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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Full Jury Expected to Hear Opening Statements Monday; Appeals Court Denies Trump's Request for Stay of Criminal Trial Pending Change of Venue Request; Israeli Official Denies Israel's Involvement In Explosions In Iraq; Dem Help Speaker Johnson Pass Critical Billion- Dollar Foreign Aid Bill. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 19, 2024 - 20:00   ET



FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST: And then I behave badly and I suffer for it. And so I look at people right now, take your medications, do what your doctors tell you to do. And we have to take personal responsibility in this country. We can no longer blame other people, no longer say it's their fault. It's my fault. I got it wrong. Behave properly and do the right thing and we can save our country.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: We'll see if this starts us maybe on a better track, Frank. I'm glad you're doing well. Glad you felt well enough to be here tonight. Continue that road to recovery. Thank you.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

HILL: Thanks to all of you for joining us. AC360 starts right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, 12 jurors, six alternates now just three days away from making history as the first Americans to ever decide the guilt or innocence of a former president of the United States.

Also, we're following breaking news about explosions reported five at a base use by pro-Iranian fighters in Iraq, this is new videos just in all just a night Israel's response to Iran's missile and drone attack.

And later how House Speaker Mike Johnson's act of bipartisanship with Democrats to pass aid to Israel, Ukraine and more is being treated as betrayal by some radical Republicans.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

At the end of a historic but also harrowing day in and around New York City courtroom where opening statements in the first Trump criminal trial are now set for Monday. Historic for what are by now familiar but still astonishing reasons a former president facing felony charges for the first time ever. Harrowing in that a deeply troubled man used the occasion to set himself on fire outside the courthouse.

Tonight, all 18 jurors and alternates have been chosen. An appeals court judge declined to pause the trial for a defense motion to change the venue. The former president who yesterday complained the trial was keeping him off the campaign trail complained today that it's moving too fast.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We just had another hearing and the trial starts on Monday, which is long before a lot of people thought the judge wants this to go as fast as possible. That's for his reasons, not for my reasons.


COOPER: What he says it now appears all systems are go. The trial will begin Monday.

More now from CNN's Kara Scannell.

So what happened in today's proceedings?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Anderson, as they proceeded through jury selection, Trump at times looked bored. Other times he looked really engaged, again, craning his neck to look at the jurors when his lawyers were asking them their opinion of the former president. We were still inside the courthouse when we started to get word that the man outside had set himself on fire.

Now the judge had left the bench. Trump was still in the courtroom standing. We saw a Secret Service agent walk over him to talk to him. Now this was just moments after those final five alternates were selected and told to return Monday for opening statements.


SCANNELL (voice-over): "We have our full panel." That announcement from Judge Juan Merchan after jury selection concluded. Eighteen Manhattanites: 12 jurors and six alternates now seated.


TRUMP: I'm sitting in a courthouse all day long. This is going much for the week and this will go on for another four or five weeks and it's very unfair.


SCANNELL (voice-over): Trump appeared bored much of the trial day four as attorneys on both sides probed potential jurors until they filled the remaining five alternate seats.

Moments after the full jury was picked, a bizarre and tragic moment outside court as a man set himself on fire. Authorities say he was previously known to the police and while they are searching for any domestic terror connections, that is not believed to have been the motivation. In court, a handful of prospective jurors became emotional. One was excused after she told the judge she had anxiety and was worried as the trial goes on, more people could know she's part of the jury, saying, "I might not be able to be completely fair and not emotional, so that concerns me."

Another was dismissed after she began crying, saying, "I'm sorry. I thought I could do this. I wouldn't want someone who feels this way to judge my case either. I don't want you to feel I've wasted anyone's time. This is so much more stressful than I thought."

A third was sent home after noting she was feeling anxiety and self- doubt as she listen to a line of questioning about the credibility of witnesses. At the defense table, Trump sat flipping through papers with charts, photos and graphics. He whispered in past notes with his lawyers and at some points was hunched over with his elbows on the desk.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger started off questioning potential jurors, telling them: "This is not about Mr. Trump being a former president. It's not about his being a candidate for the presidency. It's only about whether the evidence proves he's guilty." During her presentation, Trump leaned back in his chair. At one point, his eyes closed.

Trump's attorney, Susan Necheles, focused on bias against the former president. She told those in the jury box, "You all bring biases, and you particularly bring biases about someone who is as publicly and outspoken as President Trump. There's nobody that doesn't know him in this room."

In the afternoon, the court moved to a routine hearing to determine how much of Trump's legal history the prosecution will be allowed to ask him about if he testifies, which he said he plans to.


Prosecutors argued they should be allowed to question Trump about the findings in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case, among others, despite Trump's attorney's strong objections. The former president shook his head as the prosecution spoke about how he defamed Carroll.


COOPER: Kara, when will the judge actually decide if prosecutors can ask the former president about his past legal cases?

SCANNELL (on camera): So Judge Merchan said that he would rule on this on Monday, likely before opening states get underway. Now, Trump's lawyers also tried again to try to learn who the prosecution's first witness is, who they expect to call after openings. Prosecutors said that he would give them the name on Sunday, but if it showed up on social media, it would be the last time, Anderson?

COOPER: Kara Scannell, thanks. Joining us now is John E. Jones III, former chief judge for the U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania. With me here is John Miller, former New York deputy police commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig and jury consultant, Jill Huntley Taylor.

So, Elie, first of all, we're waiting on the judge to rule about what they can ask him about and how much they can ask about past cases. When do you think that's going to happen, and how likely is it they're going to get everything they want?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So I think it's going to happen Monday morning, probably before openings. The test here is not whether the other information that prosecutors might want to cross-examine Trump about show that he's a terrible guy. That, in fact, is supposed to be not the purpose. The purpose is to show that he's dishonest, that he lacks trustworthiness.

And so if you look at the various things prosecutors are trying to get in, I think the judge will allow prosecutors to ask him about the civil fraud trial, perhaps defaming E. Jean Carroll. Then you get into sort of more distinct, separate stuff, like the frivolous lawsuit against Hillary Clinton feels like a stretch to me.

So I think the judge is going to do what we've seen him do quite a lot of, which is a little bit for the prosecution, a little bit for the defense, and then that'll inform Donald Trump's decision whether he's going to testify. I am still a solid absolutely not, but this may further that decision.

COOPER: Judge Jones, do you see anything wrong with the speed of the proceedings so far?

JOHN E. JONES III, FORMER CHIEF JUDGE, U.S. MIDDLE DISTRICT COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA: No, I don't see anything wrong at all, Anderson. And as I said last evening, I think any responsible judge is going to try to move this case forward, you have to be concerned about the jurors' time and the outside noise that's taking place.

I commend Judge Merchan for getting the jury picked this week. I don't see that that creates a problem at all. The perception may be that it's going too fast. This is typical of a trial when you know you're going to be seated for maybe a month or a month and a half. You need to get busy. I mean, you're taking time out of people's lives and it only makes sense to get started.

COOPER: Jill, we heard about potential jurors crying, getting emotional, talking about - a lot of people talking about stress and anxiety. Can you just talk about the stress, I mean, anybody might feel on a jury, but particularly this?

JILL HUNTLEY TAYLOR, JURY CONSULTANT: Yes. And there's a lot of reasons people don't want to be on juries, but I don't want to add another one, but it is stressful. It is stressful in any case. Think of cases like - where there's a horrific crime involved and the jurors are going to be exposed to horrific photos and scenes and things like that. It can be very, very stressful.

Here, the jurors know that all eyes are on this case. All eyes are watching. They walk into court. There's Donald Trump, a president. There's people all outside the courtroom. The courtroom is full. They know that all eyes are on the case and that their decision is going to be highly scrutinized no matter what it is.

COOPER: And their life is going to - could be under a microscope ...

TAYLOR: Exactly.

COOPER: ... very soon.

John, in terms of the guy who set himself on fire, what do we know?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, we know he's a 36-year-old man from St. Augustine, Florida. The police down there have had contact with him in a number of incidents that could be connected to mental health crises. Nowhere in the NYPD files or in the intelligence holdings in the counterterrorism world of the police or the FBI.

So the question is, Anderson: Why that? Why there? Why today?

He carried a sign with him that said, "Trump is with Biden and they're about to fascist coup the United States." But his conspiracy theory material, which was all over the web and he directed people to that today before he did this, doesn't have much to do with Donald Trump or Joe Biden. It's about cryptocurrency, and universities, movie stars, and millionaires and a whole web of corruption and murder.

But I think the idea he came with was there's one place where every camera from every media outlet everywhere in the world is going to be at a specific time and I'm going to make sure that I direct them to my theories. It's one of the reasons we don't go deep into what they are or talk a lot about him by name is he's done a terrible thing to himself and his family and you don't want to encourage anybody else ...

COOPER: Right.

MILLER: ... to do it.


COOPER: So in terms of access to that location, to being that close, is that - is this going to change things?

MILLER: I mean, it could. It's a public park, but it sits between three courthouses and Collect Pond Park is used by people, especially as the weather gets nicer. So is the answer widening the perimeter? And if you do that, what do you do with the park behind the courthouse, which is also open to the public? Or is the answer just posting more police there ready to respond rapidly if something occurs? COOPER: Yes. Elie, do you think it's likely they're going to sequester these jurors at some point? Because, I mean, they're going to be leaving the courthouse every day, what, and getting on the subway? I mean, what's to stop some weirdo from following them?

HONIG: It's a great question. It's an option that's available to courts. And when we talk about sequestration, there's various sort of gradations of that. We see sometimes in the movies the full sequestration, where everyone lives in a motel together. I don't think we'll ever get to that point. But there are intermediate versions and I've had this with some of my trials, where they will have the jurors, for example, meet at a certain common spot a few miles away from the courthouse and then bus them in using the underground tunnel to get in and then take them back to that location.

You want to give the jurors a sense of security. Jill's absolutely right. It is a scary, at times traumatic experience, and anything you can do to make them feel protected, I think, is important to do. Now, that'll be up to the judge.

One thing you always want to watch out is this weekend here. When they come back on Monday, sometimes jurors will read things, hear things, people will say things to them. So it wouldn't shock me if we have a juror or two come Monday morning say to the judge, I don't think I can do this.

MILLER: By the way, you have to add in - defense lawyers hate this ...


MILLER: ... because it's a signal, they say, unspoken signal that you're being treated differently because this defendant is dangerous or a danger to you or his people are. So they'll oppose it.

COOPER: Judge Jones, do you think it would make sense to - I mean, for the protection of the jurors to somehow sequester them somewhere?

JONES: Well, two - yes, two things. The logistics of sequestering a jury, as my co-panelists know, are really daunting and the expense is high. And jurors don't like it necessarily. I agree that defense attorneys typically don't like it either. But I'll tell you what, at the end of a trial day, I would typically say to juries, don't read anything about this case. Don't research it. Don't get on the internet. Don't do your own looking into the details.

And I always thought there's a certain number of jurors that would go home and they'd jump right on Google and check the case out. So it is perilous that no matter what admonitions you give, unless the juror gets on social media, there's really no way to check whether they've done some kind of sidebar research on the case and that is a problem. And you could have jurors show up and admit that they did it. That's why you have alternates. But it is a tough aspect to a trial when there's a long weekend.

COOPER: Jill, does that add - I mean, if a juror is sequestered, I assume that would kind of add to the stress of it, they're away from their families or their loved ones.

TAYLOR: It's a different kind of stress, right? You're taking away some stress and you're adding a different one. And it also would suggest that some jurors may not be able to be sequestered. Some of the jurors who are already seated, they might have an issue with being away from their family in a greater way than they currently are. So I would be concerned that some of them would have to go.

COOPER: Judge Jones, the former president said again today that he intends to testify. Do you think that could change once the judge actually rules on which of his past legal run-ins can be introduced as evidence? Or do you think it's him just talking that no defense attorney would allow his client in this case to testify?

JONES: Well, here's a scenario, Anderson, I think could happen, and Elie may agree with me on this, that he's saying he's going to testify. And then Judge Merchan and I agree fully with Elie that although the prosecution has sort of loaded the wagon with a number of things that they'd like to introduce that go to his credibility, so Merchan will give them some things.

And you could imagine that former President Trump would say, well, you know I was going to testify, but this corrupt judge is letting all this evidence in that's irrelevant, cases that I have on appeal and so forth. And, unfortunately, I can't testify because he's done me wrong, so to speak.

That's an out for him, I would think if he wants to take it. No lawyer that I know of, no credible defense attorney would advise former President Trump to testify in this trial. I can't imagine.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Elie, it would allow him to evidence all these things which - I mean, he has no reason to want to have in evidence.

HONIG: It would be disastrous. It would allow in all these other things that the jury, by the way, won't otherwise hear about. They're not going to hear about E. Jean Carroll and the civil fraud case. Plus, he will be grilled on this case itself.

And let me just make another prediction. When the moment comes, what I think I'll say in addition to what Judge Jones said, is I'm eager to testify, but my lawyers told me that we did such a good job tearing down the government's case that there's no need, and that's what I'm going to do.


COOPER: All right. Elie Honig, Jill Huntley Taylor, thank you. Judge Jones, as well, and John Miller, thank you.

Coming up next, could you be fair if you were on a Trump jury? CNN's Miguel Marquez puts that question to New Yorkers.

And later, multiple explosions at a pro-Iran base in Iraq just a night after the Israeli strike on Iran, is there a connection? Israel just weighed in. We're trying to gather as much information as we can. We'll update you ahead.



COOPER: This week's speedy jury selection in the first Trump criminal trial provided a fascinating look at the lives and sensibilities of the men and women who will be deciding his fate. And though, for obvious reasons, we can't sit down and speak with them, we can spend time talking with the same broad slice of people here in New York that the jury was drawn from. CNN's Miguel Marquez did that.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know Donald Trump for many years. What is - what was your impression of him before he was president?

ALLISON EGAN, RETIRED NURSE: An arrogant son of a (expletive), but not a bad person.

MARQUEZ: But you think you could be in that courtroom and you could judge the evidence fairly?

EGAN: Yes, because I haven't delved into the details of him or anything. He doesn't really interest me that much.

MARQUEZ: Do you think you could be a fair and impartial juror in the Trump trial?

ELIZABETH TIULESCU, RETIRED FUNDRAISER: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not.



TIULESCU: Because, as I said before, I really hate him. He's a total catastrophy.

MARQUEZ: We are going from the top of Manhattan to the very bottom of Manhattan talking to Manhattanites, potential jurors and whether they could be fair and impartial in the Donald Trump trial.

On the 34 counts that he is charged with, you could make a fair and impartial decision?

TARIK BARBEE, SECURITY GUARD: Sure, if I listen to the facts and everything, yes. I think I can - I won't let him being a jerk cloud my legal sense of fair play.

JESSE BERGER, CONSULTANT: I don't have any biased opinion about him. I think people should be judged by what they've done before.


BERGER: And anything they've done, they've done. And it's history and it's evidence, so I should be judged by that.

MARQUEZ: Do you think you could be fair to Donald Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely. It's just - I mean, everyone I feel like deserves that.

KATHY PROUNIS, ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNER: Yes, I would totally be fair and impartial because that's what I believe in. And I'm always - I'm a New Yorker. I'm upfront and I'm honest about everything.

MARQUEZ: Could you be fair and impartial?



DONNELLY: Because all the TV and speculation and things that I've seen that he's done, and I don't really agree on his character.

MARQUEZ: In 2020, Manhattanites voted Democratic in overwhelming numbers. Just over 12 percent for Trump. For Biden, nearly 87 percent.

Do you think Donald Trump can get a fair trial in Manhattan?

AFI FRENCH, CONSULTANT: I would say yes. If there's a place that's going to happen, it's going to happen here. Because New Yorkers in general, I mean, we may have opinions, but I feel like we set the tone for fair and equity. Like, that's what we do.

PAUL LIPPERT, RETIRED FILM PROFESSOR: Clearly, our justice system, our system is being attacked. I think it's up to us to defend it, to defend due process and to defend the rule of law against all of its enemies.


MARQUEZ: So, now, even some conservatives we spoke to said that they thought they didn't like the idea of the trial, but they thought it could get a fair trial. And all the Manhattanites we spoke to said that they weren't concerned about their personal safety, that they trusted the system and thought they'd be fine. But given everything that's happened this week, downtown Manhattan, one has to wonder if they were actually on that jury, if they'd feel the same. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. Miguel Marquez, thanks so much.

A perspective now from former Trump campaign advisor, David Urban and Norm Eisen, who investigated Trump as counsel to House Democrats in the first impeachment and litigated cases involving him previously. He's also the author of "Trying Trump: A Guide to His First Election Interference Criminal Trial."

David, you've been saying all along you don't think the former president can get a fair trial in Manhattan. Is it that you just don't believe those 12 jurors and six alternates when they say that they can be fair and judge the case on the facts? DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, Anderson, I think it's a tough situation, right? Everybody believes, I think, in their heart they can be fair, but they come to this case with their own set of biases. And if you just look at the demographics, almost eight in 10 people in Manhattan voted against Donald Trump. So if you're one of those folks, I don't know how the jury breaks down, but I'm wondering who they voted for.

And if you didn't vote for the former president, I think you'd probably come to that jury, with a real bias against him.

COOPER: Norm, I mean, the former president's allies, they're not happy about juror number 11. She said in court that she doesn't like the former president's persona, that he seems selfish and self-serving, though she did tell the judge she could put all that aside and be fair. Should the judge have recused her for cause?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think so, Anderson. This was one of the most searching scrutinies of each of these jurors that you could have asked for. The judge is scrupulously fair. At times I thought he was too fair to Donald Trump. And he asked these jurors over 40 questions. They were examined, re-examined by the parties.

Look, Donald Trump is a very well-known and very polarizing figure. But Americans take it very seriously when they promise to be fair and independent. And I have seen juries over my decades of practicing law, set aside that stuff that happens outside the courtroom. We also saw a huge number of jurors who said they couldn't be fair. Over half of each of the two panels that came in of 96 jurors stepping away because they felt they couldn't meet that standard.

Twenty jurors excused, over 20, for peremptory challenges. Challenges for cause. I have every confidence that this jury and this judge can be fair and that Donald Trump will be judged on the evidence and on the law, which is how it should be.

COOPER: David, the former president, he's complained that the trial is keeping him off the campaign trail, that he's forced to sit in a cold courtroom all day. Late today, though, he complained the trial was moving too fast. Does he need to kind of pick a lane on when it comes to complaints? Because now it sounds like he wants it to go slower.

URBAN: Well, listen, I've not talked to the former president about this, but I believe that he probably wished that they had more time to pick a jury that was probably different, right?


He probably didn't like the jurors that were seated and they probably ran out of peremptory strikes, as Norm - I wasn't in the courtroom like Norm was, but I'm sure they ran out of their strikes and so ...

COOPER: Yes, they did.

URBAN: ... you get what you get. So you get what you get. And Anderson and Norm, listen, if the script was flipped in this case, right, if that juror that you just read had those same feelings about Joe Biden and Joe Biden was on trial, right, the other side would be losing their minds, right, about getting fair and having a fair and balanced trial.

Look, this is a very important case. I think we should try. They should have moved the venue. They should have struck the judge. If you want to have a serious case about this or you can just have a kangaroo court. That's what's going to play out and that's how it's going to be perceived by Americans.

COOPER: Norm, as we mentioned, the former president's request for a stay of the trial pending a venue change was denied by a state appeals judge today. Trump's attorney argued that seating a jury this quickly in this climate with so many prospective jurors being dismissed over bias or self-acknowledged bias we should point out, was untenable. Does that logic make sense or does it - I mean, I guess there's a counterargument, which is that it shows the process works as intended by weeding out those with bias.

EISEN: Yes, Anderson. Having been in the courthouse, I mean, the vast number of jurors who were screened, this is one of the most elaborate processes I've seen. Donald Trump never saw a trial delay that he didn't like. There is absolutely no basis in New York law, as has been affirmed by the judge and reaffirmed by the appellate courts, for this case to be moved, delayed or slowed down in any way.

So I think it can be a fair trial and it is a good thing that we are moving with reasonable expedition in one of these criminal cases. And if I may add, the judge has described the case, and the prosecutor will argue that the case is one of election interference. The judge explained that to the jury.

The same fundamental pattern, voter deception to grasp power and then a cover-up, as we find in the 2020 election interference cases. So that makes it all the more imperative that we move with reasonable speed, and that's what's happening.

COOPER: Norm Eisen, thank you. David Urban as well. Thanks.

URBAN: Thanks.

EISEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming, we're following the breaking news, explosion in south of Baghdad at a base controlled by an Iran-backed ground reported a short time ago and what Israel and the U.S. now have said about it, this comes almost 24 after what appeared to be a limited Israeli response to Iran's weekend attacks. The latest on both next.



COOPER: Breaking news today, after an apparent Israeli counter strike against Iran, a security official in Iraq says five explosions occurred at a military base south of Baghdad belonging to a pro- Iranian group.

However, moments ago, an Israeli official told CNN Israel had no involvement in the explosions. U.S. Central Command, which oversees military actions in the Middle East, also says it did not carry out strikes in Iraq.

Paula Hancocks joins us now with the latest. So, what more do we know about these explosions near Baghdad?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, this information came through to us just after midnight local time, so in the early hours of Saturday. And from a security source saying that there had been a huge explosion at a military base of the popular mobilization forces. Now this is one of the bigger Iranian-backed groups within Iraq.

It's just south of Baghdad in the Babylon province. We understand from that security source there were about five explosions. It is an ammunitions depo as well. So this is the pictures that you're seeing at the moment.

Now, we understand there is an investigation team on the scene. There has been material losses. There have been injuries. At least three injured we're hearing at this point. It's not clear, though, whether this was an accident or whether this was an attack. We don't know that at this point.

But the very fact that we have had denials already just goes to show the tensions in this region at the moment, Anderson. Israel doesn't often offer these denials for this kind of incident, but the fact that an Israeli official has felt that they have to say that Israel was not involved in this, just goes to show the tensions at the moment.

Of course, it just comes hours after Israel did carry out that retaliatory strike against an army base in Iran as well. The U.S. also saying that they don't have any involvements. There are U.S. troops Iraq at this point, part of this multinational mission to try and beat ISIS.

This PMF, this particular group has carried out attacks against U.S. troops in the past. As I say, it's one of the many groups you see in Iraq that is Iranian-backed, it's Iranian trained, Iranian equipment there as well. But at this point, we understand there have been at least three injured and investigations underway. Anderson?

COOPER: Paula Hancocks, thanks very much.

We're going to continue to follow the story with any new developments again to the point about tensions in the region. These explosions come almost a day after what appeared to be a limited Israeli retaliation to Iranian strikes over the weekend. The strikes and the almost muted reply from Iran today it seems to signal a possible de-escalation.

Nic Robertson has the latest on what we know.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Ambiguity, not escalation. Iran's response to explosions in the sky near an Isfahan military base, several hundred miles south of Tehran. Events under investigation read, "nothing to see here."


KIOUMARS HEYDARI, IRANIAN ARMY GROUND FORCES COMMANDER (through translator): The objects were suspicious, and our defense system acted swiftly. Thank God there were no major issues.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Satellite images exclusively obtained by CNN appear to support damage on the ground was minimal. U.S. officials informed of an unspecified Israeli strike just hours before Iran's air defenses went on alert in the early hours of Friday.

The Secretary of State drawing a line, trying to move forward.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States has not been involved in any offensive operations. What we're focused on, what the G7 is focused on -- and again, it's reflected in our statement and in our conversation -- is our work to de-escalate tensions.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Iran's response, an anti-Israel rally manifesting on the streets of Tehran, where large crowds can only gather when sanctioned by the government. Another indication. For now, it's anger contained to shouting not sending missile salvos as it did last weekend.

Approximately 350 drones crews and ballistic missiles fired at Israel following a deadly strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus almost three weeks ago, mostly intercepted without major damage.

The Prime Minister shunning allies calls to take the win, vowed to strike back. Now, ambiguity, deafening silence from Israeli officials, except for an illuminating online spat. Hard right cabinet member Itamar Ben-Gvir posting on X, "Lame."

Quickly lambasted by centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid. "Never before has a minister in the defense cabinet done such heavy damage to the country's security. It's unforgivable."

The stakes had appeared extremely high. Iran's foreign minister in the moments before the attack promising instant devastating retaliation.


COOPER: And Nic Robertson joins us now from Jerusalem. So, I mean, there have been multiple different stories about what was fired and from where. Is there a sense of when or if we could get a clearer picture?

ROBERTSON (on-camera): Yes, I don't think so because, number one, Israel doesn't seem to be in the business of the moment of talking about it. Never mind even sort of breaking it down into that level of detail of aircraft and munitions and that sort of thing. And the Iranian side really seems to be trying to sort of paper this over the idea that there's going to be an investigation, but no one was hurt. And there were these objects that had caused them to switch on the air defense system in the first place.

It doesn't seem as if there's any advantage at the moment domestically where they can sort of claim nothing really bad happened. And people are out on the street shouting about how bad Israel is. You know, the tensions just exist. And perhaps that underscores the fact that we won't know more the way that ambiguity works.

But it also still sort of leaves those tensions out there. The tensions still exist. The red lines that both Israel and Iran misinterpreted on each other's side about striking, those are now blurred. And the stakes are just as high, I think, as they ever were, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Nic Robertson in Israel for us tonight. Nic, thank you.

I'm joined now by former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. Ambassador Oren, I mean, it seems after last night's strike, events could be on a de-escalatory path. Do you think this explosion in Iraq, I mean, is it worrisome in that it could change the equation if there was a miscalculation or a misunderstanding?

MICHAEL OREN, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Yes, probably. Good to be with you, Anderson, as always. No, I don't think so. I think it's clear that Israel was not involved in the Iraqi explosion. It would be a very sharp turn from that longstanding Israeli policy we haven't put back in Iraq.

And there's certainly no shortage of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, including Iranian-backed militias who may have participated in last Saturday night's barrage against Israel. But it hasn't been Israel's policy. If anything, Israel is seeking to strike some kind of new relationship with Iraq. It's a Sunni Arab country, despite the fact that these large Shiite Iranian-backed militias.

And, frankly, you know, who could be responsible for that explosion. You could take a number. Anything from certainly Americans who wanted to take avenge for the many, many attacks of 170 attacks that were launched at American bases by these militias.

It could be ISIS. It could be any number of opponents that Iran and its militias have in the region. But no, I think Israel sent that unequivocal message. It's an ambiguous message. No one's taking responsibility for it. But I think the -- I think it's been internalized by the Iranians. And that message is very simple.

Iran tried to smack Israel with 350 projectiles, some of them large enough to take out entire neighborhoods but couldn't do it. But all of it -- all Iran, Israel allegedly has proven all of Iran is vulnerable to Israeli capabilities.

[20:40:12] COOPER: Well, in particular, you know, in terms of sending a message that the city where this strike took place in Iran, there's a uranium processing facility there, as I understand it, which has a role in the Iranian nuclear program. That's not an accident, I would assume, that that would be the city that -- whose defenses were penetrated, in terms of sending a message.

OREN: Apparently there were a number of nuclear facilities in the region. It's a nuclear rich environment. And, yes, I think you're absolutely right. I think that the alleged Israeli strike, we have to stress that, because Israel's not taking responsibility, is sending that message too. There's really nowhere in Iran that is invulnerable to Israeli capabilities, including these nuclear sites.

COOPER: I'm wondering, you know, you heard in Nic Robertson's report that Israel's national security minister posted the slang term meaning weak or lame on social media, presumably referring to the strikes. I mean, we know the, you know, the cabinet is obviously very divided. There's these hard right figures. What does it say to you about the level of disagreement right now in that cabinet?

OREN: Well, yes, there's disagreement in the cabinet. I think that the minister Ben-Gvir's posting was totally indefensible and irresponsible and dangerous, I would stress. Is really is trying to de minimis- escalate here and setting the message that we want to retain the regional alliance that emerged after last Saturday night of moderate Sunni state standing, you know, basically shoulder to shoulder with us against Iran.

And the United States, Great Britain and France also standing shoulder to shoulder with us to maintain all of that and yet send that message to Iran. I think Israel succeeded in threading any number of needles. It was very impressive and along comes this internal security minister and threatens to unravel all of that. Very, very dangerous.

But there are differences of opinion. There were reports in Israel that actually some of the more moderate ministers in the government. Benny Gantz, Gadi Eisenkot were part of the national unity government there from the opposition parties --

COOPER: Right.

OREN: -- were in favor of a much more robust response, and one that came immediately on the heels of Iran's attack on Saturday night. But that was turned down by the -- by Prime Minister Netanyahu in consultation with President Biden. So there are many dynamics here, and it's really -- even public opinion was divided about the degree and the extent and the immediacy with which Israel should have responded to that Iranian onslaught.

But I think it's done. I think that -- I think the majority of Israelis would agree that this was a prudent response if, in fact, Israel did it.

COOPER: Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., thank you so much. Just ahead, breaking news, a foreign aid bill with billions for Ukraine and Israel has passed a key procedural hurdle. Now, Speaker Mike Johnson who helped engineer the deal faces the threat of losing his job as Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene declares there's a civil war in the House. More on that ahead.



COOPER: Overwhelming Democratic support today helped Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson advance a key foreign aid bill worth nearly $100 billion to Ukraine and others after months of debate. But it also provoked outrage from the Republican leading the charge to oust him, Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene.

This was the congresswoman's response to the vote today on Steve Bannon's podcast.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R), GEORGIA: We have completely lost confidence in his leadership now that he is allowing Hakeem Jeffries and Chuck Schumer to completely control the House. Basically, Steve, a civil war has broken out in the House of Representatives.

We all need to be asking the most concerning question, what has Mike Johnson made a deal to do? What has he promised he will give them in the future? And this is why we have to remove Mike Johnson from the speakership because he has made a deal.


COOPER: Melanie Zanona joins us now from Capitol Hill with the latest on the threat to Johnson's speakership. So what is the state of play between Johnson, Marjorie Taylor Greene and company?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Anderson, this is shaping up to be a real showdown between Speaker Mike Johnson and his right flank, and it could really all come ahead, come to a head tomorrow. Republicans are furious that Johnson has had to rely on Democrats throughout every step of this process to try to pass this package of foreign aid bills, including on some key procedural votes, which historically have always been done along party lines.

And so that has renewed and sparked some new calls to oust Johnson from the speakership. Today, a third Republican, that's Paul Gosar of Arizona, announced that he was officially signing on to the motion to vacate the speakership.

Now, for his part, Speaker Mike Johnson has been defiant. He said he's not worried about losing his job, especially if it means doing the right thing. But just given the math and given the margins, it's likely that Johnson is going to need to rely on Democrats to help bail him out if this motion to vacate does come to the floor. COOPER: And what are the Democrats saying? Because Congressman Ro Khanna was on CNN the other night, said even though he disagrees with Speaker Johnson on many issues, he'd seriously consider voting to defeat the motion to vacate.

ZANONA: Yes. So Democratic leaders have not yet committed to bailing out Johnson. But behind the scenes, Anderson, I can tell you there is a lot of interest in throwing him a lifeline, and that is because Democrats really appreciate the fact that Johnson defied his right flank, put this package of critical foreign aid bills on the floor.

There's also just a lot of concern about the chaos of yet another potential motion to vacate and the harm that could do to the institution long term, a feeling certainly shared by many Republicans as well.

COOPER: So what happens next?

ZANONA: So the House is going to vote tomorrow on these foreign aid bills that is likely to pass with the support of Democrats and then it's going to head over to the Senate.


The timeline a little less clear there. The Senate is scheduled to be on recess this next week, so it's something they could pick up after the recess. And President Biden did say he would sign these bills if they come to his desk.

But some of the things, Anderson, that we are watching out for tomorrow are, does Marjorie Taylor Greene finally force this floor vote on the motion to vacate? Do any more Republicans get behind her? And importantly, as we mentioned, the Democrats step up and say they are committed and willing to saving Johnson's speakership.

So just a lot to look out for here on Capitol Hill over the next 24 hours, Anderson.

COOPER: Melanie Zanona, thanks very much.

So what are those who know Mike Johnson best think about his abilities as House Speaker and the attacks from Congresswoman Margie Taylor Greene. Gary Tuchman visited his hometown for some answers.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the small northwest Louisiana town of Benton, where Speaker of the House Mike Johnson and his family live --

ROBIN RUE, SPEAKER JOHNSON'S CONSTITUENT: I know he and his wife Kelly well.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Many people, not so surprisingly, offer glowing reviews about the Speaker.

RUE: I think that he's very fair-minded, and he's led by God, and he really tries to make his decisions according to prayer and his heart.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And when you go elsewhere in Johnson's Congressional District, like its biggest city, Shreveport, you will hear similar vibes.

MIKE BELANGER, SPEAKER JOHNSON'S CONSTITUENT: He's a great guy. He's got great morals and I think what he's doing is great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's a good Christian man. I think it's what our country needs and I trust him.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And even from non-Republicans.


TUCHMAN: But do you support him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I support Mike. I like Mike.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): So with that being said, what did the Speaker's Louisiana constituents think of Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene trying to take him down?

DELTON SMITH, SPEAKER JOHNSON'S CONSTITUENT: I think that there's different factions within the Republican Party that all have, you know, all want to be heard. And, you know, I think that Mike's doing a good job of managing all those different opinions. And I think Marjorie Taylor Greene is just causing trouble.

TUCHMAN: Does it anger you?

SMITH: Yes, it does. Because I think that, you know, the last thing we want to do is get back in a situation where the House is in turmoil and there's no leadership.

TUCHMAN: What do you think of Marjorie Taylor Greene, the congresswoman from Georgia, trying to oust him as Speaker of the House?

BEVERLY ALFORD, SPEAKER JOHNSON'S CONSTITUENT: I don't like it. I don't -- I mean, why is she doing it?

TUCHMAN: She doesn't like his stances on a number of things like funding for Ukraine, for example. She doesn't want it. So what do you think about that?

ALFORD: I think we started helping them. I think we should continue helping them.

RITA HUMMINGBIRD, SPEAKER JOHNSON'S CONSTITUENT: I think she's making a big mistake promoting that. That's just -- she's not my favorite congressperson.

TUCHMAN: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so glad she's not my representative. TUCHMAN (voice-over): We go inside this office building in downtown Shreveport and meet with this man in the oil and gas business.

ELVIR CEHAJIC, SPEAKER JOHNSON'S CONSTITUENT: A lot of things that are happening today in this country remind me of what happened back in the 90s in old Yugoslavia.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Elvir Cehajic is from Bosnia and says he immigrated to the United States three decades ago in the midst of the sectarian war which led to the breakup of Yugoslavia.

CEHAJIC: It was a beautiful country. People were getting along a lot of good people. And the divisiveness between politicians have caused a major war and a lot of innocent people suffered.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): In this office, in this congressional district, we talked to a lot of people, one in Republicans and Democrats to work together. And in this case, Republicans and Republicans.

WILLIAM O'BRIEN, SPEAKER JOHNSON'S CONSTITUENT: It's not good to be throwing up bombs at each other. Instead, just let's work together and move forward.


TUCHMAN (on-camera): Anderson, this is Mike Johnson's fourth term in Congress. His first three election wins were not close. His fourth win in 2022, he ran unopposed. Anderson?

COOPER: Gary Tuchman, thanks so much.

Coming up, elephants versus man. A war you likely have not heard about. Where this is playing out and why, next.



COOPER: This Sunday night at 8:00 p.m., I hope you join me and CNN's Nick Payton Walsh for a new episode of "The Whole Story." He has an up close look at a war you probably haven't heard about. It's a battle in Sri Lanka, killing people and Asian elephants nearly every day. That's because rapid development has pushed humans farther into the wild where elephants once roamed freely.

Now, humans and elephants are clashing in Sri Lanka. Nick went on an overnight patrol with locals trying to protect their crops and villages. Here's a preview.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are this conflict's weapons -- firecrackers, thunder flashes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aha! Ready? PATON WALSH: Suddenly the numbers have grown from a couple here possibly to 10 maybe 20 over by the tree line over there possibly coming in this direction.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): This is already too close. If they charge, it would all be over. A torchlight used to always be enough or they would bang pots and pans. Now, nobody wants to risk going soft so they reach straight for gunpowder.

Usually, the elephants just run. But sometimes, they charge. And it's us who have to run.


COOPER: Nick Payton Walsh's full report, "Elephants versus Man," airs this Sunday night on "The Whole Story" at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN. Be sure not to miss that.

On Monday, tune in to CNN for opening statements in the Trump hush money criminal trial. I'll be at the courthouse at 9:00 a.m. with a team of my colleagues. Proceedings begin at 9:30.

The news continues. The Source starts now. Have a great weekend.