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Quest Means Business

Gaza Health Ministry: Hundred-Plus Killed While Waiting For Food; Biden And Trump Visit US Border Crisis Flashpoints; Immigrants Contributed To Likely U.S. Soft Landing; Biden Says Today's Incident In Gaza Complicates Negotiations; Inflation Data Shows U.S. Not Out Of The Woods Yet; Biden, Trump Face Off With Dueling Visits To Texas Border Towns. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired February 29, 2024 - 15:00   ET



RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: There is an hour to go before trading ends on Wall Street. I want to quickly show you what the markets

are doing.

We have a busy hour ahead. The markets are not moving in any great direction, in any great importance, so we'll pull them to one side, because

we've got two big stories over the course of the hour that we will show you.

A desperate struggle for food that's turned ugly. The Gaza Ministry of Health says more than a hundred people have been killed. The chaos after

Israeli forces opened fire on a crowd waiting for food.

And current President Biden and former President Trump are both at the US- Mexico border over the course of the hour, where immigration is the central issue in the race for the White House.

We will be with them both as and when they speak publicly.

We are live in New York. It is Thursday, February 29th. Leap Day, I'll be leaping all over. I'm Richard Quest, and of course, on a Leap Day as

elsewhere, I mean business.

A very good day to you. An extremely busy hour. We're probably going to go backwards and forwards between the two big stories that we are following,

so I'll set them out and you'll know where we're going. But don't be surprised if we suddenly take a quick turn in a different direction.

For instance, two presidents visiting two flashpoints on the southern US border in its crisis in Texas. President Biden is in Brownsville whilst

hundreds of kilometers away, the former President Donald Trump, is at Eagle Pass. You can see them both on the map and both men are promising voters

that they will crack down on illegal border crossings, which is a major election issue.

They are both due to speak over the course of the hour. When we see it happen, we'll bring it to you. We just want you to know that this is going

on whilst we deal with our other top story of the day, the tragic events that have taken place in Gaza.

Now, there is anger and uncertainty following Israeli forces opening fire at a food distribution site and aid site in Gaza City. According to the

Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, more than a hundred people were killed. CNN is unable to independently confirm that number.

The Israeli military and eyewitnesses are giving contradictory accounts of what happens, but there does seem to be one point of agreement, an Israeli

official has said to CNN, their troops did use live fire on people near in a truck after the soldiers felt threatened by the crowd.


REAR ADM. DANIEL HAGARI, ISRAEL'S CHIEF MILITARY SPOKESPERSON: The tanks that were there to secure the convoy sees the Gazans being trampled and

cautiously tries to disperse the mob with a few warning shots. When the hundreds became thousands and things got out of hand, the tank commander

decided to retreat to avoid harm to the thousands of Gazans that were there.


QUEST: Now, the incident threatens to complicate ceasefire negotiations, and a dire humanitarian situation, now well and truly unfolded.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has been monitoring the day's events.


(UNIDENTIFIED MALE speaking in foreign language.)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Bodies piled on the back of donkey carts, dignity and death does not exist here.

A day that started with hope of aid finally reaching this neighborhood of Gaza City ended in carnage. Details of what happened and when they happened

are contested, eyewitnesses say Israeli tanks escorting humanitarian aid trucks opened fire. One journalist tells CNN, some were shot, but most of

the casualties were from the following panic, a stampede on the aid trucks running over desperate residents as they fled.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

HANCOCKS (voice over): This woman says, "Our children are dying of hunger. They went to get a bag of flour to feed the children, some were run

over, others were shot."


The Israeli military, however, says there were two incidents, the first where residents rushed the trucks and a deadly stampede ensued, the second

when the Israeli military fired on a group of Palestinians who they claim posed a threat and did not move away from their military position came


LT. COL. PETER LERNER, IDF SPOKESMAN: We are operating in order to maintain operational activity and conduct, our combat on one hand and

maintain the ongoing flow of humanitarian goods, humanitarian supplies on the other.

HANCOCKS (voice over): What cannot be disputed is the sheer desperation of people here. Aid rarely reaches Northern Gaza, fighting is never far


(UNIDENTIFIED MALE speaking in foreign language.)

HANCOCKS (voice over): This man says that the body he is cradling, he just wanted to get a bit of bread, a bag of flour for his family displaced

at a school in Jabalia camp.

UN agencies warn of famine, saying this is the worst level of child malnutrition anywhere in the world. Gaza's Health Ministry claims at least

half a dozen children have died in recent days of dehydration and malnutrition. UNICEF says it could only get worse.

JAMES ELDER, SPOKESMAN, UNICEF: We're seeing a very dangerous form of malnutrition in the north, around 15 percent in children, three times what

it is in Rafah in the south, again, clear evidence that when we're able when we are allowed to get in life-saving aid, it's making a difference.

HANCOCKS (voice over): Countries now resorting to air drops to get aid into Gaza, an imprecise and imperfect way to save lives.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


QUEST: Jeremy Diamond is in Tel Aviv, and I am wondering whether Jeremy whether perhaps -- can you hear me?


QUEST: Oh, good, good.

So Jeremy, we can go backwards and forwards on who did watch, who said what, and how it was all done. But in all of these situations, there does

come a moment when the overwhelming stench of death and misery overtakes even policy, are we there?

DIAMOND: Well, I certainly think that this is an important moments in the course of this war. I mean, we thought that today was going to be marked,

in particular by the fact that we have now hit 30,000 people having been killed in Gaza since the beginning of this war, but perhaps it will be this

incident that will be remembered in the course of this war, and that is because we are seeing quite a bit of international reaction, including from

the United States, talking about the severity of this incident, urging the Israeli military to investigate this incident.

And just because it is one of the deadliest single incidents that we have seen when you talk about a hundred-plus people who were killed in this one

incident, 700-plus who were injured, this is quite a moment.

And it is also a moment not only because of the number of casualties, but because of what it says about the state of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,

and in northern Gaza, in particular, and that's because, you know, as you said, if you -- even if you take out the Israeli gunfire in this situation,

which people on the ground, say actually caused this stampede, caused the drivers of these trucks to run over so many people as they fled for their

lives, even when you take all of that away, what you are left with is hundreds of people swarming these aid trucks climbing on top of them to

grab what they could because of the desperate situation in which they find themselves.

For weeks now, we've been reporting on the fact that in Northern Gaza, people are surviving by eating animal feed, they are surviving by eating

leaves or soupy mixtures made with dirty water that are served at soup kitchens. And there's no question that there are high numbers of people in

Northern Gaza who are skipping meals regularly.

And now the World Food Programme is saying that more than half a million people are effectively on the brink of a full-blown famine inside of Gaza.

That's because so little aid has been able to get into Northern Gaza.

QUEST: Jeremy --

DIAMOND: The Israeli military has refused certain convoys getting into Northern Gaza, and we also know of course, that aid groups have found these

situations where their convoys are being looted by civilians .

QUEST: All right, Jeremy, I just want to just --

DIAMOND: . so desperate for aid and therefore they've pulled back.

QUEST: I just want interrupt you, if I may, Jeremy, because for the last five months, you and I have been going backwards and forwards on this and

the claims -- you know, the comments from the organizations of famine and cholera and everything else, we've had again and again.

In Israel has the tide of opinion, yet turned? Do bear with me. Hold yourself there Jeremy. Hold yourself there whilst we just look at these

pictures because I did warn our dear viewer that we would be going backwards and forwards with viewers.


There we see the president, I think it is yes, that the president who is at the border in Texas. He is by Brownsville, I believe. He is looking at the

border and being briefed by border guards, various officials on the situation.

We are well aware of the issue and how it has become the issue and is becoming -- immigration is becoming the issue, the number of people

crossing the border.

And, of course, President Biden has said that he has a plan and he has said that he has a way forward that he is going to do this.

But the president has made the point that much of what he can't do or is stopped from doing is it stopped by existing laws, and by Congress'

refusal, of course, to give him more authority as necessary.

Instead, Congress is holding up various aid bills, which would include aid to Israel and to Ukraine demanding that the president puts more resources

down to the border as necessary.

Just pause with these pictures just for one second more because what you're going to see over the next hour, this is the president here, and then a few

hundred miles away at Eagle Pass, you're going to see, which I suspect will be far more voluminous, will be former President Trump on the border,

basically telling us why this man, President Biden isn't doing his job.

All right, that's where we are at the moment. We'll hear from both men at some point during the next hour. You're up-to-date on borders at the

moment. I think we'll go back to Jeremy in Tel Aviv, if we may.

The viewers are well aware, Jeremy, that this is one of those programs where we are going backwards and forwards throughout the course of the


But back to you, to where I was saying, events like today, are they shifting the tide of opinion in Israel?

DIAMOND: No, the short answer is absolutely not, and that's because this is still a country that is very much mobilized for this war, overwhelming

support among the Israeli population for this war and part of that is due to the fact that Israelis are not seeing as much of the carnage and

destruction in Gaza as the rest of the world does.

The media here simply does not cover it in the same way as we might on CNN. And you know, today is a perfect example. We were watching the Israeli

evening news and it was only at the end of a day of story that there were you know, a few seconds dedicated to the situation with his aid convoy.

We should also note that there have been dozens of Israelis protesting at the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and Gaza for weeks now at

times successfully preventing aid trucks from getting into Gaza, because they believe that these aid trucks are ultimately going straight to Hamas

and they want to put pressure on Gaza's civilian and Hamas' population to release the hostages.

So there is certainly still overwhelming support for this war where there has been some debate is over exactly how to proceed in these negotiations,

how much to prioritize destroying Hamas, versus how much to prioritize securing a ceasefire to release the hostages.

QUEST: Jeremy, I am grateful. Thank you. We will talk more.

Dr. Athanasios Gargavanis is a trauma surgeon and emergency officer of the WHO. He left Gaza yesterday, after a month long trip to various field

hospitals. He is with me now from Cairo.

Dr. Athanasios, thank you. Grateful for your time.

I have little doubt that you can tell us a story of horror, in terms of trying to provide basic medical services in an environment where actually

they need sophisticated medical treatment.


is an honor for me to be with you.

I would like to start by saying that WHO, the World Health Organization is shocked and saddened by the reported killing and injuries of all these

innocent people and it is deeply appalling, the fact that this happened during the transfer of aid supplies in the Gaza City that Gaza City right

now is one of the places that suffer most.

Unfortunately, progressively what we've witnessed with this armed conflict is that life is draining out from the entire Gaza Strip, not only from the

north, not only from the south, but from the entire Gaza Strip at a terrible speed.

While I was in in Gaza, a short description of what we did was that in a period of 10 days, the World Health Organization along with other UN

agencies and coordination of the UN OCHA, we have managed to organize aid missions to two different hospitals in Khan Younis, Nasser Medical Complex

and Al-Amal Palestine Red Crescent Society Hospital.


What we see in these two hospitals is exactly what happens to Gaza's health system. It is deeply concerning the fact that we don't see nothing less of

the degradation of the entire system, and you need a system in place, you need a system in place to keep patients alive, you need a system in place

to keep patients from getting amputated, and this is exactly what we have witnessed right now.

QUEST: So, Doctor, when the Israelis say that these medical facilities are or have been used as civilian cover for Hamas militants or protagonist,

what do you say back?

GARGAVANIS: The World Health Organization is not an investigative agency. We cannot confirm and we cannot say for sure that this has not been done.

But what we can say for sure is that hospitals and health facilities are not supposed to be militarized at any possible way, and we are firm to

this, because when these things happen, when hospitals are targeted, then civilians, people that should not be exposed lose their lives and lose

their limbs.

And eventually, this happens at a really cruel way. We witnessed two hospitals that used to support the health system in their respective

communities getting progressively degraded to the point where eventually it was unable for them to provide services and that's a shame. That's really

difficult -- really different.

QUEST: So what happens. I mean, today is an example of, you know, I guess this is what we've always known that Israel is going to continue this until

they finish the job, how they see it. We've had numerous examples where civilians, many examples have been collaterally caught up and killed.

But that doesn't -- I suppose I'm asking is at what point does the message get through to everybody that Israel's going to finish this job off,

regardless of the civilian cost?

GARGAVANIS: As I said before, it's a bit hard for us to do the investigating part, but what we know for sure is that the humanitarian

community and the United Nations in Gaza have been left with the impossible mission to serve the entire population, more than two million people, while

in the same time, the UN staff, humanitarian workers are being killed, displaced; access is becoming more difficult because roads are becoming

dirt fields and convoys are shorter, making sure that eventually, while aid and support is being delivered, it requires to be upscaled massively, it

requires better coordination and it requires better access to get within the Gaza Strip.

Because eventually, an effective aid operation requires logistical capacity, and the resumed entry of commodities from the private as well,

not only from humanitarian field. And this is what the United Nations are doing. We urge for the opening of additional crossings.

QUEST: I'm grateful to you, Doctor. You've just got back and we'll talk to you more as matters progress. Thank you, sir.

Now to the other story, we are ping-ponging between our big two stories today and it is at the border of Texas.

We know that President Biden and Donald Trump are both visiting the southern border and immigration is the central issue in the US election as

migrants arrive in record numbers.

Donald Trump landed about an hour ago and has been harshly critical of the administration and its various policies. President Biden is considering

executive action within limits of what he can do to tighten asylum rules. He is supported by partisan border security package, but Senate and

Republicans blocked it, touring now in Brownsville.

So Kristen Holmes is in Eagle Pass, where Donald Trump is, MJ Lee is at the White House.

Both men, I will start with you MJ, both men have to convince that they have the better policy, but at the same time, the truth of the matter is

Biden is the one that's in power and he is the one who could have done something about it.


MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and you know, that's definitely the case that we are going to hear President Biden make.

We've heard him going there over the last few weeks, and particularly after lawmakers on Capitol Hill came up with a bipartisan negotiated plan to deal

with the border, and that plan was tanked, essentially, by Republicans.

And as the president will tell it, that was at the urging of former President Donald Trump. Donald Trump, who has made clear that he doesn't

want Republican to essentially hand President Biden and Democrats a so- called win when it comes to the border.

So the sort of inaction and the lack of action from Republicans is really the frame that we are hearing President Biden and Democrats really lean

into, and certainly something that we are expected to hear from President Biden when he speaks this afternoon in Brownsville.

He is there, of course, to meet with law enforcement, to meet with local officials and Border Patrol agents and try to get a better sense of the

situation down there.

But you're right, that all of this is very much politics, and the fact that we have both of these dueling visits taking place at the same time is a

pretty remarkable scene that we're about to see play out here, and a markedly different position that the president actually finds himself in


You know, in the past, he had been so much on the defense and when we talk to White House officials and campaign officials, they say they very much

see this as a rare opportunity and a rare opening to go on the offense against Republicans on this issue.

QUEST: Okay. Kristen, how do you get on the -- how does he go on the offense against Donald Trump who seems to have every answer in the book as

to why A., his wall wasn't built; and B., it was all perfect under his administration and it is actually -- and now, we're looking at pictures

from Eagle Pass.

These are, let me tell you, what we're looking at. These are Donald Trump's -- he is in a tent where he is being briefed by the Texas National Guard.

He is then going to walk along the border fence. Oh, and there's Governor Abbott who you can see next to him in the chair.

So he is getting a full border briefing before they'll go outside and look at the border. So what's -- I mean, he was president and things weren't

that brilliant then at the border. He didn't build his wall, and Mexico never paid for it, even if they were going to, so what's his strongest line


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the strongest line of what he's going to continue to argue is that the numbers now are worse than

they were he was in office. And if you look at polling, that is also what people believe.

First of all, the recent polling numbers coming out of Gallup show that immigration is the number one issue for American voters. The other part of

this is if you look at who handles immigration better, in almost every single poll, Donald Trump is believed to have done so. This has been an

issue that he has been hammering home since 2015 using divisive, often racist, and fear-stoking rhetoric, to encourage people to vote for him

saying that he's the only one that can protect them and people believe that messaging, Richard.

Despite what you say, it is true. The fact that he didn't finish the wall, the fact that Mexico didn't pay for it, all of that is true. However,

Donald Trump has projected that he is better at fixing immigration than Joe Biden. That's why when you hear MJ talking about, they have spent so much

time, Biden's administration on the defense, this is the first time we're really seeing them use and think on the offense and going after Donald


QUEST: Okay, so if we replay some of the pictures, if we can, of Joe Biden, and we have the pictures of Donald Trump. Yes, I was just taking

this as we go.

If you look at the split screen of the two of them, and MJ Lee, the reality is I'm looking at Donald Trump now, but Donald Trump, he just looks fitter.

He looks more in command. And there you see Biden, if you split the shot between the two. One of them looks like -- this was a few moments ago, one

of them looks older and sort of more doddery. Donald Trump stands next to the border and he looks fitter and more in control.

How -- there you are, we now see it. How much of this is just perception. First, to MJ, then to Kristen, and how do they play against that?

LEE: Well, Richard, you said one of them looks older. One of them is older. The president is 81 years old compared to Donald Trump's 77.


We've been talking a lot about the two leaders and their age and perceptions about their health, and all of that, because we are talking

about realistically two people that are in their late 70s, early 80s.

I think so much of this is about perception and the public image. You know, for President Biden, you know, we talked about how much he had been on the

defense on this issue. One of the things he has been on the defense about was about not visiting the border enough. It was a big deal when he went

down to Eagle Pass last year at the urgings of so many Republicans and critics who said, you know, it sure seems like you're avoiding this issue

altogether, because it's not a good issue for you.

I think it actually speaks volumes that the White House decided to do this trip, obviously, voluntarily, because they thought, again, as we were

talking about before, there was this rare opportunity for them to sort of own the issue and go there and say, look, it is the Republicans problem,

and sort of they are making, that they are not able to sort of get their party together to corral around this border package that should have had

bipartisan support.

QUEST: All right, Kristen, I'm looking at your -- I'm looking at the candidate that you're following now. He goes out of his way, doesn't he, to

sort of look bigger and speak in more strong terms than say, the president does, even though arguably, he's been as ineffectual or more.

HOLMES: Richard, let's make this very clear. Donald Trump is a TV star before he was president. He knows all about making the shot, he knows all

about producing.

If you've ever seen a behind-the-scenes interview with Donald Trump, he is talking about where the camera should be, where the frame should be, what

his best angle is.

This is what he cares about is perception and messaging, and this is a perfect made for television place to be. Remember, Eagle Pass is not a

place where most of the migrants are crossing, it is the political epicenter of this feud between Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who is with him

as you said, who has also endorsed him and the Biden administration over who controls border security.

The area that he's in and is surrounded by is on the Rio Grande, essentially, the National Guard has taken over this area. This is how

Donald Trump perceives that he would control the border if he were in office.

QUEST: Right.

HOLMES: They have put razor wire in the river, they have put razor wire on train cars around here. They are implementing the military in a way that

is not being done anywhere else. That is why he is here. There are political ramifications. There's also the visuals.

His team is always fixated on the visuals and that is something to always keep in mind. He travel with one of the world's best photographers at all

times. So again, a lot of that is in the messaging and perception.

QUEST: Grateful to you both. Thank you, at this key moment when they are both there. Sometimes the television gods do strike us lucky and we have

both people there at exactly at the right moment and we are able to make those comparisons necessary.

I'm grateful to you both. Thank you.

QUEST MEANS BUSINESS now. My next guest, so when it comes to immigration, you've seen the political side, but we are a business program, you knew

that. We've been talking about it long enough and so arguably Americans should be very grateful for the immigrants that who are coming for the

economic landing, the soft landing.

Brown University professor, Dany Bahar says they softened the labor market after the pandemic, and he says that slowed the upward pressure on wages

and stopped an inflationary spiral in its tracks.

He believes immigrants help lower inflation with their modest consumption habits. We learned this from Gary Tuchman last year. Do you remember? He

went to Iowa and spoke to farmers relying on migrant workers who are also Donald Trump supporters, and he pushed back to them on that Trump anti-

immigrant comments.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Cory Fehr says during the heart of the season, he needed about 90 workers.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Are there enough Americans to take those jobs?

CORY FEHR, FARMER: There are not.

TUCHMAN (voice over): So Cory had 72 migrants working on his farm this year legally, under the government H2-A program. He thinks the government

needs to make it easier for more migrants to come to the US to work.

He hadn't seen and heard what former President Donald Trump declared about undocumented migrants coming across the border, so we showed it to him.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's crazy what's going on. They're ruining our country, and it is true, they are destroying

the blood of our country, that's what they're doing.

TUCHMAN (voice over): So we asked how does that make you feel about the man who voted for twice?

FEHR: It brings out a side of him that, I'd say, I haven't decided what I'm going to do this year.

TUCHMAN (on camera): About whether you'd vote for him again.

FEHR: Right.

TUCHMAN: What do you think the people who worked for you who just left for the season would think about those comments?

FEHR: They would be offended by that.


QUEST: Professor Bahar of Brown is with me. Good to see you, sir. And this is where economics and politics are not good bedfellows even if they

ever really are, because the economics says you need immigration and the politics says not on your life. Square the circle for me, sir.


DANY BAHAR, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Well, there are so many things to unpack, Richard. The first thing is that, you know, I want to say

something provocative, which is that the crisis in the border is going to resolve on its own. If you actually look at 20 years of data, you will see

that there's many more crossings at the same time where there's a very overheated labor market in the U.S.

Right now we are at a stage in the U.S. labor markets that there's about 1.5 job openings for every unemployed person in the U.S., meaning that if

every unemployed person in the U.S. goes and takes all jobs there are still going to be many more jobs to fill, and immigrants react to that. And

there's a huge pull factor that is bringing them to this country because they know that they could get jobs.

And in the absence of legal pathways to do that, because the migration laws of this country haven't changed for 30 years, they go and try to get

through the southern border.

QUEST: Right.

BAHAR: So, you know, it's a reality that I think is not reflected in the speeches of politicians on either side.

QUEST: No. But, I mean, you know, we all know and I certainly know undocumented people who want to work, may have been here for many years,

want to work in legitimate jobs. But as the various restrictions, if you will, requirements, Social Security numbers, tax ID number, all the canopy

of rules that are designed to prevent employers from paying cash under the table that makes it very difficult. It makes these undocumented open and

easy to abuse.

BAHAR: Absolutely. It makes them very vulnerable and at the same time, you know, it is a lot of taxpayers' money that doesn't exist because if these

people had the right to work in the regular ways, there will be paying payroll taxes. They will be paying income taxes. They would be paying state

taxes that they're not right now.

QUEST: So is your preference -- finally, is your preference for a greater guest worker program, visas come in but go home, or something else that

allows people -- you know, I shudder when I say the word amnesty because I can hear everybody getting up in arms. You know, how do you take the three

million or four million who are here illegally and put them to a proper pathway to citizenship?

BAHAR: Look, I think that the real thing to think about here in terms of policies like how many workers this country need and is going to need over

the next 10 years. Those politicians who think that this country can rely and fill the jobs, the demand for labor without immigration, they just

haven't looked at the data. And by the way, people tend to think that, you know, the only thing that we should be focusing on is high skill workers.

But the reality is that if you go right now to the Web site of the Bureau of Labor Economics of the United States and you look at how much demand

there's going to be for occupations over the next 10 years, you're not only going to see doctors and engineers, you're also going to see nurses, and

truck drivers and cooks. And the reality of the economy is that the doctor needs the cook and the cook, you know, need to the cab driver and we all

complement each other.

And therefore, you can't -- you need to have this legal pathways that allow workers from every skill level to fulfill the jobs. And right now, you

know, whatever program we can think it just have to be -- it just have to make common sense with the needs of this country that, by the way, just to

make it even more complicated, it's going to go through a demographic transition when there's many old people and a very much smaller base of

young people who can actually work.

QUEST: Less of looking at me when you say old. Thank you, Doctor.

BAHAR: Thank you.

QUEST: I'm grateful to you. That's kind of you. Thank you, sir.

QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, I promise you right at the start of this, two stories that we are watching. And now we bring them all together. The president is

warning today's incident in Gaza complicates the ceasefire talks. He's been speaking to regional leaders.



QUEST: President Biden says he knows ceasefire talks will be more complicated after today's deaths at the food distribution site in Gaza. The

White House says the president has spoken today to the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, and a senior administration official said the incident will add more

urgency to the talks.

CNN's Arlette Saenz asked the president about it.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hope springs eternal. I was on the telephone with the people in the region. Probably not by Monday, but

I'm hopeful.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know what happened in Gaza City? More than 100 civilians were killed.

BIDEN: We're checking that out right now. There are two competing versions of what happened. I don't have an answer yet.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you worried that that will complicate those negotiations?

BIDEN: I know it will.


QUEST: Alex is with me. Well, Alex, what do you make of it? I mean, I'm hopeful by the weekend. Hopeful of what?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, when he'd said a couple of days ago, ice cream in hand, that he expected a ceasefire

by the weekend and perhaps a start by Monday, there was no one else that we heard from who could corroborate that. And today he himself was walking it

back saying that that was unlikely and that hope springs eternal, I think acknowledging that what we saw today with 100 plus people killed in Gaza

will complicate things.

Now, I think the question is to what extent does it derail these talks. Certainly Hamas has indicated that may be the case. One senior U.S.

official said to me there's a possibility that it could accelerate the talks. Either way, as you say, what we're hearing from the U.S. is that

there will be new urgency to this because whatever happened today, whatever happened to these two different scenarios that are being laid out, what is

clear here is that there's extraordinary desperation, extraordinary need for humanitarian aid, not just to get into Gaza, but to get to the right


This took place in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, so much the aid is going into the southern part of the Gaza Strip and not nearly enough is

making its way north. And the best way to get humanitarian aid into Gaza right now, according to the Biden administration, is to strike this deal

that they've been working on for quite some time, that has shown some signs of progress but is not there yet -- Richard.


QUEST: So today's events, give me -- you've been there, you've seen it, you've discussed it, you're in Washington. Just how much has it complicated


MARQUARDT: Well, I do think when you hear someone -- when you hear the president saying I spoke with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, that really

is a signal to this core of the mediators who are working on in this deal, that there really is a need to get this done. Now, putting -- even if there

were no talks on the ceasefire, what the U.S. has been saying over and over again is Israel is not allowing enough aid in, and it is not being

disseminated, distributed nearly well enough.

It's not -- the situation on the ground is not secure enough. There's constant fighting. The roads are bombed. Because of the fighting between

Israel and Hamas, and so that aid can't get where it needs to be. So that needs to be fixed in an immediate term. And then for longer term to really

get the amount of aid in that is needed you really do well have to have a pause in the fighting and it does seem like that that really is in the


We've seen Hamas. We've heard that Hamas is softening their positions. That we do a really have an understanding of what the broad strokes of a deal

could look like that would result in a weeks-long pause that would allow that aid to get in.

QUEST: Grateful, Alex. Thank you.

Maha Yahya is the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center with me now, and very grateful for you. So as we look at it now with the events of

today, what do you see now as the increasing complexity?

MAHA YAHYA, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE MIDDLE EAST CENTER: Good evening, Richard, or good afternoon. I think that the -- I mean, the tragedy that we saw

today is only going to increase pressure to get a deal done quickly. Even I wouldn't say without the hostages, but the situation has become totally

untenable. Almost half a million, more than half a million people according to the U.N. are one step away from starvation, and there is a significant

breakdown in law and order within Gaza itself.

People are starving. So what we saw today is just the tip of the iceberg of what's been going on in Gaza over the past five months now.

QUEST: Right. So I've been hearing what you've been saying and others for the last four or five months. But Israel comes back with the same answer

that Hamas is shielding behind militants, that they are taking every precaution as necessary to prevent civilian casualties, but that there will

be civilian casualties because of the way Hamas is prosecuting its own war.

YAHYA: Bulldozing entire or bludgeoning entire neighborhoods is not precautions against civilian casualties. I'm sorry. We're talking about

30,000 dead, which even the U.S. suggests is an underestimation. Secretary Austin today talked to about 20,000 women and 25,000 women and children

already dead. So I wouldn't say there are precautions in place. More than 70,000 injured. The numbers, we can go on forever. The numbers are

horrific. So I will not --

QUEST: But nobody -- let me jump in because, not to be rude, I want to actually hear your point, but none of these statistics or these calls of

feminine, I've reported at least 10 I would say in the last two months of some organization or other forecasting famine, it's not moving the needle

one jot in Israel.

YAHYA: No, unfortunately, and part of it is you've got a government that is, I mean, pretty extreme from what we're seeing and hearing and what we

know of the background of many of the members of the government, including a prime minister who's hanging on to his political survival and using the

Gaza conflict in order to do that. Frankly, what he's doing is a considerable disservice, not just to the Palestinians but to Israeli


QUEST: Can the situation on the Lebanon-Israel border, which is always tense, it's now fractious, you know, but it hasn't broken out into full

scale. How do we prevent that from -- with Hezbollah turning into full scale?

YAHYA: Well, surprisingly, I mean, the reason why it hasn't turned full- scale is that the response of Hezbollah and Iran has remained muted to some extent.


It has not -- they have not followed the rules of engagement with Israel that they've had in the past. The danger of it escalating, and this is

partly because they do not want a major conflict for their own interests and for their own reasons. They understand that a major conflict from

Iran's perspective would literally damage 40 assets that they've spent the last four decades building up. But the way the -- frankly my expectation is

until a ceasefire is signed in Gaza or some sort of a cessation of hostilities, we are going to see an intensification of the bombings in


Israel seems to be seeing this as an opportunity to take out as many operatives, Hezbollah sites, whatever it wanted it feels it needs to take

out knowing that there will not be any kind of all -- the retaliation will remain quite muted and quite minimal.

QUEST: And that --

YAHYA: So the danger of escalation on that front is also quite high.

QUEST: We'll talk more when, God forbid, even when that happened. Thank you. Grateful for your time tonight. It's late there for you and I'm very

appreciative that you stayed up to talk to us now.

And QUEST MEANS BUSINESS tonight live from New York. I'm very glad that you're with me, too.


QUEST: The latest inflation numbers in the U.S. will give the Fed a great deal to talk about. The PCE next, which is the Fed's preferred inflation

gauge, ticked down on an annual basis. It was just 2.4 percent in January. It's about what economists had expected, although still above target. Core

PCE also called.

The monthly rate is where things get more complicated, 0.3 percent headline in January, 0.4 core. I think. Yes. Both numbers represent a sharp increase

from the month before.

All of the numbers there I'm not very sure I followed them all myself a point here and appoint there. What was that old joke, a million here, a

million there, and pretty soon you're talking real money?

Rana is with me. And Rana, make sense of those numbers, please.

RANA FAROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: So, you know, if you look at the first number that you mentioned, it looks like, hey, inflation is



Everything is good. Goldilocks, you know, maybe by November elections, we're going to be in a really good place. Food and fuel, though. Food and

fuel, which is what people really feel in their wallets, remain volatile. And that's got me thinking a lot about what we're going to see next week,

for example, with the Super Tuesday elections. The difference that we continue to see an America between numbers that seemed pretty good and a

felt experience that is sort of math.

QUEST: So on this program yesterday, we were talking to the chief economist at Citi. You see, you're an excellent company on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. He

basically said we're heading for at the moment no landing. Inflation is going to remain elevated above the 2.5 percent to 3 percent in that region.

It's not going to be a soft landing, it's not going to be a hard landing, there'll be no real landing, but the Fed is going to have to decide, are

they happy with that or push on in which case it becomes very hard indeed. Do you subscribe?

FAROOHAR: Yes. I think we're probably still going to see rate cuts this year. I do. I think it will remain a bit elevated, but, you know, again,

going past what the Fed may or may not do, what I find so fascinating is, you know, we are in a good place, relatively speaking, given all the things

that could have happened, I think the Fed should feel pretty proud of themselves. But consumers, voters, workers, they actually don't feel that


They're thinking about the fact that over the last three years we've had double-digit increases which as you point out, you know, will remain where

they are. What you're buying in the grocery store, your gas. You know, yes, it's coming down, but it's not going down, you know, to 20 percentage

points to where it was three years ago. So that's --

QUEST: Yes. And as you know, it's going down, but it's sort of all it means it's going up, but not as fast.

Grateful for you as always. Thank you so much. Thank you.

FAROOHAR: Thanks, Richard.

QUEST: Now President Biden and former President Trump, both at the border with Mexico right now, the U.S. border. We'll be there in a moment.


QUEST: We're waiting for Biden and Trump, president and former, to speak at the southern border. They're both there at the same time.


President Trump has long attack President Biden's immigration policies. He's just met with the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, who's been sharply

critical of the president.

Alayna Treene is in Washington. I mean, is it going to be best hits of Trump on migration?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pretty much, Richard, I think you can expect a lot of that. I know from my conversations with Trump senior

advisers, they do expect him to walk through what he believes were, you know, good points that he did or good policies he had while he was in

office and compare that with Biden's record. But you're also going to hear him highlight what they call impact stories.

And that's how the Trump campaign is framing this. They want to share stories of migrants who have crossed the border then committed alleged

crimes here in the United States. You're going to hear him walk through a series of those, similar to what we've heard from him on the campaign


But I think the big picture here, and just to take a step back, Richard, is it the politics of all this. There's a reason Donald Trump is at the border

and that's because he sees immigration and specifically the border as Biden's most vulnerable issue heading into November. And so he's going to

play on a lot of the fears that some Americans have about people crossing the border and try to really use the same type of fearmongering he used to

propel them into the White House back in 2016.

QUEST: So how's he going to deal with the question that the U.S. needs immigration for farmers, for truckers, to pick crops? You know, we've been

talking about -- we see the former president now. How does he deal with that?

TREENE: Well, I think there's a big difference between actual policy and rhetoric, and that's what you are seeing from Donald Trump. The policy that

he is proposing if he were to reclaim the White House later this year is that he would be rounding up immigrants and deporting them. He does not go

into exactly what you mentioned, which is the importance of legal immigration, of having immigrants in this country, and of course getting

into h1b visas and all of that.

I won't get into the wonkiness of it, but he's focusing on the rhetoric that he knows energizes Americans and mainly actually angers them. He

believes that that is what really motivates them for the election that we'll see later this year.

QUEST: This is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, Alayna, you can get into as much wonkiness as you like in the months ahead as we delve deep into all these

various issues. The more the merrier on this program.

We'll take a profitable moment after the break.


QUEST: So they have two pictures from the border. It's all rather depressing because the immigration debate deserves to be more than just

slogans. And certainly if you look at the economics America needs immigration, indeed the prospect of more immigration is its strongest card

in a sense for future economic growth.

And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. I'm Richard Quest. Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, may be noblest (PH).

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Political split screen at the border.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Biden and Donald Trump, both in Texas, at this very hour, both trying to blame each other for the crisis at the border. How they're