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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Sources: Deal For Release Of Dozens Of Hostages May Be Close; Trump Visits Southern Border, Ramps Up Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric; Democratic Voters: Age Is Main Concern With Biden. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 20, 2023 - 05:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

Here's our big story at the bottom of the hour. The Israeli military under pressure to prove its claim of a Hamas command center beneath the Al-Shifa hospital, releasing video from inside an exposed tunnel shaft. This is the camera being lowered into the shaft where the remotely-operated unit then moves along the hallway some distance before encountering a door.

The IDF also released video it says shows Hamas fighters bringing two hostages into Al-Shifa hospital on October 7. One man is pushed through the main entrance and down a hall; another brought in on a gurney bleeding from his hand.

Note these are videos shot and distributed by the IDF. CNN can't independently verify what they show.

In the meantime, sources tell CNN that negotiators are nearing a deal for the release of dozens of hostages.

CNN's Clare Sebastian is following the story from London and she joins us live. Clare, what is the latest on the terms for a deal and when might we see it happen?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's closer than it's ever been at any point, though as the Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer speaking to CNN on Sunday -- he said that certain areas of difference have narrowed. Others, in his words, have been closed out.

Separately, we also heard from the prime minister of Qatar who is a key broker in these talks who said good progress is being made. He said that in a press conference on Sunday. And he said the sticking points right now are more logistical and practical than related to the core of the deal, which certainly sounds promising.

Now, as for the core of the deal, various things have been coming out from various sources about this. We had heard earlier in the month from a U.S. official that it looked like it would concern a large group of hostages, potentially women and children, first in exchange for a dayslong pause. So longer than the sort of several hours at a time that Israel has been doing.

So far, Hamas has had various other demands beyond a dayslong pause though, including allowing Palestinians who fled to the south to return home. The release of women and children -- prisoners -- Palestinian prisoners within Israel. More food and fuel aid deliveries into Gaza. Even, we heard last week from several sources in Israel that they want Israel to stop flying surveillance drones over Gaza.

So quite a significant number of demands if they have, in fact, come close to a deal. That is, in itself, a significant achievement.

But also, I think -- look, these videos that we're getting from the IDF, particularly those CCTV videos that they've put out showing what they say are hostages on October 7 in the Al-Shifa hospital -- one of them, in particular, being fairly roughly treated it looks like from the video -- the uninjured one. You can see in this video here -- separately, the news that we also got from the IDF last week -- that two bodies of hostages they say have been found close to Al-Shifa. And what we heard from Jon Finer, the national security adviser, that they simply don't know at this point how many American hostages are still alive.

The situation for the hostages is precarious, it's unclear, and that adds pressure to those negotiations.

HUNT: Indeed, it does.

All right, Clare Sebastian for us in London. Thank you very much for that.

All right, let's bring in Joel Rubin, former deputy assistant Secretary of State in the Obama administration. Joel, good morning. It's always great to have you. Thanks for being here.


HUNT: Let's start with this new IDF video and what they say are pictures of the hostages and coming through -- coming through the hospital. What do you see as you watch this, and what's your understanding of how this relates to this? It's honestly been an ongoing information war over what this hospital is being used for.

RUBIN: Yeah, no doubt. I mean, what comes to mind is the question is this a hostage hospital? Why are there hostages going through Al-Shifa on October 7? What were they doing there? Were they there to get medical treatment, as I'm sure the spinmeisters of Hamas would like the world to believe, or are they being brought there to go through tunnels and brought underground?

And so, there are a lot of questions.

Clearly, this demonstrates that Hamas is operating from within the hospital at a certain -- at a certain level, perhaps as a military center. Certainly, they have a tight relationship with the administration there. They weren't being told to stay out. They weren't being told that if you come here you're going to attract Israeli retribution, but that's what's happened. And it is very concerning that they are in that hospital and it seems like they have been in there ever since.

HUNT: Joel, we keep hearing about this hostage -- the possibility of a hostage deal.

RUBIN: Yeah.

HUNT: And yet, it never actually seems to happen.

What is your understanding of where things stand right now?

RUBIN: So, what I'm gathering in talking to folks around Washington about this is that you're right. As the reporting was, there is some contour of 50 or so people being traded for a temporary pause. And the question then, of course, that Israel has is well, give us the names. What are the specifics? What happens next?


But then, another key sticking point is the question of verification. In other words, during a pause, what happens? Does Hamas get to run free inside Gaza without anybody looking at them -- without Israeli surveillance? That's what they're asking for. That's certainly not an idea that Israel would support because that would allow Hamas to regroup and use these pauses for military purposes as opposed to humanitarian purposes, which is the whole point of a pause -- to allow aid to flow in and to get hostages out.

And so, those are the key sticking points. So they are logistical in nature but they are substantive at their core. The question of what comes after a ceasefire and will Hamas be more powerful after one than before, and I think that's why we're seeing so many delays.

HUNT: Right. No, that makes total sense.

Let's talk a little bit about the environment here at home because there is this new NBC poll that shows just how divided, in particular, Democrats are about the Israel-Hamas war. Fifty-one percent of Democratic voters, according to this new NBC poll, say Israel has gone too far. Twenty-seven percent say Israel's actions are justified. Forty-nine percent oppose the U.S. sending military aid to Israel.

Now, of course, President Biden has been steadfast in his support for Israel, both in his rhetoric but also the actions of the government.

Is there a point at which that might change, in your view, because of these -- the feeling here? I mean, young voters, in particular, seem very opposed to what the administration is doing.

RUBIN: Yeah, Kasie. Without a doubt, this is causing a lot of churn inside the Democratic Party. And as you know, I'm an active member of the Democratic Party and I

think it's legitimate that we see a lot of anxiety about the war and the desire to have American pressure to end it, but we're not seeing that break. We're not seeing that go over and to demand a broader national level. But we are seeing it at a critical level of the base and the base is going to continue to make its voice heard.

But watch -- and this is what I'm looking at. Watch what members of Congress say when they're calling for a ceasefire. Just one came out last night, Judy Chu. And basically, her argument is I want a ceasefire but it needs to be bilateral. It needs to be with Hamas pausing its actions and allowing for the hostages out as opposed to a unilateral ceasefire, which is what's being called for by more aggressive voices.

And that matters because it means members of Congress, while hearing and absorbing the large protest voices, which is important -- they are not flipping into the argument that Israel should just stop its war right now. But that is the key measurement to watch.

The president has broad support. I signed onto a letter about a week ago of former Biden and Obama officials supporting the president's policy. There's a lot of support for where he's going, including in the Jewish community -- three-quarters support. So it's not just this one snapshot poll. But certainly, watching what these members say -- bilateral ceasefire versus unilateral ceasefire -- that's the critical measurement.

HUNT: Yeah, very insightful.

All right, Joel Rubin. Thanks very much for being with us this morning.

RUBIN: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: I appreciate it. I hope to see you soon.

RUBIN: Thanks.

HUNT: All right, turning now to the 2024 race for the White House. Former President Trump visiting Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border this weekend campaigning on a hardline immigration policy and escalating his anti-immigrant rhetoric. He also received an endorsement from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott during his visit.

CNN's Alayna Treene joins us now. Alayna, good morning. It's always good to see you.

So what did he say, and how is it different from what he's said before?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER (via Webex by Cisco): Yeah. Well look, Kasie -- I mean, this trip to the border, Donald Trump was actually a pretty small gathering. The plans for it came together in the eleventh hour. And it wasn't a typical rally. He was meeting with law enforcement. He obviously received the endorsement from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, as you mentioned. It was a very curated crowd.

And so, I think his remarks were interesting. It comes at a time, though, I think what's more interesting is the context of these remarks.

So this border visit came as we're learning more about what Donald Trump's 2025 plans could look like if he were to be reelected. And part of those plans are to go much further than he did in his first administration when it comes to abortion. Sources tell me that they're talking about rounding up undocumented migrants across the country -- mass deportations. Holding some of those migrants in deportation camps that they would have to build and keeping them in those detention camps until they can be deported.

Now, some of these plans, as well, also include -- and we know that the administration -- excuse me, the campaign team is already talking about what they would do if they were to have a new administration, which would be seeing if they could work around Congress.


They anticipate that if Donald Trump were to be reelected and move forward with these plans there would be a lot of legal challenges. Congress may try to block them. And they're already talking through the ways that they could go around that.

They also recognize that they would have to tap local law enforcement and federal law enforcement to help them with this massive undertaking.

And so, I think when you take a step back and you look at the plans that they've already started to set in motion it would be an enormous endeavor. And the fact that they already have these detailed plans I think is very interesting.

And just one thing I really want to note though is, of course, he's still a candidate. He has to get through the primaries. He's leading in all of the Republican primaries against his challengers.

And one big question is whether this type of inflammatory rhetoric would work or play well in a general election and with Independent voters. And I know from just talking to Donald Trump's team that is something that they are still uncertain about themselves.

HUNT: Yeah, you could -- you could tell -- the statement that his top advisers put out after some of this was initially reported that they have reason to be a little bit --

TREENE: Right.

HUNT: -- nervous about that.

Let's turn now to the ongoing trials that, of course, the frontrunner is enduring. They're now going to try to argue that the gag order in the federal election subversion case is unconstitutional. Can you explain that?

TREENE: Yeah. I mean, this is a strategy that they have been using across the board when it comes to his different legal battles. We saw this in New York with the judge in his civil fraud trial with the gag order there.

They're training to paint this as political. They're going to be going to court today to fight that gag order and argue that Donald Trump has a First Amendment right to talk about his cases and to talk about what he is arguing is political persecution.

Of course, I've reported extensively on this. Even though he has these series of legal challenges that he's facing and it's unclear how this is going to play out in the court of law, Donald Trump's campaign and Donald Trump himself wants to have this play out in the court of public opinion.

And that is why making sure that he can use social media and say what he wants is so important to him and also to his whole team. They see his legal strategy and his political strategy as one and they plan to use that in his efforts to get reelected in 2024.

And so, you're going to see them I think extensively being pushed back -- pushed back on this today. But the question, of course, is how the judge will decide.

HUNT: Yeah -- no, of course.

All right, Alayna Treene for us. Thank you very much for being with us this morning. I really appreciate it.

All right. Still ahead here, President Biden turns 81 today. How his campaign is strategizing about the issue of his age.

And tributes pouring in for former first lady Rosalynn Carter. Her impact -- that's ahead.




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


HUNT: President Biden turns 81 today. Happy birthday, Mr. President. That, of course, underscores, however, his campaign's greatest vulnerability and that is his age. The president plans to celebrate tonight with a quiet, low-key family dinner. And Biden advisers continue to try to downplay age as an issue but

recent polling very strongly suggests that the Biden campaign has an issue here, as you can see. Fifty-six percent in the latest CNN-New Hampshire poll said age is their biggest concern about Biden.

Let's bring in Bloomberg's White House correspondent, Akayla Gardner. Akayla, good morning. It's always good to see you.

The ever-sharp-tongued or sharp-penned Maureen Dowd wrote over the weekend about a spat that the White House is having with David Axelrod. Jonathan Martin at Politico had reported that Axelrod called the president -- the word starts with P and ends with K. We can't say it on TV.

Axelrod said this to Maureen about the president -- honestly, kind of escalating this back-and-forth. "I think he has a 50-50 shot here, but no better than that, maybe a little worse." He seems to be talking about when the elect -- winning the election or not. But Axelrod goes on to say "He [Biden] thinks he can cheat nature here and it's really risky. They've got a real problem if they're counting on Trump to win it for them. I remember Hillary doing that, too."

How is the White House thinking about this, especially on a day where there's obviously increased focus because it's his birthday?

AKAYLA GARDNER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS (via Webex by Cisco): Yeah. I do think it is a little bit harder for the campaign to continue to convince voters that Joe Biden is the best person to do the job. That was yesterday. He is now 81 years old. He was already the oldest president to ever hold office.

But I think the way that they are confronting this is by not ignoring it. We see the president continue to validate voters' concerns when he's asked about it in interviews. He says it's perfectly normal for people to wonder if he's able to continue to serve in office. But also, he tries to let people know that he's in on the joke. We see him in almost every speech make a reference to his age.

We've also seen the White House reference his doctors' notes. Also, these long foreign trips we've seen, including wartime trips to Ukraine and Israel to sort of show that he's able to work these long hours.

But you're absolutely right. This is his biggest Achilles heel. We constantly hear it from voters. But he continues to try to address it every chance that he gets.

HUNT: Right. And, of course, we should underscore his likely opponent, Trump, just three years younger than he is. I mean, they are of the same generation very squarely.

Akayla, let's talk a little bit about one other increasing vulnerability since -- especially since the Israel-Hamas war broke out, and that's among young voters.

[05:50:04] Just compare the September numbers to the most recent November numbers. Thirty-one percent of young voters now say that they approve of the job the president is doing. That number was 46 percent in September. That is a very quick -- that's a very short time period for that number to move so far.

Is the White House concerned about this?

GARDNER: You're absolutely right that this is a huge concern for young voters. And Biden's approval with his cohort continues to decline month after month. But it's not just young voters. I would also point to Black voters and to Latino voters, which polls continue to show his support is really softening.

But I do think the one person in Biden's world who continues to talk about turnout is Vice President Harris. She continues to target these groups. She went on a long college tour this summer. She's visited the NAACP. She spoke to UnidosUS.

So she continues to speak out, particularly about these groups, while Joe Biden continues to sort of focus on the middle-of-the-road voters. He talks about democracy. He talks about the economy. But Harris continues to speak out specifically about this issue.

HUNT: All right, Akayla Gardner of Bloomberg News. Thank you very much for being with us this morning. I really appreciate it. I hope you'll come back soon.

All right. Just ahead on "CNN THIS MORNING" a far-right outsider just won the presidency in Argentina. You can guess who congratulated him by saying "Make Argentina great again."

Plus, flu cases on the rise across the country. What you need to know heading into the Thanksgiving holiday.



HUNT: Welcome back.

This one's for our good friend Ryan in the CTM control room. The Detroit Lions are off to their best start in more than 60 years.

Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Coy, they did it in pretty thrilling fashion.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Let's go, Ryan's Lions. The last time they were this good it was 1962. That's when Detroit's very own Lincoln Continental was the best-selling car in the U.S., gas was 32 cents a gallon, and the Four Seasons had the number one hit "Big Girls Don't Cry."

Detroit down 12 to the Bears with just over three minutes to go and they're not crying about it. Jared Goff -- he's finding Jameson Williams for a 32-yard touchdown pass. And suddenly, it's a one-score ballgame.

Defense would get a big stop, then Goff leads the Lions on an 11-play, 73-yard drive with David Montgomery landing a knockout punch against his former team. Detroit rallying for the 31-26 win, now 8-2. That's the second-best record in the league.

Next up, the Packers on Thanksgiving Day. Coach Dan Campbell says there's no time to rest on success.


DAN CAMPBELL, DETROIT LIONS HEAD COACH: It's something we talked about before the season. Not that hey, let's get so many wins before 1962 season but just -- man, let's make the most of this season. We've got a chance to do something special and let's take it one week at a time. And collectively, we found a way today. And so, look, man, it's great to be 8-2 and we've got a big in about four days.


WIRE: Don't look now but Coach Sean Payton's Denver have won four straight. They started the season 1-5 but they've turned the beat around beating the Vikings 21-20. Don't laugh, Kasie. Sixty seconds to go --

HUNT: You are very brave to sing on television.

WIRE: Look at Courtland Sutton with the toe tap. Let's ride, Broncos country. The wins over the Packers, Chiefs, Bills, and now this -- look out.

Giants rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito in his first career start. And the kid who grew up in Jersey nine minutes from the team facility still lives with mom and dad. He says forget about it. Three touchdowns, zero turnovers, and one solid Tony Soprano impersonation.

Check out the celly (PH). DeVito living the G-Man dream. Giants crush the Commanders 31-19.

As for the Jets -- well, quarterback Zach Wilson's day and season can be summed up like this. Tripping on the turf and tumbling to his tooshie. Some foreshadowing perhaps because the former number-two overall pick would take a seat on the bench, replaced by Tim Boyle in the third.

The Jets get wrecked by the Bills 32-6. Coach Saleh noncommittal on who -- what quarterback will be moving forward.

Finally, best story of the day, Kasie. Erin Matson, known as the Michael Jordan of field hockey, believed to now be the youngest coach to ever win a D1 national title. She's just 23 years old. This just one year after scoring the championship-clinching goal for North Carolina last season. She won four natties there as a player.

UNC beating Northwestern 2-1 in the final just like they did last year. And look at Erin hugging her former coach, Karen Shelton. She said that she knew she wanted to follow in Shelton's footsteps when she announced her retirement after 42 epic seasons as the head coach. She won 10 national titles.

Who knows? Maybe she's not just the Michael Jordan of field hockey -- she could be the Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan.

HUNT: That's amazing. That's awesome for her.

And we'll have to see -- I don't know. Maybe the tradition of watching the Lions lose on Thanksgiving is going to break. I mean, we always -- my family is from Detroit --

WIRE: You said it Ryan, not me.

HUNT: -- so I've been doing that my whole life.

All right, Coy Wire. Thank you very much for that.

WIRE: You got it.

HUNT: All right, now this. We wanted to end here. Tributes pouring in this morning as the country mourns the loss of former first lady Rosalynn Carter. She passed away peacefully on Sunday at the age of 96 and is being remembered as the tireless champion for mental health and humanitarian causes that she was.

She was married to former President Jimmy Carter for 77 years -- the longest presidential marriage in U.S. history. The Carters tied the knot way back in 1946.



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


HUNT: The Carters were in the White House from 1977 until 1981. A potentially tough time but Rosalynn enjoyed it anyway.


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


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

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