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Erin Burnett Outfront
Israel: Raid Of Gaza's Shifa Hospital "Still Underway"; Soon: Biden Takes Questions At Rare News Conference; Ukraine: Forces Have Gained "Foothold" Across Dnipro River; GOP Senator Defends Moment He Challenged Witness To A Fight. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired November 15, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next:
Raiding Gaza's largest hospital. Israel releasing new video of weapons found inside the complex, but no proof of tunnels. This as CNN obtains exclusive Hamas bodycam video of the October 7th attacks.
Plus, President Biden about to hold a rare solo press conference this hour. We're going to bring it to you live.
And, quote, I will bite. The senator who almost started a fistfight with a witness in a hearing is doubling down tonight.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
And we are OUTFRONT following two breaking stories. President Biden expected to hold his first press conference in months this hour. We're going to bring that to you live.
This, of course, coming at a crucial moment in the Israeli war in Gaza. Tonight, we are learning that Israeli forces are still inside the largest hospital in Gaza al Shifa.
A spokesman for Israel's military telling reporters, and I quote, it's a complicated area which still has many people. We need to conduct in the right place.
Now, keep in mind, we first learned about this operation starting 24 hours ago. Israel's military has released video from inside the hospital they say was filmed in this day. I want to make it clear that these videos were shot and distributed by the IDF. CNN cannot independently verify their findings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COLONEL JONATHAN CONRICUS, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: It is definitely an MRI machine, and if you follow me behind the MRI machine, I will show you what our troops exposed just minutes ago. In military terms, this is a grab bag. Grab and go of a Hamas combatant. And if you zoom in and we get some light over here, what you will be
able to see are -- is military equipment. There is an AK-47. There are cartridges and ammo. There are grenades in here.
Of course, uniformed and all of this was hidden very conveniently, secretly behind the MRI machine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Behind the MRI machine.
Now, you may recognize that IDF member, that's Jonathan Conricus, the lieutenant colonel, spokesperson for the IDF in that hospital.
Now, we've been unable to get a comment from hospital authorities at this time. But one thing not shown in the IDF video from the hospital at this point, now they do say it's ongoing, but I do want to make it clear at this point, they have not released any footage of Hamas alleged tunnels at that hospital.
Remember, Israel said that the operation to enter Al Shifa was to clear the tunnels, that they said were being used by Hamas fighters and that they said that there was a command and control node there. An IDF spokesperson telling CNN that they were the, quote, beating heart of Hamas' operations referring to Al Shifa.
This was a claim that U.S. intelligence independently came out on the record and said -- they say that's true as well. But while Israeli troops continue to sweep Al Shifa Hospital, they are now also engaged in a fierce fight to the north. CNN cameras capturing large explosions and flares.
I do want to emphasize this is the exact same area that Israel said it had secured and was in control of but now, according to the IDF, Israeli forces are being ambushed by Hamas militants there.
And it comes, this fighting, as we have an exclusive report tonight with footage from the October 7th terror attack on Israeli civilians. Now, many Hamas militants on that day were wearing GoPro cameras to document the attack. Some of the videos they took were then shared by Hamas, they put them online as propaganda, but not all of them.
Israeli sources told me that they found many dead Hamas fighters and they were dead still wearing the go pro cameras. So footage was there. And now, CNN has obtained video from one of these cameras from the Israeli military.
This particular GoPro from this Hamas militant, this one GoPro, runs 100 minutes of horror in its entirety. I do want to warn you that this exclusive report from our Oren Liebermann that you will see in just a few moments is very, very graphic. The horror of what that happened that day.
Oren joins me now live from Tel Aviv.
And, Oren, I am giving everyone a moment to decide what they're going to watch here. But obviously, your exclusive report is coming up here in a moment.
I first want to ask you, though about, what's happening at Al Shifa hospital where last night, it was at this time where you broke the news as IDF forces were going in. They've now released new videos, the IDF has, not independent journalists. Is there more to come?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what the Israeli military and the Israeli government are promising, saying the operation in Shifa Hospital is just beginning, and they're only beginning to look around.
But this operation has now been going on for 24 hours. It was earlier today that the IDF said they had, quote, concrete evidence that Hamas used it as a terror infrastructure. But the guns they found that you saw on the video from the IDF, the grenades, the vests, that is a far cry from what they promised. For weeks as this operation was ongoing, Israel focused on al Shifa hospital, even putting up pictures of where they said Hamas had underground infrastructure under the hospital, and a 3D illustration of what they said or what they claim showed the Hamas complex underground.
They also had backing from the U.S. who also said there was Hamas infrastructure underneath the hospital even as doctors and health officials in Gaza repeatedly rejected. Those accusations, what they put forward today is very far away from what they promised the senior adviser for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is saying this process is just beginning. But for their own credibility and for that of the U.S. now, there better be a lot more coming.
BURNETT: There certainly -- there certainly better be, versus compared to what they've claimed. And obviously this is ongoing, see we'll see.
But, Oren, the context of this, of course, is October 7th and the exclusive video that you have obtained. It is from the IDF, but it's video from Hamas GoPro camera as the October 7th attacks unfolded. We know they were filming it. They put of it online themselves. But, obviously, some of them who were killed, they were still wearing those GoPro cameras. And now, you've had a chance to look at some of these.
What more can you tell us?
LIEBERMANN: My team and I went through a hundred minutes of video that shows the attack. It even shows, as you'll see, tunnel video in preparation for the attack. What's stunning about this, and think about this as you're looking at it is how much time the terrorist who was wearing this body cam and those around him had as they were moving through southern Israel. At one point, they were even surprised, asking where are all the soldiers.
Erin, again, I will warn our viewers as we get into this, it is very graphic video.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): An explosion before dawn on October 7th. The time is here and the attack is underway.
"Allahu Akbar," God is great, they chant, as they cross the breached fence.
Go right, go right, go right, they say.
Less than two minutes later, they cross the second security fence. They are in Israel heading towards a kibbutz.
The sun is up in a day that will reshape the region has begun.
This video comes from the body cam of one of the terrorists who took part in the attack. It was obtained exclusively by CNN and the Israel Defense Forces.
For the first time, we also see video inside Hamas tunnels before the attack. It is a look into a network of tunnels, with what appeared to be supplies stored in the darkness. Writing on the wall is in Arabic says, what's hidden is far worse.
Above ground, the gunman fired his first shots. Go on, men. Go on, men, he screams.
They stop on the way. More than a dozen militants gathered here to prepare for the next assault. One has several rocket propelled grenades on his back.
Minutes later, a group advances across an open field, moving towards the village of Kissufim. The gunman charges the last bit, and spots an Israeli soldier on the ground.
Others join in celebration.
Moments later, he's more composed as he turns the camera on himself. He says his name and that he's 24 years old. He's a father. He says he killed two Israeli soldiers, he asks god for victory and well-deserved martyr.
On motorbikes now, they keep advancing, moving together along empty Israeli roads, or nearly empty. The man tears as he sees bodies on the road. His is not the first wave. He rounds a corner.
Here, we have seen this place before, among the first videos to come out after the attack. This is dash cam video from a car on the same road moments earlier. The car approaches a group of militants who opened fire. The car coasts, it's driver almost certainly dead by now. It's just after 7:40 in the morning.
After a quick reload, the group approaches a military base near the kibbutz of Re'im.
For 65 minutes, since crossing the Gaza fence, they've had nearly free rein in Israel.
The gunman closes the distance with a weapon he took from an Israeli soldier, opening fire. And fire comes back.
This man's part of the attack comes to an end. The terror is just beginning.
LIEBERMANN (on camera): One thing we've heard from everybody here, and that's the IDF, Israeli officials, as well as everybody on the street here, is that there will be a thorough, long and in-depth investigation as to the catastrophic failures on the part of the Israeli security apparatus on October 7th. Erin, that window gives you one small glimpse into how catastrophically Israel's security system failed on that day.
BURNETT: Catastrophically, and just -- gosh, you see the sun rising there. And on that day, so much changed before such an incredibly horrific loss of life.
Oren, thank you very much.
With me now, Colonel Cedric Leighton, retired Air Force colonel. Ian Bremmer also with me, president and founder of the Eurasia Group and GZERO Media.
Colonel, you're with me.
I want to -- you know, I couldn't turn away from that, as horrible as it is. They're preparing, they've got the young man that has the rocket, all the RPGs on his back.
CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Right.
BURNETT: And the man who's narrating this who dies, he -- as Oren describes him at one point, he becomes more introspective as he turns to himself. He says he's 24 years old, he gives his name, he says a father of two and he begs for martyrdom. He expects to die as a 24 year old father of two.
LEIGHTON: That tells you about the mindset, Erin, that we're dealing with here. This mindset is completely different than what the Israeli mindset is or what the American mindset would be in a situation like this.
These people believe that death through martyrdom, as they would call it, is preferable to the life that they are living right now. And that is what propels them forward. It means that they are not really a well-organized fighting force, although they were able to pull off this massive attack and they got lucky in that sense that they were able to move as far inland as they did, that they were able to kill as many people as they did.
But what this shows is that there is a real psychological difference in the mindset of these people compared to what the Israeli IDF would be like.
BURNETT: And they weren't expecting, Ian, to -- they were expecting to face more resistance. They were. I mean, I know in talking to people in other kibbutz, they were trying to negotiate, surrender because they thought the IDF was there when the IDF was nowhere to be found.
And yet you see this tunnel footage. They put that in clearly, Ian, as propaganda, like, right with the graffiti saying there's worse under here. What do you see in this? It's horrific. And, yet, you can't look away from it.
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF EURASIA GROUP & GZERO MEDIA: The idea that you could get 2,000 Hamas terrorist fighters, young kids all gunned up across the border to cause the kind of damage that they have, terrorists, inconceivable. That's the big surprise.
The big surprise is not that Hamas is a terrorist organization. The big surprise is not that you'd have these young kids prepared to martyr themselves in the cause of their ideology. The big surprise that the Israeli Defense Forces, the gold standard for border defense for operational security, human intelligence, failed, was just asleep at the switch.
And that's why the Israeli people overwhelmingly blame Prime Minister Netanyahu. It's why he doesn't want to talk to the Israeli journalists right now. I mean, this is really the extraordinary thing is that Israel was just not ready for, you know, a group of terrorists that were right across their border.
BURNETT: Colonel, there's also the whoops and the celebration, which I find incredibly jarring, you know, walking through some of those kibbutz. You know, there are charred bodies. The death, the horror that was unfolding.
And this was the celebration, unadulterated joy, that's what we heard on that tape, unadulterated joy and celebration.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, that's exactly what the case is, Erin. And it kind of is reminiscent of what you'd expect a scene out of the Middle Ages with Genghis Khan coming into Europe and destroying villages in their wake.
And that's -- and that's the kind of thing that these people did. This is what they are prepared to do. They are prepared to bring basically a 9th century war mentality into the modern era, and that's -- that's really the dangerous part of this.
BURNETT: Ian, one other thing on this, as we watch this footage again, it's hard to tell from it, but you don't just get an obvious feeling that a bunch of these guys were on drugs, and having talked to people who came face to face with them, they're on the ground, I did hear somebody say that they appear to be on drugs.
And I heard, frankly, multiple people say that they did not, that even with the militants that people interacted with, they were various levels of depravity and radicalism.
When you watch this, and this is one person, this is one guy, a 24- year-old kid, father of two, what do you hear?
BREMMER: It just hurts. I mean, you know, the fact that the human condition is pushed to the degree that this sort of behavior is someone can rationally conduct. It's a hard for any of us to put ourselves in the hands of anyone that can conduct behavior like this and yet it is what we saw. We're not talking about a couple of planeloads of terrorists that, you know, sort of created 9/11 from scratch. We're talking about a couple thousand people, and behind them, 30,000 to 40,000 Hamas fighters.
This is -- it's not an existential threat to the nation, to the Israeli nation. But it -- you understand how the Israelis would respond so -- with such extraordinary anger on the back of this. It's just -- it's really hard to see.
BURNETT: Something about those, as I said, the loops of unadulterated joy, kind of makes me shake.
All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate.
And next, we are awaiting a rare solo press conference by President Biden. That is turning any moment. We're going to bring it to you live. He's just wrapping up a four-hour meeting with the leader of China.
Plus, Ukraine making major advancement tonight at the battlefield, closing in on Russian occupied Crimea. You heard what I just said. The top Putin official warning tonight they're about to face a, quote, fiery hell.
And a sitting senator who challenged the Teamsters president to a fistfight, tonight, is defending his behavior.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): I thought I'm going to break my hand on this guy's face, I'm going to take my wedding ring off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Breaking news, President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping just wrapping up a meeting that lasted four hours, four hours, and they just emerged a few moments ago. Biden is expected to take live questions. The president about to host a rare solo press conference which would only be the third time he has done this year.
It comes with a fraught moment for Biden, two brutal wars, Israel- Gaza, Ukraine-Russia, a risk of mass escalation, low approval ratings, a dysfunctional Congress, and, of course, coming with this crucial meeting with Xi Jinping.
OUTFRONT now, Jeff Zeleny, our chief national affairs correspondent, Karen Finney, CNN political commentator and former spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, and Scott Jennings, CNN senior political commentator and former adviser to Mitch McConnell.
All right. Thanks very much to all of you.
All right. Jeff, this -- this meeting went longer than many had anticipated. Four hours is a long time. Translations aside, four hours is a really long time.
And now, Biden, President Biden is coming out of it, going to host what is only his third solo press conference this year, and we're here in mid-November. So, this is a crucial moment.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Erin. Now, there's no question about it. I mean, foreign policy has always been President Biden's calling card. This is one of the things that really was central to his election in 2022, restore America's place in the world.
And China was always going to be at the very center of that. Of course, for any president, events get in the way. Events intervene. So, Ukraine, certainly, and now the Middle East. But China is still so central to everything he is doing. But every move he is making there throughout this -- the time of the summit, them walking side by side, them shaking hands, everything is top of mind as he is running for re- election again.
He turns 81 years old on Monday. We are told that he wished the wife of President Xi Jinping a happy birthday. Her birthday is the same day as President Biden. But that points out the fact he does turn 81 on Monday.
And every step he makes he is watched very carefully. But, again, this is something that diplomacy is something he wants to be doing. He wants to be focused on this rather than other domestic challenges.
But we are being told that fentanyl was a central part of this conversation. Erin, this is a key part of the Republican argument on the Republican primary campaign, controlling fentanyl coming into the U.S. So, if President Biden gets what he can view as a win out of that, this is something where being the commander in chief, being president is a huge part of being an incumbent, a major advantage.
BURNETT: All right. Karen, this is, though, a crucial moment for him, right, that this is going to happen in a few moments here. Look, Jeff said every step he takes is being watched, referring, I believe, in the specific context, you know, figuratively to what he says here.
But it's also literally, right? He's going to be giving a rare solo press conference, and people are going to watch every literal step he takes, every figurative word that he says. How -- how important is a moment like this for him right now in this point in the campaign and, of course, given at approval ratings and the concerns the public has about his age right now?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, these are the kinds of moments where leaders are able to rise to the challenge and the pressure because, as you pointed out, he has a number of challenges, both domestically and abroad. No doubt in these conversations, the president is having to really walk a fine balance between staying tough on China in the ways that have been successful and effective. But also, as he said, he's got to reopen the dialogue.
And I would venture to say that the world is safer when America and China are having conversations not just at the leader-to-leader level but between our militaries, between our secretaries of state, and what-have-you. So, he's got a balance.
I mean, Jeff mentioned the fentanyl issue. Look, Trump got a deal on fentanyl, and China didn't do anything with it, that didn't really go anywhere. And, so, part of the challenge with China that Josh Rogin had a great piece today, China has a little bit of a rope-a-dope that they have done. They did it with Trump. They did it with Obama.
And, so, Biden needs to, I think he's going to have to show that he -- hopefully, they got some agreements.
He's able -- he is staying tough on China, and he'll no doubt get some tough questions on what's happening here at home.
BURNETT: Right, and certainly on a lot of topics. But, Scott, you know, to the point that Karen's making, there was a lot of criticism from Republicans on the campaign trail today of Biden's decision to meet with the Chinese President Xi Jinping today.
Here's Trump himself and some of his rivals. They were in agreement on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PREIDENT: China has become very hostile. They weren't hostile with me. They weren't hostile with me. They called me sir, they don't call him sir.
NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think you've seen Biden has begged for this meeting, right? That's why President Xi is willing to meet with him is they're not scared of Joe Biden.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They do not fear Biden. They realize he's weak. His whole approach to China has been flawed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Scott, look, they're all in agreement on this. But is there any situation in which it would be wrong for President Biden to take a four-hour meeting with the president of China on U.S. soil?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the president of the United States has to meet with China. I think it's right for him to do that. At the same time, you cannot oversell or overstate how much you trust China because, look, they don't -- they don't believe it's in their best interest to do things like help the United States with our cultural problems with fentanyl or, you know, whatever they're doing with TikTok. I think that's a major flash point as well.
They view us an adversary. They don't view us as an ally. And so, to say we made an agreement with an adversary, as Karen said, you know, they often don't keep their agreements with us and they don't think it's in their best interest to do that.
So, if I were in Biden's shoes that, yes, you have to talk to these people, but you have to be clear-eyed about what their ultimate aims are, and you have to communicate to the American people that you understand they are an adversary. There's a mountain of video from the history of Joe Biden's political career where he's saying things, like, well, rising China, that's good, that's good.
The American people do not believe that.
JENNINGS: And he needs to set that rhetoric aside and be more realistic about this.
BURNETT: Right. Although I think probably everyone in this group can agree, whether they call you sir or not is not indicative of how seriously they take you or don't.
Jeff Zeleny, the -- when President Biden takes questions, as he is expected to do in just -- in just a few moments here, they are going to be all sorts of things. Obviously, they're going to be about Israel and Gaza. No question about that.
Young voters, he is doing very poorly with right now in polls. He needs to turn that around. His team knows that. A big part of the reason why, according to some of the reporting you have done and some of your team is because of Israel-Gaza. People like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that young voters recognize you can't bomb your way to peace and security. And, so, we do feel uncomfortable with that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for Biden.
REPORTER: And are you going to vote for him again in 2024?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, if you would have asked me a month ago, I would have said absolutely 100 percent no doubt about it. But honestly, the past few weeks have changed everything and I don't know anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Okay, Jeff, this is a crucial moment. How does he walk the line tonight? Because he is going to have to. And it's not going to be just one question. I'd be shocked, right, if it was one question.
Backing -- continuing his steadfast support for Israel and recognizing that many of the constituents that supported him and voted him into office do not agree with his position on this issue.
ZELENY: Erin, there is no doubt that young voters are a key part of his coalition, part of his winning coalition. So are many other pieces of the coalition and many of which have one thing in common. They do have deep questions about the violence they have seen in Gaza, and deep questions about the unwavering support the president has given toward Israel.
But we have seen a shift in the administration's language over the last month, essential since October 7th. So we will see what the president has to say tonight. But, look, they know that they need to explain the fact that they are not giving Israel a blank check, if you will. But they also have to explain why there was a ceasefire on October 6th and it was Hamas that broke that ceasefire.
So I would look for the president to give some, you know, sharp answers on that. But, look, he is not going to please everyone in the Middle East. Who -- which president has?
BURNETT: Right, right, that's true. But, I -- to your point, certainly we'll hear him make that point about who broke the ceasefire, as it was essentially was, on October 6th.
All right, thank you.
Next, we are waiting President Biden's first solo press conference in months. But right now, China's president after this four-hour meeting with Biden is having dinner with a group of Iowans including this woman. Who is she? Who is she?
Plus, some major advances by Ukraine to tell you about tonight as Putin pardons more hardcore criminals and sets them free for just one reason, you know what it is.
They're willing to go fight his war.
BURNETT: President Biden just emerging from that marathon four-hour meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The talks including very direct exchanges on the economy and nuclear issues, agreeing to resume military-to-military communication was a crucial goal here.
And we are already seeing a dramatic about-face in China tonight. I mean, this is actually pretty stunning. The Chinese literally overnight changing their tone, calling for warmer ties with the United States, you could see it in real time.
And David Culver is in San Francisco where both leaders are, where the meeting was, where they're staying tonight. And, David, last night when we talked, your reporting on the tone in
China was very different. I mean, you actually were talking about a social media post. You saw so many like this one. But it said, anyone who thinks that China/U.S. relations will become better is simply naive. It's just a wishful thinking, and it was dime a dozen for tone like that.
Today, though, a dramatic turnaround. Tell me what you're seeing.
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, this actually caught me off guard, Erin, to the point where I had to go back and re-read some of these media headlines to make sure I understood how they were portraying this. And it was incredibly friendly to see this tone put out in a very cozy manner directed towards the U.S.
I can tell you, my three years living there up until last year, I never saw anything this pro-U.S., if you will, in the messaging. And it was leading up to today's talks.
Now, obviously, what I'm going to be looking for now is how if anything might shift after these talking points start to come out. But as of no, the headlines are still there. And state media is still very much going into this with an optimistic tone.
I mean, they are stressing things like people to people connections, and they're even romanticizing, Erin, some of President Xi's past trips to the U.S. And so, they are positioning it in a way that seems to suggest that they want to convince the Chinese public that perhaps Americans are good now. And this comes after years of portraying them in a very, quite frankly, evil depiction at times --
BURNETT: I mean, yeah.
CULVER: -- and placing a lot of blame on the U.S. for conflicts and for even starting the pandemic.
BURNETT: Yeah. I mean, evil depictions. I mean, talk about a whiplash. I mean, it is stunning. If you think about it, and we're going to get more perspective on what's really happening here. But what's actually happening is an incredible thing.
And it does come as Xi is, in addition to the meeting with Biden, trying to show off his American ties, which also goes counter to what you've seen so much of. But he met with a mix of people from Iowa who Xi calls his old friends.
One of them is named Sarah Lande. Here she is in 1985 with xi. People may not remember. But she was there at that time. He spent time in the United States, his first trip to the United States. He was with Sarah Lande.
You had a chance to speak with her today. Why is she important to him in this trip? CULVER: So, it was interesting. I was able to catch up with her on
Zoom. But she's like, I need to hurry, I have a few minutes, I need to get dinner with President Xi Jinping. I mean, not many -- not many folks get to say that, let alone Americans here in the U.S. but she's been flown here to attend that dinner.
I think it's important because of optics more than anything else. It doesn't take away from what friendship and relationship they might have. But this is important for President Xi as he's trying to win over U.S. businesses in particular, and trying to persuade them to come back into China if they've left or to expand their reach within China.
But I want you hear from Sara herself as he describes this relationship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH LANDE, AMERICAN FRIEND OF XI JINPING: I am an old friend of Xi Jinping. And that's why I was invited to come. And even in 2012 when he walked in the door, there was a big smile that there is just a wonderful feeling between the peoples that we care about each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CULVER: So, I've never really heard anybody describe President Xi Jinping in such a personal manner. He's very low key and not a lot of transparency from China. But there you have it, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. David Culver, thank you very much.
And with me now, Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst who also served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and Ian Bremmer is also back with me.
All right. Sumi, what do you make of all this dramatic turnaround. I mean, I mean, whiplash. I mean, if you're in China, you go wait, this great evil, and now it's friendly. And you hear Sue Lande talking about President Xi Jinping in this way, which, of course, he wants, he knew what happened. He's flown her there for dinner.
What do you think is going on?
SUE MI TERRY, FORMER CENTERR FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES SENIOR FELLOW: So, I think Xi Jinping -- I mean, there is incentive for this meeting to go really well. China's economy is stagnant. I think this shows the kind of trouble that Xi Jinping is in, in terms of his economy, right? It's stagnant.
China's economy was about 75 percent of America's GDP. GDP just went down to some 64 percent. They have a lot of troubles at home, right? There's deflation, there's housing market crisis.
There's youth unemployment, one out of five are unemployed. Asian population, lowest fertility rate in the world. So there are a lot of problems. Foreign investors are leaving China, and he wants foreign investors
back and investing in China. And look at he's taking Iowa connection, right?
TERRY: He's sort of show that he's not anti-American, that he has connection to heartland of America. And it doesn't hurt that Iowa is agricultural exporter to China. And that export has also gone down.
So I think there is a lot of incentives here for Xi Jinping to have this successful meeting and portray all of this.
BURNETT: Interesting. It just runs counter I think to what I think a lot of people expect. Among the many things you said there that the Chinese economy was approaching the same size as the United States. It was three quarters of the size of the American economy. It's now 64 percent. So, down to two-thirds, I mean, less than two-thirds. It's just really significant what you're saying.
And, Ian, the four-hour meeting that Biden and Xi had is a long time. And I say that knowing full well that you had translators, right? You had everything double -- it's still a really long time for how these things go. Very different than Xi's visit to meet with then-President Trump six years ago.
Trump, of course, heaped praise on him. We all remember the cameras at the dinner. We're looking at the video of it now, and then the meeting Trump stressed that he had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake.
I mean, we all remember these moments, and Ivanka Trump's daughter who was taking Chinese lessons. Do you remember how she came and performed for him? Just to remind everybody, this is what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANDE: I am an old friend of Xi Jinping, and that's why I was invited to come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Okay. Obviously, sorry, that was a mistake. But, Arabella did show up, Ivanka's daughter, and, you know, it's a song and dance, and, obviously, that's what happened.
So, this is a very different situation. Now we're seeing it. A very different situation, Ian. What does that mean to Xi that this is so different?
BREMMER: Well, first of all, four hours was fully expected. This was not surprised that it went longer. It was the plan.
Secondly, we've had over the last few weeks a Chinese charm offensive towards Australia when the prime minister came. That was a relationship that was completely broken over the last few years, started in the midst of COVID. The Chinese reaching out to Lithuania, also a broken relationship, all the places they've got problems with in the West, they're trying to patch over.
Why? Sue Mi already said it. The Chinese economy is not doing very well.
But also because the rest of the word looks like it's in flames. This Russia/Ukraine conflict, the Middle East conflict.
The Chinese -- very different from Iran, from Russia, from North Korea -- they don't want chaos globally. They need the global economy to be stable. They actually need the geopolitics of the world to be stable.
So even though they're an adversary of the United States and a competitor, they're not trusted by the U.S. and it's mutual. But they are adults. And in that regard, you have two leaders that have known each other for a very long time meeting today with the intention to try specifically to lower the temperature.
And that has been sort of in train now for months. I'm not surprised. It's not the end of the world. It's not suddenly -- it's not a new glasnost between them.
One other thing I would mention, though, for you, is that a few hours ago, the Chinese got very good news on the issue that has been most important to them. And that's Taiwan. And the two opposition parties in Taiwan who have not been able to see eye to eye decided they are going to run on a joint slate.
And the one that will run for president will be the one that happens to poll the best in a few internal polls. That means that it is much more likely on January 13th that the next Taiwanese president is not pro-independence but instead someone that is more willing to work with mainland China.
And that takes a very significant piece of conflict and reduces the temperature between the Americans and the Chinese. It is not coincidental that that announcement came hours before Biden was meeting with Xi Jinping. Clearly, that improved the temperature in the room.
BURNETT: Clearly. And let's go into the room where this is about to happen. I mean, just to keep in mind -- you know, China has -- they've taken a side. They've taken a Hamas side. They've taken a Russia side. It's been very clear.
So this is obviously not a glasnost, but a rapprochement of some fascinating sort.
MJ Lee is actually in the room where President Biden will be taking questions momentarily.
MJ, what are you learning?
MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, first of all, apologizes for the delay in this press conference. Members of the media were just moved indoors for what was supposed to be an outdoor press conference. But we started getting some rain drops and that's why things have been a little bit hectic.
But, look, Erin, I think if U.S. officials wanted to see a reset in U.S./China relations, I think we just might've seen that happen in real time. There has been a reset in U.S./China relations at least insofar as the bigger goal that U.S. officials had wanted, which was to re-establish diplomacy and re-establish a communication channels that had been severed, particularly important to the U.S. officials was the re-establishment of this military-to-military communications.
We've heard from a senior administration official that there was an agreement that that was an important part of their communications that had to be built again. There was also this agreement that we saw from the two countries on China agreeing to take actions to crack down on the chemical substances that are used to make fentanyl.
But just stepping back from that, I think we can read a lot into, Erin, sort of the language that we saw at the top of the summit from the two leaders, really agreeing that the two countries must work together to avoid crises and then just the body language that we saw as well. The two leaders decided to go on a walk around the premises of this historic estate so that the cameras could capture the physical warmth between the two.
We were also told that there were some moments of levity in this long summit as well when President Biden wished President Xi's wife a happy birthday next week. President Xi responding that he had forgotten about his wife's birthday because he had been working so hard.
So, again, all of this has culminated as a result of U.S. officials over the last many months working with their Chinese counterparts to lay the groundwork to get a few tangible outcomes out of this.
But in the big picture, I think U.S. officials are going to be happy and hear a happy President Biden talking about how he accomplished what he set out to accomplish here -- Erin.
BURNETT: Well, as you say, MJ, it appears at least from the immediate take on both sides to be quite a significant day indeed.
All right. We are waiting, as I said, that press conference, which will begin momentarily. We're going to take a brief break, and we'll come with that as soon it begins.
And also, when we talk about Xi's relations with China and with Putin, well, today, Putin suffering a major setback. Ukrainian forces are now a step closer to liberating Crimea as Russia struggles to find fighters. All these things possibly intertwined.
Plus, The Rock goes to Washington, and he's asked the question that's right now on everyone's mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you plan to run for president?
Do you plan to run for president?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, Ukraine is making a major advance on the battlefield. Ukrainian soldiers crossing the Dnipro River, crossing Dnipro River, moving closer to Crimea, which is occupied by Russia. This is according to a top Ukrainian official who says these soldiers have now, quote, gained a foothold across the river, which, if it's the case, is a significant first step towards Ukraine's aim of liberating Crimea.
Russia hitting back warning that, quote, a fiery hell will be thrown at Ukrainian soldiers. But pro-Kremlin military bloggers complain that Russian forces cannot oust the Ukrainians from their position. The development on the southern front line comes as Vladimir Putin is now pardoning and releasing Vladimir Putin is pardoning and releasing murderers. And if you look at some of the murderers they convicted, it is horrific, and pardoning me, because they'll fight in Ukraine.
Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As Russia loses large amounts of soldiers on the front lines in Ukraine, the Kremlin continues filling the ranks with convicts, pardoning and releasing even the most dangerous ones if they survive their tour of combat.
Sergei Khadzhikurbanov was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2014 for organizing the high-profile killing of prominent journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya who was gunned down in her apartment block in 2006. Now, he has been pardoned after fighting in Ukraine, his lawyer says. Politkovskaya's family and the paper she worked for "Novaya Gazeta" irate.
It is a monstrous fact of injustice and arbitrariness, an insult to the memory of a person killed for their beliefs and for carrying out their professional duty, they wrote in a statement.
There are others. Vladislav Kanius (ph) was sentenced to 17 years in jail for brutally murdering his girlfriend in order to pay compensation to the victim's family, Russian media reports. He was also pardoned after fighting in Ukraine and doesn't even have to pay the compensation. The Kremlin defending the decision.
There is a certain practice being implemented, Putin spokesman says. To my knowledge, there are no exceptions to this practice. More precisely, there are exceptions, but they do not relate to the topic of the resonance of this or that case.
The Wagner private military company first started using convicts on the battlefield in Ukraine last year. Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin traveling to Russian jails to recruit inmates.
I spend more ammunition than was ever spent in Stalingrad, he said at the time. First sin is deserting. No one leaves the front, no one surrenders.
Even after Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash in August, Russia continues large scale release of prison inmates.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin even included some in a moment of silence for fallen soldiers.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We are all people. Everyone can make some mistakes. They once made them, but they gave their lives for their motherland and atoned for their guilt in full.
PLEITGEN: And that amnesty also extends to killers in Russia, who can prevent doing time by killing even more in Ukraine.
PLEITGEN (on camera): And you know, Erin, despite public backlash even within Russia, when in some cases convicted murderers are released back into society, Vladimir Putin really doesn't seem to want to change course on this topic. In fact, his spokesman recently said that convicts, quote, atone with blood for crimes on the battlefield -- Erin.
BURNETT: Fred, thank you very much.
Well, next, the Republican senator who challenged a union leader to a fistfight is now not only defending his actions, but taking it a step further.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): I'm going to fight. I'm going to fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus live pictures from San Francisco. After this significant meeting with President Xi Jinping, President Biden expected to take questions from reporters at any moment, and we will, of course, be bringing that to you live.
BURNETT: Tonight, a Republican senator defending this moment, when he challenged the head of Teamsters union to a fistfight.
Senator Markwayne Mullin says he was serious about fighting during a hearing on Capitol Hill. Here's what he told our Dana Bash today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MULLIN: First thing I thought about, I'm going to break my hand on this guy's face, I'm going to take my wedding ring off. Because when you're fighting, you learn how to punch correctly, you really shouldn't break your hand. But when you aren't doing it wraps, you usually will.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: You actually thought you were going to come to blows in that moment?
MULLIN: I had full intentions of doing that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Mullin is a mixed martial arts fighter, and he went further. He said this in a podcast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MULLIN: I'm going to fight. I'll do anything. I'm not above it. I don't care where I fight by the way. It just is going to be a fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Melanie Zanona is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill.
And, Melanie, I mean, just listening to all of this, it's sort of like, wait, is this real? How are other members of Congress reacting to all of this?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, none of his colleagues are calling for him to be punished. So, we are not expecting Mullin to suffer any consequences here. But some Republicans have said he should be setting a better example as a United States senator, while other Republicans have sought to defend him and turned the blame on the witness. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): I would have bludgeoned the guy for a lot of things he'd said, but I wouldn't have gone as far as Markwayne.
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): I wouldn't want to mess with Markwayne Mullin. He's tough. But it seems this witness that has a long history of taunting him with tweets, and that's completely unnecessary.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): You can only be young once, but you can always be immature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: Now, for his part, Mullin is not showing any remorse for his behavior. In fact, Erin, he is doubling down and he is also fundraising off of this incident and selling T-shirts. Now, he is a former MMA fighter, so in some ways being a fighter is
part of his brand. But this is just one example of how the decorum on Capitol Hill has really devolved in recent years, where this behavior is not only tolerated but it is also incentivized, given that he is tolerating off of this, tweeting this, doing media interviews.
So, certainly not the finest moment for the world's greatest deliberative body. And I'll also point out, Erin, that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, an actual wrestler was on Capitol Hill today. So, maybe they needed to bring in some actual fighters today.
But, you know, it's just another example, again, of how the institution has really changed in recent years, Erin.
BURNETT: Right, changed, and I know you're being diplomatic in your words. It's a stunning moment when you realize these are real people with real jobs and significant responsibilities.
All right. Well, thank you very much, Melanie, I appreciate it. And, of course, the Rock was there to talk about whether he would run for president.
Of course, we are awaiting now President Biden any moment about to begin a press conference. It is going to be only his third solo press conference in this year. It's November 15th. So, this is only the third time, obviously, going to be here in prime time. It's been a bit delayed after what appears to have been a very significant meeting with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The president of the United States will be taking those questions in just a few moments.
Thanks so much for joining us.
Let's hand it off now to Anderson.