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Biden And Netanyahu Speak For The First Time In A Month Amid Deepening Rift; Two Black Men Tortured By 6 Mississippi Officers Speak Out; Don Lemon Says Elon Musk Canceled His Deal With X After Interview. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 18, 2024 - 15:30   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: For the first time in a month, President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke over the phone amid what's become a deepening rift between the two of them.

Biden's top national security official says the president voiced deep concerns over Israel's plan for a major operation in Rafah in the south of Gaza, where more than a million displaced Palestinians have gone to escape the war.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live for us in Jerusalem. So, Jeremy, walk us through what you're learning about this phone call.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's the backdrop of this phone call is the most important context point. I mean, the White House has really been ramping up its criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu and his leadership. And we also saw last week, of course, the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, in a blistering speech calling for elections in Israel to be held as soon as the war begins to wind down.

And there's no question that that has been getting under Benjamin Netanyahu's skin. He has been giving an increasing number of interviews to American media, a number of English language statements. And in those interviews and statements, he is clearly growing defensive over what he feels is an attack from these top Democratic politicians, as well as from the White House to a certain extent.

Now, that wasn't reflected in his statement. The statement released by the prime minister's office after this call in which he says, quote: We talked about the latest developments in the war, including Israel's commitment to achieving all the goals of the war, the elimination of Hamas, the release of all our hostages, and the promise that Gaza will no longer propose a threat to Israel while providing the necessary humanitarian aid that achieves those goals.

But Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor, was quite clear that this ongoing spat between the two sides was addressed, saying that Netanyahu raised concerns over what he says as describes as a variety of things that have come out in the American press.

Netanyahu, you know, his top calling card for years now, one of them has been his relationship with Washington, his ability to have that key relationship with an American president. He's used that in his domestic political appeal here in Israel. And that, of course, is being undermined by this ongoing public spat.

But he is also, of course, coming under pressure to handle the war in Gaza differently. So far, though, on the ground, we haven't seen any changes in that. And so far, no indication of him sharing this civilian evacuation plan with the White House should he move forward, as he is vowing to, with a military offensive in Rafah.

SANCHEZ: Jeremy, we wanted to get an update on news that the White House confirmed a senior Hamas commander was killed in an Israeli airstrike. What are you learning about that?

DIAMOND: You know, what's really notable about this, Boris, is the fact that the Israelis themselves have yet to actually fully confirm that Marwan Issa, the number three Hamas commander in Gaza, has actually been killed. They said that -- the Israeli military has said that they carried out an airstrike two Saturdays ago on March 9th that they say targeted Marwan Issa, and they say it may have killed him.


But even yesterday, Herzi Halevi, the top Israeli general, would not go so far as to fully 100 percent confirm that he was killed in this airstrike. And so it is notable to hear Jake Sullivan, the White House's national security advisor, say that Marwan Issa was indeed killed by the Israeli military. We will see whether the White House seeks to walk that back at all, but it appeared that he was reading from prepared remarks as he said that. So a very notable development if indeed it is true that Israel has killed this top Hamas commander.

SANCHEZ: Jeremy Diamond, live for us in Jerusalem. Thanks so much, Jeremy --Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, let's talk about this more now, this phone call and also the deepening rift that we're seeing between President Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu with David Sanger, a CNN political and national security analyst. David, this is such a critical moment and I wonder after this phone call, which as you note in your piece from Friday, so rarely happens where things stand right now.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it is remarkable in part because it's the first one they've had in a month. I mean think about how much news we've had about Israel, whether or not you're opening up new corridors, the U.S. trying to build this pier. The president declaring he does have a red line that Israel cannot cross, but not saying quite where it is or what he'd do. And then of course, Chuck Schumer's remarkable speech on the floor of the Senate, which Prime Minister Netanyahu dismissed as treating Israel as if it's a third world country.

So there's been a lot of tension. These phone calls have not been very productive in the past. The statement that the White House turned out about it was, you know, beyond bland here. Usually when the president has gotten off these phone calls with Prime Minister Netanyahu, he has fumed to his aides. But here's the big question. Did he tell Prime Minister Netanyahu, hey, look, I know you've got tough politics. You've got a coalition that's being dragged along by an extreme right-wing group. But listen to what Chuck Schumer said, because he's no radical and I'm dealing with a U.S. Senate that may not pass your aid.

KEILAR: Well, that's a very good point. How has the Schumer speech, where he went to the Senate floor and said that Netanyahu specifically is an obstacle to peace. He called for new elections. He said to you that he delivered the speech because he thought it was important to show support for Israel while also being able to show that one can strongly disagree with Benjamin Netanyahu. And he gave a courtesy call to the White House to let them know that he was going to do this.

SANGER: And no one stopped it.

KEILAR: Exactly, as you point out in your reporting, which is so key. How has that phone call changed things between the U.S. and Israel?

SANGER: Well, we don't know yet. If we knew more about this call between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu, you know, and I think we'll learn in the next few days because this stuff all leaks out, we may tell whether Senator Schumer's comments made a big difference.

I spoke to him on Friday, the day after he gave the speech, and clearly what he was trying to do, Brianna, was saying, look, there's no stronger supporter of Israel than Chuck Schumer from New York, right? And Schumer himself said the obstacle is not Israel. It is Netanyahu himself.

Now Netanyahu regarded this as a deep interference in Israeli politics, and it's rare that a U.S. senator gets in and says somebody's got to go.

KEILAR: Certainly, and to your point, as you put in your story, but sometimes in Washington, the most telling indicator is not a public statement, but the absence of one. And what did you note so clearly was not in these remarks?

SANGER: So Senator Schumer said nothing about conditioning the aid. You know, the United States conditions all kinds of aid, particularly arms. We give lots of arms to Ukraine, as you and I have discussed many times, but it's on the condition they don't shoot it inside Russia.

There are no conditions right now on the arms that are going to Israel. And Senator Schumer is not willing to put those conditions on at this point. He made no threats about not passing additional aid to Israel if civilians continue to die at this rate.

But clearly that's the implicit red line here. And it'd be interesting to know how close President Biden got to saying that to Prime Minister Netanyahu, if he said it at all. KEILAR: Yes, it really would be, because if he is to say that, he'd

better mean it.

SANGER: That's right.

KEILAR: David Sanger with "The New York Times." We always appreciate you. Thank you so much.

SANGER: Great to be with you.

KEILAR: The Black men who were tortured and abused for hours by a group of police officers are speaking out before those officers are sentenced. We'll have what they said next.



SANCHEZ: Justice is finally coming for two Black Mississippi men who were tortured by six white now former law enforcement officers that called themselves "The Goon Squad." Five ex-ranking county sheriff's deputies and one former police officer are set to be sentenced this week for 13 combined felonies. The former officers pleaded guilty after they were accused of waterboarding, tasing and attempting to sexually assault both victims while they were handcuffed.


One of the officers shot one of the men in the mouth and now the victims and their families are speaking out. CNN senior national correspondent Ryan Young is in Jackson, Mississippi, where a press conference just wrapped up. Ryan, what did these men say?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Boris, we've been following this story for over a year and I can tell you there are so many people in this community who are hurt by this. They would like to see the sheriff step down.

He was recently reelected, but you can understand for Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker. This nightmare has never ended. As you talked about that torture that they endured for several hours, they were handcuffed. They were tased multiple times. In fact, sometimes they had to turn the tasers off and back on to resume the tasing. They were also threatened over and over again. They were called monkey. They were called the N-word. They were covered in chocolate syrup.

These are all things that they were done, and apparently when that gun was placed in the mouth, the officer didn't know that was there was a bullet inside the chamber and shot a piece of Jenkins tongue off. So you can understand how angry people are about this. Take a listen to one of their mothers talk about the pain they've been going through for quite some time.


MARY JENKINS, MICHAEL JENKINS' MOTHER: When can I see him? He said when we let you see him. This is a crying mother on the phone trying to inquire about her son. He said Michael is our property. That's what that deputy told me on the phone. My son shot in the mouth. And he's telling me that Michael is their property.

I want them to receive the same consideration they gave my son when they broke in that house and they tortured them. That's what I want to see in court.


JENKINS: I want the maximum sentence.


YOUNG: Boris, to be clear, both of these men were completely innocent. They were tortured inside that home, and then the officers tried to cover it up. It was only after they pretty much admitted to this. All the details started coming out.

The sentencing has been pushed back more than two times. This entire area is looking for justice, but this is the first time, according to their lawyer, that they've seen so many officers convicted at the same time.

This will be interesting to hear what else we hear in court as this totally plays out. But there are people here in Rican County who are calling for the sheriff to now step down as you can understand and they want a thorough investigation into the entire department -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Ryan Young live for us in Jackson, Mississippi. That sentencing again set to take place later this week -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Well ahead, it was the interview that ended their partnership. Our former colleague Don Lemon releasing his contentious sit down with Elon Musk on his new online show. Why the owner of X abruptly canceled Lemons deal after the interview wrapped.



Former CNN anchor Don Lemon released the tense interview with Elon Musk that got his show canceled from the X platform. The 90 minute sit down with the tech titan covered a wide range of topics and nothing was supposed to be off limits.

CNN's Oliver Darcy is following the story for us. Nothing was supposed to be off limits. Oliver, tell us what happened.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes, I think, Brianna, that this interview really showcases how radicalized Elon Musk has become, and he's no longer getting his information from credible news sources. In fact, over the weekend, he railed against legacy press organizations and encouraged people not to do that. And so where is he getting his information? He's getting his information from dishonest right-wing media figures.

And that's so evident in this interview where he bashes the press some more. He misleads and rails against DEI programs. He describes moderating hate speech as equivalent to censorship.

And perhaps most disturbingly, he gives credence again to the great replacement theory, that racist theory that shooters have cited in manifestos after carrying out horrible acts of violence. He says he rejects the theory, but gives credence to it. Why don't we take a look?


ELON MUSK, OWNER OF X: I'm simply saying that there is an incentive here. If illegal immigrants wish, I think, have a very strong bias to at least everything I've read, it's very strong bias to vote Democrat. The more that come into the country, the more they're likely to vote in that direction. But it is, in my view, a simple incentive to increase voters to Democrat voters.


DARCY: That effectively sounds like what Tucker Carlson was saying on the air for so many years at Fox News. It's just perhaps he's less of a talented broadcaster. And that's worrisome to a lot of people, particularly experts who specialize in online radicalization because of the ability for that to lead to violence. And it has in the past.

And also because Elon Musk controls one of the world's most powerful communications platforms, X. Everything he posts gets inserted into other people's news feeds, millions of news feeds. And so him spouting off this rhetoric is particularly alarming -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, certainly. Oliver, thank you so much for sharing that with us. We do appreciate it.

And when we come back, see you later, alligator. Why, Albert, this seven hundred fifty pound alligator was removed from a New York home and why many are rallying to bring him back.



SANCHEZ: Now to a big pet problem and by big I mean 11 feet, 750 pounds. There he is, an alligator seized by environmental conservation police officers. Not in the wild. He was living in someone's home in upstate New York. They named him Albert and he was their pet.

KEILAR: Officers say Albert's owner had built in addition to his home. He'd installed an in-ground swimming pool for his roughly 30 year old gator. And get this, he allegedly allowed members of the public to get in the water to pet the enormous reptile.

There's a petition to bring Albert back home. It has more than one hundred thousand signatures. His owner telling a local station he's like family to everybody.

And he added, quote, I'm Albert's dad. And that's all there is to it.


SANCHEZ: Oh, Albert looks really sweet. And he looks like he has a comfortable place, you know.

KEILAR: That I mean, can you imagine having a pet that large?

SANCHEZ: I have to shout out my friend Gwendolyn, a very large alligator that lives in a guy's front yard in Miami, Florida, Miami, Florida.

KEILAR: Of course you have an alligator friend.

SANCHEZ: Miami Florida. Yes, Gwendolyn is adorable. Very much like Albert. They're very sweet creatures. They love Oreos and pizza. I fed Gwendolyn pizza. She loved it.

KEILAR: They don't like fingers.

SANCHEZ: He loved it, I should say.

THE LEAD with Jake Tapper --

KEILAR: Gwendolyn is a girl.

SANCHEZ: -- starts right now. He's a boy. He's a boy.

KEILAR: He's a boy.