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CNN This Morning

Biden Speaks with Netanyahu; Trump Comments About Jewish People; Biden Campaign Ad Features Bloodbath Comments; Manafort to Help with Campaign; Princess Kate Seen in Public; Frank LaRose is Interviewed about the Ohio Race. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 19, 2024 - 06:30   ET




President Biden speaking to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time in over a month, highlighting a key focal point of tension between the two leaders, how to handle Rafah.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Any time I hear an argument that says, if you don't smash into Rafah, you can't defeat Hamas, I say, that is a straw man. Our view is that there are ways for Israel to prevail in this conflict, to secure its long-term future, to end the terror threat from Gaza and not smashed into Rafah. That's what we're going to present in this integrated way when this team comes.


HUNT: All right, CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins us live from the White House with more on this.

Priscilla, good morning,

President Biden thinks any operation in Rafah would be a mistake here. How did this call go between these two men with tensions clearly rising between them?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I asked National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan exactly that in that briefing that you just saw, and he described this call as business like, saying that it did not end abruptly, it ended mutually.

Now, of course, this is a call, the first in a month amid this growing rift between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And going into the call, there were two issues that were top of mind for both of them. That's the situation in Rafah, an area of Gaza were more than a million displaced Palestinians have amassed, and also getting humanitarian aid into the region.

Now, according to White House officials, the president did affirm his support for Israel during this call, but he also made clear that any ground operation in Rafah would be catastrophic for Palestinians.

And the national security adviser saying that this would be a mistake.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president has rejected, and did again today, the straw man, that raising questions about Rafah is the same as raising questions about defeating Hamas. That's just nonsense. Our position is that Hamas should not be allowed a safe haven in Rafah or anywhere else. But a major ground operation there would be a mistake. It would lead to more innocent civilian deaths, worse than the already dire humanitarian crisis, deepen the anarchy in Gaza and further isolate Israel internationally.


ALVAREZ: Now, notably, President Biden asked the prime minister to send a delegation of military leaders to Washington to further discuss what their plans are, because that has been a top priority for the White House, making sure that Israel has a strategic plan as they go after Hamas. That meaning is expected to happen later this week or early next week.

But there's no doubt, Kasie, that this relationship has frayed over time. What used to be multiple calls within weeks, now only one call in the last month.

HUNT: Really interesting.

All right, Priscilla Alvarez for us at the White House.

Priscilla, thank you very much.

This also this morning from the White House. They fired back at former President Donald Trump over some controversial, at a minimum, comments that he's made about Jewish voters.

Listen to what the former president said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do the Democrats hate Bibi Netanyahu?



TRUMP: I don't think they hate - I think they hate Israel. And the Democrat Party hates Israel.

Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion, they hate everything about Israel, and they should be ashamed of themselves because Israel will be destroyed.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: All right, so the Biden campaign was pretty quick to respond to this. They said, quote, "the only person who should be ashamed here is Donald Trump. Donald Trump openly demeans Jewish Americans and reportedly thinks Adolf Hitler did some good things."

Our panel's back.

Evan Osnos, can you - I mean what Trump had to say here is very incendiary. Can you just dig into why a little bit, because there are tropes at play here that are pretty ugly.

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND STAFF WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": Yes, it's very offensive frankly to American Jews. I think the idea on the one hand that people would hate the state of Israel because their voice, their opposition to a policy is something that bothers people. Also, the assumption that Jewish identity means support necessarily for Israeli policies is also really bothers people.

There's something else going on too, which is that, you know, Donald Trump is trying to distract attention from the fact that the Biden administration has moved on this issue over the course of the last few months. I mean if you remember when this began in October, Joe Biden, of course, when and embraced Bibi Netanyahu. But when I saw him in January talking to the president about this question, he said something important. He said, look, the pressure on the Israeli leadership to move against Hamas with every ounce of capacity is real, he said, but it also doesn't mean that it should be continued or that it's right. He was drawing a real line about where he thinks this policy can go and where it shouldn't go. And that's what you're seeing playing out right now.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think this also underscores how absent Trump has been from the narrative around Israel-Hamas. I mean, you know, there's been a lot of focus on frustration with Biden from the left. You know, we, obviously, saw the results in Michigan, which people sort of seized on to say, you know, Biden has this really fundamental problem in his coalition. But the fact of matter is, you know, Trump has largely been quiet and been absent from the narrative. He, you know, popped up to say this incredibly offensive and some would argue hateful thing.


You know, he was also asked a few weeks ago about what the IDF should do. He said they should go into Gaza and finish the problem. I mean as people think about their choices in November and they're contemplating who they want to be leading the United States in this very fraught time. You know, the choice isn't Biden or uncommitted, right? It's Biden or Trump. And so I think, you know, the more you hear Trump sort of voice his, you know, his honest thoughts here, the better that comparison is for Biden in an admittedly very difficult policy situation for him.

HUNT: The one thing - comment Trump did make, Evan, was around - he said - it was very brief, but he basically said, well, we need to get it done and over with, right? And that's -- that read to me as the kind of America first, like no foreign entanglements kind of thing. How do you think that plays here?

OSNOS: Well, it's also unrealistic. You know, this is a classic Trump rhetorical device to say I can cut the gordian knot in 24 hours by doing some simple magical solution. This is an incredibly hard problem. It requires real expertise about the players on the ground, the people who have been involved in these issues. If it was easy, they would have solved it. And it is a fantasy to imagine that he could do something without really radically violating America's values.

HUNT: So, I also want to touch on, since one of the other comments we've been talking about this week was what Trump had to say yesterday - or over the weekend, we talked about it yesterday, the bloodbath comments. The Biden team quickly turned this around into an ad. I want to show to you.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, if I don't get elected, it's going to be a bloodbath. And it's going to be a bloodbath for the country.

CROWDS: Jews will not replace us.

TRUMP: But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you tell your supporters now, no matter what, no violence?

TRUMP: And it's going to be a bloodbath.



HUNT: Stop Trump.

So, I mean, Evan, this is kind of what they have been telegraphing all along. To Kate's earlier point, you know, he's not - Biden's not running against nobody or some generic Republican. That's what he's running against. And that's clearly - you know, Biden is personally motivated by this, which I think you saw when you spoke to the president.

OSNOS: Yes, it was very noticeable, actually, I think he really finds it almost inconceivable to imagine that Americans want the spirit of violence in our politics. That is a big - a big belief and it's a bet of a certain kind. You know, he's saying, look, I believe that fundamentally Americans are offended by the idea that we're going to talk about each other in these terms. And I think, look, when Donald Trump is defending his use of bloodbath, when he's parsing the specific context, that probably means it didn't land in the way that is going to be helpful to him.

HUNT: Yes. So, obviously, this kind of thing is something that his current campaign team wants him to stay away from, right? There trying - they've been trying to keep him on the teleprompter. He was off the teleprompter when he said this. And I say current campaign team because Chris LaCivita, Susie Wiles, these kind of pair of, you know, long time, high level operatives in the Republican Party have really professionalized what's going on.

However, Katelyn Polantz, there are reports that the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is in discussions to help with the re- election efforts.

Can you just remind us all of Manafort, what role he played, why he served time? He was pardoned by Donald Trump.


Paul Manafort is somebody who's been around Washington a very long time and has a lot of experience, including working for Trump as his campaign chairman in 2016. Not in a vacuum though because what we learned about Paul Manafort after the 2016 campaign, he had to resign from that and then he was prosecuted criminally. He was convicted of tax fraud and having foreign bank accounts that he hadn't disclosed to the federal government, other fraud charges.

And then he admitted to foreign lobbying, unregistered, for the U.S. - with the U.S. government.

HUNT: Right.

POLANTZ: He admitted to money laundering. And the Muller investigation - say what you will about how it ended and how Muller rolled out his findings about Donald Trump - there were very specific findings that they never really got to the bottom of because Paul Manafort ended up lying to prosecutors after cutting a plea deal about how deep his ties were.

HUNT: How many times do we have to say, just don't lie to the Fed.


HUNT: It's just a bad plan. Always a bad plan. Go ahead.

POLANTZ: But Manafort had, in that time period, ties to a Russian intelligence connected person, operative, named Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime colleague of him - his over in Ukraine and Russia.

HUNT: I haven't heard that name in a while, but yes. Right.

POLANTZ: And Manafort was talking to Kilimnik and sharing polling data with him from the Trump campaign.


He was also talking to Kilimnik repeatedly about what they called a peace plan at the time and whether Donald Trump would support it. And that peace plan was about the idea of Russia entering Ukraine or invading in some way. And so -

HUNT: And here we are today.

POLANTZ: Manafort's ties in Russia, Ukraine, also in the Middle East, there were many different areas. He had a lot of business overseas. That all was something that we never really understood, at least the Justice Department never truly understood the extent of those connections. And he did plead guilty and admitted to many of these.

HUNT: Right. And then this 2020 intelligence report, Manafort's high- level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with Russian intelligence services represented a grave counterintelligence threat.

Very, very quick.

POLANTZ: Sorry, he was pardoned too. I forgot, he was pardoned by Trump.

HUNT: Yes, he was pardoned by Donald Trump. We did not - we do need to underscore that.

Again, coming back potentially into the fold on Donald Trump's re- election campaign.

All right, our panel sticks around.

In less than an hour we expect to see - this is a hard turn - Prince William at a public event, but what about this lady right here, Princess Kate? We're going to get the latest from London.

Plus, polls are now open in Ohio, where an ugly Senate primary could have major implications for MAGA Republicans. Frank LaRose is one of the candidates on the ballot today. He was not endorsed by President Trump, but he joins me up next.



HUNT: All right, 45 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.

A pro-Trump lawyer who tried to overturn the 2020 election arrested Monday in Washington. Stefanie Lambert was detained by U.S. Marshals after a court hearing about her recent leak of internal emails belonging to Dominion Voting Systems.

Plus -


MICHAEL JENKINS, VICTIM OF POLICE TORTURE: It's been very hard for me, and for us, this past year. Just looking for the justice tomorrow (ph).


HUNT: Six white law enforcement officers convicted of torturing these two men, Eddie Parker and Michael Jenkins. Those officers being sentenced in Mississippi this week. Five sheriff's deputies and one police officer who called themselves the "Goon Squad," they now face as much 30 - as 30 years in prison.

Former President Barack Obama all smiles outside Ten Downing Street in London just ahead of a visit with U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday. Obama apparently in the city for his work with his foundation. Interested to know what the agenda was for that meeting.

Today, Prince William will attend a homelessness initiative in Sheffield, England, as the royal family deals with rumors about his wife, Kate's abdominal surgery, her extended absence from public duties, and their marriage. New images obtained by "The Sun" in the U.K. show the couple shopping this weekend. It's fueling even more rumors.

CNN's Max Foster here to break it all down for us.

Max, good morning.

We can't show these photos for legal reasons is what I understand, but rest assured they do exist. Viewers can Google them. What do you make of this? We here have been - we have many theories, which you probably will tell us are conspiracies. But I give - I hand the floor to you to tell us what's really happening.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's heed the floor to journalism. The -

HUNT: Why would we do that?

FOSTER: OK, so there are precious little facts here. But - so Kate, were told, goes into, you know, a planned surgery. She has a surgery. She leaves. They say she's doing well. And they say we won't see her again until Easter when her engagements will begin, but she needs to recover. There are the facts.

In this crazy world we're in, all the gaps have been filled in with huge conspiracy theories. And they're crazy. Most of them.

HUNT: Really?

FOSTER: But we are talking about them because of the world we live in and I'm now on TV addressing conspiracy theories, which is an impossible position to be in. But, you know, very right (ph) people are giving - coming out with lots of weird theories.

HUNT: Well, no, no, Max - Max, I cover - well, whatever. I cover American politics, all right.


HUNT: There's - the theories, this is not new territory. Continue. FOSTER: Yes, but in American politics you have leaks and you have

briefings and you get facts drawn out. In this world you just don't. It's the royal family. And in this country they're - they're not celebrities. They're not seen as celebrities. You know, it's the head of state. It's part of the system and the don't brief in the same sort of ways.

But that - yes, so there's a photo basically of them out of a farm shop in Windsor. These weren't official photos. And you see them - the couples smiling. Very much together. She looks really well. The palace isn't commenting on them at all. A lot of the British tabloids are saying this is - this draws a line under it. She's well. All of those theories about her health are untrue.

And then I wake up this morning and all the conspiracy theories are that it was a body double. We can't trust the pictures. And the palace are involved. I just - you know, make of it what you will.

HUNT: That does - that does seem like an overextension.

Kate Bedingfield, do you have any questions for Max Foster. Kate is my sort of partner in the what the heck is going on?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, so, I just - I do. I understand, obviously, the palace doesn't feel obligated to brief in the same way that, you know, the White House does, for example. But when you have these kinds of conspiracy theories running wild, is there - there's just no precedent for the palace to put out a clear photo or to have her do a video. It just seems like, from a - just purely from a communication standpoint, it wouldn't be that hard to put this to bed once and for all.


And I don't understand why they're so entrenched against doing that. What am I not - what do I - what don't I get?

FOSTER: Well, this is very much lead from Prince William, who has made it very clear in the past that he had this very troubled upbringing and he's got a very clear line. And he's spoken about it on the media. If you let them in too far, then all goes to rot, basically. So, you don't let them in. And what you do is you set out a strategy. You're honest with the media and say, this is what we're going to tell you officially at these times. So that's his view.

But, you know, I'm completely aware, and I've been pushing back a lot to say, you know, there's a huge concern out there, and not just amongst trolls, but amongst the genuine fans and subjects of the royal family.

HUNT: Yes.

FOSTER: You want to know how she is. And I pushed really hard on that, but they are sticking to their guns and they're saying that, you know, they're playing the long game. This is a family that's been in power for centuries. And they're playing the long game. So, I think when they look back on this, they didn't respond to the conspiracy theories and they - they played it their way. But also - there's also a moral - just -

HUNT: Sure. Max, can I just ask, though -


HUNT: Yes, sorry. I was just going to say, I mean that doctored photo, though, really - I get like they only want to say x, y, and z, but you've got to trust that x, y, and z, even if its limited, is true and that the photo really undermined all that.

FOSTER: Yes, it did. And there's a huge issue with trust now because, you know - you know, we get sent effectively a fake photo and without transparency about what had been done to that photo.

There's another photo that Getty Images have now mark to saying that they think that was doctored as well. Another one taken by Kate in 2022, released last year, the queen surrounded by her children and grandchildren, and there are issues with that. And we've made it really clear that that's very difficult - you know if they sent out an editorial picture, it undermines it.

But the bigger - with all these conspiracy theories of a cover-up, that speaks to it, fuels it. And we weren't given the original picture, so we weren't able to dispel it.

So, yes, there's a big, massive problem with the communication system in terms of that and also the fact that they're refusing to address genuine public concerns. But they've got their reasoning. And, you know, we've - we've - you know, our duty is to our viewers and their concern. We should try to address it. And I've really reflected that with them, but they're not budging.

HUNT: Yes.

Well, don't envy - it's a tough reporting assignments that you have, Max. We do wish Kate Middleton all the best, obviously. It is good to - I'm glad to see pictures of her healthy, even if we can't show them to you. We promised they're out there.

Max, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

FOSTER: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right, Republican voters in Ohio today will decide whether candidates Frank LaRose, Bernie Moreno, or Matt Dolan will take on sitting Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown in November. Brown viewed as vulnerable. His seat is critical. It is -- honestly, it's one of the top races here as the Republicans try to flip the Senate. This three- way contest is bitter and expensive. $40 million spent. The ads have been negative and personal.

One of the things raising the stakes, of course, the involvement of former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Moreno and it's become the focus of ads like this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MAGA alert. President Trump wants you to vote for outsider businessman Bernie Moreno.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moreno would lead the charge to enact Trump's MAGA agenda. Donald Trump needs Bernie Moreno. Ohio doesn't.


HUNT: Here with me now, one of the Republican candidates running for that seat, Ohio's secretary of state, Frank LaRose.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for being here.

FRANK LAROSE (R), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Good morning. Happy Election Day.

HUNT: Happy Election Day. I always love it when voters are voting. So, sir, this has obviously become a very heated and personal primary fight. There have been, you know, personal allegations leveled at Bernie Moreno and questions raised about his personal life. There have been, you know - there has been nastiness directed at you as well.

How have - how do you kind of respond to that, to what has been thrown at you in this race?

LAROSE: Well, I don't. I'd focus on talking to the voters about their choice. And what Ohio conservatives are looking for is a battle tested, proven conservative who can beat Sherrod Brown. And that's why I'm confident that when the polls close at 7:30 tonight, I'll be - I'll be the winner.

HUNT: Do you think that Moreno is someone who Ohio voters can trust with their vote?

LAROSE: No, absolutely not. And that's been part of my - that's been part of my conversation with voters from the very beginning. He's not a guy that you can trust. And that's the question I posed during the debate just a couple of weeks ago, who do you trust? Do you trust a green beret, a father of three, somebody who you voted for multiple times, or do you trust this guy, who's spending millions of dollars to try to convince you of something demonstrably untrue, and that is that he's a conservative. And now even Chuck Schumer has joined his cause, trying to help him get over the finish line because, well, Senator Schumer knows that Bernie would be the weakest candidate against Sherrod Brown.


HUNT: So, the remarks that the former president, Donald Trump, made about it being a bloodbath in this country if he's not re-elected were made at a rally that supports Mr. Moreno. Do you think Trump's comments about the potential bloodbath were dangerous in any way?

LAROSE: No, not really. Listen, what's happening on the southern border is causing bloodshed. What's happening around the world, because of the weakness of Joe Biden, is causing bloodshed. And that's why we need a strong commander in chief in the White House. I said when I endorsed President Trump, you want a leader who is fearless and feared. Donald Trump is. Our allies will respect us and our enemies will fear us and we'll have a secure southern border and we'll finally get this economy back on track. That's the focus that I have. And I know that's the focus Donald Trump has as well.

HUNT: We also showed our viewers earlier on in the show, sir, some comments he made saying that if Jewish people vote for Democrats, they hate their religion. Do you think that's true?

LAROSE: Listen, I'm not going to answer for Donald Trump. I can tell you this, that the modern Democratic Party has not stood for supporting the modern state of Israel the way that they should. And - and that's a problem. I've traveled five times to Israel, trained with members of the IDF, but I'm not going to question people's religion.

I will say though, that it's Republicans who have stood up consistently to support Israel, even as right now President Biden is trying to tie their hands with this important mission they have to rid Hamas from Gaza.

HUNT: Let me ask you, you say you don't want to answer for Donald Trump. Let me ask you about your current role as secretary of state in Ohio. Do you plan to certify the 2024 - assuming you don't win the nomination, we're going to set that out there, still a huge question mark about that for Senate. If you are still - and I suppose you're going to be in this position regardless since the race isn't going to happen until 2024. Do you plan to certify the election in Ohio, regardless of who is shown to be the winner?

LAROSE: I don't even accept the premise of the question. We run honest elections here in Ohio. And once those boards of election certify the results to me, then I aggregated those for all 88 Ohio counties. And barring some kind of legal issue with the election, then that election is certified, regardless of who the winner is.

Listen, we believe in democracy. That means the voters make their voice heard and we respect the will of the voters. That's way - that's the way we do it in Ohio. And we make it easy to vote and hard to cheat as well.

HUNT: Would you encourage voters who are unable to physically be at the polls to utilize the processes in Ohio that allow them to vote in different ways?

LAROSE: I have for the six years that I've been in this office, and we continue to do that. Ohioans have three easy and convenient and secure choices. Early voting absentee, early voting in person at your board of elections, or Election Day voting. They're all convenient. They're all secure. It's just a matter of picking which one works best for you. Our office has been consistent about promoting all of the ways to vote in Ohio.

HUNT: Do you think that former President Trumps causes problems for Republicans when he says that voting by mail is not safe? LAROSE: No. I've been very clear though that in Ohio the way we do it

is the example for other states to follow. There are other states that don't do it well, in my opinion. And, by the way, that's why I help members of Congress author a bill called the ASAK (ph), that's going to help bring Ohio's best practices to the other 49 states.

But we don't send out absentee ballots to people that never requested one, for example. And we do novel things like taking dead people off the voter rolls on a monthly basis. None of that should be controversial. The way Ohio does it is right.

HUNT: Finally, would you encourage other people in your position, other secretaries of state, to certify their elections, even if it shows that someone that's opposite from their party won the election?

LAROSE: Well, listen, I work with all of the other secretaries of state. I serve as an executive member of the Republican Secretaries of State Association. And each state has their own laws. And I believe that my colleagues will follow the laws of their state and perform the duties of their office. And that's what I expect them to do. And that's what I'm confident they will do. I'm not advising other states on how to certify their elections, though.

HUNT: All right, Secretary of State, in Ohio, Frank LaRose.

Thank you very much for being with us. Best of luck in your election tonight. We'll be watching.

LAROSE: Get out and vote Ohio. Thank you.

HUNT: Thank you.

And I will leave you with this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And think to yourself, there's no place like home.


HUNT: The iconic ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz" reunited with their rightful owner. It took more than a few heel clicks. The FBI returned the slippers on Monday, nearly 20 years after they were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum.


The slippers are now set for a world tour and an auction where they are expected to fetch.