Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Israel Defense Forces Releases Photos and Video Evidence that Hamas was Using Tunnels Under Al-Shifa Hospital as Command Node; Former Secretary of State Jeh Johnson Interviewed on Israel's Attack on Al-Shifa Hospital and Columbia University's Suspension of Two Pro- Palestinian Student Groups. Ethics Committee: "Substantial Evidence" Santos Broke Law; Maui Rebuilds 100 Days After Devastating Fires. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 17, 2023 - 08:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Now faces up to 50 years in prison.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: The judge has declared a mistrial for the former Louisville police officer charged in connection with the failed shooting of Breonna Taylor. Prosecutors alleged Brett Hankison used unjustified force the night Taylor was killed in 2020 and violated her civil rights and those of her boyfriend and next door neighbors. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.

HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. We're so glad you're with us on this Friday. It is 8:00 a.m. here in New York, 3:00 p.m. in Gaza. And that is where the Israeli military is saying that it did discover a tunnel shaft, guns, and explosives at Gaza's largest hospital as well as the bodies of two hostages nearby. Hamas is accusing Israel of lying. We're going to take you live to Tel Aviv for the latest.

MATTINGLY: And the push to expel George Santos from Congress is gaining momentum after a House ethics investigation found he spent campaign money on casino trips luxury shopping sprees, Botox, a website, and so much more. We're going to talk to a fellow Republican who is trying to kick him out.

HARLOW: Today marks 100 days since the catastrophic wildfire that wiped out the town of Lahaina on Maui. We will take a look at the ongoing search to find people still missing. This hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts now.

Good morning, everyone. New overnight Israeli forces say they have discovered the body of a second hostage near Gaza's largest hospital where Israeli troops have been conducting an ongoing military operation. This comes as the Israeli military says it found a tunnel, a Hamas tunnel shaft and a stash of guns, grenades, and other combat gear at the hospital. The IDF released these videos. They say this is proof. Hamas accuses Israel of making baseless lies. CNN cannot verify the claims. The United Nations human rights chief wants access to the site to launch an independent investigation. MATTINGLY: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now says

intelligence about hostages was one of the big reasons Israel sent troops into 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.


MATTINGLY: And right now, families of hostages held in Gaza are continuing their march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as they demand action from the Israeli government and call on Netanyahu to do everything possible to secure the release of their loved ones. This is new drone video of them marching this morning.

HARLOW: Meanwhile, here 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 the protesters parked their cars there and threw their keys into the Bay. Oren Liebermann is live in Tel Aviv for us.

Oren, let's start with the IDF's claims that we had to go in because of all of these reasons, because Hamas is running a command center there. Will we see more evidence of that from them or just the video that was released?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We expect to since we expect a briefing from the IDF spokesperson a little later on this afternoon sometime in the next several hours. Meanwhile, the IDF says they are now in the third or fourth day of operations in the Al-Shifa complex. The primary purpose of that is to uncover more underground Hamas infrastructure. The first bit of evidence they put out a couple of days ago fell short of conclusive proof that Hamas was using the hospital above ground to protect themselves below ground. They say they uncovered weapons in the hospital itself, certainly not establishing underground presence.

But they put out more imagery and more photos and video that you showed just a short while ago of what they say is the entrance to an operational tunnel of the terror infrastructure used by Hamas underneath the hospital itself. The problem is, we are not independently on the ground there to verify that and we can't see inside the tunnel. That is what we would expect to see to further substantiate the claim that has gotten U.S. backing that Hamas is underneath the hospital itself as part of their infrastructure, their complex, their command and control, and their operations. So that is what we're waiting to see now.

Meanwhile, in the hospital itself, conditions growing even more dire. The director of the hospital told Al Jazeera doctors are having to make harrowing decisions to try to keep patients alive, including, for example, amputating some patients' limbs because they can't keep infection away from the injuries. Meanwhile, there are also questions about premature babies there and patients who need kidney dialysis. So that is a look at what's happening inside the hospital itself as we near what I believe would be the fourth day of IDF operations there and in the vicinity.

MATTINGLY: Oren, you've made this point several times. This is a complex to some degree. When they talk about -- when Israeli officials talk about two bodies of hostages being found near the hospital, near matters. What does that mean? What does that tell you?

LIEBERMANN: It doesn't seem from the indications in the statements we are getting from the IDF that the bodies of the hostages were in the complex itself.


They said they were found nearby. First, the body of Israeli hostage 65-year-old Yehudit Weiss, a grandmother who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Be'eri, one of those hardest hit October 7th. Her husband was killed in the attack. The IDF didn't offer a specific cause of death, but the spokesperson did say she had been murdered by Hamas and was found with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades near the hospital complex, not in the complex itself.

The body of a young Israeli soldier, Noa Marciano, also found near the complex. Her mother, in fact, spoke yesterday as part of the march towards Jerusalem. They actually stopped at the family's house. And the families of the hostages demanded answers from the Israeli government on what they are doing to bring the hostages home. They simply say they are not getting any sort of communication on where the negotiations stand and if there is any real progress there.

HARLOW: Oren, thank you for your reporting for us all morning from Tel Aviv.

And joining us now is former Homeland Security Secretary under President Obama, Jeh Johnson, who is now a partner at Paul Weiss. Mr. Secretary, appreciate your time, as always.


MATTINGLY: Yes, there we go. Good bookings.

JOHNSON: I am a private citizen.

HARLOW: Yes, now.

MATTINGLY: In that capacity, although, if you want to speak for the government, you are more than welcome to.

JOHNSON: I won't even try.

MATTINGLY: I imagine those days are long since passed for you. Let's circle back to something we discussed shortly after the October 7th attacks. In a bigger picture point of view, in the wake of a week where you saw the president repeatedly weighing in on this, being asked on this on the global stage, you said Hamas is counting on the Israelis to overreact.


MATTINGLY: They expect it. That's part of the plan. Four or five weeks into this, where do you think they on that in terms of the Israelis? Do you think they've overreacted?

JOHNSON: It's difficult to say, actually. We look at the images of the tunnel under the hospital, we look at the images of the weapons that were seized, and I have a lot of questions about that. Images cannot always tell the full story. So I look at those images and I wonder, OK, how recently was it that Hamas was apparently co-located with this hospital? How long have those weapons been there? Had they long abandoned the site or did they just flee moments before the IDF moved in? It's difficult to say.

What is very troubling, however, is the thought, the notion of babies dying in incubators because the hospital staff has evacuated the hospital for their own physical safety. It must be extraordinarily painful for a health care worker to abandon a child in an incubator. And so there has to be a way to thread this needle.

I know, for example, U.S. special forces would be very adept at going after their objectives, their military objectives, while minimizing civilian casualties. It's difficult to say right now exactly what's happening. I'd love it if some reporters were willing to be able to get there and -- you just heard yet again a report saying we are unable to verify any of this.


JOHNSON: I think it would be -- Israel right now, it's a battle on the ground, but it's also a battle for global world opinion.

HARLOW: To that point, Mr. Secretary, you ran the Department of Homeland Security, which was created in the wake of 9/11. And when you talk about global opinion and minds, this, what has become I think 36 million views now, some of them on TikTok, some of them because of a journalist who put them out there, more people are seeing it, but it is young people mainly that are expressing sympathy for Usama bin Laden after reading his 2002 letter to America. And given your role post-9/11, I wonder what you make of that?

JOHNSON: Some people have short memories. And highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people, for example, is a worthwhile, legitimate endeavor. What you don't want to do is make the messenger for that message the most notorious terrorist in the last half-century, because three quarters of your intended audience are going to write you off if you do such a thing. Highlighting what Usama bin Laden had to say 10, 20 years ago does not advance the cause. It just creates controversy.

MATTINGLY: Given your roles in the administration, also as general counsel at the Pentagon, the Biden administration from the president on down's willingness to be absolutely steadfast that they believe what the Israelis are saying about the intelligence in the hospital, swinging back to the hospital, are you surprised? Or what does that tell you, for them to be so clear cut and unequivocal that there is a command node underneath the hospital, there are tunnels underneath the hospital? They have to be seeing something, is that what you --


JOHNSON: Again, I don't doubt that there was a command and control center underneath the hospital. What I'd want to know is, how recently was that? Was it literally ongoing while they were surrounding the hospital? Did they flee days, weeks ago? How many members of Hamas have been captured as a result? How many Hamas casualties have occurred? Who exactly in Hamas leadership has been killed or taken off the battlefield? Those are facts that I think would add to the effort to shape global world opinion right now, which is, obviously, very important for the Israelis.

The Biden administration, their first impulse, and I think it was a good one, is to stand by the state of Israel in this. It's the victim of a terrorist attack. I actually believe the Biden administration has done a good job of steering a very narrow course in its public position with Israel, and they are also in a position, because they are such a close ally, of giving them strong advice on actually how to conduct this war.

HARLOW: Mr. Secretary, while you're here, you are also a trustee of Columbia University. Full Disclosure, I went to Columbia University. It's really in the headlines this week, because the university has made the decision to suspend two pro-Palestinian student groups, saying they violated university policy. They didn't elaborate on that. "The New York Times" is saying they held unauthorized events that had threatening rhetoric or intimidation. Those student groups take real issue with that. They say that they are basically being silenced. They call it selective censorship and an attack on free speech. There is a line to free speech, right, constitutionally, and it's inciting violence. As a trustee, can you speak to those groups that feel like they are being silenced at a crucial moment?

JOHNSON: I am a trustee of Columbia. I can't speak for Columbia as I sit here on CNN. I will say this, however --

HARLOW: But you do make important decisions as a trustee for the university.

JOHNSON: Very clearly. We have our responsibilities.

As I think I said last time I was here, there is a line to be drawn between exercising your First Amendment rights in a free and open society, even doing so loudly, even to the annoyance of those with whom you disagreement. But there is a line crossed when you incite hate, violence against other groups. It is also the case for any university, for a city to be able to regulate time, place, and manner for a demonstration, for an exercise of First Amendment rights, for the safety of the students, the faculty on a campus, the general public. The university has to be able to regulate time, place, and manner. This is a very, very difficult and challenging time right now, particularly for any university with a large and very diverse international student body. HARLOW: It really is. And we'll have you become to talk more about

that because so many movements in this country have started on university campuses. We appreciate you being here in all of your important roles, Mr. Secretary.

JOHNSON: Thank you. Thank you very much.

HARLOW: A new push to expel New York Congressman George Santos after a House ethics report found substantial evidence that he used donor money to enrich himself. We will speak to a New York Republican who has been leading this surcharge.

MATTINGLY: And this just in. A billboard went up in Manhattan's Times Square, we told you about this a couple days ago, marking 41 days since the hostages were taken by Hamas in Gaza. That includes Emily Hand, who turns nine today. We spoke to her father this week, and he was there to see the billboard in person. His reaction ahead.



POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Welcome back, Republican Congressman George Santos says he won't seek reelection following the release of the long-awaited House Ethics Committee report that accuses him of, quote, deceiving donors, blatantly stealing from his campaign, and fraudulently exploiting every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal profit.

Here are just a few examples laid out in the report alleging how he misused campaign funds, hotel charges in Las Vegas, $3,000 for an Airbnb, paying off personal credit card bills, $4,000 in purchases at the luxury store Hermes, and smaller purchases at OnlyFans, Sephora, for meals, for parking. It goes on and on.

Joining me now is Congressman Anthony D'Esposito, who's one of the New York Republicans who's been driving a campaign to have Santos expelled from Congress, good morning, sir. This is a shocking 56-page report. But so far, your new speaker.

The new speaker of the House is not pushing for his expulsion. Do you agree with that, or is it time for him to go?

REP. ANTHONY D'ESPOSITO, (R-NY): No, listen, I thought that Santos should have been ridden from the House of Representatives months ago. I was one of the ones that led the charge a couple of weeks ago, along with my New York freshman, in order to put the expulsion resolution on the floor.

Obviously, it wasn't successful, but I do believe that it helped the Ethics Committee move their investigation along. I would hope, and now the rest of the conference and the rest of the House of Representatives are getting a bird's eye view of exactly what New Yorkers thought all along. HARLOW: But the House Speaker Mike Johnson's statement from his team

called it troubling, right? All of these findings, but then went on to say they encourage all involved to consider the best interests of the institution as this matter is addressed further. Do you think that is a mistake not to have come out and called for his expulsion?

D'ESPOSITO: I think that the speaker, I spoke to the Speaker yesterday and he's given me the same advice as he gave me three weeks ago, and that was, do what you think is best for the conference and for your district. And I think that that's what many of my colleagues are going to do.

I believe that the speaker who has had conversations with us, also spoke to the chairman of the Ethics Committee yesterday, who put out a statement that he was going to put forth a resolution today to expel George Santos. I am confident that a majority of the conference is going to come together after reading, if not yesterday, then today, the ethics report and send George Santos on his way.

HARLOW: So, you think the votes are there?

D'ESPOSITO: I do, I do believe the votes are there and we'll see. I mean, the resolution is supposed to go in today, which would not bring a vote until when we return till after Thanksgiving.


And there's a lot that could happen between now and then. Perhaps Santos could rid the House of Representatives of himself on his own.

HARLOW: I'm not sure about that, but we'll watch and see. I do want to ask you about something else, because yesterday New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Clean Slate Act into law. It would seal criminal records for people after they've been released, served their sentence, met a number of conditions, waited several years.

You had previously tweeted opposition to the bill. We had the CEO of the Clean Slate Initiative on who has her own personal experience with this. Here's what she said to some of the Republican criticism of it, thinking it is soft on crime. Listen to this.


SHEENA MEADE, CEO, CLEAN SLATE INITIATIVE: What I hear when I travel across the country in red states and blue states and I talk to Republicans and liberals, they're saying that this is a public safety issue, that we have to put people back to work.

People need to have access to jobs, housing, have an alternative measure of not going back to prison, reducing recidivism. They know when people have access to jobs that it reduces recidivism. It's a public safety measure.


HARLOW: Do you think she's wrong, and can you explain your opposition to this measure?

D'ESPOSITO: I think she's absolutely wrong. I think that individuals who have gone through the system, who have committed crimes, I spent a career in the NYPD and I saw it firsthand. There are many individuals who make it through the system who do their penance and have very successful lives.

What this shows is that this is a continuation of the far-left policies and the pro-criminal agenda of Governor Hochul and the New York State Legislature.

What they should be focusing on is getting together and trying to make changes to our cashless bail system that has created a complete disaster in New York.

That's what we should be focused on. If they want to focus on public safety, let's focus on the root of the cause.

HARLOW: Okay. Well, you know, most class A felonies are not included in this. Records would not be sealed for sex offenders, murderers, domestic terror, et cetera. Are you essentially saying that people who have served their time should not have a second chance because you know how hard it is to often get housing, to often get a job with some of these crimes on your record?

Her crime, by the way, was an $87 bounced check.

D'ESPOSITO: I am absolutely not saying that. I think people should have second chances. But there are better ways to handle that than sending a message to individuals who are committing crimes that if they check boxes that it's going to be eliminated from their record.

And to try to say that it's a public safety policy is absolutely ridiculous when we have the governor, the prior governor, and the state legislature who are the most anti public safety that I've seen in a long time. So, it's completely hypocritical.

If we want to focus on public safety, we should be focusing on the issues at hand. And that is the disaster that they have made of cashless bail, of criminal justice reform. They made changes to our Criminal Justice Reform System without ever having conversations with law enforcement officers, without ever having conversations with people who are actually putting handcuffs on people who are wrestling guns out of individuals on the streets.

They never had conversations with them. It was the state legislature, led by one of the state senators who represented the district that I live in, Todd Kaminsky, whose career was virtually ended because he put pen to paper and supported this disaster.

HARLOW: Congressman Anthony D'Esposito, thank you for joining us on all this. We'll have you back soon.

D'ESPOSITO: Thank you, have a good one.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Well, there's new CNN polling in New Hampshire. It shows Donald Trump continuing to dominate the Republican field. But there's a new runner up. More on the Haley hype ahead.

HARLOW: And it's been 100 days since those wildfires completely devastated parts of Maui. A look ahead at how the rebuilding is happening.




MATTINGLY: Thursday marked 100 days since the devastating fires in Maui. On Maui, more than 100 lives were lost when the fires ripped through Lahaina. CNN's Mike Valerio takes us inside the community's mission to rebuild.


MIKE VALERIO, CNN NEWSOURCE NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: More than 100 days later, it is still nearly incomprehensible, taking in all that is lost.

BRAD TAYLOR, MAUI POLICE OFFICER: You're there with the person as they're sobbing and you see firsthand the trauma.

VALERIO: Maui Police Officers Brad Taylor and Steven Lansiedel are two of the heroes whose task force has investigated every single missing person's case from the Lahaina fire.

STEVEN LANSIEDEL, MAUI POLICE OFFICER: We're working towards the goal of making sure anybody who has a lost loved one, we're able to find them or give them closure.

VALERIO: But that has been elusive for the families of four people not seen since the paroxysm of the fire. Among those who are still missing is Robert Owens.

LANSIEDEL: We learned that he used to work for NASA as an Engineer. Paul Baspritzky, he is a resident of Lahaina. He's a local artist, a boat builder, a woodworker, and he's a published author and also a father of two. Elmer Stevens, he also frequents Lahaina, he is a father of two, and he does find solace in the quiet pleasures of life.

VALERIO: The fourth still missing is Lydia Coloma.

LANSIEDEL: Lydia is a Lahaina resident. She is a mother, a wife, a well-respected community member. According to Honolulu's civil beat, an astounding eight of Coloma's family members lost their lives in the Lahaina fire.

TONY EARLES, CSI TEAM LEADER: We still are getting family reference samples coming in.

VALERIO: Tony Earles leads the Maui Police CSI team. And he says, as of now, there's one set of human remains, that hasn't been identified yet. EARLES: We have ideas of who we think it is.

VALERIO: But, he adds, when it comes to putting a name to the remains -

EARLES: I can guarantee it'll be days, if not weeks, or maybe even months.

VALERIO: This week, Officers Taylor and Lansiedel are planning new burn zone searches.

TAYLOR: Steve and I are still going out into the rubble, into the burn zone. We'll find new information out, and we want to get the rest of those people.

VALERIO: Officer Taylor told us he knew some of the victims.

TAYLOR: One of the unfortunate ways I found out was we would get the DNA confirmation sheets, and I was reading through it so I could find out who it was. And I read the name, and it was from a former coworker. She used to work at the police department, and when I started my career, I worked closely with her ---

VALERIO: And Officer Lansiedel was already changed, deeply affected by devastating wildfires.

LANSIEDEL: My hometown is Paradise, California. So, they went through this, and so I made it an effort to get into this position so that I could be beneficial for the department.