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IDF Rescues Two Hostages as Strikes Kill Dozens of Palestinians; Now, Trump in Hearing for Mar-a-Lago Classified Documents Case. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired February 12, 2024 - 10:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden is set to speak shortly and we are waiting to see if he responds to Donald Trump's near invitation for Russia to invade NATO countries.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, Donald Trump is back in court this time in Florida. The closed door hearing, his classified documents case is underway at this hour. We'll get you some details.

BERMAN: And a shocking new report reveals just how many species are near extinction.

Kate is out. I'm John Berman with Sara Sidner. This is CNN News Central.

President Biden has an important meeting at the White House with Jordan's King Abdullah. The meeting comes as Israel Defense Forces say they have carried out a series of strikes in Southern Gaza in the city of Rafah.

Now, as part of those strikes, Israel says it has rescued two hostages who are now safely back in Israel. Palestinian medical officials, controlled by Hamas, say that more than 100 Palestinians have been killed in that operation.

This strike, though, does raise questions about what will happen in the future in and around Rafah, which is a city where Israel has told Palestinians, hundreds of thousands, to flee to. Will Israel continue even intensify operations around there?

President Biden, of course, has been speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has warned Israel about launching a ground assault without a credible and executable plan to ensure civilian safety.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the White House with the very latest. What are the expectations for today's meeting, Arlette?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, President Biden will host King Abdullah of Jordan here at the White House for a meeting, and then the two men will deliver remarks a little bit later this afternoon. It is the first time President Biden is welcoming a leader from the Middle East here at the White House since the October 7th attack.

The White House saying that the two men will discuss the situation in Gaza, as well as efforts to try to, quote, produce an enduring end to the crisis. Jordan's King Abdullah has repeatedly called for an immediate ceasefire, which is something that so far the U.S. has resisted.

But this meeting is coming at a critical juncture in the war in the Middle East on several fronts, first, those hostage negotiations. President Biden spent about 45 minutes on the phone yesterday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


The majority of that conversation focused on trying to secure the release of more than 100 hostages still being held by Hamas. It comes as a senior administration official says that there are still significant gaps in the talks that are underway, but they do believe progress has been made. That is part of the reason why President Biden is deploying CIA Chief Bill Burns to Egypt tomorrow for critical talks relating to hostage releases.

Now, it comes, as you've noted overnight, Israel conducted that operation which resulted in the operation which rescued two Israelis who are being held hostage in Rafah.

Now, Rafah is something that the White House is watching with a lot of concern as Israel is preparing to launch its ground offensive in that city. The U.S. has said that they could not support a military operation there at that time unless there is a significant amount of planning, given the fact that there are more than a million people in that southern city in Gaza, many who were displaced to that area earlier in the war.

President Biden brought up these concerns directly with Netanyahu in their phone call yesterday, the White House saying that the president in that call, quote, reaffirmed his view that a military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and supporting the more than 1 million people sheltering there.

So, the White House, the U.S. officials will be closely watching to see how Israel conducts this campaign. But it does come at a time when we've started to see these public rifts really spill out a little bit more pronounced. Just last week, President Biden said that he believed Israel's response in Gaza has been, quote, over the top.

BERMAN: All right, Arlette Saenz, for us at the White House, that meeting much later today.

We do anticipate hearing from President Biden well before that. And we are waiting to see how he responds to Donald Trump's comments about NATO. Arlette, thank you very much for that. Sara?

SIDNER: All right. Let's bring in CNN Chief International Anchor and Correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, our reporting from yesterday was about two thirds of Biden's phone call with Benjamin Netanyahu was about the hostage releases. And we've seen those releases happen. They were very emotional. Do you think that the operation will help sort of reinforce Israel's current strategy, which is all war, or is there a chance this is another chance for the United States to push for this targeted special operations like the one that we just saw that ended in the release of two hostages, in the rescue of two hostages?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, you're hearing, Sarah, President Biden and the Biden administration and most of their allies now increasingly call for restraint and not to go over the top, as you've heard, Biden himself has said, and for credible programs or rather methods to protect civilians. The Palestinian authorities say that some hundred or so civilians, people, were killed during the air part of the rescue of these two Israeli hostages.

Now, obviously, the release is incredibly good news for Israel and for the families. They have since October 7th put the release of their hostages front and center, even over and above the defeat of Hamas. They want the hostages released first and foremost, even those who support the war against Hamas. So, this is a very, very important issue.

Equally important is the idea of the day after, which is what Biden presumably is going to be talking to King Abdullah of Jordan today. And Jordan and Egypt are very concerned that any further Israeli operation, particularly this close to the Egyptian border, Rafah, is going to cause potentially an exodus.

Egypt has now bolstered its military defenses near the Rafah border, and they do not want any excuse for any forcible expulsion of Palestinians either into Egypt or the other side into Jordan. And that puts into question, they say, these countries, their peace agreements with Israel.

And this is becoming very, very fundamentally important. And at the same time, other Arab allies who have made normalization deals with Israel, for instance, the UAE, this morning have told CNN that the only way to end this. And the only way to have successful negotiations is for irreversible progress to that two-state solution.

SIDNER: All right. And I know you mentioned just this now, one of the truly horrific parts of this war is the killing on both sides, whether it be in Israel or in Gaza. But so far in Gaza, there are so many children who have been killed. The latest has gotten the entire world's attention.

A little girl named Hind (ph) who was stuck in a car with Israeli strikes happening all around her, begging for someone to rescue her for several days, she made this phone call from the car, which was later found battered and riddled with bullets.

By herself and terrified.


How much the stories like these really start fueling more international response and sentiment towards Israel and start to isolate Israel even more because you talked about all of the Arab nations around surrounding Gaza and surrounding Israel? What does this do internationally?

AMANPOUR: Well, not just internationally, but in the United States as well. You have seen the popular discontent in the United States with the level of killing and death in Gaza. And if you remember, if you go all the way back to October 7th, the weight of international sympathy was with Israel after the awful slaughter of what we understand to be 1,200 Israeli civilians and there were soldiers as well, but also the kidnap of more than 200. And this really was very important for the world to understand what happened inside Israel.

But the minute it started to show up in terms of exponentially greater deaths inside Gaza, that has caused a shifting of public opinion around the world against the Israeli operation, against the Israeli counteroffensive, right up into, you know, most of the world leaders who are, including President Biden, who's saying over and again, to take care of civilians.

Now, Israel says that it does what it can to minimize civilian casualties. The number of deaths in Gaza, according to the Palestinian health authorities, is approaching approximately 28,000.

Now, think about that, 28,000 dead, including thousands of children. Analysts say it is the swiftest and most, you know, deadly military operation in modern history in terms of that number of casualties. So, it is incredibly, you know, very, very, very, very difficult for the Palestinian people, but also for the rest of the world on how they try to navigate this war, because many people and allies also want to see the inability of Hamas to threaten Israel in the way that it did on October 7th.

So, this is very, very, very difficult, but the humanitarian fallout is what's causing the most anxiety, heartbreak, political backlash in the rest of the world right now.

SIDNER: I just quickly have to ask you about these comments from Donald Trump basically inviting Russia to attack in any which way they please because of money, basically, when he talks about NATO and their alliance. I mean, what is this doing to the European Union and all of those that are in the potential fire, line of fire?

AMANPOUR: Honestly, Sara, people are aghast. I mean, they view that kind of invitation, encouragement from the front runner of the United States for the Republican nomination to be literally insane. I mean, for the presidential candidate of the United States to say that kind of thing publicly while President Putin is having an interview in order to put down his lines of negotiation, which essentially are negotiation on his terms only over Ukraine, for the leading Republican candidate who people must take at his word. Nobody is trying to guess what he's saying. They're taking him at his word. It's caused a huge amount of anxiety, as you can imagine.

The usually quite careful and diplomatic secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, came out immediately and dismissed this comment and said they expect any U.S. president, no matter of what party or who that would be, to abide by the rules of NATO and the Article 5.

So, the idea of -- I mean, literally he used the word encourage Russia to do what the hell it wants in Europe is terrifying for Europeans and the rest of the world, especially in the defense of democracy and the international world order, which the U.S. has since World War II led.

SIDNER: Yes. I mean, hearing those words were stark to a lot of people's ears and you heard the response there.

Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much for coming on the program. John?

BERMAN: All right. Happening now, Donald Trump, the aforementioned Donald Trump, and his lawyers are in federal court in Florida for a closed door hearing related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents that were found at Mar-a-Lago.

CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is outside the court right now. We saw the motorcade arrive, Evan, with Donald Trump. What is happening right now?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's behind closed doors right now, John. He's with his lawyers in the presence of the judge. And what they're doing is going over documents that the special counsel, Jack Smith, says could be used at a trial.

Now, the trial is supposed to happen. Right now, it's scheduled for May. That date, of course, is up in the air, like so many things related to the former president.


But right now they're arguing over the documents and their access to those documents.

Now, in some cases, the special counsel, the government says that the documents are so sensitive, these are classified documents at the highest levels, these are things that were found at Mar-a-Lago. And as a result of that, they're limiting access to some of those documents to only summaries of those documents.

Of course, the former president and his legal team say they should have a right to see every single document that could be used at trial. So, the judge is going through that right now.

Now, later on today, after the former president and his legal team have their turn, we know that the special counsel, the government, will get their chance to talk to the judge, again, to make their case about the restrictions on some of those classified documents.

Of course, a lot of what's happening here, John, is about that trial date. Right now, it's in May. The former president and his legal team are doing everything they can to make sure this trial does not happen until after the election. John?

BERMAN: All right. Evan Perez, keep us posted if you hear anything new. Thank you so much for being there. Sara?

SIDNER: And that is, of course, not the only case also happening in Donald Trump's world today, the deadline for his legal team to ask the Supreme Court to block a federal appeals court ruling that he's not immune from criminal prosecution in the January 6 case.

CNN's Paula Reid is with us now. Paula, I'm assuming they're going to file an appeal because they said they would. What happens now? How long do they have? Where are we?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Today is the deadline for them to ask the Supreme Court to intervene in this case, and we do expect that they will make that filing at some point today. And here they're asking the justices to intervene on this question of whether presidential immunity should shield Trump from the federal election subversion case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith.

Now, Trump has lost on this issue at the trial court level. And then last week, the D.C. Circuit, so a court of appeals, also handed down a pretty robust opinion rejecting this argument.

So, today, he is expected to go to the Supreme Court. And it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out, Sara, because if you talk to legal experts, even sources in and around the Trump legal team, they say that, look, this issue, this argument, this is not one of Trump's stronger arguments.

It's unclear if the justices would ultimately want to take this case up. And even if they did, if Trump would win, there's a lot of skepticism again, even within Trump world, that he would ultimately prevail.

But this is just as much about the constitutional questions. It is about timing, because we know they are trying, pretty much everything they can, to delay this federal election subversion case until after the 2024 election.

Now, if Trump is re-elected, he could make that case. And the one Evan was just talking about, the Mar-Alai documents case, go away.

So, what we're looking at right now is not just what the Supreme Court does, but how long it takes them to do it. Because the longer it takes, the less likely it is that this case can go to trial, because we really need all the appeals on this issue to be resolved before that case can begin.

SIDNER: And we will be watching. I know you will be giving us every detail. Paula Reid, thank you so much. John?

BERMAN: All right. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin rushed back to the hospital. What doctors are saying this morning about the new medical issue.

In a special election tomorrow in New York to replace ousted former Congressman George Santos, what it could tell us about the 2024 general election.

And the country music star everyone is talking about from last night's Super Bowl. It is not. Reba McEntire.



SIDNER: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is back in the critical care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this morning. Pentagon says he's being treated for what they're calling an emergent bladder issue.

Austin was also hospitalized, as you will remember, back on New Year's Day after suffering complications following prostate cancer treatment.

BERMAN: With us now, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, he's a CNN medical analyst and professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University. Dr. Reiner, great to see you.

What does it tell you that Defense Secretary Austin is now back at Walter Reed?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, it tells us that he continues to suffer a series of complications after his original prostatectomy in December. The way the announcement was released, describing a so-called bladder emergency really suggests basically one of two things. Either he has a bladder obstruction or he has a severe bladder infection or possibly both.

So, remember that the bladder collects the urine after it's produced in the kidneys, travels through the ureters, then it's collected in this essential bag before it is voided. If there is an obstruction between the bladder and the urethra, or even if there is an obstruction in the urethra, then it will be impossible to void and that can be extremely painful.

The other possibility is that his bladder is infected and a general urinary infection can lead to systemic sepsis and difficulties with blood pressure and overall sepsis. We know that he's been admitted to an ICU, so we know that they consider his situation quite serious at this time.


SIDNER: I wanted to ask you if both of them have to do with each other. They're saying at Walter Reed that his cancer prognosis is excellent, but he does have this issue with his bladder and everything is connected. How do you see whether or not they're related and what it tells you about his cancer prognosis as well?

REINER: So, there're two different things. His cancer surgery was described as being very successful, which means all of the identifiable tumor was removed. It doesn't sound like there was any evidence of disease outside the prostate.

But what he's suffering now are consequences or the sequela of the surgery itself. We don't really have a lot of detail from his original hospitalization or any detail of the long, almost two-week hospitalization at Walter Reed at the beginning of January. So, it's not really possible to know exactly what complications might have ensued.

But his current situation is almost certainly related to his original procedure, and/or maybe even the procedure that he had to correct the complication during his January hospitalization.

I really feel for the secretary. These are difficult times. It sounds like his physicians are very optimistic about his overall prognosis, which is the most important long-term information we have. But for now, he's sick.

We do know that he transferred authority to his deputy when he was admitted to the hospital yesterday, and that seems like the right thing to do. It's hard to imagine being in the chain of command for the United States military and being a patient in an intensive care unit. So, I think that was the right decision to make.

BERMAN: Dr. Jonathan Reiner, as always, thank you for explaining things so well. We really appreciate your time.

SIDNER: We feel smarter when you hear from him, right?

Coming up, a special election in New York to fill former Congressman George Santos' seat could provide a big hint on how suburban voters are feeling.

Also, a landmark U.N. agency report says the earth has been altered so much that some animals, many animals, facing extinction. Who's to blame? Our Bill Weir coming up.

BERMAN: Bill Weir is not to blame.

SIDNER: Okay. Well, I don't know. Some people argue differently.