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Aid Workers Killed in Gaza; Trump Gag Order Expanded; Abortion on the Ballot; Trump Hammers Biden Over Immigration. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 02, 2024 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: On the trail, former President Trump's campaign taking a swing through the Midwest, as he knocks President Biden over immigration. But Biden thinks he's found Trump's weak spot. How Democrats think the issue of abortion could help them flip states they haven't won in years.

And deadly strike on aid workers from World Central Kitchen in Gaza. Jose Andres, famous chef and founder of the nonprofit, says Israel is guilty of indiscriminate killing, as Israel admits to hitting innocent people. And U.S. officials call for an impartial investigation. But will it be enough to quell criticism of America for supporting Israel, as its airstrikes have killed so many civilians?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: And, right now, 75 million Americans are under a severe weather threat, a big part of the country under tornado watches, as we track a major storm, one of the strongest so far this year. Your forecast is on the way.

We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: Today, former President Trump returns to the campaign trail, trying to get things back on track after what's already been a week punctuated by distractions and potential political vulnerabilities.

It began with an expanded gag order in the Manhattan hush money case after Trump's relentless social media attacks against the judge overseeing the criminal case and, in particular, the judge's daughter, who has no role in the case.

When Trump's net worth took a billion-dollar punch, as his TRUTH Social stock plunged yesterday, that was a big hit. And he had to part with $175 million to post bond in the civil fraud case that he lost in New York.

So, how does Trump plan to bring the focus back to politics? By hammering President Biden's border policies in two states vital to Biden's 2020 victory.

CNN's Alayna Treene is live in Michigan ahead of Trump's event today.

Alayna, tell us what Trump's trying to do with these visits.


Well, Brianna, this is really Donald Trump picking off his general election campaign in earnest. We haven't seen much of him really since his Super Tuesday win a couple weeks ago. He's only held two political campaign events since then.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has really seen a surge in his political activity. And he recently visited both Michigan and Wisconsin in recent weeks as well. But, look, I think that just underscores how critical these two states are, both Michigan and Wisconsin. Trump won these states in 2016, but lost them to Biden in 2020.

And we know that Republicans have really struggled to try to replicate Trump's performance here in 2016. And so we're really going to see Donald Trump try to make up some ground here in these states today. Now, as for what Donald Trump is expected to talk about, his team tells me that he's going to be focusing on two core themes.

And that's immigration and crime. And part of that is really leaning in to how Biden has handled the southern border. They have titled this event in Michigan -- quote -- "Biden's Bloodbath" or "Border Bloodbath," really referencing that controversial term that he used a couple weeks ago when he was referring to a bloodbath on the auto industry and for the country if Joe Biden were to win in November.

And even though both Michigan and Wisconsin are more than 1,000 miles away from the southern border, it's an issue that a lot of Republicans in these states do care about. So you're going to hear some of that inflammatory rhetoric as well in his speeches today.

KEILAR: Yes, you mentioned that he's highlighting crime. He's invited the family of a woman who was recently killed to his event today. Tell us about that.

TREENE: That's right. This woman's name was Ruby Garcia. She was recently killed in Michigan, not far from Grand Rapids, where his event is beginning shortly.

Police authorities have said she was killed by an undocumented immigrant, and they labeled that as a domestic dispute. But we have really seen Donald Trump use this as part of an example of what he's trying to say is, again, Biden is not handling the border correctly.

Take a listen to how the former president put it.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (R) AND CURRENT U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a new form of crime. We have violent crime and we have crime and we have different -- we have now a thing called migrant crime.

I'd love to have her family there if they'd like to be there. It would be my honor.


TREENE: Now, Brianna, this is very clearly something Donald Trump has used repeatedly in the past.

We have heard him discuss the killing of Laken Riley and others, trying to use alleged violent crimes committed by undocumented immigrants to make his case on immigration. We're going to see him do exactly that today, both in Michigan, as well as in Wisconsin -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, there is some migrant crime, no doubt. We have seen some of these murders. We have seen some of these violent crimes.

They do occur, we should mention, at a significantly depressed rate compared to, say, native-born Texans, where they actually keep statistics on this stuff.

Alayna Treene, live for us in Grand Rapids, thank you -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: With Trump on the trail today, the Biden campaign is set to counterprogram with a new ad hitting the former president and his party on abortion restrictions.

And with that, Democrats have a new focus on Florida. The state Supreme Court just cleared the way for a six-week abortion ban to go into effect, but they also ruled that Floridians are going to get a chance to potentially upend that law in November by voting on a constitutional right to abortion that will be on that ballot.

CNN's Carlos Suarez joins us now just outside Miami. He's tracking this for us.

So, Carlos, walk us through what Amendment 4 entails and how it could change the electoral landscape in Florida.


So, that ballot amendment could -- and that's a big question -- could ultimately expand access to reproductive care. But abortion providers here in Florida tell me that, right now, their focus is on that six- week ban, which takes effect in 30 days.

Planned Parenthood of Florida told us that they are making more appointments available to women and that they're working with out-of- state providers once this ban kicks in. Florida is about to join several other states across the South that severely restrict, if not ban, abortions.

Now, Planned Parenthood of Florida said that about 84,000 women last year received reproductive services here in the state of Florida, with a number of women coming to Florida from some of these states that have these restrictions.

Here now is a physician with Planned Parenthood who said that, once this six-week ban takes effect, the closest state without restrictions for women to travel to obtain an abortion will be in Virginia.


DR. CHERISE FELIX, PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF SOUTH, EAST AND NORTH FLORIDA: I'm actually kind of scared. I never thought that we would lose access to a huge chunk of our health care.

And whether or not people agree about whether or not abortion is correct, it's -- the medical part of it, just being able to save a life or help a life, and having the government step in and say, no, we're not going to let you do that anymore, and these people that are making the decisions aren't medically trained at all.


SUAREZ: As for that ballot amendment, the Florida Supreme Court did approve the wording of this state constitutional amendment that would protect the right to an abortion in Florida.

Now, the ballot amendment would prohibit the restriction of an abortion before viability, which is around the 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. It is important to note here that 60 percent, 60 percent of voters in Florida would have to approve it for it to pass in November.

Boris, expected that both of these rulings really will play out politically in a state that has gone Republican, but that Democrats believe is in play because of this one issue. Already, we heard from top Republican officials in Tallahassee, including the speaker of the Statehouse, saying that they plan on challenging this ballot amendment with a concerted effort.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and we're actually going to speak to the Democratic head of the state House of Representatives in the next hour. So, stay tuned for that.

Carlos Suarez, thank you so much for the update.

Let's get the White House view of things now with CNN's Arlette Saenz.

Arlette, the Biden campaign is now casting Florida as potentially winnable. This is a state, as Carlos noted, that has trended Republican. But if it is up for grabs, it could be a game changer in November.


And the Biden campaign believes that they see an opening in the state of Florida, a state that former President Donald Trump won in the last two elections. But there are several factors that they believe could work to their advantage.

Chief among them is this debate around reproductive rights. The fact, as Carlos was talking about, that voters will have the chance to vote on a state constitutional amendment relating to abortion in November is an issue that really the Biden campaign believes could mobilize voters.

They have also talked about other states where they think these ballot measures could potentially be in play with pushing voters to the polls, states like Arizona and Nevada as well.


Now, President Biden slammed this decision from Florida's state Supreme Court yesterday, saying -- quote -- "Yesterday's extreme decision puts desperately needed medical care even further out of reach for millions of women in Florida and across the South. It is outrageous."

Now, a short time ago, the campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, was a bit more cautious about Florida, saying that it would be a difficult path ahead, but they also don't believe that Donald Trump has the state completely on the bag.

So, the Biden campaign is hoping that that issue, that amendment that would be voted on in November, that that really will help galvanize voters, Democrats, women, moderate and independent voters, as they have keyed in on this issue of reproductive rights as being a central strategy for their campaign.


And, Arlette, expand on that, because even well before these Florida rulings, the Biden team had been focusing on reproductive rights, seeing it as a winning issue, as it was for a lot of Democrats going back to the last midterm election.

SAENZ: Yes, and they're hoping that the success in the midterm elections and subsequent elections is something that will work in President Biden's favor when it comes to the issue of reproductive rights.

Now, the Biden campaign for has -- quite some time has been telegraphing that they plan to use Donald Trump's own words relating to abortion in upcoming campaign ads. That is something that they did today, releasing a new abortion-focused ad across battleground states on television and digital, also in Florida on digital.

And in this ad, they point out Trump's comments talking about how the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, President Biden making a direct- to-camera appeal that he has the interest of women in hand when it comes to reproductive rights. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's running to pass a national ban on a woman's right to choose.

I'm running to make Roe v. Wade the law of the land again, so women have a federal guarantee to the right to choose. Donald Trump doesn't trust women. I do.

I'm Joe Biden, and I approve this message.


SAENZ: This is the second abortion-focused ad that the Biden campaign has run on television this year.

And it's just another sign of how much emphasis they plan to place on the issue of reproductive rights heading into November's election.

SANCHEZ: Arlette Saenz, live for us from the White House.

Thanks so much, Arlette -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Former President Trump will have to watch his mouth today on the campaign trail, because, as I mentioned, the judge in his criminal hush money case in New York has expanded that existing gag order.

And that bars the ex-President Trump attacking family members of the judge and also of the Manhattan district attorney, the judge saying Trump's rhetoric is a very real threat to the judicial process.

CNN's Kara Scannell is live in New York on this.

Kara, tell us about the latest on this new gag order.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, this gag order, which the judge extended last night, now includes, as you said, the family members of the judge and the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg.

This is a request by prosecutors to expand the order, and it comes after Trump had made a series of posts on his social media about not only the judge, but also his daughter, who is not involved in this case, and the judge saying that Trump's rhetoric has -- instills fear in potential witnesses, anyone with some tangential role to this case.

He said it's no longer a likelihood or a possibility that this is a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceeding. He said the threat is very real.

And -- but Trump is still allowed to criticize the judge and the district attorney. And, as we have seen this morning, Trump is continuing his attacks on the judge, saying he should be recused and that he's been unfair in this proceeding.

And Trump's lawyers say that they are going to file another motion for the judge to recuse himself. He's previously denied an earlier motion asking for his recusal. This trial is now less than two weeks away. And, as part of the gag order, Trump is prohibited from talking about witnesses.

But we can expect to see a lot of familiar faces from this whole story of the hush money payment, including Stormy Daniels, who was paid the hush money payment, Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer, who facilitated that payment, as well as David Pecker, the former publisher of the company that published "The National Enquirer." He is the person who had reached these catch-and-kill deals with

Donald Trump. This is all because prosecutors want to create the narrative that there's -- that this campaign -- this was an effort to influence the 2016 presidential campaign. And so we're also expected to hear from people on the campaign, including Hope Hicks -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Well, we will be looking for that.

Kara, thank you for that report from New York.

Ahead this hour on CNN NEWS CENTRAL: Sources say the White House is close to signing off on a huge weapons deal with Israel, even as President Biden openly criticizes how Israel is prosecuting its war in Gaza, where the death toll stands at 32,000 people.


Plus, new details about the man who crashed an SUV into the security checkpoint of the FBI field office in Atlanta. He has just been charged.

And potentially life-threatening storms moving across the U.S. right now. Tens of millions of people are at risk of tornadoes, damaging winds and potential flooding. We're tracking where the storms are heading.


SANCHEZ: The U.S. and Israel are closing in on what would be their largest weapons deal since the war in Gaza began.


The Biden administration is set to approve the sale of up to 50 American F-15 fighter jets to its close ally. The timing, though, is interesting. The deal comes after Israel admitted to unintentionally killing aid workers with World Central Kitchen. At least seven were killed in the attack while trying to provide food to the people in Gaza, who are facing a looming famine.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand has more now from the Pentagon.

Natasha, is there any word from the White House about the status of this deal, given the news about these aid workers?


And we're not getting any indications from the administration that they are preparing to restrict or limit military aid to Israel in any way. In fact, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke just a little bit earlier today. He reiterated that the U.S. is really making a long-term commitment to Israel's security and investment in their long-term security, and that these kinds of deals have been part of that security arrangement between the U.S. and Israel for several years now. But, of course, there are a lot of questions here about just whether

the U.S. should be continuing to engage in these kinds of arms sales with the Israelis, given the kind of attacks that we saw just yesterday with the strike on World Central Kitchen aid workers that has enraged so much of the international community and has the U.S. asking Israel for a thorough and impartial investigation.

And that is one of the big questions, I think, that lawmakers who are examining this sale, this massive $18 billion sale that the administration intends to approve of to 50 new fighter aircraft for Israel, are going to be asking, because, right now, that sale is pending approval in the House and Senate, among the two committees that are responsible, really, for giving this informal approval before it can go to the entire Congress for consideration.

And there is going to be a big debate, we are told, among many of the lawmakers who have been pushing for the U.S. to reconsider these kinds of very large arms sales to the Israelis, in light of the fact that the U.S. itself, including President Joe Biden, have said that Israel is not doing enough to rein in its operations in Gaza and protect civilians.

And so while these aircraft will not be delivered to Israel in three to four years' time, the symbolism of approving this sale at this moment has many people raising their eyebrows, particularly given the U.S. could be using these kinds of sales as potential leverage to try to influence Israel's behavior, but it doesn't seem like they're willing to do that at this point, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Natasha Bertrand live for us from the Pentagon, thank you so much -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, let's discuss all of this now with CNN military analyst and retired U.S. Army Major General James "Spider" Marks.

I do want to talk about this World Central Kitchen strike that killed aid workers. But, first, I want to ask you about this weapons sale, because President Biden has been trying to show, General, that he's critical of Israel. But as he faces this political pressure to do so, is there really any incentive for Israel to internalize that criticism and adjust course when the U.S. is selling Israel F-15s without any conditions?

BRIG. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the U.S. is going to continue its military support for Israel, and that will be persistent.

But there are conditions. Look, when the Israelis are getting support, when any nation gets support from the United States, specifically in terms of military aid, there are rules around which that aid can now be used. And so the United States is going to continue to tell Israel and will give them counsel in terms of how this kit should be utilized.

The Israelis know how to use the F-15s. They have trained pilots. We certainly have a higher state of the art of F-15s, but the F-15s have been in the inventory, and, frankly, they can essentially outfly anything that any other nation has.

But the United States will be very clear in terms of what the limits are in terms of their use.

KEILAR: Do you think Israel is listening?

MARKS: No, I don't.

I think what -- sadly. And that's the very delicate balance that we have. Israel -- Netanyahu, look, is going to be either the savior of Israel or he's going to be a pariah and be voted out immediately. They have got a challenge with Hamas. We have seen that over the course of the last seven months.

This is a devastating fight. Hamas embeds itself in the population, and the Palestinians suffer greatly as a result of that decision on the part of Hamas. And Israel is going to continue to conduct operations, and I guarantee you that Rafah will be cleared, irrespective of discussions going on right now.

So I would say it's very difficult for Israel to listen and to follow to what the United States is saying, only because they are in the middle of this existential fight. This is their sovereignty. This is their existence, is the way they have described it, and that that's the way it's playing out.


KEILAR: This appalling death of several aid workers from World Central Kitchen in Gaza, a number of foreign nationals killed, they had approved their route with the Israeli military. They were in clearly marked vehicles.

What does this incident tell you about how Israel is failing to deconflict airstrikes so that civilians aren't killed? What should they be doing?

MARKS: Yes, this really is a demonstration of the amazing chaos and uncertainty of combat.

If this was -- and I don't know the details behind this strike, but if the vehicles were, as you indicated, clearly marked, and they were in a safe passage area at the time designated, then, obviously, the strike was inappropriate, should not have taken place. They did not clear the fires appropriately. They didn't go through the necessary channels.

I don't know the details, and I don't know that we know the details of that yet. But, clearly, there are mechanisms in place. There are procedures in place for the clearance of fires. And if that was not followed, then you have got a legitimate problem here.

KEILAR: There is a report in the Israeli newspaper "Haaretz" about the IDF establishing what are called kill zones, areas where units impose imaginary red lines that no one outside of the IDF may cross without suffering fatality. CNN cannot independently confirm the reporting, but we did contact the

IDF, and they referred us to the statement that they gave "Haaretz," which I do want to read.

It says: "The IDF is in the midst of a war against the Hamas terror organization and is acting to foil threats against its forces. The IDF constantly calls on civilians to evacuate intense combat zones and is investing efforts into allowing civilians to evacuate as safely as possible. In contrast to claims being made, the IDF has not defined kill zones. Support for this comes from the fact that the IDF has arrested a large number of terrorists or suspected terrorists during the fighting without inflicting damage in intense combat zones."

The sort of claim in this story, General, is that there are these lines known to the IDF, but not known to civilians, and that if civilians cross over them, they suffer the very likely possibility of being shot.

As you hear that report, I just wonder what you think about that.

MARKS: Well, I can't speak to the kill zones.

And, clearly, the IDF would not -- I can't imagine that they would intentionally, without positive identification -- this is known as the process of PID, positive identification, before you engage a target, and that they would indiscriminately engage targets without that PID process being followed.

Look, in the U.S. military, the way we trained is, we established a named area of interest. We established no-fire areas, areas you want to protect and areas you want to destroy. And in order to do that, you have to go through a very clear process of PID, whether you're going to protect it, because the bad guy may be trying to disrupt it. You want to get rid of it.

Or you have areas that clearly you are going to destroy. You are going to drop that bridge, irrespective of what's going on. So the point is, you go through these very precise processes and steps to ensure that you can clear fires to engage appropriately.

Kill zones and indiscriminate firing against anything that moves in a particular area is, I would suggest -- I'm not a lawyer, but I would suggest that that is outside the law of land warfare. I can't imagine why any organization, other than those that we have seen before -- terrorist organizations do this as a matter of routine.

But I can't see that a national organization, a military that abides by the law of land warfare, would do that.

KEILAR: That it would be an official policy, I guess is what I'm hearing you say there.

MARKS: Correct.

KEILAR: General, thank you so much. We appreciate your insights here, General Spider Marks. MARKS: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Next, the man accused of crashing into the entrance gate in an FBI field office has been charged. What we have just learned about who he is.

Plus, the critical step medical providers must take before performing a host of exams. We have those stories and more on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.