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Texas Governor to Sign Illegal Immigrant Bill; Liz Naftali is Interviewed about the Hostages in Gaza; Garrett Graff is Interviewed about UFOs. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 16, 2023 - 08:30   ET





Texas Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign a bill into law that makes it a crime to enter that state illegally. It's really an extraordinary step in the battle at the border. It is Senate Bill 4 and it gives local law enforcement the power to arrest migrants. It also gives judges there the power to remove violators to Mexico. Civil rights groups, advocacy groups call this bill anti-migrant. The ACLU has vowed to sue the governor.

Our own Rosa Flores is covering all of it for us from Houston this morning.

Rosa, what can you tell us?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, there's a real concern in this state that this could lead to racial profiling. And here's why this is a real concern. This bill says that all law enforcement in this state, including local law enforcement, have the power to arrest for illegal entry or illegal presence in the state.

Well, what does that exactly mean? How will a police officer determine if an individual is illegally present in the state of Texas? It's going to be up to that police officer. And Democratic lawmakers tried to amend this bill to add clarifying language, to define certain terms, to set guardrails, but every step of the way they were met with roadblocks.

And I want to take you inside the Texas House where this debate was happening and take a listen to this. This is an exchange between a Democratic lawmaker here from Houston and the author of this bill.

Take a listen.


ANN JOHNSON (D), TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Let's say Mary and I are walking together near the border. Are they going to look at her skin color versus mine and make a determination, surely she needs to be investigated for potentially crossing?

DAVID SPILLER (R), TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I think -- I think clearly the officers are going to make a - they're going to look at the entirety -

JOHNSON: Look, and this is not funny because my wife is Hispanic. And there is a difference when I am drive a car, I see an officer and I wave. There is a difference for people. Chairman Wally (ph) said it, we don't live in their skin.


FLORES: Now, the author of this bill maintains that this bill will not lead to racial profiling and that it is constitutional. But, Poppy, I've got to add, 30 former immigration judges, and these are former judges that serve under Democratic and Republican administrations, felt so compelled to issue a statement saying that this bill is unlawful because immigration is in the federal purview.


It's a federal power that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. And what these judges point to specifically is that this bill gives judges the power to issue removal orders. Poppy, that's a really fancy way to say deportations, which has always been in the federal purview.


HARLOW: Yes. And now that, you make such a good point, is going to be tested in the courts. And I would suspect go up pretty high.

Rosa, thank you very much.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, happening now, families of hostages held in Gaza are marching in Israel this morning. They are marching to Jerusalem. President Biden says he's hopeful a deal can be brokered to free the more than 200 hostages held in Gaza. Next, we will speak to the great aunt of a three-year-old who was taken hostage after her parents were killed on October 7th.

Stay with us.


MATTINGLY: Right now families of some of the hostages taken by Hamas are marching from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It's part of their five-day march that will ends at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office. Yesterday, President Biden reiterated he has some degree of optimism about a potential deal to free hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been deeply involved in moving on the hostage negotiation.

I don't want to get ahead of myself here because I don't know what's happened in the last four hours. But they're -- I have - we've gotten great cooperation from the Qataris.

I am mildly hopeful. I'm mildly hopeful.


MATTINGLY: Among those clinging to that hope and any words from the president are the residents of Abigail Edan. You see her right there. She's a three-year-old Israeli American who relatives say President Biden referred to in a call with Qatar earlier this week. He was also asked about her last night that that press conference.

According to Abigail's family, her mother was killed, and the toddler was in her father's arms when he was shot and killed on October 7th during the terror attack. Witnesses say Abigail ran to a neighbor's house for shelter, was later kidnapped along with another family.

Joining us now is Liz Naftali, Abigail's great aunt. She was appointed as a member of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad by President Biden in 2022.

I want to start with what's on your jacket.


MATTINGLY: It's a number.


MATTINGLY: Handwritten.


MATTINGLY: What does it represent?

NAFTALI: So, this number, 41, represents how long these hostages have been in Gaza, abducted civilians from their homes, from their kibbutzs, from their - from the concert, the peace concert that many young people were attending. And it - it just gives an understanding of how long these families members, all of our family members have been taken and gone and in the dark, we assume, somewhere in Gaza.

HARLOW: In Abigail's eyes, I think so many people can see their children.


HARLOW: Can you tell us about her?

NAFTALI: So, I just -- I will just show this picture of Abigail. And I know she's on the screen behind me. But I carry this. And I will just say that many people in the -- that we've met with are carrying this photo. And I have had so many people saying they are praying for Abigail. And I think that we all look at this little girl and we think she could be our daughter. She could be our granddaughter, our niece.

And when I met her mother, this is how old she was. And this is what she looked like. So, when I see this picture, I see her mother, who was killed on October 7th. And when I also see this picture, its what gives me the strength because, to keep telling these stories, for all of our hostage families, and to keep going and talking and talking, we have to. It's really hard. But the one thing that I look at is this child. And I believe she's alive. And I believe with everybody's love, support and the work that so many are doing, that we will bring her and many of the hostages back home.

MATTINGLY: One of the things we've heard from so many families is the lack of concrete information has been extremely difficult.


MATTINGLY: How did you guys learn that she was still alive?

NAFTALI: Well, you referenced the story in the beginning.


NAFTALI: So, what I will say is that when she was in her father's arms with her older brother and sister, six and 10, and they were running, he was shot and murdered as they were running by a terrorist. A Hamas terrorist. The kibbutz took a couple of days to be able to clear of the Hamas terrorists. It was so -- there were so many of them.

And so what we learned afterwards was that Abigail -- and it took us a few days. We really all thought Abigail had died in the beginning because her brother and sister, when this happened, he fell on to Abigail and they thought she had died. So, the two of them ran home and locked themselves in a closet for 14 hours. They were the only reporters we had. They were in a closet telling the family what was happening.

Just to give you an understanding, in those 14 hours, they were telling their grandparents, my sister-in-law, what happened. And she was not on the kibbutz that day. She lives there, but she was on a trip with the kibbutz in Bulgaria. And she said to them on Facetime, why is it so dark? And they said, we're in a closet.

And they then told this woman that her daughter and son-in-law had been murdered, and Abigail. And this mother-in-law didn't even believe it and she actually had them go out for a second to show them, to show her what happened. I mean, you couldn't believe this.

So, what - what happened with Abigail is that she was under her father's body and she came from under, bloodied by his body, by his blood, and walked to a neighbor. They let her in. A family. A beautiful family let her in, a husband, wife, and three kids, very young. They put her in the safe room. And the husband went out to defend the kibbutz. And when he didn't come back, because he was injured, nobody knew what was happening, but another member of the kibbutz had seen the terrorists walking this mother out with these four children.

This took us a few days because of everything. And when we learned that, we understood that this mother, her three kids and Abigail were all hostages.


This father has been doing all he can to bring attention to the story in Israel. And on our side, we bring attention to the story. And I just pray that this mother is with these four kids and with Abigail and just hugging them. Hugging them. It's 41 days.

HARLOW: One of the ways that you are keeping their names and their faces ever present is that right there. Can you explain it?

NAFTALI: Yes. So, this is a -- this is like a poster that I have handed out to people on The Hill. Anyone that is involved in this. And I basically point out that on this are all of these hostages. There's 239. Last week there were 240. One young woman was -- went alive and has been murdered. So, there's 239.

But this represents people. The kids that I talked about from this family and their mother are on this poster. These are real people. And I just want people to understand when we talk, it's not numbers, they're lives.

HARLOW: Yes, they certainly are.

MATTINGLY: We - we're grateful for your time. If there's anything you or the family needs, please come back to us. Yes, go ahead.

NAFTALI: I just want to say one thing. You know, they've been there for 241 days. Most of us, next Thursday, a week from today, are going to be celebrating Thanksgiving. We are going to sit down with your friends and our family. The members of this group, and many are Americans, but many are from 30 nations, Thursday, any day where there's a celebration, they will not be together. And I think that that's a message that I want people to understand.

And Abigail's birthday's Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. And we just want Abigail home. We want Abigail to come home and celebrate her fourth birthday with her family, with her brother and sister. And that's really the message. These are real people. And this is humanitarian. And we need to bring them home.

MATTINGLY: Liz Naftali, thank you very much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

NAFTALI: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

HARLOW: Of course.

We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


HARLOW: After only 18 months on the job, the head of the Pentagon office responsible for investigating UFOs is stepping down from his post next month. Sean Kirkpatrick, the director of the All Domain Anomaly Resolution Office, that's the official name, says, quote, "I'm ready to move on. I have accomplished everything I was going to do."

Just this summer Kirkpatrick warned that various reported sightings of unidentified flying objects over the United States could be attributed to either foreign powers or to aliens, with the later being a more concerning possibility.

Joining us now is journalist Garrett Graff. He's also the author of this new book, "UFO: The Inside Story of the U.S. Government's Search for Alien Life Here and Out There."

It's great to have you.

GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, "UFO: THE INSIDE STORY": Thanks so much for having me back.

HARLOW: For people who questioned or just wrote this off, that all changed when John Brennan said something really important a couple of years ago. And that inspired you to write this.

GRAFF: Yes, you know, this has been a topic that serious people are now talking about seriously. There was sort of this wave of reporting in 2017 by "New York Times" and "Politico" about the Pentagon's efforts around paranormal activity and UAP, UFO sightings.

And what really struck me was John Brennan gave this interview in December 2020 where he said in effect there's something out there flying around, it puzzles us and it may constitute something that may be a new form of life. And that's a really startling comment coming from someone in a position like John Brennan, former CIA director -


GRAFF: Former White House homeland security adviser, because, like, if John Brennan wants to know the answer to a question, there are a lot of people who try to answer that question. And if he's leaving office with a question like this, that was worth diving in to me.

MATTINGLY: In the course of your reporting on this, did you feel like there's a lot that the U.S. government knows that they aren't talking about, or that there's a lot of willful ignorance related to the issue in terms of their willingness to actually find answers to those types of questions.

GRAFF: Yes, and this is one of the things that's a little bit challenging to untangle sort of fact and fiction and mythology here because there absolutely is a government coverup around UFOs. It's not necessarily, I think, the coverup that most people think it is, that, you know, some chunk of this is the government's own secret spy planes and things that we're developing, operations on our own.

Some check of it is adversarial technology being tested against us. Chinese drones, Iranian drones. But I think at the core of all of that, there's a coverup of the government's ignorance, that actually John Brennan was right, that they don't know what these things are. That puzzles them. And that's a really hard answer for a bureaucracy to give when you're in charge of national security to say, we don't know what these things are.

HARLOW: Well, that's quite an allegation to be (ph) a cover up. It's something you argue in the book. But just for our viewers, I want them to hear what Kirkpatrick said before he said he was going to step down. He said it was, quote, "insulting" to have a whistleblower allege that there's a cover up and that he and his staff are truth seekers.

Your response to him?

GRAFF: Yes, so he's referencing a series of allegations and some congressional testimony this summer -


GRAFF: From a whistleblower named David Grusch.


GRAFF: Who -- who talked about the government was actually covering up alien ships, extra-terrestrial intelligence contacts, and even alien bodies. And I don't go that far in this book. I think that there are actually reasons to doubt some of the pieces of the man, David Grusch's, testimony.

But I do think that there is - that there are sort of answers here that are worth finding and solving. You know, part of what is interesting about this to me is this book sort of weaves together both the search for extra terrestrial intelligence across the universe, and then the military's hunt for - to solve UFOs here.

And that actually there's some fascinating science that I think is at the core of what UAP, UFO sightings are. Atmospheric science, meteorological science, astronomical science and physics that we don't yet know -



GRAFF: That may end up being incredibly weird answers to what UFOs and UAPs actually are.

MATTINGLY: Structurally, the effort now underway - there's a lot of Hill - potentially on The Hill. You were talking about serious people. There's people within the Pentagon, the administration. Again, to your point on Brennan, which I think is such a good thread through this whole thing. If people at that level of government want answer, they can get them, particularly in the national security side of things.


MATTINGLY: Do you feel like there has been a shift? Now they're trying to actually get answers?

GRAFF: I think that they are trying harder. And, in fact, we've seen some interesting answers already come out of this. The Pentagon has said, as part of this study, that they have discovered a heretofore unknown trans-median Chinese drone. That's a drone that comes out of the water and transitions to flight, which is a technology the Pentagon did not realize China had until they began looking into these studies - looking into these sightings more seriously.

MATTINGLY: You want to get one more?

HARLOW: We're out of time.

MATTINGLY: They always tell us in our ear we can't talk anymore when we get really interested in conversations.

HARLOW: We're always so interested in what you write. Congratulations. Clearly it was a huge undertaking.

GRAFF: Thanks so much for having me today.

HARLOW: Yes, thanks, Garrett.

MATTINGLY: And, again, maybe take a year off so the rest of us don't feel as -

HARLOW: But he - he is. We're proud of you. Thanks, Garrett.


MATTINGLY: The book is "UFO: The Inside Story of the U.S. Government's Search for Alien Life Here and Out There." Pick it up. It's great. As all of Garrett's work always is.

And happening now, Jewish demonstrators in Boston blocking rush hour traffic, demanding a ceasefire. Our coverage continues with "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" right after this break.