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Israel Defense Forces Continue Ground Incursion Further into Gaza; American Pediatrician Recently Evacuated from Gaza Describes Her Experiences; Republican Senators Criticize Colleague Senator Tommy Tuberville for Holding Up U.S. Military Appointments. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 02, 2023 - 08:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow with Phil Mattingly in New York. And that was a top adviser for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to us moments ago and rejecting the theory of a ceasefire. You are looking at the Rafah border crossing this morning in Egypt where 400 foreign nationals are expected to be able to leave today under this deal brokered with Hamas. We have learned that six Americans have arrived on the Egyptian side of the crossing so far today. Ambulances have been lining up to pick up wounded Palestinians who are also being allowed to leave.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: All of these people have been trapped in the war zone as Israeli ground troops close in on Gaza City and airstrikes rain down. This is the latest video from the IDF of Israeli soldiers, tanks, and bulldozers pushing deeper into Gaza. This morning the Israeli military says Hamas's defensive lines are collapsing and militants are retreating into central Gaza.

And this is the devastation from the second airstrike in two days on Gaza's largest refugee camp. The IDF says it was targeting a Hamas command center but the United Nations Human Rights Office is now warning the high number of civilian casualties from those strikes on the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp could amount to war crimes. President Biden is now saying he supports a humanitarian pause to save hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, including Americans.

HARLOW: At a campaign fundraiser last night, a protester interrupted Biden, you hear her there, calling for a ceasefire. According to reporters in the room, the president responded, quote, "I think we need a pause. A pause means give time to get the prisoners out."

Let's start our coverage this hour with Jim Sciutto. He joins us live in northern Israel. Jim, you have been on the ground there, particularly in the north, particularly because of the risk of Hezbollah getting involved in this. Explain to us what's going on behind you.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So, Poppy, I'll tell you, this is a measure of how seriously Israel is taking the risk of a new front opening up in this war. We are right at the Syria border, Lebanon border here just a couple miles away. This is an Israeli exercise, combined tank unit here. You see another one off in the distance. And these are Israeli IDF special forces here. They are training for the real thing in the event that they have to defend the northern border from greater involvement from Iranian backed forces inside Syria and in Lebanon, of course, Hezbollah chief among them.

To date, we have seen a lot of clashes along this border, exchange of artillery fire. Just in the last 24 hours Hezbollah forces say they shot down an Israeli drone. The worry is that it becomes bigger, and that is that you have Hezbollah fighters attempting to come across the border in numbers or firing missiles in greater numbers. And exercises like this one are designed to keep them on edge, keep Israeli forces on edge in case they have to come to the country's defense in the north, much like they have had to do in the south. And this is a daily event here, right, because you have some 70,000 IDF forces now based in the north to defend against the possibility of such an attack.

MATTINGLY: Jim, this is one day before the expected public remarks from Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hamas (ph). You keyed in on this yesterday. I've been talking to people about it the last 24 hours. Their anxiety level, the level of attention awaiting those remarks. Do we have any idea where he will land in his public statements?

SCIUTTO: We don't know. And that's why folks are going to be listening. At 3:00 tomorrow local time, 9:00 eastern time, Nasrallah has been largely silent since the October 7th attacks, words of support, but not a public speech where he in effect announces what Hezbollah's going to do in all this. And it's possible he doesn't show all his cards. But there is an enormous amount of attention focused on that speech to see if he says Hezbollah's going to get more involved. And by the way, that could happen in a number of ways. It could happen on the ground. There have already been a few small attempted ground incursions. It could happen by lobbing more missiles particularly at Tel Aviv.

And Hezbollah, armed by Iran, we should note, has many thousands of missiles, medium and long-range missiles, that if they were to be launched in numbers could overwhelm Israel's air defense systems, much like Hezbollah did by firing so many rockets at the Iron Dome that some got through. And that is another way that Hezbollah can strike, either on the ground or in the air. And these operations here as they get ready to go underway are intended to be the defense against any sort of ground portion of such an attack.

MATTINGLY: Jim, you make a great point, a dramatically more advanced weapons capability coming from Hezbollah than Hamas. Jim Sciutto on the northern border, thank you.


HARLOW: Live images now of the Rafah crossing where hundreds of foreign nationals are expected to be able to leave Gaza today. One of the first Americans to leave yesterday, Dr. Barbara Zind. She is now safe and in Cairo this morning. Dr. Zind pictured here waiting it cross into Egypt yesterday. She is an American pediatrician. She went to Gaza for children's relief. It was organized by the Palestine Children's Relief Fund where she has volunteered for years. And she spoke with us earlier this morning about her experience in Gaza for the last 26 days.


DR. BARBARA ZIND, AMERICAN PEDIATRIC ONCOLOGIST WHO HELPED PALESTINIAN REFUGEES: I'm doing pretty well. I think I am in a halo of just relieved to be here. But I'm just feeling awful for the devastation that the Gazan people are going through right now.

HARLOW: Of course. Of course, because I smile, we are delighted to see that you're OK and you're out, but all the people you went to help and save, the children, they are not out, and they may not be able to get out. How do you wrestle with that?

ZIND: Well, it's difficult. I mean, part is just getting the word out about what the situation is like in Gaza is important. And I think what you guys do is important, and knowing that there is not much I can do if I stay. I wasn't able to do any pediatrics while I was there. And so my staying wasn't really helping anything.

The night before last, I just woke up in the middle of the night. I was checking my messages, and I had an email. I can't check the email, but my husband had sent me an email saying for Americans to be ready the next few days. We will be notified when we are on the list for that day. I never got any other notification. I started contacting my State Department contact at that point and asking is this -- will all my group -- we were a group of eight then with four Americans. Will all the Americans in my group be able to move at the same time? Because that was our plan. Would the internationals we were with who were also sharing the same transportation be able to move at the same time?

And asking all those questions, and she didn't know. In the meantime, simultaneously, other people in my group, especially the internationals, were getting calls from their embassy saying be at the border at 7:00. So we got there a little before seven, 12 hours later, it was a long process, but it was a process that moved slowly. We were out on the Egyptian side heading towards the parking lot. And then last night we drove here to Cairo.

HARLOW: Can you talk about how dire the conditions became, especially at the end? I mean, we heard one toilet for 800 people, for example. Very little food. Very little clean water.

ZIND: Right. Right. So, so, yes, we left Gaza City. We stayed at three U.N. facilities and then at the end we were staying at a kindergarten. Probably appropriate for a pediatrician, right? But they -- in the beginning we were in Gaza City and we were told to move south. There were going to be intensive bombing in Gaza City, and there was. That's when I had that initial interview. But moving south, it was still a lot of bombing.

And so there is really no safe place for the Gazan people. We ended up for about two-and-a-half weeks in basically a parking lot that was cordoned away from the rest of the people that -- the rest of the Gazans who were staying there. And we were relatively lucky. But we were running out of food and water also.

HARLOW: Running out of food and water and sleeping in the car at the end?

ZIND: Well, you had your choice. You could sleep in the car. You could sleep on a foam pad with a blanket on the ground. I preferred the ground. Yes, pretty much camping for the last several weeks. But it's been scary. In the last two weeks we kept running out of water, and that was water to flush the toilet. We always were fortunate to have drinking water, which is not true of the Gazans that were just outside the fence from us. They were running out of drinking water. And -- but we ran out of water for washing and sanitation. We were having more and more cases of diarrhea show up in our community of 50. So I can't imagine what it was like outside the camp, outside in the general camp area. And then at one point we calculated our food, and we only had enough for two days.


HARLOW: So glad she is out. But you can feel the burden she still bears because of all the people that can't get out, the people she went to help.

MATTINGLY: Right. And her point, too, about even as we move south there were still strikes in the south, there is no safe place for the Gazan people, despite the people that are still in the north right now that are facing what we're seeing every single day, our colleague, Ibrahim Dahman, who is down the south, and they are still showing videos every single day in his video diaries of the strikes, this is real. And it's very serious, and there are no safe places right now.

HARLOW: Yes. It's so true. We are wishing her a safe flight home to her family, though.


MATTINGLY: And we're going to continue to follow all the new developments out of Israel and Gaza.

And back here at home, Donald Trump Jr. expected back on the stand today in the civil fraud trial against his family and their business. What he told prosecutors and what his brother Eric could say. That's next.

HARLOW: And Republican senators blasting their Republican colleague, Senator Tommy Tuberville, over his months long hold on military promotions.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC): No matter whether you believe it or not, Senator Tuberville, this is doing great damage to our military. I don't say that lightly.



HARLOW: Republicans voicing their frustrations with Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville on the floor of the Senate for the first time over his pushback on the Pentagon's abortion policies. They accuse him of holding up key military appointments at an important moment, particularly in the Middle East. Listen.


SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R-AK): Generals and admirals who are being held up, hang in there. Hang in there. Some of us have your back. We have your back.

Xi Jinping is watching us right now, going, I can't believe they are not letting these guys command.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): No matter whether you believe it or not, Senator Tuberville, this is doing great damage to our military.

SEN. TODD YOUNG (R-IN): To undermine the safety and security of the American people during this perilous time just doesn't make any sense to me.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): And it's simply, in my opinion, an abuse of the powers we have as senators.

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): I really respect men of their word. I do not respect men who do not honor their word.


HARLOW: That was Iowa's Joni Ernst, noting Tuberville had suggested a willingness to consider individual appointments, then he proceeded to object again and again.

Sunlen Serfaty live on Capitol Hill with much more on this. It's just so notable to hear, particularly those Republican senators, calling out their Republican Senate colleague over this.


It certainly was very striking; this was a four-hour dramatic confrontation made even more dramatic by the fact that Senator Tuberville was on the floor of the Senate while his Republican colleagues were standing up and trying to push these nominees through.

And what he did in response is he stood up one by one and tried to rebuff and object to each and every one of the nominees one by one as they were brought up. Here's a little bit of how he responded last night.


SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): I have to respectfully disagree with my colleagues about the effect of my hold on readiness. My hold is not affecting readiness, but I will keep my hold in place until the Pentagon follows the law or the Democrats change the law. Every day this continues as a day that Democrats think abortion is more important than the nomination and our military.


SERFATY: Now, the process of confirming military nominees is normally a very routine, very typically a very easy process, in essence. But Tuberville has been holding this up for months, Poppy, because of an unrelated opposition to the Pentagon's policy of abortion, expanding access to abortions to service members and their families and support of those abortions.

So, interestingly enough, while many Republican colleagues here might agree with him on the policy, this policy change that went into effect in the Pentagon in February, they definitely disagree with him on the approach here. And that was clear on the Senate floor last night with all that frustration boiling.

HARLOW: Certainly was, Sunlen thank you for the reporting from the Capitol, Phil.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Donald Trump Jr., is expected back in a New York courtroom today for a second day of testimony in the civil fraud trial against the family and the Trump Organization. The lawsuit accuses Don Jr. And his brother Eric of a scheme to inflate their father's net worth to gain benefits like loans and insurance terms.

It's one of the many court cases involving the former president, and the recent legal proceedings are giving the country a window into his mindset as he fights for a return to the White House. Trump has been on the attack, criticizing the process, Democrats, even judges.

And that rhetoric has cost him in the courtroom to some degree, but it has been fueling his campaign. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The inflammatory rhetoric that's gotten Donald Trump into hot water in the courtroom.


ZELENY: Judge is the fuel of his political campaign.

TRUMP: You have to get out and you have to fight like hell because these are dirty players.

ZELENY: More than ever before, the former president is waging a campaign of vengeance, attacking judges, going after prosecutors, and raising the specter of violence.

TRUMP: We will immediately stop all of the pillaging and theft. Very simply, if you rob a store, you can fully expect to be shot as you are leaving that store, shot.

ZELENY: In his Third Presidential Bid, retribution has become a far louder rallying cry. He suggested Mark Milley, the Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should be executed for treason. He's joked about the brutal attack on Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband.

He's implored supporters to drive away his enemies.

TRUMP: 2024 is our final battle. With you at my side, we will demolish the deep state, we will expel the warmongers, and get them all out of our government.

ZELENY: While Trump's legal challenges are inexplicably linked with his presidential campaign, the disconnect is jarring even major court developments, like a tearful guilty plea from his former lawyer ---

JENNA ELLIS, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these post-election challenges. I look back on this whole experience with deep remorse.

ZELENY: Haven't changed the view of many loyal Trump supporters.

LORI SCROGGIN, TRUMP SUPPORT IN IOWA: There's a lot more than you think that are in favor of Trump and felt that the last election was stolen. And we just want what's ours.

ZELENY: Lori Scroggin saw the former President this week in Iowa. She's unbothered by criticism and dismissive of his Republican rivals, whom she believes should step aside.

SCROGGIN: They're just nothing but a distraction and an annoyance, like a mosquito or a fly, you just want to poop them away. And let's get down to the meat, the real politics. Let's get down to what Trump has to say.

ZELENY: And Trump has a lot to say. Stoking anger and rallying supporters to his defense.

TRUMP: I promise you this if you put me back in the White House, their reign will be over, and America will be a free nation once again.

ZELENY: Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Washington.


MATTINGLY: Let's bring in CNN Senior Political Commentator Scott Jennings. Scott, the opponent of the Former President, Ron DeSantis, has made a really interesting point, I think, which is one that we all know, but the candidate saying it out loud, that basically the legal cases, starting with the New York DA's case.


Really shifted the dynamics of this race when that first happened, and he's never really recovered since, paraphrasing to some degree. Is that going to change at all?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, not in the Republican primary. If you look at the latest national surveys and you look at some of the state-by-state stuff, Trump continues to go up and up and up. Republicans just don't believe it, and they think that this election in general is a chance to get vindication for these court cases, for the impeachments, for Russia, for policy disputes, for all of it, really, and that's how they view it.

Now the question is, will general election voters view it that way? I have my doubts. I think if Trump is convicted of a felony in any of these cases, there will be a cohort of voters, some Republicans who just don't want to associate their franchise with a convicted felon or don't think someone who's been convicted should be in the White House, and that could be enough to scramble his reelection plans.

Of course, on the Democratic side, the scrambling, I think, could be if the third-party candidates have ballot access in enough states. And so, you see a situation here where the electorate could find themselves very unsatisfied with either a convicted felon or a President that they think is too old to serve a second term.

HARLOW: What about the President really disregarding the gag orders repeatedly that judges have placed on him in some of these cases? Clearly, I think making the calculation, Scott, that the legal price is worth the political gain.

JENNINGS: Yeah, no question. That would be off-brand to follow the rules and to do what the people who are persecuting us want us to do. I think he's going to continue to violate it, I mean that's the brand. It's worth it for him to thumb his nose at the system here.

So, I'm not surprised at all, I think it's part of the strategy, and I think when he does things like this, I think Republicans who support him strongly, appreciate it. That's what they want him to do. They think something was weird if he didn't.

HARLOW: Even if it lands him in jail for a short period of time. I mean, Ty Cobb, who was one of the President's Attorneys ways back when, said he thinks you know, if he keeps violating these gag orders, the President could spend a little bit of time in jail.

JENNINGS: If they throw Donald Trump in jail, if you think people, his people support him now, throw him in jail and see what means. It will be further evidence of what the argument he's making is they're using the legal system to try to keep you from having your day at the ballot box next November.

I mean, that would be further evidence, I think you ought to face the same laws and consequences any of the rest of us would if we were in the same circumstances. But the reaction to that, the political reaction to that, to me, is quite obvious.

MATTINGLY: Scott, I don't want to go off-brand myself and ask about policy instead of politics here and these dynamics in the race. But as all this is going on, we've written some of it, The New York Times has written a series of great stories about the outside groups of former Trump advisors who are planning for the 2025 inauguration.

That administration, how different it will be, how they'll have people, loyalists that will be willing to do what very rock rib conservative Republican lawyers in the last administration were not willing to do. I know you're both familiar with those Republicans and those lawyers, but also the policies that they're talking about here.

What's your read on it when you see that? Because one of the biggest weaknesses of the first Trump administration was, that they couldn't actually deliver from the executive branch unless it was some agency issue. They're saying now they will be able to.

JENNINGS: Well, I think what they're saying is that in the first term, we didn't go far enough because we just didn't have the right people in place, and maybe we didn't have the full understanding of how to go far enough. Now they're saying we'll get smarter people, better people, and frankly, people who are willing to challenge the norms and guardrails that exist for most Presidential Administrations.

I mean, I think that what you're referencing is I even read that they were saying Federal Society lawyers.

MATTINGLY: Yes, exactly.

JENNINGS: We're going to find lawyers who are going to go beyond that. That's one way to run a railroad. And I worry about it because we have argued, Republicans have argued that Democrats have challenged norms, have challenged institutions, have tried to go around the Constitution.

And so, if you're also promising to do that, to me, it pretends a very unstable future. I mean, part of the way we run the railroad here in the United States is we all agree to a certain set of parameters. This is the way things work, you operate inside of that.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. To say you're going to go outside of that, it's a troubling thing.

MATTINGLY: The fed sock squishes.

HARLOW: Oh, Phil.

MATTINGLY: Always how everybody thinks of Scott. We appreciate you, man, thank you.

HARLOW: I had a group of Muslim leaders in Minnesota announcing they will not support a Biden, reelection bid over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war. This is the Senate grappling with getting aid to Israel, Senator Dick Durbin, here next.



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to continue to affirm that Israel has the right and responsibility to defend its citizens from terror, and it needs to do so in a manner consistent with international and humanitarian law that prioritizes the protection of citizens.


HARLOW: That was President Biden speaking yesterday in Minnesota. Biden and his top officials increasingly facing tough questions about the mounting civilian deaths from Israel's strikes against Hamas. A new Quinnipiac poll this week shows nearly 50% of registered voters disapprove of the President's handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

As Biden was in Minnesota, a group of Muslim leaders in the state announced they would not support his reelection bid after he failed to support a ceasefire in Gaza. Minnesota's Attorney General Keith Ellison, who was among a small group of Muslim American leaders to meet with the President last week, told CNN it would be helpful for the President to speak out more forcefully.

Ellison said, quote, "Maybe it would help to reduce the likelihood", close quote, of Israeli strikes like the one that destroyed part of the Jabalia refugee camp this week. Joining us now is the Senate number two Democrat, Dick Durbin, who also chairs the Judiciary Committee. Senator, thanks very much for being with me.