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Kentucky Governor Declares State Of Emergency; Car Explosion At U.S.-Canada Border Not Terrorism; Qatar: "Working Very Closely" With U.S. On Truce; Interview With Former State Department Spokesman And Former Assistant Secretary Of State P.J. Crowley; Israel-Hamas Truce Begins At Midnight ET; NYC Mayor Eric Davis Accused Of 1993 Sexual Assault; Hostage Release To Begin At 9AM ET Tomorrow. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 23, 2023 - 13:30:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: There's a state of emergency to tell you about in Kentucky, after more than a dozen freight train cars derailed, spilling molten sulfur and sparking a fire. This was the scene in Central Kentucky, that's just north of Livingston. You saw that dark plume of smoke in the air. Officials say 50 percent of the fire has been contained so far.

Keep in mind, when molten sulfur burns it releases sulfur dioxide and that gas has a really strong scent and it can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Officials are now urging residents near that derailment to evacuate to avoid any exposure to that toxic chemical.

CSX, the train's operator, says that specialized equipment is now being brought in and used to monitor air quality in the area. Of course, we're going to stay on top of this story and bring you any new details as we get them.

Meantime, we're learning new details about that car explosion that sparked fears of an attack at the U.S. Canada border yesterday. Today, officials, including the FBI, saying there is no link to terrorism with this incident. The security footage shows the car going airborne before it crashed and exploded into flames. You see it there going at a high rate of speed. This is at the Rainbow Bridge near Niagara Falls. It hits a curb and then it goes flying.

CNN's Athena Jones has been following this story for us. She joins us now with more details. Athena, what are you learning?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Boris. Well, look, this was an incident that led to a lot of fear and confusion for several hours yesterday, happening at a time when there's already more concerns about terrorism, lone wolf attacks, and the like, and when law enforcement agencies in various cities are already on a heightened state of alert.

And so, here, when that incident happened, there was a lot of concern that it may be terror related, but quickly the FBI and its law enforcement partners at the state and local level were able to converge on the scene, begin investigating and conclude after a matter of hours that there was no link to terrorism and there were no explosives in this 2022 Bentley, that, as you noted, as you saw in the video, was speeding across the U.S. side, heading the lane into Canada, hit a curb, launched over this barricade.

You can still see the place on the ground where the car dug up the mud and ended up airborne, landing behind that gray structure, hitting a border agent booth. That agent was treated for minor injuries.

But listen to what New York Governor Kathy Hochul had to say last night as the investigation came to a close.



GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): This is an international border and we've always felt the vulnerability there. But this was -- you know, I won't call it an accident. It has not been determined to be an accident. You don't know whether the intent -- the driver was intentional in how they drove. We do not know that. All I know is there was a horrific accident -- I won't call it an accident, horrific incident, a crash, an explosion, loss of life. But at this time, no known terrorist connection.


JONES: So, at this time, no known terrorist connection. Law enforcement authorities were scouring this man's social media saying that there really is nothing there. He did not have any nefarious intent.

But what authorities believe happened is that they -- this man and his wife had planned to go to a concert by the rock group, Kiss, on the Canadian side of the border. That concert was canceled. And so, instead, they came to a casino here on the U.S. Side. This accident occurred while they were about to cross again.

But as you heard from the governor, it's unclear why this 2022 Bentley accelerated such a high rate of speed, causing it to launch into the air. The good news here is that after, you know, a lot of confusion, all four border crossings shut down, three have now been reopened. We're still waiting to see how soon this Rainbow Bridge behind me opens, but we also have seen authorities out this morning, doing some fact-finding.

So, bottom line here, this was not an incident of terrorism, according to the FBI, and -- but two lives have tragically been lost as a result of it.

SANCHEZ: And, Athena, just to clarify, do we know when the Rainbow Bridge will be back up and running? Have we gotten an update there?

I think we lost her audio. Athena Jones, thank you so much for that report.

Stay tuned to "News Central" because when we come back, the Qataris who brokered the hostage deal say that the White House was in constant communication to get it done. We have details on the role that U.S. officials played to get it across the finish line.

And later, a new court filing shows the mayor of New York City has been accused of sexual assault. He joins a list of others also being accused ahead of the expiration of a key piece of legislation. More details on that straight ahead.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Tel Aviv with just hours to go until the humanitarian pause kicks in. Qatar is now revealing more about the U.S. involvement in these critically important negotiations. Listen to this.


MAJED AL-ANSARI, QATARI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: President Biden has been calling on, the -- his highness, the Amir, and we had concert calls between both sides to make sure that we work together on this. And we appreciate, of course, the work done by the United States to make sure that the deal comes to fruition, and we continue to work with the United States over this.

I can't speak of the details of how the -- you know, the role of the United States was formulated, but I can tell you that, of course, with the communication that's taking place all across the board, the Americans were very instrumental, especially in working with Israel over the issues of the deal.


BLITZER: I'm joined now by P.J. Crowley, the former assistant secretary of state and former State Department spokesman. P.J., thanks very much for joining us.

As you know, Qatar is confirming that the work done by the United States to make sure this deal happens and the constant calls with the U.S. leadership leading up to this moment were very significant. How significant from your perspective was the U.S. involvement and for that matter, President Biden's role here?

P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN AND FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, Wolf, part of the complexity here is you have Israel and Hamas. They're at war. And you have Israel and Qatar, they do not have formal diplomatic relations.

So, Qatar provided the channel of communication. And I think the United States, including the president, you know, provided the, say, validation of the process, because as you're going back and forth during an indirect negotiation, you know, both sides have to get something of value and both sides have to know it's a certain point in this phase of the negotiation, this is far as it's going to go.

BLITZER: Israel and the United States, Egypt, Qatar and Hamas were all directly involved in the negotiations. Can you give us a sense, P.J., of what it took to get this deal to come together, to get everyone on the same page, at least as far as we know right now?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, as we know from reporting, you know, the broad parameters of the initial phase of this negotiation, you know, were fairly well agreed upon, you know, days ago, but now, you have to work through some of the mechanics.

And of course, throughout this, you've got constituencies on the Israeli side, on the Hamas side, on the American side, you know, pushing for more. And so, you need some statesmanship here, some risk taking, you know, to say, look, you know, we think we have a process that is beginning to work, you know, so we have the prospects that there can be multiple phases to this.

You know, but at some point, you need someone to keep pushing the process forward to say, you know, let's achieve what we can and then build on that over time. I think that's where the president was instrumental.

BLITZER: Plans to release the first hostages, as you know, P. J., were delayed just hours before the pause in fighting was originally set to begin. The National Security Council said the parties were working out what they called logistical details.


Do you have any understanding of what has been happening behind the scenes here to get this deal going again?

CROWLEY: Well, I think, Wolf, there are a lot of moving parts of this, it's very complex. And part of that complexity is the fact that, you know, you have this negotiation going on in the midst of a conflict. You know, so you need to put intermediaries in place.

As we know -- or as we think we know, not all the hostages are in one place. So, they've got to be moved into position. Who are going to be the intermediaries? The American Red Cross, for example, being critically important, are they positioned properly?

And then, you know, you've got sequencing in terms of what's going to happen on the hostage front. What's going to happen on the drone front? How do you keep the forces separated, you know, during this pause? So, I'm not surprised this is taking some time to put together.

BLITZER: How significant, P.J., do you think it was President Biden's personal foreign policy experience? He's worked on these issues in the Middle East for who knows -- for people known for decades.

CROWLEY: I think this is where the depth of relationships and experience, you know, comes right to the fore. You know, he's known these leaders for years, if not decades. He's worked with them intensively, you know, since coming to the White House. He can lean on them. They trust him. You know, he's had valuable conversations. You know, he's not shouting things on Twitter, you know, at this country or that country.

So, he's built up a lot of currency here. And that'll -- that currency he's been able to use in a productive way, you know, during the course of this crisis.

BLITZER: P.J. Crowley, thank you so much for joining us. And we'll be right back with more news.



SNOW: Now, to some major news out of New York City. New York City Mayor Eric Adams is being accused of sexual assault. According to a new court filing, this happened in 1993 and the plaintiff is seeking $5 million in damages. CNN's Jean Casarez has more on this, including on the mayor's response. Jean, bring us up to speed. What's the latest?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, on this Thanksgiving Day, we have just found out about this. This was a summons that has been filed. It's a civil situation filed by an accuser against the mayor of New York City, Eric Adams.

Do want to say that the reason -- and there are so many that are coming right now, but it's all because of legislation that was passed by the New York governor in November of 2022, it's the Adult Survivors Act, which says that any accuser of a sexual crime that they believe happened that, as far back as it could go, they may not be able to go to criminal court at this point, but civilly they can sue for monetary damages. And it doesn't matter when, and that's why -- the deadline is ending this week, and that's why there's a flurry of these now.

But this accuser who remains nameless, but does say was a city employee at the time in 1993, 30 years ago, is alleging sexual assault, sexual battery, employment discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Now, of course, Mayor Adams is a defendant as well as the City of New York and the NYPD, she is asking for a minimum of $5 million. Now, here's the response just several hours ago from Mayor Adams himself.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NY): My career speaks for itself and just really, it's something absolutely that has never happened. And I don't even recall ever meeting the person who made the -- this allegation.


CASAREZ: Now, time will be extended to allow for an actual complaint to be filed. But you know, Boris, I've covered a lot of these cases, and when they are old like this, it is very difficult, because witnesses can't be found, memories are tarnished, and she's saying retaliation. So, the question is, did she make a complaint? Is there some paperwork on it? Anything like that can really help her.

SANCHEZ: And, Jean, you mentioned the flurry of lawsuits being filed. We're also tracking too, a big-name celebrity sexual assault accusations filed just before this deadline. Actor Jamie Foxx being sued over an alleged incident in 2015. And the singer of Guns N' Roses, Axl Rose, he's facing allegations dating back to 1989. What can you tell us about those?

CASAREZ: That's right. Jamie Foxx, the accuser, is nameless at this point. But she's saying in 2015, she was at a New York City restaurant, and that he approached her and took her over to the side of the rooftop bar area and began to touch her, and it was not consensual. She didn't know what to do. So, she is alleging that in this civil complaint there. We have no response from Jamie Foxx's people at this point. We have reached out.

And then, with Axel Rose, the lead singer for Guns N' Roses, a former penthouse pet is alleging that at a party in 1989 at an apartment in New York City, she alleges there was cocaine, there was alcohol and that she saw Axel Rose actually interacting sexually with another woman. She kissed him herself and she -- that was consensual, but then he became a violent, sexual rage, she says.


At that point, there was nothing that was consensual. We do have a response from the attorney for Axel Rose, who says, "Simply put, this incident never happened."

Though he doesn't deny the possibility of a fan photo taken in passing, Mr. Rose has no recollection of ever meeting or speaking to the plaintiff and has never heard about these fictional allegations prior to today. So, these are going to proceed in court in New York, and that means there needs to be evidence, there will be a response that is required and I'm sure wanted by the defendants in this case. But this is how it all begins right here.

SANCHEZ: Jean Casares, thank you so much for that important update.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: So, Israel says it's notified the families of the first hostages expected to be released on Friday. CNN special live coverage from the Middle East continues after a short break.