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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden, Xi Try to Stabilize Relations in High-Stakes Meeting; IDF Promises "More Evidence" of Hamas Command at Gaza Hospital; Police, Protesters Clash at DNC HQ in Washington; Heavy Rains Along Gulf Coast, Flash Flood Threats in Miami Area. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 16, 2023 - 05:00   ET




"Trust but verify", where things now stand between the world's two largest superpowers.

Plus, what Biden said about hostage negotiations between Hamas and Israel and a potential deal to come.

And overnight, top House Democrats are evacuated from DNC headquarters as police clash with protestors calling for a ceasefire.


HUNT: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's Thursday, November 16th.

President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping putting their tensions aside to agree on a series of issues after talking for the first time in a year. The two leaders spent four hours together at a secluded California location with relations between the two world's -- the world's two biggest economies near a low point.

Biden and Xi agreed to take steps to curb fentanyl production, restore military communications and work together on artificial intelligence. And perhaps, their most important commitment was to pick up the phone and call in times of crisis.

But not all differences were resolved. Biden said there was no agreement after raising the issue of detained Americans in China. The issue of Taiwan came up, too, and Xi firmly said the U.S. must stop arming the island. Still, Xi told Biden planet earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed.

As for the U.S. President Biden, here is how he summed up his approach.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do I trust? Trust but verify as the old saying goes. That's where I am. And, you know, we're in a competitive relationship, China and the United States. But my responsibility is to make this rational and manageable.


HUNT: All right. CNN's Marc Stewart joins us live in Beijing with more.

Marc, good morning. It's always good to see you.

What is your sense of how this meeting affected the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China?


By nature, this is going to be a fragile relationship even in the best of times. These are two nations with profound differences on how they handle the domestic policies, as well as their view of the world. But for the most part, the response that we had been seeing thus far has been very encouraging. In fact, if we look at some of the reporting and some of the statements we're hearing from government officials, we're hearing words like positive and comprehensive.

In fact, there is almost a portrayal of warmth during these meetings. CCTV, which is the state broadcaster, is really showcasing the moment when after the meeting, President Biden and President Xi took a walk around the grounds at the location where this was taken. President Biden walking President Xi to his car to give him a personal good-bye. These are moments that are being highlighted.

While there is certainly some agreement as you mentioned on the fentanyl question, on the fact that military response communications that is -- will be restored, that there will be an ongoing relationship, there are also moments that are being highlighted here by the fact that the United States in many ways, for lack of a better word, should maintain its own business, stick to itself.

Among the headlines that we have seen today, Xi stressed to Biden that the U.S. should not interfere in China's internal affairs, and as you mentioned the whole notion that the world is big enough to accommodate both China and the United States.

This also has been an opportunity for President Xi to meet directly with American business leaders. There was a dinner last night. Apple CEO Tim Cook was there. Elon Musk was there. And his message is that China is a partner and friend of the United States, part of his attempt to bring in more foreign investment here to mainland China, Kasie.

HUNT: Very interesting. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in that dinner.

Marc Stewart, thank you very much as always for joining us. See you soon I hope.

And for more on the Biden/Xi meeting, let's bring in Miles Hughes, senior fellow and director of the China Center at the Hudson Institute.

Miles, good morning. It's always wonderful to see you.

We heard from a senior U.S. official that these talks were very direct and included more back and forth discussion than their previous meeting did. Do you think that the goal -- the stated goal to try to improve relations, was it accomplished? And kind of what was your top takeaway from what we saw yesterday?


MILES YU, SENIOR FELLOW & DIRECTOR OF THE CHINA CENTER AT TEH HUDSON INSTITUTE: Well, President Biden said that his principle on this issue dealing with China is "trust but verify", and I would slightly modify it to distrust and verify. I mean, the two sides have profound disagreement. There was a long list of issues announced before the talk. Taiwan, South China Sea, China's stance on war in Ukraine and China's pro-Hamas stance and inter -- election interference in Taiwan, human rights and many, many issues that were not really mentioned after the meeting.

So what really is announced was two things. One is they agreed to establish a military to military hotline, but Xi Jinping doesn't even have a defense minister yet. He just sacked his defense minister. So there is no guarantee in a time of crisis that the other side will pick up the phone to solve the problem.

And then narcotics, of course, that's basically -- no substantive measurement going on.

HUNT: Right.

YU: So what I'm saying is, right now here, basically, the meeting is both sides agreed to disagree and the more things change, the more things remain the same.

HUNT: So, Miles, CNN reporter MJ Lee asked President Biden about Xi being a dictator, that's the keyword here. Take a look at what President Biden had to say in response.


MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, after today, would you still refer to President Xi as a dictator, a term you used earlier this year?

BIDEN: Well, look, he is.


HUNT: Look, he is. The Chinese foreign ministry called those dictator comments, quote, extremely erroneous in statement overnight and said that it was an irresponsible political maneuver. How is that comment viewed from Beijing?

YU: I think that Chinese spokesperson is extremely erroneous because Article I of the Chinese constitution says, and I quote, the Peoples Republic of China is a socialist country of the dictatorship of the proletariat. That's basically what it is.

So, Xi Jinping is president of the republic, and therefore, he is a dictator. So his constitution enshrines him as dictator. So they shouldn't be thin-skinned about that.

HUNT: But clearly, they are peeved about it.

YU: Well, of course. China, I mean -- many of the Chinese announcements are coded word. China say the world is big enough for two countries to co-exist. And so, just basically don't bother what we do.

You know, what China defines as domestic affairs could also mean China's work in Taiwan, China's attempt to occupy the South China Sea. So that is domestic by Chinese definition, but it is not really that simple.

HUNT: All right. Miles Yu, thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate your time, sir.

YU: Good morning.

HUNT: All right. President Biden says that he is urging Israel to be very careful with their ongoing raid on Gaza's largest hospital, Al- Shifa. But he also stressed he is confident Hamas did have a command center underneath the facility, a facility that's now shut down because of lack of fuel, food and supplies.

In the meantime, there is growing condemnation over the Israel Defense Forces' incursion into Gaza. On Wednesday, Israel's military said weapons belonging to Hamas were found inside the hospital and promised more concrete evidence today. Hamas disputes those claims.

CNN's Scott McLean joins us live from Istanbul.

Scott, good morning.

So far, these underground tunnels that the IDF says existed under the hospital complex haven't been located and there is no sign of hostages at this point. What can you tell us about this?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Certainly, the Israelis are under a lot of pressure to prove that the accusations that they have made about this hospital being used for military purposes are in fact true. Just to give you one illustration, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously said that Hamas is not a terror group. Yesterday, he said that Israel is a terrorist state, and he says that Turkey will do whatever it can to hold Israel in account in international court.

So Israel at least from outside world perspective needs to show that it had justification in going in to this hospital. You had President Biden yesterday saying that there is a Hamas command center, headquarters, underneath the hospital. And he says that that is established.

But perhaps he knows something we don't, but based on the publicly available information that the Israelis have put out, it is far from established. What Israelis have said is that they put out a video yesterday featuring an IDF spokesperson going through different rooms of the hospital itself pointing out bags that it said were grab bags, you can see rifles, weapons, magazines, things like that.


But there is nothing so far that's come out to indicate that there is a sophisticated multi-level tunnel system underneath of that hospital. The type of sophisticated command and control center that Israel claimed a little less than three weeks ago existed under that hospital and they have used it as their justification to go in.

And one other thing to mention quickly, Kasie, is that, look, international law on this is complicated, but broadly speaking, hospitals are protected with few exceptions, one of them being if they are used to cause harm to the enemy, but even still, you still have to warn, you still have to prove what they're doing is proportional. And, obviously, what is proportional to one person may not be proportional to someone else -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Scott McLean for us in Istanbul, thanks very much, Scott. I appreciate it.

Coming up next here, China's Xi Jinping's unexpected ties to rural Iowa, meeting with old friends from four decades ago.

Plus, new details in Trump's 2020 Georgia election subversion case and who leaked confidential interviews of witnesses.

And the antisemitic conspiracy theory pushed by Elon Musk, that's ahead.



HUNT: Welcome back.

So while he is here on U.S. soil, Chinese President Xi Jinping is meeting with some old friends from Iowa. A group invited to join Xi for dinner last night included Sarah Lande. Here she is in 1985 with Xi during his first trip to the United States.

CNN's David Culver spoke with her yesterday.


SARAH LANDE, AMERICAN FRIEND OF XI JINPING: I am an old friend of 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 sort of between the peoples that we care about each other. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: So let's bring in CNN's Max Foster live for us in London.

Max, good morning. Always good to see you.


HUNT: It's so funny -- you know, I think a lot of people are probably surprised that this woman from Iowa is a friend with Xi Jinping.

FOSTER: Amazing.

HUNT: One of the first things that you learn as a reporter in the U.S., like when I cut my teeth covering my first campaign is that you go to Iowa and there are Chinese students there basically everywhere. They are all very interested in the caucus process, in addition to being there -- they are officially there to learn usually agricultural policy, ways of doing things. It's really interesting that this kind of popped up again.

So I'm interested in your thoughts about that, but I also, you know, I think that we should underscore yes, this American woman from Iowa was at this dinner, but these tickets reportedly cost $40,000 and business leaders like Elon Musk and Tim Cook were also there.

And we have a bit from Xi about what is going on here. Take a look at what he said.


XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT (through translator): It is reaching out to reach out there, allow peoples, that has time and again brought Chinese relations from a low ebb back onto the right track. I'm convinced that once open, the door of China/U.S. relations cannot be shut again.


HUNT: So there is a lot going on here both behind the scenes and also from, you know, an optics perspective. Xi is trying to do something, you know, that is -- that relates to his own diplomatic standing back home. What did you see in all of these?

FOSTER: Well, in terms of the optics, and, you know, communities, the Chinese communities, Chinese/American communities you are talking about I think is part of this massive process that are -- to this visit. The Chinese being very careful about where he appears, not necessarily at the White House, that would say one thing, but amongst the Chinese community, an area known for Chinese residents, certainly played into the optics of why he was appearing in particular places I think in the Biden meeting as well.

In terms of the dinner, I think it was successful diplomatically because we've just heard that Xi was actually promised or suggested that pandas could be coming back to the United States. And there is no greater signal of touring tensions between China and the U.S. than pandas being sent over.

But I have to say on this meal, one thing that's undeniable, the one thing that holds China and America together is the economic relationship, isn't it? America needs China to make things for its economy and China needs to sell thing to the American economy.

So when it comes to these big dinners, and a lot of it was tech, this was about something which is sort of nonnegotiable, discussing how the two countries can trade with each other. So it wasn't necessarily a political move. So when it's criticized for being political, maybe that's the case.

You know, these big business leaders who weigh into politics like Elon Musk does occasionally. But I think of premise of it of having a dinner celebrating the economic ties wasn't meant to be political at all.

HUNT: Right. And, of course, then, you have Biden calling Xi a dictator which turned things political fast.

FOSTER: Didn't go down well, absolutely not.

HUNT: All right. Max Foster, thanks very much for being here. I appreciate it. See you tomorrow.

All right. Ahead for us here, the Gilgo Beach murder suspect appears in court with someone notable behind him.

And a rally outside the DNC headquarters turns violence, prompting the evacuation of some top lawmakers.

Stay with us.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Quick hits across America now.

The Gilgo Beach murder suspect Rex Heuermann appeared in court yesterday where lawyers discussed matters of discovery. His wife who has filed for divorce also made an appearance.

In the Georgia election subversion case facing Donald Trump, Fulton County superior court judge says he plans to bar the public release of, quote, sensitive evidence after key video evidence was leaked earlier this week. As for who leaked the video, an attorney for the co-defendant in the case says he did it.

Protestors clashing with police outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington last night during a demonstration against the conflict in Gaza. Members of Congress were evacuated including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, his number two Katherine Clark and also number three Democratic leader Pete Aguilar. All right. Let's now -- get now to weather because there are

significant flood threats in Miami after the area saw more than 6 inches of rain in 24 hours.

Let's get straight to our weatherman Derek Van Dam.

Derek, good morning.

Some tough -- tough situation there based on those pictures behind you.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, as they say, this escalated quickly, right? See, there was a problem here because there was a combination of high tide, king high tide I should say as well, and several inches of rain.


So this is the result. Miami Beach flooded. Of course, it doesn't take much to flood this area, but when we get this kind of scene, it causes all kinds of pandemonium and chaos on the roadways, people still trying to traverse over flooded roadways, bad idea.

How much rain fell? Well, we saw some areas in the Florida Keys about 10 inches. Now, we are -- really, we're lucky here across Miami-Dade and Broward County, because the bulk of the rain, the heaviest precipitation stayed offshore.

I want you to see this latest radar because there's that little rotation there. It's got a bit of tropical-like feature to it, right? Well, time will tell and maybe we'll analyze that, but in the meantime, the immediate threat still the flood concern. We have floods advisories for Miami-Dade, Broward, flood warnings for parts of the Keys.

The other big story here is the winds. There have been hurricane force gusts with this non-tropical system that is moving off the southeast coastline of Florida. High wind warnings, check out Dania Beach, Juno Beach, this is impressive stuff. And when we talk about a non-tropical system, we saw it coming yesterday and it escalated quickly. All things coming together and unfortunately we're seeing the result this morning -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Weatherman Derek Van Dam, thank you very much for that. We'll see you tomorrow, my friend.

VAN DAM: All right.

HUNT: Just ahead here, new agreements between the U.S. and China as Biden says President Xi is still a dictator.

And Israel's war on Gaza rages as outcry increases over the recent IDF raid on a hospital there. We'll have a life report, up next.