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Appeals Court Hears Arguments On Trump Gag Order; Israel Releases Footage From Inside Al Shifa Hospital. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 20, 2023 - 13:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: You're watching CNN NEWS CENTRAL. I'm Boris Sanchez, alongside Alex Marquardt.

Today, there is renewed hope for more than two dozen premature babies evacuated from a war-torn hospital in Gaza, as pressure is growing on Israel to provide evidence that Hamas ran a command center under the Al Shifa medical facility.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: And, in Washington, D.C., a fiery courtroom showdown. Former President Donald Trump is fighting his gag order in the federal 2020 election subversion case, but the special counsel says Trump is trying to influence and intimidate witnesses.

SANCHEZ: And new data shows the Earth is getting hotter, smashing through a threshold scientists have been warning about for decades.

We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

We start this hour with dozens of newborn babies who were trapped in a war zone now safe. Earlier today, a convoy of ambulances made the treacherous journey through Gaza to the Rafah Crossing, where medical staff were ready, waiting with incubators to transfer the newborns to Egypt, 28 babies in all.

Their fight, though, far from over. Doctors say that every one of them is battling serious infection, their transfer the latest fallout from Israel's controversial raid on the Al Shifa Hospital last week.

MARQUARDT: Now Israel's military is releasing videos that they say justify that raid on the Al Shifa Hospital, one allegedly showing two hostages being brought into the hospital. That was back on October 7, the day that Hamas carried out the massacres in Israel.

You can see one person apparently being rushed through by force and another on a stretcher. Now, the IDF also shared footage inside a tunnel shaft on the hospital compound.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is tracking this story in Sderot, Israel.

Jeremy, Israel is claiming that Hamas was using Al Shifa as a command center. What evidence of that have we seen so far? JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest evidence that

Israel has presented is certainly the most concrete that we have seen so far of evidence of tunnels below Shifa Hospital, but it stopped short of proving Israel's broad claims about a massive command center below the hospital.

The Israelis insist that evidence will eventually come to light. But what we are seeing right now from the Israeli military is this video showing a drone going down this tunnel shaft, where you can see some kind of a spiral staircase. And then, in the tunnel shaft there's video, perhaps taken by a robot with a camera or some kind of an animal with a camera, going down multiple meters down this tunnel. You can see the kind of curved ceilings that are very typical of Hamas tunnels in the Gaza Strip.

And then it arrives at a door, which the Israeli military says they have yet to open because they fear that it may very well be booby- trapped. Now, again, the Israelis have made broad claims about Hamas having a massive command center below Shifa Hospital. We have yet to see evidence of that.

But, meanwhile, the Israeli military is also answering questions and criticism and condemnation of a strike on the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza. Twelve people were killed, according to health officials in the Gaza Strip.

And the United Nations -- the World Health Organization, actually, is condemning this, saying that they are appalled that a military would have struck a hospital. The Israeli military, for its part, says that it was responding to gunfire from the hospital, from militants inside the hospital. They say that they did not fire any shells at that hospital, but, again, just the latest incident that we are seeing of civilians, in this case, patients and at least one medical staffer, being caught in the crossfire.

SANCHEZ: And, Jeremy, as all of this is happening, hostage negotiations are still ongoing involving multiple parties. There is some optimism, at least from the U.S. side in all of this. Part of it, Alex is reporting.

Where do things stand right now?

DIAMOND: Yes, this is certainly the most optimism that we have seen that a deal may be nearing in the weeks of negotiations that have been ongoing between Israel and Hamas mediated by the Qatari government with assistance from the United States.


And this draft of a potential agreement, which Alex and our colleagues are reporting on, shows that Israel could agree to a four-to-five-day cease-fire in exchange for Hamas releasing at least 50 hostages initially, with perhaps more to come.

But it is very clear that some sticking points still indeed remain, among them, the mechanisms for the release of this, the exact duration of that cease-fire. And there are also questions still about the exact number of the hostages that would be released by Hamas.

And, certainly, I spoke with a senior Israeli official today who is saying that, look, there is no deal yet. And until there is one, they're holding off on that optimism that we are hearing from the United States and others.

MARQUARDT: Yes, positivity, but, certainly, there are gaps and things that still need to be figured out.

Jeremy Diamond in Sderot, Israel, thank you very much for all that reporting.

Let's get straight to CNN's Eleni Giokos, who's in Cairo.

So, Eleni, we have these babies who were evacuated in dire condition from the Gaza Strip into Egypt. What is the latest word on their condition?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this was a really treacherous, dangerous journey from Al Shifa Hospital.

And, of course, you have just been talking about Al Shifa and the war basically that was brought to their doorstep. Many of the patients there and the doctors described being trapped inside, including was neonatal babies.

They eventually had a corridor, a safe passage to leave. And they made that journey yesterday, going to the Emirati Hospital at Rafah. They had to be stabilized. But I want you to think about just what it meant to be in Al Shifa Hospital as a premature baby, no oxygen, no real access to milk and clean water, no real heating, no incubators.

So we're talking about very catastrophic conditions. And the doctors in Al Shifa Hospital tell us that five of the neonatal babies, tragically, died. There were 36 initially that the Egyptians were waiting for. They got 28 today. It was a big move. The Egyptians had been waiting for over a week, and they had been describing how ambulances and doctors were waiting at the border every single day, going home disappointed that they weren't able to evacuate these tiny little babies.

And we have seen the images, the crying and just what it was required in terms of medical intervention. Eleven of those babies, according to the World Health Organization, are in critical condition. They are all fighting infection. They had to be stabilized first, because they apparently were very stressed.

On the Egyptian side, they have all been taken to hospitals. We know they already are in safe hospitals at the moment and, of course, being assisted as much as possible. We know that they're very underweight, which is indicative of the fact that they didn't have enough milk. And, of course, those incubators were absolutely vital.

Now, we caught up with the Egyptian health minister last week, and he was telling us that he was receiving images of three babies being put into one incubator, which, of course, is not viable, when such a vulnerable patient needs to be taken care of with every little resource available.

But it wasn't a possibility in Al Shifa. The Egyptians say that only four mothers were accompanying the 28 babies and six nurses. They don't know where the rest of the family members are, whether they're alive. But we know international organizations have said they're going to try and track some of the family members now.

But now the most important thing, the priority is to get the babies stable and, of course, focus on their health in the coming days.

SANCHEZ: Eleni Giokos from Cairo, thank you so much for that reporting.

Let's dig deeper now on all the issues facing the Middle East with Daniel O'Shea. He's a retired U.S. Navy SEAL commander and former coordinator for the Hostage Working Group in Iraq. And also with us is Avi Mayer. He's editor in chief for "The Jerusalem Post."

Thank you both for being with us.

Avi, I wanted to start with you.

We just got some new reporting. Some family members of Israeli hostages are set to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this afternoon. They are putting pressure on the prime minister to strike a deal that would release these hostages. According to CNN's reporting, Hamas is willing to release some 50 hostages if Israel agrees to pause, a several-day pause, I believe it's four or five days.

How do you see all of this playing out?

AVI MAYER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE JERUSALEM POST": Well, there's a great deal of support in Israel for any deal that would release any hostages.

You have families that have been wrought with anxiety for the past six weeks, not knowing whether the loved ones are alive or dead, what their situation might be, what their health is. You know, of course, that there are several who have preexisting health conditions. We don't know if they have been treated or, again, whether they're even still alive.

And so, yes, I think it is a dramatic development that the prime minister is indeed meeting with these hostage families. They have been begging for this meeting for quite some time. We don't know exactly what the conditions of such an arrangement might be.


Again, as you said, there have been some indications that we have been talking about a humanitarian pause of several days. There are concerns in Israel that that period would enable Hamas to regroup and rearm and continue its armed assault. That, of course, is a tremendous concern for many Israeli decision-makers.

We will have to see what happens in the days ahead. MARQUARDT: Daniel, in terms of the well-being of these hostages, we

believe that they are spread out among different groups, different factions of Hamas around the Gaza Strip.

We have not seen proofs of life. What are your biggest concerns right now about the well-being of these now around 240 hostages?

DANIEL O'SHEA, FORMER NAVY SEAL COMMANDER: Well, the fact remains that many of the hostages taken were very elderly people.

And, obviously, if they have been held in these tunneling systems, whatever medications they were on daily, they presumably did not have. And if they needed to be on any kind of a life support system, obviously, that did not happen.

You just profiled that for -- with the infants that were the premature babies as well. So it's very troubling. And that's why -- there were so many hostages taken at such a broad range, from as young as 3 months old, upwards of 85 years old. So that is going to be the real concern in terms of, how are those hostages doing?

Because they have been held, arguably, in some horrible conditions, if indeed they have been held in the tunnels, over the last 40-odd days.

SANCHEZ: And, David, on the negotiations and how a deal like this is bargained or bartered, it strikes me that some of these hostages are not just being held by Hamas, but these Hamas-affiliated groups, perhaps even other entities that might be holding on to hostages.

How does that complicate the process of striking a deal and negotiating with these groups that aren't exactly Hamas, David?


SANCHEZ: I'm sorry.


O'SHEA: No, I'm sorry. I thought that was going to David.

Well, that's exactly the challenge. There are multiple groups potentially holding them beyond Hamas, as Islamic Jihad reportedly had some of these hostages held. So you could argue that these hostages are probably broken up in multiple locations controlled by various factions.

And that's the challenge. They're in such a large number, and the fact that they're in the tunneling systems. And a lot of -- we know that the Internet service has broken down. Cell phone towers have broken down, so the communication challenge to try and get information on where these hostages are.

That's why I don't think the world has seen a dynamic situation in terms of international hostage crisis to the scale and scope that we're seeing in Gaza, which just complicates everything and that, if a deal is made and can be pulled off, it will indeed be a miracle. MARQUARDT: Avi, we just played those videos at the IDF released

showing the hostages that were taken to Al Shifa Hospital. We have now seen that -- more of that tunnel that the Israeli military found in the hospital complex.

Do you believe that the IDF needs to show more conclusive proof of what they have alleged is a large-scale command-and-control center?

MAYER: Look, it's no big secret that Hamas has used Al Shifa Hospital as a command-and-control post for years. This has been reported in previous rounds of fighting, including by "The Washington Post" and other journalists, who reported seeing Hamas terrorists roaming the hallways of Al Shifa.

And there is obviously a very broad knowledge of an underground complex that exists there as well. I think the expectation that Israel was going to unveil this dramatic complex immediately were somewhat far-fetched. You have to understand, Al Shifa is a massive, massive hospital complex, and Israel did not want to go in with all its forces, which, of course, would have caused significant damage and loss of life.

It did so very deliberately, very slowly. And as things have been uncovered, they have been revealed to the world. I would not be at all surprised if we saw additional findings coming out in the days ahead as Israel continues its very careful and deliberate approach in the hospital complex, ensuring that as many individuals and innocent people are spared as it goes to uncover the Hamas terrorists infrastructure that exists at that site.

MARQUARDT: Yes, we're showing a video again of that robot, we believe, going down into the tunnel, and then -- and it goes up to a door that has a window. They haven't gone through that yet, we understand, because it could be booby-trapped.

So there's obviously a lot more that needs to come out about what happened at Al Shifa, what has been happening at Al Shifa Hospital.

Daniel O'Shea, Avi Mayer, thank you both very much. Appreciate it.

MAYER: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: And coming up: Attorneys for Donald Trump faced appeals court judges today arguing for the removal of the gag order they say sets a terrible precedent on political speech. We will have the details ahead.

And, later, a Thanksgiving tradition, President Joe Biden pardoning the turkeys. Brace yourself for all of those famous presidential puns.

You're watching CNN NEWS CENTRAL. We will be right back.



MARQUARDT: There was an unprecedented court hearing today regarding the first former American president to be indicted.

It's about the gag order in the federal criminal case accusing Donald Trump of trying to undermine the 2020 election. The order restricts Trump's ability to publicly target court staff, witnesses, special counsel Jack Smith and his staff.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Trump's attorneys say that it limits his First Amendment rights.

But one of the judges in the three-judge panel gave an early sign that he may not agree with Trump's attorneys. Let's listen.


JUDGE PATRICIA MILLETT, D.C. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: First of all, we're not shutting down everyone who speaks.

We're only -- this is only affect -- no one's shutting down, and everyone's -- this is only affecting speech temporarily during a criminal trial process by someone who has been indicted as a felon. No one here is threatening the First Amendment broadly.



SANCHEZ: CNN's Zachary Cohen is covering this story. We also have Caroline Polisi with us. She's a federal and white-collar criminal defense attorney.

Zach, first to you.

Just based on that question, it seems like the gag order is likely to stay in place.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, the judges were not buying the argument from Trump's attorneys. They were saying that Trump basically shouldn't have any restrictions on what he's allowed to say related to this case.

And that's really underscored by the fact that these judges were really honing in on very detailed questions. They were even using hypothetical scenarios to sort of illustrate the point that they don't really have an appetite for throwing out the gag order entirely.

But they wanted to know exactly when maybe there were some First Amendment issues and when there weren't. And one of the hypotheticals that they brought up was a situation where former Vice President Mike Pence, hypothetically, was about to testify the next day, and Donald Trump maybe tweets something to the effect of, you could still do your job, Mike Pence, if you make the right decision tomorrow.


COHEN: Take a listen at this back and forth between the judges and Trump's lawyers. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MILLETT: Let's assume former Vice President Mike Pence is going to testify. And it's the night before his testimony.

Could the defendant tweet out: "Mike Pence can still fix this. Mike Pence can still do the right thing if he says the right stuff tomorrow"?

First of all, is that communicating with the witness?

D. JOHN SAUER, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: If it's just broadcasting a statement of core political speech on social media, likely not.


COHEN: So, obviously, the witness list in this case has not been released yet.


COHEN: But Mike Pence has been a central figure of this case from the beginning.

And so it's interesting that the judges were raising this hypothetical to really nail down on how they're grappling with this issue of political speech versus maybe criminal speech or things that don't fall under the First Amendment.


MARQUARDT: Caroline Polisi, what do you make of that, John Sauer saying that this is broadcasting core political speech, that it's not communicating with a witness?

And then, overall, how likely do you think this -- it is that this gag order will be upheld?

CAROLINE POLISI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Alex, I think definitely the gag order will be upheld, regardless of how the oral argument went today.

I think, just by dint of that three judge panel, what we know about them, what we know about their jurisprudence, it will be upheld. It was a very lively debate this morning, to be sure. Judges were really pushing hard on Sauer's argument, really, that the First Amendment protection against political speech is basically inviolable.

He wouldn't really budge from, as you heard there, all these hypotheticals that the judges were throwing at them, at him saying, well, when would it be appropriate for a court to exercise its jurisdiction in maintaining a courtroom that runs smoothly, an untainted jury pool with the safety of the court staff at paramount importance?

And the Trump team didn't have very many answers, besides just sticking to that one sort of tying point, which is that he can basically say whatever he wants whenever he wants.

SANCHEZ: And let's dig deeper on what Caroline is talking about, Zach, because you have some sound of Sauer drilling down, saying this is a First Amendment issue.

COHEN: This is really the first thing Trump's attorney said during today's hearing, and he made his point very clear that Trump should be able to say whatever he wants.


COHEN: But listen to how defiantly and how strongly his lawyer made the case today in court.


SAUER: The order is unprecedented, and it sets a terrible precedent for future restrictions on core political speech.

This is a radical departure from the only cases that have considered this particular form of restriction, a restriction a criminal defendant who is also campaigning for public office, and it does so in the context of a hotly contested campaign for the highest office in the United States of America.


COHEN: So the judges agreed, though, that political speech does require significant protection under the First Amendment, but a little insight here.

He was supposed to have about 20 minutes to make his case in court today. They spent about two hours going back and forth with Trump's lawyer. So it does show you the sort of gap there that exists between the judges and Trump's legal team.

MARQUARDT: And, Caroline, what do you make of that, that argument by Sauer, that it sets a terrible precedent?

POLISI: Well, I would just note, and the judge pushed back on this with Sauer, that the gag order -- just to be clear, the gag order was extremely narrowly tailored, which is what you look for when you're balancing these two big rights, really First Amendment rights and then the right of the court system to administer justice as it sees fit.

That gag order would allow former President Trump to really rail against the prosecution, say it's politically motivated, call it a witch-hunt, as he's so fond of doing, really bash the Democrats, President Biden. He can do all that.

The very narrow issue here is whether or not he can directly attack court staff, prosecution, the prosecutors, things of that nature, which would incite violence. One of the key issues was, how attenuated can that sort of incitement be?


It's -- it goes back to this, "Won't someone rid me of that meddlesome priest?" which is the idea of, well, President Trump has all these people reading his TRUTH Social posts. What might they do when they get a tweet that sort of crosses the line into that territory of potentially doing violence, doing harm?

So that was a key issue today as well.

SANCHEZ: And, Caroline, notably, no matter what happens with this appeals court, it may not be the final say for this gag order.

POLISI: Absolutely not.

They could -- the defense could at first request an en banc hearing, meaning not just the three-judge panel, but the whole court of appeals at that level.


POLISI: And then I think this is really being teed up for a Supreme Court decision.

MARQUARDT: Zach, what about the judges' concern that they showed today about jurors in this case getting doxxed, for example?

COHEN: It was interesting, because this was not explicitly addressed in the gag order itself. But it's something that judges did raise proactively.

And they were asking if there was any technological way to protect potential jurors from the kind of speech Caroline was just talking about this, the things that Trump says, but maybe inspire some of his followers to a potential threat of some kind.

And the prosecutors that were asked that question basically said, no, there is no way to protect jurors. So this could factor into the ultimate decision from this panel. And it will be interesting to see if that factors into a Supreme Court decision going forward, since it wasn't laid out in the gag order itself.

MARQUARDT: It absolutely will.

SANCHEZ: Yes, interesting to see, if it does get to the Supreme Court, how it gets perhaps to the core of this case, how it might change the nature of the case.

Zach Cohen, Caroline Polisi, thank you both so much.

Still plenty more news to come on NEWS CENTRAL.

Ahead: It's hard to avoid the whole age issue on your birthday, one of the president's biggest 2024 liabilities in focus today. What the latest polls on this are signaling -- when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)