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FBI Director Christopher Wray to Testify to Congress that Israel-Hamas War Raises Threat of Attack against U.S.; President Biden to Meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping; Man Who Believed His Daughter Killed by Hamas in October 7th Attack on Israel Now Learns She May Still be Alive and Held Captive in Gaza. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 15, 2023 - 08:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think it's the economy?


HARLOW: Thank you, guy. Jim, Mark.

MATTINGLY: Thank you, guys, appreciate it, Jim and Mark.

And CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.

HARLOW: And happening right now -- we're glad you're with us. We have this news. The Israeli military is launching on operation as we speak inside of Gaza's largest hospital where thousands of civilians have been sheltering. This all comes as President Biden says he believes a deal with Hamas to release hostages is, quote, going to happen.

MATTINGLY: Just hours from now, a face-to-face meeting between the world's most powerful rivals, or competitors. President Biden set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping as he tries to prevent tensions between the two from spiraling.

HARLOW: Also this hour, we are about to find out how retail sales have been faring leading up to the crucial holiday season. So check on the economy. Much more ahead. This hour of CNN THIS MORNING is now.

MATTINGLY: And happening right now, Israeli troops carrying out an operation, an ongoing operation, inside Gaza's largest hospital, Al Shifa. A Palestinian official says the soldiers entered the basement and ground floor of the hospital's surgery building and interrogated medical staff. The IDF releasing video claiming to show its troops dropping off aid at the hospital entrance. CNN cannot independently verify this because we're not on the ground right now, and CNN has not been able to reach the hospital for confirmation.

HARLOW: The IDF has accused Hamas of running a command center beneath the hospital and also using civilians above as human shields had. The Israeli military is calling this a precise and a targeted operation based on their intelligence. We will be joined by a spokesperson for the IDF in just minutes. MATTINGLY: Meanwhile, here at home FBI Director Christopher Wray is

about to speak to Congress and 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. CNN's Evan Perez joins us now. Evan, we're going to see this testimony shortly. Are you surprised by the level of concern that Wray appears to be about to tell lawmakers?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We have heard a lot, Phil, from the FBI director in the weeks since the attack in southern Israel from Hamas. And one of the concerns that he has been raising is the issue of that -- is the issue of terrorism in the United States inspired by what happened in Israel. And, of course, the threat level against Jewish Americans, against Muslim-Americans inside the United States.

I'll read you just a part of his testimony where he says in a year where the terrorism threat was already elevated, the ongoing war in the Middle East has raised the threat of an attack against Americans in the United States to a whole other level. And he talks a little bit about the rogue's gallery of terror organization. Some of it, obviously, Hamas and Hezbollah, supported by Iran, but also Al-Qaeda and ISIS who are making threats against U.S. interests in the Middle East against Americans in the United States.

And the concern always is, of course, that someone will get through the dragnet that sometimes the FBI tries to put that in place to protect Americans in times like these.

HARLOW: Evan, what about what -- to quote Christopher Wray in these prepared remarks, these multiple investigations into individuals affiliated with Hamas. I wonder if that was striking to you.

PEREZ: It is. We have known, Poppy, that the Hamas has a presence in the United States, supporters of Hamas have been here for many years. A lot of it focused on financing of Hamas. They have never really seen an effort by Hamas to a strike inside the United States. But they are doing -- the FBI is doing a reassessment of that in light of what happened in Israel on October 7th, and that's one of the things that you see here from the FBI director is that they are investigating multiple people associated with groups, not only Hamas, but other terrorist organizations in the United States. And it's something they do periodically, especially after a big event as what happened here, Phil and Poppy. Of course, Republicans are going to ask questions about Hunter Biden and other things, so you can bet this is going to be an interesting hearing.

MATTINGLY: I think you're going to be busy today, Evan. Evan Perez, thank you, as always.

HARLOW: So later today, President Biden will sit down with Chinese President Xi Jinping near San Francisco. It is a highly anticipated meeting with very high stakes for the world. Xi is in the U.S. to attend the Asia-Pacific economic cooperation summit. He landed in the Bay Area yesterday. And President Biden spoke about what he hopes to get out of this meeting. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How would you define success with your meeting with President Xi?

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To get back on a normal course of corresponding, being able to pick up the phone and talk to one another if there's a crisis, being able to make sure our militaries still have contact with one another. We are not trying to decouple from China. But what we're trying to do is change the relationship.


MATTINGLY: Joining us to discuss, Bobby Ghosh, editor and "Foreign Affairs" columnist, and Hagar Chemali, former spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the U.N. and host of the "Oh My World" web series, which is great, by the way.


HARLOW: It is.

MATTINGLY: Bobby, it sounds like a low bar laid out by President Biden, but just to tick through what's happened since the two leaders met in Bali at the G20 last year, the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon. U.S. commerce secretary emails hack. Secret Chinese police station was busted in New York City. Chinese tensions with Taiwan obviously continue to escalate as well as in the South China Sea. They also took away the pandas.

HARLOW: Phil is very personally upset about that.

BOBBY GHOSH, COLUMNIST ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, "BLOOMBERG": I have a controversial view on this.

MATTINGLY: But it has been a very, very difficult year for this relationship in a concerning manner. So the low bar, do you think that's enough?

GHOSH: It's essential for the world economy, for the security of the world. The two most powerful people should be able to get on the phone and speak to each other. It is a low bar, but, as you say, this has been a year of incredible tension between the two sides. Xi was practically ghosting Joe Biden earlier in the year. You need to begin to talk before you can begin to address more important things.

Now, the signals we are getting is that they are going to address some of the important things. So there's already talk of the fentanyl issue, that China will crack down on the factories and labs that produce the sort of materials that go into making fentanyl. This is not a small thing. This is an important achievement.

The larger world audience will be looking for more than that, though. They will be looking for a reassurance in a time when we have two raging wars going on, in a time when the climate change crisis seems to be getting progressively worse and worse. We need the two most powerful men in the world to be able to communicate.

Symbolically, that is not unimportant. Let me put it that way. It would be great if they could get much more done, and we know that there has been weeks of negotiations by officials on both sides before this meeting takes place. This meeting will last for a considerable period of time, several hours. So we can hope that something more meaningful would be achieved. But if it isn't, and if all we get out of this is they shake hands and agree to talk again, that's not bad.

HARLOW: And our militaries talking again, because remember, in February, Lloyd Austin saying his counterpart would not pick up the phone. So that's key as well.

I thought it was interesting little nugget that they are not going to issue some joint statement. Each country will provide their own accounting of the meeting. And David Sanger is reporting in "The New York Times" that Chinese officials say Xi will look for assurance from Biden that the U.S., quote, does not seek a new cold war. I thought that was interesting.

HAGAR CHEMALI, FORMER NSC DIRECTOR FOR SYRIA AND LEBANON: It is interesting because we have been trying to move away from that kind of rhetoric. And to be fair, while things have been extremely tense and cold, particularly over the last year, as you all laid out, what undermines anyway the idea we would get to a cold war is the fact that we have ongoing trade. China remains our largest --

HARLOW: And a lot of it.

CHEMALI: Yes. And by the way, since 2018, meaning since President Trump's term, trade between us and China has only gone up, and a large part of that is because of U.S. exports to China. And that prevents things from getting too bad.

But that said, the military-to-military channel is critical and it shows you how bad things have become when even that is an achievement, because we maintain military channels with all of our adversaries, for example, including Russia. The thing that I think is the most important, that I see as this milestone, is that the Biden administration is trying to shift the general tone in the United States in Washington away from hawkish rhetoric, which has been the case for the last year, from both Republicans and Democrats, to something where the Chinese don't feel defensive, and where we have groundwork to work together.

HARLOW: But there is concern, Bobby, the House Select Committee on China sent a letter to Biden ahead of this saying that they are basically concerned that exactly what Hagar is talking about comes at an unacceptable cost, they call it, to our competitive or defensive actions, that these are being delayed by the Biden administration. Are there risks that approach, too?

GHOSH: Biden has to walk that fine line. And he is being attacked at home for being soft on China. There is polling to suggest that Americans think that Trump would do a better job dealing with China than Biden. This is not a happy situation for a president going into a reelection campaign. So he has that problem.

To the point that David Sanger makes, that China wants assurances, Michael Lewis (ph) of "Bloomberg Opinion" has also made the really interesting point which is that China is also looking for acceptance. Xi wants to be seen as a world leader. He wants Biden to acknowledge his role as a world leader. So part of the challenge for Biden is to give Xi, as the Chinese say, give him face. Allow him to behave like a world leader while reminding him that that comes with responsibility. So you can't just swan around and say you are a world leader. You have to take responsibility for some of the world's problems, to the point that -- to your previous segment, there is a war going on in -- between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East.


China, where is China? If you are a leader of the world, you need to take a role in trying to solve the world's problems.

HARLOW: Sure, especially given your Relationship and actions with Iran and Russia.

Thank you, Bobby. Thank you, Hagar. Great to have you.

MATTINGLY: President Biden offering hope to families of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, telling reporters he belief a deal is, quote, going to happen.

HARLOW: We are going to be joined by a father anxiously awaiting news about his eight-year-old daughter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I went, yes! I went, yes! And smiled, because that is the best news of the possibilities that I knew.


HARLOW: When he believed that his daughter was not kidnapped and had been killed, weeks later Israeli army said they believed Emily is still alive and is a hostage now. Her father, Thomas, is with us.


MATTINGLY: President Biden is expressing optimism about a potential deal to free some of the hostages held by Hamas, telling reporters yesterday he believes it's, quote, going to happen. Families of the Americans believed to be held hostage will meet with officials at the State Department and on Capitol Hill today. That comes after thousands of demonstrators filled the National Mall yesterday in the march for Israel, many showing support for those hostages.

Now, the family of eight-year-old Emily Hand are anxiously awaiting news. Emily, you see here there, was initially believed to have been killed during the October 7th Hamas attacks but is now believed to be among the 239 hostages. Before learning his daughter was alive, Emily's father memorably, painfully told CNN's Clarissa Ward that her death was a better alternative than being held captive by Hamas.



THOMAS HAND, FATHER OF EMILY HELD HOSTAGE IN GAZA: That was the best possibility that I was hoping for. She was either dead or in Gaza. And if you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza, that is worse than death.


HARLOW: Emily's father was planning to bury his daughter alongside her mother, who died from cancer several years ago. And now, he is waiting for a chance to hug his beautiful little girl. Emily turns nine this Friday.


HAND: She won't even know what day is. She won't know what day it is. She won't know it's her birthday. There'll be no birthday cake, no party, no friends. She'll just be petrified in a tunnel under Gaza. That's her birthday.


HARLOW: Emily's father, Thomas Hand, is with us now.

HAND: Good morning.

HARLOW: Good morning, we have been watching you, grieving with you, hoping for you, and now you are here in the fight of your life for your daughter, who turns nine on Friday. Tell us about that fight.

HAND: We've been working nonstop to put pressure on all the governments all over the world to do their best to get particularly my little Emily back home. She's an Irish citizen, so we put a lot of pressure on the Irish government to get her back.

We're doing everything that we possibly can to get her home. And all the hostages, at least the children, could start off with the babies. And the children, they've got babies being kidnapped over there.

MATTINGLY: Poppy makes, I think, such a shaken point. All of us were very shaken when we watched your interview with Clarissa Ward, I think. And then we kind of riding the roller coaster with you, obviously to a significantly lesser degree when we saw your interview with Ed Lavendera, where things had changed.

What has been the response to you? Because I can't imagine how painful and difficult it is to have to come out and talk about this. But I also imagine the support for what you've been saying has been tremendous.

HAND: The support worldwide is tremendous. I've got people in Brazil sending me messages of comfort and support. Yeah, the campaign is viral, I suppose you'd call it. It's been great, the support that we're being given.

HARLOW: In the last 24 hours, President Biden had a lengthy call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Biden came out of that call and said he believes it's, quote, "going to happen." Does that give you more hope that they're going to get out?

HAND: Of course, you know, America has a lot of influence all over the world. If he says that, obviously he knows more than I do. And, yeah, every little bit of information gives us hope that we can get Emily and least the children and babies out of Gaza.

MATTINGLY: How often are you getting information either from the Irish officials, or the US officials?

HAND: Very, very little. Nobody really knows anything. I know for a fact that she's not dead. I know for a fact that she was led away by the Hamas Terrorists. There are eyewitness accounts of it. Someone saw her being led away, her and her friend and her friend's mother.

HARLOW: Can I ask you, say I know for a fact, and that is the reporting, but do you also feel it? You know parents feel something with their children that is in a bond like no other. Can you feel Emily?

HAND: No, my feelings. I can't let my feelings interfere with getting her back. It's like a campaign, we just keep moving forward. I don't even see the interviews. I don't have time to look at the interviews. I don't watch the news. I haven't got time for it, it's just full on., get Emily back.

HARLOW: And to that point, part of that is going to happen in Times Square right here in the middle of New York. Right? Yeah, what are you doing?

HAND: Big billboards of, I guess, for sure. Emily.


And marching on from there. Just to keep Emily, just to keep her alive in people's minds and hearts.

MATTINGLY: We mentioned, and you've spoken about her birthday on Friday, the billboards kind of driving and not being able to stop and think how much of that is because you have a goal here, because you have a true purpose in North Star, and how much of that is because you don't want to stop and think about what's going on right now?

HAND: Yeah, I actually keep her in a special place. I don't want to imagine what she's going through every day for 38 days now. I can't think about it, it would be too painful. You know she's down in the tunnels of Gaza with the Hamas. I don't want to think of what conditions she's in, how she's being treated, how she's being fed if she's being given water, and just, has she got a toothbrush and toothpaste?

Toilet facilities? These are tunnels underneath Gaza. I don't know, could be like the train carts in the Second World War. They were just all in a cattle car and pee and poo where you stood. I don't know.

HARLOW: I know, you have said when you get her back, you will take her to Disney World and you will give her the world, and she is so lucky to have you.

HAND: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you for being with us.

HAND: Yeah. I'm not going to send her to school for at least a year. We're going to give her the world, just happy times, and fix her. She's not going to come back, none of them are going to come back the way they went in. They're going to be mentally physically and emotionally broken, and that's going to take a lot of fixing.

That's going to take a lot of time and energy to fix her, but we'll do it. We'll do everything we can to fix her.

MATTINGLY: We hope and pray for that moment when you get to give her the world. Anything you need or we can do to continue to get the message out, please just let us know. We are very grateful for your time.

HAND: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, sir, we'll be right back.




HARLOW: Well, new this morning, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin will not say if he will vote for President Biden in 2024, listen.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: I think that's, it's a hypothetical question, thinking, not knowing what we're going to have and who we're going to have to make a choice right now. Okay, let me just say I could not vote for Donald Trump.

CBS REPORTER: But you're not convinced you could vote for Joe Biden?

MANCHIN: Well, I want President Biden, I would hope the changes would come.


HARLOW: This comes as Biden is facing an uphill battle with a key group that helped put him in the White House, young voters in Georgia. Jeff Zeleny visited two colleges in Atlanta. He joins us this morning. He needs those votes, what did those young voters say?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIR CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Poppy, good morning. You're right, I mean, young voters are a critical part of the peace that helped President Biden's winning coalition come together. But as we talk to young voters, the economy is on their minds. The war in the Middle East, also the president's age.


KERRY SINGLETON, STUDENT, MOREHOUSE COLLEGE: People may not vote because they'll say, well, this happened under the Biden-Harris Administration.

ZELENY: As Kerry Singleton looks ahead to the next Presidential election, he's thinking back to the promises he heard President Biden and Vice President Harris deliver on a visit to Atlanta. Pass the Freedom to Vote Act, pass it now. On that winter day, the President was closing in on his first year in office.

Hopes were high for Singleton and other students on the grounds of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College. Since then, voting rights legislation stalled, the Supreme Court rejected a student loan forgiveness plan, and high prices from food to housing are fueling economic anxieties.

SINGLETON: I do think that everyone is willing to hold the administration accountable for some of those promises that were made, and if they don't happen, I think it's going to be a scary election.

ZELENY: For all the warning signs facing the president a year before the election, the skepticism and apathy of young voters rank high.

NABILAH ISLAM PARKES, (D) GEORGIA STATE SENATE: Folks just feel poorer right now than they did two years ago. There's going to have to be a lot of conversations about how we feel like our issues are being heard.

ZELENY: Nabila Islam Parkes is the youngest woman to win a seat in the Georgia Senate in 2020. She went door to door in the Atlanta suburbs, building a coalition to help Biden turn the state blue. That coalition, she said, could be fractured by the President's handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

PARKES: I think that young voters recognize you can't bomb your way to peace and security, and so we do feel uncomfortable with that.

ZELENY: Rachel Carroll's first vote for president went to Biden. She said she doesn't regret it, given the alternative, but finds herself disappointed by some priorities of the White House.

RACHEL CARROLL, YOUNG VOTER: If they can fund a war, they can find the money to pay off our student loans.

ZELENY: Young voters were a critical component of the president's victory, particularly here in Georgia, where Biden defeated Donald Trump by only 11,779 votes out of nearly 5 million cast. Exit polls in 2020 show that voters, 18 to 29, made up 20 percent of the Georgia electorate, the only state of the top six battlegrounds where the percentage of young voters exceeded the national share of 7 percent. Biden won young Georgia voters by 13 points, according to exit polls.

But now, a year before the 2024 election, surveys show.