Here we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Set. Here we go. Ready. And action.




CAMPBELL: Now, these videos appear to bolster Baldwin's claims all along that he did indeed take safety seriously. However, obviously, someone died on that set. The big question is, how did a live round of ammunition actually get into that gun?

We've also reported on multiple alleged instances of unsafe practices, including accidental discharges, complaints by members of the crew about safety on the set. So, a lot of this grand jury will have to grapple with when this case is ultimately presented to them.

It's worth pointing out finally, as their friend Sara Sidner, mentioned this morning that this is a prosecution that has been rocky to put it charitably. You had two prosecutors stepped down. The charges were eventually dropped due to a potential evidence issue. But now we'll wait and see, Kate, whether authorities actually bring this back up for federal -- for state charges.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's good to see you, Josh. Thanks for the update.

SIDNER: And I just want to note that Josh Campbell just dropped my name.

BERMAN: Yes. SIDNER: And so, I'm going to send him a gift.

BERMAN: Everyone's friend, Sara Sidner. "INSIDE POLITICS" is up next.