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Donald Trump Hits The Campaign Trail In Michigan And Wisconsin Amid Legal Troubles; Florida Supreme Court Rules On Abortion Law And Amendment For Voter Decision; Israeli Prime Minister Vows Investigation After IDF Airstrike Kills Aid Workers; Devastation At Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza's Largest Medical Facility Permanently Out Of Service; Israeli Protesters And "Refuseniks" Voice Opposition To Government's Handling Of Gaza War. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 02, 2024 - 14:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Back on the trail, Donald Trump is taking his campaign talents to two swing states, as President Biden says his sights on a state the Democrats haven't won in years.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It was Gaza's largest and most advanced hospital, with emergency intensive care, pediatric, and other departments. And now it has been reduced to rubble. The World Health Organization is hoping to send a team to the Al-Shifa Hospital to see if anything can be done to help. And this is it, the last two survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre say they have one chance to get back the opportunities that were stolen from them. Today, the women, both 109 years old, go before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in a final fight for reparations. We are following these major developing stories and many more, all coming in right here to CNN News Central.

SANCHEZ: Fresh off some appearances in court, Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail today for the first time in weeks. He's going to be speaking in the crucial swing state of Michigan in just a few minutes. And then later today, he's on to Wisconsin. Two key swing states that he won in 2016 and lost in 2020 as part of President Biden's so-called blue wall. He plans to hammer Biden on his border policies today. But if he strays from that topic and starts complaining about his legal cases, he'll have to tread carefully. There's an expanded gag order on him now, the result of his online tirade targeting the judge, overseeing his Manhattan criminal case and the judge's daughter. CNN's Alayna Treene is live for us in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Trump is set to speak shortly. Alayna, what should we expect from his remarks?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Right, well, you mentioned a couple important things, Boris. One is that this is really Donald Trump kicking off his general election campaign in earnest. We haven't seen much of him since his Super Tuesday win a couple weeks ago, while at the same time, we saw really an uptick of political activity from President Joe Biden. He also recently visited Michigan and Wisconsin. And we know that Donald Trump is very eager to try and, you know, have him win these states in November after losing them to Biden in 2020. But one thing we'll also be watching for is what he will say, if he will say anything at all, really, about that expanded gag order. We know that he's really towed the line today when attacking the judge over the latest issuance of this gag order, where he cannot go after the judge's family, or family members of the court, as well as family of the Manhattan district attorney.

It also comes a day after Donald Trump posted the $175 million bond in his New York civil fraud trial. That deadline was on Thursday. So we're really seeing that mix of the campaign trail and his legal issues play out this week. But as for what we should expect from the former president and his messaging today, it's really going to be two main topics, I'm told, that he'll be focusing on. And both topics that helped him succeed in both Michigan and Wisconsin back in 2016. And those center on immigration and the border. Even though both Michigan and Wisconsin are more than 1,000 miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border, a lot of Republicans in these states do care about the issue. Another big part of this, though, is going to be talking about alleged violent crimes committed by undocumented immigrants in this state, as well as in Wisconsin. And as part of that, the former president actually invited the family of a woman named Ruby Garcia. She was recently killed in Michigan by an undocumented immigrant that police say was as part of a domestic dispute. And we've seen this kind of playbook with Donald Trump before. He tries to pull on these different stories.


Recently, he did that with Lakin Riley, another woman who was killed by a suspected undocumented immigrant, to try and prove his point that Biden is not handling the southern border correctly. So a lot of big themes that we'll be watching out for today, as well as some of that inflammatory rhetoric that we've seen Donald Trump use in the past. Part of his remarks here in Michigan are going to focus on what the campaign is calling Biden's, quote, border bloodbath, referencing that controversial term that the former president used a couple weeks ago when talking about the auto industry, as well as the country, if Biden were to win in November. So again, we'll be tracking whether he continues that inflammatory rhetoric today.

SANCHEZ: Alayna Treene, live for us in Grand Rapids. We know you'll keep an eye on that for us. Brianna.

KEILAR: Turning now to Florida, a one-time battleground state that some Democrats now think is back in play. Partly because of how the reversal of Roe v. Wade has shaped and reshaped the political landscape. This week, the Florida Supreme Court handed down two rulings. One lets the state's law banning abortion at six weeks go into effect next month. The other will allow voters to weigh in directly on the issue this fall by voting on a constitutional amendment that would protect abortion access. Let's get you to Florida with CNN's Carlos Suarez. Carlos, what's in this ballot measure, for starters?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Brianna, so that ballot amendment could, and that's a big question, it could expand access to reproductive care come November. It's going to need more than a majority of the support. We're talking about 60 percent of voters would need to approve it. Right now, abortion providers tell me that their focus is on this six-week ban, which takes effect in 30 days. Planned Parenthood of South 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.

About 84,000 women last year received reproductive services in Florida, with a number of women coming to Florida from states with some of these restrictions. Now, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Javier Becerra, he was in South Florida for an event on reproductive health care, and he talked about this ruling in the context of Dobbs, as well as IVF care in Alabama and medication abortion services. He said in part, quote, no women in America should live in medical apartheid. Now it has become clear that Roe V Wade was more than just about abortion. It should now be clear that Dobbs was more than just abortion. As for this ballot amendment, the Florida Supreme Court approved the wording of this constitutional ballot amendment that would protect the right to an abortion in Florida.

Now this ballot again, would prohibit any type of restriction when it comes to abortion at the point before viability, which is around the 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. But again, Brianna, 60 percent of voters in Florida would have to sign off on this ballot amendment in order for it to approve- to be approved, rather. So you can expect that both of these rulings, no doubt, will play out politically. come November, considering that Democrats, they expect to campaign on this issue in hopes of putting Florida in play.

KEILAR: Yeah, and here in a moment, we're going to be speaking to the Democratic minority leader in Florida's statehouse. But what are Republicans saying about this upcoming ballot fight?

SUAREZ: Well, we've already heard from some Republican officials here in Florida that tried essentially to applaud the court's decision in saying that the state constitution's right to privacy doesn't include the right to an abortion. But when it comes to this ballot amendment, some officials have said they are going to campaign against this. One of the top officials here, the state speaker of the House, said they plan to turn out an effort against this ballot amendment. So it puts Republicans in a bit of a tough spot going into November, considering some of the polling on this issue when it comes to support for some of these reproductive rights.

KEILAR: All right. Carlos Suarez, thank you for that report. Boris.

SANCHEZ: Let's discuss further with a state lawmaker. Democrat Fentrice Driskell joins us now. She's the minority leader in the Florida House of Representatives. Leader Driscoll, thank you so much for being with us. First, I want to get your immediate reaction to the state Supreme Court triggering this ban on abortions after six weeks. What do you think it means for women in Florida?

FENTRICE DRISKELL, (D) FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: Well, women in Florida are like me. We're now living in a time where we may have had fewer rights than our mothers had when they were of childbearing age. And a six- week ban is as close as you can get to an outright ban. Most women don't even know that they're pregnant at six weeks. And so Florida Republicans took this too far. The good news is that the people are paying attention and that most Americans and most Floridians believe in safe access to legal abortions. And so we do have that on our side as we head to the ballot box this November.


SANCHEZ: Representative, I just want to commend you for keeping your focus as that train horn was sounding in the background. I hope that was a train. That was quite loud. I appreciate your focus. I do want to ask you about amendment. Okay. Okay. I want to ask you about amendment four. So the state Supreme Court made this decision allowing the ban to move forward, but they also approved the wording of this proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on November's ballot. And if voters approve it, it would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. You do need the support of at least 60% of voters in the Sunshine State for it to pass. How confident are you that that'll happen?

DRISKELL: I'm very confident that we can do it. And I think everyone needs to remember to take a deep breath, because we've done this before. In 2018, we also had an initiative, it was amendment four. It was to restore voting rights to returning citizens who were formerly convicted felons. And that is a measure that passed easily with over 60%. In fact, it got more votes in favor of it than anybody else did on the ballot, more even than Ron DeSantis or any other candidate. So, you know, I think that we have to remember that Floridians know how to do this. Floridians value their freedom. And they will show up at the ballot this November to protect that.

SANCHEZ: Now, there is some debate about the language in amendment four. And I want to put that back on the screen because there's a key portion. It says, quote, no law shall prohibit, penalize, delay or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient's health. That question of viability, there are a lot of different ways that that could be interpreted. Polls show that that's where the core of the abortion debate is, right? I'm wondering if you wish the language of amendment four was more precise, perhaps specifically laying out a timetable.

DRISKELL: Well, I think we have to remember that the core issue actually is whether or not there should be government interference in these immensely personal decisions of heart and home. These are personal medical decisions. So freedom is an American value. It's true. But Floridians in particular value their freedom. We actually have a right to privacy that is enshrined in our constitution, our state constitution. Now we know what the Florida Supreme Court just did and kind of brushed that aside and I think put maybe their personal opinions ahead of actually what the law would command them to do.

But Floridians value freedom. And so that's really the question for voters. Do we think that politicians should be looking over the shoulders of women while they are in the exam room? Or do we think that these immensely personal decisions should be left between women, their family and their doctors? And I think most Floridians would agree with me. It's the latter. We need to keep government out. We need to leave this to science, we need to leave this to women and we need to leave this to the professionals who are the doctors.

SANCHEZ: Polling shows that a large majority, at least according to the University of North Florida, would support passing Amendment four. The White House now thinks that having this on the ballot makes the Sunshine State winnable for them. Yet you did allude to Governor DeSantis in the last election in the midterms. He led the effort on these abortion restrictions and he won reelection by nearly 20 percentage points. That was about a year and a half ago. Do you agree with the White House that Florida is winnable for Democrats?

DRISKELL: Well, Florida is absolutely winnable for Democrats. You know, I often say that we're not a red state. We are a red performing state. We are a MAGA captured state, but we're not a red state. So there's something that's happened, though, since the 2022 election, which is that Florida is facing one of the worst affordability crises in the country. We have the highest property insurance rates in the country. And this is after the Republicans gave a $3 billion bailout to the insurance industry but provided no relief for homeowners.

So people are mad and they're feeling it in a way that they weren't in 2022. Florida is simply becoming too expensive for many Floridians. So when you take that issue and couple it with the issue of abortion, which may have been intimated on the ballot in 2022, but it wasn't there expressly. Now we actually have a window. Now there's actually some daylight, I think, where we can, as Democrats and people really who care about this issue, you don't have to be a Democrat to care about this issue. I should be thoughtful as I talk about that. People who care about these personal freedoms can make their voices heard at the ballot. And I think that is what's going to make the difference in 2024.

SANCHEZ: Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, we appreciate you joining us today. Look forward to having you back as this issue plays out.

DRISKELL: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Ahead this hour on CNN News Central, why some Israelis are choosing jail over serving in the country's military.


And more than 75 million Americans are under a severe storm threat. Strong tornadoes could hit this afternoon. We're tracking a massive weather system moving across the United States. Plus, stranded passengers are chasing their cruise ship around Africa, hoping they're going to be allowed back on their journey through six countries so far. Those stories and more next.



KEILAR: Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing an investigation after acknowledging the IDF unintentionally struck innocent people. World Central Kitchen says an Israeli airstrike killed at least seven of its aid workers on Monday, despite the fact that they were in a clearly marked vehicle convoy that was coordinated with the Israel Defense Forces. Today, the U.S. joined a growing list of foreign nations calling for accountability. And moments ago, the White House gave an update on its expectations for Israel moving forward.


JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: We want us to hang some sort of condition over their neck. And what I'm telling you is that we continue to work with the Israelis to make sure that they are as precise as they can be and that more aid's getting in, and we're going to continue to take that approach.


KEILAR: This latest attack occurred after a two-week Israeli siege on Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital. The director of that hospital saying it is now permanently out of service. With us now is the co-founder of Gaza Medic Voices, Dr. Tanya Haj-Hassan. She's also a paediatric intensive care doctor with Doctors Without Borders. And Tanya, just to put this into perspective, Al-Shifa had 750 beds. There were 26 operating rooms. They served 250,000 people annually, according to the hospital director. Can you tell us any specifics that you know about the condition of the hospital after the siege? And what this is going to mean to the people of Gaza?

DR. TANYA HAJ-HASSAN, CO-FOUNDER, GAZA MEDIC VOICES: Yeah, thank you. And I don't know far beyond what I think everybody accessing media and social media know at this moment because communications are so difficult in the north because international journalists were long, essentially removed from the majority of the Gaza Strip as part of a strategy. And these are all atrocities that are being committed in the dark that local journalists have been targeted the same way health care workers have been targeted. So unfortunately, what is coming out of Al-Shifa hospital at the moment is apocalyptic. You know, photos and videos of an institution that I visited, that I loved, that was really a source of pride for Gazans.

It was a very well-functioning, large quaternary hospital that provided the majority of sub-specialty services for the Gaza Strip and the Gaza's largest trauma center as well. It's also over 70 years old, was built during the British mandate. And it translates, Al-Shifa means healing or to heal. So it's the house of healing. And it was exactly that. One of my colleagues described it as the beating heart of Gaza's health care system. And to see it now in ruins, burned, bombed, and that's just the infrastructure. The photos and footage and testimonies coming out of people cuffed and their hands and legs bound, people dismembered, rolled over by bulldozers, and all the atrocities committed in the hospital, including point blank executions of tens of people, if not more. I've seen numbers as high as 300 people in the hospital, it's apocalyptic. I keep trying to wake myself up from this nightmare because we have been screaming. And when I say we, it's myself, it's all the humanitarians that have been going in and out of the Gaza Strip, organizations speaking on behalf of their entire organization. Organizations with decades of experience in humanitarian medicine in war zone. We have all been shouting since week one, this is, this is beyond anything we've seen elsewhere. And now we have the ICJ ruling.

KEILAR: And you were just there. I do want to note CNN, and we are doing our best to report out of Gaza, but obviously it is very difficult. As you mentioned, there are not many journalists there, very restricted in the north. So we're hearing very different accounts from the two sides, obviously, of what happened. And we are doing our best to try to confirm some information so that we can get a very clear picture. But can you just put into perspective for us, I mean, the pictures are, it's so horrible. Obviously, this is not a functioning hospital. We can see why it's permanently out of service. What do people do, doctor, if they need medical treatment? Where are they going to go?

HAJ-HASSAN: So I was in Gaza. I returned about one week ago. I was there with a different charity called Medical Aid for Palestinians. We were based in Deir al-Balah, so a similar area where the World Kitchen massacre happened with the aid workers that you mentioned prior to me coming on the program when they were killed by Israeli bombardment.


That was the area that I was in. It's also the hospital whose courtyard was bombed two days ago. It was right next to the tents where the journalists sit. It's where a few more tents with internally displaced people were. This is not a military base. I was there for two weeks. It is a small hospital that is trying to function to take the place of these larger hospitals, the two largest hospitals in Gaza, Al-Shifa and Al-Nasr medical complex, both of whom have been besieged, bombed, and essentially put out of service. A smaller hospital like Al-Aqsa is trying to compensate. It can't because even if Gaza's entire healthcare system was functioning right now, every single hospital, it could not cope with the situation. It could not cope with the mass casualties that are coming in as a consequence of what seems on the ground as a healthcare provider working in an emergency department, I can tell you that the people coming into the emergency department were civilians.

They were families, children, elderly, women, entire families coming in, sometimes a single member of the family coming in, looking desperately for the rest of the family that was in his home an hour ago when his home was bombed and later finding out that they were all taken. Half of the family is still trapped under the rubble. The rest were taken directly to the morgue because they were dead on arrival. And then maybe one child that's still alive and being resuscitated but badly maimed. This was a very common theme, unfortunately. And I can tell you story after story, but it's hard to recount these individual stories. I'll be totally honest with you, Brianna. It's hard to recount these individual stories without breaking down in tears because every single one of them is a tragedy. It's easier to talk about this in terms of numbers, and bigger concepts. But when you come down to it, these are individual families. I mean, imagine for one second, and God forbid you would ever be put in this situation, but imagine for one second if you were the only surviving member of your family, and you saw your, maybe you don't have children, maybe you have children.

But you saw children in your family or your extended family dead, maimed, or dying and in pain while they're dying for no reason, for no crime. The evidence on the ground for those of us who have been in Gaza is that this is a war on civilians. It's indiscriminate. It's targeting civilians in multiple ways, including starvation, including direct bombardment, including point black executions. We've had testimony after testimony. We've seen video footage of it. And I don't know what atrocity we have to reach before global powers step in and say enough violence. This is not something that humanitarians can fix. This is an elimination of human life. There's no doctor that can reverse that process.

KEILAR: Yeah, and we've seen the scale of it. It's appalling. And we've covered the individual stories, as you said. It's not just numbers. It is individual stories. And you don't need to have children to look at what we're seeing in these pictures and just be speechless as you hear these stories and see these faces. Dr. Haj-Hassan, unfortunately, we have to leave you with that. Thank you so much for being with us.

HAJ-HASSAN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Boris.

SANCHEZ: Across Israel, protesters are growing louder. Those frustrated by the war are now grappling with how to make their voices heard. CNN's Melissa Bell has more.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): In Israel, too, there are those who object to their government's handling of the war in Gaza. Among them, Ben Arad, who, as an 18-year-old, is due to enlist this week for his mandatory military service. Instead, he tells the crowd he's choosing to go to jail. We caught up with him in Tel Aviv on his very last day of freedom.

BEN ARAD, REFUSES TO JOIN ISRAELI MILITARY: I don't refuse because I'm afraid of being hurt or killed in military action. I have a very, very deep disgust of the things that I'm seeing happening.

BELL (voiceover): Things he says that Israeli media doesn't dwell on, but that he seeks out on international networks and online.

ARAD: I think something that really broke my heart was the flour massacre. So, seeing people trample each other to get food, I mean, you just can't deny at that point that there is a famine going on, and people are hungry. BELL (voiceover): So on Monday, Ben will hand himself in becoming one of only a handful of so called refuseniks to make their decisions public since the war began.