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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Worldwide Frustration With Israel Mounts After Aid Workers Killed; U.S. Preparing For Significant Attack By Iran, Possibly Within Days; Trump Tries To Delay Hush Money Trial Just Ten Days Away; Jim Sciutto Sits In For Abby Phillip, Talks About Presidential Candidates With Political Experts; Excitement Builds Up As People Await Monday's Rare Total Eclipse; Kaycee Anderson Shares The Pain Of Losing Her Astronaut Father In A NASA Mission. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 05, 2024 - 22:00   ET



PAUL SUTTER, ASTROPHYSICIST: You don't get to see the beauty and just sheer cosmic majesty of totality.

So if you are mobile, be mobile. Get to a sunny patch. Because I guarantee that there is nothing like this that you have ever experienced before in your life.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Paul Sutter, we all can't wait. We will be watching it here in New York. Good luck in Indianapolis.

Thank you all so much for joining us and we'll see you all on Monday for our special coverage of the eclipse.

CNN NEWSNIGHT starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The quagmire, Israel's war will soon turn six months old as the world turns on them. That's tonight on NEWSNIGHT.

Good evening. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. Abby Phillip is off.

Tonight, frustration spiraling across the globe. Israel is again trying to prove there is intent behind its apology and not just words. The IDF says it has now removed two officers and reprimanded three other senior commanders over what they call a mistake.

It's a mistake that has earned the condemnation of nearly every Tel Aviv-friendly nation across the planet. That mistake has been the subject of reports and phone calls and withering statements since near minutes after it crossed the wires. Missiles blowing apart seven volunteers from World Central Kitchen, missiles that targeted aid workers with a righteous mission just to feed the starving people of Gaza, missiles that may fray the already fragile Israeli-American relationship over what is essentially a case of mistaken identity.

A preliminary report says that IDF personnel thought a bag was a weapon. It was a potentially world-altering error, a mishap that completes the rewrite from Israel as the lone beacon of democracy in the region to a state not worth, it seems for some, standing beside or at least questioning.

The headlines spell out, unsparingly, the depth of Israel's loneliness now on the world stage. Reuters, six months into Gaza war, Israel faces deepening isolation. New York Times, after six months of war, some Israelis ask, is Netanyahu dragging it out? The A.P., after six months of war, Israel's isolation grows with no end in sight. And The Guardian, after six months, the war in Gaza is making Israel a pariah state.

Tonight, evidence that shift is happening in real-time. Nancy Pelosi, the former Democratic House speaker, is now attaching her name and her gravitas to a letter demanding that weapons transfers to Israel stop. Quote, we believe it is unjustifiable to approve these weapons transfers.

The tone and tenor is a world away from when the American president promised to never abandon Israel. Tonight, that same American president sits on the precipice of doing exactly that, dramatically scaling back at least what military aid and how many military dollars the U.S. gives.

There are some indications Israel understands the relationship is now rocky. Benjamin Netanyahu's government exceeded to opening new routes for aid to reach Gazans in perpetual mortal danger. President Biden himself told reporters that Netanyahu is doing what he asked them to do for now.

Listen to his secretary of state, and it is a trust but verify relationship.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: The real test is results, and that's what we're looking to see in the coming days and in the coming weeks.

Really, the proof is in the results.


SCIUTTO: For now, Israel is scant on the details, no dates when those routes would open, no timetable for when exactly aid can pass through those crossings, and no inkling, really, as to how this is all going to work sustainably.

What is clear tonight are the depths of the destruction that this war has wrought. It's in the numbers. 33,000 Palestinians killed, 75,000 Palestinians injured, at least 203 aid workers killed, 1,200 Israelis killed on October 7th, 96 hostages still in Hamas captivity, 34 hostages who never made it home.

You can count the cost in lives. You cannot count how much the region will pay in generational anger at a war that looks and sounds like an endless operation. Just think about how long both sides have been talking about a temporary ceasefire.


The last temporary ceasefire ended back in December. The U.S. proposed a draft resolution for another on February 19th, it is now April 5th.

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman from New Jersey Josh Gottheimer, he just returned from traveling to the region, including Qatar and Egypt. Congressman, thanks so much for taking the time tonight.

REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: So, you have Israel certainly taking this very seriously. They conducted an investigation and they released the findings quite quickly relative to other investigations they've conducted in past years following similar strikes here. But there's a continuing question as to whether this is a short-term or a long-term issue.

Earlier today, I spoke to Leon Panetta, the former CIA director, and here's what he told me. Have a listen. I want to get your reaction.


LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Verify to take time, to make sure that the information that you're getting is accurate with regards to targets. And I have to tell you that in the past, at least in my experience, the Israelis usually fire and then ask questions.


SCIUTTO: Fire and then ask questions. That's a remarkable indictment from the former USCI director, also, of course, led the Pentagon. Do you agree that this is a long-term issue for Israel and how it conducts such military operations?

GOTTHEIMER: So, I think there's a couple of facts we have to look at. One, you saw Israel take responsibility for that tragedy and by firing a general and holding others accountable. I think that was the right step to take and the right action.

I think the key we all need to focus on now is making sure that we can get to that temporary pause, that we can get the hostages freed. Because remember, not only did Hamas kill more than 40 Americans, but they still have Americans that are hostage now, including Edan Alexander, a 20-year-old from my district here in Northern New Jersey.

And part of what I was focused on these last days in Qatar and Egypt was, what are we doing to get the hostages home? And, of course, how do we get more humanitarian aid urgently into Gaza, right? To me, those are the two major actions.

And Israel, of course, is still dealing with rockets being fired into Israel, right? So, I mean, that's in the reporting. I think, critical to make a point of as well, right? I mean, you had Hamas attacked Israel. Israel is still dealing with rockets coming in.

And, of course, you're dealing with an ongoing conflict where Hamas has said they will do it a second and third and fourth time until Israel is destroyed from the river to the sea and all the Jews are killed, right?

So, I mean, there are certain facts that are a backdrop here that I think that to try to paint a fuller picture.

SCIUTTO: Listen, I'm not going to invest Hamas with any more credibility than it deserves. It's a terrorist organization. It killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, on October 7th, and as you say, promises to do so again.

But, of course, we expect more from liberal democracies, including America's closest ally in the region, Israel. And this gets to the conduct of the war, right? Because prior to this World Central Kitchen strike, you had many thousands of civilians killed in Gaza by Israeli military operations, more than 13,000 children.

Now, you have Nancy Pelosi, you have Chuck Schumer, who are separating themselves from Israel because they're saying, in effect, those military operations have gone too far, and they have not shown sufficient care for civilians, and I wonder if you share that view.

GOTTHEIMER: Well, I mean, of course, I share the view of heartbreak for every lost life and demand accountability, right? And I think all parties involved need accountability, right? I mean, the same way that, you know, I've -- the part of what I stressed too, and I met with the lead negotiators in Qatar and Egypt. We're working very closely with Americans and other partners to make sure that we do everything we can to get a temporary pause here, to make sure we stop things and get the hostages out, right?

I mean, because tonight, Hamas could release the hostages if they wanted to, right? And I'm sure you've read, as I have, of how they tortured these hostages -- many of the hostages and with sexual abuse and violence. And so, you know, I think we just have to understand that they're still hostage. They've got to -- we've got to get them home, especially we've got to get these Americans home.

And, of course, we need to hold all the parties accountable for their actions and do so urgently. But I think the major goal here is to get all the parties to the table, to get this temporary pause, get these hostages out, of course, to significantly diminish Hamas so they can't do this again. As you point out, they're a terrorist organization that hates America as much as they hate Israel, right?

And don't forget all the Iran's other proxies that are continue to attack the United States of America, and the Houthis in the Red Sea, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.


You've got Hezbollah in the north. These are all parties that seek to do the United States destruction, not just Israel. And let's not let's not lose sight of that. And, of course, Iran, everyone is on high alert tonight because of some of Iran's public decrees.

SCIUTTO: Listen, and one could make a reasonable argument that Hamas wants to drag out these negotiations because they're enjoying, right, seeing Israel isolated and seeing the suffering continue there. But I do want to ask you, because you do have an increasing number of members --

GOTTHEIMER: Of course, right? And, of course, yes.

SCIUTTO: No question. You have an increasing number of members of your party --

GOTTHEIMER: No, I think it's a really important point, yes.

SCIUTTO: Very important. But there is a growing number of members of your own party who are saying it can't just be words demanding change by Israeli forces in Gaza. There now has to be a stick. In effect, the U.S. has to condition further military aid on hard changes, concrete changes, Nancy Pelosi adding her name to that list. Do you believe the U.S. should be conditioning aid?

GOTTHEIMER: No. I think all the conditioning aid does is, to your point you said a minute ago, is empower Hamas, right, and further empower Hamas. And, of course, the media in the region there, that's what they want to see, and that just weakens the chance for peace, in my opinion, right?

You saw Hamas walk away after the U.N. took action with their resolution, right? Hamas was at the table and they walked away again, right? Hamas looks for every excuse to walk away from the table, and they did so again today. But the key is making sure we get everyone back to the table, the president sending letters to the Qataris and the Egyptians, urging quicker action, urging them to lean on Hamas.

Of course, the president rightly urging Prime Minister Netanyahu to stay at the table and make sure they take real action. And I think that's the key role that we play here, is making sure we get everyone to the table, get to this temporary pause.

And as you point out, to make sure, and I think it's the right thing, you've got to hold all the parties accountable, but do so in a way that doesn't abandon our key ally in favor of a foreign terrorist organization, right? And that -- and let's not lose sight of that in getting these Americans home.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Josh Gottheimer, thanks so much for joining tonight.

GOTTHEIMER: Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: For more insight, I want to bring the former director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper, here with me. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. JIM CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: There's this strategic issue here. Beyond the conduct of the war, the civilian casualties, is Israel serving its security interests by conducting the war the way that it is and where its alliances stand today, including with the U.S.?

CLAPPER: Well, Jim, it's a great question. And I say this, as a longstanding friend of Israel of decades, but I really question the wisdom of the overall approach that they're taking now, which I think, in the end, is going to be counterproductive for them.

I don't see, you know, Dave Petraeus' classic question, tell me how this is going to end. And I don't see anything other than a desk file right now for Israel. And there's got to be a better way of doing this than the way they're doing it now.

And, you know, the metaphor I thought about is, I suppose we decided to eliminate the Taliban in Afghanistan by leveling Kabul. Well, we wouldn't think of doing that. And I do think there's another approach here, which is much more surgical than this sort of mindless bombing of -- and destroying, you know, countless buildings, killing the civilians. And in the end, by taking this approach, what Israel is going to do is just spawn more terrorists.

SCIUTTO: Avril Haines said that in her testimony last month about this becoming an international movement, inspiration for other terrorists. I want to ask you -- you served in intelligence and government for decades through multiple administrations of both parties during times when there were quite open disagreements between U.S. leaders and Israeli leaders. And there's always been this question as to how far a U.S. president can go to hold Israel to account, right? I mean, there are political risks at home. Of course, they want to respect the relationship.

Do you see something different now, though, where you have a president publicly upgrading (ph) Israel, but also Chuck Schumer saying, Bibi has got to go, Nancy Pelosi saying we should be conditioning aid? Is this an unusual break, in your view?

CLAPPER: It is, and I think the reason is, is because both Israel has compromised, in my opinion, their values, and we have, in turn, are complicit in that, and then we're essentially compromising our values.


And so it is different. And, again, I say that as a friend and supporter.

SCIUTTO: Their interest in war (ph).

Before we go, there's an enormous amount of concern in the region among the Israelis and U.S. leaders about an Iranian response to this strike that Israel carried out in Syria last week. Do you believe there will be a response and how significant? CLAPPER: I do think the Iranians will respond, but I think they're going to do it in a measured way and neither they nor we are interested in a wider conflict between Iran and the United States. So I would have -- I think they'll use a proxy or proxies and do something against Israel proper, but I don't think they will do something that will really confront the United States.

SCIUTTO: Director Jim Clapper, thanks so much for joining us.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, Donald Trump's legal team is again asking the judge in his New York hush money case to step aside, this time because of the judge's daughter. I'm going to discuss that with legal experts.

Plus, another presidential candidate is now casting doubt on what we know and saw happen on January 6th. Why is RFK Jr. making these claims?

And it won't happen again for another 20 years, a total eclipse visible by millions in the lower 48 states. What to expect?

You're watching NEWSNIGHT.



SCIUTTO: New tonight, Donald Trump's legal team isn't backing down again, ramping up their attacks on the daughter of Judge Juan Merchan in their latest effort to get him to recuse himself from presiding over Trump's criminal hush money case.

His lawyer is pointing to Lauren Merchan's political ties once again. This time, they're arguing the trial will somehow financially benefit her company.

For more, I want to bring in former January 6th Investigative Counsel Marcus Childress and former Federal Prosecutor and Politico Contributing Writer Ankush Khardori. Good to have you both here.

So, Marcus, we have Trump's attorney alleging that Lauren Merchan's company, Authentic, has, I'm quoting here, made money by assisting clients who have solicited donations using communications that specifically reference this case.

The court's future rulings stand to further benefit those clients by harming President Trump while Authentic and Ms. Merchan make money in the process.

So, it's a little different from his typical charge where that person is clearly biased against me for whatever reason. Maybe they made a donation in the past. This is a continuing financial interest. Does it have substance? MARCUS CHILDRESS, FORMER JANUARY 6TH INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL: It's speculative at best. And I think you're going to find the court ruling in that way. Look this is part of the playbook for the former president is to file recusal motions. He did it with Judge Chutkan, where he said she was biased because she ruled another January 6 cases. Now he's doing it here with the judge.

And honestly, when you read the motion, it almost reads like a Truth Social post disguised in a legal memo.

SCIUTTO: Are there all caps in there, too?

CHILDRESS: It's not actually in all caps and it is full sentences that are proper grammar. I'll give it that. But it's just keeping the judge's daughter in the news through a legal filing. And there's no new information. There's no new law, which is typically what's needed for a motion for reconsideration, which is why I think it will be an uphill battle.

SCIUTTO: Ankush, I mean delay tactic, could it be? I mean, if it is a delay tactic, could it achieve its goal of just dragging this out more?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don't know that it is a delay tactic. I don't think it will work, if it is. I agree with Marcus' assessment here. It's speculative and very attenuated, the theory of financial benefit.

I think, though, that this is one of these instances where Trump is using the courtroom as also a political platform, too, right? He's under a gag order with respect to this daughter, and now this motion is effectively being used to insert the same sorts of arguments and talking points that he would be sending out on Truth Social, except it's in court papers.

So, his legal filings, his legal defense, it has now become part of his political strategy and brand, too, and so we can't separate these two anymore.

SCIUTTO: I mean, and one might argue, would they not, if a family member's past activities or present activities impact the judge that perhaps a Clarence Thomas, given Ginni Thomas' involvement in January 6th, should recuse herself as well. I mean, forgive me for looking for judicial consistency here in Trump's lawyers' arguments.

CHILDRESS: But I think we have to also point out that Judge Merchan also had an ethics board review his relationship with his daughter and her business, and the ethics board found that it wouldn't impact his ability to be a judge over this case. So, like he went the extra mile to make sure that there wasn't any appearance of bias in this case, and he used that as part of the grounds to deny this recusal motion in the first instance.

And so, I think he is crossing his T's and dotting his I's to say, look, I'm presiding over this case, and I can do it fairly.

SCIUTTO: As a practical matter, Ankush, this trial is going to go forward. Is it not, almost certainly?

KHARDORI: It does appear almost certainly that it's going to go forward.

SCIUTTO: And one of the big questions has been, would any of the trials go forward prior to the election? This one, perhaps, it's certainly not the one most connected to -- it's not connected to his activity, his attempts to overturn the election, but it's not an insignificant case. What are the potential outcomes?

KHARDORI: Well, look, the charges that he faces in New York have come with, I think, a four-year maximum period term of imprisonment. It's very unlikely he would get that. He may not get any prison time at all. We don't know yet. Obviously, there needs to be conviction. The sentencing, all that would need to unfold.

Under ordinary circumstances, I think, in a case in a fact pattern like this, unusual novel, I think Trump would have pretty good arguments following a conviction to stay out of prison, not spending any time in jail.


However, attacking the judge's daughter, attacking the judge constantly, making a mockery of the proceedings, making it a political circus, is not going to help him if that day eventually comes.

SCIUTTO: Marcus, before we go, Trump is also dealing with his civil fraud trial, of course. Don Hankey, he's the businessman who owns the company that underwrote his $175 million bond. He said today he gave the former president a low fee here. I mean, it's not out of line with how Trump often coasts by on these things. He finds a sweetheart deal here. He makes the argument that he did this just because he doesn't see high risk. Is there anything unusual? Is there anything untoward about the way that this came about?

CHILDRESS: One of the things that stood out to me actually in the Jan. 6th committee was how many wealthy people gave money for the rallies on January 5th and 6th just to support the president, to show their support for the president. And I think this is just another example of a wealthy individual showing support through the bond this time for the former president.

Now, it will be interesting to see like if this money is substantiated when New York A.G. filed her claim to see can you actually put up this money because he's not filing with the New York Department of Financial Services. But the fact that a wealthy person is trying to support the former president is actually not the most shocking thing in the world.

SCIUTTO: I mean, does it raise questions about seeking benefit and seeking influence?

CHILDRESS: I think it can. Look, I think everything is always on the table when it comes to former president. I know I personally wouldn't want to give money to him because his record of paying things back, but we can't make those allegations, but I'm sure the New York A.G. will look into that as well.

SCIUTTO: Marcus Childress, Ankush Khardori, thanks so much to both of you. I hope you have a good weekend.

Coming up next, House Speaker Johnson is set to speak with a lawmaker who is threatening to oust him. So what's at stake?

Plus, RFK Jr. releasing a statement that downplays January 6th, suggesting that some prisoners were charged because of politics. We're going to discuss all that next with my panel, coming up.




SCIUTTO: A second presidential candidate is now joining Donald Trump in downplaying all the violence we saw on January 6th. Independent presidential candidate, RFK Jr., made the claims in a statement today, saying in part, "I have not examined the evidence in detail, but reasonable people, including Trump opponents, tell me there is little evidence of a true insurrection."

One can, as I do, oppose Donald Trump and all he stands for, and still be disturbed by the weaponization of the government against him. He made those claims despite members of armed militias, such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, being found guilty of sedition by a jury of their peers, with ample evidence shown publicly in court and, by the way, on television sets across this country.

Joining me now to discuss and more, CNN Political Commentators Karen Finney and Alice Stewart. Good to have you both. I find it remarkable, I do, and, you know, three years later, all the violence we saw on January 6th. Now, you have two major candidates for president who are downplaying this despite the facts. Alice, what does this mean? How did this happen?

ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, what this means with RFK, Jr. is he is really trying to placate Donald Trump's face. Those that believe Donald Trump's nonsense, that the election was stolen, and believe that there was a reason to go and question the certification of the election, and thought that this was just a small riot, not an actual insurrection in the Capitol.

He's trying to placate to them. But he spent the last 24, 48 hours walking back and forth statements on this, and I think he did go out of his way today to try and acknowledge, yes, people that went into the Capitol committed a crime.

Yes, some of them had weapons. Yes, it was a riot, but it was not an insurrection. And I think that's unfortunate, and that's absolutely wrong. You don't need a full-fledged probe and investigation to see what we all saw with our own two eyes, which was an insurrection.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, but it's craven politics. That is the thing. Here is a man who's putting himself out there as something different, even though he comes from this political dynasty. This is such a political tactic, because just as Alice said, he is probably looking at his own data saying, I'm going to take a little bit of these, a little bit of this group, a little bit of that group, so let me just keep my answers on both sides so I don't offend anyone.

SCIUTTO: So, we're going to put up a map here now. The states that RFK is now on the ballot, because he is growing, that number of states. States he's on -- Utah, states his campaign says he's collected enough signatures, Hawaii, Nevada, Idaho, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and states the Super PAC says they've collected enough signatures, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina.

That's a big list. And I wonder, I'm going to ask both of you, Republican and Democrat, is he a bigger threat, Alice Stewart, to Democrats or Republicans, to Biden or to Trump?

STEWART: When it comes to the policies, I think he's an equal threat to both of them, because I've been to an event of his covering it for an article, and in the crowd there were just as many Trump supporters as there were Biden supporters. Some were like him, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, but others that were former Biden supporters say they're frustrated with the economy, they want to focus more on homelessness and issues that he's focusing on.

I think where he pulls more from Biden is his name, the Kennedy name. A lot of people that are Democrats will say, you know, I don't like the current Democrat in the White House, but I'll listen to a Kennedy.

FINNEY: Yeah, it's interesting. Well, clearly Trump is a little nervous about him, because he started to attack him on social media, and that's kind of always the moniker, right?


At the same time, I think he actually does harm President Biden more, because we don't just have RFK, Jr. to pull from our votes.

We've also got Jill Stein, who I will forever have a pain point from 2016 about, as well as Cornel West. And so, you know, thankfully we got no labels out, but still, I think that combination is more dangerous and likely to help re-elect Donald Trump.

FINNEY: I should note, to that point, when CNN reached out to RFK, Jr. about his claim that none of the January 6th rioters had weapons, he actually retracted that portion of the statement. He said, as you can see there, my understanding that none of the January 6th rioters who invaded the Capitol were carrying firearms was incorrect. So, a small walk back there.

I suppose the issue is the bigger, the meta message, if you want to use that phrase, is that he's downplaying it, right? You know, saying, well, some people were charged, you know, unduly, and there was weaponization, which by the way is a phrase stolen directly from Donald Trump's mouth.

FINNEY: A hundred percent. What that also shows me, though, is that his team, and he are not ready for prime time. And they're about to be, you know, face the Klieg lights. And he's thinking, I think to some degree, he's a Kennedy, he can handle it. Unless you've ever run for president before, you have no idea what you're in for.

And now that he's getting on the ballots, and people are looking at him and taking him a little more seriously, he's going to get more scrutiny. And it will be interesting to see if he can't do three days of walking it back.


SCIUTTO: So, just ask Ron DeSantis. Let's talk about money, because to date, there's been a lot of talk about how much Biden is out- raising Trump. But Trump and the RNC, they had a joint fundraiser coming up on Saturday. A source -- familiar -- tells CNN, he's raised $43 million so far. It's a lot. It's more than Biden raised at this big event in New York just the other day. I mean, is he catching up? Is this a sign that he's got money behind him?

STEWART: Look, this high dollar unity was just a matter of time. Right now, we have -- this is the first big fundraiser Republicans have had since he is really the presumptive nominee. And we have big name people. We have the Mercer's. We have Steve Wynn. We have a lot of people that bring high dollar to the Republican Party and to the Trump campaign.

Some of these big donors had been donating to Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and other candidates. Now, they are fully on board with Trump and the Republicans. They are fully opposed to another Biden re- election. And Trump is on a call with some fundraisers tonight. He's expecting to get close to $50 million at this fundraiser.

And what is also significant with that is "New York Times" reporting this week that he has more small dollar donors than Biden, under $200. And that is significant to have small dollar donors, which is more people, but high dollar donors to really fill the coffers, which he absolutely needs.

FINNEY: I was going to say, he needs it because between the legal bills and trying to build an infrastructure in the states where he's behind, and you have a number of Republican state parties that are in a bit of disarray, he's going to need all that cash. And you know, luckily, on the Biden side, President Biden's been doing very well, particularly well with small dollar donors, and has been building the infrastructure already.

SCIUTTO: Right. I do remember a statement a few years ago about self- financing his campaign, but I don't think we've seen that in practice. Karen Finney, Alice Stewart, thanks so much. The countdown is on, just a couple of days until millions of Americans can see that total solar eclipse. The excitement is growing. CNN's Harry Enten is going to join us with a preview coming up.




SCIUTTO: Don't look up. Well, not unless you have your eclipse glasses on. People across the U.S. are finalizing their travel plans to make sure they witness the eclipse from its path of totality. New word we're all saying now, especially since the lower 48 states will not see another one like this for 20 years. CNN's Harry Enten already found his viewing location. It is one of the top spots, according to scientists. He joins us now from Niagara Falls, New York. Harry, I assume you're not there for your honeymoon. So, tell us what you're seeing up there.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: No, I'm not here for my honeymoon, though. You know, Niagara Falls is for lovers. Look, I'm jealous of you being in that warm studio right now. It is absolutely freezing here. We have rain that you can't see on the camera.

But you know, I'm doing some investigating here. There are already folks who are coming here already with the eclipse ahead on Monday. Across the river on the other side in Canada, officials have declared a state of emergency. Here on the U.S. side of the border, no such emergency yet, but preparations are well underway.

Law enforcement -- extra law enforcement, Coast Guard all being called in to be on standby. There are some extra porta potties, as well, in the parking lot to ensure that if people have to do their business, there are enough of them so that they can do it.

But as I mentioned, people are coming from all over. And in fact, I spoke with a couple from England, and we have some sound that we can play for you.


UNKNOWN: You've got the sun, the moon lining up, and you've got this geography, as well. It's -- as I Science teacher. It's a dream.

ENTEN: I guess the 2017 one was so impressive, you decided, I got to get, I got to double dip.

UNKNOWN: Yeah, but actually, it's eclipses as well, because I've got, there's one in 2026 that's going over Spain. So, I've already got that lined up.

ENTEN: Oh, come on.

UNKNOWN: And then there's one in 2027, also down southern Spain.


And 2028, there's one in Australia. So, I've got them lined up. ENTEN: So, I've heard of tornado chasers before. I've heard of hurricane chasers before. Apparently, we've discovered a new breed, and that is eclipse chasers.

UNKNOWN: Oh, yeah.


ENTEN: You know, that couple was great. I'm not sure I would necessarily be traveling to two eclipses. But, Jim, the big question ahead on Monday is the weather here. Right now, the forecast is for partly sunny. There's a small chance of showers.

But I'm putting my weatherman cap on throughout the weekend, and we'll see exactly what happens. But the best place to watch the eclipse, Burlington, Vermont, where sunny skies are expected, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Harry Enten, now officially an eclipse chaser. Thanks so much.

ENTEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: So, grab your moon pies, your Krispy Kreme Total Solar Eclipse Donuts, as the excitement continues to build ahead of Monday's rare total eclipse. But a bunch of questions, including science questions. So, Tom Foreman is here with some of the answers.

All right, so you've called this an astronomical oddity, something that might not exist anywhere else in the universe?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Maybe not. The universe is big, but this is a mathematical puzzle that is super interesting. Look, the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon. So, how on earth can the moon block the sun? Because the sun is also 400 times further away from Earth than the moon.

So, to our eye, the sun appears about the same size as this, and that's what allows it to cast this perfect shadow, blocking it out. It's such an anomaly, we don't know it exists anywhere else. Although, I will point out this gap right here between these two, much, much broader than it appears. In fact, really fun fact, you could take every planet in our solar system and fit them between the Earth and the moon.

SCIUTTO: I'm going to steal all these facts and tell my kids and claim them as my own. Before we do that, how many folks are in this critical path of totality coming up on Monday?

FOREMAN: A lot of them. There are about 32 million that live in this area, cutting right through the middle of the country there, way up here into Canada, about 32 million. But as Harry pointed out a minute ago, maybe 20 million, maybe more, flooding into that zone, trying to get a glimpse of this. So it's a pretty good number of folks.

SCIUTTO: And D.C., where we are right now, we're just outside of the path of totality, right? We're just a little too far to the east. FOREMAN: I mean, the path of totality, we're pretty far outside of

that. And people could be a little, unfortunately, surprised in all of this because of that cloud cover we're talking about.


FOREMAN: Various areas could be covered over.

SCIUTTO: This is the best guess as to what it's going to look like.

FOREMAN: Yeah, the best guess. I mean, who knows? We've got a couple of days. And as I like to point out, it'll be dark under the clouds, also.

SCIUTTO: So, tell us about any dangers. I know we've all been schooled now about wearing our eclipse glasses. We've got pot pairs at home.

FOREMAN: Right, right.


FOREMAN: Well, I'll get to pets in a minute.


FOREMAN: I do want to point out, yes, this is what you're looking for. That number. Leave it for a minute if you have to do a little capture. You have to have at least that level on your eclipse things. Don't try to look at it through your camera lens, your telescope, but I -- but pets, yes, good point. That's my dog. We got her some glasses like this. She wears them around the house all the time. Your pet's eyes won't really be a problem unless they stare at the sun all the time --


FOREMAN: -- in which case you have another problem. Just keep them away from the people who get too agitated.

SCIUTTO: But is it true at the moment, if you're in the path of totality, the moment that it's completely blocked out, you can take your glasses down? If you're in the path of totality.

FOREMAN: In the path of totality for just a moment.



SCIUTTO: Better safe than sorry.

SCIUTTO: Be careful.

FOREMAN: And keep an eye on your pets.

SCIUTTO: But not -- if you're not in the path of totality.

FOREMAN: No, not if you're not in the path of totality. And by the way, the glasses on the dogs, totally worth it for the comic effect, even though they don't need them.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. Tom Foreman, I'm sure you look great in glasses. Coming up next, sadly, a national tragedy like you've never seen before. I'm sure you remember this. The final flight of Space Shuttle Columbia, as seen by those who lived through it all, all in a new CNN original series. We're going to speak with the daughter of one of those seven lost heroes aboard.




SCIUTTO: It was the 28th Columbia shuttle mission into space. A 17- day science mission with seven crew members on board. There they are. Fifteen minutes before Space Shuttle Columbia was scheduled to touch down at Kennedy Space Center, it suffered a catastrophic failure, tore into fiery pieces while traveling at 18 times the speed of sound. The orbiter and its crew were all lost.


UNKNOWN: NASA has declared a state of emergency over Texas.

UNKNOWN: There is something amiss. We are watching mission control. NASA had gone through this before, 17 years ago with Space Shuttle Challengers. You can see it in their eyes.

UNKNOWN: If you work in a space flight, this is the worst possible thing that can ever happen.


SCIUTTO: Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Michael P. Anderson was one of the seven NASA astronauts on board and the mission's payload commander. His daughter, who witnessed her dad's final launch into space, joins me now. Kaycee Anderson, so good to have you. Thanks so much for joining.

KAYCEE ANDERSON, DAUGHTER OF ASTRONAUT MICHAEL P. ANDERSON: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. It really is an honor.

SCIUTTO: I'm sure for people watching, myself included.


I remember where I was when I heard the sad news. It's been 21 years since that day. What can you remember from the days leading up to the launch?

ANDERSON: Yeah, the days leading up, man, I was just so excited to have my dad back home. We were just waiting, you know, on the tips of our toes, ready to go to Florida, ready to have our homecoming party and just kind of have life fall back into that normal rhythm again.

SCIUTTO: I'm sure. You were at Kennedy Space Center waiting for the return and then, of course, have to go through the trauma, which I can only imagine noticing this commotion instead. How did you get through that, especially as a young girl?

ANDERSON: Yeah, honestly, only by the grace of God. When that happened, even as a young child, you just knew life wasn't going to be the same anymore, and you just kind of have to reframe what reality is, what does that mean, what does the future look like.

And as a kid, losing, you know, my dad and then also six other really close family friends, it was devastating. But family, friends, my faith in God, my family's faith in God really is the only way that I could have gotten through it.

SCIUTTO: I'm sure, I'm sure you needed that support. We all would. In the years after you and the other families, they actually pressed NASA for answers, understandably, driven in part by fear that this could happen to someone else, someone else's father here. And you said you felt almost relieved when NASA announced the end of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011. I wonder if you could explain that.

ANDERSON: Yeah. Initially, my mom gave us the choice to kind of limit how much we knew. She said, the information is here. If you ever want to know, all you have to do is ask. Personally, I made the choice to kind of know as little as possible. And so, when I found out what had actually happened, it was by accident. A YouTube video popped up in front of me and just kind of explained it all. And I got very, very angry.

And so, when they mentioned kind of the end of the shuttle program, it kind of felt like a weight off of my shoulders. Like, no one else's family members have to die like this. Like, people will be spared almost. But it was also this hard sense of, well, but this is what my dad loved. This is what he died for. This is what he worked his whole life to achieve. And then it's just going to go away just like that. It was really kind of a push and pull feeling. I don't even know how to describe it. Very complicated at the time.

SCIUTTO: I'm sure.

ANDERSON: But, yeah, it just came out of a place of utter shock and anger at the time. Yeah.

SCIUTTO: We're in a new era of renewed space exploration. There's planned manned missions to the moon, possibly Mars beyond that, both private and NASA missions. And I wonder how you feel about that now. Do you -- are you happy to see that ambition rising again?

ANDERSON: Yeah, I am at a completely different place than I was. It's actually really exciting to see now. And my dad used to joke with my mom that we would be the first family to live on Mars. Like, that is what he aspired to. And so to kind of see those things coming to life within my lifetime and that it might actually happen and those plans are being made, I think it's just kind of an extension of his dream. And it's exciting to see happen.


ANDERSON: And I'm excited for those people who are going to go out and chart that course and make history. I'm really happy about it.

SCIUTTO: I'm so glad to hear that. It's going to be hard to get to that place, I imagine. I wonder, watching this documentary now, what thoughts have you had? And I imagine it's brought back some difficult memories, too.

ANDERSON: It has brought back difficult memories. But honestly, it was a little bit cathartic to watch. Because I was so young at the time, no one really, you know, asked to hear the stories of the kids.


ANDERSON: And so, getting to share that, because oftentimes it felt like a very lonely and heavy kind of grief to carry. And it felt like no one really understood. But then growing up and being able to share that and then also have kind of this overarching lesson of, you know, being careful and knowing kind of what is at risk and what the fallout can be. I'm really honored to have been a part of that. And I'm excited that people get to watch it and hopefully learn from it.

SCIUTTO: Well, and a tribute to your father's memory and to the memory of all those crew members.


Thank you, Kaycee Anderson, for joining us and sharing your thoughts on this.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, please don't forget, this Sunday, the brand-new CNN original series, "Space Shuttle Columbia: The Final Flight", parts one and two, premieres Sunday at 9 P.M. Eastern and Pacific time, of course, only here on CNN.

And thanks so much to all of you for watching NEWSNIGHT. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. And "LAURA COATES LIVE" starts right now. Hi, Laura.