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The Situation Room
Israel Says, Hamas Weapons, Command Center Found In Gaza Hospital Raid; Soon, Biden To Speak On Talks With Xi, Efforts To Cool Tensions; CNN Presses Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) About His Political Plans After Senate; FBI Chief: Terrorists "May Exploit" Mideast War To Attack In U.S. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 15, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Unfortunately, things still are not as cheap as they were before the pandemic, but at least some reprieve, according to the USDA. Thanksgiving discounts could make some prices even lower.
Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. I will see you tomorrow. Have a good night.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the Israeli military says it uncovered Hamas weapons and a command center inside Gaza's largest hospital, releasing video as it attempts to defend the ground operation. Key world organizations are condemning the raid as we're getting dire new accounts from inside the hospital.
Also tonight, a rare face-to-face meeting between President Biden and China's Xi Jinping here in the United States. President Biden now preparing to answer questions about the summit and his efforts to cool tensions with Beijing.
And CNN presses Senator Joe Manchin about his next move now that he's not running for re-election. Will he bolt from the Democratic Party and set his sights on the White House? Kaitlan Collins debuts her interview with Manchin this hour.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
Tonight, Israel says its controversial military operation inside Gaza's largest hospital, quote, will take time. At last resort -- at last report, I should say, it was still under way as the Israel Defense Forces is sharing some of the evidence seized during the raid.
CNN's Nic Robertson is following all of these developments. He is joining us live from Sderot, in Israel, that's near the Gaza border. Nic, what more are we hearing from the IDF?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They are saying that this operation is using precise intelligence, that it's under way in a precise manner. This going into the hospital began a little under 24 hours ago, and in that time, the IDF say that they have found weapons, ammunition, military equipment, they say, belonging to Hamas, computers, computer discs. But the one thing that they haven't said that they have found so far, Wolf, is tunnels, a bunker network.
If we remember back over the past few weeks, the IDF has said the reason they needed to get into the Al-Shifa Hospital was because Hamas was operating command and control from a bunker network underneath the hospital. IDF Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus has told journalists some of what the IDF has found there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, SPOKESPERSON, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: Military equipment. There is an ak-47. There are cartridges, ammo. There are grenades in here, of course, uniforms. And all of this was hidden very conveniently, secretly behind the MRI machine. These weapons have absolutely no business being inside the hospital.
This is the bag that we found and this was the stuff that was in it. Now there's insignia, military insignia, knife. For those of who you read Arabic, you'll be able to understand what it says here, but it's Hamas, the military wing, Kataib al-Qassam, of course, a vest with equipment and as always an ak-47, tactical radio, communications, which we'll analyze, lots of discs which will be analyzed and a computer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: So, unlike, Wolf, where we had access with the IDF to a hospital in Gaza earlier in the week, CNN weren't there so unable to fully verify or independently verify what the IDF is showing and revealing there.
Hamas again continues to deny that they used the hospital as a base of military operations, and getting any kind of sort of independent, separate analysis of what's happening in the hospital has been made harder because the communications have always entirely been cut to the hospital, it appears, since the IDF went into the hospital.
We did -- CNN was able to communicate with a doctor in the hospital who described a situation where the IDF were going from building to building to building, and a journalist at the hospital as well, CNN contacted, said that he had seen the IDF searching and questioning young men in the hospital as well as seeing fire fights going on. Again, CNN is not there, and we cannot independently verify what the journalists or the doctor are telling us at this time, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Nic Robertson in Sderot for us, Nic, thanks very much.
As Israeli forces entered the Al-Shifa Hospital, reports began emerging for instance side the medical center about dangerous conditions for staff, patients and other civilians.
CNN's Nada Bashir is in Jerusalem for us. She has details. Nada, doctors, hospital officials, relief workers, they are raising grave concerns about what's happening inside this hospital. NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely. And they have been raising grave concerns for some time now, but, of course, the situation around the Israeli military raid on the Al-Shifa Hospital has really raised alarm bell. As we know, there are more than 1,000 patients and medical staff still in the hospital. And while we have heard those repeated calls for civilians to evacuate, the message that we've been hearing from doctors on the ground, from medical officials on the ground, is that it is simply not safe or secure enough for any of these patients, civilians and medical staff, to evacuate.
And as we have seen the situation inside Al-Shifa as with the vast majority of Northern Gaza's hospitals is deteriorating by the hour. Take a look.
BASHIR (voice over): Weeks of bombardment had already left Gaza's largest hospital in what has been described as a catastrophic situation, doctors at Al-Shifa working under impossible circumstances, caring for hundreds of patients, as Israel's military incursion moves inside the hospital.
DR. MOHAMMAD ZAQOUT, DIRECTOR GENERAL OF HOSPITALS IN GAZA: The occupation soldiers are still on the ground floor. They are searching employees, civilians, even the injured and patients. Some were stripped and placed in dehumanizing and miserable conditions.
BASHIR: Israel's raid on Al-Shifa has been described as precise and targeted, focused, they say, on claims of a Hamas command center beneath the hospital. But it is civilians, including medical staff and patients that have been caught in the center of this unrelenting battle.
DR. AHMED EL MOKHALLALATI, SENIOR PLASTIC SURGEON, AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL: We can't look through the windows or doors. We don't know whose happening. Thanks are moving within the hospital. We can hear continuous shooting. You can hear it now. But, again, it's a totally a scary situation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, what are these sounds, Doctor? I'm hearing sounds?
MOKHALLALATI: It's continuous shooting from the tanks.
BASHIR: Israeli defense officials soldiers found concrete evidence that Hamas used the Al-Shifa Hospital as what they have described as a terror headquarters, including weapons, combat equipment and technological assets said to belong to Hamas, found, according to an IDF spokesperson, in the hospital's MRI building.
Both Hamas and health care officials have long denied a military presence within Al-Shifa. CNN cannot verify either side's claims. But many have expressed alarm over the civilian impact of Israel's military operation.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, U.N. EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR: Our concern on the humanitarian side is for the welfare of the patients of that hospital, which is, of course, on great peril. We have no fuel to run it. The babies have no incubators, newly born. Some are dead already. We can't move them out. It's too dangerous.
BASHIR: On Wednesday, the Israeli military said their troops have delivered incubators and medical supplies to the Al-Shifa hospital. CNN cannot independently verify this claim and has not been able to reach the hospital for confirmation.
However, the director general of Gaza's hospitals has warned that babies at Al-Shifa are in severe danger as conditions in the hospital deteriorate further, adding that there is no place to move dozens of incubators outside of the hospital under current circumstances.
But even as Israel tightens its grip on Al-Shifa, now said to be under the complete control of the Israeli military, according to Hamas, doctors say they will continue to do whatever they can to save the lives of those wounded in this devastating war.
BASHIR (on camera): Look, Wolf, while the focus has certainly been on Al-Shifa over the past 24 hours, as we know, the vast majority of Gaza's hospitals not just in Northern Gaza are crumbling under the weight of this ongoing bombardment, this ongoing war, and, of course, the humanitarian situation which is deteriorating by the hour.
Now, in Northern Gaza, just one hospital said to be in operation, of course, as we know the situation is getting worse, not just in the north but also in the south. Wolf?
BLITZER: Nada Bashir reporting for us. Nada, thank you very much.
Joining us now, Mark Regev, he's a senior adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Mark, thanks for joining us.
This IDF video that was released from the hospital complex shows guns, ammunition, a radio, a laptop, but is there more evidence to come that would back up Israel's assertions that this is a major Hamas command center? Is there evidence to back up the claim that there's an extensive tunnel structure there as well?
MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: This is only the beginning, Wolf. I'm sure you'll see in the coming days much more information coming out. But I would remind you and your viewers it's not just Israel that says Hamas has built its fortifications, its terror network, its command and control under the Shifa Hospital, that's being corroborated by -- independently by the U.S. government, both from the White House and Pentagon.
And the truth is if it's a secret at all, it's a very badly kept secret because if you can ask people in Gaza City, it's common knowledge there that Hamas has built a subterranean military network of terror tunnels connecting them to rocket launchers, to arms depots and so forth underneath the Gaza Strip based in the Shifa Hospital.
Now, they can't say that in interviews to CNN, of course, because Hamas doesn't like when people speak out of turn. It's a brutal dictatorial regime and people who speak out of turn, they will face consequences from the Hamas people. When this is over you'll see I think with your own cameras exactly what we're talking about.
BLITZER: So, I take it that they're going to allow journalists to go and inspect, to take a look for themselves to see what's happening at that hospital, is that what you're saying?
REGEV: When it's safe, and, yes, and when we -- as this operation goes on, but the operation is still ongoing. And we've done some preliminary -- released preliminary information, as has been report, but more will come.
BLITZER: Based on what Israel has revealed so far though, Mark, how does the capture of what is seen as this relatively small amount of weapons and equipment actually justify raiding Gaza's largest hospital?
REGEV: Once again, I think you'll see more information in the coming hours and days. This was the first day of our operation inside the hospital building. More will come. I have no doubt about it.
BLITZER: Because I asked the question because the hospital's main building, as for all practical purposes, effectively stopped functioning. Doctors are working by candlelight. Premature babies are being wrapped in foil to keep them alive. Doesn't Israel have an obligation to wrap up delivery of critical medical supplies, water and fuel to these hospitals?
REGEV: We have. We have as part of our presence in the spot. We brought humanitarian supplies. We brought incubators for babies. And as you know a few days ago, we already brought fuel for the generators so that the babies would be safe in their incubators.
Look, we don't want to see babies suffer, but Hamas so far has torpedoed our attempts, let's say, to bring fuel for the generator. And here, one has to make a historical comparison.
Wolf, you and I are old enough to remember Saddam Hussein organizing tours for journalists in Iraqi's children's hospitals, and at the time he was saying that president bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were murdering Iraq's children. Do you remember that, Wolf? And had these pictures poor children suffering in hospitals. Hamas could have alleviated the suffering, it chose not to, it wants the pictures for its propaganda purposes.
BLITZER: I just want to be precise and back up a little bit, Mark. Does the evidence you're about to provide in the coming hours and days include evidence of an extensive Hamas tunnel system under that hospital?
REGEV: We've already at the previous hospital that we brought journalists to, the Rantisi Hospital. There, we did show journalists tunnel networks that connected the hospital to Hamas positions, and there are more of them, of course, at the Shifa Hospital. And when we're in a military position to be able to show that to you, we will.
BLITZER: Mark Regev, thanks as usual for joining us.
REGEV: My pleasure, sir.
BLITZER: Just ahead, a critical meeting between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Can the two world leaders stop the downward spiral of U.S.-Chinese relations?
Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: In California today, a high-stakes meeting between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The summit marks President Xi's first trip to the United States in six years and comes amid simmering tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The Biden administration has been downplaying expectations for the meeting but hopes to re-establish at least military-to-military communications and secure a Chinese commitment to crack down on fentanyl.
We expect the president to take questions during a news conference in the next hour, but let's discuss what's going on with Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California. He serves on House China Select Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
I want to get your reactions first to President Biden's comments earlier today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I think it's paramount that you and I understand each other clearly leader to leader with no misconceptions or miscommunication. We have to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you make of the two leaders' initial messages that were delivered today?
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): I thought President Biden was strong but prudent. He's making it clear that there are conflicts. There's a conflict over Taiwan. There's a conflict on human rights with the Uyghurs, with Tibet, with the treatment in Hong Kong, conflict over our trade deficit, massive trade deficit with China, but we have to communicate. We have to have our militaries communicating, and the president, I think, is strike the right balance.
BLITZER: U.S. officials have been saying that there are two likely outcomes of this important summit, restoring military-to-military communications between the U.S. and China and more Chinese regulation of fentanyl. Does that go far enough in putting the U.S.-China relationship back on track?
KHANNA: I mean, the military-to-military communication is essential, especially with the heightened tensions in the South China Sea and in the Pacific. We don't want an accidental conflict to begin, and it is important that we have that communication, like we had at height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
The fentanyl crackdown would be a big win for the administration.
But there are still outstanding issues of human rights and there are big issues of our trade deficits, which continues to grow, hollowing out manufacturing here at China's gain, that needs to be addressed.
BLITZER: We're showing our viewers some live pictures coming in now from the summit. You see President Biden, President Xi strolling around a nice area over there. They're having a little private conversation, to be sure.
As you know, Congressman, President Biden is expected to press President Xi on persuading Iran to stay out of Israel's war against Hamas. Does China have an incentive to help the U.S. here when mutual trust is clearly on such thin ice at least right now?
KHANNA: Look, China has an interest because they also need relations in the Middle East to work. They have relations also, as you know, with Saudi Arabia. They want to build relations with other countries in the Middle East. It's in no one's interest for there to be a wider war in the Middle East that would have a catastrophic effect on oil prices, on energy supplies. So, I do think here is a place where our interests may align.
BLITZER: As the two leaders were strolling, by the way, President Biden was asked how the meeting went, at least so far, and he gave a thumbs up, two thumbs up, if you will. So, at least he's a bit encouraged at least based on that reaction.
As you know, President Biden, on a political issue, is currently losing to Donald Trump in several new polls that have just come out, heightening the possibility of a Trump presidency in 2024, which he's vowing will be tough on China. How challenging is that for President Biden's position in front of China, at least here.
KHANNA: I think foreign policy is actually going to matter and people are going say, who do you want in charge of the most powerful nation in the world when you've got a war in the Middle East, right, as we do now, when you have relations with China as you do now. And I think Americans are going to say we trust Biden and President Biden's hand.
Of course, it's going to be a tough election, a hard fought election, but, ultimately, I think his statesmanship is going to help him prevail. BLITZER: What do you think should be President Biden's main message in his press conference that he's about to have within the next hour or so?
Let me repeat the question if you didn't hear me. What do you think President Biden's main message should be in the press conference he's about to have in an hour or so from now?
KHANNA: I think he should talk about the key concessions that he obtained. Hopefully, he did get the concession about fentanyl. That is an enormous issue in the United States, so many deaths because of fentanyl. If he can get China to crack down, that's big. Hopefully, he has gotten the commitment on resuming the communications with China and our militaries.
And then I think he also needs to be clear about where China needs to improve. He needs to talk about the human rights situation with the Uyghurs, with Tibet, with Hong Kong, and he needs to make it clear that America is not going to continue the colossal mistake of off- shoring. China needs to play fair. They need to allow America to make things again and not to have these massive trade deficits.
BLITZER: Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, thanks so much for joining us.
KHANNA: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, a judge is planning to lock down sensitive evidence in the Trump subversion case in Georgia. We're going to tell you what's going on when we come back.
BLITZER: Tonight, a significant new development in the criminal case against Donald Trump and his co-defendants in Georgia. A judge is now planning to bar the release of, quote, sensitive evidence related to subversion of the 2020 election.
CNN's Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is here in The Situation Room with me. Paula, today's hearing is all a result of some video of Trump's co-defendants being leaked.
PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's an unusual situation down in Georgia right now, Wolf. Earlier this week, we saw those videos, the statements by some Trump allies who had pleaded guilty. They were recorded and then leaked to the media after they were shared with lawyers as part of the discovery process.
Now, initially, attorneys for one of the defendants, Harrison Floyd, claimed responsibility in an email to the district attorney's office. Now, they have subsequently said that responsibility claim, that was just a typo. And then today, when they were in court, lawyers for another defendant said, in fact, they are responsible. Let's take a listen to what Misty Hampton's lawyers said today in court. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN MILLER, ATTORNEY FOR MISTY HAMPTON: But, Judge, in being transparent with the court and to make sure that nobody else gets blamed for what happened and so that I can go to sleep well tonight, Judge, I did release those videos to one outlet. And in all candor of the court, I need the court to know that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Wolf, you rarely see one lawyer, never mind two claiming responsibility for a leak like this, but judge had been asked to implement a protective order so that sensitive evidence in this high- profile case would not continue to leak. That is something that he has agreed to do.
Now, outlets, including CNN, have opposed this, arguing that there is a public interest in learning more about this case and seeing some of this critical evidence.
BLITZER: As you know, Paula, the D.A., Fani Willis, just asked the judge to jail another co-defendant in the Fulton County case over tweets.
REID: That's exactly right, Harrison Floyd, the defendant whose lawyers initially claimed responsibility. This is the first time that the district attorney has asked someone to be essentially jailed so far in this case.
Now, Harrison Floyd is interesting because he is also the only defendant who has spent time in jail so far in this case. He was in jail for about a week after he was charged until they were able to come to a bond agreement.
Now, he is the leader of an organization called Black Voices for Trump, and he's pleaded not guilty to three state felonies. And he has largely charged in connection to his alleged role to try to intimidate people, including some poll workers.
Now, prosecutors point to statements that he has made mostly on social media that appear to intimidate election workers. They say, look, this is a violation of your bond agreement and they are asking for him to be incarcerated.
But it's an important remind that, in many ways, this case right now is not only being tried in that courtroom that we see on T.V. but also in the court of public opinion.
BLITZER: It certainly is. Good point, Paula. Stay with us.
I want to bring in CNN Anchor and Chief Legal Analyst Laura Coates into this discussion as well.
Laura, the judge says he will bar the release of sensitive evidence in this case. Is the lawyer or client who actually leaked these tapes likely to face any sort of punishment?
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Well, just think about the reason why you want to have this order. You have a trial that's going to need a jury. And you want to make sure that the jurors in your case are going to be able to be objective arbiters of the fact, meaning they're not going to be swayed by everything besides the actual courthouse documents that will be before them.
And so any time a witness or a defendant is attempting to throw their weight around, to intimidate a witness or to leak out evidence before the actual trial, it's a problem. Why? Because not everything that actually come out in the public opinion comes out through the evidentiary rules.
The judge's job is to make sure that whatever is happening outside the courtroom actually ought to be before this jury. It has credibility indicia, some of it should be believable in some way, there are protections for the defendant and, of course, the witnesses in the case.
So, at this moment in time, it's very prudent to have a protective order and to make sure that no one engages in behavior that's going to undermine the ability to pursue justice.
BLITZER: Did the release of these videos potentially damage the Fulton County prosecutor's case.
COATES: It could, because you want to have some wind in your sails going into a trial. So, if your best evidence, and, by the way, this is the best evidence, may be a problem as well, but if the best evidence is coming in, you want to have your chance to have that wind. If someone tries to steal your thunder, it's a problem.
However, it also does, in many ways, solidify or plant the seed in the jurors' minds that there was actually an issue and that it's not the persecution or the witch hunt that Trump has said and in other teams. So, it could go both ways. But, ultimately, as a prosecutor, as someone in trials, you want your trial to be in front of the jury with all the evidentiary protections to protect when the verdict comes down.
BLITZER: Let me bring back Paula. Paula, I want to get to another legal case that's under way right now. Hunter Biden, the president's son, is seeking to subpoena Donald Trump, Bill Barr and other Department of Justice officials in his criminal gun case. What is he hoping to get from that?
REID: Well, Hunter Biden's lawyers argue that he has been investigated and subsequently charged as a result of a lot of political pressure. Now, they point to an excerpt, for example, in former Attorney General Bill Barr's book where he talks about getting a call from then- President Trump inquiring about the investigation, and they want to gather more evidence that they believe will support this claim that they have made, that the only reason Hunter Biden was investigated was because there was political pressure, that it was something that Trump and his allies wanted to have happen. Now, we'll note when Hunter Biden's plea deal fell apart and when he was ultimately charged earlier this year, well, it was a Trump- appointed U.S. attorney overseeing that case. None of these people were still in office.
BLITZER: What do you think?
COATES: You know, the idea of having a subpoena for a former president, just think about of how crazy of a time that we're actually in. But remember both of these different bodies, Hunter Biden and Donald Trump, at different points in time, have pointed to the politics of trying prosecute either of them.
Foundationally, there has been more substantive arguments in favor of prosecuting Donald Trump than Hunter Biden but crux of the issue will be trying to determine who has the best available information to support the prosecution's claim. And every defendant, including Hunter Biden, is entitled to be able to pursue that information through discovery. And if Donald Trump has it, he ought to give that.
BLITZER: We shall see. Laura Coates, Paula Reid, thanks to both of you very much.
Laura will be back later tonight 11:00 P.M. Eastern to anchor Laura Coates Live, that's her show.
Just ahead, Senator Joe Manchin speaks with CNN about his decision not to seek re-election, putting the U.S. Senate Democratic majority in jeopardy and fueling a lot of speculation about a potential presidential bid.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news up on Capitol Hill right now. The House Ethics Committee has just presented Congressman George Santos with its report. The chairman of the panel says the report does not include a recommendation to expel the scandal-plagued Republican.
Let's go to our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju. He's got details for us. So, Manu, what are you learning?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This long- awaited report is expected to come out tomorrow. And we expect an effort to try to expel him from the House. George Santos, if he is expelled, would be just the sixth member in the United States history to have that fate. This comes as a number of members who are on the fence waiting to see what the findings ultimately are.
But the chairman of that committee, Michael Guest, telling me earlier today that they would not include a formal recommendation to expel him because doing so would extend the investigation potentially into next year. So, instead, they are going to detail their findings and let Republicans and Democrats decide whether they should vote to expel him. But I talked to Santos about this as well early today, and I asked him if he had any concerns about the findings, and he brushed it off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Have you talked to Speaker Johnson about this just down the floor.
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): No.
RAJU: You had a long conversation about it.
SANTOS: It was not at all pertaining to this.
It was something completely different. It was legislative priorities.
RAJU: What's your level of concern, though?
SANTOS: I actually have a meeting. Look, I think I said this very clear to you. I will take whatever comes my way. The way it comes, I have no concerns and I don't have any premeditated feelings on Congress (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Santos also had previously told me that even if he were to be expelled, he would run for his seat again either next November, if it were to come to that. If there is a vote, Wolf, to expel George Santos, that will have to wait because the House hat left for its Thanksgiving recess, meaning this could be pushed up until the end of the month, potentially into December as Republicans and Democrats will weigh his fate after this long-awaited report is released tomorrow.
BLITZER: All right. Manu Raju reporting for us, Many, thank you.
Also tonight, Senator Joe Manchin is speaking out after his surprise announcement he would not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins is joining us now. She's got more on her interview with the West Virginia Democrat.
Kaitlan, what did Senator Manchin say about his plans for the future?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Well, obviously, Wolf, there had been a lot of questions about what his political future was after he announced six days ago that he is not going to be running for re-election for the Senate in West Virginia, obviously something that would have been an incredibly challenging race for him given he has got a very popular, potential Republican challenger in that race.
And so the question is what is Joe Manchin going to do next. And one thing he has hinted at obviously is displeasure with his party and whether or not he is still a Democrat. I asked him about that just a few moments ago and this is what he told me. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Are you going to least Democratic Party?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Well, you know, I'm -- I don't know if I've ever -- I've never considered myself a Washington Democrat. I've been a very independent person. And I don't really think that that should have --
COLLINS: Does that -- that sounds like you're leaving.
MANCHIN: Well, no. You have a D or an R by your name or not by your name, that shouldn't identify who you are. If you change who you are because you change -- you have a D then you have an R or you have now people go back and forth, it's more for the person's political, I think, than more for who the person is. No matter what I have by me, I'm an independent-thinking, I vote independently and I've always done that for 40 years. So, we'll see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: He said, we'll see there, Wolf. Obviously, he did not say yes or no. It seemed quite clear which way he is leaning, though.
And one other thing, Wolf, it's been six days since he made this announcement. He still has not spoken directly to President Biden. He's talked to people at the White House. The White House put out a statement. But, of course, the question is, is he pursuing a third- party run in a serious way and what's the timeline for that look like? We also talked at length about that, Wolf.
And what was really interesting to me, in the full interview, you'll see this, which is where he talks about what he thinks it would happen to the United States, to American democracy if Donald Trump is, in fact, the Republican nominee and he is re-elected to that. That, of course, is what the White House has been saying, that if Joe Manchin does pursue a third-party run, they believe it would help put Donald Trump back in the White House. We talked a lot that during our interview, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Kaitlan Collins reporting for us, thank you.
An important note to our viewers, you can certainly watch Kaitlan's full interview with Senator Joe Manchin later tonight on her program, The Source, at 9:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN.
Coming up, more on the Israeli raid of a major hospital complex in Gaza. I'll get reaction to the operation and the dire humanitarian situation from a key official at Human Rights Watch.
BLITZER: More now on one of our top stories, the Israeli raid on major Gaza hospital. The IDF claiming it uncovered a stash of Hamas weapons and command center inside.
Let's get reaction from the Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, Omar Shakir.
Omar, thanks for joining us. First of all, what's your assessment of what's happening inside the Al-Shifa hospital? What are you hearing from people on the ground?
OMAR SHAKIR, ISRAEL AND PALESTINE DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: What we are hearing people on the ground that you have displaced people, you have patients whose lives hang in the balance. As of yesterday 40 patients have died because fuel has run out. Fuel has not been at the hospital for three days, so you have babies on incubators that have died who have dialysis patients who aren't able to receive those services.
Israeli soldiers are in the hospital. Doctors are trying to continue to save lives. They have been unable to safely evacuate, or they have chosen to stay with the patients who are unable to evacuate themselves.
And there's the situation right now, there are bodies piled up the are not able to be buried. Doctors have spoken to us about building mass graves in the hospitals so that those bodies can be safely given the dignity they deserve. It is a dire situation. Every minute, the risk to the patients continues.
BLITZER: The IDF claims it found Hamas guns, ammunition, military uniforms, and a command center inside the Al-Shifa hospital. Their evidence has not been independently verified, but from what we know, does that justify reading Gaza's largest hospital under international law?
SHAKIR: Look, we're not able to corroborate the allegations with the Israeli government. Hospitals have special protections under humanitarian law. Doctors, ambulances must be permitted to do their work. They only lose those protections if it can be shown that acts harmful to the enemy haven't carried out.
The Israeli government has put forward any evidence to justify that. In addition, attacks on hospitals can only take place in when effective warning is given. But there is no effective warning in Gaza because there is no safe place to go and know reliably secure way to get there.
And even if Israel did meet these burdens, the protections for civilians, including against disproportionate attacks can continue to apply.
Israel cannot treat hospitals free fire zones. And the risk of disproportionate attacks is especially high in hospitals because even a minor attack can have life-altering consequences for patients in need of lifesaving care. BLITZER: As you pointed, out other hospitals across Gaza are
completely out of power. They are operating on wounded civilians without anesthesia, taking premature babies off incubators.
What are the consequences of this catastrophic health crisis for patients, doctors, civilians were sheltering inside as well?
SHAKIR: They are fatal. The World Health Organization is describing the vaccination evacuation orders as a death sentence. Twenty-six to 36 hospitals in Gaza as of today, according to the World Health Organization are not operational. There's only one hospital operational in northern Gaza.
We're talking about an unprecedented number, thousands of people who have been killed, even more who have been injured, and without medical supplies, without clean water, the water that has been used unfit for human consumption, without electricity, you're having a situation where lives could be saved are not able to be saved because doctors are simply able to carry out their basic obligation and duties.
So, beyond the unlawful attacks, beyond the cutting of electricity, water, and basic aid to, people, you have lives that are being lost, and it's entirely man-made. Today, Israel can flick the switch on electricity, it can turn the tap on water. It can allow sufficient aid to be in but it's not doing so, punishing the population for the act of heinous act of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups is collective punishment, which is a war crime.
BLITZER: Omar Shakir, thanks so much for joining us.
SHAKIR: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, U.S. officials testify on terror threats here in the United States and concerns, very serious concerns, the events in Gaza will inspire terror attacks here at home.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Tonight, alarming new testimony about the potential for a terror attack on U.S. soil inspired by Hamas and the war in Gaza.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
Brian, tell us about this important hearing that occurred today on Capitol Hill.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the FBI director warned the American public that the threats to the homeland now are different since October 7th, that they have not only increased but are now coming from several different directions.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): A raging war in Gaza and boiling tensions in the Middle East since the Hamas attacks on October 7th have ratcheted up the terrorist threat here in the U.S. to a whole new rare level, according to a new assessment by Americas top official in charge of combating domestic threats.
FBI Director Christopher Wray laid out the dangers with brutal clarity.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Our most immediate concern is that individuals or small groups will draw twisted inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks here at home.
TODD: The greatest number of threats reported have been against the Jewish community.
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Hate directed at Jewish students, communities and institutions, add to a pre-existing increase in the level of antisemitism in the United States and around the world.
TODD: Officials have also reported a rise in threats directed at Muslims in the U.S., worrying examples on both sides, a man arrested in Houston accused of studying bomb making and posting online about killing Jewish people. A six-year-old Muslim boy stabbed to death in Chicago, allegedly by an enraged landlord who authorities say was motivated by the recent war. And Cornell student charged with threatening to kill Jewish students.
SEAMUS HUGHES, EXPERT ON EXTREMISM, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AT OMAHA: When you look at the plots in the individual that's been arrested, they're almost pedestrian the nature. These are average citizens that are drawn into an online environment that encourages them to commit these acts.
TODD: Another concern?
WRAY: Hamas or another foreign terrorist organization may exploit the content and conduct attacks here on our own soil. We have kept our sights on Hamas and have multiple investigations into individuals affiliated with that foreign terrorist organization.
TODD: But Wray also pointed to recent calls for attacks on the U.S. homeland by other terrorist groups, what he called a rouges gallery, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hezbollah, the Iran-backed group in Lebanon that's not only engaging in cross border fighting with Israel right now, but that Wray says has tried to place operatives and engage in spying here in the U.S., possibly planning for future operations.
DONELL HARVIN, FORMER WASHINGTON, D.C., CHIEF OF HOMELAND SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE: We know that there are known and suspected terrorists that have been seeded not only in this country but also our allies countries, essentially just waiting for the phone call.
TODD: But the biggest threat, individuals, radicalized to action by extremist rhetoric and manipulation. HARVIN: Those individuals, who are home, who are kind of doing the
dishes were being radicalized and may be going to rallies, they may be escalating in terms of their amount of rhetoric that are completely off the radar.
TODD (on camera): How can America's security agencies and citizens combat these threats that are coming from so many different directions? Analyst Donell Harvin says the FBI and the Homeland Security Department simply cannot be everywhere, that engaged citizens have to be there to report the threats they see and to pay particular attention to online threats in chat rooms and elsewhere, Wolf.
BLITZER: And I know, Brian, there been other warnings about misinformation. What are officials saying about that?
TODD: FBI Director Wray and Homeland Security Director Mayorkas, other officials and experts have said that misinformation is all over the place, especially since October 7th. There is misinformation out there about the attacks themselves, about the tactics used by Israel and Hamas, misinformation about Jewish and Muslim groups in the U.S.
Our Donie O'Sullivan reported just over the last 24 hours that these neo-Nazi and right wing hate groups or even using artificial intelligence to put out misinformation regarding Jewish groups in the U.S. and things like that. It's everywhere. Everyone has to be very vigilant about it.
BLITZER: Yeah, this is really serious, serious threat assessment coming from the FBI director and the secretary of homeland security today. Very important.
Brian Todd, thank you very much for that report.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.