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IDF Says, Tunnel Shaft and Weapons Found at Al-Shifa Hospital; Special Counsel Now Using California Grand Jury in Hunter Biden Probe, Suggests New Charges Coming; Rep. George Santos (R-NY) Won't Seek Re- Election After Ethics Report. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 17, 2023 - 07:00   ET


SHEENA MEADE, CEO, CLEAN SLATE INITIATIVE: And it was surreal yesterday.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm so glad you brought up big companies, because that's something, for example, JPMorgan for years has been trying to hire more of them. But big companies need to now act, right, in hiring people.

MEADE: Yes. People are eligible now to like come back to work. And so there is a responsibility for the workforce to say now, welcome people back into the workforce and laborers. Let's build our economy together.

HARLOW: Sheena Meade, the work you've done is extraordinary.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: It's incredible. Thank you for coming in, Sheera. We appreciate it.

And CNN This Morning continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Israel revealing new evidence of a Hamas tunnel at Gaza's the largest hospital.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Israelis are standing by it, the Americans are standing by it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mounting concern for the safety and security of those inside the Al-Shifa complex.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: The Department of Education is launching investigations into seven schools about alleged incidents of anti- Semitism and Islamophobia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just calling on the party to do what 80 percent of its voters are asking.

JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: There are strong feeling here on all sides. Now is not the time for a ceasefire.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Ferragamo, an adult website and Botox? A scathing new report says that George Santos misspent thousands of his donors' dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not going to seeking a second term.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Support is growing to expel among Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He alienated his OnlyFans spending money on OnlyFans.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A CNN exclusive, sources say the special counsel investigating Hunter Biden is now also using a grand jury in California.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Multiple witnesses have been subpoenaed. One is President Biden's brother.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The pending indictment in Delaware of potential tax charges here. It's bad news for Hunter Biden any way you slice this.


MATTINGLY: Well, good morning, everyone. It is Friday. We have a lot of news to get to, but we are starting with Israeli forces now saying they discovered the body of a second hostage near Gaza's largest hospital where troops have been conducting a military operation. That comes as the Israeli military says it also found a Hamas tunnel shaft and a stash of guns, grenades and other combat gear at the hospital.

The IDF releasing these videos, you're looking at them now, as proof Hamas calling the accusations, quote, baseless lies.

CNN can't verify either sides' claims. The United Nations human rights chief wants access to the site to launch an independent investigation.

HARLOW: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now says intelligence about hostages, those were one of the big reasons why Israel sent troops to the hospital.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We had strong indications that they were held in the Shifa hospital, which is one of the reasons we entered the hospital. If they were, they were taken out.


HARLOW: Significant to hear him say that.

Meanwhile, here at home in the United States, we are seeing more protests coast to coast demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. Protesters blocked San Francisco's Bay Bridge for hours. Police say some of them even parked their cars and tossed the keys into the bay.

Oren Liebermann starts us off in Tel Aviv. The question is, are we going to see more evidence of this from the IDF? Will we?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, that's what the IDF has said they would provide, more evidence that Hamas was used -- or was using the Al-Shifa Hospital complex as cover for what they call terror infrastructure below grounds. Whether there was or wasn't intelligence or indications that the hostages were held at the hospital is almost a different question.

Israel has asserted for so long that Hamas used the Al-Shifa complex as cover for a command and control headquarters, a facility, a complex underneath the hospital, that that was clearly a major target of the operation. The first bit of evidence they've put forward a couple days ago was simple weaponry, ammunition vests, in no way showed Hamas used it and had infrastructure below it.

Now, they're showing evidence of a tunnel shaft that they say was an operational tunnel used by Hamas. We have geolocated to within the Al- Shifa complex. The key question, though, what is inside that shaft? They say they found, as you pointed out, weapons and ammunition in the area. But the key now is what is in there and can we get a look inside independently verify that and see what sort of complex is below the hospital.

Meanwhile, the conditions in the hospital growing increasingly dire. The director of the hospital told Al Jazeera that doctors there are having to make what they called harrowing decisions and some patients who come in with injuries face amputation because they can't be prevent them from infection.

Meanwhile, kidney dialysis patients, they're facing strain, premature babies, all of that, the worsening conditions inside the Al-Shifa complex.

MATTINGLY: Oren, it was interesting hearing the prime minister talk about the rationale, the potential for hostages having been at the hospital's driving part of the decision to launch this operation. We spoke to an IDF spokesman just two days ago who said explicitly this was not about hostages. There have been two bodies that have been found. Do we have any sense of what that means, where they may be and where negotiations are?

LIEBERMANN: And that's why I've pointed out that the Al-Shifa complex has for so long been in Israel's mind, a hub of Hamas' operation, which is why it was clearly a target of this ground incursion that we've seen going on for some weeks now.


The IDF also saying they've recovered the bodies of two Israeli hostages who died in Gaza near the Al-Shifa complex. The most recent announcement, 65-year-old grandmother Yehudith Weiss, her husband was killed on October 7th. She was taken hostage. Her body was brought out and identified. That announcement came yesterday. And then earlier today, a young Israeli soldier, her body was also brought out, Noa Marciano, her family was notified that she had died in Gaza several days ago.

Now, the question, the IDF saying they were found near the Al-Shifa complex, are there more in that area? It seems to imply that they were held in small numbers because it suggests they were found differently in different locations one at a time. And that makes the task of trying to find the 238 or so other hostages still in Gaza that much more difficult as sort of rumors and reports of a nearing hostage exchange or negotiations. We're still waiting on that to come to fruition.

HARLOW: Oren Liebermann reporting for us in Tel Aviv, thank you very much.

MATTINGLY: And now to CNN exclusive. Special counsel prosecutors are convening a grand jury in Los Angeles to look into Hunter Biden's alleged failure to pay his taxes.

HARLOW: It's already issued a subpoena for the president's brother, James Biden, who is Hunter's business associate. And this means that the special counsel, David Weiss, could be preparing to bring new charges in a second state, as he previously used a federal grand jury in Delaware.

Katelyn Polantz has our reporting for us. How significant is it?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It's pretty significant. We hadn't seen this activity before. We hadn't known about it in this grand jury in California, a federal grand jury being used by the prosecutors from David Weiss' office. He's the special counsel appointed to look into Hunter Biden.

And what they're doing now is they are subpoenaing multiple witnesses, according to the sources that we're talking to, and those subpoenas are for documents and for testimony. So, it's an active, ongoing investigation out in Los Angeles apparently around Hunter Biden's business dealings.

Now, one of the things that's really notable here, Phil and Poppy, that we hadn't seen before is we do know of this subpoena to James Biden, the president's brother, Hunter Biden's uncle. The connection those two men have, Hunter Biden and James Biden, is that they have some business connections. It's possible that James Biden had some insight into the income that Hunter Biden was bringing in at a time where he wasn't really paying his taxes.

So, putting this together, we don't know exactly what the special counsel, David Weiss, is looking at, whether he would bring charges and what those charges might be. But the meaning of this is that he certainly is moving forward on what he indicated he would do before, which was when the plea fell apart for Hunter Biden, he said, we're going to keep looking at tax issues and others, perhaps somewhere else, outside of Delaware.

MATTINGLY: Katelyn, how does this interact or play with the charges Hunter Biden is already facing in Delaware?

POLANTZ: Well, they could interact in a lot of different ways, namely that Hunter Biden had that plea deal in Delaware on some gun charges. He ultimately was indicted on those gun charges when that plea fell apart. So, that's going to go to trial. And if he is charged with some sort of business crimes or tax crimes in California, if this grand jury approves an indictment, then he would have to face another trial potentially in California, or at least prepare for it against the special counsel's office.

Now, with that plea deal that had existed in Delaware, there was some discussion about whether he's immune to other charges, but we'll have to see what his attorneys argue and what judges do.

HARLOW: Katelyn Polantz, great reporting, thank you.

So, it's a Friday and the government is open. That is good news. A government shutdown has been averted. The bar is not that high anymore.

MATTINGLY: I missed the clock.

HARLOW: I know you do, Mattingly.

MATTINGLY: We'll get it back in January.

HARLOW: No. President Biden signed the short from funding bill last night. It kicks a can down the road until January and February.

MATTINGLY: A lot of clock opportunity ahead.

HARLOW: Signs of Nikki Haley's momentum in the Republican primary. We have new polling from New Hampshire and what it shows us about her campaign and the state of the race.

Plus this --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lied to everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we deserve better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's something wrong with the guy.



MATTINGLY: Botox, Hermes, OnlyFans, only one individual can bring all of these disparate elements together to Congress. Just a few of the expenses that Congressman George Santos has accused of pawning off on his donors, but will it be enough to get him expelled from the chamber? We'll take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still, it's quite a list. Botox, Atlantic City, OnlyFans and designer goods. Is he a congressman or a lesser Kardashian? He's got the shopping list of a 98-year-old oil tycoon's 20-year-old wife.

Even his fellow Republicans are calling for his expulsion, including the few who stuck by him before this report. He alienated his OnlyFans by spending money on OnlyFans.


MATTINGLY: That was actually funny, like that was a clever line.

The saga of Congressman George Santos has taken another we'll go with interesting turn. The New York Republican said he will not seek re- election after a scathing House Ethics Committee report was released yesterday. That panel said it uncovered additional, quote, uncharged and unlawful conduct by Santos that goes beyond the criminal allegations already pending against him. It would immediately refer those allegations to the Justice Department.

The report says Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit, claiming he used campaign funds, as you heard from the comedians, this wasn't a joke, Botox, designer clothes, lavish trips, smaller purchases at Sephora, and OnlyFans, with campaign dollars.

House Speaker Mike Johnson's spokesman says the findings are, quote, very troubling, but does not explicitly call for Santos' resignation.

Joining us to discuss, CNN Political Commentator Margaret Hoover, CNN Political Commentator and Political Anchor for Spectrum News Errol Louis and former Obama administration official Sarah Feinberg.

Sarah, you were shaking your head now, and I think, I don't want to assume anything, but this is all, maybe not this egregiously and without the only fan stuff, been out in the public domain for a long period of time, and there's a very clear reason why House Republican leadership has not wanted him out. They have a very narrow majority.

SARAH FEINBERG, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's right. Yes, I mean, look, their margin is very difficult and very narrow.


But that said, this is an embarrassment. I mean, how can you not call for him to resign?

MATTINGLY: But it has been for like a year.

FEINBERG: It has been, but it gets worse all the time. But this is -- you know, we were talking about this the other day, another example of like, why shouldn't you take the House seriously at this point? It's a performance, it's a reality show.

I mean, I'm old enough to remember when the only people who could make fun of the House were the Senate, right? Like, you know, the only body that was more aghast was the Senate. And now it's just like --

MATTINGLY: They still do --

FEINBERG: Right, exactly. But now it's like, we're all sort of looking at being like, I thought I elected you to serve the public and to serve constituents. And like, you know, you're not to use campaign funds for your own personal gain, it's just an embarrassment. And Mike Johnson should call for his resignation.

HARLOW: Why isn't he?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, math, math, math, math, simple math. Look, there is another piece of this that we used to say, as we were coming up in Washington, small staffers, Washington was Hollywood for ugly people, right? There's this desire.

MATTINGLY: Why are you looking at me?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But not if you use a little Botox.

HOOVER: I'm not saying George Santos is physically ugly. What I'm saying is a lot of members of Congress, and this is often what tragically Congress has become for so many people, is a place to become a celebrity, a place to become George Santos' sunglasses and the cameras all around him.

Never mind that he's walking into court. Never mind that he's in serious legal trouble, in very serious federal legal trouble. He's a celebrity right now. People are talking about him. I mean, it's not just the celebritifacation of the Congress, it's also the Trumpification of the party. If they're talking about you, you're winning. It doesn't matter what they're saying. And this is really undermined the esteemed nature of how we used to see public service as a real noble calling.

LOUIS: It's absolutely on a collision course with reality where the hollowness of celebrity as opposed to leadership is going to be brought home to him in a very graphic way, I think, when he gets to court.

Look, even for members of Congress who are often using campaign funds to have a steak dinner as a campaign meeting with a lot of their best friends, this is extreme, right? It's very hard to excuse luxury shopping and Botox and so forth as opposed to a steak dinner with some of your favorite donors.

And to that extent, I think we're going to see whether or not they take it very, very seriously and kick him out or just use him maybe as a sort of an example, a cautionary tale for the next round of young members of Congress. MATTINGLY: I want to switch over to the Republican presidential primary, of which I've been extraordinarily bearish about anybody but Donald Trump being the nominee. But it's very interesting.

HARLOW: Are you starting to reverse? Where's John Avlon?

MATTINGLY: I know. I'm not wavering because Avlon will swoop in and say, I told you. Not yet, John Avlon. Can you pass that message?

HOOVER: Yes, I got it.

MATTINGLY: Nikki Haley, though, something is happening. We don't know exactly what it is. And you see it in several polls, including the CNN New Hampshire poll. Trump is still 42 percent. A 22-point lead is huge. And yet, Haley, at 20 percent, there is clear movement. And we've seen it in poll after poll after poll. And in New Hampshire in particular, that matters. You've worked campaigns. You know that state. That matters there.

FEINBERG: It totally matters and it's a big jump. Now, of course, what's going to happen here is the higher she goes the bigger the bull's eye is on her back. And so if she thinks people have come for her now just wait until they start to even more aggressively tie her to Trump and more aggressively go after her record. So, she's certainly made a bunch of progress but I think things are about to get pretty tough.

HARLOW: That's a great point just in what we've seen from Chris Christie in the last couple of days.

Margaret, this is really interesting. So, our friend, Ben Smith, who runs Semafor, covered her campaign in 2010. And here's what he wrote about her that I thought was so interesting, because you've heard some of her comments about Ramaswamy, is what she says are attacks on women in the past couple of weeks. Quote, Haley's grasp of gender politics is Greta Gerwig level astute, and she's running on a reformist message that dares the likes of Ramaswamy to attack her. You are scum, what she said in the debate to him, isn't a bad slogan for that particular appeal.

And then he writes, I've never seen a politician better than Haley at turning a smear directed at her into a weapon, one that anyone who has a shot against Trump will need in their arsenal. What do you think, Margaret?

HOOVER: I mean, we've all seen that. If you've studied her closely, she has a very uncanny ability to zero in. A national security official in the last administration when she was the U.N. ambassador -- American ambassador to the UN, said that she was like a heat- seeking missile for identifying issues and then driving them home effectively.

I would never underestimate Nikki Haley. Of all of the candidates on the field, aside from Donald Trump, she is enormously politically adept in just a very natural way. And I think, as we have seen, especially in the Republican primary, so much of the early states, it's not about the candidates and the big delegates that you're racking up because they're very small numbers. It's all about the momentum. And this momentum that you're seeing carrying into the beginning of the first contest I think is real and might just be a forcing factor to start winnowing the field around another candidate to Trump because, as we know, the majority of Republican primary voters want somebody other than Trump.


HARLOW: Final thought?

LOUIS: No, that's right. I mean, and, look, she also happens to check a lot of boxes. Trump is not doing so well with women voters, Nikki Haley. Trump is not doing so well with professional voters, Nikki Haley. Communities of color, Nikki Haley. She's really sort of positioned herself and the timing couldn't have been better in this last 90 days really before the whole thing gets underway to really try and see if she can be an alternative.

That's the lock that everybody has been trying to pick. How do you go at Donald Trump? You can't do it by out-insulting him. That's not going to work. You can't do it by imitating him, which is what Ramaswamy has tried to do.

What you could possibly do, though, is pick up the elements of the voting base that don't and never really did like Donald Trump all that much, and then see if you can grab some other people from his base.

I don't know if I like her chances, but it's a rational, logical thing that seems to be paying off.

HARLOW: I would like it noted that on the 17th of November, Phil Mattingly started to shift his position.

MATTINGLY: It was not a shift. It was not a shift. I was entertaining the idea.

HARLOW: Semantics.

MATTINGLY: Also he's saying rational logical. We don't do that anymore in this country. So, I feel very comfortable. I'm back in my spot.

HARLOW: Okay, Phil.

Also this ahead new reporting out of Gaza this morning, the director of the Al-Shifa hospital says children are starving. Remember, they're still treating patients there, by the way. He says there's no access to milk for babies. Insight into the dire situation unfolding there, that's next.


[07:25:00] HARLOW: So, you're looking right there at new video. This is filmed by the IDF given to CNN. Israel says it shows a tunnel shaft inside the Al-Shifa Hospital complex. The IDF says this video is evidence that Hamas was using the hospital as a command center. The Hamas-run government in Gaza calls that claim by Israel a baseless lie.

CNN has geolocated the video. We just can't independently verify the IDF or Hamas claims, nor have we been able to get in touch with people inside the hospital right now.

But in the wake of the IDF going into that hospital, that raid, the question of Hamas' possible operations at Al-Shifa, that is crucial, right? Hospitals are protected from attack under international humanitarian law, but that protection only goes so far. It can be temporarily revoked if the hospital is being used by combatants to commit acts of war.

And right now, communication services are down in Gaza. CNN has been unable to reach its contacts on the ground. The U.N. says this is due to a lack of fuel to run the generators.

David Harden is with us. He served as a USAID director for Gaza and the West Bank in Israel from 2005 until 2016. So, you have had eyes and ears, and you were on the ground, and you know Al-Shifa Hospital, Dave, really well. Does this track -- I know you can't say what's happening now, but does this track with your experience there?

DAVID HARDEN, FORMER USAID DIRECTOR FOR WEST BANK AND GAZA MISSION: So, thank you for having me, Poppy. I mean, this is a litmus test for the Israelis. And either they're able to present the evidence to independent observers, like CNN, like Nic Robertson, who will be able to get down there and kind of check it out, and there will be sufficient evidence that it was a fundamental command and control center for Hamas, or it isn't.

But at the end of the day, this will kind of shape the Israelis' credibility now and going forward. So, we will find this out. I mean, Al-Shifa has long been rumored to be a base for Hamas operations.

HARLOW: Right. And you wrote about this saying as far back as 2014 in that conflict, Israelis and Palestinians were telling you that they suspected Hamas have major operations there in the hospital. Can you help people understand how they could actually do that in one of the biggest, and, by the way, one of the most technologically advanced hospitals within Gaza? How, if this is the case, was Hamas able to do that? Was it just accepted because it had to be by powerless people to fight it in Gaza?

HARDEN: I mean, the first thing to remember is that this is a very large complex with many buildings over a big area. And so whether or not there was a sufficient command center underneath the hospital outside of the view of the patients and the medical staff, we will find out. We don't know.

But it was long suspected that Hamas was operating in Al-Shifa. And, by the way, I know for a fact that they used ambulances at times as well to kind of escape attacks. So, these are the issues that I think we see in front of us.

HARLOW: David, I want your response to what the United Nations human rights chief told CNN about these competing claims. Listen to this.


VOLKER TURK, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: We cannot rely on one or the other party when it comes to this. This is precisely where you need an independent international investigation, because we have different narratives. And as I said, international humanitarian law is clear, you cannot use civilian, especially hospitals, for any military purposes, but you can also not attack a hospital in the absence of clear evidence that there are issues.


HARLOW: I wonder what your response is to that. He's talking about what is laid out in the Geneva Convention. How high is the bar, David, for Israel to have said, okay, we have to go in?

HARDEN: I mean, I think it is going to have to be clear to some independent observers outside of Israel that this was a sufficient base of operations. I think it would be acceptable, certainly to the Biden administration, that it -- you know, that the United States has kind of independent eyes. And I think for the world, it would be very useful for international media to be able to kind of look at the evidence and to probe it and to push it.


I will say, kind of a small set of arms in one MRI element.