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CNN This Morning

IDF Takes CNN to See Alleged Tunnel Shaft Near Hospital; Deal 'Closer' to Free Hostages Held by Hamas; Defense Secretary, Ukrainian Leaders Meet in Kyiv; Tributes Pour in for Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Dead at 96. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 20, 2023 - 06:00   ET



JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, the best thing I ever did was marrying Rosalynn. Yes, that's the pinnacle of my life. And we've had 69 years together. Still together. And so that's the best thing that happened to me.



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: The Carters were in the White House from 1977 until 1981, potentially a tough time, but Rosalynn enjoyed it anyway.


ROSALYNN CARTER, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I loved it. I liked all. And Jimmy did, too. And he -- in all of the time that he was president, with all of the criticisms, he thought he was doing the right thing and the best thing for our country. And we enjoyed it.


HUNT: For the last several years, they've been at their family home in Plains, Georgia. The couple shared a passion for serving others and spent much of their life after the White House working to advance the causes of decent affordable housing and peace internationally.

And with that, thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Hope you had a great weekend. We are so glad you're starting your morning with us. Phil is off this week. Happy to have my buddy Erica Hill by my side.

Good morning.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to be with you, my friend.

HARLOW: Good weekend?

HILL: Good weekend.

HARLOW: Good weekend. It is Monday, November 20. We have a lot to get to. Let's start here.

Negotiations are under way, and negotiators say they are optimistic about the possibility of Hamas releasing hostages, maybe within days. Sources familiar with the talks say sticking points are inching closer to being resolved.

HILL: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin making a surprise visit to Kyiv, announcing on social media the U.S. will stand with Ukraine against Russia, quote, "both now and into the future."

New this morning, the former head of OpenAI has landed a new job just three days after the company he co-founded ousted him. Microsoft, we're learning, has hired Sam Altman to lead its new artificial intelligence research team.

HARLOW: Happy 81st birthday to President Biden, but he is looking at some not-so-happy poll numbers. A new NBC News polls puts his approval rating at 40 percent, the lowest of his presidency.

HILL: And ceremonies celebrating the life of former first lady Rosalynn Carter will take place next week in her hometown of Plains, Georgia. The mental health advocate died yesterday at the age of 96.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: Here's where we start. The Israeli military claiming that surveillance video shows Hamas bringing hostages to Gaza's main hospital. The time stamp on that video is crucial. It is October 7, the same day Hamas launched its terror attacks.

One of the videos shows a man being rushed into the hospital by force, and the other video shows a bleeding man with a bandaged hand being pushed on a gurney. And this all comes as the IDF accuses Hamas of running a command center underneath the hospital.

The IDF took CNN into Al-Shifa Hospital to see a tunnel shaft that Hamas allegedly had used. Hamas has denied these claims by Israel. So have some hospital officials who have spoken with CNN.

HILL: Right now, the Palestinian Red Crescent says 28 premature babies evacuated from Al-Shifa are being taken to the border crossing with Egypt.

And there is growing hope that a deal with Hamas to release some hostages could be just days away. Sources telling CNN a recent draft of a possible agreement proposes a four- to five-day pause in fighting in exchange for the initial release of 50 hostages.

HARLOW: And we do have team coverage this morning from the White House to Tel Aviv. Let's begin with our colleague Oren Liebermann, who joins us in Tel Aviv.

What does the IDF claim that these videos show? And what do we need to know this morning?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Poppy and Erica, in the latest briefing from the IDF, they say they have new information about several of the hostages, including 19-year-old Corporal Noa Marciano. They say she was alive when she was brought into Gaza itself. She was injured in an Israeli airstrike that killed her captor, they say, and then, according to the IDF, she was murdered inside Al-Shifa hospital.

But they also released of two other hostages. Take a look at this. This is from October 7th. They say it shows a Nepali citizen who was taken hostage and a Thai citizen who was taken hostage, brought into the hospital itself on the day of the attack, shortly after it happened.

Now, Hamas has actually responded to this, even -- not specifically to these videos, but acknowledging they brought hostages to the hospital because they say their health was meticulously monitored before they were taken to their places of detention.

Meanwhile, we had a chance to travel into Gaza with the IDF for six hours. Our key -- our key goal there was to take a look at the tunnel shaft that had been exposed only a day or two earlier to see what it reveals about what may be underneath. Take a look at this.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): We go in under cover of darkness. And as we cross the border fence, it's lights out across the Gaza Strip.

Escorted by a tank, we switch into an armored personnel carrier for the final stretch. Even through a night vision screen, you can see the magnitude of the destruction on the streets of Gaza City.


We off-load at the Al-Shifa Hospital, pick our way along Ibn Sina street, or what's left of it.

LIEBERMANN: Watch your feet. Let's go.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): We have to keep our lights off most of the time or risk exposing our position.

CNN reported from Gaza under Israel Defense Forces escort at all times. As a condition for journalists to join this embed with the IDF, media outlets must submit footage filmed in Gaza to the Israeli military censors for review.

Now at the hospital compound, we wait inside a structure to make sure the area is secure before moving the short distance to the exposed tunnel shaft.

LIEBERMANN: And here's the entrance. You can see what looks like a ladder access into it. And as I step over here, it's very difficult to see how far down it goes. But it looks like there's almost a central shaft for a staircase. And then, the shaft of it disappears, then, down into the darkness.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): We move around the opening for a better look at the shaft itself. What's clear is this is meant to go deep underground.

LIEBERMANN: Which direction does the tunnel go?

MAJOR NIR DINAR, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: We assume that the tunnel goes out, and it has another corridor to this way.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Towards the hospital?

DINAR: Towards the hospital. Meaning it connects the hospital to outside, which implies, with the way that Hamas is working, Hamas is going out somewhere, shooting at our forces, and going back inside to a safe place.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): We weren't allowed to enter the shaft, but the Israeli military sent special gear down to see where it leads.

Inside, the video shows a spiral staircase, and as the camera oriented self, it moves forward into a tunnel. The tunnel makes a sharp left turn, and at the end of another path, with concrete walls and an arched concrete top, a metal door they say they have not yet opened, because they fear it's booby-trapped.

IDF spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari says some of the Israeli hostages taken on October 7th were also brought through the hospital. He says the body of Noa Marciano was discovered 50 meters from the compound.

ADMIRAL DANIEL HAGARI, IDF SPOKESMAN: We have evidence that they were holding hostages in Rantisi, but also we have evidence that they were bringing them to Al-Shifa Hospital. We're still looking for the places they might have held them.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): This is not proof of a Hamas command center or headquarters underneath the hospital, but Israel continues trying to build its case that Hamas uses the sanctuary of the hospital for cover, which Hamas and hospital officials have denied.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The IDF's ability to continue its operation in Gaza and the credibility of Israel are at stake here as the number killed in the fighting surpasses 12,000, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

The IDF says one of its missions is to destroy Hamas, but with international criticism mounting, Israel has to show the terror organization is using Gaza civilians and infrastructure as cover to justify an ongoing war.


LIEBERMANN: Given how dark it was while we were at the complex, we couldn't see how deep the tunnel went, but the IDF, in sending that camera down there, says the tunnel goes about 33 feet down, or 10 meters, and then the tunnel -- the tunnel itself runs 55 meters, or more than 150 feet, before it comes to that metal door.

Poppy, of course the key question: what is on the other side, and is there more extensive network there?

HARLOW: Yes. Really important to see, though, the fact that you got in. Oren, thank you very much -- Erica.

HILL: This morning, we are learning about those negotiations to free dozens of hostages in Gaza. It could be closing in on a deal.

Sources telling CNN senior Biden administration officials are speaking to officials from Israel and Hamas, with Qatar mediating. In fact, here's what the president had to say last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, when will more hostages get out? When will more hostages get out?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not in the position to tell you that. I want to make sure they're out, and then I'll tell you.


HILL: CNN's Arlette Saenz is live at the White House this morning. Arlette, any more information this morning on when this deal could potentially be reached?


There is cautious optimism, as you're hearing from senior administration officials, saying that they are closer to a deal than ever before. But they still have those hints of caution in their words as this potential deal could be coming together.

Now, according to a draft of a proposal that's being considered, there could be an agreement to have four to five days pauses in fighting in order to release around 50 hostages. That is according to sources involved in the negotiations.

But they very much caution that none of this is finalized. These types of discussions have been going back and forth over the course of the past few weeks.

Of course, Biden administration officials are in touch with the Qataris, who are really serving as the main negotiator between Israel and Hamas.

But there is concern as the White House is trying to ensure that some of these hostages can get out.

Now, one thing over the weekend, President Biden once again stressed that while there could be some pauses for humanitarian assistance or potentially to get hostages out, he once again said that a ceasefire is not the way to peace in this conflict. [06:10:10]

He wrote in a "Washington Posta" op-ed and said, quote, "As long as Hamas clings to its ideology of destruction, a ceasefire is not peace. To Hamas's members, every ceasefire is time they exploit to rebuild their stockpile of rockets, reposition fighters and restart the killing by attacking innocents again."

So again, the president is going against calls from a -- for a ceasefire at a time when, back here at home, there is strong disapproval of his handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

According to a new NBC News poll, about a third of Americans approve of the president's handling of this conflict and if you take a look at the divide amongst democrats, 51 percent disapprove of his handling.

But the focus right now for this administration is trying to get those hostages released. And they are hopeful that something could potentially come together in the coming days; though always they are speaking with caution, as there are so many constantly fluid, changing situations on the ground there and in the negotiations.

HILL: Arlette, thank you. Appreciate the reporting, as always.

And I do think we have some new pictures just coming into us now from Egypt of some of these babies who are going to be evacuated, arriving now in Egypt. Key critical moments, of course, there. And we'll continue to update you as we learn more about their conditions, again, once arriving there in Egypt after being evacuated from Gaza -- Poppy.

HARLOW: So important to see, especially with some of those babies in critical condition this morning.

Also this new overnight: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has arrived in Kyiv. He will meet with Ukrainian leaders there. He is there, of course, to show a reaffirming show of support for Ukraine's freedom and the security assistance they need against Russia.

Our Natasha Bertrand joins us from the Pentagon. Obviously, the war that has continued in Ukraine has been overshadowed, in many respects, by the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. So it's crucial the defense secretary is there. What does he hope to accomplish?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. This is essentially a demonstration of the U.S.'s ongoing, full- throated commitment to the war in Ukraine and to supporting Ukraine in its defense of its homeland; of course, against Russia, Russia's onslaught there.

There, of course, have been a lot of concerns inside Ukraine that the U.S.'s attention has significantly shifted ever since the war in the middle east erupted just over a month ago.

And so what Secretary Austin is hoping to convey to Ukrainian leaders is that the U.S. will continue to provide security assistance and support and will provide long-term security assurances to the Ukrainians.

Because right now, the war does not seem like it's going to end any time soon. Some U.S. Officials have expressed concern that the war is in a stalemate.

Senior defense officials who briefed reporters this morning, however, disputed that and said that Ukraine is actually making pretty substantial progress against the Russians in terms of firing into Russian defensive positions and behind Russian enemy lines.

Now, Secretary -- I should say President Biden, he wrote in an op-ed over the weekend that he believes that the U.S. can do both, support Ukraine and support Israel.

And he said, quote, "Both Putin and Hamas are fighting to wipe a neighboring democracy off the map. America cannot and will not let that happen, for our own national security interests and for the good of the entire world."

So secretary Austin just met with personnel at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, and he's expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy today, as well, to discuss the air defense needs of the Ukrainians, as well as longer term security assistance that they will need in the future -- Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. Natasha Bertrand, reporting from the Pentagon, thank you very much -- Erica.

HILL: A Silicon Valley shocker, a major AI company boots its CEO and founder, but this morning, Sam Altman actually has a new job. New details of the chaotic boardroom coup that led to his ouster, next.

HARLOW: And the tributes to Rosalynn Carter pouring in as the nation mourns the former first lady. A look at her life and her 77-year marriage to Jimmy Carter, next.



HARLOW: Welcome back. OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman this morning with a new job. This just three days after he was fired as CEO of the company.

Overnight, Microsoft, OpenAI's biggest investor, by the way, said it will hire Altman. He will lead a new advanced AI research team alongside Greg Brockman, who was also the co-founder of OpenAI, who also quit on Friday after Altman was terminated.

I want you to listen to this. This is a really interesting interview with Bloomberg's Emily Chang. It was over the summer with Sam Altman. And he talked about his role as CEO and who he believes should hold the immense potential power of AI. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SAM ALTMAN, FORMER OPENAI CEO: Like, no one person should be trusted here. I don't have super voting shares. Like, I don't want them. The board can fire me. I think that's important. I think the board over time needs to get, like, democratized to all of humanity.

If this really works, it's, like, quite a powerful technology, and you should not trust one company and certainly not one person with it.


HARLOW: It is really interesting what has transpired over the last 72 hours. Here's what we know.

OpenAI said that Altman had been insufficiently, quote, "candid with the board." Sources tell CNN a factor was tension between Altman, who favored pushing AI more quickly. The board remained more cautious.

The former chief executive of the streaming service Twitch, Emmett Shear, will be taking over as interim CEO of OpenAI. Of course, there were a lot of discussions also, because so many people wanted to leave the company after Altman was fired. Then they were trying to bring him back.

HILL: Didn't work, did it?

HARLOW: Well, no, it didn't work.

HILL: A lot to dig into there, which we will continue to do this morning.

Also today, ceremonies celebrating former first lady Rosalynn Carter's life, we're learning, are slated to begin next week. A funeral service for friends and family will take place on Wednesday of next week in Plains, Georgia.

Carter passed away peacefully at her home on Sunday at the age of 96 and is being remembered this morning as a fierce mental health champion and a tireless humanitarian, a commitment first lady Jill Biden highlighted yesterday.


JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has just passed. And she was well-known for her efforts on mental health and caregiving and women's rights. So I hope that during the holidays, you'll consider saying your -- include the Carter family in your prayers.



HILL: CNN's Rafael Romo is tracking the tributes pouring in. Rafael, good morning.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. Not only here in Georgia but all across America and the world. We're hearing from many leaders praising the former first lady this morning.

Rosalynn Carter is being remembered not only for her efforts to help people suffering from mental illness, but also as a staunch advocate for women's rights among many, many other accomplishments, Erica.

And let me tell you, we first heard from the 39th president of the United States himself, former President Jimmy Carter, who said about his wife the following -- he said that she was his equal partner in everything that he accomplished, always giving him wise guidance and encouragement.

And let's remember that the president turned 99 years old not too long ago and that he was put in hospice care himself back in February after a series of hospital stays.

We also heard from Rosalynn Carter's son, Chip, who described his mother as an extraordinary first lady and a great humanitarian in her own right.

Similarly, praise we heard from -- from the Bushes, from former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, who described Rosalynn Carter as a woman of dignity and strength.

We also heard from former President Bill Clinton, who said that Rosalynn Carter was a compassionate and committed champion of human dignity everywhere.

And Erica, let's remember that President Clinton, back when he was in office in 1999, gave both Carters the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor.

And Rosalynn Carter is survived by four children, 11 grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren. Erica, back to you.

HILL: And quite a legacy there. Rafael, appreciate it this morning. Thank you -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And quite a love story, as well. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were married 77 years, longer than any other first couple. The longtime loves tied the knot in July 1946, when she was a junior in college. He was still a naval cadet.

Rosalynn once said she could not imagine her life without Jimmy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How has your long and vibrant marriage enriched your life and work?

J. CARTER: I'll let you answer it first.

R. CARTER: I don't know. I've been married all of my life almost. And I don't know how it could have been enriched more if it had not been for Jimmy Carter. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: You know, Jimmy Carter actually told his mother he wanted to marry Rosalynn after their first date. Decades later, he said it is the best decision he'd ever made.


J. CARTER: Well, the best thing I ever did was marry Rosalynn. That's the pinnacle of my life. And we've had 69 years together. Still together. And so that's the best thing that happened to me.


HARLOW: They always shared a passion for serving others. You see them there famously working with Habitat for Humanity. After they left the White House, they volunteered so much, Rosalynn said one of the things that she admired most about her husband was that.


R. CARTER: And I'm proud of him. I'm proud that he stands for human rights and peace all over the world. I'm proud of the work of the Carter Center, which has developed to become one of the most admired and respected institutions not only nationally but internationally.


HILL: Truly a life of service.

HARLOW: Yes, absolutely.

HILL: Well, storms are brewing that could impact Thanksgiving travel across the country this week. We'll take a closer look at what you can expect ahead of the holiday.

HARLOW: Today, President Biden's 81st birthday, but slipping poll numbers probably a gift he did not want. How age is factoring in, especially to younger voters' choice for president.


MICHAEL CHE, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Insiders are concerned that President Biden's chances for re-election could be damaged by his unwavering support for Israel. But I think the bigger problem for Biden is that he is six years older than Israel.






EGO NWODIM, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Thank you, Mr. President, and congratulations on your historic and productive summit. I have a question. You're old.

DAY: OK. All right. Not sure how that's a question, but I man, man, why can't we talk about things that are going well, like the economy?


HARLOW: That was "Saturday Night Live" over the weekend, poking fun at President Biden's age. Today is Biden's 81st birthday. It comes as concern over his age, though, has seriously been increasing and his approval rating has been slipping, especially among younger voters.

There's a new NBC News poll, and it finds that Donald Trump holds a four-point lead among younger voters. That's really important. This is in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up. The margin of error is just more than six points, so it's within there, but it's a stark distance from 2020, when voters age 18 to 29 overwhelmingly supported Biden by a margin of 24 points.

The age issue is becoming a serious hurdle to Biden's reelection. Seventy-four percent of Americans in a recent CNN poll say that Biden does not have the stamina or the sharpness to serve effectively as president.

With us now, CNN political commentators Jamal Simmons; national political reporter at the Associated Press Michelle Price; and CNN political commentator Errol Louis.

Good morning, everyone.


HARLOW: Errol, let me -- let me just start with you. "SNL" poking fun, but this is what the Democrats are contending with, and they cannot ignore these polls.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You don't ignore them, but you shouldn't also panic over them.


LOUIS: By definition, this is something that hasn't happened before. So nobody really has a playbook on how you deal with the oldest person ever to run for office.