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U.S. Top Diplomat Lays Out Fullest Vision Yet For Gaza's Future; Trump Absent From Third GOP Debate; Hollywood Actors' Union Reaches Tentative Deal With Studios To End Strike; U.S. Again Strikes Iran-Backed Weapons Facility in Syria; IDF Claims It Destroyed 130 Hamas Tunnel Shafts in Gaza; Hostilities in the Middle East Creating Discord in U.S. Congress; Ivanka Trump Testifies in Civil Case Involving Her Father; Preventing Extinction: The Hawaiian Akikiki; U.S. Justice Department Investigates High-End Brothel Network; National Zoo's Panda Program Ends after 50+ Years. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired November 09, 2023 - 01:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong ahead on CNN Newsroom. Questions continue to swirl over who will control Gaza after the Israel Hamas war is over.

The top five Republican presidential candidates come out swinging at each other and the front runner in their latest debate. But Donald Trump is a no show again.

And done deal, finally, Hollywood actors reached a tentative agreements with the major film and television studios to end their months long strike.

We begin with growing daylight between the U.S. and Israel over the political endgame in Gaza. Israel says its troops are now at the heart of Gaza City, targeting Hamas infrastructure and commanders and the IDF may not leave anytime soon.

Well, earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will be in charge of Gaza overall security indefinitely after the war. But on Wednesday, the U.S. pushed back against that laying out its vision for Gaza is future.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Gaza cannot be can continue to be run by Hamas. That simply invites a repetition of October 7 and Gaza uses a place from which to launch terrorist attacks. It's also clear that Israel cannot occupy Gaza.

The only question is, is there some transition period that might be necessary and what might be the mechanisms that you could put in place for that, to make sure that there is security. But we're very clear on no reoccupation just as we're very clear on no displacement of the Palestinian population.


COREN: For more, Elliott Gotkine joins us now from London. Elliott, as we just heard from the U.S. Secretary of State, the U.S. pushing back on, Netanyahu's plans to provide security to Gaza indefinitely. How has Israel responded?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Anna, I think Israel is very much focused on the war. It is -- it says that it's making progress, that it destroyed 130 tunnel shafts and including one that it says it found near a school run by the -- run by UNRWA, the U.N. agency that provides relief to the Palestinians.

So it's really focused on the war. We did hear those comments from Netanyahu talking about what may happen the day after this war is over in terms of having an hence worse overall responsibility for security for an indefinite period of time.

Now, the merest hint that that would equate to Israel re occupying the Gaza Strip and the way that it did between 1967 and 2005 was quickly stamped down by the White House, which is now as we just heard from Secretary of State Antony Blinken giving some more of its thoughts as to what would happen next, but having the Palestinian Authority which administers parts of the West Bank, back in control of the Gaza Strip, which it did control for two years between 2005 till 2007. Hamas kicked it out violently in 2007 unrest of control, having the PA back in control of the Gaza Strip and unifying those two administrations has a number of practical obstacles.

The Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas is weak. It is unpopular, it is widely seen as corrupt. It lacks legitimacy. He's in the 19th year of a four-year term. And he's not going to want to add to that litany of being seen to be some kind of puppet government of the Israelis or the United States in the wake of this war.

Although what he did say to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, when they spoke the other day, is that the PA, the Palestinian Authority would go back into Gaza, but only if this was part of a broader political settlement or plan towards a two-state solution towards an independent Palestinian state on land that Israel has occupied since '67, including with East Jerusalem as its capital. But Anna, I think right now where we are with this war ongoing, that seems fanciful at best.

COREN: Elliott, can you tell us what the next step is in the IDF ground operation in Gaza?

GOTKINE: It says that it's very focused on destroying Hamas militarily on destroying, it politically ensuring that it can no longer threaten Israeli civilians, either with rockets or with another massacre of the assault that happened on October the seventh. It says that it's destroying tunnel shaft, commanders, infrastructure, weapons and the like.

And Prime Minister Netanyahu saying just yesterday that things are advancing well, and they are achieving good results and the one thing that he reiterated, again is there any talk of some kind of ceasefire without the release of the 240 hostages that Hamas abduct the seventh.


And is still holding in Gaza is a non-starter. He said again, there will be no ceasefire until such time as those hostages are released. Anna.

COREN: Elliott Gotkine in London, we appreciate the update. Thank you.

As Israeli troops tighten their grip on Hamas in Gaza City, Palestinian civilians are fleeing south. The U.N. says at least 40,000 of them have made the harrowing journey since Saturday, using temporary evacuation routes created by the IDF. But as Salma Abdelaziz reports, what they described seeing along the way is nothing short of horrific.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Taking only what they can carry families are fleeing Gaza City. They wave white flags made of anything they can find. And as the sounds of war echo around them, they signal yet again that they are innocents.

Now we're supposed to be in the safe area, but you can hear the bombs behind us, he says. All of our houses are gone. Nothing is left. The Israeli military has been calling for weeks on all those living in the northern part of the strip to southwards.

Most recently opening what it called Safe Corridors for limited windows of time, pushing thousands here to Salah al-Din Street, where evacuees describe a harrowing journey.

We saw along the road destruction dead bodies everywhere. And these really tanks with demand to search the youth, she says. We saw one young man stripped naked. We witnessed unbearable scenes.

The only way to reach the root is by foot or by cart for those who can find room. There was heavy shelling on our neighborhood and we were forced to flee. We have to use these donkey carts because there's no fuel, he says. They cut everything off to force us out of our homes.

Israeli troops are now in the heart of Gaza City. As Israel's defense minister apparently declared the entire city the whole of the enclaves largest population center, a legitimate target.

YOAV GALLANT, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): Gaza is the biggest terrorist stronghold that mankind has ever built. This whole city is one big terror base. Underground, they have kilometers of tunnels connecting to hospitals and schools.

ABDELAZIZ: The U.N. calls this exodus forcible displacement and accuses Israel of the collective punishment of some 2 million people and many fear they will never be allowed to return home. Some here say this is reminiscent of the Nakba, the Arabic term for the expulsion of Palestinians from their towns during the founding of Israel.

We walked a very long way it felt like the Nakba 2023, she says. We walked by dead people who were ripped to shreds, children were very tired because there was no water, people were dying, and there were elderly who couldn't walk.

And for those who do make it, bombardment and siege await them in the south to. There is no true escape. Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


OCREN: Well, Alyona Synenko is the spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross for Israel and the occupied territory. She is in Jerusalem. Alyona, thank you for joining us. Describe to us the humanitarian crisis in Gaza right now.

ALYONA SYNENKO, SPOKESPERSON, INTL. COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS: The situation is difficult to describe what we're seeing. The humanitarian situation is staggering. We have a surgical team that is now working in the south of Gaza in one of the hospitals. And when I speak with our surgeons every day, they talk about terrifically wounded, like horribly wounded people have burned bones, a lot of kids and they're running out even the most basic supplies to be treating them, the anesthetic material, even the gauze.

So, this is the human suffering that we're now seeing on the ground is difficult to describe. And we can continue insisting that more humanitarian assistance must reach civilians in Gaza.

COREN: Alyona, tell us what is the status of the hospitals in Gaza that is still open and operational?

SYNENKO: The situation is hospital is very difficult. The day before yesterday, our team went to Gaza City to deliver urgent medical supplies. They managed to offload five trucks in Shifa Hospital, which is the largest hospital in Gaza.


And doctors have been working there nonstop for weeks and the hospital is hosting thousands and thousands of displaced people who are sleeping everywhere in the corridors, on the floors. And they are running out of everything, even the most basic medical supplies. And then also, there's heavy fighting taking place around them in the very near proximity. So what we're seeing is that the cost of the fighting in this very densely populated urban area is extremely high.

COREN: Tens of thousands of Gazans have fled northern Gaza. Where are these people staying? Who is looking after them?

SYNENKO: They are trying to find to stay everywhere they can. The day before yesterday, when our team was going to the city of Gaza, they met thousands of people on the way on the road. They were walking on foot elderly, children, handicapped people, people in wheelchairs, and they were all asking like, Are we safe yet? Where can we go? Where can we find food? Where can we find water? So, we are seeing a massive humanitarian crisis. And the humanitarian

response is just not there to provide the urgent life's -- urgent assistance to this people. So we're calling on the continuous flow of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, because now we've reached the point where it's a matter of life and death.

COREN: You say that the humanitarian response is desperately lacking. What is the latest on the delivery of aid and the distribution of aid within Gaza?

SYNENKO: Well, we've managed to distribute some essential household items to people who are sheltering in schools to some tens of thousands. We've been delivering some urgent supplies to the hospitals in Gaza, and we have our surgical team who is operating in one of the hospitals in the south, but it's just I mean, it is far, far, far from enough to cover the needs that we're seeing because they are staggering.

Now, the surgeons, the nurses, they work 24 hour shifts. They continue receiving new patients, and they just running out even have the basics to be able to treat them properly.

COREN: And what are we learning about those aid trucks? You know, queuing on the Egypt side trying to get across the Rafah crossing into Gaza? What do we know about those trucks when will they be allowed into Gaza?

SYNENKO: Well, we've mobilized resources personnel are ready to go into Gaza. There have been some supplies that managed to enter but we are still far behind from what is needed compared to the scale of needs.

We've now since the beginning of this escalation, we managed to send the total of 25 trucks with the aid supplies into Gaza but if you compare that to the supplies that were entering into Gaza before this escalation, which will 500 trucks per day so you can easily see that it's just infinitely small and insufficient to respond to the needs of all the people who now have run out of everything. They like food, water, medicine and shelter but most of all safety because everywhere they go nowhere they feel safe.

COREN: We can hear your frustration, and you know, your appeal for that aid and we certainly appreciate your time. International Red Cross spokesperson Alyona Synenko in Jerusalem. Many thank you Many thanks for your time.

Well, five Republicans hoping to become the next U.S. president gathered on Wednesday night in Miami for the third televised GOP debate. But the man debate front runner Donald Trump again chose not to participate instead of holding a nearby rally. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has a report.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): At the third Republican presidential debate here in Miami, the race to become the leading alternative to Donald Trump was more furious and louder than ever.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took immediate aim at the former president for those Republican losses on Tuesday night.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R) FLORIDA: And he said Republicans were going to get tired of winning what we saw last night. I'm sick of Republicans losing.

ZELENY: Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who is also served as U.N. ambassador in the Trump administration also said it's time to move on from Donald Trump.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody wants to talk about President Trump. Well, I can talk about President Trump. I can tell you that I think he was the right president at the right time. I don't think he's the right president now.

I think that he put us $8 trillion in debt, and our kids are never going to forgive us for that. I think the fact that he used to be right on Ukraine and foreign issues now he's getting weak in the knees and trying to be friendly again.

ZELENY: Haley has been gaining momentum in the polls because of her debate performance. She and Governor DeSantis sparred repeatedly on China, on the environment, even on the economy, and their handling of their respective governorships.

But they clearly are going after one another trying to become again that leading alternative to Donald Trump but it was South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who talked about abortion and urged both of his rivals to support a 15 week ban.

TIM SCOTT, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would challenge both Nikki and Ron to join me at a 15-week limit. It is in our nation's best interest.

ZELENY: The winner of the evening may not have been on the debate stage at all. He of course is former President Donald Trump just a few miles down the road in Hialeah holding a campaign rally of his own. Of course, he has a commanding lead in this race. Now about two months before voting begins in Iowa. Jeff Zeleny CNN, Miami.


COREN: The month long actors strike officially ended in the past hour after the actors union reached a tentative agreement with the major film and television studios. The group representing the studios praised the deal, saying it provides the biggest contract games in the history of the Union, and also gives extensive compensation protections in the use of artificial intelligence, which had been one of the main sticking points.

The president of the actors union Fran Drescher posted on Instagram, quote, we did it. The billion plus dollar deal three times the last contract. The agreement still has to be ratified by the roughly 160,000 members, the SAG-AFTRA union.

Well, joining us now is Emily Longeretta, Senior Editor at Variety magazine, lovely to have you with us. Is this breakthrough deal what the actors were after, or they had to compromise.

EMILY LONGERETTA, SENIOR EDITOR, VARIETY MAGAZINE: You know, in any deal, they have to compromise anytime there is any sort of discussion that lasted this long, 118 days, one of the longest we've ever seen. And it's very, very historic.

So of course, there was some compromise there on some key issues, but they didn't -- they put a very good fight. You know, just five days ago, the studio said they were giving out their final offer. And, you know, that didn't end up really being the case, because the union ended up pushing back and really fighting for the terms that they wanted, even though they said their final offer. They ended up pushing back specifically on the AI terms and exactly the wording that was used and making sure that everyone was protected.

And while we don't know the details yet, because like you said, they're not releasing that until Friday after the vote, it happens. We do know that there were there's a very big protection now against the future of AI, which is still pretty unknown.

COREN: Emily, we understand that there was frustration, certainly growing in some camps, and among some big name actors to just strike a deal was support for this strike, one of the longest and brought us work stoppages in Hollywood starting to wane do you think?

LONGERETTA: I don't know if it was starting to wane. I think people were ready to get back to work. I think we're at a time that people are really, really wanting to see new content. They wanted to promote their projects on TV and in this the big theaters. And of course, everything was getting pushed and 119 days is a very long time.

But today, when the contract was, you know, when the deal was met, and the strike was officially announced as over, we were told that there were tears of joy in the room, and that the support from the actors we've seen on social media has been completely positive, and that they're really thankful that the union, you know, stuck to their guns as long as they did.

It's not easy to be out on the picket lines every day for 118 days. And they did that. So ultimately, the actors all around are really, really happy with their union leaders.

COREN: What do you think the big studios have learned from this experience? Let's no doubt hurt their bottom line. And do you think that there could be retribution in the future?

LONGERETTA: You know, there's always the risk of that. I think that there's one big thing that came out of this is that, you know, they couldn't really be pushed around. The unions can't be pushed around. And they won't really just give in.

I think early on in the strike, both the writers' strike and the actors; strike, there were a lot of messaging out there that the studios were saying, you know, they won't back down until people are out of jobs and are out of money. And clearly that was happening. I mean, this is a huge loss for the industry on every aspect, but this contract is valued over $1 billion, which means that the studios were losing a lot of money and ultimately had to pay the actors for what they deserve.


So there -- they really are realizing that, unfortunately, in the long run, this is not something that was going to be beneficial for them. This is something that the actors were sticking to their guns. And they learned that they can't really play hardball at the end of the day, because the team of leaders for the Union were going to fight for the multiple points that they deserved.

And it's important to note that it wasn't just the AI point. It was a lot about those streaming residuals and fighting for the right raises and the increase in salary that hadn't been happening. I mean, they get the largest increase in 40 years that we're hearing.

COREN: Emily Longeretta, great to have you with us. Thank you.

Coming up, Donald Trump's oldest daughter testifies in New York Civil Court in defense of her father, the latest in the fraud trial against the former U.S. president, ahead.


COREN: In the skies above Syria, the U.S. has retaliated for a second time against Iranian backed militias attacking American forces. The Pentagon says to U.S. F-15 fighter jets struck a weapons depo in eastern Syria used by Iran's Revolutionary Guard and other affiliated groups. But as Natasha Bertrand explains, the US is taking a measured approach to striking back.


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER (on camera): The U.S. conducted an airstrike against a weapons storage facility in eastern Syria that US officials say was being used by Iran and its proxy groups to store weapons that were being used to carry out attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria over the last several weeks. There have been over 40 such attacks in recent weeks since October 17 by Iran back proxy groups on U.S. and coalition bases in Iraq and Syria.

And the U.S. says they conducted this strike, which is the second in just over two weeks on these kinds of weapons storage facilities in Syria, in order to degrade Iran and its proxies ability to carry out these attacks in the future. They said that they're targeting this infrastructure in order to send a message to the Iranians that these attacks will not be tolerated and also to destroy their weapons stockpile.

Now Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin did release a statement about this and said that this strike was carried out in self-defense, it is a precision strike. And he emphasized that the U.S. does not want to see this war expand any further but that the U.S. is committed to defending its troops and that it will do so in every possible scenario.

And so Secretary Austin, other defense officials really emphasizing that they are carrying out these strikes and limited self-defense in order to destroy Iranian weapons supplies, but that this does not indicate a broader desire by the U.S. to escalate the conflict any further.

However, all of this comes on the same day that Houthis In Yemen who are backed by Iran they shot down an MQ9 Reaper drone that was carrying out surveillance activities over the Red Sea.


And so this conflict obviously, the US is very concerned that it could spiral that it could expand but right now we're doing everything possible to take limited steps to try to defend U.S. troops as well as degrade these Iranian proxy groups ability to attack us forces in the future. Natasha Bertrand, CNN at the Pentagon.


COREN: A Russian missiles struck a civilian vessel entering a Black Sea port in the Odesa region, killing the ship's pilot and injuring four others. That's according to Ukrainian officials.

Well, photos posted by the Ukrainian military showed damage to the ship's bridge and officials say this is the 21st attack on Black Sea ports in the Odesa region since Russia left the Grain Deal in July.

That deal brokered by the U.N. in Turkey collapsed as Moscow demanded sanctions be lifted on its grain and fertilizer exports. Kyiv has since opened what it says is a temporary humanitarian corridor to circumvent Russia's blockade.

Well, Ukraine may be one step closer to joining the European Union. The EU's legislative body the European Commission has recommended that formal ascension talks between the bloc and Ukraine should begin next year, but only once Kyiv satisfies certain conditions, including reining in corruption and strengthening national minority safeguards.


URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: Ukraine continues to face tremendous hardship and tragedy provoked by Russia's war of aggression. And yet, the Ukrainians are deeply reforming their country, even as they are fighting a war that is existential for them.


COREN: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the move a historic step. He applied for E.U. membership in February 2022 shortly before Russia invaded his country. The 27 National EU leaders will decide mid-December, whether they will accept the Commission's recommendation.

Well, far from the world's watchful eyes. The Rapid Support Forces in Sudan is carrying out what witnesses say are atrocities against the people of Western Darfur. It's happening some six months after the RSF launched a civil war against the Sudanese army. CNN David McKenzie shows us newly obtained videos that appear to show some of the horrors.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): There's been a significant upsurge of violence and attacks on the western part of Darfur, in particular, in Sudan. According to aid agencies, and witnesses streaming across the border, I want to show you some disturbing video that CNN has geo located to an area around el-Geneina. In Western Darfur.

What you see are RSF rapid support forces, and aligned Arab militia who have rounded up boys and young men, even older men that appear to be ethnic Africans from that region. They are throwing racial slurs at them, beating them in some cases and debating what to do with them in the audio that we obtained and the video.

It's unclear what happened to these men, but there's a pattern of targeted ethnic killings according to CNN own reporting, and U.N. investigations over the past few months in that part of Darfur. The latest violence that led to a stream of thousands moving across the border into Chad, according to Doctors Without Borders, a significant increase. One young woman described just what they fled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They told me that my brother was killed, and we don't know where he is. I, my mother and my sister's children came. We don't know where my father is. We couldn't find him. They burned everything and took everything. We did not bring anything with us, only God and our clothes.

MCKENZIE: But this video shows the terrible situations that civilians and others are under in western Darfur, the RSF says that they have taken over significant territory and the major army base in el- Geneina.

Now the peace talks or the talks, I guess, that are happening between the RSF and the Sudan armed forces in Jeddah, brokered by the U.S. and Saudis and others haven't really made any progress. They said they might allow in humanitarian aid that would be critical to helping the more than 4 million people that are displaced within the borders of Sudan since the Civil War began more than six months ago. David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


COREN: Israel says its forces on the ground in Gaza are destroying scores of tunnels used by Hamas. We'll show you that and the dangers they face. Our report from Tel Aviv after the break.


COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren. You're watching CNN newsroom.

As Israel expands its ground operation in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces claim it has destroyed 130 Hamas tunnels since the war started.

CNN cannot verify that claim. But it comes as we are getting a better view of what Israeli soldiers are facing on the ground.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond reports from Tel Aviv.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An Israeli armored vehicle advances to the al-Shati refugee camp but an ambush awaits. Moments earlier, the same video shows a Hamas fighter armed with a rocket-propelled grenade, moving slowly from behind the rubble. These are Hamas propaganda videos from the perspective of its fighters, showing Hamas militants appearing around buildings and through the rubble before striking armored vehicles.

CNN has geolocated several videos released in recent days to northern Gaza. In Beit Hanoun, Atatra, and the Shati refugee camp, indicating Hamas is likely still mounting attacks in areas Israeli forces entered over a week ago.

The videos provide a limited window into the group's guerrilla tactics and the threats Israeli forces face as they move deeper into Gaza.

LT. COL. PETER LERNER, IDF SPOKESPERSON: As we are moving in, we are fighting more and more close combat -- urban combat type engagement.

DIAMOND: The Israeli military says its forces are encircled and are now operating in the heart of Gaza City where they face the dangers of dense urban combat and a vast network of tunnels Hamas fighters are using to sneak up on Israeli forces.

LERNER: The nature of urban warfare is that, you know, they go down a tunnel and come up somewhere else. And that is exactly why we're moving slowly, we're not advancing, we're not thrusting into this. We're taking strategic positions.

DIAMOND: Israeli forces say they've destroyed 130 Hamas tunnel shafts like this one since launching their ground offensive.

LERNER: We are just scratching the surface of that.

DIAMOND: But many more still remain.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN -- Tel Aviv.


COREN: It's been more than a month since those savage attacks in Israel took much of the world by surprise. The ensuing war is also creating discord among Democrats in the U.S. Congress.

CNN's Melanie Zanona explains.



MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, tensions in the House Democratic Caucus are growing mounting as the war in Israel has gone on and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has escalated.

Democrats are split over policy. But then there are some Democrats who are pushing for absolute support of Israel, but then there are more progressive members who are calling for a ceasefire and urging the White House to also prioritize the lives of innocent Palestinian civilians. But Democrats are also divided over personalities and tactics and rhetoric.

One example is Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, who was censored on the House floor this week, with the support of 22 House Democrats, in a very rare rebuke for her use of an anti-Israel chant.

But me and my colleagues Annie Greer and Manu Raju are also learning about another internal incident that also sparked an uproar. It occurred a few weeks ago when the House was set to vote on a resolution that was condemning Hamas and expressing support for Israel.

And our Manu Raju asked Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she is a prominent Jewish Democrat about the prospect of Democrats voting against that resolution. Here's what she had to say at the time.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's this vote that's going to happen on the Israel-Hamas resolution on the floor. You can tell that some Democrats may not support this.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): I would hope that all members would support a resolution that condemns terrorism, the brutal attacks that were perpetrated against the Israeli people that were killed. We have 218 hostages, they took 222. Someone who votes against this, I would think that one (INAUDIBLE).

ZANONA: So those comments were made directly before the vote, but 15 House Democrats ended up not supporting the resolution. Most of them, members of color and also several Muslim Democrats. And they were very upset by Wasserman Schultz's comments. They were so concerned in fact that they raised the issue with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Jeffries has really been in the middle of it all. He's been trying to hear all his members, and really balance all the competing viewpoints in a very diverse caucus.

But this has no doubt a debate that has been playing out behind closed doors and also spilling into public view.

Melanie Zanona, CNN -- Capitol Hill. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Efforts to keep Donald Trump off the Minnesota primary ballot have failed for the time being. According to a ruling by the state supreme court, there is no state statute that prohibits a major political party from placing on the presidential nomination primary ballot or sending delegates to the national convention supporting a candidate who is ineligible to hold office.

The challengers, a bipartisan group of Minnesota voters, can appeal the decision. The court also ruled they can re-file a case for the general election next year.

Ivanka Trump took the witness stand in New York Wednesday testifying in the civil fraud trial against her father Donald Trump. The New York attorney general says Ivanka was cordial and very courteous in court, unlike her brothers and father, but says her testimony raises questions about her credibility.

Paula Reid brings us the latest in the case against the former U.S. President.


PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Ivanka Trump breezed past cameras inside a New York courthouse Wednesday, not saying a word. Ahead of her testimony in the state's $250 million civil fraud trial against her father and his company.

New York attorney general Letitia James addressed reporters before the proceedings.

LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Ivanka Trump secured, negotiated loans to obtain favorable terms based on fraudulent statements.

REID: But on the stand Ivanka repeatedly said she didn't recall when she was pressed for details about several projects she worked on before she left the Trump Organization in 2017, including the old Post Office in Washington, D.C., which was converted into a Trump hotel, a deal her father says Ivanka spearheaded.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm honored to be here today to support my family and especially my daughter Ivanka for her dedication to this project.

REID: During her testimony, Ivanka said she did not recall when asked about a deficiency letter sent by the government requesting clarity on how the Trump Organization reported its finances, including her father's financial statements.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: My father trained my siblings and me to see things not for what they are but for what they can be. This is a great example of that.

REID: The hotel was sold in 2022, and Ivanka testified she profited from that sale. She was also asked about financing for Trump's Doral Resort and Spa in Florida and was confronted with an email she wrote to other Trump Organization employees about the bank's loan term proposal, saying it doesn't get better than this.


REID: The bank required Donald Trump to maintain a $3 billion net worth to obtain favorable loan terms. But according to an email presented in court, Ivanka proposed changing the requirement to $2 billion as part of the loan negotiations even though Trump's 2011 financial statement estimated his net worth at $4.2 billion. They finally agreed to $2.5 billion, but the exchange is significant, because the attorney general is accusing Trump of falsifying his net worth in order to get better loan rates.

Ivanka Trump was previously dismissed as a co-defendant in this case and in the previous deposition she tried to distance herself from her father's financial statements.

I. TRUMP: I don't specifically know what was prepared on his behalf, for him as a person.

REID: And during cross examination by her father's attorney, Ivanka testified about the relationship she cultivated with the bank and their willingness to do business with Trump's company.

She testified the bank had tremendous excitement to have our account.

Trump's lawyers will now put on their defense which is expected to begin next week. Ivanka's cross examination provided a preview of how they're likely to emphasize how the banks were all repaid and there's no (INAUDIBLE) here.

But it's unclear if that will be enough to persuade the judge, who has already found them liable for fraud, is focused now on penalties which could include hundreds of millions of dollars and/or preventing the Trump Organization from doing business in the state of New York.

Paula Reid, CNN -- Washington.


COREN: Well, still to come U.S. prosecutors say they've uncovered a network of high-end brothels serving clientele including elected officials, tech and pharmaceutical executives and military officers.

Back in a moment.


COREN: Experts believe our planet is in the middle of a sixth mass extinction event, as thousands of species are disappearing each year. Today on "Call to Earth" we head to Hawaii where the race is on to save a native forest bird from a formidable (INAUDIBLE) that has devastated their population.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: High up on a plateau in the middle of the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i, a team of researchers carefully transport some extremely precious cargo.

They spent three days in this remote and rain-soaked expanse of jungle looking for something very specific and very small. The egg of one of the world's most critically-endangered species, a Hawaiian honeycreeper known as the Akikiki, found nowhere else on earth but here.

JUSTIN HITE, FIELD SUPERVISOR, KAUA'I FOREST BIRD RECOVERY PROJECT: We are going to be just trying to collect them and bring them in to a captive flock. Just because the assumption is that all of these birds are about to go extinct.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: According to the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources, there are only five of the species left in the wild.

HANNAH BAILEY, WILDLIFE CARE MANAGER, KEAUHOU BIRD CONSERVATION CENTER: The current state of Akikiki is pretty bad right now. We do have about 50 Akikiki in human care at our two centers in Hawaii. And we do know that this past breeding season, there were no surviving chicks in the wild.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hannah Bailey manages the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center on the island of Hawaii. The center serves as a Noah's Ark of sorts for the Akikiki.

BAILEY: Our mission is to provide safe haven populations of the species that are in peril so that when the environment is ripe for them to survive long term, we will be able to re-release them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hannah says the current state of all of Hawaii's forest birds is dire, due in part to the usual culprits like habitat loss, but a newer and more deadly menace has emerged.

BAILEY: The biggest threat right now to Hawaii's endangered birds is mosquitoes because they carry avian malaria, which the birds have no resistance to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: According to the American Bird Conservatory, climate change has enabled nominative mosquitoes to find their way to Kaua'i's highest elevations, the Akikiki's last refuge in the wild.

BAILEY: This is a portable brooder box that we can also use to incubate eggs. And it helps us transfer eggs from one location to another that have been incubated safely so that they will continue to grow and develop.

We need to have landscape level solutions to the mosquito problems. And in doing this the state and many other partners have worked with people that have studied malaria around the world. And so they are researching different solutions in malaria control, specifically ones that impact the mosquitoes without impacting the remainder of the environment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the meantime, keeping the birds in centers like this one where enclosures are designed to mimic their natural habitat but protected from mosquitoes. And where human interaction is strictly limited to discourage imprinting, a process where animals lose their natural behavior, these may very well be an entire species' last chance at survival.

BAILEY: So KBCC, along with San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance has been working really hard especially this last spring in saving the remaining Akikiki in the wild.

Our next step for this population is continuing to grow the population so that they have strong genetic diversity and a strong population to go back to their native habitat.


COREN: What an amazing job they're doing.

Well, let us know what you are doing to answer the call with the #calltoearth.

Stay with CNN. We'll be right back.


COREN: The U.S. Justice Department is investigating what it calls a sophisticated high-end network of brothels whose clients included high-powered people from just about every corner of the U.S.

Evan Perez has the details.



EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Prosecutors arrested three people who allegedly operated a high-end brothel network in Massachusetts and Virginia with a clientele that included elected government officials, military officers and government contractors with security clearances.

Prosecutors say that the three people arrested transported women from outside the United States and across the country and advertised them to pre-approved clients who chose women from Websites.

Now the brothels operated from luxury apartments in the Boston and Washington, D.C. suburbs. Acting U.S. attorney Joshua Levy didn't identify the estimated hundreds of clients. That's all part of an ongoing investigation that stretches from Boston to Washington to California.

JOSHUA LEVY, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY: They are doctors, they are lawyers, they are accountants, they are elected officials, they are executives at high tech companies and pharmaceutical companies, they are military officers, government contractors, professors, scientists. Pick a profession, they are probably represented in this case.

PEREZ: Prosecutors said that the prostitution network primarily used two Web sites that advertise appointments with Asian women. According to court documents, investigators interviewed about 20 of those customers.

One customer described the process that worked like this. He would receive a text message of with available options at the brothel, including women available, the sexual services and an hourly rate, which ranged from $350 to $600 an hour.

Evan Perez, CNN -- Washington.


COREN: A sad day at the National Zoo in Washington. Three of its most popular residents on their way back to China. They were shipped by FedEx on a plane dubbed the Panda Express. It's a sign of the escalating tensions between Beijing and the U.S. and perhaps the end of what has been known of Panda diplomacy. And it's easy to understand why they'll be missed.


PAMELA BAKER-MASSON, SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL ZOO: We have, give or take, over 2 million visitors to this zoo alone each year and we know the vast majority of them come and visit the giant pandas.

ERIN LEWIS, NATIONAL ZOO VISITOR: With the glass and stuff you can see them really up close and personal, you can see the pandas interacting with each other. it was just a really great exhibit.


COREN: For more on this I'm joined by Robert Koepp, he's the director of the Asia Pacific Geo-Economics and Business Initiative at Chapman University. Great to have you with us.

Is this the end of China panda diplomacy, do you believe?


It certainly seems like it now with the pandas leaving the Smithsonian National Zoo which by the way was the first American zoo they ever were sent over to. We're only left with Atlanta now and those pandas are set to return to China next year.

COREN: As you say those last remaining pandas in the U.S. are based at Atlanta Zoo, as in parents and twin cubs. And they will be returned to China and by all accounts there will be no more loans.

This is a strong signal. Would you think that, you know, China is not happy with relations between Beijing and Washington?

KOEPP: Absolutely, there's a whole spate of reasons China has for being dissatisfied with the U.S. and vice versa. I think what's interesting in the context of Chinese foreign diplomatic relations they've gone from panda diplomacy to Wolf Warrior diplomacy. And it's really a bit of a setback. Their communication strategy is not working particularly well in this regard.

COREN: Tell us about that shift from panda diplomacy to yes, to the Wolf Diplomacy.

KOEPP: To the wolf -- from pandas to wolves. From cuddly creatures to the things that frighten children and other stuff of scary stories.

So yes. I mean wolf warrior diplomacy is a reference to how there has been a survey, a very hostile antagonistic tone taken by Chinese diplomats, a kind of trolling. I mean that's basically their strategy.

I mean you can also say, you know, that they're obviously not alone in this, we have a former president who's notorious for that and other politicians who have succeeded that way. But to have that be part of a foreign policy strategy is a bit unusual.

And so anyway with the demise of the panda diplomacy, wolf warrior diplomacy remains strong, so it kind of shows there is a totally new tone set by Beijing when it deals with foreign countries.

COREN: Panda diplomacy has been going on since 1972 when former president Richard Nixon was there for that landmark trip. His wife Patricia commented on the fact that she loved pandas, and the next thing two pandas were sent to the United States.

Do you think that this decision will hurt China more in the long run?


KOEPP: Well, this is the irony of it. I really do. And it's not to say that China doesn't of course have its own prerogatives with how it uses its pandas. There are some biological rationale for, you know, returning them to be in their ecological home turf.

So that's part of the switch out that's going on. It's just that they haven't been replaced and indeed this seems to be a major setback.

When you think how 50 years ago simply the mention of pandas are so adorable by the former first lady to, you know, immediately giving these pandas.

They were given by the way. That later became a loan program, but now that they just even cut that off. Saying that it had earned money for China and most importantly increased its soft power, and of course, you had millions of adoring fans in the United States and across the western world.

It's not only in the U.S. it's in other western countries too that you see the demise of panda diplomacy. COREN: Well, we are expecting for President Biden to meet with Xi Jinping perhaps in San Francisco. Do you think that that will happen, you know, later this year?

KOEPP: There is certainly a possibility. It's always hard to read the tea leaves as we say among China watchers with what is going on in Beijing's calculations of things.

I think it could happen. I think actually if China decides to let this happen, as you point out the White House has signaled it is interested that, so I think it's really up to the Chinese side.

And hopefully it could produce some results. At the same time, if you look what's been going on inside the Chinese hierarchy, we have just seen the demise of the defense secretary that is. Beroe that, the foreign minister, their rocket force which controls their ICBM nuclear missiles. Those heads have been replaced. I mean these are very sensitive top-level posts that have a lot of dealings with foreign militaries and foreign governments.

And in that context, a breakthrough plus the panda policy issues are not particularly encouraging but who knows? Sometimes things can turn around like that and hopefully they will have a chance to meet and we can reset relations in a positive way.

COREN: Maybe a reset in relations, the two pandas will be re-loaned back to the United States.

KOEPP: We'll see the pandas again. That will be great.

COREN: That will be great. Yes. I'm sure there's plenty of fans in the United States who'd be thrilled if that was the case.

Robert Koepp --

KOEPP: A lot of children will be awaiting that.

COREN: Yes, I bet. Robert Koepp, lovely to see you. Thank you.

KOEPP: Thank you.

COREN: And thank you for watching. I'm Anna Coren in Hongkong. CNN NEWSROOM continues with Kim Brunhuber next.

Stay with CNN.