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CNN This Morning

Now, Six-Hour Window for Evacuations Open in Gaza; Feds Investigating Suspicious Letters Sent to Election Office, Some Contained Fentanyl; Source Say, Mar-a-Lago Workers Could Testify in Documents Case. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 10, 2023 - 07:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: -- to that, we've not heard one yet.


Really just the breadth of the consequences for the president's handling of what's happening specifically to Palestinians in Gaza. Guys?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: The show is "First of All", with Victor Blackwell. It airs at 8:00 A.M. on Saturday. You got one under your belt, you're off the to the races, and as Victor just laid out, you should watch the show. Victor, we appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: And as I noted, you should be sure to tune in on Saturday at 8:00 A.M. Again, first show, awesome. This one sounds really, really good.

And CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Suspicious letters were sent to election offices potentially laced with fentanyl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just bringing fear to these election workers who are just trying to do the right thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is domestic terrorism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Speaker Mike Johnson is struggling to come up with a plan to avoid a government shutdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's a honeymoon period here. It might be shorter than we thought.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The House is out of session. The Senate is out of session. Nobody is here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These folks represent the eyes and ears of Mar- a-Lago.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Just regular people working these kind of day jobs. The former president went, quote, ballistic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A political decision was made by a very politicized department.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: If I'm a prosecutor, this is the best case scenario.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The shakeup that could very well shift the entire balance of power in the Senate.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I will not be running for re-election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll see where he goes from here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats have no margin for error. Joe Manchin doesn't make it any easier.


MATTINGLY: Well, good morning, everyone. It is Friday, and we are covering a lot of big news. Right now, take a look, people streaming through the streets of Gaza City after the IDF opened a six-hour pause in military operations. It's the latest in its tactical localized pauses, as they're calling. Senior Israeli officials say will come daily, giving Gazans a chance to get out and more critical aid to get in.

Earlier this morning, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised the decision to have the pauses, he also said more must be done to help the civilians in Gaza.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: These steps will save lives and will enable more assistance to get to Palestinians in need. At the same time, much more needs to be done to protect civilians and to make sure that the humanitarian assistance reaches them. Far too many Palestinians have been killed. Far too many have suffered these past weeks. And we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them and to maximize the assistance that gets to them.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It is very significant that he used those words in this moment. And just moments ago, CNN's team in Tel Aviv witnessed about ten Iron Dome interceptions of rockets fired from Gaza. The military wing of Hamas said on Telegram that it had launched those rockets towards Tel Aviv.

Our Oren Liebermann joins us from there. Oren, you're in Tel Aviv. This just played out. You also were embedded with the IDF, your reporting this week, inside of Gaza. Tell us what is happening now on the ground and what you saw?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were standing on the top floor of the hotel when we heard red alerts. It's worth noting these are the first red alerts here of incoming rocket launches in several days, since about Tuesday night. And as we came outside to take a quick look, we saw the interceptors launching just south of us here, a bit behind us, a bit inland. And as we headed to the shelter here, which is the staircase, we heard the interceptions, tough to get an exact number, eight, nine, ten, right in that range.

And Israel police warning the public to watch out in this area for shrapnel from the rocket launches, certainly keeping an eye out to see if there are more and where those might be targeted, as we keep working throughout the day.

Also at this moment, the Israeli military has opened up a humanitarian corridor in Gaza. You saw some video of that there, thousands of Palestinians leaving Northern Gaza along Salah al-Din, one of the main north/south corridors there, and moving south. Israel and the U.N. say tens of thousands have gone in the past couple of days.

The way these work is that Israel announces them on a daily basis. So far, they seem to line up in the same general time range, in the same general direction, although it doesn't appear that there's a promise that that will be consistent. President Joe Biden says this is something he has been pushing for for some time now and said he hoped it would come earlier.

You hear there the concern of Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying too many Palestinians have been killed here, even as the U.S. gives Israel its full backing here.

MATTINGLY: So, Oren, as Poppy mentioned, you have embedded with the IDF in Gaza. You got the firsthand look. What did you see?

LIEBERMANN: We had a chance to go into Gaza with the Israeli military, the IDF on the back one of the one of their Merkiva tanks. And I should say that as we went it, CNN reported from Gaza under Israel Defense Forces escort at all times. As a condition for the journalists to embed with the IDF, media outlets must submit their footage film in Gaza to the military for the review. They had no control over our final report as we work, and they did not see our script in advance.

But take a look at our 90 minutes to 2 hours inside Gaza.



LIEBERMANN (voice over): Through the breach, we enter Northern Gaza at the Erez border crossing. The land here, once fertile farmland, is barren and the trees that might have provided enemy cover destroyed.

In the distance, smoke from an Israeli airstrike is a stark reminder that this is day 34 of a war that may stretch much longer.

On Thursday, the IDF chief of staff and the head of the country's internal security service entered Gaza and promised strength through cooperation. Everyone is doing everything, said General Herzi Halevi, just so you can be as strong as possible.

Along our path in Northern Gaza, the signs of civilian life have given way to the constant hum of drones and the distant echoes of artillery.

Our time with the IDF began at the coordination base for the border crossing, the first international media to visit the site. The terror attack on October 7 hit hard here, the scars of machine gun fire and RPGs still visible. The base was mostly empty on the holiday, but not entirely. The IDF says nine soldiers were killed here and three kidnapped. It took 12 hours for Israel to regain control of the base. Now it's one of the main gates to Gaza.

A month into the war, more than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza, according to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Health Ministry there.

The IDF says 35 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the Strip since the start of the incursion. The October 7th attack by Hamas in Israel killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians.

We stop at an overlook near the town of Jabalya.

One of the things uncovered here on this hill near Jabalya is a meeting point of three different tunnels. And you can see, if you take a look, that's one, two, three. They came together here, and it let Hamas move underground quickly, below the feet and out of sight.

Colonel Tal, the tank commander, says there were many explosives here. There were many trenches. There were a lot of weapons and ammunition. We found here a storage site with many explosives against tanks, RPGs.

Even from a distance, the scale of the destruction is stunning. Apartment buildings, homes, neighborhoods decimated.

Colonel Tal says the area is almost completely evacuated. We don't see civilians in our eyes. We see sometimes terrorists, but the majority of civilians haven't been here in a while. They've all gone south in the direction of the heart of the strip.

As we talk, we hear rocket fire and see the trails of the launches triggering red alerts in Ashdod. After about 90 minutes inside Northern Gaza, we make our way out, hugging the border wall for safety. Even here, so close to the exit, we stop briefly so the dust clears and we can make sure the way ahead is safe, in the distance, once again, the smoke from another strike.


LIEBERMANN (on camera): And speaking of smoke from another strike, there's now video of heavy smoke rising Gaza once again that we can see. Israel has said that it's encircled Gaza City effectively and is working its way in, trying to focus more of the effort now on the tunnels and Hamas' underground infrastructure. The IDF spokesperson said on Thursday that Israel would deepen its operation on the ground in Northern Gaza. Phil?

MATTINGLY: Oren Liebermann live for us in Tel Aviv, thank you.

HARLOW: So, this morning, federal law enforcement is really on high alert. Public officials in multiple states, mostly election offices have received suspicious mail. Some of these letters contained fentanyl. Officials say more than a dozen letters have been reported so far across the country, in California, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Washington. All of those states targeted and investigators are treating all of the letters as connected for now given the timing.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Fulton County was among the election offices that was targeted. Listen.


SEC. OF STATE BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R-GA): This is domestic terrorism and that needs to be condemned by anyone that holds elected office and anyone who wants to hold elected office anywhere in America.


HARLOW: And Nick Valencia has that report for us this morning. This is terrifying. Fentanyl can kill you just on contact. What more are you learning?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is terrifying. At least more than a dozen letters were all sent at the same time. That, of course, will be a clue that investigators will use to try to track down whoever is responsible for this.

The Department of Justice is investigating as is the U.S. Postal Service. And one of the election offices that was targeted, right here in Fulton County. Fulton County has been in the news a lot lately, maybe very familiar to our viewers, because it has drawn the ire of the former president. It has been a target, if you will, for far right conspiracy theorists, election deniers.

And it was yesterday during a press conference that the secretary of state here, Brad Raffensperger, called on election officials and political candidates to denounce this activity. But then he went a step further and made this personal.

Five and a half years ago, Raffensperger's son died from a fentanyl overdose, and he used the time to talk about how dangerous and deadly the substance of fentanyl could be.


RAFFENSPERGER: Some people like to call fentanyl a drug. It's actually poison. It will kill you. It will kill you very quickly, very easily. It's very dangerous. We lost our son five and a half years ago due to a fentanyl overdose. We know how deadly this stuff is.



VALENCIA: These suspicious letters come amid a backdrop nationwide of harassment and threats towards election officials. The Fulton County commissioner here, Rob Pitts, he was very bold in a statement at a press conference yesterday saying that we should all be prepared for this to be a foreshadowing of more to come in 2024. We should all hope that he's wrong. Poppy?

HARLOW: Yes. Nick, thank you so much. And Secretary Raffensperger will join us a little bit later in the show. Phil?

MATTINGLY: Well, this morning, Congress only has one week left to prevent a government -- there's the clock, 7 days, 16 hours, 49 minutes ticking downward again. But the House and the Senate, they've already gone home for the long weekend. And right now, it doesn't seem like the House and House Republicans have any plan, at least one they've consolidated around to keep the lights on.

Their new speaker, Mike Johnson, tried and failed to pass a handful of full-year spending bills this week. He's struggling to unite Republicans and come up with a deal that won't spark the same kind of hard right rebellion that ousted Kevin McCarthy.


REP. JOHN DUARTE (R-CA): He's going to listen to everybody, including the Freedom Caucus. He's going to listen to -- he needs almost every one of us to get anything across. And I think the sentiment in the conference right now is to support him as best we can.

REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): I think there's a honeymoon period here. I'm not sure how long it lasts, maybe 30 days with what's going on, on the floor today. I think that indicates the honeymoon might be shorter than we thought.


MATTINGLY: CNN's Lauren Fox is live for us on Capitol Hill. And, Lauren, what's striking about that is they're fairly candid on camera, off camera. I think senior GOP aides and congressmen have been much more blunt about their concerns right now. What's the actual latest there?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're waiting right now to see what Mike Johnson's plan even is at this point, Phil.

And he's been meeting with members across the ideological spectrum all week long trying to take under advisement suggestions. But the problem for this speaker is that he has the same issues that Kevin McCarthy dealt with, and that is he has members of his conference who see the path forward very distinctly different in the months and weeks ahead when it comes to spending.

And, you know, one of the things that you're hearing from a lot of veteran appropriators is let's not have a huge showdown over a short- term government funding bill. Let's just get this done, make it as clean as possible.

Tom Cole, who is the Rules Committee chairman, someone who has worked in appropriations for a long time, he said, that's what I've been trying to tell the conference is our best path forward. And yet you have members of the Freedom Caucus who are pushing for this two-step approach where there would be different government offices that would shut down at various dates, basically trying to maximize their leverage to have multiple deadlines. And you're hearing from Senate Republicans, that's not going to fly in the United States Senate either.

And so I think that there's just a lot of concern right now that Mike Johnson is hearing from so many different voices. And at the end of the day, he's the one who's going to have to make the final, and you hear this a lot from Republican members of his conference, the final play call, that he's the coach right now, he's the one who's got to make the final decision on the path forward.

But so far, he just hasn't said what he's going to do. We asked him repeatedly yesterday. He did not want to comment in the hallways. But we're going to get a better sense maybe today, maybe tomorrow. That's really the deadline. Because if Republicans want to go to the floor by Tuesday, Phil, they need to unveil that plan by tomorrow so that members have 72 hours to read the legislation.

MATTINGLY: Yes. To extend the metaphor, it's like fourth and 40 and they have 10 seconds left. Good luck with the play call.

Lauren Fox, thank you.

HARLOW: It's happened. It's happened.

MATTINGLY: It's possible.

HARLOW: It's possible.

Coming up, a CNN exclusive report, the potential witnesses prosecutors may call in Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago documents case.

MATTINGLY: And Senator Joe Manchin says he's not running for re election. It's a big blow to Democrats, but does it mean a third party bid for the White House is in his future? We're going to discuss ahead.




DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It's something that allows the next party. I mean, if somebody -- if I happen to be president and I see somebody who's doing well and beating me very badly, I say, go down and indict them.

Mostly, that would be -- you know, they would be out of business. They'd be out. They'd be out of the election.


HARLOW: So, that's former President Trump in a new interview commenting on the criminal indictments that he's now facing.

Sources are telling CNN prosecutors may call several Mar-a-Lago employees to the stand in his classified documents trial. Those employees include a woodworker who installed a crown molding in Trump's bedroom last year and noticed a stack of papers, a maid who cleaned Trump's suite, a plumber who has worked at the property for years, and a chauffeur who was asked about powerful business people, including foreigners who had visited the club as VIP guests.

With us now, CNN Senior Crime and Justice reporter Katelyn Polantz and CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Elie Honig.

Katelyn, this is fascinating new reporting you guys got. And it's just remarkable, I think, in the detail and who and what they may say on the stand. What do people need to know this morning?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. So, a lot of these people had been approached during the investigation before Trump was charged. And now, what we're learning is that they still could potentially be witnesses because there were so many people at that property in Florida, the resort, who were moving in and out and were noticing things. They were seeing things that were suspicious.

And one of the things that happened was that there was this woodworker, he was in Donald Trump's bedroom, installing the crown molding, noticing stacks of papers. And those papers were so suspicious to him because they were very likely classified documents or had some sort of markings on them to make them secret or classified that he thought they were movie props. And so he told investigators about this.

We learned about him. We learned about the maid cleaning Trump's bedroom suites, a plumber, a woodworker. But that's only part of what the presentation the Justice Department is very likely to put on in front of a trial. They're going to have these people show what it was like at Mar-a-Lago, people coming in and out.


But also there's quite a few notable people who are very likely witnesses here, people whose names you would recognize from being around Trump as aides in his political circles, even from his White House intelligence officials, even Secret Service agents.

MATTINGLY: Katelyn, I think if I'm being honest, I've been distracted by any of the other legal issues that the president has been dealing with over the course of the last couple weeks, particularly up here in New York. Can you remind us, what are we hearing about the timing of the trial? Is this possible that it could actually get pushed after the election?

POLANTZ: It is possible, Phil. I wish we were hearing more. There was a hearing last week in federal court in Florida where the judge said that she was looking at the trial timing, the deadlines in that case. The trial is currently set for next May. And she said she would release a schedule. She would tell us, and it's been more than a week, we have heard nothing on when that trial will actually take place.

As of now, as long as it's on the books for May, that's when it's happening, but Donald Trump's legal team does not want it to be happening while he's still running for president. They want it to happen after the election next year.

MATTINGLY: Elie, the -- let's start with Katelyn's reporting, then we can get to the timing of the trial. What do you make, as a former prosecutor, when you look at the scale of who they're talking to? And they're not political people, they're not people inside the Trump operation. What does it tell you?

HONIG: They've talked to everybody. They're doing what you would do in an ideal scenario, as a prosecutor, where you had virtually unlimited time and resources. You want to know everything. They've got it all, even from the smallest detail of a woodworker who was putting in crown molding and saw a box in a certain place.

I mean, all of this to me has the makings of a very compelling case. You have insiders, you have people who are close to Trump, you have people who are just normal, everyday workers. You have surveillance video, you have the audiotapes that we've heard clips of, and it looks like this is a very powerful case coming together by the prosecutors.

HARLOW: Can we talk about what Trump said in that Univision interview that we just played for people about? I mean, so the context is, I believe, he is saying, I'm a victim here. Look what's happening to me. This is political persecution. But then he talks about it in the terms of if you want a second term. Was it concerning to you?

HONIG: Absolutely. I mean, we hear this phrase batted around weaponization, weaponization of prosecution of DOJ. And it's something that you always sort of learn about and are taught to guard against as a prosecutor. I mean, when you're a prosecutor, even a lowly prosecutor like I was, a regular DOJ prosecutor, you are given unimaginable power. And you can destroy lives, even as a routine run- of-the-mill prosecutor.

If you're talking about taking the entire institution of the Justice Department and using it to settle personal and political scores, that to me is one of the most dangerous threats to our democracy. Donald Trump says straight up, this is what I will do. I think we ought to listen to him. And I think we ought to really take that into account.

HARLOW: Glad you said that about prosecutors. People forget the immense power they wield.

HONIG: 100 percent. It's drilled into you from day -- I became a prosecutor, I was 29 years old. And giving someone that much authority at that age to me now, much older, is a scary thing. And to think about doing that with the A.G., doing that from the White House, abusing that power, is really a scary notion.

MATTINGLY: All right. Elie Honig, Katelyn Polantz, great reporting. Read the story. It will tell you a lot. Thank you guys very much.

And this morning, a political earthquake for Democrats, Senator Joe Manchin says he's not running for re-election. What that means for the balance of power on the Senate as speculation swirls about a potential presidential run?



HARLOW: This morning, a possible blow to Democrats and their chances of holding on to that slim majority in the Senate. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announcing he will leave Capitol Hill after '24.


MANCHIN: I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia. I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for re-election to the United States Senate.


HARLOW: It does not mean that he's all done with politics. He is a moderate Democrat who was first elected to the Senate in 2010, since then worked to fight extremism, find compromise across the aisle, a message that he stressed in his announcements.


MANCHIN: Every incentive in Washington is designed to make our politics extreme. The growing divide between Democrats and Republicans is paralyzing Congress and worsening our nation's problems. The majority of Americans are just plain worn out. We need to take back America and not let this divisive hatred further pull us apart.


HARLOW: So as I said, he isn't quite done with politics. It's just not clear what he plans to do next, like launch a third party run, maybe, he's teased it before. And his departure leaves questions about the future of his party's narrow majority in the Senate.

Phil is here with the breakdown for much more on what this looks like.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Poppy, we're going to have a ton of time to speculate about the soon to be retiring senator from West Virginia.

HARLOW: Haven't we been doing that for years, Phil?

MATTINGLY: That's kind of the deal with Joe Manchin, whether it's legislation or politics or what he's going to do next. But we should also talk about what this means for the Senate, and it very clearly is a huge problem for Democrats, who at this moment hold a 51 to 49 majority. That is the balance of power right now. It leaves them an even tougher course to maintain their majority in the U.S. Senate.

Let's make this clear, pull this up right now, when you look at West Virginia, there are already two Republicans in. Joe Manchin's exit leaves no clear Democratic successor to run for that seat in a state that has, in the words of one national Democrat I was talking to last night, quote, become unwinnable for Democrats. Is that hyperbole? It's not.

Think about it like this. In 2008, then Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller won re-election by 30 points. By 2020, Rockefeller's retirement -- after Rockefeller's retirement, Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito won that seat by 43 points. Donald Trump won the state twice by an average of 40 points. Right now, the state legislature has 134 seats, 14 are filled by Democrats.

Now, as I noted, the GOP primary is already underway. The Democrat- turned Republican Governor Jim Justice, he jumped into the race in April, has reported more than a million dollars cash on hand, has national support from Republicans, including from former President Trump, and is expected to be the clear favorite to win.

Now, he does have a primary challenger in the form of Congressman Alex Mooney.


But I want to make this very clear, top party officials and donors have moved quickly to bolster Justice, who is the coveted prospect in their path to retake the Senate majority before Manchin retired.