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CNN This Morning

Biden: Deal to Release Hostages is 'Going to Happen'; Israeli Forces Conducting Operation Inside Gaza's Largest Hospital; Biden to Meet with Chinese President Today; Biden Compare's Trump's 'Vermin' Remark to Nazi Rhetoric; GOP Tensions Hit Peak with Punching Claims, Threats. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 15, 2023 - 06:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Glad you're starting your day with us. Here are "Five Things to Know" for this Wednesday, November 15.

Happening right now, the Israeli military carrying out an operation at the besieged Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. There are reports of active firefights inside of that complex. We'll hear from the IDF live with us, a little bit later this morning.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: And new hope this morning for a deal to release the hostages. President Biden says he, quote, "believes it's going to happen." The remark came after he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Also President Biden today set to have a high-stakes summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping near San Francisco. The goal to keep tensions from getting any worse.

HARLOW: And it's now up to the Senate to prevent a government shutdown before the deadline on Friday night. The House passed a short-term measure yesterday.

MATTINGLY: And new overnight, President Biden blasting Donald Trump for calling his enemies, quote, "vermin." Biden telling donors the remark was, quote, "language you heard in Nazi Germany."

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: Well, happening right now, Israeli forces are in the middle as we speak of conducting a mission inside of Gaza's largest hospital. The Palestinian journalist who is inside the Al-Shifa Hospital tells CNN there has been intense gunfire as Israeli soldiers search the complex and also interrogate young men.

He says there are tanks in the hospital courtyard, and the Israeli army is using bullhorns to tell people to come out and surrender.

MATTINGLY: The IDF has accused Hamas of running a command center underneath that hospital and using civilians above as human shields. The Israeli military is calling this a, quote, "precise and targeted operation" based on intelligence.

Thousands of civilians have been sheltering at this hospital, and conditions have grown dire, with food, water, and power running out. Listen to this doctor describe the raid.


DR. AHMED EL MOKHALLALATI, HEAD OF AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL PEDIATRIC UNIT: We can't look through the windows or doors. We don't know what's happening. Tanks are moving within the hospital.


You can hear continuous shooting.


You can hear it now. But again, it's a totally scary situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what are the sounds, doctor? I'm hearing sounds.

EL-MOKHALLALATI: It's continuous shooting from the tanks.


MATTINGLY: The Israeli military says incubators, baby food and medical supplies have now been delivered to the hospital. Medical teams and Arabic-speaking soldiers are part of the operation to, in their words, "help protect civilians."

And this all comes as President Biden says a deal to release the hostages held in Gaza is, quote, "going to happen."

Hamas says the negotiations are focused on releasing 70 women and children in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting. Israel is pushing for at least 100 hostages to be released.

We have team coverage live on the ground in Israel. Nada Bashir is in Jerusalem, and Oren Liebermann is in Tel Aviv.

Oren, I want to start with you. This operation launched last night, still underway. What do we know about how it's being carried out?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The ground operation began in the early hours of the morning, and it continues to this point, according to the Israeli military.

They say they're operating in a specific area of al-Shifa Hospital, based on intelligence they've received. They say that's where Hamas has essentially built its infrastructure and is using that part of the hospital.

But take a look at the hospital complex. It is a massive facility in Gaza City. And we don't know exactly where in that facility they're operating. Again, they described it as a precise and targeted raid inside the hospital.

According to an Israeli -- senior Israeli military official, they've trained for this specific mission for a couple of weeks because of how specialized it has to be.

And that includes Arabic speakers to work with and talk to hospital officials, as well as patients and civilians. And then the training itself for how complex it is simply to operate in a military, in a hospital in the middle of what has been gunfights around the hospital and more.

Israel has long accused Hamas of using Al-Shifa Hospital for its terror infrastructure. A senior Israeli military official says they have evidence as part of this operation into Al-Shifa Hospital, that Hamas uses it. They say they will release that in the coming hours or sometime later.

So we will certainly want to see the evidence that they have here, because it's been such a central claim of some of the recent operations in and around Al-Shifa Hospital.


Meanwhile, they called, when they first made a statement about their operation there, calling for Hamas to surrender.

HARLOW: You know, Nada, we just heard in the reporting from that Palestinian journalist the gunfire that the doctor was saying he was hearing as he was trying to continue to do his work in the hospital.

But the IDF overnight came out with this statement and said that they've facilitated, quote, "wide-scale evacuations" of the hospital and maintained regular dialogue with hospital authorities.

I know a lot of the patients are still there, right. Hundreds, it's believed. How are they being impacted?

NADA BASHIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are hundreds of patients stuck inside Al-Shifa Hospital, including hundreds, as well, of medical staff. And of course, there are many people, hundreds gathered outside, civilians who are attempting to take shelter on the complex of the Al-Shifa Hospital.

Now, as we have heard those warnings from medical staff for the last couple days, many of these patients cannot be evacuated in an easy or straightforward manner. They require specialist medical evacuations.

And we've heard from doctors who have told us that, in order to evacuate some of these patients, they will need more time, and they will need security guarantees, which they haven't received yet.

Some of these patients, they said if they evacuate now, will die on the way. And that is the primary concern here.

We have seen doctors at Al-Shifa Hospital working under just challenging and horrific circumstances over the last couple of weeks. And these situations, these -- the situation they are facing has really been deteriorating by the hour.

We know, of course, that the Al-Shifa Hospital is not able to operate as a fully functional hospital anymore. We saw those videos of premature babies being removed from the neonatal unit at the hospital because of the lack of oxygen and supplies.

They were then taken to another part of the hospital, cuddled together, wrapped in blankets and foil to keep them warm.

And we've heard today from a number of human rights organizations and medical teams from across the globe, expressing widespread concern over the ongoing situation. We heard just a little earlier from the U.N.'s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, describing this situation as a huge point of concern, but also calling for hospitals not to be the treated as battlegrounds -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Oren, President Biden, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone. They've been doing that regularly since October 7th. While the read-outs of these calls are not exactly fulsome. You pay attention to the words.

And in last night's readout from the White House, he said that President Biden, the prime minister, discussed at length the efforts to free the hostages. That was a new framing of things.

It's obviously been a focus. We saw the rally in Washington. Tens of thousands, if not more people. You were marching with the families and friends and supporters of hostages yesterday. What's the latest on the negotiations?

LIEBERMANN: It is very much a focus, certainly, of the White House and also of the Israeli government, which has made it a two-pronged goal of defeating Hamas, as well as releasing the hostages.

You're right. The conversation was at length, which is notable wording in a read-out between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But there are few details other than that. Negotiations are ongoing, largely held with the Qataris, who communicate with Hamas, the CIA and the Mossad, also involved in those conversations, to try to make some sort of progress.

Worth noting, Israeli radio reported earlier today that the army has not found evidence that the hostages were found at Al-Shifa Hospital. So that part of the search continues as Israel tries to find some way to locate 239 hostages there.

It's also worth noting that Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, whose headquarters was right here behind us, he met earlier today with the White House's special coordinator for the Middle East.

Brett McGurk, in that discussion, according to a read-out of the call. Gallant, the defense minister, told McGurk that the operation would continue against Hamas until it's defeated and all the hostages are rescued. MATTINGLY: Oren Liebermann, Nada Bashir, thank you.

Just into CNN, in a matter of hours, FBI director Christopher Wray plans to issue a stark warning that the Israel-Hamas war has, quote, "raised the threat of an attack against Americans in the United States to a whole other level."

Wray is set to speak before the House Homeland Security Committee. In his prepared remarks, he emphasizes law enforcement's efforts to root out potential terror threats to the U.S., saying that the FBI has, quote, "kept our sights on Hamas and have multiple investigations into individuals affiliated with that foreign terrorist organization.

He also says, quote, "America should continue to be alert and careful, but they shouldn't stop going about their daily lives. All across the country, the FBI's men and women are working with urgency and purpose to confront the elevated threat" -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Today in California, high-stakes meeting for the president. He will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is summit there on economics. They will meet on the sidelines.

This sit-down follows months of tension, to say the least, over a bruising trade war, a devastating pandemic, and escalation on the military front.

U.S. officials say the main aim is to turn down the temperature and try to restore, especially, those military-to-military communications.


CNN senior national correspondent David Culver joins us from San Francisco, where the meeting will happen.

You have such unique perspective, because you spent three years in China under Xi Jinping as president. So the stakes are very high. What is the key that you believe people should look for out of this meeting?

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it's daunting, too, Poppy, when you think about all the issues that have taken place, even since President Xi's last visit six years ago.

I mean, the list, we can show you it. It's just seemingly never- ending. Any one of those on their own would be a major issue. Yet, you have them collectively, and you wonder where do you start? What do you prioritize here?

The biggest focus, more than anything else, is creating global stability. No pressure, right? That's tough, but that's certainly what many of the other 19 economies of the Asia-Pacific are going to be looking for as they're here for the other main event, of course, that being APEC.

But if you have, for example, an agreement on a Chinese crackdown on fentanyl, if you have the reestablishing of military communications between the U.S. and China. If you even perhaps get something out of climate, that would be a win, no question.

But these are very difficult things to come to an agreement on between the U.S. and China right now, when you just see so much is -- is really going in the opposite direction.

More than anything else, this is going to be about stopping the downward spiral, Poppy. It's something that we have seen over and over, saying what almost feels repetitive, in they're at all-time lows, but the low just keeps going down.

HARLOW: Yes. David, what about particularly, as it pertains to the war between Israel and Hamas, how Biden is expected to speak with Xi about China's relationship with Iran and Russia?

CULVER: He's going to want to leverage those relationships, right? I mean, he knows that China has a very cozy relationship with Iran, an even cozier one, if possible, with Russia.

I mean, President Xi has called President Putin his best friend. Those are his words. And he's made multiple visits with Putin in recent weeks and months.

And so the U.S. is going to likely heavily lean on that. The question will be if China will -- will bring action to this. Right? If there will be substance beyond just rhetoric. And that's what U.S. officials are obviously going to to want to see, beyond what happens here today.

HARLOW: David Culver, thank you so much. We'll watch for this critical meeting ahead -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: Overnight, President Biden responding to Donald Trump calling his political opponents, quote, "vermin." Biden likening the language to the rhetoric of Nazi Germany.

HARLOW: And Republican tension reaching quite a new peak in Congress. What a day yesterday. The verbal and physical smackdowns. Yes. That's ahead.



HARLOW: President Biden hitting back at former President Trump for calling his political rivals vermin. You'll remember he did that in a speech over Veterans Day over the weekend.

While speaking to donors yesterday, though, President Biden compared that comment from Trump to Nazi rhetoric. He said, quote, "That is language you hear -- you heard in Nazi Germany in the '30s."

With us now, CNN senior political analyst and anchor John Avlon and former Obama administration official Sarah Feinberg. It's great to have you guys.

Sara, you know Biden. You were in the Obama White House. He does not sort of jump on every wild thing -- wild is an understatement -- that Trump says, but he did on this one. And I wonder why you think that is.

SARA FEINBERG, FORMER NY STATE OFFICIAL: That's right. He doesn't always take the bait. But I think that -- I think he did on this, because it's so specific. And it's so offensive.

And I think to not call it out is -- is to do a disservice. And so I think he did the right thing by calling it out.

It would be nice if, over the next couple of days, we didn't have a debate about whether or not this was as offensive as we all know it to be. But if some people actually just turned away is and said, you know what? I've had it. This is enough. I can't do this anymore. Vermin is a step too far.

MATTINGLY: But to that point, John, turning away or ignoring it or trying to downplay it and just not paying attention and saying he's crazy, I feel like we've done it for six or seven years. And it doesn't have any effect.

And so to the extent for Biden and the campaign, last night was another night where after a fundraiser, I was talking to donors who were either there, or around the campaign, big supporters of Biden, who say, If only we saw this on camera every day, we would feel very comfortable about the message.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST/ANCHOR: Well, that's entirely within the president and the White House's power, to start playing offensive in public and showing what people say in private around the president.

And they should probably take that note from his supporters.

But I mean, look, the problem is -- is that Trump is degenerating into something before our eyes that is far uglier and more dangerous historically than what we've dealt with in the past.

It's not just the rhetoric that's authoritarian-adjacent. It's the policies that he's proposing. It's the -- it's the threats and the vengeance.

And it's not just -- you know, we should all be very, very cautious about Nazi parallels. But when -- you know, NYU historian Ruth Ben- Ghiat says, no, that's exactly the language of Hitler and Mussolini. The echoes are explicit. Then -- then you've got to say, OK, you know, we're heading into a dangerous place when that's paralleled the same weekend with talks of marshalling people into camps and mass deportations.

HARLOW: Switching gears here, Joe Manchin did an interview with Norah O'Donnell on -- on CBS. And of course, she asked the question at the front of everyone's mind. And that is, well, if you run as an independent, which is not something he's going to do, but there's a lot of speculation, doesn't -- doesn't that affect, cost one of the frontrunners? Here's his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I don't buy that scenario. I've heard that. And -- and I wouldn't buy that scenario, because if you look back in history how things have played out, I don't think they thought Ross Perot would elect Bill Clinton. Now that we see the same polls with -- with Bobby Kennedy Jr., would be helping - would be helping Joe Biden, because it takes votes from Donald Trump.


HARLOW: Someone at the table, both people at the table know a lot about the history of all this. John, we start with you. Is he right? Was it history tell us that?

AVLON: No. I mean, look, Ross Perot is a specific case where you can't say he took from -- from both candidates. But just take a look at the other two cases of prominent third-party candidates, you know, this century.

Ralph Nader absolutely cost Al Gore the president. Ninety-seven thousand votes from Florida. Bush wins by 537. OK? That's the Green Party voters who thought that Al Gore wasn't good enough on the environment.

Fast forward to 2016, Jill Stein, Green Party candidate, absolutely her vote total was the differential for Hillary Clinton in three states: you know, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Which cost her the presidency.


So you know, the problem is, it's not about third parties, per se. It's the stakes about this is a way that someone who has a very low approval rating like Donald Trump with a very narrow but intense base can win.

And nobody can predict how not just a No Labels candidacy, especially if handled by a Democrat, but Cornell West, Bobby Kennedy Jr., you know, all those independent candidates impact the overall trajectory. Impossible to say.

MATTINGLY: Sarah, you are our resident West Virginia native.

FEINBERG: Ask me anything.

MATTINGLY: And spent so many years in Democratic politics and know all the players, know all the planning, know how campaigns operate. To John's point, it's not just will Joe Manchin run, it's Jill Stein is in, RFK is -- RFK Jr. is in, Cornell West is in.

Is the proper amount of attention being paid to those candidates? What should Democrats be doing right now?

FEINBERG: You know, in terms of all of those potential third-party candidates, the one I would actually worry about the least is Joe Manchin. Not because he can't get votes, but because I think, of all those folks, he's the least likely to allow this to get to a point where he would cost Joe Biden the election.

Because at heart, he is a public servant. This is someone who is -- he certainly enjoys the spotlight. He's certainly struggling with the fact that I don't think he sees the path for -- the reason he's not running is he didn't see the path for reelection in West Virginia.

But ultimately, I do not think that he will allow the country to end up with Donald Trump because of him.

MATTINGLY: Stick around. Because we're not going to let you leave. I like hanging out with you guys. We'll get back to you in a minute.

Congress now on the path to averting a rapidly approaching government shutdown after House lawmakers passed a stopgap bill on Tuesday. How is the the Senate going to react?

HARLOW: Plus, Congress turns into an episode of Jerry Springer. Seriously. It did. It was a great show, by the way. And one of the most bizarre days we've ever seen.


SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): You want to run your mouth, we can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here.

SEAN O'BRIEN, LABOR LEADER: OK. That's fine, perfect.

MULLIN: You want to do it now?

O'BRIEN: I'd love to do it right now.

MULLIN: Stand your butt up then.

O'BRIEN: You stand your butt up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that your solution?

SANDERS: Sit down. You're a United States senator.




HARLOW: Choose your word: fiasco, circus, mess. This is your U.S. Congress at work, or maybe at war.

Capitol Hill on Tuesday more closely resembled a bad remake of "Fight Club" in two great legislative bodies.

The House managed to pass a stopgap bill to avert a government shutdown, but it still needs approval from the Senate. That Bill extends funding until the middle of January for priorities like military construction, veterans affairs, transportation, housing and the Energy Department.

The rest of the government, everything not covered in the first step, will be funded through early February. The bill doesn't include any additional aid to the Ukraine or Israel. That's progress. Right?

Progress before a potential shutdown. But lawmakers managed to find plenty of time for nothing more than schoolyard antics.

Phil, you have covered Congress for more than a decade, and I actually think it's the fact that you're no longer there that they are all misbehaving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that is -- I don't want to speculate, but I do feel like that's not an unimportant element of all this.

Look, Poppy, as you know well, Congress is a lot like high school. There's clicks. There's a cool crowd. There's the nerds and the wonks. There's the jocks. The place operates a lot like that awkward four- year window we all experienced in our teenage years.

Not Poppy, but me, at least.

Over the course of three hours on Tuesday, though, that reality was laid particularly bear.

Let's start here. This is Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Tennessee Congressman Tim Burchett. They don't like each other. That's just true.

In the lead-up to McCarthy's ouster last month, Burchett thought McCarthy mocked his faith. That didn't end well for McCarthy. Why do we know that?

Well, of the eight Republicans who voted to oust Kevin McCarthy, one of them was Tim Burchett.

Now McCarthy's verbal disdain for all eight of these Republicans hasn't been subtle, but according to Burchett, a reporter who witnessed what actually transpired, it turned physical on Tuesday when McCarthy walked by Burchett in the hallway and elbowed him in the kidneys.

It's like a freshman year hallway dust-up. Now, to be clear, McCarthy denies anything intentional.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): No, I did not elbow him. No, I would not elbow him. I would not hit him in the kidney. AC-5, you're all down there, right? Not a very big hallway.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not a very big hallway. Let's show you the hallway. That is a hallway. It's the hallway in the basement of the Capitol building. It leads into where House Republicans hold their conference meetings.

It's a place where reporters stake out lawmakers. There were, in fact, more people in this space when the alleged altercation happened, but it wasn't packed, according to people there, including Tim Burchett.


REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): There's 435 congressmen. I was one of eight that voted against him. That hallway was -- there's plenty of room. You can walk four side by side. Hoe he chose to do what he did.


HARLOW: Good thing we're going to be joined by Tim Burchett a little bit later in the show.


HARLOW: That wasn't it. There's another one.

MATTINGLY: Yes. There was actually a second one, and it may have actually been even worse.

So who are these individuals? This was the equivalent, basically, Poppy, of the testosterone-filled locker room flex-off, to some degree. Sen. Markwayne Mullin --

HARLOW: You said it, not me.

MATTINGLY: -- of Oklahoma. That's what I've been told. I would say that necessarily. Sean O'Brien, who's a labor leader.

Now, the scene was a Senate hearing on unions. That's where O'Brien's past tweets became an issue, including one in which O'Brien called the Oklahoma senator a clown. And added, "You know where to find me. Any place, any time." Well --


MULLIN: You want to run your mouth, we can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here.

O'BRIEN: OK. That's fine, perfect.

MULLIN: You want to do it now?

O'BRIEN: I'd love to do it right now.

MULLIN: Stand your butt up then.

O'BRIEN:: You stand your butt up.

SANDERS: Stop it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that your solution?

SANDERS: Sit down. Sit down. You know, you're a United States senator.


MATTINGLY: I love Bernie Sanders, the peacemaker. You'll notice Mullin reaching to take off his wedding ring in that clip. It's a classic prefight move. It's a move you might do at a bar late at night when you're making really bad choices.

Not necessarily in a Senate hearing room. That's a new one. But it does seem like we're moving on from the teenage to adult years. The reversion to high school was quick.

HARLOW: And it's not it. Right, Phil?


O'BRIEN: He made a lot of statements. Right? And his statements are fiction, at best.

MULLIN: Fiction? I read them!

O'BRIEN: Reer-reer-reer. What?

SANDERS: Answer the question, please.

O'BRIEN: I can't understand him, to be honest with you. He rambles so much.


MATTINGLY: I'm sorry, that's just funny, to some degree, but it's not exactly decorum for the world's greatest deliberative body.

A quick note here. And I do think this is important to add.