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Awaiting Israeli Cabinet Vote On Tentative Hostage Deal; Netanyahu Says, Biden Helped Improve Deal To Include More Hostages; Georgia Judge Won't Jail Trump Co-Defendant Over Social Media Posts; Government Official: Qatar Delivered Hostage Release Proposal To Israel This Morning; Storm System Could Disrupt Thanksgiving Travel. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 21, 2023 - 18:00   ET




PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, new hope for hostage families as the Israeli cabinet is preparing to vote on a tentative deal to free some captives held by Hamas. We're awaiting an announcement by the Netanyahu government and new details on the terms of the agreement.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Pamela Brown and you're in The Situation Room.

First this hour, the breaking news out of Israel on a high-stakes vote that could bring several dozen hostages home within days. Our correspondents are in key locations covering the story from every angle.

First to CNN's Oren Liebermann and Tel Aviv. Oren, the Israeli cabinet is heading toward a decision on this tentative hostage deal. Give us the latest.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The debate in the Israeli cabinet has been going on for several hours already, and it might continue for another hour or two longer, if not more than that.

It has already gotten through several stages of the legal and political approval process required here. It's through the small war cabinet. It's gotten through the security cabinet. And now it requires the approval of the government. And that's where this debate is happening. That's where we're waiting for a final decision.


LIEBERMANN (voice over): At the highest levels of Israel's government, a fast-track push to approve a deal to free Israeli hostages held in Gaza, at least 50 Israeli hostages, women and children, in exchange for around 150 Israeli-held Palestinian prisoners and a multi-day pause in the fight. Before you this evening now is a difficult decision, but it is the correct decision. All of the security agencies fully support it, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In war, there are stages, and in returning the hostages there are stages.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We're now very close, very close.

LIEBERMANN: At the White House, President Joe Biden teased earlier that a deal was in reach.

BIDEN: But I don't want to get into the details of things because none of it is done until it's done.

LIEBERMANN: Far right partners in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government have already come out against the deal, some believing the ongoing bombardment of Gaza is the best way forward. The religious Zionism Party said in a statement, the only way to return all the hostages is to continue applying military pressure on Hamas until its complete surrender.

Gil Dickmann, who has two family members held hostage in Gaza, is confident the deal will not be derailed and that more agreements are

GIL DICKMANN, RELATIVES HELD BY HAMAS: possible. But we are hopeful because that means that there is trust, that the trust has been built between the two sides, Israel and Hamas. And it's not a simple thing to do. The fact that both sides can trust one another means that new deals are coming on the way.

LIEBERMANN: As part of the deal to free the first group of hostages, the Red Cross will be able to visit those that remain in Gaza and provide medicine, according to a statement from the prime minister's office. It was a major demand of the families of the hostages.

Still, Udi Goren worries the next deal will be harder after this first one took weeks of sensitive negotiations. His cousin, Tal Haimi, is among the hostages.

UDI GOREN, RELATIVE HELD BY HAMAS: You know, the first deal has been brokered and now maybe the price will go up. Things would get difficult maybe. They don't know where the people are. There are so many variables in this equation that, you know, the anxiety is still there.


LIEBERMANN (on camera): That pause in the fighting certainly hasn't started yet. We have seen large explosions in Northern Gaza indicating large Israeli airstrikes. Meanwhile, we have also gotten red alerts coming from Gaza indicating that there has been continued rocket fire largely into Southern Israel at this point.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised in that cabinet meeting that even if there is a pause in the fighting, the war itself will continue at some point. The mission for Israel still to destroy Hamas. BROWN: All right. Oren, stay with us as we bring in CNN's Alex Marquardt here in Washington and CNN's Becky Anderson and Doha, Qatar.

Becky, to start with you here, the deal on the table includes Red Cross visits to the hostages that will remain in Gaza after this deal. Tell us more about that. How soon could that take place here?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. And I've been talking to a diplomatic source very involved in these talks. And we, by the way, should get an announcement at very quickly out of Qatar once we get an agreement by the Israeli government. And that announcement should have more granular detail on these sort of parameters and the real sort of, you know, the deeper sort of understanding of this deal, which is what we are looking for.


But in principle, we've got the main parameters. And one of those is that the Red Cross will be allowed to get around and see those hostages who aren't released in the first group, in the first phase, as it were.

Now, we do understand that Hamas doesn't hold all the hostages in Gaza. That has been a problem from the outset. The Israelis have been absolutely demanding that Hamas collect the I.D.s of the hostages and begin to gather those hostages all the way through these negotiations. Hamas has said it needs a pause in order to do that. And that is where we have gotten to in the terms of this deal. So, the Red Cross will be able to see those who haven't been released, who are still being held by Hamas. So, that's 50-plus at this point.

How do we get here? Well, ultimately, as Yoav Gallant, the Defense Minister, has pointed out in the war cabinet meeting this evening, the Israelis' perspective is that this has come about as a result of pressure from the IDF in Gaza on Hamas.

And a diplomatic source very familiar with these talks told me that that period of time that the Israelis took to actually get their boots on the ground in Gaza was what was needed by the Israelis to come back to the table to really begin to negotiate.

On Hamas' side, well, they get 150 prisoners for the 50 that will be released in this first tranche. That's an exchange of women and children for women and teenagers. Crucially, this is a truce about the Gaza Strip. The hostages are a main pillar, but also there is a clause in here, a parameter, part of the deal here is that aid is brought in through the border, some 300 trucks of aid a day. That is something that Hamas has been calling for, although their demand for fuel hasn't been met, as far as we can tell.

So, we know that the Qataris delivered this deal in the wee hours of this morning. It is now nearly 24 hours later, and they expect if this is green lit by the Israeli government, that this will be announced imminently. Back to you.

BROWN: So, in this deal that the Israeli government is looking at right now we expect 50 hostages to be released, women and children.

And then, Alex, to bring you in, Becky talked about how the expectation is for Hamas to go and gather up those other hostages held by other groups in Gaza. If those hostages include women and children, do we know if that would be part of the potential future release since that is really the focus right now?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Pamela. That is the focus. So, the understanding is that these 50 would be women and children. Once we are through that initial phase of 50, this initial phase of four or five days of pause, the hope certainly is that there could be a longer pause, that several dozen more hostages could be released. Almost certainly the focus would be on women and children.

We have reported repeatedly that Hamas doesn't have all of the hostages themselves. There are different groups within Hamas. There are other factions across the Gaza Strip, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad. So, there is an expectation, there's a hope that more of these hostages would be released.

We have to put this into broader context Pam. I mean when we're talking about 50 out of an overall 236, that's just 20 percent. So, the vast majority of the hostages would remain. And, frankly, we don't know at this point how many are alive and how many are dead.

So, presumably, those negotiations would continue. There's also the question of aid going into the Gaza Strip. And we understand that Hamas has demanded some 300 trucks of aid per day, and that that would continue even after this temporary pause of four or five days.

What would happen after that? Well, Prime Minister Netanyahu made it very clear tonight that he expects the fighting to pick up once this temporary pause is over. As Oren alluded to at the beginning of that cabinet meeting, he said he wanted to make it very clear, we are at war, we will continue to be at war until we achieve all of our goals. But we do expect that even if the fighting picks back up that negotiations will continue for the remainder of the hostages. Pam?

BROWN: I think you really gave us an important reminder that the majority will still remain in Gaza, the majority of those hostages, even if this deal goes through and the 50 are released.

Oren, how are the Israelis reacting to this deal as the government is set to vote on this proposal at any moment now?

LIEBERMANN: Well, we've seen dueling demonstrations outside the Defense Ministry, where some of those meetings have been this evening. A large group in favor of this deal, in favor of frankly any deal that would see any number of hostages brought home.


Another smaller group, it seemed, from what we were able to see, much smaller, in fact, trying to push against this deal, demanding that all the hostages be brought back. According to polling we have seen, most of the Israeli public would be in favor of a deal like this that would start the process of bringing any number of Israelis home. That is something Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fundamentally aware of, that Israel wants to see these hostages come back, and he would definitely be aware of that as his own numbers have plummeted.

BROWN: So, Alex, what do we know about the role of the Biden administration played in this deal we heard Netanyahu give President Biden credit?

MARQUARDT: Yes, it's been quite central, Pamela. They have been the main go-between with Qatar and with Israel. Of course, the U.S. doesn't speak directly with Hamas. They're considered a terrorist organization by the Biden administration. And so that's why Qatar has been so central in this mediation. Egypt has also been a part of this because they, of course, speak with Hamas as well.

And so this has gone to the very top of the Biden administration. The president himself, he has had numerous calls, more than a dozen interactions with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He's spoken just twice last week with the emir of Qatar. He's spoken with the president of Egypt. We have also seen the CIA director, Bill Burns, have a very central role in all of this. The conversation has been taking place among the Qataris and then the heads of intelligence between Israel and the United States.

We heard the White House say earlier today that Biden has been expecting multiple updates per day and then jumping in when he felt it was personally necessary to do so. And in that same cabinet meeting tonight, Prime Minister Netanyahu also thanked President Biden for working on the terms of that deal and saying that he managed to get a better deal, more hostages back for a lower cost to Israel. Pamela?

BROWN: And really quickly, Becky, if you would, how many of these initial 50 make up or comprise of the children that are being held hostage by Hamas, which we believe includes a newborn as well, right, that the first lady of Israel had written to Joe Biden about, and the logistics of coordinating a hostage release like this?

ANDERSON: As we understand it, the IDF believes that there are some 40, or up to 40 kids being held in Gaza. And I've been told by a source very close to these talks to expect mostly or a lot of children in these first phases. So, if we can assume to expect ten in the first group, ten in the next and subsequently ten after that for four to five days, do expect to see a lot of children in this initial phase.

We've always known the priority was women and children. There was much talk about elderly, the elderly in some weeks ago, but the narrative is really clearly focused on men -- sorry, women and children.

These are, of course, let's not forget, civilian hostages. There was no parameter being discussed at present, which involves men who were serving or men of reservist age. So, this is no soldiers, this is civilian hostages. Look, this will be the biggest diplomatic sort of breakthrough since this conflict began back in October the 7th. But this is no ceasefire at this point, as we've been pointing out. This is a truce, a pause for 50 mainly kids and women to be released from Gaza.

BROWN: And as we await, you know, it's important to remind everyone there's not a deal until there's a deal, right, until there is final sign off and until the deal is executed, right? So, we will be waiting and watching.

Thank you all for bringing your excellent reporting to the forefront.

And just ahead, more on the breaking news as Israeli's anxiously await word of a hostage deal. I'll speak with one woman with family still missing after the Hamas attack.



BROWN: And we are back with more breaking news, Israel anxiously awaiting word of a proposed hostage deal with Hamas.

For more reaction, I want to bring in LeElle Slifer. She has family members still missing after the Hamas attack on Israel.

LeElle, I know this has truly been a nightmare for you. Two of your female relatives, Carmel and Yarden, are being held in Gaza. Have you heard anything from the Israeli government about whether they will be included in this potential hostage release in this deal? How optimistic are you?

LEELLE SLIFER, FAMILY MEMBERS MISSING AND ESCAPED IN ISRAEL: We haven't heard anything yet. I, by nature, am an optimistic person, and so I have to be optimistic that they'll be included. They're young women. We really hope that they're included in this group of 50 that's released right on the front end.

BROWN: So, you're awaiting word on whether they're going to be included. Have you been given any update about Carmel and Yarden from the government since they were taken hostage on October 7th?

SLIFER: No, we haven't gotten any update. Carmel was taken at a different time from Yarden. We know that much just from our family members who are there at the time who managed to escape. But we haven't been given any word if they're alive, if they're injured, where they are. We just don't know anything more.

BROWN: What is your reaction to the fact that this deal, as it stands now, only includes the release of about 50 hostages, leaving the vast majority still in Gaza? Are you disappointed by that? What do you think?

SLIFER: It's tough. I have to imagine that this is a good start. If the Israeli government could have reached a deal for the release of all the hostages on the front end, that would have been great. But I have to trust that Hamas wants to see how this goes and then that will lead to the release of more hostages eventually.


We, of course, want everybody to come home right away. But I know that a lot of international players have been working hard to secure this release, including the Israeli government, and I hope that this is the first step in the right direction to bring all the hostages home right away.

BROWN: Yes. Several countries have been involved. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu credited President Biden for improving this hostage deal negotiation. Are you satisfied that the U.S. is doing enough to help bring about the release of these hostages?

SLIFER: I have to say I've been pleasantly surprised by the strong stance that the U.S. has taken to support Israel right now. There have been a lot of anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli sentiments in the U.S. in the last month or so, which have really taken me by surprise. And it's been nice to see that the government has not fallen victim to that and is standing strong with Israel.

BROWN: I want to ask you about your cousin's wife. So, Yarden is your cousin's wife, right? He and his young three-year-old daughter have been without her after they escaped capture on October 7th. How have they been doing?

SLIFER: Oh gosh, it's been really tough on her husband. Our whole family has been doing everything possible, including Yarden's family, her extended family. We've all been doing everything possible to bring them home, to keep their memory strong in people's minds that this is so important to bring them home. It's been tough on her husband though.

But her daughter is three and while it's difficult, everyone says she's been doted on by her family, her grandfather is still there, and other uncles and aunts and cousins are around. And we're all just praying that she'll get to see her imam soon, her mom soon.

BROWN: Yes. We are all praying. Our thoughts, our prayers are with you, thinking about you, your family, and the other family members of the other hostages held as well. LeElle Slifer, thank you so much.

SLIFER: Thank you for having me.

BROWN: More breaking news ahead, as hostage families await official word on a deal. We're going to get the latest on deliberations right inside the Israeli cabinet going on right now.



BROWN: And we are back with our breaking news, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging his cabinet to approve a tentative deal to secure the release of some hostages held by Hamas. A vote could happen at any moment now. We are tracking all of this here at CNN. I want to bring in CNN's Nada Bashir, who is following it all from Jerusalem. Nada, what is the latest on this proposed deal?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Look, Pamela, we know that deliberations on the Israeli side are still ongoing, the proposal set up and put forward by the Qatari side on Tuesday morning, and it has now gone past 1:00 A.M. here in Jerusalem.

Of course, we are still waiting for the granular details of this proposal, but we understand to be the key priorities laid out in that proposal. And what will be a key priority for, of course, the Israeli government is the potential release of some 50 women and children currently held hostage by Hamas and other groups, but crucially here Hamas inside the Gaza Strip. That would be in exchange for some 150 Palestinian prisoners currently in Israeli custody.

Now, of course, there is also talk of a potential humanitarian pause on the table. We're talking about some four to five days of a humanitarian pause. That will be crucial in terms of getting vital aid into the Gaza Strip.

And, of course, now we are learning that there is the potential for a Red Cross visit for hostages still in Gaza who haven't been released. Important to underscore, of course, that we are talking about the potential release of some 50 hostages, but it is understood that there are around 240 hostages currently being held inside the Gaza Strip.

But, of course, this will be a welcome development for many families in Israel, waiting anxiously for news of loved ones still held captive in the Gaza Strip.

On the Palestinian side, of course, another welcome development, but, of course, that 150 figure is still a very small fraction of the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli custody, including some 3,000, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Society, who are currently being held under administrative detention, meaning no clear charges and no ongoing legal process.

Now, we did hear earlier today from the U.S. National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby. He said that this would require -- if the deal is indeed approved and put through, this would require careful monitoring to ensure that the terms of the deal are followed through, and also said that this could take a significant amount of time, unclear what really the timeframe that we are talking about here. Pamela?

Yes, it's also very delicate, right? And as one source told me, who's involved in the negotiations are briefed on them, that anything could be thrown sideways at any moment, right? And you also have the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, making a point in his statement to the cabinet to talk about the war not stopping.

BASHIR: Absolutely. In no sense is this going to be a ceasefire in the eyes of the Israeli government or the Israel Defense Force. We heard from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking a little earlier urging the cabinet to approve this deal, saying it had the backing of the security forces, but making clear this will not mean an end to the fighting.


In fact, he said that this pause of about four to five days would actually allow for the continuation of fighting on the Israeli side. And he reiterated the Israeli government's core aims here when we are talking about the ongoing war, namely to eradicate Hamas, to eradicate Hamas' military capabilities inside the Gaza Strip and of course, crucially, to bring home all hostages currently being held in the Gaza Strip.

And, of course, as we know, there are mounting fears that regardless of this proposed humanitarian pause, we could begin to see an intensification of fighting in Southern Gaza. We have already seen Northern Gaza continuing to come under intense fire just overnight. In fact, in the last couple of hours, we have seen continued bombardment and shelling across Northern Gaza.

At the end of last week, we saw leaflets being dropped in Southern Gaza, warning civilians there to move to known shelters. And this is a huge point of concern because this is a signal that we could begin to see the Israeli ground incursion moving further southwards. And as we know, according to the U.N., there are some 1.7 million people inside Gaza currently internally displaced, many of them seeking shelter in Southern Gaza.

So, that will be a huge point of concern, and, of course, the humanitarian situation deteriorating by the hour. Pamela?

BROWN: It certainly has. Nada Bashir, thank you very much.

Now, let's get more on President Biden's role in pushing the hostage deal forward. CNN White House correspondent, Arlette Saenz is in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where the president plans to spin Thanksgiving.

So, Arlette, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a lot of credit to President Biden and his statement to the full cabinet today.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he did, Pamela. And President Biden has continuously been speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since the start of this attack by Hamas on October 7th. The president has repeatedly held these calls with him that he have included focusing in on the need to try to secure the release of some of these hostages.

That last known call that the White House had read out was just a week ago today when the two leaders got on the phone. And the White House released a very succinct readout saying that the two discussed specifically the hostages who are being held by Hamas and the need to get them out, including Americans.

And today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave President Biden a lot of credit for the current state of these negotiations as he spoke to the Israeli War Cabinet. Netanyahu said, quote, in the last few days, I talked with our friends, the president of the United States, Joe Biden. I asked for his interventions in order to improve the outline that is presented to you. And it was indeed improved so that it would include more hostages and less prices. These talks bore fruit. Netanyahu added, President Biden got involved and I thank him for that.

Now, this comes as both President Biden and top officials across the administration have been engaged as these hostage negotiations have played out. In addition to speaking with Netanyahu, just last week, President Biden spoke twice with the emir of Qatar. Qatar has played a key role in mediating between Hamas and Israel as they're working to secure the release of these hostages.

One big question is if this deal is reached, how many Americans might be included in that? There is hope that that three-year-old American girl, Abigail Edan, might be part of that group. President Biden today is expressing some optimism, saying he believes that the deal is very close.

BROWN: All right. Arlette Saenz, thank you so much.

Joining us now, Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee. Thanks for coming on. Are you satisfied with this deal, as we know it, between Israel and Hamas for the release of 50 of the hostages?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Well, this deal is good news. It shows that there's lines of communication in which Qatar has been able to stand in for Hamas and work out a strategy, Netanyahu's advocating for passing it, and it's the beginning of a vision of the possibility of more to come.

There's discussion about, well, if this can work, can we extend the ceasefire for another day? Can there be another ten hostages released? And in the meantime, there can start to be discussions really about the extent of the humanitarian disaster and how much damage that is doing directly to so many civilians, so many children dying, so much medical care and food and water that are needed, medical supplies that are needed, and also to have real conversation about the strategy of the bombing and shelling that has been so broad in its impact on killing men, women and children.

BROWN: Right, and I want to talk to you about that a little bit further down. But I first want to go to this essay you wrote calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. And it reads in part that you're calling for, quote, Hamas must release all the hostages without conditions and lay down their arms.


It can no longer have operational control of Gaza. I mean, why do you think Hamas would agree to these conditions?

MERKLEY: Yes. So, when you go into the details, the point I'm making is that both the negotiation for initial ceasefire and the negotiations that follow, there's going to have to be a vision of how you get to an enduring ceasefire. And, certainly, there's going to be no enduring ceasefire if hostages are still held. There's going to be no enduring ceasefire if Hamas is still in control of Gaza. So it is a part of the complexity of the Middle East and the complexity of Gaza.

And we need to step back from that and realize that there is a bigger framework here. And that bigger framework is how do we break this cycle of hate and violence and have it towards a vision of two states for two people with aspirations that can be fulfilled rather than cultivating the animosity between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

BROWN: You and other senators have been calling on President Biden to push Israel to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza. Do you think Israel is doing enough to limit the toll this war is taking on Palestinian civilians?

MERKLEY: Israel has not been doing enough. We are seeing so many children and women die. We see so many people short of food and water and medical supplies. And just if we think about the military strategy, Israel has been very clear, and the ambassador has made this very clear to me, the ambassador from Israel to the United States, that, look, we believe that we are hitting the targets we want to hit.

But then you dig deeper, and the justification is that each building might have a tunnel under it, might be a location for a future sniper, might have had a Hamas family living in it. So, every building becomes a target.

And, certainly, in the international world, that starts to look like a very indiscriminate campaign with a human toll that is extraordinary in comparison to the actual, what would be a targeted attack on Hamas. And I think this starts to hurt Israel in the long-term.

And I know in our rage following 9/11, we made some massive mistakes, including the occupation of Afghanistan, and certainly in pursuing an invasion of Iraq on the basis of non-existence weapons of mass destruction.

My concern here is that in the Israel's rage, and the way they're conducting this campaign, both by denying humanitarian aid, by and large, and bombing that takes out a whole lot more civilians and men, women and children than it does Hamas fighters, is doing not just damaged, obviously, clearly damaged to the Palestinian people who are hit and killed and injured, but also to Israel's reservoir of goodwill that is part of what creates security for Israel in the future.

BROWN: And, of course, Israel says that, look, Hamas is using these civilians as shields, right? They're hiding in hospitals and other areas where the civilians are. And I'm wondering, you know, you bring up rage and how the U.S., you say the U.S. acted after 9/11. Do you think that Israel is just responding out of rage? Do you not believe that they're really thinking through their plan here, their strategy?

MERKLEY: There was tremendous rage and a desire to do as much damage in Gaza as possible. And not enough thought to thinking about the way that you avoid hitting civilians. Just to give you some examples, Israel itself said they were no longer going to do the double tap process where you put off a large firecracker or a big and small bomb if you were on a building before you actually drop a bomb in the building so the civilians can get out of that building.

And Israel said, well, instead we're doing lots of emails and lots of phone calls. But the fact is Israel had cut off the power so people's computers or cell phones had run out of power. They really couldn't get those messages by and large.

And so it's a pretty problematic situation where Hamas fighters are not really located in the residential building. The leaders are outside the country. They're in Doha. You have the fighters who have gone underground and the people dying in these buildings being collapsed.

And you're now talking something close to 50 percent of the residential buildings in Northern Gaza are largely non-combatants who are, in some ways, as much victims of Hamas as anyone else, but should not lump all Palestinians together.

The Hamas fighters comprise a couple percent of the total population of Gaza. So, you have to make every effort to distinguish between fighters and civilians.


BROWN: All right. Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you. We'll be right back.


BROWN: Well, tonight, a Georgia judge has decided not to send one of Donald Trump's co-defendants to jail. Prosecutors claim Harrison Floyd violated his bail conditions with his social media posts.

Let's get straight to CNN's Evan Perez. So, Evan, what reasoning did the judge give for making this decision? And, once again, it's another example of what they're trying to weigh, right, with these defendants having the right to criticize.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, exactly, and then trying to protect witnesses from intimidation.

And so what the judge decided here was that not every technical violation is enough to send someone, have their bail revoked and have them go back to jail. I mean, in this case, he said that he believes that they can change the terms of Harrison Floyd's release conditions to specify that certain things like these inflammatory statement that he is making on social media, that those things are prohibited.


In other words, giving him another chance to try to abide by the release restrictions. Of course, Fani Willis, the prosecutor there who was personally involved in it, she was, you know, giving a very fiery presentation, and she wanted him sent back to jail, saying this is beyond the pale. She was arguing that, you know, this is the kind of thing that does affect the way you can see the jury and it intimidates witnesses.

And so in the end, the judge decided that he deserves another chance, and you know, it's one of the things. The judges always trying to make sure that they don't go beyond what they should do to allow witnesses -- I'm sorry, to allow defendants to defend themselves.

BROWN: Because the bottom line is, it could have wide-ranging implications, not just for Harrison Floyd, but other defendants moving forward, Donald Trump.

PEREZ: Right, especially Donald Trump.

BROWN: Yeah, exactly.

Evan Perez, thanks so much.

Coming up, as we await for the Israeli cabinet's vote on a tentative hostage release deal with Hamas, we're going to look at the key role played by Qatar in these negotiations.




BROWN: Breaking news, we are waiting for the Israeli cabinet's vote on a tentative hostage release deal with Hamas. One of the key intermediaries is Qatar, which delivered the proposal to Israel.

CNN's Brian Todd is looking at Qatar's role as a middleman in the Israel-Hamas war, and other sensitive negotiations that have been taking place from the beginning.

So, tell us more, Brian, about why Qatar has played such a critical role here?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, in recent years, Qatar has simply positioned itself as a country that can engage in dialogue with the key players in the Middle East, like no one else can. This small country has been amazingly effective at walking a tightrope between the U.S. and its allies, and their sworn enemies.


TODD (voice-over): A pivotal player in getting the hostages freed from Hamas captivity, is a tiny emirate, over 1,000 miles away from Gaza, smaller than the state of Connecticut, with about a quarter of the population of New York City. Qatar, an oil rich nation on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf, ruled by a 43-year-old Sheikh named Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who took over when his father abdicated ten years ago.

Analysts say Qatar has been indispensable in brokering this hostage deal.

DAVID SCHENKER, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: Qatar is central. It has relationships with a broad range of terrorist groups throughout the region, and unsavory regimes.

TODD: Qatar was instrumental in getting four hostages, two Israelis, and two Americans released about two weeks after the current war started. And that wasn't Qatar's first go around with deals like that.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Qatar has had a long role in these kinds of prisoner negotiations, most recently, playing an important role in getting five American prisoners released from Iran. There were $6 million of Iranian funds that were sent to Qatar.

TODD: That bill to place in September. Analysts say mediation has long been one of Qatar's most marketable skills, specifically, its ability to be an interlocutor between international players who are at odds with one another.

BERGEN: They are seen as a sort of, a fair player by many of the different actors in the region. They do have some leverage over Hamas.

TODD: For years, Qatar has given sanctuary two figures like Hamas's top political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, and Qatar's financial support for Hamas and Palestinian citizens in Gaza has been substantial.

SCHENKER: The state of Qatar funding Hamas for many years, underwriting the salaries of Hamas and of Palestinian employees in Gaza.

TODD: But Qatar has also been one of America's closest allies in the Middle East. Not only supplying oil and gas, but also allowing the U.S. to maintain the Al Udeid Airbase, headquarters of U.S. Central Command.

SCHENKER: We ran operations not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Out of there, we continue to run operations.

TODD: Qatar was crucial in facilitating America's 2021 evacuation from Afghanistan. It's maintained back channel contacts with Israel, while at the same time having relationships with groups like the Taliban, and al-Qaeda, and sharing enormous national gas with Iran.

All of which allow Qatar to have dialogue with key players in the region, like no one else can. And, experts say, Qatar is willing to do things in negotiations over hostages or captured militants that the U.S. and others won't.

SCHENKER: The United States typically in the past has not paid ransoms. But, Qatar has no qualms about it.


TODD (on camera): Analysts say when tensions in the Middle East subside, Qatar will be under significant pressure, as it already has been, from some members of the U.S. Congress, to sever its relationship with Hamas, and kick Hamas leaders out of Qatar. But they say it's an open question right now whether Qatari leaders will take that step.

Pamela, they always walk a tightrope.

BROWN: Always walking a tightrope. That's right. Brian Todd, thank you so much.

And coming up, tens of millions of people are under a severe storm risk, as the Thanksgiving travel season gets underway. An update on the forecast, up next.



BROWN: A storm system across the eastern United States is threatening to disrupt Thanksgiving travel plans.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is in the CNN Weather Center.

Chad, what's the latest?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Pamela, I know some people love a rainy night, according to the song. But not people that are traveling. And man, is it raining, all the way from buffalo to D.C., and all the way down to the south.

But to the north, Adirondacks, Catskills, Poconos, you are seeing the snow already, the air is cold enough to make that snow. Now down to the south, we had some risk of some severe weather that's really gone away for the most part right now.

There is still a slight risk. We had a tornado on the ground near Hartford, Alabama, about 30 minutes ago. But that storm is completely disintegrated.

Here's the rainfall later on tonight and into tomorrow. So if you can put of all of your travel until tomorrow, you are going to be in much better shape. Now, the Berkshires and all the way up to the Green White Mountains, that's where the snow is going to be.

And the people that go there for you know, for the holidays, they want the snow, because they want to go play in it. So take the snow when you can get it in some spots. But really, we don't want it in others. There is the heavy snow, parts of Maine may pick up a foot of snow, and that would be some really good news, if you want to go play in it I guess.

Now, FlightRadar24 is still showing us all of the flights, Pamela, that are in the sky, 6,000. But not, 4,000 were delayed today. But the good news of all of this, only 68 cancellations across the United States.

So, yes, you may have been delayed, but you didn't get canceled. So, you are not trying to make up for that flight tomorrow. That's the good news.

Look at this mess.

BROWN: My gosh.

CHAD: I'm glad that the planes really aren't this big.

BROWN: That is insane to see that map, Chad Myers. Wow, and it isn't saying that there is not more cancellations. Let's hope it stays that way.

Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.