Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Israeli Forces Agree to Humanitarian Pauses during Their Ongoing Invasion of Gaza; Diplomatic Cable Indicates Arab Countries Frustrated with U.S. Support for Israel's Invasion of Gaza; President Biden to Meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping; Rep. Michael Lawler (R-NY) Interviewed on House of Representatives Working to Pass Appropriations Bills to Avoid Pending Government Shutdown; Feds Investigating Suspicious Letters Sent to Election Offices, Some Contained Fentanyl; Trump Says he Could Weaponize DOJ against his Enemies; Examining the Antisemitism Spike in U.S. and Globally. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 10, 2023 - 08:00   ET





ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. 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: And that was Secretary of State Antony Blinken this morning. Right now, the Israeli military is giving civilians in northern Gaza a six-hour window to evacuate south. It comes after Israeli officials have agreed to daily humanitarian pauses after facing pressure from the White House. This morning, we have been seeing thousands of Palestinians, including families with small children, streaming through Gaza City as they make their way south. The window to get out is about to close in an hour. The fighting has not stopped everywhere. A new video into CNN this morning shows Israeli tanks at a hospital in northern Gaza. You hear the sound of explosion, heavy gunfire. The hospital's director is pleading for help to evacuate doctors and patients as the fighting intensifies.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Hamas has continued to fire rockets at Israeli. Our team on the ground witnessed the Iron Dome system intercept around 10 rockets over Tel Aviv this morning. Social media videos are emerging of people injured at a hospital clinic in Gaza. At this time, CNN cannot verify if it's airstrikes and has reached out to the Israeli Defense Forces. Arlette Saenz is going to start things off for us at the White House.

Arlette, all of this comes at the same time we are learning about a very stark warning in a diplomatic cable that was delivered to the administration about what contacts are saying in the Middle East. What can you tell us about that?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Phil. It really -- this diplomatic cable really speaks to the profound concern among some American diplomats and U.S. officials about the frustration that has been bubbling up in the Arab world over the U.S. support for Israel's campaign in Gaza.

This diplomatic cable was sent from the embassy in Oman to the National Security Council, FBI, and CIA. And in that cable that was obtained by our colleagues Priscilla Alverez and Alex Marquardt, an official in Oman working for the United States said that the robust U.S. support for Israel's actions is being seen as, quote, "material and more culpability" in what they consider to be possible war crimes.

This comes as the president has really been facing growing pressure since the beginning of this conflict as you have seen these dire images of the situation in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis that has been playing out there. Of course, there are not just concerns on the world stage, but also back at home, just yesterday, President Biden was in Illinois and there were pro-Palestinian protesters outside of his event. One audience member at the president's event related to unions, actually, interrupted the president, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Of course, U.S. officials refrained for calling for a ceasefire. Instead, they've been pushing for additional pause to get more aid into Gaza. But it does come as the president is grappling with this growing concern not just here at home but also in the Arab world about the U.S. support for Israel.

HARLOW: Also, Arlette, we're learning about a really important meeting that President Biden is going to have with Chinese President Xi Jinping. It's going to be next week in San Francisco. Such a crucial time, given the downward spiral we have seen for U.S.-China relations. What do you know?

SAENZ: Yes, it really is. And the date has officially been set for President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping to sit down face-to- face in the San Francisco Bay Area on Wednesday next week. This comes as it will really mark a key test for President Biden as he is trying to prevent the relationship from deteriorating any further as we've seen these tensions and strains over the course of the past year.

Now, this meeting, aides say, isn't expected to bring a total thaw in the relations between the U.S. and China, but aides believe that the fact that the two men are sitting down is a positive step. This will be only their second meeting together since President Biden took office. Now, officials here at the White House say the president is ready to press Xi on a number of issues. One thing that President Biden is hopeful for is talking to about the need to restore military- to-military communications. That is something he will bring that up with Xi in that meeting.


He also wants to talk about the conflicts in Israel and Ukraine, as well as talking about some of the issues where the U.S. and China don't see eye to eye. Think about human rights and also all of the tensions surrounding Taiwan. So this is shaping up to be a major consequential meeting for President Biden as he is looking to manage this relationship with another superpower in the world.

HARLOW: Crucial meeting for sure. Arlette, thanks for the reporting from the White House.

So we are now just a week away from a potential government shutdown. There is your favorite clock. There is still no clear progress on how to avoid it. Just into CNN, a source tells us that Republican leadership is aiming to post legislative text tomorrow on the plan to try to avert a government shutdown. That would set up a potential floor vote on that plan as soon as Tuesday. The source warns things are still very fluid. Timing can change. Republicans left Washington yesterday for a three-day weekend after leadership scrapped a vote on a measure that would have funded the treasury and other financial agencies. The reason -- Republicans were divided on it.

MATTINGLY: A senior Republican Congressman gave Manu Raju, our colleague, this blunt assessment on where things stand, quote, "The House is a mess. Nothing surprises me anymore. Speaker Johnson will have to thread a difficult needle while walking a high-wire fence in gale force winds." Other than that, though, things are great.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Michael Lawler of New York. He serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, I joke, and I appreciate the laughter. I think at some point we all have to find some humor in all of this.

REP. MICHAEL LAWLER, (R-NY): It was a silent laugh.



MATTINGLY: Lauren Fox is reporting that there will be bill texts tomorrow. Everything is fluid. Do you know what's in the -- like what's the plan?

LAWLER: We've had a number of discussions this week. I don't know yet exactly what the speaker is going to put forth. My advice and opinion on this this is to do a clean C.R. with aid to Israel so we can move the ball down the field here, make sure that Israel has the support that it needs in the immediate, and that we give ourselves more time to finish the appropriations work.

Obviously, governing can be messy, and when you're going through an appropriations process that has been broken over 30 years with omnibus after omnibus after omnibus and everything jammed into it, we are trying to unwind that. And it takes time to pass these single subject appropriations spending bills. And as you can see, there is debate even within the Republican conference about some of the measures that are in them.

But ultimately, we need to get to a point where we can pass these appropriation bills, force the Senate to do the same, and conference them. You need more time. Obviously, the speaker battle and fiasco that ensued over the last month wasted a lot of time on that 45-day C.R. So we need to get back to the process here. We started passing bills. We did a lot of amendment work. But there is still a lot of work to do. And so from my vantage point, let's pass a clean C.R., extend the timeframe a bit, get aid to Israel, and focus on the real fight, which is on appropriations, the border, and, obviously, Ukraine.

HARLOW: OK. Aid to Israel, you said that a couple of times in that answer. We know where you stand on that. You also want more funding for Ukraine. But what the Republicans have put forward so for, tying that $14.3 billion in aid to Israel to cuts to the IRS, Chuck Schumer in the Senate has called that a nonstarter. So what do you do?

LAWLER: Look, I think what is fascinating about the battles in Washington is this. Coming from a state legislature, nowhere else in America can you put forth a bill and not show how you are going to pay for it. And in Washington, they just want to spend without any means to pay for it. That doesn't work. This administration increased spending by other $5 trillion in the first two years. We are facing a $34 trillion debt, national debt. Republicans got elected to serve as a check and balance and to start to rein in the reckless spending. Obviously, I and my colleagues support aid to Israel, and I want to see that get done as expeditiously as possible. I also support aid to Ukraine. But you have to pay for these things.

HARLOW: The issue is, how do you pay for it, Congressman, with something that the nonpartisan CBO says actually just adds to the deficit?

LAWLER: You and I have had that --

HARLOW: I don't want to get into that fight, but can you come up with something else to pay for it?

LAWLER: Sure, there are lots of ways. But you've got to negotiate. And Chuck Schumer, with all due respect, has spent an entire year not really doing very much out of the United States Senate.


So if Chuck Schumer has a better way to pay for aid to Israel, aid to Ukraine, put it forward. I haven't seen him pass anything.

MATTINGLY: Just to be clear, are you opposed to anything that's not offset?

LAWLER: I'm not opposed to anything that's not offset. My --

MATTINGLY: The reason I ask is because I understand what you're saying about spending. I think both parties would acknowledge that's the reality over several parties over decades, to some degree. But you are talking about fiscal restraint in this particular context, but you would pass it if it wasn't offset? You would support it?

LAWLER: I would, but, again, the objective here is to start to break the fever in Washington on spending. Obviously, the appropriations process is the best way to do that. Just passing supplementals obviously just adds more spending without any offset here. So we, obviously, would love to have an offset. We passed a bill through the House. The Senate has not passed anything. And so the objective is to find compromise and advance the ball forward. In the immediate, we need to pass a C.R. to keep the government funded and open, and, obviously, I would like to get the aid to Israel as quickly as possible.

MATTINGLY: Can I ask you real quick, before we let you go, on that issue. You recently introduced a bipartisan bill. It has an important distinction in language for the federal government. Why? Why is that necessary?

LAWLER: Sorry?

HARLOW: On antisemitism.

LAWLER: Oh, the Antisemitism Awareness Act?


LAWLER: The Antisemitism Awareness Act requires the Department of Education to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism which would allow them to use that for enforcement cases on discrimination. We have seen a rapid rise in antisemitism on these college campuses, and we need to crack down on it. This is not a free speech issue. This is hate speech. It is putting people in jeopardy, and it's part of the reason why I vote today censure Rashida Tlaib. If we're going to crack down on college campuses, it starts with holding members of Congress to a higher standard. Chanting "From the river to the sea" was not aspirational. It was absolutely vile and intended to undermine Israel, and, frankly, call for its extermination. And that cannot be tolerated anywhere in this country.

MATTINGLY: Congressman Mike Lawler, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

LAWLER: Thank you.

HARLOW: Good to have you here.

Senator Joe Manchin says he will not run for reelection to the Senate. Why some think the West Virginia Democrat could be getting ready to launch a presidential bid.

MATTINGLY: And federal law enforcement is on high alert after suspicious letters were sent to election offices across the country, some laced with fentanyl. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was told to look out for one of those letters. He is going to join us next.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, (R) GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: This is domestic terrorism, and it needs to be condemned by anyone that holds elected office and anyone that wants to hold elected office anywhere in America.





PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Federal law enforcement is on high alert this morning as public officials in multiple states, mostly election offices, have reported suspicious mail, and some of those letters, contain fentanyl. Officials say more than a dozen letters have been reported so far.

California, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Washington state were all targeted and investigators are treating all the letters as connected for now, given the timing. Joining us now is Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Sir, we appreciate your time. You talked about this yesterday, but there were still a lot of details that seemed somewhat unclear. Do you have more insight into these letters, who they were addressed to, and what they said?

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, (R) GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: For Georgia, not yet. What we have been informed by the postal officials is that there's a letter in transit. So, it's a three-to-five-day transit through their system and so obviously they'll try and intersect that when it comes to the Atlanta processing facility.

But it hasn't arrived in Georgia yet, so we don't know if it will be intercepted. And that's why we prepared staff at the Fulton County election office. If it does actually make it through the system and it arrives, this is what you would do and this is how you'd handle it.

MATTINGLY: How do you know that it's in, what's the information that lets you know it's in transit? How do officials know that?

RAFFENSPERGER: The postal official has some capabilities, I guess that they don't talk about much, but somehow, they have tracking and based on what they saw in other locations, they were identified that there was another letter that was obviously postmarked for Georgia.

MATTINGLY: And you haven't heard of any suspects or who may have sent these at this point, right?

RAFFENSPERGER: Not at this time, no. I understand from just readings that they do have identified potential suspect, but yeah, they're going to keep that very close to, close to their chest.

MATTINGLY: More broadly, the Fulton County Commissioner said, this is, quote, probably a forerunner for what we could see in 2024. Do you think that's accurate?

RAFFENSPERGER: We're going to make sure that we repair all 159 counties and prepare them for events such as this. So, make sure that there is Narcan available for all the election officers who do receive incoming mail and train them in the use of that.

So, we'll be doing that in the next election conference that we have coming up in December.

MATTINGLY: Can I ask you the idea that you need to make sure that your election officials have Narcan available, would you have expected that when you got into this job?

RAFFENSPERGER: No, there's a lot of things I wouldn't have expected when I got this job. I ran just to get new voting machines with a verifiable paper ballot, and we did that.

But we've been throwing a lot of curveballs, and this is just extremely distressing to think this is where some people would go and how some people would behave and threaten people just doing their job, making sure we have fair and honest elections.

MATTINGLY: What is the effect? Have you seen a tangible impact, there's been a lot of concern about what this will mean for these types of threats on poll workers, on election officials, and their willingness to do the things that people like yourself did in 2020 that were so critical.

Have you seen people unwilling or not willing to step into those jobs because of things like this?

RAFFENSPERGER: By and large, we're in pretty good shape in Georgia. I think, really, because the governor and I both were after reelection, we really addressed a lot of the 2020 issues and had great conversations with people. I know still many people were disappointed, we understand that.

But I think that by and large, we're in pretty good shape. Obviously, we can always use more poll workers. We can always use more election workers because after all, when you show up to vote, if there's no one on the other side of the table, how would you actually be able to vote?

So, we do need poll workers, and it's some of the best work that you could ever do. And if you have any questions about the process that you don't really know if you can trust, they will become a poll worker there you'll have the training and you'll be able to understand all the checks and double checks.

We have to make sure we have security in the system.

[08:20:00] MATTINGLY: The Former President you talked about, there are a lot of things you didn't expect when you entered this job. I think some of the stuff you've dealt with the Former President probably qualifies in that space. I want to play something he said last night in an interview when he was asked about the idea of the Justice Department and what they've done and some of the indictments so far, take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Something that allows the next party, I mean, 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 they would be out of business. They'd be out, they'd be out of the election.


MATTINGLY: Sir, the idea, you know, Chris Sununu, the Governor of New Hampshire, told my colleague Poppy at this point, we shouldn't be surprised when the Former President says stuff like that. My question to you is, given your experience, do you think he means it?

RAFFENSPERGER: I just know that as an elected official, I follow the law and I follow the Constitution. And I think the voters should hold everyone accountable and make sure that the people that they're voting for will follow the law and follow the Constitution.

That's our number one duty, and make sure that we always do what is right and we always follow the law. These laws were put in place through the legislative process, signing the law by governors or the President of the United States, if it's a federal law.

I think it's really important that we just have to lean into that. I think we also need to look at how we lead, and I think we need to lead with character, integrity, and honest and really civil discussions with everyone. I think if we do that, that's our way back.

MATTINGLY: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, we appreciate your time, thank you.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Israel announced today's humanitarian pause in Gaza will be 6 hours, a potential breakthrough also maybe for getting hostages out. And as the Israel-Hamas war continues, antisemitism is rising sharply both in America and around the world. CNN's Dana Bash joins us to discuss.




HARLOW: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledging to protect the country's Jewish population from a quote, "Shameful wave of antisemitism." He made those comments at a commemoration of the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the organized violence and destruction targeting Jews in Nazi Germany.

Anti-Semitic threats both around the world and here in the United States are on the rise. And our Dana Bash looks at this critical issue in a new episode of the whole story that airs on Sunday night. Dana joins us now, I am so glad, we are so glad that you are doing and continuing to shine a light on what is happening in this country.

And as part of this episode, you spoke with Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the Biden administration's special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. Here's part of that.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Since the attack on Israel, on October 7th, how has your role become more vital?

DEBORAH LIPSTADT, AMBASSADOR, AND SPECIAL ENVOY: In the wake of the attack, we began to see first a surge, and then a spike, then an explosion, and now a tsunami of antisemitism worldwide. In Paris, in London, in Germany. In Australia, it was gas the Jews, get rid of the Jews, let's have a Jew-free zone.

It's not about being pro-Hamas or anti-Israel. It's about antisemitism.

BASH: Lipstadt was appointed ambassador because she is one of the world's foremost academic experts on antisemitism.

LIPSTADT: You know how when the yellow light is flashing, antisemitism is like that amber light, and what it's signaling is that antisemitism is coming and it's a threat to democracy.


HARLOW: She is really sounding the alarm, what else did she tell you about how urgent this danger is?

BASH: You know she and others, incredibly urgent. The last time we did this hour, it was in 2022, and we were trying to shine a light on the fact that antisemitism. And by the way, a lot of experts say we should just call it Jew Hate, not antisemitism, because that word sounds a bit too fancy, and that's what this is. It was a little bit more latent.

If you didn't really know, you didn't know. Now it's not, I mean, it is part of our everyday news cycle because it is so overwhelming. Just some statistics that, I don't know blew my mind, since October 7th, Poppy and Phil, the ADL tracked a 388% increase, so almost 400% increase in harassment, in vandalism and violence in America against Jews.

And you talked about Kristallnacht, and it was 85 years ago yesterday that it was called the Night of the Broken glass. It was a concerted effort to go in and to vandalize Jewish businesses and homes. Part of this special, we talked to a woman who was 90, Ruth Steinfeld.

And she remembers being in Europe as a seven-year-old girl. She's a Holocaust survivor as a seven-year-old girl, when they came in to her home and started smashing things up. Now, 85 years later, she's living in Texas, and she is as worried as an American now as she has ever been.

MATTINGLY: Dana, we saw your conversation, or, piece of your conversation with Ambassador Lipstadt. Who else did you speak to here? Your last iteration of this, you had so many critical voices, key players. Who else did you talk to?

BASH: College students, and that is one of the biggest storylines, alarming storylines that we've seen. You've been covering it on the show almost daily, and the issue is that you are seeing --- the last time we did this, it was very clearly lengths erupting from the right, from the hard right, the white supremacy.

And we did a segment on what was happening on the left, which was.