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Israel At War; FBI Seizes NYC Mayor Eric Adams' Devices; Speaker Johnson Running Out Of Options As Shutdown Looms; Judge Keeps Trump Classified Docs Trial Scheduled For May. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 10, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Happening now, Gaza bombarded from the air as Israel's war against Hamas takes an increasingly devastating toll on the ground. US Secretary of State offering a new condemnation of the rising number of deaths, amid new reports and multiple hospitals hit.
And breaking news, FBI agents have seized cellphones and an iPad from New York City Mayor Eric Adams. We're getting new details on the fundraising investigation as Adams declares he has nothing to hide. Also tonight, Donald Trump's bid to delay his criminal classified documents trial has been rejected by the judge, at least for now. We'll have the latest on that schedule that will put Trump on trial just months before the 2024 election.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today, I'm Jim Acosta, and you're in the "Situation Room."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.
ACOSTA: And we begin tonight with Israel's war against Hamas. People in Northern Gaza experiencing heavy attacks within the last several hours. Let's go right to CNN's Oren Liebermann reporting from Tel Aviv. Oren, how intense is the fighting tonight.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, those pictures right there practically speak for themselves. Our cameras, our teams have seen heavy bombardment in Northern Gaza throughout the previous few hours, throughout the evening here. That as the IDF spokesperson says Israeli forces are operating deep in Gaza City.
Several days ago, the IDF said it had encircled Gaza City and Northern Gaza, and now was working its way in. Part of the target, part of fighting here on the part of the Israeli military is to go after Hamas' tunnel infrastructure. And the IDF says that's where they're focusing a lot of their effort, though, acknowledging it is deep and difficult fighting because underground Hamas has the advantage, so Israel is trying to do what it can, attacking with grenades and trying to destroy some of that tunnel infrastructure. Again, that's on top of the bombardment we have seen from outside of Gaza.
Meanwhile, there have been strikes near hospitals and the same sort of argument, or conflicting account of a strike or damage. We have seen to Al Shifa Hospital in Northern Gaza, that's one of the biggest if not the biggest hospitals in the Gaza Strip. The World Health Organization blamed Israel saying the hospital was coming under bombardment.
Meanwhile, Israel denied any involvement and damage to the hospital, saying they have not carried out a strike there and saying, according to their information, it was a failed rocket launch that had damage to the hospital. Very reminiscent of the debate, the argument and the conflicting accounts we saw some three and a half weeks ago over another hospital in Gaza.
Meanwhile, humanitarian quarters opened up for another day for six hours earlier, during which thousands, if not tens of thousands Gazans fled from Northern Gaza to Southern Gaza as Israel allowed for that humanitarian quarter, along Salah al-Din Street one of the main north south arteries in the Gaza Strip. That -- the IDF says that they will not strike at the humanitarian quarter even as the war continues around there.
The IDF says tens of thousands of people have fled each day over the past several these days. Israel urging the residents there to move south as the operation deepens and continues. We're also hearing increasing criticism and concern on the part of the US from the rising number of civilians killed in Gaza since October 7th. According to the Hamas controlled Ministry of Health in Gaza, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed on the ground there since October 7th, a number they say includes 4,500 children and 3,000 women, Jim.
ACOSTA: All right. Oren Liebermann live for us in Tel Aviv. Thank you very much, Oren. We appreciate it.
As new seeds of suffering emerged from Gaza, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is offering one of his most direct condemnations yet of the rising death toll there. CNN National Security Reporter Natasha Bertrand has more on all of that. Natasha, is there a shift in tone? It sounds like it underway from the administration.
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Absolutely, Jim. I think we've heard from the administration, including from President Biden over recent days, that they want to see the humanitarian situation eased in Gaza. They believe that there needs to be a humanitarian pause for a number of days in order to allow civilians to get out of the Gaza Strip.
As of right now, Israel has not agreed to a three day or longer pause. The administration right now is, uh, you know, they are talking to these rallies about these six hour long pauses that we have seen happening over the last couple days.
But look, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, he really underscored just how the US is feeling about all of these civilian casualties. In statements earlier today, he said that far too many Palestinians are being killed. Here's what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, US SECRETARY OF STATE: Far too many Palestinians have been killed, far too many have suffered these past weeks. And we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them and to maximize the assistance that gets to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERTRAND: Now, this is sparking a lot of outrage in the Arab world, and US officials are actually warning the White House, the CIA, the FBI about the outrage across the Arab community to these images that we are seeing out of Gaza of all of the Palestinians being killed and wounded there. And in a cable that was obtained by my colleague, Priscilla Alvarez, the US embassy in Oman told the White House that they are experiencing outrage like they've never seen really, and that they "are losing Arab publics for a generation over the US' support for Israel." And that the support for this military operation is being seen in the Arab world as "material and moral culpability in what they consider to be possible war crimes."
So obviously, all of this is contributing to the administration's wariness of Israel's military operation in Gaza right now, particularly how it's being carried out with regard to civilians and how the Hamas commanders that Israel says it's targeting are obviously in areas that are densely, densely populated inside Gaza. And so, this is something that the administration is going to be really urging the Israelis to take another look at in terms of their military operation in the days ahead, Jim.
ACOSTA: All right. Natasha Bertrand, thank you very much for that very important report.
Now, a closer look at Gaza hospitals in crisis as Israeli troops close. And we want to warn you, this report from CNN's Jomana Karadsheh - has a graphic video that some viewers out there may find disturbing.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Night 34 of this war brought hell to Gaza's hospitals, death so close for these medics outside Al Awda Hospital, they recited their final prayers. The hospital says several were injured in these strikes and two ambulances were completely damaged.
It was one of several hospitals struck in what was a night of horror for those sheltering at medical facilities in Northern Gaza. And on Friday, more heartache came with these devastating scenes at Al Shifa Hospital complex, the haunting screams of those who survived this blast, days confused searching for loved ones amongst the dead and injured. Images that infuriated humanitarians like Norwegian Dr. Mads Gilbert, who volunteered at Al Shifa in the past.
MADS GILBERT, NORWEGIAN PHYSICIAN AND EX-VOLUNTEER AT AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL: President Biden, Mr. Blinken -- Mr. Blinken, can you hear me? Prime ministers and presidents of the European countries, can you hear me? Can you hear the screams from Shifa Hospital, from Al Awda Hospital? Can you hear the screams from innocent people, refugees sheltering, trying to find a safe place being bombed by the Israeli attack forces, hospitals that are the temples of humanity and protection.
KARADSHEH (voice-over): But this is a war with no red lines, and hospitals are no sanctuary for the tens of thousands crammed into these hospitals, desperate to be protected from a war like no other Gaza has ever seen. For weeks, the Israeli military has been calling on civilians to move south. To get out of harm's way, they say, but so many have been reluctant to heed these calls. Airstrikes and death have followed Gazans to the south. Nowhere is safe in this besieged territory.
But as Israeli military opened up a humanitarian corridor amid intense fighting in the north, tens of thousands had no choice but to run. In scenes that evoke dark memories for Palestinians of an exodus from decades past, one from which there has been no return.
But not everyone can leave. The fighting has trapped some of the most vulnerable at two pediatric hospitals where hundreds are sheltering and doctors are calling on the ICRC to evacuate them. Israeli troops are right outside Al Nasr and Rantisi hospitals.
The hospital is surrounded by Israeli tanks from all directions, this young woman says, we were asked to evacuate now. She and others, with this cry for international protection and a safe passage out.
Back inside Al Shifa, there's no stopping, no pauses for those on a mission to save lives. A father anxiously looks to doctors for good news, only to be told his little boy is gone.
Never have Gazans felt so abandoned, alone in this land of death and despair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And our thanks to Jomana Karadsheh for that report. Let's bring in two experts on the region, former State Department Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller and Middle East journalist Rula Jebreal.
Aaron, obviously we just need to say at the top of this, that was a very disturbing report. And what do you make of the fine line that the US is walking right now and supporting Israel while grappling with this brutal assault on Palestinian civilians that we just saw in that just eye-opening report from Jomana Karadsheh a few moments ago. And are Secretary Blinken's comments a sign of a shift, do you think?
AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: It's heartbreaking, Jim. And I have to say, in the wake of the slaughter on October 7th, I understand the depth of Israeli anger with respect to dealing with Hamas. At the same time, I think our hearts and minds have to be open to the suffering of thousands of innocent Palestinians. You have a humanitarian catastrophe and far too many Palestinian deaths.
I think you're right. The administration is navigating a very fine line. Secretary's comments today were not an observation. It was an implicit warning. When you say far too many Palestinians are being killed, it's almost a direct sort of warning to the Israelis to change course. Real question seems to me, and the administration has offered suggestions, change the ordinance. Don't drop 1,000, 2,000-pound bombs on Jabalia refugee camp. Go to something smaller, use targeted intel.
The real question, I don't think the administration has a compelling alternative, Jim, as to how the Israelis eradicate Hamas as a military organization. They won't destroy it as an idea. How they eradicate Hamas as a military organization while working in densely populated areas where Hamas assets are co-located with civilian populations. How do you do that? And I think that's the real dilemma.
And I suspect administration will continue to walk that fine line. I'm not sure there'll be dot-dot-dot or else.
ACOSTA: Right. And, Rula, do you see any way for the US to cool down the fury in the Arab world that we are picking up on here at CNN when the president has been clear he is against a ceasefire? Are these brief pauses going to go far enough amid all of this Palestinian suffering that we just witnessed in that report a few moments ago?
RULA JEBREAL, MIDDLE EAST JOURNALIST: No. The Arab world, I mean, not only the Arab world. Just to be clear, the United States lost the global south in perpetuity. G7 leaders and diplomats been telling us that after 22 months with President Biden and Blinken went to the world and said bombing hospital in Ukraine, bombing schools, targeting civilians is a war crime. Now they're turning around and saying, yes, we condemn it but we'll continue basically to provide Israel with weapons and with bombs. They're unwilling to condition military aid to implementing or even complying with international law.
They said there's no red line. And they never even stopped when Rantisi Hospital was bombed, when the Al Ahli Hospital was bombed, when now we're looking at a catastrophe where people have (inaudible) 20,000 injured all over Gaza. People are being amputated, children without anesthesia.
So you can say, yes. We will give you 4 hours to stitch a couple of kids, but then we'll go back to carpet bombed you. And the worst element of all of it that they're looking at the reality, not only in Gaza, they're looking at what Bibi Netanyahu is doing and saying regarding the West bank. He's saying he will occupy Palestinians everywhere in perpetuity, forever.
He is annexing more land in the West Bank. He's unleashing the settlers who are being violent. They killed 150 people in areas where there's no Hamas, in Hebron in the West Bank. They look at both the elements of the conflict, both in the West Bank and in Gaza. And they see the administration that's continuing the same policy that Donald Trump put in place, which is Abraham Accord, do some deals with Arab leaders.
And they're horrified the fact that President Biden, who protected America's democracy from an autocrat like Donald Trump, he aiding and abetting Donald Trump of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu.
ACOSTA: All right. Aaron David Miller, Rula Jebreal, thank you both of those insights, we really appreciate it. Thanks for coming on.
DAVID MILLER: Thanks for having me.
ACOSTA: Thank you. Coming up, the breaking news on New York City Mayor Eric Adams, FBI agents seizing his electronic devices as a fundraising probe intensifies. And Donald Trump fails to delay a trial date in the classified documents case. We'll look at the judge's decision and how it could impact Trump's presidential campaign.
ACOSTA: Breaking news, New York Mayor Eric Adams claims he has nothing to hide tonight after the FBI seized his cell phones and iPad that marks a dramatic escalation of a federal probe into the mayor's fundraising campaign or campaign fundraising, I should say. Let's bring in CNN's Polo Sandoval from New York.
Polo, tell us more about how the mayor is connected to this investigation. It seems like a pretty dramatic step as part of a federal investigation.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is an extraordinary development, Jim. Absolutely. It's just coming to light now though my colleagues Gloria Pazmino and Kara Scannell reporting that he was initially approached by FBI agents on Monday evening, which is when the seizure happened. FBI agents approaching the mayor asking that he gives them his phones and his iPad. And according to his spokesperson, he immediately did.
Now it's important to remind viewers that this is just happening days after his chief fundraiser was frayed at least his -- her home was raided by federal authorities in Brooklyn. The main focus of this investigation right now seeking to determine if the mayor's 2021 campaign potentially conspired with a local construction company to receive foreign funds to put those in the campaign coffers, which would certainly be illegal, essentially straw contributors.
And we should also mention that the mayor, since news of that investigation came to light, maintains that he holds his campaign to its highest standard. And in a statement that his campaign spokesperson released earlier tonight or this evening, basically echoes that.
In that statement, the mayor writing "as a former member of law enforcement, I expect all members of my staff to follow the law and fully cooperate with any sort of investigation. And I will continue to do exactly that." Adams' campaign attorney and spokesperson Boyd Johnson also saying that he was approached by FBI agents again on Monday night and that he immediately cooperated with investigators. And Johnson insisting that the mayor has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and that he will continue to cooperate with this investigation, Jim.
But really just to summarize the significance and the importance of this, you're looking at the mayor of America's largest city approached by FBI agents, and now asked to provide them with devices that could potentially be crucial in this massive campaign finance investigation.
ACOSTA: Absolutely. Our Polo Sandoval, thank you very much. Let's get we're on this important story with legal expert Shan Wu and Karen Friedman-Agnifilo.
Karen, let me start with you first. What sort of information would prosecutors need to have to take this kind of drastic step of getting a search warrant to seize the mayor's phone? I mean, that is no small thing.
KAREN FRIEDMAN-AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, this is a very big deal. And prosecutors and the FBI, they could have just asked for the phones and the iPad, or they could have gotten a subpoena for them. But they took them the higher more drastic step of getting a court authorized search warrant. And to do that, you have to go before a court, you have to establish that there is probable cause that a crime occurred, and that there will be evidence of that crime located on his phones and his devices.
So the fact that the FBI believes that a crime occurred, and that evidence of that crime will be on the mayor's devices, I think says a lot about the seriousness and severity of this investigation. They didn't give him notice, they didn't give him an opportunity to turn it in and just hand it over. They showed up and surprised him, which also leads you to believe that they believe that the evidence could be lost or destroyed.
This is a very escalated step to take for a public official like a mayor of New York.
ACOSTA: Yes, no question about it. And, Shan, how significant is this to you? And what sort of evidence would investigators be looking for on his phones? I mean, it sounds like opening up a Pandora's Box.
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. I agree with Karen. It is a very escalated step, particularly for a public official. And they'd have to run it up the chain to do that, as opposed to asking him nicely for it or issuing a subpoena.
The evidence they would look for there would obviously be communication, confirmation of contact with the people, perhaps who are going to be accused of making these illegal donations, but more immediately too what kind of communications he had with his staff. Because from a defense standpoint, what you're trying to do is staunch the wound and tie it off as low as possible on the hierarchy. Prosecution wants to see how high it goes. So of great interest to them would be to see what kind of communications he had with his staff who was telling him about these donations.
It's a little bit unclear to me from what Polo had learned whether the approach means they tried to interview Adams, or whether they were simply saying, hey, sorry, you know, we have this warrant, we're taking your phones. The absence of an interview at the moment might be good news for him. It might be that they're really focusing more on the people who might have made the donations or conversely. You know, they just haven't reached the stage where they want to ask him for more in depth interview.
And being a politician, being the mayor, he'll be hard pressed to say no, I'm not going to talk to you.
ACOSTA: Right. And, Karen, this is the first direct instance of this investigation into these campaign contributions, touching the mayor. The story has been out there regarding people close to the mayor, what is the signal to you?
FRIEDMAN-AGNIFILO: I think this signals the fact that they got approval to get this search warrant and to approach the mayor surprise him, and take his devices right on the spot, right, leaving him without these differences. It just -- it tells me that this has really escalated and that they believe at least that this gets close to the mayor.
If not, I mean, I hear what his lawyer, Boyd Johnson, is saying that he's not a subject of this investigation. But I think that they think that at least it gets close to him.
ACOSTA: Yes. Shan, why didn't they just go to the mayor's office and, you know, reach out to the mayor and say, or his attorney, and say, hey, we'd like to see those phones. I mean, as Karen was saying, this is a pretty dramatic step. And it suggests that perhaps they didn't think, you know, asking him directly was going to work out as well.
WU: Yes. I don't know that means they think he wouldn't have turned them over, but I think giving him a heads up in these circumstances, they must believe that there could be some problems with the evidence being preserved. Also, I guess we don't know yet really, in the weeds, his personal cellphone, does he have a narrow official cellphone, are they taking both? Obviously, when he has an official cellphone, people other than himself may have access to it. And that's another possibility for you know, tampering or altering the evidence.
So they're definitely looking to preserve the status quo, want to make sure that the evidence isn't tampered with. And that could mean that there's some suspicion as to whether the mayor or certainly those close to him would be on the up and up with cooperation.
ACOSTA: All right. Shan Wu and Karen Friedman-Agnifilo, thank you so much to both of you for your time. We appreciate it. Coming up next, we'll get an update on the looming government shutdown here in Washington. Does House Speaker Mike Johnson have a plan to rally his unruly Republican Caucus around a spending bill? Plus, new developments in the classified documents case against Donald Trump, what a judge's decision means for the timing of the trial. We'll be right back.
ACOSTA: Here in Washington, the federal government is once again teetering on the edge of a government shutdown. House Speaker Mike Johnson short on options are running out of time to rally his fraction Republican conference around the plan. Let's get an update now from CNN's Melanie Zanona up on Capitol Hill. Melanie, when will the speaker finally tell us what he plans to do?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, we couldn't get a window into speaker Johnson's thinking as soon as tomorrow. I'm told that Speaker Johnson plans to release a bill on Saturday with the hopes of putting it on the floor by Tuesday. And we're also learning that there's going to be a House Republican conference call at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow to brief members on what that plan is and try to rally everyone around it.
But so far, Johnson has been really keeping his cards close to the vest as he weighs this consequential decision. And that is because the House Republican conference has been very divided over what path they should pursue. There are moderates and appropriators who are pushing a more straightforward clean stopgap spending bill that extends funding until the end of this year or early next year.
But then there's conservative hardliners who are pushing this much more complicated idea that would extend funding for government agencies for various lengths of time essentially teeing up multiple fiscal cliffs, and that option would be dead on arrival in the Senate. So that would risk a government shutdown. That's something that speaker Johnson absolutely does not want.
But at the same time, he does not want to risk infuriating his right flank especially so early on in his tenure. Now I will say that conservative hardliners have signaled that they're willing to give Johnson a longer leash than they did his predecessor Kevin McCarthy, who is facing very similar problems from within the divided conference. But no doubt a big moment for Speaker Johnson and one that's going to tell us a lot about how he plans to govern. Jim?
ACOSTA: All right, Melanie Zanona for us. Thank you very much.
Turning now to Donald Trump's legal troubles, the former president's efforts to avoid facing criminal trial before the 2024 election just got a thumbs down by the judge in the classified documents. CNN's Katelyn Polantz has more on that decision. Katelyn, what can you tell us? KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Jim, it's a lot of drama over a calendar date. But it's a really important calendar date, because the question here has always been since Donald Trump was charged in Florida, in this documents case. Will he go to trial before the election or not? He certainly does not want to. And his lawyers have tried making that case over and over again to the judge. She had originally set the trial date for May of next year.
They were in court last week appealing to her talking about how busy they were, how much work they had to do in this case, and all of the other cases that they're dealing with right now on behalf of the former president, where he's a criminal defendant set to go to multiple trials next year. And the judge had some sympathy but said today in her order, May is still the time for this trial.
She has given Trump's legal team a little bit more breathing room to do work around this case. She specifically is acknowledged that there's a lot of evidence they need to work through. There's also classified material all the evidence they look at is called discovery. She wrote in her order today, the quantity of discovery in this case remains exceedingly voluminous, even more so than initially thought. These evolving and unforeseen circumstances require a reevaluation. Defendants need more time to review the discovery in this case.
So as of now, Judge Aileen Cannon in Federal Court in Florida says they are going to get a little bit more time so that they can work through their initial process of preparing for trial. They're going to revisit the trial date in March. But right now, May is the time that Donald Trump is set to go to trial in this. It will be just after he set to go to trial in that other federal criminal case related to January 6th.
But Jim, we're going to be talking about these calendar dates again, because Donald Trump does not want to be a criminal defendant before a jury and getting some sort of result in a trial before the presidential election of next year.
ACOSTA: No, you're absolutely right about that. But Katelyn, is there still a chance the judge could push this case until after the 2024 election, I suppose, right up on the verge of the 2024 election. She would do a lot of things.
POLANTZ: Yes, there's always a chance. And in court, this is a judge that's been very hard to read in this case. She's given Donald Trump, a lot of runway every time he's been asking for things. Some people today, were saying that she split the baby here. Other people I talked to, were very positive about this in -- if they wanted the trial date to move past the election, others who didn't want that to happen, they thought it's very possible that she does that. And it's a shame the way she's setting this up.
We just don't know what she's going to do. And trial dates, they move in court, they move the whole way up to the week of trial sometimes, so we'll just have to see how it plays out next year. ACOSTA: All right, Katelyn, you will be busy of course. Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
Coming up, officials are racing to find out who's responsible for sending a series of suspicious letters to election workers and public officials across the United States.
ACOSTA: Law enforcement officials are scrambling as they investigate a series of suspicious letters that were sent to election workers and public officials across the country. Fentanyl was found in at least one of the letters. Brian Todd is monitoring the story for us. Brian very disturbing, what's the latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, there are serious concerns tonight over whether there are other letters like these that might be on their way to other election offices. We have new information tonight on the letters that have been sent and how investigators are tracking their origins.
TODD (voice-over): Responders in hazmat suits at an election office in Washington State, offices there and in five other states having to be evacuated. Tonight, the fear is palpable as the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigate a series of suspicious letters sent to election workers and other public officials.
BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: This is domestic terrorism and it needs to be condemned by anyone that holds elected office and anyone that wants to hold elected office anywhere in America.
TODD (voice-over): Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said election offices were targeted in his state, in addition to letters received in California, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Washington State. At least one of the letters tested positive for fentanyl, a synthetic opioid drug used for pain but which has often proven to be deadly.
Investigators are treating all these letters as being linked. There have been at least a dozen letters all sent out at about the same time. Authorities have not yet publicly identified a suspect. What could the motive be?
JEFFREY IAN ROSS, CRIMINOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: Pure and simple to intimidate election workers and to frustrate voting in those jurisdictions where the letters have been sent. Also too, to send a message to other people who are in different jurisdictions that something similar like this may happen to them.
TODD (voice-over): One letter released by the FBI reads, end elections now. Fulton County, Georgia, a frequent target after the 2020 election of election deniers and conspiracy theorists has also been targeted with at least one letter.
ROBB PITTS, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA, COMMISSIONER: There are some crazy people out there who will go to any extreme to disrupt, interrupt fair, open, transparent elections in our country and specifically here in Fulton County. It's my personal belief that this is just probably a four run into what, we can be prepared for in 2024.
TODD (voice-over): Former FBI agent Daniel Brunner spoke about how the 2024 election could be affected by attacks like this.
DANIEL BRUNNER, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: All these mail in ballots are going to have to be looked at with a little bit more scrutiny, a little bit more testing.
TODD (voice-over): Brunner spoke of how the FBI and Postal Service inspectors are likely tracking possible suspects in this case.
BRUNNER: They're going to work with the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit at Quantico. They're going to look at the way the letters were written. What type of language was used.
TODD (voice-over): For Brad Raffensperger, the use of fentanyl in these attacks doesn't just signify danger. It's personal.
RAFFENSPERGER: We lost our son five and a half years ago due to fentanyl overdose. We know how deadly this stuff is.
TODD: And from Raffensperger, a disturbing indication of the dangers at play here and exactly what election workers now have to deal with. He says election offices in Georgia will now have to be stocked with Narcan, a drug that's used to reverse opioid overdoses and election workers will now have to be trained in how to use Narcan. Jim, it's a horrible reflection when election workers now have to use Narcan in their own offices.
ACOSTA: They've been dealing with so much in this country since the last presidential election. And Brian, the wrinkle in this that I find to be very disturbing is the fact that fentanyl was found. That is -- that seems new.
TODD: It's new. They've not seen this before. Of course, they had the anthrax scare in 2001. They had the rice in the letters that were sent some years later, they have experience in investigating all this. But fentanyl is kind of a new deal here. And in kind of investigating the story today, we've learned that, you know, we've asked questions like, how dangerous is fentanyl to touch? Well, apparently, you really can't die from it unless you ingest it and it gets into your bloodstream or into your stomach. But if you touch it, it can still make you somewhat ill. So you have to be very careful.
But again, it's just the fact that this, you know, person or persons laced these letters with this stuff is crazy. And, you know, they have to deal with it with Narcan which actually just got approved by the FDA back in March. ACOSTA: Just so sick that election workers have to now have Narcan on hand because of these kind of situation. All right, Brian Todd, very disturbing. Thank you very much.
Coming up, a recording of a hostage's last moments of freedom before Hamas abducted her. We'll go to Israel next as the families of hostages become more desperate by the hour and expert negotiator shares his take on the best way for it. That's next.
ACOSTA: Nearly five weeks after hundreds of people were taken hostage by Hamas, public opinion in Israel is starting to shift more Israelis than ever want their government to immediately negotiate the hostages released while fighting Hamas, according to a new survey by the Israeli Democracy Institute. And CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Tel Aviv for us. Ed, what are you hearing from the hostages' families?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, as you can imagine, for weeks to the families of these hostages have been watching the Israeli bombardment of Gaza knowing that their loved ones are inside there. We wanted to know exactly what they were willing to accept in terms of some sort of deal to get their hostages and loved ones back home.
YARDEN GONEN, SISTER OF HOSTAGE: I have her also here on my back, my beautiful sister.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): For more than a month, Hamas has held Yarden Gonen's 23-year-old sister, Romi, a hostage. Yarden is sleeping outside Israel's military headquarters and vows to stay here as long as it takes to get her sister home.
GONEN: It's a statement. We're here until they're here. And it's on your hands and the world's hands to bring them back.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): The families and volunteer supporters of the roughly 240 hostages have mobilized a massive campaign demanding their release. But what price are these families pushing the Israeli government to pay?
(on camera): It's probably going to take some sort of deal to save the hospitals.
GONEN: OK. Whatever it takes.
LAVANDERA: Whatever it takes.
GONEN: Yes. LAVANDERA: To understand her desperation, Yarden wants the world to hear this terrifying recording of Romi's phone call with their mother from the music festival Hamas fighters ambushed.
MOTHER (through audio translation): Romi? Romi, I'm with you dear.
ROMI (through audio translation): Hello?
MOTHER (through audio translation): Yes, my beauty. Everything's OK dear, I'm with you. It's OK. We're --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through audio translation): Come here. Come.
GONEN: If it was your sister, do you think there is a price for your sister? My sister doesn't have a price. She needs to be here. None of them have a price. There are innocent civilians.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Hundreds gathered at this Tel Aviv protest demanding that the International Red Cross ensure medical treatment for the hostages, some health signs pushing for a trade of humanitarian aid between Gazan civilians and the hostages. But of the nearly dozen families we spoke with all supported exchanging Palestinian prisoners for the hostages.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Act now, act now.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Neta Heimen-Mina's 84-year-old mother is a hostage. Neta is fearful her mother won't survive Israel's attacks on Gaza.
NETA HEIMEN-MINA, DAUGHTER OF HOSTAGE: The Israeli government they their first priority is to destroy the Hamas. And we need the first priority will be the -- to bring them back.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Ofri Bibas Levy is waiting for news of her brother's entire family including two young boys.
OFRI BIBAS LEVY, SISTER OF HOSTAGE: We are willing to do whatever it takes for it.
LAVANDERA (on camera): And so even if it's something difficult, like prisoner exchange.
LEVY: Yes. It's a difficult situation. And so there's no easy way.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): The Israeli government says there will be no ceasefire without the release of hostages.
GERSHON BASKIN, HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: So there's a kind of contradiction here that you want to negotiate with them for free hostages, but your goal is to actually kill them.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): In 2011, Gershon Baskin negotiated a prisoner exchange with Hamas for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were released in the deal, including Yahya Sinwar, who the IDF says became one of the masterminds of the October 7th attack.
(on camera): So these are excruciating decisions.
BASKIN: There's no easy way out of here.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Israel's Prison Service tells CNN, it's holding more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners.
BASKIN: I know what decision I would make. And it's not a good decision. But I would make the offer all decision because I think it's more important to bring those hostages home than it is to free the Palestinian that keep the Palestinian prisoners in jail.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Yarden Gonan says she would trade places with her sister to save her life. But all she can do is remain camped outside demanding a deal to bring her sister home.
(on camera): And you're going to stay how long?
GONAN: Until they come back.
LAVANDERA: As long as it takes?
GONAN: Yes. I hope they will take two days, at least at most.
LAVANDERA: It takes months.
GONAN: So I'll be here.
LAVANDERA: So Jim, the tension around this is only growing by the day, a group of hostage families made a statement today saying that victory is not the assassination of the Hamas masterminds behind this attack. Victory is getting these hostages home. But that is not clearly -- it's not clear to many people whether or not that is the campaign that the Israeli government is undertaking right now. And many people questioning whether or not you can do both eliminate Hamas militarily and save the hostages lives. Jim?
ACOSTA: Yes. And it's so heartbreaking to look at the faces of those hostages and think about what they and their families must be going through. Ed, excellent report as always. Ed Lavandera, thank you. We appreciate it.
Coming up, more on the breaking news, the federal investigation into New York City Mayor Eric Adams escalating dramatically tonight as the FBI seizes his phones and iPads. Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
ACOSTA: Happening now, breaking news, the New York City Mayor cell phones seized. The FBI and federal prosecutors ratcheting up a fundraising investigation bringing it directly to Mayor Eric Adams.
Also tonight the skies over Gaza light up again. Israel declaring its war against Hamas is complex as the U.S. Secretary of State is sharpening his criticism of the soaring civilian death toll.
And on the 2024 campaign trail, President Biden takes a jab at Donald Trump, while Vice President Kamala Harris travels to South Carolina. Her mission, to try to rally black voters as poll suggests Biden's support from that core constituency may be softening.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. And you're in The Situation Room.
A lot of news tonight, let's get right to the breaking news. Out of New York this hour, the Mayor Democrat Eric Adams drawn directly into a federal investigation of fundraising with his electronic devices seized by the FBI. And CNN's crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz is on this story for us. Shimon, pretty dramatic development there in New York. What do you know about this probe? And exactly what are investigators looking for, do you think?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, Jim, the thing is that what's going on here is that certainly there's an escalation here in this investigation. The FBI seizing his phones, a tablet, is our understanding, an iPad, this all happening on Monday.