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Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter Remembered At Memorial Service; IDF: 12 Hostages Freed Today Now In Israeli Territory; Freed Hostage Learns Brother Killed and Hamas Holding Body. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 28, 2023 - 15:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And we come to the end of a celebration of the life and legacy of Rosalynn Smith Carter, 1927-2023, held today at Glenn Memorial Church at Emory University, attended by her loving husband of 77 years, former president, Jimmy Carter, as well as President Joe Biden and his wife, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. The President and First Lady and Secretary of State Bill and Hillary Clinton, and every living First Lady, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, Melania Trump, as well as, of course, Vice President Kamala Harris and first - Second Gentleman, Doug Emhoff.

As we wait for the hearse to depart, I want to bring back our panel to talk about what we've seen.

And, Kai Bird, I want to start with you, because I know this was - well, I'm sure this was emotional for millions of Americans watching today, but as somebody who has been a biographer of the Carters, and I know this was particularly emotional for you. What moved you the most?

KAI BIRD, AUTHOR, "THE OUTLIER": Yes. No, it was extremely emotional. I hadn't seen President Carter since the 75th wedding anniversary party back in July of 2021. And I'm - I have to say I'm a little shocked at how thin and frail he looks. It's very sad and I can't imagine what he is thinking, having lost his wife of 77 years.

I'm also particularly moved by the three eulogies given by family members: Chip, Amy and the grandson, Jason. They were very moving, touching and I think they bring home an essential point that must be remembered about the Carters. This is a presidency that was defined by its decency. And Rosalynn Carter and Jimmy were both extremely decent people.

TAPPER: Yes. Amy Carter reading from a letter that her father wrote to her mother, I think she said 75 years ago when he was in the Navy.

BIRD: Right.

TAPPER: Just an expression of how much he missed her and how much he loved her, a love that carried on for 77 years. And I think it is fair to say he went and entered hospice care in February, I'm no expert on this sort of thing, but I think it's fair to say based on what I know of the Carters, my expertise runs to my limited ability as an amateur historian and the fact that when I was 19, I was an intern at the Carter Center, that ...

BIRD: Right. Right.

TAPPER: ... my guess is that he was holding out until she left before him. He wanted to see her off, it would be my guess. You tell me, Kai.

BIRD: Yes. Well, we'll - we can't know but I think that's a good interpretation. He is a man of enormous stamina, and strength and will. And he was so close to her and it must have been hard for him to see her in the last few months as she declined with signs of dementia. And it's going to be hard to imagine how he's going to live without her and it's ...


BIRD: ... very sad.

TAPPER: Yes. And then, as you note, the memories of Chip Carter and then Jason Carter, the very eloquent grandson. And Tim, one of the things we said goodbye to - when we said goodbye to Rosalynn Carter today was the last first lady of the greatest generation.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes. And we have not had in the modern era many first ladies who - whose husbands were in the peacetime military, Mamie Eisenhower and Rosalynn Carter.


Rosalynn Carter's death brings to the end a line of women who were the steely supporters of husbands or boyfriends, depending on when they got married, who were fighting the greatest war and a war that changed our country. What is dramatically important about Rosalynn Carter is that she took this understanding of the countries, placed in the world. And when she could have retired from the stage in 1981, she instead used her knowledge of the world and her platform to seek to help the most vulnerable.

And I can't imagine how many Americans have shown that kind of humanitarian instinct, her husband did too. But let's just imagine the role and responsibility of someone who has been in the Oval Office, who leaves the Oval Office and then finds herself in the most humblest of villages to help people screen for a worm that could ruin their lives.

TAPPER: Right.

NAFTALI: And to be a partner in the almost eradication. There were 2.3 million cases of Guinea worm in 1986. There were 13 last year and we hear seven this year.


NAFTALI: To have played that role as a humble servant in a humanitarian mission.

TAPPER: We're watching the hearse depart the church on its way to the cemetery.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: One thing that Judy Woodruff who, by the way, side note, how notable is it that in a bygone era that the Carters had a journalist speak there. And it's not as if that they didn't have there - there's some animosity in their relationship at which she noted but I think that was quite telling that she was asked to speak. But she talked about the fact that Rosalynn Carter decided that she was not going to have any regrets at the end of her life but even before that she wasn't going to have any regrets when it came to campaigning so hard and working so hard for the political causes that her husband was fighting for.

And she also talked about the fact that Rosalynn Carter not just - didn't just focus on mental health but also caregiving and Judy has a son who needs round the clock care and so that is something that they bonded over. One thing I do want to mention and Kate you were talking about this before the service started was how blunt Rosalynn Carter was and you witnessed it when it came to the Trump presidency and the fact that Judy recounted what Rosalynn Carter said about Joe Biden being in the White House saying that it is a relief to have him in the White House.

Saying that may be not a surprise but saying that with Melania Trump there was interesting.

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, AUTHOR, "FIRST WOMEN": Could have been a little awkward in that moment for sure. She was determined to be taken seriously, too. I think that's something else that Judy said.

BASH: Yes.

BROWER: She had these weekly lunches with the President and she transformed the East Wing because she insisted on being this conduit to the American people for him and then what she did with Guinea worm after is incredible. When I interviewed her she was crying talking about eradicating Guinea worm and I think that humanity and that empathy came through so beautifully today.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: It was both a public funeral, obviously, but also personal. I mean those children - Chip Carter's talked about that he's had addiction and that she saved his life. Amy Carter, in effect, explained to us that her father doesn't speak anymore so she was speaking for him. Jason Carter talked about his cool grandma.


GANGEL: I mean it was really just lovely on a family level. Just to go back to former President Carter for a minute, he's obviously in very fragile health but a family friend told me when he went into hospice that it was a process for him to agree to hospice because he saw she was suffering from dementia. He wanted to be able to take care of her and I think there is something as you said earlier to the fact that now that she's gone, I mean he has seen her off. He was there to the end.

TAPPER: Yes. And you were talking about Jason Carter, the grandson's remarks.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, CNN POLITICAL HISTORIAN: I was. And what a celebration of life, I think we all have to take a moment and say what we just witnessed was something incredible. It was profound. It was beautiful.


And I want to really share - repeat that quote that Jason Carter started out with where he's quoting Sen. Warnock where he said, "Rosalynn Carter doesn't need a eulogy because her life was a sermon."

And I think that really encapsulates everything we've been talking about here today which is what a life she lived. The anecdotes about skiing, about summiting - summiting Everest, right? Tai Chi I think it was.



RIGUEUR: With a sword. But also, too, I think he spoke a lot about her faith and how her faith and I think particularly in a time when there's been a lot of scrutiny around the question of faith about how her faith compelled her to acts of service. So all of the agendas, all of the advocacy, everything that we saw, we heard later on in life she took up elder care advocacy, took up caretakers, right, financial resources, things like that.

All of this was built on the foundation of her faith. She saw them as inextricably linked. And that's also how the life that the Carters lived. I just thought it was wonderful.

TAPPER: Anita, as somebody who knew Rosalynn Carter and she obviously had a hand in planning this, how much was this her? How much was this of Rosalynn Carter?

MCBRIDE: Well, I think all of it because as we know presidents and first ladies have this opportunity to begin planning these ceremonies for when they are - in some ways they belong to the state. They belong to all of us. This is an opportunity for us to see them celebrated and people are really educated about Rosalynn Carter today.

So she had a lot to say about who was there, who was invited, Mrs. Trump, all the First Ladies, the sisterhood of this group. This is now - there are just five of them left. And when Mrs. Carter died she was the last of that group that was the biggest group of first ladies, six or seven, that were together at the Reagan Library opening.

When she passed, that was the last woman in that photo. I think she understood and appreciated what that meant to be part of this, serving your country as first lady. I think she showed us all the fierce work ethic that she had, she lived her faith in actions not words and I think she wanted that to be seen. A great capacity to love, to love her country, to love the work she was dedicated to. She left a mark on the role of first lady. I think we all learned so much about that. The country has learned so much about that.

A mark on the White House but also the mark on her family.


MCBRIDE: An incredibly close family and she wanted the world to see that.

TAPPER: And so beloved, so beloved by her family members.

MCBRIDE: So beloved.

TAPPER: And at the end of the day all her great works, all of her experiences, first lady of Georgia, first lady of the United States, that's really the most important legacy she leaves with all of her children and her grandchildren and her great grandchildren.

Thanks one and all for being with us. Really appreciate your insights. Thank you for joining us for CNN special coverage of the memorial service for First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

CNN NEWS CENTRAL is up next.

But first we're going to leave you with some of the moments from today's deeply moving tribute to Mrs. Carter. I'll see you at the top of the hour at 4 o'clock Eastern.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hi there and welcome to CNN NEWS CENTRAL. I'm Brianna Keilar, alongside Boris Sanchez here in Washington. We have Wolf Blitzer live in Tel Aviv and there are 12 more hostages who are back in Israel. Ten Israeli citizens, two foreign nationals released by Hamas today. The White House confirming that no Americans were in this group.

In exchange, Israel handed over 30 more Palestinian detainees just moments ago.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Now, this is the first handover of this two- day extension of the Israel-Hamas truce. And high-level talks are underway right now to broaden the agreement with a CIA Director visiting Qatar today reportedly pushing for adult males to be included in future hostage releases, Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Boris, thank you. As part of this temporary pause, desperately needed aid has been able to enter Gaza for the past five days. Today, more U.N. trucks arrived in northern Gaza and you can see the scale of the destruction surrounding that aid convoy.

I want to bring in our reporters right now, Oren Liebermann is here with me in Tel Aviv. Jeremy Diamond is over at Kerem Shalom, the border crossing between Egypt and Israel.

Jeremy, you just saw some helicopters landing, tell us about that.


Four helicopters just came in towards the Kerem Shalom crossing.


That is the same number of helicopters that we saw arriving yesterday, when indeed those newly freed hostages crossed into Israel via the Kerem Shalom crossing, which is right behind me, and then boarded those helicopters en route to a hospital in Tel Aviv.

So we are witnessing a very similar scene, drone activity overhead begins first. Then you see the helicopters landing. And then shortly, I presume that we will see those helicopters taking off once again for hospitals in Israel.

Wolf, today, 12 hostages were freed by Hamas. Ten of those Israeli citizens, part of this agreement brokered between Israel and Hamas. Now, we are starting to hear some activity, perhaps seeing some helicopters coming in overhead right now, Wolf. Let me see if my cameraman, Byron, can pan up. And you're may be seeing at least one helicopter. It's very dark here.

We did just hear one helicopter overhead in - heading north in the direction of Tel Aviv. And, Wolf, what's interesting is today we saw, of course, as yesterday, those hostages crossed directly into Israel from Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Today they reverted back to the plan that we have seen previously, which was for them to go through the Rafah Crossing in Egypt first. And then to drive that less than two-mile drive to Kerem Shalom and then cross into Israel that way.

But what we do know, Wolf, is that these hostages are firmly back on Israeli soil. Ten Israeli citizens, most of them adult women, most of them older women and then there is one minor, Mia Leimberg, who is 17 years old. What's also notable is that there are several women here, as we have seen in the past, whose husbands or whose partners or siblings, males, all are still in Gaza, still held by Hamas and other militant groups.

BLITZER: All right. Jeremy, I want you to stand by. I want to bring in Oren Liebermann, who's here with me in Tel Aviv. Oren, you're getting a lot more information as more of these hostages are freed. We're learning more about the conditions they were held in while in Gaza and what these first few days back in Israel have been like. Update our viewers on that.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there has been a number of reports we've heard from the families of the hostages explaining the conditions were held in. There doesn't appear to be a uniform way they were held by Hamas. Some were held underground, according to their family members. Some were held in houses above ground and moved around from location to location. Some, as we learned from one of the families, from the family of Hila Rotem, was held with her mother until they were split just a couple of days before Hila Rotem was released without her mother, which was a violation of the truce agreement to release families together.

They were given minimal food, according to most of not only the families of the hostages, but also the doctors. Having to subsist largely on pita bread or rice and basic carbohydrates like that. One of the issues the doctors say they've had to deal with repeatedly is the issue of nutrition, and that's been one of the major challenges on the physical front.

In fact, one of the elderly ladies who was rushed to Soroka Medical Center upon her release was suffering greatly in critical condition, according to doctors there, because of the lack of nutrients there. So that remains the greatest physical challenge. That doesn't even begin to cover the challenge of mental health and dealing with the much harder part of the recovery on that front. That will take time.

Doctors have said that's a long process that begins with family reunions. Of course, part of the hard part there is that some of these freed hostages are just learning as they come out that their family members were murdered on October 7th by Hamas in the terror attack, and that has to be processed as well. That makes it all the much more difficult as this process plays out.

Ten hostages released tonight, Israeli women and children. Ten more expected tomorrow. Wolf, I'll make one more final point, if I may. The truce survived arguably its biggest challenge, active fighting between Hamas and Israel. The two sides blamed each other. It was easily another moment where this could have fallen apart, but Wolf, in at least a partially good sign, it held together, at least for now.

BLITZER: That's encouraging. All right. Oren Liebermann, thank you. Jeremy Diamond at Kerem Shalom, thanks to you as well.

There is more heartbreak for the Israeli family of Doron and Yoni Asher. Over the weekend, Yoni could not hug his wife, Doron, tight enough, along with their young daughters, Raz and Aviv. He asked them at the hospital, did you miss me? Doron and the girls had just been freed by Hamas.

But after that joyous reunion, the family is now once again in mourning. This after the Israeli military said today that the latest hostage confirmed dead is Doron's brother, Ravid Katz. The IDF says Hamas is holding Katz's body in Gaza.

Joining us now is Doron and Ravid's cousin, who's in Texas right now, Dori Roberts is joining us.

Dori, you and I have spoken before. I am so sorry to hear this news, what happened to your family at the hands of Hamas.


Your aunt, Efrat, was found murdered in the days after the attack. And her partner, Gadi Mozes, remains captive. First of all, how did you learn about Ravid?

DORI ROBERTS, RELATIVES FREED BY HAMAS, OTHERS KIDNAPPED OR KILLED: Thank you so much, Wolf. Again, it's great to see you here. And I - it's one of those rollercoaster emotional days here in Texas and back home in Israel, where we're learning the sad truth of the end of the road for Ravid Katz, that he was found dead, whose body was recovered in Gaza Strip, was confirmed by the IDF this morning - earlier this morning here in Texas, that his body is actually recovered in and found in Gaza Strip.

We can only assume, as we don't have any evidence of what happened, on October 7th, we know it was very hard to trace every single one of the hostages and know exactly what happened. Same thing has happened to my aunt in that day. It's really hard to know the details at this point, but here we are again, a few days after a big sigh of relief to our family, with Doron, Raz and Aviv being reunited with Yoni Asher, and our family finally could take a big sigh of relief and joy, this happiness.

And here we are today again, mourning and dealing with the grave sadness and the loss of another family member that was so close and dear to us all.

BLITZER: What's your reaction, Dori, hearing that Ravid's body remains with Hamas?

ROBERTS: I think that we heard throughout those 50 days that the orders that Hamas received was to grab anything they can, even dead bodies, so they can then go back and negotiate those for receiving prisoners. We saw that years ago with the Gilad Shalit team that was captured, and they were trying to do the same with dead bodies. They were trying to negotiate any possible way, and I think, again, it just points out to who we are dealing with here and how low they can go as far as treating human beings on the very basic levels of humanity.

This is outraging, and this is really hard to know that they're holding bodies just so we can - so they can negotiate them for life, people there are to be returned back to the Gaza Strip, and those are convicted criminals. I think that we value life in Israel a whole lot more and we want those people to be back with our family so we can give them the proper funeral and burial that it is so needed for our family to grieve and mourn those who have lost.

BLITZER: Dori, tell us a little bit about Ravid. I know he had a baby daughter as well.

ROBERTS: Yes, he left behind a mother and a father, three sisters and three young kids. The youngest was six months old, little baby girl that she's absolutely an adorable little beautiful girl. He's a very sweet man that always remembered for his laugh and his faces. He's always had a smile on his face. He loved life. He's a wonderful father, a wonderful husband and a great family member. It's always had been found that many, many memories of him, spending the summertime with him when we came to visit our family down south.

So we are very, very excited to hear those news today. We were hoping for a better outcome, obviously, than to hear about the news today.

BLITZER: Certainly. It has been now a few days since Doron and the girls were freed in the first exchange. That was back on Friday. I know you've been keeping your distance, but have you been able to speak with any of these family members or learn about the conditions they actually endured during their 48 days in captivity?

ROBERTS: I have tried to reach out to them and we learn more details as we all hear from the people coming back from captivity about their poor condition, just like the reporter before me stated that it is obviously a very hard human basic conditions to be in underground with very minimal food. No beds to sleep on, sometimes being forced to sleep on chairs or on the floor, groups or separated, with very little sleep and very little comfort.

I heard the kids were having a hard time as well. Some of the news are telling us that they had to be forced to watch those horrible images and they were not allowed to cry or even talk loud or they had to whisper. It is chilling to the core. It's really hard to hear those. But we understand that, again, this is the life and this is the condition in prison by the Hamas. It just - even kids are not spared from this kind of horrible conditions they're kept in.


BLITZER: Our hearts go out to you, Dori. Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

ROBERTS: Thank you so much.