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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

IDF Claims It Found Tunnel Shaft on Hospital Grounds; Santos Won't Seek Re-Election As Ethics Committee Refers Findings to DOJ; Supreme Court Rules Florida Can't Enforce Anti-Drag Law. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 17, 2023 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, a tunnel shaft and body of a second Israeli hostage, just some of what Israel says they found at Gaza's largest hospital.

And what's next for Congressman George Santos after an ethics report accuses him of using donor money on his rent, his wardrobe and his skin care routine.

And in a loss for Governor Ron DeSantis, the show will go on -- the drag show, that is.


HUNT: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It is Friday. We made it, November 17th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East. It's noon in Gaza where the Israeli military says that they found a Hamas tunnel shaft inside the Al-Shifa hospital complex.

You are looking at video shot and handed out by the Israel defense forces. Three sources tell CNN that the U.S. has intercepted conversations that indicate Hamas has been using the hospital as a command center.

CNN cannot verify IDF claims of finding an operational tunnel shaft. Hamas calls the claims, quote, baseless lies.

Meanwhile, the IDF says that it has found the bodies of two Israeli hostages near the hospital, 65-year-old Yehudit Weiss and 19-year-old IDF Corporal Noa Marciano. The IDF did not explain how or when the women were killed or if their bodies were found together.

A few days ago, a Hamas video claimed Marciano was killed in an Israeli airstrike.

CNN's Scott McLean has been following this story and he joins us live from Istanbul.

Scott, good morning.

Since we last spoke, let's go to Israel's claims about the Hamas tunnel, the United Nations human rights chief is calling on Israel to grant their team access to Gaza to investigate this. Is that something that's likely to happen and would it settle any of this back and forth in the information war?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It might. Whether either side would ultimately accept the findings of that type of an investigation, that is another discussion. The Israeli relationship with the United Nations is perhaps strained at best. Any kind of investigation also would not happen very quickly, Kasie.

U.N. human rights chief says it won't go on while bombs still on the ground. And he has asked for access and he has guarantees from both sides as well that he is still wanting for a response. On top of that, Israelis also say that it could take days maybe even weeks for them to carry out their full operation on the site of the Al-Shifa hospital, they are under immense pressure to prove the allegations that they have made that there is this complicated network of tunnels underneath Al-Shifa hospital.

And so, that process won't be quick either. He says, look, there is too competing narratives here. International law is very clear that you cannot use a hospital for military purposes. You also cannot go into a hospital unless you have clear evidence.

And it seems likes Israeli and Palestinian narratives don't really line up on very much, even humanitarian situation in the hospital is very different. You have the medical directory of the hospital giving an interview on al Jazeera Arabic where he said that there are children who are starving because they don't have enough water to make milk or baby formula.

On the other hand, you have the IDF saying that they are providing food. They're all providing water and the necessities for all of the people who are there on site. And they are also providing corridors for people to leave the hospital site and get to safer spots somewhere else -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Scott McLean for us in Istanbul, thank you very much for that report.

For more on this, let's bring in Yaakov Katz. He's a senior columnist and editor at "The Jerusalem Post" and also the former, the paper's former editor-in-chief and author of "Shadow Strike: Inside Israel's Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power".

Yaakov, all -- it's always great to have you joining us.

We just heard from Scott's reporting about the claims that the IDF found an operational tunnel shaft inside the Shifa Hospital complex. We just want to tell our viewers, we have not been able to independently verify this claim, but it is clear that it is very important to Israel to kind of illustrate what's actually going on to show the world more evidence.

What do you see in these pictures and do you feel like that they are convincing people that their side of the story is the correct one? YAAKOV KATZ, SENIOR COLUMNIST & EDITOR, THE JERUSALEM POST: Well,

Kasie, you know, Israel issued early on in this conflict issued the 3D video that showed an extensive tunnel network under Shifa Hospital.


Have we found that yet? Have we been shown that yet? No. But I think that what we've seen, AK-47s, Kalashnikovs, and piles of grenades next to MRIs and intensive care units, trucks parked in the hospital compound with enough weaponry and machine guns and bullets and magazines and IED roadside bombs to take out an entire village, and as well as now this tunnel shaft that you're showing on the screen all together really shows that this is not just another hospital, right?

We've all been to hospitals. This is not the hospital for special surgery in Manhattan. This is something else, and it's also a Hamas compound. I think that we have to have patience and wait to see exactly what is found because this is a massive compound. Israel is going carefully through it and it takes time if you want to do it right.

HUNT: So, Yaakov, I read with interest your column about IDF reservists and how they are likely to really oppose Benjamin Netanyahu. There is also increasing pressure from the families of the hostages on the Israeli government. Can you sort of take us inside this? What are the families of the hostages asking for and how does it relate to Netanyahu's precarious political position?

KATZ: Well, as we're speaking, the families of the hostages are blocking the main artery in this country, Highway 1, that connects Jerusalem where I am with Tel Aviv. My daughter who is on her way back home from for the weekend got stuck in traffic there about two hours because the buses weren't moving.

They are upset and they want to see the prime minister make a deal that will bring back their loved ones. That is taking time. There were reports early this week that maybe 100 would be released, 80 would be released, now it's down to 50 in exchange for a pause in the fighting over several days. But so far, there's been no real progress and they point their fingers at Netanyahu.

I think what we also have to keep in mind is when we look at the landscape of leaders in this country, whether it's the military and security officials and political leaders, the only one who has yet to officially take responsibility who keeps saying I'll answer those questions when the war is over, that's Netanyahu. Everyone else, chief staff of the military, head of the security services, head of the intelligence, defense minister, have all said we carry personal responsibility, we should be held accountable. He won't do that.

And I think that that hurts and erodes public trust because for the public to believe in its leadership in a time of war like now, they have to understand that the leadership is not doing this for self interests, it's doing it for national interests. And sadly, there is a bit of suspicion when it comes to the prime minister still. HUNT: Indeed. Yaakov, leaflets were dropped yesterday in Gaza warning

that the IDF might soon go in there after securing much of northern Gaza. What's the sense on the ground in Israel of why that's happening, the wisdom of that approach, and the kind of long term plan Netanyahu has been out there saying we're going to basically occupy Gaza indefinitely and U.S. and others are saying that's not tenable.

KATZ: Yeah, long term plan is difficult especially when you are in the middle of a conflict. And it's always hard. You know, it's easy to go into a war, it's much more difficult, Kasie, to know how you are getting out of that war. And that will always take time and planning. And they have yet to find that end mechanism. And maybe the Palestinian Authority, although they're very weak and corrupt, they pay salaries to terrorist, that would need to come to an end for Israel to allow them to redeploy in Gaza and for even the Palestinians in Gaza to want them.

But when it comes to what's happening in the south of Gaza, we have to keep in mind, Israel has been operating only in northern Gaza. It's pretty much taken control of that area. Shifa Hospital is the last compound, the last kind of stronghold of Hamas in that area.

But now in the south, you have a lot of complicated realities down there. Number one, you still have three Hamas brigades that are there, thousands of fighters, likely the top Hamas leadership is somewhere in some tunnel network in the south, probably the hostages are likely in the south.

And you also have 2 million people almost in the south. How do you operate in the south while minimizing civilian casualties? This is going to be the next big challenge for the IDF.

HUNT: Very tough. All right. Yaakov Katz, thanks very much for getting us started today. I appreciate your time.

KATZ: Thank you.

HUNT: All right. Mounting legal trouble for New York Republican Congressman George Santos. The House Ethics Committee referring its findings to the Justice Department after a months' long investigation found substantial evidence that Santos violated federal law. The committee's scathing 56-page report claims Santos repeatedly used donor money to fund his lavish lifestyle.

What did he spend it on? $4,100 at the luxury brand Hermes, $6,000 at Ferragamo, $3,300 on Airbnb, $1,500 on Botox, and another $1,400 on Botox, and also smaller purchases on the adult content website OnlyFans. Santos said Thursday he won't seek re-election but now there are growing calls for him to be expelled from Congress before that can happen.



REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): If he had any dignity or decency, he would have resigned yesterday. But obviously, we'll see between now and the time we get back whether or not he pleads guilty or resigns or both. And whether or not we obviously have to come back and expel him. It's absolutely absurd. It is -- you know, would be like an episode of "Veep", and it would be funny if it wasn't so sad and pathetic.


HUNT: Sad and pathetic.

Santos easily survived an effort to expel him this month as lawmakers who voted against throwing him out argued that he deserved due process. Now though, it could be a different story.

Santos says he's going to hold a press conference outside the Capitol on November 30th, 8:00 a.m. he told us in the press to be there. OK.

All right. Coming up, dozens arrested as protests calling for a ceasefire in Gaza shut down a major Bay Area bridge.

Plus, a stunning mistrial in the Breonna Taylor case. We'll tell you what happened.

And Trump, Haley, DeSantis, where do they stand? The latest poll numbers in a critical primary state, we'll have that next.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Protestors demanding a ceasefire in Gaza bring traffic to a standstill for hours on the San Francisco, Oakland Bay Bridge Thursday. At least 80 people were arrested and 29 cars were towed in what police are calling one of the most disruptive demonstrations surrounding the APEC Summit this week.

It's also a message to President Biden and other world leaders attending the summit. Biden is set to meet Mexican President Lopez Obrador face to face on the sidelines of APEC today.

Let's bring in CNN's Max Foster.

Max, good morning. Always good to see you.

On the agenda for these two presidents, Biden and Lopez Obrador today, immigration, fentanyl. These are some of Biden's priorities, what are you expecting out of this meeting?

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, fentanyl also something he brought up with the Chinese leader as well. It does take a joint approach. So that will be a discussion today looking to see what comes out of that, preventing the stuff getting into the country as much as possible, as much as they can.

But, of course, with Mexico, it's going to be about immigration as well, how to solve the border crisis, expecting the Mexican president to suggest more funding from the United States, the welfare projects to prevent people becoming migrants in the first place, to try to encourage them to stay in their homes in Mexico rather than crossing the border. So, we're waiting for progress on those two issues really.

HUNT: Right, that makes sense.

And I also -- I want to go back to something that we were talking about yesterday. As kind of the person who understands probably better than anyone else at this network how something -- how it looks, how it is perceived can really matter even if, you know, we feel like that should be superficial.

There was a version of this that played out between Presidents Biden and Xi when Biden was asked whether he still considers Xi to be a dictator, Antony Blinken, his secretary of state, was sitting in the audience as that was playing out.

I want to show everybody what was plain as day on his face. Take a look.


REPORTER: Mr. President, after today, would you still refer to President Xi as a dictator? This is a term that you used earlier this year.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, look, he is. I mean, he's a dictator in the sense that he is a guy who runs a country that is communist country, that is based on a form of government different than is totally different than ours.


HUNT: You could see that. That was a wince.

FOSTER: Yeah, because he knew what was coming. After that, we had a pretty strong rebuke from the Chinese foreign ministry basically saying that this sort of talk undermines the U.S./China relationship, which when you consider the whole meeting was about, you know, strengthening the relationship, people in China, people around the world perhaps saw that as potentially damaging that meeting.

You've got to understand, you know, what this word dictator means in China. Xi does not see himself as dictator. Yes, it's a communist state. Under his former communist state, power is with the people, it doesn't rest in one person. With a dictatorship, it rests with one person, that person runs the country.

He doesn't see himself as a dictator. He sees that as an insult and so President Biden really sort of put it out there.

HUNT: Yeah, although the reality of course for the president here in the U.S. is that if he does anything but call him a dictator, the political consequences likely to be relatively high. Although, you know, in a race against Donald Trump, who the -- who knows, because everything -- everything is totally upside down.

Max Foster, thank you very much. I hope you have a great weekend. I'll see you tomorrow or Monday.

FOSTER: And to you, Kasie.

HUNT: Thank goodness.

FOSTER: Indeed.

HUNT: OK. Just ahead here, the verdict is in, in the trial of the man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi with a hammer.

And drag shows in Florida secure a legal win against Ron DeSantis. Don't go anywhere.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Quick hits across America now.

In a 6/3 vote, the Supreme Court blocks enforcement of a Florida law limiting drag shows in that state. Conservative Justices Alito, Gorsuch and Thomas said they would have allowed the law to take effect. This is a big loss for Governor Ron DeSantis. He made this a key focus.

And the man who beat former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul, with a hammer was found guilty in federal government. David DePape now faces decades in prison as well as a state trial where charges include attempted murder.

A mistrial for the former Louisville Metro Police detective charged in connection with the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. The judge made the decision after the jurors informed the court that they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

All right. Now to weather. We are tracking a lot of rain on both coasts. And apparently, there is going to be snow in hire elevations, in the Pacific Northwest in California today.

Our weatherman Derek Van Dam takes a look at what this means for your potential early holiday travel.

It is Thanksgiving next week, Derek. What should people be planning for?


HUNT: Indeed. To you as well.

VAN DAM: And, look, I promise -- yes, I promise you it won't be a washout. So that is the good news. I'm talking this weekend.

Next weekend, that's another story. Early next week before Thanksgiving, I'll give you a preview.

But here is the cold front responsible for the rain this morning across the Great Lakes. It's pressing eastward. You can see it's very scattered in variety.


It will move into the major metropolitan areas along the I-95 corridor late tonight and into early Saturday. But it clears out by the end of the weekend. Sunday will be a beautiful day along the Eastern Seaboard.

So the bulk of this precipitation is really for the earlier parts of the weekend. Now, this is the storm system we're monitoring closely. This will bring the snow that Kasie mentioned to the higher elevations of Inner Mountain West, the Northern Rockies, the Pacific Northwest across the Sierra Nevada as well, maybe 6 to 12 inches for some locations.

But that storm system is actually going to be responsible for the potential rainmaker and disturbance across the eastern half of the country for the early parts of the Thanksgiving week. So you want to travel early if you can along the West Coast, maybe this weekend, and then along the East Coast be prepared for rain Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, depending on how the system moves through.

Check this out, even though the end of the hurricane season is not until November 30th, yeah, now, the 13 days Mother Nature says hold my beer, I still have one more storm to go. This tropical storm system could cause some havoc from Jamaica to the Dominican Republic. Perhaps you have a trip planned to the Bahamas for this thanksgiving holiday weekend?

HUNT: That would be really nice. I am jealous of all the people who go to the Caribbean for Thanksgiving. But that is not us.

But I'm sorry to hear those people are not going to have as nice of weather as they would like.

All right. Our weatherman Derek Van Dam, have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you Monday.

VAN DAM: Thank you.

HUNT: All right. Coming up here for us, Botox, Hermes, OnlyFans, those are just a few things that Congressman George Santos is accused of spending his donor's money on. We'll discuss where those things go from here.


REP. DAVID JOYCE (R-OH): I think he was scamming his campaign, he was scamming his office, he was scamming the people of New York 3 that elected him.