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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Sources: Senators J.D. Vance, Marco Rubio and Gov. Doug Burgum Touted for VP by Key Trump Allies; Judge Cannon Presses Prosecution, Defense on Legality of Appointment of Special Counsel; Manhattan Prosecutors Ask Just To Keep Trump Gag Order, Citing Threats. Aired 8- 9p ET

Aired June 21, 2024 - 20:00   ET



AMITY WICKS, VOTER IN COLORADO'S 4TH DISTRICT: And so therefore I have to choose the person who I believe is going to uphold the values in Washington, D.C. to the extent that will protect my rights here in Colorado.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So you're hoping to see fewer headlines about bad behavior and more headlines about policy.

WICKS: Absolutely.



KAFANOV: Now CNN's reached out to Boebert's son's attorney for comment on the charges he's facing. We have not heard back. But for voters here in Colorado's 4th Congressional District, a controversial candidate may not necessarily be a deal breaker. After all, former President Trump won this district by nearly 19 points in 2020. Erin?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, "OUTFRONT": All right. Thank you very much, Lucy, and thanks to all of you. Anderson starts now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, breaking news on Donald Trump's search for a running mate in which key allies are pushing for each of those three right there.

Also the hearing today that's casting yet more doubt on the judge running the Trump classified documents case. Two former federal judges are here to weigh in.

And questions about Boeing equipment delays to passengers only instead of stranding them at, say, O'Hare, well, they're stuck in orbit. John King here tonight in for Anderson.

We begin with the breaking news, namely who people close to the former president Donald Trump want to see on the ticket with him. Three names, each one being touted by a different Trump faction, two senators and the governor of North Dakota. CNN's Alayna Treene has more on who they are and what's playing out behind the scenes.

Alayna, tell us what are you learning.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, look, as we inch closer to the Republican National Convention, John, that is the self-imposed deadline that Donald Trump has set for when he is going to announce his running mate. You have an increasing number of people jockeying to be in Trump's ears, pushing their preferred candidate and really we're seeing this from every corner of Donald Trump's orbit, from his family to conservative media to his former advisors, all of them pitching different people to Donald Trump.

And so as you said, I've really been told from my conversations with Trump's campaign that the list has narrowed to three people, Marco Rubio, J.D. Vance and Doug Burgum and also that Donald Trump has actually taken on a much more serious and earnest approach to looking at this process, which is a departure from the past several months.

But each of these men have different people pushing them. So I'm going to break it down for you. J.D. Vance. Don Jr., Donald Trump's son, has long been a close friend of J.D. Vance's. He's been very actively lobbying his father for him to be the running mate. He also has the support of Steve Bannon and Tucker Carlson, so a lot of the far-right.

Doug Burgum has been getting the support of Fox News Corp mandate - or excuse me, magnate, Rupert Murdoch. He's been pushing him to different conservative high profile allies, but also we've really seen him get showered with some of, you know, favorable coverage from Fox News Corp, like the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and then Burgum - or excuse me, Rubio has actually been a favorite of the donor class. At a dinner last month, immediately after Donald Trump's guilty verdict in his Manhattan trial, Donald Trump was sitting with a group of a dozen or so Wall Street figures and took a informal straw poll asking everyone who do you like, who do you like, and the majority of people said Marco Rubio.

Now, Rubio also has the support, I'm told, of Kellyanne Conway as well as Sean Hannity, so breaking there a little bit with Rupert Murdoch. But it's interesting to really see all of these different people really having drastic differences and who they think should be the right person.

KING: It's an interesting list, also interesting the different factions and sometimes the conflicts within those factions. Who else? Who else? Well, the former president, he says he's going to make this decision at the convention. We'll see if he waits that long.


KING: But who else is in his ear saying, you know, Mr. Trump, I think this is the one and why?

TREENE: Well, it's interesting because when you actually get down to it - from when I talk to a lot of these donors and mainly Donald Trump's advisors, they argue that sometimes when you are in Donald Trump's ear, it actually can turn him off more. Even though, like I said, Donald Trump, he loves to be on his patio at Mar-a-Lago or at his club in Bedminster and say, who do you like and try to fill the room.

For the most part, he sometimes can get turned off when people try to push certain people on him. And that's why, actually, many of Donald Trump's closest advisors and the people actually working on his campaign, people like Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, his campaign managers, they're very wary of weighing in. They are trying to let him make the decision.

And here's a quote, I just found this to kind of sum it up perfectly from someone close to Trump. They said, quote, "Susie has lasted this long because she provides information that will be helpful and then lets Trump make the decision."

So the only other person I'm waiting to hear from who I actually think could sway him is Melania Trump, the first lady, but words out on that for now.

KING: Well, you come back as soon as you find out that happened. But Alayna, don't go anywhere. Stay with us. Let's bring into the conversation Bryan Lanza. He was deputy communications director on the 2016 Trump campaign, also our CNN Political Commentators and Democratic Strategist, Maria Cardona and Jamal Simmons.

Bryan, let me talk to you first because you've been in Trump land.

So how does this work in the sense that Alayna just went through who he's listening to, but does he really listen?


BRYAN LANZA, DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP 2016 CAMPAIGN: Yes, he likes to entertain them. You know, he loves the engagement. It's like, what do you think? You know, he's a salesman, so he makes you feel like you're having a voice in the process. Maybe there's a contribution that's going to come because you feel included.

But at the end of the day, the president knows who he's going to pick. He's probably known that for a number of years at this point since he's been running. He's somebody who sort of looks downfield, watches cable televisions, watches the audience, and usually does a good choice in picking. You know, the people I talk to, I'm not going to say he's leading in one particular way, but the insider group that I talk to in Trump world, it's all about J.D. Vance.

They think he's the most articulate to talk about MAGA. He's the one who came from these working-class roots, which is a big part of the party now where it's shifting forward. And he's somebody who rose from those working-class roots, you know, went on to get an Ivy League education and contributed back to the community. He won the swing state. Ohio was a swing state when he was running. He won the suburban neighborhoods. He won the independents.

I think there's a lot of value, and I think there's some concern with Marco Rubio. I mean, this is a senator who's choked on a national stage twice. Chris Christie filleted him at the debate. We all saw it in 2016 and then he got really thirsty with the State of the Union speech.

You can't make those mistakes on a national stage, and Rubio has shown the propensity to make those errors on a national stage.

KING: So, Maria, Alayna went through the list. Bryan just made the case there for J.D. Vance, comes out of MAGA. But if you're looking at this strategically, is that what Trump needs, someone who's a MAGA echo, maybe with a younger generation or is it - where - why not a woman on the ticket? He has a problem sometimes, had a gender gap in the last campaign ...


KING: ... or why not - what about - what happened to Sen. Tim Scott and the professed efforts to try to reach into the black community?

CARDONA: Right. No, I don't think J.D. Vance would get him something that he doesn't already have. And in fact, I think that there is a possibility, I've heard from some in the Trump camp, but you know better, that J.D. Vance might actually outshine him when it comes to MAGA audiences, because he is so good on TV and he is very charismatic. And we all know that Donald Trump doesn't want anybody outshining him.

Yes, he would need somebody else, a woman, a Latino, I don't think Marco Rubio would fit the bill, an African-American, to get to the communities that he actually is lacking right now. Independent women, suburban women. But right now, the three that you mentioned certainly do not fit that bill.

But let's also remember, it could be somebody who's not even on that list. Though I suspect that from a vetting standpoint, they would need to have done all the paperwork. But who knows? I think you're right. It's going to be whoever he feels at that day - whoever he wakes up with in terms of a whim.

KING: So Jamal Simmons, to kind of mentioned the conversation in this context, normally, we spend a lot of time on this when there's an open spot on a ticket, because it is important without a doubt and you're getting into the convention. But then usually after the convention, the VP picks don't matter. People are voting for a president. There's very little evidence in history that people are voting for VP.

Is this perhaps the exception to the rule, because we have two older candidates for president and we know the Trump campaign is going to make a big issue of Vice President Harris, saying a vote for Biden is a vote for Harris. Does Trump's pick matter more?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: His pick matters in the way it always matters, right, which is that the vice presidential pick is the first real act of a president to show us what his judgment is. Here's the problem with Donald Trump. We saw Donald Trump's judgment for four years when he was president of the United States. It didn't really turn out so well. We saw him in the - we pick a president particularly not just for the economy or where they stand on choice or one of these things, although people care a lot about those things. But we pick them particularly in moments of crisis. And what will the president do when there's a moment of crisis that we all have to just turn to him and say - or her - and say, lead us. Tell us what to do.

And when Donald Trump had that field test, he failed it miserably during COVID. So we don't really need to know any more about Donald Trump's judgment. And I don't think any of these candidates really helped Trump in terms of demographics or geography or any of the things that like an Al Gore or, you know, Joe Biden helped Barack Obama within terms of a substantive effort. But Joe Biden was able to bring kind of foreign policy and institutional knowledge to the Obama ticket, so we don't really have any of those helpful insights.

KING: That's an interesting point. Some other big political news I want to talk about, but Bryan, I want to come back to you on the point Jamal just made. You know, a lot of people, especially as critics thinks Trump is reflexive, Trump is impulsive.

In picking Mike Pence, Trump was actually strategic. Ted Cruz was trying to challenge him at the convention. Other forces were trying at the convention, so they picked a middle-of-the-country Christian conservative that had support across the Republican base, and it shut that down. It was a very strategic choice. What's the strategic choice this time?

LANZA: You know, the strategic choice is to get the election focused on inflation, in the economy and immigration. J.D. hits those points. J.D.'s working-class roots can talk about how inflation has devastated the working-class community, has devastated suburban communities, has devastated suburbia.

And so you're going to have, you know, if you're looking to highlight somebody who appeals to that group that Republicans have never really had in the past, it would be J.D. Vance.

KING: I think he's for J.D. Vance.

So, Alayna, another big piece of news today, and again I'm often of the opinion that all fundraising stories don't matter, but Joe Biden for months has had a huge advantage over Donald Trump.


Suddenly, since the conviction, Donald Trump sometimes defies gravity, right? Bad news becomes good news. Huge fundraising. Walk us through the numbers and what they mean.

TREENE: Yes, absolutely huge. And honestly, I mean, you're right, Joe Biden has been out-raising Donald Trump for months now, and really we're starting to see the Trump campaign and his political operation begin to erase that cash advantage. So, this was the second month in a row, May was the second month in a row, I should say, that Donald Trump's team raised more than what Joe Biden brought in. In May, Donald Trump's team brought in $141 million. That's compared to the $85 million that Biden's campaign brought in. Eighty-five million is not a small number, but compared to $141 million, definitely lagging behind. And tens of millions of dollars of that $141 million number was raised in the aftermath of his guilty verdict. And so, it has been a huge boost and boon for Donald Trump's campaign.

And really, I mean, we've also seen Donald Trump go to many of these fundraisers with wealthy donors, really focus on aggressively trying to catch up to Biden's war chest and it seems that it's paying off.

KING: A week from tonight, the conversation will not be about fundraising numbers. It will be about the first presidential debate, which will be right here a week from yesterday, Thursday night on CNN.

So, Jamal, to you first, you're not in the studio, so you go first here. As you look at this debate, what do you think is the single biggest imperative for President Biden?

SIMMONS: Oh, he clearly has to show people again why we picked him in the first place, which is that he does have the judgment to be president. He's somebody who's focused on what the American people need, not just the past of what he's done in the last four years with incredible amounts of legislation, but what he wants to do next and how he's going to make the country better going forward.

And then contrast that with Donald Trump, who, again, we saw his judgment in 2020. It wasn't that great. He prolonged COVID and made it worse while Joe Biden was able to get us out of the funk (INAUDIBLE) COVID and start the country back on a path.

KING: Maria, what is the biggest weakness the President needs to deal with? Is it concerns about the cost of living? Is it questions about his age? Is it something else?

CARDONA: I think that the President has got to be ready, and I know that they are making sure that he is, for Donald Trump to come after him about Hunter Biden. And we know that that is something that is so personal to President Biden. And I think that Trump is going to do it to try to get him off his game, to get the president off his game.

But yes, I agree that he has - actually has to come prepared. I know he is for that too and to talk about the economy. Inflation numbers have actually been good recently. Wages have been up. And those inflationary pressures are coming down.

Economists have said that Donald Trump's plans would actually explode inflation and lose jobs. So I think that's a great contrast to make, especially four years ago, this economy was in a tailspin. And that, I think, is a great contrast for President Biden.

KING: Did you see the protest vote, Bryan, for Nikki Haley in the late primaries? And I've been out on the road talking to a lot of these voters. These are Republicans who they say they have doubts about Donald Trump. A lot of them voted for him in 2016 then voted Biden or third party in 2020. Their Republican DNA says, I'd like to vote for him again, but they have raised temperament questions. They raised January 6 questions. What is Trump's weakness? If you're looking at the Trump coalition and what he needs to win, what does he need to do in the debate? Who's he talking to most?

LANZA: I think the biggest thing he needs to do is talk to all of the voters. He needs to say, I have a record as president. Joe Biden has a record as president. Let's compare them month by month. You talk about inflation. Joe Biden, his own team, has picked a target of inflation of 2 percent. He failed to hit that number for 38 months.

So for 38 months, the number one concern to the American people has been inflation. And Joe Biden has fallen short of that goal. He has a goose egg. So I think when President Trump's talking to the public, he needs to talk about the economy. He needs to talk about inflation. He needs inflation to be relatable. And he needs to remind people that even though Joe Biden had a target to bring inflation to 2 percent, he has failed for 38 months.

CARDONA: I would love for them - for you guys to come and compare month to month with Joe Biden's economy versus Donald Trump's economy those four years. Oh, my God. Biden would eviscerate Donald Trump.

KING: I would love for them to debate the issues. And I know that's what all the voters out there, I've been talking on the road, would like to debate the issues, not get into all the personal stuff. But we shall see.

Alayna Treene, Bryan Lanza, Maria Cardona and Jamal Simmons, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

Up next, details on another most unusual day in the Trump classified documents case and more questions, yes, about the judge's judgment.

Also, Trump's already been convicted, so why do prosecutors in New York want the former president's gag order to continue? The dangers they cited, that's ahead on 360.



KING: Picture for a minute, being able to weigh in on a court case you have nothing to do with. Not at the Supreme Court where such things are common, but as part of a regular criminal proceeding where they are not. That's just part of what happened today in Judge Aileen Cannon's courtroom where she held a pretrial hearing in the classified documents case. The question today, one of them, whether Special Counsel Jack Smith should even be special counsel. That too is unusual. CNN's Evan Perez joins us now outside the courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Evan, walk us through exactly what happened in court today.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. Look, it was a very odd day. The fact that we even had this hearing is unusual. There is a lot of defendants, including Hunter Biden, who have tried to challenge the legality of a special counsel. They've all failed. In the case of Hunter Biden, he got rejected by judges in California and in Wilmington.

But Donald Trump, he has Judge Aileen Cannon, who decided that she wanted to hold a hearing today. And the argument by the Trump lawyers was that Jack Smith was not appointed legally by the attorney general, Merrick Garland, and therefore these charges should go away.

Now, the judge spent about four hours hearing not only from Trump lawyers and from the Special Counsel, but also from these third parties, outside groups on the left and on the right who wanted to weigh in on this big question. Now, the judge did have some skepticism about some of the Trump arguments.

When Trump lawyer Emil Bove said that Jack Smith was essentially a shadow government, she called it ominous and kind of pushed back a little bit. But she also asked the Special Counsel to explain whether there were any specific actions done by the special counsel that were approved by Merrick Garland personally.


The special counsel declined to get into any specifics, John.

KING: Now today, Evan, the first of three days of scheduled pre-trial hearings on various motions made by the former president's legal team, what comes next? We're back in court Monday, right?

PEREZ: Right. We're back here on Monday and on Tuesday. On Monday, we're going to have a hearing about a gag order, which the special counsel has requested against the former president. You know, he's made some very incendiary remarks about the 2022 search of Mar-a-Lago, comments that the special counsel says are endangering the lives of some of the FBI agents who carried out that search.

On Tuesday, the Trump team is back here arguing for some of that evidence that was seized at Mar-a-Lago, for some of that to be tossed. Now, today, the judge, of course, did not rule from the bench. She almost never does. And so we expect that the same thing will happen on Monday and Tuesday. Those hearings we expect to take all day, John.

KING: All day. Evan Perez, thanks for that important reporting and perspective.

Let's get more perspective now on just how much of an outlier Judge Cannon is or isn't. We're joined now by two former federal judges, John E. Jones III, who served as the chief judge for Pennsylvania's Middle District and Shira Scheindlin, formerly of New York's Southern District. Also with us, former federal prosecutor Alyse Adamson.

Judge Scheindlin, to you first. Critics of Judge Cannon say she's either in over her head, too inexperienced or that because Trump appointed her to the bench, somehow she's in the tank for Trump. Do you share one of those views? Is it possible she's just different?

SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, FORMER U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: I don't think she's in the tank for Trump. I think that's pretty extreme, and there's no reason to think that. However, I have said before that she has - does not have as much experience as many judges do. She was an assistant U.S. attorney. She mostly did appeals, I understand. She was not much of a trial lawyer and she hasn't had many criminal trials yet as a judge. So I think this is still unfamiliar territory to her, and she doesn't feel comfortable ruling from the bench, which most of us would have done by now and have moved this along.

KING: Judge Jones, one of the things I know jumps out to you is that she's having pretrial hearings on a lot of legal questions that many professionals - many, many, many professionals think are rather routine. And normally the procedure is the two sides or however many sides submit their briefs, the judge looks at the law and then do it.

So when you see a hearing like today, with more hearings next week, anything changing your view? You think she's wasting time? Is that the right way to put it?

JOHN E. JONES III, FORMER CHIEF JUDGE, U.S. MIDDLE DISTRICT COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA: I think she is, John, and I would never have had an argument day for this. There was no testimony taken. It was really an opportunity for the lawyers to come in, and there were some strange things about this that you don't typically see in the judging business. Notable was that she allowed friends of the court to come in and argue.

You can let them in. You can let them intervene and then just take their briefs, let them file their briefs and decide the case on the briefs. I have no idea why she spent three hours listening to the same reconstituted arguments that apparently that were made in other cases involving the Special Counsel. I just wouldn't do that. And it just looks like a time sink that was absolutely unnecessary.

And that seems to be a hallmark of the way that she's doing business in this case. She's judging defensively, John, where I think she's afraid to make a mistake. And when you judge that way, you overcomplicate things. As my former judge colleague knows, the job of the judge in a complicated case like this is to unravel it, set a trial date, and restore some order to it. And she's done anything but that.

KING: And so, Alyse, weigh in to the point the judge just made. If you're a defense attorney and your strategy, and we know Trump's strategy in all these cases is delay, delay, delay, delay, delay and you have a judge that's willing to grant a hearing on just about any motion. I assume you're going to get through Tuesday and file some more, right?

ALYSE ADAMSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I think that's right. I was a federal prosecutor for over seven years, but I am a defense attorney now. And a pretrial litigation is something that defense attorneys do. And, you know, we're duty bound to do that. We have to make these arguments for our clients and advance them.

Now, most of the time, argument is not granted. We - as the judges have just indicated, judges more - they rule from the bench, and they decide these things on the papers to make the cases move along more efficiently. But, yes, I think the answer is yes, if I knew a judge was going to grant a hearing and my strategy was delay for whatever reason, you better believe I would continue to file all of these motions. And I would be thinking about the next one to file as soon as she finishes ruling on this group.

KING: Judge Scheindlin, she's a district court judge. The case law, including the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, are pretty deep about the authority of the special counsel.


But what if she agrees with the Trump defense team and rules that Jack Smith does not have authority, that there was no right to appoint him? What happens then? The case technically goes away, but - right?

SCHEINDLIN: But, of course, it will be immediately appealed by Jack Smith to the 11th Circuit immediately. And this time, I think if the 11th Circuit takes the view that she was way off base, I think that either Jack Smith will ask for her to be replaced or the court could even do a sua sponte, which means on their own, because three strikes and you're out. They may have had enough and say enough is enough. So there's a real risk there.

But I do think that - I disagree that it was really wrong to have the hearing. This is a serious case. It does involve the former president and a presidential candidate and she had lots of questions. She was well-prepared today. She had lots of questions for both sides. And there's a slight difference in this case, which is that this special prosecutor, Jack Smith, has never been confirmed by Congress. He is not a U.S. attorney as the previous special counsel in the Hunter Biden case was. So they've got a slight factual difference and they've got a slight hook to argue this is different.

So the real argument here is being the - what kind of officer, are you the primary officer or are you the inferior officer. And if you're an inferior officer, which they're arguing, then you're supervised and you don't need to be confirmed by Congress. So is this - is Jack Smith supervised or not. And it's kind of an interesting question. That's why she asked, has Merrick Garland reviewed this indictment, did he get involved with it. Because if he's not supervised, then he's a primary officer and there should have been a confirmation hearing.

KING: Judge Jones, weigh in on those points. I want to hear your view as well. And then also, when you're presiding judge of such a complicated case, there's never been a case this important, a former president and some of the issues at hand here, but - and you - when you - you're aware of the outside criticism, if you were her, how would you get back on track, if you will? Maybe you think this has taken too long. Maybe you think she's had two proceedings, but then show that you're thoughtful, issue your rulings and then what?

JONES: Well, I understand my colleague's point. And just to speak to that for a second, that's a - certainly a valid position to take to hear argument. But honestly, the Supreme Court of the United States wouldn't allow that much argument. I just don't understand why you had to set aside a whole day for arguments. There may be some issues that you wanted to delve into, but, I mean, move it along. I just don't get the point why it was so torturously long.

In terms of what you can do to get it on track, you know, to the point about filing motions and then triggering hearings and argument, the fact of the matter is she can set deadlines in the case, and she needs to do that. I don't see that she has. She can have a motion cutoff date where, absent exigent circumstances, she said, that's it. I mean, and that's what happens when you - as my colleague knows, when you don't set a trial date, the attorney's minds are not focused, the case is going to be in drift and it's going to continue in drift.

KING: Judge Jones ...

SCHEINDLIN: John, could I correct one thing? Principal officer is what I meant, not primary.

KING: Got it. Got it. Judge Jones, Judge Scheindlin and Alyse Adamson, we'll continue this conversation. A lot of fascinating questions. Thank you all very much.

Up next, the Manhattan D.A. wants the former president's gang order to continue and is now laying out a flood of threats he and his office have received since winning a conviction on 34 felony counts. A target of similar threats, Andrew McCabe, joins us.



KING: Manhattan prosecutors today asked Judge Juan Merchan to keep in effect much of the gag order he had imposed on Donald Trump. One reason, they say, dozens of threats against District Attorney Alvin Bragg, his family, and his staff during the hush money trial, and since the former president's conviction on those 34 felony counts.

And this is only part, we've seen this throughout the years, of a larger threat picture, which includes the former president and his supporters attacking the criminal justice system, attacking the courts, attacking individuals, and promising sometimes a campaign of revenge, retribution against Trump opponents.

Last night, Anderson right here talked about the danger it poses with someone who has sadly been on the receiving end. First of then President Trump, and now candidate Trump, the former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.


ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Have the person who aspires to the highest seat, the highest role, the highest job in the land to start picking out people like me or anyone else and targeting them for revenge, unleashing the rage of their supporters in however that's played out. It's outrageous and it's just heartbreaking that that's where we are as a nation.


KING: Andrew McCabe will join us shortly. First though, let's get more on what Alvin Bragg's prosecutors are specifically asking for and why from CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, tell us more about this filing today.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: So prosecutors are saying that most of this gag order should continue to stay in place because they say Trump is already free to criticize the case, to criticize District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and to criticize the Judge Juan Merchan, which Trump has done throughout this trial.

But they say that the relevant question is not whether the orders prevent defendant from speaking freely about this case, they never have. But instead, whether there is reason to preserve the orders, narrowly tailored protections on specific participants in this criminal proceeding.

They said that it is still needed to protect the juries in this case and also to protect the staff prosecutors, the court staff and their family members because of the number of threats that they have received. That the district attorney's office is saying that is no longer needed to have a gag order on Trump about the witnesses, Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, because they already testified and their work is done.

But they do say that if Donald Trump does cross the line into illegality about harassment, that they could also bring criminal charges there, John.


KING: To get the judge to continue much of the gag order, they have to back it up. Does the filing detail the type of threats we're talking about here?

SCANNELL: Yes, it does. I mean, it says that since April, that there has been a spike in threats. And that is when this trial began on April 15th. That very day, according to prosecutors, there were bomb threats at the homes of two people that are working on the case.

They also said that there was a threatening post that disclosed the home address of someone also at the DA's office. And there was another post that put the sniper sites over images of some of the prosecutors working on the team. And they also said that there have been death threats against the district attorney, his family and some members of the team.

And according to the prosecution, some of these threats said, 'we will kill you all, your life is done." Now this decision will ultimately lie with the judge, and it'd be interesting to see if he does lift this gag order before the sentencing. But prosecutors are saying they even want it to stay in place to protect the staff through the appeal. John?

KING: Through the appeal. Kara Scannell, thank you for that important reporting. Joining us now to discuss Andrew McCabe. He's currently our senior law enforcement analyst. Also with us, the retired New York City Judge George Grasso. Andy, let me start with you. So it's not a leave it all in place, it's leave it partially in place. You heard Kara lay it out. Sound reasonable?

MCCABE: It does sound reasonable. And I think what the DA is trying to accomplish here is absolutely, you know, a laudable goal. And to be clear, John, Donald Trump creates risk and danger for people because of the rhetoric that he chooses to use and the behavior he engages in full stop. There is no doubt about that.

But to -- but honestly, the DA is in a tough spot here. Because even though what he's asking for is reasonable, it is actually limited. There is a limited time horizon. There's a limited amount of restrictions on speech that you can impose upon people, particularly when the original reason for doing so was to protect the criminal justice process, right?

To protect the witnesses and the jurors who are involved in this trial and then more broadly the people in the prosecutor's office and of course their families who are caught up in it by virtue of the jobs that they do. That process is coming to an end. It's essentially over for Judge Merchan, when the sentencing takes place.

So the DAs kind of footing to make these arguments is shrinking by the day. And meanwhile, the potential damage and the danger that Donald Trump creates for these people goes on.

KING: Judge Grasso, a former president in court is unique. Have you ever seen maybe it's a mob trial, maybe it's gangs, threats of this scope and scale and specificity before?

GEORGE GRASSO, RETIRED NYC CRIMINAL COURT JUDGE: This is extraordinary. So, I was a judge for almost 13 years in the New York City criminal courts. Before that, I was NYPD for over 30 years. So I remember, for example, the John Gotti, multiple John Gotti prosecutions.

John Gotti didn't do the types of things that Donald Trump has been doing to use the so-called bully pulpit of the trial to constantly attack prosecutors, families of prosecutors, judges, families of judges, court staff.

And as Andrew McCabe was just saying -- and by the way, I saw him last night with Anderson Cooper, I think he's a great American. And what he's going through, no American should have to go through. So here we have Judge Merchan in this scenario, where he has to maintain an orderly court process.

So I certainly think -- and I think that Bragg -- DA Bragg made the right move when he excluded the witnesses from this gag order overtime because their job is basically done. But the court staff still has a job to do as we go into sentencing.

The DA and the -- the DAs can't, the Assistant District Attorneys, if they're constantly worrying about their families. Because Donald Trump is not stupid with this stuff. He might not be actually articulating a threat on these individuals himself, but when he vociferously attacks them, and blames him for wrongfully prosecuting him, and he goes after specific individuals, he knows what through Truth Social and millions of people that he has outreach to, he knows exactly what's going to happen.

It's predictable. So I think this gag order, if I was the presiding judge, I would leave the gag order in place until the date of sentencing, which is now scheduled for January, for July 11th. If it were to go past sentencing with a go past July 11th, I would keep the gag order in place until we did sentencing.

But I do believe the -- I agree that the footprint is getting smaller, and to think that we could keep a gag order in place through an appeal process that could go on for potentially years, I think that would be an overreach. So that's where I am on this and why.


KING: And so, Andrew, a little more context. The prosecution's filing says the NYPD has logged 56 actionable threats. That's the quote, actionable threats, against DA Bragg. His family as an employee, since (INAUDIBLE). Explain to the layman who might understand that means it's not just, you're an idiot, you're a moron or there'll be payback. What does actionable threat mean?

MCCABE: No, these are threats that are clear indicators of an intent to commit violence and predominantly by people who you can identify and potentially even locate. That's what makes them actionable. If they have 50, 60 of those, they've got 10 times as many unactionable threat.

So harassing emails, phone calls, letters, things like that, that just don't have enough meat on the bone to be able to take action from the law enforcement side. But John, that's the direction they need to start looking. Because as the judge said, you can't -- you're not going to get this gag order forever. At some point, they need to start looking at these actions as crimes and treating them that way.

KING: Andrew McCabe, Judge Grasso, again, the conversation to be continued as the case moves forward. Thank you for coming in tonight.

And coming up for us, details on the extreme heat that has now taken hundreds of lives during the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and why authorities fear the final death toll may climb much higher.

Plus, the astronauts stuck in space by their Boeing spacecraft. That craft is acting up. The details next.



KING: More breaking news tonight. According to a senior Biden administration official, the U.S. has reassured Israel just this week of its full backing in the event of a full-blown war with Hezbollah. CNN's MJ Lee joins me now with more. MJ, walk us through this message and why did it happen? How strong is the commitment?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. We know that there was a senior Israeli delegation in Washington this week meeting with their American counterparts and in a series of meetings, they discussed a whole lot of different things like Hezbollah, like Iran, like the ceasefire negotiations.

And what I'm told by one senior official is that in those discussions, U.S. officials assured their Israeli counterparts this week that if a full out war were to break out between Israel and Hezbollah, that the U.S. is prepared to fully offer the assistance that it can, although U.S. troops would not be on the ground in that scenario.

The timing of that expression of support is really interesting, given that it comes on the heels of Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel creating some controversy by saying in a video that the U.S. was withholding support from Israel, prompting a lot of back and forth between Israeli and U.S. officials, and adding to the tension that had already been growing between the two countries.

But this was clearly a scenario where the U.S. was telling Israel that when it comes to the security of Israel, it is going to have the U.S.'s support.

KING: And so, walk through the sourcing. Is there a sense that this is likely, or possible, full-blown war between Israel and Hezbollah? And are there any options for de-escalation on the table?

LEE: Yes, you know, we can't underscore enough how much this is a scenario that the U.S. wants to avoid. They don't want another war to be breaking out in the Middle East. Since October 7th, we've really seen U.S. officials repeatedly saying they want containment. They want de-escalation.

They don't want another front to open up in what has already been such a volatile situation. But at this moment, I do think the administration is at least bracing for the very real possibility of this scenario, full-blown out war between Israel and Hezbollah. And we've seen in recent weeks that tit for tat, the cross border attacks really escalating between Israel and Hezbollah, and I think this is just clearly one more reason why U.S. officials would very much like to see that ceasefire deal get agreed to.

KING: MJ Lee, important reporting. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

Now to the heat wave that's been gripping much of this country looks like it will stick around this weekend. More than 100 million Americans, yes, 100 million Americans now under heat alerts. And overseas, far worse in Saudi Arabia. Nearly 500 people are confirmed dead due to extreme heat during the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The actual death toll expected to rise much, much higher. Today, Mecca experienced the hottest day on record, reaching 125 degrees Fahrenheit. More now from CNN's Scott McLean.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The stoning of the devil, one of the key rituals of the Hajj pilgrimage. It's a symbolic rejection of evil. But with temperatures unusually high, even for this time of year, the temptation here, a much simpler one.

Water only goes so far when it's 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Azza Hamid Brahim found out the hard way. Like many, she gave up on the way there.

AZZA HAMID BRAHIM, EGYPTIAN PILGRIM (through translator): We thought we were about to die. We didn't even have the strength to reach the steels due to the extreme heat.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The soaring temperatures making this year's pilgrimage exceptionally deadly. Videos shared on social media showed bodies on the sides of roads, their faces covered. In some cases, they looked simply abandoned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of the people, they died on the roadside and some were fainted due to the heat and heat stroke. So they should make such arrangements that during the summer season, when the Hajj season is in the summer, they should arrange a big transportation for the whole year.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Saudi Arabia says it did make some arrangements to deal with the heat, deploying 1,600 soldiers along with 5,000 volunteers, installing dozens of air conditioned tents and overhead water sprinklers to cool down crowds.

But many are traveling on tourist visas rather than Hajj specific ones that don't get access to these amenities. They add to the nearly 2 million pilgrims expected, officially, the sheer scale and the heat, a deadly combination.


BRAHIM (through translator): A lot of people died. The ambulances were overwhelmed. You would talk to someone and suddenly they would die. It was a very hard day.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The Hajj may be officially over, but with Saudi Arabia yet to release any numbers, be that injured or dead, the number of victims may still yet sharply rise.

Scott McLean, CNN, Istanbul.


KING: Coming up for us, the long list, long list of problems for Boeing. Well, it keeps growing. This time, it's in space. Two NASA astronauts piloting a Boeing Starliner aircraft have had their return to Earth delayed as Boeing now works to try to fix technical issues. The details next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The trip back to Earth for two NASA astronauts has been delayed twice.


The crew on Boeing Starliner spacecraft were set to take a round trip journey to the International Space Station. It was supposed to last only about a week, but due to technical issues with the Starliner, their stay in space has been extended.

360's Gary Tuchman has the story.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The launch from Florida was picture perfect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston, Starliner roll.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The Starliner spacecraft, manufactured by Boeing, a test flight on its way to the International Space Station successfully docking with the ISS just over two weeks ago. The two astronauts on board the Starliner, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams.

SUNITA "SUNI" WILLIAMS, NASA ASTRONAUT: So here we are in the front of the International Space Station where our spacecraft docked.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But even before they docked with the space station and as they gave this tour of the Starliner, they knew the trip wasn't going to be exactly routine.

WILLIAMS: Let's go forward into Starliner where there was a little bit of action the other day.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The action involved spacecraft issues, specifically helium leaks and thruster problems that have delayed the two astronauts return to Earth.

LEROY CHIAO, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: The bottom line is the helium leaks are about, you know, pretty small. NASA says they can tolerate about 100 times what's currently leaking. Had five thrusters fail on the way to the station, four of them have been reactivated, one remains disabled shouldn't keep them from coming home safely.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But it has kept them from returning as scheduled. The return date has now been adjusted twice. The goal is for astronauts Williams and Wilmore to return home on June 26th. Staying in space almost an extra two weeks as the problems continue to be worked on.

NASA declaring --

STEVE STICH, MANAGER, NASA COMMERCIAL CREW PROGRAM: We're taking a little bit of extra time to work through what we've seen and make sure we have all the plans in place to bring the crew home in a nominal situation for the end of mission. So we're just taking a little more extra time to review all the data and also learn as much as we can while we have this service module in orbit.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Despite the problems, the atmosphere on board with all the space station astronauts has been nothing less than jovial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations to all the NASA and Boeing teams on this incredible milestone. Butch and Suni, the ISS flight control team, is thrilled to see you back on ISS.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is Boeing's first docking with the ISS after numerous issues and cost overruns, which have led to corporate embarrassment and uncertainty. And now there is more of that. As engineers on the ground are working to learn more about these problems that have plagued the journey.

Despite the issues that surround the Starliner, the two astronauts appear to be taking it all in stride.

BARRY "BUTCH" WILMORE, NASA ASTRONAUT: I'm not sure we could have gotten a better welcome. I mean, we had music, we had -- Matt was dancing. It was great.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And if all goes as planned, they'll be back on Earth next week.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.


KING: Let's get more perspective now from our CNN Aerospace Analyst, Miles O'Brien. Miles, big picture first, safety crisis, massive inconvenience, both?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AEROSPACE ANALYST: I wouldn't say safety crisis. I would say this, John, the hardware, which they're concerned about, where all the problems is are, I should say, will be jettisoned and burned up and not returned to Earth. And so the engineers can only troubleshoot it while it's in space.

And so they want to understand what's going on. Why are there all these leaks? Why are these thrusters going offline as it were? And it's -- the only way they can test it is while they're still at the International Space Station. So until they get those answers, are they going to try to get those answers, they'll keep them up there. There's no imminent concern for their wellbeing, of course.

KING: Well, that was the next question. So they were supposed to stay a week. They're staying longer. We'll see how long that is. What does being stuck up on the space station look like? What about the contingency plans? We just heard now they're delayed a third time.

O'BRIEN: Lots of time to look out the window. They have plenty of food. They've actually employed them to work on some of the research projects. And they seem to be having a good time. You look at those pictures of Suni Williams in space and you can't help but smile.

But having said all that, this is a star cross spacecraft. It had leaks before it launched. It was delayed for many years. Boeing has taken about $1.5 billion a hit on it. And it's yet another black eye for this once proud aerospace giant.

KING: You were saying at the start of the conversation, you know, they want to run all this through because you can't -- this is the only time you can study it while it's up there, not after it comes through the burn coming back down. If NASA is using the term indefinite now, indefinite now, what does that tell you? Is that just again, being extra safe, or is that, well, they're having a hard time figuring this out?

O'BRIEN: They don't want to be pinned down. They're going to take these. They have like every four days, they have an opportunity to land it. And we should point out there are other ways for them to get home if something really bad happened with this spacecraft.

But right now, there's plenty of margin for the helium that they need and the thrusters seem to be working. They just want to figure out why they're having so many troubles with this spacecraft before they bring them back home.

KING: Remarkable story. We'll continue to stay on it.

Miles O'Brien, grateful for your insights. Thanks for your time tonight.

Thanks for your time watching throughout the hour. The news continues. The Source starts right now.