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Rosalynn Carter Memorial Plans; Stewart McLaurin is Interviewed about Rosalynn Carter; Rep. Josh Gottheimer is Interviewed about Israel; OpenAI Employees Threaten to Quit. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 20, 2023 - 09:30   ET




OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN ANCHOR: This morning we're remembering former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Funeral and memorial services will take place next week after she died at the Carters' home in Plains, Georgia, yesterday, surrounded by family. She was 96 years old.

Rosalynn Carter was a champion for mental health causes and a beloved partner and adviser to her husband, former President Jimmy Carter. They celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary in July.

CNN's Rafael Romo joins us now from outside the Carter Center in Atlanta this morning.

Rafael, obviously she made such an impact over the course of her life. Tributes are pouring in. What are you seeing there at the Carter Center?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Omar. Well, we were here at the Carter Center less than three days ago, on Friday evening, when they had announced originally that the former first lady had been put in hospice care at her home in Plains, Georgia. And Sunday afternoon the Carter Center confirmed that Rosalynn Carter had died at the age of 96. They said that she died peacefully at home surrounded by her family.

Almost immediately there was a statement released by the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, talking about his wife. He said that, "Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished. She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me."

And, Omar, as you would expect, there has been condolences and tributes from different parts of the country and the world. Some of the first to react to the passing of Rosalynn Carter were former presidents and first ladies. For example, I can tell you about former President Bill Clinton, who gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to both Carters in 1999, he said the following about Rosalynn Carter. He said, "Rosalynn will be forever remembered as the embodiment of a life lived with a purpose." And just a few moments ago, Omar, I had an opportunity to talk to the CEO of the President Carter Library here, and this is what she had to say about the emotions expressed by the former president.

Let's take a listen.


PAIGE ALEXANDER, CEO, THE CARTER CENTER: They knew this day would come. And the fact that they wanted to make sure that they honored each other in whatever stage of life they were in. So, this was a statement that he wrote and he supported. And it really indicated the partnership that they had together for 77 years, and more.


ROMO: And, Omar, next Monday there will be a wreath laying ceremony here at the library where the public will be allowed to pay their respects. It will begin -- the ceremony is in honor of the former first lady.

Back to you.

JIMENEZ: And, of course, you know, you mentioned you were there covering when she was admitted to hospice care. There were many questions about what would happen next. And, of course, we're here.

Rafael Romo, thank you so much for staying on top of it all.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And joining us now to talk more about this, the life, the legacy, the impact of the first lady, is Stewart McLaurin. He's the president of the White House Historical Association.

It's good to see you, Stewart. Thank you so much for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Rosalynn Carter, she recreated the office of the first lady. I mean she was the first first lady to have an official chief of staff. I mean, how did she break the mold in this role and helped shape kind of what - what it is today as we know it in terms of the office of the first lady?

MCLAURIN: Well, we've had so many of our first ladies who have had a significant impact on presidencies throughout the course of our nation's history. But it was in 1977 that Rosalynn Carter created this office of the first lady in the iconic east wing space that we now refer to as the home or the base of operations for our modern first ladies. And she did create a staff and she was substantively involved in President Carter's presidency, from attending cabinet meetings, to his morning security briefings, to represent him on the mental health commission. In a variety of ways, it was really integral to his presidency. BOLDUAN: And I even, you know, even reading from the small things to

the big things, but everything has significance, that Mrs. Carter became the first presidential wife to carry a briefcase daily to a White House office. This is kind of -- these are important moments. These -- what - what this woman and her fortitude and her strength and her just pure awesomeness kind of did in terms of recreating the office.


I mean I want to -- we can show everyone the beautiful official portrait of her that the White House Historical Association released.


BOLDUAN: One of her many contributions was working to expand kind of the White House collection of art and paintings and bringing more national attention to all forms of art. Tell me about that passion of hers specifically.

MCLAURIN: Well, it was in 1979 that she actually advocated for the creation of a White House Preservation Fund that allowed us, as a private partner to the White House, to acquire so many of these works, art, objects that are in the White House today. Of course, we were founded by First Lady Jacquelyn Kennedy, and each first lady since then has had a significant role. But Mrs. Carter, in creating that presidential fund, or preservation fund with us was really significant to help make these things possible. And a number of things, fine arts, decorative arts, furnishings, were added to the White House collection during the Carter presidency.

BOLDUAN: What do you think her greatest impact and legacy will be from her time as first lady?

MCLAURIN: Well, Kate, you know it's 42 years since president and Mrs. Carter left the White House. And it's times like these when we reflect on them. And it's a shame that in their lives they can't hear these wonderful things that are being said about them, but last evening I was looking back at some of her media interviews and the reports on her from when she was first lady and the soft voice, the poignancy with which she spoke, but the strength that you knew that she had, referred to as the steel magnolia, no doubt that she was his closest and most trusted adviser in the presidency and in the years since. And I can only imagine the loss that he and the family are feeling this morning and the loss for our nation.

We have wonderful first ladies that support each of our presidents. We often speculate would they be president without having that woman with them as first lady, as their first supporter. And I think in this case that's a really good question because she was a strength and an inspiration to him certainly before, absolutely during, and certainly after the presidency.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I think - and I think Jimmy Carter himself has said in many different ways and many different times that he would be nowhere near where he was reached or the man that he was without the love and support and strength of Rosalynn.

It's really good to have you on, on this day. Thank you so much, Stewart.

MCLAURIN: Thank you.

JIMENEZ: Coming up, a rift among Democrats over military aid to Israel. Who wants conditions attached and who thinks that will just help Hamas, next.

Also, Sam Altman's ousting from ChatGPT's parent company is shaking up Silicon Valley. Now hundreds of OpenAI staffers are threatening to quit. We'll explain, coming up.



BOLDUAN: So, there's a new fight kind of brewing up right now over aid to Israel. This time between Democrats and a new call by one top Democrat to impose conditions on U.S. aid to Israel. Senator Bernie Sanders coming out now to say Benjamin Netanyahu and his government must understand, quote, "not a penny will be coming to Israel from the U.S. unless there is a fundamental change in their military and political positions."

The U.S. sends billions of dollars, you know, to Israel every year, and Congress is currently struggling over sending an additional $14 billion requested by President Biden. And here is what Sanders wants in terms of conditions before more money is sent. A pause in military operations and an end to what he calls indiscriminate bombing in Gaza. He's also called for protecting the rights of Gazans to return home and also that Israel commit to no long-term Israeli reoccupation of Gaza.

One Democrat that that is not sitting well with, New Jersey Democrat Congressman Josh Gottheimer, who said that those conditions and conditions like that "would help Hamas in their goal of completely annihilating Israel and the Jewish people. It would weaken America's national security and our fight against terror."

It comes as a new poll shows that while a majority of voters, all voters, 55 percent, say they support U.S. aid to Israel. Almost half of Democrats in a new poll by NBC News says that they are opposed to it.

Joining me right now Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer for more on this.

Thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Why do you think Bernie Sanders is wrong on the conditions that he's asking for? GOTTHEIMER: Well, after one of the leading terrorist organizations in

the world has attacked Israel and killed Americans and has Americans and others hostage still right now, the idea that we would do anything to help a terrorist organization, Hamas, that's Iranian backed, actually get a leg up makes zero sense to me. And they still have Americans hostage, just to be very clear. And the leadership of Hamas has said publicly that there will be a second, third and fourth October 7th. In other words, until every Jewish person, until Israel is destroyed, as is in Hamas's charter, they are not going to stop. So, I wouldn't know why we would do anything to back off crushing and killing the terrorists, as the president or commander in chief has said. We've got to keep - we've got to keep that up, as well as part of our other goals, which is getting, of course, all the hostages home, including the American hostages, and making sure that we get humanitarian aid into the region. And Hamas is the one that's literally putting innocent Palestinians in harm's way, right? So, understand they've made it clear that they're not interested at all in protecting Palestinians. They're using them as human shields. They're not letting them go into any tunnels that they've built to protect Palestinians, right?


They just want to use them as human shields. That's what they're continuing to do.

BOLDUAN: But in your statement, I mean, you - you make clear that conditioning any -- putting conditions on any aid only serves to help Hamas, which you're saying here.


BOLDUAN: And I know you're not suggesting that the -- that that is the intention of progressives, like Bernie Sanders, to help Hamas. What do you think, then, is the intention in your mind? If it is so - if it is so clear-cut from your perspective that putting conditions on leads to Hamas getting -- benefitting, where is the discussion then and where should the discussion be, do you think, in order to get past this?

GOTTHEIMER: Well, I really can't speak to the intent of my colleagues. I mean all I would say is, we know the facts. We know that Hamas butchered, raped, killed 1,200 innocent people, including scores of Americans on October 7th. We know that they literally have military bases underneath hospitals. We know that they are using Palestinians -- innocent Palestinians as shields when I believe we must continue to do everything we can to get humanitarian aid in there, which Hamas is blocking. Why would we do anything to support a terrorist organization that's Iranian backed.

We see the Houthis literally capturing - which is Iranian backed - capturing a ship, holding people hostage, right, and firing rockets, as others are in Iraq and Syria are doing, at Americans, right, and Israelis, right? So, they're all attacking us. They're Iranian backed. They're - and so - so China, Russia, Hamas, they're all working - Iran, all working together against America and against our key ally, the democracy in the region. Why would we do anything to actually hinder our objectives, our commander in chief's objectives?

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you -- I mentioned some new polling out and what it says kind of where the temperature is right now amongst U.S. voters with regard to President Biden's handling of foreign policy, the war in Israel, and also kind of just his approval overall. This new NBC News poll shows that there is some trouble among Democratic voters for President Biden when it comes to this. According to this poll, among Democrats, 51 percent think Israel has gone too far in its military action, 27 percent Israel's actions are justified, 49 percent are opposed to the U.S. sending any -- sending more aid to Israel.

Those -- when you see polling like that, how much does that worry you?

GOTTHEIMER: So, I dug a little deeper into that poll, as you have to in these polls. I thought the most interesting finding in the poll, which actually everyone should look at, is that 77 percent of democratic primary voters support the president in that poll. That's the -- his highest number yet since he's in office. And if you look at the poll as well about favorability, Hamas is at 1 percent, the lowest, and Israel, when you ask favorability in a set of choices, is at the highest. So, I actually think those are the key numbers in that poll.

BOLDUAN: Those new polling numbers are like - but you're not -- do you - do you want to make the case that those -- this polling is signs of good things to come (INAUDIBLE)?

GOTTHEIMER: No. No, what - no, the case I'm -- no, the - no, no, the case I'm making is, if you look at, will Democratic voters vote for Donald Trump or President Biden? If you look at that poll, what's clear is that President Biden is actually quite strong and will - and that they will continue to stand behind the president, Democratic primary voters. That's the key number I believe in that poll.

Listen, nobody wants to see this conflict happening, right, and nobody wants them -- but the bottom line is I saw footage last week from GoPros and from Hamas's GoPros and from their phone footage that was screened, as you know, in private for many members of Congress. What happened, the atrocities that happened that day on October 7th, the lengths and depths they went to, including raping women, young women and girls before they killed them, and - and we saw imagery that I'll never be able to unsee, including, you know, take -- decapitating people and burning people. Like the stuff that you saw, the lengths that Hamas, a terrorist organization, went to, you have to kill and crush them or they will keep coming back, as they admit to, right? Hamas's leadership admits there will be a second, third and fourth October 7th. So, they will keep coming. You have to stop them now.

Listen, and they are the ones -- Hamas is the ones putting Palestinian -- innocent Palestinians in harm's way. They're the ones doing it. And our goals are very clear, we have to the hostages out. We've got to get them home, especially Americans, got to get them home. We've got to make sure we get humanitarian aid into the region, which I strongly support, and we've got to get an aid package passed to do that. And we've got to get that done. And, of course, we've got to kill and crush the terrorists. BOLDUAN: Yes, and getting that aid, I mean, that's going to - that's

where the work lies ahead for Congress because right now it's not going anywhere really fast.


BOLDUAN: Congressman Josh Gottheimer, thank you for coming in.

GOTTHEIMER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, ousted OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, he has a new job already. Where he landed and the chaotic details surrounding his firing and what we're now hearing -



JIMENEZ: This morning a blockbuster shakeup in the world of artificial intelligence. Just days after he was ousted by the company he co- founded, former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is joining Microsoft. And so is another OpenAI co-founder, Greg Brockman. The two men who helped bring ChatGPT to the world will lead Microsoft's new advanced AI research team.

So, there's been a lot going on. That's why I've got CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich. She's here with us now.

All right, Vanessa, look, there were ongoing negotiations for Altman to return as OpenAI's CEO.


JIMENEZ: Then he goes to Microsoft. What's been happening here?

YURKEVICH: I don't think ChatGPT could have written this drama. This has been a lot in 72 hours.


YURKEVICH: So, the breaking news that we have now is that 500 employees from OpenAI have sent this letter to the board which ousted Sam Altman, saying that if you do not resign, if you do not bring back Sam Altman, we will quit and we will join Sam Altman at Microsoft. Five hundred - 500 employees, that's most of the company.


YURKEVICH: But this all goes down on Friday when OpenAI basically pushes Sam Altman out. The board saying that he's not equipped to lead the company right now. He hasn't been very transparent.

Behind the scenes, through, what we know is that there's a philosophical difference between Altman wanting to push AI forward and the board, who wants to kind of dial the progress of AI back.


But what we know is that many employees have already followed Altman, including his co-founder, Greg Brockman. Over the weekend we saw a photo of Altman at AI open - OpenAI's offices. Maybe talks of bringing him back again. That did not happen.

That's where you enter Microsoft. They have invested $13 billion into OpenAI. They own 49 percent of the company. Just this morning we're hearing that they have hired Altman to now run artificial intelligence at Microsoft. And just moments ago we heard from one of the board members who was part of that four-person board that fired Altman, and he says that he actually regrets the fact that he's created all this chaos at OpenAI. He's also one of the more than 500 people who has signed this open letter calling for the board to resign, which means including himself.

This all matters because artificial intelligence is here. It is the future. There are serious conversations about whether or not it's moving too fast, can it be weaponized. What does it mean for all of us? There's so many businesses that rely on ChatGPT every single day.

I just want to read a quick quote from an analyst, Dan Ives, who puts this perfectly I think. He says, in a nutshell, the JV four-person board at OpenAI "was at the kids poker table and thought they won until Nadella and Microsoft took this all over in the World Series of Porker move for the ages with the Valley and Wall Street watching."

This is going to continue to unfold over today, but just so much in 72 hours, changing the game of AI.

JIMENEZ: So much has happened, and I'm sure so much more will happen.


JIMENEZ: Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: Right now, lawyers for Donald Trump are in court getting ready to fight over the gag order in the federal election criminal case. A violation of free speech or necessary guardrails to protect potential witnesses involved in this case. We'll take you there.