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Israel Rocked By Largest Protests Since War Began; U.S. And Israel Holding Virtual Meeting Today On Rafah; Netanyahu: U.S. Pressure Will Not Stop Israeli Forces From Going Into Rafah; 64,000 Eggs At The 144th Annual White House Easter Egg Roll; Biden Looks To Boost Black Voter Support In Key States; CNN's Alisyn Camerota On Her New Memoir. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Thousands of anti-Netanyahu protesters took to the streets in Israel over the weekend to demand the prime minister resign. These are the largest demonstrations against the government since the post-October 7th Hamas terror attack retaliatory war began.

And Netanyahu spoke out saying, his goal of destroying Hamas is unchanged and the pressure from the U.S. will not stop Israeli forces from launching a ground offensive into Rafah.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We will go into Rafah and eliminate Hamas battalions there for one simple reason, there is no victory without entering Rafah, and there is no victory without eliminating Hamas battalions there.


BASH: CNN White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz joins me now from the White House. Arlette, you've been talking to sources about what is going on between the Biden administration and Israel today, trying to have a meeting, a virtual meeting. What's the latest?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dana, senior officials from the U.S. and Israel are actually still right now on that secure video conference call to talk about possible alternative options to a full scale ground invasion and operation into Rafah.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan are leading things for the U.S. side, while the National Security Adviser and the Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs are leading the Israeli sides of talks.

There is still hope. One official tells me that they will at some point be able to meet in person to discuss these alternatives to a ground operation in Rafah. But officials heading into this meeting were quite clear that they want to try to stress alternative options for Israel to pursue.


As you heard there, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been adamant that the only way to root out Hamas is to have an operation into Rafah. That is something that the U.S. has expressed quite a bit of concern about, specifically because of the more than 1 million Palestinians who are currently within Rafah.

The U.S. has been pressing Israel to present some type of plan to secure this -- to ensure the safety and the evacuation of those Palestinian citizens. The president has said it would be a mistake to go into Rafah if there was not any type of plan for those civilians in place.

So the White House is hoping that today they will be able to chart a little bit more of a path forward in these discussions with Israel, trying to convince them to potentially come up with a different plan than going straight into Rafah, as the only way the Israelis believe to root out Hamas at this point.

BASH: Arlette, thank you so much for that reporting.

And up next President Biden won 87 percent of black voters in 2020. They're a big reason he won the White House. So why are so many of those voters saying that they plan to stay home this year? Maybe even vote for Trump. We've got new reporting on the other side of the break.



BASH: I think this is a first. Yes, that is the White House podium, the daily White House briefing, and that does appear to be the Easter Bunny. I'm not sure if the Easter Bunny took any questions, but it was nice of him, her, to come by.

This happened, of course, on a day where 40,000 people, 64,000 eggs were at the White House. The hunt is on, at least it was all morning, 144 times. That's how many annual White House Easter egg rolls have taken place. President Biden used the time honored tradition to deliver this message.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Easter reminds us of the power of hope and renewal, sacrifice and resurrection, but mainly, love and grace toward one another. It's time to pray for one another, to cherish the blessings, and the possibilities that we have as Americans.


BASH: Now we turn to new reporting on the Biden campaign's push to reach black voters. It's not enough to just win black voters for this president or pretty much any Democrat at this point. The president won 87 percent in 2020. He needs a similar margin this year to have pretty much any shot at winning reelection.

CNN's Camila DeChalus and Isaac Dovere are the reporters behind this new piece, and they join me here at the table, along with Laura Barron- Lopez, who is still here. I'm just going to read from part of your amazing reporting, and then I want you to talk about it on the other side.

"'You're going to have some people that are able to vote who -- not just because of Joe Biden, not because of Donald Trump -- just feel disengaged from the political process,' said Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson. 'I have people in my own family, my own friends network, who probably would not vote in this election, but they will be voting because I'm going to be on their tails between now and November.'"

CAMILA DECHALUS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. There is a really big disconnect what's happening within the Biden administration and the campaign. We know that they're having these internal conversations about how do we court black voters particularly black men.

But then on the ground what we're hearing from grassroots organizers is that the engagement is just not there. The energy is just not there. And that is going to be a big problem for Biden in this upcoming election is, how do you go out there and really convince them these voters of what you have done and why they should go out and support your re-election efforts.

BASH: And so what did you learn in this reporting that they are trying to do?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, look, there's a whole set of things that they're trying to do that go beyond the usual knocking on doors or talking at black churches or barbershops or just talking about criminal justice reform. It's about a wider range of issues talking about economic opportunity.

It's a big tour that Vice President Kamala Harris is going to undertake the next couple months. But also things that are about the benefits that they feel like black voters should see they got from the Biden administration, student loan cancelation, big part of that.

And doing it in a way that is a range of things from what they call relational organizing, going to places in the communities where people are who are not normally engaged and trying to connect with them, make a deeper rapport with them so that they carry through November and figure out ways that they can convince these people that there is some reason for them to be engaged in the political process and be engaged there for Joe Biden.

One of the -- when I was in Wisconsin doing the reporting for this piece, one of the things that I was told is that 50 percent of the people that they are hitting up with this new approach to organizing were not in the voter file before.

BASH: Wow.

DOVERE: That means that they were not getting contacted by campaigns in 2022 or 2020. This is a huge trove of voters.

BASH: Do we know of those people just didn't vote, or they voted, but they weren't encouraged to do so?

DOVERE: They -- it seems like they weren't voting, and they certainly weren't being contacted by the campaign. And when you look at these numbers, Wisconsin -- there are local elections, the primary there tomorrow -- Wisconsin was -- went by 21,000 votes.

BASH: Yes, so tight.

DOVERE: -- in 2016, and 23,000 votes, I think -- I actually reversed that -- in 2020. Very, very tight margins.


And it's not just Wisconsin, what you're talking about. Of course, Milwaukee, there, huge concentration of black voters. But pretty much every battleground state that the president --

BASH: Sure.

DOVERE: -- is hoping to win. North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Georgia, these are places that have huge concentrations of black voters --

DECHALUS: To Isaac's point on this is that because they're targeting these this new population of voters, what worked in 2016, what worked in 2020, it can't work again There's just them stopping at a barbershop just to talk to people for five seconds, that's not going to work this time around. So they're really trying to strategize new ways to reach this demographic of voters.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Democrats as you mention, Dana, have won about 80 percent or more of the black vote over -- almost every single election cycle in modern history. And so, the question is, do they stay at home, or do they turn out for President Biden?

President Trump is showing that he's peeling some away with young black men particularly on concerns around the economy. One Democratic pollster I spoke to recently said that in the focus groups they have conducted, whether it's young black male voters or young Hispanic voters, their concerns are more around the economy.

When they hear President Biden say things like inflation -- the inflation rate in the U.S. is amongst the lowest compared to other countries that have come out of the pandemic, that doesn't necessarily resonate with them.

BASH: Yes.

BARRON-LOPEZ: They want to hear more specifics about what exactly he's doing or what he's going to do if he were to win re-election.

BASH: Really great reporting. Thank you so much for joining the conversation. Check it out on

Up next, my friend and colleague Alisyn Camerota wrote a very raw memoir. I learned a lot. I didn't know that really surprised me in this compelling book. She's going to be here next.

But first, Senator Angus King in -- he's shredding some gnar in a new campaign video. Look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you head for the mountains, you can catch some fresh air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking good, Angus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, feeling great, Seth.


BASH: Just kidding, that wasn't him. It is April Fools' Day, remember? Senator King is having a little fun with two time Olympic champion, Seth Wescott.



BASH: And now for a look at a powerful and very revealing new memoir by my friend and colleague, Alisyn Camerota. "Combat Love" tells the story of a teenage Alisyn, her unsteady home life, and how she finds belonging with, surprisingly, a New Jersey punk rock band. Yes, that actually happened.

Alisyn is here with me now. First of all, my biggest takeaway is that we are not, in fact, the same person. It turns out.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I didn't know that --

BASH: We had different life.

CAMEROTA: We were in the same room right now.

BASH: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Yes. This is proving it. They were not.

BASH: Proving it. We are both Jersey girls --


BASH: -- but -- and we did have similar experiences, though. You're not going to read mine in a book.


BASH: Because I'm not as brave as you are. Yes. But you really lay it all out there. You described this book as a decadeslong search for home and you found it just for a while with that punk rock band called Shrapnel.


BASH: So you were 13 years old.

CAMEROTA: So the first time I ever saw Shrapnel, I was 13 years old. They were playing at my future high school called Red Bank Regional. And it was one of the most electrifying, life changing moments for me and not just for me. There was something that happened in the alchemy of that room where to this day, people who love live music, who've seen thousands of shows around the world, still remember that night, something happened that night where we all just felt the magic.

BASH: Can I just read a quote from your book about that?

CAMEROTA: Yes, please.

BASH: And then I want you to continue.


BASH: "As I staggered out of Red Bank Regional that night, I felt as if a door had been blown open, blasting me into a different dimension. I knew everything that had come before was a past life. And f -- Ethan anyway."

Ethan was the love of your life at age 13.


BASH: "He was a child. Shrapnel were soldiers. But something else happened in the rapture of that night, something communal and transcendent."


BASH: I mean, that's a big sentence.

CAMEROTA: I mean, in some ways, I do think that night set my life on a different trajectory. And I do think that by falling in love with this band and finding belonging, it did, as you'll read in the book, I was in lots of sort of dicey situations and dangerous situations, and I do think that that did lay the groundwork for my job as a journalist. I credit some of this with my life now.

BASH: Dicey situations because you followed this band account (ph).


BASH: So you were kind of Penny Lane ish? CAMEROTA: Well, I wish. I tried. But, I mean I just loved them and they didn't have that much interest in a teeny bopper following them around to tell you the truth may often had to save me from life threatening situations. But what the real -- the larger point is, is that I was looking for belonging.

I was an only child of divorced parents. I was desperate for belonging and I found it with this group of fans, of this band and my friends in high school. And then I was uprooted when I was 15 and moved away from the epicenter of the universe, which, you know, is New Jersey --

BASH: Obviously.

CAMEROTA: -- to Washington State on a whim, basically by my mom, where we knew no one. And I spent the next, I would say, decades trying to find belonging and home. And as you'll read, some of it I've found in our wonderful TV news family because I've always looked for surrogate families.

TV news has been a wonderful home for me. But I ultimately found it with my husband and kids, but it took a long time for me to get there.


BASH: Well, it's so funny that you say that because I know you as obviously, you know, a tremendous journalist, a wonderful person, but as like a wife and a mom in a pretty traditional family.


BASH: And when you describe, I mean, never mind the things that I love like going to friendlies, which as a Jersey girl, I remember, you know, you were, as you said, the only child of parents who divorced. You were quite young. You were a latchkey child, I could say.

You said your dad, who was very eccentric, was arrested for robbery, among other things. And so, you were trying to find that belonging. And --

CAMEROTA: Yes, I was trying to find stability. I was trying to find foundation and it wasn't things that I could give myself. And as people will see when they read the book, I struggled. You know, I think that it's funny.

This is such a unique story because, you know, what 13-year-old falls in love with Shrapnel from New Jersey but it's -- what I've learned over the past few days that it's been out is that it's a universal story in the search for home --

BASH: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- which I think is hardwired into our DNA and in the search for belonging and for family and it was hard for me. It wasn't easy. I had lots of moments of depression and despair, but I did it. And I hope that that inspires people. BASH: And at some point you will tell me how you got into CVGB because I was definitely not cool enough to try to go in the tunnel or across the bridge to do that.

CAMEROTA: OK. Happily. I'll show that.

BASH: Thank you for coming on.


BASH: This is the book, "Combat Love." Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you for joining Inside Politics. CNN New Central starts after the break.